Now you can have your own, perfectly proportioned (as Da Vinci taught us) Vitruvian Man Action Figure. For those who don't know, Da Vinci drew the Vetruvian Man to explain the true, mathematical proportions of the perfect man. It has become one of the most parodied and reproduced images in the world. Read here about the action figure...
Also, check out my blog post about other classical art sculptures recreated as articulated action figures... HERE.
OK, so you're in Rome on Valentine's Day and you want to make the best of it. The balmy weather (with typical temperatures around 50F or above) helps make this a great choice for a romantic getaway. But visiting the Colosseum, with thoughts of lions eating slaves isn't a great place to inspire passion, so.... where to go?
First how about a spot with magnificent views of Rome and St. Peters Basilica? That would be the Giardino Degli Aranci--the Orange Gardens behind the Basilica of Santa Sabina. It's free (if you're a cheap date) but the views are unparalleled in all of Rome. You can walk up to it from the Circus Maximus or take a taxi. Try to plan it around sunset... the colors will enhance your romantic time spent there.
The next spot is classical in its beauty--the Villa Borghese. Most tourists go for the art in its museum (much of which can inspire passion), but I suggest you stroll around the incredible garden and find your own special spot. There are hidden paths, great views at sunset, fountains and loads of benches to settle in and wrap your arms around your lover.
One of the prettiest bridges to take your amante is the Ponte Sant'Angelo with fantastic views of St Peters and Castel Sant'Angelo. At night, the lights reflecting off the waters will reflect in your amante's eyes. It's been called the Kissing Bridge because of all the lovers smooching it up there.
The Trevi Fountain is my next suggestion. Sure, it can get crowded. Of course, it's an overdone cliché to toss a coin over your shoulder guaranteeing your return to Rome. But it is romantic, especially if you visit after a late supper when it's lighting has full effect. Go ahead... toss a coin to hedge your bet that you'll both return to Rome someday where you both fell in love. But there is another, lesser known small fountain on the left corner, just as Piazza Crociferi opens up, that offers another magical legend for lovers: Couples that drink from it are said to remain together for a lifetime. Well worth a sip with your lover.
If you are already engaged and are Roman Catholic, are are already attending your Marriage Preparation courses with your parish, consider a "private" audience with the Pope himself on Valentine's Day held in the Paul VI Hall. This event is called The Joy of Yes is Forever, will take place on February 14th: at 11:00 AM. Not exactly a "private" audience (thousands attend), it still would make a memorable Valentines Day for you and your intended to share. You can register by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
Strolling along the banks of the Lungotevere in Rome is something that lovers--young or old--can't miss. At one time, there were muddy beaches along the river that always flooded the city, but the construction of the Lungotevere's massive massive walls changed all that. Today the Lungotevere used by joggers, picnickers and people taking their evening passiaggiata (stroll). The Tiber River reflects the lights of Rome and offers a romantic atmosphere best at sunset or twilight. I suggest a stroll near the Isola Tiberina alongside the Trastevere neighborhood. You can a great dinner in Trastevere (my favorite Roman area) and go for a stroll afterwards. Or for daytime, pack a picnic lunch and lay out for hours at the point of the Isola with views of Ponte Rotto, the ruins of the oldest bridge in Rome.
If you consider your Lady Love as being akin to the goddess Venus herself, perhaps you'd like to propose to her in the Temple of Venus. This ancient temple sits in the open on the Velian Hill at the east side of the Roman Forum. This is considered to be ancient Rome's largest temple with one side being for Venus, the Goddess of Love, and the other side for Roma Aeterna--Eternal Rome. It's a fantastic place to make your own history by pledging your love to your Venus for as long as Rome lasts.
Love. Even the Italian government has a heart... If you and your other half are both enamored by classical art, then you can save some money thanks to the Italian Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities and its annual Innamorati dell’Arte, or In Love with Art offering for romantics who need visual stimulation for their Valentine's Day interlude. On the 13th and 14th of February each year, lovers can visit the national museums and archaeological sites in Rome and get a two-for-one price.
Lock your love and throw away the key into the eternal Tiber River. The Italian author, Federico Moccia started this craze with a scene in his novel Ho Voglio di Te (I Want You). In the story, lovers tie a chain and a padlock around a lamppost on the north side the Ponte Milvio and throw the key into the Tiber River below. Although Rome authorities keep removing the hundreds of thousands of padlocks (fearing the bridge would collapse), lovers are still writing their names and messages on padlocks and locking up their love in defiance.
