Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Rome New Years Eve
    Facts & Stories

    Ready to Toast to The New Year? Think Before You Act!

    “Anno nuovo – vita nuova!” “New year – new life!” This is the #1 intention for the new year many Italians, from all different regions, repeat on the last night of the old year all through the first day of the new one. People hope for a new, better life, by trying to let the past behind and welcome the new wishing for all good things to come. In this moment of crisis, it sounds like money is the first wish for the majority of Italians.
    It would be nice to say that people mostly wish for health and happiness, but to many, nowadays, money means happiness. Despite the current  economic situation, there are many different traditions, established even before the crisis, that are meant to bring wealth in the new year. The first is at the dining table.
    Eating lentils is a custom shared by the entire peninsula. There is no New Year's Eve dinner, whether at home, at the restaurant or any other public place where diner is served, that does not end with a plate of lentils. Tradition tells that each lentil represents a coin and the more you eat the more money you will get. Usually lentils are served with Cotechino, a fresh sausage made from pork, fatback, pork rind, spices and aromatic herbs. “Its origins date back to when the town of Mirandola (in Emilia Romagna) was besieged at the beginning of the 16th century and, so as not to waste any livestock - which was their only remaining food supply - an enterprising chef decided to mince the meat and stuff it in the rind of the animal. The besieged did not actually enjoy this gastronomic insight since the city fell shortly after, but the concept was so perfect that still today we are blessed with this masterpiece of meat production from Emilia.”


    The fat and opulent meat of cotechino brings prosperity, and it pairs perfectly with lentils. Grapes are also bearer of good fortune...there is even a saying: “Chi mangia l’uva per capodanno conta i quattrini tutto l’anno” - “Who eats grapes on New Year's will count money all year long.” The origins of this belief are also in the past and they come from the countryside: having grapes in winter time meant the harvest in the fall was rich, thus grapes meant richness. 
    New Year's dinner is not complete without spumante or prosecco. Nothing says New Year's quite like a festive flute of bubbly!  A special toast with your loved one, a kiss underneath the mistletoe, will bring love all year long.
    For New Year's Eve dinner it is important for the ladies to wear, underneath the elegant dress they have chosen (this year, just like last, lace dresses are the number one choice), red lingerie. Men do too. So it is very common that the windows of many Italian stores, right after Christmas, turn red, as there are many different pieces for sale, from underwear, to socks, pajamas and robes. This custom started back in time with the Ancient Romans, they used to wear red as a symbol of blood and war to keep fear away. Today it is a wish for good luck for what's to come.


    In welcoming the new year, there are things you can do to keep the evil spirits at bay: among them, hanging mistletoe on the front door and opening a window in a dark room a second before midnight, to let the bad spirits out, to then open another window in a lighted room to welcome the good spirits. An old custom that is still followed in some regions, especially in the south, is, right at midnight, throwing old things out the window. This symbolizes a person's readiness to put the past behind and to accept what's to come. 
    Firecrackers or sparklers symbolize joy and happiness but traditionally, fire is believed to purify and get rid of evil spirits and any other setback. Usually the biggest cities - Rome, Milan, Bologna, Palermo and Naples - put on huge popular outdoor shows, mostly concerts with pop and rock bands, followed by beautiful fireworks. Smaller towns build a bonfire in the central square where people will congregate to celebrate into the early morning. 
    Unfortunately people often try to have their own private “shows” and they buy their own firecrackers and on the first day of the new year the news are filled with sad stories of people who had accidents trying to light them. The Italian Police is very active in trying to prevent this, but first of all people should try to have fun responsibly.

    We started with a saying and we finish with another one: “Quello che si fa a Capodanno si fa tutto l’anno,” “What you do on New Year's Eve you will do all year long,” so think well before you act and do your favorite things! Happy 2017! 

  • Life & People

    Italian “Christmas”: Religious & Pagan

    The tradition of putting together a crèche started in the 17th and 18th centuries in several Italian cities, but theNeapolitan presepe is perhaps the most famous all over the world. San Gregorio Armeno street, in the heart of Naples' old town, is filled with tiny artisan workshops making nativity scenes and "terra cotta" figurines. These include Jesus, Madonna, and the shepherds, but also caricatured politicians and entertainment stars. Berlusconi, Obama, and Lady Gaga figured prominently in the past years, Mario Monti (the new Prime Minister of Italy, as well as Minister of Economy and Finance) this year. The reason is that originally the artisans used the presepe to offer a popular chronicle (and often a critique) of public life in Naples, summarizing major events and exposing its protagonists.

    Rome is instead home to another tradition, that of zampognari (pipers), folk musicians who get their name from the instrument they play (zampogne, or bagpipes). They come down from the mountains around the city, wearing traditional costumes, and perform Christmas songs in the streets. Historically the zampognari were poor peasants and shepherds who toured the cities during the holidays asking for food and money.

    Tombola is the forebear of the American Bingo—but in Italy (especially in the South) it is a traditional Christmas family game played usually around the dinner table. As each number is called out of a rotating drum or a box, they are typically announced by a little rhyme, the most famous of which are in Neapolitan dialect.

    These rhymes may refer to religious themes (for instance, #33 will be "The Years of Christ,") but many have a lay origin and even a clear teasing-meaning, which make everybody laugh in a rather politically incorrect manner. These include, among others: #21 'A femmena annura (The naked woman); #28 'E zizze (Women's breasts); #23 'O scemo (The idiot); and #48 - 'O muorto che pparla (Dead Man Talking).

    On market stalls all over the country, kids also find stockings, of all shapes and sizes, with the image, or figure of an old, ugly lady. This lady is called Befana. She is not a witch, even though she flies on a broom, and, on the night of January 5th and the early hours of January 6th, brings to all good kids a stocking filled with candy and small toys, while those who did not behave, get a stocking filled with black coal.

    The origins of Befana are rooted in the ancient magical traditions of Italy's popular culture, but with the passing of time she came to combine both folkloric and religious mythologies, so that Befana’s treats parallel the Magi’s gifts brought to baby Jesus.

    The day of Befana also marks the end of the holiday season. This is when all Christmas Trees are taken down and the last day of vacation for kids who, sadly, get ready to go back to school.

  • Lisette Carmi nel suo studio a Cisternino, Puglia. © Massimiliano Morabito
    Arte e Cultura

    “Volevo Capire la Vita”, Lisetta Carmi si racconta

    Quando guarda al passato, Lisetta Carmi afferma, a quasi 93 anni, di non aver vissuto solo una vita, ma ben cinque. Il disegno fatto dalla sua guida spirituale, Babaji Herakhan Baba, che la ritrae ha in effetti predetto la verità. Ciascuna delle sue facce, circondata da fiori di loto, rappresenta una vita diversa, a partire da quella della musicista, per poi proseguire con quella della fotografa, di guida spirituale, di musicista rinata, e di osservatrice silenziosa.


