Discover the Art of Capri in Italia! Magazine

While Amalfi will always have my heart, the island of Capri has a very special place there as well. Recently, I had the chance to share some of my favorite things about Capri in the February 2020 issue of Italia! magazine. With an artistic bent, this article offers a small glimpse into some of the people, places, and experiences that for me really get at the true essence of the island’s magic.

I say a small glimpse, because I could go on and on sharing about the remarkable artistic heritage of this island – both the locals and the many many artists who have spent time on Capri over the centuries. For instance, in the article I share about local Capri artist Salvatore Federico who has a gallery along a picturesque street in Anacapri. But floating around the words that made it into the article are so many memories. Of the second time I visited the island when Salvatore pulled out his guitar and sang me a song. Of his smiles and kindness and all the laughter over the years remembering when my husband used to go to Capri every day.

When I stopped by late last summer and took this photo of Salvatore, it was after he had showed me his very first painting and told me stories about drawing airplanes and bombs as a young kid after WWII. And how art supplies were so limited in those days so he would take chalk from school home in his pockets. Pieces of history that go from feeling far away on a sunny day in Capri to being something vivid and real you can almost hold in your hand. I will always treasure those shared moments. Just another piece of the Capri I love.

I’ve also shared some of my favorite spots. Did you know that if you visit the Centro Caprense Ignazio Cerio and see the natural history collection that you’ll find a terrace at the top with a bird’s-eye view of the Piazzetta? This is one of my favorite angles of Capri, also because it offers the chance to delve into the fascinating history of the Cerio family on Capri.

Capri artist Letizia Cerio in 1964 atop the terrace overlooking the Piazzetta
(Photo courtesy Eco Capri)

Last summer I had the chance to hear about it firsthand from Federico Alvarez de Toledo, the grandson of artist Letizia Cerio and founder of the enchanting boutique Eco Capri. As we stood in the center of the shop surrounded by designs inspired by Letizia’s artwork, he shared photos and stories about his family, his grandmother, and how her creativity continues to inspire him today. These are experiences that are hard to capture in words, but what I left with was a deep impression of the heart, passion, and history that lives on in every one of Eco Capri’s designs.

The Eco Capri boutique (Photo courtesy Eco Capri)

Believe me when I say I could go on and on. (The line from that old Rodgers and Hart song floats through my head: “If they asked me, I could write a book …”) I feel sad when I hear people say that they visited Capri and it was too busy and they didn’t like it at all. Or even worse when I read or overhear people talking about avoiding it because it’s too crowded. While there is no doubt Capri is a busy place, when I visited the Museo Diefenbach at the Certosa di San Giacomo last summer there were only a few other people around as I walked through the quiet halls admiring the works of art on display. Capri is a lot of things, but it’s also this.

These are just a few of the experiences I wrote about in the “48 Hours on Capri” article in the February 2020 issue of Italia! magazine. I do hope you’ll pick up a copy and give it a read. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you do. Even more so, I hope you’ll visit Capri and meet the artists and locals and explore the island’s artistic side. There is so much to discover!

Italia! magazine is for sale throughout the UK at WHSmiths or at Barnes & Noble in America. Or you can get a copy of the magazine or subscribe on the Italia! magazine website.

Santiago Calatrava in Naples

Sitting above Naples and commanding a particularly regal view over the city and the Gulf of Naples beyond, the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte was once one of the several residences of the Bourbon kings of Naples. Originally conceived in the 18th century to display the royal family’s prestigious collection of art, it officially became a museum in 1950. Now one of the finest in Italy, it’s a must for art lovers visiting the area.

Recently, I spent a day exploring the museum and had a chance to visit the special exhibit Santiago Calatrava. Nella luce di Napoli that is on display now through May 10, 2020. The show is dedicated to Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and explore 40 years of his extraordinarily multifaceted artistic career. This is a unique opportunity to see Calatrava’s explorations, which at every turn reveal a deep curiosity with nature, shape, and human form, with designs and influences echoing across the galleries and into his iconic building projects and future plans.

Envisioned expressly by Calatrava to take place in Naples, the exhibition is a reflection of his love for the city and its many layers of history. It was curated by Sylvain Bellenger, director of the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, and Robertina Calatrava, the architect’s wife, along with a direct collaboration with the Studio Calatrava. This marks the first exhibition ever dedicated to a contemporary architect at Capodimonte – and it’s a fine start.

Arriving on the second floor of the museum, a group of large sculptures mark the entrance to the Santiago Calatrava exhibit. This series of large bronze figures atop wooden columns set the scene right from the start for an exhibit dedicated not only to architecture. The human figures struggle (or is it dance?) with large circles that appear at times heavy and in others light as a feather. Movement presents itself as a key theme through all of the works on display throughout the exhibition.

The next room is a visually striking set of six large works of art created out of aluminum. What at first looks like solid colored canvases with geometric designs becomes more intriguing when you look closer. They don’t just seem to capture light in various ways – they actually move. These pieces are formed by aluminum that is cut into strips and mechanized to create movement through the geometric forms. The movements capture the shifting light in captivating ways. An idea not unlike the gentle unfurling of the large wings at the Milwaukee Art Museum Quadracci Pavilion from 2001.

