Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pompeii, Italy

On the way down the coast of Italy my tour group stopped in Pompeii to take a tour of the ancient city. Located at the base of Mt. Vesuvius the city is famous for how well it was preserved after the volcanoes eruption in AD 79 burried the city and most of its inhabitants. Today you can see the way ancient Romans lived by walking in to old storefronts, baths, homes and even brothels. The frescos on the walls have been well preserved and even plaster molds of bodies can be seen.

As is true with most touristy and well known places around Italy I found it rather underwhelming. The history of the city and how well it was preserved is fascinating but the surrounding area of Naples was filled with tourist hamburger shops and overall is the type of place I try to avoid while travelling. I would recommend it to visitors who have time to explore all of Italy but I would never suggest someone in a rush to see the south to take a day to stop in Pompeii.

Villa Lante

As a class, my entire abroad program visited Villa Lante with one of our landsape architecture professors from back at school who was in Italy for spring break. We toured the grounds and had a quick lecture outdoors in the gardens. Villa Lante is a "mannerist garden of surprise" in a small town about an hour north of Rome. Historians can't always agree about who designed the grounds but most attribute the design to Jacopo Barozzi di Vignola who was famous for his work with gravity fed fountains.

The grounds are organized in to three perfect squares that begin at the top of the hill and move downwards toward the Casini. Each garden becomes brighter and more open as they move down hill until the visitor is opened in to a vast formal garden drenched in sunlight. The experience was meant to represent Ovid's metamorphosis on the fall of man. I don't know enough about the mythology used for inspiration on the garden but I enjoyed them nonetheless and did a quick watercolor on site to try and show the darkness in the higher levels.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Le Cinque Terre, Italy

This past weekend I made a long four day trip to the Cinque Terre or "Five Lands" on the Italian Riviera. We took a quick train from Rome to La Spezia, one of Italy's largest commercial harbors and then took a short regional train ride to Riomaggiore. We stayed in an amazing bed and breakfast in the heart of the town with the first real beds we've found. We woke up the next morning after a great sleep and hiked from Riomaggiore, the southernmost town to Monterosso al Mare. Along the way we stopped in the small villages of Manarola, Corniglia and Vernazza. The land in between the small villages is almost entirely national park with a few vineyards in between.

The region is known for their white wine and seafood. After each long day of hiking we stopped to have a long traditional Italian dinner. By ordering the local specialities I got the best seafood of my life. The first night I ordered a Grilled Sea Bass, and I got the whole thing. Head, eyeballs and everything! It was delicious and we finished the meal with a Nutella Tiramisu. The most amazing desert I've had and I am now committed to finding it in Rome. 

The best food we found was in Manarola, the next town over from where we stayed, and one of the only towns still open. Because of extreme flooding and mud slides this past October many of the other towns are partially closed. The town of Vernazza got the worst of the storm and many of the damage is still visible, including a crushed Fiat in the town harbor. Luckily, this didn't deplete from the beauty of the region and we were still able to see the amazing seaside architecture built into the valley walls along the coast. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Watercolor of Villa Giulia

I know that my last post was also about Villa Giulia but I just finished another watercolor of the building, but this time it is a front facade elevation. I inked over the watercolor with a very fine pen to clean it up a bit and make each line appear more defined. I've been doing a lot more watercolor in my sketch book recently and I've been improving with each try. I think I will try a perspective landscape next to move away from the technical style of an architectural elevation.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Villa Giulia

This morning my architecture class visited Villa Giulia which is located outside the original city walls. Built in the 1550s for Pope Julius III, the main villa and gardens are an incredible example of Mannerist architecture. We walked around the gardens and drew the properties layout and mapped out the proportions. I decided to demonstrate the proportions and layout using a cross cut axonometric drawing which I later water colored in my apartment. I really enjoyed the Villa and will try to visit some other similar buildings in the near future.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Venice, Italy

This weekend I traveled north to Venice with my roommate. We stayed in a great, and cheap, hotel which was centrally located making it easy to see the entire city by either foot or water bus. There are no cars in the city since most streets are only a few feet wide and constantly cross canals using narrow pedestrian bridges. Boats are the primary mode of transportation for visitors and locals alike. We mostly used the water buses to get around since water taxis were pricey and the famous gondolas are mainly reserved for romantic trips without a destination.

We saw many of the main tourist sites during our time in the city. We saw the main church, the Basilica di San Marco, the Doge's Palace next door and then we climbed to the top of the Campidoglio that looks down over the entire city of islands. However, the most impressive parts of Venice for me were the less touristy destinations that we accidentally discovered. Upon boarding the wrong water bus we ended up on a new island where we discovered and a deserted church in which we ascended the bell tower to look back at the city of Venice. The views were incredible and much more enjoyable than the over crowded Campidoglio.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Milan, Italy

On the way to Locarno we stopped in Milan for a few hours to see the sites. We took a take from the train station to the main square where we saw the Duomo di Milano and the main shopping Arcade. Both were very impressive. The Duomo di Milano, or Cathedral of Milan, was built over a course of six centuries. The first stone was layed in 1386 and was completed in 1812 by order of Napolean. The cathedral is one of the biggest cathedrals in the world and the most impressive in Italy.

The main shopping Arcade is a more modern building that connects two major thoroughfares. The gallery hosts stores such as Louis Vitton, Armani and even McDonald's. The center of the gallery is covered by a massive glass and steel framed dome while the main roads are covered by glass vaults that keep the shoppers warm and dry. It was very busy and seems to be a much more succesful arcade than the one I visited and sketched in Rome.