I will be back at the beginning of august…stay tuned for stories about my vacation.
Where? At the time I’m posting this I don’t know yet, it depends on the weather, considering we’re travelling on our motorbike….
See you all soon.
I will be back at the beginning of august…stay tuned for stories about my vacation.
Where? At the time I’m posting this I don’t know yet, it depends on the weather, considering we’re travelling on our motorbike….
See you all soon.
Here we were, finally, to admire a nature show we wanted for so long to see…..
The Marmore Falls, extolled during the centuries for its beauty, appears like a roaming water column distributed on three drops. Wrapping the flora in a cloud of white foam, covers a difference in high of 165 metres. The scenery disclosed to the visitors eyes is the work of men made since centuries, from the Roman period, tried to canalize the waters of the Velino river to fall into the Nera river.
Its history began in 271 BC when the Roman consul Curio Dentato made a reclaimed work in the plain of Rieti realizing a canal of beyond two kilometers up the cliff of Marmore. In archaeology, the traces left by the ancient people on the territory is testified by the several finds brought to the light during the years.
Affirmed during the centuries like one of the greatest phanomena of nature, the Marmore Falls had the role of protagonist also in arts and literature, becoming the destination of intellectuals who, along the routes of the Grand Tour, reached Italy to overtake studies of the classicality. During the last twenty years of the XIX century became the instrument of the water system regulation, used by energetic reasons for the rising industry. The using of water for industrial reasons, prevailed on the tourist and naturalistic connotations.
Today the Park of Marmore welcome the visitor leading through different excursion trails, to discover rocks and caves that characterized the geology. And the vegetation, with its species worthy the visit, catch the attention of people who want to venture in the excursion area, the real heart of the Falls.
Lover balcony….To reach it, it takes about 20 minutes of walk along the route #1, but it is worth it. “The lover’s balcony” is there, in front of the first drop of the Falls; it’s very near to the water and for this reason you need to wear a raincoat to stop there (we didn’t have any so we got really wet, but the sun dried us in a few minutes!). It is a little terrace situated at the end of the tunnel (called with the same name, the tunnel of lovers), in the travertine rock, few centimeters from the Falls: if you stretch out the legs, you can touch the water of the Velino river. Why “of the lovers”? because it is the favourite place of lovers and because the Falls is linked to the myth of St. Valentine, the first bishop of Terni (III century AD), patron of the city and of the lovers. The legend tells that the saint to demonstrate the purity of the beautiful Nerina put in doubt from her lover, stroke the cliff with the crosier making the waters flown to form a great bridal veil.
“Horrified beauty”. Byron liked the Falls very much. The English poet during the Grand Tour visited Marmore Falls and wrote immortal verses. Between George Byron and the Falls was love at first sight.
Above, on a bench, the book with Byron verses and a cloack similar to the one he wore himself, a reminder of his visit here.
After lunch we drove north to pay a visit to one of the most honoured Saint in Italy.
We passed her native village, to go to Cascia where a Church is dedicated to her, destination of thousand of pilgrims every year.
All the upper village of Cascia lives around the Saint’s memory……..a little too much for my taste. Everywhere there are souvenirs shops selling everything related to Saint Rita. I’d rather a smaller church and monastery, more intimate and peaceful….
The foundation stone of the church of Saint Rita of Cascia was laid on June 20th 1937, only ten years later, on May 18th 1947, the building was consecrated. The actual aspect however is the fruit of the desire of Pope Pio XII and of the work of first his Eminence Spirito Chiapetta and then of the architects Martinenghi and Calori, with the economic contribution of so many people devoted to the Saint all over the world.The basilica, covered with a white travertine typical of the cellars of Tivoli, presents a Greek cross plan with fours large lateral apses and central cupola dominating the presbytery.
The interior walls are covered with frescos from, among others, Luigi Montanarini, Luigi Filocamo, Silvio Consadori and Gisberto Ceracchini, the sacred “suppellettili” and the main altar are the work of Giacomo Manzù. The remains of Saint Rita are laying nowadays protected by the left gate still perfectly preserved.
