Articles by: N. L.

  • Facts & Stories

    Buy Parmigiano Reggiano, Help Emilia-Romagna

    17 is the number of casualties, at the moment when this article was written, of the earthquake that struck Emilia-Romagna and northern Italy on may 29th 2012. 14.000 is, instead, the total of people who have lost their homes. Many of them were and are factory workers who were busy at work and within seconds they found themselves engulfed by the rubble.

    As aftershocks keep hitting the region, the Italian Government is already at work to raise money (gas prices have been raised) and help the needy but there are little things that we can do too.

    Emilia-Romagna is well known for its production of delicious food products yet there would be no cuisine in Emilia without Parmigiano Reggiano, the hard, semi-fat cheese, that is cooked but not pasteurized, slow-maturing with high-protein content and carries the fame of a secular nobility. 

    The earthquake has also damaged several dairies where Parmigiano Reggiano is produced and aged. An estimated 300.000 wheels of forty kilos each have fallen off the shelves, thus creating an unprecedented domino effect. 

    Every year production amounts to 3 million wheels that have undergone an aging process of  a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 24. Two thirds of them are placed on the Italian market, the rest is exported. The fallen wheels amount to 10% of yearly Parmigiano production. The price of a regular wheel is of 420 euros, therefore the Consortium, the official body that combines all dairy producers to safeguard the typicality of Parmigiano Reggiano, has estimated a loss of 80 million euros. 

    The Parmigiano production chain is strictly regulated, so only the fallen wheels that did not get damaged can be moved to different warehouses in the area that meet the temperature and humidity requirements necessary for aging. All other wheels can be sold at discount prices. Furthermore, considering the international demand of Parmigiano and the decrease in production due to the earthquake, prices for parmigiano are bound to increase.

    By buying the fallen wheels people are not just saving money but they are helping the dairy factories that have to deal with the enormously expensive consequences of the terrible earthquakes. 

    This is what is available for purchase in Italy. There is no information, at the moment, for international orders.

    - Parmigiano Reggiano 14 months, 11,5 € a kg in pieces of 500gr. Or 1kg vacuum-sealed

    - Parmigiano Reggiano 27 months, 13,00 € a kg in pieces of 500gr. Or 1kg vacuum-sealed

    - Spreadable cream, 11,00 € a kg in 250gr. Jars

    Orders can be placed either by emailing [email protected]  for single or small requests or by contacting Azienda Agricola Biologica Casumaro Maurizio, Via per Cavezzo-Camposanto, 19 – Loc. Solara – Bomporto (MO). Phone numbers: 346 1779737 or 340 9016093. email: [email protected] for big orders or orders by businesses and associations. 

  • Life & People

    Innovation and Creativity: Ceramics of Italy at the 2012 ICFF

    “This year marks the fourth presence of Ceramics of Italy at ICFF (the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, North America’s premier showcase for contemporary design). The presence of Ceramics of Italy is sponsored by Confindustria Ceramica and the Italian Trade Commission.

    The nine participating companies - Atlas Concorde, Ceramiche RefinCooperativa Ceramica d’Imola, Cotto d’Este, Fap Ceramiche, Mirage Granito Ceramico, Gruppo Vivaterra, Sant’Agostino, Settecento Mosaici and Ceramiche d'Arte - which already are important players in the American market, offer high quality products realized thanks to thorough technical research that results in innovative and creative final products.

    There is a long series of elements that help the Italian products differentiate themselves from what other competitors have to offer,” Italian Trade Commissioner Aniello Musella said to those present at booth #1432, the multi-brand booth of Ceramics of Italy (the trademark for Italian manufacturers of ceramic tiles, sanitary-ware and tableware, that are members of Confindustria Ceramica) that showcased a range of decorative and hi-tech tiles from selected Italian companies, and information on the latest developments in the industry.

    “The companies here at the show have a long and consolidated story in tile production. In a moment of crisis such as the one we are living today there is a sort of natural selection and the companies that continue to operate on the international market are the ones that are of medium/large size and have a long and solid production history. They have invested in innovating the production process and the products themselves as well as in marketing activities and participation in events and fairs,” he continued.

    “April and May are two important months for the Italian tile industry. We are here at ICFF after having been in Orlando at Coverings, a major trade shows for tile, stone and flooring, and at HD (Hospitality and Design Exposition & Conference) in Las Vegas, the largest industry event of its kind. We are presenting here in the US the very best of Italian productions to different American targets: the trade, designers, and here, the end consumer.

    The best of Italian tile signifies Made in Italy and everything it carries within itself: meaning values, tradition, innovation, style, quality, design but also respect for the environment and all the workers who produce a unique and highly technological product that adapts to any style from modern to classic, industrial and shabby,” Cristina Faedi, the representative from Confindustria Ceramica said.

    The United States import 70% of tiles from all over the world and Italy plays a really major role in this. Data from 2011 show that out of a total of 1 billion and 100 million USD, Italy's slice is of 380 millions. “The real estate market is in a stagnant situation although there is no doubt that the Italian tile industry is doing really well especially in the renovation sector,” Mr. Musella added, “We are looking forward to seeing a growth in the market not only on a residential level but also commercial and institutional. This will push the Italian producers to put themselves on the market where, despite the crisis, Italy is in a position of leadership with a 35% slice of the market itself.”

    Tile is a material that presents itself in different shapes and forms, it is adaptable to many different situations. It is easy to position, less heavy and easier to handle and long lasting. Now tiles look like marble, granite and even hardwood. There is a tile for any request.

    Valerio Doga, of Mirage Granito Ceramico presented, for example, the Nolita collection characterized by a contemporary design that evokes the look of exposed raw concrete. It is very urban “very New York cool.” The Oxy collection, instead, presents a metallic look so that the tile is not a simple tile anymore but an essential furnishing element.

