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A NIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

The Piazza della Rotonda is a city square in the heart of Rome where the ancient Pantheon majestically stands. The square features a central fountain surrounded by shops and restaurants where one can leisurely sit, eat and people watch.  When in Rome, I always stay in this neighborhood at a hotel just right behind the Pantheon because every major landmark is just a few minutes away by foot. Walking around this neighborhood can be quite an experience…one gets magically transported to a different era while walking on cobblestone streets, through narrow alleyways and along historic buildings. I also personally enjoy walking around this plaza at night, which can be quite romantic with the golden lights illuminating the entire plaza just like in the photo above, which I took on my way back to the hotel after a hearty Italian dinner.  So when in Rome, I never pass up the chance to enjoy a night in this beautiful piazza.

HEART OF ROME

Friends of mine are currently touring Italy and browsing through their pictures brought back pleasant memories of my vacation to this exquisite country last year. I immediately revisited my photo bank of the trip and discovered a good number of photographs worth posting in this page. My trip brought me to Rome, Florence, Tuscany and Venice before flying to Spain for the second half of my vacation. These places are rich in history and culture and my hundreds of photographs will never be able to give justice to the spectacular beauty I saw in person.  So the next series of photos on this site will feature photographs from my Italian trip beginning with the Colosseum right in the heart of Rome, which was recently cleaned up for a fresher look. This architectural wonder has become the city’s symbol and I captured it using my iPhone7 Plus in Pano mode in order to photograph the entire subject in a single shot.

PEGGY’S WINDOW

During my trip to Venice a few months ago, I visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to view her vast treasury of artwork ranging from Picasso and Metzinger to Dali and Brâncusi. The museum is a famous destination in Venice with its main entrance accessible through the Grand Canal. Peggy bought the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which is an 18th-century castle, in 1949 and started showing her art collection in 1951. While exploring the museum, I happened on this window with a great view of the canal but interestingly curtained by a patterned metal grill. I pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus to photograph the outside view incorporating the patterned grill to create a layered effect on my photo. I thought it would be nice to capture Venice and the Grand Canal through Peggy’s window.

FADED BEAUTY

The Procuratie are three ancient buildings surrounding St. Mark’s Square in Venice and currently housing offices, souvenir and retail shops as well as restaurants including one of the oldest coffee shops in the world, the Florian.  I took this photograph in one of the passageways of the Procuratie Vecchie, which is the oldest of the three buildings dating back to the 12th century. These buildings provide us a glimpse of old Venice when it was a major financial and maritime center around the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. I initially noticed the roughened look of the passageway from the chipped vaulted ceilings and eroded walls to the washed paint and crooked lines creating a beautiful ugliness to the place. I can only imagine how beautiful this passageway must have looked back then…today, all we have left to enjoy is its faded beauty.

GONDOLA SURPRISE

When in Venice, a gondola ride is quite inevitable…so during my trip to this floating city last October, I found myself sailing in one along this ancient city’s narrow canals. The sailing was smooth despite it being a tiny boat and was filled with pleasant surprises at every turn.  Imagine my shock when in the middle of the tour the gondola glided out into the wide Venetian lagoon. I am not scared of sailing into open waters just as long as I’m in a huge boat…but when you’re in a tiny gondola rocking in a large body of water it wasn’t difficult to start panicking. Apparently, this was part of the route and the gondolier wanted to show me the Doge’s Palace from out in the lagoon when he found out I was into photography. It was a spectacular view indeed but I couldn’t help myself from clinging on the boat for life’s mercy. Despite being partially frozen in fear, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take a photograph so I slowly pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus and took a number of shots. I was also too chicken to move to the opposite side of the boat so I ended up capturing a portion of the gondola, which surprisingly added an interesting perspective to my photographs…This one turned out to be my best and favorite shot.

ROME IN RUINS

The Palatine Hill in Rome is one of my favorite places to visit in the city. The whole place may be in ruins but it provides you an amazing picture of how great an empire Rome was centuries ago. On my first walk around this archeological heaven back in 2014, I was lucky to join a small guided tour with the most informed tour guide one could ask for. The most amazing thing I learned during the tour was that ancient Rome was right underneath modern day Rome. During my trip this year, I decided to head for the Capitoline Hill to capture a photo of Palatine Hill from a higher angle. In this panoramic photo I took using my iPhone 7 Plus, once can see the Roman Forum, Temple of Saturn and even the Colosseum in the far distance.

