Italy Photo Diary

I was supposed to go to Milan for my birthday in November, but I came down with whooping cough. So I changed my trip to May, reasoning that I am usually fit in the spring. I could never have imagined the turn of events, that Italy would be hit so brutally by the coronavirus or that a pandemic would break out in the world. Now I hope to travel to Milan in October, but I wonder if I will have to cancel that, too. I cannot fathom the day-to-day tragedy that Italy has been experiencing, all the suffering of the friendly, bubbling Italian people who have made me feel so blessed to be in their country during my 12 or more visits.

I was going to write a long article about Italy, but I have decided to make this a photo diary of my travels in Italy, showing the country that is so dear to me during its better days. May those bright days return in the not-to-distant future.

NOTE: Sicily will be represented in a different photo diary.

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Church in Ancona

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Assisi

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Basilica in Assisi

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Clock in Bassano del Grappo

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In Civic Museum of Bassano del Grappo

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Church in Bergamo

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Church of St. James Major in Bologna

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Capri

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Church in Vernazza, Cinque Terre

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Street in Vernazza, Cinque Terre

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Herculaneum

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Isola Bella garden

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Palace on Isola Bella

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House on Isola dei Pescatori

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Street on Isola dei Pescatori

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View from Isola Madre

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Black Madonna at Loreto shrine

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Cupola of Loreto

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Castle at Malcesine

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Cathedral in Modena

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View of Naples from Castel Sant Elmo

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Certosa Church in Naples

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Santa Chiara Church in Naples

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Padua, Palazzo della Ragione

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Last Judgment by Giotto in Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

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Perugia, Collegio

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Pisa

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Pisa

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Cemetery, Pisa

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Porteverre Church

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Cathedral of Altamura

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Street in Bari

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Cathedral crypt in Bitonto

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Cathedral in Ruva di Puglia

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House in Barletta

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Throne in church in Canosa di Puglia

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Castel del Monte

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Santa Croce Church, Lecce

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Sassi in Matera

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Otranto, mosaic on cathedral floor

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Street in Trani

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One of the best memories of my life was showing my parents the Colosseum in Rome.

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Pompeii

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Rainbow on way back to Rome

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Villa d’Este gardens

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Rovereto

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Spello

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Church in Spello

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Sant’ Apollinaire in Ravenna

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Sigurta Park

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Lake in Sirmione

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Trento

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The Annunciation in cathedral in Treviso

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Udine cathedral

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Street in Urbino

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Venice

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Verona

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Arena in Verona

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Juliette’s balcony in Verona

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Russian icon in Galleria Italia in Vicenza

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Santa Corona Church in Vicenza

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False perspective in Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza

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Villa della Rotunda by Palladio

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Villa Emo

 

Tracy Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.

 

 

 

Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte Diary

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One of the highlights of my trip to Naples was visiting the Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte museum, which houses a gallery of 19th century art, porcelain, ceramics, an armory and historical apartments. Founded by Charles Bourbon in 1738, the palace was not completed until 1838. Artwork featured at the museum includes The Blind Leading the Blind and Misanthrope by my beloved Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Madonna with Child and Angels by Botticelli and three portraits of Pope Paul II by Titian. Raphael, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Pieter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, El Greco and Caravaggio are just a few of the artists represented. The museum is also home to seven tapestries showing scenes from the Battle of Pavia. The Gallery of Rare Things shows off miniatures, small bronzes, works of majolica, ivory and crystal pieces, gems and jewelry, for instance. I took pictures mostly of the royal apartments, which included the stunning Ballroom. The design of this room was influenced by 18th century findings at Herculaneum and Pompeii. The crystal chandeliers, the Neoclassical divans and the marble floor featuring geometric designs all enthralled me.

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Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.

Churches of Naples Diary

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The cobblestoned, narrow streets of the Gothic quarter; via San Gregorio Armeno, where so many shops sell Nativity scene figures; youngsters riding motorbikes with helmets pushed back on the nape of their necks; laundry hanging from clotheslines on balconies overlooking Baroque churches; the steep, picturesque streets of the Spanish Quarter; pizzerias with modest décor where the best pizza in the world is made; 27 centuries of history packed into the historical centre – I found all these features of Naples bewitching.

