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Articles by: Letizia Airos

  • Facts & Stories

    Immigration. Its stories. A resource for all

    VERSIONE IN ITALIANO >>>
     

    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

     ENGLISH VERSION >>>

    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.

  • Library: Articles & Reviews

    The Realist and the Dreamer

    This book is dedicated to Lella Vignelli, an inspiration to all women designers who forcefully stand on the power of their merits.” So begins this excellent book just published in electronic format (You may download it at www.vignelli.com).

    Massimo Vignelli’s tender and intimate dedication carries through the entire book, which takes you into the world of the couple and immerses you in their work, their way of thinking, not only in the story of the designs they have been creating over the last half- century, but also in a lifestyle and ethic of great discipline and responsibility. Page by page, the book becomes a manifesto of style, full of intellectual honesty and intelligence.

    A call to arms The intensity of Vignelli’s dedication is important for one to understand the book fully; it contains a fierce yet coolheaded call to arms. For years, writes Massimo Vignelli, the collaboration between female architects and designers and their partners has been underappreciated. The creativity and influence of women was not accepted, and often their contribution was ndervalued if not completely ignored. This was the case even with the most famous partnerships: Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand, Alvar and Aino Aalto, and Charles and Ray Eames.

    “Female architects have often been relegated—by assumptions, by the media, by ignorance or arrogance—to supporting roles, even when they shared the position of partner,” says Vignelli. Little seems to have changed to this day. A recent article in Architectural Record noted that even though women make up 40% of all architecture majors in America today, they represent only 17% of the work force in major architectural firms.

    Of course there have been multiple recognitions for women in recent years. In 2013 the Museum of Modern Art held the exhibition “Designing Modern Women: 1890-1990” in which they noted “modern design of the twentieth century was profoundly shaped and enhanced by the creativity of women.” Macho attitudes “The supporting role of the woman architect has often been created by the macho attitudes of her male partner” writes Massimo Vignelli. “Most of the glory went to the men (not accidentally) while the women, as partner architects, found that their role was dismissed or totally ignored.” He has always wanted to create a brand that presented the couple together. But it wasn’t always easy: “For years our office sent our work to magazines properly credited. For years they only gave me the credit.”

    Many projects in the book were begun and completed by Lella herself, and she collaborated closely on others. Lella often said, “Massimo is the dreamer, I am the realist. He flies high, and sometimes I have to pull him down....”

    Their collaboration, their similar understanding and approach to design, has been extraordinary. But it hasn’t been without its hiccups. “We had complete trust in each other’s judgment, even if sometimes the discussions were quite animated,” says Vignelli of Lella. In our opinion, such openness reveals their humanity.

    “Both of us despise obsolescence in design; we consider it an irresponsible attitude toward the user and toward society. We detest a wasteful culture based on greed, we detest the exploitation of the consumer and of resources; we see this as an immoral attitude,” continues VIgnelli. “Lella’s sensibility toward natural materials, textures, and colors is quite apparent in her work: Linen, wool, silk, woods, silver are often the foundation of her creative palette. Her clothing design also reflected the same approach, based on sober values and thoughtful intelligence. Lella’s work, as her life, has been a fantastic blend of logic and playfulness, spirit and pragmatism, down-to-earth logic and idealistic vision.”

    The book provides a dense, yet minimalist portrait of their story, with pictures of their work dating from 1964 till today. The book divides their work, in Italy and America, into several chapters: “Furniture Design,” “Interior Design,” “Exhibition and Showroom Design,” “Product Design: Glass, China, Silver,” and “Clothing Design.” There you have it: Lella and Massimo Vignelli, partners, lovers, and husband and wife for over half a century.

    A role model for all women “Her personality has made her a role model for all women,” writes Massimo. On the last page, with a black background, is a close-up of Lella wearing a 17th century inspired necklace she designed. “Here, Lella is modeling her necklace. We have often said that the problem with some designers is that they play with the appearance of things rather than getting at their essence. Lella has been consistent throughout her career: she is unfailingly intelligent; rigorous, not arbitrary; timeless, not trendy. She is an inspiration.”

    Her inspiration has infected contemporary design and united this singular couple. “Design is one,” says one of their slogans. “If one knows how to design one thing, one can design everything.” But in their book design also takes two.   

  • Tourism

    Italy’s Fourth-Largest City and What It Has To Offer

    Those who know Turin, know it as the city where the automobile was born. The presence of FIAT makes it a major industrial center at the international level. But Turin is also a city of art, culture and innovation. Our conversation with Pietro Fassino thus begins with the obvious question:

    “What’s the connection between culture and business? How does one present the ‘Turin system’ in the United States?”

    “For most of the twentieth century Turin earned a reputation in the world as a large manufacturing city, a ‘one company town’ tied to car manufacturing, like Detroit in America. But

    Turin was also the first capital of Italy. However briefly it was the capital, you can still feel the effect of that to this day. In the more recent collective imagination, Turin has gained popularity thanks to the FIAT brand and Juventus, the city’s soccer team.

    Times have changed and, unlike other industrial areas, Turin reacted to the economic changes produced by the global market with great energy. New neighborhoods have replaced old factories. And the traditional work ethic of Turin’s people has allowed entrepreneurs to reinvent a role for them, to diversify production.

    Hence the hinterland represents the second largest exporter in the country. Along the way more ventures have been consolidated, making the city a desirable place to invest capital and set up business. Today we’re a metropolis with 100,000 university students, a city with an advanced service industry, and a cultural capital with museums and theaters that organize shows, festivals, and events year-round.

    The recent promotional events we organized in the Big Apple were aimed at presenting American investors with the picture of a modern and many-sided city in southern Europe that is still an innovation leader.”

    Why should an American visit the city?

    To soak up its marvelously preserved architecture and urban landscape, its rich patrimony of palazzos, piazzas, and enviable beauty. Its richness can be enjoyed in the enormous patrimony of our museums, the Egyptian and the Mole Antonelliana, in the store of treasures from the early days of film, or by passing through the numerous portrait galleries housing collections of modern and contemporary art. There’s also a surprising blend of music, cuisine, and culture in the city.

