Tag Archives | Italy Blogging Roundtable

The Seven Hills of Rome: What Are They and What Can You See?

Seven_Hills_of_Rome

Map via Wikipedia

 

The Seven Hills of Rome mark the traditional boundaries of the city. It was on these seven hills – Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal, and Viminal – that the first settlements of Rome began and these seven hills were the ones protected within the Servian Walls. The foundations, gates, and ruins of these 4th century-BC walls can still be seen in some parts of the city. Subsequent builds of fortifications in Rome, such as the Aurelian Walls (3rd century AD) and the Leonine City (9th century AD) included other hills (Janiculum, Vatican, Pincian), but the original Seven Hills are the ones in bold above and included within the red border in the map to the right.

Now that you’ve had a short history lesson, you may be wondering what you can see today on Rome’s Seven Hills. Rather than tell you, I thought I would use the power of Google’s Street View to show you.

Continue Reading →

Milan Invites Visitors to Discover the Art of Nobel Winner Dario Fo

Dario Fo "Earthquake in L'Aquila"

Dario Fo's "The Earthquake in L'Aquila"

Next month, the Italy Blogging Roundtable will celebrate our first anniversary. Jessica, Alexandra, Gloria, Rebecca, and I have enjoyed tackling a new topic each month, and we’ve especially enjoyed hearing from readers. In fact, we were so pleased with how our last invitation went for bloggers to join us at the Roundtable that we thought we’d extend another! This month, not only is the Italy Roundtable topic INVITATIONS, we’re inviting anyone who wants to participate to blog about one of the past year’s Roundtable topics. Our invitation details are at the bottom of this post. Now on to the post…

Continue Reading →

Rooted in Italy: The World’s First Botanical Gardens

Orto Botanico di PadovaIt has been said (too many times) that all roads lead to Rome. But did you know that you could trace botanical medicine and even the environmental movement to 16th century Italy? It was here in the city of Pisa (1544) then Padua (1545) that the world’s first botanical gardens were set up.

This month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable topic is “roots” – a nod to spring. And what better nod to spring than to go straight to the garden? I’ve covered gardens in this blog before, from a mention of the reissue of Edith Wharton’s book Italian Villas and Their Gardens to Cortili Aperti, the “open courtyards” initiative that each year gives visitors a chance to check out gardens and courtyards at private estates. But I’ve yet to touch on Italy’s many botanical gardens, which are almost always historically linked with their cities’ universities.

The Orto Botanico di Padova is the world’s oldest academic garden still in its original location and it has been a model for all subsequent botanical gardens around the world. From the beginning, the mission of the Orto Botanico di Padova has been to collect local and unique plant life, maintain an herbarium for the study of plants for use in medicine, and educate the public on botany, horticulture, and the need for plant conservation. The Orto Botanico di Padova is one of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, having been inscribed in 1997. The most famous plant specimen at the Padua Botanic Gardens is a Mediterranean Palm, the “Goethe Palm,” which dates from 1585 and was written about by Goethe. Additionally, the gardens have a library and a museum. The Orto Botanico di Padova is open daily from April to October; from October to April, it is open mornings Monday through Saturday. The current admission price is €4, subject to change.

An Italian visitor to the Orto Botanico di Padova took a comprehensive tour of the gardens and created this video:

 While Padova can claim to have the world’s oldest botanical gardens still in their original location, the city of Pisa was were the first academic gardens were founded. The botanist Luca Ghini, at the behest of Cosimo de’ Medici, set up the University of Pisa’s botanical gardens in 1544. However, the garden moved twice, in 1563 and 1591, before settling at its current location. My Italy Blogging Roundtable colleague Gloria has a beautiful post about the Orto Botanico di Pisa, complete with photos.

Italy’s botanical gardens don’t often make it on the tourist itinerary. But they are actually quite ideal, as most are located near the city center and often a quiet respite from sightseeing. Other Italian cities with well-positioned botanical gardens include Rome (near Trastevere), Bologna, Milan (it has three), and Palermo, to name just a few.

Read the posts, leave comments, share them with your friends – and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic.

Photo Flickr/Ned Raggett

Braving the Elements: A Rare Snowfall in Rome

Piazza San Pietro
Over the past weekend, Rome got pelted with eight inches of snow, the largest single snowfall in the capital since 1986. The rare snowfall prompted the closure of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill, and other tourist attractions.  Many businesses had to close because workers were unable to access public transportation or get their cars or scooters on the road, and restaurants were unable to procure fresh milk and produce. As of Monday, residents were still digging out with the 2,000 shovels provided to them by civil protection authorities. Heating restrictions also prevented many Romans from getting cozy in their homes: “heating in homes is only legally allowed for 10 to 12 hours a day, to cut down on pollution.”

No doubt, the wintry weather comes at a bad time for Rome, and Italy in general, as it deals with austerity measures in the wake of the European debt crisis and contends with the fact that an enormous cruise ship wrecked just off the Tuscan coast.

