Many years ago, I decided I wanted to visit Italy. Not sure why it took me so long to finally JUST DO IT but for whatever reason, in 2019 I finally purchased a ticket to Milano for November 2019. Come November it was clear that Venice was flooding more than usual due to rising water levels so I decided to move my trip to April 2020 given I really wanted to attend design week and the Salone del Mobile which occurs every year in April. Well, just my luck after waiting so many years, it soon became apparent that it was not for reasons we all know too well. The pandemic hit particularly hard smack dab in the center where I planned to go. I thought to myself, no worries. This will all blow over, so I rescheduled my trip for September 2020…. then April 2021…. then, well, let’s just say I cancelled the trip all together but kept my airline ticket knowing that when travel does come back there is no way my $550 ticket will still be offered at $550. Intuitively I knew prices would go up so when they offered me a refund I said no, I’ll keep my cheap ticket and wait it out. Wait it out I did, but unfortunately Norwegian Air went bankrupt by mid 2021. I did receive the refund, albeit 6 months later, but I felt lucky I even got the money back which I did not expect. All and all, the only money forfeited was a $35 EasyJet ticket between England and Milano, which I could probably get a refund but the amount of time and effort it would take to get it back…is not worth it for a mere $35.
So finally I made it to Italy last month and the wait was well worth it. I have maybe 500+ photos to spread out over several blog posts, so it begins. Stay tuned for part 2…
Museums like the Guggenheim and the Louvre are ingrained in our culture and are best known for their impressive collections and beautiful architecture. These institutions often make it onto top museum lists, and for good reason. People love them, but I’m here to introduce you to some lesser-known, but equally noteworthy museums that are architectural marvels in their own right. From science and technology to art and history, these modern galleries from around the world are works of art that you can admire without even setting foot inside.
THE ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM in Toronto, Ontario
Visit the largest museum in Canada during your next trip to Toronto. The Royal Ontario Museum features exhibits of art, world culture, and natural history and attracts more than one million visitors every year. The historical buildings of the existing structure are complemented by a bold new façade of prismatic glass and metal. According to Studio Libeskind, the architectural firm in charge of the project, the crystal-like atriums presented unique design challenges making it “among the most complicated construction projects in North America.” Besides the impressive multi-million dollar expansion, other reasons to visit include the museum’s vast collection of archaeological specimens as well as its array of design and art pieces.
LOUIS VUITTON FOUNDATION in Paris, France
Since 2014, the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s art museum in Paris has introduced visitors to exhibitions promoting modern and contemporary artistic creation. The museum is a production of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Its design presented builders with unprecedented technical challenges, namely its clustered white blocks (that the team called icebergs) and twelve glass “sails” supported by wooden beams. The interior design is just as impressive as the exterior — opening up to vast, lofty halls with plenty of natural light. The glass walls and ceilings not only provide epic views of downtown Paris from top floors but also play with the museum’s artwork through light, mirrors, color, and more.
MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Located on the coast of Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin is one of the largest art museums in the United States. The Milwaukee Art Museum is home to nearly 25,000 works of art including an extensive Georgia O’Keeffe collection. The museum is comprised of three buildings including the War Memorial Center, Cudahy Gardens, and the Quadracci Pavilion — the iconic glass building that opened in 2001. The 90-foot glass ceiling features a 217-foot moveable, wing-like screen that unfolds twice daily. Called the Burke Brise Soleil, these “wings” open at 10 in the morning, flap at noon, and close when the museum closes. The pedestrian suspension bridge conveniently connects the museum to the city.
MIHO MUSEUM in the Koka Forest, Kyoto, Japan
Located in the dense forest of Koka near Kyoto, Japan, the MIHO Museum offers visitors a unique architectural experience that blends manmade structures and natural surroundings. Designed by famous architect I. M. Pei, the steel and glass structures of the museum were designed to contrast against the panoramic views of the mountains and valleys below. Visitors first walk through an arched tunnel to reach the museum entrance, which is one of the only above-ground structures in the complex. In an effort to preserve the natural environment, about 80% of the museum is underground. The exhibits at MIHO frequently change with a focus on ancient works from the Egyptians, Romans, and Asian cultures.
