Many visitors to Italy come, at least in part, to savour its myriad religious splendours, from the breathtaking wonders of the Vatican Museums to the delightful and beguiling churches to be found in so many villages and towns up and down the country.
As you explore the tight and twisting lanes of southern Italy’s delightful villages and towns with ItalyIndeed, one of the things you’ll notice is the number of Ape vehicles.
One of our most remarkable sites is the abbey of Monte Cassino (or Montecassino), renowned as the place where St Benedict established his now world-famous order in around 529AD. What many visitors do not realize is that the abbey was subject to almost total destruction during the Battle of Monte Cassino, which raged during the first months of 1944. Due to intelligence reports and its’ strategic location, the Allies believed the abbey to be occupied by German troops. Commander-in-Chief Allied Armies in Italy, Sir Harold Alexander, ordered the bombing of the abbey. With terrible effectiveness, Allied bombers reduced the abbey to rubble. In the end it turned out that the intelligence reports had been mistaken, there were no Germans within the abbey and the only people killed were 230 Italian civilians who had taken shelter to escape the fighting elsewhere.
At ItalyIndeed we are justly proud and privileged to share the rich history of our region with our guests. It is a history that stretches back to the grandeur of the Roman Empire and beyond, to pre-Roman peoples and into the mists of prehistory. Just as fascinating as the splendours of Ancient Rome is the turbulent recent story of our nation from the eighteenth century to today. One of the most spectacular monuments of this era is the Royal Palace of Caserta, one of the many spellbinding attractions of our Culture, History and Archaeology and City and Site excursions tours. Built for the Bourbon kings of Naples, in 1997 UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site, describing it as ‘the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque’.
At ItalyIndeed we pride ourselves on promoting local artistic and cultural events such as this weekend’s conference on Juana Romani, to be held at the Académie Vitti Museum in Atina. Born Carolina Carlesimo in 1867 in the town of Velletri to Giacinto Carlesimo of Casalvieri and Mariangela Tullio of Gallinaro, she would rise to the élite of Parisian artistic circles. Her journey started when her mother began an affair with Temistocle Romani, a prominent local land-owner. Discovering the affair, Carolina’s father burnt down one of Romani’s stables before being found dead in mysterious circumstances. With her mother and Romani, Carolina settled in Paris’ Latin Quarter in 1877. In time she began to frequent various artistic and intellectual circles, and when the family became impoverished, she started modelling. Starting at Académie Colarossi, (founded by Filippo Colarossi of Picinisco, one of the few studios that admitted female students), she posed for noted artists of the day, like Alexandre Falguière and Jean-Jacques Henner.
At ItalyIndeed one of our aims is to share the fascinating history of our region through our Culture, History and Archaeology Tours. With ItalyIndeed you can stand in the shoreline grotto in Sperlonga where the Emperor Tiberius once lavishly entertained his guests and then enjoy yourself – rather more humbly – a friendly, rustic dining experience in the very house where D.H.Lawrence wrote ‘The Lost Girl’. Our land is wreathed in countless tales that reach out to us today through remnant and ruin, monument and memory. One such story is that of Wojtek, whose name means ‘one who enjoys war’ or ‘joyful warrior’. Wojtek was a Syrian Brown Bear born in Iran in 1942 and left alone to die after his mother was shot by hunters. Wojtek was saved however when he was adopted by soldiers of the Polish II Corps.
At ItalyIndeed one of our aims is to promote the work and legacies of those people from our region of whom we are justly proud. When Italian cinema is mentioned, who springs to mind? Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Federico Fellini? All great names that as Italians make us all proud, (and Mastroianni of course was from our region and features in one of our earlier blog posts), but what about Vittorio de Sica? While Mastroianni smouldered in front of the cameras, de Sica was a master behind them. Indeed, it was under his guiding hand that Sophia Loren produced the performance in ‘La Ciociara’ that saw her become the first foreign language actor to win an Academy Award. De Sica himself, born in the town of Sora, (also the birthplace of Cicero and among our many Culture, History and Archaeology destinations), was a winner of four Academy Awards.
After a brilliant but exhausting 3 weeks, ItalyIndeed is back on track and ready to move forward! We had an amazing trip to western Sicily, where we met lovely guests and passionate service providers, where we ate delicious food and visited wonderful sites. It was a great 10 day trip which boosted our confidence in doing the job we chose to invest and believe in, as well as providing us with further experience to keep developing our skills in the tourism industry. It was so brilliant that we are seriously considering including Sicily among our itineraries, although remaining faithful to the objective of promoting mainly our own homeland and offering only tours with people and in places we have personally vetted.
