Tag Archives: Italy
Although I love to photograph the Alps — it’s a stunningly beautiful place — it can be frustrating because finding the perfect view is difficult. It can be harder than you might imagine to capture that kind of natural majesty.
As soon as we arrived at Selva Val Gardena, I began exploring the village’s hiking trails to find the best view of the city and the mountains. This was a family vacation, but I couldn’t resist photographing the village.
This is one of my favorite spots in Selva Val Gardena — it’s a place where the ski slopes and the road seem to converge, forming a dramatic angle in the photograph. There is energy in this photograph that I like — the dynamic convergence of the two roads, as well as the three cliffs in the background that overlook the slopes. There’s the suggestion of something menacing about those cliffs, perhaps a warning of the mountain and its dangers.
Once again, I found a spot overlooking the village and set up my tripod. Even though the snow on the slopes was artificial and the cliffs gave a somewhat sinister cast to the scene, I liked it nonetheless — an Alpine village in the early hours of evening.
For the past several years, my family and I have spent the first two weeks of the New Year skiing in various locations in Europe. This year, we chose the Italian Dolomites, famous among skiiers for its Sella Ronda region. We chose a ski resort in the village of Selva Val Gardena, one of the three villages that make up the valley known as Val Gardena.
This year, however, was different. For the first time that I can remember, there was no snow. There was artificial snow on the slopes, to be sure, (and the skiing was great) but the surrounding mountains were strangely snowless. Selva Val Gardena wasn’t any less lovely for lack of snow; it could be a picture postcard of an Alpine village. But there was nothing to indicate that this was ski resort in January — lovely as it was, it might just as easily have been the middle of summer.
But as I had no control over the weather and I didn’t want to waste an opportunity for a great shot, I managed to slip away and get some fine sunrise and sunset shots. Even without snow, I found Selva Val Gardena to be an enchanting place.
After photographing the Two Towers, I was tempted to make the climb up Asinelli, the taller of the two. It’s a long, vertiginous climb, but I knew the views of Bologna would be magnificent, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Getting to the top of Asinelli wasn’t the easiest of tasks — it’s a steep, narrow staircase that wasn’t designed with modern photographers and their equipment in mind. But once I finally reached the top and set up my small tripod (specially purchased for such occasions), I looked out from the tower and was rewarded with a breathtaking view of Bologna’s tiled roofs.
Just to my right I could see the Piazza Maggiore, the orderly little square square surrounded by much of the city’s history. Take steps in any direction in the Piazza Maggiore and the medieval city comes to life — the Basilica of San Petronio, the Palazzo dei Banchi, and the Palazzo d’Accursio all occupy exalted spots on this historic square.
But what most interested me was the spot in the distance — the Bolognese Hill, which is home to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca. Technically, the hill sits on the outskirts of the city, on top of Karaulhaya Mountain. Inside the sanctuary rests the Madonna of San Luca, an icon of the Virgin Mary that is believed to have been painted by the apostle Luke. The icon was brought to Bologna from Constantinople in 1194 and placed on the hill, known as La Guardia.
As a framed the photograph, I found myself awestruck by the history of this place — before me, the tiled city and its towers, once a hub of medieval commerce, and beyond, the towering Bolognese Hill and its apostle-painted treasure.
Beyond the city’s towers, I entered Bologna’s winding medieval streets. Following one of these winding streets, I came to the Piazza Santo Stefano, an unusual little piazza that isn’t a piazza at all, merely a gradual widening of the street.
It’s an unusual and picturesque part of Bologna. The piazza is not, properly speaking, a square: the Via Santo Stefano gradually widens into an odd bit of geometry that is the piazza. The area has been known for centuries as ‘le Sette Chiese,’ or the Seven Churches, in honor of the imposing structures surrounding the piazza.
