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Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Events: Reports

    Ligabue: his Vision and the World Through his Music

    “Why now? What made you think this is the right moment to come to the US?”
    His voice on the other side of the phone is unmistakably his: deep, virile, deeply rooted in the truth of his soul. “My age,” he replies.

    Renowned Italian singer, songwriter, film director and author Luciano Ligabue caps a recordbreaking quarter-century career with his first-ever concert appearances on the American continent. “I have to play music and I love performing in concerts,” he adds, “I've been doing it for almost 30 years and lately we have started touring outside of Italy, mostly in Europe, to bring our music abroad and experience something new. We usually play in huge stadiums and arenas but abroad we fill smaller spaces where we can have a more direct contact with the fans, where we can have an exchange and some sort of conversation.”

    Liga, that's the way fans and people call him in Italy, has a special personal relationship with the USA, he has even spent part of his summer vacation visiting the East Coast. “I traveled with my family and drove around from New York, to Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC... when you look at the US you see what is happening, or rather about to happen as I believe the US are always a step ahead, in our Western society. You see how things change and what price we pay for it. On a personal note, American culture has molded me: I've been influenced by its literature, music and cinema. To name a few? DeLillo, Springsteen and Ford.”

    Taking off from Manhattan's Terminal 5 on October 19th, Ligabue will continue on to Los Angeles (October 22nd  at the Whisky a Go Go) and San Francisco (October 24th at the DNA Lounge), before touching down at Miami's Grand Central on October 26th. This US run of dates is a continuation of Ligabue's "Mondovisione Tour – Mondo 2014" in support of the iconic artist's 10th studio album "Mondovisione," released in November 2013 and certified Italy's top selling album of that year within four weeks of release.

    “Why Mondovisione? What did you mean by titling your album and your tour that?” I ask. (The word Mondovisione can be translated into English as broadcast worldwide)
    “There are two reasons for this title. First when I grew up when something was broadcast worldwide it meant that it was huge. It was a big deal, while now it's normal. We put our stuff out there for anybody to see. Obviously not everybody is going to check your profile but they can if they want to. So, this is my personal reflection on how things have come to be. The word Mondovisione can also be interpreted as the way the world is seen. Each and every one of us has his/her own unique way to look at the world, not one is alike, and that intrigues me too. In the album I give you what I see, my own vision of the world.”

    “The album features 12 songs and 2 instrumental pieces. They are about the present, love, rebellion and dreams. What can you tell us about them?”
    “I want my music to be an expression of truth, and through my songs I tell mine. This album is very intimate and personal. There are a couple of songs that capture all my indignation and rage against a political system that, at the time the album was released (2013), was hopeless. I could not see a way out. Then there is a love song, Tu Sei Lei, that is a declaration of love for a woman... my woman, I got married last year. In this song I tell her everything even what she doesn't want to hear. There is a song about pain, how it strikes us and changes us forever... and there is room for dreams. The album ends with Sono Sempre I Sogni a Dare Forma al Mondo, as I believe in the strength of our dreams in shaping our world. Things we have today are the result of someone's dream. Think of an inventor, an artist, all those that have created something magnificent. That was their dream, and they made it happen. Our vision is important and powerful.”

    “How powerful is your music?”
    “Music is incredibly powerful and fortunately we haven't really found a way to explain its power. We can't dissect it and analyze it, but we see how it works everyday. People wake up from comas thanks to music. People have problems and troubles but yet they can remember the words to their favorite song: how? At times it feels like the singer/songwriter is speaking directly to you, and it opens your vision of the world. It gives you new energy to face the world.”

    Biography:

The Emilia-Romagna born Luciano Ligabue spent his young adult life working jobs in the region's agricultural factories, while simultaneously moonlighting as a radio DJ and cutting his teeth as a bandleader on the local rock club circuit. Ligabue released his first record at the relatively late age of 30 with an eponymously titled album in 1990. Arguably the most successful debut in the history of the Italian music business,Ligabue's life experiences proved central to the formation of the artist's narrative as a songwriter and in his ability to intimately communicate as a storyteller on a national level. Ligabue the album went platinum connecting him as a solo artist with millions of fans in a way not previously seen in Italy, playing some 250 dates up and down the Italian peninsula over the next 3 years, including a pair of opening slots for U2 on their "Zoo TV Tour" at stadium's in Naples and Turin. By 1997 Ligabue had confirmed himself as a stadium headliner in his own right with the first of 11 appearances at Milan's temple of football and music San Siro. In 2005 Ligabue, set the still unbroken European record for tickets sold in a single concert in the form of a "hometown" gig at Campovolo in Reggio Emilia. As a musician Ligabue has released 10 studio albums, 4 live albums, 2 greatest hits albums, 1 soundtrack album, all certified multi-platinum in Italy.

Ligabue's debut in the world of film proved equally auspicious with 1998's "Radiofreccia" which screened at the Venice Film Festival and was the subsequent winner of multiple trophies at both Italy's Nastri d'Argento and Davide di Donatello awards for his screenplay and direction.  Considered at once a cult classic, commercial success and critical favorite in Italy, "Radiofreccia" was added to the permanent film archive of New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2006.  Also a ublished author, Ligabue has penned 4 works including novels and poetry.

  • Art & Culture

    Exploring Italy Beyond the Traditional Tourist Experience


    Fred Plotkin’s Italy for the Gourmet Traveler is a must-have for all lovers of Italian food and culture. As the cover of the book says, this thick volume (it weighs 2.3 pounds!), now available in e-book edition as well, covers “all of Italy... restaurants, trattorias, food fairs, festivals, bakeries, coffee bars, wine bars, bookstores, gourmet shops, markets, vineyards, farms, wineries, olive oil producers, cooking schools... and much more.”

    Italy for the Gournet Travelers was first published in 1996 and is now in its sixth edition,” says Plotkin, a frequent contributor to i-Italy. “It has gone through an extensive revision process. The way Italian people eat now is different from decades ago, so the material had to be updated. Some examples? Globalization and the economic crisis have influenced the way Italians dine. People do not take long lunch breaks as they used to, there is no time to spend hours at the table. So lunch has become a quick meal, mostly it consists of one dish only. In northern Italy people have Insalatone, large American-style salads. In the past salad was eaten after the main course, but now it has become the main course for many.


    Fred Plotkin presents thousands of interesting facts in these pages and takes us beyond the traditional tourist experience through the nation’s many regions, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, and into more than 500 cities, towns and hidden villages.


    “I take readers by the hand and guide them through my favorite land,” says Plotkin, “a land which is diverse in terrain, history, and tradition. I like to give readers who are traveling through Italy a chance to discover its distinctive foods and wines. Practical advice. Each area has specialties, so look for them on the menu. Let’s talk about a city I like: Ferrara. Ferrara is in Emilia Romagna, just a few kilometers north-northeast of Bologna. Bologna is the city everybody talks about when thinking of this region, but there are many more realities, and Ferrara is one of them. A specialty here is Salama (not salame) da sugo, an intensely flavored and strongly spiced sausage made with coppa di collo (pork neck), pancetta (pork belly), lardo di gola (neck fat), fegato (liver), and lingua (tongue). The sausage is commonly served sliced on a bed of mashed potatoes. If you’re a vegetarian, try cappellacci con zucca, pumpkin ravioli served with a butter and sage sauce...Meat lovers can enjoy them too with a meat ragout. Once in Ferrara visitors should also spend some time away from the dinner table. A must-see is the Museum of the Risorgimento and Resistenza, a place that chronicles the participation of the local patriots in the epic deed of the Italian Risorgimento (the 19th-century movement for Italian unification that culminated in the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861). I believe that a person should not just focus on the gastronomy of a place but understand its larger culture in order to experience it fully.”

    Italy for the Gourmet Traveler entices readers to experience new places. As Plotkin puts it: “If you are in Lombardy, don’t spend all your time in Milan. Go to Mantua. If you are in Liguria, there is not only Genoa but also San Remo. Check out Martina Franca in Apulia, Sulmona in Abruzzo or Siracusa in Sicily. Each place has people who make world-famous regional specialties and a unique local history that makes it come alive.”

  • Facts & Stories

    Re-Reading Italian Americana @ Casa Italiana

    Re-reading Italian Americana is a brilliant analysis of the status of Italian American studies in America and Italy, a powerful appraisal of critical works in the field, and a literary feast. Enriched by Tamburri's original and informed commentary on major writers and poets from di Donato to Mazziotti Gillan, it persuasively argues for the importance of Italian Americana in the American literary and cultural canon. Tamburri has written an indispensable book that is required reading for anyone who cares about multiethnic writing in the contemporary scene.”

