Posted in Around the World

OhBej! OhBej! Christmas Market in Milan.

In Milan, the most traditional and most popular of all the events in the Christmas time is the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Christmas market which, for five centuries, has rung in the Milanese festive season with candies, surprises and of all kinds of gifts. Organized in honour of the city’s patron, Sant’Ambrogio, it is celebrated on December 7th, lasts until the next sunday and it attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is a must-see for both Milanese, tourists and curious. In the market is possible search for the perfect gift or just to enjoy the magical atmosphere of celebration and tradition in the most important weekend before Christmas.
Traditionally it was organized in the streets around the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, but in recent years the market has moved to the Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle), like an embrace around one of the city’s most important place of interests. This gives give more space to traders and to the large number of visitors who flock to the stalls every day.
Stalls full of products of all kinds and for all budgets: from bric a brac sellers to florists, artisans, tradesmen with prints and books, masters of wrought iron, copper and brass, plus, crafted toys, sweet vendors, local honey producers, roasted chestnuts and “Firunatt” or “Firòn”, the traditional strings of smoked chestnuts that form long necklaces, a typically Milanese tradition that has now disappeared.
Every year lot of people stroll around the stalls and enjoy the traditional Christmas treats.
According to a local who i met on 2018 edition, this is a winter experience not to be missed and the perfect way to get know, love and breath the city just like the Milanese!
But where does the name “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” come from?
In Milanese dialect “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” means “Oh beautiful, Oh beautiful”, or “so nice! so nice!” and tradition has it that it was a cry of joy from the children of the city upon seeing the beautiful products on display.
Another version indicates the precise historical moment when this cry was born: the shouts of joy from the Milanese children when, in 1510, they saw the gifts brought to the city by Pope Pius IV’s envoy Giannetto Castiglioni. Giannetto wanted to ingratiate himself with the Milanese, and thus entered the city carrying boxes full of sweets and toys for children.
Thanks to this version, we can images the antiquity of the fair, which dates it back to the late thirteenth-century!
The Fair is one of the oldest traditions of the city. Its origins can be traced back to 1288, when celebrations in honour of the Patron Saint took place near the old Santa Maria Maggiore.

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Posted in Around the World

20/11/2018 High Water in Venice.

Venice sinks from when it was born because the sandy soils with time are compacted and are settled. The phenomenon is called subsidence. The subsidence became very fast in the twentieth century when the industrial center of Marghera began to extract rivers of productive waters from the underground aquifers. If the old photos dated back a century ago show a proud Venice, high on the water, today it is a city sitting on the water’s surface.
At the phenomenon of subsidence has been combined with excavation in the lagoon and above all will add up the raising of level of the seas, which will be made more dramatic and fast when the warming of the climate will melt the polar ice.
The lagoon of Venice is a shallow sea of ​​brackish water divided by the sea by a two islands long and narrow, Pellestrina and Lido, and joined to the sea by three natural channels, Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia, called in italian “bocche di porto” (literally mouths of the harbour) mainly oriented towards south east.
Every six hours the tide grows and every six hours it goes down. When the sun and moon add up their astronomical effect with the contribution of rains and the scirocco wind (its prevailing directions being south and south-east) that swells the Adriatic against the lagoon, in Venice the water rises up to flood St. Mark’s Square (70 centimeters, the lowest point of the city).
On November 4, 1966, there was the most devastating of the “perfect storms” in which all the disastrous effects were concentrated, and the water level reached 194 centimeters, with incalculable damages.
Precise scientific parameters define the phenomenon of high water, and exceptional tidal events can be categorized as:
– intense when the measured sea level is between 80 cm and 109 cm above the standard sea level (which was defined by averaging the measurements of sea level during the year 1897)
– very intense when the measured sea level is between 110 cm and 139 cm above the standard
– exceptional high waters when the measured sea level reaches or exceeds 140 cm above the standard.


Posted in Abandoned Places

|URBEX| The “Ghostly House” along the Martesana watercourse.

There are some stuffed animal, a big bear, some dolls, a Santa Claus probably beheaded. And a stationary clock, who knows how long, without hands. Those who pass by, along the pedestrian cycle road, cannot do whitout notice it: along the Martesana watercourse, in via Idro, here is a house that seems like something out of a horror movie. Many stop to immortalize it, on the web many people ask who are the owners (because it seems that no one has ever seen nobody). Of course, it is a ghostly place, with a collection of objects and dolls, some ruined by time, others seem more new. If there is someone who replaces them, and who is, this is also a mystery!

Posted in Abandoned Places

|URBEX| Abandoned Carrefour in Bari.

Deserted big parking areas, fully disemboweled escalators, broken glazed into a million pieces and signs on the ground: welcome to the disturbing scenery of the former Carrefour shopping center, now only a large abandoned structure located in the huge industrial area of Bari. A macabre atmosphere that deserves to be told with a series of photographs, which has nothing to do with memory of this shopping center full of people who loved shopping and who came here more or less often, activities that took place every day, it seems until 2009.
The hypermarket was inaugurated in 2003, and the details of its abandonment are not completely clear. There are several rumors about it, and when I asked some inhabitants of the area, a man told me that simply the prices were too high, while an elderly lady shopping at the nearby supermarket (thanks a lot for willingness!) she said that some people have speculated that the shopping center is closed due to the numerous theft of goods, often not only by customers but also by the employees themselves! A security man told me that everything was fine at first, but when supermarket prices increased, and with competition from other hypermarkets, failure was inevitable.
So, the entire structure is so abandoned since 2009, and never redeveloped, at the mercy of vandals and idiots, just like other abandoned buildings along the spectral State Road 96 that goes from Bari to Modugno.
Around the structure the vegetation grows spontaneously, and the former shopping center is distributed on three levels: on the ground floor and on the first floor there are the parking areas, and on the second floor the shops and the hypermarket. The parking areas are now only a vast expanse of asphalt and someone has even stolen the manholes and electric cables (what remains now hangs from the ceiling). Next to the staircase (without a railing) leading to the next floors, there is what remains of the escalator, a rusty skeleton full of broken glass. The area used for shopping is completely devastated: it is a unique environment that runs along the entire rectangular perimeter of the structure. All shops are closed by often damaged shutters, and spontaneous vegetation is growing on the floor. From the emergency stairs (the accesses have all been walled up, but someone has opened some portals), it is also possible to climb onto the roof, where the plexiglass covers have completely collapsed. From here it’s possible see in a better way the degradation of the entire structure. On the roof, in addition to some pieces of the old sign of the shopping center, some nice idiot wrote “questa zona è pericolosa” (this is a dangerous area), with the stylized drawing of an alien. And indeed, this structure full of pigeons and rubbish, seems to be on another planet…

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Posted in Around the World

|TRAVEL|Crecchio, July 2018

The castle, of Norman-Swabian origin, was built around a watchtower around the 11th-12th centuries. The original tower, called “normanna” and “dell’ulivo”, part of a territorial defensive system, was visually connected with other towers in the surround, like the Mucchia tower (on the coast) and with the city of Lanciano and Guardiagrele inside. To it are linked many legends related to the cruelty of one of its owners who, ruling these places with terror, beheaded its opponents on the highest tower, that of sighting. The tower became a symbol of terror and repression until the De Riseis, some feudal lords of Crecchio (seventeenth century), planted an olive tree on its summit, as a sign of peace with the population, hence the name “Torre dell’Ulivo” (tower of the olive tree).
On the map of Crecchio drawn in 1768 the Castle appears as an austere castellated fortress, but in 1789 it will lose this feature ,when Barone Camillo De Riseis transformed this residence into a leisure and holiday resort for important people and European nobility such as: Letizia Bonaparte, Gabriele D’Annunzio, the Prince Umberto II of Savoy and his wife Maria Josè.
The castle, through a series of vicissitudes and various owners, in 1789 became the residence of the De Rieis, dukes of Bovino, Taormina and barons of Crecchio, and in a short time this manor was one of the most sought after by the nobility of the era for the its garden, with rare plants and its gushing fountains, richly decorated with marble statues and naturally for the luxurious and sumptuous feasts that were held both in summer and in winter.
Unfortunately, a cold morning in September 1943, the enchantment and carefree life of the court was broken by the arrival of King Vittorio Emanuele III, his wife and the General Staff, who were fleeing Rome and before embarking from the port of Ortona, they were guests of the castle for one night. These were chased by the Germans, as Crecchio was crossed by the “Gustav Line”, as soon as the king managed to escape to Ortona and despite the attempts of Gaetana De Riseis to have Vittorio Emanuele III deflect from his serious decision to leave Italy, the Germans bombed the castle from its foundations, reducing it to a pile of smoking rubble. During the following winter the drawing of the Gustav line across the nearby hills transformed it into a German strategic stronghold. In the 70s the castle was restored.
Some argue that the ghost of a De Riseis and his beautiful lover dwelt in the halls of the manor. It is whispered that suddenly there are loud noises on the upper floor followed by a metallic clink. Others say that sometimes you can see a beautiful lady passing through the castle rooms quickly and quietly as if she were suspended in midair!
It is whispered that climbing the fifty-five steps leading to the ancient watchtower, also known as the “tower of the olive tree”, it’s possible hear sounds like lamentations coming from the walls and some feel strange presences right at the foot of that building…
Considered one of the most precious pearls of the province of Chieti, the castle of Crecchio, also called castle “De Riseis-D’Aragona” (from the names of the noble families who inhabited it), is now home to the Museum of Byzantine and High Medieval. The Archeological Museum hosts a series of objects from Pre-Roman and Frentanian tombs. Under the Roman rule this area possibly became a municipium and the landscape was divided among large villae rusticae (farms) for the cultivation of olive trees, vines and cereals. After the devastating Greco-Gotic War (AD 535 – AD 553) the Byzantines re-fortified the main settlement and put garrisons in the countryside, protecting the villae from the Lombard raids of the 7th Lombard Duke of Benevento. The Ducal Castle remained in possession of the De Riseis family until the end of World War II.

