Tag Archives: italy

Graffiti of Pompeii

There are thousands of graffiti recorded in the time capsule town on Pompeii, the town destroyed and buried by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD. They offer a glimpse into everyday ancient life in an unprecedented way. I hope you will find this list an amusing diversion or a useful resource for research.

Note – technically this list is a mixture of graffiti and dipinti. A dipinto is a drawn message or doodle, either made with paint, charcoal etc. A graffiti is incised into the surface, perhaps with a nail or tool. For the sake of simplicity, I’m using the word graffiti as a catch-all term, in keeping with the majority of guidebooks and websites.

I shall provide the location of each graffito wherever possible. Not only will this help tourists find them (if still visible,) but noting which types of graffiti appear where is a fascinating insight into the different neighbourhoods of the town. When I provide a building code, it breaks down into 3 sections. The first part notes the Regio, one of 9 zones of the town carved up by archaeologists. The second number notes the insula, or city block. The final number is the door number. So the House of the Surgeon is categorised as vi.1.10 – Regio 6, block 1, door 10. Some houses are known by a number of names, I’ll use whichever I think is the better known. A lot of buildings have multiple numbered entrances, I shall use the entrance closest to the graffito.

Where I can, I’ll also provide the catalogue number of each graffito in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. Volume IV is dedicated to graffiti recorded in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. The online database I use is the Epigrafik-Datenbank Clauss-Slaby. This will be handy if you wish to read any of these in the original Oscan, Greek or Latin. If I can’t find a translation or attempt a clumsy one myself, I won’t include an example. This list is intended to be accessible for everyone (or at least those who don’t mind sexual themes or naughty language…) I’m not going to shy away from graffiti that use ‘naughty’ language as some books/sites do. The Pompeians weren’t prudes so I see no reason why I should be. However, perhaps you may wish to bookmark this page to read away from school/work…

If you spot any mistakes, can fill in some missing information or think I’ve missed a great example, just let me know.

POLITICS

If the graffiti is anything to go by, Pompeiians loved politics. The huge number of electoral slogans reminds me of my clogged Facebook timeline during our own modern elections. Official dipinti were written by professional scriptores, usually in red paint in an elegant script. Some of the others may be a teensy bit sarcastic…

  • I ask you to elect Numerius Barcha, a good man, as duovir. May Venus Pompeiana be favourable to your offerings. – CIL IV 00026, House of the Anchor vi.10.7
  • Numerius Veius, a good man. Colonists, I ask you to elect him duovir. – CIL IV 00045 Facade of a shop, viii.5.29
  • Numerius Veius Barcha, I hope you rot! – CIL IV 00075
  • Nymphodotus with Caprasia asks you to elect Marcus Cerrinius Vatia aedile. CIL IV 207
  • All the late drinkers ask you to elect Marcus Cerrinius Vatia aedile. Florus and Fructus wrote this! – CIL VI 581, Taberna Hedones, vii.2.44
  • I beg you to elect Marcus Epidius Sabinus duovir with judicial powers, he is worthy. May you elect one who is a protector of the colony according to the opinion of Suedius Clemens, the worshipful judge, and by agreement of the council on account of his merits and his honesty, worthy of public office. Sabinus, the theatre official, elects him with applause. CIL IV 768, Shop of Sabinus, i.4.18
  • Popidius Natalis, his client, with the worshipers of Isis, call for the election of Cuspius Pansa for aedile.  CIL IV 1011, Bakery of Felix, viii.4.27
  • The ball players ask that you elect Aulus Vettius Firmus aedile, worthy of public office. CIL IV 1147, Estate of Julia Felix, ii.4.4
  • Elect Gnaeus Helvius Sabinus aedile, worthy of public office. Masculus and all those who have a tail recommend him… CIL IV 7240 Caupona of Masculus, i.7.14
  • All the late sleepers ask for Marcus Cerrinius Vatia for aedile. CIL IV 575
  • Vatia for aedile: supported by the petty thieves… CIL IV 576
  • Vote for Isidorus for aedile, he licks cunts the best! CIL IV 1383, Brothel of Aphrodite, Secunda, Nymphe, Spendusa, Veneria, Restituta, Timele vi.11.15
  • Lucius Popidius Ampliatus, son of Lucius, for aedile: supported by his client Montanus in conjunction with the brigands.  CIL IV 7851
  • Valens, you’re sleeping; you’re asleep and dreaming; wake up from your slumber and make Helvius Sabinus aedile. 
  • The neighbours of Lucius Statius Receptus urge you to elect him duovir with judicial power. He is deserving of the office. Aemilius Celer, his neighbour, wrote this. If you deliberately deface this sign, may you fall gravely ill! CIL IV 3775 House of Primigenia ix.8.8
  • Statia and Petronia beg you to elect Marcus Casellius and Lucius Albucius as aediles. There are excellent citizens for the perpetuity of the colony.  CIL IV 3294
  • Bruttius Balbus for duumvir. His actions will be fiscally responsible. Genialis supports this. CIL IV 3792 Shop, ix.2.20

GLADIATORS

Pompeiians loved a good gladiatorial spectacle. Theirs is the oldest surviving permanent amphitheatre in the Roman world. Politicians hoped to win over the citizens by sponsoring lavish spectacles and certain gladiators became ancient celebrities. It seems that ancient Campanians were quite willing to travel to see a good show, following their favourite troupes in the same way that modern sports fans go to away matches. That explains why the amphitheatre at Pompeii is so large for such a small town. Keen fans scribbled the results of fights alongside doodles of their favourite fighters.

Note – the term ‘Neronian’ indicates the gladiator trained at the Imperial training school in Capua.

  • The gladiatorial troupe of Aulus Suettius Certus, aedile, will fight at Pompeii on 31st of May. There will be a hunt and awnings. CIL IV 1189 The Eumachia, vii.9.1
  • At the dedication of the Games of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius… There will be a hunt, athletics, aprinklings, awnings. Good fortune to Maius, leader of the colony. CIL IV 1177 Forum Baths vii.5.2
  • 20 pairs of gladiators of Decimus Lucretius Satrius Valens, perpetual priest of Nero and 10 pairs of gladiators of his son Decimus Lucretius Valens, will fight at Pompeii on 8,9,10,11,12 April. There will be a regular hunt and awnings. Aemilius Celer wrote this on his own by the light of the moon.  CIL IV 3884 Shop facade, ix.8.1
  • Celadus, belonging to Octavus, fought 3 won 3. CIL IV 4297 House of the Gladiators, v.5.3
  • Rusticus Malius – 12 fights, 11 wins. Marcus Terentius – 3 fights, 3 wins. CIL IV 4302 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls! CIL IV 4289 House of the Gladiators, v.5.3
  • Mansuetas the provocator will dedicate his shield to Venus if victorious! CIL IV 283, Quadriporticus viii.7.16
  • Faustus, slave of Ithacus, Neronian, at the amphitheatre; Priscus, Neronian, fought 6, victor; Herrenius, fought 18, killed CIL IV 1421 House of the Labyrinth vi.11.10
  • Asteropaeus, Neronian, 107 victories, victor. Oceanus, freedman, 6 victories, reprieved CIL IV 1422 House of the Labyrinth vi.11.9
  • In honour of the Safety of the Emperor Vespasian Caesar Augustus and his House, on the occasion of the dedication of the altar, the gladiatorial troupe of Gnaeus Allius Nigidius Maius, Flamen of Caesar Augustus, will give games at Pompeii on July 4. Beast hunt. There will be awnings. CIL IV 1180 Large Theatre exterior
  • Oceanus, of free status, victorious 13 times, won. Aracintus, of free status, victorious 4 times, earned a reprieve. CIL IV 8055 House of the Ceii i.6.15
  • Severus, of free status, victorious 13 times, earned a reprieve. Albanus, left-hander, of free status, victorious 19 times, won CIL IV 8056 House of the Ceii i.6.15 Left handed gladiators were quite rare and would have drawn a large crowd.
  • Marcus Attilius. Marcus Attilius, fought 1, won 1, victor. Lucius Raecius Felix, fought 12, won 12, reprieved. CIL IV 10236A Tomb 14 Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • Marcus Attilius, novice, victor; Hilarus, Neronian, fought 14, 12 victories, reprieved CIL IV 10238A Tomb 14 Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • Games at Nola given by Marcus Cominius Heres over 4 days. ‘The Chief’, Neronian, fought 13, 10 victories, victor. Hilarus, Neronian, fought 14, 12 victories, victor. Creunus, fought 7, 5 victories, reprieved.  CIL IV 10237 Tomb 14 Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • Twenty pairs of Gladiators, belonging to Aulus Suettius Antenio and to his freedman Niger, will fight at Puteoli on the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th of March. There will also be a beast hunt and athletic contests. CIL IV 9970
  • Sold to the wife of Decimus Lucretius Valens: Onustus, horseman of prime quality, Sagatus, Thracian murmillo, prime quality! CIL IV 8590 It would be extremely odd for a wife to buy gladiators on her husband’s behalf. It seems likely that this matron was in fact buying/hiring these gladiators for her own entertainment…
  • 20 pairs of gladiators of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius, quinquennial, and their substitutes will fight without any public expense at Pompeii. Greetings to Gavillius Tigellus and Clodius. Greetings to Telephus, head gladiator instructor. Good luck, Diadumenus and Pyladio CIL IV 7991 House of Trebius Valens iii.2.1
  • Good fortune to Gnaeus Alleius Maius, the prince of the games! CIL IV 7990 Palaestra ii.7.7
  • Marcus Casellius Marcellus, a good aedile and a great giver of games CIL IV 4999 House of M Casellius Marcellus ix.2.26
  • Felix, belonging to Cassius, 13 fights 13 wins. Florus, belonging to Octavius, 14 fights 14 wins CIL IV 4378 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • On the 28th of July, Florus won at Nuceria, on the 15th of August, he won at Herculaneum CIL IV 4299 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • On the … Of May, the gladiator troupe of Ampliatus will fight at Formia. There will be a beast hunt, sprinklings and awnings. As the whole world desires to see my troupe, I shall provide games everywhere. CIL IV 1184 Gladiator Barracks viii.7.16
  • You have been victorious in every single one of your bouts! It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World! CIL IV 1111 Amphitheatre ii.6
  • Chariot fighter Philippus from the school of Tettius. 8 fights, 8 wins! CIL IV 4280 House of the Gladiators v.5.3

 

WORDS OF WISDOM

  • A small problem gets bigger if you ignore it… CIL IV 1811, Basilica, viii.1.1
  • What’s happening? Oh, eyes, you forcibly dragged me into the fire;
    Now, unforced, you flood my cheeks.
    But never can the tears extinguish the flame, t
    hey inflame the face and melt the spirit. Tiburtinus composed this. IV 4966, Odeon, viii.7.19
  • Once you are dead, you are nothing CIL IV 5279 House of the Centennial, ix.8.3
  • Nothing can last for all time: When the Sun has shone brightly it returns to Ocean; the Moon wanes, which recently was full. Even the fierceness of Venus often becomes a mere puff of wind. CIL IV 9123 Shop of Successus ix.13.4
  • Avoid giving killer looks to the wives of others with desirous expressions, harbour modesty in your mouth. CIL IV 7968A House of the Moralist iii.4.2
  • Remove lustful expressions and a flirtatious gaze from another man’s wife; may there be modesty in your expression. CIL IV 7968B House of the Moralist iii.4.2
  • Postpone your tiresome squabbles if you can, or leave and take them home with you. CIL IV 7968C House of the Moralist iii.4.2
  • When an old man lies on his back, his bollocks cover his arsehole. CIL IV  4488
  • The one who buggers a man on fire burns his penis CIL IV 1882 Basilica viii.1.1
  • He who despises life easily spurns god CIL IV 5370 House of the Arches ix.7.20
  • Beware of wives! CIL IV 4238 Caupona V.2.3
  • The doorman should be awake for those who come bearing gifts. If, however, someone should knock on the door empty handed, the doorman should be deaf or sleeping with the latch firmly shut… CIL IV 1894 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Now, when anger is still fresh, it is time to leave. When grief has departed love shall return. Trust me! CIL IV 4491 House of Sextus Pompeius Axiochus vi.13.19

THE CALL OF NATURE

  • Stranger, my bones beg you not to pee at my tomb: if you want to do the deceased an even bigger favour: take a dump! You see the tomb of Urtica [= ‘Stinging Nettle’]: go away, shitter! It is not safe for you to open your buttocks here. CIL IV 8899 iii.5.4
  • Secundus took a shit here.  (This was written three times on the same wall…) CIL IV 5243 House of the Centenary ix.8.3
  • Lesbianus, you poop and you write, ‘Hi, everybody!’ CIL IV 10070 Shop of Nicanor ii.3.9
  • This is Martha’s dining room, as she shits in this dining room. CIL IV 5244 House of the Centenary ix.8.3 The graffito was found in what is thought to be the slave’s quarters.
  • One day you will understand how I feel. When I need to have a shit I’ll come and shit! CIL IV 5242 House of the Centenary ix.8.3
  • Shitter! Beware misfortune! CIL IV 3832 Caupona of Tertius ix.7.2
  • To the one defecating here.  Beware of the curse.  If you look down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy! CIL IV 7716 House of Pascius Hermes iii.5.1
  • We have pissed the bed, I confess. We have erred innkeeper, though if you ask us why; there was no chamberpot! CIL IV 4952 Unnamed house viii.7.6

