16.05.2015
16:41

Europe by rail - an introduction

See all rail travel articles »

Latest update: September 2015

See the updated trans-Europe services for 2015 »

If you are intending to travel by rail in Europe, Mark Dudgeon, Blue Guides’ resident rail expert, offers advice about where to start and suggests some of the most useful internet resources to help in your planning:

Eurostar at St Pancras, London ...

GENERAL PLANNING

Seat 61 is an ex-railway manager’s personal but comprehensive guide to travelling by train in Europe and the rest of the world. Once considered to be rather too anglo-centric (“How to get from London to….”), it has since expanded to include more detailed information about travelling by train within and between almost any country which has a rail network. Regularly updated, this site is a good starting point for organising a journey by rail in Europe.

Deutsche Bahn‘s website is, they claim, “Europe’s biggest online travel booking tool”. Certainly, it is generally considered to be the best timetable planner for train journeys throughout Europe. When planning journeys, exercise care, however – except for within Germany, this site does not show temporary or last minute timetable changes: national rail websites are better for this. Weekend journeys in Britain, for example, are frequently disrupted by engineering work on the line.

If you enjoy poring over maps when planning journeys, the Railways through Europe site has comprehensive rail maps for each country, although you may find the design of the maps more of interest to the rail fan rather than the independent traveller.

EUROSTAR

For many British citizens, at least, Eurostar has offered them their first experience of international train travel. Despite being 20 years old now, and looking rather jaded in parts – standard class seating is cramped and the bistro cars are particularly dismal – the Eurostar experience still can captivate the imagination in a way that short-haul flights cannot. London’s St Pancras station is a particularly impressive place to start a journey: until you get past check-in, that is - the Eurostar waiting lounge can get overcrowded very quickly. The experience should soon regain its glamour factor: a new service from London to Marseille was introduced in May 2015, and brand-new Siemens-built Eurostar e320 trainsets will start operating on the London-Paris route at the end of 2015. Eurostar also plans to operate trains between London and Amsterdam from December 2016. Unfortunately, Deutsche Bahn, which had announced plans to introduce through trains between London, Cologne, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, has now put those plans on indefinite hold.

EUROPE-WIDE RAIL PASSES

One of the big decisions, when planning to do some serious train travel in Europe, is whether or not to buy a rail pass. The two principal types for extensive travel, which have a variety of geographic options (for one or more countries) and several validity periods, are Eurail and Inter-Rail. The basic rule is that Inter-Rail passes are available for anyone resident (for at least six months) in Europe, and Eurail passes are available for everyone else. The best sites for checking the details, including advice on planning trips, and buying passes, are the official sites operated by the Eurail.com company: Eurail and Inter-Rail.

It is important to note that – with some exceptions - Eurail and national passes can generally only be purchased before you arrive in Europe (or the specific country). Inter-Rail passes can be purchased in your country of residence, but they do not allow free travel in that country.

NATIONAL RAIL PASSES

Several countries also issue their own national passes independent of the Eurail/Inter-Rail scheme, and sometimes these offer a better deal. Most passes are available to anyone not resident in the country of travel.

The ever-popular Swiss Pass and Swiss Flexi-Pass cover most types of public transport in Switzerland without extra payment, or at a discount. There is also the useful Swiss Card, offering a visitor a round-trip transfer from the Swiss border (including airports) to any Swiss destination and back, plus unlimited tickets (including boats and some cable-cars) at 50% discount for one month.

The German Rail Pass is only available for non-European residents. Passes are available for a number of days-of-use (from 3 up to 10) within a period of one month - the days do not have to be consecutive.

Renfe’s Spain Pass operates in a different way: you can select passes offering from 4 to 12 long-distance journeys within one month. Connecting local train services at each end of your journey are included free of charge.

The range of BritRail passes is available in several variations, from the London-Plus Pass to the Britrail Pass itself - covering England, Scotland and Wales - with another version including all Ireland. BritRail also offers various discounts on the standard pass prices: for example for low-season travel (November to February), and – unusually – for a British resident travelling together with a visitor.

LOCAL RAIL PASSES

If you are visiting one country, and want to explore a smaller area by train, there is also a variety of local and regional train pass offers available to all travellers. Some countries are better than others for this: Germany, for example, has the excellent one-day Länder-Tickets valid on regional and local trains in each German state, for up to five people travelling together. These have the added advantage of being available on local transport in towns and cities – for example, the Bayern-Ticket is valid on Munich buses, trams and U-bahn (subway) as well as local trains.

Britain has a wide range of regional passes valid for one or several days, although you will need to dig around a bit on the Rangers and Rovers page to see if one would suit you.

BUYING TICKETS

While European train travel has become generally faster and more comfortable over the past couple of decades, it has also become more fragmented – rather than government-owned megaliths operating all the rail services within each country’s borders, privatisation has begun to make its mark in some countries (notably Britain), and several private operators run cross-border services (Eurostar from London to Paris and Brussels, and Thalys from Paris to Amsterdam and Cologne being prime examples).

Twenty years or so ago, you could roll up at the International Travel Centre on platform 1 at London’s Victoria station, and ask for a one-way ticket from London to Budapest. The clerk would dutifully consult a very large tome – the international ticketing manual - you would agree with him the route you intended to travel, and he would calculate a price – all worked out by the distance travelled in each country you passed through. The ticket would be issued, and you were all set – you could stop off anywhere en route, without formality, within the two-month validity of the ticket.

So nowadays, if you decide a rail pass is not for you, or you simply just want to purchase a one-way point-to-point ticket, where do you start?

If your journey is straightforward and involves only one operator, in most cases you can simply visit the operator’s website and book online, print your ticket off (or have it mailed to you).

However, things can get more complicated very quickly. It can be a challenge finding a travel agent able and willing to issue an international train ticket for a complicated routing. (It involves a lot of manual work). If you want to book online, some websites make a brave attempt at pan-European ticketing. Loco2, for example, is relatively new and gets some good reviews. For our London – Budapest journey, it will quote you a price - or rather two or more prices for separate tickets on specific trains – but the options it will offer you are limited. If you want to stopover in Cologne, say, on the way, you’re going to have to split the journey into two, and even then you will only be offered a small number of options.

Alternatively, in Britain, for example, Deutsche Bahn’s UK booking centre can be very helpful in pricing and ticketing more complicated journeys by phone.

