Italian Culture day by day

The Monster's Park of Bomarzo

posted Mar 5, 2012, 1:03 AM by Stefano Capoccioni

Monster's Park in Bomarzo near Rome
In the region of Lazio, the marvellous land of the Etruscans, the Romans and the Middle Ages, lies the village of Bomarzo which shares all the glory of the region's illustrious history and possesses an historical site which is the only one of its kind in the world: "The Villa Of Marvels". In the gardens of other villas in Lazio you will find certain similirities, but the prototype of all these gardens remains the "Sacred Wood of Bomarzo", that popular fancy rebaptized as Monster's Park. Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, known as Vicino, wanted such a park "only to ease the heart". It was designed and laid out by the great architect, Pirro Ligorio, who was summoned to work at Saint Peter's in Vaticano after the death of Michelangelo. Without either Prince Orsini or Ligorio ever realizing it, a timeless masterpiece was born. When you visit this park you will go from surprise to surprise as animals and figures in stone suddenly appear: the Elephant that is about to kill a Warrior, the fighting Dragons, the Ogre in whose mouth you could pic-nic, Sleeping Beauty, Hercules tearing Cacus apart, Bears in ambush, animals with three heads, Neptune presiding figures, and finally a globe of the world balanced on the head of an Orc with a model of the Orsini Castle on top representing the power of his family. These sculptures carred out of massive boulders in situ, appearing to rise up out of the very ground as if by magic. It all goes back to the 16th Century (1552), the period which saw the development of an ideal of life between Prince and Courtier. This wood has inspired many important artists and poets of the time such as Annibal Caro, Bitussi and Cardinal Madruzzo wanted to express their wonder and wished to leave their "epigraphs and verses" carved here and there. After Vicino Orsini's death nobody cared any longer for this jewel of mannerist art and after centuries of oblivion has been saved and restored for the joy of intellectuals, men of letters, artists and tourists that come from all over the world to admire this splendid garden.

The Monti Cimini Chestnut near Rome

posted Jan 17, 2012, 11:14 PM by Stefano Capoccioni   [ updated Jan 17, 2012, 11:15 PM ]

food tasting chestnut
The chestnut is certainly one of the most important of Tuscia’s typical products. Accounting for 30% of the region’s production – and 8% of Italy’s – the chestnuts of the Monti Cimini district have always played a leading role in the local economy.
The Monti Cimini chestnut is derived from the species Castanea sativa, a local ecotype referred to as the "domestic chestnut of the Monti Cimini," and the “fiorentino" and "premutico" cultivars. In all species, the flesh is sweet and flavourful. The primary target market is the fresh one, in which the chestnut traditionally arrives after an initial cold-water soaking for two to six days in vats or wooden tubs. This conditioning, called “curing,” serves to block the occurrence of pathogens during preservation. They are then left to dry, and thrashed daily in a process called trapalatura.
The Viterbo area has seen chestnut farming since antiquity, and the species has spread to become an integral part of the Monti Cimini district’s landscape. The tree has ushered in a "chestnut culture" rich in customs, traditions, juridical rules, municipal statutes, and farming techniques. During the Middle Ages and in the modern period, the Monti Cimini area, as demonstrated by numerous ruins that have been discovered, had old, two-story drying-houses (called "metati" or "raticci") where the chestnuts were dried in a long smoking process.

Acquacotta alla Viterbese - Italian recipe

posted Jan 16, 2012, 1:58 AM by Stefano Capoccioni

italian recipe acquacotta
Acquacotta is a typical dish of the Viterbo area. This simple dish originated as the meal of the “buttero”, as the cattle herders are called. There are lots of varieties. The dish in Viterbo is very special, and differs from the Acquacotta in nearby Tuscany in its ingredients and preparation. Water, chicory, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, onion, wild mint and, before serving, a dash of extra-virgin olive oil.
The ingredients sometimes vary according to the location. In the territory of Lake Bolsena, for example, the dish is called sbroscia, and is prepared with the addition of the lake fish, and cooked by the fisherman on the lake shores. According to tradition this soup was prepared with water from Lake Bolsena.

Leonardo at Capitoline Museums

posted Jan 13, 2012, 6:30 AM by Stefano Capoccioni

Roma musei capitolini
For the first time offers the public a thorough comparison between the two Masters of the Italian Renaissance. The roman exhibition, set up at Capitoline Museums until 19 of February, shows sixty-six drawings: the ones of Leonardo are from the collection Veneranda Bibilioteca Ambrosiana Milan, the ones of Michelangelo are from Fondazione Casa Buonarroti Florence.

