Royal Palace at Caserta

Caserta’s architecture superintendent announced that the Royal Palace of Caserta, the famed Bourbon landmark, is facing thousands of euros of dept that is putting it in in serious danger of closing it’s royal doors…

Reggia di Caserta ‘risks closure’

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL STORY

Visiting The Royal Palace at Caserta is a great day-trip to take from Casa del Cipresso!  For driving directions from Calitri to Caserta, please CLICK HERE.

Southern Italy Vacation Rental – Would you like to stay at Casa del Cipresso? Please contact us at SouthernItaly@comcast.net or click the “buttons”/links on the top of the page for photos and information about the accommodation.
Giro d'Italia 2009 - Route Map

Giro d'Italia 2009 - Route Map

We were just thrilled to hear that this famous race would be passing so near to Calitri, Avellino, in two of it’s stages this May (Avellino and Benevento stages)!

Giro d’Italia 2009 Race Schedule:

(21 stages and 2 rest days from May 9, 2009 – May 31, 2009)

Saturday May 9
Lido di Venezia, Venice, 20.5 km

Sunday May 10
Jesolo to Trieste, 156 km

Monday May 11
Grado to Valdobbiadene, 200km

Tuesday May 12
Padova to San Martino di Castrozza, 165 km (uphill)

Wednesday May 13
San Martino di Castrozza to Alpe di Siusi, 125 km (uphill)

Thursday May 14
Bressanone to Mayrhofen, 242 km

Friday May 15
Innsbruck to Chiavenna, 244 km

Saturday May 16
Morbegno to Bergamo, 208 km

Sunday May 17
Circuit Race in Milano, 155 km

Monday May 18 – REST DAY Giro d’Italia 2009

Tuesday May 19
Cuneo to Pinerolo, 250 km (uphill)

Wednesday May 20
Torino to Arenzano, 206 km

Thursday May 21
Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore, 61 km (timetrial)

Friday May 22
Lido di Camaiore to Florence, 150 km

Saturday May 23
Campi Bisenzio to Bologna, 174 km

Sunday May 24
Forlie to Faenza, 159 km

Monday May 25 – (uphill)
Pergola to Monte Petrano, 237 km

Tuesday May 26 – REST DAY Giro d’Italia

Wednesday May 27
Chieti to Blockhaus

Thursday May 28
Sulmona to Benevento

Friday May 29
Avellino to Monte Vesuvio, 164 km

Saturday May 30
Naples to Anagni, 203 km

Sunday May 31
Rome, 15.3 km

Southern Italy Vacation Rental – Would you like to stay at Casa del Cipresso for the Avellino or Benevento Stages of the Giro d’Italia? Please contact at SouthernItaly@comcast.net .

www.SouthernItaly.wordpress.com Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved
Venosa Castle at Twilight

Venosa Castle at Twilight

Venusia, or modern day Venosa,  has a surprisingly rich history for somewhere now so off-the beaten path…or certainly not very popular as far as mass-tourism goes anyway.

Venosa was inhabited as far back as prehistoric times (traces of Acheullean and Chellean settlements have been found there).  An Apulian town (now, Venosa is part of Basilicata) in Roman times, it eventually became the largest colony in the Roman world.

Venosa lays claim to quite a few well-known historical figures.  The Roman general, Marcellus was ambushed at Venosa and killed by Hannibal in 208BC.  It was the birthplace of Horace (the famous Roman poet) and of Manfred (the son of Frederick II, King of Sicily).  Venosa was also home to the famous “Prince of Venosa,” Carlo Gesualdo, composer of some of the most well-know choral madrigals from the late Italian Renaissance (and also extremely scandalous murderer of his wife and her lover.)

The fairy-tale, 15th century, Venosa Castle sits in the main piazza – complete with whimsical towers and a moat.  (Of all the Norman castles I’ve seen in Southern Italy, this one is the one that is straight out of the story-books.)  Inside, there has been a modern renovation and it now houses the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (open 9am-7pm) with a nice display of Greek, Roman, and medieval finds from Venosa, and also includes some more unusual finds from Venosa’s ancient Jewish population (you can also visit the adjoining Jewish catacombs) and impressive skeletal remains from homo erectus (300,000 years ago!).

