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Articles by: Emily Hayes

  • Facts & Stories

    Francine Segan to Host Two Conferences on Italian Cuisine in Washington, D.C.

     

    Two conferences on Italian cuisine are to take place in Washington, D.C. on Thursday and Friday. These events were organized by the Italian embassy to precede the Expo opening in Milan on May 1, the theme of which is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”

    The host of the two conferences in the Library of Congress is none other than i-Italy’s own Francine Segan. She is a noted public speaker and food historian, and hosts the series “Americans in Love with Italy” produced by i-ItalyTV.

    An expert on Italy’s culinary traditions, Segan will be speaking about transformations in Italian gastronomy on Thursday. What makes Italian food great is its ability to easily absorb new influences while retaining old traditions. Segan has authored six books on Italian gastronomy, including her most recent two: Pasta Modern: New and Inspired Recipes from Italy (2013), and Dolci: Italy’s Sweets (2011). Francine Segan also writes for several magazines, such as Epicurious, Saveur and Gastronomica.

    On Friday at the Italian embassy, Segan will talk about the history of chocolate, from the time of Christopher Columbus to recent products from places such as Modica, Sicily, along with various dishes and specialties from all over Italy.

    Christopher Columbus is said to be the first European to bring back cocoa beans from his fourth visit to the “New World” between 1502 and 1504. However, it was Columbus’s fellow explorer, Don Hermán Cortés, who understood the value of the cocoa beans.

    It was not until an Italian traveller, Francesco Carletti, visited Central America and learned how the Indians prepared the cocoa beans and made the chocolate drink that chocolate was well established in Italy in 1606.

    Today, in the town of Modica resting on Sicily’s southern coast, it is still possible to taste the rich history of chocolate. Sicily was introduced to many different foods from Spanish dominions because the island had to adapt to Spanish rule in the 15th and 16th centuries.

    Despite a terrible earthquake that shook Modica in 1693, the tradition of using bitter chocolate in savory cuisine survived.  20th century Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia declared that “Modican chocolate is unparalleled in savor, such that tasting it is like reaching the archetype, the absolute, and that chocolate produced elsewhere, even the most celebrated, is an adulteration, a corruption of the original.”

    Italy’s ambassador to the United States, Claudio Bisogniero, stated that the conferences “will provide an excellent window for Milan Expo 2015, the largest event ever organized worldwide on nutrition.”

    Expo Milano 2015 will last until October 31 and include the participation of over 140 countries. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Pompeii's Villa of the Mysteries Finally Restored after Two Years

     

    Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, covering the ancient Roman town-city Pompeii in a layer of over 30 feet of volcanic ash and pumice. Because no air or moisture could reach the objects that lay beneath the destruction, they were well preserved. These artifacts give insight into the life of a city that existed over a thousand years ago.

    The Villa of the Mysteries, or Villa dei Misteri, is a well preserved ruin of a suburban Roman Villa that lies northwest of Pompeii. Most of the walls, ceilings, and frescoes survived. The villa is named after the vibrant paintings in the triclinium, or formal dining room.

    The most prominent interpretation of these frescoes is the initiation of a woman into the cult of Dionysus, a mystery cult that required rituals to become a member. Mystery religions never revealed the details of their initiations or practices, so most of the information about them is taken from images and descriptions. 

    The Villa of the Mysteries had rooms for dining and entertaining. There were also areas for pressing grapes into wine, several large kitchens, baths, shrines, and marble statues. When the Villa was excavated in 1909, a wine-press was found and restored.

    Other artifacts seem to suggest the possible owner of the Villa. Scholars have proposed that L. Istacidius Zosimus, a member of the powerful Istacidii family, was the owner, because a bronze seal was found in the Villa with his name on it. However, a statue of Livia, wife of Augustus, was also found there, and some historians claim her to be the owner.

    By 79 AD, however, the house was already 200 years old and probably had several different owners. The Villa of the Mysteries had already been heavily restored after a large earthquake hit Pompeii in 62 AD, damaging many buildings.

    Similarly to Pompeii, many bodies were found in the Villa of the Mysteries, and plaster-of-Paris casts were made of them. It took archeologists two decades to completely excavate the property.

