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Articles by: Alex Catti

  • Facts & Stories

    The World's First Ever "Tiramisù Day"!

    Tiramisù is perhaps the most famous Italian dessert; however, it has a story that not many people are familiar with. Nowadays, there are all kids of holidays commemorating anything from food, like World Nutella Day on February 5th, to animals, like National Black Cat Day on November 17th. So why not set aside a day to appreciate this fine Italian dessert? Authors Clara and Gigi Padovani hope to garner appreciation for this classic dolce with both their book entitled Tiramisù and the first ever Tiramisù Day.

    The Story Behind Tiramisù

    Although there are many recipes, tiramisù is generally a mixture of espresso, creamy mascarpone, and ladyfingers all topped with cocoa powder. The Italian name tiramisù translates to “pick-me-up” in English. The dessert may be universally loved by all, but it does stir up a bit of controversy regarding its history.

    Despite the dissent regarding the origins of the recipe, the Padovanis have done their research, discovered the truth, and recorded it in their book Tiramisù. The recipe was originally created between 1940 and 1950 in Italy’s region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Chef Mario Cosolo invented the recipe at his restaurant Al Vetturino di Pieris and originally named it tirimesù. Although the recipe was born in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the region of Veneto is largely responsible for popularizing the dessert across the world. If your mouth wasn’t already watering reading about the history of tiramisù, in the second half of their book, the Padovanis include a multitude of recipes to satisfy any craving.

    Tiramisù Day

    On January 30th at Eataly Trieste, the Padovanis launched their proposal for Tiramisù Day. They chose March 21st because, as they put it, “There’s nothing better than tiramisù to celebrate the arrival of spring and to leave the grayness of winter behind.” The Padovanis were joined by Flavia Cosolo, daughter of Mario Cosolo, as she prepared the original tiramisù recipe that her father created.

    This year, March 21st will be the first ever #TiramisuDay in all 33 Eataly stores worldwide. If you’re near Trieste that day, be sure to stop Eataly for the celebrations. Original Friulian recipes will be shared, and you’ll have the chance to learn a bit more about the history of the delectable dessert from the Padovanis. If you’re in the United States, be sure to stop by your local Eataly location before March 19th in order to enjoy the tiramisù festival. And don’t forget to hashtag “TiramisuDay” on March 21st!

  • Life & People

    Sicilian Flair in New Orleans: St. Joseph’s Day!

    St. Joseph is a significant figure in the Catholic Church. He is the foster father of Jesus Christ and the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every year on March 19th, New Orleans celebrates the saint in its own special way.

    These celebrations began in the late 1800s when Sicilian immigrants began settling in NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana). St. Joseph is particularly revered among Sicilians for the relief that he brought to them during a famine.

    The main component of St. Joseph’s Day celebrations is the building of elaborate St. Joseph’s Day altars. The altars represent the Holy Trinity and are divided into three sections with a statue of St. Joseph at the head. Candles, figurines, flowers, and medals are often placed around the altars, which are built in both churches and homes.

    As with any Italian celebration, food is always sure to be present. Cookies, cakes, and breads are commonly used to decorate altars. Fava beans are another staple of St. Joseph’s Day celebrations because they helped to support the Sicilians during the famine. In some cases, the food displayed on the altars is acquired through begging, representative of what the poor in Sicily needed to do in order to survive. Children sometimes portray the members of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph), and they take apart the altar “looking” for food.

    In 2015, the president of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), John Viola, took a trip to New Orleans in order to celebrate St. Joseph's weekend with the Italian American Marching Club. He assisted longtime NIAF partner David Greco from Mike's Deli in the Bronx in making 500 pounds of pasta con le sarde (pasta Milanese in the New Orleans Sicilian-American community).

    The Celebration of St. Joseph’s Day has become a tradition for more than just Italians, however.  Many non-Italian residents of the city participate in the altar tradition because it is believed to bring good luck. The Mardi Gras Indians also hold their Super Sunday parade every year around the same time as St. Joseph’s Day.

