header i-Italy

Articles by: Francesca Giuliani

  • Facts & Stories

    The Grow-Italy Decree Becomes Law

    Following an eight-hour long cabinet meeting and after the signing by President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, yesterday the so-called “Grow-Italy” decree devised by Mario Monti’s government of technocrats became law.

    The measures in the decree are aimed at liberalizing Italy’s hyper-regulated services sector, encouraging competition and overcoming the underlying familism that characterizes the Italian way of doing business today, creating a strong divide between those who are integrated in many of the key professional categories and those who can’t access them because they lack the right passkeys, which are normally hereditary.

    The Grow-Italy decree functions as a counterweight to the Save-Italy austerity measures approved in December, a $40 billion stimulus package based on tax increases, pensions reforms and spending cuts that provoked contrasting reactions among Italians. Monti estimates that the liberalizations will lead to a +11% GDP increase, a +12% growth in occupation and private expenditure, and most of all will generate up to an 18% increase in foreign investments, reestablishing Italy’s economic appeal and international reputation at the same time.

    The decree’s range of action is extremely wide, as it encompasses a variety of economic activities that it reforms with different paces. A quick review of the devised measures sheds a light on Italy’s enduring structural problems, caused by a system of interlocking tiers and strings stifling the entrepreneurial impulses of the country’s inhabitants.

    The first measures to be implemented are the liberalization of pharmacy licenses, currently limited to one every 4,000 inhabitants, and often passed from parents to sons or purchased at extremely high costs by pharmacy owners dismissing their activity. A number of prescription drugs will also be made available in para-pharmacies, something like the American drugstores, that before the Grow-Italy law weren’t allowed to sell any prescription pharmaceuticals. Pharmacies will also be able to establish their work hours independently and to apply discounts on any item. New pharmacy openings are being encouraged in shopping malls, train stations and airports.

    Car insurance companies will be obliged to present three alternative prices to their prospective customers, in order to increase the competition in the insurance products’ market. Also, prices should be discounted if the customer agrees on installing a black box on his vehicle. Banks will have to adopt similar competitiveness increasing measures when selling mortgages and life insurance plans.

    In the area of legal professions, 500 slots for new notaries will be opened each year until 2014. Young entrepreneurs will be allowed to open their own LLC with a minimum budget of €1 and without the assistance of a notary.

    There will be no more minimum and maximum fees for professionals, and they will all be obliged to provide their customers with an estimate for their final compensation.

    Gas stations will be allowed to sell food, newspapers and tobacco. The gas station operators that don’t own the plant will have the chance to take over it and they will be then entitled to choose their gas providers.

    Class actions will be simplified and made more accessible.

    The government will be in charge of creating an Antitrust department, monitoring the activities of the Regions and local powers.

    In six months, a new Authority of Networks will be opened. It will be in charge of regulating the liberalization of taxi licenses, the division of the railway holding FS, the regulation of the new highway concessions and fees that will be price-capped.

    Always in six month, a decree will regulate the separation of Snam Rete Gas (the company that owns the network of gas pipes) and Eni (the company that manages the network), in order to increase the competitiveness of the utilities’ market. La Repubblica estimates that the separation will become effective in two years.

    Within September 2012, banks will have to have revised the system of commissions and fees the shop-owners bear to accept debit and credit card payments. Encouraging electronic transactions will help the traceability of money, and will disincentive the use of cash in order to reduce the impact of fiscal evasion on the economy.

    In the long run, after 2012, the Grow-Italy package will encourage 18-month long internships for students to start in their last semester of classes.

    Among other provisions, the law establishes that TV frequencies should be tendered instead of being freely assigned to preexisting networks, as they are a valuable public good that could generate consistent revenues to help alleviate the severe sacrifices the government has imposed to Italians.

    The vast number of interests that the Grow-Italy measure touches somehow saves it from partiality accusations, although it doesn’t shield it from a mounting wave of discontent. The members of the professional guilds and the workers of those sectors that will be affected by the measure are extremely dissatisfied with the government’s decision, and a rising tide of strikes has been paralyzing Italy since the discussion on the Grow-Italy maneuver started.

    Another enemy of the maneuver could be internal for Monti: Reuters estimates that almost a third of the Italian 945 members of the Parliament are also members of a professional guild. 130 of them are in fact lawyers, 90 are journalists, 23 are accountants, 13 are architects and 4 are notaries.

  • Facts & Stories

    The MRket of Style Suffers No Crisis. Inside MRKET New York

    Even in times of economic crisis, style never goes out of fashion.In fact, notwithstanding the markets’ turmoil, all the stylish men in New York and the top retailers of the Big Apple these days are attending MRket, the quarterly menswear fair organized in NYC and Las Vegas by
    MR Magazine
    (an important publication for the sector’s professionals) and catching up on the future must-haves for their classy customers.

    The Italian presence at MRKET is consistent, with 32 exhibitors and 35 brands participating this season, grouped in a dedicated aisle of the show where “Made in Italy” reads all over the signs presenting the exhibitors’ firms.

    “One of the reasons we are so excited to have the Made in Italy group here at MRKET – says Britton Jones, President and CEO of the Expo – is because it offers American retailers the opportunity to find truly unique products than they see in every other fair in the US. It’s a real point of differentiation for us and something that the retailers really appreciate.”

    The Italian institutions are the ones to thank, this time. As Vice-Consul Dino Sorrentino tells i-Italy, in fact, “MRket is a very important stage for Made in Italy products, and it’s important for us to provide tangible support to the participating firms, the vast majority of which are small and medium enterprises. It’s crucial to keep working in synergy with the Italian Trade Commission, a synergy that helps reinforcing the “Sistema Italia” (the Italian System).” 

    The Italian Trade Commission in fact played a very important part in encouraging Italian firms to attend the fair from its very first edition in Las Vegas, over three years ago.

