Make Italy Yours

A blog of Italian Culture and Nature

Tag: Brad Nixon

Venice: Boat Building, Bridge Fights and a Boat Legend

Under Western Skies

As I was researching locations for the recent Part 4 of Ye Bigge Sleepe, I concentrated on the Dorsoduro portion of Venice, because the Università Ca’ Foscari, one of the places that figured in the story is there. That jogged a memory from a walk The Counselor and I took there one afternoon, with only a general idea of a destination in mind.

We encountered this scene:


We’d happened upon Lo Squero di San Trovaso: “The Boat Builders of San Trovaso.”

In numerous trips to Venice, we’d seen hundreds of boats and ridden in a few, including gondolas. I’d never seriously wondered where gondolas come from, but that’s one place.

The boatyard is marked with a red flag near the bottom center of the map:


According to their website, the squero has been there since at least the 17th Century. The wooden architecture of the boatyard buildings isn’t typically…

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From a Tuscan Balcony

Under Western Skies

Recently I posted an article about the historic and picturesque Tuscan town, San Gimignano.

In the article, I described the memorable balcony room we had in the 12th Century Hotel la Cisterna. Sorting through photographs, I missed one The Counselor shot from within the room, looking out over San Gimignano to the surrounding countryside. As much as any photograph from years of seeing the world, I’d choose this one as a representative of the allure, pleasure and — yes — romance of travel. As we know, the days aren’t always so halcyon, the rooms aren’t invariably inviting, sunny and blessed with a balcony view. Sometimes, fortune smiles.


May all your travels be so providential.

© Brad Nixon 2016. Photograph © Marcy Vincent 2016, used by kind permission.

If you missed the full article and its photos of San Gimignano (with this photo now in place), including the interesting coincidence concerning that balcony room, CLICK HERE

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San Gimignano, Tuscan Towers

Under Western Skies

Arguably the most memorable skyline of any city in Italy can’t be claimed by Rome, Milan, Venice or Florence. It belongs to the “Town of Fine Towers,” San Gimignano.


San Gimignano is located approximately halfway between Florence and Siena.


Occupying a prominent hilltop along a major trade and pilgrimage route to Rome, San Gimignano escaped destruction in the 5th Century by Attila the Hun (purportedly thanks to its patron saint and namesake, Saint Germinianus) and prospered through the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The town, with narrow, serpentine streets, is a trove of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.


San Gimignano is most famous for the fortified towers that arose in the 13th and 14th Centuries as warring families took steps to defend themselves during the long conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines. The same thing happened in innumerable Italian towns and cities, and at one time there were 72 towers in San Gimignano. While most of the…

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On the Run in Venice

Under Western Skies

I have never written more than a few words about Venice, Italy in this blog, despite the fact that I’ve visited there more times than almost any other city on the planet. I have been to a number of cities in the U.S. more often, but only because work took me there repeatedly. Venice stands as one of my favorite places, period.

I’m not alone. Websites, blogs and travel magazines include stories about Venice in endless profusion. It’s so well-reported, in fact, that I’ve hesitated to try to say something or show you something you don’t already know.

Venice is an immensely popular destination. In 2014, Venice — which has fewer than 60,000 permanent residents — had approximately 20 million visitors.

As a result, Venice is a crowded place in the prime season. How much? Look at this July scene in Piazza San Marco:

IMG_6364 Brad Nixon

That’s as far as we ventured into the jam-packed St…

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