PALLADIAN VILLAS OF VICENZA

Hello! Today we return to Italy for a moment to talk about a little jewel I recently discovered: I’m talking about the city of Vicenza, located in Veneto region. Less famous than Verona and Venezia, undoubtly it worth a visit to discover an important side of Italian architecture.

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If you’re taking a one-day trip to Vicenza, I suggest to start early in the morning with the visit of two of the most famous Palladian Villas: Villa Valmarana ai Nani and Villa Capra (so called “La Rotonda”).
Valmarana ai Nani is a splendid architectural and artistic site, composed by three buildings connected thanks to a well-preserved vintage park. The buildings “Palazzina” (1669), Foresteria and Scuderia (1720), are surrounded by green areas based on symmetry, axial geometry and on the principle of imposing order over nature: the famous “Giardini all’Italiana”. The garden is open to all  those who visit the villa.
Palazzina and Foresteria are frescoed by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, called in 1757 from the owner Giustino Valmarana. The Villa takes its name from the 17 stone dwarf-statues, previously scattered into the garden, and now placed on the surrounding wall of the property.

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Family Valmarana still live in the Villa, considered the maximum expression of the eighteenth century and the hightest proof of Tiepolos mastery. From the “Palazzina” building, dominated by statues of several divinities, you could enjoy a peaceful panorama on the Valletta del Silenzio,  with the Sanctuary of Monte Berico in the background.

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Villa Almerico Capra, named “La Rotonda” is achievable by walk from Villa Valmarana: designed and builded for commission from Andrea Palladio in 1570, the name “Capra” derives from the Capra brothers, who completed the building after it was given to them in 1592. From 1911 the building is owned by Family Valmarana, that opened the complex to visitors starting 1986. This building is conserved as part of the World Heritage Site “City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas”.


The site selected was a hilltop just outside the city: rather than a villa, infact, you could call it a “palazzo”: the design is for a completely symmetrical building having a square plan with four facades, each of which has a projecting portico. The name La Rotonda refers to the central circular hall with its imposing dome, beautifully painted with frescoes by artists such as Anselmo Canera and Alessandro Maganza.

A full morning is enough when not crowded to visit both the villas, then in the afternoon you can head to the city center, with its beautiful and well-preserved historical buildings.

to be continued…

POSTCARDS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD: ROME

I love Rome. I really never heard someone bringing back a negative memory about this beautiful city.

I’m always astonished by the magnificence of its monuments. So many centuries of history enclosed into few kilometres walk.

I’m always overwhelmed by the warmth of the people. Romans are open, cheerful, even a bit “caciaroni” (that means noisy), yes, and i love it.

Rome is romanticisme: walk on sunset following the Tevere River, take dinner in one of the tiny restaurants in Trastevere: is just the perfect way to end the day.

I love Rome from above: go up to the panoramic viewpoints on the Roman hills and enjoy beautiful views.

Rome is perfect just in the way “she” is, with its chaos, its imperfections, its contradictions.

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 ”How is it possible to say an unkind or irreverential word of Rome? The city of all time, and of all the world!”
  Nathaniel Hawthorne (American novelist, 1804-1864)

EXPO BY NIGHT

Hello! Expo is running to the end, do you had the opportunity to go? I would like to know more about your impressions, sensations, experiences towards this event…We were lucky to visit it already in June, because during these weeks there are just too much people…anyway, these are the photos of our last Friday in Milan…Goodbye Expo, I’m glad that I visited you!

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EXPO MILANO 2015

Hello!Finally Friday we were in Milano for EXPO 2015: i was really looking forward to go ’cause I heard a lot about this universal exposition about food and nutrition, so i had no clear idea of what I would’ve seen. What’s Expo 2015? A universal exhibition about food. Good. That is, what is it?
With Milan selected as the host-city for the Universal Exposition, Italy then chose “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” as its central theme. Expo Milano 2015 will talk about the problems of nutrition and the resources of our planet. The idea is to open up a dialogue between international players, and to exchange views on these major challenges which impact everyone. Expo Milano 2015 will provide an opportunity to reflect upon, and seek solutions to, the contradictions of our world. Nowadays, there are still the hungry and, on the one hand, there are those who die for poor nutrition or too much food. In addition, tons of foods are wasted every year. For these reasons, we need to make conscious political choices, develop sustainable lifestyles, and use the best technology to create a balance between the availability and the consumption of resources.

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This is only the “introduction”: something that you could easily find everywhere using internet: but for me, Expo 2015 is also:
– Architecture: at first glance, you could see, standing in the middle of the Decumano – the principal street of Expo – thousand of outstanding pavilions: designed by internationally-renowned architects, the site comprises an area of 1.1 million square meters, easily accessible from Milan and the surrounding area. Reflecting the signature urban-planning style of the ancient Romans, the site is based on two wide avenues, the Cardo and the Decumano, which intersect at Piazza Italia. On these avenues stand the pavilions of the participating countries, the public squares and the areas dedicated to events and catering. Constructed to be energy-efficient and sustainable, the buildings are designed to be removed and reused after the event concludes.

