Despite the pouring rain, last Friday a large number of people participated to the presentation of my new book: the 500th of the “Blue Series” by Velar-Elledici … The event was a sort of journey through the ancient history of a unique place, a treasure trove of art in the heart of the Ancient Bergamo. Thank you all for the warm participation and to Paolo Sandini (Velar) for the photo shoot.

Published by Editrice Velar, my new book tells about an act of mercy, performed by Grata for St. Alexander, the noble Theban knight, patron of the city of Bergamo (Italy). I found this fascinating story in a wonderful treasure of art: a script of the Thirteenth Century, composed by Pinamonte da Brembate. Art, history, literature and culture come together in an extraordinary document that lives on today thanks to this publication.




© Roberto Alborghetti 

On the slopes of the Sila, in Calabria (Italy), in the province of Catanzaro, there is an extraordinary place, representing great pages of history and  culture. It’s the ancient abbey of Santa Maria di Corazzo, founded by Benedictine monks in the eleventh century, near the river Corace. It was mentioned in papers since 1060-70! It appears today in the particularity of its ruins, which give a charm to the surroundings. Almost a destiny that it was destroyed several times. It was firstly rebuilt by the Cistercian monks in the twelfth century. It was later damaged by the earthquake in March 1638, and again after another earthquake in 1783. The monastery was then slowly abandoned and stripped of his artistic works. Today, as I said, the ruins remain as wonderful tracks of the past. The abbey is located in the village of Castagna (Chestnut), in Carlopoli territory.  Why the Abbey of Corazzo is so important? Not only for the fact of being an ancient Benedictine building, but also because its story intersects with that of a great man and author, Joachim of Fiore, also mentioned in Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. He took the monk’s habit,becoming abbot. Then he moved to Pietralata, before settling in Sila in the spring of 1189, in San Giovanni in Fiore where he founded a new religious order, the Florence Congregation, approved by Pope Celestine III in 1196.  Santa Maria Corazzo was now “adopted” by the volunteers of the “Progetto Gedeone – Gideon Project” for the creation of a “Social Enterprise” animated by different purposes. 


Abbazia S.M. Corazzo - Photo Roberto Alborghetti (1)

Abbazia S.M. Corazzo – Photo Roberto Alborghetti (1)




Last Friday night, the 22th of May, 2015, the presentation of my new book “Quando il giorno era una freccia” (English translation: “When the Day was an Arrow”) took place in Florence in the historical rooms of the ancient “Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella”, via della Scala 16. Benedetta Alphandery, co-owner, kindly welcomed the guests in this very special place we admire in the very heart of the Florentine City.

The enchanting and capturing “Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella” is part of Florence history. During the thirteenth century, thanks to a growing economic development, Florence attracted crowds of outcasts in search of work, finding asylum in the city centre; they camped in villages where they were miserable and unhealthy.

They dedicated themselves to support their new mendicant orders. The Franciscans settled east of the city, where they settled in the area of the shops of the dyers and tanners, polluting water and air and where the church of Santa Croce was built, completed during 1800s. The Dominicans settled in the city walls to the north-west: first at the church of San Pancrazio, then in that of Santa Maria delle Vigne, which, in the middle of the fourteenth century, was rebuilt and named the Santa Maria Novella. The Carmelites settled in the south, in a booming area, where workers lived in poor carders and Battilana: Santa Maria del Carmine was consecrated in 1422.

Fra’ Angiolo Marchissi was one of Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella’s most eminent apothecaries and aromatologists. He managed the pharmacy for about fifty years until his death in 1659, just over 350 years ago. He was very young when he entered the convent as a lay brother. He donned the Dominican habit in 1612, the year the Officina was officially founded, and he immediately began providing the impetus behind the important period of scientific research that enhanced the fame of the pharmacy already known since its origin in 1212, when Dominican monks settled in Florence.

Not only did Angiolo Marchissi, a qualified apothecary since 1613, mix simple medications with formulas from the Ricettari Fiorentino; he is considered a valid scholar who helped establish the medical and chemical-pharmaceutical sciences in Florence. The renown of the pharmacy’s products is attributed to Fra’ Angiolo Marchissi. A 17th century guidebook on the “Jewels of Florence” states that “many cities in and beyond Italy supply themselves with these medications and precious essences”.
One of his many formulas is for Anti-hysterics Water, a medication made from essences of spices and herbs, including Costmary or balsamite (Balsamite major Desf.), cultivated in the monastery’s garden for its aromatic and medicinal properties. This same herb is still used today in the Santa Maria Novella Water and Lozenges, still made according to the centuries old recipe.

