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Articles by: Alice Bonvicini

  • Letizia Moratti and Giuliano Pisapia before the incumbent Mayor's faux pas
    Facts & Stories

    Fair Play is Over

    On Sunday Italians will vote in the local elections, a race that is shaping up to have quite a relevant weight on the national level. The main yardsticks for assessing the vitality of Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition are the cities of Turin, Naples, Bologna and above all the country's financial capital, Milan. In the shadow of the Duomo the fight between the incumbent Mayor Letizia Moratti and his main opponent, Giuliano Pisapia, took a bitter turn last night.
     

    During a televised political debate, Mrs. Moratti, who belongs to Mr. Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, referenced an old Sentence of the Court of Assizes (an Italian court that has jurisdiction over serious crimes, including murder and terrorism) that held the center-left candidate Pisapia "responsible for the theft of a van to be used to kidnap and beat up a young man." In an attempt to underscore the political difference “between her and her main political opponent" for the upcoming local elections, Moratti insisted: "the story of a person who in those years was close to terrorist circles cannot be considered as unimportant.” Indeed Giuliano Pisapia, 62, a lawyer with a militant communist past, was once on the records for the attempted kidnapping of William Sisti (belonging to a competing left-wing movement, Movimento Lavoratori per il Socialismo) and the theft of a van. However, the senetnce was later cancelled as a case of miscarriage of justice and, in 1985, Mr. Pisapia was fully acquitted by a higher court.

     
    He was not given the opportunity to publically reply after Moratti’s statements and will thus sue her for slander.

    Soon afterwards, several people expressed support for the center-left candidate, including representatives of the right-wing majority. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, on the other side, praised Letizia Moratti's TV interview saying, "I do not see how the Left can be upset just because Moratti mentioned a case in which a candidate was found guilty of a crime."

    Meanwhile, this morning New Yorkers woke up to posters of Moratti and Berlusconi plastered all over Brooklyn and Manhattan.  The pictures of the two were accompanied by a caption, which playing on the famous Obama slogan “Yes, we can,” read “Yes, we must change.”  Behind the posters is Dario Parazzoli, an Italia dei Valori candidate to the Milan City Council, who, with the help of some Italian Students in the US, has brought his media campaign to this side of the Ocean.

    Waiting to see what will happen on Sunday at the polls in Milan, this all-Italian story that reaches beyond the Atlantic and spans to New York deserves to be put on record.

  • Facts & Stories

    Stars & Stripes AS Roma

    When you become an expatriate the meaning of things in your life change. Stuff that you once took for granted suddenly becomes distant turning up a notch the appreciation receptors. What is even more fascinating is how some other things, even the most mundane, become personal signifiers of an unbroken bond, “miracle growth" serum for the roots left home. The intoxicating passion for football (soccer, in America)  seems to be one of the most common and most powerful of those elixirs. Sunday games take on layers of meanings, hardly understandable by the fans back home, often having more to do with social bonding and identity rather than stats and numbers.

    Hence, on April 15, after the finalizing of the sale of AS Roma (the number one team of Italy's capital, and yes I am a tifosa) to a United States consortium led by Thomas DiBenedetto, Roma fans in the US not only rejoiced for the new era about to begin, but they experienced something quite special: the collision between their new world and their old one.

    Giovanni Peluso, an attorney from Rome who has been living in the US for two decades and who is the founder and President of the Roma Club New York, confirms that watching Roma keeps him close to home even if he is on the other side of the Atlantic. “The team is the one you followed when you were a boy and reminds you of your youth; in a way you miss it more than the city,” he says. “But those memories, at the same time, keep the city alive,” he explains us. Laura Caparrotti, a Roman actress who holds the position of Secretary of the Roma Club New York, elaborates the concept of soccer and social bonding, “if you are a real fan, wherever you are in the world you have to watch the games. It's nice to be able to do it with other people who are fans. Anf often you become friends, and then it's not just about Roma anymore.”

     

    Laura continues, “I moved to New York 16 years ago and I can't believe my team is becoming a bit American as well. I feel like Roma is even closer to me and my life.” But her feelings are mixed, as she cautiously wants to see what DiBenedetto and his partners are planning before giving into the excitement. “The most important thing is that they keep Bruno Conti (former player and coach of Roma, now club Director). I am the biggest Conti fan and I say, do not touch Bruno, otherwise DiBenedetto has to deal with me,” she adds quite vehemently.

     
    For Giovanni Peluso, the level of thrill is a bit higher.  “I am excited if a foreigner is interested in becoming the owner of Roma because it means there is worldwide recognition for the team; it means the club is as famous as Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool and so on.” And adds, “I live here and I know that American business people have managerial qualities that should be exported to Italy, especially in sports. Roma needs that.”
     
    Red Sox minority investor Thomas DiBenedetto is the first foreigner to own a Serie A club. DiBenedetto's group, which includes Celtics' owner James Pallotta, will control 60 percent of the team while UniCredit bank, the de facto controller of Roma until April 15, will have the remaining 40 percent, and has the option to sell a part to other Italian investors.
     
