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LAKE ALBANO

Published June 29, 2014 by Tony

– ROMAN ARCHITECTURES –

Lake Albano

The lake Albano is located in the Castelli Romani, on the Alban Hills in Rome, and with its depth of 170 meters is one of the deepest crater lakes.
A lovely stretch of water, dominated by the papal residence, located about three hundred meters above the sea level and that reaches a maximum width of 3500 meters and with a perimeter of  9800 meters.
During the terminal phase of the volcanic activity of the Latium’s volcanoes, the encounter between the masses of magma and the groundwater favored the formation of numerous lakes, such as Lake Albano and Lake Nemi that are the only ones left to date.
From thousands of years, the eruptive activity is still in a quiescent state, but it is still possible to record volcanic phenomena albeit modest, and emanations of carbon dioxide from the bottom of the lake, that cross the water in the form of bubbles.
Apart from its beauty in the setting of buildings and woods, this lake is remembered for the colossal work of hydraulic engineering of the so called  “emissary”, which Romans built in 397 BC using techniques still unknown. The reason for this emissary is mainly due to avoid the flooding of the lake that could destroy the Emperors’ villas.
Instead, according to the historian Livy, this work of hydraulic engineering, particularly interesting for those times, would have been originated by a prophecy of the Delphic oracle:

At the time when the Romans besieged the inhabitants of Veii [in the days when the star Sirius was rising] in the season when the waters of the lakes are lowered, as is the case for all rivers except the Nile, and in a period when there is no rain or other causes perceptible to humans, the lake located on the Alban Hills, where the mother city of Rome rises up, had such a growth of waters to flood a large portion of the surrounding region, destroying many farms, cutting through the mountain and pouring a large river in the plains below.  At first, Romans believed that a god was angry, and voted to propitiate gods and minor deities of the region, and then they asked to the soothsayers what they thought about this, but since they did not have anything to say, Romans decided to consult the oracle Delphi.
In the meantime, thanks to the Veii’s Etruscan soothsayers, the Romans who had besieged Veii, gained knowledge that, according to ancient prophecies, the victory of the Romans against Veii became feasible only when the lake’s water had channeled and used to irrigate the fields. After a short time, a messenger returned from Delphi with a similar response, a thing that pushed the Senate to dig canals to drive the overflowing warm waters of the lake.
Dion.Hal, Romanae Antiquities, XII, 10-12

And so it was; in no time the water reached the sea, at first thru a gallery of about 2500 meters, that appeared near the Via Appia in the locality “Quarto Mole” (below Castel Gandolfo), and then with another funnel that reached “Tor di Valle”, and from there into Tiber river. It has been a complicated manual labor of about 180 cm in height and 120 cm in width, with tunnels and vents that still could be useful in the event of a flooding.

emissary entranceLake Albano’s emissary, which ran until 1980, when ill water level began to drop 1 meter every 3 years.

Emissary

Library Girolamini

Published May 10, 2014 by Tony

 

Thieves of books: a scandal in Naples

Library Girolamini

 

The “Library Girolamini” was one of the most valuable Italian libraries of seventeenth-century.
Among relic of saints, tombs and masterpieces of the seventeenth century, it was a state cultural institution in Naples, with very important collection of books, as well as an important operatic music archive. Having been opened to the public in 1586 it is the oldest library in Naples and the second in Italy after “Malatesta” library in Cesena.
From an architectural point of view, the library is part of the church complex Girolamini that with its 68 x 28 meters is one of the biggest religious buildings in Naples. Because of its decoration in gold, marble and mother of pearl, it earned the title of “Domus aurea“;  its interior has a concentration of high quality works by Neapolitan artists but also from Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Rome. Attached there is the homonym convent, home of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Filippo Neri, whose members, known as “oratoriani” o “filippini”, dedicated to the sanctification of souls through education, spiritual direction, preaching and liturgical apostolate, especially among young people, as it was in the tradition of Filippo Neri.

The library of the Girolamini treasured more than 160 000 titles, mostly antique, including incunabula and sixteenth, (ie printed documents with the technology of movable type in vogue in the mid-fifteenth century till the year 1500), numerous manuscripts, with many compositions and musical works from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Holdings also included the private collection of Giuseppe Valletta, with rare editions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with the classics of Greek and Latin literature, history and philosophy.
Due to the earthquake of 1980, the monastery and library’s premises were used as temporary shelter for the displaced, and has since started an era of abandonment that has lasted until last year. The institution has been closed to the public for decades, and was in a state of decay. The precariousness of the housing, according to an estimate of its conservative father Sandro Marsano, would have led over the years to the disappearance of hundreds of books and works of art.

In 2011, Marino Massimo De Caro became director of the Library,  whose appointment by the Minister for Cultural Heritage Lorenzo Ornaghi, has raised some concerns. After a series of articles of complaint signed by the art historian Tommaso Montanari of Federico II University, the professor Francesco Caglioti became the organizer of a petition together other exponents of the culture, in order to solicit the De Caro impeachment.
As a result of these events, on April 19, 2012 the entire library complex was impounded by the police and the director of De Caro investigated. The investigation leads to the discovery, in the province of Verona, of a deposit containing 240 volumes stolen from the library. Investigations acquire evidence that many other books had already gone abroad for being sold, including the names of some buyers, located in England, Japan and USA. For the latter, procedures for recovery already have been initiated. The investigation leads to the arrest of De Caro and the curator Sandro Marsano, and the start of the investigations against the Senator Marcello Dell’Utri. On 15 March 2013, Massimo De Caro has been convicted after an abbreviated trial, with the prison sentence of seven years and perpetual interdiction from public office.

171 thousand volumes of which one hundred thousand uncatalogued, while four thousand had disappeared. Some sold at an auction in Monaco of Bavaria, other priceless sold between 5000 and 50,000 Euros: a real looting . The senator Dell’Utri, an expert bibliophile, with the help of director De Caro, and with the excuse of wanting to make the library a museum admired throughout the world, they empties and upset it. With their authority they forced the library staff to step aside, and at night plunder the library. The stolen books end up with various tricks in the hands of various collectors, and to the director De Caro is attributed the most serious theft, the precious book: the “Sidereus Nuncius”  of 1619 by Galileo Galilei.

From the initial investigation turns out that De Caro did not even have the qualifications to be appointed director of a library, and that he had dealings with Pastor Daniel Guido, involved in the investigation of thefts to the libraries of Madrid and Zaragoza. Yet, even though it was a state institution, he became the director with the support of Sandro Marsano and validation of the Ministry of Culture, where meantime the senator Dell’Utri was performing his task under Berlusconi government. Dell’Ultri, collaborator of Berlusconi, has been a Deputy of “Forza Italia” party from 1996 to 2001, when he was elected Senator of the Republic and held, among other tasks, the Chairman of the Commission for the Senate Library. In 2008 he was re-nominated to the Senate, and elected in the PDL party, despite in the meantime he had been convicted for collusion with Mafia. On 25 March 2013, the Third Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Palermo sentenced Dell’Ultri in the second degree of judgment and with a penalty of 7 years imprisonment for collusion with the Mafia. The judgment considered Marcello Dell’Utri an intermediary between mafia and Silvio Berlusconi. As a fugitive shortly before the measure of arrest, he has been tracked down and arrested April 12, 2014 in Beirut by Lebanese police, where he is currently being held pending extradition to Italy.
For a long time, thanks to new manager Umberto Bile, the library is again open to the public and after rummaging around in rooms closed for decades, he has found relics of saints, forgotten tombs, hand-embroidered copes of the eighteenth century, some paintings and even the column used by Caravaggio to paint the ” Flagellation of Christ “.  A funny thing in having found the remains of a man who was 2 meters and thirty centimeters tall in a crypt which is just a few steps from a nearby street called “Giant’s alley.”  Everything will be photographed , cataloged and restored if possible.

Girolamini Church

Girolamini cloister

NAPLES ANCIENT BUILDINGS

Published January 13, 2014 by Tony

– MYSTERY AND DECAY OF PALACE PENNE –

Penne's palace

Palazzo Penne is a Renaissance building in Naples, built by Antonio Penne, located in the Piazzetta Teodoro Monticelli, in that narrow blind alley that leads to the long and narrow “Scalea del Pennino” in the Sedile “Porto”.
Antonio Penne, so named because coming from the town of Penne in Abruzzo, belonged to a wealthy bourgeois family, and in 1391 he became secretary and special adviser to the king Ladislaus of Anjou (Naples 1374-1414), son of Margherita of Durres, nephew of the Queen Joanna I. His prestige at court became so high till to obtain permission to erect his own memorial in Santa Clara’s church, exclusive place for Angevin nobility, where today, in a chapel we can still admire his tomb.
Once this property was famous for a legend that hovered over, while in the last centuries a total negligence led it to ruin.

Penne's tomb

HISTORY

Palazzo Penne was built in 1406 and the area where it is located is called “Pennino” (meaning slope), because it was a small hill where the road surface was about 5 meters lower than now, a place that at the time was considered healthy, and safe against flooding landslides.
The year of manufacture can be inferred from the inscription on a plaque above the arch at the entrance of the building: “XX anno regni regis Ladislai sunt domus haec facte nullo sint turbine fracie mille fluunt magni bistres centum quater anni.” The inscription arranges a single block with the Anjou-Durres’ coat of arms. The concession of the sovereign to embellish the building with weapons and symbols of the royal family, as well as the approval of Penne’s blazon, signified the eternal protection to the family Penne.

The facade  is made with ashlar rusticated “piperno” alternated with “soft stone of the mountain”, referred to as “piperino tuff”, which is actually trachyte: a compact yellowish rock. The pediment is formed by arches called “flaming Gothic” with the crown of King Ladislaus in the first order, and below the Cross of Jerusalem, Majorca’s coat of arms (poles), and the stripes of Durres’ lineage. In the ashlar frame you see the “feathers”, symbol of the house in three rows, topped by Angevin lilies in seven rows, in honor of King Ladidslao. In the middle of the arch, a composition represents the religious and superstitious spirit of Antonio Penne: the stylized clouds from which come out some beams (the divine light) with two hands holding a tape containing two engraved lines of Martial (against evil eye) “Avi Ducis Vultu Sinec Auspicis Isca Libenter Omnibus Invideas Tibi Nemo” (you, who do not turn your face and do not look at this building willingly or envious, envy everyone well, no one envies you). The door is oak, although altered over the centuries, is one example of craftsmanship with steel spikes, iron studs called “Peroni”, consisting of the original arches of the Gothic period.
The inner courtyard is decorated with a beautiful five-arched portico with a lovely garden still partly preserved. Originally, in the courtyard there were sixteen stables, while the beautiful porch was adorned with statues of the Roman period, all remodeled in 1740 and then covered up by the construction of the janitor’s home, as well as the “Majestic Arch” which remains only a track in the wall. In the apartment on the first floor there were two rooms, one looking out on the porch and another on a courtyard that led into the park, all with frescoed ceiling. In the courtyard there was a spiral staircase that led to the basement that were below the level of the building. A scale of piperno led to the second floor, where there was a large terrace with a balustrade still made with piperno.

After Antonio Penne’s death, the building passed to his nephew Onofrio, as long as the last heirs sold it to the family Rocco or Rocca, and finally in 1558, to Aloisia Scannapieco Capuano who in turn gave it to her son Giovanni Geronimo, married with Lucretia de Sangro.
In 1685 the house was purchased by the Order of the Somascan Fathers, the nearby church of Saints Demetrius and Bonifacio. The fathers Somascan modified it according to their needs and transforming it in novitiaten and cells for the Fathers. The transformations occupied nearly a century, new houses were built in the garden area, while part of the cellars, adjacent to the Church of Santa Barbara, were transformed into shops and other flats. The final annihilation of the ancient structure happened with the destruction of the top floor’s roof. With the arrival of the French, in the first decade of the nineteenth century, and with the abolition of religious orders in 1806, the building was put up for sale and became the property of the abbot Teodoro Monticelli, noble barons of Cerreto, a volcanologist.
After his death in 1845, the assets were sold to the University of Naples, while the watchman Saverio Monticelli remained, the grandson of Theodore. In memory of Monticelli was a plaque on the first floor of the building, commissioned by the Civic Administration in 1909. In 2002, the Region of Campania bought the building for 10 billion lire, held by a private possession who had transformed the building into a “bed and breakfast” . The palace was then transferred on loan to “University Orientale” in 2004. The project involved the construction of laboratories, rooms for seminars or conferences, and services for students. Work on the renovation of the building that never initiated by the presence of squatters in the building. In 2007, the intellectuals Alda Croce e Marta Herling, daughter and granddaughter of the philosopher Benedetto Croce, obtained the suspension of the squatters works inside the building for the construction of some housing units by the occupants (who resumed work despite the ban). To no avail the appeals of the President of the Republic and UNESCO for the start of restoration work. On 20 May 2008 the investigations requested by UNESCO through the Italian judiciary, were concluded, and among the defendants the governor Antonio Bassolino and the then dean Pasquale Ciriello, for the non-restorative intervention against an artifact of historical and artistic interest. In November 2009, the Prosecutor has requested the dismissal of the process, giving the opportunity to the Public Prosecutor to appeal to the prosecution, if the case. In 2013, all the defendants in the trial, for damage to property of historical interest, were acquitted by the Tribunal of Naples because the crime does not exist. The agreement between the Region and the last two individuals, illegally occupying the building and to which it has been procured an alternative residence, has allowed to finally put the entire building under the supervision of the Region and the University Orientale, which must agree to the restorative intervention and the intended use. In November 2008, work  for the safety of the building has begun, to prevent further deterioration, as a new abusive attack, nipped in the bud by the Superintendent and the City of Naples, took place in the early months of 2009 when an adjoining hotel was taking possession of the garden.
For now, the only certainty is the decay and neglect that still prevail in the building.

