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Upcoming Fundraiser at the Sistine Chapel Turns Heads

Sistine Chapel

Each day, as many as 20,000 visitors pay up to €16 per person to enter the Vatican Museums, the highlight of which is the Sistine Chapel. This coming weekend, reports Crux, approximately 40 fans of German automaker Porsche will get to pay up to €5,000 each to take a private tour of the Vatican, which includes dinner in the museums and a concert in the famous chapel.

Porsche has advertised the event on its website as the Exclusive Porsche Tour of Rome, which includes these tour highlights:

  • Access to the Vatican Museums outside the official opening hours
  • Magnificent concert in the stylish setting of the Sistine Chapel arranged exclusively for the participants
  • Unforgettable dinner in the midst of the exhibition at the Vatican Museums
  • Visit to the papal gardens at the Vatican and the Necropolis on the Via Triumphalis
  • Porsche Travel Club driving tour (two days) in the southern Lazio region

Meanwhile, Monsignor Paolo Nicolini, the managing director of the Vatican Museums, maintains that the event is the “debut of ‘Art for Charity,’ an initiative to exclusively support the charitable projects of the pope. This initiative is organized directly by the Vatican Museums and is directed at big companies. With the payment of a ticket, they can contribute to financing charity projects.” Nicolini told reporters on October 16 that, “The Sistine Chapel can never be rented because it is not a commercial place.”

The one-off event stands to raise about €200,000—almost half of what the Vatican Museums could raise in a full day off of tourist admissions, with only a fraction of the wear and tear. Artnet added:

“Since his inauguration, Pope Francis has put significant emphasis on the plight of the poor and has gained a reputation for his pragmatic and forward-thinking interpretation of scripture. This latest move may indicate that he is prepared to capitalize on the Vatican’s rich cultural heritage for the benefit of those in need.”

Roma So Far

View of Piazza del Popolo from the Pincio

I stayed in Italy for a week and thought I’d write a book.

I stayed in Italy for a month and thought I’d write an article.

I stayed in Italy for a year and realized that I didn’t have to write anything at all.

A friend recently told me this quote. I don’t know if it’s a famous one–I’m paraphrasing so I haven’t been able to locate it online. But it hits home for me.

I moved with my family to Rome about a month ago and I’ve had a lot of writing inspiration. Of course, I’ve made it to a few tourist sites, the piazzas and parks and cobbled historic center. But I’ve also just hung out–walking the streets with my kids, enjoying gelato, straightening up the house, waiting for utility men to hook up wifi, fix cracked windows, etc. My brain is so full of sights, sounds, smells, and local quirks that I don’t even know which Italy story should begin this new phase of my blog. And so, I’ve been taking everything in instead of writing.

But many new posts are coming, so do stay tuned.

I’ll be blogging about Rome, day trips, nearby beaches, hill towns, and more in the coming months as I get intimately re-acquainted with Italy and its capital. I’ll also be sending out the occasional newsletter with my latest posts and links to other Italy travel news. Subscribe here to keep in touch.

From Veronese to Futurism: Italian Art in the NYRB

The Family of Darius before Alexander by Paolo Veronese

The Family of Darius before Alexander by Paolo Veronese

I recently re-subscribed to the New York Review of Books and I’m glad I did. Besides providing some of the world’s most comprehensive and engaging book reviews, the NYRB often reviews art exhibits. In the latest Art Issue of the magazine, Andrew Butterfield reviews Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice, an exhibition running in London’s National Gallery through June 15, 2014; Julian Bell looks at two new books about Piero della Francesca in The Mystery of the Great Piero (subscription required); and Jonathan Galassi writes Speed in Life and Death (subscription), a piece that deals with Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe, an exhibition on view at NYC’s Guggenheim Museum through September 1, 2014.

There is also a poem by Michelangelo. Michelangelo’s note To Giovanni da Pistoia has appeared in many publications over the years, I’m not sure why it is being reprinted here. But the poem is always an illuminating read about the difficulties Michelangelo had in creating his most famous work.

Prodigious Veronese

A review of Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice at the National Gallery, London

“For much of the twentieth century Veronese was regarded more as a skilled purveyor of decorative finishes than as a profound master, and his reputation was in decline, but of late there are signs of renewed interest, which this show and its catalog will certainly do much to advance. Perhaps more than any other picture in the show, The Family of Darius before Alexander [part of the National Gallery's permanent collection] reveals his great strengths as a painter; it also makes clear why he can seem so foreign to common modern ideals of art and of the artist.” –Andrew Butterfield

Speed in Life and Death

A review of Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City

“The Futurists wanted to sweep away what the poet Guido Gozzano called “le buone cose di pessimo gusto,” good things in the worst of taste, and replace them with an insolent, steely, polluting Machine Age. “Time and space ended yesterday,” Marinetti intoned. “We already live in the absolute”—that is, in a state of perpetual youth menaced only by death. “In every young man Marinetti’s gunpowder,” Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote. Marinetti not only wanted to end the monarchy and “de-Vaticanize”; he also argued for replacing the senate with an assembly of the young.” –Jonathan Galassi

The Mystery of the Great Piero

Reviews of the books Piero della Francesca: Artist and Man and Piero’s Light: In Search of Piero della Francesca: A Renaissance Painter and the Revolution in Art, Science, and Religion

“What more can we know about the artist, who died the day that Columbus landed in the New World and who for most of four centuries was nearly forgotten, only to reemerge as an indispensable fixture in modern schemes of art? The Met’s catalog ushers in Piero in the manner we have come to expect: he painted “magical pictures” that combine ‘intimacy and gravity,’ inspiring ‘a sacral awe.’ It points to his ‘almost primitive’ qualities and cites Aldous Huxley’s essay [PDF] of 1925 that names the Resurrection fresco in Sansepolcro as ‘the best picture in the world.’

