Monthly Archives: June 2015

Ducale Palace

It’s one of the most taken pictures in Parma, the Ducale Palace, located in the Ducale Park in the city center, near the river. I see it every time I decide to take the park route to work, and I’ve always taken it for granted, it’s just there….One day my daughter told me that a local Publishing Home, specialized in books about our local history and working with our university, was about to have free tour guides in some special places around town. Could we skip the opportunity? Surely not….The first tour was exactly that, the Ducale Palace…

The palace was built from 1561 on the orders of the Duke of Parma Ottavio Farnese and was the seat of the ducal court until the second half of the seventeenth century, when the seat of the duchy was transferred to other buildings located next to the Pilotta Palace . Its construction was necessary to equip the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza with a permanent location for the court. They chose an area near the ancient castle of the Sforza family and the project was entrusted to Jacopo Barozzi called Vignola.  The construction work was directed by Giovanni Francesco Testa . The construction type was that of the Florentine  and Roman homes that the Farnese were building in those same years (including the Farnese Palace in Rome and one in Caprarola). In front of the palace it was built by Giovanni Boscolii a magnificent fountain with statues and fountains that made ​​it very popular at the time. It is said that travelers passing by Parma couldn’t lack a visit. Vitelli, in a letter written to Pico della Mirandola , argued that the celebrated fountains in Caprarola were worth nothing compared to this. It was completely demolished in the second half of the eighteenth century, perhaps because of health problems it posed, on the occasion of the modernization works of the building made ​​by Petitot . The decoration of the rooms was entrusted to various prominent artists of the time, including Jerome Mirola, Jacopo Zanguidii called Bertoja, Agostino carracci, Jan Soens, Cesare Baglioni, Giovanni Battista Trotti called Malosso and Luca Reti. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the building was modified and expanded, first bySimone Moschino and then by Girolamo Rainaldi , who added the courtyards and the lateral structure, to the initial quadrilateral structure. 

The building reached its peak during the rule of Ranuccio Farnese, but during the reign of his son Odoardo, absorbed by military commitments and paying little attention to the court life, it met a gradual abandonment. In the last two decades of the seventeenth century the new Duke Ranuccio II Farnese gave start to works of renovation of the palace and the ducal gardens. In the eighteenth century it was mainly the French architect Ennemond Petitot who renewed the look of the building. After the Unification of Italy the palace housed the Military School of Infantry. During World War II it suffered an aerial bombardment which caused serious damage. After the war the palace and the garden appeared largely devastated due to the war. The reconstruction works found significant obstruction by bureaucracy, until in 1953 the building became the seat of the Command of the Legion of Carabinieri of Parma. The reconstruction of the south-west wing of the building, completely destroyed, began just in 1959 and ended in 1968 (sadly enough I can remember when my grandfather took me there for the unveiling….lol).

A monumental eighteenth century staircase leads to a large living room on the first floor……….

Dell’Aetas Felicior room (or “Hall of Kiss”)  reveals frescoes from Bertoja between 1570 and 1573 with scenes representing the myth of Venus and Love. The hall takes its name from the Latin Aetas Felicior that stands on a frame that runs along the ceiling.It is also called “the Kiss Hall” for the dance scene with the detail of the kiss that can be seen between columns of transparent crystal, a typical creation of late Mannerism, where space is used as a tool of naturalistic illusion.

Hall of Love – The vault is frescoed by Agostino carracci with three representations of love: maternal love (Venus watching his son Enea while he travels towards Italy), heavenly love between Venus and Mars and the human love between Peleus and Thetis. Carracci died in 1602 before finishing the work, which was completed in 1679-80 by Carlo Cignani.

This is said Hall of Birds, for the ceiling decorated with stucco and fresco of Benigno Bossi, representing 224 different species of birds.

The Palace currently houses the Provincial Command of the Carabinieri of Parma and one of the venues of the RIS (Department of scientific investigations’ Carabinieri ). It is expected to be the representative office of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA ).


Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Mussels and Clams Bucatini

Ingredients per 4 servings

  • 1 lb bucatini
  • 1 ¾ lb mussels
  • 1 ¾ lb clams
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Carefully, scrape and clean the mussels well with the help of a knife: rinse and place them in a pan with a tablespoon of oil.
Heat the pan and once all the mussels have opened, remove them from the shell and collect them in a small bowl.
Set aside some of the cooking liquid and filter it to remove any impurities.
Rinse and open the clams in a pan in the same way.

