Postcard: Duomo di Milano

Milano Duomo, Italy, @PennySadler 2013

As with all incredible wonders, there are stunning moments and bits of blase. I felt both, on a recent visit to the Duomo di Milano.

When you’re in Milan, take the metro to Piazza del Duomo. As you walk up the steps you’ll see it before you reach the top of the stairway. My first thought upon seeing the Duomo was, “Holy shit!” It’s unbelievably wonderful.

The duomo is the center of a buzz of activity: tourists with their cameras and umbrellas, musicians busking in the shadow of the duomo, businessmen and women hurrying by, oblivious to the beauty around them – and of course those nasty pigeons that seem to flock around every major monument.

The Duomo was conceived to be the largest church in the world, and took centuries to complete. There are over 135 spires, 95 gargoyles, and 3,159 statues illustrating stories from the Bible, the construction of the Duomo, and the history of Milan. You could study this church for a lifetime. If you’re like me, your eyes will never rest for more than thirty seconds on any one detail; instead, darting from one scene to the next, trying (unsuccessfully) to make sense of it all.

The inside? Meh. I’ve been inside a lot of churches in Italy (churches being one of my favorite forms of architectural and artistic expression), and the inside of the duomo is dark and danky – depressing really – quite a contradiction to the outside. There are a couple of tables set up as stand in altars for those who wish to light a candle, and scaffolding everywhere. There is a lift parked inside (the place is massive), and the glass pyramid gift shop just seems weird and distracting. I read that there are some important works of art inside, but I wasn’t motivated to seek them out.

I am not a huge fan of religious art, therefore I rarely go around trying to see all the things that are supposed to be so fab…because in Italy, everything is fab! I just go for what I like and I don’t like dark, so I was done with the inside the minute I stepped in, but forced myself to walk through. One regret, I wish I’d taken the lift to the top. I went to lunch instead. LOL

After a quick walk around the entire interior perimeter, I couldn’t wait to get back into the Italian sunlight and the drama in the piazza – one of the best people watching spots in the world, dominated by one of the most impressive and grandest churches in the world.

Tips for visiting the Duomo:

There is a strictly enforced dress code. No tank tops, shorts, short skirts, or dresses. I saw a young guy in a tank top turned away, and I was stopped for an inspection of my hemline (that was a first!).

Entrance is free for individuals, but there is a fee for groups.
Though there are a gazillion people and you think you’ll wait in line forever, it moves very quickly.

If you want to take photographs inside, pay 2 euros for a wristband.

You can also visit the rooftop and walk amongst the spires. There’s a small fee of 13 euros if you take the elevator, and 7 euros if you chose to walk the 250 steps to the top.

All materials copyright Penny Sadler 2013. All rights reserved.

Postcard: The Merc, Dallas

The Mercantile Building, Dallas, Texas @PennySadler 2013

The Merc

I discovered The Mercantile about the same time I discovered Main St.Gardens, an urban green space in downtown Dallas. Since then I’ve been drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I think it’s the neon clock tower and the fact that it is one of the few deco – inspired buildings left in Dallas. It’s especially cool at night when the neon on the clock tower is lit, as it is in this photograph. A fun note about the photo – it’s a drive by. I just rolled down my window and held up my camera while passing through downtown. I’d been out shooting all day because the sky was particularly interesting and was on my way home when I saw The Merc from this vantage point.

The Mercantile National Bank, founded by R.L. Thornton (one of the founders of the city of Dallas), is now a luxury residential high rise building in the Main St. Historic District.

Completed in 1942, the steel to construct the building had already been ordered when WWII began. At a time when new construction was basically at a standstill because materials were being requisitioned for the war, R.L. Thornton, was able to get an exception for the Mercantile Bank Building. The interior was apparently pretty swank and R.L. lived in a penthouse on the 31st floor.

Now called simply The Merc, the location is a dream for urban dwellers who like shopping, fine dining, and the arts. Neiman Marcus is a block away, and there are multiple options for five star dining in the area. The Dallas Arts District is also within walking distance as is the Farmers Market.

All materials ©PennySadler 2012-2013. All rights reserved.

Historic Los Angeles: An Architecture Walk

The Million Dollar Theater, Broadway St. Los Angeles, Ca. @PennySadler 2013

The Million Dollar Theater

On my recent trip to Los Angeles I walked the historic downtown area – a fascinating neighborhood packed with interesting old buildings that tell the history of Los Angeles from 1890’s to the present.

