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Bergamo; some sights, typical food and a trip to a castle.

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Bergamo is a city situated around 40 kilometers northeast of Milan. It is divided into two parts; the upper town (Città Alta) and the lower town (Città Bassa).

The upper town is the old core of Bergamo; the lower town is the modern part of this city.

On this post I will tell you something about the upper town.

You can easily go to Bergamo from various countries by air. In fact there is an airport nearby. It is located near a village named Orio al Serio.

This airport has only a terminal. It is used mostly by various low cost air companies as Ryanair, Wind Jet and Wizz Air. Inside there are several shops, a pharmacy, two banks and a tourist office.

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It is possible to go the the upper town from the lower town in Bergamo by bus or by funicular. The funicular has two cars. Each has a capacity of 50 people (seated and standing). Its first run was in 1887. This funicular was restored in 1921, in 1963-64 and in 1988. It runs from 7 a. m. to 12 p. m. every day. It departs from the station in viale Vittorio Emanuele. It takes around half an hour to go to the funicular station from the train station by foot, but you can go there by bus as well.

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The upper town is surrounded by around six kilometers of walls. These already existed at Roman times. They were rebuilt during the Middle Ages. From 1561 to 1588 these were reconstructed by the Venetians. They demolished 250 buildings to build them; including some churches and convents. The walls were built in order to face enemies attacks, but never underwent any siege.

Take a walk around these old walls to enjoy great views over the countryside and the lower city.

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Piazza Vecchia is the main square in the upper town. It is surrounded by various old buildings. One of these is Palazzo della Ragione that was built during the second half of the XII century and rebuilt in the 1500' s. It is connected by a bridge and a staircase to the Palazzo del Podestà . This was the seat of the chief magistrate, or governor who ruled Bergamo from the 16th until the end of the 18th century. It was built between XII and XIII centuries. On the north east side of the square stands the Palazzo Nuovo, or Biblioteca Angelo Mai; the civic library. Its construction began at the beginning XVII century and was finished in 1958.

There are some restaurants and cafes in this square.

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Torre Civica (the civic tower) is also called the "Campanone" because it has a very large bell inside. Large bell could be translated as "campanone". This sounds 180 times at 10 p. m. every evening to signal the old curfew when the gates of Bergamo were about to close. This tower was probably built between the XI and the XII centuries.

I don' t think it is worth to climb around 250 stairs to get to the top of this tower to enjoy the landscape. There are other places in Bergamo from where you can see a nice one.

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Piazza Duomo is a small square at the back of piazza Vecchia. It is surrounded by some religious buildings as the cathedral (duomo), dedicated to saint Alessandro. It was built on a pre existing church probably constructed in the VI century. It was rebuilt in 1449; at the end of 1600 and in the 1800.

Near the cathedral there is the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. It was built in 1137 as a vow to the Virgin after the plague in 1135 on the site of a church dating around VIII century. The interior was modified between the 16th and the 17th centuries in Baroque style. It contains the tomb of the composer Gaetano Donizetti, a Baroque confession chair built at the beginning of 1700 and several Florentine and Flemish tapestries made in the 1500-1600.

Joined to the Basilica is the Cappella Colleoni. Bartolomeo Colleoni was a soldier and leader who fought for Venice to maintain the Venetian stronghold on the city. This mausoleum was ordered to be built for himself and his daughter Medea between 1472 and 1476. The sacristy of the basilica of santa Maria Maggiore was demolished to build this chapel.

Opposite the cathedral you can see the baptistery. It is an octagonal building dating from 1340. Originally it was located inside the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

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The basilica Santa Maria Maggiore. The main entrance.

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Part of a tapestry inside the basilica.

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The Baroque confession chair.

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The bishop hall (Aula della Curia) is a 12th century judgement hall.

Not many people know about this place. I was on a guided tour of the Città Alta and our guide took us there. It is located to the left of the Colleoni chapel. You have to climb a flight of stairs to get there.

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This large hall has five rows of 13th century frescoes depicting biblical scenes and other works. There are scenes as the last supper, Jesus washing the feet of an apostle. Kiss of Judas and so on.

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The Tempietto di Santa Croce. This small church dates to the first half of the XI century. I have read it is decorated with frescoes inside.

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You can spot some beautiful door knockers in the Città Alta.

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If you have some time to spend you could visit the Museo Donizettiano. This nice museum is dedicated to Gaetano Donizetti. He was a very famous music composer. Gaetano was born on november 29th 1797 and died in 1848. He composed about seventy operas in thirty years.

