Articles by: Francesca Giuliani

  • Life & People

    Google Celebrates Maria Montessori’s 142nd Birthday

    She was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy and her educational method is now followed everywhere in the world. Successful graduates from her alternative schools are many of the world’s most important innovators and personalities, such as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, video game pioneer Will Wright (the creator of The Sims), Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, chef Julia Child, and even rapper P. Diddy.

    Maria Montessori would have turned 142 on Friday, and Google celebrated this special anniversary with a themed homepage Doodle featuring some of the basic toys and tools the Montessori educational method uses to create child-friendly, grade-free and hands-on learning environments, regardless of age differences among the pupils.

    In multiple occasions, Brin and Page directly credited the Montessori method for their success: “I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders and being self-motivated, questioning what's going on in the world, doing things a bit different,” Page stated in an interview with ABC.

    Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, Italy, in 1870. From a very early age she developed an interest in science and graduated from the a technical high school, a very uncommon choice for girls at the time. In 1890 she applied to the medical program at La Sapienza University in Rome, but was denied entrance because of her gender. She then enrolled in the physics and natural sciences program, and was eventually allowed in the medical concentration. In 1986 she defended her dissertation to an all-male examining commission and went on to graduate and become the first woman MD in Italian history.

    After gaining on-field experience in insane asylums helping mentally challenged children, in 1904 she began working to her revolutionary educational method. In 1906 she founded a “Children’s House” in the San Lorenzo neighborhood in Rome for the children of disadvantaged households. Her strongest belief was that children have an inner drive to learn and that this potential can be expressed at its best in safe environments where they can experiment freely with objects and educational tools, creating and benefiting from the company of other kids.

    “Discipline must come through liberty,” Montessori wrote in Chapter V of her essay The Montessori Method. “We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined. We call an individual disciplined when he is master of himself.”
    Her method quickly gained international success. As early as in 1913, Montessori visited the US where in that very year Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Educational Association in Washington D.C.

    In the 1930s, while Italy was under the Fascist regime, many of the Montessori schools the Italian government had previously sustained were shut down when Montessori herself opposed Mussolini’s order to have the kids wearing fascist uniforms and giving the fascist salute.

    However, the international success of the method brought Montessori to travel all over the world. In 1929, the Association Montessori International was founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In 1938 a Montessori Training Center in Laren, Netherlands, was opened. Nine years later another Montessori Center was opened in London.

    Montessori, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950, and 1951, died in Noordwijk, Netherlands, in 1952. More than 20,000 schools around the world today are named after her and embrace her educational method.

  • Facts & Stories

    From Facebook to the Papers: The List of Italy's Top 100 Parliamentary Methuselahs

    From the Obama campaign in 2008 all the way to the Arab Spring, social media has undoubtedly become a very important field for the political competition to take place on.

    That is also true in Italy, where the politicians’ posts on social media websites are usually picked up by the traditional media, helping what’s buzzing to actually roar.

    Senator Stefano Pedica from Antonio Di Pietro’s party “Italia dei Valori” latest note on Facebook was an important news-op for many Italian newspapers yesterday. The note was a list of the 100 Italian members of the Parliament who have been in office for the longest time. 

    Pedica, who himself has been an MP for 6 years, wrote in his note that “There are people who sat in the Parliament for decades,” and asks his Facebook friends not to vote them anymore: “What did they do for this country?” 

    The lengths of the MPs’ careers in Pedica’s list range from a minimum of 16 years to a maximum of almost 40. 

    The longest-lived parliamentary careers are the ones of Senator Giuseppe Pisanu (PDL) and Chamber of Deputies’ member Giorgio La Malfa (PRI), who have been sitting in the Italian parliament for 38 years. A close second is Mario Tassone (UDC), in office for 34 years. 29 years is the length of Gianfranco Fini’s and Pier Ferdinando Casini’s careers. 

    First among the Partito Democratico MPs is Livia Turco, in office for 25 years, followed by Massimo d’Alena with 23 years of service. Anna Finocchiaro, the president of the PD Senators’ group, ranks 8th with her 25 years in office, a longer time than Emma Bonino (21 years) and Franco Marini (20 years).  

    Walter Veltroni and Rosy Bindi have something in common with Silvio Berlusconi: their parliamentary careers all last 18 years. 

    Antonio Di Pietro, leader of the IDV of which Pedica is a member, is excluded from the list as he was first elected in 1997 but was not confirmed in the following term (2001-2006). 

