Thursday, February 20, 2014

Italy - the Art of the Cities

Italy is a living museum. Her public structures comprise vivid, visible art and architecture that stand as testaments to the country's history and culture. The Roman and Greek empires influenced early Italian design with their mighty temples and impressive amphitheaters, while Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic design lated played important parts in inspiring both architects and artists in the centuries to come. Their tangible, timeless legacies can be witnessed in every major Italian city and town.

Founded in 754 BC by orphaned brothers Romulus and Remus, a walk through Rome is a walk through time. From the Colosseum to the Pantheon to the immaculate aqueducts and roads, the Roman Empire influenced design, engineering and architecture for centuries to come. The Vatican offers the awe-inspiring St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums, housing enormous collections of art and the frescoed ceilings of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. From Bernini to Bramante, Raphael and Caravaggio, marvel at the masterpieces that embellish and define the Eternal City: paintings, sculptures, palaces and ever-flowing fountains.

Venice is a feast of magnificent churches, lavish palazzi and stately bridges, all built upon a labyrinth of waterways. Stroll across the Rialto Bridge for an eagle-eye view of the Grand Canal and the gondolas. Delight in the Byzantine wonder of St. Mark's Basilica, watch St. Mark's Square bell tower pierce the sky and revel in the riches of the city's museums. The Gallerie dell'Accademia showcases Venetian masters such as Tintoretto, Bellini, Giorgione and Carpaccio, while the Peggy Guggenheim Collection presents modern giants like Picasso, Dali, Pollock and Miro.


Built by the Romans and immortalized by the Renaissance, Florence affords an unforgettable voyage through timeliess art and architecture. Savor the contract between the Boboli Garden's green, groomed perfection, Brunelleschi's bold red-tiled red, white and green marble. Gothic and Romanesque facades joust for attention on the churches of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella. Priceless works by Botticelli, Giotto, Michelangelo and Da Vinci fill the halls of the Uffizi Gallery. Within the Brancacci Chapel Masaccio's Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, their shame and despair palpable. Meanwhile, on the Ponte Vecchio, the latest generation of craftsmen fashion unique art one can wear. It's as if the Renaissance never ceased: Florence's enlightenment continues to enchant the world.


In the 17th century Naples reighned as the undisputed cultural capital of Europe. Indeed, over 40% of Italy's works of art still reside here. Within its National Museum of Archeology lies a bountiful collection of artifacts, sculptures and mosaics recalling its past as well as that of Rome, Greece, Egypt, Pompeii and Herculaneum. Music and song has long defined this sunny city: Naples is home to the San Carlo opera house, Europe's oldest working theater since 1737. Architecturally, the jewel in the crown is the Galleria Umberto I; its elegant glass dome and barreled vaults now host shops and restaurants. Nearby, the vast Piazza del Plebescito embraces the Royal Palace and the church of St. Francis of Paola. At day's end, the sun glints on the towers of the 13th century Machio Angionio fortress.


This ancient Phoenician seaside colony features a spectrum of architectural styles reflecting many civilizations: Green, Roman, Arabic, Norman, Spanish, French and Byzantine. Each built upon and embellished buildings created by successive cultures, creating a wonderful harmony of designs. From the stunning Royal Palace to the Palantine chapel's lustrous Byzantine mosaics from St. John of the Hermit's original Arab crimson-colored domes and its serene cloisters to the three-tiered Baroque sculptural magnificence at the intersection of Quattro Canti. Palermo's artistry also finds expression in its theaters: at The Teatro Massimo and the Teatro Politeama Garibaldi, concerts and ballet have been performed for centuries.

Italy is truly a living museum. Start planning your Italy vacation with Celtic Tours World Vacations

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