    To quote Augusto Monti, Turin remains “a fake indigent,” a city that turns up surprises and attractions. The Department of Tourism in Turin has many package deals to delight in he beauty of Turin and its surroundings, including hotels and resorts and high-end dining.

    Can you tell us more about the relationship between Turin and the 2015 Expo Milan initiative? You’re focusing on Turin’s proximity to Milan to make it a gateway to the Expo.

    Thanks to high-speed trains Turin is a little less than thirty minutes away from the Lombardy capital. Milan’s universal food expo is the perfect occasion to offer the several million visitors from around the continent to take advantage of the initiatives organized by the city. In 2015 Turin will be the European Capital of Sport. It will display the Shroud of Turin and celebrate important anniversaries, such as the bicentenary of Don Bosco, one of the most famous Saints in the Christian tradition.

    You coined the slogan “Bet on Turin.” What does that mean?

    Turin is a city of the new economy and technology
    research. Our city has an entrepreneurial heart that attracts qualified personnel from all over Europe who come here for work and play, thanks to the cultural renaissance we’re experiencing. The automobile infrastructure has been here for a hundred years. Norwegian mining engineers come here to study. There is a General Motors research center here. Turin is a large city and many of its neighborhoods have experienced a
    metamorphosis thanks to the upkeep of industrial areas abandoned by manufacturers on the far outskirts. It’s a great chance for international markets to invest, especially in the city’s north end, where there are still large spaces to redevelop and profit from a flourishing real estate market.

    Any personal tips to share about Turin? What’s your favorite area to walk? Your favorite historical building? Your favorite local dish?

    Turin is a city of extraordinary beauty with a rich history. Its roots stretch to the Roman city of Augusta Taurinorum. I have a lot of favorite spots. The city has many baroque buildings, boulevards, parks along the river, and a precious green hill. The eight-mile stretch of porticoes shading the most elegant shops in the city center is something to be proud of. I would tell an American tourist to visit the museums and portrait galleries, to stroll along the shop-lined streets and have lunch at one of the many traditional trattorias, where they’ve been serving up agnolotti del plin with truffles for a hundred years. Next I’d suggest visiting Palazzo Carignano, where 153 years ago Camillo Cavour brought together the parties that would lead to the unification of Italy, or stop by one of the historic cafes for a bicerin, a delicious concoction made with dark coffee, cocoa powder, and cream.

    For those who can’t make the trip, how can they familiarize themselves with the city from afar? Any books, movies, albums you would recommend?

    Well, they should first get the latest guidebook. As one of the Olympics slogans put it: “Turin never stays still.” Yet one book I’d recommend is a childrens’ book woven with solidarity and sympathy for the less fortunate—which feels very contemporary despite being written 130 years ago—Edmondo De Amicis’ masterpiece “Cuore” (Heart). As for music, I have to admit that Turin puts me in mind of jazz, of its twilit aspects. That should be clear given that I organized a festival for the genre. As for films, there are tons that refer to the city, especially in the last few decades.

    Consider that at least fifty films are shot in Turin every year. But I’m happy to name one that does a good job of showing a certain side of the city: “The Sunday Woman.” The movie is based on a book by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini, a couple of brilliant, true Turinese writers, and magnificently directed by Luigi Comencini, with an all-star cast including Marcello Mastroianni and Jacqueline Bisset.

    What kind of relationship do you have with New York?

    I have great admiration for the dynamism of the city and its diverse mix of people. It’s a place, one of the most representative of the United States in my opinion, where our co-nationals distinguish themselves every day by their work.

    You have led an important political career.You were the national secretary of your party and a minister before becoming mayor. In the meantime, the Mayor of Florence has become the Prime Minister. The question seems natural even for an American who knows little about Italian politics: what is the relationship between national and local politics in Italy today? How did mayors get to be so important?

    Mayors have direct contact with citizens. Young and old, student and worker turn to their districts for answers. The municipality is the closest representation of the entire public administration. Who knows the woes and aspirations of the territory better than mayors?

    Before we go, let’s talk a moment about the province of Turin. You’re from Avigliana. How does that province continue to define you?

    It’s a town at the onset of the valley of Susa with twelve thousand inhabitants, a very pretty place with two lakes located just under Mount Pirchiriano. On the summit is the 11th century monastery of Sacra di San Michele. It’s mystical as well as extremely beautiful. I feel deeply connected to Avigliana, given my family ties to it. Like me, my grandfather and my father – who was a commander in the Italian resistance movement against Nazi-fascists – were born there. Part of my story and my roots are there.

    **Piero Fassino was born to a traditional socialist family. A member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) since the late 1960s, he rose to become a national leader. He presided over the transformation of PCI into the Democrats of the Left, of which he became the Secretary in the early 2000s. He is now one of the leaders of the Democratic Party and since 2011 he is the Mayor of Turin.

  • Tourism

    Italy’s Fourth-Largest City and What It Has To Offer

    Those who know Turin, know it as the city where the automobile was born. The presence of FIAT makes it a major industrial center at the international level. But Turin is also a city of art, culture and innovation. Our conversation with Pietro Fassino thus begins with the obvious question:

    “What’s the connection between culture and business? How does one present the ‘Turin system’ in the United States?”

    “For most of the twentieth century Turin earned a reputation in the world as a large manufacturing city, a ‘one company town’ tied to car manufacturing, like Detroit in America. But

    Turin was also the first capital of Italy. However briefly it was the capital, you can still feel the effect of that to this day. In the more recent collective imagination, Turin has gained popularity thanks to the FIAT brand and Juventus, the city’s soccer team.

    Times have changed and, unlike other industrial areas, Turin reacted to the economic changes produced by the global market with great energy. New neighborhoods have replaced old factories. And the traditional work ethic of Turin’s people has allowed entrepreneurs to reinvent a role for them, to diversify production.