In 2012 Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella celebrated 400 years of uninterrupted business, in the name of tradition and innovation. Raw materials of the highest quality are still used and the apothecary fathers’ artisanal procedures are still followed, yet the company avails itself of modern technology and state of the art equipment. Benedetta and Eugenio Alphandery, general manager and co-owners of Officina comment on this: “Given our passion for both antique and modern cars, we could compare this company to a convertible from the 1930’s with hand hammered bodywork crafted by an artisan and a powerful, modern motor, perfect brakes and suspension, all exhalting the car’s beauty and the pleasure of driving it.”

For the occasion major restoration has been undertaken at the historic shop on Via della Scala to restore the ancient pharmacy to its original appearance. This restoration project represents a milestone in Officina’s long history. Production is now carried out on Liberty style premises on Via Reginaldo Giuliani, in the north of Florence about 3 km from the head office on Via della Scala. All the products are made here with equipment that has been specially designed and custom-built for each specific purpose. Each product has a peculiar story, for example the Cologne and Pot pourri, two of the company’s distinguishing products.

The Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella’s museum circuit is comprised of the areas which were once the cellars. The museum was established to display the machines and equipment used for production, as well as the antique ceramics, as well as glass, copper and bronze objects.



DSCN1428 (600x800)




The Church of Santa Maria Novella is one of the most important Gothic churches in Tuscany. The exterior is the work of Fra Jacopo Talenti and Leon Battista Alberti. The interior holds extraordinary works of art including Masaccio’s Trinità, Ghirlandaio’s fresco cycle in the Tornabuoni Chapel and Giotto’s Crucifix, among others. The convent was built between 1279 and 1357 by Dominican friars near a 7th century church located in the fields just outside Florence’s medieval walls. The lower part of the Marble façade, which is Romanesque in style, is believed to have been executed by a Dominican architect, Fra Iacopo Talenti da Nipozzano, while the upper part was completed only 100 years later in 1470 by Leon Battista Alberti. Thus, the façade is not only the oldest of all the churches in Florence but it is also the only church with its original, planned facade still in place today! As you will see, the church of San Lorenzo never even received its planned marble façade while others were completed centuries later but with new designs.



Photos: Courtesy of Opera – Civita Group, Press Office


The Cathedral of Siena re-opens its “Gate of Heaven( 1 March – 6 January 2015). Once again, from 1st March, visitors will be able to admire the very peak of the building. The visiting path, opened forthe first timelast spring,has allowed to admire venueseveropen to the publicandonly used bythe workmen directed by a succession of great architects who have followed one another during the centuries. After the large attendance of Italian and foreign public registered during the last extraordinary opening, the Rector of the Opera della Metropolitana, MarioLorenzoni, has promoted also forthis year, a re-openingof the Gate ofHeaven.

The visit starts with the magnificent façade of the Duomo, flanked by two majestic towers ending in many spirelike forms that shoot upwards.  In these towers, winding staircases, practically invisible to visitors, lead up to the ‘heavens’ of the Cathedral.  Above the starry vault of the right aisle begins an itinerary reserved to small groups accompanied by expert guides, which reserves a succession of discoveries and emotions.  Visitors will indeed walk ‘above’ the holy temple and admire fascinating views both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the Cathedral.  From the polychrome stained glass windows depicting the Apostles by Ulisse De Matteis, visitors will gaze down onto the floor and the principal sculptural monuments, and even inside the dome with its ‘Pantheon’ of Sienese saints, the four Patron Saints, Saint Catherine and Saint Bernardino, the golden ‘giants’ who from above protect the community of the faithful.  Then, from the balcony of the dome, they will contemplate the high altar, the copy of the stained glass window by Duccio di Buoninsegna with, in the centre, the mandorla of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and masterpieces of sculpture.  From the left aisle, they will look out to admire a splendid panorama of the Basilica of San Domenico, the Medici Fortress, the entire dome of the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist, and the surrounding countryside up to hills known as the Montagnola Senese.  Finally, they will enter behind the façade, at the balcony that looks out onto Piazza del Duomo and the view of the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala, and enter the balcony on the counter-façade.  Here unfolds an overall view of the nave; the gaze scans the heads of popes and emperors, the intarsias with the philosophers of the ancient world uttering sentences.

