Posts Tagged ‘travel to Italy’

Graffiti – The Urban Artists of Pompeii

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

The city of Pompeii, with Mount Vesuvius in the background.

That’s right, Pompeii. The catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 buried the city but preserved a unique look at daily life in the ancient world, including its residents’ casual scribblings. Since the city’s walls and buildings were brightly painted, folks carved their words into them, exposing the white plaster beneath.

According to a recent article in Smithsonian magazine, messages were carved inside and outside homes, public buildings, and the city’s walls. This graffiti included friendly greetings, declarations of love, political commentary, poetry, jokes, and good wishes, carved by both the city’s elite and it’s regular folks.

Read the article and see photos of Pompeii’s graffiti here. Or, see it for yourself on these Smithsonian tours that visit Pompeii.

Ebb and Flow – Venice’s Rising Tide

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Venice isn’t just a city on the water, it’s a city in the water. While the city seems to serenely float upon its network of canals, it takes a huge team of engineers to keep the canals flowing smoothly and to manage the floods that come with rising tides. For an up-close look about the behind-the-scenes team that keeps Venice running the way it should, see this video, thanks to the Smithsonian Channel.

See what it’s like to live with the water as your constant companion on any of our popular tours to Venice, including our newly added cruise, The Venetian Empire and the Medieval World, departing April, 2011.

Have you been to Venice? Please share.

Pazzo for Travel

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Guest Blogger William J. Higgins, FAIA is an architect with 37 years of worldwide experience, has practiced in 10 different countries, and has traveled through more than 20 countries across Europe, Asia and North America.  He is contributor to two recent books: International Practice for Architects and Founder’s Folly. He has a Masters of Architecture degree from Harvard University, a Bachelor’s Degree from Louisiana State University, and has taught at Stanford University. He is a founding Principal of Architecture International, Ltd. and was a Principal of The Architects Collaborative, Inc. Here, he shares a tale of travel planning with family.

Travel’s always more fun with friends and family. (Cafe, Florence).

It was Christmas, and we were gathered at a family dinner. My wife and I were regaling our parents with tales of our personal travels to Europe.  I paused, looked at my wife across the table, and then blurted out, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us went to Europe together?” One would have thought that I was Santa Claus flying down the chimney loaded with gifts, for the resounding “Yes! What a wonderful idea!” that instantly sprang forth from my mother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law. Their happiness filled the dining room. Even my wife, Norma, beamed with approval.

I consider myself to be an educated, informed and, yes, mature individual. I generally have my wits about me and usually make wise choices when it comes to life decisions such as what color socks to wear, what channel to watch, or what to eat for dinner. So why did a sensible person like me, married to an intelligent and insightful woman, think it would be a great idea to travel to Europe with our parents? The Italians have a word for it: pazzo, or crazy. The French would say fou. Yes, crazy.

Both of us are of European descent. Norma is Italian and Hungarian, and I am a blend of Italian, French, Irish, and English. So the thought of journeying to Europe with our parents to explore the roots of our heritage seemed like an exciting way to bond with our family and enjoy some time together. We are fortunate in that we get along with our in-laws, and that our three “old ones” enjoy each other’s company. We all share common interests, one of which we now discovered, is travel.

As we continued with Christmas dinner, pouring more holiday wine, the questions came in rapid succession and with excited voices: When to go? Where to go? How do we get passports? What about medicines? Travel insurance? The question of when to go would not be as much a challenge as where to go. Now that I had opened the proverbial can of  traveling worms, the suggested places to visit stretched across the entire European continent from the Danube  to the English Channel. My English Literature professor mother-in-law, Alice, was inclined to try Shakespeare’s England, or perhaps Shelley’s Rome or even Lord Byron’s Venice. My high school principal mother, Gwen, thought it would be grand to see the Louvre in Paris, or the Uffizi of Florence, but “England would be nice, too.” My recently retired yet adventurous father-in-law, Rus, yearned to see the majesty of the Matterhorn or Michelangelo’s Florence or the WWII cemeteries of France. More wine please.

The Danube River, as it passes through Budapest.

I asked myself, how do we see 2,000 years of history and 2,000 miles of landscape in a fourteen day timeframe? Oh yes, the senior members of our family decided our trip had to be at least two weeks.  What the heck, they had plenty of time on their hands, why waste an opportunity to delve into old world culture especially if I am offering to be the tour guide?

