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Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg by Railjet

“The journey is its own reward” trumpets the on-train information screen on the Austrian Railways (OeBB) Railjet train, but certainly this journey did not get off to an auspicious start. The train was packed. No space to sit … hardly any space to stand, even. Then it transpired that a group of German schoolchildren – about thirty of them – had mixed up their reservation, and were not supposed to be on this train at all. A very flustered teacher finally decided they had better get off the train, two minutes before it was due to leave. General chaos ensued, and the children scrambled around to retrieve luggage and get off the train.

Following this commotion, the train pulls out of Budapest’s Keleti (Eastern) station and things begin to settle down. At this point the train is heading east, in the “wrong” direction for Austria – but it almost immediately swings round to the south, and then to the west, before crossing the Danube and stopping at the suburban station of Kelenfold.

After leaving Budapest proper, the train journeys through rather unremarkable scenery before stopping at the provincial industrial town of Tatabánya. Soon it follows the Danube for a while - the river here forms the border between Hungary and Slovakia – and passes through the town of Komárom, opposite which, on the other side of the river, lies the Slovakian town of Komárno. About 90 minutes after leaving Budapest, the train stops at the regional capital of Győr (Raab in German) – roughly half-way between Budapest and Vienna - and then speeds through the flat north-west Hungarian countryside before arriving at the border station of Hegyeshalom. Years ago Hegyeshalom meant a stop of up to thirty minutes for a change of locomotive and a passport and customs check, but nowadays the stop barely takes a couple of minutes. The Hungarian driver is replaced by his Austrian colleague, who flicks a switch to allow the locomotive to “convert” to the different Austrian power supply, and soon the train is on its way again.

The scenery remains flat through Austria, although hills appear on the horizon both to the north and west. Massive wind turbines loom up on both sides of the line. In the distance, to the right, high-rise apartment buildings reveal the Slovakian capital, Bratislava. Soon the suburbs of Vienna appear, and only a few minutes later the train passes through the new Wien Hauptbahnhof (Central station), which is currently only partly in use and will open to international trains in December 2014. The Railjet instead stops at the suburban station of Meidling, before travelling a further 10 kilometres and turning through 180 degrees to arrive from the west at Vienna’s (current) principal station, the Westbahnhof.

Railjets were first introduced at the end of 2008 to gradually replace OeBB’s ageing but comfortable Inter-City rolling-stock. The sets are formed of a locomotive plus seven coaches, and they travel in fixed formation, the last coach having a driving cab so the train can be operated in either direction. There are three classes: second class (called “economy”), first class and business class. Business class trumps first class, which may confuse frequent fliers somewhat. A seat in business class costs an extra €15 for any first-class ticket or pass holder, irrespective of the distance travelled. This can be paid on board if there are seats available. Paying extra for the comfortable armchair-style seating in the clubby mini-compartments is well worth it, especially for longer journeys. The supplement includes a welcome drink, although you may have to ask for it if not offered by the attendant.

The Railjets all operate so that the business class and first class sections are nearest the buffers and station entrance at Vienna’s Westbahnhof. This terminus station has only recently been completely renovated with a new shopping centre added, but it will lose its status as Vienna’s principal railway station when the Hauptbahnhof opens fully, since most long-distance trains will stop there instead. This will also allow for an improvement in journey time between Budapest and Salzburg or Munich of about thirty minutes (from December 2015).

On leaving Vienna, the route westwards to Salzburg soon escapes the conurbation; previously it would amble through the attractive hills and woods of the Wienerwald. However, the opening of a new section of high-speed line in 2012 means that, sadly, this is no longer the case – the train now accelerates rapidly and passes through a sequence of tunnels and cuttings; the 15-minute time-saving between Vienna and St Pölten being paltry compensation, some would say, for the loss of the scenic views.

The line from St Pölten onward to Linz has been upgraded in stages in the past few years, but it still mostly follows the route of the old Westbahn, originally opened in 1858 as the “Empress Elisabeth Railway”. There are only a few tunnels to spoil the view as you travel up to a brisk but smooth 230 km/h or so.

