Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chasing for Photos

Tuscan hills

When I was asked to keep a friend company on a photo journey, it seemed like not only a good idea but a great idea, especially since it was going to be in Italy. But non stop chasing is not at all good for moods, health, sleep patterns and one’s overall well being especially when it stretches beyond ten days. That being said, the list of places visited was impressive and the journey was crammed with interesting sights plus some great shopping. So, let the chase begin......

The good Shepherd mosaic
Ravenna was first on the list for a quick peek at the mosaics. Ravenna had been a powerful town in the first century before the common era under Emperor Augustus. Its power declined thereafter but rose again under the Byzantine rule in the fifth and sixth centuries. By the second century the town had converted to Christianity. The result of these diverse ruling powers is a group of outstanding mosaics in one location which span centuries and offer interesting contrasts in design, color and technique. The Good Shepherd in the tiny Mausoleo di Galla Placidia was one of my favorites.
looking down from Palazzo dei Consoli

From the coast, the photo chase headed to Umbria with a stop in Gubbio,
Piazza della Signoria
one of Umbria’s most spectacular medieval towns and prominent during the days when Rome ruled. The many twisting streets and terra-cotta-tiled roofs are charming and are set off beautifully by the beauty of the adjacent forests. Of particular note, is the Palazzo dei Consoli on the Piazza della Signoria that had been a civic palace. It now houses the Museo Civico offering many details on the history of Gubbio and is home to the Eugubine Tablets. These were discovered in 1444 and date from the third to the first century BCA. These seven bronze tablets are inscribed with both Etruscan and Roman characters and offer insight into the common religious beliefs and practices of the Italic people and provide a rare glimpse into the society of the ancient Etruscans.
Gubbio rooftops

Taking the car into Rome seemed like a formidable idea so Terni was the next stop to deposit the car and take the train into Rome. It had been awhile since I had been to Rome and I quickly remembered saying that I would never go back in July or August. Oh well, silly me! So there I was in the furnace of Rome and being taunted by Cicero’s writings on the insanity of being in Rome in the summer especially when you are on a photo chase enhanced by modern day pollution. 
There were two caveats to the Rome excursion. The best caveat was meeting up with friends from Key West who had been transferred to Rome for work. Connecting with them for dinner and getting to meet their new son, Thomas, was a huge pleasure. Apollo and Dauphine (1624). Of historical interest, is that 200 of Scipione’s classical statues were sold by Prince Camillo Borghese in the early 1800’s to his brother-in-law, Napoleon. These statues are on display at the Louvre in Paris as the Borghese Collection.The second caveat was the Villa Borghese. Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the sybaritic nephew of Pope Paul V (1605-1621), amassed one of the finest collections of statues and paintings in Europe. The villa and surrounding park were constructed just outside of the city to act as a private residence and diplomatic seat and most importantly to house the Cardinal’s art collection. There are numerous Bernini sculptures in the museum and my favorite was Apollo and Dauphine (1624). Of historical interest, is that 200 of Scipione’s classical statues were sold by Prince Camillo Borghese in the early 1800’s to his brother-in-law, Napoleon. These statues are on display at the Louvre in Paris as the Borghese Collection.

Borghese Gardens
From Rome, it was a mad dash back to Terni and then on to Narni and finally to Montalcino in the Tuscan hills offering a well needed abatement from the scorching Roman heat. This is the land of Brunello wine, Italy’s finest. Montalcino is another medieval town with a military layout of furrowed, narrow steep streets and offering magnificent views over Umbria and southern Tuscany. Montalcino proved to be one of the most enjoyable stops. Not only did we have two nights in one location, but the small town was charming and welcoming with memorable meals and outstanding wines. The visit coincided with the Montalcino Jazz and Wine Festival that further sweeten the stay. The first night’s concert featured Nick the Nightfly and Sarah Jane Morris, performing under the stars in the courtyard of the fortress. They were outstanding. The second night’s performance was the Steve Grossman quartet. Jazz and Brunello wine are a great combination. Honestly, it just does not get any better than this.
Borghese Garden

However, the brief respite ended and we were off and running for Camogli, on the west coast of Italy, which included a brief stop in San Quirico d’Orcia, Bagno Vignoni, Spoletto and Pienza for a look see and of course more photo opportunities. Camogli is a small town in the province of Genoa of the Riviera de Levante next to Santa Margherita and Portofino. It is quaint, perched on the hills adjacent to the seaside and has fortunately retained an old world feel. The homes are painted in beautiful pastels with numerous trompe-l’oeil windows designed to trick the eye into believing there are windows were there are none. Being so close to Santa Margherita meant a stop there for another photo chasing occasion.

It seemed like I barely blinked and we were off to the pleasure resorts of Alassio and then San Remo. San Remo has been described as being of faded elegance from the nineteenth century, but it is charming. Best of all, this stop meant a day of relaxation with our friend, Anita, who understood the trials of a photo chase and offered nourishing food, her lovely home and words of encouragement.
sunset Camogli


San Remo was unfortunately too short a stay since before I could say “Jack Rabbit” we were off on another mad dash back into France to a small hotel in Pegomas. Pegomas is situated in the Alpes-Maritimes department of France. This is very close to the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence where the philosopher and writer, Bernard-Henri Levy, curated the stunning exhibit Adventures of Truth. You guessed it, one more visit for the photo chase. 
harbor Camogli

Well, I love a three day chase, but if you are going to opt for more than that, give me a call and I bet that I will talk you out of it. I promise, especially if you opt to go with a lunatic of an American photographer who does not understand proper lunches or coffee breaks. Happy Chasing!

Santa Margherita

at the market
flowers everywhere
beautiful alleyways

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