Vatican City State

On Thursday we did a tour of the Vatican City which encompassed the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. The smallest state in the world is one busy place! I had visited the Vatican City back in 1997 but thought it was worth another visit with Steve.

Our guide Ricardo was well versed in the history and art of the Vatican City but it is a lot to take in. We spent about 15 minutes in the Sistine Chapel which was packed. The paintings didn’t seem as vibrant as I remembered them being – the same with the tapestries.

St Peter’s Basilica was just as impressive though. Ricardo pointed out the Holy Door, the last door on the right into the Basilica. This door is bricked up on the inside. On the first day of the Holy Year the Pope strikes the brick wall with a hammer, and so opens the door to let in the pilgrims who come to make the most of the indulgence. It will be closed by the Pope himself at the end of the Holy Year. The Holy Door represents Jesus, the Good Shepherd and the gate of the sheep pen: “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me, will be safe. He will go in and out, and find pasture” (Jn 10:9). The Holy Year is celebrated every 25 years. In this century two extraordinary Holy Years of Redemption have also been celebrated on the anniversary of Jesus’ death on the Cross: 1933 and 1983.

Vatican City officially the Vatican City State or the State of Vatican City is an independent state located within the city of Rome. With an area of 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of about 1,000, it is the smallest state in the world by both area and population. However, formally it is not sovereign, with sovereignty being held by the Holy See.

The Holy See also called the See of Rome, is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, the episcopal see of the Pope, and an independent sovereign entity. It serves as the central point of reference for the Catholic Church everywhere and the focal point of communion due to its position as the pre-eminent episcopal see of the universal church. Today, it is responsible for the governance of all Catholics, organised in their Particular Churches, Patriarchates and religious institutes.

Diplomatically, the Holy See acts and speaks for the whole church.

The creation of the Vatican City State was meant to ensure the diplomatic and spiritual independence of the Pope.

The independent city-state came into existence in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and Italy, which spoke of it as a new creation, not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756–1870), which had previously encompassed much of central Italy. According to the terms of the treaty, the Holy See has “full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction” over the city-state.

The Pope is ex officio head of state of Vatican City since the 1860s, functions dependent on his primordial function as bishop of the diocese of Rome. The term “Holy See” refers not to the Vatican state but to the Pope’s spiritual and pastoral governance, largely exercised through the Roman Curia. His official title with regard to Vatican City is Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City.

As the Vatican City is an enclave within Italy, its military defence is provided by the Italian armed forces. However, there is no formal defence treaty with Italy, as the Vatican City is a neutral state. Vatican City has no armed forces of its own, although the Swiss Guard is a military corps of the Holy See responsible for the personal security of the Pope, and resident in the state. Soldiers of the Swiss Guard are entitled to hold Vatican City State passports and nationality. Swiss mercenaries were historically recruited by Popes as part of an army for the Papal States, and the Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II on 22 January 1506 as the pope’s personal bodyguard and continues to fulfill that function. It is listed in the Annuario Pontificio under “Holy See”, not under “State of Vatican City”. At the end of 2005, the Guard had 134 members. Recruitment is arranged by a special agreement between the Holy See and Switzerland. All recruits must be Catholic, unmarried males with Swiss citizenship who have completed their basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces with certificates of good conduct, be between the ages of 19 and 30, and be at least 174 cm (5 ft 9 in) in height. Members are equipped with small arms and the traditional halberd (also called the Swiss voulge), and trained in bodyguarding tactics. The Palatine Guard and the Noble Guard, the last armed forces of the Vatican City State, were disbanded by Pope Paul VI in 1970. As Vatican City has listed every building in its territory on the International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection, the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict theoretically renders it immune to armed attack.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on the 17th December 1936 is the 266th and current Pope and sovereign of the Vatican City State. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bergoglio worked briefly as a chemical technologist and nightclub bouncer before beginning seminary studies. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969, and from 1973 to 1979 was Argentina’s provincial superior of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and was created a cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. He led the Argentine Church during the December 2001 riots in Argentina. The administrations of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner considered him a political rival. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February 2013, a papal conclave elected Bergoglio as his successor on 13 March. He chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Within the Vatican City are religious and cultural sites such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. They feature some of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures. The unique economy of Vatican City is supported financially by the sale of postage stamps and tourist mementos, fees for admission to museums, and the sale of publications.

Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museums are Christian and art museums located within the city boundaries of the Vatican City. They display works from the immense collection amassed by Popes throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. The museums contain roughly 70,000 works, of which 20,000 are on display, and currently employ 640 people who work in 40 different administrative, scholarly, and restoration departments.

Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. The Sistine Chapel, with its ceiling decorated by Michelangelo and the Stanze di Raffaello decorated by Raphael, are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums. In 2017, they were visited by 6 million people, which combined makes it the 4th most visited art museum in the world.

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in Vatican City. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the frescos that decorate the interior, and most particularly the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment by Michelangelo.

Between 1508 and 1512, under the patronage of Pope Julius II, Michelangelo painted the chapel’s ceiling, a project which changed the course of Western art and is regarded as one of the major artistic accomplishments of human civilization. In a different climate after the Sack of Rome, he returned and between 1535 and 1541, painted The Last Judgment for Popes Clement VII and Paul III. The fame of Michelangelo’s paintings has drawn multitudes of visitors to the chapel ever since they were revealed five hundred years ago.

St Peter’s Basilica

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican or simply St. Peter’s Basilica, is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome.

Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world. While it is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter’s is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”.

Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter, chief among Jesus’s Apostles and also the first Bishop of Rome. Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly directly below the high altar of the Basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period, and there has been a church on this site since the time of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. Construction of the present basilica, which would replace Old St. Peter’s Basilica from the 4th century AD, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.

St. Peter’s is famous as a place of pilgrimage and for its liturgical functions. The Pope presides at a number of liturgies throughout the year, drawing audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people, either within the Basilica or the adjoining St. Peter’s Square. St. Peter’s has many historical associations, with the Early Christian Church, the Papacy, the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-reformation and numerous artists, especially Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. St. Peter’s is one of the four churches in the world that hold the rank of Major Basilica, all four of which are in Rome. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not a cathedral because it is not the seat of a bishop; the Cathedra of the Pope as Bishop of Rome is in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

The visit to the holy land warranted a second visit to the holy food – Bonci Pizza! Well we were in the neighbourhood so it was only right. It was busy and we waited about 40 minutes to be served – it was so worth the wait though 😋.

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Food Glorious Food – Rome, Italy

On Wednesday we did a Roman Food Tour – I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. First up was a ride on the metro which was surprisingly easy to navigate – they only have two lines – A & B. A third line is under construction but due to all the ruins being discovered on a regular basis it is proving difficult to navigate underground.

We arrived at the meeting point with quite a bit of time to spare – we had been warned about the unreliability of Italian public transport so had built in a generous buffer. What to do with the spare time – have a haircut of course 😉.

We met our guide Luca at the Cipro metro station. Luca is Romanian – she came to study in Rome 12 years ago and never left. She has been taking the food tours for the past three years and I’m in love with her passion for food.

We were in the neighbourhood of Prati – this is a residential neighbourhood where apparently you find all the best places to eat as this is where the locals eat.

She explained that Italy has 20 regions and although it is one country it might as well be 20.

All of the regions of Italy are very distinctive and often the landscape and way of life changes quite dramatically between one region and the next. Although Italian is spoken throughout Italy, many of the regions have their own dialects, some totally unrecognisable from standard Italian.

There are often differences in appearance between people from different regions. Venetians can be taller and thinner than some of their cousins from Naples and the dark hair and brown eyes of the Mezzogiorno can look very different from the blonde hair and blue eyes of the regions in the far north. But the main thing that makes each Italian region unique is the attitude of the people. Italians are fiercely loyal to their own region, each believing that theirs is better than any other. There is even an expression for it: ‘Campanilismo’ (the love of one’s own bell-tower).

They love the landscape of their own home and think their region’s climate is the best and steadfastly hang on to every tradition and fragment of culture that is historically theirs.

Food and wine are the biggest differences of all, with people from one region almost refusing to eat anything from another. Recipes have been handed down for many generations and certain dishes that we have grown to love outside Italy are only eaten in one small corner of a particular region and are almost unheard of elsewhere.

One thing that all the regions thrive on is coffee. Introduced in the 1500s, coffee has developed its own culture in Italy.

The day is defined by coffee rituals: a cappuccino with breakfast, a caffè macchiato – or two – as an afternoon pick-me-up, and espresso after dinner. And like any culture, that of Italian coffee comes with seemingly mysterious laws. Order a latte, and you’ll receive a glass of milk (which is exactly what you ordered). Ask for a to-go cup or order a cappuccino after 11 a.m., and risk an instant tourist label.

