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Archive for the ‘Tuscany Photography Workshops’ Category

The Hills of Tuscany

 

We are very pleased to announce a substantial reduction in the price for photography workshop participants. After renegotiating with vendors in Italy, and with Private Italy’s Italian support team, we are now offering this exceptional workshop for $2950.00 per person, land only. This is a nearly $1000.00 per participant reduction from our prior announced price and in no way affects the quality or itinerary of the workshop.

If you book before January 31, 2013, there is an additional $100.00 per person discount applied to the workshop price.

JOIN US!

There are few words on earth that evoke a sense of place more than “Tuscany.”

Visions of villas gold flecked in long afternoon light, hillsides of patterned olive trees, vines bearing luscious Sangiovese grape and hilltop villages whose towers pierce cerulean blue skies are all yours to capture during this photography workshop.

Our first few days are spent within, or close to, the Renaissance city of Florence. The workshop venues balance the well-known with some surprising corners of a city whose narrow lanes and quiet corners offer keen insights into Italy’s elusive beauty.

During the second part of this workshop, we move to a quiet retreat in the hills of central Tuscany. Villas, medieval abbeys, the pattern of cobble-stoned streets and the glory of Italy’s elusive, special luminance await your discerning and creative vision.

Classic Italia – Florence

This is a limited opportunity to join a group of like-minded, passionate, photographers who will learn from world-renowned photographer and teacher, David Simchock. With time for expert critique both during and after days of work ‘in the field’, this workshop will inspire you and expand your creative comfort zone. The texture of earth, the subtle play of light on stucco and stone, luxuriant gardens and the natural palette of one of the most beautiful places on earth are waiting for you.

For full details about this rewarding workshop, including our itinerary and pricing, visit 2013 Photography Workshop in Florence & Tuscany

We look forward to your joining us in bella Italia!

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Il Torchio - OltrarnoVia dei Bardi

Il Torchio – Oltrarno
Via dei Bardi

When you cross the Ponte Vecchio, and leave the cacophony of central Florence behind, you enter a world apart. This is the Oltrarno, the south side of the city and its creative center. Small workshops line narrow lanes. Borgo San Jacopo, a shady narrow medieval street, leads west away from the Via Guicciardini, Via dei Bardi leads east to shops as varied as high end hand crafted jewelry to Il Torchio, a book press whose owner creates gorgeous leather bound journals and multicolored Florentine paper.

Along the Via Santo Spirito, just past the south end of the Ponte Santa Trinita is the small workshop of Ippogrifo, where a couple create gorgeous etched copper prints. See my blog post about Ippogrifo.

It was in the fourth or fifth century that the first church structure was built on the site of present day Santa Felicita. Dedicated to St. Felicity of Rome, the building was to go through several expansions, reductions and redesigns over the course of the next thousand years. Within the, now, 18th Century interior are works by Taddeo Gaddi, Pontormo, Francesco d’Antonio and Neri di Bicci. While many art historians discount the comparative value of the frescoes and painting in the church, this is a rarely visited treasure of Florence.

Facade Santa FelicitaVasari Corridor

Facade Santa Felicita
Vasari Corridor

Santa Felicita shares a unique and unusual architectural feature unlike any other church in Florence. The power and influence of the Medici family is seen throughout the city. It was in 1564 that Grand Duke Cosimo I de Medici commissioned Georgio Vasari to design and oversee construction of what is called the Vasari Corridor. This elevated enclosed walkway was built to provide the Medici family and court to move between the family’s Palazzo Pitti on the Oltrarno to what is now the Uffizi gallery-at the time the offices (uffizi) of the Medici family business.

The fact that the corridor slashes directly across the facade of Santa Felicita is symbolic of the Medici influence on the church. Their money patronized the monastery of San Marco, the church of the family’s patron saint, San Lorenzo. Here, at Santa Felicita, the imposing presence of the corridor overstates “Io sono Medici”, “I am Medici and I can build over the facades of churches with aplomb.”

The final unique design of this church is the presence of an open gallery above the nave from which the Medici family could hear (attend) mass without having to mingle near or in churchgoers from the city.

