Articles by: Letizia Airos

  • Art & Culture

    From Assisi. “St. Francis in New York”. For a “ Free, fraternal, harmonious and reconciled humanity”

    Assisi. The extraordinary Library where Friar Carlo Bottero lives was built in 1230 adjacent to the Cathedral where Saint Francis’ remains had been laid to rest. Saying that he ‘lives’ there seems to us more appropriate than saying that he ‘works’ there.

    The Library and Franciscan Documentation Centre of the Sacred Convent of St. Francis in Assisi, contain a book heritage consisting of about 120,000 volumes, of which the medieval manuscripts represent the most important collection.

    It specializes in theological disciplines, history of the church and of the Franciscan tradition, as well as art and music history. It not only conserves a notable selection of manuscripts and ancient books, but also the prestigious archival material from the Convent’s historic archive and from the archive of the musical chapel of Saint Francis Cathedral.

    Entering Fra Carlo Bottero’s world, the director of the Sacred Covent’s library, is a journey through time, where you find yourself in a unique human and spiritual dimension. Here you’re taken back 800 years, to a XIII century that, if you have attended elementary school in Italy, you’ll immediately recognize.

     But for those of you who didn’t grow up in Italy we could say – hopefully Friar Bottero will forgive us for the profane and very ‘American’ reference –it’s a bit like being in the movie ‘Back to the future’ by Robert Zemeckis, where a very young Michael Fox is catapulted in the ’60, in a party where his parents aren’t yet married. It’s a sense of disconnection, but at the same time one of belonging to that past, which is our own history….

    The miniatures, the texts and their tradition, the collection of musical manuscripts and prints, the icunables… it’s an extraordinary world. The greatness and the importance of the bibliographic and documental heritage of this library are incomparable, and it has consistently been the object of historic, artistic and scientific literature.

    The Library, after having endured the vicissitudes of history and humanity, and having also overcome the 1997 earthquake, which caused deep cracks to the Upper Basilica and unfortunately the death of four people, also conserves St Francis’ ‘Canticles of Creatures’ dating back to 1200.

    Altissimu onnipotente bon Signore, tue so’ le laude la gloria et honore et onne benedictione …

    A text that Italians know very well, since elementary school, considered the first document witnessing the birth of Italian language.

    A sort of birth certificate. A text deemed ‘immortal’ for its content which 900 years later still conveys a message to the whole humanity. A message that transcends religions, whatever they may be: a hymn of love and respect for the creation.

    A message that is current like few are. A true miracle of communication.

    And this miracle perpetuates itself all the way to the US. Directly from Assisi ‘The canticle of Creatures’, with some Franciscan manuscripts, lands in New York for an event that is in a class of its own.

    It’s the first time that manuscripts from the XIII and XIV centuries as well as Papal Bulls pertaining to the Saint of Assisi come to the United States. The exhibition comprises 19 works from the ‘Fondo Antico’ of Assisi’s public library, located in the Assisi Sacred Convent’s library.

    The first prestigious stop is the United Nations headquarters (Nov 17- 28, 2014).

    The second is the Brooklyn Borough Hall (open to the public) where the works will be displayed through the Christmas period.

    We invite you to visit this one in a million exhibition in New York (Dec 2, 2014 – January 14, 2015).

    We reached Friar Carlo Bottero among invaluable books and manuscripts. The Franciscan monk accompanies the exhibition during these important New York exhibitions.

    It’s him who, more than anyone else, together with the ‘technical’ and historic content of these manuscripts, can highlight with his accounts the exceptional nature of what New York is hosting until January 14.

    “ I assumed the direction about eight years ago, but I had always been a regular visitor of the Franciscan Library in Assisi. The familiarity with the manuscripts of the ‘fondo antico’ of course developed in the last few years.” This is how Friar Carlo begins to then proceed by taking us into his world. We ask him how does it feel to live in a library that is so extraordinary both for historical and spiritual reasons.

    “ Routine always tends to ‘devalue’ even the most beautiful and extraordinary things. The awareness of the preciousness and spiritual richness of many of the pieces housed in the Sacred Convent’s Library is renewed especially thanks to the opportunities I have to accompany the visitors and illustrate some of the most relevant pieces to them. Observing their reactions, often the deep emotion I read on many people’s faces, I suddenly realize what treasure we have in our hands and I’m able to again appreciate its value”.

    And he tells us about his first time: when he saw and read the ‘Canticle of Creatures” from the original text.

    When I was a postulant – which is when I entered the convent for a period of trial still in my secular clothes – we visited the library. I clearly remember the first page of the Canticle because of the obvious presence of the musical staff that should have contained the notes, but which had been left blank.

    I didn’t read the whole text, only the incipit: Altissimu onnipotente bon Signore, tue so’ le laude la gloria et honore et onne benedictione.

    What I thought was: “We missed out on the music composed by Saint Francis, but we gained hundreds of different musical versions of the canticles which have later been realized”.

    Something happened at a certain point that Friar Carlo had not anticipated. A woman, Ms Flavia De Sanctis, President of the no profit organization ‘Antiqua’, proposed to take the Canticle and other manuscripts abroad. And where to? The United States of America.

    ‘To tell you the truth at the beginning I was quite perplexed. But the decision was not only mine to make: it has been discussed in length by numerous people who, in various degrees, are responsible of the Fondo Antico, including the Mayor of Assisi and Umbria’s Archives and Books Heritage Superintendents. The main reason why it has been decided to allow what are undoubtedly the most important manuscripts to leave the Library, is the wish expressed by the permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations to host this exhibition at their Headquarters. Once the request had been accepted, the difficulties – which we had many of, even beyond expectation- have been dealt with patiently, one by one.

    A true miracle, keeping in mind the practical and bureaucratic obstacles we had to overcome.

    We ask Friar Bottero to summarize in a few words the reasons why these documents are so relevant in today’s world. And we know it isn’t easy to provide a synthetic answer.

    “Their importance is obviously due to the figure of Friar Francis, it derives directly from being the testimony of his life, of what he said and accomplished. Although intrinsically valuable for being antique, for their contents and for the exquisite miniatures, if it wasn’t for the charm radiating from St. Francis of Assisi they would be ‘some of the many’ medieval documents and manuscripts preserved to this day. St Francis in Assisi is a model of ‘free, fraternal, harmonious and reconciled humanity”

    A ‘free, fraternal, harmonious and reconciled humanity’: a dream in the XIII century, and a dream still today.

    But what are Friar Carlo expectations of this great media exposure?

    “ I am personally a bit reluctant with media, I prefer the rhythm of a book read to that of a video clip or twitter. The time available to each of us is less and less, and I’d rather dedicate it to few things, done well and with no hurry… the exact opposite of the current logic of media communication. This doesn’t prevent me from understanding how media offer inestimable opportunities to express what one has to say. And I believe St. Francis has a lot to say: many things are somehow unknown, and sometimes, once heard, feel as if we had always known them, they seem ancient like the innate truths we hold as human beings. I anticipate many people will be drawn to St Francis and accept our call to approach him through these traces, words and images”.

    Then a realistic and slightly challenging comment on the conservation procedures of inestimable treasures like the “Canticle of Creatures” in Italy.

    “ The protection and conservation of a collection of medieval manuscripts and documents obviously require particular attentions and the implementation of adequate monitoring protocols. We’re not talking about pieces exposed to specific risks, or in particularly critic conditions, even though with the upcoming exhibition we thought necessary for all the pieces to undergo a restorative intervention” – recounts Friar Carlo. As far as the problem of safeguarding and recuperating the books heritage goes, we could open a long chapter on this matter. From this point of view Italy has the ‘misfortune of abundance’: the collections of manuscripts and ancient books are countless, and the available resources are obviously insufficient. And I don’t have solutions to offer!”

    In the end words of gratitude, veiled with emotion:

    “ I don’t know if this is the right place, but gratitude should find its place anywhere. I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the realization of this exhibition. There are so many people to thank; I can’t name them one by one, even though I would like to in order to show how much work is required to bring such a project to life. Along with members of the organizing committee, which we could define “volunteers”, all animated by authentic passion an love for Friar Francis, there are many others who offered professional collaboration. Even in them I felt sincere fondness for this project, they were all strong supporters working to enable the ‘Poor man of Assisi’, the man who defined himself “simple and illiterate”, to enter the United Nations Headquarters and bring his salute to everyone: “May God give you Peace”!

    To all, thank you!”

    We in turn thank Friar Carlo, after St Francis of course who maybe has performed another miracle, to bring together people able to realize such an important mission.


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  • Arte e Cultura

    Da Assisi. "San Francesco a New York". Per una ‘Umanità libera, fraterna, armonica e pacificata’

    Assisi. E’ sorta nel 1230 accanto alla Basilica, in cui erano già state collocate le spoglie di S. Francesco, la straordinaria Biblioteca dove vive Fra Carlo Bottero, ‘vive’ perchè in questo caso la parola ‘lavora’, ci sembra quantomai inappropriata.

    La Biblioteca e Centro di documentazione francescana, del Sacro Convento di S. Francesco in Assisi, possiede un patrimonio librario di circa 120.000 volumi, di cui i manoscritti medioevali rappresentano il nucleo più prezioso.