BUONGIORNO! The morning begins with a breakfast comprising a pastry paired with a delicious, milky coffee:

Cappuccino: equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk

Caffè latte: espresso with more steamed milk and less foam

Latte macchiato: steamed milk “marked” with a splash of espresso

To blend: Don’t order these drinks after 11 a.m. Italians only enjoy milky coffee in the morning – never in the afternoon, and especially not after a meal!

PRENDIAMO UN CAFFÈ! “Let’s get a coffee!” Appropriate anytime, a caffè (or caffè normale) is simply an espresso, a small but strong shot of black coffee. Italians often sip a caffè as an afternoon pick-me-up or after a meal.

To blend: While you can order a caffè doppio for a double shot of espresso, this is not typical in Italy. If you need that extra jolt of caffeine, just visit your favorite barista multiple times a day – you won’t be the only one.

MIX IT UP. Over the centuries, Italians have created a variety of alterations to the powerful punch of espresso.

Caffè macchiato: For the softer side of coffee, enjoy this espresso “marked” with a splash of frothy milk. Unlike the breakfast drinks, this lightly milky caffè can be enjoyed as frequently as caffè normale.

Caffè corretto: Literally translated to “corrected coffee,” this drink features espresso with a splash of alcohol, such as grappa or sambuca.

Caffè americano: After trying drip coffee in the United States, Italians decided to offer tourists a taste of home. Their interpretation: espresso diluted with plenty of hot water.

Caffè lungo: This “long coffee” comprises espresso with a splash of hot water but is stronger than the americano.

To blend: Since the coffee experience is designed to be enjoyed socially and in small doses, to-go cups are nonexistent in Italy.

THINK REGIONALLY. Each of Italy’s 20 regions boasts its own unique coffee culture. Espresso may be ubiquitous, but there are many regional twists to the caffè. In the northern Le Marche, enjoy a caffè anisette for an anise-flavored espresso; in southern Sicily, try caffè d’un parrinu, an Arabic-inspired coffee flavored with cloves, cinnamon, and cocoa.

To blend: Before ordering, research the region for local ingredients – or subtly listen to your fellow coffee drinkers at the cafe!

AL BANCO. In Italy, coffee is typically enjoyed al banco, or at the bar, with friends.

So you can guess what was first up on the food tour – COFFEE 😋 and a pastry.

The standard ritual is to go into a Bar (the sign Bar in Italy means coffee not alcohol) order an espresso and drink it at the bar. It is cheaper if you stand – the price is regulated by the government and for a standing espresso you won’t pay anymore than EU1.20. If you choose to sit the price goes up – the fancier the sitting place the higher the price.

Coffee was introduced to Europe in the 17th century. But it wasn’t until the invention of a steam-driven, coffee-making machine in the late 19th century that Italy gave the world espresso.

The pastry we enjoyed was a cannolo which is a Sicilian specialty – made from flour, cocoa powder and water – they are deep fried and rolled into a tube like a cannelloni. They are then filled with ricotta cheese and dipped in a topping like pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, cherries etc… I had candied orange – not bad although I’d take porridge any day of the week.

It was now 11am and time for pizza and not just any pizza but Bonci pizza. Rome’s esteemed pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci (pronounced Bahn-chi) creates pizzas that are so delicious, so creative, and so visually stunning that he has developed a fanatical following not only in Italy, but around the globe.

His philosophy is simple – “I think good things are made with good things and produced by people who genuinely care for the well-being of those who eat them. We are changing the pizza game by embracing my artisanal Roman roots and these guiding principles:

• Quality without compromise

• Use only the freshest, natural ingredients available

• Agriculture as culinary art

We only use ingredients produced by people who share our beliefs and respect the true value of culinary and nutrition.

This is how we are … Simply Natural.”

In the words of the late Anthony Bourdain who visited this store in one of his programs – “It’s amazing … You want it. You want it bad. Your life would be so much better if you have this right now. Leave your family. Abandon your children … You know you want it.”

And he was right – after eating Bonci’s pizza I am unsure how any other pizza will ever measure up. The secret is in the dough – Bonci uses a 100% organic proprietary blend of heritage stone ground flours produced in Italy. Then they mix the flour with water, EVOO (EVOO is the natural juice squeezed from olives one day after the harvest. No heat or chemicals are used in extracting Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and salt. The dough is then left to rise for 48-72 hours and, when baked, the result is a thick but light and airy crispy crust rich in natural fiber. Bonci pizzas are cooked in special ovens that create the perfect crust and crunch. They also layer the toppings and cook them separately depending on how long each will take to cook.

The pizza base was light, full of air and crunchy. Luca explained that the lesser quality flours and shorter dough processes lead to a pizza base that makes you feel bloated. I think we can all say we’ve experienced that feeling at some stage in our lives before.

Gabriele has created 1,500 different pizza recipes. To date, no one has tried to eat them all at once. Vogue magazine’s food critic refers to Gabriele as “The Michelangelo of Pizza.” The toppings change daily and there can be up to 60 different flavours in one day – the shop is open from 11am until 10pm. There was already a queue when we arrived at 11am – the Italians are not good at queuing so you take a number and when your number comes up on the screen you’re up.

You tell the server what flavour you like and how much – they cut the pizza with scissors, weigh it and then heat it through in the oven. Most flavours cost EU26.50 per kilogram.

We visited the main store but there is a smaller store near Roma Termini and he has two stores in Chicago in the US with talk of expansion to New York also.

Each couple on the tour choose a flavour and we all tried each one. We choose the scrambled egg and pork belly one which was pretty good. Another flavour we tried was potato and onions with truffle oil which was my favorite.

The History of Pizza

Pizza in its most basic form as a seasoned flatbread has a long history in the Mediterranean. Several cultures including the Greeks and Phoenicians ate a flatbread made from flour and water. The dough would be cooked by placing on a hot stone and then seasoned with herbs. The Greeks called this early pizza plankuntos and it was basically used as an edible plate when eating stews or thick broth. It was not yet what we would call pizza today but it was very much like modern focaccia. These early pizzas were eaten from Rome to Egypt to Babylon and were praised by the ancient historians Herodotus and Cato the Elder.

The introduction of tomatoes to Italian cuisine in the 18th and early 19th centuries finally gave us the true modern Italian pizza. Even though tomatoes reached Italy by the 1530’s it was widely thought that they were poisonous and were grown only for decoration. However the innovative (and probably starving) peasants of Naples started using the supposedly deadly fruit in many of their foods, including their early pizzas. Since that fateful day the world of Italian cuisine would never be the same, however it took some time for the rest of society to accept this crude peasant food. Once members of the local aristocracy tried pizza they couldn’t get enough of it, which by this time was being sold on the streets of Naples for every meal. As pizza popularity increased, street vendors gave way to actual shops where people could order a custom pizza with many different toppings. By 1830 the “Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba” of Naples had become the first true pizzeria and this venerable institution is still producing masterpieces.

The popular pizza Margherita owes its name to Italy’s Queen Margherita who in 1889 visited the Pizzeria Brandi in Naples. The Pizzaiolo (pizza maker) on duty that day, Rafaele Esposito created a pizza for the Queen that contained the three colors of the new Italian flag. The red of tomato, white of the mozzarella and fresh green basil, was a hit with the Queen and the rest of the world. Neapolitan style pizza had now spread throughout Italy and each region started designing their own versions based on the Italian culinary rule of fresh, local ingredients.

A bit of lighter fare was up next – white wine, cheese and balsamic vinegar and a lesson about food certification in Italy based on origin, methods of production and quality. All of the acronyms associated with this can be a bit confusing, but they’re important to know about… they guarantee that what you’re eating is a local Italian delicacy, not an imitation!

DOP is short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (literally “Protected Designation of Origin”). As the the name suggests, this certification ensures that products are locally grown and packaged. And it makes a promise to the consumer: It’s a guarantee that the food was made by local farmers and artisans, using traditional methods. In fact, by law, only DOP products like balsamic vinegar can carry the word “traditional” on their labels, because they adhere to local traditions.

So the DOP label may bring a higher price tag with it. But it also promises the highest quality!

How does a product become DOP?

Italian specialties get DOP recognition by following a strict set of guidelines: Every step, from production to packaging, is regulated. Of course, not all local Italian specialities are recognized as DOP. Even more confusing, though, you have to always look for the DOP label to ensure the product is DOP. For example, mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) is a DOP product. But only certain brands carry the seal. Other types of mozzarella di bufala, therefore, aren’t necessarily made in the traditional way, with the traditional ingredients; only the DOP varieties are.

What about IGP?

“DOP” isn’t the only label. You may also find the IGP, Indicazione Geografica Protetta (“indication of geographical protection”), label on Italian products. While also well-respected, this certification is less strict than DOP. It traces food specialities back to their geographical origin to at least one phase in production, but not to all phases, like DOP.

What are some famous DOP foods, and how do you find them?

