After touring two thermal spas here in Italy this week, our tour took a pleasant and unexpected turn when we reached Capralola.
Our bus navigated narrow roads, stone bridges and winding passes to enter Capralola, a small town accented by the Cimini Mountains.
The range of volcanic hills jut into the distance, with Capralola serving as the piccolo cittá (small town) sitting above.
The tour led us to Palazzo Farnese, a beautiful Italian villa designed using Renaissance architecture.
Plans to build Palazzo Farnese begun in 1504, but were not complete until 1573, due to a complicated history with several factors, the largest of which involves the advancement of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese to the papacy in Rome (Pope Paul III).
The grounds of the Palazzo were luxurious, intricate, and covered in art from floor to ceiling. My neck still aches from craning to take in its many artistic displays.
A circular center courtyard affording a view to the sky was surrounded by a pentagon-shaped mansion with three floors, similar to a slice of angular swiss cheese with one gaping hold in the middle.
The ornate decorations abounding proved true to its era of creation.
Art, while pleasing to the eye, also serves the multi-dimensional purpose of conveying history, symbolism, religious meaning and status. The Farnese crest, comprised of six fleur de lis (known as a lily in Italy), was infused into the art countless times.
We passed through room after room, but one proved to be particularly captivating. A long rectangular room with high ceilings displayed roughly eight maps of the world created at that time. Australia hadn’t been discovered yet, and while explorers hadn’t named Antartica, they had noted a large land mass. Outside of Europe only North America, South America, Asia, and Africa had been discovered.
Portraits of the world’s great explorers interspersed the maps. Dressed in formal attire, the serious faces of Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Amerigo Vespucci, and Marco Polo looked down upon us.
The vast and expansive winter garden led to a long set of stone and grass stairs leading to the summer estate. Framed by 30-foot stone sculptures and intricately carved bushes, my attentive listening skills as a tour attendee were shattered when a small kitten appeared.
Strolling towards me with squinting eyes and childlike curiosity, the adorable furball purred as I scratched her ears.
Who doesn’t fall in love with an adorable little animal eager for love and attention?
But I was safe to enjoy her. I couldn’t very well take an Italian kitten from the Palazzo Farnese home with me. The thought did cross my mind though. (And was quickly squelched by my memory of a previous failure to commit long-term to the perfect cat, Madeline).
Gato Farnese found a temporary home in my arms and I poured as much love on her as I could before forcing myself to place her down and walk away.
Departing Palazzo Farnese, we walked back through town. My eyes combed each detail, taking in the boutiques, bars and the ever-present caffé, but resting with a heavy heart and smile on a crowded bus stop.
Five adorable elderly women and men sat patiently waiting for the bus, canes in hand and stoic faces looking forward.
My own grandmother Liberata could have been on this very same corner, in another time.
Part of my family tree extends to central Italy, and it is safe to say that my ancestors had walked the very streets I now discover. It now seems not so long ago that my great-grandparents Libro and Lucia came from Italy and settled into Chicago.
The delights of Italy abound, and this trip has proven therapeutic and rejuvenating to both my body and soul.
My hips, now that is another question. But for now, I will just enjoy.