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Venice, La Bella Venezia!

16 Sep

My first visit to Venice was as a study abroad student. Although it was many years ago, I can still see it vividly in my mind’s eye. It was winter and a heavy fog had rolled in as I walked along the canal. I could hear the lapping of the water against the gondolas and the hum of the water taxis ferrying passengers to and fro.  There were lights in the distance, but the fog clouded the identity of any of the buildings. It was cold, but it didn’t matter. It was simply magical, and for me, it will always be that way.

As soon as I exit Santa Lucia train station and see this view,

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my heart starts to flutter. How grand, how impossible, how so many things!

I know today there can be huge crowds, ridiculous cruise ships, and flooding, but we experienced none of them. And perhaps because it is now illegal to feed the pigeons, even Piazza San Marco wasn’t very crowded.

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After the conference, we relaxed in the grand piazza for a bit,

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enjoying aperitivo,

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listening to music,

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and gazing at the incredible sights,

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especially those  just caught by chance.

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Before leaving the piazza, we wandered over to this hotel where we celebrated my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Such incredibly fond memories.

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Afterward, we caught a vaporetto, or public water taxi, to another part of town, appreciating  the efficiency with which they maneuver the canal traffic, dock at various stops, and manage the passengers disembarking and embarking.

And then there are the views – the incredible Renaissance and Gothic palaces, the gondolas, and the Grand Canal.

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Len said if he got lost, I’d find him on this special boat. Smart guy, that Len.

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Sunset and evening bring on their own special color palettes in Venice,

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making it difficult to know which way to look.

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The next morning, I awoke at dawn, so I decided to check out early morning Venice. First on my agenda was to find breakfast, and indeed I did… a delicious cappuccino and a just out of the oven freshly baked cornetto (croissant).

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Then I was ready to explore. This is the famously crowded Rialto Bridge, completed in 1591, covered with rows of shops, and one of the top tourist attractions in Venice.

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But that morning, this was my view, having the Rialto virtually to myself!

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In the early morning hours, however, while most tourists are fast asleep, locals are hard at work preparing for the the day.

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Fish, fruit and vegetables are being delivered, 

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and taken to the various markets which supply local restaurants and shoppers.

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After a delightful early morning stroll, I walked back to the hotel through tiny vicoli filled with shops preparing for the day, and lovely old buildings that retain their charm. 

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And so, Venice, although I leave you once again, not knowing when I’ll return, rest assured that for me, your mystery, beauty and magic will never fade.

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Un Onore Davvero! (Italian Version)

10 Sep

Due settimane fa, e inaspettatamente, abbiamo ricevuto un invito a partecipare alla 76a Mostra Internazionale del Cinema di Venezia, ospiti del Prof. Dr. Massimo Lucidi, giornalista economico, autore e fondatore di numerosi eventi internazionali come il Premio Eccellenza o il Premio Italiano Eccellenza .

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Il festival si tiene al Lido di Venezia e il nostro incontro è stato all’Hotel Excelsior. Per il loro sito web: “Questa straordinaria creazione ha riscosso un grande successo il 21 luglio 1908, con una sontuosa festa in riva al mare per oltre 3.000 ospiti. È diventata rapidamente un paradiso per l’elite, le star del cinema e la regalità”.

Nel 1932, l’Hotel Excelsior Venice Lido Resort ha dato il benvenuto al primo Festival del cinema di Venezia ed è ora la sede ufficiale di questo evento di fama mondiale.

© HOTEL EXCELSIOR VAT: 09825980965

Ci siamo presi un momento per goderci un cappuccino in buona compagnia.

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L’incontro a cui abbiamo partecipato è stato intitolato “Cinema e Web”. Si è concentrato sul rapporto tra emozione e seduzione del cinema e le opportunità digitali di oggi per preservare e condividere storia e cultura.

Ma perché noi? Un po ‘di storia richiesta qui …

Io e Len, entrambi di origini italiane, abbiamo sempre avuto il sogno e l’obiettivo di trascorrere un periodo significativo in Italia. Dal 2001, con il nostro viaggio in Calabria per trovare i documenti dei nonni di Len, abbiamo continuato la ricerca delle nostre case ancestrali e visitato la maggior parte. Una volta in pensione, e desiderosi di vivere davvero il paese dei nostri antenati, abbiamo scelto l’antica e bellissima città di Cortona in Toscana.

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Per noi, era la dimensione e l’ambiente perfetti per darci una base centrale da cui partire, per interagire veramente con la gente del posto e per assorbire la cultura dei nostri antenati mentre ci immergevamo nella vita quotidiana italiana. Non avremmo potuto immaginare le grandi amicizie che avremmo fatto.

Crescendo, io e Len siamo stati entrambi fortunati ad essere circondati da grandi famiglie italiane estese. Ognuna delle nostre vite era piena di divertenti tradizioni italiane, grandi riunioni di famiglia e amore.

