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8/27/2011

THE PIONEERS OF THE CERVINO.

The Cervino was the last summit of the Alps (in Valle D’Aosta) to be "violated" by man.
Ancient inhabitants of  the little town of Valtournenche always said that it was protected by demons or spirits of the mountain.
They prevented access to the summit to the few mountaineers whom decided to take the risk of climbing that imposing pyramid of rock.

Cervino Mountain
 
The legend was never denied until July 14 1865, when the stubborn Whymper, opening a way on the Swiss side, conquered the Cervino.

Not without the cost of human sacrifice.



Engaged in a race against fellow Carrel 
(who arrived just 3 days after the finish, passing through the hard Italian way of Cresta del Leone
Whympet lost four of his climbing companions along the way back
                                                                        
Spirits of the "Tor” took them  away (Tor is the ancient name of the Cervino mountain).

Their bodies were recovered downstream the mountain, smashed against the rocky coastline.

At the time the climbers were considered real pioneers and streets accessible to small villages clinging to the Alps were few.
Towards the 30s of the twentieth century it was possible to reach only Valtournenche by  car.

To get the vessel of Breuil it was necessary a journey on foot  or aided by a mule, passing by the beautiful Blue Lake (the Layet).

Layet Lake next to Cervino

Who, today, goes through the same way, walking through the valley, can see the majestic image of the Cervino reflected on the surface of the the icy and deep blue waters of this small lake.

                   
                                                         

Until the early '900 Cervinia was a tiny hamlet consisting of only a few buildings, 
the typical holiday resort at the time.

  
It’s been in 1934 that a young local journalist, reporter for "La Stampa", has the idea of building a cableway that connects Breuil to the nearby tourist village of Plan Maison.


At the same time, the mayor of Valturneche begins the hard job that will lead to the construction of a real road to Cervinia.


Old Cervinia's church with sundial ("meridiana")


Since then many things have changed.

Now the complex of Breuil-Cervinia is 
one of the most renowned ski resorts of our Alpine region, in Europe.



Each year, thousands of mountain lovers 
come easily here, but how many of them 
are aware of the existence of Tor’s spirits?


The unsuspecting climbers who sometimes meet them, 
hardly come home to tell the tale.

Perhaps the old inhabitants of the valley were right.
Who knows it?


VALDOSTAN CHICKEN BREAST



Ingredients



Sliced ​​chicken breast,

sliced ​​ham,

slices of fontina cheese,

a few sage leaves finely chopped,

a little bit of salt, olive oil, butter.



Preparation



Heat up a pan with butter and olive oil. When butter has melted, place the slices of meat to cook, stirring frequently. Add a little salt and chopped sage leaves. Remove from heat and cover the slices with a slice of ham and one of cheese. Pass the meat in the oven for a few minutes, until cheese is completely dissolved. Serve the chicken hot.

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Majestic Cervino...

8/22/2011

CATANIA. SAFE UNDER THE VOLCANO

It’s been, over the centuries, a city Greek, Roman, Byzantine, then Arab, Norman, Swabian, later Angevin, “Aragonese” and Spanish.
Catania, Castello Ursino

Sicilians say it's a symbol of rebirth: despite numerous foreign domination and looting suffered over time, despite the destructive force of earthquakes and eruptions of Etna, has always emerged from the ashes.
In 2002, UNESCO has recognized this city World Heritage Site: it wears on itself visible signs of its past and, thanks to new generations, it's ready to rebirth again.
Catania, view from the sea

"VIVA SANT'AGATA"

In the first days of February Catania transforms itself: 
 it becomes the ritual place of an ancient procession which mixes religion and folklor. The city attracts almost a million of people, including citizens, devotees and the curiouses from everywhere. 
Many migrants return home to participate in the solemn celebrations in honor of the patron saint, who died in 251 AD.
Sant Agata symbls in church
The city revives with a deep feeling the life and martyrdom of its "Santuzza”(“little saint”).

Every year a flood of churchgoers, wearing a white robe of a penitent, carries in procession, in the characteristic "vara", the effigy of the saint imploring and crying "Citatini Sant'Aita √® viva! (Citizens, St. Agatha is alive. She’s among us all).

