A statue of Saint Bibiana by Italian master Gian Lorenzo Bernini had a finger knocked off as it was returned from an exhibition in the Galleria Borghese. The marble statue, which depicts the Roman martyr holding a palm leaf, is missing the fourth figure of the saint’s right hand. The image here shows the finger while it was still intact. The accident reportedly happened as the statue was being lifted back into place above the altar of Santa Bibiana, the church in central Rome for which Bernini created it in 1626. The newly restored work had been on loan for the first time in its history to the capital’s Borghese Gallery, which recently hosted a major exhibition of the Baroque sculptors’ masterpieces. Bernini is famed for his virtuoso rendering of details, including his figures’ delicate hands and fingers, which are infamously difficult to carve in marble without snapping.
Other Italian artworks to suffer damage include a 600-year-old statue in Florence’s Galleria dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, which had a finger snapped off by an American tourist. The Drunk Satyr statue in Milan’s Brera Academy lost a leg to a visiting student who climbed it to take a selfie. Tourists in Cremona broke off part of the city’s prized statue of Hercules, reportedly doing the same thing.
Snake Fest 2018
Every May, the town of Cocullo in Abruzzo carries out a slithery ritual: the Festa dei Serpari or Serpent Festival, which sees locals parade the streets with scores of specially caught snakes. Trained handlers called serpari drape the snakes around the statue of San Domenico di Sora, the patron saint of Cocullo and protector against tooth aches and ironically enough, snake bites. The serpari begin preparing for the festival more than a month earlier, catching wild snakes as the winter snow melts and animals begin to venture out. The non-venomous snakes are kept in clay pots and fattened up on a diet of boiled eggs and mice, while they await the ritual. Then, at midday, the procession begins. Four people carry the statue of San Domenico from the church and the serpari place their snakes on it. After a procession through the narrow streets, the serpari retrieve their snakes and release them back into the wild – until next year.
Bad Timing for Goldbrickers
Two guards at the Reggio di Caserta were cited for neglecting their duties during work. The pair allegedly went about their own business, while still clocked during working hours at the former royal residence in Caserta, southern Italy. The clock-cheating was discovered when the two guards were nowhere in sight and a robbery occurred at the Reggio’s cafeteria. The Royal Palace of Caserta was constructed for the Bourbon Kings of Naples. It was one of the largest palaces erected in Europe during the 18th century and has been featured in numerous films, including Star Wars, episodes 1 and 2. The two culture ministry employees have been suspended from the UNESCO-listed site. They would have been better off having a doughnut in the cafeteria.
Wheeling and Dealing
Three per minute – that’s how many Italian bicycles were sold around the world last year, resulting in sales of 1,729,948 two-wheelers. That tally places Italy squarely on top of European cycle exporters and represents a 15.2% increase over 2016. The 1.26 billion euros in sales eclipse the nearest competitor by 10% and left the countries in third and fourth place, far in the dust, solidifying Italy’s renewed emphasis on increased production and quality manufacturing. The cycling segment constitutes 3,000 businesses and employs about 7,700 people in the country.
Big Numbers for Little Breweries
You may not realize it, but Italians like their beer, too. According to Italy’s agricultural organization Coldiretti, there has been a tremendous rise in the number of microbreweries. Currently the number is 718 and growing, presenting a 535% increase in less than ten years. The highest concentration of microbreweries is in the northern region of Lombardy, with 249, followed by Veneto, 134 and Piemonte with 127. It is estimated that the Italian beer market amounts to six billion euros annually, which works out to about eight gallons of beer per person.
Don’t Look into the Light
A new laboratory has been inaugurated at the National Institute of Optics in Pisa that combines a very high power laser with systems for the study of light-matter interactions. It is able to produce over 200 trillion watts, an amount that is higher than the planet’s electric power usage at any given moment. The laser, aimed at the development of biomedical applications, generates pulses of light at extreme intensities for less than 30 millionths of a billionth of a second. It is the only laser in the country that can produce particle beams and radiation for biomedical applications. The applications of the new plant will take place in the same laboratory that hosts researchers, experts in biomedicine, radiobiology, diagnostics, radiotherapy and spectroscopy.