Sunday, October 27, 2013

Guests at a Hilltop Castle

Palazzo Orsini , Mugnano in Teverina
balcony  across  the piazza 

One of the many  castles  perched on hilltops  along the A1 Autostrada north of Rome  is Palazzo Orsini located  in the tiny village of Mugnano in Teverina, just a speck on the map and not included in any tourist itineraries. 

meeting at  Mugnano 's tiny park
the Barberini sisters  in  the courtyard 
 The owners are  sisters Elsa and Gabriella Barberini who   grew up here, a slice of heaven in Northern Lazio, bordering on the  regions of Umbria and  Tuscany .

the castle's  loggia 

entrance to Palazzo Orsini 

When they inherited the  rambling palazzo  from their parents they began the long, difficult restoration.  Over a period of many decades  they put their time and money into the huge project, while working as teachers. 

 courtyard with bricks in fishbone design 
The most recent  restoration involved repainting the fa├žade and the installation of a new roof using the original terracotta roof tiles.
steep  stairway 

Now  Palazzo Orsini has been returned  to its original splendor, and has been officially inaugurated as  a very special historic  B&B with only   3 bedroom suites.  
Breakfast is served in one of the several frescoed halls or on the south facing  loggia and often the castle hosts receptions and  wedding parties which use the  tiny church  on the main piazza for the ceremony.
frescoed loggia overlooking the Tiber valley 

When a group of friends led by Pamela  and Terri  recently came to visit, the sisters  invited us to stop by on our way to  Bomarzo’s   Sacro Bosco  nearby.

homemade  crostata  and yogurt cake 
The day was splendid  and the views over the Tiber river valley from the castle’s frescoed loggia were breathtaking, especially to ladies hailing from  the flat plains of midwestern America.

hospitality for American  visitors 

  Elsa and Gabriella  showed us around their beautiful castle home pointing out  the different  phases of  restoration and original  architectural details such as fireplaces, secret  doors, frescoed walls and coffered wood ceilings. 
original door with peephole 

geraniums on the loggia
 What castles have you visited in Italy?  
Your comments are welcome.

the rose symbol of the Orsini  family   

Monday, October 21, 2013

Reverse Culture Shock

a typical New England  town common 
Reverse culture shock really exists…especially  after 50 years  in another country.
My recent  visit to the States  lasted  12 days and each day  I discovered several reasons why I could no longer  live there .

  Here are a few   things that bothered me …and a few positive things that I liked :
1.  the absurdity of  wooden poles  to hold   up heavy power lines, often cutting through magnificent trees

chrysantemums were everywhere... in Italy  it is a flower only for the dead
and cemeteries 

the autumn foilage  was brilliant 

painting  expressing  the fast pace of life
2  the   fast pace  of life— suburban Americans  are   chained to their cars: there are   drive thru (even the spelling  is rushed!) lanes  to pickup cardboard containers of horrible coffee and donuts.
Even banks and pharmacies  are outfitted  with drive thru lanes   and windows.  What is all the rush about?   We felt weird being  the only people  walking  along the sidewalk during the week, yet  bike trails  were crowded with bikers on weekends.
the very busy drive thru lane at Dunkin Donuts
3. the huge portions of food at restaurants, fried onion rings,  bare tables with not a tablecloth in sight

4. the ever present air conditioning… the  temperature of   our hotel suite’s was  Siberian each time we entered  and the beds  were  equipped with down comforters…so it was either  freeze  or  sweat. The windows  opened  only a crack. 

magnificent, but chilly,  hotel lobby
5.the  tipping dilemma, how much  and when to tip?  to the waiter, the shuttle bus  driver ? Being used to Italy’s family owned  restaurants and  services, made it difficult  to figure out.

There were many  positive  discoveries too.
historic homes open  to public
1.      The lovely  museums  and  historic homes that were  open  to the public, even if the Federal shutdown meant that  major national parks and sites were closed
at the Chelmsford   historical museum 
another private home   open to visitors

2.      Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum  in Boston with its  Gothic Room, the  new wing and  restaurant where we met  curator Anne Marie Eze  for lunch and exchange of books

3.      Senior discounts were given by   our  hotel, the train  to Boston and even Dunkin Donuts 

cub scouts   near the hotel 
4.      No sales tax  in New Hampshire  meant  I saved  on a lot on purchases at the Mall, including   $35 tax off the purchase of an iPad  (now I have to learn  to use it )

a violin  serenade  for  100 year old  Aunt Mamie
5.      The joy of  seeing family and participating in several  marvelous festivities: the 100th birthday celebration of Aunt Mamie , the meet up with old family friends  and the wild wedding weekend of my beautiful niece Shana.
getting together  with all   my brothers and sisters  

seeing  the younger generation of the family ...

and visiting with  101 year old friend Eleanor and her daughters  Val and Ellie

Have you  experienced culture shock  when going back to the States?