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4/30/2012

MANTOVA. SOMETHING YOU DON’T EXPECT

Still today it is not clear whether this small lakeside town has Etruscan or Greek origins.
As often happens in Italy the complex historical events are layered and blended together, so well that today archaeologists have much work to do, to reconstruct our past. 


 
Then we need the aid of ancient legends.



According to the  Greek mythology the name Mantova has its genesis from Manto, daughter of the seer Tiresias. She fled from Thebes and, after a long trip, she stopped in a marshy area along the river Mincio. There she created, with her tears, a lake that gave to those who had drunk the water, prophetic powers.
Manto was married with the river god Tybiris (Tiber), and had a son, Ocnus, who founded a city on the banks of the Mincio. He named the city Manto, in honor of his mother.



But a second legend highlights the Etruscan origins of this town.
Mantua owes its name to Mantu, the Etruscan god, lord of the dead in the Tyrrhenian pantheon.
In fact, it seems that among the first settlers there were the Umbrians, at least 2000 years before Christianity.
Then, in the sixth century BC, the city developed under the Etruscans and, later, under the Gauls.
Finally the whole territory was colonized 
by veteran soldiers of Augustus.


 This small but precious town stands on two small islands of debris deposited by the river Mincio which  along its course, widens and forms the three lakes that surround the city: Superior Lake, Middle Lake and Lower Lake. A fourth branch (Lake Paiolo) was reclaimed and buried at the end of ‘700.


 
Near the city lies a lush and fertile plain.
The same that, many centuries ago, inspired the great Mantuan poet Virgil, author of the “Georgics” and guide along the journey of Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy.

 
The golden age of Mantua began in Renaissance, during the long lordship of the Gonzaga family (1328-1707).
Symbol of their glory is Palazzo Ducale, one of the largest and composite Palaces of Italy, which encompasses some 500 halls and rooms, with many squares, courtyards and gardens.




 
To decorate their princely lounges, the Gonzaga family was also inspired by the legend of the prophetess Manto.
Walking through the building, large frescoes tell stories between myth and reality, display strange alchemical and esoteric symbols and hidden numbers related to the Qabalah.



 
But only few are able to see them and their meaning.
Among the many images is a representation of the maze, in the ceiling of one of the complex’ rooms.
Related to the maze is a mysterious phrase:
"Maybe yes, maybe not." 


 
A singular place is the "Room of the Dwarves of the Court", where every detail has been built in reduced measure. 
Indeed, the living room was no occupied by warves: it is a symbolical and hermetical hall.
An initiatory path, perhaps inspired by the biblical Jacob's dream of ladder. 


Inside the "Spouses Chamber", are also remarkable frescoes by Mantegna, who lived opposite the San Sebastian church, near Largo XXIV Maggio and now rests in the church of Sant'Andrea.





 
But the more esotheric place of Mantua is the Palazzo Te, built in the first half of the sixteenth century as the villa otium of the Gonzaga family.
Now it houses the Civic Museum and the International Centre for Art and Culture.


Inside the building are mytologic, alchemical and esoteric symbols, including the maze (again).


Another maze was made ​​by the hedges of the garden, 
now inexistents.


 
Moreover, among the many representations, we see the figure of the salamander, special animal for alchemists, which is often associated to fire and sulfur.
In a complementary manner, the lion, the bull and the serpent were associated with earth, the eagle to the air, the fish to water. 



To these elements also correspond certain stones.
All symbols probably scattered here and there, between into the spaces of the building.



The “Giants hall” is the largest room in the building.
Hallmark of the saloon are the frescoes that completely cover all surfaces of the room.
The Giants are seen from the floor while trying to ascend to Olympus.
In the dome is Jupiter who launches a beam of lightning to the Giants. 




 
The “Room of Cupid and Psyche” is the most sumptuous of the building, to accommodate the important guests for banquets and dinners.
It takes its name from the story of Cupid and Psyche, painted on the vault and lunettes.



The twenty-two steps, illustrated by the painter Giulio Romano, are taken from "Metamorphoses" of Apuleius, a Latin writer of the second century AD. 



The central theme of the decoration is Love: "monstrous" divinity, the most powerful of the gods, feared by Jupiter himself, to which nobody can escape.



 
On the walls are painted other mythological tales that say of love: thwarted, illegitimate, evil, unpaid.
Several are the relationships between gods and men (Venus and Adonis, Bacchus and Ariadne, Jupiter and Olympia), but there are also the passions between gods (Mars and Venus, Acis and Galatea) and between humans and animals (Pasiphae and the bull).


 
Few people know that one of the key books for the initiates to studies on theosophy is right "The Golden Ass" ("The Metamorphosis"), of Apuleius.
The same author was initiated to all cults, more or less secret, that in his time abounded in the eastern Mediterranean Sea: Mysteries of Eleusis, mysteries of Mithras, mysteries of Isis, worship of the Cabiri at Samothrace, and many others of lesser fame .
His hope was to find “the secret things" and, like his heroine Psyche, used to devote himself to all the demons of curiosity, venturing to the frontier of sacrilege.


 
The aristocratic and cultured family of Gonzaga was very familiar with the history and works of Lucius Apuleius.
Maybe they intended to follow its teachings, and therefore in their residences they scattered clues and messages intended to survive the time, waiting for someone able to decipher them all.