I WAS HERE

  • Gaius Pumidius Dipilus was here five days before the nones of October in the year that Marcus Lepidus and Quintus Catulus were consuls (2nd October 78 BC) CIL IV 1842 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here.  The women did not know of his presence.  Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion.  CIL IV 8767 Large Palaestra ii.7
  • Glyco was here with Martialis while the sun was boiling, we were thirsty. CIL IV 89 Tomb 18 Porta Ercolano necropolis
  • We two dear men, friends forever, were here.  If you want to know our names, they are Gaius and Aulus. CIL IV 8162 Bar i.7.8

MATTERS OF THE HEART

  • Sabinus, my beauty, Hermeros loves you! CIL IV 1256 House of the Tragic Poet vi.8.5. This is just one of many graffiti about love/sex between two men.
  • No young buck is complete until he has fallen in love CIL IV 1787 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Let everyone one in love come and see.  I want to break Venus’ ribs with clubs and cripple the goddess’ loins.  If she can strike through my soft chest, then why can’t I smash her head with a club? CIL IV 1824 Basilica viii.1.1
  • If you are able, but not willing, why do you put off our joy and kindle hope and tell me always to come back tomorrow.  So, force me to die since you force me to live without you.  Your gift will be to stop torturing me.  Certainly, hope returns to the lover what it has once snatched away. CIL IV 1837 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Love dictates to me as I write and Cupid shows me the way, but may I die if the god should wish me to go on without you! CIL IV 1928 Basilica viii.1.1
  • I’m hurrying to you, my Sava. Try to love me! CIL IV 2414 Corridor into the Large Theatre viii.7.20
  • Methe of Atella, slave of Cominia, loves Chrestus. May Venus Pompeiana smile favourably on their hearts and let them always live in harmony. CIL IV 2457 Corridor into the Large Theatre viii.7.20
  • Whoever loves, let him flourish.  Let him die who knows not love.  Let him who forbids love die twice over.  CIL IV 4091 House of Caecilius Jucundus v.1.26
  • If you felt the fires of love, mule-driver, you would make far more haste to see Venus.  I love a charming boy; I ask you, goad the mules; let’s go!  Take me to Pompeii, where love is sweet.  You are mine… CIL IV 5092 House of Poppaeus Sabinus ix.5.11
  • Oh, if only I could grasp my gentle arms around you and and give kisses to your delicate little lips. Come now, my little darling, entrust your pleasures to the winds. Believe me, the nature of men is fickle. Often as I have lain awake in a wasted night, I think on these things: many whom Fortuna raised high, now suddenly rush headlong, and fall, overwhelmed by her. Thus, just as Venus joins the bodies of lovers in a moment, daylight divides them and you will separate their love. CIL IV 5296 ix.9.f
  • Marcellus loves Praenestina, but she doesn’t care for him CIL IV 7679 House of Pinarius Cerialis iii.4.b
  • (Written by Severus) – “Successus, a weaver, loves the innkeeper’s slave girl named Iris, She, however, does not love him. Still he begs her to have pity on him. His rival wrote this. Goodbye”(Answer by Successus) – “Envious one, why do you get in the way. Submit to a handsomer man and one who is being treated very wrongly and good looking”(Answer by Severus) – “I have spoken. I have written all there is to say. You love Iris, but she does not love you!” CIL IV 8258 Bar of Prima i.10.2
  • Secundus says hello to his Prima, wherever she is.  I ask, my mistress, that you love me. CIL IV 8364 House of the Cabinetmaker i.10.7
  • My Ceres, may he who loves prosper, who forbids love may he perish badly. I loved Leda, but in a manner in which it was acceptable. Greetings, Tiberius Claudius. I loved Leda – the girl from Samos. CIL IV 9202 House of Caecilius Jucundus v.1.23
  • A blonde girl taught me to scorn brunettes. I will scorn them if I can; if not… I will reluctantly love them CIL IV 9839 Vineyard wall i.11.10
  • Blondie has taught me to hate dark-haired girls.  I shall hate them, if I can, but I wouldn’t mind loving them.  Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this CIL IC 1520 House of the Scientists vi.14.43
  • Lovers are like bees; they live a honeyed life! CIL IV 8408a Bar of Astylus and Pardalus ii.2.1
  • If only that were true… CIL IV 8408b Bar of Astylus and Pardalus ii.2.1
  • I don’t want to sell my husband, not for all the gold in the world! CIL IV 3061 House of Caprasius Primus vii.2.48
  • If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should take a look at my girl friend! CIL IV 6842 House of Pinarius iv.16.15
  • Greetings to Primigenia of Nuceria.  I would wish to become a signet ring for no more than an hour, so that I might give you kisses dispatched with your signature… CIL IV 10241 Tomb, Porta Nocera necropolis
  • Sarra, you are not being very nice, leaving me all alone like this! CIL IV 1951 Basilica viii.1.1
  • A woman has borne a son of her own; he isn’t mine and doesn’t look like me, but I wish he was mine and I was wanting him to be mine. CIL IV 1877 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Juvenillia was born on Saturday in the second hour of the evening, Aug 2nd. CIL 294 vii.3 Juvenilla was therefore 3 weeks old when Vesuvius erupted.
  • Let him constrain the winds, he who rebukes lovers! And let him him forbid the waters of a stream from continuing to flow! CIL IV 1649 Shop, vii.6.35

A DRINK AT THE BAR

  • Hedone says, “You can get a drink here for only one coin.  You can drink better wine for two coins.  You can drink Falernian for four coins.” CIL IV 1679 Bar of Hedone vii.2.44
  • Whoever wants to serve themselves can go on an drink from the sea! CIL IV 3494 Bar of Salvius vi.14.36
  • What a lot of tricks you use to deceive, innkeeper. You sell water but drink unmixed wine!  CIL IV 3498 Workshop of Potitus vi.14.37
  • I fucked the barmaid! cil iv 8442 Caupona of Sotericus i.12.3

SEX

Whilst the Romans did have an unwritten code of morality, it seems that their attitude to sex was open, not to be matched until, perhaps, the 20th century. Erotic images taken to the museum in Naples were kept in a secret, locked room that was only opened up to the public in 2005. Whilst the modern idea of constant orgies is inaccurate (and influenced by the early Christian church,) erotic images and graffiti were not limited to brothels and dive bars and were found in the grandest of houses. There is no Latin term for homosexuality as it was not seen as particularly remarkable (even Julius Caesar had an affair with the King of Bithynia,) although a Roman citizen should always seek to be the penetrator, not the penetratee. Fellatio, cunnilingus and heterosexual anal sex were common and frequently advertised by prostitutes. Hookers could be hired for the price of a loaf of bread or beaker of wine, although those with particular talents or services could charge a lot more. Prostitution was legal and regulated and by no means a career solely for women. Visiting prostitutes was not frowned upon and was vastly preferable to seducing another man’s wife/daughter. Some clients even left glowing (and not so complimentary) reviews!

  • Thrust slowly!  (found above a doodle of doggy style sex) CIL IV 794 House of the King of Prussia vii.9.33
  • Atimetus got me pregnant CIL IV 10231 Tomb, Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • I don’t care about your pregnancy, Salvilla; I despise it. CIL IV 8384 House of Minucius i.10.8
  • Fortunatus will fuck you really deep. Come and see, Anthusa! CIL IV 1230 House of the Surgeon vi.1.10
  • Here I’ve finally screwed a beautiful girl, praised by many, but inside there was a mudhole. CIL IV 1516 House of the Scientist vi.14.43
  • My life, my sweetheart, let’s play for a moment, let’s imagine that this bed is a field and that I am your horse… CIL IV 1781 Basilica viii.1.1
  • It is much better to fuck a hairy cunt than a smooth one: it both retains the warmth and stimulates the organ. CIL IV 1830 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Take hold of your servant girl whenever you want to; it’s your right. CIL IV 1863 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Order your cock, it’s time for love! CIL IV 1938 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Restitutus says: “Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy cunt!” CIL IV 3951 Tavern of Verecundus i.2.23
  • Fortunatus, you sweet soul, you mega-fucker. Written by one who knows. CIL IV 4239 House of the Silver Wedding v.2.e
  • My lusty son, with how many women have you banged? CIL IV 5213 House of the Centenary ix.8.3
  • Cock, you are enormous! CIL IV 7089 v.7.4
  • Matrenia with the hot ass CIL IV 8473 Caupona of Hermes ii.1.13
  • Palmyra, you horny beast! CIL IV 8475 Caupona of Hermes ii.1.1
  • Dionysios is allowed to fuck whenever he wants CIL IV 8897 Shop iii.5.3
  • Crescens declares his penis hard and huge! CIL IV 10085b Imperial House ii.1.10
  • Jucundus fucks badly. CIL IV 8715b Large Palaestra ii.7
  • Here I have penetrated my lady’s open buttocks; but it was vulgar of me to write these verses. CIL IV 9246b Villa of the Mysteries
  • Virgula to her friend Tertius: you are so dirtyminded! CIL IV 1881 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Fortuna licks arseholes. CIL IV 4954 House viii.6.5

PROSTITUTES and THEIR CLIENTELE

  • If anyone sits on this bench, let him read this first of all: if anyone wants a screw, he should look for Attice; she costs 4 sestertii. CIL IV 1751 Porta Marina
  • If anyone’s looking for tender embraces in this town, he should know that here all the girls are available. CIL IV 1796 Basilica viii.1.1
  • 15 June, Hermeros fucked here with Phileterus and Caphisus CIL IV 2185 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Phoebus the perfumer is the best fuck CIL IV 2184 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Garlicfarticus’ fucked well here whom he wished CIL IV 2188 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Here Harpocras had a good screw with Drauca for a denarius. CIL IV 2193 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • He butt fucks Aplonia, gives it good, Nonius, fucking… CIL IV 2197 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • When you hand over the money, Batacarus, then I’ll fuck you in the arse! CIL IV 2254 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Restituta with the pretty face CIL IV 2202  Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Mola the fucktress CIL IV 2204  Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Felicla, slave born of the household, costs 2 asses CIL IV 4023 unnamed house v.1.15
  • Menander, nice manners, costs 2 asses CIL IV 4024 unnamed house v.1.15
  • Successa, slave born of this household, costs 5 asses. She has pretty manners. CIL IV 4025 unnamed house v.1.15
  • Felix costs four asses. Florus ten. CIL IV 7339 unnamed house i.10.3
  • Afillia costs 2 and a half asses CIL IV 7764
  • Communis: 3 asses, Successus: 3 asses, Nicephorus: 2 asses, Amunus: 4 asses, Cresimus, house born slave: 4 asses CIL IV 3964 Bakery i.3.1
  • I’m yours for 2 asses CIL IV 5372 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Athenais costs 2 asses. Sabina costs 2 asses CIL IV 4150 House of Jupiter v.2.15

HOMOSEXUALITY

  • Amplicatus, I know that Icarus is buggering you.  Salvius wrote this. CIL IV 2375 House of the Citharist i.4.5
  • Let Damoetas surrender to me and he will be happier than Pasiphae.  Zosimus wrote this. CIL IV 3299 House of M Casellius Marcellus ix.2.26
  • Weep, you girls.  My penis has given you up.  Now it penetrates men’s behinds.  Goodbye, wondrous femininity! CIL IV 3932 Bar of Innulus and Papilio i.2.20
  • I have buggered men CIL IV 4523 House of Orpheus vi.14.20
  • Albanus takes it up the arse CIL IV 4917 House of L. Caecilius Phoebus  viii.2.36
  • Lucius Habonius injures Caesonius Felix when he makes him suck his cock CIL IV 10232a Tomb 12 Porta Nocera necropolis
  • Vesbinus is catamite, Vitalius fucked him CIL IV 2319b between vii.2.16 and vii.2.17
  • Cosmus, slave of Equitia, is a great catamite and cocksucker who keeps his legs apart! CIL IV 1825 Basilica viii.1.1
  • I want to bugger a boy CIL IV 2110 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18

CUNNILINGUS

There dozens of references to cunnum recorded in Pompeii. Here are just a few…

  • Satyrus, don’t lick cunt inside the opening but outside the opening. CIL IV 2400 House of M Epidius Sabinus ix.1.22
  • Saturninus, don’t lick cunts! CIL IV 3925 Caupona and brothel of Demetrius and Helpis Afra i.2.19
  • Isidorus, slave born in the household, from Puteoli, muff diver. CIL IV 4699 between vi.15.22 and vi.15.23
  • Theophilus, don’t lick cunts against the city wall like a dog! CIL IV 8898 Shop, iii.5.3
  • Asbestus licks cunt CIL IV 763 viii.4
  • Centius licks Dionusia’s cunt CIL IV 1425 House of the Labyrinth vi.11.10
  • Fronto openly licks pussy CIL IV 2257 Lupanar (brothel) vii.12.18
  • Glyco licks cunts for two asses. CIL IV 3999 Bakery i.3.27
  • Maritimus licks cunt for four asses. Virgins are free of charge CIL IV 8940 Shop, iii.7.1

FELLATIO

It’s not a shock to find scores of graffiti mentioning blow jobs, ranging from tips, reviews and prices.

