by Giovanni Vichi & Matteo Trentanove & Jon Guido Bertelli

A Photographic Journey

Firenze (Italy) – Tagaytay (Philippines) – Laredo (United States of America)

The beginning of Three Places in one Day, a photographically illustrated project that goes back three decades to when Jon Guido Bertelli left his hometown of Firenze, Italy.
He moved to Canada, where he met his wife and where his daughter Natalina was born.
Following many years living in Canada, in the U.S.A. and in Mexico, Natalina decided to continue her university studies in Firenze, Italy.
Naturally, Jon Guido did not think twice to visit her and put foot on Florentine soil once again.
While in Firenze, he met some of Natalina’s new friends and developed a close friendship with two of them, Matteo and Giovanni.
The link in the friendship of the “3 amici” is their mutual love for photography and travelling.
Matteo, inspired by his passion for Asia, has travelled there on several occasions, transmitting the life and shapes of that part of the world through his lens.
He recently decided to move to Tagaytay (Manila), Philippines to be with the love of his life.
Giovanni instead, a seasoned traveller has so far not moved away from Firenze, enjoying instead walking the century old streets of his beloved city, where such artists as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci walked before him.
Streets that are a constant inspiration for his present and future photographic projects at home or abroad.
The three friends decided to work on the Three Places in One Day project together, letting their photographs give a insight into the life of their three cities, Laredo, Manila and Firenze on the same day, from morning to evening.
Do the photographs by Jon Guido, Matteo and Giovanni on three different continents have a common denominator?
Do they see the world as Florentines or have they been influenced by their surroundings?


Firenze by Giovanni Vichi

The idea of this photography project grew up in a fairly natural way. I have been working with Matteo since the first time that I tried my camera and I wished to work with Jon Guido since the first time I knew him and I saw his amazing pictures. When Matteo left for the Philippines, we immediately contacted Jon Guido in Laredo and all together started defining the project with such enthusiasm as if each of us was thinking about it from a long time.
Firenze is my city, photography is my passion. This is not the first time they meet together, but it is the first time that Firenze is not the protagonist. The protagonists are now the people who live in Firenze, the people who share my own beloved places: natives and tourists, but also many foreigners who work in Italy, which is a country of emigrants but nowadays also full of immigrants who come to work in our country from different places in the world.
In all my travels, above all people stuck my attention and I always looked for the composition between human beings and their surrounding environment with its details.
I followed the same idea this time, in my dear Firenze. In each of my pictures I looked for symmetries, contrasts and harmonies through and between the subjects, the objects and the set.
Firenze is a little city in a little country, but it is rich of culture and history.
The recorded history of Firenze begins in 59 BC, with the foundation close to the Arno River of a village (Florentia) for Roman veterans. Nowadays it is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area.
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Firenze is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and it is universally recognized as one of the cradles of art and architecture. Due to its heritage, Firenze has been ranked by “Forbes” as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, thanks to the numerous monuments, churches, museums and art galleries.
