Italy

Puglia: Bari and Polignano

Every August the whole country of Italy essentially shuts down (don’t worry if you were planning a trip the touristic areas and museums are the only things still open) That may sound dramatic, but really it becomes difficult to even find a supermarket close by. This is due to Ferragosto, the holiday celebrating the Assumption of Mary, which has become the official Summer Holiday. The solution to escaping the dead cities and unbearable heat is to go to the Sea or the Mountains. With a friend, we chose the Sea, and we chose to head back south and see a new region, Puglia.

With only three days we didn’t have the opportunity to see much, only Bari and Polignano a Mare, but after this visit, I am sure I will be back to visit even further down the Italian heel.

Polignano A Mare Sea

The view from one of the Free “Beaches” at Polignano, this one was more a cliff of rocks, but you could sit and be sprayed by the crashing waves.

Street Scene Polignano A Mare

The streets of Polignano

Vespa Bari Vecchia

All the winding streets of BariVecchia were filled with Vespas, I decided to take all the photos and start anew Instagram: @NotMyVespa

Bari Vecchia Pasta Making

Everywhere you walk you can find the nonne of Bari Vecchia making fresh Orecchiete and Taralli to sell (they were amazing!) *Photo by: Sara Faloughi

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Return to Matera

Sassi Matera

 

What is Matera?

Matera, most famous for its “Sassi” or rock dwellings, has been settled in continuously since Paleolithic period. In fact, the area of the Sassi is said to be the site of the first ever human dwellings in Italy! These dwellings were carved into the rock and built on top of each other along the edge of a ravine overlooking the Parco della Murgia. Today while they have been upgraded for modern habitation, some stores and houses still incorporate these caverns and many are accessible to Matera;s tourists.   Matera as an official city founded by Romans in 3rd BC, much later it became Lombard territory in 664, when it became a part of Basilicata.  Matera then passed hands between Basilicata, Puglia and the various reigning families that controlled the territory.

In the early Christian history, Matera housed many Benedictine and Basilian monasteries which were then founded in the various grottoes of the area.

The cavern houses of the Sassi were often inhabited by entire families, who then also stabled their animals in the same living area. Due to these conditions, and the natural issues such as lack of running water, mosquitos, and dampness, the Sassi became an embarrassment of Italy. The Sassi were considered so uninhabitable that they were evacuated in the 1950’s, later towards the 1980s people began to return to the Sassi, today both the modern city and Sassi are livable and accessible, and most Materani are proud to share the history of the caves.

In 1993, the Sassi of Matera were officially recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Now they have also been named the Capital of Culture for 2019.

While Christ Stopped At Eboli  by Carlo Levi brought attention to Matera, the city has also inspired many filmmakers and has set the scene and been the subject of many films such as:

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964).

Bruce Beresford’s King David (1985).

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (

2004).

Abel Ferrara’s Mary (2005).

Catherine Hardwicke’s The Nativity Story (2006).

Cyrus Nowrasteh’s The Young Messiah (2016)

Timur Bekmambetov’s Ben-Hur (2016)

Roberto Rossellini’s Garibaldi (1961)

Brunello Rondi’s Il demonio (1963)

Nanni Loy’s Made in Italy (1965)

Roberto Rossellini’s Anno uno (1974)

Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Star Maker (1995)

John Moore’s The Omen (2006)

Liu Jiang’s Let’s Get Married (2015)

Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman (2017)

Matera Sassi Built House

Matera Sassi Doors in the Evening

 

Our Time in Matera

From Rome, the train dropped us in Salerno then it was a two-hour bus ride to Matera. We drove through the cliff-like hill side of Basilicata seeing many different landscapes, from the dry fields of yellow grass, the cliffs and mountains only spotted with vegetation, the marshes filled with goats and herons in the water. I still don’t understand how people somehow found their way through all this to end up carving houses out of Tuffo in a mosquito infested ravine, but whatever led them so deep inland to the arch of Italy’s foot, I am glad they did and left us with the beautiful city Matera is today.

Gelato Matera Vizi degli Angeli

My gelato of Figs and Aglianico

As soon as we got to Matera it was time for the most important stop: Gelato.  l remembered the I Vizi degli Angeli Gelateria in the main square, still one of my top gelaterie in all of Italy. This time I got Figs and Aglianico. Normally I would prefer something creamier, but seeing as how Basilicata has only one DOCG wine and they turned it into gelato I decided it had to be done, and really, what can you pair with a strong red wine gelato?
Even though the last bit of light was being covered by dark clouds and the old street lights of Matera only provided scarce yellow light, we wasted no time exploring every winding path of Matera.  Once leaving the main squares the streets become so quiet, only occasionally do you meet a tiny bar or a group of ragazzini.

