The Englishwoman survives rain in Italy (with a little help from Dante).


I love the book “The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim, but every time I read it a little voice says to me, “In real life it would have been raining!”.

It rains a lot in Italy, and the Marches are no exception. How else did they get so green and fertile? (Same goes for Umbria.) There is something relentless about Italian rain. The climate is not so changeable as ours – forget Gerard Manley Hopkins and “fickle, freckled, adazzle, dim.” Consequently, when the rain sets in, it sets in with a vengeance. And there’s no such thing as drizzle – just steady, driving rain, filling the ditches, flooding the roads, getting in through the roof, blowing in through the shutters, rushing down the hills, spoiling everyone’s fun. It rains in summer as well, when the heat really builds up and you get a thunderstorm. And some summers are just terrible. Last July (2014) it rained all month, seriously damaging the regional economy, which relies heavily on sun, sea and sand. It was disastrous for the banini, or beach franchisees.

Dante sums it up. Not by chance did he include rain as one of the tortures of hell. He knew what he was writing about. “Io sono al terzo cerchio, de la piova Eterna, maladetta, fredda e greve; Regola e qualità mai non l’è nova. Grandine grossa, acqua tinta e neve Per l’aere tenebroso si riversa; … “.(Inferno Canto VI lines 7-11.) “I am in the third circle, of rain Eternal, accursed, cold and heavy; its law and quality are never new. Large hailstones, dark water and snow Pour down through the gloomy air; …” (Thanks to Longfellow’s translation.)

The sommo poeta doesn’t have any suggestions about surviving a rainy holiday, however, so it’s back to me. Pack a waterproof and waterproof shoes. Go to Urbino, or Ascoli Piceno, where there is a lot to see and museums and galleries tend to be open. The same goes for Ancona, but parts of the city are really run-down and depressing. Drive carefully! A two-lane highway with lorries thundering past you is no fun in the rain.

I hesitate to suggest the local art galleries and museums, because they will probably be shut whenever you want to visit them. (Don’t get me started!) Someone must visit them, though, because July was a very good month for visits to museums and galleries. Check opening hours at the beginning of your holiday.

In summer, cinema is always in the open air. All English-language films are dubbed anyway. Dubbing is an important source of income for Italian actors and actresses, so I don’t expect it to be given up any time soon. However, there are lots of concerts of all kinds of music, for which there is usually an alternative venue in case of bad weather (maltempo). Similarly, although there is no theatre season in summer, there may be the odd performance, if you understand some Italian.

You may well not want to drag your children along to enforced cultural events, and unfortunately there aren’t many wet-weather tourist attractions, apart from the Grotte (Caves) di Frasassi, which are spectacular. Luckily, there is a good blog, Marche for Kids, (see list of Blogs I Follow on right of screen) with an English translation, not by a native speaker, which has a useful list of attractions, including some which would be fine in the rain, such as the caves of Camerano and the Roman cisterns of Fermo. Children and grown-ups would enjoy both of these. I only wish I could have read the blog twenty years ago!

Do you have any ideas for what to do in Le Marche when it rains? I’d love to hear from you.

Posted in Cultura, Entertainment, Holiday, Survival, Tourism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The workshop of Giovanni Santi after 1494/L’atelier de Giovanni Santi apres 1494/La bottega di Giovanni Santi dopo 1494

What did the 11-year-old Raphael do when his father died in 1494?

Summary: He probably learned his craft with Evangelista di Pian di Meleto, whether or not in his father’s workshop, until about 1500.

Le jeune Raphael qu’est-ce qu’il faisait après la mort de son père en 1494?

Sommaire: Probablement il apprenait son métier à Urbino en travaillant chez un artiste d’Urbino, peut-être Evangelista di Pian di Meleto, jusqu’à 1500.

Che cosa faceva l’undicenne Raffaello dopo la morte di suo padre nel 1494?

Sommario:Probabilmente studiava il suo mestiere da un artista urbinate, forse Evangelista di Pian di Meleto, fino al 1500.

