Monday, 29 April 2019


Università di Pisa
Today, Joseph de Ca'th Lon and his friends have visited the University of Pisa, one of the most prestigious centres of knowledge and studies in Europe. Joseph likes Astronomy and Science in general and he has wanted to discover new information about Galileo Galilei the great figure of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564-8 January 1642) was a Tuscan astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Galileo has been called the father of observational astronomy, the father of modern physics, the father of the scientific method, and the father of modern science.

Galileo studied speed and velocity, gravity and free fall, the principle of relativity, inertia, projectile motion and also worked in applied science and technology, describing the properties of pendulums and hydrostatic balances, inventing the thermoscope and various military compasses, and using the telescope for scientific observations of celestial objects.

His contributions to observational astronomy include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the observation of the four largest satellites of Jupiter, the observation of Saturn and the analysis of sunspots.

Galileo Gallilei
Galileo's championing of heliocentrism and Copernicanism was controversial during his lifetime, when most subscribed to geocentric models such as the Tychonic system. He met with opposition from astronomers, who doubted heliocentrism because of the absence of an observed stellar parallax. The matter was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, which concluded that heliocentrism was foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.

Galileo later defended his views in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), which appeared to attack Pope Urban VIII and thus alienated him and the Jesuits, who had both supported Galileo up until this point. He was tried by the Inquisition, found vehemently suspect of heresy, and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. While under house arrest, he wrote Two New Sciences, in which he summarized work he had done some forty years earlier on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials.

Galileo was born in Pisa, then part of the Duchy of Florence, on 15 February 1564, the first of six children of Vincenzo Galilei, a famous lutenist, composer, and music theorist, and Giulia, who had married in 1562.

Galileo became an accomplished lutenist himself and would have learned early from his father a scepticism for established authority, the value of well-measured or quantified experimentation, an appreciation for a periodic or musical measure of time or rhythm, as well as the results expected from a combination of mathematics and experiment.

When Galileo Galilei was eight, his family moved to Florence, but he was left with Jacopo Borghini for two years. He was educated from 1575 to 1578 in the Vallombrosa Abbey, about 30 km southeast of Florence.

Galileo Galilei
Although Galileo seriously considered the priesthood as a young man, at his father's urging he instead enrolled in 1580 at the University of Pisa for a medical degree.

In 1581, when he was studying medicine, he noticed a swinging chandelier, which air currents shifted about to swing in larger and smaller arcs.

To him, it seemed, by comparison with his heartbeat, that the chandelier took the same amount of time to swing back and forth, no matter how far it was swinging. When he returned home, he set up two pendulums of equal length and swung one with a large sweep and the other with a small sweep and found that they kept time together. It was not until the work of Christiaan Huygens, almost one hundred years later, that the tautochrone nature of a swinging pendulum was used to create an accurate timepiece.

Up to this point, Galileo had deliberately been kept away from mathematics, since a physician earned a higher income than a mathematician. However, after accidentally attending a lecture on geometry, he talked his reluctant father into letting him study mathematics and natural philosophy instead of medicine. He created a thermoscope, a forerunner of the thermometer, and, in 1586, published a small book on the design of a hydrostatic balance he had invented, which first brought him to the attention of the scholarly world.

More information: Sciencing

Galileo also studied disegno, a term encompassing fine art, and, in 1588, obtained the position of instructor in the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence, teaching perspective and chiaroscuro. Being inspired by the artistic tradition of the city and the works of the Renaissance artists, Galileo acquired an aesthetic mentality. While a young teacher at the Accademia, he began a lifelong friendship with the Florentine painter Cigoli, who included Galileo's lunar observations in one of his paintings.

In 1589, he was appointed to the chair of mathematics in Pisa. In 1591, his father died, and he was entrusted with the care of his younger brother Michelagnolo. In 1592, he moved to the University of Padua where he taught geometry, mechanics, and astronomy until 1610.

The Dialogue by Galileo Galilei
During this period, Galileo made significant discoveries in both pure fundamental science, for example, kinematics of motion and astronomy, as well as practical applied science, for example, strength of materials and pioneering the telescope.

His multiple interests included the study of astrology, which at the time was a discipline tied to the studies of mathematics and astronomy.

In the whole world prior to Galileo's conflict with the Church, the majority of educated people subscribed either to the Aristotelian geocentric view that the earth was the center of the universe and that all heavenly bodies revolved around the Earth, or the Tychonic system that blended geocentrism with heliocentrism.

More information: Space

On February 19, 1616, the Inquisition asked a commission of theologians, known as qualifiers, about the propositions of the heliocentric view of the universe.

In 1633 Galileo was ordered to stand trial on suspicion of heresy. He was interrogated while threatened with physical torture.

Galileo was found guilty, and the sentence of the Inquisition, issued on 22 June 1633.