    The politicians in Pedica’s list, the Senator stated, have all lived the seasons of the First and Second Republic and “have witnessed the growth of Italy’s public debt to EUR 2,000 billion.” 

    Later during the day, always through his Facebook page, Pedica announced the launch of a signature gathering to limit the eligibility of MPs after 3 terms of being in service.

    Curiously, Senator For Life Giulio Andreotti is not listed in Pedica’s note although Andreotti has been a member of the Italian parliament from day one. He was in fact a member of the Constituent Assembly elected on June 28, 1946.

  • Facts & Stories

    Via Del Popolo: San Gennaro’s Miracle Brings a Piazza to Mulberry Street

    The Feast of San Gennaro is undoubtedly one of the most important celebrations for the Italian-American community of New York City. Each September, the Feast of San Gennaro draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Mulberry Street area in the eleven days it takes place.

    Initiated in 1926 by the Neapolitan immigrant families residing in the Little Italy neighborhood, the Feast was an occasion for the Neapolitan immigrants to homage the saint patron of their city in the day of his martyrdom in 305 A.D., on September 19. 

    In Naples, the miracle of the melting blood of the saint is celebrated three times a year, the other dates being December 16 and one date among the first ten days of May.  The solidified blood of Saint Gennaro is preserved in two cruets in the Cathedral of Naples, and, as worshippers believe, if on those set dates the blood melts, that is a good omen for the city.

    The Neapolitan celebration of the San Gennaro Feast is more of a spiritual moment than an actual festival, whereas the Mulberry street version of the San Gennaro Feast has evolved over the decades into an extremely popular street fair characterized by the presence of commercial vendors and Italian-American food kiosks. 

    In the multifaceted Italian-American community, some believe that the celebrations of the Feast should be more in line with the Neapolitan solemnities in order to better represent the Italian-American heritage and legacy in the historic district of Chinatown-Little Italy, as well as to respect the original intent behind the initiation of the festival -- the one of bringing together the diverse community of the area, an immigrant reality that more than other areas in the city truly expresses the concept of multiethnic melting-pot.

    In this context, since last year the San Gennaro Feast has featured an interesting duplicity. Promoted by the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, an alternative version of the festivities was carried out on Mulberry street between Houston and Prince with a rich program of cultural events and performances featuring live concerts, theatrical readings, architectural installations and educational exhibitions. 

    This year, the experiment of a different San Gennaro Feast is continuing, growing stronger and more relevant for the neighborhood.
    Via Del Popolo,” translated “The Street of the People,” is the name and the theme for the festivity, which will take place from September 13th  to the 23rd. Via del Popolo aims at bringing the concept of the street festival back to its roots, closing the block to the vehicular traffic and reimagining it as a public piazza and art exhibition. 

    “The Feast of San Gennaro  should be a true expression of community, old and new,” Monsignor Donald Sakano, Japanese-Italian-American Pastor of the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral tells i-Italy, and explains how this criteria informs all of the projects that he and other representatives from important cultural institutions in the neighborhood are working on for next September.

    To literally represent the community, an exhibition conceived by former New York Times’ picture editor Mark Bussell and organized in partnership with The New Museum and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts will bring 30 life-size photographic portraits of Saint Patrick’s parishioners on water-proof fabric prints that will be wrapped around the church’s historic brick wall.

    The portraits by Alex Arbuckle will represent families, couples and individuals in the neighborhood, putting real faces from the area on display: a visual representation of the neighborhood’s inhabitants that potentiates the emotional ties with it and the sense of community within it. 

    The artwork will be visible at night thanks to a lighting installation by designer  Maha Mamish, which will enhance the visibility and create an evocative atmosphere with monumental LED streetlamps arching over the Cathedral’s wall. The streetlamps’ design will be inspired by the lancet arches that are typical of the Gothic architecture and a recurring element in the Basilica’s façade and interior. 

    In order for the street to be fully experienced by the community, Via del Popolo will also be furnished: “we want to recreate a piazza on Mulberry Street,” Monsignor Sakano explains.
    An outdoor lounge with umbrellas and furnishings placed in the streets will convert the street into a social hub, in a neighborhood where community spaces are lacking and there is a need to recreate them.

    “Our wish is for this to become permanent, bringing Mulberry Street back to a neighborly dimension. We want to transform it into a ‘streetscape,’ a word that urban planners use to describe a pedestrian friendly environment,” Sakano adds.

