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Updates – Ljubljana #1

And then we hit the road again, for a short transfer to Ljubljana, where we stayed at a very convenient hotel, being it near to the most amazing part of the town.

Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of SloveniaIt has been the cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative center of independent Slovenia since 1991. Its central geographic location within Slovenia, transport connections, concentration of industry, scientific and research institutions, and cultural tradition are contributing factors to its leading position. During antiquity, a Roman city called Emona stood in the area. Ljubljana itself was first mentioned in the first half of the 12th century. It was under Habsburg rule from the Middle Ages until the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. Situated at the middle of a trade route between the northern Adriatic Sea and the Danube region, it was the historical capital of Carniolaa Slovene-inhabited part of the Habsburg Monarchy.

While looking through the photos I needed for my blog, I realized I had so many of them and many very similar, taken in different days and times….I got a little confused about how to post them here, so I decided to show this beautiful city by “subject” hoping to be able to do so (it won’t be easy I guess…)

Back in the 13th century, the Order of Teutonic Knights, the so called Knights of the Cross, settled at the upper end of the Novi trg square and built a church there. The only surviving item from the church is the famous relief of the Madonna of Krakovo from the church’s main portal. The relief, created between 1265 and 1270, is now kept at the National Gallery of Slovenia. Back in the day the church has also been referred to as the Monastery Church of Our Lady of Mercy. The present Križanke Church was built between 1714 and 1715 by Domenico Rossi, one of the leading Venetian architects of the time. This indicates that the only church of the cross located on Slovenian territory was of great importance not only to the Knights of the Cross but also to the imperial court in Vienna, which donated interior furnishings. Side altars were painted by the court painters Martin Altomonte and Anton Schoonjans. The main altar painting, a work by Johann Michael Rottmayr which burnt down in the 19th century, was replaced by a painting by the Viennese painter Hans Canon in 1859. Too bad the church is not open to tourists…..

The church is located next to the Križanke Summer Theatre (once part of the monastery, now renovated) where the Opera Music Festival is held every summer.

Near the church, just at the corner with Gosposka ulica…..

…..there’s Križevniška ulica, beside Metelkova (the artists’ neighbour) the most gypsy street in town…..photos studios, tattos’ parlors, craft shops and alternative restaurants……

(can you spot me above?)

Ljubljana is crossed by a river with the same name. From Roman times to the construction of the railway in the mid-19th century, the Ljubljanica was a major trade and supply route. On its way to Ljubljana, the river flows through the unique natural landscape of Ljubljana Marshes. Its bed is one of Slovenia’s most important archaeological sites. Excavations have yielded objects dating from prehistory to the early modern period. Archaeologists believe that the river once had a cult status. During our stay we crossed it so many times through its most famous bridges……….

The site of the present Cobblers’ Bridge, built by the architect Jože Plečnik between 1931 and 1932, was formerly occupied by a covered wooden bridge connecting the Mestni trg and Novi trg squares, two major parts of medieval Ljubljana. The bridge provided space for cobblers’ workshops – hence the name Cobblers’ Bridge. At its south end it was decorated with a statue of Christ, now kept in the Church of St. Florian. The 19th century saw the building of a new, cast iron bridge. On the initiative of the architect Jože Plečnik it was later moved to a site opposite Ljubljana’s maternity hospital to connect the Zaloška cesta and Poljanska cesta roads. The present Cobblers’ Bridge was conceived as a broad balustraded platform connecting two different parts of the city. It was made of artificial stone like another of Plečnik’s creations, the Triple Bridge. The characteristic appearance of the Cobblers’ Bridge is due to its balustrades with short balusters and tall, different sized pillars topped with stone balls. The central two pillars support lamps and are slightly shorter, which gives the bridge a uniquely dynamic appearance. On the sides, the bridge platform is decorated with a geometric pattern.