    Aniello Musella, Italian Trade Commissioner, breaks down the numbers of the Italian market quota in the US for i-Italy.
    According to the Italian Trade Commission’s studies of the US Department of Commerce’s statistics, in 2011 Italy ranked 12th among the menswear and accessories suppliers of the United States.

    The individual markets’ analyses show that Italy’s strongest quota is in the suits and ensembles market, for a total cash flow of 285,5 million dollars and registering a +19.25% sales increment from year 2010. Knitwear also represent a very important market, which grew +25,77% from 2010 and produced 155 million dollars in 2011.

    The firms attending MRket produce “100% Made in Italy artisanal products, with a high market placement. There are no so-called ‘grandi firme’ (famous labels), but the products are extremely competitive as far as the price/quality ratio is concerned, something fundamental in this moment of slow recovery in the sector,” Musella tells i-Italy.

    “Made in Italy still represents an added value,” says Luciano Moresco, whose brands produce button-down shirts and ties. “It also accounts for a higher product price,” adds Lanfranco Messori, producing classic total looks. “We have been busy all day,” say the representatives of Marchesi di Como silk tie manufacturers.

    MRket is an unmissable event for the Italian menswear producers, as it is visited by both corporate buyers and specialty stores owners, ranging from Bergdorf Goodman to Mitchells Richards, to Saks Fifth Avenue.

    From Saks comes Michael Macko, former men’s fashion director of the luxury department store and unchallenged guru, curating the third edition of Vanguards Gallery - a special exhibit at MRket where buyers are presented with “stuff that hasn’t been on people’s radars.”

    The hand-picked selections feature a variety of international brands, either new on the scene or veterans repositioning their brands or presenting new lines, which distinguish themselves by producing classic apparel with an edge. Vanguards offers a futuristic look of how menswear is evolving, in accordance with Macko’s objective of surprising buyers that are too much in the know with something “they are not familiar with,” he tells i-Italy.

    In his red jacket and plaid shirt, Macko explains how the most interesting things happening in the menswear market are the return of color and of the preppy look: “Men are feeling a little more comfortable wearing colors like orange, red and corduroy. There’s also a tendency to what we call the “urban preppy” look: preppy with a little more swagger. Guys are definitely getting dressed up again, which we really like, and they are always rediscovering something: cardigans, bowties, tartan and plaid, double breasted jackets, pocket squares and furnishings, accessories.”

  • Facts & Stories

    Sicily: When Farmers Hold Their Pitchforks

    The last five days have not been pretty for those Sicilians whose gas tanks were empty.

    The strike organized by the so called “Movimento dei Forconi” (the “Pitchfork Movement”, a protest movement gathering Sicilian farmers), the haulers of the “Forza d’Urto” group, and AIAS (Associazione Imprese Autotrasportatori Sicilia – Sicily haulage companies association), with roadblocks and blockades in the island’s refineries and ports, has led to a lack of petrol at gas stations all over the island. Local bloggers today signaled that on the Messina-Catania highway the price of gas has jumped to €3 a liter.  

    Groceries are also becoming a scarce resource. Reportedly, in the Lentini area, bread and poultry stock are close to exhaustion, even though trucks bringing food, milk, livestock and medications shouldn’t be blocked by the demonstrants.

    The Pitchfork Movement and Forza d’Urto are demonstrating to sensibilize the government on the unbearability of the economic crisis for the striking categories: haulers can’t afford gas, farmers can’t sell their products and they can’t grapple with increasing taxes.

    The strike was meant to end tonight at midnight, as for haulers’ demonstrations the maximum duration allowed in Italy is five days, but AIAS has just announced an extension of five more days granted by the police. The movement has also joined forces with COSPA, Abruzzo stock-breeders’ association, to extend the strike to the Pescara area. Sardinian craftsmen and stock-breeders are also joining the protest, and announced a total roadblock on the island, starting next Tuesday.

    The Pitchforks Movement has over 47,000 subscribers on Facebook. Among the supporters of the movement are a significant number of students, some of which actually joined the demonstrants today in various locations on the island.

    President of Sicily Raffaele Lombardo supports the movement and its reasons, and announced to SkyTg24 that he will meet Prime Minister Monti next Wednesday to bring the demands of the Pitchforks and haulers to Rome, where they should be answered, but Ivan Lo Bianco, president of the local Confindustria (Industrials’ union), warns that behind the blockages and the strikes might be the long arm of mafia, as Cosa Nostra affiliates were spotted among the demonstrants, and there is a concrete risk that the organizations could gain a role in fueling the popular unrest.

    To underline the uninvolvement of the Pitchforks with the mafia, the movement’s leader Martino Morsello is hunger striking for the second day, and he declared his availability to cooperate with Lo Bello and the police to investigate over the possibility of criminal infiltrations among the demonstrants and their implications.

  • Facts & Stories

    Captain Schettino Becomes an Internet Meme

    Captain Hook’s Italian name is a literal translation from English, “Capitan Uncino.” The assonance with Captain Schettino’s name was too great to pass unnoticed to the people of Facebook, who went crazy opening pages and groups ridiculing the man, now under house arrest.

    The recorded call between Coast Guard Captain Gregorio Di Falco and Schettino, in which Di Falco commanded Schettino to “Get the f**k back on board!” went viral as leaked, and the Italian version of Di Falco’s colorful sentence, “Vada a bordo, cazzo!,” immediately became a trending topic on Twitter and a meme everywhere else.

    On Facebook, 46,000 people liked the page “Capitano Schettino, vada a bordo cazzo!,” and over 22,000 connected to “Le scuse di Capitan Schettino per non stare sulla nave” (Captain Schettino’s excuses not to be on board).

    The excuses range from “It’s too dark” – something that Schettino actually told Di Falco on the phone – to “Hold on a second, I’m trying to find Di Caprio,” to “Don’t panic, I’ll catch a cab and I’ll be there soon!”

