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Saturday 25 August 2007

CK Goes to Italy – Cremona

What interests me in this small city 70 km southeast of Milan are the priceless antique violins made by the three grandmasters of all violin makers, Nicolo Amati, Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri.

On 28th May, 2006, I stepped my feet on board the Intercity train at Milano Centrale Stazione scheduled to leave for Cremona at 8:15 a.m., in search of the finest instruments that showed their sound to me through my hi-fi. Those instruments were played by the maestro, Salvatore Accardo, in one of my all time favorite CDs of violin music with the title I violini di Cremona.

At around 9:35 a.m., I have just stepped out of the train station.

The streets of Cremona are lined with elaborately decorated windows.

I wondered whether the girl of my dream would appear at the balcony. Obviously, that never happened!

My first stop was Museo Civico, where some paintings of the Cremonese artists are on display.

If my memory serves me right, this painting was started off by Leornado da Vinci and was finished by somebody else.

Adjoining Museo Civico is Museo Stradivariono. By the name of the museum, it is obvious that the treasures inside are violins, antique violins, of course! The old tools used by Nicolo Amati and Antonio Stradivari are on display as well. There is also an old signboard of Antonio Stradivari's workshop.

I walked a few rounds in Museo Stradivariono but I couldn't find the violins featured in my CD. I thought my travel guide had misinformed me about those violins. I approached a friendly museum guard and she told me that those preciously violins were moved to a palace as a separate exhibition some time ago, so I asked her for the name of the palace. It is Palazzo Comunale. I was full of hope again and moved on to look for this palace. I passed through Piazza Cavour where some school children were having their volleyball matches.

From Piazza Cavour, I could already see the bell tower of Palazzo Comunale. I was so happy that I could see those violins up close in a very short while.

I was so excited to see those masterpieces displayed in the splendid ballroom of Palazzo Comunale. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when the "G. Guarneri detto del Gesù" was just right in front of my eyes! I have seen the violin called "Quarestani", also by Giuseppe Guarneri! I almost shouted for joy when Antonio Stradivari's "Cremonese" was presented to me! When I went round and round the museum, I also spotted "Hammerle" crafted by Nicolo Amati. The excitement and joy were just beyond my descriptions!

I can't show you how the violins look like, though, as photography was not allowed. Therefore I show you this violin maker on Piazza del Comune which is just nearby to the palace.

After the excitement and joy of antique violin appreciation, it was time for my stomach to appreciate some food too. I sat at the table right in the middle of Piazza del Comune to appreciate this plate of mixed-cut meat, as in accordance to the recommendation by the waiter, an authentic Cremonese appetizer.

My main course was a plate of spaghetti marinara with plenty of fresh mussels, shrimps, clams and octopus cutlets. It was a little too salty to my taste bud, though.

I took up my camera again to shoot this Cattedrale right in front of Piazza del Comune after lunch.

Palazzo Comunale where I have seen the masterpieces in violin making is just right opposite the Cattedrale.

The bell tower of the Cattedrale soaring high up to the sky.

This was taken at the side of the Cattedrale.

And this is me behind the Cattedrale.

After the self-portrait, I tried to see more up close on the bell tower and the minarets from behind the Cattedrale.

Another up close view of the minarets at the sides of the Cattedrale.

Feeling satisfied from my quest on seeing the best violins in the history of violin making, I couldn't stop to smile at the other train passengers on the way back to Milan. And they smiled back to me, probably just curious about me smiling at everybody.

If you would like to read my other posts on Italy, these are the links:

Thursday 23 August 2007

CK Goes to Italy – Genoa (Genova)

Out of the recommendation from a colleague of mine, I was curious about this refurbished old port town. I would like to see how a once dirty, dusty, noisy and chaotic port has been turned into a European City of Culture. Another attractive point about this city is that, it is the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.

After a smooth ride on an Intercity train for about one and a quarter hours from Stazione Milano Centrale to Stazione Brignole, I was stepping on the Genoese soil on the 26th day of May, 2006. As the waterfront is just about 1 km west of the train station, I started my exploration on foot along the main shopping boulevard, Via XX Settembre. One of the corridors' Gothic arches are very pleasing to the eyes.

At the end of Via XX Settembre is Piazza de Ferrari with many buildings of Renaissance architecture. The name of the square has nothing in relation to Enzo Ferrari, though.

A fountain occupies the centre of the square, dominating the front of Museo dell'Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti.

