I came upon this little group on the way to the Trevi fountain.
Pinocchio certainly gets around.
It is time for me to go home to Australia. I hate to leave Casa Debbio, especially as the garden is really starting to take shape. I have planted lots of new things and I have been enjoying watching everything grow.
Thursday was my last day at the house and it was a perfect end to my stay. The weather was delightful and Sisto turned on his music for my final dinner on the terrace. Fireflies arrived a bit later and I went to bed to the sound of hooting owls.
The only disappointment was that my lavender, which has more than doubled in size since last year, didn’t turn purple for me. The flowers are all there ready to go, but they didn’t take the final step. I have been talking to them every day in both English and Italian, trying to encourage them, but to no avail…maybe next week, but I won’t be there to see it.
Here is a little collection of scenes from Casa Debbio over the last couple of weeks.
I have been eating cherries from the tree, there is one gooseberry getting ripe, and lots of figs. The tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries are growing and the little herb garden is going well. My peonies are all growing and I am hoping for lots of flowers next spring along with the rhododendrons under the hazelnut trees.
I know Filippo will do a great job of looking after them for me. When I get back in autumn we will plant more apples, pears, plums, cherries, figs and olives on the terraces. Next spring there will be masses of blossoms…can’t wait.
I just hope the mufloni don’t move in and start eating everything.
I was up bright and early on Sunday morning in Spello to see the progress on the flower carpets. At 6.30am the blockaded areas were alive with tired looking people putting finishing touches to their works of art.
It is just as well I scooted around early as the streets were full of people by 8.00am, making it difficult to get close to the work.
Anyway, here are some of the completed carpets. I think you will be amazed. In very few cases was I able to get a high vantage point, so there are some odd angles.
I did have a favourite.
I stayed at the very fabulous Palazzo Bocci in the main street. I managed to hang out of a window to see one carpet from above.
I positioned myself in front of the church to watch the entourage enter for the mass.
You can just see the top of a hat as its wearer enters the church.
Then I waited in the hot sun for them to reappear and walk the carpets.
The carpet survived its first trampling and most people walked carefully beside them on their way up the street. It seems a shame they don’t last forever.
After one more look from the window I called it a day and went home.
I wonder how long the carpets last before they are blown away by the wind and kicked by countless feet…anyway there is always next year.
I am in Spello for the Infiorata, a celebration held every year on Corpus Domini, the 9th Sunday after Easter. Around 1,000 people gather on the Saturday evening before to create carpets made of flower petals on the narrow streets of this gorgeous town in Umbria.
Spello is full of flowers anyway. Take a look at some of the lovely gardens.
This afternoon tents were erected to protect the areas to be covered with flower petals.
Thousands of flowers were pulled apart and separated into colours.
The designs are laid out on the streets. Some are very complicated.
Some are much more simple.
At about 7.00pm work begins on the designs.
Food is cooked in the streets to feed the hungry workers.
At midnight the streets were still full with people creating art and people watching them.
…and the whole town smells like flowers.
In the morning there will be a procession led by the bishop through the streets, trampling all the beautiful flower carpets.
I will be up bright an early to see the creations before they disappear.
The bronze horses on the facade of Basilica San Marco in Venice are replicas. ( They are not looking their best now anyway as the facade is under scaffolding )
The originals were installed on the balcony above the door in about 1254. They were well travelled by the time they arrived in Venice. They possibly once adorned the Arch of Trajan and they were on display at the Hippodrome of Constantinople.
In 1204 Doge Dandolo sent them back to Venice. They were on the move again when Napoleon borrowed them and took them to Paris in 1797. They were returned to Venice in 1815.
The horses were restored slowly and carefully from the 1970s and are now on display in the museum inside the basilica. They are very impressive and you can get quite close to them.
To get to the museum, take the steps inside the entrance to the basilica. It is well worth the climb and for €5 you get to see the museum, a bird’s eye view of the interior of the cathedral and walk on the outside terrace for views of Piazza San Marco…I’ll show you those another day.
There is a tabernacle at the end of the street where the Florence Central Markets are…the Tabernacle of Fonticine…named for the little fountain at the bottom.
Tabernacles are niches with sculptures, often with frescoes or columns and a small roof. They are found on street corners, or on the side of a square, or even in tiny, narrow streets. They are usually covered by glass. Florentines felt the need to put up holy images to protect their houses and their families. There are about 1,200 in Florence.
I can’t show you the rest of the tabernacle as it was covered in scaffolding, but it think the fountain is lovely. It is attributed to Girolamo della Robbia and constructed somewhere around 1522, which explains why it could do with a bit of Jif and a scrubbing brush.
It is good to see it still in use after all these years.
