Viterbo’s Wonder, La Macchina di Santa Rosa

October 17, 2012

"La macchina di Santa Rosa" is not the "car" of Santa Rosa, nor of anyone for that matter: it's not even a car...but a "construction", to put it in very understated simple terms. Imagine a curvaceous steel, aluminum, fibre glass tower of gold, silver, greens and ochre, nearly thirty meters tall, weighing around 5 tons, illuminated with 1200 LED lights decorated with 900 handmade textile roses, 9 tall and delicate angels - and carried on the backs of over 100 men through dark medieval backstreets lined with "the locals", awaiting with bated breath....and you are JUST beginning to get a sense of the wonder. read more...

Going Underground in Camerano

July 30, 2012

Ah, Italy "the land of the endless discoveries." One never finishes discovering the wonders "above ground" - let alone underground! And sometimes, serendipity leads you to yet another discovery. Gray weather at the seaside last weekend prompted us to head out for some exploration. What wonders we found in a seemingly nondescript Adriatic seaside town, Camerano, whose very name is linked to its suprising labyrinthine maze of subterranean grottoes and tunnels, used by its first inhabitants, the Piceni, in the 9th-c. B.C., our guide, Daniele told us. read more...

Preci’s Curious Fame

July 27, 2012

A friend joined me for the adventure: we took a curvy wooded road into the Valnerina and then up into the Sibiliine mountains in southern Umbria, until we came to tiny Preci (population: about 200). Born as a medieval rural village near a Benedictine oratory (now the Abbey of Sant'Eutizio) time seems to have stood still in Preci. The serenity of this picturesque mountain village of warm Mediterranean colors belies its bellicose past: in the thirteenth century, feudal overlords battled Papal authority for dominance. After decades of conflict, the town was sacked in the early sixteenth century by nearby Norcia and then later rebuilt by Paul III. His mid-sixteenth century reign coincides with the diffusion of the fame of the medical skills of Preci doctors throughout Europe. Preci's sought-after surgeons constructed noble palaces and the town soon became an elegant fortified village. read more...

Running with Fire in Grello

April 20, 2012

Rural youth living near the tiny walled hilltown of Grello (pop. 45) run whenever they can these days. In serious training. But not for a a track meet. They'll be running with fire on the night of June 23rd, vigil of the feast of St. John the Baptist, patron saint of this mountainside castle-village. Rituals in the Baptist's honor intertweave water rites with fire (his feast is at the time of the summer solstice); in fact, fire and water, propitious elements of purification, combine and merge in many late June Umbrian festivities, all rooted in Roman rituals. read more...

In Le Marche, Golden Serpents, Lace Wonders

February 2, 2012

Lost in time are the origins of Offida, medieval hilltown of Le Marche, certainly inhabited in the Bronze Age, later by a local Italic tribe, then finally by the Romans. The town's name might derive from the temple dedicated to the serpent Ophis/Ophite, sacred edifice, where worship took place before a golden snake. Legend relates that the high priest of the temple could miraculously cauterize open wounds and bites by passing his wrist, wrapped with a writhing sacred snake, over the injury. The legend lives on in Offida: il serpente aureo ("golden snake") recurs again and again in place names of the town: after visiting the nineteen-centruy frescoed theater, Teatro Serpente Aureo, we walked down Corso Serpente Aureo to the Ristorante Ophis (ah, that snake again!) read more...

Perugia’s SAN COSTANZO – and a Sweet Wink

January 27, 2012

Perugia is not just proud of its chocolate, Etruscan artifacts and the Umbria Jazz festival: this provincial capital of Umbria also boasts not just one but three patron saints! Legend tells us that one of them, San Costanzo, first bishop, was buried outside of the city's Roman walls after his decapitation in the 3rd century. Celebrations start the night before his feast day, January 29, with the luminaria, the candlelit procession to the Church of San Costanzo, built on the site of his martyrdom. read more...