Sirmione and Lake Garda are key positions to reach some of the most beautiful cities in Italy and if we think of Venice, we can safely say the most beautiful in the world. No city is quite like the Serenissima, with its unique and timeless charm. The most striking feature is that the historic centre of Venice is divided into 118 small islands separated by canals and connected by bridges, some of which, such as the Rialto Bridge, is ancient and breath-taking. And it is among 160 canals that you can see the beautiful gondolas and typical lagoon boats that transport people, there are also the less glamorous but still interesting steamboats. But the former Republic of Venice is famous for two events to lure the world: the Carnivale and the International Film Festival, an event supported by the Biennale, a non-profit organisation which aims to stimulate artistic activity and the art market in the city. Founded in 1985 by a group of intellectuals, the Biennale still aims to promote new artistic trends and organise international events dedicated to contemporary arts. In third place next to Rome and Milan for tourism flow, Venice attracts visitors for the presence of famous museums, such as Ca Pesaro, Museo Correr or Peggy Guggenheim Collection; for its exclusive and elegant palaces, such as Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo Fortuny or Ca ‘Foscari, and the home of the university; for the monuments and places of interest such as Piazza San Marco, its Bell Tower and its Basilica, the synagogues of the Ghetto, the Bridge of Sighs or the Arsenal. Rounding up the charm of Venice, there is the Laguna, from which, by taking any aquatic environment, you can admire an incredible and exciting panorama of the city.
Once, a central place for commercial and industrial activities, Verona is recognised as the city of love. We’ve all heard of the troubled story of Romeo and Juliet…. The tragedy told by Shakespeare is just a tale, but this has not prevented Verona from claiming the most representative places of Shakespearean history: the lovers’ graves, Juliet’s house and that of Romeo. Although the true symbol of the city is the impressive and monumental Arena. The Roman amphitheatre was probably built during the first century and according to some schools the first half, between the emperors Augustus and Tiberius, whereas others believe the second half, during the reign of Claudius. The use of the arena has changed quite a bit over the centuries: from a fortress to protect soldiers, a ‘brothel’ for prostitutes, to a theatre for gladiator games. It was also a place of agonising trails and terrifying burnings. It was during the Venetian rule that the Arena finally closed its bloodthirsty acts. The first renovation was not until around the 1600s. Today the amphitheatre is famous for hosting major concerts and especially for the summer opera festival, the whole world envies this, because of both the extent of work and the undeniable charm of the location. One of the main features of Verona is the complex architecture, recognisable especially for the perfect fusion of styles: for example, the Roman part with the characteristic walls and modern fortresses, the Scala era with the Castelvecchio, various bridges and the Gardello tower, the Venetian period with its sumptuous palaces, Castel San Pietro, Palazzo della Gran Guardia and the New Theatre, for this we should we thank the Australians.
The city of Gonzaga, Mantegna and Rigoletto, the gentlemen of Mantova. Gonzaga gave the final boost to the creation of the fabulous Palazzo Ducale. In fact tradition has it that the various dukedoms who followed one another, each added a piece to the building making it impressive enough to deserve the epithet of a city-palace, yet it was Ludovico and family in particular who gave the wonder to the Palazzo Ducale. On the inside you can find imperial apartments, beautiful frescoes, sumptuous rooms and perfectly manicured gardens. The Gonzaga family were somewhat ‘simple’ gentlemen who later became Marquises and Dukes through strategic marriages, they were also great supporters of fine arts, so their court artist was none other than Mantegna. Among some of the first work commissioned were portraits, later becoming famous were the Death of the Virgin, presumably the Dead Christ, the decoration of the Bridal Chamber, the chapel of St. George’s Castle, the Triumphs of Caesar and Our Lady of Victory. Mantegna created a lot of work for the Gonzaga family but when they found themselves in financial difficulties, they were forced to sell a large part of the collection to Charles I, King of England, that’s why the city has little left. But in Mantova art is not the only quality, there are beautiful theatres, such as the theatre Bibiena which was a masterpiece of the 700 and the Teatro Sociale; impressive religious buildings like the Cathedral, the Basilica of St. Andrew or the Rotunda of San Lorenzo; famous civil architecture like Palazzo Te, Palazzo di San Sebastiano or Bonacolsi, Mantegna’s House and the Clock Tower.
