The Royal Palace of Caserta, Reggia di Caserta, is a marvelous place. It was begun in 1752 by Charles VII of Naples with his architect Luigi Vanvitelli. The Bourbon King wanted a new royal court that was protected from sea attacks. Modeled mostly after Versailles, but also the Royal Palace in Madrid and the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, Caserta reflects a mixture of Late Baroque and early Neoclassism on a large scale. Not all the rooms are open to the public but the ones that are clearly convey the palace’s splendor.
The park and English garden behind the palace are tremendous in size. When we finished touring the palace we headed towards the park. Looking at how far the fountains were from the palace we decided to rent bikes to make a quicker tour. Whoever came up with the idea of renting bicycles to tourists is brilliant. If I was wearing a period dress I could have been in a deleted scene from Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
I’ve lived in the East Village for nearly ten years. Recently I found out that the creative type living in the strange building on my street was Walter De Maria. Once or twice I saw a man going into the building but that was it. No hullabaloo or nonsense over there.
Mr. De Maria died last summer and his home plus the vacant lot to the left is for sale. Do you have $25 million and need a housekeeper/cook? Adopt me! Do not judge this book by its cover because it’s amazing inside.
The morning had been devoted to the worship of beautiful things and after lunch we visited the Church and Cloister of Santa Chiara and marveled at Cristo Velato, The Veiled Christ in the the Chapel of Sansevero. My favorite part of Santa Chiara was the majolica cloister and courtyard. I probably wouldn’t make it in this convent long. I would be too wrapped up in the vivid colors, scenes and designs instead of focusing on my appointed mission. I’m more a Fraulein Maria than the Mother Abbess. More
The same day we visited the National Archaeological Museum we went up the hills of Naples to the Capodimonte Museum. We were on the hunt for a Caravaggio but also to see another gem of a museum. I was so excited when we came upon the Guido Reni painting of Atalanta and Ippomene. Why? Because it is the cover illustration for Richard E. Spear’s book on Reni, The Divine Guido: Religion, Sex, Money and Art in the World of Guido Reni and Spear taught at my alma mater Oberlin. Hurrah! I was never aware of where the painting lived and to discover it just hanging on the wall was thrilling.
The whole museum is filled with great paintings and drawings. If you have any interest in Michelangelo, Raphael, Masaccio, Botticelli, Perugino, Mantegna, Bellini, Jacopo de’Barberi, El Greco, Il Parmigianino, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Carracci, Goya, Francois Gerard, Angelika Kauffman, Elisabeth Vigee le Brun or Matteo di Giovanni, then you must visit Capodimonte. Thank goodness for the royals, rich families and papacy for commissioning and buying art. More
When you look at a massive marble statue you wonder how the artist conceived it. How many sketches of a model in different poses were made? Was a there a clay model? How much polishing was required to get the marble just so? The question on my mind? Are those sandals real or made up and why hasn’t any contemporary shoe designer made them yet?
These sculptures tower over you. You look up trying to catch the subtleties and your eyes wander down and around ending at the feet. The feet could have been bare, simple, strong Greek feet, but no there are these fantastic sandals.
Yes there are gladiator sandals today but nothing with this level of embellishment. Naturally if sandals like these were real they would cost more than I could spend. I’ll just watch “300” instead and admire the uh, sandals there. Mmmhmmm.
Oh hello. Is winter over yet? Is it time to come out of hibernation? Here we are. Let’s do this Naples thing! Our first official day in Naples was spent at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. It houses artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum and several Roman antiquities. Being able to see bronzes and mosaics rescued from Pompeii before visiting there emphasized its glory once we got there later in the trip. As we walked through the rooms of the museum reveling in the collection it was clear that this was the most important archaeological museum in Italy. The Egyptian collection was not open since it was August and according to Cadillac only Americans work hard. No matter. More
On our way to Udaipur from Jaipur we stopped in the town of Bundi overnight. We arrived around 3 or 4, enough time to check in to our hotel and explore Bundi Palace and the Star Fort or Taragarh. Bundi felt like a sleepy gem that has yet to be invaded by tourism. The streets are small and people seem very curious when they see you as oppose to Agra or Jaipur where tourists are part of the everyday.
We stayed at the Haveli Braj Bhushanjee which was great. Like all or most havelis it is family run by 2 brothers who live in a private area of the building. It was the most personal stay of our trip but one of the most pleasant. We were asked if we would be dining in the haveli that evening, Yes! Okay would you like to eat at 6 or 8 pm? 8 pm. They showed us a menu and we wondered if we needed to tell them in advance what we’d like, No, just one menu, all vegetarian! Um, okay, great! It was one of the best meals we had. We were the only ones in the dining room and the food was plentiful and delicious.
