Sunday, May 27, 2012

International Connections - Tuscia and the World

flowery  corner of Lubriano 
A couple of dozen young people, members of Rome’s  Irish Club,  made a  visit to Northern Lazio  this weekend, to visit Civita di Bagnoregio, the dying city. 
Jovez , in the middle of the countryside, seems to be a private home 
 Over a delightful 3-hour lunch  at the hidden country restaurant  Jovez near Lubriano, they were  surprised  to learn that many other Irish  had been here  before them. 
more about Lubriano on my friend Anne's website

Cesare and Federico Giovarelli  run the restaurant with their parents

Among these the Denham family, lords of the land in Northern Lazio for more than a century  and the Talbots whose funerary monument can be admired  in the church of La Quercia, near Viterbo.

semolino gnocchi, spinach alla romana then lasagna

The Irish,  English, Scottish, American, Polish and French connections included royal exiles, cardinals and kings as well as artists and  writers (Countess Blessington, Nathaniel Hawthorne) who left their impressions, some of which were far from flattering.  
Jovez rose garden and lawns 

  These curiosities and connections are the basis of an illustrated lecture “La Tuscia…in Viaggio” to be held-in Italian-on June  8th at the Library of Vetralla (Via Pistella/ Pza. Marconi )  at  5 p.m.
All are welcome,  also to enjoy the  Cene in Cantina festival, that begin that same evening. 
poster  for  the conference 

During the  45-minute  power point presentation, we will explore these international  connections, taking a virtual cruise  around   the Mediterranean, touching on  Malta, Rhodes, Athens, Istanbul and  Turkey to see  similarities  with the Viterbo/Tuscia/Etruria  area.

After lunch -the happy group of modern day Irish travelers 
From Istanbul, circling  the Black Sea  as far as  Georgia, Ukraine and former USSR, we will note  other historical ties with the Viterbo and Northern Lazio area. 

The information given in the talk is especially important for anyone   aspiring to work in or with  the tourism industry in central Italy. 

If you can’t make it on June 8th but wish to participate  in future conferences, subscribe  to the blog by leaving a comment and  your email  at the bottom of this page.

Extra: If you are in the Viterbo area  on June 9th, don't miss out on the special openings of  4 castles in the area.  Dimore Storiche  has organized  guided tours of  members' castles. 

Next week:  Antique  cars and motorcycles :  what the guidebooks don't tell you  about  Civita and Bagnoregio. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Italian Air Force Art

  For several years  now, the city of Viterbo has been embroiled in  heated  discussions  about the pros and cons of   building  a commercial  airport.
self portrait  Pza. delle Erbe

entrance to Sant'Egidio, Viterbo
 During the next few weeks the buzzwords  in town will  be  Air Force and airport.

 But this time it is because the city is  celebrating  the 75th anniversary  of the local  military airport

 The first event on the celebration calendar was  Thursday’s inauguration of an exhibit of art, heraldry and  medals  held in  the former  church of Sant’Egidio, in Viterbo’s historic center.

crests of  Air Force schools and academies

Comander Coppola  gives the welcome speech 
 As I  mingled  with officers  from all branches of the Italian armed forces, I realized that  I was the only non-Italian invited.

Patrizia with  embroidered banner


a selection of   historic embroidered banners

Instead of stressing only  military aspects  of the anniversary, this exhibit  was surprisingly “soft” for it highlighted a series of  elegant  tapestry-like banners.

The banners formed an unusual  display  of the art of embroidery.

These  rarely seen  historic  gagliardetti,  are tapestry-like  banners  decorated with figures  and mottos of different  Air Force Academy courses, which are named according to  the alphabet, from A  to  Z.
 The  designs showed planets,  animals , mythological  figures and ancient gods symbolizing  virtues of courage, determination  and loyalty.

 I'm  hoping that someone with more insider information will leave a comment, for  I was not able to  discovered who (men or women) actually created these  masterfully embroidered banners.

The artist Marcella Mencherini  exhibited   a series of her paintings  depicting heroic  moments of air force history.

 Some of her  huge canvases  are part of the permanent collection housed  at the Air Force  Museum in Vigna di Valle, others are in private collections. 

The  museum, located directly on the Lake of Bracciano, makes  a perfect stop if you have already seen  the castle of Bracciano. 

Comments  and more information are welcome, especially  from members of the Italian Air Force. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Vatican City: Hidden Corners and Courtyards

February  2013  Update:  If you are planning to visit St. Peter's and the Vatican in the next  few weeks, be warned that the Sistine Chapel  will be closed  due to the Conclave to elect the new Pope.  I, as well as  a  group of priests, were  turned away  by courteous but stern Swiss Guards today as we tried to enter Sant'Anna gate to  make purchases at the Vatican Pharmacy.
Security  has been tightened... as it should be in view of the important Conclave  coming up.

