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Arab-Norman Palermo – A new entry in the UNESCO’s World Heritage

posted by Home In Italy on August 4th, 2015

The recent news is that Palermo became a member of the UNESCO’s World Heritage, which is the 51th site in Italy, the first nation in the ranking. The decision was made during the last meeting of the World Committee in Born held during July 2015.

The UNESCO’s World Heritage is a marvellous list made of amazing cultural and natural sites all around the world. They are wonderful and unique places considered a human heritage.

Located on the northern coast of Sicily, Arab-Norman Palermo itinerary includes nine religious and civil structures dating from the era of the Norman kingdom of Sicily (1130 – 1194): in particular there are three churches, a bridge, two palaces, three cathedrals including the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalú.

These monuments represent the social-cultural syncretism between Byzantines, Islamic and Western cultures on Sicily, from which the new concepts of space, decoration and traditional structure of this art were originated.

There are also testimonies of people of different cultures as Latin, French, Byzantine, Muslim, Jewish and Lombard regarding the coexistence.

“Il Palazzo dei Normanni”

The Norman Palace is the oldest royal residence in Europe and was build during the Islamic domination of Sicily (lasting from 827 to 1091). Following the Normans to reign and to transform the original Arabic palace in a complex structure, making also the Palatine Chapel, a three-aisled basilica in Byzantine – Norman style.
Today the Norman Palace is also home to the Sicilian Regional Assembly and the Astronomical Observatory citizen.

“San Giovanni degli Eremiti”

The church of San Giovanni of the Heremits. Located near the Norman Palace, dates back to the 6th century and was first a mosque, then a Christian church by the will of the sovereign Ruggero II, finally restored in 1880 in order to bring out the calls to the East, as proved from the domes colour red.

“Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio”

The church of St. Mary’s is also known as Church of Martorana and it is a testimony of the power held by the Byzantine and Orthodox religious culture in Palermo. Exiles Albanians, indeed took refuge here during the persecution of the Turks, leaving significant traces of their culture in the style of painting and in religious ritual.
The variety of artistic styles of this church is an example of what this city has always been a melting pot of cultures and a model of coexistence between peoples and religions.

“San Cataldo”

Inside the church of St. Cataldo, Christian temple built in the 20th century, it is possible to admire the marble floors decorated with Arabian style mosaics. The church is located at Piazza Bellini, near the church of the Matrorana.

“Santa Vergine Maria Assunta”

The main church in Palermo is the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption. It represents the most successful expression of different styles, such as the Gothic, Baroque, Norma Romanesque and Neoclassical. Be inspired by the stately building and during the summer participate at the evening visits rooftops, in order to admire the city from the top and take memorable photographs.

“Zisa’s Palace”

Today the Palace of the Zisa, originally a royal residence, is a museum of Islamic art and a garden, recently renovated. Zisa in Arabic means “beautiful”: you will totally agree after having walked through the castle discovering the beauty of musciarabia, wooden screens and everyday objects as candlesticks or bowls. The district is named Zisa because of the building, which also includes a park and a villa in art nouveau style.

“The Admiral Bridge”

This monument was build to connect the city to the gardens beyond the river Oreto and in 1860, during the expedition of the Thousand. Here came the battle between Garibaldi and the troops Bourbon. This Norman bridge now offers a different view from the original, because the river that flowed under the bridge was diverted and now there is a garden surrounded by tree lined streets and succulents.

“Cefalù Cathedral”

The cathedral of Cefalù is famous mostly because of its cloister, a masterpiece of medieval Sicily. Cefalù is situated on a 70km distance from Palermo and it is recommended for its beaches. Indeed, it is part of the Madonie, one of the most beautiful nature reserves in the region.
The cathedral also has a complex history since the project was modified several times and the church was never completed finally.

“Monreale Cathedral”

Built in the 12th century, the Byzantine mosaics that decorate the interior will amaze and surprise you by its attention to detail. The cloister is undoubtedly the most sublime from the architectural point of view, the highest result of Byzantine remained unchanged over the time.

The history of Ferragosto

posted by Home In Italy on July 29th, 2015

If you have been to Italy in August, surely you have heard someone talking about “Ferragosto”. But, what does it represent for Italian people?

Ferragosto is an ancient Italian festival celebrated on the 15th of August every year which coincides with the Assumption Day, the principal feast of the Virgin Mary. It represents the most important summer holiday in Italy: most Italians will get out of the cities and spend this day at the beach or the mountains.
The mid-August holiday is an ancient festivity instituted during the Octavian Augustus’ times: the term derives from the Latin expression feriae Augusti (Festival of August) and indicates a celebration during which horse races were organized across the Roman Empire. For all the duration of the feast, the draught animals like donkeys and oxen were free from their work and dressed up with flowers garlands, while the workers brought their wishes to chiefs in change of extra trips.

This tradition carries on during the time with the Palio of Siena, which is played on the 16th of August. Actually, the name “Palio” comes from the pallium, a piece of cloth that was the award given to the winners of the horse races in the ancient Rome.

