The Universe at the Planetarium

IMG_3279At the weekend I went with the girls to the Planetarium in Judenburg. It is housed in a very high medieval tower making it the tallest planetarium in the world. I am not sure what that meansapart from the fact you have to climb almost as many steps as in Positano.

Because we were there during the day we did not study the night sky, but rather watched a documentary on the universe. It was incredibly well explained for both adults and children and it showed amazing images of our solar system. Believe it or not I got really emotional. The incommensurable vastness and our insignificant smallness suddenly made the possibility of life on another planet very plausible. The girls obviously made fun of me: as usual I am the embarassing mother. “Mom it’s ok, you are Italian!”

Summer Basket

With summer holidays on the doorstep all you should be buying are baskets. For the beach and for the shopping, for magazines, for toys, for flowers and for the laundry. They are number one interior accessory. Or exterior for that matter. 

In a beautiful garden in Ravello, baskets as rubbish bins were a great look. Anything can go in a basket. But whatever you do don’t put a plastic bag in it!

A Bird in a Clock

Clocks have almost disappeared from our houses – if you exclude all those annoying digital dials inserted in televisions, ovens and so on. There used to be a time when every room displayed on a dressers, fireplace or table an elaborate and decorative clock. The more ornate the lovelier it would have been. 

In Caserta, in the private rooms of Marie Caroline hang two clocks which were given to her sister, none other than Marie Antoinette. At first sight they look like delicate birdcages. There are even realistic looking birds inside them. Underneath however they have a clock’s face. And since the birdcages hang rather high up, near the windows, Marie Caroline was always able to see the time passing bye, while sitting at her desk or while lying on her chaise longue. 

Hidden Ceramic Gem

It is a well known fact, but it never stops to surprise and amaze me: Italy is full of hidden treasures. Some are near Naples, in the imposing Bourbon Palazzo of Capodimonte. The most unusual of these art works is, perhaps, a majolica room designed for Maria Amalia of Saxony – who unconventionally had herself portraited in gentleman’s gear riding a steed. 

The room, made around 1758, substitutes wooden boiseries with porcelain. Over 3000 ceramic pieces with hundred of different figures, cover the walls of the boudoir. Little monkeys, exotic birds, plants and people are all rococo of oriental inspiration: the fashionable chinoiserie of the 18th century. So exceptional was this room that when Maria Amalia left Naples to become Queen of Spain, she had a copy made for her palace at Aranjuez, near Madrid. I wonder if the Spaniards keep their gems as well hidden as the Italians!

  

Morning Ablution

The first time I saw a sink in a bedroom I was shocked (not something you see in Italy!) It is of course a vestiges of when, before running water came into existence, every respectable bedroom had a washstand. Most were simple tables with a ceramic jug and basin, but William Burges clearly wanted to offer his guests more. 

The washstand he designed and had made in London (in 1880) was inspired by Dante’s  Vita Nova. The decorations suggest a garden full of life, but really, it is the clever mechanisms and shrewdnesses that captured all my attention. The basin turns to empty itself in a hidden bucket and water is held in a a small cistern in the higher cupboard. Running water is one of the granted luxuries of life, but for a washstand as astonishing as this, I could renounce it… Well perhaps for a whole week! 

On show in the permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

Friday finds: What is Inside?

I still remeber the first Matrioska my mother brought over from Gorbačëv’s Russia. I had never seen the toy before and was busy for days opening it and recomposing it. It was very classic and I loved the pattern of flowers. 
Nowadays Matrioskas have spread around the worlds so I was not surprised to find a Japanese making them. Albeit with a twist! Shigemtsu Junya has designed charming handmade Matrioskas that teach the anatomy of man and animals, show the inner layers of earth and the structure of a watch. Just in case you felt your child was idling away at play!