I hope to see the whole tabarnacle on a future trip to Florence. I am inspired to track down the rest, perhaps not all 1,200, but quite a few.
As soon as we strolled into Massa Marittima on a sunny spring Sunday we were entranced. The spectacular Piazza Garibaldi is surrounded by stunning medieval buildings. The town was founded by the Etruscans.
The cathedral of San Cerbone sits high above the piazza and is reached by a steep stone stairway, making it seem very imposing. It is built of Travertine and was begun in the 12th century and finished in the 13th century. It has had several renovations over the centuries.
The interior was largely under scaffolding when we were there, but we could see that it is magnificent. It boasts a rose window with rare 14th century glass, a Romanesque font from 1267, a Gothic reliquary (1316) and a 14th century fresco under which is a Roman sarcophagus from the 4th century…and many other stunning pieces.
Above this part of Massa Marittima, which is called la Citta Vecchia, the old city, is la Citta Nuova, new city. I don’t know why there is this distinction because the Candlestick Clock tower was built in 1228 and the Sienese Fortress dates from the 14th century.
Of course we had to climb the tower. The stairs were particularly steep and narrow, but the view from the top was worth the climb. On a clear day, which it was, you can see Elba, Montecristo and Corsica.
Climbing down was not much better than the climb up. Most of it required going down backwards.
There is also a beautiful park at the top of the hill. It would be a lovely place to walk for the lucky residents of Massa Marittima.
We found an excellent enoteca, Le Sedici, where we were able to buy some local wine, olive oil and other local products.
On the way back to the car park we located the Fonte dell Abbondanza, the Source of Abundance. It is a covered spring and at the end of the building, now covered by glass, as it is being renovated, is the most interesting frescoed wall. It was dubbed the Fertility Tree when it was discovered in 2,000. Some bright spark felt the need to paint a tree covered with penises. Funnily enough, my youngest brother went through a stage when he was a teenager where he drew penises all over the place, Perhaps this was just the fertile mind of a 13th century young lad.
Massa Marittima is well worth a visit. It has some pretty streets to wander in. There are interesting shops, restaurants and bars. We will be back as we didn’t have time to see any of the museums.
Massa Marittima is in southern Tuscany, about 50 kilometres NNW of grosseto. The name Marittima doesn’t refer to the sea, but to Maremma, the name of the area.
Caffe Florian started as 2 simple rooms in Piazza San Marco in 1720, making it the oldest continuously running caffe in Italy. Casanova was a frequent visitor, largely because it was the only coffee house that allowed women. Later on Lord Byron, Proust and Charles Dickens liked to take their coffee there.
Today the caffe is sumptuously decorated and the prices reflect this. Florian is ridiculously expensive, but it is necessary to try it at least once during your Venice stay. How could you not visit a place that has been open since before Captain Cook sailed along the coast of Australia? (8 years before he was born, in fact)
In the warmer months there is an orchestra playing under the portico, adding a delightful touch to the already wonderful atmosphere. Expect to pay €6 per person if the music is playing…it is worth it.
Although it is fun outside, I prefer to sit inside in one of the gorgeous rooms.
We ordered affogato (which means drowned…gelato drowned in espresso)
It was brought to us by a beautiful boy. Actually he was a handsome man, but there is no alliteration in that. Here he is…don’t say I don’t think of you.
With our trusty Secret Venice in hand we set off to discover the beautiful columns at the Doge’s Palace in San Marco. The columns end in capitals adorned with 600 carved images. The original works were sculpted between 1340 and 1355. Some of the originals were replaced by copies in the late 19th century. (The originals are in the Museum of the Palace Fabric in the Doge’s Palace)
The images form a narrative combining the created world and divine majesty, history and myth and celebrate justice, wisdom and prayer.
The largest of the sculptures are Adam and Eve, The Drunkenness of Noah and the Judgement of Solomon. The story begins on the southwest corner with the creation of Adam and the eating of the forbidden fruit.
On the corner beside the Bridge of Sighs is The Drunkenness of Noah. Cham derides his father, while his other son tries to cover his nakedness. What on earth had he been doing and how did he end up naked?
On the corner nearest to the entrance to the cathedral is The Judgement of Solomon.
The smaller sculptures cover topics such as birds of prey, Latin women, Solomon and the Seven Sages, Houses of the Planets and more.
A favourite was Seven Deadly Sins, plus vanity. Before I read about the images I thought Gluttony was someone eating a gelato. It is, in fact, a figure raising a cup of wine and biting into a leg of meat…thank goodness for the book. Gluttony is followed by pride, sloth, vanity, envy, lust, wrath and avarice.
Next time you wander aimlessly past the Doge’s Palace, look up and be amazed.