April 10, 2011

"My" amazing park in Milan

When I left England, one of things I expected to miss the most were my long walks, often with friends, in the parks in Leamington, along the Grand Union canal and in the nearby countryside. English countryside is simply beautiful, mainly untouched by human hands and scattered around with sheep.

The countryside in Veneto, the region I come from, is much different, more humanized and used mainly for agricaltural purposes. It's not really meant for people wandering around and walking the dog.

A couple of weeks ago I moved to Milan expecting to be surrounded by houses, offices, skyscrapers, basically concrete everywhere. However, to my great surprise, I discovered an amazing park just 5 min walk from where I live. There're four lakes, woods, allotments, birds and ducks. If I really have to make a comparison with England, the only things missing are squirrels and rabbits.

The park is called 'Parco delle cave' literally 'park of the quarries'. In fact, the four lakes used to be sand and gravel quarries.

beautiful view

and more pictures are in the gallery....


March 29, 2011

The beasts series: Birds

Since I came back to Italy I find myself often wondering how best to express Italian idiomatic expressions, proverbs etc. into English. These days I'm fascinated with "beasts": it all started with "the sausage dog and the marmalade cat" - by the way this would make a great title for a children's book!

I've used the word "beasts" because it reminds me of those medieval books called bestiary. These were illustrated books describing animals with accompanying moral lessons.

To be precise this week my mind has been occupied with birds. The English expression "to kill two birds with a stone" has its equivalent in the Italian "to catch two pigeons with a bean".

Do these expressions say anything about the respective people? Stoning the birds is a bit cruel, no doubt about it, but it's also a very straightforward and pragmatic way of acting. In this respect it reflects the English national character. The Italians prefer instead to use a trick - and this is actually what we are, for good or bad, famous for. We find creative solutions for problems, though this may involve bending the rules and getting away with it. It's also well known that food is important in our culture, hence we use it to fool the poor pigeons.

Clearly there's nothing scientific about my observations, they're just entertaining thoughts.....


February 23, 2011

The Guardian of Morality

As it's inevitable these days all the media keep inundating my daily life with debates about Mr Berlusconi's latest scandals...this person said that, the other claimed so and so ...politicians from all parties, journalists, historians, they're all expressing their views, generating a much confusing battlefield.

One of the recurrent themes is the lack of morality and ethics in public life. In Italian society 'public' and 'private' life are distinct concepts. Public life is about how you appear to the others while private life is how you really are.

Let me make an example to understand better.

In 2008 Mr Berlusconi got a stroke of morality. Hanging on the walls of the office in Rome where he used to meet the media was a Tiepolo's painting. Mr Berlusconi decided to have it removed.  The problem was a naked woman's breast painted by the Italian master and thought to be a possible cause of embarrassment. The original painting was then replaced by a copy with a covered-up breast.

In the public eye, he appeared then as a very prudish man. It's such a pity then that recent revelations about his private life don't quite live up to such great expectations....

But maybe there's an explanation for this: Tiepolo's painting is titled 'Time unveiling Truth', was Berlusconi then just attempting to cover up Truth?


February 19, 2011

Public Art and public Morals

L.O.V.E by Maurizio Cattellan

Artworks have always been the cause of much fraught public debates on issue of morality and the Italian artist Maurizio Cattellan is not new to controversy.

Last September Palazzo Reale in Milan hosted an exhibition of 3 of Cattellan's works plus a third sculpture to be displayed in Piazza Affari, right in front of the Italian Stock Exchange building. Carved in white Carrara marble, it represents a hand with all the fingers cut off, except for the middle on. To put it simply, it's a hand giving the one-finger salute. The original title was the Latin expression 'omnia munda mundis' - literally meaning
'to the pure [men], all things [are] pure'. It was later dropped in favour of L.O.V.E. an acronym for Libertà (Liberty), Odio (Hate), Vendetta (Revenge) and Eternità (Eternity).

It's clearly meant to be a mockery of the financial sector: a visual expression of how ordinary people may feel towards the banks and stock exchange  market, reminding them of their responsibility of the current economic crisis.

Such a hoax was meant to last just 10 days before the artwork being moved to another location. Five months later and the hand still salutes proudly those working at the Stock Exchange. On Valentine’s day, a group of artists even adorned it with a giant engagement ring. 

However, Giuseppe Vegas, the president of Italy's securities market regulator Consob, has asked for it to be removed. In May he's due to present Consob’s annual report and he simply doesn't want the finger as the background for official photographs along with the Italy’s financial and entrepreneurial elite, government ministers, and the President of the Republic.

This is a difficult case to settle. I think the public can accept such artworks in the short-term, even appreciate the thought -provoking value of art. However, in the long term citizens want beautiful art to decorate their city, something to be proud of. As a general rule I'm in favour of this kind of art to be displayed in public places but for a short while before being moved for example to a museum.

On the other hand, for this specific case, since we're talking about financial brokers, maybe they need a permanent reminder of their responsibility towards the rest of society. A bit like those 'Last judgement' paintings, above the exit of churches, placed there to be the last thing believers could see before leaving the church and entering again the world, a final warning about the necessity to live morally.


February 10, 2011

Travelling to Venice…in Italy, or is it in France, maybe in Austria?

This has nothing to do with a French or Austrian copy of the authentic city built on the marshy lagoon stretching along the shorelines of the Adriatic See. The problem is that the city itself and the surrounding Veneto region might not be part of the Italian State anymore!

I couldn't believe my own eyes when I read in Corriere della Sera (one of the major Italian newspapers) that the Royal Decree for the annexation of Veneto to the Kingdom of Italy had been abrogated!

Some historical background is needed at this point.

Italy became a united nation with the name of Kingdom of Italy in1866. At the time it was a monarchy ruled by the Savoia family. Veneto was however part of the Austrian Empire and only in 1866 after the Third War of Independence Austria agreed to cede Veneto to Napoleon, who then donated it to Italy to compensate  for the earlier annexation of Savoy and Nice, territories on the western boarder of the Italian Kingdom.

Back to present time, the man responsible for this mess is Roberto Calderoli, minister for "legislative simplification". To duly fulfill his ministerial duties, he approved a 'law cutter decree' to abrogate many old, nowadays irrelevant laws. The previously mentioned Royal Decree just got caught in it by mistake. Yes, let's say "by mistake" though some have pointed out that Calderoli is actually a member of the Northern League, a party known for having always championed the idea that the North of Italy should seek independence from the Italian State.

Minister Calderoli's spokesmen have been quick in playing down the gravity of such event, stating that the unity of the Italian State is actually guaranteed by the Italian Constitution, approved after World War II and still in force.

Let's hope now that neither France nor Austria will request the annexation of Venice.


January 31, 2011

Food and pets, what a odd relation

While writing the previous post on the World's Original Marmalade Awards I decided to look up in the dictionary the word 'marmalade' as I suspected it was an unaccountable noun. I was right: there's no plural form, the word is used just in the singular.

My attention was then caught by one of the associated entries, i.e. 'marmalade cat', described as a cat with orange fur and darker orange markings.

What a surprise! I didn't know it was a type of cat. As cats love hanging around in the kitchen, maybe they even like marmalade, I had though that the 'best marmalade cat award' was a competition for 'cats loving marmalade' and any cats could take part, regardless of the colour of their fur. How funny!

This episode reminded me of when I found out about the sausage dog. I couldn't stop laughing. Poor dog, I don't think it looks like a sausage. The Italian name is 'bassotto' as 'basso' means short, he is generally known as the 'short but long' type of dog.



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