September 11, 2018
Closed since 1997, the Cressoni Theater in Como was destined to be demolished, making way for modern luxury residence. As happens often in ancient Italy, the more you dig, the more you find... but what a find this was!
A hoard of ancient Roman gold coins...
A soapstone jar dating from the fifth century AD was found this week, full of ancient Roman gold coins that could be worth millions of dollars. The unique coins that date back to the late Roman imperial era were uncovered in the cracked soapstone jar, broken when workers first came upon it. “We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of this discovery but this area is a real treasure for our archeology,” Minister of Culture Alberto Bonisoli said in a press release published on Friday.
As is common when archeological artifacts are uncovered, construction will be halted until further excavation is carried out by archeologists, who believe the site could also contain jewelry and gold ingots. The excavation site is close to the Foro Novum Comum, an area known for some major Roman artifacts discoveries.
Bodyguards rushing Pope John Paul II to safety after he was shot
in Saint Peter's Square by Turkish extremist Mehmet Ali Agca, May 13, 1981.
St. Pope John Paul II meets with Mehmet Ali Agca,
the man who tried to assassinate him, in a Roman prison cell, 1983.
Riding in his Popemobile across Piazza san Pietro on May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot by Mehmet Ali Aqca, who had escaped from a Turkish prison after receiving a life sentence for murdering a journalist. Aqca fired four shots with his pistol with two shots striking the Pope in his lower abdomen, and two more in his arm and finger. There were also two other people who were shot and survived.
Aqca had an accomplice who was supposed to set off a bomb but instead fled the scene. Both Aqca and Oral Celik were captured and arrested.
The Pope survived his severe injuries, and then asked Catholics to pray for Aqca, whom he had forgiven.
An Italian court sentenced Aqca to life in prison. In 1983, John Paul II visited him in his stark prison cell and spent time praying and talking. The Pope stayed in touch with Aqca’s family during the years and in 2000 requested his pardon. The request was granted.
Aqca was released and deported to Turkey, where he was imprisoned for the life sentence he had fled decades prior. He converted to Christianity while incarcerated, and was finally released in 2010.
In December 2014, Aqca returned to Rome and
laid two dozen white roses at the pope’s tomb.
The act of forgiveness is a powerful tool in life
that many of us have yet to master.
Museo Galileo - Museum of the History of Science in Florence
Galileo invented many mechanical devices besides the telescope, such as the hydrostatic balance, a pendulum clock and a high power water pump powered by one horse. Of course, his most famous invention was the telescope. Galileo made his first telescope in 1609, modeled after telescopes produced in other parts of Europe that could magnify objects three times. He created a telescope later that same year that could magnify objects twenty times. You might argue that although he didn't invent the first telescope, he obviously improved upon it.
With this telescope, he was able to look at the moon, discover the four satellites of Jupiter, observe a supernova, verify the phases of Venus, and discover sunspots. His discoveries proved the Copernican system which states that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun. Prior to the Copernican system, it was held that the universe was geocentric, meaning the sun revolved around the earth
When they arrived in Venice in 1989, Pink Floyd were met by over 200,000 Italian fans, but also by a large contingent of Venetians who had no desire to see the show happen at all. The city’s municipal administrators viewed the concert as an assault against classical Venice. The concert was also stepping on traditional toes considering it was scheduled to take place in St. Mark’s square, coinciding with the hugely popular Redentore festival (the Feast of the Redeemer with fireworks from a nearby island). With Venice already threatened by sinking foundations, winter flooding, and with the memory of the St. Mark's bell tower having collapsed in 1902 (and having been rebuilt) many were concerned about the safety of the fragile historic art and architecture of the city.
Three days before the concert's July 15th date, Venice's superintendent for cultural heritage vetoed the concert, claiming that the amplified sound would damage the mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica, while the whole piazza could very well sink under the weight of so many people dancing in unison.