– Digital technology: each country provides visitors with digital media and apps to download: all major pavilions have a dedicated mobile app. And also, technology is all over during the visit of the pavilions: multimedia presentations, light play, interactive screens: visitors are invited to participate in many ways.

– Sensory experience: every country will fascinate you with its colours, shapes, traditions, scents. Food is a powerful way to stimulate senses.DSC00528

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And these are some practical information to move in the big area of the Expo, especially if you have only one day like the two of us:

– Get yourself a map of the area before starting the visit: you could find it on the site of Expo 2015 or you could download the mobile application.

– In only one day it’s impossible to see everything: decide previously which pavilions you wish to visit (maximum 15-16 pavillon a day); with so many exhibitors, you must prepare your visit in advance, because for the main pavillons there are often queues and this will delay your itinerary, especially during week-ends.

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And now, let’s explore a bit some of the most remarkable pavilions: – not too much, I leave to you the opportunity to discover them better alone –

– Morocco: a warm atmosphere with a light scent of orange and almond. The theme of Morocco is the water, source of life: the idea is the preservation of this precious element, that allows the fruits of the earth – olives, oranges, almonds, – to grow lush.

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– Japan: prepare yourself for a quite long wait before enter the pavilion, about 40 minutes/1 hour, but Japanese are really well organized, so the waiting will not seem so long. Japan has made a reflection between the past and the future: in the first part of the visit, you’ll find yourself in feudal rural Japan, with the importance of field work, that must be protected, especially nowadays.

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Regarding the future, I found the experience of the “virtual restaurant” really amazing: it’s a short show in which the visitors will learn about some typical dishes of the Japanese Cuisine, but using the chopsticks …on a screen!Really original.

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– Cile: “El amor de Chile” will fascinate you, with its beautiful landscapes and the strong link between population and the Earth. They will give you their feeling thanks to musics and poetry. We felt really welcome by the staff: if you visit it, don’t miss the chance to taste their great empanadas.

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– China:at first sight an imponent pavilion. Wooden curved rooftops, and thousand of yellow flowers will welcome you at the entrance. The theme choosen by China is the respect and cooperation between the people: as farmers take care of the earth, so people should treat about our planet.

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Hoping that you liked my first glimpse of Expo, I must say that it’s a worthy experience, and I hope to be back soon at least one other time. Stay tuned for other shots from the pavilions! Cris

UMBRIA: ONE-DAY TRIP TO ASSISI

Hello!Welcome to the third appointment of our trip in Umbria! Today I’ll show you our one-day itinerary of the town: we were settled in Perugia, so we had only one day to visit Assisi, but finally we were able to visit it nicely also in few time. I think this will be useful for anyone nearby.

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Assisi is a small medieval town perched on a hill in Umbria. Famous as the birthplace of St. Francis, Assisi holds religious, historical, and artistic significance. Periodical exhibits and fairs enrich the visitor’s experience.

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Historical Assisi is very small and easily explored on foot. It is advisable to begin your tour at the top of the town (which is the oldest part), so you can enjoy the city going down the hill, and have a beautiful view of the countryside all around.

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Definitely take the time to walk among Assisi’s medieval houses and shops. Most of the cobblestone streets and alleys will take you to the basilica of St. Francis. Please be quiet as you visit this multi-level structure as it still is a place of prayer for many. The walls and ceilings of the upper church are embellished with frescoes of the Giotto school; the lower sanctuary contains the tomb of St. Francis. This is one of the most spiritually powerful places in Assisi.

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However, the center of the town is Piazza del Comune. There is a small fountain known as the “Lions fountain”. There are two main attractions on the Piazza: the “Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo” – with the clock tower – and the beautiful church of “Santa Maria Sopra Minerva” (St. Mary over Minerva), with its impresive roman columns. Assisi, being an old roman town, had its own temple dedicated to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. With the arrival of Christianity the temple was transformed into a Catholic Church and the Virgin Mary was promoted above pagan wisdom. The church was completely remodeled in the early 1990’s and stands in stark contrast to the exterior.

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From the “Lions Fountain” find the street called “Corso Mazzini”. Here you will find many interesting shops of all sorts. At the end of the street there is an archway and after that you will see the lovely St. Claire’s Basilica, where the original crucifix, that spoke to Saint Francis, is found. There is a lovely piazza in front of the Church, with wonderful views of the valley.

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From Piazza del Comune you have two options to reach Saint Francis’ Basilica: the street to your right is “Via San Paolo”, and it will eventually lead you to the Basilica. This is a slightly longer way to get there and not so crowded, sometimes there is no one around, even on busy days. If you turn to your left when you see some steps and a fresco on the wall, you’ll get to the small church of St. Stephen (Santo Stefano). This is a real jewel, not known to many and skipped by the majority of “running pilgrims”.

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The second way is the street to your left from Piazza del Comune: it’s called “Via Portica”. This is the usual and shorter way to go to the Basilica of Saint Francis. There are plenty of shops. After a short while you pass an archway and arrive to “Via San Francesco”. A little walk and at the end of the street you will find the Basilica of St. Francis.

