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Articles by: Joelle Grosso

  • Vincenzo Pelliccione dressed as Charlie Chaplin's double
    Art & Culture

    Eugene DeVerdi and Chaplin: A Fascinating Partnership

    Abruzzo Stars & Stripes, the latest release by Abruzzese publishing house Ricerche&Redazioni tells the extraordinary tale of Vincenzo Pelliccione, otherwise known as Eugene DeVerdi, an Italian man who left his home in Abruzzo to live the American dream in the United States, at just 20 years old. 

    A Twist of Fate

    Pelliccione was working as a painter and poet for several years after emigrating from Italy when he decided to make another big move, this time to Hollywood on the glamorous West Coast. It is here where Pelliccione experienced a chance encounter with Charlie Chaplin that would change the course of his life forever. At the time, Chaplin was at the height of his career as a comedic actor after rising to fame during the era of silent film. The two happened to meet in a restaurant when the superstar himself was simply stunned at the incredible resemblance.

    “I, a poor Abruzzese emigrant in search of fortune, became Chaplin,” Pelliccione once said. This dream came true in almost an instant because after that lucky restaurant exchange, Chaplin immediately took Pelliccione under his wing. From earning two dollars a day, spending one on food and the other on English lessons, Pelliccione now found himself living in the shadow of a Hollywood legend.

    Rise to the Top

    From that point, Pelliccione began replacing Chaplin in the tests for hit movies like The Circus, The Great DictatorCity Lights, and Modern Times. He also participated in the live tours that took place in Florida and California. After working as the actor’s double for ten years, Chaplin abruptly decided to continue on without Pelliccione by his side. Pelliccione wasn’t done with the film industry though and chose to embark on a new journey as a lights and special effects technician for many memorable films including Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. He even returned to Italy to work at Cinecittà, the largest film studio in Europe.

    Even though Chaplin and Pelliccione eventually ended their partnership, their story is nothing but intriguing. It seems as if their paths were destined to intertwine and the fact that the two passed away just six months apart makes their bond that much more mysterious. For those who want to read more about the fascinating life of Vincenzo Pelliccione, purchase Abruzzo Stars & Stripes today!

  • Two elderly men in Basilicata
    Facts & Stories

    Italy Concerned About Diminishing Population

    ISTAT, the Italian National Institute of Statistics is the main producer of official statistical information in Italy and produces the census of population as well as several other economic censuses and social surveys. They recently came out with a report stating that the population is rapidly decreasing with the number of births going down and the average age of Italian residents increasing to approximately 45 years old. 

    What the Statistics Say

    The national statistics agency says that the total population has dropped down 86,000 people on January 1st, 2017, from the 60,579 million residents at the start of 2016. With the average person having a longer lifespan, the rates decreased from 608,000 deaths from the peak of 648,000 reached in 2015. The average age of a citizen living in Italy is now 45 years old, two years higher than it was back in 2007. Less people are deciding to have babies which is why the number of births has decreased from 486,000 in 2015 to 474,000 last year.

    Why is this Happening?

    ISTAT has also reported that 115,000 Italians moved abroad in 2016, up 12.6% from 2015 and almost three times the 40,000 that emigrated in 2010. One of the main reasons for this diminishing popoluation is because it seems that young people are leaving the country in order to find better jobs abroad and escape economic hardships, with the level of unemployment in Italy at an all time high. Some want to go to a new country that is more young and dynamic because they think of Italy as a very traditional country that doesn’t want to change its ways.

    The Italian government is aware of this enormous problem and is focusing on creating new opportunities for the younger generations so that they will remain in their native country. Their goal is to not only have more jobs available but to find solutions that allow Italy to benefit from the recent influx of migration in Europe. Italy hopes to go back to being a country full of innovators and fresh ideas so that they are capable of competing with the rest of the world in a productive manner. 

  • The 106th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire will take place later on this month
    Facts & Stories

    106 Years Later: Honoring the Victims of the Triangle Factory Fire

    The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, an organization that aimed to "gather together to recommit to the fight to protect all workers whether your workplace is a garment factory, a non-union construction site, a nail salon, a classroom or anywhere in between”, has organized an official commemoration of the 106th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, that occurred in New York City. With the celebration they hopes to create a movement that inspires workers to take action and provides hope for a better future. 

