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Highlights of Puglia and Basilicata

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Volare and Polignano a Mare

Before Polignano a Mare became a popular hashtag on Instagram, there was Nel blu dipinto di blu, the Italian song that became a huge international hit in the late 1950s. Dean Martin crooned in his cover version:
"Volare oh oh 
Cantare oh oh oh  
No wonder my happy heart sings Your love has given me wings
Nel blu, dipinto di blu
Felice di stare lassu."

Cala Porto is a small, pebbly beach surrounded by limestone cliffs and cliffhanging homes. It would make anyone's heart sing when viewed from the Roman bridge. The beach, also known as Lama Monachile, gets crowded during the summer months and the sea is dotted with bobbing yachts.


This shopping and dining street looks empty. Its mid afternoon in late January and the whole town is taking a break.

Piazza dell'Orologio is so called because of the prominent 19th century mechanical clock on the façade of one of the buildings on the square. This building the home of a woman named Melina. The cord which rings the bell is inside Melina&…

8 Heritage Houses of Iloilo

The province of Iloilo on the island of Panay has a rich trove of heritage houses, left over from the sugar industry boom in the 19th century. Iloilo also had the largest port in the Philippines at that time which facilitated the export of sugar to foreign shores and deposited money in the hands of the sugar barons. The barons dropped their earnings into the acquisition of properties in Negros and the construction of beautiful homes in Iloilo, many of which are located in the vicinity of the Jaro Cathedral.

The Lizares Mansion was built in 1937 by Don Emiliano Lizares for his wife, Concepcion Gamboa and five children. The family fled to safety when World War II broke out and the house was occupied by the Japanese military. The family returned to the house after the war but left once again after the demise of Don Emiliano. It was sold to the Dominican order in the 1960s and was converted in 1978 to a private school, Angelicum School. The mansion now houses the chapel. Andres Luna San Pe…

Matera, 2019 European Capital of Culture

"The Sassi and Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera represent an outstanding example of a rock-cut settlement, adapted perfectly to its geomorphological setting and ecosystem and exhibiting continuity over more than two millenia." UNESCO World Heritage Site Criterion (iii)
Matera was once called "the shame of Italy". This city in the Basilicata region in Southern Italy is one of the oldest inhabited settlements in the world. It was depopulated in the 1950s due to the wretched and unhealthy living conditions of its residents. It continues to be rehabilitated today and has been named one of two European Capital of Culture for 2019, an honor it received over other finalists like Perugia, Ravenna and Siena. 
San Pietro Barisano is the largest rupestrian church in Matera. It's possible to see the 12-13th century rupestrian structure under the church floor where the extensive passageways are extremely narrow and feels claustrophobic. 
The altars above ground were s…

Masterpieces from the National Museum of the Philippines

"If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him." John F. Kennedy

The Spoliarium is an oil on canvas painting by Juan Luna. It won the coveted first gold medal at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid in 1884.

Felix Resurección Hidalgo studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando de Madrid as a pensionado of the Ayuntamiento de Manila. He won the ninth silver medal in 1884 for his work, Las Virgines Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho at the Exposicion General de Bellas Artes in Madrid at which event, Juan Luna won the gold medal for his Spoliarium. The Assassination of Governor General Fernando Bustamante y Rueda is a controversial painting for its depiction of the Dominican friars as active participants in the murder of the Governor. In fact, Fr. Fidel Villaroel, Ph.D., a Spanish historian and Filipinologist from the University of Santo Tomas contends that the friars were im…

Historical Churches of Iloilo

The Miag-ao Church is a Unesco World Heritage Site together with three other colonial Baroque churches under the collective title, Baroque Churches of the Philippines. Please follow this link for my article on Miagao Church: 
https://travelswithcharie.blogspot.com/2014/03/miag-ao-church.html

The two belltowers are of unequal height and served as watchtowers following Islamic invasions in 1741 and 1754.
The gold-plated retablo is the original altar used in the late 1700s and was found during excavations in 1982. A fire had ravaged the church in 1910 and it was believed the retablo had been razed as well. 
Guimbal Church is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It was built in 1774 and restored twice, once after World War II and after the earthquake of 1948 which also destroyed the Jaro Cathedral.
The Romanesque inspired walls of Guimbal Church have withstood the ravages of time.
The Molo Church is called the "feminist" church for the 16 statues of female saints on each sid…

Paris in Winter

If winter is about grey skies, showers and chilling temperatures, then there's all that in Paris in January. So why go at such an inhospitable time? Because Paris in winter is moody (great for photo ops), less frantic, the bi-annual store sales are irresistible, and you don't have to fight with the swarm of selfie indulgent tourists.

There is no absence of color beneath the threatening cloud cover.

These pastel painted houses were my neighbors during my stay in Paris. I counted five visitors here, myself included. 

I was at once elated, captivated and saddened to see Notre-Dame de Paris again. Elated that I could behold her in festive finery, captivated by her timeless beauty but saddened by the reality of the threat of terrorism.  For a moment I felt fear when I saw policemen dressed in combat gear with high powered rifles patrolling the cathedral. We shouldn't have to accept this as the new norm. But life must go on.

The sixth of January is the feast of the Three Kings. The …

Islas de Gigantes

This trip to Islas de Gigantes sat long on the planning stage. But one fine day in October, we finally made it there. And it was everything I'd seen and read about. The image above shows our approach to Cabugao Gamay Island.


This is the iconic photo of Islas de Gigantes. We scrambled up a hill to get this unobstructed view of Cabugao Gamay and the Visayan Sea. It's a good thing we arrived early in the morning before the selfie crowd got in.


This is the hue of the sea taken from Cabugao Gamay. How it nurtures the blue mind!


The white sand beach of Cabugao Gamay is free from debris. 

Bantigue Island and its sandbar rises from the sea like a mirage. We stopped here for lunch of rice and fish.

The Tangke Saltwater Lagoon on Gigantes Sur is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. It was still low tide when we got there.

Scallops are only one peso each. But at Bancal Port in Carles, you can buy them by the bucket. And it is so succulent.
How to get there: The closest gateway to Islas de Gi…