I am back from Italy!

I actually got back on Sunday evening but just got the time to update pictures in Facebook and Instagram. I am also in the middle of writing blog posts about Bologna Children’s Book Fair and Italy soon to be published here.

Italy trip was great and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. In the mean time, here’s a picture of Archidosso village that I visited in Italy.

arci

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Art & Places: Fontana del Pincio, Montagnola Park, Bologna, Italy

When I walked aimlessly along Via Dell’ Iindependenza from the Bologna Centrale (after I got myself lost in Firenze), I saw this beautiful steps with a fountain that leads to a park. I did not know what park it was because I just went where my feet took me. Only after I went home, I learned about the name of the park:  Montagnola Park or Parco della Montagnola. The fountain is called Fontana del Pincio.

 

The fountain depicts a nymph on the back of a sea horse, both struggling against the embrace of an octopus in a big seashell. These elements are positioned in a lunette (semi-circle shaped space) with floral motifs. On the centre of the lunette, there is a mascaroni, or decorative keystone of a lion holding two shields that merged into one, which is actually Bologna’s state emblem. The lion’s head depicts a lion donated by Marquis Obizzo d’Este to the commune in 1293.

Looking at the sea nymph and the seashell, it reminded me of Boticelli’s painting ‘Birth of Venus’, you know the one standing on a seashell with no clothes on just her hair covering her private part. The elements of nymph, horse, seashell were among mythical elements commonly used during Early Florentine Renaissance period.

The fountain was sculpted by Diego Sarti and Pietro Veronesi in 1896, both were masters graduated from Academy of Fine Arts, Bologna. They also sculpted two bas-reliefs on both sides of the sculpture dedicated to the University of Bologna (Colombarini) and the free city (Sabbioni). The impressive staircase access to Montagnola Park was designed by Tito Azzolini and Attilio Muggia in 1892. The steps of the Pincio is equipped with 72 metal candelabra with six or four lamps.

Me standing at Parco Della Montagnola. Self-portrait, Nikon D40X with the help of a tripod and wireless remote control. Bologna, Marzo 2010

Information credit: http://www.bibliotecasalaborsa.ithttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bologna

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Art & Places: Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, Venice, Italy

When I visited Venice, I saw this one huge monument and it says “I. MAGGIO MDCCCLXXXVII”. I can only read the last 6 Roman numbers (37) but not sure about the rest. So, I Google-d.

From my research on the Internet, in Roman numerals, MDCCCL means M=1000, D=500, C=100 (CCC = 100 x 3); L=50. It sums up to 1850. 1850 + 37 = 1887. So, the Roman letterings I.Maggio MDCCCLXXXVII means 1 May 1887. Must be a year of significant for Venice, or Italy in general.

So what happened in May 1887? And why does a monument bears the date?

Well, a lot of things happened in Italy in May 1887 and one that relates to the statue was an inauguration date. The monument above was inaugurated in May 1st, 1887. The monument was made to honour Vittorio Emmanuele II, the first king of a United Italy. It is located on the Riva degli Schiavoni waterfront in the Castello district of Venice (Venezia), Italy. There are several of them in other cities in Italy.

The bronze equestrian monument is 125 years old and was sculpted by Ettore Ferrari. Ferrari was born to an artistic family. He was a professor at the Accademia di San Luca, a deputy in the Italian Parliament and Grand Master of the Grande Oriente d’Italia. He sculpted many other statues around Italy.

Now, knowing a history behind a monument or statue, or better known as public art, is more significant. Although I could not gather the information during my visit to Venice, I am glad I took pictures and made the effort to find the history of this monument. Here are more pictures of the monument.


 Credit: most informations are from Wikipedia.org.

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Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Italy

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is the most important international event dedicated to the children’s publishing and multimedia industry.


This book fair is strictly for professionals and closed to the general public. However, among the many categories of exhibitors admitted, illustrators are certainly welcome! In 2010, with the sponsorship of my book publisher, I got to visit the fair. Being an illustrator myself, I quickly feel belonged. It is such amazing to see children’s books everywhere. There must’ve been millions of books! Great works from great illustrators from around the world were all there.