    The History Behind the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

    The Triangle Waist Company produced women’s blouses, or shirtwaists, and occupied the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the 10-story Asch Building located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood. In those days, it used to be a common practice for owners to lock the doors to the stairwells and exits in order to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to reduce theft. So when a fire accidentally broke out on March 25th, 1911, the entire staff subsequently found themselves trapped in the building. That day, 146 garment workers- 123 women and 23 men- died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or jumping to their deaths. A majority of those who lost their lives were Italian immigrant women from the ages of 16 to 23. 

    Aftermath of the Fire

    The horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire led to necessary legislation mandating improved factory safety standards and even helped to increase the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, or ILGWU. The group was a key player in the fight for better working conditions for sweatshop workers and is known for being one of the first U.S. unions to have a primarily female membership. The tragedy eventually led to the formation of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition which educates the public about the fire through it’s ongoing projects, educational outreach, and social media sites. Currently, they are working hard to “establish a permanent art memorial to those who died in the fire so that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

    March also happens to be Women’s History Month so it seems the perfect occasion to value the work of the women who lost their lives so many years ago. For those who want to join the official commemoration, it will take place on Friday, March 24th, from 11:30AM to 1PM at the building itself on Washington Place and Greene Street. The participant will also be able to catch a glimpse of the art memorial that is currently in the process of being built to honor the memory of the victims. 

  • Art & Culture

    The Italian American Museum Celebrates Women's History

    Women’s History Month is celebrated annually in the United States throughout the month of March and highlights the contributions women have made to society. It corresponds with International Women’s Day on March 8th, a day that pays respect to women for all of their economic, political, and social achievements.  To commemorate this special occasion, the Italian American Museum located in the heart of Little Italy is hosting a lovely art exhibition called Artiste Italiane which displays the works of thirteen contemporary Italian American female artists.

    The Workers’ Mandala 

    Artiste Italiane will feature a large wall relief entitled Workers’ Mandala created by B. Amore which honors the journey that many Mexican farmers have made from Mexico to Vermont where they are currently the mainstay of workers in the dairy industry. The farmers would carefully trace their long voyages onto small maps which the artist then transcribed and transformed into a mixed media work of art. She believes that “the story of these workers resembles the stories of our own immigrant ancestors, who risked traveling far from their familiar towns to seek a better life in America.” 

    B. Amore’s Artist Statement

    B. Amore is an artist, educator, and writer who has spent her whole life traveling between Italy and the United States. She has studied all over the world from Boston University to the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara and is even the founder of her very own Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in Vermont. Her work incorporates her interests in time, journey, and reflection on the human condition and acts as a portrayal of the deep connection she feels with the world. Amore believes that each of us are part of a larger whole and hopes that “the ties that bind us together in our human journey are much stronger than any external differences.”  

    For those who are interested in seeing the work of B. Amore and several other talented artists, the beautiful exhibition will be open from March 3rd until April 30th at the Italian American Museum on 155 Mulberry Street in Little Italy. More information can be found at: https://www.italianamericanmuseum.org/ 

  • A stunning piece by Toby Ziegler
    Art & Culture

    After Image: Traveling Through Different Dimensions

    The trendy Cassina Projects gallery in Chelsea is known for fostering a cross-cultural dialogue through the promotion of international contemporary artists. Their latest exhibition After Image presents the striking work of Toby Ziegler and Paul Kneale who are constantly moving between material and cyber realms. Even though their approaches are drastically different, both employ strategies that challenge the reading of transmitted images while simultaneously disrupting the basic reality claims of reproductive technology. They share a concern for how to critically continue the discourse of painting, embracing the revolutionary technological capabilities that have decisively altered the public reception of the medium.

    What is  “After Image”?