According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedly muttered the rebellious phrase And yet it moves"

It was while Galileo was under house arrest that he dedicated his time to one of his finest works, Two New Sciences. Here he summarised work he had done some forty years earlier, on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials, published in Holland to avoid the censor.

Galileo continued to receive visitors until 1642, when, after suffering fever and heart palpitations, he died on 8 January 1642, aged 77.

The Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando II, wished to bury him in the main body of the Basilica of Santa Croce, next to the tombs of his father and other ancestors, and to erect a marble mausoleum in his honour.

Who would set a limit to the mind of man?
Who would dare assert that we know all there is to be known?

Galileo Galilei

Sunday, 28 April 2019


Visiting Lajarico, Tuscany
Tina Picotes and her friends are visiting Lajatico, a beautiful town near Pisa where singer Andrea Bocelli was born. Tina loves opera and visiting Lajatico is a good opportunity to discover the origins of one of the most amazing and beautifu voices around the world nowadays.

Lajatico is a comune in the Province of Pisa, Tuscany, located about 50 kilometres southwest of Florence and about 40 kilometres southeast of Pisa. Lajatico sits in mainly hilly terrain at variable elevations from 100 to 650 metres above sea level and dominates the end of the Valdera valley and the opening of the valley known as Val di Cecina.

La Sterza, one of its hamlets, is the natural door between these two geographical areas. The Sterza, Era, and the Ragone rivers form natural borders, placing Lajatico in a very central position to reach Tuscan cities and seaside resorts.

Tina Picotes visits Teatro del Silenzio, Lajarico
Lajatico is, however, best known as the home town of tenor Andrea Bocelli. His annual concerts at the Teatro del Silenzio are attended by people from all around the world, every year.

Lajatico has the following hamlets associated with it: Orciatico, an ancient small medieval village; San Giovanni di Val d'Era; and La Sterza. Another small locality is Spedaletto, a stomping ground of Lorenzo de' Medici. Lajatico borders the following municipalities: Chianni, Montecatini Val di Cecina, Peccioli, Riparbella, Terricciola, Volterra.

Lajatico, as the suffix atico indicates, is of Lombard origins (c. 7th century AD), but the first settlements are much more ancient. Archaeological evidence suggests, a funeral stone, some urns, and terracotta vases that the village is Etruscan in origin.

The first written document mentioning Lajatico dates from 891. From then on, the Castrum Ajatici was property of the powerful Pannocchieschi family of Elci.

In 1139, Ranieri Pannocchieschi gave to the Bishop of Volterra, Adimaro Adimari, his property stretching to Lajatico and neighboring areas. In 1161, another part of Lajatico was given to the Bishop of Volterra, until Bishop Ildebrando Pannocchieschi, due to a Papal Bull of August 1186, took over the political jurisdiction.

In 1202, Lajatico and part of Volterra came under the influence of Pisa until 1284, when Pisa was defeated by Genoa in the Battle of Meloria.

Jordi Santanyí visits Lajatico, Tuscany
At the end of the hostilities, Lajatico came back to the Bishop of Volterra, who brought it, together with Orciatico, Pietracassia and other castles, under the jurisdiction of the city of Florence, which held it until the peace of Fucecchio, in 1293.

Aside from 1362, when Florence occupied Lajatico for a short time, and kept it under the jurisdiction of Pisa until 1406, when Pietro Gaetani, a Pisan noble who decided to sell out his native land, and gave the castles of Lajatico, Orciatico and Pietracassia to the Florentines.

In 1434, the Florentines demolished not only the walls of the town, but also the wall and towers of the surrounding villages, to punish their inhabitants for their submission to Niccolò Piccinino, condottiero under the Visconti of Milan.

In 1664, the same castles with their territories were ceded as a marquisate to the Corsini until 1776, when Lajatico annexed the municipality of Orciatico. 

In 1869, it also annexed part of the territories belonging to the municipalities of Montecatini and Volterra.

More information: Visit Tuscany

Andrea Bocelli (born 22 September 1958) is a Tuscan singer, songwriter, and record producer. Céline Dion has said that if God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli, and David Foster, a record producer, often describes Bocelli's voice as the most beautiful in the world.

Andrea Bocelli
He was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma and became completely blind at age 12, following a soccer accident.

Since 1982, Bocelli has recorded 15 solo studio albums of both pop and classical music, three greatest hits albums, and nine complete operas, selling over 90 million records worldwide.

He has had success as a crossover performer, bringing classical music to the top of international pop charts.

In 1998, Bocelli was named one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People. In 1999, he was nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards. The Prayer is his duet with Celine Dion for the animated film Quest for Camelot which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. 

He captured a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records with the release of his classical album Sacred Arias, as he simultaneously held the top three positions on the US Classical Albums charts.

Bocelli was made a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2006 and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 2 March 2010 for his contribution to Live Theater.

More information: Andrea Bocelli

A career is like a house: it's made of many bricks,
and each brick has the same value,
because without any one of them, the house would collapse.

