Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome: 30 sculptures on Italy’s birthday monument

  Italy's 150th birthday celebrations are being kicked off on March 17th at the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II – aka the Vittoriano- and it will be the seat of the birthday celebrations in Rome this year. But you didn't miss the party if you're reading this after March 17th – there are a few…

Posted by on Mar 16, 2011 in Architecture, Rome | 4 Comments

The Baptistery doors in Florence: So what?

Asking yourself “So what?” or “what’s the big deal?” is a great starting point when looking at any famous work of art in Italy. Yes, it’s probably aesthetically impressive, but it may be equally significant because of its historical context. So it’s worth understanding, really, why the work became famous. Taking the Baptistery doors in…

Posted by on Jun 21, 2010 in Architecture, Art, Florence | No Comments

The Sacra di San Michele: a magical Abbey Outside Turin

The Sacra di San Michele: a magical Abbey Outside Turin

The 11th century Sacra di San Michele (Abbey of St. Michael) sits atop a hill about 30 minutes outside Turin and is the official Symbolic Monument of the Piedmont Region. Adding to the magic of the place are a couple interesting legends: one that it was built by angels (after all, how else could all those…

Posted by on Apr 26, 2010 in Architecture, Turin | 3 Comments

Why are there holes in Italian buildings and towers?

When I worked as a tour guide in Italy, I got this question pretty frequently from travelers who paid attention to architecture. Why are there holes in Italian buildings and towers? The photo below is of the clock tower in Verona. If you look closely, you’ll see that the tower is full of little black…

Posted by on Oct 16, 2009 in Architecture | 8 Comments

Unfinished Churches in Italy: Lessons in Project Management

Imagine leading a project involving hundreds of workers, no email, lots of big egos, and with a timeline of several hundred years. And yet many such art & architecture projects have been very (!) successfully completed in Italy over the last several thousand years (hence: appreciative tourists). But it does make sense that some projects…

Posted by on Oct 5, 2009 in Architecture | One Comment

L’Aquila Italy: the Fountain of the 99 Spouts

Fountains in Italy are a destination unto themselves. Perfect for a city scavenger hunt for the kids (or the kid in in anyone); a free, always-open and in situ work of art; and ideal for splashing yourself (not necessarily splashing in) on a hot day. So, take a photo, throw a coin, and then move…

Posted by on Sep 14, 2009 in Architecture | 2 Comments

Italy’s Best Bridges, Part II

Here are my picks for best bridges south of Florence. For Italy’s best bridges of Florence and the North, see Part I. Civita di Bagnoregio An hour and a half north of Rome, this spectacular 2500 year old town is atop a plateau that is, unfortunately, crumbling. The natural bridge that connected Civita (in the…

Posted by on May 11, 2009 in Architecture | No Comments

Italy Bridges: picks in northern Italy

Architects and engineers appreciate that a bridge is more than just a way to cross a gap, but how many of us would include bridges on our list of Things To See in Italy? These bridges are fun to visit, will give you a nice photo-op and of course are free to walk across. Many of them…

Posted by on May 4, 2009 in Architecture | No Comments

Taormina, Sicily

A quintessential Italian cliffside town, I completely understand that Taormina causes its visitors to decide that they have fallen in love with Italy: with spectacular sea views and the oft snow-capped Mt. Etna in the distance, the town also claims ancient ruins and a 2500+ year old history.  A no-brainer on any itinerary. Just not in…

Posted by on Mar 9, 2009 in Architecture, Music, Sicily | No Comments

Valley of the Temples, Sicily

You’ll swear you’ve been unknowingly teleported to Greece when you see the ancient Valley of the temples in Agrigento, Sicily.       The outdoor archaeological park Valley of the Temples, or Valle dei Templi, has 7 spectacular Greek temples from the 6th and 5th century B.C. (photo is of the Temple of Concord). The site also has ruins of…

Posted by on Oct 6, 2008 in Architecture, Sicily | No Comments