Friday, November 12, 2010

Travel Tip: High voltage

Dear travelers,
To charge your digital cameras, laptops, etc. in Europe during your Incantato performance tour, you will need an adapter. The U.S. plug (2 or 3 prong here in the U.S.) will not fit in a European socket. In most cases the European socket takes a plug with 2 round prongs.
The adapters allow an U.S. plug to plug in to the back of the adapter and the front of the adapter plugs into the European socket. You'll find adapters at stores like Radio Shack, Walmart or online at

Travel Tip: Money matters

Dear travelers, Money is a delicate subject. The best way to use your money during your upcoming trip is to have a debit card; this allows you to withdraw money from any ATM machine with only being charged a small withdrawal fee. The fee differs between banks. Be sure to call your bank before your departure to tell them where you are going and for how long so they won't freeze your account. The debit cards given by the bank has the compatibility of Visa, MasterCard, however, Visa is the most widely accepted worldwide. If you bring cash, you can exchange it but you will lose more money as they charge for their services. Most places in Europe won't accept traveler's checks anymore. Also, be prepared to pay for water and a little fee for restroom use. Last not least, there are no free refills on soft drinks in Europe which is why most Europeans ask for little to no ice in their drinks.
We suggest you have some spending money available and our recommendation is around 20 Dollar per day for the meals not included, snacks, drinks, postcards, some souvenirs. It is not imperative that you have this amount of money. There are many ways to lower your expenses such as:
· Most restaurants have menus outside so you can check their price range.
· Venture off the main roads to find a restaurant. These usually have more character, better food, and better prices.
· Bring your own water bottle. Most places have safe tap water to fill up with.
· Buy food from the "convenient" stores. You don't have to sit down in the restaurant for every meal.
· Shop around for souvenirs; many stores have the same things on sale for very different prices.

Last not least, remember that your Incantato Tour Manager is with you pretty much 24/7. The guide is there to help you make the right choices.

Travel Tip: Use of cell phones

Incantato Tours discourage their travelers to bring their phones to Europe on a performance tour because of the high costs for calls ($1/minute or more), text messages (50 cents and up) and data charges for online services. Therefore Incantato Tours will supply a free local cell phone for the tour director to use with free incoming calls and allowance for emergency outgoing ones.
If you would like to have more information on this subject, please check the "international section" of the website of your provider:

For T-Mobile:
WorldClass international service

For Verizon:

For Sprint:

For AT&T:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Travel Tip: Frequently asked questions

What should everyone carry at all times, real passport or a photo copy?
Ideally, your passport should be on your person at all times. Please be “street-smart” and don’t wave it around for all to see. Photocopies of the passport should be packed in your suitcase, available in your e-mail and Incantato should have a copy as well.

Is the tap water safe to drink?
The tab water is potable in many areas, although we would recommend to buy bottled water.

Do you have recommendations or suggestions on the type of power adapter needed and what wattage?
Electricity in Europe comes out of the wall socket at 220 volts alternating at a 50 cycles per second. In the US, electricity comes out of the wall socket at 110 volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. Not only the voltages and frequencies, but the sockets themselves are different. Adapters and converters may be found at Target, Walmart and radio shack etc.

What is the average meal cost? How much money should you bring?
As long as you are wise about your choices, meals can easily be 15 Euro or less. You don’t have to go to sit down restaurants to get decent food. But when you do want to sit down, you should check the menu outside to see if they have a "menu special" - you can get an entrée, dessert and a drink for a set price.

What the size limit and number of items is for carry-on?
You may have 1 carry-on bag - it must be able to fit either under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. We recommend a backpack.

What are the airline carry-on container regulations?
No containers holding more that 3ozs of liquid is allowed in the carry-on luggage. They also must be in a plastic zip-lock bag.

What has the best exchange rate, using a debit card to pull money out or exchanging US currency?
By far the best way is to use your debit card. Most banks only charge around $2 per withdraw and they also take care of the exchange rate for you. You do need a 4 digit pin and also let your bank know that you are travelling abroad. DO NOT BRING TRAVELLERS' CHEQUES!

What is the approximate exchange rate right now?
It’s about $1.35 to 1 EUR (February 2011).

What happens if someone gets injured while in tour? Medical care and cost wise? Do they need a medical consent form for treatment?
We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance. You find a link to our recommended partner on this blog.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Providence College Choir & Symphonic Winds - Tour Performance Program

The Providence College Choir and Symphonic Winds will present the following musical program as they tour Italy and the Vatican State with Incantato Tours from May 16 through 26, 2011.

