Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The poet, some models and famous steps

 The Spanish Steps in Rome.
Built in the 1720's and the scene of a small film or two.

Perfect for pausing and admiring the scenery
Or perfect for posing and being admired as scenery.
And perhaps eating a gelato.

As usual with everything in Rome, The Spanish Steps is steeped in history,
and legend.

But my favourite story involves a dying poet and some pretty artist models.

 In 1820 the English poet John Keates was dying of tuberculosis.
His friends and doctor urged him to come to Rome, as they thought the warmer climate would improved his health.
It didn't.
In November 1820 Keates and an artist friend, Joseph Severn took rooms in a house right next to the Spanish Steps where Joseph cared for Keates until his death in February 1821. 
He was only 25.
Now at the time the steps was a great meeting place for painters and poets. but also a spot where beautiful young women would gather and pose hoping to get work as artist models.

The story goes that even though Keats was weak and in pain with illness, he took comfort gazing out the window and admiring all the pretty girls gathered on the steps.


The Spanish Steps and Keats, Shelley House Museum - Rome, July 2015

Friday, August 12, 2016

Somewhere in Italy

We went for a walk.
And found some old things.

Passed the Quatro Fontane

The River Tiber

The Goddess Juno
 And stopped by the Spanish Steps.

 Ahhh Roma!

Rome - July 2015

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The David

When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelangelo finish it”.
Giorgio Vasari

Queuing in the hot hot sun, even though I vowed never again would I stand in a queue after the Versailles debacle.

But this was different.

There was a fella I had been longing to meet for a very long time.

And he was worth it.

Michelangelo's David is perfect.  Every glorious 16 feet and 11.15 inches (5.16 meters) of him.
Carved from Carrara marble between 1501 and 1504, the statue was meant to be one of a series of statues of prophets positioned about 80 meters up along the roof line of Florence Cathedral.
Thankfully for students and lovers of art down the centuries, that didn't happen.
When the statue was unveiled it was agreed that it was too perfect to be placed high up out of the gaze of the public, so the city council formed a committee of about 30 members, including Leonardo Da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli, and it was decided to place David in the political heart of Florence, the Palazzo della Signoria (now known as the Plazazzo Vecchio)
It took four days to move him.
In 1873 he was moved to his current address at the Galleria dell'Accademia to protect him from further damage from the elements.

The story of David and Goliath has been portrayed in many works of art and many statues depict David after the battle, standing over Goliath's severed head.
But Michelangelo chose to show David before the battle.
He is tense, focused and alert - but yet also relaxed. He is captured at the peak of his concentration. 
In those determined eyes you can see he is sizing up his opponent and deciding exactly where to hurl that stone.

I fell in love the the genius of Michelangelo that day.

Lining the hall leading to his masterpiece, are some of Michelangelo's unfinished works which I found equally fascinating.

The figures have been frozen for eternity, as they were stepping out of the marble.
They aren't smooth and finished like David.  You can see every chisel mark.

And they are beautiful.

Accademia Gallery, Florence - July 2015

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Window views and random snaps.

It's now been 1 year since our escape from normality.
And yet that floaty Florence feeling stays with me.

When will we again stay in places like this?

With stairways like this leading to our room.

Out the back was nice too.

With views like this.

And places like this just meters away.


Florence, Italy - July 2015

Monday, June 27, 2016

Boboli Gardens

A hot day in Florence.
An unhappy hubby.
I suggested a walk in the Boboli Gardens.

Being Summer it was a sea of green.
Not a Spring bloom in sight.
Hubby became even more unhappy at the lack of colour.

I didn't mind.
I know gardens change from season to season.
I was happy to explore the famous garden, said to inspire the garden at Versailles.

I'd researched a bit about these gardens, said to be the greatest outdoor art gallery in the world,
and I wanted to explore.
I heard about beautiful sculptures, fountains and grottoes. 

But we didn't find them.
We didn't get very far in before it became plainly obvious that my poor beloved was not having a good time.
And what he really needed was a coffee and somewhere to sit.

It was a bit disappointing.

But some day I may get back.

Boboli Gardens, Florence - July 2015

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The old bridge

Ponte Vecchio
The oldest bridge in Florence.
Spanning the river Arno.
And has one hell of a story.

The first bridge in this spot was mentioned in a document of AD966 and was made of stone and wood.
However it was swept away in a flood in 1117.
It was rebuilt in stone, but washed away again in 1333 (all but two central piers) in another flood.
Rebuilt again in 1345.
And remains standing to this day.

 When walking across the bridge one feels like they're in a street of jewelry shops and not on a bridge.
And there's a reason for that.

After it was rebuilt, the government of Florence rented 46 shops on the bridge in an attempt to recoup some of the money the bridge cost to build.
Various tradesmen used the shops to begin with, but in 1442 the government let them all to the Guild of Butchers.

For a while all went swimmingly until 1495 when the government sold off the shops to raise cash.
Fishmongers and tanners moved in with the butchers and the bridge became one hell of a squalid and stinky place with all that wonderful industrial animal waste lying about.

In 1593 Ferdinand I de Medici decreed the place a health hazard, punted the butchers, tanners and fishmongers, and ordered only jewelry businesses and goldsmiths could have shops on the bridge.
And they remain there to this day.

In the two photos above you can see what looks like a long enclosed corridor with windows along the top of the shops on one side of the bridge.  This is part of the Vasari Corridor, also built by orders of the Medici family in 1565.

Cosimo I de Medici felt a bit insecure walking around in public and so had an enclosed passageway created to enable him to move freely between his residence and the government palace and avoid  the smell of the meat market below as well as the possibility of getting a stiletto in the neck.
Today it is an art gallery but you will have to wait until my next visit to Florence for any photos, as we were unable to include it in this trip.

The bridge had a lucky escape during the second world war when in 1944 retreating German forces (who made a habit of blowing up bridges to slow down the advance of the Allies) for some reason only blocked the Ponte Vecchio by reducing the buildings at both ends to rubble.

In 1966 the Arno river again flooded.  Thankfully the bridge survived though there are stories of tree trunks smashing through shop windows.

Because we went in Summer the bridge was utterly packed with fellow tourists and at times it was a bit uncomfortable being surrounded by so much humanity in great need of deodorant.  I almost felt I was back in the meat market days.

In the evening after all the shops close their fabulous wooden shutters, it is nice to wander along the bridge again.  There's less tourists, more room and one can appreciate the buildings and pause to reflect on the history of this wonderful bridge.

And yes - we did buy some jewelry.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy - July 2015


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