Month: September 2013

The City is Alive at Night: The Processione di Santa Maria. Tuscania, Italy.

My phone is ringing on a Sunday night as I sit in a small neighborhood restaurant amongst chatty locals and happy families. I’m smiling to myself, reminiscing about the the past weekend’s events at Lago Bolsena and Viterbo. “Who would be calling me at this hour?” I wonder. It is my good friend Rifeldo, and there’s an urgent tone to his voice. “Tony! Where are you? What are you doing?” His thick Italian accent coming across in a loud, nervous voice. “I’m at Pucinellas, eating dinner. Why? What’s up?” I ask. Last night Rifeldo had told me about the Processione di Santa Maria. It is a lively ceremony that Tuscania holds every year in honor of Saint Mary. He said that it was something I should be sure not to miss, as it brings out most of the citizens in this tranquil community, and that I was lucky to be in town to see it. He also said that it was going to be on Thursday night. “Tony, I’m sorry! The Processione di Santa Maria …

Tuscan Tradition: The historic Ricci wine cellars of Montepulciano

Tuscany. The word immediately brings to mind cliche’ visions of rolling hillsides, vineyards and sublime sunsets, all in a classic, rustic Italian setting. So, when I heard  visited the region, I was truly eager to see these things for myself, if not a bit sceptical of its lofty reputation. Italy is packed with beautiful locales and incredible cuisine, so what it is about Tuscany that is so special? My first destination was the town of Montepulciano. Situated high on the steep hills overlooking the Chiana Valley, the town’s streets wind and climb up the terrain, converging at the town’s summit; Piazza Grande. This is where I met Marco, my guide for a tour through the historic Ricci family wine cellars. As we walked down Via Ricci to the glamorous Palazzo Ricci, it didn’t take me long to figure out that the Ricci family carried a pretty big stick around these parts, and probably have for quite some time. It turns out they settled here about 700 years ago, and the name is still met with warm regards from the …

Beautiful and Dangerous: The Macchina di Santa Rosa Festival in Viterbo Italy.

Beautiful and Dangerous The city is crackling with anticipation and excitement. An air of tension, and a mounting sense of celebration, fills the alleys, corridors and piazzas where thousands of people begin to amass. This is Viterbo’s tribute to Santa Rosa, their patron saint. This annual event is celebrated by the transportation of the Macchina by the Facchini through the city’s medieval streets. Don’t worry, I’ll explain in a minute. Combining religious and civil tradition with pure jubilation, it is a dramatic sight that brings together the beautiful and the dangerous – and all that comes with both. The 23 km drive from Tuscania to Viterbo took us past wheat fields and hills of craggy, upturned soil in the farmland of northern Lazio. We arrived in the early afternoon, hours before the big show was to officially kick-off, but Viterbo was already buzzing with energy. Matteo took us around the ancient area of his hometown, showing us his part of the world that he knows so well. Santa Rosa was a poor, reclusive figure during …

Death and Glory: Rome and “The Coliseum”

Zeus was the only one who could have awoken me from the continent-hopping, beer swilling, urban trekking, adrenaline-crash induced coma that I fell into on my first night in Italy. Luckily for me he was on the job today, covering Rome with charcoal colored clouds, pounding rain and booming thunder claps that rattled my hotel room windows and my molars. Welcome to Rome punk! Matteo, the girls and I caught the metro bus to the the Wedding Cake stop, and then followed Via dei Fori Imperiali to the Coliseum. Italy is typically a humid location, especially in the summer, and especially after a five hour storm. The sun begins to slip through as the dark skies break up. I am really regretting bringing this leather jacket now. The jagged crown of the Coliseum looms in the distance as we gain ground on this superstar of European locations. Arguably the most identifiable symbol of Italy, this place is breathtaking, and has a proud, bloody, dramatic and checkered past, not unlike it’s homeland. The modern name itself …

Old Friend: Arrival in Italy

One day you’re here, the next day you’re not. I woke up in Denver this morning, and tonight I’m laying my head down in Rome. There was a lost day in there somewhere between my overnight, 12 hour flight and an eight hour time zone warp. But, it feels like it has been just one long, amazing, 40 hour day. My guide Matteo met me at the Fiumicino airport and we drove into the heart of the former Roman empire. The traffic in this global metropolitan hotspot can really only be described as wild. Vespas, Fiats and industrial trucks unapologetically straddle lane markers and weave around each other in a frantic scurry that actually obtains a level of semi-controlled mayhem. The relaxed aura that lingers over Italian culture is in direct contrast to the battlezone mentality that is driving in this country. The guy on that Ducati knows our van is exactly three feet behind him as we fly down the crowded street. After unloading the luggage at Hotel Ripa, we deal with the first …