Saturday, October 29, 2011

Italian Beer Series: San Gabriel "Birral della Scala" (Busco di Ponte di Piave)

Founded in 1997, San Gabriel is a brewery located near Treviso that is committed to the "purity" of the Reinheitsgebot and the greatness of the products of the Veneto.  Following the basic Bavarian recipe, the company sources much of their barley and hops from local producers, and they take great pride with their local source of water.  However, they also produce seasonal beers from local products that are definitely not kosher with the Bavarians:  figs, radicchio, and chestnuts from Treviso; yellow peppers from Zero Bianco; rice from Isola della Scala.  Despite their professed adherence to the Bavarian law, this brewery is, in the end, an Italian type through and through.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cinque Terre's Unlucky Month

Only a little more than a week ago, Cinque Terre was engulfed in fire.  Now, the torrential rains that hit Northern Italy threaten to drive the whole place into the sea.  "Monterosso no longer exists" may be a bit of a dramatic flair in part of the town's mayor, but the exaggeration may not be too far from the truth.  Here, too, are other pictures of the town.  I have visited Cinque Terre three times before, and was planning on visiting again during the sleepy winter.  It has always represented to me that Italian heaven everyone dreams of, and that Italian heaven that has become, finally, a reality for me.  One of my most cherished memories is hiking from Monterosso to Riomaggiore and seeing Vernazza for the first time and being amazed at the tenacity of those people who dared to build not only a village at what seems to be the end of the world, but create beauty out of a seemingly impossible enivronment.  Alas, I may not be back for this winter at all, for I'm sure the trails, the roads and possibly the railroad tracks will be blocked for weeks if not months.  Hopefully it comes back to life, and soon...

EDIT:  Here is a link to instructions on how to donate to rebuild Cinque Terre.  A worthy cause, and a much needed help, considering Italy's current financial situation. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Although a mere 30-minute drive from Vicenza, Padova to me was mainly Ikea, Decathlon, and a couple of Indian restaurants.  I visited the city center more than two years ago, but it was at the hieght of summer, and the town mostly seemed large and quiet to me and nothing else.  In addition, the overabundance of industrial areas and modern buildings that ring the city center made it look like a large and important city, but definitely one that made it comparable to say, Baltimore.   Being the closest "big" city to my apartment, it was a place to run errands and nothing more.  But on my second visit to the city center, armed with a better understanding of Padova, I was able to really appreciate the wealth of heritage the city has to offer. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Villas of the Veneto: Villa Cordellina Lombardi (Montecchio Maggiore)

Villa Cordellina Lombardi in Montecchio Maggiore is possibly one of the most elegant villas in the Vicenza area, an obviously baroque homage to Palladio's neoclassicism, introduced a little more than two hundred years before this villa's construction.  It has all of Palladio's symmetry, if not Palladio's concern for the totality of the building.  (The back and sides are a little ho-hum.)  However, just like Villa Valmarana ai Nani, the architecture is not the highlight of this villa, but the colorful, swirling frescoes by Tiepolo to be found inside.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

Palladian Villas Mapped

If you're like me, you are probably very excited to be in such close proximity to great architecture in Vicenza, but are always completely frustrated by the research involved in even trying to figure out where these villas are in Vicenza's countryside.  There are many Palladian villas in Vicenza, let alone the Veneto, and most of them are surprisingly hard to find despite their importance in the world of architecture.  A lot of times, an afternoon spent "villa-hopping" (such an exciting word, for such an inherently mundane task...i.e., looking at people's houses) quickly devolves into villa-hunting, and not villa-finding.

With this in mind, I decided to map all of Palladio's villas in the Veneto and especially in the immediate Vicenza area to make the hunt for them more enjoyable and less frustrating.  As you can see, some of these villas stretch out the all corners of the Veneto, occupying even the smallest little towns and frazione imaginable.  Hopefully all the efforts help you in your quest to understand Palladio's style and influence through his works.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Italian Beer Series: Birrificio Artigianale Scaligero Mastino II "Beatrice" (Mezzane di Sotto)

Birrificio Artigianale Scaligero Mastino II (really long name! BASM in short...) is a Veronese brewery specializing in classic, traditional recipes from Britain, Germany, and Belgium.  Seemingly characteristic of the many breweries located in the Veneto and in opposition to the breweries of Lombardy and Piemonte, BASM does not try to fiddle around too much with the classics.  Whereas breweries in Milan and Torino may add grapes and fruits to their beer, BASM keeps it simple by adhering to the basic ingredients: malt, yeast, hops, and water.  This may or may not be as a result of the brewery's relative inexperience--it is just under three years old, previously specializing in providing the equipment fo commercial brewing--but their relatively simple approach nevertheless produces well-tasting brews.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Leather in Florence

Other than its beauty and its art, leather seems to be Florence's main tourist attraction.  Every street and ever piazza contains at least a few leather shops, selling nice jackets, bags, belts, and whatever else that can consist of leather.