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Oct 17 16 3:28 AM
Cardinals see red over Vatican McDonald'sClerics worried they will have to foot the bill to adapt building for use by fast food chain near St Peter’s Square in RomeOpponents of what would be the first McDonald’s restaurant to open in a Vatican building within sight of St Peter’s Square has been boosted by a group of cardinals living above the proposed site.While local residents have been aghast at the thought of a Golden Arches near the home of the Catholic church, cardinals who live in the apartment building where the fast food chain will be located have more practical concerns, according to Italian media reports.The cardinals have complained that they were not consulted about the new McDonald’s and are worried that they will have to help pay for extra restructuring expenses to adapt the building, including a new flue for the kitchen.The problems allegedly started when the cardinals were alerted this summer by Apsa, the Holy See agency that owns the property and manages the Vatican’s vast real estate holdings, that it had agreed to rent the ground floor space to McDonald’s.The US fast food company was reportedly willing to pay “a few tens of thousands of euros per month” for the property – which faces Borgo Pio and Via del Mascherino – far outbidding any other potential tenants.The Committee for the Protection of Borgo was the first group to raise the alarm over the proposed restaurant. It said the fast food chain would distort the area and inflict a “decisive blow on an already wounded animal” given the abundance of mini-markets and stands selling religious trinkets in the area.The new proposed McDonald’s will not technically be located within the Vatican City walls. But it is at the centre of Vatican life, a spot where many cardinals - including Pope Benedict XVI, before he was elected pontiff - have lived. (I stood in front of this very building some years ago - in front of it is Piazza della Citta Leonina, which Padre Benedetto used to cross every day on his way to work for more than 20 years. I admit to being dismayed that this memorable building will now have to sport the Golden Arches.) Even if senior clergy members would rather not dine on a Big Mac with fries, the chain will likely become an attractive lunch and dinner destination for the young men of the Swiss guard, whose barracks are nearby. (I have my doubts. When all is said and done, Italian cooking is far more flavourful and satisfying than a fast food burger.)It is unclear whether the angry cardinals – who include Gianfranco Ravasi, Giuseppe Versaldi and Gilberto Agustoni – will receive a sympathetic ear from Pope Francis, who has famously opted to live in modest accommodations in Casa Santa Marta and repeatedly pressed clergy to live as simply and frugally as possible.Two controversial books released last year by Italian journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi described how many cardinals live in the lap of luxury in apartments owned by the Vatican, with one former high-ranking official, Tarcisio Bertone, living in what was described as a “princely dwelling”, at very modest prices. Instead of rent, the cardinals usually only pay for utilities and, once they retire, are charged a monthly rental fee of €7 to €10 per sq metre.The Vatican denied that cardinals were being forced to shoulder any of the costs, and said that the cardinals had simply been notified that a secondary lift in the building would be removed to accommodate part of the planned renovation.Opponents are looking to the example set by Florence for inspiration, pointing to the decision by the Renaissance city to reject the proposed opening of a McDonald’s within walking distance of Porta Sant’Anna in order to protect the cultural heritage of the historic centre.
Cardinals outraged over McDonald's near St Peter's planThe plan to open a McDonald's restaurant overlooking St Peter's Square fails to respect the food and architectural traditions of the area, several cardinals say.A group of Rome cardinals have attacked a proposal to open a McDonald's restaurant next to St Peter's Square in Rome, SBS reports."It's a controversial, perverse decision to say the least," Cardinal Elio Sgreccia told La Repubblica daily on Saturday.Opening a branch of the US fast-food chain in a piazza to the right of the Vatican's basilica is "by no means respectful of the architectural traditions of one of the most characteristic squares which look onto the colonnade of Saint Peters," he said.The decision was "a commercial choice" that also "ignores the culinary traditions of the Roman restaurant," he added.Cardinal Sgreccia also warned that according to "analyses and studies done by many nutritionists and doctors" McDonald's food "does not provide guarantees for the health of consumers.""It is food that I would never eat," he stated. (Well, yes, because you have someone who'll cook for you! Better look for a better "put-down", Eminenza.)"Hosting such a questionable activities in the Vatican building is not the best," he warned.Cardinal Sgreccia was speaking on behalf of the seven cardinals who reside above the site, which covers 538 square metres (5,800 square foot), and is being rented out by ASPA, the authority in charge of the Vatican's real estate, SBS says.Instead of a Golden Arches near the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, the space should be used to house entities which help the needy, in line with the pope's call for "a poor Church for the poor," Cardinal Sgreccia said. (While I agree with the spirit of the suggestion, I hope Cardinal Sgreccia really means what he said - it can't be denied that there are a number of Curial cardinals who definitely do not think very highly of the Pope's call for "a poor Church for the poor".)However, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, head of ASPA, told La Repubblica he was "not going to back down" because the deal is legally valid and he didn't see "anything negative" about it."I don't see the scandal," he said.
A McDonald’s at the Vatican? Cardinals aren’t lovin’ itVATICAN CITY (RNS) Several senior cardinals in Rome are apparently furious about plans to open a new McDonald’s restaurant in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica and have reportedly asked Pope Francis to stop the expansion from going ahead.But that’s not the only charge of cultural heresy invading the Vatican’s sacred precincts this week: Questions are also being raised after the Holy See gave approval for the Hard Rock Cafe chain to open a store on Via della Conciliazione, the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s.The Hard Rock Cafe is set to replace a long-standing religious bookstore; the site is currently being renovated and a panel in the window confirms Hard Rock will be the new tenant.Hamish Dodds, the CEO of Hard Rock, was quoted in the Italian daily La Repubblica as saying the store would only be selling T-shirts and musical memorabilia.In the wake of Italy’s economic crisis, such changes are becoming commonplace around the Vatican as banks and bookshops have been replaced by more bars, restaurants and stores filled with tourist souvenirs.But the advent of a McDonald’s seemed to be especially galling.Italian Cardinal Elio Sgreccia was the first to publicly sound the alarm, saying the proposal to open an outlet of the global fast-food chain below a Vatican-owned building where several cardinals live was a “controversial, perverse decision.”In an interview published over the weekend in La Repubblica, Sgreccia said the proposal was “not at all respectful of the architectural and urban traditions” of a destination — just a block from St. Peter’s Square — that draws thousands of pilgrims and tourists a day from around the world.He also said serving burgers and fries in the neighborhood was unacceptable because McDonald’s cuisine breached Italian taste.It’s a commercial decision that ignores the culinary traditions of the Roman restaurant industry,” said Sgreccia, 88, who is president emeritus of the Vatican’s Academy for Life, which leads the church’s fight against abortion and euthanasia.One angry cardinal has even written a letter to the pope urging him to intervene against the decision despite the fact that it would reportedly bring 30,000 euros ($33,000) a month in revenue to the Vatican, La Repubblica said. (Heavens above! As if the Pope didn't have so many infinitely more serious problems on his plate! Now he has to be bothered with this dispute over McDonald's?!)Sgreccia does not live in the building but was apparently speaking on behalf of some of the seven cardinals who live above the 5,800-square-foot site, (Good heavens, why can't they speak up for themselves? Or are they afraid of the backlash, so they'll let an octogenarian who doesn't even live in the building stick his neck out for them! Very courageous, I must say.) which is being rented out by the authority that manages the Holy See’s real estate. The authority goes by the acronym APSA.The retired cardinal said the space should be used to help the needy in keeping with the pope’s desire to create a “church for the poor.”Sources told the Italian news agency ANSA that the cardinals who live in the building were further angered after receiving letters from APSA advising them that they would be required to contribute to renovation work to accommodate the new tenant.But Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, head of ASPA, denied the claim about the contributions and told La Repubblica he was “not going to back down” because the deal was legally valid.“I don’t see the scandal,” he said.Staff from Hill & Knowlton, the public relations firm that represents McDonald’s in Italy, did not respond to several requests from RNS for comment on Tuesday (Oct. 18).The cardinals may not be alone in their protests.Local merchants and residents in the historic Borgo district next to the Vatican have also joined the fight against the proposed fast-food restaurant, describing it as “a serious assault” that does not enhance the artistic and cultural value of the quarter.Representatives from Rome’s City Council are also taking formal steps to block the McDonald’s from going ahead, at least in the short-term, according to Italian media.The first McDonald’s opened in Rome near the Spanish Steps in the heart of the Eternal City’s historic center in 1986 despite vocal protests.There was a similar outcry in Florence earlier this year when McDonald’s sought to open next to the Renaissance city’s landmark cathedral, known as the Duomo.
