Sunday, December 29, 2013

Oahu Redux

Ko Olina Lagoon

It's always a treat to getaway to Oahu. Much as I like to walk around Ala Moana Park as I did in the old days, I've traded this to walking at Ko Olina where the beaches are less crowded, especially on a weekday, and the scenery is enhanced by five peaceful lagoons.  It's also a good place to enjoy the sunset. 

Shaved Ice from Matsumoto

On my travel bucket list for Oahu is to try new restaurants. Honolulu Magazine annually weighs in on the Best Restaurants in Hawaii by category and I use their list as my guide. Last November we tried Assaggio Ristorante Italiano at the Ala Moana Shopping Center. I ordered their Fresh Eggplant Milanese over a bed of linguine and it was very good. The diced eggplant was soft to the bite. For local flavor, we went to Matsumoto in Haleiwa for their famous shaved ice. I chose the mango flavor and we sat on the bench outside the grocery store to enjoy this delicious flavored ice and were rewarded with a view of the picturesque Liliuokalani Protestant Church across the street.

Liliuokalani Protestant Church

Farther up the road from Matsumoto's is the world renowned Banzai Pipeline, the big draw for all earnest surfers. We watched as some of them were coming back to shore as it was getting late. But we also saw a handful of them who were paddling out to meet the waves.  

North Shore

Our souvenir shopping discovery was Don Quijote in Waikele where we found boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts and Kauai cookies at bargain prices. These goodies are always appreciated by friends and family on the mainland.

Aloha Oahu for the moment. Looking forward to more visits in 2014.

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Images by TravelswithCharie



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Boracay


It's a three hour drive to Caticlan from Roxas City, another beach town on the island of Panay. Then a short 15 minute hop by pump boat to the white sand beaches of Boracay. We stayed at White Beach where most of the action takes place. Our hotel was right on the beach, convenient for the many walks we took during our brief stay. We arrived in Boracay just about lunch time and we found a buffet restaurant close by. For two hundred pesos, we had our fill or more. While eating our lunch at this crowded beachfront resto, I watched how the pigs were prepared and slowly roasted for that evening's dinner.


Soon the pigs were turning a golden hue with the patient manual rotation by these two men.


A couple more hours and the "lechon" will be on the buffet table. We ate dinner at another restaurant, Mesa, where we savored their specialty - tinapa rolls along with what else, tinapa rice and fried tilapia. Tinapa is a tiny smoked fish. My friends and I thought the food at Mesa was quite good and reasonably priced. It also has a nice ambiance and is steps above the seashore. 


We didn't tire of walking along the beach during the two days we spent in Boracay. There were many tourists although October is typically low season. We had fun people watching while resting our feet and sipping our ice cold juices. We also bought souvenirs at the stalls in Talipapa (just behind our hotel) where we found hats and wraps to wear on the beach. 


Can you believe they have a bar named Obama? Cheers!

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Images by Travels with Charie




Merry Christmas 2013


"And the Word was made flesh
And dwelt among us
Full of grace and truth." 
John 1:14


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Please help


U.S. residents may help the victims of super typhoon Haiyan (YolandaPH) by texting AID to 27722 to donate $10.00. 0r text MKHUNGER to 50555 to donate $5.00.  All proceeds go to World Food Program (WFP) which organization is on the ground now distributing relief goods in the storm ravaged areas of Eastern and Western Visayas. Or donate online https://www.wfp.org/donate/typhoon-philippines.


Philippine residents may text RED space AMOUNT to 2899 for Globe subscribers and 4143 for Smart subscribers. Donations go to the Philippine Red Cross. "No amount is too small."

Check also this list of organizations that are involved in relief and rescue operations in the Philippines: 

Thank you for your generosity.

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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Rome Essentials

Eats 

Near Santa Maria Maggiore

Tempio di Mecenate Ristorante/Pizzeria
Largo Leopardi, 14/18
(Via Merulana)
www.tempiodimecenate.it
This restaurant is always full of diners. There's usually a line in front of the outdoor dining room. The food is quite good and the bill for three with wine and bottled water adds up to €52. 

Panella
Via Merulana
This is a bakery and restaurant in one. They have a buffet table for a fixed price. Outdoor seating. Attracts a young crowd.

