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

Bruno’s Art & Sculpture Garden

Leaving Steavenson Falls, we had hoped the rain would abate for our visit to Bruno’s Art & Sculpture Garden in Marysville. It didn’t. As we pulled into the car park, the gallery was obviously closed but we discovered an honesty box for the $10 entrance fee to the garden. Grab your umbrella and come for a walk while I tell you more.

1.DSCN6253

Bruno Torfs was born in South America and moved to Europe with the family in his teens. After training as a sign writer, his talents evolved through many trips to foreign lands and he made the transition to a full time artist. Oil paintings and sculptures, reflecting scenes and faces of his journeys, were sold in exhibitions at the family home.

12.DSCN6261

Bruno and his family moved to Australia and in 1996, found the perfect setting to create a permanent sculpture garden in the sub-alpine forests of Marysville. Hand crafted from clay and fired in a kiln onsite, there are now around a hundred and twenty pieces on display.

33.DSCN6288

The path diverges in all directions through the forest and everywhere you look, there is another character waiting to delight.

On 7th February 2009, the bushfires of ‘Black Saturday’ raged through Marysville, claiming lives and decimating the township. Bruno’s home, gallery and gardens were completely destroyed. For two months, no-one was allowed in the town and when Bruno finally returned, he set about rebuilding his home and restoring his garden.

There are pictures on the website taken the day Bruno returned after the fires. Next to this installation, there is a heartbreaking photo of Bruno carrying all that remained of The Lady of Shallot from the stream.

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Some figures emerge from the remnants of the woods, melding nature’s work with man’s.

Bruno’s courage and dedication has resulted in a wondrous fantasy land, an opportunity to escape for a while in a surreal environment.

As we left, the remains of Bruno’s 1960 BMW R27 motorbike jolted us back to reality with a reminder of the devastation wrought by the fires of Black Saturday.

96.DSCN6358

Porto Venere

We had an early start for our day trip to Cinque Terre, catching the bus from Le Grazie for the 3km trip to Porto Venere. The winding, narrow road made for an interesting ride, one of the reasons we opted to leave the car behind. We alighted at the Grand Hotel, a majestic building from the 1600s that has seen many incarnations since. The original monastery became the Hospital of the Marine Military in the 1800s and then the headquarters of the Municipality of Porto Venere. A hotel was established in 1975 but closed in the 2000s before being refurbished and re-opened in 2014 as the luxury boutique hotel it is today.

1.Grand Hotel

The tall, narrow houses seemed to defy gravity, as though they were being pushed toward the water by the cliffs behind.

2.Porto Venere

We followed the road along the harbour to the headland, spying a perfect spot for breakfast. Unfortunately, Le Bocche was closed and thoughts of food would have to wait.

3.end of the road, Porto Venere

Climbing the steps to investigate the church at the top of the cliff

4.Chiesa di San Pietro

we found much more to explore. Part of the ancient stone fortifications are still standing,

5.old stone wall

a plaque above a doorway announced Byron’s Grotto through which steep stone steps led to the bay below.

6.steps to Byron's Grotto

English poet, Lord Byron, would swim in these waters and even crossed the bay to visit his friend, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who lived in Lerici. Hence, the stretch of water is known as Golfo dei Poeti, the Gulf of Poets. The legendary swim is commemorated each year with the Byron Cup swimming race across the 7.5km from Porto Venere to San Terenzo. We were content to remain on dry land and savour the spectacular scenery.

7.Byron's Grotto

High above the sea caves, the remains of Doria Castle dominate the ridge. Built by the Genoese in 1161 for the wealthy Doria family, the military stronghold has undergone major restoration and is now open to the public.

8.Doria Castle

On the opposite side of the cove, the remains of an ancient defensive post balance on a tumble of rocks

9.ancient defensive post

and the views across the gulf are mesmerising.

10.Gulf of Poets

I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Just beyond the steps to the grotto, the serene figure of a rather buxom lady sits gazing out to sea. The bronze sculpture, Mater Naturae, is the work of Lello Scorzelli but there is no indication as to how long she has sat here. Her thoughts are summed up beautifully in a wonderful piece of prose, The custodian of Portovenere by Francesca Lavezzoli.

We spied the octagonal domes of the 11th century Chiesa di San Lorenzo, in the centre of the village, arising from the terraced hillside

16.Chiesa di San Lorenzo

before we retraced our steps to explore Chiesa di San Pietro.

