Milano in the Sun….

April 30, 2019

Suzanne and I had a hectic time of it, getting the train in Verona to Milan. No, disasters, just near misses. The Milan train station Central (I have found 2 others on the map) is a multi-level zoo, but we finally found a cab and made it to our very modern and contemporary hotel. What a change from the historic properties that we’ve stayed in to date. We are in a part of Milan I’m not familiar with and we seem to be ensconced in a small neighborhood. We’ll have to figure out the Metro subway system tomorrow to see the sights.

We have a view of Stefan’s Boeri’s, Bosco Verticale. It’s architecture like this that have made Milano a global leader in design. These residential towers contain more than 900 trees on 96,000 square feet of terraces. This was on my list of sites to see and here they are right in our window. The buildings were completed in 2014 and won the International Highrise Award, a prestigious international competition and they also won the “2015 best tall building worldwide” from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat*. Here’s to creative and brave developers and architects that aren’t afraid of originality and improved urban living.

We decided to explore our little corner of the city to find some lunch although it was a bit late. Many restaurants in Italy close at 2:30 to 3:30 pm and reopen at 7:00 to 8:00 pm. We found a little DimSum restaurant that was still open for 30 minutes, so we took a break from Italian food and had a quick, light lunch. There was an interesting building at the end of the street, so we walked down to take a look. It turned out to be a Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale) that was opened in 1866. It was created to consolidate several small cemeteries around the city. 2,700,000 square feet of land are dedicated to this amazing display of tombs with contemporary and classical Italian sculptures. Although not the cheeriest of locales the artwork is incredible.

The little flower shops in the featured photo are outside the cemetery.

I have never seen anything like the ornate tombs in this cemetery. The cost of constructing these tombs with their ornamentation and sculptures boggles the mind.

So on that note, we are down for the day. Tomorrow we will fire up the engines and storm the sites of Milano.

* Bosco Verticale, Wikipedia

*Cemetry Monumental, Wikipedia

Palazzo e Giardino Giusti

April 29, 2019

Iffy weather forecast today, we dithered over breakfast, grabbed our umbrellas and struck out for the Roman Amphitheater and Giusti Palace and Gardens.

Crossing the Roman bridge again we turned southeast towards the Roman Amphitheater, which we discovered doesn’t open until 1:30 pm on Mondays. It was only 10:00 am and we decided to walk on to the Palace and Gardens. They were open and we started our exploration in the magnificent gardens. Not a lot of tourists and plenty of sweet birdsong. The photo is of Bacchus found in a niche on the way to the upper levels of this terraced Renaissance garden planted in 1580.

The garden is considered one of the finest of it’s kind, featuring fountains, acoustic caves, pergolas, Italian-style boxwood, mythological statues and a small labyrinth*. Instead of the Palace being on the summit in the typical style, the garden terraces to the summit with the Palace below.

This photo is of the “belvedere” that is at the summit of the hill. It is the upper terrace with the gargoyle underneath.

Suzanne found an interesting Italian snail on a bench. It was probably about an inch and a half in length. I really thought it had a pretty shell. Much more colorful than what we find in the Pacific NW.

Here’s Suzanne in the maze, she of course walked right to the center, while I took the road less traveled. That brilliant decision resulted in Suzanne having to point the way out for me. And I need to let you know that some of the photos in the previous entries were courtesy of Suzanne. I get so focused on writing that I keep forgetting to give credit where it is due.

The palace is a 16th-century Mannerist structure. The gardens and palace were designed by Agostino Giusti, a Venetian knight and squire of the grand duchy of Tuscany*. The family moved from Florence to Verona and like any Florentine noble Agostino wanted his own small Boboli garden*. The 20 heirs to the Giusti Palace and gardens placed the property on the market in 2005, after years of squabbling since the death of it’s owner Justo Giusti, an Italian diplomat. The family still retains the property*.

Photo of a photo depicting a Giusti ball.

The inlaid wood floors with corner ceiling and wall paintings.

So having climbed many hillside paths and steps we started back to see if the Amphitheater and Museum had opened yet. No, we were still early, so were forced to find a Cappuccino to while away the time. Finally we were able to enter and found an Amphitheater that is still in use. Part modern seating, part ancient Roman and part repaired Roman. Plus there was a museum, you’ve got it….up 7 steep, high flights of stairs. I’m not sure why they made the steps so high.

