Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Turin. Shroud, Duomo, Piazza. Romans. Best City by Foot. Follow Along as the Sun Goes Down

Walk Along As the Day Ends

Impression of Turin:  Should be high on anyone's list. Contrasts in people, architecture, a balance of finance (the industrial north of Italy is money-minded, we sense) and culture. The entire way in by our odd route, to the Old Town section, took us through large international sections: markets, Asian, Middle Eastern, African. Follow tracks of any sort, and you get to the center. The main attraction remains the Duomo, with the Shroud, but we want to see more of the other sections next time.

Read about the scope of Turin, Fiat and all,  at :// Scroll down to Turin.

1.  Architecture.  

The Cathedral Bell Tower or Campanile in Turin is Romanesque in style, 1470.  But this site says later - in 1723. See ://

2.  Theological matters.  Chapel of the Holy Shroud.

The Shroud of Turin, Chapel of the Holy Shroud at Cathedral, Duomo di Torin, Turin Italy (replicated, original in vault)

Historical proofs. Some sites avoid the issue of results of the carbon-dating, simply saying that the controversy rages. See ://  Others find flaws in it. See also :// The study itself, however, offers its conclusions leaving 5% uncertainty (reasonable), so anybody can choose to live in that 5%.

Vet it all. Here is the radiocarbon dating report, at Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin at ://  Their conclusion with 95 percent certainty, is that it dates within this range: 1260-1390, give or take 10.

Processes of faith and actions of institutions in fostering what they want to foster in dogma: different issues from historical proofs. People will choose what they need.

Chapel of the Holy Shroud, Duomo, Turin, Italy (Cathedral)

2.  The World Intrudes Itself, into Secular and Religious Discussions

Macho fountain square-off, Turin, Italy.
Smack down approaching. Attitude counts. Issue here: the gustatory superiority of Piazza Castello, Turin, Italy (Castle Square)

Families out for an evening.  Bikes, and, on the sidelines at the cafes, the watching dater hopefuls.

Turin, Castle Square, Italy, mime

See this piazza in panorama at ://

4.  The Stroll.  Have a bite of doner kebab to hold you until the 10PM dinner.

Doner kebab, on the way, Turin, Italy

5.  Reconnoiter at the Hotel - prepare for the 10PM dinner forage.
Evening Cathedral view, Turin, Italy, from hotel

Night stroll, cafe for dinner, Turin, Italy
Where next?

6.  A yen to redo the office.

Window display, office interior, Turin, Italy

Lady with waif's rose, from table next, Turin, Italy

Children, some dark and raggy, others light and raggy, often sell single roses table to table.

Buy one, have the little vendor take it to the next table where four ladies, between, say 70-90, are carousing - bottles, big portions, lots of fun, waves, a great way for seniors to enjoy life.  A Turin friend says many elders live on their own, walk all around, largely because the extended family system still works.  Family stops by, keeps an eye, live nearby.  However they do it, these folks were enjoying a good time. And all the walking - we know that's good.

She waited for us to finish, then came up with another thank-you.

7.  And the Romans.

An archeological-dig park, also a dog park - let them run, all fenced in. See statues, ruins, just outside the Hotel.

Turin Doner Kebab - The Global Fast-Food Feast

Doner kebab. A global viral spiral delight.
World Wide Kabab
Kebap sometimes.
From a distance: the doner kebab.  Smell it yet?

Doner kebab, fast food, side street, Torino, Italy (Turin)

The new world's fast food - the doner kebab.

Kebabs can be meat bites threaded on little wooden sticks as we think of shish, kebab, or metal sticks; or this - a vertically roasted, rotating mutton-derived and pressed wonder, which is shaved before your very eyes, and served with a white feta sauce, tomato, lettuce, pita, add the fries, see  www://  The doner part means the rotation technique, the vertical merry-go-round of solid pressed meat, being shaved away, customer by customer.

Up closer. The doner kebap. Sometimes spelled with the "p".

