THE LAZY, HAZY SUMMER DAYS OF FERRAGOSTO

THE LAZY, HAZY SUMMER DAYS OF FERRAGOSTO

Today in Italy we are celebrating the biggest holiday of the summer season “Ferragosto,” the name Italians give to the August 15 solemnity of the Assumption. Ferragosto refers to the feriae augusti, meaning “holidays of August.” These appear to have originated in 18 BC when the Roman Emperor Augustus declared that the entire month of August would be dedicated to the feriae, a series of festivals and celebrations, the most important of which fell on the 13th and was dedicated to the goddess Diana.

Though the term ferragosto is pagan in origin, in Italy it refers to the mid-summer holidays but is interchangeable with the feast of the Assunta, the Assumption, strictly a religious celebration. There has been a constant tradition in the Church that Mary was assumed into heaven, and as early as the fifth century, this feast was celebrated in Syria, spreading to other parts of the world over the centuries. In the 12th Century, this feast was celebrated in the city of Rome, and in France. From the 13th century onwards, this was a certain tenet of faith and in 1950, Pope Pius XII declared this dogma infallibly and ex cathedra.

The pace of life is much slower in Rome in July and August, particularly August, and you’ll see a lot of chiuso per ferie (closed for vacation) signs posted on the shutters of stores, pharmacies, florists, some restaurants and coffee bars, newsstands, tobacconists, hardware stores, movie theaters, and small, neighborhood food markets known as alimentari or delicatessens. The phones of friends, including many who work in the Roman Curia, ring empty.

The local toy store:

A local café:

I was out this morning for Mass and the peace and quiet of Rome, due to shuttered stores and greatly reduced traffic, was simply marvelous. It seemed like you could shoot a cannon down the middle of some of the city’s main streets and not hit a thing!

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Another neighborhood store:

Souvenir stores and the mini markets that dot every street in Rome will be open for business as usual. The markets open about 7 in the morning and close at or after midnight.

Life is extra quiet in the Vatican. When the Pope is away on vacation (or, in Francis’ case, on a reduced work schedule in the Vatican), this mini-state is deserted. The Vatican stores, pharmacy and medical center all have reduced hours because many employees are away on prolonged vacations. Vacations are quite generous in the summer, at Christmas and at Easter for employees of Vatican City State or the Roman Curia. Employees who live outside of Italy receive an added three days of vacation for travel time and those who live outside of continental Europe receive five additional days.

These vacations usually compensate for working six days a week the rest of the year, which makes weekend travel generally impossible. There are few public and private audiences when the Pope is on vacation. Curial activity slows down in the summer, and stops completely on August 14, 15 and 16. Only the press office and Secretariat of State are open for business, but with only a skeleton staff.

However, 2017 is a vast improvement over the early years I lived in Italy, especially when there were very few supermarkets. Once upon a time, Italians bought most of their food at three places: the local alimentari, the neighborhood butcher and the local fruit and vegetable store. Each one was assigned a letter – either A or B – for summer vacations. When A stores closed, B could not. And vice versa. This was to avoid all stores in one neighborhood closing at the same time, forcing people to go longer distances for food.

I can also remember when the local newspapers actually published the names of the few doctors, including specialists, who were available in Rome at vacation time, as well as a list of the few pharmacies that would be open in a given period.

Years ago, many coffee bars and restaurants closed for close to a month in the summer, especially because so few had air-conditioning. Since the historically hot and brutal summer of 2003 (four non-stop months of record heat, ending in mid-September), more and more stores, bars and restaurants have installed air-conditioning. Ten thousand people died in France that summer, and approximately 1,000 died in Italy.

By law restaurants and bars must close one day a week and that day is always posted outside the entrance or on the shutter. Some overlook this law, while others ask special permission to open on a seventh day. For example, if a restaurant had its weekly closing on a Monday but Monday of a given year was Christmas or Ferragosto, the owner would ask permission from the proper authorities to open that day (or simply open, without the proper permission!).

Until the summer of 2013, Popes generally spent all or much of the summer period at Castelgandolfo. St. John Paul and Benedict XVI often spent some time in July in northern Italy at a vacation home belonging to a diocese or diocesan seminary. Long walks in the woods, some picnics, down time for reading and, in the case of Benedict, quiet time to play the piano, and cooler temps marked those periods.