Casa Italiana Nazareth College (Rochester, NY) is an association of Italian-Americans who want to keep a close relationship with their country of origin. To do so, they arrange cultural courses focusing on gastronomy, cinema, language, literature and other aspects of their cultural heritage. Among the many events and experiences they organize, there is an annual trip to Italy. This year, they chose to visit western Sicily and selected ItalyIndeed to organize the tour. After a moment of pride and happiness, we got down to work to make sure they would have an amazing experience and that they would get to see, taste and enjoy as much as possible.
Sotto Le Stelle is one of the partners ItalyIndeed is most proud to have. There are a number of reasons that make us very happy to collaborate with them. First of all it is a so-called Albergo Diffuso, a relatively new concept of accommodation characterized by the fact that the rooms are distributed throughout an historical centre. Here, buildings are restored to accommodate every modern comfort while at the same time retaining their authentic charm, so that guests find themselves in the heart of a welcoming community. Like various other innovative interpretations of hospitality, it began in Italy in the early ‘80s as a means to recover old towns and villages which were falling apart due to emigration towards the larger cities and faraway countries. Mr Cesidio Di Ciacca, a descendant of an Italian emigrant to Scotland, had the courage to purchase part of the old centre of Picinisco, his family’s village of origin, in order to turn it into 6 beautifully furnished, stylish suites.
Just to make things clear: at ItalyIndeed we plead guilty to being obsessed with high quality food and sustainable farming! Surely you can forgive us for that, especially considering that we are Italian and that in perfect traditional fashion we were raised by grandparents and parents who inherited from their ancestors a vegetable garden, a small flock of courtyard animals and a number of recipes. It is one of the fundamental links to our culture and probably the most fulfilling one as it involves a number of senses: the sight of naturally colourful vegetables, the sounds and smells of a kitchen at work for several hours a day, the cheerful exertion of kneading and rolling pasta dough and, last but not least, that overwhelming taste of amazing food. It is a passion we love to share with anyone looking for authentic products which are the fruits of a respectful relationship with our planet and its species.
Our people, as well as our landscapes, history and cultural heritage, are what ItalyIndeed is dedicated to introducing to you. There are chefs, historical and archaeological guides, farmers, shepherds, stone carvers, balloon makers, relic enthusiasts, teachers, wine and beer makers, poets and experts in many other fields who are all passionate about our homeland and would be happy to welcome you to their museums, farms, restaurants and so on. Among them, we are particularly happy to list Aedo Studio, a group of young people who through theatre are rediscovering and sharing our history and culture since medieval time.
Here at ItalyIndeed, we aim at fulfilling the visitors’ interests and requirements but also at remaining loyal to our purposes, namely those of enabling tourists and travellers to enjoy the best Italy has to offer in terms of sites and products. Hence, we do not feature visits to buildings which have been designed with the sole purpose of satisfying somebody’s greed nor to food producers we know, thanks to our deep knowledge of the area, have a disrespectful treatment of our territory, history and traditions. For this reason, Castelpetroso is one of the few sanctuaries that we proudly feature in our itineraries.
At ItalyIndeed, we believe travelling is not just about seeing new places and venturing into new scenarios. Travelling, for us, is also about discovering cultures and lifestyles as well as landscapes, tastes and sounds. Therefore, we have designed a tour for those who, as well as being interested in visiting off the beaten track sites, would also like to delve deeper into the Italian culture and language. Cinema is a fantastic lens through which to look at the history of our lifestyle, fashion, mores and values. Marcello Mastroianni, with his melancholic look and natural ability to portray almost any type of character, is the actor that probably best represents the Italian archetype in the mid-twentieth century. With ItalyIndeed’s Italian Language and Cinema classes, you can learn about the lives and artistic values of Mastroianni and other great actors and directors, and explore their legacy.
ItalyIndeed is committed to the promotion of associations and events which improve the knowledge and understanding of Italian emigration and which focus on the great legacy that Italians abroad have left through the centuries. A particularly splendid example of this heritage is beautifully embodied by the Académie Vitti. This artistic studio, or Atélier, was founded in Paris in 1889 at 49 Boulevard du Montparnasse by Cesare Vitti, his wife Maria Caira and her sisters Anna and Giacinta. It played a crucial role in gathering artists, students of art and models, many of whom were themselves emigrants from our villages. With ItalyIndeed’s Culture, History and Archeology tours you can visit the Académie Vitti Museum in Atina (Valle di Comino), which through sketches, paintings, photos and memorabilia offers a gorgeous portrait of the contribution that the Vitti and Caira families made to the visual arts and the emancipation of women in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The valleys, villages and mountains visited by ItalyIndeed’s Culture, History and Archaeology tours have been the setting for a number of significant battles and struggles across history. From the first Roman expansion at the expense of the former Italic tribes up until the Second World War, the area described by Rome, Naples, the Apennines and the Tyrrhenian Sea has witnessed many crucial confrontations unravel. One of the partners ItalyIndeed is most proud to be associated with is the Winterline Museum in Venafro. It has been painstakingly created by Luciano Bucci, a local resident who has for almost three decades been scouring the mountains where some of the most bloody battles between the Germans and the Allies during World War II took place. Luciano is not only a good friend, but also a tireless and passionate researcher, who was been able to find and collect incredible amounts of memorabilia along the so called Winterline.
