The Colors of Italy

Piazza del Duomo, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Voghera, Italy

I’ve been back for a few weeks from a recent trip to Italy. While editing my photos, I noticed a recurring theme – the wonderful colors of the buildings. In fact, if I had to use one word to describe this trip, I’d say: colorful!

I adore the colors of Italy: the myriad shades of terra cotta and ochre (from pale pastel yellow to intense rich coral), the greens (from mint to olive). It’s as though the crumbling architecture is enhanced by the colors.

Colors of Italy, terra cotta. @PennySadler 2013

Ever wonder about those colors? Where they came from? And how is that today, even the newer buildings are painted in the same or similar colors? The answer is pretty simple – mineral oxides and plant pigments. I am not suggesting that exterior paint is still made from mineral oxides, but in Italy, the tradition of painting exteriors in earth based colors has remained.

Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2013

One night a friend took me for a drive in the wine country, the Oltrepo Pavese, and we pulled over so I could photograph this eye-popping coral house. Many modern homes and public buildings are painted in more vivid versions of the original mineral oxide-based colors. Even though it’s a bit surreal, I think it’s fantastic! Color makes me happy.

in the Oltrepo Pavese, Lombardia, Italia

Color!

These photos were taken in some of the small cities I visited, and in the countryside, in Lombardia, a region in northwest Italy. Most buildings also have balconies filled with flower pots, drawing your eyes upward and adding to the kaleidascope of colors.

Pavia, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Maybe those colors were inspired by gelato?

gelato in Italy, @PennySadler 2013

Pavia, Italia. Province of Lombardai, Italia @PennySadler 2013

If you like this story you may like:

Cathedral del Duomo, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Postcard From Voghera, Italy

and

Britz gelateria, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Hungry? Top Gelato Spots in Lombardia

All material copyright PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.

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Postcard from Voghera, Italy

Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2103

Piazza del Duomo, Voghera, Italy

Surrounded by vineyards, set amidst rolling hills crowned with ancient castles, and steeped in history, Voghera is located in one of most beautiful regions of Italy and definitely worth a visit.

I chose Voghera as my base camp on a recent trip to Italy. The central location in Lombardia (on one of the main train arteries) allowed me to travel out for day trips to Milan, Pavia, Genoa, and many points in between. I enjoyed staying in a smaller town that was not overrun by tourists, and thus had plenty of opportunities to practice speaking Italian.

The Italian Lakes are an easy ninety minute drive from Voghera. You can get there by train, but it’s a bit of an ordeal, and luckily I didn’t need to do that. A car is definitely the transportation mode of choice around the lakes.

Because of its strategic position in northwest Italy, Voghera has been ruled by various countries and kingdoms – the Romans, the French, and Austrians have all occupied and influenced the history and landscape of Voghera. Napolean once made Voghera his base camp and stayed at Palazzo Dattilini on Via Emilia.

Cathedral del Duomo, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Piazza del Duomo is the place to begin a visit to Voghera. Like most towns in Italy, it is the center of civic life. Here you can find shops, restaurants, bars, and of course gelaterias. It’s a wonderful place to sit in a small cafe like Barocco for an apertivo or take a gelato at Britz, and immerse yourself in the local culture and language.

I like the wide expansive feeling of this piazza, and the pastel and ochre colors of the old palazzos that make up the perimeter. Most of these buildings are now government offices, such as City Hall and the Mayor’s office.

I think the charm of Voghera can best be observed in the wide variety of architecture, from the tenth century Castello to the seventeenth century Cathedral del Duomo. Even the more modern buildings are colorful, and display window boxes with seasonal flowers and herbs. I think it’s a sign of a town that is proud of its heritage – and that feels like a nice place to me.

Piazza del Duomo, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Related posts:

http://adventuresofacarryon.com/2013/07/08/hungry-top-gelato-spots-in-lombardia/

All material copyright PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.

Hungry? Top Gelato Spots in Lombardia

gelato in Italy, @PennySadler 2013

A perennial favorite, gelato seems to taste so much better when I’m in Italy than anywhere else. I sometimes go to a shop in Dallas that was started by a family from northern Italy, but it’s just not the same. I was told by an Italian friend it’s because in Italy, gelato is made fresh from scratch every day.

I think it might be at least a little bit that when you’re on vacation, everything tastes better. Or maybe it was because it was unusually hot in Lombardia when I was there? There’s nothing quite as delicious as a fresh, cold gelato to revive you. Whatever the reason, I gave in to the urge to eat gelato almost every day while I was in Italy a few weeks ago. I wish I had eaten more!