    Working with urban planners and with the New York City Department of Transportation, the Monsignor has already obtained that parking on Mulberry Street between Houston and Prince will be forbidden. 

    “San Gennaro is a great opportunity to showcase this project for the neighborhood, all the while making the festival itself more neighborhood based. This year we  hope to do justice to the patron saint of Naples by having a festival that is worthy of his name,” Sakano concludes.

    For more information on Via Del Popolo, you can follow the Kickstarter page for the initiative, which reached its crowdfunding goal of $10,000 just yesterday. 

  • Art & Culture

    Beyond Fascism: Italian Art in the Thirties Soon on Display in Florence

    The Fascist regime had a very deep influence on all the aspects of life in Italy, not just on politics, but on culture and society at large. 

    This is well expressed in the art of the Thirties, to which the exhibition “The Thirties. The Arts in Italy Beyond Fascism” will be dedicated from September 22 to January 27, 2013.

    Curated by Antonello Negri, Silvia Bignami, Paolo Rusconi, Giorgio Zanchetti and Susanna Ragionieri, the exhibition will take place in the prestigious Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. 

    The artistic scene of the Thirties presented a variety of styles: from Classicism to Futurism, from Expressionism to Abstraction, from monumental art to salon painting. In the same decade, the emergence of design and mass communication helped the concepts behind fine arts to be conveyed to a broader public. A prelude to the modern era, the Thirties were a vital time of experimentation. 

    To account for such a complexity, the exhibition will be articulated in seven sections and will include not only paintings and sculptures, but also graphics, photographs, models and sketches, posters, journals, illustrated books and architectural drawings, in an attempt to give a complete picture of the aesthetic, cultural and ideological atmosphere of the time.

    The first section of the exhibit will focus on the geography of art in Italy during the 1930s, analyzing the styles and the themes developed in different cities across the country.
    Sironi and Carrà together with the “Novecentists” like Tosi Funi, Wildt and Garbari were the protagonists of the artistic scene in Milan. Turin was the home of Casorati, Menzio, Paulucci and Chessa, and shared a French feel, while Trieste echoed with Mitteleuropean suggestions in the works of Sbisà, Nathan and Bolaffio. Florence and Bologna were the cities of Soffici, Lega, Rosai, Viani and Morandi, while Rome was divided between the Classical and the Realistic movements, with Bartoli, Ceracchini, Carena and Donghi. 

    The second section of the exhibition analyzes the international appeal of the abstract-avantgarde works by the Futurists, open to European and world influences. It will showcase works by younger painters and sculptors such as Licini, Prampolini, Mafai, Guttuso, Fontana and others.

    The topic of transnational influences in the arts is also examined in the third section of the exhibit, featuring works by Italian artists abroad -- De Chirico in Paris, Depero in the US, Mucchi and De Fiori in Germany -- and works by foreign artists in Italy. 

    The fourth section of the exhibit will focus on the contrasts between modernity and tradition that animated the decade, between aesthetic and ideological tensions. From the movement of “degenerate art” in Germany and the provocative abstract works by Carrà, Ghiringhelli, De Chirico and others, to the more classical artworks inspired by the regime, informed by symmetry and monumentality. 

    The function of art as a means of mass communication is well served by murals and public artworks such as the 1933 Milan Triennale ones by Mario Sironi. Works by Fontana, Carrà, Sironi and others are also featured in this section. 

    Great attention is also dedicated to design and applied arts, introducing the element of images’ reproducibility and laying the foundations for a first mass society. Fashion, furnishings, furniture, domestic appliances, as well as advertising and political posters account for the contrasting ideas, from Art Déco and Modernist ones to the most Rationalist, that informed daily life at the time. 

    The last section of the exhibit is specifically dedicated to the city that hosts it, Florence. In the 1930s, the capital city of Tuscany was the home to a large number of cultural journals, which represented for many artists and intellectuals a way to connect with each other.  

    For more information on the exhibition visit the website.

  • Facts & Stories

    Relentless for a Cure: an Italian Man Pedals Across the US Against Leukemia

    Luigi Laraia is a 37-years old Italian economist at the World Bank Group in Washington DC. Four months ago, Laraia was diagnosed with leukemia. Last week he started a 4,000 mile bicycle journey across America to raise awareness of the illness that struck him and to fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

    Laraia set off for his adventure alone on July 26, in front of the Italian Embassy to the United States. His journey will last 35 days and cover 12 states and important cities such as Pittsburg and Chicago, to then end in Vancouver, Canada, on September 3. To succeed, he will attempt to ride 125 miles a day: “The first cycle of chemotherapy gave me the strength and the determination to set such an ambitious goal,” Laraia said.