The Triple Bridge is a group of three bridges, connecting two parts of Ljubljana’s downtown, located on both banks of the Ljubljanica. Originally, there was only a single bridge, which linked Central Europe and the Balkans. In order to prevent an 1842 stone arch bridge from being a bottleneck, two additional pedestrian bridges on either side of the central one were added in 1932 according to the Plečnik’s 1929 design. He decorated them with large stone balusters and lamps. There are two staircases, leading to terraces above the river, the banks with poplars, and the Ljubljana fish market. Two Plečnik’s urban axes of Ljubljana, the water axis and the Ljubljana Castle–Rožnik Axis, cross at the bridge.

The Dragon Bridge, built by Josef Melan and designed by Jurij Zaninović, is often regarded as the most beautiful bridge produced by the Vienna Secession. t is located in the northeast of Vodnik Square (Vodnikov trg). It is a triple-hinged arch bridge and has a span of 33.34 meters (109 ft 5 in). When opened in 1901, it had the third largest arch in Europe. Today, it is protected as a technical monument. The chief attraction of the bridge are four sheet-copper dragon statues, which stand on pedestals at its four corners and have become a symbol of the city.

The symbol of the city is the Ljubljana Dragon. It is depicted on the top of the tower of Ljubljana Castle in the Ljubljana coat of arms and on the Ljubljanica-crossing Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most). It symbolizes power, courage, and greatness. There are several explanations on the origin of the Ljubljana Dragon. According to a Slavic myth, the slaying of a dragon releases the waters and ensures the fertility of the earth, and it is thought that the myth is tied to the Ljubljana Marshes, the expansive marshy area that periodically threatens Ljubljana with flooding. According to the celebrated Greek legend, the Argonauts on their return home after having taken the Golden Fleece found a large lake surrounded by a marsh between the present-day towns of Vrhnika and Ljubljana. It was there that Jason struck down a monster. This monster has evolved into the dragon that today is present in the city coat of arms and flag. It is historically more believable that the dragon was adopted from Saint George, the patron of the Ljubljana Castle chapel built in the 15th century. In the legend of Saint George, the dragon represents the old ancestral paganism overcome by Christianity. According to another explanation, related to the second, the dragon was at first only a decoration above the city coat of arms. In the Baroque, it became part of the coat of arms, and in the 19th and especially the 20th century, it outstripped the tower and other elements in importance.

One day we decided to not cross the bridges but to take a boat ride under them and to see the river from another point of view….

The last photo above is the Butchers’ Bridge, a footbridge. It was officially opened in july 2010 and complets Plenik’s plans from the 1930s. Shortly after the opening, padlocks of couple in love started appearing on its steel wires, symbolizing declarations of eternal love, a phenomenon similar to the one on the parisian Pont des Arts or Ponte Milvio in Rome….

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Posted by on October 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Seven – Patti Smith

The american singer arrived in Italy to partecipate at the ceremony for honorary degree in Classical and Modern Letters, which was delivered on May 3rd at the local University. For the occasion, there was also the beautiful exhibition hosted at the Governor’s Palace: a collection of shots and artists met and photographed by Smith with his Land 250 Polaroid over the years. In the shots, you can really meet many different characters, from Virginia Wolf to Rimbaud, to Frida Kahlo or Grabriele D’Annunzio. Sometimes indirectly told and represented, through their personal objects and places. Higher Learning is an evolution of Eighteen Stations, presented in New York and recently exhibited in Stockholm. The original project was realized in collaboration with the Robert Miller Gallery in New York and the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern in Stockholm.
Born in 1946, Patti Smith, known to the general public as one of the most important singers in rock history, is a multifaceted artist: photographer, painter, sculptor, writer, poet and performer who left, and continues to leave an indelible mark in the American and international cultural landscape through a career that lasts for over forty years. During his first explorations in the field of visual arts he worked closely with Robert Mapplethorpe, one of the greatest photographers and portraitists between the sixties and eighties of the last century. The two artists met for the first time in New York City in 1967 and remained friends until the death of Mapplethorpe in 1989.

