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Articles by: Roberta Cutillo

  • Facts & Stories

    After The World Cup, Women Players Are Still Fighting

    Though the Italian team may be out of the Women’s World Cup after losing Saturday’s game to the Netherlands, female soccer players aren’t done fighting just yet. Actually, we could say that the biggest battle for Italian women’s soccer begins now. 

     

    The unexpected qualification of the team to the World Cup, and its remarkable performance during the tournament became a central topic throughout the country, where football - or soccer if you prefer - has long been considered the ultimate expression of masculinity, more so than any other sport, and where the men’s national team hasn’t been performing well of late. 

     

    Although the team’s journey was cut short after its elimination at the quarter-finals, many see this as the perfect opportunity to discuss the issue of professionalization. In fact, in Italy, the players of the women’s national soccer team are not considered professional athletes, contrarily to their male counterparts. 

     

    “From now on, women’s football in Italy will be different,” stated Milena Bertolini, the team’s coach, one of the only two Italian women to hold the title to train a men’s Serie A team. “Now, those in charge of taking certain decision have to do it, because the girls deserve professionalization and more opportunities. Today they played against professional colleagues and from that point of view it was not an equal match.” she commented after Saturday’s game.

     

    The first Italian football team was created in Milan during the 1930s and the sport became popular amongst women during the war and for a short while after. However, the Italian Female Football Federation (Federazione Italiana Calcio Femminile) wasn’t founded until 1968. An association was then formed in 1980 but the sport still wasn’t widely diffused. 

     

    Today, major soccer teams are required to have a women’s team as well and in 2018-19, the first edition of the female Serie A (the highest division for Italian teams) was organized by the Federazione Italiana Giuco Calcio (FIGC.)

     

    However, women’s soccer remains marginal in Italy. Suffice to look at the numbers: the annual budget for the women’s team is of about 4,2 million euro while the men’s is of 28 million euro. 

     

    But the fact that women’s soccer isn’t considered professional has other consequences. For example, it means that female players are not provided with insurance, if they are injured they must cover the cost of treatment and rehabilitation themselves. They also do not receive a pension nor any form of support in case of pregnancy or invalidity. 

     

    Even more troubling is the common practice of including “anti-pregnancy” clauses in the athletes’ contracts, which cause them to be automatically rescinded in case of pregnancy. 

     

    In Italy, whether an athlete is professional is determined by article 2 of law 91, which dates back to 1981 and simply delegates this responsibility to CONI (the Italian National Olympic Committee) along with the national sports federations. 

     

    However, CONI has yet to clarify what constitutes the distinction between professional and amateurial. This has caused countless instances of descrimination over the years and penalized many athletes. Currently, the only sports that CONI recognizes as being professional are men’s soccer up to Lega Pro, golf, basketball, and cycling. This means that some of Italy’s greatest athletes such as Olympic swimmer Federica Pellegrini are technically not professionals. 

     

    Women’s soccer stands out amidst all the sports that are being denied their professional status because of how much importance is given to men’s soccer in contrast. 

     

    This sort of disparity cannot continue to be ignored and, in fact, high representatives of the sport’s associations and federations are beginning to express the intention to professionalize women’s soccer, though with perhaps a little too much “caution”. 

     

    The head of FIGC Gabriele Gravina commented after the quarter-final “We have to build the foundations that will allow these girls to make the jump in quality they deserve. The FIGC is taking concrete steps: from July 1st 2020, the status of female soccer players will change.” 

     

    He then went on to say that “the girls” will eventually obtain professionalization but that it is unthinkable to introduce it today. “We must, first of all, consider the impact that a change in status would bring upon the system. We can’t expose it to the risk of losing participants,” he continued, insisting on the importance of behaving “sustainably.”

     

    A little more encouraging were the words of the President of AIC (Associazione Italiana Calciatori,) Damiano Tommasi, who stated that “Women’s soccer is destined to grow and I’m sad to see the resistance to discussing professionalization.”

     

    “I’m not saying we should do it tomorrow morning,” he continued, “but we should start the path, with a clear framework in mind. It’s time to reason, we certainly want to be sustainable, but women’s soccer is one of the most convenient investments, with a great prospect of profitability.” 

     

    With women’s soccer growing in popularity across the globe, these issues are starting to be addressed everywhere and things are beginning to change. The Norwegian federation recently made history by mandating equal pay for its male and female players. 

     

    This is still an isolated case, but hopefully other countries will follow along. All over the world, from the United States to Argentina, female players are demanding and often obtaining more recognition and adequate compensation.

