The third leg of my 5-week Tarot journey takes me to Italy, but there is a backstory. For a few years, I’ve been on Arnell Ando’s waiting list for her popular Tarot Tour of Italy, but just couldn’t wait any longer and pulled her book out, Tarot Travel Guide of Italy (paperback or Kindle) and proceeded to map out a trip, starting from the south, closer to where my friend lives. One of my local friends in Oregon lives part time in Italy and wanted to join me, recommending we rent a car together.
Next, Mary Greer heard about my plans and jumped into this adventure. In the meantime, my friend needed to stay home to care for an important issue which left me relying upon my little Italian vocabulary and Mary’s Spanish…Haha. We did fine!
So, we decided to start from the north and the trip began to take form, reservations were made, priorities were set, with options that could be jettisoned as the journey unfolded…as new opportunities appeared!
Bergamo – Clusone – Milano (Milan)
We flew into Bergamo where we picked up our cute little Fiat Panda rental car, a very Italian vehicle with a stick shift so we could blend in and park more easily. We had a blast driving—me through the cities and highways and Mary taking the back roads and mountains.
The reason I chose Bergamo was it is further from the metropolis of Milano while on the way to Clusone, our first stop.
Those of you who have read the research and writing of the late and great Robert O‘Neill understand the significance of the Dance of Death as a possible influence in the major arcana of the Tarot.
In Clusone, there is a medieval fresco portraying the “Triumph of Death” on one of the exterior walls of Oratory di Disciplini. Here we see a rare “Queen of Death”, a skeleton wearing a cloak, with the bodies of the Pope and the Emperor, along with snakes, at her feet.
One of the amazing things about this trip to Italy, besides the obvious things such as the great food and wine, was the very affordable and lovely Airbnb rooms we rented, most in the suburbs.
Mary’s birthday was celebrated at the only restaurant that was open and just around the corner…Vesuvio Restaurante Pizzaria in Cesate. What a surprise, the pizzas were heart shaped…so sweet.
photo by Katrina Wynne
Milano was surprisingly easy to drive around and we found free parking just around the corner from our first destination for the day, Il Meneghello, Tarot publishing house and emporium, where we met with Cristina Dorsini, author of three books on the Visconti Tarot decks.
This was the rainiest day of our trip and Mary and I were soaked as we walked toward the Sforza Castle, pausing at the Borromeo Palace in hopes of finding the “Game of Tarot” fresco. Since this classic room is now an exclusive jewelry store protected with a locked door, with my sincere and earnest plea we were allowed into the room to take photos of these amazing images.
Next, we reached the Sforza Castle which happens to be free on Tuesdays. There is so much Tarot history wrapped up with this location. We viewed many interesting statues and frescoes throughout and tried to take it all in with the little time we had.
Sforza Castle, Milano, Italy – photos by Katrina Wynne
Katrina’s Sforza “Tower”
photo by Mary K. Greer
Walking back in the intermittent rain, Mary and I passed by the Duomo di Milano which was completely lit and the piazza filled with tourists. And yes…we found our car again…thank goodness.
Torino (Turin) – Asti
In my Tarot Tour in 2013, under the recommendation of Giordano Berti, I visited Torino with it’s many museums, especially the Museo delle Antichità Egizie (Museum of Ancient Egypt), and then stumbled across the Duomo di Torino (Turin Cathedral) and viewed the Holy Shroud of Jesus of Nazareth.
This trip I had a special surprise planned for Mary as I took her to experience drinking the classic hot chocolate from Baratti & Milano. Needless to say, it was a big hit. And…you can’t walk away without purchasing some of their amazing chocolate bars. Mine is sitting in my freezer, waiting for a special occasion.
photo by Katrina Wynne
We had time for one museum and chose to explore Palazzo Madama, the medieval castle in the center of old town, where we viewed many fascinating images and symbols that clearly reflect the tone of the artwork of that time.
Palazzo Madama, Torino, Italy – photos by Katrina Wynne
The high point of our day was visiting Riccardo Minetti and Lo Scarabeo, a major creator and publisher of Tarot decks and books. Anyone who knows Riccardo will confirm what a delightful, passionate, and creative man he is, and he was so generous with his time and gifts for us in this visit. We started with a walk to a local Italian restaurante for lunch with the best tiramisu I have ever tasted, which is a limited experience, I must say.
Riccardo Minetti, Lo Scarabeo, Torino, Italy – photos by Mary K. Greer, Katrina Wynne
Don’t be jealous, but Mary and I walked away with some very special goodies, including the new Black & Gold Edition of the Waite/Smith Tarot deck, the deeply colored Radiant Wise Spirit (Waite/Smith) Tarot and their beautiful printing of the Sola Busca Tarot – Museum Quality. I grabbed this opportunity to purchase Riccardo’s brilliant book, Tarrocchi – dal Rinascimento a oggi (Tarot – the Renaissance to today), a full-color, large format book in Italian cataloguing the exhibit he curated in 2017-2018. Link here to more information about this exhibit.
Based on my previous experience, I wanted to have dinner at the best vegan restaurante in Torino, The Soul Kitchen. Chef Luca Andrè was magnifico!!
