Villa Jamele


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Villa Jamele (ya·MEH·leh) was mentioned in my post Peppe Zullo~Il Cuoco Contadino. Peppe’s 180,000 m² azienda agricola (agricultural estate) includes this second location acquired in 2004.  Villa Jamele is a few km down the road from Orsara di Puglia, towards Troia.  The property takes its name from the historic 1700’s villa of Hector Jamele, which has been reconstructed and is now home to an international cooking school and 5 guest rooms on the upper floor.

Sala Guadalajara is a large circular reception hall.  There is also a glass reception room, Sala Veracruz.  The photo below was taken from the roof terrace of Villa Jamele.

Dalla terra alla tavola is the philosophy at Villa Jamele.  This translates to ‘Field to table’. Food does not get any fresher. In addition to producing wine and olive oil, Peppe Zullo grows most of his own vegetables here at Villa Jamele, including pomodori which are canned on site in August. 

Il Bosco dei Sapori Perduti is a biodiverse orchard which includes over 50 varieties of fruit trees and herbs.  Peppe uses local, traditional products in his cooking, including wild greens and herbs such as boragine (borage), marasciuolo –a type of wild rucola found in Puglia, fiori di zucca, and wild asparagus. Behind Sala Guadalajara, past a reconstructed stone archway is a large vineyard where grapes for Peppe’s vini, Ursaria and Aliuva are grown.  Read more about them in this post.Also on the grounds is a pond and various animals, including ducks, geese, a donkey and one muddy but very photogenic maiale nero and his famiglia.

The Villa Jamele site is a tranquil oasis of green, dotted with ancient olive trees. My favourite area of Villa Jamele is the campo dei girasoli-a field of sunflowers blooming every July. 

La Scuola Internazionale di Cucina at Villa Jamele is open from September to November and February to April.  Classes can be organized for 8-16 participants. To book an event, suite, destination wedding , or make a reservation at Ristorante Peppe Zullo, call or email 39 0881 964763

Villa Jamele, Piano della Corte, Orsara di Puglia (FG)

I hope you have enjoyed my favourite ‘scatti‘ of Villa Jamele! Ciao, Cristina

Peppe Zullo~Il Cuoco-Contadino


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My amico Peppe Zullo is known as ‘Il Cuoco-Contadino’. At the age of 24, Peppe left Orsara di Puglia to work in Boston and Puerto Vallarta Mexico, where he opened a restaurant.  He moved back to Orsara and opened his ristorante in 1992 on his family land in the Piano Paradiso area.  Piano Paradiso is an idyllic setting facing Orsara di Puglia, with spectacular views.  Peppe greets visitors with the appropriate salutation ‘Benvenuti in Paradiso’.

Peppe Zullo nel vigneto. Photo Nicola Tramonte

The Piano Paradiso site also includes a reception hall, Nuova Sala Paradiso and the award winning cantina. Peppe’s wine cellar La Cantina del Paradiso, designed by Nicola Tramonte was featured in the exhibit ‘Le Cattedrali del Vino’ at the Biennale di Venezia Archittetura in 2010. It is built into the side of a hill, with a vineyard on top! As Peppe likes to say, it’s the only cantina where you have to climb up stairs! This is the best place in town on a hot day! The cantina is built to resemble a subterranean small town with narrow streets and rooms. It also features colourful, whimsical original artwork by Leon Marino, an artist from Troia.

L’angelo contadino by Leon Marino

La Cantina is full of vino! Peppe Zullo produces about 25,000 bottles per year. His 2 wines are Aliuva and Ursaria. Aliuva is 80% Tuccanese 20% Uva di Troia (Nero di Troia) and Merlot.  Ursaria is 80% Tuccanese, 20% Uva di Troia and Cabernet, and is aged for 5 years in wood barrels. Peppe’s vino is served in his restaurant and event facilities and sold on site and at Peppe Zullo Point in Foggia. Read more in part 3 of my Vini di Puglia series- Il Tuccanese.

At the top of the hill, looking out over the vigna, are the Suites del Paradiso, 5 rental suites with a view of the rooftops of Orsara. Above the suites, at the top of the estate is a wheat field growing an ancient Pugliese strain called Senatore Cappelli.  We call it  ‘Strambell’ in Orsarese. Pale Eoliche, wind turbines belonging to Montaguto can be seen behind the field.  Also on site are Peppe’s home, offices, several places for outdoor receptions or enjoying the scenery and a fenced in area with fruit trees, sheep and horses.

Peppe’s 180,000 m² azienda agricola (agricultural estate) also includes a second location acquired in 2004.  Villa Jamele is a few km down the road towards Troia.  The reconstructed 1700’s villa is home to an international cooking school, with rooms on the upper floor. Villa Jamele is featured in the next post.

Dalla terra alla tavola or Cibo a km 0 is the philosophy here.  This translates to ‘Field to table’ or the ‘100 mile diet’. Food does not get any fresher. In addition to producing wine and olive oil, Peppe grows most of his own vegetables at Villa Jamele, including pomodori which are canned on site in August.  Il Bosco dei Sapori Perduti is a biodiverse orchard which includes over 50 varieties of fruit trees and herbs.  Peppe uses local, traditional products including wild greens and herbs such as boragine (borage), marasciuolo (a type of wild rucola found in Puglia), fiori di zucca, wild asparagus, Greek mint and Cacioricotta, a DOP goat cheese made only in Orsara. He makes bread and pasta with zucca and grano arso and also produces his own cheeses. One of Peppe favourite antipasti are ‘ostriche di montagne’ or ‘mountain oysters’.  These are lightly battered and fried foglie di Boragine – borage leaves. My favourite antipasto is fiori di zucca al forno ripieni di caciocavallo!

Orecchiette di grano arso al sugo, Ristorante Peppe Zullo Orsara di Puglia

Peppe is an ambassador for cucina povera and the gastronomic traditions of Puglia.  In the last few years, he has made frequent television appearances on RAI’s Uno Mattina and Geo & Geo. Check them ou on his Youtube channel. Appuntamento con la Daunia, a 2 day event celebrating local cuisine and products is held at Villa Jamele every year, the second week in October. I receive an invitation every year but have not been able to attend…yet.

Peppe was the chef representing Puglia for the month of May at Expo 2015 in Milano. They served a lot of orecchiette di grano arso!  That same year, along with another Pugliese chef, he catered an Indian wedding for 1,000 guests in Borgo Egnazio, near Ostuni. In 2016 he catered the 80th birthday party for Lino Banfi-who plays the adorable Nonno on RAI’s ‘Un Medico in Famiglia’.

Peppe Zullo & Lino Banfi

Ristorante Peppe Zullo is open daily for pranzo, the mid-day meal. They are not open in the evening.  Afterwards, visit the cantina, vigneto or take a short passeggiata to Orsara.  La Scuola di Cucina at Villa Jamele is open from September to November and February to April.  Classes are 5 hours per day 6 days a week and can be organized for 8-16 participants. To make a reservation at Ristorante Peppe Zullo, book a suite, cooking class or destination wedding, call or email 39 0881 964763

Via Piano Paradiso, Orsara di Puglia FG

Peppe is on Facebook, Instagram(@peppezullo), Twitter(@peppezullo2), and Youtube

Stay tuned for posts on Villa Jamele and La Cantina del Paradiso.  Ciao, Cristina

Terzo Bloghiversario!



Caspita! Il tempo vole. Non ci credo che oggi Un po’ di pepe fa 3 anni!  How time flies. I can’t believe it is already 3 years since publishing my first post on Un po’ di pepe, Perche Questo Blog?/Why Write a Blog? I do not know how I missed noticing this before, but today is also La Festa della Liberazione d’Italia, the anniversary of the liberation of Italia from Fascist occupation in 1945.  Viva la libertà!  Next year I will write a post about Le Donne Partigiane-women who were partisans in the Italian Resistance.

I planned to celebrate by having a contest or giving away a print for Un po’ di pepe’s 200th follower, but I missed that too!  Mannaggia! I will have to organize something for the 250th follower or the 100th post.  This one is #85, so I do not need to rush.

This was another exciting blogging year.  I wish I had time to post more often, but twice a month will continue to be the average.  This year Un po’ di pepe finally got a Facebook page-the link is in the sidebar. I still prefer Instagram!  My pronunciation guide Italiano per Ristoranti continues to be the most viewed post and a popular download.  I have been doing research on how to turn it into an e-book.

Bruschetta (broo.SKET.tah)

I was nominated for a Liebster Award by Malberock. I love their description of my blog: ‘l’identità italiana in Canada spiegata ai canadesi, ma anche a noi italiani’!  This could be my new tagline-grazie Malberock! The Liebster is a virtual award designed to increase the visibility of blogs that have less than 200 followers.  Now that I am up to 211, I no longer qualify!

I have more posts about interesting stuff planned for the coming year, including more parole piacevoli, my experiences with dialetti and making bread starter.  My next post will feature my amico, Peppe Zullo! While I am learning how to publish an e-book, I also plan to figure out how to post bits of my old home movies from our family trips to Italia.  In June and August I will have a bancarella at the Italian Market, selling cards, etchings and other things I like to make.  I also want to finally open an Etsy store, but I need to make inventory first.

Grazie to all of you for taking the time to read, comment, send messages and especially for giving me an excuse to research and write about things that interest me!  If you have any suggestions for posts or just want to say ‘ciao‘, leave me a comment.  I am going to sign off with a link to my second post, which needs some love-Il Gigante~Michelangelo’s David. Grazie a tutti per leggere e darmi una scusa per scrivere di cose che mi piacciono.  Lasciami un messaggio se hai un idee per un post o se vuoi dice ‘ciao’.  Un abbraccio, Cristina

Buon Compleanno Roma!


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Roma’s turns 2770 years old today!  Auguri Roma.  The day of Roma’s foundation is called ‘Natale di Roma’.  You may be thinking… Christmas of Roma?  Huh? Christmas is called Natale in Italiano, but the word natale, with a lower case ‘n’, actually means birth-so today is the celebration of the birth of Roma. The exact date, April 21, 753 BC, was determined by Marcus Terentius Varro, a 1st Century BC Roman scholar.

According to legend, on this date Roma was founded by orphaned twins Romolo and Remo (Romulus and Remus in Latin).  Their dramatic story shares plotlines with those of Hamlet, Moses and Cain and Abel!  They were children of Mercury, God of War, and Rea Silvia, the daughter of Numitore, ex King of Alba Longa, which was 19 km southeast of Roma. Rea Silvia’s family were descendants of Aeneas, the Greek Trojan war refugee. Aeneas’ son Ascanio was the founder and first king of Alba Longa. Numitore’s brother Amulio ousted him.  To insure Numitor would have no heirs, Amulio killed his son, and forced Rea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin. When the gemelli were born in 771 BC, Amulio ordered them to be drowned in the Tevere.

The servants who were to drown the babies set them afloat in a basket on the river instead.  They washed up near the Palatino (Palatine Hill) and were found and nurtured by a lupa (she-wolf) who had lost her newborn cubs. *Interesting note- at the time, the word ‘lupa‘ could also mean prostitute! Romolo and Remo were found by a shepherd, Faustilo. He and his wife Larentia took them in and raised them.

Romolo and Remo grew up to be leaders of a group of shepherd warriors.  When they found out that they were the true heirs to Alba Longa, they attacked, killed Amulio and restored their Nonno Numitore as king. Fresh from their revenge and still full of adrenaline, Romolo and Remo decided they would build a city of their own near where they were found by the lupa.  Romolo wanted to build on the Palatine Hill (where the Forum is) and Remo wanted to build on the Aventine.  They disagreed and fought, with Romolo accidentally killing his brother in the process.  And so began the long, bloody, politically charged history of Ancient Roma.  Romolo built the city on the Palatino and named her Roma after himself.

Gruppo Storico Romano organizes many festivities in Roma today, including a live reenactment of Il Natale di Roma at Circo Massimo.

Ciao e buon 2770mo compleanno Roma, Cristina

Campeggio sul Gargano


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Dovè la primavera?  It was a long, cold winter, with far too much snow.  Now la pioggia has set in.  I am dreaming about il caldo, il sole e la spiaggia-warm weather, sunshine and the beach! I have had the opportunity over the last few years, to spend many weekends at different sites in the Gargano (gar·GAH·noh) with my cugini and their camper.  I would love to be there now!  To get ready for summer and welcome warmer weather, I am sharing my favourite scatti from my Gargano travels.

II Arco San Felice

Il Promontorio del Gargano is the promontory sticking out above ‘il tacchino’, the heel of Italia.  You can also think of it as la caviglia-the ankle spur of Italia.  One of the most beautiful areas on earth, Il Gargano has unique flora and fauna.  Biodiversity wise the area is more like an island-an island surrounded on 3 sides by the Adriatico with 1 side attached to Italia.  Most of the promontorio is a protected area and marine reserve, Il Parco Nazionale del Gargano, which includes le Isole Tremiti and the ancient Foresta Umbra. Luckily this has prevented the area from being overdeveloped with large multinational hotels and resorts.

Il Gargano is famous for picchi (woodpeckers) and many other birds, 300 varieties of orchids, almonds and olives.  There are also endless ancient hillside olive groves, pine forests, sea grotte, limestone cliffs, rocky shores, crystalline water and fresh seafood.  The coast between Peschici and Vieste has 13 working trabucchi, fascinating ancient fishing contraptions which I wrote about in this post.

Trabucco Punta Lunga

The winding road around the Gargano, SS 89 from Foggia, has sharp turns and viste mozzafiato (VIS·teh moz·zah·FYAH·toh)-breathtaking views. One of my favourite viewpoints is La Baia delle Zagare. Here you can see the clifftop 4 star resort of the same name, and its private spiaggia.  There is a glass elevator built into the cliff-something I have to see for myself one of these days!

Baia delle Zagare

View of Vieste from the SS89

Il Gargano is full of campsites, inexpensive accommodation and B & B’s.  The campeggi e villaggi turistici -campsites and tourist villages, are ben attrezzati (well-equipped). You can camp with a camper and all the accessories, or just a vehicle and a tent.  There are also villette-little cabins that can be rented, but you have to bring your own sheets and towels, so these are mostly used by locals.  Some campsites even have a small hotel attached. This website (in Italiano) lists Gargano campsites. I have stayed right by the water and in an olive grove near Mattinata, and had a view of the beach near Vieste.

View from the camper, Punta Lunga, Vieste

Our setup is always comfortable and rustic, but some of the things you see at the campeggi are hard to believe. Families set up for the whole summer, with those working joining in on the weekends. I have seen TV with satellite, ceiling fans, generators and portable kitchen tents. Last year at Camping degli Ulivi in Mattinata, the family across from us had brought 5 kinds of brooms!

