Friday, July 27, 2012

Hidden Towers of Etruria

the bell tower  hides  a medieval tower within  
The square  bell tower guarding the entrance to the medieval hamlet of Bassano in Teverina  holds a secret. 
Its stout 17th century walls hide another, medieval tower  invisible to the outside world. 
entrance to  medieval town center across a moat bridge

1700s tower  decorated with a ceramic clock 

This   tower within a tower is   unique, definitely   material for  the Guinness book of records.
How did it happen? It seems that the original tower  was enclosed by the "modern"  one when  the town's defenses  were  updated in the  1700s. 
It was easier to enclose the existing one than to destroy it then rebuild.

sign on the tower entrance 

Santa Maria dei Lumi -also open during festivities
 During the weekend of July  28-29 the annual festivities in the town of Bassano in Teverina will include  guided visits of the double  bell tower, now restored and fitted out  with a lift, allowing visitors to admire the decorations on the medieval tower as they ascend to the top.  

view over Tiber valley from Bassano in Teverina

The hamlet suffered from bombing during the last world war  and over several decades restoration has taken place to transform the castle ruins  into an apartment building housing about 30 families. 
economic council apartments have risen  from castle ruins

view  with swimming pool 
In the  18th century large palazzi were built in the newer part of the town and today they contain holiday apartments, a restaurant and even a swimming pool hidden behind high walls.

holiday apartments  in an ancient palazzo

another  private pool lies behind these walls

 Bassano in Teverina from the double tower

Not too far away, along the Orte-Viterbo superstrada, another  tower can be seen rising above the Mediterranean brush  near the tiny village of  Chia.
Chia medieval tower and residential complex  

Pasolini's tower located  near Soriano nel Cimino and Bassano in Teverina

 This is  Pasolini's  tower , once the hideaway of  famed Italian  poet and film director, Pier Paolo Pasolini.  
Years ago, when the construction of the  modern complex  was still under way, the builders  let me look around. The modern living quarters built  beneath the tower resembled a ranch house and contained five ensuite bedrooms  for  guests.

The complex is private property and officially not visitable, but it seems that a cultural association is planning a Literary Park in the area along the banks of the stream once used as a film set by  Pasolino. 

There is such a wealth of interesting sites and possibilities for tourism in the area of Tuscia/Etruria yet many remain  forgotten  and abandoned.  

Please share with your friends  using the Facebook, Twitter and Google+   buttons.  Why not  leave a comment too ! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The 1512 Vetralla Monument

On Saturday, July  21st  while showing a visitor from Scotland our town’s claim to English protection, I realized the  monument  was celebrating its 500th anniversary-and no one in town was interested…except us.
500 years of  English protection  

detail of  Henry VIII's coat of arms 

 Five centuries may seem like a long time, but  not in the layer cake of  European history  and not in an area where Etruscan tombs and sanctuaries dating from 800-300 BC dot the landscape.   

detail of Cardinal Bainbridge's coat of arms 
The year  1512 was a very busy one. Among the happenings in Europe:   
- the battle of Ravenna on   April 11th
- Pope  Julius II  opened  the Lateran Council in May
- Michelangelo’s  Sistine Chapel paintings were  publically shown for the first time in November
Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII 
- a baby named Anne Boleyn was born
-Niccolò Macchiavelli was expelled  from Florence by the Medici, newly returned  to power.
- Martin Luther was named  Doctor of Theology in Wittenberg.

In the new world the Spanish began importing black slaves to Hispaniola to replace the  local Indians  who were perishing at an alarming rate while along the coast of Newfoundland, European fishermen began exploiting the banks of cod fish, sending  the dried cod  back to Europe.

English ambassador visits Vetralla
 On July  20th, 1512 Pope Julius II donated the Castle of  Vetralla, an  important post  between Rome, the papal port of Civitavecchia and the city of Viterbo,  to the English crown. 
Cardinal  Christopher Bainbridge, Henry VIII's ambassador to Rome during those years and the only English prelate at the opening of the 5th Lateran Council, accepted  for his king. 

funerary monument of Cardinal Bainbridge, Venerable English College,Rome 
  In Vetralla, a sculpted marble monument and a smaller plaque with the date were set above the main portal of  the castle, thus sealing the alliance between  young Henry VIII and the Papacy in  the Cambrian League  against the French.
axes and squirrels feature on Bainbridge  coat of arms

 For the first time, Henry laid claim to some  French land, thus the title  King of  France  (REX FR) was included in the  inscription  of the Vetralla monument. 
Over the centuries  the heraldic  plaque was moved several times  and since the 1700s it has graced the  main staircase of the governor’s palace, now the City Hall.  
A few years ago volunteers cleaned the monument revealing the full beauty of its  heraldic motifs. Several coins  from the early  19th century were found lodged  among the intricate carvings.

Andrea Natali  cleaning the  1512 English monument 
 Unfortunately no documents  concerning the monument have yet come to light and most of the local population continue to ignore its significance and its very existence.

 This post is part of my submission for Team Florens, a meeting to be held in  autumn  where themes such as boosting economy through cultural awareness will be debated. 

