Desired Destination: Palazzo Margherita

21/02/2012 § 1 Comment

The Palazzo Margherita, located in the town of Bernalda, Italy was built in 1892 by the Margherita family.  Purchased in 2004 by Francis Ford Coppola, the palazzo has been transformed into a tiny (only nine guestrooms) luxury hotel with the kind of interiors that give me heart palpitations.  No staid adherence to one single style here, rather it is the combination of the expertise of Parisian designer Jacques Grance and the input of members of the Coppola clan.  This gorgeous hotel has a cosmopolitan and sophisticated feel, with a healthy dose of Belle Époque.

Hello salon, I think I love you…

…oh yes, it’s quite official now.

The owner of other small hotels in Belize, Guatemala, Argentina and New Orleans, this property was a labor of love for Coppola, as his grandfather, Agostino Coppola, was born in the town of Bernalda.  Bernalda, a small hilltop town near the Ionian Sea in the Bazilicata region of Southern Italy, is not a major tourist attraction, which I think makes this dramatically luxurious hotel even more alluring.  Can you not imagine long lazy days wandering the countryside and exploring the town, lounging in the sun by the pool, soaking in those glorious tubs?

I definitely can.

The Palazzo was also featured in the March 2012 World of Interiors.

Palazzo Margherita
Corso Umberto 64
75012 Bernalda (MT)
Italy

Quite Continental Desired Destinations
~*~Travel Charmingly~*~
All images via Palazzo Margherita and the WSJ.
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Desired Destination: Siena

24/01/2012 § 3 Comments

Church of San Domenico, Siena.

With all the dispatches a few weeks back from Florence for Pitti Immagine Uomo, my thoughts couldn’t help but turn to the time I spent studying abroad in the same city.  I loved living in Firenze, just off of Piazza Savonarola, in a tiny and charming apartment that originally served as servant’s quarters for a massive home owned by an old and aristocratic family.  As I looked at the countless photographs of the peacocking at the trade shows, I couldn’t help but look past the — well-dressed, of course — men, to the city that was peeking around the edges, and remember what living in Tuscany felt like.

My latest Desired Destination is one of my favorite places in Tuscany: the tiny, medieval town of Siena.  Approximately one hour south of Florence by car, Siena is noted for its sport, its fierce neighborhood loyalties, and its ancient history.  The town is divided into seventeen contrade, or wards, each with distinct boundaries and identifiable symbols and animal mascots.  While originally instated to provide military support and initially organized by trade, the contrade have evolved into extremely patriotic neighborhood associations: a resident of Siena will be baptized, married and eulogized, all within his or her contrade, and as you walk through the town, you’ll find the symbols prominently featured everywhere — as almost all contrade have declared rivals and allies, boundaries are very important.  These rivalries reach a fever pitch during the Palio, a biannual horse race that has been run in Siena since the 14th century.

The symbol of Siena: Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf
Actually, this is Senius and Aschius, sons of Remus. (Thanks to Simon for the correction!)
“Legend has it that the city was founded by Remus’ sons Senius and Aschius who stole the statue of the she-wolf from Apollo’s temple. Senius rode a black horse, Aschius a white steed. Those colours form the city’s heraldic colour scheme black and white while the city emblem is the same as Rome – the she-wolf and breast-feeding twins.” Via.
Palazzo Salimbeni, piazza Salimbeni.
Headquarters of the oldest bank in the world, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena,
which has been in operation since 1472.
Piazza del Campo.

The Palio is run in Siena’s historic center, the Piazza del Campo.  Spectators fill the Piazza to the brim, with wealthier spectators enjoying the view from balconies above.  With layers of dirt packed over the stone, the horses and riders must complete three loops around the Piazza as fast as possible.  Complicating matters are the Piazza’s sharp turns and the fact that the jockeys must ride bareback —  injuries are frequent and it is not uncommon for horses to compete and win the race after discarding their graceless riders.  At each race, ten contrade are represented, alliances are tested and rampant bribery is rumored, in this ultimate competition for bragging rights and glory that is much unchanged since it was first run in the 14th century.

Spectators in the Piazza del Campo, 1947.  Photos by Walter Sanders for LIFE.

