Thursday, October 21, 2010

Coming in November

I hope to post a picture every day.  No comment, no title just a picture.  After all this blog is Every Picture Tells A Story so I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Atrani was, I imagine, a pretty little town until a mud slide occurred a week before we were to leave for Italy. Amalfi, where we stayed is a about a mile up the road. We walked to Atrani and took some pictures. A young girl, a barister in a coffee shop, was swept away in the flood right from the coffee shop. A week after our return her body was found off the Aeolian Islands.  So sad.

This car was the only remaining car

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Limoncello is the golden treasure of Amalfi. Locals affectionately call it sunshine wine, as if they had harvested all the joy and golden glory of the coastline, corked it, before serving it, chilled, like summer champagne.

A national drink of Italy, limoncello is served either before a meal to cleanse the palate, or as a light and refreshing after-dinner beverage. It is made from fermented lemons, which are steeped in a mixture of sugar and alcohol for at least 20 days.

Connoisseurs agree that the best limoncello comes from the Amalfi Coast. The region’s unique soil leads to the finest quality lemons, which are sweet and citrusy, with nary a trace of sourness. Some chefs even call the Amalfi lemons “bread”, because they can be cut into slices and then eaten as a dessert or a snack: tart, juicy, and as goldeny sweet as the sunshine spilling over the beaches outside.

The lemons of the Amalfi coast also have very few seeds, minimising the bitterness, while the pulp is so rich with flavour that you can smell the sweetness through its skin. Try driving by Amalfi’s terraced lemon groves during the summer, when the branches are heavy with their fruit. The heady mix of their citrus perfumes, tinted by the scent of the turquoise sea, will linger in your memory for years.

According to legend, limoncello owes its origins to the rosoli drinks made in the convents, where nuns would make delicate liqueurs from fruits, spices and aromatic plants. The earliest records of limoncello can be traced to the 17th century, when people began talking about a particularly delectable pastry dish made by the nuns of the Santa Rosa convent in Conca dei Marini. Their secret ingredient was a lemon liqueur, beginning a long (and now world wide) love affair with limoncello

Monday, October 11, 2010

Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.  The town of Amalfi was the capital of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi, an important trading power in the Mediterranean between 839 and around 1200.  In the 1920s and 1930s, Amalfi was a popular holiday destination for the British upper class and aristocracy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lido di Ostia

Lido di Ostia is the closest beach to the city of Rome and is well worth a visit. 

Stop off at the ruins at Ostia Antica a large archeological site that was the harbour city of ancient Rome, which is approximately 30 kilometres (19 mi) northeast of the site and close to the modern town of Ostia. "Ostia" in Latin means "mouth". At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome's seaport, but, due to silting and a drop in sea level, the site now lies 3 kilometres (2 mi) from the sea.  The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.

Ostia may have been Rome's first colonia. An inscription says that Ostia was founded by Ancus Marcius, the semi-legendary fourth king of Rome, in the 7th century BC. The oldest archaeological remains so far discovered date only the 4th century BC." The most ancient buildings currently visible are from the 3rd century BC, notably the Castrum (military camp); of a slightly later date is the Capitolium (temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva). The opus quadratum of the walls of the original castrum at Ostia provide important evidence for the building techniques that were employed in Roman urbanisation during the period of the Middle Republic.

In 68 BC, the town was sacked by pirates. During the sacking, the port was set on fire, the consular war fleet was destroyed, and two prominent senators were kidnapped. This attack caused such panic in Rome that Pompey Magnus arranged for the tribune Aulus Gabinius to rise in the Roman Forum and propose a law, the Lex Gabinia, to allow Pompey to raise an army and destroy the pirates. Within a year, the pirates had been defeated.

The town was then re-built, and provided with protective walls by the statesman and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero.

The town was further developed during the first century AD under the influence of Tiberius, who ordered the building of the town's first Forum. The town was also soon enriched by the construction of a new harbor on the northern mouths of the Tiber (which reaches the sea with a larger mouth in Ostia, Fiumara Grande, and a narrower one near to the current Fiumicino International Airport). The new harbor, not surprisingly called Portus, from the Latin for "harbor," was excavated from the ground at the orders of the emperor Claudius. This harbour became silted up and needed to be supplemented later by a harbor built by Trajan finished in the year AD 113; it has a hexagonal form, in order to reduce the erosive forces of the waves. This took business away from Ostia itself (further down river) and began its commercial decline.

