Sunday, December 29

Italy: The Best of 2013

Habitual readers of my blog will know that for years, I have posted a Tante Belle Cose monthly roundup of some of the terrific things that happened in and around Italy.  My readers are so cynical, that people barely glanced at the listings. And while there are millions of articles, blog posts, videos, files postings on all that is great with Italy, those who know me, see that I take a rather - errrr - 'different' approach. 
But, in the spirit of the festive season, and in the hopes that you, dear readers will actually for once read 'til the end, here is my year-end review of some terrific or zany things that happened in 2013 Bell'Italia:
  • Jan/The Gemelli Hospital - A young boy's heart valve operation was entrusted to the head of the cardiac unit at this Vatican-run hospital; famous for working on Popes but even more famous for the miracles performed on children. I panicked when the Chief Cardiologist was under 40.  I mean, this is a country in which many kids are still (supposedly) hitting the books in their 30s. Instead, he is one of many of the renowned medical professionals operating in this country.  And while many more skilled and highly trained researchers, scientists, physicians have left for greener pastures, he (and his wife) remain the face of what Italy could be if the younger generation was given half the chance.
    from the UK's Telegraph
  • Feb/Pope Francis - Anyone who reads my blog or my twitter feed knows I am no fan of religious institutions of any cloth. The abject hold over the hypocrite politicians by the Vatican State - a theocratic society where women are not allowed in any real power - is outrageous. But I love this Pope.  Since his election, taking real action against the corruption in his own house, the plague of pedophiles in his midst and with discourses that could be translated easily to much of Italian society, well, I hope someone is listening.  Heck-he even told his own clergy that their homilies were boring.  Add to that an American woman at the helm of his finance committee, and his selfie, let's hope we can all surf this tsunami of change.
  • Mar/Berlusconi Convicted - Finally, justice was served, albeit lukewarm (he's still not served a day) after the courts have been trying to try him for years. He was found guilty of wiretapping a political rival. Incredibly, in Italy, the statute of limitations does not stop once court proceedings have been initiated. So Silvio's crack legal team just practices delaying tactics until the clock runs out.  For a pretty thorough FAQs of Silvio's trials, just click here. And, don't forget to drop in on my dedicated Silvio Show Page above!  As most commenters would remark, in any other country he'd have been long gone from politics.
  • Apr/New Government Elected - While not much would change with a left-leaning government, at least we no longer had to live down the peccadilloes of our previous Prime Minister. It was liberating. Even more liberating was the party of defiance, under the helm of comedian & general disruptive force, Beppe Grillo, came to the fore in huge numbers. The media (wholly controlled by politicians) continues to dismiss him and his members, but let's face it.  In a country of self-professed sheep - I call them lemmings - it's heartening to see at least one person call out the politicians for the ongoing rape of their country.
  • May/Life & Death in Pompeii - While the actual walls of places in Pompeii have been crumbling before our eyes, while Vesuvius still boils under the previously scorched earth, and while city officials decide - despite all indications to the contrary - that it's okay for people to dwell on its slopes, the world got treated to another mega-exhibition on this fabled place; the way exhibitions were intended - by the British Museum.  The show brought much of the story and traditions to life through the unique objects, including a magnificent table, never seen in public.  You can still pick through the timelines, the stories, the cult of Bacchus, you name it on their slick website.  Carpe Diem!  Here's the Eruption Timeline
  • June/The Supermoon - It's hard to pick the most amazing shots of the Supermoon with Italy as it's front drop.  Just 'Google It' and stargaze for yourself.  
  • July/Italy's first astronaut in space - My head still in the stars, with the arrival of the 203rd astronaut into outer space continues to astound us with his shots of the world at large (very large) and his twitter feed (@astro_luca) Thankfully, we did not lose him in late July when his helmet filled with water during his spacewalk.  More here.
An Italian astronaut in space always makes me giggle. That's due to the old yarn about the Pan-World Space Mission looking for the next astronaut to send to Mars.  They interview the best candidates from every viable nation.  In the final round, the American says he'll do it for $1M -leaving behind his wife & family for 3 yrs.  The Russian cosmonaut says he'll do it for $2M. The Italian waltzes into the interview, and declares that he'll do it for $3M.
The interviewer is astounded.  "What do you mean, these other countries have the finest programs on earth!" he exclaims.  The Italian leans over and says, "Don't you understand? A million for-a you, a million for me -- and dee American goes to Mars!"
  • Aug/New places in Italy - I got to spend my August with my sister/niece & nephews on Italy's Adriatic coast.  And, the best part yet, was seeing places I've never been to before!  Of course, no trip is complete without paying a visit to my favorite town in all of Italy, Ascoli Piceno (not least for their olive ascolane, deep-fried stuffed olives washed down with cool white wine).  But I was pleasantly surprised by the towns above Pescara, the churches that were out of this world, and the markets actually included real Italian-made products.  Walks near the Gran Sasso made it all the more spectacular, and provided a welcome breath of fresh air from the August heat.
  • Sept/Raising the Concordia - While none of us can get over the 'Hands in the cookie jar' defense of the indefensible Captain Coward of the Concordia, I was glued to its raising.  It was a feat of engineering, and while it was a multinational endeavor, the Italians had much to be proud of.  Certainly, spending all that money on this derelict ship just to send it for demolition left some wondering where our priorities were.  After all, hospitals are being closed all around us, schools are crumbling, and all this money is washed away at sea [granted, the operation did save the fragile environment underneath the ship.]  But compared to the outrageous purchase of dozens of fighter planes for a country that can't afford toilet paper for its students, well...it's hard to understand.  Nonetheless, I was glued to the screen, if for no other reason than accident porn.  
This is gonna be a tough one to set straight
From the inimitable genius of Gianni Falcone www.gianfalco.it 
More takes on the year of the Concordia conundrum:
  • Oct/Night at the Museum - Each October, we're treated to free admission & festivities throughout the country.  But in reality, these aren't the only times you can get into the most beautiful places on earth for a song.  There is a week each May as well, free nites on your birthday, and  bank collections and FAI heritage trust sites often open for free.  And all winter, there are free visits to the show in Rome of Augustus.
  • Nov/ASRoma Football/Soccer - Fans saw the Rome team came back from years of mediocrity (despite their 37 yr old Captain's finesse on the field) to have a fleeting chance at no. 01.  The games have all been exciting, and there's more to come in January!  With an updated website - in English, no less - I follow a lot of the English football commentary for my play by plays, even on twitter.  It's great to see.  In November, we also saw the relaunch of Naples' Città della Scienza after being burnt to the ground by someone - most likely interested in developing the area, and not kids' brains.  [Full disclosure: We opened with one of the shows I represent from the USA, Brain: The World inside your head].
  • Dec/Londinium - After leaving behind: the fab book event in which I introduced readers to many expat authors living in Italy (I'll be adding even more to the titles on my Book Page Tab above), the drab Christmas tree mounted in Rome's Piazza Venezia (and crucified on twitter), the mad grab of politicians for more money & perks as they force most of Italy into poverty and cripple companies, I saw that sometimes, things are the same all over.  Attending the terrific show of Fascinating Aida, we found that Brits are threatened by immigration, school teachers can't make a living wage, the bathrooms at London's Science Center, airports & other public places don't flush (but they do have toilet paper!), and the price of transportation is keeping people away - from everything and everyone else.  As they say in Italy, "Tutto il mondo è un paese - The whole world is just a village".
Buone Feste! To the habitual Readers of my blog, to all my peeps, and to my occasional voyeurs and (sadly, even fewer) occasional commenters!  See you in 2014.


Many live links throughout the post.

3 comments:

Dave514 said...

When you finally grow up, you'll be able to at least understand one religious institution. That is when you've been able to answer the two questions of life in their order, "Why am I here" and "What do I want." You'll also understand why women will never be priests, but that'll take a lot more study on your part.

At least you approve of BG. He's probably Italy's only hope for some sanity in the political structure except for another Il Duce.

As to Pompeii, the reason that the British Museum has all these artifacts is that they were stolen by the British Ambassador to The Kingdom of The Two Sicilies,Lord Hamilton. He was also a close friend of the king who was an even greater thief. Luckily for Naples a lot of the king's thievery resides in one of their museums.

Davide

Francesca Maggi said...

Grazie, Davide -
For your continued support--if - errr - I could call it that! ;) over the years, your passion, history, knowledge and humor!
Cuz you know...I never take you seriously....

Un abbraccio caloroso e Buon Anno 2014!

Mandy Indonesia said...


Hello, I really like your article. I will keep coming here, Thanks for this post.