Cute animal shaped breads at Panella

Near the Pantheon

Capranica Enoteca and Taverna
Piazza Capranica 99/100
www.enotecacapranica.it/en

Bar at Capranica

This is a beautiful taverna inside the Palazzo Capranica, a renaissance era palace.  The bar, in warm tones of brown, is the backdrop of this elegant dining room. I had their salmon with risotto and zucchini.

Across from the Colosseo 

Oppio Caffè
Via delle Terme di Tito, 72
Colosseo, Roma
www.oppiocaffe.it

This café not only has the best view of the Colosseo, it also has the best "eat as much as you can" buffet for €10. This includes a glass of wine. This price can't be beat. The buffet includes several kinds of pasta, meat dishes, bread, dessert, and they keep replenishing the buffet table. 

In Piazza Navona

Tre Scalini
Piazza Navona, 30-35
www.3-Scalini.com


This is a good place to sit and people watch while enjoying a gelato. Piazza Navona can be incredibly crowded especially during the summer months and its nice to just sit back and relax at this restaurant which up has been here since 1815.

Sleeps

Hotel Giusti
Via Giusti 5
Cross street Via Merulana between Santa Maria Maggiore and St. John Lateran.
www.romagiusti.com
This hotel is managed by the Sisters of St. Anne of Providence. It's in a central location with a supermarket nearby and many restaurants in the vicinity. It's within walking distance to the Colosseo. €90 for twin bedded room (as of this writing) with continental breakfast, free wifi and air conditioning. Receptionist may help arrange private airport transportation which is a good idea especially if you are leaving on an early morning flight.  

Shops

Casa del Rosario
For religious articles and souvenirs, this is the place to go. It's right across from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. They have prayer cards, rosaries, postcards, and religious icons. There's also a tiny branch on the left side of the Basilica (facing Via Merulana).

Apostolato Liturgico Roma
Largo Brancaccio 57 (angola Via Merulana)
cal.roma@pddm.it
Phone: 06-48-14-794
I bought my beautiful Madonna icon from here. They sell a large selection of high quality religious artworks, statues, and vestments.

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Images by Charie

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Ávila



The emergence of Baroque art in the 17th c (1600 – 1700) was driven in part by the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church responded to the Reformation movement by propagating Baroque art with its flamboyance and theatricality, in order to engage the faithful through religious art and architecture and bring back erring believers to the Church.


The Cornaro Chapel is inside the Church of Santa Maria della Vittora in Rome. Here is Baroque art at its finest. St. Teresa of Ávila, a nun from the 16th century, is seen with an angel who has pierced her heart. Rays of light emanate from the heavens to illuminate the scene. On the side walls of the altar are theatre boxes where spectators (modeled by the Cornaro family) are watching the scene unfolding in front of them. St. Teresa is experiencing an intense spiritual vision that leaves her “utterly consumed by the great love of God”. Here is St. Teresa’s account of her vision:

It was our Lord's will that in this vision I should see the angel in this wise.  He was not large, but small of stature, and most beautiful--his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call cherubim. Their names they never tell me; but I see very well that there is in heaven so great a difference between one angel and another, and between these and the others, that I cannot explain it.

I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire.  He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.  The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God.  The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it, even a large one.  It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.

During the days that this lasted, I went about as if beside myself. I wished to see, or speak with, no one, but only to cherish my pain, which was to me a greater bliss than all created things could give me.”
Excerpt from Project Gutenberg's “The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus", by Teresa of Avila, Chapter 29 - Of Visions. The Graces Our Lord Bestowed on the Saint. The Answers Our Lord Gave Her for Those Who Tried Her



There are several highlights in the chapel that's worth a second look. The first of these is the architectural frame of the altar. Corinthian columns stand on both sides of the white marble statues of St. Teresa and the angel. These columns of breccia stone set the stage so to speak but more importantly, it says a lot about its builder, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the engineer of the colonnades of the Vatican. Secondly, natural light emanates from a window hidden high above the chapel and which creates "divine light". Thirdly, the balconies are positioned on the side walls as they normally are in a theatre. The viewer, standing or kneeling in front of the altar would still have the best view in the house. This harks back to the essence of Baroque art: to engage the worshipper and make him/her part of the "play". Members of the Cornaro are carved in low relief inside the boxes. They are even identifiable. One of them is Federico Cornaro, Cardinal of Venice, who is seen second from right in animated conversation with other family members. There are also architectural details in the boxes such as the vaulted ceiling and the columns behind the figures. Bernini leaves no stone unturned.
The Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria has many other artistic attractions, not the least of which is its beautiful ceiling with a fine fresco by Giovanni Domenico Cerini. More on this in an upcoming article.

