Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Scary Statues and Mysterious Figures

pathway from Vitorchiano

Tuscia (or Etruria) located one hour north of Rome and a half hour from Civitavecchia port makes a perfect escape from the  tourist crowds. We residents enjoy a laid back lifestyle, excellent food and wine as well as peace, calm and the many off beat places such as the well known Sacro Bosco or Monster Park of Bomarzo.

Nearby are several other sites with strange stone sculptures, fountains and  the remains of elegant gardens-often hidden away in the underbrush or valleys. 

Photos by F. Micheletti 

stone heads Vitorchiano 

rock hewn cave in the Vitorchiano valley
Just beneath the town of Vitorchiano a steep trail zig-zags down into a verdant valley.

Trekking with CAI excursion to see the sculptures near Vitorchiano                 Thanks to F. Micheletti for photos 

 Here trekkers literally trip over the  mysterious monumental sculptures created in 1990 by a team of stone carvers who were invited to Vitorchiano from Easter Island, far away in the Pacific Ocean. 
Easter Island  head in Vitorchiano

Other weird and wonderful stone figures date back to the Renaissance and 16th century and were created by native sculptors (or captive Turkish ones??)  to awe visitors of local nobility, such as these in a wild setting just outside the town of Viterbo. 
moss covered fountain with   human heads spouts 

female figure, near Viterbo

Papacqua fountain figure, Soriano

In plain sight in the town of Soriano nel Cimino is the Papacqua fountain next to Palazzo Chigi-Albani and its many intriguing  stone figures which art critics have been trying to interpret for centuries.
Papacqua fountain in Soriano nel Cimino 

These scary statues are just a few of the many fascinating, little known aspects of the Tuscia area  that await visitors, especially  artists, anthropologists and those who enjoy the unusual. 

For more about these and other  mysterious sites of central Italy, between Tuscany and Umbria, check out my website, use the search bar of the blog and read my latest two books on the area.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sensual, sensorial Bologna

A quick visit to Bologna, even on  a rainy weekday, is a chance to enjoy this  compact university city with its  miles of covered sidewalk porticoes  that give shelter from stormy weather. 
Bologna is a 3 hour train ride from home base 

 An umbrella is needed only when crossing intersections and the wide expanse of Piazza Maggiore where  San Petronio Basilica  and Sala Borsa act as  bookends.

Sala Borsa 
Duomo of San Petronio, Bologna 

 For the past  10 months many central streets have been blocked to traffic for a major  renovation paid for by  European Union money. 

The taxi drivers and  shop owners  are furious and tourism in general is  suffering yet a plethora of  tours and cooking classes are offered at the Tourism Office which is making the most of the Expo 2015’s  dedication to Italian food.
shopping with friends 

There are plenty of areas of the city that are not touched by the renovations but do  keep this  in mind before booking a hotel  in the affected areas. We chose  the Porta San Mamolo hotel in a quiet cul de sac and enjoyed  the silence  and restaurants of  this non-touristy  area  a short walk from  Piazza Maggiore.

garden well at Porta San Mamolo hotel 

 Window shopping  and wandering are a joy in Bologna. The window displays  of luxury boutiques  compete with those of the food shops and market stalls. This people-friendly town has  welcoming  public spaces such as Sala Borsa, for wi-fi and a drink as well as cozy bars and  restaurants for a meal or an  aperitivo.
tris di pasta 

Bologna “la Grassa” is rightly known for its high quality food shops bursting  with  excellent produce. A walk through one of the central markets or  one of the norcinerie  is a sensorial delight for whiffs of cured meats, cheeses and tartufo fill the air.
a feast for the eyes, as well as the stomach 
fresh fish, even late in the evening

Other sensorial delights for the eyes are the courtyards and colors of  Bologna’s palazzi  in the core of the old city. 
Wrought iron gates, marble columns, fountains  and  palatial courtyards exist next to  quirky  statues and  graffiti.   
lion doorknocker 

Dopey  window 

graffitto honoring Bolognese singer Lucio Dalla 
If  the wind and rain become  too strong, make  a beeline for the stately rooms  of the Civic Museum on the upper floors of  Palazzo Accorsio-Bologna’s City Hall- for another sensorial experience and refuge from the weather.

Sala Urbana with frescoed coat-of-arms
one of the many galleries  
With  21 rooms full of art works, antique furniture,  a newly restored  heraldic hall  and kind volunteer guides, Palazzo Accorsio is only one of the city’s many excellent museums and exhibition spaces. 
main staircase, Palazzo Accorsio 

red room, Palazzo Accorsio

Sala di Ercole, next to the Farnese chapel,Palazzo Accorsio

looking down on the central courtyard and well 

Palazzo Accorsio courtyard 

entrance to Archiginnasio 

Learn what Bologna was like in the 1700s 

"Travels to Tuscany and Northern Lazio" only  30 copies remain of this book published in 2004 . 
 Click  on the link to my website and read reviews.
You can  order one of the few remaining copies directly from the author. 

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