  • Rufa, may life be as good as your cocksucking! CIL IV 2421 Corridor of Large Theatre viii.7.20
  • Sabina, you suck cock, but you do it so badly! CIL IV 4185 House of the Silver Wedding v.2.1
  • Secundus, a cocksucker of rare skill CIL IV 9027 House of the Peristyle vii.6.28
  • Lick, girl!the mouth is not despised by anyone who is ready to come with the hand! CIL IV 10197 House of the Ship Europa i.15.3
  • Romula sucks her man here and everywhere. House of Marcus Fabius Rufus vii.16.22
  • Veneria sucked the cock of Maximus through the whole grape harvest, leaving both of her holes empty and only her mouth full! CIL IV 1391 Lupanare of Aphrodite, Secunda, Nymphe, Spendusa, Veneria, Restituta, Timele VI.11.15
  • Go down with your mouth along the shaft, then still licking, withdraw it upwards. Ah, there, I’m coming! CIL IV 760 Stabian Baths
  • Euplia sucks cock for 5 asses CIL IV 3330
  • Narcissus is the greatest cocksucker CIL IV 1825a Basilica viii.1.1
  • Felix sucks cock for one as CIL IV 5408 Tomb, Porta Nocera necropolis
  • Lais sucks cock for 2 asses CIL IV 1969
  • The man who shits a dick, what would you think he dined on? CIL IV 1884 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Myrtis, you give great head CIL IV 2273  Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18

INSULTS

  • Epaphra, you are bald! CIL IV 1816 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they every have before! CIL IV 1820 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Phileros is a eunuch!  CIL IV 1826 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Samius to Cornelius: go hang yourself! CIL IV 1864 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Epaphra is not good at ball games. CIL IV 1926 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Good fortune to the Puteolans; good luck to all Nucerians; the executioner’s hook to Pompeians and Pithecusans CIL IV 2183 Amphitheatre
  • Euplia is slack and has a huge clitoris CIL IV 10004 House of the Floral Cubicula i.9.5
  • Lucius Statius Philadelphus, freedman of a woman, is a thief! CIL IV 3990
  • Servilius is n love, he shouldn’t be allowed the chance. Go lick a cunt, Servilius. CIL IV 4304 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • Chloe says goodbye to Symphorus. Naeve should drop dead, he really should. CIL IV 4430 House vi.7.1
  • Erotaria, you jealous old bitch! CIL IV 9945 Tomb, Porta Nocera Necropolis

MUNDANITIES

  • A copper pot has gone missing from my shop.  Anyone who returns it to me will be given 65 sestertii.  20 more will be given for information leading to the capture of the thief. CIL IV 0064 Shop viii.5.33
  • On April 20th, I gave a cloak to be washed.  On May 7th, a headband.  On May 8th, two tunics CIL IV 1393 Unnamed house vi.11.13
  • It took 640 paces to walk back and forth between here and there ten times CIL IV 1714 vii.1.40
  • Epaphra, give the paintbrush back CIL IV 1787 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Health to whomever invites me to lunch! CIL IV 1937 Basilica viii.1.1
  • On April 19th, I made bread CIL IV 8792 Large Palaestra ii.7
  • If you wish to waste time, spill millet and pick it up again CIL IV 2069 House of Holconius Rufus viii.4.4
  • Since 14 days before the Kalends of April our wages have been overdue CIL IV 6733 Bakery 6733

 

AND FINALLY…

O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin. CIL IV 1904 Basilica, viii.1.1

 

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Verona Day 2

19 April 2016

My last day in the Veneto region begins with grey rain, a sombre reminder that soon I return to a damp Britain. Mercifully, since I’m staying right by the amphitheatre, I only have a short walk to the Museo Lapidario Maffeiano. This epigraphic museum was founded by Scipione Maffei in 1714 and the collection has slowly grown ever since. It features inscriptions in Greek as well as Etruscan and Latin. The museum is right next to the Gates of the Bra.

After an hour or so the rain has disappeared and I’m impatient to the amphitheatre, which has been sitting there, tempting me, since I arrived yesterday morning.

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The amphitheatre was built in the 1st century AD. There was a further, outer ring that has since been mostly lost following the earthquake of 1117. It reached as far as the lamppost in the right of the photo. By the time of the earthquake, the amphitheatre was already nearly a millennium old.

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What is visible here would actually have been enclosed, the arches housed stairways up to the seating and walkways circling the seating areas.

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The only existing part of the original facade stands on the side farthest from the Piazza Bra.

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The arena is used for performances each summer and I’m lucky that there aren’t more areas shut off for modern staging. Musing as I always do as to why the Romans insisted on making their stairs so bloody steep, it’s time to explore.

#igersverona

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The amphitheatre could hold 30,000 spectators for gladiatorial games and beast hunts (such as the hunt staged by a widower for the funeral of his late wife, much to the approval of his friend Pliny the Younger. Pliny commiserates that the panthers had not arrived from Africa in time due to bad weather.) It was built circa 30 AD making it half a century older than the more famous Colosseum in Rome. It is the third biggest Roman arena, smaller than only the Colosseum and the amphitheatre of Capua (slated to be on my 2017 travel list.) It’s one of the best preserved I’ve yet seen and this apparently is due to uncommonly careful preservation over the centuries and solid construction. Like Rome and Capua, Verona boasted a Gladiator school and Games held here drew crowds from the entire region (useful, as the entire population of Roman Verona could not entirely fill it alone.)

We know the names of some of the gladiators who fought at Verona. A secutor named Aedonius died in his eighth bout, aged 26. A retiarius named Generosus boasts on his tombstone that he, a native of Alexandria, fought 27 times in Verona. He managed to retire with enough money to live well until he died, comfortably in his bed. Another retiarius, Glaucus, was from Modena. He fought eight times, defeated in his last. His tomb was put up by his wife Aurelia and his devoted fans. His funerary inscription warns the reader to thoroughly read their horoscopes. Don’t trust Nemesis, she will deceive you! He died aged 23 years and 5 days.

In 312 AD the forces of Emperor Maxentius barricaded themselves inside the amphitheatre and were besieged by Constantine, fresh from successfully defeating their comrades in Turin and Milan. Ruricius Pompeianus, Maxentius’ praetorian prefect, slipped from the city to raise more troops to defend Verona and returned to fight Constantine on open ground. Even with his new recruits and the large garrison in the amphitheatre, Pompeianus was defeated and killed in the battle. Contantine went on to finally defeat Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. Constantine depicted the siege of Verona on his triumphal arch in Rome three years later.

Shortly after Christianity became the official religion, pagan Games were banned and the amphitheatre lay disused until after the fall of the Empire.  The Goths likely used it to stage entertainments, and when Verona was under the rule of the noble Scaliger family (aka Scala) (1226-1387) the arena was used in a more judiciary sense. Legal disputes could be settled with duels, except that instead of sword fights, the two sides chose a wrestler to represent them. Dante attended at least one such event, and described it in The Inferno.

No record exists of Christians being martyred by the Romans in the arena (although it is of course likely,) but Alberto I della Scala had nearly 200 patarini from Sirmione burnt at the stake inside the arena in 1278. Two years before, he made it illegal for anyone but prostitues to live inside the amphitheatre arches (a millennium after their Roman forebears had also plied their trade here,) and closed off the auditorium. In 1310, Alberto made it an offence to break through the doors into the auditorium or to urinate and defecate there, punishable by fine. Later, under Venetian rule, these laws were expanded to include punishment for anyone who tried to remove the fabric of the amphitheatre for building material. It wasn’t until 1537 that prostitutes were evicted from the arches, which now became workshops and stalls for craftsmen. The arena started to be used for tournaments which continued until 1716. The arena was then used by travelling troupes of comedic actors, dancers and musicians. Bull baiting also became popular, although Goethe was of the opinion that the arena was better suited to soccer. Following the French invasion, Napoleon Bonaparte twice watched bulls being hunted by dogs inside the arena (when he wasn’t using the building as a prisoner-of-war camp for captured Austrians.)

In 1820 the craftsmen in the arches were evicted so that restoration work could take place. After this, the arena was used for more genteel entertainments, such as acrobatics, horse racing and music. Opera was first performed in the amphitheatre in 1856. Ten years later Victor Emanuele II visited the arena for a festival celebrating the annexation of the Veneto into the Kingdom of Italy. There is an equestrian statue of him in the Piazza Bra. Operatic performances became more popular and numerous following a performance of Aida in 1913 and continue annually to this day. It also now hosts rock and pop concerts.

It’s a pleasant stroll down the Via Roma to Castelvecchio, the enormous manor house cum fortress built for the Scaliger family in the fourteenth century. It is possibly on the site of a Roman fort. Work was begun under Cangrande II della Scala, ironically the fortress didn’t prevent his assassination at the hands of his own brother. Completed following his death, Castelvecchio was still an effective deterrent against the House of Gonzaga in Mantua and the Sforzas in Milan.

Utilised as a barracks and prison by the Venetians (who added cannon,) French, (Napoleon always stayed here when in Verona,) and Austrians, the building is suitably intimidating. Castelvecchio became a barracks under Italian rule before becoming the home of the Civic museum in 1924.

Castelvecchio just as the sun is starting to set #igers_verona #Verona

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Next to Castelvecchio is the Arco dei Gavi.

Walking north-east along the Corso Cavour I reach the Porta Borsari, a Roman gateway into Verona.

Further along is the Piazza della Erbe. This is the site of the Roman forum and remains the heart of Verona. It’s a truly beautiful space and surrounded by beautiful buildings.

At the thinner end of the Piazza is the late-Renaissance Palazzo Maffei. This was once the site of the Capitolium, hinted at by the statues of Roman divinities decorating the balustrade (the statue of Hercules is thought to be Roman and from the original temple.)

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Palazzo Maffei

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Domus Mercatorum AKA Casa dei Mercanti

The Merchant House (Domus Mercatorum) was built by Alberto I della Scala in 1301 (although the Gothic crenellations are a a 19thC addition,)  and provided a home for guilds of merchants.

More eyecatching are the tower houses that now feature shops and restaurants on ground level. Look above the parasols and the houses of the Piazza are covered in frescoes.

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The rear of the Mazzanti houses

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The Fountain of Our Lady of Verona was commissioned by the Scaglieri family in 1368. The statue is originally Roman and was found a few metres away in the ancient Capitolium.The basin is also Roman in origin and comes from a bath complex.

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The Berlina (right) was erected in 1207 (although this is not the original,) and is almost impossible to photograph as it is usually a convenient bench for the hot and weary. The new podesta (governor) and judges would sit here to be sworn in. It was also used as a pillory for criminals and the severed heads of executed thieves could be displayed on it.

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Il Palazzo Comunale and the Torre dei Lamberti

 

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At the base of the Torre dei Lamberti, head through the Arco della Costa to the Piazza dei Signori

As I wander in, the Piazza dei Signori is as calm as the Piazza delle Erbe is bustling.

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The Palazzo del Podestà stands on Roman ruins and was built by the Scaliger family as a residence. Dante stayedhere during his exile from Florence. Under the Venetians it became a seat of the judiciary and a new archway (complete with Lion of St Mark) was built to replace the original entrance.

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The Palazzo del Consiglio was built 1475-92 and is usually attributed to a Dominican monk cum architect named Giocondo. Council meetings were held here. The five statues on top represent five famous Veronese men during the Roman period: the poets Catallus and Aemilius Macer, the architect Vitruvius, Pliny the Elder (who died in the 79AD eruption of Vesuvius,) and biographer Cornelius Nepos.

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A medieval tower of the  Palazzo di Cansignorio AKA Palazzo Capitano

 

 

 

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The facade of the Palazzo della Ragione

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The Torre dei Lamberti looks down on the Scala della Ragione

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Just off the Piazza dei Signori are the Scaglieri tombs. They’re suitably impressive fro a family that ruled Verona for nearly two centuries.

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The top of the tomb of Cansignorio della Scala

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The tomb of Cangrande I della Scala is placed above the door of the Church of Santa Maria Antica.

Cangrande I first came into power, aged eighteen, at the suggestion of his brother Alboino. Whereas this does seem young, he had already successfully led Veronese troops into battle aged fourteen during a war against Ferrara and, upon the signing of a peace treaty, offered his little brother co-rulership in 1308. The brothers were allies of the Holy Roman Empire and soon became instrumental in asserting Ghibelline prominence in the region. In 1311 the brothers were chosen to head the Imperial army and successfully liberated Vicenza from Paduan rule. Cangrande was forced to miss the coronation of Emperor Henry VII to be with Alboino, who died of illness later that year. Alboino had two legitimate sons, but Mastino and Alberto were still only toddlers. Cangrande was now the sole ruler of Verona.

Cangrande I was noted for his good nature (although his temper was infamous,) and his ability to befriend people of all backgrounds. He enjoyed debate and fostered a court of poets, painters and academics. He was patron of Dante, who was exiled from Florence and spent a good deal of time in Verona. Dante even heaps praise on Cangrande in his Divine Comedy. Cangrande was deeply religious and devoted to the Virgin Mary, and always fasted for two days and week.

