Tempting Tuesday: Church of Santo Stefano, Capri

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Santo Stefano Capri 5

 

Just off Capri’s famous Piazzetta, or little piazza, which is one of the island’s top places to pay far too much to see and be seen, you’ll find the beautiful 17th century church of Santo Stefano. The steps leading up the church are often lined with beautiful flowers forming an idyllic backdrop to the fashionable, elite and hordes of tourists passing through the Piazzetta. The church of Santo Stefano is generally open in the morning, and as chance would have it, I’ve always been in Capri town in the afternoon. Two weekends ago when we visited Capri we skipped going up to Anacapri and went straight to Capri to enjoy the day.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Santo Stefano Capri 4

 

Finally I was able to see the inside of this church that had always intrigued me from the outside. Take a look at those mini-cupolas (is there a technical term for those?) along the roof of the church. It was finally time to see what they looked like from the inside. Beautiful does not begin to describe it!

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Santo Stefano Capri 2

 

The nave was lined with elegant chapels, and each arch contained one of these lovely glass chandeliers.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Santo Stefano Capri 3

 

I would love to share more photos with you, but these are the two best that I got of the interior since I wasn’t supposed to take photos inside – and there was a lady circulating the church with a rather stern look on her face. So I am truly tempting you this week, and reminding you to visit the Church of Santo Stefano next time you are in Capri!

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Santo Stefano Capri 1

 

Inside you will be treated with an exquisite marble floor, including a fragment of the inlaid pavement from the Villa Jovis. Be sure to walk around the rear of the church, behind the altar, to see the mini-museum with beautiful nativity scenes, the carved wooden choir stalls and to peek out the back windows at the views of the  luxury shopping streets of Capri. Don’t miss the large bust reliquary of San Costanzo, Capri’s patron saint and protector. And after you’ve visited the church, head down to the Piazzetta and enjoy the view of the church, the hustle and bustle of Capri’s busy piazza and the marvelous views down to Marina Grande.

 

 

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Tempting Tuesday: The Cloister of Paradise in Amalfi

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Cloister

 

With the response I had to last week’s Tempting Tuesday about the Certosa di San Giacomo in Capri,  I’ve learned I’m not the only one who enjoys a beautiful chiostro, or cloister. I promised another treat, and this week we’re going on a walk around the small, but spectacular Cloister of Paradise at the Duomo of Amalfi. Built between 1266 and 1268, this cloister is only one of the many reasons you need to be sure to explore the Duomo when you visit Amalfi. While the word “paradise” could certainly describe the unreal beauty of the cloister, the name instead reflects the original function of the space. In the 13th century, this was the cemetery for the noble merchants of Amalfi.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Cloister Garden

 

Walking around the cloister, you can admire the Moorish style interlaced arches, supported by 120 slender columns. The whitewashed walls intensify the vivid colors of the small Mediterranean garden in the center of the cloister. On the northern side of the cloister, be sure to stop and admire the perfectly framed view of the Duomo’s campanile, completed in 1276.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Cloister Campanile

 

For those of you that really enjoy architecture, check out the cutaway plan for the Duomo of Amalfi below. (Click on the image to make it larger.) There you can see the location of the Cloister of Paradise in the lower left hand corner, and how it is connected to the rest of the Duomo complex.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Cloister Floor plan

 

Surrounding the cloister are several works of art that are worth stopping for a closer look.  Here you can see the remains of a Byzantine period pulpit from the Duomo (dating from 1174 – 1202), featuring inlaid mosaics of the Cosmatesque school. On the Amalfi Coast, you can find several excellent examples of these types of pulpits intact in the Duomo of Amalfi, but also the Duomo of Ravello, Duomo of Scala, and particularly fine pieces in the Duomo of Salerno. I’m not sure the story behind why this exact piece didn’t survive, but there certainly must be a story there!

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Cloister Mosaics

 

Also around the cloister you will find several sarcophagi, including two fine examples dating from the first half of the 2nd century. The sarcophagus in the photo below shows a scene from Greek myth of “The Rape of Persephone.” 

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Cloister Tomb

 

Around on the other side of the cloister there are small chapels filled with frescoes  from the 14th century. The fresco pictured bellow is similar in style to the Giotto School, and has been attributed to Roberto d’Oderisio, one of the most important painters in the region of Campania in latter half of the 14th century. In the foreground of this Crucifixion scene,  you can see Christ on the right, with the suffering Virgin Mary in the center with John and Mary Magdalene.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Cloister Fresco

 

For more photos of the cloister and the Duomo of Amalfi, be sure to visit the Amalfi Cathedral page on Sacred Destinations. And while you’re there, travel around and see other Sacred Sites in Italy.