The exhibition is divided into three sections. The initial one, "Masterpieces of Masterpieces," shows nine masterpieces of Leonardo (mechanical inventions, art, hydraulic, study of the geometry, the flight of birds and the mechanic flight) set to "confrontation" with the nine most famous drawings  by Michelangelo, from the collection Casa Buonarroti, such as the “Naked back”, the enigmatic “Cleopatra” and the “Head of Leda”.

The second section, divided into several subsections, deepens the stay in Rome of the two artists ranging from Leonardo’s love for the '"architecture" to "Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel and the Pauline Chapel."

The exhibition ends with the third section called "Following up the Genius", a selection of some works of great importance produced by artists who were subject to strong influence of the two Masters.

Museo del Brigantaggio

posted Dec 7, 2011, 9:05 AM by Stefano Capoccioni   [ updated Dec 7, 2011, 9:08 AM ]

italian culture tiburzi brigand
The museum aims to tell the stories of the Marema banditry in an anthropological perspective and offers visitors the opportunity to reconstruct the interpretation and stories of this phenomenon, from the second half of the nineteenth century up to now. in Particular, the museum aims to provide an ackknowledgment of the history and culture of the Maremma area which experienced the disruptive phenomenon of illegality and was associated with characters that, during the transition period of this land to contemporary age, received the label of brigands.

The museum enhances the story of their roots in local textures and in the imagery of rebellion, showing the Tiburzi epic not as a reaction to modernity, but as an expression of the brigand himself.

The ground floor shows the historical reasons and contemporary sources of banditry in a background that repeats symbolically the wood (tradition) and the train (the modernity disappointed): a forest where listening to sounds, opening dawers and seeing movies. The first floor shows the imaginary that the character Tiburzi has kept alive until today. A series of multimedia installations displays the stories that have as protagonist the Brigand of Cellere. The exhibition ends with the "Tavern of the Bandit", a space dedicated to the image of the brigand in his contemporary meanings: from the legendary history to the "trademark".

Johann Wolfgang Goethe in Rome

posted Nov 19, 2011, 7:23 AM by Stefano Capoccioni   [ updated Nov 19, 2011, 7:24 AM ]

Art and history in Rome
When Johann Wolfgang Goethe arrived in Rome in 1786, he was already a world-famous writer thanks to his Werther. But he still was not that unquestionable genius of the “Elective Affinities” or invention of the concept of world literature.
Goethe’s Italian Journey,  which brought him to Rome for two full years, was not only for pleasure, but was most definitely a rebirth – as can be seen from records: ''In Rome I first found myself. For the first time, I achieved inner harmony, happy, reasonable...''.
He was almost forty years old when he arrived in the Italian capital and from 1786 to 1788 he lived with the German painter, Johann Heinrich Tischbein, in his house in Via del Corso.
Casa di Goethe
Now transformed into a museum, the Casa di Goethe is a favourite tourist destination which can still be found at number 18 on Via del Corso.
This is the starting point of the itinerary which takes you around all the places most dear to the writer, where he lived and spent the most important moments of his stay in Rome. You can also visit the permanent exhibition on the writer which brings together anecdotes and the most significant events of his time in Rome.
The Spanish Steps and the Church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti
The monumental staircase (135 steps) must have been one of the routes Goethe often took to reach the Church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, and admire the beautiful view of the streets below. The Spanish Steps, designed by Alessandro Specchi and Francesco De Sanctis, were inaugurated by Pope Benedict XIII on the occasion of the Jubilee Year of 1725.
The French Academy in Rome
From Piazza di Spagna to Caffè Greco, from the Trevi Fountain to the Quirinal, Goethe loved strolling around these places, following an ideal itinerary taking in beautiful sights which he usually liked to finish at Villa Medici. He could soak up the beautiful view from here, taking in the rooftops of Rome. At that time Villa Medici had not yet become home to the French Academy in Rome; this took place at a later date in 1804. The prestigious academy was founded by Louis the 14th in 1666 to accommodate French artists working in Rome.
Antico Caffè Greco (Via Condotti 86)
Still home to intellectuals and writers and also popular with tourists and regulars, it is one of the capital’s historic cafés, opened in 1760 by a Greek. For Goethe, it was a place for dropping in and meeting up with others, at just a short distance from where he lived, where he used to love to spend long hours over his Italian-style breakfast. Photos, writings and paintings of famous regulars are all to be found on the café’s walls.
Palazzo Montecitorio
While strolling through the square, Goethe was struck by the sight of the obelisk lying on the ground and which was only erected much later in 1792, at the request of Pope Pius VI Braschi. Proof of this can be found in the pages of his Italian Journey, where we can read: “This ancient and beautiful of monuments now lies broken and disfigured on some of its facades…, and yet it is still there. I want to take the imprint of a sphinx sitting on the top… even more so given that rumour has it that the pope wants to re-erect it and then the hieroglyphics will become inaccessible."
Piazza del Quirinale
Goethe used to love to take a stroll here in the company of his painter friend, Tischbein. At the time, the splendid Quirinal Palace was used as a papal residence. It only became the official residence of the President of the Republic in 1946 (the year when the Republic was proclaimed).
While walking through the square, the writer was struck by its beauty every time: “The square in front of the palace has something quite unmistakeable, asymmetrical as it is, yet majestic and harmonious. And here I am at last in front of two colossuses (the statues of Castor and Pollux)!”
Goethe and his trips to the country
As we can read in his Italian Journey, it was not only the eternal city which Goethe loved - “There is only one Rome in the world and I feel as at home here as a fish in water” –, but also his trips outside the capital which brought him to the green of the Roman countryside. “Among the hills in Albano, in Castelgandolfo, in Frascati, where I spent three days last week, the air is always pure and limpid. There you are able to study a different nature”.

Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn

posted Nov 9, 2011, 7:14 AM by Stefano Capoccioni

Roman Holidays Film

Roman Holiday is a film from 1953 directed by William Wyler, starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn and filmed entirely in Rome.

The splendid Princess Anna, heiress to the throne of a mysterious and powerful kingdom, goes on a diplomatic trip to the main European capitals: London, Amsterdam, Paris…and lastly Rome, the Eternal City. The night of her arrival, fed up with royal duties, formalities and clichés, she decides to flee from the embassy where she is staying as a guest.

Hidden in the caterer’s van, she starts her adventure amid the city’s streets and alleyways. An adventure that lasts one whole day and is never to be forgotten. The princess falls asleep in a street near the Roman Forum where she is found, in a bewildered state, by Joe Bradley, an American journalist working for a press agency.

Having picked up on the possible scoop, he accompanies her to his apartment in Via Margutta where she spends the night. The day after, the princess starts to wander around the city, pursued by Joe.

As so this is the start of a tour of the capital’s most charming locations, including:
• Via Margutta (the journalist’s home and neighbourhood market);
• Trevi Fountain (scene of cutting of hair);
• Spanish Steps (meeting with Bradley while enjoying an ice-cream);
• Pantheon (at the bar with the journalist’s photographer friend);
• Across Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia... on the legendary Vespa ride together with Joe,
• Bocca della Verità (scene of the unmentionable secret);
• Castel S.Angelo (party on the Tiber and scuffle with plain-clothes policemen looking for the princess).

At last the princess can feel free to “have a coffee, look at the shop windows, mingle with the crowds, just the same as everyone else” and manages to truly experience the city, a city with a pulsating soul. Rome is described in its everydayness, through the eyes of the locals, from the watermelon seller in Via Margutta to the barber at the Trevi Fountain, the florist in Piazza di Spagna and the ice-cream seller at the Spanish Steps...

Magical locations, timeless monuments, the traffic, colours, laughs, meetings and heated discussions. The romantic atmosphere of the River Tiber’s banks acts as an accomplice and the princess and journalist share a passionate kiss: a love story has begun.

A love story which may prove impossible to be pursued, and impossible to be forgotten, just as the spectator’s love for the city which grows, scene after scene.

The princess goes back to the embassy, the fairytale is over, but the memory remains just like the eternal nature of Rome’s marble monuments.

Her answer to the journalists who ask her what is the most beautiful place she has ever visited is “I have recently visited lots of cities ... but my favourite is most definitely Rome! Yes, Rome, without a doubt. The memory of my visit will stay with me forever, as long as I live.”

Palazzo Farnese

posted Nov 9, 2011, 6:54 AM by Stefano Capoccioni   [ updated Nov 9, 2011, 6:54 AM ]