    E’ specializzata nelle discipline teologiche, in storia della Chiesa e del francescanesimo, in storia dell’arte e storia della musica. Oltre ad un notevole fondo di manoscritti e libri antichi, conserva i pregiati fondi archivistici dell’archivio storico conventuale e dell’archivio della cappella musicale della Basilica di San Francesco.

    Entrare nel mondo di Fra Carlo Bottero direttore della biblioteca del Sacro Convento, significa attraversare, nell’arco di pochi attimi il tempo, e trovarsi in una dimensione spirituale e umana unica.

    Qui tornate indietro di 800 anni, ad un XIII secolo che, se avete frequentato le scuole elementari in Italia, riconoscerete subito. Per poi risalire nei secoli. 

    Ma per chi non è cresciuto in Italia - se Fra Carlo ci perdona il riferimento profano e molto "americano" - diremmo che è un po' come essere nel film di fantascienza ‘Ritorno al futuro’ di Robert Zemeckis, dove un giovanissimo Michael Fox si ritrova all’improvviso negli anni '60, in un party a cui partecipano i suoi  genitori... prima ancora di essere sposati! Una sensazione di distacco, ma al tempo stesso di vicinanza con quel passato, che è il proprio passato ...

    Le miniature, i testi e la loro tradizione, il fondo musicale manoscritto e a stampa, gli incunaboli… un mondo straordinario. La ricchezza e l'importanza del patrimonio bibliografico e documentale di questa biblioteca è unica, ed è stata oggetto di una consistente letteratura storico artistica e scientifica.

    Protetta dalle vicissitudini dell’umanità e della storia - superato anche il terremoto del 1997, che causò profonde lesioni alla alla basilica superiore con la morte purtroppo di quattro persone - la Biblioteca conserva anche il Cantico delle creature che San Francesco dettò nel 1200.

    Altissimu onnipotente bon Signore, tue so’ le laude la gloria et honore et onne benedictione …

    Un testo che gli italiani conoscono bene, appunto fin dalla scuola elementare, considerato il primo documento testimone della nascita della lingua italiana. Una sorta di certificato di nascita. Un testo ‘immortale’ nel suo contenuto, che dopo 900 anni comunica ancora un messaggio per tutta l’umanità. Un messaggio che trascende le religioni, qualunque siano, un canto di amore e rispetto per il creato. Un messaggio attuale come pochi altri. Un vero miracolo di comunicazione.

    E questo miracolo si perpetua fino negli USA. Direttamente da Assisi 'Il cantico delle Creature ,'con alcuni manoscritti francescani, arriva  a New York per un allestimento più unico che raro.

    E' la prima volta che manoscritti del XIII e XIV secolo e Bolle Papali, riguardanti il Santo di Assisi, vengono negli Stati Uniti. La mostra è composta da ben 19 opere proveniente dal Fondo Antico della Biblioteca comunale di Assisi presso la Biblioteca del Sacro Convento di Assisi.

    La prima prestigiosa tappa è alle Nazioni Unite (17 novembre – 28 novembre 2014)

    La seconda è il Brooklyn Borough Hall (aperta al pubblico) e attraverserà il periodo natalizio. Un evento irripetibile a New York (tra il 2 dicembre 2014 – 14 gennaio 2015.)

    Abbiamo raggiunto quindi Fra Carlo, tra preziosi manoscritti e libri. Il francescano accompagna la mostra in queste importanti esposizioni newyorkesi.

    E’ lui forse, prima di ogni altro, che insieme al contenuto ‘tecnico’ e storico di questi manoscritti, puo’, con il suo racconto, rendere ancora più palese l’eccezionalità di quanto New York accoglie fino al 14 gennaio.

    “Ho assunto la direzione da circa otto anni, ma ne sono sempre stato un assiduo frequentatore della Biblioteca Francescana di Assisi . La familiarità con i manoscritti del fondo antico si è ovviamente sviluppata in questi ultimi anni.” Comincia così Fra Carlo e continua portandoci subito nel suo mondo. Gli chiediamo: cosa si prova a vivere in una biblioteca così preziosa non solo per motivi storici ma anche di carattere spirituale?

    “La consuetudine rischia sempre di ‘appiattire’ anche le cose più belle e straordinarie. La consapevolezza della preziosità e ricchezza spirituale di molti dei pezzi conservati nella biblioteca del Sacro Convento si rinnova soprattutto grazie alle occasioni in cui ho modo di accompagnare dei visitatori ed illustrare loro alcuni dei pezzi più importanti. Di fronte alle loro reazioni, non di rado alla commozione che si legge sul volto di tante persone, ci si ‘accorge’ all’improvviso di cosa si ha tra le mani e si è in grado nuovamente di appezzarne il valore.”

    E racconta anche la sua prima volta. Quella in cui ha visto-letto in originale il testo del ‘Cantico delle creature’.

    “Quando ero postulante – entrato cioè in convento per il periodo di prova, ancora in abiti secolari – abbiamo visitato la biblioteca. Ricordo bene la pagina iniziale del Cantico a causa dell’evidente presenza dei righi che avrebbero dovuto ospitare la notazione musicale, ma sono rimasti in bianco. Non ho letto tutto il testo, solo l’inizio: Altissimu onnipotente bon Signore, tue so’ le laude la gloria et honore et onne benedictione. Ho pensato: “Abbiamo perso la musica composta da San Francesco, ma abbiamo guadagnato la ricchezza delle centinaia di diverse versioni musicali che del cantico sono state realizzate’.”
    Ma ad un certo punto avviene qualcosa che non aveva proprio previsto. Una signora, Flavia De Sanctis, presidente  dell'associazione no profit  'Antiqua',  gli propone di portarlo all’estero insieme ad altri manoscriti. E dove? Addirittura negli Stati Uniti.

    “A dire il vero all’inizio sono stato piuttosto perplesso. In ogni caso la decisione non è spettata solo a me, ma è stata lungamente discussa da parte di numerose persone che sono a vario titolo responsabili del Fondo antico, non ultimi il Sindaco di Assisi, il Soprintendente archivistico per l’Umbria e il Soprintendente per i beni librari della Regione Umbria. Il motivo principale per cui si è deciso di far uscire dalla biblioteca quelli che sono senza dubbio i suoi manoscritti più importanti è stato il desiderio espresso dall’Osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso le Nazioni Unite di poter presentare questa mostra al Palazzo di Vetro. Una volta accolta questa proposta le difficoltà – che oppure ci sono state, e al di là delle previsioni – sono state affrontate una alla volta, con pazienza.”. Un vero miracolo,  tenendo presente soprattutto le difficoltà non solo materiali, ma anche burocratiche affrontate.

    Gli chiediamo di riassumere in poche parole l’importanza di questi documenti  per il mondo di oggi. Sappiamo che non è facile dare una risposta sintetica.

    “La loro importanza è legata ovviamente al figura di Frate Francesco, deriva immediatamente dall’essere testimonianze della sua vita e di ciò che ha detto e realizzato. Per quanto intrinsecamente preziosi per l’antichità, i contenuti o la ricchezza delle miniature, essi non sarebbero che ‘alcuni tra i tanti’ manoscritti e documenti medievali che son giunti fino a noi se non fosse per il fascino che si sprigiona da Francesco d’Assisi, da questo modello di una umanità libera, fraterna, armonica e pacificata.”.

    ‘Un'umanità libera, fraterna, armonica e pacificata’. Un sogno del tredicesimo secolo, un sogno ancora oggi.

    Ma cosa si aspetta Fra Carlo da questa grande esposizione anche mediatica?

    “Personalmente sono un po’ schivo nei confronti dei media, preferisco il ritmo della lettura di un libro a quello di un videoclip o di Twitter. Il tempo a disposizione di ognuno è sempre meno, e proprio per questo preferisco investirlo in poiché cose, fatte bene e con calma… l’opposto contrario della logica attuale della comunicazione mediatica. Questo non mi impedisce di comprendere come attraverso i media passino opportunità inestimabili per poter esprimere ciò che si ha da dire. E credo che Frate Francesco abbia molto da dire, molte cose che per alcuni versi sono inedite, e per altri versi, una volta udite, ci sembra di conoscerle da sempre, ci sembrano cose antiche come le verità che portiamo dentro in quanto uomini e donne. Mi aspetto che molte persone possano prestare attenzione a Francesco, accogliere il nostro invito di accostarsi a lui attraverso queste tracce, parole, immagini.”

    Una nota realistica e lievemente polemica poi sulle modalità di mantenimento di tesori inestimabili come il ‘Cantico delle creature’ in Italia. “La tutela e conservazione di un fondo di manoscritti e documenti medievali richiedono ovviamente alcune attenzioni e la messa in pratica di adeguati protocolli di monitoraggio. Non si tratta tuttavia di pezzi esposti a rischi particolari, o in condizioni particolarmente critiche, anche se in vista della mostra è sembrato opportuno sottoporre tutti manoscritti ad un intervento di restauro conservativo. - dice Fra Carlo - Quanto al problema della salvaguardia e recupero dei beni librari, si aprirebbe qui un lungo discorso. L’Italia ha da questo punto di vista la ‘sfortuna dell’abbondanza’: i fondi di manoscritti e libri antichi sono molti e ricchissimi, e le risorse disponibili sono ovviamente insufficienti. E su questo non ho ricette da dare!”

