Category Archives: Italy

A to Z of Balconies – Verona

Supposedly the location of the famous balcony scene from Shakespeare’s love story, Juliet’s house in Verona is a popular romantic shrine and tourist honey-trap where lovers leave messages to each other on the walls and attach the dreadful lovelocks to the fences and the railings.

Although the place has become a major destination for tourist pilgrimage the house of course has no connection at all with the bard’s fictional characters and although it is old and looks authentic enough, the balcony was actually added in 1936 and declared to be “Juliet’s house” by the city authorities in a blatant attempt to cash in on the Shakespeare connection and to attract more tourists.

The balcony overlooks a tiny courtyard containing a dainty bronze statue of a graceful Juliet and people were waiting impatiently for their turn to be photographed with the heroine and to touch her right breast which is supposed to bring good fortune but I was worried that public groping was inappropriate and ever so slightly ungentlemanly so I steered clear and elected to do without the good luck boost and on the way out decided not to waste my money on a lottery ticket next weekend.

It is an interesting fact that thirteen of the thirty-seven plays of William Shakespeare were set either completely or partly in Italy and if we rule out the ten English history plays (which naturally have to be set in England) then half of the remainder of the major works are set in the Italian states and no one knows for sure just why.

Those who question Shakespeare’s authorship make the point that he sets his plays in Venice, Milan and Florence not Warwick, Oxford and York and they just may have a point!

The plays in which some or all of the action is set in Italy are: All’s Well that Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Winter’s Tale.

“Ever a shadow, he disappears, all but utterly, from 1585 to 1592….There is not a more tempting void in literary history, nor more eager hands to fill it” – Bill Bryson on Shakespeare.

People Pictures – Waiting For The Bus

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken in the tiny country of San Marino…

San Marino is the fifth smallest country in the World (it is .0008% the size of Australia) and the third smallest in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being tinier. It is also World’s smallest Republic. I have been to the Vatican City but not to Monaco.

Nearly fifty years ago at University I studied the ‘Unification of Italy’, it was my specialist subject, but I don’t remember it ever occurring to me to wonder why San Marino is an independent State (perhaps that’s why I didn’t get a First) and not simply a part of greater Italy because Italy is one hundred and sixteen thousand square miles of territory and San Marino is only twenty-three (.02%). Visiting the country made me belatedly curious.

One explanation offered is that during the wars of Italian unification Giuseppi Garibaldi (he keeps cropping up) in 1849 was on the run from Austrian, French, Spanish and Neapolitan troops and sought refuge for himself and his small army in San Marino where he was given welcome and refuge. In recognition of this support Garibaldi accepted the wish of San Marino not to be incorporated into the new Italian state and in 1862 a friendship treaty guaranteed its continuing independence.

Click on an image to view the Gallery…

Read The Full Story Here…

Monday Washing Lines – Venice Canal

 

Welcome to my new Project – Washing Lines

“The Venetian gondola is as free and graceful, in its gliding movement, as a serpent. It is twenty or thirty feet long and is narrow and deep like a canoe; its sharp bow and stern sweep upward from the water like the horns of a crescent…. The bow is ornamented with a battle axe attachment that threatens to cut passing boats in two.” – Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

Our friendly gondolier took us first through some narrow back canals heading for the Grand Canal that without pavements or people were curiously quiet as we passed by the back doors and water garages of mansions, shops and restaurants but the main canals were busier, lined with cafés and restaurants and with crowds of people crossing the narrow bridges every few metres or so.

I preferred the quieter back canals where it was possible to get a real taste of Venice. The Venice where people live. At water level there was a completely different perspective to the buildings and down here we could see the exposed brickwork and the crumbling pastel coloured stucco giving in to the constant assault of the waters of the lagoon as it gnaws and gouges its relentless way into the fabric of the buildings.

 

It is a challenge, feel free to join in.

A to Z of Statues – D is for Domenico Modugno

In the centre of the Italian town of Polignnao al Mare is a tall statue of a man with arms theatrically outstretched as trying to attempt flight and this turned out to be the singer/songwriter Domenico Modugno who is perhaps the most famous son of Polignano who after a career in show business went on to become a member of the Italian Parliament.

Domenico who? I hear you ask. Well, let me tell you that Domenico is renowned for writing and performing what is claimed to be the most famous, most copied, most successful ever Eurovision Song Contest entry (even beating ABBA) and most lucrative in terms of revenue, Italian popular music songs of all time.

Think about it…have you got it…

“Nel blu dipinto di blu” or most popularly known as “Volare”

Quite by chance today is Eurovision Song Contest Day.

Read The Full Story Here…

People Pictures – Travelling Salesman

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken in Polignano a Mare in Puglia, Italy. A dangerously overloaded three wheel Piaggio mobile hardware shop. I imagine the driver had to be careful going around corners for fear of toppling over…

It reminded me in a way of the door-to-door salesmen who would come by now and again when I was a boy and try to persuade my Mum to buy something from his suitcase. I don’t think she ever did. Later when I had a house of my own men would come by and spill a yarn about being an ex convict trying to go straight by selling door-to-door. I always bought something from them in case if I didn’t they came back later.