Jacopo PontormoDeposition, 1568Cappela Capponi, Santa Felicita

Jacopo Pontormo
Deposition, 1568
Cappela Capponi, Santa Felicita

The most striking of the works of art in the church is Jacopo Pontormo’s Deposition, painted by commission of Ludovico Capponi in 1565 for his family’s private chapel within the church. The fresco was completed in 1568. Pontormo’s vision of the deposition created an outcry among the Florentine artistic community. Gone were the conventions of cross and location of the grief-stricken in proximity to the cross. In their place was a work that focuses on Jesus’ mother, Mary. The swirl of figures around her, the placement of the body of Jesus in the lower left quarter of the painting and the use of unusual colors created a vortex of grief, unseen prior to this monumental work. It was the birth of the “Mannerist” style.

If you leave the Church of Santa Felicita and walk west, generally paralleling the Arno River, you will pass a small church along the Borgo San Jacopo. This narrow medieval lane is lined with buildings constructed after World War II. During the German retreat in 1944, the ancient buildings along this section of the river were destroyed. Time and loving care restored the tiny church of San Jacopo Sopr’Arno.

The church is famous as much for its architectural design than for any art contained within. The

San Jacopo Sopr'ArnoFlorence

San Jacopo Sopr’Arno
Florence

arches that support the church are suspended above the Arno river, literally supporting a portion of the floor above the water.

Heavily modified over the course of centuries, its most famous claim to fame is that Filippo Brunelleschi studied architecture in the structure and built (later destroyed) a small version of the dome that now towers over the city at the Duomo of Santa Maria dei Fiori. Please see “If You Go” below for information on hours and gaining access to the church.

Not a great distance beyond San Jacopo is the Church of Santo Spirito, one of the last churches that Brunelleschi worked on. His plans for the building began in 1428. Upon his death in 1468 the responsibility for the completion of the building was given to others who had worked in Brunelleschi’s workshop: Manetti, Gaiole and Salvi d’Andrea.

While the facade was never completed to Brunelleschi’s design, the simplicity of the facade seem appropriate, a moment of calm before visitors encounter the incredible collection of art housed within.

Interior, Santo Spirito

Interior, Santo Spirito

Over forty side chapels, decorated by artistic commissions by different families of the city, line each side of the nave. Works by the 15th century sculptor Rossellino share space with 14th Century Triptychs by Maso di Banco; frescoes by Andrea Sansovino in the Corbinelli Chapel occupy walls near  a Doubting Thomas, a work attributed to the 15th century painter Neri di Bicci. This is yet another treasure of Florentine art contained within the walls of a seemingly unassuming church.

Only a few minutes walk further west of Santo Spirito is Santa Maria della Carmine, which houses one of the most famous works of 15th Century Renaissance art in the city.

The church was established in 1268 by a group of friars from Pisa who dedicated the church to “Our Lady of Mount Carmel”. The city of Florence provided assistance, along with wealthy families of the city, to support the cost of the church. The complex was consecrated in 1422, yet the building process continued until its 1475 completion. The facade of the Church is not finished. As with many other churches in Florence including San Lorenzo, only a brick and mortar wall greets visitors.

Branacci ChapelSanta Maria della Carmine, Florence

Brancacci Chapel
Santa Maria della Carmine, Florence

The interior of the church was heavily damaged by fire in 1771 and was rebuilt in a Rocco Baroque style. What the fire did not destroy, and the art world is grateful for this seemingly supernatural intervention, were a cycle of frescoes painted by commission of Felice Brancacci a wealthy businessman. Two masters of early Renaissance art began work on this cycle in 1425, Masolino and Masaccio. After Masolino died, Masaccio completed three of the frescoes – Expulsion from Paradise, The Tribute Money St Peter Healing a Lame-Man, and St Peter Raising Tabitha from the Dead. As with so many talented artists of the Renaissance, Masaccio’s life was cut short. He was called back to Rome, before the frescoes were done, where he died at the age of 27. The frescoes were completed by Fillipino Lippi, a student of both artists.

Rather than attempt to describe what these artists accomplished, I have included a few photos of the works below. I let them stand on their own – as incredible evidence of talents that established the school of early Renaissance painting in Florence.

DisputationMassacio, Branacci Chapel

Disputation
Masaccio, Brancacci Chapel

Tribute Massacio Branacci

Tribute, Masaccio Brancacci Chapel

To walk into this chapel, be surrounded by such incredible colors and beauty is breathtaking.

So . . . when the crowds of the city overwhelm you, when the heat gets to be too much, or you simply wish to take in some of the lesser visited treasures of Florence, walk the Oltrarno. Surprises and pleasures await.

