January 2022: The Grand Tour, Eurovision and Mt Cimone (Tuscany)

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Exhibitions in Italy, January:

Exhibitions in Italy, January:

The Grand Tour:  The Dream of Italy from Venice to Pompeii.  (Gallerie d’Italia/Piazza Scala, Milano; www.gallerieditalia.com/multimedia/grand-tour/; until 27 March).  From the end of the 1600s to the middle of the 1800s. Italy was seen as the birthplace of European culture.  The Grand Tour of the ‘bel paese’ became an essential part of very artist, writer and young aristocrat’s education.  This exhibition presents over one hundred and thirty exploring how Italy was re-imagined in these years.

Klimt:  The Secessionist Movement and Italy.  (Museo di Roma,Palazzo Braschi, Rome; http://www.museodiroma.it/en; until 27 March).  Gustav Klimt was one of the major artists of fin de siècle, part of the Viennese Secessionist movement.  This major exhibition presents ovr two hundred of his paintings, focussing particularly with his relationship with Italy.

The Form of the Infinite.  (Casa Cavazzini, Udine;  www.laformadelinfinito.it; until 27 March).  Transcendent painting and spirituality preoccupied some of the greatest artists on the 19th and 20th century.  This exhibitions presents over fifty works on this theme by major artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Kandinsky and Boccioni.

Events in Italy, January 2022:

Events in Italy, January 2022:

Eurovision 2022.  (Turin; https://eurovision.tv/event/turin-2022; from 10 to 14 May).  Yeh!  After a fiercely competitive selection process involving seventeen different bids, the honour of hosting the 66th edition of the Eurovision contest was awarded to Turin.  It’s the third Italian city to host the event, after Naples (1965) and Rome (1991).

The Potato of Bologna.  (Bologna, www.patatadibologna.it/la-versione-dello-chef; until 31 January).  Did you known that potato is a prized part Bologna’s cuisine?  It was first introduced here in 1657 as a medicinal plant but progressively became part of the local diet in the 1700s.  This festival celebrates the virtue of the adaptable tuber with original recipes served at th restaurants of ten of the region’s best-known chefs.  Yum!

Still Life by Sarah Winman.   (Dymocks, $32.99).  If you haven’t already read it and you are looking for something to fill in those last summer days, my wife Carolyn highly recommends Still Life, “a big-hearted story of people brought together by love, war, art and the ghost of E.M. Forster. 1944, in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening”.  It was Dymocks 2021 Book of the Year winner.

Hidden Italy Winter weekend: Monte Cimone, skiing in the Appenines between Bologna and Florence.

Hidden Italy Winter weekend: Monte Cimone, skiing in the Appenines between Bologna and Florence.

Monte Cimone is the highest peak in the Central Apennines, the mountain range that runs the length of Italy.  Monte Cimino sits on the border between the regions of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna like a big white panettone.  At only 2165 mt, it’s not a giant compared to other mountains further north in the Alps but it is covered with snow for six months of the year and as there are no other high peaks nearby, on a clear day it can seem like Mt Blanc, with uninterrupted views across much of central Italy.

Sestola is a gorgeous medieval town in the thick forests at the foot of the mountain.  It is much loved by the Tuscans and residents of the nearby cities of Modena and Bologna for its location near the ski fields and for its lively bars and shops.  The first ski club in Emilia-Romagna was founded here in 1927 and it has been a popular destination ever since, particularly in the mythical 1960s and 1970s.

Monte Cimone’s closeness to the Tuscan coast makes it one of the windiest places on the Italian peninsula which can make things a bit uncomfortable out on the slopes but it does have has some compensation.  The moist sea winds mean the snow is in constant transformation creating a variety of different intriguing challenges for the experienced skier.  They say that if you learn to ski on Monte Cimone, you can ski anywhere and there must be some truth in this as the mountain is the home of Luciano Magnani, the president of the Italian Ski Instructors Association, and it is where Italian downhill skiing legends Alberto Tomba and Giuliano Razzoli, both former world and Olympic slalom champions, cut their teeth.