Remove the clams from their shells and add to the mussels, being sure to toss out those that seem to have some impurities such as sand or that do not open. Filter and et aside some of the cooking liquid.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pan and add a clove of garlic. After a few seconds, add the cooking liquid that you set aside.

Let it thicken a bit and then add the mussels and clams.
Cook for a few moments, then remove the garlic clove.

In the meantime, cook the bucatini in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain and toss with the sauce of mussels and clams in the pan over high heat for a minute. You can add a touch of color by adding some “pomodorini

Mussels and clams are very tasty served alone: therefore, be careful of how much salt you use to cook the pasta. You can add freshly ground black pepper just before serving!


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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in Uncategorized



Sanvitale fortress

It was a very strange saturday, one moment sunny and warm, the next cloudy and windy….perfect for an indoor visit. So, with my daughter and her friend L, I drove to the nearby village of Fontanellato and we entered the old district…

Our final goal was the Sanvitale Fortress……….

The Fortress dates back to the Middle Age, precisely to 1124 when he first defensive tower was built by the Pallavicinos. The walls were then erected, starting from the north squared turret, probably after 1386 by the Sanvitales who acquired the Castle from the Viscontis of Milan. The whole structure was completed only in the XVIth century with the construction of the first floor, adapted later as an apartment, operation which can be considered as the beginning of a definitive transformation of the Fortress from a defensive structure into a residential home

The rampart on the two wings was created, for example, as a warehouse for weapons but it subsequently became a roof garden.
The original entrance to the Fortress, today the entrance to the Chapel, emerges from the nucleus of the structure with traces of the old battlement on the front and on the left side and the lift truck attachments of the drawbridge. The present entrance is in the central part of the castle through a brick bridge built in the XVII th century.

During the centuries many interventions have been done to the structure. They are still visible mainly in the façade: here a big XVII th century clock Alessandro Sanvitale ordered and several windows with wroutht iron balconies can be seen.
The entrance leads to the inner court characterized by a squared plan and closed by porticos on the two sides: one with brick rounded columns substaining vaults surmounted by two open galleries on the right side and, opposite, another with squared pillars substaining low arches.
Today, although restored, the XV th century vaulted staircase leading to the upper gallery is still existing and the underground portico on the north-east wing is the original one

The presence of the Sanvitales is still tangible not only in the coats of arms, in the blazons scattered everywhere but also in the formal organization of the urban centre, in the rooms of the Fortress which look still lively as well as in the churches and in many other places. The first documents describe the family as not coming from the feudal nobility but strictly linked to the magistratures and the town structures ( the Sanvitales were registered as podestà or capitani del popolo in several towns). They got many benefits and much power from the development of the Municipality during the Middle Age. This is the reason why they were considered members of the municipal nobility. Their Guelphic attitude led them to be in charge of important positions in many towns and to get as a benefit the land of Fontanellato in 1378 from Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the Lord of Milan, who had occupied lands belonging to the Terzis. In 1404 the brothers Gilberto and Gianmartino Sanvitale got the investiture for the County of Fontanellato. From the XV th century on they chose this castle, among the many they owned, as the centre of the family’s belongings and in spite of a temporary confiscation of Alfonso II Sanvitale’s goods in 1612, as he had been involved in the Farnese’s conspiracy, they were the Lords of the place till the suppression of the feuds under Napoleon’ s government. However, the link between the Sanvitales and Fontanellato was not interrupted. The Sanvitales were present and active till 1948 when Count Giovanni sold the Fortress to the Town which accepted to keep it with courage and farsightedness.

The Apartment on the Fortress first floor guests furnishings and decorations dating back to the time between the XVI th and the XIX th centuries : from the courtyard a staircase leads to the first gallery admitting to the armoury with weapons from the XVII th to the XIX th centuries and a typical iron coffer of the end of the XVI th century.

The “ Dining Room “ with XVIII th and XIX th centuries ceramics leads to the “ Billiards Room “ with a ceiling and a floor of the late XV th century and furnishings of the XIX th century and then to the Party Room with a with a monochrome painted ceiling and a pictorial ornament of the late XVII th century, a beautiful XVII th century decorated harpsichord and many XVIII th century furnishings. The visit goes on with the “Wedding Room” with its rich XVII th century furniture and a lacunar ceiling, coming from the old Sanctuary of the Madonna, and ends with the “Gallery of the Forefathers” housing 74 family portraits by a XVII th century anonymous artist and some important relics belonging to Duchess Maria Luisa as the famous Hand with a Flower in her Wrist by some Canova’s pupils, dating back to 1820.

On the ground floor there is a valuable collection of paintings: from the Sanvitales’ portraits attributed to Molinaretto and Boldrighi to the canvases by Carlo Francesco Nuvolone, Boselli, Ilario Spolverini, Carlo Preda. The Gallery leads to the so called “Equilibraste Women” decorated with a monochrome freize full of amorini, feminine pictures, sphinx-like masks and animals on threads and to the next “Amorini and Grotesque Rooms“ attributed to a pupil of Cesare Cesariano.

The most important jewel of the Fortress is the Diana and Atteone ‘ s Room frescoed by Francesco Mazzola, known with the name of Parmigianino ( Parma 1503 – Casalmaggiore 1540 ). Painted between 1523 and 1524 for Galeazzo Sanvitale and his wife, Paola Gonzaga, it  is a work of the artist’ s youth. The vault is decorated with putti around a  pergola with, in the middle, a wide spot of sky and a mirror with the warning “Respice Finem“. In the lunettes below the myth of Diana and Atteone, inspired by Ovidio’ s Metamorphosis, is painted. Several interpretations have been given to the small room during the decades but the most credible hypothesis is the one indicating it as a small “boudoir“ or the private study of Paola Gonzaga represented in the lady over the window.

The visit of the ground floor ends with the “Theatre Room“ of Maria Luigia’s children and with the ”Room of the Maps“ where maps and plans of the Sanvitales’ lands are shown

The final room is the XIX th century “Optical Room“ where a system of mirrors casts the reflection of the square in front on a screen.



Posted by on June 21, 2015 in Uncategorized


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A busy weekend

I have this friend, back from the high school times…..She’s always been the creative one, and now finally, when others (me included) just think about retirement, she instead started a new adventure….

There’s this bijoux shop, for so may years active in my hometown, and a favourite of mine….the lady running it has some health issues and was looking for someone who could run the shop along with her daughter and for designing new bijoux lines… friend was more than delighted to be choosen….

Early may, one saturday morning there was the big opening of the renovated showroom with some new collections…and I was there to support my creative old classmate….The only one who’s really worried is my husband, very concerned about how much money I will spend there in the future….

The same day, in the afternoon, with my daughter and a couple of friends we went to the “Gelato Festival” held in the courtyard of Palazzo Pilotta, in the city center….

So many flavors to choose from, and you have to taste as much as you could with a very low price card, that allowed you to vote for the best one

There were even some very good pastries (according to my friend E) filled with ice cream….

Obviously we couldn’t miss the Nutella ice-cream…..

Here you had to leave your vote….

Mine was for our friends from “Gelateria Trilly” …here is Ilaria and the guy on the left on the screen is her brother Luca…their shop is just a few steps from my home…

and this is their terrific “crema all’uovo” (milk, eggs, lemon zest and coffee beans)

but my daughter’s fav is their cocoa-and-chocolate….

You could also attend lessons on how to make a good homemade ice-cream….

After all that we had in the afternoon, our dinner (when our husbands joined us) was just a bit of a very good vegetarian tart…..

On sunday afternoon, with our friends E and L, we spent some times at a local mall where there was a sort of Vintage American Festival, with lots of old fancy cars, that my husband really enjoyed….

but not really having his photo taken….

The real reason we were there is this couple here, and their friends of a dancing company….hubby’s cousin A and his partner A (in real life too). This was a small demo inside the mall……

We had a nice happy hour outside, while watching the dancing exhibition….

They invited us to take lessons with them….I don’t really see me or hubby doing that………but we had a great time watching their performance…


Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


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1000 Miles

For 30 years, Mille Miglia has been bringing together exeptional personalities to the world of sport. Today, the reenactment of the Mille Miglia is an event in a class of its own. Mille Miglia has combined tradition with innovation, and vividly coloured that combination with creativity, elegance, beautiful scenery and the Italian way of living. This plethora of rich elements has made the Mille Miglia a symbol of Italian excellence all over the world. For the 2015 edition, the race made his first time ever stop in Parma, not just a passage like many years before. The first cars arrived early evening and we were there to greet them, along with a very big crowd.

