Falling hero

Born in Correggio in 1885, Dorando Pietri finished first in the marathon at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, but was subsequently disqualified…   To the sound of a cheering crowd and the sight of much tossing of hats, the diminutive figure of the Italian runner Dorando Pietri entered the newly completed White City Stadium […]

Past Italia: Abbazia di Santa Maria di Pulsano

pulsano abbey

Pulsano Abbey stands on the spur of Italy’s heel in the Gargano area of Puglia, overlooking the Gulf of Manfredonia Photo by Getty Images There has been an abbey at this location on the Gargano promontory since the 6th century. However, the original was destroyed by Islamic invaders and the 12th-century rebuild – which had […]

Past Italia: La Villa Donn’Anna

Palazzo Donn'Anna, Italy

This historic but dilapidated residence sits on the Posillipo coast in Naples, west of the Mergellina harbour, some way beyond the Castel dell’Ovo… Photo by Getty Images The Villa Donn’Anna takes its name from Anna Carafa, the wife of a Spanish viceroy of Naples who inherited the property in 1630 and had it rebuilt to […]

Past Italia: Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica, Italy

The Mithraic Mysteries was once the predominant religious practice in Rome, and some archeological remains of this pre-Christian religion still survive… Photo by Getty Images Before Constantine converted to Christianity and changed Europe for ever, the most worshipped figure in Rome was Mithra, a divinity of Persian origin about whom little history remains. By the […]

Past Italia: Marcus Aurelius on horseback

Piazza del Campidoglio with statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, Italy.

The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius stands centre stage in Rome’s Piazza del Campidoglio… Photo by Getty Images One of the few stipulations that the Pope made when he commissioned Michelangelo to redesign the piazza on the Capitoline Hill was that the famous ancient statue of Marcus Aurelius should be its focal point. The statue […]

Past Italia: Santa Maria del Monte

Santa Maria del Monte, Italy

La Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte climbs to the church of St Mary of the Mount in Caltagirone, Sicily   The Church of Saint Mary of the Mount in Caltagirone dates back to the 12th-century; its staircase is early 17th-century; but the majolica tiles that have made the staircase famous today were only placed […]

Past Italia: La Chiesa di San Pietro

The church of Saint Peter on the promontory if Porto Venere in Liguria, Italy

St Peter‘s (La Chiesa di San Pietro)  in Portovenere stands on a promontory overlooking the Gulf of Poets Saint Peter’s at Portovenere is built on the site of a 5th-century church, and before that an earlier, pagan temple dedicated to Venus. It was consecrated in 1198 but its bands of black and white Carrara marble (the […]

Past Italia: Il Castello di Santa Severa

Castello di Santa Severa, Lazio italy

The medieval castle of Santa Severa faces out to sea on the Lazio coast, just 40 minutes north of Rome The Castle of Saint Severa is named after a young girl whose entire family was martyred. Her father was a Roman military commander who converted to Christianity and was put to death for refusing to renounce […]

Past Italia: Arezzo Cathedral

Arezzo Cathedral, Tuscany, Italy

The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Donatus in Arezzo, Tuscany, boasts a long history and some eye-catching architecture La Cattedrale dei Santi Pietro e Donato is the city cathedral of Arezzo, Tuscany. The façade is a 20th-century reconstruction, and the clock tower was added then too, but the rest of the church was built between the […]

Past Italia: Pasta in Italy

antique picture Italy: Naples, Pasta Factory

This image of a 19th-century factory in Naples illustrates just how fundamental pasta is to Italian cuisine Where or when pasta originated is something we will never know. A lot of the problem lies in what we mean by “pasta”, but the modern Italian pasta we know and love today (ie, that which is made […]