Mozzarella di bufala (Campania, Lazio): Considered to be more creamy than mozzarella made from cow’s milk, buffalo mozzarella is a true Italian delicacy.

Balsamic vinegar (Emilia Romagna): DOP balsamic vinegar, from Modena and Reggio Emilia, has a thicker consistency and richer taste than most other vinegars on the market—and can be aged for over 12 years.

San Marzano tomatoes (Campania): Long in shape and bittersweet in taste, these tomatoes are harvested by hand. They’re later crushed, canned… and used to make dishes like pizza and pasta taste out of this world!

Olive oil (Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Puglia, Sicily, Tuscany, Veneto): This staple has the largest number of DOP varieties of any Italian food specialty, and it comes from many different Italian regions. Some regions even have multiple DOP oils from different areas!

Wine labeling is similar but they use DOC or DOCG.The letters DOC or DOCG on an Italian wine label mean Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Denomination of Origin), and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Origin as assessed by the Government), the latter superior to the first. They refer to government guarantees of the wines’ origins.

About 300 wine growing regions in Italy have the DOC designation, while only 21 have a DOCG label. The DOCG wines conform to DOC laws and in addition are quality tested by government-appointed inspectors. However, this doesn’t mean that non-DOC wines are bad. On the contrary, some wine makers have broken away from the DOC restrictions to experiment with blends of grape varieties. These ‘new’and often very expensive wines in Tuscany have become known as “Super-Tuscans” even though they only bear a Vino da Tavola (table wine) label. Some of these Super-Tuscans are being produced in the Livorno Province in the Bolgheri area.

Another denomination, IGT, means that a wine is guaranteed to come from a specific wine-producing area.

Italy is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. Italian wine regions are known for their rich variety of wine styles. Italy, closely followed by Spain and France, is the world’s largest wine producer by volume. Its contribution is about 45–50 million hectolitres per year, and represents about one third of global production. Not only is Italian wine exported around the world, it is also extremely popular with Italians. Italians rank fifth on the world wine consumption list by volume with 42 litres per capita consumption. Grapes are grown in almost every region of the country and there are more than one million vineyards under cultivation.

Balsamic vinegar (Italian: aceto balsamico) is a very dark, concentrated, and intensely flavoured vinegar made wholly or partially from grape must, originating in Italy.

The term “aceto balsamico” is unregulated, but there are three protected balsamic vinegars: “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena” (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena), “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia” (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia), and “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” (Balsamic Vinegar of Modena). The two traditional balsamic vinegars are made the same way from reduced grape must aged for several years in a series of wooden barrels, and are produced exclusively in either the province of Modena or the wider Emilia region surrounding it. The names of these two vinegars are protected by the European Union‘s Protected Designation of Origin, while the usually less expensive Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena) is made from grape must blended with wine vinegar, and produced exclusively in either Modena or Reggio Emilia, with a Protected Geographical Indication status.

Balsamic vinegar contains no balsam. The word balsamicobalsam-like” in the sense of “restorative” or “curative”.

Must is freshly crushed fruit juice (usually grape juice) that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit. This must is then aged in barrels to be used in the production of balsamic vinegar.

We tried some Reggio Emilia gold label which indicates the vinegar has been aged for 25 years or more. A red label means the vinegar has been aged for at least 12 years and a silver label that the vinegar has aged for at least 18 years. It was dark and rich and tasted a bit like maple syrup.

Balsamic vinegar is “a regional family tradition some have turned into a business.” These traditions are passed down through the generations. One hundred litres of grape juice is required to produce six litres of balsamic vinegar so this along with the time required to age it explains why the authentic stuff is so expensive.

Next up Luca talked to us about truffles – no not the chocolate ones but the wild mushroom ones 😊. We tried some truffle oil with the cheese – it has a very concentrated flavour, hence you don’t need a lot of it which is just as well as truffles are very expensive. It is very difficult to farm or cultivate them but it has been done – the initial investment and maturity delay (7 to 10 years) makes it a high risk business.

Pigs and dogs have been used to find truffles. Both the female pig’s natural truffle-seeking, as well as her usual intent to eat the truffle, are due to a compound within the truffle similar to androstenol, the sex pheromone of boar saliva, to which the sow is keenly attracted.

In Italy, the use of the pig to hunt truffles has been prohibited since 1985 because of damage caused by animals to truffle’s mycelia during the digging that dropped the production rate of the area for some years.

Our next visit was to the Trionfale Market. The Trionfale market is considered the first corner market in Rome and with its 273 stalls is the biggest in town, and among the biggest ones in Italy and even in Europe. Open on Giulio Cesare Avenue at the end of ‘800, for years it has been a transit spot for those going out of town or hunting and stopped with carriage or horses to refuel. At that time, it was countryside all around.

Then, in the 30’s, it moved to Andrea Doria Road, in what used to be a working-class neighborhood and has later turned into a stylish area. These two souls actually live together in the market as of today, making it very cheap on one side, but also refined thanks to a number of stalls selling early fruits and vegetables and other rare goods.

On March 11 2009, the new Trionfale market was officially opened in a huge glass and cement building, an underlying parking with 420 garages and 320 car spaces, including a post office and aiming at becoming a full services center, with a library, a nursery and some university facilities which still need to be opened.

The market was actually very quiet when we visited as a lot of the stall holders were on holiday – August is the month when the Italians go on holiday. The cheese stall was open though and we were able to sample buffalo mozzarella from Amalfi. Buffalo mozzarella should be eaten fresh and at room temperature – this means between 1 and 3 days after it is made. It is preserved in salt water. Quite unfortunately for the “buffalo mozzarella lovers” spread in the world, the diffusion of this specialty outside the production area is limited by a severe intrinsic constraint: “real” mozzarella loses its wonderful flavor very soon. People living within the production area would in fact typically refuse as “too old” a mozzarella made only two days before! For this reason, the taste of mozzarella must be enjoyed in the region where it is produced.

These water buffaloes are treated like royalty – they are treated to classical music, a buffalo wash not too dissimilar to a car wash and get milked when they want to be milked – demand milking. They are happy and endure no stress in their lives, hence they produce this magical product. And it sure was magical and paired with the sweetest tomatoes really was a match made in heaven.

We also tried some pork products at the market. Italy has been the worldwide pioneer in the techniques of curing meats since ancient Roman times. Curing is the age-old process of preserving fresh meat through salting, smoking and air-drying Italian Meats. Pork is the most common cured meat in Italy, although other meats such as beef, venison and wild boar are also cured. Each region of Italy is known for its own cured meats, known as salumi, based on local customs. Spice plays an important role in the curing of Italian Meats. Typically, Italian Meats from the south tend to be spicier than those from northern Italy.

Cured Italian Meats fall into two basic categories: cured meats that have been taken from whole cuts of meat, and cured meats that have been molded from ground meat and stuffed into casings. Cured meat plays a prominent role in the Italian antipasto, meaning “before the meal”. An antipasto is a first course, traditionally consisting of foods such as sliced cured meats, cheeses and vegetables.

Types of Cured Italian Meats:

Bresaola: This cut of air-dried beef originally from Aosta is deep red in color and delicately flavored. Bresaola is delicious when sliced thinly, coated with olive oil and drizzled with lemon juice and capers. Like most Italian Meats, its production has spread beyond its original area of development to other parts of Italy and is also made by manufacturers of Italian Meats around the globe. Cacciatore: This cured sausage, the smallest form of all Italian Meats, translates to “Hunter’s Salami”. These sweet, dry sausages are characterized not only by their small size but also their boisterous, spicy flavor. Cacciatore Salami are great for picnics or antipasto.

Capicola: This Italian Meat is perhaps more popular in the US than in southern Italy where it was first produced. Capicola is called for in most American recipes for an Italian Hoagie or Italian Sub. Made from pork shoulder butt that is brine soaked then cooked, Capicola is seasoned with hot pepper flakes, salt and garlic. Like many Italian Meats, it has a marbled appearance and a rich, bold flavor.

Coppa: This famous Italian cut of ham is a salted, seasoned and dry-cured thinly cut pork shoulder or neck. Coppa is a typical addition to an antipasto plate, served alongside other cured Italian Meats and enjoyed with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Cotechino: An example of the best of northern Italian Meats, Cotechino is closely reated to a similar salami called Zampone. This boiled Italian sausage originated in Modena in the early 1500s, and its production soon spread throughout all of Emilia-Romagna and into neighboring Lombardy and the Veneto. Typically served with lentils as a celebratory dish at New Year’s, Cotechino is now enjoyed year round in Italy and by fans of Italian cuisine around the world.

Culatello: One of our favorite Italian Meats from Parma, Culatello is to Prosciutto as Filet Mignon is to steak. The most famous variety is Culatello di Zibello, hailing from the town of the same name. Culatello is banned from import into the US because of health concerns arising from its production methods. This prime cut of ham is first seasoned and salted, then it is inserted into a pig’s bladder and shaped with twine into an oblong form. This most elusive of all Italian Meats is then cured for up to 12 months in specially designated aging buildings near the Po River where the river mist stimulates molds on the walls and ceiling, imparting the meat with a flavor that simply cannot be duplicated.

