Italy has over 6,000 borghi (small historic villages), most with less than 5000 inhabitants. For decades these have been subjected to an inexorable population decline, leaving empty dwellings, shops and workshops, and with churches, monuments, little piazzas and former noble houses sinking into a state of progressive neglect.

Until recently, it seemed that their fate as sealed and that many of them were doomed to total abandonment, despite the valiant efforts of local administrations and cultural associations to revive them with various initiatives.

However, things now seem to be changing, thanks to the current pandemic and the consequent boom in online working, which is opening up new possibilities for Italy's villages. A programme of incentives launched by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity, a special department of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, aimed at revitalizing the borghi, seems to be producing positive effects.

The Borghi in Festival programme offering to finance projects of urban regeneration has attracted over 643 proposals from all over the country.

Many old borghi are offering housing at symbolic prices and financial aid to families willing to come and settle with them. Recently launched incentives to transfer to Appeninne villages attracted 2,310 requests in a few days. The village of Graglio in the Val Veddasca (Lombardy) has chalked up a first success, with the first baby born in twenty-eight years, thanks to a family who transferred from Genoa, and a crowd funded initiative to attract new residents, launched by the 500 inhabitants of the Calabrian village of Vaccarizzo di Montalto Uffugo, once celebrated for silk production, has been incorporated in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Societal Transformation Lab, a worldwide experimental programme studying population re-distribution.

Info: iliveinvaccarizzo.com dg-cc@beniculturali.it

Posted on 05 Feb 2021 by Editor

All being well on the pandemic front, the Giorgio Cini Foundation is to open an unusual collection of glass animals on the 22nd March to mark the reopening to visitors of the Island of San Giorgio in Venice.

The exhibition, which will be set up in the “Glass Rooms” of the Foundation, comes from the private collection of Pietro Rosenberg, Honorary President-Director of the Paris Louvre. Rosenberg's quirky collection of the 750 animals on display, gathered over a period of thirty years, are part of the vast collection of 17th – early 20th century art works which Rosenberg will donate to the new Museé du Grand Siécle in the converted barracks of Saint-Cloud, Paris, programmed to open in 2025.

The Glass Menagerie show will run until the 1st August 2021, along with the °Venice and the Glass Studio Americano° exhibition, with creations from the 1960s by American and Venetian glass artists.

Info: www.lestanzedelvetro.org info@lestanzedelvetro.org

Posted on 02 Feb 2021 by Editor

2021 marks the 700th anniversary of the death the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri, considered “the Father of the Italian language”. Celebrations are planned all over the country, and in particular in the places most strongly connected with him, such as his birthplace, Florence, and Ravenna, where he died in exile in 1321.

One of the most original initiatives has been launched by the Accademia della Crusca, a leading institution worldwide for the study and preservation of the Italian language, which is honouring the poet's memory with the project “La Parola di Dante fresca di giornata° (A Fresh Dante word every day). This involves publishing a word chosen from the rich Dante vocabulary for every day of this year on its website. For example: the word for the 27th January was “lurco” (describing gluttonous eaters). The 25th January launched “pappa ' and “l'dindi” (meaning “food” and “money”).

The important Festival del Medioevo in Gubbio (Umbria), one Italy's best preserved medieval towns, scheduled between the 22nd - 26th September 2021, (Covid-19 permitting), will focus exclusively on Dante and his epoch. Each year, the festival attempts to shed light on different aspects of an era that is erroneously referred to as the ”Dark Ages”, but which was, in fact, a time of discovery and progress.

This year's edition “The Times of Dante”, will enjoy the patronage of the Società Dantesca, a prestigious institution founded in Florence in 1888 to preserve the memory of °the Divine Poet°.

Info: www.accademiadellacrusca.it www.festivaldelmedioevo.it

Posted on 28 Jan 2021 by Editor

Recent research has identified the paper used by many of the great renaissance artists, such as Raphael and Michelangelo. Studies of the watermarks have revealed that the supplier was the celebrated paper manufacturer of Fabriano (Marche), operating since the Middle Ages and still producing paper products today.