IF YOU GO:

Santa Felicita

Piazza di Santa Felicita, 3, 50125 Florence, Italy

Phone:+39.055.213.018
Entrance tickets: Free
Hours: Wednesday ONLY 9:30 am–12:00 pm, 3:30 pm–5:30 pm

San Jacopo Sopr’Arno

Note: The church is now deconsecrated, and used for a variety of cultural events. If it is closed, the priest of Santa Felicita has the key.

Borgo San Jacopo – Firenze

Hours:  9:00-12:00/15:00-19:00

Entrance tickets: Free

Tel: +39.05.233.20

Santo Spirito

Piazza Santo Spirito – Firenze

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 9:30am -12:30 pm and 4:00pm -7:00 pm

Entrance tickets: Free

Piazza di Santo Spirito 29, 50125 Florence (FI)

Santa Maria della Carmine – Brancacci Chapel

NOTE: Reservations are required. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except for Tuesday, from 1:00 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends

Piazza del Carmine

Florence, 50100

Tel: +39.055.276.82.24 for reservations

Hours: Mon. and Wed.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. 1–5

Entrance Tickets: Euro 4.00 per person

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Ponte Santa Trinita Florence

Ponte Santa Trinita Florence

We walk across them everyday, these beautiful bridge of Florence, yet rarely if ever do we take the time to reflect on their history and beauty. I wanted to create a post about one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, the Ponte Santa Trinita.

She has been destroyed by the Arno River’s fury three times in her history. Near the end of World War II, she was destroyed by man’s hands in the name of war. Yet, she survives. Her sunrise golden spans arching across her purpose, and her sunset shimmering reflection reason for pause.

As the city of Florence has grown, so has the number of bridges that span the Arno River. Once a heavily used source of commerce, the river has remained as unpredictable and temperamental as she has ever been. During the early 13th Century, a wooden bridge that stood for nearly fifty years was swept away in a flood. Replaced based on a design by Renaissance architect Taddeo Gaddi (his design offered a total of five arches across the river), the river again claimed it in a flood in the mid-16th Century.

A promising architect by the name of Bartolomeo Ammannati, who was born in Settignano, a town well known to Michelangelo, was commissioned in 1569 to create a bridge that would, with all of that time’s engineering knowledge, withstand future floods. Ammannati studied under Jacopo Sansovino , a passionate student of Michelangelo’s structural designs.  Bartolomeo proposed a design of three wide and shallow arches, graceful and strong, to cross the river.

Architect plan Ponte Santa Trinita
Ammannati designed prow-like supports for the bridge. These have been the saving graces for all of the floods that have followed the bridge’s construction. Water, fast moving or slow, is directed away from the supports and directs the strongest currents and all of the detritus that floods bring between the arches and away from further damage to the structure.
Over the course of the next four hundred years, the bridge remained strong. It took the hand of man, in August 1944, to destroy the bridge. As the German’s retreated north along the Italian peninsula, one of their primary goals was to slow the allied advances. On August 8th of 1944, the Germans blew up all of the bridges across the Arno, yet thankfully saved the Ponte Vecchio. It was not until 1958, after excavations retrieved most of the original stones (some additional stones required were quarried from the same quarry used by the Renaissance builders), from the riverbed.
Primavera Ponte Santa Trinita Florence

Pimavera-Spring
Ponte Santa Trinita
Pietro Francavilla

What happened to the head? An interesting mystery.

As part of the celebrations for the marriage of Grand Duke Ferdinand I de Medici and Christine of Lorraine, four statues the represented Roman Gods were placed at each corner of the bridge. The four statues were temporary and, after the festivities concluded, sculptors were named to carve four marble statues representing the four seasons to replace those temporary pieces: Fall (Giovanni Caccini) and Winter (Taddeo Landini) on the Otrarno (south) side, with Spring (Pietro Francavilla) and Summer (Giovanni Caccini) on the Santa Trinita (north) side of the bridge.
The only piece missing, after the German destruction and the 1958 restoration, was the head of the statue of Spring.
If there is a group of art experts in the world who can locate and restore missing pieces of art, it is the Italians. The search continued until 1961 when an excavator discovered the missing head, deeply buried in the centuries old mud beneath the bridge. To much pomp and ceremony, the head was re-attached and celebrated. A mystery solved.
IF YOU GO:
The Ponte Santa Trinita connects the north side of the city, near the church which gave its name to the span-Chiesa Santa Trinita-with the Oltrarno, the south side neighborhood of the river.
Best views are at sunrise from the mid-span of the Ponte Vecchio and at sunset from the next bridge west of the Ponte Santa Trinita, the Ponte alla Carraia.
Take a moment, the next time you are in Florence, to give a few minutes pause to the history that supports us as we cross the ever-unpredictable River Arno.
Evening View-Ponte Santa Trinita