    In fact, this year the two events will be on the same day. The parade is an important event in the city, and people come out to enjoy the Indians’ elaborate regalia.

  • Fernando Destefanis, HR director at Diesel, greets students and introduces the lesson.
    Life & People

    A Classroom in the Fashion Industry: Diesel Teaches American Students

    The famous Italian lifestyle brand Diesel is truly living up to its lifestyle label. The clothing maker is inviting students who study Italian in schools supported by the Italian American Committee on Education (IACE) to come to its headquarters in Chelsea. The initiative looks to teach young people about Italian design and fashion, the history of the Diesel brand, and careers in the fashion industry today.

    Upon arriving at the Diesel headquarters, students will meet with the company’s new CEO Stefano Rosso and Italian Consul General Francesco Genuardi. Students will then learn some interesting tidbits of information. For example, the word “jeans” comes from Gênes, the French word for Genoa. And it was in Genoa, in fact, that jean fabric emerged in the 17th century among working-class people. Additionally, the company will show students the entire fashion process, from manufacturing to the sales floor.

    This initiative is part of IACE’s efforts to promote the study of the Italian language and culture in American schools. IACE is a New York based non-profit organization in New York. The organization also hosts several other initiatives and events, which include performances at the New York City Opera, cooking classes at both Eataly and Sottocasa Pizzeria, and special events with personalities such as Lidia Bastianich.

    Visit Diesel’s official website to learn more about the company and to see clothing styles. Visit IACE’s official website for more information on the organization’s involvement in promoting the Italian language and culture in the tri-state area.

  • Art & Culture

    Preserving Culture: Italy's New Digital Library

    A new national archive is about to come to Italy. It’s called the Italian Digital Library, and its goal is to preserve, share, and promote the vast history of the boot. According to Dario Franceschini, Minister of Cultural Heritage, Activities, and Tourism, the contents stored in Italy’s 101 archives and 46 libraries will be uploaded to the digital library for viewers across the world to access.

    As with any cultural preservation project, there is a cost. In this case, two million Euro were allocated to finance the initiative. Franceschini believes that the benefits are well worth the costs. During the culture and tourism conference at Rome’s Accademia dei Lincei, the minister stated, “It’s an incomparable asset of enormous cultural value, which in the age of the Internet, also means it has a considerable economic value.” The publication of Italy’s cultural patrimony on the Internet will make the content global, not only local. Italian institutions will now be able to share the country’s history with individuals abroad, without having to pay duties and taxes to ship material internationally. This comes as a big financial help for small cultural institutions.

    The contents of the digital library will include both books and photographs. There are approximately 10 million photographs between L’Unione Cinematografica Educativa (Istituto Luce) and Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia alone. The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities, and Tourism (MiBACT) will coordinate the digitalization of Italy’s cultural patrimony under its branch called the Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione (ICCD). Naturally, an initiative of this scale will take a bit of time to complete. Franceschini shared his thoughts: “It’s going to be a job that will take several years, but in the end it’s going to be a great outcome.”

    During the conference, Franceschini also emphasized some of the most salient points during his three years as cultural minister. The highlights include the growth of MiBACT's budget to 2.1 billion Euro; a concorso (competitive exam) for 500 cultural professionals; and the Art Bonus that saw 4,300 sponsors donate 158 million Euro to 1,150 different projects.

  • The 125 S alongside the LaFerrari Aperta.
    Facts & Stories

    Ferrari Commemorates 70 Years of Innovation

    On March 12, 1947 the first Ferrari left the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy. It was called the 125 S, and it was the first car to wear the Ferrari badge. It would go on to compete in its first face on May 11, 1947 at the Piacenza Circuit. Unfortunately, the car lost that day due to a problem with its fuel pump. Hope, however, was not lost, as driver Franco Cortese would take the car to victory nine days later at the Rome Grand Prix.

