Posts tagged ‘Italy’

April 25, 2012

Rome: Art, tourism and really seeing what you’re looking at…

Rome is a city overrun with riches. So much so, that it is tempting as a visitor to arrive with a giant list of things to see and tick off a list. To ‘do’ the city. I hate that phrase. ‘Doing’ a place, as though it can be summarised in a few frantic days of dashing around, never to be re-visited. We’re all a bit guilty of it, and I certainly arrived in Rome armed with a list of things I wanted to see in my time there.

However, I also wanted to see and experience the rest of the city. Which meant taking time to slow down and really watch it unfold before me, instead of charging from one ‘must-see’ place to another, without appreciating those little things that make a place really interesting. The wisteria on the honey-coloured houses. The coffee bars where local folk lined up for their espresso, with me alongside, using one of my three sentences of Italian to order my jolt of caffeine. The little gelato stores, with a rainbow of flavour combinations that were open until 1am. These things were as exciting to me as the Renaissance masterpieces, and given that religious art often leaves me cold, sometimes they were more exciting.

See how exhausted I look after the Vatican museum and  St Peter’s Basilica…

With all the new technologies available to us, not only are people tempted into rushing from place to place on their trip, but often, they are looking at everything through the artificial eye of a camera lens. I distinctly remember being in New York in September of 2006 and being on a boat that went out past the Statue of Liberty. Surrounded by other tourists, I sat towards the centre of the boat in my waterproof as we approached the (smaller than I was expecting, but nonetheless iconic) statue. Watching the other people around me, I realised that no-one was really looking at it. Everyone had some kind of camera pointed at it. They all took a few shots (or filmed a piece of video) and then turned away. No-one had really seen the statue with their own eyes!

Are we so used to seeing images of the world that upon being presented with the real thing, it no longer holds any true fascination? I mean, if people are not willing to slow down and really see the thing that they’ve come all this way to see, what is the point in travelling to see it in the first place? Purely to capture an image to share on Facebook? It doesn’t seem like a very happy way to experience things to me.

In Rome, there is a very famous statue, Pietà, by Michelangelo, of Jesus being held by Mary. The original is in St Peter’s Basilica, covered by glass. There is also an authorised copy in the Vatican Museum, which whilst being as beautiful, was made in the Twentieth Century. During my visit, I wandered over to the copy and read the inscription below, as did a few other people. We then realised we were being tutted at, by someone who came up to the sculpture in a huge rush, took a photo and then moved on. Without reading the inscription. During my visit, I noticed the same person doing that same thing all the way through the Museum. Going up to an exhibit, taking a photo and then moving on, without taking any time to really see what they were photographing. Now, it may not matter. The copy of the sculpture is as beautiful as the original, and not behind glass. They say it would take twelve years to get around the Vatican museums if you looked at each exhibit for a minute, and perhaps she was just keen to get around as fast as possible. However, I do wonder how well she will recall the things she photographed; if she even realised she hadn’t photographed the original piece of sculpture; what answers she might give if asked questions about the artworks. Overall, how fond her memories about that particular trip will be.

I took very few photos. Like I said, religious art leaves me a bit cold and the riches of the Vatican City were sometimes a bit overwhelming, even when I put to one side any feelings I might have about the wealth of the Church. I need to really love a painting or artwork before taking a photo of it, rather than merely capturing it to ‘tick a box’ in my travel history. I did take a photo of one painting I really and truly loved in Rome, but that will be the subject of another of my Rome posts…

April 20, 2012

Rome: Moses Fountain Hotel review.

We stayed in a fountain in Rome. Not in the watery bit, obviously, but in the Moses Fountain Hotel. It’s a monument with a fountain in it, built in 1585-1587 (under the guidance of Pope Sixtus the Fifth) as the terminus of the new Felix Aqueduct (Acquedotto Felice)  to lengthen and older III Century Roman aqueduct.

The rooms are built into the top areas, originally the fountain keeper’s workshop and apartment. The aqueduct still works and the noise is a dim, comforting hum in the evening. The main Fountain is divided into three arches, with a sculpture placed in each. In the central space is a sculpture of Moses by Leonardo Sormani and Prospero Antichi, showing to his people the water that miraculously sprang out from the rocks in Sinai desert during the Exodus.