 
CALDI DOLCI
Hot sweets

Ingredients:
250 gr. cornmeal (the finer)
1 l. milk,
1 dl. mulled wine,
100 gr. butter,
100 gr. pine nuts,
100 gr. sugar
grated lemon zest,
cinnamon
4 cloves
  a pinch of salt



 
Execution:
Boil the milk with all the ingredients except the foil.
When the milk boils add the flour, stirring constantly.
Be careful not to form lumps.
Cook over low heat for about half an hour, stirring constantly.
Leave to cool this sweet polenta and form, working with the hands, pellets of the size of a large apricot, which will give the shape of an elongated meatball.
Remember: your hands must be wet all the time, to prevent the dough from sticking.
The sweets must be passed in a moderate oven to dry, and for helping them acquire a light golden brown.





4/15/2012

UNUSUAL NAPLES. SAINTS, KNIGHTS AND ANCIENT GODS

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In the heart of Naples along the decumanus, lies one of the oldest churches in the city dedicated to Our Lady. 
Its the church of S. Maria Maggiore to Pietrasanta. 


According to tradition, should be kept inside the building a sacred stone on which was the image of the Virgin. Formerly, the indulgence was granted to anyone who kissed that stone.
The church of Pietrasanta arose in the sixth century A.D., as a Christian basilica, is built on the remains of what must be a place of worship dedicated to the goddess Diana.


 
The special structure of red brick and the arch, is incorporated onto many original architectural elements belonging to the temple of Diana; including columns, capitals and also an old board. 

 
Thanks to the work of a group of Neapolitan cavers archaeologists, in the basement of the church (where is an ancient aqueduct) were found symbols attributed to the famous Order of Knights Templar. 


 
A series of crosses engraved on the walls,  at 35 m. depth from the road surface.
Down there is the Greek and Roman Neapolis, swallowed up by the arrival of christianity.
We get there through a narrow winding path, going from the church of Pietrasanta to the Prince of San Severo’s Palace.



Archaeologists, however, are keen to point out that, about the presence of the Templars, there are only conjectures.


 
One of these is the following: Pietrasanta's church was built on the plant of the Roman Temple of Diana, in turn, rose on the Greek temple of Isis, the goddess (of Egyptian origin) depicted with black skin.
According to some people the "Black Madonna", venerated by the Templars, was precisely the Christian transposition of Isis’ cult.


 
True or not they are the legends, we have to walk through this fascinating path, to see with our eyes and understand what it is. 

 
Starting from Pietrasanta, in the Courts street, we go down between crypts, cliffs and ancient cisterns, to discover the antique city.


 
Along the walls of the aqueduct can be seen a series of crosses called "ricrociate" or "enhanced": crosses with other carved crosses at the ends (attributed to the Knights Templar). 


Attention. On the walls of tunnels and caves of Naples, in all parts of the city, it's easy to find cruciform engravings (and not only), like the signs of "identity" found in the quarry of  Greek Poggioreale visible on the walls, which probably represent real trademarks, in order to facilitate the award of compensation to the builders. 


Our path winds for hundreds of meters down to the basement of the palace of Prince of San Severo.
Here lived and worked Raimondo di Sangro, a noble artist and scientist of ‘700, author of controversial studies about alchemy.


 
The San Severo Chapel (on which other legends are tell), which houses works of art and the strange embalmed bodies made by the Prince, worth a visit itself.


 
Continuing on the path, the tunnel is made ​​straight and goes back toward the church, stopping under the Cemeterium where, once, were prepared the bodies of the dead before burial. 



Here the mystery deepens and enriches further conjectures. 


 
In the crypt of Pietrasanta, a marble tomb was brought to light a sixteenth inscription , which refers of a German scientist with a passion for alchemy. 



Above the marble is engraved a skull and crossbones, the classic icon of pirates, but also an emblem of the Templars (and a Masonic symbol!).


Where does the truth lies?
Find out for you. Find out yourself.


 
LIQUOR NOCINO

This is the ancient recipe of a famous liqueur made ​​from walnuts (in Italy named noci).
A special liqueur, by magical properties.
According to tradition, the hulls of walnut (those used for liquor) must be taken on the night of June 24.
It was said that the dew of the night had such powers to cure all ills... 



The origin of the cult of the walnut as a "witch tree" is Celtic: in Britain were prepared potions using unripe nuts.

Is there a scientific reason why everything happens on the night of St. John.
According to herbalists this period is called "balsamic time" in which the nut is in its moment of maximum fragrance, thanks to the greater presence of sap, oils and vitamins.
Fascinating is also the view that attributes the origin of the old date of summer solstice in the calendar preceding the Gregorian calendar, which was on June 24 (instead of 21, as now),  right the day of Saint John (his devotees were right the Knights Templar).
The walnut is considered a digestive liqueur rich with spices and essential oils contained in the husk.


 
Here's the original recipe, as it has been handed down from father to son.

Go to the foot of a walnut tree at night of June 24 and grab 24 unripe nuts.
The nuts should be collected by female hands.


 
Prepare the ingredients:
In addition to 24 small and unripe nuts, should prepared 1/2 liter of alcohol at 95 degrees, 2/5 of a liter of water, 600 grams of sugar, some cloves, a cinnamon stick and , if you will, a Sorrento lemon zest.

Cut the nuts in 4 parts and put them in alcohol, in a glass vase.
Close it and left to macerate for a night.
Then open the vase and add the cloves and cinnamon (and lemon zest eventually).
Close hermetically and let soak for 48 days, shaking the jar at least once a day.
After 48 days, male heat water in a pot, into which melt also sugar.
Wait ‘till the syrup is cold then mix it to filtered alcohol.
Bottles the liquor and patiently wait another 48 days.

Now that days has passed (it’s almost Halloween time), sit in a chair sipping a glass of this very special booze.