So after we made our dinner arrangements, saw our room and our monkey stick (No joke. A stick just outside our room to scare the monkeys away) we walked to Bundi Palace. No crowds to fight or guides offering tours in whatever language you speak, just us exploring. There was a man inside who was happy to tell us the history of the palace and the stories associated with the paintings inside but it was clear that no one seemed too concerned about the place. Good and bad I think. Good because tourism hasn’t overrun it and bad because some of the palace could use some TLC. More
The Baby Taj or Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah was a fun stop after the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. It wasn’t very crowded which was nice. I hope that people visit it and don’t ignore it. The wife of Jahangir, Nur Jahan, started this tomb in 1622 for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg who was given the title I’timad-ud-Daulah (Pillar of the State). The tomb was completed in 1628 just before construction started on the Taj Mahal.
It is set close to the Yamuna River in beautiful gardens. I went a little crazy with the pictures, again, but I thought that the possibility of returning to these places was slim so fire away! More
The Red Fort in Agra is rather immense for one photo. Perhaps they have one here, but I have several photos of the place! Since we saw the Taj Mahal very early in the morning we were able to see the Red Fort the same day. It was raining on and off the whole day as you will notice.
The Red Fort is near the Yamuna River and from certain vantage points you can see the Taj Mahal. It’s another testament to 16th century Mughal architecture and decoration. Akbar made Agra his capital in 1558 and initiated the reconstruction of the Red Fort in 1565 since it was a collection of deteriorating buildings. Over 1,000,000 workers worked 8 years to complete it. Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan is responsible for creating many of the white marble buildings inlaid with gold or semi-precious stones. Unfortunately for Shah Jahan he was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in the fort and later died in one of its towers where he had a view of the Taj Mahal, monument to his love Mumtaz Mahal.
The main entrance to the fort is through the Amar Singh Gate which is pictured above. There are other gates, reportedly more spectacular but you cannot enter through them. And so begins our exploration of this 94 acre fortress. As you may recall there’s a Red Fort in New Delhi which is not as grand as this one, but still important! It is impressive with several beautiful buildings and decorative details which I photographed extensively. Instead of numerous food photos I give you photos of patterns and carvings!
Which reminds me of food in India…it’s not like Indian food anywhere else. The butter and oils they use are different therefore making the digestion of food not so easy. I enjoyed eating it but the daily dose of Pepto tablets wasn’t fun. There was only one time I vomited and that was due to heat exhaustion at Fatehpur Sikri, we’ll get there eventually.
There is a moat all around the Fort which now has bushes and trees growing in them but they once had water and wild animals in them.
Have you ever visited a museum or monument and developed an acquaintance? You never speak to the person or persons but you see them as you move around. They become part of your tour, whether or not you see them again, is part of the fun. I had two such monument acquaintances at the Red Fort. Of course I saw the same people over and over within the same places but these particular people figure into a lot of my photos. There’s a couple, man in plaid shirt and woman in pinkish-red sari, and then there’s a family who didn’t obviously color coordinate (or did they?) but they all have on complementary colors of turquoise, pink, lavender and yellow-orange. I took pictures of them because they looked so good together.
Oh and then there’s the Fort. Shah Jahan did a great job of adding his white marble, grand details here and there. I would have loved to see it in its day with water in the fountains and candles in the niches. Maybe there were sumptuous fabrics and textiles draped in doorways or covering the floors. I hope so.
There’s a picture of a Sadu, holy man, all in orange talking on a cell phone. I stalked him to get this picture. I couldn’t help it. The idea of this man having a cell phone amused me.
Another interesting thing is how brightly colored women dress as oppose to the men. The men got stuck with the 70s era polyester shirts and pants and the ladies have vibrantly colored saris and scarves. Yeah for the ladies!
The Taj Mahal is one of the best known monuments in India, and maybe the world. We arrived in Agra in the early evening, too late to visit the Taj Mahal, but perfect for a sunset view across the Yamuna River of the rear of the mausoleum. Emperor Shah Jahan’s monument to his wife Mumtaz Mahal was started in 1632 and finished in 1648. Instead of placing the large white marble building in the center of the grounds, like Akbar’s Mausoleum, the Taj Mahal lies at the opposite end of the gardens. As you walk through the entrance gate and view the Taj Mahal in the distance its grandeur leaps out at you. More