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Michaelangelo • FIAT

Michaelangelo • FIAT

Did you know?
The most popular small, mass-produced car for nearly four decades was FIAT’s Cinquecento (500) or affectionately called “Topolino”, little mouse. A vision of FIAT founder’s grandson Gianni Agnelli who believed there was a need for the “people’s car”, the model was produced from 1936 to 1955 and record numbers sold. Other popular 500 versions were built from 1958-1975, 14 models in all. It’s the ultimate small, slow car and perfect for parking anywhere! (Giovanni “Gianni” Agnelli (12 March 1921-24 January 2003) was Vice President of FIAT from 1946-1966 and President for thirty years beginning in 1966. Agnelli was considered one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world; photo below of his creation, the FIAT 500). In 2007 FIAT launched a new 500.

Famous Italian
Michelangelo was born as Michelangelo Di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni on 6 March 1475 in Caprese, Italy. The Renaissance sculptor, architect and painter created masterpieces such as La Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica, the heavenly ceiling at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, including the Creation of Adam, the Statue of David in Firenze, and Moses, all of which are viewed by millions of people every year. He died on 18 February 1564 in Rome. A monument built in his honor in the church of the Santi Apostoli in Roma depicts the master artist in working garb with these words inscribed in Latin: “No praise is sufficient for so great a man.”

New phrase:
L'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle: The love that moves the sun and the other stars. Dante wrote this in “Paradiso” Canto XXXIII-145. Dante and St. Francis were the fathers of the Italian language.

Place to visit
The Eastern Shores of Sicily —Sicilia Est: Taormina, Messina & Ali Terme. “ To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all … The things that enchant you cannot be counted," said Goethe. Sicily is the largest Mediterranean Sea island and is Italy’s biggest region. Sicily is resplendent with orange and lemon trees, ancient Greek ruins and breathtakingly beautiful beaches. There is a lot to explore in the ancient port town of Messina, founded by the Greeks in 756 BC. The port city was used as a departure for European knights en route to the Crusades and Richard the Lionheart, Henry VI and King Phillip II of France all spent time there. You can drive from there to Taormina in less than an hour. En route from Messina to Taormina you can discover a unique experience far from the typical tour group sees. Stop in Ali’ Terme for some of the island’s best granita (iced coffee) and pastries at Todaro Pasticceria Bar Gelateria. Piazza Nino Prestia 22, Ali Terme, ME Messina 98021.  The Piazza Nino Prestia, is one of the town’s main gathering places where you’ll find the delectable homemade gelati, granita (iced with coffee, lemon or berries and served with a brioche—round pastry with a cupola) and coffees. Walk by the sea and enjoy the view over to Reggio Calabria. In addition, their main pastry store is located around the corner on Via Francesco Crispi where since 1967 they have catered to locals with their mouthwatering cakes, cookies, torroncino (Chocolate-covered caramels with almonds.) Taormina has been dubbed one of the most beautiful resorts in the world and was one of Winston Churchill’s favorite vacation spots. D.H. Lawrence was inspired to write “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” in Taormina. Stroll the romantic and medieval Corso Umberto, view spectacular Mt. Etna (live volcano pictured to the right), visit Castelmola above Taormina, tour the Greek amphitheater built by the Romans in 300 B.C. and dine in Taormina at A’Zamarra, (Via Fratelli Bandiera 15 (off Corso Umberto; owner Giuseppe Vinciguera) Taormina Tel. 0942/24408) or La Griglia, Corso Umberto 54 (Michelin two forks. Owners Giorgio and Angela Intelisano) Taormina Tel. 0942.23980.

Hotel Villa Diodoro **** All the hoopla about this grand hotel built in 1898 is well deserved. The Villa Diodoro is the right place if you enjoy the finer pleasures of life with stunning views of Mount Etna and the Bay of Naxos. Enjoy a walk in their lush Mediterranean garden. Highly recommended dining room with some of the best, traditional Sicilian specialties in Taormina. Reasonably priced for a four star property with well-appointed rooms—most with views of the sea and pool. Stroll through the beautiful Villa Comunale Duca Colona Cesaro Gardens adjacent to the hotel and then to the path that leads to Taormina’s charming town center. Carmelo LoGiudice and his staff provide a high degree of pampering for their guests. Michelin recommended. Via Bagnoli Croci 75 - 98039 Taormina, ME Messina, Sicily Italy Tel.: 39 0942 23312 - Fax: 39 0942 23391 E-mail:

Donnafugata. This celebrated cellar located in Marsala, Sicily is made famous by Giocomo Rallo and his children Antonio and Josè. The golden period for Sicilian winemaking saw 15 wines step up to three glass awards given by Gambero Rosso in 2004. Donnafugata’s Milleunanotte is one of them. Tenuta di Donnafugata is one of the most prestigious estates in Sicilia and one of the best-established Italian wine names internationally.