    Bill Schempp, Italics producer and a hard-core Roma fan for the last twenty years is also very excited about this deal. The first date with his Irish girlfriend was a Lazio-Milan game at Stadio Olimpico in Rome, but when he came back to the United States his friends informed him of Mussolini’s adoration for SS Lazio and advised him to pick the other Capitoline club, AS Roma. He has been tirelessly following the giallorossi since then, often in solitary isolation in the basement of his house, because he hates to “watch sports with other people” since he gets, he diplomatically puts it, “highly emotionally involved.” From his office, which has a huge Roma flag on the door, he tells us that he is happy about DiBenedetto. He thinks football (his Irish girlfriend taught him two paramount things, never to root for Manchester United and never to call it soccer) will never be the number one sport in the US but with the changing demographics in the country and now an American involved with the team of a city where many Americans travel, more fans could be drawn in. Schempp grew up in an Italian-American household where his parents consciously did not teach him the language, quite a common practice among second generation children who were kept from learning Italian to better assimilate into America’s culture. Hence he gets frustrated not to be able to read articles about Roma in Italian, but football has somehow helped him salvage his roots. “It was a way of embracing my Irish girlfriend at first,” he admits, “but I now realize I know a lot more about the country of my grandparents  from watching the games.”
     

    Roma fans have all dreamt about having a stronger and more powerful team, able to compete with esteemed European counterparts, and since the beginning of this stars and stripes chapter they have projected themselves into a future season of affluence, victories and glory. Waiting to see what will happen in the next Campionato, we can safely say that this acquisition has finally brought the worlds of many -mine included- very close.  

  • Facts & Stories

    (Hardly) Escaping the Royal Wedding

    For a contemporary Italian to talk about a Royal Wedding is an unfamiliar task. On June 2, 1946, Italians decided they had had enough with Kings and Queens and in a historical Referendum, during which women voted for the first time, they opted for a new form of government: Republic. In the United States, where the Founding Fathers wanted to ensure that no such system of heredity developed, titles of nobility were outlawed by the Constitution, and as a result unfamiliarity with the subject is just as high. Or at least was. Over the past few months it has been quite a task to avoid the media-inflated monarchy frenzy.

    The first-born of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer is getting married. And considering the fact that his father's eccentric life choices - for Royal family standards, that is - might cost him the British throne, all the eyes are on his son. Prince Charles is technically the next in line to become King but rumors frame Prince William as the paladin who will ensure the future of the House of Windsor. Hence the Royal Wedding, which is soon to be celebrated in Westminster Abbey and across the monarchy-enamored parts of the globe, has become quite a relevant affair. Many murmur that we are witnessing the nuptials of the future Queen and King of England. How exciting.

    The bride-to-be is Catherine Elizabeth "Kate" Middleton, born in 1982, daughter of a flight attendant and a flight dispatcher for British Airways and the eldest of three children. The groom is the first son of Prince Charles and Lady D, born in 1982 as well. The two became college sweethearts after meeting in 2001 in Scotland at the University of St Andrews. After eight years together, it was their October 2010 engagement that sparked an unparalleled media buzz, especially in the not so aristocracy-friendly America. US news outlets, in fact, have been in the front-line of the Royal-mania. A Nielsen study released this week found that for the past six months, the United States has devoted twice the amount of media coverage to the event than the outlets in the UK or in Australia. Inside Westminster Abbey there will be 40 broadcast cameras, 12 photographers and 28 reporters from national, international and local media. Outside, there will be 8,500 journalists and more than 100 overseas broadcasting organizations; most of them, of course, are from the US. The American networks have sent some of their biggest names to anchor the event, including Katie Couric of CBS, Diane Sawyer of ABC and Brian Williams of NBC.

    Two billion viewers worldwide are expected to tune in to the ceremony. When the spousal gets under way at 9:00AM in England, it will be 4:00AM in New York and 1:00AM in Los Angeles. A high number of Americans are expected to be setting their alarm to watch Kate and William's vows while eating scones & tea or sipping Drambuie English Rose Cocktail, high on the cheklist for many royal wedding watch parties. In case you happen to be awake and in front of a TV roughly at that same hour (ET), however, there are some alternative options. TCM has lined up the 1952 film noir On Dangerous Ground directed by Nicholas Ray. Sundance Channel will bring you into the world of Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records, who signed cult band Joy Division, 24 Hour Party People. And AMC will amuse you with a Three Stooges mini-marathon. For the sleepless who aren't necessarily film buffs other options are Rescue Chef on Food Network, the man who “solves culinary conundrums of everyday cooks;” Freak Encounters, on Animal Planet, for those who aren't scared by much, and reruns of the Golden Girls on Hallmark. Although the suggestion to enjoy a restful night of sleep is equally valid.