    Oggi, Lisetta si siede sulla sedia nel suo studio e osserva dalla finestra: lì fuori c'è Cisternino, il paese pugliese che l'ha adottata e accolta da decenni ma che l'ha anche considerata un personaggio un po' “diverso”. Circondata dalle sue foto, dai suoi libri e scritti, Lisetta ti fissa con uno sguardo penetrante colorato di verde che è allo stesso tempo freddo ed accogliente. La sua è un'occhiata che va oltre l'ovvio ed il superficiale per vedere di più, in ricerca della profondità dietro l'apparenza, sia nella vita vissuta che in quella catturata dalla sua fotografia. “Vedo quello che c'è, non metto quello che penso io sulle persone”, confessa.


    Principalmente, Lisetta Carmi è conosciuta per la sua vita di fotografa, il cui lavoro è stato paragonato, fin dai primi scatti, a quello di Henri Cartier-Bresson. Una volta scoperta l'opera di Lisetta, le immagini de La Gitana, La Novia e La Morena, i travestiti che abitavano Via del Campo a Genova negli anni 60 e 70, o quelle dei portuali della sua città natia, o della fase espulsiva di un parto, dove si scorge la delicata testa di un neonato nel momento in cui abbandona il ventre della madre o del poeta americano Ezra Pound avvolto dal silenzio, saranno impossibili da dimenticare.


    “Spesso mi sono chiesta 'da dove vengo'” Lisetta sembra chiedersi, “Ma come ho fatto a guardare il mondo e gli esseri umani in modo così naturale? Quando ho iniziato a fotografare non avevo alcuna preparazione. Come possono le mie foto, scattate in Puglia nel 1960 durante un viaggio con il musicologo Leo Levi, il cui obiettivo era registrare i canti della comunità ebraica di Sannicandro Garganico guidata da Donato Manduzio, avere già un significato e una forma? Vengo da una famiglia speciale, che fotografava in tempi lontani e che mi ha trasmesso in silenzio il desiderio di capire e di fissare con le immagini il mondo in cui viviamo. Quando vedevo le foto fatte da papà e mamma mi dicevo che non ne sarei stata capace. Ora, diverse vite più tardi, posso dire che ho lavorato nella fotografia solo per 19 anni, ma in questi anni ho fatto il lavoro di 50. Sempre sola, con la mia macchina fotografica, con interesse e passione per gli esseri umani, per situazioni estreme in questo mondo così ingiusto ma anche così affascinante. Un mondo che non ho sempre capito ma che ho fotografato per capire la vita”.


    Da piccola, Lisetta era una giovane pianista la cui famiglia venne perseguitata dal regime fascista. Nel 1938, a soli 14 anni, fu espulsa dalla scuola che frequentava a causa della sua appartenenza al popolo ebraico. Cercò di colmare il vuoto della sua nuova solitudine con il pianoforte, strumento che aveva iniziato a suonare all'età di dieci anni.

    Solo qualche anno dopo, nel 1943, costretta a scappare in Svizzera, a piedi, Lisetta si trovò a valicare le Alpi; “Con una mano aiutavo mia madre, Maria Carmi Pugliese, e con l'altra tenevo i due volumi del clavicembalo ben temperato di Bach”. La sua passione per la musica si tradusse in una carriera da concertista promettente nonostante la sua naturale riluttanza ad esibirsi in pubblico. Un evento specifico, portò Lisetta, ormai giovane donna con un grande interesse per l'emarginazione e l'ingiustizia sociale, entrambe sperimentate sulla propria pelle, alla sua seconda vita.


    “Ero a Genova, e volevo partecipare ad una marcia in supporto dei diritti del lavoro dei portuali, ma il mio insegnante di musica me lo proibì. Mi disse che era troppo pericoloso, che avrei potuto rompermi le mani. Gli risposi 'se le mie mani sono più importanti del resto dell’umanità io da domani non suono più'”. Proprio in quel momento ebbe inizio il suo percorso di fotografa degli emarginati, dei meno fortunati e dei perseguitati. “Dicevo spesso a mio padre quanto mi dispiacesse non essere finita nei campi di concentramento, dove sarei morta o avrei potuto aiutare gli altri. Ho sempre avuto fin da piccola questo desiderio e non mi ha mai abbandonato”. Fu proprio suo padre a darle la prima macchina fotografica e Lisetta l'ha usata “per dare voce agli ultimi, quelli che non potevano parlare o che vivevano in situazioni orrende, schiacciati dai potenti di turno. I ricchi non mi interessavano”.


    Lisetta finse di essere la cugina di uno dei lavoratori del porto e riuscì così ad infilarsi in quel mondo e a catturare le condizioni di lavoro degli uomini e le loro difficoltà su pellicola. Quel reportage, commissionatole dalla CGIL, è un documento unico, in grado di offrire una testimonianza visiva della forte identità sociale e culturale della Genova di quei tempi, ma è stato anche il primo passo lungo un percorso professionale che la fotografa ha dedicato all'impegno sociale.


    Fino a quando, un giorno, nel 1965, un amico invitò Lisetta a festeggiare il Capodanno nel ghetto ebraico di Genova, in Via del Campo, area abitata da omosessuali e travestiti. Poco a poco riuscì a fare amicizia con alcuni membri della comunità ed iniziò a fotografarli. Ogni ritratto era un regalo. “In quegli anni, dal 1965 al 1971, le ho osservate, protette e ammirate, ho vissuto la loro sofferenza, la violenza e la degradazione della loro vita. Volevo solo conoscerle veramente, aiutarle e amarle”. Una collezione di tutti i suoi ritratti fu pubblicata nel 1972 con il titolo I Travestiti, grazie a Sergio Donnabella perché Lisetta non aveva intenzione di mettere in vendita il suo lavoro. “Non le avevo fotografate per il successo o per guadagnarci qualcosa. La pubblicazione affrontò diversi ostacoli, era considerata sconcia, ed infatti diverse librerie si rifiutarono di esporre il volume. Persino Cesare Musatti, psicanalista di fama, si rifiutò di presentarlo perché considerava i travestiti 'delle persone da mettere in ospedale'”. Ci fu però anche chi supportò pubblicamente il libro, come gli scrittori Dacia Maraini, Barbara Alberti e Alberto Moravia.


    L'esperienza nella comunità omosessuale non ebbe solo un impatto professionale sulla vita di Lisetta, ma anche uno profondamente personale. “Grazie a loro, ho imparato ad accettarmi. Quando ero bambina, osservavo i miei fratelli maggiori, Eugenio e Marcello, e volevo essere un maschio come loro. Sapevo che non mi sarei sposata e rifiutavo il ruolo che la società aveva assegnato alle donne. La mia esperienza con i travestiti mi ha fatto riflettere sul diritto che tutti abbiamo di determinare la nostra identità, sia essa quella di donna o quella di uomo, perché siamo tutti esseri umani”.


    Lisetta ha catturato l'essenza della natura umana nei suoi ritratti del poeta americano Ezra Pound, fatti durante un brevissimo incontro, un faccia a faccia di esattamente quattro minuti, tenutosi nella sua casa a Sant'Ambrogio di Rapallo. Era l'11 febbraio del 1966. Gli scatti, 12 scelti su 20, sono considerati tra i suoi lavori fotografici più apprezzati e delle importanti testimonianze in bianco e nero che dipingono, “la solitudine, la disperazione, l'aggressività, lo sguardo perso nell'infinito, tutto ciò che è difficile dire a parole e la drammatica grandezza del poeta”.