    The qualities of tile are many and the Italian trade Commission provided a useful list of the ten most important ones.

    Adaptable. Italian tile is a high quality industrial product that is suitable for a wide range of applications: from furniture & accessories to urban planning, outdoor or indoor, in the private sector as well in the public one. Thanks to its modular approach and amazing offering of shapes, colors anf finishes, tile lends itself to creative and personalized installations. At the same time, tile has minimal damage costs (it can be spot-repaired) and is often marketed in “families” of coordinated products – allowing for easy updates to an existing building/room.

    Clean. Maintenance is simple. Often, warm water and neutral cleaners are the only cleaning products required. Additionally, tiles are inert and do not release any substance; therefore they do not increase the level of toxicity of cleaning products that, after use, are flushed into the ecosystem such as chemicals, and solvents. This easy maintenance contributes to consumer cost savings over the life of the installation. Ceramic tile is a hygienic product that is suitable to be used even in a sterile environment.

    Cost-efficient. Tile can be installed in a building to function as a heat sink. When the sun hits the tile, it absorbs the thermal energy and exhausts it over time, thus acting like a natural heater are reducing heating costs.

    Durable. A product's lifespan is an important factor to consider. Floor finishes such as carpet, sheet vinyl, and natural hardwood have an expected life cycle of six years, 10 years and 15 years respectively, while the expected life cycle of porcelain, ceramic and mosaic tile is 50 years (TCNA Study of Floor Covering Costs, 2006)

    Energy-saving. Compared to other materials, porcelain tile offers excellent performance for under-floor heating systems because it allows the whole system to function effectively with a lower water temperature, thus saving energy throughout the system. Additionally, Italian manufacturers produce ceramic products suitable for ventilated wall facades. Large format tiles are one of the best options for this cladding system as they are mechanically strong and physically resilient to most of the hardships that deteriorate exterior walls.

    Non-toxic. Ceramic tiles contain no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that release gas prior to, during, or after installation. Products that meet stringent VOC restrictions contribute to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits for project. In addition, tiles will not absorb odors from smoke, paint, fumes or other contaminants, enhancing indoor air quality.

    Recyclable. Italian tile is an inert material manufactured from natural raw materials and will break down naturally at the end of its life cycle. Additionally, it is a recyclable product through the reuse of the material in the manufacturing process (minimizing natural resource use and waste).

    Recycled. A growing number of Italian tiles contain a percentage of pre- and post-consumer recycled content, which can contribute points toward USGBC-LEED certification.

    Resistant. Tile is resistant to extreme weather condition, chemicals' impact, water, moisture, temperature change and UV rays; giving ceramics the edge in hard environmental stress situations. It is also fire-resistant and does not create additional combustion material (in fact, t may help reduce the spread of fire) nor does it contribute to the toxic fumes and smoke when a fire occurs.

    Responsible. Italian ceramic tile manufacturers are organized in industrial districts and are directly involved in the responsible management of their territory. They have direct control on the environmental and social impact of their manufacturing operations (air, water, waste, corporate social responsibility, etc.) and on the local trade of their products.

    Ceramics of Italy is the trademark for Italian manufacturers of ceramic tiles, sanitary-ware and tableware, that are members of Confindustria Ceramica. For more information on the ceramic tile sector, visit

    For instant updates on Ceramics of Italy follow the industry at: or

  • Art & Culture

    Le Conversazioni, Writers Discuss Literature and Culture in Capri

    “Conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people who are following rules of etiquette,” Wikipedia explains, while the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as an “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.” Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that any aspiring writer desires to have a conversation with his/her favorite author, that writer who planted in him/her that wish to put words on that empty computer screen and tell a story, of any kind.

    Le Conversazioni, scrittori a confronto (Conversations between Writers) fulfills that desire. Created by writer and professor Antonio Monda and film festival organizer Davide Azzolini, this is a literary festival that every summer, since 2007, brings together international writers, journalists and intellectuals on the Isle of Capri. In the last few years some of today’s great writers have come together to discuss engaging and challenging topics that are chosen for each year: identity, the relationship between the word and the image, memory, deadly sins, human rights and eros.

    The theme to be discussed by Philip Gourevitch, Pierluigi Battista, Lila Azam Zanganeh, Paolo Mieli, Larissa Macfarquhar, Diego De Silva, Stefan Merril Block, Gaetano Cappelli, Wole Soyinka, Federico Rampini, Jamaica Kincaid and Leonardo Colombati, guests at the Piazzetta Tragara in Capri, in 2012 is Politically Correct (PC) and it was introduced by Antonio Monda at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò.

    We quoted Wikipedia and a well known dictionary at the beginning of this article, but we are

    quoting the Urban Dictionary to define political correctness, “Censorship, where people try to stop you from saying what you want. If we keep doing this the world will be boring.” The choice of this explanation was driven by the desire of not being politically correct in explaining its meaning.

