Monthly Archives: November 2014

On the road – Palais Des Papes, Avignon (F)

Avignon is a commune in south-eastern France in the department of Vaucluse on the left bank of the Rhône river. Between 1309 and 1377 during the Avignon Papacy, seven successive popes resided in Avignon and in 1348 Pope Clement VI bought the town from Joanna I of Naples. Papal control persisted until 1791 when, during the French Revolution, it became part of France. The town is now the capital of the Vaucluse department and one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts. The historic centre, which includes the Palais des Papes, the cathedral, and the Pont d’Avignon, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The medieval monuments and the annual Festival d’Avignon have helped to make the town a major centre for tourism.

The Palace of the Popes stands as the mighty symbol of the church’s influence throughout the western Christian world in the 14th century. The Popes’ Palace is the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe (15,000 m2 of floor space, which is the equivalent of 4 Gothic cathedrals). Avignon became the home of the popes in 1309, who were fleeing the violent chaos of Rome. The Palais was built between 1335 and 1364 on a natural rocky outcrop at the northern edge of Avignon, overlooking the river Rhône. The site was formerly occupied by the old episcopal palace of the bishops of Avignon.The Palais des Papes was built in two main phases with two distinct segments, known as the Palais Vieux (Old Palace) and Palais Neuf (New Palace). By the time of its completion, it occupied an area of 2.6 acres. The building was enormously expensive, consuming much of the papacy’s income during its construction.

The Palais Vieux was constructed by the architect Pierre Poisson of Mirepoix at the instruction of Pope Benedict XII. The austere Benedict had the old episcopal palace razed and replaced with a much larger building centred on a cloister, heavily fortified against attackers. Its four wings are flanked with high Towers. Under Popes Clement VI, Innocent VI and Urban V, the building was expanded to form what is now known as the Palais Neuf. Jean de Louvres was commissioned by Clement VI to build a new tower and adjoining buildings, including a 52m-long Grand Chapel to serve as the location for papal acts of worship. Two more towers were built under Innocent VI, and Urban V completed the main courtyard (known as the Court d’Honneur) with further buildings enclosing it. The interior of the building was sumptuously decorated with frescos, tapestries, paintings, sculptures and wooden ceilings.

The popes departed Avignon in 1377, returning to Rome, but this prompted the Papal Schism during which time the antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII made Avignon their home until 1408. The latter was imprisoned in the Palais for ten years after being besieged within in 1398. The building remained in the hands of antipapal forces for some years – it was besieged from 1410 to 1411 – but was returned to the authority of papal legates in 1433.

Below, the Great Tinel.  This room was used primarily as a reception room. Covered with tapestries on starry blue background, there is actually nothing left of these sets. Indeed, a fire that destroyed the palace in the XIVth century, many parts have been restored or rebuilt.During conclaves, it is in this room that the cardinals met to elect a new pope. For the occasion, the room was walled and only a small opening was left to provide all the necessary food. After each conclave, the walls were destroyed, revealing a vaulted room opened to the rest of the palace.

The Popes’ Room, with the paintings of the 9 Popes residing here (seven popes and two schismatic popes)

and the old library, now the palace bookshop

Although the Palais remained under papal control (along with the surrounding city and Comtat Venaissin) for over 350 years afterwards, it gradually deteriorated despite a restoration in 1516. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789 it was already in a bad state when it was seized and sacked by revolutionary forces. In 1791 it became the scene of a massacre of counter-revolutionaries, whose bodies were thrown into the Tour des Latrines in the Palais Vieux. The Palais was subsequently taken over by the Napoleonic French state for use as a military barracks and prison. Although it was further damaged by the military occupation – the frescos were covered over and largely destroyed – ironically this ensured the building’s physical survival. It was only vacated in 1906, when it became a national museum. It has been under virtually constant restoration ever since.

Clément VI studium, also called “la chambre du cerf”. This room is one of the most famous rooms of the palace because of its paintings on the walls and roof.This room served as Pope Clement VI writing cabinet. It is commonly called “house of deer” because of its murals depicting hunting scenes. These paintings are very interesting because they show all the influence of Italian painting on French painters of the time. Work on perspectives, mainly mastered by Italian painters is very present in these representations. It is an artistic work of high quality for the time, which leads to think that beyond the artistic influence of the great Italian masters, their participation in these works is quite possible.

