Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fashionable Italy

After seeing more than a handful impeccably well dressed men in Italy, my mother informed me that she would like me to marry an Italian.  She even picked out the palazzo in Venice in which she'd like to spend her winters so she can visit the grandkids.  Yeah, keep dreaming mom.... I've had little luck with Canadian men, so I don't think any of the stylish Italian gentlemen will come knocking on my door anytime soon...

Anyhoo, I may have played paparazzo and snapped a few picks of the stylish gents (and some ladies) I saw during my trip.

I waited too long for this picture, but I have no idea how he's managed to keep his suit still looking so flawless while biking!

I don't know why, but I just thought there was just something so visually appealing about the group of gondaliers.  Of course they sold those hats and striped shirts everywhere as souvenirs.  I was VERY tempted to buy them... 

I didn't always have my camera out in the streets, so I missed so many fashionable people, but I was blown away by the difference in how people dressed.  It almost seemed effortless, and yet nothing was out of place.  So many men wore pocket squares and ties, and brightly-colored suede driving loafers were everywhere ( I definitely picked up a pair!).  The prevailing colors were navy, beige, and camel, with small pops of bright colors.  My  mom and I also had a lot of fun browsing the stores and doing a little bit of shopping.

My mom checking out some of the handmade candies, chocolates, and pastries in the window.  We popped in to buy some nougat, but we both agreed that the nougat she makes annually for Easter is still the best!

Why yes, that is the True Prep collection at the Tommy Hilfiger store in  Venice!  And of course I went in for a peek!

I was afraid of getting dirty looks (or getting kicked out), so I only managed to sneak in a few pictures.

Loved how the shoes and bags were organized!

hehehe - "what happens in the country club, stays in the country club"

Not exactly my favorite picture of me, but I couldn't resist the preppy 'kodak picture spot'.

One of my favorite dresses - from Salvatore Ferragamo.  

How I wish I could have had a shopping spree in Valentino!  There was even a Valentino store in the Venice airport.  

Not a great image, but I loved the wonderful update on a classic suit.  Very youthful and feminine.

Perhaps my favorite window display!  The bag on the left had a blue coral chain - LOVE!  

I may not have been able to buy a Moschino purse, a pair of Tods driving mocs, or a Valentino eveing gown, but I did do a little bit of shopping.  You'll have to check back for pics of my Italian goodies!  And yes, I did pick up a handful of tacky tourist items... don't judge !  I love my mini Colosseum!


Thursday, May 19, 2011


I was already mesmerized by Rome and was slightly reluctant to leave, but my mom and I took a train to Florence. We spent our last day in Rome running around the city, trying to see the last bit of monuments we hadn't seen yet, so I was pretty exhausted for the train ride.  In between mini power naps and reading a few pages of the Italian Vogue I picked up in the train station, I caught the most beautiful glimpses of Tuscan countryside, making me more excited for our next destination.
Our first day we wandered the city, entering any of the cathedrals or churches that caught our eye.  We saw the Duomo,
whose dome was designed by famed architect Brunelleschi,
 and whose Gates of Paradise (doors to the baptistry) by Ghiberti are considered by some to have spearheaded the Renaissance.  These ones are actually a reproduction.  The real ones are housed in a museum.
Santa Croce
The fresco of the life of St Francis painted by Giotto. Although definitely painted by Giotto, there is much controversy about many other works believed to be by Giotto. Few of his works were ever signed, so some of the works attributed to him could actually have been done by his workshop instead.

We also perused the many markets and vendors. 

Florence is well known for its leather goods, and the bags in the markets are very very cheap. There were many Hermes lookalikes for sale, in a crayola crayon box variety of colors. My mom bought a small yellow crossbody and a brown bohemian bag, but nothing really caught my eye.

So much nicer than the strip malls we see back home
A darling little tuscan pottery shop
Of course we also paid a trip to the Uffizi, home to works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, Caravaggio, Giotto, Cimabue, and one of the most reproduced images in art - Botticelli's Birth of Venus. Some of the statues outside the museum:


Giotto, who looks a little bit like a stereotypical Italian assassin...

We decided to do a one day guided bus tour of Tuscany. We started the morning in Sienna, enjoyed a wine tour and lunch at a family vineyard, visited a darling medieval town called San Gimignano, and finished the day in Pisa.  
Palazzo Pubblico in Sienna. Every year in July this city area is turned into a ring for a horse race.  Ten of the city's seventeen sections enters a horse in the race, and the winning horse brings unbelievable pride to its section and crazy celebrations ensue.
The view from the vineyard.  In the distance you'll see San Gimignano, with only a few of its original towers remaining.