Nella mia famiglia c’erano 10 nipoti per parte. E mentre sapevamo dei risultati dei nostri nonni, non era come se parlassero di se stessi. Per noi, erano nonni tipici e divertenti che lavoravano duramente e amavano i loro nipoti a caro prezzo.

Di conseguenza, il mio fascino ancestrale iniziò davvero molti anni dopo, quando iniziai a ricercare mio nonno paterno, Alex Capraro.

©blogginginitaly.com   Alex Capraro and wife Maude

Lasciò Pietrabbondante in Abruzzo all’età di quattro anni ed emigrò con i suoi giovani genitori in America dove alla fine divenne il primo architetto italo-americano autorizzato in Illinois. Agli inizi degli anni ’30, fu nominato capo architetto dal governo italiano per il padiglione italiano alla Century of Progress Fair del 1933 a Chicago. Anche se è morto quando avevo cinque anni, mia nonna conservava molte delle sue lettere e dei suoi documenti. Alla fine, questi mi sono stati trasmessi. A tempo debito, sono stato in grado di mettere insieme così tanto di ciò che era e ciò che aveva realizzato nella sua vita, come documentato nella mia serie di blog: Attraverso le sue parole: riflessioni da e su mio nonno.

La storia di Alex ha suscitato interesse, non solo con i miei familiari, ma anche con molti amici italiani.

Questo mi ha portato a ricercare e condividere qualcosa in più su mio nonno materno, Salvatore Ferrara, che ha aperto una pasticceria al dettaglio nella sezione Little Italy di Chicago nei primi anni del 1900.

Salvatore Ferrara (r) C.1908

La pasticceria produceva dolci italiani, grandi torte nuziali e mandorle ricoperte di zucchero, o coriandoli, che Salvatore aveva imparato a fare in Italia. Quando le vendite di caramelle hanno superato i pasticcini, ha lasciato la moglie per dirigere il forno e alla fine ha lanciato la Ferrara Pan Candy Company. Nel 2017 il Gruppo Ferrero, produttore di Nutella e il secondo produttore di cioccolato e azienda dolciaria al mondo, ha acquistato la Ferrara Candy Company.

Per non essere superata dagli uomini, mia nonna materna, Serafina Ferrara, divenne una dinamica personalità imprenditoriale e filantropo.

Serafina Ferrara and brother

A differenza di miei nonni, ho avuto la fortuna di conoscerla tra i 20 anni. Oltre a gestire la panetteria, ha aperto due delle prime sale per banchetti di Chicago, il Chateau Royale e il maniero di Ferrara. Ha anche dedicato un tempo significativo a cause caritatevoli e civili. Era conosciuta come “L’angelo di Halsted Street” per la sua infinita generosità verso i meno fortunati. Nel 1956, fu nominata nonna nazionale dell’anno insieme a Ed Sullivan come nonno dell’anno. Lo stesso anno, fu decorata dal Governo italiano per aver contribuito a cementare le relazioni italo-americane: i suoi numerosi successi nella vita sono stati inseriti nel record congressuale della Camera dei Rappresentanti degli Stati Uniti dall’onorevole Frank Annunzio nel 1972.

Nel corso del tempo, ho potuto vedere gli ingranaggi girare nella testa del nostro buon amico Carlo. Era incuriosito, non solo per la storia di questi immigrati italiani che hanno realizzato così tanto in America, ma che le due famiglie erano unite dal matrimonio di mia madre, Benita Ferrara, e di mio padre, Bill Capraro. Carlo è stato anche colpito dalla decisione di Len e dalla mia decisione di immergerci completamente nella storia e nella cultura dei nostri antenati, nonché di ricercare e condividere le nostre storie. Sapevo che aveva iniziato a parlare con gli altri, ma mai fino a che punto.

Avanti veloce alla scorsa settimana e l’invito.

A cena mercoledì sera, abbiamo incontrato Massimo Lucidi (di fronte a me) per la prima volta, sebbene fosse stato ben informato. Prima che la serata fosse finita, mi aveva invitato a partecipare a un panel la mattina successiva.

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La sala conferenze Tropicana dell’Hotel Excelsior ospitava il padiglione italiano dove si sarebbe tenuto l’incontro.

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All’improvviso, sono stato sul palco con un membro del parlamento, un colonnello dei carabinieri, il Presidente di Rai Cinema e Massimo Lucidi, tutti che recitano ruoli significativi e vari nella promozione del cinema e delle arti legate alla storia e alla cultura dell’Italia in un palcoscenico internazionale.

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Il mio ruolo è stato quello di condividere una breve storia (in italiano, ovviamente!) Dei miei nonni, tutti immigrati italiani e dei contributi che hanno fatto in America. E perché così tanto interesse? Come è stato sottolineato durante il panel, ci sono così tante storie meravigliose di immigrati italiani che non vengono mai ascoltate e mai raccontate, ed è la sfida di coloro che sono coinvolti in tutti i tipi di media a cercare tali storie.

