Friday, November 18, 2016
Goodbye Italy, Hello Again London
Thursday, November 17, 2106
Breakfast with Annalisa in Vicenza:
It was my last day in Italy--finally, my travels in Sicily and on the Mainland had come to an end. It was fitting that I would spend the last couple of hours of the morning with my friend Annalisa who, knowing of my passion for architecture and the arts, offered to walk me around Vicenza, the grand city of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio. But first, breakfast...
It was another morning devoted to relishing Annalisa's jams--fig jam and orange marmalade eaten on lovely Italian bread. There was coffee, of course, and some more of that blood-red blood orange juice that has a distinctly different flavor when compared to other oranges.
Not too long after that, with my packing all done and a few pictures taken in her lovely home, I was hauling my backpack into her car. She had made shuttle van arrangements to get me from Vicenza to Venice airport but since we had a couple of hours to kill, she suggested we walk through the town to get to the venue she had in mind.
Vicenza's central square, the handiwork of Palladio, and which I have explored on several occasions in the past, was taken over by the weekly market. Vendors set up makeshift stalls selling all sorts of merchandize, much of which is purchased by the local populace. It is a communal experience that still survives in Europe and which seems distinctly charming and completely European to me.
Exploring the Church of Santa Corona:
I do not believe that we have explored the Church of Santa Corona before but I could be mistaken. It was built to house a thorn from the sacred crown (hence Santa Corona) with which Christ was tortured. It is still to be seen in a chapel in the basement of the church in a reliquary. At the entrance to the chapel is a lovely sculpture of a crown of thorns in carved stone. Beautiful!
The Church also contains some noteworthy works of art. Its main altarpiece, for instance, features the Baptism of Christ by Bellini which is vaguely reminiscent of the same subject of Pietro della Francesca in the National Gallery in London. In a side chapel, is a stunning work by Paolo Veronese called The Adoration of the Magi. I ought to add that all these artistic wonders are to be found in a Romano-Gothic church with terrific red brick exterior and an interior crammed with awesome decorative detail.
Annalisa and I circumnavigated the church taking in all its wonders--but the main highlight is the amazing Chapel Valmarana that was built to house the earthly remains of the famed Valmarana family. It is said to be designed by Palladio himself--in terms of it being so close to his typical classical styles--but I do not believe that there exists any documentary evidence to ascertain this. The Valmarana Family had deep ties with the architect who designed a marvelous pallazzo for them outside of Vicenza which Annalisa and I had explored on a previous visit.
This chapel has marble is different colors decorating every inch of it--most in pietra dura--the Florentine art of inlaying marble with semi-precious stone. There are fruits and flowers and figures of saints and angels that crowd the canvas in wonderfully elegant ways that kept me clicking pictures non-stop.
When we had finished viewing this work, we moved towards the choir stalls in which walnut marquetry is very much in evidence--the base wood is inlaid in this case with woods of various colors in intricate designs that were charmingly impressive.
We made our way down to the basement then to see an exhibition on the recent renovation and refurbishment of the church which was quite interesting. The lower level is also filled with stone sculpture at the various shrines and altars to be found there. Truly, one could spend a couple of hours in this church and not see everything.
Coffee and Hot Chocolate in a Society Salon:
We still had a half hour to spend before we made our way towards the stop for my shuttle bus at Vicenza airport. Annalisa suggested a quick hot chocolate for which I was grateful as there was a decided nip in the air. She found us a very elegant coffee shop where the local society ladies, decked in cashmere and pearls and fur coats dally over espressos. My hot chocolate was delicious but it was very hot indeed and I had too little time to linger over it. Still, I enjoyed it enormously and then we were off and away in Annalisa's car again.
Not too long after, we were at the airport and spying my shuttle van, we made our way to it. I said my goodbyes and thank-yous to my lovely friend whose generosity knows no bounds--and then I was off. There was one more person in the van sharing it with me.
Two hours later, I reached Venice airport. We had made stops in Padua and other little towns to do more pick-ups, one of which delayed us hugely. But then we were at the airport and I was checking in and awaiting my flight back to London which left at 4.00 pm.
Arrival in London:
I arrived at Stanstead airport in London on schedule, a little after 6.00 pm and since I had a shuttle ticket to get me to Victoria, I found it as planned. About 9.30 pm, I arrived at Maida Vale at the lovely old apartment building of my friends Raquel and Chris. They are privileged to own the grand duplex apartment at the top of the building and it was in this grand space that I would spend the next three nights before I left London for India.
Raquel had a pasta and meatballs dinner waiting for me.