Ostia itself was provided with all the services a town of the time could require; in particular, a famous lighthouse. Ostia contained the Ostia Synagogue, the earliest synagogue yet identified in Europe; it created a stir when it was unearthed in 1960-61.[4] By 1954 eighteen mithraea had also been discovered: Mithras had his largest following among the working population that were the majority of this port town. Archaeologists also discovered the public latrinas, organized for collective use as a series of seats that allow us to imagine today that the function was also a social moment. In addition, Ostia had a large theatre, many public baths, numerous taverns and inns, and a firefighting service.

Trajan too, required a widening of the naval areas, and ordered the building of another harbor, again pointing towards the north. It must be remembered that at a relatively short distance, there was also the harbor of Civitavecchia (Centum Cellae), and Rome was starting to have a significant number of harbours, the most important remained Portus.

Santa Aurea, OstiaOstia grew to 50,000 inhabitants in the 2nd century, reaching a peak of some 75,000 inhabitants in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.[citation needed] Ostia became an episcopal see as early as the 3rd century, the cathedral (titulus) of Santa Aurea (illustration, left) being located on the burial site of St. Monica, mother of Augustine; she died in an inn in the town. In time, naval activities became focused on Portus instead. A slow decadence began in the late Roman era around the time of Constantine I, with the town ceasing to be an active port and instead becoming a popular country retreat for rich aristocrats from Rome itself (along the lines of Brighton's relationship to London in the 18th century).

The decaying conditions of the city were mentioned by St. Augustine when he passed there in the late 4th century. The poet Rutilius Namatianus also reported the lack of maintenance of the city in 414.

With the end of the Roman Empire, Ostia fell slowly into decay, and was finally abandoned in the 9th century due to the repeated invasions and sackings by Arab pirates, including the Battle of Ostia, a naval battle in 849 between Christian and Saracens; the remaining inhabitants moved to Gregoriopolis.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Vatican City

Vatican City was established in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri, on behalf of the Holy See and by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini on behalf of the Kingdom of Italy. Vatican City State is distinct from the Holy See, which dates back to early Christianity and is the main episcopal see of 1.166 billion Latin and Eastern Catholic adherents around the globe. Ordinances of Vatican City are published in Italian; official documents of the Holy See are issued mainly in Latin.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Vatican Swiss Guard

Not many of the visitors to Rome, who pose for a photograph in front of the Swiss soldiers on guard at the gates of Vatican City, are familiar with the history of these troops who take an oath of loyalty to the Pope. To know more we must go back to the period of the Renaissance and discover the motives that in 1506 caused Pope Julius II to invite to Rome the Helvetian soldiers, renowned for their courage, noble sentiments and loyalty. Many centuries earlier the great Latin historian, Tacitus, had said: "The Helvetians are a people of warriors, famous for the valour of their soldiers." This is why the Swiss Cantons, as allies first with one side and then with another, played such an important role in the history of European politics. In fact as allies of Pope Julius II in 1512 they helped to shape Italy's destiny and were granted by the Pope the title of "Defenders of the Church's freedom". In those times, when to be a mercenary soldier was a commonplace occupation, there lived a people of warriors in the very heart of the Alps. The first Swiss Cantons had about 500,000 inhabitants and formed an overpopulated country, where, because of the precarious economic conditions of the times, there was much poverty. There was no choice but to emigrate and one of the most profitable jobs was that of a mercenary soldier abroad.

