Solo Italia It's all about Italy Tue, 23 Feb 2016 21:26:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Lombards in Italy – The History of a Kingdom Mon, 20 Feb 2017 19:25:35 +0000 The Lombards are the people who gave their name to the italian region of Lombardy. Germanic by origin, the tribe subsequently enjoyed a 200-year tenure in Italy. They were settled until around the 4th century AD and then began a large southward migration from northwestern Germany southwards into northern Italy. On the way, the Longobards engaged in the usual wars and land invasions common at the time.

Their origins lie in Scandinavia, according to sources quoted by the historian Paul the Deacon. Mythically, when the tribe (then called the Winnili) split up in search of new lands for some of their number, they came into contact with the Vandals, who offered them a choice of either tribute or war. Their leaders decided that tribute was for sissies, and so the tribe set forth to war the next morning after consulting their deities. The deities had advised that the women should march with their men, tying their long hair around under their chins to look like beards. Their victory that day led to their new name: Longobards, or “longbeards”. In fact, it could equally have derived from one of the names of Odin, namely Langbarðr. There are several other alternative reasons for the change of name, often associated with Odin and suggesting that the name change came with the assumption of Odin as their special deity and patron.

The Longobard tribe was first mentioned under that name sometime in the first century AD. They were known to be resident on the banks of the Elbe at that time, when the Roman historian Tacitus wrote that they were remote and aggressive, and although a relatively small tribe, it appears that their ferocity was well known. By the middle of the second century AD, the great southward migration of this tribe had begun, and they had moved at least as far as the Rhineland area. The Longobards continued to creep ever southwards during the next two hundred years, enduring periods of slavery in between conquering their various overlords.

By the middle of the 500s, the tribe had encountered the Gepidae, as they continued their move southwards. With the backing of emperor Justinian, and serving as mercenaries in his army, the Longobards waged around 20 years of persistent but intermittent war with this tribe, before finally being able to move into the area of northern Italy which now bears their name, thus losing the support of the Byzantines. It is easy to see why the Lombards chose to migrate further, as that part of Italy had been badly affected by the Gothic wars and there was not much resistance to their arrival.

One of the first cities to fall to the Lombards, Forum Iulii (Cividale del Friuli), remained a strategic place for the tribe for the duration of their time in Italy. It was the site of the first duchy, and also the northernmost point of their italian defences. It took another three years before further gains were made in the acquisition of Pavia, which the Lombards designated their first capital.

Subsequently, the Lombards gradually split the parts of Italy they controlled into the familiar pattern of duchies and city rulers which characterized its rule for centuries to come, ending up with 36 duchies. Meantime, they slowly adopted Roman customs and dress, while expanding their kingdom to encompass around three quarters of Italy. At first they were opposed to Catholicism, but gradually converted to an orthodox form of Christianity. They still stood in opposition to the Pope, however, and continued to attempt to take over papal lands. The Exarchate of Ravenna was a constant thorn in the Lombards’ side at this point, controlled by and loyal to the Pope, in contrast to the Lombards’ opposition. This opposition was the catalyst in the eventual fall of their kingdom, which was conquered by Charlemagne, the Frankish king, in the last quarter of the 8th century.

The Longobards migrated around 900 miles in less than 200 years, leaving northern Europe behind and entrenching themselves firmly in the south. They endured many wars and changes of allegiance during that time, especially working with the Byzantines in and around Italy until they were able to overthrow them. They started out as pagans and ended as Christians, with their monk Paul the Deacon writing a history of his people in the 8th century. The rise of Christian belief can be traced to Theodelinda, consort and queen in the last part of the 6th century. During their time they were subjugated and conqueror by turns, eventually falling to the might of Charlemagne. The tribe was generally known as the Longobards until their successes in Italy in the 6th century, when “Lombard” becomes the preferred term for many historians.