There is an old motto that says fuel rather than blood flows through the veins of the people who come from Brescia. Brescians innate passion for racing had already come alive in the city by the end of the nineteenth century; from 1895 to 1898 three motor racing competitions had taken place, but by 1899 that number had gone up to a good twenty races. The first appearance of a racecar in the Brescian territory came about on March 14,1899, during the Verona-Mantua-Brescia-Verona race, when Ettore Bugatti won, driving his Prinetti & Stucchi three-wheeler vehicle. Although the Brescians were involved in the organization of this Veronese race, they really wanted a race of their own. They therefore decided to organize two races immediately, the first of which took place on September 10, 1899, and the second on the following day.

That Sunday, Brescia held the first-ever “Speed Race”, a 6 km automobile race on the ring road of the city, in addition to a motorcycle race. On the following Monday, the Brescia- Mantua-Verona-Brescia 223 km race began. In 1904, the “Brescian Raceway” was prepared, connecting the northern Italian cities, Brescia-Cremona-Mantua-Brescia. The circuit was 185 kilometers and was to be repeated twice. The first race took place on September 5, 1904, during a special week in Brescia known as “la Settimana di Brescia”. The following year, this special “week” was repeated and on September 9, 1905, the “Brescian Raceway” held the first Coppa Florio race. Until after the end of WWI, no further races were organized at which point the Brescians came back with flying colors. Thanks to Arturo Mercanti, an “adopted” Brescian, the city took on the organization of the Italian Grand Prix, which was added to a wide range of events organized under the name of “International Automotive-Air Circuit” in 1921. In addition to the preparation of a race known as “Flying Kilometre”, and other races designed for minor categories, greater attention was obviously given to Brescia’s new Raceway, known as “Circuito della Fascia d’Oro.” The raceway’s name “Fascia d’Oro” (Golden Ribbon) was taken from the area near Montichiari, a small town near Brescia where the first Italian Grand Prix (Gran Premio d’Italia) was initiated on September 4, 1921.

In 1922, much to Brescia’s chagrin, Arturo Mercanti opened the “Monza Circuit” and moved the Italian Gran Prix to this newly constructed raceway in the town of Monza, north of Milan, where it still takes place. Brescia’s great passion for motor vehicles prompted them to set up their own Automobile Club in 1906. However, it remained under the wings of the Milan Automobile Club until 1926, when the official Brescia Automobile Club was established under the new rules of the Royal Automobile Club of Italy. These regulations were then officially instituted by the law-decree of November 14, 1926. This decree granted the establishment of the Brescia Automobile Club, as well as the Public Motor Vehicle Registry (PRA).

On January 18, 1927, official offices opened on Corso Magenta, where the preparation activities for the first Mille Miglia Cup began to take place. From that day on, the name “Mille Miglia” along with “Red Arrow” trademark have remained the inalienable property of the Brescia Automobile Club. Since its inception, the Brescia Automobile Club has kept its tradition alive of being one of the most important worldwide associations for sports events. Some of the competitions organized by ACI Brescia included: “Circuito di Brescia”, “Circuito di Garda”, “Brescia-Edolo-Pontedilegno”, “Colle S. Eusebio”, “Trofeo Lumezzane” and “Cronoscalata del Monte Maddalena”. The dedication and passion of the great Renzo Castagneto continues today.

With this dedication and passion in mind, the Brescia Automobile Club is committed to its endeavor and could never veers off its path. Through dedication and diligent hard work, ACI Brescia maintains its unsurpassed wealth of talent and bravery that has written memorable moments in the pages of history. One of the ACI Brescia’s roles is also to preserve Brescia’s motor tradition and rich heritage in the world of sports, not only a cultural heritage but a human one as well, which encompasses all the races that that have taken place on Brescian territory from 1899 to today.

Even this year, the Brescia Automobile Club had three important races on its calendar to organize: The “International Rally 1000 Miglia”, the timed uphill race known as “Trofeo Vallecamonica – Malegno-Ossimo-Borno” and the “Rally Ronde ACI Brescia”. Below the map of this year’s race….