So Agata’s back among his people, in a swell of emotions, prayers and ancient invocations. Processions and celebrations continue for three days and three nights, involving every township.

Sant Agata procession

The procession starts from the historic center, the Etnea street, to retrace the life of the saint through the places where the young Agatha was held prisoner, suffered torture and torment.

From the Cathedral, where the relics are kept, passing through the Biscari way, where she was born, we arrive at the church of San Biagio, where is located the furnace in which the martyr was burned.

In the church of Sant'Agata in visiting the prison cell where he was locked up, there are visible the footsteps of her feet imprinted in volcanic rock (one of her miracles).

The church of “Sant’Agata la Vetere” holds her first tomb.

There is indicated the place where the young woman suffered the agony of amputation of the breast.


Sant Agata alla Fornace church
The popular neighborhoods are full of crowds, stalls, lights and music.

The fireworks recall interventions of Saint Agata in defense of  her city from the eruptions of Etna volcano.

The “bassi” (typical dwellings) are open to visitors.

All contributes to a more united people that honor her patron and asks for protection, in a moving and evocative atmosphere that also involves the most skeptical travelers.




THE CIRCUMETNEA
Who wants to "go around" to the volcano overlooking the city, simply has to go to the stationCatania-Borgoand take a seat on the old steam railway, to discovery ancient villages clinging to the sides of the mountain.

 Dark lavic rocks in a beach of Catania city


Already in the suburbs meet the traces of the flow that, in 1669, destroyed Catania (rebuilt over the old town, still observable coming down its basement)





Misterbianco surpassed, we face a typical panorama of the Mediterranean vegetation and, continuing towards the summit, we pass through the ancient and typical little towns of Paternò, Santa Maria di Licodia, Biancavilla, Adrano.



 
At least 20 municipalities belonging to the amazing natural park of Etna.

Passed Bronte we are in the middle of a dark lava flow, while the gaze sweeps over the craters of the volcano.

Climbing Etna.....
Then we turns out  of Randazzo, the Alcantara valley, the vineyards of Solicchiata and, going deeper in the valley, we see old villages and hamlets


Suddenly, watching away, we recognize the blue sea and the scent of citrus, to conclude the short journey at the nice station of Riposto.




 
SPAGHETTI ALLA NORMA

Ingredients:
   4 persons:
500 grams of spaghetti
300 grams of tomato sauce
1 Kg eggplant black
150 gr of  salty ricotta cheese
100 grams of fresh ricotta cheese
extra virgin olive oil
8 whole leaves of basil
salt and pepper as you like.

Preparation:
Peel the eggplants, cut into pieces and leave them in a colander for about an hour, after being sprinkled with a little bit of salt.
Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce in a saucepan.
Heat  in a pan a bit of oil.
Drain the eggplant and fry them, then put them to dry on a paper towel to remove excess oil.
Meanwhile, boil water in a pot.
When the water boils, add salt and spaghetti.
When the pasta is "al dente" (well cooked), drain well.
Place the spaghetti in a large bowl and add the ricotta  fresh cheese, chopped basil and tomato sauce warm.
Mix all and divide the spaghetti on the plates, which will be added to the slices of fried eggplant.
Grate a little salty ricotta cheese and garnish every dish with basil leaves.
Serve hot.


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Etna volcano in winter time

8/18/2011

UNDER THE BOLSENA LAKE. AGHARTI: THE SACRED WORLD OF THE ANCIENT MASTERS

Bolsena, Lazio, near Viterbo, the largest volcanic lake in Europe.
The Etruscans, one of the most enigmatic ancient civilizations, mysteriously and suddenly disappeared.
They occupied that part of the Italian peninsula extending from Tuscany to nothern Lazio (Tuscia said).
But they were coming from where? And where are they gone?
There is only one set of tracks, finds and archaeological sites through which researchers are still trying to rebuild the immense cultural and religious heritage left by this enigmatic commons.
Bolsena Lake




Around the lake of Bolsena, in the thick vegetation, you still run through the fascinating "vie cave": ancient sacred paths, which, according to the Etruscan religion, marked the path from the city of the living to the city of dead.

