Exploring Bologna

Bologna is a beautiful city, and after the tourist-heavy Florence, it was a breath of fresh air! We had a wonderful two days exploring this stunning city with its medieval architecture and it’s very own leaning tower. It is even home to the oldest university in the Western world, founded in 1088.

We happened to be in town during some kind of festival, so one night wandering back to our Airbnb we discovered a panel discussion with an Italian band (lots of excited students in the front row) and then a giant screen showing a black and white movie in the main square. What a treat! My favourite discovery was a photography exhibition which told the story of the city from the late 1800s to present day through photos of the city. Here are a few of my snaps from our adventure – not many as admittedly we spent most of our time eating pasta and ham …

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Florence – exploring the city

Our recent trip to Italy began in Florence, I was excited to see the city as had heard so much about it from friends and colleagues. It is a stunning place, however, it is such a tourist trap that we didn’t enjoy walking the streets in the centre of the city. Too much hard work – especially in 34ºc heat! We did manage to find some quieter corners and some delicious food in local restaurants so, despite the crowds, I could enjoy the magic of such a beautiful city. DSCF8325

Our AirBnB was very close to the stunning Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, completed in 1436. It is an awe-inspiring building with white, pink and green marble adorning its outer walls. My boyfriend braved the climb up the Dome however, having seen Richard Ayoade and Rebel Wilson tackle the climb in Travel Man, I opted for a less strenuous activity. I went to the Palazzo Vacchio and explored the imposing chamber which featured a sculpture by Michelangelo (not the one, although a replica stands outside the museum entrance) and some beautifully decorated apartments which were the private quarters of Cosimo I. The Hall of Lilies was beautiful too – there were no photos allowed inside so I have nothing to share but I recommend a visit if you go to Florence (there was also no queue to visit the museum!).

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One morning we stumbled upon the Loggia dei Lanzi which is an open-air sculpture gallery and features some striking and intriguing sculptures. There are plenty of world-renowned galleries in Florence, but the queues are so long that we found it quite off-putting. It’s also a sad fact that when there are so many tourists just “ticking off” masterpieces, you can feel slightly herded along.

My boyfriend and I both felt this way when visiting the Vatican in Rome, so decided not to join the queues and see what we really wanted to without feeling an obligation.  I really recommend both the Palazzo Vacchio and this collection of sculptures which can both be enjoyed without queues – and the Loggia dei Lanzi is free!

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Above – The striking and disturbing masterpiece from Giambologna, Rape of the Sabine Women which was carved from a single block of stone.

Below – Another work from Giambologna, Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus, 1599.

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The famous Ponte Vecchio … a tourist hotspot!

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I hadn’t realised it at the time, but on the Ponte Santa Trinita there are 4 statues representing the four seasons. This particular one represents autumn, by Giovan Battista Caccini.

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To escape the crowds, we went for a wander on the other side of the river. We noticed that there was a fort on top of a hill which was unfortunately closed once we reached the top. But we enjoyed the walk and the views that it rewarded us with. The fort we were walking towards is the Forte di Belvedere and apparently offers stunning views of the city if it is open, it is probably worth checking the opening times before you make the trek – learn from our mistake.

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Despite the fort being closed, we loved our walk back down the hill through these wonderful streets. And look – no crowds!

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So that’s a brief overview of our exploration of Florence and some of the photographs I am most pleased with. Of course, our trip was mainly focused on seeing Radiohead perform at the Visarno Arena … have I mentioned that yet?

Look out for another post soon with some of my photographs taken in Bologna – taken in the rare moments when we weren’t busy eating pasta.

 

Sunset in Florence

I’m back in London after four fabulous days in Italy. I love visiting this country, and having already been to Rome, Verona and Venice, I was excited to explore some more Italian cities. This time my boyfriend and I went to Florence and Bologna. Our main reason for the trip was to see Radiohead perform at the Visarno Arena in Florence – a stunning setting for a phenomenal gig. But this was just the cherry on the cake. I’ll be sharing my photos over a few posts, but first I wanted to share one of my highlights. Watching the sun set over Florence. It’s a very touristy city, and I have to admit that it was a little too busy for us, but watching the sunset on the first night, we couldn’t deny it’s beauty.

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I have to admit I’m particularly proud of the shot above, taken kneeling down next to a pool/fountain of some kind halfway up the hill which we had climbed to admire the view.

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More posts from this trip to follow – watch this space!

 

A weekend in Copenhagen

Last weekend my boyfriend and I spent the weekend in Copenhagen. We had a fab weekend, enjoying cycling around the city on the Saturday in glorious sunshine and taking in the sights. A slightly colder and cloudier Sunday saw us take shelter in Rosenborg Castle and a cosy coffee shop before our flight home. We enjoyed wonderful food, especially at Gorilla in which we had a 10-course tasting menu and an intriguing bottle of wine. It’s a great city to explore and here are some of my photos from our city break.

 

We also visited the Copenhagen Botanic Garden so look out for another post to follow soon with my photos of the plants in their amazing glasshouses!

 

Kew Orchids Festival

Once again this year I headed to the Kew Orchids Festival, this is the third year in a row that I’ve gone and it’s becoming a bit of a tradition. I went to the late event which was great with a brilliant atmosphere and stunning displays however the lighting wasn’t very conducive to me taking photos (or actually admiring many of the stunning displays in person!). It’s probably best to go during the day if you actually want to study the intricacies of these stunning plants.

But here’s a selection of photos I took on the night.

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I would have liked to have the opportunity to take some more macro shots of the orchids but the lighting was not on my side so unfortunately most of my shots aren’t usable! A lesson learnt – and a different aspect of my photography to work on.

Snowdrops – winter beauties

It’s been a while since my last post, my excuse is a combination of starting a new job in December and the usual winter bugs so I haven’t been out and about with my camera as much.

A few weeks back I went to the Chelsea Physic Garden Snowdrop Days, it was my first time going back to the Garden as a visitor rather than as an employee as I had been up until recently. I took the opportunity to take some photographs of the beautiful snowdrops on display, one of my favourite plants at this time of year. Although the daffodils are starting to pop up on my balcony so look out for some shots of them soon!

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One of the few plants that I can always remember the botanical name for – Galanthus elwesii ‘Grumpy’

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I used the magnetic lasso tool to select the snowdrop and then inverse this selection so that I could make the background black and white – I really like the effect this has achieved!

As usual comments and tips are welcome, and I promise to not leave it so long next time!

Grow Wild – End of a Season

At the start of the summer I registered for a free seed kit from Grow Wild, a wild flower campaign aimed to transform spaces in the UK with British native wild flowers. I planted the seeds on my balcony and enjoyed wild flowers throughout the summer. However now that we reach September, the flowers have passed their best and I spent this morning sorting out my pots, removing dead plants and planting some bulbs ready for the spring.

The advantage of this was that I had an array of dried wild flowers to photograph! I decided to experiment with the backgrounds, rather than using my usual watercolour washes. I used some pages from a colouring book (I’m someone who loved colouring before ‘adult colouring’ became a thing), the book is called Secret Garden by Johanna Basford. I also used a sheet of illustration which I was given at the V&A late last Friday, their late was called Grow You Own.

Here are the results!

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The three images above all use coloured in pages from the colouring book as the background.

 

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As always comments are very welcome and constructive criticsm appreciated.

I’m currently waiting on a film to be developed from the Pentax, I spent an afternoon in Brompton Cemetary so am really intriguied to see what shots I managed to capture. Watch this space …