    Italian journalists have contrasting opinions on this meme-fever.

    Some argue that Schettino’s media pillory is unacceptable, like Cristiano Gatti on il Giornale.it.
    Others, like editorialist Aldo Grasso on yesterday’s Il Corriere della Sera, thanked De Falco for finally showing the world that Italians know how to deal with critical situations, and with the irresponsible people who generate them: by finally demanding them to do their job in the least polite way possible.
    There’s also someone who asks himself why Italians need to identify a good guy and a bad guy in every circumstance, like Giancarlo Loquenzi on L’Occidentale.

    Is Sevegnini right when he argues that Italians have a “theatrical tendency” and that this need to separate heroes from villains derives from years and years of “brutte figure,” or “bad impressions,” and from the will to finally show a more respectable image of themselves to the world? Does this meme-fever have deeper sociological implications than the will to be ironic about yet another manifestation of fatal clumsiness by an Italian invested with great responsibilities?

    While all the interpretations are interesting, the meme is going viral around the world (English and Spanish jokes about Schettino are spreading all over the Internet), and t-shirts with the expression “Vada a bordo, cazzo” are becoming an extremely popular item online. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Costa Concordia: a Sail-Stunt Ended in Tragedy

    The wreckage of the Costa Concordia liner last Friday appears to be a tragically misguided attempt to add a little excitement to a cruise by an irresponsible captain.

    Allegedly, the Costa Crociere vessels would divert from their course to sail past the coastline of Giglio island, and had done so multiple times in the past without accident. The stunt is a sort of salute to the inhabitants of the island, and used to wow tourists as well.

    The local news website GiglioNews offers evidence of this. As La Stampa’s online edition reports, on August 18, 2011 GiglioNews published an exchange of appreciation letters between the major of Giglio Sergio Ortelli and Costa Concordia’s captain Massimo Gambarino, who had led the ship close to the coastline on August 14 (and another time “three years ago,” as stated in Gambarino’s reply), offering the residents of Giglio and the tourists “an incredible spectacle”.

    In his letter to Gambarino, Ortelli mentions former Costa Crociere’s captain Mario Palombo, a legend among the Costa Crociere personnel, who stopped leading cruise ships after a heart attack forced him to resign.

    Palombo, born in Savona from a family coming from Giglio, is mentioned in Ortelli’s letter as “a dear friend” whose intercession had been precious in that circumstance. In the same letter, Ortelli refers to the passage of the liners as to a “tradition”, and as to a “homage” to the island.

    Mario Palombo’s name has been mentioned in the press these days as the possible recipient of “the bow” (the ship’s passage to salute the inhabitants of the coastline, as referred to in the sailors’ slang), but he cared to specify his non involvement with the disaster. At the moment of the wreckage, he was in Grosseto.

    Concerning the tradition of performing the sail past that he allegedly established, he specified that those events were always signaled to and agreed with the harbor master. “I don't understand how this happened or what was going through my colleague's head,” he said.

    The most credible recipient of the salute, though, appears to be the Costa Concordia maitre Antonello Tievoli, from Giglio, who was meant to go back to the island for some time off a week before the event, but had to continue working because his substitute never showed up. Italian media report the words of commander Francesco Schettino to Tievoli as the ship approached the coastline: “Antonio, come and look. We are passing over your Giglio.” As Italian newspapers write, on 21:08 on Friday night, a Facebook update by Patrizia Tievoli, sister of Antonio, anticipated the sail past.

    The trajectory of the ship, a 293 meters long liner weighing 114.500 tons, is available on the website marinetraffic.com, tracking vessels’ positions using the AIS data system.

    The trajectory tracking shows that the commander intentionally steered the liner too close to the shore, to a distance of less than a mile from the island. The liner then hit the rocks of the Le Scole shoal. The collision provoked a 70 meters long crack on the left side of the ship, by the stern, maybe a sign that the commander had tried to take the ship past the rocky area.

    The ship is sitting on its right side, which according to the Italian nautical blogger velasenzaparole is a sign that the commander was trying to invert the route and point the ship to the island, where it could have been evacuated. The fact that the ship is sitting on the right side helps the wreck not to plunge, and allows the scuba divers to explore it and perform searches for the 29 missing passengers.

    On Sunday night, the rescuers were able to rescue a couple of South Korean newlyweds on honeymoon, and Manrico Giampedroni, cabin service director, who was helping the passengers evacuating the ship and broke a leg in the process. Always on Sunday night, American citizen Lauren Moore was able to fly back home to Bowling Green, Kentucky.

    The death toll rose to 6, as another body was found today in the second bridge of the ship. The man, a passenger who was wearing a lifejacket, was found in a non flooded area of the ship, so the causes of the death are still to be investigated.

    The other ascertained victims of the shipwreck are 86 years-old Italian retiree Giovanni Masia, on his first trip after 50 years from his honeymoon; 68 years-old Spanish retiree Guillermo Gual on his yearly trip with his wife, who was rescued; 71 years-old French citizen Francis Serve, who died to save his wife giving her his life-jacket; 50 years-old Peruvian janitor Thomas Alberto Costiglia and another French citizen, Jean-Pierre Michaud.

    In the afternoon, rescuers had to interrupt their activities due to unfavorable weather conditions. The searches will be suspended until the sea stabilizes. The alarm and the order to stop the operations was given at 11:38 am (GMT+1), when the scuba divers heard noises from the wreck, the Italian authorities state. The Costa Concordia has in fact moved 9 centimeters vertically and 1.5 centimeters horizontally. The rescuers fear that the wreck might plunge from the 37 meters high step it sits on, to then sink.

    Another concern for the Italian authorities now is to empty the 17 tanks on the liner, containing 500,000 gallons of fuel and representing a highly dangerous environmental risk.

    Captain Schettino earlier asserted that the rock the Costa Concordia hit was not reported on the maps, “a lie trespassing the sense of decency” for the Corriere della Sera editorialist Pierluigi Battista.

