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Italian Artist Sculpts Life-Sized Fiat 500 Car Out of Carrara Marble

A Turin-based artist has spent months sculpting a life-size Fiat 500 car out of a 15-ton block of white Carrara marble. Nazareno Biondo began work on the piece last year, hewing a copy of the iconic Cinquecento out of stone. He sees his work as a critique of today’s consumerist, throw-away society, but most people will view it as a tiny car made out of marble. The car still symbolizes Italy’s post-war economic boom, more than 60 years after its introduction. Biondo graduated from Turin’s Albertina Academy of Fine Arts and specializes in marble. His previous works include gold ingots, bundles of money and a Vespa motor scooter, all carved from the world famous white marble.

Rare Find at Pompeii

A team of archaeologists at Pompeii has uncovered a rarity – an alleyway of houses containing intact balconies. Not only were the upper stories preserved, but original frescos were still on the stonework, showing angel messengers decorating the upscale dwelling. The preservation of upper stories is unusual, because the city burned from above. In the case of the area of the find, it is estimated that about 12 feet of volcanic ash covered the dwellings, while in other parts of the city, as much as 35 feet covered inhabitants. The find included a series of buildings with three large balconies. Additionally, on one of the balconies, pots to hold wine were found lying on their side, apparently left by its owner to dry in the sun on the fateful day of the eruption. The street is the latest in a series of novel discoveries over the past few weeks, while excavations have been underway to stabilize walls at risk of collapse.

New Mantegna Discovered in Bergamo

An oil on wood painting by Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna has been found in the northern Italian city of Bergamo. The Resurrection of Christ (circa 1493) has long been assumed to be a copy of a work by the painter. The final clue that it is in fact an original work is based on a small cross on the lower margin of the work, recently authenticated by art experts. The work had been in storage for the past 80 years in Bergamo’s Accademia di Carrara and will now be moved to permanent display. The value of the work has thus appreciated significantly. Previously insured for 25 thousand euros, the painting is now worth between 25 and 30 million dollars.

What’s in a Name?

Italian parents who called their daughter Blu have been ordered by Milan prosecutors to change her name or else a judge will decide on a new name. The prosecutors referred to a decree from 2000 which states “the name given to babies must correspond to the sex.” The girl is now 1 ½ years old. The parents said they tried to convince prosecutors that the name is widely used abroad. Apparently that didn’t work. If the parents do not appeal the court order, perhaps the baby’s new name could be Azzurri, no that won’t work; it is the masculine form of the word…

But Does it Come With a Pool?

The Castle of Oliveto in Castelfiorentino near Florence, designed by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi, is up for sale. The castle has four towers and battlements that make it possible to walk around the entire perimeter of the building. The castle is part of an estate that includes 25 farm houses, a village with an 18th century villa and a chapel in the woods. It has a total of approximately 380,000 square feet of indoor space and 1,200 hectares of farmed land containing vineyards, olive trees and woods. The castle dates back to the 15th century and was formerly owned by the noble Pucci family. Its builder, Brunelleschi, is most well-known for constructing the dome of Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, better known as the Duomo. During its time, the castle has hosted three Popes, numerous Dukes and a King. For those who like to throw parties, the reception hall can sit almost 200 guests. There is also an ancient water well for collecting rain water, which was once a secret underground passage leading outside the castle. In case you were wondering, the castle does not have a pool. The price is available upon application to the real estate agent.

Sheepish Mayor Approves Landscaping Plan

Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi has approved an agreement between the city and the farmers’ association Coldiretti, which calls for the use of sheep to cut grass in parks in the capital’s suburbs. The council’s environmental department has identified 20 green spaces where farmers will be allowed to cut the grass with their own equipment to take it away for feed or allow the animals to graze in the areas. The agreement aims to enhance the agricultural role of the city, which has about 435 million square feet of green space; upwards to 40% can have an agricultural tie-in. Do not expect to see sheep grazing on the lawn surrounding the Villa Borghese; farmers will not be bringing sheep into the center of Rome, they will however be grazing in the beautiful Roman countryside. Critics of the plan have described it as a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing,’ pointing out that the farmers will benefit, without a cost reduction to the Eternal City.