Update: 4/23/18 Sadly, the passing yesterday of Nabi Tajima, the Japanese woman that was the oldest person in the world, now places Giuseppina Projetto-Frau as the second oldest person in the world.
Nonna Pina joking with the mayor
by Jerry Finzi
Italy’s Giuseppina Projetto-Frau is is about to turn 116 on May 30th and is currently the oldest living person in Europe. Several days ago in Barcelona, 116 year-old Spaniard, Ana Vela Rubio passed away. Ana was born on October 29th, 1901 which made her the longest living European. Ana passes the baton to Giuseppina, bringing back the title formerly held by Emma Morano, who died in March 2017 at 117 years old, who was also considered to be the last human who lived during the 19th century. Born in Sardinia in 1902, Projetto has been dubbed La Nonna d'Italia (the grandmother of Italy). She is the third oldest person alive in the world today, after two Japanese women.
Giuseppina (her friends call her Pina) was born in 1902 in La Maddalena--a small island off Sardinia's northern tip. Her father’s name was Cicillo, and she had four siblings. Her grandfather had moved to La Maddalena from Sicily in the wake of the revolt of Garibaldi. At 5 years old, after losing her mother, along with with three of the four sisters, she was sent to the female orphanage Satta-Sequi of Ozieri on the main island of Sardinia, where she lived until she was 21. Pina calls the the orphanage il Collegio, where she learned the art of embroidery, a craft she practiced her entire life. Pina has vivid memories of Ozieri... the fountain with the two marble lions that is located just in front of the "Collegio", the Attilio Pintus pastry shop and the "Swiss" café where she used to buy candy.
She married twice, but bore no children of her own. Her second husband, Giuseppe Frau, had 3 children that Nonna Pina raised with great love. In 1946, when her son moved to Montelupo Fiorentino near Florence for work, she moved with him, where she still resides today with one of her daughters, Julia. Her son was tragically lost when trying to save bathers from drowning--a sorrow she still carries with her. Pina worked many years for the Bitossi Ceramics factory in Montelupo Fiorentino. She attributes some of her longevity to eating chocolate.
She is one of tens of thousands of Italians over 100 and still going. Many scientists have sought to identify the key to Italy’s extraordinary longevity, with suggestions ranging from a Mediterranean diet to hormones to a good sex life.
If you are a world traveler, a lover of art and have someone special with oddball, special sensitivities--just like you--then perhaps here is a gift your lover will really love. A fully articulated Michelangelo's David Action Figure by Figma. Well know to nerds and comic book fans worldwide, Figma produces both static and pose-able action figures of nearly every type of pulp, TV and movie hero. But now, in their Table Museumseries, they are offering several classical art sculptures as articulated models.
The David is the fourth artwork to join the series along with Venus de Milo and Rodin's The Thinker. David has smooth, pose-able joints that can move from his classic pose to an endless variety of action poses. Even his eyes can be moved to change the direction of his gaze. A special base and arm parts are included for the classic pose, but various other hand parts are also included. His sling is also included, allowing you to pose him ready to take a shot.
Click HERE to see David's Eyes move
Venus with arms restored!
The first in the their series was the Le Penseur (The Thinker) by Rodin. For the first time after pondering his problem, the Thinker can actually get up and do something about it! But for Valentine's Day, perhaps you'd like to see him with a special someone... How about a wonderful Goddess from the Greek island of Milos--Venus herself. Of course, you'd get the classic upper torso without arms, but in her kit you also get additional parts such as her missing arm parts, an apple and various hand parts.
Pose your Venus with the bronzed body of Thinker or pair her with The David. Either way, these are unique gifts for that special someone who is also an art lover.
Carve out a spot along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue for a family-friendly celebration filled with colorful floats and rousing musical performances. The parade honors Italian-Americans’ contributions to New York City and draws around million spectators and 35,000 marchers. The parade travels from 44th Street to 72nd Street and marching bands will perform along its length, and there’s also a “red carpet” area between 67th and 69th Streets for stage acts—special passes are needed to get up close. For more information, visit columbuscitizensfd.org.