Hopefully local cultural identity can grow and use existing historical monuments, especially those with international connections like the Vetralla 1512 monument, to create opportunities for tourism  in  towns not on regular tourist circuits.  Learn more about Fondazione Florens here.     

Latest  visitors   to Vetralla from England were a group  of young university students who had cycled all the  way  from Manchester, through  Holland, France and northern Italy. They were amazed  at the English connections  we pointed out to them.

posing  beneath the English monument  and
the bust of Cardinal Henry Stuart, Duke of
York, protector of  Vetralla

Sunday, July 15, 2012

An Elegant Summer Wedding

beautifully  behaved-and dressed- children 

Last weekend as the only foreigner  at  a family  wedding in Vetralla I was able to catch some of the important moments from the sidelines. 

plaque, dated 1512, shows the town's English connections

The wedding  took place  in the City Hall, directly across from the main church. Most young couples seem to prefer  civil weddings nowadays, much to the chagrin of the local priest. 

The sister  and brother in law of the groom came down from London and   were surprised  to find the coat of arms of  King Henry VIII adorning the stairwell of our City Hall. 

The  bride and groom  enter  the City Hall while  crowds of friends and curious  fill the piazza

mother and aunt of the groom
note the wedding gawkers at bar tables and balcony

Champagne and chilled white wine awaited  the guests for a post-ceremony aperitvo

tableaux with  table assignments

 Then guests and the wedding party  moved on to a nearby location for the wedding banquet dinner: La Branda  agriturismo on the outskirts of town. 

 Parking attendants  helped  organize  the cars  under the olive trees and the resident donkeys  were surprised  at the traffic, for over  200 guests were present. 
a rich antipasti buffet was served in the garden 
one of the  marquees set up in the garden 

half way through dinner, jackets were  discarded 

 midnight -time to cut  the cake
dessert table  at the end of the  3 hour dinner

Scene from the wedding ceremony --with  the ever present  telefonino

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Montefiascone-City of Wine and Cinema

Est Film Festival, Montefiascone 

The 6th annual Est Film Festival will be held  from  July  21-30  in the charming hill top town of Montefiascone, perched above the Lake of Bolsena in Northern Lazio.
main piazza, Montefiascone

  Staffed  by an enthusiastic group of young professionals  headed by Vaniel Maestosi, the festival  brings a rich program of  films and prizes amounting to 14,000 euro  for  films competing  in several categories. 
Vaniel Maestosi

More than  40 different events and 100 guests  will present encounters and debates  in venues around the city: public piazzas, the Papal fortress, a multisala cinema, the enoteca located inside the papal  palace and even  the papal prisons. 

Montefiascone  also  hosts a craft beer festival this weekend  
July  12-15

One special feature is that the entrance to all events  is completely free thanks to  numerous sponsors. Best to arrive early to be sure of a seat.
the ancient Papal Palace  during film festival

This year American film maker Terry Gilliam is expected as well as  Marco Bellocchio, Gianni Amelio, artistic director of Torino Film Festival  and actresses Laura Morante  and Ambra Angiolini.  

Ambra Angiolini
Laura Morante 
Terry Gilliam

location  Colle di Montisola

during the press conference 

 The success of the Est Film Festival is an ongoing reality, thanks to  teamwork and sinergy with the local authorities and sponsors. 

buffet   at press conference 
When asked what he hopes for the future,   Maestosi  mentioned the possibility of  showing films in their  original language. 

The large English-speaking  community and numerous tourists who summer around the  Lake of Bolsena  would be very happy with this. 

   Considering  the  unspoilt beauty of the landscape (except for   the wind towers near Piansano)  and surroundings, I can see  the area of  Montefiascone as the  perfect  setting for  film troupes year round. 

sunflower  fields  surround Colle di Montisola, Montefiascone

 Here is another story   about  Montefiascone and its  historic international connections. Wouldn't it make a  great film ?  


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tuscania Lavender Festival

ribboned sachets  of lavender  

 The lavender fields that cover  large swaths of land in  Northern Lazio (Arlena, Tuscania ,Viterbo,Tarquinia, Montalto di Castro)  are just about to be harvested, thanks to the very hot weather these past few weeks. 
flower baskets at the Lavender Festival 

 The weekend of July 7-8 marks the local Lavender Festival  held in Tuscania's  "new"  historic center, rebuilt and restored  perfectly after  the earthquake of 1971.  

Tuscania's City Hall 

   The tiny streets and  squares  will be bustling  with stalls of  lavender-based products  for  the body and home.
Look for  dishes  prepared  using lavender, including risotto and  gelato.  

rebuilt homes are beautifully decorated  
The town of Tuscania is close to Civitavecchia, Viterbo and Tarquinia  in Northern Lazio, NOT in Tuscany, and makes a perfect  shore excursion, especially for those who dread going in to Rome at the height of summer heat. 

handicrafts filled with lavender 

medieval buildings and fountains in Tuscania 

Loggia on the Duomo square 
If you can't make  it to Tuscania  this weekend, there will be many more  happenings  during following summer weekends. Stay tuned for calendar updates . 

thanks to Christina Thompson for  this beautiful shot of Tuscania