Cornaro Chapel
Santa Maria della Vittoria
Via XX Settembre 17, Rome
free entry

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Images by Charie

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Michaelangelo in Rome

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the job of the sculptor to discover it." Michaelangelo Buonarotti

Moses - Church of St. Peter in Vincoli

The statue of Moses at the basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli was to have been part of a grandiose monument and tomb for Pope Julius II, a patron of Michelangelo Buonarotti. But this same pope pulled Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508-1512), a project that lasted four years. Not surprisingly, the scaled down version of the tomb was not completed until 1515. At eight feet in height, Moses is an all powerful figure, his muscles bulging from his arms and legs and transparent through the folds of his gown. He has a crown of horns symbolizing the “ray of light”, a misinterpretation of the Hebrew word karan which may also refer to horn depending on how it is read.

Pieta

The Pieta in the Basilica of St. Peter's was once the object of a madman who hammered away at Mary's nose, arm, hand and eyelid. This was in 1972 and it was painstakingly restored to its current state. Today the Pieta is behind a bullet proof acrylic glass panel for its own protection.

Michelangelo created the Pieta between 1498-1499 for a French cardinal, Jean de Billeheres, who commissioned it for his own tomb. It is carved from Carrara marble. In this pyramidal sculpture, Mary supports her lifeless son on her lap. Her youthful face is calm despite her suffering  over the death of her son. Michelangelo masterfully echoes the turmoil within Mary in the heavy folds of her gown. This is the only piece of work that Michelangelo has ever signed.

Christ Bearing the Cross

Inside the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in the neighborhood of the Pantheon, the statue of Christ Bearing the Cross stands to the left of the main altar. This statue was started by Michelangelo while in Florence and was later left with one of his apprentices to finish when he moved to Rome. The apprentice, Pietro Urbano, damaged the statue and he was replaced by Federico Frizzi. The drapery over the naked Christ was added during the Baroque period.

This statue seems pale in comparison to the figures of Moses and the Pieta. Perhaps the intrusion of other hands to finish this piece and having to cover up the damage done by Urbano may have altogether altered the work started by Michelangelo.  

Michelangelo (1475-1564) was a true Renaissance man. He was not only a sculptor, he was an exceptionally gifted painter. He painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Last Judgement on the altar of said chapel. He also designed the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and the uniform of the Swiss Guards is attributed to him as well. And to cap his many talents, he wrote poetry. 

Despite his impressive body of work, Michelangelo had this to say about his oeuvres“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn't call it genius.” 

Moses
St. Peter in Chains
Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/a
Metro: Colosseo or Cavour
free admission

Pieta
St. Peter's Basilica (see also the dome designed by Michelangelo)
Vatican
free admission

Christ Bearing the Cross
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Piazza Minerva
(near the Pantheon)
free admission

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Images by Charie

Monday, September 02, 2013

Random Rome


I spied this courtyard filled with antique statues on my way to Santa Susanna. It would have been lovely to take Venus or one of the busts home with me to adorn my ho-hum garden. How many interesting conversations it would have started! But I console myself that I didn't have to pay extra for excess baggage.


These two turbaned gentlemen in orange robes sit here all day in perfect balance across from the Pantheon. One man holds the stick on which the second sits in mid air. Total concentration and control are needed to maintain this stance. Most importantly, how can they keep cool in the scorching summer heat? They must be thinking about winter!


Yes, it's a pedal car but not for a child. I wonder if all the knock off bags and scarves hanging from the rack will be packed away in the back of this motorized tricycle? A smart car indeed!


A piece of wall, a reminder of Rome's storied past, preserved in the center of the city and just down the street from Santa Maria Maggiore. In Rome, the past is in the present.