  • Art & Culture

    An Italian Prize Honors the Best of American Journalism

     This year the award which is given to American journalists who “through their commitment and daily work, conscientiously inform millions of people” went to Helene Cooper. Born in Liberia in 1966, she fled the African country with her family in 1980 after a military coup and came to the United States. Helene Cooper today is an acclaimed journalist. After twelve years at the Wall Street Journal working in London, Washington and Atlanta, she is now the White House correspondent for the New York Times in Washington, D.C..

    The award is in its sixth year and it is the first Italian journalism prize dedicated to the American media.
    Past winners include Thomas Friedman, Diane Rehm and Michael Weisskopf. "Today we give credit to excellence in journalism, the constant research for news, in-depth examination and analysis of those facts that make information an instrument of freedom and progress," stressed the Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, who delivered the name of the 2011 winner. Present at the ceremony in Washington were the main representatives of the American media, administration and Congress.
     

    It is an event that gives voice to the relationship between Italy and the U.S. but also to the good publicity that local Italian administrations are capable of. “It is a great opportunity to promote our region,” said Pietro Marcolini, the Cultural Councillor of the city of Urbino, from the Italian Embassy in Washington. “These are events of excellence that represent the full concept of culture upon which regional cultural politics are based, typified by a strong disciplinary variety", he continued.

    "I am honored to receive the Urbino Press Award,” said Helene Cooper, who is also the author of a memoir, “The House at Sugar Beach,” a book about growing up in Liberia during the civil war. "On a professional level I am honored by the possibility of following in the steps of journalists like David Ignatius, Tom Friedman and Martha Raddatz. On a personal level it is difficult to imagine a greater privilege than being recognized by the cultural heirs of Baldassare Castiglione, Elisabetta Gonzaga and Federico da Montefeltro, an exmplar trio of the Renaissance genius. Thank you very much, Urbino!"she added. 

    The official award ceremony will take place on June 3 at the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino.

  • Facts & Stories

    The Triangle Legacy

    During an uncannily rigid, yet sunny, March morning, the heart of the West Village was warmed up by the embrace of a city that has not forgotten the price paid by the 146 garment workers who perished 100 year ago in the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Many of the rights that workers enjoy today, in fact, were sparked by that horrific event, which paved the way for worker protection laws.

    On the eighth floor of what was once called the Asch building, purple banners were hanging from the windowsills. Those were the windows from which dozens of female workers, aged 14 to 25, mostly Italian and Jewish immigrants, were forced to jump out of in order to escape the gruesome fire.  Those who weren’t crushed onto the sidewalk died charred against the locked doors of the factory where the flames had started. A century later, family members, union leaders, activists, students and common citizens flooded the streets below to remember the 146 innocent victims, but also to recommit to a safe, decorous and protected future for all workers.

    The morning began with a procession from Union Square to the site of the fire, the corner between Green Street and Washington Place.  A somber drum roll and the chant, in Italian, Yiddish and English “open the door,” hinting at the disgraceful cause of the women’s death- the locked exits- accompanied the stream of people. Most compelling were the 146 handmade blouses with the names of the young workers who perished in the fire, which attached on long bamboo sticks waved in the cold New York wind.  “I wish you could see what we see from up here,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union, who acknowledged the beauty of the shirtwaists swirling in the wind.  She spoke of the owners of the factory who escaped to safety without notifying anybody in the building about the fire, and who later were also able to dribble the manslaughter charges. “As I look at those shirtwaists I feel sorrow but most of all indignation for the injustice of those women jumping to their deaths when they could have been saved.” She continued, “these women changed the face of the city and our nation by demanding the type of dignity that goes by one name: unions.”  And before leaving the stage, Henry read the Proclamation of the United States President Barack Obama in honor of the Triangle workers.

    Despite the enormous progress made since the Triangle factory fire, we are still fighting to provide adequate working conditions for all women and men on the job, ensure no person within our borders is exploited for their labor, and uphold collective bargaining as a tool to give workers a seat at the tables of power.  Working Americans are the backbone of our communities and power the engine of our economy.  As we mark the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, let us resolve to renew the urgency that tragedy inspired and recommit to our shared responsibility to provide a safe environment for all American workers.

    [Excerpt from the Proclamation of the United States President Barack Obama]

    The long and warm embrace to the families of the 146 young victims of the worst work place- related catastrophe in New York history was enlarged to include workers who are fighting today for their own rights and future generations’ accross America. Every speaker hinted at the perilous siege that laborers and unions are undergoing in recent days. Many acknowledged directly the disgraceful ransack of collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin public workers at the hands of Governor Scott Walker.  Moreover, many participants were seen carrying a red banner with the inscription “We are Wisconsin.”

    “Today we commemorate the workers who died in Triangle but we must also remember the 29 coal miners who died in West Virginia almost a year ago, the 11 workers killed in the Gulf coast disaster, or the construction workers who risk their lives every day" echoed Secretary of Labor of the United Stated of America, California Democrat Hilda Solis, appointed by Barack Obama on December 2008. Daughter of an immigrant shop steward and a toy factory worker, Solis stressed how the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire opened America’s eyes onto the tragic consequences of inhuman working conditions. “As the smoke settled in that day, it revealed a work place unfit for any human being, one absent of security dignity and respect for those female workers” she said. “We honor them for the high price they paid for the protection that you and I enjoy today,” Solis added. But she also underlined how the 146 young women who died in the fire must be a “reminder of the work we still have to do. The very reason we can’t stop fighting” for the most vulnerable workers.