Norma retrieved the World Atlas from the study and we moved all the dishes to one end of the table, poured more wine, and swarmed over the maps of Europe, measuring distances between destinations with a nearby, uneaten string bean. After much bean positioning and stretching, we decided that the farthest we should travel in one direction was 1,000 miles or three string beans. Thus was born the rule of the haricot vert.

Our inaugural grand tour would encompass a scenic loop by car through Switzerland, Italy, and France, a mere 2,000 miles, or six string beans. This way we would please everyone and be so exhausted at the end that the thought of doing this a second time would completely vanish from our collective noodle heads. All heads turned to me, and in unison, said “So, when do we go?”

I paused because I thought it would be cool to travel to new places, visit world renowned museums, cathedrals, and historic sites and see them through the eyes of our parents. Can you imagine exploring the inner streets of old cities discussing the window patterns and architectural detail of a French neighborhood with your mother? Or sampling the local cuisine at an outdoor cafe in Rome with your mother-in-law? Or taking a gondola ride to the base of the Matterhorn with your father-in-law? Well, neither did I, until I realized that the excitement that was already expressed in their eyes and the gaiety in their voices meant that this could be a very energizing experience for our parents, at a time in their lives when they were contemplating what their next chapter was going to be. We were ready to help them write it in a foreign language.

Where do you want to go next? Please share.

Ready to take off yet? Click here to see how you can travel to Europe with Smithsonian Journeys.

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Things you didn’t know about Michelangelo

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Michelangelo's <i>David</i>, a Renaissance masterpiece, in Florence. Photo by Elaine Ruffolo

When any art fan thinks of Florence, there is always a connection to Michelangelo. No artist has put his mark on the city quite like he has. Yet, how much do we really know about him? Although his reputation has spanned centuries, he was human like the rest of us – with ups and downs in his own life. Here are a few things about this iconic artist that you might not know.

1. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born March 6, 1475.

2. The family business was small-scale banking, a trade that had been passed down for generations. But his father struggled to keep the business successful, and took government positions to supplement the family income. Because of this break in tradition, Michelangelo was free to explore other career opportunities.

3. At the age of 17, Michelangelo worked as Bertoldo di Giovanni’s apprentice, as did fellow contemporary Pietro Torrigiano. It was Pietro who punched Michelangelo, resulting in a broken nose that is clearly reflective of every portrait of Michelangelo.

4. When Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the original idea was to paint the 12 Apostles against a starry sky. But the artist insisted on a more complex theme, and when it was finally completed it included 300 figures highlighting stories from the Book of Genesis.

5. Although many of Michelangelo’s most notable works were created earlier in his life—Pietà, for example, was carved when he was 24 years old —He lived a surprisingly long life and passed away at the age of 88.  

Who is your favorite Renaissance artist – Michelangelo, Raphael, or Da Vinci?

Explore the Italian Renaissance with new eyes and perspectives when you travel to Florence with Smithsonian.

The Undeniable Lure of Venice

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Dennis Weller is Chief Curator and curator of northern European art at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, and has served as Study Leader for many of our tours. Click here to learn more about Dennis and traveling with him.

I love to travel, but as is often the case, near the end of a journey my consciousness often drifts toward the reality of what might await me once I return home. I can all but guarantee that such will not be the case for our Pearls of Dalmatia travelers, as Venice, one of the most familiar yet mysterious and magical cities in the world, serves as the tour’s last port of call.

Venice in the soft light of early morning Photo: Jessica Engler

Venice in the soft light of early morning Photo: Jessica Engler

Each time I return to Venice two things are sure to happen to me. I will come across a masterpiece in a church I had not previously visited, and I will get lost at least once in the maze of canals and streets that define the city. Both usually prompt a stop at a nearby café or bakery to collect my thoughts, where depending on the time of day, I might indulge in anything from a chunk of delicious olive bread to a Bellini (not a painting but a combination of prosecco wine and white peach juice).

For me, Venice is a perfect combination of food and art, or art and food (either order works for me); incredible architecture; and an unmatched quality of light and color. Whether it is early morning at the food market near the Rialto Bridge, during a mid-day visit to the Venice Biennale at the Arsenale (this year the city-wide art exhibition runs through late November), or late in the afternoon while walking along the Giudecca, Venice can best be appreciated through the use of all of one’s senses.