Cortona revisited

We fell in love with Cortona on our first trip to Italy in 2014 and, even though it was a two hour drive from Montepozzo, we just had to revisit. Yes, it is another Etruscan hilltown but from an elevation of 600 metres, the panorama across the Val di Chiana and Lake Trasimeno is breathtaking.

The alluvial valley covers 2,300 square kilometres and is home to the Chianina cattle, the largest breed in the world and one of the oldest. The beef is sold at premium prices by approved butchers and you will pay handsomely for Bistecca alla Fiorentina in any ristorante.

The Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie was built on the site of a former tannery where, in 1484, an image of the Madonna and Child, painted on the wall of a basin used for tanning leather, began to perform miracles. Because of the steep terrain and presence of a stream, the building wasn’t completed until 1525 and the original icon is still visible on the high altar in the church.

We made our way along narrow stone streets

to Piazza della Repubblica, the centre of the city since Roman times. There was so much to take in around the piazza; gorgeous shops, medieval architecture and sunshine.

We enjoyed coffee & pastries while being serenaded from the steps of the Palazzo Comunale. The town hall was built in the 12th century on the ruins of the Forum of the Roman City and was extended in the 1500s.

Pietro Berrettini was a 17th century Italian Baroque painter and architect. Although he worked mainly in Rome and Florence, he was known by the name of his native town, Pietro da Cortona.

We wandered around Piazza Signorelli

before exploring the shops along Via Nazionale

and celebrating our purchases with an Aperol Spritz in Piazza Garibaldi.

We retraced our steps to lunch at Caffè degli Artisti, seated in the street we savoured our surroundings as much as the food.

Starting with bruschetta, we decided on ravioli with butter & sage, pici with cream, porcini mushrooms, sausage & truffle sauce and pici with walnuts, gorgonzola cheese & pear.

Reluctant to leave, we returned to the car and drove to the top of the town to see Fortezza del Girifalco and the fascinating Basilica di Santa Margherita but that is another story.

Star of the Sea

For many years, I have been fascinated by a beautiful red brick church perched on a hill at one of the main intersections on the highway here in Burnie. Beside it are other similarly constructed edifices, one of which appears to be a school with the year 1912 above the doorway. To satisfy my curiosity, I recently took a closer look. The Catholic Church of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea opened in January 1891.

Designed by respected architect Alexander North, whose work includes Holy Trinity in Launceston, the church is an excellent example of the High Victorian Gothic style. There is no door at the front of the church, the entrance is via a porch on the eastern side wall above which is an elaborately carved white cross imported from New Zealand.

The red bricks were manufactured locally in Burnie while specially moulded bricks and terracotta tiles with a stylised flower design came from Launceston. The finest quality sandstone from Ross quarry in Tasmania’s midlands was used for the window frames.

The use of black bricks amongst the red ones to create geometric patterns, known as structural polychromy, was one of the features of High Victorian Gothic buildings.

The Welsh slates on the pitched roof have stood the test of time.

The interior is welcoming and warm with red brick walls and a pine lined roof.

I made my way to the chancel

where a trinity of colourful stained glass windows depict the Annunciation, the Sacred Heart appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and the Nativity.

All the windows are of stained glass, the bold geometric patterns throughout the nave were designed by North himself.

A small side chapel in the east transept beatifically captured the morning sun

while the votive candles in the west transept awaited the congregation for Holy Thursday.

The ceiling is a work of art, the spiky elaborate roof trusses are another example of High Victorian Gothic style.

The porch is adorned with memorials of many people associated with the church. St. Mary’s by the Sea was originally a small wooden church on the corner of Cattley Street and Marine Terrace in town. When Irishman Father Matthew O’Callaghan became parish priest, he was instrumental in selling that property and purchasing the land on which the new church was built. He was transferred to Queenstown in 1897 and died two years later. His remains were returned to Burnie for burial in the parish he had served for twenty five years.

The memorials to the Dunphy and Cooney families have piqued my interest. I have found they are buried in the Wivenhoe cemetery a short drive from our house, I shall investigate further.

Another Irishman, Father Patrick Hayes, was appointed to the parish in 1889 and was responsible for building a Catholic school in 1912 and adding a presbytery in 1928. He retired in 1947 and, passing away in 1954, was also buried at Wivenhoe.

A historic plaque was discovered by current parish priest, Father John Girdauskas, beneath the Star of the Sea church, commemorating the opening of St. Anne’s Catholic church and primary school in 1961.

The gardens on the two acre site have been established and are tended by volunteers.

A tidy section by the steps from the car park is dedicated to Father Terry McCosker, whose arrival in 1988 was sadly cut short due to illness.