    Senior Senator of the State of New York, Democrat Chuck Schumer, a leading voice for the rights of working people on the national stage, recalled how the year before the deadly blaze those same women had marched for their rights, joining fellow garment workers in a city wide strike. America, however, was not ready to listen. But the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire “awoke the nation's conscience, created a possibility for common purpose and supercharged the American labor movement, galvanizing lawmakers and labor activist to push forward with landmark workplace safety laws, labor laws and, above all, collective bargaining rights.”  The women of the Triangle defied the notion that exploitation was acceptable and necessary for economic progress. “Their tragic faith revealed that dictatorship in the workplace is not only unhealthy and unjust,” he added “it is un-American.” He finally galvanized the excitement of those present when he insisted upon the importance of not reverting the status of workers back to 1911.  Referring to those on the far right seeking to pray the social safety net “under the false pretense of fiscal austerity, ” he pledged to the families of the Triangle victims, “we will not let right wing ideologues and Scott Walker Republicans undo the legacy of your loved ones.” Loud cheers followed.

    The crowd present did not offer an equal welcome to City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who was hassled during his entire speech, his voice overpowered by chorus such as "tax the rich" and "don't touch our teachers." The multi-millionaire politician's recent plan to curb pensions and lay off thousands of teachers certainly did not encourage a warmer reception.
     

    Long was the list of union leaders and activists who spoke to the crowd gathered in the heart of the West Village: Bruce Raynor, President of Workers United/SEIU; John Delgado Business Manager of Local 79 and Richard Campoverde of Lettire Construction; George Gresham, President of 1199/SEIU; Stuart Appelbaum, President of RWDSU/UFCW;  Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers; Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, who received a truly encouraging round of applause; and the students from 17 public schools of the city.

    After Suzanne Pred Bass, great niece of Rosie and Katie Weiner, the former a surviver of the blazing inferno of Triangle, the latter a victim, Salvatore J. Cassano, NYC Fire Commissioner, took the stage. He acknowledged the importance of this year as the Centennial of Triangle and the decennial of 9/11 coincide. He spoke of the remarkable and continuous sacrifice of the most committed civil servants of the city, fire fighters. His speech culminated with the calling of the 21 Fire Divisions, Battalions, Engines, and Ladder Companies that first responded to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.  An FDNY truck slowly raised its ladder to the 6th floor, the highest point it could reach in 1911. Family members, students, and workers read the victims' names aloud and laid white carnations below the plaque that remembers the Fire. A bell tolled after each name. Red carnations were also laid to homage the 27 workers who died last December in a deadly fire in a Gap Factory in Bangladesh.

    It was a beautiful day at the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place.  A day in which to remember those whose death we all owe so much to. But it was also a day of re-commitment to justice since the fight for what is right is not over yet. Those young workers back in 1911 spoke Italian and Yiddish. Today, since we still live in a sweatshop economy, they speak Chinese, Spanish, Bangla. However it was also a day of hope because those working against greed and exploitation are numerous and, as this cold March morning  proved, more combative  than ever.

  • Facts & Stories

    The Fire that Changed America

    If you stroll by the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street today, you'll see the purple flags of NYU and twenty-something year old kids in the midst of their college education getting ready for their labor law-protected future. But exactly 100 years ago, on that same corner, young workers burned alive or jumped out of the windows of their factory to escape a fire caused by disgraceful working conditions. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company occupied the top three floors of what was then known as the Asch building. It employed mostly female work force, Italian or European Jewish immigrants who often spoke little or no English. The girls and young women aged 15-23 endured low wages, unthinkably long hours of garmenting and unsafe labor conditions.

    That March afternoon, 129 of them, plus 17 male co-workers, never returned home; many were found charred beyond recognition, while others leaped to their death in order to escape the flames.

    The deadliest workplace catastrophe of New York City took place on March 25, 1911, and on its centennial, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition has been coordinating a citywide commemoration. The group of volunteers made up by artists, activists, and academics not only leads the remembrance efforts but it has been advocating the establishment of a permanent public art memorial. 

    The women of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory were paid $6.00 a week. They sat hours before their sewing machines in order to make ends meet. That afternoon a cigarette butt thrown in the wrong bin of discarded fabric caused a deadly blaze. When somebody screamed “fire” the panicked workers ran to the small exit doors. They were locked. Trapped inside, many jumped out of windows or down an empty elevator shaft. Those who tried to save their lives through a fire escape died crushed to the ground when the raging heat melted it. To make matters worst, at that time, the fire department hoses and ladders were unable to reach above the sixth floor. While the flames were enveloping the eighth and ninth floors of the Asch building, the workers of the upper floors were able to escape. Among them were the owners of the building, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, who were also successful in avoiding manslaughter charges. But the indignation and social protest which followed the Triangle carnage couldn't be put out.