Read The Full Story Here…

Monday Washing Lines – Burano in Venice

Welcome to my New Project – Washing Lines

Thank you all for joining in, there have been a number of featured washing lines from Burano in the Venetian lagoon so here is mine, something that I knocked up from collected driftwood on my travels…

It is a Challenge, feel free to join in.

A to Z of Balconies – Naples

 

Naples – where my A to Z of Balconies meets my Washing Line Challenge…

“To see Naples as we saw it in the early dawn from far up on the side of Vesuvius, is to see a picture of wonderful beauty. At that distance its dingy buildings looked white, rank on rank of balconies, windows and roofs, they piled themselves up from the blue ocean till the colossal castle of St. Elmo topped the grand white pyramid and gave the picture symmetry, emphasis and completeness

But do not go within the walls and look at it in detail. That takes away some of the romance of the thing.”

Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

On this point I have to disagree with Mark Twain, the back streets are the romance of the place.

A to Z of Balconies – Milan in Italy

I came across this interesting high rise building in the business district of Milan.

It is called The Bosco Verticale or vertical forest and is the brainchild of Milanese architect Stefano Boeri and  uses more than twenty thousand trees and plants to adorn two high-rise buildings from top to bottom.

They certainly look good but their practical purpose is to absorb CO2 and help tackle city pollution.  It may be spectacular but it looks like a maintenance headache to me.

On This Day – Naples

Hopefully life is making slow progress towards getting back to normal. Until it does I am still going through my archives. On 20th April 2018 I was in the Italian city of Naples…

“See Naples and die. Well, I do not know that one would necessarily die after merely seeing it, but to attempt to live there might turn out a little differently”, Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

We had suggested to some regular travelling pals that we should go to Naples for a few days. They were horrified by the suggestion because of the city’s reputation as being quite dangerous. They said that they would prefer to go to Barcelona in Spain even though I pointed out that the Spanish city is the pickpocket capital of Europe.

There is the famous phrase that says ‘See Naples and die!’ which originated under the Bourbon regime and means that before you die you must experience the beauty and magnificence of Naples. Some, less charitable, now say that the city is so mad, dangerous and polluted that death might possibly be a consequence of a visit there.

To be fair not everyone is so pessimistic and gloomy about Naples and in 1913 George Bradshaw wrote in his guide ‘Great Continental Railway Journeys”…

“Naples is a bit of heaven that has tumbled to earth.”

I liked it immediately. At the Centro Storico the warren of alleys with peeling sepia walls were vibrant, chaotic and gloriously dilapidated, the architecture was glorious, the locals loud and boisterous, the balconies bannered with laundry and the driving was appalling. This was a glorious place, the beating heart of the city, raw, passionate, crumbling, secret, welcoming and corrupt.

Naples, we learned, is considered dangerous for a number of reasons. Most obvious of all is its perilously close proximity to Vesuvius that looms large over the city. Naples is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world and is regarded as potentially one of the most dangerous volcanoes on earth because there is a population of three million people living so close to it.

The second reason is lawlessness because Naples has enormous problems with Mafia style organised crime. The Naples equivalent of the Mafia is the Camorra, which is a loose confederation of criminal networks in control of crime, prostitution, arms dealing and drug-trafficking and the gang wars result in a high number of deaths.

The network of clans has been described as Italy’s most murderous crime syndicate, preying on the communities around it by means of extortion and protection rackets. Rival factions wage feuds as they battle to control the drugs trade.

Most dangerous in my opinion is Italian drivers, a problem that is not restricted to Naples. Italy it has to be said has some insanely different driving rules to the rest of Europe and the traffic was murderously busy and dangerously hectic in this part of the city.

Traffic lights are a good example of these different rules because each one resembles the starting grid of a formula one grand prix. At an Italian traffic junction there is an intolerant confusion of cars all impatiently throbbing with engines growling, exhaust pipes fuming and clutch plates sizzling like a red hot grill plate whilst behind the wheel the drivers blood pressure reaches somewhere several degrees beyond boiling point. A regard for the normal habits of road safety is curiously absent in Italy so although the traffic light colours are the same as elsewhere they mean completely different things.

Red means slow down, amber means go and green means mass homicide. At a junction an Italian driver simply points his car at the exit he is aiming for and five seconds before the lights go green, he shuts his eyes, presses the accelerator to the floor then races forward and may God have mercy on anything or anyone in his way.

Anyway, we had a good four days in Naples, Vesuvius didn’t erupt, we didn’t get gunned down by the Mob and we didn’t get run down by a mad driver. We declared it a big success and would happily return.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Monday Washing Lines – Frascati in Italy

Welcome to my latest theme. Monday Washing Lines.

This week I am back in Italy in the town of Frascati quite close to Rome.  I have chosen this washing line because I like the use of a single peg colour – the work of a professional pegger…

It is a Challenge. Do feel free to join in…