Oct 27 16 5:49 AM
Italy earthquakes rattle buildings and residents two months after disasterResidents in central Italy assess damage to homes and churches after 200 aftershocks rattle stricken towns overnightHundreds of people in central Italy woke up in makeshift shelters in a state of shock and exhaustion after the region was hit by two earthquakes that brought back memories of the disaster that hit the area two months ago.While no fatalities were reported – one man reportedly died from a heart attack that was possibility related to the shock – locals were on Thursday carrying out a grim assessment of major damage to homes and churches in towns across Marche and parts of Umbria. The two regions were also hit in the 24 August quake that killed 300 people.The area continued to be hit by aftershocks – about 200 of them, according to seismologists – throughout the night, even as first responders struggled through a torrential rainstorm and mud and debris to make door-to-door checks on residents’ safety. Another earthquake, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, hit an area about 70km from Perugia on Thursday morning.None of the aftershocks was as strong as the quakes that hit the area on Wednesday night, which measured 5.4 and 6.1 on the Richter scale and struck two hours apart, at 7:10pm and then 9:18pm. The vibration could be felt as far north as Veneto and far south as Caserta.The situation on Thursday morning was described as “dramatic” in Italian press reports, as thousands of displaced people who live across the mostly rural area spent the night in temporary shelters or in their cars, either unable or too afraid to return home.“We have about 2,000 or 3,000 homeless people,” Cesare Spuri, the head of the civil protection department in the central Marche region, told Ansa.The epicentre of both quakes was near the town of Visso, central Marche, where residents could be seen in television footage walking around dazed and inspecting major damage to property. In some cases, entire walls lay on the ground in heaps of rubble.“I’ve felt a lot of earthquakes but that was the strongest I’ve ever felt. Fortunately everyone had already left their homes after the first quake. so I don’t think anyone was hurt,” said.Ussita, Visso, and a town called Castelsantangelo sul Nera were the most affected by the quakes.Initially, experts believed that the tremors were technically aftershocks linked to the August quake. But on Thursday Mario Tozzi, from the national institute for environmental geology and geo-engineering, said the “double-hit” quake was a new earthquake.“What we do not know is whether it was a dormant section of the Amatrice fault or a parallel structure, a close cousin of this fault,” Tozzi told AFP.The quakes were typical for the region and would Tozzi said more aftershocks ought to be expected in coming months, though they should be getting weaker. He added, however, that one could not rule out another major quake in the near future.Schools were closed in several towns on Thursday as a precaution, and a handful of hospitals and one prison evacuated after suffering damage.In Castelsantangelo sul Nera, near the epicentre, two bar owners opened their businesses to locals, believing it was far more secure to stay in the premises than to return to their home in Visso.It was ultimately transformed into a shelter, with entire families, elderly people and parents with young children settling down on chairs and stools for the long night of aftershocks.“About 80% of houses were already unusable after the August 24 quake,” one of the bar owners, Pamela Cappa, told Corriere della Sera. “Many of the residents had taken refuge in Visso, where we live, because it was one of the areas that was less affected by the earthquake this summer. This time, however, we were not spared.”One patron that night, Marco, an agent of the financial police, the Guardia di Finanza, had worked as a first responder when an earthquake in April 2009 devastated the ancient town of L’Aquila. This time, he told Corriere, it was his turn to be rescued. He fled his home with his family after the first earthquake struck.“We’ve lived through the nightmare of the [August] earthquake for months yet for 40 days this town was spared. I wonder whether having been overlooked has something to do with what happened now,” he said.
Powerful quakes wreak new havoc in Italian mountain townsVISSO, Italy (AP) -- Authorities scrambled to find housing Thursday for thousands of people displaced by a pair of strong earthquakes that struck the same region of central Italy hit by a deadly quake in August, hoping to prevent a second night for them on the street or in cars.The one-two punch packed by the quakes some two hours apart Wednesday evening meant many people were out of harm's way before the second, more powerful temblor, which toppled many historic buildings that had survived previous jolts.But no one was trapped in rubble and there were no reports of serious injuries. The only death in the aftermath was attributed to a heart attack in a 73-year-old man.Thousands of people ran outside into a downpour, and many slept in their cars as it was too late for authorities to scramble for emergency shelter. The government on Thursday earmarked 40 million euros ($43.6 million) to help rebuild, while civil protection officials said the first priority would be to find people hotels and other structures."We have to avoid that people sleep in cars or tents," said the head of Italy's civil protection agency, Fabrizio Curcio. "The plan is to bring people to hotels and then to come up with temporary solutions with calm."Mayors of towns scattered in the mountain region spanning the Umbria and Marche regions say many more homes were rendered uninhabitable, on top of those damaged in the devastating August quake. In the town of Ussita, Mayor Marco Rinaldi said his town had been "devastated," with up to 80 percent of the houses no longer inhabitable.Macerata prefect Roberta Preziotti said people were able to react quickly to the first quake because of the early hour."And by the time the second, stronger quake hit there was no one still in their houses. There was a quick reaction thanks to the time of day, which allowed an immediate evacuation," she told The Associated Press.For some people in the mountainous region, the second jolt felt stronger than the Aug. 24 quake that killed nearly 300 people. Seismologists say the two new quakes and clusters of smaller shocks were aftershocks to the deadly event."This time the house was upside down, everywhere, the walls, the cupboards, the wardrobes were moving. The big wooden, heavy wardrobes were moving, were sliding around," Elena Zabunchi, a Ukrainian resident of Visso said.Camerino Mayor Gianluca Pasqui said the town's historic bell tower had collapsed, but emphasized that reconstruction work after a 6.1 quake in 1997 appeared to have contributed to the absence of serious injury."I can say that the city didn't have victims. That means that even if there is a lot of damage probably the reconstruction in the historic center was done in a correct and adequate manner. Because otherwise, we would be speaking of something else," Pasqui told Sky TG24.The president of Umbria region, Catiuscia Marini, told RAI state television that officials are scrambling to come up with temporary housing, mindful that with winter approaching and temperatures dropping, tents can't be deployed as they were after the August quake. The concern for the predominantly elderly population of the remote mountain region was repeated by other officials.Marini said that after the quakes many people will be fearful of staying even in hotels deemed safe, and that solutions like campers were being considered. Curcio said they were looking for solutions out of the quake zone and toward the coast."We don't have injured, we have people who are very afraid, who have anxiety, especially the elderly," she said.In Visso, where about 800 people were without shelter, Mayor Giuliano Passaglini said he was only able to provide shelter for a couple hundred residents overnight, and most people spent the night in their cars. He told residents Thursday that "tonight, we are not leaving anyone in the streets," laying out options for accommodations.Firefighters were helping residents to retrieve objects from their homes in areas that were sealed off because they are deemed dangerous. Most buildings were intact, showing only cracks, although part of the elementary school had collapsed.The first quake at 7:10 p.m. had a magnitude of 5.4. But the second one a little more than two hours later was eight times stronger at 6.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.The quakes, shaking buildings in Rome some 230 kilometers (145 miles) southwest of the epicenter, were actually aftershocks of the magnitude 6.2 earthquake from two months ago. Because they were so close to the surface - about 10 kilometers, or 6 miles - they have the potential to cause more shaking and more damage.
