All photographs displayed in these posts  were taken and owned by Marco Brunetti, unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Events: Ferragosto in Ortigia

Ferragosto in Syracuse

August 15th is when Roman Catholics celebrate the Assumption of the virgin Mary into Heaven - the day when Catholics believe Mary ascended to heaven "body and soul" after the end of her life on earth.

Every Ferragosto a procession takes place in Ortigia. 

However, it was a holiday in Italy long before it took on a religious significance.

Ferragosto, the Italian name for the holiday, comes from the Latin Feriae Augusti (the festivals of the Emperor Augustus) which were introduced back in 18 BC, probably to celebrate a battle victory, and were celebrated alongside other ancient Roman summer festivals. These festivities were linked to the longer Augustali period - intended to be a period of rest after months of hard labour.

In Roman times, the celebrations included horse races, and the Siena Palio dell'Assunta, which takes place on August 16th, keeps these traditions alive.

It’s traditional to use the August long weekend to take a trip, usually escaping the heat at the seaside, lakes or mountains, so if you stay in town you'll notice it's much quieter than usual.

During the era of Fascism, the regime would organize trips with special offers for the 13th-15th August, the idea being that the less wealthy social classes would get the opportunity to visit a different part of the country, and even today there are often discounts on packages for the Ferragosto weekend.

below some shoots

If you wish to know more about the place or the photos please send me a message.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Places to visit: Palermo

Palermo, the regional capital of Sicily, is one of those cities with its own very distinct, almost tangible atmosphere, a place of mystery where reality often outperforms the traveller’s imagination and preconceived stereotypes. It is a buzzing Mediterranean centre whose 1 million inhabitants are a fascinating cocktail of apparently conflicting characteristics.

Palermo’s history has been anything but stable as the town passed from one dominating power to another with remarkable frequency. Its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean brought wave upon wave of invaders including the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Saracen Arabs, the Normans, the Swabians, the French and the Spanish Bourbons just to name the most influential. The result of this quilted history is evident today in the vast range of architectural styles, the intriguing fusion of ingredients used in many local dishes and in many place names which are obviously not of Italian origin.

Visiting Palermo is still somewhat of an adventure in a world where so many places have become tourist-friendly to a fault. You won’t find many restaurants with menus translated into 5 different languages, you may have trouble communicating in English in many places, and some parts of the old town centre have remained untouched since they were bombed during the war. There are many back streets that have only just opened up to those from without and it is still often difficult to obtain any information worth having. However, this is also a stimulus to those who wish to embark on a little adventure, to discover things for themselves, to dig into the very fabric of the city and to try to understand what really makes Palermo (and its people) tick.

The often faded grandeur of many of Palermo’s wonderful palaces and churches in the centre gives way to popular areas whose way of life doesn’t fully belong to the 21st Century. This is particularly true of the markets, whose Arabic origins are still evident today thanks to their noise, smells, colours, narrow labyrinthine streets, the splendid array of food and other goods on display and the general ‘souk’ atmosphere.

Artistic delights abound at every corner, maybe most strikingly in the spectacular mosaics in the Palatine Chapel in Palermo and the Duomo of Monreale.

In his book “The Normans in Sicily” John Julius Norwich described the Palatine Chapel as follows: “It is in this building, with more stunning effect than anywhere else in Sicily, that we see the Siculo-Norman political miracle given visual expression - a seemingly effortless fusion of all that is most brilliant in the Latin, Byzantine and Islamic traditions into a single harmonious masterpiece.” 

In 2015, Arab-Norman Palermo and its neighbouring cathedrals were granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spread over a combined 6,235 hectares and including nine monuments - the Royal Palace and Palatine Chapel, the Zisa Palace, Palermo Cathedral, the Palermitan Churches of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio and San Cataldo, the Admiral’s Bridge, and the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalù - the site provides, in UNESCO's words, "an outstanding example of a socio-cultural syncretism between Western, Islamic, and Byzantine cultures. This interchange gave rise to an architectural and artistic expression based on novel concepts of space, structure, and decoration that spread widely throughout the Mediterranean region... The innovative re-elaboration of architectural forms, structures, and materials and their artistic, decorative, and iconographic treatments – most conspicuously the rich and extensive tesserae mosaics, pavements in opus sectile, marquetry, sculptural elements, paintings, and fittings – celebrate the fruitful coexistence of people of different origins".

from The Thinking Traveller 

below some shoots

If you wish to know more about the place or the photos please send me a message.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Places to visit: Scicli

Less firmly established on the tourist trail than neighbouring Modica, Noto and Syracuse, Scicli is a pretty little town that is becoming better-known thanks to its connection with the fictional character of Inspector Montalbano. Scicli’s magnificent baroque town hall, in the elegant Via Francesco Mormino Penna, is the film location for the Inspector’s police station.

In keeping with the other towns of the Val di Noto, Scicli was largely reduced to rubble in the 1693 earthquake and subsequently rebuilt in an ornate late Baroque style.

Set amongst rugged scenery in a gorge dotted with now overgrown cave-dwellings, the town is close to the sandy beach of Sampieri. The town’s focal point is the Piazza Italia, an elongated square fringed by elegant palazzi. Head for one of the cafés along the nearby Via Francesco Mormino Penna where you can drink in the sight of several Baroque palaces and churches. Amongst the most notable in the town is the 18th century Palazzo Beneventano, an architectural triumph complete with elaborate decorative features and fanciful gargoyles.

Churches in the town that are worth visiting include Sant’Ignazio, Santa Maria la Nova, San Matteo and the rather ornate San Bartolomeo.

Below some shoots

Scicli - The image was taken with Pentax K-30 and Sigma  17-70    1/160 sec f6.3  Iso 100

Scicli - The image was taken with Pentax K-30 and Sigma  17-70    1/80 sec f16,3 Iso 100

Scicli - The image was taken with Pentax K-30 and Pentax DA12-24 1/100 sec f11  Iso 100

Sampieri beach - The image was taken with Pentax K-30 and Sigma  17-70    2,5 sec f16 Iso 100

Sampieri beach - The image was taken with Pentax K-30 and Pentax DA12-24 1/200 sec f5.6 Iso 100

If you wish to know more about the place or the photos please send me a message.