Nowadays, there aren’t seven churches; there are four: the Church of the Crucifix, the Holy Sepulchre, San Vitale and Agricola. The churches were built and remodeled at different times, and over the years, they came to be connected, almost as if they are growing out of one another. The result is a labyrinth that begins with the entrance to the Church of the Crucifix, the largest of the four. The faithful — or the merely curious — could spend hours wandering from one ecclesiastical wonder to the next.
I wanted to photograph the piazza, but because of its place as one of the most historic (and popular) places in the city, it was almost always full of visitors. I waited until evening, when I hoped to have it mostly to myself. As I set up my tripod on the piazza’s ancient cobblestones, my mind wandered to the generations of faithful who have walked those stones. I captured the historic piazza in the low light of evening, thinking of faith and its mysteries.
A short walk from the Two Towers is the Palazzo della Mercanzia, a striking building noteworthy for its two Gothic arches. Built in the fourteenth century when Bologna was a wealthy commercial center, the Palazzo was constructed to be a base for those governing trade in the city. The building still houses the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
It’s a building with an interesting history. The sides of the building are watched over by statues of four saints — the city’s protectors, as well as statues of St. Peter and St. Anthony of Padua. But under the watchful eyes of saints, the city’s business disputes were settled, and businessmen found to be unscrupulous were tied to a center pillar and publicly shamed.
In keeping with Bologna’s image as a city of epicurean delights, the Palazzo is now home to perhaps the most valuable of the city’s treasures: Bologna’s prized “official” recipes for Bolognese ragu, tortellini, and mortadella.
I made the short walk over from the Two Towers as early morning sunlight was breaking over the piazza. I had the area to myself and focused on the Palazzo, guarded by saints and repository of sacred recipes.
I made my way toward the Dolomites but decided to stop for a couple of days in the medieval city of Bologna. It’s a difficult city to get a feel for — it’s at once the rarefied city of scribes and scholars and a thoroughly modern, technologically advanced metropolis. What drew me in, however, was the city’s medieval center, the winding, terra cotta heart of the city.
Much of Bologna was destroyed during World War II, but the historic part of the city survived. This part of the city, built when Bologna was at the peak of its power and wealth, was once dotted with towers. In fact, one of Bologna’s many affectionate nicknames is “la turrita,” or the “city of many towers.” There were once hundreds of towers in the city; some were built for defensive purposes and many others built by powerful families, continually attempting to one-up each other.
Most of the towers long ago crumbled into history. But among the ones that still stand, perhaps the most well-known are Asinelli and Garisenda, the city’s “Two Towers.” They’re not as famous as their counterpart in Pisa, but perhaps more interesting: Asinelli is taller and Garisenda has more of a lean. Echoing their long history — they’re also older than the Leaning Tower of Pisa — is an inscription on one of Garisenda’s slopes from Dante’s Divine Comedy that mentions that exact tower.
The Two Towers are so tall and so intimately positioned with one another that it was difficult to capture them together in a shot. I used a panoramic technique to get them both in the frame as the sun rose over Bologna. They seem to me to be two old, time-tested friends: the sturdy and solid Asinelli and the whimsical, free-spirited Garisenda, eternally looking askance at the old city.
As 2016 comes to a close, I would like to send my warmest holiday greetings to my subscribers and friends. Your support has been invaluable to me and is much appreciated.
I have been fortunate in the past year to be able to travel to fascinating, historic places, and I hope my photographs have brought distant parts of the world a bit closer to home.
My hope for you in the coming year is that you continue to see the world’s beauty. Even in the midst of difficulties, the world is an amazing, beautiful place. As you go through life, remember to look for the beauty that is all around us. Happy holidays!
“Kill him! Flog him! Burn him alive! Why is he such a coward? Why won’t he rush on the steel? Why does he fall so meekly? Why won’t he die willingly?” Imagine a crowd shouting this at you as you fight for your life. This is the famous philosopher’s, Seneca, eyewitness account of what the crowd would chant at matches. He was not a fan of the games, calling the gladiatorial games, “plain butchery”.
