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Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Style: Articles

    Living Ponti Style: Design to be Lived by Living Men

    On the balcony of my bedroom in Milan, growing up I was always admiring the back of a house... it just looked so beautiful on the outside and I wondered what the inside looked like. I even had the courage to walk close to that house, to see it from a different angle and up-close... dreaming of one day having a house as beautiful as that one.

    Imagine my surprise when I walked into the Italian Cultural Insitute a few days back to view the latest installation titled Vivere alla Ponti (Living Ponti style), when I recognized the house of my dreams in Via Randaccio (designed in 1925 by architect Gio Ponti with the collaboration of Emilio Lancia. This was the first house to be designed and lived in by Gio Ponti and seems almost to be a small monument to Palladio, I discovered.

    The exhibition presents a collection of furniture and a series of letters, family photographs, and videos that exemplify the modernity of Gio Ponti, a key figure of 20th century design. On display a collection of furnishings designed by Gio Ponti between 1935 (chair for the first Montecatini Building) and the 1950s (bookcase, bureau, small table, picture frames and rug for Casa Ponti in via Dezza in Milan, 1956-57). The exhibition is enriched with a section devoted to Ponti’s projects in the United States: Alitalia offices (New York, 1958), Time Life Building Auditorium (New York, 1959), Denver Art Museum, (Denver, 1971), MUSA, travelling exhibition of Italian furniture in the U.S.A. (1950-53), furniture for M. Singer&sons (1950s), furniture and walls organized for Altamira (1953).

    The exhibition will be open to the public until Friday, May 31. At the opening the Director of the ICI, Riccardo Viale, together with the curators of the exhibition, Francesca Molteni, founder of Muse, and Franco Raggi, deputy-president of the Milan Ordine degli Architetti, Massimo Vignelli, designer and founder of Vignelli Associates, and Marianne Lamonaca, curator and deputy director of the Bard Graduate Center, spoke thoroughly of the artist who  has inspired generations of designers (including Vignelli himself).

    Who was Ponti? A decade after his death his daughter, Lisa Licitra Ponti, summarized his career as: "Sixty years of work, buildings in thirteen countries, lectures in twenty-four, twenty-five years of teaching, fifty years of editing, articles in every one of the five hundred and sixty issues of his magazines, two thousand five hundred letters dictated, two thousand letters drawn, designs for a hundred and twenty enterprises, one thousand architectural sketches." It was, as she concluded, "a great deal, and all from one man".

    “Ponti called us to him,” Francesca Molteni said at the opening. She and a few collaborators were visiting Ponti's nephew's house and they were inspired by a bookcase, by its simple, beautiful lines and its functionality.

    So, once again, Molteni&C, turned the spotlight on the masters of architecture and design with a project involving a re-make of furniture and furnishings. The project focuses on a collection of furnishings and pieces designed exclusively for private homes or for limited series, presented on the occasion of the 2012 Salone del Mobile. It is the result of in depth research, selection and an analysis of prototypes, made possible thanks to cooperation and an exclusive agreement signed with Ponti's heirs. The collection, put together under the direction of Cerri & Associati Studio, includes furnishings that Gio Ponti designed between 1935 (the aluminum chair for the first Palazzo Montecatini) and the 1950s (the multi-layer elm-clad bookcase, the iconic elm essence chest of drawers featuring different applied wooden handles, the occasional tea table with metal legs and a hand-painted grid, the armchair with a satin-nish brass frame, mirrored frames and the pony skin rug rug, all items present in Ponti's house on Via Dezza in Milan, 1956-57).

    The exhibition, though, is not just a showcase of beautiful pieces of furniture. It represents a life style. “The Architect and the Artist interpret the character of inhabitants, of every inhabitant. Design houses to be lived by living men!” Ponti said in 1957. Thus the creators of the Vivere alla Ponti project wanted to reconstruct the historical and cultural setting where those furnishings were born, understanding their professional needs and technical solutions. They were placed in houses that were thought out for the people who lived in them, for the happiness of children, the comfort of office workers, and the efficiency of work. These are places where architecture, interiors, and furnishings harmoniously come together, designed to “Live alla Ponti.”

  • Life & People

    Politically Correctness, Winners & Losers, Cinema: Let's Talk About it at Le Conversazioni

    Philip Gourevitch, Pierluigi Battista, Lila Azam Zanganeh, Paolo Mieli, Larissa Macfarquhar, Diego de Silva, Stefan Merrill Block, Gaetano Cappelli, Wole Soyinka, Federico Rampini, Jamaica Kincaid and Leonardo Colombati are the writers who participated to the 2012 edition of Le Conversazioni in Capri and had to talk about politically correct.

      Le Conversazioni, scrittori a confronto (Conversations between Writers), created by writer and professor Antonio Monda and film festival organizer Davide Azzolini, is a literary festival that every summer, since 2007, brings together international writers, journalists and intellectuals on the Isle of Capri. In the last few years some of today’s great writers have come together to discuss engaging and challenging topics that are chosen for each year: identity, the relationship between the word and the image, memory, deadly sins, human rights, sexuality and politically correct. The festival, organized by  may be an exclusive affair, but it gets lots of attention by international crowds and the press. It is financed by the Italian government and several major corporations.

