Postcard from Siracusa, Sicily: Water indeed creates a ‘strange island’

Normally, I fail to designate states in my headlines and opt for the country alone. Poor identification in geo-political terms, but being proper would demand even more cumbersome headlines for my travel posts. In this case, I’m breaking with tradition and am ignoring Italy because Sicily seems almost another country.

Sicily hangs close to the toe of Italy’s boot as though a ball kicked off the mainland, floating amid the waters of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas and the rest of the Mediterranean. Through the centuries, the island often fell under the rule of other powers than that of the mainland.

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Postcard from Frankfurt, Germany: Impressions prior to following in Goethe’s path

Above: Detail on Rathaus, City Hall, on Romerberg Plaza

Pristine. Perfect condition. How could ancient medieval buildings in the the historic center of Frankfurt am Main possibly look this good? Their appearance is particularly amazing in the midst of so many mid-century structures.

The answer lies in the tenacity of the people in this region. Below is how the plaza appeared following the arrival of Allied troops as World War II drew to its costly close.

Continue reading “Postcard from Frankfurt, Germany: Impressions prior to following in Goethe’s path”

Postcard from Naples, Italy: Glamming up the royal residence

While Pope Sixtus V (1521-1590) kept architect Domenico Fontana (1543-1607) well occupied around the Vatican and Rome, he managed to take on a project for the Viceroy in Naples. The excuse for the construction of the palace was an impending visit by King Philip III of Spain (confusingly known as Philip II in his role as King of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia) (1578-1621). But, alas, when the king did not make it to Naples as planned, rather than let it go to waste, the Viceroy himself move into the grand new quarters.

A new royal arrived in town in 1734, King Charles III of Spain (adding to the confusion, prior to becoming King of Spain in 1759, he was known as Charles VII of Naples and Charles V of Sicily) (1716-1788). By the time King Charles arrived, the palace was empty of residents and devoid of furniture. While waiting for suitable decorating, the new arrivals temporarily were forced to furnish it with contents bought from the pawnshop and private citizens.

King Charles III immediately put architects and artists to work. With his marriage to Maria Amalia of Saxony (1724-1760), decorating assumed a sense of urgency. To take care of royal needs, a porcelain factory was founded, which later became known as Capodimonte porcelain. Receiving an abundant supply of art from his mother, Elizabeth Farnese (1692-1766), the Queen of Spain, Charles was able to transfer it from family palaces in Parma and Rome to Naples. One palace, however, is hardly enough to accommodate royal needs, so two more were built which the blog will visit later.

His son, Ferdinand I as King of the Two Sicilies (Ferdinand IV as King of Naples or Ferdinand III and King of Sicily) (1751-1825), begin to take beautifying the palace to even higher levels. Arranged by his father, King Charles, Ferdinand’s proxy marriage to 16-year-old Maria Carolina of Austria (1752-1814) spurred further gilding and flocking throughout. The grand hall was remodeled to serve as a court theatre.

By the time his grandson, Ferdinand II (1810-1859), became King of the Two Sicilies, the whole palace was viewed as in need of a major renovation. This was partially due to a fire in 1837 and partially to accommodate modern services and systems for lighting, water-delivery, sewage and so forth.

Finally in 1888, King Umberto I of Italy (of the House of Savoy) (1844-1900) altered the fa├žade of the building addressing the grand Piazza del Plebiscito. Large statues of major rulers of Naples were commissioned for the new niches.

Addicted to writing with access to two computer screens displaying a multitude of resources, I was most impressed by an early innovative predecessor – sort of a ferris wheel for books to aid research from multiple tomes at one’s desk.