Monday, August 30, 2010

Welcome to Italy!

Italy is located partly on the European Continent and partly on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe and on the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its northern, Alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within the Italian Peninsula, and Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland. The territory of Italy covers 301,338 km² and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. With 60.2 million inhabitants, it is the sixth most populous country in Europe, and the twenty-third most populous in the world.
The land known as Italy today has been the cradle of European cultures and peoples, such as the Etruscans and the Romans. Italy's capital, Rome, was for centuries the political centre of Western civilisation, as the capital of the Roman Empire. After its decline, Italy would endure numerous invasions by foreign peoples, from Germanic tribes such as the Lombards and Ostrogoths, to the Normans and later, the Byzantines, among others. Centuries later, Italy would become the birthplace of the Renaissance, an immensely fruitful intellectual movement that would prove to be integral in shaping the subsequent course of European thought.
Through much of its post-Roman history, Italy was fragmented into numerous kingdoms and city-states (such as the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Duchy of Milan), but was unified in 1861, a tumultuous period in history known as the "Risorgimento". In the late 19th century, through World War I, and to World War II, Italy possessed a colonial empire, which extended its rule to Libya, Eritrea, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopia, Albania, Rhodes, the Dodecanese and a concession in Tianjin, China.
Modern Italy is a democratic republic and the world's eighteenth most developed country, with the eighth or tenth highest quality of life index rating in the world. It is a founding member of what is now the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Italy is also a member of the G8 and G20. It is a member state of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, the Council of Europe, and the Western European Union as well. The country's European political, social and economic influence make it a major regional power, alongside the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Russia, and Italy has been classified in a study, measuring hard power, as being the eleventh greatest worldwide national power. The country has a high public education level, high labor force, is a globalised nation, and also has 2009's sixth best international reputation. Italy also has the world's nineteenth highest life expectancy, and the world's second best healthcare system. It is the world's fifth most visited country, with over 43.7 million international arrivals, and boasts a long tradition and several achievements in the arts, science and technology, including the world's highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to date.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Concert Venues: St. Francis Basilica

The Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, better known as the St. Francis Basilica, is the mother church of the Roman Order of Friars Minor, or the Franciscan Order. Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis, a Catholic deacon, preacher, and founder of the Franciscan Order. The Catholic Church also recognizes St. Francis as the patron saint of animals, the environment, and one of the two patron saints of Italy along with St. Catherine of Siena. Serving as the final resting place of St. Francis, the Basilica remains one of Italy’s most important destinations of Christian pilgrimage.
Founded in 1228, St. Francis Basilica is built into a hillside and comprises two separate churches known as the upper and lower basilicas and the crypt of the interred saint. The interior of the upper church exemplifies early Gothic architecture, and both churches flaunt intricate frescoes by late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools. Along with the accompanying friary, the basilica is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and valuable landmark in the Assisi community.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Maybe visit Monte Cassino?

Monte Cassino is a rocky mountain approximately 80 miles southeast of Rome. Saint Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery here, the source and foundation of the Benedictine Order, in 529. The monastery stands as one of the few territorial abbeys remaining within the Catholic Church.
According the Gregory the Great’s biography of Saint Benedict, the monastery was constructed on an older pagan sight, a temple of Apollo that originally crowned the hill. The biography claims that Benedict’s first act was to smash the sculpture of Apollo and destroy the pagan altar. He then reused the temple, dedicating it to Saint Martin, and built a new chapel which he dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Once established at Monte Cassino, Benedict never left. There he penned the Benedictine Rule which ultimately became the founding principle of western monasticism. Monte Cassino became the model for future Benedictine developments throughout the world.
Unfortunately the Abbey has fallen target to numerous military insurgencies throughout the years, including the infamous 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino. On February 15, 1944, the Abbey was almost completely destroyed by Allied air-raids after being mistakenly identified as a German stronghold. In fact, the Abbey was being used as a refuge for women and children attempting to shield themselves from the war. The Abbey was rebuilt after the war, financed by the Italian State, and was reconsecrated by Pope Paul VI in 1964.

