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A heavy, lond and difficult renovation….

At the end of june of last year, my mother-in-law was admitted in a nursing home. It was a painful decision (I promised myself never again – after the difficult experience with my father – ) but it was a necessary one considering what she needed most of all, was a daily medical assistance, not possible at home anymore. We are glad we took that decision, because now, at 88, she’s well taken care of, and her conditions are really good considering her age. She’s a little confused and at an early stage of Alzheimer, but she still knows who we are, and we are grateful for this.

A few weeks after she left home, we started to get rid of her things, now useless. We donated clothes, bed covers, curtains and some other things to charity organisations. Some furnitures, pictures and other stuff were sold. Some things were kept. We knew the house needed heavy cleaning and some fixing, but after it was decided that it would have become our daughter new home, things took a completely different turn. A deeply restoration was in order….

Between sellings, discarding, and giving away, the house looked like this….

Then it was time for deciding what the new house would be like, to chooce the look, the colors, the furnitures…….and it was also the time for the first heartache, thinking about the money this would have costed!!!!

At the end of february this year, the bricklayers, the plumber, the electrician took the matter in their own hands….. there were a wall to knock down and rebuilt, floors to be removed and  replaced, pipes and cables to be fixed, and to manage them all we needed a very brave and able man, a surveyor, who luckily for us matched our expectations!

Finally, at the end of march, the floors were ready to be placed, and also the bathroom and the kitchen tiles were up….

After all that, the painters arrived to fix the walls and the ceilings….

…… not without some problems….

Finally we were ready for the furnitures to be moved in….the first was the kitchen

It needs some details yet to be fixed, but we have already the chandelier ready to be put in place…

It’s been hard to choose what was needed in the bathroom, but now it’s almost finished (less the curtains)…

The bedroom too is almost ready….

The curtains are yet to be fitted to the window but they are alredy here…

Ikea was of great help as you can see….(not its final destination I guess, this would move…)

The second bedroom (and the kitchen table) is still a workshop for the furnitures my daughter wants to fix herself….an old mirror newly painted…

a recycled closet painted in the same color (as many other things…my daughter ‘leitmotiv’ at the moment)

and my mother in law old chest of drawers now matching each other…

This is a little table she made out of pallets…..

The second bedroom will be finished when the rest of the house will be ready for living in it, and it will be a study/office….for now it owns only a lamp…

The living room is lacking curtains and lamps but the furnitures are in place…

The place of honor is taken by my father in law rocker….

A lot has to be done to have it finished completely (curtains, lamps, pictures and photos on the walls, a couple of shelves….) but we’re on the downhill run now…..

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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March – part two

A while ago, I found an old photo of me and one of my aunts, too early taken from us. I shared the photo on the WhatsApp group of the “cousins”, and to some it was new ….thus the idea of getting together one day to share family photos and stories. The occasion presented itself the saturday before Easter, and my cousin S invited us for lunch……Three were missing, one living in the US and two being abroad for a short vacation…We had really a great time, sharing memories….adjusting memories…. sharing a meal and so much love….just us, no children, no partners, just the inner circle of us….

God….I’m blessed!

Easter morning, a walk through the streets of Fontanellato, but the Street Food Festival didn’t met our expectations for a different Easter lunch…..

so instead we called a aunt who previously announced she would have been thrilled if we were going to lunch……..glad we did!

Full, we had to digest all that, so we rejoined daughter and bf, to explore the area around….A nice surprise was the old, deserted Church of San Carlo, dating back from early 1700, but very sadly almost completly ruined…..and in spite of our search, not too much was available to learn more about it….

but all the magic was there………..such a waste!

Then we drove to the near village of Roccabianca. The Rossi Castle was open and for free………

This imposing stronghold was built between 1450 and 1465 by Pier Maria Rossi as a gift for his beloved Bianca Pellegrini. Originally surrounded by a moat, it has a rectangular structure with two bastions and a high central tower and despite the damages of time, it still preserves its forceful appearance. On the ravelin, it displays the coat of arms of the Rangoni and Pallavicino families that took possession of the castle after the collapse of the Rossi family.

 

 

The interiors once boasted a cycle of frescoes depicting the Life of Griselda, inspired by the 100th novella of Boccaccio’s Decameron. Little remains today of it: the walls and vault of the room, together with the Pier Maria Rossi astrological cycle attributed to Nicolò da Varallo and his school have been detached and reassembled in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. Thanks to long restoration works due to the last owner, cavalier Mario Scaltriti, the castle has been recently reopened to the public.

