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Articles by: Bianca Soria

  • Facts & Stories

    Eataly #2 Is Ready to Open

    “We’ll be there... This summer a second Eataly will be opening in New York. The news has been in the air for months, but now it is much more than just a rumor—it’s almost ready. The location is rather interesting: the Four World Trade Center.

    “We don’t have an exact date yet, really because we are trying to organize a grand and stylish opening”, says Nicola Farinetti, from whom we are trying to get some sort of preview. The CEO of Eataly USA – son of Oscar Farinetti, the father-founder of Eataly – manages to make us even more curious. We can’t wait! 
     

    The central roleof breakfast
    “Colazione (breakfast) is something we have never dealt with before,” says Nicola. “The World Trade Center opens at 7:00AM, so it will be fascinating. We are going to have four different types of breakfast. The rst will be a full breakfast service, at which you can book business meetings.

    It is a challenge that we like; something we have never tried and that we want to concentrate on a great deal.” Then there will be the “Colazione della Nonna” (‘Grandma’s Breakfast’) in the bakery, with cakes, pastries, etc.

    Naturally there will also be an “American Breakfast” that they are trying out now with an egg sandwich in the classic Italian ‘panini’ bread. (“We are experimenting and changing what we don’t like,” Nicola tells us).

    And last but not least, there will of course be the classic Lavazza coffee bar where you can have a traditional Italian breakfast; a quick cappuccino and a croissant, “Our aim is to have ve hundred people inside our store at 8 o’clock in the morning for the rst time.”
     

    Nicola is passionate and enthusiastic. We remember him from the opening of the rst store in the Flatiron district six years ago; he has the same adrenaline. And he has the smile of someone who, despite being young, knows a lot.

    The Farinetti family has not yet put a foot wrong with any of its stores, now found all over the world. The opening of the New York store in 2010 undoubtedly brought them luck. Today it is a place where you simply must go, even if only for a visit.

    But there won’t only be breakfast served at this new spot... “Of course, but you could say that breakfast is the new, big feature. At the end of the day our format is this: eat, buy and learn – all under the same roof.” 

    A store dedicated to bread
    We tried to get another sneak-peak out of him, and we succeeded. This store
    will be dedicated to bread; an important ingredient of an Italian breakfast...“The
    World Trade Center was once a market,” Nicola tells us, “and also a place where something terrible happened – born out of an incomprehension between cultures and the madness of a few individuals. We decided we wanted to tell the story of a food that unites the whole world; that isn’t born naturally like an apple or chicken, but that is created by man – bread. We want to re-unite the world’s populations through their individual breads.”

    All the different types of bread in the world will be made here – from America, South Asia, South America, along with our Italian ‘panini’, naturally. In fact there will be breads from all Italian regions, with a program that will change every two to three months according to what the bakers manage to produce from their ovens.

    And there’s something else important, “we will try to invite communities to tell us about their breads, because we like the idea of explaining why a given type of bread exists... At Eataly we will tell the story of Nigerian bread alongside that from New York, because all types of bread in the world have one thing in common... the use of grain.”
     

    More and more inside news...
    The new Eataly will have all of the third oor of the fourth tower, around 40,000 square feet. And it is going to be a different kind of store. “It will have a horseshoe shape,” says Nicola, “and on the side where the memorial is we’ll have this incredible glass window that overlooks the pools. We will put the restaurant there and the market on the other side, so you will feel the division between market and restaurant much more than in the Flatiron store.” And Nicola gives us some more news. He is too excited not to tell us.

    “We’re going to have a ‘quick- service’. For the rst time we are bringing the Maioli brothers over from Cervia to make piadina from Romagna. We are incredibly lucky because Olive Garden produced an advert stating that a piadina was a ‘quesadilla that spoke Italian,’ so they eliminated the problem of communication, and now all we have to do is explain exactly why ours is so delicious and unique. So that will be a regional Italian development that we hope to be able to illustrate well, again linked to the concept of bread, but a different type – at.”
     

    And will they organize educational events like at La Scuola in the other store? “We won’t have a school like that, we will have something different,” Nicola reveals. “But I can’t tell you everything now... I can only tell you that while at the Flatiron store we have focused on recipes for their educational aspect, downtown we will focus on the product...”

    The nal sample he gives us is regarding the Italian bakery, which there is such a shortage of in New York. If they succeed, we may just have to move our whole newsroom... “We are going to make pastries! We will have a crazy selection of pastries, the classic type that are sold by weight. That is if we don’t end up going crazy in the process, since it is so dif cult to make them like the Italian ones.” 

