Sunday, November 1, 2015

Autumn comes to Etruria

Funghi porcini are a local  autumn  speciality 

 Now that it is November the days are definitely  shorter (sunset was 5 p.m. today )  and the crisp autumn air entices many  day trippers from Rome.   Most   out of town  visitors   come to see   the area’s magical castles and  medieval villages, to enjoy concerts and conferences,  to  pick up a supply of the newly harvested   extra virgin  olive  oil the area is  famous for.  Some also come searching for a house in the area.

visitors  after lunch in Ischia di Castro
 Our olive harvest is set for  this week,  but there are many other  happenings too. Here is an idea  of what autumn  is like  here in the Viterbo province, one hour north of the bustling Eternal City.   
ingredients and herbs

To recharge batteries and  relax  aching  muscles after the olive harvest  or a day of mushroom hunting,  the best remedy is to spend  a few hours  soaking in one of  the many hot pools or terme that abound in the area. 
huge hot  pool, nearly empty
 I prefer the comforts of  Terme Salus and Terme dei Papi, rather than  roughing it  in one of the rustic  hot  pools in the midst of the fields. 
map of the Nature Reserve, Lake di Vico

Other  peaceful  water  activities are available  at the three volcanic  lakes of the area spanning the Rome and Viterbo areas:  Di Vico, Bracciano and  Bolsena.  The   "off season"  has a special appeal   for  birdwatchers, trekkers and photographers .
all to myself.....Riva Fiorita, Lago di Vico
Most  seasonal lake side trattorie  close down  by November  but larger ones  and those in nearby  towns  will be open on weekends.
vegetarian  finger food by Bea Calia at Riva Fiorita, Lake di Vico
The conference hall filling up
Autumn is peak season for  the area's many cultural happenings.   Here are a few photos from last Thursday ‘s  illustrated talk  “I Nostri Castelli..Veri Gioelli”  organized at the Prefecture by Archeotuscia  with the participation of several owners of local castles and historic homes. 
 More photos by Claudia Cavallo on my website.
Before the illustrated talk  with owners of Castello di Proceno
vintage leather chairs with coat of arms of the  Prefettura di Viterbo 

The conference was a perfect fit since  the previous  weekend had been  dedicated to  “Le Giornate  Farnesiane” when several  castles and noble palaces connected to the Farnese  family  were  open  to visitors, some for the very first time. 

Stefano Aluffi Pentini prepares for concert in his castle, Ischia di Castro
 Archeoares  organized a conference  with  the Bishop of Viterbo  and a visit to the  hidden Baroque choir in Viterbo’s  Duomo  on Saturday afternoon. 

the stone wall that cuts the Duomo off from its Baroque choir chapel
There are many more  things to discover in  this area so close to Rome yet still so unknown.
Forget Tuscany and come to explore the area inbetween Rome and Florence with   its   fascinating history, enjoyable itineraries and many activities. 

paintings and frescoes  in the hidden chapel
 If you don’t already have a copy of Etruria Storie e Segreti or the English edition Etruria Travel, History and Itineraries in Central Italy, remember Christmas is coming up soon !   Direct orders  will enjoy  a significant discount (bookshops must charge full cover price of  12 euro) and we  will be happy to sign  and ship  gift copies for you.  

Rome  residents:  we have been invited to present our books at  the Mercato di  Testaccio   on   Wednesday  Nov. 11th from 11 to noon,  so stop by  to   say “hello” and enjoy a bruschetta with us.  Stay for the  guided visit of the  Monte dei Cocci  at  3 p.m.  

Dont forget to visit my website  my award winning website




Thursday, October 22, 2015

Azamara Nice to Athens Autumn Cruise

colorful fruit stand, Livorno market
What a perfect way to end the summer:  with a cruise  aboard the luxurious  Azamara Quest  from Nice  to Athens.  It was a working holiday for I was aboard to give  a series of enrichment lectures about  the  ancient civilizations  that once thrived  in the Mediterranean.

sculptures adorn Livorno market
At the first port, Livorno,  most passengers  travel to Pisa and Florence since it is their first time in Italy. We enjoyed staying in Livorno for a   canal boat tour  and  a visit to  the Art Decò market, one of Italy's largest . Write "Livorno" in the search box at the top of the page  to find the many   articles about Livorno and what to visit there.
art dèco architecture of Livorno market
sign in Livorno market
Rain kept us aboard the ship in Civitavecchia but many  passengers  went off  to Rome and some spent the day cooking  at Fontana del Papa,  atop the nearby hill at  Tolfa. 
 The situation at  Civitavecchia  has become ugly  with local police  being called in to stop harassing  of  visitors at the  cage like “visitors’ center”.     Cruisers and crews are fed up with the  exploitation  and paying for the unnecessary  bussing in order  to take the train to Rome.  
No wonder  the port has such a bad reputation and is  considered  one  of the most "tourist unfriendly"  in the Mediterranean.  For more  articles about the  problems at Civitavecchia,  use the search bar. If you have experiences and comments  please leave them at the bottom of the page and use the icons to share  on social media .  
Our classic Mediterranean  itinerary  continued  on to a sunny  Sorrento  and then to  Messina where  we visited  a lovely  ceramics shop near the port and  munched freshly made  cannoli at the pasticceria   near the Duomo.
I Particolari, ceramics shop, Messina

