The Englishwoman’s Italian story

This blog first appeared in  Original Marche . Thanks to Angela for inviting me to contribute to her blog, which is indeed original as it deals with lesser-known aspects of Le Marche, and introduces readers to local artists and unusual recipes.

Since 1992 we’ve spent millions of lire and thousands of euros on restoring our ex-farmhouse in Corinaldo. We’ve undergone lots of stress and had three burglaries. I’ve passed countless sleepless nights in England worrying about the cost of building works, the local bureaucracy, the water getting into the house and all the problems you have when there is no landlord to complain to.  Typically, you can recognise our house by the crooked roof, installed by the builder when we were in England. So why did we choose this project? Are we mad?  (No, but it helps when you are restoring a house at a distance!) I’ve written this post at the request of my good friend Angela, to explain why. I’ve also written it as a thank-you to my dear, long-suffering husband, the Chelsea Fan, without whom…

I love the Mediterranean landscape, climate, culture, history, food and wine. I spent my childhood in Greece and Italy (my late father was a diplomat) and thus I always feel at home there.

pines olives and oleander

Pines, olives and oleander – characteristically Mediterranean trees. My husband always remembers how I said “I feel that I’ve come home” when after a long absence I saw the oleanders along the Italian motorway.

I was born in Greece

My mother and I at sounion

My mother and I at Sounion


And then we went to Italy, where we spent one year in Bologna and two in Rome.  I’ve always loved those two cities and feel happy when I’m back there. In Rome I quickly assimilated Roman culture, although I went to an English school and spoke very little Italian. My sister’s and my favourite game was called “Mamma Mia”. One of us used to ride the trike, the other the scooter. At a certain point the two vehicles would bump into each other. Immediately we jumped off and began to gesticulate and shout “Mamma Mia!” This sequence was repeated as often as we felt like it.

At Christmas we used to like going round the presepi (cribs) in the different churches in Parioli, the Roman suburb where we lived. We specially liked one with lights that turned on and a little stream that began to flow when you turned the switch. Also at Christmas our parents used to take us to the Piazza Navona, where there was a large presepio and the shepherds used to come down from the Alban Hills and play their bagpipes.

After Italy we spent five years in Greece. Here I learned to love ancient Greek and Roman civilisation. It was this love which inspired me to study Classics at school and university. Of course Virgil’s Georgics was one of our set books, and these lines always make me think of Le Marche’s beautiful hill towns:

“tot congesta manu praeruptis oppida saxis

fluminaque antiquos subter labentia muros.”

“So many towns piled up by human hands on sheer rocks

And rivers gliding beneath the ancient walls”.

(Georgics II, lines 156-7).


Arcevia [By Claudio.stanco via Wikimedia Commons.]


Urbania [By Belmetauro via Wikimedia Commons]

My academic studies linked to happy childhood memories motivated me, at the age of 18, to spend three months at the Università degli Stranieri at Perugia learning Italian. Three happy months! I was in a pensione with a group of lovely Italian boys – I was the only girl and I got on with all of them. My mini-skirts were considered a bit shocking though!

Thus I began to live like an Italian in the 1970s. Here are a few domestic memories. Every week they did the laundry. Although there was a washing machine, for the household linen there was the ritual of the “bricco”: A huge pan of water was heated up, and our landlady and her maid washed the linen by hand. At lunch we ate pasta, meat and pudding; at dinner we ate soup and a lighter dish. On Saturday we used to watch a TV programme introduced by Romina Power, the daughter of Tyrone Power and Linda Christian, singing a little song “Io sono per il sabato” (I’m for Saturday).If you want to understand Italian youth of the period, find it on U-tube. How sad it seems today – poor Romina’s daughter disappeared in New Orleans at the age of 24. The singer has never got over it and I find that nowadays she cuts a very unhappy figure.

Like many young people, I was only aware of myself and the group of which I was a part. However, the beauty of the city and the language had an effect on me, and next year I went back to Italy, to the British Institute in Florence.

There I followed a course on Italian art of the 15th century. I went to the Uffizi gallery every day, where I often used to look at Piero della Francesca’s portraits of Duke Federigo of Urbino and his Duchess, without knowing that in actual fact they were part of the Dukes of Urbino’s legacy. Thus I grew to love Piero and 15th century art, the Renaissance’s age of innocence, before the Reformation and Counter- Reformation. Piero is partially responsible for our discovery of Le Marche. This is how.

