Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hunting for Antiques in Viterbo


Antiques  are for Poor People – Part Two, Itinerary in Viterbo

Only 14 kms further along the Via Cassia from Vetralla (see Part One)  brings the antiques hunter  to Viterbo.  Along the road there are a couple of  rigattiere / junk yards  brimming  with iron, metal and stone salvage objects.  



old radio 
one of the fireplaces purchased from Ginevra Poleggi
The best salvage place, the source for interior decorators and  architects, is that of  Ginevra Poleggi,  located off the Via Cassia at Ponte dei Cetti. (for information simona.spazzolini@gmail.com )   Ginevra's place was where I found the antique tiles,  fireplaces and stone sinks for my restoration project.  

Arriving to Viterbo's Porta Romana take a left and park  in the lot located beside the medieval walls or continue further  along to the free lot next to  Porta San Pietro. You may want to give  a tip to the self appointed guardian. 
antique bedstead becomes plant holder  

Porta San Pietro is where you  want to enter for just inside, on the way towards  San Pellegrino, Europe’s best preserved medieval quarter, is the tiny restoration laboratory  Restauro San Pietro.   

cassapanca awaiting restoraton 


 Daniela and Michele  moved to Viterbo to get away from the chaos of big city Rome and settled in this street resembling the  antiques area around Campo dei Fiori-fifty years ago. 


mirror reflections 
Michele worked for the  Cultural Ministry and  participated in the restoration of the huge doors of Castle Sant’Angelo in Rome.



 Daniela  sources  1950s American  jewelry and knick-knacks which she sells at  fairs throughout central Italy.

tools of the trade 

father and son 
They have carved out a homey corner complete with back garden filled with quirky old garden furniture and plants. 





Prices  are flexible, depending on whether the objects have been restored or not.

Baby Santiago  has a  mini workbench   alongside that of his dad and the shop doubles  as information point for tourists in the summer. 
For information and prices contact sanpietrorestauro@gmail.com 
a magnificent pair of bronze  battocchi 

Marilyn looks down on a davenport desk and night stand 

Leaving their shop, continue into the heart of San Pellegrino quarter where you will find the Museum of Saint Rosa’s PortersHere the traditions of Viterbo come alive with films and models of previous Macchine. 


 The bookshop carries souvenirs and books, including those I have written about the area, published with Archeoares, who also manage the Museums and  the Papal Palace where the first Papal Conclave was held in the 13th century.

models of previous Macchine 
bookshop in the  Santa Rosa Porters Museum 



Maestro Paternesi at Palazzo degli Alessandri 
  The most theatrical piazza  of  Viterbo's San Pellegrino quarter is located here…and if you are lucky  there will be an exhibit  in Palazzo degli Alessandri.  
Interested in Italian antiques? You will find lots of information on my website's  Antiques pages.
Have you been to San Pellegrino quarter in Viterbo?  If you would like more information or other itineraries, leave a comment below and share with friends (Facebook, Twitter icons).  What other antiques dealers can you recommend in the area ? 
Si può lasciare un commento  anche in italiano. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Antiques are for Poor People Too




If you  like the TV show “A Caccia di  Tesori”  (Treasure Hunters) where "pickers" Frank and Mike  dig through old houses and  barns  searching for  antique objects  which they in turn sell for a profit, then this week story is for you.  Share with your friends who are collectors, especially those planning a trip to Italy.


1940s bedroom ensemble and chandelier 
Back in the  70s and 80s  the  Viterbo area was  the perfect hunting ground for  dealers and private collectors, especially young couples  trying  to furnish a  first apartment  with  taste but little cash.

This is an article written back in  1980  in which I gave tips on where  to discover inexpensive  antique furnishings in the Rome area.

It is still true for  the numerous second hand markets, restauratori, raccogliatori  and rigattieri   along the Via Cassia between Rome and Viterbo  are  the living proof. 


There is a large market  in Capranica, another  at the entrance  to Vetralla  and several others in Viterbo. (Coming next-San Pietro Restauro in Viterbo)
which  Singer  sings to you ? 
lovely wood cabinet, price tag 100 euro 

Giordano,  co-manager of Vetralla’s   consignment shop La Soffitta della Nonna, explains, “During the week the local people  bring us  stuff they clean out from their cantinas and  attics, then on the weekends  the romani arrive  to  buy.“



Its  a win-win  situation for  Giordano and his partner  take  50% of the selling price,  the original owners who supply the merchandise   are happy to eliminate surplus  furnishings and the out of town buyers are delighted to have sourced  original  antique pieces, often to be restored. 

The century-old  bedsteads and wardrobes  fly out of the shop  allowing  the young owners (previously unemployed) a pretty good living. 

1930s vanity table 

On my most recent visit I noted some gold-rimmed dinner plates bearing the mark of the Richard Ginori factory which  had  just closed  after 300 years: 3 euro each bought me a piece of history.  

Hanging  out of reach was this carved, gilded  19th century mirror  with original mercury backing: a great buy at 15 euro.


old repairs on the back of the mirror 


new home  next to fresco by Valerio  Cugia and  icons by Catalin Pislaru and Irina Ojovan
After  the dust and grime  of decades was removed it now has a place of honor on the library mantle. 


The large warehouse is chock full of carved wooden bed frames, wardrobes and  nightstands  as well as old Singer sewing machines, classical chests of drawers and good solid tables  not found at Ikea. 
solid table  going for  100 euro 

 There are shelves full of tiny objects  much sought after  by  travelers, old records, typewriters and fridges from the 50s.
 Frank and Mike  would love this place.