The map of the sacred routes, which some call energy corridors, shows how their distribution refers to a large geometric pattern.

It seems that all the mystical paths converge in a particular geographic center:

The Bolsena lake.

Around it, they say, flourished

the Fanum Voltumnae, the most important sacred wood of Etruria.
A "via cava", the energetic path

Etruscans called the spectacular crater of the lake omphalos, the sacred navel of the world.

Here, once a year, the twelve Lucumonis (religious leaders) gathered to celebrate the spiritual unity of the Etruscan world.



At the center of the lake, two islands:

Martana and Bisentina, both protagonists of many legends and religious beliefs.


About Isola Martana it is said that there has been imprisoned Amalasuntha, queen of the Ostrogoths and woman of strong character. During his imprisonment she fell in love with his jailer, Tomao. Theodatus King, her husband, ordered her murder by deception.

Still now local fishermen, in the windy days, say they can hear the screams of Amalasunta killed dramatically.

Bisentina Island, a small island on which rise seven small Christian churches and chapels, was the magical and religious heart of all the Etruscan civilization.

The place where, according to the Lucumonis, is the gateway for Agarthi kingdom, which some researchers identified with the legendary Atlantis.




The mystery can be understood by analyzing the Etruscan rites and myths.

The creator goddess for the Etruscans is Nurtia, the Mother Earth. His power profoundly inspired sacred Etruscan art of life and funerary. Reading Books “Acherontici”, sacred texts on the journey of souls across the river of the afterlife to the underground kingdom of the dead, we understand that, according to the Etruscans, a goddess, giver of strength and knowledge, lives in underworld.

All their worship of the Earth is the achievement of physical and spiritual underworld, in search of knowledge and mystical force.

Pitigliano, panorama
According to the beliefs, the Etruscans “vie cave”, routes to the realm of the dead dug deep into the earth, bring men to hypogeum, in contact with the direct source of religious power.

Pitigliano, next to Bolsena lake

Curiously, this has strong similarities to the spiritual center of the ancient Inca people in the Andes.

But customs and sacred places very similar to those of the Lake of Bolsena are found in many other religions, Nordic, Celtic and African.

Bolsena town


Today, on the shores of Lake Bolsena, you can visit several small medieval villages, including Capodimonte, Gradoli, Montefiascone and Bolsena.


Montefiascone


 The whole area jealously preserves what remains of its origins and, on closer inspection, even on the faces of the locals you see facial characteristics of the ancient Etruscans.

Perhaps they have never disappeared.

Bolsena, feast of Corpus Domini
 
Perhaps there are still there, to monitor and protect their forests and the sacred door  to the magical realm  of Mother Earth.

Capodimonte town


STEWED LENTILS
The lentils were always on the tables of the Etruscans

Ingredients
300 g lentils
500 grams of tomato pulp
1 rib of celery
1 carrot
1 onion
1  clove of garlic
Olive oil, salt, pepper

Preparation
Leave to soak lentils in cold water for several hours.
After eliminating those ascents to the surface, drain the remainings and boil them into a pot until they are sufficiently cooked.
Pour the oil in a pan and let it heat, then add carrot, celery, onion, garlic, shredded onion and garlic and fry them.
Add the chopped tomato and pepper, then salt and cook for ten minutes.
Take the boiled lentils and made ​​them drain,  then pour them in the pan with the tomato pulp.
Mix all and cook for almost  10 minutes, until the sauce is partially coagulated.
Pour into dish and serve at the table.


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8/13/2011

URBANIA: ANCIENT MUMMIES AND PEASANT TRADITIONS

Urbania is located near Urbino, in the heart of that Italian region named Marche.
This is a medieval village in which it is easy to get lost.
Between the sacred and the profane, it's like entering a time of fables.
Right like in a fairy tale
Here, among the ancient farmhouses scattered over the country and the imposing ducal palace, resist old traditions and apotropaic farmers rites, craft shops (like the artistic decoration of ceramic) and old recipes passed down in families.
 