Tastings of typical products of the Road of Culatello and free tastings of local homemade liquors are also available by prebooking as well as (for children) the marvellous world of Fairy tales.

Easter Monday, up in the hills, we met with a couple of friends in another little village around a castle, Torrechiara.

It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve been there, the charm is still there…..and I guess it will ever be…

Last time I entered the little church at the foot of the castle, was for our friends’ wedding, 31 years ago….I didn’t remember it at all….

Back to our friends home/farm (he produces and sells olive trees and olive oil along with some fruits plants), just above the castle, where we had dinner together….

So April, bring it on….will you live up to March?

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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December

Early in the month we finally got the chance to meet with our friends from Modena…..obviously sitting around a table….

For once somebody else (our friend S) was taking the pic and I’m in it this time!!!

Salame di Felino and the king of them all, the very special culatello…..

Mariola with smashed potatoes and home made mostarda….all sooooo good!

All the food in the restaurant is home made, the desserts are all served as single-portion, hubby had viennetta

and I opted for warm zabaione with rice and almonds biscuits

After lunch the discussion was of course about netx spring/summer bike rides….

Then it was time for my daughter to fix our Christmas tree….

and this is the version with the lights on and a few gifts already under it…

We heard that our favourite band was helding another show at the usual place just outside town, and we gladly drove there one night to have a great time…

The sunday before Christmas with a couple of friends we drove up the hills to the little village of Bazzano, home of the most famous nativities exhibition in the region…..

and the villagers creativity and imagination have no limits….The setting can vary a lot, from traditional figurines placed inside a wooden spool for hoses….(and I don’t know why the apples…)

a more traditional one setting in a porch under a tree covering a door (hoping no one has to use it soon…)

one carved in a log….

one made using wine bottles and jugs, the cave being an old corking machine….

a traditional one, but made of plasticine….

there were also two with the Minions…………

A very elegant one, all in white….

one made on roof tiles….

one hanging from a tree inside a glass house….

a modern one made with paper…

one hung on a wall made with glued grains….

just opposit a bakery with its own, all made with bread….even the woods in the fireplace are bread-sticks…

this one is made of carved polystyrene with pebbles and woods glued on it….

I guess who made this likes to travel….

another one hung up a tree….

and this is a one-dimension….

the one below is made with colored children’s pens

I saved for last my favourite, a nativity scene set inside a doll house, victorian style….

In the village there are also Santa home and office….

We were so lucky to see the old man itself…..

(for my previous visit see here). At the end of the day we were cold and tired….not enough to go home to have dinner….I had the most fabulous gluten-free dinner ever!!

This year my daughter gave her best to fix Christmas’ eve dinner….three different appetizers….

a very good fish and veggies lasagna

octopus salad with potatoes and olives and a potatoes and anchovies terrine…

The only thing we bought was the dessert….

After Christmas we met with friends at our favourite place to spend the evening together…..

New Year’s Eve we were just the two of us, me and hubby, because I got a bad flu and I wan’t really in the mood….so it was just a traditional dinner….

It’s been a very intense year, with its usual ups and downs, for us and for our extended family and our  friends…..there are still some situations pending, but luckily all will end well (fingers crossed)….

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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October

It was a full and busy month, spent with family and friends ….the best way to have a great time!

A study client opened a new branch of his company and invited us for a “little” coffee break….

A night out with friends at the “Bandit” a nice bikers’ club with live music, that night the enterteinment was provided by a rock band we know very well…

Then it was P and M big day!!!

Every year my hometown hosts a french market, usually in december, this year it was in october and it was a “vintage” one…I bought some breton cookies and some bottles of cider..

We had the chance to celebrate the Oktoberfest at the German/Irish pub we like the most….

Thanks to my cousin L and his wife A, we discovered a new restaurant, not very near but really worth the trip!

Finally, our so long awaited visit to the Expo in Milan….an amazing experience….

Last sunday of the month it was dedicated to our favourite thing to do….drive our bikes!

We drove back home early, because mid afternoon we had another date….All the family gathered together for my cousin S. daughter A.’s christening….

And now….it’s up to you november….what will you bring?

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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My life in september

First apponintment of the month was for the annual Parma Ham Festival….three nights in a row…

Then a dinner invitation from our new neighbours(and my mom made us a cake)…

Then an old friend called for an afternoon tea to catch up with some of us and my gluten-free almond and meringue cake was a big success

One sunday we had our annual classmates reunion, such a joy to be with all of them again….

