A visit to see the Monumental Nativity in the town of Cave (Lazio) makes a fitting conclusion to the long Christmas season. The towering figures of the Holy Family, along with the Three Kings that symbolize Epiphany, are set up in the pillared vaults of a former 11th century Benedictine monastery in the small Lazio town some 40 kms from Rome.

The 4m-high sculptures are the work of local artist Lorenzo Ferri, who died in 1975, and whose life and work are celebrated in a monographic museum in the historic centre, reached by a bridge spanning the ravine that separates the historic old town and from the new part.

The Nativity figures were commissioned by the Pallottine Order for the Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome in 1947. Ferri made the nine gesso models in the projected size within the following year. The “Indian King” kneeling before the Holy Family group, has his own facial portrait, while his son Sirio posed for St. Joseph and boxing champion Erminio Spalle was the model for the “Assyrian King”. However, the statues were never cast in bronze as originally commissioned, due to financial problems.

The sculptor's family donated the Nativity, along with a large number of his works of art, including sculptures, paintings and studies to the town, which are on display in separate premises in the “new town”. The Museo Lorenzo Ferri celebrates its tenth anniversary in December 2023.


Info: Tel.+39.06.9507310

Posted on 06 Jan 2023 by Editor


Italy's cultural guardians, the Carabiniere Commando Tutela Culturale Patrimonio (Protection of Cultural Heritage) have closed the year with another triumph – the identification and seizure by the TCP Genoese branch of “Christ Resurrected Appears to his Mother” attributed to the Flemish master Rubens and his school. The painting, which was in private hands, appeared in an exhibition on “Rubens in Genoa” at Palazzo Ducale, complete with false documents that would have allowed its sale and exportation. Rubens worked for some time in Genoa at the service of the ruling Gonzago aristocratic family. This particular work was on display for the first time in Italy, but the TPC's extensive online catalogue of Italian owned works of art and antiquities allowed officers to pinpoint the work immediately.

Some months earlier, the culture corps tracked down an important Titian: “Portrait of a Gentleman with a Black Cap” that had been missing since 2004 when it was smuggled to Switzerland.

In July 2022, the new Museum of Recovered Art and Antiquities was inaugurated in Rome's central Piazza della Repubblica with changing displays of exhibits of treasures that have been saved from tomb robbers and crooked dealers.

Info: Tel, 010.5955488

Posted on 02 Jan 2023 by Editor


to All Our Readers With Every Good Wish from the Italyupdate team


Posted on 23 Dec 2022 by Editor


A special Christmas this year for the tiny town of Greccio. Eight hundred years ago, Francis of Assisi (not yet a saint but already a celebrated holy man, came to the remote peasant community of Greccio (nowadays on the border between Lazio region and Umbria). He had been advised that the quarrelsome local people were constantly at war with each other and he had been asked by the local landowner to pacify them. Francis was just back from a similar mission on a larger scale in the Holy Land, where he had tried to put an end to the Crusade that was waging at the time.

Francis, a man of infinite resources, thought up an idea that has subsequently been taken up all over the Christian world. In a grotto in the cliffside he set up the first Nativity scene, which so impressed the locals that they were apparently instantly converted to peaceful relationships.

Today, Greccio, numbered among the “most beautiful villages in Italy”, has only 40 fixed residents. But during the Christmas season, numbers of presences swell to 40-60 thousand as coachloads of visitors roll in to climb the 100 stone steps to the Nativity Grotto and wander through the maze of narrow corridors and tiny rooms that were the original living quarters of the Franciscan community. The local community pulls out all the stops to give these hordes of visitors a hearty welcome. The central piazza becomes a blaze of lights surrounding a Christmas market that is full of stalls selling handmade Christmas souvenirs, mostly made by the locals themselves.

These numbers are bound to swell for the coming special anniversary that will mark the first Christmas Crib St. Francis set up in the night of Christmas 1223.

Info: Tel. +39.0748.750127

Posted on 19 Dec 2022 by Editor


Another coup for the Comando dei Carabiniere Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (Protection of Cultural Heritage ), Italy's crack corp of culture police, whose exclusive job is to safeguard Italy's antiquities and works of art.

Combing through files in their data bank, inspectors were able to hunt down a collection of treasures stolen in 1989 from the Museum of the Archdiocese of Siena in Montalcino, consisting of a group of eleven precious liturgical objects belonging to several Umbrian churches, including silver, gilded and enamelled chalices and pyxes, a jewelled crucifix and the most precious object of all – the celebrated relinquary of Saint Galgano, the saint connected with the sword in the stone in the abandoned 13th century Cistercian Abbey that carries his name.

The mysterious sword, allegedly planted by the saint in the rock that is preserved in the domed Hermitage beside the Abbey, attracts many visitors due to its apparent similarity with the legends of the Knights of the Round Table.

Saint Galgano was a 12th century warrior knight from Chiusdino who became a hermit monk after a series of visions. He was much venerated throughout the Middle Ages. The relinquary is considered a masterpiece of Sienese goldsmith's art. It was damaged during its years in the clandestine antiquities market and has undergone a two-year painstaking reparation by restorers of the Vatican Museums Metals and Ceramics laboratories.

The treasure will be on show in Room XVII of the Vatican Pinacoteca until the 18th |February 2023, under the exhibition title: “From the Sword to the Cross, the Restored Relinquary of Saint Galgano.”

There is, however, still one item missing from the stolen cache. It is a 16th century silver chalice from the Church of the Certosa of Maggiano in Siena. The hunt is still on!