The ban made concessions to allow the concert to go forward: lowering the decibel levels from 100 to 60 and performing from a floating stage 200 meters from the piazza. The concert was broadcast on TV in over 20 countries with an estimated audience of almost 100 million. The concert drew 150 thousand more people than actually lived in Venice, and even though fans were on their best behavior, one group of statues sustained minor damage and the crowds left behind 300 tons of garbage and 500 cubic meters of empty cans and bottles. And due to the fact that public porta-potties were not provided by the city, fans relieved themselves on the monuments and walls.
The concert placed tension between different political factions forcing the Mayor to resign with shouts of “resign, resign, you’ve turned Venice into a toilet.” His comrades on the city council also stepped down.
The band may have taken down the city’s government, but they put on a hell of a show--one the Italian fans, and the millions of who watched from home, will never forget.
A beautiful example of A. J. Johnson’s 1866 map of Italy. Johnson first introduced this map in his 1863 atlas and it represents a substantial re-engraving of his original two part plate. Johnson's reconsideration of his Italy map was most likely related to Italy's unification in the 1860s. No longer a collection of independent states, Italy now needed to be represented as a cohesive whole. In order to accommodate this Johnson reorients his map to the northwest, allowing the boot to fill a single vertical page while leaving space to fully depict Sardinia and Corsica. In the lower right quadrant there is a inset map of Malta. Throughout, Johnson identifies various cities, towns, rivers and assortment of additional topographical details. Features the fretwork style border common to Johnson’s atlas work from 1864 to 1869. Published by A. J. Johnson and Ward as plate numbers 88 and 89 in the 1866 edition of Johnson’s New Illustrated Family Atlas .
His name doesn’t sound Irish when you read it in the Spanish naval documents, but Guillermo Herries (a Portuguese translation of his name) was really William Harris of Galway. It’s no surprise that Irish children never heard of “Guillermo” even though he was a member of Columbus’ First Voyage with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria…
As historians have theorized based on their evidence, William Harris first met Columbus at St Nicholas’ Church in Galway in 1477. Some say he discussed strange, unknown plant seeds and other objects washing up along the shoreline in Ireland possibly from some far off land, while others think Harris boasted to Columbus that he had actually sailed to those lands to the west. Columbus was also emboldened by stories he heard of the 6th century monk, St. Brendan and his voyage to the New World.
It’s not too difficult to believe that Harris might have reached America before 1492, since it’s been proven that Leif Erickson had also been there hundreds of years earlier in a failed attempt at setting up a colony in the northern regions.
“Guillermo Herries” is one of 38 people listed as being left by Columbus in Haiti to form
the first European settlement in the New World. In the end, after a short time, the native population slaughtered them all.
Still, we must honor both the Italians, Portuguese and even the Irishman that took part in opening up the New World to European culture…
Happy Saint Patrick's Day a tutti!
By Gianni Pezzano
The decision to migrate is never easy but, no matter how hard the decision, at the moment of departure we never understand the true price paid by those who leave a country for a new life. It will then be the cruelty of time that will uncover the true pain caused by long distances and the ones who feel it are not only the migrants, but also the children and descendants.
From telegrams to messages
When I woke up Saturday morning there was a message on my mobile phone that I had feared since the first day in Italy. My uncle Rocco had passed away, the last of my father’s eight brothers and sisters and with him an entire generation of the paternal side of my family ended. It will not be the last such message and they never become because less painful, in fact…
After the first moment of sadness, which has grown since then, I remembered my mother’s scream that evening fifty years ago when the telegram arrived to tell us of the death of Nonno (grandfather). The change of technology has done nothing to reduce the pain.
That was my first true experience of the migrant’s pain. Two years before my maternal grandparents had come to Australia to meet the new in-laws and above all the grandchildren that they knew only from a few brief words in the rare telephone calls and the photos sent during the long exchange of letters between my mother and Nonna (grandmother). Sadly I never met my paternal grandparents. Nonno had died before my parents’ wedding and I was too young to remember when Nonna followed a few years later.
Read the entire article HERE (in both Italian and English)...
