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Bill Thayer

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A Gazetteer of Italy

A country in Southern Europe: 301,000 sq. km. 2000 population: 57,700,000. Capital: Rome

[image ALT: A large old stone church, in a field with parasol pines, built on several arches of a Roman bridge. It is the church of S. Giovanni de Butris near Acquasparta, Umbria (central Italy).]

The church of S. Giovanni de Butris near Acquasparta, in Umbria.

[image ALT: The deeply shaded small courtyard of a farm, with two stone benches and a pair of chickens.]

Umbria: I've spent so much time walking this central Italian region — about 2000 km so far — and have so many photos of it on this website, that there are times when I feel it's turning into a subsite of the Umbrian tourist agency. The site covers the usual limited haunts of foreign visitors (Assisi, Orvieto, Spoleto, etc.) of course, but also all the other principal towns — the 92 comuni — and quite a few much smaller places, as well as special sections on the Churches of Umbria and the Via Flaminia, plus four books by other writers.

[ 5/28/23: 787 pages, 2029 photos, plus those in my diary ]

[image ALT: The Arch of Constantine under some pine trees.]

Rome: Several dozen day-trips to the city, and a few longer stays, each of them seeming inadequate, have collected me lots of material. A number of subsites are open:

Amphitheatrum Castrense • Ara Pacis • Arch of Constantine • Colosseum • Palatine Hill • Pantheon • Trajan's Column • Villa Borghese • Churches of Rome

My site on the City also includes a large topographical section, with a Web-enhanced edition of Rodolfo Lanciani's wonder­ful book, Pagan and Christian Rome, tracing the evolution of the ancient city into today's capital — a fascinating story; Christian Hülsen's book on The Roman Forum, and an increasing number of articles (Jul 04: about 500) from Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, sometimes with further annotations and photos.

[ 11/18/04: 594 pages,
410 photos, 170 drawings, 21 plans, 10 maps ]

[image ALT: A large shuttle-shaped mountain, looking very dry at the end of summer. It is a view of M. Soratte in the Lazio (Italy).]

Like many other areas around the capitals of countries, the Latium is a depopulated area, its inhabitants and its money being drawn to the metropolis. That in turn often means that monuments and churches don't get rebuilt, so that we have more ancient buildings which we now view as more interesting. The Lazio is no exception: I have a few scattered pages from some almost random excursions, and a growing subsite on one small part of it that I've never so much as been to.

Antrodoco • Artena and La Civita • Bomarzo • Civita Castellana • Gaeta • Leonessa • Orte • Ostia Antica • Rieti • Viterbo

[ 10/23/12: 53 pages, 2 maps, 132 photos,
plus those in my diary ]

[image ALT: A two‑story octagonal domed stone church in the neoclassical style, inside a prehistoric cave. It is the Chapel of Pope Leo XIII at S. Maria in Frasassi in the Marche (central Italy).]

The Marche are tucked out of the way, so that the casual traveller to Italy, and certainly those who scramble from Venice to Florence to Rome to look at famous things, will never see them. At best they'll cross the region on a train, or nip thru a piece of it accidentally by car. Yet it is a beauti­ful part of Italy, and there is a saying — carefully fostered by the regional tourism authorities — that to see the Marche is to see all the country has to offer, in one place. Well, little by little, I'm getting to know the 4 provinces:

Ancona • Ascoli Piceno • Macerata • Pesaro

[ 3/27/08: 36 pages, 80 photos, plus those in my diary ]

[image ALT: A large stone church with a tall square tower and a much shorter, squat octagonal tower, over­looking an urban landscape with small pine trees. It is the Duomo, or cathedral, of Massa Marittima, Tuscany (central Italy).]

Tuscany: A ten-day trip around New Year's 1997 and a couple of later sorties provided me with a few rolls of good pictures and a suitcase of books. Typically, I didn't go to Florence, Pisa or Siena; instead you will be seeing small sites on some of the many lesser but equally beauti­ful towns in the region:

Anghiari • Arezzo • Caprese Michelangelo • Empoli • Forte dei Marmi • Massa Marittima • Orbetello • Pierle • Pitigliano • S. Gimignano • S. Miniato al Tedesco • Sansepolcro • Talamone • Vetulonia • Volterra

[ 2/17/07: 93 pages, 87 photos; plus those in my diary ]

[image ALT: A small urban square, open on the right to a two-lane street receding into the distance, with a lone bicyclist approaching us in the foreground. We see basically one side of the square: two stuccoed buildings of a ground floor and one more story. The one on the right has two windows with shutters, with a circular stucco medallion over each, and between them a smaller French door, shuttered, leading onto a diminutive stone balcony. From the nondescript house on the left, two more stories of square church belfry poke up, belonging to a church the façade of which we see just barely, edgewise, on the street on the right. This is a view of the Piazza Pisacane in Cesenatico, a town of Emilia-Romagna (Italy).]

