Sunday, January 26, 2020

Rome offers Surprises: You just have to search

Basilica di Santa Prassede, Rome
a photo review of a glittering interior

Via di Santa Prassede, 9

I spend my weeks Home to Italy, walking the side streets, neighborhoods, cemeteries and markets
I discover in each part of the city I explore.   Often a small, plain entrance can offer an amazing surprise and on this day I was not disappointed.

Walking away from the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore on Via Merulana take the short parallel street Via di Santa. The side entrance (photo above) is easy to miss.  

Since many Italian churches welcome visitors during the hours they are open I followed a few locals  and visitors inside expecting the usual rows of seats and dark alcoves along the sides.

Greeted by the gleam of thousands of mosaic pieces you crane your neck to try to see everything.
There is no tour guide at the entrance but you can purchase on the honor system, a brief brochure within the church.

Ceiling of the Saint Zeno chapel

The Interior reminded me of the mosaic work in Santa Maria Trastevere, Rome.  Impossible to estimate the number of tiles used even in one picture but in an entire ceiling it may be many thousands.  The stunning pictorials and patterns instead of frescoes or oil paintings is a startling change from the other churches in the city.

Sadly I arrived shortly before the church closed for lunch!   
On my next trip to Rome I shall return with more of the church history and information on each of the stunning mosaic scenes.   You may find that the art is captivating, the clarity of the figures change as you walk closer.  

For more details see the following from Wikipedia:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Pugatory: a small museum to the Souls in Purgatory

Burned images, one of the exhibits of contact with souls in purgatory

Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory

   A new addition to on my list of experiences that tourists may never visit

Located in the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio a small Roman church just past the Castel Sant' Angelo is a one room 'museum' to the Souls in Purgatory.

A small mention in Where Traveler magazine peaked my interest to visit this museum that is off the beaten path 
in Rome.

Visiting a museum devoted to physical evidence of possible contact with the souls who 'await entry into heaven, offered a

glimpse into the world beyond the end of this life and a little of the supernatural.
Exterior church photo from Wikipedia
You may walk past Chiesa del Sacro Curore del Suffagio if you are not looking carefully.    Standing across the street you can appreciate the lovely exterior.

The interior is small and during my visit, very quiet and not well lit.     The room housing the artifacts is off the right aisle and towards the alter.   Although there was an employee at a desk in this area, no information was offered.  Details for this post is attributed to online sources.

The 'museum' is a small, narrow room with photos or original examples of contact with souls in purgatory.  The
burn mark photos online are clearer without the glare from a flash.

burn finger prints      
"Let us pray for the souls in purgatory", a remembered part of general prayers during mass.  Prayers from those still on earth are designed to hasten the assent to heaven for souls atoning for sins.  "Apparently purgatory is not mentioned in the bible although All Soul's day is celebrated each year on November 2nd."  Dating from the 11th century, the concept of a holding area for souls prior to going to heaven, was perhaps an encouragement to live a good life so you would go directly to heaven.  

Photo credit: Margaret Galitzin     


The tangible exhibits of 'messages from beyond the grave' allows your imagination to explore the possibility of the life beyond.....
Who started the collection:                 
French priest Fr. Victor Jouet is credited with his mission to find physical proof of the existence of purgatory and to establish this 'purgatorial museum' in 1917.  more information.                                                
The small number of exhibits are an assortment of 'burned' prayer books, a table top, clothing and other items that might substantiate the belief that souls are attempting to contact loved ones. click

There is a detailed description of 10 exhibits in an article titled Holy Souls, no author listed.  Find photos and descriptions here.

Several of the more striking descriptions are 7a (photo at top of this page) ascribed to be the hand print of the deceased Fr Panzini left on November 1, 1731 on the table used by Mother Isabella Fornari, abbess of the Poor Clares of the Monastery of St. Francis in Todi.
Exhibit 9 claims to be the finger  prints of Joseph Schitz (deceased) after touching the prayer book of his brother George on December 21, 1838.  

Purgatory may be a mystery of faith.   Where is it located?  How long must we remain there?
Or is this purgatory and we are judged on how we live our lives?

Museum is free but donations are welcome.  

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Venice: roof top views

Exploring Italian cities, villages and fortified towns    

Walking the lanes and streets of charming Italian villages or the larger avenues of major Italian cities, I can experience Italian lifestyle from ground level.  To appreciate the scope of the city and the surrounding countryside you must climb.    

While Italian towns usually have a major church, some include a bell tower, other towns may have the remains of a fortress with surviving watch towers that offer a panoramic view from above the roof tops.   