That time in northern Italy was usually followed by two months at Castelgandolfo – August and September, with a return to Rome in late September. Both John Paul and Benedict loved the papal palace, its views of Lake Albano, the cool air, and the lovely gardens with their many spots for prayer and meditation. On August 15. they always celebrated Mass on the feast of the Assumption in the small local parish of San Tommaso.

Pope Francis does not spend time in the historic and beautiful Castelgandolfo residence as his predecessors have done. His has admitted to “not knowing” how to take a vacation. His idea of a vacation is not to change residences but to change his schedule just a bit, perhaps sleeping later, dedicating more time to reading, etc. In July there were no general audiences, nor were there guests at the morning Masses in the Santa Marta. General audiences resumed on August 2 but Francis’ August appointment schedule has a lot of blank pages.

The residents of Castelgandolfo miss “their” Pope. Businesses once thrived when John Paul and Benedict spent time there, not just in the summer but often after a long trip or an arduous Holy Week. Today those businesses are suffering and if you seen a sign on a building that says chiuso, it may be more permanent than just a few weeks of vacation.

 

CASTELGANDOLFO: HISTORY, BEAUTY, AND PEACE MAKE IT A HOME FOR POPES

I leave tomorrow to spend some vacation time in Hawaii with the multitude of friends I have there – my Hawaiian ohana or family – and then on to southern California to see family whom I have not seen in two years! I’ll finally get to meet my great-niece Charlotte who turns two in the fall! I’m quite excited, as is anyone leaving on vacation, just knowing I will have some time to relax, no deadlines to meet, few alarm clocks, no set daily schedule. I admit it usually takes me a few days to remember that I don’t have a deadline for a TV spot, for the three radio programs I have each week, for posting a daily blog and adding news and photos to Facebook and Youtube.

However, don’t forget to check in with me on FACEBOOK (https://www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) and YOUTUBE (https://www.youtube.com/user/joansrome) as I will be posting photos and videos, and perhaps even some news. So stay tuned and come with me to Hawaii!

For your special enjoyment in my absence I offer a “Joan’s Rome” travelblogue©. We will visit the apostolic palace at Castelgandolfo where Popes John Paul and Benedict vacationed for years but which now is fairly deserted as Pope Francis prefers staying at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. Castelgandolfo is a lovely town in a beautiful part of Italy, and I have had the incredible good fortune to have visited the papal palace on a number of occasions. I have posted this before but for some of you it may be the first time.

The first extended visit was a number of years ago when I was welcomed by the director of papal villas, Saverio Petrillo, whose book on the papal palace I used to write this story, along with much information he gave me as we spent an afternoon strolling the grounds, the gardens and the pontifical farm!

On several other occasions I spent an entire day in the palace when it hosted the offices, library and classrooms of the papal observatory andf offered summer courses in astronomy. Those offices have been transferred to a new location on the papal property but the telescopes are still in the palace – asd you will see in one photo.

I also visited the apostolic palace in February 2013 after Pope emeritus Benedict announced his resignation. I took these photos the day of the media visit to Castelgandolfo town and inside the palace courtyard.

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I hope you enjoy this! Have a great summer, stay well and safe travels.

Above all, may God sit on your shoulder!|

CASTELGANDOLFO: HISTORY, BEAUTY, AND PEACE MAKE IT A HOME FOR POPES

Roman Pontiffs have spent summers here for centuries, enjoying stupendous panoramas and a climate that is far cooler than Rome’s, which can be quite torrid in July and August. Pope John Paul affectionately called it “Vatican Number Two.”

I am talking, of course, about the summer papal residence at Castelgandolfo that has a long and colorful history and possesses beauty to rival that of the apostolic palace and gardens in Rome.

Castelgandolfo is one of a number of small towns located on beautiful sprawling hills which surround and overlook Lake Albano, about a half hour drive southeast of Rome. The lake fills an old volcanic crater, is 961 feet above sea level and is fed by underground sources and drained by an artificial outlet. Lake Albano, said to have been built around 398 B.C., is about two square miles (5 sq km) in size and has a maximum depth of 558 feet.

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Located on what was once known as Alba Longa, a city in ancient Latium, reputedly the birthplace of Romulus and Remus, Castelgandolfo and the cluster of nearby towns are known as the Alban Hill towns. Romans also call these picturesque towns the “Castelli Romani” because of the fortified castles originally built on those hills by noble families, around which small towns grew and flourished. Each “castello” bore the name of the lord of the manor.