    Nelle sue parole finali un ringraziamento, velato di palese emozione:

    “Non so se questo sia il luogo adatto, ma è pur vero che la riconoscenza deve trovare spazio ovunque. Vorrei aggiungere quindi un ringraziamento a quanti hanno collaborato alla realizzazione di questa mostra. Sono molte persone, non le posso nominare singolarmente, anche se mi piacerebbe farlo per far comprendere quanto lavoro sia necessario per dare vita ad un progetto del genere. Accanto ai membri del comitato organizzatore, che possiamo definire “volontari”, tutti animati da passione autentica ed autentico amore per Frate Francesco, ci sono le tante persone che hanno prestato una collaborazione di natura professionale. Anche in loro ho avvertito sempre una sincera simpatia per questo progetto, hanno tutti “fatto il tifo” perché il Poverello Francesco, l’uomo che si diceva “semplice e illetterato”, potesse entrare nella sede della Nazioni Unite e portare a tutti il suo saluto: “Il Signore ti dia pace!”. A tutti, grazie!”

    Noi ringraziamo Fra Carlo, dopo San Francesco naturalmente che forse ha compiuto ancora un miracolo: quello di mettere insieme persone in grado di realizzare una missione così importante.


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  • Style: Articles

    Designing Your Dreams

    Ferrari’s head of design Flavio Manzoni may be the most important name in style in the Italian automobile industry. A deeply proud Sardinian, the fifty-year-old designer already vaunted an extraordinary career before he came to Ferrari, where his design of the F-12berlinetta earned him the prestigious ADI Compasso d’Oro Award. 

    The first time we met was on a campaign to support recent flood victims in Sardinia, and we immediately began addressing a topic I hold dear: design. Manzoni was generous with his time, so I figured I would go back to him and pick his brain about that subject for this cover story. But this time our discussion began on a sad note. We talked about the great designer Massimo Vignelli, who had passed away in the meantime. 

    Vignelli, whose work has become a measuring rod for modern design, believed in functional beauty and the idea that a well-made object was timeless. He also believed that this beauty was achieved through design (which is timeless) rather than styling (a passing fashion). 

    What did Manzoni think? Could Vignelli’s idea be applied to car design? “Yes, definitely. Vignelli did extremely important work in the field of graphic design, but he was also an architect and, more broadly, an intellectual who saw design as a valid modus operandi across the board, “from a spoon to a city...” I’m fascinated by this vision.

    I’m even more interested in the idea that design is such an elevated concept as to never grow old... Naturally, that’s true for cars too. Just think of the Citroen DS, the Fulvia Coupé di Castagnero, and prototypes like the Stratos Zero...

    Design vs. Styling

    What’s the difference between style and design for a car designer such as yourself? In fashion, the craftsmanship and sensibility peculiar to Italians make our best stylistic creations resemble real works of art.

    But in automobile design, with its highly elevated functional and technological side, you cannot overlook the value of conceptual innovation, which must expand the so-called “semantic quotient.” 

    Design, on the other hand, is considered a “global project”; style is just a part of the process of development charged with defining the morphology of a product, with manufacturing its very essence, which is to say, communicating its content and the original intent.

    So the key to good design is innovation?

    Definitely. And this often occurs by redefining the architecture [of a product]. A lot of companies today limit themselves

    to making an ultramodern look, to what we call styling. Design, on the other hand, must strike out on radically innovative paths... It’s fine to attend to the details and add surprising and modern touches, but only as long as the structure is being enhanced, too. It’s not there to cover up a lack of courage.

    How important is tradition with respect to innovation?
    Looking back in time, it seems as though everything has already been invented. But that’s not true. Not only is thinking of the future essential to survival, but research is always in motion. We have no idea what the coming years hold in store for us in terms of materials, technologies, propulsion systems. And don’t forget legislative changes. That’s why it’s very important to always be reaching forward. And I can’t forget what Le Corbusier said: “tradition is nothing but the uninterrupted chain of innovations.”

    Italy in the World and in the U.S.

    Do you think Italy’s aesthetic culture still has something to tell the world?
    Yes. Italy has a history—in the auto- industry and elsewhere—that few

    other countries in the world can claim. Nowadays it’s very important to embrace the international scene and understand that a product is made for the world, for very different latitudes. Having said that, staying true to one’s roots is essential for imparting an added value, to give those who choose our product a more gratifying

    experience. Italians are experts at doing that.

    You have lived and worked abroad. How did that experience affect you? What does working in Italy today mean for you?
    I spent almost six years with Volkswagen. It was definitely a very formative experience. In another country you discover procedures and habits that are occasionally very different from the ones in Italy. I’m not just talking about day-to-day life but about the entire industrial system. That’s essential to someone in my line of work. But it doesn’t detract from my happiness about working in Italy again; roots are important, and a company like Ferrari combines initiative and the spirit of our country at a world-class level.

    What do you think of the United States? Have you ever thought about living here? Honestly, I haven’t spent an extended period of time in the United States and I’m not sure I’d want to work in the American auto- industry. But when I think of a city like New York, I can’t help but appreciate the melting pot of cultures and customs that define it. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the US is its ability to marry different worlds... That’s become a global trend and is all the more important because of it.

    At Ferrari

    You’ve been directing Design Ferrari for a few years. How has that experience been?
    My career at Ferrari has been exciting. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s probably the most demanding job of my career, yet that’s exactly why it’s the most rewarding. Keep in mind that when I arrived in Maranello, my job wasn’t to direct an existing organization but to create an internal style center, the first in the company’s history. That was the most difficult and interesting challenge. I still remember the numerous interviews I had to set up to select the young designers that now make up Team Ferrari. I remember feeling the need to create a winning team without egos, one that was capable of working together... For me, the human element has always assumed a fundamental importance, and at Ferrari I had the opportunity to create an extraordinarily positive environment from scratch.

    Ferrari won the Compasso d’Oro Award for the F12 Berlinetta. How significant is that for you and the company?

    The significance of the Compasso d’Oro may not be understood that well outside of in Italy, but receiving the award was a great honor for our design team. The products and designers who have received the Compasso d’Oro in past decades represent the best in Italian design... Receiving the award during this difficult period for the country makes us all the more proud and hopeful for the future.


    Massimo Vignelli used to say, “If you can design one thing, you can design everything.” You don’t just design cars. Can you tell us about your other work?

    I think there’s one design methodology. Adopting the right intellectual criteria is just as important when designing a chair as it is when designing an automobile or a bookstore. That’s one reason I didn’t limit myself to cars. Recently, I personalized the famous JJ lamp by Leucos—a small but major masterpiece of Italian design. It was inspired by Sardinia, and proceeds from it have gone toward giving concrete aid for victims of the 2013 flood.

    Designing the Future for Our Kids

    To get personal for minute, do you ever think about how your children will see your design work? Do you seek their advice? What do cars mean to them? How do you see their city of the future?
    My younger kid is still too small to appreciate his father’s designs, and my eldest is no longer interested in cars! Joking aside, I really like knowing their opinion. Kids are windows onto the future, and sometimes their opinions can open up unthinkable perspectives. Today there’s a lot of talk about “smart cities” and new models for living. I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know how our way of life will change. But I hope we’ll be able to hand down a society that, if not better or more just, is at least more balanced as far as concerns the environment and the exploitation of new energy resources. Car designers must confront those problems. It’s difficult, but I’m convinced that it will also stimulate new solutions.

  • Facts & Stories

    Salina at the United Nations: How Italy Made the Small Powerful

    One of the most noted moments of Paolo Fulci’s historic career as Italian Ambassador to the United Nations (1993-1999) brought international attention to some of the smallest islands in the world, starting with the Aeolian archipelago—one of the islands, Salina, is the place he calls home. 

    Ambassador, can you give us a brief version of that story?
    It was not an easy time for Italian diplomacy. Germany and Japan were exerting pressure to reform the UN Security Council, which would have irremediably marginalized our country from the group of nations that really counted. And not only Italy but also the whole European Union. Almost all the major powers supported our opposition.

    Luckily, it was a reform that had to pass through the General Assembly, where every country has a vote regardless of their GDP, military might, size, or population. So I decided to form a partnership with smaller, insular states, the so-called Coffee Club, thirty-two countries that generally had no say in the goings-on of the ‘big’ countries. Out of that, a mutually advantageous relationship was born, and in the end we were successful!

    When I would participate in meetings, some diplomats from rival countries would make fun of me, asking me how I could diminish Italy to the level of a small, insular state. Nonplussed, I would answer that my home was in Salina, in the Aeolian archipelago, and these islands had the same problems as the small insular countries in the Caribbean or the Pacific: coastal erosion, out-of-control tourism, lack of transportation to the mainland, difficulties with the water and energy supply. And so I could give some useful advice. 