    During the 1930s, there were efforts to restore the villa’s floors, walls, and frescoes. However, the restoration techniques applied to the frescoes inflicted damage over the years. Wax was used to preserve the frescoes, but it faded the colors of the images.

    New restoration work began in May of 2013 with teams of archeologists, architects, chemists, and physicists to remedy damage done by earlier conservators and time. The new technique first identifies the nature of the chromatic alterations and other damage done over time on the frescoes, and then performs the restoration. The detailed mosaic floor decorations were also restored.

    The Villa of the Mysteries is set to fully reopen on March 20, after two years of restoration. The restoration was funded by the Special Superintendency for the Archeological Heritage of Naples and Pompeii (SANP). The work was done gradually in the 70 rooms so that parts of the Villa of the Mysteries were still open to the public.

  • Events: Reports

    Expo Milano 2015 Brings with it Other Major Art Openings

    On Monday, Armani met with the mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, about an area he purchased last year. He will be investing 50 million euros into the project. This area, a former Nestlé factory known as Silos Armani, will be a permanent exhibition of Armani’s designs and sketches, as well as his new head office. Armani wants to make the space open to the public and other projects.

    Armani reported that “work is underway inside,” but he wants to take his time to build up the museum. Armani is also putting a lot of work into Expo Milano 2015, whose opening will coincide with Silos Armani.

    Other designers are contributing to Milan, with Versace, Prada, and Feltrinelli contributing millions of euros to the restoration of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The 13-month restoration will be finished in April, around the opening of the Expo. The new space for Fondazione Prada will also open in the spring, on May 9th.

    It was originally created in 1993 as a place to analyze present times though art exhibitions, architecture, cinema and philosophy projects. Fondazione Prada staged 24 shows in Milan before 2010. 

    In 2011 it opened its Venetian venue at Ca’ Corner della Regina, an 18th century 

    palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice.

    The new Fondazione Prada is projected in a former industrial complex dating back to the 20th century called Largo Isarco. They are also planning on building three new buildings under the renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhas.

    The Italian high fashion designer Laura Biagiotti is lenting Giacomo Balla’s “Genio Futurista”, created for the 1925 Paris Universal Exposition. The painting is part of the Fondazione Biagiotti Cigna collection, which includes over 200 works by the artist. According to ANSA news, Biagiotti lent it to the Expo because “it will be an extraordinary event where there will be space for spiritual nourishment as the art suggests, as well as to deal with nutrition-related issues.”

    The September fashion shows aims to be more international, with an extra day on the catwalks for solely Chinese designers.

    The Expo has also inspired a collection of clothing by the Tuscan brand Landi Fancy, which will include T-shirts and jackets with Milan’s attractions on it, an underground map, and the word “Expo.”

  • Art & Culture

    "The Art Show" Features Italian Artists and Influences

    “The Art Show,” an annual fair of the Art Dealer’s Association of America, just ended last weekend. It took place March 4 - March 8 at the historic Park Avenue Armory. The art fair included multiple artworks by Italian Impressionists and Futurists. Many other works draw clear inspiration and influence from these Italian artists. 

    An example of Italian influence is manifested in Barry X Ball’s sculptures at Sperone Westwater. His machine-carved and hand-finished works reflect those of the early twentieth century, whose innovation and experimentalism saw a brighter future.

    The sculptures of Belgian black marble and bright gold are copies of Umberto Boccioni’s Futurist sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913), a man surrounded by flame-like-shapes striding towards a promising future.

    The Futurists wanted to break away from the Classical and Renaissance styles that were still prevalent in Italy in the beginning of the twentieth century. Boccioni’s statue is representative of this desire for change; the surface of the statue seems to be transforming constantly, and the powerful strides charge forward towards an unfaltering destiny.

    The immediate environment is also carved around the figure. Shapes similar to flames lap at the figure’s legs and give the idea of motion. This idea to sculpt the immediate environment around a figure is voiced in Boccioni’s “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture” (1912). The influence came from another Italian sculptor, Medardo Rosso, who made impressionistic plaster or bronze busts covered in wax of people in Paris. These figures merge into the space around them.

    At the entrance of the fair is Luhring Augustine’s booth “Cords,” by Italian conceptualist Michelangelo Pistoletto. It has four panels of mirror with photographic cutouts of stanchions connected by ropes. In a review of the fair by The New York Times, the ropes were interpreted as “an atmosphere of exclusivity fostered by high end galleries like the 72 convened there.” Yet the mirrors incorporate the viewers into the artwork, and set the tone for the rest of the fair. The art invites viewers to find reflections of themselves and their cultural identity.