Time passed; I got my degree, I found a job, got married and became a mother but I never forgot Italy. Almost 20 years after my last trip to the Bel Paese, we decided to buy a house in Italy.  We had thought of Umbria, where I had had such a happy time. We went there on holiday, but as soon as we arrived, we realised that we couldn’t afford a house in Umbria. As luck would have it, we were following the Piero della Francesca trail and crossed the “Mountains of the Moon” (Alpe della Luna) to Le Marche. There in Urbino we just popped into an estate agent’s, and saw that the local house prices were far more affordable for us.  And so we began our voyage of discovery to the region which we now know and love.

After visiting many an unsuitable ruin, we found the right house in, more by luck than judgment, the right place.

Spring sunset from our garden at Corinaldo

Spring sunset from our garden at Corinaldo

We didn’t know the area, and we didn’t deserve to find ourselves in Corinaldo, one of the most beautiful hill towns of Le Marche in my opinion.



I feel really at home there, and I’m proud to call myself a Corinaldese by adoption. I like greeting people as we go round Corinaldo,

Osteria de Scuretto

Osteria de Scuretto

I like supporting the local farmers by eating and drinking the local produce,

Tagliere at the Trattoria Clarice

Tagliere in the  Trattoria Clarice in Ancona

Wines at Enoteca de Scuretto

In Scuretto’s wine shop in Corinaldo.

I like travelling in the breath-taking local landscapes,

Another glimpse of the mountain scenery around Serra Sant'Abbondio

Near Serra Sant’Abbondio

and getting to know Le Marche’s rich cultural heritage.

Presepio in the oratory of San Giuseppe in urbino

Presepio in the Oratory of San Giuseppe in Urbino.

So, was it worth it? The answer is a definite Yes!





Posted in Ancient Rome, Food and drink, Hill towns, History of Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lunch in Fossombrone at the Caffe’ del Corso

Our friends in Serrungarina recommended this caffè to us as a good place to eat as well as drink. We had already had coffee there and were impressed by the decor and the staff, so we were happy to give it a go. Apparently it has recently been re-invented as a restaurant as well as a caffè. The Fossombrone Corso is also a pleasant place for a stroll, though  at lunchtime it was fairly quiet.Everyone was having lunch, not doing their lunch-hour shopping as they would in England (NB It might be busier in term-time). Italians shop before or after work, as you can tell from shop opening times. In summer they may shop more before work, as it’s not too hot then. After work you can combine shopping with the passeggiata (stroll up and down the main street and greet your friends), though we don’t see much of a passeggiata in Corinaldo.

The restaurant was fairly quiet too. Some local ladies had met up to have lunch together, which we thought was a good sign, and an Italian touring couple with their very well behaved large dog turned up later. We were all sitting outside, hence the dog.

A propos of the touring couple, Italian cultural tourism in Italy is a post-1950s phenomenon. In Rome in the 1950s, my mother remembers how people in the countryside around Rome would express amazement at anyone wanting to see the scavi (excavations, i.e. archaeological site). Ostia Antica was an exception; it was a popular weekend destination for Romans, and we used to see smartly-dressed girls in full skirts and high heels on the backs of their boyfriends’ motor bikes. I used to wonder how they got round the rough pathways and dusty walls without ruining their shoes and clothes.

Returning to Fossombrone in the twenty-first century, the food was excellent and very elegantly served. The chef had tried successfully to inject a bit of originality into good traditional Italian food. Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what dishes we had, but we photographed them and I have done my best to identify them for you.

Bread at the Caffe' del Corso, Fossombrone

Bread at the Caffe’ del Corso

We are not big fans of the local bread, so this home-made selection was a good sign and welcome. It tasted as good as it looked.

The Chelsea Fan's starter

The Chelsea Fan’s starter

The parcel unwrapped

The parcel unwrapped

My starter

My starter

I think this was insalata mare – seafood salad.

In a rather un-Italian way we didn’t have a primo piatto, pasta or risotto. Traditionally lunch was the main meal at home in Italy, when pasta or risotto was served followed by the main dish of fish or meat. For supper at home, pasta in brodo – tiny pasta shapes in bouillon – might be served, followed by something a bit lighter than at lunch, such as deep-fried courgette flowers. That is what we used to have for supper at my pensione in Perugia in 1970. The boys used to complain about it a lot, and I must say I thought it wasn’t really enough. Restaurants certainly don’t serve lighter food in the evening nowadays, if they ever did, and I wonder if people still follow that pattern of eating at home?

