ITALY, May 2009

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

In May we drove down to Italy and visited some cities in this beautiful country. In Sep.2008 we undertook a somilar trip, but on this occasion we visited different cities.

Click on the thumbnail images to view a larger image

On The Road Again
When the Alps come in plain view, you know things are definitely under way... The scenery and architecture (note that church) is clearly different from what we have at home, but changes in Mother Nature's architecture really drives home that festive mood of crossing borders, going places!

Heading for the Mountains
Tunnels in shapes and sizes in Austria
Going through the Mountains!
Seconds before entering the Felbertauerntunnel


Mittewald is where one finds this lovely church


I think we saw this castle near Sillian, Austria. Note that parasailer overhead.

The Border
Without any change of scenery, we suddenly arrived at the Italian border.

Lago di Landro
Lago di Landro
We continued on the 'Felber-tauern Strasse' in East Tirol (Italy), taking our directions away from the main highways. We noticed people on mountain bikes were out in full force. And motorcycles too.
With the sun shining down on us and the mountains around us still wearing a remarkable amount of snow, it was bliss driving this route.
We stopped at the Lago di Landro, a beautiful little lake. That photo showing the motorcycle was taken from the exact same spot as the photo on the right: you'll understand why nobody was seen swimming in that lake!

Heading south for Padova, we found little in terms of services on the autostrada. So we took an exit, quite randomly, and ended up in 'deserted' Castellavazzo. But we did find a restaurant here open for refreshments and I rediscovered my liking for cold Lemon Soda's!
However, I don't think I will ever get used to those primitive toilets they have here in Italy, very third-world-like in my opinion. Sorry, no photos to illustrate this further!

Padova We arrived in Padova (a.k.a. Padua, Wikipedia) by the end of the afternoon. We found lodgings at the Casa del Pellegrino, which is in fact on the doorstep of the Basilica di Sant'Antonio and nearby the Botanical Garden of the University.
We did not visit the Basilica as all kind of procedures regarding handbaggage, photography, etc spoiled our appetite for this.

The photos immediately above and below, the sun dial, were taken by me during a random ramble. This stop at Padova was basically to get an impression (sorry, not as nice as Bologna..) for deciding on a future visit.

Sun dial

Duomo di Padova..

The Padua Cathedral; it is the third edifice built in the same site. The first one was erected after the Edict of Milan in 313 and destroyed by an earthquake on January 3, 1117.
I could not visit it, probably because it was sunday and in use. The cathedral is closed in by houses, loosing some of its grandeur.
Party time!

At the Palazzo della Ragione (Piazza delle Erbe?) people were making music, the little girl obviously enjoying the rythm!
Street artists entertained the public with their antics. A lively scene I gladly investigate further on a future visit.

Bailica d'Antonio

The most famous of the Paduan churches is the Basilica di Sant'Antonio da Padova, locally simply known as "Il Santo". The bones of the saint rest in a chapel richly ornamented with carved marbles, the work of various artists, among them Sansovino and Falconetto. The basilica was begun about the year 1230 and completed in the following century. Tradition says that the building was designed by Nicola Pisano. It is covered by seven cupolas, two of them pyramidal. There are also four beautiful cloisters to visit. Sant'Antonio is treated as Vatican territory. [Wikipedia]

Botanical Garden

The Orto Botanico di Padova is the world's oldest academic botanical garden which is still in its original location. (Officially, the oldest university botanical garden is the Orto botanico di Pisa, which was founded in 1544; however, that garden was relocated twice and has only occupied its current, and now-permanent, location since 1591.)
It was founded in 1545. The garden, affiliated with the University of Padua, currently covers roughly 22,000 square meters, and is known for its special collections and historical design.
A circular wall enclosure was built to protect the garden from the frequent night thefts which occurred in spite of severe penalties (fines, prison, exile!). The Botanical Garden was steadily enriched with plants from all over the world, particularly from the countries that participated in trade with Venice.
In 1997, it was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. [Wikipedia]
Sun dial


Next: VENICE ! Venice, Italy
The Rialto Bridge and a gondola.... so Venezia...! See my webpage on this visit HERE...