After more than ten years of his latest photo exhibition in Italy, with Higher Learning, Patti Smith returns to exhibit with an exhibition around the world of M Train book, released in 2015. In the volume, the artist, as he wrote the prestigious “Rolling Stone” magazine, “tackles a journey through the most memorable memories, travels between life lived and dream universe, his faithful companion of all time”. Smith describes what is, in effect, his autobiography, “a roadmap for my life,” telling from coffee shops to homes where he worked around the world. Reflecting on the themes and sensations of the book, Higher Learning is a sort of meditation on the act of creating art and over time. The illustrations accompanying the pages of the book, together with the writings, dwell on the potential that art and literature can offer to hope and consolation. The photos portrays the beds, the statues, the artwork and the gravestones that have belonged to characters that have contributed to the formation and development of the culture of humanity, creating a sort of visual diary. Frida Kahlo’s crutches, Gabriele D’Annunzio’s bed, Johnny Depp’s bathrobe, Carlo Mollino’s apartment, Virginia Woolf stick, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s tombs and Jean Genet’s chair and Roberto Bolaño’s chair resuscitate their soul through the images of their goods or their resting places.

“As a young woman – says Patti Smith – I dreamed of attending a large university. It is an honor to receive the honoris causa degree from the University of Parma, one of the oldest and most prestigious Universities in Europe. I have always believed in the importance of education, and getting recognition from this eminent higher education institution is both embarrassing and stimulating.
The sense of the exhibition is a tribute to another kind of education. The university of life, travel, books, artists, poets and teachers. The images are visual representations of pilgrimage and gratitude, and continuous love and respect for our cultural voices, their great works, and the humility of their instruments. A brush, a typewriter and the beds they dreamed of. The places of their eternal peace “.

Along with Higher Learning, another exhibition of photographic works was inaugurated at the Palace of the Governor, The NY Scene – art, culture and new avant-garde, 1970s and 1980s, produced by Photology in collaboration with the Municipality of Parma and “devoted  to the New Yorkese scene of those years that have so much been about creativity and a culture that has become global and on the same experience as Patti Smith. ”
Throughout the 1970s, New York became the world capital of contemporary art, and the great commercial affiliation of Pop Art makes the avant-garde culture grow in the bourgeois salons of the city. The exhibition wants to remember those moments that New York lived through sex, art, drugs, pop culture and literary avant-gardes.
Photographers on display have been chosen among many people who worked in those years in a New York photo-making. Shots and videos on big pop characters, common citizens, and creative and fashionable sites are fragments of memory of a kind of experience that great photographers and artists like Galella, Ginsberg, Goldin, Gorgoni, Makos, Mapplethorpe and Warhol wanted or knew how to deal with with courage and abnegation.
Some of these were deeply tied to Patti Smith, who watched Ginsberg on the deathbed and lived the most formative years of his youth together with Mapplethorpe.
In the 1970s, artistic photography went through radical changes. The birth of performance and installations, as well as various types of landart and bodyart, makes photographic documentation indispensable. The great revolution that these artists have captured in the “Big Apple” of those years is the first symptom of a changing world, that of “total culture”, “mass snobbery”, of a society with no “middle class” . It is the new hedonistic America of Ronald Reagan that is about to be born, a company that in a few years will match the “market system”.

Smith uses a vintage Land 250 Polaroid camera, produced at the end of the 1960s with a rangefinder Zeiss Ikon. The camera uses a special film that produces instantaneous printing. Patti Smith’s Polaroid photographs are printed on silver jelly in limited editions of ten. In the era of digital shots and image manipulation, her works fought for the use of photography in its most classic form, as a tool for documenting and fixing an instant for a moment, a moment found.

The Patti Smith Library, which contains a hundred literary and cinematic works inspired and directed the work of the artist during his life, and was set up inside the exhibition. Books and DVDs will be available to the public, which can be consulted on the spot. Some works were also be on sale in the bookshop.

For my daughter and I, really and deeply in love with photography, Patti Smith and New York, this was really a great experience….all the best in just one place!

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Six – June

June, where summer really begins….

Near the river Po, there’s a village called Zibello, known all around the world for a culinary excellence, culatello….every year, the first week-end of june all the area celebrates it with dinner, concerts, games, markets and debates with italian top chefs…….could we miss the chance to eat something so good?

However, the best part of the dinner was the company, as always…….

The village was full of people, all the shops and tourists’ attractions were open………

and I just couldn’t pass the chance to visit the local main church…….

