Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter weekend in Italy: music, protests, conferences and commemorations

This winter weekend  is grinding to a close and a busy one it was. 
 I will let the photos tell the story, with a " No comment"  on my part. 

Your comments instead  are  very welcome. How many of these happenings  did you  attend?  

The weekend  began with a full house and attentive audience for the conference "Artisti e Archeologi Stranieri in Etruria"  sponsored by Archeotuscia  at the Prefecture of Viterbo. 

 Thanks to all who partecipated. 

Saturday morning the cold north wind did not keep hundreds  from protesting in front of the Town Hall in the main piazza. 

 Problems include the prolonged closure of public schools,  arsenic and  chlorine in the water and many others, as one can imagine in  a town where the administration  was voted in  by  only 36% of the citizens.

Sunday morning:  a bright sunny day,  no wind but  total confusion due to the unexpected  parade of gigantic  tractors  followed by a few horsemen, that invaded the historic center. 

Drums frightened the horses while flag throwers tried to enliven  
 Piazza della Rocca, known for a non-functioning, ugly fountain.

The local priest gave a sermon to those gathered  in the piazza  between the Duomo and the town hall.

camping gear of a scout troop  on church steps 
no comment
no comment 
no comment 

At 11:30 the Day of Memory commemoration was held, as it was in most Italian towns, to remember the deportation of the Jews in 1943.   

telling  true stories of the Shoah 

Prof. Stefano Grego's   personal memories of 1943 

 The afternoon saw a large gathering at Opera Extravaganza's  house concert  featuring violinists newly arrived in Vetralla. They performed music by Mozart and Tartini.  
The audience included  music lovers living in the area but of  many different nationalities: Irish, Italian, Finnish, Australian, Indian, English, American, German and Rumanian.

Monica Sanfilippo and Luigi De Filippi   
Susanna Ohtonen   and  costumes 
Monica Sanfilippo explains  Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) 
DeFilippis' violin  from Pesaro,  dated 1680,

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Keeping up with Happenings in Italy

Members of the   foreign  community  mix with locals 

In the good old days before the revolution in communications caused by internet and computer based publications, there were English language daily newspapers in  Italy dispensing  news, information,classified and listings of events and  happening.

The days of the Daily American and  Daily News  are  gone forever, replaced by dozens  of  Italian and English  online magazines and  newspapers. 
Professional journalists who have kept up with the  new media are competing with newly arrived bloggers for  readership. 
 The result is a plethora of on-line resources  readily available at the click of a mouse. Never before has there  been so much information available  for newly arrived expats, it is definitely easier to learn one's way around the maze of living in Italy. 
 Wanted in Rome  still prints  a paper edition on sale at various points in the city including the Anglo American bookshop on Via della Vite near the Spanish Steps.
 The Florentine  can be found throughout  Florence  in its paper format or on line. Is there an English language magazine published  in your area? 
TimeOut  magazine  has both online and print magazines  in major cities worldwide: besides Rome there is the original for New York plus Istanbul and London.  

The American magazine   has  great lists of events, happenings, and restaurant listings .  It is published by the dean of Rome's English journalists, Christopher Winner. 

For those living in or visiting the Northern Lazio, Viterbo, Tuscia, Etruria areas here are some other tips for keeping up with the local happenings. Drop us a line in the comments box with your  favorites:

·   In towns and villages throughout Italy the walls are plastered with locandine or wall posters announcing festivals, processions, celebrations and musical events which are abundant in the summer months.

·  Get  on  mailing lists  of associations in your  area. For the Olgiata area contact Paola at  Welcome Neighbor.   

·  Interested in archeology conferences and excursions?  Join  the 370 members of Archeotuscia for a rich calendar of outings in the northern Lazio area. See below for  this week's happenings. 

·   Tuscia Web  is just one of the many on line news sources for  Viterbo and environs. Others are Teresa Pierini's La Tua Etruria

·  La Loggetta is a bi-monthly  magazine written by local experts with a subscription of  25 euro. It can be  delivered to you  worldwide.

  For musical afternoons and house concerts in the N. Lazio area   check out Opera Extravaganza
     Ask to be on their mailing list for updates on concerts.
Massimiliano Darida and Maria Lunella Reedy
delighted the audience at yesterday's concert

part of the international  audience  

·    Some faithful readers  may  remember  the 70+ issues of   Elegant Etruria Newsletter  that I emailed  to hundreds  of addresses  in the mid-1990s, a labor of love which helped to give information to the  burgeoning  international community of Rome's northern suburbs.    Feedback was rare,  but the huge  mailing list  and connections  made,  became a highly prized  (and envied) piece of information.

