Every capital city has its own beauty (and beast of course 🙂 ). Literally said the beauty is the most famous piazza and gathering point while the beast is the residential complexes that are not that attractive. I will focus only on the beauties (in Southern Europe) in this post as there is no sense to talk about grey and suffocating places where colours and splendor miss and people are surrounded by concrete buildings of flats.
Sooooo …. Off we goooo 😉
What would you say to start from the south-west, let’s say, from Lisbon? 🙂 If you visited the 18th century city of Lisbon as a nobleman and if you arrived by boat, definitely you would enter the city through Cais das Colunas (The Pier of Columns) that was the main entrance of the city for many centuries. The pier is a wide marble stairway whose name comes from the two tall marble columns that stand in the water, in front of it. The idea of the two columns comes from the pillars of the Temple of Solomon and they symbolize wisdom and devotion, respectively. Nowadays this tiny pier at the Tagus River is a preferred place by artistic persons or simply by pedestrians who could have a nice rest contemplating either the Southern shore of Lisbon or the Square in the opposite direction.
The Square astonishes you with its beauty and whiteness. The first thing your eyes focus is the statue of a horseman. This is the Monument to Dom José I (or King Joseph I). Then you fix the majestic Arco da Rua Augusta that is a French-style triumphal arc facing the Square. The historical figures of Vasco da Gama, Virato, Nuno álavares Pereira and Marquês de Pombal coexist with the allegorical figure of Glory that crowns Genius and Bravery. The Arc is one of the numerous spots for amazing birds’ eye views to the city. So don’t hesitate to invest some euros & time and climb up to the top where the city will be in your hands.
Moving to the east, we are going to Plaza de Espaῇa in Seville. For sure, it is a must-visit. If you don’t visit it, it is equal to not seeing the Pope in Vatican when you are there. It’s an awe-inspiring half-circle square with gorgeous buildings built at the beginning of last century. The purpose of its building was the Ibero-Amercican Expo of 1929 when these glamorous edifices emerged at the edge of the Parque de Maria Luisa (Maria Luisa Park). Both the park and the continually running buildings are a combination of the Spanish-Revival and Moorish styles. The modern Art Deco and the distinctive Moorish tiled alcoves go hand in hand and offer an irresistible feeling to artistic persons, ordinary people and the numerous tourists visiting the plaza. The tiled alcoves of the Provinces are a pleasant place where you can sit down and gaze at the splendid numerous bridges (representing the 4 ancient Spanish kingdoms) over the pond with small boats floating over the water.
Mammaaaa miaaaa 🙂 ….… Now I have the hardest task, i.e. to be your “guide” in Italy. Sorry, guys, I am just addicted to this country (it doesn’t mean I don’t like others, of course). That’s why we shall make a short journey through the most famous squares of Italy. There is no doubt that we shall start from the capital city that has plenty of world famous piazze e piazzette.
A trompe d’oeil masterpiece is St Peter’s Square in the heart of the Vatican City. The “two centres of the collonade” of Piazza San Pietro also plays tricks on visitors’ eyes. The Square is oval in shape but the oval form consists of two semi-circles surrounded with four rows of columns. The number of the rows can be counted from any place and corner of la piazza (the square) except from these “two centres of the colonnade” where one has the illusion there is only one row of columns (not four). This fabulous square and the granite fountain were constructed and designed by Bernini a century later the Egyptian obelisk had been erected in 1586.
Bernini’s works (sun and bee ornaments being the most distinguished elements in them) are almost everywhere across Rome, for example, at la c. The square is linked to la Piazza Trinitá dei Monti through La Scalinata della Trinitá dei Monti. It is a stairway of 135 steps built in 1723-1725. This architectural stairway with ramps and stairs was a feat of Francesco De Sanctis and it was commissioned by Pope Innocent XIII. The Spanish Steps have still been playing the role of a gathering place for writers, painters and artists since the times when Piazza di Spagna was full of elegant hotels, inns and residences (like that one on the right corner that belonged to English poet John Keats who lived and died there). So, my humble piece of advice is to visit La Scalinata in spring time when the ramps are “covered” with blossoming flowers and colours and to contemplate the architectural heritage around you. Surely, this “spring-art” scene will deeply thrill your artistic soul.
Now let us move to Central Italy where you will enjoy the Renaissance to the most. Where exactly? The answer is quite simple – Piazza della Signoria. The Square is considered one of the ”beauties of Italy”. It’s dominated by the splendor of il Palazzo Vecchio, the Fountain of Neptune (la Fontana del Nettuno) and the copy of Michelangelo’s David. All this is completed by il Perseo (Benvenuto Cellini’s grand masterpiece) and Il Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge). You yourselves see this is a majestic place, a true outdoors collection of art works. Locals don’t get impressed so much in their daily lives as they take the beauty for granted. But despite this the historical and artistic atmosphere of the city of the House of Medici attracts them and stays deep in their hearts.
Finally, we are reaching La Serenissima. The city is constructed on water. The uniqueness of Venice is that it is built on 118 islets altogether connected to the mainland through canals and 350 bridges and its structures are supported by a large range of wooden platforms placed deep in the sea in the Venetian lagoon. The city sinks slowly (half a sentimetre a year). Being in the city on water, we cannot miss its pearl – La Piazza San Marco (the heart of the most marvelous Carnevale in the world). La Basilica that was constructed in 1073 is one of the emblems of Venice together with Il Palazzo Ducale (the symbol of the power of the Venetians doges). We shall extend our visit there by going to the Bridge of Sighs (Il Ponte dei Sospiri) which was the last place where prisoners (among whom was also Giacomo Casanova) saw the sun for the last time before being put to prison from where no one could escape. And we shall end this journey by stopping at the Rialto Bridge (il Ponte Rialto) with its artisan shops. The bridge connects the two banks of the Canal Grande and it completes the “picture” of the extraordinary city together with its splendid palaces.