The steeply sloping land behind the church has been landscaped with care and many hours of hard work have resulted in some very impressive retaining walls.

The path continues from the more formal gardens to a natural reserve, dedicated to the Fraser family.

St. Mary’s Star of the Sea has escaped the threat of removal twice. Firstly with the relocation of the Burnie Highway in 1979 and again just before Fr Girdauskas took over when the Marist priests intended building a replacement church near Marist College. The church is now heritage listed, as it should be.

Bomarzo

After a morning spent wandering amongst the monsters at Parco di Mostri we were in need of light refreshment. The ancient hill town of Bomarzo was only a short drive away

and the neighbouring hamlet of Mugnano in Teverina rose on its own tufa mound.

The Etruscans populated Bomarzo until the Romans conquered it in the 5th century BC. The town has been repeatedly invaded and has changed hands several times before being sold to the city of Viterbo in 1298 and then given to the Orsini family in the 16th century. The building of Palazzo Orsini on the remains of an older medieval castle began in 1519. It is made up of two main buildings and occupies nearly half the town.

We parked the car on the outskirts and, at the risk of intruding, I just had to photograph this beautiful young couple sharing lunch.

We slowly ascended the narrow streets,

resting to admire the vista across olive groves.

Mugnano in Teverina was now below us and the town of Giove, across the River Tiber in Umbria, was visible in the distance.

With yet more climbing ahead we were very relieved to find an elevator to transport us to higher ground.

The panorama from the top was breathtaking,

the streets became alleyways

and the myriad doors were fascinating.

The 15th century cathedral of Bomarzo, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, was given a Renaissance façade and decorated with frescoes when Prince Orsini renovated it the following century.

The fabulous belltower is built from blocks of peperino

and the door is guarded by the Orsini symbol of bears, one with a rose and one with a lily, both of whom look rather unhappy.

Inside, the church was light and airy with a stunning 17th century fresco depicting the coronation of the Virgin surrounded by angels and saints above the main altar.

Unfortunately, Palazzo Orsini was closed, we could only admire from the outside and imagine the spectacular views from within.

A statue of Saint Anselmo, a 6th century bishop of Bomarzo, has pride of place alongside the palace, his remains are interred beneath the main altar in the cathedral.

Our thoughts had turned to lunch but there didn’t seem to be the array of eateries we had become used to. Venturing further,

we passed a war memorial set against a dramatic cliff face. There was a list of names in memory of the fallen as well as a bronze bust depicting carabiniere Luciano Fosci, a military man who was shot dead while trying to block an angry crowd at a political demonstration in Somalia in 1952. He received the gold medal for civil merit.

A little further up the road

our perseverance paid off and we found a tiny cafe, seemingly the only place serving food in Bomarzo. What it lacked in ambience it made up for with friendliness and food. The meals were fresh, homemade and delicious

and the doorways across the road were equally as memorable.

Orvieto

A scenic thirty minute drive from Montepozzo, the Etruscan hilltop town of Orvieto was the perfect destination for a day trip. Vertical tufa cliffs support the ancient buildings in spectacular fashion and the remains of original defensive walls are still standing.

1.Orvieto

After parking the car in Piazza Marconi, we walked a short distance to Piazza del Duomo, a huge square dominated by the magnificent Orvieto Cathedral. Not surprisingly, the construction lasted three centuries from the laying of the flagstone in November 1290.

2.Duomo di Orvieto

The design and style evolved from Romanesque to Gothic as it progressed, the side walls are a striking contrast of white travertine and grey basalt stone.

3.Duomo di Orvieto

The golden façade is stunning with intricate designs and detail and four bronze statues of the Angel, the Lion, the Eagle and the Ox symbolise the Evangelists. The three bronze doors, depicting mercies from the life of Christ, replaced the original wooden doors in 1970. Above the middle door, the sculpture of the Madonna and Child was created in 1347.

4.Duomo di Orvieto

13.Duomo di Orvieto12.Duomo di Orvieto

We didn’t go inside the cathedral, we had tickets for a tour underground instead but that’s another story. Orvieto has a strong papal history with five popes taking refuge there during the 13th century. Palazzo Soliano was built in 1297 and once a papal residence, is now home to the Museo Emilio Greco, dedicated to the artist who designed the cathedral doors and showing 100 of his works.

14.Palazzo Soliano

The small Church of San Giacomo all’Ospedale is now used as a venue for exhibitions. The building behind the church was a hospice for poor people and pilgrims established in 1187.