Ground views of a city are charming.
Climbing a tower can afford a 360 degree view that is often obscured when exploring from ground level where the streets may wind around natural contours.

Tourists may recognize the leaning tower in Pisa, Giotto's tower in Florence, the roof of Saint Peters' in Rome, Milan's cathedral roof top and St Mark's Campanile in Venice. 

Lines form early to visit the Campanile in St. Marks square

To avoid the line to enter the Venice Campanile, there are other options that are open to the public and offer a 'view'.

View of the Grand Canal you don't see from the water
A View of the Grand Canal for Free:
The roof top view overlooking the grand canal from the top of the former post office near the Rialto bridge,  Fondaco Dei Tedeschi, (DFS) is one option.  Centrally located and free (as of my visit in 2018) you reach the roof via an elevator!

View from a vaporetto on the Grand Canal  
I must have passed this multi storied building many times without realizing it had been transformed into a unique shopping experience.

On-line historic data dates the building from 1228 and rebuilt in the 1500's after a fire.   The four story building surrounds an inner courtyard, which now has a glass ceiling.  An original fireplace and a well can be found on the first floor.  

Striking interior with open view of all 4 floors

The DFS store brochure and added more details on the buildings' past.  Over the centuries the building was a palace, warehouse and later a market.   The ground floor water access would have given the building easy access to the merchants who traded here.  Higher floors were apartments for merchant families..
Later the building was used as a post office.

The four story building surrounds an inner courtyard which now has a glass ceiling.  Be sure to look UP!

The store is filled with wonderful high end fashion items, cosmetics and gift ideas.   Enticing displays along the wide corridors on each floor only suggest what additional items are found in the rooms  of designer fashions beyond.    Black suited sales staff are close by to assist all shoppers.  

All of the sales staff I met spoke English and were helpful and attentive even if you do not make a purchase.    You must ask for an English version of the free brochure, available at the information desk.  

The large, open space on the first floor originally was a courtyard with access to the canal via the large arched doorways.

Today the first floor offers a restaurant with table service as well as the amazing view up to the top floor.     There is a small coffee/cake location on one side of the atrium.  Tables surrounding the restaurant are filled with unique and colorful gift items or souvenirs. 

But I was here to visit the roof top deck.  
The elevators at the back of the store take you up to the 4th floor. 
Visits to the terrace are free but are limited to 15 minutes.   The number of visitors for each time slot are controlled and guests must reserve a time online or at the computer stations on the 4th floor.  Bring your confirmation with you on your phone or a printed copy.

You wait for your assigned time to visit the roof here in the events space.

There was a large group waiting in the events area prior to being allowed on the terrace.  The line moved quickly to climb up to the terrace.   After a few minutes there were breaks in the crowd taking selfies, so others could finally enjoy the novel view.  

There is a 360 view of the roof tops in the city and with the use of a telephoto lens or later photo enlarging, you can see details of many of the other buildings in the city.


If your trip does not allow enough time to book a terrace visit, there are some hotels, palaces and museums that can also offer great views as well as a peek into what life was like hundreds of years ago.   Let me know what your favorites are.

Although there are many towers listed for Venice, not all of them allow visitors.  Check online to be sure they currently 
allow visitors and what the entrance fee may be:

Scala del Bovolo, stairway to heaven, is off Campo Manin.    Winding your way to the top of the building exposes more and more of the city until you have a view of rooftops and churches as well as St. Mark's Campanile.   This is an easy climb, one of my favorite experiences.

My view from the top

The tower of San Giorgio Maggiore offers a view towards San Marco and the waterfront of Venice.  You will find fewer tourists on this island and an excellent way to avoid the line at San Marco.
This is an active bell tower, you may wish to time your climb accordingly.   
The view from near St. Marks, across to the church

The island of Torcellohas a tower in the small central square.  
Reid's Italy* has a good description of this tiny island.  Always check online for current times the tower may be open.

Major bridges crossing the Grand Canal can offer a view without the climb.   The top of the Accademia bridge and the Rialto bridge are popular photo stops,  but often the crowds do not let you linger very long.  The newer (2008) Ponte della Constituzione or Ponte di Calatrava a Venezia linking Piazza Roma and the Ponte degli Scalze in front of the train station.  The latter is the first opportunity for tourists to experience the sweeping view of the canal after arriving by train.

So much to see. Only a few days in Venice is never enough time.

Most data is found on Wikipedia and not guaranteed by this site, be sure to check times and prices for any site mentioned here.

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