Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Spectacular 'Carnevale' in Foiano della Chiana, Tuscany

The annual Carnevale in the Tuscan town of Foiano della Chiana is purported to be the oldest in Italy, dating from 1539; the year Henry VIII married his 4th wife Anne of Cleves. The town's speciality is the construction of gigantic moving floats; as tall as the buildings in the historical town centre through which they pass, with only inches to spare on either side. Each year the 4 Cantieri of the town compete to create the most outlandish float. The floats are judged by a jury, composed by a sculptor, a painter, a journalist, a scenographer and an art critic. The Cantiere that made the most voted float wins the "Coppa del Carnevale" (Carnival Cup); this year's honour went to Cantiere Azzurri. The wine flows, much porchetta is sold and the streets are filled with 'coriandoli' (confetti). Aside from the main float competition, there are other fancy dress prizes up for grabs, and many people dress up just for fun, especially children.

Here are some images of this year's last day of Carnevale on March the 9th. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Pope’s summer residence opens to the public

Pope Francis has announced that from this month the gardens of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo will be open to the public. The rarely used castle and surrounding  55 hectare estate are situated in the Alban hills about 20 miles from Rome and include ornamental gardens, terraces with sea views, the remains of an imperial Roman villa and a small farm that supplies the Vatican with milk and butter as well as eggs, honey, and olives.

Then tradition of this summer refuge from the heat and chaos of Roma was initiated by Pope Clement VII in the 16th century when he seized the castle and grounds from the Savelli family in lieu of unpaid debts. Pope Benedict XVI also used to spend his summers there as well as a brief period of time just after he stepped down from the papacy in 2013. Pope Francis however has indicated that he would rather work on his campaign and remain in Rome than continue the tradition.

The spectacular view of lake Albano from the property has inspired many artists including Corot and Turner and there a numerous stunning religious works of art within the complex and a fountain by Bernini graces the piazza facing the apostolic palace.

The gardens will be open every morning from Monday to Saturday with tickets costing 26 euro each. Guided visits in a variety of languages can be booked through the website of the Vatican Museums.