“All this fits the occasion, but it mystifies. It makes it harder to imagine a human painter at work. Banker has been intent to reverse that process. To do so he has scoured the archives of Tuscany, Umbria, and the Marches. (Sansepolcro lies near the border of the three regions.) If, just possibly, he has been overzealous about tying up loose ends, he can nonetheless boast of personally discovering “over one hundred previously unknown documents specifically relating to Piero.” His methodology is sober and his inferences are toughly argued, and the result must surely count as a vitally important contribution to Piero studies.” –Julian Bell

Check out the New York Review of Books’s Art Issue for these and more reviews.

Map of Italy’s Earthquake Zones

I just saw word on Twitter that northern Italy has suffered yet another earthquake,. A 5.1 magnitude earthquake hit the Modena area in Emilia-Romagna around 9:20 p.m. Italian time. This is the latest in a series of earthquakes to hit the region over the past few weeks, leaving more than 20 dead and thousands displaced all over northern Italy and particularly in the Po River Valley.

So what is going on here?

Continue Reading →

Centuries of History and 300,000 Wheels of Cheese Destroyed in Deadly Italy Earthquake

The latest reports about the earthquake that hit Emilia-Romagna this weekend state that at least seven people were killed, 50 injured, and more than 13,000 have been displaced. The 6.0 earthquake struck early Sunday morning north of the city of Bologna in the town of Finale Emilia. According to The Guardian, the quake “wrought havoc in small towns and villages dotting the countryside between Bologna, Ferrara and Modena.”

The Guardian filmed a video that looks at the destruction, including the loss of “centuries of history.” Destroyed or severely damaged in the earthquake include the Palazzo dei Veneziani and Castello della Rocche in Finale Emilia; towers of a 14th century castle in San Felice sul Panaro; and the church of San Martino in Buoncompra. Other news outlets are reporting that more than 300,000 wheels of cheese worth €250 million have been destroyed.

The last major earthquake to hit Italy was the one that struck the Abruzzo city of L’Aquila in 2009.

Woody Allen’s Movie About Rome To Be Released April 20

Love Locks on Rome's Ponte Milvio

Love Locks on Rome's Ponte Milvio

Today, Italian distributors of Woody Allen’s long-awaited film about Rome announced that it will be called “To Rome With Love.” Until now, the film has operated under the working titles of “Bop Decameron” and “Nero Fiddled.” I personally think that Allen and/or his producers went with the right choice, picking something more basic. The film is supposed to be a modern-day take on Boccaccio’s “The Decameron,” according to the ANSA news service. (As of this writing, IMDB still reports that the title is “Nero Fiddled.”)

“To Rome With Love” is to be released on April 20 and will include star turns from an amazing cast that includes Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, and Italian actress Ornella Muti. Woody Allen will also appear in front of the camera in this film. He’s listed near the top of the cast in the IMDB profile, which indicates that he may be one of the main characters.

If “Midnight in Paris,” which was Allen’s celluloid love letter to Paris the way “Manhattan” was his homage to NYC, is any indication of how this film will be presented, I simply cannot wait until it is released. While most, if not all, of the landmarks that will be featured on-screen in “To Rome With Love” will be familiar, Allen will certainly figure out a way to bring out the best in them. The film was shot in Rome and at the famed Cinecittà Studios in the outskirts of Rome during the summer of 2011.

Photo Flickr/Zingaro

An Invitation to Bloggers: A “Gift” From the Italy Blogging Roundtable

Gifts
Many of you will know that, since May 2011, five of us have been writing a monthly post on a given topic and we call it the Italy Blogging Roundtable. Each month we decide the topic in advance and the only rule is that it has to be connected to Italy; the posts are published on the same day, and cross-linked so that readers can enjoy our diverse experiences. You can see posts by the other four participating writers here:

My posts for the Italy Blogging Roundtable

Normally we don’t tell anyone the topic in advance, but our post for December 14 is an exception. Why? Because we want you to participate! The topic is “Gifts” (or presents). It’s inspired by the holiday season, but does not have to be limited to “Christmas gifts.” For this month, we’re inviting bloggers to expand upon the topic of “gifts,” somehow connected to Italy, on their blogs.

Here is how to participate:

1) From December 1 to 13, 2011, post on your blog about “Gifts” (and Italy).

2) Include in your post a reference to the fact that this is part of the Italy Blogging Roundtable’s invitation to post on this topic.

3) Include, at the end of your post, links to the roundtable blogs:

4) Let us know by tweeting it with the hashtag #italyroundtable. If by chance you don’t use twitter, email it to one of us (my email address is info@……). We’ll each read them all, and retweet some too!

5) On December 14, 2011, we’ll post on the same topic and include links to our favorite posts by the larger community. We’re aiming to link to five posts submitted by others, but that depends on how many people participate!

Photo by stevendepolo

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