Category Archives: Aspects of Italy

Italian Scientists

On the 26th of July the Aspects of Italy group were highly entertained and well instructed by Richard Jones on the subject of “Italian Scientists “. By taking us from before Galileo Galilei to the 20th century, Richard covered the lives and achievements of twelve scientists during an hour and a half with a mid- point coffee break.

To a non- scientist it was fascinating to discover the link between modern everyday words eg: Voltage or Eustachian back to the scientists Volta and Eustachio.

Whilst a fraction of the eminent list of Italian scientists, this was a lively power- point presentation with the added bonus of Italian chocolates as prizes for correct answers during Richard’s interactive approach.

Well done Richard



In October we once again had a visit from Debra and David Rixon who produce their own professional set of DVDs of their walking tours. Today we watched a DVD of Tuscany which included visits to Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Siena. These visits were made partly in their Smart car, which, as it had ‘Passion’ emblazoned on the side, they named their Passion Wagon, and a trip in a Fiat Cinquecento but most of their touring was on foot.
We were treated to the beauties of Florence, including the Uffizi Gallery and saw the hustle and bustle of the Rialto Bridge. They then travelled on to Pisa and its famous Leaning Tower. After that they went on to the beautiful town of Lucca, ending up in Siena. Siena has an unusual shell-shaped piazza, the Piazza del Campo, divided into the 17 contrade or districts, of Siena. Twice a year the contrade compete in a horse race called the Palio which David and Debra had filmed and told us about. After that they walked part of the pilgrim trail known as the Via Francigena which actually begins in Canterbury and ends in Rome. The section David and Debra walked was from Francigena to San Gimignano, some of which looked very muddy in parts!
What makes the Footloose in Italy films so eminently watchable is that they are not just impersonal descriptions of towns, with an off screen narrator. The audience sees both Debra and David onscreen as they walk, climb hills and occasionally very high towers. They try the local cheeses, enjoy some wine tasting, and engage with the local population. As with all their previous films, it was most enjoyable and informative.

A Visit to Campania

Report on the talk given on May 25th by Jill Jones.

Jill’s Father, William (Bill) Beechey was born (1920) and bred in Princes Risborough where his mother ran a successful drapery shop, initially in what is now the Chip Shop in the Market Square and secondly in the premises now occupied by Wainwrights.  With the advent of World War Two he joined the Territorials and soon transferred to the Coldstream Guards training as a signaller.  It was his war experiences in Italy that formed the fascinating, respectful and often moving account given by Jill, his daughter.

With the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards he arrived in the Naples region in November 1943.  By this date the German army had been driven northwards and had established their defensive Gustav Line and their strategic stronghold at Monte Cassino.  Continue reading A Visit to Campania


Handel in Italy

This month David Woodbridge gave a very interesting presentation about George Frederik Handel. Although we tend to think of him as having spent his life in England and therefore have adopted him as an English composer, Handel actually spent three very formative years in Italy in his early twenties. His music was greatly influenced by the Italian Renaissance and his exposure to Italian baroque music in particular.

David accompanied his talk with extracts from a variety of music by Italian composers.  He began with Palestrina, Monteverdi and Corelli who had influences on Handel. Then he went on to talk about Handel himself and his years spent in Italy in Rome, Florence, Naples and Venice with explanations and notes about each piece of music.

Following on from the three Italian composers, David then concentrated on works by Handel, starting with an extract from the opera Scilla.  This was followed by the overture to the Triumph of Time and Truth. Then we listened to the opening numbers of Dixit Dominus and Nisi Dominus from the Carmelite Vespers After that we heard an extract from Rodrigo, written in Florence, Acis and Galatea, written in Naples and Agrippina composed in Venice.  The final extract was the aria Tra le Fiamme from a Secula Cantata.  Before each piece, David told us what we should look out for in that particular item, whether it was a particular instrument or perhaps the structure of the piece.

Throughout David demonstrated his considerable knowledge of and love for Baroque music.  Perhaps he can be persuaded to give a similar talk on some other composer in the future!

Ros Martin Hall


Aspects of Italy July – Puglia and the Aosta Valley

Puglia – Jill Jones and
Aosta Valley – David Woodbridge

We had 2 talks this month which contrasted the difference between two areas of Italy, The South East and North West.
Jill’s talk centred on two towns Lecce and Bari in Puglia and was illustrated by some superb photographs of scenes of the towns and the magnificent architecture. The heat of the region came across through the illustrations of the white buildings and the lovely blue skies.
In contrast David’s photos showed the steep wooded hills and vineyards of Aosta, deep river valleys crossed by beautiful bridges; in one case 3 bridges next to each other built at different times over the centuries. This is one of David and his wife’s favourite areas of Italy which they visit regularly.
Both talks were warmly received and we are looking forward to hear further talks about these two areas.