  • Op-Eds

    Us and Them. A Distinction Without a Difference



    April 19, 2015 : Italy is leading yet another expedition in the mass grave that the Mediterranean Sea has become, fishing out at least 700 bodies from those waters that separate the hopeless from entitled.
     
    700 souls: their hands one moment outstretched  towards the future and the next frantically treading water in the useless effort to catch one more breath.
     
    700 souls: put on those boats and pushed off-board by the armed conflicts and political upheavals in their countries, their heads forcefully kept under water by the scum that human traffickers are, time and time again pulled down to the bottom of the sea by our ineffective attempts to deal with a human displacement of such vast scale, their memory ultimately insulted by the hyenas of the political arena quickly trying to capitalize on this carnage of unprecedented proportions.
     
    700 souls lost at sea, many more lost on dry land.
     
    700 people that used to be us, and now it's them.
     

    Us and them, a distinction without a difference.

  • Op-Eds

    Us and Them. A Distinction Without a Difference



    April 19, 2015 : Italy is leading yet another expedition in the mass grave that the Mediterranean Sea has become, fishing out at least 700 bodies from those waters that separate the hopeless from entitled.
     
    700 souls: their hands one moment outstretched  towards the future and the next frantically treading water in the useless effort to catch one more breath.
     
    700 souls: put on those boats and pushed off-board by the armed conflicts and political upheavals in their countries, their heads forcefully kept under water by the scum that human traffickers are, time and time again pulled down to the bottom of the sea by our ineffective attempts to deal with a human displacement of such vast scale, their memory ultimately insulted by the hyenas of the political arena quickly trying to capitalize on this carnage of unprecedented proportions.
     
    700 souls lost at sea, many more lost on dry land.
     
    700 people that used to be us, and now it's them.
     

    Us and them, a distinction without a difference.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Everything Italians Know About Their Food

    Italian food has become part of the American diet. The book shares this Italian passion with American consumers and at the same time shares the story of the Di Palo family, and their 100 years in New York’s Little Italy.

    Family and neighborhood

    The Di Palo family is one of the oldest in the neighborhood. In the 1970s and 1980s Little Italy underwent drastic changes, and by 1990 Di Palo’s was almost the last Italian store left. Over the years it evolved from an immigrant ‘latteria’ to a full Italian store, from a traditional Italian-American store, to an ambitious Italian-Italian store. 

    Lou Di Palo strived to make his store ”a shining jewel” in a neighborhood that was changing, while not letting those changes affect him or his Italian spirit.

    After World War II, Lou and his father decided it was time to increase the product line: from just simple cheese and other dairy products they started to carry pasta, salami and soppressata. In the sixties they bought an ‘affettatrice’ and started to slice cured meat the Italian style. 

    Little by little the store begun to cater for the Italian Americans and became an anchor in the area. Then, when 40 years ago Lou started traveling to Italy, he discovered how much he didn’t know about Italian foods. He soon made it his mission to learn everything he could about what they sold: “to bring the right product to the people, the way it’s supposed to taste”.

    He felt the need to know and understand the foods better in order to be true to his customers, so that spending a lot of time in Italy, ‘breaking bread with the Italians’, became an essential step in the process.

    A life spent in its entirety surrounded by the foods of Italy: “When people ask me how many years I have been behind the counter, I usually tell them one year more than my age, because my mother was behind the counter from before I was born.”

    Educating America

    A passion for food was what Di Palo wanted to share: “In America we always ate to live, while Italians live to eat, appreciating every facet of their food, wanting to know where the cheese was made, what milk was used, and about the soil and the grass the cows, sheep or goats fed off; they want to know about the type of olives used for their olive oil and why Prosciutto di Parma has this aroma and is different from San Daniele. 

    I know now, when I sell you a piece of Gorgonzola, how it is supposed to taste; when you slice the prosciutto you’re not just going to taste but you’ll smell if it’s Prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele. When I sell you a piece of Parmigiano, you’d better believe you’re getting the best, you won’t find better in Italy. Because I go there, I knock on the doors and I taste the foods myself. I’m not in the class of any big store. I’m a simple family operated business that has the dedication for the foods of Italy.”

    And we can’t help but notice that almost every time we visit, Lou is working behind the counter, and he tells us that this is where he belongs. He loves it and is proud of it. He wants the customers to have a good shopping experience and does his best to achieve it.

    The book


    The book
    is informative and an easy read. It’s about the products, but also about relationships, about how food brings people together: it’s the essence of Italian food.

    In his foreword to Di Palo’s Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy, Martin Scorsese notes that he “grew up eating Di Palo’s food” and after reading the book, di Palo says, Scorsese “enjoyed it so much that he was proud to give it as a Christmas present.” If Scorsese writing the forward was a honor, the biggest honor was that he wanted to give it as a gift.