    “There is wide agreement that the term 'political correctness' originated already in 1793 when

    a U.S. Supreme Court justice wrote in an opinion statement, referring to the case Chisholm
    v. Georgia: 'The states, rather than the People, for whose sakes the States exist, are frequently the objects which attract and arrest our principal attention....Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our common, even in our convivial, language. Is a toast asked? 'The United States,' instead of the 'People of the United States,' is the toast given. This is not politically correct.'” Monda said in a statement during his presentation at Casa Italiana. In this formulation the words were used to describe people who altered their manners and beliefs to fit the prevailing political movements.
    Through the centuries politically correct has worn different hats. It “described the self-righteous, non-smoking, ecologically sensitive, vegetarian, feminist, non-racist, multicultural, Birkenstock-wearing, anti-capitalist beneficiaries of capitalism--faculty as well as students--who paraded their outworn 1960s radicalism in the classroom and in their social life. (Kimball 2003)”
    In its present form, PC emerged on American campuses during the 80s and has begun
    to penetrate nonacademic society since the early 90sto mean regulation of speech,by banning presumably "offensive" words and verbal expressions in the public media as well as public institutions like schools, hospitals or administrative agencies and every day conversations.
    Political correctness affects art in all its forms. Just a week ago a new commercial starring Ashton Kutcher was banned because it featured Indians in a derogative way. It was a Bollywood parody featuring the actor in brown face with an Indian accent and it sparked numerous accusations of racism.
    “Our team worked hard to create a lighthearted parody featuring a variety of characters that was meant to provide a few laughs. We did not intend to offend anyone. I take full responsibility and apologize to anyone we offended,” Keith Belling, CEO of Popchip, said. In this case something that was supposed to be fun and lighthearted caused grand, and expensive, scandal.

    “Cinema suffers more from this pathology than any other art form,” Monda explained and gave some specific examples of how it works in the films we see. “What name is Hannibal Lecter?” he asked bringing up the main character of The Silence of the Lambs. It is the name of a serial killer who could definitely not have a typically Jewish last name, let alone Italian or of any other ethnicity. Nobody wants to be linked to a mad doctor who eats his patients. The discussion this summer will definitely raise some interesting points.

    Monda's short presentation was followed by a screening of the documentary about last year's edition directed by Carlotta Corradi. The fun short festured Cathleen Schine, Mario Desiati, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, Phillip Lopate, Sandro Veronesi, David Leavitt, and Donna Tartt talking about eroticism. That personally brought me a bit closer to my desire to have a conversation with a favorite author, being Donna Tartt an inspiration as I was growing up.

    Despite the brilliant points raised by the authors, interestingly enough the scene stealer was a woman sitting in the audience who, in answer to a question about love triangles, answered that “every woman should have three men: one for sex, one for tenderness and one for financial support.” Everybody was quoting her on the way out the Casa!

    Admirers of the Conversazioni series who are unable to travel to Capri in the summer, had an additional taste of the program at The Morgan Library, in New York, where Le Conversazioni, films of my life was presented two days after the event at Casa Italiana. Writers Martin Amis and Ian Buruma met with Monda to share the films that have influenced their lives and discuss the relationship between writing and cinema. Film clips were shown to better illustrate the discussion, so the audience was treated to scenes of memorable classics such as The Godfather, Blade Runner and Once Upon a Time in America. It is extremely rare to know what inspires the literary minds of our time, and Le Conversazioni is a real treat.

    For information on the summer program:

  • Meet Italo, Italy's New High Speed Train - and the First Breach in a Long-Standing Industrial Monopoly

    April 28 marked the beginning of a new era in Italy: it was the day that Italo, the high speed train of the Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV), had its first trip, from Naples to Milan (with stops at Roma Tiburtina, Florence and Bologna). The name was chosen together with the passengers, through a survey launched by NTV on the internet, after more than 37 thousand votes were received. Four names were selected from among all those suggested: Velox, Italo, Saetta and Mercurio. The name with the most votes was indeed Italo. 

    NTV was founded in December 2006 by the entrepreneurs Luca Cordero di Montezemolo,

    Diego Della Valle, Gianni Punzo (with equal quotas of 33,5%) and Giuseppe Sciarrone (1,5%), who were joined in June of 2008 by Intesa Sanpaolo for Imi Investimenti (20%), Generali Financial Holdings FCP-FIS (15%), Alberto Bombassei (5%) and SNCF/VFE-P SA (20%) and in January of 2009 by Isabella Seragnoli (5%).

    NTV is the first private operator on the Italian high speed rail network and the first operator in the world to use the new Alstom AGV train, the train that currently holds the high speed train record. The mission of NTV is to offer passenger services on high-speed lines, presenting innovative features, exclusive customer service and valuable traveling time. The trains were developed and built by the world leader in high-speed trains, France's Alstom, which developed the TGV, and is for the first time introducing its successor, the AGV, in passenger service with the Italo.

    With its fleet of 25 trains, Italo is the direct adversary of Freccia Rossa by Trenitalia, whose CEO Mauro Moretti officially welcomed the endeavor with a statement. “This new competitor means motivation to always improve and offer what the markets asks for. We have been doing high speed for a few years now and the clients are content. This is the turning point the country was waiting for. We will respond with professionalism and competence.” NTV explains that the challenge is to “seduce travelers with modern technology, quality service and travel possibilities for all different budgets.” On board people can enjoy live television and newly released films (on longer trips, a movie car is also provided, although passengers must pay an additional fee to watch films on overhead flat screen TVs), free Wi-fi and food provided by Eataly.

    Italo's first train left at 7.00 am on April 28 from Naples Central Station to arrive in Milan Porta Garibaldi. All tickets were sold. Italian media reported on the event, the passengers reactions, which were for the most part positive, but they decided to focus on the negative.

    Ansa, Italy's leading news agency, reported on the complaints that followed the first trip: issues with Wi-fi connection and the inability to move from the “Smart” cars to those of a superior level. These disservices were reported by Codacons (an umbrella group of associations for the protection of the environment and of consumers and users), whose inspectors traveled on the inaugural trip. “Unfortunately we must report that Italo's first disappointment is with its Wi-fi service. It was not working and that caused a real ruckus and no passengers were able to go online,” Carlo Rienzi, president of the consumer association explained. He also added his disappointment regarding the interdiction to access higher classes.