    Those same naysayers changed their tune over time, when they saw how, thanks to this alliance, Italy succeeded in blocking that unjust reform. In 1998 we even organized a gala evening at the Waldorf Astoria where, under the prestigious direction of the great Aeolian-American judge Edward Re, the ambassadors from our coalition met a delegation from the Aeolian Islands in front of 1,800 guests. It was an unforgettable evening and extremely important for our victory over the Germans and Japanese for the Security Council.

    To face the ‘battle’, you recruited a number of influential figures from the Italian-American community. Many of them were at the Waldorf Astoria gala that night. That kind of involvement had not occurred in many years. What gave you the idea and how did it turn out?

    Back then the Clinton administra-tion was ‘enthusiastically’ in favor of German and Japanese entry into the Security Council. And so it was against our position. So I thought that the Italian-American community could exert some pressure. You are talking about millions of people, many extremely influential in American politics.

    It really did not take much to mobilize them, since they feel such a deep connection to their roots. I remember that at the Columbus Day Parade there were protest signs asking President Clinton to show Italy more respect in the UN. And the White House received thousands of faxes and telegrams from Italian-Americans expressing their anger over the way certain Washington officials were treating our country. I still remember one of the messages. [It read:] “Mr. President, we have been informed that some State Department officials are supporting a reform in the UN Security Council that would allow Germany and Japan entrance as permanent members, leaving out our country of origin, Italy. Be advised, Mr. President, that if this were to pass, it would be considered a literal smack in the face to 24 million Italian-Americans.”

    Even then Archbishop of New York John O’Connor, during an homily in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, commented on the situation with great aplomb: “Who would ever have the courage to tell St. Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Petrarch, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Guglielmo Marconi and Enrico Fermi that Italy could not join the Security Council because it had nothing to offer?”

    You are originally from Messina, and have been an adopted Salinian for decades. What ties you to Sicily and Salina in particular? 

    My love for the Aeolian Islands goes back all the way to 1943, the year that the American troops landed in Sicily. My father, Sebastiano Fulci, who was an engineer with the Genio Civile, was tasked with starting the first infrastructure projects–building small piers, reservoirs, roads – that helped transform the beautiful archipelago from a remote land into the welcoming slice of paradise it is today. That year I began to enjoy the wondrous and extraordinary landscapes of Lipari, Canneto, Filicudi, Panarea and, naturally, Salina, whose malvasia really was ‘the nectar of the gods,’ as they call it. I returned to the Aeolian Islands many times over the following years, until one day my wife Claris and I discovered a white building in Salina called ‘Casa alla Palmara.’ We loved it so much that we eventually bought it and renamed it ‘La Clarisita.’ Since then we try to spend a good chunk of our summer vacation there every year.

    What does it mean for a diplomat to come from a territory surrounded by the sea, from which so many men and women emigrated in search of a better life? Do you yourself feel a bit like an emigrant?

    I was very lucky compared to the thousands of emigrants forced to leave Sicily after the Second World War to find work in more prosperous lands. But I can never forget that era when our fields were emptying out, left to desolation and poverty. Even though my job moved me quite young to Rome and then abroad, I could never leave my roots behind. In fact, living abroad, especially far away, strengthens your ties to your homeland, to the point that, even when I was in Japan, I would travel thousands of miles every year to return to my beloved Sicily with my wife and small children. The flight from Tokyo to Rome was endless—it lasted 24 hours!

    Salina has a very particular history of immigration, as detailed in the Aeolian Emigration Museum founded and run by Professor Marcello Saija. Can you briefly give us a sense of that history?

    Thanks to his extraordinary passion and dedication, Marcello has really given a soul and a spirit to these migrations. He has collected thousands of documents and photographs on Aeolian immigration from the end of the nineteenth century in North and South America to the post-Second World War migrations to Australia and New Zealand. And he retraced the paths and journeys taken by immigrants, all the sacrifices they made, and how they were finally able to find success.

    You have a special relationship with New York City. Not only did you live here when you were Ambassador to the UN, but you also worked as vice-consul here in the beginning of your career. And before that you came to Columbia University as a Fulbright scholar. It is difficult to imagine such disparate experiences: The fascinating, frenetic city that never sleeps... and these minuscule, wind-beaten islands bursting with flowers and surrounded by water. And yet something must tie you to these territories, these landscapes. What is it? 

    It’s true. After Sicily, New York is probably the place where I have lived the longest. One year as a student, two as vice-consul, and seven as Ambassador. I almost feel more comfortable in New York than in Rome! But I always remember my Sicilian roots. When I arrived in New York as a young student in June of 1954, the first thing I did was look for my fellow ‘countrymen’ from San Filippo del Mela, a quaint little town just north of Milazzo. Those people knew my forefathers. They threw a wonderful party for me. It was my ‘initiation’ into a varied cosmopolitan world made up of so many different people. That’s how New York appeared to me when I first arrived.

    What are the places that you love most in Salina, the ones that you miss most while traveling around the world as a diplomat? Tell us something that could persuade Americans to come visit this small Mediterranean paradise.

    I love absolutely everything about Salina… Obviously my house the most; it’s situated on the edge of a forest reserve on an isolated promontory. It’s not easy to get to, especially when the sun is at its peak. I really love Pollara, the crater of an ancient volcano half immersed in the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, where the house for the film Il Postino (The Postman) is located. But above all I love the Rinella area and the unforgettable sight of its slopes in May, when they’re covered with gorse. The yellow flowers are so striking against the blue sea. 

  • Op-Eds

    EDITORIAL “Happy Italian Heritage Month”

    ●● (10-10-3) so when you write about ocean you write about shore (51-6-3) there’s no water flowing and no flower snowing (14-1-3 )when you do what you were dreaming of you may be assailed by fears

    I’ve kept to my promise of beginning every editorial note with a poem. Only this time I’m using several random verses. That’s right, random. They’re lines from “Ellis Island,” a poem by Robert Viscusi, assembled by the Random Sonnet Generator, which can be found on the poem’s website (

    Why “Ellis Island”? Because it’s an extraordinary poem that tells the all-American story of immigration, an event in which Italians played a large role.


    Which leads us to this issue of i-ItalyNY. October in New York is the most Italian month of the year, so we began a new collaboration with the prestigious Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York; the traditional booklet they publish this time of the year, listing all Italian and Italian-American events, is now a special insert of i-ItalyNY. It is by far the most comprehensive, up-to-date guide to our “Italian city” this fall.

    And it’s no coincidence you’ll find here our interview with Frank G. Fusaro and Angelo Vivolo, the leaders of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, the association responsible for organizing the Columbus Day Parade.


    Yet our cover story takes us back to Italy, an Italy that gave rise to an internationally recognized dream: Ferrari. My interview with Flavio Manzoni, Ferrari’s Design Director, explores the history and future of Italian excellence; and we begin by remembering our great friend and maestro, Massimo Vignelli, the international icon of Italian design who passed away this May. Feature articles include Stefano Albertini’s interview with world- renowned film director Gianni Amelio and Consul General of New York Natalia Quintavalle’s reflections on the challenges facing an Italian presidency of the EU Council. Then we travel back to Venice to meet Giampaolo Seguso, a major glassmaking artisan as well as a poet, and to Naples to meet Amedeo Scognamiglio, the leading manufacturer of cameos—without, however, leaving the comfort of New York; indeed both men have established major branches of their business here. New York is, after all, the biggest Italian city outside Italy. And, if you’re looking for a glimpse of Italian American politics, jump to Jerry Krase’s piece on the “tribulations” of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Anthony Tamburri’s column about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s combinatio nova.

    We will travel to Italy, however, in our Tourism section. Eugenio Magnani, the director of the Italian Government Tourist Board for North America, relates his personal memories of Italy’s “small islands,” as special as they are yet little known. Last but not least, an interview with former Italian Ambassador to the UN Paolo Fulci, now president of Ferrero. Fulci, a Sicilian who calls the small island of Salina “home,” shares the very Italian (and Italian-American) story that brought little islands—in Italy and across the globe—to the world’s attention.


    So, take a gander at this voluminous issue, visit our website, follow us on Facebook and watch our show weekends on Channel 25. Our new series is full of surprises. And please send us your suggestions and comments. They do us good. Have a happy Italian Heritage Month!

    ([email protected])

  • Tourism

    The Langhe. What Makes this Place so Special? The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind!

    “I was born on September 24, 1954, in Alba, the ‘capital’ of the Langhe hills. My father was from Barbaresco, my mother from Barolo,” says Oscar Farinetti, mulling over his homeland. The cities where his parents come from are also home to two famous namesake wines.

    But today we’re standing in front of Eataly, the megastore on 5th Avenue, and Farinetti’s words are a breath of fresh air amid the traffic of Manhattan. Fresh air, it turns out, will be the
    subject of much of our interview.

    “Alba is incredibly situated: south of Turin, in the plain of the Tanaro river, a 34-mile straight
    shot from the Ligurian seaside city of Savona. To the west are the beautiful hills of Roero, to the east the beautiful hills of Langhe. The latter are ‘kissed’ by God because they produce slightly rounded hazelnuts considered the best in the world as well as important Italian red wines: beside Dolcetto and Barbera, the legendary Nebbiolo grape, which is produced by the conjunction of the Marin (costal) winds coming from the shores of Savona and the fresh air of the maritime Alps that come down from Monviso. The winds create a distinctively humid microclimate that leaves a little morning frost on the Nebbiolo vines that we call, unsurprisingly, “Marin”. Nebbiolo grapes, aged for three years in Barbaresco and four in Barolo, are used to make Barbaresco and Barolo wine.”