    Antonio Monda himself presented the theme, Winners and Losers, of Summer 2013 at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò followed by a screening of the documentary about the previous edition directed by Carlotta Corradi. “The expression Politically Correct is an elegant way to refer to Censorship,” journalist and writer Gaetano Cappelli is captured saying, while novelist Jamaica Kincaid was strang in her belief that “you have to say what you think, no matter the consequences.”

    “For anyone who has an immanent concept of existence, victory and defeat tend to assume an absolute value, while for those who have a transcendent concept the value becomes relative and, in the case of those who have a deep faith, it can become even irrelevant,” this is the issue that Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, Stephen Sondheim, Alessandro Baricco, Jhumpa Lahiri, Adam Johnson, Elizabeth Strout, Claudio Magris and Michael Ondaatje will discuss this upcoming summer. “How important is the human factor in victory or in defeat? Is there room for mediocrity in our lives? “Our goal this summer is to follow, listen, respect yet affirm our thoughts,” Monda affirmed at the event.

    “Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory,” John Steinbeck wrote in The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights and Mr. Monda quoted him during his enticing presentation to the upcoming season.

    Le Conversazioni is the ideal setting to hear your favorite, or not, writers speak with candor and humor. You might get an idea of them and their opinions by reading their stuff but listening to them express their ideas is a quiet different thing. Plus, Capri needs to introduction. It simply is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

    Back in 2007, the New York Times wrote about Monda and this wonderful festival: “The Capri festival is the glamorous summer-vacation edition of an ongoing conversation Monda holds in his Upper West Side apartment, where major literary and film figures mingle with Monda’s less-famous friends and random Italians.”

    Admirers of the Conversazioni series who did not get enough at Casa Italiana, and who are unable to travel to Capri in the summer, had an additional taste of the program at The Morgan Library, where Le Conversazioni, films of my life took place. In a series celebrating the relationship between art, architecture, literature, and film, acclaimed artist Marina Abramović and award-winning architect Daniel Libeskind talked about some of the films that have influenced their lives and work and discussed their relationship with cinema. Film clips were shown to better illustrate the discussion, so the audience was treated to scenes of Italian classics (Teorema by Pier Paolo Pasolini) of new Italian cinema (Le Consequenze dell'Amore by Paolo Sorrentino), of old French horror (Eyes Without a Face by Georges Franju) and of an Iranian documentary (This is not a Film by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) among others.

    They both were amazing nights and, as we said in the past, it is extremely rare to know what inspires the literary minds of our time, and Le Conversazioni is a real treat.

  • Events: Reports

    Ceramics of Italy Bring High Design to the ICFF

    Ceramics of Italy, the trademark for Italian manufacturers of ceramic tiles, sanitary ware and tableware that are members of Confindustria Ceramica, will once again draw crowds in its 5th year participating in the International Contemporary Furniture Fair from May 18-21, 2013 at the Jacob K. Javits Center.

    Sponsored by Confindustria Ceramica, the Italian Association of Ceramics, and the Italian Trade Promotion Agency (ICE) with support from the Italian Trade Commission (ICE’s New York office), booth #1432 will serve as a multi-brand exhibit featuring eight popular Italian tile manufacturers: Atlas Concorde, Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola, Fap Ceramiche, Florim, Refin, Sant’Agostino, Settecento, and Tagina. It will also include a special exhibit on the Ceramics of Italy Tile Competition, celebrating 20 years of exemplary projects by North American architects and designers using Italian ceramics.

    The institutional booth will be a wellspring of design inspiration, showcasing the latest introductions in Italian tile. With each collection, manufacturers continue to push the envelope in terms of design and production, transforming ceramic and porcelain into wood, marble, concrete—even paper!—using advanced technologies and eco-friendly manufacturing processes. Staff will be on hand to give out more information about the products on display as well as the latest developments in the industry.

    North America’s premier showcase for contemporary design, the ICFF annually lures those in  determined pursuit of design’s timely truths and latest trends to an encyclopedic exhibition of up-to-the-moment offerings, as well as a series of fascinating, fun, edifying programs, and a packed schedule of exhibits and features. More than 500 exhibitors from all points of the globe will display contemporary furniture, seating, carpet and flooring, lighting, outdoor furniture, materials, wall coverings, accessories, textiles, and kitchen and bath for residential and commercial interiors. This remarkable throng of exhibitors creates an unparalleled opportunity to view a broad yet highly focused selection of the world's finest, most innovative, and original avant-garde home and contract products side-by-side, under one roof.

    “We are excited to return to ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) for a fifth consecutive year. New York is an important market for our Italian companies and the connections they make with high-profile decision makers make it an event we cannot miss,” Franco Manfredini, president of Confindustria Ceramica, stated.

    Pier Paolo Celeste, the new Trade Commissioner for North America at the Italian Trade Commission New York office, added, “New York has one of the highest concentrations of architects, designers and taste makers in the country, making ICFF a must-attend event. It is the Italian Trade Commission’s mission to offer attendees the chance to witness the latest tile trends, and therefore assist Italian tile manufacturers as they continue to grow in the US market.”