Following the foundation of the marquisate of Zibello, Giovan Francesco Pallavicino, the first gentleman of the small state, before his death expressed the desire to complete the construction of the Dominican convent, which he started in 1494, and a church in the village that served as a family chapel; it was only in the middle of the sixteenth century that the work for the church was started, on the initiative of the Marquis Uberto Pallavicino, before he was forced to surrender the marquisate to the Rangoni of Modena.

The work was concluded around 1580 but the church was consecrated only in 1620; elevated to parish, assumed the functions of the church of the Blessed Virgin of Graces , until then it was dedicated to the saints Gervasio and Protasio. In 1673 the rectory was erected attached to the church, while the bell tower was built in 1677, at the wish of the parish priest don Gardini.

The imposing church develops on a three-nave plant, with three chapels in the absidial area and a baptistery beside the entrance. The symmetrical salient facade , made of red brick in Gothic-Lombard style, is marked in three parts by buttresses surmounted by high tented roofs; in the middle there is a large rose window framed by terracotta tiles made by Jacopo de Stavolis around 1484. On the left side of the façade, the baptistery rises with Renaissance tracts, on which an octagonal dome rises. 

Inside, the three aisles are subdivided by a high colonnade whose decorated capitals support elegant arched bows, whose solemnity is accentuated by ornamental motifs that frame them, and from high vaulted ceiling, repeated in the same shapes even in the lower aisles.

To the left is the baptistery, covered by an octagonal, featuring 19th century decorations by Girolamo Magnani, a scenographer.

The left chapel houses a particular relic of the patron saint of the country, Saint Carlo Borromeo, a piece of the robe he wore on the day when he was extraordinarily saved by an attack. 

The next day we had another culinary date in the city center…..the second edition of Gola Gola Festival, the first after Parma was nominated Unesco City of Gastronomy, so this year the foods stands were even more…

our friend A with two new friends….lol…

For dinner we opted for a very much loved abruzzo excellence, arrosticini

and obviously a little dancing was mandatory!

The night of June 23 is the magic night for excellence. There are, in fact, very ancient popular traditions and profound esoteric and religious meanings that Saint John’s recurrence is linked to the summer solstice that corresponds to the winter one that is remembered at Christmas. In conjunction with the summer solstice, when the sun reaches its maximum positive declination and then resumes the winter walk, begins the summer, so St. John is the supreme solar festival, the overwhelming victory of light on darkness, good on bad. But the most clear and eloquent explanation on the important and significant astral situation is provided by Maria Castelli Zanzucchi, a writer, a scholar of traditions and author of interesting publications: “The sun reaches the highest point on 23 June: it is common knowledge that the night of St. John is the best time for planets and zodiacal signs to give stones and herbs their virtues. It is a magical night, the night of the impossible, of wonders, deceit, evil influences and witches. “

In Parma and around, the traditions of the “rozáda äd San Zvan” (dialect for dew of Saint John) are countless: from the best known, such as the gastronomic dish “tortelli di erbetta” (chard ravioli), to those less well-known, whose origins are lost in the night of time. Preferably the “tortelli” are made to be enjoyed with the feet under the outdoor table, but inside is allowed too, as long as you leave the door and windows open to favor the benefits of dewy influences……better if with dear friends and surrounded by flowers and herbs collected the year before…

Another month gone, leaving great memories of food, places and dear faces……..

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Four – A day at the castle

The Castle of Scipione of the Marquises Pallavicino (just to stay loyal to some of my life characteristics….lol) is one of the oldest historic castles in the region. It proudly stands watching the hills breathtaking landscape of the Stirone and Piacenza Regional Park, on the charming medieval village named Scipione Castello, halfway between Parma and Piacenza. On a sunny may sunday, with a couple of friends, we were there for a private visit in order to fix details for our friends’ son wedding (scheduled for next spring).