Next stop: Ferrara.
Ferrara is a city in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy; it is the capital of the Province of Ferrara.
The town has broad streets and numerous palaces dating from the 14th century and 15th century, when it hosted the court of the house of Este. For its beauty and cultural importance it has been qualified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
During the reign of Ercole I, one of the most significant patrons of the arts in late 15th and early 16th century Italy after the Medici, Ferrara grew into a cultural center, renowned for music as well as for visual arts.
Alfonso I, son of Ercole, was an important patron of the arts; his preference for instrumental music resulted in Ferrara becoming an important center of composition for the lute.
Alfonso married the notorious Lucrezia Borgia, and continued the war with Venice with success.
Our interests, during this brief visit, were the castle and the cathedral. And a place to have lunch..
First we parked the car and followed the medieval wall surrounding the old city.
Medieval city wall


Castle Estense in the distance (two towers), seen from the large square where one finds the Cathedral too.


Left: Basilica Cattedrale di San Giorgio, the Ferrara Cathedral. It is located in the city centre, not far from the Palazzo Comunale and the famous Castello Estense and is connected to the Archbishop's Palace by a covered passage.
Construction of the basilica was started in the 12th century. [Wikipedia]

Decoration on what I think is an extention of the Castle Estense (Palazzo Estense?)

Decoration on what I think is an extention of the Castle Estense (Palazzo Estense?)



Fortunately there are other photo opportunities too, to avoid this report to be limited to classical buildings!


However, one should have a look inside this cathedral. We were just in time: I always forget the hours everybody close shop in Italy (around 13:00 - 15:30) including churches!



The pink/white marble tower of the cathedral, thought to be the work of Leon Battista Alberti, was never finished.
The side of the cathedral has small shops.

The Castello Estense, in the centre of the town, a huge brick building surrounded by a moat, with 4 towers. It was built after 1385 and partly restored in 1554.
I like the moatbridge, very medieval.

Left: On the left of this image one sees a statue of Savonarola, a remarkable person. His history should be read in the context of that day and age, see further below.


Savonarola Girolamo Savonarola (September 21, 1452 – May 23, 1498), was an Italian Dominican priest and leader of Florence from 1494 until his execution in 1498. He was known for his book burning, destruction of what he considered immoral art, and hostility to the Renaissance. He vehemently preached against the moral corruption of much of the clergy at the time, and his main opponent was Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia).
In 1497, he and his followers carried out the Bonfire of the Vanities. They sent boys from door to door collecting items associated with moral laxity: mirrors, cosmetics, lewd pictures, pagan books, immoral sculptures (which he wanted to be transformed into statues of the saints and modest depictions of biblical scenes), gaming tables, chess pieces, lutes and other musical instruments, fine dresses, women’s hats, and the works of immoral and ancient poets, and burnt them all in a large pile in the Piazza della Signoria of Florence...
On May 13, 1497, the rigorous Father Savonarola was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI, and in 1498, Alexander demanded his arrest and execution. Savonarola was faced with charges such as heresy, uttering prophecies, sedition, and other crimes, called religious errors by the Borgia pope.
Savonarola was tortured on the rack, the torturers sparing only Savonarola’s right arm in order that he might be able to sign his confession!
On the day of his execution he was taken out to the Piazza della Signoria along with Fra Silvestro and Fra Domenico da Pescia. The three were ritually stripped of their clerical vestments, degraded as "heretics and schismatics", and given over to the secular authorities to be burned. The three were hanged in chains from a single cross and an enormous fire was lit beneath them... They were thereby executed in the same place where the "Bonfire of the Vanities" had been lit, and in the same manner that Savonarola had condemned other criminals himself during his own reign in Florence.



The Lonely Planet recommended this restaurant and we were desperately seeking a place to take the load of our feet and get in the shade, out of that burning midday sun!


'Birra Rosso' or 'Scottish Beer' (Irish more like!), ohhh so lovely!!!
The Italians become a little more international !

Lovely too!



We arrive at our destination: BOLOGNA.
First we have a look again (see also my 2008 report) at the Piazza Maggiore. Artists play music, 'young and old' enjoy their work.


Due Torre

11th century panorama Bologna

After one has had a look at Piazza Maggiore, one simply has to have look at Due Torre! Some forty of these towers survive, some leaning at an obvious angle. The above photo (source) shows the 11th century panorama of Bologna. The towers were for defense of the city but also a matter of prestige between families. [Wikipedia]




This shop featured an immense selection of the most wonderful & tasty icecream on this earth!!


