Piazza Duomo, Catania, Italy

Catania – Piazza Duomo e Fontana dell’Elefante
[Piazza Duomo and the Elephant Fountain]
Publisher: S. Vitro, Catania

Google Street View.

Piazza del Duomo is the main city square in Catania, Italy, flanked by both the centers of civic (city hall at Palazzo degli Elefanti) and religious power (Duomo or Cathedral of Saint Agatha). The Duomo di Catania or Cattedrale di Sant’Agata stands on the east side of the square. Originally constructed in 1078–1093, on the ruins of an ancient Roman Thermae (Achillean Baths), like nearly all of Catania, the devastating 1693 earthquake, leveled most of the structure, and Giovanni Battista Vaccarini designed a Baroque structure and façade in 1711. Three streets enter the square: via Etnea, the historical Cardo maximus or north–south artery of the Ancient Roman City; the via Giuseppe Garibaldi, and the via Vittorio Emanuele II that crosses it from east to west. On the north side is the Palazzo degli Elefanti or the Town Hall. In front of this building stands a fountain designed by Vaccarini, consisting of an obelisk on the back of the elephant u Liotru, the (symbol of Catania).

Rebuilt in 1700, on the site of the older medieval piazza, the present piazza has much the same role as centre of the city as it had in the past. It is a major meeting point for locals, tourists and the city’s principle streets, which converge at the Piazza. No need to get lost in Catania! At the centre of the Piazza stands the appealing Elephant fountain, created in 1736. As well as being made in imitation of Bernini’s Minerva Elephant in Rome, it is reminiscent of Catania’s long and varied past. Constructed of ancient remains, the elephant itself dates back to the Romans, and is made of lava. The ancient Egyptian obelisk on the elephant’s back, decorated with ancient hieroglyphics, was brought from Egypt to Italy. History also tells of a Byzantine magician named Eliodor, who rode an elephant in the town. When this elephant was made, it was named after the magician, whose name, through time and dialectic use, became “Liotru”.
Virtual travel to Catania, Sicily – Italy

A Unesco World Heritage Site, Catania’s central piazza is a set piece of contrasting lava and limestone, surrounded by buildings in the unique local baroque style and crowned by the grand Cattedrale di Sant’Agata. At its centre stands Fontana dell’Elefante (1736), a naive, smiling black-lava elephant dating from Roman times and surmounted by an improbable Egyptian obelisk. Another fountain at the piazza’s southwest corner, Fontana dell’Amenano, marks the entrance to Catania’s fish market. Legend has it that the elephant belonged to the 8th-century magician Eliodorus, who reputedly made his living by turning people into animals. The obelisk itself is said to possess magical powers that help ease Mt Etna’s volatile temperament.
Lonely Planet

Certose di Firenze/Florence Charterhouse, Florence, Italy

Firenze Certosa
Chiostro grande
[The large Cloister]
Publisher: Stengel & Co, Dresden

Google Street View.

Florence Charterhouse (Certosa di Firenze or Certosa del Galluzzo) is a charterhouse, or Carthusian monastery, located in the Florence suburb of Galluzzo, in central Italy. The building is a walled complex located on Monte Acuto, at the point of confluence of the Ema and Greve rivers. The charterhouse was founded in 1341 by the Florentine noble Niccolò Acciaioli, Grand Seneschal of the Kingdom of Naples, but continued to expand over the centuries as the recipient of numerous donations.

Founded in the first half of the fourteenth century, by the will of Niccolò Acciaiuoli (1310- 1365), belonging to one of the richest banking families in Florence and ambassador to the Angevin Court of the Kingdom of Naples, the Certosa del Galluzzo is a monastic complex located south of the city on the top of Monte Acuto and surrounded by the Greve and Ema streams. Dedicated to the martyr S. Lorenzo (3rd century AD), it was completed and embellished until the 16th century, although other valuable works continued until the 18th century and beyond. . . . After the unification of Italy (1860), the law of the Italian government of 1866, which suppressed religious orders, also affected the Carthusian community. The monks, this time, appealed to the king of Italy who allowed them to remain as custodians of the Charterhouse – a real exception at that time – which was thus declared a national monument
Certose di Firenze

The Florence Charterhouse is one of the places to visit in secret Florence. It was built at the behest of the rich Florentine banker Niccolò Acciaiuoli, who had important political roles in the Kingdom of Naples and was Viceroy of Apulia at the Angevin Court. He wanted to build the Charterhouse for the Carthusian order. . . . It is actually not just one building but a complex of several buildings consisting of:
Palazzo Acciaiuoli with its Pinacoteca, which houses five important frescoes by Pontormo and other works by artists such as Perugino and Ghiralndaio;
the monastery and the guesthouse, designed to accommodate the monastery’s guests;
the Church of San Lorenzo and the Oratory of Santa Maria Nuova;
the Crypt and the Parlatoium;
the Chiostrino dei Monaci, the Sala del Capitolo and the Refectory;
the Chiostro Grande and the Chiostrino dei Fratelli Conversi, from which the activities for the good functioning of the Charterhouse were managed;
the Women’s Chapel.
The Art Post Blog: Florence Charterhouse and the Women’s Chapel