    “We tried to check out other classes in order to test comfort and services, but an employee stopped us,” Rienzi continued, “explaining that if you are in Smart you cannot access Prima and Club, two higher classes, and if we wanted a peek we could just look through the window. We see it as unfair discrimination that could have negative repercussions even on safety. If there is a fire in the Smart section, for example, how can passengers run to safety if they cannotaccess any other section of the train?”

    NTV denies that passengers were not allowed to move to different areas of the train. They released a statement that said that “Because of the people's enthusiasm and curiosity, personnel on board was happy to show many of them around even though regulations and privacy issues say that people should stay in their seats.”

    In regards to the Wi-fi issues, NTV admits there was a malfunction in the Rome-Bologna stretch, but it was readily fixed by on board technicians who are traveling on the trains during the first weeks just to fix possible issues.

    Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano adds that there were some issues with the food as well. The site Puntarella Rossa, an independent web site that judges food in all Italian restaurants and that was invited on Libero's first trip, had nothing against the quality of the food, but had issues with the price/portion ratio. “Puntarella Rossa's guests tried the Ortolano (vegetarian) menu. Its main course was Involtini Bicolore, carrot or zucchini rolls stuffed with rice, grana padano, basil, almonds, walnuts, parsley, oil, lemon and vinegar. The menu included 50 grams of spreadable Parmesan cream to be eaten with Sardinian crackers called Bistoccu, two cookies, a small bottle of water and a Illy espresso. The cost of the menu is 20 Euro. And it is even worse for those in the lower Smart class where there are no menu choices. There also are only two vending machines selling snacks and beverages. Puntarella Rossa had no problems suggesting to all travelers to bring their own food from home.”

    And this is not the last issue, as The Ente Nazionale Proporzione Animali (ENPA, National Association for the Protection of Animals) claims NTV followed the bad example ofTrenitalia, in their treatment of animals. Pets of medium-large size are not allowed on board. “We ask Montezemolo to get rid of this ridiculous discrimination,” ENPA representatives declared, “Italo welcomes only pets that are 10 kilos or smaller and there is no reason for this limitation.” They continued to explain that French, German and British high speed trains offer excellent service for pets of all sizes. “One out of two Italians owns a pet so not allowing them to travel can also have negative repercussions on the companies themselves that could have the possibility to make more money.” And let's not get into the issue of animals being abandoned during the summer months, which is a plague that has been affecting Italy for years.

    There are only a few examples of positive reactions in the Italian press, although overall they say passengers were content. Ansa briefly reports on some reactions from clients. “Valerio arrived in Bologna and traveled first class. 'Finally there is an alternative. Service was good, personnel treated us really well, I hope this is not because they have just started,' he has been reported saying.”

    The ride is quiet and smooth (the train has no locomotive and the motors are equally distributed throughout each car, making for a quieter ride), Italo features its own Internet portal, filled with information about museums, places of interest and shopping destinations at the train's next destination, two compartments are also offered for families who want to travel together or where business people can hold meetings, who wants some quiet time can go to the"Relax" department, where mobile phones must be shut off, the seats are comfortable and the windows are much larger than on other similar high-speed rail. Plus the varied price list makes traveling affordable to all.

    Seven trains have already been produced and 25 are expected to be built by fall. They will be deployed on Italy's most important north-south train line running between Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples. Some trains will also travel to Venice in the north and Salerno in the south. In total, the company plans to offer 50 trips a day. Starting on August, 3 pairs of trains will go from Naples to Salerno, while on December 9 Naples-Turin line will be launched.

  • Art & Culture

    Bologna. A Statue to Remember Lucio Dalla?

    A star in his name on the “avenue of jazz,” the installation of speakers all over Via D'Azeglio so that his songs can be played all the time, a plaque in his Piazza Grande, a cultural association named after him, a yearly concert in his honor... these are just a few of the ideas thrown out there by the city of Bologna in remembrance of Lucio Dalla, the internationally renowned Italian musician, who died in Montreux during a European tour.

    Bologna, Italy's food capital and the singer's hometown (Dalla was born in Bologna on March 4, 1943 – the date became the title of an successful song presented at the Sanremo music festival in 1971) that was often immortalized in his songs, is thinking of many ways to honor him, in an unofficial competition for the best idea yet.

    The latest comes from an online magazine called L'Arengo del Viaggiatore. They launched a petition asking for the installation of a life-like statue of Dalla, to be installed on the street, surrounded by people busy with the going-ons of everyday life, in a corner of Piazza dei Celestini, by the late singer's home. The concept is similar to that of the statue of Fernando Pessoa outside of A Brasileira cafe in Lisbon.

    The petition says “Lucio Dalla could be found in any corner of the city. There is no Bolognese who has not met him at least once in his/her lifetime. Arengo del Viaggiatore suggests to erect a statue of him extending his hand as if to shake the hand of each and every passer-by who wants to shake it.”

    Enrico Gurioli reported on The Times of Malta: “'Bologna is my city because even if I have been away from it frequently and every time I go back it is a bit like the return of Ulysses,' Lucio Dalla had stated in one of his last interviews. Yet, this artist, so very famous all over the world, had a very close, popular and provincial rapport, made up of nocturnal encounters under the porticoes and in the taverns with friends or in summer in the kiosk run by Agnesa delle cocomere (the title of one of his songs).

    For those who live in Bologna it was almost impossible not to meet Lucio Dalla, not to pose for a picture with him. He was a refined intellectual, of unusual intelligence, besides being one of the greatest Italian artists of the last few decades. In the heart of the city is his house, known to the people of Bologna and at which everyone today, passing by his last refuge, gives one more look, full of nostalgia and memories.”

