The grey felt cap adorned with a black raven feather worn by old northern Italian men and some modern-day camouflaged troops is known as the Cappello Alpino. This recognizable cap signifies that the wearer is or was a member of the Alpini, an elite corps of the Italian army that is most closely associated with World War I and is the oldest mountain infantry in the world. Continue reading Italy’s Alpini Corps: The Traditions Beyond the Feathered Cap
Congratulations to the city of Palermo, which has been awarded the distinction of Italian Capital of Culture for 2018.
The Italian Culture Ministry (Ministero di Beni Culturali) awards the prize each year in an effort to promote tourism. Along with the distinction, the winning city receives 1 million euro which is to be used to promote cultural activities and artistic heritage.
“We saw that this virtuous competition creates a system of communal participation,” said Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, “Being on the shortlist is a bit like receiving an Oscar nomination: it allows them to do a lot of work, in terms of planning and promotions.”
The Pantheon, one of the last major landmarks in Rome with free entry, will soon begin to charge admission.
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…
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.
The 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
- 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.
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:
- The castrum with the Torba Tower and the church outside the walls, Santa Maria foris portas. Castelseprio, Lombardy.
- The monumental area with the monastic complex of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia. Brescia, Lombardy.
- The Gastaldaga area and the Episcopal complex. Cividale del Friuli, Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
- The basilica of San Salvatore. Spoleto, Umbria.
- The Clitunno Tempietto. Campello sul Clitunno, Umbria.
- The Santa Sofia complex. Benevento, Campania.
- The Sanctuary of San Michele. Monte Sant’Angelo, Puglia.
To many a traveler, Tuscany and art are synonymous. From the architecture to the numerous galleries to those gorgeous, green, and cliché hills, there’s an element of art in every corner of Tuscany. Continue reading Five Favorites: Art in Tuscany
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 Painting Italy: An Artist Profile
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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
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.
Well, it was fun while it lasted. According to the folks at Dream of Italy and Tony Polzer from 3 Milennia Tours, the Roman Forum will begin to charge admission as of March 9th. Tony lays out the facts, including admission and access, on the Slow Travel forum.
We have not been able to independently confirm this development from a press release. But we hope to find info about this on the Comune di Roma or Romaturismo sites soon. In the meantime, you can read our post Saving Money with Combined Tickets, which has details about the Roma Archeologia card.
Art history junkies take note: learning about Italian art is easy with Jane’s Smart Art Guides. Order a CD set – or, even better, download the MP3s to your iPod – and you can learn more about St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome’s Santa Maria del Popolo, or the Fra Angelico fresco cycle in Florence’s San Marco while you’re visiting them this summer or fall. Jane is also at work on audiotours for Orvieto’s San Brizio Chapel and Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico. We especially like Jane’s blog, which is rich with information on art history and happenings around the world.
While we encourage our readers to support Jane and her excellent guides, we also want to point out another artsy podcast of note. A team called smARThistory has an interesting – and FREE – video podcast on Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa. Upload this – rather than Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons – before your next trip to Rome.