There were some 15,000 men available for this type of work which was "organized" and controlled by the small Confederation of Cantons. The Confederation authorized the enlistment of the men and in return received corn, salt, or other commercial goods. The men themselves regarded this warring as a temporary period of summer emigration. They took part in brief but glorious wars and then returned home with the "pay" and the booty, to spend the winter. They were the best troops of those times. Without cavalry and with little artillery, they had invented a tactic of movement that was superior to all others. Therefore they were in great demand both by France and by Spain. They were similar to a semimobile rampart, standing tall and impenetrable, and it is impossible to understand the Italian Wars without taking these mercenaries into account. Already in the 13th and 14th centuries, after the Swiss Cantons had become independent, many of their men were fighting in Germany and Italy and as the Cantons were unable to prevent this type of emigration, they sought at least to organize it.
The alliance with France was the most important and it began with Charles VII in 1453, and was later renewed in 1474 by Louis XI, who had seen for himself near Basle how 1,500 Swiss soldiers had resisted against twenty times as many men.
Louis XI hired some of the Confederate soldiers as instructors for the French army and the King of Spain did the same. When, at the end of the 15th century, with Charles VIII the Italian Wars began, the Swiss were described by the Italian historian, Guicciardini, as "the nerve and the hope of an army".
In 1495 the life of the King of France was saved thanks to the immovable firmness of his Swiss foot-soldiers.
The foreign service of the Confederates was better regulated under the 1521 alliance between France and the Cantons. With it the Swiss agreed to provide from six to sixteen thousand men for the King and in return the Cantons would benefit from the protection of the most powerful European prince. They became permanent allies and auxiliaries, but the Cantons were still the true sovereigns of the troops and reserved to themselves the right to withdraw them. These armed corps were completely independent, with their own regulations, their own judges and their own flags. The orders were given in their own language, German, by Swiss officers and they
remained under the law of their Cantons: in short, the regiment was their fatherland and all these customs were confirmed in similar agreements made in later years.

January 22nd, 1506, is the official date of birth of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, because on that day, towards the evening, a group of one hundred and fifty Swiss soldiers commanded by Captain Kasparvon Silenen, of Canton Uri, passed through the Porta del Popolo and entered for the first time the Vatican, where they were blessed by Pope Julius II. The prelate Johann Burchard of Stras­bourg, Master of Pontifical Ceremonies at that time, and author of a famous chronicle, noted the event in his diary. In actual fact Pope Sixtus IV made a previous alliance in 1497 with the Confederates, which forsaw the possibility of recruiting mercenaries, and he had barracks built for them near where there is, still today, the small Church of St. Pellegrino, in Via Pellegrino in Vatican City. Later, renewing the old pact, Innocent VIII (1484-1492) also desired to make use of them against the Duke of Milan. And Alexander VI also engaged Confederate soldiers during the time of the alliance between the Borgia family and the King of France. While the Borgias were so powerful the so called Italian Wars began in which the Swiss soldiers were always present, in the front line, at times for France, and at others to support the Holy See or the Holy Roman Empire ruled by a German sovereign. When the Swiss mercenaries heard that Charles VIII, King of France, was planning a great expedition against Naples, they flocked to enlist. Towards the end of the year 1494, thousands of them were in Rome, passing through with the French army, which in February of the following year, occupied Naples. Among the participants in that expedition against Naples, there was also Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, future Pope Julius II, who under Pope Alexander VI had left Italy and gone to France. He was well aquainted with the Swiss, because some twenty years earlier he had been granted as one of many benefices, the Bishopric of Lausanne. A few months later however, Charles VIII was forced to abandon Naples in all haste and he barely succeeded in forcing a blockade and escaping to France. In fact Pope Alexander VI had connected Milan, Venice, the Germanic Empire and Ferdinand the Catholic to form a barrier against the French.

