After the breakfast get a short drive up to Shkodra for a cultural day. This multifaceted city has had a traditionally rich artistic life and an enormous contribution to Albanian culture. Shkodra is the cradle of the most important Albanian poets, like Migjeni, painters like Kol Idromeno and Edi Hila, and photographers like the Marubi Family. Shkodra houses the haunting Marubi National Photography Museum, which displays the first photo taken in Albania, and the Venice Art Mask Factory, where a local master produces the intricate masks used in the Venice carnivals and in Las Vegas shows. A city of myths and legends, the foundations of the famous Castle of Shkodra are said to be held by the body of Rozafa, the beautiful young mother who sacrificed herself for it. You will find that this naturally beautiful city has an abundance of mirrors in the Adriatic Sea, the Lake of Shkodra and the Buna River. Otherwise called the “city of bicycles,” the city’s views are best admired while pedaling in the open air.
Visit of the Venice Art Mask Factory which contains the most diverse and exquisite collection of Venetian masks. The display of styles and colors is enough to immediately transport you to the atmosphere of the Venice Carnevale. But, here we are in Shkodër, where the passion, creative genius and business acumen of Edmond Angoni has enabled the creation of one of the most important mask factories in the world.
The sheer originality and quality of these works, in addition to the fact that each mask is treated as a unique work of art, has contributed to this factory’s increase in worldwide popularity. The brand includes eight shops in Venice and one in Las Vegas. In addition, the factory supplies luxury shops from Dubai all the way to Australia. Today, Angoni’s factory has become a global empire.
Visit of the site of the site of the Witness and Memory (Not advised for children under 12 years old). The Site of Witness and Memory is the only memorial which commemorates the victims of the communist regime from Shkodra. Having been one of the main centres of anti-communist repression in Albania, the city needed to create this museum to tell the story of people who suffered for their beliefs and moral integrity. The most interesting part are the original pre-trail holding cells with a small opening for natural light, commonly called holes (because of their small dimension and few light) where prisoners were kept and tortured until their initial trial appearance.
Visit of the Marubi National Photogtaphy Museum. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. How much worth then would be found in Marubi’s collection of 400,000 hauntingly-beautiful photographs of Albanian life, spanning from 1850 until today?
The Marubi National Photography Museum, now conveniently located along the main promenade of the city of Shkodër, displays an extensive collection of negatives mounted on glass plates. The impeccably organized and classified collection is arranged according to the subject and year the photograph was taken – and includes the first-ever photograph taken of Albania, captured in 1858. The two-story building is home to the studio of famous photographer Pietro (Pjetër) Marubi, the one they say, who started it all.
When Pietro Marubi, an Italian political exile, opened his studio in Shkodër, he could not have predicted its enduring and successful 150-year history. Nor could he have foreseen the influence the institution would go on to have on Albanian photography, medicine, and architecture – as well as the impact it would have on the nation’s arts and culture in general. Following his death, one of his Albanian students inherited the studio, who in turn left it to his children, thus creating the famous Marubi dynasty, and the greatest photographic tradition in the country.
Pietro Marubi dedicated his 40-year career to taking thousands of photographs of significant national events, as well as portraying daily life in Albania. Many of them are portraits of ordinary Albanian citizens, but also include photos of influential figures such as Edith Durham. There’s an avant-garde twist to many of the pieces in this fascinating collection, as Marubi captured images of courtesans of the time, whose striking photos represent the first nudes taken in Albania.
Walk on the Promenade – “Kolë Idromeno” Street, Shkodra. The Promenade in Shkodra captures some of the European aesthetic experience with its decorative and delicate designs, that pave the historic street of this artistically-infused city.
Just a few meters short of 1km in length at 800m long, the Promenade in Shkodra is paved entirely with beautifully-decorated cobblestones. Recently-renovated, this promenade recalls the architecture of ages gone by, when there was arguably a greater appreciation for time and patience when crafting things of lasting beauty. As a result, this picturesque promenade reflects this time, beauty, and quietude of the ones who tread on it.
The Promenade has become one of the most alluring touristic attractions in the city in recent years. Much like in the revered walkways of many old European towns, here the old and the new seamlessly align. Locals and tourists walk along it to the rhythms of music, their constant companion on this bustling avenue.
Visit of the St Stephen’s Cathedral. One of the grandest in the Balkans, the Cathedral of Shkodra has had an extraordinary story of survival. The Cathedral of St. Stephen, the patron saint of the city of Shkodra, is also known as the Great Church. Once upon a time, the cathedral was located within the walls of the Rozafa Castle. In 1478, the Ottoman invasion of the fortified city saw the church transformed into a mosque. Hundreds of years later, in 1852, the city’s catholic community officially requested the Sultan to rebuild the cathedral in Shkodra. Its main structure is beautiful, exhibiting a striking resemblance to that of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Old photographs of the church show the beautiful frescoes adorning its interior, all pained by the famed local artist, Kol Idromeno. In 1967, during the Communist period, the cathedral became the Palace of Sports. This, coincidentally, helped preserve the structure! When the system collapsed, the city’s Catholic community reclaimed the cathedral.
Enjoy local restaurants, bars and cafes. Enjoy the dynamism of the city. Return to the guesthouse and spend some free time before the dinner.
Overnight in the guesthouse.