    Invitata da Gaetano Fusari, al tempo direttore del'ANSA di Genova, ad accompagnarlo ad intervistare Pound, Lisetta si armò della sua Leica 35 mm. Bussarono alla porta della piccola casa, e dopo alcuni istanti di silenzio, Pound uscì, ma sembrava perso. Stava lì, in piedi, in vestaglia e ciabatte, senza dire una parola, nonostante la loro presenza. Lisetta iniziò comunque a scattare, scatto dopo scatto, fino a quando il poeta decise di rientrare in casa. Silenzio.


    Pound era vecchio e malato, ed era sopravvissuto a tredici anni di internamento nel manicomio criminale St. Elisabeths Hospital di Washington. “Quando ho sviluppato il rullino e ho selezionato le dodici fotografie finali, ho visto in esse esattamente quello che avevo provato mentre stavo scattando. Non abbiamo incontrato il poeta, ma l'ombra di un poeta”. Volendo condividere la sua esperienza con la famiglia di Pound, Lisetta gli spedì le immagini che sono col tempo diventate alcune delle più conosciute del poeta, usate spesso in libri dedicati al suo lavoro. Quel piccolo/grande reportage, rimane tuttora uno dei momenti più significativi della storia della fotografia italiana. Quelle fotografie le fecero vincere l'equivalente italiano del Niepce Prize e parole di elogio del grande Umberto Eco, che disse: “le immagini di Pound scattate da Lisetta dicono più di quanto si sia mai scritto su di lui, la sua complessità e natura straordinaria”. “Sono riuscita a raccontare non solo la sua fisionomia ma sopratutto il suo male di vivere”. Pound morì qualche anno dopo, nel 1972, e prima che la sua casa fosse messa in vendita, Lisetta chiese alla famiglia il permesso di tornare e fotografare a colori “quella casetta tra gli ulivi”.


    Lisetta continuò a fare la fotografa e a viaggiare per il mondo - Afghanistan, America Latina, Israele, Palestina, ma anche Sicilia e Sardegna, sono solo alcuni dei paesi visitati da lei e dalla sua macchina fotografica – mentre si divideva tra Genova e Cisternino, paese dove aveva acquistato casa anni prima perchè sentiva che la Puglia fosse terra sacra e benedetta.


    Nel 1976, ci fu un'ulteriore svolta e la transizione da una vita ad un'altra avvenne spontaneamente dopo un viaggio in India. Lì incontrò Babaji Herakhan Baba, il Mahavatar dell’Himalaya, che divenne la sua guida spirituale. “Mi ha chiamata a sé e mi ha mostrato la verità più profonda della vita. Quando l'ho visto per la prima volta mi sembrava di vivere ai tempi di Gesù, dove i discepoli ascoltavano il loro maestro. Sono andata a presentarmi e gli ho detto “Babaji, sono Lisetta,' 'Il tuo nome è Janki Rani' mi ha risposto, e mi sono seduta accanto a lui. Ero in estasi, l'ho guardato, ma guardato veramente, e ho visto che era la manifestazione di Dio in forma umana, che era puro amore.”


    Quella prima volta Lisetta, o meglio Janki, passò 25 giorni con il maestro divino. “In quei giorni assistetti all'annuncio della profezia di Mahakranti dove Babaji disse che il mondo, come lo conosciamo, stava per finire. Il 75% dell'umanità sarebbe stata distrutta e gran parte della terra sommersa dall'acqua. Gli umani sopravvissuti avrebbero dovuto affrontare l'acqua ed il fuoco e iniziare tutto da capo. I discepoli erano spaventati, ma io no. Ho scattato 36 fotogrammi dei loro volti spaventati. Io invece ascoltavo la profezia e sentivo la parola liberazione. È in questo modo che Dio ci avrebbe dato la possibilità di cancellare tutto il negativo e di ricominciare, con il trionfo dell'amore, della fratellanza e l'armonia”.


    Dopo 25 giorni Lisetta dovette tornare in Italia per prendersi cura della mamma anziana, ma negli anni successivi visitò l'India più volte. Durante una di queste visite, Babaji le chiese di aprire un ashram a Cisternino, “un posto dove la gente potesse recarsi con i suoi problemi, dubbi e malesseri alla ricerca di supporto spirituale e di una direzione. Ho chiesto direttamente a Babaji cosa volesse veramente dall'ashram e mi ha risposto che doveva essere un posto di trasformazione per le persone che ci andavano per purificare il corpo e l'anima”.


    La cura del corpo e dell'anima avevano ormai da un po' preso il sopravvento sulla fotografia, e nonostante la mancanza di esperienza, Lisetta si lanciò in questa nuova missione senza pensarci due volte. Il Centro Bhole Baba fu inaugurato nel 1986 ed è identico all'ashram di Herakhan, India. “La vita nell'ashram era ed è per tutti la stessa, perché siamo tutti uguali. Non ci sono né i primi né gli ultimi. Il leone e la capra devono bere dalla stessa fonte”.


    Nel 1992, mentre era presidente del centro, Lisetta creò La Voce di Cisternino, una pubblicazione semestrale che raccoglieva saggi, notizie e gli annunci di eventi tenutisi nell'ashram. Lei stessa scriveva la rubrica Notizie da Cisternino, dove si firmava Janki Rani. Nel 1998, tredici numeri più tardi, proprio nel suo editoriale, Lisetta annunciò il suo ritiro dalla guida dell'ashram ma che comunque sarebbe stata disponibile a parlare con chiunque ne avesse avuto bisogno. “Era giunto il momento di lavorare su me stessa. Mi sono spesso chiesta come fossi riuscita a vivere in un ambiente comunitario così impegnativo per tanto tempo ed ero alla ricerca di silenzio e solitudine”. Ma prima del silenzio, torna la musica.


    Diverse circostanze portarono Lisetta a collaborare con un suo ex studente di musica, Paolo Ferrari. Medico e scienziato, ma anche psicoterapeuta e musicista, Ferrari è il creatore del metodo “Asistema in-assenza”. Lisetta non aveva più suonato il pianoforte da circa 35 anni ma fu invitata a frequentare i seminari di Ferrari a Milano dove avrebbe suonato alla fine di ogni sessione. “Il concetto è un po' difficile da afferrare, ma i margini dell'assenza aprono vasti e inaspettati orizzonti di libertà. Entrare a conoscenza delle idee di Paolo e riavvicinarmi alla musica sono stati un vero miracolo. Fino a quel momento avevo imparato dalla vita tutto quello che dovevo imparare e stavo vivendo un ribaltamento dei ruoli. La maestra era diventata lo studente”. Dopo sei anni di viaggi a Milano, dove si tenevano i seminari, Lisetta capì che anche questa vita era giunta ad una fine. “Tutto stava iniziando a ripetersi ed era giunto il momento del distacco e del silenzio”. Lo stesso silenzio della disperazione di Ezra Pound, “di un'anima alla ricerca della verità così difficile da raggiungere? O il silenzio dei lavoratori del porto di Genova anonimi ed irriconoscibili immersi in un inferno dantesco”?


    Avvolta nel silenzio e in compagnia della solitudine, Lisetta sta ora vivendo una vita nuova, la quinta. Questa è proprio quella che vuole. “Mi siedo sulla mia sedia” - sì proprio la stessa menzionata all'inizio di questo racconto - “e sto qua, guardo fuori o sto a occhi chiusi. Ricevo e scrivo moltissime lettere, leggo molto, mangio poco, bevo solo acqua calda e mi prendo cura della casa. Non ascolto musica, mi piace il silenzio. E quando mi chiedono 'chi ti ha insegnato a fotografare'? Rispondo 'la vita'. Perché ho solo osservato la vita, soprattutto quella degli ultimi”. 

  • Lisetta Carmi in her studio in Cisternino, Puglia. © Massimiliano Morabito
    Art & Culture

    Looking at Life Through the Eyes of Lisetta Carmi

    When she looks back at her life, Lisetta Carmi maintains that, at 92, she has already lived five. The drawing of her made by her spiritual guide, Babaji Herakhan Baba, was right. Each one of the five faces portrayed among lotus flowers, represents a different life, ranging from that of the musician, the photographer, the community leader, the reborn musician and the silent bystander.


    Today, Lisetta sits down on the chair in her studio and looks out the window at Cisternino, the adoptive Apulian town that has welcomed her decades ago but that has also judged her and deemed her a bit “different.” Surrounded by her photographs and books, she looks at you with piercing, green eyes, that are frosty yet welcoming at the same time. Eyes that look beyond the obvious and go in deep, when they stare both at life itself and life captured by photography.


    Above all, Lisetta Carmi is known as a photographer whose work has been compared to Henri Cartier Bresson's. Once you discover Lisetta's unique body of work, the images of La Gitana, La Novia and La Morena, the transvestites of Via del Campo in Genova back in the 1960s-70s, but also those of her native city's dock workers, of a newborn coming out of his mother's womb or of American poet Ezra Pound are imprinted on you for life.


    “I have often asked myself 'where do I come from?'” Lisetta asks us directly, “How was I able to look at the world and all those human beings in such a natural way? When I started taking pictures I didn't have any practical training. How did my very first photos, taken here in Puglia in 1960, during a trip to the Jewish catacombs of Venosa with musicologist Leo Levi, have such strong meaning and shape? I come from a special family, a family of amateur photographers who have silently infused in me the desire to understand the world through my images, images that capture life. When I looked at the photos taken by mom and dad I used to tell myself that I would never be able to be as good. Now, several lives later, I can say that I was a photographer for only 19 years but it might as well have been 50. I was always on my own, camera in hand. My passion for my fellow human beings has brought me to witness extreme situations in a world that is unjust yet fascinating at the same time. A world that I didn't always understand, so I photographed to understand life. ”


    As a child, Lisetta was a young pianist whose family was persecuted by the Fascist regime. In 1938, she was kicked out of her school in Genova at 14 because of their religion and had to cross the border into Switzerland on foot. “With one hand I was helping my mother, Maria Carmen Pugliese, and with the other I was carrying sheets of music.” Bach, to be exact. Her passion turned her into a promising concertist but she didn't really enjoy performing in front of strangers. One specific event led Lisetta, a young woman who was focused on marginalization and social injustice because she had experienced them on her own skin, to her second life.


    “Back in Genova, I wanted to participate to a march in support of the labor rights of Genoese dock workers, but my music teacher forbade me to. He said it was too dangerous, he said there was a risk that I'd break my hands. I didn't care about that.” That's when her life as a photographer of the outcasts, the less fortunate and the persecuted gained the upper hand. “I used to tell my dad that I was disappointed I had not been taken to the concentration camps. I knew I could have helped others, and that desire to help never abandoned me.” Her father was the one who gave her her first camera and Lisetta used photography to give voice to those that were rejected by society, who lived in horrible situations and were crushed by the powers that be.  


    Lisetta pretended to be the cousin of one of the Genoese dock workers and started capturing the men's working conditions and difficulties on film. That reportage, commissioned by Cgil, the Italian General Confederation of Labor, is a powerful document of the strong social and cultural identity of Genova in those years, but it also was the first step down a path of vilification that brought on the photographer's social commitment.


    One day, in 1965, a friend invited Lisetta to celebrate New Year's Eve in Genova's Jewish ghetto, in Via del Campo, where a group of homosexuals and transvestites had settled. Slowly she befriended the members of the community as she started shooting their portraits, which she'd give them as gifts. “In those years together, from 1965 to 1971, I have protected and admired them, I've lived through their suffering, the violence and the degradation of their lives. I just wanted to get to know them, and I did.” A collection of all her work was published in 1972 by the title I Travestiti, thanks to Sergio Donnabella as Lisetta had no intention of doing anything with her work. “I had not photographed them for commercial reasons. The publication faced some obstacles as booksellers refused to showcase the book. It was considered scandalous and even Cesare Musatti, a renown psychoanalyst,  refused to present it because he considered transvestites people who belonged in the hospital.” However, there were also those who did support the book, and that includes Dacia Maraini and Alberto Moravia.


    The experience with the homosexual community didn't have only a professional impact on Lisetta, but also a deeply personal one. “Thanks to them, I learned to accept myself. When I was a child, I looked at my brothers, Eugenio and Marcello, and I wanted to be a boy. I knew I didn't want to get married and rejected the role society assigned to women. The transvestites made me ponder over the right that we all have to determine our own identity. It took me a while, but I got to embrace the joy of being a woman.”


    Among Lisetta Carmi's most appreciated work, we also find her portraits of American poet Ezra Pound, taken during a brief encounter, 4 minutes total, in his house in Rapallo. Shot on February 11, 1966, they are just a few in number, 12 final shots out of 20, yet they are unique black and white testimonies that capture “the solitude, the desperation, the belligerence, a gaze at the infinite, everything that cannot be said with words and the dramatic greatness of the poet.”


    Lisetta was invited to join Gaetano Fusari, the Director of the ANSA Press Agency of the Genova branch, who was supposed to interview Pound. She went with her Leica 35 mm. They knocked on the small house's door, and after a few moments of silence, Pound walked out, as if lost. He just stood there, in his robe and slippers, and didn't utter a single word, despite our presence. Lisetta just started shooting and shot and shot until the poet's retreat into his house.


    Pound was old and sick, having survived thirteen years of imprisonment in the psychiatric ward of St. Elisabeths Hospital in Washington. “When I developed and printed the twelve shots I had selected, I saw in them exactly what I felt as I was taking them. We did not meet the poet, we met the shadow of the poet.” Wanting to share her experience with Pound's family, Lisetta sent them the shots which later became some the most known images of the poet, used in numerous books dedicated to his work. That small reportage is still considered one of the most significant moments in Italian photography. Those images also earned her the Italian equivalent of the Niepce Prize and praise from the great Umberto Eco, who said that “Lisetta's images of Pound tell more than it has ever been written about him, his complexity and extraordinary nature.” “I captured more than his physiognomy, I captured his pain of living.” Pound died years later, in 1972, and before his house was sold, Lisetta asked his family permission to go back and shoot “the small house by the olive trees in color.”