Asti & Giordano Berti
Most serious Tarot deck collectors know of Giordano Berti as a Tarot historian, curator, and admire his work with creating beautiful museum quality reproductions of classic decks, such as the Sola Busca Tarot. Letizia Rivetti is the artist behind the design of the ornate boxes and was a delight to meet as well.
Imagine being in his studio surrounded by not only these many fine reproductions, but by original collector’s books and other oracular artwork. It is like being in a mini Tarot museum and gallery. Two more of his unique deck reproductions came home with me to keep his Sola Busca Tarot Company!
Knowing we were headed to Bologna next, Giordano shared a story with Mary and I about a time when playing cards were collected and destroyed, then used to create paper-machete figures. The figures he identified are called “Compianto Sul Cristo morto” (1463), which translates to, “Lamentation Over the dead Christ” and depicts six standing figures-including the three Marys-and the dead body of Christ, located in a small chapel in the Santa Maria della Vita. According to author, Graziano Campanini, these terracotta figures were made from clay, nothing more. I would like to learn about this story…and will share when I do.
Another “Christian” site with a suppressed history is the Basilica de Santo Stefano, built over a “Temple of Isis” in the 5th century. Located on Piazza Santo Stefano, it is known as Sette Chiese (Seven Churches).
The Cortile di Pilato (Pilate Courtyard) is a square plaza with a chalice in the center, a lonely reminder of the deep feminine…and the Ace of Cups.
photo by Katrina Wynne
One of the serendipitous happenings for Mary and I as we walked about, mostly along side streets, was our ability to just happen across metaphysical shops…and found wonderful surprises. Our favorite was Ibis Esoteric Library in Bologna, who, of course, carried Giordano Berti’s Tarot decks and knows him well.
I purchased a copy of the beautiful museum quality, large format, full-color book, I Tarocchi – Storia Arte Magic dal XV al XX secolo (Tarots – History Art Magic from XV to XX century) by Andrea Vitali and Terry Zanetti.
Mary and I had time for only one museum so we picked Gli Uffizi (Uffizi Museum), which in itself is more than a day’s worth of exploration. For our tired little feet, we viewed as much as we could…sculptures, paintings, frescos, and more. I was enthralled with the “Seven Virtues“ by Sandro Botticelli (Fortitude) and Piero de Pollailol (Temperance, Faith, Charity, Hope, Justice, Prudence).
As we decided to skip the rest of the exhibits, on our way out I was drawn into a room with red walls that had this dramatic shield with “Medusa“ painted on it, by Michelangelo Merisi, detto il Caravaggio, then stumbled upon this amazing image of a palm and card reader, “Good Fortune” (1617) by Herrit van Honthorst.
Mary had arranged for us to stay on the grounds of a castle, Castello di Cafaggio, outside of Firenze where we had a very special gathering one night. The gracious hosts had a huge East Indian meal prepared for us, and then we had fun sharing Tarot readings for them, tag-team style, through the evening…not the first time we did guest readings on this trip.
Mary enjoyed a tour of the castle and took these wonderful photos…
From the castle we drove south on back roads to enjoy the rolling hills, mountains, farms, and dramatic vistas, scattered with castles, at least one for every village. We arrived in Siena which is situated on top of a steep hill. I tried to drive as close to the top as I could and dropped Mary off, then skillfully turned our little Fiat stick shift around and, as luck would have it, found a free parking space…WooHoo.
Mary has a favorite historical location which, compared to the crowded, tourist-filled museums and cathedrals, was a quiet respite. The Civic Museum of Palazzo Pubblico has frescos that carried a specific message about what is it to run either good or bad government. Of particular interest was the image of a lounging Empress, in the exact pose as the Waite/Smith III The Empress. No photo taking was allowed, but I purchased a few picture cards in the gift shop.
Besides the mystique of walking up and down the various narrow and steep streets of Siena, our next mission was to find a place to eat, and we found a nice cafe with seating outside, sitting on decks built over the almost 40 degree slope of the street.
photo by Mary K. Greer
We were so excited to visit the Duomo de Siena (Siena Cathedral) in hopes that the mosaic floor would be uncovered, and we were in luck.
The key mosaics of interest were the “Hermes Trismegistus“ (Hermetic wisdom) inside the central entrance, then the 10 “Sibyls” (Prophetess), allegories and virtues from the Old Testament which influenced early Tarot decks. There are so many stand out features to this ornate cathedral, this “Wheel of Fortune” will give you a taste.
Diagram – Duomo di Siena mosaic floor
Il Giardino de Tarocchi (The Tarot Garden)
I wish I could share with you images of all the crazy, wild sculptures from the Tarot Garden, but I could only capture some from a distance. If you plan to visit this government run facility, please check your calendar first. Their open season is April 1 – October 15. We missed it by a few days. But…some of this fascinating park is visible from the farm field next door. I don’t mind climbing over a ditch to get a shot with my telephoto lens, and Mary captured my begging the Tarot Gods/Goddesses since I couldn’t talk my way past this locked gate…although I tried, Haha.
So…these are the highlights of this amazing Tarot Tour through Italy with the lovely and adventurous Mary Greer. I’ll admit it, we were both worn out by the end of our journey, but it was certainly worth every moment, memory, and precious experience. Thank you, Mary, for your deep love and knowledge of all things Tarot. Your companionship made this trip more spectacular than I could imagine. Love ya always!
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