Sunday, March 31, 2013

Eating in Italy at Easter Time

Fulvio enjoys lunch with French and Finnish  friends 

Today  is Easter Sunday  and while many of you are  preparing, eating or  digesting your  Easter  dinner, I hope you  enjoy  a  glimpse of  life  here in central Italy during  this  unseasonably  chilly Easter season.

orange salad with olives and onion

Fireplaces  were lighted  and the atmosphere was  warm  at  lunch with  friends  in  the medieval section of Vetralla and also  in the evening for the a celebratory  birthday dinner  near  the Etruscan site of Castel d’Asso, Viterbo.

The  variety of delicious dishes  prepared  by our two hostesses (one Japanese, the other English)  and the  congenial  international company   made for a wonderful, busy  day.

bresaola & radicchio salad
Lunch  started  with  spumante and grissini, then a series of antipasti including  local cheese with patè di cipolle rosse, sun dried tomatos, bresaola and radicchio 

pumpkin ginger soup

garnished with nuts,  pumpkin-ginger  soup,  orange and onion salad, cous cous with shrimp, green beans and rucola. 

cous cous with shrimp
 Delicious  pears baked in grappa and stuffed with raisins ended the lunch along with locally baked biscotti  and a selection of liquor  from Germany and  Sardegna. 

 I was too busy  enjoying the meal and good  company to worry about photos, so they do not  do justice  to the food.

celebratory birthday dinner 
The torrential rain stopped  long enough in the evening for  the drive to the country house where the birthday dinner was being held.  After a toast we enjoyed an antipasto of spring rolls,
 mussels au gratin and anchovies on buttered bread. 

  Next came  manicotti pasta stuffed with spinach and crab meat garnished  with steamed garden greens.

manicotti  stuffed with spinach and crab
 This was followed by discs of  polenta  with tender calamari in their black  ink. 
polenta and calamari 

The next course  was monkfish saltimbocca dressed with bean pure and colorful dabs of basil and peppers. 

The dessert of individual  molten chocolate cakes and panna ended  the meal but not before some hilarity brought on by  a chocolate Easter chicken.

Tomorrow  is Pasquetta or Lunedi del Angelo, usually the first day  Italian families get together, weather permitting, for  a picnic. The menu  includes   artichokes (carciofi alla nonna Agnesina), pizza di Pasqua and  traditional  lamb  which will be roasted over the  fire  for several hours.   
roasting the lamb 
Hopefully  it will be sunny and we can take  a long walk to burn off  some  of the calories gained  in the past few days.  

braciole  di agnello 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bomarzo's Sacro Bosco

Have you visited  the town of Bomarzo...or only the Park? 


     For centuries  scholars have tried to understand  the meaning behind the esoteric sculptures of the  16th century park  created by Vicino Orsini  in the valley below his palazzo in the tiny town of Bomarzo.  Perhaps  the  secret code of the Sacro Bosco  has finally been broken.

Orsini's Sacro Bosco, also known as the Park of Monsters,   has a new interpretation thanks to  Antonio Rocca whose study  Bomarzo Ermetica  was presented on Saturday in the magnificent  salone of Palazzo Orsini castle of Bomarzo.

above our heads -frescoed ceilings 
surprised  to see the floor tiles are just like mine 
 Among those present, local politicians, foreign professors and a large number of young people interested in the history and art of the area.

left to right: Mayor Roberto Furano, Sofia Varoli Piazza, Irene Temperini 
During the conference  landscape architect and historian  Sofia Varoli Piazza  explained  the connection  between landscape and historic gardens in the Tuscia area, others expounded on the  economic value of beauty and  how to promote  and protect sites such as the Sacro Bosco.

symbols or Vicino Orsini on the palazzo facade 

Off limits areas of  the palazzo-now the City Hall- were opened  allowing us to view the private  terrace with mottos by Orsini.  
Here  are a few of the inscriptions telling Orsini's  philosophy.




Symbols of the Orsini and Farnese families-the bear, the rose and the lily-can be seen throughout the palazzo and the town. 
Orsini bear and Farnese  lily  by Claudio Magagnini
The park  was created  by Vicino Orsini  to honor his wife Giulia Farnese, to express his philosophy and  to amaze and out-do  his  contemporaries who created their Renaissance gardens  in other towns of the Tuscia-Viterbo area also  known as Etruria. 
the Sacro Bosco  lies in the valley below the palazzo
At the palazzo complexes  of  his contemporaries (Marescotti Ruspoli in Vignanello,  Lante della Rovere in Bagnaia and Farnese in Caprarola) the gardens are all adjacent to the buildings,  but at   Bomarzo  the park  is quite a distance away since the palazzo is built atop the steep hill. 

    The two sites complement one another: without the palazzo, the park, now owned by the Bettini family,  is incomplete and vice versa.

from this terrace, Vicino Orsini looked down to  his  Sacro Bosco
Over the centuries  the  roads that linked the Sacro Bosco to the palazzo on the hill  have been destroyed but hopefully they can be newly joined. If the administration can solve the parking problem with a shuttle bus many of the thousands of  tourists who come the park each year could also enjoy  the rarely seen historic center and the palazzo. 

 As usually happens in Italy, the conference ended with a buffet. It was  served  in the entrance hall of the palazzo,  overflowing into the piazza . 


The author and friends improvise  a table in the piazza
After  the buffet  and some exploring in the old medieval center, Antonio Rocca  accompanied  those present  to the Sacro Bosco for an  in depth, on site explanation.    Have you been to the town of Bomarzo?  to the Sacro Bosco?    
Your comments, questions, reactions  are welcome.  You can leave comments (lasciare commenti, anche in italiano  qui sotto) Then  click anonymous in the window that opens...or with your name and/or website. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Getting to Know Viterbo

Santa Rosa  sanctuary  and  our group of explorers

After  20 years  here in Etruria  (aka Tuscia Viterbese)  I have learned  a lot about the area, but every day brings new surprises   as I recently learned  during an informative  exploratory  walk  with local  guide Daniela (see her website).

We met in front of the Teatro Unione 
For a couple of hours last  Sunday morning,  together  with a small  group organized  by the Pro Loco,  we rambled the tiny streets of the historic  center  visiting artists’ studios, artisans' workshops and ancient churches. Check  my website for an inside look at  the artisans' workshops
Porta Sonza...enter Viterbo and become a free citizen 

Come along  with us and discover  secret corners of  Viterbo that tourists rarely see. 

street of San Pellegrino 
  More articles  about Viterbo   and surroundings can be found  here on my  blog, just  type  Viterbo  into  the search bar  and the links will pop up.  

on Via Mazzini 

outside staircase ( profferlo ) in San Pellegrino 

St. Thomas Aquinas preached from this pulpit 

angels in S. Maria Nuova church 

ending our tour with an aperitivo   in Piazza del Gesù

 Happy St. Patrick's Day to all near and far....please celebrate by trying the Irish Trivia Quiz published  on the blog last week. 

walking the streets of Viterbo 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Irish Trivia Quiz for St. Patrick's Day

  St. Patrick’s Day  is coming up soon (March 17th) so I am giving my readers  a chance to win a  prize while learning about the many connections between Ireland and Italy. 
Here is a chance to test your Irish  I.Q.  so grab  a Guinness (or a bit of  Jameson) and start searching for the answers of this Irish-Italian Trivia Quiz.  

All fields of knowledge are covered: arts, literature, history and some special questions concerning Italy's links with the Emerald Isle.

A very special prize*  will be awarded  to the  first entry  with all 15 questions  answered correctly.   

You have l week to send your entry, but remember the prize goes  to the first correct entry received.
Write your answers  only as  a comment to  the blog, at the bottom of this post
I will check the various entries but comments (your answers) will not be published until the week is finished: Sunday morning  March  24th, 10 a.m. Italian time.
Did you know an Italian began Ireland's bus service?

The entries and the Winner  will be published here on Sunday  evening, March 24. Subscribers to the blog will  know immediately on Sunday evening if they have  won. It is easy to sign up as a subscriber, just leave your email at the very bottom of the page.
You may use  Anonymous, to leave your answers/comment but be sure to add  your email so I can contact you (if you have won). Answers may be in  either  English or Italian. 
 Using Google  and Wikipedia and maybe even some  real books and personal knowledge of  Irish culture,  these 15  Irish Trivia  questions  will be easy to answer.   
Did you know that Irish soldiers fought in Italy's Risorgimento? 