The “gate of heaven” is opened to visitors as though they were climbing the ladder that appeared to Jacob in his dream, the top of which reached heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28: 10-22).  In his dream, God promises Jacob the earth on which he has slept and an immense lineage.  When he rises, Jacob exclaims «This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven», a verse used by the liturgy of the mass in dedicating cathedrals.  In the Litany of Loreto, though, the ‘gate of heaven’ is also the Virgin Mary, a definition that best expresses her power and goodness.  As the Mother of Christ and of humanity, Mary contributes to our eternal salvation in Heaven where she is the ‘Queen assumed into Heaven’.  The visiting itinerary “from above” will thus permit visitors to better understand the dedication of the Cathedral of Siena to the Assumption of the Madonna, and the strong connection the people of Siena have had with their ‘patron’ for centuries:  Sena vetus civitas Virginis.

Strongly desired by the Opera della Metropolitana di Siena, the initiative is organised by Opera – Civita Group. Opera Civita Group manages the booking, information and guided tours services for the Cathedral of Siena complex and, for the extraordinary opening of the ‘Gate of Heaven’, proposes cultural packages that enrich the city’s touristic offer.

For more information, visit our website at:  www.operaduomo.siena.it


1 March 2014 – 6 January 2015

Cathedral of Siena

Tickets (by reservation only)

Full:  € 25.00

Children up to 11 years old: € 7.00

Group:   € 400.00 (max 17 pax)

OPA SI PASS + (Museums and Attic of the Duomo) € 30.00

Ticket price includes the guided tour to the Attic of the Duomo and to the Cathedral

Information and Booking

Tel. +39 0577286300 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm)

Email: opasiena@operalaboratori.com


Opera – Civita Group

Barbara Izzo – Arianna Diana

Salvatore La Spina



© Roberto Alborghetti - Sala Regia and Sala Ducale (12)

Sala Regia (Regal Room) and Sala Ducale (Ducal Room) are two beautiful rooms in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. They aren’t generally open to visitors: they usually host consistories, conferences, papal hearings or special events. I recently had the opportunity to visit them (I was in Rome to meet Pope Francis for the presentation of “Francis”, the illustrated and historical biography I wrote about him). Here some news (from New Advent website) about Sala Regia and Sala Ducale. They well represent the triumph of Renaissance.  

The Sala Regia (Regal Room)

 Although not intended as such, this broad room is really an antechamber to the Sistine Chapel, reached by the Scala Regia (Royal Staircase). To the left of the entrance formerly stood the papal throne, which is now at the opposite side before the door leading to the Cappella Paolina. The hall was begun under Paul III by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and was completed in 1573. The elegant barrel-vault is provided with the highly graceful and very impressive plaster decorations of Pierin del Vaga. The stucco ornaments over the doors are by Daniele da Volterra. The longitudinal walls are broken on the one side by two, and on the other by three, large doors, between which Giorgio Vasari and Taddeo Zuccaro have introduced very powerful frescoes, whose effect is more than ornamental. They depict momentous turning-points in the life of the Church, among others the return of Gregory XI from Avignon to Rome, the battle of Lepanto, the raising of the ban from Henry IV, and the reconciliation of Alexander III with Frederick Barbarossa. This hall served originally for the reception of princes and royal ambassadors. Today the consistories are held in it, and an occasional musical recital in the presence of the Pope; during a conclave it is a favourite promenade for the cardinals.

The Sala Ducale (Ducal Room)

The Sala Ducale lies between the Sala Regia and the Loggia of Giovanni da Udine. Formerly there were here two separate halls, which were converted into one by Bernini by the removal of the separating wall (the position of which is still clearly perceptible). The decorative paintings, which are of a purely ornamental nature, are by Raffaellino da Reggio, Sabbatini, and Matthæus Brill. In this impressive hall were formerly held the public consistories for the reception of ruling princes. It now serves occasionally for the reception of pilgrims, the consecration of bishops, when (as rarely happens) this is undertaken by the Pope, or is used for the accommodation of specified divisions of the papal household, when the pope holds a consistory in the Sala Regia, proceeds to the Sistine Chapel, or sets out with great solemnity for St. Peter’s.