    Somehow the personal tragedy turned political. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory gruesome massacre fostered fundamental reforms and it became a turning point in the path to workplace safety and social justice. In the upcoming HBO film “Triangle: Remembering the Fire” the historian Jo Ann E. Argersinger, quoting the labor activist Samuel Gompers, who in the years after the fire led an investigation about the city's sweatshops, said “women had to burn first in order for this to happen.” But it did happen. The outcry following the gruesome events of that March afternoon brought about the creation of the Life Safety Code, the Bureau of Fire Prevention and the New York State Factory Investigating Committee, with the National Women's Trade Union League (NWTUL) in the forefront of the fight for reforming working conditions.

    The Triangle Fire sparked positive changes but inhuman conditions in many sweatshops around the world and workplace-related disasters continue to these days. Moreover, in a time in which unions are under attack -  the fatal blow delivered to the labor movement in Wisconsin hit the papers last week, when Republican Governor Scott Walker succeeded in taking away nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers - it is even more important to honor the young workers who died one hundred years ago. March 25th remains a fundamental date for all those who continue the fight for workers’ rights and safety. To learn more about the commemorative events – activism, education, and arts – visit the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition web site.

  • Art & Culture

    The 'Divina' Returns Home

    Born Cecilia Sophia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulos, by many considered the greatest soprano of all time, Maria Callas is being celebrated this month in New York. From March 2 to 30, the Italian Cultural Institute of New York will host the exhibit “Maria Callas: A Woman, a Voice, a Myth.”  The show, made in collaboration with the Consulate General of Greece and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, will showcase costumes, jewelry, and memorabilia that once belonged to the 'Divina'. Also on view at the Institute are photographs on loan from the Hellenic Parliament Foundation.

    “They didn’t want me but I will come back from the main door,” Maria Callas said after an early-career rejection from the New York Metropolitan Opera. And she did. Conceived in Greece and born in New York in 1935 to immigrant parents, Callas moved to the Hellenic country after their divorce. She studied at the Athens Conservatory where she was admitted despite the young age after forging her papers and with the complicity of her teacher who recognized her extraordinary talent. Her early Greek career lasted until 1945, the year she went back to the USA. Her professional and personal choices polarized critics and public but her talent remains unquestioned. Her ability to switch between dramatic roles and lighter characters of the Bel canto, for example, an incredibly difficult vocal metamorphosis, remains unrivaled. Callas mastered the dramatic roles but she is undoubtedly responsible for reviving the works of Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini. In 1955, as she had foreseen, she finally debuted and triumphed at the Metropolitan Opera as Norma, and later interpreted Tosca and Violetta in La traviata.  What followed was a magnificent career, an obsession with her image, a stormy personal life, a temperamental and divaesque atttitude, all of which have contributed to maintain her myth alive.

    “Maria Callas was highly committed to help young artists” the President of the Associazione Culturale Maria Callas Bruno Tosi said during the opening press conference. His association lent the pieces for the exhibition. He recalled how, from October 1971 to March 1972, Callas gave a series of Master classes to twenty-five students at The Juilliard School in New York, and on the 40th anniversary of her series, Tosi presented the soprano Felicia Bongiovanni, who during the San Francisco leg of this same show performed Norma, Tosca and Traviata, Callas’ chevals de bataille. Bruno Tosi, who has been accompanying the traveling exhibit for years now, added that he is planning to donate all the material for the opening of a museum in Venice dedicated to the 'Divina'. Curiously, he also recollected how being Renata Tebaldi’s publicist for many years - the rivalry between the two sopranos was famous - his admiration for Maria Callas remained secretive for years.

    Riccardo Viale, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute spoke of the cultural debt of gratitude that Italy has with Maria Callas. “She gave value to Italian melodrama and Bel canto and for this we are grateful and truly honored to host this exhibit, even if she is not of Italian descent.”  Also present at the opening press conference were Greek Consul General Grangelos Kyriskopoulos and the Italian Deputy Consul Lucia Pasqualini.

    On July 1965, at Covent Garden in London, Maria Callas appeared for the last time in Tosca, directed by Franco Zeffirelli. In 1970, her dear friend Pier Paolo Pasolini tailored on the Divina the film version of "Medea.”  When she passed away in 1977, after spending her last years in isolation in Paris, her ashes were scattered in the Aegean Sea, but her voice has continued to seduce music lovers in every corner of the world. 

