Old villas missing half a house hang on for dear life while the eroding rock underneath them continues to crumble under the medieval village of Civita. Upper floor windows show the sky behind it instead of a room. With only a few residents that stay year round because of crumbling foundations from rock erosion, it seems only a matter of time before the rest collapses into the deep ravine below.
Civita, a world unto itself, shows the heart of a true medieval village that has been untouched by time. A few artisans, restaurant and shop owners are the only year round inhabitants. Summer brings on swarms of tourists. Such an unusually preserved and unique environment draws a lot of attention. However, many feet create a hardship on the delicate foundations, and an entrance fee to preserve the medieval town seems like the only solution.
The following articles will provide insight into just what Civita di Bagnoregio is all about.
“Be all God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” St. Catherine
I knew we would be good friends from the start. Catherine has that presence that compels you to be close to her, to hug her. I was instantly drawn to her simple humbleness, as if she were nothing but a small brown bird. So I approached her, wrapped my arms around her, and squeezed tight.
During our stay in Siena, I couldn’t escape the urge to visit her whenever I could. She made such an impression on me. Diminutive yet mighty, Catherine was a woman able to influence the greatest powers within her own country.
Who was this tiny Dominican nun who collected such a large group of followers, including me? Where did her charisma come from? How did she gain the respect of the most powerful?
Catherine was Siena’s Mother Terese. She reached out to the poor, the sick, and the homeless. She worked tirelessly helping others through the Black Plague, bringing salvation to many. People were drawn to her radiantly joyful nature and spiritual wisdom. She was someone people wanted to be around. In short, Catherine was a saint!
I must confess, while passing through her sanctuary, this statue of her stopped me in my tracks. She stands looming with outstretched arms, clutching a crucifix and lilies, and she is huge. At night, lights are positioned to shine up on her, casting ominous shadows on the wall. Very intimidating. Although she tirelessly fought corruption within the church, the impression of fire and brimstone is so far from whom I believe she really was.
Born Catherine Benincasa in Siena during the late middle ages in 1347, the 23rd child out of 25, Catherine lived amazingly during her short 33 years. Striving for peace in Italy, she acted as liaison between the two great powers, the Holy Roman Emperor and the Papacy. Two supporting parties resulted from these two powerhouses. The Ghibellines comprised the imperial party, and the Guelphs supported the papacy.
The people of Florence, traditionally a Geulph city, were upset with the pope and his lingering in Avignon, France. They wanted him back in Rome as he had promised them. Little Catherine, through her works and letters, so impressed Pope Gregory XI that he did eventually return the papacy to Rome. As a result, she established peace between the Pope and Florence. She became known as “the mystic of politics.”
Basilica San Domenico, built in 1226, kept a cell in which St. Catherine spent much of her time. In fact, she hasn’t entirely left. Today her head can be seen inside an urn on a gilded tabernacle in the chapel dedicated to her. Her finger as well. The rest of her is kept in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome, where she died in 1380. Her bodily remnants are called relics, and those of the saints were highly prized in every Italian city during this time. It was believed that housing a saints body part would protect that city from harm.
Sadly, Catherine struggled with anorexia. She ate very little and, as a result, her life ended early. This mindset of extreme neglect for the body was prevalent among the saints. They were convince this act brought them closer to God.
An author, humanitarian and servant, Catherine possessed a great passion for her faith, for the welfare of others, and for her country. She was greatly respected for her spiritual writings and her political boldness to speak the truth to those with the highest power in the country. It was exceptional for a woman in her time to have such influence on politics and world history. She was illiterate, yet managed to sway the greatest powers and minds of her age.
Address: Basilica San Domenico, Piazza San Domenico, Siena,Italy Contact: 0577/280893, Hours: Apr-Oct 7am-12:55pm and 3-6pm, Nov-March 9am-12:55pm and 3-6pm Cost: Free
We had just spent the day exploring the National Archeological Museum of Naples. A big task. I loved taking in all the fragments of art and history, from ancient Pompeii to the early Romans. Although it consumed a lot of energy, it left me in a state of bliss.
Afterwards, winding our way down the Via Tribunali, a major byway through Naples, we found ourselves overcome by a colossal hunger for pizza. And of course, we all know that Naples turns out the very best.
We passed several before we found this one, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Founded in 1870, this pizzeria has been established here since 1930. There are only two true Neapolitan pizzas~ Marinara and Margherita.
So many can’t be that wrong! However, as I worked my way through the crowd, I found that I needed to take a number and wait. I didn’t hesitate, especially after spying Julia Roberts on a poster from her movie “Eat, Pray, Love” on the front door. Her pizza scene was filmed right here in this tiny little unobtrusive pizzeria. Julia Roberts and this many people certainly can’t be wrong. I took up my posts outside and waited patiently for 30 minutes (yes, I timed it. I was starving!).
Inside were six tables built to seat four people each. We enjoyed great conversation with a young couple from Naples next to us. She spoke less english and was a bit quiet, but she had a warm and engaging smile.
My husband Carl had a lively conversation with this young man. He is an attorney in Naples, and his English was excellent.
We did as the locals do and ordered what they did~Margherita with extra cheese. I was not disappointed. It was the best pizza ever. Since then I have been looking for the same pizza, only to come up disillusioned. Well, no better excuse to go back to Naples and gratify my cravings at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele!