In the Footsteps of Spartacus

Some 15 miles north of Italy is the town of Capua, situated in a bend of the slow flowing River Volturno.  The star attraction is the local Roman amphitheatre.  Now in a poor state of repair, at its height it was the second largest amphitheater in Italy after the Colosseum.  60,000 people could watch the games here in four massive 40m-high stories.   The amphitheatre itself is cheap to get into and well worth a wander around.

You can also access the tunnels below the main arena for an atmospheric glimpse into the inner workings of the games. Capua, known for its wealth and luxury, was also a hub of a number of gladiator schools, including one where the famous Thracian Spartacus trained.   And you can see the remains of the older, smaller amphitheatre where he fought and there is a small gladiator museum nearby.

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The Best Beaches in Italy – 10 Magic Destinations

The Priceless Guide

Summer vacations are associated with hot sun, crystal clear turquoise water, endless white sandy beaches, cocktails, beach bars and relaxation.

If you haven’t booked your summer holiday yet, Italy surely combines all the above making it one of the top summer destinations in the world for the summer period. Take a look at the 10 best beaches in Italy.

You still have some time to change your plans.

1. Rabit Beach Sicily


2. Spiaggia del Fornillo, Positano, Amalfi Coast


3. Maria Pia, Alghero


4. La Pelosa, Sardinia


5. San Domino, Tremiti Islands


6. Riserva Naturale di Vendicari


7. Chefalu Sicily


8. Torre Guacetto, Puglia


9. Riviera del Corallo, Alghero, Sardinia


10. LA Guardia, Elba, Tuscany


The Priceless Guide –

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Warhol in Naples

The Andy Warhol exhibition ‘Storefronts’ continues at the PAN | Palazzo delle Arti Napoli.

Films, portraits, soup cans, Marilyn Monroe, record covers, magazine, photographs of Naples prostitutes and of course the famous series of works on Vesuvius.  He said:

‘For me, the eruption is a shocking event, an extraordinary event and also a great piece of sculpture … Vesuvius for me is much bigger than a myth: it is a very real thing’.

The Vesuvius series in various colour schemes are all in one room at the end of the exhibition; the photo above is the only one I managed before the guard stopped me.

Why do Italians say ‘Calcio’ not ‘Soccer’?

In today’s Italian lesson, we tackled the Subjunctive.  As in English, it is used to express ‘various states of unreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred‘.  Unlike modern English, in which the subjunctive is hard to make out, in Italian it is a minefield for foreigners and, according to my teacher, when used properly is the mark of an educated native speaker.

This lead to a long conversation about the differences between English and Italian.  My teacher said that Italians pick up the lax English grammar rules (what there are) quickly; what they struggle with is pronunciation, the sheer magnitude of English vocabulary and the way English speakers use word order and qualifiers to provide nuance and meaning. Conversely, the English pick up basic Italian vocabulary quickly (aka restaurant Italian) but can have problems with rigid grammar rules, pronouns, reflexives and cases such as the pluperfect and of course the subjunctive.

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Italian Cocktail of the Week: Orange Blossom Special

The weather here in Naples has at last taken a turn for the better.  The temperature is up, the shorts and summer dresses are out and the sprinklers are on in the evening.  Time for a cocktail which you can find all over Italy.

What better way to celebrate the arrival of Summer than to mix and serve this classic Aperol Spritz.  It’s a feel-good, relaxed and refreshing drink, low in alcohol and high in style, which comes with a slight, but not overpowering, bitter taste.  Its orangey-rhubarby hue makes it unmistakeable in the bar or on the beach.  And it comes in a cool bottle too.

The recipe is simple:

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A Prayer for Memorial Day

We commit ourselves to work in penitence and faith for reconciliation between the nations, that all people may, together, live in freedom, justice and peace.

We pray for all who in bereavement, disability and pain continue to suffer the consequences of fighting and terror.

We remember with thanksgiving and sorrow those whose lives,
in world wars and conflicts past and present, have been given and taken away.

Good news in the fight against the Camorra?

It seems that Antonio Iovine, Camorra Super Boss of the Casalesi clan, the subject of the film Gomorrah,  has turned state witness or pentito.  The Guardian reported that this is the first time someone so senior has broken the code of silence and he may be willing to talk about the ‘business and the criminal underworld, but also about the past two decades of politics in Italy’.  Politicians, local and national are trembling.

What is the Camorra?  In this long and fascinating piece in Vanity Fair in 2012, the author William Langewiesche noted that:

The Camorra is not an organization like the Mafia that can be separated from society, disciplined in court, or even quite defined. It is an amorphous grouping in Naples and its hinterlands of more than 100 autonomous clans and perhaps 10,000 immediate associates, along with a much larger population of dependents, clients, and friends. It is an understanding, a way of justice, a means of creating wealth and spreading it around. It has been a part of life in Naples for centuries—far longer than the fragile construct called Italy has even existed.

What is certain that the Camorra has been around a long time, is large, exerts huge political and economic influence and is prone to feuding.  Iovine’s cooperation with the authorities will shed light of their activities in the local area thought to include illegal dumping, extortion, drug running and prostitution.

Photo:  Arrest of Antonio Iovine in 2010 via the Guardian.