I was surprised to learn that there is a huge theater district built mostly in the 1920s and 30s and it contains the largest concentration of theaters located within on city block in the nation. Take a walk down Broadway St. – from beaux arts to art deco, it’s an architects dream come true.

The whole area was once the center of art and culture in Los Angeles, but was mostly abandoned by the 1990’s. However there is a movement to revitalize the area, and funding has been approved to install a downtown streetcar. There are rumours of big name retailers like Urban Outfitters moving into the area as well. Many of the buildings are already being converted into lofts, however there are still a lot of buildings that look only partially refurbished – it looks like a very long term project.

@PennySadler 2013 Detail of the facade on the Million Dollar Theater

Detail, Million Dollar Theater

A great place to start your walk is at the corner of Broadway and 3rd. On one side is the Million Dollar Theater and the Grand Central Market, and across the street is the famous Bradbury Building. The Bradbury is the oldest commercial building in Los Angeles, and it is working building so you can only visit the first floor. The beautiful French wrought iron, five story atrium, and wood and terra cotta details of the interior, were inspired by a futuristic novel from 1887 called, “Looking Backward,” by Edward Bellamy. Interesting anecdote, parts of the building were used in the science fiction film, Blade Runner.

The Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, @PennySadler 2013

Interior: The Bradbury Building

Adjacent to the Million Dollar Theater is Grand Central Market, the oldest open air market in Los Angeles and it’s still a hopping place. You can find everything from tacos to fresh fruit smoothies here.

Grand Central Market, Broadway, St. Los Angeles CA @PennySadler 2013

Grand Central Market

Walk through Grand Central Market to the other side and across the street you will see the world’s shortest railroad, the Angel’s Flight funicular built in 1901. Ride it to the top for just 50 cents and experience a bit of L.A. history.

Angels Flight @PennySadler 2013

Angels Flight

Go back to Broadway to continue your tour of the amazing theater district.

The Los Angeles Theater, LA. California @PennySadler 2013

The Los Angeles Theater was built in 1931 at a cost of 2,000,000 dollars! The owner went in the hole pretty quickly and Fox took over the theater until the 1980’s. Check out this link for photographs of the interior which is magnificent!

The Tower Theater, Los Angeles @PennySadler 2013

The Tower Theater

exterior the Palace Theater, LA. Cal. @PennySadler 2013

The Palace Theater

The Palace Theater was built in 1911 and was one of the first of the Orpheum Vaudeville Theaters.

There are many other buildings of historical significance aside from the theaters. If you can plan in advance (I did not), the Los Angeles Conservancy offers tours of the various neighborhoods and styles of architecture for only $10.00. Some include the interiors which I’d love to see!

The Chester Williams Building @PennySadler 2013

The Chester Williams Building

For more information on theater district visit Bringing Back Broadway

Farmers Merchant National Bank @PennySadler 2013
theater Broadway St. Los Angeles, CA. @PennySadler 2013

All materials ©PennySadler 2013

The Best Way To See Art Deco Architecture in South Beach

The Starlite Hotel, Collins Ave., SB, Miami @PennySadler 2013

South Beach. Miami, Florida:
Quick, tell me – what do you think of? If you know nothing about the area at all, you probably think of the obvious: beaches, the ocean, palm trees, sunshine, and fruity drinks decorated with tiny paper umbrellas.

What you may not know is South Beach has the largest collection of art deco architecture in the world! And it’s the perfect place for it – it’s as if South Beach exists so that all of those wonderful art deco structures can have a home. South Beach is art deco, and art deco is South Beach.

What is art deco? The term art deco came from the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs, held in Paris in 1925. It is a style that blends many design elements from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Geometry, vertical lines, curved lines, round porthole windows, and strong colors define the more modern art deco designs of South Beach.

@PennySadler 2013 art deco architecture miami

Ocean Drive, Miami

This neighborhood was built in the 1930’s and after World War II, was in decline. By the 1970’s many of the art deco hotels and buildings were seriously rundown and where scheduled for the wrecking ball. Luckily in 1976, Barbara Capitman founded the Design Preservation League to establish this area as an historic district. Today there are still buildings that are being renovated.

The design elements that define art deco are a perfect fit in this easy, breezy beach environment. Come to think of it, even the colors of the buildings remind you of those umbrella drinks.

art deco hotel with Mermaid sculpture South Beach Florida @PennySadler 2013

Mermaid sculpture

Each building is a work of art on its own, and the best way to see the Art Deco district is on foot. Begin at the south end of Ocean Drive at 5th Street and walk north. The beach will be on your right.