Each contrade brings their horse into their church for a pre-race blessing.

Horse racing not your thing?  Fear not.  Siena’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site assures that there is something for almost everyone, especially if you like art and churches.  There are the beautiful secular frescoes in the Palazzo Pubblico and the amazingly elaborate Duomo di Siena to see.  However, if you prefer to simply wander about the old winding streets, I wouldn’t argue.  And definitely bring home some of the beautiful and brightly painted ceramics Siena is known for — contrade specific, of course.

For accommodations, turn to Hotel Certosa di Maggiano.  Originally a Carthusian monastery built in 1394, the property changed hands and fell into disrepair until it was purchased in 1969 and eventually converted by Anna Grossi Recordati into the luxury hotel it is today.  Surrounded by six acres of countryside and boasting one of the best restaurants in the world, chef Paolo Lopriore’s Il Canto, the Hotel Certosa di Maggiano is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Siena, conveniently located only one kilometer from the town.

Images via Hotel Certosa di Maggiano.

Currently closed for the winter, this darling hotel is set to reopen on March 16.

Perhaps I should book a room for when Pitti rolls around again in June…

Hotel Certosa di Maggiano
Strada di Certosa, 82
53100 Sienna Siena, Italy
0577 288 180
~*~

Venetian Memories of Cy Twombly {The Coronation of Sesostris at the Palazzo Grassi}

07/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Cy Twombly, taken in 1958 by David Lees.  Image via Time Life.

American artist Cy Twombly passed away Tuesday, July 5 in Rome at the age of 83.  For me, his art has always had an irresistible magnetism.  Primal and chaotic, symbolic and mysterious, there is something about Twombly’s body of work that immediately exhilarates me but simultaneously knocks me off-kilter.  I love it.  Currently there is an outpouring of remembrances and many obituaries have been written, so I don’t feel the need to launch into a report on his life.  I will leave that to others.  What I did want to share was my most memorable Twombly experience, viewing his Coronation of Sesostris (2000) at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.

Image via Palazzo Grassi.

The stately Palazzo, completed during the second half of the eighteenth century, is located on the Grand Canal and currently houses the personal art collection of François Pinault (aka #77 on the Forbes List of World Billionaires, luxury goods tycoon robber-baron, and father to Francois-Henri who is a rather effective impregnator of fabulous ladies).  It is truly an amazing setting to view Pinault’s excellent and growing collection of contemporary (post-war) art.  I especially appreciate Koons’ Balloon Dog floating in the canal.

Twombly’s Coronation of Sesostris (2000) is an epic, ten part, mixed media work that was installed at the Palazzo in 2006.  The panels chart the coronation procession of Sesotris, “one of the cruellest of Egypt’s pharaohs, the conqueror of Nubia and architect of the unification of the lands of Egypt into a single kingdom” (via PG)  Thought by many to be his strongest work in years at the time it was produced, Twombly’s Coronation panels are

 “…magnificently colored, flirt with ethereal degrees of unfinishedness, and are at once luxurious and rotting, full of life and funereal. Coronation of Sesostris echoes some of the erotic tenor and violence of the early work, though in the mournful minor keys of yearning and homesickness. Bursts of scarlet that once read as hands thrown up in rapture, or bloodstains, now feel like flowers or heartbeats; convulsive, surging rhythm has turned beautifully, excruciatingly protracted; love, loss, melancholy and memory have taken the place of real sex.”  – Jerry Saltz (full article available via Artnet)

In the Palazzo, the large panels are positioned in a single room for maximum impact.  Wandering among them, I was amazed by how vividly I saw the arc of this storyline of a single blazing day in Egypt and how viscerally I responded to the colors and the words Twombly utilized.  It was easily my favorite work within the entire museum.  I have included the panels below so that you might glean a sense of them, but I absolutely urge you to take the time if you are in Venice to see them in person at the Palazzo.  While I am sad that Twombly has passed, I was pleased to reacquaint myself with an amazing work of art and of my treasured memories of Venice.

Coronation of Sesostris (2000) by Cy Twombly
All images below via Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly: April 25, 1928 – July 5, 2011

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