 

Details

Visiting the Duomo is free, but to see the Cloister of Paradise and the museum you will have to pay €2.50. An excellent brochure is provided in several languages, and gives you all the information you’ll need for an informative and pleasant visit. Your walk begins in the Cloister of Paradise, continues in the museum, takes you down to the impressive crypt of Sant’Andrea, and then finally leads up to the central nave of the Cathedral. For about the cost of one gelato, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed! You can enjoy your gelato after on the grand staircase of the Duomo overlooking Amalfi’s main piazza. The great people watching is free!

 

 

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Tempting Tuesday: The Certosa di San Giacomo in Capri

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Certosa di San Giacomo Capri

 

Amid one of the myriad of beautiful settings on the island of Capri, you will find this curious campanile, or bell tower, surrounded by lush gardens and backed by the beautiful blue sea. This campanile marks the Certosa di San Giacomo, a Carthusian monastery founded in 1371 by Count Giacomo Arucci, a nobleman and secretary to the lively Giovanna I, the Angevin Queen of Naples (1328–1382). It was home to the island’s powerful Carthusian fraternity, who enlarged and rebuilt the monastery after several devastating attacks in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the early 19th century the Certosa was forced to close by Napoleon’s occupying forces, and today there is a library and museum located on the grounds.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Certosa San Giacomo Sign   

Follow the hand painted tile signs down the tree-lined walkway and into the grounds of the Certosa. One of the first buildings you encounter is the small Gothic church on the left. During my visit there was work going on inside the church, and I could only admire the portal and the view inside through the open doors.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Certosa San Giacomo Chapel 

The fresco in the lunette above the main entrance dates from the end of the 1300s and depicts the Madonna and Child surrounded by the Saints Bruno and Giacomo. Below, the smaller figures on the right represent Giacomo the founder with his two sons and, on the left, Queen Giovanna with two attending women.  Just to the right of the church is the entrance to the Certosa buildings, where you will also find the Museo Diefenbach.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Certosa San Giacomo Museo

 

In stark contrast to the white walls and simple architecture of the Certosa, you can view the large, dramatic and often dark paintings of the 19th century artist Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1851–1913), who was greatly inspired by the landscape of Capri.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Certosa San Giacomo Corridor

 

But I guarantee it won’t take long before the blue sky beckons you back outside to explore the Chiostrino, or little cloister,  dating from the 1400s, where you can finally get a good look at that curious Baroque campanile called the Torre dell’ Orologio.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Certosa San Giacomo campanile

 

Following the hallways you will eventually find your way to the Chiostro Grande, or the large cloister, dating from the end of the 16th century. This was the heart of the Certosa, and is surrounded by individual rooms that were once home to the resident monks. Today walking around the cloister the only sounds you will hear are the stones crunching underfoot and the sweet songs of the island’s many varieties of birds.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Certosa San Giacomo Large cloister

 

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Certosa San Giacomo Large Cloister2

 

Although one of the most important examples of Caprese architecture, the peaceful and well-kept grounds of the Certosa di San Giacomo are visited by only a few of the mobs of tourists who regularly arrive on the island. It is open from Tuesday – Sunday from 9 am – 2 pm, and admission is free. A walk through the grounds, including the cloisters and museum, doesn’t take long, but it is well worth it to see the architecture, beautiful views, and absorb the sense of calm and quiet inside. 

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Certosa San Giacomo Sign2

 

 

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Sunday Shout-out: The Espresso Break

 

Heart CoffeePhoto from The Espresso Break 

 

Buon giorno! Do you have your caffè ready to sit down and enjoy a morning perusal of your favorite spots on the web? While Barbara from The Espresso Break describes her blog as a place “where you can read about the food and nooks of Naples, Italy in the time it takes to drink an espresso,” if it is your first visit to her wonderfully fun and informative blog, I think you might want to go for a cappuccino or a caffè americano. Newcomers will need something longer than the two sip Italian espresso in order to enjoy her blog. For coffee lovers, perhaps a great place to start is with Barbara’s quest for the best new “caffè drink” in Naples.

 

Naples UndergroundNaples Underground from The Espresso Break 

 

Given that Barbara started her blog not long after I started Ciao Amalfi, and that we live only about an hour apart, it was a surprise that we hadn’t discovered one another sooner. It has been a wonderful surprise to find a fellow writer and lover of the region’s many important architectural and historical sites. Barbara is an explorer, archaeologist and historian at heart, as she spends her free time out trekking through the ancient ruins in Campania with her three children. And what adventures they go on! For those who want to know more about Campania’s many ancient ruins, a visit to Barbara’s blog is a must. Head over to The Espresso Break to read about Barbara’s recent trips to the Grotto di Pastena, Boscoreale, The Villa of Poppaea in Oplontis, and so much more!

