Exploring the Splendour of Italy Part 2 (回味義大利 part 2)

San Gimignano was founded as a small village in the 3rd century BC by the Etruscans.

It was a stopping point for Catholic pilgrims on their way to Rome and the Vatican during the Middle Ages and Renaissance period. The city’s development was greatly improved by the trade of agricultural products from the neighboring hills. Although the city declared itself independent in year 1199, it suffered a great loss in economy and had to submit to Florence in year 1348 due to the Black Death that had outbreaks in many European cities.

Florence is known for its history and importance in the Middle Ages and Renaissance era because of its art and architecture. Since it had been a trading center in Europe, it was one of the wealthiest cities during that time.

Not only the city is picturesque and full of romantic atmosphere, its artistic, history, and cultural heritages remain highly praised to now. It has made major steps in music, architecture, education, cuisine, fashion, philosophy, science, and religion in Europe.

“David” is a masterpiece created by the Italian artist, Michelangelo, between 1501 to 1504. It’s a sculpture of a standing nude male that’s a bit over 5 meters.  This marble statue represents the Biblical hero, David.

The one taken in the photo is actually a replica displayed in the Piazza della Signoria. There’s another replica standing on the hills in Oltrarno, and the original is exhibited in Accademia Gallery.

Everybody who goes to Florence cannot leave without a visit to The Uffizi Gallery! It’s one of the oldest and most famous art museums. It’s housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi. Some sculptures are displayed outside The Uffizi Gallery.

Building of The Uffizi Gallery was originally a palace constructed by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for Cosimo I de’ Medici as the offices for the Florentine magistrates, thus the name “uffizi” just means “offices.”

Over the years, some space of the palace became a display place for many paintings and sculptures collected by the Medici family or those commissioned by them. Famous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo sometimes gathered at the Uffizi.

The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge spans the Arno River at its narrowest point. It still has shops built along it as before. In order to connect the Palazzo Vacchio with the Palazzo Pitti, Cosimo I de Medici had Giorgio Vasari build the famous “Vasari Corridor” above the bridge in year 1565. The house of Medici was originally apothecaries who came to great wealth and power by connecting to other elite families through strategic marriage, partnerships, or employment. A member in Medici family, Catherine de Medici, later became the queen consort as the wife of King Henry II of France, and she would have to face her rival–Dianne de Poitiers, who’s King Henry II’s mistress and resulted the “tale of 2 castles.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence Cathedral, is located in Piazza del Duomo. It’s built from 1296 and completed in 1436.

Bacilica di Santa Croce, Basilica of the Holy Cross is standing in the Piazza di Santa Croce, about 800 meters south-east of the Florence Cathedral.

Siena was first settled in the time of the Etruscans, and is famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape, and the palio. This place was a major stage set for the movie–Letters to Juliet which I enjoyed watching and ruminating my trip to here.

Until today, Siena attracts tourists for it’s picturesque sceneries and those who have fondness for humanist disciplines. The University of Siena, founded in 1240, is famed for its faculties of law and medicine.

Duomo di Siena, the Cathedral of Siena, was built in the 12th century. It’s one of the significant representations of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architectures.

Palio horse race is also an important event in Siena. The race is held every year in Piazza del Campo, which is a shell-shaped town square. This place was used as a background stage for the 007 movie–Quantum of Solace.

According to the legend, Siena was founded by Senius, whose father was Remus. Remus had a twin brother named Romulus, after whom Rome was named. Thus, statues and other artwork depicting a she-wolf suckling the twins can be seen all over Siena.

The first impression I had for Rome was from the black and white movie–Roman Holiday starring the prettiest actress and hunkiest actor in history–Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, in which Audrey Hepburn was a princess who escaped from her restricted life and took a break in Rome where she met the reporter played by Gregory Peck. This romantic story showed several beautiful scenes in Rome and made the “Mouth of Truth” famous. It was a shame that I didn’t get the time to seek it out…

The city of Rome is the capital of Italy and the country’s most populated city. There’s even archaeological evidence of human occupation for at least 14000 years.

