In 1804, Napoleon introduced the 'Edict of Saint-Cloud', ordering all cemetery burials outside of the city walls. Today, most Italian cemeteries consist mainly of rows of concrete vaults, a practice similar of the ancient Etruscans and early Christians, sealed with a marble plaque with a small photo of the loved one in life. However, over the years, many people commissioned architects and artists to design special chapels and tombs for them, and are known as Cimiteri Monumentali 'Monumental Cemeteries'.
I have become fascinated with cemeteries in Italy, as friends visiting me will attest to.
The cemetery connected to Basilica di San Salvatore in Spoleto is perhaps my favorite.
With tree lined streets and ivy covered tombs, it is the 'Beverly Hills' of cemeteries.
Cremation isn't popular in Italy because the Catholic Church favors burial.
However, it was an ancient Roman custom and it was introduced again in the early 1800's under Napoleon for 'hygienic reasons'.
Many people who didn't like the Catholic Church chose to be cremated.
In 1917 the Catholic Church decided to deny those who were cremated a Catholic burial, but changed its mind in 1963 as long as those who were cremated didn't do it because of opposition to the beliefs of the Church.
Etruscans worshipped their dead and had an enormous respect for the afterlife. It was for this reason that the need to guarantee proper burial to the deceased originated. It was also essential for them to provide the deceased with a manner to keep in touch and relate with the world of the living. God is always listening.
The Etruscans believed that the deceased would keep on living in his or her tomb. This belief prompted them to create tombs that looked like homes. They would hold furniture, objects and personal belongings.
I would love for my final resting place to be in this cemetery in Spoleto, sitting on a hillside overlooking the beautiful city below.
I always wondered what would become of my things when I'm gone.
In my crypt, I can store my many photo albums, my roller blades and my baby book. I can't imagine anyone really caring how much I weighed when I was 6 months old or when I started eating peas.
I can also decorate it with my vintage Rolling Stones poster and my recent cow painting I bought in Arezzo.
The Etruscan burial chambers were usually accessible through a corridor, along which food offerings were left by the living to the dead.
In my case, I'm going to leave my loved ones a list of foods I'd like left in my crypt. Specifically; sushi, linguine with clam sauce, cheeseburgers and pizza.
I look forward to visiting many more Monumental Cemeteries while living in Italy before my final trip. A few on my list to see are in Milano, Ferrara, Perugia and Messina. I plan on visiting the main sights of these cities with the other tourists, but when it's time for a bit of peace and solitude , I'll head to the nearest cemetery. It's a temporary resting spot among the residents permanently resting.