It is noticeable that there was constant battling among the leaders once the tribe settled in Italy, with very few kings lasting more than a decade at most. Liutprand (712-744) was the one exception to this trend, and after this period of stability, it is perhaps telling that the next king, Hildeprand was nicknamed “the Useless” and deposed in less than a year due to his incompetence. The Lombard rule was to last less than forty years after this point, and in 781, Charlemagne’s son Pepin takes over both the former Lombard territories and the title of king of the Lombards on behalf of the Frankish kings.

Leonardo da Vinci – Interesting Facts Sun, 29 Mar 2015 19:42:46 +0000

Leonardo da Vinci turned his prodigious talents to mathematics, anatomy, engineering, invention and much more. There are many interesting facts about Leonardo da Vinci, and what hasn’t already been said about this Italian genius? Leonardo da Vinci was born in a small town in Tuscany in the year 1452, and it seemed like almost nothing was beyond him. Of course, he is best known for his paintings and sculptures, but Leonardo da Vinci was a true polymath, using what he had learned in one area to inform his work in another.

Leonardo da Vinci – Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, ItalyOf course it helps that he was educated in a painter’s studio, but only a handful of paintings by him, or upon which he collaborated, survive. Of those fifteen items, the Mona Lisa is the best known.
Leonardo da Vinci’s inventive streak extended to the manner in which he painted his works, and the items on which they were painted, which unfortunately contributed to their early demise. Of course, he also had many other interests to divert him and inform the details in his paintings.

We can only wonder how many more masterpieces Leonardo da Vinci would have been capable of if he had concentrated simply on painting, but his insatiable curiosity led him to be so much more than just a painter. Leonardo da Vinci was certainly busy enough with all his other projects – dissecting corpses to improve his understanding of anatomy, designing futuristic concepts for the time such as flying machines, single-span bridges and steam-driven cannon and entertaining nobility with his ability on the lyre.

Leonardo da Vinci – Interesting Facts

Leonardo was a left hander; there is also some suggestion he may have been on the autistic spectrum. Other issues which are still under discussion include whether he was a vegetarian, how he was able to design weapons of war whilst considering that the act of war itself was “madness”, and whether he was an alchemist. More obvious is that fact that as a scientist, Leonardo da Vinci used his studies in geography, geology, light and perspective to inform his art.

During his lifetime, his engineering abilities and inventive streak were recognized and he was employed in that capacity, although it appears that none of his designs were built at the time. However, Leonardo’s abilities, discoveries and inventions have influenced a number of fields in the centuries since his death.

Leonardo da Vinci – The Vitruvian Man

Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, ItalyApart from his fame in multiple areas, he was well-known for procrastination. This may be what leads some to wonder if he was on the autistic spectrum, as he followed thoughts from one to another rather than concentrating on finishing one thing at a time. Without that trait though, his surviving art works and sketches would not be as detailed. The Vitruvian Man is internationally famous and displays Leonardo’s knowledge of and studies in both anatomy and proportion.

Without Leonardo da Vinci’s influence, many scientific and artistic fields today might well be completely different. In his lifetime he was famous, but that was as nothing to his fame in the modern world as a scientist, inventor and artist.

Read more from others:

Visit this excellent page about Leonardo da Vinci on Artsy for more information, It provides visitors with da Vinci’s bio, over 12 of his works, exclusive articles, as well as up-to-date da Vinci exhibition listings.

Italian Truffles – A Culinary Experience Mon, 23 Mar 2015 20:55:24 +0000

Italian truffles are a highly prized part of the culinary experience, not only in Italy, but also around the world. They have been greatly sought after for centuries and, as the rarest variety is resistant to artificial attempts at cultivation, are still harvested from the wild in the same way they always have been.

