Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 23, 2018

Beautiful Capri

Capri has had a lot of practice being a beautiful island resort. It was the favourite retreat for Roman Emperors Augustus and Tiberius among others. Tiberius built several villas including Villa Jovis, one of the best preserved Roman villas in Italy. He lived on the island for the last ten years of his life, until 37AD.

We arrived by fast ferry from Naples on a lovely spring day. It is a 40 minute trip from the Volo Beverello wharf in the port of Naples.

The Funiculare is under repair so we took one of the tiny buses from Marina Grande that hurtle along the narrow street up to Piazzetta, the little square in the main centre of Capri.

Capri

After checking into our hotel we set off on foot to see the island. Some of the streets are impossibly narrow, but shops manage to squeeze themselves in.

Walking a little further along we passed a cactus garden. I’m not usually a fan, but this one could change my mind.

Capri

A cloud covered Anacapri for most of our visit, but it still looked dramatic.

Capri

It was also a little hazy looking down to Marina Piccola.

Capri

Capri

We stopped for lunch at a gorgeous restaurant with a view of Marina Piccola.

Capri

After lunch we walked past more beautiful hotels, gardens and shops.

Capri

 

Capri

Capri

Capri

Capri

 

Capri

Wisteria put on a good show along the way.

Capri

Capri

We took another minuscule bus up to Anacapri, the highest part of the island. This area is more quiet than the lower town. The mist meant that there were no good photos to be had from the top.

We wandered into the historical part of Anacapri and came upon the Red House. It looks old but it was built relatively recently, in 1876, by General John MacKowan from New Orleans. The house is an unusual mix of architectural styles. It is now a museum, but it wasn’t open.

Capri

A little further on is the much older Chiesa S Sofia dating from 1510. It has an interesting roof, with a newer addition in the form of a clock tower added in 1920.

Capri

Capri

There is a lovely piazza in front of the church.

Capri

Back in Capri the lights came on and people came out to shop and eat.

As you can see, there are some seriously narrow streets on Capri. Service vehicles have been designed especially for these streets.

Capri

The street cleaner is special too.

Capri

Capri is a gorgeous place, with much more to see than I had imagined. We will return to stay longer.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 19, 2018

La Palma Capri

We stayed at a beautiful hotel on Capri, Hotel La Palma. I saw it when I was on the island in October last year and thought that I would like to stay there. Built in 1822, it was the first hotel on Capri and in 1826 a guest staying at the hotel, German poet August Kopisch, rediscovered the famous marine cave which he named Grotta Azzurra, Blue Grotto.

History aside, this hotel is gorgeous. Everywhere you are surrounded by understated elegance. I could easily move in and never leave. It is right in the heart of Capri, not far from the Piazzetta and steps away from shopping and restaurants.

We were early in the season, which has been late starting this year because of the awful weather, so there weren’t many people staying on Capri. We were invited to check in early and were upgraded to a room with a balcony. The charming gentleman at the desk gave us some excellent tips for what to see on the island. He led us through his own walk with photos he had taken himself…a great start to our stay.

Take a look at La Palma.

This was our room. Each one is different.

…and the rest of the hotel.

La Palma Capri

 

La Palma Capri

 

La Palma Capri

La Palma Capri

We don’t often eat at hotels, but we decided that since everything else was done well the food should be too…and it was. The lighting has given things an odd colour, but you will get the idea.

As well as the food, the charming Franco, in charge of the restaurant, was happy to talk to us about life on Capri. What a fabulous place to grow up.

Breakfast was an excellent send off.

La Palma Capri

La Palma Capri

I had to have a caprese salad on the island where it was first made.

La Palma Capri

We are thinking Capri might have to become a regular thing. Prince Francesco Caravita di Sirignano declared…There are two ways to see the world: one is by travelling, the other is by sitting on the terrace at La Palma and wait for the world to pass in front of you.

There will be more on Capri soon.