    Hence the hinterland represents the second largest exporter in the country. Along the way more ventures have been consolidated, making the city a desirable place to invest capital and set up business. Today we’re a metropolis with 100,000 university students, a city with an advanced service industry, and a cultural capital with museums and theaters that organize shows, festivals, and events year-round.

    The recent promotional events we organized in the Big Apple were aimed at presenting American investors with the picture of a modern and many-sided city in southern Europe that is still an innovation leader.”

    Why should an American visit the city?

    To soak up its marvelously preserved architecture and urban landscape, its rich patrimony of palazzos, piazzas, and enviable beauty. Its richness can be enjoyed in the enormous patrimony of our museums, the Egyptian and the Mole Antonelliana, in the store of treasures from the early days of film, or by passing through the numerous portrait galleries housing collections of modern and contemporary art. There’s also a surprising blend of music, cuisine, and culture in the city.

    To quote Augusto Monti, Turin remains “a fake indigent,” a city that turns up surprises and attractions. The Department of Tourism in Turin has many package deals to delight in he beauty of Turin and its surroundings, including hotels and resorts and high-end dining.

    Can you tell us more about the relationship between Turin and the 2015 Expo Milan initiative? You’re focusing on Turin’s proximity to Milan to make it a gateway to the Expo.

    Thanks to high-speed trains Turin is a little less than thirty minutes away from the Lombardy capital. Milan’s universal food expo is the perfect occasion to offer the several million visitors from around the continent to take advantage of the initiatives organized by the city. In 2015 Turin will be the European Capital of Sport. It will display the Shroud of Turin and celebrate important anniversaries, such as the bicentenary of Don Bosco, one of the most famous Saints in the Christian tradition.

    You coined the slogan “Bet on Turin.” What does that mean?

    Turin is a city of the new economy and technology
    research. Our city has an entrepreneurial heart that attracts qualified personnel from all over Europe who come here for work and play, thanks to the cultural renaissance we’re experiencing. The automobile infrastructure has been here for a hundred years. Norwegian mining engineers come here to study. There is a General Motors research center here. Turin is a large city and many of its neighborhoods have experienced a
    metamorphosis thanks to the upkeep of industrial areas abandoned by manufacturers on the far outskirts. It’s a great chance for international markets to invest, especially in the city’s north end, where there are still large spaces to redevelop and profit from a flourishing real estate market.

    Any personal tips to share about Turin? What’s your favorite area to walk? Your favorite historical building? Your favorite local dish?

    Turin is a city of extraordinary beauty with a rich history. Its roots stretch to the Roman city of Augusta Taurinorum. I have a lot of favorite spots. The city has many baroque buildings, boulevards, parks along the river, and a precious green hill. The eight-mile stretch of porticoes shading the most elegant shops in the city center is something to be proud of. I would tell an American tourist to visit the museums and portrait galleries, to stroll along the shop-lined streets and have lunch at one of the many traditional trattorias, where they’ve been serving up agnolotti del plin with truffles for a hundred years. Next I’d suggest visiting Palazzo Carignano, where 153 years ago Camillo Cavour brought together the parties that would lead to the unification of Italy, or stop by one of the historic cafes for a bicerin, a delicious concoction made with dark coffee, cocoa powder, and cream.

    For those who can’t make the trip, how can they familiarize themselves with the city from afar? Any books, movies, albums you would recommend?

    Well, they should first get the latest guidebook. As one of the Olympics slogans put it: “Turin never stays still.” Yet one book I’d recommend is a childrens’ book woven with solidarity and sympathy for the less fortunate—which feels very contemporary despite being written 130 years ago—Edmondo De Amicis’ masterpiece “Cuore” (Heart). As for music, I have to admit that Turin puts me in mind of jazz, of its twilit aspects. That should be clear given that I organized a festival for the genre. As for films, there are tons that refer to the city, especially in the last few decades.

    Consider that at least fifty films are shot in Turin every year. But I’m happy to name one that does a good job of showing a certain side of the city: “The Sunday Woman.” The movie is based on a book by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini, a couple of brilliant, true Turinese writers, and magnificently directed by Luigi Comencini, with an all-star cast including Marcello Mastroianni and Jacqueline Bisset.

    What kind of relationship do you have with New York?

    I have great admiration for the dynamism of the city and its diverse mix of people. It’s a place, one of the most representative of the United States in my opinion, where our co-nationals distinguish themselves every day by their work.

    You have led an important political career.You were the national secretary of your party and a minister before becoming mayor. In the meantime, the Mayor of Florence has become the Prime Minister. The question seems natural even for an American who knows little about Italian politics: what is the relationship between national and local politics in Italy today? How did mayors get to be so important?

    Mayors have direct contact with citizens. Young and old, student and worker turn to their districts for answers. The municipality is the closest representation of the entire public administration. Who knows the woes and aspirations of the territory better than mayors?

    Before we go, let’s talk a moment about the province of Turin. You’re from Avigliana. How does that province continue to define you?

    It’s a town at the onset of the valley of Susa with twelve thousand inhabitants, a very pretty place with two lakes located just under Mount Pirchiriano. On the summit is the 11th century monastery of Sacra di San Michele. It’s mystical as well as extremely beautiful. I feel deeply connected to Avigliana, given my family ties to it. Like me, my grandfather and my father – who was a commander in the Italian resistance movement against Nazi-fascists – were born there. Part of my story and my roots are there.

    **Piero Fassino was born to a traditional socialist family. A member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) since the late 1960s, he rose to become a national leader. He presided over the transformation of PCI into the Democrats of the Left, of which he became the Secretary in the early 2000s. He is now one of the leaders of the Democratic Party and since 2011 he is the Mayor of Turin.

