Category: italy

venice

out there

My new office kindly took us all to Venice for a weekend to witness the opening of the 11th Venice Architectural Biennale, in particular the opening party for the GHA designed Scottish Pavilion. I had nothing to do with it as it had all happened before I joined the practice but was kindly taken along for the ride, and Chhay joined us along with a solid contingent of WaG’s (and not forgetting the HaB’s too!)

I was excited to visit Venice for the first time despite the tourist mecca that it is renowned to be. The combination of lots of boats, windy lanes and Italian architecture is too close to my heart to ignore. Our explorations of the maze of alleyways was limited by torrential rain on the Saturday, which we spent tucked in another of my ideal urban ingredients – a tiny corner bar open to the street and plastic bag clad masses.

Sunday proved to be a little drier so we packed an architectural meg day, starting in the national pavilions in the Giardini before a hyperspeed tour of the architectural (or sculptural really) delights of the Arsenale, where the starchitects had come out to play – with swoopy, eye candy from the likes of Zaha and Frank.

Highlights were the Belgian pavilion filled only with tonnes of confetti in an exploration of emptiness, the indescribably beautiful pencil drawings on the walls of the Japanese pavilions and the mind numbing, literally disorientating saturation of ideas bursting out of the Italian pavilion.

Naturally a weekend was not even close to enough time to explore it all, and the next biennale may provide the perfect excuse to return in a few years time!

afloat on the bay of naples

For the second part of our Italian adventure we headed to a small island off the coast of Naples to pick up a charter yacht for a weeks sailing. Our aim was to sail to the Amalfi coast and explore the islands in the bay of Naples – Ischia, Capri and our base Procida.
Procida (below) itself is small un-touristy fishing and yachting enclave full of fantastic old buildings packed on to hillsides and a crazy system of narrow windy streets. It was a small mission to get there – including a thorough telling off from the Naples ticket inspectors for boarding a tram without a ticket, but delightful once we arrived.

Procida Harbour

Once we had settled on board Zippella (below) we headed out of the picturesque Marina di Chiaiolella to headed for neighbouring Ischia for the evening. A brisk breeze soon had a heeling nicely enjoying the sunshine and breeze on our faces as we made for the port of Sant’Angelo, however a couple of hours in, as the wind picked up and we beat towards port our rather tired looking mainsail tore, reminding Dugs and I of the somewhat haphazard nature of sailing!

Zippella

After several failed attempts at mooring (our anchoring technique took some time to rediscover) we puttered in to the village and had a fantastic seafood feast served by a crazy lady at a little restaurant situated on an isthmus looking back at the town.

We toddled back to the boat as the wind started to pick up, and headed to bed only to be woken around 2 o’clock in the morning by rain streaming in through the portholes, and our dinghy about to launch it self from the deck. A quick visual check through the gloom backed up by the GPS had our anchor dragging so we nosed in a little closer and tried to sleep, it was probably lucky our somnolence wasn’t too deep because our anchoring still wasn’t up to scratch and at 5 in the morning we had dragged another 500 m and were heading towards the beach! We adjusted again and had a fitful rest till morning proper.

With our broken sail we had to readjust our plans to try and get it repaired so dawdled back to our home port with a delightful stop for lunch and a swim in the harbour at Ischia Porto (below) just across from Procida.

taxi?

Once we were back in our base marina we had some bad news – it turned out our mainsail would take longer than expected to be repaired. We had time to explore the town around the marina and get a decent nights sleep before Claire headed off to make it back to work(!) while the rest of us decided to press on without our main. Thankfully we had following winds for the rest of our trip and hardly missed it.

We nosed out and set sail for Capri with another beautiful day for sailing. A bit of an oily swell and Dug’s somewhat amateur butchering of a fish we caught trawling had Chhay & I a little queasy, but by the time we rounded the spectacular looking Capri and settled into a bay on the southern side away from the 140 euro per night marina we were feeling better. We headed ashore and wandered up to Capri itself to lower the tone significantly. A 6 euro gelati soon had us scurrying back aboard to cook dinner for ourselves however.

The bathtub shape of our boat didn’t make for an easy anchorage and as a storm hit again in the small hours we found ourselves dragging once more, this time next to a rather severe looking cliff face! The next morning dawned hot and clear but as we made a quick dash towards our the Amalfi coast to at least get in sight of our initial destination the weather closed in. Having decided not to make landfall we spun around and headed back to Procida, thankfully the wind had turned with us and we could reach our way back at a healthy pace as the islands faded in and out with passing squalls. As we neared the southern tip of Procida the weather cleared and we crept into a delightful bay in the lee of a fort with precarious fishermen’s houses clinging to the sheer hills (below).

Marina di Corricella

With our anchor firmly set and the calmest waters we had experienced we popped in to the town and explored the back streets before settling in to a fantastic seafood feast right on the edge of the fishing harbour, with launches full of people arriving and stepping straight off the boat and to their table.

The final morning we puttered around the island and back to our marina before starting an epic (bus, ferry, tram, train, bus, flight) trip back (40 hours for Dugs) and another night in Rome for Chhay & I.

roma

pizzicheria

With the younger harland venturing offshore for the first time we caught up with him in Rome earlier this month, replacing a conference about the intricacies of radar with some more somnolent pursuits.We managed to actually enter very few of the main attractions, with the exception of the coleseum (below) and the roman forum, spending most of our time wandering & absorbing – a return visit to actually attempt to tackle some of the thousands of museums and churches dotted throughout the centro storico is defiinetly in order.

coleseum

Highlights for me as usual were the twisty back alleys, framing storybook views of old shops & apartment buildings. We skirted some of the classic pieces but generally tried to avoid the packed throngs surrounding them, limiting Chhay & my’s ability to re-enact Roman Holiday.

jewish ghettothe old Jewish ghetto (above) and Trastevere south of the tiber were my favourite areas, smaller in scale and slightly less frenetic but we could have wandered through the entire city for hours more than we did.