  • Fatti e Storie

    Il regno dei vini italiani

    400 produttori, 300 buyers da tutti gli Stati Uniti. Sono questi i numeri di Vino2011, il più grande evento di promozione del vino italiano negli Stati Uniti. "La terza edizione del più grande wine-show in America sarà un'opportunità per creare contatti, ma anche per poter partecipare a degustazioni e corsi" ha detto Aniello Musella, Direttore dell'ICE di New York, che organizza l'evento. Per tre giorni il Waldorf Astoria si trasforma nella mecca degli amanti del vino.  L'Ambasciatore Vattani, Presidente dell'Istituto nazionale per il Commercio Estero, ha sottolineato durante la conferenza iniziale come ci si trovi nell'età dell'oro dei vini italiani. "Gli Americani hanno una profonda passione per tutto ciò che è italiano ed è questa
    passione che ha permesso ai vini prodotti in Italia di essere al primo posto nel mercato statunitense. Nero d'Avola, Aglianico, Cirò sempre più introvabili nei wine store, ed il Prosecco, il vino bianco frizzante del Veneto, che comincia ad insinuare il primato dello Champagne dei cugini francesi.

    Una posizione di predominanza questa che è destinata a crescere, ci dice l'Ambasciatore Vattani, poichè i vini italiani sono sinonimo di qualità ed ecosostenibilità. Inoltre l'Istituto nazionale per il commercio con l'estero con Vino2011 ha aiutato 80 nuovi produttori a registrare la propria etichetta, facilitando il primo e più difficile step nel contattare distributori americani.

    Il primo seminario intitolato "Il futuro dei vini italiani: il punto di vista dei maggiori esperti del settore" ha esplorato i possibili scenari  dell'industria nel prossimo decennio.   Moderatrice era Elin McCoy, editorialista enogastronomica di Bloomberg News, nonché autrice del libro “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste". Presenti all'evento produttori, buyers, giornalisti, rappresentanti regionali di Puglia, Toscana, Lombardia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto e anche Giovanni Mantovani di Vinitaly e BuonItalia.

    Per Jon Fredickson, Presidente di Gomberg, Fredickson & Associates, c'è un "un cielo blu nel futuro del vino italiano". Per quattro decenni i vini prodotti nel Bel Paese sono stati al primo posto nel mercato americano grazie alla ricchezza dell'offerta per quanto riguarda sia i vini da tavola che i vini più costosi.  Inoltre, i Millennials, il gruppo di consumatori d'età 18-35, iniziano a bere vino prima delle altre generazioni.  Oggi l'Italia produce il 18% della fornitura mondiale di vino, in questa prospettiva è evidente chel'Italia manterrà questo ruolo chiave, probabilmente anche in maggiori proporzioni.

    Per Leonardo Lo Cascio, Presidente, Direttore Generael e fondatore di Winebow Inc, è la diversità dei vini italiani  a rendere il futuro dell'industria luminoso. Nella categoria  sotto i $25 nessuna regione del mondo s'avvicina a ciò che l'Italia offre. Altri paesi sono popolari per fenomeni  sporadici, per esempio il Malbec dell'Argentina, il Sauvignon Blanc della Nuova Zelanda, o lo Shiraz dall'Australia, l'Italia invece continua ad offrire un'incredibile varietà. Inoltre in Italia "vino e cibo sono parte della stessa frase", e con la cucina Italiana popolare come non mai, i segnali di un decennio prospero ci sono tutti.  Ovviamente "la cucina ed i vini francesi sono popolari," ha concluso Lo cascio, "ma gli italiani sono decisamente più simpatici".

    Parlando dei Millennials, la nuova generazion di consumatori di vino, Cristina
    Mariani May, proprietaria e co-Direttore Generale di Castello Banfi, ha affermato che i produttori di vino non possono ignorare il livello di preparazione dei consumatori. In uno scenario di ampliata conoscenza e globalizzazione, gli standard dei vini locali devono essere alzati. Uve indigene, vini retrò come il Lambrusco, il Soave, il Frascati, sono nel futuro del vino Italiano. Infine, parlando della difficoltà di ottenere una certificazione organica, ha affermato che nonostante ciò molti produttori utilizzano processi naturali. E data la passione degli Americani per tutto ciò che è naturale questo è un ulteriore punto a favore dell'Italia.

    Sergio Esposito, fondatore e Direttore Generale di Italian Wine Merchants, ha affermato "non dobbiamo aver paura di acquistare vini costosi". In America c'è un'altissima concentrazione di individui facoltosi che, nonostante la crisi, continuano ad essere potenziali consumatori di beni di lusso, il problema è l'assenza di misure per categorizzare il lusso italiano. Esposito ha continuato dicendo che per rivitalizzare questo mercato dei cambaimenti sono necessari.   "Prima di tutto il vino non può essere considerato solo un bene di consumo immediato. Una migliore documentazione, meno vendite opportunistiche, ma sopratutto l'acquisto in casse invece che in bottiglie singole possono servire a galvanizzare il mercato del vino di lusso".

