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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.”

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.

Seven Longobard Sites Newest Additions to UNESCO Heritage List

Saint Michael at the Sanctuary of Saint Michael in Apulia

Saint Michael at the Sanctuary of Saint Michael in Apulia

Last month, UNESCO inscribed Italy’s newest World Heritage sites: The Longobards in Italy. Places of the Power (568-774 A.D.). Treated as one entity, these seven sites stretch from as far north as Castelseprio, a small village in Lombardy where is located Santa Maria Fortis Portas and the castrum with the Torba Tower, to as far south as Benevento and its Santa Sofia church complex. All of these sites represent, according to UNESCO, “the high achievement of the Lombards, who migrated from northern Europe and developed their own specific culture in Italy where they ruled over vast territories in the 6th to 8th centuries.”

While the Longobard sites are the newest ones to be recognized by UNESCO, they are among the least well known of the many UNESCO buildings and sites in Italy, which now leads the world with 45. To learn more about each of the “Longobards in Italy” sites, including where they are, how to visit them, and the treasures they contain, visit Italia Longobardorum, the website of the group responsible for formally submitting these sites for UNESCO World Heritage consideration. You can also click on the links below for the individual sites:

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