Monthly Archives: March 2014

Saturday market

There has always been a particular area in Parma dedicated exclusively to the market place and it is called Piazza Ghiaia. This name arises from the square’s origin, born in 1177 a.C after several violent rainstorms fell on the city and surrounding mountains producing one of the floods typical of torrents such as the one in Parma. It was a time when high and completed river barriers had not yet been built, thus the floods caused serious damage every time, with water entering every city street.
However, one time due to the presence of reinforced barriers on only the eastern side of the riverbed built briefly before, the Parma Torrent broke through towards the western part invading the land beyond the torrent and deviating from its rightful course.

The large area that remained uncovered, was levelled and built up for residents, taking the name of “Little Jar” (in the area that is present-day Romagnosi Street) and “Big Jar” (the present-day Ghiaia), which are even now at a lower level compared to the area along the torrent banks.

The Ghiaia has, since the Middle Ages, been used as a market place, and even more when, in the 18th century, the market stands were moved from the Grand Square. The enormous unmistakable red columns created by Nicola Bettoli were destroyed during World War II, but several years ago Ghaia’s market structure was restored and upgraded.


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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Correggio, a city and a painter

Last sunday it was a sunny and very spring-ish day. Our friends M&R called to ask if we wanted to join them and go to a little city in the nearby province of Reggio Emilia, Correggio, where there was a fair they wanted to see. It was the right occasion to test our new car, so we picked them up early afternoon and drove the 50kms till there.

Archaeological recoveries document the existence of  human presence (probably Celtic or Ligurian) during the iron age, Vl and V centuries B.C. Many Roman evidences prove that, without making it a real organized urban center, the land here was submitted to the Roman colonization. Correggio certainly was not born as a Roman town; it shows a clear medieval origin instead, tied to the longobardic domination. The name “Coregia” appears for the first time in a document in 946. It’s dated 1009 the first document in which it’s found a reference to the “Di Correggio” the family that ruled this territory for almost seven centuries.

The first impression as soon as we found a parking lot where to leave the car, was a building they call the “Torrione” (big tower)

One of the monuments of great interest in Correggio, the Tower, known also as Bastion of Charles V, is an elegant building realized in Liberty style in the XX century. The building has a little stretched out “U” form, with bricks’ façade with yellow and red colors. The building is a valid example of industrial archaeology. The Tower rises above the remains of one of the sixteenth-century bastions, once placed here as protection of the city. The initial purpose of the structure was as a drying warehouse for coccoons, vinasse storing and distillery, thanks to the then isolated position and the height  the structure reached. Later the Tower was purchased by the Municipality of Correggio for housing elderly people. Very beautiful are the ornamental friezes realized in cement,seen on the façade, and the dolphins woven to shoots of grapevine, the mouldings of the windows, the pinnacles and the anchor on the principal prospectus.

This is the most impressive building, but there are many beautiful and old houses in town….

Below, the theater dedicated to the musician Bonifazio Asioli, an elegant palace in neclassical style that was built on the ruins of a preexisting theater destroyed in 1889 by a violent fire, and that in turn ,englobed the remains of a fifteenth-century building….

Near the theater, there’s Palazzo dei Principi (Palace of the Princes). It’s the most representative Renaissance building in the city, architectural seal of the golden era of the Correggio family.The building is expression of the artistic influence from Ferrara on the court of Correggio, thanks to the strong bonds with the Ferrara families and the involvement in planning the building of the great architect-urbanist Biagio Rossetti. The façade is simple and harmonious, in visible bricks with single and mullioned windows in relief and a beautiful frame just below the roof. A beautiful portal, one of the most meaningful of the Renaissance, richly decorated to bas-relief and an elegant marble balcony above are located on the front wall. Inside there’s a beautiful courtyard, surrounded by tall marble columns with stupendous capitals. At the moment the palace houses the Lectures’ Room  “Arrigo Recordati” (with the adjacent Room of the Children) and the City Library “Giulio Einaudi.” At the first floor some rooms are dedicated to the “Correggio Museum”, while to the second floor is for historical files and the ancient funds of the library.

