Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Escaping to Mantua

Mantua overview

Sometime planning a holiday it is a hard work, especially if you are not sure where to go and for how long. Italy has so much to offer, so here a possible alternative....Mantua. This is a small city, located in the south east of Lombardy, one of the Italian regions. This centre is perfect for a week-end away from the confusion or for an overnight stop during your Italian trip. 

Mantua was ruled until 1707 by the Gonzaga family, who were some of the most important patrons of Renaissance art. In fact, during their regency they cultivated a court which included some of the most illustrious artists and intellectuals of the time, such as Andrea Mantegna, the court painter between 1460 and 1506. The main commission he received from Ludovico Gonzaga was the decoration of an historiated portrait gallery for the Ducal Palace or Palazzo Ducale. The so-called Camera Picta (1465–74) or Camera degli Sposi, shows the Marchese and his consort, Barbara of Brandenburg, together with their children, friends, courtiers and animals engaged in professional and leisurely pursuits, illustrating the present successes and alluding to the future ambitions of the Gonzaga dynasty.

Mantegna, Camera degli sposi

An interesting particular of this decoration is the painted vault, a trompe l'oeil, a perfect example of illusionism. Here a group of foreshortened putti happily play around a balustrade.

Another artist who worked for the Gonzaga family was Leon Battista Alberti, the great Renaissance theorist and architect from Florence, who designed the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, which was only constructed in a later date. 

Basilica of Sant'Andrea

Even Giulio Romano, who worked in Rome with Raphael, became the court architect and painter in Mantua from the 1520’s. His most significant and most famous work was the architecture and decoration of Palazzo Te, once considered the villa suburbana for the Gonzaga family, today only a short walk from the Ducal Palace.

Giulio Romano, Palazzo Te

The most amazing thing in the palace is the decoration of the rooms, of which the Camera dei Giganti or Chamber of the Giants is very famous. The story portrayed is the Fall of the Giants from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and, as is clear from some of the details, it is derived from a later Italian edition that alters the original text.
Giulio Romano, Fall of the Giants

Mantua has lots to offer...so go and immerse yourself in this beautiful place!

Do you want to know more? or do you have intention to learn some basic Italian before your departure?
You can contact me HERE

Alla prossima!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Trevi Fountain is 250 years old!

 The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is probably the most famous of all the fountains in Rome! It attracts so many tourists and non tourists each day.

Situated in the heart of the city centre, among narrow streets and alleys, this fountain is 250 years old this year. Designed in 1732 by Nicola Salvi, who won the competition organized by Clement XII, the fountain was formally opened, still incomplete, in 1744 and was finished only in 1762, after the death of his creator. 

Salvi perfectly interpreted the pope's expectations. In fact, the fountain was not simply accommodated by a piazza or square, but the space of the piazza became an integral part of the monument. 

This fountain is a wonderful symbiosis of sculpture and architecture: they complement each other!
So if you go to Rome remember to visit this fountain and think: "What could Rome do without this fountain?"

A presto!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome

Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

When I talk about Rome I could tell you so many things without stopping, because that's the place were I come from. Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the favourite places I like to go because it has a wonderful square to relax and chill out. 

The fountain and the church have a story behind them! All the kids of Trastevere have played here when they were little. This square was our meeting point during the afternoon after school, a place where it was possible to run safely, play soccer or more!

Still today this square is a meeting point for the "Trasteverini", the residents of Trastevere, especially during the evening when everyone meets for a drink or a pizza or just an ice-cream. 

So next time you visit Rome, stop by in the square and absorb a bit of the Roman culture! Santa Maria is perfect for your kids to run around especially after a long walk around the ancients sites of Rome. 

Ciao! Alla prossima!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pistoia: a relaxing destination

Only twenty minutes drive from Florence extends Pistoia, a minor touristy attraction for the first time traveller to Italy. A relaxing destination with a bit of everything!