    As the focus moves to the rise of Modernism in the 19th century, viewers do not see Manet and Paris, but James McNeil Whistler and England in “Whistler and His Influence” at Thomas Colville. The seven small paintings and drawings are impressionistic images of people on beaches viewed from far away. Whistler attempts to represent perceptual experiences in his paintings.

    This section includes small works by Giorgio Morandi, an Italian painter, draughtsman, and printmaker.

    Morandi attended the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna and was inspired by the contemporary art in books on Impressionism, along with articles by Ardengo Soffici in La Voce. He was able to connect with other artists in Bologna who embraced these new ideas. Morandi often went to Florence to study the works of Giotto, Masaccio, and Paolo Uccello, where he met Umberto Boccioni at the Futurist exhibition Lacerba. Soon after he met Boccioni, Morandi showed his first paintings at the Albergo Baglioni in Bologna and the Galleria Sprovieri in Rome.

    The Italian artists represented in “The Art Show” step away from mainstream art to produce something with lasting impact, and continue to influence newer works by current artists. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Jovanotti Comes Out with New Album Titled "Lorenzo 2015 CC"

     Jovanotti, an Italian pop star and Rome native, is “the picture of a happy man” according to ANSA now that his new album, featuring the single “Sabato”, is finished.

    The name of this new album is Lorenzo 2015 CC. As this title suggests, his love of motorcycling was a source of inspiration. It is the fourteenth album of his career.

    Universal Music published his album, which includes 30 tracks with varying genres.

    Jovanotti, or Lorenzo Cherubini, worked with both Italian and international musicians to create the album, such as Manu Dibango, Bombino, Electricity Central, and Zibba.

     
    Although he had bacterial pneumonia while he was creating the album, this did not stop him from traveling to Cortona, Milan, Los Angeles, and New York to record the songs.

    In the beginning of his career, Jovanotti’s work was a mix of hip-hop, rap, and disco.

    His sound has since then progressed into funk, world music, classical arrangements, and ska influences. Along with the genre of music, Jovanotti’s lyrics also changed.

    They began to address philosophical, religious, and political issues. His social and political commentary also began into increase.

    According to ANSA, Jovanotti emphasized that “the real change in the record is the writing because I tried to do it also in a narrative mode, writing songs that make you see things”.

    Most of Jovanotti’s songs are in Italian. However, he was a part of several international compilations, such as Red Hot + Rhapsody, a 1988 George Gershwin tribute. He performed “I Got Rhythm”.

    His most famous songs are “L’Ombelico del Mondo” and “Serenata Rap”. Jovanotti also participated in one of Luciano Pavarotti’s charity concerts in 1996.

    He is also the founder of Soleluna, an Italian record label.

    Part of the album will be showcased in his upcoming tour in the summer. The tour starts with a show on June 20 in Ancona, followed by three gigs in Milan. He will be in Padova for one show on June 30. Jovanotti then makes his way to Florence for two concerts, then Bologna, Roma, Messina, Pescara, and Naples. His final concert in on July 30 in Bari. 

  • Art & Culture

    "Mater, Maternity in Art" Exhibition Explores the Importance of the Maternity Figure

    “Mater, Maternity in Art” is an exhibition designed to symbolize a journey through the awareness and understanding of the maternal figure not only biologically, but in cultural, societal, and religious aspects as well. The project also looks at the role of motherhood in Mediterranean culture.

    The exhibition is to be shown in the Parma Governor’s Palace from March 8 to June 28. It will include 170 works from important Italian artists, such as Pinturicchio, Veronese, Moretto, Giacometti, Pistoletto, and Bill Viola.

    The idea to create an exhibition demonstrating the archetypal and ancestral maternal figure began with Elena Fontanella, an Italian archeologist and journalist. She also helped curate the exhibition, alongside Annamaria Andreoli and Cosimo Damiano Fonseca. The project is promoted by the Parma municipality.

    “Mater, Maternity in Art” explores the mysteries of life and procreation as it has been represented in art. Art is a form of perception and interpretation, and the works chosen for this exhibition represent human understanding of motherhood and the creation of life, separated into four different sections.