The Colosseum in Rome is the largest built in the Roman Empire from early 70’s AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus, but later was further modified during Domitian’s reign. The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as re-actings of famous battles or stories in mythology.

The building was no longer used for entertainment in the early Medieval era but then was reused for housing, workshops, religion, fortress, quarry, and a Christian shrine.

From the movie–Gladiator, it seems that the hollow area under ground (now exposed) were used to cage beasts such as lions and tigers to excite the gladiatorial contests. It was now, however, used by several cats for sunbathing while I visited. 🙂

The Roman Forum is located between the Palatine Hill and the Capitoline Hill. Citizens of the ancient city referred to the location as the “Forum.” It’s part of the centralized area around which the ancient Roman civilization developed.

The Arch of Constantine was erected to commemorate Constantine I’s victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on year 312.

Sant’Angelo Castle is a towering cylindrical building that was commissioned by the Roman Emperor, Hadrian. This building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle in 14th century. It also has a secret passage connecting to Vatican so the pope could escape if necessary. This place is also used as a scene in the movie–“Angels & Demons.” I didn’t go in during this trip, but I was later told that it’s just empty inside?

Fountain of the Four Rivers is located in the Piazza Navona and designed by Gianlorenzo Bernini in 1651. The four gods on the corners of the fountain represent the four major river of the world known at the time: the Nile, Danube, Ganges, and Plate.

Pantheon was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome. Its dome is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, standing almost 26 meters high and 20 meters wide. It’s constructed from 1732 to 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini. A traditional legend states that if a visitor throws a coin into the fountain, he/she is ensured a return to Rome. Though Rome is an enchanting city and surely attracts tourists for multiple visits, I think this romantic legend instead makes a fortune for Rome since numerous tourists have tossed coins into the fountain, including me! When will I to return to Rome? We shall see! 🙂

Vatican is a sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave in Rome. It’s the tiniest country in the world that has an area of only about 0.44 kilometers square.

Inside the Vatican City are some greatest museums in the world as they display works from the immense collection built up by the Roma Catholic church throughout the centuries.

Pope Julius II founded the museums in the 16th century. The Sistine Chapel and the Stanze della Segnatura decorated by Raphael are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums.

I first thought these guards appeared a bit awkward due to their unique uniform, but then I realized that they are real pontifical Swiss guards in Vatican. The organization was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 as the personal bodyguard of the pope and continues to serve that purpose now.

Pyramid of Cestius was built in 18BC-12BC for a magistrate of Rome–Caius Cestius.

The Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls was founded by Constantine I in year 370. It’s one of the four churches that are the great ancient major basilicas of Rome.

Like London, Rome is a city that fuses the past with modern era. Not only it contains numerous archaeological remains, some districts are extremely new and hardly any trail of the history.

Although I have been lucky enough to travel to many countries prior to this journey to Italy, this trip certainly left me a vivid memory and endless enjoyment while sharing the photos and my experience with friends. Part of the reason was that I reached this age so my study for the history allowed me to understand the beautiful art and culture of this country. I certainly loved all my trips to the U.S., Mexico, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bali island, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, but I certainly didn’t feel these countries’ “essences” as deeply. After this trip, I added even more interest in world histories and became a constant goer for museums, this, also helped me to have a more depth in my later trips to Japan, France, England, and Cambodia.

P.S. The beautiful woman I found in Italy, she’s ubiquitous while I was in Italy, wahaha… 😛

Exploring the Splendour of Italy (回味義大利)

This isn’t my recent trip as I was heck busy last year; instead, this is a trip back in 2004. Trip to Italy left me a vivid memory as it was an European trip long after the previous one–a trip that I went with my whole family and long-time family friends, and my first time using a digital camera in a trip! (I know, I was pretty outdated alright…)

Not only Italy is indeed one of the most beautiful countries that’s full of museums, archeological remains, distinguishing cultures, and splendid history, the more important thing is that my whole family was overwhelmed by what we’ve experienced in the trip, and was also lucky enough to have our loving long-time friends to enjoy it with us.