The big event of the month was my cousin wedding (and a chance to visit Genoa)

A night out for a drink and pizza with a couple of friends….

A surprise invitation for dinner from some friends of our friends….a very pleasant night…

Flowers for my daughter….

A sunday afternoon at a recently renovated place with some m-i-a friends to catch up with the latest news….

Some gifts, flowers and a very good dinner cooked by my daughter for my birthday…

Now, what to expect from october? Well, already planned are a dinner out with some collegues and ex-ones, a wedding and maybe a visit to the Expo exhibition in Milan….

 

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Genoa – part 2

Palace Angelo Giovanni Spinola, built in the second half of the sixteenth century for the then Ambassador of the Genoa Republic in Spain, as well as personal banker of emperor Carlo V of Asburg,  was later enlarged on the back and on the ground floor by his son Giulio.
The facade is typical with bottom and top railings elegant cornice, with frescos by Lazzaro Calvi and Lazzaro Tavarone, some barely visible, celebrating their clients, in fact the various members of the noble family appear dressed as Roman leaders, a clear allusion to the value and the size of the lineage.

In the atrium, Stories of Alexander, of Lazzaro Tavarone, and Portraits of Spinola with mythological figures in the spandrels. In the building at the time of the first transfer of ownership to the Bank of France, there was a magnificent collection of paintings by Cappuccino, of Sarzana, Cambiaso, Tintoretto, Jacopo Ponte, Bassano, Raggi, Padovanino, Vanni, Guido Reni, Domenico Piola, Asseretos, Carlone, Luino, Rubens, Procaccini, Van Dick. In 1928, it was sold to the Bank of America and Italy, so it was possible to visit just the entrance hall, being the banks closed on sundays.  

Another building owned by a bank, thus closed as well, is Palace Pallavicini Cambiaso. Built for Agostino Pallavicino in 1558, the palace was owned by the family until the second half of the eighteenth century, then sold to the Cambiaso family. In 1921 he underwent a new change of ownership, in this case also changing use, from private home to offices, with the purchase of the entire building by the Bank of Naples, and then to 
the Banca Popolare di Brescia.

It seems that only private banks have enough money to buy old buildings because another example is Palace Giacomo Spinola Luccoli in Piazza Fontane Marose. Built by Giacomo Spinola between 1445 and 1459 is another historic palace registered in the Rolli list. It’s sold and bought many times but at the beginning of the nineteenth century it’s owned by the Spinola again. Located at the corner of the square Luccoli, a thirteenth century strategic location because it is close to the port of St. Catherine, it has a facade of colored bands and niches with marble statues of illustrious family members, three of which (the first, second and fourth from left) made ​​by Domenico Gagini from Bissone.

Situated in the heart of the city between the historical and the modern center, Piazza De Ferrari is renowned for its fountain, which was restored in recent years along with a major restyling of the square.Today next to Piazza De Ferrari are numerous office buildings, headquarters of banks, insurances and other private companies, making of this district the financial and business centre of Genoa, so that Genoeses popularly refer to it as the “City” of Genoa. At the end of the 19th century Genoa was the main financial centre of Italy along with Milan, and Piazza De Ferrari was the place where many institutions were established, like the stock exchange, the Credito Italiano Bank and the branch offices of the Bank of Italy, founded in 1893.

The new city wall, that surrounded the three areas of the city, namely the castrum which developed on the Castle hill, the civitas, built around the Cathedral of St. Lawrence and the burgus, shopping area around the monastro San Siro, were built in the twelfth century to defend the independence of the Republic of the expansionist intentions of the Emperor Barbarossa, from which they took their name. The realization of this work, which was finished in record time between 1155 and 1159, is due to the materially and financially partecipation of the vast majority of the inhabitants. In 1161 were built the 3 doors (along with two towers) called Soprana, Aurea (now disappeared) and the Holy Faith . Porta Soprana (Soprana Gates) lead to the entrance of the city for anyone who came from the east. 