    After introducing Little Italy and the history of the Di Palo family, the book highlights the diversity of the Italian regions. It then presents, one by one, the Italian essentials: mozzarella, pecorino, ricotta, sea salt (sale marino), anchovies, pasta and prosciutto, “one of the gifts of God”. It delves into the similarities and differences between Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano; and suggests how to select good olive oil.

    There is a whole chapter dedicated to coffee, and Lou learned about it from one of the best, Ernesto Illy. He unveils all the secrets to identifying good coffee beans and using them to make a rich and intense cup of coffee.

    The last chapter is about the region of Trentino-Alto Adige, and Lou presents it through speck, the cured prosciutto that is air dried and salted in the southern Mediterranean fashion, but then also smoked following the Germanic tradition of the area. It’s the finest example of the fusion of the two cultures in the region.

    But what makes this book stand out are not just the fine products presented, the invaluable tips on how to select and store them, the family recipes and the mouth-watering photographs… It’s the stories that come to life through them, the people and worlds we are introduced to during the narration. People whom Lou met along the way and developed relationships with: it’s that very Italianità that adds that unique and unmistakable flavor to the already phenomenal food.

    The future

    Lou is certainly proud of what his family brought to this country and he took it to the best level he could. Each Di Palo generation also took it to a different level: they went from his great-grandfather’s store of 400 square ft to the current one of over 2000. But if you ask him about his future plans, Lou has a clear-cut answer: “How much more can I grow in my lifetime? If our children want to make it bigger or want to expand, I’ll be supportive. But I’ve done enough. Just like my father said when he handed me the keys: I won’t do anymore.” The next step is up to the new generation.

  • Life & People

    Swimming Around the World with One Leg: Salvatore Cimmino, an Ordinary Hero

     When he was just 14, Salvatore suffered from osteosarcoma, and in order to save his life, his right leg had to be amputated well above the knee. 

    At the age of 40, under medical advice to help his recurrent back pains due to the use of obsolete prosthesis, Salvatore took up swimming.

    He could just barely float when he started. Then, eight months later, on July 15th 2006, he made his first crossing from Capri to Sorrento, (22 km), without any prosthetic aid! 

    Soon after that Salvatore’s race of a lifetime begins. It’s not a race against time, but against architectural barriers, for the dignity of the disabled, for their integration and active participation in all aspects of social life.

    It’s a race for awareness, to remind governments that investing in disabled people, in the latest technologies, is a duty and a resource.

    It’s a reminder of the importance to strive towards creating disable-friendly cities.

    It’s a race to partner with banks and trade associations to generate financial instruments which can support disabled people at various stages (including financial) on their path to recovery.

    It’s a race to promote a campaign aimed at ensuring that the National Public Health Systems provide the latest in prosthetic design to all in need.

    Salvatore started off in 2007 by organizing his “SWIM AROUND ITALY” during which he swam ten legs of about 15kms each around the Italian coastline from Genova to Trieste.

    In 2009 he undertook his “SWIM AROUND EUROPE”: 6 legs of up to 40 kms each, including the Straight of Messina, the Strait of Gibraltar, Oresund Strait from Copenhagen to Malmoe, Salvore Cape to Trieste and the English Channel, where he broke the all time Italian record, previously held by an able bodied person. 

    In 2010 he began his project “SWIMMING THE SEAS OF THE GLOBE.  For a world without barriers or frontiers”, a new challenge to conquer the seas of the entire planet. It saw him swimming in the seas of the world: Israel, Italy, Slovenia, Argentina, Canada, New Zealand, in the waters of Lake Kivu in Congo, Australia and Mexico, and United States. On the 28th of June he concluded the Tour in Manhattan participating to the New York Swimming Marathon.

    The 54 km race was organized by the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim with 23 participants. He arrived 15th after swimming for 9 hours 34 minutes and 46 seconds in very cold water, at the end of which he was met by the Italian Consul General of New York Natalia Quintavalle and the Vice Consul Roberto Frangione. 

    This is what Salvatore has to say about his future endeavours:

    “Whilst in New York I was also honored to be invited by the United Nations to formally present my project to the 7th Conference on the UN Convention on People with Disabilities. This event gave me still more strength and determination to continue along the path that will help bring down the wall between civil society and the world of the disabled. My next effort will not involve swimming a long distance crossing but facing the challenge of touching the conscience of world governments to see them legislate in favor of the integration of People with Disabilities through improved mobility, inclusion in the work force and education systems, access to technologies – in a word: the full rights of citizenship. “

    He may have not embarked on these races to set any record, but there is no doubt that Salvatore’s achievements have turned him into a true champion, an inspiration to many, an example of strength and spirit to us all.