Emilia-Romagna: A few scattered brief visits, so a correspondingly small site; most of it is devoted to Rimini and its Roman monuments, but there is some material on other places as well.

[ 9/12/07: 18 pages, 26 photos ]

[image ALT: A scene of a narrow street, taken thru a dark archway. It is a view of Chioggia, in the Veneto (Italy).]

Veneto: Just 2 days in the region, so hardly a big site; still, some pages on: Chioggia & Sottomarina •  Rovigo

[ 6/20/12: 10 pages, 22 photos, 4 maps, 2 other illustrations ]

[image ALT: A very large marble church, wider than it is tall, at the back of a square maybe the size of 4 city blocks. It is a view of the cathedral of Milan (Italy).]

Milan: The same Christmas vacations that are slowly producing the Tuscany site will also give you the glorious roof of the cathedral of Milan and much more. For now, I've started with the Basilica of S. Ambrogio and the celebrated amphitheatre.

[ 11/23/99: 12 pages, 25 photos, 1 engraving ]

[image ALT: A long stone trough receding into the distance, filled with water issuing from a number of sculptured spouts. It is a partial view of the Fountain of the 99 Spouts in L'Aquila (central Italy).]

L'Aquila: For now, a little placeholder site — and it may never be much more, since so far I've spent all of 24 hours in the Abruzzo — but the photos are good.

[ 4/7/09: 2 pages, 17 photos ]

Topical Pages and Travelers' Accounts

[image ALT: A large stone church in the shape of a domed quatrefoil, set on the side of a hill and over­looking a wide rural landscape. It is the church of S. Maria della Consolazione, in Todi, Umbria (central Italy).]

If you're interested in churches, you can cut across all the pages listed above and just browse my small collection of Churches of Italy: a reminder that yes, anything fewer than 5000 churches should be considered a small sample.

[ 5/31/23: 714 churches in 400 pages with 1630 photos,
49 wayside shrines in 27 pages with 88 photos ]

[image ALT: Two pages of a handwritten notebook. It is a sample of my diary.]

Italian diary: The raw material for all these Italian pages. Since I often travel on foot, this informal approach includes details that could be useful if you're planning a trip or a bike tour. Illustrated with photos that most of the time don't appear anywhere else yet on my site, it is also partly indexed, and linked to my own subsites as I put these online, as well as to the better external sites.

[ 6/18/04: 237 pages, about 650 photos ]

[image ALT: A heraldic design: on the dexter side, the keys of St. Peter, and on the sinister side, the French fleurs-de‑lys.]

Tobias Smollett's Travels through France and Italy are an entertaining read, although it's hard to say whether Italy or the author comes off worse in them. I've ignored the French portion altogether, but Letters 25‑35 that form the full account of the doctor's Italian tour in the fall of 1764 are now onsite, illustrated with my own photos, and occasionally annotated: what's an author for, if not to be disagreed with?

[ 10/21/00: 11 pages, 12 photos not elsewhere onsite ]

[image ALT: A representation of an Etruscan mirror from the cover of a book.]

George Dennis's Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria (1848) was one of the first English-language books on Etruscan monuments; and although there have since been 150 years of excavations and research, this careful observer remains an extremely valuable source of information: certainly, an indispensable tool to anyone traveling central Italy in search of the Etruscans.

[ 1165pp of print presented in 64 webpages;
107 engravings, 2 plans, 6 maps;
4 photos of my own, not elsewhere onsite ]

The Rulers of the South — Sicily • Calabria • Malta is a history of Southern Italy from prehistory down to the sixteenth century, an excellent readable overview faithfully based on the old sources. It combines military history with an atmospheric portrayal of Sicily in particular, where the author lived for many years.

[ 16 webpages: 775 pages of print;
123 lithographs or photos and 3 maps ]

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Site updated: 31 May 23