Quick. In.

Doner kebab has even reached the eyes and ears and, yea, even the wagging tongues, of the New York Times - here an article on the doner kebab invasion of Milan.  See In Italy, Sign of Defiance in a Kebab and a Coke, by Elizabetta Povoledo at ://   Does size matter?  Where is the biggest one.  See ://

Doner Kebabs are also in Hanoi:  the banh mi doner kabab. Banh mi by itself means only "bread."  This Vietnamese variation is made of the big wad of shaved pork from the rotating machinery, pickled vegetables, and chili sauce, and a warm baguette. Turkish kebabs, on the other spit, would be "halal" or lamb or other meats, but no pork. See New York Times, November 8, 2009, travel section page 5. A banh mi iluke-bab boasts sprinkled cilantro and sliced red chiles. The Hanoi German variation on a theme displays a virtuoso pickled red cabbage and onions.

And Quebec. Search.

Common sense:  Food safety, storage, shipping, shelflife, street food conditions, manufacture of pressurepushedmanymincedmuttonedmysterymeatsmolded, same problems as anywhere. See :// /.  Still, delicious, except for the Doner King's variety.

It's the mesmerizing movement that gets you. Around and around and up and down.

So make your own:  

Look at gyro recipes for various sauces. 
  • Compare the doner kebab to Gyros. Greek gyro compared to kebabs. Gyros, as we understand them, are the Greek sandwiches not necessarily from the rotating vertical spit, and can be in chopped chunks.  See
  • Shaped kebabs:  a first recipe for the shaped minced mutton kebab, ground, in little meatball form on the little sticks, not the rotating Humungous Wonder.  Go to Mutton Kebab Cuisine, ://  
  • This second recipe: combines pounded and marinated lamb slices with ground lamb, and uses a "doner kebab broiler" or rotisserie, see
Compare the shaped mutton kebab to a Western meatball? 

Both use seasonings, but the kebab is minced, not ground as in the shaped kebab.  And it takes a lot of flour in the mix; and then the shaped muttonballs are fried, then skewered.  If your pot is big enough, perhaps you could skewer then fry.  Or do a quick broil after frying and then skewering so the stick gets charred a little. Mutton, the grown sheep, has a stronger flavor than lamb, and is tougher. The marinade in #2 would be important as a tenderizer if mutton is used..

Also enjoyed in Switzerland, see Switzerland Road Ways, Fribourg, Doner Kebabs; and in Slovenia, Croatia, Canada, etc. In Croatia, the process for cevapcici looks similar. Is it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Milan - The Ouija Board System of Navigation. Santa Maria presso San Satiro, Duomo and Risotto Milanese


First, find your way in.
Second, enjoy the rewards:

Architecture, history, risotto, and a great Piazza

The goal:  Central Milan.  How to get there?

The first - driving in - is not as easy as it sounds.

1.  Maneuvering. The Ouija Board System of Navigation.

There is no way in to Milan. There is no way out of Milan.  Remember that, Grasshopper, and you will be wise.  "The urban layout of Milan is curious." That from ://

The rings of autostrasse routes end without a clear through-way to the old town center. They show on a map, but, once there, look like any other street. Look out the window and see nothing but squares and roads,
hubbing off, all ending in other squares, or circles.  We asked for a driving directions map on our way out, and were handed 19 turns through and around impossible squares with sillyzillions of streets coming and going.

 We shelved the driving directions;  that was only page one,. the nineteen.   More followed.
Solutions when maps fail:   
  • The Ouija board.  Lay lay fingers gently on the steering wheel, tap this pedal or that, scan horizons, and go. Eventually, you will see something that makes sense. 
  • The Steeple chase.  Look for steeples. Look for the sun. Go in those directions - basics of north, south, east, west, aim for the belltowers.
When you are there, remember this is a huge financial hub. Money before tourists. Few low-budget hotels in the center. Just take the big hotel, let them cope with the car (guidebooks warn of break-ins and theft consistently) and belt-tighten elsewhere.

