Sunday, December 27, 2015

No Snow for Christmas



We decided to spend a few days up in the Val d’ Aosta region with the hope of having a guaranteed white Christmas.  But it was not to be. Under 2000m the mountains are still devoid of snow up there and even Monte Bianco seemed less white than when we saw it this summer.

However we had a chance to relax away from the humdrum of Reggio Emilia and I managed to get in a couple of short walks in the mountains.

Roman Theatre, Aosta
The first excursion was in the Cogne valley. I did not find much to photograph until I came across some Chamois which had been driven down by hunger to the valley bottom. I was able to get quite close to them to take a couple pictures before they ran off.

Cogne, AO
Frozen waterfal, Cogne, AO

Chamois, Cogne,AO

Chamois, Cogne,AO
Cogne, AO
The other walk I did was in the Rhemes Notre Dame valley where I came across a delightful little lake surrounded by pine trees. Here I actually came across some snow.

Rhemes Notre Dame, AO

Rhemes Notre Dame, AO

Rhemes Notre Dame, AO

Rhemes Notre Dame, AO

Rhemes Notre Dame, AO

Rhemes Notre Dame, AO
A part of the Val Ferret was open and we got a taste of a white Christmas as here there was actually some snow on the ground. We then stopped off at Courmayeur the most fashionable resort in the region and amazingly all the shops were open on Christmas day.


Monte, Bianco, Val Ferret, Aosta

Val Ferret, Aosta

Courmayeur, AO

Courmayeur, AO
This year we had a massive Christmas lunch in a restaurant with the proceedings starting at 1 o’clock and we ate some Panettone to finish at 4 o’clock.  It was nice not to have any dishes to wash up afterwards.

Monte Bianco, Val Ferret, AO



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Surreal Mantua



I arrived early in the morning just as the fog was lifting from the lakes that surround Mantua. It was a fitting start to a day of visual surprises. 

Lago Inferiore, Mantova
Lago Inferiore, Mantova
Lago Inferiore, Mantova
I stopped the car to went down to the lakeside to admire the scene. Even the oil refinery on the other shore had some charm in the strange light I found.
Lago Inferiore, Mantova
Lago Inferiore, Mantova
Then I went over to the other side of the lake to try and photograph the city as it emerged from the fog.

Lago Inferiore, Mantova
Lago Superiore, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova
The first place I stopped off at was  the charming little circular Rotonda di San Lorenzo that dates from 1082. I find the interior of this little church magical even though it is almost impossible to photograph.

Rotonda di San Lorenzo, Mantua
Rotonda di San Lorenzo, Mantua
Then came the big surprise.  With just €2 you can enter the spectacular  Teatro Scientifico Bibiena.  
This place leaves one speechless when one enters and is confronted by the boxes surrounding the seating area. This theatre was built in 1767 and a  fourteen year old Mozart played here a month after its inauguration.

Teatro Scientifico Bibiena, Mantua
Teatro Scientifico Bibiena, Mantua

Teatro Scientifico Bibiena, Mantua
Teatro Scientifico Bibiena, Mantua
Teatro Scientifico Bibiena, Mantua
I had lunch in a small trattoria where I ate some typical local food. First I had tortellini alla zucca (pumpkin) followed by “Straccotto di Manzo”  with Polenta. Washed down with some Lambrusco.
Mantova
Duomo, Mantova
The last place I visited was Matenga’s house.  Nothing remains of the original decoration but the house is worth visiting for the courtyard with its famous view towards the sky.

Casa di Mantegna, Mantova
Casa di Mantegna, Mantova
Mantova








Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Palazzo Ducale Mantua



Finally I have got around to visiting the Palazzo Ducale di Mantova. I have been to Mantova many times but I have never had the time necessary to visit this vast complex.

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Mantova was the centre of power of the Gonzaga family who ruled a vast area around this city including Sabbioneta  the “Perfect City”  built from scratch by one of the family.

 
Castello san Giorgio, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Castello san Giorgio, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Castello san Giorgio, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

After a bloody coup d’├ętat in 1328 against the previous rulers; this family ruled this area of Italy until 1707.
Their palace covers over 34,000 square metres. Unfortunately only a relatively small part can be visited.

The Gonzaga family  like many of the rulers of Italy’s city states in this period were warriors who ruled with an iron fist and were capable of acts of great cruelty. For example the surviving members of the previous ruling family were chained up in a cell in the castle and left to die of starvation. At the same time they were well read and cultured patrons of the arts as the decoration of their palaces testifies. Quite schizophrenic.

The court of Ludovico Gonzaga.Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Camera dei Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova
 I started my tour in the castle with the “Camera degli Sposi”  a wonderful frescoed room by Mantenga  dating from the mid fifteenth century.

Camera dei Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Camera dei Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Camera dei Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova
I was lucky that I visited on a slow day with relatively few visitors because they usually let you stay five minutes in this room in the high tourist season. I was able to stay quite some time .

The next part of my visit was to the actual palace. Like the castle, some of the rooms are still closed after the earthquake that we suffered some time ago.

The route one takes in the palace  starts off with a couple of rooms with fresco fragments and preparatory fresco drawings dating from the fifteenth century before one enters with a sense of surprise the huge Salone degli Arcieri.

Sala Pisanello, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova
 
Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

One of the side rooms one find  the neo classic Sala dei Specchi which for me was one of the highlights of the visit. 

Sala dei Specchi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Sala dei Specchi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Sala dei Specchi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

One then passes through a series of small rooms including the Stanza del Labirinto with its fantastic labyrinth ceiling.

Salone degli Arcieri, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Stanza del Labirinto,Palazzo Ducale, Mantova
Visiting the palace is a series of surprises  including the Camera dello Zodiaco  with its astrological ceiling that dates from 1579.
Camera dello Zodiaco, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Camera dello Zodiaco, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Camera dello Zodiaco, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Camera dello Zodiaco, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova
The last of the large rooms that I saw was the Sala dei Fiumi with its frescoes representing the rivers around Mantova. It also has a couple of Grottoes, one at each end. The decorations one sees here date from 1775.

Sala dei Fiumi,Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Sala dei Fiumi,Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Sala dei Fiumi,Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Sala dei Fiumi,Palazzo Ducale, Mantova
 
Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova


I must admit that I expected a bit more from this palace after seeing Sabbioneta and fantastic Palazzo Te also in Mantova. But it was well worth the visit all the same.

Mantova

Mantova