Other interesting sights in Venosa include a 13c fountain and stone carved lions, the supposed tomb of Marcellus, 16c cathedral, and the Museo Briscese, displaying Palaeolithic finds.

Right outside the town of Venosa, stands La Trinita Abbey, a very impressive monastic complex founded by the Benedictines in 1046.  It was originally a Roman temple, then an early Christian church, and finally the Abbey that still stands today.  Inside, it houses what is said to be the tomb of Robert Guiscard and his first wife, along with some beautiful frescoes, including one of Joan I of Naples, and a Pieta said to be by Roberto Oderisus.

Across from La Trinita Abbey, you can wander the ruins of the ancient Roman baths, Roman amphitheatre, and Jewish Catacombs (9am-7pm or an hour before sunset)

Venosa (Basilicata) can be reached in about one hour by car from Calitri and makes for a wonderful historical excursion.

The Castle at Venosa

The Castle at Venosa

Southern Italy Vacation Rental – Would you like to stay at Casa del Cipresso near Venosa? Please contact us at SouthernItaly@comcast.net .

www.SouthernItaly.wordpress.com Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved.

Ornate Ceiling of one of the many San Lorenzo Chaples

We “discovered” this monastery at Padula for the first time this Spring;  we were looking to take a relaxing day trip – one that would be a fairly short (an hour and a half or less) and simple drive from our home in Calitri.

The drive out to the Cliento National Park near Salerno is spectacular – snow-capped mountains and lush greenery.  I think we’d have probably been delighted with just the drive (even though the day we picked was, unfortunately, overcast and not the usual, idyllic, sunny Southern Italy) , but the San Lorenzo monastery was certainly, unexpectedly, impressive and well worth a visit!  (The monastery was opened to the public in 1982 and is now a National Monument and World Heritage Site)

The Certosa di San Lorenzo at Padula in Southern Italy is the second largest Carthusian Monastery in Italy (the largest is in Parma).  Dedicated to St. Lawrence, it was first founded in 1306;  the structure’s history spans over 450 years with the main portions constructed on the Baroque style.  It is huge – 320 rooms and halls – and includes the world’s largest cloister (almost 3 acres surrounded by 84 columns).

According to the very strict Carthusian rules between meditation/prayer and work, there are very distinct spaces within the San Lorenzo complex:  the cloisters, the library (with a Vietri ceramic floor), the ornate chapels, the cloister gardens, and the large kitchen (legend has it that an omelet made of one thousand eggs was once cooked there for a visiting Charles V), the cellars with wine storage, the laundry, and the courtyards, where there were people working at stables, ovens, and an olive oil mill.  the exterior courtyards were worked by the novices, where they traded goods with the outside world.

The San Lorenzo Monastery is also home to the very modern archaeological museum of Western Lucania, where you can see an impressive collection of finds found at the local sites of Sala Consilina and Padula.  (Museum admission is included in the very modest entrance fee to the monastery).

Clcik Here to go to the Official World Heritage Website

Tomato!

“In the local dialect of Avellino, the Campanian province east of Naples, mesali means “tablecloths,” a sign of hospitality. Now, it is also the name of a new association of restaurants sprinkled around the mountains of Irpinia…

Irpinia’s rustic soups, homemade pastas, ricotta, legumes, black truffles, chestnuts, and heirloom fruits and vegetables, along with the area’s three DOCG wines — whites Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino and powerhouse red Taurasi — will have you baaing with pleasure.” — Faith Heller Willinger, Gourmet, January 2007 (Click to Read the Full Article)

The 11 member restuarants of this new gourmet food association in the Avellino Province (Irpinia) can be found at http://www.mesali.org .  I have included some on my “Great Links” page – some do not have websites, but you can find contact details on the Mesali Website. Bon Appetito!