Aspects of Italy June – The Turin Shroud

The Turin Shroud – Ros Martin – Hall,
A request had been made by one of our members for some information about this mystical shroud and Ros bravely volunteered to do some research and make a presentation.

The Shroud of Turin or Turin Shroud is a length of linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion.

A rectangular linen cloth 4.37 metres long and 1.13 metres wide, the Turin Shroud, housed in that city’s cathedral since 1578, is famous for its two images of a mutilated man, apparently naked, one of his front, with the arms crossed over the genital area, the other of his back. The wounds resemble those of a crucifixion, with an additional wound in the side similar to the one inflicted on Jesus when he was on the cross (John 19:34). Here we have negative images of Christ’s body as if they had been transferred from the body to the cloth.
There has been numerous investigations into the authenticity of the shroud including radiocarbon dating by three laboratories which put the date of manufacture of the linen in the 13th or 14th centuries.


So the puzzle continues.
Our thanks to Ros for all her hard work.


Dante’s Florence – Dawn Cumming, 28 May 2015

To mark the 750th anniversary of the birth of Dante Alighiere, writer of The Divine Comedy, the first great epic poem written in a European vernacular language, our guest speaker Dawn Cumming was invited to talk to us about the Florence of Dante’s time.
The city was extensively rebuilt during the Renaissance, and if Dante returned there today much would appear strange to him. Although, for example, he would be familiar with the Baptistry (he himself was baptised there) he would not know the Duomo with Brunelleschi’s famous dome (not completed until 1436), or the Campanile, both of which were merely building sites in Dante’s time.
With her detailed familiarity of, and enthusiasm for, Florence, and indeed all things Tuscan, Dawn was able to take us on an illustrated tour of the present-day city, particularly around the maze of tiny alleys in the Duomo area, pointing out the house which reputedly is Dante’s birthplace, the Badia Fiorentina where he first glimpsed Beatrice, and many other interesting sites. Of more modern interest are the various inscriptions taken from The Divine Comedy and set in stone tablets around the city, for example on the steps leading up to the Duomo.


Crevelli and Rome

At out April meeting David Woodbridge gave us an insight into the works of the Italian artist Carlo Crevelli who lived in the mid 1400’s.
After the introduction he concentrated on a painting dated 1486 “The Annunciation of St. Emidius” which is the altarpiece painted for the church of SS. Annunziata in Ascoli.
By breaking the painting into sections he demonstrated the different scenes and their significance to the picture as a whole. The painting is a very elaborate work and is painted with the most intricate detail. Due to copyright we are not able to show the painting here but for those interested I recommend visiting the National Gallery Website at
After the break Bob Haworth gave us a talk on Rome. Bob spent some time working in Rome and gave us a tour of the places which interested him most. Several of our members have been to Rome and it certainly revived some very pleasant memories.
At our next meeting we will be welcoming Dawn Cummings who will be talking about Dante’s Florence

Footloose in Italy

At the  meeting on 26th  March we had the privilege of welcoming Debra and David Rixon, a local couple, who produce travel films specialising in walks in some of the most beautiful parts in the UK and Europe; they publish under the “Footloose’” title.
They opened the meeting by describing how they plan and film the walks highlighting the fact that a lot of the shots end up on the ‘cutting room’ floor during editing. David was employed by the BBC as an editor on ‘Sports Night’
We watched two parts of their latest film on Italy – “Footloose in Italy lll” – covering The Amalfi Coast and Capri.
We had our highest attendance ever ( 28 members and 1 visitor) and judging by the questions and general noise in the room at coffee break, one of the most successful.
Our April meeting will consist of two presentations by members of the group; “The Art and Life of Carlo Crevelli” by David Woodbridge and “Rome” a short talk by Bob Haworth.
If you are interested in learning about Italian art, history, food, culture and travel please come and join us. We meet in the Club Room of the Community Centre at 10am to midday on the fourth Thursday of every month other than August.
Michael George


An insight into Italian food

At our February meeting we welcomed Elaine Brown who came to give us an insight to Italian food.
She spoke about 3 regions of Italy,  North; Central and South and described some of the specialities of these regions.
The talk was illustrated with some excellent slides.
Elaine then delighted us by providing  some mouthwatering  samples of Pasta (hot), cheeses, olives, breads and biscuits. In addition we had 2 liqueur wines to taste  ‘Vinsanto’  and ‘Lemoncello’, this latter liqueur was unknown to the majority of us, a new found gem
The members were unanimous in their praise and it was suggested that we repeat this type of meeting every month!!!!

Our membership continues to grow and we now have 35 members,

Next month we will welcoming David and Debra Rixon who will be talking about and showing, their latest DVD ‘Footloose in Italy 111’
For those who don’t know, David and Debra live in Risborough and have been making DVD’s for many years of walks in several countries as well as walks in the British Isles.

A meeting not to be missed.