    This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Ceramics of Italy Tile Competition, an annual celebration of design and architecture, sponsored by Confindustria Ceramica and the Italian Trade Commission. To honor the occasion, a special interactive exhibit designed by Maiarelli Studio, will offer a retrospective look at two decades of exceptional residential, commercial and institutional projects. It will demonstrate how prominent architects and designers are using Italian tile in new and innovative ways and will include this year’s grand-prize winners: the Barclays Center by SHoP Architects; the Schaefer/Graf Residence by MRSA Architects & Planners; and the Colorado campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology by HDR Architecture.

    In the days leading up to ICFF, Ceramics of Italy will offer a digital sneak peek of products on its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CeramicTilesOfItaly) as well as on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram (@CeramicsOfItaly). During the four-day show, Ceramics of Italy will be reporting live from the show floor with updates on products, news, events, and hospitality. They will also host a special Instagram Contest with Architizer, a dynamic online community for architects, where ICFF attendees will be encouraged to snap photos of their favorite Italian tiles tagged for the chance to win a trip to Bologna, Italy to attend Cersaie 2013.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Sicily on a Plate at Giusto Priola’s “Cacio e Vino”

    In Search of Lost Time, Proust took a bite of a madeleine and was captured by memories of his childhood in Combray; on Second Avenue in Manhattan, Marie, a 76-year-old woman dining at Cacio e Pepe, had bucatini con sarde (pasta with fresh sardines, pine nuts, fennel, raisins, and bread crumbs) and was immediately transported to her grandmother’s table back in Sicily.

    Food often triggers involuntary memory, and, needless to say, some of our best memories are at the dining table. “I was moved to see this older woman getting so emotional,” Giusto Priola, owner of Cacio e Vino said. “I want to serve people authentic food and I was successful.”

    Giusto, who was born in Misilmeri, a little town
15 minutes outside of Palermo, left Sicily fifteen years ago. “I was amazed by NYC, mostly by how easy it is to do business here. First, I opened a small pastry shop, but my goal was to open a restaurant”. In 2004, he opened Cacio e Pepe, a Roman trattoria named after the pasta specialty. “Cooking is my passion. I never attended culinary school, but back in Sicily, I went to the best school around: my mother’s kitchen.

    At Cacio e Pepe, I began to slip a few Sicilian specialties on the menu. The customers’ feedback was great, and they said I had to open up a new place serving only Sicilian food.” Thus Cacio e Vino was born, serving only classic Sicilian fare, mostly from the province of Palermo (cuisine changes from town to town), like arancini, rice balls with saffron, beef ragù, peas and tomato sauce, or pasta alla Norma, rigatoni with tomatoes, basil, eggplant, and dried, salted ricotta.

    “People of all nationalities enjoy Sicilian cuisine because it is good and healthy, not heavy at all. It features a lot of fish and vegetables, so it’s great for vegetarians too. Think of caponata con panelle (sweet and sour eggplant with chickpea fritters), involtini di melanzane (eggplant rolls stuffed with bread crumbs, pine nuts, raisins, orange zest, and sweet and sour onions), or busiate al pesto trapanese (pasta with tomatoes, basil, garlic and almonds).
    These dishes are the same ones I prepared with my mom. My menu features what I eate growing up. The recipes are 100% homemade.” (And they’re approved by his mom!)


    Cacio e Vino
    80 2nd Ave, New York 
    (212) 228-3269

  • Art & Culture

    Adventures in Italian Opera with Fred Plotkin and... Mirella Freni

    Former President Jimmy Carter embraced classical music and made it a prominent feature of White House. In a conversation with the host of Mad About Music, Gilbert Kaplan, back in 2012, Carter revealed “I would say that my favorite recording of all is about 17 or 18 arias on a CD called Aria: A Passion for Opera. And I listen to it over and over again. Some of the recordings to me are not very superb. Maria Callas has a recording on the same CD that I think - I think she’s off key. But, the best one I think is Mirella Freni signing La Rondine from Puccini. If anybody’s interested, it’s No. 16 on the CD. But that is to me overwhelming. No matter what I’m doing with music in the background, when that particular recording comes on I just have to stop and do nothing but listen.”

    Mirella Freni, one of the greatest sopranos of our time, and her voice have that effect on thousands of people all over the world and a few lucky ones were able to enjoy her presence at the sixth evening of the Adventures in Italian Opera with Fred Plotkin at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò hosted by one of America’s foremost experts on opera, Fred Plotkin.

    “The night was memorable,” Fred Plotkin told i-italy, “because Freni is one of the greatest and most beloved singers of the past 60 years. She is also a woman who is lovely, genuine and unpretentious. My favorite part of the evening came when I watched her looking at her image on a large screen as she performed numerous roles. Her face would change and take on the character and emotions of the role she was observing. I decided, for the last 6 minutes of the program, to play the audio only of "Mi chiamano Mimì" from Puccini's La Bohéme. With her face to the public, the audience got to see this remarkable transformation as she shed 50 years and became the Mimì of her youth.”

    Freni, the “Great diva,” is now retired and is busy with CUBEC Mirella Freni Belcanto Academy. The school was founded by Freni and Nicolai Ghiaurov (Freni's spouse) in November 2002 because of the need to have a central institute to coach young opera singers and piano accompanists for lyric theater. “I am very happy with my decision and thus I have started my second life.” Her life devoted to the opera is the driving force behind this initiative thanks to her never-ceasing and assiduous work with young people during the many hours of lessons at Vignola and Modena.

