SICILY COUNTRYSIDE: Sicily is one of my most favourite parts of Italy. The people are very friendly. Its ruggedly beautiful landscapes are breathtaking. This photo was taken not long before a much-needed summer downpour of rain.
There are few places in the world that have been influenced and shaped by so many different cultures. The rich history of Sicily has been formed by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Austrians, French, Germans, Spanish, Italians and the British.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, 100-300 DX zoom lens at 240mm, ISO 400, 1/400 sec., f8. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
TUSCAN FARM BUILDING, ITALY: I love shooting photos in Tuscany. This photo was taken in early July, late in the sunflower growing season. The Tuscan region is where the Italian Renaissance was born– home to Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli and Puccini. And, of course, it’s also the home of Chianti wine.
Shot with a Nikon D300, 70-300 DX zoom lens at 155mm, ISO 1250, 1/250 sec., f32. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
SOUTHERN ITALY HILL TOWN: Travelling through Italy, it’s hard not to fall in love with the beautiful hill towns– especially in Tuscany, Umbria and further south, en route to Messina. While they may look picture postcard– and many certainly are– they were built for far more pragmatic purposes. Hill towns provided a defensive position against attack. They also provided defense against raging rivers in the valleys below. In the Middle Ages Italian hill towns were protected by natural cliffs along with earthen walls, rough stone and wood. Later, masonry and cut stone were predominantly used. Watch towers, churches, and impressive residences were major architectural features. Because of their location and sometimes great distance to the next town, it was not unusual for people to spend their whole lives in such towns. While many hill towns in Italy have been lost, the landscape is still dotted with pretty little towns like this one in southern Italy.
Shot with Nikon D300 with 18-200 Nikkor lens at 28mm at 1250 ISO, 1000 sec, f/14, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CLOISTERS, BRESSANONE (BRIXEN) CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION, ITALY: The word ‘cloisters’ is derived from the Latin ‘claustrum’ or enclosure. It’s an open space surrounded by covered walks, usually in the form of a square. It is open space in a monastery or nunnery that still affords much privacy. If you’ve ever heard or used the word ‘cloistered’—meaning a sheltered existence—that’s where it originates. This cloisters is attached to the Cathedral of the Assumption. It was were built around 1200 A.D. in the Romanesque period. There are many beautiful frescoes on the vaulted ceiling, mostly from the 14th to 16th centuries, many of which have been restored. While the town is officially Bressanone, it is also popularly known by its Austrian name, Brixen. More that 70 per cent of the peole there speak German. Shot with Nikon D3100 with 10-24 Nikkor lens at 12mm at 1600 ISO, 1/25 sec, f/6.3, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
AGIRA, SICILY, ITALY: This long abandoned building is near Agira, Sicily. It’s now home to a sizeable pigeon population that calls the old building home. The building is not far from the Agira Canadian cemetery which is the only exclusively Canadian cemetery in Italy from the Second World War. Elsewhere in the country, Canadian war dead were often buried with other Commonwealth soldiers. Agira is the final resting place for all 490 Canadians killed during the Sicily campaign.
Operation Husky was the code name for the invasion of Sicily. On July 10, 1943,160,000 British, Canadian, and American troops landed in southern Sicily in advance of future Allied landings on mainland Italy. The terrain in southern and central Sicily is very hilly and was mostly barren in 1943. The German defenders put up great resistance and the Canadians had it tough in their advance toward Agira. Still, today, one can see the locations of the German defences and the route Canadian troops took in their attack on the town.
After the taking of Agira, most of the Canadian troops were merged with the British for the final advance toward Messina on the northern tip of Sicily. Sicily finally fell on August 17th, 1943, just five weeks after the landings. Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, ISO 250, f/20, 1/40 sec. 56mm on Nikon 18-200 lens, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
WINDOW SHOPPING, VENICE, ITALY: Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, 18-200mm DX VR lens at 95mm, f/7.1, 1/80 sec., ISO 400. photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CAFE CHAIR, FINSTERWIRT RESTAURANT, BRESSANONE (BRIXEN), ITALY: The map may say Italy, but most everything about this pretty town in northern Italy is Austrian. While formally called by its Italian name, Bressanone, it’s called Brixen by most of the people who live there. When we walked into the “Künstlerstübele Oste Scuro/Finsterwirt’ restaurant, we had no idea what to expect. It was a late summer weeknight and our choices were becoming limited as many restaurants in the old town were closed or closing. As luck would have it, Finsterwirt, as we’d learn later, was the number #1 restaurant in Bressanone as ranked on Trip Advisor. We sat on the semi-covered terrace at a table sheltered from evening rain and were given German language menus.
While my grasp of the language is not great, I was able to discern much of it. Or so I thought. The dish that caught my eye was beef, a green salad and potato salad. When our waiter next appeared, he had an English language menu for us. The dish I was about to order was “Calf’s head, tongue and cheeks with salsa verde and potato salad.” I ordered something else. My friend had the “Slices of cafl, stilt from the oven with rice and vegetables.” The meal really was terrific and Finsterwirt is likely the best resto in Bressanone. Fun Fact: Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, spent time in his youth nearby in the village where his mother was born. As a Cardinal he would often visit Finsterwirt during summer visits. One of his favourite meals there is venison filet with cold-stirred cranberries and roast potatoes. It is now a regular feature on the August menu. Click here to visit Finsterwirt’s website.
Shot Handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikon AF-S 70-300 lens at 82mm, f5, 1/10th sec. ISO 1250, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
TUSCANY ITALY: Tuscany and Tuscan inspired decor and colours became especially popular after the release of Frances Mayes’ book Under the Tuscan Sun in 1997 and released as a major motion picture in 2003. It seems every home paint manufacturer soon came out Tuscan inspired colours– typically in the red/ocher, orange, yellow/gold, green and– to a lesser extent, blue hues. I find the ocher colour of this farm building to be pretty typical of the Tuscan countryside. The Tuscan region is also where the Italian Renaissance was born– home to Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticellie and Puccini. And, of course, it’s the also home of Chianti!
Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, AF-S 10-24mm lens at 11mm, f14, 1/2000 sec. ISO 1600
Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
THE LIDO, VENICE, ITALY, BIKE GRAVEYARD: These old bikes are found on the Lido, Venice, outside what looks like a government building. It looks like a bike graveyard, where found bikes go to rust and die.
Shot with a Nikon, D300, 82mm, 1/200 sec, f22, ISO 1250. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
GIRL CHASING PIGEONS, VENICE, ITALY: I was in a laneway, off the beaten path near the Grand Canal, taking photos of laundry lines and pretty windows. This little girl ran on ahead of her papa, scattering a clutch of pigeons that was feeding on the sidewalk. It was one of ‘those moments’ when an unexpected scene appears before a photographer. It occurred to me that this little girl and her father are among the dwindling number of people who actually call Venice their home. The historic old city of Venice has a population of approximately 60.000 (2009) residents– down from about 120,000 in 1980.
Shot with a Nikon D300, photo illustration by John Ecker | pantheon photography