The Wonders of Rome Part 2

Piazza Navona is a beautiful Piazza in Rome, some would say, including us, the most beautiful.



It occupies the site of the Stadium of Domitiam which was built in the first century AD.  It now follows the form of the open part of the stadium.

It’s area is bigger than the Colloseum and it was originally used for festivals and sporting events.




The Piazza Navona is situated in the historic centre of Rome, west of the Pantheon. It is one of Romes liveliest squares with many artists and outdoor cafes.



Piazza Navona today sits metres above the original stadium level and at the northern end you can see some of the remains of the original buildings.  We often hear about the Romans just building on top of the other buildings and hence there are so many excavations around Rome which are still bringing new discoveries.




Piazza Navona is a classic example of Baroque Roman architecture. In the centre of the Piazza stands the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiume or Fountain of Four Rivers (1651) by Bernini. The four rivers depicted through the four statues at the base are the Nile, Danube, Ganges and Rio Della Plata. The base of the rock supports an Obelisk.  This Fontana has just been renovated and was covered with boarding when we first arrived in April, but the boarding was taken down in early June when restoration work was completed.




The two other fountains are the Fontana di Nettuno (Neptunes fountain) at the northern end and Fontana del Moro (Moor fountain) at the southern end.


The fontana del Nettuno was built in 1576 by Giacomo della Porta. The statue, Neptune surrounded by sea nymphs was added in the 19th century.




Giacomo della Porta also built the Fontana del Moro. The central statue of a moor holding a dolphin, a design by Bernini, was added in the 17th century. The tritons are 19th century additions.




Another highlight on the square is the Church of Sant’Agnes in Agone. It was commissioned in 1652 by Pope Innocent X and completed in 1670. according to legend it was built on the site where St. Agnes was stripped naked and only saved from disgrace by her extraordinary growth of hair. The front facade of the baroque church was designed by Borromini, Bernini’s main rival.



So dear firends as we leave this wonderful Piazza Navona……


baci e abbraci a tutti


Carolyna e Alan


The wonders of Rome (part 1)

The Wonders of Rome – Part One

Rome is an amazing city. It blends antiquity with modern superbly.
We have decided to “blog” some of our travels within this beautiful and historic city over the next few months.
The first takes us to an area near the Roman Forum known as Trajan’s Markets. Thought to be the world’s oldest shopping mall this area was only rediscovered in the late 1920’s and re-opened to the public about three years ago. It is superbly maintained and in great condition for a structure almost two thousand years old.
Love the cobble stone streets. Rough on the chariots but okay in your Roman sandals.
The complex, mostly of brick was built around 100-110 AD for Emporer Trajan.
The structure was built in a semi circular form over three levels. The facade is made of brick.
On the ground  and second floor are a series of small tabernae (shops) with wall frescoes and floor mosaics. The shops and the area in front of them would have been a hive of activity with produce such as oils, wine, seafood, fruit and vegetables being sold.
The upper levels consisted of “office style” administrative and government areas.
And as always, in places of such historical interest, you always come across the tourists.
Well must go now…more walking to do in this wonderful city.
Amore e baci a tutti.
Carolyna e Alan.

Our top places to see and visit in and around Rome

After living in Rome for one year, many people ask us for our “Top 10” things to do and see in Rome.
Well, Rome is such a wonderful and diverse city we could go on and on with suggestions.
So here is our Top 10 – they are in no particular order but reflect the places we love in Rome.
We have not included some of the obvious major attractions such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and The Vatican to focus on some (possibly) lesser known places but much loved by us.

1. Monti.

The first is a little Piazza in Monti where in Primavera or summer you can enjoy the locals and the balmy sunset on this intimate Piazza. You can buy you drinks at the local bar or deli and have them near the fountain with the rest of the cosmopolitan Romans.
Off the beaten track but close to the centre of Rome and in the middle of a wonderful eclectic suburb of Monti. This Piazza  is Madonna de Monti just off Via dei Serpenti  – it is always busy with locals meeting friends and having a drink or …. just reading a book.  It is also surrounded by many local restaurants where you can enjoy a drink and a wonderful local Italian meal.
It is so easy to blend in and just feel like you belong to Rome!
Not far from the Piazza  are these amazing hanging vines in Via Panisperna.

