Rome's newest visitor attraction is now open after a fourteen-year closure for restoration work. The 13,000 sqm burial monument of the Roman Emperor Augustus, constructed in 28 BC after his victory over Antony and Cleopatra and allegedly modelled on the lost tomb of Alexander the Great in Egypt, has been virtually closed to the public for the past 80 years, with no access whatsoever permitted since 2007.

The circular Mausoleum, which stands above the Tiber, next to the Ara Pacis, Augustus' Altar of Peace, has monumental dimensions, with a diameter of 90 meters. The inner chamber is now open to the sky, surrounded by walls that are only a third of the original height.

Restoration was largely funded by the Italian telecommunications company TIM (6 million euro), with additional 4 million euro contributed by the City of Rome and the Italian cultural Ministry.

Entrance is free until the 21st April, the date of Rome's alleged 2,774th birthday. After it will continue to be free for Rome residents only. Booking is essential with “all sold out” already looming.

Info: Tel. 060608 www.mausoleodiaugusto.it www.sovraintendenzaroma.it

Posted on 05 Mar 2021 by Editor

A lavishly decorated ceremonial carriage is only the latest sensational find in the recent excavations of a hitherto unchartered area of the lost city of Pompeii, buried under the tragic volcanic eruption in 79 AD.

Archaeologists enthused over the well-preserved oak wood cart, with the sides painted in red and black and adorned with metal medallions of cupids and erotic love scenes with couples of satyrs and nymphs, which they believe was probably used for wedding processions.

The unique discovery was found at a depth of 6 metres near the spot where the remains of three horses were discovered in December 2018. Two of the animals were already harnessed up as if ready to carry their owners away from the crushing shower of lapilli. Obviously they did not make it in time.

The carriage was found in a villa just outside the city boundaries, on what was once the seafront. The vehicle was protected by the roof of a porch which had collapsed on top of it, shielding it from the worst of the damage.

The current excavation campaign has produced several outstanding finds over the last couple of years, including a box of a sorcerer's charms and magic stones (August 2019), the bodies of two men lying in their death throes (November 2020), a brightly painted “Fast Food” bar (December 2020) and a vitrified human brain at Herculaneum (January 2020).

M. Stenhouse

Info: Tel. +39.081.857511 www.pompeionline.net

Posted on 02 Mar 2021 by Editor

FAI ( Fondo Ambiente Italiano), Italy's national trust organization, has published the results of its latest yearly public opinion poll, “I Luoghi del Cuore” (Places of the Heart) concerning neglected monuments, historic sites and beauty spots that should be saved, restored and revalued.

Over 2.3 million citizens voted in this edition, putting forward a total of 39,500 “Places of the Heart”. The top ten favourite treasures netting the most votes will take on a new lease of life, thanks to the publicity and care they will receive as a result of the poll.

This year's No. 1 winner, with a total 75,586 votes, was the 200 year old rail track linking Cuneo-Ventimiglia-Nice, known as the “Railway Line of Marvels” that travels the scenic route through the Maritime Alps and the Roya Valley, climbing over a thousand meters from the Mediterranean Sea up to the Col di Tende Pass.

Referred to as “one of the most beautiful train runs in the world”, the line had practically fallen into disuse. Thanks to the efforts of FAI it will now enjoy a revival and be promoted as a tourist attraction.

Second winner (with just under 62,700 votes) was the spectacular Moorish-style Castle of Sammezzano, 30 kms from Florence. It's Arabian Nights design was created by the quixotic nobleman Ximmenes D'Aragona in 1605. Number three was the majestic Castle of Brescia, one of the best preserved medieval fortresses in Italy.

The full list of winners can be seen on the FAI website:

www.fondoambiente.it

Posted on 27 Feb 2021 by Editor

2021 marks the seventh centenary of the death of Italy's greatest poet, Dante Alighieri, and by a strange coincidence two of the best loved poets in the English language also have special commemorations in 2021 and 2022. Both John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley died in Italy within a year of one another two hundred years ago, and their remains are enshrined in the Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners in Rome, near the Cestia Pyramid at Porta San Paolo.

John Keats died on the 23rd February 1821 in what was once a cheap guest house on the Spanish Steps in Rome – now converted into the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, which has welcomed many illustrious visitors like Richard Gear, J.K. Rowling, Prince Charles, and most recently, Bob Geldof. Curator Giuseppe Albano affirms:“It never ceases to amaze me just how much love (Keats) inspires in visitors to the Keats Shelley House...in 200 years after his death Keats' poetry has never been more alive or more loved.”

His fellow poet Shelley died the following year in a boating accident off the coast of Lerici. His friends cremated him on the beach, but his ashes were brought to Rome and repose in the same cemetery.