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Castelgandolfo took its name from the Gandulfi family. Originally from Genoa, they built a small square fortress with crenelated walls, an inner courtyard, several towers and an adjacent garden on the hill where the town that bears their name stands today. The Savelli family later bought the property and owned it until 1596 when, because of a debt they could not pay to Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605), the land became patrimony of the Holy See, forming the nucleus of the papal residence that exists today.

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In ensuing centuries, the property underwent many vicissitudes, including the purchase of additional lands, villas and gardens, and renovations and additions to the original palace. Some of the Roman Pontiffs who left their mark on the papal property include Urban VIII (1623-1644), Alexander VII (1655-1667) Clement XI (1700-1721, who bestowed the title “Pontifical Villa” on the property), Benedict XIV (1740), Clement XIII (1758-1769) and Clement XIV (1769-1774).

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In 1623 Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope, choosing the name Urban VIII (1623-1644). Even before his election he had spent vacations in Castelgandolfo and had even built a small home near the walls of the original castle/fortress. Once he became Pope he decided to make this spot his summer residence, readapting and enlargening the old fortress.

One of those who assisted him in this work was the illustrious Carlo Maderno who, in 1603, after completing the facade of Santa Susanna’s Church in Rome, was named as principal architect of the new St. Peter’s Basilica. Maderno designed both a large wing that overlooked Lake Albano, as well as the left part of the facade as seen today from Castelgandolfo’s main square. A modest garden was also planted at this time.

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Pope Urban VIII moved into the Castelgandolfo residence on May 10, 1626, just six months before the completion of St. Peter’s Basilica, following 120 years of work. In 1627, the Pope’s nephew, Taddeo Barberini, acquired land and vineyards near the papal residence. Four years later he acquired yet more land and buildings and the entire complex became known as Villa Barberini. Today this is all an integral part of the pontifical property in Castelgandolfo.

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Pope Alexander VII (1655-1667) completed the work begun by Urban VIII, including the long gallery that bears his name, with the assistance of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, noted painter, architect and sculptor. Interestingly, Bernini also designed part of the gardens of the papal residence and they can still be seen today.

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Bernini is best remembered for having designed the splendid colonnade of 284 pillars that embraces St. Peter’s Square, one of the fountains in the square, the basilica’s Altar of the Cathedra, the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the baldachin over the central papal altar. Alexander VII also asked Bernini to design the town’s parish church, which was named after St. Thomas Villanova.

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The 19th century saw the unification of Italy, which greatly affected papal holdings, principally the vast Papal States. The Papal States, in fact, under Pope Pius IX were incorporated into the new Italy when the peninsula was unified in 1870. By the by, Pius IX’s 32-year pontificate from 1846 to 1878 was the second longest in history, following that of St. Peter. From the loss of the Papal States to the Lateran Pact between Italy and the Holy See on February 11, 1929 under Pius XI, no Pope ever left Vatican City for a holiday in Castelgandolfo.

With the Lateran Treaty, Villa Barberini now belonged to the Holy See and officially became part of the papal residence complex in Castelgandolfo. Pius XI helped to restore the buildings and land that had been unused for so many years. He even bought several orchards in order to set up a small farm, not only to produce goods for consumption in the Vatican but to underscore the importance of agriculture.

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This last acquisition brought the total acreage of the papal property in Castelgandolfo to 136 acres (55 hectares). Vatican City State is 109 acres (44 hectares). In Castelgandolfo, more of the total acreage is dedicated to the farm (62 acres, or 25 hectares) and to gardens than it is to buildings.

The real work of restoration at Castelgandolfo under Pope Pius XI began in 1931. In 1933 the Vatican Observatory, run by the Jesuits, was moved from Vatican City in Rome to Castelgandolfo, because the city lights were too bright for astronomers. Still today, the director of the observatory has an apartment in the palace at Castelgandolfo.

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Pius XI also built a new chapel in which he placed a replica of Poland’s Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Between 1918 and 1921, he had been, respectively, apostolic visitator and then nuncio in Poland, and had a predilection for the Black Madonna. This chapel has remained unchanged since his day. The Pope’s first summer visit was in 1934.

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His successor, Pope Pius XII, especially loved Castelgandolfo and spent a great deal of time at this residence, except for the years of World War II. However, during some of the worst moments of the war, Pius allowed the inhabitants of Castelgandolfo and nearby towns to take refuge on the papal property, given that it enjoyed the status of extraterritoriality. After the landing at Anzio in 1944, the citizens of Castelgandolfo were allowed to stay at the papal palace whereas those from other towns were allowed sanctuary in the Villa Barberini property. Pius XII’s first postwar visit to the lakeside villa was in 1946. He returned often after that and died there on October 9, 1958.      