And, yet…the snow seemed to be a welcome relief for many Romans. As the snow fell Friday and Saturday, I kept an eye out on social media (Twitter, Facebook), apps (Instagram), and Flickr as beautiful photos of Rome in the snow came flooding in. And I thought that this sort of thing would work well for this month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable subject – the elements – as well as bring a smile to readers’ faces. Not to mention – the ruin porn! What’s better than ruin porn than ruin porn with snow on it? That is indeed the icing on the proverbial torta.

Below, check out a gallery I curated from photos on Flickr and click on the links to a few of the photos I found on Instagram (creative commons usage for Instagram photos is questionable, so providing links rather than photos). You’ll see Romans reveling in Piazza del Popolo, sledding in Circo Massimo, snow dusting the Colosseum and ruins of the Forum. The Vittoriano looks lovely with a light blanket of snow as does Piazza San Pietro. Perhaps my favorite photo comes from Instagram – instead of building a snowman from the fresh accumulation, one Roman built a replica St. Peter’s Square! You can really get a sense of the giddiness in these photos, a respite from the bad news of 2011-2012. Enjoy!

Instagram Photos

Flickr Gallery: Snowy Rome

Read the posts, leave comments, share them with your friends – and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic.

 

Photo by Flickr user msako23

 

Marble Run: Shopping for Traditional Marbled Products in Italy

Murano Glass ShopIf there is one particular word that can be used to define some of Italy’s major handicrafts, it’s marble. Marble, either as a substance or a style, runs through three different artisan crafts that are famous in Italy: some of the world’s finest marble is found in the hills around the province of Massa-Carrara in Tuscany; marbled paper, which is one of Florence’s distinctive crafts; and marbleized glass, a Venetian specialty, especially on the island of Murano.

This month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable is focused on crafts and I am spotlighting marble or marbled handicrafts that travelers should look out for in Tuscany (including Florence) and Venice.

Carrara Marble

Carrara marble, the same stone that Michelangelo used to carve his famous statues and busts, is renowned throughout the world. Professional and would-be sculptors visit the marble hills in western Tuscany to learn the Italian craft of marble work and you, too, can participate in such classes. The Marble and Art Workshops in Pietrasanta give participants lessons in sculpting, trips to marble studios and foundries, and lessons in mosaic and stone inlays.

Florentine Marbled Paper

One of the most popular souvenirs from Central Italy is Florence’s marbled paper. Artisans have been designing marbled paper since the 17th century, using it largely for bookbinding (another craft) but also for stationary. Alberto Cozzi (Via del Parione 35/r, by Santa Maria Novella) is the most renowned store for purchasing Florentine marbled paper but also where customers can watch artisans restoring book and making marbled papers.

Murano Glass

Watching the Murano glass artisans blow, fire, and shape vases, goblets, figurines, and pendants, among other things, is a time-honored tourist favorite when visiting Venice. Murano glass is defined by its vibrant colors and glass crafters often employ marbling techniques to their wares. The Murano Glass Factory (Castello 4623, Venice) is one place where travelers can watch artisans and pick up glassware and trinkets

Read the posts, leave comments, share them with your friends – and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic.

Give the Gift of Italian Culture

Flickr/mysza

When my colleagues in the Italy Blogging Roundtable and I decided to write on the topic “gifts” for our December post, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. I knew straight away that I didn’t want to write about Italian gifts you can buy in a store, though there are many I desire or would recommend. Similarly, I knew that I didn’t want to write about the intangible gift that Italy has given me. No, I wanted to write about so-called “gifts that keep on giving,” presents that will serve to enhance others’ understanding or appreciation of Italian culture.

The two “gifts” that I am highlighting below are 1) a documentary film project about a very famous town in Tuscany and 2) a charity devoted to restoring a town in Cinque Terre. I would love it if you, my readers, would consider contributing to one or both of these very worthy causes. To do so, you will be giving yourself and all others who appreciate Italy’s history and heritage the chance to enjoy it for years to come.

1) The Genius of a Place

Photo of a piazza in Cortona by Flickr user wyzik

Sarah Marder, an American who has been living in Italy since 1988 and has been visiting Cortona, Italy, since 1986, has been working for more than two years with Italian production company OLO Creative Farm on a documentary about the Tuscan town made famous by Frances Mayes’ book Under the Tuscan Sun. The book and its subsequent film starring Diane Lane were a rousing success, but the publicity has started to have a detrimental effect on Cortona, drawing in more tourists than the village can handle. Ironically, the hill town that so many tourists are coming to experience risks losing its look and atmosphere. The Genius of a Place takes an honest look at Ms. Marder’s beloved Cortona and its potential spoiling at the hands of too much tourism.

