After five years of planning and negotiations, Starbucks has opened its first shop in Italy. The sprawling Milan establishment is the flagship of an ambitious plan to make inroads into a country where an extraordinary cup of coffee is the norm and a mediocre cup is sacrilegious. The 68,000 square foot Reserve Roastery is described by the company as the most beautiful Starbucks in the world and is housed in the former post office in Piazza Cordusio near the city’s Duomo. The company hopes it will entice customers to experience the modern space with its heated, marble-topped coffee counter, mezzanine cocktail bar and state-of-the-art on-site roastery. The coffee chain already has plans for expansion for a second smaller branch near Milan’s Sempione Park, as well as an outlet in the city’s international airport. Most business analysts remain unconvinced of the long-term success for Starbucks in the Italy. The majority of Milanese who were asked whether they intended to visit the new establishment either laughed, swore or yawned.
Florence Introduces Controversial Law
As of last week, snacking is now banned on some of Florence’s busiest streets. Under a new city ordinance, anyone caught eating on any of four streets that run through Florence’s historic center – Via de’ Neri, Piazzale degli Uffizi, Piazza del Grano and Via della Ninna – run the risk of receiving a fine of up to €500. The restrictions apply during peak lunch and dinner times, from 12:00-3:00 pm and 6:00-10:00 pm and will remain in place for at least four months. The aim is not only to reduce litter, but to keep pavements clear of the crowds that form around eateries, making the narrow streets hard to navigate. Via de’ Neri in particular is lined with food shops that do not have enough indoor space to accommodate scores of people who flock to there. So travelers beware, if caught on the wrong street, that slice of pizza might be the most expensive one that you will ever have!
WWII Ship Discovered in Po River
On February 12, 1944, the Italian steamer San Giorgio sunk during a storm while on patrol near the mouth of the Po River in Italy. The location of the 178 foot-long boat has remained unknown for decades. The captain of the ship had attempted to maneuver it to shelter from the storm and apparently was heading towards a lighthouse in Pila. They never made it. The crew abandoned the vessel and the San Giorgio sunk into oblivion. For almost 20 years following the war, the boat’s location was well known to most in the area, most especially to fishermen, who would sometimes bump into the submerged vessel. As the river delta spread over the decades, the sunken steamer became obscured. It was only through the use of satellite and aerial thermal images that experts finally located its outline near one of the banks of Italy’s longest river. The location of the San Giorgio, pictured above, is in Porto Tolle in the northeastern region of Veneto.
Married Numbers on the Decline
Italy’s national statistical agency ISTAT has published a release stating that the number of married people in Italy has plunged over the last three decades. The agency said that the percentage of men who are married in the 25-34 age group dropped from 51.5% in 1991 to 19.1% this year and the rate declined from 69.5% to 34.3% for women. In the 45-54 age bracket, almost a quarter of men have never married, while almost 18% of women are unmarried. The release also indicated that the number of divorced people increased fourfold in all age groups, from around 376,000 in 1991 to over 1.67 million. With such a decline in the number of married couples, the last thing needed would be any new taxes for those who are entering matrimony.
A priest near Venice has proposed what he calls a “tax” on brides whose bridal gown necklines he thinks are too low. “We could set up a sort of offering to be levied in proportion to the decency of the dress of the bride, who often present themselves looking coarse and vulgar, so the most undressed pay the most,” said Father Cristiano Bobbo of Oriago near Mestre. Father Bobbo said it was a “jocular provocation” but something that he would like to do. We are not so sure that the congregation will be too thrilled with the idea. It sounds like a bust.
Researchers Claim Mona Lisa was Ill
A recent report published by two researchers, states that after an exhaustive study of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, they concluded that the model for the world’s most famous painting was not a well woman. They pointed out that Lisa Gherardini, Leonardo’s model, likely had a thyroid condition which accounts for the yellowing of her skin and her receding hairline and that clinical hypothyroidism is a more likely a diagnosis than the previous hypotheses, including a lipid disorder and heart disease. Had Lisa Gherardini suffered from heart disease and a lipid disorder, it is unlikely that she would have reached adulthood, given the limited treatments available in 16th century. The researchers also cited her diet as likely contributing to her condition. During the Renaissance, most individual’s diet were lacking in iodine, resulting in swollen thyroid glands, which were commonly depicted in paintings and sculptures of the era. But another conclusion might also be drawn. It is known that Lisa Gherardini gave birth shortly before sitting for the portrait, which indicates the possibility of peripartum thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid after pregnancy. Whatever her medical maladies, it was da Vinci’s quest for painting perfection, including a subject’s imperfections, that have created one of the world’s most enigmatic images in his Mona Lisa.