Exit strategy. 

When you leave, go ahead and ask for a Driving Directions internet printout, but prepare to skip it.

You will get at least a dozen directions, all useless because they direct you to .2 to this square, then take the third right at rotary and go .3 to that square, etc.

This is where you need faith.

Use the Ouija board and follow the sun. Find any big steeple and aim for it, on the theory that it may lead you to a better life. Finally there will be a ring. Rings upon rings with transverse connectors, so you are not out of trouble yet. Signs are for immediate towns, not ultimate big ones, so learn the route first, then get on one.

2.  The Sights

Milan Cathedral, a Rayonnant style of architecture - more French than Italian, highly decorated, see :// - is overwhelming. Where to begin to look.
Expect disbelief, that this arises from a gritty city so suddenly.

Then see detail, those individual features on the figures, the pinnacles and flying buttresses, over and over, and still each of the figures unique in expression, clothing, attitude.

Side view, figures, Duomo, Cathedral, Milan, Italy

Figures everywhere.

Milan Cathedral, figure detail
The Milan Cathedral, the Duomo, was begun in 1380 and is white marble over a core of brick. The color changes with the time of day, and quality of light. Parts were not completed until the 19th Century. See ://

The Cathedral and Risotto Milanese: Pass the saffron-laced Italian rice, that slow-simmered absorbing stock, warmly coaxed vegetables - a soffrito - ladle by ladle, gentle stir but don't startle it. Inhale.Tender but separate. A little like porridge-making, but rescued in time. Italian rices: arborio, vialone, carnaroli.  Large grains, lots of starch. Add butter and parmesan. A tiny bit pasty. Perfecto.

Rice arrived probably in the 15th Century, and from Spain, see Risotto History at ://  Arabs would have brought it to Sicily, and to Spain earlier. The Arabs may have grabbed it in India before that.

Meet Valerius, an apprentice working on the Cathedral in 1574, says the tale, teased for using a shortcut and using saffron to up the ante on color for the stained glass. So he got back at his teasers and added saffron to the rice at his Master's wedding - and delicious it was. Saga of the rice. See the Anna Maria Volpi site; and meet the mondine - young girls and women who came from home in the villages and from distant towns to clean and pick the rice, until about the 1960's, for the 40-day season, knee-deep in the water, bent over, hot sun. And they sang. See ://  Search for mondine and find that site, and click on translate. Youtube has the songs. Economy dependent on women. What were they paid?

Milan, Duomo Piazza, Italy. Cathedral Square.

The Duomo Piazza is huge - the Cathedral dominates one end.

Piazza del Duomo, Milan, shopping arcade, galleria

This leads to the opera house, La Scala.
Piazza del Duomo (Piazza, Milan Cathedral), central statue, Victor Emanuel II (Vittorio Emanuele II) plus pigeons
Here is Vittorio Emanuele, 1820-1878; unifier of Italy, and its first king, 1861-1878.  His statue in the center of the Piazza del Duomo in Milan is the place to meet and greet, and view all.  Note the pigeons. Tuppence.
Go ahead. Feed the birds.

With a hotel just a few blocks away, enjoy an evening. And a view of Old Milan from the window.

The ouija board exit strategy took us past fine old palaces. This is symmetrical, with an identical left and right side. Camera lens too small.
Milan, Italy. Outer rings; palaces.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lake District: Lazise, Lake Garda; Como, Lake Como; Ispra, Lake Maggiore

1. Lake District

a. Lazise, on Lake Garda - northwest from Verona

The name means "place on the lake", see ://

Little stairs walk you right down into the water, at spots along the promenade. The easier to get into a boat with, my dear, Pick a step, Set a spell.

Lasize, and Lake Garda is close to Milan, and an easy drive from Verona. It is full of sunning people. See ://

 Little Saint Nicholas Church is on the water, at the docks. Find boats at the clock tower.


