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A trip to the Port of Trajan, outside Rome


We were lucky to get into the area of the old Port of Trajan, just south of Fiumicino airport. The website states that it is “open” between 9am and 1pm on the first Saturday and last Sunday of the month, and gives a Google map with a pin stuck in it close to the Parco Leonardo railway station. So we took a train there, on the first Saturday of the month, and arrived shortly after nine thirty. No museum in sight. I rang the number and was told that the guided tour had already begun, that there was no way we could join, that in any case a prior booking was necessary. We could come back on the last Sunday of the month. “No,” I said, “you don’t understand. I’ve NEVER been in Rome on the right day of the month before. This time I am! It’s my only chance! We really want to join the group. Tell us where they are!” We set off on foot, along the busy Via Portuense, with the prospect of several kilometres to go, narrowly missing being flattened by trucks. Then a godsend: a man stopped and gave us a lift. The entrance gate was just under a motorway flyover (marked A on the map). By extraordinary good fortune, the tour was just inside the gate, inspecting the remains of what had once been a portico fronting a line of granaries belonging to the old Port of Claudius.

The ports were laid out here in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, first by Claudius and then by Trajan. The sea has retreated some three or so kilometres west since then, and most of the area has dried out or been drained, but some of the old contours remain. The grain stores, though overgrown with weeds, still clearly retain parts of their old flooring, built up on brick stilts known as suspensurae, a device designed to minimise damp.

Suspensurae in the floor of an old warehouse


Claudius’ port was, in its heyday, the largest in the Mediterranean, with 800m of wharf. But it was unsheltered and very vulnerable to storms. In AD 62, for example, 200 ships at anchor were wrecked in a gale. The complex was altered, with a new harbour further inland, by Trajan. We left the Claudian area by means of a short colonnaded street (B), with a double enfilade of chubby travertine columns running up it. On one side we were shown a brick archway filled in with bricks arranged in the crosswise opus reticulatum pattern. The archway was never open, the guide explained. It was placed there to give greater strength, to direct the downward thrust of the wall outward to the buttressing piers on either side, at a point where there is no stable ground directly underneath. We were also shown two pieces of fallen travertine column. One of them, a capital, had two iron pegs sticking out of its underside. It was with these that the capital was fixed to the block below it, but with a “glue” of molten lead, which was poured in along specially cut runnels (shown in the next illustration). Lead, unlike iron, has a certain amount of elasticity, which can better withstand seismic shocks.

View of the colonnaded street
Load-distributing arch
Capital with iron fixing pegs
Block with square hole for fixing peg and runnel for molten lead


At the end of the colonnaded street we turned right, to the site of the old Darsena, Trajan’s inner harbour (C). There is little to see now but a reed-filled marsh, but at one side the stone harbour wall can be seen. Analysis of the warehouses that stood alongside this harbour has shown that the stores of marble, the heaviest item to move, were—perfectly logically—placed closest to the dock. On the further side were warehouses that had possibly held grain, or some other commodity sensitive to damp, since the walls had been coated in a layer of pozzolana, a waterproof cement made from a mixture of lime and volcanic ash.

View of the Darsena


From here we walked out onto a broad, flat path, grass-grown now—though once it had been filled with water, for this was the channel (D) that linked the old Port of Claudius with the hexagonal Port of Trajan. It is wide enough for several ships to have passed along it at once. At its far end we could see the remains of large warehouses (E). We turned past them, onto a narrower path (F), again once a water channel linking the harbour complex with the Fossa Traiana, the canal that Trajan dug to link his port to the Tiber.

We were all impatient to see the famous hexagonal port, but there was wildlife to be admired: a herd of fallow deer; enormous funghi that were erupting from the soil practically before our eyes; a long black-and-yellow chequered snake; and scatterings of porcupine quills. The land is a bit unkempt. Much of it belongs to the Torlonia family. It could be a magnificent park, if time, energy, money and enthusiasm could be found…

Part of the hexagonal basin is flanked by warehouses of the Severan period, probably built during the reign of Antoninus Pius. It was possible to climb onto a sort of viewing platform, to get a glimpse of the basin (G). But the view from the ground is nothing compared to the sight of it that you have from the air, when flying from Fiumicino. This huge six-sided harbour has always been full of water. In the Middle Ages it was stocked with fish. No one is sure why a hexagonal shape was chosen. The information board at the site was non-committal. Our guide was keener on the more interesting story: that it was the work of the great genius Apollodorus of Damascus, the architect who designed the Markets of Trajan in the Imperial Fora. That he chose a hexagon because the ripples caused by ships moving into it would create “echo-waves” coming from the side, which would meet the outgoing wave and effectively cancel it out. We experimented with this at home, with a six-sided container but, sadly, managed to prove nothing. The tour was long, but very interesting. Today, as Blue Guide Rome so aptly puts it, most overseas traffic to Rome still docks here: the airport of Fiumicino could not be located in a more appropriate spot.

 

Information for visitors:

Open on the first Saturday and last Sunday of the month. Call ahead to book: T: 06 6529192. Meet at the Museo delle Navi, Via A. Guidoni 35 (Fiumicino Airport). Tours begin at 9:30 and last approximately three hours.

For updates on the ongoing archaeological project of the British School at Rome/University of Southampton, see here.

How the tide turned at the Milvian Bridge

Image © Anthony Majanlahti


Christianity did not conquer the Roman Empire with the sword—and yet it was with the sword that the groundwork was laid, at the Milvian Bridge. Today the place is peaceful: but this not particularly impressive-seeming footbridge over the Tiber was the scene, in late October of the year AD 312, of one of the pivotal battles of Western history, where the forces of Constantine vanquished those of his rival emperor Maxentius.

The bridge today is not very much frequented, except by lovers, who used to come here to clip a padlock to one of the bars placed at intervals along it as a symbol of everlasting attachment. The clotted love tokens have now been removed and unimpeded you can peer over the parapet and look down on the Tiber below, watch it burbling swiftly over a shallow cataract, and imagine the clash and clamour of horses and men.

Frieze from the Arch of Constantine showing Maxentius' horses and men floundering in the water of the Tiber.

Maxentius championed Rome. He made it his capital—he was the first emperor for a hundred years to do so—and set in motion a train of great building projects aimed at restoring the city to its central position within the empire, not just symbolically but actually. He named his son Romulus and dedicated a temple in the Forum (either to his dead son or to the great eponymous founder of the city). His sister Fausta married his co-ruler, the man whom Shelley ostentatiously called the ‘Christian reptile’. Constantine was not so much reptilian as amphibious. He was born a pagan but emerged from the water as a Christian, and so died.

And he was unable to share a throne with Maxentius. The two soon came to blows, and battle lines were drawn at the Milvian Bridge across the Tiber. In order, as he hoped, to cut off his adversary’s retreat, Maxentius had destroyed the bridge before the battle commenced. It was an action that proved his undoing. With his horses and men he was forced back into the water and there drowned, yielding the day to his rival. Constantine built an arch to celebrate his victory. It is one of the most famous of Rome’s surviving ancient monuments, standing beside the Colosseum. On its short west face is the goddess Luna in her two-horse chariot. On the long south face is a scene of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. The short east face has a roundel of the sun god rising from the ocean and a depiction of Constantine’s adventus into Rome. On the north face we see Constantine in Rome distributing gifts. The inscription which appears on both the north and south faces (identical on each) contains a famously ambiguous religious reference to a ‘divinitas’, a divinity, in the singular. What or who was this god? It is an early and important witness of the slow change from the worship of many deities to the worship of a single, all-powerful one. The process by which this happened is fascinating and can be traced all over Rome in its art and architecture.

IMP·CAES·FL·CONSTANTINO MAXIMO

P·F·AVGVSTO S·P·Q·R

QVOD INSTINCTV DIVINITATIS MENTIS

MAGNITVDINE CVM EXERCITV SVO

TAM DE TYRANNO QVAM DE OMNI EIVS

FACTIONE VNO TEMPORE IVSTIS

REMPVBLICAM VLTVS EST ARMIS

ARCVM TRIVMPHIS INSIGNEM DICAVIT

“To the Imperial Caesar Flavius Constantine, the Great, Pius, Felix, Augustus: inspired by a divinity and in the greatness of his mind, with his army and by the just force of arms he delivered the state both from a tyrant and from all his faction; thus the Senate and the People of Rome have dedicated this arch in token of these triumphs.”

