Pugnaloni

I was quite excited when I realised we would be in Acquapendente for the Festa dei Pugnaloni. The origin of the festival dates back to 1166AD when two farmers witnessed the blossoming of a dry cherry tree. This miracle was considered a good omen by the villagers who had been repressed under the reign of Emperor Federico I Barbarossa. Armed with prods and work tools, they destroyed the castle, drove out the tyrant and regained their freedom. The anniversary is celebrated on the third Sunday in May with a procession through the streets and much feasting. In ancient times, the peasants carried goads, implements used for prodding oxen, adorned with flowers to represent the weapons of battle and the cherry blossom.

The pugnaloni have evolved over the centuries and are now superb works of art, created by different groups in the community. Large panels, 2.6 metres wide and 3.6 metres high, are covered with intricate mosaics of leaves and flower petals to create images inspired by the theme of peace and freedom. The week before the main event, we discovered some smaller versions exhibited in the loggia of the town hall.

1.mini Pugnaloni2.mini Pugnaloni3.mini Pugnaloni4.mini Pugnaloni

The Mini Pugnaloni gives the Aquesian children the opportunity to take part in this wonderful celebration.

5.mini Pugnaloni6.mini Pugnaloni7.mini Pugnaloni

We decided not to attend the festival after being advised by some locals that there would be a lot of inebriated people, they obviously thought we were crazy to even contemplate it. We revisited the town a couple of days later but could only find one on display at the town hall, the entry by a group named Via Francigena.

I think patience and a steady hand would be essential attributes for anyone undertaking this art, the results are spectacular.

12.Via Francigena

We later found out the remainder were exhibited in the Duomo and they take turns being centre stage at the town hall.

Acquapendente

The nearest town to Montepozzo was a pleasant 4km drive away. Acquapendente, in northern Lazio, sits right at the borders of Tuscany to the west and Umbria to the east. First settled by the Etruscans, then Romans, it was established in the Middle Ages as a village and monastery by the Benedictine order. The name means “falling water” because of its vicinity to numerous small waterfalls flowing into the river Paglia. Our exploration of the town started at the Cathedral of San Sepolcro.  As far as Italian cathedrals go, it wasn’t particularly impressive from the outside. Built between 890 and 968, it was originally the church of a former Benedictine monastery, became a Romanesque church in the 12th century and eventually made it to cathedral status in 1649. Apparently, the crypt contains a blood-stained stone from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

1.Cattedrale del Santo Sepolcro

We crossed the road for a look in the tourist information centre and found a range of local products and interesting artefacts.

We continued down Via Roma

10.Via Roma

past the City Museum

11.Museo della Città

and ventured into the Church of Saints Anthony and Catherine. The 19th century façade was easy to miss but the detail inside was lovely.

12.Chiesa dei Santi Antonio e Caterina

There was no shortage of colour in the streets

16.houses

as we made our way to the Church of Saint Agostino. Yet another unassuming façade belied a fascinating interior. Founded in 1290 by the Augustinian convent, it was rebuilt in 1747 after being completely destroyed by fire a year earlier.

We passed the 19th century Boni Theatre

30.Teatro Boni

and around the corner, arrived at a beautiful piazza. The waters of Fonte del Rigombo flow from a natural spring, providing refreshment for both traveller and mount on their journey in medieval times. The fountain also became known as Mascheroni in the 19th century when the waters were framed architecturally with pilasters, cornices and grotesque masks around the water spouts.

31.Fonte del Rigombo

Cobblestoned side streets beckoned

36.Acquapendente

but we were on a mission as we reached Piazza Girolamo Fabrizio and the magnificent Town Hall.

37.Town Hall

Time for coffee & pastries,

38.pastries

the perfect setting to relax and watch the world go by.

Suitably replenished, we ambled further, enjoying the sights, sounds and sunshine.

66.strolling

Throughout our rambling, we had noticed huge portrait paintings that appeared randomly on walls where least expected. They are entries in the Street Art section of The Urban Vision Festival, a two day festival each July that began in 2015.

82.Urban Vision

Just past the hospital,

at the end of the town, we were rewarded with a spectacular vista across verdant countryside.

86.view87.view

Auckland

Our first day in Auckland dawned bright and sunny and we decided a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus was the best way to see the sights. Departing from Sky Tower, just down the road from our apartment, we were surprised by the amount of traffic and roadworks in Auckland. A huge extension to the waterfront precinct began last December, we weren’t enticed by the crowded construction site and remained on the bus as it travelled along Tamaki Drive on the way to Bastion Point. The views across Waitematā Harbour from the upper deck were breathtaking,

1.Waitematā Harbour2.Waitematā Harbour3.Waitematā Harbour

the city clearly visible, looking back across the water.

4.Auckland

The volcanic cone of Maungauika forms the headland that is North Head Reserve, adjacent to the harbourside suburb of Devonport. There are underground tunnels and old gun emplacements to explore at the former military defence installation.