Walk up to Lincoln Rd., then head west over to Collins. From there, you can continue south to about 10th St. You’ll want to head back to Lincoln Rd. for one of the best outdoor shopping malls anywhere – and lots of options to gawk at all the beautiful people that seem to be everywhere.

Miami, South Beach, Florida

The Miami Design Preservation League has a guided tour which you can do solo or in a group. If you want to do the tour on your own, you can rent an iPod at the Art Deco Headquarters on Ocean Drive. The MDPL also offers guided tours that include other areas of Miami. All tours depart from the Art Deco Headquarters, 1001 Ocean Drive at 10th Street.

Waldorf Towers,South Beach Miami Florida @PennySadler 2013

Waldorf Towers

I did not take the tour, however, based on the research I did for this story, it seems that not every building is on the tour. Be sure to allow yourself time to really explore this neighborhood. After, or maybe even during your walk, you’ll want to take a break and sample some of the local cuisine, have a refreshing beverage, do some retail damage in the boutiques, and enjoy the luscious architecture.

If you love traveling to see great architecture and public spaces, you will love South Beach.

Park Central Hotel, Ocean Drive, South Beach, Miami @PennySadler 2013

Park Central Hotel

The Breakwater Hotel @PennySadler 2013

The Breakwater Hotel, Ocean Drive

Art Deco shopping strip 9th st. and Collins Ave. @PennySadler 2013

9th and Collins Ave.

For a map of the area stop by
Art Deco Headquarters at 1001 Ocean Drive. There’s also a fun gift store there.

Postcard: Juxtaposition of Art and Religion

Art installation by Steinunn Thorarinsdottir @PennySadler 2013 Arts District Dallas Texas

Arts District, Dallas, Tx

Picture this: A foggy morning in downtown Dallas – and figures, sculpted from cast iron and aluminum, by Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thorarinsdottir. I was completely unaware that this art space even existed, and happened upon it one magical morning when the fog beckoned me outside with my camera.

I like the way the fog adds a mystical element. The standing figures seem to be looking toward the heavens (symbolized by the church), while the seated figures (arms folded, eyes closed) appear to be disconnected from everything around them.

The church in the background is Cathedrale Sanctuario de Guadalupe (Cathedral Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe), the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas. The first cornerstone was laid in 1898. The bell tower was not completed until 2005, when the entire church received a makeover as part of the Dallas Arts District project.

The art installation called Borders and the church are both located in the Dallas Arts District.

How To Make An Italian Neighborhood Your Own

Vicolo del Cedro @PennySadler 2013

Typical street in Trastevere

I first discovered Trastevere in 2009. I rented a room in an old apartment building without air- conditioning. It was here that I learned to do as the Romans do – luxuriate in long lunches, take a nap in the heat of the day, and generally enjoy life more. In Trastevere, I learned about “la dolce far niente,” the sweetness of doing nothing.

I’ve returned to Trastevere many times since that first stay. I fell in love with the narrow, winding cobblestone streets, the warm terra cotta colors of the buildings, the friendly people, and the fact that it’s a real neighborhood where I can find everything I need within a few blocks.

San Cosimato, Trastevere @PennySadler 2013

Market at Piazza San Cosimato

@PennySadler 2013 Piazza San Cosimato, Trastevere

Piazza San Cosimato

I always return to the same internet cafe (I don’t travel with a computer in Europe), organic and
gluten-free market, and shop at the open air produce market in Piazza San Cosimato. In this way I get a tiny taste of what life would be like if lived in this neighborhood in Rome. Ocourse if I was living there,  I doubt I’d spend my days walking around with my camera and following those medieval winding streets wherever I fancy, but, non si sa mai, you never know.

I got to know the guy who made my cappuccino in the morning and my spritz in the afternoon, and other people in the neighborhood who recognize me to this day.

cafe in Trastevere @PennySadler 2013

Taking an espresso Italian style

@PennySadler 2013 Ponte Sisto Bridge

View of Piazza Trilusa

Trastevere means trans Tiber or across the river. It has always been home to craftsmen, artists, and immigrants. In fact, many of the people I meet who have lived there for decades are expats, and tell me they can’t imagine living anywhere else in Rome.

Today there are, of course, lots of tourists. Trastevere is well known for great restaurants, pubs, and nightlife, and believe me, at night it is packed. The older part of the area around Via della Scala and Piazza Trilusa, can be quite mad with people.

But during the day the streets are relatively quiet, and locals go about their business and their work. It’s not uncommon to find an open doorway to a craftsman shop and they don’t seem to mind if you take a peek inside.

