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


The “Michelangelo Vineyard” is the latest entry into the network of vineyards in the heart of Italian cities. The vines are aligned along the slope under the Michelangelo Belvedere in Florence (hence the name) with views over the spread of terracotta rooftops, the dome of Santa Maria dei Fiori and the River Arno. Planted by the wine estate Donna Fittipaldi di Bolghera, run by Maria Fittipaldi Menarini and her four daughters, the first harvest is expected in 2025, with the resulting thousand bottles bearing the lily of Florence brand on their labels.

Other major Italian cities already have urban vineyards - some very old, like the vineyard in the cloister of the monastery of San Francesco della Vigna in Venice. It dates back to 1253, whereas the Island of Mazzorbo on the lagoon is home to the Tenuta Venissa, recently revived by the Bisol Family who can boast 21 generations of wine cultivators. Gianluca Bisol has planted the vineyard with Dorona, a native vine that had almost become extinct.

The Vigna del Gallo in Palermo is situated within the Botanical Gardens, founded in1789. The traditional vineyard was restored in 2019 with 195 vines planted, thanks to a project launched by the University of Palermo and the Consortium of DOC Sicilian Wines in which rare native vine stocks are studied and cultivated, while industrial capital Turin has its historic urban vineyard in the grounds of the former residence of the Queen of Sardinia and consequently named the Vigna Della Regina.

Perhaps the most fascinating old vineyard to visit is the “Vigna Leonardo” in the centre of Milan. This vineyard was gifted to Leonardo da Vinci in 1498 by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro. It can be visited in the grounds of the splendid renaissance Villa Atellani, restored in the 1920s by architect Piero Portaluppi, whose family replanted the vineyard for EXPO 2015 and enjoyed their first grape harvest in 2018.

The Urban Vineyards Association is a network of vineyards planted in city environments in Italy and France.

Info: Tel. +39.01194.34044

Posted on 19 Nov 2022 by Editor


The amazing discovery of a cache of Etruscan /Roman bronze votive statues buried in the mud on the bottom of the hot mineral water baths at San Casciano dei Bagni (Tuscany) has galvanized this small historic town hitherto off the normal tourist track.

The town has under 1,600 residents, most of whom live in the outskirts. A mere 80 live in the historic centre, which has the common disadvantages of all Italian medieval towns, such as difficult car access, narrow streets, flights of stairs, few shops and services - all factors that discourage young families from settling there.

During the past few years, a successful yearly Festival called “La Terrazza” has been held in San Casciano over the summer months to attract visitors, in addition to the normal spa clientele. However, this has had nothing of the impact expected to be produced by the recent sensational discovery, which hit the headlines all over the world.

The two-year long excavation campaign in the old hot spring baths involving teams of archaeologists and archeology students from various countries, coordinated by the University for Foreigners in Siena, brought the old town to life, says lady mayor Agnese Carletti, who predicts a future boom of visitors.

The find, in fact, has been described by Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums of the Ministry of Culture, as “the most sensational archaeological find since that of the celebrated Riace Bronzes”, discovered fifty years ago by fishermen off the Calabrian coast.

The Minister has promised that the treasure trove of 24 bronze statues of gods and goddesses, along with numerous inscriptions in both Etruscan and Latin, a host of votive objects and some 6000 coins in gold, silver and bronze, will remain in San Casciano, in a brand new museum to be set up in a 16th century palace in the town's historic centre.

In the meantime they have been transferred to the Italian Centre of Restoration in Grosseto Tuscany) for the necessary care and preparation for their conservation.

Info: Tel. +39.0578.58141

Posted on 15 Nov 2022 by Editor

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