Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Aeolian Islands: unique, beautiful and still undiscovered

Stunning cobalt sea, windswept mountains and a charming film about a postman go some way to explaining why the Aeolians (Isole Eolie) are the European Holy Grail for island-lovers. The seven islands of Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Alicudi and Filicudi are part of a huge 200km volcanic ridge and lie between the smoking stack of Mt Etna and the threatening mass of Vesuvius above Naples. Collectively, the islands exhibit a unique range of volcanic characteristics, which earned them a place on Unesco’s World Heritage list in 2000.

On the routes of the mythical Ausonians and Cnydian sailors north-east of the Sicilian coast, whipped by a salty wind, the Aeolian archipelago spreads out, like a fan, its seven enchanted isles which, because of their explosive volcanic nature, are sisters of the Hawaiian islands, the pearls of the Pacific. The Aeolian islands, starting in remote times, were colonised by Neolithic peoples interested in exploiting obsidian, an insuperable material for making carving tools. Between the sixteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C., the islands became an important commercial stage on the metal way, and in particular on the tin route, which from the British Isles went down to the orient, passing through the Straits of Messina. Later, in the Roman epoch, the archipelago prospered with the sulphur, alum and salt trade, which however gradually declined, until the islands were abandoned. This was due to further eruptions and also to the fact that the Second Nicea Council designated them a dwelling of the devil and a place of physical manifestations of this disturbing presence. Then in the Norman epoch the islands were gradually re-peopled and started a new season of splendours, taking on what is more or less their physiognomy now.

Panarea, situated on the Cala Junca cliff, Capo Milazzese, conserves intact the vestiges of a culture which here went on from 1440 to 1270 B.C., giving rise to a settlement of major archaeological interest. Inhabitants of Panarea are called "panarioti". They live in the main three centers such as: Pietro, Drauto, Ditella. The scenery, characterized by flourishing mediterranean vegetation, is rich in thermal springs and hydrothermal vent, in the sea marvellous and suggestive rocks emerge among them we remember: Basiluzzo, Dattilo, Lisca Nera and Lisca Bianca, Bottaro, Spinazzola and Formiche.

As you approach Lipari, it appears lively and picturesque, dominated by the rock on which the ancient town stands; it has always been the heart of the archipelago. In its museum, which is one of the most interesting in the Mediterranean, there are countless vestiges of the history of the island and the successive stratifications, as in a gigantic palimpsest of a period of 5000 years of  civilisation perfectly legible in the open diggings among the imposing walls with bastions.

On Lipari a volcanological tour is an absolute must, amid flows of obsidian and white expanses of pumice,  materials with the same chemical composition, differing only in their state: the former glassy, spongy the other one, because of the sudden reduction of temperature in the magma in the final phase of eruptions. Between Canneto and Acquacalda, two nice maritime boroughs not yet ruined by mass tourism, along the sea, in the direction of Punta Castagna, lies the spectacular obsidian flow of the Rocce Rosse (Red Rocks). Between the Pomiciazzo gorge and Lami, a lunar  landscape heralds in the now inactive crater of Monte Chirica, beyond which the soft cliffs of Campobianco go down to the sea and into the crystalline waters off the Porticello beach. Likewise unrivalled are the panoramas that one can enjoy from the Quattrocchi heights towards the monumental Perciato cliffs, to the sides of which there are the picturesque "needles", beyond which the gaseous and sulphurous fumes of Vulcano rise. But Lipari is not only this. It is also in the old part of the town, a nice salon from the Umberto period with windows and balconies as delicate as lace, from which multicoloured cascades of geraniums and delicate carnations descend. An island for all tastes, with shady gardens scented with jasmine and basil, sunny terraces facing the sea, where gastronomic hospitality is perpetuated with its own physiognomy and traditions.

On Salina one must not fail to visit Monte Porri and Monte Fossa delle Felci. On the latter, at almost 1000 metres above sea level, the ancient crater has been colonised by gigantic aquiline ferns which are added to the luxuriant vegetation of Salina, conferring on the latter an almost tropical look. Not far away, Filicudi and Alicudi, between which the soaring spire of the Canna rock stand out against the horizon. Both distant from the din of mass tourism, they offer scope for abandon and meditation, which are unthinkable at the noisy latitude of our civilisation. Near Canna, sea beds rich in sponges and coral offer unexpected sights for those who love underwater photography. Another highly fascinating sight in the archipelago is the basalt rocks of Basiluzzo, Dattilo and Lisca Bianca facing Panarea, with which, as Strabo tells us, they once formed a single island, Evonimos, which a cataclysm split into the present ones. Monumental solitudes characterise this group of rocks near which, from imposing mouths of submerged hydrothermal vent, gurgling bubbles of gaseous vapours rise, which, in ancient times, were the scenario of probable worship of Hephaestus.