An extract from Pilgrim’s Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph . Text and bottom two images © Blue Guides

16.10.2012
13:50

A compelling reason to visit Trapani province

The expressive statue of a young man in a finely-pleated linen tunic, Il Giovane di Mozia, was found at Cappiddazzu on the northeast side of the island of Mozia (the ancient Phoenician Motya) in 1979. In the stance of a victor, with hand on hip, the pose of the statue expresses great confidence in his youth, beauty and power. This remarkable work, made of white marble and dating from the 5th century BC, is thought to be by a Greek artist. It was found buried under a layer of rubble, face up in the road by the sanctuary. The face and the front are abraded, possibly from when the bronze accoutrements were torn from the statue during the attack of 398 BC by Dionysius I of Syracuse. When the statue was loaned to the British Museum in London for the duration of the 2012 Olympic Games, it was universally referred to as ‘The Motya Charioteer’. But this identification has not always been so certain. It is true that the work shares similarities with the famous charioteer of Delphi. But there have been numerous other theories: one suggests that the statue may represent Melqart, a Phoenician god and titular divinity of Tyre, identified by the Greeks as Heracles. He was probably wearing a lion’s skin made of bronze (which would have partially covered the head) and a bronze band around the chest—the holes where this would have been fixed can still be seen. Another theory suggests that the statue may represent an athlete, or an unknown Carthaginian hero. The fact that it was not recovered and replaced in a temple, in spite of its enormous value, would be explained if it indeed represented a god. The shocked survivors of the battle against Dionysius may have thought their god profaned and buried it where it was found. Perhaps. I haven’t seen any claims for Melqart recently. Certainly not since Brian Sewell, in the London Evening Standard, announced: “This standing figure, larger than life-size, broken off at the ankles, is a charioteer. His dress is no ordinary chiton, the standard male garment of the day, but one that falls full length to protect his body from the clouds of dust kicked up by horses’ hooves.” Whatever the truth, if you didn’t see it in London, get ye to Motya.

See here for information about Blue Guide Sicily and how to buy online.

St Augustine and his mother at Ostia

An extract from Pilgrim’s Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph.

When you get off the train at Ostia Antica, you will do so together with a small huddle of visitors bound for the ruins of the ancient port city. Walk with them across the footbridge from the railway station, stick with them until you reach the main road of the little town; and then leave them: instead of turning left towards the excavations, turn right towards the castle and follow the road as it skirts around its moat. The church of Santa Aurea stands in the little cobbled Piazza della Rocca, a medieval village square with a medieval village atmosphere, surrounded by neat little cottages, supplied with a public drinking fountain, a restaurant in Via del Forno, and a church, all facing the massy protecting flank of the castle itself, built by Giuliano della Rovere, the future Pope Julius II, when he was bishop of Ostia in 1483–1503.

The medieval village of Ostia, with the church of S. Aurea

Behind the high altar a lamp has been placed upon a slender stump of column, balanced on a pretty fluted stand. These are certainly spolia from Ostia Antica itself, whose ruins lie somnolently basking under tall umbrella pines. As you make your way along the grass-grown basalt slabs of thedecumanus, you can easily imagine St Augustine and his mother doing the same, walking out to the shore through the Porta Marina, past the synagogue, to inquire about their boat to North Africa. We do not know exactly where they were staying, but we know that it was a house with a courtyard garden and there are plenty of surviving brick-built ruins that might have been it, some of them even with traces of an upper-floor balcony. In his Confessions, Augustine describes standing at a window with his mother, leaning out and chatting, speculating about the nature of the life beyond. Together they share a brief mystic moment when they seem to touch Eternal Wisdom. Two weeks later Monica was dead, of a sudden fever. Though her initial wish had been to be buried beside her husband, she maintained at the end that she had no fear of dying in a foreign land, for God would surely know where to find her when the Day of Judgement came. Very touchingly Augustine describes how he comes to terms with his grief, examining why he feels so bereft at the death of one who wished to leave this world and who has not, in any real sense, died. Psalm 101 was read over Monica’s body:

My song shall be of mercy and judgement: unto thee, O Lord, will I sing. O let me have understanding in the way of godliness.

Augustine returned from his mother’s graveside and went to the baths. We cannot know which baths those were; there are several that survive among the ruins of Ostia. Bathing did not soothe him. He retired to bed, wept freely, recited a hymn of St Ambrose (his mentor in Milan) and found himself much comforted.

The church is small and very simple, aisleless, with a painted tie-beam ceiling and Stations of the Cross in bold white relief against a vivid blue ground placed high along the walls. In a chapel on the south side, behind glass, is a piece of the tombstone of St Monica, the mother of St Augustine, who died here suddenly in 387, aged fifty-five. Opposite the tombstone there is an Italian transcription of the full epitaph, which translates as follows:

‘Here your most chaste mother laid her ashes, Augustine, a further light upon your own merits, you, who as a faithful priest of the holy message of peace instruct by your life your faithful adherents. You are both crowned with immense glory by your works, you and your most virtuous mother, who is made more blessed still by her son.’

St Augustine’s own tribute to his mother is as follows:

May she rest in peace with her husband, her only one, after whom she married no other. She served him with patience and obedience, bringing forth fruit unto thee, and at the end won him also for thyself. O Lord my God, inspire thy servants my brethren, thy sons and my masters, whom I serve with voice and heart and pen, that whosoever of them shall read these words, may remember at thy altar Monica thy servant, with Patricius her husband, by whose bodies thou broughtest me into this life, though how it was done I know not. May they remember them in this failing light, they were my parents and also my brother and sister, subject to thee our Father in our Catholic mother the Church, and they will be my fellow citizens in that eternal Jerusalem for which thy people yearn all the days of their pilgrimage. (Confessions Book IX)

(NB: For a fascinating delve into early Christian Ostia, as well as for an alternative reading of Monica's tombstone, see here.)

Fragment of the tombstone of St Monica

Hadrian, Antinoüs and the Christian Fathers

Bust of Antinoüs, Centrale Montemartini, Rome
Bust of Hadrian, Vatican Museums, Rome


Hadrian is one of the most interesting and enigmatic of all the pagan emperors. He was a man of contrasts, described in the Historia Augustaas: “in the same person austere and genial, dignified and playful, dilatory and quick to act, niggardly and generous, deceitful and straightforward, cruel and merciful, and always in all things changeable.” He was a very cultured man, interested in art and architecture. Unlike his predecessor Trajan, his interest was not in extending the boundaries of his empire but in consolidating what he had, making sure that its borders held firm. But this does not mean he was inward-looking. The Roman civilisation spread peace through uniformity. All over their empire they built semi-identical cities, each with its temples, its baths, its forum, its theatre and amphitheatre, its circus, its mosaics of Dionysus and the Four Seasons, its public latrines. But Hadrian was not a conformist. He was exceptionally well-travelled and he was interested in the diversity of the peoples he ruled. His own architectural designs flouted the rules; they were almost baroque. In fact, the things that Hadrian admired most lay outside Rome, in Greece and Egypt. At his enormous, sprawling villa near Tivoli he created a little microcosm of his empire, with miniature versions of its beauty spots, from Athens to Thessaly to the Nile Delta to Asia Minor. Some of the statuary recovered from his recreation of the canal which linked Alexandria to the city of Canopus is displayed in the Vatican’s Egyptian Museum.

Hadrian built his Tivoli villa on land that belonged to his wife, the empress Sabina. Their marriage was loveless and childless. Though Hadrian deified his wife after her death, he must have known that she detested him. It is probable that Hadrian was homosexual. The image of his favourite, the beautiful Bithynian youth Antinoüs, haunts the museums of the world like a flitting ghost, portrayed in many a portrait bust or full-length statue, with drooping head, pouting lips and downcast eyes. Antinoüs died in mysterious circumstances, drowned in the Nile in ad 130, at the age of nineteen. Immediately the disconsolate emperor deified him and founded the city of Antinoöpolis on the river’s east bank. Many theories exist about this famous death: few believe that it was an accident. Perhaps the boy was getting beyond the age when it could be seemly for him to belong to Hadrian’s entourage. Or perhaps it was a ritual suicide. The cult of Antinoüs continued well beyond Hadrian’s day. The early Church fathers were in no two minds about it: Tertullian, Origen, St Athanasius and St Jerome are united in their opinion that Antinoüs was merely a man and that his worship was not worship, but idolatry—though they differ in how they express themselves. For St Athanasius, Antinoüs is a lascivious wretch. For Tertullian he is a hapless victim, a person who perhaps had little choice. From this distance, and with our utterly different social outlook, we can have no true idea. The Vatican Egyptian collection exhibits a statue of Antinoüs in the guise of the god of the underworld, Osiris, reborn from the Nile waters. It is a most extraordinary piece, offering a small glimpse into one of the ways in which people have attempted to make sense of death and immortality.

The Empress Sabina, Archaeologocial Museum of Ostia Antica
Antinoüs as Osiris, Vatican Museums, Rome

 

Text © Blue Guides. Pilgrim’s Rome. All rights reserved.

Mithraism: a Roman Mystery Religion

The religions practised in the later Roman empire were many and various. There was the official state cult, of course, centred around the great triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. But many other cults from different parts of the empire also flourished. There were the Egyptian religions, for example those of Serapis and Isis. There was the cult of Cybele, the Great Mother, which originated in Asia Minor. There were Jewish communities of traders and merchants. And there were Christians.

Relief of Mithras slaying the bull from the Mithraic shrine at Londinium. Displayed in the Museum of London.

The cult which most resembled Christianity and which appears to have represented a serious challenge to it, was that of Mithras, which traces its origins to Persia. Like the cult of Isis and also that of Jesus Christ, Mithraism was a “mystery” religion, in other words a faith that is concerned primarily with a realm that transcends the worldly sphere and which seeks to show initiates how to attain admittance to it. Mystery cults focus on truths that are inexplicable by man’s experience or understanding, and promise some kind of redemption or rebirth. Mithraism was particularly concerned with ideas of enlightenment, of moving from a realm of darkness to a relam of light. Some 500 sanctuaries are known, 35 of them in Rome itself, and 18 in its port city of Ostia. They were always underground, in the basements of buildings or in caves. At the eastern end of the sanctuary, the god was shown with attendant deities with torches. This represented the light towards which members were moving. Mithraism was especially popular among soldiers, which is why we find Mithraea in far-flung outposts such as Londinium in Britannia and Aquincum in Pannonia. Slaves and ex-slaves were also attracted to the cult, although women were excluded from it. One of the cult’s attractions was its graded hierarchy. Initiates moved upwards through a series of ranks just as a soldier might do, or a slave who was working towards freedom. The highest grade, a ‘Father’, was probably reserved for a leader of a congregation, and it was an important enough honour to be recorded on gravestones.

A Mithraean sanctuary typically held a sculpture or relief of Mithras shown seated astride a great bull, holding back the animal’s head and slitting its throat in sacrifice. The sacrifice of a bull is crucial to the cult—it is usually seen as a force Mithras must conquer to release the fertility of the earth. The spirit of the bull, it was believed, was released by its death, and its blood falling on the ground brought regeneration and renewal. Animals join in, as if working against Mithras. A serpent and a dog suck the wound, perhaps to prevent the blood nourishing the earth. A scorpion is often shown attacking the bull’s testicles as if to destroy its fertility. The cult draws on ancient Eastern parallels, including Zoroastrianism. Mithras himself is typically depicted wearing a Phrygian cap (from Phrygia in Asia Minor), which was used by the Romans as a recognizable symbol of the East.

There seems to have been some competition between Mithraism and Christianity over converts, but as Christianity grew more powerful it moved to obliterate Mithraism, and overtook it altogether. By the end of the 4th century, after the edicts of the emperor Theodosius, Christianity was the only mystery religion that survived. Its spread and popularity was due in large part to the fact of its wide appeal for women.

Text adapted from Sites of Antiquity: 50 Sites that Explain the Classical World © Blue Guides.

The Amphitheatre of Londinium

That the Roman city of Londinium boasted an amphitheatre was never subject of dispute. Its precise location, however, was unknown until comparatively recently. Excavations close to the old Roman road now known as Watling Street, during the construction of the Guildhall Art Gallery in 1988, revealed its stone foundations. Those are now preserved and open to the public, in situ where they were found, under the gallery.