    The audience who took part of Adventures in Italian Opera with Fred Plotkin was given a chance to witness something rare: Freni in person talking about her artistry and Freni on video or audio where all could partake in that same artistry. What makes Freni a living legend is not the fact that she is just a good singer but she is a master at interpretation. “I never think, thought, about the voice but I focused on becoming the character,” she told the audience, “The most exciting part of my job was studying the part not by looking only at the music but at the words and actions of the opera. That way I was able to give something unique and different for each and every role.”

    Thanks to Mr. Plotkin's questions we were able to find out that playing a character that is going to die at the end of the opera makes no difference in the artist's interpretation, that singing in another language is tough because you not only need to know the words but also their inflections and cadence and that when the audience is clapping vigorously while the singer needs to continue singing, he/she tries to stay in character and needs to remain focused (and patient!).

    Mr. Plotkin and Mirella Freni have known each other intermittently through the years and their familiarity with each other was palpable and made the evening even more interesting and comfortable.

    “I never approach these evenings as press interviews,” Mr. Plotkin added, “Rather, they are opportunities for me and for the visiting artist to teach the audience in the theater as well as those who watch the live streaming. I see these evenings as educational documents that young (and not so young) opera singers can benefit from. In addition, they educate audiences in the theater and at home. The conversation with Freni was a bit different because she told me she felt hesitant about her English after being away from America for so many years. I decided to use the evening to demonstrate and document her remarkable artistry in a way that those viewing can understand what made her great.”

    This season of Adventures in Italian Opera with Fred Plotkin has ended on April 30th with the Metropolitan Opera's Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi, one of the most prominent Italians in the opera world. In a few days, the 2013-2014 season will be announced, but you should hold Oct 1, Oct 24, Nov 13, Feb 27, Apr 4 and Apr 22.

  • Art & Culture

    Velázquez’s Portrait of Duke Francesco I d’Este: on View at the Met

    Velázquez’s Portrait of Duke Francesco I d’Este, one of the great portraits of the 17th century from one of the most prestigious regional museums in Italy, is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from April 16 through July 14. This special loan, which has never before traveled to the United States, also coincides with and celebrates the May opening of the Metropolitan Museum’s renovated New European Paintings Galleries, 1250–1800.

    The painting has temporarily left its home during the closure of the Galleria Estense in Modena due to damages sustained during the severe earthquake in the Emilia Romagna region in May 2012.

    The exhibition,Velázquez’s Portrait of Duke Francesco I d’Este: A Masterpiece from the Galleria Estense, Modena, is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in collaboration with the Soprintendenza per i Beni Storici, Artistici ed Etnoantropologici di Modena e Reggio Emilia and the Galleria Estense. Support is provided by the Consulate General of Italy in New York and Ferrero USA Inc. as part of the 2013 Year of Italian Culture in the United States, an initiative held under the auspices of the President of the Italian Republic, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Italy in Washington with the support of the Corporate Ambassadors Eni and Intesa Sanpaolo.

    Diego Velázquez’s depiction of Francesco I d'Este (1610–58), the Duke of Modena, is one of the artist’s most distinctive portraits. Authoritative and sophisticated, the Duke of Modena appears in Velázquez’s portrait as the quintessential 17th-century ruler and aristocrat. Painted while the duke was visiting Madrid in 1638 to secure the support of King Philip IV, the work conveys the duke’s air of arrogance and sensuality, and is a high watermark in the history of baroque portraiture, while also illustrating the importance of Velázquez's portraits to Spanish diplomacy.

    Francesco I d’Este became Duke of Modena and Reggio Emilia in 1629 and his rule was shaped by the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48). Caught between France and Spain and those countries’ interests in the Italian peninsula, he tried to steer his small state effectively through the perilous waters of international politics. In the fall of 1638, Francesco traveled to Spain, trying to forge a stronger alliance with King Philip IV and to garner financial support for Modena.

    Philip IV was keen to please and impress his Italian ally, and upon his arrival in Madrid, Francesco was given quarters in the new royal residence of the Buen Retiro, where he could admire some of the king’s extraordinary art collections. Philip appointed him Viceroy of Catalonia, Admiral of the Fleet, and a member of the Council of State. The king then bestowed on Francesco the most prestigious honor in Spain, the order of the Golden Fleece. While the duke was in Spain, the king’s court artist, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599–1660), painted his portrait.

    Originally from Seville, Velázquez had moved to Madrid in 1622 and worked for the royal court. Over the years, he produced magnificent portraits of the king and members of the royal family. Philip commissioned an equestrian portrait of the duke and, while the large portrait was never finished, Velázquez must have completed the head of the duke soon after he was given the Golden Fleece—which Francesco sports in the painting. The portrait, therefore, must date between October 24 and November 4, 1638, when the duke left to return to Italy. This work may have been preparatory for the equestrian portrait and could have been brought back to Italy by Francesco.

