20 REA­SONS TO LOVE ITALY

No one needs an ex­cuse to head to Italy… but here are 20 good ones!

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT #225 - Fea­ture By Xav Judd Im­ages of Alex Marte by Roberto Chiovitti

1. CAR­AVAG­GIO

Ac­cord­ing to 20th Cen­tury cul­tural his­to­rian An­dré BerneJof­froy, “What be­gins in the work of Car­avag­gio is, quite sim­ply, mod­ern paint­ing.”

He was born in 1571 in Mi­lan, where he learned his craft as a painter. He was hy­per­sen­si­tive, fiery, trou­bled and ho­mo­sex­ual in a time when it was outré. After be­ing in­volved in a brawl he was charged with mur­der. He fled, and was even­tu­ally pre­sumed to have been killed circa 1610.

His oeu­vre was dra­matic, too, pi­o­neer­ing the chiaroscuro tech­nique – a sig­nif­i­cant tonal con­trast be­tween light and dark. The re­sult, ev­i­dent in such breath­tak­ing paint­ings as Bac­chus and Sleep­ing Cupid, is an ul­tra-re­al­is­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the sub­jects’ phys­i­cal and emo­tional states.

2. STUN­NING COASTS

To ex­pe­ri­ence la dolce vita in Italy, head to the coast. There’s the golden or snow-white sands and lush veg­e­ta­tion of the beaches of Sar­dinia; the is­land­haven of Capri in the Tyrrhe­nian Sea with its wa­ter­front houses and va­ri­ety of fas­ci­nat­ing fauna – blue lizards, cut­tle­fish, pere­grine fal­cons; or the Un­esco World Her­itage-listed Amalfi Coast, a par­adise of quaint towns and vil­lages perched on cliffs, over­look­ing the dizzy­ing turquoise of the Mediter­ranean.

3. PIER PA­SOLINI

Hail­ing from Bologna, Pa­solini is re­mem­bered as a ground­break­ing film direc­tor but was also a dis­tin­guished jour­nal­ist, nov­el­ist, poet and in­tel­lec­tual.

His ear­li­est films fol­lowed a neo-re­al­ist style be­fore he de­vel­oped a more per­sonal, ex­pres­sion­is­tic aes­thetic. Some of this cin­e­matic trade­marks in­cluded hand­held cam­era, the use of nat­u­ral light­ing and non­pro­fes­sional ac­tors.

Dur­ing his life­time he was re­garded as a con­tentious fig­ure; an openly gay man with Com­mu­nist lean­ings who tack­led taboo sub­jects. Ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity fea­tures in Te­o­rema (1968), Ara­bian Nights (1974), Salò, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom (1975).

Salò was re­leased three weeks after Pa­solini’s mur­der. While there’s still con­jec­ture about who was re­spon­si­ble for the bru­tal crime, Giuseppe Pelosi was con­victed. De­pict­ing sex­ual vi­o­lence, tor­ture and rit­ual mur­der (metaphors for Fas­cism), Salò re­mains a con­tro­ver­sial film to this day, banned and cen­sored in many coun­tries.

4. ALESSI

When Gio­vanni Alessi es­tab­lished his com­pany in Valle Strona (the Ital­ian Alps) in the 1920s it man­u­fac­tured kitchen uten­sils from chromium, sil­ver­plated brass and nickel.

Since then, the brand has evolved, pi­o­neer­ing the use of plas­tics and resins as house­hold ma­te­ri­als and col­lab­o­rat­ing with a plethora of ac­claimed de­sign­ers in­clud­ing Frank Gehry, Zaha Ha­did, Joseph Hoff­man and Philippe Starck to be­come a col­lectable Ital­ian de­sign brand. Alessi strives to cre­ate high­qual­ity, mass-pro­duced items that com­bine cul­tural aes­thet­ics with func­tion­al­ity.