    The 125 S had a 12 cylinder engine, which output 90cv–a measly number compared to today's standards. For the occasion of their 70th anniversary, Ferrari created the LaFerrari Aperta. This car is the limited-edition convertible version of the LaFerrari supercar. It features a roaring 6,262cc V12 engine outputting 800cv. The gasoline motor is coupled to an electric motor that boots total power output to 963cv, propelling the car from 0-200 KM/H (124 mile/h) in under 7 seconds with a top speed of over 350 KM/H (186 mile/h).

    On March 12, 2017, Ferrari kicked-off a series of events honoring its 70th anniversary. The company released a video of a 125 S driving through the factory’s gates–a reenactment of the car’s first test drive. The video later highlights the company’s latest masterpiece, the LaFerrari Aperta, which demonstrates how far the automaker has come over the last seven decades. Over the next few months, Ferrari will host events in over 60 countries. The LaFerrari Aperta along with a reconstruction of the original 125 S will be present at these traveling events. The celebrations will culminate the weekend of September 9th in Maranello, Italy.

    If you’re interested in learning more about Ferrari’s history and the LaFerrari Aperta, please be sure to visit the company’s 70th anniversary website.

  • Director of the Italian Cultural Institute Giorgio van Straten, Author/Playwright Dacia Maraini, and Director of the John D. Calandra Institute Anthony Tamburri during the discussion portion of the evening. Photo credit: Laura Yost
    Art & Culture

    Dacia Maraini's Play Debuts in Italytime's New Theater

    Although it was a rainy night in Greenwich Village, that did not stop Italians, Italian Americans, and Italophiles from coming out to see award-winning writer Dacia Maraini and her new play Una pittrice di provincia (A Provincial Painter). The play, directed by Vittorio Capotorto, was part of the inauguration of italytime’s new theater. Dacia Maraini is a famous Italian writer and playwright, and she has spent much time both in New York and in America. Her most recent event took place at New York's Italian Cultural Institute and was a talk with NYU Italian professor Jane Tylus about her new book Beloved Writing. Some of Maraini's other New York appearances included presentations and talks at Hunter College, Casa Italiana Zerilli–Marimò, and the Italian Cultural Institute.

    Inauguration Night

    Just down the street from the GROM gelateria in Greenwich Village lies Our Lady of Pompeii Church. Underneath the church is italytime’s new theater space, located at 25B Carmine Street. The space is an open studio with a proscenium stage, the perfect venue for italytime’s projects. The theater was packed and the audience excited to see Maraini’s latest work. The director of the one-act play, Vittorio Capotorto, briefly welcomed the audience prior to the show. The cast of this performance was comprised of Lorella Rapisarda, David Donohoe, Melissa Weisbach, Gergory Cole, and the text was translated by into English by Maureen Gonzáles.

    As the curtain rose, a beautiful set was revealed. It was a cross between a forest and a home–the perfect backdrop for a story about an aspiring artist. The play centers around a young Italian-American girl, Rosalina, from Pennsylvania as she tries to begin her career as a painter. Initially, Rosalina’s father is not supportive of her dream to work in the arts, and therefore, Rosalina moves away from home to try to make it big. However, life throws her a curveball, and she needs to figure out how to get back on track. After realizing success, Rosa begins to feel the enormous pressure placed on artists today.

     

    Following the performance, Maraini participated in an a question and answer session with the audience. Anthony Tamburri Dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute and Giorgio van Straten director of the Italian Cultural Institute accompanied Maraini onstage and offered their insights about Italian culture. Maraini then thanked the actors in this debut performance of her play. Perhaps one of the most salient points of Mariani’s discussion with the audience was when she spoke about the pressure placed on young artists today, a theme that was evident during the performance. Maraini stated, “The market is becoming quicker and quicker. We consume everything very quickly, and people don’t have the time to breathe. The artists have this pressure to produce, produce, produce. Sometimes the books don’t stay one week in the bookshops.” The evening concluded with a round of applause and a happy hour.

    Italytime’s Mission

    Italytime is a non-profit organization founded by Vittorio Capotorto and Francesco Pagano in December 2013. The organization’s goals are “to give new artists the chance to create and re-invent Italian arts, design & culture; to allow kids and teens to nurture their imagination & social engagement; and to include everyone from the most diverse background to exchange contemporary Italian experiences.”

    Since its founding, italytime has been offering live theater shows, theater workshops, movie nights featuring classic Italian films, and an Italian theater practicum to help individuals perfect their Italian through acting. The association has brought unique theater productions to New York and has also helped New York and New Jersey schools enrich their theater programs.

    Check out italytime’s official website to stay up to date on their most current events.>>>

  • World-renowned chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich during i-Italy's interview
    Life & People

    Lidia Matticchio Bastianich: Nostalgia and Success

    The name Lidia Bastianich is synonymous with exquisite Italian cuisine. Many people know the talented chef from her fine Italian restaurants and her various television programs throughout the years. However, Ms. Bastianich’s professional accomplishments are only one component of her intriguing and significant personal history. As a child, Lidia grew up between three different worlds–each one having a significant impact on her and her future. i-Italy had the pleasure of sitting down with the world-renowned chef in order to better understand her roots and to help share her story.

    Beginnings in Istria

    It was February 1947; World War II had ended, and the Paris Peace Treaties were about to be signed. Until that point, the Istrian peninsula was primarily under Italy’s control following World War I. Despite having Italian governance, Italians living in Istria had a very difficult existence; many of them faced violence or death during the Foibe massacres occurring near the end of World War II. The Paris Peace Treaties, however, were a final nail in the coffin for many of those individuals as the treaties granted control of the Istria to Yugoslavia. Istrian-Italians knew they either needed to adapt to a new way of life or to emigrate from the peninsula. Many chose the latter option, so many, in fact, that the time period was known as the “Istrian Exodus.”

    That same month, February 1947, Lidia Matticchio (later Bastianich) was born in the middle of the political unrest. Her family resided in Pola, and she would live there for the first nine years of her life along with her parents and her older brother–three years her superior. Lidia recalled that life in Pola during that time meant change for many of its residents. People were changing their names, changing the language they spoke, and even changing religion. She shared with an anecdote about her grandmother: “My grandmother would discreetly take me to church, and she would discreetly speak to me in Italian. All of these things, you really felt them as a young girl. It was difficult to exist in this uncertainty.”

    Moving Across the Border

    When Lidia was approximately ten years old, her parents decided that they could no longer raise their two children in that environment. During that time, it was not possible to simply leave Istria as a refugee; those looking to escape had to truly run away. Fortunately, the Matticchio family had relatives in Trieste, Italy. Lidia’s parents decided that she, her brother, and her mother would go to Italy to visit their family. Her father, however, had to stay behind in Istria. Lidia recalls, “They didn’t let the whole family go. They always held one as a hostage.” This system was enacted to ensure that those who went abroad would always return for the family member left behind. However, two weeks later, Lidia’s father fled Istria and arrived safely in Trieste.

    The events of this tumultuous time stuck with young Lidia. She remembers her aunt who lived in Italy and who brought her son into the woods to avoid the Foibe massacres, but he never returned. Work in Italy was scarce and did not provide a secure life; Lidia’s father worked as a chauffeur for a the Rossetti family, and her mother cleaned houses. Again, Lidia’s parents felt compelled to make a change.

    Crossing the Atlantic

    Anyone who was interested in emigrating from Italy needed to enter into a refugee camp. Lidia’s parents had been contemplating entering the camp in Trieste, San Saba, for a few months before they finally decided to sign up. Lidia shared with us a bit of her experience there: “I remember that as soon as we entered, they put us in quarantine. Quaratine meant that they stripped you of your clothes; they took everything from you, and they looked to see if you were healthy. Then they put us in a rather dark room, and they put my father in another because they separated the men. Even now I remember it because there was this small window, and I was looking between the bars to see if I could see my father coming. After 40 hours, they reunited us, and we were all much more relaxed.” Lidia and her family stayed in this camp for two years. She recalls waiting in line for food every day with her small plate and living in a big room divided into small sections. The family left the camp’s grounds from time to time in order to visit Lidia’s aunts and uncles; however, in order to remain in line for emigration, the Matticchio family needed to continue to reside in the camp.