    Schettino is facing severe accusations such as the one of abandoning the capsizing vessel before ensuring the safety of the 4,232 people on board, a serious violation of the Italian navigation code, and has been arrested under suspicion of multiple manslaughter.
    Chief Attorney of Grosseto Francesco Verusio is always more convinced of his guilt: “He sent an SOS at 10:42 pm, an hour after the crash.”

    The crash happened 3 hours after the liner had left Civitavecchia’s port last Friday. The passengers were enjoying dinner, when they heard a very loud noise and the power went out. They were instructed to stay at their place, but as the ship started tilting and the crew wasn’t sure what do do, passengers started calling the Carabinieri of Grosseto for help: “We heard a loud noise, help us!,” Corriere della Sera reports. When the Carabinieri alerted the Coast Guard who tried to contact the Concordia four times, Schettino’s reply was always “We had a blackout, we are fixing it.”

    As pictures, videos and viral tweets started spreading online, survivors Patrizia Perilli and her husband Luciano Castro opened a Facebook group for the Concordia passengers: “Costa Concordia 13 gennaio 2012.” The group has already over 6000 likes, and of all the posts, the ones about commander Schettino are surely the most resentful.

  • Facts & Stories

    Première Vision Preview New York: Italy’s Textiles Charm the Whole World

    It’s not easy to get a French man to spend a word of praise on the merits of any other country in the world, but when we asked Jacques Brunel -- General Manager of Première Vision, the most important textile and design expo in the world --  about the quality of the Italian textile production, he replied without a hint of Grandeur that: “Unfortunately it’s obvious!”

    Brunel is the mastermind of Première Vision, a biannual show held in January in New York and February in Paris, that presents an exclusive preview of tomorrow’s fashion trends by bringing to the corporate buyers the still unfinished collections of the world’s top-notch textiles suppliers.

    Brunel started his Parisian show twenty-four years ago, but had the idea of bringing PremièreVision to the United States in the late 90s, when he realized that the American market deserved a special treatment.

    “We noticed that American buyers were less inclined to travel, and that they were moving towards the Oriental markets to slash the manufacturing costs.” So Brunel thought about offering the American buyers the privilege to see all the best of the European collections in preview, before going to China or Hong Kong: “At that time, the attraction of China was so strong they were sure it was worthwhile to manufacture things there. Ask them today: now they’d much rather manufacture their goods in Europe, knowing that they can find great basics at the best prices. They are very happy to find that here.”

    Another important source of legitimacy for Première Vision is the unique opportunity for networking and informal socialization it offers to the buyers who attend the show, Brunel explains. A market survey carried out eight months ago showed that the professionals who attend the show love it “because they get to talk to colleagues and have an opportunity to better learn how to buy and how to choose. Many of them are young and it’s beneficial for them to exchange ideas with more experienced buyers.”

    Italy’s competitive advantage, according to Brunel, is given by the fact that “Italy” is an extremely powerful brand itself. “There is no other country in the world where firms don’t need a strong personal brand, but can rely on their nation’s name as such. Italy’s name is strong enough to sell, and it is so even more in Shanghai or Beijing than it is here in New York. In Asia, Italy stands between God and Earth.”

    An example of this greater appreciation of Made in Italy in the Eastern World is represented by the luxury Chinese-Canadian brand Ports 1961, with over 250 retail stores all over China. “The vast majority of the fabrics they use comes from Italy”, Brunel explains.

    In the January 2012 New York edition of Première Vision that just wrapped up yesterday at the Metropolitan Pavillion, Italy was represented by 21 firms from Piedmont, Lombardy and Tuscany.

    Aniello Musella, the Italian Trade Commissioner, was very proud to show Italian vice-consul Dino Sorrentino and i-Italy around the stands of the Italian firms exhibiting their exclusive collections for Spring-Summer 2013, and stressed the importance of the Italian presence at Première Vision: “In the last ten years, this expo has become the most important event for all the operators of the textile and fashion sector. It is very important for Italy to be here.”

    It is so important to “be here”, that the 21 participant firms decided to attend the show even when, due to the severe economic and political crisis Italy is undergoing, the Italian Trade Commission couldn’t support them financially at this time. The Italian Trade Commission’s studies of the US Department of Commerce’s statistics show that during 2011 Italy ranked 7th among the fabric suppliers of the United States, for a total cash flow of 270 million dollars and with positive trends on each individual fabric’s market.

    The individual markets analyses show that Italian cotton in the US has grown +1.70% in 2011, and the revenues it generated amount to $62.17 million. Cotton is Italy’s most imported textile product by Americans, but Italy is also the 1st supplying country for wool, whose market generated $29.25 million in 2011 and grew +10.83%. Italian silk grew +4.03%, with revenues amounting to $24.04 million. Italy is rapidly ascending the chart of the United States’ performance and technical fabrics supplying countries, ranking 10th in 2011, when the sector grew +24.79%.

    Musella believes that the competitive advantage of Italian textile products is still the rich offer of novelties, combined with high quality standards and with the strength of Made in Italy as a brand itself.

    Musella also explains how the aggregate figure that puts Italy in the 7th place among the United States’ fabric supplying countries is actually pretty inaccurate. In fact, many of the American orders of Italian fabrics are intermediated by Chinese manufacturers whom the American commission the final goods to, and considered as Chinese by the data gatherers. Exhibitor Corrado Pedroni of Pizval Laces and Bobbinet, who supplies laces to brands such as Dolce&Gabbana and Polo Ralph Lauren, believes that the net figure could be ten times higher than the one officially estimated.