Below, the Museum Luzzati. Seat of the museum is the old gate of the pier Porta Siberia, designed and built by the architect Galeazzo Alessi in the sixteenth century. It was restored in 1992 with the whole area of the Old Port designed by Genoese architect Renzo PianoThe door was used in the 80s, before restoration, for musical performances by Circle Art and Music. Today it houses the museum, the City of Genoa in 2001 wanted to call it after the set designer and illustrator Genovese Emanuele Luzzati

The Palazzo San Giorgio is located in a square looking on the Old Port. The palace was built in 1260 by Guglielmo Boccanegra, uncle of Simone Boccanegra, the first Doge of Genoa. For the construction of the new palace, materials were used from the demolition of the Venetian embassy in Constantinople, having been obtained from Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII as a reward for Genoese aid against the Latin Empire. Stone lions, the emblem of Venice’s patron St Mark were displayed as trophies on the facade by her bitter rival, the Republic of Genoa. The palace was intended — through the creation of a civil-political center — to separate and elevate the temporal power of the Republic’s government from the religious power of the clergy, centered on the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. In 1262, Guglielmo Boccanegra was deposed and forced into exile. The palace was used for a time as a prison; Marco Polo was its most famous resident and it was there that he dictated his memoirs to Rustichello of Pisa.

The Old Port is a part of the port of Genoa currently used as a residential neighborhood, with cultural and services centers. His rehabilitation was completed in the early nineties on the surface of what was once the heart of port activity – the kingdom of “camalli” (genoese for dockers)  that were part of the Society of Caravana (dockers corporation) – and that had remained unused for many decades. Today is in fact a huge square overlooking the sea, where there are established, in addition to the aquarium, many interesting sights, museums, exhibitions and entertainment, over an area of about 230,000 square meters, making it the largest city square. The area, is also commonly known as “Expo”, having hosted exhibitions of ‘ Expo ’92 Genova. Its total restoration was completed in 1992 upon a project of  architect Renzo Piano , on the occasion of the celebrations of the fifth centenary of the discovery of America.

Just one day, including a wedding, wasn’t surely enough. Genoa has so many treasures to show to visitors interested in history and italian culture. Well, I have family there, so I don’t need excuses to be back, right?

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Genoa – part 1

I’ve always had family members living in Genoa, on both side, mom’s and dad’s. So, since I was a kid, I’ve been there several times, but usually at my relatives’ homes and just around it, never like a real tourist…My cousin Giulia wedding finally gave me this opportunity, at least for the streets we walked through going from one place to another….and leaving me with the feeling of wanting to see and know more…

Palazzo Tursi-Doria is the place where the wedding ceremony was held, so I had plenty of time to look around…

Palazzo Doria-Tursi  is a building in the historic center of Genoa , entered in 2006 in the list of the 42 palaces enrolled to the Rolli of Genoa  on that date becoming Heritage of humanity of the UNESCO. The palace was built from 1565 by Domenico and Giovanni Ponzello for Niccolò Grimaldi prince of Salerno and duke of Eboli, called “the monarch” thanks to the ranks of noble titles of which he could boast, and which included the many claims he had on Philip II , of whom he was the main banker. It is the most solemn of this historic street, built on three lots of land, with two large gardens framing the central body. The spacious balconies overlooking the street were added in 1597, when the building became the property of Giovanni Andrea Doria who acquired it for the younger son Charles, Duke of Tursi , thus its present name. During the eighteenth century, still a property of the Doria family, but abandoned by the owners, it had the opportunity to host the Duc de Richelieu (1747), the Duke of York (1763) and the Infanta Maria Teresa of Parma (1780).

In 1820 it was bought by the Savoy for the stay in Genoa of Vittorio Emanuele I, but because of his death it was used only by the widow Maria Teresa. Since 1838 and for a decade it was the site of the Jesuit College; in 1848 finally it became the property of the City of Genoa.

The facade is characterized by alternating materials of different colors: the pink stone from Finale , the gray-black of slate , the white of the precious Carrara marble . The main facade consists of two overlapping orders. The mezzanine above the large plinth alternates windows from the original design with rustic jutting pilasters, replaced upstairs with doric ones. Mascarons with bestial grimaces surmount the windows of both floors, contributing to the plastic rendering of the facade. The portal is crowned by a marble coat of arms of Genoa .

Especially innovative is the new and ingenious architectural solution that with the succession of interior spaces – lobby, staircase, rectangular yard elevated above the porch and double staircase – creates a wonderful play of light and perspective. The building represents the culmination of residential splendor of the Genoese aristocracy, as witnessed by the interior decorations, the paintings, part of the museum collection of the White Palace or as seen in the Diplomatic Reception Room in the frescoes and paintings.

The Diplomatic Reception Room, where all the weddings ceremonies take place, is really a feast for the eyes….

….with the ubiquitous presence of Christopher Columbus….

Located on the right side of Palazzo Tursi,and as well listed in the Rolli of Genoa, another beautiful palazzo, home of Nicolosio Lomellino, representative of the noble Genoese family that had many of its interests in the island of Tabarca in the coral trade.

