Sunday, May 26, 2013

A chilly weekend north of Rome

Montefiascone's  wine barrel fountain 

May is the season for  festivals, processions and  country fairs  but this year  the weather has not been cooperating. Some may prefer to stay huddled  indoors with the heating on, but if you are a visitor with little time to see the area, the only thing to do is grab an umbrella and warm sweater and  brave the inclement weather.  

Shadesofparadise  from Grosseto 
 The top sites of Tarquinia's Etruscan tombs and Etruscan Museum then  the Sacro Bosco  of Bomarzo, followed by a day in Civita di Bagnoregio and Orvieto: it can be done  as visitors from America  discovered. 
Stay tuned for their whirlwind tour of Etruria in a future guest post.  

lavender from northern lakes 
Those of us who live here usually take things  more slowly  choosing novelty happenings over the tourist spots.

box in  alder wood by Massimo Falchi of Rieti 

   This weekend  was unusually chilly for late May, with temperatures  hovering  around 10-15° C,
dresses  in a vintage  vehicle 

promoting Nepi and Università della Tuscia
rain and high winds. 
This made  the organization of outdoor happenings  very  problematic. 

In the face  of many difficulties,  the Arti e Orti country fair  organized by  Ville e Casali magazine was  a success which saw   hundreds of visitors descending on  Tenuta Valle Cento  on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

 Luana and Tiziana  came to the presentation 
animals in tin 
farm animals for the kids 
Ville e Casali  magazine's stand 
 I was there on Saturday to give a short presentation of my latest book,  to  encounter old friends  and  to meet some of the more than 80 exhibitors  in  the arts, food and gardens categories  who  exhibited their wares  and artistic creations often in stands that  included vintage vehicles. 
vintage Fiat  also  provided shelter from the showers 

Farm animals were on hand and  kids were able to  ride ponies, enjoy a carriage ride or  learn about  plants and gardens.

one of the many outdoor exhibits 
Montefiascone  located at the 100th  kilometer  north of Rome was the destination on Sunday. Here  we were greeted by  glorious skies above the 3rd largest  cupola in Italy and views over  Lake Bolsena. 

view of Lake Bolsena and islands from the Enoteca 

mosaic table at Enoteca Volodivino

corner of Montefiascone 

Giancarlo Breccola with author Gina Crocoli 

Sunday aperitivo in Montefiascone 
  The excuse was the presentation of  two interesting books  at a local wine bar and  enoteca. 

Art historian Fulvio Ricci spoke of the nude in art followed by  Giancarlo Breccola  who presented  the book  Viaggio in Tuscia by Gina Crocoli.  

Fulvio Ricci's book published by Edizioni Archeoares
 How did you spend this chilly weekend? Your  comments in English or Italiano are welcome. Share with friends by using the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of the page. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spontaneous Gardens

spontaneous sidewalk gardens 

Along with  Northern Lazio ‘s   numerous  majestic, historic gardens with  pedigrees going back hundreds of years,  there are  humble sidewalk and piazza gardens which are the spontaneous labor of love of the  inhabitants.  
the giant jasmine climbs the wall  on Vicolo del Sole 

Here are a few examples  I noticed  this week, all within a few minutes  of my home.

Piazza S. Egidio (or Piazza Garibaldi ) 

jasmine  thrive on the sunny corner of the piazza 

Adriana  takes pride in her  corner of Piazza S. Egidio, caring for  plants such as this  azalea left behind by previous owners  who  returned to America.

Adrianna's  azaleas 
Marcella and  husband Spartaco are the self appointed guardian/gardeners of  Piazza del Sole.  A white azalea, once belonging to Marcella’s  mother, along with hundreds of roses and other plants  beautify the piazza thanks  to the personal care  of this couple in their 80s.

Franco's wall garden   

Marcella of Piazza  del Sole 

American visitors in Piazza del Sole  with Angelino and Spartaco (right)

Some towns  have flower festivals and  motivate  citizens, often with cash prizes,  to beautify  their  streets thus attracting tourists.  Spello in Umbria is an example along with  the mid-June  Festival of Fiori in Finestra e Cene in Cantina here in Vetralla. 

 Luckily  most citizens do not wait for official recognition nor annual festivals for they look after their spontaneous gardens all year round.
an abandoned corner  
Sometimes  a spontaneous garden  blooms not  with flowers. 
a bombed out building 
became  a  quirky  garden 
This half wrecked  building on a side street of the historic center,  has been left in ruins since  World War II  and was nothing more than an eyesore and dumping ground. 
a wall of memories 
That is until  a fireworks technician  with a well developed aesthetic sense  came to live  nearby.

  Lately  the area has been  transformed  by  the hard work of one   anonymous neighbor who cleaned up the rubble, transforming the  area into a quirky  garden. 
the  cantinas were cleared  of rubble 
found in the wreckage, 
Using  bits and pieces  found  on site, he created a wall of memories, setting  the stones  into  piles and inserting  objects found among the rubble   along the  walls.  

Monday:  stop  press!
Just met the "gardener"  on the street and he let me take this photo while he was eating a panino.  He told me a bit about  how he  worked for 8 months digging through  60 years of garbage and junk  to clean up and arrange the rocks and rubble into something more pleasant to look at. Bravo Emidio! 

Monday,  June  17th  
Happy to announce that Emidio Di Bonaventura  was just named  winner   for  this year's Cene in Cantine Fiori alle Finestre  competition.  All his hard work paid off! Congratulations!
The motivation reads: 
 1 Angoli    Vicolo della Cera    Emidio
 "Per aver recuperato un angolo  abbandonato e  dimenticato di Vetralla con un lavoro lungo e costante , riportando alla luce  oggetti, attrezzi e strumenti legati alla vita e  al lavoro del passato" (For having recuperated an abandoned , forgotten corner of Vetralla with a long and constant work, bringing back to the light objects, tools and  instruments connected with the life and work of the past" )


 Now  if only  the  owners of the  building  will get their act together this section of town  will be a decent place to live.   

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bramante's Papal Stables in Viterbo

precarious column 

 very few people  are aware of a hidden masterpiece of the Renaissance architect located in the center of Viterbo. 

As a resident here  for  the past 20 years I was surprised  to discover the existence of this gem designed and built by architect  Bramante   between  1506-1510. 

smack in the city center but hidden from view 

The magnificent  stables  hidden  in  piazza Sallupara were  commissioned by  Pope Julius II   to house about  100 horses of the papal entourage.

the main hall of the Papal Stables 
 And they were kept in style, in a  majestic  hall  with vaulted ceilings   lined with  24  pillars.

The building’s existence was unknown  not only to me, but to most of the townspeople eventhough it is  close to the historic center and  the Albornoz fortress , seat of  the local  Etruscan museum. 
Pro Loco  opened the Bramante stables for the first time 

Thanks to the new  Pro Loco  of Viterbo  the site was opened and   guided visits  were given to illustrate this, one  of city’s  least known  sites.

Viterbo's  well known  Fontana Grande 
The building has been used diversely  over the centuries: for storage, as a tobacco barn  and then  in  1822  it became  the city prison. 

During World War II it was one of the many buildings of Viterbo  to be destroyed by Allied bombs and since then it has been an  eyesore of the historic center.  
 Unexploded bombs  were recuperated from the site even  last  January. 

Now it is  finally being  restored  with money made available by a local bank and the Lazio Region and will eventually become a civic  and cultural center.  

stones and columns  lined up 

Pro loco  members Davide, Michele and friend 

Here is an article in Italian about  the  papal stables

Have you visited Viterbo?  What is your favorite place in the area?  Leave a comment  in Italian or English and share with friends by clicking on the Facebook or Twitter icons  just below. 
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For other information about the Viterbo and Northern Lazio area see my website.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Italy's Unusual May Festivals

May is  the best time to visit central Italy especially if you are an anthropologist. Here there are many unusual festivals  that include the marriage of two trees,  a race  honoring a horse man and   a procession of snake charmers. 

foreign visitors  at  the Wedding of the Trees 

The  period between Easter  and the month of May  abounds with festivals having  a fertility  significance such as  the Wedding of the Trees  held in Vetralla  and  the Barabbata  in Marta.
Sposalizio dell'Albero, May 8th in Vetralla 

Serpari festival, Cocullo, Abruzzo  (Pro loco Cocullo)

May 8th is also the festival dedicated to  St. Domenico Abbot in the Abruzzi town of Cocullo. Here the serpari or snake charmers parade through the streets  handling  snakes just  awakened from their winter hibernation.

at the finish line 

Another unusual festival happened this morning here in Vetralla:    the 16th edition of the  Uomo Cavallo  race  with 180  men and women contestants from all parts of central Italy . 
watching the racers arrive 

finish line  in Piazza della Rocca 

The  10 kms. itinerary is a figure 8  snaking through the town  center and includes  many murderous  hills .   

runners from southern Italy 

refreshments at the end of the 10 km. race 

Domenico Baghini known as Uomo Cavallo 
The race is named for  Domenico Baghini of  Vetralla  (1867-1943) who as a youngster learned to run as he rounded up the cows on the family farm. When the first train came to town he competed against it and won. With his incredible physical stamina, he continued his winning streak competing  against horses in  20 km runs.   
nutella, crostate and water   at the finish line 

He ran many races all over Italy, Europe and even in Tunis in the years 1900-1910. When a national sports newspaper  paid his way to Paris  to participate in a marathon, Baghini  pocketed the money and traveled to  Paris on foot  doing 80-100 kms a day. Needless to say, he won the race, with 10 minutes advantage over the second place. 

(foto-Proloco Acquapendente )

 The Pugnaloni festival  of Acquapendente, on the Lazio-Tuscany border, has been  held annually for over  800 years. It sees groups from different parts of town competing to  create  huge   mosaics  made from leaves and flower petals which are  displayed throughout the year . This year it will be held on Sunday  19th May. For more on I Pugnaloni check the pro loco website.
(foto-proloco Acquapendente)
What is your favorite, unusual Italian festival? 

Indepth  information on local life, traditions and celebrations in Northern Lazio can be found in my publications .
Order a signed copy for yourself or for a friend  planning a trip here. 

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