    As Première Vision Preview New York closes, the Italian firms are getting ready for the Paris edition of the show, which will take place on February 16 and 17. Gigi Giachino of Miroglio, selling printed fabrics to American industrial giants such as Michael Kors, Ann Taylor and Ralph Lauren, gives i-Italy a sneak preview on what his firm is going to present for the occasion: in a special event in Place des Vosges, Miroglio will present three exclusive collections created by three Italian contemporary artists, who had the chance to work with Miroglio’s creative team and produce their own lines of designs. A rendezvous to look forward to.

  • Art & Culture

    Le Marche. An Infinite Discovery.

    Back in 2005, The New York Times’ Christopher Solomon was the first to pitch the idea that Le Marche region was to become the new Tuscany. In the few years that have passed since his story was published, Solomon has been proven correct.

    The American interest in Le Marche’s beauties has grown increasingly, to the point that the region was classified among the Top 5 Places to Retire Abroad by the American Association of Retired Persons.

    Le Marche, though, is not just “a country for old men”, but rather an ideal and enticing destination for visitors of all ages.

    With its millenary history and heritage, its culinary and craftsmanship traditions combined with a vivacious cultural scene and with the friendliness and open-mindedness of its people, Le Marche attracts all sorts of visitors from all over the world.

    The region’s most recent advertising campaign promises its visitors an “infinite discovery”, quoting the timeless verses of Giacomo Leopardi’s most famous poem, “L’Infinito” (The Infinite).

    Significantly, the chosen testimonial of the campaign is the American actor Dustin Hoffman, filmed while rehearsing his interpretation of the poem in the Ventidio Basso Theater in Ascoli Piceno, as well as in the region’s breathtaking countryside, passionately struggling with his Italian pronunciation of Leopardi’s words. (Watch video)

    The“calf” of Italy, Le Marche is located under Emilia-Romagna and over Abruzzo. It faces the Adriatic Sea and is separated by the Apennines from the better known, more pricey, and packed with tourists and second-homers, Umbria and Tuscany.

    The name of the region says much about its richness and variety: Le Marche, in fact, is a plural name, from the German word “Marks”, borderlands, which defines the region since the barbaric invasions in the IV century AC when the Marches of Ancona, Camerino and Fermo were created.

    A part of the Papal States, the region’s distance from Rome allowed local lords to rule the major cities as free communes. Many roccas and castles such as the Brancaleoni castle in Piobbico, the Gradara castle, the Malatesta and Pia fortresses in Ascoli Piceno, the feudal castles in Macerata and the Rocca Roveresca in Senigallia, just to mention a few, represent the tangible signs of this phase of the region’s history.

    Among the most illustrious families ruling over Le Marche were the famous Montefeltros of Urbino. Under the Duchy of Federico II, the construction of the Palazzo Ducale was started, and world renowned artists of the Renaissance such as Piero Della Francesca and Raphael were able to flourish in the city. Urbino’s historical center was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.

    As far as natural beauties are concerned, Le Marche presents an incredible diversity.

    With two national parks (Monti Sibillini, Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga), four regional parks (Sasso Simone e Simoncello, Gola della Rossa e di Frasassi, Monte San Bartolo, Monte Conero), and four natural reserves (Abbadia di Fiastra, Montagna del Torrichio, Gola del Furlo e Ripa Bianca), Le Marche is a paradise for hikers and climbers.

    Beach bums won't regret a holiday in Le Marche either, as the region presents over 180 kilometers of sandy shores, rocky beaches and bays.

    Le Marche’s inland hilly territory, and the mild climate of the region, offer the ideal conditions for the cultivation of grape vines and olive trees, which are used to produce quality wines and oils.

    Le Marche’s olives are also widely used for a gourmet appetizer treat that Italians are extremely familiar with: the so called “Olive Ascolane” (olives the Ascolan way, from Ascoli Piceno where the recipe was invented). The olives, usually the Tenera Marchigiana kind, are pitted, stuffed with ground meats, battered and fried.

    If the easiest way to reach a man’s heart is through his stomach, that is particularly easy when Le Marche’s quality cheeses such as the Casciotta are involved. A very curious rumor whose origin is lost in time says that Michelangelo the sculptor was so fond of Casciotta that he acquired some farms in Le Marche not to ever run out of it.

    On a more romantic note, Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s memory of his stay in Le Marche, the one of the “most beautiful sunset in the world”, is yet another invitation for you to visit the region and experience its magic for yourself.

    Free samples of typical products from Le Marche will be available at Di Palo on Friday, January 13 (from 5 to 8 pm) and Saturday, January 14 (from noon to 8 pm). Experience them also at Eataly (Eccellenze corner) on Saturday, January 14 from noon to closing. Don’t miss it!

  • A cosa serve l'Ordine dei Giornalisti? Professione e accademia a confronto

    Nel contesto del settimo Annual Cultural Event di ILICA, “Terroni e Polentoni”, i-Italy ha potuto rivolgere alcune domande al presidente onorario dell’Ordine dei Giornalisti Lorenzo Del Boca sull’importanza di questa istituzione per il giornalismo italiano.

    L’Ordine dei Giornalisti rappresenta l’unico caso al mondo di associazione professionale dei giornalisti istituita per legge, l’iscrizione alla quale è condizione abilitante all’esercizio del mestiere in Italia.

    All’indomani dell’approvazione della Carta di Firenze contro il precariato e lo sfruttamento dei collaboratori di redazione, che secondo Del Boca permette finalmente una valorizzazione del lavoro dei giornalisti, ha senso discutere del rapporto tra la presenza di un Ordine dei Giornalisti e lo stato di salute del giornalismo italiano, la cui libertà e autonomia sono valori che l’istituzione dovrebbe tutelare, con risultati altalenanti.

    Come tutte le istituzioni, infatti, Del Boca ritiene che anche l’Ordine dei Giornalisti “è fatto da uomini e può avere delle defaillances”, ma ragionando sul piano dei principi, esso “è davvero importante”.