This marked the end of our visit to Umbria, a very beautiful region of my country. It left a permanent memory on our hearts, and a deep desire to come back soon….
It was a sunny and hot day, perfect for a ride in the mountains…..Our destination was the Piana di Castelluccio (Castelluccio Plateau) known especially for the lentils cultivated there and considered the very best …….Going from Norcia along the provincial road for Castelluccio we crossed the western side of the ridge from Mount Patino till the Canapine Forks, the historical crossing point between the Nera Valley and Tronto Valley, between Umbria and Marche.
From the 2448 meters of the Top of the Redeemer you can have a perfect view of the plain that consists of more than 1000 acres of fields, hay meadows and grasslands. The plateau of Castelluccio is one side of the fault originated from tectonic distension, about 1 million years ago.
Here we are (well….someone had to take the photos, right?) along the road for a smoke break….
The view is really stunning, can you see those spits of land still covered with snow?
We were there the first day of june, and the only flower blooming was the rapeseed, but you can have a look at how amazing the view is, when all the flowers and herbs growing along with the lentils are blooming too…
Exiting the plateau, towards the village of Castelluccio, Italy herself was greeting us…..someone shaped a little grove in the form of my country….nice isn’t it?
Rising up to the pass of Forca di Presta, we took the longest road the other side of the Sibillini Mountains and back to Norcia
For a day, no history and no art, just driving lost in that beauty, enjoying the ride and the nature….and some very good food!
We drove to the border between Umbria and Marche, to visit the little village of Visso….along the road that leads to the Sibillini Mountains…..
According to tradition, the first settlement was called “Vicus,” meaning “place” or “village,” accompanied by the adjective “Elacensis,” “respectable”. Obviously, like many others old villages in Italy, we entered Visso through an old gate….
This “pearl” of the Sibillini Mountains (it is the seat of a national park) boasts a past rich in history: the imposing city walls, the medieval balconies, the houses, the towers, the noble Renaissance buildings, the stone portals embellished with Latin inscriptions and coats-of-arms, in relation to the limited size of the historic centre, come together in a harmonious and majestic whole. The artistic marvels concentrated in this small area are such that one must agree with the great art historian André Chastel: “in the scenographic placement of piazzas and cities, the Italian genius had no rivals.”
That’s the case of Visso’s Piazza dei Martiri Vissani, where all is order, light, and harmonious lines
The piazza is lined with elegant 15th- and 16th-century buildings and distinguished by two pre-eminent edifices: the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria and the Church of Sant’Agostino. The façade of the Church of Sant’Agostino (14th century) includes three spires with a portal and a rose window. Now deconsecrated, it is the seat of the Museum, which houses works belonging to the commune and the Church, the majority of which were located in various churches throughout Visso. The museum also preserves the manuscripts of six idylls by Giacomo Leopardi, including the famous “L’Infinito.”
The Santa Maria collegiate church’s original structure, in Gothic-Romanesque style, dates to the 12th century. It is dominated by an elegant bell tower with mullioned windows and embellished by a finely worked 14th-century portal on its facade, flanked by two proud lions. The lunette contains a splendid 15th-century fresco depicting the Annunciation, attributed to Paolo da Visso.
The interior has one nave, quite transformed in ‘600, still preserves several frescoes of Umbria-Marche school of the fourteenth century, including a St. Christopher, more than 6 meters high. Also there are the wooden group of the Madonna and Child, thirteenth-century, in a niche, a work by Giovanni Di Pietro said The Spanish. The ceiling, in wooden Baroque, was completed in 1743, showing paintings byGiuseppe Manzoni. In the Romanesque chapel of the Baptistery there are preserved remains of the original church, dating from the twelfth century, capitals, reliefs, and a font. According to a legend in the sacristy it’s hidden one of the 30 coins of Judas.