2. Piazza delle Pace

This is one of the oldest piazzas in Rome. It is one of the most perfect examples of Baroque art and architecture. It means square of peace. Pope Sixtus IV chose the name “della pace” in anticipation of the peace he wished to restore in Italy.
Piazza Delle Pace. Great spot just to relax and enjoy the Romans and tourists casually walking by.
Le raggazze together for a coffee
3. Piazza San Lorenzo
This triangular piazza is one of Rome’s elegant meeting places. The name comes from the 4th century chapel constructed here on the residence of a Christian matron named Lucina. Her private chapel became a church in the 5th century when Sixtus III was Pope but it was completely reconstructed in the 12th century by Pope Pascal.
Piazza San Lorenzo from our favourite people watching bar and restaurant Ciampini. Great for aperitivi and people viewing!  Many of the business people in Rome meet there for apperitivi!
Christmas in Piazza San Lorenzo
4. Borghese Gardens
Our favourite park Borghese gardens near the centre of Rome. It is the second larget park in Rome and has the famous Villa Borghese which houses works by Bernini, Raphael and Caravaggio.
Any time of year is wonderful in this ancient area. Here we are in Winter.
Beautiful lake with ducks, turtles and ancient monuments.
19th century Temple of Aescolapius
Looking up to the park from Piazza del Popolo at Christmas time.
5. Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna
The Spanish steps were built in 1725. They go up from Piazza di Spagna to Piazza Trinita dei Monti. They were so named after the Spanish Embassy which was built in Piazza di Spagna in 1646.
The Spanish Steps are a set of steps in Rome, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. They are reputed to be the widest staircase in Europe.  In Spring the steps are full of wonderful spring flowers as well as many tourists enjoying the Spring sunshine!
“The steps” on a quiet winters night with the famous water fountain in the foreground. Popular as a source of water for tourists during the warmer months.
There is always something happening at “the steps”. Here we have a free open air concert.
The three tenors from another concert.
6. Ostia Antica
One of our favourites places and well worth the short train trip is Ostia Antica. If you like the Roman Forum you will love this.
Ostia Antica is a large archeological site, close to the modern suburb of Ostia (Rome), which was the location of the harbour city of ancient Rome.  It is approximately 30 km to the northeast. of the city. “Ostia” in Latin means “mouth”. At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome’s seaport, but, due to silting and a drop in sea level, the site now lies 3 km from the sea. The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.
Ostia was founded by Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome, in the 7th century BC. The oldest archaeological remains so far discovered date back to the 4th century BC. The most ancient buildings currently visible are from the 3rd century BC, notably the Castrum (military camp); of a slightly later date is the Capitolium (temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva).
Ostia grew to 50,000 inhabitants in the 2nd century, reaching a peak of some 75,000 inhabitants in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD
Some of the areas are so well maintained they give you a  real sense of life in Roman days.
Getting to Ostia Antica from downtown Rome is easy — it’s a 45 minute combination metro/train ride to Ostia Antica. From Rome, take Metro line B to the Piramide stop. The Piramide Metro stop is also the Roma Porta San Paolo train station, so the train tracks are just a few steps from the Metro tracks — follow signs to Lido. All trains depart in the direction of Lido, leave every 15 minutes, and stop at Ostia Antica along the way.

Leaving the train station in Ostia Antica, cross the road via the blue sky-bridge and walk straight down Via della Stazione di Ostia Antica, continuing straight until you reach the parking lot. The entrance is to your left.

