Friday, September 23, 2016

and in the modern

Visitors to Italy have eyes for the most part for the old and very old.

This exhibition in Forli in 2013 on Italian art between the two world wars is worth watching and a valuable reminder that this country remains alive and creative, not just a string of museums.

This first little movie is also useful as a language lesson. Nice clear speech, if a little fast, and with some art-technical language that may be useful. Watch and re-watch, let your ear and the hearing parts of the brain absorb the sounds. Actually hearing a foreign language is step 1.

and this film on Forli provides some context to that one above

it presents, don't they all, a rather cutesy story of Italy past.
Caterina Sforza is mentioned as a ruler of Forli.
For the not-faint-hearted I offer this link to a rip-roaring account of Ms Sforza
Let no one assume that the youngish women now mayors of Rome and Turin will be pushovers. :-)

Um, I'm diverting from the modern a bit but here's a picture and quote from the Badass
history of Caterina Sforza of Forli, link above

Gosh! Trump that! How modern.

FOR A LESS RACY ACCOUNT of Catherine Sforza, 
with more about Forli, click here

and for a feminist cheer for the Tigress of Love, go here.

Those stories tell of Caterina Sforza. Here's a clip from her
confronting the Borgias who threaten to kill her children if she does not surrender:
being a widow, her rights depend on having a male heir.
Of course for the TV series The Borgias they opt for the more lurid yarn that
she lifts her skirt and says look see, I can make more. Seen on TV, must be true.

French without subtitles.


Faenza, next town west, home of ceramics for a very long time, hosts the modern too. This is a translation from description of the next movie:
A "long weekend" in Faenza, one of the world capitals of majolica (the name of the city itself gave rise to the word "faiences"), to discovery the world of ceramics and ceramicists, through events, exhibitions, and cultural and spectacular activities:
ARGILLÀ: market-fair to be held on August 31st (afternoon) and September 1sth and 2nd along the streets of the Historic District of Faenza, with 200 exhibitors from ceramics capitals in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Nederland, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, as well as other European nations,Cultural and collateral events: the city, through its own structures (International Museum of Ceramics, Exhibition Hall, crafts and cultural associations, AICC, the State Institute of Art Gaetano Ballardini, I.S.I.A., etc.) will become a venue for an exciting programme of shows, exhibitions, and activities.Foto e editing di Saverio Pepe - Musica di Markus Legner

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reading resources

We booked at San Severino Marche with only slight information. The history offered by wikipedia which one does not manage to finish unless one is a genealogy freak, the attractive airbnb offering (having looked at listings for perhaps a hundred other apartments in the region), the google street view of the town.

It's hard to find literature on Le Marche. I ordered from Betterworld books a second hand copy of Footprint Italia Umbria & Marche USD9.48 and found that the author, a serial writer of travel guides, spent four months in Italy, based in Perugia. The section on Le Marche is difficult to find, it occupies a space at the end about the size of an index and reported on a couple of drives, no doubt reading over coffee pamphlets and over wikipedia at dinner.

Enter the Touring Club of Italy and their The Marches: A Complete Guide to the Landscape and National Parks, and One Hundred Towns Including Urbino USD18.21 delivered, which from the jump has historical and cultural depth (and of course the mention of Urbino probably trebled its sales).

Having enjoyed the introductory perspective in the TCI guide on why this region is as it is (which time to write about when there) the authors come (in road trip description) to the ancient centre of Camerino and then, of San Severino Marche, they say:
Camerino's long-time enemy, the Ghibillene town of San Severino Marche, lies to the northeast, at the end of the upper Potenza valley, and is surrounded by the natural beauties of the Grillo valley and the centuries-old Canfaito beech woods on Mt San Vicino. An important town in Picine and Roman times (as the remains of Septempeda just outside the town demonstrate), it was influential in the 14th and 15th centuries in the development of the International Gothic style in European painting, through the brothers Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni. Still today, the aristocratic appearances of San Severino Marche, with its palaces and frescoed churches, blends beautifully with the medieval atmosphere created by the many lookout towers and ruined castles in the surrounding area. 
Aha, so that's why we found it interesting. You can look up the unfamiliar words in wikipedia and follow trails on and on from there. Where this (to me) stands out from most guides in is in the way it succinctly orients the reader to thirst to understand more. The harking back to history reminds me of conversations in 2010 in Viterbo with a man whose family had lived in one house there from the 1300s and a man on a train who said that the reason why Vitorchiano was still intact was that they kept onside with the Romans. I still puzzle of questions I did not ask of the man in Viterbo because I was too taken aback by the thought of a family being in place from the 1300s: did they buy when real estate prices crashed as I imagine likely after the pope moved from Viterbo to Avignon? Were they lawyers who profited from the estate work after the Black Death? Were they artisans who improved themselves and escaped feudal ties when their laws of supply and demand shifted their way after all the deaths? Towns in Italy are not simple.

