venerdì 15 agosto 2014

Beach just one of many options for August holiday

Museums and archeological sites to remain open on Ferragosto

(ANSA) - Rome, August 12 - Italy's ministry of culture has decided to keep museums, historic castles and archeological sites open on Ferragosto, Italy's August 15 bank holiday. Traditionally a beach holiday, the name Ferragosto derives from the original term Feriae Augusti (Augustus's rest), introduced by the Emperor Augustus in 18 BC as a time of rest after the harvest. In an effort to bring Italy's museums in line with the rest of Europe, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini in July implemented changes such as free admission on the first Sunday of every month and keeping museums open until 10pm on Fridays. This year, cultural heritage sites across the country will keep their doors open on Ferragosto, August 15, giving residents and visitors alike many alternatives to a day at the beach.

State-run castles abound in the Bel Paese. Among them is Castel del Monte in Puglia, a 13th-century citadel built by Emperor Frederick II, which UNESCO in 1996 declared a World Heritage Site as a "unique piece of medieval military architecture". Up north, a very different kind of castle is the picturesque Castello Miramare, a majestic 19th-century fortress with sumptuous interiors, built overlooking the waters of the Gulf of Trieste for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian in the mid-1800s. While Italy is renowned for its impressive archeological sites, many of which fall under the State's August 15 special opening hours, one of the lesser-known attractions is Horace's Villa in Licenza (about an hour's drive northeast of Rome), an ancient Roman archeological site attributed to the poet, who lived during the time of the Emperor Augustus and mentioned the site as his villa many times in his writings.

State-run museums are also included in this special holiday opening, and as the holiday falls on a Friday, the museums will also take advantage of the weekly later opening hours. Some of the more famous include the Borghese Gallery in Rome and the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, while a few of the lesser-knowns are Ravenna's stunning 6th-century Basilica Sant'Appollinare in Classe, rich with Byzantine mosaics, and Ferrara's National Picture Gallery, which houses paintings from the 13th to the 17th century and is located in a palace made of of diamond-shaped marble slabs known as Palazzo dei Diamanti.

Noble residences and palaces round out the list of choices, ranging from the stunning Reggia of Caserta, a royal palace built in 1750 by Charles of Bourbon to be the center of the Kingdom of Naples; and some lesser-known homes open to the public such as the birthplace of writer Gabriele D'Annunzio in Pescara, on the coast of the Abruzzo region. 

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