Sixty nine years ago on this day, the Polish forces under Lieutenant General WÅadysÅaw Anders captured Monte Cassino, Italy, after four bloody assaults led by the allied forces, massive bombing of the grand hill top abbey founded in 529 by Santo Benedetto di Norcia, and general slaughter of both military (about 55,000 for the allied forces, 20,000 for the German troupes who had held the hills) and civilians (number undocumented).
The slaughter and victory was then followed by 50 hours of atrocities committed by the French troupes on the civilians. As a result of the soldiers being generously (!) offered the spoils of the land by their commander, over 6,000 women (and even old men and priests who had tried to protect them, in which case the number of victims goes up to 7,000) ranging in age from eleven to 86, were raped. In addition, civilian men who tried to protect their wives and daughters were murdered without mercy. The number of men killed in that occasion has been estimated at roughly 800.
So, with my ears red in retrospective shame, I am not celebrating the day, but sharing this bit of information, so you can join in mourning the general nefariousness of the world.
This image is from the Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino, which I've visited last weekend.
The abbey has been reconstructed and will be the object of the next post.
“Is this your definition of 'NEXT'?”
And I'm shrugging him off, for to me “next” bears no sign -no stigma - of the instantaneous, even if definitions specify immediacy.
This is the next blog, isn't it?
So what the fuss is all about?
( The Bibliotheca Hertziana is not about to go anywhere... )
As usual, more pictures are available from my Flickr account.
It’s not that far from my house after all – on the Via Appia Nuova close to the Capanelle Hippodrome - and in principle open to the public (you can also rent it for events apparently).
And there is the problem.
First you can only access the villa if coming out of Rome, but also the entrance is not really indicated so if you do not know precisely where it is, you could – and most likely will - easily miss it.
In addition, it has only the tiniest parking space and the entrance to this space is not clearly indicated. A single car can easily block it as it happened to me when I tried to take my parents there, last May. And this is on a major road coming out of the city so stopping anywhere is not an option.
But last Wednesday we actually managed to sneak in.
And had the whole site to ourselves.
( A little history )
Officially this is a museum. The house and studio of a sculptor.
To me, this is a place where movement has been frozen, some sort of Sleeping Beauty castle.
( Only populated with wild naked dancersâ¦ )
And so it happens that last Monday, my fellow blogging friend Diana made me an offer I could not refuse – and it did not even involve a horse's head at the bottom of my bed – so I just decided to go with the flow and give in.
I did not have any meetings planned on Wednesday afternoon and, while I knew I really had too much work to afford taking the afternoon off, I still went ahead.
( Because - REALLY - how often am I going to get invited to a VIP tour of the Vatican Museums? )
I'd seen the name of Garbatella tossed about in a couple of alternative Rome guides, but not much else. The odd picture. The information that this area of Rome had been built during the fascist era. The relative mystery titillated my curiosity but an exploration got pushed aside by the overwhelming competition.
But my parents were coming to visit and they had no other plans than letting themselves guided about, provided the treks resulted in plenty of pictures. At that point, Garbatella crept again to the near-front of my mind. But without having it explored it first, I did not know for sure if the place would meet the visitors’ requirements. So I let this visit pass. After all there was still plenty to see: Cinecitta, EUR, Quartiere Coppeddé, MAXXI, Villa Torlonia, etc.
But this time the curiosity did not allow itself to be pushed away to the back again. So I took a day out, selecting by pure chance the first nice dry day for a while and - armed with directions from a friend - went.
And fell in love.
( THIS IS WHERE I WANT TO LIVE )
My hands start to itch as my whole mind, my whole body screams âPhoto!â but the guide is watching us closely. No pictures allowed, no disturbing actors; this is the strict condition under which we are tolerated here, regardless of how much weâve paid for the visit.
( This is Cinecitta. The dream factory. )
I walked until my feet went into overheating (30 kilometers a day, will do this to you after the 3rd day). I saw a lot of things.
Some I expected.
Some I welcomed like old friends
( Some took me totally by surprise )
It is a vast project, of which I purchased the gorgeous book about two years ago. They've made this superb trailer, which should gladen the heart of the librarians among you:
If you can go and see the exhibit, DO.