    The first section displays prehistoric figurines, including Paleolithic Venus figurines. Sometimes referred to as “steatopygian Venus” figures, these women have accumulated adipose tissue in the buttock region. Among the Khoisan, a tribe from Africa, it is considered a sign of beauty. Women are more likely to form this characteristic than men. It begins in infancy and fully develops at the first pregnancy. These figurines are considered mother-goddesses. The other prehistoric figurines include those from Greek and Roman mythology. The Venus of Savignano, from Rome’s Pigorini Museum, will be showcased at the exhibit.

    Viewers of “Mater, Maternity in Art” will also have the privilege of seeing the Ephesian Artemis from the Vatican Museums, frescoes from Pompeii, a tablet with a birth scene from the first century AD from the Naples Archeology Museum and a basalt bust of the goddess Isis from Florence’s Egyptian Museum. Isis was worshipped as the ideal wife and mother. Finally, there will be a third century statue of Persephone from the Lucera Civic Museum.

    The second section begins to look at the religious, spiritual, and transcendent aspects of maternity. This section is inspired by the Council of Nicea, convened by Emperor Constantine I in 325 AD, when Christian bishops officially recognized Mary as the mother of God. It showcases Byzantine icons, and the artworks span from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Most important are the Virgin and Child works by Rosso Fiorentino, Filippo Lippi, Andrea Mantegna, Pinturicchio, Tiepolo, and Veronese.

    In the third section, there is a shift from Holy to Bourgeois Motherhood and how the family changed in the nineteenth century.

    The fourth section covers the 20th century. The figure of the mother is no longer held back by the purity and piety of the past. She is now a woman freed from representations as solely mother, and is facing daily life as a human being. Artists have been searching for a new female archetype, such as Mimmo Rotella, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Max Kuatty, Bill Viola and Matt Collishaw.

    This beautiful exhibition not only demonstrates the mother figure’s importance at the beginning of life, but in the internal growth of the individual and humanity. The symbol and sacredness of maternity has existed in the minds of human beings since their beginning, and is still present today, both consciously and unconsciously. This is true in civilizations all over the world.

    In today’s society, the figure of maternity and motherhood represents a strong and incorruptible connection. The mother is always depicted as an essential role model. Both ancient and modern works of art address the miracle of life. “Mater, Maternity in Art” brings up important questions for future generations regarding what family means and will continue to mean in the future. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Povera Barcaccia!

     The Feyenoord and Roma match on Thursday at Stadio Olimpico drew over 6,000 Feyenoord supporters to Rome.

    One day before the game, tourists in Campo de' Fiori fled the shops as Dutch fans rampaged through the streets. Stores were forced to close their doors, while the “Field of Flowers” was covered in trash. 33 people were arrested for their crime of damage to a beautiful part of the historic city.

     However, these rampages continued when the Feyenoord fans destroyed a newly renovated, 400-year-old Bernini work of art at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. The Dutch threw beer bottles and unopened cans into the Fountain of Barcaccia, or Fountain of the “Old Boat”. It had only been unveiled in September, and 200,000 euro, or $270,000, was spent in restoring it.

    Gian Lorenzo Bernini created the Fountain of Barcaccia in 1627. The shape of the fountain is a sinking ship, with the water flowing over the bow. The oval basin of the fountain is now filled with broken glass and marble.

    The damages to the fountain are worse than anticipated, and believed irreparable. The art historians of Rome are in tears, as there are broken marble fragments of up to 8 by 3.5 centimeters. Although the cost of the damage to the fountain has not yet been quantified, just the closure of the stores around the Spanish Steps alone has cost up to 3 million euro, or $3.4 million dollars, in sales according to ABC News. Other buses and properties were also vandalized.

    The Mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, is enraged at the recent events. He tweeted that Rome is “devastated and hurt” by these violent destructions of the most beautiful parts of the city.

    Many people are concerned that Rome would not be ready for a terrorist attack, if it was not ready to protect itself from these Dutch hooligans. After the attack in Paris, and with all of the violence and instability in the Middle East, many are calling for more security. According to ABC News, the mayor of Rome said he is going to discuss this concern with Italy’s top law enforcement official, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano.