Despite the restrictions imposed by the Covid epidemic, both the Memorial House and the Non-Catholic Cemetery have planned a full programme of commemorative events in cooperation with the Poetry Society and the Keats House in Hampstead, London. Special initiatives include a virtual guided tour of the Memorial House and the video “The Death of Keats”, narrated by Bob Geldof. Premiere on the 23rd February on YouTube. For information on other events contact:

Info: KS House Tel.+39.06.6784235 www. ksh.roma.it

Cemetery Tel.+39.06.5741900 www.cemeteryrome.it

Posted on 23 Feb 2021 by Editor

 

With pandemic figures reduced, Sardinia has reopened many archaeological sites and museums, including the Civic Museum G. Marangiu on the Sinis peninsula in west Sardinia (near Oristano), containing its celebrated and disquieting “Giants of Cabras”. Experts calculate that the group of unique 2 metre-tall stone warriors, dates back to around the 8th century BC and it is considered to be one of the most important archaeological finds of the Iron Age in Italy.

The statues were discovered by chance in 1974 in an ancient necropolis on Mont'e Prama, near the site of the Nuragic settlement of Tharros. In all, an estimated 45 sculptures, broken into some 5000 fragments, were recovered. Archaeologists have so far been able to identify some 28 figures, which include 16 boxers with shields and protected right hands, 6 archers with bows and breastplates and 6 warriors with helmets crowned with horns.

The “Giants” are only beginning to be known to a wider public now and are beginning to attract visitors to this hitherto remote area. After a lively debate with the local town council of the small town of Cabras, the Italian Ministry of Culture and Heritage has agreed to allow the other fragments to be restored in situ, instead of transferring them to the specialized laboratories in Cagliari. In addition, the Ministry has promised the town a grant of 3 million euro to build a new museum to house the “Giants”, and the important cache of artefacts found in the area.

Info: Tel. +39.0783.290636 info@museocabras.it

Posted on 20 Feb 2021 by Editor

Naples is well -known for its architecture and works of ancient and baroque art. It is less known that the city is full of contemporary art works decorating the poorest and less attractive districts, as an international army of mural painters take over bleak wall spaces and transform them into open air art galleries. The phenomenon has become so widespread that “Street Art” tours for more informed tourists are now offered.

The most famous work is Banksy's “Madonna with a Pistol” in Piazza Girolomini (near the Church of San Lorenzo) that shows the Mother of Christ with a gun instead of a halo floating above her head, symbolizing the connection between religion and organized crime, it being well known that traditional Mafia members attend mass and have their children baptized.

The Parco Merola (better known as the Murals Park) in the Ponticello suburb is a show place of graffiti art, displaying the works of the artists like Dutch-Italian Jorit, Neapolitans Zed 1, Mattia CDO and the Sicilian artists Rosk & Loste. Jorit's Romany child gazing out of the wall with her school books around her and the message in Neapolitan dialect that “All Children are Equal” is the most celebrated.

Jorit's gigantic murals dominate several walls in Naples. In the Y-shaped quarter of Forcello he painted a huge 15 metre-high San Gennaro, Naples' patron saint, with the face of his labourer friend, and on the wall of a high-rise block of flats at the coastal district of San Giovanni a Teduccio he has immortalized the football hero Maradona, lionized in Naples where he played for the Napoli football team. The artist's signature is apparently in one of Maradona's eyes and can allegedly only be seen at sunrise and sunset.

By contrast, the Spanish Quarter is covered with the 223 surreal graffiti of lively little figurines by Neapolitan street artists Cyop & Kaf. Most murals contain political messages, not without a touch of satirical humour, as in“Mission Possible” by Neapolitan street artist Roxy in the Box, with San Gennaro and Caravaggio standing side by side and both reading modern newspapers, while a sad 38 metre-long tribute is paid to journalist Giancarlo Siani, a victim of the criminal organization, the Camorra, painted by Milan artists Wally & Alita on the wall of the house where Siani lived.

And these are only a sample few.....

Info: www.visitnaples.eu

Posted on 16 Feb 2021 by Editor

 

Milan's Royal Palace Museum is hosting a revolutionary exhibition of the works of many of the Italian women artists who made their mark during the 16th and 17th centuries. Most of these women were famous and much respected in their day, but have inexplicably been forgotten, with only one – Artemisia Gentileschi – who stands out as a household name today.