MUSEO SOUMAYA at PLAZE CARSO in Mexico City, Mexico
The Museo Soumaya has become a highlight of Mexico City’s art scene with its shimmering, anvil-shaped exterior and impressive art collection ranging from MesoAmerican history to modern day. While the museum technically consists of two buildings, the most popular is the new structure at Plaza Carso, where the primary museum collection was moved in 2011. This nine-story building made of 16,000 aluminum hexagons was designed by Fernando Romero, who commonly focuses on fluidity in his designs. As one of the most-visited museums in Mexico, it’s no surprise that its list of A-list displays is lengthy. Don’t miss the vast collection of artwork by Rodin including the famed sculpture “The Thinker” — a permanent exhibit here.
MAXXI NATIONAL MUSEUM IN ROME, ITALY
The MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts focuses on contemporary art and architecture. Upon opening in 2010, this museum designed by architect Zaha Hadid received a Stirling Prize for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects. The massive complex consists of two sections — “MAXXI Art” and “MAXXI Architecture” — along with an outdoor courtyard for large-scale works of art. The interior stairways and walking paths overlap to create an exciting and dynamic environment for visitors. The museum’s most prominent architectural features are its curved, concrete walls and suspended, black staircases. Its interior colors and structures are a nod to the overarching theme of the museum — to promote contemporary art and architecture.
One of things I miss the most right now is going to the movies. I’m one of those rare people who would much rather see a movie on the big screen than at home where, for some odd reason, I can never get comfortable enough to sit thorugh an entire movie. I especially miss The Crest Theater in Seattle where all movies are $4 bucks and you get to choose your own candies given they are sold (or used to be sold) by pound. You can pick a “little this and a little that” without spending a lot of money. Plus throw in the best cup of tea for $2 and it was the perfect – great indie film+little candy+tea all for under $10 bucks! Oh those were the days not so very long ago.
So I’m stuck with Netflix, Prime Video and all the other usual suspects. One nice thing about watching online though is being able to go back and watch movies from years past. I am especially fond of the Italian movies lately given I’ve had to cancel my trip Italy 3x in the past 12 months. But that’s another story.
Here are my favorites:
First and formost, I’ll start with my favorite Italian movie – Cinema Paradiso. Cinema Paradiso is a 1988 film directed by Giuseppe Tornatore and is one of my most favorite and cherished movies of all time. It’s a movie about movies and the impact they can have on people, more specifically on a small post-war Sicilian town and its two projectionists.
Cinema Paradiso is a love letter to cinema, a celebration of the movies and to those who cherish them, whether they are simply watchers or creators. The music in this movie is absolutely phenomenal. Scored by Ennio Morricone this film is pillowed in a painfully nostalgic theme song that can bring tears to the strongest souls, young or old.
No matter what age Toto is I can always relate to him and his feelings, I see my younger self. Whether he’s a little boy (or girl) who is enamoured by the cinema or as a lovelorn teenager who abandons his home to pursue his passion and even as an older man who returns to him home after 30 years, I understand and feel his emotions. Every time I’ve watched the film I’m a bit older than last time and understand things a bit better, like why Alfredo wanted Toto to leave his home and never return. Once upon a time I never fully understood why Alfredo would want his best friend to leave him, now I know it’s because he wants to see him thrive and turn his passion into a career, something Alfredo was never able to do.
So, if you are a lover of a film foreign or not, Cinema Paradiso should be your next watch. It’s a fantastic tale of the magic movies can bring to its audiences and how it gave a young boy his entire life. It didn’t drastically change my life, but it’s a constant reminder of how important movies are to those who truly love them.