Visit Casal Pilozzo

Casal Pilozzo, a property of the Pulcini family located in the village of Monte Porzio Catone, sits atop a marvelous hill just nine and a half miles south of Rome offering beautiful views of the Eternal City.
Considered one of the oldest farms of the Castelli Romani area, the Casale was built on the ruins of an ancient dwelling place thought by many scholars to be the residence of the sister and nephew of Emperor Traiano. Throughout the modern age, it has served as residence to many famous personalities, from the likes of Orson Welles to the families of Filonardi Brandi e Bottai and Tyrone Power.
The subsoil of the Casale features ancient tufa soil grottoes, extending for hundreds of meters, where the wines are stored to mature in natural conditions of stable temperature and humidity. Hidden in the depths of the cellars stands an ancient altar carved in the tufa soil. Some historians believe the cellars to be remnants of a cave-dwelling “protostorico” village.
The Casale stands in the center of the property, surrounded by a magnificent park and 13 hectares of volcanic land now cultivated for vineyards and olive groves. The pride of Casal Pilozzo remains the strictly biological cultivation and selection of wine grapes. Varieties include Malvasia del Lazio, Grechetto Antico, Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlote, and Syrah.
The Vineyards and vinification, olive trees, and oil production are all personally controlled by the Pulcini family. This makes the Casal Pilozzo one of the few truly “family-run” operations, demonstrating in practice the very real possibility for creating high-quality products in coexistence with an environmentally friendly philosophy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Concert Venues: St. Peter's Basilica

The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter, commonly known as St. Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, holding 60,000 people. It is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom". In Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626. St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage, for its liturgical functions and for its historical associations. It is associated with the papacy, with the Counter-reformation and with numerous artists, most significantly Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. Contrary to popular misconception, Saint Peter's is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a papal basilica.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Incantato Tours Impressions: Culinary Italy

Sightseeing-Highlight: Pompeii

Pompeii is a ruined and partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the commune of Pompeii. Along with Herculaneum, its sister city, Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning two days in 79 AD. The volcano collapsed higher roof-lines and buried Pompeii under 20 m (66 ft) of ash and pumice, and it was lost for nearly 1,600 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1592. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year.

City Facts about Vatican City

Vatican City, officially the State of the Vatican City, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, the capital city of Italy. It has an area of approximately 44 hectares, and a population of just over 800.
Vatican City is a city-state that came into existence in 1929. It is distinct from the Holy See, which dates back to early Christianity and is the main Episcopal see of 1.147 billion Latin and Eastern Catholic adherents around the globe. Ordinances of Vatican City are published in Italian; official documents of the Holy See are issued mainly in Latin. The two entities even have distinct passports: the Holy See, not being a country, only issues diplomatic and service passports; the state of Vatican City issues normal passports. In both cases the passports issued are very few.
Vatican City is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state, ruled by the bishop of Rome - the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergymen of various nationalities. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See (Sancta Sedes) and the location of the Pope's residence, referred to as the Apostolic Palace. The Popes have resided in the area that in 1929 became Vatican City since the return from Avignon in 1377.

Incantato Destinations: Rome, Italy

City Facts about Rome

  • Rome's early history is shrouded in legend. According to Roman tradition, the city was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus on 21 April 753 BC.
  • Due to this centrality on many levels, the city has been nicknamed "Caput Mundi" (Latin for "Capital of the World") and "The Eternal City".
  • Its rich artistic heritage and vast amount of ancient, notably architectural and archaeological sites, contribute to the city's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Rome is the third-most-visited tourist destination in the European Union.
  • The city is also an important worldwide hub of the cinematic and filming industry, home to the important and large Cinecittà Studios, which saw the filming of several internationally acclaimed movies as well as television programmes.
  • The Rome metropolitan area has a GDP of €109.4 billion (US$ 149.14), and according to a 2008 study, the city is the world's 35th richest city by purchasing power.
  • The city hosted the 1960 Olympic Games and is also an official candidate for the 2020 Olympic Games.
  • Rome is an important centre for music, and it has an intense musical scene, including several prestigious music conservatories and theatres. It hosts the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (founded in 1585), for which new concert halls have been built in the new Parco della Musica, one of the largest musical venues in the world.
  • A Jewish influence in the Italian dishes can be seen, as Jews have lived in Rome since the 1st century BCE. Examples of these include "Saltimbocca alla Romana" - a veal cutlet, Roman-style; topped with raw ham and sage and simmered with white wine and butter - and "Carciofi alla giudia" - artichokes fried in olive oil, typical of Roman Jewish cooking.