Tag Archives: Italia

Ostuni, the other windy city

Italians call it La Citta Bianca–The White City.  I call it L‘altra Città Ventosa–The Other Windy City.  Ostuni (the official name of this white and windy city) is remarkably picturesque from a distance.  We approached by train though silvery rows of olive trees towards a small mountain of whitewashed buildings.  After the friendly owner of our B&B picked us […]

Bernini’s Saint Teresa: ecstasy made of marble

We’re all bombarded daily with urgent demands: buy now! renew now! click now! save the environment!  save your soul!  I too have a demand for you and while it won’t whiten your teeth, update the virus protection on your computer, or reward you with salacious celebrity gossip, it’s truly urgent: get yourself to Rome.  Walk rapidly, dodging Vespas with a […]

Pienza: all Renaissance towns should have a bird that talks like a refrigerator

During a fascinating period of the Italian Renaissance, humanist scholars and architects set out to create the ideal city.  Surprisingly, one of these urban planners was a pope–Pope Pious II.  Pius II (formerly known as Enea Silvio Piccolomini) transformed his home town, Cosignano, into a miniature urban Renaissance Utopia.  He hired the architect Rossellino to […]

In which St. Francis preaches to the birds, tames a wolf and jumps the shark

What saint could be more endearing than St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals?  St. Francis (1182 – 1226) grew up as a rich, fashionable boy in Assisi, but a religious epiphany turned him from a dandy to a monk.  He “married” poverty, founded the Franciscan order of friars, and was a hugely influential […]

Giotto’s Scrovengni chapel: betrayal, revenge and dorky camels

It’s a devastating moment in the life of Joachim, a pious and generous man.  He wants most of all to give to the poor and sacrifice to the Lord, but the rabbi rudely rejects him.  As Joachim and his wife Anna are growing old but still childless, the rabbi declares they are cursed by God and unwelcome […]

Built to oppress: fascist architecture in Italy

While wandering about Naples, we took a detour from munching street food and dodging vespas to oggle fascist architecture.  HOB and I groaned and giggled at the aggressively symmetrical fascist post office and then decided to go in–why not?  We really did need stamps.  On entry a machine instructed us to take a number.  We […]

Lecce, Italy: all the putti

Putti wrapped around columns, garlands of putti, putti with pigeons on their heads, gilded putti holding up ceilings, putti coyly offering bunches of grapes, flying heads-with-no-bodies-putti, actual children that strongly resemble putti…. Arrive in Italy and keep going South, all the way down, right there to the tip of the boot.  Did you find a […]

I hope that you, my friends, might also one day find yourselves at the door to Villa La Rotonda in Vicenza while a security guard sings you the theme to Married… with Children.

“Where are you from?” asked the gregarious guard at the entry to Palladio’s Villa La Rotonda.  After replying, “Chicago, USA” we braced ourselves for the usual “Al Capone, bang bang bang!” only to be surprised by the guard’s delighted smile and cheery rendition of the theme song to Married… with Children. While Chicago may be […]

Urbino: Ideal Renaissance city drowned in a sea of drunken students

How could I help it?  I idealized Urbino. Even though I’ve long maintained a vigilant stance against romanticizing people and places alike, this was Urbino: Renaissance mecca for humanists, scholars, art and architecture.   The location, in the isolated and mountainous region of Italy’s Marche, combined with being a university town filled me with visions of […]

Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico: classic geeks, architecture nerds and trompe-l’œil freaks hold hands and say GAH!

I’ve been meaning to write about visiting Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy  in an academic way, letting you all know that it was constructed in 1580 from Andrea Palladio’s plans based on  a reconstruction of an ancient Roman theater ,etc, etc, because you, my readers, need the facts.  But I’ve got to be straight with you: as soon […]