5. FLO­RENCE

While vis­it­ing Flo­rence (Fiorenza) in 1817, French au­thor Stend­hal was so over­whelmed by the city that he ex­pe­ri­enced a rapid heart­beat, gid­di­ness, hal­lu­ci­na­tions and faint­ing! These symp­toms are to­day called Stend­hal Syn­drome – which oc­curs when an in­di­vid­ual is con­fronted with such sub­lime mag­nif­i­cence it plays havoc with their senses! When it comes to grandiose splen­dour, this city has it all: im­pres­sive palaces and churches, such as the Mid­dle Ages-con­structed Cat­te­drale di Santa Maria del Fiore; one of the most iconic bridges on the planet, the me­dieval stone Ponte Vec­chio; and mu­se­ums such as Gal­le­ria degli Uf­fizi, which houses a hand­ful of Bot­ti­celli’s mas­ter­pieces (Pri­mav­era and The Birth Of Venus) and the Ac­cademia Gallery. In­side is Michelan­gelo’s five-me­tre mar­ble sculp­ture of David (circa 1501-1504); de­pict­ing the in­trepid Bib­li­cal hero be­fore he fought Go­liath; it is surely the great­est in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the naked male form that’s ever ex­isted.

6. DANTE’S VI­SIONS

What’s your worst night­mare? Trump be­ing re-elected? Miss­ing Drag Race? Well, Dante Alighieri’s vi­sion of hell, as de­scribed in his mag­num opus, The Di­vine Com­edy, in­volved be­ing lost in a dark wood while as­sailed by three beasts (rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a trio of sins). This long nar­ra­tive poem – over 14,000 lines – comes in three parts: In­ferno, Pur­ga­to­rio and Par­adiso.

Born in Flo­rence in the 13th Cen­tury he was a sol­dier, phar­ma­cist and politi­cian at var­i­ous times. The Di­vine Com­edy was writ­ten in the com­mon tongue – con­sid­ered rev­o­lu­tion­ary at the time. It be­came a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on Ital­ian lit­er­a­ture and the im­agery evoked on its pages in­spired many artists.

7. THE OPERA

This grand­est of art forms was in­vented by Ja­copo Peri in Flo­rence around 1597 when, in an at­tempt to re­vive the Greek tragedy, he penned Dafne.

By and large, a per­for­mance in­volves singers and mu­si­cians en­act­ing a dra­matic work that’s an in­te­gra­tion of a text (li­bretto) and mu­si­cal score in a the­atri­cal set­ting. Some no­table Ital­ian com­posers are Mon­teverdi, Puc­cini, Rossini, Vi­valdi and Mozart’s al­leged neme­sis, Salieri. These lung-bust­ing ex­trav­a­gan­zas are a live mu­sic must-see and a step back in time.

8. THE JACUZZI BROTHERS

It’s hot, steamy and full of fun (if it’s full of men).

The Jacuzzi com­pany was founded by seven brothers (Gi­a­condo, Giuseppe, Francesco, Rachele, Va­le­ri­ano, Gelindo and Can­dido) in 1915 to man­u­fac­ture wooden pro­pel­lers for the avi­a­tion in­dus­try. When this plan didn’t take off, they changed tack and in­vented baths with hot hy­drother­apy jets.

9. HIGH FASH­ION

Italy’s roll call of in­no­va­tive fash­ion houses with in­es­timable flair in­cludes Ver­sace, Ar­mani, Moschino, Ice­berg, Mis­soni, Prada, Valentino and Fer­agg­amo.

Dolce and Gab­bana (Domenico and Ste­fano), who started their lux­ury brand in 1985, have also made a gi­gan­tic splash in this so­phis­ti­cated mi­lieu. How­ever, the pair, who were an item for decades, have courted con­tro­versy by crit­i­cis­ing in­vitro fer­til­i­sa­tion and sur­ro­gacy declar­ing: “We op­pose gay adop­tions. The only fam­ily is the tra­di­tional one.”

10. GE­LATO

In 1686, a Si­cil­ian fish­er­man, Francesco Pro­co­pio dei Coltelli cre­ated a ma­chine that pro­duced this de­lec­ta­ble sub­stance, which is a mix­ture of cream, milk, su­gar, and fruit and nut purees.

What makes it yum­mier than sim­i­lar desserts in other parts of the world is that, gen­er­ally, it has less air in it, giv­ing it ad­di­tional flavour­ing.

Ge­lato (mean­ing frozen) is so pop­u­lar in Italy that there are an es­ti­mated 19,000 par­lours na­tion­wide. If you were brought up on vanilla, en­joy the broader flavour sen­sa­tions of amarena, cocco, pesca and panna.

11. THE SEXY LAN­GUAGE

Ital­ian is a Ro­mance lan­guage that evolved from Vul­gar Latin and has a lilt­ing, rhyth­mic flow that pro­duces round, fruity, sen­sual sounds. For ex­am­ple, ex­pres­sions such as sei bel­lis­simo (you are beau­ti­ful); dammi un ba­cio (give me a kiss); and potrei guardarti tutto il giorno (I could look at you all day) can make one weak at the knees.