Oct 27 16 6:23 AM
Syrian refugees arrive to Rome with the hope of a better life (CNA).- This week 130 Syrian refugees landed in Rome as part of a pilot program aimed at providing safe passage for migrants seeking to enter Europe, all of whom voiced their gratitude and desire to leave war behind.“I want to live normal, as a human, just that.”This is what a young woman, who preferred not to give her name, told CNA just hours after arriving to Rome from Lebanon.A university student studying geology, she is originally from the southern city of As-Suwayda, but left her friends and relatives behind and came to Italy by herself in the hopes of continuing her studies and living a normal life, far away from war.The situation in Syria “is destroying everything. Every person, every dream, you can’t dream. There is killing everywhere. This is Syria now, not before,” she said through tears.Wiping her face dry, the young woman didn’t want to talk about her family, but said she came to Italy “to continue my studies. This is the basic thing.” Italy, she said, is “a nice place, I expect the best.”The young student was among the latest round of refugees to arrive to Rome through the Humanitarian Corridors project.Humanitarian Corridors is a pilot program and joint-ecumenical initiative of the Sant'Egidio Community, the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, the Italian government and the Waldensian and Methodist churches, the project provides aid and safe passage to those fleeing war and violence.The refugees have come from situations of desperation in countries such as Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Among them are sick children, disabled persons, elderly and widows of war with children.So far roughly 400 people have already arrived in Italy through project, without having to risk their lives in the Mediterranean. The first arrivals came in February, and 12 more followed soon after on board the papal plane with Pope Francis when he returned to Rome after his April 16 day trip to Lesbos.On March 6 Pope Francis gave a shout-out to the program, saying he admires the project, “which combines solidarity and security, allows one to help people fleeing war and violence.”The most recent arrivals came on two separate flights from Lebanon Oct. 24 and 25, nearly all of whom are Syrians who fled their country and had been living in refugee camps in Lebanon.The group consisted of 72 Syrian refugees, both individuals and 18 families, and included 45 children and 14 mothers. They are both Christians and Muslims, nearly all originally from war-torn Syria.A single mother who arrived with her two children told CNA she came “first of all for the children,” adding that “this was a dream. I didn’t think this dream could be realized.”The woman, whose children are about six and eight years old, has been living in refugee camps since her children were born. They first lived in a camp in Syria when the children were infants, and later transferred to a camp in Lebanon, where they have been living for the past four years. (Oh, my heavens ... imagine giving birth to your children in a refugee camp and trying to raise them there!)With no husband, the woman left all of her relatives behind in Lebanon and came to Italy to meet her brother, who had already migrated and was at the airport to welcome her.“I am very happy because life in the camp was very hard and very difficult. I wanted to get out and to see Italy, to see what was outside, which certainly isn’t like life in the camp,” she said.She said the first step for her family now will be for the children to learn Italian so they can go to school. They “must learn the language to continue their life journey, because now they are saved,” she said, explaining that the rest of her family hopes to join them one day.Rami, a Muslim refugee from Deir ez-Zor, Syria, was among those who arrived to Rome with Pope Francis in April.After making the perilous journey from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, Rami found himself stuck in a refugee camp on the island, but was selected by lottery to come back to Rome with the Pope since he had his paperwork in order.He was present at Rome’s Fiumicino airport for the Oct. 24 arrival of his sister and her children, whom he had not seen for six years.When he and the other refugees arrived to Rome with Pope Francis, “our life took a 180 degree turn from hell to paradise,” he told CNA. “I come from a country at war, and we arrived to a country where there is peace, security and tranquility.”In Syria “there was war, destruction, calumny,” he said, explaining that his sister’s husband is missing, and that after traveling from Syria to Lebanon and finally Lebanon to Rome, “we're all happy.”Speaking of his experience living in Italy, Rami, who worked in general renovation in Syria, said that “it’s fabulous, I am happy, there is a lot of stability. My children go to school now, they have already learned Italian better than me. We hope to continue going forward, that the situation gets better.”He voiced his gratitude to Pope Francis for his welcome and attention to migrants, explaining that “we are guests of the Pope.”“I am very proud and I will tell it to everyone with great pleasure...We are under his care. We are very happy in his care,” he said.For her part, Sara said she is happy to be in “a calm, secure country,” and that she decided to come above all for her children.“I am thinking of school. I am more interested in the future of my children,” she said, explaining that she will “always give thanks to the Italian people, for their welcome.”Dirkan Qariqosh, a refugee from Aleppo who came to Italy with his wife and son, told CNA that he had been an artist in Syria, and hopes to better his skills in such an artistic culture.“We have come here to a country of peace. I am an artist, I worked with copper, with gypsum,” he said, explaining that in Syria, “I did paintings and taught children.”Since he and his family are now living in Italy, “perhaps I can study to further advance (my skills),” he said, adding that “we have suffered a lot and we want to say ‘enough!’ We hope for peace in Syria and we want to say ‘enough!’ to war.”Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Sant’Egidio Community, told CNA that the success of the Humanitarian Corridors project “means that Italy is opening itself to the Syrian crisis with the Humanitarian Corridors.”“It’s the answer to the war, the inhumanity of war, but also to the merchants of death.”