    Understandably, the mayor wants the Netherlands or Feyenoord to pay for the damages inflicted on the 17th century masterpiece and in the streets of historic Rome. However, the Dutch ambassador said the government refuses to take financial responsibility.  Yet they have promised to punish the criminals responsible for the outrageous events that transpired on Thursday. Many Italian donors have offered to contribute.

    The damages were not just financial. Several police officers were injured during the riot that broke out around the Spanish Steps. Six Feyenoord fans were arrested in Piazza di Spagna, and eight were given fines of 33,000 euros.

    Feyenoord director Eric Gudde has profound disapproval of the destruction that occurred in those two days, and emphasizes that Feyenoord is distant from them.

    After what transpired with the Feyenoord supporters, perhaps it is best that neither team won, with the match ending at a one to one draw. Gervinho’s first half opener was matched by Colin Kazim-Richard’s strike on 55 minutes. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Italian Youth Unemployment Leads to Poverty in Retirement

    According to a recent report by Censis, high levels of unemployment and underemployment among today’s youth will lead to poverty in their old age. Continuing economic recession hit Italy especially hard. Young Italians are struggling to save for the future and contribute to their pension plans because of this. They can’t look forward to a comfortable retirement, because they will most likely be just as impoverished.

    Young adults are having enough trouble trying to begin a career, let alone save for the future. Only 35% of Italians are concerned about their income in their old age, and only 43% worried about illness. 41% are concerned about long-term care. Even now, 2.5 million seniors are living in places that do not meet their needs, such as not being able to walk. Getting older means paying for more, such as pensions, health care, and nursing homes.

    Out of workers ages 25 to 34, 40% earn a monthly net salary of under 1,000 euros. Only 3.4 million young people feel secure in the labor market with contracts that guarantee a reasonable pension.

    Another 890,000 young people aged 24-35 are barely living on less formal contracts and are even more likely to be impoverished in their old age.

    Even worse off are the 2.3 million youth under 34, the highest level in Europe, who are unemployed and not at school studying. About 4 in 10 people under 25 are not in the workforce. Conditions only get worse as underemployment and unemployment continue. Another cause of this problem is the contributory plan system where young workers put money into their retirement funds sporadically, which does not build up.

    Monthly additions will be useless if young workers stay unemployed. Young people who can’t contribute in their early working life will have suffering retirement incomes.

  • Art & Culture

    Ben-Hur Remake in Progress in Matera

    Matera, city in southeastern Italy famos location of The Sassi, attracted more tourists Monday as a month long shooting began for the remake of the historical drama film Ben-Hur. The director, Timur Bekmambetov, chose Matera because of the famous ancient cave dwellings  in the historical center.

    This setting has been used for other famous films, such as Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew and more recently the 2004 film The Passion of the Christby Mel Gibson. Sassi is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    The ancient stones in Sassi create the atmosphere of ancient Jerusalem and the time of Christ, where the earlier scenes of the story take place. Residents in Matera were chosen as some of the extras. Another staggering 1,000 extras were picked to play Roman soldiers.

    Morgan Freeman was cast as Ildarin, the man who teaches Ben-Hur how to become a champion of chariot racing. Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston was cast as the lead.

    This remake of Ben-Hur is based more on the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace, which was published in 1880, than the 1959 film version, which stared Charlton Heston and Jack Hawkins.

    The film follows the story of a Jewish prince, Judah Ben-Hur, and Messala, the son of a Roman tax collector, with the story of Jesus Christ unraveling in the background. Messala travels to Rome to be educated for five years, and returns as the Roman Empire is invading Jerusalem. His beliefs and attitude have changed to reflect the Roman Empire, and he laughs at Judah and his religion.

    A procession passes by Judah’s house, and a roof tile falls and strikes the governor. Messala then betrays Judah by manipulating the accident so that he is sold into slavery, and possibly death, on a Roman warship. Even worse, his mother and sister are thrown into prison for life. Judah vows revenge, which leads to his participation in the chariot races.

    The script was originally written by Keith Clarke, and rewritten by John Ridley, known for 12 Years a Slave. Mark Burnett, Sean Daniel, and Joni Levin worked as producers on the film, along with Keith Clarke, Jason Brown, and Roma Downey as the executive producers.

    The expected release date of the film is February 26, 2016.

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