Il Duomo, Firenze: urban climbs

My birthday was last month and I marked it in a big way this year.  A fellow-January birthday girl and I got tickets to climb to the top of the Florence cathedral dome.  It is a bit of a hike.  You climb up more than 500 steps, many very steep, and, even in January, the stairways are crowded.  It was worth every step!

You must be very careful on these stairways, some narrow, some steep, some filled with people going down while you are going up.  I was very, very careful, bc who wants to fall on a stairway from the roof of the duomo?

This post covers the exterior, a separate post is coming soon on the interior of the dome.

So, the first stopping place is the terrace level below the dome, as seen here:

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The views, even from this lesser level, are outstanding!  There’s the dome of San Lorenzo:

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Beguiling views of the baptistry:

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So, as I said, I was extremely careful as I climbed up the duomo stairways.  And then, 2 days later, I missed a step on a small stairway in my apartment building, lost my balance and twisted my ankle.  And I’ve been laid up ever since!  I finally got an X-ray and nothing was broken, thank goodness, but the ligaments were torn, so we think.

Anyway, feeling sorry for myself with my foot elevated for several weeks, I haven’t felt like talking about the dome climb.  I am almost back to walking well by now, and this is my post to celebrate that fact!

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Above and below, shots of the January skies over Florence:

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Ahoy down there!

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Looking to San Lorenzo: when I’m high up above Florence I realize again how small this city really is!

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Looking toward Fiesole:

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Looking up and thinking: “can I climb that many more steps to get up there?” Not completely convinced.

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The quality of the sculptural details at this height was amazing to me.  The architects and sculptors could have been excused for skimping on details: I mean, how many people will ever see the work from close-up?

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But they skimped on nothing:

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So, okay, chicken, let’s keep climbing.  You made it this far.  So, up we go, and the climb got more severe:

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This sweet woman encouraged me every step of the way, which was a lot of steps!

 

 

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Above: Looking south, way across Florence, we see Forte Belvedere with its tower:

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Below: looking across Florence to San Minato al Monte:

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Looking over to the synagogue with the green dome:

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Looking towards Santa Croce:

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In the middle ground, the Bargello and Badia:

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Looking toward the Mercato Centrale, with the green roof:

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San Lorenzo with train station in background:

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Looking way across town to the church of Santa Maria Novella:

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Another shot of San Lorenzo with its entire complex shown:

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Orsan Michele in foreground, Palazzo Pitti in front of forest (Boboli Gardens).

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Below: looking to Piazza della Repubblica:

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Below: details inside the Giardino Boboli:

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An Italian opera director turns a painted Renaissance masterpiece on its head…

And much, much more.

PARIS — You can’t always expect to understand the work of Romeo Castellucci. But you’re sure to be awed by its beauty.

Especially when the Italian director — really, a polymathic theatrical artist — stages opera. His productions are rich in symbols and enigmas; each movement leads to a picture-perfect tableau….Mr. Castellucci’s latest project, Scarlatti’s “Il Primo Omicidio” (“The First Homicide”), which continues at the Paris Opera’s Palais Garnier through Feb. 23, is…relatively direct, yet still striking.

“It’s a portrait of Cain,” Mr. Castellucci said of Scarlatti’s 1707 oratorio, an account of the Cain and Abel story, in an interview under the ornate chandeliers of the Garnier’s grand foyer. “But it’s really about innocence.”

The switch from adult singers to children happens the moment Cain murders Abel. “We are in the domain of childhood,” Mr. Castellucci said. “It is a childish mythology.”

A story of jealousy and murder, in his telling, becomes one of rediscovering lost innocence, of adults in search of their youthful doppelgängers….a journey abounding in imaginative stage magic — with layers of lighting and scrims, Mr. Castellucci conjures vast Rothko canvases that have the soft seamlessness of a James Turrell — reaches its end.

 

 

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The soprano Birgitte Christensen, center, as Eve.CreditJulien Mignot for The New York Times

For the scene in which Eve learns she will be a mother, Mr. Castellucci thought of the Annunciation — the angel Gabriel delivering the news to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. So he turned to “Annunciation With St. Margaret and St. Ansanus,” an Italian Gothic triptych by Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi that now hangs in the Uffizi in Florence.

But he turned it upside down. As Eve sings of her coming motherhood, the massive altarpiece is lowered, slowly, above her head. “It’s a kind of guillotine,” Mr. Castellucci said. “A menace.”

 

Rare footage of Monet, Degas, Renoir and Rodin

 

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Rare Film of Monet, Renoir, Rodin and Degas
Fine art enthusiasts will appreciate these fascinating 100-year-old film clips of four of the most celebrated artists in history; Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Auguste Rodin, and Edgar Degas. In 1915, with the newly innovated film camera, a young Russian-born, French actor named Sacha Guitry captured some of France’s greatest artists and authors.

