Sunday, September 29, 2019

Road Service

I found one particular building in Lowell Arizona (see last week's post) that was a photographer's dream.  The old Texaco gas station and garage was decaying beautifully with all the 1940's charm still in tact.

From the crumbling stucco to the faded doors to the old style gas pumps, everything was begging a closer examination.

At one side to the garage was a collection of antiques and some old benches in an area that looked like it might have been a place to rest and wait while your car was being serviced.

The front door to the garage was particularly picturesque and perfectly decayed.

Peeling paint and  splintering wood added to the atmosphere.  The old fashioned door knob fit in perfectly.

I spent quite a bit of time admiring everything about this wonderful old building.  Oh, the stories a place like Lowell Arizona could tell!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Nearly a Ghost Town

Lowell Arizona is an old mining town that is located adjacent to Bisbee Arizona in the southeast corner of the state.  It was once a thriving town that was incorporated into Bisbee in the early 1900's.

During the 1950's, much of the town was consumed by the ever-growing Lavender Pit copper mine and in fact the current town site sits right on the edge of that pit.

Exploring the town is like taking a step back in time.  Old fashioned store fronts and equally old vehicles dot the landscape.

I even spotted an old Greyhound bus parked in a narrow driveway.

Empty windows look ghostly on the front of what was once a beautifully decorated business.

And the local pool hall looks like it has seen better days.

I enjoyed finding this sign advertising things like "snooker and libations".  

Next week, I'll show you some details from one of the buildings in this little town.  

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Garden

My first impression as I climbed the steps up to the gardens of the villa on Isola Bella was "how preposterous".  Who creates such an ostentatious show piece?  Seventeenth century Italian elites, that's who!

The lady in the blue dress with her arms raised says it all!  

The backdrop for this multi-leveled garden surrounded by trees and sculpted bushes is this fanciful, three-story "Teatro Massimo".  It hides a grand terrace towering behind it.  The terrace was used for parties where elaborately dressed guests could be seen all the way from the mainland as they partied flamboyantly in a place most people would never get to see.  The structure is full of sculptures of sea gods and unicorns and other mythical creatures.

Roaming the lush green lawns in front of the majestic structure were several snow-white peacocks.  They pranced across the long, grassy expanse like royalty, occasionally calling out to each other.  It was an impressive site.

The giant structure made of stone, shells and pebbles seemed to completely overshadow the patches of pretty flowers that were carefully placed around the garden.

Climbing the stairs to get my first glimpse of this place was undeniably jaw-dropping.  Today, the rich show off with fancy cars, boats and airplanes.  Back in the 17th century, the competition for attention was centered on gardens.

Recently, I watched a series on Netflix called "Monty Don's Italian Gardens".  He featured this garden and a few others that I visited on this most recent trip and he talked about how having the most spectacular garden was of utmost importance to social status.  To many it was a game of one-upsmanship.

What a game!  What a garden!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Grotto

I'm continuing my tour of the grand villa on Isola Bella, one of the islands on Lake Maggiore.

This formal stairway led to the lower level of the villa.

On the lower level we entered one of two rooms dedicated to puppetry.  One room was set up as a theatre for viewing puppet shows and another was full of display cases to view the collection of puppets.

Today we have large screen TVs and video games.  Back then they had theaters inside their homes for viewing elaborate puppet shows.

The rest of the lower level consisted of five rooms called the grotto rooms.  The rooms were covered in pebble-mosaics and when I say covered, I mean every surface, floors, ceilings and walls.

In addition to the pebble-mosaics, the rooms were decorated with coral and sea shells.  These rooms were used during the summer months when the heat became difficult to bear in the upper rooms.  With their stone surfaces and small windows, these rooms would be much cooler and more comfortable.

Adjacent to the last of the grotto rooms, was another stairway leading to the upper level.  This one was not as grand as the one we descended but this one was unique in that there was no visible means of support other than the walls from which the steps protrude.  A rather amazing feat of engineering for that era.

As I said in last week's post, if you ever visit this place do so on a weekday.  We were there on a weekend and an Italian holiday.  The crowds were almost oppressive.  I'd love to visit again when there are fewer people so I could get a better look at all the spectacular details.

I visited quite a few grand villas on this trip to Italy but this one stands out as the most incredible, opulent and ornate of them all.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Throne Room

I'm continuing my tour of the grand villa on Isola Bella that I started last Sunday.  Today's post features the throne room.  To me, this was the strangest room in the house.

I don't think I mentioned that the day we took this tour happened to be an Italian holiday so the crowds inside the villa were somewhat oppressive.  It was impossible to get clear shots of any of the rooms while we were there.  For anyone planning a visit here, I highly recommend and off-season weekday to take this tour.

The throne is behind that cluster of people (photo above)
with the very large tapestry behind it.  Borromeo was a ruler of this area, thus the need for a place to "hold court".

All four corners of the room were adorned with these carved wood statues some of which look a bit grotesque.

They are supposed to look as though they are having a conversation with on another.

I'm not sure I would have wanted to be in this room for very long. Just picture this room lit by candle light.  The flickering light must have made these statues look like they were moving and gesturing.

I think I would have been afraid they would leap from the walls.

This last photo is of one of the Neapolitan cabinets in the room.  Even the cabinet was supported by men holding it up.  They didn't appear to be conversing with the men on the walls.  They are silent slaves doomed to support this large piece of furniture for thousands of years.

Next Sunday, I have one more post from this villa.  The lower level of the villa contained what they called a grotto.  It is another over-the-top show stopper.  After that, I will have a post on the gardens which once again were beyond belief.