 

Barbara and the girls

Barbara with two of her fellow explorers at Julius Caesar’s Summer Villa in Baia

 

The Espresso Break is divided into short Tours of Naples, each focusing on a different and often eccentric aspect of Naples. Here is Barbara’s description of what you can find coming up on The Espresso Break:

 

The Naples Underground Tour:  Naples has over 700 cavities that date back to the 4th century B.C.  I’ll be in search of this ‘parallel city,’ now considered a major part of the study of urban speleology and first re-discovered during the 1970’s when firemen were sent to put out a fire and found that Neapolitans were using these cavities to dispose of their trash.  (Every first Thursday of the month.)

The Odious Women Tour:  I’ve posted already about the ruthless and sexually charged Roman women, Agrippina and Poppea.  I will continue to search for women in the city who were once considered odious, but I’ll expand my search through the ages to include trailblazing Renaissance women painters, Jacobin revolutionaries, and saints who lost their lives for heretical beliefs.  (Every second Thursday of the month.)

The Espresso Break:  Neapolitans pride themselves on their coffee.  And I’ve noticed a new development in the city.  Baristas are now expanding their repetroire to include a bevy of new coffee creations, naming things like ‘The Morocco’ and ‘The grandma’.  I want to roam to as many cafes as possible in search of the these new and eccentric versions of paradiso.  (Every third Thursday of the month.)

Port Call:  Will describe extras and oddities in and around the city as well as describe tours, such as those for kids or following the journey of St. Paul the Apostle.

 

Didn’t I tell you that you needed a long drink to enjoy all that The Espresso Break offers? The discovery of Barbara’s blog has inspired me to dedicate my Sunday Shout-out’s for the month of September to bloggers in Campania. I’ve already shined the spotlight on two of my favorite bloggers located right here on the Sorrento Peninsula, Leanne over at From Australia to Italy, who is based now in Sorrento, and Scintilla at Bell’Avventura, who writes about Positano. In my early Sunday Shout-out’s I also highlighted Karen at South of Rome, who until this summer was located just outside Naples, and Valerie of 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree, who spent time earlier this year on the Cilento Coast in southern Campania. However you start your morning, whether it be with an espresso, cappuccino or cup of strong black tea (that’s for me this morning), stop by Ciao Amalfi on Sundays this month to meet some of the great bloggers in Campania!

 

A big espresso-energized grazie mille to Barbara at The Espresso Break for sharing her knowledge and adventures exploring Naples. We look forward to following along!

 

 

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A Night of Music & Magic in Scala

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Concert

 

The moon, accompanied by her bright friend Venus, shone brightly over the Amalfi Coast a few nights ago. Along the moonlit and silent coastline, the ruins of the once magnificent Basilica di Sant’Eustachio tucked up high in the mountains about Amalfi were aglow. A magical night in Scala was about to begin. As I scurried down the steps to the ruins, I heard something familiar being recited. It was an excerpt of Homer’s Odyssey telling of the brave Odysseus and his voyage past the deadly sirens, long thought to have once inhabited the coastline along the Sorrento Penninsula. Thus began an enchanting evening!

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Moon Olive Trees  La luna through the olive trees

 

The event was called Il Viaggio in Italia (The Journey in Italy) featuring solo performances by great Italian singer Lucio Dalla interspersed with readings by Marco Alemanno of writings by travelers to Italy. It was held at the ruins of the Basilica di Sant’Eustachio in Scala, which I’ve written about here on Ciao Amalfi. I couldn’t think of a more evocative setting on such a beautiful night on the Amalfi Coast. After squirming uncomfortably in the pews that had been carried down the steps and placed in the church (now I know why the church that got ride of them did so), we got up and started exploring the ruins. Seeing them inside for the first time on a moonlit night with the music and recitations in the background was truly magical!

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Sant Eustachio1

 

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Sant Eustachio2

 

It was amazing to stand right at the base of the church and see the details so closely. I was able to distinguish for the first time the original details and what was added during a restoration to stabilize the ruins in 2002. For those architecture fans, here is a video with more detail:

 

 

 

 

And for those fans of Lucio Dalla, here is a video of him singing one of my favorite songs called Caruso.

 

 

 

 

I apologize that the video is cut off, but I have a strange problem with  my camera that prevents me from making videos much longer than two minutes (or they will be stuck forever on my camera). If you want to hear the entire song, here is a moving video of Lucio Dalla performing Caruso at Naples’ San Paolo stadium. 

 

 

 

 

This concert was the opening event for a conference taking place in Scala today and tomorrow called Grand Tour: Viaggio in Italia. In an area of Italy famous for its many visitors today, it seems quite appropriate to go back to the origins of today’s tourism, the Grand Tour, which brought so many visitors from across Europe to Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries. While these original tourists brought canvases and sketchbooks rather than the digital cameras of today, they marked the trail down to Naples, further south to Calabria and onward to Sicily. These were the tourists who wrote home telling of the beauty of southern Italy, its impressive historic sites, its people, culture and traditions, and who knew they had found a place at once remarkable and unforgettable. Avanti viaggiatori! Onward travelers!