Sunday, July 31, 2016

Scrovegni Chapel

Executive summary by darmansjah

The church was dedicated to Santa Maria della Carità at the Feast of the Annunciation, 1303, and consecrated in 1305. Giotto's fresco cycle focuses on the life of the Virgin Mary and celebrates her role in human salvation. A motet by Marchetto da Padova appears to have been composed for the dedication on 25 March 1305. The chapel is also known as the Arena Chapel because it was built on land purchased by Enrico Scrovegni that abutted the site of a Roman arena. The space was where an open-air procession and sacred representation of the Annunciation to the Virgin had been played out for a generation before the chapel was built.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cortina d’Ampezzo

Cortina Most Chic Winter Destination

Executive summary by darmansjah

Driving in Italy’s most chic winter destination has always been a hazard, whether you are behind the wheel of a red Ferrari or a rusty Fiat.

Car parking spaces in Cortina d’Ampezzo are as rare as honest tax returns, and when one suddenly comes available the furious pedal power, gesticulation and horn-blowing that follows is a salutary education in the cultural passion attached to the automobile.

Italy’s most chic winter destination is dominated by a magnificent green and white bell tower and a glittering confection of grand 19th-century mansions. It sits in splendid linguistic defiance of its neighbours, a two-hour drive into the rugged Dolomites from the serene canals of Venice.

Over the centuries it has variously been occupied by Bavaria, France, Austria, Italy, Germany, and even the Americans in 1945.

 But the people here stubbornly maintain a spiritual independence of their own that may explain in part their defiant attitude towards the Italian Inland Revenue.

While the residents of towns just a few miles away speak either Italian or German as their mother tongue, the native Cortinese cling to their ancient Ladino language to converse among themselves.

Cortina could once be counted in the top five ski resorts of the world. At the height of its success it hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics.

But lack of investment in its lift system and its hotels pushed it into a skiing backwater in the final decades of the 20th century. Only now is it beginning to re-emerge as a potential world-class international destination.

None of this has bothered wealthy Italians who are only too delighted to bask in the glory of their own St Moritz or Megève without the inconvenient presence of foreigners

Each winter the resort plays host to the cream of Roman and Milanese society. For most of them the highlight of the day is not the first morning powder run, but the sunset.

The town is surrounded by soaring cathedrals of dolomitic sandstone that rise to over 3000m. In the final rays of the setting sun these turn a surreal shade of bubble-gum pink.

The encroaching twilight is the signal for Cortina to come out to play. A colony of fur coats and designer skiwear gathers noisily in the Piazza Venezia at the start of the evening passegiata.

The actual business of skiing plays second fiddle to the social sport of seeing and being seen in the elegant boutiques and antique shops that line the pedestrianised Corso Italia.

By night the resort positively buzzes with excitement and money. Restaurants such as Michelin-stared Tivoli and El Toula are the focus for the glitterati and later on in the sophisticated nightclubs it appears to be de rigueur for every Lamborghini owner to continue to wear his Ray-Bans even in the wee small hours.

Oh, and the skiing? The ancient lifts are now gradually being upgraded and it’s pretty good for all standards, with a total of 36 lifts serving some 175m of piste. The area is also linked by ski bus into the rest of the giant 1220km Dolomiti Superski area.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Chianti and San Gimignano

Executive summary by darmansjah

Panorama of San Gimignano and surrounding landscape

San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls form "an unforgettable skyline". Within the walls, the well-preserved buildings include notable examples of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with outstanding examples of secular buildings as well as churches. The Palazzo Comunale, the Collegiate Church and Church of Sant' Agostino contain frescos, including cycles dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. The "Historic Centre of San Gimignano", is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town also is known for the white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the sandstone hillsides of the area.

A Chianti Wine is any wine produced in the Chianti region, in central Tuscany. It was historically associated with a squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket, called a fiasco ("flask"; pl. fiaschi); however, the fiasco is only used by a few makers of the wine now; most Chianti is now bottled in more standard shaped wine bottles. Baron Bettino Ricasoli (later Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy) created the Chianti recipe of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The first definition of a wine-area called Chianti was made in 1716. It described the area near the villages of Gaiole, Castellina and Radda; the so-called Lega del Chianti and later Provincia del Chianti (Chianti province). In 1932 the Chianti area was completely re-drawn and divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina. Most of the villages that in 1932 were suddenly included in the new Chianti Classico area added in Chianti to their name-such as Greve in Chianti which amended its name in 1972. Wines labelled "Chianti Classico" come from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, that includes the original Chianti heartland. Only Chianti from this sub-zone may boast the black rooster seal (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium, the local association of producers. Other variants, with the exception of Rufina from the north-east side of Florence and Montalbano in the south of Pistoia, originate in the respective named provinces: Siena for the Colli Senesi, Florence for the Colli Fiorentini, Arezzo for the Colli Aretini and Pisa for the Colline Pisane. In 1996 part of the Colli Fiorentini sub-area was renamed Montespertoli.

During the 1970s producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti. In 1995 it became legal to produce a Chianti with 100% Sangiovese. For a wine to retain the name of Chianti, it must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. Aged Chianti (38 months instead of 4–7), may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore, although Chianti from the "Classico" sub-area is not allowed in any event to be labelled as "Superiore".

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Piazza del Campo and the Palio

Executive summary by darmansjah

Piazza del Campo is the principal public space of the historic center of Siena, Tuscany, Italy and is regarded as one of Europe's greatest medieval squares. It is renowned worldwide for its beauty and architectural integrity. The Palazzo Pubblico and its Torre del Mangia, as well as various palazzi signorili surround the shell-shaped piazza. At the northwest edge is the Fonte Gaia.

The twice-a-year horse-race, Palio di Siena, is held around the edges of the piazza.

The Palio di Siena is a horse race that is held twice each year, on July 2 and August 16, in Siena, Italy. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. The Palio held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, who has a church in Siena. The Palio held on August 16 is named Palio dell'Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary.

A pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.

The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is usual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Basilica of San Francesco

Executive summary by darmansjah

The Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor—commonly known as the Franciscan Order—in Assisi, Italy, the city where St. Francis was born and died. The basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. With its accompanying friary, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. The interior of the Upper Church is an important early example of the Gothic style in Italy. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cavallini. The range and quality of the works gives the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the development of Italian art of this period.