With over 50 kilometres of ski runs, reasonably priced day passes and accommodation and charming villages and towns within striking distance of Modena, Bologna, Pistoia and Florence, Monte Cimone offers a very relaxed alternative to the more celebrated ski resorts in the Dolomites and the Alps.

How to get there:

By car: Take the A1 autostrada, which links Milan with Naples.  If you are coming from the north, take the Modena Sud exit heading for Vignola and then follow the signs to Sestola.  If you are coming from the south, take the Pistoia exit then follow the signs to Porettana, Silla and Lizzano.  By train: Change at Bologna (which is on the main line between Rome/Florence/Milan/Venice) and take the local train to Vignola.  From here, get on one of the regular buses to Sestola (www.tper.it).  There are also regular bus services directly to Sestola from Bologna (www.tper.it) and Modena (www.setaweb.it).  By air:  The closest airport is in Bologna, 80 kilometres away.

Where to stay:

The Hotel San Marco (Via delle Rose, 2, Sestola).  A classic 4-star hotel is set in an historic villa dating from the early 1900s.  The hotel has an excellent restaurant, the Alta Sestolina.  Double room from 190 euro per night.

Hotel Firenze (Via Roma 33, Fanano)  This traditional 3-star hotel has been in the same family for three generations.  It’s a popular spot with skiers and families, and has a new ‘baby club’ with ‘animators’.  Half board around 60 euro per person.

The Albergo Ristorante Gabriella (Piazza dei Falchi 15, Canevare di Fanano).  This lovely 3-star hotel is tucked away in the mountains near the hamlet of Cimoncino and is prefect for the keen skiers.  It is particularly well known for its cooking Two nights with half-board from 130 euro per person.

Rifugio Ninfa (Via Lago Ninfa, 30, Sestola).  For something really special (and very  romantic) consider staying in one of a number of excellent ‘rifugi’, very comfortable mountain huts.  One of the best is the Rifugio Ninfa, which is over one hundred years old.  It islose to the pretty Lago della Ninfa, which is often frozen over.  .  Half board is around 60 euro per person.

Where to eat:

Hotel San Rocco Ristorante (Corso Umberto 47, Sestola).  This elegant restaurant offers a refined version of traditional Emilian cooking.  It has a ten-course degustation menu that draws people from as far away as Bologna.  Dinner from 60 per person.

La Vecchia Locanda Zita (Piazza San Gorgio 6, Vesale).  This cosy restaurant serves classic mountain cooking including such specialities as porcini mushrooms, handmade gnocchi and borlenghi (the local pasta).  Dinner is around 30 euro per person.

The Ristorante Mamma Teresa (Via Provinciale 232, Casine).  This historic restaurant was once a staging place for the mule teams that crossed the mountains.  It serves local dishes such as bean soups, lasagne, rabbit alla cacciatora and, of course, the area’s famous tortellini.  Dinner from 25 euro per person.

What to do:

Friday evening:

Check in to your accommodation and join the evening passeggiata on Corso Umberto I.  Have an aperitivo at the Bar Pelloni before dinner and then get an early night.

Saturday:

The ski area of Monte Cimone has over 50 kilometres of skiing runs, all interconnected.  There are four starting points and you are able to move from one ski area to another without removing your skis, a rare thing in the Apennines.  www.cimoneski.it

The ski runs of Monte Cimoncino, 1430 metres asl, are accessible from the village of Fanano.  Monte Cimoncino is on the sunny side of the range and has is served by two ski lifts, one six-seater and one two-seater.  The highest point is point you can reach from here is 1976 metres asl, where the famous Delle Aquile black ski run starts.

