Italy. A small country in Europe packed with amazing experiences, art, architecture and design. Design in terms of Interiors, design in sculptures, clothes and even food! With so many artists, painters, sculptors, designers and scholars, Italy is a haven for exploring medieval as well as modern art and design. As an architect, it was my dream to go to Italy and immerse myself in all that it had to offer. Believe me, I wasn’t disappointed. Every lane, every road, every building and every place I entered, was enthralling, to say the least. The fine details and the history attached to every sculpture was so interesting, I had to share it with everyone!
The Middle ages in Italy saw the profound use of architectural elements like frescoes, motifs, mosaics and ornamentation making it a typical building style throughout the country. Byzantine art in Italy was a much used formal and refined ornamentation with a typical flow and use of colours like red and gold in art and paintings. Italy was in the centre of the Renaissance movement (1300-1600) starting with the Proto Renaissance of Giotto and further developing in the high Renaissance of world renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael etc. These artists and sculptors were the pioneers of the later phase of the Renaissance, commonly referred to as Mannerism. With the advent of the Baroque style in the 17th Century Rome, cultural tourism and Neoclassicism became the saving grace for a declining economy. A lot of other worldspread art movements like the Macchiaioli, Futurism, Metaphysical, Spatialism, Transavantgarde can also be credited to Italy.
Dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity, the world famous Duomo di Milano, also commonly known as The Milan Cathedral, is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan. This huge manifestation of religion, the largest in Italy, third largest in Europe and fourth in the world, took nearly six hundred years to finish! Yes, that’s right! Six centuries to complete this unbelievable structure, filled with spellbinding sculptures, art pieces and reciting verses from Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles. The plan is derived of four side aisles, crossed by a transept. The huge Nave is 45 metres high ending into the Gothic vaults covered in religious imagery. The roof is accessible through lifts and a winding staircase, providing spectacular views to the Piazza and the spires which are intricately carved with images of Gods, followers, folklore and mythical scripts from the Bible. The intricate network of pinnacles and spires set upon flying buttresses is truly a sight to behold.
Religion and cultural history were one of the main topics which inspired Renaissance artists. Their most famous works are displayed even today with themes originating from the Bible, mythical stories and verses, tales of religious heroes and kings, as well as scenes from Italian history and geography. Michelangelo’s most famous statue, ‘David’ is a spectacular work of marble, standing proud at the Gallerie dell’accademia, Florence, an awe striking piece of marvelous detail and authenticity. Other famous works like the ‘Rape of the Sabine’, ‘Pieta’, ‘Hercules and Cacus’ are displayed in the open Loggia della Signoria, in Florence. The architecture serves as the perfect backdrop for these amazing sculptures, turning the entire city into an open museum of art and design. The pathbreaking work of some of the most famous artists in time, makes you stop and stare and admire the intricacy with which these were carved, as if rising out from the marble itself, trying to convey the ancient past to every passerby.
The Interiors are a different story altogether! Seen in the pictures, is the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, which was home to a long line of Dukes and Duchesses of the ruling family of Italy. The walls are lined with art from the medieval century reflecting the royal taste of the Italians. Every fresco and painting was specially commissioned by the Royal family and executed by the best artists in their signature style. The use of strokes and angles in the paintings describe how art progressed in Italy and the style of the colors and figures made helps in dating the paintings. Walking through the Palazzo, is like walking through a time machine, as it transports the visitors completely into the lives of the royal family, their taste for art and luxury and so defines the golden era in the history of Italy.
After witnessing the best Milan and Florence had to offer, the wonders of the Art and Interior world, I did not expect to be so awed with Pisa. However, I was wrong. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, is not called a Wonder of the World lightly. The freestanding bell tower, known worldwide for its incline is visited by thousands of people all over the world. The tower, began tilting during it’s construction in the 12th century, for which the inadequate foundation on ground was to blame. The inadequate foundation could not support the rising structure causing it to bend by an angle of almost 5 degrees. A lot of efforts were made through the years to stabilize it, however the gigantic tower at a whopping 55.86m height could not be straightened. The 294 steps leading to the top of the tower, is open to tourists in batches so as to restrict the total weight in the tower at any given point of time. The Marble staircase appears to have dips where people tend to step the most, and the tower internally pulls you to one side (owing to the incline) as you ascend the steps. At the top, visitors can see views across the entire city, and gape at the 5 huge bells hung at the top.
Italy. The land of art and design which offers something for everyone. Modern day design of shopfronts, art galleries and boutiques are inspired from the regal handiwork of the past, a true declaration of the wonders the country has to offer. The streets are lined with high street retail shops and street artists, each with a brush, a charcoal pencil, paints and tools ready to etch their name with the heroes of their past. Italy, truly is a designer’s haven!