Pescarenico: the fishing village which has kept intact its charm over time

«È Pescarenico una terricciola, sulla riva sinistra dell’Adda, o vogliam dire del lago, poco discosto dal ponte: un gruppetto di case, abitate la più parte da pescatori, e addobbate qua e là di tramagli e di reti tese ad asciugare.» Alessandro Manzoni, I promessi sposi. Alessandro Manzoni mentioned Pescarenico in his most famous work, “The Betrothed” and, thanks to the story of Renzo and Lucia and the ingenious pen of their creator this Lecco’s district, in Northern Italy, has become famous. Manzoni wrote that the monastery of the Capuchins, in…

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Salice Terme: the sad story of a beloved tourist destination and its decline

Hotels no longer have a single free room, streets and nightclubs are overflowing with tourists, while flocks of photographers swarm from one limo to another in search of some VIPs. Who will be the winner this year? The jury is hard at work and will soon issue the verdict. It seems like the description of one of the highlight days of the Venice or Cannes Film Festival. But no, we are in Salice Terme, in the heart of the Po Valley, in the mid-1960s, when the spa town in the…

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May 31, 1962: the Voghera massacre

May 31, 1962: it is a warm but not sultry night when the fate of 64 people is about to be marked. Shortly after midnight, at 0.02 am, the 8151 freight train from Milan Rogoredo station leaves from Lecco and goes to Arquata Scrivia. The convoy consists of 33 wagons. In the meantime, at 0.45 am, from another Milan station, the Central Station, the fast train 1391 also leaves, expected in Genova Brignole at 5.22 am. The passenger convoy stops at Voghera where it arrives at the third platform 15…

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Osteria Senz’Oste: the utopistic restaurant without waiters or chefs in Veneto, Italy

Italy is known as a gourmet country with a variety of foodie destination, and you can enjoy lots of different dining experiences, some conventional and others more unique and unusual. If you have decided a vacation in Veneto region and you are planning on enjoying some culinary experiences in the area, then you should visit the so-called Osteria senz’Oste. Its name literally means, “restaurant without hosts” and they aren’t kidding. This restaurant offers a very unique dining experience, as it does not have any chefs or waiters present. To get…

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Poggiodomo: the hamlet in Italy where COVID never arrived

In Italy there is a village that has never known COVID. It is Poggiodomo, located in the heart of Umbria, in central Italy. This small hamlet is living in its own world, and its ancient little houses and wild nature have kept Covid away, which, according to the local mayor, locals have only seen on TV. This village is now one of the few places in the world that has not known this virus, but how is it possible? The hamlet has just 96 inhabitants and this can certainly be…

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The impressive little Lourdes 30 km from Milan

It would take a miracle to save what should have been the little Lourdes of the Lombard Prealps. In Merate, a small town near Lecco, in Northern Italy, about 30 kilometers from Milan, locals call it “ex Oratorio San Luigi” because, before becoming a dark and decaying ruin, it was the parish meeting point in the city for about 30 years. Actually, this is the Basilica of the Santissima Immacolata, designed in 1906 by Spirito Monsignor Chiappetta, engineer and friend of Pope Pius XI on an area of 4 thousand…

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Happy Birthday Venice, 1600 years!

As story goes today, 25th March 2021, Venice turns 1600 years old. But Venice, was it really founded on March 25th 421 AD at noon? Actually no. Venice has a history spanning almost 16 centuries that involves numerous intrigues, 120 doges, several oppressors such as Napoleon and the Austrians, as well as many battles amongst others with the Turks, even though it’s not always possible to differentiate the historical facts from the legends. In short, the foundation of the Serenissima’s city is traced back to the legendary laying of the…

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Praglia Abbey: a Benedictine monastery surrounded by the Euganean Hills

During the Middle Ages, many monks manually copied ancient books so they could be passed on to future generations. Over the years, the invention of the printing press made this work largely obsolete, but thousands of old books remained stored in monasteries. Many of those volumes lies still today in the library of the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria Assunta of Praglia, an almost 1,000-year-old monastery and maybe one of the most important monumental and religious communities in the area, located in the town of Teolo, only 10 minutes from…

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February 3: Saint Biagio’s Panettone

February 3th is the day dedicated to the holy protector of the throath, Saint Biagio (known in English as Saint Blaise). Saint Biagio worship is widely spread in the Christian world, especially the area of Milan, Varese, Como, various areas of Piedmont but also in Southern Italy, where locals have been devoted to this Saint for centuries. But why is he a protector of the throat and not, for example, the stomach or other parts or body? Historically, Saint Biagio was physician and bishop of the Armenian city of Sebaste…

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January 17: Saint Anthony the Abbot, The Great, or The Father of Monks

According to traditions, Saint Anthony the Abbot, celebrated on this day, is Patron Saint of Amputees, animals, basket makers, brush makers, butchers, cemetery workers, domestic animals, epileptics, gravediggers, hermits, skin diseases, but also hogs, pigs and swine. The life of Anthony will remind many people of Saint Francis of Assisi. At 20, he was so moved by the Gospel message, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor” (Mark 10:21b), that he actually did just that with his large inheritance. However, he is different from Francis in that…