This place had the best gelato, in such unique flavors! My mom had gorgonzola, but I chose to be boring and stayed with hazelnut.  They also had limoncello, rosemary, balsamic cream, pine nut, and rice. If you're ever in San Gimignano, you HAVE to get a cone from here!

And of course we saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It reminds me of one of the crazy cakes you'd see in the cake competitions on the Food Network.

And some of my other favorite pictures from my trip

Overall I liked that Florence was calmer than Rome.  There were fewer tourists and people just seemed to enjoy a much mellower way of life.  Women shopped in the afternoon at Maxmara and then wore their beautiful lace maxi dresses to dinner later that night. The streets were narrower, so the added shade made it a little cooler and less humid. And of course the addition of being in wine country made for easy access to delicious libations. I may have gotten a teensy bit overly woozy with my mother on our wine tour... 


Monday, May 16, 2011


The day after I finished my last exam my mom and I flew to Rome.  The flight was awful (the woman sitting next to me kept invading my personal bubble and I couldn't sleep), but we landed in Rome at 8am and had a full day to roam the city before we checked into the hotel.  
Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, just around the corner from our hotel - Apparently many Romans consider it an over-the-top eyesore, but it offers great views of the city if you climb to the top

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, by Bernini - representing the four major rivers of the four continents through which papal authority spread

Please note the Lilly scarf I used as a headband to cover my less-than-perfect hair after 12 hours of travel

One of the many obelisks in Rome, by Bernini.  I particularly liked the elephant base. 

Sunday we went to Vatican City for the Beatification of Pope John Paul II, who was originally from Poland.  The Polish invaded Rome!  I heard more Polish while in Rome than Italian.  It was a heck of a struggle to get past the barricades, policemen, and crazy crowds, but we managed to secure spots right near St Peter's square, and then stood there for five hours (2 hrs before, 2 for the actual event, and then 1 hr trying to get out of Vatican City).  But I did catch a glimpse of the current pope!

Note the many Polish flags flying high!

I loved the heavily sculpted lampposts 

Of course we paid a trip to the Colosseum.  It was (as was everything else) incredible!!!! The outside displayed three Orders of architecture, seen by the different types of columns moving up the layers (art history nerd alert...)

I got a kick out of the many tacky tourist photo opps

The Arch of Constantine - notable for the fact that it's made of pieces of other monuments and commemorates Constantine's victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge

We also visited the Roman Forum, full of many ancient temples, arches, and broken columns.  I loved how I was able to see basically every element of Ancient Roman architecture I studied in my classical architecture class.

The Italian answer to the chip truck?

The Spanish Steps - not quite as high as I expected, but still a fun climb

The Pantheon 

The Trevi Fountain was very impressive, but crowded with people. But I was blown away by the fact that almost every element of design in Rome had specific iconography, usually meant to somehow convey the power of the papacy, Rome, or a wealthy citizen.  

Laocoon and His Sons - probably the most significant archeological find during the 16th century, this Ancient Greek sculpture significantly impacted the work of Renaissance artists, serving as a new ideal for the human form. We saw it in the Vatican Museums. We spent an entire day visiting the Vatican, but of course my camera battery died early in the morning so I don't have many pictures.  We saw the frescoes painted by Raphael, Sistine Ceiling done by Michelangelo, and the absolutely breath-taking St. Peter's Basilica.  I hated how the tour was organized (far too many people, with a tour guide that spent an hour talking about the Sistine Ceiling and zipped right through everything else), but I was still pretty much in shock the entire time. 

I also loved sampling the delicious food and coffee!  My mom and I did our own unofficial coffee tour of Rome.  We stopped in various cafes or coffee bars for shots of espresso at least three times a day, and hands down my favorite was this coffee bar right by the Pantheon.  The espressos were smooth, strong, and not too bitter or acidic. They also made a delicious frozen coffee slushy that came in a tiny cup topped with a gigantic dollop of full fat whipped cream.  An incredibly tasty treat to split with my mom after a day of wandering the city.

The Tempietto by Bramante, which served as a model for Bramante's designs for St Peter's and marked the spot of St Peter's martyrdom. It was incredibly difficult to find and was a bit of trek up a hill, but it was worth the climb.  It's such a harmonious structure.

I pretty much got to see everything I had studied in my Art of the High Renaissance class, except for a villa with frescoes by Raphael, but I had to keep something for my next trip, right!?  Actually visiting Rome pretty much blew apart any of my preconceived notions about the layout and atmosphere of the city.  I loved how I could get lost wandering down a narrow cobblestone street and suddenly find myself standing in a city square with three baroque sculpted fountains.  Everything had a touch of glamor, history, and artistic design to it.  Perhaps I was viewing the city through rose-tinted glasses, but beyond the humidity and crowds, I found it to be stunning and magical.