Hotel La Palma  http://lapalma-capri.com

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 14, 2018

Treasures in Naples

The Archeological Museum in Naples is full of treasures. We spent a few hours there on our first afternoon in the city.

Just about the first thing you see when entering the museum is the enormous head of a horse. It is the only part of an equestrian statue by Donatello to have been built. It was commissioned by King Alfonso V of Aragon and was originally designed to be placed in the upper part of the marble triumphal arch in Castel Nuovo (near the port). Work began in 1456 but was interrupted by the death of the sovereign (1458) and the death of the artist (1466)

Archeological museum Naples

From there various rooms beckon.

The Farnese collection of marble statues is quite something.

Archeological Museum Naples

Archeological Museum Naples

Archeological Museum Naples

This one was enormous.

Archeological Museum Naples

She has a striking face.

Archeological Museum Naples

This one has amazing detail.

Archeological Museum Naples

The pieces I liked best were from the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. I visited Pompeii 44 years ago and was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the excavated city. I have been back since and found it fascinating all over again.

The wall decorations would look great today.

Archeological Museum Naples

Archeological Museum Naples

This is a tray, decorated on both sides. I want one!

I’m sure I could find a spot for these too.

I love the small details of daily life. These beautiful glass items delighted me.

Archeological Museum Naples

This piece melted in the heat of the erupting volcano.

Archeological Museum Naples

There were ordinary household items like cake tins and urns, some highly decorated, scales and room heaters.

Archeological Museum Naples

…and other things just for fun.

The next pieces were excavated from a villa.

Archeological Museum Naples

The rooms of mosaics were a highlight for me. I feel a new hobby coming on.

Archeological Museum Naples

Archeological Museum Naples

Archeological Museum Naples

Archeological Museum Naples

Behind the mosaic rooms is a section that is a little risqué. These items were  taken from the “entertainment” area of Pompeii.

Archeological Museum Naples

Archeological Museum Naples

The museum itself is stunning. The staircase up to the second floor is magestic as it the enormous room at the top of the stairs.

Archeological Museum Naples

We didn’t see everything on offer, there is a huge Egyptian area that will have to wait until next time. There is only so much you can take in on one visit.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 10, 2018

A much photographed chapel

The chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta is possibly the most photographed chapel in Italy.

It sits on a hilltop beside the village of Vitaleta, between San Quirico and Pienza in Tuscany.

It was restored in 1184 by architect Giuseppe Partini and used to be the home of a statue of the Madonna sculpted by Andrea della Robbia in 1590.

The statue is now in a church in San Quirico and a festival is held each year to celebrate it.

It can be a bit difficult to find, but we did this time we were in the area. Here is my photo to add to the many others. There are some truly gorgeous photos of this tiny chapel. If you happen to be there at the right time for good lighting, or a pretty season, the photos can be magnificent. This one is a bit ordinary, but all I have.

Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta

Try to find the Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta on your travels, you won’t be disappointed. You can walk to it I believe, but the view from a distance is probably better.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 8, 2018

3 hilltop medieval towns

Last year on our way to Saturnia we passed some stunning looking hilltop towns and vowed to return to explore them. We stayed an extra day to do just this.

The first town we visited was Arcidosso, great name. It is first mentioned in 860 when it belonged to the Abbey of San Salvatore. It was once the most important political and administrative centre in the Monte Amiato area.

There is an impressive fountain in the newer part of town, which was reasonably busy on a cool spring day.

Arcidosso

We walked into the medieval part of town through an old portal.

Arcidosso

It boasts a very old castle. It claims to be one of the best preserved in Europe. We only saw it from the outside as it was firmly closed. The oldest part of the castle was built in 990. The main tower dates from 1160, the newer part in the 1200s and the watchtowers and battlements in the 1300s. It was built to last on a solid rock base.

Arcidosso

There is a model of the castle in the piazza below. The castle now hosts events.

Arcidosso

The medieval streets are narrow and steep, and empty. Some houses appeared to be lived in, but not many.