    “Ci sono delle attività professionali che, avendo un riverbero sociale molto accentuato, hanno necessità di garantirsi presso il loro pubblico”, prosegue Del Boca. “Un medico o un avvocato non possono esercitare le loro professioni senza fornire garanzie ai propri clienti. Allo stesso modo un giornalista deve poter dare alla persona alla quale si rivolge – sia esso un lettore, un radioascoltatore, un telespettatore – la garanzia che quello che gli comunica è la verità al massimo delle sue possibilità”.

    Il compito di una simile garanzia, secondo Del Boca, non può essere demandato al singolo giornalista, giornale o editore. Infatti “occorre un’istituzione che sia in grado di costruire una deontologia e assicurarsi che venga rispettata”.

    Coloro che sostengono che il giornalismo italiano sarebbe più libero se l’Ordine non esistesse, Del Boca afferma, commettono un grave errore: “L’attività dell’Ordine, in effetti, è solo di autoregolamentazione. L’Ordine non impone niente, stabilisce solamente quali sono i limiti che il giornalista deve darsi per la propria professionalità. Questi limiti non sempre vengono rispettati, però che vengano stabiliti all’interno della stessa categoria è un elemento di ulteriore miglioramento della libertà del giornalismo”.

    La libertà, però, per ammissione dello stesso Del Boca “sta anche nella busta paga. Come fa un giornalista ad essere libero dal punto di vista concettuale se non riesce a mettere insieme il pranzo con la cena?”.

    Considerando dunque la Carta di Firenze, che secondo il presidente onorario dell’ODG è “una questione più sindacale che ordinistica, per quanto promossa dall’Ordine”, come si spiega questa dualità di comportamento dell’Ordine che da un lato promuove misure per il miglioramento delle condizioni di vita dei precari del giornalismo ma dall’altro impone restrizioni all’accesso alla professione, mentre detta i limiti di esercizio della stessa? Cosa impedisce al giornalismo italiano di garantire l’osservanza dei valori e delle norme professionali, come avviene negli altri paesi del mondo, e senza la presenza di un’istituzione che se ne assuma il compito?

    Lo abbiamo chiesto a Marica Spalletta, docente di Cultura, etica e deontologia della comunicazione presso l’Università LUISS Guido Carli di Roma.

    L’Ordine come strumento di autoregolamentazione, secondo Spalletta, è un concetto “sacrosanto”. Infatti, “più le regole provengono dall’interno, più queste dovrebbero risultare efficaci, perché condivise a monte”. Il meccanismo, tuttavia, “non è così automatico. La responsabilità del giornalista non è quella di darsi delle regole, ma di impegnarsi concretamente per il loro rispetto”, il che presuppone una coscienza culturale condivisa rispetto alle best practices giornalistiche, non particolarmente diffusa nel contesto professionale italiano.

    Secondo Spalletta, infatti, non occorre un’istituzione in grado di costruire una deontologia. Occorrerebbe invece un “sistema giornalistico”, comprendente i professionisti e gli editori, “che si riconoscesse attorno a determinati valori e che, su questi valori, si desse delle regole”.

    “Finché l’etica del giornalista non troverà un punto d’incontro e di dialogo con l’etica dell’editore il sistema non troverà mai il proprio equilibrio, quindi il valore stesso delle regole risulterà danneggiato a monte. Perché le regole siano applicate non è sufficiente che esse siano fissate in un codice: occorre che esse siano condivise. Scrivere delle regole è infatti per molti versi assai semplice, applicarle lo è molto di meno, soprattutto dove quest’applicazione implica uno scardinamento di meccanismi consolidati.”

    Un’istituzione come l’Ordine, che potrebbe essere un baluardo della libertà del giornalismo proprio per le enormi potenzialità di tutela e garanzia per i professionisti che potrebbero derivare dalla sua fondazione a norma di legge, è però molto spesso snaturata e svilita per una “precisa responsabilità dei giornalisti stessi, che in Italia non hanno mai fatto buon uso delle potenzialità derivanti dall’esistenza di un vincolo normativo: tante regole ma spesso confuse, tanti documenti deontologici ma con scarsa applicazione, scarso utilizzo del potere disciplinare”, afferma Spalletta.

    Un altro aspetto da approfondire per capire le contraddizioni che affliggono l’Ordine dei Giornalisti è la sua estrema chiusura, poco rispondente alle evoluzioni dell’attività giornalistica nel contesto di una società sempre più digitale, in cui tutti possono svolgere la funzione di citizen journalists senza nessuna licenza o tesserino.

    “Non mi piace l’idea che si è giornalisti se si è iscritti all’albo,” commenta Spalletta, “secondo me si è giornalisti se si lavora da giornalisti. In Italia siamo pieni di giornalisti iscritti all’Ordine che operano come altoparlanti del potere oppure come attivisti politici. Questi, a mio avviso, non sono cattivi giornalisti. Questi non sono giornalisti. Un cattivo giornalista è un giornalista che, nel raccontare un fatto di cronaca, eccede nella spettacolarizzazione. Un giornalista che, nel fornire l’interpretazione di un fatto, si fa trascinare dalla faziosità. Ma un giornalista che fa il politico o che si limita a essere il portavoce di qualcuno non è un cattivo giornalista: non è proprio un giornalista.”

    Proprio in virtù di quanto affermato da Del Boca circa il riverbero pubblico dell’attività professionale dei giornalisti, che secondo Spalletta è tale da coinvolgere il piano dei diritti costituzionalmente garantiti e dei valori cardine della società democratica, i problemi del giornalismo italiano debbono essere affrontati con un respiro più ampio di quello della “annosa diatriba ‘ordine sì/ordine no’”.  

    Il problema, commenta Spalletta, è di natura culturale, e non ancora percepito come tale. Finché ciò non avverrà si navigherà “a un livello di superficie, che serve solo ad alimentare le chiacchiere e non a entrare nel vivo della questione.”