Spiedone di pesce My main at the Caffe del Corso, Fossombrone

Spiedone di pesce, my main

As for the wine, we treated ourselves to a 75 cl bottle of the local wine, which in those parts is a Bianchello del Metauro. Actually in restaurants I really prefer to order a half-litre of the house wine, which is always at least ok and usually good. Furthermore, half a bottle is three glasses. That can be too much in the middle of the day, unless you are heading straight home for a lie-down.

I seem to have survived the extra glass that time, as we then went for a stroll along the Corso, photographing attractive details of the architecture, and window-shopping.

Fossombrone balcony

We loved these arches above and below the wrought-iron balcony.

Fossombrone shop windowWhat could be more recherché than this shop window? How better to display about two dozen pairs of shoes than to drape them artistically about a farm store-room? The red espadrille doesn’t seem to have a pair, but that’s not the point. Note the mattoni a vista, exposed bricks, complemented by the cunningly placed patches of plaster. This is very typical of Italian restoration of old buildings. 

Fossombrone doorwayThese half-open doorways seem to beckon you in.

Fossombrone stone shield

Hmm, this one’s a bit fuzzy – must have been the wine. Should have asked the Chelsea Fan to take it. Anyway I thought you’d rather see it than not. Next time I want to photograph I’ll insist on a half-litre.

Posted in Architecture, Food and drink, Shopping, Where to eat | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Theft and absence: what you should know before you buy a second home.

This is a translation of my previous post, which I wrote in Italian, without too many mistakes, I hope, because I wanted to give Italians some idea of what it’s like to own a holiday home in the bel paese.

I had some difficulty in writing this post, because it is the homeless who have problems, not second home owners. Nevertheless, I have described this blog as “An Englishwoman’s personal take including … the ups and downs of owning a second home” and I haven’t written on that subject for some time. Recent events have led me to reflect on the problems of being a second home owner and share them with you in this post.

The real problem of a second home is psychological. When you buy a holiday home, you don’t want problems, be they rats or theft. You are supposed to relax on the terrace, admire the sunset and savour the local wines, Verdicchio or Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, while the agent or the owner sorts out any inconveniences. But we are our own landlords! It’s up to us to get rid of the rats and secure the house.

Tramonto primaverile visto dal nostro giardino

Spring sunset from our garden.

When we bought our house over 20 years ago, there was practically no crime in Corinaldo, or so it seemed to the summer visitor. But things have changed, and in the 21st century we have been burgled three times, like many Marchigiani.  This is certainly a worse problem for the local permanent residents than it is for us. But if were there all year round, we would have taken security precautions sooner, and given our friends better warning of what to do. It was in fact not us, but two of our friends who had to cope with the last burglary. We don’t ever want a phone call like that again!

Fortunatamente la neve non ha danneggiato la casa.

Luckily the snow didn’t damage the house. Thanks to the Mantoni family for this photo.

The simple fact of not being there all the time causes a lot of problems. Damp is an ever-present annoyance, caused in part by our not being there to air the place and open the windows regularly. Then there’s the anxiety of arriving and wondering what awaits you – leaks, blocked drains, a plague of insects … Of course everyone, residents and summer visitors, has these problems: it’s just that on holiday we could do without rushing about to solve them.

You may ask, dear readers, : why not simply move to Corinaldo and stop moaning? The answer is: because our work and family are in England.

Corinaldo: La chiesa di San Francesco.

Corinaldo: the church of San Francesco.

But absence is not just a practical problem: it’s a problem of the heart. We love our house, we love Corinaldo and we love our fellow-citizens.  Corinaldesi, we miss you. Voi ci mancate.

Posted in Second home, Survival | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Assenza e furto: i problemi della casa di vacanze

Ho avuto un po’ di difficoltà nello scrivere questo articolo. Con difficoltà si ammette che i proprietari di una seconda casa abbiano problemi. Soni i senzatetti che hanno problemi, non noi.

Ciononostante, ho definito questo mi blog come “il punto di vista personale di una donna inglese su … i vantaggi e gli svantaggi dell’avere una seconda casa”, e da un bel po’ non scrivo su questo tema. Poi, un avvenimento recente mi ha spinta a rifletterci di nuovo.