The  Azamazing Evening  went as scheduled but instead of transferring everyone  to Taormina, the  singers  and orchestra  braved  the weather and drove from Catania to perform aboard for the passengers .  
arriving in Chania port, Crete
tourist carriage, Chania port

selling honey  at the  Saturday  market,Chania


Chania and  Santorini offered sunshine, markets,  folk dancers  and a night time marathon.
Late departures and overnights in ports makes it possible to see  how people  live in the different countries after the sun goes down.

On Santorini the cable car brought us up the cliff to visit the town of Fira and its  Prehistory Museum where frescoes and pottery date from before the  volcanic explosion that created the caldera where our ship was  anchored.

Arriving at Santorini  and the  zig zag trail up to Fira town
the cable car wheel
plaster casts of 3000 BC furniture

blue monkey frescoes (3000 BC) at Thera Prehistoric Museum

buskers at the Orthodox Cathedral, Santorini  

                             Don't forget to visit my award winning website award winning website


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Finding Italy in New England

typical New England lunch: clam chowder & lobster roll at Fishbones, Chelmsford
Every once in a while during my  50 years in Italy I get a chance to  return to  USA . This  time  my trip coincided  with that of Papa Francesco and while he was having  meetings with VIPs and  prisoners  I  visited New England  relatives and attended  my 50th college reunion in Buffalo, N.Y.  



Roberta Witts at her  art and framing gallery, Chelmsford, MA
  With  my brother and sister-in-law  I visited  numerous small towns  in the rolling hills  between Massachusetts and New Hampshire where they live.
We  stopped  at  farm stalls and antique shops,  ate in local Italian (and non) restaurants and  enjoyed   the first  signs of fall foliage, when the trees turn  bright red and gold.
their first visit to neighboring vineyard

Since my brother and his wife have no intention of coming to visit me in Italy,  one of the things I wanted to do was find some Italian style food and places for them to enjoy  right in their own backyard. I must say that my mission turned out quite successfully. 

Al Fuchino's winery   offers  dinners and opera as well as wine
Things have changed  since I was growing up in New England, now   Italian wine and handmade pasta  are readily  available  as we discovered during our day trips around   the  picturesque countryside which  resembles  Tuscany and my local area -Tuscia, 60 kms north of Rome.
Within  10 miles  of their home we found the  Fulchino vineyard   in Hollis , N.H. and tasted some of their wonderful wines  along with excellent Wisconsin cheeses. 

This lovely Tuscan style villa houses the Fulchino Vineyard

 Owner Al Fulchino told us about the  special dinners with opera singers that are held at the Winery  which are a great way  to  enjoy Italian lifestyle without flying over to Italy. The next one is October  17th so check their website and book your table.

For those who live in central Italy  Opera Extravaganza’s  house concerts and musical events can be enjoyed here in Vetralla . Next one  is   on October  11th.  ( )

pasta and wine now available in New England small towns

Valicenti organic pasta sauces

cheeses from all over the world including  fresh mozzarella
Young owner at Valicenti Pasta Farm
Also in Hollis, N.H. we found  the Valicenti  Pasta Farm where an  Italian-Irish couple produce  wonderful pasta, ravioli  and pasta sauces  in many different varieties. Valicenti Pasta Farm sell from their big yellow barn where the perfumes  of pasta sauces  fill the air.  They sell their wares at numerous  farmers markets and deliver to the top restaurants in the  area and in Boston.   Check their website

chrysanthemums are a seasonal flower in both US and Italy

 beautiful tomatoes at Kimball and Lull farms near Pepperell, MA
Other  farm stands  along the road  sell huge varieties of tomatoes and  pumpkins  as well as  mums which are used to  decorate cemeteries  in Italy  in November.    

