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Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Cooking with Rossella and her Nonnas

    Cooking with Nonna is a web-series cooking show on www.cookingwithnonna.com. On the show Rossella Rago, a beautiful Italian American actress from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn whose heritage finds its source in Mola di Bari, a small fishing village in Puglia where her parents grew up, merges traditional Italian cooking with the new generation by inviting a new Nonna (Grandmother in Italian) on each show to make the most traditional recipes from Italy.

    A new episode is streamed every Monday evening at 8pm and it features a new recipe and a short Bio of the guest Nonna.

    A few lucky ones had the opportunity to meet Rossella and two Nonnas (one was a guest, the other was Rossella's real grandmother) for a night of traditional recipes at Joanne Trattoria, owned by Joe and Cynthia Germanotta. The dinner was a four course meal during which Rossella, together with her Nonnas, demonstrated each dish. The menu Rossella created for the occasion - Arancini di Riso, Maritati Pasta with Eggplant Meatballs, Pesce Spada al Forno and Cannoli with Ricotta Cream & Nutella Mousse - was a fusion of Sicilian and Pugliese cuisine and, of course, with Rossella's own personal touch.

    Rossella was born into a family of culinary aficionados and food lovers: growing up there was always something on the stove. “Cooking was never just about cooking, it was about family, community, and spending quality time with each other,” Rossella said in the past. Rossella spent most of her childhood in the kitchen with her maternal Grandmother Romana learning the long legacy of recipes passed down through the generations for centuries.

    In addition to inspiring Nonnas from Italy and other countries around the world, to pass down their traditional recipes, entertaining audiences with her show and demo dinners like the one at Joanne Trattoria, and popularizing authentic Italian cuisine, with Cooking with Nonna, Rossella plans to raise awareness and promote healthy eating habits for young women everywhere.

    We had an opportunity to ask her a couple of questions:

    When did your passion for cooking start?
    My passion for cooking was always present in my life. Growing up first generation Italian American cooking was an tremendous part of every day life and culture. In many ways, it was what my family used to keep the bond of the world they had left behind in Puglia strong. Every Sunday was about Ragu' and Focaccia, Christmas time was exclusively about Cartellate and Good Friday was centered around our Scalcione. With all of this going on around me, it was difficult to not form an appreciation for food. When I started attending University I moved in with Nonna Romana and that's when I can say my "training" really began. I was completely inspired by how every single day of Nonna's life was about food and feeding people. She took no short cuts and barely used any modern appliances to make her specialties. Seeing that back to basics approach really made me aware that if these methods and traditions weren't documented they would be lost forever. 


    How did you get the idea of Cooking with Nonna?
    To be honest, the idea of Cooking With Nonna came about through a bit of a joke. While I was living with Nonna I was studying to be a secondary Italian teacher at St. John's University. My parents both knew that teaching was probably not my true passion in life, so after a big holiday meal my father Vito asked the ultimate question. "What do you want to do with your life?" At that time, I'll admit that I would have considered joining the circus, but before I could say that I blurted out "I should host a cooking show! That's the greatest job in the world!"  We both realized there were currently no cooking shows that centered around Italian Grandmothers and the name Cooking With Nonna was born. As a joke! A week later my father bought the web domain www.cookingwithnonna.com and the rest was history.

    

Is there a recipe you particularly enjoy preparing with your Nonna? Why? Any special memories?
    I really love making Orecchiette pasta with my Nonna. It took a long time for me to master making the dough on my own, but she really pushed me to keep doing it more and more and it would get easier. We also tend to fight about how to make the Orecchiette shapes. I usually like using my thumb but Nonna says the only real way to do it is with a knife. We have the same argument every time but it's a battle I will always lose. After all, she is Nonna.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Are You Ready for a "Pasta Sommelier Tasting"?

    There are papa boys and there are pasta boys... the first are the followers of the Pope, the second are experienced and charming young Italian chefs that are taking over Manhattan. As we are in New York, let's find out who these pasta boys are and what they are doing. They are the main characters of  a new cooking experience designed for international consumers by Delverde Pasta.

     

    The Pasta Sommelier Tasting and Cooking Experience was introduced to the press during a special event, held at GDCucine, co-presented by Delverde Pasta, its partners Lucini Italia (olive oils) and Zonin Prosecco, The Italian Trade Commission and La Cucina Italiana.
     
    “The word sommelier is synonym of quality,” Luca Ruffini, CEO of Delverde explained, “thus we want to educate consumers in recognizing and and appreciating pasta of superior quality.”
     
    The Pasta Sommelier Tasting and Cooking Experience is an innovative and interactive product demonstration that not only pleases participants' palates but also expands their knowledge and understanding of high quality Italian food.