    Lisetta continued working as a photographer while traveling the world - Afghanistan, Latin America, Israel, Palestine, but also Sicily and Sardinia are some of the places that she and her camera visited – while living both in Genova and in Cisternino, where she had purchased a place years before.


    In 1976, everything changed and the transition from one life to another happened after a trip to India where she met a sadhu (holy man), Babaji Herakhan Baba, who became her spiritual guide. “He called me to him and he showed me life's deepest truths. When I saw him for the first time, I felt I was living through the times of Jesus, where the disciples were waiting for their teacher. I went to introduce myself and said 'Babaji, I'm Lisetta,' 'Your name is Janki Rani' he replied, and I sat next to him. I was in ecstasy, I looked at him and I could see that he was the manifestation of God in human form, that he was pure love.” That first time Lisetta, or rather Janki, spent 25 days with the divine teacher. During those days she witnessed the announcement of Babaji's Mahakranti prophecy that said “that the world as we know is about to end. 75% of humankind is about to be destroyed and great part of the world will be covered in water. Yet the remaining humans will be able to face the water and the fire and start anew. The disciples were scared but I was not. I heard the prophecy but all I could hear was the word “freedom.” That is how God is giving us a chance to wipe out all the negative and start over, with the triumph of love, brotherhood and harmony.”


    After 25 days Lisetta had to return to Italy to take care of her elderly mother, but through the years she went back to India several times. During one of these times Babaji told her to build an ashram in Cisternino, “a place where people could come with their problems, doubts and ailments looking for spiritual solace and guidance. I asked Babaji what he truly wanted from the ashram and he replied that it had to be a place of transformation for people where they could purify their body and soul.”


    Photography thus became a distant memory and, although completely inexperienced, Lisetta ventured on a new mission without giving it a second thought. The Bhole Baba center was opened in 1986 and it's identical to Babaji's ashram in Herakhan, India. “Life at the ashram was and is the same for everybody, as we are all the same. Nobody comes first and nobody comes last. We are all equal.”


    In 1992, while she was president of the center, Lisetta created la Voce di Cisternino, a bi-annual publication featuring essays, news and announcements of events taking place at the ashram. She penned Notizie da Cisternino, an editorial signed as Janki Rani. In 1998, thirteen issues later, in her editorial, Lisetta announced that it was time for her to leave the ashram but she was still available to speak to whoever wished to do so. “It was time to work on myself. I often wondered how I had been able to live in such a challenging communal environment for so long and I was looking for solitude.”


    Personal connections brought Lisetta to collaborate with a former student of hers, Paolo Ferrari. A physician and scientist, but also a psychotherapist and musician, Ferrari is the creator of a method called “Asistema in-assenza.” Lisetta had not played the piano in about 35 years but she was invited to attend Ferrari's seminars in Milan where she'd play at the end of each session. “The concept is rather difficult to grasp, but the margins of absence open up vast and unexpected horizons of freedom. Getting to know Paolo's ideas and getting close to music again was a real miracle. Up to that point I had learned from life everything I had to know and I was then living a reversal of roles. The teacher became the student.” After six years of weekly trips to Milan, where the seminars were taking place, Lisetta understood that the experience had come to an end. “Life was starting to repeat itself and it was time for detachment and silence.” Is it the same silence of Ezra Pound's desperation or of the nameless dock workers of Genova?


    Lisetta is now living a new stage of her existence, the one she considers her favorite. Her life is exactly how she wants it to be, made of silence and solitude. “I sit on my chair” -  the same chair mentioned at the beginning of this article - “I close my eyes and I just sit here. I don't eat much, I drink only lukewarm water and I take care of the house. I don't listen to music. And when I am asked who has taught me how to take pictures, I reply, life. Because I just looked at life.”

  • Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino in full swing.

    Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino Returns Stateside

    Puglia's Pizzica Powerhouse and Italy's leading ensemble on the world music circuit, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (CGS) is about to return to the US for a series of Fall concerts, running from September 29th through October 10th, including one in New York City at the legendary Poisson Rouge on October 5th. Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino's 2016 tour includes Midwest performances at the Madison World Music Festival (September 29th), Legion Arts (Cedar Rapids, IA, on October 2nd) and Minneapolis’s Cedar Cultural Center (October 3rd). Following the New York show on the 5th, the group will head to the Richmond Folk Festival where they will have several performances.

    Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino was originally founded in 1975 by Daniele Durante and leadership of the ensemble was handed down to Durante's son Mauro, an already noted percussionist and violinist, in 2007. Hailing from the Puglia region, the seven piece band and dancer are the leading exponents in a new wave of young performers re-inventing Southern Italy's Pizzica Taranta musical and dance traditions for today's global audience.

    The band - Mauro Durante (voice, frame drums, violin), Alessia Tondo (voice), Giulio Bianco (Italian bagpipes, harmonica, recorders), Massimiliano Morabito (diatonic accordion), Emanuele Licci (voice, guitar, bouzouki), Giancarlo Paglialunga (voice, tamburrieddhu) and Silvia Perrone (dance) – is critically acclaimed with 17 albums and countless live performances throughout the USA, Canada, Europe and the Middle East. In 2010 the group was awarded Best Italian World Music Group at Italy’s MEI's confab.

    Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015 with the release of "Quaranta" (40), an album produced by Ian Brennan, 2012 Grammy Award winner in the Best World Music category for Tinariwen's "Tassili" album, and that features special guests. Quaranta is also well known for the video for the song "Solo Andata" (One Way Ticket) which received Amnesty International Italy's 2014 Arts and Human Rights Award. Set to text by author Erri de Luca, and directed by Alessandro Gassmann, the song tackles the ongoing issue of immigrants from North Africa to Italy's shores. The group has been touring Italy with de Luca, presenting Solo Andata as an individual show. 

    Just to find out more about the upcoming shows, we had a chance to ask Mauro Durante a few questions before the beginning of the tour.

    To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, in 2015, the group released "Quaranta" (40), which was cited in Best of the Year world music album round-ups by the likes of Huffington Post and PopMatters. Tell us what makes Quaranta so special and what is the creative process behind the release of a new album.

    I believe that Quaranta is a very intense album. It originates from a reflection on Tarantismo (Vocabulary definition: a nervous disorder characterized by an uncontrollable impulse to dance; popularly attributed to bite of the southern European tarantula or wolf spider) and what is left of it today, in other words, its legacy. It deals with the demons of our times and the need of dancing, dance being  the physical representation of our search for contact and need to be a community, as we all an effective means of exorcism. We are proud of Quaranta's success and each album we release is a snapshot of what we are living through at the moment we are putting it together, as we write, play and dance. When we are in the embryonic stage of a new job, it's important to let it find itself, let it find its natural predisposition, whatever it may be. We are working on a new album that should be released in 2017. Its connection to New York is strong, both in genesis and production, but we'll talk about it more in the near future!

    You are the author of most of the group's songs, what inspires you and what are the predominant influences on Canzoniere's music?

