ceud míle fáilte

a hundred thousand welcomes

Sunday, 27 April 2008

I is for...


Montepulciano Vecchio

I had the fortunate luck of being able to sing my way through Tuscany and Umbria a few years back and it was the experience of a lifetime. Okay, so I was officially 'working' but was armed with my camera and was ready for any photographic opportunity that fell my way. And there were plenty - I took around 400 photos altogether (thank the stars for digital cards!) and this wee letter for the ABC-Along has been both a pleasure and insanely difficult to choose piccies for! I suspect that this may be a long post! Maybe you should go and grab a coffee... and some cake!

Montepulciano is an ancient hill-top town (one of MANY) famed for, amongst other things, the marvellous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. You've never tasted anything like it in your LIFE!! I'm not a wine aficionado but this was nectar for Bacchus himself!

Actually, Montepulciano was one place that benefited from me not singing there, as our first concert was in fact in Florence.

Campanile di Giotto in Firenze

We made it to Florence around 4pm on the day of the concert, but after rehearsals in a wonderful little church in the Via del Corso, I was too late to get inside the Duomo. I did take *several* pictures of the bell tower (above); the cathedral exterior; and the marvellous Baptistry, the bronze-panelled doors of which were supposed to have inspired the young Michaelangelo onto new and dizzying heights of sculpturific grandeur!

Battistero di San Giovanni. Door panels by
Lorenzo Ghiberti and finished in 1422

The next concert was in the Chiesa di Santa Giuliana in Perugia, which is now a military hospital. I have to admit that our be-uniformed hosts were almost as ravishing to look at as the 13th and 14th century frescoes that adorned the church... But we weren't allowed to take photos of the soldiers, (and boy, was security tight!) so a fresco pic will have to suffice!

Frescoes attributed to, amongst others, Matteo di Giovannello

After Perugia came Arezzo, famous (for me at least) as being the birthplace of Guido Monaco d'Arezzo, a medieval musical theorist who is believed to have invented modern musical notation (staff notation and solfeggio - the forerunner of the doh-re-mi scale).

(Here was born and lived Guido Monaco)

Our final concert was in Siena. I fell in love with this town - for me it was a place of wonder, beauty and inspiration. I took over 150 photos here alone, so please indulge me if I add more than one here...

Piazza del Campo with the Palazzo Publica and the Torre del Mangia

I loved wandering around the medieval town with its little streets and treasures that lay around every corner. I found this (below) in a tiny courtyard open to the public. I don't know it's name, what street it was in, or who the artist was, but it was quite stunning.

After wandering around I finally came across the famous Siena Duomo, said by some to resemble a black and white liquorice allsort! NO NO NO!

Interior of Siena Duomo

Sadly, you weren't allowed to use flash photography or use tripods here, so the quality isn't 100% but if you do nothing else with this post, you must click on the photo above - there's soooo much to see! So much colour! The Nave at the back; the angels on the arch supports; the busts of the Popes from Saint Peter to Lucius III arranged along the top of the pillars; the ceiling sky of golden stars on a deep blue background... I spent a total of 4 hours in here between rehearsals and the concert. Can you tell I was in love?

Moving down through the cathedral you arrived underneath the dome.


I thought I'd seen pretty much everything when I 'discovered' a doorway that led to what was called the 'Piccolomini Library' and I walked through and promptly halted in my tracks. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I still remember the shock, the surprise and feeling of awe that struck me being presented with such beauty and artistry. Okay, it sounds over-the-top, but I almost cried when I entered the room. The walls were covered in frescoes depicting the life of Silvio Aeneas Piccolomini (who became Pope Pius II); the ceiling was alive with panels of gilt-inlaid mythical subjects by Pinturicchio and in glass cases dotted around the room were some of the finest examples of Psalter illumination that I have ever seen. The lady who was the guide for the library must have heard me gasp or something (I don't think I blasphemed) and gave me an indulgent smile - she was obviously used to the reaction!

I've already posted a photo of the whole ceiling (C is for...!) but here's one in detail:

I was particularly taken with one of the wall panels showing 'Enea Silvio at the Scottish Court'. I knew that there was an important Papal ambassador at the court of James the First
in 1435 (my Dad was a history teacher specialising in Scottish history!) but it was lovely to make the connection between that knowledge and this amazing library! I particularly like the non-Scottish scenery and the depiction of James the First as a very old man. (James was 41 in 1435 - not decrepit even in those days!)

Viva Scotia!

Lastly I'll leave you with one of the fine examples of the Psalter illuminations. They were all stunning, needless-to-say!

(musical notation thanks to Guido d'Arezzo!)

And now I want to go BAAAAACK!!


  1. Iron Needles said...
    I so enjoyed reading your post. Your excitement about this place came through so clearly. I am envious of you a bit, I must admit!
    sloth-knits said...
    What wonderful photos! Three of Ghiberti's panels from the baptistry door have been touring the US after being cleaned and restored. I saw the exhibition a month or two ago at the Seattle Art Museum, and the panels (as well as the restoration project) were incredible.
    Andy Baker said...
    Great photos of Italy! Looks like a great trip. I posted on Italy for I as well, but mine was exclusively Rome. It's a great place to take pictures. I know exactly what you mean about the digital cards. But I always take along the computer to dump them in the evening. Your commentary is also very nice.

Post a Comment


blogger templates | Make Money Online