     

    In some cases, brands and sponsors are stepping in to fill the economic and representational gender gaps. For example, in 2017, Adidas carried out the #InYourName campaign with the Swedish national women’s team, for which they made a limited series of jerseys where the player’s names were replaced by inspirational quotes meant to empower women and encourage them to support each other.

     

    While it’s still unclear how exactly the Italian situation will evolve from here, at least people are talking about it and it’s not unreasonable to think that Italy will follow the wind of change blowing across the world of women’s soccer. 

  • Art & Culture

    Nazi-Looted Painting Will Return to Florence

    “Vase of Flowers,” a still life painting by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum will return to its rightful home on the walls of Florence’s Palazzo Pitti. This restitution is the result of an agreement between the Italian and German ministers of Foreign Affairs, Enzo Moavero and Heiko Maas. 

     

    The painting - like countless others, many of which are still unaccounted for - was stolen by nazi troops on their way out of Florence during World War II. It actually resurfaced back in 1991 but the restitution process proved to be very complicated. 

     

    A major issue with these cases has to do with the statute of limitations, which prevents authorities from taking legal action against a crime committed beyond a certain time limit, in this case 30 years. 

     

    However, last January, Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Galleries - which Palazzo Pitti is a part of - publicly called for the artwork’s restitution, arguing that the German government (he is himself a German citizen. ed.) had a “moral duty” to help bring it back. 

     

    Following this, the government contacted the descendants of the soldier who had taken the painting. When the painting first resurfaced, they had initially demanded to be paid €2 million for it and now refused to return it. 

     

    The authorities argued that, since the painting had been stolen, the soldier never had the right to pass it down. On the other hand, the family claimed that the artwork had been purchased at a market as a present to send home to his wife. 

     

    The result of the settlement between the family and German authorities has not been made public but it is now in the hands of the latter and, after 75 years, will be returning to Florence to hang on its spot on the wall, which is currently being filled by a black and white photo reproduction of the work that reads “stolen!” in English, Italian and German. Both Moavero and Maas will be present for the event, though the date is yet to be determined. 

     

    Dr. Schmidt expressed his joy in seeing this important piece return to where the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold the Second had it placed almost 200 years ago. He thanked the foreign ministers as well as the Italian Minister of Culture Bonisoli, the judicial authorities and the Carabinieri Art Squad for the protection of cultural heritage, who all contributed to this complicated endeavor. 

     

    The Uffizi director also took the opportunity to call for German authorities to abolish the statute of limitations on Nazi looted art, something which many have argued for as such objects continue to emerge and it gets harder and harder for the rightful owners to recuperate them.

     

  • The prize winners at the Quirinale with President Mattarella
    Facts & Stories

    2019 Bellisario Awards Recognize 'High-Flying Women'

    On June 14th, the Marisa Bellisario Foundation celebrated this year’s recipients of the “Golden Apple,” the award given out to the “Donne ad Alta Quota,” that is the “high-flying women” who stood out for their achievements in various fields. 

     

    The Foundation is named after pioneering top-manager Marisa Bellisario, a remarkable and inspiring woman who rose to the highest ranks of management for prominent Italian companies such as Olivetti, where she held the position of Chairman of Olivetti Corporation of America from 1979 to 1981 when she came back to Italy and became CEO of Italtel. 

     

    Needless to say, at the time, it was almost unheard of for a woman to hold such high-ranking positions, particularly in Italy. Bellisario faced continuous obstacles and the fact that she did carry out such a successful career - which was cut short when she passed away from a fatal disease in 1988 - is a testament to her strength, talent and determination. 

     

    Today, the Foundation is one of the leading organizations in Italy dedicated to supporting and advancing the career of women working across various fields of the private and public sector with the intention of promoting a culture of gender equality within Italian society. 

     

    This year’s 31st edition of the “Donne ad Alta Quota” award went out to 9 outstanding women. Amongst them, Mariangela Zappia, the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations in New York - the first woman to cover this role.

     

    The other recipients included Iraqi human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, who received the international award, and Sofia Corradi, the creator of the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange program, who was awarded for her overall career.  

     

    Additionally, the management award went out to Elisabetta Ripa, CEO of Open Fiber; the entrepreneurship award was given to Gloria Tenuta, the President and CEO of Gias; the information prize was awarded to Repubblica Journalist Federica Angeli; the entertainment award went to TV presenter Milly Carlucci; and the special award was given to pianist and composer Cristiana Pegoraro.

