Siena, A Bird’s Eye View


Fate works in wonderful ways, and I find that when I’m in Italy, particularly in Siena, I get to cross paths with some very interesting people. Enter Marco Zamperini – a hobby photographer whose photos pack a professional punch.

Photographer and videographer Marco Zamperini.

Photographer and videographer Marco Zamperini.

Marco’s a friend of a friend who graciously allowed me to chat with him back in June. He’s Senese (from Siena) and a proud member of the Istrice contrada (porcupine). His day job sees him working in the medical field, but his passions lead him into his city, into the countryside, and most interestingly, up in the air to chase that perfect shot.

He remembers his father always telling him to “look up” when he was a boy, so as not to miss the stuff going on above eye level. Looking up, he developed a love for flying. During his travels, he realized he didn’t have enough time to take notes on all that he saw, so he turned to his camera to document everything, and his love for photography was born. That was 17 years ago.

What’s really interesting are all the things Marco has used over the years to get those perfect shots: cameras on fishing rods, model airplanes, little hot air balloons, and more recently, motorized flying drones. “I try to look at things from a point of view [usually bird's eye] that other people can’t,” says Zamperini. 

Marco and one of his flying drones.

Marco and one of his flying drones.

Another thing that draws Marco to photography is finding the beauty in the ordinary. “I try to bring out the beauty,” he says.

But when it comes to photographing his city, part of that job is already done for him. “I was born in a city that is sincerely beautiful,” he says of Siena with pride.

I couldn’t agree more. But even with subject matter that’s already stunning, Marco manages to find that angle, that light, that moment that, “something more” and capture it in a click.

I rest my case:

Fontebranda, Siena. Photo: Marco Zamperini.

Fontebranda, Siena. Photo: Marco Zamperini.

Fontana near the Fortezza Medicea, Siena. Photo: Marco Zamperini.

Fontana near the Fortezza Medicea, Siena. Photo: Marco Zamperini.

Palio. Foto: Marco Zamperini.

Palio. Foto: Marco Zamperini.

Siena Duomo from above. Photo: Marco Zamperini.

Siena Duomo from above. Photo: Marco Zamperini.

A magical moment at the Duomo of Siena. Photo: Marco Zamperini.

A magical moment at the Duomo of Siena. Photo: Marco Zamperini.

[PS: It isn't quite finished yet, but Marco's working on a website to showcase and maybe even sell some of his work. When it goes live I'll be sure to put it here. For now, if you're looking to find any of his work for sale, check out the Palazzo del Capitano Galleria d'Arte in Siena: http://www.palazzodelcapitano.it]

30 Before 30 – Travel Bucket List


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"

A while ago, I decided to give myself a little challenge. I’m calling it 30 Before 30, and it means I’m going to visit 30 countries before my 30th birthday. Thankfully, that birthday is still a ways away, so I don’t think I should have any problems hitting my goal. However, they say for things to be real you need to put them on paper, so here it is.

Just to bring you up to speed on my progress, here are the countries I’ve visited so far:

Canada, United States, Venezuela, Turks & Caicos, Australia, England, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Poland and the Czech Republic (I’m here right now!). That’s 15.

I’m planning to visit Russia, Finland, Turkey and New Zealand in 2014, to bring my grand total up to 19.

To round out the 30, I don’t have a list of only 11 other countries I’d like to visit. No, I’ve got more of a Travel Bucket List I’d like to scratch lots of countries off of in my lifetime:

Portugal, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Greece, Egypt, Morocco, Malta, UAE, Jordan, Israel, China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, India, Bhutan, Burma & Argentina.

photo-11

This list is ever-evolving, so I’m sure it’ll expand (but probably not contract) as time goes on. Plus, it doesn’t include all the places I want to visit and things I want to do in countries I’ve already set foot in.

What’s on your Travel Bucket List?

My First Palio


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"July 2, 2010.

Imagine the Piazza del Campo, majestic and beautiful, brimming with a crowd louder and more invested in what’s about to happen than any crowd you’ve ever seen. Tens of thousands strong, they’re singing, yelling, hoping and praying. They’re wearing their contrada’s fazzoletto tied in the front and hanging over their shoulders to show their allegiance. For the Senese, life revolves around the contrada and this event. Heck, even my life has been affected by the Palio.

So imagine standing in the middle of that crowd, willingly trapped in the centre of the piazza, in the late afternoon heat. You don’t quite understand all of what’s taking place, but you’re happy to just be part of all the Medieval pomp and circumstance.

The crowd.

The crowd.

That was me at my first Palio.

Flag-throwing alfieri

Flag-throwing alfieri

Wig-wearing, costumed tamburini (drummers) and alfieri (flag-throwers) promenade around the piazza for the Corteo Storico. The rat-a-tat-tatting of the drums and whooshing of the flags can be heard even above the excited chatter of the crowd. Then, before you know it, there are 10 horses, each bearing contrada colours, being ridden bareback by 10 brave jockeys out the large wooden doors of the Palazzo Pubblico (City Hall) to a thunderous applause. Numbers are drawn and announced over a loudspeaker. The starting positions are set.

Barbaresco

Barbaresco

Then, into the pen they go. The jockeys, atop their circling horses, whisper last-minute threats, pledges and bribes to one another, all in hopes of swaying the race’s outcome. Race? No, it’s not just a race. There’s blood, honour, tradition and a year’s worth of bragging rights on the line.

Finally, the jockeys allow their horses to line up calmly, and a hush comes over the crowd. And just when you’re least expecting it, the number 10 horse, from behind, charges ahead and starts them running.

The pack of horses sprints around the piazza, the thunder of their 40 hooves barely audible over the cheering and jeering of the crowd. I’m cheering for Drago, the dragon contrada. A few seconds after the start, it’s evident Drago is not doing well.

I turn my body to follow the pack of horses around the piazza, trying to my best to snap pictures all the way. With only one lap to go, it looks like the Selva (forest) contrada might win.

Palio

Palio

Selvaaaaaaaa!” Anyone wearing Selva colours is now yelling with every fiber of their being, imploring their expended energy to somehow make its way into the legs of their horse and propel it across the finish line. First.

As the pack passes for its third lap, I’m momentarily confused as crazed contradaioli start jumping into the track and chasing, yes chasing the pack of horses, one or two of which are now rider-less, after having lost their jockeys on one of the treacherous San Martino curves. Are they crazy?

When it’s Selva that crosses the finish line first, the whole scene degenerates into the most chaos I have ever witnessed.

People spill everywhere. There’s not a stitch of order to anything.

Horses are snorting and kicking and trying to evade being stopped. Grown men shed tears, both of happiness and anger. A couple ambitious Selva members climb through the crowds and retrieve their coveted Palio banner. The Selva jockey, I see through the throngs of people, is hoisted onto the shoulders of two Selva members and is paraded, with the winning horse, to the Duomo.

And as each contrada leads its horse out of the piazza, it’s all over.

all over