    “We are very proud to introduce Pasta Sommelier to the American food market. We are confident that after attending one of our classes, consumers will leave well informed and confident they know what qualifies as premium pasta, like Delverde, and how it improves their favorite pasta recipes.”

     
    Through the years, Delverde, an Abruzzo-based leading past producer, did several interviews a with a variety of food experts ranging from nutritionists, gastronomes, and food tasters to anthropologists and chefs. From these interviews, they realized that there are not enough words in the food vocabulary to adequately describe and compare high quality vs. average or low quality pasta. Therefore, Delverde decided to create a whole new vocabulary and a culture dedicated to pasta. 
     
    Pasta Sommelier is a whole new format that was launched in Milan earlier this year and was a great success, with over 1500 participants attending classes. Each one hour course includes a pasta tasting and a cooking class led by the experienced pasta boys.

    Applying the human senses of touch, smell and sight when analyzing the pasta, before and after cooking it, allows consumers to discern its properties and helps them understand the differences between numerous types of pasta. This process is very similar to the method of wine tasting. 

     
    Each one hour class is divided into three parts: first, participants learn to discern between premium and industrial pasta in a tasting led by Delverde's trained pasta sommeliers. Then they take part in an interactive cooking lesson, and finally reap the benefits of their efforts by enjoying a plate of pasta.
    The steps to discern high quality pasta are five: observe and describe the color of the pasta (Delverde's looks pale compared to the yellow tint of other brands), smell and describe the scent of the pasta (Delverde's has a natural smell, while others have none whatsoever), touch and feel the structure of the pasta (Delverde's is more porous and has a unique touch), taste and describe the flavor of the cooked, plain pasta (Delverde's has a stronger bite and flavor), season and zest the pasta, eat and most importantly enjoy.
     
    In June and July the classes are taking place in prestigious locations , like Bloomingdale's, GD Cucine, Williams Sonoma and Alessi, around Manhattan where the pasta boys have already conquered the city. Their presence creates an Italian atmosphere and will transform the tasting and cooking class into an irresistible and tempting experience. Before going back to Europe in the fall for some classes in Paris and Cologne, the Pasta Sommelier series will continue its North American tour in Montreal, Toronto and San Francisco until the month of October. In total there will be 50 events in New York (for a full schedule check the web site, www.delverde.us) and over 1500 people will have the opportunity to participate too this exceptional and entertaining culinary experience. 
     
    “We are spreading the pasta love,” Vincenza Kelly, the representative of the Italian Trade Commission said, “ICE is fighting hard for education and the promotion of high quality, authentic, Italian products.”
    The initiative is also part of  Italian DINE‐OUT, New York City’s first ever Italian Restaurant Week,  launched by the Italian Trade Commission in New York.
     
     
    Those interested in participating cam register at www.delverde.us. The classes may seat approximately 25 people and are a perfect setting for a unique date night, a night out with friends, and a unique culinary experience.

     

  • Life & People

    Barilla: “ Everything Is Done For The Future”

    “We are a brand for the people, not for the snobbish people.” Guido Barilla, Chairman of Barilla, the world’s largest pasta company, said to a crowd of journalists gathered at Eataly, Manhattan's favorite  emporium of Italian food.

    Barilla has indeed become one of the world’s most esteemed food companies and is recognized worldwide as a symbol of Italian know-how by respecting its long standing traditional principles and values. “Ours is an Italian family company that offers quality products which promote the well-being of the people and communities in the countries in which they are sold.”

    Guido Barilla presented the biography of his father Pietro “Everything Is Done For The Future,” edited by Francesco Alberoni, an Italian sociologist and friend of Pietro’s.

    The book is is available online and in publisher Rizzoli’s bookshops in New York. “The title refers to the last message our father left us before leaving us. In order to continually move forward and look to the future, we first need to be aware of our history.”

    In the year of Pietro Barilla’s birth centenary, and the 20th anniversary of his death, Mr. Alberoni recounts the life, in a conversation format, of a versatile Italian entrepreneur, credited with having made a fundamental contribution to Italy’s international image thanks to his innovative vision and conviction that pasta is the “crown jewel” of Italian cuisine.

    Joining the family company in 1947 while still a young man, Pietro Barilla managed to transform Barilla from just another small Italian pasta company into the world’s largest and best-known pasta brand. A trip to New York after the Second World War opened Pietro’s eyes to the importance of marketing and communication, inspiring stylish designs for the first pasta packaging in the 1950s and pioneering promotional campaigns featuring Italian singers, actors and film-maker Federico Fellini. “I knew I needed intellectuals, artists and cultured people in order to establish our name among the thousands of anonymous pasta companies,” Francesco Alberoni remembers Pietro Barilla as saying.
    Guido Barilla also had something to say about this, “I never saw my father with businessmen, he was always surrounded by artists because he thought they could see things others could not, and through them he could see them too.”