The amphitheatre was built around AD 70, the same year that the Colosseum was begun in Rome. It was, understandably, considerably smaller, with seating for around 6,000 spectators as opposed to the Colosseum’s 75,000–although when you consider that 6,000 people represented about a quarter of the entire population of the city, it must have seemed a giant building indeed. Most of it was made of wood. Even in the following century, when it was improved and given stone entranceways, the tiers of seats would still have been of timber. The surviving remains are scanty: an illuminated backdrop showing scenes of raked seating and combatants in the arena gives a sense of the original dimensions of the building. In front of it is the surviving section of the eastern entrance to the arena, with side chambers that were perhaps guards’ houses or pens for wild animals. What is most remarkable are the preserved sections of timber drainage channel, complete with a silt sump to collect debris and prevent the drain from getting blocked. It operated by natural gravity, to flood the arena for mock sea battles, and to drain it again.

In common with most of the public structures of Roman Britain, the amphitheatre fell out of use in the 4th century, when the land fell prey to Scots, Picts and Saxons and when the emperors, harried by problems closer to home, stopped sending troops to defend this far-flung island. By the mid-fifth century, Londinium was an abandoned wasteland.

Backdrop of seating and pugilists
Section of preserved under-floor timber drain

The Trouble with Snake Goddesses

Over 100 years after the excavations at Knossos, Crete, it is hard for the modern observer to appreciate the excitement engendered by Evans’s finds. Here was a whole new civilization with artistic achievements rivalling Egypt’s. Evans himself fostered expectation by dwelling on the modernity of the style and by embarking on a (now) controversial restoration programme which owed much to his own romanticized image of the ‘Minoan’ (his own word) past. As Minoan artefacts became prestige objects for museums, unscrupulous dealers, smugglers and restorers were quick to react. Top of the wish list was the snake goddess.

With her full exposed bosom, pinched waist, flounced skirt and modern expression, she looked exactly what was expected: an art even superior to that of Classical Greece and comparable to the Italian Renaissance. But Getty curator Kenneth Lapatin has suggested that the famous snake goddess might not be a genuine antiquity.

It is certainly true that from modest beginnings in Crete in 1903, the production of modern Minoica moved onto a world-wide market. In 1914 the Boston Museum of Fine Arts paid a staggering $950 for a very damaged chryselephantine snake goddess with no detailed provenance. It has affinities with the faïences from the Temple Repositories but also a number of crucial unexplained differences, not least that it is the only example in Minoan art in which ivory is used for a female figure. Questions about its authenticity remain unanswered. In the 1920s the curator at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, wishing to enhance the status of her department, fell for a marble snake goddess, once again with no provenance except for a vague ‘east of Knossos’. £2750 were duly paid to a local intermediary who said he had it through a Paris dealer. Doubts raised in Crete were set aside and ascribed to jealousy and embarrassment at having allowed such a unique artefact to leave the island. Yet questions soon began to be asked. No archaeologist had actually seen the object come out of the ground. Authentication was based purely on style, subjective judgement and expectations. Evans was still defending it in 1935 but the Fitzwilliam Museum, after demoting its status to ‘dubious’ in 1964, last showed it in 1991.

Who dunnit? Evidence points in two directions: first the Gilliérons, father and son, who worked as restorers for Evans from the very beginning and eventually set up shop in Athens producing fine detailed replicas of Knossos finds for academic collections. Alternatively it was one of the Cretan workers trained by them. Sir Leonard Woolley in his memoirs tells how a forger, confessing on his deathbed, had wept bitter tears on discovering how much money his work could ultimately command.

Extract from Blue Guide Crete by Paola Pugsley. Knossos is also one of the sites featured in Sites of Antiquity: 50 Sites that Explain the Classical World .

For more on the Gilliérons and the artworks of Knossos, see here , for details of an exhibition currently running at the Met Museum in New York.

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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
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Comments on Blue Guide Hay-on-Wye
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Comments on Blue Guide Crete
Comments on Sites of Antiquity: from Ancient Egypt to the...
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Familiar face
Comments on Blue Guide Concise Italy
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Blue Guide Northern Italy
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A day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome - highly recommended
Comments on Blue Guide Southern Italy
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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
The Best Credit / Debit Card for Travel
Ruskin on Venice
Reading list for Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Mainland

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