    ARTUNER is an online art platform created to fulfill the needs of collectors, provide exclusive access to curated exhibitions, and offer art for sale. With this exhibition, both ARTUNER and Cassina Projects hope to bring the idea of “after image” to life. The term refers to an image that continues to appear in one’s vision even after the exposure of the original visual has ceased. An example of this is when you stare into the brightness of your smartphone for a few minutes and then an optical echo of the screen remains momentarily when you close your eyes. The concept fits this exhibition perfectly because Ziegler and Kneale allow their viewers to get lost in a mystical world that blurs the lines of what is real and what is surreal.

    Who is Toby Ziegler?

    Toby Ziegler is an English artist who looks at the digital domain but focuses primarily on its semiotic interplay. His intriguing method involves carefully reproducing his digitalized images entirely by hand. By fusing the boldness of graphic design with the spontaneity of painterly expression, his pieces are the result of a fascinating mix of traditional composition and digital mystification. Ziegler has had several solo exhibitions all over the world including the PKM Gallery in Seoul, Galerie Max Hetzler in Paris, and the Simon Lee Gallery in his native London. 

    Who is Paul Kneale?

    Paul Kneale is a Canadian artist who now lives and works in London. With the use of scanners, the initial phases of Kneale’s work leave a great amount to chance but as the procedure develops, the artist gains control and begins to delicately construct an image where multiple tiers overlap imperfectly. Given that human vision is frequently reinforced by digital apparatuses in this day and age, Kneale looks into the mechanics of this intricate process at its most basic level. He has been featured in the Rubell Family Collection in Miami and the Moscow International Biennale for Young Art last year while also teaching at the Zurich University of Art

    For those who are interested in viewing these gorgeous pieces up close, After Image will be on display at Cassina Projects in Chelsea from February 28th until April 15th. For more information, please visit their website: www.cassinaprojects.com

  • The prolific Italian writer Dacia Maraini with NYU professor Jane Tylus.
    Life & People

    Dacia Maraini. Writing Like Breathing

    You might know Dacia Maraini, one of Italy's most acclaimned contemporary fiction writer and essayst, from her outstanding novels which include  La vacanza (The Holiday), L’età del malessere (The Age of Malaise) and La lunga vita di Marianna Ucrìa (The Silent Duchess), but she is also the writer of captivating short stories, poetry, and plays. On the occasion of the recent English publication of Beloved Writing: 50 Years of Engagement, which is a collection of her most important works, Maraini was interviewed by Jane Tylus who is a Professor of Italian at New York University. In an event hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute and its director Giorgio van Straten, the two delved into Maraini’s lifelong commitment to literature in its various forms. 

    Here are some excerpts from the conversation.


    Jane Tylus: As you look back and think about your incredible corpus, do you notice certain threads or themes that tie some of these works together and if there is anything as you think about this that surprises you that you hadn’t planned on or thought about as you were doing the work originally?

    Dacia Maraini: Well there is something mysterious in the work of a writer. For me, when I start to write a book I don’t know how it will finish. As I got older, I learned to listen to the characters more. When I was young, I thought I had power over the characters but it’s like a director of an orchestra. The conductor has control over all of the instruments but the person who is playing the instrument knows more than him and the conductor has to listen to the musician. It’s a similar situation with the characters. The characters do what you say but at the same time they have their own will and they know more about themselves than the writer does.

    JT: You have come to New York for many years and you refer to the city in some of your stories. I’m curious about what has coming to this city or perhaps more generally to the United States meant for you?

    DM: Well usually I go to the universities so the America I know better are the universities. Now it has been maybe ten years that I go and visit five universities every year so I know all of the universities and I love them. I think more so here than in Italy there is a difference between the normal people and those who frequent universities because their relationship with other languages and other cultures is extraordinary. That’s why I volunteer to go. This is my relationship with the States.

    JT: Can you talk about your role as a writer and as a journalist?

    DM: Well the writer is not somebody who is more intelligent than everyone else but the writer works and fights with language every day. Sometimes the writer can find the words that other people don’t because it’s their specialization. Sometimes I compare a writer to a deep sea diver who goes into the black dark waters of the collective unconsciousness and finds something that was already there. The writer is not inventing things, it’s just that nobody saw them before because it was deep in the dark profound waters. The writer brings them out to the light and that’s the only thing he or she can do. Something that has been there all this time but if you find the right words, you can take it out from this unconsciousness.

    JT: You’ve lived in so many places like Japan and Sicily, now you divide your time between Rome and Abruzzo, do you consider yourself as being from a place or are you the combination of many homes and places?

    DM: I feel a little nomadic but at the same time I like to have a place where I go and come back and feel at home and I think the true home is a language first of all. Sometimes people think that you can’t have several identities but identity is not only one, you can have several identities and that is a richness, not a poverty. So you can be Italian, then European, then part of the world. 

    JT: How do you not become a prisoner of yourself? 

    DM: Curiosity. You’re curious of experimenting something different, different stories, different situations, different characters, and sometimes even style. A problem I have is that now the publisher wants a book every year. I say it’s impossible to write a book every year!

    JT: You’re doing pretty well though.

    DM: No! I don’t do it. I can take some short stories that I wrote in different moments of my life and put them together to make a book but I can’t write a novel in one year. Impossible. But this is the new consumer idea of the publishing situation. Now many organizations are based on quantity and not quality, that’s the problem. To consume, you have to throw away. I remember my grandfather had only one umbrella in his life, one umbrella! When it was broken, he went to the person who repaired them. Now you buy an umbrella every two days, three days, it’s true! Well the publisher wants the same thing, they would like to make fragile books like umbrellas that you can throw away. For a writer it’s a great problem and it’s also terrible for young people who want to start writing. Unfortunately, this is the new practice of the publishing houses. 

    Click here to see Director of Casa Italiana, Stefano Albertini, in conversation with award winning writer and playwright, Dacia Maraini last year.


  • According to Hoaxy, the brown dots represent misinformation in the Twittersphere network
    Facts & Stories

    Technology: The New Way to Fact Check

    With the phenomenon of fact checking becoming more prevalent than ever, Professor Filippo Menczer and the Center for Complex Networks and System Research at Indiana University Bloomington has decided to come up with a practical solution. According to their website, Hoaxy is an “open platform to visualize the online spread of claims and fact checking.”

    The Problem with Social Media

    The accredited Pew Research Center has discovered that “approximately 65% of American adults access the news through social media” which has resulted in the formation of social bubbles and hyper-polarized echo chambers. This means that whether the everyday social media user is conscious of it or not, they are creating homogeneous spaces where they only follow or retweet like-minded individuals. The University says that this develops “considerable challenges for our capability to discriminate between facts and misinformation, and allocate our attention and energy accordingly.”

    Furthermore, the fact that the news cycle is only getting faster just adds on to these already extremely complicated obstacles. This is why it is not too surprising to see how hoaxes or “fake news” can go viral within seconds and be believed by so many. The Center for Complex Networks and System Research has come up with a way to address and make sense of all this digital madness. 

    How it Works

    Hoaxy tracks both online fake news as well as fact checking on social media and hopes to become the first in its kind "to observe the competition dynamics between online misinformation and its debunking" in a systematic way. They track fake news from their origins, follow how the news is spread through social media, then collect and display all the data with interactive analytics and visualizations.

    Their goal is “to reconstruct the diffusion networks induced by hoaxes and their corrections as they are shared online and spread from person to person.” This allows not only the general public but researchers and reporters alike to study and gather a better understanding of how massive digital misinformation functions.

    A Work in Progress

    For those that are excited to use this new platform, Hoaxy has not been released to the public yet as they are still in the preliminary phases. Every day the University is working hard to gather as much information as possible and perfect their site before it goes live. According to the World Economic Forum, massive digital misinformation is considered to be one of the highest future threats as it “sits at the center of a constellation of technological and geopolitical risks ranging from terrorism to cyber attacks and the failure of global governance.” 

    Menczer says “we are neither journalists nor fact checkers who verify but we help the public and the media understand fake news, we are one of the many instruments in the arsenal.” Hoaxy hopes to provide more insight to people all over the world so that we can, in turn, develop better counter measures in stopping the potentially dangerous spread of misinformation.