He warned his friend to stay away saying, “Unhappy as I am, how have I deserved that I must look on such a scene as this? Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away.”
When you enter the space one can’t help but think back to the gladiator games. It is hard to even imagine that at one point the gladiators and the Colosseum were forgotten or disregarded as insignificant. At one point the Colosseum was quarried for building material. Other times used as a place to garden. Even it was considered for a wool factory.
Luckily none of these things came into fruition. Thanks to restoration and preservation we are able to enjoy this glimpse into history today.
Half of the building was covered in scaffolding, so the classic view of the building was not available for a shoot. Luckily, I was able to find a unique angle that did not have scaffolding or people covering my view.
Much of history has been destroyed, looted and burned. The building pictured here, the Pantheon, is one that managed to escape the destruction of the Middle Ages.
Instead of destroying it, the Pantheon was converted into a church. This doesn’t mean it stands as it once did back in acient times. Paul the Deacon records the destruction of the building:
“Remaining at Rome twelve days he pulled down everything that in ancient times had been made of metal for the ornament of the city, to such an extent that he even stripped off the roof of the Church of the blessed Mary, which at one time was called the Pantheon, and had been founded in honour of all the gods and was now by the consent of the former rulers the place of all the martyrs; and he took away from there the bronze tiles and sent them with all the other ornaments to Constantinople.”
We are lucky that something remains of the Pantheon, and it truly is one of my most beloved buildings in Rome. Before I even planned the trip, I was desperate to shoot it as soon as possible. During the trip a dozen different reasons kept popping up that I couldn’t make it to the site to shoot it in the morning – it is too busy in the evening to try to even shoot it.
The last day the opportune moment pops up, but guess what, it rains! I was devastated. Still, as many desperate man has done, I decided to shoot it anyways despite all forms of logic and experience telling me this would not be a fruitful experience.
When I arrive at the Piazza della Rotonda it looks completely ominous like a villain just entered the scene. The clouds are dark. The rain is heavy. The Pantheon is actually closed for the night since I arrived well before dawn. Like a trooper, I find a space under the pillars to hide from the rain, but this limits my view.
As the sunrise approached, it starts to get brighter. I set up my tripod under my hiding place from the rain. Miraculously the sun comes out! This is like Christmas morning for this photographer! I run out from hiding then start shooting like crazy.
The sunrise offered the perfect light and it was a fantastic shot! Remember to be persistent and sometimes the sun will shine just for you!
Old construction has a way of making one really feel the history of the place, and I can’t help but envy the walls of ancient cities like Rome. The bridge in this photo, Fabricius Bridge, has stood in Rome for over 2,000 years and still exists in its original state!
It really does blow the mind to ponder all the characters who walked across this bridge. Think of any historic figure of Rome – Julius Caesar, Octavian Augustus, Nero, Virgil, Ovid, Apostles Peter and Paul, Constantine the Great and many others. Chances are they may have walked across this bridge. Even before the bridge was constructed in 62 BC, a wooden bridge stood in its place. Lucky bridge! I would have loved to see the history of Rome unravel before me, but I guess I shouldn’t push it too far with the personification. Bridges after all don’t have eyes.
This area is without a doubt beautiful in a timeless sort of ways, and I arrived with my wife long before twilight to get the perfect shot. The river is surrounded with stunning sycamore trees. I setup beneath sycamore trees to get my shot, and I noticed thousands of small birds begin to perch on the trees above me in the middle of my shoot. How scenic and beautiful – or so I thought when they first landed!
Gradually the birds begin to drop little presents everywhere, if you know what I mean. Soon realizing what these drops were, I ran out of the way taking my camera with me. I realized before locals seemed to be carrying around old umbrellas even though it was a sunny day. Obviously it wasn’t for rain, but it was to take cover from bird droppings!
Although my shoot was somewhat rudely interrupted by the birds, I still managed to capture a shot!