THE MUSICIAN IN THE BEETLE CAR

Omar Conti, the nomadic musician of the mountains, is set to become the online star of this Italian summer. Driving along the tracks and upland valleys of northern Italy with his piano keyboard strapped on the roof of his red vintage Volkswagen Beetle car, he gives impromptu concerts that attract scores of locals and tourists from the nearby villages.

Omar, a graduate in transportation design, lives in his compact little vehicle, which he has adapted, not only as a mobile living unit where he sleeps and cooks, but has also fitted up with amplifiers, loud speakers and other electronic equipment, as well as his cello, which he plays, alternating with his piano performances.

Concerts in the hills by “the Pianist in the Beetle Car” are rarely programmed in advance, though he does turn up for the odd local festival or event. Otherwise, his growing number of fans have to search for him among the remote mountain peaks and lakes, meadows and ruined castles. However, he can usually be traced through social media such as Facebook and Instagram under the title:

il pianista sul Maggiolino”

 

Posted on 16 Jun 2024 by Editor

ROMEA STRATA: OLD PILGRIM ROUTE REVIVED

The Catholic Church's Holy Year 2025 is officially due to begin in December 2024, but many commemorative initiatives have already taken off. Hikers are already walking the traditional old pilgrims' routes to the Eternal City, with several tracks added to the well trodden classics like the Via Francigena.

The Romea Strata, the Route of Faith, which once linked Germany and the Baltic states with Rome, has now been officially recognized and has its own website and 20 official Miliarium stages marked where walkers and cyclists can have certificates stamped to prove they have undertaken the pilgrimage. On obtaining their third Miliarium stamp participants can claim at St. Peter's basilica the final official document - the testimonium, that certifies their participation in the Route of Faith.

Completing the entire trek requires dedication. Within the Italian peninsula alone the route coves 1,400 kilometres and passes through 7 Italian regions, starting from Friuli Venezia Giulia in the north and continuing through 19 provinces, touching on a total 235 major and minor municipalities. It includes many little known country paths through unspoiled countryside and mountain passes, taking in 40 UNESCO world heritage sites and 20 significant Miliarium destinations.

The total Romea Strata of Europe stretches a total 4,000 Kilometers, linking seven European countries.

M.Stenhouse

Info: Fondazione Homo Viator – San Teobaldo, Vicenza

Tel. 0039.0444 327146 www.romeastrata.org

Posted on 12 Jun 2024 by Editor

STARRING ITALIAN OPERA TRADITION AT VERONA

A glittering galaxy of opera and ballet stars celebrate the entry of Italian Bel Canto in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list with a gala performance in the Arena di Verona to be broadcast by the state RAI TV in Mondovision on the evening of the 7th June 2024.

Italy has been slow to promote its own particular contribution of music to the UNESCO list, which already contains a large number of traditional forms of song and music from countries all over the world, including Jazz, another 2024 entry.

The Italian Canto Lirica creation has enchanted fans for over two centuries and continues to be popular, with the works of great musicians like Rossini, Verdi and Puccini staged regularly in theatres worldwide.

The Arena di Verona, originally an ancient Roman amphitheatre, is the largest open air opera theatre in the world and home of the oldest annual opera festival.

The special performance orchestra, directed by Riccardo Muti, is composed of 160 musicians and a choir of 300 singers The programme features solos by celebrated international opera stars such as Anna Netrebko, Jonas Kaufmann, Juan Diego Florez and others, and with dance performances by La Scala stars Roberto Bolle and Nicoletta Manni.