Every year, during the first weekend of June,Salina plays host to a gastronomic gathering in honour of the humble caper. A whole festival dedicated to a small green bud might sound a little eccentric, but for the Italian “slow food” enthusiasts the wild caper symbolises all they most cherish in quality ingredients: it is organic, it is a local speciality and it is best eaten in season and enjoyed in situ. The hour-and-a-half pilgrimage by boat from Sicily adds to the appeal for the slow foodies and the fact that Salina produces the best capers in the world clinches the excuse for a celebration.
Naturally, the “slow food” festivities cannot be hurried so for three days leading up to the main event – La Festa del Cappero in Fiore (caper flower party) – there are wine tastings, degustation dinners and even a boat tour around the island in pursuit of other locally produced goodies.
Each of these events is open to visitors and together provide the perfect way to get an authentic and concentrated taste of the greenest of the Aeolian Islands.

Stromboli rises out of the water with the dry symmetry of its shapes perennially crowned by eruptive fumes. Its impervious Ginostra harbour is the smallest one in the world, while, beyond the fire zone, where moaning and hissing the lava touches the sea, the villages of Piscità, Ficogrande and Scari, open up, airy and white, gathered around the white mass of the San Vincenzo church. Beyond the very black glassy beach,  where there are reeds rising from the abysses of the Tyrrhenian, raises Strombolicchio, the primeval duct of the volcano, a fanciful natural sculpture in which fire, water and wind have left their eternal impress.

Vulcano still appears like a relict of the world's prehistory, perennially fuming amid lava flows and mud bubbling with gas. The eruptive mouth rises to a height of 386 metres, where the big crater, which you can get to without too much difficulty and peril, raises its crest which dominates the western and eastern harbours, the Valley of Monsters and the profiles, gradually further and further away, of the other islands. Well worth a visit are the alum grottoes and the sulphur mines, where in the Bourbon epoch a population of damned people lived forced to extract the precious mineral. On the coast, in the north-western part of the island, there is the imposing Cavallo (horse) grotto, along the wild and half-deserted shore which slopes gently down to the sea with the black Gelso beaches over which there is an euphorbia scrub and twisted prickly pear plants. Places to visit: an hour excursion to the Gran Cratere through a path that climbs up to 400 m. where a breathtaking landscape can be admired. What is more there are even thermal waters of porto di Levante, the grotta del Cavallo or dellì'Eremita, the scoglio delle Sirene with its fine black sand and the valle dei Mostri of Vulcanello.

Alicudi, the youngest of Aeolian islands, is one of the less explored islands. It has a small number of inhabitants and does not have carriage roads. Its west side is rich in steep slopes which make it difficult to cross, while the east side is charcterized by terraces. The Falco della Regina a small island that represent an oasis of peace, out of crowded tourist circuits, offers different accomodations such as: hotels, room for rent, bed & breakfast.This beautiful small island can be admired from Alicudi.
Filicudi this small and remote island of Aeolian, is an ideal destination for a peaceful holiday, for tourists who want to leave behind the chaos of big city life. The island is charcterized by the presence of the mountain Fossa delle Felci (773 m.). Its inhabitants (almost 200 people) live in Filicudi porto and Vallechiesa, these areas are composed by houses with thick white walls that make an excellent contrast with the blue coloured sea. The island is charcterized by two types of accomodations such as: room for rent and hotels.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer in Rome: what to see and do

Legend holds that Romulus and Remus founded  Rome in 753 B.C. — the mythical image of the two brothers suckled by the she-wolf, other than the Colosseum, has become the iconographic symbol for the Capital. Yet what has truly made Rome the legendary city that it is its history: the epicenter of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empires hub for political and cultural life. The areas making up theWorld Heritage Site contains 25,000 environmental and archaeological points of interest, among which the Imperiai Forum certainlу stands out.  Not far, close to Aventine Hill, we find two master works: the Terme di Caracalla and the Circus Maximus.

Discover the ancient Rome and its legends from the ebook LEGENDARY ROME edited by Lighthouse publisher, here are some gems from the ebook ...

Mythical Roman 'She-Wolf' CaveThe Eternal City's creation myth was sacred to ancient Romans, and the cave where a wolf was said to have nursed the twins was a place of worship.
Archaeologists have uncovered the legendary grotto in which Rome's founders were said to have been nursed by a "she-wolf." It's a cave, 52 feet below the Palatine Hill and decorated with seashells, mosaics, and pumice stones is likely that very memorial to the city's founders.