It was built between 1559 and 1565 by Giovanni Battista Castello said the “Bergamasco” and Bernardo Canton at the behest of Nicolosio Lomellino, a member of a family in full economic and political ascent.  At the beginning of the seventeenth century the estate was transferred to the Centurione family that made ​​an internal restructuring, then to the Pallavicini , the Raggi and finally Andrea Podesta, several times mayor of Genoa between 1866 and 1895. The facade , where one can feel the strong presence of the Bergamasco, is animated by a rich decoration in stucco, with winged female herms, to support the cornice of the ground floor;  tapes and drapes to hold, on the first floor, war trophies; garlands and masks crowning the windows, with classical figures within oval medallions on the second.

Beyond the large main door, it opens up an oval-shaped atrium, whose short sides house four small lacunar exhedrae. Between one exhedra and the other, there are pairs of Ionic herms, alternated with panels surmounted by a small obelisk. A precious ceiling with fanciful stucco decorations features a medallion at the centre, representing a warlike feat of bravery according to the most ancient and reputed iconography, whereas the globes placed around it represent different views of the subject of the imperator and his liberality, after Müller Profumo’s interpretation. An imaginary fabric hangs around the central oval and connects the various medaillons with elegant swirls, vegetal swags, weapon trophies, small putti. Stucco decorations are Sparzo’s handworks, but the design of this room and the décor are likely to be ascribed again to the genius of the Bergamasco, whose style is manifest in the bizarre typology of the herms, peculiar of the mannerist style of this artist.
Prior to the last restoration works, the atrium was dulled by an ochre-greenish colour painting which did not help a clean-cut interpretation of the various elements; today the cleaning of the surfaces and some restoration works gave back the stucco decorations their original white and light-blue shades.

The scenographic nymphaeum is placed at the end of the junction axis among the atrium, the entrance hall and the courtyard. This type of “rustic fountain” points to the evolution of the local taste, which during the 17th century turns the traditional artificial caves of the sixteenth century into open nymphaea overlooking the natural spaces. This nymphaeum was likely built by Pallavicini family right after the purchase of the Palace (1711) and represents one of the décor works to modernize the residence along with the frescoes on the second state floor.  The majestic look of the fountain – which exploits the water coming from the water tank located on the hill of Castelletto at the rear – was a project from Domenico Parodi, then carried out by Biggi. The height of this nymphaeum is carefully devised to give continuity to the Palace and the rearward hill, thus creating a ‘trompe l’oeil’ of two nymphaea in an iconographical relation one with the other, the first at the courtyard level and the second one above the terrace.

The vault of the big nymphaeum is supported by two giant tritons, who framed a scene inspired to the myth of Phaeton which unfortunately got lost. The young Phaeton, son of the Sun, upon insistence was allowed to drive just for one day his father’s cart but, being unable to hold up the fiery horses, he burned out of rash the Sky and the Earth, and for this reason Zeus hit him with a lightning and made him fell into a river. During the restoration works, the fountain has been carefully cleaned and brought back to its original splendour, to catch the attention of the visitors and fascinate them.

The garden, right from its beginnings formed on different layered levels shelved on the hillside of Castelletto, underwent during the eighteenth century, together with the Palace, a major change at the courtyard level and of the first piece of terracing.

Comparing the plans by Rubens and by Gauthier there was clearly an enlargement of the courtyard space for embellishment, obtained by excavating and moving back the retaining wall on the first level of the garden, thus giving more space to the backdrop which would later host the nymphaeum.
The historian Lauro Magnani traces back to the Parodi direction in order to date the entire relief model construction in the garden: such as the satyrs on the balustrade which faces on to the first layer of terracing, and the five statues which dominate the garden from height of the retaining wall on the second level. Here the theme of Bacchus predominates: two female figures and three male ones, amongst which there is probably also Dionysus, play bagpipes, flutes and other musical instruments. The retaining wall on the second level of the garden is occupied in the centre by a niche: here a stone pool is decorated by an enormous Silenus in stucco, busy pouring wine in the fountain water from an amphora in to the mouth of Bacchus. On the western side a grotto opens out, with stalactites and shells, inside the cave a wild boar is trying to hide whilst being hunted by Adonis.  At the centre of the ‘parterre’ there is a circular pool in white marble with a small Hercules in the middle fighting with a snake, this can also be attributed to the Parodi period.

The palace was open for inside visits, but unfortunately we handn’t enough time, we were just waiting for the newlywed to finish their professional photoshooting….

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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