Founded over 3,200 years ago, the lioness of Italy went through several hands: From the Galli Cenomani to the Romans, the Visigoths to the Ostrogoths. In later centuries, the Visconti rule came into place, then that of the Republic of Venice and then the United Lombardo Veneto, and it was because of these different cultures which ensured that Brescia would develop continuously becoming the beautiful city it is today. The Monumental Area of the Forum that dates back to the Roman times is a complex archaeological site that consists of the Capitol, a sanctuary and a theatre. While the museum of Santa Giulia, arising from the Lombard monastery of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia, includes: the Basilica of San Salvatore, the Church of Santa Maria in Solario, the Nuns’ Choir and the Church of Santa Giulia. But the most famous religious buildings in the city are the Old Cathedral, the Romanesque rotunda, the New Cathedral, Baroque, Church of San Faustino and Jovita. Speaking of Brescia you cannot help but think of Piazza della Loggia, for two main reasons: the bloody massacre of 1974, that to date goes unpunished, and the particular architectural style that sets it apart from other cities. A few steps from the Piazza Renaissance, there is the Broletto, old town hall, once the seat of power. And, speaking of buildings, we remember Palazzo Martinengo, Palazzo Maggi Gambara and Palazzo Uggeri. The castle, military structure, is today a meeting place for young people and home to some museums. Something interesting about Brescia: the first skyscraper in Italy and among the first in Europe, was erected right in town. This is the Tower of Victory Square, strongly supported by Duce and it has an unmistakable fascist taste.
The city of fashion, the financial heart of Northern Italy and the soul of art and music. Milan offers so many possibilities to be an ideal place to live and also to spend short intense periods. The symbol of the city is the architectural masterpiece Santa Maria Nascente, better known as the Duomo, the fifth largest cathedral in the world.
The wonderful cathedral of Milan was built in 1387, the year in which the foundations were laid, but then it took centuries to define the building. Not so far away is the Teatro alla Scala, a cult place for opera, which opened on 3rd August 1778, with the musical drama composed by Antonio Salieri. Just think that Giuseppe Verdi released ‘Oberto’ at the Teatro alla Scala in 1939. Also The Castello Sforzesco is a magical place of Milan, once a military building, after a lord’s residence and now home to museums, cultural institutions and a major tourist destination. It is one of the largest castles in Europe.
Another amazing feature is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, defined as the oldest shopping centre in the world, covered in iron and glass and home to some magnificent shops. But Milan is also a city rich in art museums such as the Pinacoteca di Brera, the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, the Triennale, the CAP; also science museums, the Planetarium and Observatory. There are prestigious universities and historical libraries. There are canals, Sempione Park, San Siro, trendy clubs, discos and a lot of places where concerts are held.
Milan is home to the largest of radio stations and TV sets. It’s one of the four top publishing fashion capitals in the world along with New York, Paris and London. In Milan are some of the most famous fashion designer studios, whose stores are concentrated in the unrealistic Fashion District, between Via Montenaploleone, Via Della Spiga and Corso Venezia.
Perhaps now you can understand why Milan is the most visited city in Italy after Rome.
TRENTO & ROVERETO
If the surroundings of Sirmione and Lake Garda offer a wide choice of cities, monuments of historical importance, trendy and international events, then it’s also due to the proximity of Trento Alto Adige. This is one of Trento’s places of interest for two basic reasons: markets and winter events, which creates a large flow of tourists along with the presence of mountains, Paganella to the north-west, Mount Calisio to the north-east, Marzola to the east, Vigolana south east and to the west Monte Bondone. With these heights in mind it’s inevitable to think of all the winter sports. The time trial race for example is very famous and takes places every year climbing the roads on Bondone. But in Trento there are also beautiful churches, stately palaces, lavish fountains and above all, there is the Buonconsiglio Castle: complex and built in the thirteenth century, it was once the headquarters for the city’s bishops. However, today the Buonconsiglio is home to a museum, in fact the rooms are home to some provincial art collections: archaeology and ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary art. Also, within the castle are precious, recognisable frescoes made by Romanino. There is an interesting legend in regards to the castle: in the beginning it was called Malconsiglio, this was because of witches who lived and roamed the Tower of Augustus and were hunted by the Council. The witches were later taken refuge in Val di Sole, at the San Bernardo di Rabbi, where they would live forever…. Returning to art, our thoughts turn inevitably to the MART - Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto, here, in a town a few kilometres from the capital is the main venue. The sub-office however is located in the Trento’s Civic Gallery, it is part of the museum complex along with the Depero Futurist Art House and the 900 Archive. The MART was recently built and designed by architect Mario Botta and engineer Giulio Andreolli, they wanted a strong and classical inspiration, but with an unconventional architectural eye. The permanent collection has over 15,000 works, some of them signed by none other than Morandi, De Chirico, Carra and of course Depero.