     

    Finally, the “germoglio d’oro” for promising young women was awarded to Lucrezia Bisignani, the co-founder of Kukua, an edutainment company aimed at teaching African children to read, write, and make calculations using a smartphone.  

     

    The ceremony took place in the RAI studios after the winners - accompanied by the creator of the Bellisario Award, entrepreneur and member of the Italian Parliament Lella Golfo, and by the President of the Award’s appointing commission Stefano Lucchini - were received in the Quirinal Palace by President Sergio Mattarella.

     

    “The work of women is an incredibly important contribution to the life of our country,” commented the President, who said women are increasingly becoming protagonists whether it be in economics, diplomacy, journalism, “this enriches and strengthens the nation.” 

     

    The award show was then broadcasted on Rai1 on June 22nd, where, according to the Foundation, it was watched by about 800,000 spectators. You can see it here on Rai Play.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    New Jersey’s 'Razza' Named Best Pizzeria in North America

    On June 27th, 50 Top Pizza, an articulated online guide to the best pizzerias in the world, revealed the ranking of the Top 100 pizza joints in North America. 

     

    New York City was strongly represented on the list, however first place was assigned to Dan Richer’s Razza Pizza Artigianale in Jersey City. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona came in second and Lucali in Brooklyn was third. 

     

    50 Top Pizza curators Paola Guerra and Albert Sapere, who presented the event held inside the James Beard House in Greenwich Village, explained that the judges are asked to rate the pizzerias independently of style and instead focus on things such as the quality of the products, the ingredients that go into the pizza, and the atmosphere, the experience of the place itself. 

     

    And in fact, just by looking at the list, one can tell that it includes various types of pizza. Some, including Joe’s Pizza (21st) and Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop (18th) are known for their crispier New York style slices, while others such as Ribalta (31st) and Kesté (27th) serve a more traditional Neapolitan pizza, though each give it their own special touch. 

     

    As this year’s top pizzaiolo, Dan Richer, mentioned in his brief speech, “pizza-making is all about the details. It’s an extremely precise and complicated process that seldom gets the recognition it deserves.” 

     

    He went on to express his gratitude for receiving such a title, adding that this doesn’t mean he won’t keep changing and getting better. “It’s a continuously evolving process,” he said, “I’m constantly tampering with the ingredients, techniques, ways to manage the temperature.”

     

    Though he isn’t Italian, Richer grew up - as many Americans do - eating and loving pizza. After college, he traveled to Italy for the first time and, having tasted the pizza there, he discovered it was completely different from what he was used to back home. This realization made him want to delve deeper into just how pizza is made.

     

    Back in the States, he began to explore this topic, mostly by trial and error. “I didn’t learn from anyone, I kept trying out different things, making adjustments, and persisted,” he explains. “It took years before I started to get it right.”

     

    He stated a catering company, worked in professional kitchens, and previously purchased another pizzeria, gaining recognition - he was even a James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef semi-finalist in 2011, something highly unusual for a pizza-maker. 

     

    In 2013, he opened Razza Pizza Artigianale. The pizza there doesn’t fit into any particular category or follow a specific style. Richer defines it as "artisanal American pizza", the method is constantly evolving and combines various elements from different types of pizza. 

     

    A fundamental aspect though is the freshness of the products. All the ingredients are locally produced and seasonal, following the Italian approach to cooking. An approach which was shared by James Beard, the famed American culinary figure who lived in the House where the event was held. 

     

    In fact, as the Foundation’s director pointed out, James Beard was amongst the first in America to emphasize the importance of elements such as freshness, seasonality, and sustainability in cooking. These aspects are all at the core of Italian cuisine and, of course, pizza, making this the perfect venue for the event. 

     

    On this occasion, 50 Top Pizza also named the finalists for the top 50 pizzerias in Brazil and the top 50 in South America (explaining that Brazil has its own category because it is home to an insanely vast quantity and variety of pizzerias - Sao Paulo has the most pizzerias in the world.) 

     

    The project is continuously expanding to cover an increasingly large portion of the globe, because, though pizza was born in Italy, it is now a global product that can be found all over the world, in all its sometimes wonderful, sometimes bizarre, and mainly interesting variations. 

     

    You can find the complete ranking here: https://www.50toppizza.it/en/50-top-northern-america-2019/

     

  • Facts & Stories

    100per100 Italian Academy Comes to New York

    On June 23rd, the I Love Italian Food Association brought their project, the 100per100 Italian Academy, to the Scavolini Soho Gallery in Manhattan.

     

    This initiative, whose first edition was launched last February in Dubai, is an itinerant masterclass aimed at educating food industry professionals on the secrets of Italian cuisine: its products, techniques, and traditions. 

     

    This particular event was dedicated to Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI and organized in collaboration with the Consortium for the Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

     

    Attendees had the chance to learn about the product and its history through a guided sensorial tasting: five stations were set up by the showroom entrance, each equipped with a candle, a sheet of paper, a jar of wood shavings, four bottles containing the ingredients of balsamic vinegar and the final product, and a set of headphones to guide them through each step.

     

    Throughout the evening, several Balsamic vinegar-friendly products were served, including cheese provided by the renowned Nonno Nanni brand, salumi, and strawberries. There were also some less obvious pairings such as balsamic vinegar gelato by l’Arte del Gelato and even Balsamic vinegar cherry sodas.  

     

    A new guide was given out, the 100per100 Italian Guide New York, which compiles the authentic Italian restaurants in the city, realized in partnership with Authentico, a simple to use app (you just scan the barcode) for verifying the authenticity of Italian products.

     

    Behind a sleek Scavolini cooking station, several chefs from the New York Italian Chef Association took turns demonstrating how to prepare dishes using real Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. 

     

    Chef Silvia Barban from LaRina in Brooklyn started by hand-making and then preparing balsamic vinegar flavored ravioli. Then, chef Massimiliano Eandi from Raviolo and MAV Soho made fusilli with squacquerone cheese and Balsamic vinegar. 

     

    Later on, Executive Chef of Maiella restaurant and Vice President of the New York Italian Chef Association, Raffaele Solinas, lead a cooking demonstration focused on the use of stracchino, a delicious soft cheese for which Nonno Nanni is most known. 

     

    Chef Rosanna Di Michele channeled her family’s pizza-making roots to prepare a variety of pizzas using the Valpizza line, with all sorts of creative toppings studied to complement the flavor of Balsamic vinegar. 

     

    Other top chefs and pizza makers including Cesare Casella, Fabrizio Facchini, Gennaro Pecchia, Odette Fada, Roberto Caporuscio and many others were present at the event, and delicious, mouth-watering food kept flowing throughout the evening. 

  • Life & People

    Saying Goodbye to Naples’ Last ‘Acquaiola’

    Carmela, or Carmelina, the historic waterseller of Naples’ Via dei Tribunali passed away on June 24, 2019. The news was given by the globally renowned pizza-maker Gino Sorbillo, a long-time friend and neighbor, the historic Sorbillo Pizzeria being located right next door to her “banca dell’acqua,” or “water counter.” 

     

    "Ciao Carmela l’Acquaiola dei Tribunali...R.I.P." Sorbillo tweeted on Monday morning. 

     

    Well into her 80s, Carmelina was a true institution, she represented an almost extinct yet emblematic figure, that of the “acquaiola.” 

     

    The term roughly translates to “waterseller,” and refers to men and women who sold water and later other refreshments such as pressed orange or lemon juice on the streets. Though the practice dates back to the Middle Ages, it had mostly died out but persisted in Naples, where it was still quite common as recently as in the 1960s and 70s.

     

    Initially, acquaioli (sometimes also called “acquafrescai”) used carts and moved around the streets, later on however some began to settle into permanent shops.

     

    Carmela’s “banca dell’acqua” - literally “water counter” - has occupied its current location at number 30 of Via Dei Tribunali since the late 1800s, surviving wars, earthquakes and even occasional acts of vandalism.  

     

    That marble countertop, always surrounded by bottles and framed by citrus fruits hanging overhead, is a time machine. Having remained almost identical throughout the ages while everything around it evolved, it stands as a monument to the city’s past - not just its History with a capital “H,” the one of kings, queens, noblemen and heroes - but to its real, human past preserved in popular traditions. 

     

    Carmela, reportedly Naples’ last true acquaiola, was what kept this particular tradition alive and it’s no wonder that the entire city is sad to see her go. However, the shop is there, still in the hands of her family, who can continue to carry it on.

     

    Meanwhile, her funeral was held this morning in the famous Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore and her memory will live on, forever immortalized in the image of her small figure standing behind that marble counter.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    A Deeper Look at Italian Emigration

    As of January 1st, 2018, over 5.1 million Italians are registered in the official registry of Italians residing abroad, the AIRE (Anagrafe degli Italiani Residenti all’Estero.) That’s 8.5% of the country’s total population.

    This is just one of the figures presented in the Migrantes Foundation’s Italians in the World Report, a document which compiles as much data as possible to analyze the state of Italian mobility in an attempt to go beyond simply remarking that Italy is experiencing a “brain drain.”

    In order to do so, the report looks at how many people are leaving Italy and how those numbers evolve over time. Then, it goes on to examine both where they are going and which regions of Italy seem to be losing the most citizens. Finally, it considers various demographic factors to get a sense of who they are.

    By bringing together all this information, we can gain a better, more precise understanding of why people are leaving and of how to appropriately address the issue.

     

    How many Italians are leaving the country

    Italian mobility increased by 2.7% between 2017 and 2018 and by 64.7% since 2006, raising the number of people listed in the AIRE from 3.1 million to 5.1 million. And these numbers continue to grow: from 2017 to 2018, the Italian community residing abroad increased by 2.7%.

    Where they are moving to

    Europe hosts the largest number of Italian residents: 54.1%, most of them (40.3%) within the European Union, while 40.3% live on the American continent, mostly in the South-Central region (32.4%)

    During the last year, Germany was the favored destination, counting 20.007 residents and beating by far the UK (18.517) and France (12.870) which respectively are in 2nd and 3rd place.

    Which parts of Italy they come from

    49.5% of Italians residing abroad come from the South (1.659.421 from the mainland and 873.615 from the islands), while 34.9% are from the North (901.552 from the North-West and 881.940 from the North-East), and 15.6% from the Center, that’s 797.941 people.

    However, the increase in mobility from 2017 to 1018 was generally stronger in the North, especially in Lombardy (with a variation of +23.591) and Veneto (+17.495).

    And, in fact, in total, the main departure region is Lombardy (21.980), followed by Emilia-Romagna (12.912), Veneto (11.132), Sicily (10.649) and Puglia (8.816).

    It’s important to consider though that bigger metropolitan areas such as Milan, Rome, Genoa, Turin, and Naples are amongst the main places from which Italians are departing because they are the most inhabited areas as well as those that host the most formative facilities such as schools, universities, academies, etc.

    Who they are

    In terms of demographics, it seems that slightly more men (51.9%) than women (48.1%) reside abroad. And 55.3% are single while 37% are married.

    765 thousand are minors (15%) and 6.8% of them are under 10-year-old; 1 million 135 thousand are aged between 18 and 34 (22.2%); 1 million and 197 thousand between 35 and 49 (23.34%); 19.1% are between 50 and 64; and 20.3% are 65 or older.

    This latest set of data is particularly interesting because, while Italians are well-aware of the phenomenon often referred to as “brain drain” - one often hears discussions, both on TV and in the streets, around the fact that many young people have to look beyond national borders to find employment, recognition or opportunity - it appears that this is only one aspect of a much more complex situation.

    In fact, the data reveals that the issue is more complex than that. Though many young people are leaving, (some of them still go abroad driven by passion and dreams and in some cases manage to find success, while others just do so because they feel that there is no other alternative and end up taking jobs far below their qualifications in order to get by) they are not the only ones, in fact they are not even the majority.

    That middle range of adults aged between 35 and 49 and even the ones between 50 and 64, which together make up a whopping 42,44% of those registered in the AIRE, mostly represent the people who have lost their jobs but are still far from retirement. They too are having a hard time finding employment in italy.

    As for the older generations, though many people leave with the intention of coming back to the ‘belpaese’ for their retirement, there are also many people who actually decide to spend their retirement abroad, in places like Morocco, Thailand, Portugal, Spain, where the climate is pleasant and life more affordable.

    Many Italians are aware that people are leaving and have a vague notion about it being related to the lack employment opportunities but they don’t go much beyond that. Though thinking about this issue may be a bit depressing or at least discouraging, it’s important to examine the phenomenon in detail, to truly understand it. First of all because it can help us understand our country better and where the core issues lie, and from there figure out how to address them.

    Part of the solution lies in getting better, more unified and coherent statistics on how many Italians are leaving, who they are, where they are going, and why they are doing so. In fact, not everyone signs up to the AIRE, though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is focused on ensuring that they do.

    On a similar note, it’s also important to create unified networks of Italians abroad so that they can stay connected to each other, to their homeland, and in some cases even move back, this time with new insight and ideas that could benefit the entire country.