La Dolce Vita
Directed by Federico Fellini in 1960, with the performance of Marcello Mastroianni, who is a reflection of the Dolce Vita in Rome during the economic boom of the sixties. The Dolce Vita tells, with figurative strength the world of filmmaking, of the scandal, of the sad laziness of the richest people and the religious fanaticism. Marcello Rubini (M. Mastroianni) is a roman tabloid journalist who will guide us during the movie divided into seven episodes because he travels through the Rome of the sixties. He is the main character of the movie who changes and redeems himself at the end of the story. Federico Fellini here represented the thoughts, the attitudes, the trends of Italian which still today are famous for tourists (it is unforgettable the scene between Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain).
8 e mezzo
Another achievement for the couple Federico Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni is 8 e mezzo (1963) where Mastroianni is the alter ego of the director. Guido is a 43-year-old director who is tired of everything, of his work, of his life, of his friends. He wants to make a new film and he decided to build a big circus scaffolding. The film is a mixture of the real and the dreamlike, mirror of Guido’s fears, namely his old age, abandonment, and failure. The circus represents the creativity and relationships with Italian cinema workers, which are an essential part of the made in Italy cinema production.
Once Upon a Time in America
The movie came to the cinema in 1984 with the direction of Sergio Leone. The colossal represents the final evolution of the far west current, which came up after a few years of reflection.The story tells, for forty years, from the 1920s to 1960s, the life of a gangster group in New York. A long, complex, “baroque” movie with detailed stage customs and scenographies. Once Upon a Time in America with Robert De Niro’s performance is a treasure of Made in Italy movie production not only for the direction of Sergio Leone but also for the soundtrack written by the Master Ennio Morricone.
Life is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful is a 1997 Italian comedy-drama film directed by and starring Roberto Benigni. The movie won three Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor for Benigni, the first for a male non-English performance in 1999. This movie will be in the heart of everyone for the sensitivity with which Benigni spoke of the tragedy of the Holocaust, the deportation, and the killing of Jewish during the Second World War.
The Great Beauty
The Great Beauty is a 2013 Italian art drama film co-written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino. On the background of Rome, always beautiful but also indifferent, strut the politicians, the high society, actors and artists, the impoverished aristocrats inside a luxurious and sad labyrinth. From his position, the main character, Jep Gambardella ( starring Tony Servillo), watches all oh them; he is a 65 years-old writer, tired of that type of life and he started to reflect on his past, the present, and the future by taking us around Rome, crossing squares, streets, observing glimpse and wonder of an eternal Rome that seems almost surreal.
Being in a state of quarantine, my planned excursion to Italy had to be put on hold. Actually, as everything has a way of turning out alright, I’m ok with that because it gives me more time peruse wonderful stories about Italy that I previously never seemed to find time for. I’m discovering some of the hidden treasures that I’ll take with me…some this September. And if September shall come and go and still I cannot fly to Europe? Well then, I shall peruse even deeper until the time comes when I can. Below is a story from Cereal magazine for all to peruse and enjoy.
“I STAND ON A BALCONY WITH TILES LAID IN DIAGONAL STRIPES, LOOKING OUT INTO THAT INFINITE BLUE UNTIL I AM SUSPENDED IN IT.” White concrete frames a square of uninterrupted blue. The cloudless sky, the iridescent Tyrrhenian sea, even the land stretching out either side — pastel-painted Sorrento to the left, Vesuvius to the right — is cast in a haze of blue. An impressionist’s dream.
swooning over this blue tile
The concept of infinite blue was architect Gio Ponti’s driving inspiration when he built Parco dei Principi, his slice of 1960s modernism on a coast of faded antiquity. When it opened in 1962, the hotel was something new for ancient Sorrento: a clean-lined, contemporary edifice on the tufa-stone cliff. Inside, the bright, wide-open spaces were pared down and decorated entirely in white and blue.
