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ICE Recovers 15th Century Columbus Letter and Returns it to Rome

The United States has returned to the Vatican a copy of a 15th century, handwritten letter by Christopher Columbus, in which the explorer recounts his discovery of America to the Spanish royal family. The original Columbus Letter was translated into Latin after Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella received it. Several copies were distributed throughout Europe. The Vatican Library received one of these copies in 1921. The U.S. Embassy statement said that in 2011, Homeland Security was contacted by an expert in rare manuscripts who said the letter in the Vatican’s possession was a forgery and was likely used as a replacement in a robbery. The date of the theft is not known. The stolen copy was purchased through a New York book dealer in 2004, although both parties were unaware that the letter had been stolen.

Souvenir Hunter Nabbed by Carabinieri

Rome’s famed Colosseum has suffered countless acts of vandalism over the past 2,000 years, but police were able to thwart the most recent incident when they arrested a 17 year-old Austrian teenager who had pilfered a brick from the enduring structure. The teen had taken the brick as a souvenir while visiting the Roman amphitheater. The brick, from one of the outer columns, was concealed in his backpack. Carabinieri officers intercepted him and he was arrested for unlawful appropriation of cultural assets belonging to the State. It is unclear what will happen to the teenager. In the past, adult tourists have faced fines of several thousand Euros for damaging the Colosseum. The charge of defacing Italy’s cultural heritage or landscape is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Italians Giving Up on Vegan Diets

A newly published study shows that Italians, who have long embraced the healthy benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, are not terribly keen on the vegan way of eating. It is reported that last year, two out of three Italian vegans have given up on the diet and have returned to their meat-eating ways. During the same period, meat consumption in the country was up by 5%. The Italian Anti-Vivisection League (LAV), an animal rights group, immediately whined that the survey was false and that the consumption of vegetable foods was up. Our money is on the carnivores.

When Common Decency Doesn’t Work…

One of the famed Cinque Terre towns on the Italian Riviera is hiring volunteers to protect a clifftop cemetery from misbehaving tourists seeking to enjoy its views. The mayor of the two southernmost villages, Riomaggiore and Manarola, has put out a call for local residents to take turns guarding Manarola’s cemetery to ensure that no one can use the site for picnics, selfies, panoramic photos or other inappropriate and disrespectful activities. The mayor had already ordered the graveyard to be kept locked after losing patience with visitors who are drawn to its scenic location. The location, a rocky outcrop, is adjacent to the coastal path that links five villages perched on the Italian Riviera. While the mayor acknowledges that selfish behavior is not limited to tourists, the Cinque Terre attracts millions of visitors each year, some of whom inevitably forget their sense of decorum when trying to get the perfect shot of one of the most photographed parts of Italy.

The World’s Best Restaurant

Italy’s Osteria Francescana has been crowned the world’s best restaurant for the second time in three years. Run by Chef Massimo Bottura, the restaurant in Modena knocked last year’s winner, New York’s Eleven Madison Park, out of the top spot in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Osteria Francescana regained the top spot, first bestowed in 2016 and is the only Italian establishment to have won the annual accolade. The judges praised Bottura’s contemporary cuisine, which reinvents the culinary tradition of Italy, while makes use of the finest produce from the Emilia-Romagna region. Bottura left the study of law to pursue the culinary arts and opened Osteria Francescana in 1995, after spending time in New York and Monaco. Restaurant magazine launched the awards in 2002 which are now as coveted by restaurants as the famed Michelin stars. The 12 table restaurant is currently booked until October of this year. Dinner with wine runs about $400 per person.

A Toy Story

Very few Romans realize it, but the Eternal City has been sitting on a treasure trove of antique toys for more than a decade. The question is what shall they do with them? The government is now reinitiating a plan for a museum to house the toys. The extensive collection was purchased by the city in 2005 and includes tens of thousands of toys made between 1860 and 1930. Originally the personal property of an Italian collector, many of the pieces were acquired from a European toy museum that closed almost 30 years ago. Rome’s original plan was to establish its own toy museum in the recently renovated cultural center in Villa Ada Savoia, adjacent to Rome’s second largest park in the northeastern part of the city. Unfortunately, those plans fell through and the toys have been sitting in a warehouse for the past seven years. Recently, two major donations have once again ignited talks of finding a space for the toys, which would add to the rich cultural experience that makes Rome one of the world’s crown jewels for destination travels.