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.

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: Old Spanish Days, Santa Barbara

Mariachis in the Fiesta Santa Barbara, parade, @PennySadler 2013

Old Spanish Days, Santa Barbara, also known simply as Fiesta, is a week long celebration of the Spanish and Mexican cultural heritage of Santa Barbara, California.

Everyone loves a good parade and I am no exception. I return to Santa Barbara year after year for the Fiesta Historical Parade, one of the largest equestrian parades in the country.

There are rodeos, mercados, folklorico dance,traditional music, and of course, food, wine, and fun for the whole family.

If you happen to be in Santa Barbara before the official week begins, check out the website for pre Fiesta events.

For some more ideas on what to do in the area, read Explore Santa Barbara.

All materials copyright Penny Sadler 2012-2013. 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.

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.

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.

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.