Currently the posts are filtered by: Ancient world
Reset this filter to see all posts.

From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town

Ingrid D. Rowland, From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town, Harvard University Press, 2014.

One of the pleasures of reading The New York Review of Books is coming across the articles by Ingrid Rowland. Professor Rowland teaches at the University of Notre Dame in Rome and specialises in art history and cultural relationships, especially those between Italy and its Classical and Renaissance past. She always had something interesting to say and it is perhaps because I have happy memories of sitting around in Rome with archaeologists and art historians that I find her especially engaging.

In the introduction of her enjoyable survey of Pompeii’s after-history, we see the eight-year old Rowland, pig-tailed and bespectacled, on her first visit to the ruins in 1962. The experience clearly resonated with her (never underestimate where the experiences of an eight-year old might lead!) and she now teaches permanently in Italy. From Pompeii is the story of the characters who were fascinated by the drama of Vesuvius, its eruptions and the vanished communities of Herculaneum and Pompeii as they were slowly recovered from the lava. For centuries, legends had persisted of buried cities but there was nothing to be seen. Instead the fascination was with Vesuvius. Athanasius Kircher, would-be decipherer of hieroglyphics, a priest always on the edge of disfavour with the Church on account of his belief in the natural rather than miraculous background of geological events, gave pride of place to the  inner workings of the volcano in his influential work Mundus Subterraneus, ‘The Subterranean World’ (1665).

A hundred years later the treasures of Herculaneum and then Pompeii were beginning to emerge and were firmly fixed in the itinerary of the leading cultural figures of the day. Rowland describes the reactions of the young Mozart, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Renoir, not only to the ruins but to the bustling, poverty-stricken street-life of Naples. For 19th-century romantics in Russia, the painter Karl Bryullov’s epic The Last Day of Pompeii gripped the imagination as much as Edward Bulwer Lytton’s novel The Last Days of Pompeii did of those in Britain. A special accolade is due to the Puglian Bartolo Longo who embarked on creating a new Pompeii on the edge of the old, around a church of the Madonna of the Rosary. A damaged and ugly painting of the Virgin Mary, brought to the church on a dung cart, proved an unlikely miracle-worker and soon the trains that brought tourists to Pompeii were filled too with pilgrims. Longo energetically ploughed back their donations into the crime-ridden and impoverished neighbourhood and parts of his ‘new’ Pompeii survive.

Rowland enjoys her digressions. The blood of St Januarius (San Gennaro) has an important role to play. Every year it miraculously liquefies on three separate occasions—except when it doesn’t, in warning of impending eruptions of Vesuvius. Then there is the phallus of Priapus from the House of the Vetii: guides in charge of prominent visitors such as Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea scurry past it in haste so that no compromising photos can be snapped. There is space too for the bizarre cult of the Fontanelle, the skulls preserved in caves under the city of Naples and which, while their owners languish in Purgatory, are supposed to have miraculous powers of intercession.

However, the ruins always form the backdrop to the digressions and Rowland relates the exploits of the famous curators. Guiseppe Fiorelli, appointed in 1848, replaced treasure-hunting pits with carefully stratified excavations. His calchi (plaster casts) shifted attention to the human victims of the eruption and still provide some of the most moving testimonies to the drama of AD 79. It was Fiorelli who kept wall-paintings in situ where they were found, rather than prising them off for the royal collection. Politics met with archaeology when Superintendent Vittorio Spianazzola, an opponent of Fascism married to a Jewish scholar, was removed in 1924 and replaced by Amadeo Maiuri, who dominated the Pompeiian scene until 1961. His use of mechanical diggers exposed large parts of the city but left it impossible to maintain. I despaired, as Rowland does, over the crumbling remains. On my most recent visit to Pompeii two years ago, many of the houses were closed off. Just ten years earlier there had been more to see. Even a campaign to round up stray dogs stagnated as the available funds were embezzled. Herculaneum is now much more welcoming.