7. Vittorio Emanuele Monument

The Victor Emanuele monument to commemorate the unification of Italy in the 19th century is built of white marble, and features stairways, corinthium columns, fountains, an equestrian sculpture of Victor Emanuele and two statues of the goddessVictoria riding on a quadrigas (chariot drawn by four horses).
Many people know of the monument but we would highly recommend taking the lift to the top of the monument for the best views of Rome.  Here is the Italian flag outside the monument.
The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emanuele II) or Altare della Patria (Altar of the Motherland) or “Il Vittoriano” is a monument built to honour Victor Emanuele, the first king of a unified Italy. It occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill.
The view along Via Del Corso from the top of the monument is amazing. It is a 360 degrees view with other views including…..
The Roman Forum…
The Colosseum…
and church domes
8. Villa d’Este and Tivoli Gardens
The Villa d’Este is situated at Tivoli, near Rome.
Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, it is a great example of Renaissance architecture and the Italian Renaissance garden. Here we are near the amazing “hundred fountains”
From 1550 until his death in 1572, when the villa was nearing completion, Cardinal d’Este created a palatial setting surrounded by a spectacular terraced garden in the late-Renaissance style, which took advantage of the dramatic slope to bring a sufficient water supply, which was employed in cascades, water tanks, troughs and pools, water jets and fountains. The result is one of the series of great 17th century villas with water-play structures in the hills surrounding the Roman Campagna.
This is a must see and is easily accessible from Rome. When you go also visit Hadrian’s Villa. You will not be disappointed.
Most tourists do the Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa as a day trip from Rome. By car, take the S5 out of Rome to Tivoli. The Villa d’Este is on the western side of town.
You can get a train on the Roma-Pescara Line from Rome’s Tiburtina station to Tivoli. It takes about a half hour. Then you’ll hop a shuttle bus to the town center and Villa d’Este.
Blue Cotral buses leave the terminal at Rome’s Ponte Mammolo stop on Metro line found for Tivoli every 15 minutes. It takes about an hour. There’s a shuttle bus service from Tivoli main square to Hadrian’s Villa.

9. Pantheon

The Pantheon is a building in Rome, commissioned by Marcus as a temple to the gods of ancient Rome and rebuilt by Emporor Hadrian in about 126 AD.
Since the Renaissance the Pantheon has been used as a tomb. Among those buried here are the painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, the composer Arcangelo Corelli, and the architect Baldassare Peruzzi. In the 15th century, the Pantheon was adorned with paintings: The best-known is the Annunciation by Melozzo da Forli. Architects, like Brunelleschi, who used the Pantheon as help when designing the  Cathedral of Florence’s dome, looked to the Pantheon as inspiration for their works.
The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered, concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft). It is one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs” but informally known as “Santa Maria Rotonda.” The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.
10. Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is a city square in Rome. It is on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. The ancient Romans came there to watch the agones (“games”), and hence it was known as ‘Circus Agonalis’ (competition arena). It is believed that over time the name changed to ‘in agone’ to ‘navone’ and eventually to ‘navona’.
It features important sculptural and architectural creations: in the center stands the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, topped by the Obelisk of Domitian, brought here in pieces from the Circus of Maxentius
During its history, the piazza has hosted theatrical events and other ephemeral activities. From 1652 until 1866, when the festival was suppressed, it was flooded on every Saturday and Sunday in August in elaborate celebrations of the Pamphilj family. The pavement level was raised in the 19th century and the market was moved again in 1869 to the nearby Campo de’ Fiori. A Christmas market is held in the piazza.
Sant’Agnese in Agone is a seventeenth century Baroque church in Rome, Italy. It faces onto the Piazza Navona, one of the main urban spaces in the historic centre of the city and the site where the Early Christian Saint Agnes was martyred in the ancient Stadium of Domitian.

The rebuilding of the church was begun in 1652 at the instigation of Pope Innocent X whose family palace, the Palazzo Pamphili, faced onto the piazza and was adjacent to the site of the new church. The church was to be effectively a family chapel annexed to their residence (for example, an opening was formed in the drum of the dome so the family could participate in the religious services from their palace).
A number of architects were involved in the construction of the church, including Girolamo Rainaldi and his son Carlo Rainaldi, and two of the foremost Baroque architects of the day; Francesco Borromini and the sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini

The Piazza Navona has two additional fountains: at the southern end is the Fontana del Moro with a basin and four Tritons sculpted by Giacomo della Porta (1575) to which, in 1673, Bernini added a statue of a Moor, or African, wrestling with a dolphin, and at the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune (1574) created by Giacomo della Porta. The statue of Neptune in the northern fountain, the work of Antonio Della Bitta, was added in 1878 to make that fountain more symmetrical with La Fontana del Moro in the south.
Well, we hope you can one day enjoy our top ten in Rome. Let us know what your top 10 is!
Carolyna e Alan