    This quote by Josephine Gattuso Hendin, professor of English, New York University sums up in just a few sentences the uniqueness of professor Anthony Julian Tamburri's 198 page compendium that was recently presented at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo. The panel consisted of Tamburri himself  (Dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of Queens College, CUNY), Professor  Josephine Gattuso Hendin and Professor Martino Marazzi, University of Milan / NYU Tiro a Segno program.

    Prof. Anthony Julian Tamburri's research interests lie in literature, cinema, semiotics, 
    interpretation theory, and cultural studies. He has divided his intellectual work evenly between Italian and Italian/American studies, authoring more than a dozen books and one hundred essays circa on both subject areas in English and Italian. Tamburri is also the editor of more than thirty volumes and special issues of journals. He is the director of the Calandra Institute, the executive producer of the TV program Italics and a member of the founding directors of i-Italy.org.

    Re-Reading Italian Americana: Specificities and Generalities on Literature and Criticism (Fairleigh Dickinson, 2013) is divided into three sections. The first section deals with the general situation of Italian/American literature and its reception both in the United States and in Italy. It also discusses other social and cultural issues that pertain to Italian Americana. Section two consists of six chapters, each discussing a specific author; three dedicated to prose (Pietro di Donato, Mario Puzo, Luigi Barzini), three dedicated to poetry (Joseph Tusiani, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Rina Ferrarelli). Section three examines the current state of criticism dedicated to Italian/American literature, the second part focusing on a number of specific works.

    “When I was asked to read this book, I had no idea what I was about to read... but right away Re-Reading Italian Americana: Specificities and Generalities on Literature and Criticism was full of pleasant surprises. It gave me the possibility to explore new ideas and to discover how this culture has deep roots in Italian popular culture,” Professor Marazzi said during the panel presentation.

    “This book is a call to action in the creation of a greater sense of community. It is proof of what Italian Americana is, how it got to be this way and what it can become. It explores several aspects of our history (repression, stereotyping) and this history is a departure point to see the interaction between Italian and American cultures,” Professor Hendin added.

    The book, which is enhanced with the inclusion of an extensive bibliography and a comprehensive index, is a must read for anyone interested in learning what the Italian American experience is all about. “The title includes the word “re-reading,” because we must read this literature in a different way, a way never applied before,” Tamburri explained when talking about the challenges of writing this book and the work he has performed. “This book came to be because we need to remember the voices of our community but also to show that so much work needs to be done in order to move forward.”
    Professor Tamburri touched different topics, from the notion of bilingualism to tribalism and the superficiality of several books that simply “don't cut it.”

    Re-Reading Italian Americana: Specificities and Generalities on Literature and Criticism is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to academic library collections but mostly and invtiation to Italian Americans to get involved and contribute.

  • Peppe Voltarelli
    Art & Culture

    Io tu loro noi: Voltarelli Western-Style

    Italian singer­songwriter Peppe Voltarelli continues to conquer the US. His music has crossed the borders of his native Calabria and reached international audiences. That's how an American film director John Cardiff, shot a short film, rather than a simple video, using as a soundtrack his song “Io tu loro noi,” from his latest album “Lamentarsi come ipotesi.”

    The video is a true homage to Westerns, Cardiff used sequences from classics of the genre and paired them with scenes shot by him featuring Voltarelli. This is a video, and a song, that plays with opposites: color and black and white, you and us “a happy few” and them “a mean crowd.” It is a great retelling of the frontier myth and we discussed it with Voltarelli himself.

    How did you meet Cardiff and how did you decide to make a western­style music video?
    We met during a trip to the West Coast a few years back. We share a passion for John Ford's cinema and all the Western epics, plus he was really curious to hear stories about Calabria, the region I am from. There is something that brings together the Wild West and southern Italy, a really poetic environment made of inaccessible places and people with strong and unique characters... that's how we decided to collaborate.

    So you are a fan of Western films? And why a Western for this song?
    I grew up watching Westerns, the films by the major American directors, like Ford and Hawks, and of course Sergio Leone's work. I was always fascinated by that style of telling life, by the dialogues and the ambiance. "Io tu loro noi" is a complex love story with more than two people involved. I think there is nothing better than the Wild­West codex to talk about a love story, its recklessness, courage, fear, spirit of adventure... the same of the pioneers and the internal struggles of their factions.