Guanciale: Although not an Italian Meat that belongs on the classic antipasto platter, Guanciale excels as a cooking ingredient. Guanciale is made of cured pork jowl and is used like Pancetta to add flavor and richness to pasta, risotto and stews. This traditional Italian Meat has a good amount of flavorful fat with striations of meat running throughout. Guanciale is often flavored with black pepper, garlic and rosemary mixed into its cure. Cubed up and fried until crispy, Guanciale is most often encountered in the classic dish, Pasta all’Amatriciana.

Lardo: While not technically a meat perhaps, Lardo is a salt-cured cut of pork back fat, spiced with black pepper, nutmeg and other savory additions. Locally popular in the Valle d’Aosta and other regions of the northern part of Italy, Lardo is served in a similar fashion to salami – sliced and included in an antipasto course or on a sandwich.

Mortadella: Mortadella is one of the most famous Italian Meats worldwide. It was first produced in Bologna and is the ancient ancestor to what Oscar Meyer simply calls Bologna Meat in the US. Unlike ordinary Bologna meat, This cured pork sausage boasts the addition of pork fat and numerous flavorful spices to its recipe. In Italy, Mortadella is often used in sandwiches or as part of the antipasto course.

Pancetta: One of the most traditional Italian Meats, this salted, spiced and dry-cured pork belly is served thinly sliced or diced for recipes. An excellent substitute for bacon, Pancetta is perhaps best known for as a key ingredient in Pasta Carbonara.

Pepperoni: Pepperoni is type of Salami that is made from lean, coarsely chopped pork and beef. A quality Pepperoni should not be overly spicy, but still robustly flavored with paprika, a mildly hot, somewhat smoky spice. Pepperoni is great as a pizza topping and in sandwiches.

Porchetta: Originally cretaed in the Lazio region of Italy, home to Rome, a discussion of Italian Meats would be incomplete without addressing Porchetta. This boneless pork roast is salted and heartily spiced with garlic, rosemary, fennel, oregano and black pepper. Porchetta makes a great sandwich meat or can be served as an entree as well.

Prosciutto: Also known as Parma Ham, Prosciutto (technically Prosciutto Crudo) is a specialty dry cured (uncooked) ham that undergoes an intensive curing process. The dry curing replaces the need for any cooking. Prosciutto is a ham from the hind leg of a hog or boar, air dried for long periods of time (at least 210 days) under specific climate controls. Prosciutto di Parma is a specific type of Prosciutto from Parma. Another high quality Prosciutto is called Prosciutto di San Daniele. Among the most famous, and versatile, of all Italian Meats, Prosciutto is usually sliced thinly and served in sandwiches, as part of an antipasto course, or used in recipes.

Salame: In America, the word Salame is almost synonymous with the phrase Italian Meats. Just about every region of Italy lays claim to its own particular salame, but the most famous are Genoa, Calabrese, Milano, Varzi and Abbruzzi. This Italian favorite may be made from a one or more of a variety of meats (pork, boar, beef, venison, etc.) and seasoned with ingredients such as herbs, spices, salt, pepper, wine or vinegar. Salami (the plural form of Salame) is made by stuffing the ground meats and seasonings into a casing and then hanging it to cure. In addition to the Salami defined by regional heritage, some other popular variations of Salami include Casalingo (Salami of the House), Sopressata (Pressed and Flattened Salami), Piccante (Spicy Salami), and Cacciatore (Hunter’s Salami).

Sopressata: Sopressata is one of the most traditional cured Italian Meats. It is usually a flattened shape (its name incororates the Latin root for pressing), and can be any length from 8 inches to several feet long. Sopressata Salami are often shaped round today, but this flies in the face of tradition. Historically, Sopressata was only produced in the fall when the family’s hog was scheduled to be butchered. A classic Sopressata made use of all the cuts from the pig that were left over after the most expensive cuts had been sold off, thus its nickname “poor man’s salami.” Today, the name Sopressata is simply be applied to any coarse grind, moderately spiced Salami.

Speck Alto Adige: Speck is an Italian bacon from the South Tyrol region of Italy. This Italian Meat is rubbed with spice mix of salt, pepper, juniper berries and various garden herbs. To make Speck, it is first dry cured to preserve the meat. The Speck is then lightly cold smoked over beechwood chips, producing its signature flavor. The Speck is then stacked in aging cellars, where it is slow dried. This maturing is important for this noteworthy Italian Meat to become truly tender.

Can you believe after all the food sampled so far we were now off to have lunch – I knew I would be rolling back to the hotel after this tour!

It made sense though – we hadn’t yet learnt about or sampled Italy’s other staple – pasta! The restaurant chosen for this part of the tour has been around for about 80 years. “Al Giardino del Gatto e la Volpe” was  founded in the ‘40ies, getting to its maximum success a few years later, thanks to Nando and Angela, who decided to share their true passion for good food, with anybody who loved simple and healthy cuisine.

Afterwards, with love and experience, they involved their children, who refined their culinary and gastronomy art, by creating during the following years a very familiar and peaceful location, a pleasant atmosphere, also warm, welcoming, and marked by a continuous search of quality; a place in which customers can always taste typical Roman food, cooked with elegance and love, always by using genuine ingredients.

The restaurant is named after the cat and the fox in the story of Pinocchio – the restaurant was originally started by Nando and a male friend – the cat and the fox – before Nando’s wife Angela came along.

We enjoyed some gnocchi and spinach and ricotta ravioli – so good. When many of us think of pasta we think of Italian food, and most people believe that it originated there. While pasta is traditionally Italian, it actually has a very ancient history that makes it almost impossible to know who came up with the dish first.

The history of pasta is difficult to trace for several reasons. The word itself translates to “paste” in Italian. This is a reference to the dough, made from a combination of flour and water or eggs – all simple components that have been around for centuries. This makes it hard to differentiate pasta from other ancient dishes made from the same ingredients. In addition, since pasta has long been a food of the common people, it has not received as much attention as more extravagant foods… a pity, since it’s one of the most popular foods on the planet!

When we talk about pasta, we must first define the term. The word pasta is generally used to describe traditional Italian noodles, which differentiates it from other types of noodles around the world. Pasta is made from unleavened dough consisting of ground durum wheat and water or eggs. The use of durum wheat sets pasta apart from other forms of noodles. Durum wheat’s high gluten content and low moisture make it perfectly suited to pasta production. The durum wheat dough is pressed into sheets, cut into a variety of shapes, and cooked before serving.

While we do think of pasta as a culturally Italian food, it is likely the descendent of ancient Asian noodles. A common belief about pasta is that it was brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo during the 13th century. In his book, “The Travels of Marco Polo,” there is a passage that briefly mentions his introduction to a plant that produced flour (possibly a “breadfruit tree”). The Chinese used this plant to create a meal similar to barley flour. The barley-like meal Polo mentioned was used to make several pasta-like dishes, including one described as “lagana” (lasagna). Since Polo’s original text no longer exists, the book relies heavily on retellings by various authors and experts. This, combined with the fact that pasta was already gaining popularity in other areas of Italy during the 13th century, makes it very unlikely that Marco Polo was the first to introduce pasta to Italy.

A food tour in Rome just woudn’t be complete without a trip to the geletaria. Luca took us to one of the best geletaria’s in Rome – Fatamorgana’s. Luca taught us how to spot a real gelato versus a fake one – the key things to look for are noted below.

Fatamorgana was founded by Maria Agnese Spagnuolo. There are 8 stores in Rome and the first store outside Italy was opened recently in LA. A fatamorgana is an unusual and complex form of superior mirage that is seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. You can just imagine being stranded in the desert and seeing a mirage of gelato!

All of Fatamorgana’s gelato is gluten-free and made without processed ingredients because Maria has celiac disease and wanted to make ice cream she could eat. Her dream was to become an actress, but her father insisted that she have a backup plan, so she studied food chemistry in college. Her acting career never took off and after a weekend where she found herself battling depression, she wanted to make herself a treat. Creating gluten-free gelato without thickeners, stabilizers or additives changed her life.

To create the authentic Italian gelato, artisans use much less fat in the mixture compared to ice cream, and churn it at a slower speed so that less air gets mixed in. This contributes to a denser texture and more intense flavours than fluffy, whipped ice cream. Gelato is also served at a slightly higher temperature than ice cream, allowing the flavours to shine through.

The key things to look for prior to indulging in this heavenly treat:

Containers

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but you should absolutely judge gelato by the container it’s served in. Look for flat metal tins, which may have lids on them. Plastic tubs are a definite no, but metal tubs don’t always guarantee quality on their own.

