Thursday, November 27, 2014

Best House Museums in Italian Ports

visiting Villa Mombelli,Livorno
First time cruisers in the Mediterranean usually visit the  Vatican Museums when in Rome, see Pompeii when their ship docks  in Naples and  from Livorno  travel to Florence’s great  museums.

For repeat visitors who  have the chance to delve deeper and make a more leisurely visit  here is my  personal list  of  the best museums to visit.

 These smaller, intimate museums and art collections are often housed in former private homes, thus  offering  a truer feel for the place, its history  and how peopled lived in the past.  

Tarquinia Palazzo Vitelleschi 

Near Civitavecchia - The Port for Rome
     TarquiniaEtruscan Museum in Palazzo Vitelleschi.  Tarquinia is a medieval hill town located a short bus ride from Civitavecchia port. Its frescoed Etruscan tombs dating from 800 BC  earned Tarquinia UNESCO  heritage site  status. The Museum is housed in a Renaissance palazzo in the city center while the painted tombs are located a short distance away. Bookshop. 

Mappamondo room, Caprarola, photo F. Pignatale 

Caprarola - Palazzo Farnese, about 1 hour drive inland from the port of Civitavecchia, is a magnificent pentagon shaped palace   built  for a Renaissance cardinal and  lived in by an eccentric American family in the early 1900s. Today it   wows visitors with  frescoed saloni  and gardens. To read more about Caprarola use the search box at the top of the page. 
fountain of  Hercules, Palazzo Farnese Caprarola

  Palazzo Doria Pamphili on Via del Corso is a private palazzo of 300+ rooms which also houses an  extensive collection of art belonging to the noble  Doria Pamphili family. Bookshop and nearby café. 

entrance to Villa Mombelli,Livorno
   Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori, Villa Mombelli (Via S. Jacopo in Acquaviva,65)  is a bit on the outskirts of the town but  easily reached by bus from the port area. The villa contains  paintings  of the Macchiaioli (1855-1900) School,  especially Giovanni Fattori.  Architectural details  and furnishings of Moorish, Baroque and  Renaissance styles. Bookshop and quiet, cool park. 

ceramic putti on stairway, Villa Mombelli

The  small chapel museum Cappella San Severo in the back streets of  old Naples contains  the famous sculpture of  the veiled  Christ  and others by Giuseppe Sanmartino. 

Villa San Michele, Anacapri

 Villa San Michele,  atop the  island at Anacapri,  was  once home to Swedish doctor and author Axel Munthe. The villa  contains his collection of Roman statuary, mosaics and works of art  and offers  magnificent views over the Bay of Naples. Villa San Michele

On the island  where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled, Villa San Martino  evokes the Empire period with furniture and art that belong to him.  
bedroom, Villa San Martino, Elba 

Villa San Martino, Elba 

statue of Paolina Bonaparte


The Sicilian  Regional art gallery located in newly restored 12th century  palazzo in  Ortygia gives Antonella da Messina’s Annunciation (1474) pride of place along with  stone sculptures.  Palazzo Bellomo
courtyard of Palazzo Bellomo, Siracusa

 Hope you find this article helpful for planning your next cruise in the Mediterranean. Check my website  and books  for more information about travel in Italy. 
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Friday, November 21, 2014

High tea on the high seas

Aqualina aboard Azamara Journey 
Having high tea in Aqualina restaurant  was one of the perks of a sea day aboard Azamara Journey, our home for  the past  20 days while we  cruised  the Mediterranean.

The  mood was set by the  pianist at the entrance to the  10th floor restaurant and on the way to our table  I was able to catch just a few photos of the tables laden with sweets and savoury treats. 

warm scones. jam and clotted cream 
Tea was served by a  waiter  in white gloves and the  porcelain cups and linens added an elegant note worthy of the finest London hotel high tea.

a selection of  savoury sandwiches 

another table of sweets 

  High Tea buffet

Another special  dining experience  was the Chef's Table, where the menu (French, Italian or Californian) is paired with special wines  and accompanied by the sommelier's anecdotes. The leisurely  and cosmopolitan atmosphere  is reflected in the menu of the Chef's Table I hosted during another sea day. (click on photo to enlarge) 
California Menu, Chef's Table, Prime Rib Restaurant on Azamara Journey
Good food, beautifully presented and served.  Hats off to the chefs of Azamara Journey!
For more about  cruising  visit  my website . Please share with friends and leave a comment. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Women, Books and Blogs at the American Academy in Rome

Rome viewed from Villa Aurelia's terrace 

The American Academy’s Villa Aurelia  proudly  crowns the Janiculum Hill, aloof and elegant  and full of history. It is not  easy to arrive  by  public transport  and for years it was a place mostly frequented by the resident scholars,  lucky recipients of the prestigious  Rome Prizes.