    Finally, in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower opened up immigration to America, and the Matticchios were among the first to arrive in the United States. They first entered the United States through Idlewild Airport in New York City, which is known today as John F. Kennedy International Airport. Their journey was assisted by both Caritas and the Red Cross. Lidia recalls that as young children, she and her brother felt the United States was a place with beautiful music, beautiful homes, and artists. However, her parents found the experience to be a bit more frightening as they did not know anyone in their new country, and they did not speak the language. After living in New York City for two months, Lidia’s family found a job for her father as a mechanic, and they relocated to North Bergen, New Jersey.

    The Foundation of a Culinary Career

    After Lidia’s family finally felt some stability, her own career began to take off. Her roots, however, always remained fundamental to her success. Lidia remembers that when she was a child, her mother would often leave her in the care of her grandmother. Lidia told us: “I was her little helper; I went behind her, and I would cook with her. I remember when the goats were milked, she made me ricotta with a bit of honey on it, and that was my breakfast. It’s great! When arrived in Trieste, I knew we wouldn’t be going back. I felt like something was ripped away from me because I didn’t say goodbye to my grandmother or my friends, nothing. We just left, and that was it. I believe food remained as my connection and my tie to my grandmother. The scents, the flavors, everything. I continued cooking in order to keep her close to me.” Lidia’s also stated that father was very nostalgic, and he loved to make traditional baccalà mantecato from Veneto. To this day, Lidia still makes this dish on Christmas Eve because it feels as if her father is there with her.

    Lidia first began cooking at home. When she was in school, she started working part time at a bakery; she enjoyed the work, and it gave her a chance to develop her skills. Subsequently, when she was attending Hunter College, she began working in restaurants and she felt that she was on the right path. Lidia’s husband, Felice, was also another important part of her successful culinary career. Felice was already involved in the restaurant industry. The two met when Lidia went to visit a distant cousin in Astoria, Queens. They married, had their first child, Joseph, and opened their first restaurant, which was in Queens. They hired a chef, and Lidia worked closely alongside him for ten years as a sous-chef.

    In 1981, after making several trips back and forth to Italy, Felice and Lidia opened Felidia in Manhattan. Lidia became the chef, and she made the switch from preparing Italian-American cuisine to cooking genuine Italian regional cuisine. Today, the head chef of this East Side gem is Fortunato Nicotra, and the menu is as eclectic as ever.

    Words of Wisdom

    We asked Lidia if she had any advice or perhaps a positive message for those who are going through difficult times. She told us, “I would give strength and opportunity to someone who is looking to restart his or her life and looking to find a stable place to live. If you give that helping hand, once you’re gone, those people are then able to help themselves, assuming they have the desire to. You need to give someone the opportunity when he/she needs it, just like my family and me were given. We’re a perfect example of what can happen when someone seizes this opportunity. Naturally, yes, we worked very hard; yes, we made sacrifices along the way. Yes, my grandmother, my mother, and my father cried on several occasions. Yes, to all of these things, but in the end, you make something beautiful for yourself, a great opportunity.”
     

    Don't forget to tune in to NYC Life (Channel 25) on Sunday, Febraury 26th for our exclusive conversation between Letizia Airos and Lidia Bastianich.

  • FIAT 500
    Art & Culture

    Celebrating 60 Years of an Iconic Vehicle: The FIAT 500

    It’s no secret that Italians embrace compact vehicles far more than Americans. Due to Europe's high gas prices and narrow cobblestone streets, they prove to be more practical. In 1957, the world of compact cars was transformed when Dante Giacosa launched the FIAT Nuova 500. It gained popularity not only for its unforgettable body shape, fuel efficiency, and nimble handling, but also for becoming the first true city car made specifically with the public's demands in mind.