At ItalyIndeed, we are particularly proud of being able to offer hands-on cooking lessons to visitors wishing to improve their cooking skills and learn how to combine simple ingredients to make fantastic and healthy dishes. One of ItalyIndeed’s main partners is Cerere, a former cooperative and now family run company established in 1987 to promote organic agriculture and the sustainable consumption of local products. After the Chernobyl disaster, a group of friends (an agronomist, a teacher, a beekeeper, a butcher and some farmers) got together to create what was then a cooperative in order to raise awareness and understanding of this environmentally friendly farming method. They chose the name Cerere, the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility, in the hope that nature would be able to recover from the effects of the deadly pollution that resulted from the nuclear disaster.
The second personality to feature in ItalyIndeed’s Famous Descendants series is Ennio Morricone, probably the best known Italian composer since the classical era. His soundtracks have led us through the fantastic journeys in time, space and emotion we undertook while watching films like Cinema Paradiso, The Mission or the Dollars trilogy, to name but a few. The maestro was born in 1928 after his parents, Mario and Libera, moved from Arpino – a small town in the province of Frosinone – to Rome. Morricone was given the honorary citizenship in Arpino in 1989 and in the town they have always been immensely proud of their very special citizen, even more so today now that he has received an Academy Award for Best Original Score, for Quentin Tarantino’s film, The Hateful Eight. Arpino is one of the towns ItalyIndeed is especially pleased to feature among its itineraries because of the loveliness of its narrow lanes and its Civita Vecchia (ancient city).
Venafro has always been a very special place with its thousands of years of history and its favourable geographical position, halfway between Rome and Naples. ItalyIndeed will guide your discovery of this town where the Samnites chose to settle because of its multiple water sources and which the Romans conquered in the 4th century BC, due to its strategic military position. According to the Roman historian Plinius, Venafro was what today we would call a spa, while the poet Horace praised the beauty of its natural environment and the quality of the olive oil that has always been made here and which you will be able to savour thanks to ItalyIndeed guided tastings.
When we think about the ancient Romans, we think about wars and conquests, emperors, gladiators and slaves, art and architecture. We are sometimes reminded of their laws, their techniques ahead of their times or, as the Monty Python put it, of ‘what they did for us’. What we rarely think of is what their life was actually like, for example what they ate or if they went on holiday the way we do. Well, with ItalyIndeed you can visit Sperlonga, one of the prettiest towns on the Tyrrhenian coast, about half way between Rome and Naples.
First in a series of articles about famous people around the world who can trace their origins to our region! Very few people know about Robert De Niro’s real Italian origins. Although it is very well known that his family emigrated from southern Italy to the US towards the end of 19th century in search of a better life, most people ignore that his great-grandparents came from a tiny and beautiful village in Molise.
Molise is both the youngest and one of the wildest regions of Italy. Its boundaries were first laid down in 1963 and being slightly outside of mainstream Italian affairs, its landscapes and traditions are literally untouched. Hence, Molise is one of the few places in Italy where tourists can still experience a genuine, sincere and authentic sense of ‘Italianness’. With ItalyIndeed, you can discover this authenticity together with the variety of scenery and Molise's unique history, which make it a region unlike any other.
At ItalyIndeed, we firmly believe that who we are is also where we come from. Engraved into our traditions, customs and lifestyles are the stories of the people that made our homeland into what it is today. They did it by remaining here and struggling during the hard times, or by going away, sometimes very far away, in search of a better life. There are stories of people who, thanks to their hard work abroad, managed to buy land to feed their hungry children. There are also the stories of those who took their families with them, settling in distant and different communities, making Italy the country in the western world with the largest community of nationals and their descendants living abroad.
The story of Gemar, a family-run balloon manufacturing enterprise in a small village in central Italy, is an old one which features hard work, emigration and bravery and which ItalyIndeed will enable you to explore. It starts in the early 1890s with a young boy, Angelo, hand-making and selling balloons on the streets of Marseille. This was a boy who understood the potential of a simple yet fantastic object and who later became a precocious entrepreneur.
Marinelli Bell Foundry is in Agnone, Molise, one of the small towns you will visit on ItalyIndeed's tours. Come with us and learn about their fascinating and troubled history, which across the centuries has survived kings and invaders, wars and fires! Their resilience is an example of Italian strength, passion and endurance which we and they would be proud to share with you.