12. GNOC­CHI

The Ital­ians are not fa­mous for their small, squidgy balls – but maybe they should be! These tasty morsels are soft dough dumplings, rolled out and cut into cork-sized pieces. They can be made from bread­crumbs or potato or semolina or wheat flour. Thought to be Mid­dle Eastern in ori­gin, brought back by Ro­man le­gions dur­ing their ex­pan­sions, tra­di­tion­ally, gnoc­chi is served as a first course al­ter­na­tive to pasta.

13. PORN STARS

The thing about porn is that if the money shot is not on the money, you feel short-changed. Never fear, you’re in safe hands with Italo-studs! Per­haps it’s their long cul­tural his­tory of naked male flesh in art, their nat­u­ral ca­pac­ity as per­form­ers or sim­ply their mas­cu­line beauty. Search Francesco D’Ma­cho, Alex Marte (pic­tured) and Carlo Masi for starters.

15. LEONARDO DA VINCI

It’s no sur­prise that da Vinci once stated, “Learn­ing never ex­hausts the mind.” There’s rarely been a per­son who has utilised their in­tel­lect more. Born in 1452 in Flo­rence, the il­le­git­i­mate son of a no­tary, it seems there was no sub­ject this phe­nom­e­nal poly­math could not turn his at­ten­tion to: ar­chi­tec­ture, anatomy, car­tog­ra­phy, en­gi­neer­ing, mu­sic, writ­ing, the list goes on.

Not much is known about his early life other than that he spent some years as the artist Ver­roc­chio’s ap­pren­tice. It proved to be the ideal ground­ing as he went on to con­cep­tu­alise the he­li­copter, the para­chute and mil­i­tary tank.

Then there are the glo­ri­ous paint­ings: Lady With An Er­mine, and her of the in­scrutable smile, The Mona Lisa.

Of course, Leonardo was gay. In 1476 he was ac­cused of sodomy which, in Re­nais­sance Flo­rence, was pun­ish­able by death. He fled to Mi­lan where he com­pleted The Last Sup­per and in­vented a new form of fresco paint­ing.

A boy nick­named “Salai” (the Devil) was part of Leonard’s house­hold for many years. He was de­scribed as a liar and a thief but was nev­er­the­less kept on as a ser­vant and model. He posed for Leonardo’s Bac­chus and John The Bap­tist. Among Leonardo’s sketches is a pic­tured cap­tioned Salai’s Bum with erec­tions on legs run­ning to­wards it. It is thought, how­ever, that these sketches were drawn by Salai him­self, not Leonardo. But it does sug­gest an in­ti­macy be­tween them. Salai in­her­ited The Mona Lisa on Leonard’s death.

14. GIALLO

A bat­tered corpse that’s been dis­patched with a ra­zor blade or some other sharp in­stru­ment; some sexy, blood-soaked lin­gerie; pos­si­bly even signs of tor­ture, yet no im­me­di­ate sus­pect.

These are just a few of the el­e­ments to ex­pect in this genre of Ital­ian-pro­duced, mur­der mys­tery/hor­ror thriller film. Giallo lit­er­ally means yel­low; the name de­rives from a series of cheap pa­per­back who­dunits with yel­low cov­ers that were all the rage in the 1950s and ’60s. Movie-wise, the peak was the ’70s when di­rec­tors like Dario Ar­gento, Mario Bava and Lu­cio Fulci took de­light in cram­ming their gorefests with eroti­cism, kitsch, the su­per­nat­u­ral

16. SOPHIA LOREN

“Sex ap­peal is fifty per cent what you’ve got and fifty per cent what peo­ple think you’ve got,” Loren once said.

Now 83, the ac­tress re­mains enig­matic. Born in Rome in 1934, her cel­lu­loid ca­reer started in the 1950s with mi­nor roles in Quo Vadis (1951), Era lui... sì! sì! (1951) and Girls Marked Dan­ger (1953), among oth­ers. Hol­ly­wood star­dom beck­oned later in the decade cour­tesy of a con­tract with Paramount Pic­tures.