    “Research on cancer progresses especially thanks to the efforts of single individuals,” he explained. Laraia is currently on his 9th day of cycling and he finally arrived in Chicago. Traveling with just a change of clothes and a laptop computer, Laraia posts daily updates on his trip on his blog “Relentless for a Cure.” On it, Laraia tells the readers that he decided to ride his bicycle because he wants to send “a message of hope to all those who are sick.” 

    In 2010, Laraia had already pedaled from Washington DC to the Grand Canyon, but his physical condition then was very different. Laraia decided to embark on this journey right after losing 20 lbs and suffering weeks of illness due to chemotherapy’s side effects. In May, when his doctor deemed it safe for him to start exercising again, he started planning his itinerary.

    “My family thought I was crazy,” Laraia said in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, “It took me some time to explain to them what I wanted to do, but now they understand the passion and the motivation, so they are all behind it.”

    On his dedicated page on the LLS’ fundraising website Light the Night, Luigi explains that “Cancer research, coupled with self-belief and determination, helps millions of patients to live. This is what I believe in, this is the real miracle: the power of research to find the right medication and the power of the mind to stay focused.”

    As Luigi stays focused on his itinerary, you can follow his journey on his blog and donate to his cause through it.

  • Facts & Stories

    From Amerigo to America: 2012 Italy Culture Month To Celebrate the Legacy of Vespucci

    The 2012 Italy Culture Month organized by the Italian Heritage and Cultural Committee of New York will open on October 5 with the traditional inaugural ceremony by the Mother Italy statue at Hunter College’s Poses Park.

    The theme for the 36th edition of the initiative focuses on the role of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, on the 500th anniversary of his passing.

    America owes its name to Italian explorer and adventurer Amerigo Vespucci.

    Born in Florence in 1454, Vespucci arrived here in 1497, five years after Christopher Columbus did, but he was the first to realize this was not a part of Asia, rather a “New World.”

    His ingenuity and will to discover offer an inspiration to reflect on the Italian inborn creativity and drive, and on the ways it actually affected life in the Americas, both northern and southern.

    The contribution of the Italian immigrants to the development of the USA as we know them is very important, but what is less known is that Italians also had a primary role in the growth of southern American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela.

    “Amerigo to America: the Legacy of Italians in the Americas” is the title chosen by the IH&C Committee of New York, that is currently in the midst of finalizing the programs and the activities for the celebration.

    Events and symposia will start in September and go through December, paving the way for the official start of the 2013 celebrations for the “Year of the Italian Culture in the United States.”

    Joseph Sciame, President of the IH&CC New York, is thrilled for this year’s Italy Culture Month.

    “It will be a very exciting time,” Sciame tells i-Italy while showing the 2012 poster for the initiative by artist John Battista De Santis, representing Vespucci’s astrolabe surrounded by all the fields in which the theme of “discovery” will be examined in the events and symposia: from technology to medicine, from engineering to business.

    “The emphasis we decided to put on science and technology is to demonstrate that there is more about Italy than monuments and fine art from past times. Italy is a protagonist of today’s world and has an active role in the advancement and in the progress of it.”

    Sciame elaborates on some of the events in program: “Something very exciting will happen on a national level. An artist has offered to create a sculpture in honor of the 500th anniversary of Vespucci’s death and the IH&CC New York will present it in October to the Embassy of Italy to Washington DC, where it will be then placed. It’s going to be fantastic.”

    Another important event will take place on September 29: “It will be a co-sponsored symposium with the Calandra Italian/American Institute on the life of Joseph Tusiani.”

    Renowned poet, essayist, and translator, Tusiani has often composed poems in Latin, truly bringing the Italian classical tradition into American English and American literature. “Tusiani has also been selected as our 2012 Da Vinci awardee,” Sciame adds.

    As already mentioned, the connection with South America is going to be a very important one in this year’s edition of the Italian Cultural Month. Sciame unveils that on this aspect, the Committee is “working closely with Ambassador Sebastiano Fulci from the Organization of the American States,” an important institution attached to the United Nations.