    Daniela Corneo, in an article published today on the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera adds that “in Piazza dei Celestini, the day of Dalla's death, people started collecting signatures in order to name the square after him. The initiators were Giovanni Silvestri of the bar Duca d’Amalfi and Susanna Carinci, a local lawyer. Yesterday at an official town council meeting, Marco Lisei of PDL proposed to name part of Via IV Novembre after the artist but the idea was turned down by the majority of the representatives. 'Changing the name of part of the street that goes from his home to Piazza Maggiore will not involve much work: it will affect just a bunch buildings that might need to get their civic number changed. The proposal has the support of Anna Maria Cancellieri, Italian Minister of the Interior. There is no need to wait ten years for an anniversary, but it can be done right away as it was done for Marco Biagi (an Italian jurist who was assassinated by members of the terrorist group New Red Brigades outside his home in Bologna on March 19, 2002).' Yet the proposal was not that successful at the official meeting. The Councilor for Culture, Alberto Ronchi added 'We are saying no the to frenzy of remembrance. There is the need for a moment of reflection, in silence.'”

    Meanwhile the surviving cousins and the singer's old manager are working on the creation of Fondazione Lucio Dalla, but no details are available. “Things are moving along,” Dea Melotti, Dalla's cousin has declared. Another cousin, Simone Baroncini, declared that Dalla himself had been working on this project in order to help and promote new talents. “We want it to be a place to welcome concerts, theatrical performances, art shows and other cultural events.”

    This is their way to pay homage to one of its most talented, inspired and insolent sons.

  • Facts & Stories

    Thinking of the Next Pope: the Red Biretta Goes to Timothy M. Dolan

    Pope Benedict XVI created 22 new cardinals on Saturday February 18, including Timothy M. Dolan of New York, in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica. Among the 22 we find the archbishops of Prague, Toronto, Florence, Utrecht and Hong Kong as well as the heads of several Vatican offices. Seven of the 22 are Italian thus boosting Italy's chances of taking back the papacy for one of its own following years under a Polish and a German pope. Cardinal Dolan emerged as something of the star of the consistory, delivering a highly praised speech on spreading the faith and mentioned in some Italian media as a possible successor to Pope Benedict.

    Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, born February 6, 1950, is the tenth and current Archbishop of New York. Dolan also currently serves as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and was granted the titular position as Archpriest of Our Lady of Guadalupe of Mount Mario in Rome.

    Dolan is widely known for his conservative values (In an interview with the New York Post on April 22, 2009, Dolan reasserted the Catholic Church's opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage. Dolan said, “There is an in-built code of right and wrong that is imbedded in the human DNA...Hard-wired into us is a dictionary, and the dictionary defines marriage as between one man, one woman for life, please God, leading to the procreation of human life. And if we begin to tamper with the very definition of marriage, then we're going to be in big trouble”) and charismatic media personality (as a professor at the Roman Catholic Marquette University said, he “is with Rome on the big issues and on the little ones, but he does not do it in a dictatorial fashion.”) He previously served as Archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002–2009, preceded by service as an Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis from 2001–2002.

    “Benedict received the cardinals-designate from his throne under a soaring dome designed by Michelangelo, as one by one they knelt before the 84-year-old pope and received the red silk square-ridged hats, called birettas, that signify princes of the church. With Saturday’s ceremony, there are now 125 cardinals under the age of 80, and thus eligible to vote for the next pope. More than half of the cardinal-electors are now Italians and other Europeans, strengthening the Western voice at the church’s highest levels even as the rank and file grows most rapidly in the global south,” Sharon Otterman of the New York Times wrote.

    The day prior his elevation Dolan addressed the pope and the College of Cardinals on spreading the faith in a secularized world. NY1 reports that Dolan's speech struck a grave note, describing how, along with love and joy, blood also spreads the Catholic faith. Archdiocesan officials tell the local news station he was referring to recent attacks on Christians around the world. Apologizing for his rusty Italian, Dolan dusted his remarks with his trademark good humor, referring to cardinals as “scarlet audio-visual aids for all of our brothers and sisters also called to be ready to suffer and die for Jesus.” 

    “Like other cardinals, Dolan will soon wear red, a symbol of their willingness to defend the church with their blood,” Vivian Lee reports. “The new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters even unto shedding their blood, if necessary,” Pope Benedict said.

    “Dolan's red robes, by the way, are ready, courtesy of Gammarelli Tailoring,” Lee continues, “The Gammarellis have clothed at least five popes and try to stay discrete about it.” (A cardinal wears full-length red cassock, the mozzetta or half-cape, the rochet or white lacy piece, the zucchetto or skullcap, and finally the biretta or pointed hat.)

    ABC news reports that Dolan has joked “that the Vatican's tailors may have to let out his new red cassock after all the pasta he's been eating. He also jokes that he's reluctant to wear the red socks that complete his new wardrobe, lest he be considered a Red Sox fan.” writes that Dolan has been “mentioned in some Italian media as an improbable papabile, or having the qualities of a future pope. Traditionally Americans are ruled out as papal contenders, with the argument that the world doesn't need a superpower pope. But Dolan's joyful demeanor seemed to have struck a chord in a Vatican that has been anything but joyful over a rash of news reports about political infighting and financial mismanagement.”

    Although most of the news reports are on Dolan's appointment, there is also another American who got a red hat Saturday, Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, the outgoing archbishop of Baltimore, who also has strong ties to New York City. “Decades before he donned the red cap of Rome, Cardinal Edwin O'Brien wore a Yankees hat,” Daniel Beekman of the New York Daily News reports. The head of the Archdiocese of Baltimore is indeed a Bronx native who “never expected to make the leap to the second-biggest job in Roman Catholicism.”

