A unique architectural curiosity found only in the Italian city of Florence are tiny decorated openings on the outside walls of many sumptuous palaces. They are about the size of a cat door, but are located below the level of the waist. The openings are blocked by a wooden or iron door, and many doors have knockers.
For many centuries, a surreptitious trade of wine was conducted through these tiny windows. A customer looking to buy wine would knock on the door, whereupon the cellarman or porter appointed by the owner of the house would open the door from the inside. The customer would slip a few coins into the hands of the cellarman, and in return, he would hand the customer a flask of wine.… Read the rest
The story of King Arthur and his legendary sword Excalibur which he pulled out of a rock to prove his divine right to the throne is well known. But what is fiction to the British, is fact for Italians—for in a Tuscan abbey in Montesiepi, is a sword plunged into solid rock.
The sword, of which only the hilt and a few inches of the blade is visible, is now preserved at the abbey of San Galgano in the town of Montesiepi, 30 km from Siena. Legend has it, that the sword was driven into the rock by Galgano Guidotti, a 12th-century Tuscan nobleman, who after seeing a vision of the Archangel, renounced his life of violence and lust in favor of a pious hermitage, and … Read the rest
Portico di San Luca: Photo credit: Stefano Carnevali/Shutterstock.com
Atop a forested hill, some 300 meters above the city of Bologna, stands the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, a 12th century Roman Catholic church. You can drive all the way up to the hill, but you can also walk through a specially constructed corridor. This covered monumental roofed arcade consists of 666 arches and stretches for 3.8 km making it the longest portico in the world.
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In the west of Naples, Italy, is a large volcanic area called Phlegraean Fields filled with craters of old, extinguished volcanoes. Lying mostly underwater, the area is still volcanically active as evidenced by the numerous boiling pools of mud and fumaroles from which copious amount of steam can be seen rising at any time of day or night.
Centuries ago, travellers who could afford to travel came to Naples to see the famous volcano that buried the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under magma and ash. They also made a visit to Phlegraean Fields, where tour guides took them to a small cave called “Cave of Dogs”, or Grotta del Cane, for a gruesome little experiment.
A guide shows a suffocated dog to two … Read the rest
The relics of Saint Valentine.
That’s right, there really was a flesh-and-blood Italian behind the kitsch holiday we’ve got today, and he went by the name of Saint Valentine. Unfortunately for Valentine, however, the day-turned-holiday marked his tragic end, as the martyr was clubbed to death in Rome on February 14th, 269 AD.… Read the rest
Up on the steep hillside of the Maritime Alps near the Italian Riviera, halfway between Genoa and Nice, lies the ancient medieval village of Colletta di Castelbianco. It’s just a bunch of old stone houses with red-tiled roofs and baby blue windows bordered in white. But hidden behind these mediaeval façades lie a high tech secret—every home has fiber broadband Internet connection and satellite TV, and the village has a sophisticated business center with teleconferencing, fax, and audio-visual equipment.
Photo credit: Gregwilkins/Wikimedia
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Everybody in Florence knows where Galileo Galilei lies buried. His mortal remains are in a crypt inside the famous Basilica di Santa Croce, the principal Franciscan church of the city. The 16th century scientist shares this space with several of his illustrious fellow Italians, such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli, the poet Foscolo, the philosopher Gentile and the composer Rossini.
When Galileo died in 1642, the Grand Duke of Tuscany wanted to bury him in this very place next to the tombs of his father and other ancestors. But because Galileo was declared a heretic, an enemy of the church, the plans were dropped and he was instead buried in a small room next to the novices' chapel.
Galileo's missing finger, found at last. Photo credit: artscatter.com
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I was in Italy this past week and a half, so I got to miss out on all the freezing cold. I was in Florence, looking at museums and stuff. It was okay. Being in a town with thousand-year-old buildings was the best part.
I like traveling, except for the actual travelling part. Being in new places is great, but getting there isn’t half the fun – it’s none of the fun.
The trip ended up being quite a lot more banal than I expected, partly because it was off-season and the weather was cloudy and damp (not that I have anything to complain about regarding the weather), but also because Florence seems like a rather dull town. Once I got tired of the museums, which … Read the rest