Thursday, May 29, 2014

Florence 2013 - Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo)

The main cathedral of Florence - Basilica Santa Maria del Fiore is more commonly known as The Duomo. Construction started in late 13th Century and it was only completed in the 15th Century - taking over 200 years. The famous dome of The Duomo was added in the 15th Century. It was designed by renown Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi, and is still considered as one of the most elegant domes in the World. 

The design of the dome is quite challenging as the architects decided not to make use of buttresses to carry the massive weight as in Gothic designs. This was a significant development in architecture - a transition from the Gothic Style to the Renaissance Style. The problem was only solved when Brunelleschi was called in to design the dome, and his ingenious solution makes quite interesting reading if you are interested in matters related to architecture.

The main facade of the cathedral is neo-Gothic in style and features marble in 3 colours - white, pink and green. It is a striking design with intricate patterns which take time to explore and appreciate.

From every angle this is a magnificent building, one that impresses every time you pass it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Florence 2013 - Piazza della Signoria

Florence was an important centre of medieval culture and trade, and it is also considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. Hence it is home to some of the best Renaissance art and architecture in Italy. It is quite a compact city and easily explored on foot. Most of the interesting sights are within a 3 square kilometre radius.

Florence was the seat of the powerful Medici family. They controlled vast wealth and also political power, but they were also great patrons of the arts. They commissioned works from Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and other prominent artists and musicians of the time. A lot of these works are now housed in the Uffizi Gallery and the Galeria dell'Accademia - 2 of the most important museums in Europe.

Piazza della Signoria - the point of origin of Florence, is still the social and political centre of the City. It is not a very big square, but is surrounded by several impressive and imposing buildings - especially the Palazzo Vecchio with its crenellated tower.

Pallazo Vecchio was once the home and office of the Signoria - the ruler of the city who was elected from among the most powerful families of the time.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Venice 2013 - Around Venice

Wandering around Venice, getting loss is one of the great joys of travel. There is always something around the corner, always some hidden surprises waiting to be discovered. Here are some random photos from my wanderings around Venice. 

You often feel a sense of deja vu as you pass through spaces that look strange yet familiar.

Some of the less well-trodden areas of Venice - like Guidecca, are also worth exploring. You never know what you will find.

After spending a couple of days in Venice, I felt like I needed a few more days. In fact a couple of weeks would be nice. Sadly we had to move on as other destinations beckon. Leaving Venice is not easy !

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Venice 2013 - Santa Maria della Salute

To me one of the most iconic buildings in Venice is the Santa Maria della Salute. Located at the Eastern tip of Dorsoduro Sestieri, this church has a beautiful silhouette that is visible along the waterfront of Doge's Palace. The church was built in the 16th Century as an offering after Venice's deliverance from a very devastating outbreak of the plaque. It was designed by Baldassare Longhena, a Venetian architect who was the only pupil of Vincenzo Scamozzi - an influential architect and writer in the 15th and 16th Century.

The church was designed in the Baroque Style that was popular at the time. It is octagonal in plan and covered with 2 domes - one big and one smaller. There are 2 bell towers that are also terminated with 2 small domes. The overall composition is very pleasing to the eye, and its beautiful form has inspired many artists over the centuries such as Caneletto, JMW Turner and John Singer Sargent.

The interior of the church is even more impressive. The two-tone colour scheme which expresses the colour of the materials is very striking.

From here you also get great views back to San Marco - with many of the beautiful palazzos right in front of you eyes for easy admiration.

Many come here to enjoy the views and relax as it is less crowded compared to the main islands.There were also some who came to practice their hidden talents.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Venice 2013 - Pastry Shop

Back in Venice, if you feel like a snack there is no place better then Pasticceria Dal Mas. This is a popular Venetian pastry shop that is not far from the train station.It is not very big but filled with goodies.

If you are a pastry lover you must stop by this place. Their array of cookies, pastries and cakes simply look beautiful and irresistible. These are some of the Venetian pastries which I haven't seen before.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Venice 2013 - Burano

If you are planning to visit Murano, you might as well include Burano in your schedule. Burano is another island a bit further North of Murano. It is about 7km from Venice and also easily accessible by the water taxi service. 

As if to outdo Murano - the houses on Burano are painted in even brighter colours. It really is picture-postcard beautiful. The bright colours have attracted many artists who have become residents here.

I love it that they still hang their laundries out the windows to dry. Reminds me of the old days back home.

Burano is famous for its lace-making. There are many shops selling these local handicrafts. They do make nice souvenirs that are beautiful, light and easy to carry.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Venice 2013 - Venini Showroom in Murano

If you ever visit Murano, don't miss the Venini showroom. Venini is the most innovative and successful of the glass furnaces based in Murano, and produce really beautiful, world-class pieces through collaboration with some of the top designers and architects in the World. Some of the current collaborators include Tadao Ando, Mario Bellini and Massimiliano Fuksas.

Carlo Scarpa was one of the earliest artistic consultants engaged by Venini, and he has designed a large number of unique and beautiful pieces for Venini that are still in production today. The showroom in Murano was also designed by Scarpa.

I wish I had the budget and the luggage space to bring back some of these pieces. They are truly beautiful and worthy of collection. Having lost all my cash and credit cards in Milan I was in no position to acquire anything that cost more then 50 euros !

Unfortunately the showroom in Murano did not allow photos to be taken of the products, but there is another Venini showroom just next to Basilica San Marco that allows you to take pictures freely. Most of pictures below were taken in the San Marco showroom.