5.North Head

The symmetrical cone of Rangitoto Island is the youngest and largest volcano in the Auckland field, emerging a mere 600 years ago.

6.Rangitoto

We alighted at Bastion Point to wander around the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park. Set on 49 hectares, the landscaped gardens, sunken pool and obelisk are a memorial to New Zealand’s first Labour Prime Minister.

7.Michael Savage Memorial

In office from 1935 until his death in 1940, Michael Savage is recognised as the founder of the Welfare State as well as creating a political alliance with the Māori Rātana movement.

8.Michael Savage Memorial

The gardens are immaculate, designed by two Auckland architects who won a national competition to design the memorial in 1941.

9.Michael Savage Memorial

10.Michael Savage Memorial

This site of a former gun emplacement affords a spectacular view of Auckland Harbour Bridge.

13.Auckland Harbour Bridge

We walked the steep path and steps from Bastion Point to Mission Bay, a popular beach with calm waters and plenty of cafes and bars.

14.Mission Bay

We had a different perspective of Devonport and North Head from the beach.

15.Devonport & North Head from Mission Bay

At the bottom of the steps, there are a series of beautiful pebble mosaics but no explanatory signage. I have since discovered the origin of this art, you can read about it here.

16.mosaic17.mosaic18.mosaic

Shadowfax & sculpture

While exploring Werribee Park Estate, we wandered a little further to investigate Shadowfax Winery  The rusted sheet metal exterior glowed in the late afternoon sun,

1.Shadowfax Winery

the unique architecture somehow blended with the surroundings.

2.Shadowfax Winery

Established in 1998, the unusual name was inspired by the magnificent silver-grey stallion ridden by Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. The wines are created from fruit sourced and hand-harvested from Shadowfax vineyards in the Macedon Ranges as well as those adjacent to the winery at Werribee.

3.Shadowfax Winery

Although the cellar door was busy with a large group pre-dinner, we were welcomed and enjoyed our own pre-dinner tasting.

4.Shadowfax Winery

Not able to take too much in my hand luggage, I did leave with a bottle of 2018 Minnow red, a delicious blend of Mataro, Grenache, Carignan and Mondeuse grown right there at Werribee.

5.Minnow

Returning to the hotel, we spied an interesting sculpture and discovered the Werribee Park Sculpture Walk. Created in 2004 featuring works by Australia’s leading sculptors, there are thirty pieces installed along a trail from the rear of the mansion, through the gardens to the river. As daylight was fading, we only had time to see a small part of the display. Previous winners of the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award are homed here, including The Comrade’s Reward by William Eicholtz, winner in 2005. Described as a traditional 19th century garden sculpture with a camp twist on heroism, the solar powered lights shimmer after dark giving an impression of fireflies.

6.The Comrade's Reward - William Eicholtz, 2004

The monochrome steel ruin, Death of a white good by Alexander Knox, took the award in 2006.

Also from 2006, a commended work by Ian Burns & John Clark, Migration, is “concerned with the movement and relationship between the individual components and the mass they represent in formation”. (Sorry about the photo quality).

The inaugural winner in 2001, Hut by Karen Ward, is intriguing in its simplicity yet the symbolism is quite poignant. “Hut symbolises the house, the home, the shack, the cubby-house and the hermit’s retreat. It also alludes to the potential to dream that is inherent within all of these structures, yet dreaming is only made possible by the Hut’s inaccessibility.”

11.Hut - Karen Ward 2000

Picasso’s ceramics

For me, the name Picasso conjures images of, somewhat disturbing, cubist portraits. The tragic figure of Weeping Woman, painted in 1937, is a fitting case in point.

1.Weeping Woman 1937

What I didn’t realise, until a visit to the NGV last year, is that he was also a prolific ceramicist. Spanish born Pablo Picasso was well into his sixties when he met Suzanne Ramie, one of the owners of Madoura Pottery, on a trip to the south of France. Already an accomplished artist, he was eager to experiment with this new medium and learn all he could from Suzanne. He set up his own workshop close by in the town of Vallauris and over the years, produced thousands of pieces as well as creating new ways of decorating and glazing. The Picasso’s Ceramics exhibition displayed fifty nine of his works, unfortunately I only have a few to share with you. Feminine faces and figures featured across the collection,

grand vase aux femmes voilées depicts the backs of four women, their nakedness partially covered with translucent veils.

Another favoured subject was birds, particularly owls with distinct personalities.

6.Owl vase 1951

Picasso’s interest in mythology is reflected with the playful imagery of fauns,

7.Tetes (Heads) 1956

satyrs and goats.

8.Goat's Head in Profile 1952

Bullfighting was another recurring theme with many works detailing bulls, matadors and bull-rings.

9.Corrida on Black Ground 1953

One of the things about ceramics that appealed to Picasso was the ability to create new works quickly and inexpensively. By producing editions of up to 500, as well as originals, he liked the idea that his pieces would be affordable for everyday people, not just the wealthy. That may have been the case at one time but the price tag these days is definitely out of reach for most of us.

10.Face with grid, round dish 1956