Choir Selections
Title – Composer
Cry Out and Shout - Knut Nystedt
Alma Redemptoris Mater - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Sicut Cervus - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Tu es Petrus - Robert Pearsall 
Dies Irae - Zdeñek Lukáš
Contre qui Rose - Morten Lauridsen
Te Lucis Ante Terminum - J. Aaron McDermid
Rytmus - Ivan Hrušovsky 
The Road Home - Stephen Paulus
Locus Iste - Anton Bruckner
Otche Nash - arr. Nikolai Kedrov
Steal Away - arr. Eli Villanueva
Who’ll be a witness for my Lord - arr. Jester Hairston

Band Selections
Title – Composer
Commando March - Samuel Barber
O Magnum Mysterium - Morten Lauridsen, transcribed by H. Robert Reynolds
Strange Humors - John Mackey
October - Eric Whitacre
Southern Harmony - Donald Grantham
III. Exhilaration
Sòlas Ané - Samuel R. Hazo
Slava! - Leonard Bernstein

Friday, October 8, 2010

Providence College Choir and Symphonic Winds perform at Basilica Sant'Agnese in Agone (Rome) on May 25, 6:30 PM

The singers and musicians of Providence College will present a concert at Rome's Basilica Sant'Agnese in Agone at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, May 25, 2011.
The Basilica Sant’Agnese in Agone in Rome was constructed in 1652 on the site of Saint Agnes’ martyrdom, now the location of the Piazza Navona. The designs for the Baroque church were commissioned by Pope Innocent X, whose funerary monument now lies within the church. The Pope’s family even had a large palace adjacent to the church. Baroque architect Francesco Borromini ultimately introduced a concave volume in the center of the sanctuary, creating prime acoustics for vocal music. Visitors enjoy the interior’s premier sculptural artwork, accented by the marble relief found in the main altar, as well as Bernini’s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers that lies in front of the church.

Incantato performance venue: Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, Rome - Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 6:00 PM

The Providence travelers will perform mass at Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome at 6:00 PM on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. The Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, or Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major, is an ancient Catholic Marian Basilica of Rome. The church is believed to have been constructed under the reign of Pope Sixtus III between the years of 432 and 440. It is considered one of the four major papal basilicas, and together with Saint Lawrence outside the Walls, was formerly referred to as part of the five “patriarchal basilicas” of Rome associated with the five ancient sees of Christendom. Also known as the Liberian Basilica, the church was formerly presided over by Pope Liberius who housed many congregations of early Christians in Rome. Santa Maria Maggiore stands as the only Roman basilica that retained the core of its original structure, left intact since its original construction even following the earthquake of 1348.The name Santa Maria Maggiore reflects two very important ideas of greatness, that of a major papal basilica and that of the largest Roman church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Following the formal ending of the Avignon papacy when the papacy officially returned to Rome, Santa Maria Maggiore served as the temporary Palace of the Popes due to the deteriorated state of the Lateran Palace. The papal residence was later moved to the Palace of the Vatican, now Vatican City.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcome to Italy!

Italy is located partly on the European Continent and partly on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe and on the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its northern, Alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within the Italian Peninsula, and Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland. The territory of Italy covers 301,338 km² and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. With 60.2 million inhabitants, it is the sixth most populous country in Europe, and the twenty-third most populous in the world.
The land known as Italy today has been the cradle of European cultures and peoples, such as the Etruscans and the Romans. Italy's capital, Rome, was for centuries the political centre of Western civilisation, as the capital of the Roman Empire. After its decline, Italy would endure numerous invasions by foreign peoples, from Germanic tribes such as the Lombards and Ostrogoths, to the Normans and later, the Byzantines, among others. Centuries later, Italy would become the birthplace of the Renaissance, an immensely fruitful intellectual movement that would prove to be integral in shaping the subsequent course of European thought.
Through much of its post-Roman history, Italy was fragmented into numerous kingdoms and city-states (such as the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Duchy of Milan), but was unified in 1861, a tumultuous period in history known as the "Risorgimento". In the late 19th century, through World War I, and to World War II, Italy possessed a colonial empire, which extended its rule to Libya, Eritrea, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopia, Albania, Rhodes, the Dodecanese and a concession in Tianjin, China.
Modern Italy is a democratic republic and the world's eighteenth most developed country, with the eighth or tenth highest quality of life index rating in the world. It is a founding member of what is now the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Italy is also a member of the G8 and G20. It is a member state of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, the Council of Europe, and the Western European Union as well. The country's European political, social and economic influence make it a major regional power, alongside the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Russia, and Italy has been classified in a study, measuring hard power, as being the eleventh greatest worldwide national power. The country has a high public education level, high labor force, is a globalized nation, and also has 2009's sixth best international reputation. Italy also has the world's nineteenth highest life expectancy, and the world's second best health care system. It is the world's fifth most visited country, with over 43.7 million international arrivals, and boasts a long tradition and several achievements in the arts, science and technology, including the world's highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to date.