Coming  on Tuesday:  A Family  Business:  San Pietro Restauri, Viterbo.
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Comments (commenti anche in italiano), questions, suggestions  are welcome. Looking for something specific?  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lake Martignano: a hidden gem near Rome

Lake of Bracciano,with  tiny Lake Martiginano  to the right


During the more than 35 years that I lived in the city of Rome on a typical spring weekend we would  drive  north along the Via Cassia to visit one of the medieval towns or beaches on the lovely  lakes of  Bracciano, Vico  or Bolsena. I had barely heard of, and never visited,  the tiny volcanic lake  of Martignano, adjacent to Bracciano and  now part of  a protected  Regional  Park that is  13 years old.

a stretch of Etruscan road  leading to Lake Martignano 
Off the radar for contemporary  Romans, Martignano was popular with  ancient Romans such as  Emperor Augustus who had an aqueduct built to carry  water to the inhabitants of Rome's Trastevere quarter, 33 kilomtres away. 


Lake Martiginano in winter 
 Then for centuries the lake was off limits, incorporated into one of those huge estates belonging  to papal nobility such as the Odescalchi who also owned Bassano Romano .  

 These centuries of seclusion meant that Martignano remained virtually unknown and  unvisited, allowing it to remain in pristine condition and making it today the perfect getaway for nature lovers,  bikers, trekkers and birdwatchers.
the ruins of the original farm buildings  and  the  lawn beach 


During our visit, besides the two park rangers who narrated a bit of the Park’s  history, we also met the  mythical Giorgio
Giorgio  and the park rangers 
 who  ran the canoe and boat concession back in the 80s  when the only living beings around the lake were grazing sheep and cattle and the occasional migrating wildfowl.
Beach entrance : one  for people and one for dogs


 Now the area comprised in the Natural Park (and bordering  towns of Anguillara, Bracciano, Trevignano,Cesano and Campagnano) plays host to  numerous  groups of sailing, horsebackriding, biking  and  birdwatching groups.
horses await  riders at the Casale di Martiginano 


learning about the  lake 
On the day we visited the lake and the spectacular Potrero Grande  Agriturismo,



with Livia, owner of Potrero Grande 
Livia  shows us around the luxury  apartments 

entrance to Potrero Grande


 we ran into bikers, couples  on horseback and  a group of more than 50 birdwatchers who were walking around the lake, counting, photographing and designing 
wildlife artist  Federico Gemma 

 the bird species they encountered. 
antipasto - salumi and cheeses  produced on site 
wine  awaiting the diners 

Fulvio, Santino, Alessio and Alessandra  enjoy the  abundant  buffet at Casale di Martignano 
soft cantuccini, home made, of course ..
...and  crostate  for dessert 
  At  lunch time we all  convened at Casale di Martignano for a buffet lunch followed  by a seminar  on one of the rare species that inhabits the lake.  


Have you been to Lake Martignano?  Do you know of other  natural areas where one can  practice sports, birdwatching close to Rome ?  Please  leave comments and suggestions of  things to do in this area, so close to Rome, yet  immersed in the beautiful countryside. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Roman Reception for Ireland's President



the Irish harp decorates the gates of  Villa Spada 



Many years ago, while studying  in Dublin  and Sligo, Ireland,  I had the   opportunity to meet  the President of Ireland,  Eamon DeValera at the Presidential palace in Phoenix Park in Dublin. 
The elderly, partially blind statesman  was, even then,  a part  of Ireland's history and I, as a young  Irish-American  was  duly impressed.

view of Rome from  Janiculum hill 

Almost  fifty years later, on a beautiful  February evening, an  equally  unforgettable encounter, this time with  Irish President  Michael D. Higgins to whom I had the privilege of presented  a copy of my book chronicling the participation of Irish soldiers in the Italian Risorgimento.

 The magnificent and   historic Villa Spada was the perfect setting for it played an important part in the bloodiest   battles of the Italian  Risorgimento in 1849.

Arriving  by train we taxied  to the Embassy which is located on the Janiculum hill, close  to the American Academy and the American University.  


 The next time  I will use  Il Fontanone,  or Gli Archi (Porta San Pancrazio) as a reference point, for Roman taxi drivers don't all know  the embassy's  street address.


We had time  before the Reception to enjoy the view over the city from the panoramic terrace near the Fontanone. What a  magical atmosphere  surrounds this huge fountain  built by Pope Paul V  (Camillo Borghese) and embellilshed with the Borghese family's   symbolic  dragon.


dragon of the Borghese  





President Higgin's portrait adorns the  library  fireplace


bouquet in one of the reception rooms 
As members of  Italy's Irish  community began to fill the embassy's ample reception rooms, the President arrived with his wife, Sabina and staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs. 
One of the entourage, Donal Denham,  the Director of the  Europe Division of the Foreign Affairs Department, may  have historic family connections to our area of Northern Lazio. 



guests  filled the four reception rooms 
 Greetings  were made by  resident ambassador Michael Hennesy and then  President Michael D. Higgens  gave  his address, switching  smoothly from the musical Gaelic language to English.


guests from Ireland,Serbia and Italy 

Pauline Hennessy and Sabina  Higgins "guarding"  the President's copy of  my book  

Ambassador Hennessy  gives the welcome address  
Meeting  Irish  President Michael D. Higgins



at end of the evening,  empty glasses filled the fireplace mantle
Have you ever been to Villa Spada or another embassy in Rome? Do you know why Rome is  the city with more embassies than any other ?