"To have and to hold." Its always touching to see a newly married couple. There go the bride and groom through the main door of the Basilica of St. Peter's. The bridal gown is caught in a mirror of light. How absolutely stunning!


There was a large turnout for Rome's Gay Pride 2013 parade along Via Merulana.


As we ran to the top of the Spanish Steps, we had a glimpse of this unforgettable sunset framed by a Roman obelisk (which was moved to this spot in 1789 from the Palace of Sallust).

"Rome - the city with a visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in a funeral procession, with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar". George Eliot 

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Images by Charie


Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Many Faces of the Colosseum


In mid afternoon, the Colosseum is tinged in chalky white.


At sunset, the Colosseum is baked in shades of sienna. 


The exposed inner rim was pockmarked by medieval robbers in search of iron clamps.  


My favorite view of the Colosseum is from the Via Sacra where ancient columns provide a linear frame to the elliptical curve of the Colosseum's walls.


Past events in this ancient amphitheater are put to bed in the dark shadows of night. If only walls could talk, what a fright they would tell!

An excerpt from Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto the Fourth, (1818):
A Ruin — yet what Ruin! from its mass
Walls — palaces — half-cities, have been reared;
Yet oft the enormous skeleton ye pass,
And marvel where the spoil could have appeared.
Hath it indeed been plundered, or but cleared?
Alas! developed, opens the decay,
When the colossal fabric's form is neared:
It will not bear the brightness of the day,
Which streams too much on all — years — man — have reft away.

But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there—
When the stars twinkle through the loops of Time,
And the low night-breeze waves along the air
The garland-forest, which the gray walls wear,
Like laurels on the bald first Caesar's head—
When the light shines serene but doth not glare—
Then in this magic circle raise the dead;—
Heroes have trod this spot — 'tis on their dust ye tread.

"While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand:
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
And when Rome falls — the World." From our own land
Thus spake the pilgrims o'er this mighty wall
In Saxon times, which we are wont to call
Ancient; and thes
e three mortal things are still
On their foundations, and unaltered all—
Rome and her Ruin past Redemption's skill—
The World — the same wide den — of thieves, or what ye will.

For the full text of the Canto, here's the link:

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Images by Charie



Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Papal Audience with Pope Francis I

Pope Francis I - June 2013

One of our main reasons for visiting Rome was to see the new Pope. There are several ways to see the Vicar of Christ at the Vatican. Two of these are during the Sunday Angelus at noon and the Wednesday general audience at 10:30 a.m. both on St. Peter’s Square. Of the two, the best close-up view of the Pope would be at the Wednesday audience as the Pope circles the square in his popemobile before the hour-long acknowledgements and homily. On Sundays, when he is in residence, he blesses the crowd in attendance from the balcony above the entrance to the Basilica (predecessors of Pope Francis I blessed the faithful from the papal apartment window).

It is necessary to get tickets for the Wednesday audience but not for the Sunday Angelus. These tickets are free and may be requested from the Pontifical North American College or from the Church of Santa Susanna in Rome. Tickets are picked up the day before the audience or on Tuesdays from the location indicated on their respective websites. It’s best to make reservations as early as possible as there are thousands of pilgrims going to Rome, especially during the summer months. Follow the instructions given on their websites carefully.  To get tickets for the Wednesday general audience check below: 
The Pontifical North American College: http://www.pnac.org/visitorsoffice/audiences/

St. Peter's Square Wednesday General Audience, June 2013

Arrive early at St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) if you wish to get a seat. We were there at 9 a.m. for the 10:30 a.m. Wednesday audience and all the seats were taken by then. It was standing room only for latecomers. The standing room only crowd was at least three-person deep from the cleared corridors where the popemobile makes its way around the square. We had been to see Pope John Paul II in October several years ago and that was a more pleasant experience with milder temperatures and less people. We had comfortable seats and were able to see him at a very close range without struggling with the crowd.

I must say that Pope Francis I was very accommodating. He came out early (around 9:45 a.m.) so he could greet the audience as he made his way around the square. He stopped often to acknowledge the pilgrims, especially the children.