  • ‘Madreterra’ (Mother Earth). A Lamp for Sardinia

    VERSIONE ITALIANA DELL'ARTICOLO >>>

    What brings Flavio Manzoni, Ferrari design director, at CIMA (Center for Italian Modern Art in New York) on May 1 ?
     

    We find ourselves surrounded by a few selected architects, designers and journalists, in this important centre established in New York in 2013 – the result of the brilliant intuition of its director, Laura Mattioli– to promote the study of Italian modern and contemporary art.
     

    In the air New York’s familiar vitality, around us the masterpieces of the Italian Futurism currently on display, and at the deep end of the room a massive Leucos lamp comes into view. It almost looks alive, like a giant looking down upon us, with its head at the top end of the elongated arm supporting the electrical wires.

    The deep and heartfelt motivation that brought Flavio Manzoni to design the lamp with such care and attention to details, is also the reason behind his presence here. We talk about the lamp with him, seated underneath it, surrounded by the works of Depero, from 1920s, like : “Citta’ Meccanizzata dalle ombre” (City Mechanized by Shadows) and “Cavalcata Fantastica” (Fantastical Ride). Unique atmosphere.

    “I came here to present the projectMadre Terra. New York is one of the stages of the initiative conceived to support the victims of the flood that hit Sardinia on November 18, 2013. I strongly wanted to give a substantial personal contribution to help rebuild one of the worst hit areas of Sardinia.”

    Flavio Manzoni, born in Nuoro, italian pride, today the mind behind the design of the Ferrari masterpieces – he has also designed for  Lancia, Volkswagen, SEAT – this time doesn’t want to talk about his cars. He wants to tell us about his wonderful native land, so gravely wounded. It’s because of Sardinia that he undertook a two day trip to New York bringing with himself only his daughter and a lamp.
     

    How did the idea to raise funds by designing and auctioning a lamp come about?

     “It comes from a previous job I did with Gabriele Cestra and Leucos. A charitable initiative to the benefit of the City of Hope, a clinic in Padova where, together with other designers, we personalized the lamps.

    So I thought, instead of using canvas or any other means, I could use a lamp precisely for its symbolic value. Because it represents the light in itself, and not just hope. It’s something that inherently brings you to highlight and focus on something, to meditate and somehow also generate hope”.
     

    The lamp is dense with details. Some parts are abstract, vaguely resembling fractures on a terrirory that could be imaginary but is actually real… but there are also figurative elements which for Manzoni have an important symbolic value.

    “It describes, in a somehow elaborate way, some sort of stream of consciousness that started when this event happened. I haven’t lived in Sardinia for a very long time, since I was 18. I left it to follow a dream, to become architect and designer. But this tragic flood truly brought me back to my roots, almost fiercely.
     

    So for a few days I let my thoughts flow. Considerations and memories emerged that later played a role in the composition of this work. The object is characterized by two levels, one that we could define abstract or a sort of cosmogram, each figure with its own meaning.
     

    The second level is instead made of figurative and allegorical images evocative of my personal bond with my land. For example, there is an image that reminds me of my father, who passed away a short time before this disaster. I wanted him to be there. But there’s also my son, because when something like this happens you start thinking of how much our relationship with the Earth has radically changed compared to the past. This should make us think, more than anything else, of who will be coming after us.”
     

    A new sense of life from something that was shattered. A positive piece of art…

    “That’s exactly right. The lamp symbolizes light in every way, aslo for its colors and the signs which are mainly red. They almost seem like scracthes, like wounds representing the Earth violated by men, but at the same time symbolizing the human sacrifice, because this is what we are talking about. It has been a huge price to pay for Sardinia. At the base of the lamp you can find the reading key of the work, while the lamp cap itself can be considered the work of art in its entirety.”
     

    Living away from your homeland, to then suddenly rediscover it because of a tragedy. Can you describe how does it feel?

    “The feeling is that the lives that we lead, so frenetic, always overworked, is a life that takes you away from the intimate and symbiotic relationship with your land. Something happened to me that had also happened to Costantino Nivola. He is a great artist cited in the lamp because it’s named Madre Terra. It’s centered around the mediterranean motherly figure, which for us Sardinians symbolizes the earth. Nivola, the greatest sardinian artist of last century, is also very well known here as he worked in New York for many years. He, like me, had strenghtened the bond with his land of origin when he was away from it. Sometimes distance helps you recuperate that sense of belonging and reconciliate yourself with your roots.”

    This lamp is in New York now, it has already been in many other places. What’s the itinerary?

    “It first went to Cagliari, then to the Bologna Art Fair, the Milan Furniture Fair and is now here in New York. It’s about showing it around allowing it to be seen and known. It’ll go on auction at the end of July. There are only three handmade pieces, all unique even if the mold is the same. The funds raised will be used to rebuild the Maria Rocca school in Olbia, which is so badly damaged it cannot be reopened and therefore needs to be rebuilt from scratch. I really wanted to have a very concrete target”.

    Inside the lamp there is an inscription. Can you tell us more about it?

     “The inscription is a metaphor which summarizes the meaning of  Grazia Deledda’s novel “Canne al Vento”. Grazia Deledda was a distinguished writer, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature and during the flow of thoughts I mentioned above some passages of this novel were coming to my mind. There is a character, a servant from a small farm, who worries about the approaching winter and the danger brought by rainfalls. ‘Canne al vento’ (Reeds in the wind) is a metaphor of the human fragility.
     

    What I inscribed in the lamp is : “Reeds in the wind, reeds are the men, wind is the fate that bends them, crashes and curves them, so they can raise again stronger than before”. It’s a message of hope and will to rebuild and reflect on what happened”.

     Hope for the young… what did your daughter tell you during this project?

    “She observed the whole creative process, because I talked often about it. She is very affectioned and truly close to me, so she has a special interest in what I do. She also has her own relationship of geographic distance with Sardinia”.
     

    It’s not easy to describe the gaze of this great designer as he talks about his daughter. To her, maybe without realizing it, he dedicates this lamp, hope for the future of the extraordinary place that Sardinia is.

     ---

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  • Arte e Cultura

    Madreterra. Una lampada per la Sardegna

    ENGLISH VERSION >>>

    Cosa porta Flavio Manzoni, direttore design di Ferrari,  il 1° maggio al CIMA - Center for Italian Modern Art a New York?

    Ci troviamo tra un numero scelto di architetti, designers, giornalisti, in questo importante centro istituito nel 2013 a New York - nato da una grande intuizione della sua direttrice Laura Mattioli -  per promuovere lo studio dell'arte italiana moderna e contemporanea.  

    Nell’aria la consueta energia newyorkese, intorno capolavori del futurismo italiano attualmente in esposizione, e in fondo alla sala campeggia un’enorme lampada Leucos. Lei sembra quasi viva, partecipe, come un gigante ci guarda dall’alto, con la sua testa sopra il lungo braccio che conduce i fili per la luce.  

    E’ proprio questa lampada la responsabile della presenza di Flavio Manzoni, ovvero il profondo e sentito motivo per cui l’ha disegnata con tanta cura. Ne parliamo con lui, seduti sotto di lei, intorno a noi opere di Depero degli anni 20, “Città Meccanizzata dalle Ombre” e “Cavalcata Fantastica”. L’atmosfera è unica.

    “Sono venuto qui a presentare il progetto Madre Terra. New York è una delle tappe di questa iniziativa organizzata a sostegno delle vittime dell’alluvione che ha colpito la Sardegna, il 18 Novembre dell’anno passato. Ho voluto e cercato un contributo personale consistente per aiutare la ricostruzione di una delle zone più colpite della Sardegna.”  

    Flavio Manzoni, nato a Nuoro, orgoglio  italiano, oggi la mente dietro il design dei gioielli di Ferrari - ha disegnato anche per Lancia, Volkswagen, SEAT - questa volta non vuole parlare delle sue macchine. Vuole parlare della sua splendida terra d’orgine, cosi gravemente ferita. E’ per lei che ha fatto un viaggio di due giorni a New York, portando con se solo sua figlia e una lampada.  

    Ma come nasce l’idea di disegnare una lampada e metterla all’asta per raccogliere fondi?

    “Nasce da un precedente lavoro fatto con Gabriele Cestra e con la Leucos. Un’iniziativa benefica fa favore della città della speranza, una clinica di Padova dove, io insieme ad altri designer, abbiamo personalizzato delle lampade. Così ho pensato, anziché utilizzare la tela o qualsiasi altro supporto, di usare la lampada, proprio per il suo carattere simbolico.

    Perché essa stessa è simbolo di luce, quindi non solo di speranza. E’ un oggetto che ti porta comunque a mettere in luce e a focalizzare l’attenzione su un fatto. A meditare e anche in qualche modo a generare speranza.”  

    La lampada è densa di dettagli. Ci sono parti astratte, che sembrano quasi delle fratture su di un territorio immaginario ma  ahimè reale, e ci sono anche elementi figurativi con un valore simbolico importante  per Manzoni.  

    “Racconta in maniera, forse un po’ complessa, una sorta di flusso di coscienza che si è creato dal momento in cui è avvenuto questo fatto.

    Io non vivo in Sardegna da tantissimo tempo, cioè da quando avevo 18 anni. Mi sono spostato dalla Sardegna per seguire un sogno, ovvero quello di diventare architetto e designer. Ma questo tragico alluvione in Sardegna mi ha veramente riportato alle mie radici, in maniera in qualche modo dirompente.  

    Ho lasciato quindi, per alcuni giorni, correre un po’ la mente. Sono nate dentro di me una serie di riflessioni e di memorie che poi sono entrate in gioco nella composizione di questo elaborato. L’oggetto è caratterizzato da due livelli, un livello che potrebbe essere definito astratto o segnico, è quasi un cosmogramma, ci sono delle figure che hanno ognuna un significato.  

    C’è poi un secondo livello che invece è fatto di immagini un po’ più figurative che sono comunque anche esse allegoriche che hanno a che fare con fatti che rievocano il mio legame con la terra. C’è, per esempio, un’immagine che mi ricorda mio padre, venuto a mancare poche settimane prima di questo. Volevo che ci fosse. Così come ad esempio c’è mio figlio nell’opera, perché è chiaro che quando si pensa a un evento del genere si deve riflettere a quanto il nostro rapporto con la terra sia cambiato in maniera radicale rispetto al passato. Questo ci deve far pensare, soprattutto a chi verrà dopo di noi.”  

    Dunque una rinascita che nasce da delle fratture. Un’opera posiva…

    “Esatto, è proprio così. La lampada è un simbolo di luce a tutti gli effetti anche per il suo colore e i segni sono prevalentemente rossi. Appaiono quasi come dei graffi, delle ferite sulla lampada che simboleggiano quindi sia le ferite della terra violata in qualche modo dall’uomo, ma nello stesso tempo il sacrificio umano, perché di questo si tratta. È stato un sacrificio importante per la Sardegna. Nella base della lampada c’è la chiave di lettura dell’elaborato, mentre la calotta è proprio l’elaborato nella sua interezza.”  

    Vivere lontani dalla propria terra, per  poi riscoprirla all’improvviso per una tragedia. Mi puoi descrivere questa sensazione?

    “La sensazione è che la vita che facciamo, e che anche io un po’ faccio, preso dalla frenesia, dal lavoro etc è una vita che sicuramente ti allontana dal rapporto intimo e simbiotico con la terra. Mi sono reso quindi conto che mi è capitato un fatto che è successo anche a Costantino Nivola. E’ un grande artista che nella lampada viene citato perché si chiama Madre Terra. È quindi incentrata sulla figura della madre mediterranea che è il simbolo della terra per noi sardi. Nivola, che è considerato il più grande artista sardo del secolo passato, è molto conosciuto anche qui negli Stati Uniti perché ha operato per molti anni a New York. Anche lui aveva rielaborato questo forte legame con la sua terra proprio nel momento in cui era più distante. Quindi la distanza a volte ti aiuta anche a recuperare quel senso dell’appartenenza e quella riflessione verso le proprie radici.”  

    Questa lampada è ora qui a New York, è già stata in tanti posti. Mi racconti il progetto?

    “E’ stata prima a Cagliari, poi ad Arte Fiera a Bologna, al salone del mobile a Milano e adesso è qui a New York. È un po’ un root show che la deve portare a farla conoscere. Verrà poi messa all’asta fino a fino Luglio. In totale sono tre esemplari unici perché sono stati realizzati a mano. La matrice è la stessa però. L’intenzione è quella di utilizzare il ricavato per contribuire alla ricostruzione di una scuola di Olbia, la scuola Maria Rocca, che è praticamente inagibile e quindi deve essere ricostruita da zero.  Volevo proprio che ci fosse un obiettivo molto concreto.”  

    Dentro la lampada c’è una scritta, mi puoi dire qualcosa di più di quello che leggiamo?

    “La scritta in realtà è una metafora che però sintetizza il significato di un romanzo di Grazia Deledda che è “Canne al Vento”. Grazia Deledda è stata una grandissima scrittrice, premio Nobel e in quel flusso di pensiero di cui parlavo prima mi ritornavano in mente alcuni passaggi di questo libro. C è un personaggio che è un piccolo servitore di un podere che si preoccupa nel suo piccolo dell’inverno che sta arrivando e quindi del pericolo delle piogge. Canne al vento è una metafora della dimensione umana, della fragilità umana. Quello che ho scritto nella lampada è questa metafora: ‘Canne al vento, canne gli uomini, vento la sorte che le piega, le schianta o le curva perché si rialzino più salde’. Quindi è un po’ un messaggio di speranza e di volontà e di ricostruire e di meditare ma nello stesso tempo di ricostruire su quanto è accaduto.”

     

    Speranza per i  giovani, che ti ha detto tua figlia nel corso di questo lavoro ?

    “L’ha osservata in tutto il suo percorso creativo, perché ne ho parlato spesso. Lei è molto affettuosa e molto legata a me quindi mi segue in modo particolare. Anche lei ha questo rapporto con la Sardegna che vive un po’ a distanza”. E non è facile descrivere lo sguardo di questo grande del design che parla della figlia. Si percepisce. A lei, sicuramente forse senza anche accorgersene,  ha dedicato questa lampada, speranza per il futuro di una terra straordinaria come la Sardegna. ---- Altre foto disponibili nella nostra pagina Facebook >>>

  • Style: Articles

    With Massimo Vignelli. Good Design is Responsible Design

    “Good design is responsible design. It expresses intellectual elegance rather than its contrary, vulgarity,” says Vignelli, without a trace of aloofness or snobbery. 

    Those who have been following our conversations will have been gradually taken by surprise by

    Vignelli. He’s punctilious, yes, but not boring. He “believes” in discipline but not dogma; he is disciplined and dynamic, flexible and coherent, even if he speaks his own language.
     

    Last time, we spoke about a change he made to his own house. There had been books covering his living room table. A lot of books. We were stunned to discover that Vignelli had figured out how to restore rigor to that space “with a beautiful hidden bookcase. I saw one in Ikea.

    The books will be here but you won’t see them and everything will be in order.” So, no top-of-the-line designers? Just a piece of furniture from Ikea that everyone can afford? “Yes, you can find excellent design pieces there! Good, clean designs made with a minimum amount of labor and great modularity.That’s how you do design.”
     
    So here we are, standing beside his hidden bookcases in a space where every contour has been thought out, including the profile of its owner/architect. “Beautiful, right?” says Massimo.
     

    “They’re beautiful because they’re out of sight.” He smiles and continues talking about design in his accessible, pared-down way. “Yes, my style is minimalist. Every language has its rules, everyone has his own style and rules, and that’s why every house is different. My style is more minimalist. You need to take away, take away until there is something left.” The bookcases from Ikea are a case in point.

    Once again, everything about the house of Massimo and Lella Vignelli suggests a life devoted to design, an intellectual journey culminating in that famous slogan: “Design is one.” What does that mean in laymen’s terms? “‘Design Is One’ was the title of my lecture. The idea goes back to the Viennese [Adolf] Loos, who believed that an architect must know how to do everything, from a spoon to a city. Loos was against specialization because specialization led to entropy and entropy led to the end of creativity.Indee you must be able to design everything—furniture, graphics, packaging, agendas, books, even the clothes I’m wearing. And Lella has designed amazing jewelry. We designed what I’m wearing. I designed the watch too. In our house, everything is designed by us—the chairs and the tables; I designed the books I often read. I live in a space almost completely designed by me. With few exceptions.”
     

    “I love my work because ‘design is one.’ It’s one profession, one attitude. As Italians, we have a long history of codifying design in this way. It has existed for centuries. It was the same for Leonardo da Vinci. In Italy, after the war, we had to do everything ... architects like myself did everything ... The discipline was thesame. The way of thinking, coming up with solutions, was always the same. The mental process was the same and the mental process was discipline. This didn’t exist in American culture. American culture is the culture of specialization. Ours, on the other hand, is the culture of the generalist. Specialists didn’t arrive in Europe till later. So in America in 1977, architecture was facing a crisis. In Italy we thought, ‘But in Europe architects do everything! Not just houses but furniture, and so on!’ That’s how I got my start in America doing the same thing being practiced in Europe.”

    And that gave rise to the concept of the coordinated image on which you based your relationship with clients? “Yes, the total coordination of an image is essential. One image for everything, from the logo of a museum to its catalogues to the exhibitions. Or for a company, you begin with the logo to get to the product, the letterhead, the packaging, the store, the displays.” In Vignelli’s opinion, a system of visual identity allows an entity to differentiate itself and become unmistakably recognizable.
     