The second area is at the Passo del Lupo (the Wolf Pass) and the Lake Ninfa.  You reach this by taking a chairlift from Sestola and then a shuttle from the Pian del Falco.  The area is all north facing, ie out of the wind.  Three of the area’s most popular runs start from the Passo del Lupo:  the black Direttissima, and the red Beccadella and the red 9.  The most spectacular run though is the Baggiolara II which starts higher up.  The Passo del Lupo can also be reached the village of Montecreto.

The fourth starting point is the village of Riolunato.  From here you take lifts up to Valcava where you can enjoy a number of long, curving runs including the Sette Fontane (Seven Fountains) a red trail that weaves for nearly three kilometres down through beautiful birch forest.

Try some other snow sports:

If you have enough of skiing and are looking for something different, Monte Cimone has plenty of alternatives.  From December to March the Via dei Monti, an association of local guides, run a range of guided snowshoe walks through some of the most spectacular parts of the mountain (http://www.laviadeimonti.com).  Stray Dogs is another association of guides based at Riolunato who organise snowshoe walks in the mountains, as well as skiing and snowboarding classes (www.facebook.com/straydogsschool).

Pian Cavallaro is an upland plateau at the top of the runs, 1800 metres asl.  Given the constant winds and its undulating form, makes it a perfect place for snow kites.  Lssons and equipment can be arranged from Snowkite Monte Cimone (www.facebook.com/snowkitemontecimone)

You could also go ice-skating at the modern Palaghiaccio at Fanano or watch a game of ce-hockey, the Palaghiaccio is the home to the Fanano Miners (www.palaghiacciofanano.it).  Finally, for those who are not so ecologically sensitive and want a bit of excitement without too much effort, you can go on skimobile tours from the Passo del Lupo at around 15 euro for a fifteen-minute ride!

Sunday:  do some touring:

Being a land of transition between the regions of Emilia-Romagna (Bologna) to the north and Tuscany (Florence) to the south many of the little towns and villages around Monte Cimone have had a very long and interesting history and they are all worth visiting.

Sunday morning:

Sestola has a very pleasant pedestrian centre that develops along Corso Umberto I under the town’s castle which dates from the Lombardo occupation in the 5th century.  It was reconstructed in the 16th century and today host an interesting small museum which is open on Sundays.  There are number of interesting parts of the town that are worth a look including Tanelle, with its low stone houses, and Albaghiccia, a section of the town that is permanently in shade.  There is also an interesting walk up Via delle Villa, which, as its name suggest, is a street where the wealthy of Bolgona built their weekenders in the early 1900s.

You could have a coffee and pastry at the celebrated Pasticceria Turchi before setting out for nearby Fanano.  This pleasant mountain town is listed as one of Borghi Piu Belli d’Italia (the most beautiful villages of Italy) by the Italian Touring Club.  It is known as the ‘city of stone’ because of its compact medieval architecture, many houses embellished with stone portals and stone rooftiles thanks to its century old stonemasonry tradition.

Sunday afternoon:

After a long lunch at the celebrated Albergo Ristorante Gabriella (Canevare di Fanano)  we suggest you continue your drive around the mountain to the very pretty town of Fiumalbo, on the way passing through Pievelago, a pleasant village particularly popular with hikers in the summer. 

Fiumalba is also listed one of the most beautiful villages in Italy by the Italian Touring Club.  Like the other villages and towns in the area, Fiumablo has a long history.  It was first mentioned in documents a thousand years ago but archaeological finds suggest that it was settled in the 2nd century BC.  It is a little gem, surrounded by mountains covered in oak and beech forests.  There is a lot to see in this small town, including the church of San Bartolomeo, which dates from 12th century.  It has works by Wiligelmo, a master from the 11th century who was the first Italian sculptor to sign his works as well an impressive Renaissance fresco cycle.

Fiumabla has a number of very good pastry shops, including the Croccante Intrigante (Piazza Umberto I), which are perfect for afternoon tea.  Fiumalba is close to the Tuscan border so you could press on an entre the ‘Gran Ducato’ but the shadows will be lengthening and it is probably bst to turn around and head b

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