Certosa – Il Chiostro grande
[The large Cloister]
Publisher: Francesco Pineider

Among the important parts of this monastery is the church dedicated to San Lorenzo, with typically Mannerist architecture, full of frescoes and paintings with a lavish marble altar from the 16th century and a crypt which keeps many historic tombs, mostly belonging to the Acciaoli family. From the church you can reach the large Renaissance cloister, adorned with a big well and pottery by Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia(15th-16th century), which opens onto the cells, some of which can still be visited. Each cell is made up of a bedroom and a room for praying, both austerely furnished and overlooking an isolated garden. From this cloister you can access what is called the Conversi, a small area consisting of two overlaid loggias, and from here you can access the refectory.
Visit Tuscany

Firenze Contorni Certosa
Il Chiostro grande col Cimitero e il Pozzo
[The large Cloister with the Cemetry and the Well]
Publishers: Garzini & Pezzini, Milan

Tomb of Caecilia Metella, Rome

ROMA – Via Appia – Regia Viarum
Sepolcro di Cecilia Metella


(There appears to be an artist at work in the foreground.)

Google Street VIew

The Tomb of Caecilia Metella is a mausoleum located just outside Rome at the three mile marker of the Via Appia. It was built during the 1st century BC to honor Caecilia Metella, who was the daughter of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus, a consul in 69 BC, and the wife of the Marcus Licinius Crassus who served under Julius Caesar and was the son of the famous triumvir with the same name, Marcus Licinius Crassus.The mausoleum was probably built in 30–10 BCE by her son who also had the same name, Marcus Licinius Crassus. The Tomb of Caecilia is one of the most well known and well preserved monuments along the Via Appia and a popular tourist site. 

The tomb of Caecilia Metella, from Vedute di Roma (Roman Views), ca. 1762 (from the Met)

The original design of the Tomb of Caecilia Metella encompassed the square podium and cylindrical drum (or rotunda) that we still see today, along with a shallow conical dome and a ground-level entrance on the south side. Sometime between the 11th to 14th century, the conical dome was replaced by a crenellated brick wall and a castle was attached to the Tomb as well, resulting in what is more or less the current layout of the site.
Piranesi in Rome

Over time, concrete cracks and crumbles. Well, most concrete cracks and crumbles. Structures built in ancient Rome are still standing, exhibiting remarkable durability despite conditions that would devastate modern concrete. One of these structures is the large cylindrical tomb of first-century noblewoman Caecilia Metella. New research shows that the quality of the concrete of her tomb may exceed that of her male contemporaries’ monuments because of the volcanic aggregate the builders chose and the unusual chemical interactions with rain and groundwater with that aggregate over two millennia.
University of Utah: Roman noblewoman’s tomb reveals secrets of ancient concrete resilience

Bakery, Pompeii, Italy

Master list of all posts for Pompeii

POMPEI | Forno Pubblico e Mulini
[Oven & mills]
Publisher: Cesare Capello

Google Street View.

Bread in Pompeii was produced daily in local bakeries. The Bakery (pistrinum) of Popidius Priscus contains four large millstones made from porous lava, traces of a stable, four storage rooms and a large oven which was used for baking the bread. This bakery had no adjoining shop, so the bread was probably sold on to other shops or to street vendors, called libani.
World History Encyclopedia

The Pistrinum on Vicolo Storto belonged to N. Popidius Priscus and is a fine example of a bakery in which the whole cycle of breadmaking from milling to baking the bread was performed. After baking, the bread, which came in several different varieties, was then generally sold on in an adjoining shop, although this was not always necessarily so. In this establishment the equipment for the production of bread consisted of four millstones made from porous lava, a very hard wearing stone that wouldn’t lose fragments and spoil the flour produced.
AD 79: Destruction and Rediscovery

Grand Canal, Trieste, Italy

Canale Grande e Chiesa St. Atonio
[Canal Grande and Church of Sant’Antonio Nuovo]
Publisher: Ludovico Smolars & Nipoti

Google Street View.

The Canal grande is a navigable canal located in the heart of the Borgo Teresiano, in the very center of the city of Trieste, approximately halfway between the railway station and Piazza Unità d’Italia. It was built between 1754 and 1756 by the Venetian Matteo Pirona, further digging the main collector of the salt pans, when these were buried to allow the urban development of the city outside its walls. It was built so that boats could come directly to the city center to unload their goods. In its initial conformation, the canal was longer than it is today, reaching as far as the church of Sant’Antonio. The terminal part of the canal was buried in 1934, with rubble resulting from the demolition of the old city, thus obtaining the current Piazza Sant’Antonio.

Present-day Borgo Teresiano (from Corso Italia to Piazza della Libertà) was once an area of salt marshes, now completely reclaimed. The channels perpendicular to the seafront were surveyed extensively and plans were made to excavate them in order to expand the navigable area of the city and allow easy loading / unloading of goods at canal-side warehouses, but the project was later abandoned and the Canal Grande remained the city’s only canal. . . . The canal was one of the nerve centres of Trieste’s commercial hub. Its banks are still lined with the squares, churches and historic cafés built by the merchants who made the city great
Discover Trieste

Verona Arena, Verona, Italy

Verona | Interno Dell’Anfiteatro
Publisher: Gustavo Modiano & Co, Milan

Google Street View.

The Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra in Verona, Italy built in 30 AD. It is still in use today and is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances given there. It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind. In ancient times, the arena’s capacity was nearly 30,000 people. . . . The building itself was built in AD 30 on a site which was then beyond the city walls. The ludi (shows and games) staged there were so famous that spectators came from many other places, often far away, to witness them.[citation needed] The amphitheatre could host more than 30,000 spectators in ancient times. The round facade of the building was originally composed of white and pink limestone from Valpolicella, but after a major earthquake in 1117, which almost completely destroyed the structure’s outer ring, except for the so-called “ala” (wing), the stone was quarried for re-use in other buildings. Nevertheless, it impressed medieval visitors to the city, one of whom considered it to have been a labyrinth, without ingress or egress.[1] Ciriaco d’Ancona was filled with admiration for the way it had been built and Giovanni Antonio Panteo’s civic panegyric De laudibus veronae, 1483, remarked that it struck the viewer as a construction that was more than human.

Amfitheater van Verona, Fratelli Alinari, c. 1880 – c. 1895 (from Rijksmuseum).

The Roman amphitheatre, the Arena, is the most renowned Veronese monument. Today the Arena is set in the historical centre and acts as a backdrop for Piazza. But once upon a time, when the Romans built it, the monument was located at the margins of the urban area, outside the circle of the walls. The Arena summarises in itself almost twenty centuries of local history. Through time, it has become the very symbol of the city. Its cult has far away roots, that go back to Carolingian humanism. The fame that the amphitheatre has enjoyed in the civic consciousness of the Veronese has gradually led the monument to increasingly assume the character of the very symbol of ancient nobility. From here the measures for its conservation and many deep restorations originate. The Arena has always served the special purpose of spectacular events. During Roman times, for example, it was used for spectacles of gladiator fighting. In Medieval times and until the mid eighteenths century, games and tournaments were common events at the Arena.

Amphitheatre at Verona, 1898 (from Wikimedia Commons)

The Verona Arena dates back to the I century, built during Augustus’ Empire. Its central area is composed by sand (hence the name Arena, which in Latin means sand). All around there are 45 big stone steps “bleachers”, which can contain 30.000 viewers. After the Roman period, the Arena hoted games, tournaments and celebrations, but also trials and public executions. In 1183 an earthquake destroyed the external order of arches that surrounded the Arena. Today only a small part of it still stands. The interior perimeter of 72 arches is in perfect conditions. During the Middle Ages legal disputes were resolved here: each defendant could choose a trial by combat (yes, like in Game of Thrones) using professional wrestlers. Even Dante witnessed one of these trials and mentioned it in his Inferno. In the nineteenth century the Verona Arena hosted mostly equestrianisms, races, gymnastics, comedies and tombola games. In 1805 Napoleon assisted a bullfighting and in 1857 Emperor Franz Joseph participated to a tombola game.
My Corner of Italy

Vesuvius, Italy

Napoli. | Il Vesuvio-Cratere in eruzione
(Crater of Vesuvius erupting)
Publisher: Ettore Ragozino, Galleria Umberto-Napoli

Probably a modified/fabricated image, published just before the 1906 eruption.

Mount Vesuvius is a somma-stratovolcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Italy, about 9 km (5.6 mi) east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Vesuvius consists of a large cone partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and originally much higher structure.

The eruption of 5 April 1906 killed more than 100 people and ejected the most lava ever recorded from a Vesuvian eruption. Italian authorities were preparing to hold the 1908 Summer Olympics when Mount Vesuvius violently erupted, devastating the city of Naples and surrounding comunes. Funds were diverted to reconstructing Naples, and a new site for the Olympics had to be found./em>

Napoli. | Il Vesuvio-Carozza della Funicolare
(The Funicular car Vesuvia)
Publisher: Ettore Ragozino, Galleria Umberto-Napoli

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Roman Forum, Rome

ROMA – Foro Romano.
Postmarked 1898

Google Street View.

Roma Antiqua: 3D Virtual Tour

The Roman Forum, also known by its Latin name Forum Romanum (Italian: Foro Romano), is a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum. For centuries the Forum was the center of day-to-day life in Rome: the site of triumphal processions and elections; the venue for public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches; and the nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorated the city’s great men. The teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history. Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archaeological excavations attracting 4.5 million or more sightseers yearly.

Three columns on the left:
The original Temple of Castor and Pollux was built in 484 BC by the roman dictator Postumius who vowed to build the temple if obtained a victory over the Tarquin Kings who had previously ruled Rome. According to the legend, Castor and Pollux, mythological twin brothers, helped the Roman army to victory. In republican times the temple served as a meeting place for the Roman Senate, and from the middle of the 2nd century BC the front of the podium served as a speaker’s platform. and announced the victory at the forum. Only three pillars remain of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the current ruins dating from its last reconstruction in 6 A.D
Tribunes and Triumphs

In the centre:
The Basilica Julia (Italian: Basilica Giulia) was a structure that once stood in the Roman Forum. It was a large, ornate, public building used for meetings and other official business during the Roman Empire. Its ruins have been excavated. What is left from its classical period are mostly foundations, floors, a small back corner wall with a few arches that are part of both the original building and later Imperial reconstructions and a single column from its first building phase. The Basilica Julia was built on the site of the earlier Basilica Sempronia (170 BC) along the south side of the Forum, opposite the Basilica Aemilia. It was initially dedicated in 46 BC by Julius Caesar, with building costs paid from the spoils of the Gallic War, and was completed by Augustus, who named the building after his adoptive father. The ruins which have been excavated date to a reconstruction of the Basilica by the Emperor Diocletian, after a fire in 283 AD destroyed the earlier structure.

Media Centre for Art History: panoramas

Santa Maria in Ara Coeli/Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven, Rome

Roma-Interno della Chiese di S. Maria in Aracoeli
Publisher: Ernesto Richter, Roma

Google Street View.

The Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven (Latin: Basilica Sanctae Mariae de Ara coeli in Capitolio, Italian: Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli al Campidoglio) is a titular basilica in Rome, located on the highest summit of the Campidoglio. It is still the designated Church of the city council of Rome, which uses the ancient title of Senatus Populusque Romanus. . . . Many buildings were built around the first church; in the upper part they gave rise to a cloister, while on the slopes of the hill a little quarter and a market grew up. Remains of these buildings–such as the little church of San Biagio de Mercato and the underlying “Insula Romana”) were discovered in the 1930s. At first the church followed the Greek rite, a sign of the power of the Byzantine exarch. Taken over by the papacy by the 9th century, the church was given first to the Benedictines, then, by papal bull to the Franciscans in 1249–1250; under the Franciscans it received its Romanesque-Gothic aspect. The arches that divide the nave from the aisles are supported on columns, no two precisely alike, scavenged from Roman ruins.
. . .
The original unfinished façade has lost the mosaics and subsequent frescoes that originally decorated it, save a mosaic in the tympanum of the main door, one of three doors that are later additions. The Gothic window is the main detail that tourists can see from the bottom of the stairs, but it is the sole truly Gothic detail of the church. The church is built as a nave and two aisles that are divided by Roman columns, all different, taken from diverse antique monuments. Among its numerous treasures are Pinturicchio’s 15th-century frescoes depicting the life of Saint Bernardino of Siena in the Bufalini Chapel, the first chapel on the right. Other features are the wooden ceiling, the inlaid cosmatesque floor, a Transfiguration painted on wood by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta, and works by other artists like Pietro Cavallini (of his frescoes only one survives), Benozzo Gozzoli and Giulio Romano.

Santa Maria in Aracoeli 1768, from Wikimedia Commons.

Located south of the Capitoline Hill, Santa Maria in Aracoeli was built during the sixth century on the site of an ancient Byzantine abbey. During the ninth century the church was given to the Benedictines, and a few centuries later, was given to the Franciscans. These restored the church giving it a more Gothic aspect. In 1797, during the Republic, the church was deconsecrated and transformed into a stable. Nowadays, the basilica has been fully reconstructed and is one of the most visited in Rome.

Millions of tourists and locals visit the church to see the Santo Bambino of Aracoeli, a wooden image of the Christ Child, who is believed to resurrect the dead. The statue, made out of olive wood during the fifteenth century, was stolen in 1994 and was never recovered. A replica was made to substitute it. The temple has 22 columns, none exactly alike, which were taken from Roman ruins. It is also worth seeing various burials and frescoes from the fifteenth century. The wooden ceiling is decorated with paintings representing the Battle of Lepanto, where the Holy League defeated the fleet of the Ottoman Empire.
Civitatis Rome