Valle d'Astino, on the outskirts of Bergamo (Lombardia) has won the top award in the National Landscape Contest 2020-21. The 60 hectare valley, lying among the hills on the city doorstep has been subjected to a long re-qualification process, spearheaded by the Fondazione della Miseracordia Maggiore (MIA) (Foundation of Greater Mercy) a charitable organization dating from 1265.

The Foundation bought the valley, which also contained an ancient ruined monastery, in 2007. The area was completely overgrown and neglected, with the earth impoverished due to years of exclusive cultivation of maize, and the Foundation gradually began to transform it into the present Eden, with garden allotments, organic farms, vineyards, fruit orchards and herb gardens. Part of the valley has been taken over by the Botanical Garden Lorenzo Rota of Bergamo, which cultivates 1,200 varieties of plants.

The old monastery, with the frescoed 16th century Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the cloister, has now been restructured and transformed into a multi-cultural centre for music, theatre and films.

The National Landscape Award qualifies Valle d'Astino as Italy's candidate for the European Landscape Prize, instituted in 2008 by the Council of Europe, for the best territory re-qualification and landscape recovery initiative.

Info: Tel. +39.035.320402

Posted on 28 Mar 2021 by Editor

Coronavirus restrictions forced Parma, Capital of Culture 2020, to move many of its events and exhibitions to 2021, including the major exhibition at the Ducal Colorno Palace of the vast 18th century collection of china and ceramics gathered by the Duchess Luisa Elisabetta of France and her husband Filippo di Borbone.

The collection contains rare pieces from the leading factories of Europe, such as Meissen, Sévres, Vincennes, Chantilly, Doccia and Capodimonte, and was dispersed after the Unification of Italy and the suppression of the Duchy of Parma. The exhibition has gathered together many of the most precious porcelain figurines and decorated plates that are now part of the collections of Italian museums and institutions like the Quirinale Palace (official Residence of the President of Italy), the Royal Museum of Torino, the Uffizi Gallery and the Villa Medici Museum of Poggio di Caiano.

Princess Luisa Elisabetta, known as “Babette”, daughter of Louis XV of France, was a passionate collector, purchasing many of the most refined pieces during her frequent visits to Versailles. Her husband, whom she called “Pippo”, shared her enthusiasm and her tastes. The couple, who had both come from two of the wealthiest and most luxurious royal courts of Europe, set themselves the task of modernizing and refining the gloomy and rundown residence allotted them in Parma, as demonstrated in the letters and archive documents also on show in the exhibition, containing items like proposed architectural plans and furniture designs, engravings and a cookery book of 18th century recipes.

The exhibition is due to re-open on the 15th May and, Covid permitting, will run until the 19th September 2021.

Info: Tel. +39.0521.312545

Posted on 24 Mar 2021 by Editor



The Italian Ministry of Culture has put a definite ban on the use of the 12th century Trisulti Abbey as a base for the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI) set up by Benjamin Harnwell, considered to be the European representative of former White House strategist and noted populist Steve Bannon.

The DHI took over the lease of the abandoned monastery in 2017 on condition that they would fund restoration and upkeep, and that it would be used exclusively for academic and cultural purposes. The extremist political ideologies accredited to the DHI founders, however, alarmed the local population as well as the Cultural Ministry, which has been locked in a legal battle to revoke the lease for the last three years.

The Abbey is one of the finest Carthusian monasteries in Lazio, first founded in 996. Crowning a hilltop in the Ernici Mountains and surrounded by oak forests, for centuries it was a sought-over haven of respite for pilgrims on the way to the Holy Land. The present building dates from 1204 with later baroque modifications to the Abbey Church of St. Bartholomew, where visitors can admire “The Glory of Paradise” ceiling painting by Giuseppe Caci (1683). Its gardens are laid out in the classic Italian style with geometric beds delimited by box hedges. It also possesses a fine 18th century pharmacy decorated with trompe-l'oeil frescos and grotesques. Another of its claims to fame is the invention of the popular liqueur Sambuca, invented by the monks and infused from local herbs.

The last four monks, all elderly, were transferred from the Abbey a few years ago, leaving it empty. It is now looking for a new occupant who will respect its unique historic and spiritual character as “a place of peace”.

Info: Tel. Ciociaria Turismo +39.0775.211417  

Posted on 20 Mar 2021 by Editor

The theme of the Italian Pavilion at the Dubai Expo, due to go ahead in October 2021, is “the Beauty that Connects People”, conveying the concept of beauty as a universal unifying force that transcends all cultures and races.

The Dubai Expo is the first global event planned to take place at the end of the pandemic and will run until 31st March 2022. The Italians are determined to shine, with a sparkling innovative pavilion that will focus on the vision of sustainable development as prospected in the United Nations agenda for 2030, promoting new ideas on the use of water resources in agriculture, the cultivation of arid land, the defence of biodiversity and valorization of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

The Italian pavilion, designed by Architects Carlo Ratti, will cover an area of 3,500 sqm. with a height of 27m, and will be entirely powered by state-of-the-art aeration and illumination systems showcasing Italian scientific and technological knowhow. Special architectural features include a “Skywalk” passageway, constructed from recycled materials like coffee grinds, orange peel and recovered plastic, while Italy's diverse scenic beauties and creative skills, filmed by Oscar winner Gabriele Salvatores, will provide Expo visitors with a continuous and fascinating panoramic backdrop.



Posted on 17 Mar 2021 by Editor

Palazzo Zabarella in Padua is staging an exhibition of the works of a group of Italian artists considered to be the forerunners of the French Impressionist movement. The Macchiaioli, as they were dismissively called (inspired by the word “Macchia”, or “patch, blot”) emerged in the second half of the 19th century, after the Unification of Italy. The movement is less well known than the subsequent proliferation of Impressionism in France, a lacuna which the Padua exhibition will contribute to rectify.

Many of the group had fought in the Garibaldi campaign. They were revolutionaries and idealists, who rejected the conventional academic canons of the art of the period.

The movement, which was concentrated largely in Tuscany, grouped artists like Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Telemaco Signorini, Odoardo Borrani, Vincenzo Cabianca and others, who met up in the celebrated Caffe Michelangiolo in Florence to exchange ideas and discuss politics. Most barely scraped a living with their paintings, but they were supported by wealthy patrons, like art critic Diego Martelli, who threw open his house at Castigliocello for their use, and the English noblewoman, Isabella Falconer, whose villa at Collegiliato near Pistoia, was an esteemed cultural hub.

The Macchiaioli artists painted scenes of country life, the market place and the seashore, strictly en plein air, in order to capture the true quality of natural light. They thus anticipated the works of artists like Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin.

The exhibition“I Macchiaioli: Capolavori dell'Italia che Risorge” (Masterpieces of Renewed Italy) runs until the 18th April 2021.

Info: Tel. +39.049.8753011

Posted on 12 Mar 2021 by Editor

A thousand year-old plane tree, growing in a pine forest at Curinga (Catanzaro, Calabria) hopes to win the prize for the European Tree of the Year contest 2021.

The “Gigante Buono” (Good Giant), as it is called by the locals, has already scooped the “Best Loved Tree in Italy” award. Believed to have been planted by the monks of the nearby 10th century Hermitage of Sant'Elia, the giant rises to a height of 31.5 metres, with a trunk of 14.75 metre circumference. The hollow in its base can contain up to 10 people and during its long life it has often provided shelter for shepherds, wayfarers and brigand bands.


Posted on 08 Mar 2021 by Editor

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

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

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:

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 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.

Cemetery Tel.+39.06.5741900

Posted on 23 Feb 2021 by Editor

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