    Oscar could go on forever talking about wine. But we cut him off. We want to know about the older town of Alba. Then we can get back to its extraordinary natural surroundings and what men made with them.

    “In ancient Roman times, the town was called Alba Pompeia. It was pretty well known, and
    it was close to Pollenzium (now Pollenzo), the most important Roman city in Northern Italy, now home to the University of Gastronomic Sciences. [Farinetti is an affiliate of the school.] There was a coliseum that could fit 25,000 people. Back then, a city with over 25,000 inhabitants was like a city with five million today. It was the last “gate” before entering Gaul. In Julius Caesar’s day, it was the last Roman outpost. North of Turin was Gaul. Afterward, the development of Alba underwent several different phases.”

    The Middle Ages being one fundamental phase, as it was for many Italian cities, especially in the center and north.

    “Right. That marked the beginning of castles and municipalities. There were 100 municipalities in the Langhe, each with an average of 1,000 inhabitants. Every hilltop had a castle and surrounding village. You can still see many of them: Grinzane Cavour, Barolo, Serralunga d’Alba, Govone, Magliano Alfieri, Roddi, Mango and Beneve. Agriculture flourished.”

    A little way away is Savoy, a prominent territory since the Middle Ages, now split between France, Italy and Switzerland. Savoy is the seat of the Savoy dynasty, where the future kings of Italy came from...

    The Savoys settled in the area and built a castle in Santa Vittoria for vacations. In the mid
    1800s Carlo Alberto built his court in Pollenzo. He created the first prototype of a farmstead. He saw the enormous potential in Piedmont’s cuisine and agriculture. His son, Vittorio Emanuele, the first King of Italy, bought Fontanafredda and settled there with his lover, Bela Rosin. That was a thriving period for the Langhe, too, up until World War One. Then came “la malora” (‘ruin’)”.

    You’re referring to the title of Beppe Fenoglio’s book. Fenoglio was an important writer who came from the Langhe. His home in Alba is now a museum and center for literary studies.

    “La Malora (Ruin) is an extraordinary novel. It begins: “It was raining all over the Langhe,
    and up in San Benedetto my father was getting wet underground for the first time.” So it begins with the rain, with the soil, with the death of his father. And it recounts the hunger of those times, the epidemics. The population dwindled. Farming dwindled. It didn’t take a turn for the better till after the Second World War.”

    And today we have a new marvelous territory...

    “I remember a lesson on change held in Fontanafredda by Alain Elkann. He read the first three pages of La Malora, which takes place about sixty years ago, and then two pages from the Michelin guide. What a contrast! In a span of twenty kilometers around Alba there are now 22 restaurants with Michelin stars. And besides Barolo and Barbaresco, there’s another big secret: white truffles.”

    What’s the reason for the Langhe’s success compared to other nearby places? Why is the Langhe prosperous and rich while, for example, Monferrato, in the province of Asti, is not?

    “It’s true. When you get off the turnpike in Asti, you pass poor Monferrato where they sell
    Barbera for next to nothing, whereas we sell Barolo for 30 Euros a liter. They have truffles, too,
    but no one knows about the truffles of Asti. It’s chance. It depends on the men born in a certain
    time in history. In the Langhe we owe everything to one person, Giacomo Morra. He owned the
    Hotel Savona, the first place in Italy to get a Michelin star. In 1946 he found a truffle weighing
    two and a half kilograms and decided to give it as a gift to President Truman. It made headlines around the world! In 1947 he gave one to Hitchcock, then one to Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot. Every year he gave one to a big star. Around the world, the white truffle became synonymous with Alba.”

    So the truffle is the first ambassador of the Langhe?

    “Yes, it put the Langhe on the map. But we have a phenomenal economy in all sectors.
    Ferrero produces the world’s supply of Nutella. There’s Miroglio, the second biggest Italian
    apparel firm. The Pallinis invented Famiglia Cristiana, the second biggest Italian weekly. Now we have Unieuro Elettrodomestici and Eataly...Alba is an insane hotbed of activity.”

    The Langhe area also has ties to the anti-fascist Resistance Movement.

    “True. But it’s not as though we did anything out of the ordinary. We just knew how to tell
    our story. Thanks to major writers like Cesare Pavese and Beppe Fenoglio. Once told, a thing
    lives on. If it’s not told, then it’s already dead. The people of Alba have a great talent for telling
    their story.”

    And how do you account for that?

    “We believe that everything happens on account of the wind. The answer is always in the
    wind. The moist winds from the gulf of Genoa and Savona reach the cold air from the Alps, so
    you can breathe in the sea air while you’re in the hills. This biodiversity extends to the vegetables and animals as well as to human beings, to their creative minds...

    What part of the Langhe do you love best?

    “I live in Novello, in the area of Barolo. Novello, Barolo, Morra and Monforte form a rectangle of beauty, a valley of splendors that is the valley of Barolo. Full of castles. Everything’s
    special, and the period of the grape harvest is extraordinary. After that comes truffle season.”

    What about tourism? Is the area well known to foreigners?

    “Tourism grows forty percent every year. It mostly attracts rich tourists. They eat well and
    sleep in castles... The number of rooms in agriturismi has tripled.”

    And how do you spend your time?

    “Walking in the countryside, visiting castles, wine cellars, farms, museums. There’s always
    something to do.”

    Do you have any advice for American tourists?

    “Spend at least three days in the Langhe. It’s the best place to eat in Italy. The quality of life
    is best. And the hilly panorama is first-rate. It’s on par with Montalcino and Chianti. Tuscany
    only has one advantage over us – a hundred more days of warm weather! There’s a reason the
    wine produced in Langhe is called Nebbiolo. We’ve got the fog (nebbia in Italian). But the
    Langhe is cooler. And it’s good that fewer people come here. So come, but don’t come all at

    Finally, is there a particular dish and wine you’d recommend?

     “We have the richest cuisine in Italy. A menu with 18 to 22 appetizers. Five first courses,
    various second courses. And then there’s the cheese, among them Robiola. Gourmands consider beef from Piedmont to be the best in the world. The only beef to eat cruda (raw) raw. I’d recommend eating carne cruda with a glass of Dolcetto. Then try agnolotti al plin (pasta stuffed with three roast meats) with Barbera Superiore d’Alba. After that, brasato al Barolo and a glass of Barolo. For dessert, a light amaretto cake, a delicacy you have to eat with a glass of Moscato d’Asti.

    How’s that for the ultimate journey?

    Breathtaking landscapes, hillsides dotted with castles,
    vine-laden slopes, a whole lot of history and one culture’s gift for storytelling. Not to mention
    Oscar Farinetti’s gift for keeping this story alive in the world.

  • Style: Articles

    It’s All Because of That Ceiling. For you Massimo, Wherever You May Be


    The first time I interviewed you, I stepped into your home, what in my imagination was a temple of design, almost afraid. And it certainly was a temple. The light seeped through a huge window and proceeded through an elongated living room.

    The silence was deep but it  as if music had been playing in the background, maybe Mozart…

    At the end of the room, on the left, a big black desk. A metal sheet, one of those used to cover road works on the streets of NY, that only you could have thought of using in this special way… to draw on.

    Seated around that table we had our video interview and right there – but I didn’t know it yet – we would have other long timeless chats…

    I started off by asking you why you had left Milano. “It’s too small – you said – too provincial. The ceiling is too low. I came to NY thinking that the ceiling would be higher here, only to discover that the ceiling here doesn’t exist at all”.

    This reply marked the beginning of our friendship. Now I know. In a few incisive words you made me understand my own choice to live in NY.

    Our association started pretty much straightaway, in fact on that day when you, during an official presentation, decided to broadcast that same interview on a big screen. It took me by surprise.

    I knew the contents were good, but I dreaded your aesthetic judgment. Yes, I was truly afraid of you. When I saw you introducing it with such pride, seated in a corner of the room I cried happy tears.

    Timeless conversations. This is what I would call our afternoons spent talking. We talked about design, but not only. And it was normal for you. Design was in every breath you took, your scrupulousness touched every topic.


    ‘Scrupulousness’, a word that could sound boring, but it was never such with you. Your pencil would draw it, with those precise hands that I’ll never forget. There was order and also the chaotic order, that part of you that you slowly unveiled to me. The famous ‘Canone Vignelli’, that formula, so fundamental for the new generations, those rules that instead of compressing creativity helped developing it.

    I had a pure intellectual in front of me, with an approach to life dense with curiosity, with continuous desire to study, to go below the surface, always and in any which way. With that push to consistently do better, even the same things, but better…

    We talked and I had the impression that my questions would not only be answered, but would themselves give you something in return. You asked me all sorts of things, your curiosity growing exponentially as soon that a technological topic would come up. I remember when I handed you my iPhone to touch a QR and watch a YouTube video. Your eyes, your smile, your voice, turned into those of a child amazed at the latest discovery. Steve Jobs, you so loved talking about him…and then the computer and all that had to do with it… Even with the troubles you said you encountered using it… but maybe that wasn’t the problem. Maybe it was just that the pencil simply ended up prevailing. A battle you couldn’t win. But I remember clearly when you stood next to Mauro Sarri while he was transferring your drawings onto the computer… How much attention looking for accuracy in what he was doing. And then, always beside you, your MacBook Air, your IPad, your iPhone.

    It’s true, the pencil always prevailed. Something else that surprised me once was a piece of paper abandoned on your desk before you were due to leave for somewhere. A list of what you needed to bring with you. A list that was not written, but drawn with extreme detail, from the underwear to the ipad charger.

    Massimo, you supported our editorial project like few have! And you did it with endless generosity, by following it closely, but at the same time with respectful distance. You saw our magazine coming to life, advising us on how to simplify the graphic, presenting us with a new logo, discussing its contents with me.

    There have been two moments when you grabbed your pencil suddenly, in your usual manner, and you did for us, in front of us.

    I’ll never forget those moments: when you started rethinking our logo and when you designed our car, our Fiat 500. The pencil, that black and white drawing, and those pastels to colour it. Fascinating. The initial insecurity of your hand, so beautiful, searching for direction, looking for the perfect traits. Then soon after the confidence of your mind that knew the right path.

    And you never stopped interacting with us, asking for our advice…

    A tricolour 500? It could have been aesthetically dangerous. You Massimo knew that from the very beginning. You wanted to design it yourself, and that’s why you said: “Letizia I can’t let i-Italy drive around NY in an ordinary car. You’ll see, it’ll stand out and it will be beautiful.”

    And how can I forget the day you saw it realized?!

    We drove it to your doorstep and you started walking around it. Ten times? At least. You liked it, even though the red wasn’t exactly what you expected. But you liked it. And the evening of the ‘La fondazione’ Gala you chased me saying: “Listen Letizia, I want to go back home with you, in the little car!”

    The editorial staff of i-Italy adored you. You’re in everybody’s heart. When we worked together, filming, you’d interact with everyone, you’d remember their names, one by one. You wanted to find out more about them and Iwona, our photo reporter, who loves Italy and writes about it, was probably your favourite.

    We have many memories of you Massimo, even though we’ve only known each other for three years. And now that you’re not with us anymore, I can’t think of anything else but those hours spent together in your home. We won’t have any more of those moments.

     I remember with how much anticipation you waited for the arrival of new furniture to hide some books that distracted your eyes in the living room. Anyone would expect Massimo Vignelli looking for an expensive designer solution…

    But the man that I consider - without the slightest doubt -  the greatest contemporary designer, could also love IKEA. You told us with firm conviction how fantastic and economical you deemed some of the solutions the Swedish brand proposed. And sure enough you picked one of those for your books.

    And I then realized that the intellectual had once again taken over. You studied her, you studied her disease, you studied her mind. You asked your intelligence to help you love her even more.

    Lella. A few months ago you issued a tribute to her. Amazing. Elegant. Unique. Design by Lella, an overview of the work you have produced together, not only design, but interiors, furniture objects, set-ups, fashion, jewellery. An electronic book that summarizes your whole life together, but that, above all, celebrates Lella and women. Women in the design world. All women.

    I know that distributing in an electronic format was a conscious choice of yours. Your acceptance that the net has won over the paper – paper that has been fundamental in your design – but I sincerely hope that it could soon be published, for it to become a book that we can touch.

    Women, young people, children, couples at work together. They were all important reference points for you. You respected the feminine universe in a way only few know how to. You loved the young, in a way that was critical and constructive at the same time. You were extremely close to children.

    It was very easy for you to empathize with other couples. And it happened to me when you met my partner. You welcomed him into your life. You two would talk about politics, not one of my favorite topics. You gave us plenty of advice which I hope we’ll be able to follow.

    I’m about to conclude this recollection of you, addressed to you before anyone else. And I’ll do it by publishing one of your emails that revealed to me, once again, your greatness, not just intellectual, but also human.

    “ Thank you for sending me the copies of the i-Italy magazine and especially for the space dedicated to me. You truly are a darling. The magazine is improving and becoming increasingly more real… in the text of the interview there is a big interpretation and translation error, but don’t worry, the readers won’t notice….You translated ‘scala’ (scale) with ‘scalinata’ (staircase). The point is that I wasn’t talking about staircases, but about scale as an intangible value. In Italian you’d use the same word, and it’s the context that changes the meaning. If you replace ‘staircase’ with ‘scale’, you‘ll see everything will be right again. I wasn’t talking about staircases, really not…! Try and read that paragraph again and you’ll see the difference. As I said don’t worry, it’s not a scientific publication, otherwise I would leave a bad impression, here no one will notice…(at least I hope).”

    The greatest contemporary designer. I regret that Italy, once again, hardly realized it.

    I know, you said it Massimo: it’s all because of the ceiling!

    Massimo. Massimo the Great.

  • Style: Articles

    Tutta colpa di quel soffitto. Per te Massimo Vignelli, ovunque tu sia


    Dovevo intervistarti, era la prima volta. Sono entrata quasi intimorita a casa tua. In quello che, nel mio immaginario, era un tempio del design. E lo era. La luce filtrava da un enorme finestrone  e attraversava una lunga sala. C’era un profondo silenzio, ma sembrava ci fosse musica. Mozart forse...

    In fondo, a sinistra una grande scrivania nera. Una lastra di metallo, di quelle che si usano per coprire gli scavi dei lavori in corso per le strade di New York, che solo tu potevi immaginare di usare in modo così accogliente per disegnare.  Lì seduti, intorno, avremmo fatto la nostra prima intervista video e lì - ma questo ancora non lo sapevo - avremmo poi avuto altre lunghe chiacchiarate senza tempo.

    Ho cominciato chiedendoti perchè hai lasciato Milano. Mi hai risposto: “Perchè è troppo piccola, è provinciale. Il soffitto è troppo basso. Sono venuto a New York pensando che il soffitto fosse più alto e ho scoperto che qui il bello è che il soffitto non esiste.”

    E’ stata questa risposta l’inizio della nostra amicizia. Adesso lo so. In poche, ma efficaci parole, mi hai fatto anche capire il perchè della mia scelta di vivere a New York.

    E la nostra frequentazione è cominciata quasi da subito, ovvero da quel giorno in cui tu, ad una presentazione ufficiale, hai voluto trasmettere quell'intervista su un grande schermo. Non me lo aspettavo proprio.

    Sapevo che i contenuti erano buoni,  ma avevo un pò il timore di un tuo riscontro estetico. Sì, è vero, ti temevo. Quando ho visto che la presentavi con orgoglio, seduta in un angolo della sala ho versato lacrime di felicità.

    Conversazioni senza tempo. Li definirei così i nostri pomeriggi passati a parlare. Parlare di design, e non solo di design. Ma non era strano per te. Il design permeava ogni tuo respiro, il tuo rigore toccava ogni argomento.

    ‘Rigore’, una parola che potrebbe sembrare noiosa, ma che con te proprio non lo era. C’era la tua matita che lo disegnava, con quelle mani precise che non dimenticherò mai. C’era l’ordine e c’era anche il disordine ordinato, che piano piano mi hai fatto scoprire di te. Già il famoso Canone Vignelli. Quella formula, soprattutto per le giovani generazioni per te così fondamentali. Quelle regole che non comprimono la ceatività, ma la sviluppano.

    Avevo davanti a me l’intellettuale in tutta la sua purezza. Un approccio alla vita denso di curiosità, desiderio di continuo approfondimento. Quel superare la superficie, sempre e comunque. Quella ricerca di fare sempre meglio, anche le stesse cose.

    Parlavamo, e le tue domande mi davano l’impressione di darti oltre che di ricevere. Mi chiedevi di tutto, la tua curiosità cresceva in maniera esponenziale appena si trattava di qualcosa di tecnologico. Ricordo quando ti misi in mano il mio iPhone per puntare a un QR code e vedere un video su Youtube. I tuoi occhi, il tuo sorriso, la tua voce, diventavano quelli di un bambino. Stupiti davanti ad una nuova scoperta. Steve Jobs, come amavi parlarne… e poi il computer con tutto quello che comportava. Con quella difficoltà che dicevi di avere nell’usarlo. Ma forse non era proprio così. La tua matita prendeva semplicemente il sopravvento. Era una battaglia che non potevi vincere. Ma ricordo bene quando ti mettevi affianco a Mauro Sarri, che riportava sul computer i tuoi disegni. L’attenzione con cui lo seguivi. E poi davanti a te, sempre il tuo MacBook Air, il tuo iPad, il tuo iPhone. Immancabili.

    Vero, la matita vinceva sempre. Un’altra delle cose, con cui mi hai stupito, è stata un foglio abbandonato sulla scrivania prima di una tua partenza. Sopra c'era la lista di cosa dovevi portare. Una lista che non era scritta, ma disegnata nei minimi dettagli, dagli indumenti intimi al caricatore dell’iPad.

    E,  Massimo, sei stato accanto al nostro progetto editoriale come pochi. Lo hai fatto con infinita generosità. Seguendolo da vicino, ma anche con una rispettosa distanza. Hai visto nascere il nostro magazine, hai dato consigli per semplificarne la grafica, ci hai regalato un nuovo logo. Hai discusso con me sui contenuti.

    Ci sono stati due momenti in cui hai preso la matita all’improvviso, come fai spesso tu, e lo hai fatto per noi davanti a me.
    Non li dimenticherò mai. Quando hai cominciato a ripensare il nostro logo e quando hai disegnato la nostra 500. La matita, disegno in bianco e nero e poi quei pastelli che coloravano. Magici. L’insicurezza della tua mano, bellissima, che cercava all’inizio, il percorso giusto, i tratti perfetti. Poi la sicurezza della tua mente che aveva trovato la strada. Ed il tuo confrontarti con noi, il tuo chiedere anche consigli. “Che ne dici?”.

    Una 500 tricolore? Poteva essere qualcosa di esteticamente pericoloso. Massimo, lo avevi capito prima di tutti. Hai voluto disegnarla tu. E’ per questo che mi hai detto: “Letizia non posso permettere che i-Italy giri a New York con una macchinetta banale. Vedrai, si noterà e sarà bella”.

    E come posso dimenticare il giorno che l’hai vista realizzata? Te l’abbiamo portata sotto casa e tu hai cominciato a girarci intorno. Dieci volte? Si almeno. Ti piaceva, anche se il rosso non era esattamente quello che volevi. Ma ti piaceva. E la sera del Gala de LaFondazione, mi inseguivi dicendo: “Letizia, guarda che voglio tornare a casa con te, dentro la macchinetta!”

    La mia redazione ti amava. Sei dentro il cuore di tutti. Quando lavoravamo insieme, filmavamo, tu interagivi con tutti.  Ricordavi i loro nomi. Uno per uno. Volevi sapere di loro. E Iwona Adamczyk, la nostra foto-reporter, che scrive di Italia e ama l’Italia più di tutti noi,  forse era la tua preferita.

    Sono molti i ricordi che abbiamo insieme, Massimo. Eppure sono solo tre anni che ci siamo frenquentati. E, ora che non ci sei più, non posso spostare la mente da quelle ore dentro casa tua. Non ci saranno più. Sono tanti i momenti vissuti insieme.

    Ricordo con quanta attesa hai aspettato dei mobili per coprire dei libri che distraevano lo sguardo nella tua sala. Chiunque avrebbe immaginato Massimo Vignelli alla ricerca di una soluzione costosa e 'firmatissima'.

    Ma quello che secondo me – e te lo dico senza ombra di dubbio – è il più grande designer contemporaneo, sapeva amare anche IKEA. Raccontavi con ferma convinzione  come sono bellissime certe soluzioni anche economiche che la ditta svedese propone. E infatti ne scegliesti una proprio per i tuoi libri.

    Mentre parlavamo, una presenza costante. Quella di Lella. La tua compagna, la tua vita, inghiottita nell’Alzaimer. Piano piano ho capito che la portavi dentro. Ancora di più.  Anche quando non era, silenziosa, seduta nella nostra stanza. Anche quando mi dicevi: Lella non c’è.

    E ho capito che l’intellettuale ancora una volta aveva preso il sopravvento in te. La studiavi, studiavi la sua malattia, la sua mente. Avevi chiesto aiuto alla tua intelligenza per amarla sempre di più.

    Lella. E negli scorsi mesi esce il tuo omaggio a lei. Stupendo. Elegante. Unico. Design by Lella, una panoramica sul lavoro che avete sviluppato insieme, non solo nel campo del design, ma anche degli interni, oggetti di arredamento, allestimenti, moda, gioielli. Un  libro elettronico che riassume tutta la vostra vita, ma che soprattutto celebra Lella e  le donne. Le donne nel design. Tutte le donne.

    Lo so che mandarlo in giro in formato elettronico fa parte di una tua scelta. Della tua constatazione che la rete ha vinto sulla carta – la carta che è stata fondamentale per il tuo design – ma io spero che presto venga pubblicato, che diventi un libro da toccare.

    Le donne, i giovani, i bambini, le coppie nel lavoro. Punti importanti per te. Rispettavi l’universo femminile come pochi sanno fare. Amavi i giovani e lo facevi in maniera critica e costruttiva al tempo stesso. Eri vicinissimo ai bambini.  

    Ti immedesimavi subito con le altre coppie, che come la tua, lavoravano insieme. Ed è successo anche con noi quando hai conosciuto il mio compagno. Lo hai fatto entrare nella tua vita. E con lui parlavi anche di politica, argomento che io non amavo troppo toccare.  Quanti consigli ci hai dato. Speriamo di riuscire a seguirli.

    Chiudo questo ricordo di te che rivolgo a te. Prima di tutto. Lo faccio riportando una tua email. Email che cosa mi ha rivelato ancora una volta la tua grandezza non solo intelluttuale, ma anche umana.

    “Ti ringrazio per avermi portato copie di i-Italy e soprattutto per lo spazio dedicatomi. Sei veramente un tesoro. La rivista diventa sempre meglio e sempre più vera…. Nel testo dell'intervista c’è un grosso errore di interpretazione e traduzione, ma non importa tanto i lettori non se ne accorgono… Tu hai tradotto "scala " con "scalinata". Il fatto è che non parlavo di scalinate, ma di scala come valore intangibile, che in inglese si traduce in "scale" con lo stesso significato intangibile che ha in italiano. Il difetto è che in italiano si usa la stessa parola, ed il significato cambia nel contesto d'uso. Se tu sostituisci "Staircase" con "Scale", vedrai che tutto va a posto. Non parlavo di scalinate, ma di ben altro….! Prova a  rileggere quel paragrafo e vedrai la differenza.

    Come ti ho detto non ti preoccupare, non è una pubblicazione scientifica, che altrimenti ci farei una brutta figura, ma qui nessuno se ne accorge ( almeno spero…)

    Il più grande designer della contemporaneità. Mi dispiace che, ancora una volta, l'Italia se ne è accorta troppo poco. Anzi pochissimo. Lo so, tu dici:  tutta colpa del soffitto...

    Massimo, grande Massimo. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Immigration. Its stories. A resource for all


    The sky is gray, promising another rainy day in New York. It's nine o'clock in the morning. Two rangers and a professor - all three of them Italian-Americans - are taking part in the visit of an Italian official. 

    The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrini, is preparing to go to Ellis Island, which from 1892 to 1954 was the main entry point for immigrants who came to the United States. The boat is called Liberty IV, and it will arrive at the area still affected by the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy.

    The building of the museum located on the island is back in use, although the heating  still does not work. It's quite empty here, everything is still kept elsewhere.
    Yet that piece of land at the estuary of the Hudson River, remains the physical and metaphorical reference to those who had sailed in pursuit of the American dream. It is worth to visit nonetheless. "This is the first time I come to Ellis Island, and I wanted very much to come here as the Speaker of the House,"said Laura Boldrini before stepping off the boat.
    Who are the three Italian-Americans that accompany the Speaker of the House? They are: Franco Paolino, Danielle Simonelli and Anthony J. Tamburri. All three with different stories, but each one of them emblematic. 
    While Boarding, Laura Boldrini, immediately met ranger Franco Paolino. He's young and has a good command of the language of his origins. He hails from Aversa. He greets her speaking in Italian, with great warmth and emotion, and accompanies her to the boat. Ellis Island is waiting, ranger Danielle Simonelli, on the other hand, speaks only English, like many other Italian-Americans of his generation.
    Emigrating to the U.S. often meant leaving behind the mother language in order to integrate. His grandparents / parents aimed to become Americans, before anything else. Therefore the cut of the linguistic umbilical cord was necessary. 
    In Danielle Simonelli's case, clinging to his roots  is immediately visible. He tells not only the story that the museum exhibits, but also add some details about his family, of the Italy that he has kept inside and rediscovered like a precious treasure.
    Yet another Italian-American, is the Dean of Calandra Institute, Anthony Tamburri  who unveils to the Speaker of the House the many hues of an Italian-American presence in the U.S., so strongly rooted in the past. 
    It was an emotional visit. Tens of thousands of people have placed their feet on that island, after a long and exhausting journey. They brought their history, encountering other stories. And once again,  some of the poorest passengers, those in third-class who make us understand what it meant to crowd the island with expectations, often lengthy, for their health and identity checks.
    The richest, as a matter of fact, almost always completed these procedures directly on the ship. 
    It was referred to as the Island of Hope or the Island of Tears.  There was actually a risk of being rejected. Sometimes even families would be separated. The children were permitted to enter and  their father not.
    This is the data of 12 million immigrants who between 1892 and 1954, landed on Ellis Ilsand. 80% were admitted, 2% was sent back to the country of origin for various reasons, and 18% were held in waiting for further investigation.
    Only a few people are accompanying  Boldrini. Along her side are the Consul General Natalia Quintavalle  and Deputy Consul Roberto Frangione. 
    We are with them, among the few journalists. No private boat, no special escort. On the way back on the ferry, as we talk to her, she is approached by an Italian tourist, stunned at recognizing her.  "Yes, she replies, I am, Laura Boldrini."
    And she wanted to visit Ellis Island, as much as visiting the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Memorial, where one of the most serious industrial accidents in the history of New York took place. It caused the death of 146 people (123 women and 23 men), mostly young Italian and Jewish immigrants. The workers, locked for fear that too many breaks would be taken, did not managed to escape and survive. 
    The path that Laura Boldrini says she wants to achieve is ideally linked not only to the history of immigration, but also to the role that women have had. She strongly believes: "The woman was vital and active - she says - she was not just the follower. She was essential for inclusion into society."
    She repeats several times that migrants are an added value for all countries, and that today they are such for Italy. During her short stay in America she meets not only representatives of the past Italian emigration, but also those of the new one." A pride, in both cases, which brings out a mixture of feelings," she says. 
    A visit to Ellis Island is an important opportunity for Laura Boldrini. She listens carefully to  Anthony Tamburri and the rangers. She asks questions. They are mostly technical, but at times full of details unavailing an almost maternal sensibility. It's a obvious emotion.
    Nothing has changed. In the Mediterranean, it still happens today. "I come across the same states of mind - she says - such as in Lampedusa; fears, risks, not speaking the same language, and at the same time the desire to succeed, courage, sometimes despair. These are the same stories of those I met during the years of work as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "
    Surrounding her are a few people. She stops and emotionally looks at a staircase. "These are steps to the entrance to New York or to the return back to their country of origin." The guide says: they have not been completely restored, the floor is worn out.
    The men and women who passed the medical and legal screenings, entered the country that would grow and become what it is today, thanks to them. "it is on that energy that the United States of America is founded upon. Immigration is a resource," says Laura Boldrini. 
    On the way back  a light rain continues to drizzle while we are moving away from the Statue of Liberty who appears to still watch us vigilantly. We leave behind a museum that everyone should visit, and which story should be retold in school books. 
    We can say that the few Italian authorities have visited it with such intensity. Intensity, which was not only institutional, but quite personal. Because behind today's data, such as the statistics of the immigration of today, there are most importantly all people, stories and families.