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The cloister of Santa Chiara

The history of Naples intrigued me, too. Of Greek origin, the region was first called Parthenope and later reestablished as Neapolis, meaning “new city,” during 6 BC. Naples played a dominant role in European culture throughout its history as capital of the Kingdom of Naples from 1282 to 1816 and the capital, along with Sicily, of the Two Sicilies from 1816 to 1861, when Italy was unified. During World War II it experienced dark days as it was the most bombed city in Italy. Now the historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Facade of the Cathedral

What I liked best about Naples were the museums and the churches, especially the San Severo Chapel, the Cathedral, the Church of Gesù Nuovo, the Church and cloister of Santa Chiara and the Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore. In this post I will concentrate on the churches that influenced me the most. It would take a hundred pages to describe everything that impressed me in Naples.

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Interior of the Cathedral

The San Severo Chapel was my favorite with its Veiled Christ and other dynamic sculptures seeping with symbolism. It was created during the 18th century by Prince Raimondo di Sangro as a burial place for his family. Prince Raimondo’s resume fascinated me. He was not only a leading authority on architecture and the military but also made a name for himself as a writer and inventor. For instance, he came up with the idea of a single-barreled shotgun that was fired using gunpowder and compressed air.

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Chastity from http://www.pompeii.org.uk
I marveled at all the sculptures in the chapel, but I will focus on the three that I was most intrigued with: Chastity, Disenchantment and the Veiled Christ. Raimondo had the sculpture Chastity built for his mother, who died at a young age. I marveled at the female figure’s close-fitting veil adorned with roses. The figure held a broken slab, symbolizing the impossibility of attaining her dreams and goals because her life was cut short. I thought about young men and women killed by drunk drivers, the victims of terrorist attacks and gun violence – all lives tragically cut short, all people who carried broken slabs.

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Disenchantment from http://www.alinariarchives.it
The tomb of his father with the dramatic sculpture Disenchantment also caught my undivided attention. Raimondo’s father was a traveler and later became a priest. The sculpture portrays a man freeing himself from a net, which stood for sin. I marveled at the exquisite details of the net, which, according to my own interpretation, could stand for negative energy and bad situations. I sometimes found the need to free myself from negative energy and problems by making changes in my life, thus getting out of the “net.” I freed myself from this sort of “net” by reading and writing, but first and foremost by traveling and learning about various cultures as well as by going to classical concerts and to the theatre.

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Veiled Christ from http://www.pinterest.com

For me the highlight of this chapel was Veiled Christ by Sanmartino. The tight-fitting veil was so realistic, draped over the lifeless body. I marveled how the artist could capture the sense of the material so well. I valued other details of the sculpture -. Christ’s hands pierced by nails and the vein on his forehead that seemed to be throbbing. I could actually feel the suffering and the torment.

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Veiled Christ from http://www.italianways.com
Downstairs were two skeletons of a man and a woman encased in glass. I could see the veins and arteries that had been preserved for two centuries. The skeletons presented a detailed study of the circulatory system. How this was done remains a mystery. According to a legend, the corpses were injected with some sort of liquid that made the veins and arteries harden.

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Then there was the Cathedral that paid homage to Saint Januarius, who freed the city from the plague in 1527. It was constructed by Charles II of Anjou in the late 13th century. Phials with the dried blood of the saint are kept here, and there are big celebrations twice a year, in May and September, when the phials of blood liquefy If they do not liquefy, it means that catastrophe will come to the city. I was enthralled with the frescoes in the central nave and the inlay and gilt work of the 17th century ceiling. There were frescoes galore in the cathedral on the floors and walls, dating from the 14th to the 16th century. The Santa Restituta Chapel boasted some fantastic fifth century mosaics on its cupola. I particularly liked the one depicting a lion. I could practically hear him roaring.

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The Church of Gesù Nuovo used to be a palace during the 15th century, which is why it has such a unique façade made of piperno gray rock. The structure was transformed into a church during the 16th century. It took 40 years to decorate the stunning interior, Baroque in style. Designed in the form of a Greek cross, there are three naves surrounded by side chapels. The frescoes in the vault were marvelous, and I loved the marble in various colors that decorated the church. The main altar was made of marble, adorned with bronze and semi-precious stones. I was fascinated by the chapel devoted to Saint Joseph Moscati, a doctor who had worked as a university professor. A bronze statue of the physician stood to the left of the altar where his urn was kept.

