Travelling companion: my Dad
From a past trip to Italy, I have a fantastic handmade souvenir of Venus standing in a trip of scallops. I love these sorts of holiday mementoes. In the old parts of Naples, you see so many tiny workshops, making anything from musical instruments and inlaid woodwork to sandals, but along the nearby coast you find handmade ceramics, shell cameos, old-fashioned souvenirs of bottled boats, shell-encrusted frames and snowdomes from your grotto adventures. La Minervetta, where I stayed in Sorrento, had an amazing collection of boxes, frames and general paraphernalia.
I found the motif of the scallop everywhere, painted on church floors, in reliefs of marble & plaster, and in shields & crests. It was originally a pagan symbol of pilgrimage, particularly for fertility. I love these icons and even have a shield as the symbol for The Society Inc.
Zoology museum and Caravaggio
On a trip to Florence, I came across a huge Caravaggio exhibition and fell for his story, and beautiful still lifes of fruit and vegetables. I'd heard there was a hidden Caravaggio in a church in Naples, which was part of the reason I wanted to go there. Due to a poor map, though, I didn't find it. However, after much up-and-down stairs through the University of Naples Federico II, I found the purpose-built zoology museum, almost as good as my favourite one in Paris. Sometimes, not finding what you're looking for when you're travelling means you stumble on something better. Keep an open mind.
Years ago, I picked up a fold-out double concertina book The Theater of Nature or Curiosity Filled the Cabinet by one of my favourite artists, Mark Dion. It contains line drawings of famous cabinet of curiosity collections both past and present, including the famous 17th Century Imperato Museum. Even though the Museo Zoologico is not quite it, the skeletons, eggs, shells, nests, stuffed birds and animals collected in the 1800s are impressive.
Road trip with my Dad
I wanted to do this Amalfi Coast road trip with my Dad, Peter. I believe he was perhaps Italian in a past life, and not just for his sweater oh-so-casually tossed over his shoulders. He took to the Naples morning peak-hour traffic and the hair-raising coastal road with style, expertise and a sense of humour (I had very tense shoulders!).
I love travelling & hanging out with my Dad– he's really funny and enjoys the finer things of life, so this coast was perfect for him and his linen loafers.
You can look into so many people's lives through the street eye-height windows. Soap maker, woodworking shops, instrument makers, tambourines, weird grotto things, religious icons, taxidermy, booksellers.
Modern art litters the walls and is scattered throughout – a mix of new, IKEA and falling-apart furniture.
The appearance and placement of shrines in all sorts of nooks & crannies, everyday shrines – an image, a bit of a saint and a few plastic flowers.
Mountains fall into the sea.
The consideration of the vista. The glimpse of a garden, cloister, view through a window. What happens at the end of a room.
Tune in next week as I tease out the colour palette that so vividly presented itself to me during my travels through Italy.