  • Life & People

    Teaching Italian through films: The first Beautiful Thing


    We meet Elisa Dossena, an Italian Language Lecturer at Princeton University. Elisa taught and directed Italian language programs in several language schools in the USA and Japan.


    Her research interest lies in the area of new multimedia technologies applied to teaching, and specifically in the use of audiovisual materials in teaching foreign languages. She is the coauthor of a book in the series “Quaderni del cinema italiano” on La prima cosa bella (The first Beautiful thing) by Paolo Virzì.

     
    How did you get the idea of using cinema as a tool to teach Italian?
    This book is the thesis of my Master in Teaching Italian as Foreign Language. It has been written in collaboration with Alberto Borghi, lecturer of Italian at the University Karl IV in Prague. My interest towards teaching Italian through cinema and new technologies has increased over the years and this is how the idea of this thesis, later published by Guerra Edizioni in the series “Quaderni del cinema Italiano” (Booklets of Italian Cinema), came up.
    In 2010, when I was writing my thesis, this movie looked very promising. It was screened at some international film festivals including the Open Roads, New York, won various prizes, was nominated for 18 ‘David di Donatello’ Awards (presented by the Academy of Italian Cinema), and ended up winning Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Actor.
     
    What’s innovative about this book compared with the more traditional language teaching methods?
    In the last two decades, the field of language pedagogy has shown an indisputable success in adopting new multimedia technologies and in utilizing audiovisual material. The language patterns and linguistic structures presented in a movie are authentic, allow the students to familiarize with up-to-date intonation and accents, vocabulary, nonverbal interjections.
    Indeed, in a movie reality is filtered by the camera-lens of the director, but I am using the word “authentic” here in its technical sense, because the movie, its language and its cultural contents are produced for the audience of the target culture.

     
    Watching and listening to dialogues in contexts help students to learn and appreciate the major sociolinguistic and cultural differences that so strongly distinguish and characterize Italian language and culture. With the advantage that dialogues can be more easily understood when represented in a visual dimension.
    The end result is that the learning process is not only effective, but also entertaining.
     
    How does it actually work in the classroom?
    We have chosen key scenes to be watched by the class. The students learn about the story, the characters, they work on the grammar structures, vocabulary, idioms and phonetics.
    In building our lesson, we need to take into consideration the cognitive order of perception. Our brain, in fact, perceives first the visual and then the linguistic-textual elements, activating first the right and then the left hemisphere of the brain.

     
    Here are few activities that we can do when we first introduce the clip:
    o    Sound only (inferring meanings without the images)
    o   Silent viewing (inferring dialogues without hearing the sound)
    o   Still picture description
    o   Description of characters, environment, landscape, background, clothes, etc.
    o   Color matching
    Then, when we show a sequence with both audio and visual together, we can perform:
    o   True/false questions
    o   Dialogue reconstruction
    o   General comprehension questions
     
    After these activities we then begin with detailed analysis of sentence structures and grammatical patterns according to logical and rational principles.
    After working on a few clips the class can watch and enjoy the whole movie inferring meaning based on what previously studied.
     
    Here is a link to an extract of the book >>>
     
     
    What are the challenges of teaching Italian as Foreign Language, and given your teaching experience in Japan, what the main differences, if a generalization is at all possible, between the Japanese and the American students?
    When teaching Italian abroad it is crucial to keep in mind the mother tongue and the cultural context of our students in order to understand their difficulties.  Cultural distance, in fact, can be the source of countless misunderstandings.
     
    For example, in a class of Japanese students, is important to understand the social dynamics amongst them. Not always the student who participates the most is the best one…maybe he is just the one with the highest social status whose presence inhibits the others as it would be considered impolite to answer before him or to contradict him.
    From a cultural point of view, it should be made clear to the student of Italian how we are used to strenuously defend our opinions and individuality, even by maybe raising our voice…
     
    In America we face different sets of problems. The students are more individualistic and competitive; therefore we need to encourage group work and collaboration. Their grammatical competencies are often not strong enough so a lot of time goes into the in-depth study of the grammatical aspects of the language as well as into practicing the pronunciation.
    As far as cultural differences the Americans (as well as students of Italian from many other cultures) will necessitate an explanation of gestures as integral part of our communication, a clarification on a number of stereotypes about our culture in order to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings, or, just to cite an example, an explanation as to why food is an important part of our everyday habits and conversations…
     
    The use of audiovisual materials: movies, TV programs, news, interviews, etc, becomes the best tool of linguistic learning coupled with cultural awareness, supporting the bond between a language and its culture.
     