Arcidosso

I was impressed with the many coats of arms.

There was another entrance to the old town lower down the hill.

Arcidosso

The next town was Castel del Piano which looks amazing from a distance along its hilltop ridge. The town dates from 890, but Etruscans settled in the area long before that. From 1175 – 1321 it was a possession of the Aldobrandeschi family.

The first thing we came upon after parking the car was an excellent washing site. These communal washing areas are found all over Italy, but this is the biggest one I have seen. A lot of town news must have been discussed here over the centuries.

Castel del Piano

From there we walked up (always) to the old town.

The main piazza is big and impressive with 2 enormous churches almost side by side. This is Chiesa della Propositura.

Castel del Piano

Beside it is Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie.

In front of the churches the piazza looks towards the newer part of the town.

Castel del Piano

Behind the churches is another, more modern piazza with views over the countryside and a fountain.

We walked through the old town door beside the piazza up the steep, narrrow street to the top of the town. Most houses were empty and every second door had a Vendesi – For Sale – sign on it. I doubt there will be any buyers forthcoming.

Castel del Piano

From the top of the village there were beautiful views of the countryside and another hilltop town.

Castel del Piano

Castel del Piano

Castel del Piano holds a Palio on 8th September. It was run for the first time in 1402.

Our third stop was Seggiano, on the foothills of Monte Amiata. The town was built in the early 10th century as a possession of the nearby Abbey of San Salvatore.

Seggiano

We drove to the top of the town where we found a lovely piazza with a pretty church and a restaurant where we had a very good lunch.

Seggiano

We wandered a little further and found another church and some empty streets.

Seggiano

Seggiano

The view from the top was great and will get better as spring kicks in.

There is a olive oil festival held in December.

At the bottom of the town is the impressive Church of our Lady of Charity. It was built between 1589 and 1603 thanks to the Bishop of Pienza, Francesco Piccolomini. It boasts the only Spanish Baroque facade in Tuscany.

The light was in completely the wrong position for a good photo. It was closed so I can’t show you the inside.

Seggiano

Seggiano

We were a little disappointed with our visit to these 3 towns. They looked much better from a distance than they did up close. I realise that we were early in the season and spring is late coming this year, but the towns were unremarkable and a bit charmless.

The medieval parts of the towns are virtually empty, which is sad. Many people seem too have abandoned the old houses and moved to newer ones nearby with easier access to transport and shops.

I would suggest visiting if there is a local festival when the streets might come alive, or at least in summer when perhaps there will be more people about.

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 4, 2018

Back to the hot springs

We enjoyed our time at the hot springs in Saturnia in southern Tuscany last year so we went back and stayed a bit longer.

We stayed again at Le Cascatelle, the excellent B&B close to the springs. We would stay there for the breakfast alone. http://lecascatelle.it

Spring is late arriving this year and the days have been quite cold. The water gushes out of the hillside at 37 degrees, so once you get into the pools all is fine.

Our first visit to the springs was late afternoon. It was a week day, so it wasn’t too crowded.

Saturnia

 

We went back early in the morning and had the place almost to ourselves.

Saturnia

Saturnia

Saturnia

Saturnia

Saturnia

Saturnia

If you position yourself under the running water you get an excellent massage.

Saturnia

We were back in the afternoon for another warm bath.

Saturnia

Saturnia

Last year we spotted some interesting hilltop towns on the way to Saturnia so we decided to stay a bit longer to explore them. This met with mixed success…more to come.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 1, 2018

Castiglione d’Orcia

Castiglione d’Orcia is a medieval hilltop town in the Val d’Orcia 40 kilometres south east of Siena. It is first mentioned as a settlement in 714 when it was a possession of the Aldobrandeschi family.

In 1252 the town became a free comune, but lost its independence in the following century to the Republic of Siena and was under the control of the powerful Piccolomini and Salimbeni families. Later it became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and from 1861 part of unified Italy.