    I'm inspired by what I experience day by day, the music I listen to, my wife's glances, current events, and both the big issues and the little things. Traditional music has always answered to an emergency, that being the irresistible need to be set to music,  to be sung and shared. Canzoniere sings about its present, and does so with both chants from the past, that are universal and therefore timeless and current, and with new, original music that tells who we are today. First and foremost, we are influenced by Apulian traditional music and by music from Southern Italy. We also are inspired by the music of the Mediterranean basin, the world's trance and dance music, and canzone italiana (Vocabulary definition: an Italian song or ballad. The term is also used to describe a type of lyric which resembles a madrigal). Let's not forget the impact of contemporary music, of the individual musical experiences of each band member and of the magic that is born from the coming together of all these different souls. 

    In Quaranta there are several songs created in collaboration with guest artists, such as pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi and singer-songwriter Piers Faccini. What's the allure of collaborating with others?

    Collaborating with other artists is always a great opportunity for growth and observation. Something unexpectedly beautiful can come to life thanks to the encounter between different and seemingly distant sensitivities. I have collaborated with Ludovico Einaudi for six years, first on his music and then on mine when he was called to direct La Notte Della Taranta (a music festival from Salento focused on Pizzica). We've become friends and the song “Taranta” was created by the union of  rhythmic cells with a vocal melody that soon becomes choral and grows to its the final paroxysm. “Taranta” has become the perfect embodiment of the concept of Quaranta, and that is captured by the phrase “If you dance alone you cannot heal.” Piers is a friend as well, and we have collaborated with him for some time now, both on his and my projects. As author of the lyrics of “I love Italia,” he was able to give a poetic but yet sarcastic and bitter image of today's Italy, seen through the careful eyes of a “foreigner,” who happens to be an “Italian” not by birth but by choice.

    There are rumors that Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino is currently developing a Taranta-themed theatrical production with the team that brought the showFela! to Broadway to be performed in the US. What can you tell us about that? 

    We are ecstatic to have the opportunity to create a theatrical show in the US. Our manager, Mark Gartenberg, came up with the idea, which is similar to that of Quaranta.  We have put together an exceptional creative, award winning team. The director is Niegel Smith, one of the most important emerging figures in American theater, Maija Garcia is the choreographer and Jim Lewis is the playwright. We have workshopped it in Salento last year and we are planning the next steps in order to put it on stage as soon as possible. 

    September 29 Madison, WI Terrance at the Memorial Union - Madison World Music Festival

    October 2 Cedar Rapids, IA CSPS Hall

    October 3 Minneapolis, MN The Cedar Cultural Center - Global Roots

    October 5 New York, NY (Le) Poisson Rouge

    October 7 - 9 Richmond, VA Richmond Folk Festival

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Location, Location, Location: Eataly Opens its Downtown Store

    “Location, location, location.” We all are familiar with the colloquial saying that explains that “there are three things to remember when valuing a property and where a home is located is the most important factor in its value, both now and in the future.” With that in mind, Eataly NYC, the city's most renown Italian marketplace featuring quality culinary products from Italy’s many regions, is opening its second location in the heart of downtown: on the Third Floor of World Trade Center Tower 4. 

    Back in 2010 Oscar Farinetti and his partners, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich, Adam Saper and Alex Saper, opened Eataly's first North American location in the Flatiron district upon suggestion of Eataly's CEO Nicola Farinetti, who had the idea to open a flagship store in the city. Since then Eataly’s U.S. presence has grown to include a Chicago location and, as of August 11th, 2016, food lovers from all over the world are invited to “Eat, Shop, and Learn” about Italian cuisine and culture through the store's market, restaurants, guided tours, live demos and classes also in the World Trade Center location.

    “With this location we are giving our contribution to the rebirth of one of the city's oldest neighborhoods,” chef and partner Mario Batali said to the crowd attending a press preview; “This is an area that is undergoing an incredible rejuvenation, and the right place to be,” partner Alex Saper added. Mayor Bill DeBlasio could not attend the special event, which also happened to be a ribbon cutting ceremony and the ribbon itself was made of pasta, but sent a member of his staff to emphasize his love for all things Italian and to praise the work of Eataly which “is a symbol of how New York City is thriving and a sign that there is a significant rebirth of Downtown.”

    Joe Bastianich also had something to say, “When Nicola Farinetti opened Eataly Flatiron in 2010, it changed the neighborhood and Manhattan. As Eataly opens Downtown the opposite will happen and the store will evolve as part of the rejuvenation of this part of the City.” After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 people were skeptical whether the World Trade Center area could be reborn as a vibrant spot. Yet after years of cleanup, construction, delays, projects and billions of dollars Downtown Manhattan is now florid.

    Eataly Downtown, which will be open from 7AM – 11PM, daily, will attract tourists and locals alike as everybody loves good food.

    Upon entering, on the third floor of World Trade Center Tower 4, all patrons will be greeted with a remarkable display of bread, the location’s theme. Bread is a symbol of community and connectivity around the world as well as a representation of Eataly’s commitment to wholesome, quality ingredients.

    “Each location of Eataly is dedicated to a value,” CEO Nicola Farinetti has said, “indeed Eataly Rome is an homage to beauty, Eataly Smeraldo in Milan to music, Eataly Istanbul to history. At Eataly Downtown we’ve chosen ‘Bread’ as our theme so we have a platform to break bread and talk about culture in one of the most important and most diverse cities in the world.”

    At the press preview the concept was reiterated by a priest who blessed the site and explained how breaking bread together is an act of joy in partaking the gifts that God gives us.

    “Bread is the only food created by man, not nature, that unites virtually every community around the world. Bread represents transformation, a live population of yeast working together to rise to the occasion. We break bread around the table to commence a meal, we share bread, and we crave bread in order to be fully satisfied. Humans cannot survive on flour and water alone. But bread? We can survive on bread indefinitely,” Eataly's mission statement asserts. And when you first enter Eataly NYC Downtown, you will be greeted by a map of the world titled “Global Bread, a Common Thread.” The map shows 196 countries around the world with each country’s representative bread highlighted. The names might differ, the flavors might vary, but bread is bread. Each month, Eataly will celebrate a bread from any country of the world, inviting master bakers to lead demos and tastings.

    Indeed, the idea behind Eataly is simple: to gather all high-quality food, with a predominance of Italian food, and drink under one roof, where you can eat, shop, and learn. The new store features a Market, which showcases over 10,000 products, a mozzarella bar and a fresh pasta counter; Foodiversità, a free “university” for people of all ages who want to learn about food through live demos and tastings around a kitchen table; Osteria della Pace, a refined restaurant in the hands of Chef Riccardo Orfino whose menu featres seasonal dishes inspired by the cuisine of Southern Italy; a Bakery; Orto e Mare features an extensive breakfast menu for the first time in the history of Eataly; La Piadina Romagnola by the Fratelli Maioli which serves piadine, grilled Italian flatbreads stuffed with different delicacies, and much much more... There is something for everybody.

    Eataly Downtown is located on the Third Level of Tower 4 at the World Trade Center at 101 Liberty Street and is open from 7am-11pm, daily. Retail entrance is between Greenwich and Church Streets.  