Roman Forum: The Legend of Castor and Pollux
The Temple is dedicated to the mythic twin brothers, Castor and Pollux, also known as the Dioscuri, who demonstrate the favor the gods had toward the Roman Empire.According to legend while the Romans were fighting the Latins, two men more valiant than mortal men appeared in battle in front of the Roman commander, Postumuis. These gallant warriors lead the Roman cavalry into battle, and with their spears, drove the Latins into retreat. Back in Rome, at the same time, two men appeared at a fountain near the Temple of Vesta looking exhausted yet victorious with their sweating horses. The Roman crowd gathered around to hear news of the army, but the men did not speak a word and left the city never to be seen again. It was later decided the two men appearing at battle and in the forum were the Doiscuri twins Castor and Pollux. To honor the two immortal heroes a Temple was built near the fountain at which they stood in the Forum.

Il Colosseo (Colosseum)
Properly called the Amphitheatrum Flavium (Flavian amphitheatre), the building was later known as the Colosseum not because it was big, but because of a gold-plated colossal statue, now lost, that stood alongside. The arena was about 500 metres (a third of a mile) in circumference, could seat over 50,000 people - some scholars estimate capacity crowds numbered as many as 87,000 - and could be filled or emptied in ten minutes through a network of vomitoria (exits) that remains the basic model for stadium design today.

Circus Maximus
The oldest and largest of Rome's ancient arenas, the Circus Maximus hosted chariot races from at least the fourth century BC. It was rebuilt by Julius Caesar to hold as many as 300,000 people. Races involved up to 12 rigs of four horses each; the first charioteer to complete the seven treacherous, sabotage-ridden laps around the spina (ridge in the centre) won a hefty monetary prize and the adoration of the populace. 

The most stunning landmarks in Rome presented as you have never seen them before!

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Exhibitions and events

Rock in Roma - May 29 - July 29
The 2013 edition of this massive rock festival at Rome’s Capanelle race course brings international artists such as the Arctic Monkeys, Bruce Springsteen, Mark Knopfler, Blur, Deep Purple, The Killers, Neil Young and Green Day.

Helmut Newton/Art of New York - until July 21
The Palazzo delle Esposizioni gallery has two shows running simultanerously until July 21: Empire State, Art in New York Today shows works by 25 artists working in and interacting with the Big Apple; Helmut Newton – White Women/Sleepless Nights/Big News contains 200 of the German photographer’s classic images.

Estate Romana - June-October
The “Roman Summer” is the umbrella term for the citywide programme of open-air concerts, dance and theatre performances, cinema screenings and other events that animate Rome through the hotter months. Highlights include the Isola del Cinema film festival on the Tiber Island.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Turin a city between past and future

Over the past 100 years or so Turin has rather become Italy's forgotten city. For tourists, it comes a long way down the list behind the magnetic must-see destinations of Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples. For Italians, Turin is still perceived as a kind of "grim up north" metropolis of heavy industry, with its emblematic Fiat factories.

Today Torino is a city of art, a modern and exciting one that looks ahead towards tomorrow. Torino’s future has already begun: the city is capable not only of guaranteeing infrastructures and services to businesses, but a 360° span of proposals that have granted it access to the prestigious Michelin Guide’s classification as a “three-star city” along with Florence, Venice and Rome. This is because Torino offers a quality of life made up of art, culture, gastronomy and art de vivre that can only be found here.  

When in the city what immediately strikes the eye are its surroundings, with imposing Alpine peaks that encircle its skyline. The Piedmontese Capital presents itself as a city with a singular charm: emperors traversed it, kingdoms arose in it, and it was thus that power left its indelible marks on it. A metropolis that regards its past by looking toward the future, with the ambition of a city that, as a tiny village in the Region of Piedmont, became the capital of both a realm and a nation, only to later become a capital of cars and cinema.

During the day, it is possible to go for a walk through the streets or under the 18 kilometres of arcades to admire the store windows of the fashion world’s finest designers or to visit the artisans’ shops or those of artists. Without omitting  the pleasure of wandering around through the many markets: from Porta Palazzo, Europe’s largest outdoor market, to Balon, the famous flea market that features antique goods. There are many other markets to be visited, from neighbourhood markets to those that present typical gastronomic products.

