Hello Kitty Wine

Hello Kitty Wine Is the Latest Vintage from Italian Winery

Hello Kitty wine is a real thing. I know some of you will hate this and others will want to snatch some up just for the novelty of it all.

Apparently, Torti Winery, located in the Oltrepò Pavese hills of Italy’s Lombardy region has been working on a Hello Kitty wine since 2007, putting aside special Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes to create several different variety of wines (including a perfectly pink one). Read more

Paestum Temple

A Little Greek / Yogurt in Paestum

If you tell a Roman that you are going Paestum for the weekend, invariably he or she will tell you: “Make sure you pick up some mozzarella di bufala.”

Paestum is a sight to see without the culinary pit stop. A city known as “Poseidonia” when it was part of Magna Grecia, Paestum is home to three extraordinarily preserved Greek (Doric) temples that date from 600 to 450BC. The two temples to Hera and the temple to Athena sit on a wide, grassy plot of land that is much easier to navigate than the not-too-distant Pompeii, the more famous ruins an hour north of here. Read more

August - Leo and Gemini share a plaque in Piazza San Pietro

Things I Love (and Hate) About Rome in August

The calendar shows that Ferragosto takes place on August 15. The mid-August break coincides with the Assumption of Mary, in the way that Christmas conveniently takes place around the Winter Solstice.

The further south from Rome that you go, the more you’ll find towns that celebrate the Assumption. Romans typically use the old pagan name as well as adopt a libertine attitude towards the holiday, taking long breaks on either side of the fifteenth or even taking the whole month of August off.

I’ve talked before about what a traveler needs to have when visiting Italy in August. But now that I’ve spent two long, hot summers here in Rome, I feel compelled to share the reasons why I love and hate Rome in August.

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Fortress of San Leo

The Fortress of San Leo and Its Torture Chamber

As you approach the town of San Leo in Emilia-Romagna, its role as an impenetrable, menacing fortress town comes into view. San Leo’s massive stone fortress, which also served as a palace and prison, was designed by Sienese architect and military engineer Francesco di Giorgio Martini, whose early Renaissance fortifications dot the landscape of this area of central-eastern Italy known as Montefeltro. Read more

Illustration from De Humani Corporis Fabrica by Andreas Vesalius

A Special Harvest: Anatomical Theaters in Italy

Since ancient times, man has been interested in anatomy — how muscles and bones function and fit together and how the body works. But it wasn’t until the Renaissance that the study of anatomy really took off, thanks in large part to the printing press, which helped anatomists, illustrators, scientists, and physicians get on the same page (pun intended). Read more

Taking a break near the Milano Duomo

The Milano Duomo, Inside and Out

Over the weekend, I finally got the chance to check out Milan’s famed Duomo, that jagged, Gothic behemoth that defines the city’s traditional skyline. Also known as Santa Maria Nascente (Saint Mary of the Nativity), the Duomo is the second largest church in Italy (second only to Saint Peter’s in size) and it took more than 500 years to complete, with more than 78 architects and engineers heading the project from its groundbreaking in 1386 to its completion in 1965. Read more

Orvieto Cathedral

Will Work For Wine: Luca Signorelli’s Orvieto Duomo Contract and His Intoxicating, Apocalyptic Fresco Cycle

In 1499, Tuscan artist Luca Signorelli signed a contract to paint two remaining sections of the Cappella Nuova (new chapel) of the Duomo in the Umbrian town of Orvieto. By 1502 (or 1504, depending on which documentation you read), he had completed his “End of the World” fresco cycle in what is now known as the San Brizio Chapel. Read more

Amalfi

One Year in Italy: 12 Months of Memories

Time Flies!
“Time Flies! Stop lying around and write something, will ya?” (Photo of a detail from the facade of Santa Maria dell’ Orazione e delle Morte on the Via Giulia, Rome)

Living in a new place, especially for an extended period of time, fills me with a sense of duty that I have to write everything down, commit every moment to memory, take a photo every day if not every hour. But eventually, that initial motivation turns to dread and an overwhelming feeling that I should be more mindful of my surroundings rather than living behind a lens or a computer screen.

The latter reason is why I have not written as much as I should have over this past year in Italy. Plus, I’ve just done so much in these 12 months! I’ve traveled all over Rome and its region Lazio, from the beaches to the lakes to hill towns in between, and have visited six other regions (with a goal of getting to all 20 before my time here comes to and end). Over the past year, I have also taken more than 7,000 photos — so much for not living behind a lens!

Despite that photo stat, I have been paying attention with my other senses: smelling the roasting chestnuts in winter, the jasmine bushes in spring, and the cool, damp aroma of underground spaces; listening to the rumble of trams, the clinking of cups and saucers, the fleeting bits of Italian conversations overheard in the markets and shops; and tasting the foods of each season. Touch has been more elusive, as Italy is full of things you want to touch but cannot — smooth marbles and mosaics and frescoes, tufts of moss growing out of crevices high on a Roman wall.

Of course, readers visit this blog to see Italy as much as learn about it. So, I wanted to share 12 photos over this past year, one for each month, to mark my transition from year one to year two. These are simple photos — most taken with an iPhone 5 — but they are special reminders for me. Read below for details.

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Italy News Round-Up XIII: #Dante750, Uffizi Exhibition in a Mobster’s Home

My Pocket list of saved articles has been going through a workout lately. So here is one big Italy News Round-Up. I’ve done about 12 of these things over the life of this blog (and now 13 – XIII). But I will probably end up doing more.

For more links to Italy travel, art, culture, and history in the news, see my Italofile Facebook page or Twitter.

#dante750

Dante Turns 750 [The New Yorker]

This year marks the 750th birthday of Dante Alighieri. For the New Yorker, Professor John Kleiner talks about what Dante means to Italians and about the more than 100 events that are planned for this occasion, including the “selfie con Dante” campaign with cardboard cutouts in Florence.

Uffizi Gallery Exhibition in Former Mobster’s Mansion [Hyperallergic]

In a moving, nonviolent act of revenge, a mayor in Campania and the Uffizi Gallery have teamed up to turn a mafia don’s confiscated home into a temporary art gallery. “The Light Wins Over the Shadow” will honor the memory of Peppe Diana, a priest who was shot by the Camorra in 1994, by displaying a number of chiaroscuro works from the Uffizi at the Casal di Principe.

Construction Workers in Bologna Uncover Ancient Roman Road [Repubblica]

It makes sense that the 1st Century AD Roman road Via Emilia was lying a few meters under the current roads in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna. But workers plan to cover it back up “for another 2,000 years” after they finish work on the Via Rizzoli and Via Ugo Bassi. Take a look at the road in the video from ETV (h/t Italy Explained). (Click here if you can’t see the embedded video.)

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Photo of the Day: A Ray of Light in San Giovanni in Laterano

While hundreds wait in lines in the harsh sun to get into Saint Peter’s, the Archbasilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, also known as the Cathedral of Rome, is practically empty. San Giovanni is the oldest and largest papal basilica in Rome, although it has gone through many reconstructions over the years due to earthquakes, fires, and vandalism (by the actual Vandals, in the 5th century).

Admission to San Giovanni in Laterano is free. But you can purchase a ticket to visit the 13th century cloister, located through a door to the left of the altar, and the Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctorum (the Holy Stairs and Holy Sanctum, located across the street), one of the most important sites of pilgrimage outside of Vatican City.