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Monumental Cemetery of Lecco – Italy

Inaugurated on August 6, 1882 and designed by the engineer Enrico Gattinoni, the Monumental Cemetery of Lecco represents a real open-air museum. It contains works in marble and bronze by well-known local and non-local artists, which date back also to the late nineteenth century, including Giulio Branca (1850 -1926) whose works vary between late-classicism models and other pictorial styles, Francesco Confalonieri (1850 – 1925 ) classicist and with the greatest number of works present, or Giannino Castiglioni (1884 – 1971) of which Lecco also houses the imposing monument to the…

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Reasons why you should visit the Camposanto of Pisa

Despite the Camposanto, a monumental cemetery, is just right next to one of the most recognized buildings in the world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy, it does not see nearly as many visitors. “Campo Santo” can be literally translated as “holy field”, because it is said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Golgotha, brought back to Pisa from the Third Crusade by Ubaldo Lanfranchi, archbishop of Pisa in the 12th century. According to a popular belief, the bodies buried in that ground will rot…

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Corenno Plinio: enchanting medieval hamlet on the eastern branch of Como Lake

Corenno Plinio is a small and charming medieval settlement just few minutes far from Dervio, on the eastern branch of Como Lake, Italy. It is an enchanted place that few people know, that stands atop a stone spur overlooking the waters of lake.Walking through its narrow streets and along the stairs built in the rocks, from the castle to the lake, it is impossible not to be charmed by this small hamlet that sweats history in every corner.Not by chance, it is also know as “The village of a thousand…

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Centuries of history and miracles: the beautiful Laorca Cemetery

The Laorca cemetery is located in the Laorca district north of Lecco, region of Lombardy, in Northern Italy, and has developed around the caves and the ancient church of St John the Baptist (also called Chiesa ai Morti, “Church to the dead”) in Laorca. In 2011, together with Monumental Cemetery of Lecco, it was included in the “European Cemeteries Route” that is the European itinerary of monumental cemeteries. It is in fact inserted in a unique natural context, and it is a jewel of art and nature. The environment is…

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24# The Neapolitan nativity scene: a combination of history, art and tradition

Every year during the Christmas holidays there are two categories of people, those who prefer the nativity scene and those who prefer the Christmas tree. However, in Neapolitan culture this conflict almost does not exist. Although Christmas trees are decorated even in the beautiful Italian city, the nativity scene is the real star of the season. The reasons are endless and have historical, cultural and artistic roots. The idea of representing the nativity of Christ during the Christmas period comes from St. Francis of Assisi, who created the first nativity…

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Viareggio: a statue for Ettore, the cat friend of fishermen

Ettore was abandoned in a cardboard box along the pier in Viareggio, Italy. It was 1997, and from that moment on this special cat has no longer had a home or a human owner, but countless different homes and friends. Especially the local fishermen, who went back and forth every day along the pier, becoming his family. The leftovers of the fish constituted the dinner of little Ettore, who patiently awaited his daily ration every day. It was a cat that entered the hearts not only of fishermen, who saw…

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Tarpeian Rock: in the early Roman empire, people deemed traditors and criminals were tossed to their deaths from this rock

Tarpeian Rock, or locally Rupe Tarpea, is a steep cliff located on the southern side of the Capitoline Hill, just above the Roman Forum and, for centuries, the location was used an an execution sites. People who had been convicted of crimes were thrown from the 25-meter cliff ledge down to the Forum below. This method of execution carried a stigma of shame and was considered a fate worse than death. It was reserved as punishment for crimes that were considered especially heinous like treason, murder, and perjury. Also larcenous…

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Saint Marcel, a castle haunted by hooded souls

In Surpian, a small hamlet of the municipality of Saint-Marcel, 12 km from italian city of Aosta, stands an imposing castle, Saint Marcel (in french château de Saint-Marcel), probably built in the fourteenth century by Giacomo di Challant and now in a state of complete abandonment (with the exception of some recent restoration interventions). It is located on a plateau at a crossroads of paths leading along the valley bottom and the roads towards the larger valley located to the south, known since Medieval times for the presence of iron,…

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San Severino di Centola: a medieval hilltop village that was abandoned at the end of the 19th century after existing for more than 500 years.

The ruins of the old village San Severino di Centola, known known until 1861 as San Severino di Camerota, are located on a rugged hill in southern Cilento, in the Italian region of Campania. The village was founded during the 10th-11th centuries, although it seems that some traces of inhabited settlements on the rocky spur are known since the seventh century. However, it was progressively abandoned as inhabitants chose to move their settlement just below the hill but closer to the newly developed railway. The village was strategically placed above…

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Pozzo del Diavolo: was this cave created by Hercules’s wrath, the devil, or volcanic activity?

