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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The most iconic roadway in Italy; the Strada di Valoresi

The Strada di Valoresi from Villa La Foce.

And the surrounding area.

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Villa La Foce; a magnificent garden in Tuscany

I’ve been a few places.  I’ve seen a few gardens. So you can trust me when I tell you that   Villa La Foce, the villa and farm created by Iris Origo and her husband, Antonio Origo, is truly magnificent.

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The villa is located in the crete sense (clay hills of Sienna) overlooking the beautiful Val d’orcia in souther Tuscany.  La Foce is located near the site of an Etruscan settlement and  burial-place that were in use from the 7th C. BC to the 2nd C. AD.

La Foce has been continuously inhabited for many centuries, partly because of its location on the Via Francigena (“the road that comes from France,” this ancient highway was a pilgrim route running from France [some say Canterbury, England] to Rome. In medieval times it was an important road and pilgrimage route for those wishing to visit the Holy See and the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul).

 

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 The Origos dedicated their lives to bringing prosperity and cultural and social changes to this formerly poverty-stricken area of the Val d’Orcia.  Years of work were devoted to preparing the difficult terrain for modern agriculture.

The gardens and estate of La Foce are among the most important and best kept early 20th-century gardens in Italy. Amid 3,500 acres of farmland in the countryside near Pienza, with sweeping views of the Tuscan landscape, La Foce was the dream garden of Iris Origo.

Passionate about the order and symmetry of Florentine gardens, she and Antonio employed the talented English architect and family friend Cecil Pinsent,  who had designed the gardens at Villa Medici, to enhance the natural beauty of the site. Pinsent designed the structure of simple, elegant, box-edged beds and green enclosures that give shape to the Origos’ shrubs, perennials and vines, and created a garden of soaring cypress walks, native cyclamen, lawns and wildflower meadows.

Today the estate is run by the Origo daughters, Benedetta and Donata, and is open to the public one day a week.

 

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The property was purchased in 1924 by Antonio Origo and his Anglo-American wife, Iris. Iris was the daughter of Lady Sybil Cutting who owned the Villa Medici at Fiesole, where Iris spent much of her childhood.

 

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The Villa itself was built in the late 15 C as a hospice for pilgrims and merchants traveling on the via Francigena.

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The garden is divided into three distinct sections on different levels, and was created between 1927 and 1939 in several stages, all parts composed to follow the lay of the land.

 

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/italy/tuscany/articles/Italy-Val-dOrcia-Tuscanys-happy-valley/

Sometimes you get lucky.

Sometimes you are at the right place at the right time.  I had that fortunate experience yesterday in Arezzo, as the commune prepared for today’s Medieval Saracen Joust.

The Saracen joust of Arezzo (Giostra del Saracino, Giostra ad burattum) is an ancient game of chivalry, dating back to the Middle Ages and born as an exercise for military training.

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The game acquired an important social function within the urban community: it was used to commemorate great public events, such as during the visit of important sovereigns or princes, and was also used to make certain civil feasts more solemn (carnivals and local aristocratic weddings).

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The joust – which became a typical tradition of Arezzo at the beginning of the 17th century – declined progressively during the 18th century and eventually disappeared, at least in its “noble” version. After a brief popular revival between the 18th and 19th century, the joust was interrupted after 1810 to reappear only in 1904 in the wake of the Middle Ages reappraisal. The joust was restored in 1931 as a form of historical re-enactment set in the 14th century, and quickly acquired a competitive character.

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The historical reenactment takes place every year in Arezzo on one Saturday night in June (the so-called San Donato Joust, dedicated to the patron saint of the town) and on the afternoon of the first Sunday of September.

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The teams in the event are the four quarters of the town of Arezzo:

  • Porta Crucifera, known as Culcitrone (green and red),
  • Porta del Foro, known as Porta San Lorentino (yellow and crimson),
  • Porta Sant’Andrea (white and green)
  • Porta del Borgo, today called Porta Santo Spirito (yellow and blue).

The jousting day starts in the morning, when the town’s Herald reads the proclamation of the joust challenge, and then continues with a colorful procession of 350 costume characters and 27 horses parading along the streets of Arezzo. The highlight of the parade, which is given by the Bishop of Arezzo and takes place on the steps of the Duomo, is the blessing of the men-at-arms and their horses.

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The knights’ tournament is held in the Piazza Grande, guided by the Maestro di Campo and preceded by the costumed characters and the town’s ancient banners entering the square, accompanied by the sound of trumpets and drums.  The highest authorities of the Joust enter the square (the magistrates, the Jury, the quarters’ presidents), the performance of flag-wavers, the jousters galloping into the racing field, each knight representing an ancient noble family of Arezzo, the knights’ arrangement on the lizza (jousting track), the Herald reading the Challenge of Buratto (a poetic composition written in octaves in the 17th century), the crossbowmen and the soldiers greeting the crowd shouting “Arezzo!”, the magistrates’ authorization to run the joust and finally the Joust’s musicians playing the Saracen Hymn, composed by Giuseppe Pietri (1886–1946).

Then, the real competition starts. The jousters of the four gates gallop their horses with lance in rest against the Saracen, an armor-plated dummy representing a Saracen (“Buratto, King of the Indies”) holding a cat-o’-9-tails. The sequence of charges is drawn on the week preceding the joust during a costumed ceremony in Piazza del Comune. It’s almost impossible to foresee  the result of the joust will be: it depends on the ability, the courage and the good-luck of the eight jousters who alternate on the packed-earth sloping track (the lizza) that runs transversally across Piazza Grande.

The competition is won by the couple of knights who hit the Saracen’s shield obtaining the higher scores. The quarter associated to the winning knight receives the coveted golden lance. In the event of a draw between two or more quarters after the standard number of charges (two sets of charges for each jouster), the prize is assigned with one or more deciding charges. At the end of the joust, mortar shots hail the winning quarter.

The rules of the tournament are contained in technical regulations that repeat – virtually unchanged – the Chapters for the Buratto Joust dating back to 1677. They are easy to understand, and yet worded in such a way as to guarantee a long-lasting suspense. The outcome of the fight between the Christian knights and the “Infidel” is undecided until the very last moment due to dramatic turns of events. For instance, jousters may be disqualified if they ride accidentally off the jousting track, or their scores may be doubled if their lance breaks after violently hitting the Saracen.