Friday, August 4, 2017

Welcome to The Painted Palazzo and welcome back to 50yearsinItaly!

As many of  you know, or perhaps suspected due to the  prolonged silence, my award-winning blog about lifestyle and happenings in  central Italy was hacked or blocked for over a year. 
Now the problem  seems to be resolved and I will be back with information about happenings,  travel tips and tales of life in our wonderful part of central Italy. 
This forced suspension  gave me time to dedicate to a new book, The Painted Palazzo/Il Palazzo Dipinto which came out at the end of May.   This is the 7th  book  I have published  about  this area known as Etruria and its fascinating history. 
 Here is the painting commissioned to Kelly Medford  which graces the cover. 

 It is in both English and Italian so a great help  for those wishing to improve their  second language.

Here is what the Palazzo Piatti looks like today.  You can read reviews and order copies  directly from the Books page of  my website  .

The book was unofficially presented during the 2 day conference  "Fascinazione Etrusca"  which took place at the end of May  in Capranica and Vetralla. 
Here are the organizers of the successful conference: myself, Luciano Dottarelli, Francesca Ceci and Stephan Steingraber. The photo  was taken in front of the double funerary monument of the Anguillara counts, in Capranica's  San Francesco church. 

Thanks to many talented friends, photographers, artists, translators and  contributors  who helped to make this new book a beautiful reality.  Here is one of the many photos by Venice-based photographer Eva Ohtonen showing the gardens of the painted palazzo, known as the Secret Garden and Opera Extravaganza which holds concerts there. 

 The book tells the story of the Piatti family  who had the painted palazzo built  and the many  connections with  the famous sculptor Pietro Canonica.  Here  is a self-portrait of the artist,  taken in his studio, a  castle like structure located  in Rome's Villa Borghese.
 A painting by Pietro Canonica, showing Vetralla on the skyline.
 To celebrate the publication of the new book, and the  return /revival  of  my  blog, I am offering a special  deal to the first  5  people  who leave a comment   saying they still are following and would like to purchase  a copy of the  new book.

 Let me know that the blog still has followers ---even after  a year of forced inactivity!

The first 5 who order a copy of The Painted Palazzo  (leave a comment at the end of this post ) will receive a FREE copy of  my previous book Etruria  in English.

 Postage to USA  for  both books  is  13 euro. In Italy  1,50.
  With only  10 euro plus postage  you will receive  signed copies of BOTH  books.  This offer ends  on September  15th and  books will be shipped   on September  16.

 Read  about  both books  on  the BOOKS  page  of my website .  Spread  the word  by liking and sharing on social media.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Food and Wine for Easter

wine and food of Etruria
Easter is only a few weeks away and  here in central Italy, in the province of Viterbo, people are already putting together guest lists and menus for  Easter lunch and, just as important, for  Pasquetta  or  Easter Monday, traditionally the first country outing of the season.

modern and ancient architecture 
Today we visited two   food and wine presentations in Viterbo to try and buy traditional  Easter food products: "Arte e Vino al Museo"   held in the Museo del Colle del Duomo, Viterbo's main cathedral.

Georgia and Elena of Archeoares with Passepartout card

Archeoares, the group that manages the Museum, and  Symposium wine shop organized an itinerary through the museum with stops for tasting four different wines.
blessing the wine
Young  servers poured and described  the products  from the Ciucci  biological wine estate  in nearby Orte. 

A pleasant and intelligent way to make the museum come alive  while  promoting the area's excellent products;  visitors happily sipped wine and  munched on delicious pizza bianca as they enjoyed a stroll  through the Museum's two floors surrounded by works of art including Etruscan sarcophaghi, gold liturgical cups and even a Crucifixion  attributed to Michelangelo. 
Crucifixion attributed to Michelangelo

the Duomo  and  Papal Palace loggia

Although it was a cold, windy day we noticed  a buzz  of activity and  positive vibes with  groups  of tourists, new shops  and new  B&Bs as we walked from the Duomo to  the Corso.

Inside the former Church of S. Egidio, Confartiginato had also organized  a 3 day  exhibit/market of traditional Easter foods "Degustando la Pasqua" .
ricotta  hearts

Anna and Dario from Montefiascone

A dozen producers of local cheeses, wines, olive oil, breads and pizze di Pasqua  showed off their wares offering samples, making shopping for traditional Easter foods  both easy and fun...and nobody even thought about  lunch!  