On the morning of May 6th, 1527, from his headquarters set up in St. Onofrio's Convent on the Gianicolo hill, Captain General Bourbon launched a series of attacks on Rome. During one of them, at the Torrione Gate, while leading the assault of the walls, he himself was mortally wounded. After just a moment's hesitation, the Spanish mercenaries broke through the Torrione Gate, while the lansquenets invaded the road of Borgo Santo Spirito and St. Peter's. The Swiss Guard, standing firm at the foot of the obelisk (now in St. Peter's Square, but then near the German cemetery within the Vatican close to the Basilica), together with the few remnants of the Roman troops, resisted desperately. Their Captain, Kaspar Röist was wounded, and later killed by the Spaniards in his quarters in front of his wife, Elizabeth Klingler. Of the 189 Swiss Guards, only 42 survived, the ones who, when all was lost, under the command of Hercules Göldli guarded Clement VII’s retreat to safety in Castel Sant’Angelo. The rest fell gloriously,
massacred together with two hundred fugitives, on the steps of the High Altar in St. Peter's Basilica.
Pope Clement VII and his men were able to escape to safety, thanks to the "Passetto", a secret corridor which Pope Alexander VI had built along the top of the wall connect­ing the Vatican with Castel Sant’Angelo. The savage horde was in a hurry, for fear that the League troups would cut off their retreat. Across the Sisto bridge the lansquenets and Spaniards fell on the city and for eight days committed every sort of violence, theft, sacrilege and massacre, even the tombs of the Popes, including that of Julius II, were violated in search of spoils. There were as many as 12 thousand dead and the booty amounted to ten million ducats.
All that happened cannot really be regarded with surprise because the imperial army and in particular Frundsberg's lansquenets, were animated by a violent spirit of crusade against the Pope. In front of Castel Sant’Angelo where the Pope had retreated, a parody of a religious procession was set up, in which Clement was asked to cede the sails and oars of the "Navicella" (boat of Peter) to Luther, and the angry soldiery shouted "Vivat Lutherus pontifex!" (Long live Luther, Pontiff!) The name of Luther was incised with the tip of a sword across the painting of the "Dispute of the Most Holy Sacrament" in the Rooms of Raffaello, out of disdain, while on another wall a graffito hailed Charles V, emperor.
Concise and exact was the description given by the Prior of the Canons of St. Augustine at that time: "Mali fuere Germani, pejores Itali, Hispani vero pessimi." (The Germans were bad, the Italians were worse, the Spaniards were the worst.)
Besides the irreplaceable damage of the destruction of the relics, during the Sack of Rome, inestimable art treasures, namely the greater part of the Church's finest artisan-made gold and silver ware, were lost forever.
On June 5th, Clement had to surrender and to accept heavy conditions: he had to cede the fortresses of Ostia, Civitavecchia, and Civita Castellana, to hand over the cities of Modena, Parma and Piacenza, and to pay the sum of four thousand ducats. Moreover, a ransom for the freedom of prisoners was demanded. The papal garrison was replaced by four companies of Germans and Spaniards, and two hundred lansquenets took the place of the Swiss Guard which had been suppressed. The Pope obtained permission for the surviving Swiss Guards to join the new Guard, but only 12 of them accepted, among them Hans Gutenberg of Chur and Albert Rosin of Zurich. The others wished to have nothing to do with the hated lansquenets.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was the political and economical centre of Rome during the Republic. It emerged as such in the 7th century BCE and maintained this position well into the Imperial period, when it was reduced to a monumental area. It was mostly abandoned at the end of the 4th century.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Colloseum

The Roman Colosseum or Coliseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was commisioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian. It was completed by his son, Titus, in 80, with later improvements by Domitian. Vespesian ordered the Colosseum to be build on the site of Nero's palace, the Domus Aurea, to dissociate himself from the hated tyrant.  His aim was to gain popularity by staging deadly combats of gladiators and wild animal fights for public viewing. Massacre was on a huge scale: at inaugural games in AD 80, over 9,000 wild animals were killed.

Roman gladiators were usually slaves, prisoners of war or condemned criminals. Most were men, but there were a few female gladiators. These combats were attended by the poor, the rich, and frequently the emperor himself. As gladiators fought, vicious cries and curses were heard from the audience around the Roman Colosseum. One contest after another was staged in the course of a single day. Should the ground become too soaked with blood, it was covered over with a fresh layer of sand and the performance went on. The gladiatorial games continued until Christianity progressively put an end to those parts of them which included the death of humans.

During the first two centuries capital punishment was seldom inflicted upon the defeated Gladiator, being a huge economic loss to do so.   During the Middle Imperial Ages, the death of the defeated Gladiator became the norm. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Italian countryside

 Day 3 we are off to Rome via train from Venice.  We were able to order online our tickets at a steal at 19 euros each.  Not bad, seats were comfortable.  Actually better than the airplane. 

We arrived in Rome 4 hours later and then went out siteseeing. 

Santa Maria Maggiore stands on the site of a temple to the goddess Cybele. According to a 13th-century legend, the first church was built here by Pope Liberius (352-66), on the site of an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The legend has it that the Virgin appeared to Pope Liberius and the patrician Giovanni Patrizio on August 4, 352 (or 358), instructing them to build a church on the Esquiline Hill. That night, the floor plan was outlined by a miraculous snowfall.

