Rockfeller Plaza – New York (USA)

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The sunken Plaza

One of the most impressive things I’ve seen when I visited New York was the famous Rockfeller Centre, which is located in Midtown Manhattan, between the 5th and the 6th Avenue. It is really huge, at least from a European point of view, and it struck me for the glamour of the beautiful buildings and the mixing of private companies and business with leisure and tourism.

The Rockfeller Center is composed of 19 buildings and it’s the biggest private complex in the world. It includes some television studios (ex: NBC), head-offices of important companies (ex: Deloitte&Touche), shops (ex: a big Lego store with a reproduction of the whole Rockfeller Center made with the famous bricks) and restaurants&bars (ex: Magnolia Bakery…don’t miss their cupcakes!!!), but also art objects and architectural works.

John Rockfeller Junior started the construction works in 1930 and by 1939 the main 14 buildings were completed. During the 60s and the 70s other buildings were built along the Avenue of the Americas. The Rockfeller Centre was declared National Historic Landmark in 1987 and, since then, almost every tourist in New York comes here, because it has become one of the most iconic places in Manhattan.

I was especially impressed by two elements of the complex: the Channel Gardens in the Plaza and the stunning “Top of the Rock”, which is the observation deck on the top of the Comcast Building (30, Rockfeller Plaza).

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Channel Gardens

The Plaza is a really strange place and it has a sunken part which is dominated by an imposing golden statue representing Titan Prometheus. The part of the Plaza at street level has beautiful gardens with plenty of coloured flowers and water effects, which create a fresh atmosphere in summer. Flags from all over the world surround the Plaza, but on Memorial Day (the last Monday of May) the square is decorated by plenty of US flags in honour of the American soldiers who died while serving their Country.

Another remarkable thing in the Plaza is the Rockfeller plaque, listing the principles that were inspiring to the founder. For example you can read:

“I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might”

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Discovering Maggiore Lake: the wonderful Borromean Islands (Italy)

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photo credit: Sway me via photopin (license)

When I was a child, one of the typical summer day trips was to Maggiore Lake, starting from Stresa and reaching the three Borromean Islands by boat.

Maggiore Lake is the second largest Italian lake, after Garda Lake, and its shores are situated in Piedmont, Lombardy and Switzerland.

Every year, this pre-alpine basin attracts many tourists from Italy and from abroad thanks to its beautiful landscapes, its charming coastal towns and the archipelago of the Borromean Islands (Beautiful Island, Mother Island and Fishermen Island).

The best starting point to discover this amazing area is Stresa, a little town situated on the Piedmontese shore, not far from the city of Novara, which is often referred to as “the pearl of the lake” for its favorable geographic position and its charming historic centre. From here, you can use the public ferry boat service to quickly reach the three islands.

For more information take a look at http://en.isolelagomaggiore.com/

The Borromean Islands take their name from the noble family who has been living here since XIVth century and who still owns Beautiful Island and Mother Island!

Beautiful Island (Isola Bella)

This is the most famous and the most spectacular one. It’s also the nearest to the shore and its name stems from Isabella (nickname “Bella”), who was the wife of Carlo III Borromeo, the noble man who purchased it in the XVIIth century. It’s entirely dominated by the glamorous baroque Borromeo palace, which can be visited with a guided tour. Outside the palace you can also visit the huge terraced gardens full of exotic plants, flowers, statues, water effects and artificial caves. One of the most beautiful elements of the huge garden is the statue of a unicorn, which was the emblem of the Borromeo family. In the garden you can also see many white peacocks that add their unique charm to the place, making the visitor feel like being in a fairy tale. The noble family used to host friends and relatives here for the holidays, but also important people were invited to enjoy the place: for example you can still see the room were Napoleon and his wife Giuseppina stayed in 1797.

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photo credit: isola bella 104 via photopin (license)

Mother Island (Isola Madre)

This is the biggest one and it also has a beautiful palace, now hosting the Puppet Museum, and a big botanic garden, where you can admire plants from all over the world. Here you can also see white peacocks, parrots and pheasants wandering around in the green.

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photo credit: Isola Madre via photopin (license)

Fishermen Island (Isola dei Pescatori or Isola Superiore)

On this island there is a little village built around San Vittore church, dating back to the XVIth century. It was once inhabited by the fishermen of the lake and it’s till populated by around 60 people, who are mainly employed in the tourist sector. It’s here, in effect, that you can find restaurants, local handicrafts and souvenir shops, while the other two islands are now uninhabited.

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photo credit: Isola Superiore via photopin (license)

For more information about the tourist attractions of this wonderful archipelago, visit http://www.isoleborromee.it/eng/home.html

Square Jean XXIII: peace and melancholy in the heart of Paris (France)

 

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photo credit: Park Jean XXIII via photopin (license)

Paris has always had a special place in my heart and its unique spirit moves me every time. I especially feel the real “soul” of the city in the garden located behind Notre Dame cathedral. This place gives me a peaceful and melancholic feeling, even if I could not tell you exactly why…if anybody has ever felt the same, feel free share your thoughts with me!

Continue reading “Square Jean XXIII: peace and melancholy in the heart of Paris (France)”

A small Versailles in Piedmont. The Palace of Venaria (Italy)

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photo credit: reggia di venaria quattroterzi via photopin (license)

Over the last 20 years, Turin and its surroundings have undergone major redevelopment and upgrading of touristic facilities, which made the area one of the most attractive destinations for foreign visitors in the North of Italy.

In my opinion, one of the most successful examples of local heritage enhancement is the Palace of Venaria with its beautiful gardens. The Palace was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 and it rivals the famous royal palaces of Caserta and Versailles in elegance and glamour.

Continue reading “A small Versailles in Piedmont. The Palace of Venaria (Italy)”