The Pope's message on June 12, 2013 called on the audience to reflect on the “People of God”. The Pope asked the audience to contemplate on five questions:
  1. What does “People of God” mean?
  2. How does one become a member of this people?
  3. What is the law of the People of God?
  4. What is this people’s mission?
  5. What is the destination of this People?
The essence of the message is this: the Church is a welcoming, forgiving and loving place that is open to all who wish to enter and the People of God must bring the message of God’s hope and salvation to the world through these wide open doors.

Read more about his message here:

Lastly, there are restrooms inside Bernini’s colonnade to the left of the square if you’re facing the Basilica. This colonnade is also a refuge from the heat of the sun.

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Images by Charie



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Florence

Mercato di San Lorenzo

Thank goodness for long days of summer. We made the most of our 24-hour visit to Firenze. After a nice lunch at Trattoria Dante (which is big on ambiance), we took the bus to San Lorenzo where we browsed the outdoor stalls for decent bargains to take home as presents for family and friends. My cousin was particularly interested in finding a good leather jacket. We arrived at the market just before their fold-up time of 7 p.m. and the bargaining was intense. In the end, I bought four lacy scarves, left the leather bags alone and walked happily away. My cousin found the jacket he wanted the following day. Shopping done, we strolled to the Duomo and Baptistery of San Giovanni for art history lessons. My favorite Florentine story is about the competition for the crafting of the bronze doors of the Baptistery. Both Ghiberti and Brunelleschi submitted their quatrefoil panels of the Sacrifice of Isaac. Ghiberti won and was awarded the commission to sculpt the reliefs for the north facing door of the Baptistery (the original door is now inside the Museo dell'Opera). While it appears that Brunelleschi failed, it was really a stroke of luck for him. He moved on to build the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Il Duomo, the first octagonal dome built without a wooden supporting frame. Proof that "when one door closes, another opens".

At the Piazza della Signoria, we gazed at the sculptures of Neptune, Michaelangelo's David (a copy), Cellini's Perseus and the Head of the Medusa, among others, from the very spot where the Dominican priest, Girolamo Savonarola, burned books, works of art, fine clothes and jewelry and a host of "immoral and frivolous objects" in what was dubbed the Bonfire of the Vanities and where Savonarola himself was hanged and burned at the stake in 1498. Karma?

 
Sunset on the Arno River

We stopped at Ponte Vecchio to view the sunset and its reflection on the Arno River. It was fiery and it bathed the old buildings in what I would call, the colors of Tuscany. What a perfect way to cap the day! Across the bridge and a couple of blocks down on Borgo San Jacopo, we found Trattoria Cammillo, a restaurant recommended by a colleague at work. There was a long line outside the small trattoria and we nearly gave up, but upon entering the dining room, we were told we could have our table in ten minutes. And we did.

Trattoria Cammillo dining room

We were seated in the first dining room which was packed with guests and people waiting for a table. it was rather entertaining to watch the buzz of activity around us.  My cousins ordered lamb and a mushroom omelette while I got breaded fried chicken cut in cubes. While the food was nothing spectacular, we were happy with our selections. The service flowed though the restaurant was fully booked until we were ready to leave and we had to wait a little bit to get our bill as our waiter was up to his ears serving in the other dining room.

Façade of Pitti Palace

The next day we walked to the Pitti Palace. It was such a relief that fewer tourists explore past the Ponte Vecchio nor venture into the Oltrarno because we didn't have to deal with the crowds. With some time before taking the train back to Rome, we wandered in the area around Via Guicciardini where we discovered a few excellent shops selling pottery and leather goods at reasonable prices.

Tuscan Pottery

It was nice to absorb Florence one neighborhood at a time - Piazza San Lorenzo, Signoria, Pitti and we were ensconced in a restored villa on Piazza del Carmine which was formerly owned by the Prince of Rospigliosi from Pistoia. The Brancacci Chapel (with frescoes by Masaccio) is a stone's throw away.