    The Barilla story began in 1877, when Pietro Barilla’s grandfather, who was also called Pietro, opened a small shop in downtown Parma which sold pasta and bread. Today, Barilla is the leader in the global pasta business and the No. 1 pasta brand in the U.S. The story of how Pietro Barilla propelled a family business based in a small town in Emilia Romagna, an Italian region famed for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma products, is not without setbacks – and the biggest blow he faced has an American twist.

    In the early 70s, Italy underwent a period of deep economic trouble and social unrest, with the left-wing Red Brigades group spreading terror across the country.

    The tumultuous times prompted Pietro’s brother Gianni to insist the company be sold to U.S. multinational firm Grace. “Grace didn’t understand pasta. They didn’t believe in it,” Pietro says.

    From the day Barilla was sold, Pietro starts to plan on how he could bring the company back home to Italy. When he manages to do this in 1979, his focus turns to growing the company by bringing pasta to all of Italy, then to Europe and beyond. “Pasta has always held a special place in my heart. Pasta is the soul of Italian cooking.”

    His sons Guido, Luca and Paolo Barilla are continuing where he left off. “My brothers and I had different interests,” Guido recalled, “One of us was a race car driver (Paolo), I was busy with my studies (he studied philosophy) and Luca was the only one immediately involved. Eventually we all came together and took over the family's business.”

    Barilla is today among the top Italian food groups, a world leader in the pasta and pasta sauce businesses in  continental Europe, bakery products in Italy, and the crispbread business in Scandinavia.

    Currently, the Group Barilla owns 30 production facilities (14 in Italy and 16 abroad) and
    exports to more than 100 countries. The U.S. adventure started in 1996; after only three years, Barilla became the #1 U.S. brand. Today, the company has a market share close to 30%.

    Following the mantra “Everything Is Done For The Future,” we can say that the future holds Barilla's first restaurant in Manhattan that will open its doors in November 2013. Located in midtown, the restaurant “will be the perfect place for us to have direct contact with the consumer,” Guido Barilla explained, “we are open to any form of dialogue, we want to hear their opinion and develop new projects.”

    2014 foresees the launch of  gluten-free pasta. The gluten-free industry is expected to reach $8 billion in 2013 as more people begin to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle. Pasta is one of the foods that is missed most amongst people who are living gluten-free, and yet the options for enjoying a gluten-free pasta meal fall short, with limited brands and varieties available on store shelves.

    Wait no more. ““We felt it was important to invest in developing a pasta line for the ever-increasing number of people who are adopting gluten-free lifestyles, ensuring that it delivers the taste and texture pasta lovers expect from Barilla,” says Giannella Alvarez, president of Barilla Americas Group.

     Find more info: www.barillagroup.com/‎

     

  • Art & Culture

    The Restoration and Management of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

     Chumki Bhaban is a 9 year old child from Bangladesh. As a special project she had to draw how to restore the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She drew the iconic freestanding bell tower of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side, with a tunnel on its side. Little men walk through the tunnel to remove soil from underneath the raised end. This was the “Winning Idea.” Yes, this was, more or less, how the tower was straightened by 45 centimeters (18 nches), returning to its 1838 position. The only difference, instead of men, they used giant syringes.

    This is what Professor Giovanni Padroni (University of Pisa) explained to a crowd of art aficionados at the Italian Cultural Institute during an interesting event by the title “Restoration and management of the Leaning Tower and Monuments in Piazza dei Miracoli.” The event, hosted by Ornella Flore, included comments by Warrie Price, Director, Battery Park, NY and Paul Marshall Bray, Associate Counsel, Commissioner's Policy Office at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

    “The Leaning Tower (there is not even a need to say “of Pisa” because we all know what we are talking about) is just like our Statue of Liberty,”  Warrie Price said in her introduction to Professor Padroni's lecture, “it is an iconic figure, a symbol of a city known all over the world.”

    A brief history of the tower (Wikipedia):

    Construction of the tower occurred in three stages across 344 years. Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on August 14, 1173, during a period of military success and prosperity. This ground floor is a blind arcade articulated by engaged columns with classical Corinthian capitals.

    The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-meter foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for almost a century, because the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle. Otherwise, the tower would almost certainly have toppled. In 1198 clocks were temporarily installed on the third floor of the unfinished construction.
     

