An Italian holiday, cont’d…

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Andiamo. Let’s go. “Andiamo” is possibly the first Italian word I ever learnt… Italian is a bit of a mystery to me. Never took a single class. Never lived in Italy. My parents had a few Italian friends in West Africa. I remember Ambassador Sciascia. Who spoke perfect French. Did I pick Italian in the corridors of the French Lycée in Addis-Abeba? What Italians call Abissynia? At least five languages were spoken there. Or listening to Bobby Solo’s “Una lacrima sul viso?” Or Adriano Celentano? At any rate my broken Italian is way better than my German. ‘Nuff said.  Let’s roam the streets of Italy again. Above: the train station at Milan, 2014. Andiamo.

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La prudenza, by Donato Creti. Bologna. Prudence is the mother of all virtues goes the saying.

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The towers of Bologna. What I would call a pissing contest. There were up to 180 such towers in the city around the 1100’s-1200’s. I’ve read many theories, but I suspect the richest families just wanted to show off who had the highest tower (hence the more money)… (Think Trump building…). Only two are left. Another city in Italy still has many towers. Lecco? Help me out, “amici”.

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This one is for Manja Mexi. We discussed who was the sculptor the other day. I thought Donatello, I was wrong. This is Perseus, holding Medusa’s head, by Benvenuto Cellini. Set in 1554 on Piazza della Signoria in Florence. (Need to go back to get a better shot of Medusa…)

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Sienna, in the Contrada dell’ Aquila. Street of the bells. The neighbourhood/ward of the Eagle. Remember the age-old rivalry of neighbourhoods on Sienna which culminates in the annual horse race around the Piazza del campo. Twice a year, my bad, in July and August. I guess they will be postponed this year…

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Back to Florence. Next to Perseus’ statue. Having seen many lions in the wild in Africa, I always wonder about Europe’s fascination with distant lions. The closest lions to Europe at that time were in North Africa or Persia maybe? Regions with little communication with the West then…

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La torre del mangia, on Piazza del campo, Sienna. This tower took years to build, between 1325 and 1344. Again a contemporary of Notre-Dame… Just heard work has started again at Notre-Dame… Can’t imagine how it will go with social distancing and the “Inspection du travail” watching every move… 5 years, Macron said?

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Fountain of Neptune, Piazza della Signoria. One could easily stay there for an entire day, or week, to take in all the details… Maybe a month? The statue (1565) is the work of Bartolomeo Ammannati (and staff). Charles IX, son of Mary of Medici, was King of France. James Stuart, son of Mary Stuart, was King of Scotland and England.

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Door-knocker. Somewhere in Italy. (Sort of misplaced my notes… Does it really matter?)

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Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), Uffizi, Florence. One of many famous sons of Florence he gave his name to the continent Colombus has discovered. His cousin was married to the lovely Simonetta Cattaneo, favorite model of Botticelli.

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The massacre of the innocents. On the floor of one of Sienna’s prettiest churches… Which was it? Hang on… Saint-Wiki come to my help…The cathedral! Never seen anything like that. There’s the cathedral:

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Sienna cathedral. Late 1200’s. As beautiful as the building is, the floor inside is unique.

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One of many motifs on the cathedral’s floor. I thought they might portraits of noble (men and) women buried there as was often the case. This one apparently is called “The Sibilla (prophetess) of Eritrea.” c.1482. Eritrea was part of Ethiopia for a long time. Until they got their Independence after a long bloody war. Eritrean women were easily recognized in Ethiopia by their special hairdo. Wonder whether they still use it.

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Fountain in Sienna. Rome’s mother wolf who raised Romus and Romulus is very present in Sienna. Wonder why. Sienna was fiercely independent, but maybe closer to Rome? Again, my Italian friends, your input will be most welcome…

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Same fountain, Sienna. Italy is a paradise for fountains.

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Il Duomo at night, Florence.

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Sienna cathedral. Couldn’t find the reference. Sorry. The Lady could read and write. many men didn’t.

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The Annunciation by Adolfo Baldovinetti c. 1457. Five centuries ago. I sometimes wonder whether we have progressed that much… Or a t all? Uffizi, Florence.

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A not so well-know but beautiful Greco. Uffizi, Florence. Anyone been to Toledo?

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And a small Rembrandt. Uffizi again… The Uffizi is like the Louvre, a place to hide in a closet before closing time, and spend the night wandering…

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Sybilla Hellespontica, Sienna cathedral. c. 1483. Artist: Neroccio di Bartolomeo di Landi. Hellespont was the ancient name of the Dardanelles detroit separating Europe from Asia in what is now Turkey. It was a key strategic place. A place of singular importance for Aussies and Kiwis. Note the dress, very similar to Botticelli’s models in the birth of Venus or the four seasons…

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Detail of the above. Ageless elegance.