Her brood­ing beauty, ab­sorb­ing per­for­mances, nu­anced ar­dour and fault­less tim­ing in sev­eral ro­man­tic come­dies helped Loren take home a cou­ple of Os­cars – for Two Women (1962) and Mar­riage Ital­ian Style (1964).

17. CINQUECENTO (FIAT 500)

Tod­dlers, Padding­ton Bear and koalas are meant to be cute, but so is this two-door marvel. Built by that pow­er­house of Ital­ian man­u­fac­tur­ing, Fiat be­tween 1957 and 1975, these lit­tle mae­stros (2.97 me­tres in length) were en­vis­aged as cheap, prac­ti­cal about-town mo­tors.

Orig­i­nally with just a 479cc twocylin­der, air-cooled rear en­gine, don’t ex­pect this lit­tle baby to be bomb­ing along the au­tostrada any­time soon – its top speed is just

105km/h.

Not to be con­fused with the Fiat

126 (the Bam­bino) or the ear­lier model, the Topolino (Mickey Mouse in Ital­ian); and not as a sexy as Italy’s other fa­mous brands, Fer­rari, Maserati and Lam­borgh­ini – but 100 times cuter!

18. RO­MAN RU­INS

Along with Greece, Italy of­fers a unique win­dow into An­cient civil­i­sa­tion. When the Ro­man Em­pire fi­nally dis­in­te­grated, it left be­hind a skele­ton of ar­chaic build­ings and mon­u­ments. These in­clude the im­mac­u­lately pre­served tem­ple of all tem­ples (and still in use as a church) Pan­theon; the Colos­seum, the brick-faced am­phithe­atre where glad­i­a­tors spilt the most vi­tal of flu­ids; Pom­peii, an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site like no other, buried un­der 5 me­tres of ash and pu­mice when Mount Ve­su­vius erupted in AD79, but re­dis­cov­ered in the 1500s; and Em­peror Hadrian’s villa out­side Tivoli with its ex­quis­ite gar­dens, pools and arte­facts in­clud­ing a mar­ble statue of his de­i­fied lover, Anti­nous.

19. CAL­CIO (SOC­CER)

Sturdy thighs, tight shorts, sweaty bod­ies and wads of petroleum jelly. Sounds like the ul­ti­mate gay fan­tasy and, well, it kinda is… it’s Ital­ian soc­cer.

The Ital­ians ex­cel at the beau­ti­ful game, il bel gioco. The na­tional team, the Az­zurri have made it to four World Cup fi­nals (a record only bet­tered by Brazil), and the coun­try has turned out count­less win­ners of the var­i­ous elite Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tions – the UEFA Cham­pi­ons and Europa Leagues, etc.

Leg­endary play­ers in­clude Roberto Bag­gio, Paolo Mal­dini, Paolo Rossi and Dino Zoff.

20. PRIMO LEVI

No mat­ter how of­ten we read about it or see im­ages from it, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for most of us to imag­ine the hor­rors of the Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps. Ital­ian Jew, Primo Levi (pic­tured) de­tailed his in­tern­ment in Auschwitz from Fe­bru­ary 1944 to Jan­uary 1945 in nu­mer­ous writ­ings: the books If This Is A Man (1947), The Truce (1963), and Mo­ments Of Re­prieve (1981); and the es­say The Drowned And The Saved (1985).

Born in Turin in 1919 and trained as a chemist, he was de­ported to Auschwitz at age 24. He sur­vived the Holo­caust but, sadly, died of sus­pected sui­cide in 1987, per­haps still trau­ma­tised by his ex­pe­ri­ences. The Guardian said, “His mov­ing mem­oir of Auschwitz is one of the great books of the 20th Cen­tury.”

De­spite his books and nu­mer­ous in­ter­views, lit­tle is known of him. Bi­og­ra­pher Ca­role Angier ob­served, “The man who loved and spoke to the whole of hu­man­ity found pri­vate, emo­tional life im­pos­si­bly hard.”

Car­avag­gio’s Boy With A Bas­ket Of Fruit.The Amalfi coast.Pa­solini di­rects a scene from Salò.Alessi’s fa­mous egg cup.

Michelan­gelo’s David at the Ac­cademia Gallery.

Ver­sace Menswear on the run­way.

Salai, de­picted by Leonardo as Bac­chus.

Sophia Loren in Mar­riage Ital­ian Style, 1964.

Alex Marte soaps up his Cin­qu­cento.

Stat­ues of Anti­nous are still pop­u­lar to­day.

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