Il vero problema della seconda casa è psicologico. Quando compri una casa di vacanze, non vuoi problemi; questa casa vuole essere un piccolo paradiso, dove il proprietario o il suo agente risolve tutti i problemi, dai topi al furto. Il villeggiante deve solo riposarsi, sorseggiando il Verdicchio e ammirando il tramonto.

Tramonto primaverile visto dal nostro giardino

Tramonto primaverile visto dal nostro giardino.

Invece siamo noi  i proprietari, e dobbiamo passare le vacanze a cercare un muratore o pagare l’IMU. Oppure a denunciare un furto.

Quando abbiamo comprato casa nostra più di venti anni fa, la criminalità quasi non c’era a Corinaldo, o agli stranieri sembrava così. Ma le cose sono cambiate, e nel ventunesimo secolo abbiamo subito tré furti, come tanti Marchigiani. Il furto è un problema per tutti, non solo noi. Ma se noi  fossimo stati presenti, avremmo capito meglio la situazione, e preso precauzioni perchè il primo furto sia anche l’ultimo. Il terzo furto non l’abbiamo subito noi, ma i nostri amici che avevamo invitati a visitare la casa. Avevamo dimenticato di dire loro di chiudere tutto a chiave anche di notte, e tenere gli articoli di valore nella camera quando dormivano. Quindi, i ladri sono entrati di notte e hanno preso la borsa della signora. Non inviteremo più gli amici senza che noi li accompagniamo.

L’assenza è un problema per molti motivi. Causa o peggiora i danni.

Fortunatamente la neve non ha danneggiato la casa.

Fortunatamente la neve non ha danneggiato la casa. Grazie alla famiglia Mantoni per questa foto.

L’umidità è un problema eternale, che sarebbe molto meno grave se noi fossimo presenti per aprire le finestre durante l’inverno. Poi, è sempre fastidioso arrivare a primavera e trovare piccoli problemi che occorre risolvere prima di tutto, per esempio, un bloccaggio nei tubi.

I lettori possono domandare: Perchè non passate più tempo a Corinaldo? La risposta: Perchè abbiamo la famiglia e il lavoro in Inghilterra.

Corinaldo: La chiesa di San Francesco.

Corinaldo: La chiesa di San Francesco.

Ma l’assenza non è solo un problema pratico; è un problema del cuore. Amiamo la nostra casa, la città di Corinaldo e i nostri concittadini. Ci mancano.

Posted in Casa di vacanze, Second home, Survival | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Lunch at the Trattoria Clarice in Ancona

This unassuming little restaurant exemplifies the Italian talent for making something out of nothing, i.e. turning an alleyway between two blocks of flats into a charming little spot in which to eat your lunch.

A glimpse of sky

A glimpse of sky

The tall buildings somehow emphasise the brilliant Italian blue sky which you can just see between them.

We first spotted the Clarice when walking up the Corso Mazzini from the sea. In those days,  by the time we had got out of the airport, it was too late for lunch. Lots of places were shut, and although I Tigli, our then favourite in Corinaldo, our home town,  would have served us, they were shut on Monday. As we wandered disconsolately around Ancona in the heat, we spotted this sign.

Trattoria Clarice. The surroundings didn't look very prepossessing.

Trattoria Clarice. The surroundings didn’t look very prepossessing.

We turned down the little alley behind the sign, found the trattoria and asked doubtfully “Servite pranzo (Are you serving lunch)? ” “Come no (Of course)!” the waiter replied and we sat down. By that time they didn’t have a lot left, but the seafood spaghetti was fine. NB If you don’t like dried chilli flakes, have something else, or ask for “senza peperoncini”.

The Chelsea Fan noticed a framed newspaper cutting about football on the wall inside and on enquiry was told that the place had been founded by the present proprietor’s grandfather, who played for a famous Italian team – he can’t now remember which. When I tried to check this on the Web I couldn’t find anything about a footballer, but I pass it on anyway. I also found two different stories about the restaurant’s history. However, it is definitely over 60 years old and situated in the former Jewish ghetto.

We last ate there in May, after our trip to Sirolo with Angela. By the time we left Sirolo it was quite late, and we were glad to know that we’d be able to eat at Clarice’s.