Il Casaletto from Grotte Santo Stefano
a traditional frittata,  for Pasquetta

 Don't forget to check my award winning website  for more information about the Etruria/Tuscia area and Rome: festivals, food, places to stay, books, presentations, happenings and much more.
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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Living near Papal Palaces: Rome and Viterbo

 Viterbo Duomo and Papal Palace (right), painting by Justin Bradshaw
In the 1960s and 70s  I  lived  in Rome  around the corner from the Vatican  and counted St. Peter’s Basilica as my parish church. Several extraordinary events  happened in those years: the  election and death  of two popes  (John Paul I  and  John Paul II) in quick succession and the shooting of John Paul II  in the Piazza in 1981.  

sunset, garden side of the Papal Palace

Duomo seen from the Papal Loggia
The Vatican/ Borgo Pio neighborhood was always buzzing with brightly robed  bishops and cardinals and  crowds of pilgrims and clergy from all corners of the world filled the side streets, the religious souvenir shops and  pizzerias surrounding the Vatican  from Easter until late autumn.
The Vatican  post office, the  Library, Museums and  Archives were essential  parts of the neighborhood. In  those  days  many people with passes entered Sant’Anna gate  to shop at the Vatican pharmacy or supermarket and do business at the (in)famous Vatican bank.
You can read more on the Vatican  on past blog entries by writing "Vatican" in the search bar. 
 Many more insider tips on touring in Rome can be found on  my award winning  website  which has been offering free insider information on line since 2000.

Renaissance Windows, Viterbo
 Fast forward  half a century  and I find myself  living near  another  Papal Palace, located  in  Viterbo, where the first Papal Conclave was held in the 12th century . 
approaching the Duomo, Viterbo
Due to unhealthy and dangerous  times in Rome the seat of the Papacy  had been  moved from the Vatican to this quieter town  and when Portuguese pope Pope John XXI  died in the collapse of his studio, a group of  cardinals arrived to elect his successor.  But this election  dragged on and on.
 The cardinals  could not come to a decision for they were under political pressures from their home countries. In  the meantime they were wined, dined and housed at the city’s expense. Finally  Capitano del Popolo, Raniero Gatti, decided to put an end to this  free-loading and had the group of cardinals closed  (cum clave=with the key, origin of the word conclave) inside the drafty hall where the elections were being held.
Then he suspended their food and wine and as a last straw the roof was removed, to make it “easier for the Holy Spirit to enlighten” the cardinals and help them to come to a decision. 
conclave hall

Things have changed at the Papal Palace of Viterbo since then. For centuries  the palace and church complex were in disrepair and rarely visited. Now after ten years of  promotion and  museum management  by  Archeoares, the palace and museum  complex count over 20,000 visitors annually making it  Viterbo’s  best known   tourist attraction.

This multi-building  site and the historic characters connected with it come alive during the 45 minute guided  tours offered by Archeotuscia’s guides, Elena, Sara and others. 
 Besides the Papal Palace, the Conclave Hall,  the frescoed Gualterio hall and  newly opened  audio visual room in the tower, tourists can now explore corners of the Duomo once off limits to visitors : the Baroque Choir  and Sacristry as well as the Museum complex opened in  Holy year 2000.
frescoed ceiling of the hidden Baroque choir 

a bust of Letizia Bonaparte greets visitors to the Museum..
Among past visitors were Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia  who passed through Viterbo in 1858. Both of them disliked the town: the waiters at their hotel cheated them and  they avoided the unsavoury San Pellegrino medieval quarter  but  spoke well  of the sunny resting spot at  the Papal Palace where they  relaxed and sketched the  airy loggia and  fountain.  Discover more about early  visitors to the Viterbo area in  my books  which are available  directly from the website or in bookshops in Italy. Some are also available through
More about visiting the Papal Palace of Viterbo can be found on Archeoares website:
..while Chiara and Barbara greet visitors at the adjacent bookshop

You are cordially invited to my next presentation, Friday  March  4th in Vetralla's Library .

Venerdì 4 marzo 2016 alle ore 16.30


      “I NOSTRI CASTELLI …                    ….VERI GIOIELLI”


    Mary Jane Cryan                


                       Storia, curiosit√† e turismo


More  info: Biblioteca Comunale di Vetralla – Via Brugiotti 41, 01019 Vetralla
Email:        -     telefono  


Friday, January 29, 2016

Rome in Winter


Rome  without  the tourists, near the Pantheon

the palms of Piazza di Spagna

January and  February  are  the best months  to explore the center of Rome  and when the sun is shining it is always a good  excuse to spend the day in Rome. 
It is rather fun to be a tourist in your own town.
We took a   leisurely stroll through the centro storico from Piazza di Spagna to the Pantheon pausing to take photos and do some shopping.

I was surprised  to find  parrots  making  a racket in Piazza di Spagna's palms and the  Orthodox church  on Via delle Coppelle gave an exotic touch to the city. 


Around the Pantheon the  empty  tables awaited the few tourists who could be spotted immediately - young couples in jeans without jackets, some even in   short sleeves .
We turned right  at the giant foot at Via S. Stefano del Cacco  to make our way to the magnificent Scuderie, the former stables of the of Palazzo Altieri restored by Architect Gae Aulenti. Here  the  Italian Banks  Association ABI was  inaugurating  a  unique library with 10,000 volumes (especially art books)  published by Italian banks

The  opening of the ABI library gives researchers  access to all those expensive  volumes commissioned  by Italy’s banks  from about  1850  to the present  and used as gifts for the banks’ major clients.  Check the website  for information and  the online catalogue.
I was pleased to recognize a few  volumes  picked up over the years at second hand bookshops in Moscow  and on  Rome’s  Via del Pellegrino.
Since the beautifully illustrated volumes were  published in small quantities and not  for the general public, some have become  quite rare and worth a great deal.


