Category Archives: Italy

A to Z of Cathedrals – Q is for a Queue at St Peter’s in Rome.

Apologies but I am cheating again with the letter Q…

We walked past the Castel Sant’Angelo and into the busy square outside the Basilica where a long queue of people snaked forever around the perimeter waiting for their turn to go inside.

We joined the back of it and were pleased to find that it moved quite quickly towards the main doors and soon we were inside the biggest and the widest and the tallest church in the World that has room for sixty-thousand worshippers at one sitting.  It was busy inside but not uncomfortable and we soaked up the information from the guide’s commentary as we passed by chapels with precious holy relics, the tombs of dead Popes and rooms with glass cases full of priceless religious artefacts.

After the tour was finished we paid for an optional extra and took the stairs to the top of the dome which involved an awful lot of stairs and a tight squeeze at the very top but we were rewarded with fantastic views across the city all the way back to the Colosseum.

After a final look around the outside of the Basilica we concluded that we were unlikely to see Pope Paul VI today, most likely because at seventy-nine years old he probably liked a lie down in the afternoon, so we left St Peter’s to return to the coach.

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A to Z of Cathedrals – N is for Naples in Italy

We were staying at a place in an untidy little square situated directly behind the Doumo of Naples so it was easy to squeeze in a visit in between an afternoon on the busy streets and preparing for an evening pizza meal.

The Doumo is a fine building with a grand façade that gleams like polished stone in the sunlight and an impressive interior but it is known most of all for being the repository of the blood of Saint Januarius, the Patron Saint of Naples.

An unusually absurd tale…

Read the full story Here…

A to Z of Cathedrals – M is for Milan

“What a wonder it is!  So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems …a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!…”, Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’

I have made no secret of the fact that I didn’t especially like Milan but I have to say that the Marble Gothic Cathedral is perhaps one of the most sublime and finest that I have ever seen in Italy. In design, more French than Italian perhaps. The location is magnificent with a wide open Piazza to the front and it rises dramatically upwards with spires like needles piecing the sky, each one decorated with a Saint or Apostle at the very top.

It is claimed there are more statues on this cathedral than any other building in the world; there are three thousand, four hundred statues, one hundred and thirty-five gargoyles and seven hundred figures. There are two hundred and forty steps to the top but that did not concern us, we had climbed nearly five hundred in Bologna so we ignored the extra charge for the lift and began the ascent.

Now this was really something really worth doing and well worth the admission charge. My first impression of the roof was that it resembles a petrified forest,  There was a lot of restoration work at the top but this didn’t interfere with the stunning views and the rooftop panorama of the city. We stayed up on the top for quite some time and after two circuits made our way down the steps and into the Cathedral which was equally impressive.

I will tell you two stories…

Above the apse there is a spot marked with a red light bulb. This marks the spot where one of the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion was allegedly placed. Once a year in September the archbishop of Milan ascends to the apex in a wooden basket decorated with angels to retrieve the nail.  The nail is displayed on the altar for three days and then put back again. You do have to wonder why?

Inside the Cathedral is a statue of the Apostle Saint Bartholomew who met an especially grisly end when he was skinned alive. Condemned to death he was flayed and the skin of his body cut into strips,then pulled off leaving his body open and bleeding for a long time, after that he was beheaded and then crucified just to make sure. I am prepared to be challenged on this point but I don’t believe that it would be possible to be skinned alive, I imagine you’d die of shock quite quickly.  The pain must have unimaginable, I know I call for a sticking plaster for just the tiniest of little skin-nicks!

We left the Cathedral and took the dreary walk back to the hotel. I still hadn’t warmed to Milan but the Cathedral helped redeem it a little.

Considering it is such a centre of high fashion, Milan is remarkably devoid of architectural beauty.  Milan is all about making money, it is in the blood and in the history” – Michael Palin, ‘Hemingway Adventures’.

 

 

A to Z of Cathedrals – B is for Bari in Italy

For B I was tempted to go for the obvious choice of Barcelona and either the modern Sagrada Familia or the old town traditional Cathedral.  I decided against that and also what is probably my most favourite of all, Burgos in Northern Spain and chose instead the Cathedral of Saint Sabinus in Bari in Southern Italy.

Saint Nicholas was a fourth century Greek Saint who had a reputation for giving secret gifts, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for our Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, which is itself a  corruption of the transliteration of ‘Saint Nikolaos’.

In 1087, part of the relics (about half of his bones) were stolen from a site in Turkey and relocated in Bari and I am now able to tell my grandchildren that although they think Santa Claus lives at the North Pole I know where he really is.  Bari may not be Florence, Rome,Venice or even Lecce but it does have Father Christmas.

Read The Full Story Here…

If I was staying in the United Kingdom I would have chosen Bury St Edmunds …

 

A to Z of Cathedrals – A is for Alghero in Sardinia

 

I first visited Alghero in Sardinia in 2009, I remember that it rained a lot.  I thought that it might be a good idea to stay dry and visit the Cathedral but sadly it was closed for restoration.

This has happened to me quite regularly I have to say, I am quite  unlucky when it comes to visiting Cathedrals and I very often find scaffolding, men at work and no entry signs.

Eventually the rain eased.  There was a little bar that overlooked the sea and we ordered Italian beer and some sandwiches that when they arrived we had to eat quickly because of the unwanted attention of hundreds of irritating flies that quickly became uninvited guests at our table.  The waiter apologised and explained that this time of year is always bad for these little pests.

It was really warm and we were glad of the seafront location as we sat and watched the activity on the promontory overlooking the sea and we were envious of the unhurried pace of life that the local people seemed to enjoy.  A bit of a walk, a bit of a chat, a bit of a walk, a bit of a chat, a bit of a walk, a bit of a chat and then turn around and do it all over again as they dawdle back in the opposite direction.

We navigated the city and as went peered down slightly shabby narrow streets, disfigured by graffiti, care worn but lived in with brightly colour-washed buildings with ancient coats of paint like fragments of history which have blotched and blurred by a combination of successive harsh summers, equally hard winters and general neglect resulting in a glorious wash resembling water colours running in the rain, everything dripping and running, liquefying and merging, leaking and fusing.

The streets between the houses were like deep gullies made brilliant by vibrant washing lines even after a night of torrential rain strung outside of windows like carnival bunting as though in anticipation of a parade, stretching across the streets dripping indiscriminately and swaying gently backwards and forwards above the secret doorways and back alleys and with realistically today, in view of the weather, only an outside chance of drying out.

Alghero has a Catalan heritage and even today Catalan is recognised as an official language and street names appear in both Catalan and Italian. A good percentage of the population speak this language although being rather isolated from direct Catalan influence over the years the dialect of Alghero today is said to be similar to the language spoken in Catalonia between the middle of the fourteenth and the end of the seventeenth century.  For an Algheran to speak to a Catalan today would be rather like me trying to have a sensible conversation with William Shakespeare.

As if to emphasise this Catalan connection Alghero has four twin towns, Tarragona and Balaguer in Catalonia, Encamp in Andorra (almost Catalonia) and Catalan speaking Palma in Majorca.

We walked along the city walls with the stunning views out to sea and we made note of promising looking restaurants for our evening meal.  We frequently detoured into the labyrinth of streets to explore the town and especially liked a deli bar/restaurant but were shocked by the price of the wine and decided instead to look for a supermarket.

 

Images of Vesuvius

Continuing the editing of the pictures of my visit to Naples I came across these images at an exhibition about the famous volcano…

I added one of my own…

Read the Full Story Here…

 

Streets of Naples

I visited Naples in April 2018.  Recently I was editing my pictures so thought that I might share these images of an exciting and eclectic city that I haven’t used before in my posts…

Top Five Searches 2009- 2021

Always, at this time of the year I spend some time looking at my statistics. This year I have been looking back over twelve years to find my Top Five most searched terms which may or may not have brought people to my posts…

Number 5 – Ponte Veccio – 2,508 search clicks

Florence and the Ponte Vecchio

First posted – February 2010
Total visits – 114
Best Year – 2015, 54 visits
2021 – zero visits

A bit of a mystery this one.  I love the stats but there is something wrong here, 2,508 search clicks but only 114 post visits?   Just another WordPress anomaly perhaps.

Number 4 -Wieliczka Salt Mine – 4586 search clicks

Wieliczka Salt Mine

First posted – April 2010
Total visits – 18,340
Best Year – 2013, 5016 visits
2021 – 46 visits so still nice to get visits to a ten year old post.

Number 3 – Vesuvius – 4858 search clicks

Mount Vesuvius, Living on The Edge of Disaster

First posted – April 2010
Total visits – 18,654
Best Year – 2013, 5016 visits
2021 – 465 visits so the oldest posts with the longest legs.

Number 2 – Moulin Rouge – 7,340 search clicks

Onyx UK and an Inappropriate Visit To The Moulin Rouge

A bit of a surprise this one

First posted – August 2011
Total visits – 6,788
Best Year – 2012, 4427 visits
2021 – 15

Number 1 – Vikings – Way out in front with 20,775 search clicks

Norway, Haugesund and the Vikings

First posted – March 2011
Total visits – 24,710
Best Year – 2012, 14,773 visits
2021 – only 15 visits so well past its sell by date.

A to Z of Statues – Z is for Zeus

And so my A to Z of statues comes to an end.  Z is for a statue of the Roman God Zeus in the Piazza Navona in Rome…

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A to Z of Statues – U is for King Umberto I of Italy

This one was taken in the City of Naples…

Umberto was king of Italy from 1878 – 1900 when he was assassinated by an American/Italian anarchist

This is an interesting but unlikely story about him..

One day he was eating in a restaurant when he noticed the owner was a near-exact physical double. It emerged that both were born on the same day, in the same town, and had married women with the same name. The restaurateur had opened his establishment on the day of Umberto’s coronation. Umberto was shot dead on the day he learned the restaurateur had died in a shooting.  His dad had no doubt been playing away.

Umberto was allegedly an uneducated man which led him to have the unfortunate nickname of Umberto the Simple.

Lots of Kings in history have been given unkind nicknames…

Read The Full Story Here…