Category Archives: Italy

john the baptist caravaggio

Caravaggio – Bergamo Revisited – Airport Refugees

One of the side effects of the renaissance of budget air and cheap flights is that a number of small regional airports have become major hubs for carriers such as RyanAir and Wizz Airlines.

Bergamo airport

Small airports in places like Volos, Greece ; Orio, Italy, ; and Charleroi, Belgium weren’t designed with thousands of passengers passing through each day in mind. They are adapting, upgrading, and building the infrastructure.

Take Bergamo – actually Caravaggio Airport Bergamo Orio al Serio or as referred to by RyanAir – Milan/Bergamo. In fact it’s about 45 km from Milan about 4 km from Bergamo and actually sits in the small city of Orio al Serio. Last year this small airport served over 7 million passengers!

A funny thing happens because of the mis-labeling and the fact that this is a transport hub for RyanAir, WizzAir, and Pegasus which has flights to and from destinations all over Europe, the Baltics, and Turkey. Lots of people come to ‘Bergamo/Milan’ simply because it is where they can catch a flight to where they are really going. That’s why I was there in September. I wanted to fly from Barcelona (actually Girona) to Volos, Greece but there were no direct flights and the cheapest way to get there was to fly with RyanAir to Bergamo, wait 7 hours overnight, and then catch an early morning flight (again with Ryanair) to Greece. Since I arrived at nearly midnight and left at 7 a.m. it seemed silly to go all the way to Milan or Bergamo only to wake up after a couple of hours of sleep and take the bus or a taxi back – who needs the expense of a hotel room and a taxi for a few hours sleep…I decided to sleep in the airport.

And so did hundreds of other people who were catching flights to Romania, flights to Turkey, flights to Barcelona, flights to Paris, flights to Moscow, flights to Sofia etc etc etc –

There just aren’t that many seats or benches in the waiting area and they weren’t going to let us into the departure lounges before 5:30 am. So, it was like being at a protest or stuck at an airport during a storm or at some kind of hippie camp.

Around me were circles of strangers making friends and playing cards on the floor. Groups of girls sleeping in a circle on the ground while one stayed awake to guard their bags, older travelers walking around warily and eyeing everyone as if they were potential thieves, a guy with a guitar sitting outside strumming. Groups sat around with beers or bottles of wine while others found bare floor to curl up with their bags under their heads.The scene was completely surreal and certainly would have been looked on with approval by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, for whom the airport is named – especially since I noted a couple engaged in some serious hanky-panky under a sleeping bag in the alcove where his bust looks out over the airport party. Here’s my favorite blurb about Caravaggio from Wikipedia:

Airport renaissance

Caravaggio’s novelty was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro. This came to be known as Tenebrism, the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value. He burst upon the Rome art scene in 1600 with the success of his first public commissions, the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and Calling of Saint Matthew. Thereafter he never lacked commissions or patrons, yet he handled his success atrociously. He was jailed on several occasions, vandalized his own apartment, and ultimately had a death warrant issued for him by the Pope.

An early published notice on him, dating from 1604 and describing his lifestyle three years previously, tells how “after a fortnight’s work he will swagger about for a month or two with a sword at his side and a servant following him, from one ball-court to the next, ever ready to engage in a fight or an argument, so that it is most awkward to get along with him.” In 1606 he killed a young man in a brawl and fled from Rome with a price on his head. He was involved in a brawl in Malta in 1608, and another in Naples in 1609, possibly a deliberate attempt on his life by unidentified enemies. This encounter left him severely injured. A year later, at the age of 38, he died of a fever in Porto Ercole, near Grosseto in Tuscany, while on his way to Rome to receive a pardon.

caravaggio

And then – when they opened the departure lounges and allowed us to start going through security, the sweepers came in, the cleaners mopped and suddenly it all seemed just like any other busy little regional airport.

Further Reading Caravaggio

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane
Caravaggio: The Complete Works
Discovering Caravaggio: The Art Lover’s Guide to Understanding Symbols in His Paintings

About Bergamo, Milan, and Italy

Lonely Planet: The Italian Lakes Guide
Bergamo: The History, The Art
Eyewitness Travel: Milan and the Lakes
Frommers Northern Italy

the hand of God

The Vatican Museums – Three Paintings Out of Hundreds – Why These Three?

The three pictures in this post are some of my favorites though I took literally hundreds. These pictures from top to bottom are more interesting though – read on to find out why.

When you are in Rome, whether it’s for a day or a week, one thing you have to do is visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. If the ticket price of 15 Euros sounds a little high, let me assure you, it’s not. What you will see inside is worth every penny and more.