It’s  the first time I’ve ever stayed in a building that other tourists were taking photographs of! Can you see the little balcony on the left? That’s one of the rooms! Ours was on the other side…

Located quite close to Piazza Barberini, and a short walk from the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, the hotel is in a district that, although busy during the day, especially because of its proximity to several Government buildings, is pretty quiet at night. Perfect for us, as we were after rest as much as sight-seeing. I love waking up in a city when I’m on holiday there, and so the morning sounds of people going about their everyday business in the morning were a great pleasure to me after a long, quiet night of sleep in a gorgeously comfortable king sized bed.

Our room, named the Velvet room, was beautiful. Lots of space, contemporary, comfortable fixtures and fittings, and that giant bed made for equally giant smiles of happiness the minute we set foot into it. Add to that the Etro toiletries, complementary mini-bar, dressing gowns, Nespresso machine and flat screen tv and we were in hotel heaven.

With only six rooms, and no standard concierge or reception desk, the Moses Fountain is a little like staying in the home of a great friend. After you’re initially met and shown around by the lovely staff, you’re given a key to the main door and left to your own devices. I appreciate that this not be the best option for everyone, but for us it was great. We don’t need lots of concierge services anyway and are happy to to let ourselves in and out.  It’s possibly a good point to note that there is no lift, so you need to be happy and fit enough to climb a good few stairs.

Breakfast was served on a tray in our room each morning. We had giant bowls of cafe latte, freshly squeezed juice, a variety of different breads and salads. Each day there was also as a little bag containing various biscuits and crackers to take away with us for elevenses, should we need them!

I loved our stay at Moses Fountain. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a spot of quiet luxury amid a busy city, who doesn’t mind not having some of the ‘traditional’ hotel services and who enjoys having a unique experience when they travel!

April 16, 2012

Rome: Instagram images

I’ve got a few Rome-based posts lined up but first I thought I’d share some of my photos with you. As I don’t have a big DSLR, I’ve used my trusty iPhone to take a few Instagram pictures. I hope they’ll give you a nice overview of my trip – see how many of the places you recognise!

April 9, 2012

Language Lessons.

By the time you read this, I’ll (hopefully) be on my way to Italy. Where I will attempt to use the three sentences I’ve managed to learn during my not-so-successful experience of self-taught Italian language lessons. I have realised that in order to make lots of progress, I need more structure to my language learning and a proper teacher. It has been fun learning slowly on my own though, and I need to remember that fun is partly the reason for learning.

I had to make fast progress with my Italian the last time I was there. We had a villa and I had to call the housekeeper (who spoke no English) and confirm my arrival time, that I needed the to collect the keys from her, and the location. A difficult situation, considering that I spoke no Italian at all and was armed only with an phrase book. Still, I managed it and it taught me a lesson.

So often I have waited until I thought I was good enough to do something before doing it, so I don’t let anyone down, or worse, make a giant fool of myself. I’ve since realised that I’m never going to be good at anything if I don’t at least try. Purely because I am interested in so many things, I never devote enough time to learning just one thing, in the way that a specialist would put in the hours and hours of study of a single thing in order to be truly exceptional. I will never be a concert pianist! However, waiting until I’m ‘perfect’ is no use at all, it just means I grind to a halt and never experience the things that I truly want to.

So my new attitude is to do things badly, instead of not doing them at all. I’m going to jump in, make a mess and be absolutely rubbish. Really, the worst that can happen (as long as we’re talking sensible things here, not attempting surgery) is that I probably will make a fool of myself. However, the next time I try the same thing, I will make less of a fool of myself, and so on. So, the waiters of Rome are going to be at the mercy of my three sentences, because I plan to unleash them at every opportunity in the hope that after three days of repeating myself, I will be a little less foolish. A little better.

In a similar vein, I wrote my first review as a guest blogger for The Culture Vulture recently. It was a small review piece about the Leeds Young People’s Film Festival, but the minute I pressed send on my email, I wanted to retrieve it so I could re-write the whole thing. It was a good example for me of jumping in and taking a risk. Assuming I get the chance, the next time I write for them, I will be better, but the fact is that my little post was published on a website that I value and respect enormously, So I’ve made progress with something I’ve been trying to pluck up the courage to do for ages and it is such a great feeling.