(3 – To be continued)












At Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy) an exhibition opened on one of the most significant paintings in the Medici collections, The Allegory of Patience, which belonged to cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici and is today held in the Sala di Prometeo in the same Palazzo Pitti. Initially attributed to Parmigianino in the inventories of Palazzo Pitti, catalogued in the museum’s first guides under the name of Francesco Salviati, and later attributed to Girolamo Siciolante by Federico Zeri, the painting is today recognised as fruit of the collaboration between Giorgio Vasari and Spanish artist Gaspar Becerra. Its complex collectors’ history involves important figures tied to the court of Cosimo I and Giorgio Vasari himself.

The first of these was Bernardetto Minerbetti,bishop of Arezzo and ambassador of Cosimo I, a refined man of letters and patron of the Renaissance philosophical and literary academy known as the Accademia Fiorentina. Shortly after 1550, he requested Vasari to execute a painting that in a new and emblematic manner would represent the principal virtue of his character, that is to say the art of Patience. Vasari accepted and proposed to his patron an invention inspired by ancient sculpture, enriched by a refined symbolic repertory alluding to time and to the life of man. The invention took the shape of a young woman chained to a rock, patiently waiting for the drops of water falling from a vase to corrode the stone and thus set her free. This scholarly and very cultured image would become quite popular far beyond the borders of Florence, soon reaching the Ferrara court of Ercole II d’Este who did not hesitate to use it in his ‘impresa’. In fact, a few years after Minerbetti’s painting, Duke Ercole II d’Este commissioned a new version of the Patience from Camillo Filippi, intended for the so-called “Camera della Pazienza” in the tower of Santa Caterina of his castle in Ferrara. The Duke also introduced the same personification on the verso of a famous medal that Pompeo Leoni coined in 1554, on the base of a bust sculpted by Prospero Sogari Spani and in a series of coins produced by the mint of Ferrara.

Anna Bisceglia curates the exhibition and the catalogue published by Sillabe to investigate these elements along the underlying themes of patronage, literary sources, and artists’ explorations against the complex and fascinating backdrop of the Italy of royal courts. Alongside the Vasari Allegory of Patience, visitors will see the same theme in an artwork that Camillo and Sebastiano Filippi executed in 1553-54 and currently in the Galleria Estense of Mantua. This version also inspired the portrayal of this virtue on the base of the bust of Ercole II sculpted by Prospero Sugari, known as Clemente (1554), and on the medals that Pompeo Leoni executed for the Duke (Florence, Bargello, 1554 ca.). Moreover, a large painting from the Galleria dell’Accademia of Venice will illustrate the complex genesis of this iconographic motif. It was part of a wooden coffered ceiling executed for the Corner family in 1542. Finally, the exhibition will also present the little painting on wood from the Uffizi, mistakenly known as Artemisia mourns Mausolus, which instead has been recognised as a Patience, and several drawings and engravings from the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe of Florence and the Cabinet des Dessins du Louvre.

P.Leoni - Duca Ercole


Exhibition Credits


Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali e Turismo, Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Toscana, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze, Galleria Palatina, Firenze Musei

Exhibition Venue

Galleria Palatina – Palazzo Pitti, Florence, 26 November 2013 – 5 January 2014

Exhibition curated and Catalogue edited by Anna Bisceglia

Exhibition directed by Alessandro Cecchi

Exhibition installation designed and directed by Mauro Linari

Exhibition installation produced by Opera Laboratori Fiorentini – Civita Group

Coordination, communication and public relations: Opera Laboratori Fiorentini – Civita Group

Ticket prices

Full price: € 13.00; Concessions: € 6.50 for E.U. citizens from 18 to 25 years of age. Free admission for visitors under 18 and E.U. citizens over 65 years of age. Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 8:15 am – 6:50 pm; ticket counter closes at 6:05 pm. Closed Mondays