You might think why a housing complex, like the Hundertwasser Houses in Vienna, is of so much importance considering the fact that the entire architecture of Vienna has the same vibe. Well, when a building has the rebellious touch of Hundertwasser, it’s bound to get some attention that you can’t ignore. They might look weird, but they are marvelously colorful!
Standing at the mouth of the Grand Canal, Basilica Santa Maria della Salute ‘s imposing Baroque structure looks like it guards the beautiful city of Venice. Its impressive dome was put in by the survivors of the plague. For their salvation, the city built the church as a dedication to Our Lady of Health/Deliverance (Salute).
One of the survivors of the plague was Titian who died at age 94. Inside, you’ll find 12 of his original paintings hanging at the sacristy.
Unfortunately for me, despite running as fast as I could, the basilica was already closed when I went there. Well, I arrived there at 4:45 PM but they told me that they won’t sell me tickets anymore because they’d be closing soon. And it was my last day in the city, so no more time to go back the next day.
You can’t talk about Italian literature without mentioning Dante Alighieri who peacefully rests in Ravenna. I’d say that his Divine Comedy (Divina Comedia) is, perhaps, the greatest Italian literary work the world has ever known. It’s a classic that must be read whether you’re a believer of hell, purgatory and paradise or not.
Is Dante’s Tomb in Florence Real?
If you were told by one of your guides or a local in Florence that Dante is buried in their city – ignore it. There’s no truth in that. That “tomb” you see in Florence is nothing but air inside. Empty – that is. It’s nothing but a memorial to Dante who was born in Florence.
But what’s this myth about Dante’s tomb lies in Florence? Well, in 1519, Pope Leo X directed that Dante’s bones be moved to Florence but the Franciscan monks at the nearby monastery stole them away and hid them for more than 300 years. It was re-discovered in 1865 – by chance!
Avila is one of the historical jewels of the crown of Spain. Cities around the world are witnesses of many past events and Avila is no exception. It has seen the Moorish as well as the Christian rule, and both of these eras have left their footprints on the city in form of monasteries, Romanesque churches, convents, and forts. The city is walled and therefore, all of these landmarks are guarded well, and because of their antique nature, the whole city is listed by UNESCO.
In Spain, nearly every city has an Alcazar – a fortification of Moorish origin or of the Christian origin.
The Avila can very much be called a fort in itself. This is because this city is bound by walls that were built for fending off any invasions. There are nine gates in the Alcazar de Avila with the Gate of St. Vincent and Gate of the Fortress (Puerta del Alcazar) flanked by two towers of 20-meter height.
The views of Barcelona from Montjuic Castle is stunningly marvelous. Situated on the top of the Montjuic hill overlooking Barcelona, Castle Montjuic is an epitome of the resilience of Barcelona against the oppressions and invasions. Yet, it is also a monument of the victory of Spain over Catalan some 350 years ago. The victory is in the walls of the castle, in its spacious verandas, and its fortifications. You can see it everywhere and it augments as you overlook the city sprawling right in front of it. The castle indeed has witnessed not only many years of civil war and unrest in the 20th century, but also the growth of the city.
Well, that was just a brief history of this place. If you are an avid traveler and you have stepped on the soil of Barcelona, you’ve got to visit Castle Montjuic for the following reasons:
1. To see it speak its history
Running for about hour and a half, the guided tours of the castle are a great way to get to know about how it stood multiple invasions and warded off all the oppressors at the same time incarcerating prisoners itself. Aside from the history, the tours will also carry you through all the architectural significances of the castle, its built, the stones used, and the amalgam used to bind them. If you have no time for tours, you can, of course, wander around by yourself.
For me, Annecy is once in a lifetime experience. Its darting canals through the village, meandering along some of the historical buildings in Europe, its food, and scenery, and most importantly, its settlement on the cleanest lake in Europe—Annecy—told me how different this city is.
The lake itself is surrounded by hills and mountains and it almost seemed to me as if they were peeking at their reflection in the tenuous hazed lake beneath.