·   Mailing lists, email invitations…these have now been  surpassed  by the many blogs published  in English in central Italy.  Sign up(scroll to the bottom of the page and leave your email)  to receive  the  weekly edition of  this blog 50yearsinItaly,  one of many in English. Please share the names of your favorites with a comment  at the bottom of the page. 

And in case you havn't heard yet, here are just a few of the interesting happenings taking place this week in the Viterbo area: 

  • Friday, 25th Jan. in Viterbo I will be  presenting an illustrated conference for Archeotuscia  entitled  “Foreign Artists and Archeologists in  Etruria” .  To be held at Sala Coronas, 2nd floor, the Prefecture of Viterbo (Piazza dei Priori, near the City Hall) at  5 p.m.  on Friday 25th January. All  are welcome to attend.

Francesco Aliperti & Georgia of Edizioni Archeoares 
    delegation of Air Force students 
    Mario Bracci Devoti, Fabiano  B.  & Chief Inspector Orlandini 
    • Photos of Friday Jan. 25th  conference in Viterbo.

  • Saturday, 26th Jan. in Vetralla,  Destinatario Sconosciuto at the Museum  of Vetralla. 
  • Your comments are welcome. Commenti in italiano  sono benvenuti! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Guinness of Bonfires

The 8 metre high  bonfire
Photo F. Pignatale 
 Il Focarone of Bagnaia is the biggest of the hundreds of  bonfires   that are lit all over Italy on the night of January  16th-17th in honor of  St. Anthony Abbot, healer and protector of livestock. 
tower and entrance to medieval Bagnaia 

 For the entire  week preceding  the festival,  groups of young people were hard at work setting up  the  eight-metre tall mass of tree  trunks and other  timber in the middle of the piazza.

The expert  builders must   insure that the bonfire will burn evenly  so it does not collapse on one side.

Il  Focarone, ready for lighting 

The   mid-winter bonfire  is  a tradition that is  strongly felt  by the Bagnaioli, as the townspeople are called.

 The  festivities begin  at 5 p.m.  with a  procession of costumed dignitaries representing important characters in the town’s long and sometimes tragic history. 

as night falls  the festivities begin 
These include  La Pucciarella, a young girl who defended Bagnaia when the  Lanzichenecchi lay siege to the town in 1527.

the piazza  resembles, in miniature, Rome's  Piazza del Popolo
 The flag throwers are followed by the igniting of the bonfire at 6:30 p.m.  
   The flames leap higher than the village rooftops heating up  the piazza and the crowds who come from Viterbo and other  nearby  towns.  
 Bagnaia is mostly known for its magnificent Renaissance  Villa Lante gardens, which are a perfect retreat in sultry summer weather,  so it is a surprise to discover this tradition offering respite from winter's cold.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Fertility Goddess...return to the Underworld

Demetra brought back  to the  light  only  for Christmas time  

A  unique temple  sanctuary dedicated to the goddess of fertility  Demetra  (Vea for the Etruscans)  was discovered in  2006  in the wooded area  known as Macchia della Valle, just outside  the town of  Vetralla, an hour's drive north of Rome.

three flights up to visit Demetra 
 Hidden inside a natural grotto  was a  house-shaped cell complete with its cover. Precise scientific elements  date the sanctuary and  the cult to the 3rd century BC.
 Along with many terracotta  lamps, proof that night time liturgies were practiced at the sanctuary, archeologists found  ex votos  in the form of uterus and other reproductive organs. 
The goddess Demetra 
These were  probably brought as gifts to the goddess by married women and girls awaiting marriage asking for fertility and health.

votive gifts  found in the sanctuary 
After  2500 years  hidden beneath the earth, Demetra returned to the light when her  magnificent terracotta statue was rescued from the hidden sanctuary.  

Goddess under glass
For  just one week during the Christmas holidays local people and visitors were able to admire her  at the Etruscan Museum in nearby Viterbo.

Rocca Albornoz, Viterbo's Etruscan Museum 
 Like Demetra’s daughter, Persephone,  the statue  will be returned to the “underworld” of the museum’s storage rooms when Christmas is over. According to museum personnel there is no space for a permanent exhibit in the Etruscan Museum,  housed in the gigantic Albornoz fortress.

small exhibit  in Viterbo Museum
The neighboring city of Vetralla, where the discovery took place, has  both a functioning  museum as well as several  protected areas  inside the City Hall (Comune) and city office buildings where the statue could very well be conserved and exhibited.

What is lacking is the will of local politicians and  the understanding of how important this precious object is for the town and for tourism.  

A modern Etruscan  meets the  2,500 year old goddess 
  When  there is a will there is a way: a few years ago  a couple of  Etruscan sarcophaghi  which had been sitting in the  school parking lot for over half a century were brought inside to become the nucleus of a mini-museum. 

Let's hope that Demetra  does not half to wait another 50 years to find her  permanent home. Your concern, suggestions and comments are welcome.