Ancient Etruscan Treasures

I am a true believer in past lives.  Maybe that’s why I was so keenly drawn to the Etruscan civilization and its rich history.  So, when my Italian language teacher asked if anyone wanted to go to Tuscany for two weeks, I jumped at the chance because it would allow me to walk like an Etruscan, so to speak.

This day’s adventure led me to an off the beaten path wonder in Chiusi, the National Etruscan Museum, Archeologico Nazionale Museo (Via Porsenna 93).  It stores a wealth of Etruscan artifacts and is located in the heart of the small town.  And it just might be the best €6.00 you’ll spend in Tuscany (kids under 18 get in free).

Etruscan husband and wife sarcophagus

Etruscan husband and wife sarcophagus

The Museum was established in 1871 and is housed in a wonderful neo-classical building.  It’s rich in Etruscan treasures because the hills surrounding it are bountiful in Etruscan tombs.  Whenever a farmer digs a new well and discovers a new tomb, the artifacts make their way down the hills and into the Museo.  The collection also includes contributions from private collections.

The items are organized quite well and begin with elements of the Bronze and Iron Age and proceed forward in time, alcove to alcove.  Yet, no matter how you journey through the building there is one thing which will capture the heart of any intelligent woman with wanderlust.  In Etruria, women were respected and revered.  Here you will see a female sphinx; here you will see noble women reclining with a book in hand; here you will see funerary statues that honor the female who has passed.  I was so impressed by this because it was something I had not known until that moment and which was so distinctly different from how ancient Romans and Greeks viewed women.

The statuary's eyes have a vapid quality which was the antithesis of this loving, deep and highly spiritual society

The statuary’s eyes have a vapid quality which was the antithesis of this loving, deep and highly spiritual society

The other stunningly strange fact is that all of the statuary and vases are missing eyes – not as in missing them like they were knocked out but missing them as the sockets are carved into the statue but without actual irises and pupils.  It gives the statues a vapid, soulless quality which is the antithesis of all that I have read on the Etruscans,  a highly religious and superstitious civilization.  It was so disturbing to me that I commented to my friend that it was as if this deeply philosophical society just disappeared and left no trace of its soul behind.  The Etruscan mystery endures in time and in Chiusi.

TOURIST TIP:  There is a pizza god across from the museo.   I kid you not.  The pizza chef in the pizzeria next to the Piazza del Duomo, directly opposite the museo, must be a descendant of an Etruscan god.  Magnificent.  However, he was not the happiest person when I was there but maybe it had to do with the hot pizza oven and a screaming mamma in the cucina this hot, summer day!


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Posted in Archaeology Vacations, Europe, Italy, Italy travel Concierge, Off the Beaten Path, Solo Travel for Women Blog, Tuscany, Wanderlust Women | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Cinematic Stroll through Rome

In a legendary city that’s more than two millennia old, how do you narrow it down to films shot in Rome over the course of its cinematic history?  The list would be virtually impossible to produce in just one short article.  So, I’ve narrowed it down to the current millenium of film locations in Rome with movies released since 2000:

Ocean’s 12 (2004) – Of course, I have to get George Clooney in Rome….a girl can dream, right?  The Clooney crew plans to steal a valuable egg from the Galleria D’Arte di Roma which in reality was the British School at Rome located on the grounds of the Villa Borghese.

Mission Impossible III (2006) – Tom  Cruise’s Ethan Hunt enters the Vatican at Viale Vaticano.  And while Cruise certainly draws a crowd no matter which city he’s in, the crowds in Rome were making it difficult to shoot the film.  The production team established a fake film set away from the real action….they cast it with bikini-clad extras and nuns in “habit” drawing crowds to the wrong spot so filming could actually take place unimpeded.

Teatro Marcello Rome travelAngels & Demons (2009) – Piazza del Popolo offers one of the city’s widest open spaces for people gathering.  It also serves as one of the many clues Tom Hanks’ character chases down across The Eternal City in search of demons.

When in Rome (2010) – This is clearly one of those cute, romantic chick flicks starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel but we all need one of those on a rainy Saturday.  Bell’s character is being pursued by a host of suitors.  The fountain where Kristen’s character collects coins of love is called “Fontana D’Amore” in the movie.  It’s actually the fountain of Aphrodite of Knidos.  It exists on some side street.  Does anyone know its name?