Lids are always a good sign, as it shows the gelato is being carefully kept at the right temperatures – and that the gelateria is respected enough that it doesn’t need to draw in customers with bright colours and fancy decorations.

The denser texture of gelato as compared to ice cream also means that flat, metal ‘spades’ are better tools than curved ice cream scoops, so take a look at how the ice cream is being served.

Colour

For a quality gelato, you want one with a high proportion of natural ingredients, and that means no (or very little) added colouring.  A quality gelato will never have very vibrant colours, but natural ones, for example, pistacchio should never be green like you might think, but brownish. For berry colours, look for deep, muted reds rather than shocking pink, and lemon should be white rather than yellowy.

Gelato should also never look shiny – that means there are too many sugars, or that it’s oxidized, which means it’s old.

Texture

Remember how a key difference between gelato and ice cream was that the former has less air and a denser texture. Consider the height of an ice cream in the container; if it is piled up too high and doesn’t melt, it means it is rich in vegetable fats and emulsifiers.

Flavour

Even if you know exactly which flavour you’re going to order, it’s worth seeing which other options are on offer, as this can give a valuable clue to the gelato’s quality. Tourist favourites such as cookies and cream and bright blue bubblegum (usually called ‘puffo’, which means smurf) are generally a bad sign – though good gelaterias might still offer them as a crowd-pleaser in addition to quality flavours.

You might also spot the exact same flavours and labelling in several different stores, which is a giveaway that this isn’t artisanal gelato but mass-produced, either delivered in bulk or made from a mix. Fruit flavours which are out of season show that they probably aren’t using fresh ingredients. In a good gelateria, you won’t find any fruit that can’t also be found at local market stalls that month.

We were now well and truly stuffed! It was time to say goodbye to our fellow foodies and go and have a lie down. This tour is one of the best tours we’ve ever done – we learnt so much and Luca was superb. If you’re in Rome we can’t recommend this tour highly enough – go forth and eat!

Luca recommended a roof top bar near by so the lie down was postponed 😜. The view over the Vatican was pretty good from the Atlante Star Hotel 👍🏼.

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Rome by Segway – Rome, Italy

We arrived in Rome on Sunday afternoon after catching the train from Switzerland – it took us just under six hours and the time just flew by. We arrived into the main train station in Rome – Roma Termini. It was about a 15 minute walk to our hotel – the cobbled streets made for interesting suitcase and golf bag travel 😬.

We are staying at Hotel dei Borgia which is really nice and well situated from the historic sites and the Metro station. We spent the first day and a half checking out our neighbourhood and planning our next few days in Rome.

First up was a Segway tour – we decided to do the full day option so we could really get a good lay of the land in the ancient city. We met at the Eco Art Travel offices for a training session – we had been on a Segway before in Chicago and it’s just like riding a bike 🤭. Well not quite but it all came flooding back – we just had to factor in the cobbled streets and navigating the curbs – Segway’s can’t go up curbs so the guides are well skilled in finding the best ways to navigate the city.

Flavio was our guide for the morning and he was a born and bred Roman. He was well versed on both Segway riding and history.

First stop was the Circus Maximus. The Circus Maximus (Latin for greatest or largest circus; Italian: Circo Massimo) is an ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine Hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire. It measured 621 m (2,037 ft) in length and 118 m (387 ft) in width and could accommodate over 150,000 spectators. In its fully developed form, it became the model for circuses throughout the Roman Empire.

After the 6th century, the Circus fell into disuse and decay, and was quarried for building materials. The lower levels, ever prone to flooding, were gradually buried under waterlogged alluvial soil and accumulated debris, so that the original track is now buried 6m beneath the modern surface. In the 11th century, the Circus was “replaced by dwellings rented out by the congregation of Saint-Guy.” In the 12th century, a watercourse was dug there to drain the soil, and by the 1500s the area was used as a market garden. Many of the Circus’ standing structures survived these changes; in 1587, two obelisks were removed from the central barrier by Pope Sixtus V, and one of these was re-sited at the Piazza del Popolo. Mid 19th century workings at the circus site uncovered the lower parts of a seating tier and outer portico. Since then, a series of excavations has exposed further sections of the seating, curved turn and central barrier but further exploration has been limited by the scale, depth and waterlogging of the site.

The Circus site now functions as a large park area, in the centre of the city. It is often used for concerts and meetings. The Rome concert of Live 8 (July 2, 2005) was held there. The English band Genesis performed a concert before an estimated audience of 500,000 people in 2007 (this was filmed and released as When in Rome 2007). The Rolling Stones played there in front of 71,527 people on June 22, 2014 for the Italian date of their 14 On Fire tour. The Circus has also hosted victory celebrations, following the Italian World Cup 2006 victory and the A.S. Roma Serie A victory in 2001.

Today

Artists impression of what it would have looked like

Aerial view – current day

Next up was the Theatre of Marcellus (Latin: Theatrum Marcelli, Italian: Teatro di Marcello) which is an ancient open-air theatre built in the closing years of the Roman Republic. At the theatre, locals and visitors alike were able to watch performances of drama and song. The theatre was 111 m in diameter and was the largest and most important theatre in Ancient Rome; it could originally hold between 11,000 and 20,000 spectators. It was an impressive example of what was to become one of the most pervasive urban architectural forms of the Roman world.

Nowdays the upper floors are divided into multiple apartments, and its surroundings are used as a venue for small summer concerts.

After a little altercation with a curb (ST not me) Flavio showed us how the Romans have recycled the ruins over the years. Statues have been re homed all over the city.

The famous Trevi fountain was next on the itinerary – as you can imagine it is a very popular spot and it was impossible to get up close and personal. I have been to Rome before and they say if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain you will be sure to return to Rome in the future so 21 years later here I am 😊.

An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day. In 2016, an estimated €1.4 million (US$1.5 million) was thrown into the fountain. The money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy; however, there are regular attempts to steal coins from the fountain, even though it is illegal to do so.

The fountain stands at 26.3 metres (86 ft) high and 49.15 metres (161.3 ft) wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.

We enjoyed a break at Campo de Fiori which translated literally from Italian, means “field of flowers“. The name dates to the Middle Ages when the area was a meadow.

Executions used to be held publicly in Campo de’ Fiori. Here, on 17 February 1600, the philosopher Giordano Bruno was burnt alive for heresy, and all of his works were placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Holy Office. In 1889, Ettore Ferrari dedicated a monument to him on the exact spot of his death: He stands defiantly facing the Vatican and was regarded in the first days of a reunited Italy as a martyr to freedom of thought. The inscription on the base reads: A BRUNO – IL SECOLO DA LUI DIVINATO – QUI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE (“To Bruno – the century predicted by him – here where the fire burned”).

Today the square is the home to a market by day and a restaurant and bar scene by night although in the years after 2000, it became one of the most dangerous nighttime places of the city due to assaults and affrays by drunk tourists and soccer supporters.

We then visited the beautiful Piazza Navona which has three elaborate fountains. Defined as a public space in the last years of 15th century, when the city market was transferred there from the Campidoglio, Piazza Navona was transformed into a highly significant example of Baroque Roman architecture and art during the pontificate of Innocent X, who reigned from 1644 until 1655, and whose family palace, the Palazzo Pamphili, faced the piazza. It features important sculptural and creations: in the center stands the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, topped by the Obelisk of Domitian, brought in pieces from the Circus of Maxentius; the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone by Francesco Borromini, Girolamo Rainaldi, Carlo Rainaldi and others; and the aforementioned Pamphili palace, also by Girolamo Rainaldi, that accommodates the long gallery designed by Borromini and frescoed by Pietro da Cortona.

At the southern end is the Fontana del Moro with a basin and four Tritons sculpted by Giacomo della Porta (1575) to which, in 1673, Bernini added a statue of a Moor, wrestling with a dolphin. At the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune (1574) also created by Giacomo della Porta; the statue of Neptune, by Antonio Della Bitta, was added in 1878 to create a balance with La Fontana del Moro.

Apparently it is a very expensive place to eat and drink.

The Pantheon or House of God is a former Roman temple and is now a church. It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs” (Latin: Sancta Maria ad Martyres) but informally known as “Santa Maria Rotonda”. The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda. The Pantheon is a state property, managed by Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism through the Polo Museale del Lazio; in 2013 it was visited by over 6 million people.

The Pantheon’s large circular domed cella, with a conventional temple portico front, was unique in Roman architecture. Nevertheless, it became a standard exemplar when classical styles were revived, and has been copied many times by later architects.

As I mentioned above Segways don’t do curbs so we did a spot of road riding which was fun – the Italians are generally passionate people but this does not extend to stopping for pedestrians or other forms of transport so you have to be alert. To be fair it wasn’t particularly busy on the roads but they have a knack of appearing from nowhere and usually at a rate of knots 😂 .

We saw the Altare della Patria ([alˈtaːre della ˈpaːtrja]; English: “Altar of the Fatherland”), also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (“National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II”) or Il Vittoriano from the road, which is a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.

The eclectic structure was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885. Established Italian sculptors, such as Leonardo Bistolfi and Angelo Zanelli, made its sculptures nationwide. It was inaugurated in 1911 and completed in 1925. It effectively took 40 years to construct – quite amazing when you compare it to the construction of the Colosseum which took 8 years to build but as Flavio pointed out they had the use of 20,000 Roman slaves. The construction of II Vittoriano was a costly business.

The Vittoriano features stairways, Corinthian columns, fountains, an equestrian sculpture of Victor Emmanuel and two statues of the goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas. The structure is 135 m (443 ft) wide and 70 m (230 ft) high. If the quadrigae and winged victories are included, the height reaches 81 m (266 ft). It has a total area of 17,000 square metres.

The base of the structure houses the museum of Italian Unification. In 2007, a panoramic lift was added to the structure, allowing visitors to ride up to the roof for 360-degree views of Rome.

The monument, the largest in Rome, was controversial since its construction destroyed a large area of the Capitoline Hill with a Medieval neighbourhood for its sake. The monument itself is often regarded as conspicuous, pompous and too large.

It has been described as being “chopped with terrible brutality into the immensely complicated fabric of the hill”.

It is clearly visible to most of the city of Rome despite being boxy in general shape and lacking a dome or a tower. The monument is also glaringly white, built from “corpse-white marble” imported from Botticino in Brescia, making it highly conspicuous amidst the generally brownish buildings surrounding it. For its shape and conspicuous nature, Romans have given it a number of humorous and somewhat uncomplimentary nicknames, including la torta nuziale (“the wedding cake“), la dentiera (“the dentures“), macchina da scrivere (“the typewriter”) and la zuppa inglese (“English soup” dessert, which refers to a trifle).

We finished the morning part of the tour at the Colosseum. The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of travertine, tuff, and brick-faced concrete, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built. The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72, and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius).

The Colosseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, having an average audience of some 65,000; it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles (for only a short time as the hypogeum was soon filled in with mechanisms to support the other activities), animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.

Although partially ruined because of damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is still an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and also has links to the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.

We then enjoyed a typical Italian lunch- bruschetta, pasta, wine and coffee 😋.

The afternoon tour was more about the vistas of the city than the places. Our guide in the afternoon was Dimitri – he was also a born and bred Roman but one of his parents was German so he was extra tall.

One thing we have noticed in Rome is the state of disrepair that the streets, parks and train stations are in. There is a lot of graffiti, rubbish, weeds and areas that look like waste lands. I spoke to Flavio about it during the morning tour and he said it is all about the money. There simply isn’t enough money to go around and in a city of so many monuments, sculptures and historical sights they tend to be taken care of first.

On the afternoon tour, however we did visit a park that was green and well taken care of. Dimitri told us that when we turned left and walked towards the Vatican and St Peters Basilica we would see an optical illusion and he was right. As we walked closer the dome actually got smaller – you would think it would get bigger. But is it really magic? Probably not, and it is generally agreed that it is a trick of perspective caused by the position and height of the buildings on the horizon. When you walk towards a focal point, such as St. Peter’s dome, one would expect it to get bigger the closer you get. But in this case it, on the contrary, the cupola appears to become smaller as we approach the space between the buildings gets wider and our brain adjusts the dimensions perceived automatically.

Next stop was Capitoline Hill. From the founding of Rome until its fall almost one thousand years later, the Capitoline Hill symbolized the epicenter of Rome’s might and many of the city’s most important buildings stood on this hill.

Later, during the Middle Ages, the site continued to play an important part in Rome’s history. The senate of Rome assembled here and even today it still has some political significance since the city hall is located here. Apparently this is where the Mayor of Rome lives. The mayor of Rome – Virginia Elena Raggi – is the 65th Mayor of Rome and the first female mayor. She is a lawyer and politician and she share my birthday although she was born 7 years later.

One of her first acts as mayor was the withdrawal of the 2024 Olympic bid stating that “with 13 billion euros in debt, Rome can’t afford taking on more debt to make cathedrals in the desert”. Under her tenure both public transport and waste management have been subject of criticism due to poor quality of passenger service and waste collection: as for the former to date (July 2018) more than 30 buses caught fire since January 2017 because of poor or absent maintenance. The event has become so common that the press reports that every time a bus explodes in Rome the first thing people think of is a lack of service of Atac – Rome’s public transport company – rather than a terrorist attack.

When Emperor Charles V planned a visit to Rome in 1536, the muddy Capitoline Hill was in such a derelict state that pope Paul III Farnese asked Michelangelo to design a new square, the Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitoline Square). The project also included a redesign of the existing buildings surrounding the square.

Michelangelo came up with an original, trapezoidal design for the square with an intriguing oval shaped ground pattern. He rebuilt the Palazzo Senatorio, seat of the Roman senate, and redesigned the facade of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

Additionally a new building, the Palazzo Nuovo, was to be constructed just opposite the Palazzo dei Conservatori. Both palazzos were positioned at a slight angle so that it changes the perspective in such a way that the square seems larger than it actually is.

Finally, Michelangelo’s ambitious plans for the square also included the creation of an elegant staircase, the Cordonata.

Construction of the square started in 1546 but only the staircase at the entrance of the Palazzo Senatorio was realized when Michelangelo died in 1564. The project was finally completed in the seventeenth century according to Michelangelo’s designs.

There is so much history in this city it is mind blowing and also a bit confusing. Dimitri reckons you would need at least two years to see everything in Rome.

Rome

Name & Symbol

The origin of the city’s name is thought to be that of the reputed founder and first ruler, the legendary Romulus. It is said that Romulus and his twin brother Remus, apparent sons of the god Mars and descendants of the Trojan hero Aeneas, were suckled by a she-wolf after being abandoned, then decided to build a city. The brothers argued, Romulus killed Remus, and then named the city Rome after himself. The symbol of the city of Rome is the wolf suckling the twins.

Periods of Roman History

Roman history has been among the most influential to the modern world, from supporting the tradition of the rule by law to influencing the American Founding Fathers to the creation of the Catholic church. Roman history can be divided into the following periods:

▪ Pre-historical and early Rome, covering Rome’s earliest inhabitants and the legend of its founding by Romulus.

▪ The period of Etruscan dominance and the Regal Period, in which according to tradition, Romulus was the first of seven kings.

▪ The Roman Republic, which commenced in 509 BC when kings were replaced with rule by elected senators. The period was marked by vast expansion of Roman territory. During the 5th century BC, Rome gained regional dominance in Latium, and eventually the entire Italian peninsula by the 3rd century BC. With the Punic Wars from 264 to 146 BC, Rome gained dominance over the Western Mediterranean, displacing Carthage as the dominant regional power.

▪ The Roman Empire: With the rise of Julius Caesar, the Republic waned and by all measures, concluded after a period of civil war and the victory of Octavian, the adopted son of Caesar in 27 BC over Mark Antony. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Rome managed to hang onto the empire, still known as the Roman Empire but long centered on the eastern Mediterranean, until the 8th century as the Duchy of Rome. At this time, the city was reduced to a fraction of its former size, being sacked several times in the 5th to 6th centuries, in 546 even temporarily depopulated entirely.

Medieval Rome: Characterized by a break with Byzantium and the formation of the Papal States. The Papacy struggled to retain influence in the emerging Holy Roman Empire, and during the Saeculum obscurum, the population of Rome fell to as low as 30,000 inhabitants. Following the East–West Schism and the limited success in the Investiture Controversy, the Papacy did gain considerable influence in high medieval Europe, but with the Avignon Papacy and the Western Schism, the city of Rome was reduced to irrelevance, its population falling below 20,000. Rome’s decline into complete irrelevance during the medieval period, with the associated lack of construction activity, assured the survival of very significant ancient Roman material remains in the centre of the city, some abandoned and others continuing in use.

▪ The Roman Renaissance: In the 15th century, Rome replaced Florence as the symbol of artistic and cultural influence. The Roman Renaissance was cut short abruptly with the devastation of the city in 1527, but the Papacy reasserted itself in the Counter-Reformation, and the city continued to flourish during the early modern period. Rome was annexed by Napoleon and was technically part of France during 1798–1814.

▪ Modern History: The period from the 19th century to today. Rome was under siege by the Allied invasion of Italy and was bombed several times. It was declared an open city on 14 August 1943. Rome became the capital of the Italian Republic (established in 1946), with a population of 4.4 million in its metropolitan area (as of 2015; 2.9 million within city limits)—is the largest city in Italy. It is among the largest urban areas of the European Union and classified as a “global city

Kingdom of Italy

Rome became the focus of hopes of Italian reunification when the rest of Italy was reunited under the Kingdom of Italy with a temporary capital at Florence. In 1861, Rome was declared the capital of Italy even though it was still under the control of the Pope. During the 1860s, the last vestiges of the Papal States were under the French protection of Napoleon III. And it was only when this was lifted in 1870, owing to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, that Italian troops were able to capture Rome entering the city through a breach near Porta Pia. Afterwards, Pope Pius IX declared himself as prisoner in the Vatican, and in 1871 the capital of Italy was moved from Florence to Rome.

