Thursday, April 5, 2007

Graduation Gift --Italy (Part II)

When we left the Venice part of our trip we travelled down to Padova to see the Scrovegni Chapel, La Cappella degli Scrovegni, built by the Scrovegni family in 1300, as part of the family palace, which itself was destroyed in the 1800s. Giotto spent two years totally decorating this space with 36 incredible fresco panels, illustrating the life of Mary and Jesus Christ.

The chapel has tiny windows and it has always amazed me how Giotto could have spent two years painting in this dark space with the lighting of the time.

The chapel was slowly falling into decay until the city took possession in 1881, however a goodly amount of damage had already taken place, both to the building and the frescoes. Restoration was undertaken several times over the next 120 years, latterly in the 1960s, after which we saw it. However, since then, atmospheric pollution has taken its toll, so much so, that in 2000 the chapel was made climate controlled, with an environmentally controlled waiting room. Now only 25 people are allowed inside at one time and tickets must be purchased several days in advance, in person or online. The condition of the frescoes has stabilized and restoration is once again being undertaken.

The chapel contains the most remarkable examples of Giotto frescoes, and to my mind much better than the frescoes in Assisi and in Florence, both of which I saw later, and it was certainly wonderful to see this very special place for the first time.

We continued our journey down to see our friends Carlo and Grazia and their daughter Irene, in Bologna, and we introduced our daughter to the interesting sights of Bologna, about which I've spoken before in this post. Grazia's sister had married shortly before we arrived and the reception had been held at a place called Castel Medalana, outside of Bologna. So, one Sunday, we drove out there to have lunch. It was indeed a small castle and lunch, which included a whole roasted suckling pig, was served outside in the garden among the fruit trees. A young man was our waiter and although he spoke in Italian to Carlo and Grazia, when he heard us speaking English later, he came to talk to us and sat down with us for a while. He had the thickest Liverpudlian accent but Grazia insisted that he was from Bologna because his accent was so pure in Italian. We said, "No Grazia, he sounds just like a Beatle." But she wouldn't believe us. However, he told us that he was from Liverpool and had married an Italian from Bologna. They were separated but he could not leave because he had a six year old daughter so he and some friends operated a restaurant in this historic setting.

Of course we had to visit Siena again for the Palio, which this time we actually saw and I'll talk about that experience in the next post about the Graduation Gift.

8 comments:

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Fascinating post, jmb. I've never been to Padova so this is all new information to me. Thank you. A Beatle bolognese - I'd love to have heard him talk!

jmb said...

Hi WCLC,
According to Grazia, he was Bolognese italiano and she would not believe that he was British until he told us that he was.
Regards
jmb

Lee said...

How wonderful, jmb. Let's hope the chapel and its magnificent frescoes are preserved for all time. It's beyond one's imagination how the work was done in those days so long ago.

Cathy said...

I'm anxiously awaiting part III. I love this story, and also the way you tell it.

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
I did go to this chapel again in 1997 , but before the climate control system was put in. Of course, it's much more difficult to get in now, no spontaneous visits.
Regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Cathy,
I'm glad you are enjoying the story, I have lots of Italian ones. Next post will be the Palio and if there's space our week in Assisi.
Regards
jmb

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. Yes, I had understood that - maybe I didn't make myself clear there. anyway, very much looking forward to the next episode.

jmb said...

Hi WCLC,
I knew you understood. I was just reiterating the thought. We were amazed that she clung to this notion, even after he told us. All I can say is that he must have had a very good ear and a very good teacher.
Regards
jmb