    The legacy of Amerigo Vespucci, his will to discover and always go further, is very characteristic of the Italian mindset and has infiltrated the American society in ways that have shaped it very deeply. “It’s the spirit of Italians,” Sciame believes.

    “When I think about my grandparents coming to America from the mountainous inlands of Sicily, sometimes I wonder how they ever did that! There is tremendous genius, talent and creativity in the Italian people, and I think we Italian-Americans inherited that gene, the same gene that is responsible for Vespucci’s accomplishments. Our strength is our vitality!”

    For more information and for a complete program of the Italian Cultural Month, visit the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee’s website.

  • Tourism

    Discovering Piedmont in New York with World Record Quick-Change Artist Arturo Brachetti

    On July 17, ENIT hosted a presentation on Turin and the Langhe-Roero area in Piedmont, one of Italy’s most flavorful and most multifaceted regions.

    Located in northern Italy and bordering with France, Switzerland and the Italian regions of Aosta Valley, Liguria and Lombardy, Piedmont is surrounded by the Alps on three sides but it also offers charming hilly areas, among which the most widely known is the Langhe-Roero area. 

    Turin, the capital city of the region, was also the first capital of Italy in 1861, and has dramatically changed since 2006, when it hosted the Winter Olympics, from an industrial city characterized by the FIAT car production plants to a full-fledged European metropolis. Turin is rapidly ascending the chart of the must-see cities of Italy for visitors from all over the world and it features a very important Egyptian Museum, a Cinema Museum located in the iconic Mole Antonelliana, an Automobile Museum with nearly 200 original car models from 1769 to the most recent prototypes, and much more.

    The Langhe-Roero area is located in the Province of Cuneo. It is characterized by its hills which are the home to over 1000 wine cellars, offering hospitality and tasting events all year round. The Langhe-Roero landscape has been included by UNESCO in the list of nominated World Heritage Sites for Wine Grape Landscapes. 

    The joint promotion of the Turin and Langhe-Roero area was inspired by the idea of giving the American tourism sector operators a broader perspective of the activities their client can choose from while spending a holiday in Piedmont, offering a variety of settings and the possibility to easily tour the region by car, train or bike. 

    “Piedmont is a very special part of Italy where you can smell nature everywhere,” ENIT New York’s Director Eugenio Magnani told the American guests who attended the event, and shared with them memories of his childhood Summers in Rocca Cigliè, overlooking the Alps and the Langhe hills.  

    Present at the event were also representatives from Piedmont’s touristic institutions such as Regional Minister of Tourism Alberto Cirio and  President of the Langhe and Roero Tourism Board Luigi Barbero, who declared that “the two territories bring together their resources to create a strong presence in the overseas market.” 

    Alberto Cirio remembered the first promotional initiatives for Piedmont in the USA: “Fifteen years ago we hid 5 white truffles from Alba in the soil in Central Park, to show the New Yorkers where the truffles they had only seen before on luscious dishes in restaurants in the city actually come from.” The New York Times dedicated a full page to the event, in which the truffle hunters from Piedmont had their dogs searching for the truffles all over the park. New York squirrels also proved themselves great truffle hunters: “They found 2 truffles before the dogs could,” and the newspaper of record obviously reported about New York City’s truffle hunting rodents.

    Since then, Piedmont has become much more widely known among Americans, along with its specialty products such as Barolo wine, Gianduja chocolate and the aforementioned white truffle from Alba, but also for its breathtaking landscapes, ski resorts, medieval castles and residences. “It is a dreamed of destination,” Eugenio Magnani told i-Italy. 

    The promotion of Piedmont in New York City counts on the collaboration of Arturo Brachetti, world renowned quick-change artist who was born in Turin and is a proud cultural ambassador for his region. Brachetti participated in the ENIT event with a short quick-change performance, and answered questions from the audience about his career and his relationship with Piedmont.

    “Turin is a city of magic,” Brachetti stated. The Italian performer knows well about magic: he is featured in the Guinness Book of Records for his ability to change costumes in 1.5 seconds. “In my apartment in Turin I have more than 350 costumes,” Brachetti told the audience.

    Brachetti said to be extremely honored to be the cultural ambassador for Piedmont in New York City: “I am a typical product of my region. My grandfather used to work in the FIAT factories, and I have really witnessed the transformation of Turin from a polluted, industrial city to the wonderful cultural hub it has become in the past years.”

    When asked about his pointy hairdo by someone in the audience, Brachetti said: “It used to symbolize the Eiffel Tower when I was starting my career as quick-change artist in Paris now symbolizes the Mole Antonelliana.”

