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Secrets Revealed in Painting

Science has unveiled the secrets of one of Raphael’s best-loved masterpieces in advance of the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance master’s death. Scientists are using x-rays and super HD analysis to probe the Fornarina at Rome’s Gallerie Nazionali Barberini Corsini ahead of its move to the Scuderie del Quirinale for a major show that is slated to begin on March 5. The ultra-high-definition images offer far greater magnifications than the human eye can perceive, capturing colors, pigments, details, sharpness and lighting not otherwise achievable. One of the features never seen before was that Raphael’s original painting had a landscape in the background which was then replaced with a myrtle bush and a branch of quinces (a symbol of fertility). “The Portrait of a Young Woman,” more commonly known as “La Fornarina,” was painted between 1518 and 1519. The woman traditionally identified as La Fornarina was Margherita Luti, the daughter of a baker in Trastevere, hence the portrait’s name.

New Italian Emoji

Messaging your Italian friends is about to get that much easier with a new emoji representing one of Italy’s best-known hand gestures. Officially known as the ‘Pinched Fingers’ emoji, the Italian hand gesture is one of 62 new icons expected to make it onto devices this year. The gesture where all of the fingers and thumb are held together facing upward is sometimes referred to as ma che vuoi (what do you want). It was noted that Italian gestures are unique and bear a cultural meaning both in Italian speaking areas and worldwide.

Taranto to Offer €1 Homes

The ability to purchase homes for a token amount is no longer limited to remote Italian villages. Taranto has become the first city to offer houses for sale for one euro, as part of a bid to improve the city’s image. The city council said its goal is to bring 25,000 inhabitants to the città vecchia, or old city, which had some 40,000 residents in the 19th century, but now has fewer than 3,000. The council said it plans to start by offering five properties for sale at a price of one euro and hopes to list more. Not surprisingly, the city’s Castello Aragonese (pictured) is not one of the properties to be offered. The Italian government has recently awarded Taranto 90 million euros for improvements to the historic center. The one euro homes offered in Taranto will come with terms and conditions and the new owners will need to foot the bill for extensive restorations, which must be completed within a set time frame. They will also have to live in the homes once renovated.

Fellini Exhibition

The resort city of Rimini is the host of a new exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary film director Federico Fellini, who was born there in 1920. His visual dreamscapes revolutionized cinema in a career spanning almost half a century. In 2020, dozens of events are being held in both Italy and around the world to remember Fellini, who is considered to be one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. He was the winner of a record four Best Foreign Language film Oscars, but Fellini was initially appreciated more abroad than in Italy, where he frequently scandalized the conservative society of the 1950s. The exhibition, ‘Fellini 100. Immortal Genius,’ is being presented at Castel Sismondo and will end on March 15. It will travel to Rome and then on to cities including Los Angeles, California.

More Babies Wanted

With last year’s birthrate in Italy dropping to an all-time low, President Sergio Mattarella last week issued a called for action. “A fall in the birth rate leads to a fall in the number of families. This means that the fabric of our country is weakening and every initiative should be taken to combat this phenomenon,” said the President, who continued, “Families are not Italy’s connective tissue; they are Italy.” There were 435,000 births registered in Italy in 2019, the lowest level on record. The number of people died in Italy, on the other hand, was 647,000, essentially the same figure as the previous year. Although the trend has been going on for some time, President Mattarella did not offer any suggestions, but given the timing of the statement, just before Valentine’s Day, we believe there was an implied message…

Record High Temps

Many readers were astonished to see that during the 2019 Publisher’s Tour, the October temperatures in Sardinia were in the mid-80s. Well, in February, traditionally the coldest month of the year, temperatures reached 84 degrees along the western coast, as the island basked in unseasonably warm weather. In Cagliari, where the Publisher’s Tour stayed, the mercury rose to a balmy 75 degrees, making it the hottest city in Italy and about 25 degrees warmer than usual.