For those who desire a more hearty taste.. sausages!


San Pietro the cathedral ('Duomo').
Its origins date back to the 10th century, but it was rebuilt after a terrible fire in 1141. Nevertheless, the original Romanesque-Gothic layout underwent a profound transformation in the 17th and 18th centuries, which gave it its current Baroque appearance. The interior is home to a lot of interesting artwork, including the Annuciazione by Lodovico Carracci (1619) on the high altar and the frescoes in the rectory and apse. The Cathedral Treasure, is also worth visiting, a extensive collection of furnishings and religious objects of a great artistic value, from the 15th to 20th centuries.

We had arrived here the day before Ascension Day and a considerable crowd had gathered.

BOLOGNA is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains.
Bologna is home to the oldest university in the Western world, "University of Bologna", founded in 1088.
It was founded by the Etruscans with the name Velzna—Latinised as Felsina—(c.534 BCE) in an area previously inhabited by the Villanovians, a people of farmers and shepherds.
After a long decline, Bologna was reborn in the fifth century under bishop Petronius, who traditionally built the church of S. Stefano.
In 1256, Bologna promulgated the Legge del Paradiso ("Paradise Law"), which abolished feudal serfdom and freed the slaves, using public money. At that time the city centre was full of towers (perhaps 180), built by the leading families, notable public edifices, churches, and abbeys. In 1294, Bologna was perhaps the fifth or sixth largest city in Europe. In 1348, during the Black Plague, about 30,000 inhabitants died.
During the 16th-18th century, the city's prosperity continued, although a plague at the end of the sixteenth century reduced the population from 72,000 to 59,000, and another in 1630 to 47,000. The population later recovered to a stable 60,000-65,000.
During World War II, Bologna was a key transportation hub for the Germans.
On August 2, 1980, a massive bomb killed 86 people in the central train station in the city (see Bologna massacre). Only two months previously, Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 had crashed under suspicious circumstances.


Another church we visited was the Chiesa di San Martino, which was founded in 1217 and rebuilt during the first half of the 14th century. The façade was however added much later, in 1879.

In 2008 we also had visited this church, more photos HERE...


A cool pig!
I noticed this cool pig...


We were shown inside the library, Biblioteca Salia Borsa on the Piazza Nettuno. You can see what they have done to make the medieval foundations visible!
Smart seats!


Meanwhile, outside there is plenty to enjoy too... Like these neglected frescoes or the filming that was being done on the Piazza Verdi.
Irish Bar in Bologna
Or enjoy an excellent pint of Guinness in the Irish Bar 'Cluricaune'


Albergo Centrale - Bologna We had a wonderful stay in the Albergo Centrale Hotel, which is located very near to the Piazza Maggiore. This hotel offers a nice level of accommodation including airconditioning and an excellent breakfast.
Albergo Centrale

Bologna city map

Bologna's porticoes offer 40 kilometers of covered walkways, to discover and enjoy. It is said you don't need an umbrella in this town as you'll find your way by the porticoes, sheltered from the rain!
Porticoes are the arteries of the city, people hurry along or they may be deserted and you can enjoy the play of light.
In Bologna's old city you'll see porticoes or marvelous arches built over centuries, from 1200 to 1900; all the styles and decorations, to ramble or roam at your leisure.

We were advised to visit the Santo Stefano Church in Bologna. It is a complex of religious edifices in the city and locally known as Sette Chiese ('Seven Churches'). It proofed to be excellent advise!

According to tradition, it was built by Saint Petronius, who was bishop of the city during the 5th century, over a temple of the goddess Isis.
The church of St. John the Baptist (or of the Holy Crucifix) dates from the 8th century, while that of the Holy Sepulchre from the 5th (renovated in the 12th century), as well as that of San Vitale ed Agricola (renovated in the 8th and 11th centuries). A 13th century portico known as "Pilatus' court" connects the other buildings to the church of the Holy Trinity (13th century).
It is absolutely fascinating to step from one church into another, across centuries, and then find oneself in an open area or dimly lit hallway also exuding history, half expecting the medieval walls to murmur their mystic tales, releasing hidden details of secrets, pain, plots or ploys..



Another pint or two in the Irish Bar 'Cluricaune', located in the Via Zamboni, near the Piazza Verdi, in the heart of the student district.
Bologna, una città molto bella !!!