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Cosmati mosaics: harmony, symmetry, perfection

While the Roman mosaics are very well known all over the world, very few know about the Cosmatesque art of ornamental pavements. The Cosmati Family was a Roman family of marble artisans who during the XII and XIII century created a completely new style of marble ornaments. Probably they didn’t invent this style but they adapted the Arabic ornamental art to the needs of the religious buildings in Italy, especially in the Lazio region.

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The geometrical perfection of these ornaments are in synchrony with the medieval concept of cosmic order and proportion. It has been thought (with the Pitagora philosophy and after with St Agostino and St Thomas Aquinus), that the arithmetic proportion and numbers would have allowed to the man to get closer to the God.

cosmati-cattedrale-anagni

The Cosmatesque art has been considered as the expression of this thought and the mosaics seems to represent kind of a cosmic harmony through the mathematical study of geometrical proportions. Have a look on this beautiful artworks! You can find a lot of churches in Rome with these ornaments, so start to explore!!cosmati-s-maria-trastevere

 

You’re now entering the Sistine Chapel… Mind the masterpiece

You have probably heard a lot about the Sistine Chapel, about Michelangelo and you have seen the most famous fragments of this masterpiece. However, there a several curious facts that you (probably) didn’t know…

When the Pope Julius asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, he refused because he considered himself a sculptor rather than a painter. Michelangelo, who didn’t have any experience with painting the frescoes, has invented a unique system of scaffoldings that allowed him to stand upright and paint the ceiling.

It is thought that in the section named “The Creation of Adam”, the image of the God and angels has the shape of a human brain. With this metaphor Michelangelo probably wanted to represent the bestowal of intellect to the human being.

Since 1492 the Sistine Chapel is hosting the papal conclaves, during which the new pope is elected. The chimney on the top emanates the smoke, which in case of the election of the new pope is white, while the black smoke indicates that nobody of the candidates didn’t receive 2/3 majority.

After seeing the sketches of the Sistine Chapel, one of the Pope’s assistants, Biagio da Cesena, has been criticizing the artwork saying that the paintings are more suitable for a tavern than for a chapel. As revenge, Michelangelo has painted Biagio da Cesena as a devil at the bottom right of the Last Judgement.

Among other characters of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement there is Saint Bartholomew. It is believed that the human skin in Saint Bartholomew’s hand is actually a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself. You would probably like to know also why he portrayed himself like this, right?

To learn in depth all the curiosities of this masterpiece choose the unique opportunity with one of our excellent and passionate guides. It will give you all precious details and behind-the-scenes of Michelangelo’s artwork.

All these facts (and more) can be explored on our Vatican Tour & Sistine Chapel Group Tour and Early Vatican VIP Tour.

Just imagine how many things you could discover by entering there after learning exactly what all these depicted figures are representing. Have a look!

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Rome… how to get there? Rome Airport transport solutions

Planning a vacation can include a research of hotels, tours, sightseeing places, sites not to miss. When we talk about Rome, the research can be overwhelming. There is so many things to visit and to do, that your list can be infinite. Tours of archaeological sites, visits to some of the museums, try some authentic Italian food and feel the Roman atmosphere of  places like Trastevere, Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Navona must be on your list. With all these enjoyable things to think about, you will probably not going to plan your transportation to the city centre; and that is so wrong!

Let us give you some tips about the transport on your first day in Rome. Most of the international flights land to Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport. So here are some suggestions that could be useful.

  • Taxi: the ride from Fiumicino to the city centre costs 48€. Please note that this price is from the airport to the city center (city center within Aurelian walls, see the map). If your hotel is not in the center please check the price with your driver before starting the journey.

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  • Train: you will find several signs that will lead you to the train station inside the airport. There is a direct train, Leonardo Express, that doesn’t stop at any stop before Roma Termini (central station) and the ticket for this ride costs 14€. The duration of the journey is around 25 mins. However, you have another train that stops in almost all the train stations and this might be suitable in case your hotel is in Trastevere, Monteverde, Ostiense, Marconi, or even in the area of Campo de Fiori, Ghetto or the Vatican area. According to the station your are planning to get off, the tickets costs from 8€ to 14€. For example, it will take you 25mins to get to Trastevere and you will pay only 8€. From Trastevere station you have plenty of buses and trams that go in any direction.
  • Bus: You can choose between Terravision and Bus Shuttle. They are all leaving the airport every 35 to 45 mins. The first bus leaving in the morning at 5.30am is the Terravision one.
  • Private driver. In case you prefer to hire a private driver the costs are going from 60€ up. This is usually door-to-door service and if your group is more than 2 people, the cost-per-person will be much lower.

While in Rome do not forget that there are only 2 metro lines, A and B, and they are connecting just some parts of the city. There are numerous bus and tram lines but considering the congested traffic in Rome, the transportation in the city can be very slow.

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Therefore, our suggestion is to keep walking in the city and avoid using the public transport, because every corner is hiding something interesting. The city bridges, alleys, squares and nine hundred churches create the most beautiful open air museum. So, go for a discover!

 

 

Turin: scent of coffee and taste of Giandujotto

It is no surprise that New York Times has chosen Turin as one of the “must-see” travel destinations.

We have always believed Turin had an unveiled charm. As former capital of Italy, Turin is the city where the World’s largest Egyptian Museum outside of Cairo is located and where you can find an extraordinary combination of Roman, Renaissance and the early 20th century architecture. It had always attracted art historians, architects and travellers from all around the world, today more than ever.

After the Olympic Games in 2006 the city of Turin has become much more than just an industrial city like it was once known.

Nowadays, Turin is very well known as the city where the worldwide famous EATALY has been conceived. Especially, the food-lovers should not miss the Salone del Gusto (next in 2018) that every year gains attention from all over the world.

In Turin you can also visit the Cinema Museum located in the Mole Antoneliana. The monumental building, firstly planned to be a synagogue, was completed in 1889, and currently it is famous for being the tallest museum in the world.

Turin Duomo, where the Holy Shroud is treasured, has very interesting history, sometimes veiled by mysterious facts.

Districts as San Salvario, Murazzi, Dora Docks, and Quadrilattero have been restored and became a “must” for those who would like to experience the authentic Turin vibe.

Every corner of the city is hiding a story, a secret from the past or a new spot to be discovered.

One of the landmarks for the football lovers is the new Juventus Stadium, inaugurated in 2011 and it is the first stadium in Italy owned by a football club. Here you can find the Juventus Museums where you can discover the long history of this football club.

You should climb on Superga Hill where you will have a breathtaking view of this beautiful city and of the Alps in the background.

Come to Turin and discover unique atmosphere where the air has the scent of Lavazza coffee e do not miss the famous Bicerin and taste the deliciousness of Giandujotto.

When in Italy… have a cup of coffee

It will probably happen that while on holidays in Italy and in between a stroll in the Roman Forum or a visit to the Sistine Chapel you would like to enjoy a little bit more of Italian culture. You will more likely find a nice Italian bar and order a cappuccino. It that happens in the morning, that will be perfectly normal. However, if you sit down at 5pm and you order a cappuccino, the barman will immediately know that you’re not a local. In Italy to order a cappuccino after 11.30am is quite a heresy.

That’s why is would be useful to read this short and comprehensive guide of how to “have a coffee” in Italy.

First of all, if you order a “coffee” in Italy you will be served a small cup of espresso that you are usually supposed to drink at the counter. This is the “only” coffee you will get.

However, there are many other alternatives that in the land of most famous coffee producers you can find.

So please follow with attention, so you don’t end up ordering a “frappucino with cinnamon and cream”.

Cappuccino is a “morning/breakfast” drink. It’s a coffee in a large cup with hot foamed milk. There are variations of cappuccino that you can ask for and mostly they are: with cocoa on top, not too hot (ital. tiepido) and light cappuccino (which means with just a little bit of coffee).

