A Travellerspoint blog

A Little Village of Whitewashed Houses

Burgau- Portual

sunny 30 °C

Burgau is a quaint town located in the region of Algarve, Portugal. An old fishing town it now relies on tourism to survive. Its two crowning glories are the splendid restaurants and its relaxing beach.

The restaurants such as Casa Padaria Pizzeria, Ancora, and the Burgau Beach Bar, are perfect for a quiet meal out with the family. Casa Padaria Pizzeria is a small family run italian restaurant, however the food is just amazing and at a very reasonable price. My favourite there is the spinach lasagne, my sister is a fan of their pizza, and my parents never leave without ordering a coleslaw to takeaway. The owner Juliet, is very hands on with her customers. Always offering a warm smile and great service to all the customers!
Ancora is located in a little piazza just up from the beach. The restaurant has a very authentic Portuguese atmosphere; the music, the dishes, and the owners provide a very chilled evening. The food is very creatively presented in a unique way. Definitely a place to go if you are after quite a fancy night.

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A pate and also salmon dish from Ancora

The Burgau Beach Bar is a favourite for my family. The staff are always friendly and the service is quick. The beach bar feels like the heart of Burgau; it is the place to eat and grab a drink during the day whilst on the beach, and perfect to go in the evening too. During any of the town's events the beach bar seems to be the place where people gather. For example, on what is classed as the last day of summer all the locals and tourists alike flock to the beach bar for dinner and drinks. There is live music, a bonfire, and the evening is very lively! Then at midnight, all participants strip down to their swim gear and run into the sea! It's a great evening to meet people and just relax with a few drinks :)

The beach of Praia de Burgau is a beautiful beach with hardly any wind due to the protective surrounding hills. There are also many beaches within a few miles that are equally, if not even more, stunning.
These are a few photos I took on a recent holiday there:

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The iconic house on the hill just up from the beach in Burgau
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Burgau Beach

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Street of white-washed houses

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The Blue Door- this picturesque scene is a favourite for local artists due to the vibrant colours in the plants in contrast to the blue door. Love it!

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Apartments on the hill

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This last image is taken on a stunning beach a few miles from Burgau. Here the sea has great visibility and are very clear- perfect for a bit of snorkelling!

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Posted by Jen_Ingrid 08:08 Archived in Portugal Tagged beach portugal burgau Comments (0)

Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance Part 2

An Insight into Florentine Portraits & Statues

PAINTINGS

The Medici Bank was the largest in Europe in the 15th Century and the family brought Florence under the family's power allowing for an environment where the arts and humanities flourished.
One of the real beauties of Italian Renaissance art lies inside the churches. I found it impossible to pass by a church in Florence without going in for a sneak peek at the artwork inside. Back in the 1400-1600s the wealthy families of Florence would commission some of the greatest artists of the day to produce works of art for churches and palaces. One example is Filippo Lippi’s Annunciation. This is located in one of one of the largest churches in Florence, San Lorenzo, and was paid for by Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici. Paintings within the church connected the patron directly to that church, and was a public sign of their wealth and status.

Portraits, however, were largely found within the expensive and large palaces of Florence. Fifteenth century Florentines were obsessed with the notion of visibility. Being seen and being visible were very important aspects of the display culture of Florence. It is important to understand that people at the time understood figures, an environment, colours, and shapes differently to us; everything had significance. This was termed the 'Period Eye'. Therefore paintings could be 'read', they had meaning, a message, something the viewer could take away or learn from the painting.

"It is tempting to view portraits as mirrors into the past, as images resembling the reality of life and society. However, this is largely not the case. Paintings are much more indirect, and need to be regarded as a form of communication.
Florentine portraits of the fifteenth century reflected the ideals of a patriarchal society, and were rooted deeply in the belief of an ideal presentation of self. The portrait was popularised by the elites; wealthy merchants and bankers who were able to afford the artwork’s production and place them in a significant space. One was expected to show a face to the public that was an idealised form of their role in society. Men represented heroes, women the submissive epitome of virtue and beauty. These ideals were communicated not only through what the sitter wore, but the very form of the portrait. The identity of the sitter, the character shown, and the extent of individuality depicted was dependent on the expectations of society. The importance that society placed on beauty, display and virtue formed a ‘model’ that portraits conformed to, and were dictated by. It is important that these images are viewed in light of this, as many were not records of a unique person, but rather of an idealised representation of that person…