     

  • Art & Culture

    30 Years of Men’s Fashion Through Pitti Uomo

    Pitti Uomo, the world’s most important menswear event, just concluded its latest edition, which took place, as always, in Florence from June 11-14. This year, during the run of the biannual trade show’s 96th edition, Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery inaugurated an exhibition at the Museum of Costume and Fashion in Pitti Palace titled “A Short Novel on Men’s Fashion.”

     

    Curated by fashion historian Olivier Saillard, it narrates a history of menswear by looking at the designers, outfits, trends and projects presented at the fair throughout the last 30 years and is dedicated to Marco Rivetti, who was the president of Pitti Immagine from 1987 to 1995.

     

    Though Pitti Uomo actually began in 1972 as a trade fair, it soon evolved into the central  international fashion event it is today and has seen the business and culture of men’s fashion grow and change along with it.

     

    The world of men’s fashion has changed a great deal since the show welcomed Vivienne Westwood as its first-ever guest designer in 1990 and, as Saillard remarks in an interview with Vogue, at the time, “men’s fashion was very shiny, but still very small [...] Now, in the past 30 years, it has become a big market—not only an economic market, but an aesthetic market, too.”

     

    The exhibition features 500 garnements from over 100 fashion houses that have presented their lines at Pitti since 1989 and reads like a giant book. Each room represents a chapter in the most significant and iconic menswear currents presented at Pitti and brings together contemporary designs and historical pieces from the museum’s collection, as well as portraits from the Pitti Palace art gallery.

     

    In fact, Pitti Uomo is not simply a collection of runway shows, it has become a cultural appointment that brings together high-end and emerging designers, trade professionals and fashion enthusiasts. Here, one can admire the best and most daring street style, meet representatives from all sorts of brands, and even learn about the trends that are influencing more than just the way we dress but also the way we live and understand social and cultural concepts such as gender and masculinity.  

     

    By tracing the history of Pitti Uomo and the clothes presented there, the exhibition therefore also traces the evolution of the Italian and international fashion scene, which is itself often a reflection and even a precursor of broader social and cultural trends.

     

    The show will run through September 29 but the initiative will then lead to the creation of a permanent menswear collection: the Men’s Fashion Collection of the Fondazione Discovery, which will be donated to the museum.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Florence’s Favorite Sandwich Shop Comes to New York

    If you’ve paid a visit to Florence recently, chances are you’ve been to All’Antico Vinaio, or have at least seen the ever-present lines leading up to what is certainly the most famous sandwich - or rather “schiacciata” - shop in the city.

     

    Its three venues are all located within a few feet of each other on Via Dei Neri, right around the corner from Piazza della Signoria and the Uffizi Gallery. The first and smallest shop was taken over by the Mazzanti family in 1991 and since then they have been serving up their home-made “schiacciate” (deliciously fluffy bread, akin to focaccia) filled with prime Tuscan meats, cheeses, vegetables and spreads accompanied by a glass of wine.  

     

    Following the shop’s success, the family went on to open two additional sit-down venues on the same street, All’Antico Vinaio Atto II in 2013 and All’Antico Vinaio Atto III in 2015.

     

    Now, New Yorkers have the chance to take a culinary “trip” to Florence at Joe Bastianich’s Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, an Italian restaurant located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, where the famed sandwiches will be served daily from June 13th to July 13th.

     

    Having been an avid frequenter of All’Antico during the two occasions I lived in Florence, and having already had the chance to sample more than a few bites - not to mention take home my very own full-sized schiacciata - during the opening night of the pop-up, I can attest to the authenticity of the New York version. 

     

    This is the first time All’Antico Vinaio travels outside of Florence. Bastianich and Tommaso “Tommy” Mazzanti are long-time friends and had been considering such a collaboration for some time. Tommy’s wife, Clara tells us that though it wasn’t easy, they were beyond excited to do it. “We still can’t believe we’re here in New York,” she says. Everyone - including their young son - flew over for the opening week but most of them will have to head back to keep things running smoothly back home.

     

    So far, the initiative has already been hugely successful, with lines reportedly forming outside of Otto daily, made up of people curious to check out the hype around “Italy’s most famous sandwich” as well as initiated clients craving some Florentine goodness.

     

    Could this mean that we might potentially see other All’Antico Vinaio stores pop-up around the world? The Mazzanti family hasn’t mentioned any such plans yet but one can always dream.

     

    In the meantime, for more information check out Otto’s website and if you plan on going, I would suggest getting there early and hungry (the portions are generous to say the least.)

     

    And if you want to keep up with the shop and their future endeavors, you can follow them on Instagram, Facebook or on their website.

     

  • Art & Culture

    New Italian Films Reveling a Complex Reality

    Seventeen Italian films were presented in New York, at Film at Lincoln Center during the 19th edition of Open Roads New Italian Film Festival, which ran from June 6-12. For this occasion, many of the directors, actors, and filmmakers - some emerging others more established within the Italian film industry - came to discuss their movies.

     

    The selection was larger than that of the previous years and featured movies that came out in 2018 and 2019, with the exception of one classic masterpiece, La Commare Secca (1962) by Bernardo Bertolucci, who passed away last Fall.

     

    The program was quite varied, as the scope of the festival is to give people living outside of Italy a sense of the country’s cinematographic landscape today.

     

    This year, Open Roads kicked off with Piranhas by Claudio Giovannesi, a film based on the eponymous novel by Roberto Saviano (author of Gomorrah) which was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the Berlin Film Festival. The movie tells the story of 15-year-old Nicola and his friends (all non-professional actors) living in Camorra-ran neighborhoods of Naples and their seemingly inevitable and only partly conscious descent into criminality.

     

    Giovannesi insists that this is “not a film about criminals, but a film about kids” and that his intention was to tell their story “not with judgment but with empathy.”  

     

    And that certainly is the case, you can’t help but like Nicola, relate to the rather tasteless but easily translatable aspirations that he and his friends share, smile and their seemingly innocuous obsession with tacky expensive clothes, watches, furniture, but also feel a constant pang of anxiety throughout the entire film because you just know that this won’t end well.

     

    “This is a movie about the loss of innocence. It begins with a game - plays with that idea throughout because the characters live it light-heartedly - and it ends with a war,” comments the director. “Naples is the star of the film,” he also notes “but this story can happen anywhere institutions are absent, where education is lacking, where there are no jobs.”

     

    And it is indeed happening, a lot. As shown in Agostino Ferrente’s Selfie, another film in the program, a documentary about the lives of young people from the gang-ravaged neighborhood of Traiano in Naples shot by the teenage protagonists themselves with their smartphones set on selfie mode.

     

    Other documentaries include Normal by Adele Tulli, one of the only three female directors present in this year’s selection. Hers is a stylized documentary, which tackles a topic that is completely absent from any form of mainstream discussion in Italy: the issue of gender norms and identity. The film is radical for the context it was produced in because it provides a critical perspective on conventional gender expression and explores the ways in which is instilled and reinforced within society.

     

    A very different type of documentary is Sono Gassman! Vittorio re della commedia by Fabrizio Corallo, which tells the story of one of the most celebrated Italian actors and reveals how Gassman’s comedic persona reflected and critiqued mid-20th century Italian society, while also showing the more complex aspects of his actual person.

     

    Another film that deals with the history of Italian cinema is Paolo Virzi’s Magical Nights, a satirical murder mystery set in the early 1990s, the tail end of Italian cinema’s golden age, told through the wild stories of three young screenwriters who are being investigated for the murder of a famous film producer who is found dead in the Tiber River.

     

    This feeling of decadence, excess and subsequent deterioration is further developed and perfectly captured in Loro by Paolo Sorrentino, set in a similar atmosphere as that of the director’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty. This time, however, it serves as the backdrop of the story of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s downfall amidst public scandals and personal dramas.

     

    Other films focus on telling different individual stories and perspectives that, when brought together, begin to paint the complex picture of the contemporary Italian social landscape.

     

    It’s the case of Twin Flower by Laura Luchetti, in which two teen runaways, Anna, who is escaping from human traffickers, and Basim, a refugee from the Ivory Coast, (both non-professional actors but with incredible chemistry) meet on a difficult journey through Sardinia.

     

    The same is true of  Edoardo de Angelis’ The Vice of Hope, which tells the story of Maria, who helps a pregnant woman flee her family’s human trafficking business while being herself pregnant and even of Ciro d’Emilio’s If Life Gives You Lemons, a naturalistic coming of age film about Antonio, a 17-year-old who has to drop out of school in order to take care of his mentally ill mother.

     

    At the same time, relationships and personal dramas remain an important topic, central to several films including Valeria Golino’s Euphoria, in which popular Italian actors Riccardo Scamarcio and Valerio Mastandrea play two very different and distant brothers who meet and clash when one of them becomes ill forcing them to face long unresolved issues and unspoken resentments.

     

    Mastandrea is also featured in the Festival as a director with his first film Laughing, an exploration of the ways people grieve the death of a loved one, which follows the difficult grieving process of the wife and son of a man who dies in a workplace accident, further complicated by the mediatization of the event which becomes a public scandal.

     

    Still an exploration of loss, but from a unique perspective can be found in Federico Bondi’s Dafne, a film about a young woman with down syndrome whose life is turned upside down by the death of her mother.

     

    Also dealing with family relationships and the tension between public and private is Beniamino Barrese’s debut film The Disappearance of my Mother, a movingly personal documentary that the young director made about his mother, former Top Model, turned feminist activist and self-proclaimed image-hater Benedetta Barzini and her desire to disappear.  

     

    Barrese explains that, as he began filming, the film quickly became a confrontation him and his mother, who was profoundly opposed to the idea of making the film. She finally accepts to let him film her only because, in her own words, “she would rather hurt herself than hurt him.” In the film, which shows the process of making the documentary interlaced with archival footage and old home videos shot by a pre-teen Barrese, the tension between mother and son is always present and at times gives way to violent outbursts from her part, always painful to witness.

     

    Though the director wasn’t aware of it at the start, he was making a film about their relationship, not just about her and her past. He does however manage to convey her ideas, particularly about images and their falsehood and destructiveness, despite not sharing them completely since his own life revolves around the creation of images. This last contradiction is the main source of conflict within the film, it’s what makes so ambiguous but at the same time so interesting.

     

    Valerio Mieli’s Ricordi? (Do you remember?) also explores conflict and contradiction as it tells the story of an unnamed archetypal couple facing the eternal issues of memory and the passage of time and how they affect love and relationships.

     

    In Lucia’s Grace by Gianni Zanasi, Alba Rohrwacher stars as Lucia, a land surveyor and single mother who faces a dilemma when she learns that her new building project threatens the environmental safety of the city. This is another exploration of moral conflict and ambiguity but rendered in a clever comedic key perfectly conveyed in Rohrwacher’s performance.

     

    A standout film and one difficult to define is Mario Martone’s Capri Revolution, which the director describes as “a film about illusion.” It’s set in Capri in 1914, and tells of the young goatherd Lucia and her journey towards emancipation and freedom. Lucia encounters a utopian commune of Northern Europeans whose ideals clash with those of the traditional islanders as well as with those of modern science, embodied by the island’s young new doctor. The heroine finds herself torn between these contrasting perspectives and in the end realizes that none of them hold the truth.

     

    The film is ultimately about “the impossibility of saving the world,” Martone notes “the same notion captured in the work of Giacomo Leopardi,” that is, the prominent Italian poet to which Martone dedicated his 2014 film.

     

    The commune that inspired the film truly existed and was thoroughly documented. Martone and screenwriter Ippolita Di Majo changed a few things, particularly the figure of the group’s leader Seybu, an artist who was actually a symbolist painter was modified. Ippolita, who is an art historian, admits that she modeled him after performance artist Joseph Beuys, whom she and Martone both admire. They were particularly interested in the ways in which he explored the relationship between man and nature, as Seybu does in the movie.

     

    Dance also plays a fundamental role in the movie, as the members of the commune partake in beautiful and complex choreographies in order to gain knowledge and understanding of the world. In this case too, the choreographies shown in the film are contemporary reinterpretations of the approaches adopted by the real commune.

     

    In fact, the filmmakers note that they were surprised to find that this group that existed over 100 years ago had so much in common with the utopian communities of the 1970s and that the themes they discussed are the same that we still encounter today.

     

    During the festival, many of the directors of this year’s films attended a round table moderated by Open Roads co-founder Antonio Monda held at New York University’s Casa Italiana. Each of them were there to talk about their films but the discussion quickly became a comment on the state of Italy. And in fact, the diversity and variety of the films presented is a reflection of this very state.

     

    As Martone commented, “Italy is struggling to understand itself and this makes it almost impossible for anyone else to do so.” But many filmmakers - certainly the ones present that evening - see it as their role to try and represent their reality. And they do. Each in their own different way, all these films are at least in part about the state of the country and of the world at large, about the people that inhabit it, the challenges they face, their struggle to navigate it.

     

    This edition of Open Roads is now coming to an end and perhaps the most important lesson it brought is the realization of the extent to which cinema can provide a lens through which to interpret the society that produced it and even the ones that come after it.

     

    And if you’re yearning for more Italian cinema, you have the chance to enjoy a retrospective on the work of master Italian filmmaker Ermanno Olmi from June 14-26, also held at Film at Lincoln Center.

     

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