Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Tale of Two Women



At the moment I am slowly exploring the Po Valley area around Mantua.

Recently I visited a newly restored castle in an out of the way place called San Giovanni in Croce. In this small village stands a recently restored castle, Villa Medici del Vascello. Google Maps Steet View still show it as a ruin and seeing it in its restored state is quite exhilarating.
Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce
Like many castles it started out as a military installation but with time became a stately home. It was a lady called Cecilia Gallerani a mistress of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, who turned the castle into a stately home after retiring to this village after the death of her husband. 
Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce
A woman of great charm and refined intelligence, she animated a small Renaissance court, hosting and entertaining artists and writers of the Lombard Renaissance. She is famous for featuring in a famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, The Lady with an Ermine.

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce
The period of maximum splendor was in the nineteenth century, when Giuseppe Soresina-Vidoni, a prince of the Austrian Empire, laid out the large park that develops to the rear of the Villa for an area of 12 hectares. It is an English garden, which was in fashion at the time, where we find a panoramic lake with sinuous shapes and various buildings in different styles. 
Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce

Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce
Another lady was responsible for its decay into a ruin. The last noble owner was a widow called Marchese Maria Carolina Vidoni Soranzo in Medici del Vascello[ who was a fervent supporter of Fascism and lover of the Fascist leader Roberto Farinacci. Despite being popular with the inhabitants of the village and by all accounts quite harmless, she was assassinated by the Partisans in 1945. The Villa then passed hands steadily falling into ruin.
Villa Medici del Vascello,San Giovanni in Croce
The Commune who acquired the palace in 2005 have done a good job with the restauration.

On the way back, I stopped off at another castle that was closing. They let me take a couple of shots from the garden. A place that I have added to my list of places to visit. 
Castello Mina Della Scala, Cremona


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Lazy Cows and Steel Horses in the Valle d'Aosta


We have just got back from a short holiday in the already familiar Valle d’Aosta. But it is nice to see the same places in different light, and there are lots of new places still to discover in this region of Italy.

Lago di Place Moulin is a place we visited on our first visit, but it was still spectacular a second time around with that incredible emerald water.
Lago Place di Moulin, AO

Lago Place di Moulin,AO

Lago Place di Moulin,AO
I took what the guide book said was a gentle assent up to the hut of the Guardia Caccia Reale, where one of the last kings of Italy loved to go hunting, with catastrophic effects on the local wildlife. The Gran Paradiso Park is now a protected national park. The gentle assent turned out to be a strenuous 500-meter climb up the side of a mountain. It was well worth the effort for the magnificent views. 
Casotto del Guardiaparco, Valsavarenche,AO

Casotto del Guardiaparco,AO

Casotto del Guardiaparco,AO

Casotto del Guardiaparco,AO

Casotto del Guardiaparco,AO
I had already seen the easily accessed lower water falls at Lillaz near Cogne, so I decided to climb up the to the upper falls. It was well worth it as they are far more spectacular than the fist set. To get a nice photograph you have to do a bit of rock climbing to get to the pool beneath the falls.
Lillaz;AO

Lillaz;AO

Lillaz,AO
Lillaz,AO
Valnontey also near Cogne is a favourite walk which is also popular with the other members of my family because there are no steep slopes to climb. 
Cogne,AO

Valnontey,AO

Valnontey,AO

Valnontey,AO
I had glimpsed the little castle on top of a rock outcrop at Oyace as we were going to Place di Moulin. It turned out to be well worth the longer than expected climb up to it, with some spectacular views, especially of the gorge that is hidden from the road. 
Oyace,AO

Oyace,AO

Oyace,AO

Oyace,AO

Oyace,AO

Oyace,AO
Our visit to the Piccolo San Bernardo pass was rewarded with an encounter along the footpath with a huge Saint Bernard dog. A walk around the lake below the pass led to an encounter with some rather lazy cows who were sitting down to eat. 


Passo Piccolo San Bernardo,AO

Passo Piccolo San Bernardo,AO

Passo Piccolo San Bernardo,AO

Passo Piccolo San Bernardo


Lago Verne,AO

Lago Verne,AO
The distinctive castle at Aymavilles has been closed for several years. The region decided to open the castle to the public briefly for a few days. I was lucky to find a ticket to enter as there was an incredible demand.


Castello di Aymavilles,AO

Castello di Aymavilles,AO
The frescoes are as curious as the architecture of this medieval fort that was later filled with a Baroque infill.

Catello di Aymavilles,AO

Castello di Aymavilles,AO

Castello di Aymavilles,AO

Castello di Aymavilles,AO

Castello di Aymavilles,AO

Castello di Aymavilles,AO

Castello di Aymavilles,AO

Castello di Aymavilles,AO

Castello di Aymavilles,AO
The Val Ferret is one of my favourite valleys in the Valle d’Aosta, as you are right under the Monte Bianco chain. The power of nature was very evident this year. A huge landslide triggered by a violent thunder storm had caused fatalities a few days before and they were still clearing away the debris. Further up a winter avalanche had flattened a large area of pine forest.  A reminder that for all their beauty, the mountains can be lethal without much warning.

Val Ferret,AO

Val Ferret,AO

Val Ferret,AO

Val Ferret,AO

Val Ferret,AO

Val Ferret,AO

Val Ferret,AO

Val Ferret,AO

Val Ferret,AO

Val Ferret,AO
I could not resist a lovely walk in Val di Rhemes from the end of the road, up the valley towards the Benevolo refuge. I have done this footpath several times, but I never tire of it.  

Val di Rhemes,AO

Val di Rhemes,AO

Val di Rhemes AO

Val di Rhemes,AO

Val di Rhemes, AO

Val di Rhemes,AO

Val di Rhemes,AO

Val di Rhemes,AO
Gressan is a quiet little village just outside of Aosta that very few visitors to the region ever visit. It is surrounded by vineyards and apple orchards. But it has a rather curious church with the leaning bell tower propped up with a flying buttress. I was lucky enough to find it open and was able to see the fourteenth century frescos.

S. Maria Maddalena,Gressan,AO

S. Maria Maddalena,Gressan,AO

S. Maria Maddalena,Gressan,AO

S. Maria Maddalena,Gressan,AO

S. Maria Maddalena,Gressan,AO

S. Maria Maddalena,Gressan,AO

Jovencan,AO
Jovencan,AO

Another place we like to revisit is the San Bernardo Pass. The twisty road is fun to drive the Alfa up in sport mode, but one always encounters some slowcoaches who spoil the fun.

The views of the surrounding mountains are wonderful.  
Passo San Bernardo,AO

Passo San Bernardo,AO

Passo San Bernardo,AO

Passo San Bernardo,AO

Passo San Bernardo AO

Passo San Bernardo,AO

Passo San Bernardo

The border, Passo San Bernardo,AO

Passo san Bernardo,AO
Like most regions in Italy if you dig into the local guide books, or just explore, there are always new surprising things and places to see. What will we find next year? 

Ollomont,AO

Ollomont,AO

Valsavarenche,AO

Valsavarenche,AO

Val Savarenche,AO

Over the gorge,Pre Saint Didiier,AO

La Pila,AO