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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Finding Serendipity with A Venetian Artist

In Venice for a too-quick two-day visit in late June, my husband and I struck up a conversation with an architect and artist named Adrian Tuchel. He was in Venice for a short stay also, completing some artwork for a show that is running right now. Deep into a conversation sharing our love for the city, he offered to walk us around to see a few places he'd discovered that are not on the well-worn tourist route.

First we took the #2 vaporetto over to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where we toured the incredible Giorgio Cini Foundation complex. This international cultural center grew from one man’s desire to honor his deceased son by restoring an ancient monastery and rehabilitating a neglected island. It now has, aside from priceless artwork and illustrious symposiums, an ultra-modern, multi-disciplinary research library that must be seen to be believed.

Among the 150,000 art books, its largest collection and most significant focus, is Dr. Andrea Palladio’s First Book of Architecture, dated 1581. Guided tours, no reservations required, are offered on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm.
Weekday tours require a group of at least 12, and a reservation. We walked next door to the beautiful San Giorgio Maggiore church, designed by Palladio and built between 1566 and1610. Its tall tower provides some of the best views of Venice. We made sure to catch the elevator down before the bells started to peal.

After lunch at the restaurant Al Redentore on the Guidecca, Adrian walked us down an alley that dead-ended at worn door. He knocked, and the Rossi gondola boatyard (read more about these boatyards) was revealed. Not sure anyone can just walk in, but they were very welcoming.

Along the way, we had the privilege of watching Adrian sketch, and he showed us some of his completed watercolors. I recommend a visit to the exhibit if you are so lucky to be in Venice now through the 28th of September, or a click on his web site, to see and perhaps purchase a wonderful image of the beloved Serenissima.

Minimalist Venice: Adrian Tuchel’s Pen &Ink and Watercolors
Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti
Campo S. Stefano
San Marco 2842
Vaporetto lines 1 and 2, Accademia stop
September 6 to 28, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Adrian Tuchel’s work results from many years of gifted artistry combined with architectural accomplishment, fuelled by his passion for the city and people of Venice. Through his research into minimalism in drawing, his highly personal style materialized, particularly observing transparency and light. Where better to focus on transparency and light than in Venice? His drawings and watercolors capture well-loved views, often from unusual angles. Favorite places are discovered and rediscovered, through the eyes of this talented artist and architect.

Exhibit #1: San Marco and the Dorsoduro

The paintings of San Marco and the Dorsoduro marks the most recent phase of Tuchel’s architectural itinerary of the city, which he continues every second year during the Architecture Biennale. In 10 years, he will have covered all of Venice and its lagoon. The works honor great local architects and include a series of miniatures that show the day-to-day life of the city through its bars, ice cream parlors, markets, shops and hotels.

Exhibit #2: Portrait of an Iconic Hotel

This series of paintings honors one of Venice’s most treasured hotels, which has recently undergone an extensive restoration. As part of the re-opening celebration, Tuchel was allowed unusual freedom. Taking advantage of that liberty, he painted views that guests see from the windows of their suites. His commission also enabled him to illustrate many architectural details, from the rooftop’s views of the Salute church to interiors of the prestigious suites, bars and restaurants and the wonderful terrace lounge and restaurant that guests have always loved to linger in, watching the ordinary and extraordinary pass by on the Grand Canal. -- Ann Cochran

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Go To Coffee School at Illy in Trieste

Our August and September issues are devoted to Italy's Best Cooking Schools. Here's another kind of gourmet school - coffee university!

Trieste is home to a handful of legendary caffès, notably Cremcaffè (Piazza Goldoni 10), Caffè San Marco (via Gesare Battisti 18) and Caffè Tommaseo (Piazza Tommaseo). So it seems natural that the city is also home to both L’Università del Caffè and Raccolta Illycaffè, the first a coffee course and the second a little museum, both at the headquarters of illycaffè (via Flavia, 110), founded in 1933.

Fred Plotkin, author of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, writes that the coffee course is not a promotional tour for Illy: “What I learned about the history, cultivation, harvesting, blending, roasting, grinding, brewing and tasting of coffee would apply to any cup you might have in front of you.” 

The university was established in 1999, originally in Naples and moving to Trieste in 2002 (there are also 24 branches around the world). Its aim is to promote, support, and communicate the culture of quality coffee worldwide, and since 2000 more than 127,000 students have attended the classes.