...Painted portraits, medals, and sculpture busts were all influenced by the humanist concerns of the natural form, with their function being strongly dictated by the male control of women in society. Their belief in the display of female virtue as a characteristic to be highly desired caused the display of wealth and conspicuous consumption to become increasingly evident as they were understood to be signs of virtue. Towards the end of the century an increasing emphasis was placed on the communicative properties of the portrait. Portraits altered to stress the significance of commemoration and memory. Therefore if one was portrayed it was implied that they had a virtuous inner character and was worthy of public commemoration. The function of the portrait began to adapt to the desire for a ‘mirror’ from which the young could learn and develop these virtues. This resulted in an image and representation of women in portraiture that differed strongly from their predecessors of the profile portrait popularised during the early fifteenth century". *

Portraits were also used in the upbringing of children as it was believed that portraits had an effect on the observer. This the was progression of portraiture, and also of statues, as a 'mirror'. This held special significance for women as portraits conveyed qualities such as purity and virtue to younger generations in the hope that they would grow up with these values, having been inspired by viewing the portraits. This was important for young girls who's mother had passed away as they could look upon their mother's portrait in the hope they they would be enriched by her characteristics. Fra Giovanni Dominici also insisted that images of children, or a child version of St John the Baptist, should be used for educational purposes. This way the child would grow up virtuous with strong morals. This is the reason why many portraits of women during the period portray the sitter in such a pure form.

STATUES

Statues played a similar role to that of portraits, both serving to convey something to the viewer. For statues however this was a more public than that of portraits as they tended to be placed in public spaces as opposed to on the walls of bedrooms or houses. Portraits of women tended to be produced in marble, a material that further embodied the purity of the sitter. Apart from the use of the statues as a 'mirror' they also served to commemorate the sitter. As Alberti stated in 'On Painting' ‘Painting possesses a truly divine power in that not only does it make the absent present…but it also represents the dead to the living many centuries later…Through painting, the faces of the dead go on living for a very long time.’ They acted to preserve the identity and status of a family, and to commemorate the virtues of a women in relation to her family. The advances made in art to allow for expression meant that the sitter was able to look directly upon the viewer. This created a sense of immediacy and directness, almost allowing the development of a relationship. Verrocchio’s bust of a Lady with a Bunch of Flowers in the Bargello museum in Florence conveys great expression through the detail of her face and also with the gentle positioning of the hands. This would have been an ideal portrait for generations to look upon and also served to create the illusion that one was immortal, in a constant state of commemoration.

Another example of the use of statues is the very famous David statue by Michelangelo. Origionally placed in the Palazzo Signoria, it was moved into the Accademia Gallery museum in 1873 for safekeeping, a replica now standing in its place. The original faced away from the city towards Rome, the city where the Medici in the 15th Century had fled after they were exiled. The statue contains political implications, placed in the original setting as a warning to the Medici and as a sign of the triumph of the Republican government. The statue embodied the republican values, ideals the Medici's rule quelled.

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Florence is a wonderful city, and is known for its rich history and vibrancy. This short post is by no means meant to give a full or even partial understanding of the complexity of art within Florence, but merely provides an insight into a few of the pieces of artwork found there. Having studied renaissance florentine art and having been to the city myself, I can appreciate the importance of background knowledge when visiting the city. Knowing the basics of the history of Florence will really enrich a trip there. So much of the city will make more sense, and one can appreciate it more, if the basics of how the city was designed and constructed is understood. The city is full of double standards, secrets and double meanings. It is well worth looking into the history before a visit.

If the history isn't something that intrigues you, then another option is to read Dan Brown's Inferno. The book is based in Florence and makes reference to some of the city's other great works of art such as the golden Gates of Paradise at the Florence Baptistry, and Il Duomo (the main cathedral). Also for gamers, in Assassins Creed II the Pazzi conspiracy is featured in the plot of the game. Its a bit of an embellishment on the reality of the event, however the game reproduces some of the buildings in great detail, so at least one could recognise and appreciate the buildings of the city!

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  • 'The Preservation of an Ideal', The University of Sheffield, Alman, Jenniffer (2012).

Patricia Lee Rubin, Images and Identity in Fifteenth-century Florence, (Singapore, 2007), p.xii.

Posted by Jen_Ingrid 13:52 Archived in Italy Tagged art church italy florence women david renaissance medici portraiture Comments (0)

Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance

An Insight into Florentine Buildings

sunny 34 °C

Florence is a city full of amazing History. It is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, a period stretching from 1300-1600 where the arts were developed further than ever before and Roman ideals represented to society. This was particularly evident in the buildings, portraiture and sculpture commissioned.

The 14th Century threat to Florentine Independence by the Visconti duke left an impression on the people of Florence; the city began to stand for something. Liberty was seen as a quality of a republic and the civic pride extended to the urban fabric. Florentines began to go public with their private wealth, and men were given respect and authority by their visual expression of wealth. Humanists at the time believed that those who were well educated and wealthy should promote learning to others. This is why there was such a large patronage network in the city, particularly in the 15th and 16th Century, and in Florence this was mostly led by the Medici family who employed the best artists. These creations whilst serving to educate also were made very extravagant and beautiful, the more money one had, the better the quality and the size and everyone could see the extent of one's wealth.
Below is an excerpt from my university dissertation, describing in detail the use of art in Renaissance Florentine culture:

"Conspicuous consumption was essential to the elites as a means of differentiation, either from ‘equals (therefore rivals), or social inferiors’. The competition that existed in the upper hierarchy for one to be associated with magnificence and grandeur was extraordinary. Vasari ‘recalled a ruthlessly competitive atmosphere fuelled by constant criticism, a high regard for quality, a limited marketplace, and personal ambition’ . In a city where social mobility was fluid, the display of wealth was seen to aid the advance of social status."

Conspicuous consumption was basically the spending of large amounts of money on luxury goods e.g., fine clothes, jewellery, great houses, decoration etc, in order to publicly display one's wealth and power status in the hope to either advance or maintain someone's social status. One area this was very evident was in the buildings and palaces of Florence.

BUILDINGS

The buildings of Florence are fascinating, beautiful and functional. Many buildings and interiors follow Renaissance architectural concepts of balance, proportion, geometry, and symmetry. The Renaissance saw the rebirth of Roman and Greek architectural styles with the use of columns, pilasters, lintels and open style loggias, mixed with more medieval designs such as arches, niches and aedicules.
In Florence palaces opened up a world of private space as an appropriate theatre to display one's wealth and families often had their crest displayed on their palace and also on other work they commissioned. The Medici family were bankers and gained their power and social status through networking. They commanded a lot of power and had great influence throughout the city. They showed this in the building of the Medici Palace right in the centre of the city where land was coveted. The Pitti family, in an attempt to match this statement of the Medici built their own large Palace. However due to land restrictions they built it on the other side of the river, and the building was sold in 1549 and bought by Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de'Medici. The Palazzo Pitti was then extended and the famously beautiful Boboli Gardens added. The gardens themselves are beautiful! There are green gardens, pathways, fountains, statues, all very varied and there is a wonderful view from the top stretch of grass and the entrance fee is only a few euros.

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The Medici Palace follows the Renaissance ideal of the harmony of three-> three tiers to the building. Likewise the Pitti Palace located across the Arno River on the other side of the city also has three tiers in its design.

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When you walk round the city and pass by these palaces it is strange to imagine them being lived in. It is easy to transport yourself back into that time as the buildings are still so full of life. I found them so awe inspiring, and never got bored at looking round each one as each held a story.

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Medici Palace

With this culture of conspicuous consumption there was a boom in church building as families wanted their own chapels to display their wealth. Therefore in the 13th Century additions were added to existing churches and in the 15th Century many churches were built or remodelled to accommodate the demand. The chapels in the churches belonged to private persons and were often the resting place of a family member, usually within a church they had commissioned. The chapels themselves were very intricate, expensive, and well decorated, often seen as a sort of family investment for future generations. They usually contained statues or paintings commissioned by the greatest artists of the time. If you ever get the chance to visit Florence, these chapels are worth seeking out. The paintings are sometimes quite famous pieces and you get the chance to see them in their original setting rather than in a museum or art gallery, which nowadays is rare. My favourite is Filippo Lippi’s Annunciation located in the church of San Lorenzo. Its quite strange to see it just hanging there on the wall of the church.

The Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore is the great cathedral of Florence. The Duomo was begun in 1296 but the dome was not complete until 1436 by Filippo Brunelleschi and exterior until 1887. The byzantine and gothic influences are very evident here, parts looking very similar to Notre Dame in Paris. It is an amazingly big building, and it is surrounded by street artists and people selling artwork which are great to have a nosey round. The interior contains very Gothic but also signs of Renaissance style architecture through the arches, columns and ceiling patterns. However compared to most Florentine churches this one is quite bare; there are few paintings and religious imagery which are in abundance in churches such as the Santa Maria Novella. The Santa Maria Novella and San Lorenzo are two churches that are the epitome of the Renaissance architecture. Full of paintings, statues, arches, and roman facades they are truly pieces of renaissance mastery and amazing churches to walk around.

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Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore

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Interior

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Santa Maria Novella

Florence Sightseeing

To really appreciate this city do your homework! Read up on the city's history so you understand the basics of what happened. A lot of the sightseeing is museums, art galleries, or buildings so you want to actually know what you're seeing.
OR read Dan Brown's 'Inferno'. Its a great book and will strike your interest immediately and you can then search the city for the real sights mentioned in the book! :)
There is a tasty gelato shop in the Piazza Signoria directly opposite the Loggia Dei Lanzi- best in the city we found!
Be prepared to buy lots of water in the summer. The city can get really humid (35C when we were there!) water fountains are few and bottles cost €1-2 each.

I know I haven't come close to giving these buildings the justice they deserve in this post, but I hope I have given a small insight into the magnificence of these buildings and of the importance they held to people at the time.

Jen x

'The Preservation of an Ideal', The University of Sheffield, Alman, Jenniffer (2012).
Patricia Lee Rubin, Images and Identity in Fifteenth-century Florence, (Singapore, 2007), p.xii.

Posted by Jen_Ingrid 13:08 Archived in Italy Tagged church italy florence portrait painting renaissance Comments (0)

Salzburg: Finding the Sound of Music

Salzburg

Salzburg is the fourth-largest city in Austria.

It is where the timeless film 'The Sound of Music' is based.

And it is another of my favourite cities.

I recently came across these photos and just wanted to share a few I took whilst there last June :) The photos show one of the large piazzas in the city, and also details of Salzburg Cathedral, which is a seventeenth-century Baroque building with a beautiful interior.

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I saw these horses about 15 years ago when I first came to Salzburg with my family. It was right after I first watched the Sound of Music and as we passed by the large fountain nearby I still remember my dad pointing out that the scene where Maria sings 'I have confidence' was filmed in this area. So these horses have always reminded me of the film.

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It was raining all day when I visited last year, hence the umbrella and jacket! Still a beautiful city though and the buildings are marvellous. Behind me is the fountain where Maria splashes water over the statue horses whilst singing.

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Cathedral Interior

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Cathedral Exterior
Maria is seen walking through some of the bottom arches in the film

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Posted by Jen_Ingrid 17:55 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

The City of Water

"La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", the "City of Canals"….or just simply Venice!

Venice is one of my all time favourite cities, so I just had to throw in a little post about her and share some of my favourite photos taken whilst I was there last year :)

Venice used to be the richest city in all of Europe. Her wealth came mainly from the city's connection to the oceans, hence the nickname 'Queen of the Adriatic'. Often a city associated with opulence and wealth, this has now shifted to one of decadence and decay.
During the early-modern period Venice existed as a city outside of reality and outside of time. The people were happy, and the ruling class unchallenged. With this image Venice formed her own creation myth. Most European cities have a Roman origin myth, however Venice was portrayed at the time as the first christian city founded by refugees fleeing the huns. It was seen as a new Roman city founded after the fall of the Roman Empire, an independent city. It was meant to be a reflection of Rome; a centre of wealth, glory and a successor to empirical traditions. This Roman influence can be seen in the structure of the Arsenal gate with the use of the roman columns. A 14th century chronicle dated the city's birth as March 25th 1421, a date shared with the feast of the annunciation. This religious tone, along with the portrayal of Venice as a city that had never been invaded, helped shape the Republic of Venice under the image as a virgin city.