Your performance tour travel route through Italy

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Visit Monte Cassino

Monte Cassino is a rocky mountain approximately 80 miles southeast of Rome. Saint Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery here, the source and foundation of the Benedictine Order, in 529. The monastery stands as one of the few territorial abbeys remaining within the Catholic Church.
According the Gregory the Great’s biography of Saint Benedict, the monastery was constructed on an older pagan sight, a temple of Apollo that originally crowned the hill. The biography claims that Benedict’s first act was to smash the sculpture of Apollo and destroy the pagan altar. He then reused the temple, dedicating it to Saint Martin, and built a new chapel which he dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Once established at Monte Cassino, Benedict never left. There he penned the Benedictine Rule which ultimately became the founding principle of western monasticism. Monte Cassino became the model for future Benedictine developments throughout the world.
Unfortunately the Abbey has fallen target to numerous military insurgencies throughout the years, including the infamous 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino. On February 15, 1944, the Abbey was almost completely destroyed by Allied air-raids after being mistakenly identified as a German stronghold. In fact, the Abbey was being used as a refuge for women and children attempting to shield themselves from the war. The Abbey was rebuilt after the war, financed by the Italian State, and was reconsecrated by Pope Paul VI in 1964.

Incantato Destination: Ercolano

On Wednesday, May 18, 2011 the Providence College Choir and Symphonic Winds will visit Ercolano. Ercolano is a town and commune in the province of Naples, Campania. It was most likely founded by the Oscans, an Italic tribe of the 8th century BC and lies at the western foot of Mount Vesuvius, on the Bay of Naples, just southeast of the city of Naples. The medieval town of Resina was built on the volcanic material left by the eruption of Vesuvius (AD 79) that destroyed the ancient city of Herculaneum, from which the present name is derived. The town manufactures leather goods, buttons, glass, and the wine known as Lacryma Christi (Tear of Christ).

Monday, October 4, 2010

City facts about Naples

Naples is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples. The city is known for its rich history, art, culture, architecture, music and gastronomy, playing an important role in the country's history and beyond throughout much of its existence, which began more than 2,800 years ago. Naples is located halfway between two volcanic areas, the volcano Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, sitting on the coast by the Gulf of Naples. Founded in the 8th century BC, as a Greek colony, before under the name of Parthenope, and later Neápolis (New City), Naples is one of the oldest cities in the world, and it held an important role in Magna Graecia; while when the city became part of the Roman Republic in the central province of the Empire, was a major cultural center (Virgil is one of the symbol of the political and cultural freedom of Naples). The city has seen a multitude of civilizations come and go, each leaving their mark: now the historic city centre is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Naples was preeminently the capital city of a kingdom which bore its name from 1282 until 1816 in the form of the Kingdom of Naples, then in union with Sicily it was the capital of the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification. Naples has profoundly influenced many areas of Europe and beyond. The city proper has a population of around 1 million people: Naples is the most densely populated major city in Italy. The city is also synonymous with pizza, which originated in the city. A strong part of Neapolitan culture which has had wide reaching effects is music, including the invention of the romantic guitar and the mandolin as well as strong contributions to opera and folk standards. There are popular characters and figures who have come to symbolise Naples; these include the patron saint of the city Januarius, Pulcinella, and the Sirens from the epic Greek poem the Odyssey.

Incantato Impressions: Culinary Italy

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Home away from home: Ramada Naples

Located within the beautifully renovated former Palazzo dell-Auto building, the Ramada Naples is strategically located between the business area and historical center of Naples. The hotel’s 152 guest rooms offer satellite television, air conditioning, and personal safe, wireless internet access, and ensuite bathroom with hairdryer. Recent guest reviews award the Ramada Naples high ratings for cleanliness, comfort, and quality service.

Naples: the birthplace of pizza!

Enjoy this fun video about the birthplace of pizza:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Incantato Impressions: Amalfi Coast

Welcome to Maiori!

