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Ceramics lovers unite! If you’ve ever wanted to get an idea on how the whole world since antiquity has dealt with making clay into useful and artistic containers, the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza is the largest museum of its kind.

I’ve wandered the museum. It’s immense. No, it’s likely I haven’t seen but a fraction of what’s there, but I came away impressed anyway.

Modern stuff? Yeah, it’s there. And it’ll make you wander how big they make kilns these days. Just look:

elefant ceramic picture
An Elephant (sort of) and Riders

There are classic themes:

plate picture
Plate, International Ceramics Museum

And there are many Central American examples:

ceramic figurine picture
Central American Ceramic Figure: International Ceramics Museum

How to Get to the International Ceramics Museum

International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza
Viale Baccarini 19 – 48018 Faenza RA

According to the very well done official site

The Museum is near the Railway Station. It is easy to get here on foot: leave the station and follow the large street lined with trees (Viale Baccarini), go past the traffic lights and you will find the Museum on the left.

You can see the location on the map below.

Faenza is an interesting town to visit. Recommended tourist destinations nearby are: Dozza, Brisighella, Imola, Forli, and Predappio, the birthplace of Mussolini.


The coverage of Ceramics around the world is superb
When to Go: Any time
Region: Emilia-Romagna: Map & Guide
Days: Allow half a day
Faenza Lodging.

Disclosure: This post was a part of Buonvivere Blog Tour, organized by Settimana del Buonvivere in collaboration with 21grammy.

The International Ceramics Museum: Faenza originally appeared on Nov 01, 2015, © James Martin.

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I approached a visit to Puglia’s Castel del Monte with a certain coldness. Its geometric polish didn’t exactly appeal to me, nor did its apparent popularity. It is a castle meant to be seen. It is ostentatious. Above all it’s empty.

Nobody exactly knows what it was for. It’s not exactly defensive; it hasn’t a moat or other things you might expect to find in a typical fort. It has never been used as a hunting lodge, as has been speculated without any proof at all. Its marbles were looted in the 18th century. But one thing I can say: You don’t miss it poking through the forest it sits in.

castel del monte picture
Castel del Monte

We visited on a windy day. Very windy, with a few sprinkles of rain. The storm cleared the air and you could see the clouds scudding across the sky above the plain below. This is a secondary joy; you don’t have to buy a ticket to enjoy the view.

castel del monte landscape
Castel del Monte Landscape: View to the Sea

After winding around the Pentagonal castle built by Frederick II in 1240, we went inside. You can doodle around for an hour visiting the rooms that circle the inner courtyard.

There are a couple of things that stand out. The door frames, for instance.

Castel del Monte door framed in Breccia rossa appenninica marble

Breccia rossa appenninica is the apparent name of the material. It’s rather inelegant, it seems to me. But like the castle itself, you don’t miss seeing it.

Then there are the columns. They’re pretty.

castel del monte picture
Colorful Interior Columns at Castel del Monte

I see no actual use for them. These are in the corners. Odd.

I actually had fun poking around this Puglia World Heritage attraction. There is a bar and restaurant below it, the restaurant having some fun and fanciful translations of the local dishes into English.


The views are spectacular!
When to Go: Spring or Fall. Summers can be hot, but the Adriatic coast isn’t far away.
Region: Puglia: Map & Guide
Days: Day trip from Trani (seaside, recommended) or Ruvo di Puglia
Trani Lodging.
Ruvo di Puglia Lodging.
Posta Santa Croce (Review). It’s where we visited from.
Wine: The area is well known for its Nero di Troia red wine.

Castel del Monte originally appeared on Oct 14, 2015, © James Martin.


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picking sweet olives picture
Pietro picking Olive Dolci

We were settling into our gargantuan apartment in the Masseria called Posta Santa Croce after a long drive from Tuscany when our host Pietro asked, “do you want some olives to cook for dinner?”

Hmmmm. Olives you cook? He went to get a basket while we pondered what might happen next.

Pietro led us through an olive grove in front of the masseria until we came to a particular tree. He hopped up on a stone wall. “We’ve already picked all the sweet olives accessible from the ground” he informed us.

While filling the basket he told us how to cook them.

The Recipe (and Variations) for Olive Dolci

Chop some onion, rinse the olives, and heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and olives and sautee for five minutes, add abundant salt. Serve.

How’s that for simple? The olives, although they look the same as the olives cured for eating and pressed for oil, soften up during the 5 minutes of cooking, becoming like a warm cherry in consistency.

You can substitute small tomatoes for the onion and either saute them together until the tomatoes split open—or oven bake the dish.

olive dolci picture
Olive Dolci and Burata, Puglia in Fall

Why hadn’t we heard of this fantastic dish? We’ve generally, it turns out, visited Puglia in the spring, before the olives are ripe.

Olive Dolci originally appeared on Oct 07, 2015, © James Martin.

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Predappio, as you visit it now, did not exist before the ’30s. It was a little country village, with a few houses, named Dovia. The original borough was up on a very strong rock where the Ordelaffi family built a fortress, one of the many ones you can find in the Apennines of the Pianura Padana. ~ Predappio, the rationalist town. A place to visit

Predappio, Duce’s town, is found in the province of Forlì-Cesena in Romagna, the western part of the region of Emilia Romagna. It is known as being the birthplace and final resting place of Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini. Although the population of the village barely tops 6400, it is becoming increasingly popular with tourists on the Mussolini pilgrimage route.

