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November 2017 Severe Floods Devastate Areas in Italy’s Amalfi Coast

Following the driest summer and early fall months in memory, the winter rains have made an early arrival in Italy. The storms that began last weekend continued through much of the week, prompting authorities to issue warnings of floods, landslides and travel delays. Violent storms fell on the Amalfi Coast which caused floods, landslides and rivers of mud, which inundated streets and shops in Positano. The storms also devastated the beach of Marina Grande. Some people living in mountain areas near Sorrento were cut off for days, after a landslide blocked the road. Elsewhere, firefighters had to free motorists trapped in flooded underpasses. In Positano, schools were closed for a number of days and trains in and around Naples suffered heavy delays.

Italy Bans Animal Circus Acts

Italy has one of the biggest circus industries in the world and yet last week voted to phase out ALL animals in circuses and traveling shows, following a vote in the Assembly of the Parliament. Rules for implementation of the new legislation is set to take place within one year by a Ministerial decree. Italy is the 41st country to pass a national law prohibiting animals in circuses, affecting an estimated 100 circuses and some 2,000 animals. Supporters of the decree point to the use of temporary cages and frequent traveling that creates a poor quality of life for the animals. As one study described, “The available scientific evidence indicates that captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements.” Many who have fond memories of going to the circus as a child may shed a tear over this latest animal rights trend, but such is the double-edged sword that is the nature of progress…

Pope Bans Cigarette Sales

The Vatican has now become the first country to ban the sale of cigarettes. The ban will take effect in 2018 and is the result of the Pope’s desire to see a healthier climate in the Vatican. There has been a ban on smoking in all enclosed spaces inside the 108-acre Vatican City since 2002. An interesting contrast may be drawn to Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope,” whose Pope Pius XIII (brilliantly acted by Jude Law) was a heavy smoker and the only person who could smoke inside the Vatican halls. The sale of tobacco in the Vatican amounts to about $11 million a year in profits. In Italy, taxes have caused cigarette costs to surge to about €5 a pack – making it common for citizens to make a trip to the Vatican to buy their smokes where prices are considerably lower.

Facts about David

Michelangelo Buonarroti was just 26 years old when he began the carving of the statue of David. Unlike most of his sculptures, he did not hand pick the marble. Michelangelo was actually the third artist commissioned to carve a statue from a massive slab of white Carrara marble, purchased 25 years earlier by the Duomo of Florence. He began carving in 1501 and finished in 1504. For those who have never visited the statue, it is located in the Accademia Gallery in Florence. When viewed, you will be astounded by its size. The statue stands 17 feet tall and weighs in at a hefty 12,478 pounds. The original location of the statue was to be 150 feet above the ground on the roofline of the Duomo of Florence, along with 11 other figures including Joshua and Hercules. When Church authorities saw the completed statue by the young artist, they quickly realized that it was not only too heavy to raise to the soaring heights originally intended, but it was too spectacular to be so far away from ground level view. A committee of Florentine citizens and the artist’s peers, including Leonardo da Vinci, Filippino Lippi and Botticelli were assembled to assess the best home for David. Nine different locations were considered and on September 8, 1504, Michelangelo’s David was finally unveiled at the entrance to the Palazzo della Signoria. Originally, parts of the statue were covered in gold leaf, including the sling over his left shoulder, the tree stump behind his leg and a golden gilded garland draped around his hips (presumably to preserve his modesty). Overtime, exposure to the elements washed the gold leaf away. Many visitors who view the statue located in the Piazza della Signoria believe they are looking at the genuine article. A copy was placed in the square when the original was moved to the Accademia Gallery in the late 1800s.

Conjoined Twins Separated in Rome

A pair of twins conjoined at the abdomen and chest have been separated, thanks to an extraordinary operation at Rome’s Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital. The 17-month-old children underwent a procedure lasting over ten hours, utilizing five different alternating surgical teams made up of a total of 40 doctors, nurses and technicians. It is the second such operation for the Vatican-owned hospital and is one of very few cases of conjoined twins being separated in Italy. The twins continue to do well and the prognosis for their continued recovery is very good.