    EatalyNY website >>

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Representing Italy’s Food Products in North America

    “We must remember that our participation in the Summer Fancy Food Show is part of a greater initiative, under the banner The Extraordinary Italian Taste, that was developed by the Ministry of Economic Development,” Forte explains. “Attendance at trade shows is one of our core duties in representing the singularity and quality of Italian food.”

    Parma, Fiera di Milano, and Fiera di Verona. Furthermore, while the Italian pavillon  will welcome about 270 companies, the overall Italian representation at the show is even greater as plenty of other Italian producers are participating outside the pavilion. “Some of them already have local importers,” says Forte, “others are represented by consortia and others yet simply want to maintain their individuality and stand on their own.”

    So overall, Italy is bringing about 500 producers. All of them presenting to buyers and retailers some of the country’s best pastas, cheeses, olive oils, cured meats, waters, pastries, juices, and more.

    Besides gross numbers, the size of Italy’s participating companies is interesting as it reflects the peculiar nature of the food industry in the country. Indeed, as the Trade Commissioner emphasizes, the percentage of mass market companies is rather limited.

    The Summer Fancy Food Show (June 26 – 28 in New York’s Javits Center) is not only the largest specialty food trade event in North America but also a major showcase of the state of the food industry.

    It brings top producers, manufacturers, and buyers together under one roof. The estimates for this summer’s show is more than 180,000 products, 25,000 buyers, and 2,500 exhibitors.

    500 Italian producers
    “As it’s been the case in the past years, The Italian Trade Commission works
    with a group of Italian government and food industry organizations, as well as the Specialty Food Association, in putting together an Italian pavilion that is getting bigger every year,” Forte continues. The Italian agencies involved in this work include include Federalimentare, Fiera di

    “Let’s say that 80% of all exhibitors are small to medium sized companies hailing from all different Italian regions. In attendance there also are Consortia that come together to either protect of promote certain products and there are local, as well as regional entities such as Chambers of Commerce. They all come together because the U.S. is a key market for Italian products.”

    Fighting the “Italian sounding” phenomenon

    American consumers are indeed more and more conscious of what they are eating, and in terms of premium quality, certified origin, authenticity, and taste, Italian food products satisfy all their needs. “We have conducted a survey and found out that Italian food is loved first and foremost because it is good, because it gives an idea of family, and because it is simple and most of all healthy,” Forte tells us. “Italian cuisine follows the Mediterranean eating pattern, and focuses on natural ingredients and simple flavors. Researches suggest that the benefits of a Mediterranean diet pattern may include weight loss, reduced cholesterol levels, reduced risk of coronary heart disease and of depression. How do Italians stay so thin and happy?”

    Many Americans consumers however, do try to eat Italian but are unaware of the issue of Italian-sounding products. Labelled with Italian names and misleading Italian words, images or trademarks, these products are simply fake but, in some states they are often easier to find than
    the original ones. It is the so-called phenomenon of “Italian-sounding” products.

    It has been around for ages, some even say since the end of the nineteenth century, when Italian emigrants began to produce food with local products and labelled them with the names of the original Italian ones or with images reminiscent of Italy. “It’s easy to be tricked,” Forte warns, “We are working hard on spreading awareness to more American states and we are focusing on Illinois, California, Texas and the tri-state area. Consumers are willing to buy genuine Italian quality at higher prices, so our mission is to fill those market voids. Participation to shows like the SFFS is one efficient way to do that.”

    Supporting Italy’s EVOO
    At the show, the Italian Trade Commission’s Italian Pavilion will feature a small lounge where trade insiders will have the chance to participate in cooking demos, or just try out the winebar while exchanging knowledge and learning about Italian food. “There will be an immense variety of products but I believe that close attention must be paid to extra virgin olive oil,” Forte emphasizes. “Lately the press has spoken ill of it and producers have been accused of different issues. The truth is that, even though there always are some scoundrels, the production of Italian olive oil follows very strict rules, products must undergo plenty of quality control processes and the final product is simply excellent. Italian olive oil now deserves better representation.”

  • Art & Culture

    Open Roads Roundtable: “Directors See it All”

    The artistic delegation of Open Roads, New Italian Cinema 2016 participated in an exciting roundtable at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò moderated by Professor David Forgacs. Open Roads, co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecittà, is a yearly appointment with Italy's contemporary cinema.

    Claudio Cupellini (director, The Beginners), Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio (directors, River Memories), Edoardo Falcone (director, God Willing), Ondina Quadri (actress, Arianna) Carlo Lavagna (director, Arianna) Gabriele Mainetti (director, They Call Me Jeeg), Vincenzo Marra (director, First Light), Laura Morante (director/actress, Solo; actress, God Willing), Gianfranco Pannone (director, The World's Smallest Army), Maria Sole Tognazzi (director, Me, Myself and Her), Adriano Valerio (director, Banat) and Eugenia Costantini (actress, Solo), shared some secrets with the audience.

    “We collected material for a very long time but we didn't really know how to paste it all together,” Laura Morante said of her film Solo, “I was ready to move on but my writing partner, Daniele Costantini, asked for one more week and that's when magic happened. The original idea was to write a film about a woman of a certain age who is suddenly single and needs to make it on her own. There aren't many films about that. Livia is roughly based on me: shy, private, insecure. When I was little my brother's friends would think I didn't exist because every time they came over I would hide. Flavia needs to react, to be stronger.”

    Maria Sole Tognazzi, definitely agrees and after making a film about a strong, single woman (A Five Star Life, 2013) she comes back with a vengeance with a film about a lesbian couple played by Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli. “In Italian cinema there are films about male gay couples or films where among the different characters there is a homosexual. There was nothing about a lesbian couple, and in this case, an older couple. I wanted to do another film with Buy out of gratitude because she was so amazing in our previous one. At Cannes I met Ferilli by chance and promised her we'd work on a project together. Then it just came to me. This is not a remake of Il Vizietto, a famous film on a gay male couple where my father, Ugo Tognazzi played one of the two leads, but a homage.”

    Gabriele Mainetti paid homage to the superheroes of his childhood with a Roman twist in They Call Me Jeeg, winner, in 2016, of eight David di Donatello, the Italian Oscars, while Edoardo Falcone, who won a David in 2015, wanted to “talk about spirituality in a fun way. My comedy is a satire on radical-chic people who talk of democracy and respect for others but in the end they are the opposite. I was strongly inspired by Commedia all'Italiana, comedy Italian-style, a humorous film that focuses on current social issues, in this case the way people see religion. The main character, Tommaso, would rather have a son who's gay than a son who wants to become a priest.”

    Vincenzo Marra's film First Light, also focuses on a current situation, which is the custody of children after a breakup. “I am not taking sides but just trying to present a situation that is afflicting today's society. I wanted to tell the story of a love that ended and show that who ends up paying the price is the child. In the world 85% of children are given to the mothers but fathers have rights too. This is also a topic that is not often portrayed in films, especially Italian ones.”