The exhibition “Le Signore dell'Arte” sets out to redress this wrong by presenting over 150 works by 34 women artists of the Renaissance. They include women who were members of the exclusive Academia di San Luca, where only the most talented artists were admitted, as well as some who were court painters and who ran their own studios and consorted with the most eminent figures of their day. They include Sofonisba Anguissola, whose talent was recognized by Michelangelo and who was employed for over ten years at the court of Philip II of Spain, Giovanna Garzoni, employed by the Medicis and who is credited with introducing or promoting the still life form, Lavinia Fontana, who, despite having eleven children, outclassed her painter husband and made him her agent, Elisabetta Sirani, who ran a highly successful art school for men and women and was buried in the same tomb as Guido Reni, as well as Artemisia Gentileschi, and many others.

The exhibition is programmed to run until the 6th June 2021.

Info: Tel: +39.02.88465230 www.palazzorealemilano.it

Posted on 12 Feb 2021 by Editor

The historic city of Parma (Emilia) was elected as Italian City of Culture for 2020 but unfortunately the outbreak of coronavirus put a halt on all the carefully prepared programmes that were to accompany the event. The nomination has consequently been prolonged for 2021 and the city is finally beginning to unfold some of its suspended programmes.

Meanwhile, the VisitEmilia organization is promoting visits to the historic churches of Parma, and its neighbouring cities of Piacenza and Reggio Emilia, with their wealth of art works. In particular, visitors are being encouraged to raise their eyes and do some cupola-gazing to admire the amazing frescos by great local masters like Correggio, Guercino, Parmigianino and others. The long list of churches which contain masterpieces of dome decoration include Parma Cathedral, where Correggio painted the Assumption of the Virgin with a revolutionary swirling composition of bodies spiralling heavenwards towards the figure of Christ.

Guercino is the star of Piacenza Cathedral, where he filled the cupola with the Prophets, suspended among the clouds, and Reggio Emilia's Sanctuary of the Holy Virgin of the Ghiara, built to commemorate a miracle in 1596, is a virtual kaleidoscope of prophets and with a rare cycle of female figures, heroines of the Old Testament, by Lionello Spada, a pupil of Carraci, and other Emilia artists, arching high above an altar piece of the “Crucifixion” by Guercino.

All these works of art are now available to the public.

Info: Tel. +39.0521.218889  www.visitemilia.com  info@visitemilia.com

Posted on 08 Feb 2021 by Editor

 

Italy has over 6,000 borghi (small historic villages), most with less than 5000 inhabitants. For decades these have been subjected to an inexorable population decline, leaving empty dwellings, shops and workshops, and with churches, monuments, little piazzas and former noble houses sinking into a state of progressive neglect.

Until recently, it seemed that their fate as sealed and that many of them were doomed to total abandonment, despite the valiant efforts of local administrations and cultural associations to revive them with various initiatives.

However, things now seem to be changing, thanks to the current pandemic and the consequent boom in online working, which is opening up new possibilities for Italy's villages. A programme of incentives launched by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity, a special department of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, aimed at revitalizing the borghi, seems to be producing positive effects.

The Borghi in Festival programme offering to finance projects of urban regeneration has attracted over 643 proposals from all over the country.

Many old borghi are offering housing at symbolic prices and financial aid to families willing to come and settle with them. Recently launched incentives to transfer to Appeninne villages attracted 2,310 requests in a few days. The village of Graglio in the Val Veddasca (Lombardy) has chalked up a first success, with the first baby born in twenty-eight years, thanks to a family who transferred from Genoa, and a crowd funded initiative to attract new residents, launched by the 500 inhabitants of the Calabrian village of Vaccarizzo di Montalto Uffugo, once celebrated for silk production, has been incorporated in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Societal Transformation Lab, a worldwide experimental programme studying population re-distribution.

Info: iliveinvaccarizzo.com dg-cc@beniculturali.it

Posted on 05 Feb 2021 by Editor

All being well on the pandemic front, the Giorgio Cini Foundation is to open an unusual collection of glass animals on the 22nd March to mark the reopening to visitors of the Island of San Giorgio in Venice.

The exhibition, which will be set up in the “Glass Rooms” of the Foundation, comes from the private collection of Pietro Rosenberg, Honorary President-Director of the Paris Louvre. Rosenberg's quirky collection of the 750 animals on display, gathered over a period of thirty years, are part of the vast collection of 17th – early 20th century art works which Rosenberg will donate to the new Museé du Grand Siécle in the converted barracks of Saint-Cloud, Paris, programmed to open in 2025.

The Glass Menagerie show will run until the 1st August 2021, along with the °Venice and the Glass Studio Americano° exhibition, with creations from the 1960s by American and Venetian glass artists.

Info: www.lestanzedelvetro.org info@lestanzedelvetro.org

Posted on 02 Feb 2021 by Editor

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