Caffè-latte is also a breakfast drink and it is usually served in a glass. It is, exactly, a full glass of milk with the foam on top and a cup of espresso in it.

Marocchino is something that you can have any time of the day and it will be served in a cup little bit bigger than an espresso. It is composed of espresso, a sprinkle of cocoa, a spoonful of frothed milk and cocoa on top. The original recipe includes liquid chocolate spread on the inside of the cup.

marocchino

 Latte macchiato is mostly milk with just a “drop” of a coffee and it is lighter in terms of quantity of coffee than caffè- latte. It is usually served in a big glass.

And finally his Majesty, Espresso, that you can order at any time of the day. It can be ristretto – shortor even macchiato, with a drop of cold or hot milk.

You also have the choice of caffè americano, caffè decaf, espresso ristretto (short), espresso corretto (coffee with a drop of liquor in it)

Coffee time in Italian culture can be any time of the day and it is a moment that you share with friends, colleagues or it can be an excuse to invite somebody you like out. Prendere un caffè is, in general, a very easy way to take a break from work or meet someone without too much commitment. There are many ways in which coffee is tangled with Italian culture and traditions, so much that there is a whole “philosophy” of “having a coffee” in Italy. In some parts of Italy you will be served coffee with a glass of water, while in other parts (especially in Naples) they say you shouldn’t have any water after you had the cup of coffee. That’s because you should keep the delicious coffee taste in your mouth.

The “coffee culture” in Italy explains why some Italian brands became so famous all around the world. The first espresso machine was actually invented in Turin in 1884. Shortly after that Lavazza brand was created in Turin in 1895. In 1933, the same year when the first moka pot was invented, Illy caffè brand was born.

Probably the origin of this big cultural imprint that the coffee has on the Italian culture is also the historical fact that the first coffeehouse to open in Europe was in Venice in 1654.

However, in Italy there are many historical places where you still can learn a lot about the local culture and where you can discover some more variations of coffee.

While In Turin and touring the Piazza Castello and Egyptian Museums you should not miss a caffe at Bicerin or while strolling down between Piazza Castello you should stop in Piazza San Carlo and have a delicious marocchino at the bar San Carlo.

Caffè San Carlo, Turin

 In Venice, after your tour at the St Marco’s Basilica or the visit to the Dodge’s Palace you should have a seat in Florian’s Caffe located right on the Piazza San Marco. Here you will have the feeling of being transported in another era. This caffè bar was there side 1720 and you can see the pictures of some famous people who used to hang out here.

A little bit more recent, but shrouded by almost the same historical/misterious veil is caffè Camparino just right next to the Duomo in Milan.   After you finish visiting Leonardo’s Last Supper you should have a seat in Jamaica Bar. This café is a meeting point of all the famous artists, artisans, students of the nearby Academy and famous journalists. You will feel a mix of modern and bohemian atmosphere and this will be a cherry on top after you visit this beautiful part of Milan called Brera. While in Rome you should pay a visit to the Antico Caffè Greco, just few meters from the Spanish Steps. Together with a delicious coffee you will have a chance to visit one of the most beautiful private art collections inside this historical bar. The price you will pay for coffee, by tacit agreement, will include also the visit to the art collection.

Antico Caffè Greco, Rome

A little bit more affordable is Caffè Sant’Eustachio, near the Pathneon, where just after to cross the doorstep you will smell the scent of coffee beans from all over the world. In Naples, coffee is has deeper roots than anywhere else in Italy. It’s not by chance that there is a caffè called caffè napoletano and it’s made in a particular pot that you  can still find in some shops in Naples. Therefore, while visit the Piazza del Plebiscito, you must stop at the Gran Caffè Gambrinus. The bar was founded after the union of all Italian regions, but during the Belle Epoque it gains a wider attention of the people of Naples and European aristocratic and artistic personalities.

Gran Caffè Gambrinus, Naples

Whether you are an art lover or passionate about the local culture and traditions or even a foodie, just choose your coffee bar carefully, because otherwise you will miss much more than a good cup od coffee.

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