    In 1272 construction resumed under Giovanni di Simone, architect of the Camposanto. In an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. Because of this, the tower is actually curved. Construction was halted again in 1284, when the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans in the Battle of Meloria.
     

    The seventh floor was completed in 1319. It was built by Tommaso di Andrea Pisano, who succeeded in harmonizing the Gothic elements of the bell-chamber with the Romanesque style of the tower. There are seven bells, one for each note of the musical major scale. The largest one was installed in 1655. The bell-chamber was finally added in 1372. The total amount of years that the building of the tower took was between 185 and 195 years.
     

    In 1987 the tower was declared as part of the Piazza del Duomo, UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the neighboring cathedral, baptistery and cemetery. On January 7, 1990, after over two decades of stabilization studies, and spurred by the abrupt collapse of the Civic Tower of Pavia in 1989, the tower was closed to the public.
     

    “1990 is when the phase of structural strengthening started” Professor Padroni explained, “without ever touching the tower itself. The bells were removed to relieve some weight, and cables were cinched around the third level and anchored several hundred meters away. The final solution to prevent the collapse of the tower was to slightly straighten the tower to a safer angle, by removing 38 cubic meters (50 cubic yards) of soil from underneath the raised end. The final cost of this operation was of 25 millions.”
     

    The Tower also underwent a restoration of its “skin,” as the Professor called its surface in order to repair visual damage, mostly corrosion and blackening, and loss of cohesion. “These are particularly pronounced due to the tower's age, its exposure to pollution, marine aerosol (the sea is only 8 miles away) the rain, and the summer heat.”
     

    Cleaning was mostly performed by restorers who also were climbers, as they had to literally hang from the scaffolding in order to work. They had to work at an angle all day and sometimes at night too. They even invented a new kind of scaffolding to get it done (it looked like a ring wrapped around the tower). They used atomized water, light solvents, mechanical precision tools and, for the surfaces suffering from severe loss of cohesion, they needed lasers.
     

    Professor Padroni also briefly discussed the frescoes of the Camposanto Monumentale and exceptional examples of underpaintings (or sinopie) hosted in the Museum of Sinopie.
     

    The event ended with Paul Marshall Bray's talk about the “parks twinnings” (gemellaggio) and conservation exchanges between Unesco regional Park San Rossore Migliarino Massaciuccoli (close to the Leaning Tower) and the Central Pine Barren Park, in Long Island Peninsula.

  • Events: Reports

    The Roberto Bolle and Friends Gala: A Preview

    Mark your calendars the "Roberto Bolle and Friends Gala" is coming to New York on September 17th, 2013. Italian danseur, Roberto Bolle, currently a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre and La Scala Ballet Company, has put together a show that will feature the best ballet dancers on the scene to take place at the New York City Center.

    The event, which officially is included in the agenda of the 2013-The Year of italian Culture in the United States is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Italian Consulate General in New York, the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities, and the Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE), was announced with a special presentation at the Italian Consulate General in New York.


    “I am proud to be the art director of the Roberto Bolle and Friends Gala, because I think it perfectly represents the culture and the beauty of the Italian people and of my country,” Roberto Bolle said. “I am happy to export it to many places in the world, including the US. I trust that New Yorkers will enjoy the dance performances as much as I enjoyed creating them. We will perform something very Italian, Excelsior.”

    Excelsior is a tribute to the scientific and industrial progress of the 19th century, from the electric light to the telegraph, steam engine, and Suez Canal. As such it foreshadows the Futurism movement.
In the newly unified Italy of post-Risorgimento, the wonders of inventions such as the steamboat, or Volta's pile, the titanic works of the Mont Cenis tunnel or the Suez channel had to convey hope, all evoked in the spectacular ballet with monumental special effects.

    This project at the New York City Center was implemented thanks to Acqua di Parma. Indeed, Acqua di Parma, an icon of the finest Italian lifestyle whose mission is to promote Italian excellence in craftsmanship and the arts is the sole patron of the event. The company has already supported the Roberto Bolle Gala in Piazza San Marco in Venice, in cooperation with FAI.

    “I am more than proud to support Italian culture, and particularly Roberto Bolle, one of the world's greatest dancers and the undisputed Ambassador of the highest artistic and cultural expression of our country,” Gabriella Scarpa, president of Acqua di Parma, said. “Dance is pure poetry, utter beauty, and the talent of Roberto Bolle is a great gift to all those that will enjoy seeing him dance. A true reason for pride for Italy and for us, who decided to support him in this great debut, not just as sponsors of his New York Gala, but also with a special chapter dedicated to him in our book La Nobiltà del Fare, focusing on Italian excellence in craftsmanship and the arts which enjoys the highest Institutional patronage and is included in full right in the agenda of Italy in 2013- The Year of Italian Culture in the United States.”

