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.


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!

Visit an Ancient Roman Villa in Minori

With its beautiful beaches lined with colorful umbrellas, sweet laid back atmosphere, and those famous views, it’s easy to think of the Amalfi Coast as a holiday spot just for soaking up the sun. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no other place I’d rather relax on the beach. Yet what many travelers don’t realize is that there’s a wealth of historical layers to the Amalfi Coast that are fascinating to discover along with the incredible natural beauty.

Villa Romana ruins in Minori on the Amalfi Coast

For instance, did you know that the ancient Romans once enjoyed holidaying on the Amalfi Coast, too? Traces of Roman life on the coastline have been found in various places, including below the center of Amalfi, on the Li Galli Islands, Vietri sul Mare, below the Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Positano, and most notably in the town of Minori. Nestled in the valley below Ravello, Minori is just a short jaunt or pleasant 10 minute ferry ride east of Amalfi.

While the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum make excellent day trips from the Amalfi Coast, the Villa Romana in Minori offers the chance to walk through a Roman seaside villa dating back to the 1st century BC. Of the Roman ruins discovered along the Amalfi Coast, the Villa Romana is the largest. The archaeological area covers over 2,500 square feet (232 square meters) and was once a large private estate.

Located right in the center of town, the Villa Romana is only steps from the Amalfi Coast Road as it winds through Minori. Like many ancient sites in the area, the ruins of the Villa Romana are situated well below the street level now. Over the centuries the city was built over the top of the Roman villa. Today a good part of the villa lies below modern day Minori, with buildings immediately surrounding the excavation area. Before entering, stop to gaze down on the large garden with a pool surrounded on two sides by a triportico, a covered passageway lined with columns and arches.

The experience of visiting Minori’s Villa Romana simply cannot be compared to the scale of the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum – entire cities that offer much more complexity and variety. Yet what makes this site appealing is precisely its isolation. The villa sprawls across several levels as it was built into the natural slope of the valley right over the Regginolo river that runs down to the sea. Just imagine the tranquility of this spot all those centuries ago. Now that’s what you call a holiday spot!

An impressively long and grand staircase leads from where the upper levels would have once been located down to the triportico and the garden level. While the rooms are quiet and dark now, they would have once been used for entertainment and music. Especially the most lavishly decorated area called the nymphaeum. This room would have been the heart of the villa for dining and still features mosaics, traces of frescoes, and the remains of what was once a waterfall feature at the end of the room.

Just off the nymphaeum inthe garden is a small pool that was once in the center of the villa, meaning the garden area was about twice as large as is visible today. The remaining garden area lies below modern day Minori, but there are more excavated areas nearby that are primarily baths. However, these rooms are rarely open to the public.

The ruins of the Villa Romana were noted in the 1870s and later excavated in more depth starting in 1932. After exploring the villa and imagining how splendid it would have been in its grandeur, do stop in the small museum of archaeological items that were uncovered in Minori and the surrounding areas.

The Villa Romana has been in the press recently thanks to the excellent news that it has been awarded €4.9 million Euros for restoration work from the Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali (MiBAC), the government agency responsible for the preservation of Italy’s rich cultural heritage. This is excellent news for this historic site, which can be preserved better and greatly enriched to make it even more engaging for an international audience. I am eager to see how the Villa Romana develops, but the future is looking good.

However, don’t wait to visit! The Villa Romana is already a fascinating place to step back in history for a little while during your Amalfi Coast explorations. If it’s not already there, definitely put Minori on your Amalfi Coast list, but that’s a post for another day. But as a sneak peak, other highlights include stopping for tempting desserts at the Sal de Riso pastry shop, walking among lemon groves on the Sentiero dei Limoni, and many festivals and events throughout the year to experience.

The Villa Romana is open year round and is free to enter. More information on hours and visiting can be found here.

Villa Romana
Via Capo di Piazza 28
tel. 089/852-893
9am-one hour before sunset daily, closed May 1, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1;
Free entrance

Last of the October Beach Days

If you’re lucky, summer comes back for a little visit in October. These lingering summer days are extra special at the beach on the Amalfi Coast, because they’ve already been abandoned by the crowds. We’ve had so many warm days this month that it seems strange to have already set the clocks back for daylight savings and that November is just around the corner. How did that even happen?

It’s that time of year to start the annual hunt for the tricky ingredients for the Thanksgiving dinner I’ll be preparing before too long. Every once in awhile the cold north wind has been blowing down from the mountains and I’ve already made the “cambio di stagione” change in our wardrobes from summer to autumn and winter. Yet at the same time the sun has been shining and beckoning us back into summer.


Catching the boat to Santa Croce beach from Amalfi

Last week we took a trip back to summer and spent the day at Santa Croce beach near Amalfi – always one of my favorite spots. While we were walking along the harbor debating lunch plans, my husband spotted the boat from Ristorante Da Teresa arriving. We glanced at one another only very briefly. “It’s a sign,” I called out, already running down the steps to the pier to jump aboard.


Ready to go to Santa Croce

The Darsena pier, which you can see above, is where you can catch the boat to Santa Croca. Look for this long, pale pink boat with the sign saying Ristorante Da Teresa.


On the way!

Climb aboard and in a few minutes you’ll be at Santa Croce beach. The boat service is complimentary for patrons of the restaurant or if you’re renting a sunbed and umbrella.


