Bernini’s Roma

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Apr 3, 2021

Nothing quite surpasses the grandeur of the Eternal City this time of year and it is difficult to recall a single person who has had a greater influence on the look and life of a city than Baroque genius Gian Lorenzo Bernini has had on Rome.

Sculptor, urban planner, architect, master of stagecraft and gesture, Bernini  engenders awe in the beholder with his exuberant style.
Connecting the Eternal City to Vatican City is the Pont Sant’ Angelo, one of the most serenely beautiful bridges in the world.  Bernini designed it as a “living” Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) to help pilgrims emotionally experience in the suffering of Jesus.
Bernini was able to transcend his preferred medium of marble to achieve visual and emotive effects never before imagined. A visit to the Borghese Gallery for me is always a “must” when in Rome.  The astonishing Apollo and Daphne, Rape of Proserpina, and his David were all completed before he was 25 years old!
From 1667 on, pilgrims to St. Peter’s arrive at the grand elliptical piazza with its two burbling fountains and an Egyptian obelisk standing at its center and at the far end the façade of monumental Basilica. The piazza itself is encircled by two colossal Doric colonnades four columns deep with a total of 140 statues of saints lining it’s rooftop. This momentous piece of urban planning and architecture was the product of Bernini’s imagination; figuratively speaking he designed his colonnade to embrace pilgrims with in his words, “the maternal arms of mother church”

Seductive Venice

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Feb 11, 2021
Venice seduces us in so many ways–with her watery, curving reflections; her hidden corners shot through with light; her disguises, her artistic creations inspired by centuries of tradition.
Casanova once walked La Serenissima’s calle and drifted down her canals, on the way to a tryst or an adventure. Let these images take you back into your own Venetian memories, your dreams and your desires. You might spy glittering glass beads through a window or sumptuous Fortuny fabrics sailing overhead. You might peer through doorways into other vistas. You might repose within the cool marble walls of a bright white church or duck your head passing beneath an arching bridge.
Venice beckons in the shape of gondoliers, maskers, artists, violinists, welcoming you to explore her secret streets and mirrored canals. Play in the shadows and in the light as it bounces off stone and water. Then meet up with your friends for an Aperol Spritz or a cool raboso. As the light closes out the day, toast to love, to beauty, to history, to Venice, grateful that we get to enjoy her charms.
(Grazie mille to Kathleen Gonzalez, author of Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps and other books celebrating and revealing Venice’s history and my dear friend Frank Yantorno for several of the dazzling evening photos.)

The Secret South of the Amalfi Coast

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Jan 10, 2021

It’s a secret. It’s just south of the tourist-packed jet-setting Amalfi peninsula.  From Naples, it’s about a 1.5 hour drive–  past Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and Sorrento, heading to the small city of Salerno. Then you hit the “buffalo highway” where you’ll notice signs advertising mozzarella di bufalo, the very best in all of Italy. The landscape flattens a bit as farms appear on either side of the road. Tomatoes, artichokes, kiwis, figs . . . this is one of Italy’s most lush agricultural zones and a gastronomic paradise.

Welcome to Cilento, the undiscovered land south of the Amalfi Coast in southern Campania. Cilento has a rugged mountain interior and a pristine coastline dotted with fine beaches. It’s home to the temples at Paestum, the best mozzarella producers in Italy, the birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet, and a unique variety of fig called Dotatto Bianco. Also home to many of Italy’s oldest residents, the key to life here is the phrase “slowly, slowly” which may be the true secret to longevity.

Highlights:

~ Tenuta Vannulo, Italy’s best producer of buffalo mozzarella. The buffalos live stress-free lives where they receive massages and listen to Mozart in their pens.

~ The temples at Paestum, built in the 6th century BCE when this was a Greek colony dedicated to Poseidon.

~ Castellabate, one of Italy’s most beautiful, well-preserved villages.

~ Certosa di San Lorenzo in Padula, the largest monastery in Italy and an oasis of tranquility.

~ Santomiele, a confectionery devoted to Cilento figs located in the Cilento National Park; it feels like a Cartier showroom with figs and chocolates presented as though they were fine jewels.

~ Borgo La Pietraia, an agriturismo with a view framing both the Amalfi and Cilento Coasts. It’s also home to the Feast On History Food & Wine School (opening fall 2021)

Grazie mille to Danielle Oteri and Feast on History for the content of this post as well as many of its photos.  Post-pandemic, those of you in the NYC area might should consider taking one of Danielle’s fabulous Arthur Avenue Food Tours.