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The Chapel of the Crucifix was another delight in the Church of Gesù Nuovo. The wooden statue of the crucified Christ was stunning, and the ceiling frescoes amazed. No less than 70 busts of saints and martyrs, sculpted in golden wood during 1617, decorated two reliquaries. The frescoes in the sacristy also held my attention.

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Built from 1310 to 1328 in Gothic Provencal style, the Church of Santa Chiara has a single nave with nine chapels on each side and boasts artistic treasures from the 14th to the 18th century. The double lancet and three-mullioned windows were breathtaking. The church also featured the tomb of Robert I of Anjou, erected from 1343 to 1345.

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However, the highlight for me was the cloister with its remarkable 18th century majolica ornamentation. It was the most beautiful cloister I had ever seen. The majolica tiles adorned the pillars and benches in the garden and showed off landscapes and mythological scenes as well as scenes from village life. I loved the complimentary yellows and blues used to portray a lively country dance. The village scenes remained me of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Other tiles showed villagers bowling.

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The cloister also included the Opera Museum made up of nine rooms of artifacts from antiquity to the 20th century. I saw the remains of a Roman spa that once was part of a patrician villa, dating from 1 AD. Marble objects and reliquaries also made up the collection.

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Last but not least, the Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore also took my breath away. It was built on the site of a Romanesque church from 1283 to 1324, but from the 15th to 18th century underwent many architectural changes. St. Thomas Aquinas taught for a year in the monastery that had adjoined the church. There are three naves in the basilica gushing with superb frescoes and impressive paintings. Two side naves have chapels adorned with frescoes and tombs.

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In the Chapel of the Frescoes, the frescoes on the walls portrayed Christ on the Cross, Mary Magdalene and the apostles. In the Chapel of St. Anthony Abbott, it is possible that one fresco was even created by Giotto. The Chapel of the Crucifix was adorned with frescoes dating from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, and the altar boasted a 13th century crucifix.

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I was dumbfounded by the ceiling fresco, hailing from 1707, in the sacristy. It celebrated the Dominicans’ triumph of faith over heresy. But I was not only intrigued by what was above me but also by what was below. A slab in the floor announced that Irish-born Richard L. Concanen, the first Bishop of New York, was buried in the basilica during 1810. In the apse there were tombs of Aragon rulers. The pulpit dated from 1559, and the organ from 1751, with 1,640 pipes. There was a painting by Jusepe de Ribera in the basilica as well as copies of creations by Titian and Caravaggio.

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For me these churches – as well as the Archeological Museum and the Museo di Capodimonte – represented Naples. The San Severo Chapel ranked first on my list with its stunning, symbolic statues and the breathtaking Veiled Christ. I had never seen anything like the cloister at Santa Chiara. The San Severo Chapel, the Cathedral, the Church of Gesù Nuovo, the church and cloister of Santa Chiara and the Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore with their unforgettable splendor were highlights of my trip.

Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.

Palazzo Reale Photo Diary

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The Royal Palace of Naples was the seat of the Spanish and Austrian viceroyalty for 200 years, from the early 16th century to the early 18th century. Then the Bourbons took up residence, from 1734 to 1860. Even though the foundation stone was laid in 1600, the actual construction of the palace was not finished until after 1843. It is connected to the majestic Teatro di San Carlo and is located on the symmetrical Piazza del Plebiscito, where festivals and parades had taken place before 1860. The Palazzo Reale was first open to the public in 1919.

The façade is impressive as Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian columns, obelisks, globes and vases all make appearances. Statues of the kings of Naples adorn the façade as well.

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When I was there only the first floor was open, but I was still able to see stunning tapestries, fine porcelain, impressive furnishings and superb ceiling paintings, some allegorical and others celebrating the Spanish rulers and their realm. Paintings that amazed included 17th and 18th century works by Neapolitan School artists, landscapes, views of seaports, pictures of royal Spanish palaces as well as portraits.

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Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.

 

Teatro di San Carlo Diary

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While in Naples, I toured the Teatro di San Carlo, where I could actually feel the history of the majestic structure. I was enchanted with the main hall, boxes, Royal box and two foyers. Even the façade was astounding. I particularly liked the statue of Apollo riding his chariot and the Ionic loggia.