Nov 5 16 7:51 AM
Italy’s Earthquakes Could Kill Children in Biblical NumbersEveryone’s afraid, but here’s the real scandal: Ninety percent of Italy’s schools are not earthquake-proof, and so far nothing’s been done about it.ROME — It is a terrifying sensation when your home starts to shake and your furniture starts to shimmy—especially when you don’t consider your address to be in a high-risk seismic zone. But for the last three months, starting on August 24 and ending, oh, at 1:38 am Thursday morning, that’s exactly what has been happening to residents in many areas of Italy, including Rome, where swinging chandeliers and sliding furniture have become all too common.And even though there is ample evidence of increased seismic activity, including widening cracks in the Roman Colosseum and frightening fractures in some of the capital’s churches and bridges—not to mention the complete or partial destruction of 200 communities in central Italy—the nation has long been in denial. It has focused on repairing destroyed villages on the country’s major fault lines rather than investing in anti-seismic measures that could actually keep buildings standing and save lives.A report by Legambiente on Thursday points to a terrifying statistic. More than 90 percent of Italian schools have “not been built with modern anti-seismic criteria.” Only a little over half of those were built before 1974, after which the law stated that schools, at the very least, had to be earthquake proof. But that was just on paper. Those constructed later apparently were built without concern for safety.In example after example, including a school that was destroyed in Amatrice in the August 2016 quake that killed nearly 300 people, building regulations for renovations which require anti-seismic measures to be installed were blatantly ignored thanks largely to organized crime and corruption. Contractors signed documents saying they had complied with anti-seismic measures without actually installing them.To be fair, Italy does rank fifth in the world (after Japan, China, Russia and the United States) for the number of what are called “seismic isolated structures” per population base, according to ENEA, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development.These structures have reinforced basements and systems that absorb seismic shock so the buildings won’t crumble. But the same agency says that, even so, “over 70 percent of the buildings in Italy wouldn’t withstand the earthquakes that can hit them, including schools, hospitals and other strategic structures.”Paolo Clemente, a researcher at ENEA, says that when constructing new buildings it generally doesn’t cost any extra to install seismic isolation systems. But it is far more difficult to install them on existing structures, which is why so many buildings were destroyed in Italy’s recent spate of quakes.“The application of anti-seismic systems to existing buildings is not always possible, due to technical reasons, like the possibility of carrying out safe interventions at the base of the building, proximity of other buildings and economic reasons,” he says.Finally, those excuses might be a thing of the past.Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced that his government had the funds to rebuild the affected areas destroyed in the last three months and that budgetary constraints set forth by the European Union would not stand in the way of safety. “It’s unthinkable that schools should collapse for European stability,” he said in Milan on Thursday.He also said that Italy must start thinking about “prevention” when it comes to earthquake damage, which is something the country has clearly neglected despite devastating earthquakes that killed thousands over the last half century, including one near Naples in 1982 that killed nearly 3,000 people. In introducing a project called “Casa Italia” or “House Italy” he said that the country “must have a structure that deals with prevention.”One might think that, in a country as seismic as Italy, which sits on the juncture of two tectonic plates, this approach to engineering and architecture would already exist. Apparently, it does not. “For decades, Italy has not thought about the future,” he said. “We are very good in emergencies, but now we need a plan that, in the space of a few generations, we will make the country secure.”Italy’s Transport and Infrastructure minister, Graziano Delrio, agrees. He estimates that if Italy would spend between €4 to €7 billion a year, it could handle both reconstruction and making all Italian public buildings, starting with schools and hospitals, seismic proof.Hotels and cultural heritage sites are often already in compliance due to private funding and patrimony protection monies. Private owners and condominium managers would have to foot the bill for their own seismic readiness. For private housing, “a lot of money is needed because we have not invested much in prevention,” Renzi told RAI news. “Instead we must spend money on preventing catastrophic events like we have just seen.”All of that, of course, will take time, which may not be on Italy’s side.During the seismic events of the last seven days, more than 230 square miles of terrain have been drastically changed, some large swaths of land falling more than 28 inches, splitting roads, towns and mountainsides in half, according to Italy’s National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV). There have been more than 2,000 aftershocks over 2.0 magnitude since the last major earthquake activity started on October 26.Experts can’t predict whether this is the end or the beginning of a swarm of earthquake activity, but they warn that the big one might yet strike. If it does, of course, planned prevention won’t help at all. But if the earth suddenly calms down again, let’s hope the plans to be ready for the next one start in earnest before it’s once again “too late.”
Nov 8 16 4:33 AM
Italy: 17th Century artwork stolen from quake-damaged churchMILAN (AP) -- Italian authorities are investigating the theft of a 17th-century painting from an earthquake-damaged church, one of the first suspected victims of looting from last month's quakes that have sent officials racing to recover priceless artworks before thieves and the elements get to them.The national police unit charged with protecting cultural treasures said Monday that the 1631 painting "Pardon in Assisi" by French painter Jean Lhomme was stolen from a village church in Nottoria. The work was well-known among historians.The parish priest, the Rev. Marco Rufini, told news agency ANSA that the thieves apparently ignored the risk of the church collapsing on them when they cut the painting from its frame, "adding injury to injury."The earthquakes on Oct. 26 and Oct. 30 collapsed buildings across a broad swath of a region already reeling from a deadly August quake. One of the iconic images of the devastation is the basilica of St. Benedict of Norcia, built over the birthplace of the patron saint of Europe, where only the facade remains standing.While the main priorities have been tending to the estimated 30,000 people left homeless, authorities have also begun recovering artworks from the more than 182 quake-damaged or destroyed churches in the area, said the archbishop of Norcia and Spoleto, Monsignor Renato Boccardo."These towns have been abandoned, with their churches destroyed, so the risk of theft is very high," he said.In addition, a powerful storm Sunday night threatened even more damage to artworks exposed to the elements. The mayor of quake-hit Visso, for example, flagged that important frescoes of the Madonna were at risk from the rain and required a helicopter to come in and extract them.The army has moved in anti-looting units to the region, but Boccardo noted that cities like Norcia and nearby Cascia have around 40 tiny hamlets apiece, sparsely spread across mountains. "Whoever wants to go into a home or church can go easily," he said.While stressing that his primary concern was providing for his flock, he said the damage to the churches had added to their trauma."The history of this area is expressed in its churches, the witnesses of art, history and faith," he told reporters in Rome. For the people of the region, he said, the quake represented a "double loss" of both their homes and their churches."All the life of these little hamlets and towns is linked to the churches - the history and development of the towns all took place around them."
Nov 10 16 6:32 AM
These Fashion Brands Revitalized 3 Rome LandmarksWith the help of fashion stars turned cultural crusaders, Rome’s most beloved historic sites are sparkling once againLike most Italians and millions of tourists every year, Diego Della Valle was used to Rome’s Colosseum looking magnificently woebegone—its travertine blocks grayed with soot, pitted by acid rain, and loosened after centuries of freezing and thawing as well as by traffic and subway vibrations. But in 2011, at a time the Italian government admitted it was too cash-strapped to restore the world’s largest amphitheater, Della Valle, the dashing silver-maned chairman and CEO of Tod’s, chipped in some $30 million.“One of the reasons for doing the restoration was to emphasize the pride of being Italian and doing things for the country,” says Della Valle, who was the man of the hour on July 1, when the completion of phase one of the Colosseum’s reconditioning—a three-year-long cleaning and stabilization of the massive first-century structure—was officially celebrated. (The landmark stayed open to the public throughout the work.) The grimy stone walls are golden again, and traffic has been largely restricted on the adjacent Via dei Fori Imperiali, granting travelers and locals alike more space for a leisurely appreciation of the Colosseum and the historic center’s other ancient ruins. Up next at the amphitheater is the restoration of underground chambers, followed by the construction of a visitors’ center and a cafeteria. “When I see the Colosseum now, I feel proud for me and for the people who work in my group and for all the people who are loyal to my products,” Della Valle modestly continues. “Everyone has partly contributed to this project.”Call it patrimonial bliss. All across Rome—and for that matter, Italy—top fashion houses have revived endangered treasures, taking them into their ardent embrace. The Trevi Fountain reopened last November after a $2.4 million revamp by Fendi, which also revived the city’s Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, a long-abandoned 1940s Mussolini-modern tower that is now the firm’s headquarters. For more than a year, Bulgari has been financing the overhaul of the mosaics at the Baths of Caracalla. And on September 22 the jewelry firm unveiled its rejuvenation of the Spanish Steps following a ten-month rehabilitation, repairing broken stone and cleaning off dirt and graffiti, that cost $1.7 million and involved nearly 100 expert craftspeople. To celebrate, Bulgari hosted a lavish soiree at the site, complete with a cavalcade of fireworks.Thanks to a post-recession economy now showing signs of vitality, the Italian government’s coffers are filling up again, and historic sites are feeling the love. Still, “the issue of cultural preservation remains very urgent in Italy,” Della Valle cautions. “Besides it being an important economic resource for us, we have the duty to protect this heritage for everyone.” And not just in his homeland, he points out: “We need to preserve our cultural heritage all over the world.” Fellow fashion magnates, consider that statement a well-tailored gauntlet thrown down.