From Galileo's trial to Giordano Bruno's, a letter written on bark from the chief of the Chippewa tribe, gorgeous miniatures, mangled books, the ordeal of the Templars, to Italy and papacy historical documents.
If you can't, check out some of these on the exhibition official site.
I wished I could have touched those books, sniffed them. Taken pictures.
( BUT NO PICTURES WERE ALLOWED )
While I was thee I also collected a few backside pictures for my collection.
But that's another story.
But Sunday being Sunday (and therefore potentially mass days), it was open!
So, of course, I immediately sneaked in, hoping there wouldn't be a mass to disturb with my sightseeing.
The good news was that there wasn't.
The bad news was that the decoration was rather underwhelming.
( Until I spotted this on my way out )
Today I returned to Villa Giulia, where I had not been since 2004. It still holds the Etruscan museum and so far, it is still forbidden to take pictures inside the building, although I am told this might change in the future.
Since my life is made of science fiction, I decided to live the future and took a few snaps (of course)...
And this is how I met the zombie.
Look at him, sucking out the brains of his opponent while Athena, at the back, is getting queasy!
This terracotta relief is showing an episode of the Theban Cycle - a story that spans the life of city of Thebes and concentrates on Oedipe's descent. The scene is from the Thebaid bit of the cycle, when Polynices attacks the city of Thebes protected by his brother Eteocles. Those worthy heroes do not appear here but we have Tydeus and Melanippus in their stead.
As the story goes, they more or less killed each other in combat but somehow Tydeus survived long enough to feed on his adversary's brains. Athena, who was supposed to help Tydeus and had a potion that should restore his life (see the pot in her hand?) was horrified by his new sense of diet and she let him die.
Not to worry.
Their descendants still managed to slaughter about in the next episode of the Cycle - The Epigoni - showing that Hollywood has not invented sequels. Not even that.
Now this was a little disturbing and I got somehow confused...
( And I missed Apollo )
As far as I knew, there was a seminary behind my parent's house. And there is still but now it doubles up as congress centre and exhibition space so its parc and some of the buildings are opened to the public.
Which is how, by attending an Algerian painters exhibition when I visited my parents a few weeks ago, I dicovered that, hidden by the huge building of the seminary, there was a small castle:
Well, not THAT small either.
The building looks like it might have been built at the beginning of the 17th century but in fact it is fairly recent: it was only dates back to the end of the 19th century (and the seminary in the late 1930's). More historical data (in French) can be found here.
But the faux gothic style offers a few interesting figures on the back of the building.
( Let's walk around... )
The church dates back from the second half of the fifth century.
It has a lovely light and purity of shapes.
It boasts a second century Mithraeum which I could not visit because it is under refection but what the church is most renown about is the set of 34 frescoes which depicts the martyrs of the Christians
( Hidden away from shy readers )
While in this side chapel, only reigns light.
I was very much looking forward to this as it promised Han terracotta soldiers...
I wasn't disappointed...
Although the Curia Iulia, in which this exhibition was hosted is fairly small, there were some fine examples of the statues found in that massive graveyard site.
( More pictures this way )
Actually this one is only dating 1950...
More pictures over at Flickr.
It does sound strange and it IS strange too.
On Wednesday I went to see a part of the exhibition "L'Aquila e il Dragone" (the hawk and the dragon) which is drawing comparison between the Roman and Chinese empires.
Only one part - the one at Palazzo Venezia - because I did not have the time to go and see the one at the Forum. I'll report on that later on as I intend to visit this over the holiday period.
A lot of the exhibition had to do with artifacts found in graves and a few select Roman statues and frescoes from Pompeii (the statues are normally hosted at the Naples National History Museum).
Most impressive were an Adonis:
And the chaste Venus:
( And of course I went around... )
So OF COURSE I am feeling the pull to write you another blog about Dublin.
One of the first thing I did when getting there was to go look for Oscar Wilde's memorial.
I could say that unfortunately I found it...
The statue is actually remarkable in that it is built using different stones, to render the colours of his costume. But it is a trifle gaudy.
( But wait! There is more! )
The novel is doing very well. Thank you for asking.