Standing proudly at one corner of Piazza de Ferrari is the Palazzo della Borsa which housed the former stock exchange.

The other corner of Piazza de Ferrari occupied by Palazzo Ducale, in which I took the stairway leading to the upper corridor to check what was up there. In fact there's nothing much to see, as the palace is nowadays used for temporary exhibitions only.

Adjoining Piazza de Ferrari is Piazza Giacomo Matteotti. I continued walking westward along Via San Lorenzo and the bell tower of Cattedrale di San Lorenzo was already in sight. Another black-and-white-striped structure?! Oh gosh! The Italians really like the Nyonya 'Kueh Salat!'

The front facade of the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo is also decorated with black and white marble stripes! There are even Gaudi-like spiral columns beside the doors which look like candy sticks! I wonder whether it is edible?!

Take a break, have a portrait! I couldn't resist to pose in front of this 'Kueh Salat' and 'candy sticks'. Haha!

OK! Now let us take a look at the refurbished waterfront of Porto Antico by the world-renowned architect, Renzo Piano. I like this suspended canvas structure very much. The sprawling steel columns, the strings of steel cables and the white canvas all synthesised into a beautiful shape and form.

I took a shot from another angle which makes the structure a resemblance of rigs on a vessel. I hope I've not got the concept of the architect wrong. Hehe!

When it was lunchtime, guess what I did? I bought a roasted pork leg all for myself! The crust was a bit hard, but the meat inside was still pink in colour and juicy. Yummy!

After a lunch which was pleasing to the eyes and also the stomach, I was full of energy to start exploring the Acquario (Aquarium). The architecture was also done by Renzo Piano.

At the very end of the Acquario, a spherical greenhouse is used to showcase the tropical rain forest of Madagascar.

The first segment of the Acquario showcases the tiny living creatures in the sea. These translucent jellyfish were very well highlighted under a blue background.

The aquarium is in fact a very good place to practice the panning technique. With all the fast moving fishes, it takes a lot of practice to get a clear shot.

A living shellfish is displayed at another part of Acquario. Triton used the shell to make his horn.

These are the South American tropical fishes, I think.

A stationary sawshark with another one passing by. This shot allows me to express the contradiction of still and motion.

Although it is an aquarium, a green gecko can also be found here.

And two of a kind parrots were putting up some show as well.

It was already in the late afternoon after I've come out from the Acquario, so I went back to the train station to catch a train back to Milan.

If you would like to read my other posts on Italy, these are the links:

Wednesday 22 August 2007

CK Goes to Italy – Verona

The romantic yet tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet cultivated my interest in this beautiful town in northern Italy. On the 25th day of May in the year of 2006, I set my feet on Verona in the quest of love. Oh, Juliet, here I come, though I'm not Romeo!

Oh my goodness, there were already so many people there looking for Romeo and Juliet! I better act fast so that I'll win Juliet's heart way ahead of my rivals.

I needed some sports outfit for a little workout before I see my Juliet, so I rushed to the nearest T-shirt stall to grab a soccer jersey as the FIFA World Cup was in season.

I gotta find a place for my workout to stay in shape. This Roman Arena looks like a good place to start with.

After a few rounds around this pink marble Roman amphitheatre, was I in better shape then?

Oh, my dear Juliet, are you behind this wall?

Juliet! Oh, Juliet! Where art thou?

I picked up some flowers along the way for my Juliet, I'm sure she'll be more impressed.

I have finally arrived at Juliet's House (Casa di Giulietta) after a few turns around the streets of Verona, and started calling out her name.

I would carve my name with yours around mine on this graffiti wall for our eternal love.

I would sing for you every night beneath your balcony, but please do not throw your dinner leftover on me. By the way, do you like Jacky Cheung's number?

My lovely Juliet has finally showed up at the balcony, and she was really impressed by my singing. I have finally won her heart by singing another Jacky Cheung's number.

Shall I cook zucchinis for our candlelight dinner tonight?

Should I buy over this Casa Mazzanti on Piazza delle Erbe as my eternal home with Juliet?

Or maybe Juliet will be more impressed with this Loggia del Consiglio on Piazza dei Signori?

I strolled along River Adige, hand in hand with my lovely Juliet.

We went across Ponte Pietra and climbed the hill to admire the view of one of the most beautiful cities in Italy.

We couldn't have enough of Verona.

Again and again.

We took our final glance at Verona.

And we finally tied the knot at this romantic garden café.

If you would like to read my other posts on Italy, these are the links:

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