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In my opinion, the town is really charming, but there is an aspect that I didn’t like too much: you can clearly feel, while visiting, that faith and religion are also a matter of business nowadays, so this diminish a bit the atmosphere of sacred places. In any case, it worth a visit!

UMBRIA: GUBBIO&CITTA’ DI CASTELLO

Hello!Finally today I’ve some time to go on with our quick tour of Umbria, in the heart of Italy. The area of Gubbio is located in the nord east of Umbria region, adjoining Marche region. The whole area, tipically mountainous, is delimited by Appennini mountain chain in the east, and by the Tevere valley in the ovest. You sure know that the area is rich of historical treasures and cities of art.

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We arrived in Gubbio from Perugia, following the road signs, driving on a beautiful hill road. At first sight, you’ll see the particular position of the city, which lies on the hills, with the Roman Theater located on its feet. City of Gubbio is strictly connected to the history of San Francesco, and especially to his meeting with the Wolf, one of the most well-know miraculous event whereon researchers have extensively discussed.

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While visiting Gubbio is impossible not to be charmed by the narrows street and the ancient stone houses. The main point is Piazza Grande, where stands out the Palazzo dei Consoli, in which is located the town museum. The Palace rises up on a terrace where you’ll have an outstanding view of the underlying town.

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We followed by walking the road to Monte Ingino – Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo: we arrived to the cable railway of Colle Eletto which in only 6 minutes will take you on the top of the hill to the S.Ubaldo Church. I must say that it’s not really suitable for who suffers dizziness: the climb is on a “metallic cage”, where only two people can standing. Arrived at destination, at 900 meters, the view all around the valley is just outstanding.
Inside the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, patron of the town, you can admire three majestic wooden structures. The patron saint’s festival is celebrated on 15th may and it’s called “La Festa Dei Ceri” (Race of the Candles).The statues of St. Ubaldo (patron of bricklayers), St. George (patron saint of haberdashers) and St. Anthony the Abbot (patron saint of donkey breeders and peasants) are placed on these three tall, heavy wooden “ceri” or pedestals (meant to represent candles).

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The Ceraioli (pedestal bearers) carry the “ceri” on their shoulders and run down the city streets and then up to the basilica of S. Ubaldo on top of Mount Ingino. A charming ritual precedes the race. The spectacular raising of the “ceri” (l’alzata dei ceri) takes place in Piazza Grande at noon and then “ceri” are toured around the piazza 3 times. It’s a fearless run, because the candles are carried up and they swing dangerously while the men are running, brushing against balconies and windows, followed by an enthusiastic crowd. After the race, the ceri are stored in the basilica of Sant’Ubaldo, while the statues of the 3 saints are brought back into the city  singing with a torchlight procession.

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In the same day, we made a short walk in Città di Castello, a typical village near Gubbio. After being pillaged and destroyed by Totila during barbaric invasions, the town was rebuilted and took several names during ages. (Castrum Felicitatis, Castrum Castelli). During late Middle Age, it was under the influence of Perugia, then of the Church and also of Florence. During XVI century, with Cesare Borgia, it passed finally under the Pope. It’s just a short promenade, but quite characteristic.

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to be continued..

BELLEZZE D’ITALIA: UMBRIA

Hello!How are you? We’re just back from a small tour in Umbria, we spent four days driving and walking in lovely towns and small villages. We were settled in Perugia, the capital city of the region of Umbria -in central Italy-, crossed by the river Tiber. The city is also the capital of the province of Perugia.

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It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area.The history of Perugia goes back to the Etruscan period. The city is also known as one of the earliest university town. There are annual festivals and events: the Eurochocolate Festival (October), the Umbria Jazz Festival (July). Perugia is a well-known cultural and artistic centre of Italy. The famous painter Pietro Vannucci, nicknamed Perugino, was a native of Città della Pieve, near Perugia.He was the teacher of Raphael.The city symbol is the griffin, which can be seen in the form of plaques and statues on buildings around the city.

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Perugia (and Umbria in generally) has a kind and peacefull atmosphere all over: it still maintains the appearence of a medieval fortified small town. The heart of the city is Corso Vannucci, the main shopping street that ends with IV November Square, where you could admire the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and The Mayor Fountain. Just in front of the church, you can see the National Gallery of Umbria, where are displayed many artworks of the most famous italian artist, like Piero della Francesca, Pinturicchio and Perugino.

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I love getting lost in the narrow silent alleys: in Perugia there’s plenty of tiny streets where you’re just carried back in time, and you can appreciate the bliss of everlasting things. In any case, you’ll be quickly brought back to present, by finding any sort of cute shops and cafès: if you’re glutton like me, your attention sure will be drawn to the many chocolate shops in the citycenter. (also food is art, right? ahah)

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Finally, Perugia in the night is a quite lively place: it’s an academic town, so the foreign students meet up first in the cafès of the citycenter: in the week-end, from 5.00 p.m., winebars and pubs fill up with young people till late, before move to disco.

to be continued..