Arriving at Ristorante Da Teresa

The only way to reach this rocky beach is by boat. Usually, there’s another restaurant called Santa Croce to the left, but it had already been dismantled for the season when we went last week. The sea can be so rough during winter storms that the entire restaurant structure is pretty much removed for protection. When we got ashore, I spotted two lonely looking orange sunbeds on one side of the beach. They were lonely no more! I’ve been to Santa Croce many times, even at the end of the season, but I’ve never had half of the beach to myself. It was divine.


Now this is my idea of the beach …

I really needed some time – just me and the sound of the sea. It was completely relaxing soaking up the autumn sun and listing to the waves tumbling little rocks to and fro. It was a bit too chilly for me to swim, but my husband took a dip before lunch.


Having the sea to yourself

After a bit we went upstairs to the dining terrace for a relaxed lunch overlooking the sea. As always, the meal was excellent.


Lunch with a soothing view

A crisp, local rosé was the perfect complement to a delicious meal. Naturally, seafood is the best choice here, and we had antipasti of friend anchovies and squid cooked with roasted peppers. Then pasta made with a local fish called gallinella.


Summer sunshine and an Amalfi Coast rosé

After lunch it was back to the sun for a little while before returning to Amalfi. There were a few boats coming and going, dropping of travelers for lunch at Da Teresa. Otherwise it was total tranquility.


Hang on summer

I spent some time reading and scrambling around like I always do on the rocks to take photos. Never gets old this beach. Water is such a soothing element for me, and just being near the sea can wash away a world of stress.


Back home to Amalfi

It always comes too soon, but before long it was time for the last boat back to Amalfi … and to our busy October days. But for just one day I could pretend it was still summer.




Italy Blogging Roundtable

Italy Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Elements – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

ArtTravA Gift from the Earth: Potatoes in the Alto Adige

At Home in Tuscany

Bleeding Espresso


Italy ExplainedSecrets of Underground Naples

Girl in FlorenceThe Man Protecting Tuscany’s Sea: Paolo Fanciulli



Francesco Clemente’s Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017

In Italy, you can’t help but experience modernity within the context of the past. What is new is quite literally enveloped in what came before. But isn’t that what it should always be like? During my Washington, DC days, I was struck by a quotation from Shakespeare’s The Tempest that is carved at the base of a statue outside the National Archives. “What is past is prologue,” it reads. In a place like the Amalfi Coast, protected as it is thanks to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the visual landscape is a narrative that has continued unbroken from the past.

In a place with centuries of history such as the Villa Rufolo in Ravello, it’s possible to walk through its history, starting practically at the prologue in the 12th century and continuing to today. It is within this historic surrounding that a thoroughly modern exhibit has been placed this summer. As part of this year’s Ravello Festival, the show Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017 is a site-specific installation created by Neapolitan born artist Francesco Clemente in one of the Villa Rufolo’s atmospheric spots.


The exhibit is situated in the courtyard and what was once a chapel at the Villa Rufolo. It’s a quiet and reflective setting – perfect for art exhibitions. The courtyard is flanked by two rows of bright red flags painted with symbols at once captivating and dark. A clenched fist holds colorful flowers. A sickle, broken at its base, cuts into a bleeding heart. Two strange creatures embrace. Images with an intensity that evokes a struggle.

Stepping inside the chapel, the narrative continues with a large tent entirely hand painted in tempura. The exhibition notes point out that it’s the type of tent characterized by Asian nomad shepherds. A tent as shelter, a tent as a symbol of changing places. This exhibition is themed around the idea of walls and migration – timely topics in today’s political climate around the world. Clemente has been working with the idea of tents since his ENCAMPMENT series that started about 5 years ago.


This is a tent you can walk into, explore and experience. I happened to be there at a moment when there were no other visitors and it was a fascinating visual experience. There are ancient symbols, animals and faces that reminded me of Picasso’s Rose Period. The colors are vividly warm and I found myself creating my own narratives as I wandered around inside.

What stories do you see?


Peering out from inside the tent, you can see the walls lined with a series of watercolors by Clemente that are on display for the first time.




Getting up close to these watercolors, it was possible to see the incredible texture and labor that went into their design. Just look at the design in the concentric circles and the red border below. The works were full of intricate details that are exotic and traditional, playing on the theme different cultures blending together.


Leaving the chapel, the harsh red flags reveal softer pastel color scheme with messages embroidered in gold thread. As they say, there are two sides to every story, and these flags fluttering in a summer breeze were reminders of that.

One tie-died flag caught my eye in particular. It says, “Il piu moderno qui è anche il piu’ arcaico.” That translates to: “The most modern here is also the most archaic.” Framed by the arched entrance to the chapel courtyard, it perfectly captured the setting of this contemporary art exhibit in the 12th-century ruins of the Villa Rufolo.


It was also the catalyst for my reflections on this exhibition. If what is past is prologue, we carry not only who we were in the past with us as we move forward in life, but we also carry with us our family, back to our remotest ancestors in far flung parts of the world we have yet to even imagine. We carry that with us as we go forward, sometimes moving countries, meeting new people, making new families. We are ancient and modern all at once, just like the landscapes we move through.


Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017 is on display at the Villa Rufolo through the end of September. Entrance to the exhibit is included when you purchase your ticket for the Villa Rufolo. More details available at


Italy Blogging Roundtable

Italy Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Modern – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!


At Home in Tuscany

Bleeding Espresso


Italy ExplainedWhere to See Modern & Contemporary Art in Italy

Girl in Florence