The layout and structure of Firenze in many ways harkens back to the Roman era, where it was designed as a garrison settlement. Nevertheless, the majority of the city was built during the Renaissance. The historic centre, nowadays closed to traffic, is divided in four quarters (Santa Croce – Azzurri, Santa Maria Novella – Rossi, Santo Spirito – Bianchi, San Giovanni – Verdi) and every years, for centuries, representative teams of each quarter compete in the Giuoco del Calcio Storico Fiorentino in Piazza Santa Croce; also nowadays to remember "the match" for excellence, to which the modern editions refer: the one that was played 17 February 1530 during “The Siege” of the city in order to mock the besiegers.
Despite the strong presence of Renaissance architecture within the city, traces of medieval, Baroque, Neoclassical and Modern architecture can be found.
Starting from the late Middle Ages, Florentine money (Gold Florin) financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, to Lyon and Hungary. Florentine bankers financed the English kings during the Hundred Years War, as well as the papacy, including the construction of their provisional capital of Avignon and, after their return to Rome, the reconstruction and Renaissance embellishment of the latter.
Firenze attracts millions of tourists every year, who walk the same streets that gave birth to Dante and Lorenzo de 'Medici: the first was the father of the Italian language, the second is considered a political and cultural mastermind of Italy in the late 15th century. But also Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello, Botticelli, Machiavelli, Savonarola, Galileo and many others were born or have mostly worked in my city, everybody financed by the noble and patron families of Firenze.
The best-known site of Firenze is the cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as The Duomo, whose dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi and, 600 years after its completion, it is still the largest dome built in brick and mortar in the world.
Around The Duomo (and the close Battistero and Campanile di Giotto), inside the medieval walls built in the 14th century to defend the current historic centre, there are many others beauties of the city as Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, the Uffizi (with its Gallery, full of amazing works of art), Ponte Vecchio (the only bridge in the city to have survived World War II intact for due to its historical value) and Ponte Santa Trinita (rebuilt exactly the same as he had once designed Michelangelo), Piazza della Signoria, Santo Spirito and San Lorenzo, Orsanmichele and Palazzo Vecchio, Strozzi, Pitti and Medici-Riccardi, Boboli Garden and Le Cascine. The best thing to do is to visit Firenze and walk around stopping sometimes for a glass of Chianti, because it is so difficult to remember all of them!
Millions of tourists, millions of photos already taken, but for me, above all, hundreds of possible people and faces to capture in my shots, with famous or hidden corners of my city on the background.
When I waked up on the morning of Monday, April 29, 2013 to do my part in the project "Three places in one day", I knew it would be hard to not get distracted by the much scenery that Firenze puts on display. So at the sunrise I left my home with just my 50mm lens and with the intention to primarily focus on partial views of the city in which immortalizing the people immersed in its streets and in their thoughts. I love to take a picture and to study how the people become part of the urban landscape.

