December 14, 2015

Travel Journal: Italy & Spain

In: Travel


With the holidays quickly approaching, we thought it might be fun to share some photos from a recent trip to Italy and Spain.  Several years ago Sandy’s family spent Christmas in Rome when her daughter was teaching in the middle-east and has wonderful memories of the eternal city ablaze in Holiday glory.


This past October provided the rare opportunity to see this iconic city through the eyes of the dean and several UT professors on a trip sponsored by the Friends of Architecture.  Our group spent eight days exploring both ancient and contemporary sights in and around Rome.  Stops in Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ravello, Barcelona and Madrid on the way home were “icing on the cake”!

The tour included examples of both ancient and 20th century Italian architecture and design. In addition to the amazing classical structures of the Pantheon, Quirinal Palace, and Colosseum, we also visited contemporary buildings such as the fascinating edifice designed by Richard Meier which houses the Ara Pacis, an ancient alter dedicated to the goddess of peace (above).

One day was spent touring churches commissioned for the 2000 Jubilee in the outlying areas of Rome. La Chiesa del Dio Padre Misericordioso which was also designed by Richard Meier was a favorite.  The gentle soaring arches and light filled sanctuary were inspiring.

Along with other 20th century architecture, we visited several icons of Fascist architecture in the EUR, (Esposizione Universale Roma), a district originally developed by Benito Mussolini. The exhibits at the MAXXI were as interesting as the architecture of the building by Zaha Hadid which took 10 years to complete (above right).

Our hotel Donna Camilla Savelli was a fully restored 17th century convent located in the charming Trastevere District.  We enjoyed several sights close to the hotel and were given a private tour of the Villa Farnesina with frescoes by Raphael. The Basilica di Santa Maria, one of the oldest churches in Rome, was particularly memorable. Inset into the plaster walls of the entry are a collection of ancient inscriptions and epigraphs, many collected from tombs on the Appian Way in the 18th and early 19th centuries (below).

The weather was absolutely perfect the day we headed to Tivoli at the edge of the Tiburtine Mountains.

There we visited the Villa d’Este and its grand gardens adorned with hundreds of gravity-powered fountains, antique sculpture and beautiful outdoor rooms (below). After lunch at Ristorante Sibilla dal 1720 overlooking the River Aniene we visited Hadrian’s Villa and learned about the interesting history of the 300 acre estate.

No trip to Rome would be complete without a tour of the Vatican and St. Peter’s.  I particularly enjoyed our time spent in the Vatican’s extensive gardens (below).

One afternoon, Dallas Designer Emily Summers and I did a little shopping and ran across this interesting mammoth sculpture at Sara Zanin Gallery on Via della Vetrina. I spotted this clever street performer at the base of the Spanish steps. How in the world do you think he does that?

I was sad to see the “Friends of Architecture” group disperse, but excited to continue on to Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Both were phenomenal, but if you only have time for one, I would recommend Herculaneum which has fewer tourists and more original finishes even though it is the smaller of the two.

The Belmond Hotel Caruso in Ravello was a perfect place to stay for quick visits to Amalfi and Positano.

I would recommend taking the short tour of the paper factory in Amalfi for an interesting glimpse of paper making history (below).

Almost 40 years after first being exposed to the architecture of Antoni Gaudí in my UT History of Architecture classes, I was thrilled to see his unique and brilliant works for the first time in Barcelona.

Neither words nor photos can do justice to the extraordinary Sagrada Família (above). The humble genius of Gaudí is evident in both the architecture and the museum below the church.  I loved seeing the school he built on the grounds for the children of the workers and was saddened to recall the details of his death.  Construction continues and the word is that it will be completed in 8 years!

The roof-top chimney knights at La Pedrera were spectacular.  I can highly recommend Restaurante Botafumeiro for fresh seafood and delicious paella.  A visit to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona was also a treat.  And one night in Madrid allowed for a visit to the Prado to complete the perfect trip!

Wishing you Happy Holidays and safe travels!

 “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends… The mind can never break off from the journey.”

 – Pat Conroy


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