Among the many remarkable buildings are the Palazzo dei Priori, the Governor’s Palace and the Palazzo del Divino Amore (the “Divine Love” building, converted from a 13th-century Franciscan convent and today the home of the Sibillini Mountains National Park board), enriching this village which seems to have been embroidered into the stone.
The Palace of the Governors was built in the early fourteenth century, as the seat of the Podesta, and remodeled in 1579 by order of the governor Nicholas Benni, who laid the headquarters of the governorate. On the arches of the portico, emblems of a pontiff, a governor of the city and of other personalities. On the arch side on the right is the coat of arms of the families Savelli – Orsini (two lions, a dove and the earth); on the edge of the left the one of Bishop Mariano Savelli (two lions, a dove and asnake), governor of Camerino.
The building below was a very old Augustinian monastery, because it is listed in the code of Pelosius (1393) “Monasterium S. Jacobi de Visso” and then from the pastoral visit of Eroli in 1456. At this time the observance of the rule had somewhat weakened, so the Bishop of Spoleto ordered it to be a Cloistered Nuns Monastery, imposing that the guesthouse was isolated from iron grates.
In the sixteenth century the monastery was flourishing, as evidenced by the reconstruction of the Church which has a beautiful Renaissance portal in stone. It is accessed by a small staircase side. The portal consists of two fluted pilasters on high plinths with a rose at the center, with Doric capitals. They support the entablature and a triangular pediment enclosing the door arch. On the frieze it reads: SACELLUM DIVO JACOBO DEDICATUM (a cahpel dedicated to St. James) The nuns in the ‘800 left the monastery and moved with the entire archive of St. James in Porto d’Ascoli.
The church of St. Francis was built in the late ‘300 in Romanesque-Gothic style, in the place where there was, since 1216, a church dedicated to St. Biagio. The church of St. Francis is attached to a convent built in 1291. The convent was inhabited by the Franciscans until the Napoleonic suppression, after which it passed to the nuns of the hospital of the St. Trinity. The façade is enriched by a magnificent Gothic portal trilobate, carved with large leaves. At the top of the facade there is a rosette made of ten columns twisted with two intersecting arches. Inside there are remarkable objects of historical and artistic value, including a fresco by Paolo da Visso, an organ of the ‘700 and a majestic walnut pulpit of the’ 600.
Beside churches and historical buildings, a stroll through the village it’s really a nice one…narrow alleys (can you see my three road companions?)……
a “promenade” along the river Nera where to walk all around the village….
old balconies, artistic or in bloom….
and fountains and walled passages….
This was another cherished memory added in my personal portfolio under the file name of “beautiful places”…
This is the hotel we stayed in, the Grotta Azzurra (the Blue Cave) set in a 18th century building, and I have to say the atmosphere of the old times is still there….
We had breakfasts and dinners at the hotel, and the menu was so rich in choice and in taste!….I couldn’t eat this, but all the others say this dessert was the very best….
You can enter the old part of Norcia by many gates, this one is called Porta Romana (Roman Gate) and it’s the oldest one. The writing on the gate reads “Vetusta Nursia”, latin for “Old Norcia”.
Norcia, traditionally known in English by its latin name of Nursia, is a town unlike many ancient towns, located in a wide plain abutting the Monti Sibillini, a subrange of the Apennines, with some of its highest peaks, near the Sordo River, a small stream that eventually flows into the river Nera. The town is popularly associated with the Valnerina (the valley of that river).
Traces of human settlement in Norcia’s area date back to the Neolithic Age. The town’s known history begins with settlement by the Sabines in the 5th century BC. It became an ally of ancient Rome in 205 BC, during the Second Punic War when it was known in Latin as Nursia, but the earliest extant Roman ruins date from around the 1st century.
From the inside, the gate hold its charm as well, especially at night…..