While the majority of those students enrolled for professional reasons, more than 5,000 of them took the ‘Discovery Courses,’ which are for coffee lovers and connoisseurs – Illy welcomes anyone who is a coffee enthusiast! These classes include ‘Coffee,’ ‘Tea,’ ‘Chocolate,’ ‘Cappucino,’ ‘Aromas From Out of This World,’ ‘Barista for an Hour,’ ‘Coffee Connoisseurs’ (in Italian only) and ‘Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate Flavored Dinners’ (also only in Italian). 

Most are two hours long and also include a guided tour of the illycaffè plant. Visitors who may not be interested in a class but want to tour the facility can arrange a tour anytime Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Reservations may be made online at www.unicaffe.comhttp://www.unicaffe.com or by calling toll-free within Italy at (800) 821.021. -- Barrie Kerper

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Jazzy New Year's Eve with Music and Markets

Music and Markets Tours presents the best of live jazz from Umbria Jazz Winter in hilltop Orvieto, remarkable food and wine, and the unique winter beauty of Tuscany and Umbria.

Revel in a jazzy New Year's Eve, stroll Tuscan lanes, visit an olive farm, marvel at postcard perfect vistas – join us!

Complete details on our Web site, or call (703) 675-1529

(This is an ad.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Experience Mona Lisa's Florence

When I heard that author Dianne Hales (who has previously written for Dream of Italy) had a new book out about Mona Lisa, I immediately contacted her to find out if she could write a related travel article for us.

Her article on Mona Lisa's Florence will be in our October issue. It turns out Dianne is also developing a walking tour around the same theme. The tour will officially launch in 2015 but Dianne wanted me to let Dream of Italy readers know that if you're in Florence between October 1st and 9th, she will be giving special preview tours. See Florence through the eyes of Mona Lisa.

Get more information at  www.monalisaflorence.com or email info@monalisaflorence.com

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Five Fun Facts about Michelangelo’s David

This is a guest post by our friend, art historian Alexandra Korey.

If you love Italy, chances are you’ve been to Florence, and you’ve likely stood in line for your chance to gaze up on the world’s most famous sculpture, Michelangelo’s David. Why did you wait to see him? What was your reaction? This almost inexplicable attraction is something that author Victor Coonin seeks to explain in his new book about the statue called From Marble to Flesh. The Biography of Michelangelo’s David.

An art historian myself, I thought I knew quite a bit about Michelangelo, but I actually learned a lot about the David from this very readable book that covers the whole story of the statue, from when the block of marble was quarried at Fantiscritti well before Michelangelo was even born, to the 19th century celebrations and to 21st century artists’ interpretations of it. Here are a few fun facts I picked up while reading the book:

1. He’s 16.96 feet tall, or 517cm. When Stanford researchers did a 3D scan of the sculpture in 1999, they created scaffolding and machinery based on the height of the statue given in an important 5-volume study of the David by Charles De Tolnay, which was listed as 434cm, a number echoed in all other books after him. On-site, they found it to be almost 3 feet taller! Oops.

2.  Scholars have estimated that the David weighs 5,660 kilograms, though this is just an estimate as nobody has ever tried to place him on a scale. This number may thus be underestimated by up to 2 tons. Consider that this is the weight of the finished sculpture, but first the uncarved block had to be transported, before the era of modern machinery, by oxen and on a barge, from Carrara to Florence! A weighty job.

3. In various moments in history, the original David in Piazza della Signoria had his genitals covered. A copy of the David sent to the newly created Victoria and Albert Museum in 1857 had a fig leaf shaped for it upon royal visits from Queen Victoria. The original statue in the piazza and later in the Accademia Gallery also sported a fig leaf at one point, though originally records show that he was given a larger metal “garland” to wear around his waist.

4.  There are numerous life-sized copies of the David – enough to merit its own Wikipedia page. About 30 are known. And this isn’t counting the smaller but important replicas – one house in Los Angeles had 19 small- scale (approximately 4 feet tall, perhaps) Davids lined up on the circular driveway from 1996 to 2012 (when new owners of the home apparently had diverging taste).

5. About 1.25 million people visit the Accademia – mostly for the David – each year. That’s about 3.3 times the population of Florence.

These are just tidbits – if you are curious about art, or simply want to know more about a work of art that has become a symbol of the whole of Italy, pick up a copy of the book From Marble to Flesh directly from the publisher’s website (best for Italian shipping), or in digital or paperback on amazon.com.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Should You Travel to Italy in August?

August in Italy is...controversial. Some people say do everything you can to stay away, while I say, if you plan it right, it might not be a bad time to visit Italy.