During the past 10 years, there have been many, more or less faithful, reconstructions as to how the extraordinary epic adventure began, for what would come to be known as “the most beautiful race in the world”. The highly considered and obviously most credible version is without a doubt that stated by one of its founders, Giovanni Canestrini, written up in his very famous book “Mille Miglia”, edited in 1967. Throughout these pages, -also discussed in Giovannino Lurani’s equally famous 1978 book, “The History of 1000 Miglia”- is a description of the memorable incident that occurred on December 2, 1926, the day that has since been officially recognized as the birth of the Mille Miglia. Canestrini, tinged with a hint of ill-conceived irony, narrates how a group of Brescians arrived to his home in Milan on Via Bonaventura Cavalieri, which included Franco Mazzotti, Aymo Maggi, Renzo Castagnet, (the other three musketeers) and his friend, Flaminio Monti. The rest of the story is history, until Franco Mazzotti declares the words: “Mille Miglia Cup”.

Although having stuck to the facts, Giovanni Canestrini’s commentary has been considered partial and conditioned both by the desire of not wanting to rehash old politics and by the period in which he writes, a little more than two decades after the tragic events that saw the end of the fascist regime, after the World War. The reading of a similar article by the same Canestrini, published in “numero unico” of the Mille Miglia in 1930, offers a more complex vision, without a single modification to the narration of the events told thirty-seven years later, and is more true to the reality of the times of how the real facts unfolded at autumn’s end, in 1926.

The “brief meeting” was not an informal gathering of friends but had a rather important aim: “to carry out and christen this race”, the Mille Miglia. But what race at that time could have shaken up the industry, interesting manufacturers and builders alike? The rebirth of the Brescia Circuit had been considered but was soon dismissed, because that would have meant rebuilding facilities and roads, which would have meant nothing new, and manufacturers most likely would not have joined forces with a type of race that was already pasé. Besides, we were all anxious to get things rolling.

“What if we did a tour of Italy?” Too long and too difficult. “And Brescia-Rome-Brescia?” If it were on the right road. Rome and Brescia: two emblematic names. Italian autoracing had hoped for renewed strength, a comeback with this race that would have ideally linked Augusto Turati’s hometown, to which we owed the rebirth of Italian sports, to the nation’s capital, where il Duce displayed his desire to go through with the plans».Canestrini’s affirmations are not surprising: the delicate political situation during the regime dictated this behavior and, as he would later describe in 1967, things were not that easy.

The choice of racecourse, for example, was subject to the latest whims of wanting it all “to merge onto the capital”.The actual racecourse of 1600 km was more or less finalized. And what would be the name given to the race? “Gran Prix Brescia”, “G.P. of the Resistence”, “Gran Tourism Criterium”? No. These names were too common and didn’t mean anything. Maggi, Castagneto and I dismissed them one by one. Mazzotti – buried in an armchair, didn’t seem to be participating in the name selection process. Then, all of a sudden, as if struck by a flash of inspiration, he exclaimed: “the Mille Miglia Cup”! Great! The name had been found; we just needed consensus and approval by the Hierarchy and then the great race would take place».

What Canestrini doesn’t declare, in 1930, is the fear that the chosen name might not be accepted. In 1967, this is how the actual dialog went: «Franco Mazzotti was again the one to ask: “How long is the racecourse?” “1600 km”. “Meaning 1000 miles – noted Mazzotti, fresh from his American trip (the Italian airforce’s famous expedition with Italo Balbo) – Then why not the Mille Miglia Cup?” Everybody liked the name. Someone objected that the reference to an English metric system could sound bad to some of the zealous hierarchy. “Not at all”, I replied, “The Romans measured their distance in miles so we are perfectly in line with the roman tradition”. And everyone agreed. The Mille Miglia was officially born! I was the first to announce it in the Gazzetta dello Sport, on December 4″».

Over the years the race attracted not just cars and races enthusiasts, but also some “vips” like this year Ralph Schumacher, the english rapper Elliot Gleave and Joe Bastianich, or Paloma Picasso, Jeremy Irons, Adrien Brody, Jay Leno, Daniel Day Lewis and Rowan Atkinson from previous editions, just to cite a few….

My husband and our friend L. were so excited to see all those fancy cars, but it was nice also for us, “the girls”….

Obviously, we couldn’t end the evening without a dinner, right?

Carrots souffleè…..

Parma ham…..

Eggplant lasagna….

Fettuccine with culatello….

Asparagus risotto….

Piccata with roasted potatoes….

Red wine stew with roasted potatoes….

Really a perfect day…..

