Imagine a place that bends and curves at every angle like the cascading waves of the Mediterranian Sea. A place where the fireplace is carved like a roasting mushroom and the dining-room light looks down on you like an eye devoured in a whirlpool. Imagine a place where vertical vents open and close like a fish’s gills, where the glass gives you the illusion of swimming underwater and where the loft arches like the spine of a beast. A beast that sits atop this magnificent facade with shingled scales and a bulbous spine. This place breathes life as it mimics the not-so-distant sea and the beauty of nature. It is the masterpiece of the brilliant Antoni Gaudí; Casa Batlló.
Casa Batlló took my breath away as it plunged me into the depths of the Mediterranian Sea. The building is distinguishably unique as you coast down the prestige Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona and feast upon the astonishingly colourful glass and ceramic mosaic tiles. These tiles reflect against the sun and give the illusion of a rippling lake scattered with water lilies. In front of the large windows on the main floor, there are several fine bone-like columns that appear like vines are growing out of the building. These columns are paired with balconies that look like fish-skeleton heads and a rich sandstone surface, which alludes to the house’s local name of casa dels ossos (house of bones).
When you dive through the doors of this UNESCO World Heritage modernist building, you will see that there are hardly any straight lines. Gaudí refrained from using any straight lines in his designs to make his buildings look as natural as possible. Every detail within the building is designed to mimic nature and follow the flow of the sea from the wooden winding staircases to the carefully crafted doors. In the centre of the building, there is a lightwell that begins with navy blue titles where the sun shines the most and gradually descends to lighter shades of blue at the bottom of the lightwell where the sun shines the least.
At the top of this aquatic representation, there is an arched roof with tiles that grade from green on the right side, to a deep blue and violet in the centre, to red and pink on the left side. These tiles have a metallic sheen and stimulate the varying scales of the back of a dragon. In front of the dragon, there is a turret with a blooming cross at the top, which has been speculated to represent the spear of Saint George (the patron saint of Catalonia), who plunged his lance into the back of the dragon.
The original building was made in 1877, but Josep Batlló, a textile industrialist who owned a few factories in the city, bought it in 1900 because of its location in the centre of Passeig de Gràcia. Batlló hired Gaudí in 1904 to redesign the building and only two years later, it became the underwater castle we see today.
Casa Batlló is a magnificent work of creativity and imagination that exemplifies Gaudí’s adoration of nature from the colourful tiles to the rolling walls.
Pompeii is one of Mother Nature’s greatest attempts to preserve history. It is an ancient Roman city about 23 km from Naples that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD along with Herculaneum, Stabia, Torre Annunziata and other communities. The city is about 8 km from Mount Vesuvius, covers approximately 67 hectares and was a major city in the region of Campania. The city was buried in about 6 metres of volcanic ash and pumice (volcanic rock) and is estimated to have had up to 11,500 inhabitants at the time of destruction.
The city was founded between the 6th and 7th Century BC by the Osci people and came under the domination of Rome in the 4th Century BC, giving the city extremely ancient roots. In 62 CE the city experienced an earthquake that damaged many buildings, which were not fully restored 17 years later went Mount Vesuvius erupted.
The city was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader uncovering 150 years later. The ash, pumice and volcanic debris covered the city more than 6 metres deep and perfectly preserved it in a time capsule. Archaeologists have even been able to see the exact position a person was in at the time of death by pouring cement into the hollows formed in the volcanic ash to make body casts. The objects and the buildings in the city have been preserved for more than a millennium because of the lack of air and moisture when the city was underground. The work to uncover Pompeii is extremely important as it marked the start of the modern science of archeology.
The burial and destruction of the city have allowed us to see the social, economic, religious and political life of the ancient Roman city. Unfortunately, since the city has been uncovered it is endangered by weather, tourists, vandalism and vegetation. In July 2008, the Italian government declared a one-year state of emergency for the site and appointed a special commissioner to look after Pompeii.
This ancient Roman city is a remarkable display of the force of nature and of a city permanently frozen in time.
The National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy is one of the largest archaeological museums in the world with over 3,000 artifacts divided into eight thematic sections spaning on four levels. The museum is extremely important for its abundance of Roman artifacts and preservation of its heritage. Most of the Roman artifacts in the museum are from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum.
The building was constructed as cavalry barracks in 1585, then later a seat of the city’s university until the late 18th century when Bourbon king Charles VII made it into a museum. The core collection of the museum is from the Farnese Collection, inherited from the King’s mother, Elisabeth Farnese. The museum holds one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in Italy with 2,500 objects including sculptures, mummies, sarcophagi, papyri and ceramics. The museum even includes a Secret Room with an extensive collection of erotic and sexual items, mostly from Pompeii and Herculaneum. In 1848, the government proposed to destroy the artifacts, but the room remained restricted with limited access until April 2000 when it was made public.
The museum is a historical mashup of Greek, Roman, Renaissance and Egyptian history, booming with sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, glassware, ceramics, silverware, jewels and coins.
The Catacombs of San Gennaro are an underground world lying layers beneath the city of Naples. By walking only a few steps below the surface, you can travel back in time to the roots of Neapolitan faith. These catacombs are a massive burial ground with two levels extending 5,800 square metres. They date back to the second century AD when Greek and Roman law forbade burials in the city. The catacombs were dug out of Capodimonte Hill, which at the time was outside of Naples. In the fourth century AD, the catacombs were extended after the first patron saint of Naples’, St. Agrippinus, remains were placed in an altar of the underground basilica on the lower level of the catacombs. To this day, mass is still celebrated in St. Agrippinus’ basilica where worshippers can touch the saints’ remains through a hole in the altar. To the right of the basilica, in the entrance to the lower level of the catacombs, is a large baptismal font that was commisioned by Bishop Paul II. The ceiling of this level measures about six metres and there are around 3000 burials that have been discovered on both levels.
The upper level contains some of the earliest Christian paintings in southern Italy, a bishop’s crypt and the tomb of San Gennaro. From 413 to 431 the relics of the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, were kept in the catacombs. The tomb is located under the Bishop’s Crypt with a sceptre lying on the burial site. Right above the tomb, The Bishop’s Crypt is decorated with the first 14 bishops of Naples and some of the earliest mosaics.
In the third century AD, Christians began to use the catacombs with the simplest tombs dug along the walls and in the ground. The wealthiest burial sites were arched and featured frescos and mosaics. The Catacombs of San Gennaro take you down the rabbit hole into an alternate world of faith, art, history life and death.
Altar with St. Agrippinus’ remains
Tomb of San Gennaro
Museo di Capodimonte is one of the largest and richest art museums in Italy located in the luxurious and massive Palace of Capodimonte in Naples. With three floors and 160 rooms, the museum exhibits Neapolitan paintings and decorative art, from dishware to architectural structures. The lavish palace was originally designed to be a hunting lodge for King Charles VII of Naples and Sicily in 1738 and took nearly a century to complete. The first and second floors of the palace house the National Gallery with paintings from the 13th to the 18th century. The palace also has a large Farnese collection of classical sculptures, rooms furnished with 18th-century furniture and porcelain and Italian tin-glazed pottery called maiolica. The palace sits atop a hill of 130 hectares and offers incredible views of Naples in a peaceful setting. The palace, the view and the art display astonishing hand-made and natural works of art that bring a sense of tranquillity and serenity.
Made of beetle wings