Nov 11 16 6:22 AM
Details of Vatican’s 2016 Christmas tree and Nativity SceneThis year’s Christmas tree and Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square will be inaugurated and lit up on December 9th and will highlight several issues such as care for the environment, the sick and migrants. A communique from the governing office of Vatican City said the 25 metre-high spruce tree for 2016 will come from the region of Trentino in northern Italy and when it’s cut down local school students will plant nearly 40 new spruce and larch seedlings in a nearby area to replace trees suffering from a parasite that had to be culled.It said the tree will be adorned with handmade ornaments featuring drawings made by children undergoing treatment for cancer and other illnesses at several Italian hospitals.Measuring 19 metres in width, this year’s giant Nativity scene will feature 17 statues dressed in traditional Maltese costumes as well as a replica of a traditional “Luzzu” Maltese boat.In its communique, the Vatican City’s governing office said this boat not only represents tradition: fish and life but also, unfortunately the realities of migrants who in these same waters cross the sea on makeshift boats to Italy.Pope Francis will receive in audience on December 9th shortly before the tree-lighting ceremony the designer of the Nativity scene, artist Manwel Grech, representatives from Trent and Malta as well as several children who designed the Christmas tree ornaments. The lit-up tree will remain in St. Peter’s Square until the feast of the Lord’s Baptism on January 8th.
Nov 12 16 12:32 AM
Rome is one of the world’s most visited cities - and it's easy to see why. Around every bend is a remarkable church, a verdant garden or a magnificent museum. The Italian capital is packed with cultural wonders, but it's also packed with tourists. Nevertheless, it's easy enough to escape the crowds and unearth secret pleasures and hidden corners. Here, I select 10 of the best. The perfect view (to get your bearings)The full sweep of Roman history can be enjoyed in one snapshot from a corner of the Pincian Hill, beneath the canopy of Rome’s distinctive umbrella pines (seemingly pruned by a breakaway Medici giraffe), close to Villa Medici. Here, gently cloaked in a film of gold and terracotta, is the greatest view of the greatest city man ever made. After this, track through the Borghese Gardens towards the Galleria Borghese (booking only) home to Bernini’s mesmerising sculptures; or drop down the Spanish Steps for restorative ice cream. Bernini versus BorrominiFrom Barberini Metro head up Via delle Quattro Fontane to the crossroads of the four fountains, the only place in the city where you can see three obelisks at once. Here you have to pick a side between two rivals, the stars of 17th-century Rome. Either choose the suicidal and obsessive Borromini, one of the most individual architects of all time, who built the tiny San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, a church that could fit within the footprint of one of Michelangelo’s piers for the crossing of St Peter’s. Against the grain of what we usually consider as "Baroque", it is all white, with a famous rippling façade, complex geometry and unconventional elements, and an ever-changing shape as you look upwards into the perfect sight of its dome. Or else cast your vote for the handsome and gregarious wild man Bernini, an astonishingly gifted sculptor who turned to architecture, whose built masterpiece Sant’Andrea al Quirinale is just next door. This church is a staggering coup de theatre in which garish marble, paint, stucco, gilding and sculpted light combine to narrate the story of St Andrew’s martyrdom and ascension. In his winter years, Bernini loved to sit in the pews of this novel elliptical space, pausing for prayer and solace. It was the building of which he was proudest, and represents a very different version of the Baroque, and an instructive point of comparison to San Carlo.Tombs, turbines and torsosCentrale Montemartini – a sculpture museum in a power plant – is a must. Go via Piramide metro. Upon arrival, you will emerge by Rome’s Pyramid, built on request by Gaius Cestius after the future Augustus annexed Egypt as a province of Rome. After a flaming marital row, Cestius’ wife, so it goes, told him she would relish dancing on his grave after his death, provoking the wealthy praetor to commission a pyramid - the sharpest and most incommodious of dancefloors - as his tomb.Keats and Shelley had a stronger handle on romance, and their quiet graves in the numinous Protestant Cemetery, adjacent to the pyramid, merit a visit. Oscar Wilde mischievously declared Keats’s grave to be "the holiest place in Rome", and it is indeed impossibly poetic, marked with the epitaph: "Here lies one whose name was writ in water".After a grocery stop at the magical Volpetti deli it’s a short bus ride along the Via Ostense to Centrale Montemartini, Rome’s first electrical power station and her main generating plant until the early 1960s. In a conceit not unlike the Tate Modern, the industrial building is now a setting for ancient art, from the Republican to the Imperial era. Holdings from the Capitoline Museums were initially placed here for temporary storage, but the juxtaposition - alongside belching boilers and turbines - was such a success that it opened as a permanent museum. Tranquility on Aventine HillOnce the hotly fractious plebeian quarter, Aventine Hill is now a tranquil and affluent neighborhood, which, in midsummer, affords the rare promise of catching a cool breeze. Alongside the Garden of Oranges (with panoramic viewing platform) is the stupendous Santa Sabina. One of the most perfect churches in Rome, it is a refreshing and spa-like architectural experience, massive yet weightless, ornate yet demure. Thanks in part to a 20th-century restoration, Santa Sabina, of all Rome’s churches, most closely preserves the form, and evokes the atmosphere, of the earliest Christian basilicas. Its rare 5th-century doors of carved cypress include a scene thought by some to be the earliest depiction of Christ’s crucifixion.A little further up the hill, at Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, you can partake in the wild fantasies of the great polymath and taste-maker Piranesi - the world’s greatest etcher and its first interior decorator - in a courtyard strewn with memorial stelae and obelisks. And here you are encouraged to release your inner nosy neighbour by peering through the keyhole of the headquarters of the Knights of Malta for an ingeniously contrived and unique view of Rome. San Clemente: the church with three layersSan Clemente is the fruit of a peculiar geological situation in which silt and sediment slipped off the surrounding hills and raised the street level, submerging and preserving the layers beneath. It is on three layers, each unique and unmissable. The uppermost, built from the 12th century, boasts hypnotic cosmatesque pavements – Rome’s famous fabulous floor fashion – a majestic medieval choir stall, and the crowning apse mosaic with a jungle of vine scrolls nourishing creatures great and small. Masolino’s splendid Renaissance chapel, depicting the life of the glamourous upstart St Catherine, begs the question: who needs to go to Florence? Down one floor, and into the old church used from the 4th century, and abandoned in the 11th as the ground level accumulated, decorated with extremely rare frescoes, obscure and often funny. Try to pick out the words fili de le pute, the first known potty-mouthed swearing in the Italian vernacular. Down again, to a true curiosity in the courtyard of an Ancient Roman apartment block: a place of worship for the cult of Mithras, the macho mystery religion that existed from the 1st to the 4th centuries, yet about there are no written accounts by any member leaving us clueless apart from dubious initiation rituals and a weird creation story involving a bull.Gothic Rome at Santi Quattro CoronatiFurther up the Caelian Hill lies the fortified abbey of Santi Quattro Cornonati, Four Crowned Saints, who suffered grizzly martyrdom at the hands of Diocletian. This monastery, with something of the stronghold sensibility of Castel Sant’Angelo, was home to great prelates and powerful princes of the Church. Here, in the Aula Gotica, a treasure lay hidden for some 700 years beneath pale blue plaster. It was stripped back in the 1990s to reveal a superb specimen of 13th-century painting, rare to Italy, and rarer still in Rome, where the Baroque so often gets the final word. The Gothic Hall is as beautiful as it is curious, with depictions of the seasons, zodiacs, labours of the months, vices and virtues, awash in sea-greens, sienna and midnight blue, and a striking suite of scenes robbing pagan sources for inspiration – echoes of the Spinario, fluvial deities and another guest appearance by Mithras and his bull.Access to the Aula Gotica is a rarely conceded privilege, but can be booked through its website (aulagoticasantiquattrocoronati.it). Parklife and Campari around Janiculum HillTo Janiculum Hill, and the retiring shades of the gardens of Villa Doria Pamphili. Picnic in the grounds of these 17th-century gardens, laid out by the powerful Pamphili family, around pools, nymphs, waterfalls and exedrae, and in sight of the Casino del Bel Respiro - a sugared almond villa with sweet niches and frosted friezes.Then edge down Janiculum Hill, pausing for refreshment at the chic surges of the glorious Aqua Paola fountain, and again at Bramante’s Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio: the epoch-making building of the High Renaissance, a mini temple-in-the-round standing within a courtyard, displayed as though it were a piece of sculpture.Roll drowsily into Trastevere, to the many bars and restaurants dotted in the area’s narrow cobbled streets and picturesque squares, with the sun dancing in a carafe of crisp Frascati or colourful Campari, beside merry plates of carbonara, amatriciana and the ubiquitous cacio e pepe. Il Duce's digsPut a nose around the door of Villa Torlonia, a neoclassical villa that was Il Duce’s digs for two decades. With Mussolini long gone, you can enjoy the whimsical and intriguing follies in the surrounding park, including the House of the Owls with a collection of Art Nouveau glass. A pilgrimage up Via NomentanaFrom Villa Torlonia it is a short bus ride up the Via Nomentana to the pilgrimage complex of Sant’Agnese fuori le Mura, which is comprised of three underrated treasures. Alongside the remains of the vast ancient horseshoe Basilica of Sant’Agnese is the church of Santa Costanza, originally the tomb of Princess Constantia (probable daughter of Emperor Constantine). Constantia was gripped by the cult of the virgin martyr, Agnes, whose hair famously grew to cover her nakedness. Here one has a live sense of the generation that witnessed a fundamental shift in religious belief, swinging forward on the historical hinge from Paganism to state-sponsored Christianity. A pagan circular structure with a skillful barrel vault, bending round like a donut dunked in the most beautiful mosaics in Rome. These are geometrical and floral mosaics, devised for a Christian setting but before Christian iconography for this has evolved. Lastly shuffle into the active 7th-century Basilica of Sant’Agnese to see the apse mosaic depicting Agnes, tall and slim, and clad in Byzantine haute couture against a field of gold. The lesser-known Roman ForumNo great shakes in disclosing the forum as a visitor attraction, but it contains some little-clocked elements of paramount importance and bewildering beauty that slip through the sightseer’s sieve. In the northern corner, close to the Arch of Septimius Severus and beneath an unprepossessing temporary structure, is the site of the enigmatic Lapis Niger. This black marble marking an inscribed stone is the place where one can brush against the very origins of Rome. Staggeringly, the stone is datable back to the 6th century BC, with an inscription written in the drunken old uncle of Latin, the script wiggling to and fro on the stone in indecipherably archaic brogue. The few intelligible words indicating kingship, cult, and community, reveal it to be the spot where the Romans first came together to work out how to bind their disparate communities into a single city that would eventually extend its dominion across the globe. In an opposite corner of the forum is the 6th-century church of Santa Maria Antiqua. Buried under rubble for a millennium, excavations in 1900 revealed the unmissable world of the Madonna, martyrs, and medieval medicine and, amidst an extremely rare collection of early Christian art, the famous palimpsest wall. Since last winter, visitors have been able to walk from Santa Maria Antiqua up the Palatine Ramp, the cavernous underground passage that allowed emperors to move unseen between the forum and their hilltop palaces.Dr Thomas-Leo True is an art and architectural historian and Assistant Director of the British School at Rome. He is also a lecturer for Martin Randall Travel and leads trips in Rome and the Papal States including Essential Rome and The Duchy of Urbino.
Nov 13 16 8:07 AM
Italian earthquakes shake historical heritage of many basilicasDestroyed: this is the existing condition of many basilicas and churches in Italy after the earthquakes the country has suffered since August 24.The first major affected church was St. Francis of Assisi, in Amatrice. After the initial earthquake, it was left in this state.With each earthquake, the fear of losing works with incalculable historical value rises.In fact, these three churches only have existing ruins as a memory: St. Benedict, where only the facade has survived, St. Francis, which is nearly completely destroyed and the cathedral of St. Mary of Argentea which is demolished. All of these are in Norcia, the epicenter of the last earthquake on October 30.Day and night firefighters work to conserve the little that remains of some churches after the earthquakes.Tremors were also felt near the Vatican, which is evident on some of the columns on Via della Conciliazione, the main road in front of St. Peter's. As a result, they have been fenced off because after the earthquake they slightly moved.The resulting fear has not yet disappeared and much work remains to be done to restore the affected churches. However, new replicas could destroy the little history that remains, erasing their legacy of great value.
Nov 13 16 11:11 AM
Nov 14 16 9:42 AM
AP/Daily Mail - Police in Rome are investigating the apparent vandalism of the famed Elephant and Obelisk statue designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the Piazza della Minerva near the Pantheon in Rome.Rome cultural authorities said Monday that vandals overnight broke off the tip of the elephant's left tusk, which authorities recovered at the foot of the statue. Police were checking video in the area to identify the vandals.The statue of an elephant carrying an obelisk on its back was commissioned by Pope Alexander VII. It was placed in the square in front of the Santa Maria Sopra Minevra Basilica in 1667.Another Bernini statue, the La Barcaccia fountain at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in Rome, was vandalized by Dutch soccer fans in 2015.A view of the damaged Elephant and Obelisk statue, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in piazza della Minerva near the Pantheon, on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. Rome cultural authorities said Monday that vandals overnight broke off the tip of the elephant's left tusk, which authorities recovered at the foot of the statue. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Nov 18 16 8:46 AM
Nov 21 16 6:34 PM
The day after Pope Francis inducted him into the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago took possession of his titular church in Rome, the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island.Cardinals are symbolically priests of the Diocese of Rome, so they are given titular churches in the city. St Bartholomew also had been the titular church of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who died in 2015.In addition to taking possession of the church, Cardinal Cupich presided over vespers, which began with the reading of the papal document – in Latin, Italian and English – granting the cardinal “possession” of the church. The English translation was read by retired Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco.During his homily, which he read in both English and Italian, Cardinal Cupich noted the history of the basilica, which dates back to the 10th century. It is the only church in Rome located on an island.“The image of an island is a very beautiful one and is very significant. It is a place of refuge from waters that are turbulent, a refuge for those people who have the courage to approach it from any side,” he said. “It is a significant reminder to us that the church should be open to people coming to it from all sides.”Cardinal Cupich also praised the work of the lay Community of Sant’Egidio, which has run the church since 1993. The movement, founded in Rome in 1968, today has more than 60,000 members worldwide and is dedicated to evangelization, serving the poor and promoting dialogue and peace.At the request of St Pope John Paul II, the basilica houses a shrine dedicated to Christian martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries. In its many side chapels are letters and personal objects of people like St Maximilian Kolbe – who was executed in Auschwitz – and Blessed Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop murdered while he was celebrating Mass.Hundreds of people from Chicago travelled to Rome for the consistory and were present for the prayer service at St Bartholomew. They included Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke and her husband, Alderman Ed Burke; US Senator Dick Durbin; and Gov Bruce Rauner.Also in attendance were members of Cardinal Cupich’s family from the United States and Croatia, as well as people from across the United States participating in a pilgrimage led by Catholic Extension, which traditionally serves parishes in poorer rural communities.Tom and Pam Fritz from Blessed Sacrament Parish in Rapid City, South Dakota, joined the Extension trip to witness their friend, Cardinal Cupich, being made a cardinal.“Everything about the spirit of Blase Cupich and his message and the things he stands for and his humor and his deep sense of spirituality is wonderful to us and inspiring,” Pam Fritz said following the vesper service.“We’re glad to share him with the world now,” Tom Fritz said.
Nov 23 16 4:43 PM
Centuries after hordes of Visigoths sacked Rome, campaigners say the capital is under siege from a new kind of "barbarism" - the proliferation of tacky tourist shops, fast food outlets and garishly lit "mini-markets". A group of 100 Italian intellectuals, artists and authors has written to Unesco, the UN’s cultural body, complaining that the city’s World Heritage-listed historic centre is losing its character as a result of a dramatic invasion by such tourist-related businesses.Rome was under threat from “the most vulgar, greedy barbarism,” lamented the campaigners, who included writers, cultural heritage experts, conservation groups such as Italia Nostra (Our Italy) and local residents’ associations.The letter was also directed at the city’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, and was presented at the Renaissance-era town hall on Wednesday.“We want to prohibit the opening of new food outlets and souvenir shops in historic areas because they are already saturated to the absolute limit,” said Orlando Corsetti, a centre-left politician who backed the initiative. Medieval streets which were once lined with booksellers, antique stores and artisanal workshops were “less and less recognizable” because of the “overwhelming” increase in tourist shops, he said. There was an urgent need to stop “the disastrous transformation” of one of the world’s most beautiful cities into a tourist theme park of “myriad pubs, pizzerias, ice-cream shops, and souvenir outlets,” Mr Corsetti said. Hardly a week goes by without traditional businesses such as watchmakers, leather workers and antique bookshops closing down and being replaced by shops flogging gaudy fridge magnets, key rings, t-shirts and other mass-produced tat, much of it made in China. Softly-lit interiors, which lend a warm, orange glow to the cobbled streets, are replaced by strip lighting and electronic signs advertising cheap food and drink. Many of the new shops are owned by Bangladeshi and Chinese immigrants, who say they are simply meeting the needs of tourists. But planning regulations are lax and supply often seems to outstrip demand – in a street close to the Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most visited monuments, four trinket shops cluster together side-by-side, selling plastic Roman legionaries’ armour, wooden gladiators’ swords, aprons decorated with the torso of Michelangelo’s David and bottle openers shaped like phalluses. Decades-old trattorias are being edged out by cheap kebab and pizza joints, while a new branch of McDonald’s recently opened in a historic palazzo near Piazza Navona, which features exquisite stone statues of gods and nymphs. “There is a process underway of commercial exploitation and damage to the historic identity of the city,” the campaigners wrote in their open letter.“We can no longer tolerate Roma being wounded, dirtied, raped, invaded, made ugly and assaulted. “Are we at the point of no return? Is it feasible that this touristic tide cannot be contained and that it will invade even the most precious areas of the Rome of the Caesars and the Popes?” the campaigners asked.They said they wanted to know exactly who in the city administration “continues to authorize the jumble of horrible tourist shops that disfigure Rome, from Borgo Pio (a warren of medieval alleyways near the Vatican) to the Trevi Fountain.”Campaigners want to know why Rome city council is authorising so many kebab shops, pizza outlets and mini-markets in historic parts of the capital such as the area around the Trevi Fountain. Since being elected in June, Ms Raggi, a member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, has made little progress in tackling the problems that blight the capital – lamentable public transport, chaotic rubbish collection, pot-holed roads and blocked or overgrown bike lanes. She has hinted darkly that she faces opposition from vested interests within the administration, who are desperate to see her fail so that they can continue skimming money off public works contracts and providing shoddy services. The campaigners said that existing planning regulations needed to be applied much more vigorously. They called on the city council to follow the example of Florence, which earlier this year decided to restrict the number of kebab shops, internet cafes and convenience shops. Without similar measures, Rome was headed “towards an abyss of vulgarity, ugliness and speculative exploitation from which there will be no return,” the signatories said. “We call on Unesco to keep a more rigorous watch on this World Heritage site so that it is not ruined any further,” they wrote. Giulio Anticoli, the president of an association that represents Rome’s traditional craftsmen, said family-owned businesses and workshops that had survived for decades were under threat. “We want to introduce to Rome the same model that Florence is applying, which bans mini-markets, currency exchange booths and cheap food outlets,” he said.
Nov 24 16 6:07 AM
Dec 5 16 5:21 AM
When in RomeWhen in Rome, don't do as the Romans do.At least if you're a photographer.A city home to ancient architecture like the Coliseum and the Pantheon and magnificent religious structures like St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, Rome has no shortage of beautiful sights to photograph. But as British photographer Ian Berry discovered while trying to capture the Eternal City in 2013, the challenge lies in avoiding clichés."Once you've spent a day in the Coliseum, you find everyone and their mother has photographed the Coliseum and finding some new way of presenting it is not always easy," Berry says.Berry instead juxtaposed the ancient and the modern by capturing the vibrant people of the city against the classic scenes that have charmed the world. His photographs showcase Rome as both the immensely popular, bustling tourist destination that it is and the laidback, European city that so many Italians call home.A young woman wearing a bright pink dress and straw hat gestures grandly to the Pantheon. A director sits slumped over in a red velvet theater seat waiting exhaustedly for his actors to arrive for rehearsal. Tourists go window-shopping along the Via Condotti riding rented Segways. A couple of men leisurely play chess outside a café. A taxi driver practices his silver trumpet while stationed in a long taxi queue.Photo by Ian BerryWith its high fashion, luxury automobiles and mouth-watering food, Rome is a culture capital of the world. The city is the birthplace of haute couture houses Valentino and Fendi and home to some of the world's most renowned artists, like Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. Rome's ever-so-stylish people can be seen cruising along on Lambrettas and Vespas on the city's streets, or zipping by in Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Ferraris. There's something for everyone in Rome, Berry says, and that's why it's one of his favorite cities."You can walk everywhere, terrific piazzas, the food. Go to Trastevere at night for the food, it's fantastic," Berry recommends. "Via Veneto to see the would-be models and film stars. The Via dei Gracchi for terrific shopping. The Vatican on a Sunday morning. It's a terrific place to be."The city, Berry says, is full of moments waiting to be captured."Wherever you wait in Rome, in five minutes a couple will turn out and start necking," Berry says. "If you're at the Vatican on a Sunday morning, there are always loads of nuns wandering around, priests and tourists coming for religious reasons. People are on the street all the time. Everybody's talking. The whole world is there."
Dec 9 16 8:16 AM
Vatican exhibits Rembrandt in gesture of Christian unityVATICAN CITY (RNS) Visitors expect to see the works of Renaissance artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican Museums, but they may be surprised to find the paintings of Rembrandt, a master more associated with Protestant Europe.A new exhibit of the Dutch artist’s works is a first for the museums, which attract millions to see their treasures each year.Titled “Rembrandt in the Vatican: Images Between Heaven and Earth,” the show includes 53 artworks from the Zorn Museum in Sweden and the Kremer Collection in the Netherlands.Organized by the Vatican body responsible for promoting Christian unity and by the Swedish and Dutch embassies, the exhibit opened after Pope Francis’ October visit to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said he hopes the exhibition can “strengthen mutual love between Catholics and Lutherans and their commitment to the quest for unity.”Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669) is considered an artistic genius because of his mastery of light in both painting and printmaking. The works now on show at the Vatican Museums include many with a religious theme, and which take their inspiration from the Bible.In his lifetime, the Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517, had spread to the northern Netherlands, where he lived.Some of his best-known works are biblical scenes such as “The Raising of the Cross” and “Adam and Eve.”As the son of a Protestant father and a Catholic mother, the artist drew on both religions in his work and also addressed the struggles of ordinary people in his work.“He was exposed to the elementary religious transformations of his era, of growing confessionalism and religious wars in Europe,” Koch said.“In his paintings he addresses the poverty and helplessness of ordinary people. There is also a shining light to be seen from above that indicates the always stronger divine grace and guidance.”Arnold Nesselrath, deputy director and curator at the Vatican Museums, also noted the nature of Rembrandt’s unusual religious background.“Rembrandt is an artist who is rooted in the Protestant as well as the Catholic environment, so he’s an ideal artist,” said Nesselrath. “And of course, he’s an artist of that caliber who can actually transmit these ideas.“There are his most famous prints, like the one of the ‘100 Florins,’ ‘Christ Healing the Sick’ and the famous ‘Three Crosses.’ These images have a great impact.”While the exhibit reinforces the pope’s desire to build interfaith relations, Rembrandt’s images also reflect the pontiff’s message of mercy and compassion for the poor.“Beggars, poor or crippled people appear in the context of particular iconographies like the ‘Return of the Prodigal Son,’ the ‘Healing of the Lame Man at the Gate of the Temple in Jerusalem,’” said Nesselrath. “But Rembrandt makes these people a subject of their own right.”Alison Brittain, a 21-year-old study-abroad student from Washington state who majored in art, said, “Looking at these, it’s like a whole new world. I feel very lucky.”The exhibition runs until Feb. 26.
Dec 10 16 3:13 AM
Dec 18 16 6:36 AM
Vatican restoration uncovers work of Renaissance masterVATICAN CITY (RNS) Art restorers toiling on the sumptuous 500-year old apartments of Pope Alexander VI, are rediscovering a Renaissance artist who left his mark on the pontificate of a controversial pope.The 15th-century master painted frescoes in numerous Italian churches, but his works on the apartments of the controversial Spanish pope, formerly known as Rodrigo Borgia, are now being restored to their former glory.Alexander, who was elected in 1492, gave Bernardino di Betto, better known as “Pinturicchio,” two years to decorate his private apartments, where he greeted heads of state and partied with his mistresses at a time when popes were not always celibate. Alexander is less known for his interest in arts and science than for his lusty affairs and blatant nepotism. But he was an intelligent man, trained as a lawyer, with an appreciation for the arts and sciences. He asked the artist to paint the walls of his luxurious apartments to reflect his intellectual interests.King Charles VIII of France, a contemporary of Alexander’s, was reportedly disarmed by the rooms’ splendor when he made a visit.Alexander’s daughter, Lucrezia, was apparently married in one of the rooms, and his ruthless son, Cesare, is rumored to have killed a man in another.When Alexander died in 1503, the rooms were sealed off by his successor Pope Pius III, effectively closing the door on one of the more controversial pontificates. The apartments remained closed for more than 400 years.But Maria Ludmila Pustka, the Vatican’s chief restorer, said the pope, who fathered several children, is often misrepresented by modern media and film.“Alexander was a very important, unique character for the political history of that time,” Pustka said. “He was an outsider, a Spaniard from Valencia and he brought a great openness to the Holy See. This pope really deserves more detailed analysis as he brought great innovation at a cultural and philosophical level.”Pinturicchio and his apprentices set to work on the apartments just as an Italian named Christopher Columbus was exploring a continent on the other side of the Atlantic.The restoration revealed Pinturicchio’s “The Resurrection,” one of the first European depictions of Native Americans in the New World.Alexander asked Pinturicchio for paintings representing the origins of religion and his apartments are adorned with scenes from Egypt and ancient Rome.Pope Leo XIII reopened the apartments in 1889, but experts believe earlier restoration attempts may have caused more damage to the precious frescoes lining the walls and ceilings.In 2001, after years of neglect, Pustka was charged with putting together a team of experts to restore four of the apartments’ richly decorated rooms.“There are many rooms, around a dozen, altogether. But in reality there are four important rooms,” Pustka said.With funds provided by the Vatican Museums’ American and Canadian patrons, the restorers began with the so-called Hall of the Mysteries of the Faith and are now putting the finishing touches on the Hall of the Liberal Arts.“At first we had to evaluate the condition of the work and analyze the problems before we went anywhere near the art,” said Federica Cecchetti, a restorer who has been working on the apartments since 2005.Wearing white coats and armed with delicate paintbrushes and palettes, experts recreated the finest details of scenes known as “lunettes” that line the walls portraying themes like astrology, music and geometry — all designed to represent man’s pursuit of knowledge and appreciation of culture.Elaborate stucco featuring gilded bulls, the emblem of the Borgia family, adorns the ceilings while the walls are being brought back to life in vibrant shades of red, green and blue.In the allegorical lunette devoted to music, musicians can be seen plucking the strings of instruments that were more common in the pope’s Spanish homeland.“Pinturicchio wanted to transport us inside this world,” said Cecchetti, who has spent the past year restoring the “lunette” devoted to geometry. “Every day we are here in front of these works we discover something new, a particular detail.”The rooms’ themes celebrate the House of Borgia, the pope’s family, and some of the paintings feature famous identities of the era, including family members and the famous Renaissance architect Donato Bramante.Restorers found Pinturicchio left behind more than his masterpieces.His fingerprints, and those of his assistants, were embedded in the candle wax they used for the buttons and medallions worn by the characters they painted on the frieze of the apartments.Unlike other frescoes that were painted on wet plaster, Pintoricchio used a dry fresco technique that made his work less durable. Restorers worked to match the right color and texture of paint with the original while ensuring they caused no further damage to the masterpieces.“It takes a great deal of patience and the fear of making a mistake is always with you,” said Federica Runco, a restorer from Rome. “ As soon as you are 100 percent sure of yourself you can make an error that can be fatal.”The restorers are expected to complete the restoration of the Hall of the Liberal Arts at the end of January, at which point it will open to the public.
Jan 7 17 6:28 AM
CNA - Last week's opening of a McDonald's in a Vatican-owned property just around the corner from St. Peter's Square has been both welcomed and decried by Rome's locals.
Some Romans have expressed joy on social media at the new restaurant, noting that the area around the Vatican is filled with overpriced restaurants catering to tourists, and suggesting the McDonald's could actually be more discreet.Others have worried about changes to the area's cultural identity. Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, was a vocal critic ahead of the opening, calling it a “controversial, perverse decision to say the least.”Dubbed by some as “McVatican,” the new restaurant is located in a Vatican property in Rome, at the intersection of the Borgo Pio and Via del Mascheriny, just a few minutes' walk from St. Peter’s Basilica.After having received numerous requests from different companies to move into the vacant space, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which oversees the Vatican's assets, chose to rent it to McDonald’s for 30,000 euros ($31,400) a month. The decision was announced in October 2016.Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, president of APSA, said he saw no problem with the McDonald's. He told Italian daily La Repubblica in October that everything was done “in respect of the law and that there will be nothing done which will go against the current rules, tradition and interests of the Holy See.”McDonald's itself stated that its new location was in a tourist area outside Vatican City, according to Reuters.“As is the case whenever McDonald's operates near historic sites anywhere in Italy, this restaurant has been fully adapted with respect to the historical environment,” the chain noted.Cardinal Sgreccia had also spoken to La Repubblica in October, saying a McDonald's so close to the Vatican “is not at all respectful of the architectural and urban traditions” of Rome, calling the deal “a business decision that, moreover, ignores the culinary traditions of the Roman restaurant.”
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