But Ferragosto has also a religious meaning: the Catholic Church celebrates the 15th as a Holy Day of Obligation to commemorate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary . In particular, it is celebrated her actual physical elevation of her sinless soul and incorruptible body into Heaven. Before the Roman Catholic Curch, however, this holiday was a celebration of the Gods – in particular Diana – and the cycle of fertility and ripening.

The actual tradition of going on a trip during Ferragosto starts during the Fascism era, in the second half of the 1920s. At this time, the government usually organized popular journeys with the “People’s trains of Ferragosto”, trains with discounted prices. On these trips, Italian people had the opportunity to travel with their family: for the first time, they saw with their own eyes the mountains, the sea and the main art attractions all around the nation.

From the famous Palio di Siena to the religious processions in name of the Virgin Mary organized all around Italy, followed by fireworks and parties at the beach, the 15th August has a fundamental role in the summer holiday planning. Nowadays, families take a short holiday during which they have huge meals all together spending a pleasant time.

The best ice-cream parlours in Italy

posted by Home In Italy on July 28th, 2015

Sun, relax, holiday … What is better than a fresh and refreshing ice cream? Created in Florence, Italian Gelato is famous for its handmade, all-natural quality. One of the best-loved Italian products together with pasta and pizza, Italian ice cream is different from a standard one, because it is made with milk instead of cream, giving the gelato a more blended flavor.
From Florence to Rome, from Milan to Palermo, here for you a selection of the best ice-cream parlours or gelateria in Italian, in Italy:

La Carraia (Florence)
Situated in the birthplace of gelato, it is located lightly off the Oltrarno side of Ponte alla Carraia. It is famous for the intensity and the creamy of the flavors, in particular the dark chocolate gelato. It’s hard find something denser anywhere else. Portions are generous and prices are low: a score for just €1!
Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25r, Florence; +39 055 280695

Gelateria | Caruso (Rome)
The most fresher made on-site gelato in the centre of Rome. Flavours are a mixture of seasonal (melon, pineapple and mandarin orange gelato) and traditional. Their touch of class is the fresh whipped cream with zabaglione (a sweet marsala wine) put on the top of the gelato.
Via Collina, 13-1, Rome; +39 06 4201 6420

La Sorbetteria Castiglione (Bologna)
The outstanding flavour is the Dolce Emma, honey-caramelized figs and lemon tucked into silky ricotta gelato, followed by the Dolce Contagio, crisp candied walnuts in a earthy pine nut gelato. For those reasons, it’s not difficult to imagine why this gelateria has opened two other locations in Italy. And if you want to try something lighter, don’t forget about the seasonal fruit sorbertoos!
Via Castiglione, 44, Bologna; +39 051 233257

Alberto Marchetti (Turin)
Recommended by locals as the freshest-tasting gelateria in Turin: all gelato served is produced daily in-house . All ingredients are seasonal and high quality and every day the owner publishes the ingredient list on the website. We suggest you to try Fior di latte flavor (mozzarella made from cow’s milk) and Farina Bona flavor (pleasant flour flavor, reminiscemt of toasted corn).
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 2, Torino; +39 011 839 0879

Gelateria Alaska (Venice)
Gelateria Alaska is a secret temple of gelato hidden in the crowds in Santa Croce that offers daring and superb flavors as rosewater, cardamom, artichoke, think ginger. The owner Carlo Pistacchi is hilarious and charming. The consistency is less dense and lighter than others gelaterias, but with fullness of flavor.
Calle Larga de Bari, 1159, Venice; +39 041 715211

Emilia Cremeria (Parma)
The secret of the gelateria is its covered silver containers that ensures the coldest gelato possible. It’s a perfect contrast to the gooey, warm melted chocolate that they put in the cone before heaping it with scoops.
Farini, 29, Parma; +39 0521 207316

Come il Latte (Rome)
Opened only a couple of years ago, at only ten minutes’s walk from Termini station, it’s a serious contender in the gelato market. Like Emilia Cremeria, you can put molten chocolate before your scoop and on the top too. Don’t miss the buttery and sinfully rich flavors as salted caramel or mascarpone with biscotti.
Via Silvio Spaventa, 24/26, Rome; +39 06 4290 3882

Il Massimo Del Gelato (Milan)
There are two shops in Milan, but the historical one in Via Lodovico Castelvetro is the best one because it is bigger and it offers more flavors, more than 140, made fresh daily. The main protagonist is the chocolate: each day you can find almost eight chocolate flavors with variations like 75%, 100%, chocolate with cinnamon, chocolate rum, chocolate almond, chocolate rum … But don’t worry, if you don’t like chocolate, they have also a delicious fruit-based selection!
Via Lodovico Castelvetro, 18, Milan

Summer Cocktail

posted by Home In Italy on July 15th, 2015

1/10 Raspberry juice

9/10 Champagne

1 Teaspoons of granulated sugar

1 Teaspoon of lemon juice

Serve with

Veal tartare: veal fillet, extra virgin oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice

Fassone tartare: fillet of Fassone from Piedmont, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, egg yolk, lemon juice

Hazelnut “tonda gentile” grain

Slice of grilled zucchini

Flake of white truffle from Alba