BRIDGE OF SIGHS 

I always thought it was called the Bridge of Sighs because of the emotions it brought out of the viewers outside. However, I found out during my tour of the Doge’s Palace that it was called as such due to the emotions of the convicts crossing towards their prison cells seeing freedom for the last time…thus the sigh. The bridge is a key landmark in Venice as you can tell from the large crowd gathered on the bridge. I also stood on that bridge and took a number of photos but this one I took from the opposite side turned out better. The gondolas sailing towards the Venetian lagoon added a dramatic effect to the composition without taking away the focus from the bridge above. And just like everyone else who stood before this famous bridge, I took a sigh of appreciation for its beauty despite the tragic purpose of its very existence.

LA LUNA ROMANA

The full moon beautifully soared over the Altare della Patria or the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II during my recent trip to the historic city of Rome. I took this photo just as I was turning on a corner while heading back to the hotel. I was hoping to photograph the moon above the Colosseum, however, the moon was way too high up in the sky by the time twilight made an entrance. Gladly, I looked back at the monument for a last gaze otherwise I would have missed the chance to photograph such a magical sight. The  monument was illuminated at the right spots while the sky was at its perfect brightness and blueness to allow for the bright moon to pop out. What a beautiful night that was!

MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD

I grew up in a sleepy village called Mangagoy in the southeastern part of the Philippines where the sapphire ocean meets emerald forests.  Every 19th of July, the village celebrates its “fiesta” (founding day) highlighted by the presence of a carnival, visiting from another part of the country, and offering every child’s dream ride…except for a carousel.  I remember riding a ferris wheel, caterpillar, octopus and bump cars…but never a carousel. So when I visited Florence, Italy last month, my heart skipped a beat when I saw a carousel in one of the town’s square.  A part of me wanted to take a ride but my shyness overcame me when I saw kids lining up so I decided to just take photos instead. During my photoshoot, a woman with a cluster of balloons passed by and I luckily captured her in one of my photos. While reviewing my travel album a few days ago, I came across this photo and got transported back to my childhood with flashbacks of those happy fiesta days. I eventually rode a carousel on the cruise ship I went on a few days later but everytime I see one, my heart always aches for that missing memory of a young me happily riding a carousel.

GONDOLAS AND THE GRAND CANAL

The Grand Canal in Venice is rarely this deserted so when I noticed the absence of motorized boats with only two gondolas on the water, I immediately grabbed my phone and snapped this photo. This majestic waterway, seen here from the Rialto bridge, is usually busy with motorboats sailing in all directions while transporting locals and tourists to different sections of the city. On the other hand, majority of the gondolas sail along the narrower canals for tourists to explore the unwalkable sections of Venice. The gondola and the canal are both emblematic of Venice so I am very pleased to highlight them both in this photograph.

MOON OVER DUOMO

The moon was at its fullest during my last night in Florence, Italy and the sky was blanketed with a thin veil of clouds creating a magical atmosphere in this medieval city in the heart of Tuscany. I initially wished the sky was clearer but I realized the clouds provided a dramatic effect to the night sky for my photography. My hotel (Hotel Spadai) had a viewing deck on it’s rooftop so I climbed up around midnight and happily clicked the night away without distractions from other hotel guests. Fortunately, the moon was positioned close enough to the Duomo allowing me to capture both in a single shot.

PONTE VECCHIO

The Ponte Vecchio is probably one of the most photographed bridges in Italy and I made sure I got my photo when I visited Florence about two weeks ago. This medieval bridge crosses the Arno River and was the only bridge in Florence that was not destroyed by the Germans when they retreated from the British liberators during the Second World War. The bridge is lined with jewelry and souvenir shops although centuries ago butchers were the main feature of the bridge. Most photos of this famous landmark are usually taken from the bridges on opposite sides or along the river banks and I did a number of shots at those angles. However, during my visit to the Uffizi Gallery I noticed that one of the upper floor windows looked down into the bridge although the reflection on the glass window became a challenge. I decided to use my iPhone to take this photo by laying it flat on the glass window to avoid any reflections. I finally got my photo of the Ponte Vecchio at an angle different from your typical tourist photo.