Venice now exists as a walking museum. The buildings have hardly changed in hundreds of years. Families tend to be tight-knit in Venice, with many spending their whole lives living there. They see the city as part of their identity and part of their family's history, and some never move out of the home they grew up in. The buildings in Venice are typically in venetian gothic with an emphasis on colouring and surface decoration. A popular feature is the arch, the design reflecting byzantine and arabic influence. The family palaces differ strongly to those of Florence. Whilst in Florence families sought to display their wealth and status through the grandeur and size of their palace design, venetian palaces were designed to blend in. Due to the strong government of Venice, no family wanted their palace to stand out as it may be perceived as an attempt to rise up. Even with this 'code' the grandest and most prized palaces were located on the grand canal, where they could be most easily viewed and admired.

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However, take a gondola ride down the back streets of Venice and the sights change. The buildings are beautiful but their age shows. The water has taken its toll on the buildings and time has worn part of the structures. Still, the canals create a relaxing mood, almost of magical time travel as the canals have not changed much in hundreds of years, and Venetians take great pride in their buildings as they strive to preserve the city's beauty and glory. Any gondolier will be more than happy to tell you the stories and point out the sights along the canals. They are very proud of their city and their heritage, with the gondolier skills often passing from father to son.

The religious, political, and humanist centre of the city was St Marks Square. It is impossible to give a full intinerary of Venice properly in one blog post, so here are a few of my favourite sights Venice offers. The first of which is the Doge's Palace. The city was run by the Doge (Duke), who was a senior-most elected official and elected for life. The Doge's Palace and the old library sit directly opposite each other, creating an interesting contrast. The Doge's Palace, a representation of justice, power, and the law, was styled in traditional gothic architecture depicting continuity through time (or old Venetian values). The library, a symbol of the new humanist learning, reflected the new classical image. This combination shaped the image of Venice as a balanced city, peaceful, and serene. The last doge was elected at the close of the 18th Century and ruled until 1797 when Napoleon forced him to abdicate. The Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, is now the site of a great museum, displaying works of art by Veronese, Tintoretto, Sansovino, and Bassano, many of which depict a history of Venetian origins and glory. Unfortunately during my visits I haven't had the chance to see this museum, however the part I would most love to view is the Council of Ten room. The Council of Ten had emergency powers over Venice and dealt with the city's security and aimed to ensure the government was not overthrown or became corrupt. Their main meeting room contains a gold leafed ceiling, with panelled artwork by Veronese. It is meant to be an amazing room to behold. One for the checklist I think for next time!

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Doge's Palace

In truth the government had a corrupt ruling system, there was a strict hierarchy, prostitutes were not a rare sight, and only the rich received a good education. However what is interesting is the image that the city celebrated and portrayed to outsiders. All the corruption and reality was hidden behind a colourful projection of justice, religion, and equality. This was a façade, a fake face, that the city portrayed. Possibly the myth they created about themselves served not only to influence the perceptions of outsiders, but also of the Venetians themselves. It was a story they told about themselves to help shape their own history and identity. This religious and virgin city was highly viewed, especially by the english who looked for stable influences after the decease of the monarch. One frequent sight in Venice is a mini-shrine featuring the Virgin Mary. These are often found on street corners, or in piazzas, as they often helped form mini religious centres which were the site for communal worship and prayer. The existence and viewing of such shrines was meant to influence the behaviour of the people to be more virtuous and provide the city with a more religious tone. Still today many of these shrines survive and are preserved, and it is something to look out for when wandering round the city.

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Other sights in venice that are not to be missed are of course St Marks Basilica, the Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto Bridge, the hundreds of stalls and shops selling Venetian glass (Murano glass) and colourful masks, and finally St Mark's Campanile. Venice is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world today. Personally it is one I could visit over and over. It is so rich and vibrant and colourful. One city that has stolen my heart.

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Jen x

Bibliography
Muir, E., 'The Sources of Civil Society in Italy', in Rotberg, R. I., (ed.) Patterns of Social Capital: Stability and Change in Historical Perspective, Robert I Rotberg, (Cambridge University Press, 2001) pp 41-69.

Posted by Jen_Ingrid 13:52 Archived in Italy Tagged venice history renaissance Comments (0)

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