Every year, in Crecchio, there is a three-day long event, hosting thousands of visitors yearly: “At dinner with the Byzantines”, from the evening to the night, a travel into the memory of this land, through cultural events, guided tours into the museum, reconstructions of the Byzantine society and (excellent!) eno-gastronomic stands among the borgo alleyways. At the twilight torches are lighted up and ancient soldiers, matrons, courtiers and eunuchs roam the streets. The perfumes exalt the senses in the historical center which echoes with the rolling drums and the war cries of the soldiers. The sound of the trumpet announces the triumphant procession celebrating the deeds of the comes Vitalianus, conqueror of Aternum (Pescara) and scourge of the Lombards.
As guests of the “Vassilissa”, the patrician matron in the retinue of the Byzantine troops, you can taste ancient delicacies, served on red slip plates, and wine mixed with honey, spice and rose petals in the gastronomic points on the borgo’s alleyways.

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Posted in Abandoned Places

|URBEX|Buonanotte Vecchio

Inside its streets it is not easy to walk, going through the grown plants and the collapsed buildings on the old pedestrian streets, but some of the old houses, the furniture, the fireplaces, the still remained beds maintain their charm in the midst of so much nature and silence.
Abandoned following a landslide in the early 70s, the village dates back to the twelfth century and in the beginning its name was “Malanotte”.
There are several legends about the origin of the name.
A curious story tells that, at the beginning, the inhabitants lost a local war. Because of this, the men had to give their wives overnight to the victorious enemy as the price of defeat. For this reason, for the defeated inhabitants, the town was called “Malanotte” while for the winners, the town was called “Buonanotte”.
According to another legend, a king passing by those parts with his retinue, in a night of storm. He stopped in the castle and give it the name of Malenotte castle. Then, in another visit, on a midsummer night, he would have exclaimed “this is a good night” and hence the name “Buonanotte” (Goodnight).
The town retained this name until 1969 when it was decided to change it with the current Montebello Sul Sangro. One of the reasons that led the inhabitants of the time to change the name of the town was because they was tired of being derided by the history of the name. Montebello sul Sangro, even today is the current new village still inhabited.
But historically speaking, the origins of Montebello Sul Sangro date back to the 12th century. It’s true that over time the village has changed several names: in the beginning it was known as “Malanotte” and later became “Buonanotte”. In the fifteenth century the village was a fief of Antonio Caldora and then of the lordship of the Annecchino’s with Raimondo. This family had come in the wake of the Caldora themselves. Over the years it changed different owners, and in 1447 Buonanotte was inhabited by 7 families, 21 in 1532, 25 in 1535, 34 in 1561, 17 in 1595 and 17 in 1732. In 1671, in the description of the Kingdom of Naples by Caracciolo-Beltrano, the town was mentioned with Malanotte name with 17 families.
Set on the ridge of the old mountain, today the old town is completely abandoned due to a landslide that slowly destroys it. The new village, not far away, rises on the eastern side of Monte Vecchio, on the left of the Sangro river of the same name. Montebello Sul Sangro is located in the Abruzzo Apennines and enjoys a beautiful view of the Maiella mountain massif.

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Posted in Abandoned Places

|URBEX|Villa Mocenigo-Mainardi

This is one of the most luxurious and important villas of Abano Terme, which hosted various famous personalities such as the playwright and writer Carlo Goldoni (who wrote “I Bagni d’Abano” here), the poet, philosopher and writer Giacomo Leopardi and the writer, adventurer and poet Giacomo Casanova. The zone was very popular among illustrious personages, and also Ugo Foscolo stayed in these parts, precisely in Villa Renier.
The Moceningo-Mainardi villa is located on the outskirts of Abano, in the “Guazzi” district and dates back to the early 18th century. It was built by the Mocenigo family, Venetian patricians who chose Abano as one of their favorite places. The villa hosted illustrious guests including and the residence gate is in wrought iron and is embellished by two Bonazza’s sculptures. With the collapse of the Serenissima Republic of Venice (treaty of Campoformio-1797), Villa Mocenigo became the property of the Trieste family, of Jewish origin, while the historical owners left Abano definitively. In 1938, the family Sacerdoti (new owners and Jews too) sold all their possessions, including villa, after having created a remarkable collection center for drying tobacco in the years when its cultivation was very popular in the Paduan countryside.
The Villa’s decline started with the Second World War when the Fascists penetrated the villa, destroying, among other things, the library that contained documents, reports, prints, rental contracts and sale, also related to the Mocenigo and, of consequence, to the history of Abano Terme. The coup de grace, then, was given in 1945 by the bombing of a train loaded with ammunition, which stopped nearby and whose explosion caused considerable damage for a radius of several kilometers. A patrimony of such high historical value seemed irreparably lost, and instead in 1968 the commissioner Leonildo Mainardi bought the villa and the attached factories starting a carefully reconstruction and modernization works. Despite this, at present, Villa Mocenigo-Mainardi is reduced to a state of almost ruin.

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