THE LEGEND
”Beelzebub’s building”

As soon as the noble Antonio Penne come to Naples with the French entourage, he fell in love with a beautiful Neapolitan young girl.
Having too many offers of marriage and the next day to give an answer to other suitors, the damsel replied that she maybe would agree only if the Penne had built, for the next morning, a building equal to her beauty, as a pledge of love and wedding gift. Sure that he had not been able to fulfill such an absurd request because, alas, she already had chosen the man to marry.
Aware that he could not cope with such an impossible request, it is said that to just to have a change, the nobleman asked for help to the devil, Beelzebub, who accepted in exchange for Penne’s soul. Antonio accepted by signing with his own blood, but reserving the right to insert an irrelevant clause that he would reveal in the end.

At midnight the evil forces began their work, and at dawn and the building was ready. At this point Beelzebub asked him about the last clause and Antonio explained it: he would have sprinkled many grains of wheat in the courtyard, and the devil would have to pick up and count them all, and if he had missed even one of them, the agreement was no longer valid. Said than done, when the devil counted the grains their number wasn’t exact, because Antonio  deliberately had mixed them with pitch, and inevitably some of them stuck under Beelzebub’s nails. This one protested demanding for his soul, but Antonio made the sign of the cross obliging the devil to sink in the courtyard, where today it is said that there is a well.

 

SEDILI IN NAPLES

Published January 11, 2014 by Tony

Old Administrative Institutions in Naples

In Naples, the “Sedili” (Seats), also called Seggi o Piazze (Squares), were in force from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century, and they were administrative institutions of the city, whose representatives, known as Eletti (Elects), met in the convent of San Lorenzo to take decisions about the civil administration for the common good of the City. The first six seats were attended only by the nobility, while the citizens had their own representatives in the seventh Seat.
The Sedili became extinct in 1800 due to an edict of King Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, who abolished their functions. In 1808, after Joachim Murat’s reforms, the functions and responsibilities of the seats were assigned to the new Municipality institution (City Hall), with the election of the first mayor. Despite the abolition of these local administrative units, the names of some of them, still indicate the area (neighborhood) where these old Sedili were.

NAME

HISTORY

VENUE

Coat of Arms

Capuana

(Capoana)

The name derived from the surname of an influential family.

Via Tribunali

Capoana

Montagna

So named cause it was situated in a high part of the city.

Via Tribunali

Montagna

Forcella

In neapolitan this name refers to the shape Y, a symbol that was the emblem of the nearby school of Pythagoras. The motto of this Seat was: “For good agendum sumus,” (we were born to do good). This seat was merged with Montagna’s seat.

Via Forcella

forcella

Nilo

So named for the presence of the statue of the Nile River and in memory of traders Alessandrini, who dwelt therein.

Piazzetta Nilo

nilo

Porto

So called because it was near the ancient port of Naples.

Via Mezzocannone

Porto

Portanova

So named because, during the Greek time, the city’s walls were enlarged and a new entrance was built near the sea.

Piazza Portanova

Porta_Nova

Popolo

So named because it represented not-aristocratic people of the city. Representatives could only report people’s complaints and actively participate in street festivals or religious processions. They were chosen among the middle class (doctors, writers, lawyers, notaries, merchants, etc.)

Largo della Selleria (current Piazza Nicola Amore)

popolo

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VINTAGE ADVERTISING

Published December 11, 2013 by Tony

ADs THAT COULD BE BANNED TODAY

Previous generations and I were accustomed to certain advertising campaigns that obviously are appropriate for the culture and society of that period. But, if today we go to review some vintage advertisings or if this happen to younger people, some of them will leave us amazed.

The first ads that come to my mind now, and that nowadays appear manifestly against the tide, are those relating to smoking or inciting tobacco addiction. After anti-smoking campaigns and the appropriate prohibitions, although cigarettes advertising is banned in many countries, such an ad would only cause resentment and harsh criticism. Yet, if new generations watch these old advertising, will realize that less than 30 years ago, smoking was a status symbol, and often the States’ monopolies advertised cigarettes, earning millions by their selling, like it happened in Italy.
Who does not remember Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca?
As in many other vintage Hollywood movies, the cigarette became an indispensable “accessory”, a symbol sometimes even sexual that filled and reinforced the interpretation or the scene.

vintage-ads-that-would-be-banned-today-7

Although I am not an anti-feminist but for equal rights, an advertisement in which a woman appears as mother or housewife, should not shock so much. But, in fact, any advertising where woman is considered as object or that relegate her to the purely mother and housewife’s role, becomes anachronistic and provocative. Yet, sexist advertising campaigns have been several in the past. As you will see, some of them even instigate violence.

Do not be surprised if these old commercials are clearly racist, although for we Italians they were pretty inconceivable.

Ads with a clear sexual innuendo.

In other cases, children and adolescents have been used to advertise products for adults, and several advertising and marketing campaigns could be blamed for children’s sexualisation.

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