I’d like to introduce you to some of the wonders that I came across as I wandered through this incredible collection of the world’s most wonderful art.

As in much classical art, there was an abundance of angry dudes and sexy nudes – and there was a bunch of art too.

the hand of God

1) Despite the Angry Italian guys saying No Picture, No Video. Nearly everyone was taking photos in the Sistine Chapel. That included me. When I showed this picture to my wife she was disgusted “Aggghhh, how obscene to think you could depict God in a painting. You can be sure that painter is in hell.” Not exactly what I was thinking as I looked at one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.

Coming in, you find a staircase and as you wind your way up it, you will notice that there are more than a few canoes and canoe paddles from the many places that Catholic missionaries have landed, converted, and conquered. For some reason these struck me in a bad way…although it was a magnificent collection of canoes. Moving on…

Cistine 3-d

2) When I first saw these saints painted in the niches, I thought they were real people. A photo can’t capture just how three-dimensional some off these paintings are…astounding.

If you are only going to visit one museum in Rome, certainly it should be the Vatican Museum. Add in a trip to the Colosseum, and a stop in Vatican City and you’ve followed the Vago itinerary to see Rome in a day. It wasn’t built in a day, but I feel like these three stops and the transport between them give you a good chance to get a feel for the what was once the capital of the Roman Empire and is still a masterpiece of a city.

The price of the Vatican museums might seem kind of steep at 15 Euros but when you consider that it includes some of the most famous art the world has ever produced and the celebrated Cistine Chapel, suddenly it starts to seem more reasonable. Museo Vaticani is a must see.

Vatican museum

3) I’m not a religious man and I’m nowhere near Catholic, but this painting spoke to my soul. Note the hanging bodies, the monk, pleading and the people in the background seemingly just having a chat…this was real life. It lives on.

Powerful and amazing. More to come soon.

Vatican Resources
Boutique Hotels Near the Vatican
Hostels Near the Vatican
Vatican Museum Books
Rome Tourism Books
Vatican Trip Insurance
Hidden Facts of the Vatican

cruise ships off of Santorini ccImage courtesy of Nunavut on Flickr

Escape with Mediterranean Cruises in 2014

If you ask any seasoned travel expert what the most popular cruise destination is, chances are they will tell you that it is the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean has long held this esteemed position in the cruising world, and it does not look like it is going to give up its reign any time soon. Sure, some people are more inclined to go cruising in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, preferring sunny deck chairs and umbrella drinks to Europe’s historic landmarks and ancient port cities.

cruise ships off of Santorini ccImage courtesy of Nunavut on Flickr

Not every traveller wants a cultural holiday, and sometimes the frivolity of sun, sand and surf is exactly what the doctor ordered. On the other hand, not everyone likes the beach and blazing ninety-degree days. For them, a two-week trip to the tropics is like a journey through the rings of Dante’s Inferno. In the end, the Mediterranean has more diversity, and this is what makes the region such a huge draw.  There are some great deals on Mediterranean Cruises. Give them a look over if you’re planning on visiting the Mediterranean, you might find a suitable package faster than you’d think.

So Many Countries, So Little Time

The Mediterranean not only offers abundant amounts of sunshine and tranquil waters, but you will have the chance to get your passport stamped in numerous countries. Many of the world’s best tourist sites are located in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. In a sense, the Med is like a highlight reel of the best that Europe has to offer. Whether you are embarking on a honeymoon or taking the kids on their first European holiday, cruising is an organized and affordable way to see the sites. From romantic Venice and Felliniesque Rome to glitzy Monte Carlo and Barcelona, cruising is the easiest way to see the world.

The Western and Eastern Med

Spain, Portugal, France and Italy are the major countries in the Western Mediterranean, and these countries have some of the busiest cruise ports in the world. What makes the Western Med so popular? There are stunning beaches, glamorous ports of call and all of the big sightseeing attractions are easily accessible. In other words, one day you are sunbathing in Nice and gambling in Monaco, and the next day you are visiting the Trevi Fountain in Rome. In the Mediterranean, diversity is the number one attractions.

Cruising in Style ccImage courtesy of Theo0023 on Flickr

While the Western Mediterranean may be more popular amongst travellers, the Eastern Med is not without its charms, especially if you want to beat the crowds in the middle of summer. Highlights in the east include Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta and Croatia. The beach resorts in the east are more laid-back that their western counterparts, and the cities, although less travelled, are every bit as magical. If you have never climbed aboard a cruise ship or visited the Mediterranean, make 2014 the year of the cruise.