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Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Shoes in Milan

Like Rome, Milan was also deserted in August, which is how an empty business city looks like. Milan is also the centre of Italian fashion and has the oldest shopping mall in Europe named Galleria Vittorio Emmanuale . The Art Nouveau styled Galleria houses famous boutiques and cafes. McDonald’s is also located there looking surprisingly classy helped by the surrounding. The huge Galleria (mall) stands at the side of piazza del Duomo facing the white marbled Duomo (cathedral). In the evening at sun down, the white marbled Duomo turned pinkish before the night.

Another interesting place is Castello Sforzesco, a huge castle compound with a fountain in front and houses several museums, a play ground, and a huge park with a lake. People can easily spend the whole day there to see the museums and art collections. However there were more people in the Galleria than in the Castello, probably because of the grey weather, it rained in the morning. Or probably shopping is more interesting than seeing a castle.

Milan is of course the home base of AC Milan and Silvio Berlusconi’s construction business empire. He is the owner of AC Milan and not known to many he wrote the club’s anthem with the Italian music producer and pop singer Tony Renis. Apparently music and is one of his “talents”. He is also preparing an album singing Neapolitan songs that he wrote in a CD to be released by end of this year.

Milan also housed for the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci which is the most famous among other Last Suppers. The huge mural painting in the dining room of a convent in Milan however had deteriorated and flaked because of the wrong painting technique used by Leonardo on dry wall. The painting was restored several time, the last one took 21 years and completed in 1999.
There is limitation of entries per day to the dining room to avoid overcrowding the place, therefore visitors need to book in advance. Not knowing that, the shoes and many others came and were not allowed to the Last Supper. A seller of post cards stood in front of the gate yelling one Euro for three, one Euro for three….

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Shoes in Florence

After Rome the shoes hopped on a train to Florence, or Firenze as the locals call it, about an hour North of Rome. It is on the hills side of Tuscany and the capital city of this region, greener and cooler than Rome.

The Arno river crosses Florence, and passes below the Ponte Vecchio (the old bridge). The bridge was built to allow people crossing the river from Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery to Pitti Palace. Along the passageway on the bridge there are shops on both sides selling jewelries and gold since the medieval time, and an opening midway at the bridge offers view to the Arno river and shore. It was very busy during day time, like in a flea market. In the evening after the shops were closed the place was still alive, people walking-by and watching street performers singing Italian songs on the bridge, the still water of the Arno river on the background. The sun slowly went down changing color and Italian songs were sent floating into the pinkish sky, while the river Arno quietly flow under the panorama.

The shoes followed the coble streets from the bridge alongside the river heading to the Uffizi gallery and to Piazza della Signoria, an L shape Piazza in front of the Pallazzo Vecchio (old palace). Many sculptures are displayed outdoor on the piazza, every statue tells its own story taken from Greek or Roman mythology. Effectively it is an open air gallery of renaissance art.
Most recognizable is the famous statue of David by Michael Angelo standing at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, flanked by Baccio Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus. Next is the Neptune’s fountain by Ammannato, and on a platform stands Perseus with head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini.

All of them are the original sculptures, only the statue of David is a replica. All of them nakedly exposed in the open air, exposed to pollution and birds flying around and sometimes land their feet and dropping on the head of the famous statues.
They are displayed in open air like that by the rulers maybe as an exhibition of power. The statues resemble a common theme of victory over powerful dangerous enemy, like the giant Goliath beaten by a stone by David, the monster Cacus strangled by the hands of Hercules, or the snake haired Medusa beheaded by the sword of Perseus. A show of power indeed, however as they are displayed together in an open surrounding like that, there is too much to see and observe , none of them seems to stand out. It would be more attractive to display the statues individually in a small piazza or garden. That way, the statue would enhance the surrounding.
In the evening, after dark Florence is still alive, the shoes walked the streets from the Ponte Vecchio bridge lead to narrow alleys with various shops and cafes. There were almost no cars on the streets after dark, people walked in the summer nights. After all Florence used to be a medieval town, people walked everywhere that time. The few cars on the streets were small cars like Minicooper suitable for the small streets.

Hidden behind the streets at a small courtyard stands the Chiessa (church) di S. Stefano al Ponte Vecchio, named that way to indicate the close location to the bridge. On approaching the courtyard, the sound of piano could be heard from inside the chiessa attracting the shoes to come closer to the front door. At the door a concerto programme was displayed, apparently every night local musicians performed in the chiessa playing various concertos for violin, trumpet, orchestra or operatic songs.

That night the performance was for trumpet and piano concertos from Bach to Telemann. The high tunes of the trumpet engulfed by the piano broke the silence of the night, clear and crisp helped by the good acoustic of the building. It must be for that reason that the building was chosen for the concertos, night after night the whole year.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Shoes in Rome

These shoes walked the streets of Rome, to the Trevi Fountain, the Piaza Novona, the Spanish Steps and other ancient places. It was hot in August, most of the shops were closed and the traffic was not so busy, most of the inhabitants deserted the city towards North looking for resorts. But there were many people on the streets, on the coble streets towards the ancient plazas, between the colossal ruins and the victorious emporio, all sorts of people rushed, all sun tanned, taking pictures and buying souvenir. It seems that all streets lead to an attraction and the queues are long.

On Tuesday, after the screening by metal detector, the shoes had the pleasure to walked on the marble floors inside the St Peter’s , a huge dome with marble pilars housing tall grey statues by famous artists, among them by Bernini, Gioto and Michael Angelo. People were so occupied staring at the huge statues and beautiful frescos such that they did not realize that among the visitors there were pick-pockets disguising as visitors. The pick-pockets made their moves even in front of the Pieta by Michael Angelo.

On Wednesday the shoes went into the long halls of the museum besides the St. Peter which leads to the Sistine chapel famous for the paintings of Michael Angelo all over the walls and ceiling about the biblical stories from the beginning of the world to the end. A very crowded and dark place, the main painting at the front wall is about the end of the world, dimly lighted by sun shine seeping through the openings. The people were whispering looking up at the paintings trying to figure out the stories, they were not allowed to speak loudly in there. The angels were whispering too.

The shoes came towards the Spanish Steps in the afternoon, the monumental stairway of 138 steps built to link the Spanish Embassy. On the coble streets infront of the Spanish Steps leading to the promenade of famous boutiques, the shoes had to carefully watch-out not to step on bird droppings or ice cream drop. This city is like that, where the ancient ruin exists in the middle of the city, there is also the colossal colloseum and victorious emporio at the next streets, and shiny boutiques at the promenade in front of the Spanish Steps.

Further down the cobles streets, on the Piazza Navona, nearby the Neptune statue and others, there were street performers posing as statues, pretending to be a Mummy, a Roman Soldier, a Drunken Man. They stood still for a long time despite the heat and distractions by the crowd, and only made a gesture when somebody threw in coins to their bins. Meanwhile petty thieves were luring to take and run away with the money bins at the right moment, knowing that a statue cannot chase a thief.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Arena di Verona

Going Italy,
in a hot August summer.
Drink from the fountains.

From Rome to Florence,
Florence to Milan with train.
Melt in Verona.

13th, 14th,15th,
Opera di Verona.
Nobody shall sleep.