Andrea Bocelli

Saturday, 27 April 2019


The Grandma & Claire visit Pisa, Tuscany
Today, Claire Fontaine and her friends have visited Pisa, one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany. Pisa is well-known thanks to its Leaning Tower and its inhabitants like Galileo Galilei.

Pisa is a city and comune in Tuscany, straddling the Arno just before it empties into the Ligurian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its leaning tower, the bell tower of the city's cathedral, the city contains more than 20 other historic churches, several medieval palaces, and various bridges across the Arno. Much of the city's architecture was financed from its history as one of the Italian maritime republics.

The city is also home of the University of Pisa, which has a history going back to the 12th century and also has the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, founded by Napoleon in 1810, and its offshoot, the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, as the best-sanctioned Superior Graduate Schools in Italy.

More information: Visit Tuscany  

The origin of the name, Pisa, is a mystery. While the origin of the city had remained unknown for centuries, the Pelasgi, the Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Ligurians had variously been proposed as founders of the city, for example, a colony of the ancient city of Pisa, Greece.

Archaeological remains from the fifth century BC confirmed the existence of a city at the sea, trading with Greeks and Gauls.

The presence of an Etruscan necropolis, discovered during excavations in the Arena Garibaldi in 1991, confirmed its Etruscan origins.

Ancient Roman authors referred to Pisa as an old city. Strabo referred Pisa's origins to the mythical Nestor, king of Pylos, after the fall of Troy. Virgil, in his Aeneid, states that Pisa was already a great center by the times described; the settlers from the Alpheus coast have been credited with the founding of the city in the Etruscan lands.

Joseph & Jordi visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa
During the last years of the Western Roman Empire, Pisa did not decline as much as the other cities of Italy, probably due to the complexity of its river system and its consequent ease of defence. In the seventh century, Pisa helped Pope Gregory I by supplying numerous ships in his military expedition against the Byzantines of Ravenna: Pisa was the sole Byzantine centre of Tuscia to fall peacefully in Lombard hands, through assimilation with the neighbouring region where their trading interests were prevalent. Pisa began in this way its rise to the role of main port of the Upper Tyrrhenian Sea.

After Charlemagne had defeated the Lombards under the command of Desiderius in 774, Pisa went through a crisis, but soon recovered.

The power of Pisa as a maritime nation began to grow and reached its apex in the 11th century, when it acquired traditional fame as one of the four main historical maritime republics of Italy (Repubbliche Marinare).

More information: Discover Tuscany

In 1113, Pisa and Pope Paschal II set up, together with the count of Barcelona and other contingents from Provence and Italy, Genoese excluded, a war to free the Balearic Islands from the Moors; the queen and the king of Majorca were brought in chains to Tuscany.

Though the Almoravides soon reconquered the island, the booty taken helped the Pisans in their magnificent programme of buildings, especially the cathedral, and Pisa gained a role of pre-eminence in the Western Mediterranean.

In 1238, Pope Gregory IX formed an alliance between Genoa and Venice against the empire, and consequently against Pisa, too.

The great expansion in the Mediterranean and the prominence of the merchant class urged a modification in the city's institutes. The system with consuls was abandoned, and in 1230, the new city rulers named a capitano del popolo, people's chieftain, as civil and military leader. In spite of these reforms, the conquered lands and the city itself were harassed by the rivalry between the two families of Della Gherardesca and Visconti.
Tonyi Tamaki visits the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The decline is said to have begun on August 6, 1284, when the numerically superior fleet of Pisa, under the command of Albertino Morosini, was defeated by the brilliant tactics of the Genoese fleet, under the command of Benedetto Zaccaria and Oberto Doria, in the dramatic naval Battle of Meloria. Furthermore, in the 15th century, access to the sea became more and more difficult, as the port was silting up and was cut off from the sea.

When in 1494, Charles VIII of France invaded the Italian states to claim the Kingdom of Naples, Pisa grabbed the opportunity to reclaim its independence as the Second Pisan Republic.

Pisa acquired a mainly cultural role spurred by the presence of the University of Pisa, created in 1343, and later reinforced by the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (1810) and Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies (1987).

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, in Italian Torre pendente di Pisa, or simply the Tower of Pisa is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its nearly four-degree lean, the result of an unstable foundation. The tower is situated behind the Pisa Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in the city's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo), after the cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry.

More information: Love from Tuscany

The tower's tilt began during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground on one side, which was unable to properly support the structure's weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed in the 14th century. It gradually increased until the structure was stabilized, and the tilt partially corrected, by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The height of the tower is 55.86 metres from the ground on the low side and 56.67 metres on the high side. The width of the walls at the base is 2.44 m. Its weight is estimated at 14,500 metric tons. The tower has 296 or 294 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase.