And no less ominous than the slow decay of Pompeii is the ever-present threat of a fresh eruption of Vesuvius. The last was in 1944 and it is time for it to blow again. Rowland is doubtful whether the anarchic inhabitants of the Bay, long used to outwitting authority, will submit to the evacuation plans. The blood of St Januarius will no doubt liquefy if there is nothing to fear—but if it stays solid, an early escape will be well advised. If by chance I am caught there among the fleeing residents, I shall seek refuge on a Gran Turismo bus, its hurried entry and exit from the region long perfected by the demands of whisking tourists quickly around the site and back through the traffic jams in time for dinner in Rome.

Reviewed by Charles Freeman. Pompeii, Herculaneum and Naples are covered in Blue Guide Southern Italy. Pompeii is one of the 50 sites in Freeman's Sites of Antiquity.

To see more details about this book, check the Amazon links below.

Artwork of the Month: July. The Phaistos Disc

On 3rd July 1908, the Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier, working in the so-called ‘House 101’, northeast of the palace of Phaistos, found an object with symbols on both sides, next to a Linear A tablet. The object became known as the Phaistos Disc—and it remains as intriguing and mysterious now, over a hundred years later, as it was then. Physically it is round, hand-made, about 1.5cm thick and approx. 16.2cm in diameter, with an incised spiral decoration. The spiral is filled with little symbols, 241 or so of them (most of the motifs occurring more than once), stamped on the fresh clay. They represent the earliest evidence of the use of movable type. The clay is free from impurities and the object, unlike the tablets, was fired deliberately.

The excavator assumed it had fallen from the upper storey and that it was of Cretan manufacture. Not much progress has been made since then, though not for want of trying. Nothing else remotely similar has ever been found—and that is the main problem. Accusations of foul play were made as early as 1913. The villain of the piece was said to be Pernier who, jealous of his fellow archaeologist Halbherr’s success at Gortyn (also in Crete), where he found the famous Law Code, and of Evans’s discoveries at Knossos, deliberately planted a forged object with an invented script in order to raise the profile of his excavations. However, while it is true that Phaistos could not rival Knossos as to finds, at Aghia Triada nearby, also excavated by the Italians, the quality and quantity of material was truly amazing. Pernier and the Italian School had their hands full. He seems an unlikely accomplice in a forgery of this magnitude.

Interpretations of the object’s function and meaning are extremely diverse, ranging from an astronomical or astrological calendar to a hymn to victory, a nursery rhyme or a sacred text. Current thought assumes it is a piece of writing though the direction of it, from the centre to the periphery or the other way round, has yet to be established. The small number of characters, 45 in total, suggests it is a syllabic script and close to Linear A, which has not yet been deciphered. There has been no shortage of proposed translations, based on languages as diverse as Chinese, Dravidian, Georgian, Hittite, Luwian, Semitic, Slavic and Sumerian. Indeed it was this abundance that prompted the late John Chadwick, who decoded Linear B with Michael Ventris, to appeal to those producing their own solutions ‘not to send them to him’.

With appropriate testing, it would be possible to put this case to rest one way or another. Modern techniques such as thermoluminescence are not invasive and would ascertain the date of the firing, thereby deciding once and for all the question of authenticity, while the analysis of a minimal quantity of the clay could assist in determining provenance. So far the authorities involved have resisted all calls for such tests. But the case should not be allowed to linger.

Blue Guide Crete, which combs the island in loving detail, will be available in digital format later this month.

Artwork of the month: May. "Flora", Pompeii

The Sorrento peninsula begins at the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia, on the southeast shore of the Bay of Naples. It takes its name from its 9th-century castle and from the ancient city of Stabiae, which was swallowed up by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Pliny the Elder met his death on the beach at Stabiae, suffocated by toxic fumes from the volcano. On the plain of Varano and in the hills above, overlooking the water, are the remains of two Roman villas. The Villa Arianna dates from the 2nd century BC. It is not known how large it was at its full extent, as many of its clifftop rooms have collapsed, but surviving remains show a sumptuous, spacious building, including the large palaestra. Some of the surviving wall decoration and floor mosaics are very fine. In the main triclinium was a fresco of Ariadne, abandoned on Naxos by Theseus, which gave the villa its name, Arianna. Finest of all the frescoes are those from the cubicula, detached in the 18th–19th centuries and now in the Archaeological Museum in Naples. One of the most interesting is the Cupid Seller, depicting two women, one young, one middle aged, confabulating together while an old crone at their feet (a procuress?) displays her wares, tiny cupids trapped in a wooden cage like chickens at a market. The image fascinated artists of the Neoclassical age, and several versions of it were produced. More famous still, and apparently without any sinister subtext, is the lovely Flora, a young girl shown with her back to us, delicately gathering spring flowers.

Stabiae and Naples are covered in Blue Guide Southern Italy.

"Cupid Seller": Soprintendenza Speciale ai Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

Artwork of the month: April. The Seuso Silver

At some point during the turbulent years of the declining Roman Empire, a cache of silver was hidden by its owners, packed into a copper cauldron. This hoard has been puzzling the world ever since. Known as the Seuso (or Sevso) Treasure, it has become an artworld mystery. And the mystery is far from solved. But seven pieces of the great hoard were purchased by the Hungarian government in 2014 and—at last—went on show to the public, in the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest.

No one really knows anything about the Seuso Treasure except that it is Roman, extremely fine and extremely valuable, and dates from the 4th or 5th century AD. The most convincing story is that it was found, sometime in the 1970s, by a young man called József Sümegh, in the vicinity of the village of Polgárdi, east of Lake Balaton in Hungary. Sümegh did not live long to enjoy his find. He died in mysterious circumstances shortly afterwards, at the age of just 24. Not long before his death, he had suddenly started appearing in Levi’s jeans, the kind of apparel that wasn’t readily available in Communist Hungary in those days. It is highly possible that he had sold several of the smaller items of the hoard. By the time the Treasure ended up in the hands of Lord Northampton in England, it numbered 14 pieces: perhaps vastly fewer that had originally been stashed, hurriedly and in panic, into that wide copper cauldron by a Roman family clinging to the coat-tails of their civilisation as it collectively fled before the barbarian invasions of Central Europe.

Hungary cannot prove its claim to the silver. Even though soil samples from the cauldron are a good fit with Transdanubia, it is not enough. The trail of the hoard has been deliberately muddied and obfuscated for decades, by dealers, smugglers, heisters, small-time and big-time crooks, a whole procession of them. The tedious dishonesty of greedy men has obscured the story of these extraordinary works of art. The Getty Museum was at one stage interested in purchasing the silver, but it pulled out because its story was too murky. Auctions at Sotheby’s and Bonham’s in London foundered because of bad provenance. Even now the Hungarian authorities will not reveal from whom they purchased the seven pieces for 15 million euros. This was a good price, considering—though if the silver really is Hungarian patrimony, it is a pity they had to pay anything at all.

The centrepiece of the 2014 Hungarian Parliament display was the so-called Hunting Plate: a huge salver with a beaded and decorated rim and a central roundel filled with a busy scene. In the centre are figures dining under a canopy, one of the members of the party feeding a titbit to a dog. Around them are scenes of hunting: and below the image of an upended boar, is the word “PELSO”, the Roman name for Lake Balaton. The whole design is of silver gilt with the details picked out in niello (a black-coloured alloy of sulphur with copper and lead). Circling the roundel is the following inscription: H[A]EC SEVSO TIBI DVRENT PER SAECULA MVLTA POSTERIS VT PROSINT VASCVLA DIGNA TVIS (‘May these vessels remain with you for centuries, Sevso, and serve your descendants worthily’). It has been suggested that the silver was presented to Seuso as a wedding gift. Nothing is known of him. It can only be surmised that he was a wealthy Roman or Romanised Celt who lived a gracious life in one of the fine villas that existed in the neighbourhood of Lake Balaton. At the very top of the inscription, between the first and the last words, is a tiny Chi Rho: Seuso may have been a Christian, or simply an army veteran. (For a detailed image of the central roundel, see here .) Stylistically, the platter shows similiarities to the famous Cesena Plate in the Malatesta Library at Cesena in Italy, near Ravenna. (For an image of the Cesena Plate, see here.)

Other items include another large plate with a geometric design in the centre and two geometric ewers (one of which illustrated at the top of this story). These objects are assigned by some scholars to a “Western” workshop, whereas other objects, notably an unusually-shaped incense casket and a jug with Dionysiac scenes are decorated with repoussé figures. On the Dionysiac jug, the varicose decoration of frenzied maenads recalls (sort of) the famous Derveni krater in Thessaloniki. Which is perhaps not an utterly mad comparison, despite the six hundred or so years' time difference between the crafting of the two, because scholars believe the pieces of the hoard may have come from two different centres of craftmanship, a western and an eastern. Other experts claim that all the pieces could have originated from a single Balkan workshop (in Sirmium, for example, or Thessaloniki), a place where the styles of East and West came together.

In the late 19th century, an elaborate folding stand, made of silver and lavishly decorated, was found close to Polgárdi, the claimed findspot of the Seuso hoard. It is a tetrapod plate stand, just the thing for a sumptuous fête champêtre, a kind of five-star camping table. It is part of the holdings of the Hungarian National Museum (see image here ). It is by no means out of the question that it once belonged to Seuso’s picnic equipment.

For three months, members of the public may view the seven treasures in Budapest, free of charge and with no prior appointment, in the hopes that someone might have their memory jogged, might recall a small silver object—a spoon, say, or a little finger bowl—which a member of their family might have bought, many years ago, from a treasure trover called József Sümegh. Then at last the question of the silver’s patrimony might be convincingly answered.

Annabel Barber

NB: Since this was written, the remaining known items of the Seuso Treasure, including the spectacular Achilles Plate, have been secured by Hungary. For more, see here.

Being Mithridates

Head of Mithridates in the guise of Hercules, in the Louvre. Photo © Eric Gaba.

The death of Mithridates VI Eupator, the last king of Pontus, in 63 BC marks both the culmination and the implosion of the dream of an independent Pontic state uniting the shores of the Black Sea under one ruler. Born c. 134 BC in Sinop, Mithridates spent his life pursuing his ambition. He probably saw himself as another Alexander but his roots were hardly Greek. He certainly had deep ties with Persia, beginning with his name meaning ‘gift of Mithras’; the kingdom he inherited may have included a stretch of Black Sea coast but was originally very much an inland state. As for Sinop, that foothold on the coast, it was lost to the Romans in 70 BC and later turned into a colony under the name of Colonia Julia Felix. Mithridates’s relentless pursuit of his destiny—which earned him the respect of modern-day Turks who see him as a national hero who put up a stubborn resistance to foreign (i.e. Roman) interference, as much has Atatürk did after WWI with the Greeks—is well known through the works of Appian on the Mithridatic wars and indirectly from Plutarch’s lives of Pompey and Lucullus. His name also crops up in other contemporary sources, such as Pliny the Elder and Celsus. He was clearly a figure larger than life and though he eventually failed, he held for a while in his rule large chunks of Asia Minor, the eastern and the northern coasts of the Black Sea, until he was defeated and committed suicide. He had already become a legend in is own lifetime, which goes some way to explain why he was honoured with a monument in Delos. It is thought that the Greek priest Helianax saw him as the right character to exhibit in order to improve the cosmopolitan feel of the sanctuary.

Mithridates was known not only for his military achievements: he pursued many sidelines. One does wonder how he found the time to take an interest in his six wives (the first one being his sister Laodicea, a choice expressing a very Persian concern with the purity of the line) and numerous concubines. Mithridates was a linguist and prided himself on being able to address each of his subjects in his or her own language. According to Pliny, that required a total of 22 different languages. He also had a fixation on poisons—and quite rightly so. He had witnessed his own father, Mithridates V, succumb to poison at a banquet. Poison or the fear of poison was common in antiquity. So he set about looking for a remedy, and as prevention is better than cure, he hit on the idea of taking regular sub-lethal doses to make himself immune. Celsus thought this method worth including in his publication on medicine. Moreover, in his quest for an antidote Mithridates made his name in the field of botany (a couple of plants are named after him). Pliny himself, however, did not think much of his universal antidote made of dried walnuts, figs and rue pounded together with a pinch of salt, nor of the enhanced version with 54 different ingredients.

After a spell in the wilderness at the end of the Classical era, Mithridates re-emerged as one of the illustrious men whose fates Boccaccio wrote about in the early 14th century. At the beginning of the 17th century an unknown Italian cleric composed a tragedy about him; this found its way to the French court and eventually inspired Racine. His Mithridate, a tragedy of love, jealousy and treachery, was a hot favourite with Louis XIV; the Mithridates Riding to Battle with his Concubine Hypsicratea, which Antoine Paillet painted at Versailles in 1642, is probably no coincidence. Racine’s work was translated into Italian by Parini and Alessandro Scarlatti put it to music. The première was held in Venice in 1707. After that, libretti and operas on the tragic king multiplied. There were some 25 of them floating around when Mozart set about writing his own Mithridates King of Pontus in 1770. It was his first opera seria and was an instant success. He was barely 14.

Paola Pugsley’s Pontic Provinces of Turkey will be published by Blue Guides as an ebook later this year. Her Blue Guide Southeastern Turkey and Blue Guide Eastern Turkey were published last year. See here for details.

Copyrighting Heritage

I enjoyed David Miles’ article on Stonehenge in this month’s Minerva magazine. I remember visiting Stonehenge in the autumn of 1978. I was almost the only person there. I don’t remember any fences. I walked right up to it. I touched the stones. I took pictures of it. I have never been since, though I have glimpsed it from the A303. Noticing that all the photographs in the Minerva article were copyrighted to English Heritage, I thought I had better look again at EH’s statement about copyright, since it has been in the news lately. If I were to dig out one of my old 1978 photographs and then print it in a forthcoming Blue Guide, would I have committed a felony?

This is what they say, on their website:

Well, it’s generous of them not to have a problem with photographers sharing images on not-for-profit websites. Not that Flickr is quite the sharing experience it used to be, since now you have to sign up before you can see anything. But woe betide anyone who enters English Heritage land ‘with the intention of taking a photograph for financial gain…’ Filthy financial gain! Could any photographer have such dastardly intent? But what if I took a photograph of Stonehenge, not with loathsome lucre on my mind but with the intention of illustrating a Blue Guide? Would I still have to pay to use my photo, even though no one is paying me to reproduce it and the book is a costly-to-produce printed guide aimed at encouraging people to visit the site?

I don't think the demonising of ‘profit’ is helpful. Without it, there is no culture or civilisation. Even not-for-profit organisations are reliant on profit. The funding they get comes from profit that someone else has made somewhere else on something else at some other time. For now, I’ll avoid reproducing images of English Heritage sites, because I don’t want any hassle. But I do want to help photographers to make a living. Yes, financial gain. For talented, creative people. Sharing stuff around the campfire is fine, but it doesn’t lead very far. And anyway, how can you fairly and squarely copyright HERITAGE?

Stonehenge at the solstice. For copyright reasons, this image cannot be displayed.

Under Another Sky

Charlotte Higgins, Under Another Sky: Travels in Roman Britain. Jonathan Cape, London, 2013. Reviewed by Charles Freeman.

If I am heading westwards from my home in central Suffolk I go along a stretch of Roman road and eventually reach the village of Stonham Aspal. To the far side there is a ridge overlooking open countryside and it is here that a Roman bathhouse was discovered in 1962, when building work was being done for some bungalows. It was my first dig, with a tolerant Ipswich Museum team interpreting laws against child labour generously enough to allow a fourteen-year-old to shovel out ashes from a Roman hypocaust. The main part of the villa is assumed to have been on the other side of the road and remains unexcavated, but I still tell the story to anyone I am driving that way.

The pottery from the site is of the 3rd and 4th centuries, the greatest period of the British Roman villa. This was the time of prosperity before the collapse of Roman rule in the early 5th century brought a devastating fall in living standards (apparently as a dramatic as anywhere else in the western empire). Looking back, I wonder what the ashes I scraped out could have told of the final fires lit to heat the baths. There was no one on hand to record the last days of the empire in Britain but gradually the cities, already faltering in the 4th century, were abandoned and the great buildings fell in or were buried. One of the most evocative finds has been a luxurious Roman villa on the London waterfront that enjoyed a heyday in the 3rd century but then began to crumble, although 200 coins dated as late as ad 388 talk of a late burst of occupation.

Charlotte Higgins’s delightful book is an account of her searches for Roman Britain in the company of her boyfriend Matthew and a venerable and resilient camper van. Higgins read Classics at Oxford so she knows her sources—predominantly those of the finest Roman historian—Tacitus, and she weaves them gently into her itineraries. She has also absorbed those who have been before her: William Camden, the author of Britannia (1586), the first quasi- scientific study of British antiquities, and the polymath William Stukeley (1687–1765), who recorded what stood of Silchester, Hadrian’s Wall and other sites. Stukeley, a fan of the Druids, was sadly taken in by a fake history of Roman Britain purporting to have been written by one Richard of Westminster in the 14th century. Stukeley’s enthusiastic support for it meant that it was treated as authentic and Roman history distorted until well into the 19th century. The Pennine chain of hills take their name from the pseudo-Richard’s description of them.

Gradually out of these forays into a misty past, archaeologists took over. So here is Mortimer Wheeler and his much put-upon wife Tessa, bringing military precision to excavations of St. Albans and later, and most famously, of the Iron Age fort of Maiden Castle. Wheeler revelled in describing the last stand of the British against Roman onslaughts and the mass grave into which the defeated British were thrown. Unfortunately, more recent work queries whether the cemetery was ever a mass grave at all; but the story gripped me as a teenager. By the 1970s, we arrive at more delicate work, especially with the writing ‘tablets’, actually slivers of wood, from the Roman fort at Vindolanda, miraculously preserved in waterlogged ground. Excavated by Robin Birley and deciphered by Alan Bowman, they provide an astonishingly graphic account of everyday life on the frontiers at the end of the 1st century ad, as invites go out for birthday parties and details of which men are available for outside work are painstakingly extracted from the intricate lettering.

Higgins also ventures further north to discover reminders of the short-lived invasion of Scotland by Agricola in ad 79 or 80 (we know of it because the historian Tacitus was Agricola’s son-in-law and left a vivid account) and the little-known Antonine Wall, held only briefly before the frontier was pulled back again to the better-known barrier built by Hadrian. She takes in Bath and York, the latter achieving an empire-wide status when the emperor Septimius Severus established his court here between 208 and 211 and when, a century later Constantine, the first Christian emperor, was proclaimed emperor by his father’s troops. In Bath the Romans adopted the local Celtic god Sulis, associated her with their own Minerva, and the temple dedicated to both presided over the hot springs that were to set Bath up as a watering place in later centuries. In Colchester and London, dark layers record the burning of the nascent Roman settlements by the furious Boudica, in a devastating but ultimately crushed campaign (ad 60 or 61) that also survives in Tacitus’ account.

I am sorry that the camper van, with ‘its many and varied complaints’, did not merit an entry in the index. I would have liked to have retraced its valiant hill climbs even if it did collapse in York and thus not quite make it to Hardknott Castle (a 2nd-century fort guarding Hardknott Pass), perhaps the most spectacular of all the Roman sites in Britain. It added character to what is an engaging survey of our Roman past. While Higgins records exhaustive studies of Roman Britain (Roger Wilson’s A Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain and the mammoth four-volume compilation of every known Roman mosaic by David Neal and Stephen Cosh), she provides a more light-hearted account, a valuable reminder of how the Roman past lies not too far beneath our feet. Indeed a metal detector unearthed a worn Roman coin from our own fields just a year ago, and, this being Suffolk, perhaps another Mildenhall treasure, the hoard of astonishing silver plate unearthed in 1942, is just waiting to be discovered close by.

Under Another Sky was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award.

To see more details about this book, check the Amazon links below.