Italy Holiday Rental – Would you like to stay at Casa del Cipresso in Irpinia? Please contact us at SouthernItaly@comcast.net .

www.SouthernItaly.wordpress.com Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved.

Castle del Monte

Castle del Monte -Puglia, Italy

Despite spending quite a bit of time in Italy, I had never been to Pulgia (Apulia); I honestly had no idea what to expect.  We had enjoyed seeing some of the other Norman castles built by Frederick II – Melfi, with it’s modern, top-notch renovation and impressive museum…imposing Lagopesole with it’s falcons still circling…we were excited to take on this famous “Octagonal Castle”.

Driving out of Campania and into Basilicata is really a gentle progression.  There are the same mountains and tress and streams….Hill Towns perched high above the greenery.  Driving from Basilicata into Puglia is an abrupt splash of cold water…well..perhaps, hot water…this was August, after all!  This was an unusually dry season and brush fires a common occurrence – I think it added to the contrast and starkness of Puglia (Apulia).  The landscapes changed – flatlands of amber and brown…here and there an olive grove or a tomato field.  Soon, the vineyards were rolling past…big, fat bunches of grapes hanging down, looking as if they should be snapped up in a photo and places on a wine label.  Had we not been on a highway, I think the temptation to grab a bunch right then and there would have been great.  More olives…and more olives…and more olives (!) I am told that all that brown does turn to green….but it is hard to envision.  Somehow, it makes the castle seem even more present on the approach – a great monument out of the stark dryness of the land.

Castle de Monte, perched up on the hill, jutting out from the flatlands certainly is impressive.  It is symmetrical and perfect and right out of a fairy-tale. 

Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1194-1250) ordered the castle built in the year 1240 A.D.  Unfortunately, Frederick died before the castle was completed.

There is some debate as to the exact use of the castle.  Generally, it is thought from the layout of rooms (and bathrooms!) that it was used as a jail for the most part, and not a residence or fortress. 

Water is always important in the dryness of Puglia – a water collection system was designed on the roof, as well as in the courtyard.  On the interior, running all of the way around the foot of the interior walls, there were channels used to collect condensation; water would trickle down the cool marble.  The channels then directed the collected water. .

Most materials used for the construction were from the local area, with the exception of the highly ornate marble columns that hold up the roof.

When the castle was first built, the walls where surfaced with marble as well.  Over the years the marble fell off of the walls and/or was taken to be used as building material.   Things are still remarkably intact, including some of the enormous fireplaces (four of them).

Castle del Monte - Marble Columns   Castle del Monte - One of the Great fireplaces

Castle del Monte is an architectural gem and certainly lends a majestic authority to the vast lands of Puglia. 

It is an easy and fascinating drive from your home-base in Calitri: Driving Directions from Calitri to Castle del Monte

 

Would you like to stay at Casa del Cipresso (Calitri, Avellino, Southern Italy)? Please contact us at SouthernItaly@comcast.net .

www.SouthernItaly.wordpress.com Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved.

Naples, Southern Italy – Home of the Pizza!

 Pizza!

Who DOESN’T love pizza?  In Naples, Italy (Campania), it is taken to an entirely different level!  This article, from smithsonianmagazine.com, By Dina Modianot-Fox is guaranteed to make you hungry!

The Art of Pizza

Cooking up the world’s most authentic pie in Naples, Italy

By Dina Modianot-Fox

Sitting in Ristorante Umberto, owned by the Di Porzio family for three generations and one of the oldest and most popular pizzerias in Naples, Italy’s southern megalopolis, Massimo Di Porzio talks about pizza as though it were human. “The dough should be moved carefully,” he says, “as if it were a baby.”

You have to understand: Naples is the traditional home of pizza and a place where people take their food seriously. So seriously that they masterminded an Italian law, passed three years ago, specifying what is real Neapolitan pizza—and it bears little resemblance to what we chow down in the United States in record numbers, an estimated 350 slices per second, amounting to a $37-billion blockbuster industry. Credit-card thin at the base with sparse toppings, the Neapolitan version is American pizza on a slimming diet.