In 1990 the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but following remedial work between 1993 and 2001 this was reduced to 3.97 degrees, reducing the overhang by 45 cm at a cost of £200m. It lost a further 4 cm of tilt in the two decades to 2018.

There has been controversy about the real identity of the architect of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. For many years, the design was attributed to Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano, a well-known 12th-century resident artist of Pisa, known for his bronze casting, particularly in the Pisa Duomo

Pisano left Pisa in 1185 for Monreale, Sicily, only to come back and die in his home town. A piece of cast bearing his name was discovered at the foot of the tower in 1820, but this may be related to the bronze door in the façade of the cathedral that was destroyed in 1595.

A 2001 study seems to indicate Diotisalvi was the original architect, due to the time of construction and affinity with other Diotisalvi works, notably the bell tower of San Nicola and the Baptistery, both in Pisa.

More information: Tower of Pisa

Construction of the tower occurred in three stages over 199 years. Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on August 14, 1173 during a period of military success and prosperity. This ground floor is a blind arcade articulated by engaged columns with classical Corinthian capitals.

The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-metre foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for almost a century, because the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca, and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle.

Numerous efforts have been made to restore the tower to a vertical orientation or at least keep it from falling over. Most of these efforts failed; some worsened the tilt.

In May 2008, engineers announced that the tower had been stabilized such that it had stopped moving for the first time in its history. They stated that it would be stable for at least 200 years.

More information: Walks of Italy

 I gave birth to our daughter Coco in Pisa,
and it was a wonderful time in all our lives.

Trudie Styler

Friday, 26 April 2019


The Grandma visits Grosseto, Tuscany
Today, The Grandma and her friends have visited Grosseto, a beautiful Tuscan city where was born Andrea da Grosseto, the first writer in the Italian language.

After some days visiting all the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, they have returned to the Italian peninsula to continue their Tuscan trip.

Grosseto is a city and comune in Tuscany, the capital of the Province of Grosseto. The city lies 14 kilometres from the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the Maremma, at the centre of an alluvial plain on the Ombrone river.

It is the most populous city in Maremma. The comune of Grosseto includes the frazioni of Marina di Grosseto, the largest one, Roselle, Principina a Mare, Principina Terra, Montepescali, Braccagni, Istia d'Ombrone, Batignano, Alberese and Rispescia.

The origins of Grosseto can be traced back to the High Middle Ages. It was first mentioned in 803 as a fief of the Counts Aldobrandeschi, in a document recording the assignment of the church of St. George to Ildebrando degli Aldobrandeschi, whose successors were counts of the Grossetana Mark until the end of the 12th century.

Grosseto steadily grew in importance, owing to the decline of Rusellae and Vetulonia until it was one of the principal Tuscan cities. 

In 1137 the city was besieged by German troops, led by Duke Heinrich X of Bavaria, sent by the emperor Lothair III to reinstate his authority over the Aldobrandeschi. In the following year the bishopric of Roselle was transferred to Grosseto.

In 1151 the citizens swore loyalty to the Republic of Siena, and in 1222 the Aldobrandeschi gave the Grossetani the right to have their own podestà, together with three councilors and consuls. 

Grosseto from the air, Tuscany
In 1244 the city was reconquered by the Sienese, and its powers, together with all the Aldobrandeschi's imperial privileges, were transferred to Siena by order of the imperial vicar. Thereafter Grosseto shared the fortunes of Siena. It became an important stronghold, and the fortress (rocca), the walls and bastions can still to be seen.

In 1266 and in 1355, Grosseto tried in vain to win freedom from the overlordship of Siena. While Guelph and Ghibelline parties struggled for control of that city, Umberto and Aldobrandino Aldobrandeschi tried to regain Grossetto for their family. The Sienese armies were, however, victorious, and in 1259 they named a podestà from their city. But Grosseto gained its freedom and in the following year and fought alongside the Florentine forces in the Battle of Montaperti.

Over the next 80 years Grosseto was again occupied, ravaged, excommunicated by Pope Clement IV, freed in a republic led by Maria Scozia Tolomei, besieged by emperor Louis IV and by the antipope Nicholas V in 1328, until it finally submitted to its more powerful neighbour, Siena.

More information: Visit Tuscany

The pestilence of 1348 struck Grosseto hard and by 1369 its population had been reduced to some hundred families. Its territory, moreover, was frequently ravaged, notably in 1447 by Alfons V of Sicily and in 1455 by Jacopo Piccinino.

Sienese rule ended in 1559, when Charles V handed over the whole duchy to Cosimo I de Medici, first grand duke of Tuscany. In 1574 the construction of a line of defensive walls was begun, which are still well preserved today, while the surrounding swampy plain was drained. Grosseto, however, remained a minor town, with only 700 inhabitants at the beginning of the 18th century.

Under the rule of the House of Lorraine, Grosseto flourished. It was given the title of capital of the new Maremma province.