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This museum occupies two rooms in a fourteenth - sixteenth century palace; the Palazzo della Misericordia Maggiore. Here you can see many things belonged to this composer; his piano, several portraits and various documents There are also the bed he died in and a chair he used to sit in when he was severely ill.

I am not a opera lover or an expert on this matter, but I enjoyed this museum.

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La Rocca. This fortress was built between 1331 and 1336. It is located on a hill, which was believed to have been the Roman capitol. Its original building was constructed by the Celts from the IV century A. D. The medieval building was begun in 1331 by John of Louxembourg and completed by Azzone Visconti (lord of Milan from 1329 to 1339) in 1336. Through the centuries this building has undergone various enlargements. Inside the fortress there is the nineteenth-century section of the historical museum of the city.

A memorial park dedicated to the first world war fallen surrounds the fortress. There you can see lots of monuments , a small tank and some cannons.

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La Rocca is a good place to enjoy the views over the upper, the lower city and other areas.

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One of the churches I liked much in Bergamo was the curch of San Michele al pozzo bianco. It was originally built in the VIII century; rebuilt around the XII and the XIII centuries and restored in the 1400' s. It is named al pozzo bianco probably because there was a well made from white marble nearby. Pozzo bianco means "white well" in Italian.

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Inside you can see several frescoes painted in the 1400 and 1500. There is also a cycle of frescoes made by Lorenzo Lotto; in the chapel of the Madonna. This church has a crypt with frescoes as well.

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There are some typical sweets and food in Bergamo which are worth a try.

Polenta e osei is a typical cake of Bergamo. It is the sweet version of polenta (mashed corn) with small birds. This cake is sold in various confectionery shopes and bakeries in Bergamo.

This good dessert is made with sponge cake, chocolate and hazelnuts creams, butter and some rum. It is covered with a layer of yellow marzipan and sprinkled with yellow cristallized sugar. The small birds that you see on top of this cake are made with marzipan covered with chocolate.

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Casoncelli alla bergamasca are a kind of ravioli (stuffed pasta) filled with with a mixture of bread crumbs, egg, cheese, ground beef, salami or sausage, spinach, raisins, amaretto biscuits, pear and garlic. These are served with melted butter flavoured with sage leaves and sprinkled with grated Grana Padano cheese and chopped cooked bacon. This first course is believed to have originated in the countryside outside Bergamo where they were created as a way of using up left overs.

You can find casoncelli, also called "casunsei" in many restaurants in Bergamo.

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The Donizetti cake is a ring shaped cake created by Alessandro Balzer (see Balzer confectionery in upper Bergamo) in 1948 to commemorate hundred years from the death of the musical composer Donizetti. It is a simple cake sprinkled with castor sugar. You can buy it at various bakeries and confectioneries in Bergamo.

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It is difficult for me not to go inside the Tresoldi bakery when I visit Bergamo. This small bakery is a good place to buy good pastries and also pizza by the slice. My favourite treats there are small pastries with fruit.

Tresoldi bakery is located in via Colleoni; the upper town main street.

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Sweet Irene is one of my favourite cafe restaurant in Bergamo. It is located in the lower area of Bergamo. It is made of two rooms. One of these is downstairs. It is a kind of cellar.

Here you can have food as quiches and sandwiches, but you can choose your meal from the menu of the day as well.

At this cafe they have a good selection of pastries and cakes.

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Vox is a good place to visit at the so-called happy hour. This is a period of time, usually from 5.30 p. m. to 9 p. m. when you can have a drink (alcoholic or non alcoholic) accompanied with various nibbles (chips, olives and more). At happy hour time you can help yourself with the food you see on the plates on the counter. Vox is also a restaurant. It is located in the Lower Town.

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Here you see a beautiful statue dedicated to Donizetti. You can find it in the lower area of Bergamo.

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I had a pleasant visit to the castle in Grumello del Monte with a group of VT members (I was a member of Virtual Tourist...www.virtualtourist.com).

Grumello del Monte is some 18 km east of Bergamo. I went there by train.

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Probably this castle was originally built around the X century. It also was owned by Bartolomeo Colleoni in 1400. It was turned into a mansion in the XVIII century.

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There is not much to see inside the castle. Only some rooms, a chapel, the ex stable and part of a tower are opened to visitors. So who likes to visit a castle with lots of beautifully decorated rooms could be disappointed. You have to book if you like to visit the castle.