I also have, a heavy weight to fall on you when it puts you to sleep, the Oxford History of Italy. I agree with the reviewer Greenberg at Amazon, the book is a tiresome puzzle, like trying to read a biochemistry text.

I went, pleased with the TCI's Marche book, to see if there is something as good on Romagna. And instead found this marvellous 'review-in-place' of a travel book by Edith Templeton (whose 1960s Shades of Grey novel called Burton was banned, less famously than works of Lawrence and Joyce). Which among other things gave me some reinforcement for decisions not to stay in Ravenna or Urbino. Yes, classy you say, I've taken a positive view of something that supported my unarticulated hunches.

I think that I am perhaps a part-time shabby semiotician at heart. Wikipedia tells us that semiotics is
the study of meaning-making, the study of sign processes and meaningful communication.[1] This includes the study of signs and sign processes(semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, allegory, metonymy, metaphor, symbolism,signification, and communication.
or put more simply, taking in many aspects at once to form impressions; .... reading too many books at the same time. Partly my training in anthropology; never to run with a single line of interpretation.

The great semiotician (among other things) Umberto Eco died this year. I have returned to reading his Baudolino. Which it seems to me embodies perhaps much autobiographical (as good books must) and also a being-in-the-past-and-present-at-the-same-time as well as a desperate entanglement of mythical and 'real'. Some resemblance to the (lesser but large) complexity of Paolo Sorrentini's film Il Divo; or an array of other writing and film in Italy, which some simpler cultures find hard to engage with. See also the discussion between musicians in John Turturro's Passione, pointing at the way immensely complex Neapolitan songs have been taken to America in particular and turned into mush (reimported to Italy, of course, the lubricate the machinations of the 'latin lover' among the tourists). Baudolino helps me open my eyes and heart to different things, as well as helping me smile and feel alive. Vale Eco. Grazie Turturro.

Oh and also down off the shelf Sandor Marai's Conversations in Bolzano, a wonderful tale of Casanova in Bolzano, in the Austrian corner of Italy, the Alto Adige, fleeing north, escaped from prison in Venice. Reminder of Austria-Hungary's influence and occupation of this end of Italy for so long, but also just plain rewarding as a delicious multicultural or vibrant-cultural work by an author who should be more widely known.  More than seems evident in the tourist-tramped areas of Italy, Le Marche (compare perhaps with the similarly named The Borders in the UK), this somewhat isolated region, is a place of multiple languages and cultures with long histories.

In Baudolino Eco says, through his character the Greek scholar Niketas, in Constantinople almost a millenium ago:
There are no stories without meaning. And I am one of those who can find it even where others fail to see it. Afterwards the story becomes the book of the living, like a blaring trumpet that raises from the tomb those who have been dust for centuries. ... Still, it takes time, you have to consider the events, arrange them in order, find the connections, even the least visible ones.
In the generality of the tourist experience people are lined up to hear a bunch of settled conventions, a set of notions for looking at specified objects, texts crafted to meet a commercial purpose and to avoid losing customers by being complicated.

I have no desire or capacity to do as Niketas suggests in terms of finishing, tying all the knots. Rather, to hunt and identify strings, to swim among a diversity of stories and images and ideas and sounds and voices, hope to hear and notice them and achieve at least a sense of the incompleteness of the strands.

My discomforts at this travel begin with the unease of burning the carbon to get there, then have me conflicted not enraptured at the sight of castles and palaces build by bastards to hurt or exploit, the work of artists indentured to such bastards and bigoted hypocritical churchmen put in place from feuding dominant families. I am sucked in, nonetheless, and will try to keep my values.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Borghi abbandonati - abandoned villages: ROCCA VARANO

I found a nice site called 'Borghi Abbandonati'. Some listings further south in Le Marche may be victims of the recent earthquakes. One is nearby San Severino Marche and looks like an interesting leisurely day trip.

TRANSLATING: Among the oldest possessions of the Varano family, dominating the Valle del Chiente. Composed of very small houses made from local stone, it is now a real oasis of silence and tranquility. The castle, which dominates the village, was restored and strengthened on the inside in 1990, and is today the seat of the Artisanry Exhibition Centre.
The entrance is impressive, crossing a drawbridge one passes through a pointed archway made from limestone.
[from ]
Here's mention in the Le Marche Museum Guide, opening hours 10.30-12.30 and 16 to 19-30.

And this is the museum's web site. Wherefrom I paste this glorious translation, this one by Ms Google, of enticing history and promotion. It's nice that in Blogger - contrast Word - I can paste anything of any length and the only thing offended is the weary reader... but hey, this is interesting! Not least in setting out how you paid your mortgage in the 1200s if you were tough enough and had connections.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

finding routes for drive


On the day of the recent earthquake I wrote to hosts in Vasanello (further away) and San Severino Marche (much nearer) with sympathy and concern that they were well . All well in Vasanello, but fear and shaking and I think minor damage (i.e. "nothing serious") in San Severino. The violent centre of the recent earthquake hit towns further south in Le Marche, news here.


We have had a preference for going out without a map and finding things unexpected. But this time we have to actually move from one place of accommodation to another, which carries a need for a bit of guidance...

We have acquired two big paper maps, Touring Club Italiano's Umbria-Marche [AUD7.99] and Michelin's Northeast Italy [AUD14.99]. Both from ebay, prices including delivery from the other end of planet. The $7.99 item is used but in good condition. Amazing to be able to buy thus.

As the top of this blog indicates, seeing the journey on a big piece of paper makes it easier to get a good sense of where going. In the flat lands of the Po roads are generally straight; in Le Marche they appear on the map often with lots of wiggles. And that's only in two dimensions.

A piece of the TCI map to show
wiggly roads in two dimensions
north of San Severino Marche.
Note Elcito top left, see photo.
I have used google maps for general sense of road distances, also with quick information on trains and buses. But for very detailed information I have looked to ViaMichelin. In particular, to discover, among the maze of roads in Le Marche, whether there is a wandering route from San Severino Marche to Forli. I entered those two points in the ViaMichelin page, chose the option of 'discovery' and got these results. I have printed out option 2, not certain whether I will be fit enough for that winding winding road, but certain that if we go that way we will need the instructions!

Find the town of Elcito on the two dimensional map.
Here is a photo of Elcito in three dimensional glory.
We expect there will still be lots of snow on peaks
in March. The law obliges winter tyres
(or carrying snow chains)
in cars until 15 April, in mountainous areas.
Our long stay in San Severino and then long stay
in Forli means capacity to cope with possible
road closures for a day or so.
Photo from here.
To add to those aids  I have ordered from AliExpress a GPS device (with other functions) with Europe maps [AUD106] plus an SD card with GPS maps for Australia [AUD19].

If you rent a GPS with a rented vehicle in Italy the price is generally more than AUD20 per day.

I have not had a GPS in my car at home, we tended to disparage them, but in Helen's office car the GPS has shown its value. It will of course make errors, it will of course offer the most straight line options, but if you disobey instructions it will recalculate and offer new directions. In complicated geography in Italy it may help us get home.

The remote small towns are enticing. The TripAdvisor page for Elcito is full of positive accounts of visits: "Bello, bello, bello e ancora bello!" And for a town with seven inhabitants much is happening.

But it's not necessary to hunt things so reviewed on TripAdvisor, you may happily be diverted along with way. A nice sunset photo near Santo Stefano is here. This little movie of an exciting re-enactment day at the Castello di Picino, 11km from San Severino, shows more landscape.

... and another photo, Elcito in winter