Just opposite the palace, there’s a narrow street where’s located the St. Chiara Monastery, dated from 1605. The Monastery, of an enclosed order, it is not accessible to the public, with the exception of the Church of Saint Chiara, that leans out on the so-called Square of the Nuns.

A short walk from the Church of St. Chiara, the monastic complex and the Cathedral of St. Francis.

It is the most ancient church of the city, some members of the Correggio family are buried here, as well as  the famous painter Anthony Allegri, “The Correggio” till 1641, when moved to the cloister due to some works in the church and then lost.The church has a façade in bricks, crowned with bows shaped as shell. Inside, three aisles with crossing vaults .The vaults are sustained by columns and pillars adorned with marmoreal capitals and ogival arcs. Built a first time in 1420, from Giberto VIII from Correggio, it was rebuilded, among 1469 and 1470, by Manfredo II and his wife Agnese Pio. The building remained nevertheless incomplete and, among 1475 and 1484, it was finally finished. Over the years it was enriched with  the Baroque chapels and the windows were modified. The church housed up to 1638 two juvenile paintings of the Correggio: the Madonna of St. Francis, now at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden and the Rest in Egypt with san Francis now at the Uffizi in Florence. On October 15th 1996 a strong earthquake seriously damaged the structures of the church, still under renovation due to the lack of funds.

What remains of the old monastery external walls is this beautiful colonnade. The building now houses a high school.

At the end of the colonnade there’s a little square witl the old palace that once was the old court of law. On the front of the palace, at the end of WWII, they placed the “Winged Victory” the monument to the fallen

To go back to the starting point, we had to walk through the flowers and plants market, and it was a feast for the eyes………..

On the other side of the parking lot, there’s the native house of the painter Correggio. The actual building was built in 1775 by Duke Francis Contarelli on the area where the painter’s residence rose (1489 -1534). It was probably a little cottage of few rooms, with a little courtyard, with a ground floor workshop and first habitable floor. Neglected fora  long time, the house was recovered to the local historical memory putting on the façade a registration dictated by the historiographer Setti in 1811, then overhung by a medallion in plaster with the face of the painter, work of Eusebio Casalgrandi. A 1852 memorial stone was placed in the middle of the courtyard, erect in 1880 by Prospero Viani. The now called “Correggio Art Home” is a center of documentation devoted to Anthonio Allegri and it has a scientific section with a library endowed with ancient and modern volumes and a multimedia room, developing and promoting cultural activities and exploitation of the figure of the artist.

When we left Correggio it was already late afternoon and we knew the road home would be very busy. So we decided to have dinner out in Novellara (another little historical town worth a visit) at a place our friend R already knew, a little expensive but very good. We had great food, it was the perfect match for a great day…..


Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Down memory lane….

Last saturday afternoon the high-school that daughter M attended was open to the public, for a sort of self-advertising in view of the new academic year’s enrolments. It was ages since my daughter told me she wanted to go there, and see if she could have back all the works and projects she did over the years and that are stored in the school warehouse……

The Art Institute “Paolo Toschi” is housed in a wing of the farnese building “Pilotta” and on a street with the same name facing the river Parma. It occupies a big part of those same rooms that in 1752 the Duke of Parma Don Filippo Borbone had destined to the Academy of Fine Arts and where had its offices the Stamperia Reale (Royal Printing House) directed by Giambattista Bodoni who mastered here what made him famous in the world.

The eighteenth-century academy imposed itself at European level for the modernity of its statutes and for the prestige of its contests, that saw as a competitor, among the others, in 1771, the young promising spanish painter Francisco Goya. Among the Academic teachers, Ennemond Alexandre Petitot, architect of court and teacher of architecture and the sculptor Jean Baptiste Boudard are still remembered in town. Annexed to the academy, a particular evening school took care of the education of the local artisans. The tradition is still honored, the school holds evening courses for those working during the day.