A piece of mosaic flooring from an Roman palace. The city was founded in the 1st century BC when it became a Roman municipium and rose rapidly in importance*. The city is a UNESCO world heritage site with one of the richest collections of Roman remains in Northern Italy*.

Famished at 3:15 pm, we finally made it back to our favorite lunch spot.

Yummy tuna salad with pears, absolutely one of the best salads ever. Suzanne and I both love this dish.

Beautiful little balcony garden and florist shop we saw on our evening perambulation.

* garden description, Grandi Giardini Italiani

*Agostino Giusti and heirs, The Guardian

*Agostino’s garden,

*Verona history,

Walking Verona

April 28,2019

Hotel Due Torri has a great breakfast buffet. Suzanne and I were so excited at the prospect of a hot breakfast that we might have overdone it a tad. Good thing we are walking today. We had our umbrellas, because as you can see below the sky was threatening. The Ponte Pietra bridge is a Roman arch bridge that crosses the Adige River that winds through Verona. The bridge was completed in 100 BC. It is the oldest bridge in Verona connecting the city to the Roman Amphitheater. Four arches of the bridge were blown up by the German’s in WWII, but were rebuilt with original materials in 1957*. Suzanne couldn’t resist taking a photo of me taking a photo at the entrance to the bridge.

We were headed up to Castel San Pietro for the best views of the city. As you can see from the featured photo the views were gorgeous with the clearing sky and sun. Unfortunately the Castle is closed but the area around it is open for tourists. We took the funicular up and walked down the highway back to town.

Back down in town we decided to take a look at the Duomo of Verona. They were having a service in the Cathedral, known as Santa Maria Matricolare. The Cathedral is of Romanesque architecture and opened on 1187 AD. Quiet as little church mice, we plastered ourselves on the back wall and listened to some of the mass.

We snuck out, but had to fight our way through masses of tourists trying to get inside. It was really uncomfortable watching people just wandering around looking at the church during mass.

Everywhere you look in Verona there are houses with painted pictorials, this art started gaining favor in 1300’s and continued through the 1600’s. There is also an abundance of sculptural wall art, especially over doorways.

Heading back towards our hotel we decided to stop at this little restaurant Redondo Iglesias which specializes in ham, tapas and other light fare. Suzanne had a Tuna Salad, with fresh tuna and I had Gazpacho soup and Anchovies. Our food was delicious. One of the things that struck Suzanne was the table of very young Italian women that were seated next to us, saying grace before they ate.

* Pietra Bridge history

Bye, Bye Venice….On To Verona

April 27, 2019

I made a friend before we left Venice. He looks a little grumpy, but he’s really a lover.

Our train to Verona left at 11:50 am today. The tickets were for economy business, which seemed an oxymoron, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Thankfully we got on the right train and found our seats in a sparkling clean, comfortable new train. The trip took all of an hour through fairly flat farmland with the occasional hill town.

Verona was warm and sunny today, so we checked into our hotel and hit the streets to find Juliet’s balcony and the Roman Colosseum. Of course Juliet’s balcony is a fabrication for the tourists, based on Shakespeare’s famous love story that was set in Verona. The Montagues and Capulets are big business here. We didn’t wait in line to have the full romantic experience of being on the balcony like the gentleman in the photo.

We had noticed an extensive Roman City wall on the way to the hotel and the Colosseum, although not as large as the one in Rome is in better condition, being more intact.

Verona is a very pretty city with many competing bell towers. There is also a lot of high fashion. That must be because the close proximity to fashion capital Milan.

The hotel, is very beautiful. The roof lounge is wonderful with Panoramic views of the city and surrounding hills. We ate in the hotel tonight, because we had a voucher and we were both tired from wrestling luggage on and off the train (we are thinking of throwing our stuff out the window to lighten the load) and then walking all over the city. We were the only people in the dining room, but I chalked that up to eating at the uncivilized early hour of 7:30. Suzanne had a good dinner of She Drum fish. I ordered Eggplant Parmigiana, and received a very small baked Japanese eggplant dusted with red powder and about a quarter cup of potatoes. Not sure where the parmigiana was….the whole dinner was so small I couldn’t believe my eyes. Suzanne said my entree was the size of my fork….I’m afraid we got the giggles. Still hungry, I ordered the deconstructed apple pie. It was really quite good. They are trying too hard!