Calatrava’s striking design for the Milwaukee Art Museum

This is just one of the many connections that come to life while exploring this exhibition. Calatrava has described the importance of his sculptural work for understanding his architecture since the ideas he continues to explore were born there. His passion for art started at the age of 8 when he began studying drawing and painting at the Scuola delle Arti e dei Mestieri in Valencia. While he continues to draw and paint, for Calatrava it is particularly his sculptures that reveal the earliest interests that appear in his buildings and bridges.

Indeed, the following rooms dedicated to Calatrava’s sculptural works were the most inviting for me. In the center of three galleries, large scale geometric designs ares surrounded by drawings, paintings, and smaller sculptures following similar themes. One of the most striking pieces was a dark and dramatic sculpture with sharp points swirling like feathers that were mimicked by the rush of bull horns in the drawings circling the gallery.

My favorite gallery was one with a series of three large sculptures, this time in light colored wood, with a similar exploration of spirals and geometric forms. Along the back wall are hung a series of paintings of bare tree branches and trunks. Every step walking around the gallery revealed new shapes and shadows.

The following galleries of the exhibition delve into Calatrava’s architectural and engineering works, grouped into train stations, bridges, and art and cultural institutions. Here the detailed project models are on display along with related drawings and sketches.

It was the interplay of the final projects and the preparatory sketches, studies, and little moments of inspiration that captured my attention. They brought life to the designs and revealed something we often forget in day-to-day life. Every building, from the homes we live in to the bridges we cross and the monuments and structures we admire, comes from the creative mind of an architect or engineer. It’s not often we get a glimpse inside that creative mind to see the process, sources of inspiration, and passion that flows from the original conception to the final design.

The exhibition Santiago Calatrava. Nella luce di Napoli is on display through May 10, 2020. It also includes a separate section dedicated to Calavatra’s ceramics that is located in the Cellaio, the historic cellar, in the Capodimonte gardens. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it there, but if you plan on visiting, note that it is open only from Friday-Sunday.

Detail from the large project model for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Visit the Santiago Calatrava. Nella luce di Napoli website or the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte website to find out more about the exhibition. The video below shows the entire exhibition and offers a good look inside the portion of the exhibition dedicated to ceramics.

Note: I apologize for the low quality photos in this post. I only had my several year old iPhone with me when I visited the exhibition.

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Amalfi Coast 2020 Travel Inspiration

Now that the holiday season has wrapped up, it’s that time when we start looking ahead at the year to come. If you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast in 2020, I’ve gathered together some special experiences to help with your planning or perhaps even inspire you to book a trip to the Amalfi Coast this year. This is by no means a complete list of all there is to see and do on the Amalfi Coast and the surrounding areas. (Psst … Moon Amalfi Coast is a great resource for that!) These are just a handful of events I’m looking forward to this year along with places in Campania I’m eager to explore more in 2020.

While wisteria blooming in the early spring is by no means unique to the Amalfi Coast, for me seeing Positano decked out with wisteria is something I look forward to all winter. The blooms are usually out in March, but sometimes earlier. I’ve also caught them gorgeous right at the beginning of April. I first fell in love with wisteria while meandering through Dumbarton Oaks when I worked in Washington, DC. It made me so happy to discover it grew so plentifully on the Amalfi Coast. However, there’s not much in Amalfi, so I usually visit Positano or Ravello to really kick off the spring. If you’re planning an early spring visit to the Amalfi Coast, the air will be just a little bit sweeter thanks to the wisteria blooms.

Historical Regata Boats in Amalfi 2012

Created in 1955, the Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare (Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics) is a historic parade and boat race that takes place every day between Amalfi, Venice, Pisa, and Genoa. These four cities were powerful republics in the Middle Ages and once vied for control and trading routes. Each city takes part in a parade with detailed and colorful costumes reflecting a key moment in history. Then all eyes turn to the sea for the 2 kilometer race on large wooden boats modeled after 12th century designs.

The Regata rotates between the four cities and takes place in Amalfi every four years. It’s thrilling to be in Amalfi to cheer along during the race. The two times I have seen the Regata in Amalfi, in 2012 and 2016, the Amalfi team had spectacular come from behind wins both times. What an experience! The Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare is scheduled to take place in Amalfi this year and is usually the first weekend of June. I haven’t seen the dates announced for 2020 yet, but if you’re planning a summer trip to the Amalfi Coast, this is a really fun event to catch if you can since it won’t happen again until 2024.

UPDATE: Word on the street is that the Regata won’t actually be taking place in Amalfi as planned in 2020. I am trying to confirm this and will update the post again when I have more information.

Historic Parade in Amalfi Regata 2012

If you can’t make it to the Regata in June, you can enjoy the historical parade during the Capodanno Bizantino celebrations that take place on September 1st in Amalfi. The event includes flag throwers and the same traditional costumed parade from Amalfi to Atrani.