The Genius of a Place project is listed on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, and it seeks to raise $20,000 by December 31, 2011. As of this post, they are almost half-way to their goal. Donating to The Genius of a Place will help Sarah and her crew finish the massive editing process in time to submit their documentary into consideration for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and can net you “grazie gifts” ranging from chocolate to a set of Tuscan watercolor paintings, not to mention the knowledge of having assisted in raising awareness about Cortona’s potential plight.

Take a look at the project video for The Genius of a Place to see if it’s something you’d like to donate to:

 

2) Save Vernazza

Photo of Vernazza by Flickr user pizzodisevo

You may or may not be aware that the region of Liguria, which includes the capital Genoa and the famous tourist area of Cinque Terre, suffered record flooding this past fall. On October 25, 2011, heavy rain buried city centers under feet of water and caused massive mudslides. The flooding led to emergency evacuations, and many residents have yet to return to the once-picturesque area to begin the process of rebuilding and restoration.

Hit particularly hard during the flooding was the town of Vernazza, one of those perfect, pastel villages that the Cinque Terre subregion is famous for. Vernazza, which was buried under more than 13 feet of mud, suffered more than 100 million in damages. In order to get Vernazza back to working order, three American expat women living in Vernazza created Save Vernazza, an Italian nonprofit to raise funds for construction projects and cultural preservation. Included in the mission statement of Save Vernazza is the commitment to rebuild the Muri a Secco, the terracing walls that are part of the heritage that merited Vernazza its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

If you’re interested in joining Ruth Manfredi, Michele Lilley, and Michele Sherman, the three women behind Save Vernazza, in preserving this iconic village, visit the Save Vernazza website to learn about its projects and how to donate. Watch this video to see the Vernazza flood in action (warning: heart-wrenching):

This month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable topic was “Gifts.” Find out what the other members of the Italy Blogging Roundtable conjured up when they thought about “gifts” together with Italy. Click the links below to read their contributions to the Roundtable, and leave comments to join in the conversation. Tune in next month for another Roundtable round-up.

Also this month, we opened up the Italy Blogging Roundtable to other bloggers interested in telling us a story about gifts in the context of Italy. Below are five posts that I enjoyed reading. And, I’ve also added a Twitter widget to the bottom of this post so you can find links to even more #ItalyRoundtable posts on Twitter. Thank you so much for tuning in!
  • No Onions Extra Pickles: What to Get the Italian Futurist Who Has Everything – I loved this whimsical post. Extra points (pickles?) for the art nerdiness.
  • Cross Pollinate: Made in Italy – Hand Made Gifts by Florentine Artisans – See the painstaking work it takes to create some of the beautiful products that are still made in Italy, from etchings to bespoke shoes. Great photos here.
  • A Sense of PlaceThe Gift of Learning Something New – Erin teaches me something new about a church in Rome whose marbled floor I’ve walked on countless times. Her explanation and photos were exquisite and made me want to get on the very next flight to Rome.
  • Sicily SceneGifts – Italy may be on the road to austerity this Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the season will be less joyous. I appreciate how Pat wove in her observations of how Italians confront Christmastime with her memories from the past 20 years of being an expat in Sicily.
  • Life…Italian StyleThe Gift of Becoming Italian – Becoming Italian, if that is at all possible, takes more than just marrying a person from Italy and/or moving there. It takes an attitude adjustment, especially with regards to time, food, and chiacchiere (talking), as Jennifer explains so nicely in her post.


An Invitation to Bloggers: A “Gift” From the Italy Blogging Roundtable

Gifts
Many of you will know that, since May 2011, five of us have been writing a monthly post on a given topic and we call it the Italy Blogging Roundtable. Each month we decide the topic in advance and the only rule is that it has to be connected to Italy; the posts are published on the same day, and cross-linked so that readers can enjoy our diverse experiences. You can see posts by the other four participating writers here:

My posts for the Italy Blogging Roundtable

Normally we don’t tell anyone the topic in advance, but our post for December 14 is an exception. Why? Because we want you to participate! The topic is “Gifts” (or presents). It’s inspired by the holiday season, but does not have to be limited to “Christmas gifts.” For this month, we’re inviting bloggers to expand upon the topic of “gifts,” somehow connected to Italy, on their blogs.

Here is how to participate:

1) From December 1 to 13, 2011, post on your blog about “Gifts” (and Italy).

2) Include in your post a reference to the fact that this is part of the Italy Blogging Roundtable’s invitation to post on this topic.

3) Include, at the end of your post, links to the roundtable blogs:

4) Let us know by tweeting it with the hashtag #italyroundtable. If by chance you don’t use twitter, email it to one of us (my email address is info@……). We’ll each read them all, and retweet some too!

5) On December 14, 2011, we’ll post on the same topic and include links to our favorite posts by the larger community. We’re aiming to link to five posts submitted by others, but that depends on how many people participate!

Photo by stevendepolo

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

%d bloggers like this: