Tag Archives: italy

Beppe Grillo revisited
by Mario Fusco

Over the last few years, as an unavoidable consequence of online reporting and blogging, there has been a general degradation in the language of public discourse. For instance, the unmistakable reliance on automatic spell checkers is evident in many stories, and there has been a general relaxation of the rules of grammar, sometimes at the expense of intelligibility.

So, why does the observation above have a place on an Italian blog? Because of the following excerpt (“Crazy days in Rome with papal and political void”, Associated Press, under the byline Victor L. Simpson):

Yet perhaps the biggest gatecrasher of all is Beppe Grillo, who has upset the established order by riding a self-styled “tsunami” of disgust with the powers-that-be and grabbing a quarter of the parliamentary vote.

Italian Creativity!
by Mario Fusco

So, what if you’re a library and have a few thousand books you need to recycle, and are in need of a nice new checkout desk? And of course you have a limited budget (everyone has a limited budget these days!)

Well, you get creative and avoid buying a new desk, using THAT money to replace the recycled book with shiny new bestsellers, as shown in the pictures below!

Italian Library Desk

Italian Library Desk

Book Desk

Book Desk

It certainly gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘book desk’. Now, what if a patron wants to check out the book located four books to the left, six books down, and three books in? Definitely a challenging architectural problem!
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Acqua Alta a Venezia
by Mario Fusco

Different reactions to the recent flooding (acqua alta) in Venice.

Tristezza


Allegria


Indecisione

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The Evolution of the Italian Language, alas!
by Mario Fusco

Italian Language Revisionism

It is no news that, for several years, separatist tendencies have become apparent in Italian political and social life. The “rich” North sees itself as a bastion of probity, industriousness, and fiscal responsibility, and profess that they are tired of picking up the tab for the shiftless, corrupt, crime-ridden South. The South sneer at the Northerners’ sanctimoniousness, and point out that the backward state of the South is in large part a consequence of the policy of despoliation and neglect that followed the annexation of the Southern Kingdom by the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1861. And, they rightly add, corruption is not an exclusive of the South, witness the scandals rooted in the very inner sanctum of the Northern League involving Bossi, Il Trota, and other personages of the Lega. More extreme Northern groups avow that they would like to see a divided peninsula, a northern Padania and a southern who-knows-what, from which presumably they could draw cheap labor, sort of like Mexicans in the US or Turks in Germany, but without the language problem.

And speaking of language, Italian, the language of Dante and Petrarca, is being corrupted and bastardized by the controversy. The letter “k”, missing from the modern Italian alphabet, is increasingly being reintroduced to produce the sound we all know, heretofore produced by the letter “c” or the combination “ch”. In extreme manifestations even the letter “q” gets replaced by “k”, resulting in a written language that is, at first glance, unrecognizable by Italian speakers. The tendency to do this appears to be localized in the extreme North of the country, so that it seems another mechanism for diversity and separation. Amateur psychologists and linguists could go far speculating on this predilection for the letter “k”. Here we’ll just note that experts in these matters tell us that the letter “k” occurs in German 1.3% of the time, in English 0.7% of the time, in French 0.1%, in Spanish and in Italian 0%. The widespread use of “k” to replace the present instances of “c”, “ch” and “q” in Italian would result in a frequency of occurrence of the letter ”k” of approximately 2.2%, satisfyingly outdoing, at least linguistically, those lucky Germans, who are so much more “northern” than us Italians! (But not outdoing the Ku Klux Klan, who are at 30% in their name!)

Below is an example such k-pregnant prose, reproduced unedited from a website best left unidentified.

Unlawful to die in Italy!
by Mario Fusco

Cimitero di Carinola

Cimitero di Carinola

Falciano del Massico is a town of about 4000 souls near Caserta, in the south of Italy. In this town it is forbidden, by municipal edict, to die. The edict was promulgated by the Mayor of Falciano del Massico to try to remedy a situation which has been festering for almost half a century, ever since Falciano del Massico was separated from the neighbouring town of Carinola and incorporated as an independent city. In the process the existing cemetery was left entirely within the boundaries of Carinola, leaving Falciano cemeteryless.

Not for the Mayor of Falciano to find a mundane solution such as contracting with Carinola to bury Falciano’s dead in Carinola’s cemetery, or of building a new cemetery for Falciano. Better not to allow anyone to die: more humane, more cost effective, and ecologically sounder. No penalty is specified for contravening the anti-death city ordinance, and it is known that at least two elderly residents of Falciano have shamelessly contravened it already.

Your virtual gateway to Italy
by Mario Fusco

Benvenuti! Here you will find information about Italy and all things Italian, from language instruction to Italian restaurant reviews, from Italian events in the Bay Area to travel tips, from Italian food recipes to glimpses of Italian life.

Browse our posts: they run the gamut from general culture to the history of Italian immigration, from interesting tidbits about Italian products and Italian lifestyle to fascinating historical details about places that you have never heard of. We go from big cities such as Rome and Naples to achingly beautiful mountaintop hamlets such as Dozza and Bertinoro. Brush up your Italian skills with our weekly Grammar Tidbit, or access our free online Italian Grammar, complete with pronunciation guide and most used phrases and words.

And let us hear from you. If you have an interesting story to contribute, if you have a question, if you have a compliment or (alas!) a complaint, let us know, and we will respond.

ARRIVEDERCI!

Italy map

Italy in Europe

Leonardo again – and the Bank of America?
by Mario Fusco

Banks are not well-loved, these days, for reasons that are familiar to all of us. But here’s a story that shows that even banks may on occasion exhibit a social conscience and an artistic sensibility. The article below is a fragment (in free translation) from a longer article which has appeared on the Corriere della Sera, the newspaper of Milano.

The Codex Trivulzianus, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s earliest manuscripts, part of the collection of the Biblioteca del Castello Sforzesco in Milano, will be restored. The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project will finance the restoration. This will not be the Art Conservation project’s only enterprise: 20 works of art and artifacts of great cultural and historic value, gathered from 19 countries, have been selected for restoration.

DIGITAL RESTORATION – The Trivulzian Codex, a collection of Leonardo’s drawings and writings, is comprised of 55 folios dated between 1478 and 1490, and it is one of the most significant documents of the Italian Renaissance. It is a unique testimonial to the eclecticism of the Italian artist/inventor: it contains notes, drawings and studies of religious and military architecture (amongst which a sketch for the cupola of the Duomo di Milano), but also analyses of the Italian language and observations on the literature of the time. Using cutting-edge software capable of producing virtual copies of Leonardo’s technical designs, the restoration project will result in a digital version of the manuscript which will remain impervious to the passage of time and will facilitate academic research, while rendering it more accessible to the lay public.

So, kudos to the Bank of America, and never mind the tax writeoffs they will take. They are doing a good thing for all of us.

Codex Trivulzianus


Codex Trivulzianus

Codex Trivulzianus

Leonardo da Vinci
by Mario Fusco

Vitruvian Man

The word “genius” is much bandied about in these days of facile judgments and commercial hype. One can, for example, go to the local Apple store and make an appointment at the “genius bar”, where a personable “genius”, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, just past puberty, will affably assist you with your Apple product. But then there are the undisputed, true geniuses, a very few throughout human history, who are or have been so far off the charts that sometimes they appear to belong to some other race, as far beyond the average human as the average human is beyond reptiles (no offense!)

Such an undisputed genius was the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci, whose contributions as a scientist and artist truly boggle the mind. A description of the achievements of this Renaissance Italian must perforce include hyperbole, but this time amply justified and probably even short of the mark.

Leonardo lived from 1452 to 1519, was born in a hamlet near Vinci, and apprenticed in Florence in the bottega of Verrocchio. Most of his professional life, however, was spent in Milano, under the sponsorship of that city’s ruling family, the Sforza. A complete characterization of Leonardo’s professional curriculum would include sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, inventor, anatomist, and more.

Everything Italian on one site!

Looking for Italian language instruction? Organizing a trip to Italy? What about finding the greatest Italian restaurant in the Bay Area or that ultimate recipe just like your grandma used to make? Or perhaps you spent too much time watching the game (alas!) with your buddies, and need a little Italian bauble to soothe your lovely wife’s ruffled feathers. All of these things you will find on our website. We have consolidated the contents of a couple of earlier sites to provide you with a seamless Italian experience.

Along with the new commercial elements there remains, on this site, the original focus on art, culture, and history. And we intend to grow: the ultimate aim is to provide all Italophiles of the Bay Area, and beyond, a one-stop electronic storefront that will provide intellectual stimulation alongside material possessions for gracious living. Our sister site, finestItalian.com, continues unchanged, though it, too, is slated for some enhancements.

So please come visit often, drop us a line, let us know how you feel. Buy some Italian art once in a while, or an Italian pendant for your sweetheart, or a gorgeous ceramics bowl for your holiday table. But even if you don’t, we hope to hear from you.

The Founding of Mantova

Sant'Andrea

Sant'Andrea, Mantova

The myth of the founding of Mantova is part of the rich tapestry of Graeco-Roman mythology. It begins with the story of the prophetess Manto, daughter of the Theban seer Tiresias. Greek sources tell that Manto, escaping from Thebes, arrived, after many wanderings, in the territory of today’s city, which was then a swamp. In this place she created a lake with her tears; according to legend these waters had the magical property of conferring prophetic powers to anyone who drank of them. Eventually Manto met and married the river god Tybris (Tiber), king of the Tuscans, and their offspring Ocno eventually founded a city on the shores of the Mincio river, naming it Mantova in honor of his mother.

This version of the founding myth is reported in Virgil’s Aeneid. A competing version tells that the city of Mantova gets its name from Manth, the Etruscan god of the dead in the Thyrrenian pantheon. Virgil’s version of the myth is also found in the Divine Comedy, in Canto XX of the Inferno, in which Dante himself and his Mantuan guide, Virgil, encounter the seers. Pointing out one of these souls Virgil describes the Mantuan countryside, the Lake of Garda, and the course of the Mincio, which flows into the Po at Governolo, and then asserts, with reference to the legend of Manto:

“Fer la citta’ sovra quell’ossa morte;
e per colei che ‘l loco prima elesse,
Mantua l’appellar senz’altra sorte”


“The city was built over those dead bones;
and for she who first chose the place,
Mantua it was named with no other choice”