It was a good race and from Rome onwards I never had any doubt that I should win” Tazio Nuvolari – 1930 Winner Mille Miglia
On to Rome in Italy’s Mille Miglia, one of the most prestigious historic automotive events in the world has been called the “most beautiful race in the world” taking competitors through the stunning Italian countryside as they attempt to complete the 1000 mile open road race from Brescia in the north to Rome in period-correct Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, Fiats and more.
Back home in Indiana excitement is building as the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to begin in 10 days, 3 hours and 12 minutes. Racing fans all over the world look forward every May to the thrill of the Brickyard for the agony and the ecstasy of an event that has been called “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
But before the gentlemen and ladies of the Indy 500 start their engines, there is another thrill to be had on the international racing stage with the vintage and classic cars of Italy’s Mille Miglia, an open-road endurance race that began yesterday May 15th from Brescia-to-Rome
An estimated 4 million Italian spectators and others from around the world relive a history of road racing that begin in 1927 with cars and drivers like Tazio Nuvolari , who won the 1930 race in his Alfa Romeo, reaching celebrity status. 430 cars were selected for this year’s race from 1,500 + registrations based on their history and record of achievements with Alfa Romeo leading the way with 44 cars in the race. Among the cars represented (Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley, Porsche, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Lancia, BMW, Bugatti and Mercedes-Benz -celebrating 125 years of motorsport) are two Volkswagen Beetles, the 1951 Pretzel Beetle and the 1956 Ovali Beetle have been modified to replicate their historical predecessors. Volkswagen has been instrumental in the history of the Mille Miglia with high-performance Beetles finishing much higher up the standings than their more powerful opposition. thanks in no small part to their reliability.
Sport’s car enthusiasts will not want to miss the stunning pictures of the cars of the Mille Miglia posted all over the Internet.
Because no other language is more romantic than Italian here are 7 sentiments of affection to write in that special card for an Italian inspired Valentine’s Day. Pair that with a sparkling bottle of Rosa Regali Brachetto d’Aqui or Franciacorta, a slice of Tiramisu or baci di dama cookies and a cuddle on the sofa to watch Heath Ledger in Casanova for a perfect Valentine’s Day.
Every January I looked forward to buying a calendar for the New Year, displaying it like a work of art, shopping for an interesting theme customized to my taste. One year it was Welsh Corgis, another tropical beaches, wolves, 365 days in Italy and the list goes on. You can probably find a wall calendar designed to suit everyone on the planet. A recent Bing search turned up 141,000,000 results. Last year I didn’t bother to buy a calendar (relying on my mobile phone) and now I realize how much I miss turning the pages month by month. I need to replace the digital and repost the material version of my life day by day and take a clue from the Renaissance.
The fresco artists of Italy’s quattrocento were masters at interpreting the months of the year and often used their art to bring attention to the passage of time and its implications. Fresco cycles with symbols and designs that represent the astrological horoscope and seasons can be found in the salons and halls of Italy’s most renown palazzi and villas. Many 15th century fresco artists interpreted the months of the year with such stunning results that their work is among the great art of the western world.
One of my favorites is in the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Painted by Francesco del Cossa and Cosimo Tura, the frescoes line the walls of the Salone dei Mese (Room of Months) in the main hall. Designed for the Estense Court of Ferrara as a retreat for pleasure and diversions (schiafonia is thought to originate from the word schivar la noia meaning “escape from boredom”) Palazzo Schifanoia is a hidden jewel on a side street of Ferrara. With a rather plain and unassuming façade, the elegant marble entry with the Estense coat of arms may be the only sign that you are about to enter into a pleasure palace filled with rare beauty and earthly delights. The allegorical frescoes of the Ciclo de Mesi (cycle of months) are considered to be one of the greatest examples of humanistic astrological Italian art making it the most glorious wall calendar I ever saw.
- The king of American food is the hamburger. You can find them in Italy but not as frequently and they definitely don’t taste the same.
- Americans talk with their mouths full. Eating in Italy is all about enjoying your food with proper digestion. Nothing is so important that it can’t wait to be said and nothing gained by not waiting.