Archaeological evidence, on the other hand, indicates that the church was probably first built in the early 400s and completed under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). This was a time when churches dedicated to Mary were beginning to spring up all over the empire, prompted by an increasingly popular devotion to the Virgin and the official acceptance of her title "Theotokos" (Mother of God) at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

The church has had many names over the years: first Santa Maria della Neve (St. Mary of the Snow) after the snowfall, then Santa Maria Liberiana after Pope Liberius. After the basilica obtained a relic of the Holy Crib, it was called Santa Maria Del Presepe (St. Mary of the Crib). It was finally named Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major) because it is the largest of the 26 churches in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Santa Maria Maggiore was fully restored and renovated in the 18th century - the facade and most of the interior decorations date from this period. Today, the basilica is served by Redemptorist and Dominican fathers and remains very popular with pilgrims and tourists alike.

Piazza Vittorio , the largest square in Rome ( 316 x 174 meters ) , is the heart of the Esquilino quarter , built when the city became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy (1870). At that time there were only 226,000 inhabitants, and to adapt to his new role as the city launched a development project is massive (First Plan of 1873) , which provides for the construction of large important buildings, neighborhoods of housing for the bureaucrats of the new administration , wide roads.

Within three decades the city was turned upside down . Via ( Vittorio) Veneto , Corso Vittorio Emanuele II , Via Nazionale, Via Cavour, Viale TrastevereAnd then Piazza Venezia, Piazza della RepubblicaPiazza Cavour : As a growing Umbertine ( Umberto I, King between 1878 and 1900) disappears, papal Rome , inside the ancient Aurelian walls which still retained its plant Renaissance and Baroque.

The worst destruction is the loss of "crown villas and gardens"Surrounding the city, and also work as required embankments of the TiberConstructed to block the frequent flooding of the river, is accompanied by real urban crime . It's the price , very high , that Rome pays to become "modern "(as Paris a few years ago with the restructuring of Baron Haussmann ).

The work is supervised by a Communal Archaeological Commission, Who has absolute authority on the conservation and maintenance of the antiquities found : demolitions, in fact, bring to light an enormous amount of archaeological material .

In the north of the garden Piazza Vittorio there are the ruins of a great monument to Roman times, called the Middle Ages " Trophies of Marius " .

This name, in fact, appears for the first time in a guide for pilgrims of 1140, the Mirabilia Urbis Romae, and is derived from two large marble sculptures that decorated the monument until 1590 ( as shown in the engraving of Etienne Dupérac) , when Pope Sixtus V had them removed and placed on the balustrade of the Capitol, where they still are .

In reality it is a monumental fountain , built in 226 by Emperor Alexander Severus in the Roman sources and known as Nymphaeum Divi

Alexandria: is the only survivor of the 15 nymphs monuments that speak ancient sources . To be precise , it is the " water shows Claudia ", built at the end of the Claudian (some of it arches are Via Turati) : a great dramatic device that adorned a functional public work . The same principle we find in some modern fountains , as Fontana di Trevi, Shows the Virgin of water , and Fountain of the Acqua Paola on the Gianicolo.

Today there  is only the skeleton of the brick fountain, which had to be huge ( 25 meters wide , at least 20 meters high ) and very rich , covered with slabs of marble and decorated with numerous statues . What did he look ? The nymph is represented on a gold ( gold coin ) of Alexander Severus , and in the past many have tried to reconstruct the appearance, beginning with Pirro Ligorio around 1550 , when the trophies were still in place . A beautiful reconstruction dates back to 1821, and is the work of Antoine- Martin GarnaudA scholar Villa Medici.

The facade had to be magnificent. The upper part was characterized by a large central niche ( 6.50 meters wide ), with perhaps the statues of Alexander Severus and his mother Giulia Mamea on the sides of it two open arches , decorated until 1590 by the statues of the trophies that have given the name of the monument. The whole was concluded by a penthouse at the top , decorated with a chariot and other statues , and down from a roof catchment , dominated by a statue in the middle of the Ocean lying .

From this basin the water was coming down, no one knows how, at the bottom of the front , where there were a series of rectangular and semicircular niches (perhaps decorated with statues ) from which flow more water . All the water was collected in a large semi-circular pool , street level , where it can draw on.

For several centuries the magnificent ruins of the " Trophies of Marius " have faced the entry of Villa Palombara - a huge Baroque residence disappeared in the late nineteenth century for the construction of Piazza Vittorio - as you can see a beautiful engraving of Giovan Battista Piranesi, 1772, full of charm as the views of all 'Venetian artist.

The villa is the "Magic Door ", located on the back of the Roman monument and the subject of many fanciful legends .