But Di Porzio, not only a restaurateur but also an international economics graduate, will not be drawn into a food fight over which version is better, or condemn such U.S. creations as Pizza Hut’s “Stuffed Crust Pizza” or Papa John’s “Hawaiian BBQ Chicken pizza.”

“We are not the pizza police,” he says, reacting to some media description of the law passed in Italy in 2004 and currently being considered by the European Union, giving three pizzas—Marinara (tomato, garlic and oregano), Margherita and Extra Margherita (both with tomato, basil and mozzarella)—the same name protection as fine wine.

“I love all kinds of pizza,” continues the open-minded Di Porzio, who is general manager of Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN)—verace means real—the non-profit organization of pizza-makers, called pizzaioli, that helped write the law. “In New York,” he says, “we found some good pizza, other not so good, but these other pizzas are a different product—not the Neapolitan pizza.”

The Neapolitan pizza, as defined by law, is made from a specific kind of wheat flour and yeast, round, no more than 14 inches in diameter and cooked in a wood-fired oven at temperatures above 905 degrees Fahrenheit. Only top-quality ingredients can be used, including two local delights: plum tomatoes from San Marzano and, for Extra Margherita, mozzarella made from the milk of water buffalo, whose numbers have soared along with the cheese’s popularity.

But since the law went into effect, no one has been hauled into court for not pouring the extra virgin olive oil in a circular pattern starting from the middle, or for mixing the ingredients in a different order than the one prescribed by the painfully detailed regulations. The backers of the law—not all Italian pizzaioli are advocates—insist this is not about punishment but rather information regarding a key aspect of their culture.

Although the flatbread-with-topping idea is generally attributed to the Greeks, for centuries pizza has for been associated with Naples and its long struggle with poverty. Cheap to make and requiring few ingredients, pizza was a staple by the 18th century, sold on city streets and served on ships sailing from the Port of Naples (that’s how Marinara got its name). In the post-World War II era, residents were so poor that many bought pizza on credit, paying for it eight days later—when they got another one. This practice, called oggiaotto, was featured in the 1954 film L’Oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples) and is still honored by some pizzerias.

Naples’ history is replete with pizza legends. A local pizzaiolo is said to have made the first Margherita in 1889, adding mozzarella to the tomatoes and basil to give the pizza, which he reportedly named after a visiting Italian queen, the colors of the Italian flag—red, white and green.

Much more recently, Di Porzio tells of the “the Dean of Pizzaioli,” VPN founder Vincenso Pace, who began making pizzas when he was ten and was so skilled that he altered the proportion of the ingredients according to the weather—for instance, adding more salt it if was hot, less if it was cold.

The VPN has taken the gospel of authentic pizza-making around the world, training locals and certifying restaurants, especially in Japan, where tourists returning from Naples have fueled interest for traditional pizza, and the United States, where the national branch has certified 16 restaurants.

At first, gaining fans for the Neapolitan pizza was “something of an uphill battle,” admits Dino Cardone, marketing director for VPN Americas. But recently, he says, the challenge has been to meet the demand for information, training and certification.

And what does a real Neapolitan pizza taste like? To someone used to American-style pizzas, a little bland in the beginning. But then you start enjoying the freshness of the ingredients and the lightness of the crust—the more you eat it, the better it tastes.

That said, don’t count on having it delivered. The law states that the real thing “should be consumed immediately, straight out of the oven, at the pizzeria. If the pizza is removed from the pizzeria to be eaten later, it can no longer carry the certification of a true Neapolitan pizza.”

Dina Modianot-Fox, a regular Smithsonian.com contributor, recently wrote about “Ancient Rome’s Forgotten Paradise.” Posted July 25, 2007. Updated July 31, 2007

Would you like to stay at Casa del Cipresso? Please contact us at SouthernItaly@comcast.net .