Eat Pray Love (2010) – Moviegoers got to travel the globe with Julia Roberts’ character as she searches for passion in life.  By the time she lands in Rome, she visits all of the typical tourists spots including Piazza Navona, the Villa Borghese and the off the beaten path Rome of Piazza del Biscione…and indluges every food craving in “the no carb left behind” journey.

Do you know of a restaurant in Rome or a side street off the beaten path which has been in your favorite movie?  Add a comment below.

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Posted in Europe, Friday Flicks, Italy, Italy travel Concierge, Rome | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Top 5 Favorite London Tube Stops

For as long as I can remember, I have been romanced by the London transit system.  The red of the Routemaster buses or the giant clock which looms over Paddington Station always have me dreaming of another time, quite literally.  I can easily get lost underground, as well, since the London Tube offers a never-ending photo op on any given day.  So, I thought I’d share my Top 5 London Tube Stops in no particular order with tips on what to find once you come top-side.

Covent Garden Tube1.  Covent Garden (Piccadilly/Blue line between Holborn & Leicester Square)  This station can only be reached by using the lift or the 193 steps which lead to the platform some 15 stories below ground.  It was opened in 1907 and brings you smack dab in the middle of the lively Covent Garden market.  You can shop till your heart’s content and grab a cuppa or a great meal.  Try Navajo Joe’s or Wahaca for Mexican.  There are permanent vendors at the Jubilee Market, everything from great leather-embossed book covers to nuts and treats.  The vendors inside the Apple Market range from pricey antiques to custom cufflinks and wonderful silver trinkets.  It’s a great place to spend a lazy Sunday in London, offering zero cost and free music and people-watching.

Westiminster Tube Big Ben2.   Westminster (Circle, District and Jubilee lines)  This is one of the oldest stops on the Underground, having opened on Christmas Eve in 1868.  It brings you front and center with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  Hoards of tourists fidget about in a photo-taking frenzy at the top of the stairs.  Turn left and meander along the bridge where you can get a great panoramic shot or turn right and get a great spot for Big Ben closeups at the next bus stop.  Once over the bridge, you will be in the trendy South Bank section of the River Thames.  Here you can grab a ride on the London Eye; catch an exhibit at the Tate Modern or enter the London Dungeon, if you dare.  (TOURIST TIP:  Bypass the London Aquarium.  It’s not worth the ticket, not even with kids!)

Warwick Avenue Tube3.  Warwick Avenue (Bakerloo/Brown line between Paddington and Maida Vale) This stop, made famous by Duffy’s song of the same name, opened in 1915 and leads to one of my favorite London haunts, Little Venice.  The boats on the canal and the easy laid-back vibe of the neighborhood make it a wonderful place for a stroll, a boat ride to Camden Market or brunch on any day, especially at Raoul’s.

London Paddington4.  Paddington (Terminus of the First Great Western Railway  and four Underground lines)  This has been one of London’s busiest transit hubs since 1838 when the Great Western Railway first opened.  The Underground station opened in 1863 and the station has been shuffling passengers ever since.  It’s the station where you can grab a direct train to the airport aboard the Heathrow Express.  There is also evidence of Paddington Bear throughout the bustling hub but my favorite is the giant clock which looms over Platform No1.  It transports you to another time with your first glance.  There are plenty of food stalls sprinkled across the station, even Starbucks and McDonald’s.  And take a walk out the back of the station and you’ll happen upon my favorite Little Venice neighborhood in just about 10 minutes.

Baker Street Tube5.  Baker Street (It is served by 5 different lines at the junction of Baker Street & Marleybone Road)   Baker Street, forever linked to its most famous fictional resident, Sherlock Holmes, is easily one of the busiest Tube stops with five lines coming in and out of ten platforms, the most on the entire Underground.  It opened in 1863 and is a stone’s throw from Paddington Station (just 2 stops on the Bakerloo/Brown, Circle/Yellow or Hammersmith/Pink lines).  Of course, Sherlockians will want to go above ground and check out the famous detective’s home at 221B Baker Street.  What they’ll find today is the Sherlock Holmes Museum filled with memorabilia where a tenner will get you in the front door.

These are some of my favorite Tube stops but by all means not all of them since 249 miles of track offer a world of London tourist possibilities.

TOURIST TIP:  The Oyster Card is the easiest way to get around the Tube and city buses.  If you’re leaving from The States, it’s better to buy one online before you go.  You just tap and go whenever you get on the Tube or a bus.

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