     
    What did you learn from this project?
    When you are writing a language-teaching book it is crucial to test it with your students. We had to change a few things to ensure that all the activities were properly organized and level appropriate. The class is the best feedback you have.
     
    This book is a great example of how films can be used to enhance the language learning process by developing linguistic, sociolinguistic cultural and intercultural skills, stimulating curiosity and facilitating and informal exchange of opinions amongst the students about the contents of the movie.
     
    Experiencing culture in its living context – which means learning Italian in Italy – is indeed the easiest way. But when this is not possible (as, for example, when students learn Italian outside Italy), multimedia and audiovisual materials become the best tool at our disposal. Videos are a window on Italian language and culture.
     
    Studying a language along with its cultural context is undoubtedly the key to successful communication:” knowing how, when, and why to say what to whom" (American Council for the Teaching or Foreign Languages).
     


  • Facts & Stories

    Mogherini & De Blasio. The Italian Diaspora and its Impact Around the World

    Federica Mogherini, on her first official visit abroad since her designation as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, meets the New York mayor Bill de Blasio at the City Hall. In the presence of Italian media we attend a press conference that highlights the common challenges Italy and New York face, the impact that the Italian Diaspora has had and still has around the world, and how it is crucial, on the basis of the American example, to turn the wave of immigration Italy is experiencing into a source of inspiration and positive outcomes. 

    Bill de Blasio unmistakably proclaims his Italianism in an open and proud manner: by kickingoff the meeting speaking Italian, by proudly showing off the Italian clothes he is wearing, but more importantly by emphasizing how his Italian background is an essential trait not only of his own identity, but also of the intrinsic identity of the US as a whole, given the significant contribution the Italians have made to turn the US into the great country it is today.

    He proudly tells us of when New York welcomed his grandparents at the beginning of the1900s and allowed them to build their life and their future, and how important it is to him that New York today is as welcoming to Italians and other immigrants as it had been at the time of his grandparents.

    “My sense of my origin is a constant in my life – De Blasio says – it’s an every day reality and my sense of pride and appreciation for the homeland that my ancestors come from is always in my thinking.”

    He shows his appreciation for Mrs Mogherini’s visit as the representative of a new Italy that is addressing its challenges head on. Challenges such as economic crisis and increasing social inequalities that are common to Italy and to the City of New York, and that need to be tackled by showing the citizens unwavering commitment and constant progress.

    He goes on asserting that New York has a profound connection with Italy, as “so many New Yorkers have their origins in Italy, and because so many of the leading individuals in all aspects of life in this city are people of Italian descent”

    When the Minister Mogherini takes the floor she first of all expresses her satisfaction in concluding this foreign mission by meeting Mr. De Blasio which she defines “The most Italian of New York mayors”, the one that has embraced his roots the most and a great and inspiring example of the Italian impact abroad.

     “ Italy – she adds - is a superpower in terms of presence around the world, and we need to empower this huge resource we have. Building bridges with a strong leader like you in this part of the world is part of that process”.

    She explains how the complexities of Italy and NY, although different, pose similar challenges in the governing process. Both administrations share the urgency to deliver much needed reforms in order to concretely improve the quality of life of their people and to make the economic crisis more sustainable for all parts of society.

    It is a priority, the Foreign Minister maintains, to deliver the message, especially to younger generations, that politicians and institutions are working towards a common goal of change that can restore hope and a positive outlook about the future.

    The Minister continues by bringing our attention to the fact that it is a country like America that should remind us the value that there is in welcoming other cultures and making them an integral part of our society. “In the hope – she says- that also Italy, once country of emigrants and now facing the challenges of unprecedented immigration flows, could take advantage of what a mix of cultures can bring to our nation, and use it to build a stronger society and a more robust economy”.

    De Blasio concludes by reminding us how the Italian Diaspora and its impact around the world should not be underestimated, as everybody, in his own way, makes a valuable contribution, from the anonymous cafeteria lady down the road who proudly brings up her Sicilian and Tuscan origins in a heavy Australian accent, to big and influential personalities like Pope Bergoglio, “arguably the greatest example we have recently”.

  • Life & People

    Mother's Day... The Italian Way


    VIVA LA MAMMA!

    We’re probably all familiar with the idea of ‘mamma italiana’ fitting that widely spread and easily recognizable sterotype… Strong, caring, dedicated to nurture, protect and feed their babies (whether they’re really such or whether they’re a few decades old) until death (or a witchy daughter-in-law) does them apart…

     

    Whether we like it or not, the concept of ‘mammismo’ is stuck on us italians like wax on your legs when you’re trying to remove any excess hair (and again stereotypes say that us italians have a lot of those too). It’s considered a ‘national characteristic’ abroad, but apparently now also recognized within the borders. In fact at this year’s annual opening of the Regional Ecclesiastic Tribunal in Genova, the Church has validated its existence by announcing that ‘mammismo’, defined as the ‘psychological dependance on your parents’ can be considered a good reason for marriage annulment.


    Sure enough, according to statistics, interfering mothers-in-law are responsible for 30% of all separations and the phenomenon is supposed to be growing as young italians keep on living at home well into their thirties… And while the reasons for that are partly economic, the parents usually go out of their way to indulge their children without restraints ‘while they can’, inevitably contributing to making them unfit for a healthy relationship outside the family home.

     

    I’m sooo tempted to start talking about mothers-in-law now, but I’ll be wise… and move on to the next motherly topic… 

     

    IN THE NAME OF THE MOTHER

    Another  extraordinary example of groundbreaking achievements this year is the Decree Law that finally allows also married Italian mothers to give their surname to their children…

    Up until the beginning of this year, Italian mothers  could only pass on their surname if no father came forward recognizing the baby, which is a bit like saying: I know you needed a man to conceive your baby, but since I can’t prove it, and since this child needs a name, all I’m left with is yours…

    But going back to the new law, my first consideration is that it’s a pity it was NOT promulgated thanks to the deliberate intent and effort of our legislators, nor as a response to the decades long battles italian women have been fighting to change this ancient patriarcal law… 

     

    For this forced step forward in our italian (r)evolution we (italian men and women who welcome this decision) have to thank the European Court of Human Rights for seeing what our legislators were too shortsighted to see: that it is discriminatory to deny women the right to give their child (alias the human being they carry for nine months, give birth to in excruciating pain and attend to relentlessly, from that day forward, for the rest of their lives) their last name.

     

    Anyway, after being scolded by Mother Europe, in January this year Italy quickly proceeded to pass the law that legalizes the naming of the child after the mother…

     

    But here is the catch…the law says that the mother’s name can ONLY be assigned IF there is agreement between the parents… And if there is no agreement? Well, in that case the father’s name prevails… So did I get this right? Isn’t it like saying that the father’s name will keep on being assigned to the child UNLESS there is a specific request from BOTH parents to give the mother’s name? In other words, if until now the Italian State was making this decision, from now on only the Italian fathers will.

     

    Not much of an improvement in my opinion, more than a law created to erase discrimination this looks to me like a pacifier shoved in the mouths of many illuminated women and a few illuminated men… But I have faith, give it time… as we know all dummies are meant to be eventually spat out! 

     

    The reactions of the Italians to this historic development have been of course varied and colorful. 

     

    Many have been wondering why does Europe keep on wasting time on ‘unimportant’ issues when Italy is afflicted by many more urgent and devastating problems... Good point, why should we consider women issues urgent or important?

     

    Others talk about the demolition of the fatherly figure, as if a father is such only when he passes on his name… but, given the patriarcal context, I’m not surprised…

     

    And of course many others welcome the symbolic value of this law, as imperfect as it is, for the cultural innovation that brings to Italy .

     

    As for me, proud Italian mother of children that carry both mine and my husband’s surname, (but only thanks to my husband being Australian), I would like to see the fairest option also become available to all: naming the child after both parents.


     

    MATER SEMPER CERTA EST… NOT ANYMORE

    So let’s move on and talk about an ‘italian mother-to-be’, or maybe not to be…

    A tragic mistake in December last year led to an exchange of embryos between two couples in a Rome hospital. Embryos  have been implanted in the ‘wrong’ mother, now pregnant with twins that are in fact not hers… The expectant mother claims those babies belong to her regardless of their DNA, while the biological parents, whose pregnancy failed to proceed, are obviously also claiming the same. 

     

    By paradox, even if in December those parents had wanted to use someone else’s genetic material to become pregnant, back then it wasn’t legally possibile in Italy… That changed only a couple of months ago when the restrictive reproduction law dating back to 2004 was overturned… 

     

    So who’s going to be the babies’ Mother? According to Italian law the mother of a child is the one who gives birth to it. But here is the dilemma: the law does not contemplate a situation where the biological parents have not given consent to implanting the embryos in a surrogate mother, actually… the law does not contemplate a surrogate mother at all. In fact in Italy any surrogacy arrangement, (commercial or altruistic) is illegal.

     

    So apparently the expectant mother is committing a crime for being a surrogate and would commit another one if she gave up the babies (since the law also states that parents  undergoing medically assisted reproduction “cannot renounce maternity or paternity”)… unless someone quickly comes up with a law ‘ad personam’(very quickly I’d say since these babies will be born soon) to unravel this legal and bioethical knot.

     

    In the meantime that biological mother, unwillingly caught between a medical  mishap and the inadequacy of our legal system, is probably spending this day wondering who, on the next Mother’s Day, will be receiving her babies smiles and loving gaze.

     

    My Mother’s Day wishes today go to her. And of course to my own mamma who today is spending her 70th Birthday and Mother’s Day on a plane from Rome to Chicago just to be with me. Mother’s Day, the Italian way.

  • Events: Reports

    Zucchero Fornaciari, “You’ll Be One of a Kind”

    We meet Zucchero at Eataly’s Birreria on the eve of his Americana Tour, which he will kick-off in New York at the end of April. Laidback, funny, Zucchero answers all of our questions, even the little frivolities, recounting memories of the past and weighing in on current events, shedding light on the sources of his inspiration, explaining his reasons for certain decisions he has made, and unveiling  man deeply rooted in his culture of origin, a man not unlike the international star we have all come to know.

    Growing up
    ‘zuccherino’

    We start by talking about his professional name, Zucchero. It turns out the nickname zuccherino (Little Sugar) was given to him back in primary school by one of his teachers for being such a sweetheart.

    Zuccherino grew up in the small town of Roncocesi, in Emilia-Romagna, where he lives to this day. His house faced the town church. Every morning, before going to school, he was permitted to enter the church to learn how to play the organ in exchange for performing the duties of an altar boy. But his interest in sacred music soon gave way to rock ‘n’ roll, as, to his ear, the church was echoing the sounds of the English rock band Procol Harum. When he wasn’t playing the organ in church or attending school, Zucchero spent time at the Communist Party Cooperative.

    It was an arly lesson in the fine line between the sacred and profane so germane to the rural culture of his region. At the beginning of September every year, a celebration of the patron saint of Roncocesi, Saint Biagio, was held.

    The little town was transformed into a fairground full of amusement park rides and, in the background, foreign music. The fair sowed the seeds of Zucchero’s passion for soul, gospel, and rhythm & blues music. He began listening to Wilson Pickett, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.

    He formed a band and for eight years travelled across Italy, playing private clubs with moderate success. But still, he earned little money and record companies didn’t come knocking on his door. Zucchero wanted to play soul, rhythm & blues, gospel. He wanted to break away from the melodic tradition of romantic Italian music popular at the time. Not surprisingly, Italian record labels dismissed him as having the “wrong kind of voice.”

    American Adventures
    So in 1984 he decided to go to San Francisco and meet Corrado Rustici, a famous musician who had played with Aretha Franklin. “I was surprised,” he says, “by the availability and generosity of great musicians who, no matter if you are no one yet, or have no money, can recognize good music when they hear it. Since then I’ve always had Afro- American members in my band, like Randy Jackson, since my music is a mix of Afro- American music with strains of Italian and Mediterranean melodies.” When he returned to Italy with his newly recorded songs, the record companies suddenly became interested in his work. This marked the beginning of Zucchero’s success and popularity in Italy.

    Over the last 25 years, Zucchero has collaborated with the royalty of the international music scene. He has recorded and toured with Eric Clapton, Andrea Bocelli, Bono, Pavarotti, Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Sting, and Solomon Burke, among others— artists of a caliber that testifies to Zucchero’s unique talent. His first important encounter was with Miles Davis. While trying to save his marriage on vacation in the Maldives, Zucchero received a call from Davis’ promoter saying that Davis had heard his song “Dune Mosse” and wanted to play with him. As the then-incredulous Zucchero laughs: “I had to choose between saving my marriage and going to New York to play with Miles Davis. Opting for the latter proved to be the right choice.” Davis asked Zucchero to tour with him, which they did. The tour would finally attract the attention of the Italian media.

    “Eric Clapton and Miles Davis also gave me a valuable piece of advice,” he adds. “To sing in Italian...Your music, they said, is already international. If you sing in Italian, you’ll be one of a kind.” And they were right. “You know,” says Zucchero, “music talks. Even if you don’t understand the words, you feel the vibrations and what I’m talking about. Music has its own language.”

    Cuba!
    Asked about his recent concert and album in Cuba, he remarks, “I had a long-held dream of recording and doing a concert in Cuba, to explore the native sounds of Havana, playing with the best local musicians. I was invited to the International Festival of Cigars, as important there as the Grammy Awards are here. I met members of the local government, and the Minister of Culture invited me to hold a concert in Cuba. I met with some of the famous Cuban artists and that’s when the ideof mixing my band with them, of arranging my songs with their rhythm, was conceived. Before the concert I was anxious – a good sign that tells me that I am still real, that I’m not on autopilot. But there was something about that place... people coming up to me and offering to take the posters around the city in their private cars to advertise the concert, seeing people arriving on foot or by any means of transportation they could find... it all gave me the feeling they were really looking forward to something big happening.”

