Monthly Archives: May 2012

Travel photography in Italy – Florence/Firenze – Day 1

Travel photography – DAY 1 in FLORENCE – Florentia/Firenze

Travel photography - ItalyAfter a combined 12-hour flight including a quick stop over in Frankfort I arrived in Florence to searing heat & having just left Johannesburg of freezing temperatures, this was a mind blow! Not only the heat, but also Italy & the Northern Hemisphere are in the middle of their summer so it was heaving with tourists from all over the world.

I read a stat on the flight that Italy has become the most visited country in Europe…what was I in for? If I had had my own way I would never have gone in July, but beggars can’t be choosers!

During the short taxi trip to the Hotel Pendini that is situated on the Piazza della Repubblica, I took in the architecture & I was astounded at the pastel colors of Florence down town. The long, high & narrow alleyways. It is “old”, “ancient” & really “historic”. The drivers are maniacs. They speed up narrow alleyways as if there are no other vehicles on the road. Scary indeed.

Before long I had checked in to the stunning Hotel Pendini & was off on foot to many of the sites that had to be photographed. Whilst making my way to the famous Piazza del Duomo (the most famous of Florence) I noticed along with many tourists how many Gelateria’s there are on each block…this is amazing ice cream! Bravo Italia!   This really is a travel photography dream.   Take a look at some of the other travel photography examples from the Italy trip.

It was sensational to take in the architecture & how astonishing these buildings are after centuries. Taking the best angles & lines of the Duomo complex, which included the admirable “Giotto’s Bell Tower”, the “Baptistery” (with its golden bronze doors), the famous “Porta del Paradiso” & finally the “Cathedral” with its magnificent “Brunelleschi’s Dome” which can be seen for miles all around Firenze!

travel photography - ItalyThe next tourist attraction to capture was the Uffizi Gallery, which has the world’s eldest museum where one can see famous paintings by Renaissance painters such as Leonardo, Giotto, Michelangelo, Botticelli & Raffaello. The Uffizi Gallery represents a stage where many of Florence’s current artists can be seen chalking up portraits of tourists & there are many street performers to admire as well.

On route I also took in Piazza Signoria, which has some of the most breath taking statues I have ever seen. It is a great pity that the most famous of all, the Statue of David was not open to the public due to cleaning…who cleans a statue in the middle of your tourist season? Evidently the Italians!

The famous Ponte Vecchio with all its famous gold smith shops was a hive of activity. It was virtually impossible to move in the area so a decision was taken to move on to the stunning Piazzale Michelangelo where the most scintillating panoramas can be taken of Florence. It was an eventful walk to get to the top as the square overlooks the city. I witnessed & photographed the city with an amazing sunset. What transpired was that I had not given much thought to the fact that sunset in Europe at this time of the year was at about 21h00!!! So having got there at about 18h00 I had more than enough time to suck on a few of the local “Moretti” Birra…66cl of the stuff. “Uno Grande birra perfavore”. This is one great beer!

Once the sunset had come & gone and all the images needed had been captured it was off back to the City to take in some night photography & of course my first real Italian supper. Yay! The next day we were all off to the next part of the journey, which was taking a train trip across the country from Tuscany to the Ligurian region & Cinque Terre.  Looking forward to more travel photography tomorrow.

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Travel photography – Italy – Day 2/3

Cinque Terre (The 5 Lands)– La Spezia, Riomaggiore, Manarola & Corniglia.

Ian Cooper Photography-Travel Photographer-ItalyOn of the finest places to enjoy travel photography.  On leaving Florence, I realized one thing about the Italians, & that was their transport system! Mostly clean, mostly fast, sometimes cheap but never ever on time!

Once on board the speed train to La Spezia in the Laguria region it was also apparent how we in South Africa lack a great public transport system. The Italians have train, bus, boats; taxis for everyone & most of them are relatively cheap. Don’t expect hiring a car to be reasonable…remember that we are paying close to R10 for 1 Euro!!! The equivalent B class car here in SA with unlimited mileage will cost R245 per day…in Italy for an inferior Fiat cost R800 per day!

Anyway, off to Cinque Terre a remote chunk of the Italian Riviera, which is traffic free, lowbrow, under appreciated & there is not a museum in sight. In fact each of the 5 villages has no more than a railway station, bus stop, an ATM & 20 Gelateria’s! Honestly besides pretty little architecture, famous forts & churches, Cinque Terre boasts sun, sea, sand, wine & pure unadulterated Italy. Here you will also find callused locals, sunburned travelers, no Vespas & many happy relaxed tourists. Besides centuries of history, each village prospers & fishing, seafood, castles, grapes, wine, churches, artists & boats are very evident.

Riomaggiore is the largest & oldest in the region. Looking from the top of the hillside at the village the buildings & homes look like a fascinating tangle of pastel homes leaning on each other like drunken sailors. The blue sea, the grey reefs & the rocky coast, the green terraces covered with vineyards & olive groves create an explosion of color. It was evident in almost exaggerated fashion I noticed the typical architecture embroidered with a myriad of lanes, stairways, little alleyways & covered passageways. Riomaggiore is captivating & has amazingly evocative landscapes that are almost wild yet peaceful & charming. Above the village the old Genovese castle dominates the landscape & was build in the 15th century. There are two sides to Riomaggiore: the fishing village & the peasant’s village, which faces the mountain. Obviously the fishing village faces the sea! Picturesque Riomaggiore is also enhanced by the presence of Montenero, a very ancient sanctuary & church, which along with the castle, date back to the 14th & 15th centuries.

A twenty-minute walk along the rugged coastline takes you to the next village, which is Manarola. Along the way is the lovely and interesting “Love’s Trail” (Via Dell’Amore), where thousands of couples have “locked” their love for each other by placing & locking a padlock on the railings, fences, gates, rock secures & doors.

Manarola is a charming village, which is perched on a sheer rocky spur some 70 m above the sea on one of the most breath taking parts of the coastline of Cinque Terre. Its typical tall houses huddle together adding a bright touch to the narrow alleys & steps with their vivid pastel colors. A few vestiges of the town’s old castle can be spotted among the houses. The castle, testimony to the rule of the Fieschi family was destroyed in 1276 by the Genovese. An enchanting village where I found some of the friendliest locals & also offered some of the most beautiful & unforgettable views of Cinque Terre.

Corniglia was the next stop. Corniglia is 105 meters above sea level & the only village in Cinque Tree that is not on the sea. But it has the same spectacular sea views on the one side & terraces covered with dense vineyards on the other as the other villages have. This village is more famously known than its neighbors as it is richer in history & also is famous for its own wine, the Vernaccia. Getting to the top of the village from the station is more than an average effort. A path zigzags approximately 400 stairs to the town. Once you reach the top there is a congratulatory sign welcoming you to the village & reminding you of the steep climb! This, with all my photography gear nearly killed me! Whilst dining on a local dish, gulping on a local Moretti beer, I witnessed some locals obviously upset by something & managed to get some truly magnificent portraiture, the type of emotional portraiture that captures the true Italian ways.

Once I had captured some sensational shots it was back to Manarola to get some night photography. This time I new sunset was at about 21h00!

Pondering on the train on my way back to La Spezia I was already thinking ahead to tomorrow which was going to take us into the countryside, a whole new look at Italy.