I recently had the pleasure of taking part as a guest pro in M&M Photography Tours’ Best of Italy photo tour. In the past two weeks this has led me, together with M&M’s founder Mike Gulbraa and some wonderful guests, to some of my favorite locations around my home country.
We visited Venice, Burano, Florence, Pisa, Lucca, the Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, Capri, and Rome, exploring the best spots each location has to offer.
This article is a visual illustration of the first part of that journey. You can find the second one by clicking on The Best of Italy in Two Weeks, Part II.
Our tour started in Venice. As you may know, I am a big fan of this city and I visit it quite regularly, at least two or three times a year. For this visit I made sure to include a few of the most iconic spots, especially for guests who had never been to Venice before with a camera in hand, and a couple more off-the-beaten-path locations.
The prime sunset spot in Venice for me is the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Even though the atmosphere was very hazy on that day, the sky turned a lovely pink right after sunset. Combined with the warm colors of the city lights, it made for a romantic color palette. Here I tried to avoid the classic shot of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute as a lone subject and tried to find some foreground interest to balance the main point of interest and add depth to the scene.
A visit to the Venice Lagoon couldn’t be complete without a trip to the island of Burano with its multicolored houses. Burano is beautiful, but one runs the risk of sensory overload, of being so enthralled by those colors that one doesn’t know where to turn the camera and ends up taking little more than casual snapshots.
I believe instead that few other places besides Burano require that the photographer adopt such a methodical and reasoned approach when taking pictures.
I always recommend my students to compose carefully, to pursue regularity and symmetry, and to focus on intimate details. A minimalistic approach to composition and the choice of complementary colors helps creating images that are more meaningful than the usual postcards.
Going to Venice is also for me an opportunity to meet old friends and have my guests make acquaintance with some dedicated craftspeople, who create amazing objects of art.
After leaving Venice, a comfortable train ride took us to Florence. Again, we made sure we touched the most iconic spots at the best times of day, starting with Ponte Vecchio at the blue hour and at sunrise.
While the light of the early morning was a bit flat, the almost total absence of wind regaled us with a perfect reflection off the calm river’s water.
Of course we couldn’t miss the chance to photograph the city from the vantage point of Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset. While the place was incredibly crowded, most people left by the time the sun had set, but it was then, as the lights of the city started to twinkle, that the real magic happened.
During the day, when the light outside is not as beautiful, it is possible to capture some of the many valuable treasures of art that Florence has to offer, or some of the characters that live on its streets.
It’s hard to think of Pisa and not think of the leaning tower. but after having photographed it a number of times, it doesn’t pique my interest much anymore. Indeed, you won’t see any photos of the city’s most famous monument here, as there is so much more it has to offer.
We also spent some time doing long exposures along the Arno river’s banks to capture the trails of the cars’ lights.
A short distance from Pisa and definitely worth a detour, lies the lovely and beautifully preserved medieval city of Lucca. The old town of Lucca is encircled by a powerful ring of walls that date to the Renaissance. Within their limits lie churches with elegantly decorated façades, one of the most unique squares in Italy, and a maze of quiet side streets.
Some of the inhabitants of Lucca can be quite colorful.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series and don’t forget to check out our Best of Italy photo tour!