… Only looking at my pictures, you will tell me if I have been able to give a distinct and personal stamp during the photography day around my city.

E come 'l volger del ciel della luna
cuopre e riscopre i liti sanza posa,
così fa di Fiorenza la Fortuna:
per che non dee parer mirabil cosa
ciò ch'io dirò delli alti Fiorentini
onde è la fama nel tempo nascosa.

And as the turning of the lunar heaven
Covers and bares the shores without a pause,
In the like manner fortune does with Firenze.
Therefore should not appear a marvellous thing
What I shall say of the great Florentines
Of whom the fame is hidden in the Past.

Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, XVI, vs. 82-87

Thanks to my two Florentine friends Matteo and Jon Guido … It was a real pleasure working with you and I’m sure that we will do it again in the future.


Tagaytay by Matteo Trentanove

I left my Firenze a cold February afternoon.
Destination: Philippine.
The Republic of the Philippines is a sovereign Island country in Southeast Asia. With a population of more than 97 million people is the seventh most populated Asian country and the 12th most populated country in the World.
Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the Island.
In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honour of Philip II of Spain. The Spanish Empire began to settle with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi from New Spain (present day-Mexico) in 1565 who established the first Spanish settlement in the archipelago, which remained a Spanish colony for more than 300 years. During this time, Manila became the Asian hub of the Manila–Acapulco galleon fleet.
As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, there followed in quick succession the Philippine Revolution, which spawned the short-lived First Philippine Republic; the Spanish–American War; and the Philippine–American War.
In 1935, the Philippines were granted Commonwealth status. The plans for the independence over the next decade were interrupted by World War II when the Japanese Empire invaded and established a puppet government.
Allied troops defeated the Japanese in 1945. By the end of the war it is estimated over a million Filipinos had died.
On July 4, 1946, the Philippines attained its independence.
I have always travelled in Asia, but this time it's different.
After many years the fate wanted me to find love in this continent and this time there is no expectation of a return flight.
The flight is long and tiring, 14 hours after I land at the International airport in Manila then, another transfer by car takes about 1 hour. Finally, I lay the bags in what will be my home in Tagaytay City.
Tagaytay is a small town 55 km away from the capital. The Filipino people call it "province" whenever the city is outside of Manila. The term "province" also described the condition of life, services, sometimes the different dialect and also the lack of facilities than the "city."
Two major roads that intersect and form the city centre, then the market of meat and fish, the hairdresser of the town, some hotels and a few other shops characterize the "skyline". The rest is tropical rainforest.
But there is something different in Tagaytay. It is not the usual "province" of Philippines immersed in the jungle. What distinguishes this place is its location: situated on top of the hill, all throughout the year there is a mild temperature and a low humidity for a country in Southeast Asia which most citizens enjoy. The view of the Taal Lake with the volcano makes itself a complete panorama. Tagaytay over the years has become a destination for Filipinos and tourists. Since 1979, in fact, the former first lady Imelda Marcos brought a big change to the landscape of the city.
Mount Sungay was leveled to about half of its former prominence to accommodate the Palace in the Sky, a mansion originally intended as a guesthouse for former California Gov. Ronald Reagan - who never arrived. Today, renamed the "People's Park", is the highest point of Tagaytay, where you can even see the capital Manila.
Tagaytay is slowly populated with numerous exclusive villages, golf courses with green grass, huge sports centres and swimming pools with an extravagant design.
For the people who wants to spend their retirement in peace and for those who wants a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Manila, they choose to be in Tagaytay.
I happen to cross the entrance gate of one of these "villages" and it all looks different, everything is perfect, everything looks like a different world.
The photography, however, led me to discover what happens outside of these gates.
Starting at sunrise, I walked in the main road and followed it until the evening.
But what can you photograph when travelling until the sun goes down on one road?
All Tagaytay … The real Tagaytay.
The sun heats the asphalt during the day and cool breeze makes the air in the evening. There were many people during my journey and many small shops and markets that you won’t notice when driving your car direct to your "village".
Quiet yet full of life and fun. Enjoying the tranquillity of the province and the peacefulness of this town.

I discovered Tagaytay in one day down the road.


Laredo by Jon Guido Bertelli

"This is your captain speaking, we have begun our descent to Laredo, where the current weather is 85°F (Close to 30° Celsius) with sunny skies. We will be at the gate in approximately twenty minutes...”
The captain’s announcement made me think about the four years I lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, and also wondered about Laredo, the city that would become my new home in twenty minutes.
What would it be like?
I left Vancouver on a typical RainCouver day in February, with a temperature of 39°Fahrenheit (Just under 4° Celsius).
Leaving Vancouver behind and flying in a u-turn over a peaceful Ocean, a blue carpet spotted with a few ripples, I could see the snow capped mountains; the green of Stanley Park and the downtown high- risers disappear in the distance.
A few hours later, just a few minutes away from landing in Laredo, we were flying instead over a seemingly endless plain of a green and yellow carpet, rippled by a few brushes.
From the window, a majestic view of the immensity of the Texas sky and a picturesque sunset enhanced by a sense of Technicolor drama, reminiscent of a John Ford western movie.
Parked in the gate, I unbuckled my seatbelts, left the airplane and walked awkwardly into a warm Texas afternoon, with my winter-coat over my arm, sweater, gloves and a scarf.

