Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Scary Statues and Mysterious Figures

pathway from Vitorchiano

Tuscia (or Etruria) located one hour north of Rome and a half hour from Civitavecchia port makes a perfect escape from the  tourist crowds. We residents enjoy a laid back lifestyle, excellent food and wine as well as peace, calm and the many off beat places such as the well known Sacro Bosco or Monster Park of Bomarzo.

Nearby are several other sites with strange stone sculptures, fountains and  the remains of elegant gardens-often hidden away in the underbrush or valleys. 

Photos by F. Micheletti 

stone heads Vitorchiano 

rock hewn cave in the Vitorchiano valley
Just beneath the town of Vitorchiano a steep trail zig-zags down into a verdant valley.

Trekking with CAI excursion to see the sculptures near Vitorchiano                 Thanks to F. Micheletti for photos 

 Here trekkers literally trip over the  mysterious monumental sculptures created in 1990 by a team of stone carvers who were invited to Vitorchiano from Easter Island, far away in the Pacific Ocean. 
Easter Island  head in Vitorchiano

Other weird and wonderful stone figures date back to the Renaissance and 16th century and were created by native sculptors (or captive Turkish ones??)  to awe visitors of local nobility, such as these in a wild setting just outside the town of Viterbo. 
moss covered fountain with   human heads spouts 

female figure, near Viterbo

Papacqua fountain figure, Soriano

In plain sight in the town of Soriano nel Cimino is the Papacqua fountain next to Palazzo Chigi-Albani and its many intriguing  stone figures which art critics have been trying to interpret for centuries.
Papacqua fountain in Soriano nel Cimino 

These scary statues are just a few of the many fascinating, little known aspects of the Tuscia area  that await visitors, especially  artists, anthropologists and those who enjoy the unusual. 

For more about these and other  mysterious sites of central Italy, between Tuscany and Umbria, check out my website, use the search bar of the blog and read my latest two books on the area.

Don't forget to share with your friends using the Twitter and Facebook icons here below.  Have you visited any of these sites ? Do you know of others in central Italy ? 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sensual, sensorial Bologna

A quick visit to Bologna, even on  a rainy weekday, is a chance to enjoy this  compact university city with its  miles of covered sidewalk porticoes  that give shelter from stormy weather. 
Bologna is a 3 hour train ride from home base 

 An umbrella is needed only when crossing intersections and the wide expanse of Piazza Maggiore where  San Petronio Basilica  and Sala Borsa act as  bookends.

Sala Borsa 
Duomo of San Petronio, Bologna 

 For the past  10 months many central streets have been blocked to traffic for a major  renovation paid for by  European Union money. 

The taxi drivers and  shop owners  are furious and tourism in general is  suffering yet a plethora of  tours and cooking classes are offered at the Tourism Office which is making the most of the Expo 2015’s  dedication to Italian food.
shopping with friends 

There are plenty of areas of the city that are not touched by the renovations but do  keep this  in mind before booking a hotel  in the affected areas. We chose  the Porta San Mamolo hotel in a quiet cul de sac and enjoyed  the silence  and restaurants of  this non-touristy  area  a short walk from  Piazza Maggiore.

garden well at Porta San Mamolo hotel 

 Window shopping  and wandering are a joy in Bologna. The window displays  of luxury boutiques  compete with those of the food shops and market stalls. This people-friendly town has  welcoming  public spaces such as Sala Borsa, for wi-fi and a drink as well as cozy bars and  restaurants for a meal or an  aperitivo.
tris di pasta 

Bologna “la Grassa” is rightly known for its high quality food shops bursting  with  excellent produce. A walk through one of the central markets or  one of the norcinerie  is a sensorial delight for whiffs of cured meats, cheeses and tartufo fill the air.
a feast for the eyes, as well as the stomach 
fresh fish, even late in the evening

Other sensorial delights for the eyes are the courtyards and colors of  Bologna’s palazzi  in the core of the old city. 
Wrought iron gates, marble columns, fountains  and  palatial courtyards exist next to  quirky  statues and  graffiti.   
lion doorknocker 

Dopey  window 

graffitto honoring Bolognese singer Lucio Dalla 
If  the wind and rain become  too strong, make  a beeline for the stately rooms  of the Civic Museum on the upper floors of  Palazzo Accorsio-Bologna’s City Hall- for another sensorial experience and refuge from the weather.

Sala Urbana with frescoed coat-of-arms
one of the many galleries  
With  21 rooms full of art works, antique furniture,  a newly restored  heraldic hall  and kind volunteer guides, Palazzo Accorsio is only one of the city’s many excellent museums and exhibition spaces. 
main staircase, Palazzo Accorsio 

red room, Palazzo Accorsio

Sala di Ercole, next to the Farnese chapel,Palazzo Accorsio

looking down on the central courtyard and well 

Palazzo Accorsio courtyard 

entrance to Archiginnasio 

For  more on visiting Bologna …see my article on  Italian notebook .

Learn what Bologna was like in the 1700s 

"Travels to Tuscany and Northern Lazio" only  30 copies remain of this book published in 2004 . 
 Click  on the link to my website and read reviews.
You can  order one of the few remaining copies directly from the author. 

If you enjoyed this article, share with your friends, especially students thinking of studying in Bologna. 

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Antiques Show in Viterbo's Papal Palace

outside the Papal Palace 
The  most  historic  part of Viterbo  will be a  lively place  for the next  10 days thanks to the revived antiques show  being held inside the halls of the 12th century Papal Palace, where  in 1271 the first conclave (cum clave, with the keys) forced the  cardinals gathered  there to elect a new pope after having stalled for 18 months.