When the time comes for a break, there are many time-honoured cafés to choose from that are a part of Torino’s customs and culture. The decision is whether to choose a classy caffè or a funky bar. Traditionalists will tell you not to miss the celebrated Belle Epoque Caffè Platti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 72, ), but a more fun time is to had at the lively student haunt Pasticceria Abrate (Via Po 10), or the terminally hip La Drogheria (Piazza Vittorio Veneto 18), whose DJ has everyone dancing even before the official aperitivo hour is over. If you find the buffet is not enough to fill you up, head for fashionable trattoria Pastis (Piazza Emanuele Filiberto 9b, +39 011 521 1085) or, for a traditional Piemontese meal, try the Tre Galline (Via Bellezia 37, +39 011 436 6553).


New projects will offer the citizens of the “city with the most beautiful natural location” (as Le Corbusier once said) an environment that is even more immaculate. Even distinguished philosophers like Rousseau and Nietzsche agreed with the great architect Le Corbusier that Torino could be defined as one of the most fascinating of cities. These projects plan upon recuperating banks of the rivers and transforming them into a single river park that measures 70 kilometres in length with a 17 million square metre surface.
They were referring to the extraordinary backdrop of the Alps, the rolling hills so close to the centre of the city, the Po  and other rivers – Dora Riparia, Stura and Sangone – that flow through the region’s capital as well as the 18 million square metres of greenery and 300 kilometres of tree-lined streets that make this city one of the world’s wealthiest from an environmental viewpoint.

A heritage that is fully enjoyed by residents – who love to spend their free time outdoors – and embellished by great public projects such as the new river park along the Dora that is redelivering an immense green area dotted with well-equipped areas, bicycle routes, pedestrian and play areas to its citizens.

Walks and hikes in the Parco della Collina Torinese (Park of the Hills of Torino) – made up of Bosco del Vaj (Vaj woods), Collina di Superga (Superga hill) as well as the hills of il Colle della Maddalena and Cavoretto -  offer the capital an opportunity and a heritage of inestimable natural wealth. The Parco del Meisino (Meisino park) is a naturalistic oasis in which one of Europe’s most important colonies of grey herons live in an urban environment. A visit to the historic Giardini Reali (royal gardens), a canoe ride along the waters of the Po river, a jog through the Parco del Valentino (Valentino park) up to the Italia 61 park, a bike ride along the many bicycle routes immersed in green are all a must-see for anyone living in Torino or discovering it.

The best way for discovering the many facets of Turin is..

Is to go on a tour of the city's historical centre taking in the museums and foundations that reconstruct its history and reveal its artistic and cultural treasures. This includes Europe's largest collection of archaeological finds at the Egyptian Museum, or the more recent history of the 'seventh art' brilliantly presented at the National Museum of Cinema, the exceptional treasure of ancient art held in Palazzo Madama, and then of course, Palazzo Reale, the powerhouse behind Italy's very first capital.
Turin is also a vital point of reference for contemporary art: works and installations produced over the last thirty years by internationally famous artists are placed for all to see in the open air or on display at the country's most important Museum of Contemporary Art within the 17th century Castle of Rivoli.

The mainly baroque art of the many places of worship in the town's centre blends with the spirituality to be found therein: the Sanctuary of the Consolata and the Sanctuary of Maria Ausiliatrice are a couple of Turin's best loved churches. Other places that are a must are the Duomo where there will be held the Ostension of the Holy Shroud in the spring, the twin churches in Piazza San Carlo, and the Church of San Lorenzo with its famous dome by Guarini or the Basilica of Superga which, as well as holding the tombs of the Savoy family, also offers a breathtaking view of the city and mountains. Lastly, just a stone's throw from the city centre, palaces, castles and fortresses dominate the hills, plains and mountains of the province of Turin. These are of inestimable value and some of the most outstanding are the Royal Residences, a legacy of exceptional cultural and environmental interest, leading to their denomination as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

The mainly baroque art of the many places of worship in the town's centre blends with the spirituality to be found therein: the Sanctuary of the Consolata and the Sanctuary of Maria Ausiliatrice are a couple of Turin's best loved churches. Other places that are a must are the Duomo where there will be held the Ostension of the Holy Shroud in the spring, the twin churches in Piazza San Carlo, and the Church of San Lorenzo with its famous dome by Guarini or the Basilica of Superga which, as well as holding the tombs of the Savoy family, also offers a breathtaking view of the city and mountains. Lastly, just a stone's throw from the city centre, palaces, castles and fortresses dominate the hills, plains and mountains of the province of Turin. These are of inestimable value and some of the most outstanding are the Royal Residences, a legacy of exceptional cultural and environmental interest, leading to their denomination as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.