My favourite wonders of Historical Italy

A warm welcome to: ‘My favourite wonders of Italy blog!’ During the summer of 2014 I was lucky enough to explore a land renowned for its history and beauty, Italy. This post will count down my favourite wonders of Historical Italy and feature the conventional familiarities of Italy and the added novelty!

The balcony of the Palazzo Venezia-

When I entered the city of Rome aside from wanting to visit the Trevi fountain, Spanish Steps and the famous coliseum I was also particularly interested in seeing the Palazzo Venezia. The Palazzo Venezia was originally a complex that housed the cardinals of the adjoined San Marco church and later became a papal residence to Pope Pius IV. However, as the title suggests I was interested in the balcony. The balcony was a very poignant moment of Italian history as it became synonymous with Mussolini’s most notable speeches. In particular, it was where he declared the formation of the Italian Empire in 1936 and Italy’s entering the Second War as allies to Nazi Germany. I found it was very striking to see a building in Rome, a city famous for the Romans and Michelangelo that gave a different perspective to the History of the city.

Siena Palio-

The Siena Palio is a festival that takes place in the city of Siena, Tuscany at the Piazza del Campo and consists of a horse race that mimics medieval chivalry. Both of the races honour the Madonna of Provenzano and the Assumption of Mary (Mary’s assent to heaven) respectively. The term Palio is meant to represent a banner that each horse rider wears when they race. Seventeen teams compete in order to win the trophy and the teams consist of the different districts of Siena and during the competition banners of the seventeen districts are distributed in the city. The Palio takes place twice a year on 2 July and 16 August. However, not all seventeen horses can take part at any one time, normally ten horses take part at each Palio. The seven that did not take part in the last Palio are instantly included to race for the next year. Similarly a ballot takes place in order to determine which horse would race for each district. Although the origins of the Palio are not exact it is often agreed that they have medieval origin. The Piazza hosted many public events for spectators to watch, some of which include; jousting and bull fighting. In 1590 however bullfighting was outlawed and very soon after races were established whilst still using the bulls to ride on. Eventually the bulls were replaced with horses. Even though I did not visit Siena at the time of the Palio it was a spectacle in itself to stand in the middle of the Piazza del Campo and imagining how lively the atmosphere of race day would be! So, who would you put your money on for 2015? Team Drago (Dragon) or are you more of a wise Team Civetta (Little owl).

Gelato (there was plenty of them)!-

Gelato. It is like the fish to chips or the mayonnaise to Belgian frites? Wherever you go in Italy, it is impossible to not find a Gelato parlour. Riva Del Garda? Gelato. Verona? Gelato. Venice? Gelato. Rome? Gelato. Florence? Gelato. Perugia? Yes the answer is without a doubt, Gelato. Though frozen desert making traces back to outside Italy, the history of the Gelato spans many years with its origins lying back towards Roman times. The Romans had established trade routes between the mountains and distributing the ice to settlements. The shaving of ice added to deserts occurred until Italy adopted a recipe from the Far East, whereby milk was added. During the 15th and 16th centuries the “Italian” Gelato was beginning to take shape, this was mainly due to a better understanding of refrigerating the ice cream. As the years went by and technology improved further through the use of machines making the Gelatos on a larger scale, it reached more and more Italians. This eventually resulted in street vendors selling Gelatos in the 1920s and 1930s, reaching a variety of people on the streets of Italy.

Renaissance Florence, the birthplace of perspective-

Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region and is considered to be where the Renaissance movement was established from the fourteenth century. The Renaissance was a period in history that I did not know much about before visiting Florence and the city ended up being the highlight of my trip. Of course I had heard of Michelangelo’s David and the famous Uffizi art museum, however intrigued as I was I had wished to know more about the origins of the Renaissance and was advised to visit a pair of doors by a local guide. The doors in question were at the north side of Florence Cathedral (originally east side). The guide soon elaborated the background story of how the doors came about and said that a competition was announced by the Wool Guild of Florence in order to design them. It was a twenty-one year old by the name of Lorenzo Ghiberti that was chosen to design the doors, although initially another sculptor by the name of Fillipo Brunelleschi aided him. The doors were said to depict the “Gates of Paradise” and were considered to be influential for Renaissance Humanism. However Brunelleschi is remembered for the doors but did not finish the task with him as he left Florence to reside in Rome, but he became most famous for the usage of linear perspective in artwork. This was different to previous art works before this period as he used optical linear perspective for the design of one of the panels for the Florence Cathedral. This technique aided artists to paint three dimensionally. In spite of the panels being lost just looking at the detail on the doors at the north side showed how revolutionary perspective was.

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