MUSSOLINI'S SECRET BUNKER RE-OPENS

After extensive restoration work, Mussolini's underground air raid shelter and secret bunker, tunnelled under his official residence at Villa Torlonia, Rome, have been re-opened to the public. The shelter, accessed by a stairway leading down from the ballroom of the Casino Nobile, redesigned by Giuseppe Valadier between 1802-06, and now a museum, was converted from an existing cellar at the outset of WW2 and fitted with electric light, air filters, telephone lines and anti-gas sealed security doors.

After Rome was bombed in 1943, Mussolini considered the air raid shelter inadequate and commissioned the adjoining bunker, situated at a depth of 6.5m with 4m-thick reinforced concrete walls. However, he was destined never to make use of it as he was deposed before it was finished.

The new “bunker experience” has been set up with projections from newsreels of the period and special multi-medial effects, that lead visitors through the pre-War period of the Mussolini family residence to the outbreak of the War, with the simulation of a typical bombing attack as experienced in the shelters.

Pre-booked Guided Tours (maximum 20 participants): 060608

Info: www.museovillatorlonia.it villaparchistorici@comune.roma.it

Posted on 09 Apr 2024 by Editor

NATURE WALKS AT POMPEII

The buried city of Pompeii has opened up new nature walks around its ancient walls. The 8.500 sqm green belt that links the archaeological site to the modern city of Pompei has been laid out as a woodland park, using the same varieties of plants and trees that would have been present in the time of the eruption, such as oaks, elms, plane trees, almonds, tamarisks and ilexes as well as appropriate flowering shrubs and plants with the intention of recreating a natural habitat for local birds and wildlife.

The trail leads from the Amphitheatre Gate, around the perimeter walls of the necropolis of Fondo Pacifico, through the recreated ancient lucus (Sacred Wood) and the Avenue of Almond Trees, to the Sannio Gate and back into the archaeological site at the Via dell'Abbondanza.

The Nature Trail is part of a tree planting project involving 7,000 native trees and shrubs, which have been introduced into the archaeological site over the past year and has involved not only the direction of the archaeological site but also local schools and social cooperatives assisting young people with difficulties, under the direction of the Arbolia Benefit Corporation, dedicated to creating new green areas in Italy and combatting global warming. The Pompeii project is the latest in a succession of 34 urban woodlands planted in 27 Italian towns and communities for a total of 75 million forest trees.

Info: www.arbolia.it

Posted on 05 Apr 2024 by Editor

Posted on 29 Mar 2024 by Editor

Second Miracle for Santissima Annunziata Basilica

Recently restored to its original glory, the “miraculous painting” of the Annunciation in the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata (Holy Annunciation) in Florence can now be admired by Florentines and visitors alike. The fresco has always been a bit of a puzzle. According to legend the face of the Virgin was painted by divine hand and dated back to the 13th century.

More recent research places it a century later but the mystery surrounding the work has persisted and the artist has never been identified. Michelangelo was also captivated by the face of Maria which he described thus: “it was not the art of the paintbrush that made the face of the Madonna, but truly something divine.”

The restoration work was particularly delicate. When restorer Anna Medora removed the frame she discovered that the fresco had been attacked by damp and mould. The recovery of the painting and the subsequent restoration of its original luminosity has been hailed as “a second miracle.”

The Basilica is one of the richest in Florence for treasures and works of art. Among the curiosities is the remains of a Roman organ that originally came from the Domus Aurea and belonged to the Emperor Nero.

Info: Tel. +055.266181

 

Posted on 27 Mar 2024 by Editor

BYZANTINE ABBEY HAILS MILLENIUM

The thousand-year old Abbey of Grottaferrata (Lazio) is celebrating its foundation year with a programme of events, conferences and concerts of religious music throughout the coming months, starting on the 23rd March with the “Sabat Mater” concert and a series of lectures on Dante's “Journey of Life” (“il Viaggio della Vita”), running until the 25th May 2024.

The Abbey is an impressive fortified building, surrounded by defensive walls and a moat, harking back to the more turbulent times of its history. It was founded by Basilian monks from the south of Italy, guided by the legendary Saints Nilus and Bartholomew, who followed the Greek Byzantine ritual, which continues to be used today.

The Abbey is a treasure house of art, with the church of Santa Maria di Grottaferrata lavishly decorated with 12th century mosaics and polychrome marble pavements, the Farnese Chapel frescoed by Domenichino in the original “grotto” (actually the remains of a cryptoporticus from a ruined Roman villa) where the first foundation stones were laid, and a “Madonna and Child with Saints Nilus and Bartholomew” by Antonio Carracci.

It also possesses a library with over 50,000 volumes, including some 1000 priceless ancient manuscripts, a museum of antiquities and a renowned School of Book Restoration.

The Abbey is open to the public, with guided tours and entrance to the museum on Saturdays and Sundays.

M. STENHOUSE

Info: Tel. +39.3409819736 www.abbaziasannilo.org.

 

Posted on 23 Mar 2024 by Editor

PIENZA'S GUARDIAN OF THE VALLEY

Pienza (Tuscany) has inaugurated a new attraction for walkers and excursionists – “the Path of Art and the Soul.” This is a panoramic 2.5 km. nature trail scattered with art works created by 28 contemporary artists, including internationally famous sculptors like Gio Pomodoro, Joe Tilsen, Mino Trafeli, Pietro Cascella. Justin Peyser, Jean-Paul Phillipe and others.