    Brachetti was also the star of the gala dinner organized by the Tourism Board of Piedmont at Tony May’s restaurant SD26. “Serata Piemonte,” Piedmont Night, included the fine food of Chef Massimo Camia from restaurant La Locanda nel Borgo Antico, in Barolo, the town in the province of Cuneo that gives the name to the Barolo wine variety, bottles of which have been provided by Cantine Ceretto

    The evening culminated in a raffle giving two lucky winners a 5-day vacation for two in Turin and Langhe-Roero.

  • Life & People

    NIAF’s Italian-American Relief for Emilia. Solidarity is Web-Based, Easy to Share

    The recent earthquakes that have hit Emilia Romagna have caused deaths, forced the population out of their homes, damaged businesses and destroyed many other important infrastructures in the region. 

    In times of need, Italy can rely on the support of its sons around the world, and the American sons of Italy are surely among the most active in providing immediate response when natural catastrophes and other disasters occur. 

    When the L’Aquila earthquake occurred in 2009, the National Italian American Foundation was able to raise over $800,000 and to contribute over $250,000 to the building of a new earthquake-resistant modular student center at the University of L’Aquila, completed over the Summer of 2011. 

    The Emilia Romagna earthquakes motivated NIAF to embark on a very innovative relief project that goes by the name of “Italian American Relief.” The initiative is online-based, and wants to facilitate the creation of a support network through its website, which will also be used for other fundraising campaigns in the future. 

    John Viola, Chief Operating Officer of NIAF, told i-Italy in an exclusive interview about IAR: “When the Emilia Romagna earthquake happened we realized that raising funds might have been more difficult than in 2009. The effects of the quake were different, a lot of businesses were affected, numbers were different. We knew we needed a different strategy to fundraise.”

    That’s why NIAF decided to open a solidarity portal on the internet, for all the Italian-American groups to unite their efforts in one place, and with a formula that serves a broader scope than the current emergency: “I think it’s important as a national organization and as an Italian-American community that we are the frontline for any kind of reactive relief that has to happen in Italy, but instead of finding ways to help when disastrous events occur, we wanted to always be on the lookout for an opportunity to help, not just through NIAF, but with every other Italian-American organization we can involve,” Viola told i-Italy.

    “We can be so much stronger proactively.”

    The current campaign on IAR’s website has been running from June and will continue until September 2012. The established goal is to raise $ 250,000 for an educational and rehabilitation center for children with grave disabilities, Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno, located in the Villa Chierici of Santa Croce di Carpi, Modena.

    The Cooperativa is the home to 27 children and looks over nearly 200 other children in the area. The roof of the Cooperativa was severely damaged in the earthquake, making the building unsafe for the children that normally use the facilities inside. 

    Viola recently flew to Italy to visit the Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno, and elaborated for i-Italy on how NIAF decided to  select the Cooperativa among other causes worth being supported for the launch of IAR.

    “We wanted to adopt one distinct cause that may not get direct help from government agencies or other organizations. Something very direct, where the money goes 100% from our donors to the project we decided to support. We reached out to our sister organizations in Italy to try to find groups that had a clear cut project and already knew what needed to be done, groups with a framework in place that just needed the money to proceed.”

    That’s how a choice was made on Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno : “It gave us a possibility to fix something broken, not just to sponsor something without any results. We were first of all personally moved by the work they do there and by their mission. Not only do they educate and do physical therapy for these children, but they also teach them to create artisanal products that are then sold.”

    Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno creates industry and increases the quality of life for the children it looks over, something that NIAF is particularly sensitive to: “That’s the reason why we offer scholarships and grants, that’s what we are committed to as an organization,” Viola adds. “The sooner we can help the Cooperativa get back on its feet, the better it will be for us and for everybody.”

    Besides the intrinsic value of the cause it is backing, the concept behind IAR is very interesting as far as the networking side of it is concerned.

    When the Italian-American community is organized in a galaxy of bigger and smaller groups and organizations, it is significant that the biggest of them, NIAF, is taking the initiative to build bridges: “This is not about putting our name on it or giving visibility to a brand. Support and relief has to come from the Italian-American community as a whole.”

    Networking, in Viola’s opinion, is to be meant in the most altruistic sense: “It’s about magnifying the contribution that people of Italian ancestry can make all over the world. We can accomplish so much more if we do it together as a globalized ‘populus’ defined by the italianità that bonds us.”