After the Napoleonic order of closure, with the Duchess Maria Luigia the Academy recovered the ancient fame thanks to the direction of the great engraver PaoloToschi and to architect Nicolò Bettoli teaching, of the sculptor Tommaso Bandini, of the painter Giambattista Borghesi. In 1877 the academy  is divided in the Academic College, with cultural finality, and in the Institute of Fine Arts, with didactic finality.

The institute, from 1883, became School of Art Applied to the Industry. With the 1923 reform the Institute of Art was articulated in three sections: Stage Design, Decoration, Architecture, and from 1940, Graphics. Each of the courses were of a three-years duration and to the grads they gave the License of Master of Art. Now the duration of the courses is of five years each, and they are Architecture, Graphics, Painting and Pictorial Decoration, Relief and Cataloguing of Cultural Property; from 1998 the course of Disciplines for Theater, Cinema and Modern Media took the place of Stage Design.

The students over the years had permission to make the school their own, decorating the walls of the corridors and of some classrooms….with Magritte as an inspiration….

……….remembering ancient Egypt……….

….emulating Keith Haring…..

or with original drawings.

These are the stairs leading to the “pollaio” (henhouse) the upper level rooms so called by the students going there between classes to revise a lesson, smoke and do the homeworks not done at home….

It was strange for my daughter to be there after almost 7 years, she said that paintings, drawings and decorations are still the same with some good additions…………and at 26 she said she was feeling old!!!

(inside pics are my daughters)





Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Uncategorized


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February: short month, long post

This busy month started a grey and rainy sunday afternoon, when my daughter and her bgf Alice organized a baby shower for their friend Marty who’s expecting baby Edoardo any minute now……her fianceè out of the way, it was a women thing, even my mother was there especially invited by the mother-to-be (affectionately she calls my mom her “spare grannie”) but who forbid me to post her pic……As you can see by the posters hanging on the walls, the proud soon-to-be-a-father is devoted to Hollywood (and my personal supplier of movies)

Marty little niece Manila was there too, the center of everybody’s attention……………

Manila helped with the gifts too, a little disappointed that they weren’t hers!

Daughter M’s friend Alice has very compassionate parents, always ready to give a hand and always caring and willing to help. They practically helped a young woman from Ghana to raise her daughter Matilde, now 17 years old, in fact a member of the family. She studies at the local music school (and she play the violin wonderfully!) and one saturday afternoon we had the chance to be there, visiting the school and attend the rehearsal of the second term final show….

At 15 km from Parma, along the ancient Franciscan route to Santiago de Compostela you can find the Museo Ettore Guatelli, perched on a hill overlooking the river Taro Valley. The Museum is a treasure trove of 60.000 objects, ranging from pre-industrial peasantry tools to kitchen utensils to hand-made toys. Items that speak of poverty-stricken, but provided with inventiveness and imagination. There are also rooms devoted to clocks, porcelain, tin boxes, musical instruments and a lot more making it, thus, a wide-ranging collection of enormous ethnographical and historical value. Memories that the visitor feels like his own and will take with him as part of history of mankind. I was there already once, a long ago just after the museum opened, but my daughter never seen it. So one sunday afternoon while my husband was at the football game, we drove up the hills to fall back in time for a few hours….

From the museum brochure: The Guatelli Museum is not only an object of landscape, building construction or collection of great spatial and distributive complexity, but it is also a map of the author’s intellectual world, a world that is not limited to metaphors. It communicates to posterity more than what meets the eye: it gives a sense of the value of the human course that continues to shed light on the present sense. Ettore was a man who investigated, who searched and looked inside himself. The museum was his way of investigating, conquering, seducing, discovering about men, relationships, history…

One friday morning while going to work I saw this on one of our city main streets….

It was the beginning of a three days of pure chocolate lust……that morning they were fixing the stands all along the street………….

but that same evening when I was out from work, the market was in full activity….

Last sunday of february the forecast were good for our area, so with two couples of friends we decided it was the perfect day for a visit up to the hills and to have lunch at a very good (food wise) restaurant/farm holidays…..