It boasts a stunning castle, the 13th century Rocco Tentennano, which was the centre of the struggle between the Salimbeni and the Republic of Siena. It is the first thing you notice as you approach Castiglione d’Orcia.

Castiglione d'Orcia

Castiglione d'Orcia

There were few people about the day we wandered through the medieval streets. The town is well preserved, but there were few signs of life. The ruins of another castle are above the town.

Castiglione d'Orcia

Castiglione d'Orcia

 

Castiglione d'Orcia

There are some lovely views of the valley below.

Castiglione d'Orcia

Castiglione d'Orcia

The Piazza il Vecchiata seems to be the heart of the town.

Castiglione d'Orcia

Castiglione d'Orcia

In the newer part of town were a few shops and an impressive fountain.

We were delighted to find a Trattoria open. Il Cassero is in Piazza Cesare Battista. The terrace was not open, but is was cosy inside on a cool spring day.

Castiglione d'Orcia

The owner was keen to chat and told us that very few people now live in the old town, but it comes alive in the summer when home owners return for a few weeks. The houses are full and the streets busy with residents and tourists.

We had a delicious lunch of handmade pici and strips of pork in sambuca.

Here is a last look at the castle as we left the town.

It is certainly worth calling into Castiglione d’Orcia for a short visit. You can climb up to the castle and I hope the Trattoria is open for you.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 30, 2018

Let the race begin

Crowds gather early to get a seat for the Palio dei Somari, the donkey race. With all the pomp and pageantry it is easy to forget that the donkey race is the reason for the event.

We took our place in the stands and tried to keep warm in the freezing wind that refused to go away. The sun appeared from behind clouds occasionally, but the wind made sure the temperature stayed low.

Palio dei Somari 2018

The costumed participants marched in to loud cheers.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Then the donkeys arrived.

Palio dei Somari 2018

A group of children stepped onto the stage and the draw for the donkeys was held. Each donkey was allotted to a team and the coloured rosettes were attached.

Palio dei Somari 2018

One donkey decided it might be lunch.

Palio dei Somari 2018

The heats began. Two donkeys and their riders had to run 3 times around the course.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Donkeys don’t always do as they are expected. They stop if they feel like it, turn around and go inthe opposite direction or throw their rider off. It all makes for a fun spectacle.

Palio dei Somari 2018

After the heats the winners of the best tamburini (drummers) and sbandieratori (flag throwers) were announced. We think that last year’s winners were on the stage to present the awards for this year. It was not always easy to follow everything as the sound was not good and my Italian is not good enough to catch everything.

Palio dei Somari 2018

There was great excitement when the winners of the flag throwing were announced. The green team won. The young woman who was part of the team was thrilled.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Then there was another race with all of the donkeys. After 3 false starts they were off and running.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

I have no idea who won. Somehow it doesn’t really matter, just being there and being part of the event is fun.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 28, 2018

Before the race

The Palio dei Somari in Torrita di Siena began in 1966. A group of local people wanted to create a festival to celebrate Saint Joseph, the patron Saint of carpenters, as woodwork was, and still is, a common activity in the town.

The town is divided into 8 contrade (districts). Each one competes for a painted symbol of victory, called Palio. The race is preceded by a parade of more than 100 characters wearing 15th century costumes.

It is a wonderful spectacle.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Once the parade has wound its way through town the participants take a break for lunch before they all meet again for the big event.

Last year I was in town for the whole weekend and saw the events on Saturday night and Sunday morning as well.

It is brilliant, take a look…Sbandieratori, Tamburini and more

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 25, 2018

Faces at the Palio dei Somari

I have been again to the Palio dei Somari in Torrita di Siena. It is a donkey Palio. I came 2 years ago and loved it, so I came back, this time just the day of the race.

I have taken lots of photos and will show you more in the next few posts. I will start with some of the interesting faces at the Palio. Some are familiar from last time.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somar 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

 

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Some of the people have changed teams and colours, but the show was just as spectacular as last time…see Faces at the Palio

 

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