The next day was dedicated to exploring all the art and history Matera had to offer.

Three Chiese Ruprestri:

Madonna de Idris, and San Giovanni in Monterrone: both connected they stand on top of a small cliff, overlooking both the city to one side and the Park to the other. Inside are Frescoes dating from the 12th and 13th centuries.  The name “idris” leads back to a greek word meaning to guide the street or water, this became another name for Mary in Constantinople, the name spread to Byzantine territory. This specific church was half constructed outside of the natural rock, and have carved into the rock formation.

Santa Lucia alle Malve: The first monastic church by the Benedictine monks dedicated to a woman, originally from the 8th century, many of the frescoes still seen today date to the 13th century.T he church was eventually inhabited before the evacuation in 1950’s.

San Pietro Barisano, the largest of the Chiese Rupestre, dating from the 12th/13th century.

It’s truly amazing how some of the frescoes within the churches have managed to be kept, even though Nature seems to have been against them since the beginning. Of course, every cave has bright green mold creeping along the highest edges, but it seems just to add to the beauty of the churches.

The next stop was MUSMA: Museo della Scultura Contemporanea Matera. Talking to the woman managing the museum she explained to us that Matera has a series of Private museums, all run by women that have been built up mainly through incredible donations. MUSMA happens to be located in the Palazzo Pomarici, the previous palace of one of the various noble families that used to live in the area.

While their permanent collection is stunning, the most memorable was a joint exhibition between MUSMA and the Chiesa Madonna delle Virtu, who both were displaying an exhibition by Novello Finotti “Dalle profondità del tempo”. He did sculptures of stone playing on different aspects of the human body. One of my favorites was a “nest” made of hands, or a sculpture of a naked torso, with the body above the chest becoming a bunch of asparagus. Sassi Matera NightSassi Matera

Matera is really deserving of the Capital of Culture title, around every corner something is happening, from artisan crafts to historical caves to contemporary exhibitions and galleries. If you are planning a trip anywhere in the South of Italy, I highly recommend stepping just a little out of the way to check this city out, I personally cannot wait to be back!

The hidden gem of EUR

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Palazzo Dei Congressi

 

 

 

 

With the upcoming EXPO I have been thinking a lot about the layout of the would be Rome EXPO of 1942, however as it was never used, there has still never been a World Expo here in Rome, although it has been hosted in Italy four times.

Benito Mussolini, in is hopes of expanding his fascist empire and building a new Rome, as well as in his desire to display the greatness of Italian power to the world, attempted to hold a world exposition here in Rome. It was to be held in 1942, on the 20th anniversary of his March on Rome.  In 1937 construction began to build this new city which would hold this exposition.

The project was called E42 or Esposizione 1942. It was to be built along the Via Imperiale that stretched from the Altare della Patria all the way to Ostia. Today this road is broken into Viale dei Imperiali and Via Cristoforo Colombo.

At the same time as this project, Mussolini worked to clear out the center of historic Rome. He believed this would solve two problems. The first was opening the historic Rome, as an image of italianita and grandeur, the second would solve his problem of necessity for modern buildings and housing.

EUR, as it is known today, was Rome’s first major reinvention. While many other cities continuously changed and renovated, Rome was the same as it had always been. This development was a push forward to bring Rome to the same modern field as all other capital cities.

Mussolini entrusted the design of this new city to Marcello Piacentini, a young architect who was the leading designer of fascist architecture. His work was Reactionary, Imperialistic, and Monumental. EUR became a meeting point for Rationalist and Antique architecture, mixing functionality with ancient motifs.

Everything about this city was to mirror Centro Storico. It included elements that paid homage to ancient structures such as the Colosseum and the Forum of Augustus. The entire message of the city is one of authority. This area has been used in a number of films depicting future societies including Equilibrium.

Although the Exposition never occurred, the area was salvaged around the later 1950’s and was reused. EUR served as presentation space during the 1960 Olympics. To this day EUR still functions as an industrial and office space of the city. Recently Fendi has taken the Palazzo della Civilita as its official Rome headquarters.

Unfortunately, the beauty of this area is not often realized as it is so far out of the city. EUR can be reached through Metro and is definitely worth a visit if you have the time. Although it is filled with Fascist propaganda architecture, the locals have forgotten this heritage, and choose to appreciate the area for it’s beautiful architecture.  “You can’t reject those past 50years because intelligent people made art and it’s still art, whatever its flaws are. It’s not the ideology that matters it’s the art, one cannot forget or cross out history.” Director of the Luigi Piggorini Museum, found in EUR.

