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Sunday, April 3, 2011



Said goodbye to the Palm,


No it was not hard.


Blue lights shone on Palm shaped lamps.



Friday, February 4, 2011

The Shoes in Verona

The night came alive when the opera started, the stage emerged from the dark and the orchestra strings sent notes floating. The sopranos, the tenors, the baritones and the chorus resonated each other. The stage was not mere decoration, it integrated with the drama. The lighting is not only the stage highlighter but is also the stage itself, shaping it, creating the atmosphere, making concrete steps became desert landscape. The orchestra playing below the stage, sending the music soaring from the earth. It was sensational. Artificial but real, dramatic but convincing, tragic but relieving, that is opera.





The whole week there was rainy in the mornings, and the open air night was rather chilly. However the shows went on. Only on the second night the show was interrupted by drizzles a few times. The morning rain caused the shoes soaking wet, and the dryer in the hotel room was not able dry them completely. The dampness kept coming back after drying. Cold shoes during the shows but applauded along with the audience after the spectacular performances.









The Arena is an ancient amphitheater at center of Verona where the yearly opera festival is held. This year the operas were directed by the Florence born Zeffirelli. Famous operas were played including Turandot and IL Travatore by Verdi and Aida by Puccini. This time of the year Verona is the center of opera world.

Verona is like other town in Italy, small cobbled streets, old buildings, ice cream shops and a river quietly run through it. Verona is also famous as the town of Guilleta e Romeo of Shakespeare’s novel. There is even a house believed to be Guilleta’s house complete with the famous balcony from where Guilleta listened to Romeo’s serenades. The house now becomes a museum, complete with Guilleta’s statue in the front garden. Many tourists queuing to make picture with Guilleta, somehow it is customary for tourists to grab Guilleta’s right breast for the picture. Guilleta’s right breast got discolored.



Not surprisingly there is also a hotel named after them, which like any other hotel in Italy, or even in Europe, has very small rooms. The single bed room of the hotel Guilleta e Romeo the shoes checked in was so small, just enough for a bed, a shower room and a cupboard. Luggage ended up laying on the floor and the shoes were placed at the bottom of the cupboard. It was past midnight.

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.