M. STENHOUSE

Info: Tel. +39.045.805.1861-1905-1891-1939-1847  (Ufficio Stampa Fondazione Arena di Verona)

Posted on 07 Jun 2024 by Editor

FLORENCE: TREE OF PEACE MEMORIAL

The bronze Tree of Life took centre stage during the recent 30th anniversary commemoration ceremonies of the tragic bomb attack that took place in the heart of Florence in 1993. The 4.40m-high tree by sculptor Andrea Roggi stands in Via Georgofili, on the spot where the stolen vehicle that held the bomb was parked. The evocative sculpture replaces the succession of living olive Trees of Peace which did not survive due to the lack of light and space in the narrow alleyway between the Uffizi and the Torre dei Pulci, seat of the Georgofili Academy.

The bomb, planted by the Mafia in an attempt to coerce the Italian government into granting concessions to Cosa Nostra members serving prison sentences, killed or injured some 35 people and caused extensive damage. The Uffizi, the Vasari Corridor, Palazzo Vecchio and the Church of Santo Stefano al Ponte were all devastated by the blast and many paintings in the Uffizi collection were badly damaged.

The Georgofili Academy which was set up in 1753 (the first scientific institute in Europe to concentrate on agricultural studies) was razed to the ground.

The Torre dei Pulci has since been rebuilt and carries an inscription beside the door of a poem written by one of the victims, nine-year old Nadia Nencioni.

Info: www.georgofili.it https://www.magentaflorence.com

Posted on 04 Jun 2024 by Editor

REBIRTH OF EMBLEMATIC EARTHQUAKE TOWN

The 15th century Cathedral of Saints Giacomo e Filippo, Finale Emilia (Modena, Emilia Romagna) after a difficult twelve-year restoration, finally re-opened for regular services this week. The town was at the epicentre of the devastating earthquake of 2012 that devastated a large part of central Italy.The small town of Finale Emilia became a symbol of the disaster, thanks to images broadcast worldwide of the historic Clock Tower, which remained standing, sliced perpendicularly in half, with its mutilated clock face.

The duomo lost its facade in the wave of 5.9º magnitude earth tremors that took the lives of 28 citizens, injured 300 more and left 45 families homeless. Restoration of the church, which has included anti-earthquake re-enforcement, and structural re-qualification, began in 2019, funded by the local Emilia Romagna Regional government, and subsidized also by the Italian government natural disaster programme for damage to art and cultural heritage.

However, the citizens of Finale Emilia will not be content until they have their iconic Clock Tower returned. The 14th century, 31.94m-high Tower (known as the Tower of the Modernness) dominated the town and the lives of the locals for 799 years. The estimated cost of rebuilding the monument runs to over 1 million euro and will be largely funded privately. The six-generation family-owned Molinari Caffe of the neighbouring city of Modena has started the ball rolling with an initial donation of 200,000 euro. Plans have already been approved for the reconstruction of a similar new tower of the same volume but built of lighter materials, that citizens hope to see rising once more above their rooftops.

In the meantime, a temporary clock tower on a metal frame was raised a couple of years ago on the spot.

Info: Tel. +39.05035.53811 https//:www.unioneareanord.mo.it

 

Posted on 31 May 2024 by Editor

NEAPOLITAN PIZZA AT LONDON EMBANKMENT

Over 300 pizzaioli (Pizza Masters) will set up their ovens and stands on the banks of the River Thames in London between the 19th – 22nd September 2024 as part of a grand promotional event starting in Naples (14th-23rd June), Milan (19th -22nd September) and finally the UK.

The grand Pizza Village, sponsored by the Coca Cola company and backed by Italy's Ministry of Tourism and the Italian Government Tourist Board ENIT will be aligned along a tract of the Thames Embankment and is expected to attract crowds during the three-day bonanza.

The Master Pizza makers will take turns at the traditional wood-fired pizza ovens especially installed for the occasion to familiarize customers with the unique taste of the genuine Neapolitan pizza.

The competition will be keen. The Neapolitan pizzaioli are up against a “British” pizzeria, winner in 2023 of “the World's Top Pizza” nomination - the renowned “Naples on the Road” establishment at Chiswick, London, owned by pizza chef Michele Pascarella from Casertana (Naples) who started out with a street food operation in his Ape Piaggio and now runs one of London's top eating establishments.