The walls were begun by Francesco I de Medici in 1574, replacing those from the 12th-14th centuries, as part of his policy of making Grosseto a stronghold to protect his southern border. 

Claire Fontaine visits Grosseto, Tuscany
The design was by Baldassarre Lanci, and the construction took 19 years, being completed under Grand Duke Ferdinando I.

Until 1757 the exterior was surrounded by a ditch with an earthen moat. There were two main gates: Porta Nuova on the north and Porta Reale, now Porta Vecchia, on the south.

The Romanesque cathedral, the main monument of the city, is named for its patron St. Lawrence, and was begun at the end of the 13th century, by architect Sozzo Rustichini of Siena. Erected over the earlier church of Santa Maria Assunta, it was only finished in the 15th century, mainly due to the continuing struggles against Siena.

The façade of alternate layers of white and black marble is Romanesque in style, but is almost entirely the result of 16th century and 1816–1855 restorations: it retains decorative parts of the originary buildings, including Evangelists' symbols. The layout consists of a Latin cross, with transept and apse. The interior has a nave with two aisles, separated by cruciform pilasters. The main artworks are a wondrously carved baptismal font from 1470–1474 and the Madonna delle Grazie by Matteo di Giovanni (1470). The campanile (bell tower) was finished in 1402, and restored in 1911.

More information: Love from Tuscany

Andrea da Grosseto was born in Grosseto in the first half of 1200. He is very important in Italian literature, because he is considered the first writer in the Italian language.

Andrea da Grosseto translated from Latin the Moral Treaties of Albertano of Brescia, in 1268. His texts were written in the Italian language, without too many redundancies and constructions, words and typical ways of speech of the vernacular and the dialect. The writer intended to not utilise his own Grossetan dialect, but to use a general Italian national language. In fact he twice refers to the vernacular which he uses defining it italico (Italic).

So Andrea da Grosseto was the first to intend to use vernacular as a national unifying language from the north to the south of the entire Peninsula.

Chiaccia alla pala (oven-baked bread with oil) and Schiaccia con cipolle e acciughe (oven-baked bread with onions and European anchovy) are typical breads of the city of Grosseto. Acquacotta is typical of Mount Amiata: it is a poor soup, and the main ingredients are artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, beans, borage, pisciacane (dandelion) and similar vegetables. The Maremmana cattle is one of the two breeds used in the preparation of the Florentine steak.

More information: Traveling in Tuscany

I had been learning Italian for years.
I always loved Latin, but Italian is a living language;
I'm writing in it now as well as reading it.
It is so interesting delving further into language.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Thursday, 25 April 2019


Tonyi Tamaki visits Giannutri, Tuscany
Today, Tonyi Tamaki and her friends have visited Giannutri, one of the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago.

Visiting this wonderful island is a good opportunity to enjoy with its amazing fauna and its beautiful flora. One of the most popular activities in Giannutri is diving, something that Tonyi loves.

Giannutri is a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Tuscany. It is the southernmost island of the Tuscan Archipelago and it is a frazione of the comune of Isola del Giglio in the Province of Grosseto.

Giannutri was known as Dianium by the Romans and Artemisia, Αρτεμησία by the Greeks; it has a crescent moon shape which forms the Gulf of Spalmatoio and is placed at 16 kilometres south east from the Isola del Giglio and 17.6 kilometres from Porto Ercole. The island has a coastal perimeter of 11 km, is stretched approximately 2.8 km from Punta del Capo Rosso to Punta Secca, north-south, and 2 km from Punta San Francesco to Punta della Salvezza, west-east.

The soil is calcareous and has a rocky and rugged coasts with inlets and caves mainly in the southern part interrupted only by two beaches called Cala dello Spalmatoio, on the north-east, and Cala Maestra, on the north-west, where are the dockings. The island landscape has three hills: Poggio del Cannone and Monte Mario in the northern part and Poggio Capel Rosso, the highest, in the southern where is the lighthouse.

Joseph visits the lighthouse, Giannutri
The island’s flora is prevalently a high macchia mediterranea in the northern part which become garrigue in the southern. Plants as arbutus, Myrtus, pistacia lentiscus, mock privet, Mediterranean buckthorn, juniperus phoenicea and limonium sommierianum knew only on Isola del Giglio and Montecristo, grow up on the island.

The mild climate has favoured the growth of plants such as euphorbia, palm trees and wild orchids. The marine flora is abundant in sponges, madreporaria, black coral and red coral.

The island, as all that of the Tuscan Archipelago, is a place where the bird migration take a stop along their seasonal movement from North to South. The Audouin's gull, Puffinus yelkouan, Black-eared wheatear, Marmora's warbler and European shag are common on the island.

More information: Giannutri

was mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historiae and by the Latin geographer Pomporio Mela in his Dechorographia. The island was inhabited by Romans of which are the vestiges of a magnificent Roman villa.