Only a few days had passed before I started walking and exploring the downtown streets, while humming the lyrics of Streets of Laredo:

As I walked out on the streets Laredo.
As I walked out on Laredo one day,
I spied a poor cowboy wrapped in white linen,
Wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay …
“I can see by your outfit that you are a cowboy.”
These words he did say as I boldly walked by.
“Come an’ sit down beside me an’ hear my story.
I’m shot in the breast an’ I know I must die” …

I soon discovered that Laredo is as hot or even “toastier’ than I had been told, with temperatures reaching well into the 100s Fahrenheit during the summer.
As the sun burns and peels off the white paint off the older downtown buildings, it also creates beautiful high-key shadows, contrast, depth and texture to the surroundings.
People never walk alone; they are always escorted by their own shadows, short or long depending on the time of the day. Constantly scouting for a shaded area or for an air-conditioned building where to escape the heat.
Umbrellas are not only common along the streets of Vancouver on rainy days, but also in Laredo, where they seem to fly over the heads of people like flying saucers giving a spot of shade in motion.
Dogs do their best to find a place where to cool off their paws from the hot asphalt, jumping from shade to shade, or taking cover from the sun under a parked car.
Laredoans love driving their big four-wheel drive trucks into remote areas and going hunting. Barbecuing is another passion, so much so that on weekends the skies are dotted with what appear to be Indian smoke signals.
Laredo, Texas, with an estimated population of 244,731 (2012 estimate) people, is geographically located on the northern bank of the Rio Grande River, across from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
Laredo is more than just a border town; it is an important part of the quilt that shapes the fabric and the economy of the United States.
It is the third most populated city along the United States – Mexican border and the busiest inland port in the country, with over $168 billion in imports and exports.
The Pan American Highway stretches all the way from Canada to Central and South America through Laredo.
More than 13,000 Mexicans a day cross the Rio Grande to shop, commute and visit Laredo, so much so that they play a key role in the city’s economy.
Three bridges for private vehicles, two for commercial transportation and one rail-bridge link Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.
Approximately 9,000 trucks and 1,800 rail cars cross the border each day. Goods shipped through Laredo reach more than 60 countries.
Laredo is home to 510 freight forwarders, 210 trucking companies and 105 U.S. Custom Brokers.
Two thirds of the Fortune 1,000 companies do international business via Laredo and is ranked not only first in Texas’ growth, but also seventh in the country by the Milken Institute.
Laredo’s international Airport is a NAFTA air cargo gateway, served by among others Federal Express, Bax Global, DHL and Airborne.
As a consequence of the commercial importance of the International Airport, the busy skies take the appearance of a highway with planes landing and departing every few minutes.
Laredo was founded in 1755 and has flown seven flags, the six flags of Texas and the flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande.
The history and culture of Mexico are still alive in Laredo. The streets are alive with the pulse of Mexican rhythms and the irresistible aromas of Mexican food.
Spanish is spoken everywhere and the image of the “Virgin de Guadalupe” is present in most homes and on most cars, as a guardian angel.
The peaceful and laid-back downtown squares have a Mexican “plaza” feel with people chatting, feeding the pigeons and kids playing.
Following the 2010 Census, the percentage of the population of Spanish Speaking or Latin American origin was 95.62%.
Since I left my hometown of Firenze, Italy three decades ago I have lived in many cities around the world and loved them all.
I have been embraced by them not only with an understanding of their culture, traditions and history, but also with images of the beauty of their people and their land.
I always carry within my soul a Florentine perspective of the world that directs and influences my work, but I believe that I have also been influenced by the world around me.
From what I have been told, I have contributed in bringing the percentage of the Italian population in Laredo from 0.1571…% (one person) to 0.3142…% (two people including myself).
Where will my next project take me?  I do not know.
I only know that for now I have traded my umbrella, my water proofed boots and coat from Vancouver, for a wide brimmed cowboy hat, a short-sleeved shirt and a pair of sunglasses.

I am very happy to have worked on this project “Three Places (Continents) in One Day”, with my two new Florentine friends, Matteo and Giovanni.
Their images are dynamically filled with a contagious sensitiveness and enthusiasm that conquered me the first time I saw them.
I am confident that we, “the 3 amici”, will have the opportunity to work on other exciting projects in the future.


If you'd like to see these and other wonderful photos of Jon Guido Bertelli please visit his website.