Cangrande I was a great military leader and successfully asserted Veronese control in the region, consolidating and expanding territory. His first act as sole ruler was to assume control of Vicenza with Imperial approval, filling the power vacuum left by the defeating Paduans. When Henry VII died two and a half years later in 1313, the Paduans soon attempted to retake Vicenza, marching overnight to launch a surprise attack in 1314. When Cangrande heard the news he immediately rode out, arriving in Vicenza in a mere three hours. He mounted a war horse and, swinging a mace, led his troops into battle. His lack of hesitation and his courage led to a decisive victory. A peace treaty wherein Padua acknowledged his rule over Vicenza was signed a month later. Hostilities with Padua did continue until 1320 when Cangrande found himself so outnumbered (and himself wounded by an arrow to the leg,) that he signed a peace treaty. A military man at heart, Cangrande was never going to be completely contented living life at court and was back waging war by 1322. In 1328 finally assumed rule over Padua. Less than a year later he was in a solid position to assume control of Treviso, another city that had long been in his crosshairs. A writer named Niccolo de Rossi dryly remarked that Cangrande would be ‘King of Italy within a year.’ Cangrande besieged the city and, low of supplies, the gates were quickly opened. However, Cangrande had fallen ill, and died, aged 38, four days after he triumphantly marched into Treviso.

His body was carried back to Verona where it now lays in the tomb pictured above. With no legitimate sons, his nephews Mastino and Alberto inherited his titles and rule of the cities Cangrande had conquered. Mastino had Cangrande’s doctor hanged shortly afterwards.

In 2004 an autopsy was carried out on the mummified remains of Cangrande. He was 5’8” and had a strong physique. Analysis of faecal matter and liver tissue revealed fatal amounts of digitalis, a poison derived from foxgloves. Stomach samples revealed that the poison had been masked with chamomile and mulberry. Nearly seven centuries after his death, Cangrande I was revealed to be a murder victim. The Duke of Milan and the Republic of Venice both had reasons to curb Verona’s aggressive expansion whilst not wanting an outright war, however Mastino, Cangrande’s own nephew, was himself ruthlessly ambitious. Did he bribe the doctor to poison his uncle, only to hang him before the doctor could implicate him?

 

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Tomb of Mastino II

Whatever the truth, Mastino II della Scala most definitely benefitted from the death of his uncle, and if Venice or Milan were responsible in hopes for a quieter Verona, they were disappointed. Mastino persevered with the policy of Veronese expansion, taking over  Brescia, Parma and Lucca within six years.Unfortunately, although Mastino proved to be a capable general he lacked the eloquence, grace and mercy of Cangrande I.

Florence , Siena , Bologna , Perugia and the Venetian Republic formed an anti-Veronese League shortly after Lucca fell. Mastino was able to defend himself for a year, but the League kept growing, with Milan, Ferrara, Mantua and the Papal States quickly condemning Mastino. In 1337 Padua, the city that Cangrande had taken 16 years to conquer, opened her gates to a Florentine-Venetian army and Mastino’s brother Alberto was taken to Venice as prisoner. Mastino II watched in horror as city after city fell to the League. By April 1338, the armies of the League reached the walls of Verona. Besieged, Mastino started to see traitors and plotters everywhere. In August he murdered his uncle Bartolomeo, Bishop of Verona,running him through with a sword in front of the Bishop’s Palace. A rival of Bartolomeo’s had whispered to Mastino that the Bishop was betraying Verona for Venice.  Mastino, on top of being besieged, now found himself excommunicated.

The walls proved impregnable, but the siege was costly. In 1339 Mastino II had no choice but to sign a peace treaty with humiliating terms. The Scala family would be reduced to ruling Verona and Vicenza, the other cities were distributed to members of the League. His brother Albert was released from his Venetian prison and was allowed to return home. The brothers never did reclaim their former glory, dying in 1351 and 1352 respectively.

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Tomb of Cansignorio

Mastino II had three legitimate sons, Cangrande, Paolo Alboino and Cansignorio. Cangrande II inherited Veronese rule upon his father’s death. He has the dubious honour of being the target of assassination not only from his two brothers but his illegitimate half-brother Fregnano as well.

Cangrande II was infamous for his tough rule that nearly crippled an already weakened city. He was ruthless, ambitious and utterly merciless. After three years in power, Cangrande II visited Bolzano. Fregnano took the opportunity to seize power in Verona and proclaim himself ruler with the aid of the Gonzaga family. Cangrande II hastily returned to Veronaand a bloody battle was fought on the Ponte Navi on February 5th, 1354. Fregnano fell into the river Adige and drowned. Days later, his bloated corpse was fished out and put up on display in the Piazza delle Erbe.

Increasingly paranoid, Cangrande II constructed the Castelvecchio and surrounded himself with Teutonic knights loaned to him by his brother-in-law, Ludwig of Brandenburg. It did him no good, in December 1359 Cangrande II was ambushed by his brothers Cansignorio and Paolo Alboino, who murdered him near the church of St Euphemia. The remaining brother ruled together until 1365, when Cansignorio accused Paolo Alboino of treason (likely a trumped up charge,) and had him imprisoned.

Cansignorio now ruled Verona alone, a city now devastated by war, famine and disease. The glittering court of Cangrande I was a distant memory as the bright talents in arts and literature sought patronage elsewhere. He soon set about trying to restore some former glory, with ambitious building plans drawn up and taxes raised to pay for their execution.

Cansignorio was apparently not a physically strong man, and died in 1375 aged only 35. On his death bed, however, he arranged for the assassination of his imprisoned brother Paolo Alboino, so that there would be no obstructions to his own bastard sons assuming control. Bartolomeo, in a mirror of the previous generation, was stabbed 26 times by his younger brother Alberto in 1381.

The three main tombs of the Arche Scaglieri mark the rise and fall of a dynasty, if only all who viewed them now realised how much blood was spilt by their owners.

My fascination with medieval violence sated, I stroll to the nearby Porta Leoni, another roman gate that lies at the end of the old cardo maximus road. Less is left standing than the Porta Borsari, but excavations underneath the modern road have been left uncovered to view.

I have just enough time for a stroll to soak up as much Veronese atmosphere as possible before my final stop.

#igersverona

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Love notes left at 'Juliet's House' #verona #igersverona

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I’ve fallen in love with Verona from ground level so it only makes sense to view the city from above as my time left slips away. For a small fee, it’s possible to get an elevator up the Torre dei Lamberti.

The view of the Piazza della Erbe from the Torre dei Lamberti, Verona #igersverona #ig_verona

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Views from Torre dei Lamberti #igersverona #verona

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And with that, it’s time to walk down the streets that still follow the ancient Roman paths down to the amphitheatre, pick up my backpack and head to the airport. On the plane home I decide that my daughter will be old enough for a trip in October when we will both be celebrating birthdays. And so I start planning a trip to Greece…

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Verona Day 1

18 April 2016

I wake up in a tiny B&B a mere few dozen yards from a huge Roman amphitheatre. Life is good. I don’t usually mention the restaurants and hotels that I use, but the owner of the B&B Principe All’Arena is such a charming gentleman that I will happily endorse him here for any traveller to Verona with a limited budget. He was easily the warmest host this trip.

I was adamant that I was going to include Verona on my trip. The city predates the Romans, becoming a colony around 300 BC. The Romans have lured me here; the architecture left behind from the various rulers who followed are a delightful bonus. It’s a Monday, the day when Italian museums traditionally close. Verona is blessed with numerous beautiful churches for me to explore instead. First however, I need to spend a bit of time soaking up the ancient atmosphere outside the arena.

I never usually leave monumental ancient ruins til the last 48 hours of a trip! #igersverona

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First church of the day is the Basilica San Zeno. I purchase a Verona Tourist Card instead of delving around for a handful of coins, particularly since the Verona card will grant me access to everything that I’ve come to see.

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There has been a religious structure here since the 4th century AD when a small church was built next to the tomb of the eighth Bishop of Verona, a North African man named Zeno. Zeno was made a saint after his death (sources differ on whether his death was a martyrdom,)  and became patron  saint of Verona. The original church was replaced with a romanesque basilica and monastery in the 9th century, but what we see today is the result of a rebuilding and enlargement following an earthquake that hit Verona in 1117.

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I can’t recall visiting a church with an open, split level before. The presbytery is higher than the rest of the church, whilst stairs lead down to the crypt beneath. It’s a beautiful effect in an already beautiful church.

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13thC  statues of Christ and the Apostles line the balustrade separating the nave and presbytery levels.

I decide to head into the crypt first, optimistically claimed by some to be the wedding chapel of Romeo and Juliet…

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The coffin of St Zeno

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The crypt is a church within the church and each of the 49 columns has a unique capital.

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The basilica is decorated with several frescoes from the 13th and 14th centuries. They depict religious scenes for the benefit of the illiterate congregation.

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George and the Dragon

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Bronze panels decorate the door

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After San Zeno I walk back east, passing Castelvecchio and the arena on the way to the Church of San Fermo and Rustico.

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Firmus and Rusticus were Christian martyrs, tortured and beheaded under Emperor Maximian for refusing to make pagan sacrifices. The church is supposedly built on or near to the site of their execution.

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The upper church

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The pulpit and frescoes date from 1396

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This structure encloses the choir

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The lower church is accessed via stairs in the right transept.

12th century fresco of the baptism of Christ Situated in the lower church of the Church of San Fermo, #Verona

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Walking north along the River Aldige it’s a short walk to the Basilica Sant’Anastasia. The rather plain ( and technically unfinished) facade hides a truly beautiful interior.

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The building of the Basilica began in 1290 and was mainly finished by 1323 with further building completed between 1423 and 1481.

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The Basilica of Sant'Anastasia #igersverona #ig_verona

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Look up. #igersverona #ig_verona

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It’s only a short walk to the Cathedral and I’m disappointed to find it temporarily closed to the public. As a consolation, the Baptistery and Church of St Helen are still accessible.

The Chiesa Sant’Elena is on the site that Saint Zeno laid down the first Christian church in Verona.

The Chiesa di San Giovanni in Fonte was originally the cathedral baptistery. The octagonal font is carved from a  single block of stone and dates to the 13th century. The reliefs depict scenes from the Annunciation to the Baptism of Christ.

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After a spot of lunch, keeping a wary eye on a grey cloud threatening to turn black, it’s time for the ancient theatre and archaeological museum accompanying it. I’m not surprised to find it closed, it is becoming somewhat of a curse for me whenever I visit Italy to find the things I most want to see shut or covered in scaffolding.

Grumpy, I decide to climb up the Scalinata Castel S Pietro, a stairway up the hill to an Austrian barracks built over an older castle that had been built on the site of a Roman temple. Naturally, to add to my frustration, the Castel is inaccessible behind chain link fences because of some renovation works. The panoramic views from the piazzale and the glimpses of the theatre on the way up are enough to cheer me up, though…

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A few hours now sadly left free, I wander around Verona before choosing a restaurant just off the Piazza Bra by the amphitheatre. The restaurants facing the piazza look touristy and expensive but mine, Le Cantine de l’Arena has al fresco seating tucked in the Piazzetta Scaletti Rubiani where I can happily dine on gnocchi with walnuts in a gooey Monte Veronese cheese sauce whilst gazing at the arena as the night gets darker.

I can’t resist a bit of night time photography on my last night of the trip.

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Palazzo Barbieri

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Venice Day 3

14 April 2016

It’s a short vaporetto ride from Sant Elena to Salute. The church of Santa Maria della Salute is open earlier than most so it makes sense to start off my day there and it’s wonderfully quiet first thing in the morning.

 

 

This church is so ridiculously beautiful that it’s easy to forget that we have bubonic plague to thank for it. The epidemic of 1630 was particularly savage, claiming a third of the population. 46,000 lives were claimed, 16,000 of them in November alone. Doge Nicolo Contarini vowed to build a church to the Virgin Mary as soon as the plague ceased as she was seen to be a protector of the Republic.

An earlier church and monastery on the site were demolished and nearly 1.2 million wooden piles were driven into the clay bed to provide a solid base for the new structure. A competition was held to find the right architect for the job and a 26 year old named Baldassare Longhena was chosen from eleven candidates for his bold, octagonal design, intended to represent a crown for the Virgin Mary. It is the pinnacle of Venetian Baroque architecture. Construction took several decades and sadly, Longhena never lived to see the church complete.

The style and placement of decoration has definitely shifted from earlier Venetian churches. The exterior is undeniably the focus (just ask Canaletto, among other painters,) and is far more elaborately Baroque than much of what was built in Venice before. Longhena manages to stop short of excessive gaud but it’s clear that Venice wanted to convey that a dose of plague would not be enough to diminish its beauty or penchant for extravagance.

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Any excuse for a Venetian lion… #Venice #SantaMariaDellaSalute #igersvenezia #ig_venice #visitveneto

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The high altar beyond the octagon

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After admiring the church it’s time to hop back across the water to Piazza San Marco where I have booked a tour for the Doge’s Palace. Looking at the snaking queue, I’m thankful that I booked my ticket in advance online and sashay to the ticket desk with only a hint of smugness. I’ve paid extra for the Secret Itineraries tour, and it is WELL worth the extra euros but I’ll save the details for another post.

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Palazzo Ducale

Today if you google ‘Doge’ the results will all feature a Shibu Inu with a poor grasp of the English language. In Venetian history the Doge was the senior official of the Republic, almost like an elected Duke.

Successive Doges ruled over the Venetian Republic for a thousand years until the 18th century. The Republic was operated by a number of different councils under supervision of the Doge, the most senior being the Great Council. In order to restrict the power of the Doge, the Council could be vetoed by the Doge and the Doge could veto the Council.

The Doge was the only person in the Republic with access to all files and paperwork, many of the councils and committees focusing on a single aspect of government. As such, the Doge was not permitted to talk to any foreigner alone, lest he reveal secrets and betray Venice. The Doge was kept under strict surveillance at all times. His family members were not allowed to hold office during his tenure to avoid nepotism. The Doge could not run any businesses and could not accept gifts in case the Councils accused him of accepting bribes. Neither the Doge nor his immediate family were allowed to leave Venice. As the position was held until death, anyone wanting to be Doge was making a great sacrifice of personal freedom to hold power. What could be offered as a consolation prize? A spectacular residence.

The exterior architecture breaks nearly every rule for a harmonious, attractive building with a mishmash of styles and designs. I’d hardly call it ugly, however. In fact, the effect is beguiling and I can’t wait to see inside. The entrance is in the broglio or arcade on the water-facing side.

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The exterior staircase

This is a staircase that is seen on dozens of postcards and featured in dozens of guidebooks. What I didn’t hear any tour guides mention was its bloody past.

By all accounts, Marin Falier was an irritable man with a sharp tongue. Nevertheless, he had served Venice with exemplary military service and was elected Doge in 1354 at the grand old age of 76. At the time he had been acting as ambassador to the Pope and was trying to negotiate with him to resolve a long dispute with Genoa.

As Doge, Falier could no longer continue with these aims without consulting various councils and as restricted as to how much he could achieve when the Genoese captured 35 Venetian galleys and took 5,000 prisoners at the Battle of Sapienza a mere few weeks after his election. Falier was forced to sign a humiliating 4 month truce which many Venetian nobles took umbrage to.

Frustrated by the limitations of his role and insulted by pompous young aristocrats, Falier planned to wrest control from the nobility and their numerous councils. The role of Doge would have more freedom and more power.

Rumours were spread that the Genoese were planning an attack in mid April. Amid the panic, his conspirators would arm themselves and kill as many aristocrats as possible in ‘protection of the Doge.’

The Council of Ten caught wind of the plot and swiftly rounded up the plotters and hanged ten of them from the windows of the Palace. The following day Falier was led to the top of this staircase and publicly beheaded. His mutilated body was displayed before the crowds and was later buried in an unmarked grave.

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Every possible inch is decorated. There are uglier places to be executed…

 

The Palazzo Ducale was a lavish residence, a seat of government and state prison. It was the heart of the Republic and is suitably overwhelming for a first time visitor.

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Sala del Senato

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The Sala del Maggior Consiglio – The Hall of the Great Council

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Neptune stand guard at the top of the exterior staircase

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Scala D’Oro – the Golden Staircase

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Scala D’Oro

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Dante’s Paradise by Tintoretto

I was amused to find that most tourists didn’t realise when they were crossing the Ponte dei Sospiri – the Bridge of Sighs. The bridge was constructed in 1600 to connect the Prigioni Nuove (New Prison) and the interrogation suites within the Palazzo. It was over two hundred years before Lord Byron would give it such a romantic nickname, imagining the sighs that incarcerated Venetians would emit as they crossed the bridge and caught their last glimpses of their city through the stones and iron bars.

 

View from the Bridge of Sighs #igersvenezia #venice #ig_venice

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Although the interior is plain, the bridge is a beautiful sight from the outside. The view from the Ponte della Paglia allows for some arty shots if you can elbow your way through the crowds…

#pontedeisospiri #igersvenezia #ig_venice #visitveneto

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As tourists leave the Palazzo Ducale many seemed to miss a hidden gem on the corner of the Basilica San Marco:

The Palazzo Ducale is Venetian pride in stone and paint. Popping into a nearby museum is to unwittingly witness its humiliation.

By 1796 the Republic was weakening and a young Napoleon was approaching across the mainland, spending his honeymoon invading the Italian peninsula and fighting the Austrian empire who had controlled parts of Italy since the end of the War of Spanish Succession. Venice, the Papal states and a few other areas had retained independence and Venice was keen to remain neutral whilst the French and Austrians quarrelled on the mainland and rejected an offer from Napoleon to form an alliance, hoping to benefit from trading with both sides.Venice did, however, start to build up military forces. Napoleon was suspicious but Venice replied that neutrality was all that it desired. Napoleon fired off a warning that neutrality did not involve harming the French nor aiding the Austrians.

Venice had grown complacent, the navy had been allowed to shrink to a handful of old fashioned ships. Venice could not afford to make enemies and perhaps underestimated Napoleon, who despised Venetian decadence as much as he had despised the French nobility that had so recently been swept away. Venetian treasures could fund his army for years to come. Venice needed to be cautious and yet demanded compensation every time Napoleon led troops through Venetian territory whilst also allowing Austrian troops passage. Napoleon was getting angry.

At the entrance of the lagoon is Fort Sant’Andrea, a relic of the Venetian military might in the 16th century. In April 1797, three French ships anchored by the fort, possibly seeking shelter. The Venetian commander in the fort decided that the tiny French fleet was a threat and took the fateful decision of opening fire. Two ships sailed away but one decided to remain and the fort commander continued to fire. Even after the French ship raised a white flag, the cannons of the fort kept firing. The French captain was killed along with four of his crew. Napoleon was enraged and proclaimed that he would  be an “Attila to the Venetian State.” French artillery along the shores of the lagoon were trained on Venice.

On the 12th May, in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, the grandest room within the Palazzo Ducale, the Doge, Ludovico Manin, proposed that Venice should dissolve its government and submit to French rule. 512 of the assembled patricians voted for, only 20 voted against. The Venetian Republic was dead. On the 17th May 7,000 troops entered the city. Napoleon stripped the city of treasures and sent them back to France. As a final insult, the Venetians learnt that the French had no intention of occupying the city. They had been signed away to the Austrian Empire in the Treaty of Leoben. The treaty had been signed weeks before the Doge decided to abdicate, Napoleon had been so assured of victory.

It’s a short stroll across the Piazza to the Museo Correr at the opposite end from the Basilica. Even those exhausted with museums should pop into the cafe for a drink and this view of the Piazza…

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The two buildings running perpendicular to the Basilica are the Procuratie Vecchie and the Procuratie Nuove and the floors above their arcades were for the offices and apartments for the Procurators of the Republic.

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The building that now joins them is the architectural reminder of the fall of the Republic. It is known as the Napoleonic Wing as it was built on the orders of Napoleon’s stepson Eugene Beauharnais in his role as Viceroy of Italy, the French having temporarily retaken Venice between 1805 until Napoleon’s fall in 1815. The new wing was finished in 1813 as a residence for Beauharnais and after 1815, the Hapsburg court.

As a nation who were so careful to prevent nepotism, Venetians must have hated to see a palace built for a man in power only through his stepfather, however competent Beauharnais turned out to be. It must have been even worse to see the place occupied by inbred Hapsburgs.

The building now houses the Museo Correr which documents Venetian life and culture. The collection was brought together by Venetian aristocrat Teodoro Correr, who donated everything to the city when he died in 1830. Steadily growing ever since, the collection was moved to this location in 1922 and spills into the Procuratie Nuove.

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You can access the National Archaeological Museum from within the Museo Correr. The collection of Greek and Roman antiquities was mostly formed by the Grimani family in the 16th century. It’s easy to see where Venetian sculptors took their inspiration from.

Make sure to pop into the Sala D’Oro or main hall of the Biblioteca Marciana, or national library. The library of Venice is now housed in La Zecca, the old mint, making this room easier to admire.

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Walking between these museums and the pontoon for my next vaporetto, I glance at the exterior of the Biblioteca Marciana which may pop up in some guidebooks as the Libreria Sansoviniana.

After a great fire in 1514 a passion for classical architecture took hold in Venice. An architect called Jacopo Sansovino became the darling of the Venetians. He was a charming Florentine with a quick with and a taste for cucumbers. In 1529 he was made the Protomaestro of the Procurators of San Marco, essentially state architect, as the authorities liking how his classical designs complemented the Venetian Gothic style.

He designed a loggia to adjoin the campanile, the Zecca housing the mint and several grand churches. Above all, his masterpiece was the Biblioteca Marciana.

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The Campanile loggia by Sansovino

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Facing the Ducal Palace across the Piazzetta, creating a beautiful building that blends into the Piazza must have been a daunting task. Sansovino decided to go with a design that could have been lifted from ancient Rome, then gave it a distinctly Venetian twist.

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Biblioteca Marciana

Unfortunately for Sansovino none of his charm could save him when in December 1845 the first floor collapsed, eight years into construction. Whatever the cause (Sansovino blamed anything from frost to distant gunfire,) the Venetian state treated him like a general after a military defeat, holding him personally responsible and throwing him into prison. Sansovino was made to pay for the repairs out of his own funds, which took him 25 years to pay off. He may have been able to hear the hammers from his cell within the Palazzo Ducale opposite. Thankfully for Sansovino, his famous friends Titian and Aretino managed to negotiate his release.

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This career setback paved the way for the rise of his rival, Andrea Palladio. This makes it incredibly fitting that I’m heading to the San Marco pontoon to hop onto a no.2 vaporetto to San Giorgio Maggiore.

Palladio was a man of bold designs that had previously been rejected in Venice in favour of Sansovino. Now, Palladio had a chance to shine. The design for San Giorgio Maggiore is like Roman classicism with a few strong cups of espresso added for punch. The church looks lovely from the Riva degli Schiavoni or the Dogana, up close it is awe inspiring. It’s not enough to see this church from a distance, although it sits so perfectly placed in relation to the Piazza and Santa Maria della Salute that anyone would think Palladio put the island there on purpose. Just ask Marco Boschini, a 17th century painter:

“This island is truly a jewel, set in this crystal which surrounds it

where ebbing and flowing the waves beat.

Doesn’t it look as if it were done with a paintbrush?”

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Initially commissioned to improve some monastery buildings on the tiny island, Palladio was soon asked to come up with a replacement for the old, existing church. The new church was started in 1566 in the presence of the Pope.

It’s clear to see that Palladio had a fascination with the buildings of ancient Rome. Unfortunately for Palladio, ancient temples were a bit too pagan looking to copy outright and Christian churches had aisles to consider. Palladio works around that issue here by layering two temple-esque facades together. The tallest shows the height of the nave and interrupts the wider, lower pediment that shows the width of the aisles.

Palladio can’t resist a good old Roman dome, either. The interior of the church is huge and cool, with lots of light flooding in from high windows.

Palladio lived to see most of the church completed.

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The monastic quire

#StGeorge at the Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore, #venice #igersvenezia

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The campanile is a later addition to replace a tower that collapsed in 1774. For a few euros (about half the price of the San Marco campanile with no queues…) you can whisk up to the top in the elevator. On a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with this…

#Venice #venezia from the Campanile of #SanGiorgioMaggiore

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A quick vaporetto ride back to San Marco later leads to a pleasant walk to find San Zaccaria, a church with odd opening hours but well worth tweaking your itinerary for.

Campo San Zaccaria feels hidden away and even with a map I felt that I stumbled upon it by accident. The quietness of the square belies its rowdy history.

In 864 Doge Pietro Tradonico was stabbed by assassins after attending a service in the church. Riots ensued and the nuns of the convent had to wait until night had fallen before it was calm enough for them to retrieve the body for burial. His successor hunted down the conspirators and within four months they were all executed.

In 1171 Vitale II Michiel led the Venetian navy to attack Constantinople. The attack failed, the lengthy peace negotiations were bungled and all Michiel succeeded in bringing back in 1172 was an outbreak of plague having already lost thousands of Venetian sailors to the disease. Michiel attempted to defend his actions before the increasingly furious crowds and eventually attempted to flee and seek sanctuary in San Zaccaria. He was fatally stabbed before he reached the gates. Afterwards the crowds were ashamed of their violence and turned their rage on the attacker, Marco Casolo. Casolo was executed and his house on the Calle de le Rasse torn down, an edict soon followed that no permanent building should be erected on the site. This edict was upheld until 1948.

Not that San Zaccaria was only notorious for blood spilt and lives lost, of course.

The convent in particular was famous for raucous nuns. Venice was not unique in sending its daughters to convents. Some families could not afford dowries for more than one or two daughters and sent the others away to avert bankruptcy, for some a convent was a dignified alternative for those who failed to find a willing husband. However, this is still Venice. These women were still vivacious, cultured and accustomed to a certain lifestyle. Numerous accounts of Venetian convents mention that nuns didn’t bother to wear habits and instead chose to wear the same daring, sumptuous dresses as their married friends. They curled their hair and wore jewellery, decorated their cells with expensive and comfortable furniture and held parties. Some took lovers, others took several lovers and some managed to have children. Convents hosted masquerade balls and parties with free flowing wine, lots of dancing and attractive male guests. Venetian nuns were, by all accounts, well, Venetian. To be honest, the life of a Venetian nun can even seem enviable compared to the lives of her married relatives. Whilst the government frowned upon licentiousness in convents, many Venetians were sympathetic to these women who had been forced into a life they would not choose, usually due to the financial constraints of her family.

In the sixteenth century officials were sent to San Zaccaria to shut down a particularly rowdy soiree. The nuns responded by pelting the officials with sticks and stones until they gave up and fled.

The exterior of the church is a mish mash of Gothic and Renaissance styles designed by Antonio Gambello and started in the 1440s on the site of an older church. The interior is pure dark, brooding Gothic with Renaissance paintings.

Entry to San Zaccaria is free, but do look for a member of staff at a desk on the right. For a few coins, they will let you in to see the incredible Capella di San Tarasio.

12th century chapel of San Tarasio #igersvenezia #ig_venice #venice

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Even better than the chapel is the crypt beneath, accessed by a pair of tiny staircases. Obviously, crypts are rare in Venice. This one is particularly evocative and one of my favourite places in the city, even with its sad past.

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The sun is setting for the final time during my visit, so there is only one place I want to be; the Piazza. A short walk back and I’m back among the crowds, but mercifully there are no queues for the second campanile of the day.

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The Campanile was built in the early 16th century to replace a smaller tower. It collapsed in 1902 (miraculously only killing the caretaker’s cat,) and was rebuilt a decade later to be an exact copy of the original.

A belltower, watchtower, landmark for mariners and subject of dozens of paintings, even the Campanile has a hidden past.

Supplizio dela Cheba was a form of torture. Cheba is Venetian dialect for ‘rabbit hutch.’ A punishment for clergymen guilty of murder, sodomy, blasphemy or forgery was to be hoisted in a small wooden cage up the south side of the Campanile. He was allowed a basket on a rope so that he could haul up dry bread and water. This punishment would last a few days for most, although apparently a sentence passed on Christmas Eve 1391 saw Jacopo So kept in the cage until he died as punishment for murdering a priest. The practice ceased at the end of the 15th century.

The Emperor Frederick III of the Holy Roman Empire apparently didn’t want to climb the stairs to the top in 1452 so instead rode his horse up the winding staircase. The Campanile was also the scene for Galileo to show his newly invented telescope to the Doge in 1609.

 

#SanGiorgioMaggiore #venezia #Venice #ig_venice #igersvenezia

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I have one night left in Venice. Determined to make it last, I hop across the entrance to the Grand Canal to view some landmarks in the dying light.

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The Dogana – The Customs House

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With that, all that’s left to do is jump back on a vaporetto to Sant Elena for the final time, staring longingly at the view the entire way…

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My last Venetian sunset (for now…) #venice #igersvenezia #ig_venice

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Padua

16/17 April 2016

For all my pride in prior planning, somehow I missed that I was spending a night in Padua during their marathon. Have you ever visited a large city during a marathon? The route clings tightly to main roads and winds around landmarks and monuments. Scenic if you’re a runner, a problem if you’re a tourist with only 24 hours to spare.

I had arrived in Padua keen to drop off my luggage at the hotel and head straight for the Prato della Valle for sunset. It’s the largest piazza in Italy, with a huge oval island in the centre surrounded by statues and water.

It is renowned as a beautiful spot.

Great shot of Prato della Valle and it's canal! Thanks to @madalina_solomon #LOVEpratodellavalle

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You’ll notice that these photos aren’t mine. When arrived Isola Memmia was covered in marquees, the water was barriered off with tall chain link fences and portaloos blocked the nicest views. The night before the marathon was bustling, but the grass was strewn with litter and the bins were overflowing. I would have to try some imaginative angles to block out the trash and shirtless teenagers…

#padova #pratodellavalle #igerspadova #ig_padova

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Perhaps a gelato and an early night would improve my mood.

In the morning I power walked to the Scrovegni Chapel for which I had timed tickets. If you plan to go (and you should,) BOOK ONLINE IN ADVANCE. I booked my advance ticket through my Padova Tourist Card, an indispensible purchase for a visit to the city.

The chapel was built within the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre in 1300. The Scrovegni family were money lenders and the chapel would be attached to a huge palace intended as a newer, grander family residence. Enrico degli Scrovegni commissioned Giotto di Bondone to paint the chapel interior with fresco cycles of the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ. It was to be the greatest work Giotto ever painted.

I checked online to see whether photography was allowed inside and seeing that it wasn’t checked my camera in with my bag. Apparently the rules changed two weeks prior to my visit and LUCKILY I had my phone in my pocket. The quality isn’t as good, but I have something at least. Visiting times are strictly limited so that each group enters on time. Woe betide the tourist who attempts to sweet talk the custodian for an extra five minutes…

The #scrovegnichapel, painted by #giotto between 1303-5 #padova

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The Kiss of Judas #scrovegnichapel #padova

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The Crucifixion #scrovegnichapel #padova

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Fresco of the Last Judgement by Giotto, 1305 #scrovegnichapel

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The Eremitani Civic Museum is next door (you have to pass through the ticket hall to get to the Scrovegni chapel,) and I’m eager to see what Roman treasures Padua has to offer. There’s a medieval section as well, but we all know my heart lies in more ancient times!

I’m always in a good mood when looking at antiquities, but my day is about to get more frustrating. The marathon is in full swing and easy routes from museum to museum are either blocked or too crowded to navigate. Many churches were closed or inaccessible.

I got some nice photos of architecture, but that was about it.

The Orto Botanico is at least open and a respite from the crowds. It was founded in 1545 by the Ventetian Republic and is the oldest continuous botanical garden in the world.

 

 

I take an earlier train than planned to my next destination. I may one day return to Padua and I’ll bloody well make sure it’s a couple of days with nothing major happening in the city!

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Ferrara

15/16 April 2016

I’m taking a detour from the Veneto and briefly crossing into Emilia-Romagna to spend a night in Ferrara. It’s a city not often on a tourist must-see list but I’ve read so much about events there and famous past inhabitants that it’s easily made it onto my itinerary.

Ferrara is only 90 minutes from Venice by train. I’ve lucked out with my hotel, spending a few extra euros to stay in the block next to the Castello Estense. After a shower (living on a boat in Venice was lovely, but it is heavenly to have a proper bathroom again!) and a quick catch up with loved ones at home, it makes sense to head to the Castle first. I love a good fortress and this one is particularly attractive. It’s worth walking around the castle before heading inside. If you’re strapped for time/cash it’s possible to go inside and see the courtyard without paying to see the apartments and prisons. I instead plump for a ridiculously bargainous MyFE Ferrara tourist card, sold at numerous sites. It means I pay one price for access to everything that I want to see in the city as well as receive various discounts. Cards are available for various lengths of stay, I recommend them highly! Card purchased, time to enter the Castello.

The stronghold of the Este family in the heart of #Ferrara. #ig_ferrara

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Niccolo II d’Este, Marquess of Ferrara commissioned the castle in 1385 following an uprising in the city in which his tax advisor Tommaso da Tortona was murdered by the mob.

The stronghold of the Este family in the heart of #Ferrara. #ig_ferrara

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If you read as many books and historical novels set in Renaissance Italy as I do, chances are you’ve read about the Este family in Ferrara if only because Lucrezia Borgia married an Este and lived and died in Ferrara. Visiting her home here is a thrill. I’ve visited the Vatican but the crowds prevent the feeling of intimacy that it’s possible to feel here. There is much more to the Castello than Lucrezia and I really do recommend a tour so that you can see the wonderfully decorated rooms and read about Renaissance drama.

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After a few rooms with introductory maps and information boards, visitors pass through the kitchens and arrive in the dungeons.

The cell pictured above is situated in the basement of the Torre dei Leoni – the Lion’s Tower. The tower was transformed into the most fortified section of the castle having been a watchtower before the castle was constructed.

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Torre dei Leoni

The castle dungeons were specifically created for high ranking prisoners. This cell housed the brothers of Alfonso I (future husband of Lucrezia Borgia.)

Giulio and Ferrante d’Este were the younger brothers of Alfonso and Ippolito, who at the time of these events had recently become Bishop of Ferrara.

It seems that Giulio and Ippolito had always had a rather stormy relationship. In particular, one event stands out. In the year that their brother Alfonso succeeded their father as Duke, both Giulio and Ippolito were attracted to a cousin of their sister-in-law Lucrezia, a lady named Angela. Angela Borgia had been brought to live in Ferrara when Lucrezia had married Alphonso in 1502. She was incredibly beautiful and graceful and the Este brothers were not alone in falling in love with her.

Being bitter rivals already, the brothers competed for her affections. Angela seemed to favour Giulio, which infuriated Ippolito who saw himself as the obvious choice. Angela must have been unaware of the tension, for she publicly mentioned in 1505 that Giulio was so handsome that his eyes alone were worth more than the entire body of Ippolito.

Within a few days Ippolito met his brother outside of Ferrara at the Delizia di Belriguardo , an estate known as the ‘Versailles of the Estense family.’ Gamers among you may recognise it as a location in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Others may know it as a museum.

Ippolito brought his henchman, Giulio arrived alone and powerless. Ippolito ordered his men to kill Giulio and rip out the eyes that were supposedly so bewitching. Giulio survived, but only just. He was covered in scars and permanently lost the sight in one eye. The beating was so severe that he never gained full use of his other. Ippolito seemed content that his brother was alive as he had lost his good looks and could hardly seduce the beautiful women at court anymore.

When their brother the Duke did nothing to punish Ippolito, Giulio was enraged. Giulio recruited their other brother Ferrante into a plot to murder both Alphonso and Ippolito. The plot was hasty and clumsy and easily discovered. Alphonso sentenced them both to death, only to commute their sentences to imprisonment as the brothers mounted the scaffold.

Giulio and Ferrante were kept in the cells of the Lion Tower. Ferrante died there in 1540 having been a prisoner for 34 years, more than half of his lifetime. Giulio was released after 53 years of incarceration by his grandnephew Alphonso II. Giulio was 81 years old. He stunned the people of Ferrara by strolling confidently from the Castello dressed in clothes half a century out of fashion. Giulio had only two years of freedom before his death in 1561.

As an interesting footnote, Giulio had outlived his jealous brother by over four decades. Ippolito had died in 1520 after eating some bad lobsters. Ippolito had fathered two illegitimate children and married his daughter to the son of no other than Angela Borgia.

Other cells are open for viewing.

castello estense (79)castello estense (82)Signage in the first cell gives the information for the entire dungeon complex, but from what I can tell from a little digging is that the top cell housed Laura ‘Parasina’ Malatesta and the cell pictured below it was for Ugo d’Este. Their story would inspire poems and operas.

80 years before Giulio d’Este was spared execution, Parasina and Ugo were not to be so lucky.

Parasina Malatesta came to Ferrara in 1418 aged 14 from her home in Ravenna to marry the Marquess of Ferrara, Niccolo III. Her new husband was in his mid thirties, keen to make an strategic alliance with a grand marriage. Niccolo had been married before to Gigliola da Carrara. In their 15 years of marriage, Gigliola had never had children. She had died of plague in 1416.

That’s not to say that Niccolo was childless. He had many illegitimate children by several mistresses. His chief mistress had been Stella de ‘Tolomei, known as the Star Assassin. Stella had borne Niccolo three sons and no doubt hoped for marriage when Gigliola died.

It must have been galling for Stella to watch Niccolo marry a much younger woman. Stella died shortly after the wedding.

Parasina had been raised to marry a noble and would have been coached on what to expect when she arrived at the Court in Ferrara. She was introduced to nine of her illegitimate stepchildren, some nearly as old as herself.

By all accounts Parasina was bright with a solid education and a passion for horses and travel. She bore Niccolo twin girls Ginevra and Lucia within a year of marriage and a long awaited legitimate male heir in 1421; a boy named Alberto who sadly died aged 39 days.

Parasina was admired by all, except from her step son Ugo.

Ugo was the eldest son of Niccolo and Stella the Star Assassin and seemed to be the favourite child. One year younger than Parasina, he resented her for taking the place he felt belonged to his mother. Any male heir Parasina produced would be also be a threat to Ugo. Parasina returned his hostility. The two constantly fought making life at court particularly tense.

By 1424 Niccolo was desperate for the two teenagers to cease bickering. When Parasina travelled to Ravenna to visit her family, Niccolo sent Ugo as well in order for the pair to get to know each other and hopefully learn to become friends. Ugo was now 18 years old and was no longer a sulking youth, Parasina might even find she had things in common with him.

Niccolo’s plan worked a little too well. Away from Ferrara, Ugo and Parasina not only grew closer, they fell in love. They began a passionate affair. After the pair returned to Ferrara they could not bear to call their clandestine relationship off and continued to meet for secret trysts in the Castello and at a country residence called the Delizia di Belfiore. Niccolo had not had any more illegitimate children since his second marriage but it’s unlikely that he was faithful. It also doesn’t take much imagination to understand why Parasina might enjoy a relationship with a handsome young man, rather than her husband who was twice her age.