Verona, Italy in December

What a lovely small city is Verona.  I understand why Shakespeare chose it as his setting for Romeo and Juliet!

I had the good fortune to spend a few days in Verona recently and the city was all decked out for Christmas.

To begin, here is our home away from home, with a beautiful terrace next to the Adige River.  A large persimmon (cachi in Italiano) tree attracted many local ucelli!

 

Here are some of my favorite pictures:

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L’amore materno–Mother Love

 

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I love a decorative octopus!

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Check out the foot still attached to this prosciutto!  OMG!

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Verona’s magnificent Duomo below:

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The apron front of the facade reminded me of church architecture in Lucca.

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The altar below is painted and has matching sculptures in front.  I’d never seen anything like this before.

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The altar below beckons from across the church.  Such lavish gold, again, I’ve never seen anything quite like this and I’ve seen a lot of altars in my day.  I love that Italy is always surprising me.

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See what I mean below:

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The ubiquitous December creche scene: the figure of the baby Jesus will not appear until midnight of the 25th.

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I guess the placard below is for those sinners who don’t remember or know how to confess.

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These pictures are from the interior of the duomo in Verona.  It is a beautiful church.  Verona was obviously a wealthy city during the Renaissance and after, as it still is today.

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I’ve looked at a lot of paintings in my day, but I’ve never seen such a foreshortened putto flying in from this angle, to crown with laurel the knight in armor.

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While this sculpted doorway below looks to be monumental, it was actually at my eye level on a wall in the duomo, and measured about 12 inches tall.

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Back out in the lovely streets of Verona, I admired this art nouveau wrought iron in a window.  It’s unusual for Italy and I love it.

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Below is the gorgeous facade of the duomo.

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There are Roman ruins on the hillsides in Verona.  I took this picture to remind me of this new (to me) fact: I want to go back and see more of the town.

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The facade below is getting some TLC.

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Walking along on the sidewalk along a wall, there are death notices posted.  I find these fascinating.

 

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Flower shops are magnets to me:

 

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I am obsessed with this crystal lamp with the red tassels.  Obsessed.

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Obsessed I tell you!

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Finally, the end.  A shout out to my girl, Jenny, for being an awesome traveling companion.  More to come, I am sure!

Oh, and p.s., I have a few more Verona posts coming, including Giardino Giusti.  Watch this space!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bridal Chamber frescoes, Andrea Mantegna

 

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One of the two most enchanting places I have ever been is in the Bridal Chamber of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, Lombardy, Italy.  I won’t share my other top most favorite place here, but I will tell you it is a Renaissance room of about the same size somewhere in Tuscany and was painted by Benozzo Gozzoli.  

But recently in Mantua, I found Andrea Mantegna’s Cameral degli Sposi, and I fell in love. Again. I knew it would happen.

It was December and I was alone in this beautiful chamber, with time to study the details to my heart’s content.  I took about a million photos and I am sharing them here. 

Let’s start with a video:

 

I’m not even going to talk about the paintings, except to say that they –the 4 walls and the amazing ceiling– were frescoed by Andrea Mantegna  between 1465 to 1475.  Mantegna’s painted scheme creates an illusionistic space, as if the chamber was a loggia with three openings facing country landscapes among arcades and curtains. The painted scenes portray members of the Gonzaga family.

But, for once, that is all I will say with words.  My million photos will become this post. If you can get to Mantua, DO SO!

 

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Va bene, it’s time to look up:

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Executed between 1465 and 1474, the room, which is entirely painted, shows the marquis, Lodovico, going about his courtly business with family and courtiers in tow in impressive 3D. Painted naturalistically and with great attention to perspective, the arched walls appear like windows on the courtly world – looking up at the Duke’s wife Barbara, you can even see the underside of her dress as if she’s seated above you. Most playful of all though is the trompe l’œil oculus featuring bare-bottomed putti (cherubs) – the point of view is quite distastefully realistic in places – balancing precariously on a painted balcony, while smirking courtly pranksters appear ready to drop a large potted plant on gawping tourists below.

 

 

Orsan Michele, Firenze

A while back I took the opportunity to pay a visit to the famous Florentine church, built in a former granary.  It is opulent and lovely.

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Above the church is a museum where all of the significant Renaissance sculptures originally placed in niches on the 4 facades of the church are now housed.  Copies of these grand works are now in the niches on the building’s facade.

Here are some of the original works:

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The views of the city from the 2nd floor of Orsan Michele are pretty amazing.

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