For over  35  years  I lived in Rome  under the shadow of Michelangelo’s dome  and called St. Peter’s Basilica my parish church. 
 The neighborhood  was-and still is-full of black-garbed nuns, scurrying priests and brightly dressed bishops and cardinals.   

Walking across the Piazza recently I noticed that the Borromini colonnade  is being cleaned . 
 Decades of  dirt and smog are being removed  to reveal the  original white travertine marble. 

Crossing the piazza you will note  circular  inserts in the cobblestones marking the winds and the center of the colonnade, where the columns “line up”  creating an optical illusion .   

  On  Wednesdays and holy days  crowds from all corners of the world fill St. Peter’s  Piazza, the Audience hall and the neighborhood souvenir shops. 

archway and palm trees  inside Vatican City 
 Here are bricks from the Holy Door  of  St. Peter's Basilica. 
  The letters “RFSP”  refer to the Reverenda Fabbrica di San  Pietro

Brick  removed from the 1950 Holy Door 
Brick  from the 1984 Holy Door 
If you are taking the underground  grotto tour,  you will enter  from the side door of the Reverenda Fabbrica’s office, to the left of  St. Peter’s façade.

  The workers in the Basilica, Sampietrini, are responsible for  all the maintenance of the huge  Basilica and they proudly hold their  jobs  which are often  passed down from father to son.

hammer  &  chisel  used by  reigning popes to open the Holy Door  

a collection of bricks from various holy years, Vatican Museum 
 One sampietrino  told me how thrilled he was - when he was working on yearly inspection and cleaning- to find the name of his grandfather scratched into the bronze atop  Borromini’s   baldacchino

  The map of Vatican City State  shows that this tiny country, enclosed inside the city of Rome, has most  modern conveniences including a pharmacy, police and fire  departments and  a polyglot  printing office.  

 During my recent visit I could hear the band practicing for the  Swiss Guards’ annual swearing-in ceremony held in one of the internal courtyards. 

Government building, Vatican City State

The Library and Secret Archives are  opening up a bit thanks to  Lux in Arcana  exhibit now on at the Capitoline Museum. 
recently renovated Vatican  Library  entrance 

Secretary of Vatican Library receives my latest book
According to the Vatican website, children are now welcome in the Papal gardens and  weekly conferences are being offered  highlighting  some of the Vatican  Musem's treasures. 

Vatican's pharmacy with its  45 employees, is one of the world's busiest.  Roman citizens who need medicines  not yet available  in Italy  enter  through Sant’Anna gate  and  stop at the Ufficio Passi to ask for  an entrance permit. 
 Inside the Vatican Pharmacy they will be able to purchase medicines, with a doctor's prescription, paying  12-20% less for them.
Gendarmes control the entrance at Sant'Anna gate 

On their way to the pharmacy, they pass by  the  Vatican supermarket where  prices are also exempt from Italian taxes. 

Vatican  supermarket 
 There is also a Vatican  gas station, located  on the opposite side of St. Peter’s Square, where long lines form.  The  wait is  worth it, for  those with permission can buy gas at much cheaper rates.
interior courtyard   used as parking lot 
Entrance to the Vatican Bank 

The Vatican postal system  has two offices in the main square, plus the main office  across from the  discreet entrance to the Vatican Bank which has been under investigation in the past few years.

Vatican Post  boxes 

Main Vatican Post Office

 Most  tourists  who visit  the Vatican Museums  only  catch a glimpse of the territory through the museum's windows. 
view of Vatican gardens 

Staircase detail , Vatican Museums 

 The poor and homeless  know this fountain, located  on  the corner of Via Gregorio VII around the corner from the charity  kitchen staffed by nuns.  

At the end of the 64 bus line,  connecting trains to Viterbo and Civitavecchia
train for cruise passengers from San Pietro to Civitavecchia 

For a perfect day in the Vatican area, ignore the tourist traps near the Museum and Basilica and cross over 

Light lunch at "Mimì e Cocò" with manager, Christian  
 Ponte Sant’Angelo  to Via  Governo Vecchio on your way to Piazza Navona. Here tables are set up in the street offering  light lunches for locals and tourists alike.  
perfect for summer -a caprese  salad

caffe,  ricotta sweet followed  by an ice cold limoncello

A favorite  hostelry for visitors on a budget is the Beehive Hotel owned by Americans Linda Martinez and Steve Brenner.
Recent Expat Writers Book Fair at the  Beehive Hotel

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