After all, when in Rome, do as the Romans do... live and love to the fullest!
Dammi la tua mano e corriamo uniti per tutta la vita
Give me your hand and we will run together our whole lives.
On a street in Brazil, on a wall under an overpass, a Brazilian artist painted a fake tunnel on the wall with the Roadrunner standing to the side looking just like a scene from a Looney Tunes cartoon. Harmless, enough... and pretty funny, right? Well, not for the driver of a Fiat who mistook the tunnel for the real deal and tried to drive through it, damaging his car!
Urban myth or true story? It's curious that the last photo shows the tunnel being panted over.... Perhaps it is true...
On July 4, 1957 the first of the Fiat 500 Nuova were introduced to the public in Turino. In a massive public relations stunt, a procession Fiat 500s, each with a beauty queen on board, drove from the factory. At the same time driving in Rome a similar procession to St. Peter's Square.
Coming to be known as the Cinquecento (cheen-qway-CENT-o... Italian for "500"), its sales were slow in the beginning, because prior to its release, the water-cooled Fiat 600 (the Seicento, produced from 1955 - 1969) was enormously popular and Fiat didn't want to swamp the market with yet another model. Eventually, they produced nearly 3.5 million copies of the Nuova 500 until 1975.
TRIVIA: Fiat is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino
The first Nuova 500 was referred to as "N" model, with backwards opening "suicide" doors, no heater, fixed rear side windows and a fabric roof opening all the way to the rear. It was spartan, to say the least--and tiny--a mere 9'9" long. It was designed as an every-man's car... a family car for essential trips around town.
Besides the two-door coupé, the Cinquecento was also available as the Giardiniera Estate. It featured the standard engine mounted on its side, and a longer wheelbase (about 4") which allowed the designers to put in a larger rear seat. To top it off, a full-length fabric sunroof completed the picture, and made it easier to transport tall objects.
Made famous in classic auto races, performance models were produced by Abarth, as well as by Giannini.
A close cugino (cousin) to the original Fiat 500 and 600, the Multipla (commonly known as the Seicento Famigliare--"Family 600") was primarily based on the Fiat 600 and sat six people in fairly small size. The driver's compartment was moved forward over the front axle, effectively eliminating the front storage trunk, but giving it a modern "minivan" appearance. It could be configured with either a flat cargo area behind the front seats or a choice of one or two bench seats. This popular people and cargo mover was a very popular taxi in many parts of Italy up until the 1970s. There even was a beach car version called the Marinella created by car design shop Carrozzeria Ghia.
I personally love practical cars, and loved driving the new Fiat 500L (called the "Large" in Italy) during our Voyage through Italy. We've owned three minivans in our family and would love to see a new version of the Multipla brought to the U.S. in a family minivan configuration. Fiat did introduce a modern version of the Multipla from 1998 to 2010, but despite acclaim for it's bold design (I loved its amazing visibility due to huge windows) slack sales outside of Italy doomed the model.
The legendary automobile coachbuilder Ghia (of Volkswagon Kamann Ghia fame) also created one of my all time favorite cars based on the Cinquecento... the fun-sounding Jolly. The chassis was made by Fiat but everything else was built by Ghia. The little car with a surrey on top was really designed for the rich--as a small car that could be hoisted on and off mega-yachts tooling around the Mediterranean. Even oil magnate, Aristotle Onassis (Jackie Kennedy's second hubby) owned one. It was a perfect seaside runabout to go from marina to golf course to dinner and back to the marina... while keeping the sun off of the heads of the rich, famous and film stars. Because of the elite that usually bought them, each one was customized. Besides the canopy, it had no doors and wicker seats. Very cool car... nowadays going for a couple of hundred thousand dollars at classic car auctions. Supposedly, there are less than 100 left in the world.
Of course, this brings us to the current incarnation of the Cinquecento... the Fiat 500 (Type 312). Introduced in 2007, its new styling is reminiscent of Fiat's original 1957 Nuova. It holds four passengers fairly comfortably with a front rather than rear engine, has front wheel drive, and is offered in a three door hatchback and two door cabriolet styles.
It was great to see Fiat's return to the American market after 27 years... I owned a red Fiat 128 station wagon back in the Seventies during the oil embargo and odd-even gas rationing days. I got 30 miles to the gallon while most back then got about 6. I've test driven the modern Cinquecento and love it... although it small, even for our "we three" family. The advent of the Fiat 500L and 500X change all that. These are bigger, four door models with plenty of room for small families. Lucas loved having a raised rear "theater" seat in the "L" while we traveled through Italy... giving him much better views. We also liked having the glove box drink chiller--a very welcome thing in hot Italia.
All in all, the Fiat 500 was--and still is--one of the most important, practical designs for people movers on the planet. When you live in a country Italy with winding roads, limited parking spaces, narrow streets in most villages and the price of fuel always grabbing cash out of your wallet, the ubiquitous Cinquecento simply makes sense...
Bravo Fiat! Bravo Italia!
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Fiat Wall Art... find them HERE...
Take a few minutes to relax and see beauty in our modern world where perhaps none existed before. This is the vision of Ukranian artist and photographer Alexey Kondakov...
Enjoy... and have a wonderful Valentine's Day...
For Valentines Day, and every other day of the year, for that matter, all lovers want a kiss. A kiss is a kiss... but perhaps a chocolate one is even better. But at the beginning, this kiss might have turned out to be a Punch if the Italian chocolate company Perugina had kept its original name of Cazzotti (Punches) for it's choco-bites. In fact, the original Cazzotti bonbon was really a punch--it was the size of a fist! Of course, history was made when they changed the name to Baci--literally, Kisses.
In 1907, pasta maker Francesco Buitoni and his partners were expanding their company and started making Confetti (sugar-coated, multicolored almonds) and other confections. In 1922, Louisa Spagnoli, one of the partner's wife blended chopped hazelnuts with chocolate from some waste products and formed them into cylinders about the size of a small fist--the Cazzatto was born. A smart decision was to make the treat smaller and give them a customer-friendlier, non-violent name. There's nothing friendlier than a kiss--especially in Italy, so Baci were born.
Sometimes simply Baci (Kisses) other times labeled Bacio (Kiss), the chocolate treats are made by Perugina, a chocolate company in the Perugia region of Italy--now owned my Nestle. In the town of San Sisto there is the Baci museum where you can see a history of chocolate, vintage cocoa mills and the BaciOne, a Guiness World Record setting 13,1583 pound single wrapped chocolate!
There are over 1.5 million Baci produced each and every day. Part of the reason is Italians' love of chocolate when combined with hazelnuts (See the History of NUTELLA article here). Unlike fatty, milk chocolate, artery-clogging Hershey Kisses (even their "dark" option tastes, to me, like milk chocolate), one can argue that having dark chocolate Baci a few times a week is actually good for one's heart health. (Check out the Health Benefits of dark chocolate HERE). Antioxidants in dark chocolate help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and then there's the extra good fat and protein in the hazelnuts. So, even though the Hershey's Kiss began in 1907, the younger Baci (1922) improved on the idea.
Back in the 1960s, Perugina tried to produce and another flavor by using green pistachio in the Baci. Much like when New Coke hit the market, the public revolted and the flavor was brought out in back and buried. There also have been others trying to rip off the Baci phenomenon: Bacio Ardente (burning kiss), Carezze (caresses), and Bacio Fascista (Fascist kiss... Wait... what??)
One of the other things that made Baci so popular was the Love Notes or Love Scrolls that started appearing in the 1930s. Everyone knows that ancients prescribed chocolate as an aphrodisiac and lovers throughout history have always exchanged chocolates to enhance their passion. Baci Love Notes wrap the chocolates and promote romance by including quotes from classical authors, philosophers, artists, and proverbs--and in different languages. In Italy, someone pontificating about some obscure fact might be challenged by asking, "Dove hai imparato che da? Un Bacio Perugina?" (Where did you learn that from? A Perugina Bacio?)
In the 1930s, Baci and Perugina (and Buitoni Pasta) had a very interesting marketing campaign... trading cards. People kept them in special trading card albums like supermarket trading/saving stamps of the 1950s and 60s. Collect 150 albums worth of the cards and you would win a Fiat 500--a real one!
For this Valentine's Day, a gift Perugina Baci chocolates might be the perfect way to spark a flame in a new love or kindle the fire in your old love...
Give it a try... But if he or she asks, "Baciami"... forget the chocolates and get your lips into action!
Happy Valentine's Day!
The Museo Storico Nestle Perugina in San Sisto is open Monday through Friday (check for special weekend hours). Tours are by reservation only by telephone (011-39-075-527-6796) and are free. Perugia hosts Eurochocolate, an annual chocolate festival and exposition in October.
From Italy Magazine
Singles, rejoice - today is your day to celebrate!
Today is San Faustino, patron saint of the singles.
And many cities around Italy will host social events just for singles.
It all began as a joke, but in a few years, the website www.vitadasingle.net (Single life) has been able to create a very successful celebration on the day after Valentine’s Day: the Feast of San Faustino, when different cities around Italy each year organize a series of social events for singles, as an opportunity to meet new people (and therefore it is not intended as an anti-love or anti-couples celebration).
For this year’s events, participating cities include Milan, Turin, Catania and Rome. And if you’re single and not living in one of those cities, the organizers say, just hop on a train and get to the location closest to you so you can join in the festivities.
Make sure you also check what’s on around you, as during the years, the initiative has inspired many other cities to come up with events for singles on the 15th, so you may not have to travel far.
- See more at: http://www.italymagazine.com/news/san-faustino-day-singles-response-valentines-day#sthash.0pHi33MK.dpuf
Festival dates: 11 February to 14 February, 2016
Ok, so it's a bit silly I suppose, to have tens of thousands of tourists a year flock to Verona just to stand under the balcony that Juliette stood upon and gazed down at her love, Romeo... especially since it's all fiction. After all, Shakespeare created the characters in his head.... and I remember reading that there is no evidence that Shakespeare ever visited Verona--or Italy, for that matter--for inspiration.
But thanks to the hype and selling of Verona, the town has become a wonderful place to spend Saint Valentine's Day for lovers from all over the world. The town really puts their heart into it... literally.
For four days each February, Verona becomes "Verona in Love"--a festival all about amore, baci e passione (love, kisses and passion). And the most beautiful of Verona's squares, Piazza dei Signori, is decorated with a huge red carpeted heart and hosts free daily concerts. There is also a Valentine Market with stalls (which define the shape of the heart) selling all sorts of passionate trinkets, souvenirs, necessities and , of course, chocolates. You will also find wines, food, paintings, ceramics and cheeses--much of the products are locally sourced. And you can't go wrong with the stalls that offer wine and chocolate tasting. Yum.
And for the ultimate romantics, one of the more meaningful gestures you can do for your innamorato, is to visit Juliet’s house and attach your own love note on the wall below her balcony. Some people are actually leaving graffiti on the walls of the old structure, but leaving love notes is much less harmful to the history of the place, in my opinion. If you're planning a marriage, place your vows there. If you are alone and hopeful, write a letter to that special someone, somewhere in the world just waiting for you...
Another odd custom is to caress the breast of the Juliette bronze statue and take a picture doing it. There have been so many thousands of people doing this that the patina of the bronze now appears brightly polished. I've chosen not to include a photo with girls, guys, couples or greying old men groping poor Giulietta... after all, she was just 13 when she died! (Oh... that's right... she never really lived.)
The final ritual at the Casa di Giulietta is for you and your lover to put a lock on the courtyard gate and throw away the key into the nearby river. This lock tradition--getting its inspiration from Italian author, Federico Moccia's 2006 novel, Ho Voglia di Te (I Want You)--is getting a bit carried away in places all over Italy, especially Rome and on the Lovers' Walk in Cinque Terre--and catching on in other countries, too. In Rome, bridges and other structures often are in danger of collapse because of the millions of locks placed on them by Moccia inspired lovers. Teams with bolt-cutters keep removing locks, but lovers keep putting back more. It's the same here at Casa di Giulietta... chewing gum littered and graffitied walls and locks weighing down the gates. When did love become following the path of other people instead of your own heart?
Another thing to try when in Verona (if you are fit), is for you and your lover to climb the Torre dei Lamberti overlooking the piazza--during the festival there is a "two for one" special on tickets. And don't miss an arm-in-arm passaggiata up Via Mazzini to see the heart shaped luminaries lighting your way. Every shop is decked out in red for this festival, offering lovers mementos, chocolates, wines and more. If that's too slow a pace for your racing heart, try the Romeo and Juliet Half Marathon, usually held on the 14th. Tens of thousands enter this race.
All in all, Verona in Love does sound like great fun for lovers, young and old. Book a B&B, buy a gift box of Baci chocolates, jot down your best prose, bring your lock and throw away your keys... oh, and don't forget to bring your better half.
Amare per Sempre!
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