    Tyler Colman, giornalista e blogger (aka Dr. Vino) ha parlato dei Millennials, responsabili per la crescita lenta ma inesorabile del vino italiano in America.  Colman insegna una classe sul vino presso NYU la cui lista d'attesa continua ad essere lunghissima ogni semestre. "Gli Americani hanno sete di cultura del vino". Parlando di come i giovani consumatori di vino ottengono consigli, Colman, ha menzionato riviste, newsletters, negozi, ristoranti, amici ma sopratutto internet: blogs, Facebook, Tweeter. Il parlare di vino è uno step importantissimo sia per i consumatori più vecchi che per quelli nuovi ed ha sottolineato come nel prossimo decennio i social network avranno un ruolo chiave in questo dialogo.

    A confermerà la crucialità dei social network c'è la presenza a Vino2011 di Virtual Vino, che per il secondo anno consecutivo apre il dialogo tra i consumatori, i media ed i partecipanti alla fiera via Twitter, Facebook, un Live Stream ed il blog ufficiale Vino2011 scritto da Anthony Giglio. L'esperimento di Virtual Vino 2010 è stato così positivo, con quasi 500,000 partecipanti, che "quest'anno ci aspettiamo almeno 1 milione di hit" ha concluso l'Ambasciatore Vattani.

  • Events: Reports

    The Reign of Italian Wines

    400 Italian producers, 300 buyers from all over the US. These are the numbers of Vino2011, the biggest event of Italian wine promotion in the US. “The 3rd edition of the most comprehensive wine shows in America will be an opportunity to make contacts, but also to enjoy tastings, seminars, and classes”, said Aniello Musella, director of the Italian Trade Commission New York, which organizes the event. The Wardolf Astoria is where the American demand and the Italian offer collide.  And for the event the Hotel on Park Avenue will turn into a Mecca for wine lovers.

    Ambassador Umberto Vattani, Chairman of the Italian Trade Commission, which is behind the event, remarked during the opening press conference how this is the golden Age of Italian wines. “Americans' profound passion for things Italian has propelled Italian wines to the number one position of imported wines.” Nero d'Avola, Aglianico, Cirò are increasingly sold out and Prosecco, the Italian sparkling white from Veneto, is turning into a staple drink.  And for Ambassador Vattani this is a prominence only destined to grow because Italian wine is synonymous with quality and eco-sustainability.  Moreover, the Italian Trade Commission with the Vino2011 event has helped 80 new producers to get their labels registered,  facilitating the first and most difficult step to connect to a distributor.

    The first seminar, entitled “The future of Italian Wines: as seen from the Point of View of Leading American Wine Professionals,” explored the possible outcome of the industry in the next decade and was moderated by Elin McCoy, wine and spirits columnist for Bloomberg News, author of the book “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste,” and  contributing editor on wine at Food & Wine for 25 years. Present at the event were wine producers, buyers, journalists, regional representatives of Apulia, Tuscany, Veneto, Lombardy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and also Giovanni Mantovani from Vinitaly and BuonaItalia.
     
    Eleven of the Top 25 wines sold in the US are Italian, there are 2500 indigenous grapes, 20 official wine regions and in 2009 Italy overtook France as the first country of origin for sparkling wine. What will happen in the next years?
     
    For Jon Fredickson, President of Gomberg, Fredickson & Associates, there is a “blue sky future for Italian wines." For nearly four decades wines produced in the Bel Paese have been number one in the US market because of the richness of the offer with a wide array of both value wines and great classic estates.  Furthermore, Millennials, the demographic cohort aged 18-35, are adopting wines at an earlier stage than previous generations. In this perspective, there is an increasing need for more supply and Italy, which today produces 18% of the world wines stock, will naturally retain that role, probably even in greater proportion. For Leonardo Lo Cascio, Chairman, CEO & Founder of Winebow Inc, it is the diversity of Italian wines to make the future landscape look very bright. In the “$25 and under category,” there is not a world region that comes close to what Italy can offer. Differently from other countries, which are popular for varietal phenomena, such as Argentina with Malbec, New Zeland with Sauvignon Blanc, Australia with Shiraz, Italy retains an unprecedented variety. Moreover, in Italy, "wine and food are part of the same sentence," and with Italian cuisine remaining at the top popularity list, the signs of a prosperous decade are all in place. And yes, “French wine and cuisine is popular too but Italians are more simpatici,” he added.
     
    Talking of the Millennials, the new generation of drinkers, Cristina Mariani May, family proprietor and co-CEO of Castello Banfi, said that wine producers must keep up with new times, with consumers’ increasing knowledge.  In a global perspective, the standard of local wines must be raised.  Indigenous grapes, regional and also retro wines, like old-fashioned Lambrusco, Soave, Amarone, Frascati, she affirmed, are the future of Italian wines. Finally, acknowledging the difficulty in Italy of getting an organic certification, she added that despite that, many producers are still using the processes that are the most natural. And given the American love affair with natural and pure wines, this is a point in favor of Italy.
     