The old walls with crenellated tops for defense date from the 12th Century, but the earliest castle built on the site dates far earlier, in the 9th Century as defense against the Hungarians. The Scaligeri castle ruin, modified and expanded from the earlier structure, is there.

San Nicolo is patron saint of fishermen and of schools, and this church was built in the 1200's.  It evolved into secular uses, and then was reconsecrated.

We have seen a recurrent theme in Italian early frescoes - the Madonna openly nursing the child.  Mary as Mother used to be emphasized in a realistic way. See also this fair use thumbnail of the pregnant Mary, Madonna del Parto, at Monterchi, Tuscany; by Piero della Francesco, from http://www.
 full size image

Or this one of the pregnant Mary, by Taddeo Gaddi
 full size image

see :// /.  That site shows another pregnant Mary as well.

Back to San Nicolo in Lazise, the naturalism compared to our later concealments is striking. Here also, the breast being extended to the child. See Saint Anastasia in Verona for another. The theology here was apparently rejected, or diminished out of existence lest woman be elevated, is that so? - the dependence of the child upon the woman for survival. There were centuries of Mary central to worship, as mediator, as mother of God, often expanding on indigenous religious beliefs in a deity as female, in Europe. See discussion at Martin Luther's Stove, Vetting Roots, Centrality of Mary. Fresco Course Correction?

This church was built by a group following Origen, of The School of Alexandria, 2d and 3d Centuries we believe, in early Christianity. See ://

Research, as a start on Origenism, at Origen of Alexandria at ://; and at ://  His ideas were later deemed to be heretic, see ://  That's a little extreme. Just because one web is spun for the ease of some does not mean others cannot find sustenance outside it. And Origen precedes the web - is Pre-Web. PW in time, and closer to the Life (and farther from the politics) than the later dogma-developing ones were. Is that so? Is it time to look again at the rejected ones, seeking truths.

Of particular interest to theology's political evolution: The church became more and more entrenched as masculine, is that so, and is that why this kind of depiction of Mary as necessary, on whom even the male God depended, was shunted aside?

b.  Como, Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como, Italy; residence views

Lake Como from Como point, Italy

Get through the crowded town and market and go out as far as you can. The road narrows and narrows, but you will end up at a private club, venerable residences, and public access to enough to enjoy.
c.  Lake Maggiore

Through Varese, past Lake Varese, to Ispra.

View from lovely waterside restaurant, local, small town. Ispra. We followed a wedding party here, then the bride and groom took off in their own car, leaving the guests who had been following, in the parking lot - the guests whooped and hopped back in their cars for the chase and we enjoyed our clams and spaghetti.

On to Milan. Ready for the Autostrada. Cross country is impossible. Nearly. Stop stop stop.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Verona, Duomo, Santa Maria Matricolare. Theology in Art, Architecture

What do the stonemasons, the fresco artists, tell us about belief systems that may be different from the dogma of the time.  We find the sculptures to show a burden put on the  shoulders of the non-elite, and a central role for Mary that is later suppressed.  She appears in old fresco and other representations in this way:  that the deity depended on her for the conception, the gestation, the birth; and also that the child depended upon her for survival; and later, for support when others forsook. Is that so?
Look at ecclesiastical architecture with a new eye:  not to reinforce what you think you know, but to hear and see other perspectives. Any visit to a European country will involve some church-hopping.  See more than the guidebook or the guide say.

1.  Duomo, Verona.

Here is the Duomo, or Cathedral Santa Maria Matricolare, in Verona.  This looks like another church there,  San Zeno Maggiore, at first glance, but San Zeno has a top triangle at the roof, then a large rose window below, then the main arch entryway.  This Duomo is architecturally more complex.  If you take notes off and on, sketch out the differences to help you identify photos later.

 Identifying the various churches is not a priority for us. We are not extensive note-takers. We enjoy the wandering. Generally, we draw the line at two churches per town.  Max.  Our best guide at home for identification is the numeral order of the pictures on the memory card. Not infallible.