I thought the little fountain on the wall of the watering-hole opposite, the Liberty Cocktail Lounge, was particularly charming. Actually the Cocktail Lounge looks quite charming too, but it’s always about to close when we arrive.

Fountain on the wall of the Liberty Cocktail Lounge

I wonder what those drinks taste like?

I was impressed by the attractive way the tagliere was served. It tasted good too.

Tagliere at the Trattoria Clarice

I had already started on the olives.

As usual in May, they were serving fresh raw broad beans (fave), delicious when they’re young and tender. At a guess I’d identify the salumi, clockwise from left, as prosciutto, lonza, ciauscolo (spreadable cross between salami and paté), salami of some kind and salami Fabriano, the local salami from the town of Fabriano. The cheese is probably a more mature pecorino on the left, and a pecorino fresco on the right.

This was our starter, after which I had a seafood pasta dish and the Chelsea Fan had an excellent steak. Coffee to finish.

After this we thought we’d see if there were any exhibitions on at the Mole Vanvitelliana, aka the Lazzaretto, a cultural centre,

Mole Vanvitelliana

Mole Vanvitelliana.By Ludushka (Own work)

but in these days of austerity there didn’t seem to be anything. In many ways Ancona is an attractive historic city, but somehow the shopping centre is lacking pleasant places to sit and relax or stroll, though it has improved since some of the main thoroughfares were pedestrianised.  You can always go to the Passetto,

Passetto (2)

Passetto by Claudio.stanco (Own work)

 with its war memorial and sea view, but that is not convenient for the shopping centre. So we decided to go home.



Posted in Ancona, Where to eat | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

News from the court of Urbino and Giovanni Santi

The latest from the court of Urbino is that the 14 uomini illustri are back! It’s their first visit to their true home since 1633.

14 portraits of illustrious men, from Duke Federico’s studiolo, have been returned temporarily from the Louvre to the Palazzo Ducale and reunited with the other 14, which have been in the Palazzo Ducale since 1952, accompanied by rather depressing black and white photographs of the portraits of their erstwhile companions.

The story of these portraits is typical of the despoliation of Federico’s collections after Montefeltro came under direct papal rule in 1631. In 1633 the papal legate Cardinal Antonio Barberini helped himself to the 28 portraits. 14 of them underwent numerous vicissitudes until Napoleon III bought them in 1861 and sent them to the Louvre, where they have remained. The Italian state bought the other 14 in 1934 and eventually returned them to the Palazzo Ducale.

Scientific examinations of the paintings and a comparison with Justus’s “Communion of the Apostles” has shown that the portraits are the work of Justus and another artist, conjectured to be Pedro Berruguete.  For me, their interest is in  what the portraits tell us about Federico, bearing in mind that this was a private room which reflected his personal taste. Here is the Renaissance man, student as well as warrior, learned in pagan and Christian culture, respecting “philosophers, poets and all the doctors of the Church both Greek and Latin”, as Vespasiano da Bisticci, Federico’s bookseller, put it in his biography of the Duke.

Aristotle by Justus of Ghent (Joos van Wassenhove) and Pedro Berruguete. C

Aristotle by Justus of Ghent (Joos van Wassenhove) and/or Pedro Berruguete.

King Solomon by Justus of Ghent and/or Pedro Berruguete. Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche.

King Solomon by Justus of Ghent and/or Pedro Berruguete. Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche.

Among the portraits is the one of King Solomon (above), whom presumably Federico  wanted to emulate. I like to imagine him reading Solomon’s prayer on his accession, when God said “Ask what I shall give thee”. Solomon responded: “And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king … and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in … Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad…”(1 Kings 3 vv 7-9). 

Federico also included portraits of men who had been important in his life.

Vittorino Feltre by Justus of Ghent and/or Pedro Berruguete

Vittorino Feltre by Justus of Ghent and/or Pedro Berruguete. Paris, Louvre.

For two years Federico had been a boy hostage at the Gonzaga court of Mantua, where he studied under Feltre, humanist and tutor to the Gonzaga children.

For a virtual visit to the studiolo, go to my fellow blogger Accurimbono’s blog, where you will find a link to the virtual gallery which he has compiled of the intarsie (trompe-l’oeil wood inlays) and the portraits of illustrious men.