A perfect destination for the art and history lovers for its selection of buildings and monuments such as the Duomo or Cathedral of San Zeno, which was built in the 10th century on the edge of the Piazza del Duomo. This is the seat of the Bishop of Pistoia and has a Romanesque fa├žade, nave and two side-aisles, with a presbytery and crypt. It is first mentioned in 923, but suffered greatly over the centuries, being damaged by fire in the 12th and early 13th centuries and then by earthquake in 1298.

Cathedral of San Zeno, Pistoia

Fantastic place for who loves contemporary art! Pistoia offers a big selections of museums, including the Marino Marini, which offers exhibitions for contemporary living artists.

Market: Piazza della Sala is one of the most ancient squares of the city and dues its name to the longobard word used to indicate the palace where the government of the city resided. Later, it became the place of the every day market and the trades, and still today this is the square where, every day, there is market, where fruits and vegetables can be bought. Here you can meet the locals whilst also grabbing a bargain or two!

Summer events: each year during the month of July, Piazza del Duomo becomes the centre of the Carousel Bear (Giostra dell'Orso), whose name has its origins in 1947. This competition was already held in 1200 in honor of St. James, the patron of the city. This was attended by famous knights and nobles from all over Italy, such as Piero Giambacorta of Pisa (1380), Erasmus Gattamelata of Venice (1434) and Carlo of Oddi of Perugia (1456).

Pistoia is a mix of everything, an alternative day, only a short ride from Florence or Prato.

Go and enjoy yourself!

A presto!

Arezzo: a little niche off the beaten track to visit Piero della Francesca's cycle

Arezzo is a small fascinating town in Tuscany, only 80 km from Florence, a wonderful day trip if you want to see a different scenery. In fact the town still preserve intact its medieval appearance despite the addition of later constructions.

Several artists such as Giorgio Vasari, famous for the "Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects" (Italian version) and Piero della Francesca worked here. 

Piero della Francesca (1415-1492) was born in Borgo San Sepolcro, in Umbria, where he spent much of his life. He worked in Urbino, Monterchi, San Sepolcro and in Arezzo, where he produced the Legend of the True Cross in the church of San Francesco, considered as one of the most controversy and interesting Renaissance artwork. Admired by his contemporaries as a mathematician and geometer, as well as painter, today his works are admired for their serene humanism and use of geometric forms, particularly in foreshortening and perspective.

Completed in 1466, the Legend of the True Cross, is considered to be Piero della Francesca's greatest masterpiece and narrative medieval story about the cross on which Jesus was crucified. The dominant theme of the cycle is the thiumph of the cross which, since Adam's death, has been guiding man to salvation. The fresco occupy three levels on the side wall and the eastern wall, surrounding a large window.

To complete his work, Piero della Francesca did not follow a chronological order, preferring to concentrate himself in the creation of symmetrical correspondences between the various scenes. The story narrated in twelve main episodes represented in the various scenes composing the cycle, begins with the Death of Adam in the lunette of the right wall and concludes with the Exultation of the True Cross in the lunette on the left wall and the Annunciation at the bottom left of the center wall. 

Here below a scheme of the narrative sequence:

So, if you have got time, and you want to leave Florence for the day during your next holiday, go and visit Piero della Francesca's artwork in Arezzo.

A presto!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Before Bernini: St. Cecilia of Stefano Maderno

St. Cecilia by Stefano Maderno
photo by Giorgio

In the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, on the other side of the more crowded side of Viale Trastevere, there is one sculpture among all those produced in Rome at the beginning of the XVII century, which indicates the direction in which art would go, St. Cecilia. Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondato commissioned the work to Stefano Maderno, after the tomb of the saint was opened in 1599.

Maderno, originally from Ticino, executed the sculpture for the Holy Year of 1600. The artist aims straight at the beholder's emotions in a way that Bernini and Caravaggio were to perfect. In fact, the realism of the sculpture works as an emotional appeal to the piety of the believer and is an impressive visualization of one of the central aspects of the Catholic Reformation, the cult of early Christian saints.

St. Cecilia represents something of innovative, a departure point for all those artists such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who created works which today will still enjoy in churches and public spaces around Rome.

A presto!

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