Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Return to the Past...Via Aurelia 796

Via Aurelia 796, today
Rome  is the Eternal City where the years and centuries pass, there are changes and transformations, but nothing ever truly disappears.

I experienced  one such transformation  this week thanks to Fulvio’s book “Olio e Ricordi in Cucina”, for we were  invited  to take part in a TV show celebrating extra virgin olive oil.
the old gymnasium is now a TV studio
 The morning program “Nei Cuore dei Giorni” is an hour and a half long  and we were asked to  talk about  recipes,  life in the old days,  grandmother’s recipes such as  little known “ marmellata  d’olive”.

entrance to Via Aurelia 796 today

For me it was a return to the past since the TV studios  are located at Via Aurelia 796  in the same buildings that were once  Notre Dame International School…where I taught  in the 60s and 70s.
the gate, Via Aurelia, the fountain across the street is still in place

Wanting to avoid driving the 70 kms to Rome in the dark, early morning hours, we spent the night in Rome. 
Our B&B looked nice on the web but it turned out to be an  unhappy choice for  the location on Via Boccea meant  traffic noise throughout the night.  

 We did enjoy  a lovely meal at a nearby trattoria Antica Torre, a period building surrounded by modern apartment blocks. The owner had restored it keeping  its  ancient flavor and adding  architectural details reminiscent of  medieval buildings. 

The  appointment at the TV studio was for  8:15 but  not knowing  the traffic situation we started out early, and  arrived  before  8 a.m. passing the Esso station and turning in at Via dei Faggella. 

The entrance  to 796 has changed considerably: there is a rotary, olive trees and where once there were playing fields there are new buildings with offices of  the Bishops,a congress center,   Caritas  and even a nursery school.
Our contact, one  of the writers for the show Stefano Coltellacci ,  met us at the entrance, where we were  signed in, leaving a document with the portiere,  formerly the  headmaster’s office. 

portiere, former Headmaster's Office
Stefano  brought us downstairs to  make up which was skillfully applied by  Rachel from Costa Rica  who had been hard at work since  6 a.m.   

As we waited for  the other guests to arrive, I peeked out the windows and noted full grown trees and lawns where  the school buses used to line up. 

By 9 a.m. we were all inside the studio, the former  gym.

While the art director  and his crew set up the tables and arranged  the props, we met the program’s  lively conductor 
Lucia Ascione and learned our cues from the staff.

 corridor  leading to Andre Hall, the chapel used to be on the  right

Lucia and Fulvio in the studio

Padre Stefano  on  the red couch 

doors to the gym/studio

The gym’s structure was still there, hidden under  the stage  props, cameras and lights. 

setting up for the program 
The last segment of the program with Silvio Vitelli was  dedicated  to past years. Here is a clip from that segment where I show off   the 1976 NDI  Yearbook
A true return to the past.  Your comments are welcome.    

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Top Ten Breathtaking Views in Central Italy

Ancored  next to  the Faraglioni, Capri 

College friends, former students, cousins and other members of my extended family have  enjoyed  coming  to visit me here in Italy over the past five decades. 

And of course I want to make them feel comfortable, showing them special places and our Italian country lifestyle.
But its not  easy to please everyone.  Etruscan necropoli dating from 8th century BC and 13th century  frescoed churches are not everyone’s cup of tea.

Byron's swimming place, Portovenere, Liguria
 Especially visitors who arrive from new countries find it difficult  to  grasp the passage of time and history.  

 Try to explain  to a New Zealander  or  South African why the works of art in St. Peter’s Basilica are not in chronological order, what a mosaic is or who  Michelangelo was  in  just a  few easy sentences. 
 But one thing that everyone, from any part of the world, can appreciate immediately is a great view, a gorgeous landscape.

 Here is  my selection of  breathtaking views and gorgeous landscapes to admire  in central Italy. How many have you visited? 

 Feel free to add  your nominations in a comment below.  