St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedectine monastic system, and his twin sister St. Scholastica, were born here in 480. In the 8th century, an oratory was built so pilgrims could pray at St. Benedict’s birthplace. Monks came to Norcia in the 10th century. Contemporary monks care for the Monastery of St. Benedict, built over the Roman ruins of the house of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. In the 6th century Norcia was conquered by the Lombards, becoming part of the Duchy of Spoleto. In the 9th century it suffered from Saracen attacks, which started a period of deep decadence. In the 11th century, it was part of the domain of St. Henry, Holy Roman Emperor.In the 12th century Norcia became an independent commune within the Papal territories, with an increasing political and economical prestige. The collaboration with the Benedictine abbey in Preci led to the creation of the Schola Chirurgica. Studies at this institution contributed to Norcia residents improving their swine breeding. The powerful Spoleto and the 1324 earthquake thwarted the city’s ambitions, and in 1354 it was returned definitively to the Papal authority.
Here are some glimpses of the town, by day and by night….
A fortress, the Castellina was built in 1555-1563 as the residence of the Papal governors, as designed by Giacomo Barozzi from Vignola. It now houses a small museum with Roman and medieval artifacts, and documents of the Middle Ages and later periods. It was built on the site where once stood a pagan temple converted to Christian worship from San Feliciano. For its construction was demolished the palace of the Podesta who once stood on the spot. The first stone was laid on September 10, 1554 and the outer perimeter completed eight years later, in 1562, then, in 1564, it was officially handed over to Gherardo Tazio, representative of Pius IV. When in 1569 it was established the Mountain Prefecture, Castellina became the natural headquarters, hosting the papal governors and lieutenants. Bureaucratic organization and the needs of the various offices of the Prefecture binds the slow and elaborate definition of interior spaces, whose arrangement lasted at least until 1587. Restored in the eighteenth century as a result of frequent earthquakes, from 1860 it became the seat of the offices of the City and established as a museum in 1967 with the works provided by the city, by the Curia and by the Institutes of Charity of the city.
Inside the fortress, only photos of the building were allowed, not of the objects collected in the museum….
From the second floor of the fortress, I had a perfect view of the St. Benedict Square….
but also at the ground level the square is just amazing….
The Town Hall, built in the thirteenth century, was restored at various times, because of the frequent earthquakes. The oldest part of the building, dating from the fifteenth century, is the porch with columns low and squat, where once there was the notary archive, the “Grascia and Gabella” of which remains an interesting rate drawback of the seventeenth century on a wall .The upper part of the building acquired the current face after the earthquake of 1859, the first national emergency hitting the then forming Kingdom of Italy.
The bell tower is from 1713, the main gate of the second half of the ‘500 by Antonio Franceso Marinucci, a local manufacturer that also intervened in the work of the Castellina.
The main basilica is dedicated to St. Benedict and is connected to a functioning Benedictine Monastery Though the present edifice was built in the 13th century, it stands on the remains of one or more small Roman buildings, sometimes considered to have been a Roman basilica, or alternately the house in which the twin saints were born. The façade, in Gothic style, is characterized by a central rose window and relief portraying the four Evangelists. Inside, the fresco of the Resurrection of Lazarus(1560) was painted by Michelangelo Carducci. The altar in the left-hand transept houses a St Benedict and Totila painting (1621) by Filippo Napoletano. Too bad when I visited they were celebrating Mass so I couldn’t take photos of the inside….
At night the lights make the place like a magic one…(please, note hubby face, like “another one? haven’t you had enough already?”)
The catalyst of all the eyes on the square however, is the statue of St. Benedict himself, as you can see…………
The Renaissance church of Santa Maria Argentea is the Duomo or cathedral. It holds some works by Flemish masters, a richly decorated altar by Duquesnoy, a Madonna and Saints by Pomarancio, and a St Vicent Ferrer and the Sick (1756) by Giuseppe Paladini. The church has a long history. At the time of the Roman Empire, the area currently occupied by Castellina, was a temple dedicated to the goddess Fortuna Argentea (Silver Lucky), who in the third century AD was converted to Christian worship. The memory of this building is lost but not in the name of the Cathedral, Santa Maria Argentea. The remains of the church can still be seen in the basement of the Castellina. The current church was built between 1556-1570 in Renaissance style, with large stone arches and chapels. It has a simple façade, and an elegant portal with wooden doors placed in 1576. Unfortunately damaged by several earthquakes, it was restored in neoclassical style in the eighteenth century.