  • Edmund Murray, in “I Was Churchill’s Bodyguard”, pages 196-197, records a visit to Taormina, Sicily in 1953: "Finally it was all arranged and Sir Winston and his party arrived at Taormina, in the shade of Mount Etna, the very next day, to find that he was the target of attention for an even larger than usual army of photographers and Pressmen. Tourists also turned out in great numbers whenever he emerged from, or returned to, the hotel, so that keeping an eye on his security became an almost bigger problem than it had been when he was Prime Minister."   British Admiralty documents record that Churchill "steamed round Taormina Bay" as First Lord of the Admiralty on 27 May 1912. General Montgomery used Taormina as his headquarters during the Italian campaign in World War II.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt mentions Taormina in a 9 December 1944 letter to Prime Minister Winston Churchill concerning their upcoming meeting with Stalin: "I think I can leave after Inauguration Day. I hoped that Uncle Joe could come to Rome or Malta or Taormina or Egypt, but if he will not - and insists on the Black Sea – I could do it even at great difficulty on account of Congress."
  • Sir Winston Churchill: The Churchill Centre: If you are a Winston Churchill fan, consider joining The Churchill Centre as a member. The mission is to impress Churchill's wisdom and relevance firmly on future generations and they have a good time doing it. As a member you will enjoy the award winning quarterly, FINEST HOUR, periodic CHARTWELL BULLETIN, 100% access to material on their website , local, national and international, events in five countries, and discounted books and memorabilia. Telephone toll free: 888-WSC-1874 during business hours weekdays eastern time or use the membership application on our website.

Italy Heralded by Mauro Battocchi, former Consul General for Italy in San Francisco:
Modigliani Rises as Titan of the Art World


Let's give praise to another artist with a name that begins with "m", a more modern one named Modigliani. Twenty years ago, the painter, sculptor and draftsman, Amedeo Modigliani, didn’t raise many eyebrows in the rarified circles of international fine art dealers. Today, a single Modigliani painting can fetch upward of 70 million dollars, as did his 1917 portrait entitled, “Nude Sitting on a Divan (The Beautiful Roman Woman)”. And a Modigliani sculpture can command upward of 60 million dollars, as did his 1910 “Tete”. In short, Livorno native Modigliani created some of the most highly valued art on the planet.

Theories abound regarding his recent prominence in the world of high art. Perhaps it was the two biographies published in the last decade about the tortured artist. Or maybe it was the 2004 movie Modigliani, starring Andy Garcia, that catalogues a bitter rivalry with Pablo Picasso, which some art historians dispute ever existed in the first place. Or could it be the flurry of exhibitions which have zipped around the globe in the last ten years showing off his work? Or perhaps, it’s the central importance of a Modigliani painting in the most recent James Bond film. (Amazingly, the painting that the film presents as stolen contraband was actually stolen in Paris two years ago. Way to go fact checkers for James Bond!)

It’s most likely that, as with many visionaries, Modigliani’s genius is just finally becoming appreciated by the world at large. Like a potent tea steeped in the collective human consciousness, the brilliance of Modigliani has at last taken on its true color – a desirable splash of bold tones that is coveted worldwide.

Modigliani owes much of his artistic formation to the bustling art scene in Montparnasse, Paris of the early twentieth century. Rarely has there been such a confluence of great artists in one place. On a given afternoon you could have Picasso, Mondrian, Matisse, Rivera and Modigliani all gathered at the Café du Dôme for afternoon pastis. European art, at that time, was breaking free of its bonds to national traditions and was searching for a more universal and distilled aesthetic. What we now call “Modern Art” was really the result of the first truly international art tradition. And the epicenter was Montparnasse.

Besides influencing each other, the great artists of Montparnasse were also influenced by an influx of African art. Modigliani, especially, seemed to find inspiration in the elongated and contorted forms that dotted the African art landscape. For example, look how the elongated face in this portrait of Paul Alexandre may have been influenced by masks from Gabon. (These very masks were on display in Paris at the time.)

Modigliani also likely drew inspiration from Southeast Asian art. Here he sketches a figure in the tradition of the Greek Caryatid, but gives the face elements reminiscent of a Khmer Head.

Long necks, elongated noses, skewed facial structure…these artistic devices underpin the exoticism and mystery that are inherent in Modigliani’s works. And let’s not forget about his sculptures, of which only 28 are known to exist and are often rough and unfinished looking, much like some of Michelangelo’s stonework. Modigliani’s hometown of Livorno is actually only a stone’s throw from the famed marble town of Carrara, from where the great Renaissance master procured much of his stone.

Legend in Livorno is that Modigliani once threw unwanted sculptures out his apartment window and into the abutting canal. On the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1984, the inhabitants of Livorno decided to trawl the canal in search of the lost sculptures. They found several, which were swiftly authenticated by a prominent art historian in Rome. The ecstatic mood over the discovery was squelched by a group of students who came forward and announced that they had, in fact, made all the statues in the preceding months with Black and Decker tools.

An art official in Rome got fired. Black and Decker started a new ad campaign. “Good enough to make a Modigliani.” Cute. But in the end, Modigliani’s work is a truly unique gift from a devoted Italian artist…a gift to our collective human appreciation of the power of fine art.

Dante Alighieri • Sassicaia

Dante Alighieri • Sassicaia

Giuseppe Garibaldi • Bellagio

Giuseppe Garibaldi • Bellagio