Montalcino Restaurant – Boccon di Vino

If you want a genuine family restaurant, steeped in tradition with wonderful Tuscan food then Boccon di Vino just outside the town of Montalcino is it.
The views are the best I have seen from a restaurant overlooking the beautiful Tuscan Valley of Val D’Orcia
The menu is typical Tuscan with favourites including Pinci and Cinghiale
We went there on a balmy Friday night in July
The setting is just fabulous for the romantic couple or the larger groups
It has a fabulous wine list with classic Brunello from current and early vintages. Here is the page with the father of Brunello, Biondi Santi
We selected a San Polo 2007 which was expertly opened and served
And of course not forgetting the food which was very good. We especially appreciated the aged pecorino with the Brunello
So ciao from Montalcino and Toscana
Carolyna e Alan

Monte Oliveto – Tuscan abbey

A wonderful abbey in the Crete Sinesi area not far from Buonconvento near Montalcino is Monte Oliveto. A working Abbey it is full of amazing Frescoes of the life of Saint Benedict.
The entrance to the grounds of the abbey. The Abbey of Monte Oliveto (Mount of Olives) Maggiore is a large Benedictine monastery about 30 minutes north east of Montalcino.  Over the entrance arch is a terracotta depicting Madonna with child and two angels attributed to the Della Robbia family, as well as the St. Benedict Blessing nearby.
Saint Benedict blessing all arrivals from the other side of the entrance. The abbey was built in the 14th century and is perched on the crest of a hill. It opened in 1320
Walking down toward the abbey from the entrance. It is surrounded by extensive lands which are used for agriculture and viticulture.
At the end of the descent is the bell tower, in Romanesque – Gothic style, and the apse of the church, which has a Gothic façade.
On entering the abbey you come to the Chiostro Grande (“Great Cloister”). It is designed on a rectangular plan and was realized between 1426 and 1443.  Under the vaults of the cloister are frescoes of the Life of St. Benedict painted by Luca Signorelli and Il Sodoma, considered amongst the most important Renaissance artworks in Italy.
The frescoes disposition follows St. Gregory’s account of Benedict’s life. Signorelli’s paintings were executed in 1497-98, while Sodoma’s date to 1505 afterwards.
As a working abbey it has the neccessities of life. Here is the dining room ready for lunch
The ceiling of the dining room with amazing frescoes
For washing hands at the entrance to the dining room.
Amazing frescoes on the wall of the dining room.
The library, which has a basilica plan with a nave and two aisles divided by columns with Corinthian capitals (1518). Nearby is the Monastic Library, housing some 40,000 volumes. From the library is the access to the Pharmacy, housing, in 17th century vases, a collection of medicinal herbs.
A monk preparing the tables for lunch
The grand square inside the abbey
Inside the church adjoining the abbey
One of the many alters of the church
From the Abbey leading down into the wine cellars
Fine wine maturing in large oak barrels
Monte Oliveto is a must see in Southern Tuscany. It is in amazing condition.
Alan e Carolyna

Verona – una bella citta

Verona is certainly a magical city with many fine architectural buildings and beautiful piazzas.
We went there with our friends Alberto and Barbara who are local Veronese.
“Children” playing in Mantova (near Verona) at the Palazzo Te. Mantova is the city that Romeo was banished to.
Alberto, Alan and Carolyna in a lovely park in Mantova
The old Roman wall encircling Verona.
The beautiful main square of Verona
One of many classical buildings in Verona
Magistrates office where court was held in Verona
Another Piazza with a statue of Dante who spent considerable time in Verona
The old Roman bridge spanning the river Adige in Verona.
The Roman Colloseum in Verona where open air operas are held
The Allegrini wine estate just outside Verona
One of the rooms of the estate
A warm welcome by the General Manager
Our gracious hosts Alberto and Barbara
Baci a tutti
Carolyna e Alan