Day trip from Rome to palazzo Farnese

Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola, or Villa Farnese as it also known, is one of the best examples of a Renaissance residence, built for the Roman Farnese family in Caprarola. In 1530 Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III, asked Antonio Sangallo the Younger to build a fortress in Caprarola. Sangallo designed an impressive pentagonal building, but works were suspended in 1534 when Alessandro Farnese was elected pope.
The grandson of Pope Paul III, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese Jr came into possession of the property in Caprarola and in 1555 ordered the architect  Jacopo Birozzi da Vignola, known as Vignola, to continue work on the building, creating a luxurious palace instead of the original fortress.
Vignola carried out his task marvellously, succeeding in designing and building a prestigious palace on the existing large-scale foundations of a military structure, thus creating a harmonious construction which is looked on as his masterpiece. He succeeded in combining perfectly the beauty of the surrounding landscape with his architectural inventiveness so as to obtain a work of unmatched originality and grandeur.
The construction of this splendid building, erected in just 27 years, led to a series of works to adapt the layout of the town of Caprarola to Palazzo Farnese’s architectural needs, pulling down some buildings in order to put up bridges and building a new large raised road to access the palace called the Via Diritta (straight road), now known as Via Filippo Nicolai.
The building comprises 5 floors, including the basement, and is surrounded by a large ditch. It has a pentagonal shape and an internal circular courtyard. In memory of its original use as a fortress, four corners were reinforced with buttresses which end on the first floor terrace while the fifth has a tower which rises above the roof.
The palace is accessed via a double staircase with the flights of stairs firstly diverging and then coming together to lead up to the main door. The servants’ quarters were separated from the cardinal’s domain and were built into the thick palace walls.
Vignola was also responsible for the frescoes on the internal spiral staircase (Scala Regia). The staircase features 30 peperino columns which, legend has it, the cardinal used to go up on horseback in order to reach the first floor.
Over the years, many leading artists helped to fresco and decorate the inside of the palace, especially the brothers, Federico and Taddeo Zuccari, Jacopo Zanguidi (known as Bertoja), Raffaellino da Reggio and Giovanni de Vecchi.
The cardinal’s bedroom known as the Camera dell’Aurora and the room known as the Stanza dei Fasti Farnesia (Room of Farnese deeds), with frescoes recalling the life of the Farnese family are located on the first floor. On from this you can find the Anticamera del Concilio which takes its name from the fresco of the Council of Trent. In the same room there is a fresco of Paul III. Further on there is the Sala di Ercole which also takes its name from the frescoes located therein.
One of the palace’s most representative rooms is the Stanza delle Geografiche or the Stanza del Mappamondo (Room of the World Map) which takes its name from the frescoes by Giovanni Antonio da Varese. The fourth and fifth floors were assigned to grooms and cavalrymen.

Bomarzo e il Sacro Bosco

posted Nov 9, 2011, 4:07 AM by Stefano Capoccioni

Parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo near Rome

The “Holy Wood” of Bomarzo is a very peculiar park in the neighborhood of Viterbo, built in the 16th century out of the will of Pier Francesco Orsini, prince of Bomarzo. The park is set up with dozens of odd sculptures, shaped as sea monster, giants, ogres, fountains or exotic animals, all dug in the huge volcanic outcrops present in the wood.

The park is unique in its kind. During the renaissance the nobles would rather decorate their villas with Italian gardens, designed by famous architects and perfect in their proportions and shapes. Pier Francesco Orsini, instead, had a very troubled personality and actually the park reflects, in its statues and in its structure, his extraordinary personality.

The park was so bound with him that after his death was soon forgotten since the late 20th century, when it had been “rediscovered” and, after careful restaurations, turned into an open air museum.

As you enter the park, you can realize how the atmosphere of magic and unknown is strongest than everywhere else. Walking amid those giant rocky statues you can happen upon dragons or sleeping nymphs, bears or elephants, fighting giants, turtles or evil mermaids... T

he sculptures seem to be the personification of ancient gods and evil creatures coming out from the ground, merging with the surrounding nature, being part of it.

Written by our guide Elena Ronca


posted Nov 8, 2011, 10:43 AM by Stefano Capoccioni

Pitigliano in Tuscany

Even before entering the city, Pitigliano welcomes us with a dramatic panorama. Medieval houses stand abrupt on a wall of tuff, hanging above the bluff woody valley dug by the the Olpeta, the Fiora and the Lente rivers. Every house has several floors, many under the street level. The underground is crossed by a labyrinth of cellars and caves, used by humans since the mists of time.

The city bears the signs of the Orsini family and the rule of the city state of Siena. The dwellings of the ancient town date back to the Middle Age, from the 14th century Duomo to the 16th c. Acquedotto Mediceo.

One of the most interesting district is the Jewish quarter, with steep, narrow streets that suddenly end above the rock, giving astonishing panorama of the valley below.

Hidden among the woods surrounding the town, invisible to cursory glances, from the bottom of the wall start several mysterious paths carved in the rock. Those are the “vie cave”, ancient road whose aim is still unknown. Have they been dug for road networking? Or for ritual purposes? Were they channels to dominate the water flow? They've been probably excavated by the Etruscan, and many of them can be found in the neighborhood, from Pitigliano to Sovana, Sorano, but there is no reliable information about them. We can just walk and merge with the history.

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