The Providence College Performance Tour visits Maiori on May 20. Maiori is a town and community on the Amalfi coast in the province of Salerno (Campania, Italy). It has been a popular tourist resort since Roman times, with the longest unbroken stretch of beach on the Amalfi coastline. The origins of the town are unclear but the original name of the town was Reghinna Maior, in contrast to the neighbouring town, Minori, Reghinna Minor. All places along the coast were formed by alternating conquerors - such as the Etruscans or the Romans. Between 830 and 840, the places of the coast united to form a confederation of Amalfi States. In this Amalfi Sea Republic, the places between Lettere and Tramonti and between Cetara and Positano, along with the island of Capri, were united; and their inhabitants were all called Amalfitaner. At that time, each city retained its own name and administrative autonomy, but had a specific role in this federation. Later it became part of the Principality of Salerno, and then of the Kingdom of Naples, of which it followed the history until the 19th century.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Visit Casal Pilozzo

Casal Pilozzo, a property of the Pulcini family located in the village of Monte Porzio Catone, sits atop a marvelous hill just nine and a half miles south of Rome offering beautiful views of the Eternal City.
Considered one of the oldest farms of the Castelli Romani area, the Casale was built on the ruins of an ancient dwelling place thought by many scholars to be the residence of the sister and nephew of Emperor Traiano. Throughout the modern age, it has served as residence to many famous personalities, from the likes of Orson Welles to the families of Filonardi Brandi e Bottai and Tyrone Power.
The subsoil of the Casale features ancient tufa soil grottoes, extending for hundreds of meters, where the wines are stored to mature in natural conditions of stable temperature and humidity. Hidden in the depths of the cellars stands an ancient altar carved in the tufa soil. Some historians believe the cellars to be remnants of a cave-dwelling “protostorico” village.
The Casale stands in the center of the property, surrounded by a magnificent park and 13 hectares of volcanic land now cultivated for vineyards and olive groves. The pride of Casal Pilozzo remains the strictly biological cultivation and selection of wine grapes. Varieties include Malvasia del Lazio, Grechetto Antico, Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlote, and Syrah.
The Vineyards and vinification, olive trees, and oil production are all personally controlled by the Pulcini family. This makes the Casal Pilozzo one of the few truly “family-run” operations, demonstrating in practice the very real possibility for creating high-quality products in coexistence with an environmentally friendly philosophy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Incantato Performance Venue: St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City confirmed for PC on May 22

Now if that is not the best way to start "dreaming" about the Providence College Italy Performance Tour 2011, by knowing already that you will be perfoming in the most important Catholic cathedral on May 22 at 5:30 pm.
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter is located within the Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, holding 60,000 people. It is the symbolic "Mother church" of the Catholic Church and is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom".
In Catholic tradition, it is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626.
St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage, for its liturgical functions and for its historical associations. It is associated with the papacy, with the Counter-reformation and with numerous artists, most significantly Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564), an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. Michelangelo took over a building site at which four piers, enormous beyond any constructed since the days of Ancient Rome, were rising behind the remaining nave of the old basilica. He also inherited the numerous schemes designed and redesigned by some of the greatest architectural and engineering brains of the 16th century.
Incidentally there are over 100 tombs within St. Peter's Basilica, many located in the Vatican grotto, beneath the Basilica. These include 91 popes, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, and the composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Exiled Catholic British royalty James Francis Edward Stuart and his two sons, Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict Stuart, are buried here, having been granted asylum by Pope Clement XI. The most recent interment was Pope John Paul II, on April 8, 2005.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Incantato Destination: Monte Porzio Catone, Italy

Monte Porzio Catone is a municipality of the Province of Rome in the Italian Region of Latium and lies approximately twenty kilometers southeast of Rome in the Alban Hills. In addition to the Church of Saint Gregory the Great, erected in 1666 by Carlo Rainaldi for the Borghese family, ome of the town’s main attractions include the Astronomical Rome Observatory, the Museum of Wine, the City Museum, and the Iseo Alari Community School of Music.
The Astronomical Rome Observatory was built in 1939 and is located two kilometers from the city center. The structure rises from the remains of “Matilda’s Villa,” a first century Roman Villa. Originally built for the purpose of preserving the equipment of the National Observatory in Rome, the rationalist-style Astronomical Rome Observatory now promotes astronomic and scientific studies through educational initiatives and exchanges with schools and universities.
Opened in 2000, the Museum of Wine not only provides visitors with the highest quality wine tastings, but also takes guests through the process of creating wine. A tour of the museum teaches visitors, through the use of photos and demonstrations, the intricate steps of the wine production process. The museum even houses its own exclusive wine cellar.
The Monte Porzio City Museum is housed within a recently restored seventeenth century cathedral within the heart of the city. The museum illustrates the multi-thousand-year history of the city through such exhibitions as archeological findings, medieval papal pottery, and seventeenth century art.
The Iseo Ilari Community School of Music was founded by the Monte Porzio Catone City Administration in 1999. Through not only classes, but also performances and workshops, the school succeeds in encouraging social interaction and acceptance through the dissemination of music and cultural arts. The school, a recognized institution of the Italian Association of Schools of Music, currently offers studies in Classical Tradition and Music Performance.