You can visit Mussolini’s birthplace, which is now a museum with changing exhibits. It’s been gutted, so there isn’t a whole lot to see.

The house, which is just uphill from the old market, offers a video that is interesting but it’s only available in the Italian language.

Mussolini's Birthplace in Predappio

From the house you can walk down the main street in the direction of Palazzo Varano, the second home of Mussolini. Along the way are shops selling Fascist artifacts and the Fascist Headquarters, perhaps the best example of Rationalist architecture. It’s closed. There are no plans to renovate or destroy the building. Fascism in limbo.

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Palazzo Varano, Predappio

If you keep going past the Palazzo Varano and the big church of Sant’Antonio, preferably by car, you’ll come upon a gated cemetery on your right. There are no signs, but the Mussolini crypt is in a corner. You go down a few stairs and then there’s this:

mussolini tomb picture
Predappio: Mussolini's Tomb

Yes, in the off season when there are few tourists you’ll find them looking around for the tomb. It’s a great deal of fun. You’ll feel like a rat caught in a maze, little houses of death all around you. There’s a rest room too, in case the search goes on too long…

And don’t forget to visit the church in the cemetery. Mussolini’s labeled Baptismal Font sits in a pile with other junk.

mussolini baptismal font picture
Baptismal Font: Mussolini was baptized july 30, 1883.

Fascist Limbo. You don’t throw away history, but you want to.


An entirely different experience than, say, the Cinque Terre!
Don’t Miss: Mussolini’s Tomb, to the south
When to Go: Spring or Fall. Summers can be hot, but the Adriatic coast isn’t far away.
Region: Emilia Romagna: Map
Days: Day trip from Forli or Cesena, which has one of the oldest public libraries. the Biblioteca Malatestiana
: Closest train station: Forli. You can buy a bus ticket to Predappio in the station.
Predappio Lodging.
Eat: Ristorante Pizzeria del Moro where we had a very good meal.

Wine: Sangiovese: There is a Union of the Sangiovese di Predappio

Predappio and Mussolini originally appeared on Sep 30, 2015, © James Martin.


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Italy has many old pharmacies. But Fabriano, known more for its paper production starting around the 13th century, offers the tourist a quick glimpse at the smoky, ethereal neo-Gothic fantasies that the Antica Farmacia Mazzolini Giuseppucci hides inside. Now a store for a modern cosmetics company called 1896, you can visit freely and buy stuff only if you have zits. A bargain.

Of course you wouldn’t come to Fabriano for a few seconds of “good lord, look at all this”, but rest assured, you shouldn’t miss seeing the Paper and Watermark Museum and the little theater and the many churches awash in frescoes and paintings—and you must have a coffee in the triangular Piazza del Comune where you can gawk at the Palazzo del Podestà (1255) an austere public building in white limestone, the oldest building in the Marche region I’m told.

First though, your eyes will fall upon the Fontana Sturinalto, a water fountain dating from 1285, designed by Jacopo di Grondolo from Perugia. If, after you see the picture you don’t ask, “didn’t I see this fountain larger in Perugia?” then you obviously haven’t been to Perugia.

Fabriano has a a smaller version of Perugia's famous fountain built at the end of the 13th century

So stop and take a picture, rotate left and go through the archway. There was once a stream flowing under it.

Palazzo del Podestà, Fabriano, Le Marche, Italy

On your left will be the pharmacy. A bare-breasted warrior-woman will lead you inside:

antica farmacia mazzolini giuseppucciGreetings and welcome to the antica farmacia Mazzolini Giuseppucci

Follow the stick…

And then, cross the threshold and look up.

fabriano pharmacy ceiling pictureCeiling of the antica farmacia Mazzolini Giuseppucci

OMG, nice ceiling. Right? Focus…

antica farmacia pictureCarved "medicine" cases

Naked, carved babes everywhere, doing, it appears, the bulk of the work.

Why all this neo-Gothic weirdness? Maybe this explains it.

“According to legend, in the second half of the 1800s, the ancient Mazzolini-Giuseppucci Pharmacy, in Fabriano, was the location of regular freemason meetings. After night had fallen, some say the adepts of the lodge hid in these neo-Gothic rooms, among walls covered in carved wood, mortars, spices and stills, sitting around a counter/altar surrounded by six chairs – an important number in the freemasons’ exoteric beliefs – for their occult rituals.” ~ THE MAZZOLINI-GIUSEPPUCCI PHARMACY

Anyway, you’ll enjoy a look around. Then you can go back to the piazza for a coffee or beer or something.

There’s lots more to see, though. Remember, there are the treasures of Fabriano to see as well as the hidden wonders of nearby Sassoferrato. Then, for spectacular, you’ll want to head over to the Frasassi caves and also have a peek at the castle of Genga. Nice of Le Marche to cluster all these things together so you get between any two places in 10 minutes or less. Here’s a Map of Le Marche so you can confirm all the things I’ve said about this fascinating clot of interesting places in the heart of the region.


Unique: One of Italy’s most interesting old pharmacies
Don’t Miss: The Paper and Watermark Museum
When to Go: Spring or Fall. Summers can be hot, but the Adriatic coast isn’t far away.
Region: Le Marche: Map
Days: 1-2 days for Fabriano, a week or more for the central Marche.
: Train station: Stazione Ferroviaria di Fabriano, a stop on the Ancona-Orte line.
Porta del Piano.

Fabriano and the Old Pharmacy originally appeared on Jul 05, 2015, © James Martin.


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