The stress of keeping her secret apparently caused Parasina to become irritable and one of her maids, stung by some slight, told Niccolo that his wife and son were cuckolding him within his own castle. Refusing to believe the betrayal, Niccolo spies on his wife’s bedroom himself to catch the lovers together.

Parasina and Ugo were thrown into the cells shown above. Parasina reportedly begged her husband to spare his son, urging Niccolo to punish only herself. Niccolo however was so furious that he ignored her pleas for mercy and the counsel of his advisors. A mere three days after they were discovered, the lovers were taken from the cells to the basement of the Marchesana tower. Parasina was still screaming for mercy on behalf of Ugo, becoming silent only when she was told he had already been beheaded. She also was then led to the block and decapitated.

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The Marchesana Tower (with the clock…) and the Lion Tower further along the walls

The executions in 1425 shocked the citizens of Ferrara and other Italian cities. Niccolo showed some remorse if only for the death of his son.

As an epilogue, Stella de ‘Tolomei would not only provide Niccolo with an hier after all, she would provide two, even if she never lived to see it. After Ugo, Stella had given birth to Leonello and Borso. Niccolo had remarried for a third time and had two sons and yet both illegitimate sons were given precedence.

Leonello became Marquess upon the death of his father in 1441 and died in 1450. Despite the fact that Leonello had a legitimate son (named Niccolo for his grandfather,) power passed to Borso. Borso became the last Marquis and first Duke of Ferrara. Borso tried many times to poison his nephew Niccolo but failed. Borso died childless in 1471. 21 years after the death of Niccolo III his legitimate son, Ercole, became  Duke. His nephew did  try to wrest power away in 1476 (Leonello’s sons had been named heirs in Niccolo II’s will, Borso disregarded this but the younger Niccolo never forgot his stolen inheritance,) and so Ercole had him beheaded in the castle courtyard.

Interestingly, Parasina’s mother had been poisoned by her father and her daughter Ginevra was supposedly poisoned by her husband Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, the cousin of Parasina. Three generations of women, all killed by their husbands.

If the lower floor is a testament to a violent past, the upper floors indicate that Ferrara also became a centre for art and beauty.

If the prisons are a bit claustrophobic, there’s almost immediately a chance for some fresh air at the Orange Loggia on the first floor of the Lion Tower and built under Alphonso I.

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The Marchesana Tower #ig_ferrara #igersferrara #grandeviaggio

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As well as Lucrezia Borgia’s marital home the Castle was the childhood home of her glamorous sisters-in-law Beatrice d’Este (who married Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan) and Isabella d’Este (who married Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua, who had an affair with Lucrezia that only ended when Francesco caught syphilis from a prostitute.) Both sisters were famous for their taste, intellect and love of art and fashion. Their names rightly pop up repeatedly in history books and it’s wonderful to come to their first home.

It’s a short walk from the Castello Estense to the Piazza della Cattedrale. The Cattedrale di San Giorgio was begun in 1135. Work continued for some 500 years. The campanile was never finished even after 42 years of construction in the late 1400s.

Basilica Cattedrale di San Giorgio #igersferrara #ferrara #grandeviaggio

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The Loggia of the Merchants runs along the side of the Cathedral and has housed shops since the medieval era.

 

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The unfinished campanile

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The Loggia of the Merchants

The interior was overhauled in the 17th century.

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The Cathedral Museum is housed a short walk away in what was the church of San Romano.

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Heading back to the Cathedral, I can concentrate on the buildings around it.

Opposite is the Palazzo Municipale.

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The statue is a copy. In 1796 Napoleon’s troops melted the original down to make artillery.

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The courtyard of the Palazzo Municipale and the Stairway of Honour

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Torre dell’Orologio

Time for a historic house. The Casa Romei is an aristocratic residence from the mid-15th century. It was built for a banker named Giovanni Romei and is suitably decorated in lavish style for his marriage to Polyxena d’Este.

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Decorated ceiling at the Casa Romei in #ferrara #ig_ferrara #casaromei

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The house was left to neighbouring nuns and was incorporated into the Corpus Domini convent to accommodate high ranking guests.

Speaking of the convent, it’s sometimes possible to enter and see the d’Este tombs including the grave of Lucrezia Borgia. Sadly, I missed out. Each website and guidebook I looked at had conflicting instructions and opening times. To save you the same disappointment I felt, here are the official opening times, as nailed to their own wall.

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After a lazy dinner I want to try my new tripod out with some night time photography. Ferrara was perhaps not a good place to choose. Tourists from outside Italy seem fairly rare and as a woman alone with a camera I didn’t feel particularly welcome or safe. I gave up before I got to the Cathedral, thank goodness the Castello is two doors down from my hotel.

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Never mind, a good night of sleep and some sunshine and I’m ready to go again.

There are a few places I will always be tempted by, archaeological museums are near the top of the list.

On the walk to the museum I make a brief detour to glance at the Monastery of Sant’Antonio in Polesine, which inspired a novel by Sarah Dunant called Sacred Hearts. Nuns still sing here just as they do in the novel, set in the Renaissance.IMG_0241.JPG

The Palazzo Constabili AKA Palazzo di Ludovico il Moro was built beside a lost branch of the River Po in the late 15th century. It seems to have been built by Antonio Constabili, the Este ambassador to the Sforzas in Milan on behalf of Ludovico, who wished to have a home in his wife’s hometown. Today the marvellous palace houses the National Archaeological Museum in Ferrara which holds the treasures of the nearby lost Etruscan city of Spina.

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Spina was founded by the Etruscans in the late 6th century BC in the delta of the Po river. It was an important Mediterranean trading post and may have been Hellenised to a degree. There was certainly a lot of Greek pottery imported to the town. Within three centuries however, Spina was in irretrievable decline. The town was rediscovered in the 1920s.

When not looking at the exhibits, it’s easy to be enchanted by the decor.

There’s also a beautiful garden for when fresh air is required.

The highlight of the Palazzo is the Treasure Room which has a stunning ceiling fresco painted by Benvenuto Tisi in 1503-6.

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Onwards to another Palazzo. The Palazzo Schifanoia started out as a single storey banqueting hall but was extended by Duke Borso d’Este (he who tried to poison his nephew.) in the 1460s. ‘Schifanoia’ means to escape from boredom. There is now a civic museum here but most visitors are here for the famous murals. The Room of the Months is a mural cycle was painted by Cosimo Tura and his students. Each month has a column of three sections. The top section features a pagan god in their triumphal chariots. In the centre is a sign of the zodiac. The bottom section features a scene from Borso’s life.

The next room is the Hall of Virtue painted by Domenico di Paris.

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Ferrara is a city of red bricks and bicycles. It’s not often that I walk around an entire town able to count my fellow tourists on the fingers of one hand, it makes a lovely change. Anyone wanting a cultural city break would do well to consider Ferrara.

After a walk soaking up the atmosphere I collect my bags and head to the train station. Next stop, Padua.

 

#igersferrara #ig_ferrara

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Ferrara, city of bicycles

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Sicily comes to Blighty

As some readers of my travel journals may know, I visited Sicily in the spring of 2015 for an exhaustive study trip. Sicily is a ridiculously easy place to fall in love with despite her flaws. I’ve grown increasingly fascinated with the rich history of the island and I’ve been lapping up stories from her history since I returned. It’s a place of stark contrasts, irresistable food and dramatic landscapes. However, for my money the main draws are the archaeological sites. In particular, Greek colonists took their homegrown architecture and supersized it, everything seems bigger and ever so slightly flamboyant. A temple on Sicily is a Greek temple on steroids.

Come to Sicily for the temples, stay for the multi faceted history of the peoples who erected them.

Whether you have a penchant for military history, naval warfare, underwater archaeology or even (whisper it) a secret flirtation with medieval history, Sicily draws you in with a warm, lemon scented hug.

I was therefore very pleased to learn that two major museums on my home turf were to have Sicilian themed exhibitions this summer. The British Museum has an exhibition called Culture and Conquest running until August 14th and the Ashmolean has Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas until September 25th.

I decided to visit both in two days with a lecture thrown in for good measure to fondly reminisce and hopefully see some of the pieces that I missed due to the Palermo museum closure. If only Maria Grammatico could also make the trip north my 48 hours would be complete!

And so to the British Museum (as if I ever need an excuse…) for a dose of wide eyed wonder and lots of contented sighs.

The larger exhibition space was taken up by Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds (which I’ll describe later,) and so the Sicily exhibition was rather restricted in scale.

Last year I was cursing the temporary closure of the Regional Archaeological Museum Antonio Salinas in Palermo. At every archaeological site on the western side of the island were signs declaring that the statue/frieze/metope from this temple/sanctuary/city could be found on display in Palermo. I was denied entry to an Aladdin’s cave. This London exhibition would be, I hoped, my chance to catch up on missed treasures.

Not so much…

The exhibition had large posters of Sicilian sites that made me long to return but was, for my insatiable appetite, a little light on actual exhibits. Call me greedy, but the sheer volume of artifacts in even the teeniest of provincial Sicilian museums can spoil a girl. What British museums do increasingly do well is signage. The BM had lots of large maps and info boards to give context to what was on show. Cohesion was sometimes lacking on my trip with some Italian museums preferring to group artifacts by type rather than giving a chronological narrative. I also don’t have to worry about my abysmal grasp of the Italian language…

I would have loved to take a few photos but they were forbidden. I find this policy a bit strange, there were no restrictions on the exact same pieces when they were displayed at their homes in Sicilian museums. For blogging purposes I’ll use my photos from last year.

I enjoyed seeing a few familiar friends like this marble statue of a warrior from Akragas (Agrigento.) The BM has beautifully lit this piece, (far better than Agrigento Archaeological Museum, if I’m honest…) so it was a shame not to be able to photograph him this time around, but for nostalgia purposes it was great to see him again.

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Temple of Concord #valledeitempli #agrigento #sicily

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The exhibition is a perfect introduction ti Sicilian history so while I didn’t learn anything new at the BM this time around, I did get to see a few nice pieces that I hadn’t managed to get to last year. In particular there were some lovely exhibits from Gela.

This snake-headed bracelet (one of a pair) and gold ring were discovered on Sicily with hoards of gold and silver coins. All were deliberately buried by their owner, who intended to recover them but never returned. Around this time, about 330–300 BC, there was political unrest on the island and the added threat of attack from invading forces. For much of its history, Sicily was admired and envied for its wealth and fertility. In Greek Sicily, wealth was displayed through sumptuously decorated homes and gold jewellery like this. Learn more about the rise of Greek Sicily and its lasting impact in our #SicilyExhibition, until 14 August 2016. Gold bracelet and ring. Found at Avola, Sicily, about 330–300 BC. #jewellery #bracelet #Sicily #gold #ancientGreece

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These 2,000-year old terracotta figures depict the gods of #love. Scantily clad and casually poised, Aphrodite and winged Eros are typical of the terracotta and pottery workshops of the town of Centuripe in Greek Sicily. Terracotta modellers and potters in Centuripe favoured large, flamboyant, brilliantly coloured figures. Although sometimes found in graves, these may originally have been made to decorate the houses of the rich. Rivalling the most culturally dynamic Greek regions, Sicily became an arena for artists and intellectuals during this period. See these wonderful objects in our #SicilyExhibition, until 14 August 2016. Terracotta figures of the gods of love, painted after firing. Centuripe, #Sicily, about 200 BC. #Italy #history #ancientGreece

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The highlight of the day instead came from the accompanying lecture given by Dr Michael Scott. I had high expectations having been so impressed with his book about Delphi (as I reviewed here) that I eagerly devoured in the weeks running up to my trip to Delphi in May 2014 (insert shameless plug for my travel journal here…) Modern historians can so easily over simplify their subject to patronise their readers/viewers (mentioning no names of course!) or conversely wrap themselves up in a dense fug of academia in an arrogant attempt to repel the casual audience members. Dr Scott mercifully does neither in his books or broadcasts.

Dr Scott chose to talk about ancient Sicily not from what they left behind them at home, but abroad. As an expert on Delphi it was not a surprise that the sanctuary featured heavily along with Olympia. Personally I was thrilled to learn of the many ways my two favourite places in the ancient world were linked.

It’s important to remember that Delphi was the centre of the world for Greeks and if Sicilian cities wanted to make an impression on the world they needed to head to Delphi to do it. One could never set foot on Sicilian soil, but by visiting Delphi they would have been able to see Sicilian art and architecture, read of the exploits of Sicilians tyrants, watch Sicilian athletes, listen to Sicilian musicians and have a chat with any Sicilians also making a pilgrimage.

I visited Delphi 12 months before Sicily, otherwise I may have noticed just how many Sicilian connections are there.

For instance, I didn’t pay that much attention to this base before and I can’t recall reading a sign about it. Even if I had, Gelon was a name that had popped up in my reading but I probably wouldn’t become well acquainted with the tyrant of Gela and Syracuse for another year.

The base once supported a bronze column topped with a statue of Nike with a tripod above her. Gelon had erected this close to the temple of Apollo within a stone’s throw of the serpent column and tripod celebrating the Greek victory over the Persian invaders at Plataia in 479BC. Gelon’s structure was a celebration over his victory at Himera over the Carthaginians. Gelon was apparently very keen for the Greek world to know that his victory over a worthy foe was just as important and deserving of respect as a victory over Persians (which was a war that Gelon coincidentally refused to contribute to…)

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On the right, (which to my shame, I did not bother fitting in the frame) can be seen another base of another tripod dedicated by Gelon’s brother and successor, Hieron I. According to Dr Scott, Hieron made sure his monument was ever so slightly more impressive that of his brother, today only the slightly larger base leaves a clue.

Hieron left a greater impression on Delphi than his tripod, however. It seems a little strange that one of the highlights of the Delphi museum should be Sicilian.

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Four years after defeating the Etruscans in naval combat at Cumae (initiating the decline of Etruscan dominance in Italy,) Hieron balanced his tyrant duties with being a top ranking athlete. He won the the chariot race in the Pythian Games at Delphi in 470BC, inspiring Pindar to write his 1st Pythian Ode. Hieron continued to compete at Delphi and Olympia picking up further prizes.

Hieron commissioned the bronze statue to commemorate his athletic prowess and installed it close to the temple of Apollo. It originally also featured four bronze horses along with slaves holding their reins, now sadly lost.

The lecture was fascinating and I am now pining to return to Sicily AND Delphi. I could write far more, instead I urge you to keep an eye on the Hellenic Society YouTube channel as everything was filmed.

Should anyone spot a lecture by Dr Scott, I urge you to grab a ticket. Watching anyone talk about a subject they so evidently love is always a joy to watch and Dr Scott is so effortlessly engaging it is impossible not to be swept up with him. I only wish I could persuade him to actually guide me around Sicily and Delphi instead of a lecture room in London.

Should you be brazen enough, Dr Scott was also gracious enough to chat with a few of us afterwards and was a delight to talk to. I left the museum with a spring in my step.

The following day it was the turn of the Ashmolean. I have a deep love of underwater archaeology as I find a certain romance to things being found where they were never meant to be. Little stirs my soul like a shipwreck does, so the Ashmolean exhibition called to me like a siren.

Again, no photography, again, no one in Sicily cared…

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Hercules has made the journey from Catania to Oxford for a holiday…

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This statue was brought up from the sea floor off the coast of Lilybaeum, now known as Marsala. It’s possible to tell which side of the statue was safely buried and which side was exposed to currents and sea life.

It was lovely to see part of the exhibition dedicated to the work of underwater archaeoligy pioneer Honor Frost. I’d had the pleasure of viewing the jewel of her maritime excavations when I went to Marsala to see the remains of a Carthaginian warship sunk off of the Egadi islands.

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The Ashmolean exhibition added to my excitement by including several bronze rams found on the seafloor. One Carthaginian ram displayed the dents made by bashing into a Roman ship, a Roman ram still had a chunk of Carthaginian ship wedged in. It’s strange to think that had they not fallen into the sea, these rams would have been carted off to Rome to adorn the rostrum in the Forum.

The Ashmolean puts on a good show, but so far I’ve yet to see anyone (including the Underwater Archaeology Museum in Bodrum!!!) put on a better exhibition about shipwrecks than the 2014 Antikythera show at the National Archaeology Museum in Athens. I fear I’ve been spoiled for life…

 

Statue from the Antikythera shipwreck

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A marble salvaged from the Antikythera shipwreck

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Venice Day 1

 

12 April 2016

In the weeks before I became a parent last October, my husband and I started hearing about ‘push presents.’ Apparently some men buy their partners gifts to thank them for tolerating 9 months of pregnancy and labour. Some women receive designer handbags, diamonds or even a new car.

Thankfully my husband not only knows me very well but also understands that I have come to rely on a couple of weeks a year with no responsibilities and plenty of museums. He is enough of a feminist (although he would probably call himself an equalist!) not to expect me to be trapped at home under a mountain of nappies without a small break when he himself gets to continue his career uninterrupted and leave the house without the baby. So when it came to a push present, my superstar husband gave me the independence and support to travel solo for a short trip just as I used to before baby arrived. It may be considered unusual to crave leaving my baby behind for seven days, but I bet that if every woman had a partner as supportive as mine, many would at least consider a trip. A week of no poops, 2am feeds, as much sleep as I wanted and adult pursuits was just what I needed after six months of being a new mum, and so I booked my tickets to explore the Veneto region of Italy.

And so, with baby at home being spoilt rotten by her Daddy and an assortment of doting grandparents, I flew in to Venice.

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There are none of the ancient ruins that I usually insist upon visiting, in fact when I’ve been travelling elsewhere around the Mediterranean I’ve often found that the Venetians have plonked a fortress on top of the ancient site I’m interested in. The Parthenon, everyone’s favourite Greek temple, was bombed by the Venetians, leaving the temple iconically ruined. Other sites have had artifacts plundered to beautify Venice (although us Brits probably shouldn’t judge them too harshly on that…)

In spite of this, Venice is unique and undeniably alluring despite her decline and fading grandeur. I can sacrifice seeing a few ancient theatres and sanctuaries if it means I see Venice once.

After landing in the early afternoon and after taking an age to leave the airport I headed to the Alilaguna pontoon to catch a water bus to Murano; a small clutch of islands nearly a mile north of Venice which is famous for glass production. The main group of islands can wait awhile, as Murano cannot be missed.

#igersvenezia #ig_venice #murano

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Settled as early as the 5th century AD, glass making didn’t come to Murano until 1291 when the Venetian Republic banned furnaces from Venice in an attempt to prevent fires in a city built mainly of wood. The artisans were set up as a community on Murano and have been creating beautiful glass objects ever since.

The story of glass making is explained at the Museo del Vetro so it makes sense to head there first. It is situated in a palazzo previously occupied by the bishops of neighbouring Torcello and exhibits include displays of ancient glass as well as glass produced on the islands.

I already had my ticket as the museum is included in the Venice Museum Pass that can be bought online in advance. It’s well worth getting as you’ll save a heap of cash and queue times.

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The genius off the glass blowers was such that they were given certain privileges within Venice such as immunity from prosecution and the right to carry swords. They could charge astronomical prices as they held a monopoly, the price they paid was a ban on ever leaving the Republic lest they share their secrets abroad. Any glass blowers who did leave the lagoon were condemned to death as traitors in absentia.  Conversely, when a glassblower fled the city after murdering a man in 1524 he was offered a full pardon on the sole condition that he return to his work on Murano.

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Murano is ridiculously pretty to stroll around, but for a more colourful experience I headed over to the Faros water bus stop to take a pretty vaporetto ride to Burano.

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If you can’t walk along a canal without passing dozens of glass shops on Murano, then you can’t help but pass a myriad of lace shops on Burano. The Venetian Republic took control of Cyprus in the 16th century and brought back the delicate and intricate skill of making lace using needles. The demand for Burano lace has ebbed and flowed since, but the lace makers are determined to keep the tradition going and have set up a school. The population has shrunk from 8,000 at Burano’s height to 3,000 today, but tourists keen to photograph the candy colour houses of the island make up for it. The splashes of colour are not as whimsical as you may imagine with each house having a small choice of colours and shades of paint allotted to it by the government.

#burano #ig_venice #igersvenezia

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#burano

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#burano

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Sadly, the need to check in to my accomodation on time (and dump my huge backpack…) cuts my time short and forces me to abandon my hopes of visiting nearby Torcello. I’m not too worried, it’s already very clear that I will be returning to Venice again and again…

A ferry to Lido as the sun sets is a wonderful way to spend a hour with plenty to see on the way,

and from there it is a short vaporetto ride to Sant Elena, the quiet, leafy corner of Venice where few tourists bother to explore. I’m staying on a gulet in the marina; what could be more fitting for a stay in the watery city?

The sleep deprivation of life with an infant has ruined my stamina, Venice can wait for the morning…

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The Sicilian Expedition Travel Journal – Day 6

10th May 2015

Agrigento is Temple Central not just for Sicily but for pretty much the entirety of Magna Graecia. It’s not just the number of temples to be built here, it’s their remarkable state of preservation. Paestum is a close second, but Agrigento has a special magic all her own.

The ancient town of Akragas was built as a colony of Gela in 580BC along two ridges. The northern ridge is now covered by modern Agrigento and the southern ridge is a sprawling archaeological park bursting with ruins known as the Valley of the Temples.

I’m vaguely aware that the centre of Agrigento town is quite pretty with a few attractive old churches etc, but for a Classics nerd as myself I can’t bring myself to spend any time at all away from the lure of ancient temples. It’s a Sunday, so the Museo Archaeologico will close at lunch time. I set out early to head there first.

Unfortunately I’m staying in the ugly outskirts of the modern town (the owners of my hotel have worked wonders inside of their building, I feel for them that their surroundings aren’t as cared for!) and my guidebook map is not ideal. I take a wrong turning near the top of the hill and end up taking the most ridiculously circuitous route to the museum, getting hotter and more lost with each step. It’s a mercy that locals seem to be used to lost tourists, a shame that they don’t put up more signs to help us help ourselves!

Finally at the museum, my mood picks up again when I see ancient stones. There is an area of ruins belonging to the Hellenistic-Romano period of the city that looks tempting but is, unfortunately, closed. After nearly a week in Sicily I am growing sadly used to attractions being closed without notice or explanation. Not to be put off after the disaster of yesterday, I plough on to the museum entrance.

The Ekklesiasterion

The Ekklesiasterion

Statue of a Warrior circa 460BC

Statue of a Warrior circa 460BC

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The centrepiece of the museum is undoubtedly the reconstructed telamon from the Temple of Zeus. Telamons are male figures used as columns (caryatids are the female version, most famously used on the Athenian Acropolis,) and I’ve seen a fair few in my time. The ones at Agrigento are in a league of their own…

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A tourist resorts to lying on the floor in a futile attempt to capture the entire telamon in shot…

Helpfully, right next to the telamon is a model of the Temple of Zeus as it stood before it collapsed in various earthquakes. It is only when you see the tiny telamons in the model that the sheer scale of the temple hits you…

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I’m aware that little is left standing of this particular temple now, seismic activity taking a cruel toll and the rubble pillaged for recycling. It’s heartbreaking because this gargantuan temple is believed to be completely unique in design even if it was never completed. Still, I’m now VERY excited to see the ruins of it…

The artifacts in the museum show just how rich and prosperous Akragas became, any money they made from warfare and trade was ploughed into constructing beautiful buildings and creating gorgeous art. Fought over by Rome (who called it Agrigentum,) and Carthage in both Punic Wars, the city was evidently a valuable possession. It’s time to head to the ruins and see exactly why.

Temple of Concord (and Icarus!) @ Agrigento #sicily

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Temple of Concord @ Agrigento #sicily

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Temple of Hercules @ Agrigento #sicily

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Temple of the Dioscuri @ Agrigento #sicily

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The fallen remains of the Temple of Zeus/Jove @ Agrigento #sicily

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Telemon @ the Temple di Giove @ Agrigento #sicily

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Temple of Hera/Juno @ Agrigento #sicily

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The Temple of Zeus does cover a site as enormous as the mdoel in the museum suggests. It was 370 feet long, 185 feet wide and would have been 66 feet tall.

The Temple of Zeus does cover a site as enormous as the mdoel in the museum suggests. It was 370 feet long, 185 feet wide and would have been 66 feet tall.

Diodorus Siculus records that the temple was founded to commemorate the Battle of Himera in 480BC. Akragas and Syracuse teamed up to defeat the Carthaginians and Akragas celebrated their victory by constructing the ancient equivalent of an ultra modern, completely unique temple dedicated to Olympian Zeus. It was constructed by Carthaginian slaves and, had it been completed, would have dwarfed all other temples in Akragas. Ironically it was a Carthaginian attack on the city in 406BC that halted construction.

Diodorus Siculus records that the temple was founded to commemorate the Battle of Himera in 480BC.
Akragas and Syracuse teamed up to defeat the Carthaginians and Akragas celebrated their victory by constructing the ancient equivalent of an ultra modern, completely unique temple dedicated to Olympian Zeus.
It was constructed by Carthaginian slaves and, had it been completed, would have dwarfed all other temples in Akragas.
Ironically it was a Carthaginian attack on the city in 406BC that halted construction.

The ruins of Temple L are strewn in front of the Temple of the Dioscuri

The ruins of Temple L are strewn in front of the Temple of the Dioscuri

On the other side of the Temple of the Dioscuri is an archaic sanctuary with ancient shrines and altars. The upright columns of the Temple of the Dioscuri are actually a fictional 19thC reconstruction, with elements plundered from across the site. There was a 5thC BC temple underneath but little remains of it.

On the other side of the Temple of the Dioscuri is an archaic sanctuary with ancient shrines and altars.
The upright columns of the Temple of the Dioscuri are actually a fictional 19thC reconstruction, with elements plundered from across the site. There was a 5thC BC temple underneath but little remains of it.

First glimpse of the Temple of Heracles

First glimpse of the Temple of Heracles

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The Temple of Herakles is one of the oldest of the large temples in the Valley, dating to the late 6thC BC.

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The Temple of Hera dates to around 450BC.

The Temple of Hera dates to around 450BC.

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A huge altar stands before the Temple of Hera, now used mainly for people to get good shots with their cameras!

A huge altar stands before the Temple of Hera, now used mainly for people to get good shots with their cameras!