    The History of the Novel Vehicle

    It was July of 1957 when the FIAT Nuova 500 was released. Gasoline and steel were expensive in Italy at the time, and Italian automobile designer and engineer Dante Giacosa was determined to create a car that would be as minimalistic as possible. The interior was, in fact, so minimalistic that car was devoid of a turn signal lever on the steering column, and the headlights were operated via the position of the ignition key. The two-seater Nuova 500 was barely 10 feet long and 5 feet wide; however, it had room for two passengers and two suitcases. Although it is quite rare on modern automobiles, the car featured suicide doors (opening in reverse), which were relatively common during the early 20th century. The Nuova 500 was only available in one body style: a soft-top convertible. The original vehicle was powered by a 479 cc two-cylinder engine coupled to a four-speed manual gearbox. Total power output was rated at a measly 13 horsepower. For comparison, a modern lawn tractor has approximately the same power output.

    By November, due to a lack of sales, the model lineup had already begun to change in order to better align itself with the demands of Italian consumers. Two new variations of the car were released: the 500 Economico and the 500 N NormaleThe Economico received a 15 horsepower motor and was able to reach a top speed 55 miles per hour. The N Normale also received the same powerplant upgrade, but was given new metallic trim pieces, a rear seat, and controls for both the headlights and the turn signals on the steering column. Sales of the FIAT 500 began booming, and it became one of the most popular vehicles in Italy. New models were released throughout the 60s and 70s, during which time FIAT experimented designs that included stronger engines, soft-tops and hardtops, and other interior & exterior improvements, all while maintaining Giacosa’s original styling.

    Today, the 1957 FIAT 500 is a vintage piece, rising in price among collectors. It's celebrating its 60th birthday this year in July. No other automobile can truly boast popularity so long-lived as the FIAT 500.

    The Car 60 Years Later...

    In 2007, FIAT reinvented their iconic car and created the modern FIAT 500 that we see on the road today. Externally, the body has taken on a sleeker and more aerodynamic form. On the inside, the dashboard resembles a 1960s radio, and its form and pastel color scheme are modeled after a retro moped. The new 500 is also equipped with modern safety features. A wide variety of powertrains and gearboxes are available and vary depending on the market of purchase (European, North American, etc...)

    In 2014, FIAT decided to pay tribute to its 1957 FIAT 500 Nuova. Thus was born the "FIAT 500 1957 Edition." The exterior of the car is adorned with 1957-style FIAT badges, classic-styled wheels, and your choice of one of four different retro colors. The interior of the 1957 Edition includes a Beats Audio Premium Audio System™ and subtle earth toned leather-trimmed seats.

    As of 2017, the FIAT 500 comes in three models, each with varying trims: the 2017 FIAT 500X, a stylish crossover; the 2017 FIAT 500L, which is similar to a minivan; and the original FIAT 500.

    FIAT Today

    As of 2014, FIAT completed its acquisition of United States automaker Chrysler, following Chrysler's Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. FIAT's ownership of Chrysler gave the Italian vehicles an easy access point to the American market. Prior to 2010, FIAT cars had not been sold in the United States for 26 years. Their headquarters remains in Turin, Italy, and their factories are located around the world. FIAT additionally manages the Dodge, Jeep, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo brands. 

    FIAT created an automotive revolution simply by complying to popular demand and conceiving a high quality vehicle at a low price. It’s no surprise over 300,000 original 1957 FIAT 500s still remain. From 1957 cobblestone streets to 2017 big cities, the FIAT 500 continues to be the perfect city car, made for the people. 

  • The masterminds behind the 2017 Authors Directing Author Neil LaButte, Marta Buchaca, and Marco Calvani.
    Art & Culture

    When Playwrights Direct Playwrights. The AdA Project

    “Three authors. Three plays. Three directors. One show.” This is how the directors behind the AdA (Author Directing Author) project define their show. Their latest performance opening at La MaMa theater in Manhattan is the third edition of the AdA project. How did such a project come to be? Well, it all started in Barcelona, Spain where playwrights Neil LaBute and Marco Calvani had been teaching. LaBute and Calvani became friends and decided to work together. In an interview posted on La MaMa’s website, Calvani concisely explains the AdA project: “We both write a short play around a common theme, and then we direct each other’s work. The two plays, they form one single show.” Past productions have gotten rave reviews from organizations such as The New York Times, Time Out, and TheaterMania. This year offers an exciting new spin on the already unique project.