Giannutri was abandoned for mysterious reasons from the 3rd century until 805 when Charlemagne donated to the Tre Fontane Abbey some lands, including the island which returned to be inhabited by cenobitic monks and some hermits.

In the following centuries the Island was assigned by emphyteusis to the Aldobrandeschi family of Sovana in 1269, to the Orsini of Pitigliano on June 15, 1410 and to Siena on August 12, 1452 by Pope Nicholas V award. The island changed several times of rule: Spanish, French and German and for sometimes became refuge of pirates and Saracens until the Treaty of Lunéville which assigned Giannutri to the Kingdom of Etruria in 1801, afterward to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany till the Italian unification in 1861.

In 1806 a small military garrison was sent on the island. On 10 May 1809, a landing party from HMS Seahorse and HMS Halcyon landed on the Pianosa and Giannutri. The landing party destroyed the enemy forts and captured about 100 prisoners during four hours of fighting. British losses were one marine killed and one wounded.

Visiting the Roman Villa, Giannutri, Tuscany
The Minister of Finances Quintino Sella, with a Royal decree, donated the island to the Comune of Giglio in 1865 in order to settle a farm.

In 1908 the Comune sold the island to the family Ruffo della Scaletta which remained the owner until the death of the Prince Rufo.

In the 1960s and 1970s the real estate investing transformed radically the island; in a few years an holiday resort at Cala Spalmatoio and many houses scattered through the island were built.

The Società Porto Romano declared bankruptcy and the numerous owners of the houses were obliged to form a society, called Libero Consorzio Giannutri, in order to administer the island.

More information: Visit Tuscany

Villa Domizia, also known as Villa Domitia was built probably in the 1st or 2nd century by the Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus who was the owner of the island. The Villa is placed in the central part of the island on a height, close to Punta Scaletta and Cala Maestra; the Villa and its annexes are under the control of Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage. The rooms employed as residence and the others were disposed on the highest level accessible by stairs; on the same level was a terrace from which to watch the Argentario coast. In the back of the residential quarter are the remains of a long building, with 8 rooms aligned, likely used by the monks as convent and since then called Conventaccio.

The Villa is connected to Cala Maestra through a set of stairs. The Calidarium, formed by a rectangular room from whose walls passed the warm air, was placed halfway between the Villa and Cala Maestra and was richly adorned with marbles and mosaic floor. The Romans built a small harbour and a wharf at Cala Maestra cutting the rock in order to have more space. The Villa was provided with a cistern to collect the rain water since the island is lack of springs; the water produced today by a desalination plant is collected in the same cistern. In the 1980s a short, grassy airstrip was built and used for a short time at Punta San Francesco, later was abandoned.

The island and adjacent sea environs are within the Arcipelago Toscano National Park and marine sanctuary. The island is mainly privately owned, with some areas owned by Italy’s Ministry of the Environment it is involved in the Coastal Area Management Programme issued by Ministry of the Environment.

More information: Discover Tuscany

I do an awful lot of scuba diving.
I love to be on the ocean, under the ocean.
I live next to the ocean.

James Cameron

Wednesday, 24 April 2019


Tina Picotes visits Isola del Giglio
Today, Tina Picotes and her friends have visited Giglio, one of the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago well-known in 2012, when the cruise ship Costa Concordia foundered off the coast of the island.

During the trip from Montecristo to Giglio, The Grandma has started to read a new novel titled The Hound of the Baskervilles written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She likes Sherlock Holmes and it is always a good moment to read about him and his cases.

Isola del Giglio is a Tuscan island and comune situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the coast of Tuscany, and is part of the Province of Grosseto. The island is one of seven that form the Tuscan Archipelago, lying within the Arcipelago Toscano National Park.

Giglio means lily in Italian, and though the name would appear consistent with the insignia of Medici Florence, it derives from Aegilium, Goat Island, a Latin transliteration of the Greek word for little goat, in Ancient Greek Aigýllion, Αιγύλλιον.

The island is separated by a 16-kilometre stretch of sea from the nearest point of the mainland, the promontory of Monte Argentario. Mainly mountainous, it consists almost entirely of granite, culminating in the Poggio della Pagana, which rises to 496 metres.

The Grandma and Claire visit Giglio, Tuscany
Ninety percent of its surface is covered by Mediterranean vegetation, alternating with large pine forests and numerous vineyards which allow the production of the local Ansonaco wine.

The coast is 27 kilometres long, made up of rocks, smooth cliffs and several bays: Arenella, Cannelle, Caldane and Campese.

The municipality is composed of the islands of Giglio and Giannutri. Three principal settlements are located on the main island:

Giglio Porto located on the eastern coastal side and hosts the port. It is divided into the quarters of Chiesa, Moletto and Saraceno.

Giglio Castello, located upon a hill between the two other localities and characterized by the majestic walls of a fortress. It is divided into the quarters of Casamatta, Centro, Cisterna and Rocca.

Giglio Campese, it is located on the north-western coastal side and is a modern sea resort.