Latest

SPQR and expressions of Rome
The Seuso Treasure: a new display
Life in Color
Hungary Food Companion
Baroque-era spinach patties
Perfect paprika chicken
A spring recipe from 1891
Master of Leonardo
News from Florence
Gellért 100
Unsung Hero
The Corvina Library
Modernists and Mavericks
Dracula: An International Perspective
Lorenzo Lotto: Portraits
Leonardo's Leicester Codex
A tale of two Camparis
Best restaurants in Brescia
Budapest Art Nouveau
Transylvanian Book Festival
Flawless ... and 100 years old
Extreme dairy farming in Sauris
Islamic Art in Florence
The Seuso Roman silver: on display at last
The Wonders of Pontormo
Builders of Budapest
Crowded Times
Good news from Florence
The Heartwarming Middle Ages
Waves of Art Nouveau
Bookshops in Budapest
Budapest at the Biennale
Living with Leonardo
The Zeugma Mosaics Saga
News from Syracuse
Raphael in Bergamo
Titian in Brescia
Comments and Updates on Blue Guide Budapest
Heroism on the Danube
The 'Romanesque Hall' in Budapest
Dürer in Milan
Re-interpreting the Trojan Horse
Charles I: King and Collector
Fleming and Honour Remembered
Pictures from Lake Maggiore
A late Art Nouveau treasure in Budapest
Anna: Female destinies in Transylvania
What’s on in Florence
Art Within Limits
A Time in Rome
Diana Athill, 'A Florence Diary'
Season’s Greetings
Christmas with the Gonzaga
Aegean Turkey: Troy to Bodrum
Collectors in Florence
European rail changes 2018
A people who changed history
Return to 'A Room with a View'
Italian island food
The Scythians at the British Museum
Rogues' Gallery by Philip Hook
Ferragamo's Return
Silence of the looms
Grammar and Grace
The Seuso Saga
Giuliano da Sangallo
The Black Fields of Kula
Leonardo's "Adoration of the Magi" restored
Venice before Easter
Selectivity at the Uffizi
Guide to the Via Francigena
What Ariosto could see
News from Florence: Giovanni dal Ponte
More than just the David
The formidable Empress Matilda
Life, Art and Kenneth Clark
Hedonist's travel, Hungarian wine
Remarkable Manuscripts
Abstract Expressionism at the RA
Comments on Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old...
Transylvania Launched
Which 50 Sites of Antiquity?
A Treasure in Cagli
The Transylvanian Book Festival
Comments on Travels in Transylvania: The Greater Târnava...
Roman Brixia
The new Museo degli Innocenti
Wine guide wins prize
Jesters at the Court of the Medici
Budapest, Freedom and the Olympics
The Roman Forum Reconstructed
Bernini's Beloved
Blue Guide Paris on Amazon
The Imperial Ramp in the Roman Forum
Sabbioneta, Cryptic City
Secret delights of Florence: the Bellini private museum
Cutting-edge mosque design in Albania
St Francis in Florence
To Austria’s Lake District by rail
Pilgrimage pathways to and from Rome
Five major London museums
Napoleon and Paris: Dreams of a capital
Whither Tate Britain?
The many lives of Nasreddin Hoca
Lesley Blanch: On the Wilder Shores of Love
The Middle Ages on the Road
Hellenistic bronzes in Florence
Europe by rail - an introduction
Frescoes in a convent of a closed order of nuns
Michelin starred Paris
A Michelangelo discovery?
Jan Morris: Ciao, Carpaccio: An Infatuation
The Venus de Milo fights back
Winter in Florence: a new look at Donatello
Tea (or coffee) with the Sultan
Artwork of the Month: January. Medieval stained glass
Which? ranks Blue Guides #2
Giacomo Leopardi: A poet in film
Sassoferrato and the Aion Mosaic
The Aventine and Turner in Rome
Artwork of the Month: December
Rendez-vous with Art
Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age
Giovanni Battista Moroni
London The Information Capital
Changes to European rail services for 2015
Comments on Blue Guide London
Egypt, Greece, & Rome
The Medici Villas of Tuscany and Tourism
Artwork of the Month: November. Reason, Unreason and the...
The first collectors of 'Primitives'
From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town
Artwork of the Month: October. The Arch of Constantine
Sorting out the Uffizi
Waging war with a view
Dull London? Surely a mistake
Artwork of the month: September. Watercolour of the Great...
Italian Venice: A History
A tale of three museums
Rissëu
All Aboard the Cheese Train
National Gallery London to allow photography
Artwork of the Month: August. Bust of Augustus Caesar from...
Sacred Splendours: reliquaries of Florence's pious grand...
Book Review. Helena Attlee: The Land where Lemons Grow
Holiday reading
Artwork of the Month: July. The Phaistos Disc
Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg by Railjet
Marvellous and Macabre: the art of Jacopo Ligozzi
David Esterly - The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of...
Artwork of the month: June, Pordenone's Noli me Tangere
Budapest to Serbia by EuroCity Avala