Due to a small incidence a few weeks ago, I decided to write to a hotel at which we stayed during out trip in Venice and very soon got a reply with such kindness and thus brought back the wonderful memories I had in Italy.

The first place we’ve arrived was Milan–the city of fashion. I’m not a person who’s sensitive enough in fashion area; however, Milan is full of history too, in which I’ve been more interested.

Castello Sforzesco, or Sforza Castle in English, used to be the seat and residence of the Duchy of Milan. It now houses several museums and art collections. One of the rooms has a surviving ceiling painting by Leonardo da Vinci known as “Sala Delle Asse.” At this moment, I wasn’t really awake yet as I walked into the castle and even had a few moments of confusion why I was even there!

Chiesa di Santa Maria Delle Grazie, known as “Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie” has red bricks as its facade and is famous for housing Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece–The Last Supper on the north wall. This painting was used extensively in Dan Brown’s novel and later made a movie–The Da Vinci Code.

Duomo di Milano, Milan Cathedral, is a Gothic-style cathedral built from 1386 to 1965 and is the 4th largest church in the world. The height of the nave is about 45 meters.

Galleria Vittorio Emanule II connects Milan Cathedral Square and Scala Square and is named after the first king who united Italy. The design is popular for 19th century. Under the arched roof is a series of stores.

La Scala Theater situates in Scala Square and is a world-renowned opera house. Ballet performances and operas are held in here. It’s under re-construction during the time I visited.

Lake Como has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. Now it’s a popular tourist attraction as it’s widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy. It’s also famous for its numerous villas and palaces. The beautiful sceneray is used in Casino Royale too.

Lake Como is shaped like “Y.” The small but beautiful towns of Bellagio, Menaggio, and Verenna are at located at the intersection of the three branches of the lake.


Verona is a picturesque town famous of having “Juliet’s house.”

This house is said to be Juliet’s in Shakespeare’s play–Romeo and Juliet. Although Juliet is a fictional character, people flock to “Juliet’s House” and post love notes for good luck under the small balcony believed to be where Juliet confessed her love to Romeo. This is also a significant scene used in the movie–Letters to Juliet. (Yeah, this movie reminds me of my trip here and to Siena!) I heard that the wall was covered by some boards specifically for people to stick their notes on now. While I visited, the wall was full of chewing gums!!!

Verona Arena was built in AD 30 and an amphitheatre that could host more than 30,000 spectators…

Padua hosts the renowned Universita’ di Padova, which was founded in the 13th century and well known for having had Galileo Galelei among its lectureres. This city is also the setting in Shakespeare’s play–The taming of the Shrew.

Venice is known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. The Republic of Venice was an important center of commerce, especially silk, grain, spice trade, and art from 13th century to 17th century. Venice was a wealthy city throughout most of its history. As far as romantic it is for Venice, the main canal has in fact never been open for private yachets, except for the one that’s shooting the movie–Casino Royale–where James Bond cruised in Venice with Vesper Lynd.

Venice stretches across 117 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea. Due to this location, Venice always traded with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world extensively, thus became the most prosperous city in Europe during late 13th century. Honestly, since the city is quite old and most of the parts and foundation have been soaked in the water for a looooooooong time, I found it fancier to look from far away than being in it…

Saint Mark’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic church greatly influenced by Byzantine architecture style. Oh, and the plaza was full of birds… lots, lots, lots… of them…

Saint Mark’s Square is the principal square of Venice, dominated by Saint Mark’s Basilica.Ah~Venice–as said by Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade.” 😀

Pisa is known for its “Leaning Tower” and University of Pisa, which has dated back to the 12th century.

To be continued~