    Speaking of clients, may we ask what’s the difference between an artist and a designer? “Design is always bound by its relationship with others. Self-expression is the jobofartists. They’retheopposite ofdesigners. Theartistanswers tonoone. Thedesigneralways answers to someone. If you want to make a fork, you have to make a fork someone can eat with, not one that makes it impossible to eat.You can’t make a knife that’s just a blade or just a handle, because striking the right balance of blade and handle is essential tousingit. Thefirstpartinvolves the object itself, the next involves whoismakingtheobject. That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for invention, but there are restrictions.”
     
     

    And what about the difference between designers and stylists? “Everything depends upon methodology. For example, when a fashion designer creates a style he doesn’t follow a designer’s method. He follows a stylist’s. Styling is futile, disposable. Design is in crisis, not design itself but the mechanism behind it... A lot of younger people think they’re doing design when they’re really stylists.They don’t understand the mental process of design. They think the answer to a situation is to restyle it.”
     

    This is our last “philosophical” conversation with Massimo Vignelli. Next time, having absorbed a few concepts, we’ll get down to details.Together we’ll look at a few design objects by him as well as objects by others that have made their way into his life—and ours.

  • Life & People

    “Chiara” by Dacia Maraini. From One Woman to Another

    Maraini’s new novel is rife with messages for today’s society, especially women. After the launch, I got a chance to interview her for our television program and dig deeper into some of the book’s themes.

    Maraini retains a simplicity like few women of her stature. Her eyes convey her intelligence, composure, and deep curiosity as she gently scrutinizes her interlocutors.

    The generous way Maraini embraces any and all has never ceased to amaze me. Her easygoing spirit comes across even when she commands a stage. Her enormous gift for storytelling, both as an author and an academic, is leavened by her remarkable genuineness. One more thing about her has always impressed me: her intense and eternal femininity.

    Author, critic, playwright, and newspaper columnist, Dacia Maraini is one of the most widely translated Italian writers. Never one to cower, she has devoted her time and energy to social causes for decades now, continuously fighting for women’s rights.

    In “Chiara from Assisi: Praise of Disobedience,” Maraini tells the story of one woman’s journey toward sanctity, as she follows—barefoot—

    Saint Francis from Assisi to live a life of poverty. But over the course of the novel, you begin to realize that this girl is stepping into our own world, where she exists to this day.

    “We can look at her choice to live in poverty with modern eyes,” says Maraini. “What she used to call the ‘privilege of poverty’ is a very important step. Owning nothing. It’s a profound way of seeing possession as a limitation. A person with nothing is free. She sets a good example for today’s world, where if you don’t possess things you’re apparently worth nothing.”

    The novel follows its own fascinating path, rich with human and historic curiosities. Its approach is intellectual but warm. From one woman to another.

    Maraini’s laic spiritual fervor is apparent. Her descriptions and introspections stir in us a need to transcend ourselves, to find our own way towards religious meaning. Whether we believe or not.

     “We can’t not define ourselves Christians,” said Maraini, quoting Benedetto Croce. Indeed, Maraini’s interest in Christianity and the Medieval Church has led her to respect the institution.

    “I have been studying mystics for many years,” she tells me, “and I gained access to to them through their literature. There are extraordinary facts to be known that are unfortunately closed behind monastery doors. Through literature I reached the actual people. One of them is Chiara, a strong, energetic, and intelligent woman, but above all a model of idealism.

    “[Chiara] has great dignity,” continues Maraini. “She was the first woman to write a law. She opposed the hierarchical structure of the convent, which was not unlike the society around her. She fought against hierarchies to ensure all sisters were treated the same. She performed the most humble jobs. The Church back then was rich and powerful, a real empire.”

    Thus Chiara ‘s disobedience should be seen as a journey toward consciousness. 

    “Chiara evokes an Italy we know little about,” says Maraini, “self-reliant and mysterious, respectful of the religious order.” Like Francis, Chiara wanted to be disobedient and innovative, but still remain inside the Church.

    “Her disobedience is not selfish, it’s ethical. Remember Antigone: ‘Disobey human law to respect a higher law, the law of our own conscience.’”

    For the saint, poverty becomes the means to purchase freedom.

    So why this book? And how much does Maraini relate to the democratic saint committed to her ideals till the end?

    Says Maraini: “…I believe that people who have pursued their ideals unconditionally should be better acknowledged.”

    The conversation at Casa Zerilli-Marimo’ ranges from mysticism to Chiara to Dacia Maraini’s own life, including her internment in a concentration camp when she was a young girl. She also commented the mafia and Judge Falcone, and expressed her hope for Italy, a country full of resources, despite its problems. And, of course, the new Pope came up.

    “I have found a lot of Pope Francis in this story. The new Pontiff reconnects with the tradition of the true word of Christ. It’s not about war, hate, or violence. It’s about love and dialogue. I believe this Pontiff is doing it the right way. And this is an important message for everyone, including non-believers.”

    And thanks to my intense (I admit nocturnal) reading of the novel, I can add a couple more observations.

    Women still have to strive harder than men to be taken seriously. The legacy of the tenacious Saint from Assisi is beneficial. Only by fighting determinedly yet not aggressively can we enact real change. Only by being ourselves, without resorting to violence or self-exploitation, can we ensure that no one will take advantage of us.

    This, too, I read between the lines of Dacia Maraini’s latest work.

     

     
     
     

  • Tourism

    The Eternal City: 3000 Years and Not Feeling Them (Almost)

    The Dying Gaul, a masterpiece of antiquity from the first or second century AD, is on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington through March 16th. Yet another work of art to visit the States just months after the Boxer at the Met, the Dying Gaul left Rome to act as the Italian capital’s spokesperson overseas. It is the Dying Gaul’s first trip since Napoleon carried it off to Paris in 1797. This time, the statue was personally accompanied by the mayor of Rome, whom we met up with in New York.

    “It’s an extremely valuable statue, one of the most beautiful in our museums, but it’s also kind of an ‘ambassadorial’ symbol of how we would like the world to see Rome in the coming years,” says Marino, just before attending a lunch organized by the Columbus Citizens Foundation.

    “My administration and I think that Rome needs to gain back its international role and bolster its relationship with the United States. Rome has an extraordinary wealth of art and culture and archaeological artifacts, which mustn’t simply be hoarded. They must be appreciated. To do that we want to pool those intelligences and resources that exist throughout the world, beginning with the US.”

    The exhibition in Washington is part of the “Dream of Rome” project. How did it get that name? “It’s a name that resonates, I think, with the entire planet. When someone faraway plans his trip to Rome, whether he be in San Francisco or Oklahoma or Kansas City or New York, he has the impression he’s planning or designing the trip of his life. Rome is a city that’s been around for almost 3,000 years; you can find the origins of our planet’s civilization here, from jurisprudence to art to science. So I think it’s very important that we not only restore an eternal role to the city of Rome, but share it with the rest of the planet as well. For example, I think that a street everybody knows, Via dei Fori Imperiali, needs to undergo some changes if we want to keep up the digs to reunify the whole project for the largest archaeological park on the planet. In fact, it makes for a unique, marvelous space to really work on, and I believe that such an effort can involve scholars, archaeologists, and people who have social and political responsibilities outside our country.”

    So the intention is to bring Rome to America and then bring America back to Italy and Rome. You lived abroad for a long time, particularly in the US. If I’m not mistaken you have dual citizenship...

    “I do have dual citizenship— American and Italian. I lived and worked in the United States for almost 20 years. At a certain point, I thought it was opportune to apply for American citizenship, for many reasons. One reason was that I got a lot from this country: I mostly owe my training as a transplant surgeon to the US, and, clearly, after having lived here for so long, I feel closely connected to the country.”

    And you’ve seen firsthand how Rome is perceived and was perceived here. You are in a unique position to acquaint Americans with the Eternal City. You know how to describe it, how to engage the popular imagination...

    “Of course this country has changed a lot since I first came here, around the mid-Eighties, now that we’re in the third millennium. Remembering how Italy was perceived back then still brings a smile to my face. In the Eighties, almost 90% of United States citizens didn’t have passports. That means that only a small part of the society traveled, knew Italy, Europe, and the rest of the world.

    I remember one day, during the first years I was specializing in transplant surgery, the head nurse on my ward (a ward with state-of-the-art technology that performed as many as 500 liver transplants a year) asked me if we had refrigerators in Italy. That was the idea they had of Italy and it was linked to the fact that the world communicated in a much slower way back then; there was no internet, no social networks, no Facebook. Today the knowledge of Italy in this country is clearly more vast from many points of view—cultural, gastronomic, intellectual, political, social—and I think that both countries have benefited as a result.”

    On a personal level, if you had to convince an American to return to or visit the city for the first time in just a few words, what would you say?

    “I would say that Rome is still the capital of the largest artistic, cultural, and archaeological patrimony on the planet, and an American can discover the origins of most of Western Civilization here. Here, he can gain a greater understanding of where he comes from, and that helps us decide which direction we want to be heading in.”

    You might say Rome is a city for everybody. It also has a long Jewish heritage that ties it to New York too. You might say that’s a real point of comparison...

    “Right. Rome is not only known for being the center of Christianity, for obvious reasons, it is also home to the oldest Jewish community in Italy and Europe. The Jewish community is very important to Rome. It has been for millennia. Unfortunately in the last century it suffered horribly. Under Mussolini’s dictatorship we had race laws, deportations, extermination—those had a dramatic affect on the city, a significant impact on the history of our community, meaning the community as a whole: the urban community of Rome. At the same time, you shouldn’t forget that Rome has the largest mosque in Italy and the largest Buddhist temple on the entire European continent. Rome is in a privileged position to act as a port of call, a cultural melting pot, and a religious mecca.

    The number of itineraries to plan in Rome is endless, and unfortunately we don’t have enough space here to mention them all. So, on a personal level again, since I know you love biking, what itinerary would you recommend for someone biking through the city?

    “Definitely the historic center of Rome, starting with Piazza del Popolo, crossing Via del Corso, stopping by Via del Tritone and the area around the Trevi Fountain. Then I’d head back www.i-Italy.org 05_TOURISM-Roma-lilith.indd 57 toward Piazza di Spagna and connect up with Via del Babuino again. I’d make a brief detour to Via Margutta, which I think is marvelous. If the sun’s out, it’s bound to be an unforgettable itinerary.”

    Is Via Margutta still the street of artists? Is it full of galleries?

    “It’s still packed with artists and antique shops. Unfortunately, like many artistic hubs—the same is happening in a city like Venice—the cost of real estate is too high. So space can often be taken up by people with fewer ties to the art world.”

    Let me ask you a couple of quick questions that might also serve as recommendations for tourists. What’s your favorite Roman dish?

    “Cacio e pepe, for sure. Very simple, and very typical.”

    Your favorite film about Rome?

    “Rome, Open City by Rossellini.”

    Your favorite Roman song, or song about Rome?

    “Roma Non Fa’ la Stupida Stasera is a beautiful song. It brings together the idea that this city has an enormous artistic patrimony and great beauty, from its beautiful river to its pleasant, mild climate year- round to its monuments, lights, and colors. And there’s work to be done on that front, too: the Tiber has to be cleaned up and made livable for the whole year.”

    I’m sure you have many projects underway or in the works. In your opinion, what’s the most important project related to tourism that you’re working on at this moment?

    “Public transportation, without a doubt. We intend to make public transportation more efficient and fully functioning by increasing the number of new buses as well as the so-called “iron rails,” our tramways. We are also adding a bike sharing program to the options of urban transportation. Given the way Rome is built, getting around with these means will be faster, more efficient, ad also more charming, in my opinion.”

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