Since   the Carrabba's restaurant group had  filmed a  commercial in Vetralla  about a  year ago,  I was curious to see what their  food  and restaurants were  like so one evening we drove over there for dinner.   At  7p.m. on a Monday  the parking lot was full, lots of people at the bar and getting “takeaway” and  people waiting to be seated  but when we left  at 8:30 pm  the place was empty! 
8:30 p.m.  and the place is empty

When I went up to the kitchen area  to  take a few photos of the chefs preparing salads (as shown in their TV commercials) the manager   told me  that company policy  forbade photo taking except  of the clients who might be celebrating at their table. 
sideways dipping  at fake marble table  
fettuccine Carrabba


 A few cultural differences that annoyed me after a lifetime here in Italy :  waiting in line to be seated, being stuffed into a narrow booth (we changed for a  round table), a fakey/ friendly loud waitress, a bowl of generic olive oil and bread  for dipping before the meal, the price of wine and the  tipping.  The food was good  and since  portions  are so large, doggy bags are a necessity. 
Does anyone else  get reverse culture shock when returning to their home country?
Coming soon: antiques and collectibles in New England.
Hope  you will  share with friends and leave comments.
Check  the website Presentations page  for my next  conferences and  presentations. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Latest Discoveries: Etruscan tombs and Renaissance Frescoes

The area of Northern Lazio  continues to  surprise with the  recovery  of  treasures lost for  hundreds  and even  thousands  of years. Thanks to the determination, generosity  and professionalism  of local art historians, archeologists and  private groups who  give financial  and technical support,  many ancient sites and lost works of art have been  recently recuperated adding to  Italy's wealth of  art. 

entrance  dromos  Etruscan tomb Norchia

excavating  Norchia
   This week   Norchia (Vetralla)  and Soriano nel Cimino  are in  the spotlight. 
At the ancient Etruscan  necropolis of Norchia, in Vetralla,  an  equipe  of archeologists    and volunteers with financial support from Trust Sostratos   of  Lorenzo  Benini  completed a second  campaign of  excavations  bringing  to light  about   11 pieces  of funerary art including  painted vases and bucchero ware  datable from  the 4th to the 3rd centuries BC. 

one of the vases found in Norchia
That these treasures have escaped the pick axes  of tomb robbers  for two thousand years  is incredible in itself. The  area on which the necropolis of Norchia  sits  is privately owned (a certain Signor Stelliferi) and  will probably   become a future archeological park similar  to the nearby  privately owned Sacro Bosco of Bomarzo.    

These ceramic treasures are now being  cleaned and   restored  before   being  presented   to the public  on September  13th in the Sala Regia of Viterbo’s  Palazzo dei Priori.
Simona Sterpa  at the Soriano presentation

Simona Sterpa  is one of the  archeologists   coordinating   the  group  of  volunteers, including Luciano Proietti, Rudolfo Neri  and Mario Sanna of  Archeotuscia   who were on site  digging  by  6 a.m.  before the August sun and heat  made work impossible.

Francesca Ceci and Emanuele Ioppolo
 In Soriano nel Cimino’s historic  center   another equipe of local  art historians and  restorers  have brought back  to light part of a 16th century fresco  which had  been hidden under layers  of  white paint  in the tiny  Misericordia  church  located  in  the shadow of the imposing  Orsini Castle. A word of warning for Soriano: arrival and parking  are   difficult  due to  numerous narrow one-way streets  and hidden parking lots.   
 explaining  the newly found fresco
unveiling the fresco
crammed in to the tiny chapel

fresco fragment  of Last Judgement

sitting on the  altar

The presentation  took place yesterday in  a nearby church, then  the crowd moved over to the tiny Misericordia  chapel to watch the unveiling of the  long lost fresco.
spindle fountain where tyrant DiVico was decapitated

16th century organ still needs repair

view from Soriano over the Tiber valley

peeking inside  the Misericordia chapel

The fresco is  a represtation of the Last Judgement
 Noisy fireworks   announced the unveiling  and causing a  bit of panic (one woman  threw herself on the ground) but the rest of late afternoon  went on seamlessly with a delicious   buffet offered  to  guests  in a series of ancient  rooms with   low  beams  reminiscent of  a Venetian sottoportego
rich buffet

low ceiling with  ancient beams


For more information  about  Northern Lazio and its pleasures and happenings check out my award winning website.
 Copies  of my books about the area are available  in most museums and bookshops in the area. I mail out signed copies worldwide  every week.
Check the books page on the website  for  reviews .

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Coming up:
In September - series of Enrichment lectures for  passengers  sailing on Silverseas luxury cruise  from Venice to Dubronik and return
Visits in  USA- Buffalo, NY  and Boston areas

In October-  "I nostri castelli-veri gioelli"  illustrated presentation about the castles of N. Lazio  for Archeotuscia in Viterbo's Prefecture.
Date to be announced.   Copies  of my books will be available  at all these  happenings.