Tag Archives: venice

Bella Italia! – Things for which I am grateful #288 – 324


Bella Italia288!

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

I once sold books in Italy.

It was, what people commonly refer to, as a ‘character building’ experience.

Which is another way of saying – it was a crock of shit.

The job, that is, not Italy.

I love Italy.

If you haven’t been to Rome289, you must try to if you possibly can. (Not as easy for some readers as it is for others.) Not only is it one of the most stunning cities on the planet, (and I’ve been to at least three), it is also the birthplace of that famous empire spanning five centuries.

The Forum, Rome.

The Forum, Rome.

Wherever you turn you are confronted by an ancient monument or building, some dating back a couple of millennia, such as the Pantheon290, the Colosseum291 the Palatine292 and the Trevi Fountain293.

The Pantheon, Rome.

The Pantheon, Rome.

Obviously, there’s The Vatican294 too, which is well worth a visit, even if you’re not a cat lick. I’m not at all religious and my eyes didn’t start burning at the sight of St. Paul’s295.

The view of St. Paul's through a keyhole which I've peeped through!

The view of St. Paul’s through a keyhole which I’ve peeped through!

I’ve never ventured further south than the Amalfi296 coast, (south of Naples297). There are spectacular cliff-top towns such as Sorrento298, Positano299 and Amalfi itself. Nearby is the wondrous relic of Pompeii300 which takes you back in time to when Mount Vesuvius301 erupted and preserved many buildings, artefacts and people! Then there’s the gorgeous island of Capri302 just a short boat ride away.

Pompeii.

Pompeii.

Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

The island of Capri.

The island of Capri.

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North of Rome, you have Florence303, Pisa304 and the Apennines305, (which our Pennine range is named after). On the west coast there are the marble producing towns of Carrera306 and Massa307 where the river runs white from the quarries in the mountains. And the sophisticated tourist spot of Viareggio308 on the coast.

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And who could forget Venice309 in the north east? Seat of the once-mighty Borgias. A stupendous sinking city amidst an intricate maze of canals. In summer, the weather is to die for. Seriously, it is. I once got sunstroke in Lido de Jesolo310, so pack plenty of factor 50 if you’re a pale-blue-skinned Anglo Saxon, like me.

Venice carnival.

Venice carnival.

Venice.

Venice.

Then there’s the food. Obviously, pizza and pasta are top of mind. But spare a though for the taste bud tingling chicken cacciatore311 or bistecca pizzaiola312. You can’t beat a bowl of Penne Picante313 or a simple pepperoni and anchovy pizza314 in a traditional trattorria315. All washed down with your favourite tipple – in my case, (case being the optimum word), of Barolo316.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I'll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I’ll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Food of the gods.

Food of the gods.

Spaghetti vongole.

Spaghetti vongole.

Let us not forget the pioneering artists: Leonardo da Vinci317, Michelangelo318, Raphael319, Giotto320, Botticelli321, Titian322, Donatello323, Caravaggio324 and my old favourite – Modigliani. You can hardly turn a corner without bumping into a masterpiece.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo's 'David'. (Detail.)

Michelangelo’s ‘David’. (Detail.)

Nice. Caravaggio.

Nice. Caravaggio.

If you like art, you’ll love Italy. If you like ancient architecture, you’ll love Italy. If you like history, you’ll love Italy. Most of all, if you like pizza, you’ll love Italy.

And yes, I can speak Italian. But only if you want to talk about books. (Specifically, encyclopaedias.)

Of course, there are many Italian delights that I have yet to discover. Maybe after I’ve sold my first million copies. Speaking of which, check out this piccolo classico…

LOVE-IS-BLOOD-COVER copy

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-is-Blood-ebook/dp/B00FSTI5K0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1381575505&sr=1-1&keywords=Love+is+Blood

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Filed under Architecture, Art, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Education, Food, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Inventions, Philosophy, Poetry, Sculpture

Oh, how Venice makes me sigh…


Or, Why Coca-Cola has failed as a brand, and icon, of western civilisation.

25 years ago I visited Venice for the first time. I was overwhelmed by the history, the art, the architecture, the canals, the carnival, the engineering, the beauty, the sheer willpower to exist in such inhospitable terrain – it’s a historical and geographical feast to the senses.

This beauty understandably attracts its fair share of tourists. And with tourism, comes commercialism. Again, nothing wrong with that. We all need to make a living. Whether your gliding through the labyrinth of canals in a gondola or sipping cocktails in Harry’s Bar, somebody somewhere is making money out it.

Depending on which way you enter the city, (via the train station or by water taxi), at some stage chances are you’ll want to take a peek at St. Mark’s Square. It’s one of the ‘must sees’. Once there, you’re surrounded by grandiose architecture on all sides. One of the main attractions is the 14th century gothic Doge’s Palace. (A Doge is a sort of elected Duke.)

St Marks SquareSt Mark’s Square

Next to the palace is the prison. To save poor prisoners having to get their feet wet in the oft-flooded piazzetta, the Doge kindly built a bridge between the palace and the prison connecting the two – The Bridge of Sighs. So called because when prisoners walked over it to meet their fate it was the last time they would ever glimpse their beautiful Venice. Either because they were getting a life stretch in pokey or they were going to have their heads, and in all probability, certain other parts of their anatomy lopped off.

My brother went to Venice a couple of weeks ago and returned with a less than glowing account of St. Mark’s Square 25 years on. My initial reaction was that he’s a luddite. Once I’d put my prejudices behind me I started to flick through his holiday snaps. And my opinion of him as a luddite did not alter. In fact, it made me a luddite too. Because the reason he was less than enthusiastic about the cultural delights of the Venetian Republic was this…

The Doge/Coke PalaceThe Doge/Coke Palace

The Doge Palace draped in a Coca-Cola building wrap.

Now, I have it on good authority that the reason Coke have been allowed to deface this monument to Gothic architecture is that they help preserve the palace from sinking into the murky depths of the lagoon.

What I like about this piece of subtle advertising, is how it sympathetically blends in with the environment. (Of course, the point of most good advertising is that it stands out from its environment and stops people in its tracks.) But there has to be a time, and a place. This place being St. Mark’s Square. It would say much more about the brand to show a tad less gaucheness. Like a small sign at the entrance of the palace saying: Proudly sponsored and preserved by Coca-Cola.

Okay, it might not have the same visual impact, but it might generate more goodwill toward the brand. After all, the city attracts over 20 million visitors a year, so it’s safe to assume a good proportion of these (probably all) will visit the palace. Not to mention the positive PR Coca-Cola could spin off of it.

To make matters worse, the wrap continues down the side of the palace and the prison to The Bridge of Sighs. The origins of the name of the bridge suddenly loses all of its gravitas when a twenty foot bottle of Coke looms above it.

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For me, this advertising stunt has utterly backfired to the extent that I now have negative feelings toward the brand. What’s next? Ronald McDonald atop Nelson’s column? Or Pringles sponsoring the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

My inaugural Creative Courtmartial goes to the mighty Coca-Cola Company. Shame on you.

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