Saint-Martial chapel located on the second level of the Saint-Jean tower, the chapel tells through paintings the main parts of Saint Martial’s life. Matteo Giovanetti worked there in 1344 and 1345. The reading direction of the painting should be made from top to bottom.

When hosting ceremonies at the palace, the pontiff dressed here in the North Sacristy. Pope Innocent VI actually built a bridge in 1360 between the Clementine Chapel and the apartments. It ends near the window in the sacristy. Although these tombs of cardinals and other spiritual dignitaries look real, they are actually plaster replicas.

The Popes’ Dressing Room, or what it’s left……….

If you have enough strenght (and breath) I recommend you to climb up to the roof of the palace to have a glimpse of the city below…

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Posted by on November 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Quote of the week

“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for a moment that we’re not alone.”

(Orson Welles)


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Posted by on November 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


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This is sooooo good


Rice Pasta” with Peppers


  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 onion, small
  • 3 ½ oz tomatoes, fresh
  • 1 ½ oz Mascarpone cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • grated Pecorino cheese
  • salt

Brown in the oil over a low heat the celery, onion, and peppers, all thinly sliced. Add the fresh tomatoes, in pieces. Salt and leave to cook, always over a low heat, for about an hour and a half. Sieve, add the Mascarpone, and whisk briskly.

Having prepared the sauce, proceed to make the “frascarelli”. Pot a pot on the heat containing about 13 cups of water. Sprinkle the flour like a veil over the whole work-surface. Beat the eggs with the egg whites and sprinkle, very lightly, over the flour. The ability to produce good “frascarelli” depends on how self-assuredly and quickly this operation is carried out. Having gently collected all the flour, sieve using a very fine sieve.

The drops that have formed which remain in the sieve are the lumps called “frascarelli”: these are immersed in salted boiling water. Leave to cook for one minute. Drain, immerse in the sauce and dress with grated Pecorino. Serve hot.




Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Uncategorized



Last bike ride of the season

Last sunday of october, it was a sunny and warm day, we knew it would be probably the last one suitable for a bike ride. So in the morning (not too early, we waited for the sun to warm up a little) with the usual bunch of friends we drove about 60 kms to the little town of Goito for the ” Motograna” ( a bikers meeting in the name of Grana Padano cheese).

Goito is on the right bank of the Mincio River near the bridge in the region of Lombardia. The town is part of the region known as Alto Mantovano (Upper Mantua). It was founded as a Roman colony in the early 2nd century BC as a defensive outpost on the Mincio crossing along the Via Postumia from Cremona to Verona. In the late 5th century AD, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it become a fortress of the Ostrogoths, from whom the current name perhaps derives. Later it was conquered by the Lombards and the Franks. In the later Middle Ages it was held by the Canossa family as part of the Holy Roman Empire, and then it established itself as a free commune. In the 15th century Goito was contended between the Visconti and Gonzaga families, until, after a battle fought on 14 June 1453, it became a possession of marquis Ludovico III Gonzaga. He built here a residence (in which the painter Andrea Mantegna worked in 1463–64), restored the fortifications and built the Naviglio di Goito canal, and died here by plague in 1478. Goito maintained its prosperity under dukes Guglielmo and Vincenzo I Gonzaga. After the decline of the Gonzaga lordship, and struck by an earthquake on 5 July 1693, in 1708 it was annexed to the Austrian-held Duchy of Milan. In the late 18th century it was captured by the French and later retaken by the Austrians. During the First Italian War of Independence, the Piedmontese forces won two actions (8 April and 30 May 1848, called the battle of Goito) over the Austrians here. It became part of Italy after the Second Italian War of Independence.

For ages there’s a gentle battle between the producers in the Lomardia region (Grana Padano) and the ones in Emilia region (Parmigiano-Reggiano) debating which cheese in the best. I’m a little biased, being born and lived all my life where the Parmgiano is the undisputed king, but Grana is not bad at all, and strolling through the town streets, we get as many tastings as we could, with salami, ham, honey, jam and the excellence of the region, the “mostarda“.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Health overlooks the main square of Goito. Baroque in style, it was the masterpiece of the artist Borsotti Giovanni Maria (1729).
Solemn church, furnished with important artistic pieces, with one aisle and four vaulted chapels (devoted to “S. Anthony Abate”, to the “Sacred Heart”, to the “Our Lady of the Health”, to the “Sacred Crucifix”).
The façade is an elegant work with columns and lesene that forms eight panels (in the two superior there are two niches with the statues of the “SS. Pietro and Paul”). Above the principal portal devoted to the Virgo (work of the sculptor Giuseppe Menozzi with engraved images of eminent personalities that participated in the history of Goito) there’s a mosaic reproducing the image of Q”Our Lady of the Health.”