Time for a visit to the restaurant car, which is operated by Henry am Zug – an offshoot of Do & Co, the renowned Austrian caterer and restaurateur. The choice of foods is modest, but sandwiches are fresh and other dishes tasty. Pricing is reasonable for a train – a glass of very-drinkable wine with a sandwich costs just over €6, for example - and service, by the mostly Hungarian staff, is prompt and cheerful. Soon the industrial city of Linz is reached, then after passing through Wels the high-speed line ends and on the last stretch of the journey, the 45 minute ride from Attnang-Puchheim to Salzburg, the train meanders pleasantly along river valleys, and briefly passes by the northern shore of the Wallersee as the foothills of the Alps approach.

And so to Austria’s “second” city of Salzburg – in reputation, at least (it is actually fourth in size after Vienna, Graz and Linz). Recently, the station has been extensively rebuilt, but thankfully the grand arched roof has been retained and restored. While the train continues across the border (just outside Salzburg) to Germany, many people alight here, both to visit the city of Mozart and also to connect to trains southbound towards the High Tauern, and westwards towards Innsbruck and beyond.

Travelwise

Railjets ply the Budapest – Vienna – Salzburg - Munich route every two hours during the day. Fares from Budapest to Vienna are reasonably priced if bought from MAV (Hungarian railways): a one-way journey Budapest to Vienna (about 250 km) can be booked in advance for €13 second class, or €29 in first class. These tickets are valid for a specific train, including seat reservation, and are available until the quota for each train runs out.

Otherwise, there is a useful four-day round-trip excursion fare starting from Budapest to Vienna (second class only) for €29. (If you make the outward journey on day one of the ticket’s validity, the return trip has to be made on or before day four). This ticket does not have to be purchased in advance. However, this fare does not include seat reservations – which are not compulsory, and may be purchased separately. For an extra €9, your ticket will include unlimited travel on Vienna’s public transport for the first two days only of the ticket’s validity.

From Budapest to Salzburg there is also a very reasonable four-day round-trip excursion fare (again, second class only) for €39. Since break of journey is allowed with this ticket, it could be used to visit both Vienna and Salzburg within the four days of its validity. Again, seat reservations are not included in the fare.

Buying tickets on the Hungarian railways (MAV) website can be a challenge – there is no proper English version (use an online translator) – and no self-printing facility for international tickets. Tickets have to be collected from internet ticket terminals at main stations in Hungary. Alternatively, Blue Guides recommends buying rail tickets at MAV’s city ticketing office in Budapest on József Attila utca (near the Deák ter metro interchange). Queues are rare and the procedure is generally stress-free; the international ticket office at Keleti station can be crowded.

Note that the same range of tickets is not available in the reverse direction (when starting your journey in Austria) either booked on the OeBB website, or purchased locally in Austria. There are no equivalent excursion tickets, unfortunately, and one-way advance tickets from Vienna to Budapest start from €19 in second class (€29 in first class).

Railjets are often very full – especially on the Hungarian stretch of the journey where they also function as domestic inter-city trains. Booking is always advisable on these services. If you are leaving Budapest without a reservation, get to the station early to bag unreserved places - there is always a certain number of free seats. Otherwise, make your way to the restaurant car, where for roughly the price of a seat reservation, you can enjoy a coffee, beer or glass of wine.

June 2014

Artwork of the month: April. The Seuso Silver

At some point during the turbulent years of the declining Roman Empire, a cache of silver was hidden by its owners, packed into a copper cauldron. This hoard has been puzzling the world ever since. Known as the Seuso (or Sevso) Treasure, it has become an artworld mystery. And the mystery is far from solved. But seven pieces of the great hoard were purchased by the Hungarian government in 2014 and—at last—went on show to the public, in the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest.

No one really knows anything about the Seuso Treasure except that it is Roman, extremely fine and extremely valuable, and dates from the 4th or 5th century AD. The most convincing story is that it was found, sometime in the 1970s, by a young man called József Sümegh, in the vicinity of the village of Polgárdi, east of Lake Balaton in Hungary. Sümegh did not live long to enjoy his find. He died in mysterious circumstances shortly afterwards, at the age of just 24. Not long before his death, he had suddenly started appearing in Levi’s jeans, the kind of apparel that wasn’t readily available in Communist Hungary in those days. It is highly possible that he had sold several of the smaller items of the hoard. By the time the Treasure ended up in the hands of Lord Northampton in England, it numbered 14 pieces: perhaps vastly fewer that had originally been stashed, hurriedly and in panic, into that wide copper cauldron by a Roman family clinging to the coat-tails of their civilisation as it collectively fled before the barbarian invasions of Central Europe.