Here’s the scoop (pun intended) on where I ate gelato:

Top Milan Gelaterias:

Vanilla specializes in traditional Italian flavors like hazelnut, pistachio, chocolate, and pinoli. During the summer, they offer local and unique fruit flavors, too, such as prickly pear, goji berry, pomegranate, and mango.

Another unique ingredient used at Vanilla that I’ve never seen anywhere else is olive oil. The olive oil replaces the dairy and so is great for those who are lactose intolerant and have other digestive ailments. And, it’s good for your heart – why not have gelato every day?

I spent several hours wandering around near the Duomo in Milano, and noticed that Vanilla always had a line. Plus they had some pretty little bistro tables set with lace and umbrellas, and I was ready to sit down. Most gelaterias have no seating inside or out – you simply stand around outside, or walk away with your gelato.

I tried the coconut and watermelon. I often order coconut, but this was my first watermelon gelato. If you can taste summer in a food, watermelon would be it for me, it’s sweet and refreshing, and watermelon gelato – yum!

Vanilla Gelato, Milan Italy &#64:PennySadler 2013

I noticed most everyone took their gelato in a cone, but I always get it in a cup. I think I agree with the purists that the cone distracts you from the true flavor of the gelato. At Vanilla, the flavors are so crisp and true, I don’t want anything interfering.

The fellow in this photo knew what I was up to with my camera and gave me a clear shot. Thank you, kind stranger!

Vanilla Gelateria, Milan Italy @PennySadler 2013

Vanilla is located behind the Duomo di Milano.

Vanilla Gelateria
Via Pattari, 2 20122 Milano
vanilla-gelateria-italiani.it

Grom gelateria, Milan, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Grom has built its reputation on using only organic, fresh ingredients from around Italy: Sfusato lemon from Amalfi, and the Leonforte peach, for example. They have a central farm where all the raw ingredients are mixed, ensuring their high standards are met.

I did not eat gelato at Grom, but if the crowd of people outside is any indication, I’d give it a try next time. They started with one shop in Torino in 2003, and have since expanded all over the world. You can eat Grom gelato now in Paris, Tokyo, Malibu, and NYC. They must be doing something right!

There are seven locations in Milan alone, and of course there’s one near the Duomo di Milano. In case you’re wondering, Grom is the surname of one of the founders.

Grom
Via Santa Margherita, 16, 20121 Milano ‎
 grom.it

Britz gelateria, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Gelato in Voghera:

Britz. We went to Britz one night when it seemed like the entire town was out for the evening. Within two blocks I saw more gelaterias than you can imagine! Apparently gelato is the thing in Voghera.

My friend had the chocolate and hazelnut (two typical Italian flavors) and pronounced it “Very good!” I tried the lemon sorbetto and found it a bit too tart and lacking the creamy texture I was seeking. What do I know? Perhaps I just ordered the wrong thing?

The location in Piazza del Duomo, however, is excellent. There is no seating inside, but it’s more fun to be outside and people watch anyway. In Italy everyone goes out in the evening to walk (passeggiata) and visit with friends, family, and neighbors. It’s an experience you cannot duplicate anywhere else in the world.

Do you think the folks in the photo are wondering if the people to their left are checking out what flavor they got? LOL

Britz Gelateria
Piazza del Duomo,Voghera

Mojito Cafe, gelato colors @PennySadler 2013

gelateria, San Giulio di Orta, Lake Orta, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Gelato in Orta San Giulio:

Mojito Cafe. Here I found the lemon sorbetto (limone) I craved. I don’t know how they do it, because I don’t think they add any dairy as it’s a fruit flavor, but it was creamy, yet light – sweet, but not too sweet. I adore lemon sorbetto in Italy. I should have taken a larger serving!
An Italian friend told me, “You are an Italian girl,” because limone is the most Italian of flavors. (Those Italian guys always know what to say)

The location in romantic Lake Orta didn’t hurt, either…probably made it taste even better. I’ll certainly never forget it.

This gelateria with the improbable name offers drinks and coffees as well as gelato, and there is seating outside. However, there is a minimum of 7 euros per person to sit at a table. When we were there it was raining and every table was taken. We found a doorstep on a tiny side street and sat under the awning.

Gelato flavors from Mojito Cafe @PennySadler 2013

I don’t have an address or website for Mojito Cafe, but there’s only one main street in Orta San Giulio – you can’t miss it.

Mojito Cafe
San Giulio di Orta, Lake Orta

All materials ©PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.

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: Sant’ Ignazio, Rome

Sant’Ignazio, or Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is a beautiful little church in Piazza Sant’Ignazio, Rome. I passed it about a thousand times before I ever went inside.