Evening View-Ponte Santa Trinita

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Beach, Vernazza, Cinque Terre 

It rises from the sea, a fortress of multicolored buildings.

The history of Vernazza is centered around its hook of a breakwater, and its geographic proximity to Genoa. Early 13th Century documents indicate that the townspeople swore allegiance to the authority of Genoa. In the mid-1500’s, to provide additional protection from pirates who plied their trade against all forms of merchant and private shipping, the town erected a large stone wall and fortress which still dominate the promontory above the harbor.

The Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia (pictured to the left) has served as the duomo of Vernazza since the mid-thirteenth century. The bell tower that now dominates the village was completed in 1750.

There are no roads to Vernazza. In the late 1800’s its singular isolation was broken with the arrival of the rail line that now connects Genoa to La Spezia and, from there, to the entire Italian peninsula.

The sense of isolation still exists, though during the high season visitors fill the hotels and restaurants to capacity.

Still . . . of a warm summer evening, as I explore the many narrow “carruggi” alleyways and straight, steep stairways that lead to the sea, the sense of those who labored here for centuries comes easily.

As glasses and dinnerware clink in the sultry air, I already hope to return to  the beautiful, historic and unforgettable town of Vernazza.

IF YOU GO:

Hotels Vernazza

For numerous reasons, accommodations in Vernazza are nearly non-existent. I recently had a client recommend the Inn – Villa Cinque Terre, but

Headlands of Vernazza with
Monterosso al Mare in the distance

note that it is 2.4 miles (app. 4 Km) above and away from the village itself.

Also, you can check accommodations in the relatively nearby villages of Levanto or Monterosso.

Restaurants Vernazza

There are not many restaurants in Vernazza. Cafes offer prepared sandwiches and drinks – an easy picnic if you are so inclined. If you arrive early in the morning during a hike along the trails, you can enjoy espresso, cappuccino and fresh hand-made rolls in any of the towns small coffee bars.

Il Pirate delle Cinque Terre

Via Gavino, 36 – 19018 Vernazza – La Spezia – Italia

Belforte  

Via G. Guidoni, Vernazza, SP 19018  Italy

Tel: +39.0187.812.222

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Corniglia – Cinque Terre

The village of Corniglia occupies the high ground above a stunning headland on the coast of the Cinque Terre. The climb to the village from the train station is a challenge, yet approaching it from the south it comes as a surprise. As I walked along the main street, I came to a prescipe that took my breath away.

A drop of about three hundred feet falls away to the sea. The Oratorio of Santa Caterina, an Eighteenth Century church is situated just off of the Piazzetta di Largo Taragi, one of only two small piazzas in the village.

Oratorio di Santa Caterina – Corniglia

This is not a particularly easy place to find accommodation, though the two I have listed in my “IF YOU GO” section, below, are very reasonably priced and offer comfortable clean rooms. Do not expect fancy, yet family ownership brings with it additional pride in service, as with all such small businesses in Italy.

The hiking trails that hug the coast will bring you Corniglia. The stretch between Manarola and Corniglia is one of the longest on the coast. You should plan on booking well in advance, especially in high season, for rooms in Corniglia. Most visitors hike up from the train station, spend an hour or two, then head back to the station to continue their travels up the coast. Keep in mind, also, that there are stretches of the hiking trails that offer no bannister and drop precipitously to the sea.

Unlike the other villages along the coast, this one surmounts the sea and clings to the rocks above. its position offers incredible views. It seems somehow appropriate that the middle village of the five along this coastline would be situated on a high promontory above the sea.

Hotels Corniglia

As is true with all of the villages along the coast, you are strongly encouraged to book your hotel rooms(s) well in advance of your travel dates. If you visiting during late October – late March, then you will find accommodations available for ‘last minute’ arrivals. Regardless, reserve in advance and you will have one less worry for your trip.