Posted on 14 Dec 2022 by Editor


Italy has entered a new addition to its World Heritage list. Verona's Tocatì Festival, which celebrates traditional street games and sports, has been included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, joining the other 16 Italian festivals already recognized.

The Tocatì Festival takes place every year in September in Verona. This year's version enlivened Verona's streets for three full days with some fifty time-honoured street games, practiced in Italy and in participating guest countries.

Info: Tel. +39.045.8309162

Posted on 09 Dec 2022 by Editor


Teatro La Scala, Milan's prestigious opera house, opens its 2022-2023 season with Mussorgsky's “Boris Godunov” on 7th December 2022, despite a formal protest from the Ukrainian Consulate in Milan which objected that the choice of a Russian work was “inappropriate” at this moment. La Scala orchestra conductor Riccardo Chailly, however, responded that the production had already been programmed three years earlier and could not now be cancelled. Theatre spokespersons also pointed out that the opera recounted a story of abuse of power, rather than a glorification of Russia and that the theatre had already donated €400,000 in a fund-raising concert supporting Ukraine.

The opening of La Scala opera season, traditionally held on the Feast of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan's patron saint. is a major society event, traditionally attended by the President of Italy and heads of government.

The programme for the 2022-2023 season, offers 14 works, including classic opera favourites as well as some lesser known works and a Milan first performance of “Rosalka”, plus a prestigious ballet programme which includes an evening dedicated to Nijinsky and another to William Forsythe.

The theatre also caters to a young audience with cheap tickets for the preview of “Boris Godunov”, in addition to a special weekend for under 35s from the European network “Juvenilia”. Those attending this year come from 10 different countries.

Info: Tel, +39.0272003744

Posted on 04 Dec 2022 by Editor


One of Italy's most quaint traditions is the Barbanera Almanack, a yearly calendar packed with old adages, gardening lore, traditional herbal remedies, horoscopes, lunar phases, recipes and household tips.

Dating back to 1762 and named after a mysterious “Black Beard” friar, it continues to be a fixed feature in many Italian households today.

In 2015 it received a gratifying recognition with its inclusion in the UNESCO Patrimony of Humanity, World Memory category. The 200-year long collection of Barbanera Almanacks (1762 -1962), preserved by the Barbanera Foundation has been officially recognized as “the most complete collection in the world.” It contains hundreds of almanacks and lunar calendars from various European countries, reflecting the tastes of succeeding generations, from Art Nouveau to Art Deco, printed on perfumed paper or containing biographies of celebrities, synopsis of novels and plays.

This year, for the first time, the Foundation has produced a version in special enlarged text for people with poor sight, integrated with Braille and sound explanations through a QR code, in collaboration with the Unione Italiana Ciechi e Ipovedenti (Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired) Onlus-Aps and the Irifor Non-profit organization for Rehabilitation, Research & Formation.

Info: Tel. +39.0742.391177 www.barbanera250.H

Posted on 01 Dec 2022 by Editor



According to a recent census carried out by the Corpo Forestale dello Stato (Italian State Forestry Commission), the Italian peninsula is host to approximately 12 billion trees, which equals the equivalent of 200 trees for every human inhabitant. This, however, is not considered sufficient to make an impact on global warming and present tree planting schemes by conservation organizations like Legambiente (Environmental League) aim to have added 6.6 million new trees before the end of 2024, with special attention paid, where possible, to metropolitan areas.

The Italian forests also contain many ancient trees, known affectionately as “Patriarchs”. The greatest number of these are oaks (2.407 listed), plus plane trees, pines and cypresses, while the tallest tree in the entire country is allegedly a 62.4m Douglas Fir, known as “the Italian Tree King” which grows in the heart of the Forest of Vallombrosa, Tuscany.

Sardinia came out as the surprise winner as the Italian region with the greatest forest extension, with the 173.000-acre Parco di Sulcis that covers the mountainous area of the south west of the island.

The Italian city with most trees – another surprise! - is Milan, which already has 465,521 urban trees, but aims to plant a further 3 million trees by 2030 to offset the negative consequences of air pollution and soaring summer temperatures.


Info: Tel. +39.06.862681

Posted on 27 Nov 2022 by Editor


After some initial hiccups, the Vatican can breathe a sigh of relief since the annual Christmas Tree for St. Peter's Square has finally arrived in good time for the 2022 festive season.

Every year, a different Italian region donates the Vatican tree, which dominates the centre of the great piazza in front of St. Peter's. This year it was the turn of Abruzzo and the regional authorities had picked out a majestic 30m-tall silver fir in the Monte Castel Barone nature reserve that spreads over the central mountainous area of the peninsula, near the charming village of Rosello, (total 182 inhabitants) classed among the most beautiful borghi (small historic towns) of Italy. However, after investigation, the chosen tree actually turned out to be over the Abruzzo border and in the territory of Agnone (celebrated for its bell casting industry) in the adjoining Molise Region.

To add fuel to the fire, environmentalists protested that a tree of this age (an estimated 200 years) and dimension (30m tall) should not be cut down at all. The dispute threatened to drag on for at least a month while the regional authorities sorted things out by which time, of course, the festive season would be well over. Luckily, the Christmas spirit of goodwill prevailed and the dispute has been amicably resolved, with a graceful withdrawal on the part of Molise, leaving the way free for Rosello, which chose an alternative tree from the Palena Tree Nursery in Abruzzo.

The new tree, a mere stripling of 62 years of age, has now been delivered, with the unveiling and lighting ceremony scheduled for the 3rd December. The tree will remain in situ until after Epiphany.


Posted on 23 Nov 2022 by Editor

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