The shameful treatment of Italian Immigrants during WWII
show America’s propensity for xenophobic hysteria
Their movements were restricted,
their homes raided;
in some cases, they were interned
The men in suits were at the Maiorana family’s Monterey, California, home again. Mike, the family’s young son, watched as the agents rummaged through their belongings in search of guns, cameras, and shortwave radios. And again, they found nothing. This was during World War II, and the FBI had declared Mike’s mother an “enemy alien.” The sole source of evidence for this allegation was that she was Italian.
Elsewhere in California, an Italian poet’s work was scrutinized for treachery, and a father was hauled off by the FBI, leaving his wife and ten children without a breadwinner for four months. In New York, an Italian opera singer was thrown in prison without charge and just as unceremoniously released. Hundreds of Italian mariners who had been stranded in U.S. waters by the start of the war were loaded into Army trucks and hauled to an internment camp in Missoula, Montana, where some would remain for years.
It was a distinctly American story, revealing the immigration system’s xenophobic through line. Poverty-stricken immigrants who were hated one day were approved of the next, only to be replaced by another allegedly dangerous immigrant group, all under the guise of national security. As beloved as Italian cuisine, sports cars, and fashion are on our shores today, things were different during the first half of the 20th century, especially during WWII....
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE...
Another informative article:
Santa Cruz County History - World War II
No one really knows when chariot racing started, but the Greeks had chariot races during the first millennium BC and made the races part of the Ancient Olympics in 680 BC. Of course, chariots themselves were in use 4000 years ago. The most important development was a wheel with spokes. Before spokes, wheels were made from solid slabs of wood or thick shaped planks--both added weight before the cargo was even placed into the cart. Carts being pulled by animals--mostly oxen--were in use as early as 6000 years ago... but having an oxen as your main engine was very low torque--like a Mac truck. "Engines" improved slowly... at first a donkey or even a goat... sort of like early Model-T Ford runabouts. Then higher horsepower came in the form of mules and horses, one horsepower to start. The first chariots were used as delivery and work vehicles.
The history of NASCAR racing started with delivery vehicles, too. During the period of Prohibition in the 1920s, a bunch of backwoods good ol' boys smuggled liquor in from Canada or bootlegged whiskey (moonshine) from the tobacco fields of Georgia through to Chicago, New York and other big cities. Especially in the deep South, illegal booze was transported with with stock cars... they needed to look like every other car so as not to attract much attention. But special equipment was needed for the task at hand: heavy shocks and springs were added for the weighty loads of filled bottles and jars, and for smoothing the ride when driving fast on bumpy, unpaved roads; a high-powered engine was needed to deliver their booty quickly and to leave chasing authorities in the dust. High performance stock cars were born when Federal agents took chase...
You can imagine that chariots started out also as "stock" units, with additions and modifications needed to accomplish their task. Adding a horse in place of a goat (more horsepower--literally) meant goods could make it to market faster and beat the competition. Perhaps this is where chariot racing started... two lemon growers meeting on the road and trying to beat each other to market. I'm certain that Greek and Roman officials taxed wine heavily, giving the ancient wine producer reason to race their "special" supply of wines past tax collectors to their regular clientele. Up until the 1st century AD, chariots were also used in the military. Racing to overcome the enemy, or perhaps betting on who would get to the battlefield first, might have also planted the seed of chariot racing.
Special performance equipment on chariots continued to advance. In Ancient Rome, a two horse chariot was called a biga, a three horse chariot was a triga, and a supercharged, four horse power chariot was called a quadriga. Hey, they all sound like great names for modern car models! Vroom, Vroom!
The horse chariot was a fast and lightweight vehicle and was indeed Spartan inside... again, like a NASCAR vehicle. There was barely a floorboard, no windows, and a waist-high guard at the front and sides. It must have been as uncomfortable a ride as what NASCAR race drivers have to put up with.
Unlike other Olympic events, charioteers in Greek races did not perform their sport in the nude. Like NASCAR drivers, they wore safety gear: The clothing was itself their safety gear... a sleeved garment called a xystis went down to the ankles and had a belt fastened at the waist. Two criss-crossed straps across the back prevented the xystis from filling up with air during the race. Roman charioteers wore more protective gear--perhaps because most were not slaves, but paid professionals. They word helmets, leg guards, body armor or chain mail and wrapped the reins around their forearms. In case of a crash they would be dragged along the ground and could be killed, so one final bit of protection was to carry a falx (a curved knife), used to cut their reins away in an emergency.
When official chariot racing became popular, it wasn't the driver who owned the horses and chariot. Just as in NASCAR, there were team owners. In 416 BC, the Athenian general Alcibiades had seven chariots in the race, and came in first, second, and fourth. He obviously hired drivers to be at the wheel... er... at the reigns, that is. Unlike NASCAR drivers who some might argue are slaves to their sponsors, many drivers (who remain unknown to this day) were actual slaves.
The racetrack--called a Hippodrome (Greek) or a Circus (Roman)--was oval with tight turns on either end, just like (getting tired of saying this) NASCAR courses. Chariots went around and around, counterclockwise, with nothing but left turns (sound familiar?) These turns were deadly and many crashes occurred. Although running into an opponent with the intent to cause a crash was strictly forbidden--it was tolerated because it made the crowds go wild. The ancient Greek and Roman spectators loved crashes, as they loved any blood sports of the day. Modern NASCAR spectators are conflicted--as loyal fans, they don't want to see their favorite drivers injured or killed, but just as the ancient spectators, when a crash happens, they get an adrenaline rush and a thrill they'll remember for a lifetime.
Chariot races began with a procession into the hippodrome, while a herald announced the names of the drivers and owners--he had to be a very loud public speaker, indeed. NASCAR tracks have lots of loudspeakers. On the flip side, aside from cheering crowds and the sound of horses hooves on a dirt track and the occasional cracking of wood during a crash, a chariot race must have been a quiet affair when compared to the off-the-scale high decibel assault the NASCAR fan must endure as car after car go revving by for hours on end at up to 200 miles per hour! The smells were very different too... horse poop versus the exhaust from 110 octane fuel and burning rubber...
A race called the tethrippon (in Greek regions) had twelve laps around the track, while Roman races often had 7 laps to allow more races in a single day for betting--Romans and gambling went together more than in the Greek culture. Even more interesting is the way the races were started. In the same way that NASCAR uses a pace car to get cars up to starting speed before checkered flag starts the race, the Ancients used mechanical devices to accomplish a similar task for a rolling--or rather--galloping start. The starting gates were lowered and staggered in a way so the chariots on the outside lanes began the race earlier than those on the inside.
The race only began when each chariot was lined up next to each other--"keeping pace". Chariots in the outside lanes would be moving faster than the ones on the inner lanes. While flags are used in modern auto racing, mechanical devices shaped like eagles and dolphins were raised to start the race. Dolphins were lowered with each successive lap. In Rome, often the Emperor himself would start the race by dropping a white cloth called a mappa.
In the end, the winners were given their awards right away. An olive wreath was placed on their head. In the Roman Empire there would be cash awards or possibly a gift of a slave for the charioteer. Fame was also part of the game, as is the case today. Scorpus, a celebrated driver won over 2000 races before being killed in a collision at the ripe age of 27. Most charioteers had a short life expectancy. The most famous driver was Gaius Appuleius Diocles who won 1,462 out of 4,257 races. When Diocles retired at the age of 42 (after 24 years) his career winnings 35,863,120 sesterces--approximately 15 billion dollars today--making him the highest paid sports star in human history.
A couple of more interesting differences: Women weren't permitted at the races as they are today; and while today's largest NASCAR racetracks hold under 150,000 spectators, the Circus Maximus in Rome held 250,000!
Gentlemen, start your... er... feed your horses! Go!
Copyright 2017, Jerry Finzi/Grand Voyage Italy - All Rights Reserved