Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Piazza delle Erbe, Verona

Piazza delle Erbe and Torre dei Lamberti, Verona

At the centre of Verona lies the Piazza delle Erbe. This long rectangular square has enjoyed continuous use as a market for 2000 years. Trade in Northern Italy was important for the authority of small city-states.

Verona is still very much shaped by the original Roman settlement. Streets in the city centre follow a grid plan, taking into account Roman monuments. The Amphitheatre is easily the largest building in Verona. The Piazza delle Erbe stands on the old forum site. A market column (capitetto), was used for proclamations during the Middle Ages. A fountain is dedicated to the Verona Madonna. Less than five minutes walk from the Piazza, the Casa Giulietta attracts tourists interested in the world-famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.
The Piazza is dominated by the Palazzo della Ragione (12th century) and the Torre dei Lamberti above. The tower reaches a height of 84 metres, with an octagonal upper storey.

Milan’s Other Cathedrals

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Milan is renowned for its fashion, commerce and culture. Architecturally, the city is home to the Gothic Duomo and Teatro della Scala. However, there are other ‘cathedrals’ that bear testament to this one-time capital of Italy.

Galleria from Piazza del Duomo

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an early example of the covered shopping arcade. Designed in 1861 by Giuseppe Mengoni, the Galleria is linked to the emergence of Italy as a unified country. Cruciform in plan, the arcade connects Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala. Iron and glass, imported from England, was used to create four large barrel vaults, with an octagonal void where they intersect. The longer arm of the cross is 196 metres, with a maximum height of 47 metres. Decoration in the galleria is in a rich neo-Renaissance Revival style. Triumphal arches mark the main entrances. Famous Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo and Da Vinci, are featured in the 24 statues that line the arcade. In the centre, a mosaic depicts the Savoy coat of arms.

Today, the galleria is a symbol of Italian fashion and luxury shopping, selling clothing, books, paintings, and jewellery. Prada and Luis Vutton are among the designer brands. Ricordi, a fantastic record store, occupies space beneath the concourse. Locally, the galleria is known as Milan’s drawing room (il salotto di Milano), since its cafes make popular meeting places.

Milano Centrale Trainshed

With the advent of industrial manufacture, materials such as cast iron and steel began large scale production. Steel was crucial for the growing railways. The first line opened from Stockton to Darlington in England (1825). Continental Europe began construction in the 1830s. The fast journeys afforded by train travel resulted in countrywide unification and stronger nationalism. Also important, was finding a new expression for industrial materials.

Station Entrance

Milano Centrale is the second largest station in Italy. Located in Piazza Duca d’Aosta, the station handles 320000 passengers per day, roughly 120 million per year. Two competitions were held, with Ulisse Stacchini providing the winning design. Under Italian Fascism, the grander elements of the intended decoration were removed, creating a style closer to Art Deco. The approved design (1924) was completed in 1931. The trainshed, by engineer Alberto Favo encloses 341 metres of track in a structure of cast iron and glass, with a 72 metre free span. Milano Centrale handles around 600 trains per day, giving visitors a striking and memorable entrance to the city.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and Milano Centrale are pioneering buildings that work to celebrate Italian Unification.

Villa La Rotunda, Vicenza

La Rotunda, Vicenza

One of the all time architectural greats has to be Palladio. A recent trip to the
Veneto region of Italy allowed me to see his work at first hand.

Andrea Palladio was born 1508, in the town of Padua. He originally trained as a stone
mason, before being sent to Vicenza, where he was mentored by Giangiorgio
Trissino. A two year stay in Rome allowed Palladio to collect accurate
information on the proportions of classical buildings, which he later explored
in his own work. Palladio was fascinated by Bramante, Raphael and classical
Rome. He also benefited from new translations of texts by Vitruvius and Alberti.

After winning a competition to remodel the Palazzo della Ragione, Vicenza, Palladio
built a steady career designing country villas. These grand estates were owned
by Venetian nobles, providing them with an additional income. Palladio had
already become skilled at incorporating agricultural functions such as livestock
stabling, hay storage and grain threshing into a single building. His designs are
often sited on a low hill, with a central living block and symmetrical end pavilions.
By adding Greek temple fronts to his villas, Palladio believed he was mimicking
Antiquity. In fact, he was doing something completely new. Harmonic ratios,
based on intervals in music, enabled Palladio to achieve mathematical
perfection between wall thickness, plan dimensions and room height.

The Villa Americo Capra (1566-70), known as La Rotonda, is perhaps the most famous
Palladian villa. Commissioned by a retired churchman, the villa is located on
the outskirts of Vicenza. The owner lived elsewhere, using the property for
agriculture and entertaining guests brought from the town. Palladio created a
square plan villa, with a large double-storey rotunda at the centre. Each face
has an identical portico, making the building appear the same on every side.
Internally, harmonic proportion and symmetry decide the layout and size of the
corner rooms on the main floor. Stucco and rich frescoes complete the interior.
To Palladio, pure geometric forms (such as the square and
circle), use of symmetry and proportions represented his idea of architectural