    He is the current Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, an order of knighthood under the protection of the pope.

  • Facts & Stories

    Waiting for Sanremo


    The countdown has started, the next 24 hours are simply electric at the Ariston theater in Sanremo, Liguria, where the 62nd edition of Italy's most celebrated music festival, Festival di Sanremo is about to start (Feb. 14-18). All the stars are busy performing behind close doors but despite the producers' effort to keep things secret rumors find a way to reach the outside world.

    The biggest question is when will Italy's biggest star, singer and songwriter Adriano Celentano, participate and what will he do? Some say he might appear on both the first and last night but there is no official confirmation. Everything is always a surprise with the so called “Ragazzo della Via Gluck,” (The boy from Gluck Street, a nickname inspired by his autobiographical song by the same title) known for having revolutionized Italian rock-n-roll and, in the most recent years, for his political talks, and long pauses, on Italian television. Among other the rumored guests we find international stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael J. Fox, but nothing has been confirmed due to Italy's economic crisis. Budget cuts had to be done in regards to special guests and the show's production has opted to rely more on Celentano's star power.

    According to the press, Gianmarco Mazzi, the festival's artistic director has stated that if the singer will be in one episode only, his salary would be 350 thousand euros, if he is going to be in two, it will raise to 700 thousand, and if he does four or all episodes the salary will be 750 thousand. It does some a lot, moment of crisis or not, yet the artist has declared that "He will donate his entire salary,” Mazzi declared. “He will personally take care of all tax related issues and he will also pay for his stay in Sanremo and all related expenses. Just to be clear: being in Sanremo will actually cost him a lot.”

    Celentano will donate a still unknown amount of money (this depends on how many nights the artist will actually perform) to one or two Emergency hospitals and to 20-25 needy families that will be selected by the mayors of cities like Milan, Rome, Florence, Naples, Verona, Cagliari and Bari. Each family will receive a check of 20 thousand euros. “We can't predict if he will say anything that will cause a turmoil,” Mazzi added, “He is so unpredictable.”

    His possible monologues are still top secret, he is not even rehearsing them at the Ariston theater. He is rehearsing only in his hotel bedroom. “Even I don't know what he's going to say,” his wife Claudia Mori has been reported saying. Adriano “is free to say whatever goes through his mind otherwise he would have stayed at home. He is here in Sanremo because he has something to say, and honestly I am a bit terrified,” she told Italian news Tg1.

    Gianni Morandi, the show's host and celebrated singer who got his start at about the same time as Celentano, had his say “Our politicians blame their failures on our artists. Having Celentano here in Sanremo is a dream come true: he embodies the spirit of the festival, the same festival where he started raising issues in 1961. Celentano is our history, he is our music, not having him is out of the question. He is at the core of Italy. The Sanremo festival belongs to him. I have known him for 49 years and I am still surprised that wherever he goes havoc arises.”

    Morandi, who is hosting for the second year in a row, has publicly expressed his nervousness on a broader level. “I cannot sleep at night,” he has declared to the press. The 68 year old music icon is extremely busy with rehearsal and last minute preparations.

    His partner in crime, actor Rocco Papaleo, has instead voiced his excitement: “I am thrilled to have the chance to wear a tuxedo... I am a country boy, you know?” he joked during a dress rehearsal. “I am trying to stay cool as long as I can but I know that when that door will open for the first time they will have to push me on stage and I will definitely feel the tension.”

    Still the actor is adamant in saying that he has established a great relationship with Morandi and the rest of the cast and he is having fun. “I am exploring the 'dark side' of Sanremo, which welcomes all technicians, musicians, assistants, set decorators and crew members. They are real masters of what they do and I feel so confident and proud to be a part of it all.” It is unknown if Papaleo will also sing, but he will definitely have his own moments where he is sure to entertain. “We will see what will happen, my only hope is that the audience will appreciate it,” Papaleo has said. The duo will host the show with model Ivana Mrazova.

    Among the last minute preparations, production had to come up with a homage to the recently deceased Whitney Houston: singer Nina Zilli is supposed to perform, in a duet with Skye (of the British band Morcheeba) on Thursday night, the famous hit “All at once.”

    The song is a ballad about an unforgettable finished love, and love seems to be the main theme of the songs presented in this edition (cherry on top, considering that the festival starts on Valentine's day).

    In Sei tu Matia Bazar sing “you are the one has stolen my heart,” while in Sono solo parole Noemi sings that the moment when two love each other “is when balance disappears,” while Nina Zilli in Per sempre has to say that “pride is a limitation of love that fills you for an instant then hunger returns.” Francesco Renga, in La tua bellezza praises female beauty, while Samuele Bersani in his “Un pallone,” sings his love for his country by reflecting on Italy's current situation and Eugenio Finardi in “E tu lo chiami Dio” addresses the issue of religion and faith.

    There is a bit of everything. The singers will also sing in duets that will take place on Friday night.

    The complete list is:

    Nina Zilli - Per Sempre (“Never Never Never” was the original plan, might be replaced by “All at once” with Skye of Morcheeba)
    Samuele Bersani
    - Un Pallone (“My Sweet Romagna” with Goran Bregovic)
    Dolcenera – Ci Vediamo A Casa (“My Life Is Mine” with Professor Green)
    Pierdavide Carone e Lucio Dalla – Nanì (“Anema e Core” with Mads Langer)
    Irene Fornaciari - Il Mio Grande Mistero (“I Who Have Nothing” with Brian May)
    Matia Bazar - Sei Tu (“Speak Softly Love” with Al Jarreau)
    Noemi – Sono Solo Parole (“To Feel In Love” with Sarah Jane Morris)
    Francesco Renga – La Tua Bellezza (“El Mundo” with Sergio Dalma)
    Arisa – La Notte (“Que Serà” with Jose Feliciano)
    Emma Marrone – Non è l’Inferno (“If Paradise Is Half As Nice” with Gary Go)
    Chiara Civello – Al Posto Del Mondo (“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” with Shaggy)
    Gigi D’Alessio e Loredana Berté – “Respirare” (“Auf Der Welt” with Nina Hagen)
    Eugenio Finardi - E Tu Lo Chiami Dio (“Surrender” with Noa)
    Marlene Kuntz - Canzone Per Un Figlio (“The World Become The World” with Patti Smith)

    The festival includes a section dedicated to new talents called Sanremo Social. Eight new singers will compete against each other to become a so-called “Big.”

  • Facts & Stories

    How Facebook's Driving the Global Economy

    “Social media is not just posts and pictures and the fun things with friends, but this is really serious stuff. This is about growth, this is about jobs and empowering people.”

    These were the words of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg during a speech she made this past Tuesday, January 24th, at the DLD (Digital, Life, Design) conference in Munich.

    According to a new Deloitte study Facebook, added $15.3 billion in value to the European economy in the past year. Speaking specifically of Italy, Facebook is helping its economy with a total of €2.5 billion and 33,800 jobs. According to the study, advertising, fan pages, applications, events organized on Facebook and the use of a land or mobile line in order to connect increase by €15.3 billion business for European companies thus creating 232.000 jobs. Italy's quota is at 16%.

    Facebook's summary of the findings says that:

    Facebook adds an estimated €15.3bn value to the European economy

    Facebook helps to support 232,000 jobs across Europe

    Increased businesses participation through advertising, customer referrals and enhanced brand value is worth around €7.3bn

    The Facebook App Economy is worth €1.9bn and supports around 29,000 jobs.

    While Facebook is changing businesses in new and exciting ways, the methodologies used to measure its economic impact are well established.

    Deloitte’s study examines four key areas:

    Narrow impact: Facebook employs staff across Europe. That means money spent on wages, buildings, equipment and with suppliers.

    Business participation: Companies are increasing their revenue and building their brands thanks to Facebook advertising, fan pages, ‘likes’ and by communicating directly with customers.

    Platform impacts: European businesses that build apps for Facebook employ thousands of people. Also, social events planned online mean money spent on venues, food, drink and other expenses.

    Technology sales impacts: For many people, Facebook is the deciding factor when considering a new smartphone or tablet computer. Accessing the site or app also drives consumption of mobile and fixed-line broadband.

    Luca Salvioli, reporter at Il Sole 24 Ore writes in an article published on the 24th that Italy is first in the business participation category. Its value is more than $1.6 billion, more than England and Germany. “Brands that have an online presence grow faster,” Richard Allan Facebook Director of Policy in Europe is reported to say. “When economy goes badly, businesses strive to find new ways of acquiring clients and sell their products. Facebook will start a promotion to give €100 worth of ad credits to 50,000 European small businesses in Italy, England, Germany and Spain.”

    Salvioli's article lists a few of Italy's success stories “Banca Ifis has launched the rendimax deposit account taking into consideration all requests received on their Facebook page, 4WDItalia, a small business that imports accessories and replacements parts for Jeeps from the United States, and FotoDiscount, a business that provides photographic prints. They have used the social network to find new clients.”

    Reporter Liz Gannes of the site All Things Digital writes that at the end of her presentation “Sandberg acknowledged that €100 is a minor amount, but said it should be enough for most small businesses to reach all of their target customers on Facebook.”

  • Life & People

    Underground Cathedrals: the Wine Cellars of Canelli

    Italy is a land of many realities, each region, city, town, municipality and home has a story to tell, something almost magical that makes it unique and cherished. As we are getting ready to toast to the holiday season, Italian wines are flying off the shelves. In this context we want to tell the unique story linked to some of Italy’s most known wines… the wines of Asti.

    It all starts in Canelli, an idyllic municipality in Piedmont, dominated by a castle surrounded by a medieval hamlet. The area around the town is rich in vineyards and is believed to be the birth place of the Italian sparkling wine Asti. The village's history of the wine is still evident today with the popular synonym of “Muscat Canelli” that is still used for the Moscato grape used to produce the wine.

    The town’s most unique characteristic is the peculiarity of its subterranean wine cellars. We are talking about an extended architectonic fortune of “Underground Cathedrals” that wiggle below the entire city for about 20 kilometers (12 miles), and disappear on different levels in the viscera of tufa hills (all the way to 32 meters/104 feet underground) thus creating really suggestive scenarios: real masterpieces of engineering and architecture. In the naves of these cellars, bottles of prestigious wines are aged at a constant temperature of 12-14 ºC (53-57 ºF) degrees.

    In the mid 1800’s, Piedmont’s production of white Muscat grapes was centered in the Canelli area, while another came from the nearby municipality of S. Stefano Belbo and the rest from the neighboring municipalities. A big chunk of the wine was commercialized in barrels that the barrooms and taverns of the area resold by the flask or by the glass. “Vermouth” had Muscat as its base wine and in order to turn it into sparkling, alcoholic fermentation had to happen in the bottle. This radically changed production: companies evolved from artisanal production to a more “industrial” method. Vermouth and “Muscat Champagne” (“Muscat Canelli” as it was called at the time) rose to popularity at the same time, so much that, in order to meet requests, dozens of production houses were opened in the historic center. After the construction of the railroad they were distributed in the Muscat production area, thus starting a phenomenon that involved the entire local production.

    The processing of the Spumante (sparkling wine) needed, and still needs today, a constant temperature of 12 – 14 ºC (53-57 ºF) all year long, so wine producers needed the right cellars that, in order to guarantee that temperature, necessarily had to be underground. The hilly layout of the area and the earth’s composition had the necessary qualities: calcareous tufa is alternated with hard layers and sandy ones. It is easily dug, it preserves the right degree of humidity and insulates perfectly.

    It is known that for centuries, wine that was produced locally was stored in crutin (cellars) underground, so these pre-existing cellars dug into tufa were expanded. As time passed, requirements evolved. Technical and hygienic needs required these subterranean constructions to be in red bricks. This brought on more functional work spaces where millions of bottles could be stored.

    The construction technique was varied. There were structures with barrel vaults, sail vaults, with one or more naves, on one or more levels; some were hidden below the hills, at a depth of 32 meters (104 feet), while others were dug closer to street level or right at it. Some are so imposing that they definitely deserve the appellation “Underground Cathedrals,” for both their spectacular aspect and the charm brought on by the “rituality” of the environment: suffused lights, muffled sounds.

    All those cellars still stand today as mute testimony of a wine business that changed the life and culture of that sector. That is why Canelli has suggested adding the “Underground Cathedrals” to UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural) world heritage. Their motivation is that they are important “For the purpose they were built for, their technical characteristics, because they are reminiscent of a time rich of scientific discoveries in the wine world, for their uniqueness because they represent an extraordinary cultural heritage that deserves to be preserved, studied and shared.”

    The request does not come from Cantina Sociale di Canelli only but also from Bosca, Contratto, Coppo and Gancia, other big producers of the area. Some of these cellars are open to the public, so that the wines can be enjoyed in their magical environment.

    Cantina Sociale di Canelli has been producing the classic wines of Piedmont since 1933 and, although the location is rather different, some of these special wines will be available in New York. In partnership with the Italian Trade Commission of New York, it has organized a series of Wine Pairing Dinners, for the trade and press, in some of the city’s top Italian restaurants.

  • Art & Culture

    The Cultural Contribution of Italy to Humanity

    Aqueducts, domes, archways, the sewer system, music instructions (such as adagio or poco mosso), the Times New Roman font, the Roman calendar (which basically is the calendar we follow now) are just a few of the Italian cultural contributions to the world. Just a few of the examples Professor Enrico Bruschini, the official art historian to the American Embassy in Rome, was able to introduce to the audience of the Italian Cultural Institute of NY during the conference, presented by ILICA, in collaboration with the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce, “The Cultural Contribution of Italy to Humanity.”

    Part of Ilica's seventh annual Cultural Event in celebration of the 150 year anniversary of the unification of Italy, the conference was rich with anecdotes and curiosities that captured even those who are not history buffs. 

    “Bruschini embodies Italian culture, that's why he is here today,” Claudio Bozzo, president of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce said, “Italy right now is not in its best shape, the press only features negative news, scandalous facts that see our country on the verge of collapsing. The topic of ILICA's conference is Terroni and Polentoni, something that divided our country in two but we want to show Italy as one, it gets united under an artistic/cultural point of view".

    Dozens of businessmen, intellectuals and art lovers attended the event, all curious to hear what the gentleman who has shown the wonders of Rome to some of the most powerful men in the world had to say.

    Professor Bruschni indeed is a spring of information to all those who want to discover the secrets of the Vatican and Rome’s treasures. For 25 year he was the Fine Art Curator and Official Art Historian of the American Embassy in Rome. He has written several books, among them “In the Footsteps of Popes,” a book that is considered THE guide par excellence to the Vatican Museums. In it, Professor Bruschini has written about new discoveries but he has also “filled some blanks, and given new interpretations to some of the world’s most cherished work of arts, trying to understand the ideas behind them.”

    An example? Bruschini's interpretation of Michelangelo's Pietà, an interpretation that the Church is not too crazy about. Looking carefully at an image of the marble statue we can see how young the Virgin Mary is, way too young to be there with Jesus at the moment of his death. “That means that the image is a prediction, something that has not happened yet but that will take place in the future, when Jesus is a grown man,” Bruschini believes.

    Michelangelo was a favorite topic during the evening and several of his works were carefully dissected... and a dissected brain is the topic of another curiosity: “In 1990, physician Frank Meshberger published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association deciphering Michelangelo's imagery with the stunning recognition that the depiction in God Creating Adam in the central panel on the ceiling was a perfect anatomical illustration of the human brain in cross section. Meshberger speculates that Michelangelo surrounded God with a shroud representing the human brain to suggest that God was endowing Adam not only with life, but also with supreme human intelligence,” Doctor Douglas Fields, neurobiologist, writes in the Huffington Post... and Professor Bruschini agrees. “God gives Adam the gift of life, but also the gift of intelligence,” he explains, “And let me add another curiosity, as I was showing this to an American tourist, who happened to be a gynecologist, she pointed out how it was a womb, the nest of all humanity.”

    The stories to be told were many, the time available, little... but the professor could also discuss a statue by Giambologna found by chance at the American Embassy in Rome (once a private park of  Giulio Cesare, then summer residence of Roman Emperors, of Cardinal Ludovisi and of  Queen Margherita... yes! The one who invented Pizza Margherita!) and the Italian roots of New York City.

    Professor Bruschini presented the audience with the seal of the city of New York, where one reads “Sigillum civitatis novi erboraci,” which means “The seal of the City of New York.” “Erboracum” was indeed the Roman name for York. “There are so many Italians who played a fundamental role in America’s history; from Giovanni da Verrazzano to Cristoforo Colombo, and Amerigo Vespucci,” he had to add.

    And one more thought before bidding farewell...  “History is a teacher, learn your lessons to what happened years ago.”