During our walk we came across an open market with people lined up for these delicious looking fruit cups. I’m planning on visiting these beauties again, on a more personal basis.

Next up we ran into a group Steampunk aficionados. Steampunk is a literary style and also a fashion and design style the combines historical elements with elements of technology from the steam-powered age. Not sure what this processional was all about, but it was entertaining. Love all the unexpected visual treats…..

We were wandering around and found this small cemetery of ornate tombs off of the Piazza Dei Signora.

This is the second hotel and the second adjacent church. This is the church of Saint Anastasia. I love that they have a clear lucite podium in front and to the left of the alter, a bit of the contemporary with the ancient.

Ahhh, Spring in Venice

April 26, 2019

This primitive painting is by Pegeen Vail, daughter of Peggy Guggenheim.

Today we are going on a tour of the Grand Canal of Venice. We have been walking our legs off, so decided this was the way to continue exploring the city and give ourselves a well deserved break.

Here’s a rowing team and a gondola, the new and the old. The common theme is that all rowers are standing. Must be a Venetian thing….

Giovanni was our guide. He is a young man that is living in the family home near St. Marks Square in Venice. He met us at our shuttle to the edge of the city and helped us with our bags to the hotel. It’s such a fresh prospective seeing the city from the water and hearing stories from a native. Ordinary looking buildings we had passed on our walking tours have grandeur from the water with their ornate facades.

This is the iconic Ca’ d’Oro. A Venetian-Gothic palace that is currently home to a Renaissance art museum.

This is the Ca’ Pesaro that currently houses contemporary and Asian art.

Suzanne and I walked behind the fish market on our way to the Rialto Bridge. The market is still open to shoppers in the morning.

Just to prove that people will do anything to make an impression. The couple that owned the palace behind the tower, were known for throwing lavish parties where they would throw their valuables out the windows and into the canal. They would then have the items dredged back up to throw out again at the next party.

We are standing in the back of our water taxi listening to Giovanni and taking in the sights. This shot puts the Rialto Bridge in perspective. The water taxi is covered as you can see in this photo, but there is an open area in the back, sort of like the sunroof in a limousine, where you can stand and look around. It was about here that we started experiencing unexpected sprinkles, which steadily increased to a deluge about the time we got to the end of the tour.

The 500 year old Palace Dario, with the circular windows is considered cursed as everyone that has owned or stayed there for any length of time have often had terrible fates: death, murder, and bankruptcy. Kit Lambert manager of The Who, bought the palace in the 1970’s, but often stayed in a nearby hotel to escape all the ghosts. Some locals think the house is cursed, because it was built over a Templar Cemetery*.

This is a view of the Santa Maria della Salute church commonly known as Salute. The Roman Catholic Church was consecrated in 1681 and built in the Baroque style. It was built by the Republic of Venice, dedicated to Our Lady of Health for deliverance from the devastating outbreak of plague in 1630*.

The is Saint Mark’s Square with the two pillars representing the two patron saints of Venice, Saint Theodore and the Winged Lion of Venice. The Doge’s Palace is to the right and Saint Mark’s Basilica to the rear.

This is the Bridge of Sighs arching between the Doge’s Palace and the Prison. The two little windows were the last glimpse that prisoners have on their way to a lifetime of confinement.

On our way back to the hotel, our driver took us by this shop where they build Gondolas.

Tomorrow is a travel day, which will put us in Verona, land of Romeo and Juliet.

* Dario Palazzo, Atlas Obsura

* Salute, Wikipedia

Murano…Oop’s Burano

April 25, 2019

This was our big island hopping day. We headed for Ferry Terminal 12 to catch the Vaporetto to Murano. This long walk took us through an unexplored area of Venice. The walk was very, very crowded on the main thoroughfares. We were both relieved to duck down an empty alley to escape the masses of people.

Once we got out of the crowds and into the little residential areas it was so lovely.

Great tree growing out of this Palazzo balcony.

We found the ferry terminal and got our round trip tickets to Murano. The Vaporetto (ferry) was a large one and it was packed with people. Because we had found seats inside the ferry we were unable to work our way through the crowd to the exit before the ferry started loading again, so off we went to Burano.