Here are our tips for purchasing rail tickets:

1. Flexibility or specific trains? On most websites, you will be offered tickets for flexible travel (check the operator’s conditions) or cheaper tickets for travel on specific trains, which are often not refundable and not changeable (so if you don’t travel or you miss your train, you’ve lost your money). The choice is yours; you need to assess how important flexibility is to you. If your journey requires more than one non-flexible ticket, do ensure that you leave plenty of connecting time between trains, since it is not guaranteed that one operator will be understanding, and let you travel on a later train if you miss a connection because of another operator’s delay.

2. Journeys within one country: it is usually best to use the national operator’s website to book tickets, for example Deutsche Bahn for Germany or Trenitalia for Italy. You are likely to be offered the best range of tickets, and the booking experience should generally be smooth. However, do check if a smaller private operator runs trains on your planned route. For example, you might consider Westbahn if travelling between Vienna and Salzburg (instead of the Austrian national operator, OeBB); or Italo between Rome and Milan (instead of Trenitalia).

3. International journeys: many countries have bilateral or multilateral agreements with nearby countries for ticketing for specific rail journeys. In this case, check for the ticket you require on the website of the operator in either the departing or arriving country. (So, for example SNCF and DB for a Paris to Frankfurt ticket.) In some cases, you may find that the ticket is cheaper on one site rather than the other.

 

Here is our list of the principal national rail sites, useful both for up-to-date timetable information and booking tickets:

Germany: Deutsche Bahn (DB) for booking rail tickets within Germany, and for international journeys starting or ending in Germany. There is the odd additional quirk: for example, you can book a London to Salzburg ticket, since DB considers Salzburg to be within Germany for ticketing purposes; or the night train from Amsterdam to Prague (which is operated by City Night Line, a Deutsche Bahn subsidiary). Their London-Spezial tickets - for journeys between London and Germany - can be particularly good value.

France: SNCF in its various guises can be a bit clunky. Try Capitaine Train instead – also useful for some international tickets.

Italy:  Trenitalia is quite user-friendly; usefully, train pass holders can also book and change reservations-only on high-speed trains.

Other national operators' websites include Spain: Renfe; Austria: OeBB; Switzerland: SBB; and the Netherlands: NS.

In Great Britain: National Rail represents the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC). To find out the specific train operating company (TOC) for your journey, consult either the online timetable or the maps section. Refer to the individual operator’s website to buy tickets.

 

Other major operators on specific routes include:

City Night Line: the largest operator of night trains in Europe, mainly for journeys originating, ending or passing through Germany.

Eurostar – London to Paris and Brussels; also to French ski-resorts (in season) and Marseille

Thalys - Paris to Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam

Thello - Night trains between France and Italy, and daytime trains between Marseille, Nice and Milan

TGV Lyria - Trains between Paris and Switzerland

 

And the most beautiful rail journey in Europe? Perhaps this one:

 

See all rail travel articles on blueguides.com»

11.03.2015
13:56

Frescoes in a convent of a closed order of nuns

Janus, representing the month of January.

In the lovely convent of the Santi Quattro Coronati, in a quiet corner of Rome reached on foot in little more than ten minutes from the Colosseum, frescoes were discovered in a Gothic hall in 1995. Since this was in an area belonging to a closed order of Augustinian nuns (who have been in the convent for some five centuries), many years’ discussion ensued to establish how it would be possible to allow visitors to see the frescoes once restoration had been completed. The difficulties have at last been resolved and the hall is now opened on two days a month by a volunteer organisation which specialises in making accessible places in Rome not normally easy to visit.

 

Heralded as perhaps the most important medieval cycle of secular subjects to have survived in the entire city, it is indeed a remarkable sight. The cross-vaulted hall was part of a grand 13th-century residence reserved for the Cardinal. In fact a cardinal priest attached to the Carolingian convent became Pope Leo IV in 847 (a chapel from his time survives off the little cloister).

 

Up until now the most fascinating part of the convent open to visitors was the little Cappella di San Silvestro, approached just off the courtyard, with its charming fresco cycle of 1247 commissioned by Cardinal Stefano Conti and illustrating the life (and legend) of Pope Sylvester (324–35). The Gothic Hall is on the first floor, approached from the opposite side of the courtyard through the convent library. Frescoed at around the same time as the chapel, it was the most important room in the Cardinal's suite. It was where he would probably have received visitors, administered justice and given banquets. The decoration is divided into two distinct parts. The three walls of the first bay have illustrations of the Months, all with charming stylised trees. January is depicted as a seated Janus figure with three faces while a boy is supplying him with cured pork, and sausages can be seen hung up to dry. Trees are being pruned in February, and in March an eccentric scene shows a languid youth holding out his very long, thin leg to a lady so that she can extract a thorn from his foot. In April shepherds are shown tending their animals. The next wall has an idyllic scene in May, with a man on a horse smelling a bouquet of flowers while children up trees laden with fruit gather them into baskets. In June grain is being harvested with scythes, and in July it is being processed on a circular threshing floor. Figs are being offered to a seated old man in August. The last wall begins with September, with wine barrels being prepared for the grape harvest, depicted in October. November has a ploughing scene and in December pigs are being butchered. The upper register, which illustrates the Liberal Arts, is less well preserved: but a female figure representing Geometry can be made out as well as Music, illustrated by an organ operated by bellows.

 

The second bay has a frieze of female Virtues and Beatitudes dressed in armour carrying small figures (from the Old or New Testament or a Saint) on their shoulders and trampling under their feet pairs of figures representing the Vices. The qualities personified are explained in long inscriptions. Solomon, representing Justice, is given pride of place, flanked by a pair of exotic birds. Above them are lunettes with even more curious scenes:  a pair of figures suggesting Abundance, with cornucopia and baskets brimming with all sorts of good things (and their nicely rounded rear ends very much in evidence since their cloaks have fallen to their knees!). Another has the Sun (symbolising Christ) and the Moon (symbolising the Church) in chariots drawn respectively by horses and by bulls, separated by a giant ornamental vase.

 

All of the scenes are separated with delightful friezes: colourful geometric borders, trompe l'oeil patterns, little naked figures playing with ribbons, dolphins with their tails entwined, and a great variety of birds. Little genii with curly tails can be seen fighting each other on either side of flower pots, and amusing young telamones playing in the leaves and holding up festoons of flowers and fruit. A bright emerald green dominates the background of the entire painted surface.