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San Pietro e San Paolo, climb up this ramp for one of the greatest views of Rome.

 

 

 

 

The details of Michelangelo’s David

052    On March 6th, the anniversary of Michelangelo Buonarrotti’s birthday I had the chance to finally visit the David. Upon walking into the Accademia there is no excitement, the first room is yellow tinted with unappealing lighting. In the center stands an early cast of Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna, the walls carry scattered paintings. Turn left and you enter a long hallway where suddenly the David strikes you. The hallway includes a number of statues by Michelangelo as well but they are impossible to focus on when there is the beacon of natural light meeting marble at then end of the hall.

It is impossible not to rush straight ahead to the David. He stands on a pediment, and although I have seen the one in Piazza della Signoria, I thought the real statue was smaller. This massive larger than life statue holds your attention. A large part of this is due to its position.  A jewel of the museum it is almost as if the museum was built around this statue, rather than having it moved there later.

Michelangelo David Florence

 

When I imagined David smaller, I imagined the viewer could meet his gaze, whereas in reality Michelangelo’s ability to create moving emotion shows through and David intently looks up to his left, as if meeting the gaze of Goliath.  In reality, it originally looked to Rome, a message sent from the Medici Democracy to the Papal State.

While his gaze does not meet the views, the strong aspect of his hand and his overall presence within the space is enough to complete a sense of awe.

Michelangelo's David Gaze Michelangelo's David, Hand detail

Once the viewer can pull themselves back into the moment, away from the statue, the other statues in the hall become clearer. Of these 6 other statues, 4 are Michelangelo’s unfinished Slaves, meant to be placed on the Pope Julius II tomb. While they may not seem “beautiful” in our eyes that are trained to see finished works as beautiful, they reveal a new part of the process. How does a block of marble become an inspiring work of art? Michelangelo carved from the front back, having the figures emerge. When looking at these however, it appears the reverse, that the figures are slowly melting back into the marble.

Exploring Garbatella

GarbatellaThe last Roman neighborhood, Garbatella, meaning the well-mannered innkeeper, an area that manages to be both incredibly lively and peaceful at the same time. There is a reason it is on the top of every “off the beaten path in Rome” list. This neighborhood will stick with you.

Garbatella is a puzzle of public housing, some made quick and cheap, some designed in the manner of an English Garden, some staying true to the fascist architecture. One of the greatest sites to wander through are the many lotti, apartment blocks which are built around communal gardens.

Garbatella offers many culinary experiences from the classic bars featured in Passolini’s work to the trattorias which offer a different menu every day, depending on the fresh ingredients available. There is also a food market found behind teatro palladium, it is up every weekend throughout the day. One of my greatest finds there was balsamic honey, perfect on bread, or for medicinal purposes as well.

A.S. Roma is the team of choice here, and they won’t let you forget it, murals to the team, tasteful grafiti with the symbol of the wolf. The passion for the team, with the colors of red and orange decorating every corner, holds your attention and inspires you as you walk through.

Lotto of GarbatellaThough not as ancient as centro storico, this  area holds much history. Built up under Mussolini to serve as a suburb to rome, the houses were commissioned by the Public Housing team. different architects worked on them at different times, this is clear in the changing styles, throughout the blocks.

When the allies bombed this area took a small hit, and it managed to stop the clock that stands on top of the “Red Hotel”. No one ever bothered to fix it, so it stands as a reminder to the event.

Also found in Garbatella is Eataly, which I do recommend stopping at for a treat! I also recommend Lavazza Tierra coffee, which I found only there.

The truth is Garbatella’s beauty cannot be described through words, and you ought to see it for yourself. Go get lost, but if you need a little more structure, I recommend the tour found in Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler.

Lotto Signs in Garbatella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windows in Garbatella

First Christmas Away

Gingerbread Christmas Cookies

This year will be my very first Christmas away from my family, in another country and without snow. It’s been really strange trying to get excited for Christmas when there are still palm trees outside my window and when I can walk outside in just a sweatshirt. It doesn’t even feel like December. So to make it feel more like the holidays I managed to buy a mini tree (a real one even!), decorate with my roommates and make a million cookies, most of which were eaten immediately.

I had always wanted to spend the holidays in Rome thinking it would be lots of fun, but have realized it’s just not the same without snow, my kittens, and my wonderful wood stove. Although, the city is decorated beautifully with lights shaped to be the flag of every country, and  my favorite sight was a Fiat 500, decorated with Santa driving around.

