Nota bene.

ROME, ITALY

Santa Maria della Concezione Crypts

 

“Quello che voi siete noi eravamo; quello che noi siamo voi sarete.

“That which you are, we were; that which we are, you will be.”

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On the Via Veneto in Rome is a small church, Santa Maria della Concezione, attached to which is a crypt of Capuchin monks. The burial ground consists of a few small chapels, the pilasters, arches, and vaults profusely decorated with the bones of four thousand exhumed monks that were brought to the church in 1631.

 

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Florence from above

If you decide to climb the medieval Torre di San Niccolo in Florence, you will have a 360 degree view that is hard to believe.

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You can see some of the steps criss-crossing the upper part of the tower in the photo below.  The steps are houses in that whitish diagonal shape. And in the lower portion of the tower below, you can see additional steep stone steps along the left side of the tower wall. I know, for I climbed all 161 steps to the top 2 days ago!

It was well worth the trouble, even in the 97 degree heat! And that is saying something.

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Here are a few more shots of the stairways:

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So, once at the top, let’s see what you can see!

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Ciao! Firenze!  You are looking mighty fine!

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Hello Santa Croce above.

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You can walk all around the top of the tower, taking pictures between the crenellations

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Now, let’s look to the east and a bit north of the tower:

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Directly to the west of the tower is this section of the city: San Niccolo.

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Now, let’s have a look to the south from the tower.  Piazzale Michelangelo!

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And, why not a few shots straight down?

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And one more look to the west:

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The tower is nice at night too:

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Torre di San Niccolo, Florence

See that beautiful Medieval tower with the crenellation?  It’s the Torre di San Niccolo and sometimes, in the summer, it is possible to climb to its very top.  Today was one of those times!

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As I approached the Torre, walking from the center of Florence towards the east on Via San Niccolo, the tall fortification towered above the streets, against a beautiful azure sky filled with cumulus clouds.

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Here’s the tower in all its glory:

 

Walking through the tower, which was one of the major gateways in the walls that once surrounded all of Florence, I noticed the marker showing the height to which the Arno flooded in 1966.

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The Arno rose to the level of the white rectangle on the wall below.  Standing where I was when I shot this photo, I would have been 15 feet under water.

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If this were any time period prior to the mid-19th century, upon approaching Florence from the east, one would encounter this gateway.  It projects strength and some beauty, with a few sculptural details:

 

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Belos is a picture of the tower from the south side.  This is how you enter the tower today.

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Northern (exterior) façade

From Wikipedia we learn:  The tower and its gate were elaborated in the designs of Arnolfo di Cambio for circumferential walls around Florence. These walls were, in the main, destroyed in the 19th century as a project of urban renewal, Risanamiento, in part led by Giuseppe Poggi. This tower was spared, in part because of its panoramic view of the city.
There are 160 steps to the summit.

 

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And, away we go.

 

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The views from the top of the tower are spectacular.  I’ll be posting them soon.

Remember.

On this date in 1944 the retreating Nazi troops were leaving Florence in advance of the Allies arrival up the Italian peninsula. The retreating Germans did everything they could to wreak havoc for the Allies, destroying communication channels and destroying every bridge over the Arno, with the exception of the Ponte Vecchio.

In this picture below you see the destroyed Ponte Santa Trinita, with the Ponte Vecchio blessedly still in situ.

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Here’s a heartbreaking overview of the Lungarno in the Oltrarno, next to Ponte Vecchio.

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Naturally many Florentines were displaced from their homes and some were allowed to take shelter inside the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens, where temporary beds were set up, as below.

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To remember those dark days, La Compagnia delle Seggiole will perform portions of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem,” tonight in the Piazza outside the Pitti.  The Requiem  was written to celebrate the reconstruction of the Gothic cathedral of Coventry. Entrance is free.

Pisa, all but destroyed during WWII

SEPTEMBER–NOVEMBER 1944

The disappearance of its priceless artworks aside, Florence had been far more fortunate than Pisa. The Tuscan capital had lost a great number of medieval structures, but Florence and its citizens were alive.

In contrast, the city of Pisa—or what was left of it—was ghastly and quiet. War had emptied the streets and piazzas. While Deane Keller focused on saving Pisa’s Camposanto, his overarching concern was restoring life to the city itself.

U.S. Fifth Army troops battled the Germans for six weeks before liberating the city on September 2. Allied bombers had done their work well; the devastation had rendered the city largely uninhabitable.

Even then, German long-range artillery pounded the city for an additional three weeks. As Keller noted in his report, little remained undamaged: “Thirty-eight of her monumental churches exhibited major war damage; eight of her secular buildings of monumental importance suffered severely; numerous houses dating back to the Renaissance times were hurt . . . this in addition to the loss of her bridges, railroad station and other public utilities.”

Keller had other responsibilities in Pisa besides the Camposanto. The nearby Leaning Tower had been closed due to an accumulation of water that some thought might threaten the foundation. The water proved more of a nuisance because of the horrid smell than any structural problem. After arranging for the water to be pumped out, and rerouting traffic away from the building, he reopened the Leaning Tower to the public. It became an instant attraction for soldiers.

Well aware of Pisa’s reputation as a center of learning, Keller put his knowledge of academic life to good use by jump-starting the university. “Without the University the town has no economic future at all let alone its importance as an intellectual center. All its factories and industries are destroyed.” It took two months to locate the faculty, remove mines that the Germans had placed throughout the university’s buildings, and return to its library books that had been stored off-site for safekeeping.

On November 25, General Hume returned to Pisa and hosted a ceremony celebrating the reopening and the enrollment of some six hundred students. The city’s key institution was operational. The dead city Keller had encountered when he first arrived started to resuscitate.

Edsel, Robert M.. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis (p. 204). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

 

The bombing of Pompeii, 1943, on the anniversary of eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Things didn’t go so well for Italy’s artistic treasures at the beginning of the Allied invasion.  To wit:

No one wanted another embarrassing incident, such as the recent bombing of Pompeii. The Allies had flown at least eleven missions, dropping 156 bombs on suspected German command posts around the ancient archaeological site. This accomplished little beyond killing Pompeii’s dead, again and again. The southern portion of the site lay in rubble; the Pompeii Antiquarium was “half demolished” with “serious losses to the collection.” Adding irony to insult, the date of the first Allied raid—August 24—marked the 1,864th anniversary of the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Edsel, Robert M.. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis (pp. 61-62). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Palermo, December 1943

The daily life in Palermo of a Monument Man, described in a letter sent home:

It’s a curious city of poverty & plenty, breadlines & marvelous pastry cakes, telephone wires strung by the Signal Corps on the heads & outstretched arms of marble saints, mounds of uncleared rubble in alleys, bombed Baroque churches, hot roasted chestnuts, walnuts, almonds & oranges, salvage dumps & hospitals, blackouts & bomb shelters. The things which effect [sic] life most are the lack of glass—most windows were shattered, shortage of water (I have to fill my helmet & wash in it morning & night), constant G.I. food (all restaurants are off bounds) & the cold (one is never quite warm).

Edsel, Robert M.. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis (pp. 59-60). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.