One of the best places where we had lunch during our stay is this “trattoria” a very cozy and funny place, managed by a bunch of young people, located along the ancient walls surrounding Norcia.
My daughter and I have passed this villa so many times during our walks, especially during fall because the grass in not so tall and we can walk till very near the house (it’s deserted almost all the time).
Last april we made an exception when we heard that the owner, Mr Tedeschi (the villa is called Levi-Tedeschi) was opening it just for one day, thanks to a special occasion….the return of Claudia Cardinale to Parma, fifty-five years after the shooting of the film which established her status symbol. She was 22 years old at the time, and Parma Municipality thought of an entire day dedicated to her, the opening of the villa and the celebration of the anniversary with a screening of the “Girl With A Suitcase” (in 1961 presented in competition at the 14th Cannes Film Festival) at the Regio Theatre.
Director Zurlini made her go back and forth, back and forth, the suitcase in hand, in the evenings, along the driveway up to the front steps of the house. To get the perfect scene. The interpretation and the stage presence of Claudia Cardinale in “The Girl with a Suitcase” still excites critics and moviegoers. The villa in which the story takes place – the location chosen by the film director Valerio Zurlini for filming in 1960 – still enchants aesthetes and worshipers of beauty. And film crews, after his inspiration.
Today, more than half a century later, Villa Levi-Tedeschi continues to stand out in its neoclassical elegance in a rectangle of green survived just outside the city, challenging, along the Via Emilia, the sign of McDonald’s, the reflecting windows of a bank and the gray facades of other anonymous buildings……
Villa Levi-Tedeschi has been declared a national monument, so precious that shooting were made strictly on the outside, to protect the rooms and everything still contained in them. The villa was opened by the lawyer Guido Uberto Tedeschi, its owner, along with his daughter Elena, ready to answer all the questions during the visit to the family estate, where they still spend a few weeks a year with the family, living only in the east wing.
We had to be very careful, however, where to put our feet and how to move around, everything here is priceless. Because the villa – explains Guido Uberto Tedeschi and Elena – it was built by Gazzola (although some continue to attribute it to Bettoli) between 1822 and 1825, for the bankers Laurent , bankers of the Duchess Maria Luigia of Austria, who used it for parties and receptions. And used also by the Duchess herself to spend days of pleasure with his beloved Neipperg, when their relationship had to be discreet. To call the servants, the two used bells with their names on it. Electric bells: one of the first plants ever made.
Among the rooms so heavily decorated, with walls covered with hand-painted paper, elegant furniture, opulent chandeliers and ceilings painted with mythological scenes, they consumed the ducal voluptas. Then, one day, everything stopped with the collapse of the bankers. The villa was auctioned and it was sold to Michele Levi-Tedeschi. His daughter, Maria Portalupi in Tedeschi, grandmother of Guido Uberto, was the hostess at the time of shooting of the film.
It was really a bless to have heard of this possibility, because it was a unique chance to see the inside of the villa, being it a private residence……And I fell in love with this bathroom…..
The second guided tour followed the Farnese steps inside the Ducale Gardens and outside its gates…….Our first destination was Palazzetto Eucherio Sanvitale, located not far from Palazzo Ducale, among trees and bushes..
The Palace was designed in the early sixteenth century by the architect Giorgio da Erba and it’s supposed to have been commissioned by Monsignor Benedetto Accolti for the monks of the Monastery of St. Michael Bosco. The palace became soon after a property of the Sanvitale family from Fontanellato for its heir Eucherio, but in the mid-sixteenth century Eucherio was elected Bishop of Viviers, in France, so he sold the casino and the surrounding land to Ottavio Farnese.