Ancient olive trees provide an interesting handwashing station, and a place to store 5 different brooms at Camping degli Ulivi

No yucky dehydrated camping food is found here! Fresh seafood is available from the mobile fishmonger il pescivendolo (pesh·ee·ven·DOH·loh) driving around to the different campsites. At Villaggio Camping Punta Lunga, we walked 2 km to Vieste to il pescivendolo along the amazing clifftop trail.

View from the 2km clifftop trail to Vieste

Vignanotica is between Mattinata and Pugnochiuso, closer to Pugnochiuso. It is surrounded by a wall of limestone cliffs and is only accessible by walking down the steep hill. Inaccessibility prevents development on the spiaggia. Parking is available in an olive grove, right under the olive trees for €7 and there is a shuttle down to the beach. Vignanotica can be crowded on Sundays in the summer. There is a small bar on the beach. Vignanotica is in sun until about 2pm, then it is in full shade from the cliffs. Some of the Gargano beaches, including Vignanotica, Mattinata and l’Isole Tremiti are rocky, so water shoes are needed to walk in the water.

Vignanotica. The tiny people walking on the beach provide scale for the limestone cliffs.

Most of the tourists visiting the Gargano area are Italian, especially in the summer.  Many Germans bring their campers too, but you do not meet a lot of North Americans here.  Il Gargano is the place to visit if you want to improve your Italiano.The closest major airport for Il Gargano is Bari. The airport in Foggia sometimes has flights to and from Milano, but usually it just has Alidaunia helicopter service to le Isole Tremiti, San Giovanni Rotondo, Vieste and Peschici. It is difficult to get around the Gargano without a car unless you have lots of time. The SS 89 from Foggia is the major road. On the way, be sure to stop and visit Santa Maria di Siponto near Manfredonia. There is no rail service after Foggia, except a local train from San Severo to Peschici. Ferrovie del Gargano buses outside the Foggia stazione leave for towns in the Gargano, but they are not frequent . Parkinbici is a bikesharing service between Gargano towns. For visitors, a weekly card is € 20 and weekend € 12.

Flying into San Domino by helicopter

As the Gargano website says, visit il Gargano ‘per una vacanza tra natura, mare e cultura’…for a holiday among nature, sea and culture!  Buon Viaggio, Cristina

Giornata Internazionale della Donna


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Auguri per la Festa della Donna! Today is la Giornata Internazionale della DonnaInternational Women’s Day-originally known as International Working Women’s Day. There is no one specific organization or event behind International Women’s Day, but it is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a collective day to celebrate the achievements of women and a call to action towards gender equality.

The early 1900’s were a time of great unrest for women, who did not yet have the right to vote.  In New York in 1908, 15,000 women marched for better pay and shorter hours. The following year, on February 28th, the Socialist Party of America held the first National Women’s Day, which was observed until 1913.  In 1910, an international conference of working women was held in Copenhagen.  It was proposed that each year on the same day, every country would have a Women’s Day. The first International Women’s Day was held on March 19th in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland as well as rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work and vote.  Unfortunately, a week later in New York, 146 women were killed or jumped to their deaths in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  The women were mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants.  The exit doors had been locked to prevent unauthorized breaks! This horrible event brought attention to working conditions and was the focus of future International Women’s Day events.

Russian women held a strike for bread and peace in 1917 in response to Russia’s losses in the war, and following this they were given the right to vote.  The date translated to March 8th on the Gregorian calendar (that’s the one we use!) and this has been the date for International Women’s Day ever since.

International Women’s Day was first celebrated by the United Nations in 1975, and in 1977 the UN General Assembly invited member countries to proclaim March 8th as UN Day for Women’s rights and world peace.

In Italia, the symbol for IWD is yellow Mimosa flowers (Acacia Dealbata).  This was started in 1946 by Teresa Mattei and Rita Montagnana, activists fighting for women’s equality. They felt that the symbols used in France, violets and Lily of the valley, were too scarce, making them too expensive to use in Italia.  Mimosa flowers bloom in early March.  The pillowy yellow flowers look delicate and fragile, but are actually very resilient and able to resist harsh conditions.  Good qualities for an symbol for women! Originally women gave small Mimosa bouquets to each other.

For those with pollen allergies, there is now also Torta Mimosa, a cake that resembles the flower, and chocolates and cookies.  My amica Anna photographed these lovely torte yesterday at Dolci Desideri on Via Gozzi in Roma.

Just like Valentine’s Day, not everyone likes the idea of a ‘Women’s Day’ because love and respect need to be shown more than once a year.  I agree every day should be a giornata della donna, but I also think any excuse to be extra nice to someone is a good thing!  Auguri a tutte le donne!

Ciao, Cristina

Photo credits-Cover photo Wikimedia Commons, Torta Mimosa photos Anna Ambrosini

Crustoli per Carnevale


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crustolipercarnevaleCarnevale season is here.  From the Latin Carnem Vale meaning farewell meat, Carnevale is the week leading up to la Quaresima (Lent). La Quaresima is the period of 40 days between Mercoledi delle Ceneri (Ash Wednesday) and Pasqua (Easter).  There are actually 46 days, but the Sundays are not included. Carnevale was traditionally a period of overindulgence before the more humble days of Lent when there was no meat, dairy, fat or sugar and sometimes even days of fasting.  Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday) is the last day of Carnevale and the last opportunity for excesses.

Like most religious events/festivals, Carnevale and Lent took over from pagan and folk rituals.  This time of year brings the transition from winter to spring and the return of increased daylight. I can’t wait for sunshine and more daylight! For most people, Carnevale was their last opportunity to eat well.  They did not have freezers or refrigerators, so the winter stores of food would be running out or starting to rot.  The avoiding of meat, dairy and fat was not originally for religious reasons-it was going to happen anyways. Lent was a way to mentally prepare and get through this last bit of winter!  Today it is common to not eat meat on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during Lent.

The Carnevale di Venezia was first recorded in 1268.  It involved masked balls, parades, decorations, costumes and masks, and even dressing as the opposite sex.  You can imagine things often got out of hand!  Napoleon outlawed Carnevale in 1797, and it was only restored 182 years later, in 1979.mazatlanparade

Today Carnevale in Italia is celebrated in Venezia, Viareggio, Ivrea and Putignano. Carnevale in Viareggio is known for its parades featuring political and satirical floats.  I would like to experience Carnevale di Venezia one of these days.  Carnevale is also celebrated in other parts of the world, including Rio di Janeiro, New Orleans and Mazatlan.  For many years, I was involved with the ‘Carnaval‘ in Mazatlan, Mexico with the Seattle Seafair Clowns,  participating in 2 parades and a childrens’ festival.

crustoli2Crustoli are fried, sweet shapes of dough made for Carnevale-as well as Christmas and Easter.  They are known by different names all over Italia.  They are Crustoli or Galani in Puglia, Bugie (lies) in Piemonte and Liguria, Cenci ( rags) in Toscana, Chiacchiere (chitchat or gossip) in Lombardia and Calabria, Crostoli in Veneto and Friuli, Frappe in Lazio and Umbria and Sfrappole in Emilia Romagna!  I hope I got them all right!  In Poland, they are known as Chušciki. Recipes vary as well, but they are all very similar.  Some have milk or baking powder and some do not.  Here is my recipe, which is quite simple:



15 ml (1 tablespoon) sugar

15 ml (1 tablespoon) Anice liqueur (or Grappa or Sambuca)

Grated rind of 1 orange or lemon

15 ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil or sunflower oil

~150 grams (1 cup) flour, 00 is best


Mix all ingredients together and form into a ball. Roll half of the dough at a time out thin with a mattarello (rolling pin) or use a pasta machine.  If you like them very thin and crispy, the pasta machine will work better.  I like mine a little chewier.  Cut crustoli into shapes with a pastry wheel.  I like to make mine into bows or tie them in knots, but you can also just cut rectangles or triangles.  Fry them in oil.  I use sunflower or olive oil.  Grapeseed oil can also be used.  They cook very quickly!  Drain on parchment paper or paper towels and dust with icing sugar. Note-this recipe does not make a large amount so you may want to double it!  crustoli

Buon Appetito, Cristina

Hairstyling in Ancient Roma


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villa-of-the-mysteriesOn a recent visit to Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, I walked the corridors lined with ancient Roman busts and was struck by the variety and realism of sculpted hairstyles. Many of them are so detailed, the hair looks like it is moving. Roman women originally wore their hair in simple styles with a circular band around the head, a bun at the nape of the neck or on top of the head. In Imperial Roma (1st -3rd C AD), hairstyles were always changing. Archeologists are actually able to identify and date coins and busts based on the hairstyle, which was often worn by the empress of the time.vibiasabina3

During the reign of Emperor Augustus elaborate updos for married women became fashionable, and really got big and complex in the Flavian and Trajanic eras. Clothing styles for women were simple, and unlike men, whose status could be reflected in their clothes, there was no special dress code to distinguish status. Women could only display their status, wealth and age via their hairstyles and jewellery. A natural hairstyle was considered barbarian, and implied a lack of both wealth and taste.  For Roman noblewomen, complex, unnatural hairstyles requiring hours of daily attention showed wealth and culture to the max. It was the job of slave hairdressers called ornatrice and their assistants to put hair up and take it down. Scenes of hairdressing and mirror-gazing were popular subjects in portraiture and reliefs, such as the 50 BC fresco from the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii.

Reticula (hairnet) of finely woven gold, found on Via Tiburtina, Palazzo Massimo. In behind is the poet Sappho wearing a hairnet, from a Pompeiian fresco.

Reticula (hairnet) of finely woven gold, found on Via Tiburtina, Palazzo Massimo. In behind is the poet Sappho wearing a hairnet, from a Pompeiian fresco.