Again, a little bit of history about the Marquises Pallavicino. They originally formed together with the Malaspina Marquises, the Massa Marquises and the D’Este Marquises – from which the Dukes of Ferrara and Modena and the current Hannover Princes originated – one single family known as the “Obertenga”, from Oberto (945-975) their common progenitor who was the Marquis and the Count of the Sacred Palace. Their land possessions included the Counties of Luni, Tortona and Genoa, reaching near Pavia, and his descendants also acquired the County of Milan, who held it until the eleventh century. After that period, the different family branches became independent from each other and the Marquises Pallavicino founded their own State, as immediate feud of the Holy Roman Empire, on a vast territory between the Po River and the Apennines mountains whose capital was Busseto. In 1479, Gianfrancesco Pallavicino, the son of Rolando “The Magnificent” founded a new capital called Cortemaggiore, an ideal city, perfect example of the Renaissance architecture,  according to the precepts of Leon Battista Alberti. In 1636 the Marquisates of Busseto and Cortemaggiore were confiscated by an act of force by the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, dependent from the Farnese family while the Marquisate of Zibello survived up to the Napoleonic Era. When, in 1636, Emperor Ferdinand offered to the MarquisesPallavicino the title of “princes”, they refused, faithful to the dignity of marquises that have always bound them to their lands.

The first official document recording the existence of the Castle dates back to 1025 when the castle was built by Alberto Pallavicino as a military fortress, part of a large defensive system set up by the Pallavicino family for the protection and control of their State, which embraced a vast territory between the Municipalities and the Diocese of Parma, Piacenza and Cremona, strategically extending from the river Po to the Apennines mountains. The legend states that its name derives from a preexisting Roman Villa built by the family that once destroyed the Empire of Carthage. In 1267, during the feudal struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines, the castle endured several attacks by Piacenza’s families and in the years 1403 and 1407, by the Guelph families Rossi, Da Correggio and Terzi. In 1447, the castle was rebuilt and transformed by the brothers Lodovico and Giovanni Pallavicino who conformed it to new and more advanced defensive requirements. From this restructuring period are in fact the new circular tower and the reinforced walls in order to be less vulnerable to the attacks of new firearms. From the same period are the narrow prisons that remained unchanged until today. Other important changes have been performed during the middle of the XVII century as the elegant loggia and the great entrance doorway that leads to the main garden.

In the middle of the Seventeenth Century, other large projects have been implemented with an elegant loggia that enables the open view of the surrounding hillside, a great gateway to the courtyard surmounted by the family’s coat of arm as well as frescoes and important paneled ceilings in the halls that can be admired in their original condition.

Today, in some rooms, the medieval ceilings with their original decorations are still jealously preserved, with their soft garlands, flowers and emblems that seem to narrate of the bygone days, when the castle was inhabited by Manfredo, brother of Uberto “the Great”, as the historian Salimbene de Adam reported in its thirteenth century Chronicle “(…) In this castle lived Messer Manfredo, he had four sons and three daughters, beautiful ladies, married in different parts of the world. His wife and their mother was Donna Chiara of the Counts of Lomello, beautiful lady, very wise and jovial. (…) Messer Manfredo was a man of peace and almost religious (….) And gave to all institutions salt in abundance without measure. He had in the area of Scipione’s castle many wells of salt, for which he became rich and powerful(…).

In the Medieval times the castle had a central role also due to its strategic position perfect for the control of numerous salt wells, whose the Pallavicino Marquises were both major producers and the most powerful market arbiters, promoting the development of salt factories and digging new wells around Salsomaggiore. For centuries salt has been an essential element in food preservation and for this reason it was a strategic and valuable resource, even more important than gold. The same saline waters from which the salt was extracted, centuries ago, are today appreciated thanks to their beneficial and healing properties that gave birth to the thermalism in Salsomaggiore.

The Castle of Scipione always remained a possession of the Pallavicino family except for a short time after World War One, when it was donated by the Marquese Clelia Pallavicino Fogliani to the ‘National Association of The Orphans of War”. In the1970’s the castle was bought by the Danish diplomat Christian Frederik Per von Holstein, who gave it as a gift to his wife, Marquise Maria Luisa Pallavicino, turning it into their new residence. The castle thus returned to its founder’s family branch that ranks among its ancestors important historic figures such as Adalberto, a great leader praised in the Ludovico Ariosto poem “Orlando Furioso” and in the Torquato Tasso “Jerusalem Delivered”, and Rolando called “The Magnificent”, man of the Renaissance times who wrote the “Statuta Pallavicina”, an important legislative text which was the basis for a modern reorganization of its own State and that will remain in force until the nineteenth century.