15.Chiesa di San Giacomo Maggiore

On the opposite side of the piazza are a row of houses where priests used to reside

16.Piazza del Duomo

and a fascinating clock tower. Built as a time clock for the cathedral construction site, it was originally a sundial in 1347 because there was no mechanical clock available. The bronze automaton on top, the earliest documented clock in Europe, was added two years later. The figure swings its body and strikes the bell with its hammer on the hour to let the workers know when it is time to knock off. The medieval word for a construction site was muriccio, hence it is now known as Maurizio Tower.

17.Maurizio Tower

We left the piazza and wandered along Via del Duomo past vibrant shops and intriguing alleys.

23.vicolo

27.vicolo31.Via del Duomo

After quenching our thirst

we ventured on. Torre del Moro stands 47 metres high exactly in the city centre. Built by the Della Terza family at the end of the 13th century, we would certainly have climbed the 250 steps for a 360° view had we known.

35.Torre del Moro

The Church of Sant’Andrea on the Piazza della Repubblica dates back to the 12th century and has a unique dodecagonal bell tower.

Adjacent to the church, the Town Hall is from the same era but has been enlarged and restored up until 1600.

38.Palazzo Comunale

We walked through the central arch onto Via Garibaldi, it seems no road is too narrow for the local buses.

On the other side of the arch

42.rear of Palazzo Comunale

we couldn’t resist lunch at Ristorante Il Cocco and the opportunity to sample one of Orvieto’s specialties, pigeon.

43.Ristorante Il Cocco

Deliciously sated, we continued along Via Garibaldi

47.Via Garibaldi

and wended our way down narrow, stone streets

48.Orvieto

to the ancient church of San Giovanni and the piazza of the same name.

49.Chiesa di San Giovanni50.Piazza San Giovanni

Just past the church, we followed the Vicolo Malcorini,

51.Vicolo Malcorini

rewarded with stunning vistas to the left

57.Orvieto58.Orvieto

and a tumble of homes to the right.

59.Medieval Quarter

The Medieval Quarter is a maze of steep, narrow streets and houses seem to defy gravity atop rocky cliffs.

61.Medieval Quarter

65.Medieval Quarter

We explored further with the feeling we had stepped back in time, having both fallen in love with Orvieto.

Acquapendente

The nearest town to Montepozzo was a pleasant 4km drive away. Acquapendente, in northern Lazio, sits right at the borders of Tuscany to the west and Umbria to the east. First settled by the Etruscans, then Romans, it was established in the Middle Ages as a village and monastery by the Benedictine order. The name means “falling water” because of its vicinity to numerous small waterfalls flowing into the river Paglia. Our exploration of the town started at the Cathedral of San Sepolcro.  As far as Italian cathedrals go, it wasn’t particularly impressive from the outside. Built between 890 and 968, it was originally the church of a former Benedictine monastery, became a Romanesque church in the 12th century and eventually made it to cathedral status in 1649. Apparently, the crypt contains a blood-stained stone from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

1.Cattedrale del Santo Sepolcro

We crossed the road for a look in the tourist information centre and found a range of local products and interesting artefacts.

We continued down Via Roma

10.Via Roma

past the City Museum

11.Museo della Città

and ventured into the Church of Saints Anthony and Catherine. The 19th century façade was easy to miss but the detail inside was lovely.

12.Chiesa dei Santi Antonio e Caterina

There was no shortage of colour in the streets

16.houses

as we made our way to the Church of Saint Agostino. Yet another unassuming façade belied a fascinating interior. Founded in 1290 by the Augustinian convent, it was rebuilt in 1747 after being completely destroyed by fire a year earlier.

We passed the 19th century Boni Theatre

30.Teatro Boni

and around the corner, arrived at a beautiful piazza. The waters of Fonte del Rigombo flow from a natural spring, providing refreshment for both traveller and mount on their journey in medieval times. The fountain also became known as Mascheroni in the 19th century when the waters were framed architecturally with pilasters, cornices and grotesque masks around the water spouts.

31.Fonte del Rigombo

Cobblestoned side streets beckoned

36.Acquapendente

but we were on a mission as we reached Piazza Girolamo Fabrizio and the magnificent Town Hall.

37.Town Hall

Time for coffee & pastries,

38.pastries

the perfect setting to relax and watch the world go by.

Suitably replenished, we ambled further, enjoying the sights, sounds and sunshine.

66.strolling

Throughout our rambling, we had noticed huge portrait paintings that appeared randomly on walls where least expected. They are entries in the Street Art section of The Urban Vision Festival, a two day festival each July that began in 2015.

82.Urban Vision

Just past the hospital,

at the end of the town, we were rewarded with a spectacular vista across verdant countryside.

86.view87.view