Next on the list of things to do badly are kayaking and (possibly) singing or even hula hooping…

So, perhaps you could take a risk and have a go at something scary, instead of waiting until you think you’re good enough. You never know, you’re probably already better than you think…

September 19, 2011

Fragrance: Part Three

These days I don’t have a signature scent. I prefer to wear a different fragrance depending on my mood. During the day, I might wear something lighter and greener, unless I need to feel grown up, then I’ll head for the Chanel Les Exclusifs, of which I have written before.

My perfume choice is also affected by the time of year. Summer has me wearing florals such as Balenciaga. I’ve worn this since being introduced to it by Roja Dove and I love the young, summery and violet scent of it. I also love Prada’s ‘Infusion de Fleur D’Oranger’ with it’s neroli and bergamot – which feels pefect for hot summer days in Italy.  As this is the fragrance I wore the last time I was there, it’s linked in my memory with this:

The scent of Italian Lemons

Night Swimming

Il Giardino Garzoni, Collodi.

All of this reminiscing has renewed my passion for travel and made me look all the more forward to next summer’s trip to Rome. Better get the Earworms back on!

In the meantime, I’m going to hunt for a new perfume for Autumn and Winter. Something that I can wear for everyday, so not too heavy, but I do tend to wear things that are woodier, muskier and generally more grown up in the Autumn and Winter. Perhaps it’s time for a classic. Maybe Mitsouko, by Guerlain.

June 9, 2011

Buongiorno, numero due!

I’ve written before on my preferred styles of learning, and my desire to have a go at some new methods, and it seems that the 35:35 Challenge is a great opportunity to give them a go!

One of my 35 Challenges was to visit somewhere new. Although I adore Paris with a passion I reserve for very few things, the world is a very big place and to only return to the same place, however wonderful, feels a bit self- limiting. So, even though I will be attempting (finances notwithstanding) to continue the annual pilgrimage to Paris, I am going to try and see a bit more of the world too.

With the children being so young, and with one eye on my carbon footprint, this really means the UK and Europe for now. We took the kids to Italy when they were small; Ben was only 4 months old, which when I think back, was actually quite a brave thing to do. Mind you, at least small babies stay where you put them! Now he’s two, I need eyes in the back of my head. The people we met in Italy were just lovely, the Tuscan countryside was amazing, and I loved the places we visited, such as Lucca and Florence, even though I spent much more time lounging around in local cafes than going to visit the Renaissance art!

So, as a result of that experience, I’ve decided to visit Rome. I’ve never been, it looks incredible and I can get there easily. This is going to be a break for just my husband and I, with the little ones staying with their adored and long-suffering grandparents ( thank you!)

Anyway, the point of all this waffle is that I always like to learn a bit of the language of any country I visit. I think it’s only polite, plus it usually means that  you have a better experience. Paris has a reputation for being a rude city, but I’ve never experienced this, perhaps because everyone is too busy trying not to laugh at my appalling accent…

So it’s time to commence Challenge 2 – to learn Italian. I managed a little bit the last time we visited, and Eve was happily shouting “ciao” to everyone after only a day there – proof that language learning is easiest when you’re a small child!

To do this, I have chosen several different new learning methods.

Number 1: Earworms. This is a very new idea for me and is based around the understanding that we retain information better when it’s delivered to us via music and rhythm – how many of us remember odd phrases in foreign languages as a result of song lyrics? Here’s the link, if you fancy a look: earworms mbt® is a revolutionary accelerated learning technique that takes the hard work out of learning.  I’ll be uploading this to my Ipod and listening to it every day.

Number 2: BBC Active | Talk Italian is the second method I’m going to use. A more traditional book and CD to work through, I’ve had a bit of success using this kind of method before, but it does require a bit more time spending on it, sitting at home and working through exercises.

Number 3: The third method is a bit of fun. MindSnacks Italian – Language Learning Program for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store. This is basically a games based language learning app for the iPhone, which helps you to learn more vocabulary through spelling and recognition.

So, there we are, I’m starting today. Wish me luck.

Ciao!