Stopped for a light lunch on the canal outside of this little restaurant. After Suzanne got our ticketing straightened out it was back to Murano.

Another packed ferry trip to Murano, with some very overly tired, cranky young children. This time we were prepared and positioned ourselves to be able to make the exit at our stop. I had been to Murano glass factories before, it was fun to watch the men work and blow their creations, but I’d never just visited the island. It was pretty much glass shop after glass shop after glass shop with very few restaurants and gelato shops thrown into the mix. With a little reminder from our friend Marcia, we made sure to find a Gelato shop and sample some Tiramisu, Mango and Mint. Yummmm! The shops ran the gamut from inexpensive glass trinkets, some of which were quite amusing to very chic and expensive displays.

The glass pieces above are around 3″ to 6″ tall. The detail and fine work are incredible.

The little piece pictured below was maybe 7″ tall, amazing.

By the time we’d walked around peering in all the windows, it was getting to be late afternoon and we were going to be standing in a 200′ line to get on a jam packed ferry. Personally I couldn’t face running the human gauntlet and the long walk back to the hotel, so I offered to get us a water taxi back to Venice. WooHoo!

The perfect ending to this day. On to rest, dinner and a glass of wine.

Stopping To Smell the Wisteria

April 24, 2019

We were supposed to have partial rain today, so off we set with coats and umbrellas to face the day. But the day fooled us with sun and perfect temperatures. The walk today was much more leisurely as we weren’t rushing to get out of the rain.

Because Venice has such limited area, we have been amazed at the inventive outdoor spaces the residents have created.

Interesting statuary is to be seen in many of the little parks and various nooks and crannies.

The Wisteria arbor in a small neighborhood garden pictured above had the most heavenly scent.

We stopped to enjoy the vistas, little gardens, shop windows, a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit and finally wound our way to the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation Museum.

The da Vinci exhibit showed copies of Leonardo’s engineering drawings. Models were created from the drawings and plans he left. The exhibit is set up in an old church that evidently was no longer used for religious purposes. Da Vinci seemed to be very interested in bearings, flight, gears, weapons of war both defensive and offensive and easing the burden of physical labor.

This is a model for a system to repel attackers climbing fortified walls with ladders.

This is a model of a ship with paddle wheels turned by a gear system to minimize labor.

This bicycle was built from a very rough and preliminary drawing. The major problem is that the from wheel doesn’t have a system for turning. It really is a beautiful old church.

Heiress Peggy Guggenheim was the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim, who went down with the Titanic in 1912. Her uncle Solomon Guggenheim established the art foundation which features leading art museums in New York, Bilboa, Spain and Peggy’s art collection in Venice, Italy.

Peggy was buried in her garden near her beloved dogs.

We really enjoyed this dog sculpture with snake in the garden by Mirko (1910-1960)

These three smaller sculptures are by Henry Moore (1808-1986) are located in the forecourt of the museum which is located in Peggy’s home, 18th-century Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grande Canal.

There is an extensive exhibit of Jean Arp’s work. He was born in Germany in 1886. He was a contemporary of Wassily Kandinsky, who encouraged him in his artistic research. Arp was involved in Abstraction-Creation, Surrealism and Dada. Dada was a reaction to WW1. The Dada movement was made up of artists that rejected the logic, reason and aestheticism of modern capitalist society. They expressed nonsense, irrationality and anti-bourgeois protest in their works*. The most famous Arp quote is, ” Art is fruit growing out of man like the fruit out of a plant like the child out of the mother…Reason tells man to stand above nature and to be the measure of all things…through reason man became a tragic and ugly figure.”`

This museum is one of the most prominent contemporary art museums in Italy. It features Picasso, Kandinsky, Calder, Braque, Metzinger, Leger, Delaunay, Brancusi, Ernst, Magritte and many more fabulous works of art. Unfortunately photos aren’t allowed in the museum.

Here I am hanging upside down in this polished Granite sculpture.

Walking back to the hotel we pasted several art galleries. I noticed a rather pixelated painting in a window and went in for a closer look.

What an amazing surprise to find the whole painting was made up of female body parts with lots of bikinis and thongs involved.

