We are going to Matera

Matera in Basilicata

In just under 2 months we head back to Italy for a holiday. This trip we were keen to visit Puglia – the heel of Italy’s boot – and see what this often overlooked province offered.

In the end we will miss by a few kilometres and will be staying, instead, in Matera in the province of Basilicata. So not in the heel of the boot, more in the area between the sole and the heel.

Matera is known as “la Città Sotterranea” (the Subterranean City) because historically many of the dwelling were effectively caves in the hillside. It is one of the longest continuously inhabited places on earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Park.

It is only recently that Matera has become a must-see for visitors to Italy and we will be staying 3 nights at Palazzo Gattini Luxury Hotel – breaking up a fortnight spent staying in Positano which is a two hour drive away on the coast.

Matera at night

Our holiday is completed by a week in Chianti in a beautiful villa organised by our dear friend Olga, and a few days in Rome – a chance to reintroduce ourselves to this eternal city.

We fly out of Wellington at the beginning of August. Watch the blog for holiday updates.

iPhone photography

It’s a well known saying that the best camera you own is the one you have with you. More often than not these days, that will be the one in your phone.

Over the years cameras in phones have got better and better to the point where they can now do almost everything that conventional cameras can.

But there are a few exceptions. One of these is the ability to manage depth of field – to have some parts of a shot in focus and some not.

On our trip to Italy in 2014 I spent a day sightseeing around Syracuse and Ortygia with only my iPhone – a 4S. I’d actually forgotten to take my DSLR camera so the challenge was to get the best shots possible just using the phone. Overall the results were pretty good, but in a bunch of shots everything was in focus (the norm for phone cameras and not a bad thing) but the shots would have looked better if the foreground and background weren’t.

Retouching to the rescue. I used Photoshop to do the work but there are a bunch of other apps that can be used. In fact anything that can reproduce a “tilt shift” effect is ideal.

Tilt shift is a technique which makes a scene look like a miniature or model (an example is below). Not so many years ago this look could only be achieved using a special, and extremely expensive, camera lens. But with the advent of digital retouching it became much easier. It is also great for adding in depth of field to a shot where none exists.

I’ve included a couple of examples in the gallery.

An evening in Sicily

Deck chair line up in SicilySo let me be clear, this post is a bit obscure – unless you were there. The photo is of a swimming pool in Sicily. We stayed in a lovely villa in Syracuse – that included this pool – with our friends Gill and Andre and the family in 2014. We spent a great week in and around the pool.

It was the centre of daily activity, but after the sun had dropped below the horizon and everyone headed off to dinner it took on that wonderful Italian evening glow. A mix of pale sky blues, harsh sunset yellows and every shade of pink imaginable. All contrasting with the bright blue of the somewhat ordered loungers.

Take a bow Syracuse, you earned it.

Night and day

Over the last few days I’ve spent a bit of time playing around with Photoshop turning day shots to night shots. It’s one of those things that sounds hard but is relatively simple.

The key is to making things look realistic is to work out where the night light is coming from – street lights or the moon or an open window – and to work from that.

See what you think.

 

 

Echoes of Italy

Madonna cleaningIt feels like we’ve been home for ages but every so often something reminds you of holiday times.

Like the photo above. We were having breakfast at the villa one morning and two ladies arrived to clean up the madonna next door. It was our madonna apparently – because it was on the villa property – but locals take the responsibility to sweep, clean and polish it.

It was also a useful landmark if we needed to describe which vila we were in – the one next to the madonna – ahh, si la madonna. Bene.

 

Positano – the way it was

Positano historyA recent article in the Daily Mail included some photos of Italy in the 1950s and earlier. One was of Positano (a Getty image) when it was more fishing village than tourist centre.

But even in this photograph there are clearly recognisable landmarks – the Church of Santa Maria Assunta up from the beach, and the steps down to the beach with those iconic bronze lions sitting at each end.

 

Two days in Rome

At the end of our holiday we had two days in Rome. It was a chance to visit some favourite places of ours as well as some new places. We stayed at Hotel Barocco in one of their junior suites – which meant we had an outdoor patio to relax on – four floors above Piazza Barberini. It was a real luxury.

As always we were looked after superbly with nothing being too much trouble. Which made it even harder to say goodbye and start the long trip home. The good thing is that we threw a coin into the Trevi fountain (well sort of as you can see from the photo) so we’ll be back.