Ponti was commissioned to build Parco dei Principi when his friend and colleague, the Neapolitan engineer and hotelier Roberto Fernandes, bought the neighboring property, the ballet-shoe-pink 18th century Villa Cortchacow. The villa was originally owned by the Count of Syracuse and then by a Russian prince, who had a mock Gothic castle half-built in the grounds lest his cousin, the last tsar of Russia, should come to stay. Ponti’s challenge was to transform this — perhaps thankfully — unfinished castle.
Gio Ponti was one of the most pioneering architects of the mid-century, with an extraordinary portfolio of buildings that championed forward-looking principles. He was driven by the ideas of transparency and lightness. His diamond-shaped Pirelli tower in Milan soars; his ethereal Taranto Cathedral in Puglia, delicate as a paper cut-out, is known as ‘the Sail’. “He loved to create little spaces of lightness, through elements in the design,” says Caterina Licitra Ponti, his great-granddaughter, a passion for her great-grandfather’s work alive in her eyes.
And so in Sorrento, as in Taranto, he uplifted the castle’s solid stone walls so that the new building seemed to hover above the clifftop, wrapping the interior in a white concrete skin, perforated with spaces that allow the light and the sky to penetrate the framework. On approach, through verdant subtropical gardens, the blue of the sea is visible all the way through the glass-walled ground floor.
Of all Gio Ponti’s 100-odd buildings, Sorrento is the only hotel where you can still stay, fully immersed in his art — for as well as the building itself he designed every last detail. He was not just an architect, but a designer — of interiors, furniture, industry, cars — an artist and a ceramicist, a writer and a teacher; and at Parco dei Principi his passion for so many disciplines converged in one triumphant paean to modernity.
Work was his passion. Every moment was one in which to create. Her grandmother, Lisa — Ponti’s daughter — recalls him waking each morning at 6.00 am. He used to have coffee in bed while he sketched and wrote letters on a tray of his own design — daily correspondence to friends and colleagues about every devilishly intricate detail of his projects, right down to the tablecloths and tiles.
In the lobby, blue and white glazed pebbles are set into the walls, their cool, shiny-smooth surfaces reflecting infinite depths of radiance, chosen, Ponti wrote, for their ‘lightness and grace’, their ‘reflexes of light and sky’. Down in the hotel’s subterranean levels, where there is nobody else about, I put my cheek to the cool of them. It is clear Ponti created this place not just to look at but to touch, too, so that his work would engage and bring delight.
On the bright upper floors, the hotel’s bedrooms are stripped back to the bare essentials, each element designed by Ponti in mid-century modern style and made in Italy: a bed, a chair, a footstool which doubles as a suitcase stand, and a dressing table facing the sea, where I sit and write this story on its smooth Formica top the color of the sky.
Shaded from direct sunshine by the building’s perforated sheath, the room is cooled naturally by the shades of blue and white, and by the ceramic tiles underfoot. Of all Parco dei Principi’s carefully curated details, these ceramic tiles are perhaps the most enduring. Ponti made 30 different designs, all in the dark blue, pale blue, and white of the local seascape — some geometric, some figurative, featuring moons, stars and leaves. They are configured differently in each of the hotel’s 96 rooms.
“I always think of the endless possibilities of the art,” Ponti observed, of creating these tiles. “Give someone a square measuring 20 by 20 and although people have been turning them out for centuries, there’s always room for a new pattern… There will never be a last design.” Here again, the concept of infinite blue. His dream was to make a permanent mark — infinite, like the blue of the sea and the sky.
I stand on a balcony with tiles laid in diagonal stripes, looking out into that infinite blue until I am suspended in it. Below me, a sailing boat cuts across the bay, its wake drawing a straight white line through the water. Above me, a gull hangs steadily for a moment, then soars away into the sky. Borne on the wind, light as air. Gio Ponti is everywhere.
With Italy on my mind, I’d like to feature a gorgeous interior because well, we need a little more beauty in our lives. Presenting Vincenzo De Cotiis villa, Pietrasanta – Tuscany, Italy I love the idea of Old is New Again. I also believe that when we experience global disasters such as the current pandemic, we learn to appreciate history even more – especially Italy.
