RSSArchive for February, 2010

Piazza Navona, Rome

Navona holds one of the finest examples of Bernini’s fountain work: the Fontana dei Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) built in 1651. Arrayed around the central rocky mass supporting the almost-obligatory obelisk are four large sculptures executed by his students. One of them, the Ganges, was sculpted by Claude Poussin who would later become a master under his own name.

Villa Borghese, Rome

Located north of the Spanish Steps, the entrances are above the Piazza del Poppolo and the Porta Pinciana. Villa Borghese is 80 hectares of greenery containing aviaries, museums and a stunning artificial lake. A vineyard in the 16th century, Cardinal Borghese had it transformed into a park with geometric landscaping ala Versailles.

Fountains in Rome

The Trevi is unquestionably the most famous, but it has many competitors for the attention of Rome’s many visitors. The Fountain of Triton (Fontana del Tritone) is just one stellar example. Designed by the renowned Bernini in 1642, it is a masterpiece in the Baroque style.

Domus Aurea, Rome

The original palace and related structures covered 350 acres that included a man-made lake, vineyards and the house itself. Terming the villa a house, however, is misleading. It contained 300 rooms, but is thought to have had no sleeping quarters. None that were intentional, at least. No doubt many passed out where they were during the parties for which Nero was famed.

The Doge’s Palace in Venice

The palace is located at one end of the Piazza San Marco and forms part of that impressive area in the heart of Venice. Despite fires, earthquakes, damage from Napoleon’s war machine and much more, it stands today as one of the premier symbols of this amazing city.

Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Visitors will want to spend some time in the Salone dei Cinquecento. Once a grand hall of the Grand Duke Cosimo I, they offer modern viewers a look at some of the Pallazzo Vecchio’s finest frescoes. Scenes depicting The Taking of Siena and Pisa Attacked by the Florentines are only two among many extolling the ruler’s military adventures.

Tuscany

For centuries the region has been the site of olive groves, wineries and hills of unparalleled loveliness. At the same time, cities like Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and Florence have provided works of architecture, painting and sculpture that are at the pinnacle of achievement.

The Leaning Tower in Pisa

Begun in 1173 AD, the tower has been an architectural problem almost from its beginning. Owing to soft ground and a shallow foundation, the tower began to lean as early as the time the third floor was completed. This despite the over 13 foot-thick walls at the base. But engineers at the time had few resources to call on. There was no ground penetrating radar, geological science, lasers or huge cranes to right the work.

The Pantheon in Rome

Nearly two thousand years after its birth the Pantheon in Rome is as stable today as when it was first built. Yet it was constructed without the benefit of machines or modern tools. Nor did the Pantheon engineers have the advantage of modern transportation methods. All the materials were floated down the Tiber and moved to the site by man and animal on carts of the period.

Forum Romanum in Rome

Composed of a dozen temples, arches and other structures, it was rightly called the Forum Magnum (the Great Forum) by those who had many to choose from. Built on drained marsh land, it provided a focal point for commerce, legal administration and social interaction for the citizens and rulers of Rome.

Uffizi Gallery in Florence

The Uffizi occupies a building originally intended as office space for the Grand Duke Cosimo I (1519-1574). ‘Uffizi’ in Italian means ‘office’. The gallery itself was completed in 1581 from a design by Vasari, under the sponsorship of Cosimo’s son, Francisco. Gradually, the Medici transferred more and more works here, creating the world’s first public art museum in 1591.

Siena

Siena

Siena’s city hall, first begun in the 13th century, holds the Civic Museum. Inside the Palazzo Publico, access is via an enclosed courtyard that alone is worth the trip. Off to the side is the entrance to the Torre del Mangia, another of Siena’s outstanding sights.