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Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) also enjoyed sojourns at Castelgandolfo. He started two traditions here as pontiff: praying the Angelus with the faithful on Sundays in the inner courtyard, and celebrating Mass in the parish church of St. Thomas Villanova on the August 15 feast of the Assumption.

Pope emeritus Benedict loved to pray the rosary here.

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Paul VI inaugurated papal trips by helicopter from Castelgandolfo. Continuous use of a helicopter for short papal trips began during the Holy Year of 1975 when Paul VI would return to Rome for the weekly general audiences. He died here on August 6, 1978.

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John Paul II, then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, spent several hours here on October 8, 1978. He returned 17 days later as Pope, having been elected on October 16. He spent most of every summer here, and often came for several days after an especially long and arduous foreign trip.

Benedict XVI also enjoyed the beauty, peace and subdued rhythm of summer life at Castelgandolfo, and spent many summers here for a couple of months following his election to the papacy in April 2005.

Do you recognize this photo?!

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Pope Francis has never sojourned at Castelgandolfo but has told Benedict XVI on many occasions he would be more than welcome to stay here. The Pope emeritus did spend two weeks this summer (2015) at the apostolic palace he so loves.

I earlier mentioned one part of the pontifical property that is called Villa Barberini. Here we find many buildings, including the home of the director of pontifical villas and apartments used by the cardinal secretary of state and by the prefect of the papal household in the summer. The formal gardens, a 62-acre farm, and the remains of Emperor Domitian’s (81-96) palatial 14 square kilometer home are all also part of Villa Barberini.

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Recently retired as director of the Pontifical Villas at Castelgandolfo, Saverio Petrillo has been serving the Holy See since June 1958. He was named director of the villas in 1986 and authored a book entitled “The Popes at Castelgandolfo.” He was an excellent, knowledgeable and discreet guide to the papal property and residences.

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Dr. Petrillo began his work in Castelgandolfo at the age of 18 when he was asked to take the place of a Vatican employee who was ill. In the ensuing years he has familiarized himself not only with the physical property – the farm, gardens and buildings – but with the multi-century history of the villas as well. His office, as well as other administrative offices, was located in one of the buildings of the Villa Barberini part of the pontifical property, and offered splendid views of the Castelli Romani and, in the distance, Rome and the Mediterranean.

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Separate from Villa Barberini, but only a short distance away, are the Apostolic Palace and other gardens. The palace – the building overlooking the lake – is where the Pope resides and where the faithful can join him in the courtyard on Sundays for the noon angelus. At Castelgandolfo, Dr. Petrillo told me on a visit, the Holy Father has the same basic rooms that he has in Rome – a study, private chapel, dining room and library. The rooms, as is the entire palace complex, are on a smaller, more intimate and homey scale. “Everything here,” he said, “is very intimate, warm and family-like. Even the pace of life is slower, more suited to man.”

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On our tour of the farm, Saverio Petrillo pointed out that it produces eggs, milk (there are 25 cows) and yogurt on a daily basis: these are brought early in the morning to the apostolic palaces in both Castelgandolfo and Rome and are sold as well in the Vatican City supermarket under the name “Ville Pontificie di Castelgandolfo” – Pontifical Villas of Castelgandolfo. Olive oil is also produced, but in very small quantities. Dr. Petrillo observed that, until a few years ago, Vatican City had its own bakery and also sold fresh fruits and vegetables in its market.

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He told me some 60 people work year round on the papal properties in Castelgandolfo, including gardeners, tree trimmers, those who work at the farm, electricians, other maintenance people, etc. Only 20 people permanently reside in buildings on the property.

The heliport, which is not far from the farm, was first used by Paul VI in 1963 when he visited the cathedral at Orvieto. Continuous use of a helicopter for short papal trips began during the Holy Year of 1975 when Paul VI would return to Rome for the weekly general audiences.

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Pope John Paul II, a very athletic pontiff, asked that a swimming pool be installed at Castelgandolfo to be used for health reasons. Although I did not see the 60-foot long pool on my tour of the papal villa and gardens, Dr. Petrillo loves to tell the story that when the Pope heard that some people objected to the cost of a pool, he humorously said: “A conclave would cost a lot more.” This was John Paul’s explanation about how effective physical exercise was in helping him bear the strains of a tiring pontificate.