Florentine Sonnets
Through these old streets I wander dreamily;
Around me Florence sweeps her busy tide
Of life; quaint palaces on every side.
Here, where I pass, perchance in former day
Petrarch hath walked, composing poetry
to oft-sung charms of Laura. Here hath hied
Dante, of Florence now the greatest pride,
But whom in life, she fiercely drove away,
To write in gloom his epic. Here, beneath
This loggia, Boccaccio hath told
His laughing tales, to comrades, merrily
What wondrous memories these scenes bequeath
What artists, sculptors, painters, here of old
Fashioned this lovely gem of Italy!
William Leighton, 1906

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Eats: 
Trattoria and Pizzeria Dante
Pizza Nazario Sauro, 12/r
Borgo San Frediano

Cammillo
Borgo San Jacopo, 57/r
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesday

Where to stay: 
Santo Nome di Gesu - this is a religious casa managed by the Franciscan sisters. There's a curfew for guests. Good location. Friendly staff. Nice garden.
www.fmmfirenze.it
Piazza del Carmine 25

Getting around:  Walking is the best way to explore the city. Buses are convenient if you're too tired to walk. Buy bus tickets at tobacconists, cafés, or shops around the bus stop before you board the bus.
Where to shop:
For leather bags and accessories 
Simone
Via Guicciardini, 33/r

Across the street from Simone are various pottery shops.

Mercato di San Lorenzo (under the shadow of the Basilica of San Lorenzo)
There's a wide assortment of goods sold at this outdoor market including clothing, leather products, scarves, pottery, souvenir items, home decor. Bargaining is the norm.

Mercato del Porcellino on Piazza della Repubblica
The stalls at this market sell the same wares as those at San Lorenzo but with a difference. I found the scarves sold here were of better quality and the selection of fabrics a tad more chic. 

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Images by Charie

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lake Lugano

   View of Lugano, Cassarate, Castagnola and Monte Bré

Lugano is definitely one of my favorite places in the world. On my first visit to this lakeside beauty many moons ago, I walked everyday along the lake from Paradiso where I was staying to Piazza della Riforma to have lunch at one of the cafés or restaurants in the city center. On the way back to my hotel, I'd stop by the Church of Santa Maria degli Angioli on Piazza Luini to marvel at the 16th century fresco of the Crucifixion by Bernardino Luini, a follower of Leonardo da Vinci. 

The Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

In the same nondescript Church of Santa Maria is a painting of the Last Supper which is also attributed to Luini. Whether you're facing the altar or the main door of the Church, you are blessed with a visual treat, one man made, the other, by a divine hand. The Church door opens to Lake Lugano.


If I were staying in Lugano for a few days, I would have stocked my hotel refrigerator with food from this deli shop, D. Gabbani. It has a good selection of meat, poultry, fish, pasta and cheese products at reasonable prices. It is a combination macelleria, salumeria, and charcuterie. What a great place to pick up goodies for a picnic basket!


Many buildings in Lugano are painted in bright or pastel colors and are decorated with religious images like this one. Moreover, the streets are clean and state-of-the-art garbage disposal units are strategically installed throughout the city. We also tested the free wifi available on benches along the waterfront. But though I was connected to their wifi, I couldn't browse at all. 

Drop your 'basura' here

We took one of the ferries from the lakefront to the picturesque village of Gandria which is a pleasant 30-minute cruise away. This village of 200 residents (according to Wikipedia), hugs the slope of Monte Bré and spills down to the water's edge.  It's possible to walk back to Lugano from Gandria through olive groves to Castagnola instead of taking the ferry back. But we didn't do this as we were pressed for time.

Gandria

Many years ago I took the funicular up to Monte San Salvatore for an incomparable view of the lake and surrounding towns including the Lombardian countryside in the distance. This was definitely one of the most memorable adventures I had in Lugano. Missing the funicolare ride up to any of the nearby mountains this  time around, I nevertheless had the opportunity to take a funicular from Piazza Cioccaro up to the train station. This cable railway has a track length of 720 ft. and it takes 2 minutes to reach the top. In comparison, it takes 10 minutes to reach the top of Monte San Salvatore. It's easier to take the funicular than to walk uphill to the bahnhof especially on a rainy day (it started to pour heavily just as we got to the station). One way costs CHF1.20. 


The streets of Lugano are empty and quiet after work hours except for this bar where office workers congregate to unwind and catch up with friends. The shops close its doors as well. The sound of silence everywhere. 
"How beautiful the coolness
Of this lovely summer night!
How the soul fills with happiness
In this true place of quiet!
I can scarcely grasp the bliss!"
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ( from The Lovely Night as translated by A. S. Kline)

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Logistics: 
The bay cruise on Lake Lugano to Gandria may be arranged at the ticket office of Navigazione del Lago di Lugano which is located on the dock at Riva Albertolli, across from the Tourist Information office. It costs CHF26.40 round trip. There are many cruise tours to choose from. Check www.lakelugano.ch for more information.

The train from Milan to Lugano takes approximately one hour. We had to stop for Customs inspection on the Italian side of the border on the return trip and it took a few minutes more to get back to Milan. 

Where to eat:
Manor Department Store on Piazza Dante has a restaurant upstairs with choice offerings. My salmon with rice and contorni (side order of vegetables) was CHF19.30. 
For a view of the rooftops of Lugano, try Coop's cafeteria which has both indoor and outdoor sitting. They have a tempting array of desserts.

Where to shop:
Via Nassa is the shopping street to check out. For leather and travel bags and accessories, Pelleteria Poggioli is my preferred store because of their warm and attentive service. It's on Via G. Luvini 5.

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Images by Charie


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Padua


Basilica of St. Anthony

Prayer to St. Anthony of Padua
Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints.
O Holy St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and charity for His creatures made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, which you were ever ready to speak for those in trouble or anxiety. Encouraged by this thought, I implore you to obtain for me (your request). The answer to my prayer may require a miracle. Even so, you are the saint of miracles. Amen.

My purpose in visiting Padua was to pray at the tomb of St. Anthony in the Basilica dell'Santo, which fortunately was across the street from our hotel. I've been planning to make this pilgrimage for a long time and while I've visited neighboring Venice a few times, I never did make it to Padua until recently. We attended mass at the Basilica on the day we arrived along with pilgrims from Rovigo, Italy who were that day's sponsor of the Eucharistic celebration. We learned later that there are 13 days of special masses in early evening preceding the feast of St. Anthony which falls on June 13 and devotees from surrounding towns make the pilgrimage to Padua on each of those days. St. Anthony was born into a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal but he chose to live a simple life in the service of our Lord. St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost articles.

Gattamelata by Donatello

Donatello lived here

While taking art history lessons in college, I was introduced to Donatello and his masterpiece, Gattamelata, an equestrian statue of Erasmo da Narni, a condottiero (mercenary leader) who served under the Republic of Venice. His family commissioned this sculpture after his death in 1443 to honor him. It soars above Piazza del Santo, in front of the Basilica. This is the first Renaissance equestrian statue. I wasn't  aware that Donatello lived in the house within site of the statue. There is a marker on the front façade of the house that indicates his stay around 1450. A local kindly pointed this out to me. What a pleasant surprise!

Prato del Valle

Though we could have walked to the center of town, we took the tram from Piazza Prato dell Valle which is a vast square populated by a myriad statues and is the site of a Sunday outdoor market. We wanted to dine at Caffè Pedrocchi but alas, it was hosting a conference and closed to the public. So we walked to Piazza delle Erbe for a view of the 13th century Palazzo Ragione. This square and the Piazza della Frutta on the other side of the palazzo is occupied by stalls selling clothing and accessories, home goods and fresh produce during the day. The squares are peaceful in the evenings when the stalls are gone and the locals take possession once more of their piazza and the bambini can ride their bicycles without obstacles.

Palazzo Ragione (Palace of Reason)

It's worth roaming the center of town at night to see Padua from a different perspective. The silhouettes are enchanting!

Where to stay: 
Casa del Pellegrino
Via Cesarotti, 21
Padua

Getting around:
We found the tram efficient, safe and clean.  A ticket costs €1.20 and may be purchased at the coin operated machines on the main tram stops. The tram connects the Basilica dell'Santo with Palazzo Ragione, the train station, the Scrovegni Chapel. It operates till 11 pm.

Where to dine:
Osteria al Peronio on Piazza della Frutta. I ordered their grilled swordfish and it was fresh, simply prepared and tasty. They also serve a variety of salads in generous portions. Peronio is also a pizzeria. Attentive and friendly service a plus.


Most restaurants in Italy have a cover charge which ranges from €2 to €3 (or more) per diner.

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Images by Charie