Grazie, thank you, merci, for flying Equinoxio’s Time-Space shuttle. Italy (and France) have gone out of lockdown.  Figures look good for Italy, who came out first on May 5th. France has had two small peaks. To be watched closely. They’re the “models” for other countries. In an empirical sense. The US, I understand, is reopening. Tread with caution. Particularly with Dr Strangelove living in Penn Avenue. Hang in there. Stay safe. 🙏🏻😷








102 thoughts on “An Italian holiday, cont’d…

    • Thank you Dear. You just made my day. Come to think of it I do try to find peace in blogging. Maybe that’s why it “transpires”.
      Have a wonderful rest of the week.

  1. Italy! So many beautiful cities! The second city with the towers, do you perhaps mean San Gimignano? I been to Toledo. It’s really worthwhile having a look, the old town in the bend of the Tago river. El Greco there yes and lots of medieval weaponry. (I almost bought an armour 🙂 )

    • No, not San Gimigniano. Not Lecco either. Lucca maybe?
      Glad you went to Toledo. So did we years ago. Even started walking around the city and got a thunder storm above the city. As in one of the Greco’s paintings.
      An armour now? My childhood dream. I would have bought one, except my wife said nooo!

    • My apologies. You’re right about San Gimigniano. A friend who lives in Italy just confirmed. We stopped very briefly on our way to Sienna. Didn’t see “no tower”. But Google confirms. Darn. have to go back. 😉

      • I remember San Gimigniano full of towers. (And very touristy as well. I walked by accident into a picture taken and the guy was rather upset. Nowadays it would not have caused the blink of an eye. Saying this, the city is really pretty and a visit would not dissapoint you. Tot ziens Brian. 🙂

  2. Your post worked like magic, I was back in Italy. So many familiar names , familiar places, my memory a bit foggy but the feeling of excitement on reading your post was the same. What a fantastic nostalgic trip!

  3. Je trouve que les portes avec les deux faces grimaçantes viennent d’une maison d’habitation, un ancien hôtel particulier probablement, à Sienne. Où dans Sienne, je n’ai pas trouvé et pas eu la patience de passer toutes les rues en revue !
    Prends bien soin de toi par les temps qui courent, Brieuc.

    • Mon très cher Gilles. C’est génial. Je crois qu’on va faire une chasse au trésor. En utilisant toutes les ressources de la techno. 😉
      Toi aussi. il y a de sales temps qui courent… 😉

  4. Italian art is Italian art! It is one of my dream destination that certainly is not going to happen anytime soon even if I become a billionaire! ha! I always dreamt of spending a year or two in Italy 🙂

  5. Ooo, looky here, vacanze italiane continue! 🙂 Thank you for the statue, all the lovely sights, pieces of history and art, and the link to my place.

    I must admit that I’m not in a hurry to visit museums and galleries since moving to Tuscany (seven years ago). I figure they won’t go anywhere and there is time, but I may be wrong. I’ve been inside the Siena cathedral though and it’s truly spectacular, as it is from the outside as well.

    I think Rome was extremely good at PR and was gifting its she-wolf left and right, selling the story that it was indeed a she-wolf and not a prostitute (“lupa” means both) who nursed the twins.

    The town with many towers is San Gimignano (and I have yet to visit it). But yes, they were so competitive, within cities and also between them. This is why they have so many over-the-top cathedrals.

    One never knows when you will be back here. With you I’d love to visit a museum or a gallery.

    • Thank you Manja. Glad you enjoyed the post. I thought you might. 😉
      Lupa now? That is extraordinary. All those classes of Latin and nobody said anything. Ha!
      San G. it is then? We stopped briefly on our way to Sienna. No-one mentioned towers. Damn.
      And you’re right. Museums (hopefully) will be there in a while still. I don’t think the State will sell the collections to pay the debt. Yet.
      Visit a gallery? Done. Let’s trade, you take us to a unique stroll.
      Buona sera.

      • Yeah, I’ve seen the photos. We took a bus from Florence to Sienna. Only stopped in San G. for 20-30 minutes, at the outskirts. Just saw a bunch of shops the bus driver probably had a deal with. And an orange cat. He didn’t tell us about the towers either.
        Have to go back.

    • It is even more so now. I thought those ladies were of the local nobility. Happened all across Europe where the rich and might would get their tomb inside the church or cathedral. Now after research they’re even more mysterious. Marble inlay? probably. I don’t know what the black stone is. Never seen anything like that elsewhere.
      How are you? The figures in the US are still climbing. Not to mention the nation-wide protest…

  6. These images have a grey majesty and pomp that show Italy’s complex histories. Yes, fingers crossed for it faring well coming out of lockdown. Buona Fortuna everyone.