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The beautifully maintained and manicured formal gardens of Villa Barberini have been used by Popes through the centuries for long walks and moments of prayer. The flowers, bushes and trees – of many varieties, and trimmed to perfection in geometrical shapes – provide beauty, seclusion and tranquility. Covering many acres, the stunning formal gardens also provide lovely vistas of the Roman countryside. There are statues, fountains, and a labyrinth of walkways and roads, one of which dates to Roman times and is paved exactly like the Old Appian Way.

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One olive tree in the gardens has a special story: Just an olive branch at the time, it was given by King Hussein of Jordan to Pope Paul VI during his trip to Jerusalem in 1964. The late king’s son and heir, now King Abdullah, was able to visit the gardens and saw the fully grown tree.

Ruins of Emperor Domitian’s villa can be found everywhere and occasionally one will see a niche with a statue from the villa.

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The Emperor Domitian, who ruled from 81 to 96, had built a 14-square kilometer villa on this site. Constructed on three levels, the top was for the servants, the middle was for the imperial family and their guests and the bottom was the crypto-portico, which is in near perfect condition nearly two thousand years later. The crypto-portico, reached now by a staircase built into the gardens, was constructed to provide the emperor and his guests with a cool place to walk, talk, and sit to escape from the summer heat of Rome. Enormous in size, it resembles a tunnel – with one end open and the other closed. The closed end has a raised stage-like level, accessible by a staircase: today there is a large cross here. The ceiling is curved and, on the western wall, there are windows at the top level. Dr. Petrillo said these were once covered with alabaster to let in the late afternoon, setting sunlight – but not the heat.

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Also at Villa Barberini is the Antiquarium, a museum which houses a small but prized collection of artifacts from Domitian’s villa which were discovered over the past century. Only restricted numbers of scholars are allowed to visit the Antiquarium which includes busts, statues, columns, portals, and tables made of marble and various stones, to mention but a few objects.

 

A RESTFUL VACATION FOR POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI…. – ….AND A TRAVEL AND WORK VACATION IN JULY FOR FRANCIS

How do I say thank you? Let me count the ways…..

I am speechless at the hundreds of emails and Facebok postings I have received in just a few hours wishing me a Happy Birthday! The messages have been long and short, wise and witty, marked by love, affection and friendship and glowing tributes to my work. I have heard from every corner of the earth, it seems, from longtime friends and from Facebook people I only know through correspondence – or perhaps not at all!  I have “received” cakes and cupcakes, virtual flowers and cards, musical tributes and several videos.

And I have received real flowers!

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I am moved and humbled by all of this!  When people say “God bless!” to me, I usually respond, “He really has!”  And He has blessed me – abundantly, in every way, with faith, family and friends.

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Please know that I’d love to respond to each and each person who has written so far (30 more best wishes have arrived since I start writing minutes ago!) but you are all in my hearts and prayers. May the Lord bless each of you as well!

I will raise a glass of prosecco tonight at my birthday dinner hosted by Linda and Jack Del Rio and will salute each and every one of you!

POPE FRANCIS’ JUNE 30 TWEET: How wonderful it is to proclaim to everyone the love of God which saves us and gives meaning to our lives!

A RESTFUL VACATION FOR POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI….

This morning, around 10 am, Pope Francis went to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican gardens where Pope emeritus Benedict XVI resides in retirement to greet the former pontiff and wish him a pleasant stay at Castlegandofo. The two met for about a half hour. Benedict XVI left shortly afterward for the papal residence in the Alban Hills and will stay there for two weeks, returning to Vatican City on July 14. Since becoming Pope in March 2013, Francis has invited Benedict several times to stay at Castelgandolfo, knowing how very much he enjoys this residence and feels at home there.

(See previous post with ZENIT pho

….AND A TRAVEL AND WORK VACATION IN JULY FOR  FRANCIS

Pope Francis will spend most of July in Rome, although he will travel to three Latin American nations from July 5 to 12. When he is back in Rome he will be working on speeches and homilies for his September pilgrimage to Cuba and the U.S. where he will address the United Nations, the U.S. Congress and preside at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

In July, the Wednesday general audiences will be suspended but will resume in August in the Paul VI Hall. One exception is the previously planned audience the afternoon of July 3 with the Movement of Renewal in the Spirit in St. Peter’s Square.

The Holy Father will continue to recite the Angelus on Sundays.

The morning Mass at Santa Marta is also suspended during July and August. It will resume in early September.