After lunch, all based on the chef personal interpretation of local dishes of black pigs (soooooo good!) we needed a walk, so we made our way through the natural reserve to a nearby almost deserted village….the sun was still shining, we were still tasting wonderful flavors in our mouths, and we enjoyed each other company, chatting and walking….and taking pics in my case…..

Mount Prinzera is located in the hills of the Taro River valley, and as far as the geological aspect is concerned, it has volcanic origins with allochthonous, ophiolitic formations composed of magmatic rock and their alterations with the prevalence of periodites and serpentine sand rarely basaltic. This distinct basic rock formation is poor in silica, and chemically rich in iron and magnesium, and poor in phosphorous, calcium, sodium and potassium. The combinations of these factors of the earth with the other climatic and other environmental characteristics together with climatic history of the Quaternary era has made it a true and authentic biogenetic island and has determined a rich and varied population of flora with a concentration of numerous endemic species having ecological and biogeografical characteristics typical of relics and thus of great scientific interest. Among the 350 species of superior plants catalogued so far, over 30 belong to the protected species, according to the regional law, with the presence of numerous ophiolitic and geographic endemism and other species that grow sheltered on the rocks.

This below is one of the many “maestà” (literally majesty) that you can find along these mountain roads, sacred images engraved in plates of white marble and often framed by decorations in sandstone. In the whole territory of the Appennino majesties are particularly numerous, sometimes forgotten and covered in musks, from the ivy or from weeds, they are anywhere, on the side of the road, inserted in the rocky walls along the paths leading into the woods and among the pastures, inside the inhabited centers on the houses walls.
They are divided in three fundamental typologies, of house, of source and of road, depending on the location, walled on the external walls of residences (thus protecting the home), on the pediments of a fountain (protecting the rurale life) or, in form of aedicula along the roads (protecting the pilgrim or wayfarer).

This area has a diversified environment and an abundance of habitats which favour the variety of fauna. There also numerous species of insects and amphibians as well as a considerably important birdlife population which is permanently represented such as the red-legged partridge, the buzzard, the sparrow hawk, the kestrel and the tawny owel. Among the mammals are the wild hare, the squirrel, the fox, the stone marten, the weasel, the wild boar and the roe. Another attraction must not be forgotten and it is that of the historical-artistic patrimony. While travelling along the ancient route called “Strada Romea” or “Via Francigena” of Mount Bardone, the visitor cannot help but notice the remarkable beauty of such testimony. Pro Natura Parma which manages the oasis under the National Federation has set up a nature trail which develops through a series of observation points which allow visitors to understand the main environmental characteristics of the territory. Moreover, in the centre of ancient village of Bardone, in Val Sporzana, a few rooms of a former elementary school have been transformed into an Environmental Centre. This study centre is equipped for various teaching and study activities and for environmental education and contains an archives and a technical video library with the possibility of hosting groups to provide activities for lessons, debates and meetings.

Then we drove till the lower village of Calestano, searching for a good coffee……The town is located in the Apennine zone of the province of Parma and is between the right bank of the Baganza Torrent and the woods, meadows and uncontaminated natural scenery. The territory was regularly visited in the prehistoric era and settlements from the Bronze Age have been discovered. Scattered over the land there are houses and towers from the late medieval period and 1600s, country dwellings, residential palaces, from the 1600s-1700s. The stone buildings from the ancient nucleus originate from the 15th and 18th centuries, giving testimony to the long history of habitat.

This little guy is called “the old elf” but it seems no one really knows who he represents or why they put him on top of that little pillar, but the palace (fully renovated) is of medieval origin, so I bet he’s sitting there for a long time…..

On the façade of the Coruzzi-Colla palace, medallion with Giuseppe Coruzzi profile, physician, and niche with the bust of Lorenzo Coruzzi, philanthropist (1852).

The Bastia (bastion), on the back of St. Lorenzo church, is a strengthened outpost of a hypothetical fortress, never finished and then destroyed……………

Another majesty, on the bastion north wall……

And now, after all this, I’m ready for march and what it might bring………………….


Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


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