Double Dolomiti I

The Dolomite Mountain Range (Dolomiti, in Italian), is one of the world’s most impressive and scenic ranges. They are so unique that they’re collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A month ago I was lucky enough to drive through them, from Bolzano in the west towards the Veneto in the east, passing near Belluno. Every turn brought new and magnificent vistas. Mostly I travel and work in sunny places, but to be honest it was nice to see some snow and have a bit of chill in the air for a change. The range gets its name from the French geologist de Dolomeiu who first evaluated the specific limestone that the mountains are made of. Hard to believe they were once the floors of ancient seas.

Double Dolomiti II

Here’s another, a snow-clad rocky peak, like the previous image, in the eastern half of the Dolomiti not far from Belluno. The Dolomiti were the proving ground for young Reinhold Messner, the greatest of all mountaineers, who grew up in South Tyrol or Süd Tirol, an area once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but which was ceded to Italy after the First World War (Italians call the area Trentino-Alto Adige). Many Süd Tirolers still feel more culturally attached to Austria ; they speak German and their ethnic identities lay with south German alpine cultures rather than Mediterranean Italic. Messner conquered all of the great peaks of the Dolomites before going on to conquer the world’s most challenging mountains. Among his many accomplishments, he was the first person to climb all 14 world peaks over 8000 meters (26,247 ft) and also summited Everest without oxygen tanks.

Terrific Toscana

This is a view from the castle of San Gimignano to the northeast, over the lovely Tuscan landscape of verdant, rolling hills. Such a classic view: undulating fields of grapevines and orchards of olive trees, giving out finally to the shadows of the Apennine Range in the distance.

Helping Hands

One of the attractions in Venice–as if it needs any more; indeed, it could use a few less–are the works of contemporary art produced for the Venice Biennale (which takes place every two years, not twice a year…I’m putting this part in for me because I can never tell). This is a picture taken from the spectacular terrace atop the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which is now an upscale mall with fancy shops. The building was originally the German traders’ inn and warehouse during the renaissance and its sides were once decorated with frescoes by, no less,  Giorgione and Titian. The fondaco had a huge cortile or open courtyard (now roofed over). The large ground-floor rooms were used for the storage of goods, while the upper stories were residential rooms, which numbered about 160. German merchants were required to stay there during their trading junkets so the Venetians, ever vigilant, could keep track of them. Its position on the Rialto also marked the importance of German trade relations. It was built in the first decade of the 16th century, replacing one that had burned down (that one built in the 13th century). For most of the 20th century the building served as the Central Post Office of Venice, but renovations by Rem Koolaus have now returned the building to a commercial function. Happily, the view from the terrace is free; you take the escalators up to the top floor then take some stairs and wait in the upper room to get to the terrace. This view is to the northwest, up the Grand Canal. Look closely and you can see the ‘Hands’, a work by the artist Lorenzo Quinn for this year’s Biennale. I think you can figure out the meaning of the work.