Nella sala c’erano produttori, registi, attori, scrittori e giornalisti, e molti furono riconosciuti per il loro lavoro.

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E poi, alla conclusione del panel, è arrivata la nostra incredibile sorpresa e il nostro straordinario onore – Len ed io siamo stati riconosciuti dal Comitato Esecutivo del Premio Eccellenza come segue:

Per la storia di straordinario impegno, passione e stile,
siamo lieti di premiare
Judy e Leonard Gingerella
Ambasciatori della storia italiana dell’emigrazione

©blogginginitaly.com     Colonel Anania, Len , Judy, Massimo Lucidi

La cerimonia di premiazione effettiva si terrà a Washington DC in ottobre, ma poiché non saremo disponibili, ci è stato assegnato il nostro premio in anticipo. Ed è per questo che siamo stati invitati a Venezia.

Dopo l’evento, Massimo ha condotto un’intervista con me e Carlo, disponibile su YouTubehttps://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

https://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

Abbiamo presentato a Massimo un libro di Luciano Meoni, il sindaco di Cortona.

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E il colonnello Anania ha presentato un libro all’onorevole Nicola Acunzo di Francesco Attesti, Consigliere culturale di Cortona.

Len ed io saremo per sempre grati a Massimo, Orazio, Carlo ea tutti coloro che vedono valore nel condividere il passato e sono impegnati a mantenere vive le storie. Grazie mille, grazie! Il nostro tempo trascorso insieme al 76 ° Festival Internazionale del Cinema di Venezia sarà qualcosa che apprezzeremo per sempre.

Soprattutto, la mia sincera gratitudine verso i miei nonni e bisnonni per avere il coraggio di lasciarsi alle spalle il noto, cercare opportunità in America e creare eredità straordinarie. Sarò sempre sbalordito e anche ispirato dai loro successi. Come loro nipote, sono così orgoglioso di poter condividere le loro storie.

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Su una nota profetica … a fine luglio, la nostra famiglia allargata si è riunita a Chicago per una settimana. Una notte attorno a una grande tavola rotonda, ci hanno chiesto ciascuno di completare la seguente frase:

“Sono un 10 a _________.”

Ho riflettuto, non sono sicuro della mia risposta, e poi a mia volta, la parola è semplicemente saltata fuori: RICERCA.

Non avrei mai immaginato che la mia ricerca mi avrebbe portato in questo incredibile viaggio.

Resta sintonizzato: potrebbe esserci ancora qualcosa in arrivo.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Honor Indeed!

10 Sep

Two weeks ago, and most unexpectedly, we received an invitation to attend the 76th Venice International Film Festival, guests of Prof. Dr. Massimo Lucidi, economic journalist, author, and founder of numerous international events such as the Premio Eccellenza or Italian Excellence Award.

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The festival is held on Venice Lido and our meeting was at the Hotel Excelsior. Per their website: “This extraordinary creation opened to great acclaim on 21st July 1908, with a lavish ocean-front party for over 3,000 guests. It rapidly became a haven for the elite, film stars and royalty.”

In 1932, Hotel Excelsior Venice Lido Resort welcomed the first ever Venice Film Festival and is now the official venue of this world-famous event.

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We took a moment to enjoy a cappuccino in good company.

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The meeting we participated in was titled “Cinema and Web.” It focused on the relationship between the emotion and seduction of cinema and today’s digital opportunities to preserve and share history and culture.

But why us? A bit of history required here…

Len and I, both with Italian origins, always had a dream and goal to spend significant time in Italy. Since 2001, with our trip to Calabria to find Len’s grandparents’ records, we’ve continued the research of our ancestral homes and visited most. Once we retired, and wanting to truly experience the country of our ancestors, we chose the ancient and beautiful town of Cortona in Tuscany.

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For us, it was the perfect size and setting to give us a central base from which to travel, to truly interact with locals, and to absorb the culture of our ancestors as we became immersed in daily Italian living. Little could we have imagined the great friendships we would make.

Growing up, Len and I were both very fortunate to be surrounded by large extended Italian families. Each of our lives was filled with fun Italian traditions, large family gatherings and love.

In my family, there were 10 grandchildren on each side. And while we knew of our grandparents’ accomplishments, it wasn’t as if they talked about themselves. For us, they were typical and fun grandparents who worked hard and loved their grandchildren dearly.

As a result, my ancestral fascination truly began many years later when I started researching my paternal grandfather, Alex Capraro.