FONTANA DI TREVI

When I visited Rome two years ago, the Trevi Fountain was closed for renovation and the pool was totally drained of water.  Visitors were able to walk on a ledge above the pool for a photograph and some were even throwing coins into the empty pool. I took a number of photos but none were worthy of a feature on my page. Two weeks ago I found myself again in Rome and this time I made sure the Trevi fountain was a major stop during my walk around the city. Unfortunately, my back was killing me after I pulled it while clearing my backyard for Hurricane Matthew that carrying a DSLR around my neck was intolerable. I had to use my iPhone 7 this entire trip so as not to aggravate my back. Surprisingly, using my iphone allowed me to capture wider panoramas like the photo above. I wouldn’t have been able to photograph the fountain in a wide span like this using an ordinary lens. I also wanted to capture the fountain devoid of tourists but my parents are not filthy rich enough to lock down the area so bear with the humanity bordering my photo. LOL!

VENICE…LIKE NO OTHER

A week ago I arrived in Venice with very high expectations having known so much about this Italian city from movies, books and magazines. This was my first trip to this romantic city and true to my expectations, I was bowled over by what I saw. I may have to mention my wonderful stay at the Baglioni Luna Hotel, which made the entire experience more memorable, from the amazing service to my fabulous suite with a panoramic view of the Venetian lagoon (I will post a photographic review of the hotel later). A trip to Venice won’t be complete without a gondola ride and the tourist in me insisted that I had to give it a try. I found myself gliding through narrow canals between centuries-old buildings seeing a side of Venice one won’t get to see from the streets. Venice is such a beautiful city that I can’t find the right words to best describe it. This is one of those places that is better experienced than described.

FIRENZE

I am currently in the enchanting city of Florence and I’ve never said wow so many times in my life. This city in the heart of Italy’s Tuscany region was once a powerful kingdom and a major trading point in Europe. The city is rich in culture and traditions as well as impressive architecture such as the Basilica of Saint Mary the Flower with its behemoth of a dome towering above the city as seen in the middle of my photo. The city’s other famous landmarks include the Ponte Vecchio (bridge on middle left of the photo) and  the Church of Santa Croce (middle right), which serves as home to the remains of famous Italians like Galileo, Michelangelo and Dante. This photo was taken on top of a hill at the Piazza Michelangelo and the view from the top was worth every step of the climb.

ROMAN HOLIDAY

It’s great to be back in Rome…the weather is beautiful and the air crisp and comfortably chilly. I arrived here yesterday and immediately made the rounds of every tourist landmark featured in a travel book. A number of them were under clean up renovation the last time I was here so it’s good to finally see them minus the scaffoldings. Fortunately, my hotel is just 15 minutes walk to all of these landmarks so I conveniently strolled my way around while enjoying a cone of my favorite gelato flavors from the landmark shop, Giolitti! I culminated my walkathon at the Colosseum and immediately played with my camera just like the thousands of tourists there that day. In order not to bore you with the same touristy photo of this ancient architectural wonder, I decided to capture its reflection on a puddle using my new iPhone 7. I’ve seen a number of photos using this technique so I decided to try it on the Colosseum…not bad for a first try…and the 12-megapixel iPhone camera did not disappoint.

 CASTEL SANT’ANGELO

The Castle of the Holy Angel in Rome, Italy was originally built as the mausoleum for the Roman emperor Hadrian and his family as well as for the emperors who eventually succeeded him. The place has been looted centuries ago so the urns of the emperors have never been recovered.  Eventually, the castle became a fortress for the popes before being converted into the museum that it is today. I never got to step inside the museum as I was hurrying for my guided tour of the Vatican, which was about half a mile away from the castle. I took this photo hurriedly while crossing the bridge so this is my only photo of this ancient Roman landmark. Perhaps on my next trip to Rome I can finally step inside and take another photo of this historic building at a better angle.

