SANTA SCOLASTICA – ITALY'S FIRST PRINTING PRESS

As part of its virtual tour round Italy's 46 historic state libraries, the Italian Ministry of Culture (MIBAC) is focussing on the Santa Scolastica convent at Subiaco (Lazio), seat of the first printing press in Italy to use the movable print typing technique invented by Johannes Gutenberg. The printing process, which was to revolutionize the entire European history of literature, was introduced in 1465 by two German monks, Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, who had trained in the Gutenberg workshop.

The printing press was active until 1467 and produced copies of classic Latin and Christian writers, including Cicero's “De Oratore”, and works by early Christian writers such as Lactantius.

The Santa Scolastic Library, which is part of the St. Benedict monastery complex in the Aniene river valley, possesses the first copy ever printed of St. Agostine's “De Civitate Dei” by Sweynheym and Pannartz, as well as over 200 incunabula (as books printed up to the year 1500 are called), and 420 codices of great historical interest.

The monastery was the first of a string of religious houses founded by St. Benedict of Norcia in the 5th century AD, where the work of copying ancient texts became a speciality. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the early works of the monks which were destroyed in the 9th century by Saracen invaders.

The St. Benedict monastery complex became the property of the Italian state after the Unification of Italy and the library is now known as Biblioteca Statale del Monumento di Santa Scolastica.

M. STENHOUSE

Info: Tel.+39.0774.85424 www.scolasticabeniculturali.it

Virtual tour: https://www.instagram.com/p/CaEyd19Nadz/

Posted on 24 Feb 2022 by Editor

VERDI'S FAVOURITE HANGOUT: GRAND HOTEL ET DE MILAN

With the celebrated Milan Fashion Week going ahead as planned (22-28 February 2022) and with a gradual lessening of pandemic precautions, the Grand Hotel et de Milan is repolishing its image to welcome the celebrities who will take advantage of its convenient position next to the city's fashion centre.

Milan's most prestigious hotel, numbered among the Leading Hotels of the World, has a time-honoured tradition in welcoming celebrities. The guest list during its two centuries of history have included Giuseppe Verdi, (who wrote both “Nabucco” and “Otello” while in residence there. His suite has been preserved) Enrico Caruso, Maria Callas, Richard Burton, Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, Tamara de Lampicka and Vittorio de Sica – to mention just a few.

First built in 1831, in the style of an elegant private aristocratic residence in the heart of the city, near La Scala theatre. It acquired special important at the end of the century as it was the only one that offered a postal and telegraph service. Restructuring work carried out in 1990 and 1993 brought to light parts of a 3rd century AD Roman defence wall. The remains have been preserved in the wine cellar at the prestigious Don Carlos restaurant.

Info. Tel: +39.02.723141 www.grandhoteletdemilan.it

Posted on 20 Feb 2022 by Editor

ITALY'S TREASURE TROVES COME HOME

Italy continues its successful drive to recover art and antiquities which have been exported illegally from the country and subsequently purchased by leading museums, particularly in the USA.

Several prestigious US museums – the Getty of Los Angeles, the Forham Museum of New York and the Museums of San Antonio and Cleveland, as well as galleries and private homes, recently restituted a record 200 historic artefacts that were proved to have been smuggled out of Italy over the past years.

The items have been delivered to the Italian consulate in New York to be handed over to Brig. Gen. Roberto Riccardi, head of the TPC (Carabiniere for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and Anti-Counterfeiting), attached to the Italian Ministry of Culture. This highly specialized art and antiquities squad was founded in 1969 – the first law enforcement body in the world dedicated to protecting art and heritage.

The TPC can count on the help of Leonardo – a vast data base listing and describing well over one million stolen articles.

Among the most spectacular successes have been the return of the Etruscan Euphonious Krater from the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Morgantina Venus, a Paul Getty Museum prime exhibit, proved to have come from an illicit dig in Sicily and returned in 2010 after a long legal battle.

War is still waging between the Italian Culture Ministry and the Paul Getty Museum for the return of the museum show piece: the “Victorious Youth”, a Greek bronze attributed to Lysippos, that was pulled out of the Adriatic sea at Fano (Marche) by fishermen in 1964 and bought by the Getty for $4 million in 1977. In 2006, the then Minister of Culture, Francesco Rutelli, threatened to enforce an embargo on the loan of Italian art if the statue was not returned. Despite an apparent agreement reached in 2007, the issue has not yet been settled. The battle of the Victorious Youth (also known as the Fano Athlete) still has to find a winner.

Info: www.beniculturali>carabinieritpc

Posted on 16 Feb 2022 by Editor

SECRET GIOTTO DISCOVERED

Restoration work on the arch leading into the chapel of St. Catherine in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua has revealed a surprise masterpiece hidden beneath layers of grime and later decorations, with a series of saints' heads painted by Giotto.

The genius of the 14th century maestro comes out plainly in the expressions and features of the martyrs, each one distinct from the others, as well as his revolutionary mastery of perspective.

The first intuition that Giotto's hand was under the clumsy past restorations of the arch dates back to 1968 but, like so many of Italy's forgotten treasures, nothing was done until a group of sponsors finally came forward in the person of the Pontifical Delegation for the Saint's Basilica, the local Archbishop, Padua city council, Padua University and the Cariparo bank Foundation.

The Basilica contains what is considered Giotto's masterpiece – the fresco series in the Cappella degli Scrovegni, listed under the UNESCO as a WORLD HERITAGE site.

Info: Tel. +39.0670.3739 www.santantonio.org

Posted on 12 Feb 2022 by Editor

A WOMAN IN PADUA PARK OF FAME?

Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia is still stirring up controversy after three hundred and fifty years. Elena graduated in Philosophy at the University of Padua in 1678 – the first woman in Italy to graduate.

A monument to her stands in a corner of the university courtyard, donated by the sculptress Caterina Dolfin in 1773. Now, however, a group of citizens are arguing that she should take her rightful place among the illustrious men in the show-place city park of Prata della Valle. The park has 78 statues of illustrious local figures – all of them men, apart from a modest bust of the Renaissance poetess Gaspara Stampa. The proposal, however, has not received unanimous approval and the question still hangs fire.

Recently, Milan set the lead in breaking the male monopoly of commemorative statues, with the inauguration of the new monument to Risorgimento heroine Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso which now stands in a prominent position in front of Palazzo Belgiojoso near the Duomo and La Scala.

A recent census of commemorative monuments dedicated to women in Italy came up with a modest total of 171 in the entire country.

Info: Tel. Mi Riconosci +39.3492733464 ufficiostampa@miriconosci.it

Posted on 08 Feb 2022 by Editor

FOLLOWING AENEAS' ROUTE

The classics continue to attract a following of enthusiasts. An interesting alternative (or addition) to our previous item about the “Journey of Ulysses” is the “Rotta di Enea” (Aeneas' Route”) that recreates the fictitious journey of Virgil's hero Aeneas (like Ulysses a refugee from Troy), who also traced out an adventurous route round the Mediterranean coast, starting from the doomed city in what is now Turkey, and touching the Greek islands, Albania, North Africa and Italy to end up on the Lazio coast where he founded his new city of Lavinium.

The initiative received Council of Europe certification as an official Cultural Route in May 2021. As of today, there are 45 certified Cultural Routes recognized by the CoE.

The Aeneas journey concentrates on national parks and protected areas, as well as archaeological sites, in the various countries involved, starting with the National Park of Troy, a UNESCO listing for its abundance of rare wild plants. It ends at Lavinium, Aeneas' alleged city in south Lazio, with the remain of its holy grove and the unique and mysterious monument of the Thirteen Altars.

Info: Tel. +39.06.6876608 info@aeneasroute.org

www.beniculturali.it/luogo/museo-archeologico-lavinium

Posted on 04 Feb 2022 by Editor

ULYSSES JOURNEY UNITES MED

The UNESCO MED LAB of the University of Reggio Calabria is creating a project involving a cultural itinerary which will involve the Mediterranean countries allegedly alluded to in Homer's great epic poem, “The Odyssey”. The poem recounts the mythical journey of the hero Ulysses from Troy to his home land on the Greek island of Ithaca.

The project is being promoted by the regional office of MIBACT (Italian Ministry of Culture and Tourism), the Italian branch of ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) as well as a number of universities and local authorities in Calabria and Sicily.

The legend of Ulysses' journey is still very much alive in Italy, Greece and several other Mediterranean counties. Many of the places mentioned by Homer have been identified with episodes in the poem, despite the fact that the Odyssey is believed by experts to be a work of fiction.

However, myths have a habit of lingering on over centuries. Thus the Greek island of Ithaca is thought to be the hero's real kingdom, the home of the nymph Calypso is identified with the island of Gozo near Malta, and the Lotus Eaters supposedly inhabited Djerba off the Tunisian coast.

Italy, in particular, is rich in Odyssey lore. The dreaded passage between the monsters Charybdis and Scylla is believed to be the Straits of Messina with the Garofalo whirlpool (in actual fact a very minor movement of opposing water currents) supposed to be Charybdis. Polyphemus the man-eating Cyclop had his cave on the Sicilian coast near Etna and the Sirens hung out on the

I Galli islands near Capri. The enchantress Circe, who turned Ulysses' men into pigs, resided on the Circeo peninsula south of Rome, that actually looks like an island from certain view points. The legend was reinforced by the discovery in 1928 of a cult statue of Circe, dating from the 5th century BC, as well as the remains of a temple and an acropolis.

The idea behind the project “Il Viaggio di Ulisse” (Ulysses' Journey)is to create a cultural link between these places and promote tourism.

M.STENHOUSE

Info: Tel. +39.0965.332201 www.icomos.org urp@unirc.it

Posted on 01 Feb 2022 by Editor

HERCULANEUM BEATS LOCKDOWN BLOCK WITH SOCIAL MEDIA

A number of curators of Italy's major museums and archaeological sites have met the challenge of the pandemic lockdowns and visitor restrictions with imaginative and positive initiatives, using tools like the social network to keep their public in contact.

One of the most successful has been the site of the Roman city of Herculaneum, one of Italy's most popular tourist attractions before the clamp down. Director Francesco Sirani launched a highly successful video series “I Lapilli del Parco di Ercolano” in 2020, followed by I Lapilli sotto la cenere” (The Lapilli under the Ash) that included overviews of the site filmed by drones, a virtual tour of the ruined city by Sirani and a focus on the recently discovered skeleton of a man believed to be a Roman official who was part of the attempted rescue squad sent to the doomed city. The Archaeological Park has just launched a third series “From Lapilli to Magma”, which will follow the work of archaeologists and restorers working on new areas of the site.

The initiative has attracted record visitor figures during the brief periods of opening last year, that included the special event centred on leisure and pleasure in ancient Herculaneum: Gli Ozi di Ercole” (roughly translated as “Hercules' Indolence”).

The videos (in Italian) are available on the Herculaneum Park's media links: Youtube, Facebook and Instagram. Meanwhile, the site has now opened again to visitors with restricted numbers. Full vaccination certificate (Green Pass) required as well as face mask.

Info: Tel. 0039.081 7324321 https://ercolano.beniculturali.it

Posted on 29 Jan 2022 by Editor

WINE BECOMES “GOOD, CLEAN & JUST” with SLOW FOOD

The Slow Food movement's impact on agricultural methods and consumer awareness has now extended to wine, the age-old “nectar of the gods”.

The Sana Slow Wine Fair has programmed its debut at Bologna from the 27th -29th March 2022, with already record participation numbers from winegrowers worldwide. The Fair focusses on the typical Slow Food organization principles of environment sustainability, protection of the countryside and the cultural and social role of the cellars in the societies where they work.

Participants are selected for their choice to use green energy sources, for the fair treatment of their workers and for their care of the environment. The Slow Wine Coalition expects some 5000 producers to subscribe to the Slow Food manifesto for “Good, Clean and Just wine”.

All to the benefit of the consumer!

  1. STENHOUSE

Info: Tel. Bologna Fair +39.051.700361 http://slowinefair.slowfood.it

Posted on 25 Jan 2022 by Editor

ROME'S “ALHAMBRA” RE-OPENS

After a 14-year long restoration, the Serra Moresca (the Moorish Conservatory), one of the jewels of the Villa Torlonia, Rome, is now available for visits.

The whimsical pavilion, set in the grounds of the Savoy royal abode and ex-residence of Mussolini, is a graceful building of peperino stone and wrought iron work, full of large windows of brilliantly coloured glass, one of a number of unusual buildings constructed in the grounds of the family villa by Prince Alessandro Torlonia in the 19th century.

Its unusual design, created by Venetian architect Giuseppe Jappelli in 1839, and decorated by Giacomo Capena, recalls the imagined vision of an Islamic building inspired by the “Arabian Nights” fairy tales, leading to its nickname of the “Roman Alhambra”.

Once a garden retreat full of exotic plants, it had been allowed to fall into disrepair for decades and its restoration proved particularly delicate and difficult.

The Serra will now be used as an exhibition and cultural activity space. The Villa Torlonia sits in a vast park. In addition to the splendid rooms of the villa itself, visitors can also visit the Casina della Civetta (Little Owl House) with a permanent exhibition of stained glass, the Prince's private Theatre, the Casino dei Principi (Princes' Lodge), the Limonaia (Lemon Grove), now a restaurant, and the war-time bunker for Mussolini and his family.

Info: Tel. 060608 www.museivillatorlonia.it

Posted on 21 Jan 2022 by Editor

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