1.     a typical village in Liguria, Portovenere
2.      The view from Villa San Michele, Capri

Civita di Bagnoregio  photo by Giulia C. Pancani

3.      The calanchi  of Civita di Bagnoregio

4.      The lavender fields ripening near Viterbo

5.      The Rivellino hill, Tuscania   (foto C. Thompson)

Nature’s wonders  are abundant here, but I do prefer  a touch of human intervention, like the neat rows of the vineyards, a tower or  castle adorning a hilltop or a  homey, flower filled piazza  with laundry hung to dry.

6.      Flowers alongside Etruscan walls, Viterbo, Piazza San Lorenzo  

7.      Piazza del Sole, Vetralla

8.      The mountains seen from Amalfi’s Duomo

9.       Gardens  of  Villa Lante, Bagnaia

10.    Rolling hills of Tolfa, Fontana del Papa, Tolfa  (photo by Torre Newman) 
To find out more about central Italy check out my website and books... read the reviews, one of our books might make that perfect Christmas gift for anyone who loves Italy. 

Latest News:  
Fulvio Ferri and I will be interviewed live on TV2000 (Vatican TV channel) SKY channel 142  on Monday morning, Nov. 19th   between 9:30-10:30. 
We will be answering questions about lifestyle, the olive harvest, and his recipe book "Olio e Ricordi in Cucina".  Try to tune in. 

You are cordially invited  to my next conference "Foreign Archeologists and Artists in Etruria"  to be held at the Vetralla Library, Vetralla on Friday afternoon, Nov. 23 
 I will be speaking in English at 4 p.m and at  5 p.m. in Italian.

            Sieti  cordialmente  invitato alla Conferenza  illustrata

                  STRANIERI  IN ETRURIA

                                                                 Ponte di Blera di S. Ainsley


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Napoleon's Elba Hideaway

Medicean fortress, Portoferraio
The Etruscans and Romans called this port on the island of Elba Fabrica since they  used it for their mining  activities.

The  true birth of Portoferraio is linked to Cosimo I de’ Medici  who had his military architect, Bernardo Buontalenti, construct the massive fortifications around  the  port  in 1548 to  protect the island from  Saracen pirate invasions.

Elba's flag was invented by Napoleon

map of Elba 

 In  honor of the Tuscan ruler, the town was  named Cosmopolis  but this name never stuck.
rooftops, Portoferraio

It soon resumed the name Portoferraio, (port of minerals) and  Admiral Nelson called it  the safest port in the world, choosing it  for Napoleon Bonaparte’s  “house arrest” in  1814. 

 Bonaparte was free to move around the island yet he was closely watched  by a Scottish officer. One weekend, when his guard was in Livorno visiting his mistress, the former French  emperor escaped  to France with several ships and several hundred followers to begin another chapter  in his legendary life-The  100 Days. 

death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte 
During his short stay on Elba, the official  residence was the Palazzina Napoleonica (dei Mulini) overlooking the town and port. The nearby Museo della Misericordia  still holds mementos of Napoleon including a death mask in bronze  done by Dr. Antonmarchi who was with Bonaparte on St. Helena.
Empire style dress  1814

view of the port  from Villa San Martino 

 Every year on  May 5th a requiem mass in memory of the former emperor is held at the Church of the Misericordia and  costumed interpreters reenact  the arrival of Bonaparte  and his companions in Portoferraio in 1814.

The former emperor was visited on Elba by his younger sister,  Paolina, who caused quite a stir for her beauty and vivacious  personality.

fountain and statue Villa San Martino 

Napoleon was able to purchase a private summer house located in  San Martino, a short drive from Portoferraio.  
Napoleon's Tuscan hideaway on Elba 

Egyptian motifs decorate the living area 

marble bath on the lower floor

dining room in Empire style 

bedroom Villa San Martino
The visit to Villa San Martino,  is a  surprise for the size of the parking lot and number of souvenir stalls contrasts with the modest size of the  home/museum. 

entrance  to  Demidoff museum hall 
Just below the modest villa is a massive museum hall, constructed  by Bonaparte  descendent, Prince  Demidoff. It  is impressive for its size and contents, but disappointing for its poorly kept  condition.   

statue of Paolina Bonaparte (later Princess Borghese)