Hungary cannot prove its claim to the silver. Even though soil samples from the cauldron are a good fit with Transdanubia, it is not enough. The trail of the hoard has been deliberately muddied and obfuscated for decades, by dealers, smugglers, heisters, small-time and big-time crooks, a whole procession of them. The tedious dishonesty of greedy men has obscured the story of these extraordinary works of art. The Getty Museum was at one stage interested in purchasing the silver, but it pulled out because its story was too murky. Auctions at Sotheby’s and Bonham’s in London foundered because of bad provenance. Even now the Hungarian authorities will not reveal from whom they purchased the seven pieces for 15 million euros. This was a good price, considering—though if the silver really is Hungarian patrimony, it is a pity they had to pay anything at all.

The centrepiece of the 2014 Hungarian Parliament display was the so-called Hunting Plate: a huge salver with a beaded and decorated rim and a central roundel filled with a busy scene. In the centre are figures dining under a canopy, one of the members of the party feeding a titbit to a dog. Around them are scenes of hunting: and below the image of an upended boar, is the word “PELSO”, the Roman name for Lake Balaton. The whole design is of silver gilt with the details picked out in niello (a black-coloured alloy of sulphur with copper and lead). Circling the roundel is the following inscription: H[A]EC SEVSO TIBI DVRENT PER SAECULA MVLTA POSTERIS VT PROSINT VASCVLA DIGNA TVIS (‘May these vessels remain with you for centuries, Sevso, and serve your descendants worthily’). It has been suggested that the silver was presented to Seuso as a wedding gift. Nothing is known of him. It can only be surmised that he was a wealthy Roman or Romanised Celt who lived a gracious life in one of the fine villas that existed in the neighbourhood of Lake Balaton. At the very top of the inscription, between the first and the last words, is a tiny Chi Rho: Seuso may have been a Christian, or simply an army veteran. (For a detailed image of the central roundel, see here .) Stylistically, the platter shows similiarities to the famous Cesena Plate in the Malatesta Library at Cesena in Italy, near Ravenna. (For an image of the Cesena Plate, see here.)

Other items include another large plate with a geometric design in the centre and two geometric ewers (one of which illustrated at the top of this story). These objects are assigned by some scholars to a “Western” workshop, whereas other objects, notably an unusually-shaped incense casket and a jug with Dionysiac scenes are decorated with repoussé figures. On the Dionysiac jug, the varicose decoration of frenzied maenads recalls (sort of) the famous Derveni krater in Thessaloniki. Which is perhaps not an utterly mad comparison, despite the six hundred or so years' time difference between the crafting of the two, because scholars believe the pieces of the hoard may have come from two different centres of craftmanship, a western and an eastern. Other experts claim that all the pieces could have originated from a single Balkan workshop (in Sirmium, for example, or Thessaloniki), a place where the styles of East and West came together.

In the late 19th century, an elaborate folding stand, made of silver and lavishly decorated, was found close to Polgárdi, the claimed findspot of the Seuso hoard. It is a tetrapod plate stand, just the thing for a sumptuous fête champêtre, a kind of five-star camping table. It is part of the holdings of the Hungarian National Museum (see image here ). It is by no means out of the question that it once belonged to Seuso’s picnic equipment.

For three months, members of the public may view the seven treasures in Budapest, free of charge and with no prior appointment, in the hopes that someone might have their memory jogged, might recall a small silver object—a spoon, say, or a little finger bowl—which a member of their family might have bought, many years ago, from a treasure trover called József Sümegh. Then at last the question of the silver’s patrimony might be convincingly answered.

Annabel Barber

NB: Since this was written, the remaining known items of the Seuso Treasure, including the spectacular Achilles Plate, have been secured by Hungary. For more, see here.