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Posted by on June 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Nice afternoon at the Villa

That red one above is the back of my little car, that I drove one very hot saturday afternoon, in early may, a few miles outside town to Villa Malenchini. The fields surrounding the villa were turned into a big parking lot, because the two-days-event is always supposed to attract lots of people, and it always does. Beside the entrance gate to the huge park, there’s the little house of the concierge. I would make a deal just for that…..

The event held there is called “De Gustibus” and this was the X edition….It’s a mix between a trade fair, a place where to taste and try new products that represent the local and italian excellences, and a crafts markets.

The park itself was worth the long walk to the villa…..between so many different kind of flowers and plants, all for sale….

These little animals and objects are made of vegetable ivory, and my daughter now is the proud owner of a dolphin and a turtle….

These beautiful jewels are made of capim dourado, and we bought a ring and a pair of earrings …..

Can you see me reflecting on the mirror, taking the photo? Under the tent they were selling frames, soaps and bath salts, knitted caps and shawls, tableclothes, wines, chocolates, etc…..

But my real interest was the building itself. I’ve never been inside the villa and I couldn’t wait, even if just the first floor was open…..

Villa Malenchini dates back from the sixteenth century in the little hamlet of Carignano. The main building dates back to the second half of the sixteenth century, while the two wings were added at the beginning of the ‘ nineteenth century. It is surrounded by a park of 15 hectares that extends southwards towards the village of Felino , with a 1.5 km long central avenue lined with hedges cut alternately in hemispheres and cubes.  At the end of the park the avenue is extended with a double row of poplars which are showing in the distance the hills, exactly on the direction of the castle of Felino. 

The villa was built by the Marquis Lampugnani , Milanese nobles who were vassals of Carignano and Felino from 1650. The decoration of the interior rooms was entrusted to the Tuscan painter Cesare Baglioni. At the end of the seventeenth century it was bought by Giuseppe Cervi who embellished the villa and enlarged the park by adding other surrounding land. At his death the estate was inherited by his sisters Francesca and Rosa. Rosa married the noble Giuseppe Maria Corradi, beginning the House of Corradi-Cervi, still present in Parma and surrounding area with many palaces In 1808 the estate became the property of the family Zileri: Camillo (1764-1848) and his brother Alessandro, who was mayor of the near Vigatto village in 1820-1823. It was then bought by Count Camillo-Zileri Dal Verme (1805-1876), created Earl by Maria Luigia  in 1836. After his death the house was inherited by his son Camillo (1830-1896).

Below, the main hall of the villa, a passage from the front to the back terrace. Not bad don’t you think? You can see the windows looking down from the upstair floor, and the balconies used as passages from one wing to the other of the villa.

Around 1878 the house was purchased by the genoese Marquis Monticelli, only to pass just four years later to another genoese, Lodovico Peirano. His heir Enrico Amilcare sold the villa to Count Edilio Raggio, who gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter Fortuny, who married in 1895 the Marquis Luigi Malenchini. The villa still belongs to the family Malenchini and is open for visits for groups of at least 6 people. The villa is available also for banqueting and wedding parties.

Below, this beautiful room, once the dining room, (as you can see, all the rooms are fully furnished and decorated with original pieces of the family) was used as a dressing room for the fashion show planned for the evening….

The next one was the living room, and for the occasion was the place for a local company to sell their leather and canvas purses and bags…

The old library/study was choosen for a wine testing class…

And the billard room was the place for a personal exhibition for the local painter Enrico Bonaretti.

From the back terrace,  almost ready for the fashion show, you can start a visit to the park

The back of the villa has nothing less than the front….

The old stables (now a restaurant open only by appointment) were used as stands as well….

In the park there’s a typical country house still used by the sharecropper’s family….

and statues and little lodges to rest during a walk….

There’s even a little private chapel, apparently still in use

We had a really nice stay, I bought some gluten-free pasta and flours (beside the jewelry) we had a vegan ice-cream (so very good) and a cup of champagne….not bad for just one afternoon….