More information: Visit Tuscany

The modern island was formed probably 4.5 to 5 million years ago, and has been inhabited since the Stone Age. Later, it was probably an Etruscan military stronghold.

Under the Roman dominion, Aegilium Insula or Igillia Insula it was an important base in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and was cited briefly by Julius Caesar in his De Bello Civili, by Pliny, by Pomponius Mela, and by the fifth-century AD poet Rutilius Claudius Namatianus, who celebrated Igilium's successful repulse of the Getae and safe harbor for Romans, in a time when Igilium's slopes were still wooded.

Sinking of Costa Concordia, 2012
In 805, the island was donated by Charlemagne to the abbey of the Tre Fontane in Rome, and was later successively a possession of the Aldobrandeschi, Pannocchieschi, Caetani, and Orsini families, and of the municipality of Perugia.

In 1241, the Sicilian and Pisan fleet of Emperor Frederick II destroyed a Genoese fleet in the Battle of Giglio. From 1264, Isola del Giglio was a Pisan dominion, from which it passed to the Medici family. It suffered several Saracen attacks, which ended only in 1799.

On 14 June 1646, Grand Admiral Jean Armand de Maillé-Brézé was killed at the Battle of Orbetello, at sunset on his flagship the Grand Saint Louis.

More information: Independent

Alongside its history, the island was always renowned for its mineral ore: many columns and buildings in Rome were built with the Gigliese granite.

The island houses the remains of a Roman villa of Domitius Ahenobarbus (1st-2nd century AD), in the area of Giglio Porto. No traces of the once existing Temple of Diana can be seen now. The church of San Pietro Apostolo in Giglio Castello has an ivory crucifix attributed to the sculptor Giambologna.

The island is also the site of an Etruscan shipwreck dating back to the early Iron age, c. 600 BC. The cargo of the ship included copper and lead ingots, iron spits, amphorae and a Corinthian helmet. Even a wooden writing tablet with stylus was preserved. The finds are almost completely lost now.

In 2012, the island received prolonged international media attention, following the 13 January 2012 running aground of the cruise liner Costa Concordia, just off the island's shore.

The people of the island rushed to help, providing hot drinks and blankets, and many opened their homes to the victims. The ship removal work was started in 2013 and was completed towards the end of July 2014. Flotation devices were attached to right the ship and then raise it. It was subsequently towed to its final destination port of Genoa to be scrapped.

More information: BBC

In the ocean of baseness,
the deeper we get, the easier the sinking.

James Russell Lowell

Tuesday, 23 April 2019


Arriving to Montecristo, Tuscan Archipelago
Today, Jordi Santanyí and his friends have visited Montecristo, one of the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago well-known by the novel of Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo.

Jordi and The Grandma love Literature and this visit to Montecristo was a must and a dream come true. They have asked for a special permission to visit the island.

During the trip from Pianosa to Montecristo, The Grandma has read this famous novel of Alexandre Dumas. It has been a wonderful experience because today is Saint George, the most impressive day in Catalonia where people bring roses and books to celebrate culture and love. Today is also the anniversary od¡f the deaths of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, two brilliant writers of the universal literature.

Montecristo, formerly Oglasa in Ancient Greek Ὠγλάσσα, is an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea and part of the Tuscan Archipelago. Administratively it belongs to the municipality of Portoferraio in the province of Livorno. The island has an area of 10.39 km square, it is approximately 4.1 km wide at its widest point and is 3.4 km long; the coasts are steep, and extend for 16 km. The island is a state nature reserve and forms part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.

Much of the island's fame is derived from the fact that it provides the setting for part of the novel The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.

The Count of Monte Cristo
The history of the island begins with the Iron Age. The Etruscans exploited the forests of oak needed to fuel the bloomeries of the mainland where the iron ore of Elba's mines was melted.

The Greeks gave Montecristo its oldest known name, Oglasa or Ocrasia, after the yellowish colour of the rocks. The Romans, however, knew it under the name Mons Jovis, and erected an altar to Iuppiter Optimus Maximus on the highest mountain, of which some traces remain. During the imperial age, the Romans opened some quarries to extract granite, perhaps used in the construction of villas on the islands of Giglio, Elba, and Giannutri.

Around the middle of the fifth century AD, the caves of the island became home to several hermits escaping from the Vandals of Genseric, the most important of whom was St. Mamilian. They christened the island Mons Christi, from which the modern name is derived. Cristo and Christo are both literally a given name, it is the English version of a Europe-wide name derived from the Greek name Χρήστος (Chrēstos) or Χρίστος (Chrístos). Monte is literally mount.

At the beginning of the seventh century, Pope Gregory the Great submitted them to the monastic rule of the Benedictines. In this period, the Monastery of St. Mamilian was founded; as a result of donations to the Church, its wealth became legendary, and a chapel was built in the St. Mamiliano Cave where the saint had lived in the fifth century. In 1216, the monks joined the order of the Camaldolese. Thanks to the donations of several noble families, the monastery became powerful and rich, and this gave rise to the legend of treasure hidden on the island.

More information: Visit Tuscany

The island was once a possession of the Republic of Pisa, but was later acquired by the Principality of Piombino. In 1553, Ottoman pirate Dragut, heading for Elba, stormed the monastery, enslaved the monks, and decreed its end. After that, the island was uninhabited. In the second half of the sixteenth century, together with most of the Tuscan Archipelago, it became part of the Stato dei Presidi, a client Spanish state.

The island was annexed to the French Empire under Napoleon; after his
fall, it became the possession of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The first attempts to colonise Monte Cristo, at the time owned by Charles Cambiagi, were made in 1840 by two German hermits, Augustin Eulhardt and Joseph Keim, who eventually abandoned the attempt.

Jordi Santanyí visits the Monasterio di Montecristo
In 1843, other people arrived with the intention of cultivating the island. In 1846, some Genoese made a similar effort.

In 1852, a rich Englishman named George Watson-Taylor bought Montecristo and transformed Cala Maestra into a garden, planting eucalyptus and many exotic plants, among them the Asiatic Ailanthus altissima, an invasive species which now infests the island. The few modern buildings of Montecristo, such as the Royal Villa, date from this period. The island was then purchased by the Italian Government on 3 June 1869 for the sum of £100,000.

Montecristo had previously been plundered in 1860 by Italian exiles living in London, who had come to Italy to join up with the Camicie rosse, but were shipwrecked on the island. Faced with the huge sum of money claimed by the owner to repair the damage, the government thought it better to buy the island, which was still uninhabited.

After other attempts at colonisation in 1878, the Italian government founded a penal colony there, a branch of that in Pianosa.

More information: Tuscany Charming

In 1889 Montecristo was given to Marquess Carlo Ginori, who restored the Villa and transformed the island into a hunting ground.

In 1896, Montecristo was the honeymoon destination of Victor Emmanuel III of Savoy, at that time crown prince, and Elena of Montenegro, and after 1899 it became a royal hunting ground for Victor Emmanuel's exclusive use.

During the Second World War the island, important because of its position between Italy and occupied Corsica, was garrisoned by the Italian army.

In the late 1940s, the Italian Navy Intelligence agency temporarily took over the island for use as a training base for covert agents.

Montecristo was used as a Navy training base only from September to November, 1948, when the trainees were transferred to Italy's west coast.

After several episodes of vandalism and speculation attempts, the nature reserve was established in 1971.

Joseph de Ca'th Lon visits Montecristo, Tuscany
The conditions that restricted the establishment of human settlements on Montecristo have favoured the preservation of its flora and fauna. Animals and plants once found throughout the Mediterranean still live on the island.

Of particular interest are the giant heather formations covering the valley floors and several thousand-year-old oaks that manage to survive at the highest altitudes. Also interesting are the Montecristo viper, Vipera aspis hugyi, a subspecies also present in southern Italy, and today considered introduced by humans, and Discoglossus sardus, an amphibian found only in a couple of islands in Tuscany and Sardinia. An endemic subspecies of lizard, Podarcis muralis calabresiae, thrives on the island.

More information: Info Elba

Montecristo is also a resting place for thousands of migratory birds and is home to large colonies of seabirds, particularly relevant the yelkouan shearwater, as of 2012 critically endangered on the island. The island also hosts the only Italian population of wild goats. The sea environment is quite rich: there are seagrass meadows, sea anemones, sea fans, corals and moonfishes.

Until the 1970s the Mediterranean monk seal was also to be found, a critically endangered species that has become extremely rare in Italian waters. Endemic species include the plant Limonium Montis-christi, the invertebrate Oxychilus oglasicola, snail of Monte Cristo, also present on the islet of Scola, near Pianosa, and the reptile Podarcis muralis calabresiae.

Nowadays the island has only two permanent human inhabitants, both nature reserve keepers. In addition, agents of the State Forestry Corps from Follonica live there in alternating shifts of two weeks at a time.

Today Montecristo belongs to the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. Visitors face a number of restrictions. It is not possible to stay overnight, and swimming, and surfing are prohibited within 1 kilometer of the coast. It is possible to cruise within 4.8 km of the coast, but fishing is not allowed. Access by sea is possible only at Cala Maestra, where the seabed is sandy, and with an approach course perpendicular to the coast; it is possible to dock at the pier or tie up against a buoy, but dropping anchor is not allowed; there is also a small heliport for emergencies. To visit the island, one must apply for access at the Forestry Corps in Follonica.

Visitors with basic authorization must stay at Cala Maestra, and priority is given to scientific expeditions, associations, and schools.

More information: CNBC

Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales 
whose gates are guarded by dragons: 
we must fight in order to conquer it.

Alexandre Dumas