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A presentation of several kinds of wines was included in the tour. We could sample various kinds of wines accompanied with cold cuts and cheeses. I think this was the best part of the visit. The owners of the castle run a winery. There is a shop at the castle. Here you can buy wines and some souvenirs.

If you will stay more than three or four days in Bergamo you can do several day trips for here. For instance you could go to the Como and Iseo lakes, to Milan and to several other places.

Posted by Maurizioagos 11:47 Archived in Italy Tagged italy del bergamo grumello lombardy. monte. Comments (6)

The castle of Torrechiara.

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I visited this castle in 2017.

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The castle of Torrechiara is located on a hill in Torrechiara; a hamlet which is part of Langhirano; a village some 18 kilometers from Parma.

It was built between 1448 and 1460 on a older fortress by count Pier Maria de Rossi II ; a military leader. The castle had a defensive purpose, but it was built as a mansion for the count' s lover Bianca Pellegrini.

There are lots of rooms to visit inside this castle. All of these have frescoes well preserved despite of their age.

There is even a kitchen and a chapel into the castle; Saint Nicomedes oratory.

Some scenes of the 1985 movie Ladyhawke were shot at this castle.

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The Golden Room is the main sight into this castle. Its name derives from the golden leaves that decorated the tiles on the walls long ago. It was used as bed room and studio for Pier Maria de Rossi.

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Here you see another spot of the Golden Room.

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In this picture you see part of the Victory Room.

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This picture was taken into the Sunset Room. This was one of my favourite ones. In this room you see hunting scenes and various birds flying.

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This picture was probably taken into the Room of the Angels.

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There are some legends about this castle.

They say you can see Pier Maria' s ghost wandering at full moon nights saying "nunc et semper" (now and forever). These words are probably related to his his relationship with Bianca.

Another legend says a ghost of a woman walks at night and kisses every man she meets.

You can go to Langhirano by bus from Parma. Once you are in the village you have to walk up a very long road. The visit to this castle is worth the effort.

Posted by Maurizioagos 10:27 Archived in Italy Tagged italy castle parma langhirano Comments (2)

Modena.

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Modena is a pleasant town some 40 kilometers far from Bologna.

I have visited it twice; as a day trip from Ferrara. I went to Modena by train.

The center of Modena is not far from the train station.

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The Giardino Ducale is probably the first sights you can visit coming from the train station.

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This beautiful garden was created in the late '500 and modified in the ' 800. In 1739 it was opened to the public. Here you can see a lake, various plants and a playground area. Joined to this garden there is a botanical garden. It was created in 1758 by the duke Francesco III to grow rare plants and also medicinal ones.

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Inside this garden there is a nice building: the Palazzina del giardino Estense. It was built around 1632 and 1634 for the duke Francesco d' Este. Today it is used for art exibitions.

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Piazza Grande is Modena' s main square. It was created in the second half of the XII century. It is bordered by the cathedral, by the the town hall and by the bishop' s palace. It is paved with rounded cobblestones.

Here you won' t miss a big red stone. The Pedra Ringadora. It probably was part of an ancient Roman building. In the Middle Ages it was used as a stage for the speakers, but even as a stone of shame.

It was also used to display dead bodies for the identification.

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La Bonissima is a nice small statue of a woman which dates to the 1268. There are various stories about it.

They say it could represent a generous noble woman who gave food to poor people in a famine period.

Another story is that La Bonissima should represent honesty at commerce. Bonissima comes from " bona esma" i. e. fair mesure. In old times this statue held a scale and was located on pedestal where various units of measure were written.

You can see La Bonissima on the municipal palace (the town hall) between via Castellano and piazza Grande.

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The cathedral of Modena (duomo) was built from 1099 and completed between 1100 and 1300. This church stands on the site where two previous churches had been built since the fifth century.

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It was built by the architect Lanfranco on the site of the grave of Saint Geminiano.

From the end of 1100 to 1300 the works of this church were carried on by the so-called Maestri Campionesi. They were architects who came from Campione; in the Lombardy region.

The bell tower joined to the cathedral is named Ghirlandina. It is 86 meters tall. I think you can climb it to its top.

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Inside the cathedral there is a crypt. Here you can see the sarcophagus of Saint Geminiano and lots of nice carved columns.

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The town hall is made from various palaces joined together and restored between the 16th and the 17th centuries. These palaces were originally built from the XII century.

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Inside the town hall there are some rooms open to visitors.