(See here for my previous visit)

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Posted by on June 9, 2015 in Uncategorized


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A visit to the La Spezia Naval Museum

The first day of May, Italy (as many other countries) celebrates International Workers’ Day. It means lots of political speeches in the major squares, concerts, unions’ marches and so on. It means also a day off….We took the opportunity and by train, with a couple of friends, we reached the city of La Spezia to visit the Naval Technical Museum of the Italian Navy Army. It was a rainy day, so it was right for an inside activity…

The museum, opened on May 12 1958, is located next to the main gate of the Arsenal and here were collected models, memorabilia, weapons, documents put back in order and completed with the help of the laboratory staff. In this workshop have been set up many of the models currently on display. The new exhibition‘s aim is to illustrate to visitors the evolution of the vessel over the years, and therefore the collection span from the earliest times till our age.

You can see hubby was not so pleased to have his photo taken…..he knew my camera was going to have a hard day of work….

In the entry, on the marble plaque: ” To those who in all times and of all races lost their lives on the sea for the mankind sake”

The first imposing object capturing the visitors’ attention, is the figurehead depicting Christopher Columbus as a young man, holding the globe with his left hand. It comes from the homonymous brigantine (1843-1867)  launched by the Shipyards of Foce (Genoa).

Below, a wooden “pettiglia”  (carved wooden planks that were placed on the side and outside of the gates of a protected ladder) fron the Custoza, whose name recalls the victory achieved by Radetzky on July 25, 1848

Below: one of the two caryatids from the sardinian frigate Italy, (former Neapolitan Farnese), depicting two women with a Roman armor, with cloak and crown. Presumably they were placed on either side of the existing officers’ accommodation.

Below, a Galeazzi diving suit for working in deep water

Two suits of armor of infantry of the Republic of Genoa, consisting of helmets and armor-plate, at the entrance of the rooms They are exposed torpedoes, block bombs from jet torpedoes, navigatori-class destroyers, depth charges, employed by the Italian Navy or from other countries’ Navy in the period between the end of the ninteenth century and the end of World War II.

The artillery room….

Again, some figureheads from various ships. Among them, the figurehead of the training ship Cristoforo Colombo (1928-1949); the great navigator is represented with his right arm raised to show the New World seen from aboard the Santa Maria.

A plastic reproduction of the Gulf of Spezia  (April 1863)

Below, the boat decoration used for Admiral services in the era prior to September 1916.

In the following pic, thee figurehead of the Neapolitan frigate Partenope, allegorically depicting Naples in the form of a thriving woman.

Below, the figurehead depicting the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, wife of Franz Joseph, murdered in Lugano in 1898. It belonged to the austrian paddle steamboat Elisabeth Kaiserin, built in Pula in 1889

Below: the figurehead from the Garibaldi steamboat Baleno, former english Fairy Queen, depicting Queen Victoria of England at a young age with a royal crown, and the figurehead depicting the goddess Minerva with helmet, sword and shield on which is reproduced a Medusa’s head; this is the original figurehead placed on neapolitan cessel Minerva. Between them,a  great fossilized anchor, origin unknown.

Below: the wooden coat of arms in from the Royal frigate Des Geneys, the last ship designed by Giacomo Biga, first engineer of our Navy.

Below, figurehead from the ship Dora, built by the British for Russia with the name Neva, then purchased from Marina Sarda (Navy of the Kingdom of Sardinia) for the Crimean War (1855): it depicts a woman holding a white rose in her hands, perhaps the rose of York. Behind this figurehead is placed a wooden coat of arms of the city of Genoa, perhaps coming from the Royal Ship Liguria.

In the corner in the photo below: the figurehead of the Cambria (the steamboat bought by Garibaldi in 1860 in England) depicting a bard with a long flowing beard, which symbolizes the country conquered by the Romans (now Wales); the figurehead of the Royal Frigate Beroldo (1828) representing the count Beroldo, founder of the House of Savoy; a dragon with woman’s face, possibly from the Royal frigate Regina.

In the below display cabinets, a significant outline of the evolution of the ships through the centuries, with models of great value

Below: the original lighthouse that worked until 1969 on the Island of Tino (Ligurian Sea), dragon figureheads and more ships models

In the photo below, the model of the cutter Frieda used by Emperor Franz Joseph.

Below:  the beautiful model, 1:50 scale, of the training ship Amerigo Vespucci, built in the laboratory of this Museum and faithfully reproducing in detail all the ship equipment.

Outside, the sky wasn’t promising good news…..

So we decided to reach the restaurant we booked, earlier than supposed….

After lunch, we had a little walk through the city, and we had the chance to admire some really interesting buildings. The rain became heavy and we decided to walk back to the station to catch the train home, but La Spezia is truly worth another visit.






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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


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