  • Prime Minister Mario Monti
    Facts & Stories

    The Who's Who of the Monti Goverment

    The Monti government is now officially in charge. After swearing in the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano in the Quirinale Palace, Monti went to Palazzo Chigi to meet former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for the official handover.

    Monti’s team counts no politicians, and the number of ministers has been reduced from 23 to 17. The average age of the government has been raised from 55 of the resigning one to 63.

    The ministers, all coming from the world of academia, civil service and banking, are renowned professionals in their respective sectors. Three of the appointed ministers are women. They will cover key functions such as Interior, Labor and Welfare and, for the first time in Italian history, Justice.

    Former European Union Competition Commissioner Monti will also be the interim Minister of Economy, personally assuming the responsibility of intermediating with the European institutions, who are observing the transition to the new technocratic government with close attention.

    The appointed ministers have all been chosen according to a stringent criteria of professional excellence for their executive duties.

    Economic Development, Infrastructure and Transportation have been assigned to Corrado Passera, 56 years old, and a graduate of Bocconi University like Mario Monti. Passera is an experienced manager who has had executive positions in some of the most important Italian corporations (Mondadori, Cir, Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso), he has been the chief executive of Banco Ambrosiano Veneto, and of Poste Italiane, Italy’s postal service. Since 2002 Passera has been the chief executive of Italy’s largest retail bank, Banca Intesa San Paolo.

    Defense has been assigned to Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, 67 years old, who was the President of NATO’s Military Committee since 2008. He got the news of his appointment during an official visit to Kabul, Afghanistan. Earlier in his career, Di Paola has also been Chief of Defense staff, Defense Secretary General and National Director of Armaments.

    Anna Maria Cancellieri is the Minister of the Interior. She is 67 years old and is a graduate in Political Science. She is the second woman in the history of Italy to be appointed to the Ministry of the Interior after Rosa Russo Iervolino in 1998.
    Cancellieri has been a Prefect in Genoa, Vicenza, Brescia, Bergamo and Catania, and a month ago she was appointed Commissioner for the Municipality of Parma, with the duty of reining in the financial dislocation of the council in charge.

    Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, former Ambassador of Italy to the United States, is the new Minister of Foreign Affairs. Terzi is 65 years old. He has been the Chief of the Italian delegation to the United Nations Security Council from August 2008 to September 2009. In 2002 he was the Ambassador of Italy to Israel, a role he kept until 2004. He has also served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome as Vice Secretary General, being very active in the fields of multilateral security, human rights and relations with international bodies such as the European Council, the NATO, the UN and the G8.

    Elsa Fornero, the new Minister of Labor and Welfare, Social Policy and Equal Opportunities, is a professor of Political Economics at the University of Turin. She is Vice President of the Surveillance Council of Banca Intesa San Paolo and a professor in the Ph.D. program in Economics at the University of Turin. She also teaches at the University of Maastricht. Her first challenge as a Minister is to reform pensions.

    Francesco Profumo, former President of the National Council of Research (CNR), is the new Minister of Education. He is an engineer and a professor of Machines and Electrical Activation at the University of Bologna. He was formerly a member of the administrative board of Unicredit Private Bank, Il Sole 24 Ore, Fidia Spa, Telecom and Pirelli. Since 2005 he has been the Dean of the Politecnico di Milano.

    Lorenzo Ornaghi is the new Minister of Cultural Heritage. He received the news of his appointment while teaching his Political Science class at Università Cattolica in Milan, where he has been Dean since 2002. A student in his class tweeted the farewell words of the professor, who said he was sorry to interrupt the lesson, and that his was not a goodbye but a temporary parting. Since 1998 Ornaghi was a member of the administrative board of the newspaper Avvenire. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the scientific magazine Vita e Pensiero, and he is a member of the scientific committees of several other academic publications.

    Mario Catania is the new Minister for Agricultural and Forest Policies. He previously held the position of Chief of the Department for Agricultural and Forest Policies of the Ministry that he is now in charge of, and he has been a member of the Italian Permanent Delegation to the EU in Brussels.

    Paola Severino is the appointed Minister of Justice. She is the first woman in the history of the Italian Republic to be assigned such a role. Severino is a renowned lawyer who has defended, among others, former Prime Minister Romano Prodi. She also defended Cesare Geronzi and Francesco Caltagirone in the Cirio trial, and the Union of the Jewish Communities against former SS officer Erich Priebke. Severino is the Vice Dean of LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, where she has been a professor since 1987. From 1997 to 2001 Severino has been the Vice President of the Council of Military Bench. She also worked in the staff of Giovanni Maria Flick, former President of the Italian Constitutional Court.

    The Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council is Antonio Catricalà, former President of the Italian Antitrust Authority. He is a professor of Consumer’s Rights Defense at LUISS Guido Carli University, and he has taught Private Law in the Law faculty of Tor Vergata University in Rome.

    Corrado Clini is the new Minister of Environment. He has worked in the Ministry of Environment since 1990 and he was in charge of the Division for Sustainable Development, Climate Issues and Energy. He is a Senior Researcher at Harvard University and he is a member of the scientific committees of several publications. He has represented Italy in several international conferences on climate and energy: in 1995 he has coordinated the management of the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose works led to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. He is 64 years old.

    Renato Balduzzi is the new Minister of Health. He is a professor at the University of Western Piedmont and at Cattolica University in Milan. From 1989 to 1992 he has been Counselor of the Ministers of the Defense, and from 1996 to 2000 he has also worked with former Minister of Health Rosy Bindi as the President of the Ministerial Commission for the healthcare reform. He is the President of AGENAS, agency responsible of healthcare services for the Italian Regions.

    Enzo Moavero Milanesi is the new Minister of European Affairs. He is a lawyer and he collaborated with Mario Monti in Brussels for nine years since 1995. He is currently a judge in the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg. In 2002 he was nominated Adjunct Secretary General of the European Commission.