For more information on Monte Porzio Catone, Italy, please visit:

Incantato Impressions: Rome

Fun Facts about Rome

  • Rome's early history is shrouded in legend. According to Roman tradition, the city was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus on 21 April 753 BC.
  • Due to this centrality on many levels, the city has been nicknamed "Caput Mundi" (Latin for "Capital of the World") and "The Eternal City".
  • Its rich artistic heritage and vast amount of ancient, notably architectural and archaeological sites, contribute to the city's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Rome is the third-most-visited tourist destination in the European Union.
  • The city is also an important worldwide hub of the cinematic and filming industry, home to the important and large Cinecittà Studios, which saw the filming of several internationally acclaimed movies as well as television programmes.
  • The Rome metropolitan area has a GDP of €109.4 billion (US$ 149.14), and according to a 2008 study, the city is the world's 35th richest city by purchasing power.
  • The city hosted the 1960 Olympic Games and is also an official candidate for the 2020 Olympic Games.
  • Rome is an important centre for music, and it has an intense musical scene, including several prestigious music conservatories and theatres. It hosts the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (founded in 1585), for which new concert halls have been built in the new Parco della Musica, one of the largest musical venues in the world.
  • A Jewish influence in the italian dishes can be seen, as Jews have lived in Rome since the 1st century BCE. Examples of these include "Saltimbocca alla Romana" - a veal cutlet, Roman-style; topped with raw ham and sage and simmered with white wine and butter - and "Carciofi alla giudia" - artichokes fried in olive oil, typical of Roman Jewish cooking.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tour the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel

The Vatican Museums are indisputably one of the finest collections of art in the world. Over the centuries, Papal patrons have commissioned renowned works such as the magnificent frescoes of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and those by Raphael in his stanze. The museums also host some of the most important sculptures from the ancient world, such as the Laocoon and the Apollo Belvedere. Incantato Tours is thrilled to offer the Providence College Choir and friends the opportunity to see these works as they were originally viewed and contemplated by the Popes who created the Museums.
Incantato's visit to the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel will be led by a specialized docent/expert
guide and is just open to members of your tour. We also provide headsets to everyone for a truly individual experience. This is an exceptional opportunity for an intimate visit and lecture on the Vatican and its impressive art collection without the press and chaos of the crowds. 
Please note that not all galleries will be accessible to us during this after hours visit. The Pinacoteca and Egyptian collections are not available for viewing after closing hours. The opportunity to view the Belvedere Courtyard is also dependent on the route the Vatican guards allow us to take. We normally spend a significant amount of time (35-40 minutes) inside the Sistine Chapel and divide the rest of our time between the Gallery of Maps, Tapestry Gallery, and Raphael Rooms, including other collections as time and security permits.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

City Facts about Florence

  • Florence is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 367,569 inhabitants.
  • A centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the richest and wealthiest cities of the time, Florence is often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance; in fact, it has been called the Athens of the Middle Ages.
  • The historic centre of Florence attracts millions of tourists each year and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.
  • It has been the birthplace or chosen home of many notable historical figures, such as Dante, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci.
  • Florence being historically the first home of Italian fashion is also home to the legendary Italian fashion establishment Salvatore Ferragamo, notable as one of the oldest and most famous Italian fashion houses.
  • Florence has been a setting for numerous works of fiction and movies, including the novels and associated films, such as "Hannibal", "A Room with a View", "Tea with Mussolini" and "Virgin Territory".
  • The city is one of the great wine-growing regions in the world. The Chianti region is just south of the city, and its Sangiovese grapes figure prominently not only in its Chianti Classico wines but also in many of the more recently developed Supertuscan blends.