Ornatrice curled hair in ringlets by wrapping it around a tapered bronze rod called a Calamistrum, which was heated in hot ashes or open flame. Hair was twisted, braided, curled, teased, wrapped and tied with cords or ribbons to bind around the head. Carefully arranged styles, braids and buns were stitched up with blunt bone needle and wool thread, held with wire, painted bone, ivory or jeweled hairpins and combs, and hairnets called reticulae of finely woven gold wire. Beeswax pomade was the only styling product available-the closest thing to hairspray they had!

My similated 'Ornatrice Toolbox' containing blunt needle and wool thread. hair piece and hair bodkin, leaf spring scissors, camel bone comb, beeswax and a 'calamistrum' which is actually my ring mandrel, but it is the right shape!

My similated ‘Ornatrice Toolbox’ containing blunt needle and wool thread. hair piece and hair bodkin, leaf spring scissors, camel bone comb, beeswax and a ‘calamistrum’ which is actually my ring mandrel, but it is the right shape!

Fanciulla Dormiente, Palazzo Massimo

Fanciulla Dormiente, Palazzo Massimo

Romans dyed their hair with everything from herbs to yucky potions. Hair was lightened with lemons, chamomile, henna, saffron, turmeric, baking soda, ammonia, and even pigeon poop. Hair was reddened with henna from Egypt or animal fat mixed with wood ashes. According to Pliny the Elder, hair could be dyed black by applying leeches that had been rotting in red wine and vinegar for 40 days. Yuck! Hair was also darkened with lead oxide, copper filings, or burned walnut shells and leeks. A paste of herbs and crushed earthworms was applied at night to prevent gray. Che schifo!

Women kept their hair as long as it grew, so styles were done with very long hair. Over time, all of this pulling, pinning, colouring, and frequent curling at high temperature led to hair thinning and damage. The only ‘hair products’ available were olive oil, honey and eggs.  As they got older, women often had to use hairpieces, extensions and wool pads to make their hair look thicker or longer. These were braided into existing hair, pinned, or sewn in with wool thread, twine or wire and a blunt bone needle. In extreme cases, a capellamentum or full wig could be worn. Busts were sometimes even made with detachable marble hairpieces so the style could be updated without the expense of commissioning a new bust.

Lucilla wearing a palla, Palazzo Massimo

Lucilla wearing a palla, Palazzo Massimo

Most adult Roman women wore a palla when they left the house. This was a long cloth wrapped around the body and draped over the back of the head as a veil.  A woman wearing her hair uncovered and loose in the street could be mistaken for a prostitute!

Bust of Livia, Palazzo Massimo

Bust of Livia, Palazzo Massimo

The ancient Nodus hairstyle was worn by Livia Drusilla, wife of Augustus and also his sister Octavia. The hair was parted in 3 sections. The side hair was tied into a bun at the back and the middle section looped back on itself like a pompadour and then braided to join the bun.

Plotina Pompeia, wife of Trajan, Palazzo Massimo. Her nodus is a high cascading ponytail.

Plotina Pompeia, wife of Trajan, Palazzo Massimo. Her nodus is a high cascading ponytail.

Fanciulla Romana, young woman with Hercules knot, Palazzo Massimo

Fanciulla Romana, young woman with Hercules knot, Palazzo Massimo

Roman women even tied their hair in knots.  Above  is a Hercules Knot, also called a reef knot or square knot.  Left over right, right over left!   Roman brides often wore a belt with a Hercules knot, which is where the phrase ‘to tie the knot’ comes from, but the hairstyle was not associated with marriage. Vibia Sabina also wore this style.

Agrippina Minor, Palazzo Massimo

Agrippina Minor, Palazzo Massimo

This partial bust of Agrippina Minor (15-59 AD), mother of Nero, found in Ostia has tightly curled short front hair with a diadem (tiara). We have to imagine the rest of the hairstyle, with a bun and ringlets in the back, coming over her shoulders.

Poppaea Sabina, Palazzo Massimo

Poppaea Sabina, Palazzo Massimo

Poppea Sabina (31-65 AD) the wife of Nero had a talented, hardworking ornatrice!  Her bust features two rows of interesting looped tight curls under the diadem and ringlets down the back.  Look at those fine little curlicues around her face.  They were probably held in place with beeswax pomade.hadrianicturban-copy

The Hadrianic Turban or tower hairstyle was like a turban of parallel braids that were sewn together on top of the head. This style was often worn by Vibia Sabina (88-137 AD) wife of Emperor Hadrian and can also be seen on the Egyptian Mummy portrait at the end of this post.

Vibia Sabina, wife of Hadrian, Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum. Photo, Wikimedia commons

Vibia Sabina, wife of Hadrian, Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum. Photo, Wikimedia commons

This back view of one of Vibia Sabina’s hairstyles is an absolute masterpiece- un capolavoro.  This sculptor wins the best stone hairdressing prize.  You can feel the weight of that massive coil of knotted braids on her head. The details are amazing, like the tendrils on the back of the neck, and that little curl beside the ear.

