George and Jean's trip to Italy April 2002

Photos are fun to look at, but they can't convey all of the highlights of a trip, whether they be artistic, social or just soaking up the atmosphere. The text on this page tries to do that while giving a little context.

If you want to go straight to the photos, click on any of these links:

Bergamo to Padova

Verona and Padova

Our good friends Ugo and Christina have been visiting England regularly for years, and every year we say "We'll see you in Italy next time" - it was time to put up or shut up. And anyway, we are both absolute lovers of all things Italian (with the possible exception of most of the Italian tourists in Britain :-), even though we may have been acting more like single-minded francophiles in recent years.

Ugo and Christina live in Milan. In fact they have recently moved into a very conveniently-located and magnificent apartment within walking distance of the Duomo. So Milan was our starting point - an excellent choice. Milan is a calm and self-confident city whose central area is relatively quiet, with well-disciplined traffic and good public transport. With the help of the latter we visited the Duomo, the Brera gallery, Leonardo's Last Supper fresco in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, and the Sforzesco castle all in a single day, while also passing many piazzas and palazzos and soaking up the ambiance of Milan on a typical, warm spring Friday.

The good weather was to last only another day or two and we spent those days delightfully with Ugo and Christina touring some of the less-popular but still verty worthwhile cities in the north East. We spent the Saturday visiting Bergamo, Mantua and the small but almost perfectly-preserved village of Argua Petrarca before finally driving to Padua, where we had some difficulty reaching the hotel we had booked in Ugo and Christina's car - it is in a totally pedestrianized area! Ugo and Christina stayed for the Sunday, when we were able to visit with them the very famous Scrovegni Chapel (also known as the Arena Chapel) whose walls are covered with a large and absolutely astonishing set of very early frescos by Giotto. These paintings are often cited as some of the first renaissance art, with their much greater fluidity and realism than those that went before. Their restoration was completed last year after a decade when they could not be visited and the result is absolutely excellent.

Padua is a very attractive town with an extensive area of arcaded streets around the piazzas Erbe and Frutta. We used it as a base for our visits to Verona and Vicenza by train.

Verona has an attractive centre containing piazzas and palaces as well as Juliet's house. This was a roman town and we were able to visit the very large roman arena. To keep out of the rain, we made a pilgrimage to half a dozen churches, starting at the catherdral, where we saw Titian's Assumption.

We had planned to visit the Palladio villas in Vicenza, but the heavy rain prevented us. But we did manage to see some of his palaces in Vicenza as well as his Olympic Theatre. We were lucky to find an exhibition of photographs and models of Palladio's buildings inside his Palazzo Barburan da Porto. When we got to Venice we did visit his churches St. Giorgio Maggiore and Rendentore.

One reason for our plan to spend an extended time in Venice was George's recollection of earlier visits and the photographs he took then, now hanging in our house. We failed to find the sotoportego in the first photo, but we did visit Burano and even located the spot where the children are playing in the photo.

George took these photos in Venice in about 1970

Click to see enlargements

Hidden Venice

Burano lacemaker

Burano school break

We stayed in an apartment on San Marco near to the vaporetto stop San Samuele. There were good shops nearby enabling us to cook for ourselves. The location was ideal for access on foot or by vaporetto to the various parts of Venice shown in our photos.

This trip enabled us to view the Italian renaissance paintings in the Brera in Milan and in the Venice Accademia as well as in the churches and palaces we visited. In Mantua we saw Mantegna's frescoes in the tower of the Duke's Palace. In Padua we saw Donatello's Gattamelata in the Piazza del Santo near the church with St. Anthony's tomb.

George and Jean, April 02