Explore Tuscany with Incantato Tours

Tuscany is a region in Central Italy. It has an area of 22,990 square kilometres (8,880 sq mi) and a population of about 3.6 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence.
Tuscany is known for its beautiful landscapes, its rich artistic legacy and vast influence on high culture. Tuscany is widely regarded as the true birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and has been home to some of the most influential people in history, such as Petrarch, Dante, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Amerigo Vespucci and Puccini. Due to this, the region has several museums, most of which (such as the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace) are found in Florence, but others in towns and smaller villages. Tuscany has a unique culinary tradition, and is famous for its wines (most famous of which are Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino). Six Tuscan localities have been designated World Heritage Sites: the historical center of Florence (1982), the historical center of Siena (1995), the square of the Cathedral of Pisa (1987), the historical center of San Gimignano (1990), the historical center of Pienza (1996) and the Val d'Orcia (2004). Furthermore, Tuscany has over 120 protected nature reserves. This makes Tuscany and its capital city Florence very popular tourist destinations, attracting millions of tourists every year. Florence itself receives an average of 10 million tourists a year by placing the city as one of the most visited in the world.

Incantato Impressions: Calvi dell'Umbria

Visit Calvi dell'Umbria

Calvi dell'Umbria is a commune municipality in the Province of Terni in the Italian region Umbria, located about 40 miles south of Perugia and about 12 miles southwest of Terni. The area was inhabited in Roman times but failed to develop as an urban center until the High Middle Ages. Calvi was a fief of the Orsini and then of the Anguillara families. The main attractions are the church of Santa Maria, with an elegant Late Renaissance baptismal font, and the church of Sant'Antonio. The ruins of a convent erected by Saint Francis in the early 13th century can be found in the city.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Italian news: Who owns Michelangelo's "David"?

For 500 years, Michelangelo’s “David” has stood as a symbol of Florentine independence and virtue. However, following a recent report commissioned by the federal government shocked native Florentines by suggesting that Italy—not the city of Florence—was the rightful owner.
As local tempers flared, Florence’s Mayor Matteo Renzi defended the city’s ties to the famous statue.
“The ‘David’ is not an umbrella to be haggled over. It’s a monument in which the city of Florence still sees its identity,” says Renzi. “The sculpture has always and will always belong to Florence.”
Civic pride aside, the dispute over “David” also raises the question of who benefits from Italy’s cultural patrimony. More than one million people visited the Accademia Gallery in 2009 to see “David,” making it the fourth most visited cultural site in the country. Ticket sales exceeded $7 million with the benefits going to the federal Culture Ministry coffers.
Although the question of ownership and related issues surrounding “David” date back to previous administrations, the turning point culminated in early 2010 when the Culture Ministry commissioned a pair of lawyers to analyze official documents. A nine-page document written in dense legalese concludes that “David” belongs to the nation of Italy, the true legal successor of the Florentine Republic, who commissioned the statue in 1501.
Following its completion in 1504, the statue was immediately hailed as a masterpiece and placed in front of the Palazzo della Signoria, which still remains the civic heart of the city. 16th century Italian painter and architect Giorgio Vasari praised the sculpture by claiming that “whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture, either now in our own or in other times.” The sculpture remained there until 1873 when it was transferred to the Accademia in the Kingdom of Italy. Following the construction of a base for the massive work in 1877, the city could have advanced ownership rights but, according to the lawyers’ report, did not. Therefore, they say, the city has no grounds for claiming ownership.
The mayor, however, had documents of his own stating that Florence had been the capital of the former Kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1870, and “David” was part of the package deal that the kingdom offered the city when transferring the capital to Rome. Proof of ownership, he said, is in a document dated June 9, 1871, authorizing the transfer of ownership of several buildings to the city, including the Palazzo Vecchio where the statue stood at that time.
In an additional twist, Italian news outlets also reported that Simone Caffaz, the president of the Fine Arts Academy of Carrara, where the marble used for “David” was quarried, believed that Carrara also had the right to make its own claims on Michelangelo’s work.
“If the state and the city actually ever bring this issue to court, it will be terrible publicity for Florence,” fretted Gabriele Toccafondi, a member of Parliament and the local leader of the center-right People of Freedom Party. “People will see this as a sort of commedia all’Italiana.”
On a recent August weekday, dozens of tourists gaped and gawked at “David,” towering in his tribune at the Accademia.
Seeing “David” had definitely been “the highlight of this trip,” said Sorcha O’Keefe, a primary school teacher from Cork, Ireland. But the squabble over “David” made little sense to her. “I can’t see that it would matter who officially owns it, as long as it is there for everyone to enjoy,” she said.
An August 31, 2010 article in the New York Times further discusses the ongoing dispute.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Possible performance venue: Sant'Agnese in Agone, Rome

The Basilica Sant’Agnese in Agone in Rome was constructed in 1652 on the site of Saint Agnes’ martyrdom, now the location of the Piazza Navona. The designs for the Baroque church were commissioned by Pope Innocent X, whose funerary monument now lies within the church. The Pope’s family even had a large palace adjacent to the church. Baroque architect Francesco Borromini ultimately introduced a concave volume in the center of the sanctuary, creating prime acoustics for vocal music. Visitors enjoy the interior’s premier sculptural artwork, accented by the marble relief found in the main altar, as well as Bernini’s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers that lies in front of the church.

