Natale Italiano | Photography Focus – Christmas Lights of Italy
If I could point to one event in my life which changed my entire outlook, totally revolutionised my innermost creative soul and ultimate appreciation for art and aesthetics, and instigated my love for travel and gastronomy, it was my art history trip around Italy in my gap year of 2001/2. Travelling from Venice, to Verona, Florence to Siena, and finally Rome and Naples, my eyes were opened to an art historical universe the surface of which I had previously only scratched. But despite the very obvious attractions of those travels, one element I really loved was the fact that it introduced me to Italy in the period immediately before Christmas. In doing so, it transported me to a world whose Christmas celebrations lacked the commercial exploitation of the UK or the US, and which retain a certain charm and unique family-aspect which I just adored. While not religious myself, there was something about the fusion of those stunning candlelit churches packed with some of the world’s most famous renaissance art together with the essence of the true Christmas story which struck me as being ultimately and authentically festive, and whenever I now consider Christmas, I often look back on my time in Italy with the greatest fondness.
So when the opportunity arose this year to spend Christmas in Italy, part visiting my partner’s Tuscany-based family, and part travelling to a few of the country’s most attractive cities, I jumped. And what will now follow on The Daily Norm are a plethora of Italia posts which will explore my incredible Christmas travels across Venice, Rome and Naples. With much to explore, and yet the Christmas period fast running out, I thought I would start this set of posts with the most Christmassy of them all (lest that by the time I otherwise reach it in the ordinary chronology of things, it may already be mid-January and the thought of Christmas would be as welcome to my readers as an out-of date chocolate bar) – the Christmas lights of Italy!
Yes, there was never going to be a chance that the super sophisticated cities of Italy would do Christmas without introducing a fetching spray of lights to buildings and monuments, bringing a whole new veil of elegance to their already astonishing city facades. But tacky Santa’s and red-nosed reindeers these are not. When Italy does lights, it gives us elegant shopping streets strung with uniform and co-ordinated white lights, whose subtle sparkle reflects gloriously in the glossy facades of designer stores and boutique hotels. When Italy does trees, it brings us large Christmas trees tastefully lit and situated before some of the most recognisable monuments around the world – St Mark’s basilica in Venice, the Spanish Steps in Rome, St Peter’s in the Vatican. And when Italydoes novelty decorations, its offerings remain inexorably sophisticated, like the illuminated oversized baubles in streets and piazzas in Naples, whose glorious halo of coloured light could be seen for miles. As this photographic post hopefully shows, this is Christmas done with style.
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