Faustina Maggiore, Musei Capitolini. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Faustina Maggiore, Musei Capitolini. Photo Wikimedia Commons

The hairstyle of Faustina Maggiore (the Elder) is another work of art.  It is like a French roll made with braids, then rolled into a coiled bun at the top of her head like a Jackie-O pillbox hat.

During the Flavian and Trajanic eras (late 1st, early 2nd C AD) the ‘orbis comarum’ or circle of hair with really big, tall front hair was in fashion.  A shorter fringe of tall tight curls or ringlets was piled high in the front, and braids wound into a big wreath bun in back. The big front hair was often curled, teased, and then sewn in place and supported by wires and padded with a wool pad or hairpiece.fonsecabust

The Fonseca Bust in the Musei Capitolini is a portrait of an unknown Flavian woman with the Orbis Comarum.  The front ringlets are sculpted using a hand drill.  Can you imagine making a mistake drilling one of those fine deep holes!  The back view of the bust looks like a straw hat on the head. That big front hair looks mega-teased.  It is amazing this was possible without hairspray! The side view is my favourite.  I love how you can see the origin of all the braids.

Fonseca bust, side and back view (the back view is of a plaster cast ) Photos Wikimedia Commons

Fonseca bust, side and back view (the back view is of a plaster cast ) Photos Wikimedia Commons

Flavian Woman, Museo Nazionale Venezia. Photo Wikimedia Commons.

Flavian Woman, Museo Nazionale Venezia. Photo Wikimedia Commons.

On this bust of an unknown Flavian era woman (75-100 AD), the small tight ringlets are sculpted with a hand drill. They almost look like fusilli!  The big front hair looks like it is being propped up by the ropes of braids, wound high on her head.

Giulia Domna, Glyptothek, Munich. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Giulia Domna, Glyptothek, Munich. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Giulia Domna (170-218 AD) the Syrian wife of Emperor Septimus Severus had a very distinctive hairstyle-and a nose similar to Lorenzo di Medici.  Great sculpted eyebrows too!  Her hair was twisted loosely in strands and draped around her face, then brought up the back of her head and sewn into a long, flat bun, which you can see in the side view.  I guess she didn’t have to move around much! juliadomna2

Female portrait, Centrale Montemartini

Female portrait, Centrale Montemartini

This lovely late 2nd C, early 3rd C AD partial Roman woman’s head was discovered in 1933, while Mussolini was constructing Via dei Fori Imperiali. Her front hair is twisted in small strands almost like Rastafarian corn rows to frame the face, and the back is twisted in a large, loose bun. She now sits in Centrale Montemartini in front of a caldaia -a giant boiler.

Exquisite mummy portrait in encaustic wax on wood panel, Hawara, Middle Egypt, 120 AD. Photo National Museum of Scotland

Exquisite mummy portrait in encaustic wax on wood panel, Hawara, Middle Egypt, 120 AD. Photo National Museum of Scotland

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Ancient Roman hair.  To see some of these styles recreated by a modern hairdresser, visit the youTube channel of Janet Stephens.  Ciao, Cristina

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Roma


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giardinovillaliviaOne of the best museums in Roma is nascosto in piena vista. Hidden in plain sight near Stazione Termini, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme contains one of the most important collections of classical art.  It is right across the street from Stazione Termini, visible from the bus loop on the way to Piazza dei Cinquecento. The first time I visited Palazzo Massimo was in 2006 when my friend who lives in Roma recommended it. There were only about 10 other people in the building!palazzomassimo

When I was in Roma this summer, it was too hot to be out in the afternoon, so I decided to visit the museum. This turned out to be a great idea, since the top floor with the mosaics and detached frescos is downright cold!  Brrrr!  It was so refreshing! There were more than 10 people in the museum this time, but I still felt like I almost had the place to myself.

Built by Principe Massimiliano Massimo for the Jesuit Collegio Romano, the Palazzo became the first Liceo (high school) in Roma in 1871. Except for a brief period as a WWII military hospital,l the Liceo was open until 1960.  In the 1980’s, in a state of neglect, it was purchased for the Museo Nazionale Romano.  Renovations were completed in 1998.  Palazzo Massimo is now 4 stories of classical amazingness.  700 years (200 BC to 500 AD) of Ancient Roman history, myths, artistic culture and everyday life are on display in the form of sculpture, fresco, mosaic, jewellery and coins.

Central Courtyard, Palazzo Massimo

Central Courtyard, Palazzo Massimo

What is extra cool about the artifacts in Palazzo Massimo is how they got to be there. Previous to the museum opening, most of this priceless stuff was in storage in the Roma city works yard!  In a city as old as Roma, anywhere you break dirt, something will be found.  During construction of the Metro, new roads, or any municipal work involving digging, artifacts were found, tagged and stored. Every piece in the museum has a sign with a written description in Italian and English.  In between the two is stated (in Italiano only) precisely where and when it was found, and in some cases by whom.  For example ‘Roma, Piazza Venezia, Construction of National Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II’, or ‘Subiaco, recovered by the Guardia di Finanza (revenue or tax police, involved in recovery of stolen artifacts)’.  Reading these signs is exciting because you may have walked over that very spot the day before!  Ok, maybe you won’t be as excited as me, but I am a total archeology geek so I find this fascinating!