Uffizi selfies come to Budapest

Self-portrait by Pál Szinyei Merse (1845–1920)
Pál Szinyei Merse’s plein-air rendering of a field of poppies

 

As part of the Budapest Spring Festival, an unusual exhibition has come to the Budapest History Museum: “Painters in the Mirror”, a display of self-portraits by Hungarian artists from the collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The Uffizi has an extensive collection of self-portraits, the largest in the world: over 1,600 of them, of which 24 are of Hungarian artists. They are displayed in the Corridoio Vasariano, a covered walkway built by Vasari in five months to celebrate the marriage of Francesco de’ Medici and Joanna of Austria in 1565. Nearly a kilometre long, its purpose was to connect Palazzo Vecchio via the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio with the new residence of the Medici dukes at Palazzo Pitti. The Medici family found it particularly convenient in wet weather and it was sometimes used as a nursery for the children of the grand dukes. Elderly or infirm members of the family were wheeled along it in bath chairs. The Uffizi’s collection of self-portraits has been hung here since the early 20th century. The collection was begun by Cardinal Leopoldo in 1664. Having acquired the self-portraits of Guercino and Pietro da Cortona, he went on to collect the ‘selfies’ of some 80 more artists. The collection continues to be augmented.

The first Hungarian self-portrait to enter the collection was that of the elder Károly Markó, a painter of almost Claude-like landscapes who settled near Florence in 1848. The collection continued to expand throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, largely by invitation. The portraits of Rippl-Rónai, István Csók and Pál Szinyei Merse arrived at the Uffizi by this route. The great painter of large-scale historical canvases Gyula Benczúr was also invited to contribute a self-portrait and produced one expressly for the Uffizi. Other self-portraits were acquired by purchase. It was not long before artists eagerly sought to have themselves represented at the Uffizi, and the gallery received numerous offers, some of which it accepted and some of which it did not. Miklós Barabás, considered (at least in Hungary) one of the finest portraitists of his day (1810–98), submitted a portrait (it was submitted, in fact, by his son-in-law) but it was not considered by the board of judges to be of sufficient artistic merit. It was not returned, however, and is still the property of the Italian state, officially entered in the Uffizi’s inventory. It forms part of the current exhibition, hung alongside a charming likeness by Barabás of a young woman in a black dress, painted against a backdrop in the Hungarian—and Italian—national colours of red, white and green.

 

Self-portraits of Hungarian modern and contemporary artists include Victor Vasarely’s typically optical-illusory upside-down image of himself, and a fine work by László Fehér (b. 1953), who presents a typically hyper-realist image of himself in a small pocket mirror.

 

Each self-portrait in this interesting and absorbing small exhibition is shown alongside another painting by the same artist which may be taken to be representative of his or her oeuvre. Some of the more memorable pairings include Philip de László’s classic, textbook self-portrait hung next to his stunning likeness of Pope Leo XIII; and Pál Szinyei Merse’s view of himself in a wintry birch forest hung alongside his beautiful Poppy Field, its tall grass and cotton-wool clouds redolent of early summer warmth.


“Painters in the Mirror”, at the Budapest History Museum, runs until 20th July. The collection of the Uffizi is covered in detail in Blue Guide Florence.

Tastes change

Tastes change. “The greater part of the sculptures of the Vatican are dead,” wrote Sacheverell Sitwell in the 1930s. Grand Tourists had once gasped at those sculpted nymphs, gods and emperors. They had sought to procure similar examples for the gardens and galleries of their country seats. How could it be, then, that they stirred so little response in the shingle-headed, Oxford-bagged swells of his own generation? But no. They were dead. “Dead, and it is impossible to see how they can ever come to life again.”

Something similar has happened now with High Baroque painting. “Caravaggio to Canaletto” is a great sweep of an exhibition just closed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. The title was artfully chosen because it names two artists in whom the public has a great deal of interest. And, unsurprisingly, the early rooms (with the nine Caravaggios on loan) and the last room (with the Canalettos) were full. Between the two, great halls were filled with works by scores of other artists, among them Guido Reni, Mattia Preti, Guercino, Carracci, Crespi. But the crowds were much thinner. Just imagine! Guido Reni was once, in the 19th century, one of the reasons why people went to Italy. “Second to nought observable in Rome” is how Browning described Reni’s Crucifixion above the high altar of San Lorenzo in Lucina. Nowadays I doubt many visitors notice that it’s there. It surely doesn’t make it into the Dorling Kindersley Top 10. Shelley was much struck by Guido Reni’s Beatrice Cenci and wrote his first play about the girl’s wretched fate. We’ve lost interest in Guido Reni now. But why does this happen?