    Indeed the event at the Consulate also involved a brief video presentation of the book, published by Electa, which features 23 stories selected from the most significant examples of italian creativity, recounted through photographs specially taken by Giovanni Gastel. Together with the photographs, there are some texts written by Andrea Kerbaker to lend a voice to the protagonists, who include Pinin Brambilla Barcilon (restoration expert known mostly for her work on The Last Supper), Renzo Piano (architect), Marco Magnifico (Executive Vice President of FAI), Mimmo Paladino (sculptor, painter and printmaker), Uto Ughi (violinist and conductor), as well as Maurizio Baglini (pianist), Daniele Gatti (conductor), Stefano Conia (violin maker), the Marinelli brothers (church bells makers), Luca Litrico (maker of haute couture for men) and many others. Of course Acqua di Parma and Roberto Bolle are also featured. Acqua di Parma has been a leading player on the luxury market for over 100 years, producing a series of masterpieces of traditional Italian craftsmanship. “With the book and our support for the arts,” Scarpa concluded, “we want to show young Italians that there is a future in the arts and culture. So, do not despair.”

    ----
    La Nobiltà del Fare will be previewed on July 2nd at La Fenice in Venice and it will be released in New York on September 17th after the Gala.

    Gala tickets start at $25  >>>

    ]

  • Facts & Stories

    La Rocca and his Band. From Palermo to New Orleans, and There Was Jazz

    Salaparuta is a town in South-Western Sicily, in the valley of the Belice river, administratively part of the province of Trapani. In 1968 the original site of the town was near epicentre of the Belice Valley Earthquake and  as a result, Salaparuta was completely destroyed and rebuilt not far from the original location. The current Salaparuta is still home to many of the citizens of the old town. Salaparuta is popularly known for its Salaparuta DOC wine production, also the main income source for the town. 

    Only a few people know that Salaparuta “by way of some strange alchemy, can claim many of the families who had a hand 

    in shaping the history of jazz and swing. We feel it is right and appropriate that these families are recognized and remembered, and that their stories are told, even here in Sicily where it all began, on the shores from which they departed for America at the beginning of the twentieth century.”

     
    From Palermo to New Orleans, this is the story of Nick La Rocca, told by Italian TV personality and famous musician Renzo Arbore. Arbore was in town to present his film From Palermo to New Orleans, and there was jazz at the Italian Cultural Institute but also to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Umbria Jazz, of which he is President.
     
    “Few people know that on February 26, 1917, an Italian musician in New Orleans released the first record ever made in the history of jazz. That musician was Sicilian and his name was Nick La Rocca.” These are the opening words of From Palermo to New Orleans, and there was jazz, a documentary shot in Palermo, Salaparuta, New Orleans, New York and Chichago that is a tapestry of the true, fascinating, and larger-than-life, stories of the sacrifices, journeys and musical contributions made by Sicilian families in the United States. This film honors those artists whose influence, enormous success, and importance in the history of global music have been ignored and unrecognized, even in Italy for far too long.
     
    Arbore conceived and wrote the film with Riccardo di Blasi, a longtime friend of the star who is a well known director and a Palermo native. The film features Arbore himself talking to several important guests, including Jimmy La Rocca, Nick's son and an accomplished jazz musician himself. 
     
    The story of the first jazz record ever recorded is easy....that day of 1917, a band names The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, led by la Rocca, was at the Victor's (a record company) studios in New York.  “when the red light went on,” La Rocca recalled, “we had just enough time to count to two and it was a miracle that we were able to start together. I don't know, maybe the good Lord was with us.”
     
    The band, a group of friends who all played in local bands using instruments and musical influences brought with them from the motherland, recorded two songs: “Dixieland Jass band One Step,” and “Livery Stable Blues.” They had a resounding success that surpassed that of Caruso (a native of Campania) and John Philip Sousa, selling a million and a half copies at 75 cents each. “A lot of the music they played was improvised,” Jimmy La Rocca said in the film, “many didn't even know music, they just played.”
     
    The great Louis Armstrong publicly said in an interview that he was inspired by the music of La Rocca and his band at a very young age, referring to the group as the creators of a New Sound.
     
    The film also showcases other important Italian musicians, both hailing from Salaparuta: Louis Prima and Leon Roppolo. Prima rode the musical trends of his time, starting with his seven-piece New Orleans style jazz band in the 1920s, then leading a swing combo in the 1930s, a big band in the 1940s, a Vegas lounge act in the 1950s, and a pop-rock band in the 1960s (Wikipedia). While Roppolo was a prominent early jazz clarinetist, best known for his playing with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. The film also features contemporary jazz musicians of Italian descent who are still influenced by the work of these compatriots. 
     
    Yet From Palermo to New Orleans is not just a musical journey, it is also a personal and historical document which exalts Italian culture and history: there are emotional images of fellow Italians who arrived at Ellis Island,in search of a better life for them and their families. And today we are still living in their footsteps. 
     
     
     

  • Art & Culture

    Andrea Bocelli's Voice is One of the "Voices Of Tuscany"

    Despite his busy schedule, Italian tenor and star Andrea Bocelli took the time to surprise a small group of press representatives gathered at The Ritz Carlton to talk about his native region...Tuscany.

    “My memories of Tuscany are stored deep down in the depths of my soul. They accompany me wherever I go, because I am a product of this land, the sum total of my past, my experiences and my childhood dreams.” Thus writes the maestro in the introduction to the book Voices of Tuscany, a guide to the emotions the much loved Italian region offers its guests written by Giorgio De Martino with quotations, sensations and reminiscences by Bocelli, a Tuscan voice par excellence, himself.

    The book was presented to the press in an event held under the auspices of the Consulate General, with the collaboration of ENIT, Regione Toscana and Toscana Promozione.

    “When asked what Tuscany is to me,” Bocelli started to say, “I reply just like the Chinese, who think China is the center of the world, do. Tuscany, to me, is the center of the world. I have gotten used to traveling all over, and feeling at home wherever I go, but Tuscany remains absolutely irreplaceable. Tuscany is not just the main cities that everybody is already familiar with, Tuscany is much more... it's small towns perched on hill tops, it's undiscovered islands and sandy beaches, it's theaters and music, it's literature and amazing food.”

    The book, published by De Agostini, helped Bocelli discover new places “after reading it I realized I did not know Tuscany at all,” he added, “and that I gave so much for granted. De Martino studied each and every little town thoroughly and really entices the reader to go and experience it personally.”

    De Martino's “elegant and refined words” accompany readers on a unique itinerary through the region, and feature best-known resources as well as less explored, evocative locations, since as the author says: “Tuscany is the region of the soul: I perceive this clearly every time I travel through it. As a non-native and a musician, I profess to consider it my own, as it is for anyone who chooses it as such) adopted homeland, which I have loved, studied and experienced for a quarter of a century. Each landscape, flavor, work of man or nature, has its own melody, an intensity, a color: Tuscany is a score which anyone can play, with their own sensibility, with the instrument of their own experience, wherever they are from. It is no accident that Andrea Bocelli is a native son of this land, an extraordinary singer loved the world over, like Tuscany itself.”

    And Bocelli was not shy in expressing his love for the region, he did it with that frankness he explained is so typical of Tuscan people. “Just like Curzio Malaparte wrote in Maledetti Toscani (his 1956 book that is an attack on middle and upper-class culture) Tuscan people are not phony, they are outspoken and sincere, they will tell you what they think right in your face.” The maestro invited, with an honest smile, all readers to visit Tuscany, express their own voice regarding the emotions it arouses in them.

    The first to share their emotions, along with Bocelli, about Tuscany were ENIT's director Eugenio Magnani, who mentioned the David by Verrocchio and glasses of Chianti, Consul General Natalia Quintavalle, a native of Pietrasanta, in the province of Lucca, who vacations in Cortona, the town of Under the Tuscan Sun, and Alberto Peruzzini, Head of Tourism Toscana Promozione, who shared some interesting data... Americans love to visit Tuscany, “and most of them go to Cortona,” he joked. Last year almost a million Americans visited Tuscany making them the second population visiting the region. “This new book, will suggest new travel experiences,” he added.

    And the list is long: Livorno, Arezzo, Isola d'Elba, Capraia, Barga, Lajatico (Bocelli's hometown and home to the evocative Teatro del Silenzio), Volterra, Montalcino, San Casciano...the map by the index of the book will help any reader with their journey of emotions and unique landscapes.

  • Life & People

    GYROTONIC: A Discipline for All

    Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Julianne Moore, Tiger Woods and Shaquille O’Neal are some of Hollywood’s fittest celebrities, and what they all have in common is
     Gyrotonic.

    This discipline is much more than toning your body for the photographers; it is a holistic approach to movement that is designed to meet the needs of people of all ages, body types and abilities. “Gyrotonic is good for everybody,” says Instructor Silvia Luna Fagioli of Body Evolutions, a studio in Manhattan’s East Village. “Methodology allows users to stretch and strengthen muscles, while simultaneously stimulating and strengthening connective tissues in and around the joints of the body.