    The new Minister of International Cooperation and Integration is Andrea Riccardi. Riccardi is the founder and leader of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a catholic movement promoting peace and intercultural dialogue. He is a renowned historian and a professor of Contemporary History at Roma Tre University. In 2003, Time Magazine listed Riccardi in its chart of the Top 36 Modern European Heroes.

    Piero Gnudi is the appointed Minister of Tourism and Sports. He is a member of the Administrative Board of Unicredit and he is a member of the Executive Committees of Assonime, Aspen Institute, and the Council for the Relations between Italy and the United States. Previously, he has been the President of Rai Holding, IRI, ENEL, Locat and Astaldi.

    The new Minister of Territorial Cohesion is Fabrizio Barca. Currently the head of the Department of Development Policies in the Ministry of Economy, Barca has been a professor in several Italian universities (University of Siena, Bocconi, Tor Vergata in Rome, University of Urbino, University of Modena). In 1999 he was the president of the Territorial Policies Committee of the OECD, and he has previously worked at Banca D’Italia as territorial director.

    Piero Giarda is the new Minister of Parliamentary Relations. He is an Economics graduate with an international academic curriculum: from 1965 to 1969 he was a student at Harvard and Princeton University. In 1970 he was a Visiting Professor at Harvard University. He is in charge of the Laboratory of Monetary Analysis at Università Cattolica in Milan. He has been a consultant to the Presidency of the Council and to the Ministry of Finance, and from 1995 to 2001 he was State Undersecretary to the Ministry of Treasury. Giarda is also the Vice President of the Fondazione Milano per la Scala.

  • Art & Culture

    New Realism: Philosophy Recovers from the Post-Modernist "Hangover"

    The day after the 2011 New York City Marathon took place, the Italian Cultural Institute of New York hosted an eight-hour long philosophical marathon, where the finest minds of our time challenged each other to define what is happening in the contemporary world of philosophy after the post-modernist "hangover" has passed.

    The international conference “On the ashes of Post-Modernism: a New Realism”, an initiative of the Framework Program “Slowness and Quality” promoted by La Fondazione NYC and sponsored by Alitalia, was a very intense and fruitful occasion to debate the state of the art in philosophical studies and approaches towards reality, in times when reality itself is increasingly complicated and hard to categorize systematically.

    The conference saw world famous public intellectuals such as Umberto Eco and Hilary Putnam skyping with each other (Putnam was connected with the ICI from his home) and engaging in conversations over the questions posed by the audience, and a great number of prominent contemporary philosophers such as Akeel Bilgrami, Giovanna Borradori, Ned Block, Paul Boghossian , Petar Bojanic, Maurizio Ferraris, Markus Gabriel and Riccardo Viale, all presenting their reflections on those concepts such as “fact,” “objectivity” and “reality” that Post-Modernist philosophy had dismissed as wrong and false, and on a more correct framing of those concepts in the context of today’s and tomorrow’s society.

    The inspiring principles that motivated the Italian Cultural Institute to host such a panel have a lot to do with Italy per se. In fact, as Mario De Caro stated in his conclusive remarks, the claim to the existence of a “New Realism” represents the urge to a renewal of Italian culture after a season in which the Italian contribution to the global cultural debate has been less effective, when compared to a glorious and magnificent past of excellence.

    The importance for philosophy to re-discuss its place in today’s world after Post-Modernism, as Riccardo Viale (Director of the Italian Cultural Institute and Professor at Università di Milano-Bicocca) mentioned in his speech, is crucial in this critical historical moment.

    The failure of “turbocapitalism” and a “gasification” of social structures trigger the need to reconsider the aforementioned notions that Post-Modernism wouldn’t recognize and would instead debunk.

    On this note, Hilary Putnam (Harvard University) stressed the importance of Scientific Realism, with a touch of irony in his words when he referred to Jacques Derrida as the philosopher who wouldn’t recognize its importance, but still “flew on planes all the time.”

    While Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University) focused his speech on “Realism and Practical Reason” on analysis of the importance of the individual as an agent, and on the perspective and detachment games that take place when the individual considers himself in “first person” or in “third person,” Ned Block (NYU), by asking the audience his question “Is Consciousness an Illusion?” and challenged them with an analysis of color perception between color-blind people and regular-sighted people stressed the idea that there are, in fact, objective facts.

    Ferraris (Università di Torino), who elaborated on “Reality as Unamendableness,” explained the connections between the Post-Modernist concepts of the impossibility of objectivity and political and social perversions such as populism, the confusion of natural and social facts and its implications on constructivism, and the misconceptions on epistemology and ontology, the first worth reaffirming over the second specifically for its amendableness.

    Umberto Eco (Università di Bologna) affirmed that he never fully understood Post-Modernism in fields other than the literary and the architectural, and especially in the realm of philosophy: “If there are no facts, only interpretations, then what are you interpreting?” he questioned.

    Eco’s arrival was saluted with great trepidation, especially by the international press attending the event who hoped to hear him commenting on Italy’s severe political crisis: they went home disappointed, and probably a little confused.

    Referring to his elaborations in “Kant and the Platypus,” and to Charles Sanders Peirce’s dynamic concept of “Unlimited Semiosis,” that is given when the objects of the world force us and accustom us to reacting to them, Eco embraces a position of “minimal realism”: “We speak because there’s something that makes us speak. We don’t know this ‘something,’ but the chain of interpretations either says ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

    The possibility of failure, ultimately, shows that there is ‘something’ controlling our interpretations. Reality is out there, and we “kiss it,” as Eco said, each time we fall and smash our face on the ground. The inquiry to understand it and find truth in it, however, is open like an “Opera Aperta.”

    Reality is out there, and it’s about time that philosophers acknowledge it once again, and contribute to its definition and evolution in an increasingly pragmatic and approachable spirit. “Does philosophy matter?” asked Ned Block during his intervention. The answer is: “Yes, it finally does, once again.”