Closing one side of the square, the stables and warehouse of the Villa Moschini (half of the building has been recently restored)

As you can see, there are many kind of bikers….some are so very unique….

We decided to win the battle for lunch heading for a restaurant before the rush hour…..we had some specialities, like risotto with “salamella mantovana” (a sausage made only with specific pork meats)

and the saffron version …..

the usual but always so good tortelli filled with pumpkin cream

cotechino with mashed potatoes

a tasting of cheeses with jams and mostarda

and a pumpkin pie

Lucky for us the weather was still so good and we had the chance to take a long walk along the Mincio river (and we needed it after that lunch!)

(sorry for hubby hands and nose……lol…..)

The gate of Villa Moschini, one of the many country residences belonged to the Gonzaga from Mantua.

The first building, with a huge park, was built in 1460 by the marquis of Mantua Ludovico III Gonzaga based on a sketch drawn by engineer Giovanni of Padua. It was subsequently widened and embellished by his successors, Francis II Gonzaga, that used it as a residence for hunting and most of all by Guglielmo Gonzaga. In the realization of the villa the best architects (Luca Fancelli, Antonio Maria Viani) and painters (Theodore Ghisi, Ippolito Andreasi) were called by the Gonzaga .The devastating earthquake of July 6 th 1693 provoked the collapse of the roof and it damaged some rooms and the fates of the villa were marked by the decline of the Gonzaga dinasty (1708). In 1735 the troops of occupation of the Kingdom of Sardinia devastated and then stripped the building, that collapsed after a short time . At the end of the XVIII century the villa was rebuilt in neoclassic style by the Mantua architects Giuseppe Crevola and Giambattista Marconi, with the contribution of Leopoldo Pollack for the realization of the park. It was held by the Counts d’Arco and Cocastelli and since the end ‘800 the villa passed to the family Moschini.

Too bad the villa has been closed for a while due to inside renovations, they told us it will be opened again next spring…..maybe next year Motograna will have a surprise in store for us?




Posted by on November 23, 2014 in Uncategorized


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My life in october

The month was marked most of all by the heavy rain and the consequent floods that hit many and huge parts of the city (as I wrote here) and of the entire country. Unfortunately many area of Italy are still fighting against it.

We had also the opportunity to spend a day in the family country home all together, the best way to spend time for me…

There was a little thrilling moment too…..

Then, a long stand-by time due to mom surgery and her stay at the hospital and the following recovering time at home. Luckily enough I had the chance to spend time with friends too, first for a saturday afternoon walk in the hills, enjoying the autumn colors, smells and sounds.. there was a bright sun when we arrived, then a little fog took over giving the place more charme in my opinion….

We had a reservation at a very good restaurant for dinner….and it was a good thing that we had a long walk before…..

The last sunday of the month it was time for (maybe) the last bike ride of the season….but this will be the subject for a post on its own….

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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Quote of the week

“Of this alone even God is deprived, the power of making things that are past never to have been.”


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Posted by on November 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


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At my table

During my mom stay at the hospital, I usually went home very late in the evening and my daughter was in charge of the dinner. Here is what she cooked for the entire family, from quick and easy recipes to more elaborate ones…(taking care to fix meals gluten and lactose free….)

French toast with ham, cheese, artichokes, capers and fresh tomatoes………..

Cannelloni filled with goat and parmesan cheeses and swiss chard, with (rice) bechamel sauce….

Fried cod mouthful rolled before in maize flour and almonds finely chopped……….

Maccheroni with courgettes and speck…………..

Pasta and beans…………..

Courgette flowers filled with goat and sheep ricotta and grated………..

Courgette and leek frittata………..

Halibut with potatoes, tomatoes and green & black olives….

Shells filled with bolognese sauce and goat cheese……….

A big toast (rice bread) filled with cooked ham and mozzarella……….

And most of the time she did the dishes too!!!

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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Uncategorized


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