ROMA DI NOTTE

My first night in Rome was spent leisurely exploring the city and visiting famous landmarks close to my hotel. Fortunately, I was staying right behind the Pantheon so almost every landmark was just within walking distance. My steps took me to the Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo and all the way to the Victor Emmanuel Monument and the Capitoline Hill where this photograph was taken. It was also a good opportunity for me to burn my first Italian dinner of pizza, pasta and wine. I was never a fan of this photo, however, the sky looked amazing so I decided to feature it today. Rome is such a beautiful city and every street corner transports you to a different time in history. It is also impressive to see how this city have managed to save and protect its heritage sites effectively. Seeing Rome for the first time was a dream come true moment for me…and in a few weeks, I will relive that dream again.

FONTANA DEI QUATTRO FIUMI

The Fountain of the Four Rivers created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1651 is the centerpiece of Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy. This was the second major landmark I visited in Rome after the Pantheon, which was right behind my hotel. This impressive work of art represents the four major rivers of the four continents where the pope had supreme religious authority. These rivers are the Danube representing Europe, Nile representing Africa, Ganges representing Asia and Rio de la Plata representing the Americas. I was overwhelmed with emotions being in Rome for the first time and seeing all these monuments that I’ve only seen on pictures and films. Rome is such a beautiful city and photographs do not give justice to its real beauty. I may have taken at least 200 photos during my first five hours in Rome and I feel like I have not captured enough. I look forward to my next trip to Rome in a few months and I hope to capture a few hundred more photos to share with you all.

FIERY SKIES

One of my favorite photography subjects is the sunset as it always bring out a multitude of rich colors creating a kaleidoscopic sky that can inspire the lover, artist, writer, poet and dreamer in each one of us…or in my case, the photographer in me.  The beauty of a sunset is further magnified by the presence of cloud formations as they add depth and dimension to the multihued sky. This photograph is one of my personal favorites as this made the sky look like a painting creating a moment that was worth capturing and cherishing.  I took this photo somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea while cruising around that part of the world during the fall of  2014. Rarely do I encounter sunsets as visually stunning as this so I’m glad I was there to capture that polychromatic moment. 

FORUM MAGNUM

img_4897The Forum Magnum, popularly known as the Roman Forum, was the heart of ancient Rome where commercial and political activities were once celebrated. Today, all that remain are the ruins of ancient buildings that once stood proudly around this historic square. I took this photo during a guided tour of the complex and I fortunately made the right decision to join one as it provided me with tons of history and trivias about this site. The tour lasted about 4 hours and culminated at The Colosseum, which is only a few steps away from this huge complex. This, Vatican and the Colosseum are probably the most interesting places I visited in Rome…although, there really is nothing in Rome that is not interesting.

THE PANTHEON

 The Pantheon in Rome is an ancient structure constructed around 127 AD by Emperor Hadrian. It is one of the best preserved ancient buildings in Rome and was continuously used throughout its existence. The building is now a Catholic Church and houses the tombs of two Italian kings (Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I) and that of the great artist Raphael. The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza dela Rotunda and features a fountain surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk. This is the first place I visited in Rome just because it was right behind my hotel. The place is a major tourist attraction so it can get really crowded and one may have to line up to get inside the building. The square is surrounded by restaurants and cafes where you can drink and dine al fresco as well as have fun people watching.  I took this photo when I was still experimenting with the manual mode of my camera and two shots came out surprisingly good so I decided to combine them to come up with this. I’m going back to Rome later this year and this time I know my manual mode better…let’s all hope I come up with better shots this time.

ROMAN TWILIGHT

 

This photo was taken after spending an entire afternoon on a guided tour of the Roman Forum culminating at the Colosseum.  Unfortunately for me, the Colosseum was at that time undergoing major cleaning with more than half of the structure covered with scaffoldings making it impossible to capture this famous landmark in all its glory.  I took multiple photos inside and outside of the building, however, the cloudy skies made my photos look dull and flat. It was my last day in Rome so there was no chance for me to come back for a second attempt. I decided to wait around hoping for changes in lighting during the sunset anticipating for better and richer colors. Just as the sun touched the horizon, the sky turned into this explosion of pink, yellow and purple colors like some delicious Roman cocktail. I told myself perhaps someone in Vatican heard my prayers. I immediately positioned myself beside the Colosseum in the section where scaffoldings were absent and focused my camera on the structure and the colorful sky. I used a Canon Rebel XSi with an EF 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens to take this photo zooming into the facade of the Colosseum to exclude the throngs of tourists from my composition. I guess my patience paid off as my photoshoot turned out better than I expected. By the way, I recently became familiar with a small camera from a company called Light, the camera has an interactive touch screen built in allowing you to edit your shot seconds after it was taken.