We also found a few Palazzo’s with boat garages. Most everything here is done by boat. Working boats carry passengers, are mounted with cranes to load and off load building supplies and pallets of merchandise for stores and retail shops. The boat traffic is dense and constant, as no motorized land vehicles exist in Venice. Below is a produce market on a boat.

* Jean Arp and Dada, Wikipedia

Venice Today Looks Like Portland

April 23, 2019

Thought there was thunder last night and there was, along with gusting wind and pouring rain, which stuck around for the day. Thankfully great architecture, charm and incredible artwork saved the day.

Ever the intrepid travelers, Suzanne and I were going to chill today, our first full day in Venice. We chilled alright by walking the Byzantine byways of Venice, across the island to the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) in St. Mark’s Square. The Doge’s of Venice were the chief magistrates and leaders of the Republic of Venice between 726 and 1797. They were elected for life by the city-state’s aristocracy.

We were wet long before we got there, but Suzanne says I deserve a gold star for leading us from our hotel to the St. Mark’s Square without getting lost. Just to give you an idea here is a map of Venice.

We walked from our hotel across the Grande Canal from the Ferrovia (train station) over the Rialto bridge to St. Mark’s Square (S Marco).

We waited to enter the Palace under the Porta del Frumento a 14th century colonnade. The decorative carvings on the colonnade pillars were individual and spectacular.

Once inside the palace we entered a courtyard surrounded with another colonnade topped by a Loggia.

I won’t bore you with all the details of the Venetian’s historical political structure. Let’s just say they had a 100 person senate and a very robust, active secret service, as evidenced by the prison with torture chambers in the basement and attic.

Parts of the Gothic Doge’s Palace were destroyed and rebuilt after the 10th and 15th century fires. The government spared no expense in the creation of the Palace, which included numerous chambers for audience, ship Captains, the senate, judgement, meeting, library, the Doge’s private living and many more that were used for various functions.


This type of ceiling decoration and art was in the Mannerist style, with ornate frameworks to featuring painting with exaggerated qualities of proportion, balance and ideal beauty. The resulting compositions can be asymmetrical or unnaturally elegant. The style is intellectually sophisticated and artificial as opposed to naturalistic*.

The armory is extensive and I was able to satisfy my curiosity about how handmade arrows looked. What wasn’t answered, is whether the meticulously crafted arrows flew true.

Last of all there are three magnificent statues of Adam, Eve and Mars by Renaissance sculptor (and sometime warrior) Antonio Rizzo *.

In passing through St. Mark’s Square we were able to view the intricate Byzantine style of Saint Mark’s Basilica. The Basilica was built to house the body of St. Mark the apostle, which was brought (some say stolen) from Alexandria. The catwalk below is assembled during times of high water which tends to flood St. Mark’s Square.

We were running low on energy, so caught a ferry back to the train station and from there made it back to the hotel for a needed nap before dinner.

*Mannerism, Wikipedia

*Rizzo, Hamish Bowles for Vogue, March 30, 2018.

The Zombie Duo Make it to Venice

April 22, 2019

Suzanne and I left Portland at 1:25 pm Easter Sunday and arrived in Amsterdam at around 8:30 am, only to be confronted with masses of travelers going home from their holiday weekend. The picture above was of the line for Passport Control after it had cleared out some. Good thing we had a 4 hour layover, between the long lines and getting lost repeatedly. We were running on fumes with little sleep. Suzanne was falling asleep wherever we sat down.

We finally arrived in Venice at 4:15 this afternoon. Ensconced in the charming Hotel Antiche Figure, we decided on an uncivilized early dinner hour of 7 pm, so we could make it an early night. Below is our hotel (second building from the left) and the view of the Canal Grande from our window.

Having left the hotel a bit early we took a short walk admiring the bakeries and candy shops lining the street.

So the really wonderful and weird thing that happened, besides making it here, was running into two great people from my Portland Italian class at dinner. Suzanne and I were having a very enjoyable meal at Tattoria Il Vagone when David and Mary Kitch walked in…..What are the odds of that? We will try to meet with them again tomorrow for dinner. They are off to Croatia on Wednesday.

This church is right across the canal. That’s it for today, it’s almost 10 pm here and I’m headed for a good night’s sleep. Ciao! Buona Notte!