Make up your own mind when you read my article on the myths about visiting Italy in August.

Photo by Cristiano Cani, flickr.com

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Italy: A Painter's Paradise

Guest blogger Pat Fiorello and the artistic attraction to Italy:

Why do so many people dream of traveling to Italy? The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)  ranks Italy as one of the top five most visited countries in the world.   And this fascination with Italy is not new. From about 1660’s thru 1840, Italy was part of a traditional trip in Europe called the Grand Tour. It was an educational rite of passage for nobility and the wealthy to visit Italy to expand their horizons in terms of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization. And many artists, including John Singer Sargent and others, dating back to Corot, have made Italy a destination for extended painting excursions.

As a professional artist of Italian descent, I was curious about why Italy has been such a perennial draw for so many artists and beauty lovers. I have taken several workshops there as an art student and over the past seven years have taught at least 10 painting workshops where I have brought Americans to Italy to learn to paint while having a wonderfully enriching experience immersed in the enjoyment of Italian art, food and culture. Beyond being the inspirational birthplace of the Renaissance, there’s something about the beauty of the landscape that is compelling and enduring when it comes to art.

In preparing to teach my first workshop in Tuscany, I pondered the question of why Italy has had such an attraction for artists for centuries through the perspective of art. I observed that Italy naturally possesses many of the aspects of well-designed art. Its beauty is inescapable. From the enchanting and elegant lakes in the north to the lush agrarian beauty of Tuscany, to the breathtaking cliffside towns on the Amalfi Coast, beauty is all around.

There are many contrasts in textures and natural color harmonies as the old stone buildings came from the earth so they perfectly complement the landscape that surrounds them. There are powerful diagonals in the landscape, for example in Tuscany with the rolling hills and vineyards that create a dynamic composition so they eyes to enjoy. And there is the story telling power of centuries old buildings that have character. One can only imagine what life was like in those towns 100, 500 or 1,000 years ago.

 So viewed through the eyes of an artist, it is easy to see why Italy holds such a unique appeal. I go further to explore and share the beauty and magic of Italy in my book, Bella Italia, Italy Through the Eyes of an Artist. It’s a visual tour of Italy through over 80 of my paintings. The book is meant to celebrate the beauty of Italy. If you have been there, it is sure to bring back warm memories. And if you haven’t visited yet it will surely have you be dreaming of Italy! And just maybe booking that next trip! -- Pat Fiorello

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Visiting Italy in 2015: Sordevolo's Passion Play

This is an abbreviated version of the article that appeared in the June/July 2014 issue:  
Every five years, a small hamlet nestled against the Italian Alps comes to life to tell the story of Jesus Christ. Sordevolo, in the region of Piedmont, is the host for La Passione Di Cristo (The Passion of Christ).  The play, illustrating Jesus' later life from when he arrived in Jerusalem until his resurrection, has run every five years since 1815, and will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2015.
Sordevolo is one of only three cities that host such an event. Other hosts include Oberammergau, Germany, where arguably the most famous passion play occurs every 10 years, and Kuopio, Finland. Legend has it that Sordevolo vowed to host the play after being spared from the plague in 1634. The actors put on 31 performances in 97 days, as the show runs every weekend from June 6 to September 27, 2015.
During the performances, the town's population of about 1,300 doubles, as the 4,000-square-meter outdoor amphitheater can seat 2,500. The play involves the entire community, which spends nearly a year preparing for the event. About 400 locals perform, while 300 more serve as crewmembers backstage, making costumes, or designing the set; many specific acting roles -- played by everyday citizens, not professional actors -- are passed down through the generations. 
Sordevolo 's play still uses the original script, written in 1500 by Giuliano Dati in an ancient Italian dialect called Laudi. Dati, a native of Florence and a chaplain of a church in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood, used the scripts for the Colosseum's annual Good Friday performance of the Stations of the Cross, which was held until 1539. The play is not only written in the ancient language, but also performed in it, presenting a challenge for both locals and visitors to follow
The amphitheater recreates a section of ancient Jerusalem in 33 A.D., using the city's streets as the setting for places such as Calvary (Jesus' crucifixion site) and Herod's Palace (where Jesus' trial was allegedly held before Pontius Pilate). In 29 scenes, the performance depicts the most important and most famous moments from Jesus' life, including Judas' betrayal, the Last Supper, and Jesus' burial and resurrection.
Currently, reservations are only available through group tour packages (individual tickets go on sale in January 2015). Learn more at www.passionedicristo.org 
Also in 2015: The Milan Expo