I have been reporting on the Viterbo Antiques Fair  since its inception  35 years ago, so yesterday’s inauguration  was  very much a déjà vu experience . 
article from 1981

reporting on Viterbo show, 1983

an elegant table 

Giulio Curti (BIC Lazio) and wife, Felice Orlandini (Polizia di Stato) & Fulvio
When I covered the first Viterbo Antiques show in 1980, we waited on the steps while dealers  finished  setting up their stands and the red carpet was being unrolled. 
last minute preparations
There was some scurrying also yesterday  before the Mayor  arrived  to cut the  ribbon.
 Mayor Michelini cuts the ribbon,with Giorgia  of Archeoares 

The number of exhibitors (43) is about the same as the first editions of the fair and there has been a generational change with many new  names and younger faces.  
Keeping up with modern times the organizers served finger food and drinks and local reporters  concentrated  on snapping pictures of  politicians, the bishop and local VIPs rather than the works of art.

Villa San Michele organized the drinks reception
The show fills three levels of the Papal Palace and is open to the public on weekday afternoons (from 3 p.m.) and all day on Friday, Saturday and Sundays. 

Thus dealers from out of town (the majority) have a chance to  enjoy the local amenities which include  hot thermal pools, Etruscan sites, Renaissance palaces and gardens.

The entrance ticket is also valid for  the Museo Civico  of Viterbo where you can see  masterpieces by Sebastiano del Piombo  and an exhibit on the  Knights Templars.  
1920s-30s ceramics of Raffaello Pernici
Special half-price  tickets (5 instead of 10 euro) are available to my readers  on Friday morning, March  27th  at 11 am. 
Meeting place, Papal Palace, Viterbo.

portrait of a 17th century violinist of Cremona

  Let me know if you want to join us, leaving a message in the comments box below.
Your shares on Facebook and Twitter are appreciated.

Art Dèco  clock 
For  more on buying antiques,  styles and stories  check the Antiques section of  
Rated Number 1  by Google for Antiques in Italy 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fashion, artisans and historic cafes

Fashionable Roberta De Vito and Fulvio, Piazza dei Priori, Viterbo

Those of us who live in the provinces  still see women wearing  fur coats  for the fashion statement of  small town Italy is very conservative. 
historic palazzo on the Corso, Viterbo
A  stroll  along the Corso in any  provincial town in central Italy includes  meetings with old friends,  admiring vintage cars  and, if its a Sunday, a plethora of people with  packets of pastries to enrich the Sunday lunch. 
vintage FIAT 600 
APE flower seller 

If the town is Viterbo the pastries  will probably come from the newest chic pastry shop Le Cose Buone  or  the newly reopened   Café  Schenardi in an historic palazzo along the Corso.

mini pastries 

Since 1492, the historic building has been operating in different guises: a bank in the 1500s, an inn where Queen Victoria stayed and even  a McDonald’s . 
the historic Schenardi cafe,Viterbo

 The  bar is looking good but  if they want my  custom, they will need to lower the volume of the piped music.

Rosina's bags 

Handmade fashion "artiginato" is very much alive in the province of Viterbo. 
Sala Anselmi, Viterbo 

  This week to celebrate  International Womens’ Day, a group of artisans have set up an exhibit and sale of  their handmade wares in the  Sala Anselmi, in the center of town.
Lina's beautiful  dolls 

I noted  some lovely hand-made dolls and  aprons while the gaudy trinkets and flashy necklaces left me cold. 
 Rosina Presutti  has some good looking bags in waterproof cotton,  velvet, leather and other materials. The pricing is also unique – a  cute ladybug  cotton print tote put me back only 5 euro and her attractive bags are going for 60 euro.

We are fortunate to have many valid artisans working in our area. 
Thanks go to second-generation local blacksmith Angelo Pieracci  who creates, from your design or his, unique balustrades,  bed heads, curtain  rods, door handles, etc. 
This week one of the massive  wrought iron  armchairs, originally made in Florence in the 1970s,  was  brought back to life  by Angelo with a new wrought iron  seat  to replace  the ruined leather.  
wrought iron with a cushion instead of leather seat

 vintage armchair  awaits restoration  

Now the search is on for the  upholsterer who can transform this  1930s  Frau armchair  which has survived three generations of use.   Here is the “before” photo. In a few months  I will publish the
 ”after”  photo  when the ruined leather has been  stripped away and  a new  (velvet ?)  upholstery has been  added making it useful for the next  three  generations. Suggestions for type and color  of covering and upholsterer are welcome.  

My  next presentation is  Thursday,March 19th    April  2nd, the Thursday before Easter  at 5 p.m.  in  Viterbo's  Museo Civico. 
Looking forward to meeting many old and new friends including Cristina Carosi and  Francesca Ceci  who  helped with the publication of  Etruria Storie e Segreti   and archeologist Chloe Ercoli Bannister. 
Free entrance and a chance to visit the Museum before the illustrated talk begins at  5 p.m.  
You are also invited to an exclusive visit to the Antiques Show in the Papal Palace at 11 a.m. on Friday March 27th.    
Contact me if you are planning on coming.  
Our group will receive a 50% discount on the entrance ticket (5 instead of 10 euro)   

Who can spot the photo that was NOT taken in Viterbo, but in Rome ??