Here is a short summary; the Camerino dei Confirmati. This room was painted in 1770. Another room is the Sala del Fuoco. It is decorated with frescoes dated to 1546.

The Sala del Consiglio Vecchio has a ceiling painted at the beginning of the 1600.

Another interesting room is the Sala degli Arazzi. Its walls are decorated with 18th century paintings on tapestry like canvases. Another room you can visit is the Sala dei Matrimoni; the wedding hall.

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The Mercato Albinelli is a quite large covered market. It was built in the 20' s of the 1900 in Liberty style.

Here you can find a large selection of fruits and vegetables stalls.

There are also several meat and fish stalls and some bakeries as well. Here you can find several typical Modenese pastries. This market is a good place to buy various typical products of the Emilia Romanga region; as cheeses, cold cuts and ravioli (filled dumplings).

There is even a kind of pharmacy into the market.

You can have a lunch inside this market. There are some eateries inside.

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This market is open usually every morning except on sundays. It is not far from the main square.

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The Palazzo dei Musei is a very large palace which its original destination would be to become a hostel for the poors. Ercole II decided to turn it into a place for arts in 1788. This was meant as a school where young people would be educated to learn various crafts.

This palace houses several museums, as a museum of Medieval and modern art, an archaeological and ethnological one. Some of them are closed in the afternoon. One of these that is open until late in the evening is the Galleria Estense. This is an art collection belonged to the Este family. It is made of lots of paintings, some statues and other beautiful masterpieces. I liked very much this museum.

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Palazzo Ducale was built from 1634 on the site of an earlier castle. It was used as the court of the Este family until 1861. Today it is occupied by the military accademy.

You can visit it inside on guided visits some saturdays and sundays. You have to book your visit at the IAT office in piazza Grande, 14. Tel.059 2032660.

Inside you will visit the Salone d' Onore with 1696 frescoes and the 18th century Salottino d' Oro.

I haven' t visited this palace yet, but I am going to do it next time I visit Modena.

Posted by Maurizioagos 23:44 Archived in Italy Tagged italy modena emilia romagna. Comments (0)

Malcesine.

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Malcesine is a beautiful lake side resort situated on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. It is some 60 kilometers far from Verona.

It has a beautiful old core made of a maze of narrow cobbled lanes and stone houses.

Malcesine has a good choice of accomodations, restaurants, cafes and shops. It is a very popular summer holiday resort.

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I suppose this should be one of the narrowest street in the world. Vicolo Picalof.

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Here you see another picture of this narrow lane.

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A stone house with a balcony. I like this spot.

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Close up of the balcony.

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A house with a coat of arms on its facade.

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The castle is the main sight in Malcesine. Its name is Castello Scaligero. It was probably built by the Lombards around 500 A. C. on a previous fortress. In 590 it was destroyed by the Franks. They rebuilt it in 806.

It was occupied by the della Scala family from 1277 to 1378. Later, the Visconti family from Milan and the Republic of Venice hold it. Then it was in the hands of the French and the Austrians. During the period of the Austrian rule, which ended in 1866 major renovations work took place inside.

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Today the castle houses a museum of natural history; a room dedicated to the German writer Goethe and his visit to Malcesine in 1786. Some areas of the castle are used for various entertainments and for temporary exibitions.

The castle has a tower. You can climb it to its top and enjoy a beautiful landscape over the town.

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Part of the castle from afar.

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In this picture you see part of the harbour. It is surrounded by a good number of cafes and restaurants. From the harbour you can take a boat to other resort on the lake as Limone or Riva del Garda.

Posted by Maurizioagos 10:55 Archived in Italy Tagged lake italy garda malcesine garda. Comments (2)

A couple of places I visited in Vicenza some days ago.

A visit to a pilgrimage site and to a beautiful mansion.

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Some days ago I did a day trip to Vicenza with a group. This is a very active group of retired people. I joined it mostly in order to be allowed to participate to their trips.

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We visited two interesting places in Vicenza. The Basilica on Monte Berico and the Villa Valmarana ai Nani.

The Monte Berico basilica has been a pilgrimage site since a long time. It originated following a couple of apparition of the Madonna on this spot.

According to the legend; the Virgin appeared on Monte Berico to a woman to announce that Vicenza would have been spared from the plague if a church dedicated to her would have been built there.