One thing that I observed here, illustrators brought their portfolios and approached publishers to show their works. Some even brought mock-up books of what they have written and illustrated. I am very amazed at how they promote themselves and the effort they took to wait in a long queue just to have publishers look at their works. This I have yet to see at our local children’s book fair.

And to make it interesting, the organiser have a wall where illustrators can share their artworks. Some put up their postcards and some put up a box with flyers and namecards. I managed to grab some interesting postcards and namecards as keepsakes.

For your information, Bologna Children’s Book Fair has been around for 49 years. Bologna Children’s Book Fair  is an annual event where authors, illustrators, literary agents, licensors and licensees, packagers, distributors, printers, booksellers, and librarians meet. Here they sell and buy copyright, find the very best of children’s publishing and multimedia production, generate and gather new contacts while strengthening professional relationships, discover new business opportunities, discuss and debate the latest sector trends.

I really really had fun visiting the book fair. Hope to visit again next year to stick something on the wall.

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Get lost in Venice

Italy was the first foreign country I visited. I remember how I was so busy getting some illustrations done that I did not have the time to search the Internet for places of interest, let alone to go out and buy a map or book about Italy.

One of the places that I blissfully got lost in, was Venice. The only way to see Venice is by walking. Of course there are gondolas and boats to view Venice from the canals but walking is the best way to explore Venice, even that means it bundles with a guarantee that you will get lost.

The walk from Venice Santa Lucia Train Station, Ferrovia to Piazza San Marco took me more than two hours. Along the way, I took many wrong turns and being alone in a superficial place, I almost cried. Many times I found myself caught in the maze-like lanes and sometimes it seemed like there was no way out. Some of the lanes ended up on someone’s door.

narrow lanes

To handle this situation, I tried to find the crowd and follow them. Eventually, they indirectly helped me arrived at some well-known attractions in Venice.

First well-known place I met was Campo San Polo. Campo San Polo is the largest Campo in Venice, Italy, the second largest Venetian public square. This square was then used as the scene of bullfights, mass sermons and masked balls. It remains to this day as one of the most popular Carnival venues and is also used for open air concerts and screenings during the Venice Film Festival.

campo san polo

Campo San Polo

From Campo San Polo, I followed a sign that says Per Rialto and Per Piazza San Marco.

the way to rialto

Along the way, I came across a Gothic façade. I looked closely and found out that it’s called Chiesa De San Polo, a nineteenth century church that also has a museum of Venetian works.

sestier de san polo

Chiesa De San Polo

After Chiesa De San Polo, I passed another building called Chiesa Di S. Giacomo Apostolo. The Venetians call it the Church of S. Giacometto and is the oldest church in Venice. It was built in 1071 and the 24-hour clock was put up in 1410 and restored in 1749.

chiesa s.giacomo

Chiesa Di S. Giacomo Apostolo

I finally reached Rialto, thanks to the signs.

Rialto

Rialto was the first harbour of Venice and today it is the financial and commercial centre of Venice and is situated in the district of San Polo Sestiere. Rialto is known for its markets and bridge that connects the districts of San Polo and San Marco across the Grand Canal in the heart of the city is the Rialto Bridge. This bridge has always been a busy crossing in Venice. But instead of being crowded with merchants like during Venice’s heyday, the bridge is now swamped by tourists. Well, I added to the statistic last year. Who wouldn’t want to snap a photo by this bridge? I was doing a favour for another tourist and later she offered to take my photo with my camera. How could I resist such temptation as all my photos were missing ME. Haha.

me at rialto bridge

After buying some gifts from Rialto Market, I walked on with the crowd and finally reached Piazza San Marco, the principal public square in Venice. The Piazza is dominated at its eastern end by the great St Mark’s Basilica. The west façade of the basilica is decorated with great arches and marble decorations,  Romanesque carvings round the central doorway and, above all, the four horses which preside over the piazza and are such potent symbols of the pride and power of Venice.

st mark's basilica

St’ Mark’s basilica west façade.