Included in the exhibition organised to celebrate the return of the uomini illustri is this portrait of Federico’s son Guidubaldo, who has also temporarily returned to his true home from the Colonna Gallery in Rome. (The Colonna family inherited half of the Barberini estate.)

Guidubaldo di Montefeltro by Bartolomeo della Gatta 1448-1502.jpg

Guidubaldo di Montefeltro by Bartolomeo della Gatta 1448-1502.

What has dear old Mr Santi to do with the uomini illustri, and what news do we have of him?  His news is that he has painted a picture you didn’t know about, which is included in the current exhibition alongside the studiolo. In other words, the exhibition curators have taken the opportunity to hang a work which has been re-attributed to Giovanni Santi. The suggestion is that it is a copy by Santi of part of Justus’ larger work, The Communion of the Apostles.If this attribution is correct, it was a shame Santi wasted his time copying from an artist who was no better than him.

Christ giving communion to St Peter attr. Giovanni Santi

Christ giving communion to St Peter attr. Giovanni Santi

In any case, a good number of his paintings are on display in the Palazzo Ducale and I had already decided to visit the gallery and have a look at them even before I knew about the studiolo exhibition.

St James, St Jude and St Philip by Giovanni Santi

St James, St Jude and St Philip by Giovanni Santi .Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita’ Culturali.

St John and St Matthew by Giovanni Santi

St John and St Matthew by Giovanni Santi.Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita’ Culturali.

These pictures were at one time in Urbino’s Duomo. Agnese Vastano in Rafaello e Urbino, the catalogue of the eponymous 2009 exhibition (Electa, 2009), points out Piero della Francesca’s influence in the shell-shaped niches behind the saints, surmounted by scallop-shells, a reference to the so-called Brera altarpiece, or Pala Montefeltro,

Piero della Francesca:

Piero della Francesca: Pala Montefeltro

which used to hang in San Bernardino degli Zoccolanti, the Montefeltro mausoleum, until Napoleon had the painting removed.

Also in the Palazzo Ducale is the Pala Buffi, or Buffi altarpiece from the altar of St Sebastian in the church of St Francis in Urbino.

Giovanni Santi: Buffi altarpiece for the church of San Francesco in Urbino, now in the Palazzo Ducale, Urbino. Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita’ Culturali.

Giovanni Santi: Buffi altarpiece for the church of San Francesco in Urbino, now in the Palazzo Ducale, Urbino. Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita’ Culturali.

I love the Buffi child in the bottom right corner, and the stone elegantly perched on St Sebastian’s halo. The other saints are, from left, St John the Baptist, declaring baby Jesus to be the Lamb of God, St Francis, displaying his stigmata, and St Jerome with a stylus, resting his hand on two books to show that he is a learned sort of chap, a Doctor of the Church and translator of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). Where is Jerome’s lion? If you can see it lurking somewhere, please comment. As I pointed out in an earlier post, Santi’s son Raphael re-used the crown in his Baronci altarpiece, The Coronation of St Nicholas of Tolentino.

This was the last painting we had time for before the gallery closed.

Giovanni Santi: Lamentation over the Dead Christ. Thanks to 1st Art Gallery.

Giovanni Santi: Lamentation over the Dead Christ. Thanks to 1st Art Gallery.

One of the custodians was starting to get a bit worried. He told us that he could see we were serious, and he didn’t want us to miss the rest of the collection, because it was nearly closing time. We thanked him for his kind concern and assured him we’d be back. There’s always something new to see in Urbino!

Posted in Giovanni Santi, History of Art, Museum, Religious art, Renaissance paintings, Urbino | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Englishwoman looks at the work of Mirella Bentivoglio and Nori de’ Nobili at Ripe

We picked up this leaflet at the IAT (Tourist Information Office) in Corinaldo, and thought it looked interesting.

Mirella Bentivoglio exhibition

Mirella Bentivoglio exhibition

Ripe is our neighbouring town; it’s part of the comune of Trecastelli, i.e. the towns of Ripe, Castel Colonna and Monterado, all which have fine Rocche or castles.

Ripe piazza showing the Rocca

Ripe piazza showing the Rocca

We already knew something about Nori de’ Nobili’s work, as her pictures used to be in Corinaldo, but they have been given a fine new home in Ripe

Museo Nori de' Nobili

Museo Nori de’ Nobili

which we tried to visit, but was, of course, chiuso (shut).