    Adriano Valerio's Banat, is about “displacement, about people who leave their country for another one,” while Lavagna's Arianna addresses the issue of gender identity, a hot topic in contemporary cinema. “When I was little, about 9 or 10, I had a recurring dream of being an older woman,” Lavagna confessed, “and that stayed with me. I wanted to find out why and started researching the topic.” Arianna was defined as a “strikingly presented debut that will find a particularly welcoming niche in gender-themed and LGBTQ fest programs,” by Guy Lodge of Variety.

    The De Serio brothers researched and captured on film the life of the Romani people, gypsies that are often seen as synonymous of criminality, while Pannone looked at the Swiss Guards living and working in the Vatican with a “secular eye.”

    “It seems that things are really moving for Italian cinema,” Falcone told i-Italy before the presentation, “After years of crisis there is a lot to do and lots of stories to tell. Directors have their eyes open on what surrounds them and tend to capture it on film. Their eyes on the world are wide open.” Needles to say that most of these directors have all said “this topic was not really presented in Italian cinema before, and now, with my film, it is.”

  • Events: Reports

    Panorama Europe Opens with Anna

    Featuring a selection of nineteen exceptional new feature films from countries such as Italy, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece,The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Spain among others, Panorama Europe 2016 is one of the best opportunities to have access to the most exciting new international filmmakers.

    “Italy believes in participating in these events together with the other Europeancountries,” Italy's Consul General in New York, Hon. Francesco Genuardi said on opening night, before the screening of Anna (Per Amor Vostro), “It's great to be at the Museum of the Moving Image here in Queens, a neighborhood that has a strong history of migration and co-habitation between cultures. We need joint cultural initiatives like this one. I'm here to represent Italian cinema and this film proves that our cinema is still alive and kicking and not a thing of the past.”

    Anna, a film by Giuseppe Gaudino, stars Valeria Golino who won the Coppa Volpi at the Mostra Internazionale di Cinema di Venezia for her interpretation in the titular character. “ The Italian movie star was at opening night and introduced the film as “a very strange object. I hope you stay until the end.”

    Set in Naples, Anna tells the story of a woman who tries really hard to stay afloat. She's just landed a new job in TV as a “prompter,” replacing the man who has taught her all the tricks but is now destitute and drowning in debt; she has to help her elderly parents and cannot count on the help of her elder brother, who is responsible for her spending years in juvie; she has three kids to support and has to deal with common teenager issues such a sex at an early age but also living with disability, the boy being deaf mute; she also has to deal with a violent husband who brings money home but from unknown resources. 

    Anna keeps going no matter what, and although she tries to blend into her black and white world she's often shaken by haunting memories in color, such as her as a child dressed as a flying angel, and nightmarish visions, a bus filled with water and souls in pain. 

    “Anna is so full of contradictions,” Valeria Golino said about her character, “I had to deal with what was happening to her trying to survive her reality.We human beings never are only happy or only sad, but there is a lot going on in us. We all are complex beings, and Anna is very complex. Playing her has been hard and Beppe, the director, really throws you in the midst of things with no safety net.”

    “I wanted to portray a woman that has lived without taking a stand all her life. She's always done what others wanted her to do, but she finally is aware of what's happening and finds the courage to break lose.”

    What makes her open her eyes? The murmurs of her neighbors gossiping about her crook of a husband? Or a charming actor who seduces her during work hours? Or is it the stability of a job? The questions are many and the beauty of this film is that the viewer can come up with his/her answer, depending on their personal experience. Indeed, although visionary and oneiric, the film really becomes personal.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Eataly's Sabbia: a Slice of the Mediterranean Sea in the Concrete Jungle

    Growing up, my family used to spend every summer on the sandy beaches of Puglia; we would pack our car all the way back in Milan, leave during the night (so that we could beat traffic) and drive all across the country, looking forward to being on the beach... basking in the sun, playing in the water, eating lots of seafood and ice cream.

    One of my favorite things ever was to eat under the big umbrella or while running around with 
    the other kids: that meant there were a lot of spiedini, skewers, from the mozzarella and tomato ones to the grilled shrimp ones.

    Never would I have thought that I could re-relive those moments back in Manhattan, at Eataly's new pop-up restaurant Sabbia (Sand). Located on the rooftop of the beloved Flatiron location, Sabbia is a slice of the Mediterranean in the middle of the concrete Jungle, a place that comes complete with cabanas, colorful lounge chairs and palm trees.

    A resort looking place where you can enjoy a Salsiccia e Cima di Rapa Spiedino, Sweet Sausage and Broccoli Raabe skewer, reminiscent of traditional Apulian flavors, a Sorrento Spritz, a cocktail featuring Prosecco, mint, cucumber and Sorrento lemon juice that is so light and fresh that goes down just like fresh water, or, if you have a sweet tooth, a classic Cannolo Siciliano, three chocolate covered crunchy pastry tubes, filled with sheep milk ricotta cream and candied orange. “The original cannoli were invented in Southern Sicilia, where they are still found everywhere from street carts to the finest restaurants,” Sabbia's dessert menu claims.

    “A section of the menu,” Nicola Farinetti, CEO of Eataly's USA told i-Italy, “is totally dedicated to having fun on the go, that's why we have a selection of Spiedini, either with seafood, meats or vegetables, quick Antipasti and traditional Piadina.”

    At the opening of Sabbia the Gamberetti alla Bagnara skewers were among the most popular culinary treats that were being passed around. Made with seared shrimp, oregano, parsley, garlic and lemon zest, these flavorful skewers were inspired by Bagnara, a seaside town in southern Calabria. The Fritto Misto alla Ligure, assorted fried seafood Ligurian style, was abundant, as were sourdough crostini topped with Trickling Springs Creamery butter and salted anchovies.

    “When we go to the beach,” Farinetti continued, “we eat lighter and we kept that in mind when Executive Chef Fritz Tallon designed the menu. We eat later and we want to have fun. The beach was, and still is, a magical place: the place where kids fall in love for the first time, where there was no curfew and everybody would have fun. When you go back later, as an adult, you bring your memories with you and the place is still magic.”

    Magic is the cocktail list that has been created with bubbles as a central ingredient, as bubbles make everything seem lighter. We have mentioned the Sorrento Spritz earlier but there is also a delicious Berry Bollicine, made with a rose bubbly, Mirto Amaro, strawberry, peach and Niasca Mandarinata and a selection of cocktails made with Ferrari sparkling wines.

    Those who don't do bubbles should not despair, there are plenty of other signature drinks to chose from, some with very unique names - the Italian Stallion is made with Makers Mark Bourbon, white peach puree, lemon and mint; the Calabrese Sunrise is made with tequila, fresh watermelon juice and lemon and is served in a Calabrian chile-sugar rimmed glass; the Anna Magnani, conceived in honor of the great actress, is made with gin, strawberry puree, rosewater, basil and lemon, strong and delicate at the same time, just like her.

    “Lightness is what we want to feature in our food, drinks and atmosphere,” Farinetti concluded, “lightness is what brings us back to the beaches of our youth. It's represented even in the signs we have hung on the walls. 'The lifeguard is on a beer break,' one of them says. It's fun and realistic at the same time, because we created Sabbia to have fun. To relive the joy of those beaches even here in Manhattan.”