    “Luxury is the new ugly," said Sergio Esposito, Founder & CEO of Italian Wine Merchants, quoting a newspaper headline from 2009. However, “we cannot be afraid of buying expensive wines," he continued. There is such a concentration of wealthy people in the US that in spite of the economical crisis there will always be potential buyers of luxury goods. The problem, however, lies in the absence of measures to truly recognize Italian luxury. Esposito stressed that for Italian wines to become an asset a change must take place. “We have to stop looking at wines as something to be consumed immediately.”  The market place is clearly meant for immediate sale and consumption, but better documentation, inventory, less opportunistic sales, and most and foremost buying in cases rather than by the bottle could be the way to spark the Italian wine luxury market.
     
    Tyler Colman, journalist and blogger (aka Dr. Vino) spoke of Millennials who are responsible for the slow and steady growth of Italian wine in America. He teaches a wine class at NYU, whose waiting list is always oversubscribed. “People are very thirsty for wine culture” he said.  Dwelling on how these young consumers get wine recommendations, he mentioned magazines, newsletters, shops, restaurants, friends but above all the Internet: blogs, Facebook, Tweeter, and discussion boards. Researching and talking about wine online is a huge component in the way younger and core consumers experience drinking. Stressing the key role of social media, he affirmed that in the next few years discussion will be pivotal in the next era.
     
    Entuned with the social media trend is the presence at Vino2011 of Virtual Vino, which for the second consecutive year, opens the dialogue between  wine enthusiasts, trade and media via Twitter, Facebook, a LiveStream video and an Official Vino2011 blog  written by Anthony Giglio. The Virtual Vino experiment of 2010 was so fruitful (500,000 wine and food enthusiasts participated) that, Ambassador Vattani added, “this year we expect 1 Million hits.”

  • Op-Eds

    When Provocations Become Stale

    Counter-current, irreverent, creative, provocative. These are some of the adjectives you can find associated with Oliviero Toscani, the Italian award-winning photographer and creative director whose name seems to cyclically resurface in the Italian media due to some infamous ad campaign. “He pushes the border of what is licit,” “he subverts stereotypes", “he always creates controversy.” The plethora of uncritical commentary goes on more or less like that. And although some of his earlier work could have fallen within the category of biting, his creative accomplishments are becoming repetitive to say the least. Toscani's ability to grab attention goes unquestioned but there must be a point at which the production of shocking images in order to grab some newspaper headlines becomes tiring.

    The latest Toscani effort at this is a calendar for the Consorzio Vera Pelle Conciata al Vegetale (Consortium for Genuine Vegetable Tanned Leather), a consortium of leather tanners, which features twelve female au naturel (as in unshaven) pubes, one per month. The clever almanac was presented at Pitti Uomo in Florence and it is distributed together with this month's issue of Rolling Stone Magazine (Italia). As expected, the flock of crucifiers and admirers is long and annoyingly loud. 

    In a country where the media representation of the female body is stuck in the stone age, Toscani's objectification of it, which he claims to be using in a political way, seems to be very conformist rather than critical. He defines his work as social commentary, and while one can’t challenge the intent one can certainly question the result. Is it really thought provoking to show female genitalia or is it just a way of galvanizing media attention? And honestly, can a close up of female pubes really be associated with some liberating concept? A cultural study freshman could conclude that it does exactly the opposite: perpetrate the commodification of femininity, in this specific case equating female sexual organs to the skin of animals.

    Florence's Equal Opportunity Commission defined the ad offensive for women's dignity. And Italy's Equal Opportunity Minister, Mara Carfagna, responded to the outcry from women's organizations calling for a code violation review by the advertising industry's self-sanctioning body Istituto dell'Autodisciplina Pubblicitaria (IAP). While the director of the Italian edition of Rolling Stone Magazine, Carlo Antonelli, hinting at the show business background of the Minister and ultimately alluding to a calendar she released before her political induction, responded that "in Italy, a double standard reigns.”
     

    Oliviero Toscani built a name thanks to his 1980s ads for Benetton, where he flaunted his uncritical notion of multiculturalism (an African-American, a Caucasian and an Asian kid standing next to one another, for example; could racial harmony be more blandly depicted pillaged of its complexities?). Starting 1991, the ad campaigns were stripped of the clothing and reduced to provoking shots: unwrapped colorful condoms; a nun and a priest kissing; a newborn baby girl covered in blood with an uncut umbilical cord. Then came the reconciliation of political and commercial: the green logo pasted on photo-journalistic images of a dying AIDS patient, the blood soaked uniform of a dead Serbian soldier, a Mafia killing in Palermo. And the list of questionably tasteful works culminates with the last social commentary, which preceded the 2011 calendar, the 2007 Nolita ad campaign, which featured a naked and emaciated anorexic model, who recently died. It really seems more about shock, outrage and buzz, rather than ideas. Moreover, it is very hard to separate the shock value of these works from the imperatives of profit and commercialization that fostered them in the first place.
     

    And while the superstar Italian photographer dismisses the latest charges of objectification of the female body, the difference between the tanners consortium calendar and the sexist and humiliating depictions of femininity on mainstream Italian media stands out for its imperceptibility. Personally, the feeling that dominates is not outrage but boredom, boredom before Mr. Toscani's never ending thirst for attention.

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