Naples: Beauty or Beast?

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Sep 7, 2019

Napoli, full of complexities and contradictions, defies classification and doesn’t enjoy the bucket list reputation of so many Italian cities.  Often treated as a pass-through en route to the Amalfi Coast, Naples is seldom explored and its many beguiling layers are overlooked by most travelers. If you do have the time to visit, you won’t be indifferent: you’ll either love it or feel just the opposite. There is no “in between.” You’re either drawn to its paradox of love, loss, sex, religion, superstition, birth and death or you may want to run away from it. For me, I love it. I felt its magnetism immediately — the good, the bad, and even the “brutti” … the ugly.

Besides being officially recognized by the EU as the home of pizza (pizza having been recently designated by UNESCO as a cultural treasure), Naples has a rich history and many spectacular Baroque churches. Not always as spiffy as other cities, it offers a veritable feast for the urban photographer. It’s sacred and profane. It’s both Old World and kitsch; camp and hip; seductive and bewildering. It’s chaotic and random; gritty, edgy and operatic. And somehow also pious, and even at times … serene. Napoli throbs with life, exuberance and color.

Ferragosto, or Why Italy Closes in August

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Aug 15, 2019

Part of Italian cultural DNA is to vacate the cities for the month of August and head for the beaches or mountains, with this tradition dating all the way back to 18 B.C.! This was the year Emperor Augustus, after whom the month of August is named (it was his favorite time of year), formally instituted the August ‘vaca’ by connecting various annual festivities celebrating the harvest to create an extended period of rest from the year’s labors. He filled this period with rituals, races, games and FUN. Known then as feriae augusti and today as Ferragosta, it later took on a Christian meaning as well coinciding with the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin into Heaven celebrated on August 15th.  Today, August 15th is a national holiday and much like our 4th of July or Memorial Day culminates in dazzling displays of fireworks filling the night skies.

Good or bad for tourists? … that depends on where you’re headed. There’s a bit more breathing room in major cities, though shops and restaurants may by be closed, with concerts and other activities making up for it. If you’re headed to the beaches, you’ll be sharing the sun, the sea and the sand . . . but even then, there are over 5,000 miles of spectacular coastline to discover and savor.

Photos featured are from Sardinia, Elba, Capri, Lipari, Sicily, Procida, Ischia, and the Amalfi Coast.

 

Puglia . . . The Next Tuscany?

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Jul 6, 2019

Everybody falls in love with Italy. For some, it happens on the streets of Florence or Rome, or on the sun-soaked Amalfi coast, or perhaps over pizza in a small trattoria or on a misty morning in Venice. Once you’re smitten, it then happens over and over and if you haven’t yet discovered the beautiful region of Apulia, Italy’s “heel,” you must, for you will fall ever more deeply in love.

For decades, Puglia has been a popular summer destination for northern Italians and, still thankfully, it remains a place unmistakably by Italians and for Italians. Without the flashy jewelry, La Bella Puglia nonchalantly showcases her unique cultural identity and spectacular coastline bathed by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Home to the Boot’s most ancient olive groves and the Baroque jewel of a city, Lecce, (deserving of a separate slideshow that’s coming soon!), Puglia basks in Italy’s southern light and is a land of extremes. Deep sapphire waters offset intensely white towns; miles of olive trees cover the horizon, sprinkled with compact villages. With the heat and sun comes the region’s propensity for languid living . . . time seems to pass more slowly, giving one the opportunity to appreciate every detail and richness of la dolce vita. 

[Towns featured here include: Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Ostuni, Gallipoli, Ortranto and Polignano a Mare.]