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I found the history of the place fascinating. Built in 1737, when King Charles VII of Bourbon was on the throne, the Teatro di San Carlo is 41 years older than the La Scala Theatre in Milan and 55 years older than the La Fenice Theatre in Venice. The architect of this building where opera and ballet are performed was Giovanni Antonio Medrano, who had served in the army of King Charles VII. He went on to design the Museo di Capodimonte, which housed the king’s palace and a museum. Later he was imprisoned for tax fraud of the Museo di Capodimonte.

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Opening night at the Teatro di San Carlo took place November 4, 1737, on the king’s name day, when Achilles in Sciro was staged. Interestingly, a woman played the part of Achilles. That was only the beginning of the glorious history of Naples as a cultural center and opera powerhouse. I wondered how many stories had been played out on the stage, how many spectators had viewed performances over the centuries and who exactly were these theatregoers. What impressions did these audience members take home with them? Did they feel as awed by the theatre as I did, or did they just take the luxurious building for granted?

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Perhaps the darkest day in the history of the theatre proved to be February 13, 1816, when a fire broke out during a dress rehearsal. In less than one hour, the dancing flames destroyed a large section of the building. The theatre was reconstructed in a mere nine months, and it took on a horseshoe appearance. The number of seats dwindled from more than 3,000 to 1,444. The Teatro di San Carlo holds the distinction of being the oldest horseshoe style theatre in the world. The theatre even remained open during most of World War I. The foyer was destroyed by a bomb attack in 1943, however. However, the structure was rebuilt promptly after the war.

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Looking around the gold-and-red decorated interior with 184 boxes plus the Royal Box, I could not help thinking about the famous people who had graced the stage and the composers whose works had come to life here. Richard Strauss conducted here. Guiseppe Verdi wrote operas for this very theatre. In the 18th century, singers Vittoria Tesi and Carlo Broschi charmed audiences with their magical voices. Niccolo Paganini cast his spell on spectators here on two occasions. Other names associated with the theatre included Christoph Willibald Gluck, Johann Christian Bach and Luciano Pavarotti.

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To be sure, the interior was breathtaking. The ceiling fresco took up a mythological theme, portraying Apollo presenting Minerva to the greatest poets in the world. The theatre curtain, adorned in 1854, also boasted a mythological scene with the Muses and Homer among poets and musicians. Putti and cornucopias played significant roles in the theatre’s decoration. The Royal Box, so bewitching in its gold color, could hold 10 people. There were workers repairing something in the Box, but we still got to sneak inside for a few moments.

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Taking a seat in another box, I did not want to get up and leave. I just wanted to imagine all the scenes performed here, all the songs sung, all the music played. And then there were those richly adorned balustrades! The 184 boxes stood on seven levels. None of the boxes was furnished with curtains because the king wanted to be able to see spectators at all times.

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The theatre was so beautiful that it made me dizzy. It seemed only fitting that such a majestic theatre was connected to the Royal Palace, which the Spanish viceroyalty had called home for 200 years, from the early 16th century to the early 18th century. I hadn’t been so impressed with a theatre since I had set my eyes on the Rococo horseshoe-shaped Cuvilliés Theatre of the Munich Residence.

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When I bought my ticket, I hadn’t known what to expect. I hadn’t thought I would be so impressed, but the ceiling fresco, theatre curtain, red-and-gold decor and gilt adornment mesmerized me. I hoped to come back here to see an opera someday. This tour was one of the highlights of my trip to Naples.

Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.

Archeological Museum in Naples Diary

The Archeological Museum in Naples boasts one of the largest collections of antiquities in the world with numerous sculptures, paintings, mosaics, frescoes, jewels, coins and more. Most of the mosaics and frescoes hail from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Items from the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum and mosaics from the House of the Faun in Pompeii astound. Discoveries from Cumae also make up the permanent exhibition as do Egyptian artifacts. There is a Secret Cabinet of obscene art, such as statues, paintings and gems, from Herculaneum and Pompeii. Visiting this museum was the highlight of my visit to Naples, and I was most enthralled with the statuary, mosaics and frescoes.

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Tracy A. Burns is a writer, editor and proofreader in Prague.