Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pienza delle Piante

Pienza is a beautiful Tuscan town remodelled in the Renaissance by Pope Pius II of the Piccolomini family. The town used to be called Corsignano before it was renamed Pienza in honor of the pope. When I read this, I wasn't overly impressed and not very interested in visiting. But, it was on our Chianti Country wine tour itinerary so I would have to tolerate it. Our guide said he thought there was a festival happening on this particular day but I think he meant fiera or market. What a surprise we were in for! The town was covered in flowers, plants and landscaping for sale. Imagine a flower show, but in a 15th century town! I wandered around clicking away with the camera but this was one of the "camera malfunction" days! These are the best photos I have and just don't do this town or fiera justice! This is the landscaping in front of the church but flowers, trees, cactus, succulents, herbs, shrubbery, annuals and perennials for sale lined all the streets. The lovely but different smell of peccorino cheese also wafted through the town!

The entire town was decked out in its best as well not to be upstaged by the vendors!

I just love potted plants and old walls.
This was a nice old doorway.
This is just the front of someone's house!
Che bella!
Pienza was a delight to visit and made all the more beautiful by a fiera di piante. I wished we had had more time to enjoy the sights and definitely plan to return there for another visit. The fiera took place last year on the second weekend of May. (Why, just about a year ago!) Later in the trip,when we returned to Florence, I bought a tube of Bottega Verde Crema Viso Effetto Lifting face cream from a 1 euro bin in an underpass shop at the Santa Maria Novella train station. When I read the ingredients on the back of the tube, I saw that the cream was made in Pienza. So on the days when I put it on, it smells wonderfully organic (and not at all like the very tasty peccorino cheese pannini I ate there) and I remember the beautiful town of Pienza!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Ecstasy of Gian Lorenzo Bernini

(St. Peter's Square, Vatican)

Sometimes, I find it difficult to decide what to post about. Not because I can't think of anything to blog about but that it is difficult to narrow down the selection. When I went to Italy, I had several themes that I followed in my travels. The art theme with subcategories of Michelangelo and Bernini, the archaeological theme, the early Christian theme and the anal, organized part of me wants to chronologically post in minute, historical detail all of the fascinating pertinent facts. But, then my tush starts to hurt, I have to go to sleep/take a nap or something actually interesting comes on TV, the sun comes out or I need a cup of tea and I just blurt something out. And yet I have still spent an hour or more writing a post. Plus I wonder, does everyone really want to know about how fascinating the Romans are or maybe it is just me that finds them so darn fascinating?

I have posted some of my photos on Flickr on the menu sidebar and I have lots, lots more photos of Italy I haven't gotten around to posting. Part of me wants to do all the background research to explain them to everyone, but then that darn time gets in the way. Then, I wonder, who is looking at them and why are then 8 views of the the shoes of Mars and none of the new Italian sandals? Then, I am trying to decide if I should post the photos that I use in the blog on Flickr or the ones I don't use? What is your opinion? Is their an unwritten blog protocol that I haven't figured out yet? There is lot's I haven't figured out yet like how to get the thumbnails on the sidebar. But as it seems that my beloved Nikon D70 has decided not to focus lately, I won't be posting any new photos of my garden or flowers for awhile. But, as I am the appointed photographer of my sister's upcoming wedding, err, I gotta get it fixed soon!

So here is the post topic. The Baroque artist, GianLorenzo Bernini. He was a child prodigy. Born in Naples (another very handsome southern Italian man) his father was a Mannerist (post Renaissance) artist. He was the architect of the welcoming "arms" of St. Peter's Square. And, the designer of Holy Spirit Dove stained glass below...

(The Holy Spirit, St. Peter's Basilica)
And, this silly little elephant carrying a obelisk at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

And, this lady in rapture,

(Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, San Francesco a Ripa, Rome)

These are also two of his commisions on the bridge to Castel Sant'Angelo. They have been relocated to Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, Rome

Angel with a Crown of Thorns

Angel with the Superscription

(Medusa, Capitoline Museum, Rome)

And, let's not forget Medusa cursed by Minerva and slain by Perseus. But, I think the most beautiful Bernini's are the Rape of Persephone, Apollo and Daphne and his "self-portrait" as David in the Villa Borghese where unfortunately, photography is not allowed. As I left the Villa Borghese, I wandered around for awhile in my own sensory ecstasy while my head tried to come down back to earthy matters. For after what I had seen there along with Michelangelo's David and Pietà, surely I had seen the most beautiful art in existence.

P.S. This post has been edited by the author to correct a mistake!