©blogginginitaly.com   Alex Capraro and wife Maude

He left Pietrabbondante in Abruzzo at age four and emigrated with his young parents to America where he eventually became the first licensed Italian-American architect in Illinois. In the early 1930’s, he was appointed chief architect by the Italian Government for the Italian Pavilion at the 1933 Century of Progress Fair in Chicago. Although he passed away when I was five, my grandmother kept many of his letters and documents.  Eventually, these were passed on to me. In due time, I was able to piece together so much of who he was and what he had accomplished in his life, as documented in my blog series: Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather.

Alex’s story generated interest, not only with my family members, but also with many Italian friends.

This led me to research and share more about my maternal grandfather, Salvatore Ferrara, who opened a retail pastry and candy shop in the Little Italy section of Chicago in the early 1900s.

Salvatore Ferrara (r) C.1908

The bakery produced Italian pastries, large wedding cakes, and the sugarcoated almonds, or confetti, that Salvatore had learned to make in Italy. When candy sales surpassed pastries, he left his wife to run the bakery and eventually launched the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. In 2017, the Ferrero Group, maker of Nutella and the second largest chocolate producer and confectionery company in the world, purchased the Ferrara Candy Company.

Not to be outdone by the men, my maternal grandmother, Serafina Ferrara, became a dynamic business personality and philanthropist.

Serafina Ferrara and brother

Unlike my grandfathers, I had the good fortune to know her into my 20s. In addition to running the bakery, she opened two of Chicago’s first banquet halls, the Chateau Royale and Ferrara Manor. She also devoted significant time to charitable and civic causes. She was known as “The Angel of Halsted Street” for her unending generosity to those less fortunate. In 1956, she was named national grandmother of the year along with Ed Sullivan as grandfather of the year. The same year, she was decorated by the Italian government for helping to cement Italo-American relations. Her many life accomplishments were entered into the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional record by the Honorable Frank Annunzio in 1972.

Over time, I could see the gears turning in our good friend Carlo’s head. He was intrigued, not only about the story of these Italian immigrants who accomplished so much in America, but that the two families were united though the marriage of my mother, Benita Ferrara, and my dad, Bill Capraro. Carlo was also struck by Len’s and my decision to fully immerse ourselves in the history and culture of our ancestors, as well as research and share our stories. I knew he had begun talking to others, but never quite to what extent.

Fast forward to last week, and the invitation.

At dinner Wednesday night, we met Massimo Lucidi (across from me) for the first time, although he had been well briefed. Before the evening was over, he had invited me to join a panel the next morning.

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The Tropicana Conference Room at Hotel Excelsior housed the Italian Pavilion where the meeting would be held.

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Suddenly, I was on stage with a parliamentary member, a carabinieri colonel, the president of Rai Cinema, and Massimo Lucidi, all who play significant and varied roles in the promotion of film and the arts related to the history and culture of Italy on an international stage.

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My role was to share a brief history (in Italian, of course!) of my grandparents, all Italian immigrants, and the contributions they made in America. And why so much interest? As was pointed out during the panel, there are so many wonderful stories of Italian immigrants that are never heard, and never told, and it is the challenge of those involved in all types of media to seek out such stories.

In the room were producers, directors, actors, writers and journalists, and several were recognized for their work.

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And then, at the conclusion of the panel, came our incredible surprise and amazing honor – Len and I were recognized by the Executive Committee of Premio Eccellenza as follows:

For the history of extraordinary commitment, passion and style,
we are pleased to award
Judy and Leonard Gingerella
Ambassadors of the Italian History of Emigration

©blogginginitaly.com     Colonel Anania, Len , Judy, Massimo Lucidi

The actual award ceremony will be held in Washington DC in October, but since we won’t be available, we were given our award in advance. And that is why we were invited to Venice.

After the event, Massimo conducted an interview with Carlo and me which is available on YouTube. https://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

https://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

We presented Massimo with a book from Luciano Meoni, the Mayor of Cortona.

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And Colonel Anania presented a book to Honorable Nicola Acunzo from Francesco Attesti, the Cortona Cultural Councilor. 

Len and I will be forever grateful to Massimo, Orazio, Carlo and all those who see value in sharing the past and are committed to keeping the stories alive. Grazie mille, thank you! Our time spent together at the 76th Venice International Film Festival will be something we’ll cherish forever.

Most of all, my heartfelt gratitude to my grandparents and great grandparents for having the courage to leave the known behind, seek opportunity in America, and create extraordinary legacies. I will always be in awe and also inspired by their accomplishments. As their granddaughter, I am so proud to be able to share their stories.

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On a prophetic footnote… in late July, our extended family gathered in Chicago for a week. One night around a large round table, we were each asked to complete the following sentence:

“I am a 10 at _________.”

I pondered, not sure of my response, and then at my turn, the word just popped out – RESEARCHING.

Little could I have ever imagined that my research would take me on this incredible journey.