Soon after World War I, Rome witnessed the rise to power of Italian Fascism guided by Benito Mussolini, who, at the request of King Victor Emmanuel III, marched on the city in 1922, eventually declaring a new Empire and allying Italy with Nazi Germany.

The interwar period saw a rapid growth in the city’s population, that surpassed 1,000,000 inhabitants.

This Roman Question was finally resolved on 11 February 1929 between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy. The Lateran Treaty was signed by Benito Mussolini on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III and by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri for Pope Pius XI. The treaty, which became effective on 7 June 1929, and the Concordat established the independent State of the Vatican City and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy.

During World War II, Rome suffered few bombings (notably at San Lorenzo) and relatively little damage because none of the nations involved wanted to endanger the life of Pope Pius XII in Vatican City. There were some bitter fights between Italian and German troops in the south of the city and even in sight of the Colosseum, shortly after the armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces. On 4 June 1944 Rome became the first capital city of an Axis nation to fall to the Allies, but was relatively undamaged because on 14 August 1943, a day after the last allied bombing, the Germans declared it an “open city” and withdrew, meaning that the Allies did not have to fight their way in.

In practice Italy made no attempt to interfere with the Holy See within the Vatican walls. However, they confiscated church property in many other places, including the Quirinal Palace, formerly the pope’s official residence. Pope Pius IX (1846–78), the last ruler of the Papal States, claimed that after Rome was annexed he was a “Prisoner in the Vatican“.

Economy

As in ancient times Rome is a center of transportation. It is the focus of international traffic by road, rail, sea (at the port of Civitavecchia), and air (at Leonardo da Vinci international airport at Fiumicino) and is as well a cultural, religious, political, and commercial center of international importance.

Public transportation in Rome is provided by an elaborate bus system. A subway, the Metropolitana, was opened in 1955. Rome’s large number of automobiles has caused serious traffic congestion, and in the 1970s and 80s various attempts were made to deal with the problem, including the banning of traffic in certain parts of the city. The economy of Rome depends to a very large extent on the tourist trade.

The city is also a center of banking, insurance, printing, publishing, and fashion. Italy’s movie industry (founded in 1936) is located at nearby Cinecitta.

The economy of Rome is characterized by the absence of heavy industry, but commercial activities especially banking and the development of tourism are extremely important to its economy. Universities, national radio and television and the movie industry in Rome are also important parts of the economy. A phenomenon particular to Rome is the widespread incidence of double employment, people working two jobs.

All roads lead to Rome….

The idiom, “all roads lead to Rome,” was being used as early as the 1100s. It was based off of the ancient Roman road system where roads radiated from the capital of Rome. The road system resembled spokes of a wheel.

Rome wasn’t built in a day…

Important work takes time. This expression functions as an injunction or plea for someone to be patient. For example, You can’t expect her to finish this project in the time allotted; Rome wasnt built in a day. This phrase was a French proverb in the late 1100s but was not recorded in English until 1545.

When in Rome…

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When visiting a foreign land, follow the customs of those who live in it. It can also mean that when you are in an unfamiliar situation, you should follow the lead of those who know the ropes.

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Summer Swiss Style – Switzerland

We arrived into Zurich on Tuesday the 24th July but unfortunately our golf bags did not arrive with us. The plane was apparently too full so they were coming on the next plane – not normally a problem but Steve’s golf bag also contained his clothes! The woman at Lost and Found was really lovely and we sorted out the delivery address for the bags etc…and she gave us a couple of toiletry packs that contained a T-shirt – at least Steve could change his shirt.

Karin was there to meet us and I am not sure what it is with us but we always seem to get our hosts in a muddle as to where they have parked the car. A temporary problem before we were on our way to Buochs.

Karin and Elvis have caught the golf bug so after unpacking (my suitcase made it on the plane with us) we were off to the driving range to see how Steve’s prodigy’s were progressing. They were having a fabulous summer and this was set to continue for our stay. It was a warm evening and the sun doesn’t go down till after 9pm.

Dinner was a Swiss sausage and salad – I think I’ve talked about these sausages in previous blogs – I am not normally a sausage fan but I love these ones – they are made from veal.

A phone call on Wednesday morning to Lost Baggage was not favourable – our bags wouldn’t be delivered until 7pm that evening. I did have some of Steve’s dirty washing in my suitcase so he managed to swap his jeans for shorts which went fabulously with his new white British Airways T-shirt.

There was to be no golf for us that day so Elvis contacted his parents and we spent the afternoon on Lake Lucerne on their boat. The conditions were perfect and it felt like “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” We had a swim in the lake before heading to Trei for a late lunch. We had been to this spot before when Karin & Elvis had got married in 2009. They had their wedding reception at the restaurant above so we had caught the funicular up there. This time we dined at lake level.

We got home just in time to meet the delivery van. Reunited with our clubs we went to the driving range at Burgenstock which sits at about 800 metres above sea level. Another beautiful evening. We hit balls and then had a chipping competition which the girls won 👍🏻.

On Thursday morning we went paddle boarding on the lake – I just can’t get enough of this lake 😍.

We then headed to the golf course in Andermatt – see separate blog.

Friday was a day of relaxation in preparation for the evening watching the Blood Moon – a once a century occurrence. Elvis had organised for us to join his friend Edgar and his family up on one of the hills at 1,200 metres. Edgar had spoken with the farmer and we were allowed to set up camp on his land.

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Edgar is a pilot for Etihad and a keen hobby astronomer. He had this fantastic telescope which he set up so we could all take turns looking at various things throughout the evening. Edgar’s knowledge is amazing and we learnt so much which I will share below for those who were like me and obviously didn’t listen at school 😂 .

There was a little bit of cloud where the moon was rising but we still got a good look at it as it rose into the sky. There was so much more to see including ISS – the International Space Station. We watched it fly over us – if you didn’t know what you were looking at you wouldn’t have known what it was but we watched it for 6 minutes as it orbited our corner of the world. If we had stayed in that spot we would have seen it again two hours later – it circumnavigates the earth every two hours – amazing!

As the sun set the planets came out – first Venus which is the only planet you can see at sunset and sunrise. Next up was Jupiter – this is the biggest of the planets and has 4 large moons – 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom. Of course you can not see these moons from earth with the naked eye but we could see them through the telescope – so cool. Next up was Saturn which is harder to see unless you know what you’re looking at. Seeing the rings through the telescope was incredible. Mars then made an appearance but sadly we didn’t see any martians through the telescope 👽 😂.

Edgar then pointed out the North Star – amazingly we don’t see it in the Southern Hemisphere 😉. Polaris or the North Star as it is known, is the brightest star in the constellation known as the Little Dipper. It is so-called because of the special position it occupies relative to Earth’s axis. If you were to stay up all night gazing at the stars, you’d slowly see them revolve around a point in the sky known as the North Celestial Pole – all the planets revolve around this star including the sun. Because the star is always pointing north, Polaris helped navigators for centuries, although it is only visible in the northern hemisphere.

There is no bright pole star in the southern hemisphere sky that can be used to locate due south in the same way that Polaris indicates north in the northern hemisphere. Instead, there are various ways of locating south by the Southern Cross.

One of Karin’s friends Faith joined us and she taught me how she remembers all the planets. My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Pluto is the smallest planet and over the last five years it has been reclassified as a dwarf planet which is a new classification.

As the evening wore on and the moon got higher it changed back to it’s normal colour and you could see the shadow of the earth moving slowly off it. Elvis took a great picture of this through the lense of the telescope. Elvis had some great binoculars which allowed you to see the moon three dimensionally. Through the telescope it was easy to see the surface which reminded me of a river that had run dry leaving behind it lots of different patterns.

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We stayed up there until about midnight – the cow bells were still ringing so whoever told you cows lay down at night and slept lied 🐄 😂. It had been a magical night and we were so fortunate to be able to share this experience with our friends and someone that was so knowledgeable.

Timing is everything – we woke up on Saturday morning to low cloud and rain – we wouldn’t have seen what we had seen the night before if these conditions had rolled in 12 hours earlier.

Sunday morning included walking, paddle boarding and swimming in the lake. Sunday afternoon was spent by the pool. Steve learnt to make Rosti which is a Swiss speciality – it was very good so no doubt that will be included in his culinary repertoire going forward. Sunday funday 😊.

We spent Monday at the golf club in Axenstein – see separate blog.

Wednesday the 1st August is Swiss National Day and a time to get together with your family to eat, drink and be merry. Karin & I had decided to do a bike ride in the morning and she had arranged with her friend Sandra for me to borrow her electric bike – there are some big hills in Switzerland! Sandra was going to be out so had told us where the bike would be. We entered the cellar under the house which contained some bikes including an electric one but it wasn’t Sandra’s. We thought maybe someone else had come and borrowed it and left their one there. We checked the battery which was down to two bars and decided to leave it and just go home again. Luckily we did as we found out later on we had been in the wrong cellar – Sandra’s cellar was the next door along which neither of us could recall seeing 🙄. We would try again tomorrow.

That afternoon we drove over the Klausen Pass for a BBQ at Karin’s parents place in Schwanden in the canton of Glarus. The Klausen Pass is 1948 metres high at the top so we were excited to see the views. The weather gods had other ideas and after all the amazing weather we had been having the heavens opened up – the rain was torrential and we had four lots of hail on our way down. The cows had even retreated to the road so not only were we dodging hail stones we were also dodging cows!

Although the rain eased up a bit it still wasn’t conducive to sitting outside and playing table tennis which is an annual tradition on the 1st August. It was a lovely night though with Karin’s family and the food was delicious. We drove home that night along the highway instead of going back over the Pass.

Thursday morning was bike ride take two. This time we got the correct cellar – the second door was quite obvious and the correct bike was behind it. The plan was to bike up to Burgenstock which is about 800 metres high. It was another beautiful day so the views were fantastic. We had a coffee at the Honegg Hotel which is a luxury 5 star hotel. It has an infinity pool and fantastic views.

While we were out on the bikes the boys were playing tennis – Elvis was victorious and Steve ordered a re match for the Saturday which he managed to win one set – in the end though it was Elvis 3, Steve 1 : (

That afternoon we golfed at Golfpark Oberkirch – see separate blog.

On Friday morning we were back up at Burgenstock playing golf up there – see separate blog.

Friday afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool and that evening we looked at photos from our trips to Switzerland in 2014.

On Saturday morning Karin & I went paddle boarding – we were on the lake at 6.30am so we could watch the sunrise. Karin has an App that tells you when the sun will rise in various places – due to the mountains the sun will be seen at different times depending on where you are. The App had said it would rise at 6.52am over this particular mountain and sure enough at 6.52am the sun peeked over the mountain. It was very quiet out on the lake – magical.

Karin and Elvis has then arranged for us to visit a Swiss Farm owned by friends of theirs – Sandra and Sep. They milk 30 cows and every cow has a name and is known by that name. The cows are currently spending their days in the barn with a big fan going because it is so hot – they go out into the pastures at night when it is cooler.

It was interesting to compare the operation to one in NZ – obviously the scale is the biggest difference. The other thing that was interesting was the fact that it is not uncommon to have bits of land all over the place – the farms aren’t in one block which makes it a bit tricky for stock movement and management. Apparently this is something that is looking to be addressed but will take a number of years to sort.

They use automated milking machines but they are portable so the barn is not set up permanently as a milking shed – these units are bought out when required. The milk is collected from the vat by tanker and again the size of the tanker is a lot smaller than we have in NZ. Their milk goes to a factory that produces hard cheese.

They have black Holsteins, red Holsteins and Swiss Brown cows. They don’t have a spring as such with the cows calving at a particular time – they calve throughout the year meaning there is a constant supply of milk which is what the factory requires. They are fed grass, hay and some corn. When the cows are culled they go into meat for McDonalds.

They have a program similar to the carbon emissions program for manure. Each farmer is only allowed to produce so much manure – if you produce more than your allowed level you have to pay another farmer to take it away. This can be quite lucrative if your levels are low.

Sep has also decided to raise some turkeys – these are to sell to friends and family for Christmas. Karin & Elvis have their names on one.

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The farmhouse is a protected building due to it’s history that dates back to the early 1800’s when it was occupied by troops. Under the Helvetic Republic imposed in 1798 by French Revolutionary troops, Switzerland became a united country. The ideas of the French Revolution were not popular in some parts of the Swiss nation including Nidwalden where the farm and farmhouse is located . The cantons were accustomed to self-government and many resented the limits on the freedom of worship in particular. When rebel forces threatened the Republic, Nidwalden was attacked by French troops on 9 September 1798. The canton’s infrastructure was badly damaged and at least 400 people were killed.

Ironically one of the Knight’s involved in these battles erected a church on the property which Sandra and Sep look after. It is very small and quaint.

Sandra has an amazing garden with lots of fruit trees – we picked pears and ate blackberries straight from the bushes. We took a pile of pears home and Karin made a pear pie for dessert.

We enjoyed a coffee and some snacks with Sandra, Sep and two of their kids – Simon and Sarah. Steve and Simon were being silly which resulted in Simon falling in the pool fully clothed : 0. They have a great view over the Pilatus airport and down towards Engleberg and Buochs.

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Just prior to going to the farm we had met the postman delivering the mail – Steve was very taken with his state of the art bike. He invited Steve to sit on it which of course he did. It then turned out that this was his last run – he was retiring after 40 years on the job.

I took my last swim in the lake on Saturday night before we headed for Rome early on Sunday morning. Again it had been an amazing visit to Switzerland to see Karin & Elvis. It felt like the long hot summers we used to enjoy as kids – every day was perfect weather wise which we took advantage of by doing things outside. We also enjoyed lots of home grown fruits and veges from the garden. Karin & Elvis had even raised the NZ flag up on their flagpole to make us feel more at home in our home away from home.

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Bürgenstock Alpine Golf – Switzerland

On Friday morning we went back up to Bürgenstock – this time by car with the golf clubs! The Bürgenstock Resort contains a hotel as well as various leisure activities including a 9 hole pre Alps golf course. Check out Burgenstock Resort for more information – the resort is absolutely stunning sitting high above Lake Lucerne.

The golf course was built in 1928 and is a par 33 nine hole course which calls for much precision and a strategic game. Most of the fairways are sloping so your balls tend to go in all sorts of directions.

I think we were all a bit golfed out because none of us played particularly well. The views are spectacular though so all was not lost apart from a few balls and a bit of pride 😂 . We only ended up playing 9 holes as there was a tournament starting at 12pm which had a shot gun start.

We had a coffee and went to the driving range to iron out some kinks.

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Golfpark Oberkirch – Switzerland

On Thursday afternoon we went to the Golfpark in Oberkirch which is in the opposite direction to where the other golf courses we had played were. It was about 35 minutes from Buochs just past Lucerne.

The Golfpark is owned by Migros (pronounced Migro) which is Switzerland‘s largest retail company, its largest supermarket chain and largest employer. It is also one of the forty largest retailers in the world. It is structured in the form of a cooperative society (the Federation of Migros Cooperatives), with more than two million members. They are involved in many well being programs in the communities and the Golfparks are one of these. They own 7 Golfparks in Switzerland and the objective was to allow more people to be able to play the sport.

The course was more in line with what we are used to – a lot flatter although it still had a few hills. The practice facilities were amazing so we spent a bit of time there before venturing out. We teed off at 5.42pm and unfortunately we didn’t manage to fit the whole 18 holes in. We skipped 13, 14 and 15. There was still a little bit of light left when we finished but it was getting more difficult to see the ball.

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Golf Club Axenstein – Switzerland

Next up on our Swiss golf tour was Axenstein which is a 9 hole, par 31 course in Morschah. It sits at about 750 metres above sea level and has spectacular views.

In the nineteenth century, the prestigiously situated Morschach region of Switzerland evolved into a trendy holiday resort, discovered mainly by guests from England, France and the USA. In 1869, the luxury hotel “Axenstein” was opened, followed by “Palace Axenfels” in 1873. Morschach became world-renowned and experienced magnificent times. In 1904, Axenfels opened a 9-hole golf course for English golfers, becoming the first of the two hotels to do so. At the time, it was regarded as one of the most beautiful courses in all of Switzerland. In 1924, Axenstein followed suit and opened its own course, originally with 18 holes before later being reduced to 11 and then 9 holes due to topographical reasons. The children of farming families living in the area were willing caddies, a role which proved a profitable activity. Many elderly residents still look back on this magnificent time with fond memories. However, World War II killed off the luxury hotel trade and the two hotels were demolished, the golf course was used for agriculture and the tennis courts and hiking trails disappeared.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Dr Georg Wiederkehr, with Axenstein Immobilien AG, took over the land and commissioned engineer Stephan Kalt of Wermatswil to reconstruct today’s golf course in consultation with Scottish golf professional David James. The course was re opened in 2006.

Axenstein is not the type of course we normally play with the steep inclines and declines and short holes but it was fun and really makes you focus on the accuracy of your shots. We played the nine holes and then had a really good lunch at the restaurant before going out and playing the nine holes again. It really was much easier the second time round and my score reflected that. Again we had a perfect day and the I couldn’t get enough of the vistas.

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