  7. How did you miss the towers in San Gimignano? 😉 Maybe a few buses full of tourists just arrived and flooded the streets? (How different live was BC …)

    • I know, I know… The bus to Sienna just stopped on the outskirts of town. Very brief. And we didn’t know about the towers… Sigh. (But then we must go back. And stay there in San G.
      Hope all is well with you?

      • Thank you, doing OK. While I really enjoy the slwo pace and spending lots of time with my family, I find it really hard to get stuff done. I’ve been told a few times now, as a mum, you’re not supposed to say that … How are you holding up?

      • I understand. The hard part for us is precisely not seeing the family at all for 3 months. Though our eldest daughter and her husband (both MD’s) have been tested postive. We’re waiting for the last tests. If they have antibodies then we can – finally – see them and the grandkids… 🤞

  8. An most excellent read and accompanied by beautiful photos. I think you may mean Lucca – another stunning city that I’d love to re-visit one day. Italy holds so much incredible art and history th:-)at I doubt you’d see it all in a lifetime.
    Hope you and you’re family are keeping well. I’m still marooned in Oz.

    • You must be right about Lucca. I’d read that somewhere.. I think Italy, (as France probably) would last one more than a lifetime…
      We are well, thank you. Haven’t seen our daughters and grandchildren in 3 months now. Getting a bit long. And I hope you don’t have immediate plans to return to Italy. This may take a few months still.
      (I’m just about to try and cancel our trip to Paris on July the 4th. No way it’s going to re-open to international travel yet. With an aching heart)

      • That is a long time, but probably for the best.
        No, not yet but need to get back there at some point.
        What a shame. Maybe wait until the airline cancels so you can get your money back?

      • We won’t get our money back. Already happened with a flight to Bogotá. All we got was a full credit with option to use in 12 months then they upgraded it to 18 months which is fine. We’ll use it. Thing is, the airlines are bankrupt. For the Paris flight I just want to make sure we get the full credit for 18 months. (Another airline) We’ll see. 👍🏻

      • Yeah, think airlines are giving customers no option of a refund as they know they’re going bust anyway. The 12-18-months usage is the wool over customer eyes.
        Hope you get something back!

  9. Ah, how I missed Italy! ❤️❤️Everything is incredibly beautiful, … but I’m going to talk about Medusa… (a monster? maybe … 😊)…So, what does it take to feel sympathy for a monster? 😊…In the case of Medusa, it may not be much. Though she is considered one of the most horrifying creatures of Ancient Greek mythology, her origin story is much more complex than most people realize—in fact, most people have never heard Medusa’s origin story at all.
    Almost everyone knows who Medusa is, or at least what she can do. What is more interesting is how Medusa became the monster she is considered to be. According to Ovid, Medusa was born human and grew into an excruciatingly beautiful woman. Every man who saw her face and her gorgeous, silken hair immediately asked for her hand in marriage—all but one. The sea god, Poseidon, fell for her amazing looks but instead of asking for her hand, took her virginity—raping her inside the sacred sanctuary of Athena.
    Athena, as the virgin goddess, was incredibly enraged by this defilement of her temple and chose to punish Medusa for her part in the whole affair—she cursed Medusa’s beauty. According to this version of the myth, it’s at this point that Medusa’s beautiful hair becomes a tangled mass of snakes, and she is cursed with her deadly power—the ability to turn whoever looks upon her to stone.
    It’s important to say here that Medusa has no control over this ability—should anyone at all look upon her face, they’ll be instantly transformed. In essence, Athena dooms Medusa to a life of solitude, a life in which Medusa will never have the comfort of looking at another human face without destroying it—all for the crime of being raped. After years of this torture, Perseus’ sword must have come as a welcome deliverance.
    As long as her story is so variable, she is both monstrous and beautiful, both born to kill and cursed to a life of solitude, both arrogant and humble, both loved and horribly raped. Her story is open for us to take from it what we choose—horror and derision for a simple mythological villain, or pity and sympathy for a girl whose life was taken out of her own hands and changed very much for the worse.
    I know what I’m choosing…☺️ Seară bună!

    • Wonderful. I think I know what you are chosing. Greek mythology (though full of horrors) was a favourite topic of mine in my teens. Still have a book. Will check what version it gives.
      What I find even more interesting is what’s behind. She is so beautiful she cannot chose, she “has to be” raped by the powerful. And another woman blames her, the victim. How many rape victims are held responsible for their own rape? (“She had it coming”) I understand Harvey Weinstein is (has?) been tried only for 2 or 3 counts of sexual assault? Come on.
      R.I.P. Medusa.
      (Do you speak Latin and Greek? You must be too young for that)

      • I just wanted to show that every story can be different, … it depends on who tells it … Unfortunately many of the important stories of this world were written from the perspective of the winner not of the one who was oppressed, so that we say things by name … 😊
        Yes, I speak Latin, not only because my mother tongue is part of the Romance languages, but also because Latin is part of the curriculum, it is compulsory in high school … Unfortunately, I do not speak Greek, but my country is a part of Thrace and the Roman Empire, we are a big family in the southeastern part of Europe … Greece and Greek mythology are part of what we are …Thank you!

      • Absolutely. And who told the story? Mainly men. I once realized that we only have the names of Greek males in history. Practically no women, except in mythology… (looked for my book on my shelves. Didn’t find it. Found Barthes. 😉 Put it aside for re-reading.
        Latin is still part of the curriculum? That is great. I only took it for 2 years and I’m probably one of the last in France. Latin has been extremely useful for me in learning languages. No Greek, except what I can decipher here and there. for instance, the Greeks still call France GALLIA. Gaul. 👍🏻
        Take care Doina

  10. I love La Prudenza!
    So much Italian art history in this post, my head spins. I like the trump towers of the time, in a cynical way.
    Did people actually live in these towers? That’s a lot of stairs in a day!
    Thank you! This is an awesome post!

    • Thank YOU. I haven’t been able to determine whether they actually lived in those towers. Sort of too narrow. There is a lone tower in Paris, La Tour de Jean sans peur, built in the 1400’s by the Duke of Burgundy. His “pied-à-terre” when he went to Paris… Many floors. And of course the Duke lived at the top. Better not to forget some grocery downstairs or in the market. Oh. They’d send the maid of course. 😉

  11. I came to you through Holly, you came to mine as a result, I have returned to yours to find myself transported back to 2016 when I did my solo trip to Tuscany. Firenze and Siena… Bellissima!

    Beautiful pictures and now you have reminded me I never did finish my blog posts on the last part of my trip. I think I shall remedy that situation… Grazie mille! Merci beaucoup! Thank you very much!

    • Grazie niente. Pas de quoi. Parfois un “reminder” arrive d’un “perfect stranger”…
      (Et les mémoires de Firenze et Siena sont pour la vie)
      Bonne soirée.

      • Oui m’sieur! Goes to show.
        Les souvenirs de la Toscane sont toujours là. J’ai tombé en amour avec l’Italie et rêve d’y retourner… which will happen!

      • C’est pas mal pour bouger un peu. Le Français aide beaucoup pour l’Italien, plus de racines communes qu’avec l’espagnol: finestra au lieu de ventana. A+

      • Absolument. Avec des modifs marrantes: Io bisogno fare. J’ai besoin de faire. Un verbe (en Italien) devient un mot en Français. Allez. Over and out. On va faire un tour dans le quartier. Marre d’être enfermé. Bonne soirée Dale.

      • Absolument. Brieuc était un saint Gallois qui est venu évangéliser les Celtes d’Armorique vers le Ve siècle quand les Bretons de “Britain” ont envahi l’Armorique. Il en est resté une ville et un prénom. Bri-oeu(f) et le C est muet. A +

      • Est-ce que je gagne un prix? 😉
        En tout cas, il n’y en avait pas trois dans ta classe! (Moi non plus, d’ailleurs, Dale étant un prénom plus souvent donné aux garçons et encore moins populaire au Québec. (My mother liked a cowboy actor named Dale Robertson and said first kid she had… that was me)

      • Isn’t Dale Flash Gordon’s finacée? Sure is not common either. (En Français je crois que la fiancée de Guy l’éclair s’appelle Camille)

      • Wow! Ya learned me something new! 😉 Not a connoisseur of the Flash Gordon story but I checked and your facts speak true. (Je ne saurais vous dire, mon cher.)

  12. Great set of photos, Brian. I remember seeing the Fountain Of Neptune and thinking that he forgot to don his bathing trunks. I would love to go back to Italy one day soon, but I doubt any country will admit us, what with the Covid 19 numbers spiking here instead of going down. Dr Strangelove has really made a mess of everything, to put it politely. 😳

    • You seem to be very polite indeed. 🙏🏻
      Dr Strangelove is indeed screwing up everything (pardon my French) 😉
      Mexico isn’t much better. But I have hope that travel will re-open. If anything there are too many economic interests. We will go back to Italy. Have faith.

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