Saving the Great Bear: Trieste's floating crane
News from Florence
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Baccio Bandinelli: a rehabilitation
Artwork of the month: May. "Flora", Pompeii
Travelling around Britain in style
In praise of plague cakes
Princesses from the Trabzon Empire
Artwork of the month: April. The Seuso Silver
Uffizi selfies come to Budapest
Florentine Mannerists at Palazzo Strozzi
Rome: seasonal stations
Sustainable living in Bolzano
Artwork of the month: March. Murillo's Flower Girl
Tastes change
Francesco Laurana's serene beauty
Being Mithridates
Florence and Buda: two cities of learning
Thoughts on Rome
Copyrighting Heritage
Food is the new Florence
A Grumpy Visit to Westminster Abbey
The Honey Of Hybla
So what is the Turkish Van?
The Pike: by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Smoothly off the buffers
Under Another Sky
'Art under Attack' at Tate Britain
Comments on Smoothly from Harrow
Renaissance art from Florence to Paris and back
Comments on Blue Guide Venice
Hepworth's "Winged Figure": 50th anniversary
Tying the Knot in Urfa
Venice and the Politcs of Washing
Comments on Staten Island: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
Comments on Short Guide to London 1953
Turin restored and rejuvenated
A palatial art museum in Trieste
The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella
The wonderful Palazzo Grimani, Venice
Pope Benedict: an unorthodox farewell
Obscure St Valentine and his famous Feast Day
Burano in February
The St Agnes lambs
Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” in restoration
Cathedral picks: Exeter
The real Patrick Leigh Fermor?
The joy of Giambattista Tiepolo
Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghiari”
In praise of Venice’s water transport system
The Red Rooms at the Uffizi
The Blue Rooms at the Uffizi
A trip to the Port of Trajan, outside Rome
Pour l’honneur de la France
An early-morning visit to Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Rome
Church of SS Luca e Martina reopens above Roman Forum
How the tide turned at the Milvian Bridge
A compelling reason to visit Trapani province
St Augustine and his mother at Ostia
Visiting St Paul’s in London
Hadrian, Antinoüs and the Christian Fathers
Earliest-known image of a martyrdom
Can’t face the Vatican crowds? Try San Lorenzo
Turin, Pisa and mathematics
Ideal cities are all around us. It’s simply a matter of...
On Canaletto and Guardi and Venetian Light
Mithraism: a Roman Mystery Religion
Random Musings on Pontormo and Vermeer
The Amphitheatre of Londinium
Edward Lear and Crete
A handful of favourite things to see in Sicily
The mystery of the veiled virgins
Venice without the crowds
Cividale del Friuli and the Lombards
The Trouble with Snake Goddesses
The tragedy of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico
Oranges, lemons and relic cults: an escape from the queues...
City Picks: Verona
Hitherto unknown language discovered in east Anatolia
Painting of the Day
Museo Barracco: a little-visited gem
Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome
Staten Island: Upcoming Exhibition …
International Gothic at the Uffizi
Celebrating Santa Rosalia, patron of Palermo
Delhi Ghost Trail
Comments on Pilgrim's Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
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?
Comments on Blue Guide Sicily
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
Comments on Blue Guide India
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
Comments on Blue Guide Istanbul
Comments on Blue Guide Florence
Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor
Comments on The Venice Lido: a Blue Guide Travel Monograph
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
Comments on Blue Guide Turkey
Comments on Blue Guide Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Hay-on-Wye
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Aegean Islands
Comments on Blue Guide Crete
Comments on Sites of Antiquity: from Ancient Egypt to the...
Comments on Blue Guide Tuscany
Familiar face
Comments on Blue Guide Concise Italy
Comments on Blue Guide Paris
Comments on Blue Guide New York
Comments on Blue Guide Central Italy
Comments on Blue Guide Southwest France
Blue Guide Northern Italy
Comments on Blue Guide The Marche & San Marino
Comments on Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London
A day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome - highly recommended
Comments on Blue Guide Southern Italy
Comments on Blue Guide Concise Rome
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
The Best Credit / Debit Card for Travel
Ruskin on Venice
Reading list for Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Mainland

Archive

follow us in feedly