Monday, April 21, 2008

An Italian Cemetery or Scenes from the Afterlife

My niece thinks that I am a little eccentric because of the way I like to know everything about anything that interests me. Now, I admit that I like to go to hardware stores in foreign countries to see what I might be missing in the way of tools or doorknobs, learn Italian so I can talk to the Italians and visit every museum that generally gets in my way, but this little bit of life was a surprise to me on our Chianti Country Tour from Siena. We stopped at a cemetery near the town of Valle d'Aglio or Garlic Valley. This is the town. Doesn't it looks lovely in the distance?
This is the local cemetery. Now, I don't generally put cemeteries on my travel itinerary, but, I found this particular cemetery very touching and sweet. And, I think our guide thought it was rather special, too.
The graves were mostly well and lovingly tended. Here is a butterfly bush that is bursting it's seems. Sorry, just slightly over exposed because of the crushed rock. I admired the plots and told our guide that in America, most cemeteries don't allow these types of monuments. The graves and tombstones must be flat, in order for the (riding) lawnmover to easily mow over them. Heh? He was incredulous! Whoever heard of grass in a cemetery!
And, here are the family crypts. There is a slight cultural difference about the way in which Americans and Italians handle the departed. In America, we don't usually relocate the dear departed into tombs after, well after, let's just say after awhile. (See Nikki in Positano for more information on that!)
A landscape of vases and arrangements.
I think this was my favorite grave of somebody's nonni with cyclamens and succulents.
So while, this was a rather odd aside to our wine tour, it turned out to be very interesting and somewhat pleasing overall to see the love bestowed on the deceased in the Italian afterlife. Not a bad final resting place!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saturday Still Life

As the lady of the house (I say this in my best Hyacinth Bucket voice), my first priority on Saturday morning is to make sure that cut flowers are placed in the important rooms of the house. That would be the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom.
These are this week's arrangements. Mostly roses, a few gerberas and calla lillies. The summer flowers are just starting to come on. Sometimes I fill in with lavender (didn't want to disturb the honeybees this morning) and although, they really can't been seen, leather leaf ferns and other greens from my yard.
After the sun goes down, I can look at this arrangement in my kitchen from artist Angus Macaulay.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Boboli Garden

The Boboli Garden in Florence is the family garden of the wealthy Medici family. I have been there twice. The first time I endeavored to see the entire garden which I mostly did. I didn't take every side trail because after a while they all looked kind of the same, from what I could tell. If I lived in Florence, I would break up the garden into sections and know for sure. But I saw all the fountains, statuary and grottos and belvederes. Three museums are also located adjacent to the garden and I have managed to see only one of them because after wandering all over the garden for a large part of the day, I just got pooped out!

This is the fountain closest to the "house".
A very nice view of the Duomo!
Okay. Look at this stone "bathtub". Notice that it has lifting rings carved into it. I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to the lifting rings had I not had safety seminars of loads and crane signals and load tie downs. Nowadays, we use a lot of slings for lifting heavy loads. For those of you not familiar with construction, think about what these lifting rings mean. Since they are carved from stone, they are not functional. But whatever they were copied from were. So they had tubs that probably were metal. And, being metal, any that were lying around were probably melted down in some stupid, long ago war for cannon or cannonballs. But, nevertheless, let's think about it. They had metal bathtubs! And they had lifting rings that worked. Okay, enough construction geekiness.
Oh, another fountain! Still more steps! Keep going up!
Am I there yet? Did I really walk this far up? Do I have to walk all the way down?
Oh, this is what is at the top. Beautiful box hadges and peonies! And, another museum. (I think I passed on the museum not having much interest in porcelain.)
Look at this beauty!
Oh, and another stature! Then, back down into the museums! I posted this to remind myself that my garden in not too small. After all of the weeding, raking, pruning, planting, washing, fertilizing, spraying, hauling, and filling of trash bins I have done in the last several weeks, it may, in fact, be too large! Happy gardening!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Snippets of my garden

Well, just snippets cause there is still lots to be done...

I decided to try to do pots of the same colors.
Tone on tone but of different "texture". I could not resist the calla lillies though they rarely bloom again for me after the first time...
Here are some of my succulents nestled in between the cyclamens.One of my favorite pots with a mayan god. Sometimes I make offerings of blossoms in his bowl...
Maybe then, I should ask for the wind to stop.... Some african daisies, my fav is the one center called venidium "Wine" in the stone bowl.
More succulents in a short pot....Until tomorrow....

Sunday, April 6, 2008

First garden bouquet of spring

Slowly, my weedy garden is being tamed down. I worked the entire weekend trimming, pruning, raking, planting and cleaning the yard. Someday, I should like to be surprised by a garden makeover. Okay, not really unless I have already designed it then I could "surprised". I don't like rushing into design decisions, house or garden because they must be fully thought out and mulled over. Does it fit in with the style? Are the plants invasive, okay, that may actually be the first thought. Will the plant look attractive only when in bloom or will the foliage be attractive. All the selected permanent plants must be able to stand up to verbal abuse. (Okay, maybe this one is, can I stand up to my sister's verbal abuse should the plant not meet her gardening standards.) Does the plant have a nice fragrance and so on.

My sister and I were having a "lively" discussion about what tree I was going to plant in my front yard when I landscaped it several years ago. I wanted a pink, flowering dogwood and she thought it would only look good in bloom. And, it is gorgeous in bloom. So, there we were duking it out in the nursery and I couldn't convince her that I should get a dogwood even though it was going in my yard! Just about then, I found a beautiful, redbud which did meet with her approval as it had not only beautiful purple flowers but also, beautiful heart-shaped leaves. And, it fits in perfectly with my natural, woodland-esque theme. So now every time she comes to my house, she nods at the tree and says how lovely it is. Thank god!

So even though we agree on certain plants, our gardening styles are completely different. She prefers to have a garden with trained and clipped plants and I prefer the wild, unkempt look. Err, come to think about it, that may also extend to our housekeeping styles!