    These exercises are synchronized with corresponding breathing patterns, thus enhancing aerobic and cardiovascular stimulation and promoting neuro-muscular rejuvenation.” 

    Silvia, a native of Cesena, has been working as a gyrotonic instructor for the past two years. The discipline was part of her life back in Italy where she was planning to open her own studio. “I became familiar with Juliu Horwarth’s discipline in Rome when I saw the Pulley Tower in another dancer’s studio.” Horvath, a Hungarian dancer with the Romanian  State Opera Ballet and the New York Opera Ballet, developed the gyrotonic discipline, its equipment, and exercises after many years of intense study and self-exploration. Because of injuries that ended his dance career, he began to develop what was once called Yoga for Dancers into the evolved gyrotonic exercises. This unique method offers the same benefits also acquired by practicing yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tai chi, yet it is not derived from these exercises modalities. 

    “Exercises are performed on the Professional Pulley Tower,” Silvia continues, “Through the years I have seen even people in their nineties doing the workout... once a lady walked in the studio using a cane; after the class, she felt she could walk better (this is because the circular, spiraling and undulating movements of gyrotonic help increase the functional capacity of the spine, contributing to a spherical and three-dimensional awareness, resulting in increased equilibrium).

    This is what makes me happy, to see the change, physical and mental, happen right in front of my eyes. People feel better. They simply glow, from the inside out.”

  • The Strength of a Nation: Olmi & Industrial Cinema

    On June 2nd, as part of the celebrations of Italy's Festa della Repubblica (Italy's National Day, celebrating the country becoming a Republic on June 2nd, 1946) NUY's Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo'had a special presentation of three short films by celebrated director Ermanno Olmi drawn from historic works of Italian literature. The event was also a preview of the program Words on Screen, dedicated to the relationship between film and literature.

    “One of the true masters of Italian Cinema,” Baroness Zerilli Marimòwrote in a public statement, “Olmi made these films in his youth while working as a technician at the Edison Company. The films, shot in the mid-1950s feature texts by writers such as Leopardi, D'Annunzio and Pasolini and I see them as a very powerful symbol of the spirit and energy essential in bringing Italy from the destruction of the war to the extraordinary achievements of the economic miracle. Having witnessed those moments personally, I express my hope that Italian today might embrace the spirit of those distant years of reconstruction, finding the motivations and the strength they need in a renovated sense of unity and commitment to the common good.”

    “These films are a synthesis of how the Italian Republic came to be,” Director of Casa Italiana, Stefano Albertini said, “and how things should be again in order to recover a sense of being that Italy has lost.”
     

    In presenting the films, Albertini quoted Article 1 of the Italian Constitution which states that “Italy is a democratic republic, founded on work,” and Article 9 that says that “The Republic promotes the development of culture and scientific and technical research.” Indeed 2013 has been declared to be the Year of Italian Culture in the US.

    The program featured presentations by Francesca Magliuolo, director of Corporate Responsibility for Edison and Sergio Tofetti, director of the Archivio Nazionale del Cinema d'Impresa and of the Piedmont Offices of the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, before showing L'Onda, text by Gabriele D'Annunzio with Giorgio Albertazzi, Dialogo tra un Venditore di Almanacchi e un Passeggere, text by Giacomo Leopardi and Manon Finestra 2, written (uncredited) by Pier Paolo Pasolini (before he came to be the great writer and director that he was).

    Ermanno Olmi was born in 1931 in Treviglio, in a deeply catholic family of farmers and workers. He started working at Edison, Italy's leading electric company, when he was only 14, because his father was an employee. “For me Edison was the whole world,” Olmi has often said. non era un’entità quotata in borsa, era vissuta davvero come una grande famiglia. [...] la ricordo come fosse il mio paese.

    He started organizing after work recreational activities, mostly theatrical representations. “One was so successful that Edison's CEO asked him what he wanted as a reward,” Magliuolo explained, “Olmi replied he wanted a camera. And that's how it all started.”

    From 1953 to 1961 he was commissioned by Edison to shoot a series of documentaries, 40 in total, focusing on the human condition of Edison's workers as well as corporate structures, thus developing a real modern industrial aesthetic. His films focus on themes deeply rooted in the working world, they analyze the oftentimes alienating complexity of the large enterprise and the desire of social promotion.
     

    His thorough chronicles of daily living are carefully injected with psychological insight in the recreation of the rare portraits of workers and operators of the large enterprise that are part of Italian cinema.