Info: www.pizzavillage.it www.napoliontheroad.co.uk

 

Posted on 27 May 2024 by Editor

ECOLOGICAL MISSION FOR EX PEOPLE-SMUGGLER'S BOAT

The motor vessel MareNostrum Dike, previously possessed by organizations of people smugglers on the route from Tunis to Italy, is now navigating the coast of southern Italy, as part of its new mission to explore the sea bed and monitor pollution levels.

The boat, previously known as Oceanis 473, had an original capacity for 12 passengers, but was carrying over a hundred illegal immigrants when it was intercepted and captured off the Sicilian coast by Italian coastal police.

Subsequently, it was assigned to the Archeoclub d'Italia, Italy's most important archaeology institution, which repaired it and gave it the new symbolic name of MareNostrum Dike after the Mare Nostrum humanitarian operation launched by the Italian government in 2013 and the Greek goddess of Justice.

Its present voyage, which follows the ancient Mediterranean sea routes of legend as recounted by Homer, takes it back to Palermo on the 23rd May 2024 to mark the date of the anniversary of the death of judge Giovanni Falcone who was killed in a car bomb attack orchestrated by the Mafia on the 23rd May 1992.

The MareNostrum Dike has expanded its operations for underwater archeological explorations to encompass educational cruises for young people and school children, including those with disabilities as well as teenage offenders detained in re-educational centres.

The Amalfi “leg” included a group of young detainees from the juvenile prisons in the Naples area, who have obtained divers certificates through training courses run by the Italian Naval Institute. The operation, promoted by the Municipality of Amalfi, involved working with divers from the Marine Academy to clean up the sea bed..

The Mare Nostrum humanitarian operation was launched by the Italian government in 2013 to rescue illegal migrants in difficulty while attempting the 145 kms crossing over the Strait of Sicily.

A year later, it merged with the larger scale Frontex, the European Border and Coastguard Agency, with the same mission: that of saving lives in the Mediterranean.

M. STENHOUSE

Info: Tel. +39.06.44202250/3426636606 www.archeoclubitalia.org

Posted on 23 May 2024 by Editor

(courtesy Quotidiano Nazionale)

POMPEII EXPANDS TO THE SEA

The recently approved extension of the “Buffer Zone” encompassing the cluster of the archaeological sites of Pompeii, Herculanum and Oplontis aims to guarantee future excavations as well as protection from ulterior building speculation in the area.

After ten years of negotiations, the Great Park of Pompeii has been extended from the previous 0.24 sq k to 17.28 sq k with the addition of the towns of Torre del Greco, Boscoreale. Terzigno Trecase, Castellammare de Stabia and others, thus linking the Pompeii site with the coast. The area is densely populated and involves 11 municipalities, which have all agreed to the project that has now obtained UNESCO approval.

The project will guarantee not only future excavation campaigns in the area but also conservation and protection of the environment.

About one third (some 54 acres) of Pompeii itself has not yet been excavated and archaeologists continue to turn up surprises. Scoops like the discovery of the banqueting hall of a luxurious villa frescoed with lively episodes from the Trojan War was reported worldwide. However, there is another side to the buried city which visitors can discover in the exhibition: L'Altro Pompei: Vite comuni all'ombra di Vesuvio” (the Other Pompeii: daily life in the shadow of Vesuvius”) set up in the Palestro Grande inside the Pompeii site. This gives a fascinating insight into how the ordinary people lived, the food they ate, the clothes they wore, the condition of children and slaves, entertainment and pastimes and so on.

The exhibition is open daily until the 15th December 2024

Info: Tel. +39.081.18658177 www.pompeionline.net

Posted on 20 May 2024 by Editor

PUCCINI'S UNIQUE COMMEMORATION​ IN ART

Visse d'Arte”, (“I Lived for Art”), the celebrated aria from Giacomo Puccini's opera “Tosca”, has been chosen as the title for the solo exhibition by polymath artist, musician and writer, Corrado Veneziano, at present on show at the National Museum of Musical Instruments, Rome.

As part of the Puccini centenary celebrations (the composer died in 1924), the exhibition features 12 oil paintings, each dedicated to one of the operatic works in the composer's repertoire, as well as a number of experimental studies, called by the artist “a Moment Before Composing”, plus three additional major works relating to the maestro's life and preferences:

Antilisca”, the winged female demon that introduces the exhibition, refers to a ghostly presence Puccini, in order to tease visitors, would claim lived in the woods surrounding his villa, “L'incipid”, or “the Beginning” of the Old Testament, which he read assiduously along with Dante's “Divina Commedia. Veneziano has represented the latter with the frail and tragic hands of Pia de' Tolomei emerging from the grey mists of Purgatorio.

Veneziano's works are dominated by swathes of colour covering the entire canvass, in which fragments of the musical scores float in barely perceptible horizontal lines.

Colours are used to convey the mood of the different operas: thus a proud and defiant Tosca, already half a ghost, appears faintly against the battlements of Castel Sant' Angelo illuminated by the golden glow of a sunrise that she will never see. The faces of the “Le Villi”, the death spirits of young women, float in a mist of purples, blues and pinks. “La Boheme” features a wall of graduating pastels, peppered with diminishing red musical notes. The tiny, iconic butterfly of “Madame Butterfly” is placed in the centre of a sky of tender blue that contrasts with the deep indaco of the “Turandot”, which is represented by a flight of stairs where the heartless and icy princess abandons her jewels and precious ornaments, as she surrenders to the dominant power of love. In “Il Tabarro”, one of the most complex of the compositions, the white figure of the dead child emerges from a gloomy sea of browns and blacks under a canopy of heavenly light. By contrast, “Gianni Schicchi”, Puccini's only comic opera, lifts the mood with bubbles that float in a bright yellow and amber sky.

Veneziano has exhibited widely in Italy and the EU, as well as in the USA, North Africa, Russia and a number of East European countries. Ancillary commissions and achievements include his design chosen for the logo for the Prix Italia 2015, inspired by the figure of the Ancient Greek historian and geographer Herodotus, and the commemorative stamp issued by the Italian post office for the “Year of Dante 2023”.

The choice of the venue of the National Museum of Musical Instruments, where the artist's works hang alongside the exceptional collection of historic harps, mandolins, violins, wind instruments, harpsichords and so on, offers a unique and unmissable experience. The 800 musical instruments on display in the museum come mainly from the private collection of the tenor Gennaro Evangelista Gorga (1865 - 1957) who was Puccini's first Rodolfo in “La Boheme”.

The exhibition “Visse d'Arte” runs until the 23rd June 2024.

M. STENHOUSE

Info: Tel. +39.06.7014796 https://museostrumentimusicali.beniculturali.it

Posted on 16 May 2024 by Editor

MONOPOLI TWANGS WITH UKULELES

The clifftop town of Monopoli (Puglia) stages its third Ukulele Festival between the 30th May - 2nd June 2024. The first edition, launched as an experiment in 2022, was such a success, attracting musicians from all over the world, that the town has decided to make it a regular annual event.

The three-day Festival features a full programmes of jam sessions, parades, evening concerts and informal open-mics concentrated in the historic centre. All are free and open to all.

According to the local tourist board, the introduction of the Festival produced an increase in tourism by over 50% during the first 10 months of last year.

The ukulele has an international following. It was developed in the Hawaii Islands at the end of the 19th century by Portuguese immigrants and was enthusiastically adopted by the native people who developed the exclusive “Hawaiian sound”. The origin of the instrument's name is said to mean “jumping flea”.

Info: www.monopolele.com (also on Facebook, Instagram and other social media)

Posted on 11 May 2024 by Editor

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