  • Leonardo da Vinci is considered to be one of the most influential artists of all time
    Art & Culture

    Art Meets Science in “Da Vinci - The Genius”

    The Museum of Science in Boston has introduced a new exhibiton that pays tribute to the great Italian artist and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci. The Museum's mission has always been to play a leading role in transforming the nation’s relationship with science and technology. They aim to do this by "promoting active citizenship informed by the world of science and technology, inspiring lifelong appreciation of the importance and impact of science and engineering, and encourage young people of all backgrounds to explore and develop their interests in understanding the natural and human-made world."

    The History of the MoS

    All the way back in 1830, six men fascinated by natural history created the Boston Society of Natural History, an organization that allowed them to pursue their common scientific interests. Over time, that small group expanded into a museum which is now known globally as the Museum of Science. According to their website, it is one of largest science centers in the world as well as Boston's most popular cultural institution that features intriguing programs and hundreds of interactive exhibits.

    A True Renaissance Man

    So who better than Leonardo da Vinci to be presented at the Museum of Science? The famed Italian artist was not only skilled at painting and sculpting but he was also a brilliant scientist, architect, and inventor. The epitome of the ideal Renaissance humanist, da Vinci was known for constantly fusing art with science. Currently in Boston, you can rediscover his legacy in the most comprehensive exhibition on the Renaissance master to tour the world. This exhibition brings the versatile genius to life and was organized by Grande Exhibitions with the help of the Museo Leonardo da Vinci in Rome.

    Inside the Exhibition

    In Da Vinci – The Genius, you will have the opportunity to see some of da Vinci’s inventions that were way ahead of his time which include the first concepts of a car, bicycle, helicopter, parachute, and even a modern military tank. There is also a high-definition re-creation of The Last Supper on display as well as educational animation presentations of the Vitruvian Man, two of da Vinci’s most notable masterpieces. You'll also gain access to the exclusive Secrets of Mona Lisa exhibition which serves as an analysis of the world's most famous painting conducted at the Louvre by renowned scientific engineer, Pascal Cotte.

    This beautiful exhibition is interesting for the entire family and it will satisfy both art lovers and science lovers. Get a glimpse inside the mind of a true genius while learning about the fundamental scientific and artistic principles that he discovered all at the same time! If you're planning on visiting, more information can be found at: https://www.mos.org/exhibits/da-vinci-the-genius 

  • A Bronx Tale: The Musical is currently showing at the Longacre Theatre
    Art & Culture

    A Bronx Tale: The Musical - The Classic on Broadway

    Set in Belmont during the 1960s, A Bronx Tale follows the life of an impressionable Italian American teenager named Calogero who struggles with following the working class values that were instilled in him and entering the attractive world of organized crime. While being torn between two fatherly figures, his humble biological father and the neighborhood’s flashy mob boss, Calogero’s story also provides powerful insight into the social dynamics of that time period. As racial tensions are running extremely high, the protagonist happens to fall in love with an African American girl even though their relationship is practically forbidden in the community. A Bronx Tale is such a timeless work of art because it allows the audience to relate to Calogero as he grows up with two educations. 

    Calogero “Chazz” Palminteri came up with the original idea for A Bronx Tale while working as a struggling actor in Los Angeles. He pulled experiences and memories from his own childhood and dramatized them in order to create the play. As Palminteri and his smash hit made their way from Los Angeles to New York, he was given many offers for a movie deal but it wasn’t until Robert De Niro came along that he agreed to turned his one-man show into a film. Acting alongside De Niro, who also made his directing debut for this film, Palminteri served as both screen writer and supporting actor. It is thanks to this special partnership that his vision was finally able to come to life on the big screen.

    Palminteri and De Niro decided to join creative forces once again to produce and direct a new take on the classic, turning the film into a musical.  Along with co-director Jerry Zaks and composer Alan Menken, they managed to translate the Italian-American coming of age story into a musical worthy of Broadway. Menken’s music in A Bronx Tale: The Musical enhances the story by adding even more emotion to the already touching narrative. Overall, the reviews and responses have been positive for the new musical with Charles Isherwood of The New York Times saying that “it captures both the milieu it evokes and the colorful characters who populate it with a buoyancy and humor which won me over.” 

    Not only is it a fantastic spectacle but it is also an endearing story that highlights issues including organized crime, racial strife, cultural differences, and what it means to make the right choice. Get your tickets to the see A Bronx Tale: The Musical live at Longacre Theatre today!

  • Art & Culture

    Calvino: The Memo of Quickness

    This year at the Italian Cultural Institute, there will be an ongoing series dedicated to the renowned writer Italo Calvino commemorating the new translation of his book, Six Memos for the Next Millennium. This work is a collection of lectures Calvino planned to give at Harvard in the fall of 1985 but unfortunately they were never delivered as a result of his death before leaving Italy. Of the five that were completed, each one focused on a different quality that Calvino considered essential in literary writing, including: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity. Accordingly, five separate events will be held at various venues throughout the city. 

    The Speakers

    At the second event of this series the Director of the Institute, Giorgio van Straten, introduced a special guest, the author's daughter, Giovanna Calvino, who also attended the event, and after a few words about her father, offered the floor to the speakers.

    Paola Antonelli, senior curator in the department of architecture and design of MoMA and Maria Popova, founder and editor of the extremely popular blog Brain Pickings, focused on Calvino’s memo about quickness, enchantment, and the felicity of storytelling. According to Calvino, quickness is the ability of the writer to control the speed of the story. Time is a special element throughout the wide range of Calvino’s work which includes fairytales, short stories, essays, and lectures. 

    This discussion was particularly fascinating because each speaker had such different entryways into Calvino’s writings. Popova is from Bulgaria and was exposed to Calvino’s nonfiction as an adult meanwhile Antonelli grew up with his folktales during her childhood in Italy. Antonelli said ”I never approached Calvino from an intellectual academic standpoint, to me it was always a part of my life so it’s fascinating now as an adult to read about all the nonfiction, the Harvard lectures and just another way to approach him and still I recognize him in all this nonfiction.”

    Quickness According to Calvino

    Six Memos for the Next Millennium demonstrates Calvino’s vision for the future and is one of the strongest exemplifications of the writer’s way of thinking and working. To start off the evening, Popova quoted a beautiful section that sums up Calvino’s point of view on quickness. He writes: 

    “The motor age has turned speed into immeasurable value with speed records marking the history of the progress of machines and men but speed of mind cannot be measured and does not allow for comparisons or competitions nor can its results be ranked to give historical perspective. Speed of mind is valuable in itself for the pleasure it gives those susceptible to such pleasure. Not for any practical use it can be put to, faster thinking is not necessarily better than considered thinking, far from it, but it conveys something special that has to do specifically with its swiftness.”

    Popova and Antontelli went on to debate how Calvino would react to society if he were still alive today. Would he be ranting about how fast the world works now? Would he have embraced it and just appreciated the capacity for lateral expansion of time that the internet can have? Popova pointed out that perhaps the answer could be found in one of Calvino’s letters where he talks about reading the newspaper and comments on the tyranny of the constant input. He admits to having this constant struggle every morning with the newspaper because he wanted to avoid it in order to make time to write.

    In another piece, he writes about the notion of how we hog time or spend it we treat it as a resource: 

    “In real life time is a resource we’re stingy with, in literature time is a resource to be exposed of in a casual leisurely fashion. It’s not a question of crossing some finish line. On the other hand being thrifty with time is a good thing since the more time we save, the more we’ll be able to lose. Quickness of style and thought means above all nimbleness, nobility, and ease all qualities that go with writing that is prone to digression to leap in from one topic to another to losing the thread 100 times and finding it again after 100 twists and turns.”

    Festina Lente

    It’s interesting to note that the writer’s personal motto comes from an old Latin phrase “festina lente” which can be translated to “hurry slowly.” This concept is so evident in Calvino’s work that Antonelli commented:

     “It seems to me that he always has this kind of controversial relationship with quickness like he wanted to write about it because everything was about the contrast between quickness and instead savoring slowness so everything that he says sometimes is almost like a way to make a play of words to communicate this kind of contrast which I don’t think is happening in the other memos, at least not as much.”

    Italo Calvino is one of the few Italian writers of the late 20th century who is well known outside of Italy and has inspired other greats not only from the literary world but architects, designers, and philosophers as well. For those interesting in following this series, three more events will be held in New York City in the upcoming months.