Not very convenient

Not very convenient

When I’m in Italy I often think of the old man in “The Return of the King” (vol 3 of JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”) who says gloomily “The way is shut” and then falls dead. (Chapter 3 page 71 of my mother’s Allen and Unwin hardback edition, which I adopted many years ago.) But I digress.

The Museum was certainly open for the inaugurazione and buzzing with life and visitors. Again we were grateful for the local custom of not having a private view, but inviting all and sundry (that’s us) to the launch. As we approached, we saw that reproductions of Bentivoglio’s work were being projected on to the façade of the museum.

Projection of Bentivoglio's work on to Museo Nori de Nobili Ripe Projection of Bentivoglio's work on to Museo Nori de Nobili Ripe Projection of Bentivoglio's work on to Museo Nori de Nobili Ripe Projection of Bentivoglio's work on to Museo Nori de Nobili Projection of Bentivoglio's work on to Museo Nori de Nobili Projection of Bentivoglio's work on to Museo Nori de Nobili

From the projections you can get a good idea of the artist’s work; she is a “visual poet” and uses sculpture as well as 2-D work to create her poems. Many of her works are jokey puns or visualisations, like this one:

The obedient consumer's heart

The obedient [female] consumer’s heart. Thanks to the comune of Trecastelli.

or this one:

Mirella Bentivoglio mask and strings - or are they?

Mirella Bentivoglio mask and strings – or are they? Thanks to the comune of Trecastelli.

The mask is the letter B, the first letter of Bentivoglio, and the strings are “entivoglio”, the remaining letters of her surname.

Here are photographs of two of her sculptures.

L'ovo di Gubbio

L’ovo di Gubbio, 1976


The egg broke on 28 October 2004. Thanks to the website Eugubini nel mondo for the information.

Il libro campo or The field book

Il libro campo or The field book

I leave it to you to decide what they mean.

Bentivoglio is a committed feminist; she organised an all-women exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1978. Hence her work is appropriate for the Museo Nori de’ Nobili, which is “dedicated to the documentation of women’s creativity in the twentieth century”. (Quote from the exhibition leaflet.)

In due course the guests assembled for the speeches. All the women were smartly turned out, as usual.

Speeches at the Bentivoglio exhibition launch.

Speeches at the Bentivoglio exhibition launch.

After the speeches we were invited to partake of the buffet, which consisted of wine, soft drinks and small eats. The bottles of wine were just there and you could help yourself. No-one got drunk.

Buffet at the back of the building at the Bentivoglio launch.

Buffet at the back of the building at the Bentivoglio launch.

The curatrice, Simona Zava, gave a guided tour of the exhibition to those who were interested. I thought this was a good idea and one that English organisers of private views would do well to follow. Certainly her explanations helped one to spot hidden (to me, anyway!) gems within the works.

Guided tour of the Bentivoglio exhibition.

Guided tour of the Bentivoglio exhibition.

At the entrance/exit of the exhibition was a poster with a photograph of the artist herself. As we walked out past Bentivoglio, we felt amazed and impressed that the works of a world-class artist were on show in a small provincial town.

Poster with photograph of Bentivoglio

Poster with photograph of Bentivoglio

Nori de’ Nobili (1902-1968), the permanent collection of whose work is exhibited upstairs, could not be a greater contrast to Bentivoglio. Poor woman, she had a tragic life. Having spent much of her childhood in Brugnetto di Ripe, in 1924, when she was 22, the family moved to Florence, where, accoding to the Museum’s website, she moved in artistic circles, associating with the Macchiaiolo (Florentine artistic movement not dissimilar to the Pointillistes) Ludovico Tommasi, and the “Strapaese” artists Ottone Rosai and Mino Maccari, and developing her own work. Her parents, perhaps concerned about her lifestyle and her lack of interest in marriage to a “suitable” man, suddenly removed her from this environment, which removal upset her so much that she was shut up in a “clinic” in Bologna. She spent the rest of her life locked away in one clinic after another, until she died of cancer in 1968. In these clinics she continued to paint, mostly self-portraits and occasionally paintings of the other inmates. For more detail see the Museum’s website.

The young Nori

The young Nori

Three sad self-portraits by Nori

Three sad self-portraits by Nori

Really there’s nothing more to say after that.

Posted in 20th century art, 21st century Art, History of Art, Private Views, Vernici di artisti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment