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Milan Invites Visitors to Discover the Art of Nobel Winner Dario Fo

Dario Fo "Earthquake in L'Aquila"

Dario Fo's "The Earthquake in L'Aquila"

Next month, the Italy Blogging Roundtable will celebrate our first anniversary. Jessica, Alexandra, Gloria, Rebecca, and I have enjoyed tackling a new topic each month, and we’ve especially enjoyed hearing from readers. In fact, we were so pleased with how our last invitation went for bloggers to join us at the Roundtable that we thought we’d extend another! This month, not only is the Italy Roundtable topic INVITATIONS, we’re inviting anyone who wants to participate to blog about one of the past year’s Roundtable topics. Our invitation details are at the bottom of this post. Now on to the post…

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Help Tell the Story of Jewish Italy

La Sinagoga, Florence

La Sinagoga in Florence, Italy

CulturaItalia, a website operated by the Italian Culture Ministry, is seeking your help in its efforts to document the Jewish contributions to Italian society over the past 150 years. As one of its many initiatives to mark the anniversary of 150 years of Italian Unity, CulturaItalia has teamed up with with Judaica Europeana, a Europe-wide project to gather digitized information “that documents Jewish presence and heritage in European cities and make them available on Europeana.” Europeana is the the online home of digital resources culled from Europe’s libraries, archives, and museum collections.

Star of David and the Italian FlagThe name of CulturaItalia’s project is called, “The Star of David and the Italian Flag, Jews and the Construction of a United Italy.” Institutions as well as the public have been asked to help CulturaItalia with this project by submitting “digital files with stories, texts, photographs, letters, postcards, illustrations and drawings, audio documents and short videos that tell of the Jewish culture in Italy in the last 150 years.” Suggested topics include:

  • itineraries in the city
  • arts and trades
  • fashion
  • schooling
  • private life
  • parties and ceremonies
  • public events
  • food culture
  • literature and theatre

If you or your family have stories to tell, photos or art to share, or anything else that will enhance the understanding of Jewish contributions to Italy over the past 150 years, you are invited to submit your files through this online form. No doubt, this is a fantastic way to ensure the Jewish history of Italy lives on digitally so that future generations may learn and seek inspiration from it.

Photos © harshlight, CulturaItalia

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:

Painting Italy: An Artist Profile

Tuscan Hills, a painting by William F. Renzulli

The beauty of Italy has inspired countless artists through the years, including ones who live here in the United States. Today, I am profiling artist William Renzulli, who was moved to paint his ancestral home Castelnuovo della Daunia in Puglia after a family reunion visit in 2008 and who will soon be headed to Bologna to paint that city’s gorgeous medieval lines and curves as well as the landscapes of Emilia-Romagna. Continue Reading →

Culture Week 2009

Today begins Culture Week throughout all of Italy. Through April 26,  state-run museums will be open for free and many will be extending hours. Tons of special events and exhibitions are part of Culture Week. To see what’s on, visit the Italian Culture Ministry’s website.

Caravaggio’s Innovative Painting Techniques

Caravaggio's "The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew"

Discovery.com recently reported that the master 16th century artist Caravaggio used a “camera obscura” among other techniques to trace the models in his paintings. According to a Florentine researcher, Caravaggio made use of a dark room, first described by Leonardo da VInci, and was able to fix the outline of his subjects in order to paint them.

It’s unclear whether the artist used or needed optical instruments to paint his famous scenes of food and banquets. These, of course, were the subject of a book we mentioned in an earlier post titled Caravaggio’s Kitchen by Gianni Ummarino. Several readers have written to us to ask how to obtain this book. We haven’t been able to find it on amazon.com or through other vendors. But we did find the author/photographer’s website. Go to ummarinoeummarino.com for more information.

Update! The title of the Ummarino book is 15 Ricette del Rinascimento (15 Recipes from the Renaissance) and can be ordered directly from Ummarino’s website.

Photo from Discovery, Inc.

Bernini Up Close and Close To Home

Bust of Costanza Bonarelli by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

If you’re not taking a trip to Rome, the former stomping ground and site of many works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, don’t fret. Approximately 57 of the Baroque artist’s marble sculptures will be on display at the Getty Museum through October 26.

The highlight of the show, according to David Littlejohn in his Wall Street Journal article Living, Breathing Portraits in Marble from Bernini, is the bust of Bernini’s mistress Costanza Bonarelli.

“A sensuous bust of Bernini’s mistress Costanza Bonarelli is the most compelling work on display. The wife of one of his studio assistants, Costanza apparently shared her favors between Gian Lorenzo and his younger brother, driving the sculptor to violent fits of jealousy. But when he carved this instant, breathless image — for his own private devotion — he was clearly in thrall to her charms. Costanza is caught as if unaware, her chemise falling open over a very touchable breast, her eyes staring in shock and desire, her hair in lusty disarray, her ripely curved lips slightly open, revealing a bit of tongue.”