Monday, March 15, 2010

City Facts about Assisi

is a town and comune of Italy in province of Perugia, in the Umbria region and on the western flank of Monte Subasio. It was the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208, and St. Clare (Chiara d'Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Clares. Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows of the 19th century was also born in Assisi.
The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi (St. Francis) is a World Heritage Site. The Franciscan monastery, il Sacro Convento, and the lower and upper church of St Francis were begun immediately after his canonization in 1228, and completed in 1253. The lower church has frescos by renowned late-medieval artists Cimabue and Giotto; in the upper church are frescos of scenes in the life of St. Francis previously ascribed to Giotto and now thought to be by artists of the circle of Pietro Cavallini of Rome.

City Facts about Siena

Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the province of Siena. The historic centre of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. It is one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions, with over 169,000 international arrivals in 2008. Siena is famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and palio.
Siena, like other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (c. 900 BC to 400 BC) when it was inhabited by a tribe called the Saina. The Etruscans were an advanced people who changed the face of central Italy through their use of irrigation to reclaim previously unfarmable land, and their custom of building their settlements in well-defended hill-forts. A Roman town called Saena Julia was founded at the site in the time of the Emperor Augustus. The first document mentioning it dates from AD 70. Some archaeologists assert it was controlled for a period by a Gaulish tribe called the Saenones.
Siena's cathedral, the Duomo, begun in the twelfth century, is one of the great examples of Italian romanesque architecture. Its main façade was completed in 1380. It is unusual for a Christian cathedral in that its axis runs north-south. This is because it was originally intended to be the largest cathedral in existence, with a north-south transept and an east-west aisle, as is usual. After the completion of the transept and the building of the east wall (which still exists and may be climbed by the public via an internal staircase) the money ran out and the rest of the cathedral was abandoned.
Over the centuries, Siena has had a rich tradition of arts and artists. The list of artists from the Sienese School include Duccio, and his student Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and Martino di Bartolomeo. A number of well known works of Renaissance and High Renaissance art still remain in Siena galleries or decorate churches in Siena.

Impressions from the 2008 Chapman Choir Incantato Italy Tour: Singing for the Pope

Here are some impressions from the Papal Audience where the Chapman University Choir had front row seats as part of their 2008 Incantato Performance Tour. The singers from Orange, CA under the direction of Dr. Joseph Modica made themselves heard with the moving spiritual "Hark, I hear the harps eternal!" (arr. A. Parker) and received enthusiastic applause from thousands of people in the square and also the Pope himself. (Photo credit goes to Joe Modica and those he gave his camera to)

Incantato Performance Venue: St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina

St. Paul's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Mdina, in Malta. It is built on the site where governor Publius was reported to have met Saint Paul following his shipwreck off the Maltese coast.
According to tradition, the first Cathedral of Malta was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God but, having fallen into ruin during the Muslim period, it was rebuilt following the Norman conquest and re-dedicated to St Paul. The old church was modified and enlarged several times. The building we can see today was designed by the architect Lorenzo Gafa, it was built between 1697 and 1702 to replace a ruined Norman cathedral destroyed by the 1693 earthquake on Malta. Despite this, several artifacts and edifices survived including the painting by the Calabrian artist Mattia Preti depicting the conversion of Saint Paul, a 15th century Tuscan painting of the Madonna and Child, and frescoes in the apse which illustrate Paul's shipwreck.
St. Paul's Cathedral is a fine structure, designed by architect Lorenzo Gafa. Its impressive façade wows visitors as they emerge from Mdina’s narrow streets. The cathedral's magnificent dome, with red-and-white stripes, dominates the skyline. The dome's interior has been decorated by a succession of painters; today’s decoration dates from the 1950s. The lavish interior of the cathedral is similar in many ways to the Cathedral of St. John in Valetta. There are great works by the Calabrian artist and knight Mattia Preti and a marble-inlaid floor with tombstones carrying the coats of arms and inscriptions of the bishops of Mdina and other members of the cathedral chapter. Surviving from the original Norman church is a monumental depiction of the conversion of St. Paul by Mattia Preti, between the apse and main altar. Also surviving from the old church are: the 15th-century Tuscan panel painting of the Madonna and Child; the baptismal font; the frescoes in the apse depicting St. Paul’s shipwreck; and the old portal, made of carved Irish bog wood, which now serves as a door to the vestry. The cathedral's museum has a collection of coins, silver plate, religious vestments and some woodcuts by the German artist Albert Dürer.