- Americans eat way too much meat. Italians consume very little red meat. A small plate of some pasta followed by a small piece of chicken or fish with vegetables is typical to eat.
- The American view of eating “Italian” with heaping plates of spaghetti and meatballs swimming in red sauce is a caricaturized version of the Italian table. A typical Italian meal is a small plate of pasta and a small piece of protein. Like all traditional cultures Italians do celebrate special occasions with abundance but on a daily basis Italians prefer to eat small portions.
- Americans eat very fast. Italians eat at a leisurely pace and are better for it. Not only does eating slowly and mindfully help you eat less, it enhances the pleasure of the dining experience.
- Italians view dining as an experience. Planning, shopping, the preparation and cooking of the meal are as important as sitting down to eat.
- Italians find the size of a cup of coffee in America “too large” with way too many menu options.
- Store bought salad dressings are superfluous when you have good olive oil and balsamic.
In case you’re wondering what American food tempted our Italian cousin’s palate the most well it was . . . Amish Fried Chicken and Country Ham, our hometown Donuts and Buffalo Wings!
According to the cleaning mavens at Proctor and Gamble, Italian women spend 21 hours a week on household chores as opposed to Americans who spend just four. Italian women supposedly wash their kitchen and bathroom floors at least four times a week. American women just once. Some of our Italian relatives don’t have dishwashers, believing that hand-washing may be better. Perhaps even calming and therapeutic.
Italians still hang their laundry out to dry and iron nearly all their wash, even socks and sheets. They don’t understand our obsession with plug in “air fresheners” and don’t believe that food odors are offensive. They open their windows to let the fresh air in even if they live in the cities.
Italians also spend time sweeping the sidewalks and streets in front of their entry ways and like to use traditional cleaning supplies. In Italy the Swiffer Wet Mop was such a flop that the company took it off the market. According to Federica Rossi Gasparrini, chair of Federcasalinghe (Housewives’ Association) “No (Italian) woman will forgo a clean house, even if she works. It’s part of love for the family.”
One of the most important fresco cycles in Italy is by the Italian Renaissance master Giotto located in a chapel on the estate grounds of a money lenders son who in atonement for his father’s sins sought redemption through art. Reginaldo Scrovegni was a wealthy moneylender from the city of Padua. His reputation was such that he was portrayed in the Seventh Circle of Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s no wonder that Enrico Scrovegni, Reginaldo’s son, felt compelled to build a private chapel next to the family palazzo in penitence for his father’s sins. He must have been frightened out of his mind after reading Dante’s description of his impending doom and hoped not only to atone for the sins of his father but his own as it was suggested that Enrico was also involved in usurious practices. So Enrico commissioned Giotto to design a chapel with a series of frescoes on the site of a Roman arena that was on the grounds of his family estate.
Giotto’s Last Supper
The vaulted chapel is a work of breathless beauty with a ceiling that resembles a starry blue sky.The walls of the chapel contain 37 panels in 3 tiers with scenes of the life of Christ and his mother Mary including a pre da Vinci painting of the Last Supper that in someways is as intriquing as Leonardo’s masterpiece in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. In Giotto’s versione the apostles are arranged around the table, some with their backs towards us, in a more realistic scene of a Passover meal. It’s interesting to note that the Last Supper had been portrayed many times prior to da Vinci’s Il Cenacolo including a 13th-century image with Mary Magdalene embracing the feet of Christ beneath the table while the beardless apostle John reclines his head on his Lord’s chest.The
Portrait of an Ideal Woman (Botticelli 1487)
Send a special message to the women in your life today. March 8th is International Women’s Day.
In Italy they celebrate Festa della donna (Festival of the Woman) with banners and yellow mimosa. This time of the year, traveling in Italy, I noticed hundreds of bouquets of mimosa and banners everywhere. The Italians have always valued women and their role in society. Italy is like a great caldron of sensuality and emotion. History and art are sprinkled in for good measure and the outcome allows creativity to flourish and for women it allows their special talents to emerge.
If the number of yellow-flowered mimosa I have seen in Italy during March is any indication of the esteem Italy has for its women than I think they are greatly appreciated.