The Castle of Scipione was among the first in the region to be declared a National Monument in 1922 for its historical-artistic and landscape values.

I can’t wait to be back there to celebrate a young couple’s wedding next year!

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – One – March

After a short and not so cold month of february, almost lacking of events, march started with a nice late afternoon meeting, celebrating a collegue wedding, in a very well known place in the city center…..

Then we brought home a new road companion, for the happiness of my husband….and for the sake of my lower back!

One sunny sunday we drove to our friends’ country home to have lunch together…….

…..and to fix a date for a guided visit to a stunning private palace in town.

Well, it seems I have some recurring names and places in my life…… I’v been in that palace before a few times (work related), but I only saw a few rooms. Open to the public exceptionally for a day, Palazzo Pallavicino, a historic baroque residence in the heart of Parma, was shown to the members of a cultural association that arranged the appointment, by the marquise Maria Gabriella Pigoli Pallavicino and Professor Carlo Mambriani (an historian) who led the participants through the stunning rooms of the private residence. And amazing as it was, the marquis Maria Gabriella recognized me after so many years and at the end of the visit she kindly gave us half an hour of her time chatting about our lives after the last time we met  …… very kind of her, don’t you think?

The palace was commissioned by Alfonso Pallavicino from Zibello in 1646 and built on the spot of a 15th century palace belonging to the Sforza of Santafiora family (the square before the palace still has the same name). The façade dates back to 1705 and is characterised by windows of different sizes and designs surrounded by marble, with a balcony held up by corbels.

Inside, from a baroque courtyard, a balustrade staircase with three flights in Bolognese style of the end of the 17th century  adorned with statues, leads up to several rooms with stucco, Austrian marble fireplaces, mirrors, paintings, a Chinese salon with 18th century marble floors and a salon frescoed by Sebastiano Galeotti. Four works are by Girolamo Donnini, including The flight of Eneid from Troy, The flight of Ifigenia from the temple of Artemides, Medea and Jason and Diomedes revealing the faked madness of Ulysses. Donnini also painted the ceilings, as well the artist from Bologna, Aureliano Milani, depicting Hercules in many of his works.

Just the staircase is worth the visit….

The visit started at the long hallway that i remembered so well, where the marquise was waiting for us……

then, her precious bridge room, a card game always loved by her and her late husband….

….the conversation room…..

….the Chinese salon…..

….the dining room….

….the library where the late marquis Pierluigi used to meet me….

It was really an amazing experience for me, just like it was anytime I met that kind couple, so many years ago….thank you Lady Gabriella for a wonderful time!

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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I’m back! ….for a one shot, at least….

It’s been ages since last time I posted something….and lots of things happened of course….here is a little re-cap of my life in the last few months….

First of all there was an event in mid-september to present the opening of the Parma branch of the dance school where our friends/cousins teach….

September was a busy month….One of my favourite events…a country night

…..then the wedding of dear friends of our daughter, a very nice celebration…….and their little boy was the center of all the attentions…

….. a day out at the end of the month, discovering a new place, to savour and taste a rural market, where our friends were selling their fruit and olive plants

It was a great place, near to us but left ignored for way too long, a very nice surprise, full of great buildings and lot of history behind those walls…

In october we had a night all together to say goodbye to a couple of our neighbours moving away….

Mid-october we spent a day in Murano (a very beautiful island in the Venice lagoon)  to visit the Glass Museum where maestro Vianello had some of his pieces displayed… (remember Mauro and my glass ducks?) It was a stunning visit……

Below, one of Vianello creations….

We did enjoy the sunny day to walk around….the beautiful Church of St Mary and St Donato….

…and another desecrated church, St Chiara, now a glass workshop….

I’ll never get tired of this beautiful place!

Usually we don’t take time off in fall/winter, but last october it was different. We just needed a few days off, after a very busy period renovating our daughter home, so we choose France for a short vacation. We had our hotel (below) in Salon-de-Provence, and we just drove around between Provence and Camargue…..

Salon-de-Provence was really a nice surprise….the old centere of the village was full of cozy and beautiful corners…starting with the fountains, all green and more like trees….

….or the clock tower, that signs the time of the residents since ages….

….every street and every square holding something to remember…..maybe a modern statue of Nostradamus who lived and died here….

A more classic statue of Nostradamus…

….beautiful mansions and gardens….

And obviously there is a castle….

We had a great time spending a sunny and warm day at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, being there after 20 years since the first time….

The first time we didn’t get into the church, it was closed for some event rehersal, but this time we did!

Can you tell the majority of the people living here are Gypsy from Spain?

One morning we decided to visit a “savonnerie” (soap factory) and we didn’t come out empty handed….

We spent the rest of the day between an old pirates outpost and the “salines” (salt evaporation pond)….

It was a nice trip, and we’d like to come back in the area next fall as well….

Me and daughter spent a day in Milan for a job interview…..and nope, she didn’t get the job. At least, we had a very good lunch…

Mid-november we had dinner with some friends, savouring a very tasty bistecca fiorentina

At the beginning of december my daughter boyfriend’s parents came to spend a few days with him so we got the chance to know each others and have lunch together with my mother too…

Last december with some of our friends, we resurrected what used to be a Christmas tradition for some years, the making of “spongata“…..beside having something to give as a gift, the tradition was just to have fun and spend some quality time all together, having lunch as well…

The final result ready for the oven….

And then it was Christmas time…Eve’s dinner at home as usual…

To celebrate the arrival of the new year, we had dinner out with some friends (with daughter and her bf/friends in a nearby table….lol) in a unpretentious place, but very good…

First event of the new year was the classic, by now, Epiphany on bike….to bring gifts to the Children Hospital’s patients…

Another classic already, the charity dinner for our friends’ son in Brazil….

Finally, after some time we had the chance to meet with our friends from Modena….obviously at lunch!

Our friend S with a partner, opened a tex-mex restaurant….we were there for dinner one night of course….

And this is all, at least till the end of january…..but two big event took place among all those above…hubby retirement (at last!) in mid-december, celebrated at his workplace with all his collegues….including gifts and jokes…

…and daughter M finally moving to her new home in january…

So now we’re officially empty nesters…..and we miss her so very much….but that’s life, right?

Till next time, take care….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Step five – Carcassonne, la Citè

We choose our hotel in Carcassonne on the web, and we got luck, considering the view we had from our room……

Occupied since the Neolithic period, Carcassonne is located in the Aude plain between two great axes of circulation linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean sea and the Massif Central to the Pyrénées. Its strategic importance was quickly recognized by the Romans who occupied its hilltop until the demise of the Western Roman Empire and was later taken over in the fifth century by the Visigoths who founded the city. Also thriving as a trading post due to its location, it saw many rulers who successively built up its fortifications, until its military significance was greatly reduced by the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. The city is famous for the Cité de Carcassonne, a medieval fortress restored by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853 and added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. Consequently, Carcassonne greatly profits from tourism but also counts manufacture and wine-making as some of its other key economic sectors.

The first signs of settlement in this region have been dated to about 3500 BC, but the hill site of Carsac – a Celtic place-name that has been retained at other sites in the south – became an important trading place in the 6th century BC. The Volcae Tectosages fortified the oppidum. The folk etymology – involving a châtelaine named Carcas, a ruse ending a siege and the joyous ringing of bells (“Carcas sona”) – though memorialized in a neo-Gothic sculpture of Mme. Carcas on a column near the Narbonne Gate, is of modern invention. The name can be derived as an augmentative of the name Carcas.

Carcassonne became strategically identified when Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC and eventually made the colonia of Julia Carsaco, later Carcasum (by the process of swapping consonants known as metathesis). The main part of the lower courses of the northern ramparts dates from Gallo-Roman times. In 462 the Romans officially ceded Septimania to the Visigothic king Theodoric II who had held Carcassonne since 453; he built more fortifications at Carcassonne, which was a frontier post on the northern marches: traces of them still stand. Theodoric is thought to have begun the predecessor of the basilica that is now dedicated to Saint Nazaire. In 508 the Visigoths successfully foiled attacks by the Frankish king Clovis. Saracens from Barcelona took Carcassonne in 725, but King Pepin the Short (Pépin le Bref) drove them away in 759-60; though he took most of the south of France, he was unable to penetrate the impregnable fortress of Carcassonne.

A medieval fiefdom, the county of Carcassonne, controlled the city and its environs. It was often united with the County of Razès. The origins of Carcassonne as a county probably lie in local representatives of the Visigoths, but the first count known by name is Bello of the time of Charlemagne. Bello founded a dynasty, the Bellonids, which would rule many honores in Septimania and Catalonia for three centuries. In 1067, Carcassonne became the property of Raimond-Bernard Trencavel, viscount of Albi and Nîmes, through his marriage with Ermengard, sister of the last count of Carcassonne. In the following centuries, the Trencavel family allied in succession either with the counts of Barcelona or of Toulouse. They built the Château Comtal and the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse (more about both of them later). In 1096, Pope Urban II blessed the foundation stones of the new cathedral.

Carcassonne became famous in its role in the Albigensian Crusades, when the city was a stronghold of Occitan Cathars. In August 1209 the crusading army of the Papal Legate,Abbot Arnaud Amalric, forced its citizens to surrender. Raymond-Roger de Trencavel was imprisoned whilst negotiating his city’s surrender, and died in mysterious circumstances three months later in his own dungeon. Simon De Montfort was appointed the new viscount. He added to the fortifications.

In 1240, Trencavel’s son tried to reconquer his old domain but in vain. The city submitted to the rule of the kingdom of France in 1247. Carcassonne became a border fortress between France and the Crown of Aragon under the Treaty of Corbeil (1258). King Louis IX founded the new part of the town across the river. He and his successor Philip III built the outer ramparts. Contemporary opinion still considered the fortress impregnable. During the Hundred Years’ War, Edward the Black Prince failed to take the city in 1355, although his troops destroyed the Lower Town. In 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees transferred the border province of Roussillon to France, and Carcassonne’s military significance was reduced. Fortifications were abandoned, and the city became mainly an economic centre that concentrated on the woollen textile industry, for which a 1723 source quoted by Fernand Braudel found it “the manufacturing centre of Languedoc”. It remained so until the Ottoman market collapsed at the end of the eighteenth century, thereafter reverting to a country town.

Carcassonne was the first fortress to use hoardings in times of siege. Temporary wooden ramparts would be fitted to the upper walls of the fortress through square holes beneath the rampart itself. It provided protection to defenders on the wall and allowed defenders to go out past the wall to drop projectiles on attackers at the wall beneath. The fortified city itself consists essentially of a concentric design of two outer walls with 53 towers and barbicans to prevent attack by siege engines. The castle itself possesses its own drawbridge and ditch leading to a central keep. The walls consist of towers built over quite a long period. One section is Roman and is notably different from the medieval walls with the tell-tale red brick layers and the shallow pitch terracotta tile roofs. One of these towers housed the Catholic Inquisition in the 13th century and is still known as “The Inquisition Tower”.

Carcassonne was struck off the roster of official fortifications under Napoleon and the Restoration, and the fortified cité of Carcassonne fell into such disrepair that the French government decided that it should be demolished. A decree to that effect that was made official in 1849 caused an uproar. The antiquary and mayor of Carcassonne, Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille, and the writer Prosper Mérimée, the first inspector of ancient monuments, led a campaign to preserve the fortress as a historical monument. Later in the year the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, already at work restoring the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, was commissioned to renovate the place. In 1853, works began with the west and southwest walling, followed by the towers of the porte Narbonnaise and the principal entrance to the cité. The fortifications were consolidated here and there, but the chief attention was paid to restoring the roofing of the towers and the ramparts, where Viollet-le-Duc ordered the destruction of structures that had encroached against the walls, some of them of considerable age. Viollet-le-Duc left copious notes and drawings on his death in 1879, when his pupil Paul Boeswillwald, and later the architect Nodet continued the rehabilitation of Carcassonne.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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