    In 1843 the painting was acquired by the Galleria Estense in Modena, Italy. The Galleria Estense in Modena. One of the most prestigious museums in Italy, the Galleria Estense owes its outstanding collections to centuries of collecting by the famous Este family. Originally the rulers of Ferrara, they moved their capital to Modena in 1598. There they displayed their collections in a new ducal palace that was rebuilt from 1630 around a medieval nucleus. The collections were enriched through the energy and ambition of Duke Francesco I d’Este, who reigned from 1629 to 1658. The gallery opened to the public in 1854 and the last duke, Francesco V d’Austria-Este, bequeathed the collection to the city in 1859.

    Today, the collection is strong in paintings from the 14th to the 18th century, including outstanding works by Cosmè Tura, Correggio, Dosso Dossi, Annibale Carracci, Guercino, Guido Reni, Veronese, Tintoretto, Bassano, and El Greco. Among the sculptures are terracotta masterpieces by the local Renaissance sculptor Antonio Begarelli. The museum’s holdings also include a significant graphic collection, an important group of decorative works and musical instruments, archaeological material, and one of the most conspicuous numismatic collections in the world.

    In May 2012 a series of violent earthquakes struck the region of Emilia-Romagna, in northeastern Italy, affecting the cities of Ferrara, Mantua, and Modena. In addition to the considerable human toll, historic towns were gravely damaged. Among the 1,295 architectural complexes that sustained damage were churches, abbeys, oratories, castles, and civic and aristocratic palaces. Many buildings were almost completely destroyed and important works of art, especially those in churches, were badly harmed. Altars, frames, stuccowork, organs, tombs, and monuments—entire decorative complexes—were buried under collapsed roofs and walls, and some still lie under ruins.

    Restoration has begun, but will require years of work and vast expenditure. A center for conservation and restoration has been established in the Ducal Palace at Sassuolo, not far from Modena, where more than 1,200 works dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century have been deposited. They will be returned to their original locations following the completion of the reconstruction that is already underway.

  • Art & Culture

    "The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars" Wins @ TFF

    As the 2013 tribeca Film Festival comes to an end we find among the talented winners an Italian film: The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars (Il turno di notte lo fanno le stelle), directed by Edoardo Ponti, written by Italian writer Erri De Luca (based on his story by the same title), gets the Best Narrative Short nod. The 2013 Best Narrative Short Competition jurors were Christine Baranski, Kassem Garaibeh, Jessica Hecht, Chris Milk, and Sheila Nevins, and their comment on the 23 minute life changing story is that “The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars expresses love in its many dimensions and literally gets to the heart of the matter.”

    This is the story of a man and a woman. He is single and alone. She is married. Both are mountain climbers and survivors of  life-changing heart surgeries. Beating in his chest is the heart of a young woman, while she got a new mitral valve. Fate and a promise have bonded them. A short story where the heartbeat gets faster, only to find, at the end, a steady rhythm.

    Six months after their surgeries, Matteo (Enrico Lo Verso) and Sonia (Nastassja Kinski), to celebrate recovery, they set out to climb a peak on the Dolomites, in Trentino, Italy. On their way up the rocky wall they not only share their passion for the mountains, but they also share the pain and fear they went through, and their willingness to test their new heartbeats. Will their hearts survive the challenge? While Sonia’s husband, Mark (Julian Sands), worries about her and feels threatened by the complicity between Sonia and Matteo, the two aim for the summit, opening the route to a new beginning and a second chance at life.

    The short is poetic and strong, heartfelt. Written with honesty and shot with passion. The same passion that author Erri De Luca feels for mountaineering. Actor Enrico Lo Verso was participating at one of the screenings during the festival and told i-italy that De Luca is an avid rock climber, he also suffered a heart attack and just two weeks after his surgery he was climbing again. “I wanted to challenge the mountains right away,” Erri De Luca said in an interview to La Repubblica back in 2012. “The mountains accepted the challenge and allowed me to start the second act of my life, just like it happens to the film's protagonists. That was a test for my new blood circulation and I could do it embraced by the beauty of nature.” Lo Verso, didn't know much about climbing before training for the film, the actor had 4 days to prepare for the climb up the mountain, but said it was a breathtaking experience... and, once on top, Matteo, his character, can declare his love for the girl who gave him a new heart, and a new life. Th audience was taken by the poetry of it all, some even shed a tear.

    Poetry, not just mountain climbing, is a big part of Erri De Luca's life too, and something he has in common with the characters of the film. Erri De Luca is a writer, novelist, story-teller, essayist, translator and poet. He has published more than 60 books, numerous collections of short stories and poems, translated in more than 30 languages. He is considered by many literary experts “a master of the Italian language of the past two decades.” His grandmother was Ruby Hammond, an American woman who moved to Italy in the first years of the past century. His name, Erri, is an Italian version of Harry, his uncle’s name. Erri De Luca started writing when he was a student. For about twenty years he has been a manual worker. His first novel, “Not Here, Not Now,” was published in Italy in 1989. He is a translator from Ancient Hebrew and Yiddish, and is an appreciated translator of several books of the Ancient Covenant. He was awarded the France Culture Prize in 1994 for his “Aceto, arcobaleno,” the Laure Bataillon Award in 2002, for “Tre cavalli” (Three horses), and the Femina Etranger for “Montedidio” (God’s Mountain). In 2010 he was bestowed with the German International Literary Petrarca Award.

    Erri De Luca appeared in a cameo role in the movie “L’isola,” by Costanza Quatriglio, and
    made his debut as a screenwriter and leading actor in the short film “Di la’ del vetro” (Beyond the Glass), presented at the Venice Film Festival in 2011. In “The Night Shift Belongs to the Stars,” he also plays a small role. De Luca has been a member of the jury at the Cannes Festival in 2003. He wrote and starred in several plays including the theatrical drama “In viaggio con Aurora” (Traveling with Aurora). De Luca contributes regularly to several newspapers and magazines. He is a passionate mountain climber. He currently lives in the country near Rome.

    (The biography comes from the site www.thenightshiftbelongstothestars.com)

  • Art & Culture

    Emotions from Pisa: An Unusual Photographic Stroll through the City

    There is more to Pisa than the famous Leaning Tower and you can see that at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò. Indeed the home of Italian culture at NYU is now hosting a unique photographic essay by the title Emotions from Pisa by Stefano Pasqualetti. The pictures will be on view until April 29th. Pasqualetti is an architect who resides in Manhattan since 2011. This is his first solo exhibition.

    “Pasqualetti shows us the Pisa that we know and above all a Pisa that we never noticed. ...This collection of photographs also demonstrate how architecture, through its forms and its surfaces, can evoke emotions that are constantly changing, as sun and seasons take their daily and yearly paths,” Professor of architecture at Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa Howard Burns writes in the preface of the book that accompanies the show and groups together all the images in a meaningful visual essay.

    In his introduction to book, when asked to explain his photographs, Pasqualetti himself replied that it is “impossible.” When asked if his is an attempt to impart information, he replied “unthinkable,” yet we were able to get some answers from him.

     Slide show "Emotions from Pisa"

    You are a native of Pisa, what emotions does the city give you?

    Yes I was born and I grew up in Pisa. Each and every event of my life story took place in the streets, alleys and squares of this city, so I thought I knew it well. I was so used to it that I could not see its most striking facets, including the every day. The biggest surprise I got from Pisa was when I left it to attend University in a different city, in Ferrara. After being away for long periods of time I realized that walking down those same streets I noticed details and ambiances that I had never noticed before. Ours was a sort of courtship during which Pisa let herself be portrayed in her most intimate and simple moments. Rediscovering my native city was the biggest emotion I felt... It's almost a paradox.

    Do you have any favorite parts of the city? If so which ones and why? are they featured in the show?

    My favorite area is called Lungarni, the streets that embrace the Arno river. The city owes its development to the river and its proximity to the sea in medieval times. Still today, the river is tan area that welcomes prestigious buildings and offers wonderful views of the city. Oftentimes those luxurious noble palazzos are mirrored perfectly in the docile water of the river... in other moments those reflections are washed away by the tide. Furthermore, the light seizes the buildings, the water and its reflections, every time in a different way, depending on the season and on the time of day. Great part of the exhibition is dedicated to the Lungarni area and its palazzos, its bridges and those reflections in the water, either during a foggy day, a sunny one or an unusual morning of snow.

    How did you have the idea to put these images together?

    I never really planned on grouping all my images together, it just happened. It came to a point when all the material I had was so vast and confused that I had to organize and catalog it all. It all came together in the book “Emotions from Pisa,” published by Felici Editori and featuring a preface by professor Howard Burns. The show at Casa Italiana followed. It is a small “taste” of my photographic collection, a collection that hopes to wake up the distracted observer and take them through an unusual stroll through Pisa, my city. Enjoy the ride. Bon voyage.

    We learn by walking through the show and by reading the information on the photographer's web site (www.stefanopasqualetti.com) that the pictures can be grouped into a few different categories.

    Elevations – Images of the facades of different palaces. “It’s the face of a story, it’s the face of a beauty. It’s the backdrop to many lives: in short, the facade of a palace. To examine them means being able to see beyond simply the stones or bricks; it means the possibility of being accompanied on a voyage that lasts centuries. It’s like being able to wield a powerful and wonderful form of energy, that, like all energies, is not created or destroyed, but transformed. Only current states are reported in these shots; we can only form hypotheses of reconstructions about past ones. And dream of future ones.”

    Texture – Images of the beauty and intricacy of different surfaces, from the bricks of the Chiesa di San Zeno to those in Via San Martino.

    Skyline – Images of the outlines of buildings against the background a uniquely colored sky. Among them we find the Monumental Cemetery shot at 5:25 am or the Chiesa di San Matteo shot at 5.30 am.

    The cursed – Images of evil looking creatures with fangs and crazy eyes. “Surprising, because they have been in the same position forever, and they transmit the same message of fear, fright, lightness and power through the distance of centuries. Icons and symbols that live in most buildings, and that are just waiting to be seen, to move you, again and again.”

    Snow/fog season
    – Images of a city not used to getting snow. “A city under the snow is always an event. Everything takes on a new guise; the colors, the muffled sounds, but ... the magic is even more surprising for a city so unaccustomed to the whiteness of the flakes. Everyone was astonished and enchanted - the palm trees, the orange trees in the gardens, the roof tiles and, last but not least, the drivers. With one click it’s possible to capture the uniqueness of unusual contrasts, but not the sound.”

  • Art & Culture

    Pretty Dirty Things, Making Fun of NYC

    America as seen by an Italian photographer... over 100 hundred photos, taken around New York... dirty, gritty yet still glamorous...
    "Pretty Dirty Things," on view at Three Square Studio Gallery until the end of June, is the first solo exhibition of Italian fashion photographer Dawidh Orlando. The collection makes fun of the sexual, religious and social aspects of New York City life in a colorful and humorous way, thus it becomes not just a photographic exhibit but also a documentary about the City of today.

    The show ranges from cheeky tableau to documentary photography of Orlando's daily adventures, and of course, there are also some intense portraits of all the beautiful people come to the Big Apple. Orlando's provocative eye plays a consistent throughline and we are invited into his world of pretty dirty things.

    Orlando plays with and downplays the typical American attitude and makes daily life seem anything but typical. An American flag waves free in a blue sky, carrying a strong message, being kissed by the sun. Beside it, an American flag stands full mast atop a woman's lovely butt. In “Draft Piss,” a woman in beautiful high heels squats, and “returns” her Budweiser to its can... Poking fun at the collision between Jewish and Catholic religion, the sexual exchange between a Rabbi and a Nun reigns over all religious restrictions.

    “Pretty Dirty Things” even gets cameos from some of Americaʼs favorite superheroes: Captain America focuses all of his powers on an extra large pizza while Batman and Robin have a not-so-PG interaction. “The exhibition feels like a Fellini film; the characters are straight out of Woody Allen.

    Homeless men and sluts, celebrities and socialites, VIP's and very normal people. Everyone is interesting in this exhibit, and so everyone is equal. It feels like Orlando has boiled down the “melting pot” of Manhattan into 100 sexy quirky images.”

    Orlando likes to focus his camera on his subjects' “sweet weakness.” “I couldn't resist the opportunity to see a gay friend of mine jumping at the opportunity to dress as Cat Woman, or to document a beautiful aspiring model whose breasts are cut and bruised from breast enhancement surgery,” he stated for the press.

    For celeb-seekers, “Pretty Dirty Things” offers no shortage of fame. We see Amanda Lepore, the muse of David LaChapelle, DSQUARED2's Dean and Dan, J. Lindberg, Elio Fiorucci and John Richmond; Terrence Howard, Matthew Modine, and top models Laura Stone and Daphne Groeneveld; and we can't forget politician/comedian Beppe Grillo, rock star Marky Ramone and New York hip-hop legend Rakim with DMX and A$AP Rocky.

    Orlando, 30 years old, now lives in New York. After graduating with a degree in Political Science in Italy, Orlando dove right into the art scene, collaborating with the most prominent Italian and American photographers across the globe. His work has been featured in GQ, Max, Maxim, Details, Blink, and TheFashionisto among many others. Highly involved in shooting underground New York Magazines, Orlando's work can also be seen in Twelv, Relapse, LoveCat and Bullet among others.

    Three Squares Studio opened in 2009, it is a hair salon and art gallery. Founded by Jordan Blackmore (the hair) and Andi Potamkin (the art) the Studio is based on a devotion to beauty, and a willingness to step outside the box. “Pretty Dirty Things” is the perfect collection of pictures for its walls.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Tradition & New Practices: a Marriage in the Production of Olive Oil

    In March 2013 at the New York Wine Expo,  the Italian Trade Commission presented a much anticipated Italian Pavilion at the Jacob Javitz Center Galleria. Over 8,000 consumers, trade representatives and members of the press flocked to the Expo to experience and certainly indulge in a taste of authentic Italy. At the Expo i-italy got a chance to speak with Nazzareno Callipo, owner of Gourmet Cooking & Living, a leading destination for fine Mediterranean products, host of the Olive Oil and Cheese of the Month Clubs (members have the finest olive oils and/or cheeses delivered to their home every month or every other month) and a spot for people who enjoy cooking, eating, entertaining and living a ... " gourmet life."

    “I was born and grew up in Vibo Valentia, on the west coast of Calabria, but I have been living in NY for the last 10 years. I am an environmental engineer and I opened Gourmet Cooking and Living 4 years ago to maintain a link with my country, perhaps the most popular link, food, and with it its traditions that in Italy vary from town to town. I've always had a soft spot for Italian cuisine and above all a passion for olive oil, since I was a child. My family grows olives and produces oil, for personal use, for generations, and I learned about the oil and its plants from them. Since the climate in New York does not allow to cultivate olive trees, I thought that the import of olive oil and promotion of our ancient culture could be an excellent alternative.”

    One of the purposes of being at the Expo, was the continuous promotion of authentic Italian foods and their higher quality. And great quality in the production of olive oil is achieved when Tradition and New Practices come together. Let's discuss that with Nazzareno.

    New World vs. Old World production, the characteristics of each:

    Old World production is driven by the geography of the land and tradition of the people that have lived in it for thousands of years. Products and processing techniques have developed over time, generation to generation, dictated by the needs of a specific area and its people, and were based on a perfect combination of climate and soil conditions, and local resources. The New World is taking the Old World recipes and techniques and adapting them to create products at a larger scale to satisfy the increasing consumer demand. Most of the New World production is driven by investors who are solely looking at the demand of the marked and try to make a profit satisfying it. Additionally, in the Old World, the production of specific products can be regulated by protocols such as DOP, DOC, IGP, etc. which are not meant to satisfy the palate of consumers or the business needs of investors, but to respect the traditions and the typicality that are found in a specific geographical area. These type of protocols are not developed yet in the New World.

    Can the two worlds come together and how?

    In my opinion the two worlds will come together at some point, or at least will come very close. They are already getting closer, as the New World is building traditions and history for itself and the Old World is adopting New World business models and techniques to increase the volume to satisfy the growing demand. However, today in the Old World the link to the territory and its traditions is still predominant while New World techniques find limitations.

    How have new practices and technology improved olive oil?

    To better understand this question, I think it’s important to first describe how the quality of an olive oil is defined. Olive oil has become so important for our diet because of its health benefits related mostly to polyphenol content. Polyphenols are antioxidants that assist in slowing the aging process of the human body. Therefore one of the things that we should consider in a good olive oil is its amount of polyphenols: the higher the better. Besides the health aspect, the quality of olive oil is also linked to the perception of the smell and taste. A good extra virgin olive oil at the least should be pleasant, without any smell of rancid or mold, should have a grassy smell and a taste of olives.

    In addition to the above, to understand this concept, we should briefly explain the production process of Olive Oil. Unlike wine, olive oil is best when it is fresher and doesn’t require aging. It is at its best when it’s still inside the fruit, on the tree, and the fruit is still green. That’s the moment when polyphenols are at the highest concentration. From that moment quality declines after each step of the production process, from the harvest to the press, and the preservation. That’s why it’s so important that all the steps are done with the most care, to extract the oil with the minimum losses. The first and most important factor is the time in which the olives are harvested: a late harvest may induce ripened olives and/or weather damaged olives.

    The second important step is the harvesting method, which could be by hand or by machinery. In both cases it’s important to protect the olives from being damaged. Small cuts on the olives allow for micro leakage of olive oil that oxidizes and deteriorate the olives. The degradation of the product continues for the entire time until the olives are pressed. For this reason it’s important that the olives are pressed as quickly as possible after the harvest.

    The extraction process is also very important and it can damage the quality of the oil significantly if not done properly. Several steps are involved: leaf removal, washing, pressing, kneading, and separation. Finally, preserving it in the proper container, at the proper temperature, and light conditions, would slow down the oxidation process and allow the olive oil to keep its organoleptic properties longer. Each of these steps is critical in the final result and taste the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. With the concept of the minimum losses in mind, over time new practices and technologies have been developed to reduce the damage to the fruit and to improve the quality of the final product: from gentle and fast harvesting practices, to low-temperature extraction systems, to storage without air to prevent oxidation. This is how research and development have helped traditions in creating a better product.

    Are there producers who are refusing to adopt new technology?

    Yes, but for the most part just because they choose to make a product at a lower price, primarily sold at the source in bulk, for either a local market, for bigger companies that will sell it under their own label, or ultimately to other companies that will refine it and use for other purposes.

    What are the regions that are more modern? and who stayed behind?

    I like to say that all regions of Italy have caught up in terms of technology and practices. However, the region of Tuscany has always been the pioneer in the research and development in the olive oil industry. Today, it is possible to find an outstanding olive oil in any of the olive oil producing regions of Italy, with the highest quality standards available on the market. The only differences between regions today are the cultivars used, and therefore the different flavors of the olive oil, and the amount of olive oil produced. Some regions produce a lot more quantities than others. The diversity between regions and the large variety of flavors are the lymph of our Italian Olive Oil Club, where our members have the opportunity to taste every month an olive oil from a different region.

    What are the best oils and how to use them?

    From a health benefit stand point, the best olive oil are the ones that have the highest content of polyphenols and the lowest acidity level. Common values of these two parameters for Superior Category Extra Virgin Olive Oil are above 200 mg/kg for polyphenols and acidity levels between 0.2% and 0.3%. Today, for some cultivars, new techniques are allowing for the production of olive oil with a polyphenol content higher than 600 mg/kg and acidity level even less than 0.1%. From an organoleptic stand point, the best olive oils are the ones that have pleasant scents, no “defects” (unpleasant sensation like rancid or musty) and a fruity and peppery taste. If an extra virgin olive oil doesn’t pinch your throat even a little bit, it is not a good olive oil.

    The best way to use these types of olive oils for human health is to use them raw or at low temperatures. Overheating an olive oil will destroy the polyphenols, and therefore it’s health benefits. However, when frying with a good olive oil, it will induce the flavor to the fried food. Example: try to make French fries at home using a good olive oil. The taste will be much richer than when frying with seed oil. Additionally, ideally you would like to pair extra virgin olive oil with a specific food, depending on the fruity notes and spiciness of the olive oil. For example a light fruity olive oil has sweet notes of almonds or banana and its delicate taste is perfect for steamed fish or a lettuce salad. On the other end, an intense fruity olive oil, with predominant notes of artichoke, or other vegetables, is ideal on stronger flavor such as red meat, vegetable soups, etc. Many people like to just dip bread in their olive oil. Since, in this case, the olive oil is the main ingredient, it would be best to use something strong that will overcome the taste of bread.