    2014 Americana Tour
    On the long, exhausting Americana Tour Zucchero will perform nearly 50 concerts between Canada and the US, playing major cities as well as smaller cities where “No one knows me,” he says, laughing. “But I’ll go anyway.” To cut down on the expenses, the crew will live on their tour bus. “Like the artists of the Seventies,” he says.
    Zucchero, with that unmistakable voice his friend Bono described as “an old oak-aged whisky,” will perform in New York on April 23. He will present his latest album, Sesion Cubana, at Madison Square Garden. The album features seven new songs and six newly arranged
    old time favorites. Among the announced special guests on stage are  Sting, Chris Botti, Dolores O’Riordan, Fher, Sam Moore, Elisa, Jovanotti, Fiorella Mannoia, Andrea Griminelli and more.

    To buy ticket >>>

  • Life & People

    A Recipe for Di... scovery

    INGREDIENTS:

    An American artist on the tracks of her family history.
    A not so well known countryside region, Ciociaria, about 50 miles southwest of Rome, Italy
    Surprise ingredient

    SERVES: Anyone with a passion for Italy or art, or both 

    DIRECTIONS: Read through and let us take you on this enticing journey

    Nancy Campbell was in fact an orphan, according to legend the illegitimate child of a noblewoman, raised by a family in a village not far from Rome, in the region known as Ciociaria.
     

    By searching through birth and baptismal records in many little towns in Ciociaria, Nancy was hoping to discover some family ties… And she did, only not the ones she was looking for. In fact nothing came up about her grandfather, but in the process she came across a second cousin, and at the time the only one in the crowd to speak English, Giulio Tirinelli, the third ingredient of our recipe for di… scovery.

    And like in all the best recipes, when the base ingredients are genuine and complement each other, the end result is a definite success.

    Nancy and Giulio developed a friendship and shared the love for this land , “with unspoiled hill towns, slopes covered with olive trees and vineyards”. Nancy says: “As a landscape painter, I found the landscape of the mountains beautiful and the villages charming, and was amazed at how few tourists there were.”

    So in 2011, with the support of the local government, they started the project “Discover Ciociaria”.

    The first step was the realization of a mural, similar to the one the artist had made in her hometown of Saugerties, with 27 kids from the elementary School of Piglio. After a walk in the nature, under Nancy’s guidance the children, and some excited  parents with them, painted a three meters long mural representing the local landscape.

    But the beauty that was caught by those curious eyes and put on canvas by those young hands was meant to be shared by many more.

    In 2012, with the help of Stefania Bedetti, responsible for the Cultural Affairs department of the Piglio city council, a project symbolizing the friendship of the two countries and celebrating the landscape of Ciociaria and the artists of both regions, Ciociaria, Italy and  the Catskill Mountains of New York State, was begun.  

    Four Italian and four American painters each were given a small section of a photo featuring the landscape near Piglio and each was asked to create a painting, 50cm wide x 70cm high.  The work from the Americans was brought to Italy by Nancy, to be installed on panels, then joined as one large, 200cm x 140cm polyptic, in Italy. 

    “Each artist worked independently, bringing to can-vas their unique interpretation of the landscape. In the spirit of a true voyage of discovery, two of the American artists had never visited Ciociaria, yet, with fresh eyes and imagination, were able to convey the beauty of the Sacco Valley. Each painter brought their individual style to the polyptic, and the end result was a symbolic unity of culture and vision between Italian and American artists who had never met each other, yet celebrated together the beauty of the Italian countryside of Ciociaria.”

    The polyptic was displayed for six months, travelling to each of the six towns of Ciociaria that took part in the project.

    And as the polyptic travelled around the artists followed,  welcomed and taken care of by  enthusiastic local supporters. The guests were touched by the hospitality, and the people of Piglio generously shared the best they had to offer, ‘vino’, ‘grappa’ and typical snacks.

    The polyptic is now on the way to the US to be displayed at the Town Hall in Saugerties, while Nancy keeps on offering  workshops to Americans and others who want to explore this unknown part of Italy.

    In the hunt for old relations Nancy discovered new ones, a home away from home. In a journey where the past insinuates itself into the present, across cultures and continents, moulding a new and peculiar kind of kinship.

    The best tribute possible to that grandfather of unknown origins. No details of his past will ever be known, but his life has  surely created long-lasting roots, his spirit brought to new life  by the strokes of the artists portraying his native landscape.

    If you would like a taste of this traditional yet innovative recipe for discovery, you’ll find the following links  helpful.

    2014 workshop’s website >>>

    Discovering Ciociaria 2013 >>>

    Enjoy!

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