HAPPY WOMENS DAY!
We would like to honour Elena Cornaro Piscopia (1646 -1684) a Venetian mathematician and the first woman in the world to be officially awarded a university degree. She graduated from Padua university in 1678.
By the way, Italy is marking International Women's Day on March 8 by offering free admission to all state-owned museums and cultural centers. And making the free admission in celebration of women that much sweeter? The fact that many of these very museums have special exhibits or programs to further celebrate women and their roles in art throughout history.
The country has also launched a social media campaign through the @MuseItaliani Instagram account, the official account of Italy's state-run museums, with the hashtag #8marzoalmuseo, or "March 8 at the museum," to tell the stories of Italian women—"saints and prostitutes, goddesses and commoners, intellectuals and artists, actresses and martyrs, writers and poets, mothers, Madonnas and revolutionaries"—who achieved prominence in Italian history through their role in fostering and contributing to the arts in Italy. (more…)
FIERA DEL CIOCCOLATO in Florence on Feb 10-19
All you need is love. But a bit of chocolate every once and awhile doesn’t hurt:
Just in time for Saint Valentine’s Day, Florence offers the sweet and bitter flavours of chocolate in all of its splendor. Don’t miss out on cooking shows and parties or simply take the afternoon to stroll the stands which feature artisan chocolate crafters from all over Italy.
The Fiera Del Cioccolato Artigianale is an annual artisan chocolate fair held in February in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella in Florence with its beautiful thirteenth-century basilica.
Started in 2005, it lasts for ten days and draws top Italian chocolatiers and internationally renowned chocolate producers to Florence to exhibit their products. The festival features everything from guided chocolate tastings to seminars on cooking and eating chocolate to games and activities geared toward children and centered on chocolate. (more…)
Celebrate Christmas like an Italian:
Christmas in Italy is a magical experience, and there are a few unique traditions you won't find in other countries. If you're hoping to have a truly Italian Christmas, make sure to incorporate at least some of the following.
1. Get the dates right
The Italian festive season starts on December 8th with the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, and continues until the Epithany on January 6th, when the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem. The most important date of the celebrations is Christmas Eve.
2. Know your Novena
The nine-day period before Christmas, known as the Novena, is when we remember the journey of the shepherds to the baby Jesus' manger. In rural areas in particular, children go from house to house dressed as shepherds and performing Christmas songs or poems, often in exchange for money or sweets.
3. Prepare the presepe
The tradition of presepi, or Christmas cribs, is widespread in Italy. Most churches, as well as other public areas and many Italian homes, will have at least one nativity scene on display. Styles vary and may depict just the holy family or a whole village, but the baby Jesus is usually added only on Christmas Eve. Sometimes, contemporary characters (such as ex-PM Renzi or Italian footballers) are included too.
4. Festive Francis
In Rome, crowds gather in St Peter's Square for the Pope's evening mass on Christmas Eve, and at noon on Christmas Day, he appears at the basilica's balcony to give his blessing. He'll also be the one to add the baby Jesus to the Vatican's life-size nativity on the 24th.
5. A feast of fish
Christmas Eve was traditionally a day of fasting before Christmas for Catholics, with festivities starting only after the evening mass. This is still observed in some families, and the evening meal, known as the 'Feast of Seven Fishes', is usually based on seafood rather than meat. Clams and oysters are often used as they are seen as luxurious.
6. Religious roots
Italian Christmas celebrations are still very much based on their religious roots. At midnight on Christmas Eve, churches ring their bells and cannons are fired from Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. If you're interested, there will be plenty of Christmassy services and carol concerts at your local church, and they are beautiful to watch even for the non-religious.
7. The big dinner
On Christmas Day, the food that makes up the Cenone (literally meaning 'big dinner') varies from region to region, but meat is normally back on the menu, often accompanied by pasta. The meal is followed by panettone, a sweet bread loaf originating from Milan, and other desserts filled with nuts, which were historically a symbol of fertility for the coming year.