Italian Truffles – Usage

Italian truffles - summer truffle - Tuber aestivum ValnerinaTruffles are a form of fungi which are diced and sliced to add a unique flavour to many dishes. White truffles are traditionally served raw; black, burgundy and summer truffles are generally cooked. These delicacies are served in several different ways depending on their type; shaved and sprinkled over pasta or fried eggs, used as a stuffing for meat dishes and to add their distinctive tang to sauces. They are usually eaten fresh, sometimes within hours of being harvested, so as to make the most of their pungent aroma and strong taste. The darker truffles can be canned or bottled for export, the more delicate white Italian truffles will not keep for long enough and should be consumed as soon as possible after harvesting.

Location and sourcing

The ease of finding truffles is decreasing as their popularity grows. Any truffle location will only be fruitful for around 15 years and as a result, an industry has grown up around inoculating suitable tree seedlings with truffle spores before transplanting them to suitable locations later in the trees’ lives.

Italian truffles - winter truffle - Périgord Black Truffle - Tuber melanosporumTruffles are an underground species, living among the roots of a host tree, often an oak or a willow, and feeding off its nutrients. They are slow breeders, which accounts for their rarity. Each truffle fungus produces only one fruit a year, sometime during the winter months. Truffle festivals are traditionally held in autumn, but the main harvest season lasts from late summer all the way through until early spring.

Truffles are found in many locations in Europe, but Italian truffles are regarded as the best and have been used as food, medicine and aphrodisiacs for centuries. Their rarity and unusual flavour have led to their high status among chefs and epicures. A good harvest can see prices of around €2,000 a kilogram, while a smaller yield will easily double that price.

Italian Truffles – Harvesting

Italian truffles are traditionally harvested with the help of sows or truffle hounds. Some are dug by hand when a truffle farmer knows his location. The use of dogs for locating truffles is currently favoured, as pigs have a tendency to eat the truffle rather than merely indicate its presence. To a female wild pig, the truffle apparently smells like a boar’s pheromones, and this is irresistible to her.

It is possible to harvest truffles of one variety or another almost all year round, but the highest demand is for the white Italian truffles from the region around Alba. Unfortunately, the bad news is that at the moment, the quantity and quality of these rare specimens from Piedmont is decreasing.


Broadly divided into the ultra-rare white truffle and the more common black varieties, there are at least eight different species of true Italian truffle.

The white Italian truffle (tartufo bianco) is the most sought after variety, with incredibly high prices being paid for consignments which are often freshly gathered that morning and always served raw. They are prized for their flavour and aroma, which varies depending on which tree they grew under.

Black truffles (tartufo nero) are more plentiful and hardier than the white variety. They are cooked and used to add distinctive flavour to sauces and even spreads. Truffle oil, olive oil infused with pieces of truffle and drizzled over dishes before serving, is another popular way to enjoy the distinctive taste and aroma. Risotto served with truffle is popular both as a fresh dish and in jars.

Black truffles are found later in the year than the much rarer (and therefore more prized) white variety. Summer truffles (tartufo estivo), as their name suggests, are harvested from May to August and are more of a brown colour at times than a black shade.

Burgundy truffles (tartufo nero di Fragno) are widely distributed all over Europe, not just Italy, and are often used as a substitute for the Perigord variety of black truffles, as their taste is similar.

Italian Truffles – Purchase

Italian truffles on spaghetti, ItalyItalian truffles can be sampled at high end restaurants around the world in season, and can also be bought from reputable importers or direct from a truffle harvester during a truffle festival.

It is important to use a trusted supplier, as only then can the freshness and authenticity of the truffles be guaranteed.

There is a wealth of detailed information online for those looking to learn more about the rarefied world of truffles. Unsurprisingly the truffle hunters themselves are not so keen to share their knowledge, but if the Chinese have anything to do with it, black truffles will be seriously commercialised before too long.

However for now, despite (or perhaps because of) their rarity, Italian truffles continue to be in high demand at the best and most exclusive restaurants worldwide. They are a true gourmet food which should be enjoyed if the chance presents itself.

Read more from others:

Tartufi – Italian Truffles

Urbino Italy – Renaissance and Tourism Sun, 15 Mar 2015 14:26:09 +0000

Urbino Italy – Visit the Town

Urbino Italy is unique in that it has been designated as a World Heritage Site, due to its preservation of medieval, renaissance architecture and centuries buildings. If a typical town that says old Italy is what you wish to visit, Urbino in the italian region of Marche is the place. If you want to explore a town that will take you into a different place and time that reminds you of princesses, knights and adventure, Urbino Italy is the right choice for your travel.

Urbino Landscape

Urbino is a very hilly town, with the beautiful greenery that you would ordinarily find in the Italian countryside. The whole of the town is 88 square miles, which is just large enough for attractions, colleges and shops. The town of Urbino is small, granting tourists the ability to explore the old town with leisure. There are a number of hotels available in the area, as well as many world heritage sights to be seen while you are on an exploration vacation.

Cultural Beginnings of Urbino Italy

Urbino Italy - The Ducal Palace, MarcheUrbino Italy has a long-standing history with the Pope, Gothic wars, and the royal Italian family. One of the largest and most tempting places in town to visit is the Ducal Palace of Urbino. This palace first belonged to the Montefeltro family, began by the Duke Federico III da Montefeltro. The palace boats of elaborate, priceless artwork on the walls, and has a number of Biblical statues and depictions. On a high hill, the Ducal Palace can be seen from a number of places in town and is one of the highlights of Urbino well known to many. This 15th century palace is one of very few in the world that remains with such age.

Urbino Renaissance

The famous Renaissance artist Raphael is from the town of Urbino and many of his works are still housed there. His home, called Casa Natale di Raffello, and some of his works are still located in his hometown and can be viewed during a trip to Urbino.

Urbino Italy Tourism and Activities

The town is reachable via mass transit in Italy, or a car can be rented to explore the small, quaint town. The downtown area in Urbino hosts many different museums, which are a tourist highlight during all seasons.

In the town of Urbino Il Portico on Via Mazzini operates as a small bookshop, restaurant, and gathering space. Much like everything else in this well-kept town, there is a homey feel and stately culture that still exists in all of the town spaces.

If art is, what you came to see, Art Café is a hot spot in the town. This space is a mixture of modern and eclectic decoration and is one of the best places for locals and tourists to connect.

Urbino Italy - Cathedral, MarcheOnce a religious expedition, Cattedrale di Urbino is one of the most popular cathedrals in all of Italy. Much like the rest of the town, the Urbino Cathedral has beautiful and adored artworks along with beautiful carvings that cannot be found in most other cities.
If you want to have a little more fun during the nighttime, consider the Tartufi Antiche Bonta to sample true Italian food in this hilly town. This restaurant is usually packed, and offers Italian truffles, Italian cheeses, sausages, and beautiful wines that can only be found in a true Italian city.

The Mamiani Hotel Urbino is the highest rated hotel within the Urbino city limits. This hotel offers a restaurant, reflective pool for guests to use, and undeniably beautiful views of the green countryside of this historic town. A trip to Urbino Italy would not be complete without enjoying a little modern luxury while exploring this antique city.

Read more from others:

Marche Voyager – Guide to Urbino


Maria Montessori – Doctor and Teacher Sun, 21 Dec 2014 01:00:17 +0000

Say the name of Maria Montessori to any parent and you’ll be told in no uncertain terms whether that parent is in favor of her mainly child-led educative system or not.

Maria Montessori – Doctor and Teacher

Maria MontessoriDr. Montessori (1870-1952), born in Chiaravalle in the region of Marche, spent her lifetime defying norms. She trained as a doctor when few women did, was appointed a lecturer in one of the two female-only teacher training colleges in Italy at the time, and worked intensively with disabled children so that they were able to pass the standard public examinations for schoolchildren, despite having what we would now call “special needs”.

Education in Practical Tasks

It was after this experience that Dr. Montessori was invited to take over the education of a group of youngsters in a low-income area of Rome. There, her lessons included personal hygiene and domestic chores, exercise and caring for plants and animals. She found that the children were happiest undertaking practical tasks and that this more relaxed way of educating them led to an increased self-discipline among the children themselves.

Criticism against Maria Montessori

Later, opponents charged that her methods left little room for normal childhood play and social interaction, that the mixed age classes led to aggression and that parents were excluded from the process so they could not work with their children on weaknesses at home. All of these criticisms have been widely repeated in parenting forums online in recent years, borne out in many cases by the experience of parents and children themselves.

Maria Montessori - Thousand lire note from ItalyThe fact that Dr. Montessori’s methods involve the use of sensory techniques, developed from her time teaching disabled children early in her career, has always caused controversy. This fact, combined with the idea of allowing the children to choose their activities using their own initiative and inclination instead of scheduling specific lessons, has led many to question the depth of education received at a Montessori establishment. It is important to note, however, that the Montessori Method is only intended for use in primary or elementary schools, until the age of twelve, and that learning beyond that age is not covered in the program.

Further criticism has been leveled at the fact that Montessori materials are expensive, which appears to go against its beginnings as a way to educate children with few opportunities for learning. And the lack of opportunity for musical expression in a true Montessori program is a concern to many parents who have happy memories of making lots of noise in their primary school classroom.

Dr. Maria Montessori’s Methods are now Widespread

There is no doubt that teaching methods outside the standard classroom environment have a place in society. After all, not every child is going to be academically bright, and some will react better to practical tasks than rote learning of capital cities and historical dates. Dr. Maria Montessori’s methods may not be universally popular, but they are widespread and even now quite a radical way of educating a child in their formative years.

Read more from others:

International Montessori Foundation
The Opera Nazionale Montessori (ONM)
Montessori Unlimited

Pizzette Capresi – The Small Pizza from Capri Mon, 09 Feb 2015 20:37:18 +0000

Pizzette capresi originates from Capri, an island located in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrentine Peninsula. The Capri Island lies on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy.

Things to See and Do in Fair Verona Italy Sat, 24 Jan 2015 22:00:37 +0000

In Fair Verona, Where We Lay Our Scene…

The immortal opening lines of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” place the happenings squarely in Verona, Italy. Verona is a small city located an hour outside of Venice in the northeastern region of Italy known as Veneto. It is the setting for one of the greatest tragedies ever to grace the stage, written by the incomparable playwright, William Shakespeare. However, there is a lot more to Verona than a pair of star-crossed lovers. There are many interesting things to see and do in Verona Italy.

Things to Do in Verona Italy – Visit the Verona Arena – A Roman Amphitheater

Things to do in Verona Italy - Visit the Verona Arena, VenetoDuring the First Century BCE, Verona was captured and ruled by the Roman Empire. During that time, the Arena was built in the style of the Colosseum in Rome.
The Arena is a huge amphitheater, and while the exterior ring is showing signs of its age and damage suffered during an earthquake in 1117, the interior is intact and still functions today. It is the third-largest surviving amphitheater in the world from that period and certainly among the things to see in Verona, Italy.

Things to See in Verona Italy – Castel San Pietro

Things to see in Verona Italy - Castel San Pietro landscape, Verona, VenetoAbove the Verona Arena stands a hill with steps leading up it to the Castel San Pietro, or, St. Peter’s Castle.
Built during Austria’s left bank occupation as a barracks, it is not currently open for public use; however, the views from its hill offer a breathtaking opportunity to see all of Verona laid out below.
The sunsets there are especially romantic, and do not cost a dime.


Built of red brick, Castelvecchio is a 14th-century fortified castle that is situated along the Adige river. It is home to Verona’s art museum and the bulk of the primary castle buildings are used to house an outstanding collection of medieval sculptures and paintings spanning the Renaissance. Castelvecchio provides a wonderful opportunity to explore its ramparts and fortifications. Castelvecchio is only one of Verona’s many opportunities to observe how the art of Western Europe evolved and changed from the late Medieval period into the early part of the Renaissance. There are also a good number of churches dating to the 12th century; and art museums, as well. A must-see for the art lover visiting Verona.

Basilica of St. Zeno

Just a fifteen-minute stroll from Castelvecchio is the gorgeous church that is dedicated to the patron saint of Verona, Zeno. In 363, Zeno, an enthusiastic North African fisherman, became Bishop of Verona, Italy. The church built to honor him houses his atmospheric tomb in the undercroft. A statue of the grinning saint fully clad in traditional robes and sporting a golden fish caught on a fishing rod, also serves to commemorate Zeno. The church, built following the earthquake that damaged the Arena in 1117, has been a focal point for European pilgrims for several hundred years and boasts richly preserved artwork and history, possibly the best available to see in Verona.

Things to See in Verona Italy – Juliet’s House – Casa di Giulietta

In Fair Verona - Juliet's house and balcony, Verona, Veneto, ItalyAny discussion of Verona, Italy is not complete if it does not include information about one of the most popular tourist destinations in Verona; the balcony that belonged to Juliet, where she and her Romeo professed their love for one another. When in Verona, a visit the balcony area must be included in your list of things to see and do in fair Verona, Italy. In truth, the balcony was a 1936 addition and the house has no real connection with the play written by Shakespeare.

In Fair Verona - Juliet's house and balcony with wall covered in grafitti and letters, Verona, Veneto, ItalyThe love-struck tourists that flock to the tiny courtyard to leave letters and mementos for Juliet do not know this, or do not care; graffiti covers every available surface and the wall beneath her balcony has an ever-changing, endless supply of love letters left there by those touched by the power and tragedy of Shakespeare’s pair of young lovers. The house is open for tours, but contains little aside from a few rescued Renaissance frescoes and the bed that was used in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation of the famous play.

Pictures from Verona


Ostuni Italy – The White City in Brindisi Mon, 15 Dec 2014 20:32:30 +0000

Italy’s Southern coast hosts a jewel of a city known as Ostuni. Located within the Brindisi province roughly 8 km (4.9 miles) away from the coast. It is not a large city, with only about 32,000 people living here at any given time; but it does attract people from all over the globe with it’s beautiful beaches and historical architecture.

Ostuni Italy is an Ancient City

Ostuni is located in a region that has been inhabited since the stone age. It is believed to have to been founded by the Messapii, destroyed by the armies of Hannibal during the Punic Wars and then re-built by the Greeks – hence the Ostuni name meaning “new town.”

Ostuni village, Brindisi, Apulia, ItalyOstuni’s history is shown predominately within it’s architecture; with many buildings still standing dating back as far as 990 AD when the city was sacked by the Normans and added to it’s own county. The walls of a castle built on a 229 m hill are the only remaining structure from this time period, with the majority of buildings seemingly dating from 1300 to 1463. The architecture was influenced by the Italian Renaissance during the 1500 and the most notable still standing structures include Pozzella Tower, the Pylon, Villanova and others.

Sights to See in Ostuni Italy

The biggest reason to visit Ostuni is the “Old Town” or Ostuni’s citadel situated on top of a hill which remains fortified to this day. Ostuni is known as the “White City” based on it’s white-painted walls and white buildings.

The largest buildings in the city include the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace. The local area hosts typical Pugliese large estate farms which offer thriving grape and olive growing businesses. The city itself is one of the most famous town in Apulia simply because of it’s baroque-style churches and fantastic views.

Ostuni’s summer population increases dramatically to over 100,000 people annually. It has a large community of British citizens and is Italy’s fifth city to have such a high percentage of ex-pats from the British Isles. People flock to Ostuni for it’s warm, sunny weather, delicious foods and tasty wines.

The majority of its tourists visit from Northern Europe, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia. However, it is possible to spot visitors from other regions as well such as North Americans; especially those drawn to its historical significance and opulent surroundings.