We are in Italy, in Lazio region, above Vico Lake in the beautiful beech forest of Monte Venere, part of the UNESCO’s Primeval Beech Forests of Europe transnational network of protected sites. At 507 meters above sea level, Lake Vico is the highest volcanic lake in Italy and the beech forest of Monte Venere is among the lowest in the country (most beech forests are located above 900 meters). Thanks to its peculiar natural characteristics, the lake offers a rich variety of plant species and different environments, allowing the life…

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Rosa Bathurst, the sleeping beauty of the Tiber river

We are in in the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, Italy.Rosa Bathurst was found after six months and she looked like she was just asleep the whole time.Rosa was a beautiful 16 years old girl from a noble English family and in 1824 she was staying with her uncles in Rome. She was a charming and intelligent girl, full of life, always attending social events and apparently well known and admired by everyone.In the morning of March 16, 1824, Rosa and a small group of people went on a riding trip…

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Historical Regatta: in the Grand Canal the ancient Venetian maritime tradition between races and historical re-enactments

The Historical Regatta is the most traditional among the venetian events. It is a show that, each year the first Sunday of September, brings the ancient boats of the glorious past of Venice to the Grand Canal including passionate competitions and historical re-enactments. And, in 2020, this was the event that probably has repopulated the beautiful Venice, after a lockdown that saw the city completely free of tourists (and people). For a city born on water, boats have always been indispensable means of survival, since it was with these that…

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Hands of madness: Italino and his grave at Staglieno Monumental Cemetery

Among the Italian cemeteries, the Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa, is one of the most fascinating, full of mysteries and secrets, with its statues that follow one another and those tombstones that tell ancient stories. Coming to the highest part of the Monumental Cemetery, you might come across a particular statue, different from all the others. Is that of a child of about 5 years old, running carefree behind his circle, while two hands of madness are about to grab him from behind and seal his fate. It was the year 1925,…

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The legend of the haunted house known as Villa Clara

Each place has a more or less known heritage of curious stories, legends and mysteries, and Bologna, Italy, is no exception. Among these, the presumably haunted house in Casalecchio di Reno, and Villa Clara. The villa a little outside Bologna, not far from Trebbo di Reno, is located in the open countryside, surrounded by fields where are not even street lighting and where, sometimes, thick banks of fog arise. The exact date of its construction is not known, although it is likely that it took place between 1572 and 1585.…

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Ferragosto: history, traditions (and curses) of one of the most beloved holidays in Italy

Celebrated on August 15, the so called Ferragosto may well be considered the height of the Italian summer: many Italians still take their summer vacation around this time, with the cities traditionally emptying and the beaches filling up (at least, until few years ago). Ferragosto, which today coincides with the Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary (a Catholic dogma established in 1950 by Pope Pius XII), is a holiday that goes back to Roman emperor Augustus’ times. Several festivals took place during the month of August to celebrate the…

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Italy’s Moka Coffee Pot: why the iconic item has become an endangered species

Bialetti, the Italian maker of the historic moka pot, a stovetop coffee machine and one of the most iconic kitchen appliances ever created, announced recently that the company is in major trouble, with tens of millions of Euros in debt, unpaid salaries and taxes. In a press release, the company even said there are “doubts over its continuity”.The moka pot is an iconic symbol of Italy and you can see it in several museums, including Museum of Modern Art, but also in the Guinness Book of World Records as the…

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Torre Argentina – the Roman Cat Sanctuary

As you probably know cats in Rome are very popular and they have always found shelter amongst the ancient city ruins. They are also protagonists of numerous postcards depicting them sitting on stumps of old Roman columns, cat napping on the foot of an emperor’s statue, or just lounging near the Colosseum. And, in addition, in Rome stray cats have an ancient temple-complex all to themselves. Known as Largo di Torre Argentina, this archaeological wonder was excavated as part of Mussolini’s rebuilding efforts in 1929, revealing four Republican victory-temples that…

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Francesco Petrarca’s house: a modest museum in the final home of Italian poet

“In the Euganean Hills, I had a small house built, decorous and noble; here, I live out the last years of my life peacefully, recalling and embracing with constant memory my absent and deceased friends.” (Petrarch, Senili, XIII, 8, Letter to Matteo Longo, January 6 1371). Francesco Petrarca, one of the first humanists, was a founding figure in the Italian Renaissance, but also the poet who helped solidify modern Italian. He spent his final years tending vegetables in this incredibly old house, which predates even his own residence there. Years…

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The witches of Benevento and their walnut tree Sabbats

We are in Italy. When the Romans conquered the area in the 3rd century B.C. they changed its original name Maleventum (meaning “bad event”) into Beneventum (“good event”) but, name apart, it was a place of crossroads. The city stood in fact where the Appian Way forked and the Sabato and Calore rivers came together and, interestingly, crossroads (in italian “crocevia”) were the special domain of the goddess Trivia, protector of witches, with word Tri-via that means “three roads”. The legend of the witches of Benevento dates back to the…

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The mysterious case of dance mania that broke out in Medieval Europe

St. John’s Dance, known historically as St. Vitus Dance, was a social phenomenon involving a type of dance mania that gripped mainland Europe between the 14 th and 17 th centuries. On this day, June 24 1374, just several decades after the Black Death swept across Europe, one of the most well-known major outbreaks of dance mania in Medieval Europe broke out in the German city of Aachen, even if it spread to Liege, Utrecht, Tongres and other towns up and down the Rhine. What was the problem? Afflicted individuals…

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