Stay tuned – there just might be more to come.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shrove Tuesday, Carnevale in Venezia

9 Feb

Although the high today will reach about 20°, Benita invited Len and me to join her for pazcki, the Polish deep-fried donut that signals the coming of Lent. We headed to Firecakes Donuts in Lincoln Park, where we tried the raspberry ones, then took a lemon for later. Definitely worth the calories!

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©Blogginginitaly.com

Eating the pazcki reminded me of Venice’s Carnevale, the huge winter festival celebrated with  parades, masquerade balls, musicians, music, and parties. Although today is Shrove Tuesday, the official date of Carnevale, Italians like others have been celebrating for weeks.

It’s thought that the Carnival of Venice was started as part of a victory celebration in 1162. Over the years, Carnevale took on various meanings, and was outlawed completely in 1797 under the rule of the King of Austria. In the 19th century, it gradually reappeared and in 1979, the Italian government brought it back as a means of highlighting the history and culture of Venice.

Today, approximately 3 million people attend Carnevale annually. They are awed, not only by Venice’s buildings, bridges, gondolas and canals, but also by the incredible attention to detail that goes into the costumes and pageantry. On the last weekend of Carnevale, a competition is held to determine la maschera più bella  or “the most beautiful mask”. The contest is judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers, and when you see the incredible artistry, you’ll understand why.

Many thanks to my dear friends Marco and Mario for allowing me to share their amazing photos.

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Mario in Venetian Mask Shop©Blogginginitaly.com

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Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

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Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

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Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

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Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

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Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

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Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

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Macro/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

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Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

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Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

Marco/Mario©Blogginginitaly.com

So glad I didn’t have to choose a favorite – tough work for the judges!

Ciao,
Judy

Buon Compleanno, Leonardo!

15 Apr

On April 15, 1452, Leonardo da Vinci was born in a small Tuscan village called Anchiano. He was a true polymath, a person whose expertise spanned a significant number of subject areas. Today, we celebrate this genius’ life as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, musician, inventor, mathematician, anatomist, botanist, geologist, cartographer and writer.

Presumed Self Portrait

Presumed Self Portrait

Da Vinci was the illegitimate child of Caterina, a domestic servant, and Sir Piero da Vinci, owner of the house where da Vinci was born. Today, the house is a museum where visitors are welcomed by da Vinci himself, well almost, as his life-sized hologram greets visitors and shares information about his life. In nearby Vinci, one can visit the www.museoleonardiano.it, which, according it its website, “is one of the most extensive and most original collections, providing critical knowledge of Leonardo in his historical context and in that of late Middle Ages and Renaissance.”

Among Da Vinci’s most famous works is the Vitruvian Man.

Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be

Luc Viatour / http://www.Lucnix.be

This drawing, combining art and science, depicts a man in two superimposed positions. The picture represents da Vinci’s attempt to relate man to nature as he believed the human body was analogous to the workings of the universe. The drawing also contains notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius. The original is kept in Venice in the Gallerie dell’ Accademia and made available to the public occasionally.

Another intriguing work of da Vinci is the Mona Lisa. On display at the Louvre in Paris, this painting is considered one of the most famous in the world.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

In 1503, Francesco del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint a portrait of his wife, Lisa, age 24. It is believed it took him about four years to complete due to other projects. Da Vinci, however, feeling the painting was unfinished, never delivered it to Francesco nor did he get paid for his work; it is undated and unsigned.

Another iconic painting of da Vinci’s is The Last Supper, in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

While many of Da Vinci’s works still exist, many more were lost over the years. Yet his notebooks containing sketches and scientific diagrams, as well as his thoughts on the nature of painting, provide continuing and immeasurable contributions to both art and science.

Happy Birthday #563 , Leonardo!

You graced this earth for 67 short years, but your brilliance will shine forever.

Ciao,

Judy

“Italy the Extraordinary Commonplace”

25 Jan

We often read of the demise of Italy as a major producer and exporter, so the following video was made to counter some of these less than favorable descriptions.

Per Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy,

The video “Italy the extraordinary commonplace” is designed to show Italy beyond stereotypes, a major producer of technological goods and the second European exporter in mechanical engineering and automation. 

Since I love visiting Italy, I found this information to be great news. As for the format, well, leave it to the ever creative Italians. Thanks, Anna, for sharing.

Ciao,

Judy

Through His Words: Day Thirty-One

13 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Grand Hotel Flora – Roma

Rome
Monday. August 15, 1938

“Eureka” !!

At last I received word from home and Maude dearest, was I ever so happy I felt like a child with the new toy. I got one from you, one from Billy, and one from Joe Montenegro, and it is just exactly one month since I left home.

You say you sent two letters to Naples. Well Naples is my last port of call and of course, I won’t get them until I get there Wednesday. I had hoped you sent some to Milan via American Express Company, which I should have received by now, however, I was so glad to hear from you, I will forgive you for any errors you may have made in connection with the mail.

Sometimes we just need to vent our frustrations!