 

The discovery of these frescoes has caused art historians to revise the entire history of painting in Rome in the 13th century.

 

by Alta Macadam, author of Blue Guide Rome.

 

The Gothic Hall (Aula Gotica) is at present open twice a month on a weekday by appointment; to book: archeocontesti@gmail.com; T: 335495248. Explanation in situ given also in English. An offering is expected for the convent. For information, see here.

The Chapel of St Sylvester and cloister are usually open 10–11.45 & 4–5.45; holidays 9.30–10.30 & 4–5.45, although—since they are part of the convent—the opening hours are subject to change according to the availability of one of the nuns. For admission, ring at the old wooden bell of the convent and ask the nun beyond the grille to press the door release. When the nuns are busy or at prayer it is sometimes necessary to ring more than once; if there is no reply, wait and try again a little later. Minimum donation of one euro.

Church open 9–12 & 3-5.30. Services (with sung Mass) are held frequently by the nuns, who are known for their musical talents.

Winter in Florence: a new look at Donatello

by Alta Macadam (author of Blue Guide Florence)

 

The wide streets around San Lorenzo, the great Medici church close to their family palace, which in effect form a piazza, have recently been cleared of market stalls so that the exterior of the building has regained its dignity. Inside visitors have been provided with a wonderful opportunity to come face to face with one of Donatello's pulpits in the nave, now restored. An ingenious scaffold and lighting system has been set up so and if you put one euro into a little machine you can then climb up to the level of the pulpit and examine the details of the gilded reliefs. This is an occasion not to be missed, since the pulpits have always been very difficult to see, being raised up on columns. The pulpit in question is the one on the right, from which the Epistle was read, and the three reliefs at the height of the walkway are the Resurrection, the Ascension (or Christ Appearing to the Apostles) and the Descent into Limbo. Although Christ takes on a quite different appearance in each of the scenes, they were all cast together and they have a more or less continuous background. They date from the very end of Donatello's long life, around 1460.

 

In the Resurrection Donatello famously portrays Christ as an anguished, elderly, infirm figure, hooded and still in his grave cloth, supported by his banner. In contrast (and following the familiar iconography of this scene), the soldiers in the foreground are depicted as genial innocents, most of them fast asleep but all in different attitudes, and with their feet carefully modelled. There is one seen from behind who seems to be hanging onto the edge of the tomb in astonishment, having just awakened; and if one looks even closer, there are two more in the far background on the other side of the sarcophagus: it is difficult to make out whether the scene includes six or seven soldiers. The frieze at the top of the pulpit has little playful putti and centaurs in relief around the central signature 'Opus Donatelli Flo' (the great sculptor was always touchingly proud of his birthplace), and at the corners are 'classical' horsemen, standing holding their horses’ bridles in a manner reminiscent of the Dioscuri.

 

In the Descent into Limbo Christ is still an elderly man but a much less dramatic figure: it is the scene itself which is particularly harrowing. On the extreme right stands the emaciated Baptist holding out his hand to Christ. All around, some half hidden, are the Saints who await liberation. But the crowd also includes figures without haloes: the head of Eve appears in the doorway and in front of her is Adam, with his arms stretched towards Christ. Two small grotesque devils, one entwined with a snake, and both with webbed feet, are also present. It has been suggested that the iconography of this panel may have been inspired by a miniature Byzantine mosaic which Donatello would have seen in the Baptistery (and which is today preserved in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.

 

In the Ascension (or Christ Appearing to the Apostles) scholars have detected the intervention of Donatello's assistants. Here a more genial Christ is shown in the act of blessing as cherubs help him on his slightly awkward upward journey, leaving behind the crowd of kneeling Apostles and the Virgin. They are seen behind a 'fence' which has ramblers on it and there are more roses and ferns on the ground at their feet.

 

The two end panels cannot be seen at such close range, but they are visible from the steps and are also wonderful works: the Marys at the Tomb and Pentecost. The Tomb scene is very dramatic, taking place as it does in a dark, underground burial crypt with a row of columns which partly obscure the sarcophagus, and one of which gives support to one of the Marys in her astonishment at seeing an angel blocking her way. Another Mary descends the steps but her face is totally hidden from view. A few trees can be seen outside in the background, above the roof. The Pentecost scene, although designed by Donatello, was executed in its final stages by pupils. The elderly Madonna is surrounded by the Apostles who have thrown their Crosses on the ground.

 

The other long side (which you can still only see from below, but which is now well illuminated) has two panels which are old replacements in wood, but the third is a very fine Martyrdom of St Lawrence, with smaller figures in a room portrayed in deep perspective. It is thought that Donatello worked on this panel before those on the other side, just after his return to Florence from Padua.

 

The pulpit opposite is still being restored and the idea is to move the scaffolding across to it also once the restoration is completed (probably in around a year's time).

It is almost certain that the panels were not originally intended for pulpits but were made for a funerary monument or an altar in the church. One wonders if it might be thought legitimate to dismantle them once restoration is completed and display them in a way that they can be seen with ease.

 

The extraordinary genius of Donatello, so idiosyncratic in his iconography, can also be seen a few metres away in the Old Sacristy, beautifully kept and wonderfully illuminated. Donatello decorated this lovely little domed chapel (designed by Brunelleschi) some decades before he worked on the pulpits. And here on a cupboard is a terracotta bust of the young St Lawrence (or St Leonard?) one of the most charming Renaissance portraits which still mystifies art historians and which in situ is simply attributed to an unknown sculptor. One day perhaps it will join the catalogue of works by Donatello.

 

It is always somehow surprising that we cannot be sure of certain attributions, and that works which have been known about for centuries can sometimes be convincingly found to be by a master's hand. This has happened recently to a terracotta relief of a Madonna and Child which belongs to the church of Santa Trinita and which in the early 19th century was moved by the Vallombrosan monks outside onto the campanile (presumably as 'protection' for the church). In 2004 it was brought back inside again (and replaced outside by a copy) and since it had been much ruined by the elements was sent to the restoration laboratory of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. It revealed itself to be a very beautiful relief and is now attributed to Donatello himself (there are great similarities between it and a terracotta relief in Florida which is a recognised work of the master). At the same time an oval empty space (flanked by two painted angels) has been noticed inside the church in the niche above the tomb of Giuliano Davanzati and it has been agreed that the relief will be placed there when it returns to the church, in the belief that it must originally have been made for this position.

 

All this shows how work never ceases to protect and study the works of art in Florence and that restoration projects are carried on apace with all the skill and expertise we have come to expect from the state restoration laboratory here.

Tea (or coffee) with the Sultan

When you next order a Turkish coffee, have look at the glass of water that normally comes with it. If you are lucky, it will have an elegant sweep of curvy gold lines on it. You will easily recognise it: this is a tuğra, a sultan’s cipher and now a symbol of Ottoman Turkey. Putting it on glasses is just a fashion. A trip to the bazaar may enable you to come home with a tea set in the tulip shape or just a few plain, elegant water glasses, all emblazoned with tuğras. But what is the origin of the artwork? Opinions are deeply divided though there is a fair chance that the original design goes back well before the Ottomans who brought it to perfection.

 

There are basically three main parts to a tuğra. The stand, that is the base, contains the name of the sultan, his filiation and the title 'ever victorious' (el muzaffer daima), all in Arabic script; to the left two concentric ellipses  (the eggs) run in parallel lines to the margin of the paper to the right (the arms). Finally three vertical strokes with or without curvy pennants occupy the centre. The vertical strokes seem to hold the key. They may represent the handprint of the sultan or indeed the mark of his three fingers dipped in ink and trailed on the document. Unconfirmed reports speak of one such example in the archives of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik), from the hand of Murat I in the mid-14th century. But some think one should look further back, to the time when the people of central Asia were roaming the steppes with their flocks. Branding or any other way of telling the animals apart, would have been a necessity. According to Raşid-al-Din's historical compilation, the Turkish and the Mongol people used a mark (tamga) both to stamp their decrees and brand their flocks and herds. Each of the 24 Oğuz tribes, the founding fathers  of the Turkish nation, had its own logo, a combination of vertical and other strokes. That's where the arrows come in. Arrows play an important part in early Turkish history as an expression of power. Archery was an important factor in their military success. Oğuz Turks traditionally belonged either to the 'Great Arrow' (Bozok) or to the 'Three Arrows' (Üç Ok); in addition, the election of the early Seljuk sultans apparently included a ritual based on arrows.

 

With the Ottomans the tuğra (which probably existed at the time of the Seljuks though there are no concrete examples, only text references) became codified as a symbol of power, the sultan's signature. He did not draw it himself: a dedicated school of calligraphers was in charge. As the firmans (the sultan's official decrees) multiplied, the artwork was simplified and standardised while at the same time embellished with the application of gold and colour. With time the sultan's mark made its way onto coins, flags, stamps, passports, official monuments, buildings and warships.

 

Beyond the Ottoman Empire, tuğras are known in Iran, with the Great Seljuk; in India at the time of the Mongols; and in Egypt with the Mamluks. A unique example not connected to the Turkish community has been traced in the Crimea. In 1836 the governor issued a passport to a Polish doctor on his way to work in Istanbul. It bore the tuğra of Czar Nicholas I, probably modelled after a coin, and was intended to add authority to the document and ensure that Ottoman officialdom would supply the three horses and the necessary assistance to enable doctor Radzionski to reach his destination as soon as possible.

 

by Paola Pugsley. Paola is currently working on a guide to Cappadocia and central Anatolia. For her other Turkish titles, published digitally by Blue Guides, see here.

Artwork of the Month: January. Medieval stained glass

Medieval stained glass is relatively rare in English country churches because so much was destroyed by zealots during the Reformation in the 16th century and under Cromwell in the 17th. Fragments of old glass exist and have been pieced together in many windows across the country, but entire windows are scarcer. The two shown here are from c. 1350. They are the north and south chancel windows of the church of St Andrew in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, just at the foot of the Chiltern Hills. Light was poor in the church when I was there and these are the best images I could get: photographs taken with my telephone. The window on the left (the north window) shows two bishops, with crosier and processional cross. Above them, in the quatrefoil, is a depiction of one of the Seven Acts of Mercy: Feeding the Hungry. The window on the right (the south window) shows St Lawrence and St Alban and another of the Seven Acts, Clothing the Naked: a man in yellow (St Martin) is seen giving a green garment to a naked man. (The other Acts of Mercy are Giving Drink to the Thirsty, Sheltering the Homeless, Nursing the Sick, Visiting those in Prison and Burying the Dead. Caravaggio manages to depict all seven of them in a single canvas in a famous painting in Naples. Perhaps at one time all seven were shown in the windows of this little church, too.

Giacomo Leopardi: A poet in film

Portrait of Leopardi c. 1820.

Reviewed by Alta Macadam

Il Giovane favoloso, a film released in Italy this autumn, describes the life of the country's greatest Romantic poet (in fact its greatest poet, together with Dante and Petrarch). This undertaking, by director Mario Martone, was highly ambitious: Elio Germano as Leopardi re-enacts the life of this great literary figure and philosopher, born in the Marche in east Italy in 1798 and who died at just 38. Germano succeeds superbly in the role, reciting the some of Leopardi's most famous poems, and letters to his close friend and mentor Pietro Giordani. The film was given its première at the Venice Film Festival in September and was also shown at the London Film Festival in October (hopefully it will soon be on general release in the UK and US). The locations include the poet’s home town of Recanati, as well as Florence, Rome and Naples (where he died during a cholera outbreak), and will be greatly appreciated by all who love Italy. The music, by Sascha Ring, is very beautiful.

 

The Zibaldone, Leopardi’s notebook and diary full of philosophical observations, which was first published many decades after his death, has now been published in an English edition (Penguin Classics, 2013, eds Michael Caesar and Franco D'Intino). It is the first complete translation into English of this fundamental work.

 

Despite his fame, Leopardi is difficult to define: fluent in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, he was a Classical scholar as well as a philosopher and in many ways anticipated 20th-century thinking, being critical of the belief in progress and close to existential theories. In some ways he can be compared to Wordsworth, although the English poet is much more joyful in spirit. Leopardi was intensely religious as a boy though his views grew more unorthodox and critical as the years went by: interestingly, the only disparaging review in the Italian press so far has been in the Vatican newspaper, the Osservatore Romano (25th October).

 

The film takes almost all its dialogue straight from original documents or letters, and Elio Germano's capacity to immerse himself totally in the role has been much remarked on. In Recanati the film was shot in Leopardi's family home, where the actor also lived for many months, even learning to write with a quill pen. The Neapolitan director has worked much in theatre (and in fact he recently staged Leopardi's Operette morali, an allegorical dialogue) and this is evident throughout the film. It was daring to decide to let Germano recite some of the poems as if he was composing them, but these passages of the film are some of the most moving. Very little artistic licence has been taken, although the scene in the brothel in Naples is invented and is perhaps one of the few disappointing moments in the narrative. All in all the film is an honest reconstruction of Leopardi's life which avoids clichés and shows up his more lively side and underlines his quick ironic humour, managing to get away from the label of 'pessimist' which is all too often attached to him and which has perhaps tended to limit appreciation of his deep character.

 

This is the first time that Leopardi’s poetry has been recited on the big screen and the film ends in a villa on the slopes of Vesuvius during an eruption, while Leopardi composes his last poem, La Ginestra.

 

The supporting roles are very well played, from his close friend Ranieri (Michele Riondino), who represents the poet’s fragile attachment to the real world, to Leopardi’s father Monaldo (Massimo Popolizio, until now mainly known as a stage actor), whose human side is successfully portrayed alongside his determined ambition to bring up his children imbued with literature. He would have approved, perhaps, of the fact that classes of Italian schoolchildren are being taken to see this film.

 

Where to find Leopardi in the Blue Guides:

Leopardi's home town of Recanati is covered in detail in Ellen Grady's Blue Guide The Marche & San Marino, the new, fully-revised 2nd edition of which is fresh off the press. His former home is now a museum and much of the early part of the film was shot in and around it. The ball game known as pallone al bracciale, re-enacted in the film with Leopardi as a spectator, is described in the same Blue Guide (and also in Blue Guide Central Italy). The poet's relationship to the English colony in Pisa, where he stayed for a year in 1827, is recorded in Alta Macadam's Blue Guide Tuscany, available in print and digital. You will find Leopardi’s grave site in Naples in Paul Blanchard's Blue Guide Southern Italy, also available in print and digital.

Sassoferrato and the Aion Mosaic

"The name Sassoferrato derives from the Latin saxum ferratum, ‘stone encircled by iron’; it stands on a rocky crest, in an area rich in iron ore. Close by, at the confluence of the Sentino and Marena rivers, stood the Roman city of Sentinum, where in 295 BC the Romans achieved a momentous victory at the Battle of Sentinum, or Battle of the Nations, over the Gauls, Etruscans and Samnites; later (in 41 BC) it was destroyed on behalf of Octavian by Salvidienus Rufus and, when Octavian became Caesar Augustus, rebuilt for his veterans. Sentinum was probably abandoned in the early Middle Ages, when the survivors of enemy attacks, pestilences and poverty built a new settlement on the top of the mountain, recorded from the 11th century, and the lower town in the 13th century. Control of the town passed from one liege lord to another. The last of these aristocratic tyrants, Luigi degli Atti, was killed in 1460, and after that Sassoferrato became a free commune under the aegis of the Papal States, with its own statutes and coat of arms: a stone encircled by an iron band. The economy, based on potteries, stone quarries, bell-casting and the manufacture of nails, flourished. Nowadays the main activities besides farming are footwear, leather, clothing and bathroom fittings."

 

The above extract from Blue Guide The Marche & San Marino makes Sassoferrato sound a likeable sort of place, perhaps not with any particular claim to fame or attention. But read on. Roman Sentinum yielded to the world one of the most beautiful and enigmatic mosaics ever found: the Aion Mosaic, which was sold to Ludwig of Bavaria in 1828 and is now in Munich.

 

Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786–1868) was an interesting monarch in many ways. The behaviour of his scandalous mistress Lola Montez, the Munich Beer Riots and his abdication in the face of open revolt in 1848 have given tongues more to talk about perhaps than his love of the Greek and Roman world and his desire to recreate them in some measure in Munich. He built the grandiose complex of the Königsplatz, wth its monumental gateway, the Propylaion, and its twin Neoclassical museum buildings: the Antikensammlungen and the Glyptothek. Behind them is the abbey church of St Bonifaz, where he lies buried, the church exterior modelled on San Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome. The entire ensemble is extraordinary. And while the architecture is one thing, the portable objects that the buildings contain are quite another. One of these is a mosaic from Roman Sentinum, dated c. AD 200 and showing Aion, god of Unbounded Time and Eternity, standing naked within a hoop of the Zodiac. At his feet reclines Tellus the earth goddess, surrounded by her offspring, the Four Seasons. King Ludwig acquired the work in 1828. It is beautifully preserved (as his agent, Johann Martin von Wagner remarked: damaged only in two small places) and unique in the arrangement of its subject matter. Close inspection reveals that the signs of the Zodiac appear in the wrong order. Aion has his hand on Pisces, the sign that coincides with the spring equinox and the beginning of the year, but Aries and Sagittarius are in the wrong place. Why might this be? Did the mosaicists follow their pattern-book incorrectly when they made it up? Has it been wrongly restored? Or is the “mistake” a deliberate one? It is, if we believe Filippo Venturi, who ascribes to the work a complicated symbolism, not only esoteric and eschatalogical but also connected to imperial propaganda. His thesis (in Italian) can be read here. The villa at Sentinum, he believes, can only have belonged to someone not only learned but supremely well-connected, perhaps to a relative of the imperial household itself.

Detail of the Aion Mosaic showing the order of the zodiacal signs as Pisces, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo. Aries is missing.
The right-hand side of the Zodiac loop showing the irregular order: Aries, Sagittarius, Libra and Scorpio.

Text and images © Blue Guides. All rights reserved.

Hungarian pioneer of hand-sanitisation

How many of us today, while methodically washing our hands in the hope of staving off Covid-19, think of Ignác Semmelweis? How many of us have even heard of him? Semmelweis (1818–65) is not widely known around the world but he is a familiar name in Hungary. Budapest's medical school is named after him and he has gone down in history as the ‘saviour of mothers’ because his pioneering methods saved many women and infants from death by puerperal fever. Semmelweis’ theories were revolutionary for his time. And now, his insistence on the importance of disinfection to halt the spread of contagion has been brought once again under the spotlight as we are once again reminded of its importance. Semmelweis was ahead of the curve in his grasp of the importance of hand-washing: his hunch was borne out by significant decreases in the rate of mortality on obstetric wards under his supervision. Despite this, his idea was rejected by the established medical community, who were offended by the suggestion that a patient's death could be imputed to the medical staff's personal hygiene. What made things more difficult for Semmelweis was the fact that he was a practitioner, not a scientist. His theory could be explained as a hunch that seemed to work but he had detected nothing through a microscope that could furnish scientific explanation and proof. He never gained the reputation he deserved during his lifetime. In fact he suffered some kind of mental and emotional breakdown and began lashing out in print at the ignorance and obstinacy of the medical fraternity. In the end he was transferred to an asylum in Vienna, a move supported by his wife, who was no longer able to cope with his tantrums. He died very shortly after his admission, perhaps as a result of ill-treatment.

Semmelweis’s former home in Budapest is now a museum of the history of medicine (described in full in Blue Guide Budapest). His theory, of course, is fully recognised today. Named after him is the phenomenon known as the Semmelweis reflex, the human tendency to reject or ridicule new ideas if they fly in the face of accepted convention.

‘The Global Eye’, running at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence until the end of May, is an exhibition devoted to the collection of Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese maps purchased by Cosimo III on his second journey to Holland in 1667–9 (before becoming grand-duke). A conference in November 2019, organised by the Dutch Institute in Florence, illustrated the close ties between the Dutch Republic and Cosimo III, who took a great interest in cross-cultural issues. The 82 maps (a selection of which are on view, accompanied by remarkable digital supports) represent many areas of the known world including parts of Japan, Africa, and even a unique plan dated around 1660 of ‘New Amsterdam’, when still part of the Dutch colony that a few years later was renamed New York, when the British took over. The maps were kept for a hundred years at the Villa di Castello on the outskirts of Florence, seat of the Accademia della Crusca (Cosimo III was an academician of the Crusca and their first dictionary, published in 1691, was dedicated to him in its 3rd edition). The villa itself is not generally open to the public but its garden is one of the most important of all those attached to Medici villas in the surroundings of Florence (and is fully described in Blue Guide Florence). The maps were moved for safety to the Biblioteca Laurenziana in 1921; this is the first time they have been fully studied and a catalogue raisonné provided. Visiting this fascinating small exhibition also gives you the chance to see (off the cloister of San Lorenzo) Michelangelo’s reading room with its famous vestibule, one of the most extraordinary architectural works in Florence.


by Alta Macadam, author of Blue Guide Florence.

‘The Global Eye’, running at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence until the end of May, is an exhibition devoted to the collection of Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese maps purchased by Cosimo III on his second journey to Holland in 1667–9 (before becoming grand-duke). A conference in November 2019, organised by the Dutch Institute in Florence, illustrated the close ties between the Dutch Republic and Cosimo III, who took a great interest in cross-cultural issues. The 82 maps (a selection of which are on view, accompanied by remarkable digital supports) represent many areas of the known world including parts of Japan, Africa, and even a unique plan dated around 1660 of ‘New Amsterdam’, when still part of the Dutch colony that a few years later was renamed New York, when the British took over. The maps were kept for a hundred years at the Villa di Castello on the outskirts of Florence, seat of the Accademia della Crusca (Cosimo III was an academician of the Crusca and their first dictionary, published in 1691, was dedicated to him in its 3rd edition). The villa itself is not generally open to the public but its garden is one of the most important of all those attached to Medici villas in the surroundings of Florence (and is fully described in Blue Guide Florence). The maps were moved for safety to the Biblioteca Laurenziana in 1921; this is the first time they have been fully studied and a catalogue raisonné provided. Visiting this fascinating small exhibition also gives you the chance to see (off the cloister of San Lorenzo) Michelangelo’s reading room with its famous vestibule, one of the most extraordinary architectural works in Florence.


by Alta Macadam, author of Blue Guide Florence.

‘The Global Eye’, running at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence until the end of May, is an exhibition devoted to the collection of Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese maps purchased by Cosimo III on his second journey to Holland in 1667–9 (before becoming grand-duke). A conference in November 2019, organised by the Dutch Institute in Florence, illustrated the close ties between the Dutch Republic and Cosimo III, who took a great interest in cross-cultural issues. The 82 maps (a selection of which are on view, accompanied by remarkable digital supports) represent many areas of the known world including parts of Japan, Africa, and even a unique plan dated around 1660 of ‘New Amsterdam’, when still part of the Dutch colony that a few years later was renamed New York, when the British took over. The maps were kept for a hundred years at the Villa di Castello on the outskirts of Florence, seat of the Accademia della Crusca (Cosimo III was an academician of the Crusca and their first dictionary, published in 1691, was dedicated to him in its 3rd edition). The villa itself is not generally open to the public but its garden is one of the most important of all those attached to Medici villas in the surroundings of Florence (and is fully described in Blue Guide Florence). The maps were moved for safety to the Biblioteca Laurenziana in 1921; this is the first time they have been fully studied and a catalogue raisonné provided. Visiting this fascinating small exhibition also gives you the chance to see (off the cloister of San Lorenzo) Michelangelo’s reading room with its famous vestibule, one of the most extraordinary architectural works in Florence.


by Alta Macadam, author of Blue Guide Florence.

‘The Global Eye’, running at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence until the end of May, is an exhibition devoted to the collection of Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese maps purchased by Cosimo III on his second journey to Holland in 1667–9 (before becoming grand-duke). A conference in November 2019, organised by the Dutch Institute in Florence, illustrated the close ties between the Dutch Republic and Cosimo III, who took a great interest in cross-cultural issues. The 82 maps (a selection of which are on view, accompanied by remarkable digital supports) represent many areas of the known world including parts of Japan, Africa, and even a unique plan dated around 1660 of ‘New Amsterdam’, when still part of the Dutch colony that a few years later was renamed New York, when the British took over. The maps were kept for a hundred years at the Villa di Castello on the outskirts of Florence, seat of the Accademia della Crusca (Cosimo III was an academician of the Crusca and their first dictionary, published in 1691, was dedicated to him in its 3rd edition). The villa itself is not generally open to the public but its garden is one of the most important of all those attached to Medici villas in the surroundings of Florence (and is fully described in Blue Guide Florence). The maps were moved for safety to the Biblioteca Laurenziana in 1921; this is the first time they have been fully studied and a catalogue raisonné provided. Visiting this fascinating small exhibition also gives you the chance to see (off the cloister of San Lorenzo) Michelangelo’s reading room with its famous vestibule, one of the most extraordinary architectural works in Florence.


by Alta Macadam, author of Blue Guide Florence.

With the closure today of the museums and monuments in all of Italy, those of us who visit them also for work are left wondering how such a thing could have happened in our lifetime. We suddenly find ourselves facing a drastic shortage of culture: no libraries, no theatre, no cinema. However, the very direct explanation by Prime Minister Conte late last night made it all too clear how necessary such measures have become in a country where the dreaded Coronavirus is suddenly holding us all hostage. There is no doubt that Italy has trusted leaders in Conte and President Mattarella, and the country’s medical profession are displaying all their dedication and efficiency. There is an evident preparedness in those in places of responsibility and a feeling of teamwork and pulling together in times of emergency. Millions of other Italians have merely been asked to stay at home for the time being. A measure which seems eminently sensible and which should not be a great sacrifice. Who knows how this forced restriction might even foster closer family relationships and make the homes themselves more comfortable. My garden will certainly enjoy greater attention. And with all the benefits of the internet, no one need feel cut off. There is even hope that the closure of museums and monuments will give those great institutions a chance for practicalities impossible when they are open all the time—even if only some radical cleaning, but also perhaps some reorganisation—an almost welcome pause to ‘stand back’ and contemplate themselves and their ‘mission’. I look of course on the rosy side of things, the side for those fortunate enough to have families and homes, but there is a very ugly side of this ‘shut down’, such as the situation in the overcrowded prisons, or that of people cut off from their families who are in hospitals or nursing homes, and the extremely dire economic consequences. This situation is making us all wonder about how we should live our lives in the future, about how long we can expect to enjoy ‘normal’ life in our global world.

For my involvement in the Blue Guides to Italy (Blue Guide Rome has just been published) it means I cannot set off for Venice and the Veneto for work on a volume coming up for revision: a restriction which has been imposed on me for the very first time by circumstances beyond my control (the only other time this happened to me was when I had to cut short a trip for Blue Guide Northern Italy when I was staying in Trieste the day of the terrible earthquake which hit the Friuli in 1976).

We can but hope the virus will soon be dominated with the help of everyone round the world and that we will soon return to a life as we know it, if greatly sobered by what has happened to us all.

Alta Macadam. Florence, 10th March 2020

With the closure today of the museums and monuments in all of Italy, those of us who visit them also for work are left wondering how such a thing could have happened in our lifetime. We suddenly find ourselves facing a drastic shortage of culture: no libraries, no theatre, no cinema. However, the very direct explanation by Prime Minister Conte late last night made it all too clear how necessary such measures have become in a country where the dreaded Coronavirus is suddenly holding us all hostage. There is no doubt that Italy has trusted leaders in Conte and President Mattarella, and the country’s medical profession are displaying all their dedication and efficiency. There is an evident preparedness in those in places of responsibility and a feeling of teamwork and pulling together in times of emergency. Millions of other Italians have merely been asked to stay at home for the time being. A measure which seems eminently sensible and which should not be a great sacrifice. Who knows how this forced restriction might even foster closer family relationships and make the homes themselves more comfortable. My garden will certainly enjoy greater attention. And with all the benefits of the internet, no one need feel cut off. There is even hope that the closure of museums and monuments will give those great institutions a chance for practicalities impossible when they are open all the time—even if only some radical cleaning, but also perhaps some reorganisation—an almost welcome pause to ‘stand back’ and contemplate themselves and their ‘mission’. I look of course on the rosy side of things, the side for those fortunate enough to have families and homes, but there is a very ugly side of this ‘shut down’, such as the situation in the overcrowded prisons, or that of people cut off from their families who are in hospitals or nursing homes, and the extremely dire economic consequences. This situation is making us all wonder about how we should live our lives in the future, about how long we can expect to enjoy ‘normal’ life in our global world.

For my involvement in the Blue Guides to Italy (Blue Guide Rome has just been published) it means I cannot set off for Venice and the Veneto for work on a volume coming up for revision: a restriction which has been imposed on me for the very first time by circumstances beyond my control (the only other time this happened to me was when I had to cut short a trip for Blue Guide Northern Italy when I was staying in Trieste the day of the terrible earthquake which hit the Friuli in 1976).

We can but hope the virus will soon be dominated with the help of everyone round the world and that we will soon return to a life as we know it, if greatly sobered by what has happened to us all.

Alta Macadam. Florence, 10th March 2020

With the closure today of the museums and monuments in all of Italy, those of us who visit them also for work are left wondering how such a thing could have happened in our lifetime. We suddenly find ourselves facing a drastic shortage of culture: no libraries, no theatre, no cinema. However, the very direct explanation by Prime Minister Conte late last night made it all too clear how necessary such measures have become in a country where the dreaded Coronavirus is suddenly holding us all hostage. There is no doubt that Italy has trusted leaders in Conte and President Mattarella, and the country’s medical profession are displaying all their dedication and efficiency. There is an evident preparedness in those in places of responsibility and a feeling of teamwork and pulling together in times of emergency. Millions of other Italians have merely been asked to stay at home for the time being. A measure which seems eminently sensible and which should not be a great sacrifice. Who knows how this forced restriction might even foster closer family relationships and make the homes themselves more comfortable. My garden will certainly enjoy greater attention. And with all the benefits of the internet, no one need feel cut off. There is even hope that the closure of museums and monuments will give those great institutions a chance for practicalities impossible when they are open all the time—even if only some radical cleaning, but also perhaps some reorganisation—an almost welcome pause to ‘stand back’ and contemplate themselves and their ‘mission’. I look of course on the rosy side of things, the side for those fortunate enough to have families and homes, but there is a very ugly side of this ‘shut down’, such as the situation in the overcrowded prisons, or that of people cut off from their families who are in hospitals or nursing homes, and the extremely dire economic consequences. This situation is making us all wonder about how we should live our lives in the future, about how long we can expect to enjoy ‘normal’ life in our global world. For my involvement in the Blue Guides to Italy (Blue Guide Rome has just been published) it means I cannot set off for Venice and the Veneto for work on a volume coming up for revision: a restriction which has been imposed on me for the very first time by circumstances beyond my control (the only other time this happened to me was when I had to cut short a trip for Blue Guide Northern Italy when I was staying in Trieste the day of the terrible earthquake which hit the Friuli in 1976). We can but hope the virus will soon be dominated with the help of everyone round the world and that we will soon return to a life as we know it, if greatly sobered by what has happened to us all. Alta Macadam. Florence, 10th March 2020

With the closure today of the museums and monuments in all of Italy, those of us who visit them also for work are left wondering how such a thing could have happened in our lifetime. We suddenly find ourselves facing a drastic shortage of culture: no libraries, no theatre, no cinema. However, the very direct explanation by Prime Minister Conte late last night made it all too clear how necessary such measures have become in a country where the dreaded Coronavirus is suddenly holding us all hostage. There is no doubt that Italy has trusted leaders in Conte and President Mattarella, and the country’s medical profession are displaying all their dedication and efficiency. There is an evident preparedness in those in places of responsibility and a feeling of teamwork and pulling together in times of emergency. Millions of other Italians have merely been asked to stay at home for the time being. A measure which seems eminently sensible and which should not be a great sacrifice. Who knows how this forced restriction might even foster closer family relationships and make the homes themselves more comfortable. My garden will certainly enjoy greater attention. And with all the benefits of the internet, no one need feel cut off. There is even hope that the closure of museums and monuments will give those great institutions a chance for practicalities impossible when they are open all the time—even if only some radical cleaning, but also perhaps some reorganisation—an almost welcome pause to ‘stand back’ and contemplate themselves and their ‘mission’. I look of course on the rosy side of things, the side for those fortunate enough to have families and homes, but there is a very ugly side of this ‘shut down’, such as the situation in the overcrowded prisons, or that of people cut off from their families who are in hospitals or nursing homes, and the extremely dire economic consequences. This situation is making us all wonder about how we should live our lives in the future, about how long we can expect to enjoy ‘normal’ life in our global world. For my involvement in the Blue Guides to Italy ("Blue Guide Rome" has just been published) it means I cannot set off for Venice and the Veneto for work on a volume coming up for revision: a restriction which has been imposed on me for the very first time by circumstances beyond my control (the only other time this happened to me was when I had to cut short a trip for "Blue Guide Northern Italy" when I was staying in Trieste the day of the terrible earthquake which hit the Friuli in 1976). We can but hope the virus will soon be dominated with the help of everyone round the world and that we will soon return to a life as we know it, if greatly sobered by what has happened to us all. Alta Macadam. Florence, 10th March 2020

With the closure today of the museums and monuments in all of Italy, those of us who visit them also for work are left wondering how such a thing could have happened in our lifetime. We suddenly find ourselves facing a drastic shortage of culture: no libraries, no theatre, no cinema. However, the very direct explanation by Prime Minister Conte late last night made it all too clear how necessary such measures have become in a country where the dreaded Coronavirus is suddenly holding us all hostage. There is no doubt that Italy has trusted leaders in Conte and President Mattarella, and the country’s medical profession are displaying all their dedication and efficiency. There is an evident preparedness in those in places of responsibility and a feeling of teamwork and pulling together in times of emergency. Millions of other Italians have merely been asked to stay at home for the time being. A measure which seems eminently sensible and which should not be a great sacrifice. Who knows how this forced restriction might even foster closer family relationships and make the homes themselves more comfortable. My garden will certainly enjoy greater attention. And with all the benefits of the internet, no one need feel cut off. There is even hope that the closure of museums and monuments will give those great institutions a chance for practicalities impossible when they are open all the time—even if only some radical cleaning, but also perhaps some reorganisation—an almost welcome pause to ‘stand back’ and contemplate themselves and their ‘mission’. I look of course on the rosy side of things, the side for those fortunate enough to have families and homes, but there is a very ugly side of this ‘shut down’, such as the situation in the overcrowded prisons, or that of people cut off from their families who are in hospitals or nursing homes, and the extremely dire economic consequences. This situation is making us all wonder about how we should live our lives in the future, about how long we can expect to enjoy ‘normal’ life in our global world. For my involvement in the Blue Guides to Italy ("Blue Guide Rome" has just been published) it means I cannot set off for Venice and the Veneto for work on a volume coming up for revision: a restriction which has been imposed on me for the very first time by circumstances beyond my control (the only other time this happened to me was when I had to cut short a trip for "Blue Guide Northern Italy" when I was staying in Trieste the day of the terrible earthquake which hit the Friuli in 1976). We can but hope the virus will soon be dominated with the help of everyone round the world and that we will soon return to a life as we know it, if greatly sobered by what has happened to us all. Alta Macadam. Florence, 10th March 2020

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The Roman Villa at Balácapuszta (Baláca, Nemesvámos,...
The Bard of….Messina? Was Shakespeare Sicilian?
Rereading Ruskin
Sicily’s emblem: the Trinacria
Luca Signorelli on exhibition in Umbria
The Tribuna of the Uffizi reopens
The Venice equivalent of the anonymous Tweet?
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Sicilian Holiday Reading
Attila the Hun and the Foundation of Venice
Death in Venice cocktail a hit
The Gentry: Stories of the English
381 years ago this June
Brooklyn Bridge: a New York landmark
A Venetian Update
Sixth-century church to reopen
Roman Aquileia
Springtime in Friuli
Northern Italy dining and accommodation recommendations
Al Dente: Madness, Beauty & the Food of Rome
A celebration of Lucca
Romantic music in a Baroque setting
Blue Guide India Delhi Launch
Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life
The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution
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The Roman Forum
Whispering City: Rome and its Histories
The 15th-century Health Museum at Edirne
City of Fortune, How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire
Books about Istanbul
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Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor
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Comments on Blue Guide Literary Companions: Rome, London,...
Comments on Blue Guide Italy Food Companion
The 54th Venice Biennale stars Tintoretto
Holy Bones, Holy Dust
RECOMMENDED PLACES TO STAY AND EAT ON CRETE
Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity
Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us
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Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Aegean Islands
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Comments on Sites of Antiquity: from Ancient Egypt to the...
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Familiar face
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Blue Guide Northern Italy
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A day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome - highly recommended
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A day trip from Venice up the Brenta Canal
A day trip to Murano from Venice
Pietrasanta, Pisa: in search of Stagi
Reading list for Venice
Reading list for Florence and Tuscany
Ruskin on Venice
Reading list for Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Mainland

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