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Historic Toscano Originale Cigar Returns to the USA After 48 Years

In 1970, the Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli, the Italian state company responsible customs and excise taxes, including tobacco products, decided to halt the production of handmade Italian cigars. Some of the employees at the Lucca factory continued to roll cigars, but with a special designation of diritto di cernita (sampling right), which meant the cigars could only be sold in the factory. It would be 15 years before sales outside of the factory would again be permitted as the Toscano Originale was introduced across Italy. After a 48-year-long absence, the cigars will once again be imported into the United States. The Toscano Originale uses a Kentucky fire-cured wrapper over a mixture of Kentucky and Italian tobaccos and is said to have a pleasant, yet bold taste.

Redrawing Earliest Trade Routes

Drawings of an Australian cockatoo discovered on the pages of a 13th century Italian manuscript suggest trade to the land “down under” was flourishing as far back as medieval times. Four images of the white cockatoo is featured in the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Sicily’s “De Arte Venandi cum Avibus” (The Art of Hunting with Birds), which dates from between 1241 and 1248 and is held in the Vatican Library. The colored drawings pre-date by 250 years what was previously believed to be the oldest European depiction of the bird in Andrea Mantegna’s 1496 altarpiece Madonna della Vittoria. Essentially, it indicates that trade from Australia’s north was taking place much earlier than previously thought and linked into sea and overland routes to Indonesia, China, Egypt and into Europe.

Digital Map for Tourists

A new digital mapping project by the region of Emilia-Romagna should help tourists explore the sites of the diverse area. The region is the birthplace of some of Italy’s favorite gastronomy exports, such as Parma ham and Parmigiano cheese and site of the oldest higher education center in the world, the University of Bologna. It is the home to Italy’s famed motor valley and cars including Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini, but it also hosts some of Europe’s most popular beaches at Rimini and Riccione. It is also home to some 9,000 sights of cultural heritage. Now, thanks to Tourer, a project that maps the monuments in the area in both English and Italian, travelers to the region will be able to explore the whole array of cultural heritage on offer. Tourer maps pathways, walks, boat rides and treks throughout the region, providing contemporary and historic information, alongside photos of thousands of churches, castles, statues, cathedrals, concert halls, museums, galleries and other interesting cultural points. Tourer uses GPS location so that users can simply visit the website and begin exploring the nearby sights.

PM Conte Coming to America

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will make an official visit to Washington, D.C. later this month for talks with President Donald Trump. One is a flamboyant billionaire from Queens, famous for speaking off the cuff, the other, an obscure law professor from a small southern Italian village who rarely departs from his prepared remarks. But among the leaders of the world’s industrialized countries, President Trump and newly installed Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte seem to have forged an unexpected bond over two of the world’s prickliest geopolitical questions: the treatment of migrants and the global role Russia should play. Already a supporter of the new Premier, earlier this month, President Trump told Fox News that Conte was “fantastic” and that “it seems being tough on immigration now pays.” The bilateral meeting is scheduled to take place on July 30.

More Clumsy Tourists

Clueless tourists can cause all sorts of inadvertent damage at valuable cultural sites and museums. The most recent incident was that of an American tourist visiting the archaeological site at Pompeii who tripped and knocked over a column. Security guards and Carabinieri police immediately verified the fact that the incident was purely an accident. Luckily the column, located in the peristyle of the Championnet complex, didn’t break and wasn’t damaged in the fall. Other accidents do not always produce such benign results, nor are they limited to Italy. The accident that has thus far received the most coverage occurred last year in Los Angeles, when a women taking a selfie knocked over a column that in turn started a domino effect, causing ten other columns to fall. The security video of the event went viral, but the damages amounted to more than $200,000. Hopefully she will not be heading to Italy anytime soon.

Oldest Surviving Work by da Vinci

Two Italian art experts have recently concluded that a 1471 depiction of the Archangel Gabriel is the oldest surviving work of Leonardo da Vinci. Created when he was 18 years old, experts Ernesto Solari and Ivana Rosa Bonfantino said the artwork on terracotta is the first piece Leonardo signed and may also be a self-portrait. The small tile, roughly 8” by 8” contained numerous clues linking it to the great master. A signature and date written on the angel’s jawline reads “da Vinci Lionardo” with the date 1471. Both closely match da Vinci’s handwriting. The scholars said they based their findings on three years of study in which they examined 6,000 documents. The work is owned by the heirs of an Italian noble family. Solari said that it was given to Joanna of Aragon in 1499, perhaps a gift from Leonardo himself. A copy of the artwork is now on exhibit at the Leonardo da Vinci Experience in Rome.