Monday, April 28, 2014

Living History in Italy

Sala di Giove, Palazzo Farnese  Caprarola  
The regular schedule  of blog posts  was interrupted this week due to some unusual  events.  
 In Rome pageantry, pilgrim crowds and  piles of garbage were generated by  the canonization of two former  popes presided over by  two  living ones. 

 It was a scenario  that no novelist  could have invented  and yet it was   just another chapter in the long, amazing  history of Italy. 

Backed by Renaissance fireplace: Hugo, MJ  and Giorgia

  Here in Tuscia/Etruria, far from the confusion of the Roman canonization,  history came alive when English biographer Hugo Vickers told  the story of Gladys Deacon and her mother Florence Baldwin to a spellbound audience in one of  the magnificent frescoed rooms  of Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola . 

the spiral staircase of Palazzo Farnese 

Hugo signs  a book he wrote, in my library 

discovering Vetralla's English connections 
Henry VIII's monument in Vetralla  (foto G. Zelli )
   Hugo  flew in from London to share his research with us and to delve deeper into the lifestyle of  the eccentric expats who inhabited the palazzo  in the last century. 

at Villa Lante 
 Our morning visit to Villa Lante in nearby Bagnaia was  intriguing   for its fountains and palazzine  were a model  for those of Caprarola.  

Luciano, Hugo, MJ and Giorgia  (foto Sig.ra DiFusco)
At Caprarola we were escorted to see some of the secret corners of the palazzo by  Luciano Passini our host and head of the Caprarola Research  and History Society.  

presentation with a figure from the palazzo's past 

bathroom ceiling  at Palazzo Farnese 
In a tiny  anteroom which once served as bathroom to the Baldwin-Deacon  women, we  discovered the  phrase “Forse che si, forse che no” which Gabriele D’Annunzio  used as  title  for his novel  published in 1910. D'Annunzio  "borrowed" the phrase from a ceiling he saw in Mantova's Palazzo Ducale. 
ceiling of Mantova's Palazzo Ducale 

original  bathroom fixtures dating from  1920s 
During the presentation  we even had a surprise visit from “Gladys” herself, impersonated by Finnish soprano Susanna Ohtonen dressed in perfect  1920s  style
Gladys interpreted by soprano Susanna Ohtonen

 She  invited the audience to the opera La Traviata  which is being  held on Wednesday April 30th in  Tuscania’s Rivellino theatre.  

Susanna Ohtonen and Giulia admiring the frescoed ceiling   (foto Chiara Porcari)
 Opera Extravaganza's  opera evenings  are another aspect of the living history of Italy which should not be missed. 
Info e prevendita OperaExtravaganza  tel. 0761-485247/346-7474907
Info Teatro Il  Rivellino P.zza Basile tel. 0761.4454250 0761-4454217
                                                                          LA TRAVIATA
Opera lirica in tre atti di GIUSEPPE VERDI
Mercoledì 30 APRILE 2014 ORE 21.00

Biglietti prezzo unico 15 euro

Coming up next Saturday, Soriano nel Cimino 

 For another special evening  in one of Etruria's wonderful historic palazzi,  you are cordially invited  to  my next illustrated  presentation on May 3rd in Soriano nel Cimino.

 Please  share with friends on Facebook, Twitter, by email by using the icons below. 

Your  feedback, questions  are very welcome. See you in Soriano! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Eccentric American Expats: The Great Beauties of Caprarola

Gladys Deacon portrait by Boldini 

the original Pentagon building
Palazzo Farnese, Caprarola
design by Justin Bradshaw 

Palazzo Farnese perched on its hillside  with views extending  over the Lazio countryside to Rome, is one of Italy’s  most  magnificent Renaissance palace  complexes, once home to  the powerful  Farnese family.

Loggia with Hercules fountain, Palazzo Farnese 
In the early  1900s it was also  home to an eccentric group of   American expats : Florence Baldwin and her daughters.   The eldest daughter, Gladys, was one of the most famous beauties of the first half of the century and went on to become  the Duchess of Marlborough.   
staircase Palazzo Farnese
photo  of F. Pignatale 

Sala del Mappamondo, Palazzo Farnese
photo of F. Pignatale 
The fascinating story of Gladys and her family will be the subject of an illustrated talk  (in English and Italian) along with English biographer  and historian  Hugo Vickers   who will be visiting from London. 

invito  per   April  25th 

Sala Giove of Palazzo Farnese,  “Le Grandi Bellezze  di Caprarola” 
Please share on Facebook, Twitter. Hope to see you there! Caprarola  is a short drive from Rome and  the 25th  of April is a holiday here in Italy.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Exploring Rome's Eataly and Civita Castellana

One of the positive things about  publishing and  promoting  books in Italy  is being invited to unusual venues and   exploring nearby towns. 

 one of several restaurants  in Eataly 

Alessandra producer of olive oil in Bassano in Teverina (VT) 

colorful honey  
fresh mozzarella 

modern, functional super food store 
wine and oil sectors 
This week  we spent a day at Rome’s Eataly,  located in a hangar-like building that used to be the  unpleasant Air Terminal  at Ostiense. 

all this attention for the  amatriciana pasta
meeting of cooks, Fulvio and Antonello Colonna 


After the press conference  presented by  TV personality  Maria Concetta Mattei,  cook Antonella Colonna  whipped up his version of  bucatini all’amatriciana and exchanged cookbooks with Fulvio.

Monte Soratte and  new construction 

Yesterday instead  we traveled  east 40 kms  from home to present Fulvio’s “Olio e Ricordi in Cucina” at  the Libroteca  bookshop in Civita Castellana. 

Since  there was a half hour before the official event, there was time to  explore the  city’s  Duomo famous for its Cosmatesque pavement  and crypt.

Duomo, Civita Castellana 

Duomo interior 

Roman bits adorn the facade 

each  of the columns has a different capital 

After the book presentation, carefully set up by the bookshop owner,  Tusciagnam  organized a wine tasting with a sommellier and nibbles. 
wine tasting 

in Mastro Cencio's cavelike workshop

No one should stop in Civita Castellana without visiting the ceramics workshop of Mastro Cencio, and the 16th century fortress  where the museum is located.
modern plates 

and traditional ceramics 

Fortress of Sangallo