I am glad to hear everyone home is in good health and Billy tells me he sees to it that you get out and enjoy yourself. Thank Billy for his letter, it was real cute. Also tell him I have taken a lot of pictures to show him when I get home. I am also very happy to know Monte is getting better. It certainly was a tragedy, and what a difference it would have made if he was in good condition and had made the trip with me.

I had expected to go to the American Express Company hoping to get mail, but this is a holiday over here. In fact, from Saturday to Tuesday, all shops are closed. The holiday is called Ferragosto and it is equal to our Labor Day.

Still celebrated today, Ferragosto is the August 15 holiday when Italians celebrate the harvest following a long period of agricultural labor.

Well, I took it rather easy yesterday, it being Sunday. I went to St. Peter’s to church,

St. Peter's at night - blogginginitaly.com

St. Peter’s at night – blogginginitaly.com

after which I walked around the Foro Romano (ruins) and the Coliseum.

romeisalwaysagoodidea

romeisalwaysagoodidea.wordpress.com

Then I went to Fermes for dinner. They have been very nice to me and I wish you will drop them a line when I get home for the hospitality shown me. He has been with me every day since I got here, and I have met some very big shots here through him. By the way, his brother is a big mogul here but I am out of luck so far as meeting Prince Potenziani and others as they are all out of town in the country and naturally cannot be seen. However, I saw the Pope and I’m satisfied.

Alex was the first licensed Italian-American architect in the state of Illinois. In 1933, the Century of Progress Exhibition would open in Chicago. Prince Potenziani, the Royal Italian Commissioner to the Exposition, had chosen Alex to supervise the construction of the Italian Pavilion. The Prince was in Chicago for its opening, and bestowed a decoration on Alex for his work.

February 20, 1933 Ground Breaking for the Italian Pavilion. Prince Potenziani center

February 20, 1933 Ground Breaking for the Italian Pavilion. Prince Potenziani center. (Herald and Examiner Photo)

Italian Pavilion Alexander V Capraro  - Associate and Supervising Architect, Chicago

Italian Pavilion 1933,   M. Derenzi, A. Libera, A. Valente –  Architects Rome
Alexander V. Capraro – Associate and Supervising Architect, Chicago

Mr. and Mrs. Ferme and I went to the Camposanto of Rome early in the evening and it certainly was a sight to behold, altogether different from ours. Then we went to what is known as the “Baths of Caracalla” – an old ruin immense in size. They use it for open air grand opera. You should only have the chance to see it. It is a spectacle no other place in the world has. The opera was Aida. The stage, set between two huge pillars several thousand years old, 400 musicians in the orchestra, 1000 actors on the stage, the best opera stars, 20,000 people in the audience, and the seats filled only about one-third of the inside of the magnificent ruin.

BathsOfCaracalla en.wikipedia.org

Baths of Caracalla –  en.wikipedia.org

Still today during the summer, the Caracalla Baths turn into a platform for breathtaking Teatro dell Opera performances. I need to add this to our Bucket list!

tatistidbits.com/2012/09/24

tatistidbits.com/2012/09/24

 Powerful lights turn night into day. Finally the lights go out, the orchestra starts playing, and then absolute silence in the throng of 20,000 spectators, real music lovers, real critics of ability. And I was almost breathless in the enjoyment of such a marvelous spectacle, a performance which can be held only in Rome, the Eternal City. And what a wonderful city this is. Paris was great, Venice was unusual and wonderful, but Rome is ever interesting, ever bewitching, the city of antiquity and modernism all-in-one; the city of the Caesars of yesterday and of great men of today. Clean as a whistle, law and order 100%, and no end to art, sculpture, painting, music and culture.

1938 Roma postcard

1938 Roma postcard

The men and women both dress as good if not better than we do in the States and they parade on the streets in smart style and the height of fashion. The evenings are spent mostly at little tables on the sidewalks, eating gelati or caffe. Every street is almost the same as far is this feature is concerned and all of them are lighted better than Madison Street at Crawford Avenue. Well, I better stop raving because I could go on like this for hours about Rome.

Today I visited three of the most important churches next to St. Peter’s, besides some smaller ones, and best of all, I made the holy stairs of St. John the Lateran. This is the most sacred spot in Rome. As the enclosed card shows, there are 28 wooden steps leading to an altar of our crucified Lord.

St. John Lateran

St. John Lateran

In order to gain an indulgence, you must kneel on the first step and say certain prayers, or the rosary will do. You must continue this on each and every step without rising on your feet or without touching the step below with your feet – only your knees. In other words, you must drag yourself up to the top on your hands and knees, stopping at each step to say prayers. I did it today and believe me, I thought I would never get to the 28th step. My kneecaps felt as if they were torn to pieces by the time I finished, but I made it, and Maude, what a feeling of relief as well as gratitude towards our Lord you have when you get to the top. Well, I hope the good Lord will reward the effort in answer to the prayers I offered for you, et all.

The other churches follow in rank next to St. Peter’s are St. Paul, St. John Lateran, and Santa Maria Maggiore.

St. Paul

St. Paul

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore interior - blogginginitaly.com

Santa Maria Maggiore interior – blogginginitaly.com

They are so gorgeous it is difficult to describe the grandeur of these churches. All told, there are 400 churches, every one of them would make Resurrection looks sick. In the main churches I mentioned, you could actually put a half dozen churches like Resurrection and still have room for Santa Maria on Alexander Street.

Then I saw the Pantheon, a very old edifice where the bodies of King Victor Emmanuel II and others are buried.

Pantheon at night - bloggingintialy.com

Pantheon at night – bloggingintialy.com

Tomorrow I shall spend at the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum, and National Museum, and then I think I shall have seen enough of Rome to remember it vividly.

Two of the most beautiful art treasures Alex would long remember are Michelangelo’s Pieta, (1498–1499)

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

and his Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508-1512).

You should have a month here alone to do a good job of it. It is 8 PM and I am waiting for Ferme to go out to dinner somewhere. 

P.S. Confidential
Ferme and I have seen certain officials here about the decoration for PA and it will come but not before April 21, 1939. There is an absolute law that cannot be broken by anyone that this particular class of decoration be given and presented on April 21 only, that being Natale di Roma and Festa di Lavoro. The decoration is called Stella Merita di Lavoro and is given an recognition for long and meritorious labor. Ferme has already written the council in Chicago about it.

Based on my research, this “medal of honor” dates back to a Royal Decree 1898 to recognize industrialists and their employees. In 1927,  it was extended to Italians living abroad who have given evidence of patriotism, honesty and hard work as an example to their countrymen. Alex was researching the viability of this honor for his father-in-law, Maude’s father.

In the meantime, good luck, and God bless you. Loads of love and my very best to all at home.

Finally Alex was content. He had heard from his family and knew all was well. He effortlessly penned an eight page letter to Maude, the love of his life, describing in detail the treasures of Rome he would never forget, and that she would only ever “see” through his eyes. Lucky for Maude, Alex’s eyes absorbed deep beyond the surface, as only an architect could.

As ever yours, AL 

Ciao

Judy

 

Through His Words: Day Twenty-Three (2nd letter)

23 May

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Hotel Europa E Britannia
Venezia

August 7, 1938

Darling

 I arrived this morning about 11:30 on the fast train from Milan. It is almost unbelievable to see water where streets should be.

I remember feeling the exact sentiment the first time I visited Venice some 33 years after my grandfather. I still marvel at the engineering feat when I visit, despite the crowds and flooding.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

Upon getting off the train, my luggage was immediately placed in a gondola and I had my first ride in a real gondola. We wound our way about 2 miles through narrow canals and finally came to the Grand Canal where my hotel is.

JM photo: blogginginitaly.com

JM photo: blogginginitaly.com

The charge was 13 liras or about $.65. It sure was worth it because it is hard work to row one of these things, a gondola being about 35 feet long.

That same ride would cost Alex over $160 today.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

The hotel is a nice place, one of the best I have been in so far. It faces the Grand Canal and is 75 lira for room and meals ($3.75).

Now known as the Europa & Regina, Venice

Today known as the Europa & Regina, Venice

Luggage Tag © 1997-2013 International Poster Gallery

Luggage Tag © 1997-2013 International Poster Gallery

From the hotel’s website: During the autumn of 1908 it was here that the celebrated Impressionist painter Claude Monet stayed – a long visit in which he made the most of his talent with the magnificent views that the hotel offered. In a letter, dated October 16th, 1908, Mme. Monet wrote: “We have finally arrived at the Hotel Britannia, with a view, if such a thing were possible, even more beautiful than that of Palazzo Barbaro…

I was pretty dirty upon arriving here, smoke and soot from the train as well as perspiration due to the heat. It is pretty hot and I can look forward to a lot of hot weather from now on as I understand it is very hot in Florence, Rome, and Naples.

After having washed and changed and taken lunch, I went to the American Express with a feint hope that I might find a letter, but nothing doing. I was not surprised, however, because it was too soon for any mail to be forwarded from Milan. 

On the same day Alex was writing this letter, Maude was only just writing her first letter to him (previous post).

Well, I started upon my visit immediately as I will leave here tomorrow night for Bologna and Florence. I went to St. Mark’s Square, a picture you see many times in the States.

blogginginitaly.com

Family Photo: 2007: blogginginitaly.com

The cathedral is immense in its mosaic portraits.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

The ceilings are all gold mosaic with lifelike figures of saints, etc. in very colored hues. Everything you see is a work of art done without thought of money or time. This cathedral was built in 832 and is now over 1100 years old. 1000 years doesn’t mean anything over here.