    Edison, as well as other major companies such as Olivetti, Fiat, Enel, had an internal production department that produced films not only to record the industrial process but also to strengthen company identity and bring workers together. “Today these films recover the historical, economical and cultural memory of a century,” Tofetti explained. “We see the faces of those people who all worked together at a common project, that of helping for the good of the nation and moving the country forward into progress.”

    In Manon Finestra 2 (1956) we see workers working at the hydroelectric power plant of Cinego at the foot of the Adamello mountain in Italy.

    In Dialogo tra un Venditore di Almanacchi e un Passeggere (1954) Olmi uses the words of one of Leopardi's Operette Morali to think about life, the past and the future.

    In L'Onda (1955), one of D'annunzio's most celebrate poems, Olmi presents us with images of waves and the sea.

    All of Olmi's documentaries are preserved in the Edison historical film library at the Archivio Nazionale del Cinema d’Impresa in Ivrea.

  • Events: Reports

    Who is Biagio Antonacci? The Artist in His Own Words

    Between his first - ever - and his second concerts in New York City, Italian singer and songwriter Biagio Antonacci had a chance to stop by Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò at New York University for a chat… just to get to know him better and to hear his words not just in his songs.

    Casa Italiana’s director, Stefano Albertini, and I-Italy’s founder and editor in chief, Letizia Airos, sat down with the 40 something star and go beyond the surface, with some fun, some deep, and some difficult questions.

    First of all, “who is Biagio?” Airos asked. “Biagio is a lucky guy,” the singer responded while hiding behind the dark shades of his glasses. “He is a boy from the outskirts of Milan, born from a Pugliese father and a Milanese mother, who was lucky enough to have a dream from a very early age. I knew right away that music was my life, no question about it. That’s extremely important for a kid growing up, in my case I worked hard to make my dream come true… to make music the leading character in my life. I have become a man through my music: I write and I sing about what I experience, what I live through.”

    Antonacci, whose latest CD “Sapessi dire no” has become available in the US not only as a digital download but also in CD format, is one of Italy’s leading singers and songwriters whose craft has been influenced by the country’s greatest songwriters: Lucio Dalla, to whom his latest CD is indeed dedicated, Ron, Lucio Battisti, Franco Battiato, Antonello Venditti and Claudio Baglioni. He is very prolific and writes incessantly, this has brought him to write songs for many other artists, mostly women (including Mina and Laura Pausini).

    “Yes, by writing for female artists I have given space to my feminine side,” Biagio smirked as he said this, “I believe that every human being has a side in him/her of the opposite sex. I am surrounded by women, they confide in me and I listen to their experiences. It has always been like that. Men are kinda boring, while women are more interesting. They inspire me. Needless to say, as a consequence, my songs mostly appeal to women, I touch something in them that makes them appreciate me. When I was younger this bothered me. I didn’t like to be labeled as a singer for chicks! But as I grew older and more mature I understood that I should be proud of this. And I am. Plus women are faithful fans, they never leave you.”

    There were plenty of women as well as men, attending the star’s concerts at the Highline Ballroom, so we feel like we could safely say that Biagio’s music overcomes the boundaries of gender. At Casa Italiana, Antonacci admitted he was a bit nervous the previous night, during his first concert in New York, but that the energy was great and he could feel it… New York is one of the most coveted and important arenas in any artist’s career. It represents an unparalleled conquest.

    And Antonacci could not stress enough how important it is to have a goal, something to achieve. It helped him when he was a kid dreaming about making music and motivates him every day. His promise to the audience at Casa Italiana, for example, is to write a song in English and actually coming back and being able to speak English to the audience without an interpreter. “That would be an achievement!” he chuckled.

    But on more serious terms, Antonacci was able to go even deeper in explaining how often when we get something we don’t enjoy it fully. “We are too overwhelmed to actually take it all in,” he explained “I will be able to metabolize my New York’s adventure in a couple of days. So I firmly believe that real joy lies in the wait, in all what comes before THE big event. There is a poem by celebrated Italian Poet Giacomo Leopardi title Il Sabato del Villaggio (Saturday Night in the Village) that explains this perfectly. The verses capture the joy people share while preparing for the Sunday’s celebrations. Sunday is the big day yet people share unique moments of happiness while they are waiting for it to arrive.”

    And Antonacci said, at the beginning of the evening, that he was looking forward to his second concert after the chat at Casa Italiana, because he wanted to enjoy it to the fullest, while he was obviously enjoying his time at the conference. He took a picture of the crowd to post it on his facebook page. He laughed, along with everybody else, at the person who showed him a copy of the Vanity Fair issue that portrays him half naked. He admitted he sings to himself but does not like to sing his own songs… often people on the streets recognize him by his voice. A Voice that has been part of Italy’s soundtrack for decades now. And that has now reached America.

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