What has your experience with Christmas in Italy been? Have any recommendations for how to spend Christmas-New Years here in Rome?

I hope you all have a wonderful and happy holiday!

Christmas Lights

People Watching in Florence

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I have found I love using people in photography since shooting for WLFR, I also just love to people watch. This past weekend I went up to Florence to do a shoot with two friends. I was able to get some amazing shots (more to come on flickr), and also finally visit the Uffizi. I started a whole set of photos of people looking at the Birth of Venus, however this was the only one that came out well. I must say after this trip through Florence I did enjoy it much more.  I hope to do a lot more of these photoshoots soon!

A Day with Dante

A few weeks ago I was staying in Riccione and had the chance to take a day exploring historic Rimini and Ravenna.  Both of these cities played an important role in the life of Dante, which is exactly why I wanted to visit.

Rimini, though more famously known as one of the best beach vacation spots actually has a fascinating historic center, which houses the Malatesta Temple, the official cathedral of the Malatesta family. The same Malatesta family included in Dante’s Inferno, Paolo Malatesta and his brothers wife Francesca da Polenta who found themselves committing adultery were both murdered by Giovanni Malatesta . The Malatesta family held power over Rimini for hundreds of years, beginning in 1295. They were a family of Guelphs and took power when their enemies the Ghibelline’s were run out of Rimini.

The Temple however was built in 1458 by architect Leon Battista Alberti, and  Matteo di Andrea de’ Pasti. The intent was for this to be a Mausoleam for Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta and his lover Isotta degli Atti. The temple was to have a dome based off the Pantheon and it would have been the largest in all of Italy, however, it was never built, as the family was running out of money. The building we see today is how it was left in 1466.

I had breakfast just around the corner (with a delicious cornetto based off chocolate rice krispies!) with a beautiful view of the Temple, on my right I could see straight down the street to the main historic square. It was around 9 and the city was busy, yet quite. Everyone rode bikes, in fact there was a three sided bike stand with bikes piled on each other, each bike with a basket that often contained if not a meal, a small child riding around with their family.

Malatesta Temple

Malatesta Temple

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Inside the Malatesta Temple

Inside the Malatesta Temple

Inside the Malatesta Temple

Inside the Malatesta Temple

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From Rimini I took the train to Ravenna, about a two hour ride. Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman empire from 402 to 476, the entire city essentially is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Best known for it’s amazing Byzantine and Medieval mosaics, it also happens to have Dante’s tomb, where his actual remains rest (as opposed to his tomb in Florence), and be an amazing cultural center. I mainly visited due to the fact I had heard amazing things about the churches and mosaics but then when I found out Dante was laid to rest there, I couldn’t miss it.

Thankfully I was able to see his tomb, just before they closed it for cleaning. I spent some time in the courtyard just taking it all in. Suddenly this experience made me realize how real Dante was, how real all his characters and his words were. We study him so often as an example of literature or of politics but we think of all the characters as figments of a long distant history. Being in the spot he wrote, in and about, and being near to his last resting place suddenly the reality sinks in.

I was very happy to see all the mosaics and early churches, the most beautiful of which was San Vitale, but I was most happy to see the small tomb.

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Examples of some of the more interesting medieval mosaics of Ravenna.

Examples of some of the more interesting medieval mosaics of Ravenna.

The entire street Dante's tomb is on is a silent zone.

The entire street Dante’s tomb is on is a silent zone.

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The courtyard of Dante's tomb.

The courtyard of Dante’s tomb.

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San Vitale

San Vitale

San Vitale

San Vitale

Venice Collection

I have many photos of Venice, so I put together a little gallery! In Rome finals are just finishing up and I have been a little too busy to go out and do anything, but I will have new adventures soon I am sure!

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A Fruit Stand In Venezia

A Fruit Stand In  Venezia

Everything in Venice lives up to their “Myth of Venice” image, even the fruit stands. In Rome we have piles of plastic boxes filled with fruit, but it is all cheap, fresh and delicious, who cares how it is stacked?

In Venice it is neatly arranged below an awning and a beautiful porch from the building above. It is set directly at the end of a long alley, becoming a shining light in the winding dark alleys of Venice. And when you reach it to one side you have the canal with gondolas waiting, and another quaint little bridge. To the other side you have an open piazza filled with people settling into their spritz at every hour of the day.

It sure was beautiful, except for the fact the fruit was set at Venetian prices as well.

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