The Painting Finished By An Angel

Only in Florence


100_0318The Via Dei Servi leads from the Duomo to the Piazza Santissima Annunziata, a pedestrian-only piazza which has always held special importance for Florentines. With its distinctive arcades it remains one of the city’s most picturesque squares. The Grand Duke Ferdinand astride his horse between a pair of fountains decorated with monkeys spitting water at sea-slugs. Up until the end of the 18th C, the Florentine New Year began on the Feast of The Annunciation (March 25th), and each year the feast is marked with a huge festival and a fair which fills the piazza and over-flows into the side streets.

The Piazza Santissima Annunziata was designed by Brunelleschi, who also designed the two main buildings, the Spedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents) and the Bascilica della Santissima Annunziata.

The Basilica is the mother church of the Servite order, (hence the Via Dei Servi) often known as the Servi di Maria (Servants of Mary). This order was founded in 1234 by seven Florentine aristocrats collectively termed the Seven Holy Founders, who, on seeing a vision of the Virgin, retired from Florence to a hermitage in the wilds of Monte Senario. The church was founded in 1250, and originally known as the Oratory of Cafaggio. Continue Reading →

Singapore and the Doctor Fish

Spas aplenty, Singapore
© A Harrison

I’ve never offered up my feet to be eaten before. Being Australian, I’ve had my share of unwanted nibbles and stings when in the surf. (Plus, my great uncle, after surviving WWI, was taken by a shark just off Mosman Bay.) So it took a moment of bravery, and encouraging laughs from the assistants, for me to slip of my shoes and place my feet in the clear water of the tank.

Immediately my feet were covered in hundreds of tiny fish. They swarmed from my daughters’ feet to congregate around mine; I hate to think what they found so attractive. At first they tickled, but as these doctor fish, as they are commonly called, nibbled away at my feet the sensation grew remarkably pleasant. Plus, the fish have no teeth – a definite bonus. Continue Reading →

Butter and the Paradox of Time

I don’t do time.

The Abbey of Mont St Michel

I realised this as I sat eating breakfast while watching the sands of Mont St Michel disappear beneath the waves. Victor Hugo wrote of how the tides move à la vitesse d’un cheval au galop (as swiftly as a galloping horse). A bell tolls as the surge begins for, like many a medieval pilgrim, people still drown making their way across the tidal flats. The force of the rolling waves creates ever-changing fields of quicksand which confuse even the locals. The Bayeux Tapestry shows a trapped rider and horse, with the Abbey of Mont St Michel clearly visible in the background. Other riders are being rescued, with Hic Harold dux trahebat eos de arena embroidered beneath; (Duke Harold pulled them from the sand).

The grey sands literally do vanish; in the time it took to spread butter on my croissant and have a sip of my café au lait, another island of sand had disappeared.

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The Lanterns of Hoi An

cambodia 257
The lanterns of Hoi An
© A Harrison


The paper lantern floated down the river, a sort light against the darkness. Dozens of others, red and yellow and blue, orange, purple and every colour combination of colour imaginable drifted nearby, dancing along the current.

In the old part of Hoi An, coloured lanterns adorn every house, and at night a glow fills the town with the softness of candle light.

Although I could see no clouds, lightning flashed across the sky, and a distant rumble sounded. The humidity rose even higher. The wet season is an interesting time to visit Vietnam.

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Even Gondolas Need Some Love

First published Italy Magazine, reproduced with permission


Gondolas in Venice
© A Harrison

Well, my window

meets San Trovaso

things have ends and beginnings

                        Ezra Pound Cantos



When Ezra Pound arrived in Venice, he took rooms near a walled garden on the Rio San Trovaso, opposite a squero (or gondola building yard). Only a few squeri now remain in Venice, although at the height of her powers some ten thousand gondolas served the city. The gondoliers’ knowledge of the canals is legendary, and legend holds they are born with webbed feet, to help them walk on water. Continue Reading →

Nasoni – The Fountains of the Big Noses

Fountain della Barcaccia (c) A Harrison
Fountain della Barcaccia
(c) A Harrison

The history of Rome can be read in her water, from the aqueducts supplying an ancient city, to the beauty of Renaissance fountains and the grandeur of Rome’s angel-lined bridges. In 98 AD the Roman Consul was named as Guardian of the city’s water supply; today the Romans have l’acqua del sindaco – the mayor’s water. Free to residents and tourists alike, clean water sprouts from drinking fountains all over the city.

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