    This participatory approach will also be determinant for Italy’s future in the globalized world, especially when the younger Italians are losing their faith in seeing their homeland change for the better, and when many of them actually try to move to different countries to build a better future – USA on top of the destinations’ list.
    As the youngest Chief Officer in the history of NIAF, 28-year old Viola says that “for a two-trillion dollar economy to devolve into a nation that exports people and talents is problematic.” 

    The problem, however, is broader: “It alarms me to see that the backbone of Italy’s economy, the family firms that produce great and technologically advanced products, are having problems creating startup capital and ending up going for foreign investment, selling or closing. How many opportunities is Italy missing?”

    And since on the other side of the pond, the American investment in Italy “is lower than it is in Lichtenstein,” Viola tells i-Italy that the role of Italian-Americans “is to figure out what barriers there are, how to create better business opportunities. I think that as a component part of Italy, we Italian-Americans should be drawing investments and figuring out how to encourage them.” 

    “As Italy changes and the world does too,” says Viola, “let’s use to Italy’s advantage the fact that Italy has sent out over 140 million descendents from its soil to the rest of the world, and we have accomplished things, built lives and businesses, and we still feel somehow Italian. Why should we not be included to its benefit?” 

    The phenomenal thing is that these Italians from America are actually already finding their own strategies to be closer to Italy, in innovative and productive ways such as the Italian American Relief initiative promises to be.

  • Art & Culture

    Mystery Over the Young Caravaggio Drawings

    The Italian news agency ANSA published  an exclusive story on the research carried out by two Italian art historians, Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, which announced the discovery of a hundred early works by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio among the 1378 sketches from the Peterzano Collection. 

    Kept at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, the Peterzano Collection comprises works by painter Simone Peterzano, in the workshop of whom Caravaggio was an apprentice from 1584 to 1588. 

    None of the paintings in the collection were previously attributed to Caravaggio, but Bernardelli Curuz and Conconi Fedrigolli claim that at least 83 of the drawings in the collection present features that are traceable in the mature works and in the known masterpieces by the star painter, famous for his use of the chiaro-scuro technique and for the innovative insertion of peasants and derelicts in religious scenes. 

    Since Merisi died in his thirties, his ascertained work only amounts to circa 90 specimens, which makes the claims by Italian art historians even more sensational: whether authentic, the drawings in the Peterzano Collection owned by the Municipality of Milan might be worth over €700 million.

    “Our goal was the one of solving the mystery that has been surrounding the early years of activity of Merisi, a mystery that lasted over a century, since the last research on the subject conducted by Roberto Longhi in 1913,” Bernardell Curuz told the Italian press.

    To do so the two historians said they scrutinized the collection in earnest, although today the curator of the drawings collection at the Sforzesco Castle Francesca Rossi questioned the seriousness of their research methods. 

    “What surprised us about this thing is the fact that these experts never came here in the drawings department to see the works,” Rossi told AP. “We were in contact with them a year ago when they asked for photographic reproductions but I've never seen them here. These are generic drawings. The attribution to Caravaggio seems overly ambitious and not very credible," The Telegraph reports.  

    As the statements by Rossi were diffused, AP interviewed Conconi Fedrigolli and Bernardelli Curuz on their firsthand experience of the drawings. As the Telegraph reports, Conconi Fedrigolli scrambled over the request to identify the team members who had seen the drawings, then passed the phone to Bernardelli Curuz who declared he did, thanks to a high-level city official who remained unidentified and would allow him in the collection afterhours.

    The academic world seems to have contrasting opinions on the study, titled “Young Caravaggio – One hundred rediscovered works” and available for purchase in  Ebook format on the authors’ website.

    Caravaggio expert and renowned art historian Claudio Strinati wrote in La Repubblica that “It is plausible that at least some of these drawings are by the young Michelangelo Merisi,” and praised the research as “intelligent.”

    The former director of the Sforzesco Castle’s Collection Maria Teresa Florio told Corriere della Sera about her perplexity on the study: “A serious scholar doesn't produce an e-book – they would publish their findings in the appropriate journals. Everyone who has studied the collection has asked themselves – is it possible that some were drawn by Caravaggio? No one has drawn that conclusion.”

    A major obstacle to pinning works on Michelangelo Merisi is the artist’s habit of leaving them unsigned, which in the history of the studies on Caravaggio’s artistic production has left room for false authenticity claims and attribution mistakes.