17.Chiesa di San Pietro

Dating back to ancient Roman times, the town was called Portus Veneris and a pagan temple, dedicated to the goddess Venus, occupied this site. An early Christian basilica replaced the temple in the 5th century and was consecrated in 1198. The black and white bands were added in the 13th century by the Genoese, though the belltower retains the original stonework.

18.Chiesa di San Pietro

Sculptor Lello Scorzelli created the magnificent bronze portals depicting the handing over of the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven by Jesus to St. Peter.

When the doors are closed Jesus, dressed in the robes of a poor man, offers the keys to Peter who reaches up to accept them

21.St. Peter

while intricate figures representing the apostles bear witness to the ceremony.

Morning light streamed into the central apse, the striking vaulted ceiling seemed impossibly supported by black and white marble.

25.central apse with altar

A small pipe organ fills an alcove and a statue of St. Peter resides in an adjacent niche.

We savoured yet more spectacular coastal views from the sheltered loggia

28.loggia, Chiesa di San Pietro

before returning to the town in search of breakfast. Via Giovanni Capellini is the main shopping thoroughfare, stone steps connecting it to the harbour.

31.steps to Via Giovanni Capellini

The street was quiet at this hour, shops were just opening

and thoughts of food amplified in our heads.

Replenished with coffee and pastries, we made our way to the harbour to meet up with friends, Deb & Jim, to board the boat for Cinque Terre.

37.Porto Venere harbour38.Porto Venere harbour

As we rounded the promontory, we could appreciate a different perspective of Chiesa di San Pietro and Doria Castle clinging precariously to their rocky foundations.

41.Chiesa di San Pietro42.Doria Castle

farewell Ireland

The final hours of any holiday are difficult, what to do to make the most of the remaining time before the impending trip to the airport? We set off from the hotel in the direction of the Grand Canal, the same one we discovered on our first day in Ireland at Edenderry.

1.Grand Canal Walk

The canal begins in Dublin at the River Liffey and, 43 locks later, connects with the River Shannon 131 kilometres away.

2.Grand Canal Walk

We noticed a naked female figure seemingly climbing the wall of the Treasury Building.

3.Liberty Scaling the Heights

The sculpture is titled Aspiration – Liberty Scaling the Heights by artist Rowan Gillespie and was installed in 1995. Representing Ireland in the struggle for freedom that took place in 1916, it is fitting that this building was once occupied by Éamon de Valera who was a key figure in the Easter Rising. He was arrested and sentenced to death but instead, was released and went on to be President of Ireland from 1959 to 1973. Although the figure appears to be made from bronze, it is actually foam-filled fibreglass.

4.Liberty Scaling the Heights

We wandered further to Grand Canal Docks, the world’s largest docks at the time they opened in 1796. With the advent of the railways they fell into decline and by the 1960s were almost completely derelict. The land was rendered toxic by a history of chemical factories and tar pits until regeneration began in 1998, with millions spent on decontamination. Since then, significant redevelopment has seen the docklands become the location for multinational companies.

5.Grand Canal Docks, inner basin

A functioning mill until 2001, the gorgeous 19th century stone block building of Boland’s Mill is a protected site. The concrete silos, however, have since been demolished as part of the Boland’s Quay reconstruction.

6.Bolands Mill

I could imagine living in an apartment overlooking the docks,

7.Grand Canal Docks

although new construction was encroaching on some of the characterful older buildings.

8.Grand Canal Docks

The chimneys of the Poolbeg Power Station, known as the Poolbeg Stacks, dominate the skyline to the east.

9.Poolbeg Stacks

It seems that construction will be an ongoing enterprise in the docklands,

10.credit crunch construction

something to keep the resident cormorants interested.

The time had come for us to make our way to the airport and one more taste of Ireland before boarding the shuttle to Heathrow.

17.Dublin Airport

Barga

On a perfect sunny spring day, we drove to the medieval walled town of Barga, an easy 45 minute drive from Lucca. We had learned it was easier to park outside these ancient towns and walk in rather than risk inadvertently driving into a pedestrian zone or the wrong way down a one way street. Crossing the bridge, we passed Parco Fratelli Kennedy, named in honour of American President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, both of whom were assassinated.

1.Parco Kennedy

The old stone aqueduct was built in the 15th century to supply clean water for the fountains and crosses the original moat of the old village.

