How Travel Influenced my Art

How Travel Influenced my Art

I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel. The experiences of discovering different cultures have been meaningful and transformative for me as a person and as an artist. Traveling breaks down barriers. Preconceived ideas and generalisations are challenged while traveling. Traveling helps shed ignorance and one realizes that people have more similarities than differences.


As an artist, the chance to travel and view masterpieces has been inspiring and has left me captivated and in awe.


I have a great appreciation for travel, for the history and architecture, for the art, food, and people. Perhaps because the opportunity to travel didn’t happen for me until my forties and perhaps because my first trip was so memorable, after all, it came with a marriage proposal.


In 2014 my partner Peter and I travelled to Italy for our first ever European trip. We meticulously planned a three-week holiday in Italy with a bucket list of must sees. Here’s a few highlights from my favourite cities.




To say Venice is beautiful is an understatement. It is beautiful, magical, absorbing, impossibly romantic and unique. Venetians built spectacular buildings, marble palaces and churches on foundations of oak and pine piles driven deep into the ground.  Known as the city of canals (around 400), it is famous for its bridges, carnival, gondola rides, art and food.  


After landing we immediately boarded a Vaporetto that transported us via the city’s Grand Canal to our hotel, Pensione Gueratto a quaint Pensione in the heart of Venice.


Getting lost in Venice is an art form. It is the craziest place in the world to find your way around. We headed down numerous narrow alleyways only to find ourselves at a dead end more than once and our handful of Italian phrases got us pointed in the right direction only to lose our way again. We quickly learned to forget the map and just go with the flow and see where the city took us.



We had fabulous meals in Venice but none more special than at Osteria Alle Testiere.  A tiny seafood restaurant, I think it seats no more than twenty-two guests serving well prepared and imaginative dishes from whatever is the freshest seafood that day. It was ten years ago, and I want to go back and eat there again.


Doge's Palace


Can you say Gothic Architectural Masterpiece. Its origins date back to the 14th century. The Gothic vision of master architects Filippo Calendario and Giovanni Bon served as residence to the Venetian Doges. We were lured deep into its fascinating past. The Palace is weaved into the cultural fabric of Venice, and it left us with a lasting impression. It is grand, intricate, a symbol of Venetian power and governance. We left this UNESCO World Heritage Site with an understanding of the city’s political and artistic heritage that represents Venice’s past and global significance.


Below the Palace are the prison cells that housed some of Italy's criminals and political prisoners in rather harsh conditions.  The Bridge of Sighs connects the interrogation rooms in the palace to the prison cells. It was the prisoner’s last glimpse of the city before being locked away.


St. Mark’s Basilica


We researched our trip quite well and knew from consulting our travel book that to skip the incredibly long line to get into the St. Mark’s Basilica we needed to check our day bags at the nearby church called Atenea San Basso. They gave us a claim tag which we showed to the gatekeeper and boom we skipped the entire line.


The present Basilica’s construction started in 1063 in Byzantine style but over time it underwent several modifications, and the result is an intriguing combination of architectural and art styles. 


Today it has a Greek cross base with five domes and more than 4000 square meters of mosaics and 500 columns. It is the center of public and religious life in Venice. Located in the St Mark Square next to the Doge’s Palace. It is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe. 


Lake Como - Varenna


From Venice we took a train to Varenna in Lake Como.



We stayed at the Albergo Milano Hotel. It was fabulous, central and has a very good restaurant where I had the most delicious carrot soup with lime zest.


Vezio Castle, a medieval castle built by the Lombard Queen Theodelinda overlooks Varenna. Not an easy walk, uneven and very steep - but the views of the lake from the castle are amazing and the beautiful gardens surrounding it have art, statues and “ghosts” scattered about.






A further walk took us to the Fiumelatte river and waterfall. The Fiumelatte is one of the shortest rivers in Italy and flows from the Grigna into Lake Como. It means River (Fiume) of Milk (latte) and gets its name for the milky white colour of the water during floods. The river is intermittent and appears towards the end of March only to almost magically disappear in October. Leonardo da Vinci studied it and mentions it in his Atlantic Codex. 




It was also during this hike that my partner surprised me with a very romantic marriage proposal followed by a delicious dinner at Osteria Quatro Pass where I ate the best Tiramisu of my life. Hard to beat getting proposed to in Italy after visiting an ancient medieval castle.


Cinque Terre


The Cinque Terre is comprised of five coastal villages in the northwest of Italy: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia and Riomaggiore.  We stayed in Vernazza. We climbed eighty-nine steps to our modest but clean room daily and willingly to enjoy a spectacular view over the harbour. 

We hiked the Sentiero Azzurrp (“Azure Trail”) that connects the five villages and had fabulous meals including twice at Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre 




Of all the masters and masterpieces, I longed to see the sculptures and specifically works by Bernini and Michelangelo. I still pinch myself at the experience of walking into the Accademia Gallery and seeing Michelangelo’s David. It wasn’t crowded when we went in May, and I stood in awe in front of absolute perfection. The Astonishing 14 ft marble statue which we admired under a skylight designed just for it, was created between 1501 and 1504 by a 26-year-old Michelangelo. Two years to create this masterpiece of David before the battle with Goliath.  Up close one is witness to the veins on the back of the hands, the watchful eyes and tiniest details and captivated and awed by the artist’s deep understanding of human anatomy.


We were also lucky enough to see the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli at the Uffizi Gallery.  As an artist and art lover it was thrilling to get to see this stunning and dreamy mythological painting by a great Renaissance Master in person.




Again, I saw the David in Rome at the Borghese Gallery


After seeing the Bernini exhibit at the National Gallery in Ottawa my partner and I were longing to see his work in Italy.


Bernini’s David…..what a difference. Bernini’s David is portrayed actively fighting Goliath as opposed to contemplating the upcoming fight. Less ideal and more human than Michaelangelo’s and no less spectacular.  





Perhaps not on par with seeing the David, but a daily highlight of my trip. On most days we strolled into a quaint gelateria and selected our favourite flavours from the counter.  In my humble opinion this creamy treat is an experience not to be missed.




These are just a few highlights. Travel has been a great teacher. It forces you to leave behind the familiar and make new friends, try new food, appreciate new cultures, and languages.  I have formed bonds with people and created memories that I will never forget. 




Travelling has helped me understand the world, appreciate its natural beauty and its fragility.




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