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Italy News Round-Up XIII: #Dante750, Uffizi Exhibition in a Mobster’s Home

My Pocket list of saved articles has been going through a workout lately. So here is one big Italy News Round-Up. I’ve done about 12 of these things over the life of this blog (and now 13 – XIII). But I will probably end up doing more.

For more links to Italy travel, art, culture, and history in the news, see my Italofile Facebook page or Twitter.

#dante750

Dante Turns 750 [The New Yorker]

This year marks the 750th birthday of Dante Alighieri. For the New Yorker, Professor John Kleiner talks about what Dante means to Italians and about the more than 100 events that are planned for this occasion, including the “selfie con Dante” campaign with cardboard cutouts in Florence.

Uffizi Gallery Exhibition in Former Mobster’s Mansion [Hyperallergic]

In a moving, nonviolent act of revenge, a mayor in Campania and the Uffizi Gallery have teamed up to turn a mafia don’s confiscated home into a temporary art gallery. “The Light Wins Over the Shadow” will honor the memory of Peppe Diana, a priest who was shot by the Camorra in 1994, by displaying a number of chiaroscuro works from the Uffizi at the Casal di Principe.

Construction Workers in Bologna Uncover Ancient Roman Road [Repubblica]

It makes sense that the 1st Century AD Roman road Via Emilia was lying a few meters under the current roads in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna. But workers plan to cover it back up “for another 2,000 years” after they finish work on the Via Rizzoli and Via Ugo Bassi. Take a look at the road in the video from ETV (h/t Italy Explained). (Click here if you can’t see the embedded video.)

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Italy’s A3 Autostrada Near Completion 50 Years After Project Began

It’s been called the “shame of Italy” and for good reason. The A3 autostrada, a 443km highway that is to connect Salerno to Reggio Calabria, has been under construction since 1966.

Faulty construction and mafia meddling by both the Camorra and ‘Ndragheta factions have caused numerous delays during the nearly 50 years since the project began, reports The Independent. It has become the “symbol of how public works are in Italy,” according to Stefano Zerbi, spokesman for Codacons, Italy’s national consumer organization.

When mobsters aren’t creaming off millions from the road building thanks to dodgy contract work, it seems they’re ensuring that the route doesn’t impinge on their other activities. About halfway, the route curves back on itself awkwardly. This detour is said to have been done at the request of a local Mob boss who didn’t want the motorway coming too close to his villa.

This week, Prime Minister Renzi declared that construction of the A3 will be stepped up in the hopes that the project will be finalized by the end of 2015. However, no completion date has been set.

Read more: Fifty years on, work on Italy’s ‘eternally unfinished’ highway enters final stretch

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.

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