Tuesday, October 13, 2015


On our tour in Italy I took a number of photos that didn't seem to fit into any of my specific posts of our trip, so I thought I would dump them into a miscellaneous post to wind things up.

First, a shot of underground at O'Hare airport on our way to our flight from Chicago to Frankfurt Germany.

Next a photograph of our amazing tour director, Lella.

I also tried to get photos of each of our local guides.  (I somehow missed our Cortona guide.)  Unfortunately--and there's no excuse for this--I neglected to keep track of their names, just the places we met them.

Florence.                                                                                                                                          Siena.


Altesino Winery.                                                                                                                             Assisi.


Orvieto.                                                                                                                                           Rome.

Another view of the bust of Benvenuto Celini on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

A marble foot at Pitti Palace in Florence.

Another view of the cathedral in Siena.

A neighborhood church in Siena.

Although we didn't tour Bettona's duomo, late one afternoon I slipped into this lovely little church and took the following photos.

In Rome I caught this remarkable monument that included a series of spiraling bas relief sculptures that I'm certain were telling a story.

Our last hotel was Rome's Waldorf Astoria.  Here is a shot of a fountain at the front entrance that for some reason involved three dolphin.

And, finally, that hotel included a double helix stairway extending from the lobby to the lower level.  I repeatedly tried to capture that architectural detail from the side and finally gave up, settling for this abstract, looking down from one of the stairways to some sort of concentric circular fountain on the lower level.



On our final afternoon in Rome, Geri and I paid a visit to the Vatican.  We didn't have time to do the vast Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, unfortunately, but I'm glad we are able to visit St. Peter's Basilica, probably the greatest church in Christendom.  I was not disappointed.  We did have to navigate the security check lines to enter the basilica.  The lines were long but they moved quickly.

The interior of the basilica is immense, highly ornamented, and highly ornate.  To begin, here are a few shots that hopefully convey some of that size and grandeur.

There is a glimpse of the basilica's main dome in this last shot.  In addition to the main dome, there are a number of auxiliary domes, and I took a few shots of the interiors of those from directly underneath.  

I wasn't able to get a shot from directly under the great dome because of the altar and all the related religious paraphernalia directly below it.

But here are a couple of images of what I was able to get of the interior of the central dome.

To be honest, I was pretty happy with how these turned out, considering the overall lighting conditions and the fact that I had to do everything handheld.  

The interior was, of course, filled with statuary, including Michelangelo's Pieta.

In 1972 an individual attacked the then unprotected sculpture with a hammer.  Restoration personnel were able to repair the damage, but the sculpture was placed behind glass, which diminishes it to some extent.  The lighting was also not that great.  In my view the work is just too complex and simply doesn't have the power that Michelangelo's David commands.  Still, it's impressive and I'm glad I was privileged to see it.

Francois Duquesnoy’s massive sculpture of St. Andrew, located in one of the dome's niches, also caught my interest.  But there were any number of other works that I could have spent time photographing.

I'm not sure of the subject matter of the following sculpture, perhaps one of the earlier popes(?), but I was attracted by the piece's inherent symmetry.

Speaking of popes, during our visit we came across this plaque that includes the entire list of popes, beginning with St. Peter!  It only goes through 2005 so it needs a bit of updating.

There were simply too many objects and architectural details that I could have photographed, but our time was limited, so reluctantly we left the basilica in the later afternoon to make our way back to our hotel.  

Fronting the basilica is the immense St. Peter's Square, which features an Egyptian obelisk created BCE and moved to the square in 1586 CE.  My shot of the square simply doesn't do justice, unfortunately.

The most distinctive features of the square are the semicircular sets of colonnades that form the square's perimeter.   I wanted to capture the character of the colonnades, but nothing worked.  And the only image I wound up with was this detail shot of one of the lamps with the colonnades as a backdrop.

The colonnades, as well as the basilica's auxiliary buildings, are topped with literally dozens of statuary.   Given the lighting conditions (relatively dark statuary against a bright sky) and in an attempt to get a different take on the scene, I took a photo that intentionally underexposed the dome and statuary.  In post processing I converted the shot to a black & white and increased the contrast to create a silhouette effect.  

A little dark, maybe, but I did like the overall effect.



On the morning of our second day in Rome we were treated to a guided tour of both the Forum and the Colosseum, situated near one another in the heart of the city.

The term Forum really refers to a public plaza, or open space, where ideas could be exchanged and refined.  As such, it is a difficult place to photograph, as we are talking about what is now an open field, together with what is left of surrounding structures.  I didn't get much in the way of photos.

I confess that I did like the umbrella pines that are common to Italy and the Forum area in particular.

And there was this: Three statues perched on one of the buildings.

Later I saw three statues and took the following shot that I converted to a pure silhouette, just goofing around.

It was only when I was putting this post together that I realized that these were the same three figures, just seen from the other side.

Then it was on to the Colosseum.  

When I have spoken about our trip to others who have not been to Rome, their first question has been whether I saw the Colosseum.  That tells me that it is perhaps the most iconic of Roman architectural works.  It is, of course, in ruins.  The reason for that is that, after it went into disuse around 800 CE, it as well as much of the architecture in the area of the Forum was cannibalized for other building projects.  Moreover, the Colosseum is currently undergoing extensive restoration work, so a portion is hidden by scaffolding.  Plus it was a Saturday and the crowds were enormous.

So much for excuses.  Here is what I got.

A classic view of the exterior, showing some of the humanity.

A couple of views of portions of the interior.

An artist's conception of what the scene would have been like during an "event," complete with gladiators and lions.

And finally a panoramic view of the interior of the stadium as it exists now.  The underground chambers and passageways would have been covered with a wood flooring.  

The Colosseum really did have the feel of a modern stadium and according to our guide could be emptied of a capacity crowd of some 55-60,000 spectators in as little as half an hour, a genius model of crowd management for its time.



One of Rome's more prominent public areas is Piazza Navona.  The plaza is filled not just with fountains and interesting public art but with would-be artists and street performers.

As to the latter . . .

OK, so a didgeridoo is not exactly Italian, but this busker and is dog seemed to be having a good time in another place altogether.

So did the following mime, whose gig was to appear to be running to an office job, complete with briefcase, suit, and tie, which was permanently bent upward like Dilbert's, as though it were being blown by the wind.  Clever, but can you really make a living doing that?

Then there were the caricaturists.

I didn't feel I was very successful in capturing the plaza's fountain statuary.

This sea god figure, along with his evil dolphins, was about as ugly as it looks, and conversion to black and white didn't help.

I thought it might work to shoot the following sculpture from behind.  Only partially successful, I thought, though I did like that I posed the figure with the building opposite in the background.

My best effort was a sculpture of Neptune, apparently in the process of dispatching an octopus.  The figure is filled with action, the lighting was nice, and I especially liked the building in the background that I blurred a bit by opening the lens aperture to reduce depth of field.

But then there was that pigeon.  I think I waited at least five minutes for the pigeon to fly off.  Never happened.