Mohsan Kosarasafir's shop in Trastevere, @PennySadler 2013

Instrument makers shop Vicolo del Cedro

Here are some ideas for things to see and do in Trastevere, whether you stay a day, a week, or longer.

There are several important churches in Trastevere: Santa Cecilia, Santa Maria and San Francesco a Ripa.

@PennySadler 2013

Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

Piazza and Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere is the first church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary and probably the oldest church in Rome. You will recognize it by the distinctive Romaneque bell tower – and beautiful mosaics on the front glimmering in the sun.  The piazza is a central meeting point in Trastevere, and a great people watching spot. Watch out for drunks and beggars in the evening. Generally harmless, but can be annoying.

Santa Cecila is an 18th century remodel of a medieval church. It is named for St. Cecilia (the patron saint of music), who was martyred here in the 3rd century. Inside you will find the tomb of Santa Cecilia sculpted by Stefano Maderno, and some fragments of Pietro Cavallini’s fresco, The Last Judgement. I haven’t seen this one yet, but it’s on my list.

San Francesco a Ripa: this rather nondescript church houses Bernini’s famous sculpture Beata Ludovia Albertoni. Just go see it.

San Francesco a Ripa, Trastevere @PennySadler 2013

Piazza San Francesco a Ripa

The Museo di Roma in Trastevere. In May, this museum hosts an exhibition of World Press photographs. Other photographs and art in the permanent collection focus on depicting life in Rome from the 1950’s to the present. If you love photography, this is the place for you. I went to an exhibit last year that permanently affected the way I take photographs today. http://en.museodiromaintrastevere.it/il_museo/la_collezione

The Gianicolo or Janiculum Hill is above Trastevere – a bit of a climb, but well worth the effort. Here you have the best views of the city and in my opinion one of the most romantic spots in Rome. Take a date if you can.

Farmacia Santa Maria della Scala – a true 17th century pharmacy now a museum and operated by monks. It’s never been open when I’m there, but I keep trying.

Eat gelato! My favorite place in Trastevere is Bar Checco. Located at Via Benedetta 7.

Relax! at a typical Roman cafe while enjoying an espresso or a drink and watch the world go by.
I’ve got several good choices and there are many more.

@PennySadler 2013

Cafe Maurizio in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere great views of the Piazza and the mosaics on the front of the Basilica.

Cafe San Calisto: Piazza San Calisto, basically adjacent to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Traditional Roman style bar and cafe.

Ombre Rose: Piazza Sant Egidio across from the Museo di Roma. A pretty spot with trees and a funky artsy vibe. Always lots of people sitting outside here.

&#64'PennySadler 2013

Bubble maker, Santa Maria di

@PennySadler 2013 Da Lucia Rome, Italy

Da Lucia

Eat! There are loads of good restaurants in Trastevere and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a bad meal here. A few ideas are:

Ivo’s for pizza. The place is always packed. Call ahead. Via San Francesco a Ripa.

Da Lucia. A traditional Roman restaurant also always packed. After my fifth trip I finally got in there one night without a reservation. Cacio e pepe is a must. I also had a delicious cheese omelet. Weird I know, but it tasted great with the pasta and wine. Vicolo del Mattonato.

Isola Sicilia. I’ve been here numerous times and always like it. Nice size portions of food, very fresh. If you like seafood this place is very reliable. A wee bit pricey but delicious.
Via Garibaldi.

Isole di Sicilia @PennySadler 2013

Isole di Sicilia

Walk! Trastevere is a great place for walking, as auto traffic is restricted in most areas. There are charming little local artisinal shops, and one of kind things you’ll find no where else. I love walking in Trastevere (even though a few times I thought my feet were permanently broken by the cobblestones). It has a feeling of a small village where people know their neighbors and everyone says hello. It feels like home to me.

@PennySadler 2013 Trastevere

“La dolce far niente”

Love Rome? Not sure? Read Roman Holiday.

All materials ©Penny Sadler 2012 – 2013

Postcard: Piazza San Michele in Foro, Lucca

San Michele in Foro, Lucca, Italy

This piazza, named for the 12th century church of San Michele, is the site of what was once a Roman market. It was the center of all public and political life. Today it is lined with shops, restaurants, and other businesses and is one of the best people watching spots in Lucca.

I spent a few hours here just hanging out, taking photographs and enjoying watching the world go by.
You can see more photographs of this piazza and the church of San Michele in my photo essay, Inside Lucca.

Lucca is a walled city in Tuscany accessible by train from Florence or Pisa. It was once a wealthy medieval city built upon the silk trade. It was also on a religious pilgrimage route and many people left their money in banks there, never to return.