Mark your calendars and plan a visit to the Santiago Calatrava: Nella luce di Napoli exhibition that will be at the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples from December 6th to May 10th, 2020. Even if you think you’re not familiar with the work of this noted Spanish architect, you’ve likely see at least photos of some of his stunning buildings like the World Trade Center Station in New York City or the sweeping wings of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Long enamored with the city of Naples, this exhibition is a rare look back at his 40 year career in all its aspects – architect, engineer, sculptor, painter, and designer. Co-curated by Robertina Calatrava, the architect’s wife, this is truly a rare glimpse into Calatrava’s life and career.

On the topic of exhibitions, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (National Archaeological Museum in Naples) has a series of special events planned for 2020. This is just an added bonus, of course, because the permanent collection at the museum is enough reason to visit again and again as it’s one of the finest archaeological collections in the world. But for an added incentive, opening on March 13th, 2020 the exhibition Gli Etruschi al MANN is a retrospective dedicated to the ancient Etruscans. With about 400 objects, the exhibition will be an incredible chance to delve into this fascinating civilization. It will also coincide with the reopening of the Prehistory and Protohistory section of the museum.

Opening on April 8th, 2020, is an exhibition I Gladiatori, which, as you can probably guess, will about gladiators. This promises to be a popular exhibition dedicated to the figure of the gladiator from private life to the arena as told through key pieces from the MANN collection and museum collections around Europe.

At the moment closing dates for those special exhibitions haven’t been announced yet, but keep an eye on the MANN website for more details.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of my lovely friend Shari’s annual Positano Yoga Retreat. I can speak from personal experience when I say that this is an incredible retreat. Set in a secluded spot above Positano, it’s an experience that introduces you to the quieter side of the Amalfi Coast as well as offering a break from the rush of modern life. Settle into warrior pose while gazing out over the Amalfi Coast and you truly feel like you can take on the world. Shari has some special events up her sleeves to celebrate the 10th anniversary, so this is the perfect year to attend if you’ve been thinking of a yoga retreat on the Amalfi Coast.

While this doesn’t have to do with a specific tie to 2020, one of my top suggestions would be to spend time on the islands of Ischia and Procida. By far the highlight of writing Moon Amalfi Coast was the time I spent on these two beautiful islands in the Gulf of Naples. Exploring the Castello Aragonese on Ischia is easily one of my top 10 experiences from 13 years living in Italy. And Procida, which is the colorful photo you see above, is a pastel dream. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how much I love the Amalfi Coast and Capri. However, if you’ve been to these areas and are looking for somewhere new to experience in the area, do put Ischia and Procida on your radar.

And if these ideas don’t spark your travel planning bug, you’ll find a ton more in my book Moon Amalfi Coast: With Capri, Naples & Pompeii. It covers all the top spots as well as smaller towns along the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and the Sorrento coastline, Salerno, Naples, and Ischia and Procida. If you visit here this year, I hope you have fun exploring this beautiful part of Italy!

The Duomo of Amalfi Project

Only a handful of people reading this will know that I’ve been obsessed with the facade of the Duomo of Amalfi for some time. Just about 12 years now to be precise. Even fewer people will know I wrote my master’s thesis on the facade of Amalfi’s cathedral. The reason for this is simple: I’ve written about the Duomo only on rare occasions since I graduated. This is not due to a lack of interest. Quite the opposite in fact! It’s such an important topic to me that it has sat there quietly waiting for me to have time. As it seems to happen in life, there was never time.

Honestly, I’ve always felt bad about that. Mostly because I know I’m not the only one who has stepped into Amalfi’s busy little piazza and been struck by its beauty. Gazing up the long steps leading to the Duomo, it’s a view that does tend to stop you in your tracks.

How could that not capture your attention? The bold stripes (stripes on a church?), the sun glimmering on the gold mosaics, the pops of red and green (look closely), the white tracery (yep there’s a name for that!) in the arches of the portico. There are so many little details that catch the eye and yet as a whole create a harmonious design that has graced the Duomo of Amalfi since its completion in 1891.

Living down in the center of Amalfi since July last year means that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Duomo on a near daily basis. Perhaps it’s that or perhaps it’s how much I’ve been missing the research and the feeling of discovery from of my time in art history. Certainly those are two of the aspects that have led me to create a project for 2020 that I’m extremely excited to share.

For the coming year, I’ve created a personal project dedicated to the Duomo of Amalfi where I’ll share monthly posts that delve into different aspects of the 19th-century facade of the church. I’ll take a look back at the earlier facades, the design elements and sources of inspiration of the current facade, the mosaics, and what the facade meant for Amalfi when it was built and what it means today.

After writing Moon Amalfi Coast, where I had to cover an incredible wealth of information in a relatively short time, it feels like a luxury–and one I very much need–to give myself the time to look at something I love for an entire year. What joy! I’ve been digging into old resources with fresh eyes, uncovering new ones, and having the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

I hope you’ll enjoy looking closer at the Duomo of Amalfi with me and discovering more about this unique architectural treasure on the Amalfi Coast. If you have questions or curiosities about the cathedral, I do hope you’ll share them in the comments below.