Postcards from Italy
Italy has a unique collection of geographic and cultural aspects that historically have not been always considered as a coherent nation. This is probably the reason why we have been battling each other, since the beginning of time, and can hardly express a sense of cultural unity, apart when we are under external threats, militarily or for sporting events.
A splendid example of Italian beauty is the timeless fascination exerted by Venice and its golden age on the millions of visitors who wander around its tiny streets and the canals of this unique city. Even if I have been in Venice several times times, each time it is an amazing discovery of hidden corners and aspects I had not noticed before. This is a place I can come to endless times and always feel a sense of novelty, combined with connection and belonging. As a matter of fact my family originates from the Republic of Venice, when their reach extended also to Apulia and they needed to have a permanent resident governor to represent the interests of the Most Serene Republic there.
Rome today is the result of so many different layers of architecture and culture that produce an unique place where the history of Europe has been forged for centuries. Power and beauty are transpiring everywhere you walk and visitors cannot escape the sense that this was a commanding place but also a pleasant city for people to enjoy. The Fountain of Trevi, banged in the middle of the city, is a typical example of the spirit of an urban architecture that was built to impress and entertain its population
The legendary beauty of Naples and its surrounding area is summarised in a very old Italian saying, Vedi Napoli e poi muori – See Naples and then die. Very few cities in Europe can indeed compete with the natural attractiveness of the gulf of Naples, combined with the architectural picturesqueness of what was once the cultural capital of Europe. These days some of the original splendour May have vanished or been tarnished but the signs of a great place to enjoy are all still there and worth the ultimate visit before one dies.
Apulia is a beautiful region to visit and discover, even for someone who was born and lived there and could suffer from the banality of being exposed to inspiring places on a daily basis. Often you can find something interesting to explore, even in the most ordinary places. All it takes is a little effort of curiosity and open-mindedness. Recently, I have embarked on short excursions to explore interesting places in the vicinity of the towns where I lived as a teenager, to appreciate their history and beauty and bring them to the attention of other potential travelers. In this sense, these scattered travel notes want to generate some interest in the most hidden places of beauty in Apulia, starting with some urban spots along the central coast around the main city of Bari and two smaller towns further south, Mola di Bari and Monopoli.
The passion of Italians for food and cooking is well known, probably because in Italian popular culture, eating well is not only a response to a fundamental need, but an essential element to enjoy life and socialize. The variety of food and cuisines along the peninsula is also the reflection of centuries of refined elaboration with ingredients and preparations originated from all over the world. This culture stock has been harmoniously assimilated into the unique interpretation of tastes and flavors that we now call Italian cuisine. Apulia is no exception to this passion for food. The variety of fresh ingredients available all year round, from vegetables to cheeses and an abundance of locally sourced fish and meat, is a guarantee of success on every table. All these delicious preparations can be enjoyed with homemade recipes or in the many restaurants that continue and develop the great Apulian tradition for good food.
Calabria is a region to visit and discover little by little, to grasp its most characteristic and intriguing aspects. I prefer to travel to a place when there are no large tourist flows, to get a more real perception of its ordinary pace of life. Recently, I went there for a couple of weeks in October, definitely out of season for a seaside place, but still very enjoyable with summer-like temperatures and a scarce tourist presence. Even a very attractive place like Tropea did not have a lot of traffic, despite a pleasant blues festival with musical groups scattered through the streets of the old village.
Calabria has been a focal point of Mediterranean culture since the time of Magna Graecia, well before ancient Roman times. As evidence of this great culture we can enjoy the important architectural remains that still dot the territory today and the artworks collected in the National Museum of Magna Grecia in Reggio Calabria. Jewel of the crown of the museum, and now a symbol of Calabria, the two full-figure bronzes found in the waters of Riace in 1972. Bronzes of excellent and very rare Greek workmanship from the 5th century BC that have sparked a myriad of hypotheses on their origin, on the identity of the sculptors and the characters depicted. Simply identified as Statue A (the youngest) and Statue B (the oldest) the two statues have now taken on their own specific identifying personality thanks to their exquisite workmanship. Their undeniable charm is a great attraction for a visit to the Museum and the center of Reggio, rebuilt with elegance after the devastating earthquake of 1908.
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