There were few  tourists as we crossed the  usually crowded Trevi Fountain area  and  continued  towards Via Veneto.   Stopping  to admire  the Tritone fountain in  Piazza Barberini,  I spotted  a memorial plaque dedicated  to  American journalist Margaret Fuller who lived in  the building during the  first years of the Italian Risorgimento

A close friend of Giuseppe Mazzini, Margaret  Fuller ‘s articles kept   the American reading  public informed  of  happenings during  the early Risorgimento years (1848-49) and she also coordinated the nurses caring for the wounded at Fatebenefratelli  hospital on Tiber Island .



The romantic, tragic life  of Margaret Fuller  is well described in the latest biography "The Lives of Margaret Fuller " by John Matteson which you can find at the Anglo American bookshop on Via della Vite, near the Spanish Steps.  They are also   the exclusive  agents in Rome  for  my  books.




Sunday, November 1, 2015

Autumn comes to Etruria

Funghi porcini are a local  autumn  speciality 

 Now that it is November the days are definitely  shorter (sunset was 5 p.m. today )  and the crisp autumn air entices many  day trippers from Rome.   Most   out of town  visitors   come to see   the area’s magical castles and  medieval villages, to enjoy concerts and conferences,  to  pick up a supply of the newly harvested   extra virgin  olive  oil the area is  famous for.  Some also come searching for a house in the area.

visitors  after lunch in Ischia di Castro
 Our olive harvest is set for  this week,  but there are many other  happenings too. Here is an idea  of what autumn  is like  here in the Viterbo province, one hour north of the bustling Eternal City.   
ingredients and herbs

To recharge batteries and  relax  aching  muscles after the olive harvest  or a day of mushroom hunting,  the best remedy is to spend  a few hours  soaking in one of  the many hot pools or terme that abound in the area. 
huge hot  pool, nearly empty
 I prefer the comforts of  Terme Salus and Terme dei Papi, rather than  roughing it  in one of the rustic  hot  pools in the midst of the fields. 
map of the Nature Reserve, Lake di Vico

Other  peaceful  water  activities are available  at the three volcanic  lakes of the area spanning the Rome and Viterbo areas:  Di Vico, Bracciano and  Bolsena.  The   "off season"  has a special appeal   for  birdwatchers, trekkers and photographers .
all to myself.....Riva Fiorita, Lago di Vico
Most  seasonal lake side trattorie  close down  by November  but larger ones  and those in nearby  towns  will be open on weekends.
vegetarian  finger food by Bea Calia at Riva Fiorita, Lake di Vico
The conference hall filling up
Autumn is peak season for  the area's many cultural happenings.   Here are a few photos from last Thursday ‘s  illustrated talk  “I Nostri Castelli..Veri Gioelli”  organized at the Prefecture by Archeotuscia  with the participation of several owners of local castles and historic homes. 
 More photos by Claudia Cavallo on my website.
Before the illustrated talk  with owners of Castello di Proceno
vintage leather chairs with coat of arms of the  Prefettura di Viterbo 

The conference was a perfect fit since  the previous  weekend had been  dedicated to  “Le Giornate  Farnesiane” when several  castles and noble palaces connected to the Farnese  family  were  open  to visitors, some for the very first time. 

Stefano Aluffi Pentini prepares for concert in his castle, Ischia di Castro
 Archeoares  organized a conference  with  the Bishop of Viterbo  and a visit to the  hidden Baroque choir in Viterbo’s  Duomo  on Saturday afternoon. 

the stone wall that cuts the Duomo off from its Baroque choir chapel
There are many more  things to discover in  this area so close to Rome yet still so unknown.
Forget Tuscany and come to explore the area inbetween Rome and Florence with   its   fascinating history, enjoyable itineraries and many activities. 

paintings and frescoes  in the hidden chapel
 If you don’t already have a copy of Etruria Storie e Segreti or the English edition Etruria Travel, History and Itineraries in Central Italy, remember Christmas is coming up soon !   Direct orders  will enjoy  a significant discount (bookshops must charge full cover price of  12 euro) and we  will be happy to sign  and ship  gift copies for you.  

Rome  residents:  we have been invited to present our books at  the Mercato di  Testaccio   on   Wednesday  Nov. 11th from 11 to noon,  so stop by  to   say “hello” and enjoy a bruschetta with us.  Stay for the  guided visit of the  Monte dei Cocci  at  3 p.m.  

Dont forget to visit my website  my award winning website