The Romantic era, when Shelley was writing, was an age of great ‘sensibility’. Grown men did not think it ninnyish to write about daffodils. The Victorian era that followed was sentimental. A novelist could base his greatness on the creation of a character like Little Nell.

But these things all had their root in the Baroque.

Examine the painting at the top of this post. Mantegna’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ of c. 1480. In it, we see a dead body, presented without fuss (but with extraordinary technique), with Mary Magdalene’s little jar of embalming oil tucked away at the back and the only emotion coming from the half-shown faces of the three anguished mourners. The spice jar is not just some random touch. It is there to show that the mourners had no idea that Jesus’ body would not decay. They fully believed that they needed to embalm it. This was the end of his life. Their grief is sincere and comfortless and ugly.

Mantegna was a master and his influence on succeeding generations of painters was great. But the two imitators whose works are shown below imitate only the component parts of the scene. They fail utterly to capture its sober and honest spirit. Why? Because their canvases are soaked with stoked up emotion and become pieces of propaganda as a result.

The first one is by a very accomplished artist: Annibale Carracci. It was painted about a century later than the Mantegna. There are no mourners. The focus is on the gory result of a gruesome execution. The nails and crown of thorns are placed beside the corpse, the body itself is liberally spattered with blood. It is very Counter Reformation. The aim is to ramp up the horror, to appeal to people’s guts rather than their brains, to win them to faith through sensation.

The other version (Orazio Borgianni, 1615) is twee. The oil jar has come to the foreground as a show-off example of how well the artist can render glass. Carracci’s nails are retained. But those are not its main faults. The problem is with the mourners. No longer do they keep a respectful distance, half out of the frame, but they clutch intemperately at the body, lean right over it, giving self-indulgent vent to their tears. Emoting. Inviting us all to have a mass cry-in. They are also young and beautiful. A lovely young woman or beauteous boy will pluck at the heart strings much more effectively than a haggard crone. Anyone in the promo business knows that.

Neither Caravaggio nor Canaletto puts this kind of “spin” on their subjects. That is why we like them. I think we are ready to go back to the Vatican sculptures. Cold stone which lets us draw our own conclusions. The High Baroque is too manipulative—and we see enough advertising in our daily lives. Let art be something nobler.

Florence and Buda: two cities of learning

Matthias Corvinus, copy of a lost portrait by Mantegna.

It was through Matthias Corvinus (1443–1490), who became King of Hungary aged 15 in 1458, that Renaissance art and Humanism was first exported outside Italy. The King's erudition and interests linked him closely with Lorenzo il Magnifico in Florence, and they exchanged letters about their progress in forming their libraries. Many of the very beautiful volumes (often similar in size and decoration) that they commissioned in Florence from Renaissance artists and scholars have survived. By the end of his life Corvinus possessed one of the most important libraries then in existence—and, far richer than his Medici counterpart, he was able to put together an even more precious collection of manuscripts than the one then in Florence. Some of the manuscripts (including his Bible, exquisitely illuminated in Florence by Attavante and Gherardo and Monte di Giovanni) remained unfinished at his death so never reached Hungary, but are today preserved in the Medici Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence.

In 1476 Corvinus married Beatrice, the highly educated daughter of Ferdinand I of Aragon, King of Naples, and he had a splendid marble bust of her made by Francesco Laurana at the time of their engagement. She was only 16 or 17 years old and Laurana's sculpture is today one of the masterpieces in the Frick Museum in New York. The couple were then portrayed, probably by Giovanni Dalmata, in a double portrait (preserved in Budapest) in profile in low relief in white marble against a dark green background. Beatrice proved a worthy wife, sharing Matthias's passion for books and music and she herself was a patron of the arts. Also preserved in Budapest is the splendid brocaded velvet which once decorated the royal throne in Buda, known to have been made in Florence on a design by Antonio del Pollaiolo (and restored in 2013).

It was at the court of Matthias's predecessor King Sigismund that Filippo Scolari, known as Pippo Spano, had an important career as military leader but he was also a renowned Humanist. At that time the painter Masolino was called to Hungary to carry out frescoes for his funerary chapel, so the artist abandoned his work at the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, leaving Masaccio to complete it. Pippo Spano was immortalised in Florence as one of the 'famous men' frescoed by Andrea del Castagno (now in the Galleria degli Uffizi, but sadly usually not on view).

During Matthias's time many Florentine merchants lived in Buda, including Bernardo Vespucci, brother of Amerigo. We know that in 1469 the Signoria sent two lions, symbols of Florence, to Corvinus, as a sign of homage.

A portrait of Matthias, with his characteristic long flowing locks, by an unknown Lombard painter copied from a famous portrait of him by Mantegna (now lost) has had an interesting history. When attributed to Boltraffio, it was purchased from a private Italian collection by the press baron Lord Rothermere, famous as an advocate of the revision of the Versailles Peace Treaty. In certain influential political circles in Hungary at the time Rothermere became so popular for the irredentist campaign in his popular newspapers that a proposal was made to him to become Hungarian head of state (or, if he preferred, to have his son thus enthroned). This clearly caused him considerable embarrassment and to avoid any misunderstanding he presented this portrait of Matthias to Miklós Horthy in 1930, on the tenth anniversary of the latter’s election as regent of the Hungarian state, and it was hung in the royal palace of Buda. It is now in the Szépművészeti Múzeum in Budapest, but in store and so sadly not on view.

At the end of last year Italy dedicated its first exhibition to Matthias Corvinus, appropriately held in the library of San Marco, and curated by Péter Farbaky, director of the Budapest History Museum. Farbaky’s interest in Corvinus had already led to an international conference in Florence at Villa I Tatti in 2007, the papers of which where published in November 2011 by Harvard University.

(by Alta Macadam, author of Blue Guide Florence.)

In March of this year, also in the Budapest History Museum, an exhibition will open of self-portaits of Hungarian artists from the Uffizi collection. The show will be reviewed on this blog.

30.08.2012
14:05

The Roman Villa at Balácapuszta (Baláca, Nemesvámos, Hungary)


In the Roman province of Pannonia, most veterans who received donations of land settled down to a life of animal husbandry and crop-growing, living well, perhaps, but modestly. There was at least one villa, however, in the centre of a 20-acre estate, that had pretensions. It lay close to the main road to Aquincum, which branched off the Amber road between Aquileia and the Baltic. It flourished in the third century AD and its owners were obviously familiar with grand villas in Italy, for they chose to imitate them in the style of opulent floor mosaics and in the wall paintings. The Pannonian climate was harsh and the peristyle garden was walled in, with engaged rather than free-standing columns (top picture), but still the decoration, with its trompe l’oeil fence, with painted trees and flowers behind, sought to give the impression of a real garden and brings to mind the fine decoration of the Villa of Livia near Rome. Sculpture was crude (see the head of Hercules, middle picture) with his tight curls looking like a tortoiseshell helmet) but the mosaic work was superb, as the floor of this apsidal hall attests (bottom picture). The family buried its members (including a horse and a dog) in a grand mausoleum on top of a nearby hill. By the fourth century, all was over. The villa began to fall into ruin.

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Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Baccio Bandinelli: a rehabilitation
Artwork of the month: May. "Flora", Pompeii
Travelling around Britain in style
In praise of plague cakes
Princesses from the Trabzon Empire
Artwork of the month: April. The Seuso Silver
Uffizi selfies come to Budapest
Florentine Mannerists at Palazzo Strozzi
Rome: seasonal stations
Sustainable living in Bolzano
Artwork of the month: March. Murillo's Flower Girl
Tastes change
Francesco Laurana's serene beauty
Being Mithridates
Florence and Buda: two cities of learning
Thoughts on Rome
Copyrighting Heritage
Food is the new Florence
A Grumpy Visit to Westminster Abbey
The Honey Of Hybla
So what is the Turkish Van?
The Pike: by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Smoothly off the buffers
Under Another Sky
'Art under Attack' at Tate Britain
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Renaissance art from Florence to Paris and back
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Hepworth's "Winged Figure": 50th anniversary
Tying the Knot in Urfa
Venice and the Politcs of Washing
Comments on Staten Island: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
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Turin restored and rejuvenated
A palatial art museum in Trieste
The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella
The wonderful Palazzo Grimani, Venice
Pope Benedict: an unorthodox farewell
Obscure St Valentine and his famous Feast Day
Burano in February
The St Agnes lambs
Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” in restoration
Cathedral picks: Exeter
The real Patrick Leigh Fermor?
The joy of Giambattista Tiepolo
Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghiari”
In praise of Venice’s water transport system
The Red Rooms at the Uffizi
The Blue Rooms at the Uffizi
A trip to the Port of Trajan, outside Rome
Pour l’honneur de la France
An early-morning visit to Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Rome
Church of SS Luca e Martina reopens above Roman Forum
How the tide turned at the Milvian Bridge
A compelling reason to visit Trapani province
St Augustine and his mother at Ostia
Visiting St Paul’s in London
Hadrian, Antinoüs and the Christian Fathers
Earliest-known image of a martyrdom
Can’t face the Vatican crowds? Try San Lorenzo
Turin, Pisa and mathematics
Ideal cities are all around us. It’s simply a matter of...
On Canaletto and Guardi and Venetian Light
Mithraism: a Roman Mystery Religion
Random Musings on Pontormo and Vermeer
The Amphitheatre of Londinium
Edward Lear and Crete
A handful of favourite things to see in Sicily
The mystery of the veiled virgins
Venice without the crowds
Cividale del Friuli and the Lombards
The Trouble with Snake Goddesses
The tragedy of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico
Oranges, lemons and relic cults: an escape from the queues...
City Picks: Verona
Hitherto unknown language discovered in east Anatolia
Painting of the Day
Museo Barracco: a little-visited gem
Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome
Staten Island: Upcoming Exhibition …
International Gothic at the Uffizi
Celebrating Santa Rosalia, patron of Palermo
Delhi Ghost Trail
Comments on Pilgrim's Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
The Roman Villa at Balácapuszta (Baláca, Nemesvámos,...
The Bard of….Messina? Was Shakespeare Sicilian?
Rereading Ruskin
Sicily’s emblem: the Trinacria
Luca Signorelli on exhibition in Umbria
The Tribuna of the Uffizi reopens
The Venice equivalent of the anonymous Tweet?
Comments on Blue Guide Sicily
Sicilian Holiday Reading
Attila the Hun and the Foundation of Venice
Death in Venice cocktail a hit
The Gentry: Stories of the English
381 years ago this June
Brooklyn Bridge: a New York landmark
A Venetian Update
Sixth-century church to reopen
Roman Aquileia
Springtime in Friuli
Northern Italy dining and accommodation recommendations
Al Dente: Madness, Beauty & the Food of Rome
A celebration of Lucca
Romantic music in a Baroque setting
Blue Guide India Delhi Launch
Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life
The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution
Comments on Blue Guide India
The Roman Forum
Whispering City: Rome and its Histories
The 15th-century Health Museum at Edirne
City of Fortune, How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire
Books about Istanbul
Comments on Blue Guide Istanbul
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Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor
Comments on The Venice Lido: a Blue Guide Travel Monograph
Comments on Blue Guide Literary Companions: Rome, London,...
Comments on Blue Guide Italy Food Companion
The 54th Venice Biennale stars Tintoretto
Holy Bones, Holy Dust
RECOMMENDED PLACES TO STAY AND EAT ON CRETE
Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity
Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us
Comments on Blue Guide Turkey
Comments on Blue Guide Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Hay-on-Wye
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Aegean Islands
Comments on Blue Guide Crete
Comments on Sites of Antiquity: from Ancient Egypt to the...
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Familiar face
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Blue Guide Northern Italy
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A day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome - highly recommended
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A day trip from Venice up the Brenta Canal
A day trip to Murano from Venice
Pietrasanta, Pisa: in search of Stagi
Reading list for Venice
Reading list for Florence and Tuscany
The Best Credit / Debit Card for Travel
Ruskin on Venice
Reading list for Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Mainland

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