    So far the AdA project has seen two prior editions. The first edition took place in 2012 with plays centered on the theme “HOME,” and the second edition took place in 2014 centered on “DESIRE.” Their previous shows have been performed in 3 countries and in 3 languages: Italian, Spanish, and English. For their 2017 production, LaBute and Calvani chose “POWER” as the theme. However, this year presents a “twist,” as LaBute describes it: the addition of a third collaborator–Spanish playwright/director Marta Buchaca. With a third playwright, and in honor of its third edition of AdA, this production treats the audience to three one-act plays, instead of the usual two.

    The three performances are LaBute’s “I don’t know what I can save from you,” Calvani’s “After the Dark,” and Buchaca’s “Summit.” Each play reflects the theme of “POWER” as it pertains to personal, professional, or political life. LaBute’s play focuses on an estranged father and his relationship with his daughter. Calvani’s piece deals with a designer and her assistant. Finally, Buchaca’s one-act is practically an alternate reality of this year’s US presidential election as it deals with a left-wing female candidate taking over the office of the conservative outgoing mayor.

    The cast for this series of one-acts includes Richard Kind, Gia Crovatin, Margaret Collin, Gabby Beans, Dalia Davi, and Victor Slezak. Be sure to order your tickets before they’re sold out. The show will be open from Thursday, January 19th to Sunday, February 5th.

  • The outside of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
    Facts & Stories

    Restoring the Birthplace of Jesus Christ

    In the city of Bethlehem–the supposed birthplace of Jesus Christ–lies the Church of the Nativity. This basilica is a prominent religious location for many Christians: Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac Orthodox, and Roman Catholic. Construction began on the site’s original church in 327 A.D. and concluded in 333. Around 530 A.D. the original church was destroyed in a revolt against the Byzantine emperor. Subsequently in 531, Emperor Justinian ordered the restoration of the city and construction began on the current church. In 2012 UNESCO marked the site as “in danger,” and work has begun to restore the basilica to its former glory.

     

    Throughout the years the basilica has seen some improvements but also a significant amount of deterioration. During the Crusades a monastery was added and a roof reconstruction project was completed. Over 350 years later in 1837 the church endured an earthquake, which damaged the bell tower. Following the earthquake, the church fell victim to looting and a large quantity of marble was stolen and used to construct buildings in the surrounding area. The wood was rotting and the roof was leaking, up until recently, that is. In 2013 the church would see a much different fate.

     

    Enter Piacenti S.p.A., the family-run restoration company from Prato, which is currently undertaking the large-scale, multimillion-dollar restoration project. In 2010 the University of Ferrara coordinated an initial study with the goal of formulating a plan for the church’s restoration. In 2013 the Palestinian government promoted the restoration and assigned the work to Piacenti S.p.A., which is currently working under the supervision of the university. Highly specialized restoration workers were assigned to the project and must use building materials that are faithful to the church’s original construction materials, like the wood for the giant wooden ceiling.

     

    The project is more than halfway finished and to date has cost 14 million Euros. Funding for the project has come from 25 different countries including the Vatican, Russia, Turkey, and Morocco. Additional donations have come from private Palestinian investors and 4 banks. However, Piacenti S.p.A. says that it will need another 5 million Euros in order to complete the project.

     

    The restoration of the basilica is not only crucial to the building’s survival, but it has also lead to a historical discovery.  Workers using thermal imaging cameras had noticed a change in the plaster’s color, so they removed the plaster wall and uncovered a series of mosaic angels that face in the direction of the Nativity.

     

    What remains to be completed? Workers are currently upgrading the wiring. The next step will be restoring the support columns and the mosaic floor. Piacenti S.p.A.’s CEO, Giammarco Piacenti, states that the project should be completed by 2020 if the company receives the necessary funding. The completion date opportunely coincides with the Arab League’s potential crowning of Bethlehem as its 2020 “Capital of Culture.”

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