The ground floor of Palazzo Massimo displays Greek originals discovered in Roma, such as The Dying Niobid, and the magnificent Pugile in riposo, the 2nd Century BC bronze Boxer at Rest, wearing leather hand wraps.  He is so realistic with his broken nose, cuts and deformed ears, you can feel the emotion in his face.

'Pugile a Riposo' Found in 1885 on the Quirinale Hill, where the Baths of Constantine once were.

‘Pugile a Riposo’ Found in 1885 on the Quirinale Hill, where the Baths of Constantine once were.

This floor also has a Roman calendar, portraiture from the Republican and Imperial ages, and sarcophagi, such as the sarcophagus of Portonacci with battle scenes carved in relief.statuarypalazzomassimo

The first floor (2nd floor to North Americans) has masterpieces of statuary, including the Maiden of Antium, Il Discobolo, a Crouching Aphrodite after Diodalses found at Villa Adriana in Tivoli in 1920, and the Sleeping Hermaphrodite.  There are also all the surviving bronze sculptures, fittings and a head of Medusa that decorated Caligula’s floating palaces, the Nemi ships.  These vessels were recovered in the 1920’s by draining Lago di Nemi, only to be destroyed by enemy fire in 1944.

Il Discobolo and a Crouching Aphrodite from Villa Adriana in Tivoli. Both are Roman reproductions of Greek originals

Il Discobolo and a Crouching Aphrodite from Villa Adriana in Tivoli. Both are Roman reproductions of Greek originals

The top floor takes us on an intimate tour of the domestic decor inside Roman homes. An amazing discovery was made right across the street in 1947, during the renovations to Termini and construction of Metro line B. It was a complex from 130-140 AD built in a grid system of private homes, public baths, warehouses, and apartments with shops at street level.  There was pavement and a functioning drainage system. It was all destroyed to make way for quick construction of the new buildings! Aaaahhh!  Luckily the site was well-documented so that the 270 m² of wall frescos and pavement mosaics that were preserved could be reassembled. Part of it is displayed here where 3 rooms of a Domus (Roman house) have been reconstructed to their original size.  Ironically, these rooms face a window looking out at where they used to be.

The 1948 photo from Palazzo Massimo of the site across the street. You can see that the mosaic is the same one that is now in the museum

The 1948 photo from Palazzo Massimo of the site across the street. You can see that the mosaic is the same one that is now in the museum

The Augustan Villa of the Farnesina was discovered in Trastevere in 1879 during work along the river.  The site has since been destroyed, but the vibrantly coloured frescoes were detached and stored for 120 years before being installed in Palazzo Massimo, in accurately reconstructed rooms of their original dimensions.  There is a portico, dining room and 2 Vermillion coloured cubicola (bedrooms) with mythological and erotic paintings, and several hallways.  The rooms are reassembled how they were, so it is like walking through a Roman villa.  Decorating the walls of upper class houses with paintings of mythological or literary subjects was supposed to stimulate cultured conversation. In this villa, there are many references to the Egyptian world in the decorations, celebrating the conquest of Egypt. The owner is thought to have been General Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus, who defeated Marc Anthony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.villafarnesinacollage

The final treasure is the 1st Century BC frescoes from Villa Livia, discovered on Via Flaminia in 1863.  The villa belonged to Livia Drusilla, wife of Emperor Augustus.  The paintings of a lush green garden with birds, pomegranate and lemon trees, roses, irises and other plants decorated a vaulted room that was half underground. The large room is recreated here.  It was probably a cool triclinium, a living and dining room for  the summer. villaliviaThe basement has the history of the Roman Empire in coins. It has been converted into a vault for the Medagliere, the coin cabinet and jewellery.

Palazzo Massimo is one of 4 musei that make up the Museo Nazionale Romano. Tickets are €7 for adults, valid for 3 days for all 4 sites.  The other sites are:  Terme di Diocleziano, Palazzo Altemps and Crypta Balbi. Open Tues to Sunday 0900-1945. If you love antiquities, don’t miss it! Ciao, Cristina

Viva La Befana!


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La Befana di AnnaOgni anno, nella notte tra il 5 e 6 di gennaio, volando cavalcando la scopa, La Befana porta regali ai bambini nella speranza che uno di loro sia il Bambino Gesù……

Today is la Festa dell’Epifania in Italia, celebrating the arrival of i Re Magi (the 3 Wise Men) Gasparre, Melchiorre & Baldassarre with their gifts of oro, incenso e mirra (gold, frankincense …

Continue reading original post: La Befana in English and Italiano.  Buona Befana!