Pittsburgh, PA Saturday, October 7th
The Saturday before Columbus Day always turns Pittsburgh’s Little Italy into one big celebration. And even though the old Bloomfield neighborhood is affectionately known as “Little Italy,” there’s actually nothing small about the annual Columbus Day parade. Thousands line Liberty Avenue to see everyone from Pittsburgh politicians to pint-sized pageant queens. The 32nd annual parade will step off at 11 a.m. at Bloomfield Liberty Avenue.
Chicago, IL Monday, October 9th
For nearly half a century, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans has sponsored Chicago’s Columbus Day celebration. Festivities begin with a mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii and a wreath laying ceremony at the Columbus Statue located in Arrigo Park, followed by the parade. The parade of over 150 floats, bands and marching units travels down State Street, from Wacker Drive to VanBuren Street. Many prominent Italian-Americans have been honorary parade Grand Marshals, including Ernest Borgnine and Tommy LaSorda.
Cleveland, OH Monday, October 9th
The 65th annual Cleveland Columbus Day Parade will step off at noon on Monday, Oct. 9. The parade will take place in Little Italy, where it moved in 2003 after decades downtown. The 15th parade in Little Italy will begin at Murray Hill and Cornell Roads and proceed north to East 125th Street and Fairview, then turn north on Fairview and march back to Mayfield past Holy Rosary Church. The parade will feature more than 100 groups, including marching bands from Mayfield, Garfield Heights, Holy Name and other high schools. The Knights of Columbus, local Italian associations and Little Italy Montessori school will also march in the parade.
San Francisco, CA Sunday, October 8th
Columbus Day’s three-day holiday weekend delivers San Francisco’s oldest civic event — the nation’s first Italian-American Columbus Day Parade. Introduced in 1869, the free event has continued growing, with colorful marching bands, floats and plenty of people waving red, white and green flags to celebrate Italian pride. The Italian Heritage Parade kicks off from Fisherman’s Wharf beginning at 12:30 p.m. and finishes in North Beach on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. Spectators are treated to dozens of handcrafted parade floats from Bay Area businesses, community groups, Italian organizations, local high school Italian clubs and marching bands. Traditional Italian musicians and performance artists led by grand marshals are on show, as well as special character appearances by Christopher Columbus, Queen Isabella and her court.
Baltimore, MD Sunday, October 8, 2017
This is the 127th Columbus Commemoration in Baltimore. The parade begins 2 pm Parade on Key Highway and ends in Little Italy. Join Baltimore's Italian community in the longest-running parade and commemoration in the country to honor Christopher Columbus... Bring the family! PARADE CHAIRMAN: Al Massa, firstname.lastname@example.org PARADE DAY COORDINATOR: Gina Piscopo, email@example.com
Every summer, as the sizzle perspires from the cement, urban thoughts of running streams, flowing grass and cool mountain breezes inherently materialize around every New Yorker and only subside with the arrival of fall. But few would consider the very nearby setting today that many Italian families once made an affordable respite and desired vacation getaway. A sentiment reflecting the desolation this upstate destination of a bygone era now suffers. Nonetheless, a holdout remains and is the subject of The Last Resort.
So for those completely at a loss in the younger generations, the only introduction that suffices with a question: What the hell are the Catskills “Exactly. Right now there’s one Jewish place and three Italian places. I used to go to a place called Villa Maria," said Filmmaker Dante Liberatore. “The whole setting was an extension of little Italy for Italians. It meant going to a place with people just like themselves and reminded them of home in Italy where they could catch the mountain breeze.”
Unfortunately, the Catskills sunk as Americans were no longer grounded by the high rates of travel. “When the airlines went through deregulation, prices fell dramatically. This giving people so many more options – who really wants to go to the mountains and look at trees,” said the Yonkers born writer.
Still, who does a movie about the Catskills. “After finishing my previous project on Arthur Avenue, the producer wanted to do another Italian themed film. So I said, why don’t we go see if there’s any Italian resorts left in the Catskills,” said Liberatore....
There is a reason people have flocked to la bel Paese as part of their Grand Tour in the nineteenth century and are still doing it today. Tourists gather en masse in hopes of discovering the romance, history and beauty of Italy. Blame the artists. That's right, the romantic movement in art filled the salons, galleries and the homes of the elite (who could actually afford a "Grand Tour" for a year or more) and in essence promoted the beauty of Italia. Here are a dozen of what I consider the most beautiful and romantic of this type of painting... who wouldn't want to travel to Italy after seeing the grandeur?
Gulf of Naples by moonlight by Ajvazovskij
Ponte Rotto by Hubert Robert
River Beggers by Caneletto 1780
View of the canal channel from the Ponte San Marco, by Giuseppe Canella - 1834
Ragusa, Sicily by Emil Jakob Schindler
Fireworks in Naples by Oswald Achenbach
The Shipment, by Segantini Giovanni
View from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence over the Arno, by Palladini 1862
Rome and Castel Sant Angelo by Silvestr Fedosievich Shchedrin
In a land ravaged by earthquakes, floods and volcanoes from time to time, it's no wonder that in Italy, one will occasionally discover one of the many Ghost Towns...
Perched high on a rocky outcrop, with buildings precariously built under overhanging cliffs, is the beautiful remains of Pentedattilo, a village in southern Calabria. (The look of this village--tucked under dolomite cliffs--reminds me of the twin villages of Pietrapertosa and Castellmezzano we visited in Basilicata.) The village is a 45 minute drive from Reggio-Calabria. It got its name from the Byzantine word Pentedáktilos, which means five fingers, a reference to the five deep valleys surrounding the mountainous village. First inhabited in "Magna Graecia" period and then the Romans, Pentedattilo offers a wonderful view of the sea.
Being one of the oldest Ghost Towns of Italy, the town was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1783, which led to large parts of the population moving to the nearby seaside port town of Melito Porto Salvo. Today a modern-day with the same name of Pentedattilo was built on another hilltop a bit closer to the sea. The residents still attend Catholic services in the restored Chiesa dei Pietro e Paolo (Church of Saints Peter and Paul) standing proudly against the threat of Nature under the cliffs in the old town.
After some restoration in the 1980s, the old village today has a few new residents, although many ruins still sit without roofs, windows or doors just waiting for the Voyager with camera to capture its haunting beauty and solitude. Oddly enough, the village becomes the site of the International Pentedattilo Film Festival... with appropriate their motto, "Don't be a Ghost".
It's simple, really. My Mother grew up in a poor immigrant Italian family in Hoboken. I'm sure her Neapolitan parents passed on this tradition. When you're poor in Italy, you are superstitious about money so you tend to push luck on your side with certain traditions. You would eat coin shaped lentils on New Year's Day, for instance. My Mother taught me that putting a pile of coins--whatever you happen to be carrying in your pocket at the end of the year--on the windowsill will guarantee that you have money all year long.
One rule: Put the coins out before midnight.
Felice Anno Nuovo!
Postscript: Years ago when I lived in my loft/studio in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, I used to have my windows washed by professional window-washers. You know the kind... they clip their safety belts on to lugs outside of the commercial building windows, then lean back over the void to soap up, clean and then squeegie the windows clean. I had a 50 foot long wall of 10 foot tall windows running along the front of my sixth floor loft. Once a month, they would clean the city grime off the windows and suddenly the front of the studio would seem a lot brighter.
One year, in a cold January, I noticed that the years of accumulated nickels, dimes, pennies and quarters were gone! There must have been $20-30 in coins out there. I figured one of my window-washers must have needed it more than I did...
...unless it was those notorious, thieving Flying Rats of New York--the pigeons! --Jerry Finzi
This tradition has its roots in the Middle Ages when superstitions (and the plague) ran rampant, many promising to cure a person of his ills or perhaps bring good fortune and love. Red represents passion, blood flowing through your bod and thus life itself. It's no wonder that most red-blooded, passionate Italians bring in the New Year by wearing red undies... but I wonder how many of them stick to the tradition of throwing away the undergarments just as the New Year commences. (How would one accomplish this?)
So, whether playing Tombola (Italian Bingo, read more HERE), dancing it up at a party, watching the fireworks in the Piazza or from your own balcony, don't forget the sausage, lentils and the red underwear! Felice anno nuovo!
Experience the Italian lifestyle, heritage, cuisine, art, music, language, traditions, and take your own Grand Voyage to Italy ...even if you've never been to Italy! Andiamo, take a Grand Voyage with us...