    Director of the Vatican Museums Antonio Paolucci knows that very well: two Summers ago, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published an article suggesting that a painting depicting St. Lawrence could be a Caravaggio. Paolucci published a counter-article one week later, debunking that idea.
    Paolucci expressed his skepticism on the study by Conconi Fedrigolli and Bernardelli Curuz Paolucci on the very pages of L’Osservatore Romano, describing the historians’ claims as “pure inductive optimism.”

    On a more neutral note, art history Professor Cristina Terzaghi from Roma Tre University invited to use prudence on the research, which “must be carefully studied and verified by the scientific community,” The Telegraph reports.

  • Facts & Stories

    The World of Design Cries Sergio Pininfarina

    Entrepreneur Sergio Pininfarina died overnight on July 3 in his residence in Turin. He was 86 years old, his health conditions had dramatically worsened over years. Born in Turin on September 8, 1926, he was the son of Gian Battista, also known as “Pinin,” (or “little one” in Turin’s dialect) Farina. 

    His father was the founder of “Carrozzeria Pinin Farina,” the family car design house that since the 1930s produced some of the world’s most innovative car designs, including most Ferrari models since 1952.  

    A graduate in mechanical engineering from Turin’s Polytechnic University, Sergio joined the Carrozzeria and established important connections with other car design houses such as the French Peugeot, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. 

    Sergio was responsible for most of the Ferrari design projects, and during his fifty years of leading the company he turned the family’s craftsman business into one of the world’s most influential and renowned design houses, multiplying the production from 524 units per year to more than 50,000. 

    A staple of Made in Italy style, Pininfarina insisted on the importance of aerodynamics as the game-changing element in car design, making performance and aesthetic refinement the two main goals of the Turinese atelier. For this purpose, back in 1972, the Pininfarina Research Center in the Grugliasco plant was equipped with a wind tunnel for the study of aerodynamics, one of the first in the world and the only one in Italy to be in 1:1 scale.

    The Pininfarina shapes and lines made the history of design as testified by the fact that an exemplar of the 1947 Cisalfa Coupe by Gian Battista can be seen today at the MoMa in New York. 

    Among the most famous car designs which wore the Pininfarina badge are the Giulietta Spider by Alfa Romeo, the Alfa Romeo Spider Duetto, the Lancia Flaminia, the Lancia Flavia Coupé, the Fiat Dino 246, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider and the Fiat Dino Spider.
    Also worth mentioning are the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Rondine, the 1986 Cadillac Allante and the 1995 Bentley Azure. 

    Sergio designed the 1986 Fiat 124 Spider, the 1984 Ferrari Testarossa, the 1975 308 GTB (Magnum P.I.’s legendary car), the 1996 Peugeot 406 Coupe, the 2002 Ferrari Enzo, the 2003 Maserati Quattroporte and the 2004 Ferrari Scaglietti.

    The prestige he was credited with was such that in 1961 Sergio changed his surname into “Pininfarina,” adding his father’s nickname to his original last name, thanks to a Decree by then President of the Italian Republic Giovanni Gronchi.
    In the same year, Sergio Pininfarina also became CEO of the Carrozzeria and Chairman after his father’s passing in 1966. He held these positions until 2006, when he was nominated Honorary President of the company.

    Sergio Pininfarina also served as the President of the Italian Union of Industrials, Confindustria, from 1988 to 1992. Giorgio Squinzi, current President of Confindustria, commented on Pininfarina’s death: “It is a great loss, it is the loss of an icon. He was one of the great men in Italian industry and a worldwide recognized symbol of Made in Italy.”

    In 2005, Sergio Pininfarina was nominated “Senatore a vita” (an honorary member of the Italian Senate, with lifelong mandate) by President of the Republic in September 2005. Vannino Chiti, Vice-President of the Italian Senate, told the Italian press that “With Pininfarina we lose a protagonist of our country. I want to remember his historical entrepreneurial commitment that honored the name of Italy internationally, and to commend his political engagement since the nomination as Senator.”  Pininfarina also previously represented Italy at the European Parliament from 1979 to 1988. 

    Pininfarina leaves his wife Giorgia and the sons Lorenza and Paolo.
    In 2008, he suffered the loss of his son Andrea, who had been leading the company from 1983. Andrea died in a car crash in the vicinity of the Pininfarina plant in Cambiano, Turin. He was 51 years old.