Then a church was built in 1428. It was enlarged by Palladio in 1578, but this addition was destroyed in 1688. Between 1688 and 1703 it was enlarged again. This is the church we see today. The original church is still there. It was incorporated inside the "new" building.

This church is richly decorated inside. There are several paintings by famous painters. You surely won' t miss an ancient statue of the Virgin; built in stone. It was sculpted around 1428. It is on the main altar.

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Opposite the church's eastern facade you see a very large square; piazzale della Vittoria. You can enjoy a beautiful landscape over Vicenza from there.

After our visit to che church we had a long stroll to a mansion. Villa Valmarana ai Nani (dwarves).

According to a legend the mansion was named "ai nani" beacause the owners daughter was a midget, so they decided to hire some dwarves in order not to feel her different form the other people.

One day the girl met a prince and she realized to be different from the other people. Then the girl threw herself from the house and died. The dwarves were then transformed into statues.

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The first buliding of this mansion was completed in 1670. In 1720, the property (the mansion, the foresteria (a building to house guests), the barn and the garden) was sold to the Valmarana brothers.

Both the mansion and the foresteria were decorated with frescoes in 1757 by two famous Italian painters; Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo; father and son.

Most of the frescoes are well preserved as you can see from my pictures. I have read they were taken off the walls to avoid the wars damages.

Our visit begun into the mansion also called "Palazzina". Inside it was decorated with frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo (the father). They depict scenes from the Iliad, the Aeneid, the Orlando Furioso, the Jerusalem Delivered and from the Ifigenia' s Sacrifice.

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The foresteria was decorated with frescoes by Giandomenico Tiepolo (the son) except those you see in the Olimpus Room. Here the frescoes have themes as the country life, the holidays, Chinese things and so on.

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I think this picture was taken into the Holidays Room.

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Part of the Chinese Room.

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Here you see another bit of the Chinese Room.

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There is a room with some beautiful troemp l'oeil frescoes inside the foresteria. I like very much this kind of painting.

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In this picture you see can part of the group after the visit and the warves.

Posted by Maurizioagos 09:42 Archived in Italy Tagged italy vicenza tiepolo. Comments (5)

Spello and Gubbio.

sunny

On this post you can read some other notes about my holiday in Umbria. I hope you have read my previous entries about Perugia, Assisi and lake Trasimeno.

I will let you see some pics about two day trips I took.

I visited Spello and Gubbio.

Spello is a hill top village some 10 km far from Assisi. I went there by train from that town.

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Spello is famous for the Infiorata. This event is held every year; usually at the beginning of june. During the infiorata days, people create large tapestries made of flowers and part of these.

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Il Melograno is a very beautiful small shop. It is crammed with nice things. Here you can find home decorations, useful items, potteries and toys. This is the right place to look for some souvenirs to take home. It is a pity I only took this pic of this shop.

Il Melograno (see; www.ilmelogranospello.com) is situated in via Garibaldi at number 16. I think via Garibaldi is Spello main street.

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One of Spello main sight is surely the Baglioni Chapel. It is part of santa Maria Maggiore church. This chapel was painted in 1501 by Pinturicchio (the painter Bernardino di Betto (1454 - 1513). It is practically a cycle of frescoes about the stories of Mary and Jesus' childhood.

It is not allowed to take pics inside the chapel, but I did it while the chapel' s attendant was busy chatting with some ladies. I took some pics with no flash and what you see here are the best (decent) pics I was able to take.

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Gubbio.

Gubbio is a hill top top located some 40 km north - east of Perugia. It is a quite large town.

I went to Gubbio from Perugia by coach. The journey took around one hour.

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You can get a fool licence if you visit Gubbio. To do this you have to go to largo del Bargello (the small square you see in this picture); then turn around the fountain for three times in the presence of a Gubbio' s citizen. Then he/she will have to request the licence for you. You will have to pay some euros for it.

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Piazza Grande is Gubbio main square. Here you can see a beautiful and tall palace. This is the Palazzo dei Consoli. It was built between 1321 and 1322. Inside this palace an art museum is housed.

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Here is another pictures of Palazzo dei Consoli.

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Bar Caffè Ducale or Don Matteo' s bar is a good place to have a budget lunch. This cafe, which is part of a luxury hotel was used ( and probably it will be used again) as a location for the Italian television movie serie; Don Matteo.

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I didn' t visit any museums or church when I was in Gubbio, but I exlored this town quite well.

Posted by Maurizioagos 23:51 Archived in Italy Tagged italy umbria il spello gubbio melograno Comments (4)

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