           1.   When is Bloomsday  and where is it celebrated? 
       2.   What Roman street is named after the Irish?
       3.   The Nobel prize for literature  has been awarded to 3 Irishmen.  Name two of them.
       4.   What film did Walt Disney make about Ireland?
       5.   What  Roman school, now closed, had a statue of the Irish    Christian Brothers’ founder, Edmund Rice in the entrance? 
       6.    Where in Ireland is St. Patrick’s Purgatory?
       7.    Where in Italy is the Pozzo di San Patrizio ?  
       8.    What Italian created Ireland’s bus service? 
       9.    Who was John Field and in which country did he live for over 30 years?
      10.   What is the “Gardai”?   
      11.   Who founded Dublin's Trinity College  in 1591?
      12.    Which Irish bridge is as wide as it is long?
      13.    What Irish man  is known as the Father of the U.S. Navy?
      14.    According to legend what Irishman sailed to America in 550 A.D. ? 
      15.   What two Italian cities were  residences of  James Joyce ?

If this sounds familiar, you can see  where and when it  was first published, on my Bibliography page.
 If you don’t know the answers, maybe a friend of yours  does, so  share with your friends on Facebook  and Twitter, just click on the icons  below.

*The Grand Prize: a copy  of  the book of your choice, signed by the author. Paper copy to Italian address or if the winner is outside Italy, the E-book format of Etruria travel, history and itineraries in central Italy or The Irish and English in Italy’s Risorgimento.

May  the Luck of the Irish be with you! 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tuscania's Top Five Sites

San Giusto Abbey, Tuscania  (foto G. Bellucci)

Majestic stone  towers, churches, castles  and  a newly rediscovered abbey are among the top sites  to visit in Tuscania, a  small  city nestled among the rolling hills  and a verdant valley that D.H. Lawrence called the most beautiful in Italy.

Unfortunately we do not know what the  Etruscans called this settlement, but when the Romans  arrived they gave it the name  Tuscana. For a few centuries known as Toscanella,  and now    Tuscania,  it  may be only a pin point on the map between the  seaside town of Tarquinia and the provincial capital,Viterbo, but it has its share of magnificent architecture and  monuments.

Castle of Rocca Respampini (foto A.Cecchini)
 The first  site  not to be missed  is the huge, abandoned castle of Rocca Respampini, which can be seen in the distance, along the scenic Via Vetrallese, half way between Vetralla and Tuscania.

Rivellino, the original settlement of Tuscania, is  a  windy hilltop  crowned  with towers and the monumental  church of San Pietro with its intact Cosmatesque pavements.  Unfortunately photos are not allowed inside these monuments, so you'll have to take my word for it: they are magnificent.

towers near San Pietro ...

...and  main entrance 

 A series of dusty  black and white  photos on view inside the church  remind us of the destruction wrought to this building, and the entire town, during  the February, 1971 earthquake.

 facade and rose window of  S. Maria Maggiore
The complex of S. Maria Maggiore,  at the base of the hill,   merits a close look for its  magnificent façade as well as the  interior  where Etruscan sarcophagi  are lined up  along the nave.  Just a few steps away you will find the remains of a Roman thermal bath on the side of  the road.

S. Maria Maggiore (foto G. Bellucci) 

The town fathers of Tuscania   have intelligently left a stretch of the original Roman  road, the Via Clodia,  visible  in the center of the town, on the way to the former church of San Francesco where  a school for  chefs, the Boscolo Etoile Academy, is  now installed.

San Giusto (foto G. Bellucci) 
The  recently restored Abbey of San Giusto, located a  few kilometers  out of town in the Marta river valley was a completely invisible ruin for over 500  years until purchased and restored by a private owner from Bologna. Now returned to its original splendor it is another of the many special places to visit in Tuscania.
peperino stone fountain  

These are only a sample of the  itineraries and special places to visit in central Italy. Take a look at my website for  indepth articles and for more on the mysterious sites of Northern Lazio  see my latest book.