  • Fatti e Storie

    L’emigrazione con le sue storie. Ieri ed oggi. Una risorsa per tutti


    Il cielo è grigio e New York promette un’altra giornata piovosa.  Sono le nove di mattina. Due ranger ed un professore - tutti e tre italo-americani – partecipano ad una visita di un’alta carica dello Stato italiano.

    Il presidente della Camera dei Deputati, Laura Boldrini, si accinge ad andare ad Ellis Island, principale punto d'ingresso, dal 1892 al 1954, per gli immigranti che sbarcavano negli Stati Uniti. Il battello si chiama Liberty IV, approderà su un territorio che ancora risente del passaggio devastante dell’Uragano Sandy.

    L’edificio del Museo che l’isola ospita è di nuovo in uso, anche se non funziona ancora il riscaldamento. E’ vuoto però, tutto è ancora custodito altrove. Ma quel fazzoletto di terra, alla foce del fiume Hudson, rimane riferimento fisico e metaforico di chi era partito per inseguire il sogno americano. Vale la pena di visitarlo lo stesso. “È la prima volta che vengo a Ellis Island, ci tenevo moltissimo come Presidente della Camera “ dice  prima di sbarcare.

    Ma chi sono i tre italo-americani  che la accompagneranno? Sono Franco Paolino, Danielle Simonelli e Anthony J. Tamburri. Con le loro storie diverse,  ma emblematiche.

    All’imbarco, Laura Boldrini, incontra subito il ranger Franco Paolino. E’ giovane e ha un buon possesso della lingua di origine. E' originario di Aversa. La accoglie così parlando italiano, con grande calore ed emozione, e l’accompagna al battello. Ad Ellis Island l’attende invece la ranger Danielle Simonelli, lei parla solo inglese, come molti altri italo-americani della sua generazione.

    Emigrare negli USA ha significato spesso cancellazione della lingua di appartenza per integrarsi. I suoi nonni/genitori dovevano diventare americani, prima di ogni cosa. Andava quindi tagliato il cordone ombellicale linguistico.

    Ma l’attaccamento alle origini in Danielle Simonelli è subito palese. Racconta non solo la storia che il museo raccoglie, ma anche alcuni dettagli della sua famiglia, di quell’Italia che ha conservato dentro e riscopre come un tesoro prezioso.

    Sarà un altro italo-americano,  il dean dell’Istituto italo americano Calandra, Anthony J, Tamburri a svelare al Presidente della Camera dei deputati  molte sfumature di una presenza italo-americana negli Usa che così fortemente affonda le radici nel passato.

    E’ stata una visita piena di emozioni quella dello scorso venerdì. E' commovente camminare su quell’isolotto,  dove decine di migliaia di persone hanno poggiato i loro piedi dopo un viaggio estenuante.

    Lo hanno fatto portando la propria storia, incrociando altre storie. E ancora una volta erano i passeggeri piu’ poveri, quelli di terza classe per interderci, ad affollare l’isola con attese, spesso lunghe, per controlli  sulla salute ed identità.

    I più ricchi, infatti, quasi sempre effettuavano le procedure direttamente sulla nave.

    Veniva chiamata l’Isola della Speranza o Isola delle Lacrime. Infatti c’era il rischio di essere respinti. Poteva succedere anche di veder separare componenti di una famiglia. Un figlio magari poteva entrare, il padre nò.

    Questi i dati; 12 milioni gli immigrati, tra il 1892 il 1954, hanno messo i loro piedi ad Ellis Ilsand. L’80% passava, il 2% per centro doveva tornare al paese d’origine per vari motivi, il 18% sostava in attesa di accertamenti.

    Accompagnano il presidente Boldrini poche persone. Con lei anche il Console Generale, Natalia Quintavalle ed il Console Genarle Aggiunto, Roberto Frangione.

    Siamo con loro, tra pochi giornalisti. Nessun battello privato, nessuna scorta speciale. Al ritorno sul traghetto, mentre parliamo con lei, si avvicina anche una turista italiana. E’ stupita e  la riconosce. ‘Si - risponde - sono io, Laura Boldrini”.

    E l’ha voluta proprio fare questa visita, insieme a quella al Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Memorial, dove avvenne il più grave incidente industriale della storia di New York.  Causò la morte di 146 persone (123 donne e 23 uomini), per la maggior parte giovani immigrati italiani ed ebrei. Gli operai, chiusi a chiave per paura che rubassero o facessero troppe pause, non riuscirono a fuggire e salvarsi.

    Il  percorso che Laura Boldrini dice di voler realizzare idealmente è legato non solo alla storia dell’emigrazione, ma al ruolo che hanno avuto le donne.  Ci tiene a dirlo: “La donna era una parte vitale ed attiva –  dice – non era solo al seguito. Era fondamentale per l’inserimento nella società.”

    Ripete più volte che i migranti sono un valore aggiunto per tutti i Paesi, e oggi lo sono per l’Italia. Nel corso del suo breve soggiorno americano incontra, non solo rappresentanti della classica emigrazione italiana, ma anche quelli della nuova. “Un orgoglio in entrambi i casi, che provoca un misto di sentimenti” ci dice.

    La visita ad Ellis Island è un’occasione importante per Laura Boldrini. Ascolta con attenzione sia Anthony Tamburri che la ranger. Pone domande. Sono tecniche, ma anche piene di dettagli legati ad una sensibilità quasi materna. E’ visibile l’emozione.

    Non è cambiato niente. Nel Mediterraneo oggi succede ancora. “Ritrovo gli stessi stati d’animo – ci dice – come a Lampedusa, le paure, i rischi, il non parlare la stessa lingua e poi il desiderio di farcela, il coraggio, la disperazione a volte. Sono storie di vita,  gli stessi racconti di chi ho incontrato negli anni di lavoro all’Alto Commissariato delle Nazioni Unite per i rifugiati”.

    Intorno a lei poche persone. Si ferma a guardare con emozione una scala. “Sono questi i gradini verso l’ingresso a New York o il ritorno nel proprio paese di orgine”. Dice la guida. La scalinata ha il  pavimento molto consumato.

    Se quelle donne e quegli uomini riuscivano a passare lo screening medico e legale, entravano in quel Paese che sarebbe cresciuto e diventato quello che è oggi, proprio grazie a loro. “Su queste energie  si fondano gli Stati Uniti d’America. L’immigrazione è una risorsa”, commenta Laura Boldrini.

    Al ritorno un leggera pioggia continua a sfiorare il battello, da lontano la Statua della Libertà sembra ancora guardare e vigilare. C’è un museo accanto a lei che tutti dovrebbero visitare, il cui racconto dovrebbe vivere sui libri di scuola.

    Noi possiamo dire che poche autorità italiane lo hanno visitato con tanta intensità. Intensità non solo istituzionale, ma anche personale. Perchè, dietro i numeri di oggi come quelli delle statistiche sull’immigrazione, ci sono prima di tutto persone, storie, famiglie.