ALTARE DELLA PATRIA

The Altare Della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) is a monument in the heart of Rome, Italy built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. This monument is more commonly known as  Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II).  I took this photo on my way back to my hotel after an interesting and informative guided tour of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. This was taken just a few minutes after the sunset while the sky was turning dark blue with a purple tinge on it.  Most photos of this monument are taken straight on and I made the same mistake of using a similar technique. Fortunately, I also took some angled shots and this one turned out to be my most decent one. 😁

TEMPLE OF JUPITER, POMPEII

  The Temple of Jupiter is located at the north end of the Forum, which is the economic, religious and policital center of Pompeii (just like our downtown today).  Behind the temple ruins is the massive Mount Vesuvius, which in August 24, 79 A.D erupted and covered the entire city with 20 feet of earth and ash killing its almost 11,000 inhabitants and erasing its very existence. Exploration of Pompeii first began in 1748 and to this date, archeologists continue to excavate and discover various parts of this ancient city. Pompeii (and Ephesus in Turkey) remains to me as the greatest places on earth I have ever visited. If you get the chance to visit Naples, Italy, don’t ever miss to drop by the ruins of the city of Pompeii.

SANTA MARIA DI LORETO

  The Santa Maria di Loreto is a 16th century church in the heart of Rome just across the street from the grand Monument of Vittorio Emmanuel II.  Construction of this church began in 1507 and was completed after 75 years.  Further to the back is another church, the Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano, which was built in the 18th century and creates the impression of twin churches.  The pillar on the right is the famous Trajan’s Column erected to commemorate emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars.  I took this photo on my way back to the hotel after a guided tour of the Forum and the Colosseum. I personally consider Rome as the most beautiful city I have ever visited. The city’s impressive architecture with its rich earthy tones transports you to a different time of brave adventures, bloody conquests and passionate romances.

ST. PETER’S ALTAR

  
The altar at the St. Peter’s Basilica is adorned with works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini who is revered as the greatest architect and sculpture of the Baroque period. He created the baldacchino, which is the four poster pavilion-like structure in front of the altar and just right below the basilica’s famous dome. The altar also feature another one of his works called the “Cathedra Petri” or throne of St. Peter, which is the golden sculpture right in the middle of the photo. Gladly, they cordoned off the altar section of the basilica thus allowing me to photograph it minus the chaotic tourist crowds.

VATICAN

Vatican

St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican is the heart of the Catholic church where millions of devotees pilgrimage to celebrate their faith and devotion. During my trip to Rome last year, my Catholic upbringing dictated that I should pay Vatican a visit. I spent an entire day visiting the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and the St. Peter’s Basilica and the amount of art amassed by the church blew away my imagination. Vatican’s grandness is an obvious reflection of the massive power of the Catholic Church.

THE COLOSSEUM

ColosseumThe Colosseum, also known as Flavian Amphitheatre, is the centerpiece of Rome’s spread of architectural masterpieces. Historically, this was a venue for entertainment such as gladiatorial fights and other public spectacles. The Colosseum is also considered as the largest amphitheatre ever built and is one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering. During my visit, our tour guide informed us that stones from the Forum and the Colosseum were taken out by the pope to build the St. Peter’s Basilica. And contrary to popular belief, no christians were fed to the lions at this place.

SUNSET IN NAPOLI

Naples

The city of Napoli (Naples) in Italy was the last stop of my Eastern Mediterranean cruise. I never got to explore the city because I opted for a trip to the ruins of Pompeii, which happened to be one of the best decisions I made for that trip. This photo was one of my very few shots of Naples and was taken from the balcony of my stateroom. Maybe in a future trip to Italy I will finally be able to walk around the city and take pictures from the ground.

Rome in Focus

 

A trip to Rome is like travelling to a different time. This amazing city has succesfully preserved its rich heritage from historic piazzas and grand boulevards to lavish architecture and centuries old neighborhoods.  It is a city that has bred heroes, nurtured artists and inspired romantics. I for myself was smitten by Rome and all these pictures don’t give justice to what I saw and experienced while in the heart of such a beautiful city.

ROMAN FIGURES

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