Structural identification.  Here, stripes identify the Duomo.  Brickwork identifies St. Anastasia, see previous posts. Then we squint at arch figures. More difficult are the interior views of frescoes, paintings.

Closeup, common man at work, Facade arch detail, Santa Maria Matricolare, Duomo, Cathedral, Verona, Italy
2.  Theology in architecture, sculpture, fresco, carving.

Common people often hold up arches. They are identified by raggy clothes, usually bent over, showing exertion.  Saints and Biblicals around arches bear no burdens, apparently.  They pronounce. Note the Biblical-type clothing. Robes.  Look for more simple folk doing the work.

Common man bearing the burden, Facade arch, San Zeno Maggiore, Verona, Italy

Renderings of Biblical stories elucidate.  See Adam run. He has no real clothing, just a diaphanous something. Was that all he got instead of the leaf? Is that why he runs. Or does he realize he never told Eve where the specific tree was that they were to avoid.  He stood by and let her reach out and touch, to see what would happen.

Adam on the Run, Fresco, Duomo, Santa Maria Matricolare, Verona, Italy (or is it St. Anastasia?)

Everywhere you look - there are ordinary people exerting themselves to hold the place up. That looks like a woman, there in the center.

Santa Maria Matricolare, Duomo, Cathedral, arch figural details, exterior, Verona, Italy

3.  The dependence upon Mary.

Theology in Fresco:  The role of woman. See Mary here, and she is the center of attention, not Jesus. It is she who supports him while he is on the Cross. She is even larger than he is.
Mary, in old Fresco, Santa Maria Matricolare, Duomo, Cathedral, Verona, Italy. Mary appears first in the act of supporting Christ on the Cross; then as the Central figure for worshipping petitioners
And it is Mary who is the large focal point of the main part of the fresco below, with petitioners at each side. 
Mary, Mary.  What did they do wi' ye? A 180 degree turn has happened, putting her in the shadows? It takes close looks at the oldest painted surfaces to see.
Instead, where she does appear, she is buried in gilt and gewgaws, crowns and jewels supporting a monarchy, as though Himself ever valued that.

Mary, Duomo, Cathedral, Verona, Italy, here removed from role as protector, and an essential to life, into a garbed and regalia-ed Queen

Mary, painting, Duomo, Cathedral, Verona, Italy. Morphed into a new message of her role. The unreachable. 

The assumption takes over? See here below, then look up and see her above.

4.  Renovations of architecture, fresco and theology.  Changes to fit the time; or faithful reconstruction of the old.

If we were of this particular faith subgroup, we would keep before us the fresco of Mary as central to the things that matter, not the dogmas. And we would note the eternal truth, that even in our religions common people bear the burdens imposed on them while the higher ups contemplate and pronounce. Is that so? Not really, some higher ups were martyred. But if that was for an authoritarian view and dogma, perhaps it should have been rethought in terms of original teaching of the Founder. is that so? Sure.

Aim your camera around the curtain to see what is going on.  We prefer old frescoes to newer paintings, so were interested here.

Duomo, Santa Maria Matricolare, Verona, layers of earlier foundations

We have seen several old frescoes of Mary nursing in public, people watching, breast bared. Here, this old sculpture (Romanesque) looks like another, with her apparently extending it to the child. When did nursing in public become anathema? It was essential to The Survival of the founder, is that so, and is that not the message - the role of the female not only for the gestation, but also its ongoing life. Have patience with us outsiders, please, but this issue interests us. Look at the demotions after. The vengeance of the Watchers.

This is why we like the old reliefs, the old frescoes and sculptures; rather than the gaudy later oils and decorations. Here are some folk, just hanging out. Or are they guarding the Tree, with their sceptres, but no wings, there in the center, so Adam (that is a guy) relaxing over there, cannot get back in.  Room for interpretation in everything.