And then Alex has this random thought:

I’m just thinking I have been in several churches every day and prayed in all of them so I ought to be given some kind of special indulgence by the time I get through.

After St. Mark’s, I took a boat to the Lido and found it to be a sort of Atlantic city. As you know, this is on the Adriatic Sea, and I wanted to be able to say I bathed in the Adriatic. So, I rented a bathing suit and went in to get a few mouthfuls of saltwater. The place is miles long lined with cabanas and beautiful sandy beaches. With the weather being hot, I stayed a couple of hours in the water.

My hotel gave me a ticket which was good at a hotel on the Lido for dinner, so I had my dinner on a large veranda overlooking the sea and enjoyed my meal amid rosebushes and flowers of every description. One thing they have here a plenty is flowers.

 

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

I then took a boat back to St. Mark’s and found the Square full of little tables, people sitting and having coffee or gelato, all amid the strains of a half-dozen or more orchestras at various spots.

San Marco: blogginginitaly.com

San Marco:
blogginginitaly.com

 

2007: Enjoying gelato:blogginginitaly.com

2007: Enjoying gelato:blogginginitaly.com

2007: Enjoying the orchestras and vino: blogginginitaly.com

2007: Enjoying the orchestras and vino: blogginginitaly.com

I sat at a little table, had a cup of strong coffee, and am now back at my hotel writing some postcards and this letter to you. Tomorrow I shall take in other places of interest here in Venice, like The Doge’s Palace, and then leave about 6:00 PM.

JM Photo: blogginginitaly.com

The Doge’s Palace: JM Photo:blogginginitaly.com

I hope some mail will meet me here tomorrow as I’ll try the American Express office.

Unfortunately, Alex would be disappointed once again. 

Until then, good night and God bless you dear.

Loads of kisses and love.  Yours only, Al

Ciao,

Judy

 

Carnevale in Venezia – 2013

5 Mar

This year, the Carnival of Venice, or Carnevale, was held from January 26 – February 12. About three million people participated in the festivities. While Venice is such a popular destination any time of year, the few weeks before lent offer something extra special.

My friends Mario and Marco, who just returned from an amazing trip, were fortunate enough to be among those participating in the 2013 festivities. Although the weather included some flooding and snow, none were deterred. The amazing pictures that follow were taken by their friends Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro.

Photo: Anthony Guida  and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro.

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro.

The word for masks in Italian is maschere, and in Venice, some of the most popular ones include the Bauta, a mask that covers the entire face; the Columbina, a half-face mask that is either tied in back or held by hand with a baton; and the Medico della Peste, meaning The Plague Doctor, symbolized by a long beak.

Photo: Anthony Guida andRaffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida andRaffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Masks are abundant in the shops in Venice. They are made by hand by Mascherari and have long played a part in Venetian culture and history.

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photos: Anthony Guida & Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

A panel of international costume and fashion designers shared the task of selecting “La Maschera piu bella”  – the most beautiful mask.

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Hard to pick a favorite – they are all so beautiful.

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

And just in case you have the itch, next year’s dates are February 15-March 4. Be sure to make your reservations early and remember to rent your costume in advance.

Photo: Anthony Guida and  Raffaella Spilotro

Photo: Anthony Guida and Raffaella Spilotro

See you there…well, I can hope too!

Grazie molto Marco, Mario, Anthony and Raffaella for sharing these incredible photographs! And many thanks to the Venetians for putting on such a remarkable show!

Ciao,

Judy

Venice Pounded by Heavy Rain

17 Nov

For years and years, I have heard that Venice is flooding. That was true when I was a student in Italy in the early 70’s, and still true today. Luckily for me, however, most times I visited Venice it was dry. I actually recall only once, in the summer of 2007, that there was water in the Basilica San Marco as well as in Piazza San Marco, but only in the evening.  At that time, huge wooden planks were laid strategically, forming little bridges enabling people to walk across the water. These photos were in the daytime, when only people and pigeons filled the piazza.

 

Recently, however, heavy storms have swept through parts of northern and central Italy, causing Venice to be under a high water alert.  Nearly 70% of Venice was flooded last week. People could be seen wading and actually swimming in up to five feet of water. In some locations, it was even challenging to distinguish between the sidewalks and canals, the busy thoroughfares of Venice.

Many Venetians do not actually live in Venice, rather on several of the other islands, and those that do tend to live above the ground floor. Street-level shops and restaurants, however, are not so fortunate and are suffering the effects of the storms. Even the flooding, however, can’t dampen the spirit of some tourists who are determined to make the most of their vacation!

Huffington Post

According to the BBC, while flooding is common this time of year, this flood ranks as the 6th worst in the last 150 years. Here’s hoping for sunshine, calmer winds, the return of Venetian romance and magic, and piedi per terra, literally –  feet on the ground!

This clip seems to say it all: Venice Flooding

Ciao,

Judy

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