1a.aqueduct Parco Kennedy

Narrow streets and steep steps hinted at what was to come once we were inside the walls.

Beautiful buildings lined the main thoroughfare

4.beautiful building

as we made our way to Porta Reale, one of the three gates in the medieval city walls. Below the observation tower, the gate still displays the ancient coat of arms of the city.

5.Porta Reale

The layout of the town has remained virtually unchanged since the 8th century, buildings at impossible angles hug narrow lanes, mysterious alleyways and stone steps.

We set off through the web of streets with no real destination in mind, happy to amble randomly in the sunshine. An interesting sculpture caught our eye

10.sculpture

outside the Teatro dei Differenti, Barga’s main theatre. Constructed in 1668 it was deemed too small at the end of the 18th century, a new structure was built on top of the old one.

11.Teatro dei Differenti

Along with the theatre, the adjacent buildings have been beautifully restored.

We decided to head to the highest point in the town once we spotted the bell tower of the Duomo di San Cristoforo.

14.Duomo di San Cristoforo

Our quest took us past the immaculate garden of the Palazzo Salvi,

15.Palazzo Salvi16.Giardino di Palazzo Salvi

less opulent but equally interesting plots

17.garden

and the myriad doorways we had come to expect.

We finally reached the cathedral, a spectacular edifice that I will need to cover in a separate post.

30.Duomo di San Cristoforo

The views across the rooftops to the Apuan Alps and the shrouded peak of Pania della Croce were stunning.

31.view

33a.view

Tearing ourselves away, we meandered back to town in search of sustenance, discovering a memorial garden in Piazza Garibaldi, adjacent to the Museum of Memory. A large sculpture entitled La Vedette (in military terms meaning the forward observer) was unveiled in 2009 on the 4th November, a day celebrated in Italy as the anniversary of the end of  World War I.

We reached Piazza Angelio at lunch time, a popular place in summer for exhibitions and entertainment. The particular shape and almost perfect acoustics of the piazza make an ideal setting for international festivals such as “Opera Barga” and “Barga Jazz”.

16th century poet Pietro Angeli, nicknamed Bargeo, watches over the piazza from the corner of Palazzo Angeli.

The offerings on the blackboard at L’Osteria enticed us in, we weren’t disappointed.

41.L'Osteria

With much of the town still to see, we continued our wanderings in a different direction.

45.narrow street

Colourful homes lined the street

48.colourful houses

and some clung precariously to the edge of the cliff.

49.fabulous homes

All had magnificent views of neighbouring hilltop towns and verdant countryside.

50.hilltop town51.views

The aqueduct and Kennedy Park were behind us

52.aqueduct

as the outskirts of town stretched in front.

53.Villa Buenos Aires

The 17th century Chiesa di San Felice, was quite small and understated when compared to others we had seen on our travels.

54.Chiesa di San Felice55.Chiesa di San Felice

Outside the church was this memorial plaque, apparently dedicated to a Scotsman with an Italian name. It seems Barga has a strong connection to Scotland, with many residents emigrating there in the 19th century in search of work when industry in Tuscany suffered a decline. They won the Scots over with their gelato making skills and, coupled with a knack for cooking fish and chips, made great success out of their cafés and restaurants. Over the generations, some returned to Barga and now sixty percent of the town’s 10,000 residents have Scottish relations. The annual Festival of Fish and Chips, Sagra del Pesce e Patate, celebrates this connection for three weeks each July/August. I can’t find any clues as to the life of Mario Moscardini but I assume he made a considerable contribution to Barga.

61.memorial

Working our way along Via di Mezzo, we found an interesting little face peering out from the wall of a restaurant. It is known as a scacciaguai, a folk magic figure that protects from trouble and harm. Hopefully, the charm has worked for the restaurant of the same name.

62.scacciaguai

Three doors along, we paid a visit to Casa Cordati, a 17th century palazzo that was once the studio of local artist Bruno Cordati.

63.Casa Cordati

It is now owned by his grandson, Giordano, and offers rather sumptuous accommodation as well as an extensive gallery on the first floor. The rooms on this floor have been preserved as they were during Bruno Cordati’s creative years, the views were nothing short of inspirational.

Our exploration of this magical town had come to an end as we reached the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata and the 16th century church of the same name. The 19th century façade was badly damaged by artillery shells in World War II and was later restored.

72.Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

There was only one thing left to do to make the day complete.

73.gelati