The building, traditionally attributed to Giorgio da Erba and Gian Francesco d’Agrate , is rather modest in size and spread over a plant to H, with four corner towers that, at the front, are connected by a loggia with five arches. Above the entrance is engraved the epigraph “DII FACIENTES ADIUVANT” latin for “gods help the hard-working ones”……….Ironic, considering the casino was bought as a place for pleasures….
The windows are decorated with carved jambs adorned with flowers and ribbons.
Inside the rooms were painted by various artists, some frescoes by an anonymous artist of the school of Bertoja or Giovanni Baglione. In the Central Hall, with a pavilion vault, there are frescoes rather spoiled: among them recognizable are seascapes and mountains, birds and grotesque.
The adjacent Hall of the Velario is covered by an umbrella vault decorated with a veil, which is kind of a tent, decorated with classical figures of grotesques.
On the west wall there’s a Madonna and Child attributed to a young Parmigianino….can you see a little, curly boy?…..The diatribe on its truthfulness is still open among experts…
The Chapel of the Virgin is painted with scenes from the life of the Virgin, from the writings of the capuchin friar Paolo Piazza, and decorated by the painter Cosimo da Castelfranco This environment is part of the spiritual and religious function to which Ranuccio I Farnese destined the building in the seventeenth century..
The Hall of the Pergola, in the umbrella vault presents a breakthrough prospective, with the representation of just a pergola, and the walls painted with landscapes scenaries, give the impression to be outside…
Our guide was so very ready to explain us what we were seeing and to answer all the questions we had. Once outside in the garden again, we passed under the oldest (and the only one at that time) gate……..
The Church we were going to visit was still closed, and while waiting for the keeper with the keys, we had a little coffee break….
Finally we were able to start the visit…..and the short wait was so worth it!!
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in the district “Oltretorrente” in Parma, was built from 1617. The foundation stone of the oratory of Santa Maria delle Grazie was laid on 1 June 1617 in the presence of the Duke Ranuccio I Farnese and the bishop of Parma Pompeo Cornazzani: the building was designed as the headquarters of the Brotherhood of the Stigmata of St. Francis, formed by secular Franciscan tertiary and linked to the Roman congregation of Santa Maria Wailing, and was intended to accommodate a venerated image of the Virgin of the Aid (called of the Graces). The temple had to be already complete in 1621 when, with a solemn procession, the Brotherhood of the Stigmata took possession of it, transporting there the painting of the Madonna delle Grazie.
The design of the church is attributed to Giovanni Battista Magnani, architect linked to the ducal court and that is in contact with the Brotherhood: the building of small size, is a central plan, with two side chapels and a large presbytery, which It opposes the semicircular area of the entrance. Already in 1644 the building was changed by the Roman architect Girolamo Rainaldi, which resulted in a new light source, adding a lantern with eight windows at the presbytery. In 1715, under the rule of Francesco Farnese and Dorotea Sofia of Neuburg, new restoration works began and was commissioned the painter Sebastiano Galeotti to fresco the dome with an Assumption inspired by the one Correggio Painted for the Cathedral; the pictorial decoration was completed in the same year with illisionistic painters Francesco and Lorenzo Natali works.
Noteworthy are also the sumptuous furnishings, an organ and two refined choir made of wood carved and gilded by a lombard craftsman Lombard in mid-seventeenth century ………….
and the great “glory”, a large carved wood frame and stucco ornament to place the image of the Virgo (early XVIII century), just above the altar…
If you get close and look carefully, you can see the painting is not really above the altar……
but at the back of it…..
You just have to turn around the altar, walk under a vaulted passage, and there you are, under the framed Madonna…………
From here you can have also anothe point of view of the inside of the Church………….
The church also keeps paintings of great value, such as “Madonna presenting the Infant Jesus to Saint Francis” (Antonio Savazzini) and the painting of the ‘‘ Guardian Angel slaying the demon “of Sixtus Badalocchio
It was just an amazing morning, lost in the past and in the splendor of old times….just one more time I fell in love with my hometown…………