After that, I was just wandering aimlessly along the piazetta and took a picture of me using remote control and tripod, near the jetty. There are many attractions along the piazetta  which includes Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Campanile, Hard Rock Cafe and many more.

me at piazetta

Me smiling to my camera.

The Doge’s Palace is a gothic palace in Venice, Italy. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice. The Doge’s Palace, Venice, has façade which dated from 1309-1424, designed by Giovanni and Bartolomeo Buon.

Doge's Palace

Anyway, after taking many photos, I realised that it was already 4pm. I quickly walked to find the way I came only to be lost again in the mazes-like lanes, which seemed to become more narrower.

where am I?

I managed to find my way back to the jetty after making few rounds at the same area. I took a ride on the ferry to save time as I had to catch the train back to Bologna which would take me 2 hours to reach. By 6pm, Bologna would already be dark.

venice view from the ferry

 

The ferry ride from St. Mark’s Basin to Santa Lucia Station was great as I get to experience the ride through Grand Canal. The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which dated back to 13th to the 18th century and demonstrate the welfare and art created by the Republic of Venice.

Grand Canal, Venice

Although I got lost, I cherished every moment of my walking experience in Venice and would always look at my photo albums just to feel the feeling I had back there.

If you are up to it, do not bring any map or GPS. Just go with the flow and enjoy Venice! Don’t forget to take a lot of pictures and take note the name of buildings or vias.

 

 

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Italy Travel Tips

Italy is such a beautiful country and to be able to enjoy it you must plan your trip carefully. You must know what you should have in hands and what you should know about the country. I learned it the hard way as I was not prepared. So here are some Italy travel tips based on my experience that I would like to share with you. It might not be as concise but I hope it helps you plan your trip.

 

Get a Travel Italy Guidebook

I did a mistake that no one should. I didn’t have anything on me about Italy not even a map. And for that I had tough time finding my way around. Get a travel book/guide on Italy and make sure you buy one with information such as maps of cities and accompanying metros (subways). Also, many travel guidebooks offer advice on where to go, how to get there and what to do when you arrive.

 

Learn the Language

Without some basic knowledge of Italian, you may find simple tasks cumbersome and frustrating.

 

Pack light

Ideally a carry on bag should be sufficient. If you can’t carry your own bags on and off trains and up and down stairs (not all hotels or B&Bs have elevators), you will have problems as porters are not common particularly on trains. I had tough time carrying two luggage up and down the stairs of train stations.

 

Money

Do carry some Euro money. Taxis from airports hardly take money in other currencies, so you may face problems, if you’re not carrying Euro change. Nevertheless, almost all major stations and airports in Italy possess the facility for foreign exchange.

 

Stamp your train tickets

Do not forget to stamp your train/bus ticket or else you will have to get down when the inspector get on board. You’ll stamp your ticket by aligning an arrows labeled “convalida” with the slot provided and pushing until you hear the mechanical whine of the stamp. Then you’re set to board your train/bus. I was lucky that I did not get thrown out of the train, the ticket inspector did warned me to not forget to validate.

 

 

Hotel tariffs

Be mindful that during the peak holiday season or in conjunction with international events, you’ll be faced with more expensive hotel tariffs as Italian holiday-makers and international tourists compete for accommodation. I found out that my publisher had to pay 50% higher than the normal tariffs for our rooms during the International Children’s Book Fair.

 

Don’t walk alone

Walk away when approached by strange men. I had an experience being approached by two men (in Rome) who claimed they were the police. I managed to get away. I did however, walk alone safely on other occasions.

 

Taxi fare

A taxi fare from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport into the central city costs more than 6o Euro and a Leonardo Express train trip are 5 times cheaper. So take the train, if you can.

 

Travelling to Florence

If you are going to Florence using EuroStar, then you have no problem reaching at the right station,which is Florence Santa Maria Novella. If you take the cheaper intercity train, you have to get down at Firenze Rifredi (or Florence Rifredi) and take another train to Florence SMN.

 

 

That is all I can think right now. Have a safe trip and have fun if you’re going Italy!

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