The results of a pioneering study carried out by the Fedrigoni Fabriano Foundation to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Raphael identified typical watermarks on the paper used by the artists during their terms of service at the papal court, such as an eagle, an anchor and an anchor crested by a star, among others.

The Historic Paper Warehouse, set up by the Fedrigoni Fabriano Foundation, contains a vast collection of historic tools as well as 15 moulds used in the manufacturing of handmade paper stamped with the image of Raphael and some of his most celebrated works.

The Foundation was set up in 2011 by the Fedrigoni company in order to promote the study of the history of paper and watermarks and to preserve medieval papermaking techniques. It encompasses the Archive of the Miliani Fabriano Paperworks, founded in 1782, which contains a collection of 1,500 watermarks, 1,200 historic photographs and a library of 3,000 volumes dedicated to the history of paper, as well as 2,213 ancient papers dating from 1276 to 1798, gathered by watermark scholar Augusto Zonghi.

Info: Tel. +39.0732 702502 www.fondazionefedrigoni.it

Posted on 25 Jan 2021 by Editor

The small Neapolitan island of Procida was the surprise winner of the contest for Italy's Capital of Culture 2022, beating 10 other highly qualified finalists out of a total 28 competitors. The prestigious prize comes with a government grant of a million euros towards financing the package of proposed improvements and upgrades submitted by the candidates.

Procida is the first small community to win the title and the perks that come with it. The project, entitled La Cultura Non Isola” (Culture doesn't isolate) a clever pun on the Italian word “isola” which can mean either “island” or “isolate”, involved 240 artists and 44 cultural projects to create a year-long programme of events. Procida's proposal centred round encouraging a type of sustainable “Slow Tourism” aimed at attracting visitors in all the four seasons of the year by offering more than a simple beach holiday.

Italy's Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, commented that the choice of Cultural Capital does not depend on the importance of the chosen location or its existing cultural heritage but on the originality and far-sightedness of the project presented. The Procida proposal, he said, could provide a model for other lesser-known areas, as well as a signal of optimism for the return of tourism in 2022.

Although the island with its rainbow houses is well-known to cinema (Films like “Il Postino”, “the Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Arturo's Island” were all shot here), it has always been overshadowed by its celebrated neighbours Capri and Ischia and until 1980 it was best known as the prison island for mafia bosses and high profile criminals.

The new proposals include upgrading the old D'Avalos fortress, which originally contained the prison, as a tourist attraction.

Info: www.beniculturali.it

Posted on 22 Jan 2021 by Editor

The celebrated buried cities of Pompeii and Herculanum (Campania) are now open to visitors, along with many of Italy's museums and sites. Italy's Minister of Culture and Heritage, Dario Franceschini, has lifted the closure ban imposed by Covid-19 in December, provisionally until the 15th February, when the situation of the pandemic will be reviewed.

The nearby Reggia di Caserta is also open again to visitors.

During lockdown, excavations have continued in archaeological sites revealing important new discoveries. Restoration and studies have also continued at the Caserta Palace, while the Flora Garden of the Royal Park of Caserta, in collaboration with the E.V.A. Cooperative, has been exploiting its garden of orange trees to produce marmalade. The oranges are transformed in “Le Ghiottoneria di Casa Lorena” (Casa Lorena Delicacies Laboratory), a non-profit anti-violence refuge for women situated in property confiscated from criminal organizations in Casal di Principe, near Naples.

Info: www.pompeiisites.org www.ercolano.beniculturali.it www.cooperativaeva.com

Posted on 18 Jan 2021 by Editor

Due to the current pandemic, Italy's museums and galleries have all been closed over the recent holidays. However, museum directors and exhibition curators have not remained idle, ensuring instead that work has continued behind the scenes so that they will be ready for the public when the ban is lifted.

One of the most original exhibitions on standby is at the National Gallery of Ancient Art in the splendid baroque Palazzo Barberini, Rome. Entitled “L'Ora dello Spettatore” (“The Moment of the Beholder”), it offers a fresh and unusual slant on viewing works of art, in which the visitor is deliberately invited to “enter” and participate in the paintings on display. The exhibition aims to reveal hidden details and ambiguities incorporated in the works, which would be missed by the casual viewer, with figures frozen in frames, others semi-concealed behind curtains, the hidden seductive messages in discarded shoes, the symbolism of hearts hanging like fruit from trees and a ball game where the ball is a globe of the world.

The exhibition, curated by art historian Michele De Monte, contains works from Palazzo Barberini's own collection, as well as a number of works on loan from some of the world's most prestigious galleries, such as the National Gallery of London, the Prado of Madrid and the Rijksmuseum of the Netherlands.

Tiepoli's “Il Mondo Novo” (“New World”) opens the show and provides the key for interpreting the exhibition theme. It depicts a crowd leaning over a wall to observe some scene below in the street below, but the spectator only sees their backs and can only guess at what has attracted their attention. Rembrandt's “Girl in a Picture Frame”, seems to actually emerge from her frame with her hands leaning on a window sill, while Bartolomeo Passerotti's two sly butchers invite viewers to inspect their wares. The conspiratorial little Cupid in Il Guercino's “Venus, Mars and Cupid” aims his bow directly at the viewer, thus involving him/her in the scene. An exhausted Christ appeals for help out of Memling's miniature narrative of the “Passion of Christ.”

Poussin's “Ovid and the Games of Love”, crammed with secret suggestions and symbolism that the observer is invited to discover, closes the exhibition.

The exhibition opened at the beginning of December and ran for only a short time before it was forced to close down for precautionary measures. Programmed originally to run until the end of February, organizers hope that it will eventually be prolonged and allow all the “Beholders” more than a “Moment” to enjoy it!

M. Stenhouse

Info: www.barberinicorsini.org

 

Posted on 15 Jan 2021 by Editor

Just before the Christmas closure, Italy chalked up its 69th UNESCO listing with the handmade glass beads of Murano, Venice's famous island of glassmakers.

The tradition of multi-coloured glass beads dates back to the 14th century and some 300 craftspeople today are actively involved in production. Compiling the delicate multi-coloured necklaces, earrings and the millefiori paper weights, many of which have become collectors' pieces, is family tradition handed down through generations. The Comitato per la Salvaguardia dell'Arte delle Perle di Vetro (Committee for the Preservation of Glass Bead Art) says that necklace threading was a major factor in helping the local women to achieve financial independence and emancipation. Commenting with satisfaction on the listing, Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said: “These glass beads are infinitely beautiful and fragile – like our city.”

Italy now has 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 14 UNESCO Immaterial Heritage listings, a world record.

Info: www.artribune.com www.museovetro.visitmuve.it www.onuitalia.com

Posted on 11 Jan 2021 by Editor

The Christmas season in Italy is characterized by the Crib, representations of the Nativity scene set up in churches, piazzas and homes. These can be life-size (in public places), or filled with classic miniature representations of the Holy Family, the angels, the shepherds and the Three Wise Men, or else enriched with hundreds of little side players – tradesmen, craftsmen, animals, current personages in the news, like football players or politicians, as in the creative Nativity compositions of the San Gregorio Armeno district in Naples.

Some Nativities draw attention to current circumstances, like the Crib in the main square of the small hill town of Ariccia, some 30 kms from Rome, which focusses on the Covid 19 pandemic. Designed by local artist Lidia Onice and realised by the Amici Per Caso Association, the Presepio di Speranza (Nativity of Hope) pays tribute to medics with the figure of an exhausted doctor crouching beside the Holy Family. Italy's voluntary services are also represented by a row of workwear overalls hanging from pegs.

In the opposite corner stands an empty wheelchair in memory of all the elderly victims of the virus, alongside a world globe symbolizing the fact that the entire world is united in this period of suffering.

Info: www.ilcaffe.tv

Posted on 06 Jan 2021 by Editor

Posted on 24 Dec 2020 by Editor

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