Other “portraits” in the exhibition include busts of Pope Urban VIII (Bernini’s primary papal patron), Pope Clement X, Cardinal Richelieu of France, and other European leaders. While the preview of some of the busts online may not astonish, I can assure you that viewing a Bernini up close will. Consider it homework before your next Roman vacation.

Two New World Heritage Sites in Italy

Mantua/Sabbioneta are new UNESCO Heritage Sites

Mantua/Sabbioneta are new UNESCO Heritage Sites

Time to add two more Italian sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List. In July, UNESCO inscribed the Po Valley towns of Mantua and Sabbioneta and the Rhaetian Railway, which passes through the Swiss Alps into Tirano, Italy. Both new sites are located in the region of Lombardy.

Mantua (Mantova) and Sabbioneta were selected for their Renaissance town planning, with the former being an example of an irregular layout while the latter “represents the implementation of the period’s theories about planning the ideal city.” The Rhaetian Railway, which was opened in 1904, and made the list because it is an outstanding example of architecture.

Now with 43 city centers, monuments, and other cultural locations on the UNESCO List, Italy is one of the leading countries of “World Heritage” sites. And many more sites are vying for UNESCO status and monies. Perhaps next to be inscribed will be the Medici Villas, the incredibly lovely town of Orvieto, or the Historic Centre of Lucca. We’ll keep you posted!

Rome, Siena, Sardinia, and more

We hope you’ve had an enjoyable August. Obviously, we took a little time off for rest and relaxation (and a move!), so there’s been little time to fill you in on some of the latest Italy travel news. Here’s a recap:

Some people in Rome think it’s a good idea to create a Disneyland-like theme park outside the city. Could this possibly be a good idea? I can’t imagine Italians wanting to pay money for a bit of Italian-style Americana in their backyard, nor can I see tourists skipping the real Roman tourist attractions to see another Euro-Disney. Yuck.

On August 16, the Bruco contrada won Siena’s Palio Horserace. Congratulations, Caterpillar! Lots of Palio history and trivia here.

There have been two articles on Sardinia’s coast. The New York Times’ Seth Sherwood writes about the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast), claiming that An Elite Playground Becomes Less So, while The Guardian ran a feature on Sardinia’s Overlooked Beaches.

And, some art news caught our attention. In Rome, through September 7, looted Roman antiquities that have recently been returned to Italy will be on display at the Palazzo Poli (near the Trevi Fountain). And, beginning on September 7, those interested in Etruscan art and relics should head to Cortona, where Etruscan art from the Hermitage will be on loan to the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona (MAEC).

We should be getting back on track this week, so stay tuned!

Pompeii By Night

Pompeii By Night

Pompeii At Dusk

Question: What’s eerier than surveying the ruins of Pompeii? Answer: Visiting them at night.

According to the ansa.it news service, Pompeii will once again offer its popular “Sound-and-Light” tour, a one-hour look at the ancient Roman city complete with ambient music, flood-lit ruins, and a video simulation of the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed the city in 79 AD. The tour will be available in English, Italian, and Japanese.

Sognopompei, as it is called in Italian, promises to be an unforgettable night and will show the “poetic side” of the must-see tourist trap:

The tour kicks off at the Terme Suburbane, a once-neglected district that has become a big draw for its frescoes graphically depicting a variety of sex acts – presumed to be an illustration of the services on offer at the local brothel.

It then winds its way up the main road, pointing out the curious cart ruts, craftsmen’s shops and famous villas.

The grand finale comes in the heart of the old city, the forum, when four giant projectors beam a special- effects-laden video reconstruction of the wrath of the volcano Vesuvius, which smothered the city and its lesser-known but equally fascinating neighbour Herculaneum in ash and cinders.

Sognopompei tours will run this summer, Fridays through Sundays, through November 13. Prices start at €20 per person, with discounts for Campania Artecard holders and families with children under 16. Reservations are required.

Photo by Pirate Alice

The Lost Leonardo

Over the weekend, 60 Minutes had a fascinating piece on “The Lost Leonardo,” which is Leonardo da Vinci’s storied painting of the Battle of Anghiari. Italian art historian Maurizio Seracini believes that the missing artwork lies behind a giant Vasari painting in the Palazzo Vecchio:

“He is convinced Leonardo’s mural lies protected behind an immense painting, which was done by the artist and architect Giorgio Vasari when he remodeled the palazzo in the mid-16th century, 50 years after Leonardo.

“Seracini believes the Leonardo mural is on a second wall behind Vasari’s painting, separated from it by a small air gap, which appeared on a radar scan. Of the six Vasari murals in the room, only the one has an air pocket behind it.”

Watch the video to see how Seracini and his team are using modern technology to “see behind” Vasari’s painting and to look at other underdrawings beneath Leonardo’s paintings.

Photo from Wikipedia

“Palladio” in DC

As part of Italy’s celebrations of the birth of architect Andrea Palladio, born 500 years ago this year, the Italian Cultural Institute and the Italian Embassy in Washington, DC, are hosting a free screening of “Abitare Palladio,” a documentary about the man and his works. The film will be shown tomorrow April 4 at noon in the National Gallery’s East Building Auditorium. For more info, check out the IIC website.

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