Chiesa Sant' Iganzio, Rome, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Piazza Sant’Ignazio was designed to resemble a stage ,with exits on either side. It’s a quiet and pretty piazza, situated between the Pantheon and Via del Corso. Every time I see it, I always feel a little like I’ve entered another time or place. It has a very distinct atmosphere that speaks of something old world and elegant.

The interior ceiling frescoes, painted by Jesuit Andrea Pozzo in 1685, are a masterful optical illusion, creating the effect of a dome – when in fact the ceiling is flat!

The exterior, designed by architect Orazio Grassi in a baroque style, holds no clues to the beauty of the interior, nor do these photographs do it justice. Yet another place I will have to add to my list of things to see and do – again, in Rome.

Ceiling of St. Ignazio by Andrea Pozzo
There are usually notices posted here about upcoming concerts of classical music, so if that’s your thing, keep your eyes open when you are in the area.

Sant’Ignazio
Via del Caravita, 8a, 00186 Roma, Italy

All materials ©PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.

Travel To Escape Reality

Beautiful doorway with flower pots in small town in Chianti, Tuscany @PennySadler 2013

Have you ever booked a last minute trip to a place that was several time zones away, where people don’t speak English, don’t use the same currency – and if you’re truly honest with yourself about the whole thing, you can’t afford it?

Have you ever spent a ridiculous amount of money just to get away from your life and all the things that go with it?

I’m considering doing just that. I need to get out of my own head. I need a break from the person I’ve become the past few months, feeling like a hamster on the wheel.

I’ve tried breathing, exercising, talking to friends, making gratitude lists, and it all works for a little while, but not long.

Tuscan country house, Chianti, Italy. @PennySadler 2013

“Must it be out of the country?” I ask myself. It would be easier to stay in the U.S. I wouldn’t have to change currency, deal with the long flights, the plane changes, the jet lag from crossing several times zones. I wouldn’t have to worry about roaming charges or keeping up with my passport, and I could speak English. But of course, my thoughts generally go to Italy.

But I can justify all of those inconveniences. In my mind, speaking a little Italian is a pleasure, and the worst thing about the euro is my dollars are worth less. I can call my cell phone provider and have roaming temporarily disconnected.

I don’t love the jet lag, but I know I’ll live, I’ve done it before.

Charming street in Trastevere, Rome, Italy. @PennySadler 2013

So I’m thinking maybe the way out of my funk, maybe the way I get “my groove back” is to go to Italy. I can visualize myself walking down some ancient cobblestone street, camera in hand, thousands of years of history all around me. I notice everything around me, sculptures by Bernini, 17th century buildings next to 12th century ruins. I notice people and try to guess where they might be from – are they tourists, like me, or locals? I eat a gelato and I don’t think about the calories or the fact that it’s dairy and I shouldn’t eat too much dairy. Dairy be damned! I’m in Italy! Without even being conscious of it, I begin to feel better – more attractive, more a part of the world. I’m living life, not going through the motions.

The parts of myself that stress me out begin to recede. Along the way I find the better parts, the Penny who is fun, and funny, and spontaneous, and curious, and who knows, it is insane to resist what is. And sometimes all it takes is a complete stranger who smiles and says, “Ciao Bella,” – or a cappuccino.
Italian style cappuccino @PennySadler 2103

All material copyright Penny Sadler 2013. All rights reserved.

Postcard: Panzano in Chianti

Panzano in Chianti @PennySadler 2013 all rights reserved

Santa Maria Asunta

Panzano is located in the region of Chianti, famous for the beautiful scenery: winding hills, stone farmhouses, tall cypress trees, and of course, the famous Chianti Classico wines.

Architecturally it is mostly a new town, though there are a few remains of Roman ruins, the old castello, and the church, Santa Maria Assunta, which crowns the hill in the old part of the town. The church was built in the 14th century over the ruins of another church.

In this photograph, you see the perspective looking up the hill toward Santa Maria Assunta. There are local residences and business on each side of the street. This is the oldest part of Chianti and though small, very very charming.

It’s a lovely spot to locate yourself for a vacation in the Tuscan countryside as you can easily reach Siena, Florence, or Lucca from Panzano. You’ll need a car to really see the countryside, or you can hire a driver, and just sit back and enjoy the scenery. You can also take the bus from Panzano to Florence. Be sure to check the schedules carefully as they change depending on the season.

Panzano is also known for two important festivals each year. April 25 is Festa della Stagion Buona, Italy’s national holiday and the beginning of “the good season.”

The other is Vino al Vino the wine festival held the third weekend in September. The dates for 2013 are September 12 – 15. The festival is held in Piazza Bucciarelli, and includes live jazz music and, of course, tastings of the local wines.

For more about Panzano you may like my post Panzano in Pictures.

All materials copyright PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.