Incantato Performance Venue: Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere

Incantato Tours sends singers to hidden gems - like the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome. Have a closer look at this venue:

The Basilica of Our Lady's in Trastevere (Italian: Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere) is a titular minor basilica, one of the oldest churches in Rome, perhaps the first in which mass was openly celebrated. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s AD. The inscription on the episcopal chair states that it is the first church dedicated to the Mother of God, although some claim that privilege belongs to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. In its foundation it is certainly one of the oldest churches in the city. A Christian house-church was founded here about 220 by Pope Saint Callixtus I. (217-222) on the site of the Taberna meritoria, an asylum for retired soldiers. The area was given over to Christian use by the Emperor Septimius Severus when he settled a dispute between the Christians and tavern-keepers. In 340 Pope Julius I. (337-352) rebuilt the titulus Callixti on a larger scale, and it became the titulus Iulii commemorating his patronage, one of the original twenty-five parishes in Rome; indeed it may be the first church in which Mass was celebrated openly. It underwent two restorations in the fifth and eighth centuries. In 1140-43 the church was re-erected on its old foundations under Pope Innocent II. Innocent II. razed the church, along with the recently completed tomb of his former rival Pope Anacletus II., to the ground, and arranged for his own burial on the spot formerly occupied by that tomb. The present nave preserves its original (pre-12th century) basilica plan and stands on the earlier foundations. The 22 granite columns with Ionic and Corinthian capitals that separate the nave from the aisles came from the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, as did the lintel of the entrance door.
The picture is from the official website of the church. And here is a video taken during the 2008 Incantato Performance Tour for the Chapman University Choirs directed by Dr. Joseph Modica at Santa Maria in Trastevere which was attended by around 800 guests from all over the world.

Incantato Performance Venue: Santa Maria Assunta Church in Calvi dell'Umbria

Calvi dell'Umbria is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Terni in the Italian region Umbria, located about 80 km south of Perugia and about 20 km southwest of Terni. The area was inhabited in Roman times, but developed as an urban center only in the High Middle Ages. Calvi was a fief of the Orsini and then of the Anguillara families. The main attractions are the church of Santa Maria, with an elegant Late Renaissance baptisal font, and the church of Sant'Antonio. In the neighborhood are the remains of a convent erected by St. Francis in the early 13th century.

The picture is from the official website of the town.

Incantato Performance Venue: St. George’s Basilica, Ta’ Pinu, in Gozo

Incantato Tours is proud to present this great venue: St. George’s Basilica, Ta’ Pinu, in Gozo.

The basilica was built in a neo-romantic style which means that the designer rejected or abandoned the use of the devices of avant-garde modernism and followed an older tradition. This is a national shrine and a center of pilgrimages for both the Gozitans and the Maltese as it is told on several accounts that the voice of Mary has been heard from inside. The present church was started in 1920 and consecrated in 1931.

Incantato Performance Venue: St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valetta

St John’s Co-Cathedral is a gem of Baroque art and architecture. It was built as the temple of the Knights of St. John. The severe exterior of the Cathedral, built immediately after the ending of the Great Siege of 1565, is reminiscent of a military fort The Grand Masters and several knights donated gifts of high artistic value and made enormous contributions to enrich it with only the best works of art. This church is till this very day an important shrine and a sacred place of worship. The Church was designed by the Maltese military architect Glormu Cassar who designed several of the more prominent buildings in Valletta.
The painting depicting The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608) by Caravaggio (1571-1610) is the most famous work in the church. Considered one of Caravaggio's masterpieces and the only painting signed by the painter, the canvas is displayed in the Oratory for which it was painted. Restored in the late 1990's in Florence, this painting is one of Caravaggio's most impressive uses of the chiaroscuro style for which he is most famous with a circle of light illuminating the scene of St John's beheading at the request of Salome. The oratory also houses Caravaggio's St Jerome III (1607–1608).

The 2008 Incantato Italy Tour for the CSULB Chamber Choir

CSULB Chamber Choir Italy Tour from Eric Kim on Vimeo.
CSULB Chamber Choir Italy Incantato Tour Promotional Video