The collection of sculptures by these artists has been donated by the FUR Foundation, a non-profit institution set up by Swiss millionaire Urs Rechsteiner with seat at Montepulciano (Siena).

The “Guardian of the Valley”, a towering 4m-high sculpture seated on a rock, is destined to become the symbol of the art trail. Created by the artist Antonio Borrelli for the Corto Circuito scenographic laboratory, the Guardian gazes over the valley below, the personification of the “super-hero” protector of all who pass along the route.

Info: Tel. +39.0578.740005 info@turismo@comune.pienza.si.it

Posted on 13 Mar 2024 by Editor

PARADISE IN ANCIENT FLORENTINE PHARMACY

Full immersion in a floral fantasy in the ancient Dominican herbal dispensary of Santa Maria Novella in Florence where artist Felice Limosani has created a unique flowery bower inside the venerable laboratory set up by the friars some eight centuries ago.

Blooming in Paradise” is the title chosen by the artist, a world leader in creative digital technology. The installation includes not only floating blossoms on walls and floors but also music and fragrances to enhance the experience. The exhibition runs until the 7th April 2024, and meanwhile the Pharmacy carries on with its normal business in the adjoining rooms,

The venerable Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica (Perfume and Pharmaceutical Laboratory) of Santa Maria Novella, founded by Dominican friars in 1221, is a major tourist attraction in Florence, especially with Korean and Japanese visitors since the Pharmacy was taken over in 2020 by the major Italian holding Italmobiliare, which specializes in supporting and promoting “Made in Italy” brands.

The Farmacia is a work of art in its own right, with frescoes attributed to Marioto di Nardo (died 1424) and with décor and furnishing carefully restored in the style of the 14th century.

It sells exclusive herbal cures, natural beauty products and liqueurs, some using the original traditional recipes elaborated by the friars.

  1. STENHOUSE

Info: +39.055.216276 info@santamarianovella1221

 

 

Posted on 09 Mar 2024 by Editor

ROYAL PALACE OF CASERTA OPENS GRAN GALLERIA

The celebrations in honour of the great 18th century architect Luigi Vanvitelli, who designed and supervised much of the building of the Royal Palace of Caserta (Campania) culminated with the opening of a vast new exposition space in the north west wing of the palace, previously closed to visitors. For almost a century the area had been occupied by the training school of the Italian Air Force (Scuola Specialisti dell'Aeronautica Militare) which has now moved to new premises near the coast.

The wing adds an extra 3,000 sqm to the already vast museum space in the Royal Palace, a listed UNESCO world heritage site since 1997, and the one-time residence of the Bourbon kings of Naples and Spain. The newly acquired premises will contain a conference hall, cultural meeting rooms and a cafeteria, while the Gran Galleria area has been adapted to host temporary exhibitions. Its inaugural exposition, entitled “Visioni” focusses on aspects of the Vanvitelli architectural vision by photographers Luciano D'Inverno and Luciano Romano, will run until the 15th July 2024.

Info: Tel. +39.0823.448084 https://reggiadicaserta.cultura.gov.it

Posted on 04 Mar 2024 by Editor

TODI: FULL IMMERSION FESTIVAL IN ANCIENT HISTORY

This year's Umbria Antica Festival (formerly known as “Festival dell'Umbria Antica”, is centred in the perfectly preserved medieval town of Todi and is poetically entitled: “Il Cuore Verde d'Italia batte al ritmo della Storia” (“The Green Heart of Italy beats to the rhythm of History”), following “Dove e Nata la Nostra Storia” (“Where our History Began”) and “Uomini e Dei” (“Men and Gods”), the themes of the two previous editions.

The packed three-day programme (15th - 17th March 2024) offers a full immersion experience in the life and customs of the ancient peoples who once inhabited the Italian peninsula, their heritage and their lasting influence, as well as the processes of integration brought about by the Roman conquest. Lectures will be held in the Council Chamber of the 13th century Palazzo del Capitano, Todi and will be conducted by a group of Italy's most prestigious experts in the historical and archaeological fields.

  1. STENHOUSE

For full programme: www.festivalumbriantica.it info@festivalumbriantica.it

Posted on 28 Feb 2024 by Editor

ROSSINI'S LEAP YEAR BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS

Pesaro (Marche) has a double celebration this year. Not only has it been elected Italian City of Culture 2024, but Leap Year date on the 29th February allows it to celebrate the birthday of one of its most illustrious sons, the great 19th century musician Gioachino Rossini, born, in fact, on the 29th February 1792.

A special Settimana Rossini (Rossini “Week”) is being held between the 18th February-8th March with a packed programme of over 30 events and 10 concerts. These will include the classic “Balcony Recital” from the balcony of Rossini's house, played to the crowd in the street below, a new commemorative postage stamp from the Italian mint, a parade of vintage motorcycles from the local historic Benelli factory, the donation of a pianoforte by the local Lugli family of designers and entrepreneurs to enrich the Rossini Gallery Museum, and, most important of all, the inauguration of the new Scavolini Auditorium concert hall.

A birthday must have a cake and Pesaro has a Super-cake: it was part of the scenery constructed for the performance of “Adina” at the Rossini Opera Festival in 2018. The monumental cake will be part of the opening ceremony of the Auditorium on the 29th February. Rossini, with his quirky sense of humour, would have loved it!

  1. STENHOUSE

Info: Tel. +39.0721.3800202 www.rossinioperafestival.it

Posted on 24 Feb 2024 by Editor

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