Over  the past several years  the American Academy has continued its policy of  opening up to local creative people of all nationalities thus enriching the scholars in residence and enlarging the circle of scholarship and community.
security at Villa Aurelia

Villa Aurelia by night

Last Tuesday  it was a pleasure to see a full house  listening attentively to the speakers at the conversation about Women and the Social Media. 

 Among those present the newly arrived Irish Ambassador, Bobby McDonagh, local bloggers, academics, art historians, students and  journalists.
a goup of local writers and  journalists  

The emphasis was on how social media, internet, the 24-hour news cycle and the democratized internet can be used to  empower  women worldwide. The panelists   each narrated personal incidents, discussed the present day situation and  strategies for the future.  

the distinguished panelists 
The Italian speakers  lauded their American counterparts  for their knowhow  and gumption, for it was pointed out that Italian women are woefully  behind perhaps  due to shyness and cultural mores.

“But”, Sabina Ciuffini explained, “ we Italians are better cooks”. 
Sabina Ciuffini, a blast from the past 

Linda Douglass

Mary Beard speaks with Kim Bowes 

The bilingual  conference   included a Skype connection with Dr. Cecilia Kyenge in  Strasbourg and was skillfully coordinated by   Kim Bowes of the American Academy.

Panelists were author  Mary Beard, the former White House  Communications Director for Health Care Linda Douglass, blogger and entrepreneur  Sabina Ciuffini and former Italian Minister Dr. Cecilia Kyenge . 
 prosecco after the conference 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Anagni: Papal town south of Rome

Entrance to Anagni: Porta Santa Maria 
Rome’s Vatican City, Viterbo and Anagni  are the three Italian cities where popes have lived over the centuries.  Anagni  is the least known, least visited, but worthwhile  for its rustic charm, historic palazzi and  monuments.

Although I have lived in Italy for  50 years, it was only  last week that I had a chance to visit  Anagni thanks to a trip organized  by the Viterbo archeology club where I often lecture-ArcheoTuscia.  

Apse and Chapel dedicated to  St. Thomas Becket  

The main attraction for the group of Viterbesi was to compare their city with Anagni and to have a "gita" (day out) which included a nice lunch.

high noon at Anagni's Cathedral 
  My reason  was to finally see Anagni's  Cathedral with the 12th century frescoed crypt of San Magno which art historians consider  the  Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages.

The frescoes are filled with symbolism  and could be studied  in detail for  several hours. But that does not happen  for visits are monitored for all groups, large or small.. 
entrance  to the lower level crypt 
Each person  pays  a  4 euro entrance fee  to  clamber down the dangerously steep stairway and  enter the crypt. 

bell tower shadow on the Duomo facade
While the  guide  explained the significance of  the mysterious  frescoes  and visitors jostled to get a look, we  kept  an eye on the time for  after 10 minutes  the lights are  automatically  switched  off.

Comatesque floors in upper part of Duomo 
Like the Sistine Chapel in Vatican,  it is forbidden to take photos and videos, so a voice shouting “No Foto!”  punctuated the visit. 

Here is a scan of the crypt's layout  which shows  how complicated 
the fresco cycles are. 

How does Anagni  compare with our nearby papal town of Viterbo? 
bookshop at Anagni 
Viterbo’s Papal Palace complex has  a well stocked bookshop and souvenir stands  bursting with  books and guides while the only  printed material  on the crypt is a poorly translated 40 page pamphlet priced at an  exorbitant  7 euro.
Pope Boniface VIII statue

 profferlo stairway, similar to those in Viterbo

"herding cats" 

Anagni countryside  

a picturesque  corner

 The medieval quarter of Viterbo  is pedestrians only while a  stroll through Anagni means dodging  traffic and  is best done with a local guide who can  explain  the town’s complicated history and lead you to the most picturesque corners.

our guide Luca with wife Antonella  
Our guide Luca Di Cocco  did an admirable job and chose  an excellent  Agriturismo  for  lunch in a country setting. 
lunch at Agriturismo  San Isidoro
Coming up :  Alatri and its cyclopean walls.