These are all places I have stayed, over the years, in Corniglia. You may well have a favorite, yet I can recommend these with confidence that you will enjoy a safe and fairly-priced stay.

 

Corniglia Lane – Cinque Terre

B&B Le Terrazze 

Via Fieschi, 102  19018 Vernazza Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: (Italian Cell Number) +39.349.845.9684

Sole Terre Mare 

Via Serra 20, 19017 Corniglia

Restaurants Corniglia

Corniglia does not offer a diversity of places to have lunch or dinner. Particularly at lunch, the trattorias and cafes that are open do fill quickly. You should plan either an early, or relatively late, lunch. For dinner, I always recommend calling ahead for a table.

Osteria e Cantina de Mananan

Via Fieschi 117, Corniglia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.821.166

Caffe Matteo 

Via Fieschi 157, Corniglia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.821.044

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Fishing Boats – Manarola, Cinque Terre 

As I headed out that first morning, walking the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola, I remember being, simply, stunned at the beauty of the coastline. The path, in sections, is a bit of a challenge, but who cares when you have views like that!

The approach to Manarola from the south is not as spectacular as those who encounter views as they near the village from the north. Once inside the village however, I was again surprised and enchanted by the narrow lanes, the friendliness of the people and the sense that these places are straight from a 1950’s Cinecittà vision of bella Italia.

While I imagined that living along the coast, before it was ‘discovered’ was not just difficult, but downright tough, the positive impact on people’s lives from all we visitors is evident in shops, restaurants, hotels and B&B’s.

Poet and writer Eugenio Montale, who lived in Manarola for over thirty years,  wrote of senses heightened, of that compelling dichotomy between poetic beauty and darker truths.

Every moment brings new leaves to you,
amazement overwhelming every other
fleeting joy: life comes on headlong waves
to this far garden corner.
Now you stare down at the soil;
an undertow of memories
reaches your heart and almost overwhelms it.
A shout in the distance: see, time plummets,
disappears in hurried eddies
among the stones, all memory gone; and I
from my dark lookout reach
for this sunlit occurrence. 

As evening descended on this first full day on the coast, I took a seat in a small cafe and observed. Locals stopped to discuss the day’s developments, tourists peered at menus posted outside trattorias and cafes and a gentle breeze en wrapped the lanes as curtains billowed from windows high above. The lull of the ever present sea slowed us all to the pace of Italian life.

There is a question I ask myself all the time in Italy, and it has to do with love. There is not a region, hardly a place, in this incredible country that I don’t find myself asking “How can anyone not fall in love with the . . .?

Such a question is one asked as I sit on the rocks near the harbor and enjoy sunset by the sea.

Before I get to “If You Go” and the details of staying in, and enjoying meals in, Manarola, I leave you with a photograph from National Geographic.

In its capture of the restless sea and the fishermen’s boats and homes, I see an encapsulated summary of the Cinque Terre’s attractions: rocks, precipitous cliffs, quiet lanes and extraordinary beauty. Enjoy.

Manarola – Photo: National Geographic

IF YOU GO:

Hotels Manarola

As is true with all of the villages along the coast, you are strongly encouraged to book your hotel rooms(s) well in advance of your travel dates. If you visiting during late October – late March, then you will find accommodations available for ‘last minute’ arrivals. Regardless, reserve in advance and you will have one less worry for your trip.

These are all places I have stayed, over the years, in Manarola. You may well have a favorite, yet I can recommend these with confidence that you will enjoy a safe and fairly-priced stay.

La Torretta   

Vico Volto, 20 | Piazza della Chiesa, 19017 Manarola, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.920.327

Carugiu B&B  

Via Ettore Cozzani, 42  19017 Riomaggiore Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: (Italian Cell Number) +39.349.346.9208

Affittacamere San Giorgio  

Via Discovolo 280 – 19017 Manarola (SP)

Tel. +39.0187.760.542

Restaurants Manarola

During high season, you should reserve for dinner in most places in Manarola. The restaurants are, in general, very small and fill quickly for the evening meal. I recommend these places. I have eaten in them and have enjoyed wonderful meals and refreshments at a fair price.

Trattoria Locanda il Porticciolo 

Via Renato Birolli, 88  Riomaggiore, Province of La Spezia, Italy

0187 920083

Aristide (no web site)

Via Discovolo  19017 Manarola, Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.920.000

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