As I have said before, Vasari in the Lives of the Artists says that he was sent to Perugia by his father (i.e. before 1494, the year of his father’s death) to be Perugino’s pupil. This story is highly unlikely, however, for many reasons. For me the clincher is that, according to Vasari, Raphael’s mother Magia was very upset when he left home (“non senza lagrime e pianti grandissimi della madre lo menò a Perugia”). Hardly surprising, if it were true, as she died in 1491 when her son (born in 1483) was only  eight.  Therefore, if Vasari is right, Raphael left home before his mother’s death, when he was  eight years old or younger. Titian was 10 when he left his home in Pieve di Cadore to train as an artist in Venice, which suggests that a boy as young as eight would not have been sent away as an apprentice. Probably Raphael did work with Perugino, but not until about 1502, when he was eighteen.

So at the age of eleven Raphael would have probably already started his training in his father’s workshop. Did  Santi’s workshop continue to operate after its master’s death? There is no documentary evidence to suggest that it did, though absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. Santi did not mention the workshop in either of his wills (cited by Anna Falcioni, Documenti urbinati sulla famiglia Santi in Raffaello e Urbino, Milano, 2009), which left his property equally between his brother Bartolomeo, a priest, and his son Raphael. Scholars assume that the workshop went to Raphael (see Henry and Plazzotta in Raphael: from Urbino to Rome, London, 2004, p.18) and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

We know that Raphael was in Urbino in 1500, because he was present at a legal hearing related to his father’s will: “Constitutus personaliter [personally present] … illustris Raphael quondam Iohannis Peruzzoli [son of the late Giovanni, grandson of Peruzzolo] de Urbino” (cited by Falcioni as above). The document refers to him as illustrious, which indicates that he had already acquired a certain status in his native city.

So from documentary evidence to plausible speculation: where was Raphael between 1494 and 1500?

Maria Rosaria Valazzi, in Rafaello e Urbino, cat.25, has attributed to Santi’s workshop a detached fresco from Pesaro’s duomo, or cathedral. Based on this attribution, she concludes that Santi’s workshop was operating in 1498-99 and Raphael was active in it. Frustratingly, she doesn’t tell us explicitly on what she bases the date 1498-99 (or am I missing something?).

Madonna and Child with Sts Peter and Jerome. Deposition of Christ. Attr Giovanni Santi's workshop

Madonna and Child with Sts Peter and Jerome. Deposition of Christ. Attr Giovanni Santi’s workshop. Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita’ Culturali.

Looking at the fresco, I can see what she’s getting at. There are some Santi-esque elements: – the characteristic tilted oval of the Madonna’s face, with the almond-shaped eyes, as in the Buffi altarpiece below.

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.

The dead Christ is also reminiscent of Santi’s Dead Christ, now in the Ducal Palace in Urbino.

The Dead Christ supported by two angels.

The Dead Christ supported by two angels. Thanks to .

Whether or not you are convinced by Valazzi’s attribution, and hence the existence of Santi’s workshop after 1494,  it is likely that between 1494 and 1500 Raphael was learning his craft from local artists, who may or may not have been managing Giovanni Santi’s workshop on his son’s behalf.

Top candidate for his master is the elusive Evangelista di Pian di Meleto, an artist who certainly existed, (see, eg, Falcioni above, p 277) but none of whose works survive and to whom no works have been indisputably attributed. Just so you know I’ve done my homework, other possibilities are Girolamo Genga and Timoteo Viti, but these are less convincing.

Evangelista appears in 1483 as Giovanni Santi’s famulus or servant (Henry in Raphael from Urbino to Rome, cats 15,16). He then pops up from time to time in various legal documents unconnected with Raphael, but Evangelista’s most important link with his late master’s son is their joint commission in 1500, to paint the Coronation of St Nicholas of Tolentino for the Baronci chapel of the church of Sant’Agostino, in Città di Castello. This only survives in a fragmentary condition: below are two fragments joined together, now in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.

Raphael and Evangelista: Fragments of the Coronation of St Nicholas of Tolentino. Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita' Culturali.

Raphael and Evangelista: Fragments of the Coronation of St Nicholas of Tolentino. Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita’ Culturali.