    Were you just an interpreter in the video or have you been active in the making of it?
    I completely trusted Cardiff, I was curious to know his point of view. I like his character suspension, his use of slow motion and his character studies.

    Tell us about the contrast between b/w and color.
    The use of b/w represents memory, the story that's crystallized in its past and the example to follow. Color represents the present, our everyday gestures and the continuous struggle between real life and fiction.

    Where was the video shot and do you have any interesting anecdotes to share?
    We shot in Arizona and in Utah, mythological places used in the Western epics. We had a small, talented and passionate crew. We stayed in a Motel which we turned into our production headquarters. I felt totally at home and I kept telling everybody that I totally felt at home. One day I brought an old book on set. It was A cowboy in Texas by Charlie Siringo, a cowboy, lawyer and journalist from Sicily. It was an autobiography set in the Wild West. During dinner someone took me aside to aske me if I though that the Italians were responsible for inventing Western cinema... I leave you with that.

  • Life & People

    Italy in a Day, the Life of Italians by Gabriele Salvatores




    “I'm always looking for new projects. I search the web, I ask around; but this one basically fell onto my lap. I went to my usual Buddhist temple and I was talking to this Italian guy who's an actor. He told me he was acting in a video for a friend of his... it was a video about Italians.”


    Silvia Forni is an Italian photographer and videographer based in NYC, one of many who participated in Oscar winning director Grabriele Salavtores' latest endeavor: Italy in a Day. The collective/social film portrays a day, a day only (October 26, 2013), in the life of Italians – there are those who are happy, those who are sad, those who are in jail or simply having meal with their family. Life can be so many different things...


    Choosing among 44.000 submissions was no easy feat, but that did not scare Salvatores, the team of Indiana Productions and Rai Cinema. Producer Lorenzo Gangarossa adapted a concept developed by Ridley Scott's Scott Free Productions that released the film Life in a Day in 2011. The documentary “shot by film-makers all over the world, serves as a time capsule to show future generations what it was like to be alive on the twenty-fourth of July, 2010.”  Italy in a Day's concept is basically very similar but it concentrates on the condition of Italy and its inhabitants.


    Producer Lorenzo Gangarossa, whose collaborators were, Fabrizio Donvito, Marco Cohen and Benedetto Habib, told the press: “The film is a sort of first ever audio-visual census. We were stunned by the amount of people who told us about their day and I must say that the material has moved us. The film will be presented at the Mostra di Venezia, on September 2nd.. During those 76 minutes audiences will witness the emotional state of a country.” Gangarossa told that a mixed multitude of people have been captured answering questions such as “how's Italy?” “what scares you?” “are you happy?” The social aspect of the project leads to believe that it was mostly young people who participated but surprisingly there were plenty of older Italians telling their stories, including several octogenarians.


    “The question I asked the people I filmed,” Silvia Forni tells of her experience, “was 'are you happy?' because I was interested in knowing that. I hear of so many people who are unhappy and I wanted to collect their stories.” Silvia submitted several clips but the one selected to be in a mosaic of images, portrays a friend of hers in a coffee shop telling us that she is happy.


    “There are moving but also funny stories,” Gangarossa has said, “the film is a sort of emotional journal that has brought us all together. We didn't know what to expect, and we were a bit surprised by the beauty of these 2200 hours of images that our team, coordinated by editors Massimo Fiocchi e Chiara Griziotti, had to go through.”


    Salvatores himself has said, “This experiment has been emotional, instructive and interesting. It was made possible only thanks to the technology we have today. It is a sort of modern version of the “message in a bottle” custom, and thousands of people decided to send their message to me. I was careful, respectful.”


    The realities are many: there is an astronaut, Luca Parmitano, a careful doctor and even images shot at the maximum security prison of Bollate. “We talked to the Ministry of Justice and we came to an agreement. We went to the prison and showed some of the prisoners how to use the camera. We left some cameras behind to let them tell their stories. I think it was important to hear their voices too,” Gangarossa added.


    How were the videos selected? Co-producer Danvito told the press; “We tagged each video by subject. Then we knew we wanted to cover the entire day, so all different hours, and most cities, from Pantelleria to Bolzano. We also kept in mind the questions we had offered as options and important life events. We made it to 76 minutes but Italy in a Day is an open project, ever growing, and we are planning to develop it further.”


    So what about the Italy captured in the film? “It's suffering but it's creative and full of energy,” Gangarossa concluded.




  • Art & Culture

    Bringing Futurism to the Stage with Finazzer Flory

    “Tonight we are here to celebrate Futurism, one of Italy's greatest cultural movements. As the Italian Futurism show at the Guggenheim Museum is about to end we are dedicating more to his revolutionary movement that finds in NYC the perfect city for its praise of movement, speed and struggle.” Fabio Troisi, cultural attaché to the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, quickly introduced with these words the first event after summer's break, A Great Futurist Evening, a monologue directed and performed by Massimiliano Finazzer Flory. The actor gives an intense, incendiary performance, that not only retraces the key moments of a revolutionary movement but that “touches the identity of man, at the heart of which voice and body come together to sing, the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt.”

    Adapted from words by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, an Italian poet and editor and the founder of the Futurist movement, and Giovanni Papini, a journalist, critic, poet, novelist, and one of the most outspoken and controversial Italian literary figures of the early and mid­20th century, A Great Futuristic Evening “depicts the life, the movement, the power and the habit of energy that the Futurists demanded from Italy, a country that had, perhaps, already lost the love of danger and fearlessness.”

    This is a show that praises a movement of the past that still has a lot to do with our present. In Finazzer Flory's own words to the press, “the futurists railed against the slow pace of things and praised the sovereignty of the imagination, exalted a technological civilization and its dangerous beauty, they foresaw the advent of the smart devices we are now using... the creation of a city suspended among wires of smoke, is what we now call Google, wireless imagination is our Wi­fi, tattalismo, the futurist belief that touch is important in discovering new senses is now called touchscreen, the spectators at the center of a painting... a web site.”

    But there's more that talks about the present in the words that Finazzer Flory passionately blurts out during his monologue... Italy is described as a “flea market,” a country that needs to be transformed, shaken from its pensive immobility and taken by the beauty of speed and change. “It is from Italy that we launch through the world this violently upsetting incendiary manifesto of ours. With it, today, we establish Futurism, because we want to free this land from its smelly gangrene of professors, archeologists, ciceroni and antiquarians,” Marinetti wrote in the Manifesto of Futurism in 1909.

    “We are in the hands of the bourgeoisie, the bureaucracy, the academics. Opening the window is not enough, we need to break down the doors. Words are not enough, we need to kick,” Giovanni Papini, said in a speech against Rome in 1913 (Speech in Rome and Why I am a Futurist). “I am a Futurist because Futurism means Italy – an Italy that is greater than the Italy of the past, more modern, more courageous, more advanced than other countries.” Papini worked against a useless admiration of the past in favor of the young generation, who should help the nation move forward. The speech, the grand finale of the evening, could not resonate more actual to all those who, a century later, think that Italy is a country in stagnation who needs to move forward in order to get out of its current crisis. “In Italy there is no other company to hang around what if not the futurists – the very serious fact remains, gentlemen, that among these futurists there are geniuses that are worth much more than the pretty redundant chimpanzees that laugh in their face.” Who are the futurists of today? Who is going to help Italy move forward?

  • Life & People

    ExtraTeatro: Bilingual Theater and Fun For All


    Hailing from Rome, ExtraTeatro, a theater company specialized in bilingual theater introducing a second language to children through music, is in New York presenting two shows, Vagabond$ and My Monster Friend, at the 18th annual New York International Fringe Festival – FringeNYC. These are two children’s musicals that had their North American premieres. Both shows are for English and Italian speaking audiences of all ages and are filled with fun sing along songs and zany comedy. The plays have been put together by the writing team of Arianna De Giorgi from Italy and Jason Goodman from America. Arianna is also the show's director, while Jason composes the music and acts. Completing the team is the talented Sicilian actor and musician Andrea Trovato.


    My Monster Friend tells the story of a “Lonely Doctor Science-stein who creates a friend in his lab with a brain he ordered online. “Buongiorno! Oh no! It’s an Italian brain! Don’t worry doctor, this monster makes pasta and knows how to rock.” It's a musical for all ages. As for Vagabond$ “Ciao! Hello! They might not fully understand what the other is talking about… but boy do they know how to put on a show! An American and Italian vagabond form a crazy musical duo.”



    i-Italy had a chance to speak with Arianna as soon as the group arrived in NYC, after a pretty adventurous flight! “The main issue was that Norwegian Airways lost our luggage. Obviously part of the scenes and all our puppets were in there... Basically we had to rebuild everything... it was a race against time, it was stressful but we made it work! It was a relief to see that American children laugh the same way the Italians do.”  



    Director and Co-writer Arianna De Giorgi was born in Rome, studied acting with Giulio Scarpati and worked as an assistant to Oscar winning set designer Dante Ferretti before studying film and television production at NYU.


    Tell us about the importance of making bilingual theater.

     

    Our theater group has developed the project of making bilingual theater using the English language with the goal to bring new generations closer to theater arts using an idiom that is pretty much universal right now. English is part of everybody's cultural heritage right now and it is important as our society is becoming more and more multiracial. Back in 2008 we wrote our first show, I Rock, which brought together artists of different backgrounds: Daniela Remiddi, author of children's theater, director and puppeteer with a strong background in classic theater; Jason Goodman, American musician and actor; Arianna De Giorgi, Italian director who's attended NYU. That show and all the ones that followed really captured audiences – from the teachers to the students of all ages. Our theater offers a new and fun way to learn English. This is mostly made possible by our use of actors whose native language is English working together with native Italians (who always act in Italian) thus offering kids an opportunity to identify themselves with the characters in their adventures and misadventures in a foreign context.


    How did you decide to do all this in a musical way? 



    The use of music in children's theater is pretty much imperative. It's the way to communicate moods, feelings and emotions. Listening to English songs has always favored passion for the English language and the English culture. Jason is a musician whose roots are in the “Americana/Country/Rock’n’ Roll” genres. So he has brought to the shows his own very personal musical key of interpretation that has immediately captured the kids' attention. Seeing the audience sing along his songs always makes us proud.


    How is writing with a partner and on top of that, how is writing in another language?



    Writing with another person is always a challenge but it's also an incredible source of stimuli and ideas. We are not a team only at work but in our private life as well: we have two kids, a three and a five year old. We've worked together for a while now and in the past few years we have developed a working method that's very efficient for us: usually I start by writing down some ideas, then I let Jason review them. He's the one who add the most foolish and fun elements of the story and when he's done we look everything over together. Lately the source of all our ideas is very intimate and real: it comes from our kids! At home we speak both languages. This is a constant in our private life and in the linguistic approach of our writings.

     

    Tell us about the origins of the two shows you are presenting at Fringe NYC.


     

    My Monster Friend and Vagabond$ are two bilingual musical comedies that we have been traveling with throughout Italy for the past few seasons. On stage, along with Jason Goodman, there is the Sicilian actor Andrea Trovato, an irresistible talent whose energy and humor never fail to capture each and every audience member. In Italy, the viewers learn their first English words and sentences, while here in NYC we want them to get familiar with our language and our culture. The two actors are a real comical pair: one is tall and one is short... and they need to be careful not to exchange their costumes...During My Monster Friend they need to quickly change into an astronaut suit. The suits are identical that's why once they messed up, and Jason came out wearing a tight and short suit, while Andrea was lost in a giant suit... it was not done on purpose but its was a perfect comic skit. 


    Future plans?

     

    Next season we'll have our own bilingual theater program at Teatro Belli, in Rome. We are working on two new shows: a musical in English from kids age 12-18, titled Hamlet and Ophelia, and a bilingual show for younger kids titled SpaceCrazy. And then... we'll see what comes out of our American adventure.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Pellegrino Artusi on Trial

    Minestrone is one of Italy's signature dishes, and every region has its own variety. The following is the minestrone recipe from Pellegrino Artusi, the man who’s considered to be the father of Italian cuisine because he was the first intellectual to collect the most important recipes of regional cuisines of Italy (He is often credited with establishing a truly national Italian cuisine for the first time).

    His cookbook "La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiare bene" (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine dining), self published in 1891, collects 790 receipts, from broth to liqueurs, passing through soups, beginners, second dishes and cakes. The approach is a didactic one, each recipe has been tested numerous times and is followed by the author’ s reflections and anecdotes. The book has been a best seller in Italy since its first publication, and has been translated into numerous languages including Spanish, Dutch, German and English.

    Minestrone Ingredients:
    • 2 quarts (2 liters) simmering broth (beef or vegetable)
    • 1/2 cup dried white beans (cannellini or similar), or a cup fresh beans.
    • 1 packed cup each shredded Savoy cabbage, spinach, and beet greens
    • A clove of garlic, crushed
    • A bunch of parsley, a small carrot, a short celery stalk, and a small onion, minced
    • A zucchini and a potato, diced
    • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, or minced, seeded, and peeled sun-ripened or canned plum tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup rice
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Boiling water
    • Grated Parmigiano

    Prep Time: 45 minutes
    Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes 
    Total Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

    Preparation:

    "In the summer of 1855 I was in Livorno, cholera was slithering here and there in many provinces of Italy, and had everyone dreading a general epidemic, which in fact burst out forthwith. One Saturday evening I went into an inn and asked "What kind of soup do you have?"

    "Minestrone," came the answer.

    "Bring me the minestrone," said I. I dined, took a walk, and went to bed, in a room in a spanking new hotel owned by a Mr. Dominici, in Piazza del Voltone. During the night my insides rebelled in a most frightful manner, and I went to and from the privy until dawn, damning the minestrone all the while.

    The next morning I fled to Florence, where I recovered immediately. Monday came the sorry news that cholera had broken out in Livorno, and Mr. Dominici had been the first fatality - minestrone indeed!”

    It was not the soup, but the early symptoms of cholera to cause Artusi’s severe gut pain, yet the episode convinced him to write a renowned recipe for minestrone.

    The vegetables listed above are indicative and they can be replaced according to your tastes and what's available at the market. Simmer the vegetables in the broth. When they’re almost done, check the seasoning, add the rice, and continue cooking, stirring gently. The rice should serve to absorb excess liquid, but if the soup gets too thick, add some boiling water. Serve with or without the grated parmigiano.

    How does the recipe sound? Delicious or outdated?

    A special jury in Italy will decide. Indeed on August 10th, Artusi and his cuisine will be on trial in Emilia Romagna. For the past 13 years, the cultural institution Sammauroindustria has put famous Italian personalities on trial. There is a prosecutor, a defense and the audience is the jury. Armed with a small pallet they pick a side and whoever gets more votes wins. So the food writer Alfredo Antonaros Taracchini will accuse Artusi of being outdated while Piero Meldini, a member of the cultural institution Casa Artusi, will defend Artusi’s cuisine and try to prove that it is still good. Both sides will be supported by two chefs, Alberto Faccani (Ristorante Magnolia Cesenatico) and Silverio Cineri (Ristorante Silverio Faenza). The judge will be played by Gianfranco Miro Gori, the creator of this trial and the president of Sammauroindustria.

  • Art & Culture

    Armani in his own Words

    He has revolutionized the world of fashion, he actually changed the general approach to fashion and has become one of the ambassadors of Italian style in the world. Giorgio Armani, or King Giorgio, as the Italian press has come to call him, is a fashion divinity and only a few names in fashion conjure so distinctive a look of elegant simplicity.

    But there's more to Armani than fashion and creativity:he is an active entrepreneur always looking at the future but connected to tradition who has no problem criticizing those who suffocate creativity and good taste (oftentimes these people are his colleagues). Rizzoli has just published a new book on the designer from Piacenza by the title “I cretini non sono mai eleganti: Giorgio Armani in parole sue (Idiots are never elegant: Armani in his own words).” The volume, edited by Paola Pollo, was released to celebrate Armani's 80th birthday, which occurred on July 11th (the book was released two days prior, on the 9th).

    In this book Paola Pollo, a journalist at Milan's Corriere della Sera and a renown fashion expert, captures Armani the man first, then the designer and the businessman through his thoughts, statements and lines that marked his long and inimitable career. “For about a year I dove into the maison's archives, with Armani's permission to do so, and went through interviews, public speeches and lectures looking for quotes and anecdotes in order to relate his story and thoughts through his own words, just like the volume's subtitle says.”

    Upon completion of her long archival work, Paola Pollo was astonished by the fact that “The Armani we see today is totally consistent with the Armani who started in this business forty years ago, the same man who had specific ideas on fashion and on what he did not like. I thought that his strong and critical statements could have been a consequence of his success, with success people think they can say whatever they want, but he has always been that way... he's always been focused on his work and he dislikes those who don't do it well. It's no coincidence that back in 1977 he used to say 'I hate who sells smoke and cheats, who has nothing true to offer and pretends to be full of creativity.'” He still does.

    Paola Pollo, who has known Armani for years and has seen numerous of his fashion shows, has discovered a few new things; “It's incredible to see that he knows how to do everything himself. He does not come from a family of dressmakers, indeed his father was an office clerk and he had no interest in fashion. But from the very beginning, Giorgio has taught himself to do pretty much everything.”

    Another great discovery: the effect of Sergio Galeotti's death on the designer's life and the consequent solitude. Back in 2010, Armani himself admitted that the partner's death was the most difficult battle of his life. “Up to 1989, Armani talked about style with lightness,” Pollo recounts, “But after Galeotti's death his words are impregnated with great suffering. In addition he is more focused on the economic side of the business, something he did not care about before as Galeotti was taking care of it. Before his death he was more relaxed and at ease, but things changed. He became more lonesome, melancholic and nostalgic.” To prove that, Pollo tells readers how Armani prefers to go home to his cats rather than attend parties. “Sure he has numerous homes and a lovely life but he is more at ease in his own private world.” Last but not least already back in 1980, Armani could not stand clothes anymore, that's why he has been wearing pants and a navy tee since then.

  • Facts & Stories

    The Colosseum's Makeover is a Go

    Back in January 2011 newspapers all over Italy and abroad announced a great, and simply unbelievable, piece of news: entrepreneur Diego Della Valle announced he would fully finance the restoration of Rome’s Colosseum.

    Built in 72 A.D, Rome’s Colosseum, originally named the Flavian Amphitheater, after the Flavian Dynasty of Emperors, has remained the largest amphitheater in the world and is considered to be the capital’s most popular tourist attraction. This monument that once hosted gladiatorial fights, naval battles, re-enactments of famous battles and executions was built in only 9 years using over 60,000 Jewish slaves, it has over 80 entrances and can accommodate about 50,000 spectators. Many natural disasters devastated the structure of the Colosseum, made of concrete and stone, but it was the earthquakes of 847 AD and 1231 AD that caused most of the damage we see today.

    Della Valle’s restoration plans include the following steps: the restoration of the Northern prospectus (5 million and 165 thousand euros); the restoration of the Southern prospectus (1 million 936 thousand euros); the replacement of the closures of the barrel vaults with gates (1 million 680 thousand euros); the renovation, restoration and consolidation of the ambulacra and the hypogea (11 million 500 thousand euros); installations and illumination (about 900 thousand euros); the construction of a Service center.

    “We want to show the world that Italy is a great country and that it works well. We don’t want anything back from this. We aren’t doing it to gain anything. We must do it and we are proud of it.” These were Della Valle’s words back in 2011, as he was giving an explanation why he decided to fund the restoration. He stressed that the decision was made “as a sign of respect to our Country, from an Italian company that is working well in a time of crisis and that represents the Made in Italy all through the world.” Della Valle even joked that he would not put a giant Tod’s shoe on the monument to advertise his company and that the financing was a duty not just a pleasure.

    Let’s move forward in time, at the end of July 2014, five of the Colosseum’s 80 arches have been brought back to their original splendor. The announcement of the completion of the first round of renovations was made by Rome’s Superintendent of Archaeological Heritage, Mariarosa Barbera, during a press conference attended by Diego Della Valle as well. “Today marks the first time that, after years and years of words rather than facts,” Della Valle said, “we can all see that something has really happened. We can all see that the first part of this dear monument has been brought back to its original beauty.”

    Indeed the Colosseum is now sporting its original colors: yellow, ocher, honey and ivory. In order to remove the crusts of smog and other debris that have deposited over the years, the restorers used specific methods to avoid damaging the natural stone spraying room temperature water without addition of solvents. Right before the official unveiling, workers had removed the scaffolding to give Romans and tourists alike a stunning view.

    “By the end of September we will complete five more arches and unveil them too,” Rossella Rea, the Colosseum’s director said, “meanwhile we are putting up more scaffolding and we predict that the restoration will be completed by March 2016.”

    The total cost of the restoration is 25 million euros. Rome’s ex mayor, Gianni Alemanno, said, when introducing the project back in 2011 “The first time Della Valle came to see me in Campidoglio he told me he had 5 million to be used for the Colosseum. I told him it was not enough. He left… but he came back three months later… with 25 millions.”

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