angels and martyrs

If I hadn’t been told about this amazing church by a work colleague before leaving for Italy, I’m sure we would have missed it. The façade is somewhat disguised amidst the opulence of the Piazza della Repubblica.

1.facade

The Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs) was built in part of the remains of the Baths of Diocletian, the largest public baths in ancient Rome.

2.facade

It absolutely boggles me that this massive structure was completed in the year 306. It took them seven years but where is that talent and temerity in this technological age? I digress! The siege of Rome brought an end to the baths in 537 when the water supply from the aqueducts was cut off. A priest, wandering through the ruins in 1541, had a vision of angels which Pope Pius IV interpreted as a message from God. He thus ordered the building of the church on the site, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the angels and the Christians who died during the construction of the baths. The old wooden doors were replaced in 2006 with a very impressive bronze pair by Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj. The right hand one depicts the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, while a risen Christ emerges from the left hand door.

In 1563, Michelangelo was commissioned to design the church but, unfortunately, he died the following year and the work was completed by his student, Jacopo Lo Duca. Stepping through the doors, the sheer magnitude and beauty of the interior was breathtaking.

5.transept

There was so much to take in, around as well as above.

6.dome

The dome originally had an opening in the top to allow rain to fall into the bath waters below but is now filled with a fabulous work of stained glass by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata.

8.Light and Time

The church is built in the shape of a cross, a magnificent altar at the end of each section.

9.altar10.altar

One of these is the Chapel of St. Bruno,

11.Chapel of St Bruno

the left hand wall filled with a spectacular cherry, walnut and chestnut organ built by Bartélémy Formentelli. Inaugurated in the year 2000, the organ has 5,400 hand-made pipes and is often used for concerts.

12.organ

I can imagine listening to the incredible sounds while slowly dissolving into the ceiling.

13.ceiling Chapel of St Bruno

There was so much to absorb, from stunning stained glass windows

to statues, frescoes, ceilings and the 3D design of the marble floor.

23.marble floor

Following directions to the sacristy, we passed through a room with exhibits displaying the history of the baths before entering a tranquil courtyard. We were greeted by an imposing bronze statue of Galileo Galilei, a gift from China designed by Professor Tsung Dao Lee, winner of the 1957 Nobel prize in Physics.

24.Galileo Galilei

On completion of the church, it was given to the Carthusian monks who built a monastery next door. It is thought that this courtyard may have been the garden and the back of their cells.

We were very happy to avoid the crowds and queues at the more well-known sites in Rome, very few tourists seem to be aware of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

Montepozzo

We have finally settled back into life in Tasmania after four wonderful weeks in Italy. I would normally write about our travels from the beginning of the trip but we were so enamoured with the gorgeous farmhouse we stayed in for our last ten days, I couldn’t wait to share it. I could just give you the link to the website because there are so many beautiful photos of the property. Chances are, just like me, you would be thinking, “there is no way this place can be this good.” It was. We received directions and information weeks before we left from host, Jacque, and had no trouble finding the gate. Although close to a town, the rural setting is very private and peaceful.

1.sign

Arriving at the property,

2.driveway arriving

we followed the instructions and drove around to the back of the house where we tooted the horn loudly.

3.exterior front4.exterior side5.exterior back6.exterior back7.exterior back

We were greeted by Molly the dog and host, John, who kindly helped us with our bags.

8.loggia arriving

After an introductory tour, we were left to unpack and wonder at the magnificent surroundings we were to enjoy for the next ten days. The living area was light and spacious, capturing the sun at every angle throughout the day.

9.sitting room

Just off the dining area, the well equipped kitchen was a pleasure to work in.

10.kitchen

The bedrooms were inviting, the main has an ensuite

11.main bedroom

and down the hallway

14.hallway

are two further bedrooms and a bathroom.

Once we had settled in, Jacque welcomed us with fresh flowers and a bottle of Prosecco, we wasted no time opening it to share. We really felt at home, surrounded by family treasures and beautiful furnishings.

The afternoon sun filled the loggia, the perfect venue to partake of aperitivo.

30.view from loggia

Come for a walk around the garden.

31.loggia steps

There was so much to explore, a cave with spectacular phosphorescent lichen, I admired from the outside.

44.cave

The shed was a work in progress, a fabulous project for the future perhaps,

45.shed

to complement the finishing touches on the exterior of the house.

46.exterior side

We didn’t get the opportunity to dine under the vines, perhaps next time?

55.vines

Let me introduce you to Molly, a delightful bundle of energy who was a very welcome addition to the package.

Thank you Jacque, John, Alex & Molly for the very special memories, we hope to meet again…..Salute!

59.wine time

http://montepozzo.it/

Al Vecchio Fontanile

For our last night in Italy, I had found a B&B situated in the rural outskirts of Rome, only a half hour drive to the airport. We had a few issues with the GPS, it seemed some of the road names were different to the directions we had been given. After a few trips up and down the same stretch of road, we eventually arrived at Al Vecchio Fontanile. The stone farmhouse was only a few years old

1.the farmhouse

and was surrounded by fruit trees and olive trees.

2.the orchard

The younger family members were very welcoming and well behaved.

Our room was comfortable and beautifully finished, it felt like we were in a much older house.

5.our room

I love the detail in the curtains.

9.curtains

The quality and style continued in the bathroom.

10.bathroom

After relaxing with a restorative beverage or two, we drove to a nearby ristorante, Il Sogna and enjoyed delicious ravioli, gnocchi and panna cotta. We were bestowed with complimentary biscotti and homemade grappa before wending our way back, without the help of the GPS. The breakfast spread the next morning was sensational.

11.breakfast

Served in a lovely sunny room it was the perfect way to start the day.

15.breakfast

Bolsena

On a hot, sunny day we reluctantly said arrivederci to Il Castagno and set off toward Rome for our final night in Italy. I had looked at the map and chosen a place to stop for lunch on the way, Bolsena. The town was beautiful, the old buildings merged perfectly with the new.

1.Bolsena2.Bolsena3.Bolsena4.Bolsena

7.Bolsena

We parked the car and walked the plane tree-lined avenue toward the lake.

8.Bolsena

Some of the homes were absolutely stunning.

9.Bolsena10.Bolsena

As we neared the lake,

11.Bolsena

we knew exactly where we were having lunch. Trattoria del Moro, perched right over the water, had spectacular views of Lake Bolsena.

12.Trattoria del Moro13.Trattoria del Moro

The largest volcanic lake in Europe has, fortunately, been dormant since 104BC.

14.Lake Bolsena

19.Lake Bolsena

We dined al fresco, the fish was excellent and with the vino and the sunshine, we could have lingered for hours.

24.fish and chips

Instead, we slowly made our way back to the car,

25.The Castle of Bolsena26.Bolsena27.Bolsena

31.Bolsena

trying not to think about the imminent end to our wonderful trip. I think Michael would fit in well in Italy.

32.Michael

We will be returning to Italy next year and will make sure a trip to Bolsena and lunch by the lake is on the agenda.