And there's a story worth telling.
 

In 1567 in Casteldurante (ancient name of Urbania), was born the

"Brotherhood of the Good Death"

which consists of 120 people, including secular and religious.

The purpose of the charitable religious group was the free transport of the bodies, assistance to the dying and executed, record

in special books of the dead and the distribution of alms to their relatives.
Ancient ceramic decoration


   
The burial of the bodies took place in the back of the small


Church, on land used as a cemetery.


In early 1800 Napoleon issued the edict of Saint Cloud, which established the cemeteries outside the walls of the city, for health reasons.

In the small cemetery of Urbania, just behind the church, began the work of exhumation of the bodies.

Some of them, amazingly, emerged intact.

Eighteen mummies were found in 1833 in Urbania. 

Thus they were displaied behind the altar of the chapel, which has since taken the name
"Church of the Dead".
 It's amazing to discover, in an ordinary place of prayer, those ancient relics preserved and arranged like in a museum.



Perhaps the church authorities exposed the remains with the intention to remind people the transience of life; the fact that, as some say,

"On this earth we are just passing through."

  
The bodies on display, in addition to the skeletal structure have the skin, organs, in some cases the hair, the genital organs and seem to observe us, with their dark withered faces, from a mysterious world of shadows.

Thanks to records kept by the "Brotherhood of the good death" and the excellent state of preservation of the remains, it's been possible to reconstruct the stories of some characters, particularly curious.

 

 At the center of the group is the prior Vincenzo Piccini, recognizable by his black coat with the seal of death, typical of the religious brotherhood to which he belonged.

With him, his wife and son.

Among the mummies that one of the baker said "Lunano" and the woman died in childbirth. 
 Following is a young man stabbed during a dance party, with the hole in the heart visible. 
 Then a hanged man.

Of all the bodies who stands out, there is one, it is said, of a man buried alive in a state of apparent death. He woke up as prisoner of his tomb, and then go back to sleep forever. This mummy is recognizable because of the particular posture of the body, which tells us his unfortunate story.

Ancient picture of the church of the dead

 It's worth taking a look at the ceiling of the unusual museum to see the macabre chandelier made ​​of human skulls and bones.

Let's leave the church and the death behind us to discover this fascinating city.



Let's take a walk among the narrow, winding streets, among the characteristic shops and old inns where you can taste the classic dishes of local tradition, talking to inhabitants to discover the wonders of a village frozen in time.

San Cristoforo square
An old peasant custom, still in use by people of ancient Casteldurante is that one of onions used to make predictions about the new year.

The origin of this custom dates from the late Middle Ages when, for local farmers, was of vital importance to know in advance the weather to get a good harvest.

In the night between 24 and 25 January (the night of St. Paul of the signs) 12 slices of onion are sprinkled with salt and exposed outdoors on a wooden plank, facing east.


Each month is represented by a slice of onion and, thanks to the ancient knowledge passed down in families, you can find out how it will be the future for the coming year.



In Urbania still live some people who, faithful to the traditions, maintain this ancient farmer rite. You only have to look among the citizens.

Many argue that these predictions are very reliable.

Urbania. Barco ducale
PORRATA BIANCA

Leek soup
an original medieval recipe
 

Ingredients:

6 people 

2 kg of leeks

1.5 liters of fresh milk

    3 medium sized onions

    100 g of dry bread

    salt

    olive oil

Preparation:

Wash the leeks thoroughly and save only the white part.

Cut into pieces and parboil them in salt water. Drain and keep aside.

Peel and slice onions thinly; fry them in olive oil, being careful not to burn.

Soak stale bread in ½ liter of lukewarm water.

Put the milk into a saucepan and join leeks and onions.

Crush well the bread with a fork and as soon as you got a composite rather homogeneous, add it to the previous mixture (milk, onion, leeks).

Cook over low heat for about thirty minutes, until the mixture has thickened.

Add salt according to our taste and serve as hot soup.

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Urbania. Ducal Palace