It was around noon when I thought of treading the cobblestoned walkways lining the Annecy canals. Indeed, this is the reason they call it the “Venice of the Alps”. All those plaster houses with their baskets full of fresh flowers was a spectacle to remember.
The River Tiber is as ancient as the history of Rome, or maybe even older than it. As it snakes and twines around the city through multiple historical places, it seems as if it takes a small siesta on an ancient island named in honor of it – the Island Tiber.
Just as myths and peculiar stories are attached to every kind of historical and unexplained event, so has the Island Tiber a legend associated with its creation.
It is said that when the last king of Rome was overthrown in around 509 BC, his corpse was dumped in the River Tiber. However, it was so huge that the river could not either dissolve it or flow it away with itself. So, in the end, all of that culminated in the creation of the Tiber Island.
After a few years, they say that during a plague, a ship sent to Epidaurus arrived at Rome with a sacred snake of the God of Medicine Aesculapius. As the very ship was crossing the River Tiber, the snake jumped from the ship and settled on the island. This is why the base of the Temple of Aesculapius was built there followed by a magnificent temple.
In Milan, all roads lead to the Duomo – a gigantic cathedral that is as old as the Roman empire itself. Any visitor who does not visit this place hasn’t been to Milan.
Why, oh why? …because I have seen this place and I must say that I was shaken to my core when I saw how delicate the finesse of architectural art is combined with the size of the building. It is, after all, the largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world, covering 109,641 sq. ft. area.
1. See all the 3,400 statues
Combining both the inner and the outer statues of the cathedral, they make up to 3,400 statues, 700 figures, and 135 gargoyles. All of these inclusions make the building the most decorated one on the planet!
Any fortress or castle in the world carries a piece of history that has passed by and eroded, yet evolved its fabric culturally, architecturally, and religiously. The Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy is no different and this is what I found out after visiting it. Milan, generally, is a welcoming city with its Italian vibes. However, it is this castle that brings about its true nature both historic and present.
Before going on stating what you can do in the castle, let us take a dive in the pool of history. I know I hate it, too, but for the sake of understanding this place better, let’s spare some moments.
A Short History
Sforza Castle or Sforcesca castle has seen many eras of complex invasions, sieges, and renovations. Built in the 1450s by Francesco Sforza, it is one of the few remnants of the 14th-century citadels. However, before it was a castle or a residential quarter of the notable rulers, it had been a Visconti fortress with impeccable defense systems – walls and towers that are so high and mighty. It was on the ruins of this fortress that Sforza built the Sforza Castle.
One day in summer, my feet brought me to the streets of Tangier – the city which has influenced the people on their taste in arts, culture, and cuisine from around the world. Tangier is a mix of everything – partly because of the invasions of the Spanish, Muslims, Portuguese, and English.
A great many artists always look for inspiration for their work – and Tangier has served to be just that for many notable personalities, including Paul Bowles, Henri Matisse, William S. Burroughs, Paulo Coelho, Keith Richards, Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams, painter Eugene Delacroix, and many others.
By visiting the city in summer, I understood what brings all the literary and artistic juice of the world here and I’d like to quote it in the words of William S. Burroughs,
“Tangier is on one of the few places in the world where, so long as you don’t proceed to robbery, violence, or some form of crude, antisocial behavior, you can do exactly what you want.”
I literally did what I could. Of course, I cannot talk about the “other things”, ahem, but I can tell you my 5 most favorite experiences there.
1. The Kasbah
I have to say that I really did enjoy my time wandering here. Believe it or not, I spent close to 5 hours, one foot in front of the other. I stopped twice in some old cafes and ordered something strange. While passing through the gate of Kasbah and stepping into the large courtyard and then into the Dar el-Makhzen palace of the 17th century, I could notice how every atom of the place could speak volume of what they have been through. The intricacies of the Moroccan artwork pleased my eyes which changed into ecstasy as I stepped into the Café Detroit which has served to be the rallying point of most of the writers mentioned above.