When we are forced to look at humanity from a wider perspective, we see the beauty of the human endeavor. The work and effort, the talent and skill, the appreciation of beauty, and the value of cooperation. Saving what is valuable and beautiful to us becomes even more important than before.
Milan-based Vincenzo De Cotiisrenovated this beautiful villa for himself and his wife and business partner.
He has overhauled the 5,500-square-foot (510-square-metre) early 18th-century villa in Pietrasanta by the sea in Tuscany, in a grandiose but understated, elegantly distressed minimalist style that is often evident in his palazzo renovations.
This particular palazzo was built by a local painter, Antonio Digerini, who died in 1889, but it has served many purposes over the centuries including being a cloister and a hotel.
I love the exposed patina of the walls and ceiling beams, the minimalist emptiness of the rooms and the lack of unnecessary objects. The color palette is also beautifully muted with soft hints of cold greens and warmer brick-tones.
In several spaces, the texture and tone of the patina of the original walls and ceilings is replicated in dyed, gessoed and sanded Belgian linen used for parts of the walls and ceilings. Most of the marble is local as the area is famous for its marble quarries.
Many of the furnishings and art are of De Cotiis’s own creation and design and although their vibe is futuristic and even slightly brutalist, they fit seamlessly with the villa’s cold-cool ambiance. The balance exudes a sense of calm but in an eerily powerful way. It isn’t cozy or comfortable overall, yet it is inviting and interesting for those of us who love his style.
De Cotiis doesn’t promise to create an environment in a style any client might want. But you can’t help but respect his boldness.
All’Arco by Tommaso Giunchi + Atelierzero All’Arco is a minimal 19th-century apartment located in Milan, Italy, designed by Atelierzero + Tommaso Giunchi. The main goal was the creation of an apartment in which a contemporary approach could fit within the unique soul of the original space. The internal distribution has undergone some changes to meet the needs of the new tenants, a couple with two children, who often love to host friends and family at home. The dining room and the living room, initially divided by an internal wall, have been united, creating a single vast space, defined by calm green light color.
The prominent feature of the apartment is its long hallway, a large distribution space that connects the living and sleeping areas, creating fascinating perspectives throughout the space. Here, the original and diverse floors have been removed and replaced with a continuous surface of contemporary cement tiles, which, referring to the traditional Milanese ones, give a touch of contemporaneity thanks to their geometric design. The main bathroom has undergone the most important renovation, combining travertine details with Moroccan design tiles, which juxtapose the flooring of the corridor.
The existing most defining design elements, such as wooden doors and their decorative details, classic stucco ceilings, and elegant wooden floors, have been maintained, offering a counterpart to the contemporary materials, finishes, and colors of the project. Besides allowing a sense of continuity to the renovation process, this also provides contrast with the juxtaposed new elements.
Will somebody please drop me off in this place and let me stay for awhile? It is gorgeous! Who really cares where it is but for those who do…at the heel of the Italian peninsula lies Puglia, a region best known for its Tuscan cuisine as well as its arid, rustic landscape on which a splendid display of whitewashed towns and villages highlights the scenery. The area produces much of the country’s wine, olive oil, produce, and wheat used to make pasta. The cuisine alone is enough to make me want to go. In the north, the mountainous terrain of Gargano greets the Adriatic with dramatic white cliffs overlooking azure waters, and as you travel down the coast, the view transforms into sand pebble beaches mingling between ancient farmland. At the southern tip lies the beautiful town of Lecce, known as “Florence of the South” for the splendor and profusion of its baroque architecture from the 17th Century. TAKE ME THERE!
Just came back from seeing The Great Beauty.
It’s full of surreal wanderings, humorous with
touches of satire and melancholy and the
splendors of Rome?… absolutely gorgeous.
I couldn’t stop goggling at his apartment
overlooking the Colosseum. I want to live there.
See this movie if you have the chance.