The Virgin’s head is tilted and she has heavy-lidded, almond-shaped eyes, in (as Kenneth Clark would have it) dear old Mr Santi’s typical style.  Significantly, in the commission Raphael is named first and as a master (magister). So we can assume (again!) that from 1500 on he was responsible for his own workshop. Referred to as both illustris and magister, he had already gained recognition as a considerable and  independent artist at the age of 17.

If you want an idea of just how good Raphael was at 17, having been taught by the worthy Evangelista, look at his drawings for the Coronation.

Raphael: Studies for the Baronci altarpiece, Coronation of St Nicholas of Tolentino recto

Raphael: Studies for the Baronci altarpiece, Coronation of St Nicholas of Tolentino, recto. Thanks to the National Gallery.


Raphael: Studies for the Baronci altarpiece, Coronation of St Nicholas of Tolentino, verso

Raphael: Studies for the Baronci altarpiece, Coronation of St Nicholas of Tolentino, verso. Thanks to the National Gallery.


Now we come to my favourite example of his father’s influence on Raphael: the crown. For the Baronci altarpiece Raphael kept and re-used the crown which God the Father is holding. It came originally  from his father’s workshop, and appears more than once in Giovanni Santi’s work, for instance in the Buffi altarpiece above, and in the Tiranni Chapel altarpiece below.

Giovanni Santi: Tiranni chapel altarpiece, San Domenico, Cagli. The crown is hanging above the Virgin's head.

Giovanni Santi: Tiranni chapel altarpiece, San Domenico, Cagli. The crown is hanging above the Virgin’s head. Thanks to the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita’ Culturali.

So we leave Raphael in 1501, having completed his first documented commission. His work is still derivative, but from his draughtsmanship we can tell that no ordinary artist is waiting to burst forth.

For this post I have relied heavily on two exhibition catalogues: Raphael: from Urbino to Rome, London, 2004 and Raffaello e Urbino, Milano, 2009. I am pleased to acknowledge my debt to them.


Posted in History of Art, Raphael, Religious art, Renaissance, Urbino | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogger Awards | ITALY Magazine

Blogger Awards | ITALY Magazine.

You can use the ITALY Magazine Blogger Awards to nominate your favourite blog about Italy in a range of categories. I’d love it if you nominated me, but the more nominations and nominators the better – there are so many good blogs out there. For example, I’ve nominated Marche for Kids in the Travel category. So please follow the link in the title!

Potete usare gli “ITALY Magazine Blogger Awards” scegliendo il vostro blog preferito sull’Italia in parecchie categorie diverse. Se volete scegliere me, sarò contenta, ma più candidati sono, meglio è. Per esempio, ho scelto Marche for Kids nella categoria Viaggi. Dunque, seguite il link nel titolo!

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How to fill up with petrol/gasolene in Italy.

Do this on the autostrada whenever you can. It’s open 24/7 and attended.

Failing that, try to fill up on the superstrada, i.e. a toll-free highway with two lanes in each direction. But be warned! It was in a superstrada filling station that we met an angry Dutchman (almost a contradiction in terms). He had been charged extra by the attendant for “helping” him to fill up, without his permission. She had just grabbed the dispenser from him. I tried to find out what one was supposed to do by talking to the attendant, and it turned out that three of the pumps were permanently unattended. The staff had no access to them and you had to pay by machine. The other pumps were officially self-service, but you could ask the attendant to do it for you and that would cost extra (I think). Or were some of them designated “self-service” and others “assisted service”? Anyway, she was so busy talking that she forgot to charge for filling up for us.

Only use filling stations on other roads if they are attended. Do not, repeat do not, attempt to use the pumps and pay by machine when there is nobody there. First of all your credit/debit card probably won’t be accepted. Secondly, you need to have new, clean notes. Thirdly, it’s quite a complicated process. Fourthly, and this is important, the pumps sometimes run out of petrol/gas and you have to keep your receipt and come back next day. How you are supposed to do this, when you have run out of petrol/gas and are desperate by the roadside in the dark, I do not know. Also, you are not likely to come back next day if you are driving a long distance.

Oh, and it’s illegal to have a jerrycan of petrol/gas in the boot/trunk.

Happy motoring!

For tips on how to survive Italian mosquitoes, rain and tea, see the relevant posts.

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Surviving mosquitoes in Italy.

Do you have a fantasy of drinking or dancing in a smart Italian venue on a warm evening, wearing a glamorous dress to show off your tan and a pair of high-heeled strappy sandals? Well, forget it, unless you want to spend the following evening showing off your mosquito bites.

The little creatures come out at 7 pm, aperitivo time, and get everywhere. They particularly like your ankles, the tops of your feet, and your ear-lobes. You need to cover up from ankles to wrist to neck, and wear closed shoes. We’re usually in Italy in time for the summer sales, and I buy lightweight trousers and long-sleeved blouses. It’s difficult to find anything cool and protective in England.

Spray all over with a strong mosquito repellent. Probably best to buy it airside if you are travelling by plane, or go into a farmacia as soon as you can and ask for Autan Tropical. There are probably other good brands; I mention this one because it’s well-known and easy to ask for.

All this applies in spades to children. One year we couldn’t face forcing our daughter to rub on the mosquito lotion, and then she was covered in suppurating bites and we looked like Bad Parents.

Finally, mosquitoes don’t seem to like cool, rainy weather,  so you won’t have to put up with both at once.

For tips on how to survive Italian filling stations, rain and tea, see the relevant posts.

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Desperately seeking a nice cup of tea in Italy

Most Italians don’t understand the concept of a nice cup of tea, any more than most English people understand the concept of coffee. I was in the queue for the till at Imec (pronounced Eemech), the local electrical shop, with our new electric kettle in my hand, when the lady in front of me turned round and asked if you put the tea bag in the kettle. I replied with my standard disquisition on how to make tea, which she listened to politely and with every appearance of interest.

If you are renting a holiday home, check that a kettle is supplied and ask for one if not. Be careful when boiling it. You don’t want to trip the system. Turn off any other unnecessary bits of electrical equipment. In the supermarket, only buy Twining’s tea. It’s a bit weak but not nearly as weak as Lipton’s or any of the other brands.

If after your trip to a cultural institution, you ask for the Englishwoman’s birthright, a nice cup of tea (specify té caldo, hot tea) and a piece of cake, this is what you will get: a delicious cake and a teapot with previously boiled water in it. Next to the teapot will be a daintily arranged pile of tea bags, including Lipton’s and various herb teas, plus a slice of lemon. You will have to ask for latte freddo (cold milk) – specify cold. If it’s quiet and the barmaid is a nice middle-aged lady, you can supervise her and ask her to put the tea-bag in the pot first. This led me on to an interesting conversation once, when the barmaid and I agreed that this was the best way to make tea. Otherwise, don’t bother; ask for hot chocolate or a latte caldo macchiato (hot milk with a dash of coffee).

Iced tea is a sort of sweet soft drink; it doesn’t taste like tea and is too sweet to be refreshing.

Speaking of coffee, Italian decaffeinated is much better than ours.  It doesn’t have that wishy-washy, bitter, sour taste which is characteristic of English decaf. Caffè HAG is always reliable; our local decaf, Saccaria, is good too. In England Lavazza decaf is the best.

What do you drink instead of tea in the afternoon? I’d love to know.

For tips on how to survive Italian filling stations, rain and mosquitoes, see the relevant posts.

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Palazzi nobiliari di Corinaldo/Corinaldo’s historic houses.

Il dépliant dell’Albergo Diffuso, che elenca alcuni palazzi nobiliari corinaldesi,  ci ha ispirati a farne il giro a piedi. Abbiamo cominciato col Terreno, la piazza alberata alla sommità della città.  Questa piazza ci ha delusi al nostro primo arrivo; “dov’è il caffè?”, abbiamo pensato. Man mano arrivavamo a capire che questa piazza non serviva da foro; qui abitavano le famiglie nobiliare e qui si veniva a pregare. Attualmente il Terreno ospita tanti intrattenimenti e feste serali, ma di giorno rimane tranquillo, con solo l’eco spettrale del viavai di un tempo.

Andando intorno alla piazza in senso orario, dalla via SM Goretti, cominciamo col palazzo Orlandi.

Palazzo Orlandi, Via S M Goretti.

Palazzo Orlandi, Via S M Goretti.

Secondo il libro di Francesca Pongetti, La ‘Marca’ e le famiglie nobili e notabili di Corinaldo, “La famiglia Orlandi è una delle piu antiche di Corinaldo. La sua presenza è attestata dal 1350 …”.

Accanto al Palazzo Orlandi c’è il Palazzo Rossi Ricci, dell’ottocento secondo l’itinerario dell’Albergo Diffuso, che non è del tutto affidabile. Si noti il bel portale, uno dei tanti che imbelliscono i palazzi di Corinaldo.

Palazzo Rossi Ricci Piazza il Terreno22

Palazzo Rossi Ricci, Piazza il Terreno 22

Giovan Battista Orlandi, insieme al Sig. Ricci, conduceva una filanda durante la seconda meta del XIX secolo, “dando lavoro a circa 70 donne e 3 uomini” (citato da Pongetti, p. 164). La Sig. Rossi, vedova, ha sposato in seconde nozze il Sig. G. Ricci.

Poi arriviamo al palazzo Cesarini Romaldi. Qui è stata scoperta, durante la restaurazione dell’edificio postale, una loggia cinquecentesca al secondo piano.

Palazzo Cesarini-Romaldi Piazza il Terreno 23

Palazzo Cesarini-Romaldi, Piazza il Terreno 23

Loggia cinquecentesca scoperta nel palazzo Cesarini Romaldi.

Loggia cinquecentesca scoperta nel palazzo Cesarini Romaldi. Da “Corinaldo antico colore del tempo”.

 La vernice di Eugenio Morganti si è svolta qui, ma siamo entrati dall’altro lato, dal portone più modesto.

Waiting in the Terreno for Morganti's private view to open.

Aspettando nel Terreno l’apertura della vernice di Eugenio Morganti/Waiting in the Terreno for Morganti’s private view to open.

Proseguendo il circuito, traversiamo la piazza del Cassero, ed ecco il Palazzo Mazzoleni Ciani al angolo.

Palazzo Mazzoleni-Ciani Piazza il Terreno no 4

Palazzo Mazzoleni-Ciani, Piazza il Terreno no 4

Secondo Pongetti, la famiglia Ciani, di origine senese,  si è traslocato a Corinaldo da Monterado nel ‘500. Hanno abbandonato Siena dopo la presa di potere dei Medici il 17/4/1555. Si sono poi uniti a un’altra famiglia oriunda, i Mazzoleni, per matrimonio, probabilmente nel ‘600.

La d.ssa Pongetti ci informa che nella biblioteca di Corinaldo ci sono dei libri antichi che appartenevano ai Ciani. Ho scelto dal catalogo di Pongetti questa cinquecentina:- Horatii Flacci … omnia poemata, stampata a Venezia nel 1584 da Giovanni Griffo. Si legge sul foglio di guardia, “O libro che da me tanto amato se poi fosti da me smarrito Di al padrone che li ha donato che tornar vuoi al tuo perduto se per sorte il mio nome fosse codesto li Tomasso Ciano son chiamato benissimo.”

Tommaso Ciani (1812-1889), secondo Pongetti, “fu eletto Deputato di Corinaldo all’Assemblea Costituente di Roma”. Dopo il collasso delle rivolte del 1848, fu esiliato da Corinaldo, ma nel 1860 tornò e “fu chiamato con altri Marchigiani di provata esperienza e coltura, noti per devozione inconcussa alla patria, al seguito del Commissario straordinario Lorenzo Valerio” (citato da Pongetti, p 152).

Chi vuole sapere più della famiglia Ciani, legga il libro di Pongetti. Se volete vedere i libri della famiglia Ciani nella biblioteca di Corinaldo, io direi di rivolgervi prima alla IAT.

Giriamo a destra e dopo qualche passo ci troviamo di fronte al Palazzo Ridolfi.

Palazzo Ridolfi, Piazza il Terreno no 8, '700.

Palazzo Ridolfi, ‘700, Piazza il Terreno no 8.

Claudio Ridolfi (1570-1644) fu uno di quei pittori del nord-est della penisola, tipo Lorenzo Lotto e i fratelli Crivelli, che hanno  trovato la terra marchigiana più fruttuosa della terra natale. A me, da inglese anglicana, sembrava che alcuni suoi dipinti seguano troppo strettamente le regole della controriforma, e perciò mi sembravano un po’ sentimentali e senza ispirazione. Ma questo quadro sotto mi ha fatto cambiare idea.

LA MADDALENA AI PIEDI DELLA CROCE Claudio Ridolfi (Verona 1570 – Corinaldo 1644) Olio su tela Prima metà del XVII secolo

LA MADDALENA AI PIEDI DELLA CROCE. Claudio Ridolfi (Verona 1570 – Corinaldo 1644). Olio su tela. Prima metà del XVII secolo

Da disegnatore Ridolfi fu veramente dotato.

Claudio Ridolfi. Viso di giovane donna. Grazie al Ente Olivieri di Pesaro.

Continuando sempre in senso orario, arriviamo al Palazzo Fata Ottaviani (Tarsi Marcolini), all’ angolo della Via SM Goretti.

Portale del Palazzo Fata Ottaviani (Tarsi Marcolini), '700, Piazza il Terreno 20.

Portale del Palazzo Fata Ottaviani (Tarsi Marcolini), ‘700, Piazza il Terreno 20.

Giriamo a sinistra e seguiamo via SM Goretti. All’angolo con Via Boscareto si trova il Palazzo Sandreani. [NB Spero che questa identificazione sia corretta; sennò, fatemelo sapere tramite i “Comments”.]

Palazzo Sandreani, Via SM Goretti 6

Palazzo Sandreani, Via SM Goretti 6

I Sandreani sono presenti a Corinaldo sin dal 1300, sempre secondo Pongetti. Il libretto “L’antico colore del tempo” sceglie il Venerabile Angelo Antoni Sandreani da menzionare, frate Francescano molto attivo, nato a Rocca Contrada (Arcevia), dalla famiglia Sandreani.

Giriamo a sinistra, seguiamo Via Boscareto e giriamo a destra lungo il Corso.

Palazzo Brunori, Via del Corso 43

Palazzo Brunori, Via del Corso 43

Secondo Pongetti, la famiglia Brunori di Corinaldo può risalire fino al 1351. La biblioteca ne possiede una cinquecentina:- Baiardi, Giovanni Battista: Additiones et annotationes, stampata a Parma da Erasmo Viotti nel 1597. Il libro era all’uso professionale – era uomo di legge – di  Girolamo Brunori, di un ramo secondario della famiglia.

Battente del Palazzo Brunori

Battente del Palazzo Brunori

Seguendo il Corso verso la Porta Nova, arriviamo al Palazzo Cesarini Duranti.

Palazzo Cesarini Duranti Via del Corso 59

Palazzo Cesarini Duranti, Via del Corso 59

L’ultimo di questa famiglia, Ippolito Cesarini, è morto a Roma nel 1989.

Andiamo un po’ più avanti e vediamo dall’altra parte del Corso il Palazzo Palma Marangoni (Palazzo delle Meraviglie).

Palazzo Palma-Marangoni,  '500, Via del Corso 64.

Palazzo Palma-Marangoni, ‘500, Via del Corso 64.

Questo edificio fa parte dell’Albergo Diffuso. Offre 6 camere agli ospiti.

Palazzo Palma-Marangoni, portale, '500.

Palazzo Palma-Marangoni, portale, ‘500.

L’ultimo palazzo che abbiamo visto è stato il Palazzo Cimarelli.

Il portale del Palazzo Cimarelli, Via Cimarelli  48.

Il portale del Palazzo Cimarelli, Via Cimarelli 48.

Il palazzo fu la dimora di Vincenzo Maria Cimarelli (1585-1662), domenicano, storiografo, e uomo di lettere.

Voglio anche condividere con i miei lettori qualche bel dettaglio, due battenti e una finestra.




Ormai il sole diventa forte; sediamoci sotto l’ombra e beviamoci qualcosa di fresco!

Posted in Architecture, Corinaldo, History of Art, Religious art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments