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The mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori, has been in the frontline during Italy’s coronavirus crisis. At first, he underestimated the threat from the virus, and when the corona really broke loose, he had a hard time explaining to both his fellow citizens and the Rome politicians how serious the situation actually was. "I have never experienced death at such a close range,” he says.

PRIMO Exclusive
Ground Zero for the Coronavirus Catastrophe in Italy was Bergamo
A look back at the ravages of the pandemic; what went right and what went wrong in one of Italy’s most historic and beautiful cities

Text: Jesper Storgaard Jensen – Photo: Municipality of Bergamo

  "When the coronavirus raged in Bergamo in March this year, one could read in the Italian newspapers that the city's hospitals were under extreme pressure, and that there were almost no more available beds for the infected. This, however, was not the truth. Not only were we pushed to the extreme. We were actually pushed far beyond our maximum capacity. Actually so much that we were forced to reject patients”.
   Although it’s been half a year since the dramatic events in Bergamo, one can hear in Giorgio Gori's voice that these mental images are still standing strong in his mind. His replies to questions about these dramatic days are not at all routine. It is quite clear that these events have marked him. And in the beginning the phenomenon was really hard to understand.
“When people ask me ‘how did you experience all this in the beginning?’, I reply that ‘I experienced it as someone who was certainly unprepared and who quickly had to update his awareness’. From day to day I understood a little more. I realized that the whole situation was much more serious than what I initially thought,” he says.
   Throughout the corona rage in Italy, especially during springtime, a lot of discussions about figures went on. Did this also happen in Bergamo?
  "Well, actually yes. The official figures say that the city of Bergamo has had some 300 covid victims. But the real number is probably around 670. Many died before a test was done. And many died at home. So those people do not appear in the official statistics,” Gori says.
   If you take Bergamo's surrounding municipalities into account, this number will rise to as many as 6,000 coronavirus victims. And that’s when you consider an area of only approximately 1.1 million inhabitants.
   “Bergamo city and its province-areas probably constitute the area in the world that has been hardest hit by coronavirus, including New York and Wuhan in China,” says Gori.
He says that everyone had underestimated the virus in the beginning. "You could say that we have all failed, including myself. We had no knowledge of this phenomenon and its intensity. We politicians listened to the doctors and the experts, and they too disagreed. So there was really a lot of confusion in the first time.”
   At the beginning of the virus outbreak, Bergamo’s authorities tried to tell people to be careful. If they were, they could go out to do their shopping and continue their lives just as before. The aim, of course, was to avoid a total lockdown of economic activities in an area that is one of the most active in Italy - home to thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises.
  "We were definitely not careful enough. However, I'm pretty sure that a psychological mechanism is activated, when we face disaster. It says: 'All this cannot possibly happen to us, and if it does, it will be in a much milder form,’” says Gori.
   Unfortunately, as we all know, it went differently. The disaster occurred. The virus began to rage, and at some point in March, Bergamo’s hospitals could not accept more patients. They were simply rejected. "It was, to put it mildly, a scary situation,” says Gori.

The red zone that was missing
   The first infected Italian came from Codogno, not far from Bergamo. The infection soon spread to the neighboring town of Alzano, and the two small towns, Alzano and Codogno, were quickly turned into red zones. They were shut down and all entry and exit were banned. The same plan was ready for Bergamo when the virus also started raging here. But the red zone was not established, and disaster happened. But why wasn’t the red zone established in Bergamo?
  "When we first realized how fast the infection spread, I actually recommended the government to turn Bergamo into a red zone. But it did not happen, and to this day I actually do not know why,” he says.
   The fact that Bergamo was not made a red zone has given rise to much controversy in Italy. Confindustria Bergamo (corresponding to Bergamo’s Chamber of Commerce, ed.) launched the slogan "Bergamo does not stop.” What's worse, the organization allegedly carried out a very aggressive lobbying campaign to thwart government plans to turn Bergamo into a red zone. This has been illustrated in the Italian TV-program "Report,” which is known for its accusatory and in-depth journalism. Subsequently, lawyer Luca Fusco founded the association “Noi Denunceremo” (We will accuse, ed.) in an attempt to find out why the red zone was not established in order to save lives. The association has a Facebook page with more than 66,000 followers, and approx. 600 of the association's members have filed a lawsuit against the region of Lombardy, where Bergamo is located.
   “Virtually all families in Bergamo are marked by corona. I myself have lost my father. We do not want financial compensation. We want to find the political responsibility for not turning Bergamo into a red zone. It could have saved many lives,” says Fusco to PRIMO Magazine.
   Gori confirms that pretty much everyone in Bergamo is either directly or indirectly affected by corona. "It also applies to myself. I have also lost people in my close family. I would probably say, that I have never experienced death at such a close range as I did last spring,” he says.

When God is mysterious
   It is clear that Gori has been - and is - emotionally involved. Both as a mayor and as a private person. I ask him if he is a believer, and if the faith has helped him through the difficult period in the spring: “Yes, I am a devout Catholic, and I also practice my faith. Faith has certainly helped me to resist. I have often prayed for people I knew, who were infected with the virus. At the same time, I must add: I think it is very human to ask oneself why God allows all this? Why all the pain? In such a case, I perceive God as very mysterious,” he says.
   At a certain point the discussion about the virus took a turn in Italy. After an initial emphasis on the disease and all the health dangers, you then started to focus on the economic difficulties.
   “The epidemic, as we all know, has serious consequences on our overall economic situation. Not only in Italy but also elsewhere. I fear that there may even be a retreat of environmental values due to the fact that the focus is now on more material values. Today, after all this, people care less about air pollution or other environmental questions. Today, the basics are important – maintaining or finding work, salaries, the possibility of feeding your family. This, unfortunately, is a side effect of the coronavirus,” Gori says.
   Have these months and the overall experiences after the corona storm in the spring given him a reason to make a more existential reflection?
   "Yes, for sure. In general, we humans feel like masters of our own lives. We often regard science as an infallible instrument in relation to nature. You could say that we feel invincible. And all of a sudden something called corona appears. It makes us understand that we humans are, as a matter of fact, incredibly vulnerable. We are small. With corona, nature has simply put the relationship of power between man and nature into a very clear perspective,” says Gori.
   Part of the story about the virus storm in Bergamo is also the famous photo of military trucks driving away with hundred of Bergamo’s citizens that died from the virus. A photo that went around the world.
  "That photo hit us all hard. Me too. It was a photo with an incredibly emotional message, which perfectly illustrated what we had tried to explain to the world in words. It showed how serious the situation in Bergamo actually was, at the time. It may sound strange, but today I am actually grateful for the photo, which was taken by a Ryanair-steward from the balcony of his home. Because it helped us to tell the story of our dramatic situation, both abroad and to the government in Rome,” says Gori.
   Half a year has passed since the dramatic events. What kind of city is Bergamo today?
   "Bergamo is definitely a city that still licks its wounds. We have been down and now we have to show the world, that we are able to get up again. What has happened is impossible to forget. But Bergamo is a city carried forward by a rooted work culture. That culture is deep within us, and it will especially be the one that will carry us through the crisis and make us look ahead,” Gori concludes.

Who is Giorgio Gori?
   Born in 1960 and trained as an architect from the Polytechnic Institute in Milan.
   In his youth, he was politically active on the pro-reform left.
   In 1980, he starts working at the TV-station Rete4. He later founded the company Magnolia, which produces TV-shows and formats for a number of Italian TV-channels.
In 2012, he re-entered politics and became a member of the Italian Social Democrats. In 2014 he was elected as Bergamo's mayor and in 2019 he was reconfirmed mayor for the second time.
   Privately, he is married to TV-host Cristina Parodi, with whom he has two daughters and a son.







Covid Chronicles
Illegal Immigrants, Mostly from the Balkans, Flood into Italy
- Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Tests Positive for Coronavirus
- The Birth of the Virgin Mary is Celebrated in Florence
- A Ferrari Festival Convenes in Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

Week 17 has come and gone and we are into Week 18 of partial lockdown in Florence.

School began for many pupils on 14th September. There was a chronic shortage, it was estimated, of well over 80,000 teachers. This number included teachers for special-needs students who, in most cases, because of this were unable to return to school on Monday with their friends. Some students were lucky because the teachers and parents had often worked up to the 11th hour getting the classrooms ready, often paying out of their own pockets to paint and sanitize the rooms. Many still lacked the individual desks (on wheels – a mystery why it was so necessary that they be on wheels?) promised by Minister of Education Lucia Azzolini, of the 5 Star Movement, a minister much contested by the opposition. Distancing on public transport remains a problem because of the peak-hour crush; despite the number of services being increased. Some schools lacked sufficient classrooms and students convened with teachers in gymnasiums, courtyards, marquees and even in churches and theaters, including the historic Pergola theater here in Florence. Yesterday, a taxi driver told me the class of his 16-year-old daughter, who attends a classical high school, has been split in two. One day is in the classroom the next day is distance learning from home. He was not a happy man.

Silvio Berlusconi, former Italian prime inister and leader of the Forza Italia party, was admitted to hospital in Milan after being diagnosed with the coronavirus on 3rd September. Two of his children also tested positive and are quarantining at home. They were all infected at an event on the Isle of Capri. He was discharged in good form on 14th September, in time to continue the electoral campaign for elections within some regional and city administrations, like Florence, next weekend.

Between mid-September and the end of the month, many companies and other individuals will have to make up to 270 payments to the Italian Inland Revenue Agency. Only 13 of these payments, many of which involve complicated procedures to complete, have been suspended owing to the pandemic. And they call this "simplification!" Road freight transporters are also alarmed as they fear an additional tax will be imposed on diesel fuel, although a final decision has yet to be made. Such a tax was the fuse that led to the explosion of the “yellow vests” movement in France.

About illegal immigrants, they continue to arrive in droves. A newspaper remarked a few days ago that the government managed to shut down the discotheques but seems incapable of closing the ports. But the ports are not the only problem. In Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the city of Udine has had a 300 percent increase in the arrival of illegal immigrants from the Balkans who declare they are underage when they arrive in Italy. The question is how many of them are actually minors? Many are strongly suspected of being over 25 years old. They declare they are under 18, so they will not be refused entry into the country or have to undergo medical tests like swabbing. To encourage this situation even more, the so-called Welcome Centers receive more money for minors than for the average individual. In other words, they are profitable.

Here, in Florence, to the children's delight, the “Rificolona,” celebrating the birth of the Virgin Mary, took place on 7th September and is a favorite procession on the which in normal times moves from Piazza Santa Felicita to Piazza Santissima Annunziata. This year, the children carried the home-made or store-bought paper lanterns to one of the eleven piazzas made available by the city or to public gardens like the one under our apartment. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages when peasant farmers used lanterns, with the flame protected by a covering, to illuminate their long walk into town the night before the feast day. They came not only to pray but to sell their produce after the summer harvest.

Bigger kids also had a reason for celebrating when, on 11th and 12th September, Florence was swathed in red to celebrate Ferrari cars and their 1,000th race in Formula 1 at the Mugello Circuit not far from Florence, the weekend before. Two days of festivities were held in Piazza della Signoria with guests from the motor sports' world and a gala dinner for 500 VIP invitees. Several iconic Ferraris were on display and, at night, the Town Hall, the fountain and statues were lit up in red. Unfortunately, the Ferrari team is currently on a losing streak but it takes much more than this for fans to abandon the prancing horse...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.





Court Orders That The Columbus Statue Cannot Be Removed Until Legal Pleas Exhausted
“Defendants are prohibited from removing or otherwise altering the Christopher Columbus statue…”

From what had been a terrible setback two days prior came a stunning victory today for Philadelphia Italians and their legal team, led by George Bochetto.

In Friends of Marconi Plaza, et al, versus City of Philadelphia, the Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the Italians' emergency motion to stop Mayor Jim Kenney from removing the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza, pending legal appeals. The ruling came today on September 17 “This should serve to provide protection for many, many months to come, perhaps more than a year,” said Bochetto. “By the way, I am very optimistic we will win the appeal. “

Just two days ago, on September 15, the prospects looked grim for Philadelphia Italians when Judge Patrick ruled against their injunction to stop the statue’s removal. Barbara Capozzi, a lawyer and real estate professional in Philadelphia, working with Bochetto and others, issued an “alert” via email and social media. “Everyone should know that the Kenney administration may choose to seize upon this order and try to immediately tear down the Statue," she said. "We will do everything legally we can, but as of now there is no stay."

She claimed, "Since our appeal with L&I Review Board is still pending, we believe it would be illegal for the Kenney administration to tear down the statue until our appeal rights are exhausted, but they will try to take the opposite position."

Capozzi then announced to all Philadelphia Italians, especially those in the area of Marconi Plaza and south side to please "be on the alert - we will need to get a crowd - without weapons - to the statue - the minute we hear of any action" at the site.

Today, however, came a reversal of fortune for Mayor Kenny and a ray of needed hope for the Italians. The statue remains - for now - where it has been since 1982, inside Marconi Plaza, the western half of the park at Broad and 20th street in Philadelphia. Albeit covered in plywood and out of public view, the statue was sculpted by Emanuele Caroni and first unveiled in 1876 in Philadelphia to commemorate the country’s centennial. The motion to stay gives more time for Bochetto to push forward his case that the City Trusts, not the mayor and city council, should decide the statue’s fate.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to help George Bochetto and Friends of Marconi Plaza in their continuing legal battle to retain the Columbus statue in Philadelphia, please send donations made payable to George Bochetto at 1524 Locust Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102.




Her Latest Novel is “The Little Breadwinner: War and Survival in the Salvadoran Heartland”
“Fluent in Spanish, I traveled to El Salvador in the late 80s to uncover the ‘truth’ about the United States government's involvement in this ‘dirty’ war”

It is hard for a person to get more worldly than Lucia Mann. The journalist-turned-activist-turned-novelist has traveled to the farthest reaches of the globe. She likes dangerous places. Where life is cheap is where Lucia wants to go. Her Sicilian blood makes her curious. She is an adventurer, no doubt. But that’s not what moves here. Lucia is a person with an intrinsic emotional attachment to the less fortunate. The poor. The desperate. The hurt. She wants to help. She seeks to bring the struggles of the world’s victims to today’s readers. Her latest novel, “The Little Breadwinner: War and Survival in The Salvadoran Heartland” is set in the Latin American country long acquainted with one human crisis after another. She took a break from writing to talk with PRIMO about her latest work.

What attracts you to writing about the victims of society?

This novel and all my other published books are passionately focused on the less fortunate, victims of dreadful wrongdoings: human rights violations.

This novel takes place in El Salvador in 1980 to 1992; a time when you were there. What led you to El Salvador and how did the country change you?

Fluent in Spanish, I traveled to El Salvador in the late 80s to uncover the "truth" about the United States government's involvement in this "dirty" war. It was my personal interactions with a couple of rebel fighters and several impoverished, downtrodden Salvadorans that inspired my latest book; which has taken many years in the making.

What is like today in El Salvador? Have things improved?

Tragically life has not improved in El Salvador. As a matter of fact, it is far worse since the civil war ended. Today, this Latin American country remains in the grip of fierce gang violence. My concern is that many Salvadorans are facing a death sentence. At least 138  out of the 111,000 people deported to El Salvador from the United States in recent years were subsequently murdered - that comes as the Trump administration makes it harder for Central Americans to seek refuge in the United States. It is a shameful reminder of the Trump administration's xenophobic policy of denying protection to vulnerable human beings fleeing a certain death sentence in this homeland.

Your books have taken readers to different parts of the world. What do you find common with countries such as El Salvador and others in which you've worked and visited?

Blatant human rights violations that have no justice. In my humble opinion, compassionate humanity does not exist in impoverished third-world countries.

Although you cover important topics of social and political importance, your novels contain their fair share of suspense and adventure. Do you see yourself more of a social activist or storyteller?

I  would like to describe myself as an activist and a storyteller: the voice of "stifled" voices of human suffering which I will continue to expose for as long I live.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Lucia Mann’s newest novel, “The Little Breadwinner,” by logging on to: Amazon






The 58 Annual New York Film Festival Begins September 17 and Ends October 11
Italian and Italian American Filmmakers Are Represented with Five Films


The 58th annual New York Film Festival kicks off September 17 with an array of new feature films and documentaries from around the world. A host of countries are represented, from the United States to Taiwan and everywhere in between. Italy has two films that will be shown, along with three new features from Italian American filmmakers. In the past, most films were shown inside Lincoln Center and nearby movie theaters and other venues in Midtown Manhattan. Because of Covid-19, however, festival organizers have had to reimagine how people can see this year’s films. Screenings will be virtual with filmgoers streaming the film of their choice direct from the festival web site. Another option is to see some of the films on massive screens at makeshift drive-in theaters in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The dates of the festival will be from September 17 through October 11. A key sponsor is Campari.

The following films are offered by Italians and Italian Americans.

Gianfranco Rosi is a filmmaker synonymous with Italian documentaries. His last film was the Oscar-nominated documentary “Fire at Sea,” presented at the New York Film Festival four years ago, winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Rosi returns with an immersive work of nonfiction. Shot over the course of three years along the borders of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, and Lebanon, “Notturno” (Nocturne) is a nighttime ramble through a region of the world rocked and shattered by catastrophe and violence. With spellbinding visual compositions and heartrending attention paid to the plight of those who have been living through the rise of ISIS in the vacuum created by the U.S. invasion and withdrawal by Presidents Bush and Obama, Rosi leads the viewer through a play rehearsal in a psychiatric ward; on the quiet journeys of snipers, soldiers, and fishermen; and to a classroom where children relate harrowing testimonies of atrocities they’ve witnessed. In these border worlds, people go about their lives while constantly haunted by a pervasive existential threat; Rosi’s extraordinary film is a reminder that people carry on, every day, even under the darkest circumstances. Showtime is Tuesday, October 6 8:00 PM.

This engaging and beautifully filmed documentary immerses the viewer in the forests of Northern Italy, where dogs, accompanied by their elderly, often irascible human owners, scraping by on modest means, seek the precious white Alba truffle. Among the most coveted delicacies in the culinary world, this pricey fungus only makes its way to the plates of wealthy restaurant patrons thanks to the olfactory skills of these heroic canines. A depiction of both a ritualistic, outmoded way of life and the wild economic disparity of a situation that can lead to acts of greed and cruelty, “The Truffle Hunters” is revelatory, earthy, and altogether humane. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Showtime is Monday, October 5, 8 PM.

The latest from Sofia Coppola. Approaching 40 and plagued by writer’s block, New York author and married mother-of-two Laura (Rashida Jones) has become suspicious that her career-driven husband (Marlon Wayans) may be having an affair with a coworker. When her caddish, bon vivant father (Bill Murray) drops back into her life, he encourages her growing speculation, and the two embark on a mission to uncover the truth, which reignites Laura’s alternating adoration and resentment of the older man who taught her everything—for better and for worse. Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola returns with a lighthearted but poignantly personal comedy about aging, marriage, and the tenuous bond between parents and grown children, set in a finely observed Manhattan dream world. An Apple/A24 release. Tuesday, September 22, 8 PM.

A documentary by John Gianvito. For nearly two decades, John Gianvito has been carving out a unique space in American cinema with passion projects of expansive shape and political ambition, including “The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein,” a documentary-fiction inquiry into the human toll of the Gulf War. In his new film, Gianvito meditates on a particular moment in early 20th century history: when Helen Keller began speaking out passionately on behalf of progressive causes. Beginning in 1913, when, at age 32, Keller gave her first public talk before a general audience, “Her Socialist Smile” is constructed of onscreen text taken from Keller’s speeches, impressionistic images of nature, and newly recorded voiceover by poet Carolyn Forché. The film is a rousing reminder that Keller’s undaunted activism for labor rights, pacifism, and women’s suffrage was philosophically inseparable from her battles for the rights of the disabled. Showtimes, Monday, September 21 thru Saturday, September 26, 2020.

The thriller genre is exploded and reassembled in Joe DeNardo and Paul Felten’s funny and alluring work on paranoia, surveillance, and performance. Featuring an intriguingly eclectic cast (including the experimental theater performers Stephanie Hayes and Scott Shepherd, the musician Eleanor Friedberger, and Chloë Sevigny), “Slow Machine” follows an actress (Hayes) whose intimate relationship with a shadowy NYPD-affiliated operative ends abruptly and disastrously, leading her to hide out in a country house otherwise occupied by a band preparing their new record. But la vie bohemienne proves almost as anxious and tense as life in the city… Deftly lensed in 16mm and unfurling as a digressive, tantalizingly off-kilter mystery, “Slow Machine” is a fascinating work pitched at the intersection of American independent cinema and the avant-garde theater of Richard Foreman and the Wooster Group. Showtime is Thursday, October 8, 8PM.

Editor’s Note: The above photographs depict scenes in order of the listed films. For more information on this year’s festival, please log on to







Christopher Columbus, The Greatest Hero of the Fifteenth & Sixteenth Centuries (as Revealed by the Primary Historical Sources)
“Christopher Columbus stands for everything they stand against.”

By Robert Cutrone

Have you ever -- even once -- asked yourself where this current, fashionable narrative came from, that Christopher Columbus was a racist, rapist, murderer, slave-driver and genocidal maniac? Have you ever looked into finding out the answer to that question? A good chance exists that your answer to one, if not both of those questions, is a resounding "no." That is precisely what the Columbus detractors are banking on in perpetuating their false narrative against him.

As an attorney, historian and professional researcher, I have asked myself that question and have looked into it, on a deep, methodical and scholarly level. In fact, I was enlisted to do so by THE Philadelphia City Council when they received a petition from a local member of the bar to eliminate the municipal holiday of Christopher Columbus Day -- as over 60 U.S. cities had already done. He shall remain anonymous in this article -- let's call him "Mr. Coarse." But suffice it to say he has characterized himself in a local news-outlet interview as a "Socialist ideolog[ue]" and "aveng[er of his] enslaved ancestors" who, oddly, is admittedly "scared sh**less of statues." In that same interview, he also expressed his opinion that "[t]here are no 'good cops'" and revealed that those who know him understandably may be "surprised to know" his secret: "I don't hate all white people" (See "News and Opinion" article of August 35, 2018, entitled "One of Us" by Victor Fiorillo). The splenetic "Mr. Coarse" buttressed his polemic petition with the usual lies about Christopher Columbus being a racist, rapist, genocidal maniac, et cetera. He purported to support those lies with the usual hackneyed hack-job and out-of-context pseudo-quotes of Columbus's own writings. The reader is undoubtedly familiar with these pseudo-quotes: those so carefully crafted with strategic use of ellipses to twist portions of Columbus's own correspondences to create the false impression that he means the exact opposite of what he actually said, and that are plastered ubiquitously across the Big-Tech-controlled internet.

At the request of City Council to investigate the calumnious claims of "Mr. Coarse," I reread the primary historical sources, this time in their original 15th century Spanish. These included the seminal, three-volume “Historia de las Indias” (History of the [West] Indies) by Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, who was appointed by both the Crown of Spain and the Church as "Protector of the Indians." De las Casas's account, written contemporaneously with the Spanish settlement of the West Indies -- and, importantly, very critically of his own countrymen's violent and anti-Christian deeds in that endeavor -- is the closest account in existence to having been recorded by the indigenes themselves. I also read the epistolary account of Columbus's Second Voyage written by Dr. Diego Chanca, effectively the surgeon general of the West Indies, and Columbus's own journals, which have been publicly available in English for nearly two centuries.  

All of the primary sources dovetailed in one important regard: They show, unequivocally and irrefutably, that Christopher Columbus was none of the epithets with which his detractors repeatedly characterize him. Rather, in addition to his well-known feat of bringing to light to the rest of the world the existence of the Americas and its inhabitants, Christopher Columbus actively fought against the rampant racism, rape, murder, enslavement and genocide committed by his arch-nemeses, the Spanish hidalgos (low, landed nobles). Consequently, Christopher Columbus became the first civil rights activist of the Americas and the founder of Western Culture in the New World, making him, beyond cavil, the greatest hero of the 15th and 16th centuries.  

This is precisely why Columbus's detractors -- a sinister axis of cultural majoritarians that includes radical leftists, post-modernists, neo-Marxists and globalists -- hate him; because Christopher Columbus stands for everything they stand against. That is, he was a devout Roman Catholic who valued and successfully fought for the welfare of all human lives; brought the existence of the Americas to the rest of the planet; and established the "trinity" of Western Culture in the Americas: (1) Judeo-Christian ethics and morals; (2) Greco-Roman democracy and law; and (3) the benefits of self-sovereignty, which in turn include civil rights, personal responsibility and the demos of capital. 

“The Philadelphia Inquirer,” in this spirit of cultural majoritarianism, has recently and repeatedly attempted several journalistic kill-shots at Christopher Columbus. As my own name surfaced as a local expert in the history of Columbus and his voyages, the Inquirer attempted the same at me, claiming that no historians supported my characterization of Columbus as the greatest hero of the post-medieval era and first civil rights activist of the Americas. The Inquirer was wrong, of course, and seems to have quietly removed the article from the internet without a formal retraction or apology. To add insult to injury, my multiple correspondences to Inquirer Managing Editor of the Op-Ed section, Sandra Shea, requesting to provide a historically-accurate counter-narrative, were repeatedly ignored by her.  

Yet, anyone who has actually read the primary sources -- not the internet's reimagining of them -- concurs with my characterization. For instance, Stanford Professor Emeritus Carol Delaney, who left her tenured university position to dedicate 10 years of her life to travel the world in the study of Columbus artifacts in order to write her book “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem” -- and who is truly an unparalleled world-expert on Christopher Columbus -- agrees that all the tired calumny repeatedly levied against him is simply a collection of lies. "[H]e's been terribly maligned," she wrote of Columbus, by revisionists who are "blaming [him] for things he didn't do." And that, dear reader, is the reason for this exposé.

In the months to come, I, with the help of Broad + Liberty, will continue bring you a series of articles about Christopher Columbus to put to rest these lies of the cultural majoritarians. Following this introduction, my first substantive article on the man will chronicle Columbus's birth and early life, putting a real, human face on the near-mythical historical figure Columbus has become.  The subsequent articles will detail his First, Second, Third and Fourth Voyages; the world-changing events they spawned; his lifelong and tireless civil rights activism on behalf of the indigenes of the New World; and his continued efforts to his dying day as their champion. Should you honor me by continuing to the end of this series, it will conclude with an account of the civil rights legacy his life and efforts spawned through those that proudly modeled themselves after "the illustrious Genoese" Christopher Columbus, the first civil rights activist of the Americas, our first Founding Father and the greatest hero of the 15th and 16th centuries. 




Covid Chronicles
The Government Faces Criticism from Opposition Parties
- Will schools reopen?
- The City of Florence Seeks to Help Restaurants
- No Tickets for Puccini Opera

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the end of the sixteenth week of still partial lockdown in Florence.

Like in other parts of Europe, contagion rates are increasing again in Italy. This is because people returning from vacations outside the country have been infected and so swabs have now been ordered at most major airports and are available voluntarily at ports and stations. The other reason is that young people seem to believe they are immune simply because they are young and so, despite warnings, continue to assemble in large gatherings in the pizza parlors or discotheques, often unmasked. As of 17th August, the government has shut down all indoor and outdoor discotheques, night clubs and dance halls. Furthermore, face masks are obligatory between 6 pm and 6 am in outdoor areas that are open to the public such as in the piazzas, on the streets, or at the seaside where people gather. In the past months, Sardinia which had been relatively free from the coronavirus is now experiencing a sharp rise in positive cases due to the recent influx of summer vacationers.

This week, the major political hot potato is whether Italian schools will be able to open again on 14th September, the beginning of the scholastic year throughout most of the country. This is a real acid test for the Italian government and it is well aware that if it botches this one, its popularity and electoral chances will plummet. Meanwhile, the opposition is calling for the Minister of Education Lucia Azzolini of the 5 Star Movement to resign. They say she has done too little, too late to ensure that schools will open in safety. Major issues needed to be solved and, as yet, there is little evidence that they have been. These included whether pupils needed to be masked during class and whether their temperatures should be taken on entry into the school buildings or, as the government wants, at home before they leave for school with all the uncertainties that would cause. Public transport is another huge problem because of the distancing required and the number of students who use buses, trains, or trams to get to and from school. Last but not least, individual desks will be needed that are well spaced between them whereas, in pre-Covid times, students sat in pairs at their desks.

Mystery surrounds the 11 companies that have been awarded the contracts to manufacture these new desks prompting the president of the Confindustria, the influential association of Italian industries, to say that there was “a kind of state secret around a public tender.” You can't help but wonder why. Furthermore, many school buildings in Italy, a large number of which were built before 1947, are old, cramped and in bad repair. Added to all this, one of the largest teachers' unions has estimated there is shortfall of 85,000 teachers. Also, contingency plans have been made should there be an outbreak of the virus in any of the schools. Critics of the government decry “a topography of absurdity.” Perhaps, this is why Prime Minister Conte has been strangely absent from on our television screens lately. I think he socially distancing himself!

A political revolution also took place in mid-August when the 5 Star Movement, which has governed in two very different coalitions since 2018, called upon its membership to vote on two key issues on Rousseau, its controversial on-line platform. The first was to modify the Movement's regulation to allow municipal candidates to stand for a third mandate and second, that they could do so in alliance with traditional parties, both previously prohibited under its original charter. The rumor is that this is to allow Virginia Raggi to run again as Rome's mayor, despite many Romans considering her to be among the worse first citizens the city has ever had. These results caused a rumpus with traditionalists within the Movement while the opposition brands the Movement with sacrificing its ideology to become a traditional party simply intent on maintaining its hold on power and privileges.

With hordes of illegal immigrants continuing to arrive in Sicily, according to its governor, Nello Musumeci, the island has been turned into a kind of concentration camp for squalid contagion hotspots euphemistically called “welcome centers.” A gentleman in the finest Sicilian tradition, Musumeci has locked swords with the central government because the situation is at breaking point. He accuses it of being uncooperative and of trying to label a serious health crisis as a racist issue. He wants all these hotspots closed down and the immigrants sent to better places. Should the government fail to act, which is more than likely, his only alternative will be to go before the courts. In the meantime, these people are living in appalling conditions exposed to risks far greater than the ones they left behind them. The island of Lampedusa is in a similar situation. In desperation, the mayor announced that the whole island would go on a general strike if the government does not take action.

Here, in Florence, in an attempt to help businesses and encourage shopping and eating out, the city council has allowed greater traffic access to the historic center from 4 pm until midnight Monday through Friday and has made about 1,500 low-cost parking spots available until 30th September.

Craving entertainment, I thought I would attend the annual New Generation Festival in Florence. Because of the Covid-19 lockdown, the festival was aptly renamed the ReGeneration Festival. Lasting four days, from August 26 to 29, it was held in the city’s magnificent Boboli Gardens and free to the public. The program included opera, orchestral music, jazz, and classical chamber music for 500 socially distanced spectators each evening. I desperately tried to book a seat to see Rossini's opera La Cenerentola, to open and close the festival. I failed on both counts. I must have been Number 501. My only consolation was to sit out on my terrace in the evening and watch the 1981 La Scala production of it on YouTube. I can only hope I'll have better luck next year...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Photographs include the Arno River on a bright, sunny day; the statue “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” by Giambologna and located in the Loggia della Signoria in Florence; the Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati and located in the Piazza della Signoria; and the statue of “Perseus with the Head of Medusa,” by Benvenuto Cellini and located in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.





Game Changer
The Columbus Statue at Marconi Plaza was Gifted in Trust
“…it would certainly appear that the City Trusts has the authority…”


George Bochetto has done a remarkable job as the pro bono lawyer representing the Friends of Marconi Plaza. He continues an extraordinary legal effort to stop the removal of the Columbus statue by Mayor Jim Kenney in Philadelphia.

Bochetto has done enormous research to make his case. He went back to when the statue was unveiled in 1876 and beyond; more than 150 years ago to a law that officially established the City Trusts in Philadelphia. The attorney, a founding partner of the law firm Bochetto/Lentz, has come away convinced that Mayor Jim Kenny and the respective city arts and history commissions have no jurisdiction in the current matter. Rather, it is the City Trusts, not the mayor or city council, who must maintain the Columbus statue for public viewing. As such, the plywood boards that now hide the statue must be taken down immediately.

In a letter submitted today to Joseph P. Bilson, executive director of City Trusts in Philadelphia, Bochetto stated that the organization comprising some 115 non-profit trusts must immediately take over management of the Columbus statue. That the original intention of those who gave the statue to Philadelphia was for the City Trusts, not the mayor and city council, to oversee and manage the large sculpture. “By way of my new-found knowledge and familiarity with the Statue,” Bochetto writes, “and the documents accompanying its donation, it has come to my attention that the Statue was gifted to the City of Philadelphia in 1876 and left in trust to be publicly displayed.”

Public trusts, also known as “Sundry Trusts,” were first introduced in 1739, some 37 years prior to the Revolutionary War. These non-profits were put in place to ensure the survival of clinics, schools, parades and other endeavors. After the Civil War, a law was passed in Philadelphia detailing the rights and responsibilities of public trusts, renamed as City Trusts.

Bochetto reviewed the original writing of the law from 1869. He writes, “that the City Trusts may unilaterally extend its purview to adopt the (Columbus) Statue and from thereon manage and care for it in accordance with the intentions of the benefactors.”

The Christopher Columbus Monument Association officially gave the statue of Columbus to Philadelphia on October 12, 1876. According to Bochetto, “The intentions…can be easily gleaned from letters and records dating back to the 1800s that have been preserved by the City.”

He highlights a letter dated September 28, 1876 by Nunzio Finelli, president of the Christopher Columbus Monument Association, who invited “the Philadelphia Fairmont Park Commission to join the Statue unveiling ceremony and accept the gift on behalf of the City.”

Preserved for historical research by the city archives are many old letters and other documents. Bochetto reviewed dozens of written correspondences, some of which date back 150 years.

“It would certainly appear that the City Trusts has the authority to extend its governance over the Christopher Columbus Statue at Marconi Plaza and take on the control and management responsibilities of the Statue to ensure the intentions of the benefactors are followed,” Bochetto says in his letter to Bilson. “Accordingly, may I respectfully request the information related to the process involved with expanding the City Trusts’ purview to include the Christopher Columbus Statue at Marconi Plaza.”

With City Trusts in charge of the Columbus Statue for purposes of public viewing, it seems highly unlikely that the statue is to be removed any time soon.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is attorney George Bochetto, the statue of Columbus at Marconi Plaza and what it looks like today boarded up by the city. If you would like to help George Bochetto and Friends of Marconi Plaza in their continuing legal battle to retain the Columbus statue in Philadelphia, please send donations made payable to George Bochetto at 1524 Locust Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102.




Look to Columbus When Following One’s Dreams
“If we stop and truly look at history, we will see that Christopher Columbus is deserving of our gratitude…”

By Frances Uzzi


  “You’ll never make it.” “Don’t bother trying.” “Forget it.”
   These are tough words to hear at any age; but ones we have all heard one time or another in our lives. Perhaps this why from the time we are kids we are taught to believe in the opposite: to persevere, not give up and work to accomplish our goals. One person in history that exemplified these ideals was Christopher Columbus; but unfortunately in today’s world his memory and importance are being diminished. This is why, as a proud Italian American, I felt compelled to write this article.
   All around our country beautiful statues of Christopher Columbus are violently being torn down, as streets and city landmarks are being renamed to remove any “Columbus” identification. If we stop and truly look at history, we will see that Christopher Columbus is deserving of our gratitude, and someone who can serve as a positive example both now and for generations to come. When Christopher Columbus first made his plans to sail West across the Atlantic known in the late 1400s, he was turned down by many people and countries, and no doubt heard some of those “you’ll never make it” messages. He did not give up, however, and eventually set sail on those three famous ships we all know today. These important values of perseverance and hard work are the same we instill and reinforce in our children today. The notion of following our dreams is the very fabric of American life. Just like Columbus, we may encounter bumps along the way; but if we follow through we will come out on the other end.
   Columbus was indeed the first person to discover a sailing route from Europe to the Americas, and this remains one of the great feats for all time. His landing in the Americas was a turning point in history, and one that allowed for a connection between continents and peoples that did not exist before. His expeditions and discoveries led to what is now known as the “Columbian Exchange,” where everything from animals to food was exchanged between the “Old World” of Europe, Africa, and Asia and the “New World” of the Americas. This exchange forever altered the course of history, and nations all around the globe were introduced to new goods, people, and ideas.
   We often hear today of the negative way Columbus and other Europeans treated the native people in the new lands they discovered, and there is no doubt some truth to this. However, we must not rewrite history and negate all that Columbus accomplished. Certain customs and behaviors acceptable in the 1400s and early 1500s we would most certainly not find acceptable today. It is crucial for anyone looking into history and deciding how they view Columbus (or any historical figure) to look at the norms and customs of the time period. Again, just like on our own journey, mistakes can be made, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss everything else we have accomplished.
   As we approach the Italian heritage month of October and the holiday, I look forward, as always, to celebrate Columbus Day in America. I hope this article inspires people towards a greater understanding about the importance of Christopher Columbus so more of the wonderful statues and cities in his honor will continue to stand. I also hope this article serves as a source of pride and reinforcement for all Italian Americans; that we should be proud of our heritage, and happy to celebrate such an important person in history.

Editor’s Note: The writer resides in New Jersey. Pictured is a lithograph made in 1993 by John Duillio titled “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella.” The artwork was a gift from the National Italian American Foundation to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where it can be seen today in Washington, D.C.




Full of surprises and well-organized, this museum will rev the motors of car lovers. Few know about Rome's Museum of Italian Police Cars, but it’s a fascinating way to step inside Italy’s police and motoring history. PRIMO Magazine didn’t even have to commit a crime to check out the wheels of Italy’s finest.

PRIMO Visits the Museum of Italian Police Cars in Rome
“I’m completely transfixed by a very cool Alfa Romeo 1900 police car.”

Text and photos: Jesper Storgaard Jensen

   Shots are fired, bullets rip through the air. The cop car’s siren howls and its hypnotic, swirling strobes flash the only light on this pitch-black night. With a screech of tires on asphalt, the police arrive on the scene. The officers jump out, hollering wildly. Oscar-worthy drama, surely. But it’s just my imagination at play.
   I’m completely transfixed by a very cool Alfa Romeo 1900 police car. No, I’m not in the back of it on the way to the slammer. I’m in Rome's Museo delle Auto della Polizia di Stato (Museum of Italian Police Cars) and gazing upon this 1950s vintage wonder. The shiny black vehicle was highly advanced at the time with bulletproof glass and its spotlight that could be oriented to light up sections of the street. Take a good look, close your eyes, and then step into your own old-fashioned gangster movie.
  "Check out the small iron curtains in front of the tires that blocked the bullets fired by criminals,” police officer Franco Tommaso points out to me. “You can also see that there’s a retractable roof. From here, the officers could pop up and fire off shots during car chases. This Alfa Romeo was used by Italian police forces from 1958 through the 1960s, and it was actually able to reach speeds of up to 180 km/h, (50 mph) which was really something at the time.”
   It’s hard to tear yourself away from this beauty; of which only about 17,000 were produced from 1950 until 1958. The car’s perfect curves are hypnotizing.

Cruising through Italian history
   I am just three kilometres outside of Rome's historic centre in the Tor Marancia neighborhood. From 1959 until 2006, this was the site of Rome’s main fairgrounds. Photographic fairs, cat and dog shows, bridal shows and many other events took place in the large pavilions.
   Most of the area is now abandoned, but a small part has been transformed into the Museum of Italian Police Cars, which opened in 2004. Here an itinerary will guide you through more than a half century of Italian history told through about 60 different police vehicles.
   One of Italy's most famous car brands, Alfa Romeo, is omnipresent since the Alfa Romeo company was the official supplier to the Italian police forces until 2000. On display, you'll find one of the most popular models, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Super 1600 with its characteristic greenish-grey colour. "This Alfa Romeo model was one of the most widely used police cars for decades. It might not seem so intimidating, but criminals at the time were frightened by the sight of one. So much, that they often used the same model car for fleeing. It even has a synchronized gear shift. Porsche later bought the patent for that gear mechanism,” says Tommaso, proudly.
   Modern cars are displayed alongside historic models, the perfect mix that holds visitors’ attention. Right after a present-day Smart police car, you'll be able to swoon over the elegant De Tomaso Deauville, one of only about 240 produced from 1971 to 1988. It was the state car of Sandro Pertini, Italy's president from 1978 until 1985.
   Some of the more fascinating cars in this collection are those that show how much times have changed. An example is the Fiat 618, a minibus used for transporting small groups of police officers. In service in the 1930s and 1940s, the minibus weighed more than two tons and reached a moped-rivaling top speed of just 65 km/h (40 mph). Some models came with holes along the sides, a sort of mobile battlement allowing officers to fire off their rifles from the safe confines of the minibus.
   You’ll be blissfully blindsided by the large number of shiny, reddish-purple cars. In the 1950s, this was the color of choice of Italian police cars. Here you'll find the imposing Jeep Willys. "This jeep was used by the US army during the Second World War,” Tommaso explains. Traditionally drab green, the vehicles received an extreme makeover becoming bright red and a new purpose. “When these vehicles arrived in Italy, they were used in an unusual way. Using the vehicles, the Italian riot police would circle around big crowds until the crowd dispersed. This way, there was no physical contact between police forces and protesters.”
   We shouldn't forget, however, that very often the police move on only two wheels. The museum has an array of police bicycles and motorcycles. One of the finest is the classic Moto Guzzi Falcine 500, first launched in the 1950s and in production for two decades. Reaching a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), it was high tech for the times and was used on Italian highways for two decades.

The birth of a mythical man and his machine
   Police officer Armando Spatafora was nothing short of legendary among his colleagues and those infatuated with Italian police history. Spatafora was known for some spectacular police operations undertaken in his equally legendary Ferrari 250 GT/E police car, the only Ferrari ever used by the Italian police forces.
  "Both Spatafora and his car have become famous among Italian police officers,” says Tommaso, as we approach this iconic car. "Spatafora was extremely passionate about his work. He was also renowned for his courage. When the Ferrari 250 GT/E was assigned to him, both the man and the car became myths. This 1962 Ferrari is the only one of its kind in the world. If you were to sell it, it would go for around 1.5 million euro ($1.7 million),” Tommaso says. By the way, it’s not for sale. And car lovers with a few million or not can see it for the modest price of a museum ticket.
   One of the museum’s walls is decorated with a 1970 quote by Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli: "At a certain point Italy needed a car market, but we certainly did not lack in enthusiasm.” Even though almost 50 years have passed since Agnelli uttered this phrase, enthusiasm for Italian cars is still very much intact and proudly on display at the Museum of Italian Police Cars.

Museo delle Auto della Polizia di Stato
Via dell'Arcadia 20 Rome
Open Monday to Saturday from 9.30 - 18.30
Entrance price: 3 euro

Editor’s Note: The museum was temporarily closed due to covid-19 but has now reopened in 2020.





The Cappa Family Produces An Award Winning Olive Oil
“Over time, grapes were replaced with additional olive trees…”

By Nicholas A. Chiominto, Jr.


  This love story begins in the southern Italian village of Cori, located in the Lepini mountains in the region of Lazio. My Grandfather’s niece, Rosa Moroni met Mariano (Meo) Cappa, fell in love at an early age, married and raised a family.
   Like most Italians in the early 1900’s, Rosa and Mariano were poor. At the time, Mariano worked as a farmhand for a land owner who appreciated Mariano’s positive work ethic. As the landowner grew older, and since he liked Mariano, he offered to sell him seven acres of his land. Being resourceful, and out of necessity, Rosa and Meo developed the land into a farm. They raised some animals; but the main focus was olives, grapes, fruit trees, and a large vegetable garden. This farm helped sustain the Cappa family for many years.
   Over time, grapes were replaced with additional olive trees, bringing the total number from 49 Itrana cultivar trees to 500. Depending on the year and weather, the 500 trees yielded between 2,000 and 3,000 liters of olive oil. The olive oil was distributed between the Moroni and Cappa families for their personal use throughout the year.
   As Rosa and Meo aged, their daughter Giovanna, and grandson Catullo began working on the farm. Eventually, Giovanna and Catullo took over the annual olive harvest and olive oil production. It is backbreaking manual work. I know firsthand because I helped with the olive harvest a couple of times. While it is hard work, watching the olives being pressed into olive oil and tasting the finished product is very rewarding.
   Fast forward to today. While Rosa and Meo are no longer with us, and Giovanna has limited her involvement in the farm, Catullo now has almost complete control over the olive harvest and olive oil production.
   When I mention a love story, it is not only about the love between Rosa and Meo, but the love and passion Catullo has for the land, the olive trees and olive oil production. In honor and memory of his grandparents, Catullo began producing his own olive oil brand called Rosa & Meo. This quality extra virgin olive oil has won numerous awards in competitions throughout Italy. Several articles have been written about Catullo and his extra virgin olive oil including; the Italian food and wine magazine Gambero Rosso’s 2019 Oli D’Italia edition. Rosa & Mio olive oil scored in the 90 to 100-point range.
   Catullo is a small batch producer. He only produces a limited number of bottles each year to sell. The olive oil is sold locally in and around Cori. In addition, through friends in Denmark,      Catullo and his oil were introduced to olive oil buyers and restaurants in Copenhagen where he has developed a cult following. Catullo, a certified olive oil taster and expert, does not produce his olive oil for the money. He does it out of love. His love for Rosa and Meo and his desire to keep their memory alive.

Editor’s Note: You can view how Rosa and Meo produce their olive oil on their Facebook page at




Historic Figures Should Not Be Appraised by the Evolving Code of Ethics of Future Generations
- Monuments and statues are symbolic inspirations for reflection.

By Vincent Arena

The men and women hellbent on the removal of monuments shouldn't be judged in the years to come. Likewise, they themselves should refrain from casting judgment on figures of yesteryears. If anyone is to be branded revolutionaries, rebels, anarchist or political agitators, let the people grasping the iron be an impanelment of their peers, attuned to the vast assortment of the day's ideologies.

What I write today isn't to sway the judgment I call upon, but simply to recite an individual’s perspective. I come from a society where individualism and freedom to voice one's opinion was celebrated. Not a place where the volume of one's word's is meant to outweigh its content and drown out opposition. The First Amendment granted us this fundamental right, and I impel the people to take advantage of it before it's pulled from beneath our feet.

I don’t view our monuments as solely honorific, but multi-purposed. When I had learned of the suffering of past generations, whether it were a byproduct of racial, ethnic, economic or gender inequality, I viewed it with appreciation. I didn’t contemptuously disregard them or question their existence. How could I? It was in those pieces of history that I was able to fully grasp the progress we had made. Our past is what we learn and grow from. To erase it places us at risk of unwittingly repeating it.

A large part of the pride I carry as an Italian American isn’t in the accomplishments of my forebears but in the hardships they have endured and all that was overcome. We have suffered the largest recorded lynching in American history. Dealt with derogatory and debasing stereotypes from the moment the first shiploads of southern Italians arrived stateside. We have felt social injustices and marched for civil rights. We were share croppers and day laborers working amidst harrowing conditions. Yet we persevered to become contributors of the arts, culture and physical structure of our adopted land. The struggle built character. To better understand I’d like to delve deeper into our past to pay further homage to our ancestors.

Our affiliation with the glory of Rome made us feel capable. To this day we stare wide-eyed at the Colosseum. We don't speak of the disenfranchised gladiators and call for an immediate teardown of each and every reminder of the ancient world. Religion, too, has been a notable cause of continuous bloodshed. Though if we were to dwell on the losses we would forget the countless lives those same religious beliefs have saved. When does it all end? When is enough enough? When do we recognize that our history is what created the strength and fortitude that gradually integrated into our DNA. Without remembering our past, our future would have been a plateaued existence.

Monuments and statues are symbolic inspirations for reflection. To denounce an historic figure, for example, such as Christopher Columbus, is an unfair attack on the foundation of this great nation. When five centuries have passed, we are no longer in position to properly gauge or interpret a man’s thoughts or actions, let alone hold him accountable to the opposing standards of today. This age of insecurity, self-hatred and over dramatized cries of victimization is ravaging this country. I believe it is our duty to set an example by letting our voices be heard.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Arena is a freelance writer. The photograph depicts the statue of Christopher Columbus lifted by crane on June 24, 2020 and removed from Wooster Square Park in New Haven, Connecticut. The statue was donated by the United Italian Societies and first erected in 1892, and later recast in bronze in 1955. The city has placed the statue in storage.





The Writer, a Native of Pittsburgh, Asks, “Where is the Outrage?”
Columbus is worthy of praise and monuments
- “Let us not allow the bad to conquer the good by denying our rightful history.”

By Joseph T. Ferruzza

In light of the recent events in Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky and Massachusetts, the question has to be asked, “Where is the outrage?” The anarchists, insurrectionists, and history revisionists have all desecrated or torn down statues of Christopher Columbus. Instead of constantly hearing the voices of the anarchist and insurrectionist mobs, why is there no competing voices of historical knowledge and reason raised in our hero’s defense? The following message is more relevant now than ever before.

In defense of Christopher Columbus:

The Spreading of Catholicism. Christopher Columbus’ devotion to God and His Church is without question. He was, without a doubt, the driving force behind the rooting of the Roman Catholic Church in the New World.

The Courage of His Convictions. Columbus knew the world was a globe with unfathomable opportunities. This courage to tackle the unknown, against all odds, is comparable to America’s early pioneers and today’s astronauts.

His Steadfastness to Overcome Obstacles. In spite of all odds such as a lack of financing, ridicule, mutiny and persecution, Columbus never wavered in his belief in God and his mission of destiny.

Great Men and Their Flaws. The history of the world is rife with men and women we cite as great and pay homage with statues and monuments. To suggest that the depiction of a historical figure such as Columbus should be removed from public view because of what some believe are his flaws, can only be viewed as an attempt to re-write history. To deny our history is a crime against our fellow men and women and those who follow us.

I believe all good Americans sympathize with the plight of racial injustice. However, we should be very careful to not join forces with those who never lose an opportunity to ride on the backs of the oppressed and move forward with their ultimate goals to bring this country down. We should not to join forces with those who attack our liberty and those who profess the ideologies that have been tossed on the scrap heap of history such as Socialism, Communism and Fascism.

Even one of God’s favorites - King David - one of history’s most celebrated leaders, had very serious flaws that often plague ordinary men. We are all human, after all. Hopefully, our good deeds outweigh the bad. Let us not allow the bad to conquer the good by denying our rightful history.

Editor’s Note: The writer is the former president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Frank Ricco Lodge #731. The photograph shows the Columbus statue in Schenley Park, Pittsburgh. Erected in 1958, the bronze statue and granite pedestal was made by Frank Vittor, an Italian immigrant who sculpted this and other masterful works in the city and elsewhere in the Midwest. Recently, the arts commission of Pittsburgh held a public hearing on the removal of the statue.



Covid Chronicles
Is Another Lockdown to Come?
- Trains resume to full capacity in Italy
- United States decides not to impose tariffs on Italian wine
- Feast Day of San Lorenzo and Liberation Day in Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the end of the fifteenth week of now partial lockdown in Florence.

There has been an unwelcome increase of cases of contagion in the last week or so and we have been told another lockdown is “inevitable” if this continues. Most of these cases have been provoked by people returning from vacations in places where Covid-19 restrictions are laxer. The Italian Ministry of Health has made testing mandatory for travelers returning to Italy in the last 14 days from Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain.

This week began – yes, you guessed it – with yet another Prime Minister's decree, this time imaginatively called, the August decree. In passing the 115-article decree, the government had to make a budgetary slippage of 25 million euro. In it, the regulations about social distancing, wearing masks in closed space and the prohibition on people assembling, the no-spectators at football matches rule and the continued monitoring of discotheques were confirmed. Rail transport was in chaos for 48 hours when it was announced that trains would resume full capacity travel when this was almost immediately revoked by the Health and Transport Ministers.

Other main provisions provide for an extension of the redundancy fund and a stop to dismissals. This latter provision was criticized because it may cause future social havoc as it appears more welfare than a stimulus measure. Some tax relief and assistance for companies were conceded and yet again, another series of bonuses were provided, if you ever manage to navigate the paperwork required, for things like babysitters, bicycles, restaurants and holidays.

A few days ago, the prime minister and six of his ministers were advised, based on the presentation of numerous complaints from various parts of the country, that they are under investigation for the way they handled the initial stages of the coronavirus emergency. However, the Public Prosecutor's Office has indicated it believes these accusations are unfounded and the case will probably be archived.

Because the constant flow of illegal immigrants continues, Prime Minister Conte finally broke his silence on the subject and stated that Italy could not “tolerate” that these people illegally enter the county, thereby undermining the sacrifices we have made in combating Covid-19, especially when they attempt and often succeed in escaping without undergoing health examinations, as has been occurring. Trouble is, he made no mention of how this non-tolerance policy will be implemented.

Scandal hit the Italian Parliament when a newspaper revealed that five parliamentarians had applied to INPS, the national social security institute, for the 600 euro (later raised to 1,000 euro) a month bonus (another one!) aimed to assist struggling self-employed workers and those with a VAT code during the crisis. Although this was not illegal because the provision had been so badly drafted, it was considered morally and ethically wrong because senators are paid approximately 14,600 euro a month while those in the lower house receive about 13,900 euro. Three of these individuals received payment but their names are still a mystery because INPS uses the excuse that the privacy laws prevent them from disclosing them. What we do know is that two are from the Lega party and one from the 5 Star Movement. Evidence has yet to emerge how many elected representatives at regional and municipal levels have made similar applications. The effect this will have on the constitutional referendum of 20th and 21st September 2020 asking Italians if they wish to decrease the numbers of parliamentarians or not will be interesting.

In Tuscany this week, wine produces heaved a huge collective sigh of relief. Thankfully, the U.S. government has announced it will not impose an additional tariff on Italian wine. This is important because the American market is fundamental for the Tuscan wine industry representing, for example, 35 percent of exports of Brunello di Montalcino and 20 percent of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Here, in Florence, August is the traditional month when many Florentines take their annual summer vacation, but this year because of the pandemic many, like us, opted to stay at home. This meant we were able to enjoy the special events the city offers at this time every year. The first, on 10th August, was the Feast Day of San Lorenzo when, in the evening, we all gazed skywards to watch the Perseids meteor shower of falling stars, called San Lorenzo's tears, and made a wish. But, there was no historic court parade through town nor the usual street party in the San Lorenzo quarter of town near the basilica which is always accompanied by music, dancing, free lasagna and watermelon. Hopefully, next year...

On August 11th, it was the anniversary of the liberation of Florence in 1944 from Nazi and Fascist soldiers who occupied the city during World War II. At dawn on that morning 76 years ago, the Martinella bell called the Florentines out onto the streets to fight and the “battle of Florence” began. It continued until September when the last German troops left the city, opening the way for the Allied forces to advance. The bell rang again this year from the Torre di Arnolfo of Palazzo Vecchio as it does every year, but now in commemoration and celebration.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.







Gruppo Italiano Seeks Ways to Help Italian Chefs and Restaurant Managers of the Future
What can schools do when human interaction - a key part of education - is now banned by government?

Pictured, clockwise, Dr. Joyce Brown, Fabio Parasecoli, Lisa Sasson, Gianfranco Sorrentino, Andrea Sinigaglia and Rick Smilow

Let us salute Gruppo Italiano! The non-profit organization, with a mission to promote authentic Italian food and wine, is trying to a find a way forward in this pandemic desert; but it’s not easy. Restaurateurs face ruin. There are just too many government restrictions to overcome. And for what? To alleviate the danger of a virus with a 99 percent survival rate.

Everyone wants to have fun. Everyone wants to go out. Except today’s government class. Were they ever joyful? More laws, more measures, more decrees, more mandates. Basta!

Gruppo Italiano conceived Italian Table Talks. They used to meet in person. Cocktails were served afterward. They convened a series of talks on the latest issues and trends concerning Italian food and wine. Top figures in the Italian culinary arts share views and opinions. Topics ranged from the love of Italian grains to what defines “authentic” Italian food. Then came March and contagion. The focus changed. One word: Survival. How restaurants and eateries could stay afloat. The worst of government seeks to mitigate the effects of coronavirus. Everyone is adversely affected, including education.

The title for the video linked session, on Monday, August 23, was “Class Dismissed: Reimagining Culinary Institutes and Food Studies.” The event was moderated by Fabio Parasecoli, professor of Food Studies in the Nutrition and Food Studies Department at New York University. Guests included Dr. Joyce Brown, president of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Lisa Sasson, Associate Dean of Global Affairs and Experiential Learning and a clinical professor at New York University’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, Rick Smilow, CEO of the Institute of Culinary Education and, from Italy, Andrea Sinigaglia, general manager of ALMA, The International School of Italian Cuisine.

The current president of Gruppo Italiano, Gianfranco Sorrentino, began the webinar. Managing Partner of Il Gattopardo Group, a conglomerate of Italian restaurants in New York and elsewhere, he opened the session declaring that, “1 billion students worldwide have been affected by Covid-19.” Sorrentino is Neapolitan and, as such, lives for the human touch. The idea of a virtual world is especially frustrating for him and other Italians. He said, “As many students, parents and teachers are discovering, there is a human need for face-to-face interaction. One of the reasons we go to restaurants: To dine and to see other people.”

He turned the meeting over to Fabio Parasecoli to moderate. A unique scholar, Parasecoli seeks to bridge the gap between gastronomy and political science. He published several books on the topic. He conveyed a theme for the webinar. “We don’t know what will happen to school and school programs,” he said. “Culinary schools, now operating, will be different in the future. What kind of skills to teach our students with this disruption in the food system?”

Asked to comment about the state of education was Dr. Joyce Brown, president of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. Although the name signifies an exclusive education on apparel design and clothing, FIT also teaches the fine arts, illustration and technical design. Seeking to manage a university of nearly 8,000 undergraduate students in a time of pandemic is challenging and perplexing. “There has been a confluence of events and a need for quick decision,” she said. “Many people look to institutions for answers. Yet, those answers are not available because the ground has shifted so much since the pandemic.” Dr. Brown admitted to upheaval in the fashion industry prior to coronavirus. “Before the pandemic,” she said, “the retail industry was in trouble. According to polls, 65 percent of American families will spend less on apparel. The luxury market will shrink. We need new models and a different set of expectations.” She is committed to the school’s mission. “In spite of pandemic,” she said, “institutions have to retain focus and respond to the needs of students and industry.”

When asked if the pandemic has affected food and nutrition classes at NYU, Lisa Sasson pivoted. She addressed the recent riots and demonstrations that came about after the death of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. “BLM (Black Lives Matter) has made us aware of critical issues,” she said. “Curriculum will be enhanced to include food advocacy, food justice and food equality. Food is more than just eating; its about taking care of the environment” and other social issues. She said, “Most people suffering Covid have pre-existing conditions,” and we need to focus more on nutrition to help them and others in society build a tolerance to diseases and infections.

Rick Smilow was asked about the morale of students at his culinary institute. He answered, “I have not heard many careers changed for students. Their goals are still in place.” Classes at the culinary institute begin this week. “Most students want to come back,” he said. “We are doing all things higher education is supposed to do. We couldn’t teach cooking online but we can teach restaurant management on line.” As for the spread of the disease, Mr. Smilow said, “We have seen, thus far, zero indication that our students are getting coronavirus in school or bringing it to the school.”

Andrea Sinigaglia joined late in the webinar because of technical difficulties. When coronavirus came to Italy, he said, schools were “forced to close all programs and undergo strict sanitary protocol. Local governments decided what schools could open and what schools could not.” Many students were from outside of Italy. He said, “Foreign students are not coming. All foreign students returned home.”

Parasecoli asked his guests about virtual learning. What are schools doing when human interaction - a key part of education - is now banned by government?

Dr. Brown said that FIT has invested more money in new technology to make education fully remote in the foreseeable future. Lisa Sasson shared her experience in creating a virtual class that took students on a culinary journey through Italy. “Food is a lens to better understand Italy,” she said. “The Mediterranean diet is the focus. Everything had to be interactive. We had two culinary classes structured to feel like an in-person experience. Virtually, the teacher could look at the students’ dishes and provide feedback. We visited Italian farms and wineries in real time. We were able to introduce the owners to students.”

As to whether or not schools can retain a full faculty in a time of pandemic, Dr. Brown said, “We are public and not a tuition model. We are supported by the state and city. We are not sure how the pandemic will impact our budget. Enrollment issues are probably not answerable today. Students have not yet made their financial commitment. Until they pay their actual tuition, there is no way to tell.”

Smilow said, “If we can remain open, we can have classes.” He commended the Payment Protection Plan that provided low interest loans and grants to businesses and non-profits. “PPP was very helpful. One of the few government programs that worked like intended,” he said.

Sorrentino then finished the webinar. He said, “This is about the future of our country and the future of our children.” He originally wanted the discussion to include his two children, ages 11 and 17. They had to learn virtually as did most kids in the country. However, in summertime, he said, “They sleep until 3 p.m.”

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Gruppo Italiano and their upcoming webinars and events at





Chef Vincent Tropepe: Advocate and Italian American
- Fighting coronavirus restrictions for restaurants in NYC
- Aggressively cross-examining city inspectors

By Vanessa Altamaura


When I decided to write this article, I wanted to highlight a very specific culinary professional. After a long search, I found the person to profile. He is like a perfectly executed dish at a Michelin restaurant. He has worked in top tier New York City restaurants such as the 21 Club, The Rainbow Room, SD26 and Mr. K’s, to name a few. His long list of celebrity clientele includes Luciano Pavarotti, Muhammad Ali, Billy Crystal and four U.S. presidents, two of which he served aboard Air Force One. He is also a multi-certified chef and gold medalist. To strike the balance of what I was looking for I wanted a culinary professional who knew about the business end of the industry. He is also a restaurant business advocate, representing restaurants throughout New York City. He is considered a premier expert on restaurant and food regulations. As if all of this wasn’t enough, he is also a published author with a 21016 release titled, “In My Whites: A Matter of Culinary Perspective” that sold over 29,000 copies. He toured the country making 54 appearances in only 17 weeks.“Who is he?” He’s Chef Vincent Tropepe from New York City.

Chef Tropepe’s strong Italian roots come from Naples and Calabria. He was raised in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York. His influences include the matriarchs of his family such as his mother, grandmother, aunts and great aunts. Tropepe was always drawn to the kitchen. “I could have become anything, really,” he says. “I was an excellent student, but I became a chef because I associated food and dinners with people being in high spirits.”

The restaurant industry has become increasingly co-mingled with politics. Back in 2013, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg adapted, from California, the Letter Grading system for city restaurants. Tropepe’s cell phone started “ringing off the hook.” He had already done a lot of consulting in California and was familiar with the process that began there. He was soon going to city tribunal offices at the request of restaurant owners.

“There has always been, from the very beginning, inconsistencies with the way city inspectors and investigators inspect restaurants,” Tropepe said. “It is a biased and broken system and the city chooses not to fix it. Most things in life, either personally or professionally, comes down to money. These inspections continue to be done incorrectly because when a docket number is issued they are prima facie cases. The cities don’t want to fix them because they bring in a lot of money.”

Tropepe is a no-nonsense Brooklyn boy inside and outside the kitchen. He is in total control like a conductor of an orchestra. His presence is immediately felt when he walks in to a room. He is known for asking tough questions that nobody wants to answer on the record. He is ruthless in his cross examination and is aggressive in the pursuit of justice for the hospitality industry. Many inspectors refuse to appear without counsel when Tropepe chooses to cross-examine them. Sometimes, they do not appear at all, in light of the chef’s persistence.

Many issues have plagued the hospitality industry; worse among them, by far, is COVID-19. The pandemic has paralyzed the restaurant industry. Social distancing has been mandated to slow the spread of the virus. With restaurants having been forced to close at the start of the virus, Tropepe points out that no rental relief was put in place for businesses. “Carefully watching,” Tropepe is waiting to hear if the city is going to assist with rental relief.

“I give Secretary Mnuchin a lot of credit for his work on the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) to assist small businesses and I think the secretary is a good guy, but this system did not help everyone,” Tropepe said. “Being realistic, I know that when money is issued from the Small Business Administration, it will come with a long list of eligibility requirements. And with dealing and distributing hundreds of millions of dollars it should, but we have to understand that many businesses, prior to the pandemic, were in fine shape until now.”

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is lobbying for The Restaurant Act, asking the government for $120 Billion to be given to restaurants. “That is fantastic,” said Tropepe, “but that too I’m sure will come with prerequisites. Here’s the million dollar question, What happens to the businesses who were doing great before all this and for whatever reason are not eligible for any assistance?”

And in fact Tropepe is right, there is no universal relief. It’s the reason why he authored the Restaurant Rental Relief proposal sent to his city and state government in New York. “The reason why this is a great proposal is that it helps everyone and it is not asking for any money from the government,” Tropepe said. His approach is simple: As restaurant occupancy goes up, the percentage of rent relief goes down. At the time of this article, New York City is in Stage Four of reopening, but still no occupancy is being allowed indoors. Tropepe’s proposal calls for a 50 percent rent reduction with 25 percent occupancy. Lease holders can get a 35 percent deduction from their rent and so on. When occupancy is back to full capacity leaseholders will have to pay the agreed upon rent in their lease. “If we are reopening in phases, as it should be, elected officials need to take into consideration the impact this has on businesses, especially the restaurant industry were we do not make three hundred percent profit on a steak,” Tropepe said.

Some states are seeing dramatic spikes in coronavirus infections. This may cause a reinstatement of stay-at-home orders as their state’s health care system and hospitals get overwhelmed. In an effort to offer relief to restaurants, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) allowed nearly 7,000 restaurants to serve food outdoors on sidewalks and in the street; the length of the store front and the depth of one car. Many small business owners immediately registered and started building structures, according to the codes set forth by the DOT. Some spent thousands of dollars to use this lifeline to save their businesses. A few owners went as far as to hire professional contractors to build the street seating structures to code. After the DOT released these regulations and people spent money, in some cases money they did not have, the DOT then changed some of the regulations. When the DOT sent out inspectors, restaurants were threatened with closures. Some received fines and others a 24 hour notice to fix the structures according to code. Once again, Chef Tropepe was on it! After speaking to restaurant owners and getting many calls, Tropepe did some further digging and it did not take long to realize this issue is a wide spread problem. His office released a statement on what is going on. A letter of correspondence was immediately issued and sent certified mail to DOT Commissioner Maria Theres Domgiuez and Polly Trottenberg’s office, as well as to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and members of the New York City Council.

“It is my experience in speaking to many politicians throughout the years, that they are not educated on the challenges of different industries,” Tropepe said. “This does not make them bad people or even bad leaders, it just makes them unaware. It needs to be understood that a one-size fits all approach to legislation does not work. I often say that the restaurant business is not like any other industry…and that’s because it’s not. It takes a certain breed to work 18 hours a day, go home smelling like shrimp at 4 a.m., just to do it all over again. Representing restaurants was something I fell into, not something I premeditated on doing. I can tell you what kept me doing it…the blatant corruption I saw from inspectors, supervisors and judges. That’s why I took on more and more cases to make sure that restaurants received the justice they deserved.”

As I researched restaurant closures and street seating regulations, this is not solely a New York City issue – this is a national issue. Many mayors have reached out to Tropepe’s team to discuss proposals he set forth to assist the industry at large. Being the premier authority on the subject, Tropepe said, “If they want me to go there I will be on a plane.”

Writing this particular piece has been very rewarding for me professionally and personally. I reviewed so many chefs and their business advocacy and none of them focused on hospitality justice like Chef Vincent Tropepe. Tropepe’s desire for justice stems back from his early years. The entire industry is in debt to people like Chef Tropepe, but his body of work is far more substantial then others that I saw. I am willing to go on the line and call Chef Tropepe The Godfather of Hospitality Justice.






Covid Chronicles
Yet, Not Immediately; Italy Will Receive Loans and 2021!
- Illegal immigrants from Tunisia are rich; woman brings with her a poodle
- Andrea Bocelli disavows Covid-19 restrictions
- Iron wolves in the Piazza Piatti

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the end of the 14th week of now partial lockdown in Florence.

We still need to take care and wear mask. Hotspots are beginning to crop up again in various parts of Italy, especially among young people who insist on meeting in large groups for the so-called weekend “movida.”

There is a wonderful word in Italian: “gongolare”; which means, “to gloat.” It conjures up images, in my mind, of Jack, who jumps out of his box and bounces his way on a spring, beaming with pleasure. That is precisely the impression Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave at the conclusion of the summit of the Council of Europe in Brussels. After five days of hard diplomatic negotiations, the 27 European leaders finally reached a deal on the €750 billion Recovery Fund on July 21. This post-coronavirus emergency fund will give out €390 billion of grants and €360 billion of low-interest loans to EU member states. Italy is one of the biggest beneficiaries.

Italy will, in fact, will receive €208.8 billion: €81.4 billion in grants and €127.4 billion in loans. This is said to be the equivalent to about 28 percent of the total fund. This money, Conte announced, will “change the face of the country.” He basked in the glory of personal success and a sure sinecure for his political survival. Indeed, the result is noteworthy; but it should be remembered that powerful nations like Germany and France have no interest in letting Italy go under. Instead, the opposition parties believe that these funds will arrive too late. The first installment will not come until 2021, when many industries and businesses will have already closed. They claim the fund, which is only money on paper, is really a series of loans and, in the end, a ripoff.

On July 29, the prime minister announced that he had extended the state of emergency for the coronavirus until October 15, 2020. This means he has super powers to happily continue govern by decrees, totally bypassing or even ignoring parliament. The opposition strongly inveighed against this, declaring that Italy is the only country in Europe to prolong the emergency phase. This fell on deaf ears because the government was already busy making over 300 appointments to key positions, strategically placing “friends of friends,” with no discussion before parliament. And they call this democracy!

On a similar tack, it emerged on August 1 that the PM has put a gag order on the release of the meeting’s minutes of his Technical and Scientific Task Force. The inevitable result is a lack of transparency and the question: “what is he trying to hide?”

In the last weeks, the problem of illegal immigrants arriving in small boats and inflatable craft from North Africa, particularly from Tunisia and Algeria, has created a serious emergency. Lampedusa is their first port of call. The small island is at breaking point. In the night of July 31, some 250 people in eight boats landed on its shores. The center, where they are held for health checks and processing, now has over 900 people massed together; when the usual capacity is 250. A never-seen-before scene occurred last week when a small boat arrived from Tunisia carrying a handful of migrants; all were well-dressed and seemingly rich; with one of the women clutching her well-manicured poodle! Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Di Maio wants foreign aid destined for Tunisia to be cut unless it blockades the exodus. The problem is that Tunisia is in a present state of chaos. To add to the confusion, taking what seems a contrary stance within the same government, Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese proposes an aid package. She wants to help Tunisia with economic aid to encourage a halt to departures. The prime minister is silent on the subject.

Recently, the governor of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, has found himself in the eye of the cyclone. A member of the right-wing Lega party, currently in opposition, he is being investigated for fraud. A public procurement related to the supply of lab coats were found and never delivered from the headquarters of Dama, the company owned by Andrea Dini, his brother-in-law; as well as 10 percent by his wife. Of these, 50,000 were supposed to be destined for purchase by the Lombardy region at a higher than market price. Meanwhile, to avoid the accusation of conflict of interests, this has somehow turned into a donation. In his defense before the Regional Council, Fontana, who has refused to resign and who has faced a mammoth task combating the virus in Lombardy, said he knew nothing of the proposed purchase. When he found out, he asked his brother-in-law to make the donation. Since then, it has emerged that Fontana inherited 5 million euro from his mother and has trust accounts left by his parents in the Bahamas. He denies tax evasion. Stay tuned...

Much loved tenor, Andrea Bocelli, has also had his problems this week. He has had to apologize for the comments he made at a conference at the Italian Senate. He appeared to negate the importance of the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 such as lockdown and social distancing. Despite this, according to social media sites, his “misunderstood” remarks have lost him some fans.

One of Tuscany’s most important activities, wine-making, has been badly hit by the pandemic. However, it has just now received important and innovative financial assistance. Massimo Ferragamo, a major producer of Brunello, received a million euro funding from the Bpm Bank for his vineyard in Castiglion del Bosco. The collateral for the loan was the bulk wine aging in the vats in the winery. This is a first for this kind of subsidy in Italy.

Here, in Florence, we are in the grip of a heat wave; but it didn't stop me going to see the prowling 100 wolf statues by the Chinese artist, Liu Ruowang. They sculptures will remain in Piazza Pitti and Pizza SS Annuziata until 2nd November. Promoted by the City of Florence and the Gallerie degli Uffizi, this fierce pack of wolves, each cast in iron and weighing in at 280 kilograms makes you reflect on the delicate balance between nature and humankind in these uncertain times.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.





The Bronze Bust of the Late Civil Rights Leader and Congressman was Completed in 2005
Located Today in The Cannon Office Building on Capitol Hill
“I was afraid to touch his head…”

The bronze sculpture of John Lewis. The unveiling in 2005 had both Claudio and his mother in attendance with the late congressman.
The sculptor at work producing a clay model of the subject.

  Sculptor and artist Claudio D’Agostino is defined by diversity. He has captured in bronze the rich, powerful and influential. There is a bust he did in the 1990s of Jack Valenti, former confidant and adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson, not to mention one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood and the Italian American community. Valenti served as president for many years of the Motion Picture Association of America and was a principal figure in the National Italian American Foundation. Claudio also created a bust of John D. Spreckels, an obscure figure, but, nevertheless, very important. Spreckels, in essence, made San Diego. He developed what had been a fisherman’s village in the late 1800s into what eventually became California’s second largest city today. Claudio has done a bas relief of Celine Dione, numerous drawings (he’s fond of clowns), a porcelain flower centerpiece for former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, a stunning display for the United States Marine Corps and many more.
   Although a plethora of sculpture and paintings are to his credit, Claudio considers his bronze bust of Representative John Lewis to be his most significant, especially in light of the passing of the congressman on July 17, 2020.
   Lewis remains a hero to many in the civil rights movement. He was the youngest to speak at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Convened at the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the highlight of the event when he made his “I Have a Dream” speech.
   Two years later, Lewis led marchers over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The purpose was to take their complaint of voter disenfranchisement to the state capital, Montgomery. Midway, however, Alabama state troopers and county posssemen used tear gas to blind them, horses to trample them and nightsticks to beat them. Lewis suffered a fractured skull and lost consciousness after getting struck with a club by a state trooper.
   The violence was captured on national television on Sunday, March 7, 1965. Americans watched in horror as one network, ABC, cut into their movie of the week, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” with footage the assault. From then on, the confrontation was termed, “Bloody Sunday.”
   A little more than a decade later, in 1986, Lewis was elected to Congress as representative of Georgia’s fifth district. The Democratic primary is what made news. He ran against Julian Bond, another icon of civil rights. The results were a plurality for Bond and a runoff ensued. The contest surprised many for its divisiveness. Lewis ran ads that suggested Bond had once used cocaine. Most voters in the predominantly black district favored Bond. Yet, the liberal establishment endorsed Lewis. Thanks to minority of white voters, he scored an upset victory over Bond, 52 to 48 percent. The election divided the African American community in Atlanta. Lewis went on to win the primary and general election. He remained in Congress until his death, at age 80, after diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
   In 2004, Claudio saw Lewis on television and was moved by his biography and work in civil rights. He wrote a letter asking to sculpt him. Lewis mailed his reply to Claudio, “Thank you for your kind letter. I would be delighted to have you sculpt a likeness of me.” Although, he had never met Claudio or either of his parents, Lewis closed, “Please say hello to your mother.”
Claudio went to Washington (with his mother) to measure the subject. The dimensions of Lewis’s head, facial features, shoulders and chest were recorded. Back in Palm Springs, Claudio first sculpted the figure in clay for several molds made from wax, plaster and, finally, bronze. The unveiling was made in 2005 at a ceremony inside the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill, where the statue remains today.
   Claudio is especially proud to have captured the likeness of Lewis for posterity. In reference to the late congressman, he said to the Desert Sun, “I think especially now that he’s gone, we need to be reminded (about his work).”
   Claudio was born in Canada and moved to the United States with his parents. He lived in San Diego for a time before relocating to Palm Springs, where he lives and works today. His mother is from Cosenza, Calabria and his father is from Minturno in the Lazio region.
   Claudio learned on his own how to draw, paint and sculpt. He declares on his web site: “Although I have always loved art, I am a self taught artist. I have met other artists and they have inspired me. I had to learn a lot on my own and investing in ones self is a good feeling.”
   Claudio credits Italy for his creative development. Again from his web site: “My first love was drawing and painting, then I was inspired by sculpture when I had opportunities to see the master sculptors of Italy when I was in my teens. Then I knew this was normal and why I was born to create and inspire others as well.”
   Claudio remembers speaking with Lewis about civil rights in the Deep South. The sculptor saw a remnant of a blow Lewis suffered so many decades ago. A faded scar was apparent from a deep gash brought on by a nightstick. Claudio said, “I was afraid to touch his head due to the fact all the ignorant white Alabama state troopers hit him over the head, almost killing him. So, that was the biggest challenge for me.”
   The sculpture of Lewis is nothing short of masterful. Claudio captures the detailed attributes of the subject’s face and upper body. More than that, the statue conveys the inner strength and resolve of Lewis who suffered both physically and emotionally for the rights of the oppressed and destitute. One sees the sensitivity of a figure, a native son of the South, who sought progressive change.
   Caludio hopes to produce several recasts of his sculpture of Lewis for donations to public libraries in Georgia and elsewhere.

Editor’s Note: You can view the portfolio of Claudio D’Agostino at







“A Space Between” Conveys the Saga of a Calabrian Family in San Francisco…by Way of Poetry
San Francisco was a far different place in the early 1900s
The Bay of Naples as Inspiration

You dedicate "A Space Between" to your husband. Tell us about where in Italy he is from and also your ethnic background. Are you Italian?

My husband, Michael Citrino, was born in San Mateo, California, in the San Francisco Bay area and grew up in San Carlos. His father’s parents were from Italy. His father’s mother was from San Lucido on Calabria’s western coast, and his grandfather was born in Amantea, slightly south of San Lucido. The immigrant story is a huge part of America’s story. Though my connection to Italian heritage is through my husband’s family, writing A Space Between helped me to understand more of my husband’s Italian heritage and history, as well as to better understand some of America’s history. In writing the book and delving into the specific situations, occupations and events, I gained a greater understanding of the larger story of Italian Americans—what it was like in Italy before Italian immigrants left and the complicated experiences and events after they arrived, many things my husband wasn’t aware of himself, though he is an Italian American.

”A Space Between" begins with the Italian immigrant experience from Calabria to San Francisco. You spent many years traveling and working overseas as an English teacher. How did your work and travel experience prepare you for this book.

I wrote the first poem in response to a piece of music, “Faure’s Après un rêve.” Listening to the solo reminded me of when my husband and I sat one evening, looking out across Naples Bay as a boat pulled across the horizon into the sunset. The scene made me think of how it would have felt for his grandparents departing Italy, leaving behind family members and everything they knew. What an enormous risk it was to leave. Their decision changed not only their lives but the future of all their descendants. From that point on, their lives were lived in the space between two worlds–the one they were born into, and the one they adopted in the United States.

While abroad, I felt simultaneously at home and a stranger. Living in another culture is a wonderful way to gain insight into other people’s felt experience of the world—other ways of thinking, living, and being. I loved learning about cultures in the various places where I lived. I enjoyed exploring each country. Nevertheless, I was guest. I understood I was an outsider. I feel this way now, although the United States is my home country. I had lived outside America for over two and a half decades, and so I now sense a life in a space between worlds. The many cultures where I lived are now a part of me. This simultaneous sense of belonging and yet not belonging helped me to enter into the emotional space of imagining what it might feel like to be a newcomer to America. I could imagine being a person who didn’t understand the language or understanding the culture. That takes time to acquire. While writing the book I found myself often translating experiences I encountered into what my characters might have felt or thought.

I’ve traveled to various regions in Italy numerous times. I visited the towns where my husband’s grandparents lived. We once stayed in a bed and breakfast that was on the same street in San Lucido where his grandmother once lived. Walking through Italian villages, noticing the textures and colors, the geography and plants of the area, the sounds, the layout of cities, talking with and observing people were all helpful in creating the feeling and tone of the narrative.

Writing takes time and the process is engaging. Having taught, read, and commented on other people’s writing for years as an English teacher gave me an understanding of narrative structure and poetry. What also proved helpful was having a few readers willing to read what I wrote and give me feedback, similar to what I asked my students to do over my years of teaching.

”A Space Between" is a unique work. This is an epic tale of Italians in America. Yet, your choice of prose is poetry. Why poetry?

Poetry and essays are the two forms I write in, so it felt natural for me to write the book in poetic form. When I first began writing poems, I didn’t know I would be telling a longer narrative reaching across time. I was simply following my interest in stepping inside the characters’ experiences. I wanted to understand various perspectives and wrote the pieces in different characters’ voices. I knew it would be challenging to create a voice of someone from a different time, a different culture and little to no formal education. I very much wanted to be sensitive to the culture, showing respect, and worked to present things as realistically as I could. Recognizing my voice wouldn’t be the actual voice of my characters, I aimed to write what the characters in the poems might have felt, thought or wanted to have said regarding their experiences if they were to speak about them. From reading, I learned immigrants of the time from southern Italy tended to be private and keep things within the family. Telling their personal feelings and stories to the public would have been unlikely, and the personal stories and feelings would probably not have been shared or written down. I felt deeply drawn to telling the story of everyday people because they were representative of many people’s family stories. Many of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Italian immigrants from the last century long to hear their ancestors’ story, and it deserves to be remembered.

Poetry is a condensed language requiring specific and precise word choices in carefully chosen order to convey a message with impact. A poet chooses to tell only the essential moments, bringing together a constellation of images and sounds into a distilled language so that everything is purposeful. The broad swaths of history can be focused into essentials and key moments that tell the bigger story to carry emotional impact.

You really capture the Italian immigrant experience in San Francisco. At the turn of the century, this was a city far different than its high-tech modern reputation today. Tell us a little about the city then and how well or badly Italian immigrants were treated. 

Italian immigrants in California were productive people. People today recognize names like Jacuzzi, Gallo, Ghirardelli, and Amadeo Giannini; names of Italian immigrants who started industries in California. Italians in San Francisco didn’t have the same level of challenges as people faced on the East Coast. The Spanish had previously colonized the area, setting up missions along the coast. There was already a Catholic presence in the area and greater acceptance and understanding of Italians and others who came from Catholic countries. Much of the racism in California at the time was directed more toward Asians. This being said, southern Italians were seen as different from northern Italians, and while there was a Sicilian immigrant community in California, the majority of Italian immigrants to California were from Italy’s north. They spoke different dialects from each other.

There were very few Italians in California before the time of the gold rush in California. Because those that arrived experienced discrimination, they found it more profitable and beneficial to create businesses. As the Italian population in San Francisco increased, Italians were perceived more as a threat. Labor unions generally didn’t accept Italians and they were seen as taking away jobs from others and were viewed as strike breakers. Newspaper reports pitted Northern Italians against Southern Italians. They painted a picture of Southern Italians as superstitious and less civilized. Because Italians would work for low pay, there was less prejudice against them if they left San Francisco and moved to smaller towns elsewhere in California to start new businesses.

San Francisco had Italian newspapers and opera and dance companies. Italian immigrants played an important role in several industries such as fishing, lumber, agriculture and those industries dependent on agriculture such as the canning. In 1909, the Del Monte company was the largest vegetable canning facility in the world.

During WWII, 90 Italian American Californians were put in internment camps. 10,000 people of Italian ancestry were forcefully relocated and 50,000 in California were required to register as an “enemy alien.” They had to get their registration booklet stamped every week. Enemy aliens weren’t allowed to travel more than five miles from their homes and were required to observe a curfew. Because the government kept information about “enemy aliens” classified, only fairly recently have people learned how people of Italian descent were treated during WWII.

How did this book change you? How do you feel about the Italian experience after writing "A Space Between." 

The history of Italian Americans is absolutely engaging. I wanted to understand as best I could what it was like to be the particular Italian immigrants who are the characters in A Space Between and worked to find the words to best name their experiences. In searching to find, sense, hear, visualize and name the moments that defined and embodied the world the grandparents loved and left, as well as the new world they found, an entire world opened to me that was previously hidden. Whole histories were unveiled that I never knew before. The lives of our ancestors are the seeds of our own lives. Rising from the loam, the choice they made is the perfume of life now lived as a result the journey they took.

Writing the book opened my eyes to see parts of the American story I was previously minimally aware of, the effects of prohibition, government corruption in early California history, why Italians left their home country, reasons why the family was so important, how they were treated as an inferior group of people, the numerous and ongoing significant contributions they made to American culture. Their story both inspires and humbles me.

What's next on your agenda. Do you plan to continue writing sagas in poetic verse?

My husband and I were serious scuba divers for two and a half decades. I’m currently working on a poetry manuscript about scuba diving. Also, I’ve had in mind for some time to write a story in poetry inspired by my great aunt who was born in the late 1800s. She worked as a laundress, could rope a cow, and outlived five husbands. I want to connect her story to the lore associated with the topaz birthstone, and to step inside the time period in order to see how she might have perceived the world. I’m looking forward to the new insights that writing will unfold.

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about the author and purchase her book “A Space Between” at






Covid Chronicles
Week 14
Will the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament Keep Their Promises?
- Italy gets ready to commemorate Dante in 2021
- A visit to Lake Iseo
- Lunch with girlfriends in Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the 14th week of a partial lockdown in Florence.

We still need to take care, wear a mask and sometimes gloves as the coronavirus is still out and about, creating new and unexpected hotspots.

On 11th July, two important tourist industry organizations, Confturismo-Confcommercio and Swg released data about how Italians felt about taking their annual summer holidays. The results were not encouraging. A huge 93 percent of people interviewed said they will holiday in Italy and their vacations will be very brief because money is tight. Their preferred regions are Apulia, Tuscany and Sicily. Only seven percent were ready to challenge Covid-19 and go abroad; Austria being their preferred location.

On 13th July, the National Statistics Institute, Istat, released recent data that demonstrated that Italy has registered the lowest birth rate since unification in 1860, an historic finding. There has also been a slight rise in the death rate and in the number of residency cancellations of people who are moving abroad. They are probably pensioners who can receive their Italian pensions tax free in certain places. They are also given tax incentives to settle in some foreign countries. Immigration had decreased (-8.6 percent), while emigration of Italian citizens has increased (+8.1 percent).

On July 16th, the Decreto Rilancio (Relaunch Decree), after the Covid-19 crisis, was passed into law by the Italian Senate with 159 votes in favor and 121 against. This decree, often called the April Decree, has been drawn out in gestation. It sets out a series of urgent impulse measures concerning health, support for work and the economy and social policies connected to coronavirus. The overall budget for the implementation of these measures is 55 billion euro. Between 15th March and 20th May, the government had already put three fiscal packages into place. The fiscal stimulus allowed for significant tax and loan deferrals, liquidity-enhanced measures and loan guarantees. With the Relaunch Decree, the aim is to refinance many prior measures and to widen their scope to formerly excluded businesses. Rules are simplified to provide more money to those in need.

Opposition parties maintain that the prime minister should not simply go on and on talking about how much money they will spend. Rather, he should clearly state when families and business will receive the money. The Viva Italia party externally supports the government. They will not tolerate the waste of a cent of this money, they said. The government will have to simplify Italy's top- heavy bureaucracy and “run, run, run.” Only time will tell.

On the same day, June 16th, another Decree Law, known as the Decreto Semplificazione (Simplification Decree) was passed. It concerns urgent measures for simplification and digital innovation. Its objectives are to ease administrative procedures and facilitate public procurement and construction contracts; to eliminate or speed up bureaucratic procedures and responsibilities; to support and spread the digitalizing of the public administration; and to support the green economy and companies and the environment. I have lived in Italy too long not to have heard these promises many times in the past but this time I want to believe them because they are vital to Italy's recovery.

Here in Florence, as part of the national celebrations for the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, the Uffizi will be loaning Dante-related artworks for the major exhibition, titled, “Dante: The Vision of Art” to be held in Forlì in 2021, from March through July. Something to look forward to.

Another bright spot is that on July 9th I was invited to be a “judge” at a three-day EFLIT (English for Law & International Transactions) conference at Sarnico on the beautiful Lake Iseo. I was initially concerned that health protection measures might not be observed. The location is not that far from Bergamo, a town that has suffered terribly during the pandemic. However, the organizers assured me that all safety measures were taken and social distancing was to enforced and they were. The last morning, we toured the lake by boat and stopped for awhile at Monte Isola, the largest island on a lake in Europe.

On July 16th, for the first time, I broke partial lockdown and met up with four girlfriends to enjoy a wonderful meal of mixed fried fish and chips. We sat in the open air, part of a seafood restaurant close to the market of Sant'Ambrogio in the Santa Croce quarter of Florence. It was a real “homecoming” reunion as we had not seen each other since the beginning of March. I realized how very much I had missed them and how it was so good to be chatting and laughing again as though none of us had passed these last months in solitary confinement. We all felt a homecoming, thinking that the world as we knew it may slowly be returning to normality.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.




In Italy the face mask has become the ultimate symbol of the covid-19 crisis. Everyone wears them, and they come in almost all sorts of shapes, colors and models. They are able to launch social messages, even by the way we wear them. PRIMO Magazine has looked into this new phenomenon.

Mascherina in Italy
Masks are worn differently by different people in Rome
“We have all become the Masked Man.”

Text and photos: Jesper Storgaard Jensen, Rome



    Italy is slowly turning back to normal after a pandemic lockdown that started on March 9 and ended May 20. Eateries – restaurants, trattorias, pizzerias, wine bars, cafes and bars – were totally inactive. Some 700,000 workers were dawdling; without doing absolutely anything. Billions of euro have been lost. An estimated 20-30 percent of all eateries risk not reopening after the lockdown.
    On June 3, foreigners from other European countries were able to visit Italy. We can now cross “the borders” of the regions where we live, i.e. people from Lazio can go to Tuscany, and people from Puglia can go to Basilicata.
    Italy has seen a strange phenomenon which someone has called “inverse discrimination.” The South of Italy has always been considered the “weak part,” when it comes to economical performance. Today, however, several South-Italian regions (and its citizens) are not pleased with how the pandemic was handled in the North. The flamboyant and “hard-hitting” governor of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca, has publicly said: “In this moment we are not interested in receiving people from the north.” He also refused to sign the governmental protocol to regulate the flow of persons between Italy’s 20 regions.
    In Sicily, a region, with low infection figures, is obviously afraid of the “northern invasion.” The Sicilian governor, Nello Musumeci, is of the same opinion as his colleague De Luca, even though he expresses himself in a somewhat more diplomatic way. Sicily now wants to introduce a sort of a “virus passport,” which means imposing serologic tests on visitors that want to go to the island.

Speechless and nose-less

    Two months have passed since the quarantine ended.
    Now, we have our returned back into society. But something has happened. You immediately see it when you walk around on the streets of Rome. We have…lost our noses.
    The face mask has become the ultimate symbol of the coronavirus in Italy. In Lombardy, it is compulsory everywhere you go. In Rome, only in closed spaces, e.g. shops and closed markets. However, in public spaces you’ll still see eight out of 10 people wearing a mask.
    Our new “pandemic fashion item” comes in many different shapes, colors and models. You’ll see the very popular surgical mask that – consciously or unconsciously - expresses solidarity with thousands of nurses and doctors. There are the quirky beak-shaped masks that immediately direct one's thoughts toward the animal world. There are the use-and-throw-away masks that the Italian government has now promised. We can buy them at 50 cents a piece. There are the masks made of colored fabrics that can be washed and used over and over again. Such masks allow the proud wearer to send a variety of social signals - beautiful and chic patterns for the fashion conscious, the Italian colors for the patriotic, Mussolini's face for the nostalgic, etc.
    The new parole is now "show me how you wear your face mask, and I'll tell you who you are" - the mask worn under the chin (the so-called Naples-model!) or on your forehead is worn by the careless. The mask that covers only the mouth but not the nose, is worn by the distracted. The mask that covers most of the face and that is often held into place by a pair of large sunglasses, is worn by the fearful and infectious-scared, and then of course there are the nonchalant and fearless who move out into public space without any face protection.
In this period, you’ll meet friends and acquaintances on the street, and they will wave at you and say “Ciao, I’m Mario, don’t you recognize me?” And I actually don’t, because with all that cloth wrapped around your face, how can I?
    Now, half sentences, important words, facial grimaces, good intentions and the politicians’ growing noses are sadly disappearing under layers of colored cloth. And as I go to the fruit and green market in my neighborhood, I can feel the elastics of my mask tighten on my neck. I have an almost constant feeling of being short of breath. But I’m too scared to take it off. I’m too scared to jeopardize my own health and those of others.
    But, perhaps this new habit is not so bad after all. That’s actually what the well-known writer and journalist, Michele Serra, says in his article “The Masked Man” in the daily la Repubblica:
“I’m sort of getting used to the new mask. Especially the surgical one – the mask that is blue on the outside and white on the inside – which doesn’t annoy me at all. As a matter of fact, I kind of like it. It puts me in a state of composure. I even feel a certain elegance, the elegance of the low profile. My own ‘self’ has had to take a step backwards. My narcissism is staggering, and my street anonymity is gaining new terrain. Everyone is now nobody, a non-face in the crowd. The mystery of identity - which has always been a puzzle to psychoanalysts, philosophers and writers – has won its battle. No one no longer recognizes nobody. We have all become the Masked Man.”

Editor’s Note: Jesper Storgaard Jensen writes for PRIMO on a regular basis. He lives and works in Rome with his wife and children.




Italian Americans are Disproportionately Affected by the Mask Mandate in NJ and NY
“Arbitrary and Capricious Use of Power” at the state and local levels
- Is the Irish and Italian rivalry the reason why statues are removed in Philadelphia?

  Right now, Italian Americans are dealing with two crises at once. We are being threatened with erasure in many cities, especially Philadelphia. However, we also are facing the horrible mask mandates in New Jersey and New York. Rather than pretend that they are separate issues, we need to see the common cause of both threats to Italian American civil rights and civil liberties. The common cause is the rise of authoritarianism at the state and local levels.
  I am a political scientist and I know that most citizens do not have any clue what authoritarianism is; so I need to explain a little bit. Authoritarianism is often used as a synonym for dictatorship, even in scholarly literature. However, it is a little broader that that. There is gray area between democracy and dictatorship. Authoritarianism can arise in a democracy with an increase in the arbitrary and capricious use of power by fewer and fewer people. In our Italian American homeland, from Philadelphia to New York and throughout New Jersey, we face growing authoritarianism. Arbitrary and capricious attacks are most evident in the removal of statues important to Italians and statewide mask mandates.
  Mask mandates in the age of the Black Lives Matter will not be enforced upon African Americans trying to protest systemic racism and state violence. Also, African Americans are more likely to refuse to wear a mask. As a result, they will disproportionately break the law but will likely not get arrested. I was in the park on Sunday and 14 black men, not all related to each other, were playing basketball, sweating and had contact with each other. They were violating the New Jersey mandate but in this political climate, they were immune to the law. There is nothing wrong with not arresting anyone. However, to choose which racial or ethnic groups are arrested and not arrested is how we got the Black Lives Matter movement in the first place. It would only be counterproductive to reverse racial privilege right now in the enforcement of this executive order.
  Hence, the New Jersey mask mandate cannot be properly policed. And, if it cannot be properly policed, then it cannot be properly enforced. An executive order that cannot be enforced hurts the rule of law. Authoritarianism, in the guise of the mask mandate, simply will lead to anarchy in New Jersey and New York. Either only good people will obey it and give up their rights, while others remain free, or some groups will be arrested while other groups will be allowed to violate the law.
  As always, white Anglos will be immune to arrest for minor crimes while Latinos and African Americans will benefit from the new privilege. That leaves Italian Americans, Portuguese Americans and Jews who will benefit neither from the old privilege nor the new privilege and will be disproportionately arrested.
   In addition to the lawless “laws” of Governors Cuomo and Murphy, there is Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia. Based on unproven accusations, he removed the Frank Rizzo statue, a bronze sculpture that honored the city’s first Italian American mayor. I do not want to defend Rizzo, but Kenney extricated the statue, not because of social justice, but because of Irish-Italian rivalry. When it comes to the Cristoforo Colombo statue at Marconi Plaza, Kenney seeks to remove that statue not because he is offended by the history but, rather, because an Italian American is being honored above the Irish in Philadelphia.
  Irish Americans, more or less, fully benefit from white privilege, especially when they deemphasize their Catholicism. We Italian Americans do not fully benefit from white privilege. Also, unlike the Irish, our ethnicity is not accepted as legitimate. The Irish have achieved so much largely by creating an under-class. In New York, Boston and Philadelphia, and probably also in Newark, Italians, along with Portuguese and Jews, were that under-class. When things go badly, the Irish land on their feet, but the rest of us get hurt, like in Newark.
  We do not like to talk about the Irish-Italian rivalry, but we have always been second fiddle to them, with brief moments of independence. Pretending to be white has empowered the Irish and if we wish to gain equality to the Irish, we must abandon whiteness and align with our Portuguese, Jewish, Greek and Middle Eastern compatriots. An Irishman thinking himself an authoritarian rules Philadelphia. Just like the Irishman in New Jersey, he is able to lord over Italians because his ethnicity is more privileged than ours and we let him do it. We need to say no to authoritarianism and stop letting the Irish and Anglos “whiten” us.

Editor's Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, and adjunct professor at Middlesex County College is Edison, New Jersey, as well as the President of the Italian American Movement and editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Journal of Politics. The author’s opinion may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.






From romance to westerns, Italian American authors cover it all

“The Arnolfini Art Mysteries,” by Rich DiSilvio; published by DV Books, available at

   The private eye is a reliable character who always entertains readers. A complex mystery is solved with an array of fiends, villains and intriguing characters. Leave it to Rich DiSilvio to add to this literary tradition with an original twist. Instead of murders and kidnappings, DiSilvio gives us art forgeries, fakes and stolen relics. The detective for hire is Armand Arnolfini, once a professional soccer player from Italy, who now roams the world solving art crimes for dealers, gallery owners and museum curators.
    “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries” is a joy to read for anyone who loves art, history and the hard boiled detective genre. The author knows his subject well. Not only a commercial artist who created album covers for rock star Alice Cooper, Rich is also a well-renowned historian with “The Winds of Time,” an ambitious work he wrote on the fullness of history.
    “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries” is a collection of short stories about Arnolfini the detective. The first is titled “The Phantom Forger” set in New York in the late 1970s. A manager of the Cloister Museum in the Bronx discovers his newest acquisition, “The Virgin Annunciate” by Antonello da Messina, is a fake. Arnolfini quickly discovers that underneath the famous painting is an abstract work. He then uncovers other Renaissance paintings forged in the same manner. What follows is a journey of clues and a confrontation with the culprit.
    Arnolfini approaches each case with an intrinsic understanding of suspects. A love of art is the common denominator. His reflection on one malefactor is not without sympathy: “His mission of gaining financial compensation was not borne out of self-interest or greed, but rather a philanthropic endeavor to right the injustice of an often cruel and imperfect world, a world that often overshadowed or even trampled over many with extraordinary talent…”
    Carnegie Hall is the setting in “The Russian Link” when Silvio Riccadella’s “Tchaikovsky Memorial” is stolen. None other than John Lennon and Yoko Ono are involved in another story when Arnolfini is called to find a strange and esoteric creation in “The Yoko, Oh No! Mystery.” Other cases take our detective to Bridgeport, Connecticut and The Barnum Museum in “The P.T. Barnum Mystery” and to Hartford and the Mark Twain House and Museum in “The Mark Twain Mystery.” The final story, “The Ghent Mystery” is indicative of art’s international market when Arnolfini travels to Belgium for a special case.
    What’s not to love about “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries”? Art, music, history and mystery all come together to make this a book to be enjoyed by all. No bookshelf should be left without it.

“A Space Between,” by Anna Citrino; published by Bordighera Press, available at

   “A Space Between” is a profound yet uncommon work.
    An epic tale of an Italian immigrant family from Calabria is conveyed though poems that bring life to the thoughts and perspectives of main characters. What might have otherwise been a historical novel is more emotional, more unique and, yes, more rewarding by way of poetry.
    Anna Citrino, originally from San Diego, spent much of her adult life teaching English in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait and the United Kingdom. With a master’s degree in English from Middlebury College in Vermont, she has put to good use her expertise and passion for poetry. “A Space Between” is an astounding book, as dedicated to her husband, “For Michael Citrino, and for those who left their homes.”
    The book begins in San Lucido, Calabria when a tragedy befalls the young married couple, Luisa and Gaetano. The only way out of poverty and the sting of loss is migration to the United States. It is the turn of the 20th century when Gaetano leaves Italy, finds work as a barber and saves enough money for Luisa’s passage. She pushes away any anxiety about the future in a poem that reads, “Fear is a part of life, but I choose to ignore it. So many men had left Calabria before Gaetano and I married. He could’ve chosen another woman, but he and his family chose me. I can stand on my own but I still want him. I am going.”
    Life in the United States is promising. The couple welcomes their five children as San Francisco rises from the rubble of the great earthquake and the ashes of the fire that followed. Although a city equated with high-tech and modern living, today, San Francisco was then a bastion of old style corruption and vice. Gaetano’s poem about the injustice of bribe payments to the city’s Irish political machine follows: “Every healthy man suffers. Food, family, home. I am not asking more than this for the work I do. I’m a barber. I know what to cut and where. Let me have what’s mine.”
    After the family suffers another tragedy, Luisa is forced to work in the nearby Del Monte cannery. “Wheels roll. Machines rattle. The whirl of fruit spills out onto the belt. Searching, separating, I sort through each round raw weight that grew in a faraway sunny field, as if the tumbled fruit could speak.”
    “A Space Between” has much to offer readers. What makes it so much more compelling than an academic retelling of the past is Citrino’s poetry. The words flow to capture a multidimensional world beyond the scope of history. “A Space Between” is an awesome book, one that transports readers to the space and time of their ancestors like never before.

“Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure,” by Andrew Cotto; published by Black Rose Writing, available at

   “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” is the extraordinary new novel by Andrew Cotto. The book should be required reading for anyone who laments America’s descent towards political correctness and a manic lifestyle. A supporting character in the book, Bill Guion, an expatriate living in Tuscany, sums up well the frenzied spirit of the United States. “The Americans I encounter here are so obvious in their pacing, their need to do everything and know everything, right here and right now,” he says. “God, I used to give tours in Rome, but I just couldn’t continue, despite the good pay, the great pay, really, because it was non-stop, with their dog-eared tour books and endless questions and people constantly on my heels, rushing not walking, practically tearing at the city with their eyes and their feet and their need to photograph everything and buy everything. It was too much. Too much to bear.”
    Jacoby Pines is the main character who comes to Italy after his fiancée Claire, a freelance writer, gains an assignment to write about eateries in the country. Once a successful public relations executive in New York, Jacoby is shunned from his profession because of political correctness. As the author writes, he “realized a text message he’d intended for a coworker had been sent to his entire team, including his new boss, who was the subject of a barb that in a rational world would be considered inappropriate and maybe unfortunate, but - in a hyper-sensitized, outraged America - destroyed his career and reputation.”
    Claire pursues a story in Umbria while Jacoby stays behind in the old Tuscan village of Antella. With Bill, they together investigate the identity of a person in an old photograph. The picture, taken many years ago in Tuscany, once belonged to Jacoby’s deceased mother. His inquiry leads to remote villas and eccentric inhabitants in Florence and elsewhere.
Fine food, exquisite wines and great art awaits our protagonist. The closer he gets to solving the mystery, the more he feels at home in Italy. In one scene, “Bill removed his hands from Jacoby’s shoulders, realizing he had been shaking him a bit during his rant. ‘But you, my boy...are right in time here among the Italians. Happy to follow the road to where it takes you, not asking damn questions every step along the way.’”
    “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” is a delight in so many ways, from thoughtful disclosures of the Tuscan hills to sumptuous descriptions of Italian food, to enlightening commentary about modern times. The book is a must-read for anyone who yearns for adventure as only Italy can deliver it: Knee-deep in the good life.

“Orienta…She is the Dance,” written by Orienta Badia, edited by Patricia Badia-Johnson, published by Dorrance Publishing, available at

   For every name that shines bright on Broadway or in Hollywood are those that did not make it. They came close to stardom. Very close. However, they fell short, not for their lack of talent, but because of bad timing, poor management and many personal adversities.
    Such is the case of Orienta Badia. She was 17 years old when she became a professional dancer and part of a Latin dance group that performed in the country’s top theaters and nightclubs. The money she made helped her family during the darkest days of the Great Depression. Orienta’s light shined bright but dimmed fast. She was still a teen when she married and faced many setbacks, including two divorces and two of her five children who had medical difficulties. She gave up dancing and any chance of stardom for something more practical. She became a police matron and ensured the care and sustenance of her children.
    Art remains forever in a person. In retirement, Orienta embraced her creative side again, this time as a writer. She penned a novel, poems, and many essays. After Orienta’s passing at 87, daughter Patricia compiled her work for a heartfelt anthology titled “Orienta…She is the Dance.”
    What goes on behind the scenes in show business is the source for an intriguing novel, that makes up much of the book, titled “Rina.” Here is a work of fiction based on Orienta’s life as a professional dancer through the eyes of Rina Bianco. The girl aspires to be a star as she is cheated and molested by her manager, Rob Dailey, and her parents, immigrants from Abruzzo, all but disown her. Orienta conveyed a depth of language to compliment her fluid prose. Her talent for writing was equal to her dancing and that says a lot.
    In “Rina,” the mystique of stardom is conveyed in a key scene. Dance director Barry Clark explains what a performer must do. “You see, Rina, I think you have potential. You are one of those people with rare quality, something special, something indefinable…I admit that one of the reasons that you can’t do a top-notch job on your performance and you cannot do your best if you aren’t in top form; physically and psychologically.”
    After its dramatic conclusion, “Rina” gives way to poems and shorter works by the author that convey a unique perspective on life. A consistent theme is a deep love for her family. She pays tribute to her children and, Patricia, among them, does the same for her mother in “Orienta…She is the Dance.” The book is one to be read, cherished and remembered.

“A Bronx Cop’s Tale,” by Detective Frank Starnella, Ret. (NYPD), with Ann Bumbak, A Dynamic Police Training Publication, available at

   It’s hard to say whether “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” is more like “Dragnet” or “Adam-12.” The television programs that reigned on NBC in prime time through the 1960s and 1970s depicted detectives, Joe Friday and Frank Gannon, in “Dragnet” and uniformed officers, Pete Malloy and Jim Reed, in “Adam-12”. Detective Frank Starnella could have been cast in both programs since he was an investigator and patrol officer for the New York City police department from 1981 to 1994. He conveys his crime fighting exploits and experiences in his exciting and insightful memoirs, “A Bronx Cop’s Tale.”
    Crime writing conveys the entirety of the human condition from depravity to heroics. “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” follows the template as pioneered by Jack Webb, actor, writer, director and producer of television’s “Dragnet” and “Adam-12.” Detective Starnella gives us the true-life tales of New York law enforcement as he lived them. They are real, factual and told in a straight forward manner. The cases speak for themselves. He writes in the book’s introduction: “Whether you are a police officer or someone with an interest in police work, I would like to share my story with you in the hope that you may find something interesting or valuable in it.”
    Some 81 police officers were killed in the line of duty while the author was employed in the NYPD. The book is replete with many life threatening cases and events. While a rookie, he confronted an armed robber. “The suspect placed one foot out of the car and then paused again. I still had my service revolver pointed at him. My partners then came around to the driver’s side as backup. Suddenly, in a split second, the encounter escalated. The suspect quickly reached into his waistband where he had a loaded .38 caliber revolver.” The next seconds depended on his training and the brave support of his fellow officers to apprehend the suspect without injuries or fatalities.
    “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” is set in New York’s northernmost borough. Detective Starnella is a true son of the Bronx. He served as a police officer where he was raised and realized his true calling. His parochial school was across the street from a police station. He writes: “My heart was inside the precinct across the street, not in the classroom. I learned what I was meant to do.”
    “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” is a gem of a book that will excite and enlighten readers. The book is a heartfelt tribute to law enforcement and the dynamic Bronx borough of New York. “A Bronx Cop’s Tale” is excellent.

“Christmas in Venice,” by Joanne Fisher, published by Joanne’s Books, available at

   It is impossible not to enjoy reading “Christmas in Venice,” a beautifully written new book by Joanne Fisher. The author’s underlying message is undisputed: Venice is the most romantic city, ever.
    Joanne Fisher is no stranger to writing romantic fiction. Her novels convey the dreams of all women where a modern day prince is found in the most splendid settings. “Christmas in Venice” does not disappoint as all the enchanting beauty of Venice is on full and tantalizing display.
    “Christmas in Venice” begins as Tiffany Washington makes her trek from America to Venice to take over the reigns of an old glassworks business there. From the moment of her arrival, she falls prey to the city’s timeless charm and sees, “Venice a thriving, living creature but frozen in time like an antique clock that had stopped ticking.”
    Tiffany is dedicated to making her business thrive. Yet, things get off to a shaky start when she is confronted by the city’s labyrinth of regulations. Inspectors visit the shop prior to opening day with permits to be completed and stamps and fees to be paid. The author conveys Tiffany’s feelings when, “At that moment, she hoped that she would make enough money to pay the City of Venice for the very dear property she would be owning one day. Between one tax and another fee, she felt like she would have to hand over everything she made to the City of Venice. She simply nodded.”
    As Tiffany immerses herself in glassmaking, she is visited each morning, with espressos in hand, by Massimo Bussetto, owner of a nearby cafe. Handsome, friendly and possessing a unique charm inherited from his noble blood, Massimo is a good match for Tiffany’s natural American beauty. The two begin a courtship that takes them to all reaches of this majestic city. In one scene, “As they strolled along the Grand Canal, the breeze was strong enough to rock the gondolas back and forth while making ripples in the water…Venice was just enchanting in the evening as it was in the day. Tiffany never got tired of it.”
    What would a romance novel be without an interloper or two to mess things up. Enter Massimo’s mother Celia, who we learn is just like all Venetian mothers to “live up to their blue blood standards and fully expect their children to do the same…” Will the romance survive as differences in class and culture take hold?
    Joanne Fisher has given us a delightful new book in “Christmas in Venice.” As the title suggests, this book is a Christmas gift to be enjoyed all year long.

“Breaking from the Enemy,” by J.R. Sharp, published by Kohlerbooks, available at

   “Breaking from the Enemy” is unique among novels about World War II because it takes place in Italy, not France. Most fictional accounts focus on fighting after D-day when France was a countrywide battleground. Yet, Italy was an equally hard fought setting with hostilities that lasted until war in Europe was officially over.
    J.R. Sharp has given us a valiant retelling of Italy’s war in “Breaking from the Enemy.” The book is a tribute to his grandfather Gino Cartelli and great-uncle Chester Zucchet and their experiences in World War II. Indeed, the main character in the book is named after his grandfather. The novel begins with young Gino Cartelli recovering from wounds fighting in Ethiopia. Mussolini took the African country with hopes of becoming a major colonial power. Ethiopian resistance was especially lethal and many Italian soldiers were killed and injured. Not suitable for combat, Gino serves as an electrician for the army in Rome under Nazi control. A northerner from Pordenone, he is a bit of an outsider in Italy’s capital until he makes friends with Giacomo, another wounded soldier, who is also from the North.
    The author focuses much attention on Gino, Giacomo and the Italian resistance. A conflict is set when character Herman Schmidt is introduced. A wounded hero in a tank battle in Belgium, he now serves as a major in the German Getstapo. Schmidt is sent to Rome to rebuild the Italian army after its disastrous defeat in Greece. While there, he assists Italian fascists in their battle against partisans.
    J.R. Sharp is the ideal person to write such an entertaining and suspenseful novel. A former commander in the U.S. Navy, Sharp knows well military protocol and the ways of battle. He conveys unique facts and figures about Italy’s wartime experiences. The interplay of characters, plot twists and turns in “Breaking from the Enemy” is real and intense.
    What makes the novel special is Sharp’s veteran status. Although he served in a different theater of war; in a different time and place, he comes to the story with considerable empathy. He knows well the mystique of the soldier; how he carries on after being wounded physically and emotionally. Warriors become shadows of their former selves as years of conflict continue. What pushes them onward is the essence of their souls and where they stand in the battle between right and wrong.
    “Breaking from the Enemy” is a tribute to all people who suffered the ravages of war in Italy and everywhere. The book is awesome!

“The Relentless Italian,” by Sarina Rose, Rostek Publishing, available at

    Italian men are the most romantic.
    This is one of many lessons learned by the protagonist, Sophie Carreri, in the entertaining and fulfilling new novel by Sarina Rose titled “The Relentless Italian.”
    Sophie is a senior at St. Joseph College in New Jersey when the story begins in 1964. She yearns to be a veterinarian as cultural changes take shape in the country. Enter Tony Andriosi, a good looking and well-dressed Italian who wins Sophie’s heart. We get a sense of their idyllic romance when the author writes: “The rose and purple sunset faded into a shimmering dark blue sky as the ferry motored over the smooth bay waters. The senior class was in a dreamy mood. Couples lined along the rail, arms around each other looking at the stars. Singles huddled together in small groups. Some dance music drifted over the loud speakers. Tony put his arms around my waist and took me to an open area to dance. Other couples joined us. I looked over his shoulder.”
    “The Relentless Italian” is divided into chapters as told through the eyes of Sophie and Tony. Not just a perspective of female and male but one that is American and Italian shapes the conflict to come.
    Tony is not like the other boys at school. As noted by Sophie’s Italian mother observing the couple, “‘You sat too close to him in the car. He’s a too short for you, too Italian. Why you not meet an American? Some man more like you. Besides, you know, he has…er…he has…a…you know…man feelings.’”
    Although a professional singer back in Italy, Tony comes to America for a college degree. He professes true love for Sophie when their romance gets serious and they are faced with a new dilemma. Tony must return to Italy to record a new album while Sophie will attend veterinary school at Cornell University in upstate New York. As Sophie mused in one scene, “Nice, falling for a guy who lived in two countries, traveled back and forth, and already in charge of my heart. I would go out with him, but I would have to wear a protective led coat over my heart and an iron chastity belt.”
    Tony returns to Italy where fame and female fans await. Meanwhile, Sophie faces a secret crisis. Will their love survive years separated by an ocean?
    “The Relentless Italian” might seem a quaint return to a different time and place. Yet, the hopes, fears and struggles of Sophie, Tony, their families and friends, are the same as those faced by us today. Generations are no different from one another when love is at play. Such is the ultimate lesson learned by the young characters - and all of us - in “The Relentless Italian.” A beautiful book.

“Six Rode Home,” by Michael Dante, published by Bear Manor Media, available at

   Michael Dante is no stranger to Westerns. The actor possesses the natural good looks and athleticism to always be tall in the saddle. He starred in television shows such as “Daniel Boone,” “Custer,” “The Big Valley,” and in feature length films such as “Apache Rifles,” “Arizona Raiders,” and the role and film that made him a living legend - “Winterhawk.”
    In addition to acting, Dante is also a writer with screenplays and novellas to his credit. His chosen genre, of course, is the Western. His latest is the highly entertaining and absorbing novella, “Six Rode Home.”
    Dante is not unlike other Italians who embrace Confederate soldiers as main characters. Look no further than Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci, two pioneers of the Spaghetti Western, who preferred hero bounty hunters as Southern renegades and veterans. The romanticism and charm of the South attracts Italians. The rugged environs of the Wild West appeal to our collective sense of adventure.
    “Six Rode Home” begins as the Civil War ends with men returning home. They are six hardened warriors: Cole, Big Black, Trotter, Pender, Jubal and Simpson. They seek the wild hinterlands beyond Tennessee. Some remain bitter at war’s end. Trotter captures the dark mood when he says, “I still got a war going inside my gut…tell me how to stop it…Four years of putting my life on the line and what do I have to show for it? I got no home, no money, nothing!”
    One half of the group, led by Cole, seeks to become ranchers and the other, led by Trotter, become outlaws. Big Black is a former slave who is Cole’s adopted brother. They make a formidable team against corruption and greed back home. Some men in the county got rich selling weapons to the North. Things come to head when a local Indian tribe is threatened by the land hungry ranchers. “Six Rode Home” is the kind of story that made America the envy of the world. Westerns are universally famous. The genre appeals to people’s natural sense of right and wrong. The battle between good and evil is set upon rugged plains, majestic hills and awesome mountains. The hero is noble but not afraid to use his gun to the win the fight.
    “Six Rode Home” is an engaging novella from beginning to end. Dante gives us characters that are approachable, definable and likable. The land, the story, the heroes and villains move us. “Six Rode Home” is a Western at its best. This is a wonderful book to be read by anyone and everyone who loves the majestic spirit of Americana.

“Bloodline: A Historical Novel,” by Anthony Thomas DiSimone, Archway Publishing, available at

   Anthony Thomas DiSimone gives us a story in “Bloodline” that is as historically thorough and enthralling as what might have come from the books written by the late James Michener.
“Bloodline” takes us from 1860s Sicily to 1970s America. In a little over 500 pages, the author is able to cover this unique epoch in an interplay of fictional characters with historical figures ranging from Giuseppe Garibaldi and Antonio Meucci to Robert F. Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa.
    “Bloodline” begins in the village of Corleone in Sicily at the time of Italy’s Risorgimento. The Scalise family are the last of the old feudal lords who control much of the area with their property, wealth and power. A crisis ensues after Bettina Castellucci, the 17-year-old mentally challenged daughter of a poor yet proud family in town, finds herself pregnant. When Enrico Scalise, son of the Don, is accused of being the father, both families must work together to censure the scandal. They conceive a plan that enlists the support of the Roman Catholic Church and a network of clans and townsfolk to retain the status of both families. This is a running theme throughout the novel: How cooperation and conflict will emerge, succeed and fail between families representing different classes and subcultures in both Sicily and America.
    “Bloodline” is a multi-dimensional work that covers the varying decades of history. The author’s focus is on the Sicilian mindset and the unwritten rules of lasting power. In one scene, the Merendinos become a powerful family in Sicily “by maintaining alliances to purchase not only olives but other locally produced products.” By helping other family owned businesses, the Merendinos “took care of their flock in more than a biblical sense. They were patrons in the social as well as economic sense, as well as general mediators and benevolent protectors.”
    Mr. DiSimone has a lot of love for both Sicily and America and it shows. The writer is at his most insightful when he describes what Sicily symbolized to those who once lived there. He writes: “They were indeed people of that place, that earth, but more than that, there was a sense of ownership to this land, these towns, and the cities…When the soil did not produce, some felt as if it was a personal insult from this terra amaro (bitter earth).”
    “Bloodline” is an awesome book that conveys the entirety of Italian America. The characters, settings and events, many of them from real history, makes this an extraordinary book to read and remember.








A Plea to California Governor Gavin Newsom
From Velio Bronzini, a 90-Year-Old, Longtime, Italian American Resident of Castro Valley

Pictured are the author’s parents, Guido and Clara Bronzini,
circa 1945, two family photographs with his brother Lorenzo,
and his current photograph.

The following letter was written by Mr. Bronzini on June 21.


The Honorable Governor Gavin Newsom
President of the Senate Toni Atkins
Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon
Assembly Rules Committee Chairman Ken Cooley

California State Capitol
PO Box 94289 Room 204
Sacramento California 95814

As a son of Italian immigrants, I am stunned and appalled that you would even consider removing the statue of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella from the State Capitol Rotunda. Those monuments not only represent the contributions by Italians to California but also to our great country.

The toppling of the statue of the great navigator and explorer, Christopher Columbus, from San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill was driven by a mob mentality. It is an insult and an affront to people of Italian heritage and to the memory of those such as A.P. Giannini who was extremely instrumental in rebuilding San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Whether you agree with it or not, as descendants of Italian immigrants we are entitled to the preservation of our history. The contributions made by Italians to our state and country are immeasurable and should not be diminished.

I have heard the argument that Columbus was a polarizing figure; really ladies and gentlemen of the California legislature, you were not elected for the purpose of, nor do you have the right, to re-write history.

The first recorded celebration of Christopher Columbus in the United States was 1792 and he has been celebrated in San Francisco since 1869. In 1891, eleven Italians were lynched in New Orleans; they were murdered by a mob. It was the largest mass lynching in American history. In that period, Italian Americans were the second largest group to by lynched in this country. The following year, in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation and urged Americans to celebrate, marking the day of October 12, in celebration of Columbus’ landing in the Western Hemisphere. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day as an official U.S. holiday.

Although discrimination and abuse of Italian Americans continued, as a people we have moved forward from the dark days of injustice. The attacks on Christopher Columbus are unfair and obscure the reason why COLUMBUS DAY MATTERS to all Italian Americans. The successes of Italian Americans are being erased by a new wave of bigotry, intolerance and prejudice by a mob mentality in order to re-write history in their own vision.

If some are offended by the Christopher Columbus statues that is no excuse or reason for their destruction and removal: THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. It is important to the Italian American people (and should be to all people of this country) that the statues remain in place and are looked upon as a part of history, whether individuals or certain groups approve of them or not.

The real danger lies in the fact that it will set a dangerous precedent for future movements by any other group. If something is deemed unjust or offends them, they can pressure lawmakers and have it erased from history.

Columbus Day holds a special significance for me. October 12, 1942 was the day that my father and mother became naturalized American citizens. It was also the date that President Roosevelt announced the lifting of restrictions on non-citizen Italian immigrants who, although in this country legally, at the outbreak of WWII were declared to be enemy aliens. The president lifted the restrictions, recognizing the loyalty and contributions made to our country by the Italian people. I ask that you please do not erase our proud heritage.


Velio Bronzini
Castro Valley, California

Editor’s Note: On July 7, without deliberation, debate, or a vote in the legislature, three presiding members of the California assembly - Toni Atkins, Anthony Rendon, and Ken Cooley - ordered the removal of “Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella.” The marble statue that had been in place inside the state capitol rotunda building since 1883 is no longer there.






PRIMO’s Picks
From Carmen Basilio to George Forman to the “Thrilla in Manilla” to “The Super Fight”
Strategic planning combined with shrewd tactics for Angelo to help his boxers win

In the current edition of PRIMO - First Edition 2020 - we feature a six page article on Angelo Dundee. He is rightly considered one of boxing’s best cornermen. He trained the likes of boxing’s greatest champs such as Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Carmine Basilio, and many more. To read the full story, please order this latest edition of PRIMO at

In a supplement to the article, we feature here the five greatest boxing matches of cornerman Angelo Dundee. He not only trained his boxers, he was there with them in every fight. He coached and coaxed his men to the final round. Some of the greatest boxing matches of the last 50 years had Angelo Dundee finding a unique edge to victory. Here are five fights that show Angelo and his fighters at their best.

Carmen Basilio v. Sugar Ray Robinson, September 23, 1957, New York, New York. It was after service in the United States Marine Corps in World War II that Basilio sought a career as a boxer. He was amazingly aggressive with quick reflexes that were fine-tuned when Angelo became his trainer. Basilio was welterweight champion when he faced the great Sugar Ray Robinson in Yankee Stadium. Robinson had the advantage going into the fight. He was middleweight champ and was heavier, taller and more experienced than the challenger. Angelo, however, knew, going into the fight, that Basilio could take the best from Robinson. The first rounds were a real battle. Angelo played doctor for much of the fight. Basilio suffered serious cuts above his eyes from Robinson’s jabs. A homemade solution by Angelo treated the lacerations and stopped the bleeding. This gave Basilio time to come back in the middle rounds. He attacked Robinson with combinations to the head and body. The fight was incredible in the number of punches thrown. Neither boxer wanted to cede to the other. Only after the final bell was rung was there a split decision, and a close one at that, for Basilio. Angelo’s fighter was now middleweight champion of the world.

Muhammad Ali v. Joe Frazier, October 1, 1975, Quezon City, Philippines. It was called the “Thrilla in Manilla” and rightly so. The fight remains one of the best in boxing. It was the third and last time Ali met Frazier in the ring. The setting was a crowded, hot and humid stadium in the Philippines. Ali was ahead midway in the fight when he laid back on the ropes. Angelo never liked this tactic, coined the “rope-a-dope” in the press. Ali underestimated Frazier’s speed and was hit repeatedly. He was hurt and in trouble. Then Frazier backed away in the 10th round. Angelo ordered his fighter to attack with consecutive jabs to the eyes. The fight was then to be decided by the trainers in the 14th round. Frazier was almost blind from jabs while Ali was almost dead from exhaustion. Ali wanted Angelo to take off his gloves and call the fight. Meanwhile, Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, was convinced the boxer’s sight was lost if the fight continued. Which side blinked? Angelo refused Ali’s pleas and got his fighter ready for the final round. Meanwhile, Eddie Futch threw in the towel to save Frazier’s eyes. It was Angelo’s man who remained heavyweight champion.

Muhammad Ali v. Earnie Shavers, September 29, 1977, Madison Square Garden, New York, New York. Champions find an edge. Ali was to defend his title against Shavers as broadcasted live on NBC television. The fight was supposed to be an easy win for Ali. Yet, Shavers was in the best shape of his career and had a right hook as hard as granite. He tagged Ali in the second round. The champ tried to make light of the punch by holding on to his opponent and clowning with the audience. Yet, everyone knew Ali was hurt. Such was the fight. Ali forged ahead weekend by the blow. He relied on speed to avoid getting hit and used his long reach to jab Shavers repeatedly. Yet, the challenger connected again with a powder keg right. The crowd was on the edge of their seats when the fight became a brawl. However, Angelo knew all along that his fighter was destined to win. This was the first telecast of a boxing match to show the judges’ scorecards in real time to the audience. Angelo had the television on in Ali’s dressing room. His assistant watched the scores given each round, ran and told the results to Angelo at ringside. Ali was way ahead by the 12th round and, save for a knockout, Shavers could not win. However, Angelo kept the news from his fighter. Thinking he might lose, Ali gave his best performance in the 15th round and won what many consider to be his best fight.

Sugar Ray Leonard v. Marvin Hagler, April 6, 1987, Paradise, Nevada. Leonard had been retired from boxing when he saw Hagler almost lose to John Mugabi. The middleweight champ looked slow and Leonard was convinced he could beat him. He sought a shot at the title and challenged Hagler in what was deemed by the press “The Superfight.” Angelo thought Hagler was especially dangerous. He decided that Leonard could only win by relying on speed and footwork. Much of the action hinged on pre-fight negotiations. Hagler was to make more money from the bout in return for giving Leonard a larger size boxing ring, bigger gloves and 12 rounds instead of 15. Leonard was in excellent shape after Angelo’s strict regimen, that required, in addition to calisthenics and sparring, two hours of tennis a day. Angelo had Leonard constantly on the move in the fight. The wider boxing ring gave the challenger more room to dodge Hagler’s assaults. The fight was an excellent showcase of pugilistic skill with numerous exchanges but no knockouts or knock downs. Leonard was drained at fight’s end but he won a split decision on points. He unseated Hagler to become middleweight champion of the world.

George Foreman v. Michael Moorer, November 5, 1994, Paradise, Nevada. It was 1987 when Foreman returned to boxing 10 years after his retirement. He wanted only to earn enough a money to subsidize a gym he owned in Houston. However, with one knockout after another, he had the makings to once again be champ. He called in Angelo in 1991 to train him after Evander Holyfield agreed to give him a shot at the title. Although the fight was a losing effort for Foreman, the old boxer surprised everyone by going the distance with Holyfield. It was three years later when Foreman got another chance. Michael Moorer had defeated Holyfield for the heavyweight title and agreed to fight Foreman. The bout began one-sided with the 27-year-old Moorer ahead in points. It was the ninth round when Angelo told Foreman he needed a knockout to win. Heavy and hard punches came Moorer’s way. The champ made himself vulnerable after he attacked with a flurry of jabs. Foreman threw a hard right that connected and Moorer went down for the 10 count. At 45, Foreman was the oldest person to become heavyweight champion of the world.







The Columbus Statue Was Destroyed in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 10
PRIMO asks everyone to boycott the city until these conditions are met:
- Repair the statue
- Restore the statue
- Arrest and prosecute vandals
- Lt. Governor Flanagan apologize

  Nothing is worse than a criminal act, except when it seems a state’s lieutenant governor condones it. This is exactly what happened when Peggy Flanagan, lieutenant governor of Minnesota, all but cheered on vandals in Saint Paul who tore down the statue of Christopher Columbus there on June 10. Members and supporters of the American Indian Movement, an activist group founded in Minneapolis, gathered at the state Capitol, tied a rope around the neck of the bronze figure and pulled down the statue. It is reported that law enforcement were aware in advance the group wanted to destroy the statue but made no arrangements for a barrier or other form of protection. Devoid are any police officers in view attempting to stop the crime.
   Governor Tim Walz vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice at a press conference convened on June 11.
   Since then, however, no arrests have been made. Many videos are available on YouTube and elsewhere to view the criminal act occurring in broad daylight by vandals, one of whom has been identified as Mike Forcia. American Indian Movement took full responsibility for the statue’s destruction and even went so far as to indicate their criminal intentions to law enforcement in advance. And yet…there have been no arrests.
   Although such vandalism remains shocking and unwarranted, it still does not match the incendiary and injudicious remarks of Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. She followed the governor at a press conference a day after the assault. The second highest ranking figure in Minnesota said she would not “shed a tear” for Columbus. She accused the explorer, without foundation, of having sold girls as sex slaves. “There is no honor in the legacy of Christopher Columbus,” she said. In reference to the taking down of the statue, she quipped, “I am not sad to see it gone.”
   The lack of arrests might not be too surprising when the state’s own lieutenant governor says things than many could reasonably interpret as endorsing vandalism and the criminal destruction of property.
   The time has come to make a stand. All Italian Americans and all people who support the rule of law, who cherish history, public art and demand responsible government must take action.
   PRIMO urges Italian Americans and all Americans to boycott Saint Paul, Minnesota.
   The words of the lieutenant governor and the criminal act of vandals are unacceptable. Equally appalling are the lack of arrests. The lieutenant governor presides over Minnesota’s Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board. Questions arise as to whether she will preside fairly over the board and decide without any bias against Italian American interests the art and architectural works for the state Capitol. Considering her remarks about Columbus and the destruction of his bronze rendering, one can reasonably presume that she will not serve Italian Americans equal to others of her state. Her apology to Italian Americans could do much to quell such concerns.
   The Columbus statue was erected in Saint Paul in 1931 as a gift to the people of Minnesota by Italian immigrants and their descendants in the state. Italians had settled in Saint Paul to work as bricklayers and carpenters in the burgeoning construction trade. Many of the landmark buildings in Saint Paul, including the state Capitol, itself, with a dome modeled after Saint Peter’s Basilica and designed by Michelangelo in Rome, was built, in part, by Italian labor. From poor and desperate circumstances in Italy they came to live, work and eventually open a wide range of family businesses in Saint Paul. Italians became proud citizens of their adopted city, state and country.
   In the mid-1920s, members of the Italian Progressive Club in Duluth conceived of a monument dedicated to Columbus. Other Italian American organizations and clubs supported the idea and donations were collected among Italians, numbering then about 10,000 in the state.
   Bigotry and discrimination were experienced by many Italians in Minnesota. Iron Range is a moniker given to a key region of the state where Italians faced considerable persecution. Peter DeCarlo and Mattie Harper wrote in the online newspaper MinnPost in 2008 that “Iron Range officials called southern Italians, ‘inefficient and worthless … fit for but the lowest grades of work in the open-pit mines.’ Whole towns were disqualified from being ‘white’ if too many Southern Europeans lived there. Although Italian-American Minnesotans faced discrimination throughout the state, it was most prominent in the Iron Range region.” The writers continue, “Starting in the 1890s a racial ideology of Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, and Nordic superiority held sway in America and served as the basis for ‘whiteness.’ This ideal of Northern European ancestry excluded many immigrants, including Southern Europeans, from full-fledged participation in American society.”
   With passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, Italians in Minnesota sought to counter a rise in racism and bigotry directed against them and others from Southern Europe. They hoped the Christopher Columbus monument could help them gain greater acceptance in the state. The statue was a token of thanks to the people of Minnesota but also a reminder to them that a person from Italy founded the New World. Carlo Brioschi, an Italian immigrant, was hired as the sculptor to create an exceptional rendering of Columbus. As is true throughout history, a stunning work of art can bring people together in awe and reflection. This is exactly what happened when the statue was unveiled on a cold winter’s day in 1931. On hand for the ceremony were Italian Americans throughout the Midwest, along with the governor of Minnesota and other public officials who made speeches praising Columbus, the statue and the Italian people of the state.
The destruction of the statue of Columbus on June 10 is a renewal of intolerance and bigotry for Italian Americans in Minnesota. A work of sculpture that was intended to heal the pain of persecution was destroyed in broad daylight by their Native American neighbors. The cruel and heartless remarks of the lieutenant governor sends a clear message that Italian Americans are not welcome in Minnesota.
   Saint Paul adjoins Minneapolis as the state’s most populated area. The riots that all but destroyed the Twin Cities will go down as a sad chapter in American history. The death of George Floyd by local police remains tragic and unnecessary. Now is the time for the Twin Cities to rebuild and bring people to the region. We Italian Americans are willing to help and visit the city to spend our money on the many tourist attractions of the area. However, that will not happen if the statue of Columbus is not repaired, restored and put back on its former pedestal. Those that unlawfully destroyed the statue must be brought to justice and an apology from Lieutenant Governor Flanagan must be made to Italian Americans of Minnesota and the country.
   Saint Paul has much to offer visitors. Yet, we Italian Americans, who number 20 million in the country, will boycott the city. We will not tour the many landmarks and famous mansions along Summit Avenue in Saint Paul. We will not visit the Como Zoo and museums of the city. There are many fine hotels and restaurants in Saint Paul but Italian Americans will not patronize them. We will not stay there overnight. We extend the boycott also to the Minnesota Twins and other professional sports teams in the Twin Cities.
   The boycott will continue until the monument and statue of Columbus is repaired, restored and returned to its pedestal in the Minnesota State Capitol where it had been since 1931. We will continue the boycott until those who took down the statue are arrested and prosecuted. We demand that Lieutenant Governor Flanagan apologize for her mean spirited remarks that can reasonably be interpreted as condoning the criminal act of tearing down the statue of Columbus, a proud symbol of the Italian American community in Minnesota and the country.

Editor’s Note: The following link is a video, one of many, of the tearing down of the Columbus statue in St. Paul: Video footage of the governor’s press conference in Saint Paul is seen here: At five minutes and 30 seconds into the press conference, Lieutenant Governor Flanagan makes her remarks about Columbus and the Columbus statue.



The Covid Chronicles
Should Italy Take European Union Funds to Pay for Coronavirus?
“I am the one to do the sums,” says Italy’s PM; “A Trap,” says Lega
- Opera instead of fireworks for the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist
- No lines at the Uffizi

By Deirdre Pirro

Pictures: Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany, meets with her
Italian counterpart, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The famous Uffizi
Gallery in Florence had shorter lines and less visitors to Covid-19.

This is the end of the 12th partial lockdown in Florence. We still need to take extra care, wear a mask and gloves as the coronavirus is still lurking out there.

One thing is for certain in Italy, politics is never dull and, during the last week, even less so than usual. Yet again it concerns the soap opera of whether or not Italy should accept the funds for coronavirus-related health system expenses from the the EU's European Stability Mechanism (ESM). On 27th June, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave an interview to La Stampa newspaper. She said "the Recovery Fund cannot solve all the [economic] problems, but without it the problems would be worse. Too high unemployment in a country can have an explosive effect. The dangers to democracy would, at that point, be greater.” She then added, "Italy should think about activating the ESM." For once, the response was not slow in coming. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte replied, "I respect her opinions, but nothing has changed. But I am the one to do the sums, together with the Minister of the Economy and Finance Roberto Gualtieri, the State accountants and the Ministers.” It could, however, be that the PM' s strongman stance is simply a play for time given that he is currently in a difficult situation. Owing his elevation to the role of PM to the Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S), founded by comedian Beppe Grillo and now deceased web strategist Gianroberto Casaleggio, and never having been voted in by the people, Conte is now in a position where the M5S strongly opposes accepting the ESM fund. On the other hand, its coalition party in government, the Partito Democratico (PD), together with its splinter group Italia Viva, led by the former PM and ex-mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, as well as a major opposition party, Berlusconi's Forza Italia, want the funds as quickly as possible. To add confusion to chaos the other two major opposition parties, the Lega and Fratelli d'Italia are also contrary to accepting the money, believing it to be “a trap” and “a not very reliable resource,” witnessed by the fact that, at present, other countries like France, Spain and Portugal have decided not to apply for ESM funds.

On 25th June, students, parents, teachers and teachers' unions demonstrated in 70 squares throughout the country protesting against guidelines for reopening schools in September by the Minister of Education Lucia Azzolina. They claim that these guidelines provide neither resources nor personnel to make them viable.

There is also concern in Mondragone, in the province of Caserta, which has recently become a coronavirus hot spot. From a second screening, another 28 people tested positive, after the initial discovery of 23 cases of contagion mainly among Bulgarians, seasonal workers in agriculture in the area.

Name and blame time has begun in one of three worst coronavirus hit Italian regions, in Reggio Emilia also. The public prosecutor's office there ordered the exhumation and autopsy of the bodies of 18 old people who died in the recent months in a nursing home in Montecchio Emilia. Five people, including the director and other managers, are now under investigation and risk being charged with manslaughter or with the crime of culpable negligence against public health.

On 28th June, President Sergio Mattarella took part in a commemoration of the over 6,000 victims of Covid-19 in Bergamo and surrounding areas. The moving Messa da Requiem of Gaetano Donizetti was performed before invited guests at Bergano's Monumental Cemetery and was transmitted live on TV and on the web.

Here in Florence, the mayor, Dario Nardelli, in an interview to the local press revealed that the loss of revenue coming from tourism caused by the pandemic has brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy. From $200 million in tourist revenue in 2019, this year, it has virtually dwindled to nil. This will escalate when visitors from the United States, Russia, Brazil and Qatar are refused entry after international travel opened up on July 1st. Lack of revenue from American students studying abroad who will, not for the present, be resuming their programs in Florence can only deepen the dire situation. The mayor estimated that about 10,000 apartments available for short time rents, many hotels and restaurant were now empty. The city's coffers were also deprived of about 48.8 million euro of revenue from the local tourist tax on which they strongly depended. He went as far as to say he was ready “to put the city's buildings up as collateral” if only the Italian Constitution allowed cities to get into debt. Unfortunately, it does not; so the mayor of this beautiful town has a serious problem. He has to find a solution to and his political future may depend upon it.

On the brighter note, this week, Florence, together with Turin and Genoa, celebrated the feast day of their patron, Saint John the Baptist. It is a holiday and, in normal times, a Mass is held in the cathedral in the morning followed, in the afternoon, with the final game of historic football in costume in piazza Santa Croce. Later, a rowing competition takes place along the Arno river and, finally, at 10 p.m., a magnificent fireworks display is launched from piazzale Michelangelo, mirroring their lights in the river below. But not so this year. Instead, Florence was illuminated by a light show of its major monuments, the highlight being three streams of light beamed onto the lantern at the top of Brunelleschi's Dome. In the cathedral, Zubin Mehta conducted the orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino opera house while the singer-songwriter, Irene Grandi, performed in the Palazzo Vecchio’s “Salone dei Cinquecento.”

Whilst I am still breaking full lockdown slowly, I took one major step out into the world this last week. Because I believe it will be difficult to see Florence in the future so empty of tourists, I decided I wanted to visit museums and monuments. I had not visited them for years because I hate queues and jostling among the crowds to enjoy them. So my first stop on Sunday morning was the Uffizi Gallery. In contrast with today, in 2019, this art gallery had counted 4,391,895 visitors, an increase of 33.2 percent compared to the year before! I booked my visit and entered without difficulty and on time with no hustle and bustle. Two hours of sheer visual delight awaited me. Next visit this coming weekend will be to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.





Artist Kelly Cerami Puts Her Skills to Good Use in Designing a New Line of Italian Themed Greeting Cards, Business Cards and Other Products
“My love for art and my Italian heritage inspire and influence me the most.”


Chicago based artist Kelly Cerami was interviewed by PRIMO about her new line of Italian themed greeting cards and other products. Here is what she has to say about her work and how Italy inspires her creative designs.

Please tell us your family background in Italy?
My famiglia is from Villalba Caltanissetta Sicily. My inlaws are from Palermo.

What led you to produce greeting cards, gift and business cards with Italian themes?

I was not able to find Italian greeting cards in stores. I decided that to put my graphic design skills to use and create a line of Italian greeting cards. I wanted to showcase my love for the Italian art and culture. I have a card for every season and holiday from CIAO to Ti Amo to Buon Compleanno to Buona Befana.

Where did you learn graphic design?

I went to the Art Institute / Dominican University Illinois. I went to school for Fine Art and Graphic Design. My love for art, especially Italian art, started at a young age when I found out that I was good at creating. I have won awards, sold art and even started an Italian Art League – Casa Italia Chicago Art League. However, I am most proud of creating a line greeting cards and other products for the Italian community; that truly needs to be recognized.

What is your approach to graphic design?

My approach is to write ideas down and draw figures; whatever comes to me. Sometimes, ideas just flow, and I need to design my them. Then I decide if I like what I have done.

Who or what has most influenced you the most? 

My love for art and my Italian heritage inspire and influence me the most. Each Italian-inspired design is created out of love for the Italian culture (food, wine and art).

What is your strongest skill and how have you developed it over the years?

One of my strongest is looking at something and knowing if the piece flows. I sometimes drive myself crazy when looking at a piece and deciding if it is evenly spaced or needs a new element.

Editor’s Note: Kelly Cerami has an array of fun and creative Italian themed greeting cards and other products. You can review and purchase her work at To learn more about the Chicago Italian Art League, please log on to






The Columbus Statue Was Destroyed in the City on June 9
PRIMO asks everyone to boycott Richmond tourism until these conditions are met:
- Repair the statue
- Restore the statue
- Arrest and prosecute vandals


  With a wave of Christopher Columbus statues and monuments vandalized and removed by a host of municipalities, PRIMO urges all Italian Americans and Americans of all races and ethnicities who appreciate history, public art and the rule of law to make a collective stand.
   Statues that depict Columbus were given as gifts to cities by Italian Americans with the understanding that the recipients were to maintain and protect the artworks. Their destruction in recent weeks is a breach of that trust and a national disgrace. What is worse is that some mayors, members of city councils, governors and other officials have either applauded the destruction or remained silent and, thus, have greeted the vandalism with ambivalence.
   This will not stand.
   Our focus here is on the city of Richmond.
   The statue of Columbus was taken down from its pedestal in Richmond’s Byrd Park on June 9 and was grossly defaced with paint and thrown into a nearby lake. Expression of outrage neither came from Richmond’s mayor Levar Stoney nor most members of the city council. There was no press conference convened to condemn the vandalism. There was no public voice of outrage at the criminal act and no expressed commitment on the part of the mayor, police chief and district attorney to capture and prosecute the perpetrators. There have been no arrests, as of today.
   We presume from the tepid reaction of Richmond’s mayor and other officials that the statue will remain destroyed with little priority, if any, to bringing the offenders to justice.
   Hence, PRIMO calls for a boycott of the city of Richmond.
   We urge all Italian Americans and Americans of all races and ethnicities, who appreciate public art, history and the rule of law not to visit Richmond and that city’s varied tourist attractions and those of the surrounding region.
   Richmond, a city of 210,000 residents, has in recent years seen an increase in violent crime and other social ills after a period of some revitalization. Indeed, the city’s population was declining until a rebound began 20 years ago only to wane in recent years.
   Tourism is vital to Richmond’s economy and generates some 20,000 jobs and $2 billion annually. According to the Visit Richmond web site, “If not for tourism spending, Richmond Region households would pay an additional $585 per year in taxes.” After the coronavirus lockdown, Richmond is understandably anxious to get the city’s economy going again and tourism is a big part of that recovery.
   Now is not the time for Richmond to alienate Italian Americans - some 20 million - and dissuade us from visiting the city.
   Hence, our boycott is aimed at Richmond’s tourism industry.
   The city is near the I-95 interstate. We ask those who are driving this summer to points south, such as Virginia Beach, the Carolinas, Georgia or Florida, to forgo spending night(s) in any hotel, motel or other establishment within the city or an outlining area of 25 miles. Please do not utilize gasoline stations, snack shops or eateries within a 25 mile sphere of Richmond, either while driving south or north on I-95.
   Richmond is a city with many museums dedicated to fine arts, science and history. There is the Old Dominion Railway Museum and a museum on the life of Edgar Allan Poe. There are many historical buildings and landmarks. We ask all not to visit them. Please keep away from all tourist attractions in Richmond. Do not attend any events or conferences scheduled there. Please do not convene a family vacation or reunion anywhere within 25 miles of the city. Please stay away.
   We call for a boycott of Richmond to last until the following conditions are met: 1.) The repair and restoration of the statue of Columbus, 2.) Reinstallation of the Columbus statue in its original location at Byrd Park, 3.) The arrest(s) and prosecution of those who vandalized the statue and their co-conspirators by police and the district attorney. We understand that investigations are not fool proof. Hence, if the two former conditions are met and the third is satisfied by a discernible effort on the part of law enforcement, then the boycott is lifted.
   To allow the destruction of the Columbus statue is to affirm what was, briefly, a sad chapter for Richmond. Ethnocentrism and religious intolerance were the initial reactions by the city’s fathers when the edifice was proposed by the Italian American community there 100 years ago.
   Back then, the city’s small yet close knit Italian American community was led by Frank Realmuto, a barber who raised funds for the statue, hired the sculptor and coordinated the installation. A coalition of city residents that included some members of the Ku Klux Klan successfully lobbied the city to refuse donating land for the statue. Reasons given were that Columbus was a Roman Catholic and a foreigner and, as such, not a worthy figure to stand among edifices paying tribute to Confederate heroes. A compromise was brokered after newspapers from all over the country wrote editorials condemning the decision of the city council. Land near Byrd Park was then set aside for the statue. Ferruccio Legnaioli, an Italian immigrant, designed the structure. A ceremony was held in December 1926 when the statue was finally unveiled. In attendance was Virginia’s governor, the Italian ambassador, the city mayor, members of the city council, and Richmond’s Italian American community. What began as a dark moment became a proud day in Richmond’s history.
   Sad then that the Columbus statue was torn down and destroyed with such hatred by vandals and met with such ambivalence by Richmond’s leaders. The statue is actually a testament to how Richmond was divided but came together in understanding and compromise and a great work of art was erected. To allow the statue of Columbus to remain broken and off its pedestal is to accede to the past spirit of bigotry and religious intolerance of the city. To avoid justice and not arrest and prosecute the vandals that destroyed the statue is a slap in the face of those Italian Americans who sought to thank their city of adoption with a worthy statue of the discoverer of the Americas. For Richmond to do nothing is a clear signal that all Italian Americans are not welcome there.
   The boycott stands until the statue of Columbus is fully restored and the vandals are brought to justice.





Imposing a Quarantine on Visitors from Another State is Wrong
What NY, NJ and Connecticut are doing is immoral
“This is just payback…”

By Christopher Binetti

  Do you feel American anymore? I am not sure that I ever felt accepted by most Americans but I feel more like an Italo-Jerseyan than ever before. The nation is falling apart, not just the rule of law, but the very sense of a common cause between the fifty states. I feel strange coming to you, the Italian American people, and proposing two different and seemingly contradictory statements - boycotts are needed but the kind of two-week quarantines being enforced right now at the time of my writing against the states of Texas, Arizona, Florida, and others are wrong.
   You must be scratching your collective heads. He is about to write in favor of boycotts while at the same time refusing to agree to quarantining whole groups of people in his name, you say under your breath. After all, Texas has never accepted us, nor Arizona, and much of Florida still does not accept us.
   At the same time, you will argue that if quarantines against groups of people are wrong, then so must be boycotts. After all, the most logical boycotts would be against whole states, such as Minnesota and Ohio. Is not boycotting a whole state just as bad as quarantining whole groups of people based strictly on state origin?
   Why are we boycotting places? I am not calling for a boycott of Richmond or of Boston. I will not call for a boycott of a 50 percent black, poor city that is run by a bad guy who does not care about his city (Richmond). I will not call for a boycott of Virginia because my Italian American friend and his Italian children (also Chinese American) will be affected by it. Boston can be negotiated with, so I will not call for a boycott upon it (yet). Massachusetts is still home to many of us to safely boycott it right now.
   The places where a boycott makes sense are the city of Columbus, perhaps the state of Ohio, and all of Minnesota. In Columbus, the mayor acted against the laws and constitution of his own state. A boycott will work without hurting anyone. Even the threat of a massive boycott over civil rights, in this pro-civil rights atmosphere, will bow the mayor, who does not have the support of the city council, from what I can tell. The State of Ohio, with its long history of anti-Italian racism is a also a prime target. Moreover, Ohio has Democrats and Republican in the State in abundance, making our boycott strictly non-partisan.
   The boycott of Minnesota is based on the clear legal and constitutional violations by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor, as well as the State Patrol, that stood by while Colombo was lynched in front of a cheering, hateful crowd. We need also to challenge Native American power and privilege, but that is mostly for another article. That said, we will force people to realize that Native Americans are just too powerful in hateful Minnesota. We need to make the civil rights argument against Minnesota.
   So, you can boycott a state or city but can you quarantine a state or city? I think that you cannot. You must have seen the news. Shaun King of the Black Lives Matter Monument wants to smash the Jesus statues in most churches, particularly I think Catholic churches. He views Jesus as a hateful symbol. I cannot let him be right, not this week. As a devout but flawed practicing Catholic who seeks to be a good role model for his nieces, I cannot in good conscience harm my own persecutors through the positive punishment of quarantines.
   In psychology, there are two types of punishments, positive and negative. Positive punishment is lie a quarantine, forcing people to endure suffering as a form of revenge, which is what these quarantines are, not good-faith public health and safety measures. Texas and Florida in particular did this kind of two-week forced quarantine thing to New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, and this is just payback, plain and simple. There is also a partisan element to it, since the three main states (Florida, Arizona, and Texas) affected by this are Republican strongholds or are perceived to be so.
   The other kind of punishment is called negative punishment- the withholding of something rather than the infliction of suffering. Boycotts are negative punishments, while quarantines are positive punishments. A negative punishment for bad behavior in children is no dessert, while the child-equivalent for quarantines is child abuse. Clearly, there is no moral equivalence between boycotts and quarantines when you think of it this way.
   So, we should not punish Texas and Florida (and more incidentally Arizona) through quarantines that are unconstitutional anyway. Government cannot simply lock up an entire state’s people for two weeks without a better, more narrowly-tailored way of separating out real health and safety concerns from red herrings. Also, states are not supposed to be able to interfere with interstate commerce like this. Quarantines are state action and thus are subject to intense civil rights and civil liberties scrutiny under the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions.
   However, boycotts by Italian Americans, not endorsed by the state, are not state actions. I do not believe in state entities boycotting other state entities, pretty much for any reason other than civil war. I do not want the State of New Jersey or municipalities to boycott Texas, which San Francisco (which is a terrible place for Italians to live) actually does. No, state boycotts are morally wrong and unconstitutional and I do not support them.
   Instead, individuals an groups of people, even ethnic groups have the moral and legal right to boycott states and cities, which are really state entities. Frankly, I like boycotting whole states, since under the state and federal constitutions, state governments can overrule pretty much everything that a city does. So, why not hold a state that allows immoral and unconstitutional municipal actions to stand accountable for those actions through entirely peaceful boycotts?
   Boycotts by people against states are just us refusing to help those who hate us. However, quarantines are doing direct harm to our adversaries and this both immoral and unconstitutional, even if we are righteous Democratic heroes and they are benighted Republican scoundrels. To politicize public safety and health measures and to use them too broadly just to harm one’s adversaries, one’s supposed fellow Americans is unworthy of us all.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at The author’s opinion as expressed in the article may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.




120 artists have created 99 murals that have a total length of 1,260 metres, second only to the Berlin Wall. The Art Mile, inaugurated in May last year, in the Roman district of Torraccia, is an explosion of beauty and an example of how public spaces can be turned into surprising works of art. PRIMO Magazine went to visit an unknown Roman area which is way out of the city’s centre, and definitely way out of the ordinary.

A Sound Barrier of Suburban Beauty
Torraccia - the city’s poorest district now has art and purpose

Text and photos: JesperStorgaard Jensen

In today's Rome - tormented by what seems to be an unstoppable decay - it is particularly pleasing to celebrate the one-year-anniversary of a project that tries to bring the city closer to new forms of beauty, the regeneration of abandoned areas together with the aggregation of communities around art.
   This is exactly what happened in May last year, when n extraordinary art project, The Mile Art, was inaugurated in the presence of Rome’s Mayor, Virginia Raggi. The display is located in the Torraccia and San Basilio district, in the northeastern part of the Italian capital, close to the city’s huge ring road. The promoter is the cultural association Arte e Città a Colori (Art and Colorful Cities). PRIMO went to talk to its president, Francesco Galvano, to find out more about this project.
   On arrival in Torraccia, a neighborhood built at the end of the 1980s, the importance of having created a work so full of light and life becomes abundantly clear. This suburban neighborhood really seems to be on the edge of reality, with rows of anonymous public housing and many social problems. But now it has an attraction that draws both Roman and non-Roman visitors.
   I approach the beginning of the area. Here, there is a sign with the words - "Welcome to the Art Mile - 99 murals and 120 artists for an Open Air Museum" – that welcomes me, together with Francesco Galvano.
   The impact leaves you incredulous. The panels are about 13 feet hight (four meters) and nine feet wide (2.7 meters). There are about a hundred of them, divided into different sections. In all, they measure 4,133 feet (1,260 meters). "After the Berlin Wall, which surpasses the Art Mile by just 132 feet (40 meters), this is Europe's longest work of art,” Francesco tells me, understandably proud.

Apparently a mission impossible
As we start our walk, Francesco recounts, "The idea of this project came to me about three years ago, when some local people asked me: ‘why don't we try to use the noise barrier to do a street art project?’ The anti-noise barrier was placed at the end of the Torraccia district to cushion the hubbub of traffic from the ring road,” Francesco explains.
   "The idea was good, but it really seemed like a mission impossible. Our association works to find large spaces where intervention is required, to change the appearance of a neighborhood, obviously to make it more beautiful and civilized. I knew, therefore, more or less what needed to be done, and right from the start I knew that there were so many things that needed to be sorted out,” he says.  
   It’s hard to disagree with him when you take a look around. Many years ago, in the 1930s, San Basilio was one of the first villages to be born, when many families in the center of Rome were forcibly moved to the suburbs to make room for the construction of new central roads. The former well-known urban planner, Paolo Berdini, called the new new development "distant suburbs,” while writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini was much less diplomatic, defining San Basilio simply "a concentration camp for Rome’s poor people.”
  "With a small group of locals and with the fundamental support of the so-called Retake Group Torraccia (Retake is a non-profit organization in Rome that works on various regeneration projects, ed.), we began to clean up the whole area. The grass was growing wild and was quite high. Then we had to send away shady characters who were dealing drugs. It was only a year later, when the area had been suitably cleared, that we were able to start the core project,” explains Francesco.
   Today the lawn is nicely manicured, the plants are pruned, the benches have been painted and young trees stand side by side with the older ones. Together with Francesco I move on as I contemplate the many artworks. You really need to pause every 10 steps or so to take in all the detail from each individual piece of work. One of the first murals depicts Don Luigi De Liegro, founder of Caritas (Italian organization of emergency aid, ed.), who died in 1997, accompanied by the words "Love and share.” He is followed by Little Red Riding Hood who hugs a frightened wolf, two teenagers on the beach saying "I like you,” the judges Borsellino and Falcone, who were killed by the mafia and Peppino Impastato, who met the same fate. It is indeed a colorful experience, full of meaning and important civil and social values.
  "You will surely see many well-known personalities, painted to highlight some of the themes covered throughout the work: Here we pay tribute to nature and the environment, we defend the most socially marginalized classes and we also say no to violence against women.”

A choral work
The project was brought about from a choral work: 120 artists were involved - some well-known street artists, together with artists that are totally unknown to the general public, as well as local youngsters. Even foreign artists have participated, e.g. from Venezuela, United States and the Philippines.
   Everyone worked without receiving any remuneration. The materials were paid for with crowdfunding which the local people organized.
   The murals are full of human and pedagogical messages: Two stylized children are accompanied by the phrase "Don't compare children to each other, you can't compare the sun and the moon, they shine when it's the right time.”
   In front of all this beauty I immediately feel concerned. How do you protect yourself from the notorious Roman writers, those who are signaling their passage with often vandalistic tendencies?
   “Well, before starting the project we identified the signatures of the local writers, and we contacted them in order to involve them in the project. And they accepted happily. In doing so we motivated them to safeguard the murals. I hope it will work,” says Francesco.
   To understand the stories behind each of the 99 murals you could easily spend an entire day in Torraccia. I ask Francesco about some artworks, including one that depicts a teenage boy standing among the stones, with the sea behind him.
    "Among the murals there is one in particular with quite a special story,” Francesco says. “This is the case of Federico, a boy who died of fulminant meningitis earlier this year. He was 15 years old. His mother had asked me to dedicate a mural to him and of course we wanted to fulfill her wish. The artist is called foko 127. He is a policeman who is an artist in his spare time. Look ... he also quoted a small part of an Eros Ramozzoti-song, ‘From the Other Part of the Infinite,’ which Federico liked very much. Her mother told me that since this mural has been there, she no longer goes to the cemetery. She prefers to come here, to be with her son.”
   I take a good look at that image which is accompanied by Ramazzotti's words: "Nothing has passed, nothing is over, you have only slipped into the other side, to the infinity, we’ll meet again, where the horizon meets the open sea".
   Francesco Galvano is rightly aware of how aesthetics have embraced a powerful symbolism in the Art Mile. Yet he doesn't rest on his laurels. "We have a new project in the pipeline," he adds, "that is, to put a plaque under each work, with the artist's name and a brief explanation of the meaning of the work itself. Having this information would enrich the mural itself. Then my dream is to organize guided tours. Only this way will it be possible to fully enjoy this amazing work.”
   Another plan for the future is to create periodic cultural events in this area. It used to be "a concentration camp for the poor", but today, instead, it seems like a small corner of Switzerland, where every color tells a story of its own.

Editor's Note: Arte e Città a Colori -




The Covid Chronicles
Prime Minister Conte Holds a Summit at the Villa Doria Pamphili
- Measures to help the economy could take a year to implement
- The playgrounds are open
- Enjoying Florentine cafe while wearing a mask and gloves

By Deirdre Pirro


Villa Doria Pamphili

This is the end of the eleventh and beginning of the twelfth week of now partial lockdown in Florence.

I am a little later in presenting my chronicle this week as I have been waiting to report more fully on Italian Prime Minister Conte's latest brain child. He calls it the "estates general on the economy,” a nine day summit that began on June 13th and aims to map out Italy's economic recovery from Covid-19.

Staged at Rome's magnificent Villa Doria Pamphili, the gathering convened with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressing the audience on conference call. She assured, "Europe will be by Italy's side because it needs a strong Italy.” Other leaders from international organizations such as the OECD, IMF, ECB, Harvard and MIT were expected to speak, together with government ministers and local experts on the economy and society. The summit is not, however, open to the public. City mayors were not invited or were journalists except for a select few. Opposition parties (Forza Italia, the Lega and Fratelli d'Italia) refused to attend believing that such important questions should be debated in parliament.

The prediction is that the “estates general” will rest on nine main pillars, which were already widely known before the event ever started. These include the digital revolution, infrastructure, the green economy, industry 4.0, supply chains, simplification and reform of the public administration, the health system, justice administration and research. It's hard not to wonder how many struggling factory owners and small businesses could have been helped from the money spent on this extravaganza. There are some 400,000 workers in Italy who are still waiting for the promised payments from the State redundancy fund and an equal number of workers who have not yet registered.

More mystifying than ever is that on June 8th, Vittorio Colao, chair of the government's much trumpeted Task Force presented his long-awaited “report” entitled “Initiative for the Relaunch of Italy 2020-2022.” Fifty pages long, the communique contains a little over 100 proposals for Italy's recovery. These are divided into six chapters: Companies and Employment; Infrastructure and the Environment; Tourism, Art and Culture; Public Administration; Education, Research and Skills; Individuals and Families. He suggests measures will take up to 12 mouths to implement.

Following the release of the Task Force report, the prime minister informed us that "it is an important contribution, but it is not political.” In other words, it would be politicians to relaunch the country. Then why bother with a Task Force in the first place? Furthermore, it makes the Estates General look as though they are trying reinvent a wheel that has already been invented and paid for profusely. Added to this, no other European country has engaged in such a spectacle. Instead, like Germany and France, they have reacted swiftly and made concrete efforts to solve their economic problems. Meanwhile, Italy has spent well over a week in an ivory tower just talking, talking, nothing but talking.

The other major event in this week concerns high school kids in their final year. On June 17th, they began their exams for graduation. Already disadvantaged after being home schooled since the end of February 2020, students will not take a written exam but, instead, face only an hour of oral questions. The interrogating commission will be made up of teachers from the students' school and not an external commission as before. The system of evaluation will be based on overall performance during their five years of high school.

Here in Florence, I am still breaking full lockdown very timidly. The weather has not helped as we have had a very rainy introduction to summer. The wet days are predicted to last in central Italy for at least another week or so. Maybe it's a good thing as the water will wash the virus off the streets. I did, however, manage a morning coffee with a friend I had not seen since March. Masked and gloved, we met at a cafe nearby the market where we noticed that most cafes along the street placed their distanced tables on the curbside as customers want to sit in the open air.

Under my apartment, the small playground has reopened with social distancing still the rule; as it is easy to see an almost impossible task for mothers to keep their toddlers from running about and hugging and kissing their playmates, despite their mini-masks. Strangely, I had become used to the absolute silence over these last weeks and I now miss it.

Magazines articles have appeared in Italy explaining that, after these months of home working and lockdown, many women say they have put on weight because of reduced physical exercise and have become used to wearing more “comfortable” clothes. Fashion houses are, therefore, now working on collections that will feature this new looser-fitting but still elegant styles. It made me think of when women freed themselves of those cumbersome crinolines! So I, for one, can't wait to renew my wardrobe...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.






Italian Americans Must March, Boycott, Sue and Demand Equal Protection Under the Law
“We have a right not to be erased.”

By Christopher Binetti

  Four statues of the first immigrant to the Americas, Cristoforo Colombo, were attacked and other statues depicting him have been removed by local governments.
   Only in Miami, a Latino-majority city, were Columbo statues spared. That is because the Latino mayor and mostly Latino police force respects Colombo or at least understands what he means to so many Latino and Italian Americans. Attacking Colombo is xenophobic, racist, and Italophobic, as well as Hispanophobic. After all, he worked for Spain and without him, there would be no Latinos.
   Black Lives Matter (BLM) is now the predominant civil rights movement in America. Some of the movement’s supporters who are rightly angry at systemic racism in America and police brutality have resorted to violence. They have taken their frustrations out on Italian symbols and public works of art.
   The governor of Minnesota called the lynching and take-down of the Colombo statue there as “civil disobedience.” No, it is not. This was rioting, plain and simple. Italians should boycott and march in protest against Minnesota until we get our statute back, an apology, arrests and prosecutions for those who vandalized the artwork.
   “Italian Lives Matter” should not be a banned phrase, but I guarantee you that GoFundMe will ban it, so will Twitter, Facebook and perhaps YouTube. No one cares about Italian lives. Even Italian American politicians such as Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts, will routinely harm the Italian American community to impress suburban white progressives.
   We will be erased if we do not protest, march, sue, and boycott. Philadelphia has begun erasing us. The Boston mayor says that he will not repair or replace the decapitated Colombo statue there or aggressively prosecute rioters. Richmond’s government is equally bigoted against Italians. Our cultural symbols are protected under civil rights and hate crime laws and we will ensure that these laws are followed, including legal action against rioters, the cops that did not stop the assault, mayors, governors, etc…
   Italians are not white but letting white progressives call us white has allowed them to stereotype us, ridicule us, take away our representation, make us poorer and less elite, and now erase us. I am a liberal Democrat but I will not play for the white progressives any longer. Native American activists say they no longer wish to be peaceful. Italian American will not follow their wrongheaded call. Instead, our civil rights activists will be peaceful and we will not allow our cultural property destroyed. That means suing, peacefully marching, organizing voters and boycotting offending jurisdictions.
   It is time for Italians to finally receive equality and civil rights in this country. Many Italians will not march due to threats to their lives and property. This is not just about property or cultural symbols. Italians have never successfully marched for our civil rights and so we have never fully earned them. In order to march, we must feel safe. We feel unsafe because our lives do not matter to most politicians outside Miami and New York City.
   We have a right not to be erased. We have a right to march safely. We have a right to have our cultural heroes represented. We are not like the pro-Confederate people, whom we condemn. Colombo was not a monster. The lies against him are simply that - lies. Many Latinos and Italians know the truth - that he was a flawed hero, like someone out of “Game of Thrones.” Italian lives are threatened because we know that no one cares about us and behind our back, bigotry and stereotyping comes out of white progressive mouths all of the time.
   So, when I say that Italian Lives Matter, it is because no one ever stands up for us. We are not even recognized as the persecuted minority that we are. It is time for us to not be afraid to march for our civil rights and protect our heroes, like Cristoforo Colombo.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at The author’s opinion as expressed in the article may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.



Webinar Panel Organized by Gruppo Italiano Featured Notable Figures in Italian and California Wines
No matter the crisis, Italian winemakers remain optimistic

Pictured: Gianfranco Sorrentino, Lamberto Frescobaldi, Peter Mondavi, Jr.,
Gino Colangelo, Nunzio Castaldo and Camilla Massimago

How have Italian and Italian American vintners been affected by the coronavirus lockdown? What can be done to adapt and still succeed in a time of pandemic?

These were key questions posed and answered at the recent webinar event organized by Gruppo Italiano, a non-profit organization in the United States that fosters an appreciation for Italian food and beverage through promotion and education.

Moderator for the webinar event was Gino Colangelo, principal at Colangelo & Partners, a food and beverage marketing company with offices in New York and San Francisco. This was part of the Italian Table Talks series presented by Gruppo Italiano with yesterday’s panel discussion titled “Has Covid-19 Uncorked a New World for Wines?”

The event was convened through videoconferencing and Mr. Colangelo was joined by some of the most notable figures in Italian and California wines. There was Lamberto Frescobaldi of the Frescobaldi winery of Tuscany who represented large vineyards as did Peter Mondavi, Jr., in California, co-proprietor of Charles Krug Winery, the oldest winery in Napa Valley. Nunzio Castaldo, president of Panebianco, LLC, a wine distribution company based in New York and New Jersey, was on hand with his perspective along with Camilla Massimago of Massimago Wines, a centuries old family vineyard in Verona, Italy. Two other participants were mainstays of New York such as Gianfranco Sorrentino, owner of Mozzarella & Vino, a restaurant serving fine Italian food on West 54 Street and William F. Dahill, an attorney and a partner at Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller LLP, with an office on Park Avenue.

Mr. Sorrentino began the event with a general introduction on how coronavirus severely curbed the activity of restaurants and eateries and unique challenges faced by the wine industry. Mr. Colangelo took over the discussion from there to claim that restrictions imposed by local and state governments had facilitated the use of digital media for wine makers. “Direct communication to customers has been accelerated by Covid,” said Mr. Colangelo. “Digital cannot entirely replace in-person sales and contacts, but it will be an increasing mode of communication in the years to come.”

Mr. Colangelo offered a silver lining approach to the current pandemic when he spoke. Finding opportunities in what otherwise might be a catastrophic crisis was picked up by the other participants and became the overriding theme of the webinar. He pointed out that “in 2019, there was a slight decline in wine sales of about one percent. In 2020, the trend is up and sales are up even with the onset of Covid.” He conveyed the latest industry reports where online wine sales surged by a staggering 234 percent and price categories of $25+ a bottle saw a marked increase in consumption. “The challenge,” he said, “was to ensure that Italian imports make up a significant part of this increase.”

Mr. Frescobaldi then spoke from his home in Tuscany and confirmed the serious consequences of coronavirus in Italy. “This is a grave challenge,” he said. “The crisis of Covid-19 is totally new for us. We’ve never seen anything like it.” Italy enjoys a diverse economy with tourism a key sector. Some 65 million people from all over the world visits Italy each year, spread out over 12 months. Italy’s nationwide lockdown began on March 9 and was only lifted in an initial phase on May 4. For almost two months, no one was allowed to enter Italy. The important tourism trade “was zero in those months,” said Mr. Frescobaldi and “posed a huge economic loss for Italy.” Nevertheless, he “sees the glass half full” and appreciates new egalitarian efforts to bring more children to the Italian countryside and break free from the confines of Covid-19.

Peter Mondavi, Jr. was asked to give his perspective on how coronavirus affected wineries in his region of California. “In Napa Valley, wineries accompany restaurants and the hospitality business,” he said. “All that has been shut down because of Covid-19. Now comes the re-opening process and that will be slow and take some time.” Founded in 1861 by its namesake, an immigrant from Prussia, Charles Krug is the oldest winery in Napa Valley. Mr. Mondavi’s family purchased Charles Krug in 1943. A diagram of the Mondavi family tree was shared in webinar with branches throughout California’s wine region and a family legacy synonymous with Napa Valley. “We had no background in wine-making,” he said about his grandparents Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, who emigrated from Italy’s Le Marche region to first settle in Minnesota only to pick up and move to California. His grandfather shipped wine grapes to customers to make wine in their homes during prohibition. Although an agricultural business steeped in tradition, Mr. Mondavi has utilized the latest technology to keep sales coming at a time of pandemic. “Our virtual and phone based sales efforts have been ramped up,” he said. “We have expanded sales efforts to include more online deliveries.” Maintaining an edge in the digital age relies on new ideas and concepts. “We try different ways to market our wines,” he said. “We recently convened a virtual family cooking class from our own kitchen and further engage our customers through virtual tastings.” Mr. Mondavi reflects on the impact of Covid-19 as one of many obstacles faced by his family over the years. “After four generations, we understand how to cope with challenging times and overcome adversity through perseverance.”

How to get wine from the producer to the customer was on the mind of Nunzio Castaldo when he was given the chance to speak. President of Panebianco, LLC, Mr. Castaldo has been a lead figure in promoting and selling Italian wines to liquor stores, restaurants, taverns and wine shops throughout New York and New Jersey. He looks forward to the lifting of restrictions when “millions go back to restaurants and people can drink a bottle of wine and enjoy a fine meal.” He spoke for many in his enthusiasm to break away from the confines of lockdown. “Life is coming back,” he said. “I can’t wait to go to my barber or share a coffee outside with a friend.” Mr. Castaldo expressed optimism in strong numbers from Texas, Florida and Georgia and other states that have already lifted restrictions. People are ready to socialize. “I read a survey, recently, that after lockdown, people will visit family, friends and then go to restaurants,” he said. “We can take advantage of the new momentum and sell our wines in a ripe market.” Mr. Castaldo made the analogy to the aftereffects of war when the damage is assessed and the time for rebuilding has come. He reminded the panel of what was most important. “Passion,” he said. “We have to remain passionate for what we do. Without passion we have nothing.”

Camilla Massimago spoke from Verona at her family’s winery. In Massimago Wines, she represented the small family owned producer, a key demographic in Italy’s wine industry. She echoed the sentiment of utilizing the latest technology to keep sales going. “We have to learn a new skill,” she said. “We have to entertain and share our knowledge with customers.” In order to keep in contact with buyers, old and new, communication by computer was constant. “We relied on digital and virtual tastings,” Miss Massimago said. “We entered many homes, some very far away.” She admitted that conditions are “never ideal” and adaptation is vital. Connections with customers must always be strong. “Wine is about relationships,” she said. “The customer must recognize the face behind the wine.” The pervasive silver lining was how “we save money from wholesale,” all but defunct during pandemic restrictions, “and invest the savings in promotion.”

Not just wine was discussed in the webinar. Attorney William Dahill was on hand to help businesses, large and small, survive coronavirus. His initial focus was on the Payment Protection Plan (PPP), voted in the United States Congress and signed by President Trump to provide guaranteed loans to businesses. Congress recently extended the time frame to use the money, he said, from eight to 24 weeks and he went on to remind the audience that “loans are still available.” Administrative requirements for PPP loans were extensive and some small businesses had difficulties in fulfilling the requirements. Hence, Mr. Dahill announced a new alternative to PPP at the state level. He conveyed the New York Forward Loan Fund, a $100 million trove enacted by the state legislature to help small businesses “adversely affected by Covid-19. However, these are not forgivable loans as in PPP. The New York loans have to paid back within 5 years.” To be eligible, a business must not have already received money from PPP and must have 20 or fewer employees. Mr. Dahill had more good news for the panel. Not just the state, but New York City has also come to the aid of small businesses. The focus is on commercial leases. A new law was passed in the city to absolve a guarantor from personal liability when his business defaults on a commercial lease due to Covid 19. “That guarantee is no longer enforceable,” Mr. Dahill said.

The panel finished with a brief question-and-answer period for the press, colleagues and members in the wine and restaurant business. Gianfranco Sorrentino, owner of Mozzarella & Vino, had the last word. In light of the lifting of restrictions and a return to going out, he said, “Nothing can substitute the pleasure of being in restaurant, ordering a fine meal and drinking a great wine with family and friends.”

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Gruppo Italiano and their upcoming webinars and events at



The Author Considers The Ideology of the Right More Damaging to Italian Americans
Neither Conservatism or Progressivism is Preferable. Seeking a Third Way

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

  I have been writing the We Need To Talk About series and some urgent op-eds about the progressive left lately. I fear that my work so far here has given the wrong impression that I am right-wing. I am actually a left-liberal Democrat. I hope to one day explain what that means, but suffice it for now that I am a leftist, but not very “woke”.
   I think that the conservatives have done plenty of bad things to Italians.
   Leftists did not lynch Italians in 1891. Leftists did not write op-eds, including in the then conservative New York Times, supporting the lynching of Italians.   Leftists did not basically eliminate Italian immigration for about 40 years from the early 1920’s to 1964. Leftists did not pressure to give up our language, our culture, sometimes our ethnicity. No, the conservatives of America did.
   The right-wing has been anti-Italian and anti-Catholic for a long time. The anti-Catholic Know Nothings (the American Party) was right-wing. The Klan, anti-Catholic and anti-Italian amongst hating most other people, was right-wing. The right-wing has long been mean to Italians. Most great Italian politicians have been either Democrats or left-leaning Republican, back when there used to be such a thing. There have been very view right-wing Italian politicians historically.
The few that exist have never used vowel-last names. Ron DeSantis is openly Italian but his last name does imply some ethnic ambiguity. Rick Santorum purposefully uses a Latin (old-school Latin name) name to be “less ethnic” and has condemned Italian American identity repeatedly.
   There really are no right-wing proud Italian politicians except for Rudy Giuliani, who was not right-wing in the 1990’s.
   The right-wing condemns identity politics, no matter how mild or legitimate. Conservativism has no place for Italian Americans. Neither does progressivism. But, luckily, there is plenty of room in terms of ideology in-between. Italian American identity politics is more than just being proud of being Italian. It is about ensuring the survival of the Italian American community as a distinct people. We cannot do that by relying on conservatives.
   Christopher Columbus, conservatives call him. He has often been viewed as a white hero, because conservatives could not accept his Italian or Roman Catholicism identity. Now, progressives hate “Columbus.” We should stop calling him that. His birth name was Cristoforo Colombo and he was an Italian explorer, the first Italian American, in the broad sense. He was not a white hero or a white supremacist. He was not even white, but an Italian, considered beneath the dignity of the Spaniards, who are considered minorities in the US today, and far below the dignity of the French and Germans. In fact, the main opponent of Colombo was a Spanish priest who scapegoated the “inferior” Italian rather than blame the Spanish Empire for its sins. That priest, now a progressive hero, was actually quite conservative.
   From Colombo to the lynchings and race riots against Italians to the movement to anglicize us against our collective will, conservativism was part of it all. Honestly, the U.S. Census is still treating us “non-Hispanic white” as the result of conservative activism, policies and bureaucrats. True, we finally got the blank line allowing us to list our “ancestry” on the 2020 Census, but I know that we might have gotten more if it were not for conservatives.
   We need to get recognition as an ethnic minority, in the EEO definition, in the U.S. Census, under state law, et cetera. We are not operating under 400 years of racial oppression like African Americans. We are operating under more than 500 years of racial oppression. Both types of oppression come largely from conservative forces. Now, of course the oppression of Italians is minimal compared to that of African Americans, but it goes just as deeply in order of history. We were kept out of America for most of its history. We need to confront that kind of racism and by pretending to be white to please conservatives, we just anger African Americans and make progressives view us as “the enemy”.
   Look, we are certainly more privileged compared to African Americans and dark-skinned Latinos but we are on par with “white” Latinos and Middle Easterners, as well as less privileged than true white people. We are on the same side as other minorities and to me, justice lies on the left side of history. To be quippy, the right side of history is the left side of history. That means that we Italians are kindred spirits to the peaceful, respectful parts of the protest movement for racial justice for African Americans. We must be opposed to the conservative forces of racism and the equally pernicious progressive forces of racism (the rioters).
   In sum, we need to be viewed by the state and federal governments as an ethnic minority. That makes us on the left side of things. That said, I seem to annoy both sides of the polarized political world.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at The author’s opinion as expressed in the article may not reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.



Group Proposes Bounty for Anyone Who Destroys the Statue in Columbus Circle in Manhattan
- Italian Americans need to organize now
- A call to march to save the monument
- Engage now: contact NYPD crimestoppers to report criminal threat to the monument

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

Everyone is angry right now.
   However, only some people have the right to march in the streets. In New Jersey and New York strict political restrictions exist. If you are from a disfavored interest group, you can get arrested in New York or New Jersey for exercising your First Amendment rights. If you protest against police brutality, for instance, or Climate Change, you can march freely and if you riot, you will get released without bail in New York City due to criminal justice reforms.
   I wish that Italian Americans had the same leeway to protest bigotry and discrimination against us. We cannot legally gather in groups of 26 or more without the risk of arrest in New Jersey or New York City. Governors decreed laws and now that they find cause that they agree with, they have unconstitutionally given some groups the right to violate the political restrictions that bind ordinary people, especially Italian Americans and Roman Catholics.
   The mainstream media thinks me mad for even writing about such double standards. It speaks with one voice and that voice does not have a New Jersey accent. The mainstream media wants to oppress us. It gives Pulitzer Prizes to God-haters like Christopher Hitchens for attacking God, while applauding the state-sanctioned oppression of Roman Catholics and, yes, Italians as well.
   I am mad for a good reason. The Columbus Monument in the center of Columbus Circle in Manhattan, the heart and soul of both Italian and Roman Catholic America, has been threatened with decapitation, to the applause of the mainstream media. Right now, GoFundMe is allowing an antifa-like group to raise money for thugs to behead the Columbus statue. The group proposes a bounty to anyone who destroys the statue. This is a state historical landmark. It is an irreplaceable treasure. Destroying or defacing it is illegal and a hate crime under federal and state law. However, GoFundMe, which has a strong anti-hate speech policy and has been tough on pro-lifers and other disfavored groups, is by its silence, endorsing the beheading of our beloved statue.
   I have been told my whole life to shut up about civil rights violations and abuses against Italian Americans and Roman Catholics. Just let it go. Nobody cares. Civil rights are not for you. That is the stuff that I have been dealing with for a long time. African Americans and Native Americans deserve to be most served by civil rights campaigns, as they are the worst victims of civil rights abuses and violations. Dark-skinned Latinos are next in deserving attention for civil rights campaigns. But lighter-skinned Latinos, Middle Easterners, Jews, South Asians, East Asians, Italian Americans, Mediterraneans and Roman Catholics all serve equal attention on the third rung of civil rights activism.
   We need to defend the Columbus Monument through peaceful methods. First of all, we must be prepared to be arrested or dispersed by the police for marching. We must convene a group demonstration in New York City near Columbus Circle to protect our beloved statue and against racism of all forms. We must be vigilant to keep the white nationalist creeps away from our beloved statue.
   We must march in defense of our civil right as Italian Americans and Roman Catholics, but, also, we should march in the defense of all people’s civil rights. We need to get angry and get organized to defend the Columbus Monument peacefully, even if the state, the media, and other civil rights protesters think us racists. We are not racists! Italian Americans were the second-most lynched ethnic group after African Americans. We still do not have an official federal heritage month. We still are not considered an official minority group, which is vital to our civil rights. We are still stereotyped more than all other ethnic groups. As practicing Roman Catholics, we suffer unjust laws recently passed in New Jersey and New York to keep us in our place.
   I am liberal. I believe in civil rights for everyone, civil liberties for everyone and social justice for all.
   I call on all Italian Americans to protest for our civil rights and become the Italian American Movement. We must send a message now that we want the police to protect and keep the Columbus Statue intact and to tell politicians that we will vote against them if they allow it to be defaced or destroyed. We should all be contacting NYPD’s CrimeStoppers to report what is going on regarding the GoFundMe site and the threat against the Columbus Monument.

Editor’s Note: You can access the NYPD crimes stopper’s site here and inform them about the GoFundMe group seeking to destroy the Columbus Monument at Columbus Circle here.

The Go Fund Me site that calls for the destruction of the Christopher Columbus statue is here. You can reference the site in your complaint.

Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, political theorist, and adjunct professor at Middlesex County College at Edison, New Jersey. He is the President and Founder of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights activist 501c3 that fights against discrimination and for the legal recognition of Italian Americans as a protected minority group. He strongly supports both the peaceful protesters for the memory of George Floyd and the police, especially the NYPD. He can be reached at





All Forms of Violence Must Be Condemned
Why Italian Americans Don’t Riot
- Those who incite riots should be arrested and prosecuted
- The warped legacy of the 1967 Newarks riots
- "The Sopranos" (film) blames the Italians

By Christopher Binetti

The aftermath of riots in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., where
a number of Italian owned and Italian named stores were among many damaged.

   The riots sweeping across the country, from Minneapolis to Denver and beyond, were caused in part by the murder of George Floyd by four cops.
However, if four black cops had murdered an Italian, would Italian Americans riot?
    No, because the media and political elites do not encourage our worst tendencies the way they do a small minority of the black community. Colin Kaepernick, raised by two white parents and half-white himself (his biological mother was Italian American), called for more riots after the first night of riots in Minneapolis. The Denver riots broke out after Kaepernick incited them. Marc Lamont-Hill, professor of media studies at Temple University, called the riots a rebellion, a common radical word choice. Both Professor Lamont-Hill and Mr. Kaepernick used the internet to incite riots, a federal offense.
   Black nationalism is not new. It was behind the Detroit riot and more importantly in my community, the Newark riots of 1967. Black nationalists attacked and killed Italian and Portuguese Americans, little better off than themselves, and brutalized and murdered cops based on a lie. They made up a cause to riot, proving that black nationalists need no excuse to riot. Newark was seized from Italians and Portuguese Americans and is ruled by a son of one of the original black nationalist riot-leaders today.
   New Jersey has never recovered from the Newark riots. The Newark government recognizes the riots as a “good thing,” established by this current mayor. The Italian side about the riots is never written down or portrayed in film. In fact, the Sopranos movie is coming out which will blame the Italians, when they were some of the victims. Rioters are glorified as long as they are from marginalized communities. There are many people who support the LGBT Stonewall Riots of 1969, as well as the Newark Riots of 1967, the 2015 Baltimore riots, etc. No one supports right wing violence, like that of Charlottesville; and yet the chairman of the Democratic Part Tom Perez did not condemn the current riots in an email that I received as a loyal Democrat. No progress will be made as long as Tom Perez does not condemn these riots.
    The media often will claim the riots are protests, rebellions and uprisings. When people attack cops, however, or when buildings are burned down, that’s a riot. When businesses are destroyed, that’s a riot. When people attack the state to achieve through violent means what is unreasonable to expect from democracy. That’s a riot.
    The media and my party are emboldening the rioters. Italians suffer terribly from discrimination but we don’t riot. We shouldn’t riot. No one should riot. When Twitter put a warning label on Trump’s tweet against the riots, it chose to privilege Kaepernick’s criminal tweet inciting violence. No one on the Left, least of all our standard-bearer, Joe Biden, is condemning the riots. If Biden does not condemn the riots, he will lose in November. There is no defense for what is now happening.
    It is time for the Democrats to condemn riots, whether black nationalist ones or LGBT-related ones. Stonewall needs to be condemned for the violence that it was. Oppression does not justify violence. We must not privilege left-wing violence. I say this as a leftist.
    George Floyd was murdered by four cops. He did not deserve that. The police officers involved deserve to be punished. And the rioters need to be punished. There needs to be criminal sanctions against people like Kaepernick and others who incite or participate in mass lawlessness.
    The media does not fix racial inequities and institutional racism, it profits from them. George Floyd’s family did not want the riots and begged for them to stop, but the media fanned the flames because the media cannot be held accountable for incitement. At least Lamont-Hill and Kaepernick can and should be prosecuted. However, there are four cops who need to be prosecuted much more severely. We need justice but as we Italians, victims of the Newark riots can attest, riots are not justice. Riots are never justice.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at The author’s opinion as expressed in the article does not necessarily reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.


The Author’s New Novel “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” Tells The Story of a Man Fired from His Job Who Finds New Life in Tuscany
Is it better to live in Italy or America?

What begins as a mystery to find the identity of a person in an old photograph soon leads the main character, Jacoby Pines, to consider leaving the U.S. and live in Italy in “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure.” We spoke to the author about why so many Americans are increasingly opting to become expatriates in Italy.

Although set in Italy, "Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure" covers many contemporary topics and issues faced by Americans today. Indeed, main character Jacoby Pines is a victim of the PC culture. He is shunned from the public relations field after he tweeted something he meant as a joke but people found culturally offensive. Has America today become too hypersensitive for people to live and work?

I don't think America is too hypersensitive to live and work, but contemporary times, both professional and personal, are definitely complicated by many traits of modern culture. It's jarring to think how easily one can become "cancelled" after a single mistake or even misinterpretation. 

Indeed, Jacoby Pines is a fascinating character. He travels to Italy with his girlfriend Claire, a freelance writer, and finds himself at home there. This is an increasingly common phenomenon: People with little or no connection to the peninsula find Italy far more appealing America and decide to live there. What is about Italy that Jacoby and others find so much better than America?

The appeal of Italy to Jacoby is the way of life. There are plenty of Americans, like Claire, who love the fast-pace of American life; but there are also those who seek a more antiquated existence. Jacoby surely falls into that category. It's the ability to immerse in all that Italy has to offer without having to kill yourself in the process. Jacoby is overwhelmed by how accessible a high quality of life is, and there's reference in the book to the point that only the rich in America have access to the finer things. I'm not talking mansions and sports cars, second homes and the like; I just mean high quality food, wine, natural beauty, art, culture, etc.

“Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” is an outstanding novel set in contemporary Tuscany. Is your family from this region of Italy? If not, where in Italy is your family from?

My mother's side of the family is from Sicily, and my father's side is from Piemonte. That said, I consider myself an unofficial Tuscan because I lived there for a year and have visited many times. I love it like a second home. I do plan on living there again someday and visiting as often as possible in the meantime. That said, I love the whole peninsula and aim to visit every region (so far, I've been to half). My new fascination is Le Marche. 

"Cucina Tipica" is a novel that shows Italy as not this old, antiquated land, but rather a vibrant and creative place that a lot of young Americans find appealing. Is this the way you see Italy?

I see Italy as both creative and vibrant but also antiquated, though I don't mean antiquated in a pejorative sense. It's the blend of these attributes, modern and antiquated, which makes it so special. There's so much creativity, but also an appreciation of pacing and old-world ethos. 

What's next for you? A new novel? Screenplay? Do you have another creative work that is set in Italy?

I have a novel, Black Irish Blues, coming out this fall. It's the sequel to my second novel, Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery, that was also translated into Italian last year (simply titled: Brooklyn Mystery). I'm currently working on a sequel to Cucina Tipica called Cucina Romana, and I hope to see it published in  the spring of 2021, if only for a reason to go to Italy to promote. I'm also working very hard on finding someone to buy the film rights to Cucina Tipica. If your readers know anyone, have them reach out to me. I think Stanley Tucci would be the perfect person to make it into a film...Call me, Stanley!

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Andrew Cotto’s new novel “Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure” at and Barnes & Andrew’s web site is




The Covid Chronicles
Small Businesses Have Difficulty Complying with New Social Distancing Decrees
- Not all of Italy’s regions are on board. Campania will not comply.
- Shops, restaurants, espresso cafes, hairdressers, beauty parlors, and beach facilities can open
- Church services can resume
- More immigrants are needed, says central government

By Deirdre Pirro

With 3.5 million people infected and over 92,000 dead from Covid-19 in America, it would seem the virus has not yet peaked. Take extra special care, wear a mask and gloves and, if possible, STAY AT HOME.

Here in Italy, on May 16th, 2020, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, with an air of bestowing concessions, announced in the umpteenth press conference the latest easing of more Phase II lockdown restrictions. Mind you the decree was supposed to be published at the end of April, but came out a mere 48 hours before many small businesses could open on May 18th. Unfortunately, without guidelines, they hadn't been told HOW they were to open. They were still awaiting precise instructions about obligatory social distancing and other vital safety measures to implement. Some 1,000 restaurant owners in Florence took to the streets to protest. What is more, the decree makes heavy reading, being well over 400 pages long! It is now estimated that four out of ten business will probably never reopen. For example, a small restaurant can only serve a maximum of four tables, according to the new distancing rules. The owner’s costs will far outweigh any benefits. I guess this just goes to show you what more than 400 paid consultants can do when they put their minds to it!

On the morning of May 17th, an agreement was reached between the central government and Italy’s regions. Leeway is given to regional authorities to decide the time frame and the places where the new relaxed measures can be applied. Only Piedmont and Lombardy, because of their contagion rates, and Campania have not signed the agreement. The governor of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca, has accused the government of trying to pass the buck and lay responsibility for any worsening of the situation at their door.

The government was hit by even further flak when it suggested issuing temporary residence permits for 6 months to about 600,000 immigrants who were illegally in the country after their residence permits had expired after October 31, 2019. At the end of six months, these could be converted into permanent residency if the immigrants could demonstrate they had an employment contracts within the agricultural, pastoral, domestic service or carer sectors. Rumors are rife that some are willing to pay up to 12,000 euro to procure a false contract. Add to this, a national newspaper reported that, since the beginning of 2020, there has been a 900 percent increase in the influx of illegal immigrants compared to 2018 and 2019. These include about 300 percent that come from the Balkans, who enter the country through Slovenia with the city of Trieste becoming the new Lampedusa. Moreover, it is reported than over 24,000 Italians would be willing to work in the fields to harvest crops. Therefore, hostility towards this government proposal is strong.

The opposition believes there are too many rules that the government can never apply and too many promises that it will never keep. Industry, businesses and workers complain that promised financial assistance and unemployment benefits are yet to materialize. On this basis, Forza Italia, Fratelli d'Italia and the Lega parties are organizing demonstrations in piazzas on Republic Day, June 2nd.

Nonetheless, happily, after May 18th in Tuscany, we no longer have to carry self-certification to explain why we are out and about. We can't yet travel to another region or overseas unless for proven emergencies. We can, however, use second homes and see friends. All businesses including shops, restaurants, coffee shops, hairdressers, beauty parlors, and beach facilities can open; religious services can also be held based on certain restriction. On May 25th, gyms, swimming pools and sports centers will reopen. On June 3rd, we should finally be able to travel between regions and in Europe. Cinemas and theaters should open their doors again on June 15th. The idea of reviving “drive-in” movies is circulating and, although never very popular in Italy in the past, it might be a new sign of the times.

For many, the new relaxation of lockdown has brought a sense of euphoria, although many, especially older people, are wary. For them, it is still wait and see time. They have already been in isolation for so long that another couple of weeks means nothing. A friend calls it “cabin fever” when you are snug in your surroundings and have become unwilling to lose the security of those four walls. Fortunately, good things happen within those walls that make your day. These include taking virtual tours of your favorite cities and museums or watching opera or ballet in streaming from La Scala or simply playing a game of scopa napoletana with your husband.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.


A poem about coronavirus
- In English and Italian

By Gerardo Perrotta

You came stealthily and locked us up!
Many breaths you took away!
Remember that 19 belongs to St. Joseph
Even if in Naples it’s a laugh
Your opus is not an opera
Enough laughing Pagliaccio
The comedy is ending
Puccini’s trembling stars
Will shine once again
as you fall at the foot of the archangel
on top of Hadrian’s tomb
Your hour has come,
At dawn I am beginning to hear Pavarotti

Sei venuto di nascosto e ci hai rinchiusi!
Molti respiri hai portato via!
Ricordati pero` che il 19 e` di san Giuseppe
Anche se a Napoli e` la risata
Il tuo opus non e` un opera
Basta col ridere Pagliaccio
La commedia sta per finire
le stelle tremanti di Puccini
Brilleranno ancora una volta
mentre cadi ai piedi dell'arcangelo
in cima alla tomba di Adriano
La tua ora è arrivata
All'alba comincio a sentire Pavarotti

Editor’s Note: Mr. Perrotta is originally from Paola, Calabria. He is retired from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.


How Dr. Anthony Fauci Became The Most Powerful Person in the United States
Should we be ruled by scientists?
Is Dr. Fauci to blame for states mishandling coronavirus?

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

   If you have been following my series of similarly named articles, then you probably know what I am doing here. I have been criticizing the overly powerful actors during the coronavirus crisis, particularly those who are ethnically Italian, both in America and in the homeland. My first article criticized the Italian prime minister. My second article criticized some Italian American governors. Today, my subject is Dr. Anthony Fauci.
   I am a political scientist and as such, I am setting my own personal opinion about Dr. Fauci largely aside. In my professional opinion, there is a lot to criticize when it comes to the phenomenon of Dr. Fauci but little to criticize in Dr. Fauci’s personal character. He represents a worrisome trend but that does not make him a bad person. This article thus has two, seemingly contradictory goals, to attack the Fauci phenomenon while simultaneously defend Dr. Fauci as the real human person that he is.
   Even as a professional political scientist, I must first acknowledge the ideological perspective through which I see my subject. I am what is called in political science a left liberal, rather than the now-more common progressive, which is found through out academia. Left liberalism is based on the notion that everyone is essentially equal and of equal value and that we need to praise and blame people based on their objective actions rather than their demographic categories. In progressivism, who you are demographically is considered much more important than what you do or what you represent. In left liberalism which used to be the ideology of the left until the last ten years, the opposite is the case.
   As a result of this ideological lens, I cede the fact that Dr. Fauci is a trailblazer. He is the first Italian American medical professional to be declared by the media and politicians as the most important person in the country. The media and politicians usually diminish and marginalize Italian Americans and our culture and now they love one of us. He even is proudly Italian and has an unmistakably Italian surname. If I were a progressive, I would refuse to criticize anything near Dr. Fauci based on the mere fact that right now he is opening doors all across the country for Italian Americans, especially Italian American men.
However, as a left liberal, I cannot count the fact that Dr. Fauci is helping our Italian American community in a huge way. As a political scientist, I have two things to analyze: Whether the Fauci phenomenon is good or bad for America and does he deserve blame or praise for his actions? I will answer each question in turn.
   Dr. Fauci is deemed infallible by the media and most politicians. To question him, we are told, is political suicide. He has the authority that the medieval Catholic Church wanted but never had in the Middle Ages. Whatever Dr. Fauci recommends quickly becomes law. He wins every argument with the president. He has effectively taken power from the vice president in the national commission on coronavirus. He appears to have the kind of political and social power that a humble scientist could only dream of in most eras.
   Much of the resentment in the dark recesses of the country against Dr. Fauci is the idea that he has absolute or nearly absolute power over our political institutions. He appears to have exactly this. When he recommended that Americans never shake hands with each other, the media essentially said that the matter was settled. However, Dr. Fauci only appears to have real power. He is on an advisory committee that he does not head. He has no elected office and is not a member of the cabinet. He runs a department of the National Institutes of Health and is not even in charge of the very powerful Centers for Disease Control. He relies on his popularity and apparent power on the acquiesce and support of the media and politicians. If he recommended tomorrow that abortions be cancelled for the next four months due to coronavirus, he would lose all of his apparent power, as the Democratic Party, progressive politicians, and the media would turn on him. In other words, he really has no actual power of his own.
   The politicians, not the scientists, deserve the vast majority of the blame here. The scientists do not know how to rule us. I tried to write an article for a mainstream site once saying that and it got shot down. The idea is that the scientists should rule us. Yet, this crisis shows that they do not really rule us even when we claim that they and not politicians make the decisions because the politicians choose their pet scientists and doctors carefully.
   We have too much faith in science and too little faith in the cornerstones of Western civilization that made modern science possible, i.e., politics and religion However, most scientists and doctors, despite their flaws, are just trying to muddle through this crisis like the rest of us. Science is not a moral art, it is amoral - it is good or evil based on how we humans use it. Ultimately, politics is how we morally govern our country and when we empower the wrong politicians, they will use their power to misuse science. Ultimately, it is politicians and political scientists who know how to rule us, not natural scientists and doctors.
   Thus, Dr. Fauci and his scientists are not to blame for the consequences of their actions, since they know not what they are doing. The political restrictions that they are used to justify will likely not go away anytime soon, even after the worst of the crisis has passed. There will be deaths caused directly by their recommendations. Many will suffer because of their recommendations. However, it is foolish to blame Dr. Fauci and his colleagues for any of this.
   Do you think that Governor Raimondo or Governor Cuomo would be stopped for doing their agendas just because the scientific community disagreed with them? They have ways to coerce the medical and scientific communities. The CDC was against face masks, saying that they were harmful until the politicians supported the CDC with praise and money. The CDC then changed its position to conform with what its main supporters wanted. This is not bribery, but group think. Group think happens and we should not blame scientists for engaging in it.
   The politicians have the power, the political agendas, the bad motives, and the means to carry out their goals. The scientists may have provided them the opportunity but even this is doubtful. The political restrictions are a political problem and we should blame our political leadership, especially our elected leaders, rather than the scientific and medical community.
   Dr. Fauci represents a wider phenomenon, the ‘‘rule by experts’’ that progressives and frankly many true left liberals like so much. I would prefer political scientists be the experts ruling here but again, political scientists have been totally shut out of the conversation. The “rule of experts’’ is a myth here when governors are really ruling. The president might have less power because of the experts but that is largely because the media is opposed to him having power.
   Rather than blaming Dr. Fauci, when he seems to be of good character personally, we need to attack the phenomenon that the media and politicians have built around him. We can blame the media, which is driving the groupthink here. If there is one thing that this whole phenomenon makes clear is that the media needs more ideological diversity. Frankly, it could use more religious people and Italians also, but that is for another article. We need a federal law, as well state laws, that not only outlaws ideological discrimination like we do religious, ethnic, gender, disability, and racial discrimination, but also promotes ideological diversity like we do in gender and race. It is a compelling state interest to have an ideologically diverse elite media, particularly since right now, the progressive media can win political battles for the Democratic Party, my party, when its actions are no different than the Republican Party’s actions that are condemned by the media. We have a media ideological diversity problem. We have a media-political industrial complex. We need to end the partisan and ideological stranglehold that progressive Democrats have on the media or else our political institutions will no longer be truly democratic. None of this is the fault of the real Dr. Fauci, but it does explain the Fauci phenomenon.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at The author’s opinion as expressed in the article does not necessarily reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.





Italy is one of the countries most affected by coronavirus. The quarantine in Italy lasted for almost two months with many streets from north to south completely deserted. The first step in a cautious reopening took place on May 4. The disease struck all Italian sectors, especially the Roman Catholic Church. PRIMO Magazine reports from Rome.

A New Age in Worship Ushered in by Contagion
- Pope Francis Walks Alone in Rome
- An Entire Convent Infected
- Italian Priests Get Creative in Reaching Parishioners

By Jesper Storgaard Jensen – Photos: PR Vatican State

Some photographs claim their access to history as symbols; symbols of our time, symbols of change and symbols of a moment that heralds new times coming, new ways of living. One such photograph is the one of Pope Francis on March 15 as he walked through one of Rome's usually busiest streets, Via del Corso, surrounded only by an assistant and a few bodyguards. In the background, an empty Piazza Venezia and on the right-hand side of the photograph you’ll spot a lonely cyclist, who was probably quite surprised to suddenly meet the head of the Vatican State in the middle of Rome's tormented heart.
   Pope Francis was heading to the Church of San Marcello to make a prayer to the Virgin Mary. It is here where the "miraculous crucifix” is located. In 1522 the large cross was carried through the streets of Rome in the hope that it would put an end to the plague that ravaged the city.
    This is not the only photo of Pope Francis that has travelled around the world in this period. Also the photo where the pope is presenting a prayer at St. Peter's, all by himself in front of an empty square, has a good chance of being elected "Photo of the Year.”
   The coronavirus has been tough on Italy. As these lines are written, almost 30,000 Italians have died as a result of the virus, and experts estimate that this figure will reach between 32,000-34,000 in the next months.

The infected nuns
In the Italian daily la Repubblica, Italian author Alessandro Baricco has written that "humanity currently finds itself in a difficult balance between the old world and a new world that we do not yet know.”
    Since Baricco's statement, a month has passed. And now we know that an important keyword will be co-existence. We will have to coexist with the virus, at least until a vaccine is found. This means compulsory use of face masks, social distancing and, on the whole, a way of life that will be very different from what we used to know. Italy has been so badly affected that the herd immunity strategy, launched more or less wholeheartedly in some countries, would have been completely unthinkable here.
   The virus has infected all parts of society, and the Italian press is full of stories and articles that also deal with the Catholic Church in times of virus. This was the case, for example, when some time ago you could read an incredible story about a convent of nuns in the outskirts of Rome affected by coronavirus.
    Near the town of Grottaferrata, south of Rome, you’ll find the convent of Le Figlie di San Camillo. A total of 60 nuns live in this peaceful monastery. But recently it was virus-struck. One of the nuns had been in Northern Italy, in Cremona, which had been a "red zone" due to a large number of virus-infected. She brought the contagion with her back to Rome and subsequently infected a number of her fellow sisters, initially 40 and, later on, the remaining 20. A nunnery with all 60 nuns tested positive for coronavirus! Quite incredible! The nuns then chose to isolate themselves in their rooms, and are now out of danger.

The digital church
During the quarantine period, the vast majority of Italy's churches have been closed, and in the few churches that actually remained open, no religious acts took place. This means that the Church has had to find new ways to assist the parishioners. So, during the quarantine the popular TV2000-channel has frequently broadcasted religious services. This is technically easy, and all dangers of infection are of course reduced.
  When need is at its highest point, as we all know, our fantasy is often considerable. This truth was recently confirmed, when la Repubblica published an article with the headline "The Digital Church". The "digital" was a reference to a modern use of social media carried out by the priest Don Corbari from the small Lombard town of Robbiano di Giussano. When his church was closed to ecclesiastical acts, he got a very special idea. He soon found out that it was quite boring to arrange masses in streaming in a completely empty church. So he asked all his parishioners to send him a photo of themselves - a selfie or photo where they were with their family members.
   This idea was very well received, and in the days that followed Don Corbari received an incredible amount of photos from his congregation. They were all put up in long rows onto the church’s benches. So now he no longer feels lonely, when he starts his sermon on the digital platform Telegram.
   Also the church of San Gabriele dell'Addolorata, in Rome's Tuscolana district, has chosen untraditional ways to stay in touch with the congregation. On the roof of the church, the priests have now placed an altar, and occasionally they broadcast services in streaming, under the open sky.
   On the whole, Italy has seen fanciful examples of how Catholic priests are able to keep in touch with their parishioners, despite the Corona crisis. It has, of course, been appreciated by Pope Francis, who said: “The pastors of the Church have proved to be exceptionally creative. In many different ways, they try to reach out for their parishioners so that they do not feel abandoned during this difficult time.”
    The churches have not yet been reopened, but the plan it that this will happen on May 24.

More than 100 died
Seven people from the Vatican State have been diagnosed with coronavirus. Fortunately a small number. Unfortunately the situation is much worse "out in the field", where many Catholic priests have often moved around in vulnerable positions. This applies, for example, to Francesco Nisoli, age 71, from Cremona, who had been a Catholic missionary in Brazil for 30 years and who recently died from Covid-19. Fausto Resmini, 67, was a prison priest in Como and died alongside many others. In fact, since the beginning of the corona crisis, a total of 105 priests, nuns and church assistants have lost their lives due to infection.   
  In his recent Easter prayers Pope Francis recalled these painful sacrifices with the words: “I deeply regret these deaths. We can consider these people like saints living next door to us.”
  Coronavirus has had many side effects during this period. One of these is that an era has now ended for the well-known Catholic daily L'Osservatore Romano, which has so far been published in a daily edition of 12,000 copies. The newspaper saw the light of day on July 6, 1849, and is therefore one of Italy's oldest publications. But ... coronavirus p ut an end to the physical existence of the paper. On March 26 this year, the newspaper appeared for the last time in the newspaper stands - 171 years after its founding. Today, there are simply too few buyers of the newspaper, and in the future the newspaper can exclusively be read digitally.

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The Documentary by Nanni Moretti Goes Back to the 1973 Coup in Chile
How the Italian Embassy Gave Safe Refuge to Marxist Radicals
- PRIMO Review

Nanni Moretti continues to ride a wave of praise among the best and brightest in Italian cinema. The producer, director and actor has a portfolio of quality films to his credit, such as “The Son’s Room” in 2001, “We Have a Pope” in 2011 and “Mia Madre” in 2015.

Not just a maker of feature length films, Moretti is also a documentarian. Admittedly left-leaning in politics, he strikes a balance in his films for mass viewership. His latest is a riveting tour de force in South American intrigue and political violence titled “Santiago, Italia.”

Made in 2018, “Santiago, Italia” is must-see cinema for anyone interested in socialist or Marxist ideology and the historic interplay between Italy and South America. The documentary considers the aftermath of the coup d'état in Chile in 1973 and the role Italy played in rescuing young revolutionaries opposed to the military overthrow of that country’s duly elected government.

The film begins with a stunning view of Santiago. The snow capped Andes in the distance frames a bustling city of some 5 million people. Chile’s capital symbolizes a model for free market prosperity in South America. Indeed, as this century began, the county Colombia modeled her resurgence on what happened in Chile 30 years prior. It was in 1975 when Milton Friedman and other economists from the University of Chicago were in Chile at the request of the dictator General Augosto Pinochet. The old socialist structure was scrapped for low taxes, minimal regulations and a tight money supply. Chile’s economy boomed and the country eventually made a peaceful transition in 1990 from a military junta into one of the most stable democracies in the world today.

Filmmaker Moretti makes no mention of the positive transformation that occurred under the years of Pinochet from 1973 to 1990. Rather, the general is seen in the film as a symbol of right wing oppression and violence. On September 11, 1973, Pinochet ordered Chile’s army and air force to all but destroy Palacio de La Moneda, the country’s presidential palace and cabinet building. The neoclassical structure was designed in 1784 by Italian architect Joaquín Toesca and is to Chile what the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building is to America. Black and white archival footage shows the building in flames after an aerial assault by fighter jets. The scene is a stunning reminder of just how brutal was the coup d'état in Chile. The event shocked much of the world with a serious rebuke by many countries of United States foreign policy. American support for the overthrow came with a host of clandestine actions by the Central Intelligence Agency, not to mention training and tactics by American military advisers.

Part of the story in “Santiago, Italia” is the rise of Salvador Allende, a physician and member of the Chilean parliament who became the first Marxist elected to the presidency of a country in Latin America. He remains an enigmatic figure who was mentored in political ideology by Juan De Marchi, an immigrant from Turin who was a shoemaker in Chile and sought to lead an anarchist revolution there. Allende won the presidency in 1970 with a plurality vote of just 36 percent. He took a hard and uncompromising approach to nationalize industries, fix prices and expand government. Inflation, long lines at the grocery store and national strikes became symbolic of the country’s woes. Most objective observers consider such economic reforms a travesty, yet Moretti’s focus is on the nobility of Allende’s effort.

“Santiago, Italia” is replete with contemporary interviews of gray haired men and women who in 1973 were young committed Marxists. They were Allende’s most loyal and ardent supporters and look back fondly on those years of hope and confidence. Enthusiasm turns to fear when they recall how the army took control of the capital. Allende, still in the presidential palace, refused to cede power. After troops stormed the building, he was found dead from an apparent suicide.

The testimony of those who survived the coup remains moving and insightful. Many of them today are successful writers, teachers and artists in Italy. They were young radicals then and were rounded up by soldiers and police in Santiago. The city’s soccer stadium became a mass prison for interrogation and torture. The political apparatus of socialists, Marxists and anarchists in Chile was destroyed by the military.

On the run from authorities, many young radicals took refuge in the Italian embassy in Santiago. They scaled the large concrete wall to land in the garden and pool side of the Palladian estate. The Italian government was most generous with sanctuary for Chilean discontents. They were given safe passage to Italy and settled in Emilia-Romagna for the Communist party there to give them money, shelter and jobs.

“Santiago, Italia” is an extraordinary film that captures the complexities of refugees and how Italy helped those at the wrong end of history. The virtues of Italy are extolled by those saved in the crisis. One woman in the film compared her home country of Chile to an abusive father while Italy was the mother who gave her security and comfort. As time passed, she and others became more Italian than Chilean. They married Italians and their children were born and raised in Italy.

Moretti is a wise filmmaker who understands the emotional appeal of survivors. Feelings of sympathy for those persecuted and a revulsion of violent repression is what ultimately keeps our attention in the film.

“Santiago, Italia” is an excellent documentary with its single flaw being the embracement of political propaganda. No doubt the filmmaker is a supporter of the ideological principles espoused by Allende. A difference must be noted in the endgame between Chile and Italy. What Allende and his supporters sought was not a socialist democracy as accomplished in Italy and elsewhere in Europe after World War II. Instead, they yearned for a system that was wholly Stalinist as what arose in Cuba and the Soviet Union. Had they succeeded, Chile would no doubt have undergone many dark years of poverty and repression. Would they have been any less tyrannical than the military junta they fled? If the tide was reversed, would Nanni Morretti tell a story with such vigor and skill for refugees that espoused the virtues of Friedrich Hayek, instead of Karl Marx? These are questions we are glad are not be answered.

Editor’s Note: “Santiago, Italia” joins a host of other films from Italy and elsewhere as previewed and promoted at Lincoln Center in New York. To find out more, please log on to the virtual cinema page at




The Covid Chronicles
Financial Worries Gave Way to Spring Optimism and Italian Patriotism
- Mobsters Get House Arrest in Lieu of Jail for Fear of Contagion
- The Return of the Ducat

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the seventh week of lockdown in Florence.

We are devastated for you in America with the terrible toll this pandemic is taking. Do take extra special care and STAY AT HOME.

Everyday new and often conflicting statements are issued about what the Technical Scientific Task force, chaired by an international, London-based manager, Vittorio Calao, finally recommends. Clarity is certainly required. There is a great sense of anticipation in the air, a little like children waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. The problem is that there are also experts who tell us we shouldn't expect too many gifts. Instead, we should be very careful about rushing out of lockdown; because, if it is too soon we may find ourselves back where we started with contagion and even re-contagion happening all over again – and worse.

Once more, the regional governors have indicated that they will interpret the new recovery measures the way they see fit for the needs of their citizens. The Association of Mayors has also added its voice indicating they too wish to have a say in the matter, particularly with regard to opening local construction sites and getting the public transport systems in their cities back in full operation. The bottom line seems that many areas of the country will recuperate economically at different speeds.

The pundits predict what will probably happen is that the already heavily indebted southern EU Member States, like us, will be required to guarantee loans to be taken out by the European Commission which will then be extended to them, guess what, as loans. We'll have to wait and see.

Controversy arose and indignation was voiced by much of the judiciary, the police and victims' families when the 60-year-old financial boss of the Casalesi clan, Pasquale Zagaria, was released on house arrest. This was because the hospital in Sassari, where he was being treated, while in jail could no longer do so as it was to be used exclusively for Covid-19 patients and he risked contagion. This was followed, again on health grounds, by house arrest for the convicted murderer Francesco La Rocca, nicknamed “U zu Cicciu,” boss and founder, in the 1970s of the Caltagirone clan and a friend of Totò Riina and Bernardo Provenzano. Opponents argue other solutions within the prison system could have been found and that these decisions offend the memory of those who died in the fight against organized crime. A review by the Justice Department has been promised and there is relief to know that the don of Catania's Cosa Nostra, Nitto Santapaola, despite his 81 years of age, will remain in jail, in a separate cell, under what is known as the 41bis disciplinary regime.

On a lighter note, to help those within its community struggling to make ends meet, the small municipality of Castellino del Befino in the province of Campobasso has taken to printing ducats. One ducat is worth a euro and there are notes of 5, 10, 20 and 50 ducats. They are to be used in the town for food shopping.

In Florence, life in lockdown progresses much as usual, except that the spring weather is improving which makes it harder and harder to stay cooped up and fuels the growing desire to escape. But, even if should we venture out, we have to wear a mask. Hopefully, by the end of May, we may be given a serological test that reveals the IgG antibodies indicating whether we have had the virus or not. The Italian branch of the US pharmaceutical company, Abbott, will distribute 4 million of these tests throughout the country and states it is able to analyze up to 200 tests an hour in its various laboratories.

One important event occurred on April 25th. The lone figure and dignified of the President of the Republic, Sergio Matterella, wearing a mask, placed a wreath at the Vittoriano, the monument housing the tomb of the unknown soldier (fondly known by many as “the wedding cake” because of its distinctive architecture), on the 75th anniversary of Liberation Day. This is the symbolic date chosen each year to honor the popular rebellion followed by the retreat of Nazi German soldiers and the Fascists of the Republic of Salò from Turin and Milan, a vital step in bringing World War II to an end in Italy. Unable to attend the usual celebrations, we were asked to stand on our balconies or at our windows and sing “Bella Ciao” which I and many others did, some waving flags in their hands. One man in my street played the trumpet. It was very emotional. In his address to the nation the President told us, “We are all called upon to make a contribution in order to resume our lives again after the pandemic. Together, we can make it.” And, I for one, believe him.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre.

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.




“Other dogs I owned listened because they were motivated by food. Arya is motivated by the bond we had built through trust and love.”
His New Children’s Book, “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” Tells The Story of a Czechoslovakian Vlcak and Her Owner

Your children's book "Is That a Wolf or Dog?" is about a boy name Marc and his new dog, Arya, a rare breed Czechoslovakian Vlcak. Most people have never heard of this breed.

Originally bred as a military dog, The Czechoslovakian Vlcak is a result of breeding German Shepherds with Carpathian wolves back in the 1950s. They are also known as the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog in the UK and Canada. Despite their name, these dogs are a fully recognized dog breed and not wolfdog hybrids.  

Although a work of fiction, your new book is based on your real life experiences. Did you own a Czechoslovakian Vlcak? If so, what was it like?

Everything that happened in the book is based on my last two years with Arya. The only difference is that I am in my early 30s, when in the book I wrote it is from a 14-year-old perspective. Arya really did escape from me when I brought her to visit my mom on the second day I had her! Living with a dog like Arya is very challenging yet rewarding at the same time. Vlcaks can be difficult to train because they usually tire quickly of the same activity and are highly intelligent. Other dogs I owned listened because they were motivated by food. Arya is motivated by the bond we had built through trust and love. 

A key scene in the book takes place in Venice and Florence. You are, of course, Italian. Where is your family originally from in Italy?

Although I have been to Italy dozens of times, I never saw the Czechoslovakian Vlcak there. The first time I saw the dog was two years ago in Venice in front of the San Barnaba church made famous by “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” My parents are from the Campania region, my father from Palomonte and my mother from Colliano. 

You mention in the book that wolfdogs are not considered acceptable dog breeds, with the exception of the Czechoslovakian Vlcak. Why is that? What makes the Czechoslovakian Vlcak different than other “wolfdog” breeds and more acceptable for breeding and keeping as a pet?

It isn't so much that wolfdogs aren't acceptable breeds, but that certain laws do not permit wolfdog hybrid ownership. For instance, in California, wolfdog mixes are legal. A wolfdog hybrid could have varying percentages of wolf blood in it from 10% to 50% or higher. These dogs require experienced owners and appropriate enclosures. The dogs are clever escape artist and owners will need high fences. The Czechoslovakian Vlcak, despite its' name, is a registered and papered dog breed. Despite their look, they are an actual dog breed and much of the wolf has been bred out of them from generations ago. Contrast this to a wolf hybrid, where the mother could be a wolf and the father a husky. Arya comes from generations of Czechoslovakian Vlcaks with set breed standards and characteristics. 

Arya poses significant challenges for Marc in "Is It a Wolf or Dog?" Her breed is more difficult to train than other dogs. What does it take to train a Czechoslovakian Vlcak?

To train Arya requires a lot of patience and perseverance. Luckily, I am stubborn by nature and undaunted by challenges...but I am not patient! Arya forced me to learn patience and appreciate the little things in life. I spent a good year working on Arya's recall whereas other dogs would learn it in months. Arya and I first had to establish a trusting relationship. 

What practical applications are there for a Czechoslovakian Vlcak? No doubt she makes a good guard dog. But are there any other uses besides being a great pet?

They are good at destroying things you love! Joking aside, the dog has amazing stamina. Some of them do make good guard dogs, while others are total scaredy cats. Since the breed is so versatile, they can be employed to do numerous tasks. In Italy these dogs are sometimes used in search and rescue! They can also be used for tracking, agility, hunting, and more! I know of a pair of dogs in Italy that are trained to sniff out truffles! 

In your book, you mention Czechoslovakian Vlcaks are as common in Italy as are Labrador Retrievers here. Why is the dog so popular in Italy? Do you see this breed becoming popular in the United States and Canada?

I think people just love the look of the dog and how they are so family oriented. They imprint on an individual or family and that becomes their pack. Italians are very family oriented, so it is a natural fit. There are over 13,000 of these dogs in Italy. In the United States there are a couple of hundred. The Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America is an amazing resource for those interested in the breed. They arrange meet and greets throughout the states. In Canada, there are less than 10 dogs of which I personally know. There are about 5 others within an hour of us. 

What is next for you on the horizon? Do you have another book to be published? How about any projects tapping into your love of dogs and the Czechoslovakian Vlcak? 

Arya and I appeared in a Netflix documentary series that highlights the relationship between dogs and humans that will be released in the later half of 2020. I am currently working on my second children's book and a comic book series all featuring the further adventures of Arya and me! 

Editor’s Note: You can purchase “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” by visiting the author’s web site at You can learn more about the Czechoslovakian Vlkak by visiting the website for the Czechoslovakian Vlkak Club of America at





A New Children’s Book Acclaims an Obscure Dog Breed Popular in Italy
“Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” is Aptly Titled by Author Marcangelo L. Benevenga
- PRIMO Review

Big Red. Old Yeller. Rin Tin Tin. Lassie.
   These are the names of the most famous dogs from literature, cinema and television. Now add to the mix, Arya, a new kind of canine protagonist from Marcangelo L. Benevenga’s heartwarming children’s book “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?”
   As the title suggests and as reinforced by the outstanding cover illustration and others in the inside pages by Andrea Alemanno, Arya is unlike most pet dogs. She is a Czechoslovakian Vlcak, a relatively new breed with a unique background as explained in the book. The author writes: “Back in Czechoslovakia around 1955, a Carpathian wolf was bred with a German Shepherd and the offspring resulted in the breed. The dog was intended to have the strength and stamina of a wolf, and the trainability of a German Shepherd. They were known to be fiercely loyal and affectionate, and to love the outdoors.”
   Mr. Benevenga became the proud owner of a Czechoslovakian Vlcak while in his 30s. He is today an active member of the Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America and has appeared in documentaries and other television programs touting the breed. He decided to put his experiences training and rearing a Czechoslovakian Vlcak in a children’s book. Hence, “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” tells the story, not of a dog owner who is a grown man, but, rather, a 14-year-old boy named Marc who lives with his family in Canada. A canine enthusiast if there ever was one, Marc loved “how dogs greeted him with their tails wagging happily and their sloppy, wet kisses. He also loved the fierce look of wolves, their golden eyes, and the sweet music they made when they howled in the night.”
   Marc asks if it is possible to own a wolf and is immediately told “No” by his parents. Nevertheless, while on a family trip to Italy, he sees in Venice, Rome and elsewhere people walking what look to be wolves. He is told by one owner that the animal is an established canine breed named the Czechoslovakian Vlcak. Marc then sets a goal for himself to acquire the dog when his family returns to Canada.
   After working in his father’s Italian restaurant washing dishes and other chores, Marc has saved enough money to purchase a Czechoslovakian Vlcak pup from a breeder in Italy. The dog arrives and is named Arya, based on a character from Marc’s favorite book, “A Game of Thrones.”
   At first gleeful about owning a rare mixed breed of dog and wolf, Marc is soon beset with an array of problems. Arya is as clever as a German Shepherd but as unpredictable as a Carpathian wolf. She seems to possess the best and worst of her respective breeds. The dog tears up furniture and playthings. She escapes from her leash and makeshift kennel and Marc has to run after her in the park. Although the dog wreaks havoc in and outside the home, Marc is committed to keeping and training Arya. The author writes, “Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs do not train or communicate like regular dogs. They form a bond developed by love and loyalty. Marc was once told that Arya would never be a ‘normal’ dog, and she definitely isn’t. Normal is overrated! As much as Marc wanted a dog that would be friendly and greet everyone on sight, he got one that needed time to get to know someone.”
   What happens next is a dose of humility for Mark. He understands his limits and must find help in caring for Arya. He is not unlike other main characters from the great stories of the past about dogs and animals. The troublesome pet and young owner must learn from each other.
   “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” is the kind of story we use to cherish on Sunday nights watching Disney on ABC television. The lessons of life come in the way of wholesome adventures with unique dogs and animals as important characters. Such are the tales we still love today.
   Marcangelo Benevenga is commended for giving us a story that further introduces us to the unique breed of the Czechoslovakian Vlcak. “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” is a most enjoyable and enlightening book for children of all ages.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase “Is That a Wolf or a Dog?” by visiting the author’s web site at and


The Covid Chronicles
Political Forces Remain Divided In How Best To Move Forward
- As Government Promised, Masks Arrived…But They are Poorly Made
- A strange bird in the yard. Is that an omen?

By Deirdre Pirro

This is the sixth week of lockdown in Florence.

America has now experienced greater loss of life than Italy and, sadly, it is first on this sad global death roll so please take extra special care and STAY AT HOME.

This last week the Italian government took steps to begin Phase II of the recovery aimed at slowly putting the economy on an even keel. The goal is to prevent industries and businesses in Italy from losing their slots in the global marketplace to other countries that have been less affected by this coronavirus. In what turned out to be a controversial press conference given by Prime Minister Conte on 10 April, 2020 we were told that lockdown was to be extended until 3 May, on the advice of his hefty squad of consultants. However, from 14 April, the new Ministerial decree would permit book and stationary shops and clothing stores for children to open as well as some activities related to forestry. If these initial measures are able to kickstart the economy of a country on its knees it would surprise me and others.

Apart from this, the major reason that this press conference caused an uproar was that Conte openly attacked two of the members of the opposition, naming names, during a public interest announcement and at a time when Italy needs maximum unity and collaboration among her political forces. He contended he was simply countering fake news that were circulating but, whether this was true or not, this was not the place to do it.

His comments were linked to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) regarding the financial rescue tool that the powerful northern countries in Europe are in favor of using to help bail out their suffering southern neighbors. Instead, the prime minister and the 5 Star Movement political party who sponsored his rise to power call for the issue of Eurobonds, to share debt across the eurozone, arguing that use of the ESM would come with onerous conditions that could paralyze them with debt. Instead, the EU has come up with a “light” ESM package in with they would allow Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese and Greeks to borrow. In Italy's case, some 36 billion euro from the ESM could come with no conditions attached except that the funds be directly used for coronavirus-related expenditures. Applying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” approach, Spain and Portugal appear willing to accept this proposal. Also, in recent statements two authoritative figures, former prime ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi, from opposite sides of the political spectrum, agree. Even the leader of the Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, partner of the 5 Star Movement in the ruling coalition is in accord; likewise, the Confindustria, the Italian Industrial Federation. It looks like the prime minister will have to find a compromise or else back down.

Meanwhile, the Regional authorities have interpreted these new recovery measures in varied ways, interpreted according to what they see as local priorities. However, a recent, disturbing ingredient has been introduced into this power-sharing mix. After an alarming number of Covid-19 deaths of the elderly in many nursing homes throughout Italy, magistrates and the caribinieri are now investigating and looking for where any blame may be laid or responsibility attributed.

This last week, here at home, the surgical masks we must wear outdoors arrived, as promised. Volunteers from the civil protection organization left three paper bags in our letter box, one for each of us. Trouble is each bag only contained two masks made of flimsy material and for mono-use only. So, it seems we can now go out – at least twice! Aren't we lucky?

Yesterday morning, as I was about to put the Bialetti on the stove to make my first cup of coffee, I looked out of my kitchen window and saw something. It was a flash of color and a strange shape sitting on a branch of the big pine tree in a courtyard nearby. I couldn't see it clearly so I went to get my husband's binoculars to take a better look. It was a bird. The kind I had never seen before. It was larger than a pigeon, orange in color with dark, zebra-striped wing and tail feathers, a pointed crest and a long, narrow beak. Fascinated, I found our book on European birds and discovered it was a Eurasian hoopoe, called such because of its oop-oop-oop call. This made me think about the capacity of nature to survive and regenerate. Since we have been in lockdown, there is hardly anyone out on the streets. There are very few cars on the road and the noise and pollution in town have almost disappeared. The birds are coming back. Let's hope it's a good omen for the future.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.




We Really Need to Talk about Italian American Leadership

Perpetuating Autocratic Stigma of Italian Americans
- Forcing quarantine on visitors to Rhode Island

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

Governor Gina Raimondo has authorized state police and the national guard to detain
and enforce a quarantine upon visitors to her state, Rhode Island.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Ronald DeSantis of Florida.

In my last article, I talked about what I viewed to be a failure of Italian leadership in the homeland. To me, every problem facing Italian people, American or otherwise, is connected to every other problem facing Italian people. The problem of leadership is a big one for our people. It is no less a challenge in America than it is in Italy. However, the contours of the problem are different.
    A major theme that you will find in my writings on Italian Americans, if you are unfortunate enough to read all of my rants on the subject, is that Italian Americans lose out when they do not identify strongly with one another as Italian Americans. When Italian Americans play at being white people, we lose. When we perform for elite suburban hipsters and pretend that we do not have a distinct culture of our own we lose. Most importantly, when we pretend that Italian Americans do not need to secure more power for ourselves, we lose.
    In the future, I will explore a lot of what I just mentioned, but today, I simply want to talk about Italian American leadership. Right now, during the coronavirus crisis, Italian American political leaders, particularly governors, are front and center like we have not seen in a while. Sure, the Speaker of the House is an Italian American, but the media does not emphasize that aspect about Nancy Pelosi, except when they want to depict her as a stereotypical Italian grandmother.
    During the coronavirus crisis, governors have taken power like we have not seen in our lifetimes. Many of these governors are not Italian and there is no real correlation between autocratic behavior and being Italian. However, there is also no real correlation between organized criminal behavior and being Italian and yet the media and entertainment have most Americans believing that Italian Americans have the market cornered on organized crime or that most of our families owe their status due to organized crime.
    So, I am worried that Americans will see the power-hungry behavior of a few Italian American governors and come to the wrong conclusion that Italians are naturally anti-democratic. I myself am worried that my last article implied this. Italy is right now marching away from democracy and it has some indicators for an increased tendency to do so, but it also is the birthplace of many of our ideals about a republican form of government and of checks and balances on power. It is the home of both the Roman Republic, the model for America’s political ideals and its antithesis, the Roman Empire. Italian culture has as much, if not more, pro-democratic indicators in the long run as it has the opposite.
    Yet, most Americans are ignorant of Italians and Italian American culture. That topic could be and will be a topic on its own in the future, but for now, it is sufficient to say that if we do not call out the bad apples in our own community and promote positive Italian American leadership as an alternative, our whole community will lose the opportunity to lead in America due to the stereotype of the autocratic Italian.
    Governors Ronald DeSantis, Andrew Cuomo, and Gina Raimondo all have abused power in the name of public health and safety during the coronavirus crisis, but in different ways and to different degrees. They are all of Italian ancestry and thus I call them all Italian Americans. Governor DeSantis, of Florida, is a Republican and Governor Raimondo, of Rhode Island, is a Democrat, but their actions are similar. While each party will attack the other as more autocratic, I think that party is a relatively insignificant factor here. Both governors have ordered people from states other than their own, but not their own citizens, be forced to quarantine themselves under the sanction of the state for two weeks, regardless of the chances of being infected. Governor DeSantis, from what I can gather, has not enforced his quarantine order with the same vigor, but I believe it to be at least somewhat mandatory and focused only on states such as New York and New Jersey. It is ironic that an Italian American governor would disproportionately target Italian Americans since New York and New Jersey are states with huge Italian populations. The governor actually could end up subjecting Italian Americans to what is legally called disparate impact discrimination, against federal and state laws.
    Governor Cuomo of New York, has not taken this tactic, but is requiring everyone within 6 feet of a person in public to wear a mask or facial covering or suffer the wrath of the state’s police powers. This is not as invasive or discriminatory as DeSantis or Raimondo’s actions, but it does essentially violate the idea of civil liberties in public. Governor Cuomo is also being inconsistent in that he supports a radical notion of bodily autonomy in all other areas of the law.
    However, the greatest threat to future Italian American leadership comes from Governor Raimondo. She has used the state police and the National Guard in an extremely aggressive way compared to DeSantis and Cuomo. She originally only quarantined New Yorkers, but now any non-Rhode Islander will be quarantined simply for visiting her state, with no due process, while Rhode Islanders do not have to do so. There is no constitutional basis for what Raimondo is doing and she is being much more aggressive in her policy than DeSantis.
    Raimondo has not gone as far as Cuomo when its comes to her own citizens. Cuomo has mandated that even if it may kill you, you have to wear a mask anywhere within 6 feet of another person. This will hurt many people and the mainstream media and the ACLU does not care. On an objective level, Cuomo’s actions are more likely to cause actual deaths or force people to become agoraphobic and malnourished at home
    However, subjectively, most people view Raimondo’s actions as worse. Most civil libertarians, for example, believe that losing your basic rights in an emergency is much less worrying that for some people to lose their rights and not others. Although I am a proud liberal and civil libertarian, this is not actually my view; I am more worried by the deprivation of rights more than the discrimination, but both are very bad.
    Raimondo, unlike Cuomo, does not demand much of her own citizens. For example, citizens of Rhode Island do not have to even wear masks or facial coverings in grocery stores, which is a pretty sensible restriction. In other words, the governor does not restrict the civil liberties of the citizens. However, she totally eviscerates the civil liberties of non-Rhode Islanders. She eliminates the rule of law and adopts a xenophobic stance. If you are from abroad, i.e. not Rhode Island, you are, by what passes as law in Rhode Island, declared a threat. You must be self-quarantined for two weeks after you enter Rhode Island to stay there. However, a citizen or resident of Rhode Island does not have to self-quarantine for two weeks after returning from the same place as that ‘‘outsider.”
In other words, some American citizens are being treated better than others, which is the definition of privilege. Raimondo swears that privilege is bad but created it as a matter of law based on state origin. There is no way this is constitutional. Her actions are deeply discriminatory and arbitrary.
    Governor Raimondo is a major threat to Italian American power and leadership because she will help the Italophobes limit our opportunities with her arbitrary and capricious behavior. She has no medical basis for her policy, and it exempts the voters with power over her without cause. Her behavior must be condemned by Italian Americans and challenged in court. I also believe that Governor Cuomo’s actions, as dangerous to the liberty and lives of people, despite being less subjectively outrageous, should also be challenged in court.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at The author’s opinion as expressed in the article does not necessarily reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.



Going around Rome these days is like taking a walk through history. Many things in Italy have changed during coronavirus, and many will change when the country reopens around May 3rd. Thanks to PRIMO’s editor I had an incredible chance to photograph an empty and surreal Rome, as I had never seen before.

A Walk Through Deserted Rome
In Lockdown, The Streets of the Eternal City Suggest Abandonment
- PRIMO Exclusive

Text and photos: Jesper Storgaard Jensen

Devoid of tourist crowds is the Roman Pantheon and devoid of Catholic worshipers is St. Peter's Basilica.

The author's neighborhood in Rome is Prati, with its treelined street.

A place of frequent political rallies and demonstrations - Piazza del Popolo - is eerily silent.

Walking your dog is the only outdoor activity allowed in Rome today.

No people in sight along the Via Condotti and the Spanish Steps.

The Trevi Fountain and Roman Colosseum.

The streets in my Roman neighborhood, Prati, are mostly silent.
    Only in the morning do people briefly leave their homes to go shopping for food or buy a newspaper. By early afternoon, everything fades out. People disappear. All cars are parked. Shop shutters are down everywhere. No smell of coffee from the bars, no laughter in the streets.
    In the afternoon, I usually take a stroll, just to get some fresh air. I always bring a paper with me, which gives me an alibi to go out. Police and carabinieri start to circle around in the afternoon and check on people. So I strive for a natural walk. I must admit, in spite of my youthful nonchalant strolling style, I do actually feel a small sting of guilt. We are not supposed to move too much around in the public space.
    I'm walking on my own. And I suddenly notice that in my neighborhood's prickly-knit network of small streets and roads, new horizons are emerging. I can see to the end of all the streets. There are no cars or buses or cyclists that block my view. There is no traffic. I stop and gaze in the middle of the long Viale Angelico, and, surprisingly, I manage to see a mile further towards Piazza Risorgimento.
   I pass some other people. They walk around me in a large arc. I am not offended. I do the same myself. There is no eye contact. They wear a mask to cover much of their faces. Eye contact is an unconscious desire to connect with a person whose path you are crossing. In these times, we seek no connection. We must not have contact. Social distancing is the new password. We turn our eyes down and let our feet “do the talking”.

Rome’s loneliness
We are inside a piece of history. This is what you keep hearing in Italy. And I do think this is correct. The impact of the corona crisis will be so huge in Italy, that the subject will be on everyone’s lips for years to come.
   Each week a new chapter in this piece of history is written. One of these chapters is about “Rome’s loneliness”. The emptiness of the city. Facebook and various papers have published impression photos. So I thought to myself, as a photographer: “When will I ever be able to see Rome like this again?”
   When I leave my home with my camera, I also bring my passport, my press ID, a letter from PRIMO’s editor and my so-called self-declaration that I’m going around for a photo assignment.
   After having crossed the Tiber from Prati I approach the first major piazza, Piazza del Popolo. This is a popular venue for political protests. Some years ago my wife and I went to a demonstration here. There were so many people in attendance that it was practically impossible to move. Today it’s empty. Totally empty. I see only one other person - a woman crossing the piazza. She is carrying a bag in her hand and dragging her shadow along.
   From here I start to walk along Via del Babuino, which is totally deserted. All shutters are locked, and the only person I see is a signora walking her dog. And … speaking about dogs, in the first period of our quarantine, many dog jokes were passed around on social media, like, “Sorry, could someone lend me a dog? I would like to take a stroll without getting arrested.”
   In front of the Spanish Steps I have my first encounter with the municipal police. I approach three officers to explain who I am and why I’m round and about. They check my documents and tell me: “Have them ready as you move on, because in every single piazza, our colleagues will ask for your ID.”
   The Spanish Steps hit me right in the eye. It’s simply impressive, and also a bit scary. There’s not a single person on the 136 steps. It’s simply as it must have been, when it was inaugurated in 1725. Nude marble, nude architecture. There is loud splashing water from the famous Bernini-fountain below the steps. There are absolutely no distractions from people creating sounds or things to look at. I’m alone with this architectonic masterpiece.

Wasted beauty
Via Condotti, Rome’s most exclusive street, is closed down. I head towards the Pantheon. And also here I find the same situation of abandonment. There is only a small police car in front of one of Rome’s most famous churches. That day this complete loneliness makes it look even more majestic than it usually does.
   The same situation I find some moments later on Piazza Navona. Only two other people are present: A father and his little son crossing the street. The lack of people changes the look of the piazza. There now is an extra dimension; of something grandiosa.
   I get this strange feeling that the city has returned to its origins, when all these architectonic masterpieces were built hundreds of years ago. Today, all that beauty and all that magnificence seems totally wasted, with no one to admire them, without any possibility of transmitting their immortality.
I must say that walking around in Rome in this state gives me a feeling of history. Yes, I know … it’s a piece of sad and worrying history if you go beyond the beauty, beyond the spell and allurement of an empty city. In the 23 years I’ve been living in Rome, I’ve never seen it like this.
   What comes next, after the reopening of the Italian society will, unfortunately, be an economic disaster. The latest survey from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that Italy is among the countries that will experience the biggest economic setback with a state debt bound to rise to 143 percent of GDP.
My negative thoughts are blown away when I arrive at the Trevi Fountain. It’s definitely impressive. I have my work space at Rome’s International Press Center, not far from city’s most famous fountain. Almost every day there is such an incredible hustle and bustle in front of the fountain with tourists from all over the world. But not today. There is only a couple of bored police officers. This is incredible. It’s almost like being part of a strange dream. I’m alone, in front of the world’s most famous fountain where Swedish actress Anita Ekberg called out for Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”: “Marcello, come here!” And of course, Marcello took off his shoes and socks and went out into the fountain.
   That was in 1960, but today, 60 years later, I actually have the feeling of being part of a film. A strange and surreal and incredible movie with a script that no one would have ever imagined just two months ago.
   Some 20 minutes later I can ascertain the Colosseum. The large structure is deserted. In order to get a good shot, I climb a small hilltop next to Rome’s most famous monument. Also here I’m being called out by two police officers. “Sorry, but we thought that you were a tourist.”
   They are kind but resolute. We speak for a couple of minutes and I explain my whereabouts. We agree that today there are probably no tourists, whatsoever, in Rome.
   After a few minutes I reach the nearby Circo Massimo. I used to live close by and jogged here. Usually at Circo Massimo, that has a length of 656 yards and a width of 153 yards, you’ll see people running, walking, listening to music, kissing each other, eating sandwiches, reading books and the daily newspaper. Today, I see only two other people - a father and his young son on a bike.
   I check out the distance counter on my mobile phone. I’ve been walking for about five hours, and it measures something like 17 km, (10 miles). I still have some way to go before I’ll reach my home.
   After Rome’s most popular neighborhood, Trastevere, I arrive at the beginning of Via delle Conciliazioni, the large alley that brings me towards the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.
   Two police officers are walking back and forth with their hands behind their backs. I sit down in the middle of the road. It’s no problem because there’s no traffic. I want to get an unusual shot, a shot from a new angle of a monument that embraces history, architecture and religion. The thousand cobblestones are leading my eyes towards St. Peter’s, and I think to myself that today I’ve had material for many stories to tell my future grandchildren.
   Back home – after 19 kilometers (11 miles) of walking – I send a couple of photographs to a friend. He immediately writes me back: “Wow, those photos are really so … what can I say … beautiful. Well, I mean … it’s just like a beautiful nightmare.”

Editor's Note: Jesper Storgaard Jensen is a special features writer for PRIMO. His articles can be read in each edition of PRIMO. Jesper also convenes tours of Rome. His web site is



The Covid Chronicles
Covid-19 Cases Decline as Anxiety Grows in Italy
Writer finds a new career…as amateur marriage counselor

By Deirdre Pirro

A bucket is tied to a rope and dropped down for the delivery man.
The writer’s son Piero does his daily exercise on the balcony as
neighbors sunbathe on their roof.

The situation in America has become very serious since I last posted so please take care and STAY AT HOME.

This last week in Italy has seen a slowly diminishing rate in contagion and hospitalization from the coronavirus, although the number of daily deaths is still more or less the same. What has changed is the growing concern within the country about the future, after Covid-19. This has prodded the government into talking about Phase II, the recovery phase, when economic life swings back into action. The government has taken steps to pass, what are called, “Save-Italy” measures to give some financial assistance to struggling small and medium sized industries, freelance workers, and many families in difficulty. How these will work in practice without becoming bogged down by bureaucracy and controversy remains to be seen.

At European Union level, there is still on-going conflict between the Members States on how best to overcome the recession Covid-19 will leave in its wake. Backed by Spain, and (initially) France, and seven other eurozone countries, Italy has called for the urgent issue of Eurobonds, shared debt security instruments. Other countries, notably Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland strongly oppose the idea and favor using something called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Italy and its Eurobond allies say more loans will heighten their already crippling debt burden. In other words, to you and me, this boils down to the old saying that there is no such thing as a free (or, in this case, solidarity) lunch. However, the EU should think very carefully about what it will do as it may finish up burning its own bridges.

Closer to home, this year in Naples, it is unlikely that, on May 2, the procession from the cathedral to the Basilica of Santa Chiara for the miracle of the blood of Saint Gennaro will take place, an event that not even World War II managed to halt. Officials say that this is to prevent people assembling in the streets and that the ceremony may symbolically be carried out behind closed doors in the Basilica. Italy needs all the help it can get.

In Tuscany, like in Lombardy, we are all now required to wear surgical masks when we go out. The Regional Governor has promised each household free masks and we will not be fined for not wearing them until every municipality has distributed its quota. Throughout the country, from the onset of the crisis, masks have become a focal point of dissatisfaction. There have never been enough of them and, despite many factories, including famous fashion houses, converting their operations into manufacturing them as well as the arrival of shipments from places like China, there may never be enough. What is worse is that so far there is no national policy about who, when and where masks must be worn, so chaos reigns.

Here at home, fruit and vegetables from our local market have now nearly doubled in price. This is because very few agricultural laborers are working in the fields harvesting produce. Rightly so, they too are afraid of this pandemic.

Otherwise, to my surprise, I find myself in another new role, that of amateur marriage counselor. Friends who have been married for years (and not only the wives) frequently telephone me to grumble about their spouses. One friend, a classic golf “widow”, telephoned yesterday and confessed that she had told her husband when they married that it was “for better and for worse, but never for lunch”. Closed up together on lockdown all day, they bicker frequently while he is longing to be out on the green and she is pining for her lunches with the “girls”.

These counseling calls did, however, make me reflect on those dramatic cases where domestic violence may be involved. In fact, figures show that domestic abuse has risen worldwide during the pandemic, prompting the United Nations to call on governments to put mechanisms in place to safeguard women and children in such circumstances. In Florence, a mobile phone app called YouPol managed by the police has been beefed up and used to report domestic violence.

With the spring weather beginning, my gastronomic desires are concentrated on dreaming about a double ball, artisan-made chocolate and pistachio ice cream from the best ice cream parlor (having tried them all) in Santa Croce. Come join me when life is back to normal...

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.


One of Fashion's Most Important Cities is Decimated by Coronavirus
Designer Kelly A. Calhoun Hopes Her Dress Will Bring Greater Awareness to Milan

Kelly A. Calhoun was a high fashion runway model for some time before she decided to branch out and create a new clothing label with her mother. She is a proponent of Slow Fashion, in the same vein of Slow Food, where social and environmental concerns are incorporated in the creative and production phase.

“Following the Golden rule,” she says. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is why our logo is Gold.”

“The Duomo di Milano A-line Mini Dress is the first item released to the public from our very first collection,” says Kelly. “I was honestly not planning on releasing anything just yet, but after witnessing the state of the world, right now, with COVID-19, I wanted to use my voice within the fashion industry to let people know that I have Italy’s back, and that Milan has my full support. It is my hope that this will start a behavior contagion, globally speaking, of true collaboration in the industry that I so dearly love. I have always respected Milan as a fashion hub and I always will. I cannot wait to travel to Milan and do a proper photoshoot with this dress in front of the cathedral. I have had a generous outpouring of support from the industry in Italy and already have collaborations in the works with local fashion blogger Daniela Barbarossa and fashion photographer Giorgio Marcias.”

“When I heard of the Andrea Bocelli concert happening at the cathedral on Easter Sunday, my intuition told me that now was the time to share with the public this dress coupled with my dreams of a more ethical system of business.”

“I say to Italia, we are with you! This too shall pass. It is only the beginning of Slow Fashion and learning how to treat each other better while dressing well at the same time.”

Editor’s Note: Kelly A. Calhoun can be reached by email at Her web site is




IRBM Helped Develop the Ebola Virus Vaccine and Now Seeks One for Covid-19
How long will it take?

Text: Jesper Storgaard Jensen – Photos: PR from IRBM


Researchers at IRBM are led by CEO Matteo Liguori

Certain work environments require such a high degree of cleanliness and sterility that careful dressing is required. At IRBM - an Italian company that is avant-garde in the field of developing new vaccines - the word "careful" is clearly a polite understatement.
    “Our researchers currently working on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, must change clothes, remove any makeup and all their jewelry. They wear three safety suits, two pairs of gloves and three different types of headgear. Then they must go through three different security chambers and eventually they have to enter a digital security code. Only then will they gain access to the laboratory,” explains IRBM’s CEO, Matteo Liguori.
    I am in an industrial area outside a small town, Pomezia, 40 km. (25 miles) south of Rome. Italian press - both the dailies and several TV stations – often file reports from this small town, though it has neither attractive beaches nor famous sights. The reason is found in a question that is being asked more and more frequently, in virus-ravaged Italy: When can we expect a vaccine against Covid-19?

Table tennis with Oxford
“IRBM was started in 2010 from a US pharmaceutical company that was located here,” explains Matteo Liguori. “Today we have 250 employees, of which 200 are research teams. We specialize in developing vaccines and products for the pharmaceutical industry. And then it is important to mention that we have a year-long collaboration with the Jenner Institute, which is a part of the University of Oxford, and which has also specialized in the development of vaccines.”
    Liguori takes me on a short walk of the premises. However, there is not much to see. The hallways are characterized by being clinically clean. There are no decorative objects or plants, and through large windows you can see the administrative staff in front of their computer screens. The laboratories are located at the other end of the building and hermetically closed to people coming from the outside.
    If the Italian press, in these times of Covid-19, frequently focuses on IRBM, it’s simply due to the fact that the company has a know-how on vaccine development that is on an absolute avant-garde level - both in Italy and worldwide. This was seen already five or six years ago when IRBM, as the first Italian company - and one of the first worldwide - developed a vaccine against the dreadful Ebola virus.
    “The Ebola vaccine was developed in collaboration with the Jenner Institute,” Liguori tells me. “Our collaboration with Jenner is a bit like a table tennis match. We exchange information on an ongoing basis. In these days we have conference calls with Jenner several times a week.”
    Some years ago IRBM set up an independent expert group called Advent. It was the one that developed the Ebola vaccine, and it is the same group that is now on the trail of a possible vaccine for the corona virus. The group consists of 20 young scientists from around the world, including Italy, Spain, USA, France, UK and several South American countries. IRBM receives applications from all over the world, and only the most capable researchers with a thorough knowledge in the fields of celleluar and molecular research can get admitted to the Advent group.
    “Most of our researchers have experience from other labs around the world. In the IRBM interview process applicants speak to five or six of our key figures before we are able to welcome them as a new member of the Advent group,” says Liguori.

First mice, then men
After the Ebola virus flared up in certain African countries, IRBM quickly began research to find a vaccine. As a matter of fact, the company was one of the first in the world to showcase a test tube containing the "magic vaccine.”
    “It took about three years to develop the Ebola vaccine,” says Liguori. “Back then, however, there were some other issues at stake compared to the virus situation we are facing today. The affected African countries in particular were Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. So Ebola did not spread worldwide, as we see with Covid-19 today. Therefore, it was necessary to carry out part of the research in precisely these three countries. This made research and development both slow and somewhat complicated.”
    What is the situation today, as we sit here, regarding the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus?
    “Well, this is really one of the most frequently asked questions right now. And unfortunately, some erroneous information has been seen, both in the press and on social media. For the same reason, a few weeks ago, the WHO issued a press release stating that the organization clearly indicates that a new vaccine must go through an institutionalized test procedure that lasts for at least 18 months before any new vaccine can be released.”
    And at what point is IRBM in that procedure?
    “Our experience - both with Ebola and in general - means that we are already on an advanced stage in our research. In this period, we almost work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We expect to have a thousand vaccine doses for testing ready around June this year. This means that the experimentation period - which as I said will last for at least 18 months - can initiate around June/July. The first phase will be to experiment with mice and study their reactions. Later, the vaccine must be tested on humans. Right now we are only in April, and we really do not know how the infection will develop globally in the coming months. So, if the world situation deteriorates drastically, one might imagine that the period of 18 months could be shortened. But it requires a number of permits from both national and international health authorities,” Liguori explains.
    Both Matteo Liguori and the Advent group researchers are aware of the great interest that is in their work.
    “But it only seems to be an extra stimulation. It is clear that other research groups will be able to find a vaccine too, and I actually hope so. It will be the best for everyone. Especially when you consider the big problems – in both health and finance - that Covid-19 has already created in a very short time. Finding a vaccine is like a race against time. Being able to raise the test tube as the first laboratory in the world to showcase a new vaccine will, of course, give you incredible prestige. So I dare say that the world will probably see a vaccine that will be created in record time. But it does take some time, after all. We humans are used to getting everything we point at right away. But this is not the case with pharmaceutical products. Certain types of medicines for particular diseases have been developed over a period of 15-20 years of research. The testing period is extremely important. This is when the safety and the efficiency of the product must be tested, and that requires time,” Matteo Liguori concludes.

Editor’s Note: A member of the Italian press, Jesper Storgaard Jensen was able to tour the IRBM laboratories and filed this report from his home while in lockdown in Italy. To learn more about IRBM, please visit their web site at


What The Lockdown Says about Italian Politics
Was the national quarantine really done for Italians or, rather, to protect Northern Europeans?

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte

Italy is treated ambiguously in American pop culture.
   There are many debilitating stereotypes of Italians and Italian Americans. Cultural appropriation of Italians and Italian Americans by others is common.     Although, we are marginalized, we are treated as if we are not marginalized. Yes, we are white; but we are not white enough to be mainstream like the Irish and are considered too white to be a subject of cultural protection like white Cubans or Lebanese.
   Politically, Italy is often viewed in the middle. While not a developing country, she has long been viewed as not quite in the developed world either. Italy has historically been compared to Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey. In other words, she is too peripheral to be in the center of the developed world but too much in the core to be viewed as truly developing.
   This leads to a strange combination of attitudes towards Italy. Italy is expected to meet Northern European demands, but we also have assumptions that Italians will not really meet them. Much of the increased resentment of the EU in Italy comes from Northern European countries like France and Germany taking advantage of Southern European countries like Spain and Italy. Also, the strict demands on the finances and economies of countries like Italy and Spain have led to massive reversals in human development and prosperity.
   Most people who write on Italy in English are not ethnically Italian and yet we are expected to take them as more objective than me telling you about Latin America. This is a racialized view of the world that obscures the great differences between Northern and Southern Europe. While Italy has major internal regional differences, even Northern Italy is not Northern Europe and the cultural, ethnic, and historical differences between Northern and Southern Europe should be taken seriously by international observers.
   Much of the coverage is backwards. The international media views Prime Minister Conte as an apostle of modernity and civilization trying to force Italians to obey law and order and the will of the EU. I see Prime Minister Conte as the villain, as the man who is ruining Italy. His martial law, which is euphemistically called a lockdown in English (it is ‘’il blocco’’ in Italian and actually means blockade in English), is often praised as good for Italy and Italians. Now that Coronavirus deaths are finally going down, after weeks of going up (even after martial law was imposed), he is getting credit for his authoritarian tactics.
In sum, Northern Europe wanted martial law in Italy, got it, and is going to try to reward Conte for doing it. Martial law has hurt Italy’s economy but may have ultimately helped the economies of wealthier Northern European countries. Martial law, while not keeping Italians safe, may have kept Northern Europeans safe. The international community and the EU does not care about Italians but about Northern Europe.
   Italians have become subjugated in their own country by Prime Minister Conte’s essentially authoritarian regime and the EU. They want to free themselves of him and increasingly free themselves of the EU. While leaving the EU entirely like Britain did is very cathartic and could certainly stop Conte from consolidating his power, it is the wrong answer.
   The EU is deeply corrupt and flawed in some ways, but the fundamental concept of a non-military loose politically union that helps economic and security concerns in Europe is still valid. Italy should not leave the EU entirely unless given absolutely no choice. That time has not come and hopefully never will.
The main anti-EU politician in Italy, Salvini, is not just hated by the international business community and the EU elites who wish to make Italy a province in a federal Europe. Salvini is a bad actor. He was marginalized by Conte for the wrong reasons, to please the international business community, the EU, and to secure power for himself. He is a racist, xenophobe and he is no less authoritarian than Conte.
   The solution is not to leave the EU or give Salvini the absolute power that he craves. However, the international community is dead wrong about Conte. His actions have created the riots, looting, and unrest in Southern Italy. He has lost Northern Italy for a generation. Many will never forgive the excesses of martial law. He will try to rule as the favored governor of the European elites and the international business community, but that is exactly the wrong way to win Italians over.
   No one who writes in English about Italy ever explains the history of Italy. Italy has long been dominated or threatened by three forces- France, Germany, and the Italian central government. The Coronavirus crisis has revealed these forces as threats to Italy’s sense of self and democracy. Of course, people are mad at the EU and of course they are mad at Conte for politically exploiting this situation to cause unnecessary damage to regional autonomy, to consolidate his own quasi-dictatorial power, and to oppress the people with unnecessary martial law.
   However, hatred is never the solution. Riots are never the solution. Just as the Newark riots in New Jersey were evil and unjustified, so too are riots and looting in Southern Italy. Coronavirus did not cause the economic devastation, the Eurozone did. Coronavirus did not cause the rioting, Conte’s power grab and imposition of martial law did that. Coronavirus did not essentially end Italian democracy. Again, Conte, with the EU, did.
   Conte needs to be held accountable for his actions, either removal as prime minister if his actions were legal or imprisoned if they were not. Italy needs to be made into a federation, where it is clearly illegal to block people from moving from town to town within their own region without the region’s concurrence. There must be a clear legal justification for all martial law-like impositions in the future in case of emergencies.
   The EU also needs to learn that Italian sovereignty comes first. While Salvini’s racism and xenophobia must be condemned and rejected, he is right that Italy needs to take power back from the supranational elites in Brussels. While the EU is correct to impose restrictions on Italian national sovereignty in some areas, the time has come for Italy to leave the Eurozone, but not the EU itself.
   In sum, Italy has many problems. Coronavirus brought them to the surface and perhaps made them worse, but it did not cause them. Conte is a threat to Italy’s prosperity, safety and security and he needs to be replaced by someone who will create a sovereign, federal Italy strongly aligned with other Southern European countries and rejects racism, xenophobia and Salvini. It is time to put both Salvini and Conte in political quarantine.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian, and adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. He is the founder and President of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights organization. He can be reached at The author’s opinion as expressed in the article does not necessarily reflect the views of PRIMO Magazine.





My Grandmother Lived Through the Spanish Flu of 1918
What I Learned from Her

Alfonso Guerriero

   A few days ago, my brother-in-law sent me a text and news report about a convoy of military trucks ordered to collect the remains of the coronavirus victims in Bergamo, Italy. The city is one of the hardest hit in the global pandemic. Cadavers were dumped into a mass grave to prevent the disease from spreading. I am certain the government’s decision was difficult, especially in a country noted for mourning loved ones.  
   The article reminded me of a parallel story about my maternal grandmother, Giuseppina Zaccaria. She was born in Sant’Angelo a Scala circa 1902 and survived the Spanish influenza in 1918. Her oldest sister Filomena, a young and beautiful blue-eyed girl, however, was not as fortunate and died in her arms. My grandmother told me that her sister’s lifeless body was carried in a horse drawn wagon and dumped in to a mass grave. The family never had a chance to properly bury her beloved sister.
   The 1918 influenza devastated Italy much the way the 2020 coronavirus is now. My grandmother’s tragedy was over a hundred years ago. I find myself remembering her while I and others confront the 2020 pandemic in New York. Here is America’s epicenter where hundreds die daily. 
   New York is is where I was born and raised, where my wife and I work and where we raise our daughters. In one big swoop the vibrant energy is sucked-out. There is a new soundscape here that is noticeably off key, accompanied by a very different sidewalk scene and lifestyle. Pedestrians and straphangers on buses and trains are covered in white or black surgical masks; some with the highly coveted N-95s, as well as in blue or lavender colored latex gloves to protect their hands from the disease. My wife and I, like the rest of the world, are working from home. We are educators who are doing our best to be on call for our students via remote learning while juggling our responsibilities as parents and maintaining a life of normalcy for our daughters.
   The shelter-in-place decision in New York, like most of the country, followed the advice of many medical experts predicting the worst is yet to come. So many hospitals will be unable to maintain the onslaught of patients. Those with pre-existing medical conditions are most susceptible to the virus will likely be whisked into the ER.  The strain on hospitals is predicted to be so enormous that the Jacob Javits Center is now transformed into a 1,200 bed emergency hospital and in Central Park a field hospital was erected to serve impending patients expected to arrive in the days ahead.
   New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo convenes daily briefings like modern day fireside chats. As one reporter from the New York Times, remarked, “It’s no wonder that watching Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings can make some people crave Chianti and meatballs….the governor of New York evokes the feeling of a big Italian family dinner table.”   
   The importance of family returns in a times like these. Family is the pillar of our existence. The contagion forces many of us to press reset and reevaluate our lives. I call or text my cousins in Italy more regularly now. I ask my mother more in-depth questions about my grandmother. I check in with my own children about what they are feeling.
   The coronavirus has abruptly entered our lives like a spiteful guest who has crashed our party filled with gaiety. The U.S. economy was strong and many of us were removed from the challenges that confront the rest of the world. At the same time, my grandmother’s story of courage and perseverance has awoken in me my own self-pity during this outbreak.
   After living through the 1918 pandemic in Italy and ravages of World War I, she arrived in America in 1920, unable to read or write in her native language. Almost a decade later, she and my grandfather married and raised three daughters on a modest income only to survive the Great Depression and World War II. And yet I never heard my grandmother complain.
   So, then, why am I complaining?
   I have electronic devices to communicate with the outside world via text, audio and video. I can buy food and have it delivered to my home and added to my stockpile. My wife and children remain safe and out of harm's way. And, I am getting paid and have medical insurance while many others have been laid off and struggle to pay the mortgage or rent.  
   Furthermore, we have running water and electricity and as long as no one interrupts those essentials, we will be just fine. Yes, of course this global pandemic created an inconvenience from my regular routine but compared to my grandmother’s life and the horrible experiences of so many first responders right now, I have no reason to complain. 



His New Novel “How Fires End” Explores the Dark Hidden Past of a Sicilian-American Family in Middletown, Connecticut in the 1980s
Is it good to keep family secrets?

Marco Rafalà is a new established voice of the 1980s generation. “How Fires End” is set in Marco’s hometown of Middletown, Connecticut. The story is told through the eyes of David Vassallo, a high school student who lives with his father Salvatore, a widower employed at the local factory. A secret about Salvator comes to light and new questions arise as to how David's two uncles were killed in Sicily many years ago. The more David investigates the more things unravel and the past returns with vendettas and recriminations. PRIMO interviewed Marco about his new novel and his experience growing up in a Sicilian-American family in Connecticut.

"How Fires End," is an amazing story set in your hometown of Middletown, Connecticut in 1986. Tell us what led you to write this novel?

The novel is loosely influenced by family history and the folklore of Melilli, Sicily, as told to me by my father. Despite all the pain and hardships there, his hometown of Melilli seemed like a wonderful place, almost magical to me. I was fascinated with this village my father loved and missed so dearly. Somewhere there, in Melilli, was a way into understanding him. I went to Melilli with my father for the first time in 2001—and I don’t think I ever would have written the book if we hadn’t made that trip. Being in Melilli—walking those winding streets, wandering through the almond orchard he tended as a boy with his father, seeing the graves of two young cousins killed during the war while playing with an unexploded shell—I understood why my father’s stories stuck with me and what they meant to me. The Italian journalist, Luigi Barzini once said: “Sicily is notoriously an astoundingly improbable island where outlandish and terrifying things happen every day, everywhere, to everyone as a matter of course, the kind of things novelists elsewhere have to invent with great labor and waste of time.” I started writing about Sicily and the Sicilian immigrants living in Middletown, Connecticut, after that trip.

A family secret is at the heart of "How Fires End." Although American culture - then and now - pushes the idea of total self expression, Italians, and especially Sicilians, are much more private when it comes to family matters. What is at the roots of this "omerta" - this vow of secrecy, among Italians, and most notably, Sicilians, when it comes to family?

A lot of the tension among the characters in my novel comes from the things they cannot say to each other—which is related to the Sicilian idea of omertà, the code of silence. And, looking back, I can see how those silences between the characters drove the novel’s creation and structure. The decision to have multiple perspectives grew organically out of this. The characters’ relationships are deeply shaped not only by the traumas they carry but, maybe more importantly, by their inability to talk about and process that trauma. That’s partly because, in that time and culture—and still for many men today—you don't talk about your feelings. You certainly do not see a therapist. Mental health just isn't something men talk enough about, if at all. At the root of this stubborn silence is a cultural idea of what masculinity is supposed to look like—and it's an idea that can hold people, men and women both, hostage. The notion that men shouldn't ask for help, that it's a sign of weakness, like all of machismo, is a poison. If you’re carrying and hiding the weight of trauma for decades, how are you supposed to have relationships? How are you supposed to express love? To me, it’s very much part of my immigrant family experience: men who only know how to express anger and fear.

The other part of this, of course, is the history of the people of Sicily and how they dealt with decades of brutal foreign rule. In that sense, this code of silence among families was a tool of self-preservation and protection. It is probably best encapsulated in the Sicilian proverb, "He who is deaf, blind and silent will live a hundred years in peace." Of course, years later, the Mafia would use omertà as a way to maintain authority within their own ranks and among the general populace.

Although Middletown consists of families of Sicilian immigrants, not everyone is equal or treated the same. Your novel sheds light on an overlooked yet underlying conflict among people from Italy; not just the region from where you came, but also your province, and more pointedly the village, may breed mistrust and enmity with each other. Please comment.

At my "hometown" book launch in Middletown, Connecticut, I was joined by a brilliant Italian American writer, Juliet Grames, whose debut novel, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, also came out in 2019. Grames' family is from Calabria, and her novel is inspired by the story of her grandmother's life, from a small Calabrian village all the way to Connecticut. In our presentation at the event, I jokingly told her that my father had warned me to watch out for the Calabrese because "they are hard headed." Then she recounted her father had warned her about Sicilians. There is so much mistrust. And yet, in the end, we were both from southern Italy—regions where hardship was a way of life, and still is for many. And when you got down to it, reading both our books, there were more similarities than differences in the challenges our parents and grandparents live through. For example, limited access to education, rampant poverty, little control over your destiny, and often devastating machismo. 

But such distrust of outsiders is also a parallel to how strong and connected a village or province may be, through family, through culture, through surviving trauma together. In How Fires End, the character Vincenzo, a former Italian soldier from Rome, plays an interesting role as an outsider. While Vincenzo is eventually adopted into the Sicilian family at the heart of the book, it's in no small part because the family was already rejected by their community. When their own family was broken, they created a new one, which meant breaking down some of the stereotypes and boundaries they otherwise might fall back on.

"How Fires End" is indicative of its time, set in the 1980s. Cinema, rock music and other aspects of pop culture celebrated horror, perhaps more than any other decade. Hence, your novel - although not horror - nevertheless, still contains a horror feel to it. Was this intentional or just part of the influential mystique of the 1980s?

It was not intentional, though especially in the section of the book that takes place in 1980s Connecticut, I strove to capture the feeling of the era. I came of age myself in the 1980s, and I experienced it through two often opposing perspectives: as an American teenager and as the son of a strict, traditional Sicilian father. Needless to say, that was not easy for either one of us. In the novel, I wanted to capture these competing dynamics—and one way to do that was to let the teenage character of David begin to slowly step into a broader American world beyond his Sicilian family. But he's still constrained by his father's rules. Since David can't immerse himself in American culture, he brings those influences inside himself. This affects how he—and thereby the reader—perceives the world around him. There is also a sense of something ominous yet mysterious that pervades David's narrative: the long-simmering animosity between his family and another Sicilian immigrant family, a horror so deep that no one will speak of it. And that secret stalks David, almost like an apparition.

What's next for you? A new novel? Screenplay? You are a Game Writer, also. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new novel that came out of a line of dialogue in How Fires End. In Melilli, Sicily, during the Second World War, an Italian soldier is urging a local family to flee the fighting. But the father refuses, explaining: “Soldiers came to our village last week. We prayed for help, and you know what happened? An American fell from the sky, pulled out of the clouds by the saint.” This line was inspired by a story my father told me about a family in Melilli who helped hide an American paratrooper during the war. And so now I’m exploring where it takes me.

Because most of my game writing work is for licensed properties like Star Trek, for example, I'm bound by non-disclosure agreements and can't discuss them. However, I can say that I had the pleasure of contributing to an Italian role-playing game called Lex Arcana designed by one of my favorite game designers, Francesco Nepitello. The game, in Italian and English, will be released later this year from Quality Games.
Editor’s Note: Marco Rafalà has won rave reviews for his novel “How Fires End.” You can purchase this novel at by visiting the seller’s web site here.






Complaints Grow In Italy’s North for Bearing Brunt of Coronavirus Outbreak
Writer Misses Sciocco Tuscan Bread

By Deirdre Pirro

The Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery are devoid of crowds while a view from the author's window in Florence shows only
her geranium blooms as active.

Fears are growing here and for the situation developing daily in the United States and our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

In the last week or so, there have been continuing rumblings in the press and other media about dissatisfaction at both national and European levels of the handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Italy's opposition Center-Right parties have complained that too many decisions are made by Ministerial decree by the Center-Left coalition without proper democratic consultation with them. There is also tension between the central government and the regional governors (mainly of the Center-Right) in the worst hit areas of Northern Italy. They say they have had to bear the brunt of dealing with an unprecedented situation without, in their view, sufficient co-ordination or coherency from Rome. An example of this is that in these few weeks, the forms that we have to fill out and carry with us to justify why we have left our homes (to go to the supermarket or to the doctor or to take out the garbage) has already been changed FIVE times. This prompted a friend of mine to quip that perhaps Italy is trying to beat the virus by confusing it with overly complex bureaucracy.

However, it is at the European level that most discontent is being voiced. As people realize that, when this is all over, they may be faced with a recession that (pessimistically) could be as bad, if not worse, than the Great Depression of last century, they are looking to the European Union for guidance and financial assistance. At present, it appears, at least to the man-in-the-street, that little of either is forthcoming. Some predict that if the EU fails to become pro-active in these circumstances, it may be ringing its own death knell.

There is also considerable concern within the country that the virus will take hold in the South of Italy which, until now, has only been moderately affected. But, on two occasions, once when the schools were shut down and again when the non-essential factories were closed, many people living and working in the North who were originally from the South flooded back home. No one knows how many of them were asymptomatic carriers of the virus. Furthermore, it is no secret that many places in the South do not have the hospitals or apparatus or materials to combat an epidemic. They will need help.

On the domestic front, I continue to try and remain organized with set tasks to perform each day and our delivery routines continue, except now the pharmacy has now been added to the list and delivers our medications to the door. I have also acquired one unexpected new skill. I have become a barber, called into action by my husband whose hair was growing long and unruly. Quite unprepared for the task, I watched several clips on YouTube and convinced myself I could do it. And I did and became more and more empowered as I clipped away with the sharp scissors. He now has a VERY short back and sides haircut. Based on Pietro's judgement of my handy work, his barber shouldn't worry as his post-coronavirus job is still quite safe.

I am still dreaming of my “fritto intelligente” but have added another item to my wish list, I long for a huge loaf of freshly baked, crusty Tuscan “sciocco” (unsalted) bread from the corner bakery as soon as it opens its doors again. It's another little bit of culinary heaven.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.


An Exciting New Work of Fiction by Multi-Award Winning Author Rich DiSilvio Explores The World of Art Crimes
From art forgeries to stolen relics - the man to call is Armand Arnolfini, private investigator
- PRIMO Interviews the Author

Multi-Award winning author Rich DiSilvio does it all. He is an artist, a historian and a writer. Why not put all his passions into one new and original project? He does so with the “The Arnolfini Art Mysteries.” This is a new twist on America’s long literary tradition of mystery fiction. Instead of solving murders or finding lost loved ones, Armand Arnolfini is a private investigator who is hired to solves art crime mysteries. PRIMO interviewed Rich about his new and original work of mystery fiction.

What inspired you to write "The Arnolfini Art Mysteries"?

The protagonist, Armand Arnolfini, first appeared in two introductory tales in my award-winning book Short Stories II. Readers responded with great enthusiasm, which prompted me to write more art-crime cases for Armand to solve, hence this book. But the initial conception was based on two primary considerations: first, my desire to create an Italian protagonist who was clever and witty. The long-held stereotype of the Italian Mafioso gangster or as dimwitted imbeciles in TV shows, like Jersey Shore, was something that demanded a response. Granted, I don’t claim such Italians didn’t, or don’t, exist, and freedom of speech does entitle writers to produce these programs and characters to be exploited. However, where is the counterbalance? There are very few shows with Italian heroes. Even Columbo, who was a great detective, was portrayed as a disheveled rag-a-muffin who drove a broken-down bomb of a car. Hence, the world needed an Italian P.I. with class, some savvy and lots of smarts. It needed Armand Arnolfini. The second motive was that art has been a part of my life since childhood, even being one of my career professions, having created art and new media projects for TV shows and music legends. So, it was only natural that a private eye solving art-related crimes was a picture-perfect fit. Okay, pun intended!

"The Arnolfini Art Mysteries" contains six wonderful short stories with the protagonist Armand Arnolfini. He's a private investigator consistent with others in America's literary and pop culture past, i.e., Sam Spade, Mike Hammer and James Rockford, to name a few. What makes Arnolfini unique compared to other fictional private investigators?

Armand is unique in that his past contains the unusual aspect that he was born in Italy and was a professional fútbol player for AC Milan. Armand then moved to the USA and became an FBI agent, but tried to create their Art Crimes division, which was non-existent back in the 1970s, which is sadly based on truth. Little attention was given to art crimes in America, as the greatest task force to combat such crimes was, and is, in Italy.  Most European nations likewise give less attention to this field. People worldwide don’t realize that well over 25,000 works of art are missing, so politicians don’t press the issue to spend taxpayer dollars to combat art-crimes. But if the public knew, they’d change their minds, because the dollar amounts are astronomical. Luckily, we have Armand uniquely combating these rarely publicized crimes. Anyhow, due to the FBI’s lack of interest during the 1970s, Armand went out on his own in the 1980s, and is now a private investigator, specializing in art crimes, something his famous fictional peers never did. This brings great works of fine art to the public, and enlightens them to these visual treasures. And Armand’s soccer talents do sometimes come in handy, especially when he needs to subdue hostile criminals with a good kick or two.

Art history is at the center of "The Arnolfini Art Mysteries." A theme in the book is how a specific genre or style may not have been founded or created by an artist touted by art critics and historians. Please comment.

As a child, drawn to the arts, I had read many books on various artists and was enamored by say Rembrandt, whom the art critics touted as the master of chiaroscuro, light and darkness. Rembrandt’s art is indeed magnificent and bathed in darkness with usually only a single light source. However, he was not the creator of such a novel technique. At that time, the works of Caravaggio were given far less attention, to the point that I saw only one of his paintings in an art book. However, Caravaggio’s works not only preceded Rembrandt’s, but also inspired Rembrandt, who received astronomical acclaim while his brilliant predecessor languished in the shadows. The good news is, the initially ignorant or biased art critics finally saw the light, the brilliant light in Caravaggio’s unique and pioneering works. As such, they finally came around to realizing the immense talent and influence by Caravaggio, not only on Rembrandt but almost the entire Baroque era of artists. Thus, Caravaggio rose out of the shadows into the light. His acclaim and the prices of his artwork have skyrocketed since then, as the truth had finally prevailed.

Armand Arnolfini, the private investigator, solves one case after hearing a musical composition by Liszt. Not just an expert in art, he also is an expert on music. What is the connection you aim to show between music and art in "The Arnolfini Art Mysteries"?

Here again, I draw on personal experiences to show the connection between apparently different areas of learning and how one can inform or advance the other. The mental ability to think creatively demands that we not pigeonhole our thoughts to a single subject. Connecting the dots is the most crucial trait that all great innovators throughout history possessed. No creative thinker works in a vacuum, and whether it’s reading books on different topics, watching TV shows, or even listening to different styles of music, broadening one’s horizons makes for a much more fertile environment to spawn new ideas. Hence, that being just one of Armand Arnolfini’s admirable abilities as he deduces mysterious cases.

Characters, both heroic and villainous, are present in "The Arnolfini Art Mysteries." They share one thing in common: A love of art. What do you want to convey to readers about the people who create, manage, buy and sell art?

Fine art has taken a back seat in modern times, mainly due to all the visual forms of media we have today, and mainly the art form of film. Animation is unquestionably exciting and captivating, even addictive. Meanwhile, a static piece of artwork has a hard time competing with animated films. However, many works of great art have subliminal themes that force the viewer to try to decipher. We today have become lazy, as film producers lay everything out for us to see on screen. Meanwhile, some works of fine art force people to think for themselves, a talent that is sadly waning, just as most people today would rather watch a TV show than read a book, which takes effort. But, the effort is often worth it. And I hope readers will enjoy Armand as he discusses and examines these works in great detail, revealing intriguing things they might not have seen previously.  As for the art, or deceptive art, of buying and selling art, I feel the public should be made ware that more paintings hanging in art museums today are forgeries than they would have ever imagined. This revelation had only become apparent to me over the past ten years, and I try to incorporate that into the novel.

With Book 1 there are six stories and Book 2 contains five more. You provide plenty of material. The question begs: Are art crimes that pervasive in real life?

Yes, many real world forgers have been uncovered or arrested, while many older works have been determined not to be originals in museums. Art crime is a very big business. Whether a forger is selling their work as an original by a famous master, which can yield millions of dollars for a single transaction, or a lesser-known artist for thousands, the rewards are tremendous. Even stealing famous artwork to sell on the black-market can be profitable, but sadly most of those transactions entail these great works being held hostage in private collections, thereby also stealing from the public the enjoyment of seeing them. Additionally, attributing a piece of art from a protege to their master can make a $400 painting jump up to 4 million dollars, such as Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi, the highest price ever paid for a work of art. This painting still has detractors saying it’s not an original Da Vinci. Yet the subjective and faulty world of assessing art still exists, and whether Leonardo’s Jesus is original or a fake remains. Therefore, art is unquestionably fascinating and intriguing and can be extremely lucrative, even if a fake. How no author has created an art-crimes private eye until now is the real question. But now we have Armand Arnolfini. Thanks for this interview, and to all potential readers… I hope you’ll enjoy his unique adventures!

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Rich DiSilvio’s extraordinary new book, “The Arnolfini Art Series,” by logging on here:




Deirdre Pirro, Writer and Translator for PRIMO Shares Her Experience in Florence During the Coronavirus Crisis

By Deirdre Pirro

The author in her home in Florence, where next door is a school playground devoid of
children in Italy's coronavirus lockdown.

This is the third week of lockdown in Florence. I call it “house arrest.” Yet, it is for a crime I have not committed. Others call it a war; but against an invisible, insidious enemy which, at the present moment, we seem to be losing. With this in mind, I thought I would write a few suggestions that might help those in the United States who are now facing a similar lockdown here in Italy.

Pietro, my husband, and I now appear to belong to a category of potential patients called the “anziani” (old people) who, when the chips are down and there are not enough ventilators for everyone may be considered dispensable. That is because a high percentage of over 60 year olds, usually with other pathologies, have died of COVID-19 in Italy.

Health officials in Italy have told young parents to keep children away from their grandparents. Children have a high recovery rate but, nevertheless, if infected, endanger the elderly. Prepare your own children psychologically to spend extended time with other children when schools close. Some parents may not be used to spending so much enforced time with their children. They will need to invent ways to entertain the kids.

Here, thank goodness, Piero, our son, is our link to the outside world. He shops at the supermarket for us (only 5 people allowed in at a time) and takes care of all the other things that involve venturing outside the house. On returning home, he leaves his shoes outside the front door, changes his clothes and washes his hands.

Initially, on Day 1 of lockdown, I was elated to think that finally, I could have some time at home to do all the things I had been putting off for a century. With this in mind, I began tidying up my desk. I was extremely pleased with myself when I finished the job. Trouble was, it only took a couple of hours, and then what?

As the days have passed, I find it strange that I have become very lethargic and don't seem to want to do anything, not even write that best selling book! The telephone has become my best friend and I find that I am telephoning or I am being telephoned by people I haven't seen or heard of for years. It's a positive.

Things to do:

1. Buy a good mask and a store of disposable rubber gloves
2. Stock the pantry with dry goods like pasta, rice, tinned products, etc.
3. Stock the freezer
4. Make sure you have plenty of books, DVDs (films and music), Netflix, etc., to help pass the time
5. Dust off your board games and set up the card table
6. Take out old photo albums to look at or watch you old home movies, it's fun to reminisce
7. Try to have something to do that will occupy your time manually as psychologists here say that doing something with your hands is relaxing for the brain. When I watch TV at night, I knit scarves, at which I am hopeless, but it soothes me and I will give them to the homeless when this is all over. If you can paint or draw that would be even better.

Things not to do:
1) Do not compulsively watch the TV news
2) Do not compulsively check online sites to look at the number of deaths
3) Do not let concern turn into anxiety.

Stay healthy and safe...Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre Pirro writes for PRIMO and provides new and original translations of excerpted works from English to Italian. She has written two books, now on sale through PRIMO. The first is “Italian Sketches - The Faces of Modern Italy,” a book about the most influential Italians in the arts, science and statecraft this past century. The second is “Politica e Prosa” a new book of translations in collaboration with PRIMO’s publisher and editor Truby Chiaviello. If interested, please log on to our Books Page here.



It was around mid-February when I heard about the coronavirus for the first time in Italy. Today, a month later, the whole country is in a state of emergency, and here in Rome, where I live, everyone seems to be infected by a downfall mood.

Text and Photographs by Jesper Storgaard Jensen

Face masks are sold out and people now cover their faces with scarves, despite the fact that the
temperature in Rome is 60 degrees. Andrea, the owner of my neighborhood newsstand, welcomes his
customers with rubber gloves and face mask. All newspaper sales now take place outside the newsstand.

In front of most of the city's pharmacies there are now long queues. People are admitted one at a time,
and sometimes there are guards at the pharmacy entrance. A morning jogger runs through Rome's central
streets where traffic has now ceased.

Bar Canova at Piazza del Popolo was once the favorite cafe of director Federico Fellini. These days you
can see just a handful of people at the cafe. Well, actually no longer, because Bar Canova is now closed.

The Spanish Steps usually host a veritable throng of people. These days, however, tourists can be counted
on no more than two hands. Usually there is a chaotic tourist situation in front of the Trevi Fountain. In these
days, there are plenty of room to throw a coin in the Fountain.

   A few days ago I bought a copy of “la Repubblica,” Italy’s largest daily newspaper. I couldn’t help but get a lump in my throat. The headline was written with giant letters: “Dear Italy, these are dark times, but we will get through the difficulties together".
   In these days it’s really difficult to recognize the Italy where I – Danish journalist and photographer – have now lived for more than 22 years. The Italians’ joy of life, their usually good mood and their typical vivid hand gestures while speaking have been replaced by dismay, anxiety and a social behavior that has changed drastically and practically overnight. Cheek kissing and embraces have now been replaced by a new way of greetings, in which elbows are poked against each other to avoid the physical contact that authorities now strongly discourage.
   Most streets in Rome are now deserted. The Trevi Fountain, which I often pass, is only a shadow of itself. Usually, it’s quite difficult to move ahead in front of the fountain due to the massive crowds of tourists. These days, it looks like a huge splashing marble poltergeist without capacity to evoke any interest whatsoever. Rome’s subway in these days - where the rush hour often resembles Bombay-like situations - is now driving around with ghostly and almost completely empty trains.
   Only supermarkets, mini-markets, pharmacies and newspaper stands remain open. All cinemas, theaters, swimming pools and gyms are closed, and now – after the latest governmental decree – all restaurants and eateries. When I open my living room window, just out of Rome’s center, in the evening, the only thing I hear is a strange and surreal silence. No cars, no people, nothing. Just silence.
   The Italians’ – and my – social life have gone completely black. Even my little cozy yoga team, where we are just four stiff-backed people, has shut down. Now we only walk in the streets if we have a specific objective, and if I have to move from one place to another for work reasons I need to carry a printed document – the so-called self-certificate. If I don’t the police might give me a fine of 206 euro.
   Rome’s big parks, e.g. Villa Borghese in the center of the city, have been closed; so people choose other places to do their afternoon walk, e.g. along the Tiber. But also here police forces have started making controls. We are all supposed to stay at home, and if you leave your home together with another person, you have to remember to keep the distance of at least one meter.
   People are scared and as with a snap of the fingers this anxiety has caused us all to change our social behavior. Saturday night when my wife and I were having dinner with friends in our neighborhood (but today, as these lines are written, you no longer have dinner with friends). After our initial elbow-greetings we immediately reminded one another about the importance of coughing in the elbow and keeping some distance. It was said with a laugh and a smile, but I still felt an underlying seriousness. My friend Simone, who is a theater instructor, soon became quite serious: “I spoke to a theater manager yesterday. He was crying on the phone. The closure of his theater could have disastrous consequences. After all, we know nothing about how long this situation will last. I myself had to cancel five performances in the coming weeks”.
   The next day I meet an acquaintance, Maurizio, in the street. He is worried. Coronavirus has been detected at his daughter's school. A parent of one of his daughter's classmates who was infected went to a Roman hospital for care. The school is reluctant to give information about the state of the infected person’s family due to strict Italian privacy laws. “You know my wife has had cancer. Her immune system is still weak and we need to take extra care. This means that for a while my daughter cannot be with her classmates,” he says.
   All Italian schools are now closed until April 3. My own children, 12 and 16 years old, have suddenly been given four weeks of freedom. Now we parents need to be creative. The families’ young people must be activated and at the same time informed about proper social behavior. We are only at the beginning of a rather long “home isolation journey” that might very well last for another 3-4 weeks. But first and foremost, they must do homework they now receive electronically. My son, who is a freshman in high school, is mostly annoyed: “We don’t know yet which electronic platform we should use to deliver assignments to the different teachers. It's a bit of a mess". The family's youngest, Sara, is especially worried and has to be convinced to go out. She prefers to stay a casa, safe and sound.
   My wife and I try to have a relaxed attitude towards our children, but they have long recognized the seriousness of the situation. An invisible danger seems to be hiding everywhere.
   This new reality has something unreal, surreal, and absurd about it, as if all of us were part of a sci-fi movie whose plot has been invented by a half-crazed director.

News from the trench
Reading Italian newspapers these days is a bit like reading the latest bulletins from trench war.
   On social media, Facebook in particular, there seems to be an invisible competition among the various media about who is able to bring most coronavirus-related news. New figures about the infected, about the dead, about various side effects and about the updated coronavirus situation are published all day long.
   We - my wife and I - have told my Italian parents in-law, who live in Rome and who both are over eighty, to stay at home and only to go out to do shopping of food and groceries. Instead, we have now arranged a daily video call so they can still have contact with their great amore, their grandchildren. Work appointments and any kind of business are going down the drain in this period. In the near future, I should have been to the Italian city of Pesaro to work as interpreter, but this was of course cancelled. And also my four lectures - for Danish high school classes on a study trip to Rome - about Italian politics, economics and society have also been cancelled.
   New “social phenomena” are emerging. Face masks are sold out everywhere, so when outside their homes many people move around wearing a scarf that covers both the mouth and nose. And that’s despite a pleasant spring heat in Rome these days. There are long lines in front of the supermarkets, where people are now being let in one at the time. Sometimes you have to wait for more than one hour to get in. In front of a pharmacy in my neighborhood, Prati, you see a hundred-meter-long line. Half the people in the queue wear face masks. An impatient signora complains loudly and security in front of the pharmacy try to calm her.
   For quite some days, newspapers have been reporting that the already fragile Italian growth this year is expected to worsen by at least 0.5% of GDP. And this year's Italian budget deficit is now predicted to come dangerously close to the EU's maximum limit of -3%. These are disastrous macroeconomic figures. I think to myself that all this - this weird virus situation, this surrealistic infection scenario - will require blood, sweat and tears. It will lead to an anxious grinding of teeth, family tragedies and divorces. It will lead to company closures, declarations of bankruptcy and horrifying red numbers on the bottom line. When the virus eventually will have gone or been tamed, what will be left here in Italy – and probably also elsewhere – is a disastrous economic situation for thousands and thousands of people.
   And who knows, maybe what we see these days is just the beginning? Press allegations have it that the curve of virus infections is supposed to peak around 25-28 March. The big fear, right now, is that the infection will start to spread from North Italy towards major cities like Rome and Naples.
   So maybe we will soon see the same disastrous phenomena here in Rome as one sees in Northern Italy, where many hospitals, so resource-depleted, that doctors are forced to make the terrible choice between virus patients to save and virus patients to be given a lower priority, which often means “to be sacrificed.”
Newly infected from day to day are still around 3,000, and the number of deceased persons rise to about 300 per day.
   Both my wife and I now work at home. We are following strict orders introduced by the Italian authorities with a new hashtag #iorestoacasa (I stay home). In an English language neologism we call it smart work, and if you manage to practice this option - working at home – you’ll automatically score a couple of points on the social image barometer.
   The well-known Italian writer Fulvio Abbate was interviewed by me weeks ago at a cafe in Rome's Monteverde neighborhood. Now I follow him on Instagram, where he posts doomsday prophecies; halfway cynical and halfway humorous: “The authorities are not saying what we all know so well: the virus is on its way to Rome. Save yourself who can and good luck to all of you. To you that are bound to succumb and to you that will eventually manage to survive."

Editor's Note: Jesper Storgaard Jensen is a special features writer for PRIMO. His articles can be read in each edition of PRIMO. Jesper also convenes tours of Rome. His web site is





Truby Chiaviello, Publisher & Editor of PRIMO Magazine, Appointed to the Board of Directors of The Sicilian Project
The Sicilian Project’s mission is to teach English to all children in Sicily

It is with pleasure that PRIMO Magazine announces Publisher and Editor Truby Chiaviello has been appointed to serve on the board of directors of The Sicilian Project. The term of his service began in January 2020.
   The Sicilian Project is a 501-C3 tax exempt organization that raises money from people throughout the United States to fund academic grants issued in Sicily. The organization’s objective is to train Sicilian students, from elementary through high school, to read, write and think in English.
   The Sicilian Project began in 2011 as an idea Massachusetts attorney Alfred Zappala had during one of his many visits to Sicily. He saw that children there could not compete in a global market without English language skills. Since then, The Sicilian Project has maintained an active all volunteer board of directors and volunteer teachers to conduct classes in Sicily. The Sicilian Project established a strong working relationship with the Babilonia School in Taormina to provide grants and use their staff and facilities. English language summer camps are ongoing in Aci Bonaccorsi, Valverde, Augusta and Palermo. The plan is to begin new camps in other locations of the region such as Messina.
   “I am honored to serve on the board of directors of The Sicilian Project,” says Mr. Chiaviello. “I have been an admirer of the organization since its inception nine years ago. Alfred Zappala and his team have made incredible strides helping Sicilian children and young adults learn English. More than just an organization, The Sicilian Project is a serious change agent for Italy’s future. To be a part of The Sicilian Project is to be a part of history in the making and I am very honored to serve on the organization’s board of directors.”
   To learn more about The Sicilian Project and how you can help, please log on to To contact Truby Chiaviello, please call 202-363-3741 or email To learn more about PRIMO Magazine log on to




Now Playing on Netflix - A Meeting between Popes Benedict and Francis
Starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce
PRIMO Review

By Truby Chiaviello

“The Two Popes,” starring Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis, presents a conundrum for Roman Catholic viewers.
   The most pious and informed among the faithful will want to tune in to see how the last two inheritors of the throne of Saint Peter interacted with each other in the Palazzo Apostolico di Castel Gandolfo near Lake Albano. Yet, this same group will know that no such meeting ever took place. Hence, the question: Should we or shouldn’t we watch?
   I took the plunge and viewed “The Two Popes” on Netflix. I knew full well what I was getting into: The onslaught of clichés in the film were relentless. Contrived and banal scenes were too many to count. The distortion of Catholic theology was minimal but still grossly apparent in the film. Yet, the filmmakers got all the costumes and customs correct, not to mention an impressive set design, much of it done at Cinecitta studios in Rome. The Sistine Chapel is shown with total authenticity as are other landmarks such as the Palazzo Apostolico in Northern Italy and other locations inside and outside the Vatican.
   The film opens with the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. The next scene jumps eight years ahead to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio receives a call from the Vatican requesting him to meet with the pope at his summer residence in Lake Albano. He arrives in Italy, not knowing the reason for the meeting. He and the pope stroll manicured gardens to discuss the current state of affairs and the future of the Church. Here, the filmmakers give way to the narrative stereotypes: Pope Benedict is the old, rigid conservative while Cardinal Bergoglio is the friendly, open-minded liberal. In truth, both men are considerably enlightened and share key attributes. They taught at universities in their home countries and were greatly influenced by Romano Guardino, a priest and philosophy professor from Verona who pioneered changes in Catholic liturgy. Both popes have Italian backgrounds. Pope Francis’ family is originally from Italy’s Piemonte region and Pope Benedict’s mother migrated to Germany from Tyrol in Northeastern Italy.
   Pope Benedict is particularly undervalued and misrepresented in the film. He is depicted much like a medieval prelate; out of step and out of bounds in the modern world. In truth, Pope Benedict remains today one of the best educated priests in the world. For years, he was a professor of philosophy and theology in Munich and a key adviser to German bishops. He was a fervent supporter of church reforms initiated under Pope John XXIII and later carried out by Pope Paul VI in the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). Indeed, there is little more that the Church can do in the area of reform. The liturgy, the magisterium and the Mass ceremony changed drastically thanks to Vatican II.
   Most disturbing is how the film implies that Pope Benedict was, at best, neglectful in purging priests accused of child abuse crimes and misdeeds. In fact, the opposite is the case. While prefect at the Vatican, then Cardinal Ratzinger spearheaded investigations of priests under suspicion and expelled many. He continued the effort while pope when he verified abuse allegations that led to the removal of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in Washington, D.C.
   As the film progresses, Pope Benedict announces his intention to resign and endorses Cardinal Bergoglio as his replacement. Little reason is given for his abrupt decision. Pope Benedict’s retirement remains cloaked in mystery. The move was basically unprecedented, with the last pope to abdicate, Gregory XII, in 1415. The official claim was that Pope Benedict was too old at 86 to continue the intense regimen at the Vatican. Hopkins portrays Benedict as just that - old and frail. Some Vatican observers, however, claim that the pope’s undoing was his zeal to uncover perpetrators of child sexual and physical abuse. He did not resign voluntarily but was rather pushed out by rivals who sought to cover up crimes.
   Cardinal Bergoglio was outside the Vatican and the first from the New World when he was elected and took the name Pope Francis. He was also the first among the Jesuit order of priests to rise to the papacy. The film recounts his days as Jesuit provincial superior in Buenos Aires in the early 1970s when Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship. Many Jesuits were arrested and some were killed during what was later termed the “Dirty Wars.” Then Father Bergoglio was criticized for not doing enough to save priests and lay ministers from punishment and persecution. However, his focus was on preserving all priests under his care. His outreach efforts and eventual negotiations with military officers helped retain the Jesuit order in Argentina.
   Named archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1992, Bergoglio sought to bring greater awareness to the plight of the poor in his home country and elsewhere in South America. One scene shows a speech he made about poverty paired with a montage of walls in different parts of the Spanish speaking world. Manmade obstructions separate the poor from the more affluent of society; no doubt, a critique by the filmmakers of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico.
   “The Two Popes” is a film to be heralded for its technical and artistic achievements in set design and costumes. Of the two actors, Pryce provides the better portrayal as Pope Francis. He conveys the charm and approachability that makes Pope Francis one of the most popular figures in the world today. Meanwhile, Hopkins meanders and mumbles his way through the film as a befuddled and gruff Pope Benedict. “The Two Popes” had the potential to be a stellar work of cinema to explore the inner workings of the Vatican. Yet, too many clichés, a gross revision of history and too many misrepresentations of Catholic theology undoes the production. “The Two Popes” is currently shown on Netflix.

Editor’s Note: Truby Chiaviello is the publisher and editor of PRIMO Magazine.



His New Book “L’America” Follows The Paths of Three Italian Immigrants at the Turn of the 20th Century
- Main Characters Come from Naples, Calabria and Sicily
Did one group of Italian immigrants have it easier than the other?

Joseph Orazi is no stranger to the dreams and struggles of Italian immigrants. In 2005, he was the screenwriter and associate producer for a riveting documentary on the internment of Italians in World War II titled “Prisoners Among Us.” Changing gears from writing for film to writing a new novel, Mr. Orazi conveys the struggles of three immigrants from different regions of Southern Italy in “L’America.” PRIMO gave the book a most positive review. We interviewed the author about his new novel and the Italian immigrant experience.

Your new novel "L'America" is a fictional account of Italian immigrants. What new insight about Italian immigration will readers gain after reading your book?

It is my hope that readers will learn the true story of immigration, when huge numbers flocked to our shores. Between the late 1800s and the early 1900s, millions of Italians, Irish, Germans, Slavs, etc made their way to America. While my story centers on Italians, it is actually the story of us all, no matter the country of origin. As far as Italians are concerned, we’re a pretty proud bunch, so many of the struggles to make it here were not spoken. We had to pry them out of first generation folks. So it was my intention to mine those stories of immigration, assimilation and the largely unknown events leading up to WWII. History has been neglected, I think. It’s important for younger generations to learn what it took for their ancestors to enable them to live the lives they do. I’m biased, but I think we owe it to them.
You dedicate "L'America" to your ancestors, i.e., Fuscas, the Fusias, LaChimias, Funaros and Orazis. Can you tell us a little about them?

The Fuscas, Fusias, La Chimias and Funaros were my mother’s side of the family, from Calabria. The Fusca name was the original. When my grandfather came to America, they got it right on Ellis Island. But when his brothers and sisters came over, immigration read the name wrong. The “c” had an accent above it. So they thought it was an “i.” So most of my family call themselves Fusias. It’s always fun to argue about it at family reunions. The Orazis were my father’s side from Ascoli Piceno.
"L'America" follows the harrowing journey to America of several characters from different parts of Southern Italy. They have different backgrounds and circumstances but they all have one thing in common: They want to leave Italy. Tell us a little about what made Italy so unattractive for people to leave at the turn of the century.

In the 1800s, the Italian peninsula was made up of many different states. It was decided that it was in Italy’s best interest to unify into a single kingdom of Italy…and also one of Sicily. The country was racked with civil wars. Lands were redistributed. The Mezziogiorno (the area south of Rome) was devastated in particular. Poverty was rampant. It’s estimated that about 10% of the population decided that the only way to feed their families was to seek employment elsewhere. America became their beacon to a better life.
We have Sicilians, Calabrese, and Neapolitans making their way in the New World. Did one group of Southern Italians have it easier in America than another?

There really were no differences in the assimilation experiences of Italians. All found it very difficult. Some were more successful than others in acquainting themselves of new language and cultures. Some returned home. Many stayed and sent for their wives and children later.
What's next for you after this novel? You have done some exceptional work in film, most notably as the screenplay writer and associate producer for the award winning documentary "Prisoners Among Us." Do you plan to purse filmmaking or novel writing in the future?

I am currently working on Book Two of this two book series. It picks up the families’ stories in 1928 and follows them to 1946. I have written a treatment for a TV miniseries based on the books. I think it’s time for our story to be told. We don’t just off people and own pizza joints. So I’d like to write the scripts for that project.

Editor’s Note: Joseph Orazi gives us a captivating and well-written new novel in “L’America.” You can purchase the book at As an author and screenplay writer who focuses on the plights of Italian immigrants, Mr. Orazi can share his in-depth knowledge and experience with Italian American organizations. To inquire about his availability to be a speaker at your next event, please contact him at


Finding The Gravesite of My Great Grandfather
Was a Strange Marking in a Photograph a Sign from the Afterlife?

By Al Vaccaro

   My great grandfather, Semo Gambero, died in 1917, and was buried near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Many of our relatives (now living around the Pittsburgh and Cleveland areas) had never visited Semo's grave, who was the first family member to immigrate to the United States from Calabria, Italy, in the late 1800's. Some of the older family members, however, remembered the name of the cemetery where Grandfather, Semo, was buried, in Anita, Pennsylvania.
   One sunny Sunday in October of 1996, three vans, loaded with relatives went to seek out Semo's final rising place. Several hours after the departure from Pittsburgh, we located the Adrian-Anita R.C. Cemetery.  
Spreading out and searching for a half hour or so, we finally found Semo's gravesite. Although nearly 80 years had weathered the tombstone, all the information on it was clearly readable. With my Kodak camera, I (as well as other family members) snapped dozens of pictures, at various angles, usually with most to the family members surrounding the gravesite. One picture, however, I snapped after all the family had moved away from the gravesite. I wanted a picture of only the tombstone. When the roll of film was developed, this mysterious picture was one of the 36 returned to me. When I showed it to the employees of the local Ritz Camera Center, they had no explanation for the "white wisp" that appeared at the gravesite. It was the ONLY picture on that roll of film, or any of the hundreds of pictures that I had taken with that camera, that had this mysterious white mark on it. A puzzle to one and all who viewed it.
Was our Grandfather disturbed by our presence? Was Semo thanking us for finally visiting him after so many years? Was he asking to be reburied next to his wife in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, nearly one hundred miles away? (Semo is the ONLY relative buried in that location.)  
     Whatever the logical explanation for this unique picture is, the family members who made the trip to Anita that day to visit the grave of our family patriarch, all have their own beliefs about the significance of that unique, and treasured photograph. Many years ago, I entered that picture in a Kodak photograph contest and it won an award. They returned the original (enlarged) photograph to me, beautifully wood mounted and framed, and entitled, at my suggestion, "Grandfather's Return." It hangs on a wall in my house and it will be passed on to my children, and grandchildren, for many years to come....I hope.    


From Mob Attorney to Movie Mayhem

“Last of the Gladiators,” by James M. LaRossa, Jr.; Published by Bancroft Press, available at
   You can’t help but like James M. LaRossa. He was one of New York’s top attorneys who defended Paul Castellano, reputed boss of the Gambino crime family. LaRossa was a lawyer’s lawyer and we mean that literally. He once defended two probate judges and got their cases dropped at the investigation phase. This is one of many exciting, humorous and insightful tales that his son James, Jr., conveys to readers in “Last of the Gladiators: A Memoir of Love, Redemption, and the Mob.”
   After serving his country, a Marine Corps officer in the Korean War, LaRossa attended and graduated from Fordham Law School. After some years as a federal prosecutor, he went into business for himself and defended New York’s most notorious suspects in some of the most famous criminal trials of the previous century. If the law had its sights on you, then LaRossa was your man to ensure an impassioned defense and a fair trial. Once a judge asked LaRossa why he defended the likes of mobsters and known criminals. As LaRossa, Jr., writes in the book, his father replied, “Yes, I could do without some of my clients…” He then told the judge how he was clerking at a law firm when one of the managing partners “let me know, without saying it, that the firm wasn’t hiring Italian-Americans, so don’t even bother applying after finishing school…Thinking back, that guy did me a big favor. He pissed me off and made me what I am today.”
   James, Jr., says his father’s deep seated anger at government overreach was why he fought so hard for his clients. LaRossa once described himself as last of the gladiators, hence the book’s title. Never known as a deal maker, he rarely brokered a plea bargain. He made it known when hired that he was to take the case all the way to court and all the way to a jury verdict. LaRossa was the first lawyer who ran up against RICO, in 1979, the all-reaching federal statute aimed at taking down the mob. He was an innovator among defense attorneys when he hired private investigators to turn the tables on prosecutors and investigate their witnesses and informants.
   “Last of the Gladiators” is an incredibly entertaining book. Not just do we read about LaRossa, but we also read about his son and author James, Jr., who recounts his exploits as a successful entrepreneur with bipolar disorder. Touching is how he helped his father to extend his life after diagnosed with emphysema.
   “Last of the Gladiators” provides an insider’s view of law and order in America. The stakes are high for the accused. James M. LaRossa was there for the defense. His son’s impressive tribute is one not to forget by anyone who reads this remarkable book.

“L’America,” by Joseph M. Orazi, available at
   Joseph M. Orazi gives us a captivating and well-written novel in “L’America.”
   The author is no stranger to the saga of Italian immigrants. He was the screenwriter and associate producer for a riveting documentary on the internment of Italians in World War II titled “Prisoners Among Us.” He delved into the subject to explore new angles and sub plots not normally covered.
   In “L’America,” Orazi tells the story of three men who find themselves on the same ocean vessel in steerage “in the belly of the beast called SS Santa Ana.” There is Giuseppe Mosca, a peasant farmer from Calabria who leaves for America to become a tailor. There is Aldo Grimaldi, a skilled contractor in Naples where corruption and nepotism has all but excluded him from the market. He hopes to restart his business in the United States where he believes work is won on merit instead of connections. Paolo LaChimia is the youngest of the three; a teenager from the streets of Palermo whose early life in crime leads him overseas.
   Dialogue between characters convey the conditions of past migration; much more dire and ominous than what we see today. In one scene, a ship’s steward explains steerage to Paolo. “Get used to it. This is the best it’s going to smell. Wait until we’re a week out. Then you will long for day…This is steerage. The occupants are nothing more than cargo with legs.”
   Historical photographs often show Italians by themselves as a group of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island. In truth, people from many different countries were represented on the same ocean liner. When Aldo gets settled inside the large boat, he sees “the strange assembly of nationalities and the drone of voices evoked a kind of Babel. There were Russian Jews, Irish farmers, Greeks, people strangely attired in kilts, Arabs in long robes, and even Cossacks with terrifying scowls and long, curved swords that hung from their belts in ornate sheathes. Thirteen days suddenly seemed like an eternity.”
   Orazi is an observant writer whose passion for history comes through in every scene and sentence. The reader is immersed in the past at every turn and twist in this incredible novel.
   Most appealing are characters who possess the hopes and flaws to make them approachable and understandable. Even on the rare occasions when they are at their worst, we somehow still root for them. Orazi is commended for writing such a profound novel that takes readers back to a time much different than our own. “L’America” will inspire in all of us inherent respect and admiration for those who came to give us a better life.

“How Fires End,” by Marco Rafalà; Published by Little A, New York, available at
   No other era but the 1980s could work as a setting for Marco Rafalà’s intense yet heartfelt novel “How Fires End.” The decade contained all the necessary elements to bring his story to life. The Greatest Generation were still young enough at middle age to take on past demons with physical and emotional violence. This was a time when the Italian neighborhood remained fresh and unified before mass gentrification.
   “How Fires End” takes place in Middletown, Connecticut in 1986. The New England town hosts a large section of Sicilians from the hillside village of Melilli. The story is told through the eyes of David Vassallo, a high school student who lives with his father Salvatore, a widower employed as a machinist at the local factory. All is well until David gets into a fight with a neighborhood bully. Salvatore comes to the rescue only to exchange harsh words with the other boy’s father. The man mentions something about Salvatore’s past that puzzles David. The boy sets out to learn more. He is told that Salvatore’s twin brothers in Sicily were killed after they accidentally detonated an unexploded mortar shell. Some of the townsfolk think his family is cursed. They were all but shunned in Sicily when Salvatore befriended Vincenzo, a fascist, in order to escape Sicily. Vincenzo now owns an eatery in town and is a friend of the family’s. The more David investigates the more things unravel. The past returns with a burst of vendettas and recriminations that are all played out in a climactic ending.
   “How Fires End” is a phenomenal novel by Marco. His style of writing fits well with the main character. He uses language that is concise, specific and reinforces the clear thinking of David. The author is no doubt a child extraordinaire of the 1980s. The atmosphere of the novel conveys undertones of horror, so pervasive in that era’s pop culture. A visit to a dormitory basement at a nearby college is reminiscent of what John Carpenter might have directed. Marco writes, “My old D&D games were coming alive. We were a company of adventurers in search of secrets long forgotten in a maze of shifting walls and hidden treasures. We passed metal doors, some locked and some with broken locks - rooms with bare bulbs casting long shadows across discarded telephones and furniture…”
   “How Fires End” reminds us of the generation gap, almost unheard of nowadays as the Internet and social media breaks down barriers between age groups. This is a quintessential Italian American tale that excites us for what more may come from an author who is bound to be an established literary voice of the ’80s generation. “How Fires End” is excellent!

“Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” by Stephanie Longo; published by Arcadia Publishing, available at

   Stephanie Longo has rightly earned the reputation as a foremost expert in Pennsylvania Italians. Author of several books, she provided a mastery of historical accounts and records in the outstanding “Italians of Lackawanna County.” Another book, just as good, if not better, is her “Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
   Stephanie writes, “Statewide, roughly 784 people in Pennsylvania in 1870 were born in Italy. In 1900, this number had risen to 484,207…” Today, Pennsylvania and Northeastern Pennsylvania, in particular, contain one of the highest concentrations of Italians in the country. Stephanie reminds us that many Italians came to work the coal mines and railroads and settled in large numbers in Scranton, Pittston, Dunmore, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Carbondale.
Stephanie has lived much of her life in Lackawanna County. This and adjacent Luzerne County make up Northeastern Pennsylvania. She dedicates the book to her grandparents Joseph and Anna Mascaro Longo “as true examples of what it means to be Italian-American in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
   Stephanie’s research is truly exemplary. Her inventory of historical photographs bring special visual context to her writing. There are pictures of the small cramped hovels people lived in Campania, Calabria and Sicily. They remind us of the dire circumstances that Italians sought to escape from when coming to America.
   Stephanie shares several stories of how Italians were sometimes persecuted in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Once, a priest at an Italian parish received an anonymous letter that threatened to dynamite the church unless all Italians left the area.
   Fascinating anecdotes, historical records and insightful commentary make up “Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania.” Stephanie loves the human side of history and it shows. So many photographs come with mini stories. One black and white photograph “taken in 1924 in San Cataldo, Sicily…shows Vincent Palermo and his wife” and family. “The Palermos left Italy to escape fascism, but were refused entry at Ellis Island because Anna had vision problems. Instead of returning to Italy, however, they entered the United States through Canada. The Palermos went to Throop upon arrival, but later moved to Dunmore, where they sold produce.” She goes on to say they had three more children after they settled in America.
   “Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania” is another marvelous book by Stephanie Longo. She is a writer who reinforces the pride we all have in our Italian American roots. What an outstanding book!

“Put it on the Windowsill,” by Marcia Brennan, Ph.D.; Published by Dark River, Bennion Kearny Ltd., available at
   Marcia Brennan begins her enlightening and engaging book with the Virgin Mary. Her Irish great-aunt once said “if she wanted good weather for a particular occasion, she should place a statue of the Virgin Mary on the windowsill, facing outward, and say a prayer.” Her mother did just that and sure enough there were clear blue skies the next day.
   “Put It On The Windowsill” contains many such mystical and religious elements to coincide with family history and anecdotes of Marcia’s early life in Connecticut. Her maiden name is Gagliardi and she grew up in a mixed Italian and Irish family. Her paternal grandparents were immigrants from Avellino while the Irish side of her family had long settled in New England and were well-established members of society. What the two families share, of course, is their Roman Catholic faith.
   Marcia devotes the last quarter of her book to religious relics, the blessings of statues and the invoking of saints. She writes with affection about a statuette indicative of her father’s love for woodworking. His “sculpture depicts Saint Joseph not as an older man and father, but as a young carpenter. The figure wears a work apron, and he holds a saw in his right hand and a tool chest in his left.”
   Marcia is quick to admit that Italian families are unique in their obsession for good food. She includes a host of family recipes throughout the book such as spinach pie, Italian white cookies and Christmas candy. She remembers fondly the house she grew up in; where not only her family but also her father’s mother, Nannie, and the family of her aunt’s lived in the same nieghborhood, just one block away from each other.
   The author was inspired to write about her family after some years working at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. She is a professional writer who interviews patients and inscribes their stories in handmade paper journals given to them and their families for reminiscence and reflection. As she looks back on her life in Connecticut, she considers how life has changed from one generation to the other. “Even though many of the worlds I write about no longer exist, this book is both a cultural heritage document and study in living presences.”
   “Put It On The Windowsill” is an impassioned memoir by an Italian American woman who cherishes more each day the connections of her Italian family. Hers is a beautiful story for all of us at Christmastime and for all days of the year.

“The Ghosts of the Garfagnana,” by Paul Salsini, available at

   After finishing the last of Paul Salsini’s six-volume “A Tuscan Series,” readers might have felt a bit lost. For years, they were immersed in the lives of Ezio and Donna, Paolo and Lucia, Dino and Sofia—not to mention the handsome Father Lorenzo and the former nun Anna. Now those stories have ended.
Readers, however, can look forward to another book. While Salsini may have left those characters behind, he sets new stories in Tuscany, the land of his roots. This time, he has chosen the little-known area, the Garfagnana, a gorgeous section in northwest Tuscany.
   Not yet overtaken by hordes of tourists, Garfagnana is marked by high mountains, vast landscapes, rippling streams and tiny villages, some of them abandoned. This part of Tuscany is mysterious, even eerie. This is where it is said the devil built a bridge in the Middle Ages (well, of course he did), where a mountain is said to house a witches’ coven, where strange voices are heard in an underground cavern and where spirits still dwell in an underwater “ghost” village long abandoned by residents.
   Salsini decided that Garfagnana called for some supernatural stories. And so, just out, is “The Ghosts of the Garfagnana: Seven Strange Stories from Haunted Tuscany.” The stories are interconnected, but span centuries, from the medieval to the present. There’s one about a young monk, murdered by another, who doesn’t seem to want to leave the monastery. Another about a soldier who returns from “the other side.” And one about a statue that moves and cures people: “Slowly, the hands of the statue, which had been clasped together, separated. The arms stretched out, as if comforting the crowd. The smile on the saint’s lips grew wider. The organ music and the choir’s hymn grew louder.”
   In another story, a crystal ball helps lead Italian partisans to a big victory in World War II. And in another, a village that has slept for 100 years comes back to life with some amazing happenings.
   The final story is about a young theater major who attempts to disprove the legend of ghosts in theaters. Everyone has heard of the caution “Break a leg” as a sign of good luck, but what about the ghost lights that superstitious actors throughout the world place in the rear of stages? Or of the people who are certain that spirits inhabit well-known theaters (the Belasco in New York, the Theater Royal Drury Lane in London, etc.)?
   The reader will quickly find that although the tales may be strange, they are not scary. They might even be called, like one of the ghosts, “friendly.” “The Ghosts of the Garfagnana: Seven Strange Stories from Haunted Tuscany” can be purchased on

“The Devil of Saint Gabriel,” by Joanne Fisher, available at

   “The Devil of Saint Gabriel” is the latest novel from Joanne Fisher. And, thus far, her best. The novel contains all the elements of a top crime thriller.
Readers will get an idea of what awaits them just by reading the author’s dedication “to all the Catholic priests who give of themselves day after day, night after night, year after year, asking nothing in return.”
   Hence, the setting is the parish of Saint Gabriel Catholic Church in Mississippi. Father Nicholas Jones, originally from South Africa, leads the tight-nit flock. One parishioner, Tammy, volunteers at the Jefferson Correctional Center, a women’s prison across the border in Louisiana. There, she leads Bible studies and prayer services. The novel begins with a ministry meeting of potential converts behind bars. Past crimes range from manslaughter to narcotics. Tammy’s knowledge of Scripture and her graceful spirit wins over the women, many of whom come from evangelical backgrounds. She mentors one inmate, Lucy, who shows promise of conversion and does particularly well at Bible study and learning the faith. When released from prison, she moves in with Tammy and “registers for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at Saint Gabriel.” Trouble begins after Lucy faces prejudice from other parishioners because of her criminal past. She finds solace and support from Father Nicholas and the two grow closer.
   Joanne develops characters by slowly divulging their inner demons through dialogue. We don’t know their true intentions until the end. Lucy is both sympathetic and complex. She is kind and gentle and at other times selfish and manipulative. She is both the victim and victimizer and we are not sure until the end about her motivations. The same can be said of Father Nicholas. He seems the dutiful priest, sincere and upstanding, while at other times, he is equivocal and naive.
   “The Devil of Saint Gabriel” moves in various directions as more characters are introduced. The people of the parish come from different backgrounds. How they cope with what looks to be a scandal involving Father Nicholas leads to several intriguing twists and a shocking ending.
   “The Devil of Saint Gabriel” is an important book in light of recent Church scandals. Joanne is commended for writing a book about the faith in a fair and knowledgeable light. There are many challenges facing priests today as they manage the faithful. The struggle is to strike a balance between saving souls and saving oneself. 

“Italian Horror Cinema: The Most Influential Horror Films from Italy,” by Truby Chiaviello, available at
   A discussion of Italy’s best filmmakers is usually limited to Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and others of Italian neorealism. These are great directors, no doubt, and their films should be viewed and praised. Yet, Italian cinema is made up of other filmmakers, such as those of specific genres, i.e., Westerns, action and horror. Their influence is even more far-reaching as they are increasingly considered some of Italy’s most pioneering and innovative filmmakers.
   Truby Chiaviello, publisher and editor of PRIMO, pays tribute to Italy’s horror filmmakers in his new book, “Italian Horror Cinema: The Most Influential Horror Films from Italy.”
   The author grew up in the 1980s, a time when he and his friends and other teenagers were often found inside movie theaters watching the likes of horror films “Halloween,” “Friday, the 13th,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” just to name a few. What’s most interesting is that these and many films we see today follow a template first developed in Italy many decades ago.
   “Italian Horror Cinema” highlights the creative and technical innovations from Italy. The country invented new horror sub-genres and cinematic styles; later adopted by Hollywood and utilized today in all kinds of films. The slasher sub-genre, the found footage theme and the fusion of science fiction with horror all began in Italy. Even, the zombie craze can be traced to Italy.
   In “Italian Horror Cinema,” Mr. Chiaviello recounts how American filmmakers were seduced by Italy’s brave extravagances. Horror masters Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci greatly influenced a generation of American filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Roger Corman, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Ridley Scott, George A. Romero, Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Dante, Sam Raimi and others.
   As Mr. Chiaviello writes in the book’s preface: “Italy’s most influential horror films...come with a mix of stories and styles that produced great films and, at other times, celebrated failures. Whatever their fine points and flaws, these films are to be understood and appreciated...” The book comes with an array of fascinating stories and anecdotes for such films as the critically acclaimed “Suspiria,” by Dario Argento and “I Vampiri,” by Mario Bava to the condemned “Zombi II,” by Lucio Fulci and the outlawed “Cannibal Holocaust,” by Ruggero Deodata.
   “Italian Horror Cinema” is an entertaining and informative book to be cherished by today’s filmmakers and all fans of horror, Italian and international cinema.




The Actor, Who Appeared in Over 75 Films, Passed Away on December 12
Director of the 2010 Film “Stiffs,” Starring Aiello, Shares His Story about The Actor

By Frank Ciota

When we were in pre-production for our film “Stiffs”, in which Danny Aiello was the lead, someone got luxury box tickets and a limo to a Patriots night game. Danny didn’t want to go. It was January and it was freezing cold. But he went because the whole thing was arranged by someone who was helping us out with the film.

So we’re in the luxury box, everyone is smoking cigars and taking pictures with Danny. He’s being unbelievably gracious but you can tell there were places he’d rather be. Out of nowhere the guy who arranged the whole thing runs over chomping on a huge cigar and says Patriots' owner Bob Kraft “heard you were here Danny and wants to meet you." Danny says something like “thank you, but now now, maybe later." The guy insists.

Two minutes later we’re standing outside Bob Kraft’s luxury box. The guy who arranged it is ten feet away talking to one of the security guards standing outside the door to the box. He’s pointing back at Danny. After a minute the security guard slips into Bob Kraft’s box. The guy who arranged it turns and gives a huge smile and thumbs up.

Five minutes go by...then’s freezing cold...Danny’s getting all fidgety. Fifteen minutes. The guy who arranged everything is asking Dany all kinds of questions. Twenty minutes. Finally, a half hour later the security guard comes over to Danny and very ceremoniously announces, ”Mr. Kraft will see you now."

Here’s where the record player screeches to a halt. Without missing a beat Danny says, “no he won’t” and then grabs me by the arm and we turn and start walking away.

After a few steps and under his breath Danny says to me with the smile of a ten-year-old, “look back, is the guy watching us?” I am laughing so hard I can barely walk and now so is Danny. As we’re walking away he turns to me and says as only he could “Frankie Baby! We just made a big noise kid!”

That was Danny in a nutshell. The scrappy kid who fought his way through everything, always with integrity and humility and dignity, to be one of the most beloved and respected actors of his generation. One of the last times I spoke with him he had just read a script my brother Joe had written entitled “Cassino in Ischia” about an American action star who goes to Italy to make an avant-garde European film with an Italian director. When we spoke on the phone he said, “Frankie I love it. Tell your brother Joey Danny loves it. It’s funny. It’s poignant. It’s beautiful.”

Then he did the Danny thing, which chokes me up, especially now as I’m writing this. “I miss you and love you kid. Just know Danny loves you.” In a world of make-believe, Danny Aiello was the real deal. I miss him already. He was truly the best.

Editor’s Note: Frank Ciota is the director of “Stiffs,” a 2010 film that starred Danny Aiello. Teaming up with his brother Joseph, who authors screenplays, Ciota makes films about Italy and the Italian American experience. “Ciao America” was another film he made in 2002. He and his brother Joe are now developing a new film to be shot in Italy and titled “Cassino in Ischia.” The promo of the film follows:


A PRIMO Tribute

By Anthony Cece

Dr. Orazio Tanelli passed away on Thursday, October 3, 2019 at his home in Verona, NJ after a short illness. Born in the town of Macchia Valfortore in the Province of Campobasso, Italy on March 10, 1936 he studied at the Liceo Torquato Tasso in Salerno where he completed his classical studies and then studied at “La Universita’ della Sapienza” in Rome where he obtained a doctorate degree in philosophy. In fact, the late Aldo Moro was his professor. He served in the military in Trieste from 1957-1959 and then emigrated to the US on December 7, 1961 settling in Bloomfield. He lived in Newark until moving to Verona in 1972 where he remained until his death. He returned to his town to marry Franca Di Iorio on December 15, 1962 spending fifty -six years of marriage. The couple returned to the US along with their one month old son, Nicola in October, 1963.

Dr. Tanelli continued his studies by earning a bachelors degree in French at Upsala College, East Orange and subsequently a masters degree in French and a certification in Spanish at Seton Hall University, South Orange. He then pursued for his masters and doctorate degree in Italian at Rutgers University, New Brunswick having taught Latin, Italian, French and Spanish within secondary schools and universities; such as, Montclair State, William Paterson in Wayne and Ramapo College in Mahwah. It’s estimated he had taught 40,000 students during his tenure.

Besides his passion for the language and literature that he professed, he was a prolific writer of essays and poems recognized internationally from many of his colleagues in Italy. Just to name a few of his essays, he wrote Miti Classici nella Divina Commedia (1991), Mito e realta’ nella poesia e nella narrativa di Sabino D’Acunto (1981), Macchia Valfortore, Storia e Leggenda (Vol.I, 2003, Vol.II, 2004) and Il Fusionismo di Ivo David (2005). Essayists and poets alike in Italy also acclaimed his literary works; such as, Guerino D’Alessandro, La poesia di Orazio Tanelli (1985), Vincenzo Rossi, Orazio Tanelli (Poesia ed esegesi, 2005) and the documentary, Il Monaco di Macchia (2007) that attracted renown acclaim.

While many essays were published, there were also his poems; such as, Poesie Molisane (1981), Canti dell’ Esule (1984), Canti del Ritorno (1986), Canti del Sud (1987) and Canti d’Oltreoceano (1994).

He was also a dedicated journalist. Upon arriving in the US, he collaborated with the former Il Progresso Italo-Americano (the current America Oggi) for several years as well as vice-director of the publication, “La Follia” of New York founded by Michele Sisca. He founded in 1990, “Il Ponte Italo-Americano’’, a publication that focused on Italian literature, history, art, music, culture, profiles and social events taking place within the Italian community both in the US and abroad that terminated in 2017. From 1995-1999, Dr. Tanelli and the staff of the magazine held annual banquets that awarded individuals from the community in various sectors like business, law, medicine, literature, poetry, music, art, religion and entrepreneurship along with the “Miss Ponte Pageant”that attracted younger Italo-Americans alike. The magazine was also recognized by Il Messagero di Sant’Antonio di Padova, Italy for many years. He received “La Medaglia d’Oro” by the late President of the Italian Republic, l’On. Francesco Cossiga.

Among his hobbies, he was a gardener enthusiast tending to his vegetable garden with fine detail.

He was also an accordionist who enjoyed playing and singing Italian songs at cultural events; such as the Federation of Italian-American Societies of NJ in which he was a member of for many years in addition to the various Italian organizations and societies where he performed like Holy Face Monastery in Clifton, Holy Family Church, Nutley and St. Joseph’s Church in East Orange after religious functions and cultural events like la Societa’ San Vito Aquilonese of Aquilonia (AV) in Montclair, la Societa’ San Francesco di Paola of Pescopagano (PZ) in East Orange and the Casa Colombo Civic Association of Millburn, NJ. He participated in the Columbus Day Parade, NYC by the Hon. Justice Dominic Massaro.

Dr. Tanelli is survived by his wife, Franca Maria Di Iorio; his son, Pasquale and daughter-in-law, Maryann; his daughter-in-law, Beth Tanelli; his five grandchildren, Nicole, Domenick, Salvatore, Matthew and Isabella Tanelli. He also leaves his sister-in-law, Eva Tanelli along with his nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother, Mario Tanelli and his first son, Nicola Tanelli. In addition he will be remembered by his colleagues and friends such as Anthony Cece, assistant editor of Il Ponte Italo-Americano, Carmela Cohen, graphic artist, collaborators, Mara Corfini, Ivo David, Francesco Tolone, Igino Sellitto, Mattia Cipriano, Rosanna Imbriano, Dr. Roberto Rizzo, Vittorio Pinto, Giuseppe Torcivia and Vincent Marino. The funeral was held from the Prout Funeral Home in Verona followed by a mass celebrated at Our Lady of the Lake, Verona. Entombment concluded at Hollywood Memorial Park,Union.

May his memory and poetry live on throughout the ages and his music play among the heavens above.



The New Documentary Has Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager Teaming Up to Confront Tyranny on Today’s College Campuses
PRIMO Was at the Film’s Premiere in Washington
- Our Review

By Samer Chiaviello


You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Your posts on Facebook, Twitter, and social media will be saved to shame you. Anything you say that we don’t like will be used to shut you up. You cannot be funny. You cannot think differently. You can’t challenge us. There is no debate.

   This harrowing warning is the underlying rhetoric of what is said to come from America’s colleges and universities in the new shockumentary, “No Safe Spaces.” The film tells a cautionary tale of how our salient freedom of speech is under attack by leftist thuggery on today’s college campuses.
    “No Safe Spaces” stars Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager, two veteran radio talk show hosts and political commentators. They serve as our dynamic duo; guiding us through the discourse maze of today’s status quo and radical left.
    Carolla relays his upbringing about how he grew up in a poor household, with a mother unwilling to give up her welfare benefits. His story is that of overcoming hardship through comedy. He found refuge in his opinions when he created a podcast to express his politics in a lighthearted manner. Prager’s upbringing is much different that Carolla’s. His family is Jewish Orthodox and he graduated from Brooklyn College and went on to study international relations at Columbia University. He suffered ideological persecution when he pursued Prager University; a name given to his short, well-produced videos about politics and culture. Now with over a hundred of his videos banned from YouTube, Prager is engaged in a lawsuit to get his videos back on this widely viewed platform.
Together, Carolla and Prager tour the country interviewing and seeking insight about freedom of speech from esteemed political commentators such as David Rubin, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz and comedian Tim Allen.
    “No Safe Spaces” is a documentary that paints a graphic picture of the current state of colleges and universities in America. The film’s title refers to rooms and other enclaves where students go to avoid people of different political opinions. Once a haven for the free exchange of ideas, colleges and universities are now islands of social justice and political correctness; increasingly ruled by students rather than faculty and administrators. The film contains many scenes of angry students partaking in unconventional (and extremely violent) protests to uphold leftist values of their accredited institutions. Debate, reason, and - more importantly - simple communication are absent. The diversity of thought through the use of free speech is punished with glass breaking, chair throwing and  other forms of destruction.
    Perhaps the most captivating and eye opening part of the documentary is the story of Bret Weinstein, former professor of biology at The Evergreen State College. He describes himself as liberal leaning and, yet, was a victim of leftist protests. He utilized his freedom of speech to pen a letter to the college administration regarding the Day of Absence; a decades old political correct “holiday” celebrated by the college. On this day, minority faculty and students do not attend class to remind others of their contributions. In 2017, however, a change was proffered where white faculty and students were urged to leave campus while only minorities remained. Weinstein expressed his distaste for the change, calling it “an act of oppression” by the students. Protests followed and Weinstein was verbally assaulted and he and his wife were threatened with bodily harm. The college president refused to contain the protests with police intervention. Weinstein resigned, sued the college and received a settlement of some $500,000.
    The call to action in this documentary is one that cannot be ignored. “No Safe Spaces,” is perhaps the most visually stunning documentary released in a long while and serves as a premonition of what is soon to come. It is a must-see for all Americans who value their first amendment rights, and who still believe in the predominant principles of the foundation of America.

At The Premiere of "No Safe Spaces"

   It was a full house at the premiere of “No Safe Spaces,” as almost 500 people attended the film’s first showing on Wednesday, November 20, at the Uptown Theater on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.
    A mainstay of Washington’s Cleveland Park neighborhood, the Uptown contains one large screen, balcony seating and a grand chandelier for a trip back in time.
    Absent from the premiere was the film’s star Adam Carolla. However, Dennis Prager was present, as well as the film’s producer Mark Joseph, producer and director Justin Folk, writer John Sullivan and special guests Greg Lukianoff, founder of FIRE (Foundation of Individual Rights in Education) and Karith Foster, a comedian who was featured in the film.
    Most in attendance at the premiere are involved in various conservative causes and have, themselves, faced persecution on today’s college campuses. “No Safe Spaces” conveyed what many here have been warning about for years: That institutions of learning are increasingly less tolerant of conservative political viewpoints and are outright confrontational towards political minorities. Heads nodded in unison as the film showed one scene after the other of conservative speech banned and right-leaning dissenters bullied.
    It was Dennis Prager who captured the mood of the audience and the ultimate meaning of the film when he said, “This isn’t a documentary about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about the importance of freedom of speech; something that everyone can get behind.”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about “No Safe Spaces,” log on to



Italy’s New Hero is Sergio De Caprio of the Carabiniere
By Elisa Rossi


Sergio De Caprio is Italy’s most famous Carabiniere officer.
    He rose to international fame in 1993 when he arrested Toto Riina, the boss of bosses of the Italian mafia. Riina had resisted capture for 24 years before De Caprio and his team of crackpot investigators tracked him down.
De Caprio had the rank of Captain then and took on the task to find Riina by organizing a team of special investigators, named CRIMOR; or as De Caprio dubbed them, “the beggars.”
    Today, De Caprio holds the rank of colonel in Italy’s Carabiniere. Several books have been written about him with the headlined nickname “Ultimo” or in English “Last”, alleging to the fact that De Caprio was the last of the Carabiniere to get Riina. There is “Ultimo. Il capitano che arrestò Totò Riina,” (Last. The captain who arrested Toto Riina) by Maurizio Torrealta and in May 2019 Pino Corrias’ “Stop the Captain Last!”
    A quote from Corrias’ book: “How is it possible that, in all those years (23!), nobody got the king of the Corleonesi, when Last, with his team, has managed in just a short time (6 months!)? And immediately a poisonous rumor spread all over the capture of Riina, as if it were a kind of the result of secret arrangement […]”
    Italian television broadcasted “Ultimo” in 2004, a made-for-TV film that starred actor Raoul Bova as Sergio De Caprio, amplifying enormously the myth of the hero.
    De Caprio tried to remain humble as more accolades came his way. On his mind was personal safety. He was aware that too many honors are trouble. Threats came from bad guys and envy from good guys.
    Now, after more than 25 years since Totò Riina was arrested, De Caprio has found himself a wanted man. At least, that’s what he believes. He hides his face behind a ski mask to achieve invisibility. He sees himself a man condemned to a life of the hunted animal; danger lurks everywhere.
De Caprio is Italy’s new hero. He is “Captain Last” a man sworn to defend the values of Italy.
    Pino Corrias writes in his book: “He was found guilty of faking the capture of Riina, encouraging agreement between Bernardo Provenzano and carabinieri: in exchange for a truce. He was found guilty of not searching Riina’s house, giving time for mafiosi to hide Riina’s papers. He was found guilty of participating in the negotiation State-Mafia that had ensured the survival of Corleonesi clan after the massacres. (Judge Falcone, murdered in 23 May 1922 and Judge Borsellino, murdered in 19 July 1992) He was found guilty of having an investigative team in his image and likeness, guilty of being too independent from military hierarchies and from the Prosecutor State. He was found guilty of being an arm of government for Henry John Woodcock, the State’s attorney ‘who intercepeted half of Italy’ with reckless inquiries. He was found guilty of causing some problems for businesses of Finmeccanica and consequently for Italy, during the investigation that generated the arrest of its chief. He was found guilty of attacking party political of Lega, Roberto Maroni, Matteo Salvini, hurting Lega thorough the arrest of Francesco Belsito, the party treasurer. Guilty of being too intrusive in investigations. He was found guilty of attacking the World of Cooperatives, when he decided to investigate the Cpl Concordia and when he arrested the president of Cpl, acquitted by the court of Naples, convicted by the court of Modena. He was found guilty of plotting against Matteo Renzi. He was found guilty of being an unruly, exalted and subversive carabiniere.”
    De Caprio says: “If you arrest gypsies and junkies, there’s no problem. You don’t have to do anything else otherwise you are a threat to the lobbies and the troubles begin. But what really hurts me most of all was the reprisal against my soldiers. It was happened after Riina. They did the same thing 20 years later.”
    Colonel De Caprio’s own book “Fight anti-crime Intelligence and activity” remains a needed reference for those who will be fighters against crime and corruption. They will have the privilege of continuing a fight that doesn’t have to end.
    For the Italian people who supported him, protests arose against the State for not protecting Captain Last. His security detail was temporarily removed and he was at risk of assassination. Ordinary people who expressed their support do so through peaceful demonstrations. Thanks were given, not only for him, but also for those who choose to sacrifice their lives throughout law enforcement. A police escort was reinstated last month.
    Why did he call himself Ultimo? Towards the end of my article he says: “I called myself Last because I grew up in a world where everyone wished to be the first. I didn’t like it when people sat at the first desk in school just to shine. And I don’t like people who continue to do so during in our lifetime.”

Editor’s Note: UPDATE - On February 22, it was reported that Colonel Sergio De Caprio, of Italy's Carabinieri, was finally awarded a police escort after months of pleading with the Italian government. The security detail will begin immediately in light of continuous threats to his life. Sergio De Caprio has begun an organization Italy dedicated to the principles of justice and sound government. His web site is


The Italian American Artist is Sadly Overlooked in America Today
Nunzio Saved Mark Twain’s House in Connecticut
By Dennis Barone


    What we know and what we can say about what we know depends on the sources available to us. The art and life of Nunzio Vayana (1878-1960) inspires research – if only the materials could be located. Born in Castelvetrano, Italy, Vayana came to Hartford, Connecticut as a young man. He had a long American career as art entrepreneur, essayist, gallery-director, photographer, and teacher as well as painter. In the latter endeavor, his early education in Italy at the Macchiaioli School prepared him well for the sort of Impressionism in vogue throughout New England in the early 20th century. A painting by Vayana called “Landscape with Two Boats” has a sketch-like quality, loose brushstrokes, framing that focuses the eye, and a color-sense that a viewer could say echoes the Macchiaioli style -- or could this painting that the artist exhibited at the Ogunquit (Maine) Art Center reveal the controlling hand of Connecticut Impressionism, especially with a Protestant church steeple that looks so Congregational near its center.
    Vayana never moved from the approach to art he learned when he was young to a more Modernist style. But he did change his political views. When he arrived in Hartford he had a reputation as an anarchist. The Hartford Courant reported in 1910 that Vayana led a group that disrupted services at the Hartford Italian Baptist Church and that had invited Luigi Galleani, the well-known anarchist, to speak in Hartford. Yet, ten years later Vayana encouraged all the Italians of Connecticut to vote Republican. At the end of World War I and again in the midst of World War II, Vayana worked on an innovative theory regarding camouflage and therefore expressed mainstream patriotism in his adopted land. In 1960, his funeral service took place at the Baptist Church in Ogunquit, Maine.
    After his first quarter century in America, Vayana split his time between Ogunquit, Maine and Palm Beach, Florida. He exhibited his paintings in Hartford and remained a respected artist long after he moved from the city. In 1940, Courant art critic Theodore H. Parker in a review of Vayana’s work said: “Mr. Vayana is a consistent painter. Throughout this present exhibition [in Hartford] as throughout his career generally, he has been straightly academic in both means and ends, setting down nature as authentically as the canons of composition allow, and adding to or subtracting from the scene only to intensify the mood or atmosphere inherit in it.”
    Thirteen years earlier, Courant writer and editor, H. Viggo Andersen called Vayana a “versatile and gifted artist.”
    Vayana boasted in the Courant in 1927 that “Connecticut artists represent one of the largest and best contributions to the world of art.” Although he advocated for his fellow Connecticut artists, he did not forget his native Italy. In 1921, he secured a blessing from Pope Benedict for the Catholics of Hartford. His Sicilian father and his two sisters were with him in Rome for this Papal audience. In 1914 during an exhibition of his work at the Italian National Club in New York, opera singers Enrico Caruso and Gina Viafora bought his work. Caruso, as the Courant reported, purchased “a large picture of a sunset, which was painted in Glastonbury.”
    Although each year thousands of tourists visit the Mark Twain House in Hartford, few, if any, know that Vayana saved the house from destruction and none are told so on the tour. The Courant reported in May, 1929, “It was about ten years ago that an artist, Nunzio Vayana, since removed from Hartford, conceived the purchase and preservation of the home.” Vayana hosted fund-raising events, served on a board that also included the governor of Connecticut and former United States president William Howard Taft, and made a life-size bust of Mark Twain (wrapped in American flag bunting) that stood in front of the Twain house in 1920.
    The Mark Twain House has no information regarding Vayana in its archives. The Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum library provides nothing on Vayana. The Ogunquit Museum of American Art has no information and Louise Tragard’s study of Ogunquit art, A Century of Color, devotes one page to Nunzio Vayana. Vayana died in 1960, but his Ogunquit Art Center continued until 1984. The Palm Beach Historical Society has nothing about this artist who founded the Palm Beach Art Center. I find all of this very curious, if not mysterious. Why did Vayana have such a presence the Hartford Courant, but seems to have such a scant trace in archives?
    The only material related to Vayana in the extensive Day archive at the Stow Center in Hartford is a brief 1917 exhibition brochure for the Society of Connecticut Painters, Nunzio Vayana, secretary. A brief mission statement reads in part: “The aim of this Society is primarily to promote exhibitions of works by artists of Connecticut and to create as much interest as possible among art lovers, collectors and buyers of modern paintings and sculptures.” Whatever interest the group drummed-up in 1917, at least for Vayana, seems to have dissipated after a century’s lapse. And yet this Sicilian born artist is certainly a figure deserving of our interest.






Models of Valor and Heroism In Six Different Wars
Veterans Day 2019

The Medal of Honor began in the Civil War to distinguish heroic acts in battle, first for the U.S. Navy and then for the Army and later the Air Force. Three different medals have been created for the three major branches of the armed forces. Acts of valor by Marine and Coast Guard are given the Medal of Honor, designed for the Navy.

Recipients of the Medal of Honor are mostly nominated by their superior officers and the award is validated up the chain of command. Sometimes, a member of Congress will nominate a person to receive the medal. The Medal of Honor is usually awarded by the president at a White House ceremony. However, occasions may arise where a general or admiral will present the medal at the recipient’s home town or other location. Since half the medals are given posthumously, the recipient’s next of kin will receive the award.

Although many Italian Americans have been given the Medal of Honor, we highlight six as representative of the major wars fought the last 160 years.

Luigi Palma di Cesnola - Civil War
Originally from Italy’s Piemonte region, Luigi Palma di Cesnola came to the United States after a distinguished military career in both Italy and the United Kingdom. He was a colonel in the 4th New York Cavalry Regiment in the Civil War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for combat action in the Battle of Aldie in 1863.

Michael Valente - World War I
Born in Cassino, in central Italy, Michael Valente immigrated with his family to the United States. In 1917, he joined the Army and served in the 107th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division. He served in France when the allies attacked the Hindenburg Line. German machine gunners were decimating American, French and British troops. Valente volunteered for a two-man mission to get close and destroy the enemy position. He killed five Germans and captured 21 in a trench. Ten years later he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Hoover.

Anthony Peter Damato - World War II
Born in 1922 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, Anthony Peter Damato was working as a truck driver when World War II began. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and saw action early in North Africa. He and other Marines took the port of Arzew, Algeria by boarding and capturing enemy vessels anchored there. In 1944, he was in the South Pacific serving with Marines fighting in the Marshall Islands. On the night of February 20, he sacrificed himself by laying on a live grenade to absorb the explosion. The Medal of Honor was given to his mother by Marine Corps Brigadier General M.C. Gregory inside the high school he once attended.

Joseph Vittori - Korean War
It was for the Battle of the Punchbowl that Joseph Vittori was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was working on his father’s farm in Beverly, Massachusetts when he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves. He was called into action in Korea in 1950. The Battle of the Punchbowl occurred after peace talks failed in early 1951. An enemy counterattack pushed back Marines in one of the hills of central Korea. Vittori volunteered as a machine gunner to stop the Korean and Chinese assault. He was killed in action, but not before allowing Marines to regroup, fight back and win the battle. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1951 by President Truman.

Vincent R. Capodanno - Vietnam War
A Catholic priest from Staten Island, Vincent R. Capodanno enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a chaplain. He served with the Third Battalion, 5th Marines in 1967 in the Que Son Vally in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese Army made a surprise attack that year to wreak heavy casualties. Under heavy fire, Father Capodanno quickly went to his injured and dying comrades to give them needed medical aid and the last rites. Repeatedly shot, he did not sway from duty and went to save two Marines near enemy fire. Father Capodanno was killed in the battle and awarded the Medal of Honor in 1968. His cause of canonization began in 2002 and he was named Servant of God in 2006.

Salvatore Giunta - War in Afghanistan
Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Salvatore Giunta enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2003. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 after he completed basic training. In 2007, Afghan insurgents attacked a position held by the U.S. Army. Giunta went to rescue a fallen comrade and saw that the position of attack could overtake him and his comrades. Giunta knew from basic training that he immediately had to go on the offensive to stop an “L” formation enemy assault. He moved forward under heavy fire to rescue an American soldier and killed an Afghan fighter to stop the attack. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in 2010.

We salute America’s veterans, of Italian and all nationalities, on this Veterans Day. God bless America!





New Exhibit Compares The Statue of Liberty with “Liberty of Poetry”
Was the Florentine Statue The Model for The Statue of Liberty?

On Tuesday, October 16th, at the Consulate General of Italy in New York, a press conference convened for the “Sisters in Liberty,” an exhibit by the Opera di Santa Croce displayed at the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration in New York, from October 18, 2019 to April 26, 2020.

Central to the exhibit is the reproduction of the statue “Liberty of Poetry,” by Pio Fedi, the titular “sister” of “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” by Frédéric Bartholdi, in New York harbor. Both statues, representing the search for freedom, are similar in stance and details. Thanks to the partnership with Kent State University, the statue in Florence has been subjected to an accurate 3D scanning for a perfect reproduction at the exhibition.

“Sisters in Liberty,” is curated by Giuseppe De Micheli and Paola Vojnovic (Opera di Santa Croce) and by Ann and David Wilkins (Duquesne University Program of Rome).

The project’s partners are: National Park Service / Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, Kent State University, US Consulate in Florence, Consulate General of Italy in New York, Garibaldi Meucci Museum, and The Union League Legacy Foundation.

Pio Fedi was an Italian sculptor who lived from 1816 to 1892. Located in Florence are works by him such as “Rape of Polyxena” and the Monument to General Manfredo Fanti. Inside the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence is the Memorial to Giovan Battista Nicolini, a hero of the Risorgimento, where standing is Fedi’s statue “The Liberty of Poetry.” The similarities between this and the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric Bartholdi are quite significant. Fedi completed his work in 1877 with drawings and a smaller model completed in 1872. Bartholdi began preliminary drawings and collecting funds for the Statue of Liberty in 1876. Bartholdi fought beside Giuseppe Garibaldi in the Franco-Prussian War and was in Italy at the time Fedi completed his scaled model accompanied by a public display of sketches of the eventual work. Above are photographs of both statues. Was “The Liberty of Poetry” the model for The Statue of Liberty? You decide.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the coming exhibit on “The Liberty of Poetry,” please log on to


Nadina LaSpina Was Born and Raised in Riposte, Sicily
“Such a Pretty Girl” Tells The Harrowing True-Life Story of a Person Afflicted with Polio
- PRIMO Interview

You write in "Such a Pretty Girl," how the comments and negative, sorrowful stares of the people of your village of Riposte had a serious impact on you. Tell us about it.

“Such a pretty girl,” was always followed by “what a shame!” Those words were always said with such sorrow, anguish. As a little girl, I couldn’t understand why people were so sad when they looked at me. I thought it was my being pretty that made people sad. Usually, my mother would start crying. I hated to see her cry. I knew it was because of me that she cried. I actually thought it would have been better if I were ugly.

What I remember most about my childhood is the pity, the oppressive religious atmosphere in the little town, my mother carrying me to the church and the convent across the street, where I went to school, and handing me over to the nuns, who carried me to the classroom and around the convent—with that refrain always following me “Che pecan! What a shame! Che croce! What a cross you have to bear.

The message I got so early in my life was that I had no future to look forward to. One of the nuns even told me straight out that I would never be happy. A girl’s future, then, meant marriage and children. Beauty was a commodity that would land a girl a good husband. But that wasn’t true for me, since, being disabled (cinch – crippled), I would never marry and have children. So, I couldn’t imagine what would become of me.

People don’t realize how harmful pity can be. Pity is dehumanizing. It always makes those of us who are the objects of pity feel we are “other,” we are “less than,” we are no good the way we are.

Your true life story in "Such a Pretty Girl" is harrowing but very hopeful and positive. It is also very enlightening. So many things you write about center on the daily struggles of a person, such as yourself, afflicted with polio. Hence, what are the greatest misconceptions people have of the disabled?

One of the misconceptions is that we are afflicted by our disabilities. It is true that some conditions may cause physical pain. For me, the physical pain came from the torture of surgery after surgery. It came from the struggle to walk no matter how difficult it was for me, because I was made to believe walking is better, more normal, than using a wheelchair—though I always loved using a wheelchair. Later physical pain came because of post-polio syndrome; I still experience post-polio symptoms but I have gotten used to that now. Dealing with loss—especially true for those who acquire a disability later in life—can also be emotionally painful. However, most of us learn to live with our disabilities—they become a part of who we are.

After all, disability is a normal part of the human conditions. All who live long enough will experience disability.

What I’d like people to understand is that is not so much our disabilities that make us suffer. What makes us suffer is being denied the services and supports we need, being excluded by lack of access, being discriminated against, being locked up in institutions, being seen in stereotypical ways—as helpless and pathetic, or as bitter and revengeful, as inferior and defective, as in need of “cures,” and “better off dead” when no “cures” are available. What makes us suffer is being feared and shunned by all those who fear their own vulnerability and mortality.

Here goes a vital question: Is it better today for the disabled than it was in the 1950s and 60s. Have we made progress? How does Italy and the United States compare with other in this respect?

It is definitely better today. It has taken half a century of struggle to bring about some positive change. The progress didn’t come easily. Though a lot remains to be done, today, disabled people have more access, more opportunities, and therefore are much more visible. We are out there; you may even see us represented positively in the media. Back then, the only images of disability came from the telethons, which portrayed us as objects of pity. The message of the telethons was: “Give money to thank God your children are not like these poor unfortunate ones.” How do you think that made us feel? I never would have imagined, back then, a wheelchair user on a Broadway show, much less winning a Tony—like young talented Ali Stroker recently did. Seeing Ali Stroker get that Tony can make disabled kids today dream big. In the 50’s and 60s, we were never encouraged to dream big, or to dream at all.

How does the US compare to Italy? I used to travel to Italy regularly and, especially in the 80s and early 90s, I was very involved it the disability movement there. I have not been to Italy in 10 years, mainly because I didn’t want to leave my husband, Danny, who had primary-progressive multiple sclerosis, and needed me to oversee his care. Speaking from what I observed when I was in Italy, and what I hear from friends now, Italy is behind the US when it comes to different forms of access. Pity—in Italian, pietism, is even more difficult to eradicate there. However, disabled people have it better when it comes to health care and benefits.

I’ll give you as an example from my life (and my book). My husband and I did not get married for 20 years. Because of his MS, he needed what is commonly known as “long term care.” Most people are not aware that the only program that pays for long term care is Medicaid. But you have to be poor to be eligible for Medicaid. Ironically, Danny’s wife had divorced him, taking their house and their children, so his income was low enough for Medicaid. I, on the other hand, was able to attend to my own personal care, and did not need the type of assistance Danny needed, so I was never on Medicaid. I taught college, I was not rich, but I had savings, and owned my own apartment. If we had gotten married, my income and resources would have been counted as his, making him ineligible for Medicaid. He would have lost the vital care he needed.

In Italy, all have access to health care; it doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor. In the US, we have a segmented system made up of private insurance (mostly employer-provided), and different government programs. In Italy, benefits are based on disability. In the US, benefits are based on inability to work, and on income and resources.

Danny and I finally did get married, when he became disabled enough to qualify for a much more limited home health program under Medicare (which is non means-tested). I had to spend a lot of my savings to pay for the additional hours of care he needed. My husband passed away last March, and I miss him terribly. He was an incredible activist and the most loving man in the world.

You write proudly and enthusiastically about various groups you joined to lead societal change for the disabled. How important was it for you get involved in social activism? Should others get involved?

The disability rights movement saved my life. My best friend, Audrey, who was also disabled, had listened and believed those messages of doom that came from all around us—our lives were seen as tragedies, our futures held no promise of happiness, because of our disabilities, we weren’t considered “real” women, we would never know love. Tragically, she committed suicide.

After her suicide, I fell into a deep depression. Looking for a lifeline, I turned to some disabled friends. I found out that something new was happening—meetings and protests. I had read in the papers about a young woman, Judy Heumann, who sued the Board of Education (1970) after being denied a license to teach, because she used a wheelchair. She had founded the organization Disabled In Action (DIA). I met her, joined that organization, and discovered how empowering organizing and fighting back together as one could be.

Disabled In Action is still active and I’m still part of it. Later I joined ADAPT, a grassroots group that focuses on freeing people from nursing homes and other institutions and securing home-based services. Danny’s biggest fear was ending up in a nursing home. I’m grateful I was able to keep him with me at home until the end. ADAPT makes excellent use of civil disobedience. I’ve been arrested with ADAPT countless times. Some people think the changes they see are there because this is a great country and the government is good to disabled people. Not true at all; we had to fight very hard for everything.

Social activism gave my life purpose. I would like younger people to get involved. We have some young people doing good work online, rather than joining us in the streets. I don’t care how they do it, as long they keep the fight going. We can also use non-disabled allies.

What does society still need to do to improve living conditions and access for the disabled? What are the big issues?

A lot remains to be done. An example regarding basic wheelchair access—in New York City, where I live, while buses have been wheelchair accessible since the 80s, our subway system is a nightmare. We’ve been fighting a long battle, in the courts and in the streets, and I’m afraid it will go on for a long time still. Some people think of access mainly as wheelchair access, but there are all types of access for people with all types of disabilities. I’m outraged when I attend an important event and there is no ASL interpreter, or when people have no idea what I’m talking about when I mention web access for people who are blind.

I think equal access to health care is a very big issue. I’d like to see health care be a right and I’d like to see long-term services and supports be a right. Disabled people and elderly people who need assistance with personal care should not have to impoverish themselves. People should also not have to fear ending up in nursing homes and other institutions. There is a bipartisan bill in the House and in the Senate that would ensure that, no matter what form our health care may take in the future, no one will be institutionalized against their will. It’s called the Disability Integration Act, and I urge everyone to support it.

I would also like to see the disability movement join forces with other groups fighting against injustice, because disability intersects with all other groups and because I believe our struggles are interconnected. I’ve always believed in Martin Luther King’s words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

You had wonderful Sicilian parents? Tell us about them.

I realize now what a lucky child I was. I grew up surrounded by so much love—my parents’ love for each other and for me, my grandparents’ love… The town’s people’s pity, the sorrowful sighs, Che pecan, che croce, the nun’s ominous presage were counterbalanced by my mother’s kisses and her laughter, my father carrying me on his shoulder sand calling me gioia, my grandmother’s tomato sauce, the cherries my grandfather didn’t sell so he could save them just for me, the cinnamon smell of my aunt’s freshly baked cookies.

My father’s obsession with finding a cure for me was also an expression of his love for me. He wanted me to know that he would do everything possible and even the impossible for me. The quest for a cure caused me pain. What I heard and feared growing up was that, unless I could be cured, I had no future. I wished my father could fix me himself like he fixed everything around the house, so I could be the daughter he wanted. In the US, In various hospitals I was tortured in the quest for the ever elusive cure. Over and over again, I felt I disappointed my father by not being cured. But I never for a moment doubted my father’s love. I knew how proud he was of me. So, at a certain point I let go of those feelings of failure.

My parents were always there for me. I knew I could always go home and be loved, cherished and well fed.

I am grateful I could be with both when they passed away. I wanted to care for them as they had always cared for me. My father went first, in 1996. Like the good Sicilian wife she’d always been, my mother followed him the year after, in 1997. “Tuo padre mi vole” she said.

You are a scholar of Italian language and culture. Although you traveled and toured Italy many times over the years, it took several decades before you returned to Sicily. Are you now at peace with Sicily? How do you feel about your homeland, today?

I went back to Sicily, to Riposte, in 2010. I tell of that trip in the last chapter of the book. Mine was not just a trip back to a place but a trip back in time. I was finally ready and I felt I needed to make peace not just with my hometown but with the painful memories of my childhood. I’m happy and grateful that I succeeded. I was able to find the good memories that had been buried under the bad ones. I was able to appreciate the great beauty of the place of my birth.

In the book I try to equate my disability pride with the my father’s pride in being Sicilian—pride that comes from pain and struggle, pride that’s the necessary response to having been made to feel you are not as good as others, having been taught to be ashamed of who you are. So in that last chapter, I talk to the ghost of my father and say, “Yes, Papà, you win. I am proud that I come from here.”

Today, indeed, I am a proud Sicilian. Because I no longer have to worry about my dear husband, I hope to travel a little while I still have the strength. I plan to go to Sicily next year.

Congratulations on writing such an incredible story that will inspire many people. Do you have other book(s) you plan to write? What's next on your agenda?

I didn’t set out to write a book. I just found myself writing about my life, now and then, with no particular purpose in mind. Since, apart from having to teach, I was always fighting to bring about some urgently needed change—more access, freeing people from nursing homes, getting laws passed, helping people get vital services—writing about my life almost seemed like self-indulgence. But I kept writing, whenever I had the time; so, apparently, I felt the need to tell my story—which is probably a need we all have. The more I wrote, the more I loved writing. So when this book was finished, I just kept writing. I have almost completed a novel, which I hope to have published. I am now retired from teaching. I will continue to fight for disability justice, and I will also continue to write.

Editor’s Note: Nadina LaSpina’s web site at






Italian Restaurant for Sale with Properties Included
River Grove, Illinois Location - 15 Years Good Will

A family owned Italian restaurant is for sale with inclusion of business and real estate. Real estate can be separated from the business valuation but ownership prefers a complete sale package. They have a fifteen (15) year successful history in the River Grove area near Chicago.

Revenue figures available but a non-disclosure agreement would need to be executed prior to any particular information being given. The owner is in his upper 60's and looking to retire.

Asking price is $1,350,000 for the turn-key business and real estate; which consists of two (2) adjacent buildings, each 2,500 square feet - with one having a 1,400 square foot second floor work/office space. Both buildings, combined, seat 90 customers total, two (2) separate kitchens (one currently handles ONLY gluten free food), a free standing bar area, handicap washrooms, a pick-up counter, plus a 900 square foot garden (with a beautiful water feature) dining area which seats 50 customers; great for private parties for any sort of celebration.

15 years of good will... strong consistent loyal return customer a growing new customer base.

Contact Tony at 847-630-6500 and email at


The Town Hall event will be held in the Columbus Citizen’s Club’s Oak Room at 8 East 69th Street in Manhattan on Thursday evening, October 24, 2019 from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. 

Robert Agnoli is an active member of the Italian American Writers Association and the Lt. Joseph Petrofina Lodge, Orders Sons of Italy in America. He is the author of a book of original poems entitled “Edge City, The Chronicles of Bobby A, Un Italian in the USA.” The book is published by Archway Publishing; Bobby’s email address is PRIMO spoke with Bobby about the coming Italian American Town Hall event in New York.

Bobby, tell us about your background and where is your family from in Italy?

My family came from Valle di Cadore; northwest of Venice “Il Cadore” - the same valley as Cortina D’Ampezzo. My father arrived at Ellis Island after WWI and my mother came to America at age four. My parents met in Clifton, New Jersey – in the late 1930’s at an aunt’s house within a small Northern Italian Community (Cadorini). My mother’s sister married a Sicilian man and lived in Westfield. Growing up in New Jersey, my first cousins were Sicilian. My father’s family were essentially all in Cadore, Italy. I spent five months there when I was nine years old and, afterward, visited several times while growing up. I also visited there on a motorcycle trip while stationed as a medic in Orleans, France, with the U.S. Army in the mid-sixties.

The Italian American Consciousness Town Hall Meeting takes place on October 24. What inspired and led you to organize this event?

There is a lack of recognition of the broad spectrum of contributions Italian Americans have made to America. My interaction with third and fourth generation Italian Americans who conceive of “Italians” as their grandfathers. Occurrences, such as, Carnegie Hall, presenting a major production covering the impact of immigrants on America and no mention is made of arguably, the largest of immigrant groups – Italians. The vilification of Columbus by applying 21st century thinking to 15th century behavior; all the while ignoring native American habits when dealing with rival or subordinate groups.

What is the goal of the town hall meeting?

The goal is to raise consciousness of American Society to Italian assimilation. We want to project a clearer understanding of cultural clashes and societal evolution over time. Who are we? “What simmers in that stew”. “How do we move forward?”
What do you see as key issues facing today's Italian Americans?

Recognizing our Italian identity in America and recognizing how Italian Americans come from a proud and productive role in American history. We need to project this identity upon the larger American society.

You have a line-up of speakers: Tell us about the topics to be discussed.

Presentation of immigration/assimilation in public square – Projecting who we are! Discuss how we talk about it -- Evolution and Columbus -- move forward. Assert our identity – Historical and Current – Italian American.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to attend this Town Hall event, please contact Bobby Agnoli at


Monday, October 14, 2019 Was a Beautiful Sunny Day That Greeted Celebrants at Columbus Plaza

NIAF convened an enthusiastic and tasteful celebration of Christopher Columbus in the District of Columbia, on October 14 - Columbus Day.

The location of the ceremony was Columbus Plaza, a wonderfully executed memorial to Christopher Columbus, found in front of Union Station, just a short walk from the United States Capitol building.

Featured at the event was the “President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band, the United States Joint Armed Forces Honor Guard, and the Knights of Columbus Color Corps with historical flags of the United States. Read aloud were the Presidential and Mayoral Columbus Day Proclamations. Present for the event were Diplomatic Corps from the Embassies of Italy, Spain and the Bahamas.

Wreath presentations were made by the embassies, fraternal, civic and patriotic societies attending the event. Pictured for one wreath laying is NIAF’s Vice Chair of Cultural Affairs Anita McBride and Italy’s Ambassador to the United States, Armando Varricchio. This year’s winner of the Christopher Columbus National Youth Essay Contest was Margaret Hartigan, pictured with Vice Chair of Cultural Affairs Anita McBride and Colleen Hogan of Children of the American Revolution. This contest is sponsored by NIAF and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and Children of the American Revolution. Participants were from grades 9 through 12.

Happy Columbus Day!

Editor’s Note: The web site for NIAF is

The Film Conveys the Complexities of Italian Customs and Catholic Faith
Shot Primarily on Location in The Bronx
- PRIMO Review

Anton Evangelista is a Bronx native at home with his talents.

A filmmaker with a number of awards to his credit, Evangelista seeks to cover the Bronx in most of his films, be they either documentaries or works of fiction. There is “Il Signor Jackson,” the real-life account of an African-American male who learned to speak Italian while growing up in the borough. There is “Piccirilli and Me,” a documentary about the famous family of Tuscan sculptors who had a studio near where the filmmaker once lived. And then there is the 2004 feature length film by Evangelista set in the Bronx, titled “Intervention.”

Independent filmmakers, such as Evangelista, have it tough. An admirable film such as “Intervention” won accolades at a number of film festivals but most distributors were unresponsive. This is a shame. “Intervention” is a superlative film that contains a reaffirming message of family, faith and the necessities of tolerance. The acting is excellent. The story, compelling and heartwarming. The direction is extraordinary: Evangelista captured the setting of 1968 Bronx with minimal funds and resources.

“Intervention” is a film about a young married couple, Paul and Susan Lo Medica, who live in the Bronx at a time when credit cards were a luxury and folks had to live within their means. Paul, played by Joseph DeVito, overextends himself. He takes out his wife, played by Carla Fulco, to a fancy restaurant and buys her an expensive anniversary present. Left with little in the bank, his financial woes come with the additional burden of his 1-A draft status and likelihood of soon fighting in the Vietnam War.

Paul’s parents have different reactions to his troubles. His mother Luisa, played by Terri Gatto, conveys sympathy and reassurance while serving her son hearty Italian food. Paul is no stranger to the parents’ dinner table while his wife works the evening shift at the main post office. In daytime, Paul toils making bread and cookies with his father Frank at the family owned bakery. There, he hears nothing but criticism from the Lo Medico patriarch, as played by James Morricone. An old school task master, Frank lambasts Paul for his absence of discipline and bad judgment. He doubts the staying power of his son’s marriage since Susan, half Irish, lacks the full attributes to be a good Italian wife. Also, her previous marriage remains a stigma and taints the ideal of marital purity.

Paul seeks financial help elsewhere. He joins in on the criminal schemes of his cousin, Bobby Fratelli, played by Evangelista. We see the comradeship of the two and their unwillingness to let go youthful impulses. Bobby conceives a caper that should alleviate Paul’s financial woes. However, the misdeed goes awry and Paul is in trouble with the law. Such a predicament might turn out differently except for Paul’s Italian heritage. The film’s suspenseful ending comes with the weight of family traditions and religious beliefs bearing down hard on the main character.

“Intervention” is a film we used to see more often in America. A night out at the movies was not always limited to blue screen special effects and photoshopped super heroes. Rare are the films about everyday people trying to cope with the struggles of fate. Evangelista takes us on a tour of the Bronx with help from set designer Patricia Napolitano and cinematographer Rob Haley. Their eyes for detail gives us a deep view of history. The cars, clothes and mannerisms of the characters are right out of 1968. Although touted as a time of social unrest and cultural change, most people lived according to their faith and ethnic customs. The Bronx was a showcase then, and now, of small businesses, churches and tight nit families.

Evangelista is to be commended for shooting so many scenes in the Bronx, a borough forgotten by most filmmakers. Indeed, several scenes in “Intervention” take place at Our Lady of Lourdes grotto, a beautiful yet overlooked religious landmark at Saint Lucy’s Roman Catholic Church, in the Allerton section of the Bronx. One scene has Paul gathering holy water there under the watchful eye of his grandmother, played by Josephine Berretta. Remember when films had characters inside churches or at shrines and other holy sites? Or, how about scenes with grandparents who are wise and worldly, rather than bumbling and deficient? It’s been a long time and that’s why “Intervention” is to be cherished as a marvelous film to be watched by the entire family. We look forward to more films by Anton Evangelista.

Editor’s Note: Keep up to date with the latest film projects from Anton Evangelista at






Tappan, New York, September 12-15, 2019
Four Day Festival offers something for every Member of the Family

The Rockland Lodge 2176 of the Sons of Italy will host the 10th Annual Blauvelt Sons of Italy Italian Feast and Carnival at Tappan Masonic Park Fair Grounds September 12th through the 15th. The popular event draws thousands of people from around the tri-state area during the spectacular four-day celebration of all things Italian and has been recognized as the biggest event in Rockland County. Parking is free, and admission is $5.00 for adults and free for kids under 12.

“The Sons of Italy Rockland Lodge 2176 Italian Feast has become one of the most anticipated events in the tri-state area. Our Lodge brothers and volunteers spend hundreds of hours before and during the feast to ensure that everyone has a great time whether they are on the rides, shopping, eating or enjoying the amazing entertainment line-up every year. We encourage everyone to come out this year and enjoy our little slice of Italy!” stated Jerry Verdicchio, president of the Rockland Lodge 2176.

The Feast features an amazing array of Italian food, everything from sausage and peppers to brick oven pizza made right on site, to a huge variety of pasta dishes and Italian desserts and pastries including zeppoles, cannoli’s, sfogliatella and Italian ices. Beer and wine are available each day.

The carnival area has rides and games for all ages including fishing and ring toss type games for the younger ones to more challenging games of skill for older attendees. Thrill seekers will also find more exciting rides at the Italian Feast. Carnival bracelets which offer a discount are available Thursday. For adults over 21, the Italian Feast features a casino with tables for blackjack and poker as well as wheels of chance.

Numerous vendors will be on site selling everything from jewelry and home goods to hand-made artwork and Italian-themed clothing and souvenirs.

The four-day Festival is a showcase of live entertainment. The schedule changes right up until the week of the Feast and updates can be found on the Sons of Italy Facebook page.

The Entertainment Director and Emcee for the 4-day festival will be local actor and director Paul Borghese for the 10th year in a row. Paul has appeared in movies and tv shows such as Law & Order: SVU, HBO’s 61* as Yogi Berra, The Family, and will appear in the upcoming Martin Scorsese movie ‘The Irishman.’ In addition, Paul has directed ‘Back in the Day’ starring Alec Baldwin & ‘Once upon a time in Brooklyn’ among many other feature films. He is also a long-time member of the Blauvelt Sons of Italy’s Rockland Lodge 2176.

The live entertainment will include numerous performances over the four days, here is sampling with many more to be announced:

• Country Singer LAUREN MASCITTI - back by popular demand all the way from Nashville
• Italian Accordionist RICHARD PITI
• The #1 voted SINATRA vocal impersonator STEVEN MAGLIO back by popular demand

The 10th Annual Blauvelt Sons of Italy Italian Feast & Carnival will take place at Tappan Masonic Park Fair Grounds, 89 Western Highway in Tappan, NY, September 12th through the 15th. Hours for the festival are Thursday 5pm – 11pm, Friday 5pm – midnight, Saturday Noon – midnight and Sunday will begin with an outdoor mass at 10:30am and the Festival will be open from noon until 9pm.

The Rockland Lodge 2176 Order of The Sons of Italy was established in 1966 with the goal of enhancing the image of people of Italian descent and has grown into one of the most active organizations in Rockland County. The group, with members from Rockland and Bergen County, donates funds to a variety of non-profits from the proceeds of the Italian Feast and provides scholarships to students throughout the year. Follow up dates on their Facebook page at 




The Franciscans Took Control of The Church Under The Leadership of Father Pamfilo da Magliano
The Church Hosts the Oldest Continuous Breadline in the United States

The spirit of Saint Francis is alive and well at the parish that bears his name: Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.
    Located at 135-139 31st Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues in Midtown Manhattan, Church of Saint Francis of Assisi this year celebrates its 175th anniversary.
    What began from dissension is today a multi-faceted and innovative parish.
    The story begins at Saint John the Baptist. A parish formed in 1840 by German immigrants was censured by the Vatican. Disputes arose between members of the church’s board of trustees and its pastor Zachary Kunze. A Franciscan friar from Hungary, Kunze realized the best way to quell dissension was to start an entirely new parish and separate himself from Saint John the Baptist. New York’s bishop John McCloskey gave Father Kunze permission to begin Saint Francis of Assisi, just around the block from Saint John the Baptist’s, where an open lot along 31st Street awaited the cornerstone for the new church in 1844.
    Church of Saint Francis of Assisi began as a modest structure to be eventually rebuilt in 1892 in the Gothic Revival style we see today. The church comes with a decorative topped steeple, narrow windows and moulded coverings. The tan brick facade and brown trim stands out among the bland warehouses of the Garment District and the sleek shops and restaurants of nearby Koreatown. The church’s interior contains beautiful mosaics, murals and statuary. A memorial exists of damaged steel beams taken from the destroyed Twin Towers. They pay tribute to parish priest Mychal Judge, who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. A chaplain in the New York City fire department, Father Judge was killed when the Twin Towers collapsed. His funeral Mass at the church was attended by former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady, turned U.S. Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Downstairs is a chapel that features a large Italian presepe depicting the Nativity. Outside is an alleyway shrine to Saint Anthony.
    The Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) have managed the church since 1861. They officially adopted the parish under the leadership of Father Pamfilo da Magliano. He was born Giovanni Paulo Pietrobattista in 1824 in the village of Magliano de’ Marsi, in Italy’s Abruzzo region. Ordained a priest in 1846, he taught philosophy and theology at the monastery of Saint Bernadine in Sienna. He learned English at the Irish School of Saint Isidore in Rome and came to the United States in 1855 to grow the Franciscan order. He helped begin Saint Bonaventure University in Allegheny, New York and served as its first president. He was later named Custos, leader of the Franciscan order in the United States, and took control of two parishes in New York: Saint Anthony of Padua, located in Greenwich Village and Saint Francis of Assisi, in Midtown. Father Pamfilo began a school at Saint Francis administered by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegheny, an order of nuns he founded.
    Church of Saint Francis of Assisi was a parish that experienced many changes. By 1920, the predominantly German, Hungarian, recent Italian and Greek working families were replaced by a transient population. To meet the changing demographics, the church initiated several innovations that were later adopted by other parishes throughout the country. Saint Francis was the first to offer a Night Workers Mass, convened at Midnight to serve Catholics who were working night shifts in the neighborhood. The church was also the first in the United States to offer a 12 noon Mass for traveling salesmen staying at hotels and tradesmen employed in nearby theaters and printing plants.
    The church is most famous for hosting the oldest continuous breadline in the United Staes. It began in 1930 and, since then, has served some 12 million cups of coffee, 18 million sandwiches and 12 million slices of cake. Franciscans Bread for the Poor is a subset of the Franciscan Order that administers the breadline. Each day at 7 a.m. priests and staff are out front giving food to needy New Yorkers.
    A year of tribute and commemoration for the church’s 175th anniversary will end this fall at the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th. A special Feast Day Mass is scheduled to be officiated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. To learn more about Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Manhattan log on to





At The Open Roads Italian Film Festival in New York
PRIMO Interviews Directors Edoardo De Angelis, Claudio Giovannesi, and Ciro D’Emilio


Open Roads Italian film festival is held once a year at Lincoln Center and organized by Films at Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecitta. The event is an opportunity for Italian directors to premiere their new films to the public, participate in Q&A sessions, and allow their films to generate the publicity they deserve. PRIMO Magazine had the opportunity to interview three Italian filmmakers who participated in the event. They are Edoardo De Angelis, director of “The Vice of Hope”; Claudio Giovannesi, director of “Piranhas”; and Ciro D’Emilio, director of “If Life Gives You Lemons.” To learn about this year's Open Roads film festival, log on to



PRIMO’s Original Video Highlights the Italian and Italian American Contributions Made to America’s Largest Church





Film Opens July 19 and Stars Joe Manganiello
PRIMO Review

Do you want to see a baseball game in New York? Then try Staten Island, instead of the Bronx or Queens.
    We learn this in the entertaining and very inspiring film “Bottom of the Ninth,” which opens in theaters across the country July 19.
A key setting is Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Staten Island, arguably one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. Consider the views: the Hudson River is beyond center field with sights of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Jersey City, or the Statue of Liberty - take your pick!
     Staten Island makes for a wonderful night of baseball in addition to the Bronx where the New York Yankees play or Queens where the New York Mets play. This is the home of the short season A minor league ball club, Staten Island Yankees. Players can move up to Major League Baseball and the monumental New York Yankees…if they have the right stuff. That’s the premise of “Bottom of the Ninth,” except there is a twist, the player, Sonny Stano, portrayed by the exceptional Joe Manganiello, is an ex-convict and likely past his prime at 38 years old. Can he make a comeback? The odds are against him.
    The film begins with Sonny's release from Sing Sing prison after serving a 20 year sentence for second degree murder. The punishment seems overly harsh, but Sonny has to make due. While in prison, his mother died and he returns to an empty apartment. The only signs of life are tea cups recently washed and dried on a dish rack in the kitchen. What can you say about Manganiello except he is an extraordinary actor. He captures the silent destitution of the character in every scene. Most touching is when he roams the empty home with his baseball trophies on display. The actor is a natural for the working class hero and inherits the baton from the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and James Gandolfini.
    Manganiello is originally from Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he played high school football in an area of the country famous for nurturing athletic talent. Many professional football and baseball players come from Western Pennsylvania and Manganiello might have been one of them had he not torn a knee ligament returning a kickoff in a game. Now, a veteran actor, he has the physique and athleticism to play the lead role in this and any action-oriented film. At the outset, “Bottom of the Ninth” reminds us that crime doesn’t pay. The script by Robert Bruzio captures the un-enviable life of the ex convict. Sonny has to meet with his snarky parole officer, played by Denis O’Hare, and take a job, and its many indignities, working for an obnoxious and insensitive boss at a local fish market. His former girlfriend, Angela Ramirez, played by the exotic and beautiful Sofia Vergara, seeks a reconnection but Sonny, at first, is reluctant. With almost nothing in the way of resources or skills, considering his prime years were spent in prison, he is fearful of returning to a life of crime and going back to prison.
    Sonny’s former baseball coach played by Michael Rispoli offers a possible alternative. He sees Sonny one night and offers him a job as an assistant coach for the Staten Island Empires, a minor league club, under the mantle of the New York Yankees. Sonny declines the offer saying he has grown up and he is passed baseball. “There is no growing up in baseball,” says Coach Harris. Knowing his one true talent, Sonny relents and gets back into the game. At first, he is tasked to watch over and discipline a cocky rookie. Then, after batting a few balls at practice, he becomes a player. The conflict arises as to whether or not he can get back what he lost in prison. He was once the best in high school but now may not have what it takes to make it in the big leagues. What holds him back is the past and the guilt he feels at taking another man’s life.
    “Bottom of the Ninth” has a lot to offer audiences. Every scene is well-acted by key players with the inclusion of the wonderful Burt Young, who plays another team coach, and Vincent Pastore as the friendly bartender at a local tavern. Director Raymond De Felitta has done a commendable job in balancing the film. He is a down-to-earth auteur who delivers the true emotional impact of a scene rather than forcing mood and sentiment onto an audience. He also shows New York at her best. The streets are clean and the sidewalks are well-kept. Every shot at the ballpark is covetable. Games are played while in the background are ships and tankers making their way through New York harbor.
    What’s most refreshing about “Bottom of the Ninth” is its overriding message. The film runs counter to the incessant narrative of today’s politicians, schools and media, that a person has to forgo his or her natural born talent for years of academic instruction and a 9-5 job not to their liking. You are only as good as what you were born to do, says the film. Not a bad lesson to learn in a night at the movies.


As Featured in PRIMO’s Second Edition 2019 - Eight Books Reviewed

“FREEDOMLAND U.S.A., The Definitive History,” by Michael R. Virgintino; Published by Theme Park Press; Available at and
   Once, New Yorkers could spend a whole day at a theme park that rivaled the great Disneyland in California.
Freedomland U.S.A. was an 85 acre extravaganza of American history themed attractions in the Bronx. Those who visited as children and young adults still remember the experience. Now, Michael R. Virgintino, journalist, historian and Bronx native, pens the full story in “Freedomland U.S.A. - A Definitive History,” an engrossing tribute to an amazing theme park.
   Freedomland U.S.A. was the brainchild of C.V. Wood, an engineer who helped develop Disneyland. Better known as “Woody,” he was a new type of entertainment entrepreneur, more scientist than showman. He went out on his own after a squabble with Walt Disney and built several new theme parks, most notably Freedomland U.S.A.
   Opening day at Freedomland U.S.A. was a spectacle few New Yorkers forgot. Virgintino writes: “On June 19, 1960, New Yorkers were introduced to a unique theme park...Freedomland U.S.A. incorporated American history into family entertainment. More than 60,000 people passed through the gates...experienced cowboy shootouts, train robberies, and the burning of Chicago.”
   They also experienced top line entertainment from Italian Americans such as Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, and Bobby Rydell, just to name a few. Freedomland U.S.A. began in 1960 but closed for good in 1964. Many thought the reason for its quick demise was intense competition from the 1964 World’s Fair in nearby Queens. As Virgintino explains, Freedomland U.S.A. was doomed from the start. The park, unknown to Woody and the public, was meant to be a brief venture. Its purpose was to be a “placeholder” on what was virtually swampland in the Bronx so that Co-Op City could be built without regulatory obstacles.
   Virgintino delves into all aspects of Freedomland U.S.A. Most touching is when park employees, many of whom are Italian Americans from New York, share heartfelt recollections. What could be better than a job making kids happy? That’s exactly the sentiment of a tug boat captain who transported children in the park’s man-made Great Lakes, rather than moving barges in the Hudson River.
   Michael Virgintino is praised for writing an incredible book about a time and place to be always remembered. “Freedomland U.S.A” is as much a joy to read as it was to visit the park so many years ago.

“Southampton Summers,” by Albert Marra; Published by New Dominion Press; Available at and Review by Gabriela Christie Toletti, Ph.D.
   “Southampton Summers” is a book about the American dream at its best. The book is fun and poignant. It makes you smile, and it also makes you yearn for simpler times long gone. The book is authored by Dr. Albert Marra (primary author) and members of three generations of the extended Marra-Maffei-Saracino family and tells stories about six decades of summers in Southampton, Long Island. These three branches of the same extended family left their Italian homeland early in the 20th century and therefore share a common heritage.
   Three bungalows were built by the Marra-Maffei-Saracino families in Southampton a few blocks from a small rocky beach. One of the contributors, the late Gilbert Maffei, beautifully encapsulates what these three bungalows meant: “You know, for a family that came to this country with virtually nothing, I think that the three bungalows represented a tremendous achievement; it was a great success. . . It was a dream many immigrants have, but few could ever achieve. But our family did it, somehow, they did it.”
   The book is also about adapting and assimilating to America without compromising or losing the most meaningful elements of Italian heritage. The stories are informative too because through these stories we learn about Italian traditions, typical foods, and rituals. In fact, I think the compilation should include the following warning: “This book my cause intense Italian food cravings.”
   Dr. Marra has the skill and gift of telling stories in a way that we can all relate to regardless of where we are from. As I was reading the book, I was picturing Southampton, while images of my childhood summers with my parents in faraway Uruguay were also resurfacing. The reader can make these connections because the stories are about family values that transcend time and place. Frank Marra (100-year-old father of the primary author and a book contributor) beautifully describes his memories of Southampton this way: “It was like having a big family reunion every day we spent there.” May we all be so fortunate when we reminisce about our past!
   The stories transport you to the past and make you reflect about the future. The book reminds us of what’s important in life and constitutes a call to continue to value and cherish family life and quality time with loved ones. “Southampton Summers” appeals to Italian Americans in a very special way, but the book also appeals to a much larger audience because it’s about values that are universal and timeless. It’s a book about family, community, cultural heritage, friendships, childhood memories, hard work, adaptation to a new land, and legacy.

“The Mithras Conspiracy,” by Michael Polelle; Published by Lido Press; Available at
   Riots and revolutions may have as their source a foreign entity. That’s a lesson we learn from reading Michael Polelle’s fascinating new novel, “The Mithras Conspiracy.” The title refers to the ancient Roman cult that worshipped the god Mithras. When Christianity was adopted as the state religion in Rome, Mithras and other pagan gods were banned and their believers arrested or persecuted in some way.
   Fast forward 2,000 years to a police investigation of the murder of Abramo Basso, a Jesuit priest who worked in the Vatican Library. Found on his person is the Festus parchment, an ancient document that references the trial of Saint Paul. The lead investigator is Marco Leone, born and raised in Rome and a childhood friend of Father Basso’s. The parchment, now in the possession of the Carabinieri, is sought after by high officials from the Vatican, and others, those who belong to a powerful, clandestine group. The document may contain evidence to unravel the foundations of Christianity. Meanwhile, Italy is on the verge of economic collapse with varied radical groups opting to take over. The whole atmosphere reminds one of the economic meltdown of Southern Europe 10 years ago.
   As Italy unravels, Leone seems the last person in his country with a balanced view. While driving through a crowd of demonstrators, he considers the futility of their message. “Protesters held banners proclaiming the coming of proletarian power as the answer. Leone sighed in frustration. Did the protesters even remember what the question was? The empty slogans were dusted off once again. The national future was always the past in disguise. Nothing would ever change. Unless he got out of this country and out of this rut, neither would he.”
   Polelle carries on the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett with snappy insights and dialogue. In one scene, main character Leone is told that the dessert is a gift from the cafe owner. Leone barks: “‘No gifts for me or my men.’ He put on the table more than enough euros to cover everything. ‘Gifts come in pretty boxes…but with strings attached.’” “The Mithras Conspiracy” is an engaging and entertaining novel that is both well-written and well-researched. Italy remains a cauldron of religious, economic and cultural substance. The premise of the novel might be summed up: So goes Italy, so goes the world. “The Mithras Conspiracy” is awesome.

“Drone Strike - An Anthony Provati Thriller,” by Joe Giordano; Published by Rogue Phoenix Press; Available at
   A great thriller must rise on the shoulders of a main character who is clever, worldly, and above all else, likable. These are the attributes of Anthony Provati, the 34-year-old Italian American protagonist in Joe Giordano’s excellent new novel - “Drone Strike.”
In “Drone Strike,” Provati is settled in an idyllic existence with his girlfriend Nori on the Greek island Santorini. The good life, however, is not to be had when Nori suffers a head injury after an earthquake. She needs round-the-clock medical care and Provati takes a job as a sailboat captain to pay for its all. He is ordered to transfer from Greece to Italy illegal migrants, one of whom is an ISIL terrorist.
   The author has extensively researched the Middle East, Islam and terrorism. He gives us two other key characters, Karim and Miriam, victims, in different ways, of Middle East violence. Miriam is a Syrian Christian, who was raped by ISIL thugs. Karim is a chemical engineer from ISIL-controlled Iraq whose wife and children were accidentally killed after an American drone strike. He hears the words of Al-Nasir, an ISIL leader: “Like buzzing flies, Americans wave off reports of murdered Islamic women and children. They switch their televisions to reality shows and wallow in their morally bankrupt existences…You’ll continue to suffer for your loss, but Americans remain indifferent.”
   We follow Karim from a Jihadi camp in the Iraqi desert to Greece where he is captured. Faced with dire financial conditions, the country is unable to secure its border. Karim is not sentenced to prison. Instead, a Greek judge announces: “As the jails haven’t room for all the illegal immigrants coming into our country, I’m suspending your sentence and ordering you to leave Greece within a month.” The time allows Karim to find a way to sneak out of Greece and make his way to Italy with help from Provati.
   Personal tragedy is the central chord that unites the characters in Drone Strike. Giordano goes beyond the action to explore the motivations, thoughts and deeds of heroes and villains. At root is faith and the mystery of God’s intervention; an important theme in the novel since Middle East violence is religious based. In “Appointment with ISIL,” Giordano was hailed as a thoughtful and creative author who gave us a dynamic character in Anthony Provati in a contemporary adventure. Giordano has now exceeded himself with “Drone Strike.” This is an exceptional novel that is as thrilling as it is illuminating.

“Charcoal and Blood: Italian Immigrants in Eureka, Nevada and The Fish Creek Massacre,” by Silvio Manno; Published by University of Nevada Press; Available at and
   Events do not occur in a vacuum. That’s the lesson we learn from reading Silvio Manno’s extraordinary book, “Charcoal and Blood: Italian Immigrants in Eureka, Nevada and The Fish Creek Massacre.”
   After the Civil War, Italian immigrants, mostly from the Lake Como area, were recruited to work for lead and silver mine owners in Nevada. They cut down trees, chopped and burned wood to make charcoal for smelting ore. The job was demanding, both physically and mentally, and, after some years, the Italians wanted better pay and working conditions. Their grievances were met with disdain, not just by the mine owners, but, also, by the teamsters who transported the material. It all came to a head in 1879 when a local sheriff and his deputies confronted strikers. A fight broke out, and the Italians, most of whom were unarmed, were shot at random by the police and five were killed.
   The Fish Creek Massacre, as it was later called by the press was the first act of violence against Italian immigrants in America. Manno’s impressive research shows that the dispute had its roots in Italy. We go back to the 1860s when Italy’s Risorgimento made it worse, not better, for the poor. The new national government in Torino was oppressive and tax heavy. Manno writes: “Toward the end of the 19th century, the rural economy in the Ticino region…from where many of the Eureka charcoal burners originated was on the verge of collapse…dire economic stagnation included outdated agricultural practices, excessive taxation, and farm contracts unfavorable to the peasantry.”
   Italians left in droves for the open frontiers of North and South America. The purpose of escaping Italy was not to settle in the cities of the New World, but, rather to move west and strike it rich in gold or land.
   Manno’s crisp and succinct prose makes what might have been a dry academic work into a rich and readable narrative; akin to a historical novel. He is to be commended for avoiding the revisionist trap of claiming persecution at every turn. The author emphasizes that many Italians had successfully integrated in America by the late 1800s and were wealthy entrepreneurs in Nevada and elsewhere in the Wild West.
   “Charcoal and Blood” is a compelling, impressive work of history that all Italian Americans should read. The book is another reminder of the harrowing struggles and sacrifices our ancestors made, sometimes getting killed in the process, so that we may all have a better life.

“Holy Predator,” by Deborah Stevens; Published by Calumet Editions; Available at
   Deborah Stevens follows her spellbinding novel, “The Serpent’s Disciple,” with another book, as good, if not better, in “Holy Predator.” The book opens with the horrific murder of Alonso Garibaldi Poggiani, head of the Vatican Bank. He is nailed to a cross and hung upside down in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica. It is an ominous sign. The author writes: “In the New Testament, Peter had asked to be hung upside down, unworthy to die in the same manner of Christ, but today the inverted cross was a symbol of our fallen world and the symbol of the devil.”
   The death of Poggiani is reminiscent of the Calvi affair, when in 1982, Roberto Calvi, chairman of Banco Abrosiano, Italy’s second largest bank, was murdered and his body hung from a bridge in London. Authorities had uncovered massive corruption and illegalities, by then, tied to the Vatican and Italy’s financial sector. Stevens writes about these and other past events in context to what occurs in the novel. She paints a picture of secrecy and conspiracy related to the Vatican, the Society of Jesus and the first election of a Jesuit as pope.
   In “Holy Predator,” the main character is Anthony Andruccioli, a Special Forces-like commando working for the Roman Catholic Church. He suspects a clandestine takeover of the Vatican by members of a cult who worship the Satanic symbol Moloch. He is soon assisted by Christine to confront a host of characters in Italian banking, organized crime and the Vatican. The duo uncovers a Jesuit codex, the Monita Secreta, that sheds light on hidden activities among Jesuit priests to undermine governments worldwide.
   The author does an outstanding job in connecting real world events to those enmeshed in Biblical prophecy and the occult. The murder of Poggiani in the book’s beginning takes place during a lunar eclipse that bespeaks the Blood Moon Prophecy. The author writes: “The prophecy is a series of apocalyptic beliefs involving a tetrad, a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses with six full moons in between and no intervening partial lunar eclipses…Many believe this to be an omen of the coming of the End of Times.”
   Deborah Stevens’ knowledge of Roman Catholicism is most impressive. She plans to have both, “Holy Predator” and “The Serpent’s Disciple,” available in Italian by the end of 2019. “Holy Predator” is an enthralling novel that will keep readers on the edge their seats. Current scandals undermine the Church and shake the foundations of faith. “Holy Predator” is an incredible depiction, albeit fiction, of what transpires - both good and bad - behind closed doors in the Vatican.

“Bottle Alley,” by Brenda M. Spalding; Published by Heritage Publishing.US. Available at
   A lot can happen in a small town. That’s the premise of “Bottle Alley,” a suspenseful new novel by Brenda M. Spalding about traveling carnivals, seedy saloons and ethnic conflicts. The title of the book refers to its setting in Newton, Massachusetts, on Adams Street, where “it seemed like every other building was a tavern or a brewery…”
   Newton might be considered, today, a suburb of Boston, being 10 miles west of the city; but back in 1938 the town was wholly self-contained. The Aetna Mill was the mainstay employer and the town had its thriving commercial center of mom-and-pop shops and eateries. The city hall, schools, churches and synagogues provided a communal spirit. The town was divided among ethnic lines, as Spalding writes: “Newton…in 1938 was a mix of Irish who came fleeing from the famine, French and Jews looking for a safe harbor from war and persecution. The Italians came, mostly from the village of San Donato Val di Comino. They were all first and second generation immigrants looking for a better way of life in America.”
   Friends Michael Flannigan and Tony Pellegrino are the two main characters. Michael is the breadwinner of his family after his father Donal suffers an accident at the local mill. Tony finds sporadic work while dating Michael’s sister Ellen, against the wishes of her parents. Albeit a demanding time, considering this is the Great Depression, Newton remains quaint and innocent. That is until the traveling carnival arrives. The young men find temporary work manning exhibits and games of chance. An air of danger hovers over the fairgrounds when young Johnny Russo is found dead in nearby Silver Lake. A whodunit arises reminiscent of American film noir. There is the femme fatale, hidden clues and whispered secrets that are uncovered by the main characters, all the while a hurricane approaches.
   Most special about “Bottle Alley” is Spalding’s commendable effort to retain the unique dialect of the “Lake” region in local slang and idioms. The book is akin to a modern anthropological study. According to Spalding, many in Newton still speak the “Lake” dialect. She even includes a glossary of terms, that are found throughout the novel, such as “mush” (guy or man), “divia” (crazy, screwball) “jival” (girl), and so on. “Bottle Alley” is the kind of novel that was once common fare in bookstores and source material for watchable television. The book contains a mystery with agreeable characters and strange villains. “Bottle Alley” is what we all like: Entertaining reading without the redundant political preaching we see and hear too much of today.

“With All of Me II,” by Joanne Fisher; Available at and
   Joanne Fisher continues the romantic saga of Giuliana in her new novel, “With All of Me II.” The story highlights the new world of social media at odds with the old world values of Italy. Although born in Toronto, the author spent much of her early life in Lake Garda after her parents returned to Italy. She comes to her writing with two cultures in mind: Canadian and Italian.
   In Joanne’s previous novel, “With All of Me,” readers were introduced to Giuliana, an Italian-Canadian woman who lives with her husband Rocco and three children. In “With All of Me II,” Giuliana rekindles a relationship with Bobby, a man from California, who also is married and has children. A dilemma arises when Giuliana finds herself pregnant and is not sure the identity of the father. Could it be her husband Rocco? Or, perhaps, Bobby.
   Giuliana gives birth to a baby girl, Sabrina, who looks nothing like her other children. Suspicious, Rocco orders a DNA kit online to decipher the girl’s paternity. Meanwhile, Bobby flies out to Canada to meet with Giuliana after seeing photos of Sabrina on social media. He is convinced the girl is his biological daughter. All goes awry when the DNA results are reported to Rocco. Now, there is no hiding the affair. Giuliana is faced with the guilt of her infidelity and the added burden of divorce and dismantling of her family.
   The author claims the character Giuliana was invented after she too faced dramatic changes in her own life. Joanne said in an online interview with PRIMO, “At one point, I was like Giuliana: I had multiple online friends and most of them were men. I was also going through somewhat of a mid-life crisis which was hardened by my ex-husband wanting to return to Italy. As I wrote, the plot became quite spicy and convoluted, but at the same time, quite interesting.”
   Giuliana’s betrayal is not well-received by her children. They love both parents and the pain of divorce does not heal quickly. Giuliana soon realizes another crisis when Sabrina is diagnosed with leukemia. Now, Giuliana must come to terms with her faith and the costs of love in the modern age. She believes that God is punishing her for infidelity. Bobby admonishes her: “God doesn’t punish people, He forgives them. He does test us, and this is your test. Will you keep your faith or will you fall into the hell of self-pity and guilt?”
   “With All of Me II” is a cogently written and moving novel that explores the struggles of a good woman who does wrong. The novel follows a theme from the author’s previous work on how our high-tech world provides new opportunities that rewards and penalizes us.




A 2017 Film by Maurizio Gigola is a Stunning Tribute to One of Italy’s Greatest Chefs
Featured at Cannes Last Year; The Film is Available for Digital Streaming April 16, 2019
PRIMO Review

If the dishes created by Gualtiero Marchesi taste as good as they look, then he will be rightly remembered as one of the greatest chefs in history.
   Unfortunately, few Americans, if any, have ever eaten Marchesi’s food. His restaurants were located in Italy and catered to the world’s epicurean elite. His reputation comes via second-hand testimony. If only to see his dishes were to taste them. We might all enjoy what so many exclusive diners have over the years.
   Marchesi re-defined Italian cuisine. He was disillusioned by traditional recipes. He once said in an interview that Italian food was too domestic and “vulgar.” The recipes needed serious refining and he saw himself as the right man for the job. He mentored a small army of new chefs that have today taken the culinary world by storm. Marchesi died in December, 2017 at the age of 87. A man famous for starting and participating in new enterprises, mostly restaurants, but also hotels, food and a line of cutlery bearing his name, he had one more project to see completed - a biographical film. Just before he died, Maurizio Gigola followed the great chef with camera in hand. Together, they journeyed through parts of Italy, France and Japan; the latter, a country the chef greatly admired. Marchesi recounted to Gigola his culinary philosophy and life’s work. He revisited the old restaurants, farms, markets and wineries that gave life to his gastronomic imagination. What comes via film is a fascinating tribute entitled “Gualtiero Marchesi - The Great Italian.”
   To recapture the innovations of master chef Marchesi, Gigola was under considerable pressure. The filmmaker had to match his technique and vision with that of Marchesi’s. In order for the documentary to work, Gigola had to balance art and substance. He conveyed Marchesi’s dynamism through crafty special effects and creative camera work. Gigola has risen to the occasion and has made a film worthy of accolades.
   “Gualtiero Marchesi - The Great Italian” was a featured documentary in 2018 at the Cannes Film Festival in France and is now set for massive digital release via a host of venues in America, beginning April 16, 2019.
   The film opens with both filmmaker and chef dining and discussing the motivation behind the film. The passion of Marchesi is the central theme. The film immediately puts to rest the stereotype of the hot-tempered Italian genius. Marchesi looks as though he never had an angry moment in his life. He is the quintessential gentleman, at ease throughout the film. Milan is where he was born and raised. His family were restauranteurs and musicians. He, himself, was an accomplished pianist before dedicating himself to food.
The film intercuts archival photographs and footage with one of Marchesi’s dishes created by a protege. He is most famous for a host of intriguing dishes; one, in which, is pasta, caviar and chives. The strands of spaghetti are rolled together like a coil spring. This might be a common feature on the plates of today’s restaurants, but it remains a Marchesi invention done decades ago. His recipe calls for pasta topped by black fish eggs and green chives. The dish looks like a surreal treasure of gold filigree, bits of jade and tiny emeralds. The dish was one of many by the old chef that put Italy on the map of epicurean destinations; finally displacing the dominance of France. Indeed, Marchesi was the first chef in Italy to have his restaurant receive a Michelin star; a surprising fact. The country that arguably is the best loved when it comes to food is without the reverence afforded other country’s chefs who elevate cuisine to high art. Marchesi is a hero to many Italians since he was the one who finally bridged this gap.
   Integrity in cooking is another subject explored in the film. Marchesi was a pioneer in several areas. He was the godfather of the Slow Food Movement and, to that extent, the organic food movement. Marchesi was adamant about local produce. He relied on nearby farms, old family butcher shops and creameries to ensure the quality of his ingredients. The film puts to rest another stereotype. Marchesi was no young romantic in the kitchen. He was a man in his 40s when he transitioned from a well-respected chef to one who was experimental and innovative.
   What pushed Marchesi to embrace the avant-garde depends on differing viewpoints in the film. Gigola seems more inclined towards music, than art, as the inspiration behind Marchesi. This is an understandable thesis considering the chef’s musical background. However, his food creations were intrinsically connected to color and framing. The plate was a canvas. The chef, an artist. Bits of meat and vegetables were placed according to the color wheel. Gigola acknowledges the essence of visual art in a number of scenes. The chef is seen in a moment of reflection. Famous paintings by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock come into view. We then see chefs create Marchesi’s dishes as inspired by such artworks. There is a bed of bright yellow risotto topped with gold leaf. Another dish is best known by its title “Fish Dripping”; an ode to Jackson Pollock and his method of dripping paint. The visual reference is given its due in the film. Nevertheless, the incessant musical score along with the display of instruments and a performance of musicians, one of whom is Marchesi’s daughter, overplays the emphasis of sound, rather than sight.
   “Gualtiero Marchesi - The Great Italian” is a beautiful creation by Gigola. The chef is a fascinating subject for a documentary and Gigola knows it. The filmmaker has ample material to make a stunning film and does so. This is Gigola’s first documentary, one in which he wrote, directed and produced. He is a true Renaissance man who is also refreshingly down-to-earth. He does not let himself get in the way of the film’s subject. We are here to see and understand Marchesi. The late chef espouses his philosophy in concise words and well-mannered diction. He is a true genius at work. Perhaps a relic; and by today’s standards, an anomaly, Marchesi is also a model for others to follow. He shows that creative ingenuity does not have to come with tattoos, Indian bracelets and pony tails.

Editor’s Note: Rock Salt Releasing will release “Gualtiero Marchesi - The Great Italian” onto digital streaming platforms April 16th (Amazon, DirecTV, inDemand, Hoopla, FlixFling, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO + Sling/Dish). To learn more about the film, please log on to


Fifty Years After Enshrining a Famous Italian Statue of Jesus Christ Beneath the Waves, the Now Blind Diver Gabe Spataro Dove Down to Touch the Bronze Statue for the First Time in 2013

Gabriel Spataro brought the statue, “Christ of the Abyss,” to the United States in the early 1960s.
    Yet, it was not until 2013 that he dove into the waters off the coast of Florida to touch it.
    “Christ of the Abyss” is an amazing bronze rendition of our Lord. The statue went from Italy to Chicago and then on to Key Largo, Florida where, in 1965, it was submerged off the coast. It remains one of the most viewed underwater objects in the world today and has, thus far, generated more than a billion dollars in tourism revenue.
Spataro is a humble man, who, at 87 years old, is legally blind. He is a military veteran, a proud member of Shriners International, a father and business owner. He never toots his own horn. He is known by friends and associates as an amazing storyteller. He volunteers regularly at the local Veterans Hospital and at the local Shriners Hospital, where he makes balloon animals to entertain disabled children.
Jim Elliott is the founder and president of Diveheart, a non-profit organization based in Downers Grove, Illinois, that provides therapy to the disabled through scuba diving lessons and underwater excursions. He helped Spataro and other military veterans in 2013 dive into the ocean to “Christ of the Abyss” statue.
It was in the mid-1950s that Spataro returned from the Korean War to run his family-owned restaurant in Chicago. One night he overheard guests talking about scuba diving. He was interested to learn more. They invited him to a local lake in Wisconsin where they gave him his first lesson.
“Back then, people didn’t need to have scuba diving certification,” says Elliott. “A person just needed to know someone with scuba equipment. This was called bootleg diving.”
    Years later, Spataro finally got certified through a program conducted by Diveheart and sponsored by the Veterans Hospital.
    “Christ of the Abyss” in Italian is “Il Cristo Degli Abissi.” The statue was sculpted in 1954 by Guido Gilletti and commissioned by Italian diving instructor Duilio Mercante as a tribute to Dario Gonzatti, Italy’s first scuba diver. Spataro met the statue’s creator while on a wine tour in Italy. Three nine-foot statues of Jesus Christ were sculpted in bronze. The first was submerged in the waters off the coast of San Fruttuoso, a village near Portofino, where Gonzatti died while scuba diving. Another was a gift by the Italian navy to the people of Grenada for their help in rescuing passengers of the Italian vessel “Bianca C” that sunk off the island’s coast in the Caribbean. As for the third statue, Spataro wanted it to come to the United States. However, he could not afford to ship it to America. Spataro’s father had a friend that ran an Italian shipping company and he arranged to get it to Chicago for free. They stored the statue in a National Guard airplane hangar at Chicago O’Hare International Airport until, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, they got a military plane to bring it down to the Florida Keys for free. The statue sat in a warehouse for a few years in Florida before it was placed underwater. Not until 2013 did Spataro have a chance to dive to the statue, thanks to Diveheart.
    “I was driving Spataro home in 2013 after a Diveheart fundraiser when Gabe told me he was going to dive to the Christ statue with a couple of his Korean War buddies,” says Elliott
“I told him ‘You’ve probably dived to the statue many times since the 1960s,’” Elliott said. “Spataro replied that he never dove to the statue because after it was shipped to Key Largo, he was busy with his family and restaurant business in Chicago. This would be his first time.”
Elliott inquired further on how Spataro planned to make this special dive.
    Spataro said, “I’ll be diving to the statue with my buddy Vinnie, who has one leg, and my buddy Louie, who is also blind.” After hearing they were going into the ocean in a 12-foot fishing boat, Elliott realized that Spataro needed experienced divers to help him make this experience a reality.
    “I’m thinking to myself that we have two blind guys and one amputee who are all in their 80s,” Elliott recalled. “They are going out miles onto the ocean in a 12-foot fishing boat to dive to the Christ statue. They’re all going to die.”
    Elliott called his friend D.J., the owner of Rainbow Reef dive center in Key Largo, who cleared eight paid spots on a 45-foot dive boat. Spataro and friends were able to go out with Rainbow Reef and Diveheart to dive to the statue, for the first time.
    While under water, Spataro approached the bronze rendition of Jesus Christ. He placed a wreath on one of the statue’s outstretched hands. He said the experience was amazing and very spiritual. He was glad that Elliott intervened, he said, because in retrospect it might not have been such a good idea for three veterans, all with disabilities and in their 80s, to go out alone on a 12-foot fishing boat to dive to the statue.
    The Miami Herald covered the dive in a front page feature article. According to Elliott, the story was more than the rekindling of a statue to its main catalyst. How the statue was transported from Italy to its final destination in America could now be retold with greater emphasis on accuracy.
    “It changed history,” says Elliott about Spataro’s dive. “The Miami Herald originally reported that the Christ statue came to America through New York—but it didn’t. It came in through Chicago’s Navy Pier. The ring buoy that said New York was in the old photos of the statue when it arrived, because the Italian shipping company was based in New York; but it really came in through Navy Pier.”
    Diveheart’s adaptive dive buddies kept Spataro safe on the dive and have taken him back there several times.
    “Diveheart helped make a dream come true for this old, blind Korean War veteran. I can’t thank them enough,” Spataro said.
    He explained how moving it was to get close to “Christ of the Abyss” for the first time underwater.
    “It was funny how I was able to go down to the statue after all these years,” Spataro said. “It was like seeing an old friend.”

To learn more about Diveheart, please visit their web site at




PRIMO Reader Pays Tribute to Her Late Husband’s WWII Service

Mrs. Lola Pollastrini Gianelli wrote to PRIMO about her late husband, former U.S. Army Sergeant George Frederick Gianelli, and his service in the D-Day landing at Normandy in WWII. Here is what she wrote:

"This is a tribute to the 75th Anniversary of Normandy D-Day, in honor of my late husband George and his Army Battalion who all survived (Thank God) the war against the Germans on June 6, 1944 at Omaha Beach.

On June 6, 2019, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania, along with Queen Elizabeth, saluted and stood at attention on Omaha Beach at noon for the raising of the American Flag and the 21 Gun Salute in honor and respect of our GIs.

Although I didn't know George until after the war, (we were married for 48 years until his death), this is a summary of his and his buddies' stories, as told at their Battalion reunions held every year after the war. The reunions lasted for 30 years. Wives and children attended in a one-week's vacation to listen to war stories.

George's battalion was in the Fifth Wave that stormed onto the beach where Hitler's army was waiting in bunkers. The worst battle was there at Omaha Beach. George said it was like going into a suicide mission. He stumbled over dead GIs who came ashore before him. The next 6th Wave of GIs wiped out the German troops. There is a GI cemetery on the hill above Omaha Beach maintained by the United States. George always said that the heroes were the guys who never made it out alive from that battle.

George's battalion spent four years in England shooting Buzz Bombs and fighting in Germany. They reached Hitler's bunker the day after both Hitler and wife Eva Braun committed suicide. Next to the bunker was a concentration camp where the battalion was allowed to go and observe. George refused to go. He could see from the gate a big pile of dead bodies.

George was drafted the day after graduation from Hayward High School at age 18. His battalion was made up of guys from Italian families in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Was this done purposely??) The families all knew each other. Actually, George received his draft notice before graduating from high school. He turned 18 in March and didn't graduate until June. George and his father went before the Draft Board and asked for a deferment so he could graduate. He was then drafted the day after high school graduation.

On your computer, you can see live movies and stories about D-Day, also photos of the cemetery. Just go to ‘D-Day Invasion of Normandy.’ I wish they would teach some information about WWII in schools nowadays, but they don't. I guess it's not ‘Politically Correct.’ (It might hurt somebody's feelings??) I wonder---if we went to war and there was draft today, would our youth go to battle or would it infringe on ‘their rights’???”


A New Film by Michela Occhipinti Offers Insight into Third World Matrimony
Weight Gain is Expected for a Bride-to-Be in the African Nation of Mauritania
PRIMO Review

Italian filmmakers have always been fascinated with Africa.
   Didn’t auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini claim Africa as his favorite place in the world, after Italy? The wild and exotic continent across the Mediterranean has been an inspiration for some of the best and most notorious films of Italian cinema. Gillo Pontecorvo immediately comes to mind with his masterpiece “Battle of Algiers,” the 1966 film about the Algerian revolution that continues to this day to impress students of cinema. Africa is not a place for elaborate set designs and special effects. Instead, the gritty documentary style is sought there by Italian filmmakers. Their mission is reality; sometimes for exploitative purposes. One is reminded of the first documentary of worldwide fame, “Mondo Cane.” The 1960 Italian production by Gualtiero Jacopetti gave birth to the “shockumentary.” Controversial customs and rituals from Africa were shown with reckless abandon. So successful was the film that Jacopetti and partners devoted a sequel that contained real and violent footage of the continent’s civil wars and revolutions.
   Such is the enigma of Africa. She remains a means of cultural fascination or exploitation, depending on the filmmaker.
   Michela Occhipinti is of the former class and takes a sympathetic and sensitive approach to storytelling. Her new film, “Flesh Out,” continues the Italian cinematic exploration of Africa. It is Mauritania, a poor and humbled nation embedded in the Sahara desert. Occhipinti is the film’s director and co-writer of the screenplay with Simona Coppini. Originally from Rome, she lived in different parts of the world making documentaries. Now settled in Milan, the center of Italian fashion, she takes on the subject of beauty. Not the thin and glamorous kind as sought by women of Europe and America. Instead, we are shown women who seek to gain weight, not lose it, in Mauritania.
   The film’s main character is Verida, played by newcomer Verida Beitta Ahmed Deiche. Engaged to be married by family arrangement, she undergoes the gavage diet of bulgur and meat 10 times a day in order to gain weight for her wedding. The film begins in the early morning hours as Verida is awakened by her mother to eat. It may be the opposite of the western concept of beauty, but, nevertheless, time, attention and sacrifice are made to satisfy the male eye. Verida is a complex character. Young and ambitious, she seeks to one day own and operate her grandmother’s beauty salon. Henna tattoos are applied to her hands and wrists. Friends pressure her to abandon tradition. Change is coming to Mauritania. Yet, Verida remains loyal to her family and customs.
   “Flesh Out” has its strong suits. The documentary style, as perfected by Occhipinti, captures the stark reality of setting and characters. The lighting and camera work by Daria D’Antonio is especially praiseworthy. He conveys a Noir-like atmosphere that heightens the setting’s cultural mystique. Some scenes are uniquely powerful such as the film’s beginning that depict the black eyes of the protagonist. Through a haze of dust, we see the face of the Third World, reminiscent of the National Geographic cover from 1985 of the Afghan girl with green eyes.
   The film’s single flaw is Occhipinti’s unromantic view of Saharan Africa. She pushes the patience of the viewer. Dullness sets in when poverty becomes overwhelming. Characters have little to do because the cultural and economic offerings of the country are minimal. Tradition seems the only endeavor to engage Verida towards action.
   “Flesh Out” is a film to be seen by those interested in the world beyond borders. A serious debate arises when one asks if the people of Mauritania are better off embracing modernity. Women are dressed in traditional Arabic clothing while walking the dirt roads of a country strewn with plastic debris. Scene after scene displays the latest technology, gadgets and disposable goods; all the while in a medieval-like environment. Such is the integrity of Occhipinti. The message of the film might not be what was intended. She may have set out to make a film critical of old and misogynistic traditions. Yet, truth in filmmaking makes the viewer lament the bullying onslaught of modernity upon a proud and traditional people.

Editor’s Note: “Flesh Out” will be shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 27 at Village East Cinema, 3 p.m.; April 29 at Battery Park Cinema, 7 p.m.; and on May 4, 11:30 a.m. at Village East Cinema. For more information, log on to:



Her Book “The Serpent’s Disciple” Explores Freemason Infiltration of The Vatican
Are the Conspiracies True?

Your new novel The Serpent’s Disciple explores the inner workings of the Catholic Church. What new insight about the pope and Vatican will readers gain after reading your book?

Many readers might not know that The Vatican or officially Vatican City State is the smallest sovereign nation in the world. It is a theocratic, absolute, and elective monarchy. The pope as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and bishop of Rome exercises ex officio supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power over Vatican City. This translates into a significant amount of power; not just authority over the citizens of Vatican City, but as religious leader of the Catholic Church, many Christians worldwide. In any seat of power, an inner structure is set up and authority distributed between people. As we all know from history, desire for power can often result in corruption. Although we would like to believe in the sanctity of religion, we can also find the seeds of betrayal. The reader of my novels will learn about a few of the regrettable events and challenges having to do with the inner workings of Vatican City and the papacy.

One need not go farther than the engrossing title of you novel – The Serpent’s Disciple - to know its Biblical roots. How closely connected is your novel to the prophetic warnings of the Book of Revelation?

The vast array of ornate and lush imagery found in the Book of Revelation has led to a wide variety of interpretations. Ranging from the simple historical analysis, to a prophetic view of the future, to futurist interpretations of different end time scenarios. As many believe, the obscure and extravagant imagery signify the invisible forces and spiritual powers of good versus evil at work in the world and in the heavenly realms and culminating in a war against the church.
In a way, my stories could be considered an adaptation on the Garden of Eden. In the Book of Revelation Satan is called a serpent, not once but three times. So, in The Serpent’s Disciple we uncover and see the results, as in the Garden of Eden, of the soul tempted by the promises of the serpent. An intriguing element of the story line is based on real events. The collapse of the Vatican bank in the 1980’s did take place and involved a gruesome murder. The group Propaganda Due (P2), an illegal masonic lodge, existed. Conspiracy theorists believe P2 could be behind the mysterious circumstances of Pope John Paul I death after only 33 days of his papacy. The fictional story behind The Serpent's Disciple involves a battle between the serpent and a disciple of the church. If you embrace the belief that faith exists, then you will also believe there will be a judgment day. I will leave that debate in the hands of the readers.

A key suspicion among many traditional and conservative Roman Catholics is that the Church changed radically after Vatican II because of infiltration by the Freemasonry. What led you to take on this controversy head on in The Serpent’s Disciple?

Many believe International Freemasonry has sought to infiltrate the Catholic Church for decades. When Pope John XXIII announced the creation of the Second Vatican Council (also known as Vatican II) in January 1959, it shocked the world. There hadn't been an ecumenical council in nearly 100 years. Canon law before Vatican II prohibited membership in Freemasonry and considered cause for automatic ex-communication. It concluded Masonic principles and rituals are irreconcilable with Catholic doctrines. After Vatican II, however, the Catholic Church began an evaluation of its understanding of Masonry and subtle modifications of Canon law began to occur. The Church’s position appeared to be fluid on the matter. There were various interpretations of what was being reported. When doing research for the book I was not that familiar with the story of P2. As I delved deeper, I became fascinated to learn more. As I did, the idea for The Serpent’s Disciple began to materialize. I decided to use actual events with real circumstances that faced the Vatican at the time. It is often said, fact is stranger than fiction, and I agree.

The Serpent’s Disciple is a fascinating book with many plot elements that connect to other genres, i.e., horror, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction etc…What genre best describes The Serpent’s Disciple?

That is a challenging question to some degree. I use the label Fiction Thriller. A Thriller is a story that is usually a mix of fear and excitement. It contains traits from the suspense genre and action, adventure or mystery genres. I’ve had people say they thought it touched on fantasy and historical fiction. I agree with all these. My wish is to hopefully keep the reader wondering and hopefully surprised at end of the story.

Do you see yourself writing more books? Similar to The Serpent’s Disciple? Why do you find this subject so fascinating?

Yes, I plan on writing a trilogy. The Serpent’s Disciple and, Holy Predator, the second in the series is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook. The first book has received six awards and the latest Holy Predator received its first award, The Pinnacle Achievement Award, winner in the category of Thriller. Any religion or powerful group has a history of how it evolved and Christianity, in this case, Catholicism, is thousands of years old. Then, you add the existence of Vatican City and all this takes place in Italy, how can you not be fascinated by the topic. I loved to research and learn the history behind how something came to be. Although, sometimes creating more questions than answers. It’s like working on a puzzle. Trying to figure out which piece goes next and finally seeing the results of ones efforts. There are so many stories surrounding the Catholic Church, Vatican City and the history of Italy. It's hard not to be fascinated with it all. The Serpent’s Disciple has been translated into Italian. Holy Predator is presently being translated into Italian and should be out at the end of 2019. Before the final book in the trilogy is completed, I will be releasing a non-fiction book titled Strange but True, The Vatican Dossier. I hope to have it out at the end of this year.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Deborah Stevens’ books, please visit her web site at




A solid sequel to the author's "Appointment with ISIL"
- An interview with Joe Giordano


   A great thriller must rise on the shoulders of its main character. He must carry the novel by being clever, worldly, and above all else, likable. These are the attributes of Anthony Provati, the 34-year-old Italian American protagonist in Joe Giordano’s excellent new novel - Drone Strike.
   Fans of the author know Anthony Provati well. Giordano introduced readers to his main protagonist in a previous engaging thriller, Appointment with ISIL. We got to know Provati as a native New Yorker who owns a tiny art gallery in Soho. Always pressed for money, he finds himself in schemes and predicaments that have worldwide repercussions.
   In Drone Strike, Provati is settled in an idyllic existence with his girlfriend Nori on the Greek island of Santorini. A skilled pianist and sailor, he’s able to make a living either playing piano at a small nightclub or manning a sailboat. The good life, however, is not to be had after an earthquake strikes the region and Nori suffers a severe head injury. Although medical care is free in Greece, we learn that the public hospitals there are grossly mismanaged. The best option is a private hospital for Nori to receive round-the-clock care while she remains in a coma. Provati is desperate to pay for it all. He takes a job as a sailboat captain to transfer illegal migrants from Greece to Italy. Unbeknownst to Provati, one of the passengers is an ISIL terrorist.
    Great fiction can enlighten readers beyond mainstream coverage of world events. Giordano has extensively researched the Middle East, Islam and the history of terrorism. He gives us two key characters - Karim and Miriam, victims, in different ways, of Middle East violence. Miriam is a Syrian Christian, who was raped by ISIL thugs, after they killed her family. She met Karim at a Turkish refugee camp and together they made their way to Greece. Much of the story revolves around Karim, a chemical engineer from ISIL-controlled Iraq. The novel begins with an American drone striking a car of terrorists near his house. He is thrown back from the blast but not seriously hurt. He sees his home destroyed and finds his wife Farrah and two children dead amidst the rubble. How to make sense of the tragedy leads him to the domain of terrorists. He follows the words of one, Al-Nasir, an ISIL leader: “Like buzzing flies, Americans wave off reports of murdered Islamic women and children. They switch their televisions to reality shows and wallow in their morally bankrupt existences…You’ll continue to suffer for your loss, but Americans remain indifferent.”
    Giordano takes the reader on a grand tour of the Middle East war zone. We follow Karim to a Jihadi camp in the Iraqi desert that trains suicide bombers. He travels through Syria with a fake passport. The Mediterranean becomes the main setting as Karim claims refugee status and is allowed to enter Turkey. When he is captured in Greece, we are confronted with the impotency of law enforcement. Faced with dire financial conditions, the country is unable to fund the manpower needed to secure its border. Karim is not sentenced to prison. Instead, a Greek judge announces: “As the jails haven’t room for all the illegal immigrants coming into our country, I’m suspending your sentence and ordering you to leave Greece within a month.” The time allows Karim to find a way to sneak out of Greece and make his way to Italy with help from Provati.
    Personal tragedy is the central chord that unites the characters in Drone Strike. Giordano goes beyond the action to explore the motivations, thoughts and deeds of heroes and villains. At root is faith and the mystery of God’s intervention; an important theme in the novel since Middle East violence is religious based. In Appointment with ISIL, Giordano was hailed as a thoughtful and creative author who gave us a dynamic character in Anthony Provati in a contemporary adventure. Giordano has now exceeded himself with Drone Strike. This is an exceptional novel that is as thrilling as it is illuminating.

Author of "Drone Strike," Joe Giordano, Sheds Light on Middle East Terrorism and Europe's Refugee Crisis

Your new novel Drone Strike takes readers deep into the workings of Islamic terrorism. What new insight about the Middle East will the readers gain from Drone Strike?

Black market sale of oil and refined products were an important financial source for the Islamic State in the Levant, and a key character in the book, Karim, worked as a drilling manager in an ISIL-controlled section of Iraq. Drone Strike begins with Karim’s family killed by a U.S. drone strike. Al-Nasir, the leader of ISIL ,recruits him for a terrorist attack on the United States. As readers follow Karim’s indoctrination, they’ll get a glimpse into a terrorist training camp; but, also, ISIL’s drug operations in Afghanistan. Readers will learn how suicide attacks are orchestrated, and ISIL’s ‘shock and awe’ execution of prisoners. When Karim travels surreptitiously with Miriam, another character in the book, a Syrian Christian, they’ll get a sense of the heartbreaking suffering refugees endure.

You cover several contemporary subjects in Drone Strike such as the ongoing crisis of illegal migration into Europe from the Middle East and elsewhere. Your novel rightly highlights Greece and Italy as main gateways. Why do both countries have such difficulties in securing their borders?

Under European Union law, asylum seekers cannot be turned away and must make their application in the country of arrival. Both Italy and Greece are accessible by sea. The UN’s 1951 convention requires asylum cases be handled individually and refugees can’t be returned to countries unable to guarantee their rights, like Turkey or Libya. Despite attempts to stem the tide, desperate refugees often arrive in barely seaworthy crafts, overwhelming the available resources to handle their processing. Greece faces a crisis within a crisis, a collapsed economy under a weight of debt and a deluge of refugees. The country can hardly sustain its population. Italy’s economy is larger but seemingly always at the precipice of recession. In Italy’s recent parliamentary elections, Matteo Salvini campaigned to expel immigrants, and his political party - League - won 34 percent of the vote. They became the largest party in Italy. Unlike the U.S. which received and assimilated wave after wave of immigrants, European countries maintained more homogeneous populations. Multiculturalism, separating distinct immigrant ethnic groups, rather than the melting pot approach often created isolated enclaves, and the huge spike of Middle East refugees sparked societal tensions, and a political backlash not anticipated by European politicians.

Anthony Provati is the main character. This is the second thriller where Provati is the protagonist; the other being Appointment with ISIL. What led you to conceive Anthony Provati?

I wanted an unlikely hero, someone readers could identify with, having strengths and weaknesses, a normal-type guy thrust into extraordinary circumstances. As a fellow Italian American and New Yorker, I understand where he’s coming from. Anthony pursues women, loves art, sails, is a nightclub pianist, and has an uncle in the mob – attributes which cause him to careen into all sorts of trouble. Characters living on the edge fuel good fiction.

Central to Drone Strike are characters such as Provati and Middle East migrants Karim and Miriam. They all share personal tragedies based on catastrophes caused by either man or nature. What more can you tell us about this theme and how tragedy propels people to greater ambitions, be they good or bad?

The genesis of Drone Strike was the question I posed to myself: How would I react if my family were killed in a drone strike as ‘collateral damage?’ Where would I turn for justice? Terrorism isn’t defensible, but in some instances, we might resonate with the motivation. Our individual characters are formed and developed by how we deal with adversity. Our knockdowns rather than our knockouts teach us who we are. The tragedies endured by Miriam, a Syrian Christian, and Karim, an Iraqi Moslem, simultaneously draw them together and keep them apart. At a point where Karim realizes he’s fallen in love with Miriam, he regrets their meeting, because the precursor was the death of his family. The affection he feels for her conflicts with his perceived duty to seek revenge. He asks, why else would Allah have spared him?

Drone Strike is an amazing novel and Anthony Provati is an incredible character. Can we expect more novels to come with Anthony as the main character?

I’m drafting my fourth novel, working title Angelica’s Secret. Anthony will be joined by a female co-protagonist, Angelica Esposito, brilliant, beautiful, intrepid – with a secret. I’ll be launching another series of books with her in the lead.

Editor's Note: You can find more about Joe Giordano and his upcoming novels by visiting his web site:


245 Million Christians are Victims of High, Extreme Persection; 90,000 Killed in 2016 for Practicing Christianity in Africa and Asia; Focus on Nigeria
Hang a Banner at Your Church!


Top photograph is the new banner by Save The Persecuted Christians organization. The next photograph is a Coptic church in Egypt that was destroyed by a suicide bomber who killed 128 worshippers. Other photographs: Somalia, Islamic boys are recruited to kill Christians; Palestine, parents hold a photograph of their son, abducted by Islamists; Iraq, statues in a church were destroyed by ISIS; Libya, Christian men were decapitated by Islamic terrorists; China, a Christian woman is attacked by soldiers; Frank J. Gaffney, president of Save The Persecuted Christians leads the organization’s press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. He said that the organization was inspired by American rabbis in the 1960s and 1970s who worked to save Soviet Jews from persecution; their logo pictured. Last photograph depicts the speakers at Save The Persecuted Christians press conference; with many from Nigeria who spoke about Christian persecution there.

A cry for help is heard.
    Save The Persecuted Christians is a brand new organization headquartered in Monument, Colorado, that held its first press conference yesterday, January 17, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
    Their mission: Stop the ongoing genocide of Christians, worldwide.
    The press conference convened inside the newly renovated National Press Club building on 14th street, N.W. Black steel beams streak above a lobby of contemporary decor that bespeaks the continued and active presence of the National Press Club in downtown.
    The event was held there on the 13th floor; an ominous sign, perhaps; the number of the apostle who turned on Christ. Those gathered, however, showed no signs of despair. Instead, they were hopeful. They were unified in a cause. They seek to save their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Frank J. Gaffney, president and board member of Save The Persecuted Christians, was the event’s moderator and lead speaker.
    A Washington insider since the days of Reagan and active participant in a number of conservative causes, Gaffney is the founder and executive chairman of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy. His knowledge of geo-politics will serve him well in this newfound effort.
   Gaffney’s main purpose was to convey the organization’s background and grassroots strategy. He then invited others to speak, such as Bishop Keith Butler, founder of Word of Faith International Center, former member of the Detroit City Council and board chairman of the Save The Persecuted Christians. Another was Kevin Jessip, founder and president of Global Strategic Alliance and fellow board member of the organization. Only a few reporters were present. Most audience members were activists, both foreign and American, representing different Christian denominations. A political celebrity in attendance was Alan Keyes, assistant secretary of state in international affairs under President Ronald Reagan, a former radio talk show host and a Republican presidential candidate in 1996, 2000, and 2008. Prayers were said at the beginning and end of the press event.
   Christian suffering was the main topic.

The reasons vary.
   In China, it is to preserve the zeal of Marxism. In North Korea, it is to preserve the cult of Kim Jong-un. In Nigeria, it is to set up an Islamic caliphate.
Christians get in the way.
   They praise God, not man. They seek salvation through Christ, not government. They read the Bible, not the Koran.
   They are easy targets.
   They attend church in day. They pray at night. They wear the cross.
   In many countries in Africa and Asia, Christians are increasingly arrested without warrants. They are tried, convicted and jailed without due process. They are tortured. They are killed.
   Christianity consists of 2 billion people today. Three decades ago, Roman Catholics and Protestants were on the rise in the Third World. Africa became more Catholic thanks to frequent visits there by Pope John Paul II. Protestant missions were fully established in countries such as Nigeria and Mali. Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and congregational churches spread throughout the continents.
   The past was for evangelization. The present, fear of persecution.
   Every year, more Christians are killed for their beliefs, according to a recent report issued by A Church in Need, a Roman Catholic organization based in Germany.
   Some 245 million Christians are victims of high extreme persecution. In 2016, some 90,000 Christians were killed, just for practicing their faith.
   Gaffney worked in the Reagan administration as acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. He witnessed from the White House the demise of the Soviet Union. He knows history well. Mostly forgotten today are the loud, unstinted efforts of America’s rabbis in the Cold War. A synagogue in Cleveland in 1963 began a movement to save Soviet Jews from persecution. They produced a banner with an illustration of a prison chain clasped by hammer and sykle that surround the words: “Free Soviet Jews.” The goal was greater awareness. Americans would know the plight of Jews in Communist Russia. Almost every synagogue in the country eventually hung the banner. Gaffney, who grew up in Pittsburgh, remembers walking by a synagogue one day and seeing a banner hanging there.
  One movement begets another.
  Save the Persecuted Christians pursues a similar goal and strategy as did Jewish rabbis 50 years ago. Gaffney and others unfurled a banner in white with a red colored cross and lettering “Save US.” At the bottom is the organization’s name and web site address. The group will push forward the plight of persecuted Christians. They will ask every church in America to hang one of their banners. Greater awareness will bring greater action in Congress. On an immediate basis, however, is the call for a special envoy: A person should be appointed by the president today to travel through Africa and Asia, meet leaders there to press an end to the slaughter of Christians.

U.S. foreign policy is often at odds with the persecuted in foreign lands.
    Gaffney recalls reluctance on the part of the Ford administration to stop Jewish persecution in Russia. In 1974, Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson of Washington sponsored legislation to withdraw most favored nation status from the Soviet Union unless steps were taken there to save Soviet Jews. The bill passed in Congress. Majorities in both chambers were large enough to override a presidential veto. Saving Soviet Jews was now the law of the land.
    Gaffney reminds us that back then Washington think tanks missed the cause. It was grassroots, not professional advocacy, that won the day. American rabbis moved leaders to action. Russian Jews were saved. The Soviet Union later fell.
    The current plight of Christians worldwide calls for a similar effort. This time the scope is larger. Not just one country, but many countries host Christian genocide. On display at the press conference were records of brutality perpetrated by foreign governments and their agents against Christians. They came in the way of exhibits consisting of photographs, captions and hard facts. Some highlights follow:

In North Korea: An elderly woman is photographed with black eyes and bruises. She sits, tied to a chair, under the threatening gaze of a female guard. Her crime: Praying.

In Palestine: Christian parents hold a photograph of their missing son. He was abducted by Islamic fundamentalists. Authorities claim the boy willingly converted to Islam.

In Yemen: Christians face extinction. They are caught between warring Islamic groups who agree on nothing else but their hatred for Christians.

In Sudan: Military aircraft are often sent by the Islamic government in Khartoum to destroy churches.

In Somalia: Al-Shabaab, a word meaning “young men” in Arabic, is now a call for Jihad. Children are recruited. Boys, some of whom are just 10 years old, are armed with light machine guns. They order Christian men to recite the Shahada - claim God is one and Muhammed the prophet - or be killed.

In Syria: Christian girls are taken from their families and sold as sex slaves to ISIS.

In Iraq and Egypt: Some of the world’s first churches, located in these two countries, are now under assault. In Mosul, statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary were decapitated by ISIS thugs. In Egypt, a Coptic church was destroyed by a suicide bomber who claimed the lives of 128 people worshiping inside.

In Turkey: A country where 20% of the population was Christian after World War I has seen that number decline below 1% today. Oppression by the Erdogan-led government is the reason. Only one cleric of each Christian faith can be seen in public. Only one Christian holiday can be celebrated each year. Christian celebrations are forbidden, unless approved by the government.

In Libya: One of the most horrific images in history. Christian men in orange prison clothes were marched to a beach by black clad, face masked Islamists. One by one had their heads sawed off by tormenters. The carnage faced northeast in the direction of Rome. The Vatican. The Holy See. The throne of Saint Peter. The message was obvious: All Christians are infidels. All are to be killed.

In the audience at the National Press Club event were several Christians from China.
   They spoke firsthand about persecution. The latest technology is continuously used by China’s government to harass and kill Christians. Data mining and drone surveillance locate churches slated for military assault. China forbids religious education. State media mocks and misrepresents the activities of new congregations. On display was a photograph of a young Chinese Christian woman attacked by a group of Chinese soldiers.
    Tracy Jiao belongs to the Church of Almighty God, an independent church founded in 1991 in China. She attended yesterday’s press conference. She says her group is frequently targeted by the Chinese government. Many churchgoers have been unduly arrested, she says, just for practicing their faith.
   “You see pictures of people here who have been persecuted in other countries,” she says in reference to exhibits on display. “At least, they can show photographs of what is happening. We cannot in China. Our people are arrested. Our photographs are taken. We are not allowed to share our story. We have church members who are taken to prison camps. We cannot see them. We don’t know where they are.”

Cases of Christian persecution were well-documented at the press conference with special focus on Nigeria.
    Members of the International Committee on Nigeria, an organization based in Falls Church, Virginia, spoke about their experiences.
    Nigeria is a country with the most Christians in Africa - some 80 million, according to Pew Research. Yet, each day, they are threatened and harassed by Islamic forces inside and outside the government. Most pressing are the needs of Christians in the Lake Chad region in northern Nigeria. Reports of atrocities are many; such as the time when Christian children were rounded up to watch their parents executed by Islamic militiamen. Another case had as its focus the Nigerian military. The army had ordered the evacuation of Christian and Islamic villages due to civil conflicts in the region. When the battle ended, those from the Islamic villages were allowed to return to their homes, but not the Christians. The military said their villages were not recognized by the Nigerian government. They never existed.
    In reference to the way American mainstream media reports violence against Christians in Nigeria, one speaker declared, “There is no such thing as sectarian violence. This is not a war of one tribe versus another. This is not a war of one region against another. These are Muslims killing Christians.”
Abduction of clergy in Nigeria is frequent. One speaker said he was kidnapped by Islamic terrorists not once, but twice. He said what saved him “was my name, Joachim. They thought I was Muslim. They did not know that Christians and Muslims can share the same name. We are named after the Jewish patriarch, Jacob.”
    Cases of Christian persecution in Nigeria increased exponentially after the Arab Spring in 2010 and the rise of ISIS after President Barack Obama ordered American troops to withdraw from Iraq in 2011.
    “Now everyone wants to be like ISIS,” said an audience member from Nigeria. He claimed that young Muslims there increasingly look to Islamic terrorists as models of violence.
    Assaults against Christians are not limited to the body. Christians are often discriminated against and unable to find work or get an education in Nigeria. The military will frequently take church property, according to one speaker. The church building is demolished and the foundation excavated. Property records are destroyed. It is as if entire Christian communities never existed there.
    Yesterday’s event contained only a few bright spots such as when one speaker admitted that there has been a market reduction of violence against Christians in Nigeria. He gave credit for this to President Donald J. Trump. Attacks on Christians declined almost immediately after the president spoke out against Christian persecution when he met with Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, at the White House in April.
    The future remains tenuous. West Africa is at the precipice of Islamic domination, according to several speakers yesterday. “Do not look to the Middle East,” said one Nigerian clergyman. “The real conflict is happening in Nigeria.”
    The underlying cause of violence against Christians is not poverty or dispossession within Nigeria’s Muslim majority. Rather, it is the pursuance of an Islamic caliphate. What pervades there is the spirit of Wahhabism, a branch of Islam from Saudi Arabia that sees all Christians as infidels. Persecution of Christians in Nigerian is a means to an end. Tyranny awaits. The inheritor of Mohammed will come. He will control West Africa. He will enforce Sharia law, as now imposed in Nigeria, for the entire region. Islam will then be the sole religion. Christianity will be extinct in West Africa.
    The struggle to save Christians worldwide is the story of the century. The worship of Christ now begets a death sentence. The future is a time for martyrs. Save The Persecuted Christians is an organization with a cause for all Americans to embrace. Psalm 7 may inspire: “God is my protector; he saves those who obey him.”

Editor's Note: Save the Persecuted Christians will provide a banner to your church to help bring greater awareness to Americans on the plight of Christians in Africa and Asia. Contact them today at



John Cavicchi Was The Lawyer Who Won The Release of Louis Greco and Peter Limone
He Uncovered One of The Worst Miscarriages of Justice in American History
Four Men Were Wrongfully Imprisoned…Because They Were Italian Americans
PRIMO Tribute

He was the quiet hero.
    John Cavicchi died on February 19 in Florida surrounded by his family and friends.
    Two decades passed since he achieved one of the greatest victories in American jurisprudence.
    And yet, few people know about him.
    John was not a braggart. He was stoic and rock solid. He did not seek the limelight. Rarely was he mentioned or profiled in the news media. He never appeared on cable news shows. Although worthy, he was never the guest commentator, the legal expert or savant jurist who could expound on the ins and outs of criminal justice.
    John Cavicchi was a good friend of PRIMO’s. We published an article on him in 2007 and rightly praised his miraculous defense of Louis Greco and Peter Limone.

    It was in Boston in 1968 when Louis Greco was convicted of the murder of Edward “Teddy” Deegan with Joseph Salvati, Peter Limone and Enrico Tameleo convicted as accessories. They were all given life sentences and each spent 30 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
    Prosecutors had persuaded a jury then that since the foursome were Italian they had been members of the Mafia.
    From beginning to end, the case was a ruse. The accused were victims of a frame by FBI agents H. Paul Rico and Dennis Condon and their key informant, Joseph Barboza, who, as it turned, was the real murderer.
    In 1965, Edward “Teddy” Deegan, a longshoreman who had robbed a Mafia bookmaking operation, was shot and killed near Boston by Joseph Barboza and Jimmy Flemmi. The ensuring police investigation had run cold. No suspects were named. The FBI, however, knew the identity of the murderers. They had in their possession recordings and transcripts that established Barboza and Flemmi’s guilt. Some years earlier, the feds had wire tapped the office of Raymond Patriarca, the reputed mob boss of New England. Listening in on conversations among local mobsters, FBI agents heard Barboza and Flemmi request and receive the order to kill Deegan.
    By 1967, Barboza had found himself in prison serving out sentences for unrelated crimes. There, he was approached by FBI agents Rico and Condon. He was to become their informant. An agreement was brokered to get Barboza released from prison in exchange for his information on the New England Mafia.
Barboza’s long line of crimes had to be expunged. He was interrogated by state detectives about the murder of Deegan. Both FBI agents were present when Barboza admitted to killing Deegan. He then lied by saying he was ordered to do so by Peter Limone. He then falsely implicated Greco, Salvati and Tameleo. The FBI agents said nothing to the police as to the innocence of accused. They did not share the evidence in their possession with local police. Instead, they lied to detectives by claiming Barboza’s story “checked out.” One of the agents, Condon, even went so far as to testify in support of Barboza at the trial. He was motivated to do so, he said, to ensure the “purity” of his informant.

    Cavicchi began representing Greco in 1977 and Limone in 2000. He was the lawyer who won Mr. Limone’s release from prison, resulting in the reversal of Salvati’s conviction. Greco’s conviction was vacated posthumously. Cavicchi’s work was a decisive factor in the successful civil lawsuit by Limone and others against the federal government for wrongful imprisonment, with damages awarded in excess of $100 million.
    In a 2007 PRIMO interview, Cavicchi said, “To win a lawsuit for wrongful imprisonment you have to show you did not commit the crime for which you were imprisoned. They can prove this with relative ease based on the work I did.”
    Cavicchi became a lawyer after he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He sought to be a tenacious attorney committed to the best defense of his clients. He declared, “After the Marines…I said to myself I will no longer get pushed around by anyone, even a judge.”
    When Cavicchi first met Greco, “he had been in jail for 8 years. I was referred to him by a past client. I was struck by his story and his unwavering belief in his innocence. I agreed to represent him and reviewed the case.”
    What Cavicchi found was overwhelming evidence that exonerated Greco. His client took and passed several lie detector tests. Greco was in Miami at the time of the murder, according to many eyewitnesses; none of whom were called to testify at the original trial.
    “I remember telling him that he would be out in six months,” said Cavicchi. “The case against him was a joke. What I didn’t realize then was just how tangled up was the system and how slow it works when there is a miscarriage of justice.”
    Over a 20 year span, Cavicchi filed petitions, met with different prosecutors, pleaded with judges and governors for Greco’s release. A main cause of delay was bigotry: Since Greco was Italian American, he was presumed guilty by many in the justice system.
    Cavicchi said, “You had judges that did not do their jobs. At times, I thought they did not even read the case. They did not look at the evidence. They tried to push it aside. Bury it. They made believe nothing wrong happened. There was always an assumption that since they were Italian they were involved in criminal activity.”
    FBI agents Rico and Condon remained involved in the case during Cavicchi’s appeals. “They were continuously lying,” said the lawyer. “They were covering up the case. They were submitting false information during hearings.”
    Cavicchi did not let the case die.
    He kept filing petitions and motions. He kept digging. More evidence was uncovered that proved again and again his client was innocent.
    In 1995, Greco died of colon cancer in prison. Two years later, the governor agreed to commute Salvati’s sentence to time already served. In 2000, Cavicchi began representing Limone and won his client’s release in 2001. All convictions were then vacated. Meanwhile, the Justice Department convened an internal investigation that proved FBI agents had framed the defendants and covered up their crime.
     Although Cavicchi was a key factor in overturning the wrongful convictions of Greco, Limone and others, he had to sue another attorney and his former client to participate in the eventual lawsuit.
    By the time PRIMO interview him in 2007, Cavicchi was hardened and disillusioned by the case and its aftereffects. He said about defending Greco and Limone, “I thought it was no big deal. They were innocent and should have been released long ago. I came to realize how few people perform their roles. Many people do not do their jobs. There were some exceptions but most people did not come through.”
    What Cavicchi gained was a newfound appreciation for his Italian roots. Seeing how ethnic prejudices and bigotry worked against his clients, Cavicchi began to look inward and rediscovered his Italian heritage.
    “I always thought of myself as American, not Italian American,” he said. “My parents never spoke to me in Italian. I was all-American, through and through. That’s all changed now. I attend language schools in Italy. I speak Italian. I read books on Italian history and ancient Rome. I have become a true Italian American.”

We at PRIMO convey our condolences to the Cavicchi family on the passing of John. He was one of the country’s best attorneys with a legacy worthy of great praise and celebration. The angels now greet him with the rewards of justice. His life is best summed up from words in the Book of Isaiah: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause.” John Cavicchi…rest in peace.



Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours Take Visitors to The Ancient Sites and Finest Eateries in Italy
Interview with Principals Elizabeth Bartman and Maureen Fant


Elizabeth Bartman and Maureen Fant conceive and lead tours throughout Italy. Their expertise is on archaeology and gourmet food. PRIMO interviewed them both on future Italian destinations and what makes their touring company different than others.

Neither of you are Italian. Tell us what got you both interested in Italy

Right, we’re not Italian or even Italian American. But our interest in Italy goes way back, to our studies of classics and archaeology. We both spent an undergraduate semester in Rome and kept returning.

Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours is different than other tours because of your focus on Italy’s archaeological sites. Summarize, if you will, the sites seen and insights gained from visiting Italy through your company.

Archaeology is the study of the material past, the actual things people built, made, and used. The word may sound arcane, but all cultures have archaeology. When there’s no written record, or when, as often, the written sources are incomplete or inaccurate, archaeology is the only way to reconstruct that lost culture. Archaeology tells us how ancient peoples lived, what they ate, how they buried their dead, made art, etc. It’s the starting point for learning history. Of course, Elifant’s focus on archaeology doesn’t blind us to later art in Italy—if there’s a wonderful church along our route, we’ll pay a visit. Liz is a trained art historian with interests and knowledge that go way beyond antiquity. But don’t imagine that our tours are for eggheads. Tour participants emphatically do not need to arrive already familiar with the intricacies of Greco-Roman architecture or Romanesque bas-reliefs. Everything gets explained in plain English.

Our tours are different from other archaeological tours because they’re also food tours. We treat food as culture and history as well as something to be enjoyed in the moment. Wherever possible, we make connections, draw lines, if you will, between the ancient remains and what people ate then, now, and in more recent local tradition. We call our tours archaeo-culinary, as opposed to, say, “archaeological and culinary,” to emphasize the connection between the two focuses. Take our flagship Rome tour as an example. In the course of a week’s tour we learn how the ancient city was able to feed its one million people. On Monday we’re out at the ports of Ostia and Portus seeing the harbor where ships carrying grain from Egypt docked and the vast warehouses where that grain was stored. By Saturday we’re underground in the city center seeing where the grain was distributed as a dole (the bread of the infamous “bread and circuses”). During the week we visit a manmade mountain made of discarded vessels that once held oil and wine, aqueducts that brought pure spring water over hundreds of miles, an imperial villa with a seaside dining room decorated with spectacular statues, and much more. On this tour, like all our tours, we get special permissions to visit places that are normally closed to the public. We also draw on our extensive professional and personal networks to bring in special lecturers and guides—sometimes even the archaeologist who excavated the site.

Your focus is on both archaeology and food. Is there a connection between the two endeavors? If so, how?

Yes, there is a connection, in many ways. It can start when you’re an archaeology student going on research trips or digs in remote parts of the Mediterranean and eating the local food at the most down-home level. On another level, so much of archaeology is about food. All that pottery—whether for storage, transport, kitchen, or table—contained food. All those temples had altars where animals were sacrificed—and then eaten. Ancient trade was about much more than marble and minerals; it was about wine, wheat, and spices. Our Rome tour is all about supplying and feeding the ancient city—interspersed with great meals and experiences to illustrate how Romans eat today and have traditionally eaten in the same places in more recent history. There’s a more abstract connection as well. A classical archaeologist looks at a society as a whole through its material remains, not just at the important figures in history and literature. In early societies, much of the economy was food-related. Food too is a window on a whole society and in many ways inseparable from archaeology, whether we’re looking at how ancient kitchens and restaurants were built or what kind of food was depicted on Pompeian wall paintings or what wealthy Romans ate at dinner parties.

Archaeological sites are all over Italy. Your company plans and leads tours throughout Italy. Coming up are tours to the Etruscan Places, Eastern Sicily and Rome. Share with us some highlights of these and other places in Italy that you plan to visit.

Highlights? Our tours are one thrill after another! At a cooking school in the smallest town in Sardinia (population 82), we helped make a fantastic lunch then climbed to the top of a prehistoric stone tower (nuraghe). In Positano, we visited a newly excavated Roman villa beneath the main piazza (it took months to get permission). Lunch that day was a seafood tour de force at a Michelin-starred restaurant way out on the Sorrento peninsula. We’ve seen Etruscan tombs not open to the public thanks to the top authority on Etruscan painting, who was also our guide. We’ve had meals in private homes, from country villas to urban palazzi. Then there’s the morning at the buffalo farm—with tasting of freshly made mozzarella di bufala. And have you ever had ricotta di bufala? It’s a revelation!
Romans regard Rome in October as one of the great universal collaborative achievements of man and nature, so naturally that’s when we go to Rome, but also Etruria, which is to say, Etruscan Places. We concentrate on the much-less-touristed northern part of the Lazio region. Visitors tend to skip it in their haste to get to Tuscany, but we love medieval Orvieto (today inside Umbria by a hair’s breadth) and Viterbo, the hazelnut groves near beautiful Lake Vico, Etruscan sites where literally nobody goes. We think it’s all magic. In eastern Sicily, we won’t attempt to climb Mount Etna, but will certainly taste its products, starting with those wonderful wines and sweet-tart oranges. We’re looking forward to a morning in the Catania market, where the fish are practically jumping and the fruits and vegetables are the most voluptuous we’ve ever seen. There are so many wonderful things to see in Italy, that it must be difficult, at times, which one to pick and choose to visit.

What do you look for, in a specific landmark, be it an archaeological site or restaurant, to say to yourself, “Ah, now this is a place to visit…”?

First we choose a general destination—say, Bay of Naples or Rome or Etruscan Places. We normally do that by identifying clusters of archaeological sites and great archaeological museums around which we can build a week-long itinerary. Surprisingly, not every part of Italy is equally archaeology-intensive. For food, it’s different. Everywhere in Italy has great food. There may be more Michelin stars in one area, more great rustic trattorias in another, but we love it all. Thus we can fit the food itinerary around the site visits. In the case of Emilia-Romagna, we pretty much built the itinerary around the food, following the Po river from the province of Piacenza to the Adriatic. But it’s usually the other way around.

We like to cover the whole spectrum of dining, from unreconstructed tradition to up-to-the-minute interpretations of local specialties. The only thing we avoid is food that is totally irrelevant to where we are. What gets a particular spot onto the itinerary? Sometimes it’s just love—for a quirky old-fashioned museum in a small town in Puglia or for bucatini alla gricia in the Testaccio quarter in Rome or Sicilian couscous in Trapani. Sometimes a place is too important to ignore (plus we love it)—say, Selinunte, in Sicily, or Barumini, in Sardinia. But mostly, we seek out the places in our chosen area that we think our participants might overlook (and kick themselves later for missing them), or where they might not go on their own for logistical reasons, or where we can provide a fresh and special experience, sometimes with a guest expert who happens to be a friend too. Rome and its province, which have some of everything, is a no-brainer, an obvious choice. We know places in and around Rome where our people have never gone on their ten previous trips to the Eternal City. One comment we hear all the time is, “We’re alone here!” Maureen lives across from the Colosseum, but a major destination like that is not on our Rome itinerary.

It helps if a spot is relevant to our archaeo-culinary theme. Even when we choose a super-popular destination, like Pompeii, we give it a food-related spin—we emphasize markets, bakeries, kitchens, and dining rooms over temples and other public buildings. Food permeated so much of ancient life that we can even justify visits to tombs because ritual meals were eaten there on festivals of the dead. Pompeii has at least one tomb made like a dining room. We once had a picnic on top of a tomb shaped like a bench. In the inscription, the deceased, a priestess, invited the passer-by to stop and rest. So we did. The connections are everywhere.

Since you both have been touring Italy, how has the country changed you? Do you feel “Italian”?

Maureen: Rome has been my home base for longer than I’m going to tell you, and I have a Roman husband. Do I feel Italian? No. I’m from Manhattan and love to go back there, but I don’t exactly feel not Italian either. I’ve definitely adopted many Italian rhythms, manners, and ways of doing things, in the kitchen, of course, but not only. I don’t get too worked up when an office or museum is closed when it’s supposed to be open, so maybe I’ve become more patient. I speak the language fluently and often find an Italian phrase says what I want better than English, and vice versa. Most important for Elifant, I had to learn how to get along with people in Italy and do things the Italian way—as opposed to having it all come naturally, as to a native. That experience makes me better able to know and explain what our people might find odd or might not even realize is different in Italy.

Liz: I first came to Italy as an undergraduate studying in Rome, and the experience changed my life. Visiting ancient sites with an archaeologist and seeing Renaissance and baroque art with an expert art historian opened up new worlds for me and set me on my present career path. Being in Rome for a full semester enabled me to see places like the Vatican multiple times, experiencing it in different light and in the rain and sun—boy, did I come to appreciate how special the light in Italy was for artists. I traveled around the country as much as I could on a (very) modest budget, but even then was able to eat local delicacies and get a sense of how seriously Italians take food. Back then the museums were often closed and the personnel surly, but I am happy to report that there is an entirely new attitude now; one of the biggest changes I see is the new professionalism in the museums and archaeological sites—longer opening hours, beautifully renovated displays, explanatory material in both English and Italian. The Italians lead the world in museum curatorship and conservation. And of course Italy has the highest percentage of the world’s art. Italy has deepened my appreciation of beauty, both in art and in nature—not to get misty-eyed, but it has enlarged my soul.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours, please visit their web site at




"Addicted to Hate" is Semi-Autobiographical, Claims the Author


The author is pictured top and as an infant, with her mother, a Sicilian immigrant to South Africa.

Lucia Mann remains ahead of her time as an advocate against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. PRIMO spoke to her recently about her new novel “Addicted to Hate.”

You have been involved in the cause of international slavery for some years. What is the latest regarding your work in this area?

Like most survivors, I have much to “teach” about bravery, emotional-resilience, self-respect, and reclaiming one’s life. I have been an anti-slavery activist and advocate for over 50 years. From former personal shame and silent suffering, I’m now an advocate against other hate crimes and criminal behavior… the abuse that has many forms, from physical, emotional, and verbal, to financial abuse.

My four published books under the heading “The African Freedom Series” are currently available on Amazon. They are: “Rented Silence,” “The Sicilian Veil of Shame,” “Africa’s Unfinished Symphony,” and “A Veil of Blood Hangs over Africa.” They were inspired by actual events and highlight firsthand the horrors of slavery, both past and present. I wrote these books to become the voice of stifled voices who have suffered heinous and brutal crimes against humanity … the hunger for freedom and justice was written on dark faces of enslaved human beings, including myself in this brutal era. “Rented Silence” is partly autobiographical. I could release the dark deeds of my own upbringing under British colonial rule and later apartheid in South Africa. I was born in the wake of World War II in British colonial South Africa where evil and darkness was rampant if you were not Caucasian! I was ethnically stereotyped as half-caste … colored … because of the union between my very dark-skinned Sicilian mother and light-skinned British father. I was not of “pure” race. I joined the ranks of other “inferior” beings who were typecast by the color of their skin. I suffered silently with them until I wrote about these factual atrocities. Racial profiling and the international slave trade has not pricked the conscience of the world because it still exists! On my website, under the “Articles” heading is an article I wrote: “Shame on the Governments of the World”… the ongoing war against modern-day slavery and racism.

"Addicted to Hate" is your new novel. It's not about slavery, but another form of persecution - one closer to home - domestic abuse. In the novel, it is the main character Maddie and the mental and physical torment she endures from her husband and her three daughters. What led you to write this book?

My latest book “Addicted to Hate” was written to inspire other victims out there that are too ashamed to speak out about their “brokenness.” Human beings, who are being subjected to criminal behavior by relatives, partners, and adult children. In my humble opinion, any abuse is a form of slavery … bullying for self-gratification by those who pour out their frustration anger and blame the whole world, especially their parents, for their own failures in their lives. In my opinion, these mentally-unstable individuals lack the human consideration for the rights of other souls and have complete disregard for others on any level. It’s never justifiable for the strong to abuse the weak and prey on them.

All your books have evolved from personal experience. And now comes "Addicted to Hate." How much of this book did you personally experience? Has writing this book help you cope with the torment of the past?

Yes, writing “Addicted to Hate” was therapeutical. It gave me the courage to show other hurting souls the depths of how unconscionable others can go. The chapters are 82 percent personal experience. I am a victim of parental and disabled senior abuse who was embarrassed to tell anyone; even the people closest to me. However, it was necessary to fictionalize some events and characters for my own protection. Nevertheless, in writing this raw story, it finally gave me the right to push the burdening shame aside and reclaim my life … say NO MORE to the intimidating bullies that took so much from me.

In Maddie's case, the abuse is unending. It begins in South Africa inside an orphanage managed by nuns. As an adolescent girl, she undergoes genital mutilation. And then she suffers from government sanctioned bigotry and is exiled to Italy. From there, the abuse is domestic; at the hands of her husband and then children. It seems you are making the case that societal abuse leads intrinsically to domestic abuse. Is that true? Why?

Yes, Maddie’s (my) suffering seems unending, but Maddie (I) was blessed with many inner-strength “gifts” ― emotional-resilience ―self-respect―, intelligence, and to not hold myself accountable for wrongdoers who did not succeed in breaking my spirit. From early childhood, I told myself: “You are NOT to blame for mankind's evils.” “Suffering won’t kill you … death will!” Yes, I choose to believe that societal abuse leads instinctively to domestic violence. Because I am living testimony at 73 years of age to have survived the odds of this deep-rooted behavior. Sever … divorce … the hateful from your life. You deserve better.

What advice can you give to women facing the same dire circumstances that Maddie faced? What can they do to escape the cycle of abuse?

To those who can relate to the raw pain in “Addicted to Hate,” and are a victim, I’ll give this sound advice: push shame and embarrassment aside and reclaim your life. Follow in Maddies’s (my) footsteps because you have the UNIVERSAL right to be loved without rhyme or reason. The right to PEACE. The right to FREEDOM. The right to say NO. The right to DIGNITY. The right to COMPASSION. The right to refute DISRESPECTFUL dialogue, not be subjected to schoolyards spitballs fights. The right to say: NO MORE!

Those who abuse others occupy an offensive, stone-cold category of their own and are not rationally-minded. Just trying to comprehend their unfathomable behavior is painful to victims and challenging. But only if you let them WIN … allow others that is, to take control of a life that is not theirs to dominate. Never let these words come from your mouth” “Why did I let this happen? Why do I let them take their rage out on me?” YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME! AND WHY SHOULD ONE FORGIVE ANOTHER? In my opinion, it merely gives the wrongdoer the right to “move on.” Do you, the abused, have this same right when you can NEVER forget? If you are a victim of abuse, it is time to reclaim your own life free of toxic hatred. I did it. So can you!

Editor’s Note: You can find out more about Lucia Mann, her work in combating modern day slavery and to purchase her new novel “Addicted to Hate” at


As Featured in PRIMO’s First Edition 2019 - Six Book Reviews

Diversity defines this set of books reviewed in PRIMO’s First Edition 2019. Three are novels, two are non-fiction and one is a children’s book. They have in common the Italian heritage and are written by Italian Americans.

“Addicted to Hate,” by Lucia Mann; Grassroots Publishing Group; Available on

At one point, Lucia Mann’s “Addicted to Hate” reads like an international spy thriller. Main character Madeline Clark, a.k.a., “Maddie,” is employed as a code breaker for British Intelligence. She works at military bases with security experts and secret agents. Yet, Maddie is no James Bond. Far from it. She is a victim of terrible domestic abuse. Lucia Mann is no stranger to the plights of victims. Not just an author, she is also a political activist who was ahead of her time as a lead voice against international slavery many years ago. Lucia wrote several books on the subject, including the heart-wrenching novel, “Sicilian Veil of Shame.” As the title suggests, the author’s Sicilian background motivated her to convey the suffering of persecuted Sicilians in Africa; an overlooked historical injustice. Lucia revisits this crisis in the beginning of “Addicted to Hate.” Here, the protagonist is victimized at an orphanage in apartheid South Africa. Maddie’s Sicilian blood defines her as “dark skinned” in South Africa and she is grouped with indigenous Africans by Anglo and Dutch authorities. What follows is a story of abuse and survival. Maddie is deemed a “foreigner” when the government expels her from South Africa. A teenager, she is given an escort to take her to Italy; only to be abandoned by the guardian in Milan. She then meets and falls in love with David, a British rock musician visiting Italy. Together, they resettle in London where Maddie must endure years of physical and emotional abuse by David. She is all but divorced from him when she gives birth to their daughter, Joanne. What might seem a blessing turns out to be a curse. Away from David, Joanne grows to hate her mother. Maddie then adopts Mary Jean, who inherits her older sister’s disdain for their mother. With another man, Maddie has a daughter Mara, who, we later learn, is psychotic. Maddie finds herself in an awful predicament. She is confronted by three daughters who plot and scheme against her. When her health begins to fail, the youngest, Mara, physically abuses her. The story turns on the inner strength of Maddie. Although a victim of abuse, she is able to break free from the troubled past. She is the kind-hearted warrior who is able to withstand her children’s hatred. “Addicted to Hate” is a story that takes us behind the nightly news stories of domestic abuse cases. We see the underlying currents of societal injustice giving way to family dysfunction and turmoil. What counts is strength and resilience. In that way, the story of Maddie is the story of us all. Lucia Mann gives us another deserving novel.

“Italians of Lackawanna County,” by Stephanie Longo; published by Arcadia Publishing; available at
Lackawanna County, with its rolling forested hills and fertile valleys, contains one of the highest concentrations of Italian Americans in the country. Stephanie Longo knows Lackawanna County well. She is a writer who specializes in the ethnic makeup of Eastern Pennsylvania. She now gives us an extraordinary book that pays special tribute to this specific region in Pennsylvania in “Italians of Lackawanna County.” Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers and Protestant Independents 400 years ago. What was once a colony has become a state of people from different countries and of different creeds. Pennsylvania is now more Roman Catholic thanks to the influx of many Italians. Stephanie writes: “Lackawanna County’s Italian festival season begins in May with ‘La Corsa dei Ceri,’ or the Race of the Saints, in Jessup and ends in September with a festival in honor of Our Lady of Constantinople in Old Forge. In between these festivals are other observances, processions, and celebrations—all tied to keeping ethnic traditions alive and celebrating those who came from all over Italy to settle in the region.” Many photographs of Roman Catholic processions are in the book with informative captions to bring greater depth to the celebrations. In the Race of the Saints, we see various teams of men dressed in different colors. This is contained in a chapter focused on religion. Other chapters precede and follow with photographs and well-researched commentary to espouse different aspects of Italian life here such as work, family and culture. How and why Italians came to this region might be summed up in one word: Coal. Stephanie writes: “When the first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Lackawanna County from regions such as Umbria, Campania, Calabria, and Sicily, they had to work a variety of jobs, such as farmers and skilled laborers. However, the chief employer for Italian immigrants arriving in Lackawanna County was the anthracite coal mining industry.” This books brightly shines upon achievements of the county’s Italians. There is Gino Merli, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. We read about Anthony and Frank Suraci and the Parodi Cigars they founded. We read about the Parise family and the stone monuments they have created over the years. So many more stories of important Italian Americans are included. “Italians of Lackawanna County” is a marvelous book that espouses, not only the special attributes of Italians, but, moreover, Americans. Ours is a great country because of our people. We commend Stephanie for adding one more book in the record of America’s greatness.

“The Five-Ingredient Cookbook: 101 Regional Classics Made Simple,” by Francesca Montillo; published by Rockridge Press. Available at and
Nothing beats an Italian cookbook such as “The Five-Ingredient Cookbook: 101 Regional Classics Made Simple,” by Francesca Montillo. Here is a stunning collection of Italian recipes. The book might be edible if not for the fact that it is made of paper. Francesca runs a touring company called Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures. She is from Catanzaro, in the Calabria region of Italy, where she learned how to cook watching her parents in the kitchen. She said in an interview on PRIMO’s web site, “We had home-cooked meals every single day, with fresh baked cookies and cakes. In hindsight, I know I was very blessed. We were eating organic before it was cool to do so. Meals were healthy, seasonal, delicious and not only nourishing for the body but also the soul.” Francesca’s new cookbook conveys many Italian dishes in the most streamlined way. Francesca knows her subject well and provides the ingredients, directions and commentaries to make cooking a special joy. She writes: “Italians love home cooking, and while Italy doesn’t lack for delicious restaurants, far more meals are eaten at home than out. Ask any Italian where their favorite place to eat is, and their response will likely be ‘my mother’s!’” Photographer Darren Muir works well with Francesca in bringing colorful life to these delectable meals. All dishes stand out as glorious creations. The book makes a person hungry after browsing a few pages. “…it’s easy to prepare dishes with five main ingredients or less, as everything used offers maximum flavor,” writes Francesca in her Introduction. Chapters follow on the regions of Italy and the basics of ingredients and kitchenware. We then come to a showcase of extraordinary recipes. For antipasti, there is “Asparagus wrapped with Prosciutto” and “Roman Style Spinach” with raisins, among ohers. For soups and salads, there is “Bean and Tuna Salad,” “Chickpea Soup,” and more. A chapter on pizza and bread is followed by one on meat, such as as “Balsamic Vinegar Steak” and “Pork with Olives.” Chapters on chicken and seafood come later and we finish with dessert. Here, we learn how to make such items as “Anise Sponge Cake” and “Lemon Bundt” cake. No doubt, Italians are blessed with great food. “The Five-Ingredient Cookbook” beautifully takes us back home to cook the wonders of our ancestors. A great cookbook, indeed!

“The Serpent’s Disciple,” by Deborah Stevens; published by Calumet Editions. Available at and Barnes&
Deborah Stevens holds nothing back in her novel, “The Serpent’s Disciple.” Here is a story connected to the conspiracy theories of the New World Order and Freemason infiltration of the Vatican. Similar to the Book of Revelation is the ultimate battle between good and evil. Except, Debra’s version is more clandestine and surreptitious than the Apostle John’s. “The Serpent’s Disciple” is an exciting and intriguing novel set in Italy. It is to be translated in Italian and available in Italy next year, along with a second book by Deborah entitled, “Holy Predator.” “The Serpent’s Disciple” includes all the attributes of a thriller that has its main focus the Roman Catholic Church. The novel contains scenes where protagonists uncover hidden codes among great works of art. We read about secret agendas and schemes taking place inside the Vatican. There are villas in the Italian countryside where meetings are held by those who seek to overturn the Church. And so on. The story revolves around the exploits of brother and sister Anthony and Antonella Andruccioli and their pilgrimage from America to their father’s homeland of Pesaro, Italy. Anthony is an architect who belongs to a secret group of Catholic defenders known as The Guardians. Antonella is unaware of Anthony’s affiliation until she has visions that show her to be The Chosen One. She and Anthony understand their destiny. They are to defend the Church from a takeover by the Antichrist. Indeed, while the two are in Pesaro, a gathering of the P2 Masonic Lodge has convened somewhere else in Italy with top leaders in politics and industry. They have hatched a plan to assassinate the sitting pope and put in place their leader, the P2 Grand Master, Peter Romanus. They hope to rule the world with a dark religion that overturns the principles as set forth in Holy Scripture. What follows is a race against time to stop the conspiracy and restore the Catholic Church. Deborah knows her material well and we are the better for it. Her novel is not in line with the “Da Vinci Code,” a popular book and revisionary view of Christianity; ultimately heretical and, in the end, not believable. Rather, with “The Serpent’s Disciple,” we have the valid structures of faith, both tangible and spiritual. It is a novel far more exciting because it is closer to the truth. One wonders that, in light of the recent scandals coming out of the Vatican, today, if such a story as Deborah’s is actually occurring now. “The Serpent’s Disciple” is awesome.

“A Boy at Heart,” by Ray M. Vento; pictures by Jay Mazhar; published by Vengiugno Press; Available at
Hard to realize, with its endless highways and urban sprawl, but, at one time, Los Angeles was a lot like New York and Chicago. The city was designed with a straight line grid to host a well-run public transportation system that took residents to a downtown of elegant department stores, fine restaurants and beautiful theaters. Ray M. Vento grew up in Los Angeles after World War II. The grandson of Sicilian immigrants, he knew his city at the dawn of the hydrocarbon age. He said in an interview on PRIMO’s web site, “Following World War II, as did so many other cities, rapid change became an operative description for how we lived…But what always remained was the beautiful landscape of mountains and ocean cupping the mushrooming of new communities. Back then, it was possible to take a Sunday ride to ski in Big Bear and have a family picnic at a local beach along the way. You would drive by orange groves and roadside farm stands. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s was amazing.” Such recollections inspired the author to conceive a set of children’s books in the “Sam Caruso” series. Three books, thus far, have been published. The main character is one Sam Caruso; much like Vento, a boy of Italian ethnicity living with his parents, a grandfather nearby, and kindly, God-fearing neighbors, in 1950s Los Angeles. In “A Boy at Heart,” Sam celebrates his birthday with a special gift from his Aunt Nancy. They are to see a play at the Biltmore Theater. All dressed up, Sam and his aunt take their seats inside - what was then - one of the country’s most spectacular theaters. The Biltmore was built in 1924, at first, to show silent films and, then, live plays after World War II. In 1964, it was demolished for a parking lot. “A Boy at Heart” comes alive in water color illustrations by Jay Mazhar. These are the kinds of heartwarming pictures we grew up with; before children’s stories were ruled by abstract and esoteric drawings. Ray writes a story that reminds us of when we were young; when we lived in close proximity to our aunts, uncles and cousins. When family gatherings were absolute. When a child’s birthday was to be attended by all and a happy time was guaranteed. “A Boy at Heart” is more than a tale of innocence. It is a book that reminds us what true fantasy is - not Never Never Land, but a time and place that should be resurrected, retained and forever valued. “A Boy at Heart” is exceptional!

“Her Spanish Doll,” by Joanne Fisher;; Available at and
One is hard-pressed to find a locale more enchanting than Italy’s Lake Garda. This is Italy’s largest lake, as surrounded by looming mountains and majestic vineyards and replete with fairy tale castles and villages. It is no wonder then that Joanne Fisher begins her novel “Her Spanish Doll” in this incredible area of Italy. This is a tale of romance - Italian style - that takes readers on a whirlwind tour of passion and intrigue from Lake Garda to different regions of Italy and different parts of the world. Joanne is no stranger to romantic fiction. She wrote and published “With All of Me,” a story that explores the world of online dating and what may come from love affairs in the digital age. In “Her Spanish Doll,” the setting begins in Italy, at a place Joanne knows well. In a PRIMO web site interview, she said, “…in 1980, my dad decided to go back to Italy to live. I was just out of college, and it was frowned upon for young Italian women to live on their own in those days, so I followed my parents and my sister to move to Italy. We lived in northern Italy, around the south part of Lake Garda, for 17 years. My sister and I both married local Italian men. I had 3 children, and my sister had two. All five of our children were born in Desenzano Del Garda, province of Brescia.” In “Her Spanish Doll,” we follow the exploits of Fiore, an Italian woman working at a restaurant in Lake Garda. There, she meets eyes with Sebastián Cremenes, a Spanish businessman, and the two fall madly in love. Complications arise since Fiore is engaged and Sebastián is married. Soon, she is given a gift of a Spanish doll. What follows is an intertwining plot of passion, money and secrets while the fire of romance rages on between the two main characters. Joanne writes perceptively and engagingly when it comes to the Italian feminine mystique. It is the female beauty that drives men to reach for the stars. She writes, “Well, he was there in body, but not in spirit. He had Fiore on his mind…She was a goddess in his eyes and she had already place a spell on him. All he did was look into those piercing brown eyes and poof! He was captivated by her beauty. He was hers! But was she his?” “Her Spanish Doll” captures the passion of Italian romance. It is a book that celebrates the settings of love in Italy. “Her Spanish Doll” is a book for all lovers, Italian young and old.

Editor’s Note: To order a copy of PRIMO’s First Edition 2019, please log on to our back issues pages and scroll to bottom for the newest available edition at PRIMO Back Issues.



Two Italian Priests and One Layperson Reach Sainthood by Different Paths
Read about Pope Paul VI and his sainthood in PRIMO's current edition

In the current edition of PRIMO, we examine the life and legacy of Pope Paul VI. Born Giovanni Montini, he is named a saint this year by Pope Francis. Read about Pope Paul VI in this new edition of PRIMO. To order a copy of PRIMO’s Second Edition 2018, please access the following link:

Pope Paul VI is not the only person named a saint. With him is Father Oscar Romero, Sister Ignacia Nazaria March Mesa, and Sister Maria Katharina Kasper.

There are other Italians named saints besides Pope Paul VI. They come from different parts of Italy and come to canonization through different callings of faith. They are Father Vincent Romano, Nunzio Sulprizio and Father Francesco Spinelli.


Father Vincent Romano
. The people of Torre del Greco know Father Vincent Romano well. He is their patron saint, not to mention also the patron saint of orphans and sailors. Father Romano was born in Torre del Greco in 1751 and ordained a priest in 1775. He devoted himself to helping the poor and orphans. Torre del Greco lies beside the Bay of Naples and is famous for its many cameo workshops. A beautiful white church, the Basilica of Santa Croce, is in town beside the Piazza Santa Croce. If not for Father Romano, the church would not be standing there today. Much of the region laid in ruins after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1794. Father Romano was the parish treasurer and led the effort to restore the church. He collected donations and oversaw the construction of a new church based on designs by architect Ignazio di Nardo. Father Romano was called by locals the “worker priest” for his unstinted efforts, including removing stones and other debris after the earthquake. By 1827, the Basilica of Santa Croce was fully restored and consecrated. Father Romano died four years later. His canonization comes with two miracles. The first had to do with Maria Carmela Restock, diagnosed with breast cancer in 1891. She sought Father Romano’s intercession and made a full recovery. The second miracle occurred after Maria Carmela Cozzolino was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1940. She too recovered after Father Romano’s intercession.


Nunzio Sulprizio
. Nunzio Sulprizio led a difficult and sad life before he died in 1836 at the age of 19. Pain and suffering, abuse and neglect, were the primary conditions of his childhood and adolescence. His canonization stands as a model of faith. He never gave in to despair or cruelty even though his short life was harsh and unfair. Nunzio said the rosary often and believed deeply in Christ. He was born in 1817 on Easter Sunday in Pescara, in the village of Pescosansonesco. At the age of three, he lost both his father and baby sister. His mother then remarried a man of wealth who mocked and verbally abused him. When she died, Nunzio went to live with his grandmother who taught him the rosary. After she passed away, he lived with his uncle, a brutal blacksmith who physically beat him. The boy was taken out of school and sent on long errands through the countryside. His uncle would not feed him if he made a mistake in the workshop. His leg was cut on one of his long treks. He was ostracized by townsfolk after the laceration became infected and they thought him contagious or unclean. He was hospitalized in Naples after the onset of gangrene. With no one to pay for his care, he was left on the street to beg. Colonel Felice Wochinger found him there, a child alone, sick and starving. He gave him refuge and from then on was like a father to him. He paid for his medical care and Nunzio began to recover. Then the doctors discovered he had bone cancer. His leg was amputated but the cancer remained and he died in 1836. Throughout these terrible ordeals, Nunzio declared his love for Christ and saw in Him his model. People from all over Naples came to his funeral. He was loved and praised for his unflinching faith, his kindness and gentleness.

Francesco Spinelli
. Francesco Spinelli was born in Milan in 1853 and was ordained a priest in 1875. He lived in Cremona and Bergamo before moving to Rome. There, he received a vision while praying at the Basilica di Santa Maggiore. He saw women devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. He founded an order of nuns in Bergamo in 1882. With little experience in business administration or accounting, Father Spinelli mismanaged donations and the bishop forced him to sever ties to the convent. He returned to Cremona a failure. Yet, he did not give up. He believed in his calling to begin an order of nuns that would help the poor. In 1892, he founded the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament. Father Spinelli learned from his previous experience and structured the order on sound financial footing. After he died in 1913, the sisters grew to an order of 59 convents serving the faithful in Argentina and Senegal.


Interveiw with Museum Director Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa

An Interview with Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa on the Status of the New Italian American Museum:

As we begin 2019, what can you tell us about the status of the new museum?

"Now that we have removed the Banca Stabile artifacts (vault, teller cases, light fixtures and deposit table) and placed them in storage, the demolition of the existing buildings has begun. The developer has erected scaffolding along the Mulberry and Grand Streets sides of the existing buildings. The anticipated building completion is by the end of this year."

What effect do you think the new museum will have on Little Italy, whose “shrinkage” has been the subject of news stories?

"Once the building is completed, we will begin assembling artifacts in the new museum and expect we will have a grand opening in Spring 2020. It is our hope the new IAM will become a community nexus, much like Banca Stabile was in its heyday. Of course, our focus will be history and culture. More to the point, IAM will be a permanent neighborhood anchor to help ensure Little Italy will always be an important and vibrant part of New York City. We owe a lot to the long-time businesses that have remained. The museum may be in the heart of Little Italy, but the Italian merchants are its soul."

What are your fundraising and public attendance goals?

"We would be thrilled to say that one million people visited the new IAM during its first year. It’s an achievable goal, and we hope to get there with a full program of exhibitions and events. Through museum visits and annual fundraising events, we will seek to keep IAM’s finances healthy."

What do you want museum visitors to leave with?

"With so much interest in ancestry, we think we’re in the right place at the right time. But for the “Italians of New York” exhibit at the New-York Historical Society more than a decade ago, Italian Americans have never had a permanent place that celebrates their heritage, which includes an especially long list of achievers, many of whom are unsung. When they visit, we think they’ll be enriched by the experience as a whole, and this is crucial for younger generations."

To learn more about New York's Italian American Museum, please visit





Dina Di Maio conveys the amazing history of Italian food in her extraordinary new book, “Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People.”

In PRIMO’s latest edition - 2nd Edition 2018 - we gave Dina a thumb’s up for writing an incredible book. Here is an excerpt from our review: “The book is richly insightful, informative and entertaining. We all love Italian food. What better way to know what we love than to read an extraordinary book about the origins and travels of the world’s greatest cuisine.”

Dina’s passion for all things Italian will lead her to write other great books. For now, she shares with us her background and insight into what made her write “Authentic Italian.”

Tell us about your family background.

I have to tell you about my grandparents. They were from Italy. They made all the traditional foods for the popular holidays like Christmas and Easter, but also for lesser-known Italian holidays or seasons like St. Joseph’s Day and Lent. Grandma was from the Naples metro area, so she used to make zeppole and calzones for St. Joseph’s Day. The smell of frying dough that came out of her kitchen on those days will stay with me always. For Christmas, I’d make fried bowknot cookies with her. I still remember as a kid, standing on the chairs in the kitchen so I could reach the table. She’d cut the rolled-out dough with a fluted pastry cutter. Then she’d make a hole in the middle, and tie it through. She taught me a couple of ways to “tie” the bows. I still make them—I made them for this past book club. For the holidays, she’d take me with her to all the Italian specialty stores like the butcher shop, the fish market, the pastry shop, the bread bakery. Grandma was very particular about the food we ate. She taught me to be that way too, and I’m sure many of our members have similar memories.

Despite the fact that there is this collective memory of recipes and traditions passed down to us, there is a trend in the food media today to distinguish between Italian and Italian-American food. It goes so far as to claim that Italian-American food is not “real” Italian food. I know this isn’t true because I am Italian American and I grew up on Italian food. But I didn’t hear anyone defending Italian-American foodways. Actually, to the contrary, I heard many famous Italian-American chefs endorsing it. I became so frustrated waiting for someone to speak up that I decided to do something about it myself, which is how my book came to be written. In it, I discuss the food of Italian Americans, and how it is “authentic” Italian. In fact, it’s based primarily on the cuisine of Southern Italy because the majority of immigrants to the United States 100 years ago were from Naples and Sicily. Italian-American food is so deeply connected to the history of Southern Italy and the events that precipitated the migration, a history many people, including Italian Americans, are either not aware of or have misconceptions about. For these reasons, I was compelled to write Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People.

What inspired you to write “Authentic Italian”?

Young Italian Americans are my inspiration. I want them to grow up with a sense of pride in who they are and what their ancestors have accomplished. We are not the Jersey Shore; we are not the Sopranos. We are millions and millions of people who have kept our traditions alive through the generations, through recipes handed-down from our grandparents and great-grandparents, through religious traditions, through music, through art, through dance. When you play the tarantella at your wedding, you are honoring our heritage. The Sicilian traditions of making cuccidati cookies at Christmas, a painstaking process but rewarding because it is time spent with family, or creating the marvelous altars to St. Joseph on the Saint’s feast day in New Orleans. The men who raise the Giglio in Brooklyn every year. The band that plays the processional music down Mulberry Street in New York’s Little Italy to honor San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples.

How long did it take to write the book?

Between the researching and the writing, it took four years. But you could say it was a lifetime in the making because it deals with topics beyond only “food” that have personally touched my life, growing up as an Italian woman in America.

What was your goal in writing “Authentic Italian”?

I want the Italian-American community to be proud of its heritage, and Southern Italians in particular. Our cuisine is being dismissed as something “made up.” Italian Americans and our drive and determination to succeed in America made Italian food one of the top two most popular cuisines in the world. Pizza is one example of many. Entrepreneurs like Gennaro Lombardi, who opened the first pizzeria in America, Lombardi’s in New York’s Little Italy, or Frank Pepe, who opened Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut, brought pizza to the world. That is quite an accomplishment, and something to celebrate.

It’s critical that the Italian-American people control our own story. We have contributed so much to world cuisine, to music, to art, to culture. The treatment of Southern Italians in the media is at least, unfair, and at worst, egregious. We don’t deserve the organized crime allusions or the “dumb guy” characterizations. Unfortunately, this denigration is carrying over to our foodways. I’m hoping, by writing this book, that I am setting the record straight, for my grandma, and all the other Italian-American grandmas out there, who deserve better.

How did you get into writing?

When I was six or seven, I wrote a letter to Highlights magazine and told them I wanted to write for them. They wrote back and told me I had to grow up first. My first professional piece of writing was published in a national newspaper when I was 18. The next year, I published a short story in David Kherdian’s Forkroads: A Journal of Ethnic-American Literature. I went on to get my MFA in creative writing at NYU and then worked at literary agencies and publishing companies in New York City. From there, I wrote for major publications like Glamour and Time Out New York. I was an editor in the food department of Family Circle magazine. I even started my own general interest magazine that I ran for six years. Somehow, I found the time to become a licensed lawyer in two states, New York and Tennessee. Writing called me back, however, like Lisa Scottoline, another Italian-American lawyer/writer, who is also a passionate advocate of our culture.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Dina Di Maio’s new book “Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People,” at



Vito Marcantonio Was a Congressman from New York, from 1935-1951;
Noted Progressive and Member of The American Labor Party
A Fighter for Civil Rights, Defender of Communists and Radicals

A photograph of Vito Marcantonio, 1945 approximate, and poster of the current play on Marcantonio, as portrayed by Roberto Ragone. (Poster designed by Gabrielle Napolitano and photograph of Mr. Ragone by Christian Morales.)

Review by Gary Bono and Gabe Falsetta

On a recent Sunday afternoon in New York City an audience of more than 50 people was treated to a unique one-man show, “The Purgatory Trail of Vito Marcantonio”, written and performed by Roberto Ragone and directed by Art Bernal with introductory remarks by Professor Gerald Meyer. Professor Meyer is the author of the definitive biography of the progressive congressman and the co-chair, along with co-chair Ragone, of the Vito Marcantonio Forum.

The play opens on August 9th, 1954, the day of Marcantonio’s death. Though a Catholic, Marcantonio was denied a Catholic burial by New York’s Cardinal Spellman, and thus the action of the play centers around an imagined plea by Marcantonio to be released from purgatory — the repository of souls that God assigned neither to heaven nor hell — and be allowed to ascend into heaven.

By way of a defense, Ragone, as Marcantonio, presents excerpts from Marcantonio’s speeches in Congress and dramatized reenactments of incidents from his life. Ragone carries these texts (explaining each of these key moments in his life) in a portfolio each of which illustrate his record of selfless service to his constituents and his loyalty to his East Harlem community.

Reenacted are such things as Marcantonio’s impassioned speeches made on the floor of Congress — his pleas for the establishment of a “second front” in Europe during WWII to assist the beleaguered Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, his defense of jailed Puerto Rican Nationalist, Pedro Albizu Campos, and his lonely stance in opposition to the Korean War. In doing this, the play clearly illustrates how, in serving his constituency, Marcantonio never compromised his progressive principals; always serving as a champion of equality, a fighter against injustice and a defender of the common folk.

Also documented is the relentless hostility of the powers-that-be who continually plotted and schemed against him, changing the boundaries of his district until it extended as far south as Sutton Place. They even changed the election laws to his detriment. Initially these attempts at sabotage were in vain, he was reelected some 6 times!

Contributing greatly to Marcantonio’s electoral success was the fact that during his time in Congress he had an unparalleled record of direct service to his constituents. In his introductory remarks, Professor Meyer read extracts from letters sent to Marcantonio from people in his district thanking him or asking for help. With that kind of grassroots support, he proved hard to beat and the only way his opponents could succeed was through the immense effort of getting all the other political parties to unite against him.

Contributing greatly to Marcantonio’s electoral success was the fact that during his time in Congress he had an unparalleled record of direct service to his constituents. In his introductory remarks, Professor Meyer read extracts from letters sent to Marcantonio from people in his district thanking him or asking for help. With that kind of grassroots support, he proved hard to beat and the only way his opponents could succeed was through the immense effort of getting all the other political parties to unite against him.

There are many memorable highlights’, e.g., the eulogy given at Marcantonio’s wake by the great Paul Robeson; the back and forth with a friend of questionable reputation, Tommy Lucchese, showing his friend respect while rejecting his offer to have a personal bodyguard, a news report from a Marcantonio campaign rally at 116th Street and Lexington Avenue (Lucky Corner), and his successful defense of black leader and Communist W.E.B. DuBois who aptly said the main hurdle of the 21st century would be overcoming racism.

Although this New York performance was a limited engagement Ragone and Bernal have already been approached about possible performances in other cities and it may, in part, even be available for viewing on YouTube, so many others may get a chance to see this play in the future.

Today, Marcantonio, perhaps the most progressive representative to ever hold a congressional seat, has largely been written out of history. The Vito Marcantonio Forum’s goal is to reverse this wrong.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Vito Marcantonio forum and one-man play, please log on to



We See The Past Through The Eyes of Character Sam Caruso
PRIMO Interview

What made you become a writer of children’s stories?

In general, short stories and essays have always been my preference. They give me focus and discipline to keep me on track with my subject matter. Although my books are categorized as “children’s” stories, they are meant also for adult readers. When I began to write my Sam Caruso stories, it was my intent to invite the reader to exchange their own stories about childhood.

“A Boy at Heart” is the story of Sam Caruso and his birthday gift from his favorite relative - Aunt Nancy. The story is set in Los Angeles in the 1950s. Tell us what it was like living in that era.

Following World War II, as did so many other cities, rapid change became an operative description for how we lived. In Los Angeles, veterans and their families moved into new suburbs; the automobile rapidly replaced public transportation; and downtown shopping was superseded to local communities. But what always remained was the beautiful landscape of mountains and ocean cupping the mushrooming of new communities. Back then, it was possible to take a Sunday ride to ski in Big Bear and have a family picnic at a local beach along the way. You would drive by orange groves and roadside farm stands. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s was amazing.

“A Boy at Heart” is not your only story. You have others. Please tell us about them.

My Sam Caruso books are loosely based on fragments of my own childhood. I considered my boyhood to be a “golden age.” The adults, like my Nonno (grandfather), an elderly neighbor and my aunt were mentors who introduced me to worlds and experiences that complimented my imaginative life. Throughout my boyhood, I was a listener. I absorbed the stories told by adults about their early lives. As long as I can remember, I was able to replay stories told to me from another time and of another time; and pull them together for my Sam Caruso books.

What is the message you want to convey in your stories.

Actually, there are few messages I want to convey. I would hope they help to create a conversation between adult and child readers about their respective childhoods. I am worried that story-telling today faces many outside distractions. Adults and children seem to be separated and compartmentalized with their own worlds of self-interests. I hope my Sam Caruso series will get people to see that “wondering about another time” might be a way to take and share their own stories with one another. We can only learn about the world if we listen to others. With such wonderment and a dash of imagination, everyone can learn to be a storyteller.

What other stories are you working on currently? What do you have for us in the future?

I have a tremendous interest in family genealogy. Over the years, my memories of family has helped me to research their lives. My grandparents emigrated from Sicily. I have spent some time learning about them and other ancestors. I am developing a written narrative about the early journey and assimilation of my Italian American family from Sicily to Los Angeles. The other story I am mulling over is about experiences with my brother who was born with Down Syndrome. Both books are challenges, but I have a rich source of recollections to call upon.

Editor’s Note: You can read more about author Ray M. Vento and purchase books from his Sam Caruso series by logging on to




Independent Filmmaker Mark Spano Covers the Breadth of Italy’s Dynamic Island Region

“Little has been produced about the cultural and historic relevance of Sicily,” claims Mark Spano in the beginning of his new documentary, “Sicily, Land of Love and Strife.”

As such, the filmmaker has gone the extra mile to undue that deficiency.

“Sicily, Land of Love and Strife” sets the bar higher than any other documentary in recent years in telling the story of Sicily. Mark Spano has done an incredible job in conveying the richness of his family’s homeland.

As one of the largest islands in the world, Sicily is the culmination of human migrations and settlements that have integrated with each other over thousands of years. Spano’s focus is on the diversity of the island. He delves into the age-old question of what makes a land and her people. Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spanish make up Sicily’s rich mosaic. In the center of the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily binds three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. People from other parts of the world have come as conquerors and as settlers. They have all left their mark in the way of language, traditions and customs in Sicily.

“Sicily, Land of Love and Strife” is an extraordinary documentary. Spano committed himself exhaustively to bring us the visual dynamism of Italy’s largest region. The visual images are all stunning. Sicily is surprisingly diverse in terrain and habitat. A beautiful shot in the film shows Mount Etna, covered in snow. Another is of the ocean flowing roughly into the rocky shoreline. We see rich agricultural lands on display with lemon groves, grape orchards and olive trees. City streets come alive with farmer’s and fish markets.

Well-edited is the documentary that flows from one subject to the other seamlessly. At one point, viewers are shown ancient relics, only to be shown next, food being served at a Sicilian trattoria. Spano is especially effective in delving into the traditional crafts and occupations of Sicilians. We see painters, sculptors, carpenters, farmers, chefs and vintners. In one segment, we are given a profile of a maker of musical instruments. In another segment, we see the work of an illustrator of carts. He is 102 years old and conveys the commitment it takes to bring to life his art.
The only flaw in the film, and a minor flaw at that, is the opinion of one commentator. Experts are shown with insightful information that convey color and depth to subjects brought up in the film. However, one scholar conveys a political agenda under the guise of expertise. The importance of Roman Catholicism in Sicily cannot be overstated. The outpouring of faith among Sicilians can be seen in beautiful Baroque and Gothic churches. Spano goes to great length to convey the Catholic heritage of Sicily. To suggest, as did one commentator, that the outward expression of faith by Sicilians was insincere or just for show diminishes this depth of coverage.

Spano grew up in Kansas City and today lives in North Carolina. His family came from Sicily. He is rightly proud of his heritage. He shares an anecdote about the stigma faced by most Sicilians. When he tells people his family is from Sicily, they respond with an inquiry as to his father’s background in the Mafia. He explains that his father was never a criminal; but rather, worked in a steel mill for 30 years to provide for his family and help his children attain the American Dream.

By making this extraordinary documentary, Spano has done his family and heritage a great service. “Sicily, Land of Love and Strife,” is an awesome film and a worthy tribute to Sicily.

Editor’s Note: You can find out more about “Sicily, Land of Love and Strife,” by logging on to the filmmaker’s web site,



“No one has all day to cook, we need access to simple, quick, authentic options and I feel my book provides that.”


Tell us about your childhood in Italy. Where in Italy were you born? How did your parents influence your way of cooking today?

I was born in Calabria and lived in a small town in the province of Catanzaro. I moved to the US as a young teen, along with my family. My dad was a greengrocer in Italy, so of course, produce was plentiful in our household. As is typical in this region, my mom was a stay at home mom, so she really filled her days cooking and baking for the family. We had home-cooked meals every single day, with fresh baked cookies and cakes. In hindsight, I know I was very blessed. We were eating organic before it was cool to do so. Meals were healthy, seasonal, delicious and not only nourishing for the body but also the soul. I loved spending time in the kitchen with my mom, especially when it came to baking. We rarely ate at restaurants; actually, I don’t have one restaurant meal memory from growing up in Italy, other than weddings or other religious celebrations. We’d occasionally go for pizza, but that would be it. No doubt my upbringing in this environment shaped who I am today both as a person and how I view food and cooking.

What led you to write "The Five Ingredient Cookbook."

I started my own business a few years ago, which combined Italian cooking classes and culinary tours to Italy. I started blogging my recipes and of course, writing a cookbook was always a major goal. The blog recipes were very well-received, shared and liked, so I immediately realized that I had an audience who would be drawn to my culinary philosophy, which is simple, seasonal, unpretentious and delicious.

I also realized a recurring theme in my classes, which was the shock from students at how easy Italian cooking could be. They had this pre-conceived notion that Italian cooking was going to be a lot of hard work, hours of simmering sauces, lengthy recipes, dozens of ingredients. Look, I am being honest, not every traditional Italian recipe is 5 ingredients or less, or takes just 30 minutes to prepare, but many are, and those are the ones I like to showcase to my audience. We are a “9-5” world, there’s work, commuting, sports, after school activities, doctors appointments and many other things that keep us from spending hours in the kitchen. No one has all day to cook, we need access to simple, quick, authentic options and I feel my book provides that. At this point, I have worked with hundreds of students and I have yet to meet one that says, “I wish cooking took longer!”

The subhead of your book is "101 Regional Classics Made Simple." How diverse is Italian cooking today? Has the digital world enhanced or lessen this diversity?

I definitely think that Italian cooking is changing a bit. There’s the authentic dishes I grew up on and will remain classics, which you will find in this book, then there are also newer chefs in Italy that are changing what Italian cuisine is. Thanks to blogs, Youtube and social media, we’re all more open to diversity in the kitchen. I definitely think there’s room for both classic dishes and new cuisine.

You have spent considerable time in both Italy and America. You know both countries well. What do you find most different about the two countries, outside of language?

Certainly, the food, and I am not just refering to the quality, which, truthfully is far superior in Italy, but also for the appreciation of it. Italians eat for the love of food, for sharing family time, to show someone that they love them. Italians have a lot of respect for food, how it’s treated, grown, prepared. In the US, food and cooking are seen by many as a chore, a bore, and another to-do on a list of growing tasks, akin to the laundry.

I would also have to say that Italians certainly know how to enjoy life more. They make time for family meals, gatherings, celebrations and the enjoyment of good art, architecture and historical beauty. The speed of life is much slower, especially in the south, where it feels like life is in slow-motion! But even in the north, which I would say the lifestyle is a bit closer to the lifestyle in the US, it’s not as stressed and frantic. Employers offer more time off, more flexibility, much of the entire country shuts down and is on vacation in August. It’s not uncommon for offices to be closed from Christmas Eve to the Epiphany, we wouldn’t hear of that here.

That said, I don’t try to paint a rosy picture that life in Italy is perfect. I think as a general rule, the US is a more efficient country when it comes to bureaucracy or having to file any sort of paperwork. A trip to the post office in Italy will age you by a few years! We laugh here that the cable man will arrive between 9 – 5, in Italy, it’s more like between April and June! And that vacation everyone takes in August? A real buzz kill if you need to reach someone in government or other office!

Having traveled and lived in both countries, I can honestly say that there are pros and cons to both. I try to bring some of Italy to my life in the US as much as possible by valuing family time, enjoying time off, connecting with friends on a regular basis and slowing down as much as possible. I travel back and forth a lot, so my return trips leading my culinary tours give me the Italy kick I need. I could easily travel back every month! And that’s why I also love leading my tours. I love exposing travelers to not just the cuisine, which is obviously the theme of my tours, but also the slowing down a bit, enjoying meals with the locals, celebrating life and la dolce vita.

If you had to choose one attribute that makes a great Italian cook...what would that be? What does a person have to remember when he or she is making Italian food?

Above all else, I think a great Italian cook needs to keep simplicity, seasonality and quality ingredients in mind. Ok, those are three attributes but they all play off of each other. There’s no reason to overcomplicate a recipe, to add-on random ingredients for no reason, to add heaps to sauces to everything. I sometimes think home cooks keep adding ingredients because the ingredients they’re using have little flavor or are of poor quality, so they keep adding hoping the final product is flavorful! It’s a recipe for disaster! If you’re using ingredients of poor quality, no amount of them will give you great flavor! A tomato in January has no flavor. Dry herbs (with the exception of high quality oregano) are useless. Cheap olive oil is no better than vegetable oil. And whatever you do, stay away from pre-grated parmesan cheese that comes in the green can! My mother calls it the AJAX cheese because it reminds her of a cleaning product! A home cook must be selective with the ingredients they utilize at home. Your family deserves better, you deserve better.

This is really what I advocate in my cooking classes, and that’s why my classes are so well received. And in the long run, high quality ingredients are not more costly. You will have less waste, you will be eating out less and you will be buying less pre-packed and pre-made food. You will need less of the good stuff because it will have so much more flavor that you will not need to pile it on. Buy a large chunk of parmesan cheese and you will see that you only need a dusting to add flavor, and it will last a long time.

Of all the recipes in "The Five Ingredient Cookbook" which ones are your favorites and why?

Perhaps you’ve had past cookbook authors tell you that they can’t pick, or it’s like “picking favorites among children”! Not for me, I definitely have my favorites! I love sweets and loved baking with mom growing up, so I definitely have a preference for the chapter on sweets and desserts. I love baking for my family now, there’s nothing better than a cup of espresso with some homemade treats. Also by virtue of being raised by a greengrocer, I do love all the dishes that contain fresh vegetables, so the soups and sides containing green beans, Swiss chard or legumes are also some of my favorites. I like to think that eating the sweets evens out with all the produce I eat!

Francesca’s new book “The Five Ingredient Cookbook” is now on sale. You can learn more about her Francesca, her new book and her culinary tours of Italy at




By Sal Cataldi

It’s no secret that many of America’s greatest food brands can trace their genesis to Italian American families. And if it wasn’t for one such family, the Salvatores of Philadelphia, we might not today be experiencing a boom in craft soft drinks, one of the fastest growing sectors of the $52 Billion U.S beverage market. The brand in question is Hank’s Gourmet Beverages, a company founded by the Salvatores to help ignite America’s craft soft drink boom with the debut of its critically-acclaimed Hank’s Gourmet Root Beer in 1995. And while overall carbonated beverage consumption falls each year, the craft soft drink category is expected to see a 3.5% annual growth through 2025, reaching over $732 million in sales.

Interestingly, the Salvatores’ roots in culinary entrepreneurism, and charity and public service, go back three generations, 100 years and nearly 5,000 miles away. John and Tony Salvatore, the respective brother president and chief customer officer team who today helm Hank’s, are a part of a decades-long legacy connected to a family beverage business that emerged in and around the City of Brotherly Love. 

It was John and Tony’s grandfather Pietro (Pete) who came to the Philly-area from Italy, settling in North Philadelphia in the early 1920s. After building a nest egg while working as a laborer, Pete founded a successful grape-hauling business. In the 1930s, he then launched Salvatore Beer Distributors, one of the city’s first and most ambitious local distributorships, which he ran with his cousins and, later, his son and current soda brand namesake, Hank.
In time, the beer distributorship folded. Hank took a series of jobs until he finally landed a long-term position as a State of Pennsylvania Fuel Tax auditor, a job he’d keep for a decade. Not only did his time as a civil servant give Hank an insider’s look into how government worked, it also quickened his deep desire to serve his fellow “everyman” Philadelphian. This deeper need eventually fueled his blooming interest and long career in politics.
Fortunately for his sons and, ultimately, their collective family fortunes, that initial State auditor job didn’t pay enough to support Hank’s growing family. So, Hank followed in his father’s footsteps and founded another wholesale beer distributorship. The company blossomed in 1958 to become L&M Beverage, the immediate precursor and launching-pad for Hank’s Beverage Company.
Although L&M Beverage was growing, Hank’s commitment to his city prompted him to continue deepening his involvement in public office. In 1972, he was elected to represent Northeast Philadelphia’s 170th district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, a position he held for six terms through 1984. Later, he went on to be elected and serve another four terms as a Pennsylvania State Senator, from 1985 – 2000, building a reputation as a popular favorite with everyone – from pizza-lovers and plumbers to presidents and popes – much like the sodas that would come to bear his name.
Hank eventually brought his children -- sons Frank, John and Tony plus daughters Gloria and Liz -- into the distribution company, where they eventually oversaw every department and all aspects of a fast-growing beverage business, from product acquisition, sales and warehouse to logistics, customer relations and back office. This positioned them as the leading independent beverage distributor serving the greater five-county Philadelphia-area and larger Pennsylvania region.

The business thrived, in large part, due to the Salvatores’ keen eye for new products. They were among the country’s first distributors to literally discover Pennsylvania’s own Yuengling and take on now-popular beer brands like Fosters, St. Pauli Girl and Moosehead.
The growth and family entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop there, however, especially when they met Bill Dunman. They were contemplating an expansion into a non-alcoholic division. While Dunman had also run his own regional beverage distributorship serving Maryland, he was at his core – having spent his early career working on several launches with Coca-Cola – a soda and new products guy. His background, ingenuity and intuitive sense of business made Dunman (now the company’s Chief Operating Officer) the perfect candidate to become Hank’s first non-family full partner; complementing sons John and Tony, who had ascended to jointly stay atop the company.

Together, in 1995, they launched a soda division, bearing an award-winning label branded after their dad’s popular Philly nickname, “Hank” -- rolling-out the now iconic Gourmet Root Beer to their local Philadelphia on-premise customers in 1996.  

This product uses a local Philly recipe to remind proud Philadelphians of their city’s heritage as the birthplace of Root Beer. Made with a focus on flavor and using pure cane sugar, Hank’s emphasis on both taste and the highest quality ingredients set the company’s unparalleled standards going forward. Hank’s broke new ground, not only going gourmet “before gourmet was cool,” but also building the brand’s national reputation as one of the richest, smoothest and creamiest sodas available. Other hand-crafted, press-worthy and award-winning delicious flavors continue to follow.
In 2001, the partnership sold the larger L&M Beverage, choosing to shift away from distribution, focusing their efforts and resources instead on expanding their pioneering, Philadelphia-based craft soft drink business. Through the 2000s, the company prospered -- especially in its Mid-Atlantic footprint -- and patriarch Hank continued to both accompany his sons to the office daily and pursue his various good-works of public and community service – always with his everyman approach and telltale upbeat grin.

Founder Hank passed in 2014, at age 92. In his spirit, the company – through its public and often private pro-social efforts -- continues to work closely with and support several of the organizations, constituencies, foundations and other charities that Hank proudly served and championed. Hank’s surviving partners also formally adopted a series of Business Principles and Fan Promises, drawn immediately from their founder’s own correspondence to family and friends, after his death.
Today, Hank’s Gourmet Beverages are a favorite of hip, gourmet food devotees, soda fanatics, renowned chefs, “mixologists” and media critics at prestigious national outlets like Eater, Grub Street and the Los Angeles Times. Hank’s also remains a local Philadelphia media, foodie and blogger favorite, and the only remaining national root beer player still headquartered in the city.

Their flagship Gourmet Root Beer anchors a product line that has grown over time to feature seven flavors, including Diet Root Beer, Orange Cream, Vanilla Cream, Wishniak Black Cherry, Birch Beer and Grape, crafted by Hank’s in-house “Flavor Doctor” and creative visionary, Bill Dunman. These flavors reinforce Hank’s authentic, high-quality image along with its upscale, innovative packaging, and are now available nationwide in supermarkets, gourmet and natural food stores, upscale bars and restaurants, entertainment/sports venues and convenience stores.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Hank’s Gourmet Beverages, you can log on to your web site at


Paul Spadoni, author of "An American Family in Italy, Living La Dolce Vita without Permission,” was, in essence, an illegal alien in Italy



Tell us about your background as it relates to Italy. Where did your family come from in Italy? How much or how little did you know about Italy prior to your recent extended visit there?
I grew up surrounded by Italian cousins in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and they imbued me with a sense of pride in our heritage. However, my generation knew very little about where our grandparents had come from. Sometimes my grandparents said Montecatini, sometimes Lucca, and to us, those were just dots on the map. When I finally went to Italy for the first time, at age 43, I discovered that my grandparents had lived in a rural area between Montecatini and Lucca called San Salvatore, a suburb of a hill town called Montecarlo. In my 50s, I began traveling to Italy every year, visiting different regions in a search for the ideal city to put down roots when I retired. I had a long list of criteria. As it turned out, Montecarlo fit my list in every category, and having cousins there was an added bonus.

Your book's title, "An American Family in Italy, Living La Dolce Vita without Permission" summarizes effectively the uniqueness of your Italian adventure. You were able to sidestep the Italian bureaucracy to live and work in Italy. Please share with us some details as to how you did it
I can tell you, but then I’ll have to kill you! OK, the truth is, it’s not something that can be easily repeated. We stayed for 10 months without a visa, but this was before 9/11, and no one seemed to care then, in Italy, at least. The headmaster who hired me said, “We really should get a work permit, but that’s a lot of work and there may not be time. Just say you’re a tourist if anyone asks.” Then he paid me al nero, under the table. It’s very unusual to arrange something like this from the United States. More frequently, people go to Italy first and then find an off-the-book job, often teaching English.
People with children are often reluctant to pick up and move to a foreign country and immerse themselves in the language and culture. How did your children fare in your family's move to Italy? Were they the better for it?
For the first six months, my daughters begged us to let them go back home and live with friends. For the last four months, they really enjoyed themselves, though at the time they wouldn’t admit they had been wrong. Since then, they thank us every year for making them go with us.
How is Italy different than America? You spent considerable time there and had serious interactions with the people, businesses and government. What did you like and not like about Italy?
Oh, wow! I wrote a whole series of blogs on this, so it’s hard to sum up in a few words, but it’s a great question. The markets, the food, convenient public transportation, the opportunity to learn a language and compare cultural differences, the art and architecture, the scenic beauty—these all entered in. I think the strongest reasons are that I wanted a challenge and I wanted to experience a little of what my own grandparents had faced when coming to America. Could I learn a new language and learn to survive and thrive in another culture?
What are your future plans? Do you plan to live in Italy or here in the United States? And why.
We now live in Italy for four months a year and the United States for the other eight months. We have four children and nine grandchildren in the States. If we learned nothing else during our time in Italy, it’s that family is priority one, and we can’t leave our U.S. family behind. There are also some more practical reasons for dividing our time, such as tax advantages and the fact that I’d have to pass a daunting examination to get my Italian drivers license if we lived there full time. That may not sound like much, but I’ve heard horror stories about how expensive it is and how hard it is to pass the written test. We feel we've found the perfect balance for our family situation.

Editor’s Note: A photograph of the author in Sorrento and enjoying a meal with his daughter and friend in Italy. To learn more about Paul Spadoni’s new book “The American Family in Italy,” look on to


“Madness,” A Book About Hank Luisetti - The Man Who Forever Changed Basketball
Interview with Author Mike DeLucia

Mike DeLucia has written a book entitled “Madness” based on the true story of Hank Luisetti. Mike’s Italian roots extend to Naples, on his mother’s side of the family and from Benevento on his father’s side. He has several family members who reside in Milan and Varese. PRIMO interviewed him about his novel “Madness” and what made Hank Luisetti such a revolutionary basketball player.

Your novel "Madness," is based on the true story of Hank Luisetti; a college basketball player from Stanford. Tell us how Hank changed the game forever?

Before Luisetti total scores of basketball games averaged in the 30s. Basketball was a filler sport between baseball and football season. Passing and shooting with two hands was at the center of basketball’s stop-set-shoot philosophy. Then came Hank Luisetti. He defied the establishment by means of a running one-handed shot. With basketball’s integrity on the line, a promoter from New York arranged a grudge match between LIU and Stanford, in a game that would both test Luisetti’s unorthodox style and determine the unofficial national champion. At that time the east was considered the class of the nation and LIU was the class of the east. They were so good that the Olympic committee asked LIU to represent the USA in the 1936 Olympic games. LIU, a team comprised of many Jewish players, however, refused in protest due to the rumors of anti-Semitic acts in Germany. LIU was riding a 43 game winning streak before they encountered Luisetti, and they simply could not contain him. Besides popularizing the one-handed shot, Hank is credited with the behind-the-back dribble. He was doing fast breaks and his dribbling ability was spectacular. He could jump so high and stay up so long that he looked like a ballet dancer. He employed the no-look pass. He was voted the most outstanding athlete to perform at Madison Square Garden in 1936. The man was 50 years ahead of his time. The New York Media reported the news of the great Luisetti and people began to emulate his moves and style. Basketball got hot and grew a fanbase of its own. What followed was the NCAA March Madness Competition and the NBA. He changed basketball’s genetic footprint with his unorthodox playing style. James Naismith invented basketball in 1891; Hank Luisetti reinvented it in 1936. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959, its inaugural year. 

Luisetti was a basketball innovator, and yet he did not go on to play professionally. What happened? 

A few things. First, he was paid $10,000 in 1938 to star as himself in a movie starring Betty Grable and because he was paid to play basketball in the film, he received a suspension from whatever committee governed the pro leagues of the time. The pro leagues were more like tournaments that were played in armories and dance halls, because as previously mentioned, basketball didn’t have a fanbase before Luisetti's innovations made it exciting. He played in some leagues after that, but the real blow came while he was serving his country in WWII. He contracted Spiral Meningitis and nearly died. The sulfur drugs they used to treat him damaged his heart and when the NBA formed he turned down lucrative offers to play. The Knicks wanted him, but he chose not to play at a level with which he was not comfortable. 

How did you get acquainted with Luisetti? What was your inspiration to write the novel?

Sylvester Stallone played a major role on my road to Luisetti. When Rocky was released in 1976, I was a sophomore at Monsignor Scanlan High School in the Bronx, and my life’s goal was to become a film actor. I was bitten by the acting bug in 1973 when Ron MacFarland, a dynamic teacher at my grade school, put on a rock and roll musical. However, marriage and a mortgage reduced my ability to pursue an acting career and that’s when I got the idea to “Stallone” it in 1983. I’d write my own screenplay and star in it as well. I wouldn’t have to invest time going to auditions or traveling to Manhattan for acting classes. I’d just write a film and wouldn’t sell it to a studio unless I played the leading role. Sounds funny now, but back then, I thought it was a rock-solid plan. I shared my project with the family at our 2:00 p.m. Sunday dinner ritual. My father, a man who knows just about everything about Italy and Italians, snapped his fingers and said he knew the perfect story for me. He read about a Stanford University athlete named Hank Luisetti from the twenties or thirties, who revolutionized basketball. I began researching the story at the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and began the onerous task of researching a ghost. The first version was a handwritten screenplay. My life’s business scale jumped up a few notches after kids entered the scene and The Hank Luisetti Story, as it was then called, kept finding it’s way to the bottom of my to “To Do List.” I finally decided to turn it into a historical fiction novel in the summer of 2018. 

What are the similarities and differences between your novel "Madness" and the real-life story of Luisetti?

While Hank’s court heroics elevated him to celebrity status in the latter part of the 1930s, there was little-to-no information regarding his personal life. This was due, in part, to a lack of paparazzi and an NBA. Since these were the days before Google, I researched microfilms of his games and found more details in magazine articles. From there I wove together Hank’s achievements with the snippets I garnered of his personal life, into the first draft of The Hank Luisetti Story. Even after computers entrenched themselves in our lives there still wasn’t much more to learn about Hank’s personal life until his biography was written in 2005, but I didn’t learn of it until a few months before my book was complete, and it was once again my father who told me about it. He said he was talking about Luisetti and someone said he just read a book about him. I would say my book is 60% fiction and 40% nonfiction. The book is based on Hank’s contributions to basketball. Some of the non-basketball story is true, so it’s a mixture. 

A novel such as yours should make the perfect vehicle for a feature film. And yet, so far, it has been challenging to find a studio to support the project. Why the reluctance from Hollywood?

Part of the reason why it’s not a feature film is because of my lack of connections in the industry. I’m actively searching for a producer and getting some interest, but too little to even discuss right now, so I’m still talking about it and hoping that articles such as this will open it up to a serious party. Aside from that, it’s not easy for a film about an Italian who isn’t a criminal or an uneducated “goombah” to me made. Since The Godfather’s release in 1972 I know of one film, Unbroken, which Italians aren’t presented as criminals or knuckle draggers and it’s an insult to our great heritage in light of all the Italians have contributed to society since the Roman Empire in 700 B.C. Our accomplishments are both numerable and varied, and have made this world a better place. Even this year’s Academy Award winner Green Book reenforces Hollywood’s Italian stereotype. This has nothing to do with Green Book itself, because it’s apparently a superior film based on a true story, but it’s another reminder by the media that they will only present Italians in one of two ways. Madness features a Stanford educated Italian who made basketball into the game it is today; he is the basketball’s pioneer and first national celebrity, and I can present a solid argument as to why he’s the greatest basketball player of all time. This should be a film—a billboard to the world of who we are. The stereotype must change and it will take films like Madness and Unbroken to do that. 

Editor’s Note: To find out more about Mike DeLucia and his book “Madness,” please log on to




A  New Film Directed by Valeria Golina
An Inspiring Story, Excellent Direction and Acting Undone by Seedy Scenes of Sex and Drugs
PRIMO Review

Valeria Golina is a triple threat.

She can do it all and do it well. She can act, sing and direct.

“Euforia” is her third time behind the camera. She shows all attributes of a skillful director and one day will make a film to win critical acclaim and the awards and commendations that come with it.

“Euforia,” however, is not that film.

Golina directs competently, passionately and is able to bring out the best in her actors and actresses. Yet, “Euforia” is far less of a film than its potential. The story about two brothers, one who is terminally ill, and the other who cares for him, is an intriguing and heartfelt premise. However, scenes of gratuitous drug use and an obsession with sex sinks what otherwise might have been an exceptional film.

The Bernardo Bertolucci school of cinema remains a curse that keeps on giving in Italian filmmaking. The director who died this past November at age 77 was famous (or infamous) for taking historical epics and contemporary dramas and collapsing them under the weight of salacity. Bertolucci could make a great film such as “The Conformist” or “The Last Emperor,” but all too often warped and scandalized his films with contrived scenes of sex and drugs. Audiences were left with little more than well-produced porn. Such was the way of Bertolucci - a filmmaker who was always due for a great film but never quite made one, especially in the past three decades. His obsession with carnality and deviancy undid his efforts.

Golina has fallen for the same trap in “Euforia.” She co-wrote the script with Francesca Marciano and Valia Santella. The film’s main character is Matteo, played by Riccardo Scamarcio, a wealthy entrepreneur in Rome who takes in his older brother Ettore, played by Valerio Mastandrea. Diagnosed with cancer, Ettore must undergo treatment at a nearby hospital. At the outset, we learn that Matteo is gay and Ettore is straight. The scene is a dinner party where their white haired mother announces to guests her sons’ sexual preferences. Another scene near the beginning is most telling: Ettore wakes up from a nightmare due to the emotional stress of illness. He ventures into the living room to join Matteo late at night. Their topic of discussion is sodomy. What does Matteo prefer, asks Ettore? Is his baby brother the recipient or the giver in male-on-male sex? Matteo smiles whimsically and mentions the need for an “interlocutor” before foreplay. He claims his older brother the model. Can gay and heterosexual people, especially those related by blood, talk about anything but sex? Apparently not in cinema. Much is touted in today’s society for majority heterosexuals to treat gays and lesbians without regard to their sexual preferences. If so, why then must filmmakers obsess about gay sex when a main character is homosexual? Can we accept a person is gay and leave it at that?

The serious topic of the film is frequently undermined by sub plots and scenes more suited for a crime drama. Ettore might be ill but that does not stop Matteo going out to nightclubs with friends and scoring cocaine and other drugs. Soon, lines of coke are snorted with reckless abandon. Even Ettore joins in, with his brother questioning the wisdom of recreational drug use during treatment.

Central to the plot is Matteo’s efforts to hide from Ettore the seriousness of his cancer. Although Matteo’s intentions are noble and speak to the love and fidelity he has for his brother, the concept is preposterous. Ettore is a middle-aged professor at a university and yet the filmmaker expects us to believe he will remain wholly ignorant of his prognosis. The physician who treats Ettore appears in only one scene. He is a friend of Matteo’s and has apparently joined in on the ruse. He keeps from his patient vital information about the terminal nature of his cancer; a concealment which is counter to medical ethics and likely illegal.

Midway through the film, Matteo and Ettore journey to the village of Medjugorje in Bosnia and Hercegovina where it is believed the Virgin Mary appears. A local nun informs them that the Holy Mother is not scheduled to reveal herself during their brief stay. The brothers opt to hike the side of a mountain to see stations of the cross depicted in bas relief sculpture. Along the path, a guide stops for a moment to say the Glory to Be prayer with both Matteo and Ettore looking ahead in bleak wonderment. What followed might have been a scene perfectly suited for characters to talk about faith and the need for prayer. However, the moment descends into needless carnality. Back at the hotel room Ettore is fast asleep while Matteo stands on the hotel balcony and smokes a cigarette. Soon, a hotel guest from Germany, who is also gay, appears with Matteo. Ettore is then abruptly awakened by his brother. Sick and frail, he is ordered onto the balcony wrapped in his comforter, assured by Matteo that his sojourn outside will last no more than 15 minutes, enough time for a romp. They then return to Rome for Ettore to continue his treatment. More scenes of sex and drugs follow. The audience is left bewildered by it all.

“Euforia” is typical of many films today. An obsession with sex and drugs is at the forefront in filmmakers’ minds. Cinema is a means of enlightenment. A film such as this one should remind us of the value of family in times of physical and mental crises. Yet, debauchery and carnality is what we are given. Although competently directed and well acted, “Euforia” fails to live up to its promise. Golina will no doubt get another chance to direct, and rightly so. Let’s hope the next time she finds herself behind the camera, she will have a better script in hand.


The Tuscan-based Non-profit Organization Seeks World Peace by Training Young People from War-torn Countries
Saint Francis of Assisi is Their Model


Rondine Cittadella della Pace, is a non-profit organization committed to reducing armed conflicts and spreading its own methodology to foster peace in the world.

Studentato Internazionale – World House is a restored medieval castle near Arezzo where Rondine hosts young adults from countries beset by armed conflicts. The building is most famous as the background in the “Mona Lisa,” as painting by the great Leonardo da Vinci. The goal of Rondine is to help young people discover “the person” within their enemy through daily cohabitation. Students will become leaders in their own communities; ready to intervene and settle any conflict by applying the Rondine Method.

Rondine offers classes in a number of areas in the hope of completing its mission. Training in social activism are offered, along with programs in cultural immersion, business, publishing and language.

Rondine was started by Franco Vaccari in 1997. A psychologist by profession, Vaccari was inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi to reach out to young people. He and other Italians maintained an organization in the 1980s that fostered dialogue between the West and Communist Russia. Vaccari claims his father helped him to embrace social activism. A general in the Italian army in World War II, Vaccari’s father was captured by British soldiers and sent to a POW camp in India. He meditated while in prison and when released was at peace with his adversaries and himself.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Rondine will make a speech at the United Nations in New York City on December 10th, and in Washington DC on December 13th at the Italian Embassy.

They will ask member states to subtract a symbolic amount from their respective defense budgets and invest in future peace leader scholarships. Rondine will ask for the introduction of human rights’ education in national education systems, integrating this with the experimentation of Rondine’s training methodology in creative transformation of conflicts. 

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Rondine by logging on to their web site



President Donald J. Trump welcomed Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy to the White House.

President Donald J. Trump participates in a one-on-one bilateral meeting with Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, Monday, July 30, 2018, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

President Donald J. Trump participates in an expanded bilateral meeting with Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, Monday, July 30, 2018, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

President Donald J. Trump participates in a joint press conference with Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, Monday, July 30, 2018, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

President Donald J. Trump bids farewell to Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, following their meetings at White House Monday, July 30, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The joint press conference began at 2:05 p.m. and ended 2:45 p.m. on July 30.

In his opening statement, President Trump welcomed Prime Minister Conte and congratulated him on an election victory in Italy. The prime minister currently leads a coalition government in the Italian parliament composed of two major political parties, Five Star Movement and League, with support from minor parties, Brothers of Italy, Associative Movement Italians Abroad and South American Union Italian Emigrants. Mr. Conte is an independent. Although not a member of the political parties that make up the current government, he supports the underlying political philosophy as conceived by its principals, titled Governo del Cambiamento, Government of Change.

“In your election, the Italian nation has reaffirmed the great traditions of sovereignty, law, and accountability that stretch all the way back to Ancient Rome,” said President Trump. “This proud heritage sustains our civilization and must be always defended.”

The president reaffirmed the close working relationship between the United States and Italy in matters of international security. He sees Italy a major player in combating Islamic and other forms of terrorism throughout the Mediterranean.

“Today, Prime Minister Conte and I are pleased to announce a new strategic dialogue between Italy and the United States that will enhance cooperation on a range of issues,” said President Trump. “This includes joint security efforts in the Mediterranean, where we recognize Italy’s leadership role in the stabilization of Libya and North Africa. They’ve been terrific.”

United States and Italy face similar crises at their respective borders in illegal immigration. Both countries share the same goal of combating and impeding the flow of undocumented migrants.

The president said, “Like the United States, Italy is currently under enormous strain as a result of illegal immigration. And they fought it hard. And the Prime Minister, frankly, is with us today because of illegal immigration. Italy got tired of it. They didn’t want it any longer.”

President Trump sees Italy a model for other countries to follow in curbing illegal immigration.

“The people of Italy have borne a great part of the burden for Europe through the course of the migration crisis. I applaud the Prime Minister for his bold leadership — truly bold — and I hope more leaders will follow this example, including leaders in Europe.”

Prime Minister Conte opened his side of the press conference with a few short sentences in English. He then spoke Italian for the remainder of the event with a translator to convey his words in English.

The prime minister’s opening statement was noteworthy for it reiterated the claim by President Trump that Italy is today a major figure in Mediterranean diplomacy and security.

Prime Minister Conte said, “Today, we will have made a great step ahead.  We will start working in Italy. It’s a directorship (booth), as it were, in the Mediterranean between Italy and the United States. I would say that we’re almost twin countries in which Italy is becoming a reference point in Europe and a privileged interlocutor for the United States, for the main threats and challenges that we have before us, terrorism, and for all the crises that we see in the Mediterranean and, in particular, in regards to Libya.”

Questions from members of the press ranged from matters concerning NATO, the European Union, illegal immigration and recent reports of the United States economy growing at four percent.

Some questions were exclusive to Italy such as continued construction of the Trans-Adriatic pipeline that will connect oil and gas fields from Azerbaijan to Italy’s Apulia region. The project is scheduled for completion in 2020.

“As far as a pipeline is concerned, I’d like to see a competing pipeline,” said President Trump. “So, Mr. Prime Minister, I hope you’re going to be able to do that competing pipeline.”

The president then ended the press conference after encouraging words about the future of trade between the United States, Italy and Europe.

“And we are already talking to the European Union about building anywhere from 9 to 11 ports, which they will pay for, so that we can ship our LNG (liquefied natural gas) over to various parts of Europe. And that will be more competition.”




Patrons are Needed
A  call for financial support of a new exhibition open to the Pope, the Vatican and the city of Rome. The Ten Madonnas: New, original sculptures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as inspired by the medieval hymn, “Tota Pulchra Es, Maria.” Scheduled for the week of December 8th, Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, at the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. Please become a patron today! Contact Truby Chiaviello at for information on becoming a patron. Please download and review our Patron Package.

An Exhibition of Sacred Works at the Vatican in Rome
Titled Tota Pulchra Es, Maria, the project consists of the realization of ten Madonnas by Dr. Alan Pascuzzi, a world renowned sculptor and art historian from Florence. The statues will be exhibited in the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. The project is in collaboration with the cultural association, Tota Pulchra Es, Maria, under the guidance of the Monsignor Jean-Marie Gervais. The Vatican, through Monsignor Jean-Marie Gervais, expressed its interest in the innovative works by Dr. Pascuzzi. They proposed an opportunity to exhibit the new statues in a one-week exhibition open to the city of Rome, the Vatican community and to the Pope. The exhibition of original sculptures depicting the Madonna is based on the medieval hymn “Tota Pulchra Es, Maria.” The ten Madonnas will show each of the attributes of Mary – prudent, merciful, and an intercessor in prayer, as included in the medieval hymn. Every work will propose a new image of Mary and Jesus Christ, faithful to the reality of love between mother and child; but also alluding to universal love and to the divine.

Meet the Sculptor Dr. Alan Pascuzzi
Alan Pascuzzi is a sculptor, painter and art historian who has lived in Florence, Italy for the past 20 years. A Fulbright scholar with a PhD in Renaissance art with a concentration on Greek and Roman sculpture and the drawing, painting and sculpting techniques of Michelangelo and other Renaissance masters. A professor of Art History and Fine Arts who has taught at New York University, the British Institute and Bristol University, Dr. Pascuzzi is a recognized expert on Renaissance techniques. He has appeared in various documentaries for the BBC, Sky TV and 60 Minutes. As a professional artist he has permanent works in painting and sculpture in churches, palaces and tabernacles in the city center of Florence. He as executed commissions for churches in various cities in Italy, France, the United States and Australia. His first publication, “Becoming Michelangelo,” is scheduled for release in October, 2018.

Date and Location of Exhibition
Scheduled to coincide with the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, the Tota Pulchra Es, Maria, exhibition will be inside the Palazzo della Cancelleria Apostolica, a building designed by Donato Bramante. The palazzo is located at Piazza della Cancelleria, 1, Roma, less than a mile away from St. Peter’s Basilica.

Ten Original Sculptures for the Vatican Exhibiton
The sculpted works for the exhibition are original creations by Dr. Alan Pascuzzi. He brings an interpretation of the Madonna and Child based on his experience as a noted art historian of Classical and Renaissance art, his knowledge of religious iconography and his personal observations of the unique relationship between mother and child. Small clay models for all ten works (see following images) have already been realized by Dr. Pascuzzi which include by title: The Nativity, Virgo Lactans, The Madonna of Contemplation, Madonna with Sleeping Jesus, Madonna of Consolation, Madonna of Joy, Madonna of the Goldfinch – Madonna of Prudence, Madonna with Joseph and Jesus – the Madonna of the Family, Madonna of Protection and Madonna of Glory.

The following images are clay models of four of the 10 sculptures for the exhibition by Dr. Pascuzzi. They are titled "Madonna of Glory," "Madonna of Prudence," "Madonna of Family," and "Madonn of Joy." The 10 Madonnas will eventually be executed in high relief and will be life-size. The original works will be executed in clay. From the clay original a negative cast will be made to produce a positive cast in white resin – a resistant and light material. The works will be in two formats: Entire figure: 2 m x 1m; Half-figure: 1.20 m x 1 m.

A Call for Patrons....
Exhibition will be financed through patrons at every stage. Involvement of patrons come through donations organized at various levels with corresponding beneftis, i.e., present at the exhibition opening and reception in Rome with Pope Francis scheduled to attend, a copy of a clay model, name associated with one of the statues, a guided tour by Dr. Pascuzzi of the Sistine Chapel, and more! Please become a patron today. Contact Truby Chiaviello at  Please download and review our Patron Package.



A Celebration of the Films of Luchino Visconti with Many New Restorations and Weeklong Run of "Ludwig" in a New 35 mm Print
"Not many directors have had such a total belief in style. Visconti worked through total artifice as a way to the truth." -- Martin Scorsese

Pictured clockwise, upper left, are still photographs from Visconti's films, "Ludwig," "Death in Venice," "Rocco and His Brothers," "Bellisima," and "The Leopard."

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces Visconti, a complete retrospective of Visconti’s feature films, most of them premiering in new restorations and rare imported prints, followed by a weeklong run of a new 35mm print of his 1973 historical masterpiece Ludwig.

Italian nobility, a member of the Italian Communist Party during World War II, openly gay and staunchly Catholic, Luchino Visconti inhabited a complicated, at times paradoxical, role in Italian cinema culture. A leader in the neorealismo movement who also worked with international stars like Burt Lancaster, Helmut Berger, Alain Delon, and Dirk Bogarde, Visconti produced an oeuvre of modest and humane dramas as well as decadent, sprawling historical spectacles. Deftly aware of the subtle and rich means of cinematic expression, he uniquely imposed the narrative customs of opera and the novel onto film, yet remained sharply attuned to the social and political climates of the 20th century.

The retrospective will showcase the full range of Visconti’s oeuvre, from his debut feature Ossessione, widely regarded as the first neorealist film, and memorable contributions to the movement including "La Terra trema" and "Rocco and His Brothers"; to masterful literary adaptations "Death in Venice" and "The Stranger"; and sumptuous yet skewering portraits of the aristocracy—"The Damned," which marked his first Academy Award nomination (for screenwriting); " The Leopard," his tour de force Palme d’Or-winning epic; and his final film, "The Innocent."

A special highlight is "Ludwig," which follows the life of Bavaria’s controversial King Ludwig II. “One of Visconti’s most ambitious films…with moments of sublime beauty” (Bilge Ebiri, LA Weekly), it was drastically cut for its U.S. theatrical release. On the occasion of a new restoration and this retrospective, the Film Society is pleased to present Ludwig in the original director’s cut, screening for one week in a brand new 35mm print.

Tickets for Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and the Visconti retrospective go on sale May 18, with Film Society members receiving an early access period beginning May 15. Tickets are $15; $12 for students, seniors (62+), and persons with disabilities; and $10 for Film Society members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or Open Roads Access Pass. Learn more at

Organized by Florence Almozini and Dan Sullivan of Film Society of Lincoln Center, and by Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero of Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Co-produced by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, Rome. Presented in association with the Ministry of Culture of Italy.

All screenings held at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted.
Italy/France/West Germany, 1973, 35mm, 238m
Italian, German, and French with English subtitles
Visconti’s remarkable film about the life and death of Bavaria’s King Ludwig II is an opulent, complex study of romantic ambition in the era of 19th century decadence. Helmut Berger plays the title role as a loner tormented by unrequited love for his cousin, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Romy Schneider), an obsession with the music of Richard Wagner, and excessive state-funded expenditures. Visconti’s lavishly composed portrait of one of history’s most complicated figures is as much an operatic descent into madness as a requiem to a monarch at the dawn of the modern republican world. An AGFA release. New 35mm print made by Luce Cinecittà. Saturday, June 16, 1:30pm; Friday, June 22 - Thursday, June 28, 2:00pm & 6:45pm
Italy, 1951, 35mm, 108m; Italian with English subtitles
Visconti deftly blends showbiz satire with heart-tugging pathos in this neorealist melodrama. When Cinecittà Studios puts out a casting call for a new child actress, they’re flooded with starry-eyed stage mothers and their talentless tots, among them Anna Magnani’s working-class Roman nurse and her rather indifferent daughter, whom she’s driven to make a star. As in similar Hollywood-plays-itself melodramas such as Sunset Boulevard and The Bad and the Beautiful, Bellissima both romanticizes the power of celluloid dreams and delivers a cuttingly cynical takedown of the industry. Magnani’s affecting performance as a mother whose desperation for success is outweighed only by her love for her child helps the film achieve true poignancy. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Sunday, June 10, 3:30pm, Monday, June 11, 9:15pm  
Conversation Piece / Gruppo di famiglia in un interno

Italy/France, 1977, 35mm, 121m; English and Italian with English subtitles
Visconti reunited with The Leopard star Burt Lancaster for this profoundly personal, contemporary chamber study. Once again the actor is cast as an emblem of Old World honor passing into obsolescence, here a retired professor living out a quiet retirement in his art-stuffed Roman palazzo; his dignified solitude is drastically upended by a turbulent marchesa (a serpentine Silvana Mangano) and her bisexual boy toy (Helmut Berger) who insinuate themselves into his life. Visconti masterfully interweaves a provocative shuffling of ideas—on class, sex, art, fascism—in what is ultimately his own disquieting confrontation with mortality. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Friday, June 15, 9:30pm; Monday, June 18, 6:30pm

The Damned / La caduta degli dei (Götterdämmerung)
Italy/West Germany, 1969, 156m; English and German with English subtitles
The Damned chronicles the downfall of the Essenbecks, a wealthy German family (led by Dirk Bogarde and Ingrid Thulin) with business ties to the Nazis. Visconti’s symphony of decadence is perhaps best remembered for Helmut Berger’s indelible turn as depraved son Martin, vamping in drag as Marlene Dietrich from The Blue Angel. Kinky and perverse (the film was rated X upon initial release), Visconti’s epic features a score by Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia) and a stylistic opulence that led Rainer Werner Fassbinder to name it as one of his ten favorite films. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna and Institut Lumiere (Lyon). Saturday, June 16, 8:30pm; Sunday, June 17, 4:45pm
Death in Venice / Morte a Venezia
Italy/France/USA, 1971, 130m; English, Italian, Polish, French, Russian, and German with English subtitles
Opening with the otherworldly image of a steamship emerging ghostlike from inky blackness and closing with one of the most transcendent denouements in all of cinema, Visconti’s exquisite adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novella is a piercing meditation on mortality, sexuality, beauty, and the longing for youth. In a career-capping performance of tragic vulnerability, Dirk Bogarde plays gravely ill composer Aschenbach, who, while on a rest cure in Venice, is spellbound by an angelic teenage boy (Björn Andrésen)—an infatuation that escalates as pestilence consumes the city. Visconti’s painterly compositions enter the realm of the sublime thanks to the tension-swelling, never-resolving strains of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Friday, June 8, 6:30pm; Sunday, June 17, 8:00pm
The Innocent / L'innocente

Italy/France, 1979, 35mm, 129m; Italian with English subtitles
In his final film, Visconti offers one of his most cutting variations on the theme that most consumed him: the moral decay of the soul-sick aristocracy. Based on a novel by the proto-fascist sensualist Gabriele d’Annunzio, this poison-pill melodrama concerns a callously self-absorbed nobleman (Giancarlo Giannini) whose “liberal” views on marriage extend only as far as his own extramarital affairs. When his tormented wife (Laura Antonelli) pursues a dalliance with a writer, the full monstrousness of his chauvinism is unleashed. Working with a late-career rigorousness, Visconti returns one last time to the luxuriant, red velvet world of the 19th century, stripping away operatic excess in favor of a supremely controlled emotional intensity. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Saturday, June 16, 6:00pm; Monday, June 18, 9:00pm
The Leopard / Il gattopardo
Italy/France, 1963, 186m; Italian, Latin, and French with English subtitles
Visconti reached new heights of epic grandeur with his sweeping, Palme d’Or-winning account of political upheaval and generational sea change in Risorgimento-era Italy. A bewhiskered Burt Lancaster is the leonine patriarch of a ruling class Bourbon family in the last gasps of its dominance as Garibaldi and his redshirts upend social order and a new spirit ascends—embodied by beautiful people Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. With fastidious attention to period detail, Visconti evokes a gilded world fading into oblivion, his camera gliding over baroque palazzos, magnificent banquets, and ornate ceremonies. It all culminates in a majestic, dusk-to-dawn ball sequence that is as poignant as it is breathtaking. Restored in association with Cineteca di Bologna, Pathé, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Twentieth Century Fox, and CSC-Cineteca Nazionale. Restoration funding by Gucci and The Film Foundation.
Friday, June 15, 6:00pm; Sunday, June 17, 1:00pm.


Italy, 1943, 140m; Italian with English subtitles
Considered by many the first neorealist masterpiece, Visconti’s bombshell debut is a sexy, sweaty adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. The chiseled Massimo Girotti is the penniless drifter who breezes into unhappily married Clara Calamai’s whistle-stop roadhouse, setting the stage for a torrid saga of lust, murder, and betrayal. In blending the sordid source material with an earthy evocation of underclass life, Visconti incurred the wrath of the Fascist censors, who promptly suppressed the film. Among their objections was the homoerotic charge supplied by a character not in Cain’s novel: a gay, communist artist, whom one is tempted to read as a stand-in for the queer, Marxist Visconti. Restored by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, CSC-Cineteca Nazionale and VIGGO. Saturday, June 9, 5:15pm; Wednesday, June 13, 6:30pm
Rocco and His Brothers / Rocco e i suoi fratelli
Italy/France, 1960, 177m; Italian with English subtitles
Visconti’s rich and expansive masterpiece has an emotional intensity and tragic grandeur matched by few other films. The director turned to Giovanni Testori, Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky, and Arthur Miller for inspiration, achieving a truly epic sweep for this story of a mother and her grown sons who head north from Lucania in search of work and new lives. In one beautifully realized scene after another, we observe a tightly knit family coming apart, one frayed thread at a time. Alain Delon is Rocco, Renato Salvatori is his brother Simone, Annie Girardot is the woman who comes between them, and Katina Paxinou is matriarch Rosaria. One of the defining films of its era, Rocco and His Brothers has been beautifully restored, and Giuseppe Rotunno’s black and white images are as pearly and lustrous today as they were always meant to be. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna in association with Titanus, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels and The Film Foundation. Restoration funding by Gucci and The Film Foundation. Friday, June 8, 2:30pm; Saturday, June 9, 8:00pm
Sandra / Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa...
Italy, 1965, 105m; Italian with English subtitles
Shady family secrets, incestuous siblings, descents into madness, decades-old conspiracies . . .  With Sandra, Visconti traded The Leopard’s elegiac grandeur for something grittier and pulpier—the Electra myth in the form of a gothic melodrama. Claudia Cardinale’s title character returns to her ancestral home in Tuscany and has an unexpected encounter with her long-lost brother and a reckoning with her family’s dark wartime past. Shooting in a decaying mansion set amidst a landscape of ruins, Visconti came upon the great theme he would return to in his late career: the slow death of an aristocracy rooted in classical ideals but long since hollowed out by decadence and corruption. Sunday, June 10, 5:45pm; Friday, June 15, 3:45pm.


Italy, 1954, 35mm, 123m; Italian and German with English subtitles
Set amidst Italy’s struggle for unification, Visconti’s operatic melodrama is a key link between the neorealist grit of his early work and the increasingly grand-scale historical spectacles to come. The Third Man’s Alida Valli plays a tremulous 19th-century Venetian countess torn between loyalty to her country and a dissolute Austrian officer (Hollywood beauty Farley Granger). As much an aesthete as a political radical, Visconti luxuriates in the aristocratic period trappings—a Technicolor feast of sumptuous gold, lavender, scarlet, and emerald jewel tones—while casting a jaundiced eye on Italian history, class, and nationalism. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Tuesday, June 12, 6:30pm
The Stranger / Lo straniero

Italy/France/Algeria, 1967, 35mm, 104m; French and Italian with English subtitles
Visconti brilliantly translates Albert Camus’s landmark work of existential humanism to the screen in this shattering adaptation. Marcello Mastroianni is (perhaps unexpectedly) perfectly cast as the alienated atheist Meursault, who, due to a series of seemingly random events, shoots an Arab man on an Algerian beach and finds himself on trial for murder. The cosmic absurdity of Camus’s vision is delivered with a gut-punch by Visconti and Mastroianni in a stunning final scene that stands as one of the actor’s greatest moments. Long unavailable (and never released on DVD), The Stranger deserves to be rediscovered for its singular, haunting power. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Friday, June 8, 9:30pm; Tuesday, June 12, 9:00pm.

La Terra trema
Italy, 1948, 160m; Italian with English subtitles
In Visconti’s Sicilian masterpiece, a fisherman’s budding leadership of the local labor force threatens the price-fixing schemes of wholesalers all too willing to put down an incipient rebellion. Based on a classic novel by Giovanni Verga, La Terra trema was one of the most formally daring of all neorealist works, establishing the template for dozens of later films that would examine the emergence of political consciousness. The many extraordinary sequences are played out by a cast of actual fishermen, who are, to critic André Bazin, filmed as though “Renaissance princes.” Digital restoration from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Saturday, June 9, 2:00pm; Monday, June 11, 6:00pm
White Nights / Le notti bianche
Italy/France, 1957, 35mm, 101m; Italian with English subtitles
Visconti’s adaptation of a classic short story by Dostoevsky is a ravishing romantic reverie in incandescent black and white. Marcello Mastroianni is the lonely flâneur who meets and falls in love with a fragile young woman (Maria Schell) amidst the fog-shrouded night world of the Tuscan canal city of Livorno. The resulting tale of all-consuming love and loss is a swooning dream vision elevated to the nearly operatic by Visconti’s rapturously stylized direction. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Sunday, June 10, 8:00pm; Wednesday, June 13, 9:15pm
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Opening Night selection is Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s “Sicilian Ghost Story” 
17-film festival features nine North American and seven New York premieres

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema is the leading screening series to offer North American audiences a diverse and extensive lineup of contemporary Italian films. This year’s 18th edition again strikes a balance between emerging talents and esteemed veterans, commercial and independent fare, outrageous comedies, gripping dramas, and captivating documentaries, with in-person appearances by many of the filmmakers.

This year’s edition showcases 17 titles, including the premiere of “Boys Cry,” a gritty gangster genre debut by the D’Innocenzo brothers; Roberto De Paolis’ feature debut about youthful self-discovery, “Pure Hearts”; Sergio Castellitto’s emotionally raw “Fortunata,” featuring legendary Rainer Werner Fassbinder, leading lady Hanna Schygulla and Jasmine Trinca, who won the Un Certain Regard Best Actress prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival; and three works by returning Open Roads filmmakers: Marco Tullio Giordana’s “Nome di donna,” Ferzan Ozpetek’s “Naples in Veils,” and Vincenzo Marra’s “Equilibrium.” 

Open Roads will also present “Rainbow: A Private Affair,” the latest and final film by legendary filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Vittorio sadly passed away this April at age 88), paired with a special screening of their classic Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner, “The Night of the Shooting Stars”; as well as the new digital restoration of iconoclast Marco Ferreri’s “The Ape Woman,” screening with Anselma Dell’Olio’s new documentary about the provocateur, “Marco Ferreri: Dangerous but Necessary.”

Tickets for Open Roads: New Italian Cinema the Visconti retrospective go on sale May 18, with Film Society members receiving an early access period beginning May 15. Tickets are $15; $12 for students, seniors (62+), and persons with disabilities; and $10 for Film Society members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or Open Roads Access Pass. All screenings take place at the Walter Reade Theater at 165 West 65th Street, unless otherwise noted.

The films and screenings are:

Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza, Italy, 2017, 120m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Thursday, May 31, 1:00pm & 6:00pm (Q&A with Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza).

Winner of the David di Donatello award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s spellbinding follow-up to their acclaimed 2013 drama “Salvo” is by turns fantastic and ripped-from-the-headlines feature. One day after school, 12-year-old Luna (Julia Jedlikowska) follows her classmate crush Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez) into a possibly enchanted forest - and, just like that, he vanishes. Was he kidnapped by the Mafia, for whom his father used to work as an assassin before he turned informant? Grassadonia and Piazza’s film, based on true events, renders Luna’s quest for the truth as a transfixing blend of realism and mythology.   

Marco Ferreri, Italy/France, 1964, 100m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Tuesday, June 5, 8:45pm.

One of Marco Ferreri’s earliest and most beloved films, “The Ape Woman” is inspired by the true story of 19th-century carnival performer Julia Pastrana. Annie Girardot gives a signature performance as Marie the Ape Woman, an ex-nun whose body is completely covered in black hair. She is discovered at a convent by sleazy entrepreneur Focaccia (Ugo Tognazzi), who marries her and swiftly gets her on the freak show circuit to cash in on her distinctive appearance. A freewheeling satire both hilarious and grotesque, “The Ape Woman” is distinguished by the irreverent wit and anarchic energy of Ferreri’s greatest work. New digital restoration!

Giorgio Ferrero & Federico Biasin, Italy/Switzerland/USA, 2017, 94m; North American Premiere. Sunday, June 6, 6:00pm (Q&A with Giorgio Ferrero).

This wildly ambitious documentary follows four men who work in isolation at remote scientific and industrial sites around the world. Like monks, they carry out their daily tasks in silence and solitude, creating products soon to enter the capitalist cycle of production, consumption, and destruction. A ravishingly beautiful audiovisual experience, Giorgio Ferrero and Federico Biasin’s debut feature is a transfixing work about the origins of consumer society imbued with a musical sense of rhythm (Ferrero is also a composer and sound editor) and a wealth of aesthetic ideas about the way we live now. 

Damiano & Fabio D'Innocenzo, Italy, 2018, 96m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Sunday, June 3, 3:30pm (Q&A with Damiano & Fabio D'Innocenzo) Tuesday, June 5, 2:30pm.

The D’Innocenzo brothers reinvigorate the gangster genre with their gritty, surprising debut feature, set on the outskirts of Rome. Best friends and aspiring restaurateurs Manolo (Andrea Carpenzano) and Mirko (Matteo Olivetti) kill a pedestrian in a car accident, kicking off a series of events that enmesh them with the local crime syndicate and push their mutual allegiance to the breaking point. Smart, stylish, and muscular, this critical hit at the 2018 Berlinale announces the D’Innocenzos as formidable and film-savvy new voices in Italian cinema. 


Silvia Luzi & Luca Bellino, Italy, 2017, 93m Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Saturday, June 2, 1:00pm (Q&A with Silvia Luzi & Luca Bellino) Monday, June 4, 4:15pm.

Documentarians Luzi and Bellino’s fiction debut stars Rosario and Sharon Caroccia (playing versions of themselves) as a carnival worker and his ostensibly unambitious daughter. He dreams she will hit it big as a pop singer, but when Sharon loses interest in pursuing this potentially lucrative profession, tensions build between the two. Luzi and Bellino summon their nonfiction filmmaking background to lend naturalism and spontaneity to this tale of helicopter-parenting that consciously recalls Luchino Visconti’s “Bellissima.” Crater is a moving parable about the gulf that exists between our desires and those of the people closest to us.

Francesco Patierno, Italy, 2017, 75m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Friday, June 1, 4:00pm (Q&A with Francesco Patierno) Wednesday, June 6, 8:30pm.

Valentina Cortese starred in films by such masters as Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, and François Truffaut (she was nominated for an Oscar for her turn as an over-the-hill, hard-drinking thespian in the latter’s “Day for Night”). In this inventive work of cinematic biography, eight actresses play Cortese at various stages of her career, amidst a kaleidoscopic of film clips and archival footage. In a work that is by turns glamorous, celebratory, and soberly confessional, Cortese often addresses the viewer directly, yielding a direct and engaging portrait of an actress whose offscreen complexity often exceeded the roles she memorably incarnated. 

Vincenzo Marra, Italy, 2017, 90m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Sunday, June 3, 1:00pm (Q&A with Vincenzo Marra), Wednesday, June 6, 4:30pm.

The director of “Vento di terra” returns to Open Roads with this realist parable about faith and crime in Campania. After Roman priest Don Giuseppe (Mimmo Borrelli) begins developing an attraction to an employee of the refugee center where he works, he requests a transfer, settling just north of Naples. There, he finds himself in conflict with the Camorra when he tries to intervene in the local industrial-waste crisis. Working with a mix of professionals and non-actors, Marra renders a scrappy, moving drama about the antagonism between religious belief and the modern world. 

Fulvio Risuleo, Italy/France, 2017, 90m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Sunday, June 3, 8:30pm.

While taking a cigarette break on a rooftop in Rome, a young baker (Giacomo Ferrara) notices a curious fowl plummeting from the sky. He crosses from one rooftop to the next to get a closer look, and what he discovers is the beginning of a journey down an urban rabbit hole of incredible situations and bizarre characters (including one played by a delightfully off-kilter Lou Castel). Documentary filmmaker Fulvio Risuleo’s fiction debut is an odd bird indeed, an unpredictable and imaginative twist on the road movie that evokes “Alice in Wonderland” and recalls the early work of Michel Gondry. 

Sergio Castellitto, Italy, 2017, 103m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Friday, June 1, 6:15pm (Q&A with Jasmine Trinca) Monday, June 4, 2:00pm.

Jasmine Trinca plays the ironically named Fortunata, a young mother and hairdresser living in Rome whose ambitions are constantly thwarted by inept, needy friends and family baggage. Awaiting a divorce from her soon-to-be-ex-husband and dealing with the resultant issues her 8-year-old daughter has developed, Fortunata begins taking her daughter to a handsome child therapist (Stefano Accorsi), with whom she has immediate chemistry. Also featuring legendary German actress Hanna Schygulla, “Fortunata” is an emotionally raw melodrama anchored by Trinca’s powerhouse performance, which earned her the Best Actress prize in the Un Certain Regard section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. 

Anselma Dell’Olio, Italy, 2017, 77m; Italian and French with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Tuesday, June 5, 6:30pm.

“Marco Ferreri: Dangerous but Necessary” is a complex, multilayered portrait that seeks to give an under-appreciated iconoclast his due. Directed by journalist-critic (and former Ferreri collaborator) Anselma Dell’Olio, the film draws upon interviews with such performers as Isabelle Huppert, Roberto Benigni, Hanna Schygulla, and Ornella Muti, as well as cinematic luminaries like Philippe Sarde and Dante Ferretti, to make the case for Ferreri as a figure who belongs on the same historical wavelength as such artistic revolutionaries as Godard, Fassbinder, and Buñuel. This fast-paced documentary’s enthusiasm for its legendarily provocative subject is positively infectious.  

Marco Tullio Giordana, Italy, 2018, 90m; Italian with English subtitles; North American Premiere. Saturday, June 2, 3:30pm (Q&A with Marco Tullio Giordana), Tuesday, June 5, 4:30pm.

A woman courageously tries to break the silence in a culture of complicity surrounding sexual harassment in this all-too-timely film from Open Roads veteran Marco Tullio Giordana. Nina (Cristiana Capotondi) is a single mother who takes a job at a home for the elderly in Lombardy, where the inappropriate verbal treatment of her new manager (Bebo Storti) turns into outright assault. Nina’s quest to seek justice brings her face to face with the cultural and institutional mechanisms that allowed for the harassment in the first place. Ultimately, Nina is one of the most multidimensional and inspiring protagonists in recent Italian cinema. 

Ferzan Ozpetek, Italy, 2017, 113m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Saturday, June 2, 8:30pm (Q&A with Ferzan Ozpetek).

In this moody, baroque thriller from Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek, Giovanna Mezzogiorno stars as Adriana, a medical examiner who meets Andrea (Alessandro Borghi) during a party at her eccentric aunt’s garish apartment. They hit it off immediately, though their romance is curtailed when Andrea later stands her up. While inspecting a corpse at work, Adriana notices a distinctive tattoo that reminds her of Andrea’s - at least as she remembers it. So begins a gripping metaphysical murder mystery, in which Naples becomes a shadowy, mysterious labyrinth of desire and memory. 

Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, Italy, 1982, 35mm, 105m; Italian with English subtitles. Monday, June 4, 8:45pm.
The Taviani brothers’ crowning achievement and winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, “The Night of the Shooting Stars” remains one of cinema’s great war films. The story of a group of Italians in Tuscany fleeing the Nazis, who intend to bomb their small town before it can be liberated by the Americans, is an enthralling chronicle of everyday people refusing to sit back and wait for history to redeem them. This tonally eclectic, humanistic masterwork affectingly melds comedy, tragedy, and melodrama to convey the resilience of the Italian people during the war’s darkest hours. 

Paolo Genovese, Italy, 2017, 105m, Italian with English subtitles. New York Premiere. Thursday, May 31, 3:30pm & 9:00pm (Q&A with Paolo Genovese at the 9:00pm screening).

An enigmatic, nameless man (Valerio Mastandrea) sits in the corner of a bar, receiving visitor after visitor. They tell him of their profoundest wishes and desires, and he assures them they can have exactly what they want . . . but there will be a price, and the extreme deeds they must perform will lead them to question who they are and to what lengths they will go. An elegant reworking of the American television series “The Booth at the End,” this gripping, minimalist moral thriller boasts an all-star cast that includes Alba Rohrwacher, Silvio Muccino, and Rocco Papaleo.

Roberto De Paolis, Italy, 2017, 114m. Italian with English subtitles. New York Premiere. Friday, June 1, 8:45pm (Q&A with Roberto De Paolis). Wednesday, June 6, 2:00pm.

An impeccably acted drama about youthful self-discovery, De Paolis’ feature debut is a fresh take on the “opposites attract” tale, set on the outskirts of Rome. Seventeen-year-old Agnese (Barbora Bobulova) plans to take a vow of chastity to appease her intensely devout mother, but then she encounters 25-year-old parking lot attendant Stefano (Simone Liberati) while shoplifting a cell phone. Stefano represents for Agnese an alternative way of being in the world beyond the strictures of the church, from which she feels increasingly alienated. Partly improvised and deftly filmed by DP Claudio Cofrancesco, “Pure Hearts” marks an auspicious debut for De Paolis. 

Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, Italy, 2017, 85m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Friday, June 1, 2:00pm. Monday, June 4, 6:30pm. 

Few filmmakers have better embodied Italian cinema over the past 50 years than the Taviani brothers. Their latest and final film together (Vittorio died in April) is an elegant tale of young love caught in the whirlwind of war, loosely adapted from a book by Beppe Fenoglio. Set near Turin in 1944, “Rainbow” follows student Milton (Luca Marinelli) and his friend Giorgio (Lorenzo Richelmy), who both love the same woman (Valentina Belle). Their friendship is put to the ultimate test against a backdrop of violent struggle after the two men are swept up in the anti-fascist movement. A sensitive, atmospheric film about the connection between the personal and the global, this is an essential capstone to the Tavianis’ vital oeuvre. 

Francesca Comencini, Italy, 2017, 92m; Italian with English subtitles; New York Premiere. Saturday, June 2, 6:00pm (Q&A with Lucia Mascino). Wednesday, June 6, 6:30pm.

Francesca Comencini adapts her own novel for this intelligent, intensely felt romantic comedy. Academics Claudia (Lucia Mascino) and Flavio (Thomas Trabacchi) have been a couple for seven years, but their physically and intellectually passionate relationship seems to have reached an impasse, and neither of them understands why. As a result, Claudia begins a process of reflection and self-exploration to come to terms with Flavio’s love in light of her own insecurities and neuroses. This funny, charming movie reveals the inner work we must do in order to move on with our lives. 

The Film Society of Lincoln Center is devoted to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema. The only branch of the world-renowned arts complex, Lincoln Center shines a light on the everlasting yet evolving importance of the moving image. This nonprofit organization was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international films. Via year-round programming and discussions; its annual New York Film Festival; and its publications, including “Film Comment,” the U.S. premier magazine about films and film culture, the Film Society endeavors to make the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broader audience, as well as to ensure that it remains an essential art form for years to come.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Shutterstock, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. For more information, visit

Istituto Luce Cinecittà is the state-owned company whose main shareholder is the Italian Ministry for Culture subsidizing its activities on an annual basis. Istituto Luce Cinecittà holds one of the most important European film and photographic archives in which materials are collected and digitally categorized, including its own productions and materials, derived from private collections and acquisitions by a variety of sources. Istituto Luce Cinecittà owns a film library, Cineteca, containing around 3000 titles of the most significant Italian film productions in order to promote Italian culture at major national and international institutes around the world. In collaboration with the Italian Ministry for the Foreign Affairs, restorations and new prints are added every year. 

Istituto Luce Cinecittà cooperates with major film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Locarno, New York, London by organizing national selections, guaranteeing the presence of Italian films and artists in the various festivals, and by providing multifunctional spaces to help the promotion of our cinematography and it is the reference place for all Italian and foreign operators. It is also involved with the direct organization of numerous Film Festival around the world: The Festival of Italian Cinema in Tokyo, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema in New York, London¹s Cinema Made in Italy, Mittelcinemafest, and The Festival of Italian Cinema in Barcelona, Istanbul, and Buenos Aires. For more information, visit and




The journey of pianist, keyboardist and singer Luca Chiellini started in the countryside of Tuscany, Italy, where he was born and grew up. After playing music all his life and at the same time pursuing a career in the pharmacy business, he left Italy and the medical field with a one-way ticket to Chicago and he found fortune in America playing with the top names in the Blues.

He now tours with Alligator Record’s artist and Chicago’s very own Toronzo Cannon, playing all over the world on the biggest stages of Blues and Rock music.
Toronzo Cannon established himself as one of the most important bluesman of the moment with his record released in 2016, “The Chicago Way”, and the tour supporting the album brought Cannon, Chiellini and the band all over the US, Canada, Central America, Europe.

Luca Chiellini, who brings the Italian tradition with him in his music and his touring, has also his own band and performs internationally as a solo artist on piano and vocals.
His debut Blues album will be presented next September 2018 and his first single “Warm Heart”, from his instrumental project, will be released on digital platforms and his website on July 17th, 2018, on the day of Chiellini’s solo show at the International Festival of the Teatro Romano in Volterra, Italy.

You can catch Luca Chiellini playing on tour with Toronzo Cannon and with his own project in the Chicago area and all over the world.

For information log on to



What an Italian-American Professor Observed of Italian Politics on a Recent Visit to Milan
By Dennis Barone

For the moment at least, it seems Italian politics no longer thrives on a north/south split, but rather on one that pits Italy against the rest of Europe.

I went to Milan to see if during a brief visit one can understand Italy’s severe north/south division that has existed since unification. Milan is the home of the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, and nationalist Lega Nord political party led by Matteo Salvini. As one racialized slogan put it: Risotto yes, couscous no. Historically, Milan has been the center of northern Italy’s anti-southern Italian bias, a view that prejudicially and in a racist manner postulates that everything south of Rome is Africa. It is a view that holds that southern Italians are mentally slow and morally corrupt; in short, the south has been a drain on the more advanced and governable north and that the latter would be better off without the former. Is this animosity evident while briefly visiting this northern capital, I wondered?

I found that things do change -- and not necessarily for the better. At the start of my visit the nation had no government and by the end of it, a new coalition government was formed by Salvini and his Lega Nord party and by the young populist Luigi Di Maio and his 5-Star Movement. For both of these leaders and their constituents, the scapegoat has changed from southern Italians to northern Africans. Will such a change be good for those Italians living south of Rome? I doubt it. For this kind of politics has fear and division as its roots.

I noted that Di Maio was born in southern Italy, in Avellino and that the man Di Maio and Salvini had put forth to be Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, came from a small town in the province of Foggia. The person proposed to be minister of justice, Guilia Bongiorno, came from even farther south – Palermo, Sicily.

But these southerners and their northern colleagues find shared enemies in today’s global migrants. These would-be leaders also oppose the trans-national Euro-zone. Some of them want to stop a tunnel project that would connect Italy and France. Some seem to shout - keep the French out. Keep the Tunisians out. Italy is for the Italians which for the moment includes those from Avellino, Foggia, and Palermo.

I was a tourist. A scholarly tourist, but a tourist nonetheless. Thus, the shifts of governments and citing of articles in the Italian constitution did not directly touch me; though fascinating, I found the maneuvering. On the streets of Milan everyone seemed friendly, affluent, and stylish. One would not guess from the historic center of Milan that the nation nears financial crisis. Everyone strolls about with shopping bags brimming with purchases.

In central Milan I saw few panhandlers. Is this the work of a vigilant Carabinieri? Heavily armed security seem ubiquitous although no one seems disturbed by their presence; rather, perhaps they are assured. Farther out from the center I saw young people who seemed to be homeless or jobless migrants – or could this impression have been the result of a prejudicial lens of my own? Near my hotel I saw one line of graffiti (and only this one line) that read: “Public education creates socialists,” its intention ambiguous.

The small Risorgimento Museum on the picturesque Via Borgonuovo emphasizes the central role Milan had in the unification of Italy. For example, the museum extensively describes the Five Days revolt against Austrian rulers in March 1848. The south appears neither criticized nor slighted here. The “Album of the Thousand” shows card-like images of all soldiers who joined Garibaldi’s southern Italian military expedition of 1860, the campaign that brought Italy to modern nationhood.

The reputation of the Italian fiction writer Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) rests on the work he set in his native Sicily. But Verga lived much of his life in Milan and often set his writing in this bustling northern capital. In one of these fictions, he describes “those ill-fated daydreams that pour into Milan from every corner of Italy to turn pale and fade away […].” Now those with dreams pour into Milan not just from the Italian peninsula, but from the entire Mediterranean world. At least they do so for now, but perhaps not for much longer.



Full Coverage of The New Documentary by William Friedkin, Director of “The Exorcist” and “The French Connection”
- PRIMO's Review of the Film
- Highlighted Scenes of Italian Landmarks in the Film
- To Come Later...William Friedkin Shares Insights into How and Where "The Exorcist" Was Made in Washington, D.C.


Satan is busy.

Cases of demonic possession are on the rise. We learn at the beginning of “The Devil and Father Amorth” that 500,000 people in Italy request an exorcism every year. The same goes for Spain and many countries in Latin America. More people are coming forward with claims that the devil or demons are taking over their bodies. The demand for Catholic intervention is high. So much so that the Vatican convenes a week long course each year to train priests to identify and cure demonic possessions. This workshop was first offered in 2005 and since then the number of priests in attendance have doubled to 250.

The model is Father Gabriele Amorth. He was a pioneer in the field of exorcism and a champion fighter against the devil. Father Amorth was the official exorcist of the diocese of Rome from 1992 until his death in 2016. As the foremost expert on demonic possession, he was often newsworthy. In recent years, he made a host of stunning revelations such as “Harry Potter,” yoga, and other contemporary offerings were just instruments of the devil. He said whole groups, even countries could be possessed. He thought ISIS was overtaken by Satan as were both Hitler and Stalin. He even thought the devil’s spirit had infected the Vatican.

Never mind the headlines, Father Amorth was no charlatan. The practice of exorcism has its rules and regulations. In 1990, he along with five other priests founded the International Association of Exorcists. The organization based in Rome retains a mission to review cases of demonic possession and share information on how best to combat the devil. A set of principles remain in place. An exorcism is the last resort. Only when a person is uncured after examination and treatment by licensed physicians and psychologists can she be seen by an exorcist. Often, it was Father Amorth who was called upon to expel demonic spirits. Before he died in 2016, he claimed to have performed over 150,000 exorcisms.

Now comes a new film to further establish Father Amorth’s legacy. It is “The Devil and Father Amorth,” a disturbing yet fascinating documentary now showing in movie theaters across the country. The film recounts the work of Father Amorth and shows the first ever authorized account of him performing an exorcism. The film comes to us from the man who is rightly credited, along with William Peter Blatty, for advancing the concept of demonic possession throughout the world. He is the director of “The Exorcist,” William Friedkin.

A list of America’s greatest filmmakers of the last 50 years will no doubt include William Friedkin. He is a lead member of a generation of directors that came of age in the 1970s such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg.

It was Friedkin who practically kicked off the decade when he won the Oscar for best director in 1971 for “The French Connection.” The film also won an Oscar that year for best picture and for best actor, Gene Hackman. Friedkin followed that success with another. In 1973, he made “The Exorcist.” If there ever was a film that deserved an Oscar for best direction and best film, it was “The Exorcist.” But it was shockingly bypassed that year when Oscars for best director, best film and a host of other categories went to “The Sting.”

With or without Oscars, Friedkin’s two back-to-back cinematic masterpieces gave him the credibility to embark on his most personal and ambitious film, yet; one he still considers his favorite, “Sorcerer.” It was a 1977 remake or reinterpretation of the 1953 Italian-French production “Wages of Fear,” as directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. “Sorcerer” contained Friedkin’s signature intensity and innovation. It came with tight frames, handheld shots and, as always, a fast pace. The film was bold and provocative but not a hit. It was greeted with ambivalence among critics and suffered from bad timing when it was released the same summer as “Star Wars.”

Friedkin’s career underwent reevaluation with his later films. Always a vanguard, he wrote and directed “Cruising,” a 1980 film slightly ahead of its time that starred Al Pacino. It was a dark and sinister post-noir journey of New York’s underground gay S&M scene. He made “To Live and Die in LA,” a 1985 crime thriller that featured a riveting car chase reminiscent of “The French Connection.” Good and bad scripts then came the director’s way. He could still tell a good story as he did in “Killer Joe” and “The Hunted.” What was lacking was nirvana. The critical and popular acclaim he found in “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist” went missing. That is until now…

“The Devil and Father Amorth” is Friedkin at his best. He gives us a riveting documentary for a new generation to savor his unique style. It is 1973 all over again. The film latches on to the viewer within its first few seconds and doesn’t let go until the last credits roll. The film is horrifying, disturbing and controversial. The belief in God is confronted head-on. It is a stark and mesmerizing exploration of terror and faith. The viewer is not the same after seeing this film.

Friedkin said that he is at his best when he approaches a film as a journalist. This is what he did in “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist” and what he does here in “The Devil and Father Amorth.” He gives us a record. He shows us the action. He conveys the subjects as they are. We are left to decide. Do we believe or not?

Italy was a key reason why “The Devil and Father Amorth” was made. The film came about by chance and circumstance. Friedkin had been directing opera in Italy in recent years and was given the Puccini Prize in Lucca. He was enticed by the beautiful walled city and home of Giacomo Puccini. From there, he visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Italy had cast her spell. He wanted to see more. Rome. The Vatican. St. Peter’s. The Sistine Chapel. He thought his friend, Andrea Monda, a religious scholar, could get him in to meet Pope Francis, but that was not possible. The pope was on travel. Was there anyone else he wanted to meet? Father Amorth, he said. And if possible, could he observe an exorcism. And if possible, could he film it.

This was a first. Exorcisms are intensely private. Only family of the person possessed and selected priests can attend. Father Amorth, however, knew Friedkin from his work in cinema. “The Exorcist” was his favorite film, he said, and one he claimed was a vital step forward in enlightening the general public about demonic possession and exorcism.

Born in Modena in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region in 1925, Gabriele Amorth came from an upper middle class family. As a teenager, he became a partisan fighter when Mussolini returned from exile and established the Salo Republic. Gabriele fought beside socialists, communists, and anarchists. Yet, he came out of the conflict with the hope of stabilizing Italy. He worked in the youth wing of the Christian Democrat party and helped Giulio Andreotti, Italy’s future prime minister, get elected to parliament. In 1951, he was ordained a priest and joined the Society of Saint Paul, a religious institute founded by Father James Alberione in Alba, with a goal of spreading the Gospel through modern communication. In 1986, he began an apprenticeship in exorcism under Father Candido Amantini. After Father Amantini died in 1992, Father Amorth became the official exorcist of the diocese of Rome.

In an opening scene of “The Devil and Father Amorth,” we see Father Amorth make his way with a walker through the halls of the Order of Saint Paul office and rectory. It is the first day of May and his birthday. He is 91. Old and frail, the cleric is set to face his arch enemy Lucifer.  The subject for dispossession is an Italian woman in her early 40s who goes by the name Cristina. Reality is apparent. The film is different than its inspirational predecessor “The Exorcist.” Cristina comes without green bile or other makeup effects. She seems normal. She is an architect. She has a boyfriend. Yet, she claims the devil is inside her. He pushes her to do things against her will. We see her sitting on a chair covered in a red sheet. Her family is there with her. She is held down by several men. Father Amorth initiates the Roman Ritual of 1614. He holds the crucifix. He calls for the intercession of saints. He leads the participants in prayer. He then orders the devil from Cristina’s body.

Friedkin was the lone filmmaker in the room. He records a fight on a simple handheld video camera. It is the devil versus Father Amorth. It is an evil parasite against the power of Christ. Cristina struggles to be released. She tries to overpower the men holding her down. She then screams in anger. The voice is deeper, scratchier and maybe not her’s.

Footage of the exorcism is just one part of “The Devil and Father Amorth.” As he did in “The Exorcist” and “The French Connection,” Friedkin conveys the complexities of a story without one part overshadowing the other. He takes the audience from Rome to Los Angeles where he shows footage of the exorcism to brain and neuro surgeons at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. He visits psychiatrists at Columbia University in New York. He then returns west to speak with Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles Robert Barron.

The film sets up the never-ending debate between the Old World and New. Ideas and beliefs collide. Faith versus science. Myth versus reality.  The medical experts in the film admit to not knowing the exact cause of Cristina’s violent reaction during exorcism. UCLA surgeons surmise a malfunction in the temporal lobe. However, they are open to other causes and treatments outside the practice of medicine. There soon appears on screen a digital map of the brain. Demonic possession might be a delusion resulting from a tumor. The team of psychiatrists at Columbia University are more confident in their diagnosis. They believe Cristina suffers from Dissociative Trance and Possession Disorder. Although open to other causes and effects, the rituals of faith may have overwhelmed Cristina. The intercession of saints. The signs of the cross. The use of Holy Water. Maybe she has fallen prey to group think and the pressures of mysticism.

Then comes the most noteworthy of interviews in Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles. He is smart, calm and articulate. He begins with equivocation about demonic possession and the need for exorcism. Yet, as the interview progresses, he makes a starling revelation. He admits to being unqualified to perform an exorcism. He does not have the acumen to take on the devil. He lacks the level of spirituality as endowed by Father Amorth.

The music. The raw close ups. The tight shots and intimate framing. The unrehearsed comments by experts. This is the kind of documentary we we grew up on. What puts the “The Devil and Father Amorth” above the current fare of contemporary documentaries is Friedkin’s signature style. He remains a master of confrontation. He holds nothing back. Although he says the film is different than “The Exorcist,” we cannot help but make a connection between the two. It is the aging Father Amorth who is the film’s central character. He died some months after Cristina’s exorcism. He is in many ways a carbon copy of Father Lancaster Merrin, the aging priest played by Max von Sydow in “The Exorcist.” Either in a non-fictional or fictional setting, the two priests are the same. They come armed with Scripture. They come endowed with the Cardinal virtue of fortitude. They come to do battle. In either of them, the devil has met his match.

Italian Religious and Historic Landmarks in "The Devil and Father Amorth"

The director William Friedkin convened a press event at Georgetown University recently to discuss how “The Devil and Father Amorth” relates to his most famous film, “The Exorcist.” He was joined by Julie Blatty, wife of the late William Peter Blatty, author of the bestselling novel upon which the film was based. Friedkin and Blatty agreed that “The Exorcist” was neither a horror film nor a horror novel. It was a religious work, they said; a story of faith in the face of evil.

The same theme applies in “The Devil and Father Amorth.” Friedkin shows a number of Italian churches and other religious landmarks in the film. They come as either part of the story or as symbolic images to underscore a message of faith. What follows are the churches and historical sites in Italy that make up key scenes in the film.


Depicted near the beginning of the film is Scala Sancta, a set of 28 marble stairs inside the chapel of Saint Sylvester across from the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. The documentary shows Catholic pilgrims from all over the world who ascend the stairs on their knees in acts of devotion. These stairs were once inside the palace of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. They were removed and transported to Rome in the 4th century at the request of Saint Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine. It are these stairs that Jesus Christ climbed to be seen and sentenced to death by Pilate.


Father Gabriele Amorth died four months after performing the exorcism that was shown in the film. The subject was a woman who went by the alias Cristina. Friedkin said that Father Amorth was the most holy man he ever met. With camera in hand, he captured the outpouring of grief among mourners at the priest’s funeral inside Santa Maria Regina degli Apostoli all Montagnola. Translated, it is church of Saint Mary, Queen of the Apostles, of Montagnola, a suburb outside Rome. Father Giacomo Alberione, founder of the Society of Saint Paul, had the church built after World War II. It was named a minor basilica in 1984 by Pope John Paul II


Alatri is the setting for the climax in “The Devil and Father Amorth.” It is a village of 30,000 people and located 90 miles south of Rome, in the province of Frosinone, in the Lazio region. Friedkin went there to meet Cristina after Father Amorth died. The setting is the Acropolis of Alatri and its great cyclopean wall. No mortar in the structure binds the stones together. Instead, large limestone blocks were carved according to specific measurements and tilted when stacked. The wall was erected before the time of ancient Rome and stands today after surviving many earthquakes and other destructive phenomena.


Friedkin was scheduled to meet Cristina for an interview on the grounds of the acropolis at the Basilica of San Paolo, otherwise known as the Alatri Cathedral. The location was once the burial chamber for the Hernici tribe and then a temple for the Roman god Saturn. The church was completed there in the 13th century with a facade added in the 19th century. Inside are relics of Saint Sixtus, one of the earliest popes who served in the first century A.D. Cristina did not show up to the basilica as originally planned. Rather, she changed her mind and met Friedkin at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Alatri.


One of Italy’s oldest Roman Catholic churches outside Rome is Santa Maria Maggiore in Alatri. The grounds once hosted a temple to Venus. The church was built there in the 4th century and was renovated in the 14th century with an added bell tower and an inscription by Pope Boniface IX. In the film, Friedkin met with Cristina, her boyfriend and her mother inside the church. The woman’s voice was the devil’s, she said, and she screamed and cursed Friedkin. She was restrained by her boyfriend who demanded the director give up the footage of her exorcism. He refused and the man threatened to kill him. Friedkin immediately left the church, got in his car and made his way quickly back to Rome.


Milan-based Philanthropic Organization Preserves Marine Habitat
Friend of the Sea awards tuna processor Tropic Sri Lanka for their commitment towards the conservation of yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean

Pictured from top, Sashini Fernando, chief sustainability officer at Tropic Sri Lanka, and Paolo Bray, founder and director of Friend of the Sea; the extraction of eggs from tuna and a lab worker at Tropic Sri Lanka

Friend of the Sea (FOS) is an organization based in Milan, Italy that has devised an international certification scheme for products from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. in 10 years, around 900 companies in 100 countries have relied on FOS to assess the sustainable origin of their seafood. Audits are based on the best up-to-date data and run by accredited independent certification bodies. FOS also supports projects of preservation and protection of the environment and marine habitats. Moreover, it is constantly engaged in awareness campaigns to make more and more people conscious of the importance of consuming only certified sustainable seafood.

On 3 July 2018, Sri Lanka’s main tuna processor Tropic Sri Lanka was awarded by Friend of the Sea for its commitment towards the conservation of yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean.

The Negombo-based company has recently launched an innovative project named FCP@SEA in collaboration with the Sri Lanka government and the private sector. The initiative aims to improve recruitment rates through assisted reproductive technology, thereby allowing a second generation of yellowfin tuna to return back to the ocean.
Tropic Sri Lanka’s attempt is not unique in its genre. In 2007, the Japanese government started a reproduction project of Bluefin tuna to support the increasing demand of sashimi. What differs is that assisted reproductive technology is applied to farming due to geo-morphological constraints, while in the case of Sri Lanka the same technique is conducted out of sea making of FCP@SEA a pioneering project.
 “Our first contact with Tropic Sri Lanka dates back to 2010 when they first obtained Friend of the Sea certification for yellowfin, bigeye and swordfish tuna. With this award we acknowledge the great steps the company has taken in order to reach higher standards for environmental sustainability following Sri Lanka’s fish export ban to Europe in 2014,”comments Paolo Bray, Founder and Director of Friend of the Sea. “We really hope Tropic Sri Lanka and the national government will succeed with this innovative project in order to be replicated in other parts of the world.”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Friend of the Sea, log on to their web site at




A New Documentary Film by Marco Proserpio
Who Owns Graffiti Art?


“The Man Who Stole Banksy” covers a lot of ground.

It is an extraordinary new documentary film by Marco Proserpio, a tireless Italian filmmaker from Milan.

The subject: Graffiti.

It is an Italian word; the plural of “Graffiato,” which means something drawn or scratched upon a surface. Graffiti dates back to the time of antiquity. Some of its earliest examples can be seen in Italy today on the walls of buildings in Pompeii or on the walls inside the catacombs of Rome.

“The Man Whole Stole Banksy” examines contemporary graffiti. Depending on one’s point of view, it is either a blessing or curse. Graffiti is everywhere. It usually comes by way of reckless spray paint. It is an assault upon the walls of public works or commercial buildings. It is usually nothing more than the scrawl of gang identification; a warning sign of embellished fonts, ugly and of no significance to anyone except those engaged in turf warfare.

At times, however, graffiti can be art. An artist may actually draw on a wall something definable and with a compelling message. Such is the artist known as Banksy. He is a fearless and creative graffiti artist. His stenciled black and white works first appeared on walls throughout England.  He then made his way to New Orleans, Melbourne, Australia, Naples, Italy and for purposes of this film, the Palestinian West Bank.

In 2007, Banksy was in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, which is now part of Palestinian territory and under the watchful eye of the Israeli army and intelligence agencies. He had been invited there, along with a select group of artists, to paint on the wall that now divides Palestine and Israel. The film does not mention the reason for the wall’s construction and suggests only it is a fortification for apartheid. Yet, it’s history underscores the unchecked violence of Palestinian terrorism. From 2000 to 2002, scores of young men walked from Palestinian into Israeli territory. Inside Israeli restaurants, shopping malls and bus depots, they detonated homemade explosives to kill themselves, along with hundreds of Israeli women, children and the elderly. The wall was erected to stop the carnage and from all accounts did just that.

Banksy was the most famous of artists who painted in Bethlehem. One of his paintings showed an Israeli soldier checking the identification papers of a donkey. The message was obvious: The paranoia of a police state extends to the most innocent and innocuous of beings. Yet, many Palestinians were offended. They saw the painting as a putdown.

Proserpio is that rare filmmaker who seeks all sides to an issue. The film goes from exploring artistic messages of Palestinian liberation to the unchecked avarice of the art world. Banksy’s painting of the donkey and Israeli soldier appeared on the wall of a person’s home and not on the security wall dividing Palestine and Israel. A taxi driver and body builder named Walid saw the artwork and had the idea to remove and sell it. He notified Mike Cannavanti, a Greek entrepreneur in Bethlehem, who hired a contractor to chisel out the piece that contained the painting. He advertised it on Ebay. An art collector in Denmark bought the concrete slab work of art and then auctioned it in New York, Los Angeles, and London. The asking price was in the hundreds of thousands.

The identification of Banksy is not known. The same goes for many other graffiti artists. Most are wanted by the police for defacing public and private property. Their lack of identity puts them at a severe disadvantage when it comes to selling their art. As the film documents, there is a new movement in Italy to remove graffiti artwork and sell them to museums and collectors. We see a college professor in Bologna mix a liquid chemical to cover graffiti and peel it away after drying. The painting is then transferred to a canvas or makeshift wall inside an art gallery.

What was once outlawed street art now goes for sale with asking prices in the hundreds of thousand of dollars. Graffiti artists are excluded in the share of profits from the sale. They see no income from their work. Such is their fate. The walls of buildings do not belong to them. They have no copyright. They have no say in what happens. When they paint on someone else’s wall, their work becomes the property of the wall’s owner.

“The Man Who Stole Banksy” contains a backdoor view of contemporary times. What is especially intriguing is the Americanization of much of the world. We see Palestinian youths expressing themselves through rap music. We see them dressed in long flannel jackets, donning shoulder length hair or straggly beards. They speak English in an American dialect. They look as though they just came from the campuses of Berkeley.

“The Man Who Stole Banksy” is refreshing in its unwillingness to engage in propaganda. Although Proserpio is rooting for graffiti artists, he is honest enough to show the flaws in this art movement. Graffiti consists of contradiction. It is the outlaw’s art that gives the middle finger to the establishment and is yet celebrated by that same establishment. Street art is now a commodity. It is obtained by the rich to display in their living rooms. Even those who were the first to see graffiti as valid art, such as Paolo Buggiani, an avant-garde performance artist in Rome, have now absconded whole works from the streets for sale to private collectors.

“The Man Who Stole Banksy” is an exhaustive and fascinating film that covers the entirety of graffiti art. It is to be seen by all who cherish art, politics and the way of the world, even if at times that world is headed in the wrong direction.

Editor’s Note: “The Man Who Stole Banksy” is an Italian production. Besides Marco Proserpio, there is Filippo Perfido and Christian Amodeo who wrote the screenplay with Proserpio. The film’s producers are Perfido and Proserpio. To see a trailer of “The Man Who Stole Banksy” and other works by Marco Proserpio, please log on to



Can a Married Italian Woman Stay True to Her Vows in Today's World?

Tell us about your family background? Where was your family from in Italy?
My parents immigrated to Canada in 1958 from Nicastro, Calabria, Italy. I was born in Toronto, as was my sister. Then in 1980, my dad decided to go back to Italy to live. I was just out of college, and it was frowned upon for young Italian women to live on their own in those days, so I followed my parents and my sister to move to Italy. We lived in northern Italy, around the south part of Lake Garda, for 17 years. My sister and I both married local Italian men. I had 3 children, and my sister had two. All five of our children were born in Desenzano Del Garda, province of Brescia. When my father died in 1994, we began to make plans to return to Canada. In 1997, both our families, along with my mother, returned to Canada, near Toronto. We were thrilled to be back! Unfortunately, my husband did not fit at all well in Canada, and we divorced in 2005. He immediately moved back to Italy. I remarried, this time to a police officer in central Florida and moved there to be with him. I still live there. I still have a very large extended family in Italy and Canada. My two sons live in Canada and as well as my sister and her husband and children. My husband and I will be traveling to Italy this summer, and we are very excited to go!

"With All of Me" is a novel about a woman torn between two men. What inspired you to write this book? At one point in my life, I was like Giuliana: I had multiple online friends and most of them were men. I was also going through somewhat of a mid-life crisis which was hardened by my ex-husband wanting to return to Italy. However, as I wrote, the plot became quite spicy and convoluted, but at the same time, quite interesting. However, I would not call it autobiographical.

How are you alike or different than the main character Giuliana? I am very much like Giuliana. When I began writing “With All of Me”, I still lived in Canada so Giuliana was somewhat of a reflection of myself during that time of my life. But as the book evolved, so did I, and Giuliana and I went our separate ways.

Although Giuliana is Italian, she has been full immersed in the way of Canada or America. Is she representative of Italian American/Canadia women? Definitely! She is a very modern representation of an Italian-American or Italian-Canadian woman because she dares to entangle herself with three men as she tries to discover where she’s at in her life, trying to balance the Old World culture and expectations with modern American/Canadian life. She’s very bold while remaining tasteful. She works hard but also plays hard. She’s very independent but she remains a good mother and caregiver for her family.

What are your future novels or projects? I have just released “Her Spanish Doll” which is another romantic erotica set in Northern Italy. Here is the link:


An Interview with The Author about His First Novel


Lorenzo, tell us about your background. Where is your family from in Italy?
I am a first generation Italian American, born in Boston. My family is from the Campania region of Italy – my father is from Avellino and my mother is from Benevento. I’ve traveled to Italy every year since the age of 11 – spending my summers in Avellino with my grandparents. I continue to visit Italy every year to see close friends or to discover something new.

“The Love Fool” is set mostly in Rome. Your book describes the streets, piazzas, cafes and nightclubs of the Eternal City. The book is your tribute to Rome. Tell us why you love this city so much. I started writing “The Love Fool” in 2006, while living in Rome. I had just left my job and moved to Italy to figure out my next chapter in life. I chose to be in Rome because I never really knew Rome. Well, of course I was familiar with the city – visiting the popular sights on many occasions – but I never really got to know her well. So, I decided I’ll move to Italy for a bit and get to know this enchanting city that is loved so much by filmmakers, artists, travelers and storytellers. And it didn’t take long for me to fall absolutely in love with Rome. So I wanted to incorporate the city into my story, as a tribute to my affection for its beauty.

Alex Corso is the book’s main character and narrator. From the outset, the similarities between you, the author, and Alex are many. Is Alex your alter ego or your antithesis? Alex does have a lot of me in him, but he is not me. True, I can be and was a fool in love many times, but to the extent of Alex, I hope not. I did give Alex a similar job and purpose for being in Rome, but his story is not my story. Besides, I wrote him to be annoying at times, I’d like to think I’m not annoying… however, I suppose it depends on who would describe me. Ha!

Your book “The Love Fool,” shows Rome as a vibrant haven for the young, the cosmopolitan and the celebrity class. Your view is far different than the religious and classical sense we often apply to the city. Yes, and I thank you for pointing this out. The Rome I describe in “The Love Fool” gives the reader another level to this magnificent city. Those of us who have travelled to Rome or read about Rome, or see it on TV, have been introduced to the classic sights – the Colosseum, the Vatican, La Fontana di Trevi. However, “The Love Fool” is meant to take you back to Rome and experience it through a different lens. The book makes the reader see a different side to the city that is modern, thriving and continues to be influential.

Your character Alex leaves America for Italy. Perhaps a temporary adventure… but then again maybe not. We see a lot of young people today, like Alex, wishing to live and work overseas. Why the attraction to leave America for Italy or elsewhere? The attraction is the simple glamor of being in a place that is unlike our daily and oftentimes monotonous environment. We seek an escape from a life of working, working, working; to hopefully live a decent life. In Italy, we see how life can be fulfilling. Italians go to work too of course, but the work does not dictate their lives. They appreciate the quality of life – the food, the people, the surroundings, and the air. All of it makes Italy a desirable place to live.

This is your first novel. Do you have plans for a second novel? Or some other creative work? I am trying to write a second novel. I don’t know how I’ll get it completed – I still can’t believe I finished The Love Fool. As I try to work on novel #2, I also blog about my travels – focusing on culture, food and modern life. In addition, I’ve contributed to some publications about cocktails and food. So I’m experimenting with different creative projects. But, I know I do want to complete that second book.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase “The Love Fool” by logging on to





Spring has arrived so it would be timely to discuss a common issue I encounter every year; foreign buyers being seduced by an inexpensive house and an idyllic location. Buying and renovating a property in Italy is an all-too‐common scenario in the Bel Paese. It is also an all‐too‐common scenario for these projects to end in heartache. Unfortunately, I usually don’t get to meet these buyers until they have spent far more than they expected and need to fix the problems they are experiencing. If you are thinking of taking on a house renovation project in Italy this year, taking on an Italian lawyer at the outset will save you time, money and anguish. What are some of the common mistakes buyers make and how can they avoid them?

No matter how experienced you are, renovating a property is a stressful and time-­‐consuming process. Even more so if you are abroad, can only visit Italy periodically and you may not be a fluent Italian speaker. Unless a project is guaranteed to give you your dream home, or make you money, you may be taking on the wrong property. It is vital you assess the property’s potential and have a clear idea of your goals. Don’t wait to discover major structural defects or additions built without planning permission until it is too late. Engage an Italian lawyer who speaks your language. Your lawyer will work on your behalf to conduct thorough due diligence during the purchasing process – any non­-compliant additions, features or legal issues will be discovered before you buy the property. A lawyer can also assist you with obtaining a building survey. Undertaken by a geometra, a survey will provide information on the construction and materials used, and will give details of any defects found, their remedy and an indication of the likely cost. It is also worth commissioning a measured survey of the building, providing you with a detailed set of floorplans and elevations upon which to base your proposed alterations.

Under no circumstances, should you ignore requirements of the Italian law, as it will eventually catch up with you, so do not undertake any work without first checking whether you need to satisfy the following requirements:

• Planning permission
• Building Regulations approval
• Notification of neighbours
• Notification or permission from others. Your lawyer could advise you if the deeds contain restrictive covenants, leases or other overriding interests in the property and land estate.

If you do not obtain in advance the required planning permission, you may apply retrospectively, but this is not always possible and if the Italian Court rejects your retrospective application, your illegal works can constitute a criminal offence and the Italian State may seize your property. It is likely to be a very lengthy and costly process to get your property back.

Editor's Note: This article was submitted by Giandomenico De Tullio, De Tullio Law Firm, International Law Practice, Taranto, Apulia, Italy.



Mount Carmel Preservation Society Continues to Pursue Further Options and Is Turning to City and State Leadership to Halt Demolition Until Other Options are Addressed

“If we learn anything, it’s demolition of a historic landmark should not be an answer for financial gain. There is much regret about Notre Dame Church being demolished; as with it comes the loss of an important piece of Worcester’s history, identity and unique character. The City of Worcester should not have another historical church go the same route and be demolished!” says Mauro DePasquale of the Mount Carmel Preservation Society, in Worcester.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel was a parish founded by Father Gioacchino Maffei in 1906 to serve Worcester’s growing Italian community. The Romanesque style church, located today on Mulberry Street in Worcester, was built after 1924 when funds from the Italian community were raised for its construction. The parish has been a mainstay of Roman Catholic worship in Worcester. Besides the church, the parish contains a recreation center, owns and maintains low income apartments and hosts a number of charitable and community events.

The local diocese seeks to demolish Our Lady of Mount Carmel with no church to take its place. Options still exist to save Our Lady of Mount Carmel and time is needed to address them. The Mount Carmel Preservation Society (MCPS), is a nonprofit organization of parishioners that have been diligently working to save the Church by numerous measures: Hiring a Canon Lawyer; filing two appeals (still pending) in the Vatican, challenging the Bishop of the Diocese’s decrees eliminating the parish and ordering permanent church closure: developing better asset management and promoting a solid fundraising plan to cover restoration and maintenance costs over the long term. Members are now asking the State Department of Capital and Asset Management to look into the matter.

“Any commercial buyer of the church property could be in violation of a deed restriction imposed by the Commonwealth of Mass. in 1947,” says DePasquale. “In the deed, grant to the Diocese is an express condition that the property must be ‘used for religious, educational, or recreational purposes, otherwise the same is to revert to the grantors.’” MCPS believes that the Commonwealth has the right to enforce this restriction and recover title to the property in violation of that restriction. “This condition is still enforceable and continues to remain in effect. The State has a responsibility to investigate this matter and local leadership needs to halt any further attempts to demolish this historical church before it’s too late.”

Buildings age and deteriorate, as time goes by, and it takes long term maintenance planning and budgeting to restore and stabilize them. DePasquale says, “Although the Diocesan leadership has refused our engineer an opportunity to enter the building for inspection, we believe, in spite of their lack of transparency, and the apparent demolition by neglect that is taking place, such planning, along with proper asset management and a sustainability plan, is all that is needed to preserve the church. The façade work was completed and the City of Worcester’s Building Commissioner stated the church structure was safe and sound. We believe preserving this historical church is possible.”

If the Diocese allowed the church to be listed on the historical register, grants might be available for building upgrades and enhancements. “Isn’t it our duty to preserve this architectural and historic treasure?” asks DePasquale. “We believe in doing so, many new Catholics moving into our growing city, and those estranged Catholics who would like to return to a more transparent church, would support it through donations and pledges, to save it.”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the effort to save it, please log on to




By Joseph A. DeLuca, Member and Former Commander of Italian American Veterans of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Post #1

As we approach Memorial Day, our thoughts and memories surround those loved ones who have gone away from us. We especially remember those sons and daughters who left home to fight wars and to protect our liberty and freedom.

Many veterans have found peace by joining a veterans club or organization such as ours, the Italian American Veterans of Luzerne County, Post 1, in Northeast Pennsylvania. I am a member of this fine organization and served as its commander. We were once a large group but recently we have seen a downward slop in membership and involvement. We still participate in many civic and military events. Our members are still prominent local leaders, judges, businessmen and entrepreneurs. We still provide many improvements to the local Veterans Hospital located in Wilkes-Barre. We continue to support the Letterkenny Army Depot Chapel, near Chambersburg. This chapel was built by Italian prisoners of war in World War II. Once, there were 1,200 Italian soldiers detained at this military facility.

Many members are growing older and passing away with no new members joining our group. This issue is being faced by many other organizations all over the country. New tactics and methods are tried. Membership retention is our biggest problem. On this Memorial Day, let us commemorate all Veterans Associations in America! Let us recall that if not for the sacrifices made by our veterans, our country, our freedom and liberty would not exist.




The Wolves and The Mandolin
Chiriaco Summit
Let There Be Light

Celebrating Life’s Privileges in a Harsh World
By Brandon Vallorani
Published by ForbesBooks
Available at,

Brandon Vallorani is the founder of Vallorani Estates and Vineyards.
    He recently hosted the first-ever Italian festival in Dallas, Georgia, where he lives today with his wife and seven children. Brandon has been successful in business before and after earning an MBA in business management in 2004 from Thomas More College. His Italian blood, however, pushes him forward to get more out of life than just the bottom line. His new book, “The Wolves and the Mandolin,” is the story of his life, thus far; one that is quintessentially Italian, where the virtues of faith and family go hand in hand with business and entrepreneurship.
    In the beginning of the book, Brandon recounts the real-life story of his great-uncle who traveled the countryside in Abruzzo. He came across a pack of wolves and a nearby tree was his only means of escape. He took refuge on its highest limb and with nothing else to do, he took out his mandolin and started playing music for the hungry wolves below. Brandon sees this as a metaphor for how to live one’s life. He writes: “The world can be a cold, dark place full of hungry wolves biting at your ankles. Should we lock ourselves indoors and hide? No. We should pick up our mandolin and stride onward, bringing joy to our fellow travelers on earth.”
    Brandon’s family came from the village of Offida in Italy’s La Marche region. His great-grandfather Luigi, a veteran of the Italo-Turkish war, had immigrated to America only to return to Italy with his young son after his wife died. It was Brandon’s grandfather Eugenio who eventually settled in America and worked as an engineer for Westinghouse. Brandon looks back on his great-grandfather’s life as an example of perseverance and sacrifice. He writes: “Never give up. It took three tries for my great-grandfather to have a son who survived to carry on the Vallorani name. He never stopped trying to do more. While he did not settle in the United States to pursue the American dream for himself, he achieved it for his family by planting the seeds of success. We reaped what Luigi sowed.”
What we find from reading “The Wolves and the Mandolin” is that an appreciation for the past is a vital component to personal achievement in the present. As Brandon writes: “I owe so much of who I am to my parents and to the values they instilled in me, both through what they said and, more importantly, what they did…Both of them are devout Christians…Without those tools - love, faith, and willingness to take on a tough job - I’d not have enjoyed the successes I have. I’d rather leave my kids a legacy of solid values than of merely money.”
    “The Wolves and the Mandolin” is an ideal book for Italian Americans to read. It is the Italian way to success, where business and the good life are pursued with equal vigor.


Built by Love to Last in the Desert
An America Success Story
By Mary Contini Gordon
Available at,; or if in the area, at the Summit, The Patton Museum, and Joshua Tree National Park.

Dr. Mary Contini Gordon gives us a compelling and entertaining true American epic in “Chiriaco Summit.”
    This is an awesome book.
    An especially arid part of the Southern California desert is where Joe Chiriaco, a self-taught surveyor, envisioned a gas station and small cafe along a dirt road that became Highway 60 and then Interstate 10 in California. His fiancé Ruth Bergseid believed in him so much that she helped finance the project. Land was leased to Chiriaco from a sheep rancher in 1933 and what later became Chiriaco Summit was born. The couple married in 1934 and worked day and night to build what is today a world famous traveler’s stop.
    Dr. Contini Gordon’s previous book “TIQ SLO’W” was about a modern day Indian chief and his work to protect ancient Indian burial grounds in California. She now delves closer to her Italian background in “Chiriaco Summit.” She gives us an account of 20th century history through the eyes of an Italian American family at their traveler’s stop.
    In the beginning of “Chiriaco Summit,” we see the desert as a means to bring life to Los Angeles. Aqueducts were built through there to transport water. In the Great Depression, people who lost their farms in Oklahoma and elsewhere, reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” make the trek to California and stop along the way at Chiriaco’s gas station and cafe. When World War II begins, none other than General George S. Patton becomes a regular customer. His troops train nearby to fight later in the African desert. The postwar years bring a new Interstate, expansion of our hydrocarbon society, changing culture and demographics of the 1960s. All this happens as the Chiriaco family survive and strive to retain and build their family business.
“‘Chiriaco Summit’…chronicles the development of a small business started by a son and daughter of immigrants; today the business is owned and operated by the second, third and fourth generations,” writes the author. Midway in the book, she considers the survival ethic of the Chiriacos: ““Sweat, literally and figuratively, got the summit off the ground…but it flourished because Ruth and Joe invested their hearts in a community of people who in turn invested in doing whatever it took to make the Summit mission a reality—Serving the World on Wheels.”
    Dr. Contini Gordon gives us a wealth of historical detail in a narrative of a true American family who built something to last generations. Most special about “Chiriaco Summit” is that it reaffirms the belief in America that brought Joe Chiriaco’s father Vincent from Nicastro, Calabria in 1898. That America, with its freedom and fair-minded spirit, allows anyone to make it if they work hard and play by the rules. The Chiriacos did just that and we are all grateful to Dr. Contini Gordon for bringing us their incredible story.


An Illuminating Life
By Imero Fiorentino
Call to order 1-888-795-4274
Or log on:

Lights, camera, action!
    The famous command of television directors - at least the first part of it - was often relegated to the ingenuity of Imero Fiorentino.
Now comes his memoir “Let There Be Light;” a record of one man’s extraordinary technical achievements in America’s entertainment industry.
Son of Italian immigrants, Fiorentino was responsible for lighting television shows and live events in a career that spanned decades. He was a true pioneer in his field who once worked for ABC in the 1950s when programs were broadcast live. A graduate of Carnegie-Mellon, Fiorentino created many of the lighting techniques that are commonplace today in television.
    “Let There Be Light” is a wonderful book about a fine Italian American. Fiorentino did the lighting for political debates and conventions, the Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bout at Madison Square Garden in 1971, the Bolshoi ballet’s first televised performance in 1959; Frank Sinatra, the Main Event, 1974 and the California Jam on ABC in 1974 that featured Deep Purple, the Eagles, Black Sabbath, and more.
One of his first jobs was creating the lighting for “Pulitzer Prize Playhouse,” a live drama series on ABC in the 1950s, that featured, among others, Ralph Bellamy, Anne Bancroft, and Grace Kelly.
    “The work was demanding and loaded with pressure,” the author writes. “The hours were long - fifteen - to eighteen-hour days, seven days a week - but there were no complaints from me.”
    Although Sicilian, Fiorentino was well-known for his calm composure. There was only one occasion when he lost his cool. Director Alex Segal “…was insisting on a lighting effect that simply couldn’t be done…and I sailed my clipboard across the room...I retrieved the damaged clipboard and made up my mind to keep it and to never use another…One corner is missing and it looks pretty shabby. I love that clipboard.”
    Fiorentino was a good friend of PRIMO’s who once wrote a piece for our Readers’ Corner department titled “Mammina Power,” about his no-nonsense and deeply devoted Sicilian mother. Thus, we welcome his new book, albeit on a bittersweet note. Fiorentino died in 2013 and his surviving wife Angela made it her mission to get the book published posthumously.
    We’re glad she did.
    “Let There Be Light,” is an entertaining and historic account of a true television pioneer. Fiorentino retells a life lived to the highest levels of craftsmanship and professional acumen. “Let There Be Light” should be read by anyone who loves the art of television, cinema, and live events. This book reminds us what it takes to be the best at what one does.




Seizure of a Spanish NGO rescue boat by the Italian authorities and the investigation of its crew for "criminal conspiracy aimed at facilitating illegal immigration” after they refused to hand over to the Libyan Coast Guard refugees and migrants rescued in international waters over 70 nautical miles off the Libyan coast, Amnesty International’s Campaigns Director for Europe, Fotis Filippou said:

“By requesting the Libyan coastguard to coordinate rescue and then impounding the NGO ship that refused to hand over the refugees and migrants, the Italian authorities have shown a reckless disregard for common decency. Rather than being criminalized for trying to save refugees and migrants who have fled horrific detention conditions and systematic human rights abuses in Libya, NGOs saving lives at seashould be supported.

“The Italian authorities are once more revealing where their true priorities lie: namely shutting off the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused. This appears to mark yet another step towards the outsourcing to the Libyan Coast Guard of the patrolling of the central Mediterranean.

“It is time for European governments to urgently reset their cooperation with Libya on migration. Their callous complicity with smugglers, criminals and torturers must end and the safety and the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants must be prioritized.”

The rescue vessel Open Arms was seized on Sunday, March 18, in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo and the Italian authorities stated they are investigating the group for suspected criminal association aimed at aiding and abetting “illegal” immigration.

Marking a significant departure from previous rescue operations in the central Mediterranean, usually coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard, Italian authorities have stated that Friday’s rescue operations in international waters were conducted under the coordination of the Libyan Coast Guard, who have received in past months speedboats, training and further assistance from various European governments and institutions. Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are disembarked in Libya and immediately transferred to detention centres where serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and exploitation have been widely documented.

European Governments should condition their support on ensuring that Libyan authorities bring an end to the policy of indefinite arbitrary detention of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, recognize UNHCR and allow it to exercise its full mandate in the country. European governments must also provide sufficient resettlement opportunities for the refugees stranded in Libya, establish a solid monitoring of the operations of the Libyan Coast Guard and most importantly ensure people rescued at sea are not taken back to Libya until the protection of their rights can be guaranteed. For more information, please log on to



Patrick Morelli Sculpted The "Behold" Monument to Dr. Martin Luther King at
King National Historic Site in Atlanta

Photos: Top, separate casting of "Behold" infant acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum for its permanent collection in Washington, D.C. Above left, January 11, 1990, King National Historic site, Atlanta, Georgia, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, actor John Amos, who played Kunta Kinte in "Roots", and "Behold" sculptor Patrick Morelli unveil the 10 foot "Roots" inspired "Behold" monument to Dr. King for his moral courage and nobility of spirit overlooking the Kings' tomb. Right: September 3, 2017, Miss Malala Yousafzai, a courageous champion of human rights and the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize stands with sculptor Patrick Morelli in front of the "Behold" monument.

Add plaques at Columbus Circle expressing negative historical interpretations and commentary about Columbus by one group or another--"absolutely not!"

Imagine a policy ordering the National Park Service to post prominent plaques around the Washington Monument in D.C. that our first President owned over two hundred slaves, and after his wife's death, "inherited" an additional one hundred slaves, all of which he kept as an "enlightened" white slaveholder--and additional posted signs regarding negative interpretations of the contributions of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Einstein posted around their public sculptures in D.C. and nationwide. And add to such a negative supposition the removal or attachment of negative commentary to all statues in the United States glorifying the courageous and important civil rights, political freedoms, and military service contributions of Spanish Americans whose Queen, Isabella, of Spain financed the 1492 Columbus voyages to the New World.

When will Italian-American organizations and Italian-American media throughout the United States begin a very active, positive national campaign—in all media, Entertainment, News, and Advertising, and on all university and college campuses--to educate the American public, and the world, regarding Italian-American contributions to Civil Rights and human dignity—one of many historically significant examples, US Congressman, Peter Rodino, Jr. a major proponent of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill (see him standing in published photos next to Dr. King and President Johnson as the President signs the bill into Law).

This would help to create a long-overdue, persistent and determined national united effort among Italian-Americans, Italian-American organizations and friends to overcome negative popular media portrayals and bigoted and misinformed (mainly academic) historical interpretations, perspectives, and protests regarding the contributions and history of Italian Americans to the United States—from 1492 to the present day.

In 1990 Mrs. King unveiled the “Behold” Monument, dedicated to her late husband, overlooking his tomb (and that of Mrs. King’s, by her wishes after her demise in 2006) where it is viewed, annually, by over 1,000,000 American and foreign visitors. It is an inspiring story of how I worked for over ten years with Mrs. King to create "Behold" and, independently, raise the casting, transportation, and installation costs of the monument. 

I am currently seeking opportunities to present my story to Italian-American organizations. My hope is that by learning of my efforts to sculpt the "Behold" statue that Italian-Americans will be inspired further to show our rich history in supporting Civil Rights in America.

Editor's Note: You can find out more about Patrick Morelli by visiting his web site at Mr. Morelli is currently looking to collaborate with a major architect to compete for a major public memorial to Dr. and Mrs. King to be sited in Boston. A deadline of February 28 is set by memorial organizers. Please contact Mr. Morelli by email at




No Place Compares to The Italian Neighborhood in Brooklyn for Holiday Decorations
PRIMO photo exclusive







By Joe David
Photos by Nicole D’Amecourt


Dr. Zoe Kosmidou with guests

Chef Luigi Diotauti and Dr. Zoe Kosmidou

Chefs Luigi Diotauti and Amy Riolo

A new kind of dining has come to Washington, in which each meal is spiced lightly with some history and culture.

This blending of history and culture to highlight a memorable meal is the brainchild of Dr. Zoe Kosmidou. For some, Zoe is a new face in the city, the recent founder and president of Ancient Dinners LLC; for others, she is a world-traveler who has for many years represented Greece at its embassy in Washington, D.C.
Ancient Dinners is for Zoe a blending of two loves, travel and food, and each Ancient Dinner highlights a different country around the world, gastronomically with family-style food, based on ancient recipes and created with original ingredients that are indigenous to the country.
A recent gathering was the third Ancient Dinner in a series that will continue next year as well. It was held at Aperto Restaurant in Washington, D.C., and it was billed as a Roman Cena. For the select diners, it was an educationally enriching experience, in which the ancient foods of Rome were introduced by two engaging personalities, Chefs Amy Riolo, author and television personality, and Luigi Diotaiuti, proprietor of Aperto and Al Tiramisu.
In the spirit of Virgil and Apicius, two famous Roman devotees of fine food, the charming duo of Luigi and Amy lifted the evening to Olympian heights, and filled it with their intimate knowledge.

Ancient Dinners began this fall to celebrate the traditions and the cultures around the world; its goal is to offer guests a cultural experience that goes beyond just food. Like the ancient Greek symposia, or Deipnosophistaí, “I want us to eat, drink and engage in learning guided by two prominent historians and gastronomists,” Zoe told guests as she lifted her wine glass in a toast to the moment. “Thank you all for coming. Alla salute!”
To learn more about the series, visit

Editor's Note: Joe David is the author of numerous articles and six books, including Gourmet Getaways: 50 Top Spots to Cook and Learn, and The Infidels.



By Truby Chiaviello, Publisher & Editor PRIMO Magazine


Before - Our Lady of Loreto once contained a beautiful interior for Mass said to a flock of devoted Italian American Catholics

After - Our Lady of Loreto today, on the cusp of total demolition, as requested by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, of the Brooklyn archdiocese.


Our Lady of Loreto has been destroyed.

The Brooklyn archdiocese got its way. And the church, built by Italian immigrants over 100 years ago, is now being demolished.

One photo was taken by my son Samer last week. You can see how the church is boarded up. No doubt this is a demolition site. You can see how the roof has been removed and, thus, the interior. It is reminiscent of what happens to a building that had a bomb dropped on it.

The church was near a subway stop. I visited there in 2009. Our Lady of Loreto was located on 124 Sackman Street in Brooklyn. Part of Brownsville or Ocean Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn. Some refer to the area as East New York.

This neighborhood was once a densely populated Italian neighborhood. About 110 years ago, the Italian immigrants wanted a Catholic church of their own. A house of worship that conveyed their language, customs and traditions. So, they volunteered their money and labor. Many of the men who lived there were carpenters and bricklayers and had experience in construction.

They hired an Italian architect and built a beautiful church. You can see photos here from the web site devoted to Our Lady of Loreto, a web site maintained by Dominick Mondelli. The interior was beautifully designed. There is a ceiling mural. A statue of San Innocenzo at Loreto. Here is a photo of Mass at the church in 1937. You can see that it was well-attended and made up of many devoted parishioners.

In the 1960s, Our Lady of Loreto was turned over to the Brooklyn archdiocese. And 40 years later, the archdiocese wanted to tear it down. That’s when PRIMO got involved. I published a feature article on the effort of Italian Americans who once lived in the neighborhood, who attended Mass there at Our Lady of Loreto, who were baptized there, had their first communion and confirmation there; and so they organized to save the church.

Besides PRIMO, the Italian Tribune, mainstream newspapers and news sites in New York such as the New York Times and the Daily News and others brought a lot of publicity to the preservation effort. And all things were offered to the archdiocese including a creative development idea that preserved the church.

This was back in 2009 and 2010 and the Brooklyn archdiocese agreed to retain the church in return for demolishing the rectory next door. The archdiocese was supposed to upkeep the structure and they didn’t. And here is where one wonders about the intentions of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and other officials of the Brooklyn archdiocese. Did they intentionally allow Our Lady of Loreto to deteriorate so they could claim it as a danger to the community and apply for demolition? This is what happened over the last 18 months. The fight to preserve it included petitions and donation drives.

Now, you hear the news about how divided is America. Well, the activists involved came from all walks of life. Not just Italian Americans, but people who live in the neighborhood or are active in it - these were African Americas who’s ancestors come from different parts of Africa and the Caribbean - these were Latinos - Asians - everyone was involved to keep Our Lady of Loreto because they all recognized it as a beautiful church - a real work of art in so many ways.

In the end, however, the fight was lost. The legal appeals exhausted and the archdiocese had their way - and Our Lady of Loreto is being torn down.

In its place will be affordable housing.

You can see photos here, taken by Todd Maisel, of The Daily News, how the the murals, statuary, the decorative elements - all being beaten and destroyed. The time it took to build them, the craftsmanship, the artistry - all for nothing - destroyed.

Very sad.

This is not the only church to face its extinction. PRIMO reported on St Peter’s in Duluth, Minnesota and the effort there by Robin Mainella to save it. The situation began also around 2009 and I wanted both churches to survive. But I thought if one was going to face it’s demolition, it would have been St. Peter’s. Instead, the opposite happened. An artist by the name of Jeffrey T. Larson purchased St. Peters and has now turned it into an art academy.

One wonders, why couldn’t the same thing have happened to Our Lady of Loreto. This part of Brownsville is still knee deep in poverty and dispossession. It remains a place plagued by urban decay. People need more than just a roof over their heads. They need inspiration from art. They need faith. One wonders why the Brooklyn archdiocese didn’t sell the property to another denomination - perhaps a Protestant faith - now prevalent in the area. In return for keeping the church and its interior decorations, the people there could have a place of worship. It is not unusual for Catholic churches to be converted to Baptists and other Protestant denominations.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The turning point was when the parish turned itself over to the archdiocese. Any time you build something, you should try and keep it, because those whom you hand it over to, really don’t care and they will destroy it when the moment arises.

The silver lining are the activists, all ethnicities and backgrounds, that tried to save Our Lady of Loreto. We commend them for their efforts. We commend also the Italian immigrants who built this church. They came to build up the city and not tear it down - unlike the archdiocese and now even some others in local government that want to tear down statues of Columbus and others.

We learn from this sad situation, that the effort to preserve our Italian heritage in New York and all over America is well worth the fight and we have to keep fighting whenever we are faced with destruction of our heritage.

Here is a list the people who fought the good fight to save Our Lady of Loreto. If I missed anyone, please let me know, as I want to include anyone and everyone who fought the good fight. We commend the following people who led the effort to preserve the church.

Flavia Alaya
Gianfranco Archimede
Simeon Bankoff
Patricia Dean
Jeff Dunston
Gerald Ferretti
Barbara Florio
Lester Ford
Louis Gallo
Marialena Giampino
Monica Kumar
Farrah Lafontant
Donny Mondelli
Jillian Mulvihill
Barabara Anne Pascucci
Charles Piazza
Stanislao Pugliese
Miriam Robertson
William Russo
Joseph Sciame
Paula Segal
Zulmilena Then
Mario Toglia
Gabriella Velardi Ward
Marilyn Verna
Lakai Worrell

Here is a link to the web site devoted to Our Lady of Loreto in Brooklyn. Below is a YouTube video presentation on the destruction of Our Lady of Loreto.










Alan Pascuzzi is the subject of a feature article in this current issue of PRIMO - 4th edtion 2016. Based in Florence, Italy, Pascuzzi has created works of art for churces, public and private clients. To learn more about his background and work, read this current edition of PRIMO or log on to his web site at




73rd Annual Columbus Day Parade New York
Line of March
Monday, October 9, 2017
Laying of Wreath at Columbus Circle - Sunday, October 8, 2017




Parade information provided by the Association of Italian American Educators (AIAE). Please log on to their web site at

AIAE is proud to participate in the 2017 Columbus Day Parade on October 9. Please join us to celebrate our Italian Heritage


Blue = Entry from Police Group;
Yellow = Entry from Float Block;
Green = Entry from Fifth Ave (TBD)
Grey = Entry from 44th between 5th & 6 th


Block Captain: Charlie Unger
Assemble at 11:30am at 46th Street between 5th & 6th Ave, facing EAST
BAND: Bernard’s High School Mountaineer Band
VEHICLE: Alfa Romeo Service Van (Yellow)
FLOAT: Alfa Romeo Float (Yellow)
NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Port Authority of NY & NJ Police Columbia Association (Blue)
FLOAT: Italian American Police Society of New Jersey (Yellow)
Nassau County Sheriff’s Department Columbia Association (Blue)
VEHICLE: FLECO vintage Cars
Hartford Police (Blue)
Additional Police Groups from NY State, NJ, CT (Blue)
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer
BAND: Bishop Kearney High School
Bishop Kearney High School (marching group)
FLOAT: Barnes & Noble Book Distribution Float (Yellow)
Garibaldi Lodge #542, Grand Lodge Free & Accepted Masons of New York
Circolo Santa Margherita Belice
Mayoral Candidate Nicole Malliotakis
Italian American Women’s Center
Italian Welfare League (Marching Group) (Yellow)
FLOAT: Italian Welfare League (Yellow)
BAND: Wagner College Seahawk Marching Band (Yellow)
FLOAT: Wagner College (Yellow)
BAND: Connetquot High School Marching Band
FLOAT: Gabelli Funds (Yellow)
Bo Dietl for New York City Mayor
BAND: West Islip High School Marching Band
Tribute to Arturo Toscanini with Giueseppe Verdi and UNESCO
FLOAT: CBS Radio (Yellow)
VEHICLE: Fresh FM (Yellow)
Morgani Medical Society
VEHICLE: L’Arte Del Gelato Truck and Fiat
Association of Italian American Educators (AIAE)
Sacred Heart Academy
FLOAT: RC Diocese of Brooklyn (Yellow)
BAND: North Hunterdon High School “Golden Lions” Band
FLOAT: Formaggio (Yellow)
Federation of Italian American Societies of NJ


Parade Telecast: WABC Channel 7, 12:00 Noon to 3:00 p.m. Monday, October 9, 2017
Parade chairman: Aldo Verrelli


Grand Stand and Reviewing Stand Locations
West Side of Fifth Avenue on 67th and 69th Street


Identifier issued to your group at the assembly area by your group captain

Assembly: Time and place indicated in Parade Order
Move Out: First contingent 11:00 a.m., regardless of weather
Formation: Eight (8) Abreast, Except for Musical Units and Color/Honor Guards
Dismissal: Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street, as directed by the police department (Buses meeting groups should park to pick up on 75th-79th Streets between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue, according to instructions by the NYC police department.)

Bands: High school bands will be judged as they march (Do not break formation or stop on the Red Carpet.)

Bus instructions: Make sure to ask for your driver’s cell phone number so you can contact him/her after the parade is over.

Groups assembling East of Fifth Avenue travel North on Madison Avenue to designated street
Groups assembling West of Fifth Avenue travel North on Sixth Avenue to designated street
After drop-off, participant buses should proceed to East 75th Street and park according to police department instructions.

Floats: All personnel riding or walking with a float will meet at the designated staging area assigned to your float. Floats will enter line-of-march as directed by parade captains.

With the threat of removing the statue of Columbus from Columbus Circle we encourage all to also join us at the laying of the Wreath for the Columbus Statute by the National Council of Columbia Associations in Civil Service on October 8, 2017. Our Ancestors in 1890 donated the statute with small donations from Italian immigrants in appreciation of being Americans. Where: Columbus Circle, NYC. When: Sunday October 8, 2017.




29 September 2017 – 7 January 2018
Albertina Vienna, Austria





This autumn, the Albertina Museum in Vienna is paying homage to Raphael with a major presentation of 150 paintings and drawings that has been developed in cooperation with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England. Starting from the Albertina’s own significant holdings and rounded out by the most beautiful and important drawings from prominent museums such as the Uffizi, the Royal Collection of the British Royal Family, the British Museum, the Louvre, the Vatican Museums, and the Ashmolean Museum, this monographic presentation places Raphael’s thinking and mode of conception front and centre: the featured works range from initial spontaneous artist’s impressions to virtuosic detailed studies and compositional studies and on to completed paintings.

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about the Albertina Museum by logging on to



A Follow-Up to Our Feature Article on Film Director Paolo Virzi in the 2017 Second Edition

“Human Capital” was released in Italy in 2014 and here in the United States in 2015. It remains controversial for its depiction of Italy's wealthiest citizens in the province of Monza and Brianza, about 25 miles away from Milan, where located is Italy's stock exchange and many of Europe's top banks.

Paolo Virzi set the film in Brianza because he thought it most like Connecticut, the setting of the novel by Stephen Amidon, from 2004, in which the film is based.

“Human Capital” is about two families in Italy.

The first are the Ossolas; a middle class family with Dino, a real estate broker, played by the versatile actor Fabrizio Bentivoglio. Dino is divorced but has remarried Roberta Morelli, a child psychologist, who is played by Valeria Golino, who you may know from popular films "Rain Man" and "Hot Shots." Serena is Dino’s teenage daughter from his first marriage and lives with the couple. She is played by actress Matilde Gioli.

The second family are the Bernaschis with Giovanni, played by Fabrizio Gifuni, as the patriarch. He is a manager of a successful hedge fund in Milan. His wife Carla is played by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, older sister of actress Carla Bruni who as you might know is married to Nikolas Sarkozy former president of France. In the film both Giovanni and Carla live with their teenage son Massimilano, who is played by Guglielmo Pinelli.

Friends at private school, Serena and Massimilano form the connection between the two families. The film opens with Serena’s father Dino driving her to the Bernaschi’s home for a visit. While there, he is recruited by Giovanni to play in a doubles tennis match. After the game, Dino asks Giovanni if he can invest in the hedge fund. The answer is yes but the entrance fee is $500,000, far more than what Dino has in savings. In order to get the money, Dino presents a false business plan to a friend, a loan officer at a bank. He expects to repay the loan quickly knowing the high rate of return of the hedge fund. What happens instead is Italy’s recession that puts a strain on the fund and Dino and Giovanni find themselves in a struggle to survive financial disaster.

The film comes to us in different parts; through the eyes of three characters, Dino, Carla and Serena. It is a style the director utilizes with compelling effect. We see the same events but by different perspectives.

It is through Serena’s perspective where the ark of the film occurs. A tragic accident at night on a road near the Bernaschi’s home implicates Massimiliano. Serena and her friend, Luca, played by Giovanni Anselmo are involved. The respective families face the crisis differently. The question arises as to how far will a family will go to survive scandal. The suspenseful ending is one you might not expect.

The actors and actresses in "Human Capital" fully capture the peculiarities, strengths and weaknesses of the characters. The most sympathetic was Carla Bernaschi, who we see, at first, living an empty life of daily shopping sprees. Her portrayal by Bruni is both subtle and effective. We see her chauffeured in Brianza to an old theater about to be torn down. She stops and tours the structure and then volunteers to save it. From money in Giovanni's hedge fund, she purchases the building and sets up a non-profit organization to begin restoration. Her new board of directors are writers, professors and local politicians who come across as snobs with little care to save the old theater. The restoration effort only comes undone after Giovanni's hedge fund starts losing money and they are forced to liquidate assets.

Here we see how all members of society are inherently connected to a select few of great wealth. It is Giovanni who is the film's central figure; always present in a big way; the person who controls the money and so controls the destinies of the other characters. The suggestion in the film is that Giovanni is morally corrupt. And yet, we don’t see it. Yes, he’s rich but that alone does not make him nefarious or unscrupulous. We only know snippets of what he does. The film would have been better if it had given us more details about his operations, where and how he invested his money. Hedge funds acquired the worst of reputations after the 2008 crash. And yet we know very little about them. This film doesn’t help. With Giovanni, we don’t see the unseemly way he acquired and retains his fortune.

“Human Capital” did not garner enthusiastic reviews when it came to the United States. Most critics noted its technique and style but found the story lacking. The reason for that might be how the rich are portrayed in the film. The trend today in America is class warfare. And any film that shows rich people in a balanced view is destined for criticism and even condemnation. Indeed, if anyone comes across as grossly morally corrupt in this film, it would be those of the lower classes. We see the character of Luca, fort instance, living in a rundown apartment with his uncle who is selling drugs. Another main character, Dino, is obsessed with money. He sees nothing wrong in defrauding his friend at the bank. Considering how well the rich of Brianza are portrayed in the film, one wonders why the leaders of the province had a problem with it in the first place.

“Human Capital” explores the pursuance of wealth by any means necessary and how the important things in life - love, family, honor - can fall to the side. The film however is not a negative dissertation of greed and materialism. Rather, the integrity of the director ensures a fair and just conclusion - one that still resonates and compels us to watch.

You can read more about the director of "Human Capital," Paolo Virzi, in PRIMO"s 2017 Second Edition. A copy of this edition can be purchased here.



The New Novella by Actor Michael Dante; Featured in an Article in PRIMO’s First Edition 2017
A Sequel to the 1975 Film “Winterhawk,” Starring Dante in The Title Role

Award winning actor Michael Dante was the subject of a six-page feature article in PRIMO’s First Edition 2017.

If you don’t know the name, you surely know the face and the roles Dante played on television and in film.

Written by Brian D’Ambrosio, the article points out that Dante’s family settled in Connecticut after they came from the Frosinone province in the Lazio region of Italy. As a young adult, Dante played professional baseball. As a result of a shoulder injury he attended the University of Miami as a drama major. Tommy Dorsey met and saw Dante in a play and arranged a screen test at MGM Studios and signed him to a 7 year contract. His time in Hollywood went well. He was steadily employed with appearances in some 30 films and 150 television shows. He was, perhaps, most famous for the character “Maab” in a Star Trek episode titled “Friday’s Child,” which aired on network television in 1967. Dante played the leader of the Capella humanoid tribe that battled Captain Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy, temporarily stranded on the planet. Maab was a hero who at the end sacrificed his life to save the native queen played by Julie Newmar.

Of all the genres in film and television, it was the Western, not science fiction, that became a staple for Dante. He played many characters who were outlaws, cowboys, and Native Americans. The actor’s athletic build, olive skin and jet black hair were well-suited for roles as Indian chiefs and renegades. In PRIMO’s article, Dante claimed he was one of only a few actors to play cowboys, both good and bad and Native Americans; something of which he is especially proud. He considers his best role as that of the titled character in the 1975 film “Winterhawk.” He played a Blackfoot Indian chief in Montana who avenges the killing of members of his tribe for furs. He retaliates by kidnapping a white woman (who he eventually married) to exchange for medicine to cure a smallpox outbreak among his people and defeats the rogue frontiersmen who pursue them.

The role of Winterhawk inspired Dante to learn all he could about the Blackfoot Indian culture and their unique history in Montana and parts of Canada. Over the years he studied their language, customs and traditions and the land they settled in the Wild West. An accumulation of Native American history is now put to good use by the actor. He has written a new book based on the character he played; a sequel to the film, titled “Winterhawk’s Land.”

Published by BearManor Media, a Pulitzer prize nominated press in Albany, Georgia, “Winterhawk’s Land” is almost 100 pages of text that comes with many original illustrations by the artist Dave Powell. The front cover summarizes the basic plot of the novella. Artist Inga Ojala renders in color the likeness of Dante in the role of Winterhawk. The Indian chief is seen on horseback blocking the path of an uncompleted railroad that aims its way through Blackfoot territory. Opposed to the use of his land, Winterhawk is the last obstacle faced by greedy railroad executives. They hire assassins to kill him and others of the tribe. After his wife Clayanna is assaulted by gunmen, Winterhawk sets off on a mission to confront his adversaries.

“Winterhawk’s Land” is a novella to be read by anyone and everyone who loves Westerns. The book contains an array of characters, ranging from viperous outlaws and grisly frontiersmen to noble chiefs and stalwart braves. Dante knows his character well and makes Winterhawk approachable and, of course, likable to the reader. The chemistry between the chief and his wife Clayanna highlight a relationship that crosses boundaries of race and ethnicity in the American frontier.

Dante’s knowledge of Indian customs and culture is commendable. He gives readers an indelible perspective of Native American life in the cold and rough terrain of sharp buttes, dense forests, and wide open prairies. We learn just how important religion is among members of the tribe. The ceremonies are many for Winterhawk and others. In one scene, the author captures a ritual of the chief before a key battle. He writes: “Winterhawk was silhouetted against the black sky. The wind was blowing and the distant rumble of thunder could be heard, coming in his direction. He stepped into the ring and knelt. The wind was picking up now and the rumble of thunder and lightning continued in the background. Along with the sound of the approaching storm, the soft beating of war drums and the faint sound of the ancient battle song of the Blackfoot could be heard… ‘Great Spirit, give me the strength and guidance to fight my enemies,’ said Winterhawk reverently. ‘I seek strength not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy, myself.’”

The back cover contains thoughts on how Dante approached playing Winterhawk. The author says he “immediately identified” with the Blackfoot chief and tribe when he acted in the film. He sought to “make Winterhawk a spiritual man, adding many more nuances to his character.”

“Winterhawk’s Land” follows where the film “Winterhawk” left off, many years later. Dante has written an appealing addition to the Western genre. Nothing is more American than the interplay of good versus evil amidst huge mountains and untamed country. Dante’s fresh and direct style of writing allows the reader to fully grasp the entirety of his story. PRIMO recommends “Winterhawk’s Land” as a novella that brings out the best in the Western genre.

To learn more about “Winterhawk’s Land” and to purchase the novella, please visit the publisher, BearManor Media, at and/or the author at the web site for a personally autographed copy.





A Film About Italy’s Illegal Migrant Crisis and The Island of Lampedusa

“Fire at Sea” is a documentary that came out in 2016 about the illegal migrant crisis in Italy. It is a snapshot of ground zero in the crisis - the island of Lampedusa - 120 miles off the coast of Sicily. Lampedusa belongs to the province of Agrigento; one of several of the Pelagie islands and is actually closer to Africa than Sicily - just 113 miles from Tunisia.

“Fire at Sea” is directed by Gianfranco Rosi and the film won a number of awards and was nominated for an Oscar in 2016 for best documentary.

Rosi is famous for his well crafted shots of people and places in Italy and elsewhere that exist outside the narrative of mainstream media. He made a film called "Sacro Gra" in 2013, that focused his lens on the highway that circles Rome - the Grande Raccordo Anulare. He showed the people who work there and live next to the highway.

“Fire at Sea” takes the same approach. The director lived for a year on the island of Lampedusa where he accumulated extensive footage.

He gives us two stories in one.

The first deals with the Sicilian families of the island who rely on the sea for their livelihood. These are fishermen who either cast nets or dive down in the water to catch fish.

The second centers on the Italian coast guard and others who are called to rescue illegal migrants at sea.

As we learn in the beginning of the film from text on screen, some 400,000 illegal migrants have entered Italy by way of Lampedusa the last 20 years, resulting in some 15,000 casualties. Rosi said the purpose in making the film was to bring greater awareness to the plight of migrants.

Lampedusa has a history that dates back to antiquity as the first step in foreign invasion, be it the Greeks, Phoenicians, or Saracens. This time, it is the people from Nigeria, Eritrea and the Arab nations of Africa who are invading, not to conquer Italy, but to find work and live outside the law.

As the film shows, the perilous journey from Africa is made in boats that are old and subpar. They are terribly overcrowded and come with faulty engines that leak diesel fuel to seriously burn passengers. Quite often, passengers on these boats call for help and the Italian coast guard and navy are sent to the rescue. Lampedusa is a temporary holding center before migrants are transported to the Italian mainland.

There are several key characters in the film; one of whom is Dr. Pietro Bartolo - the sole physicians on the island. He originally came there to treat the fishermen and their families. Now with waves of illegal migrants coming ashore, he is recruited to give them emergency medical care. Many suffer from heat stroke and dehydration. In one scene, we see him in the middle of the night examining all arrivals for viruses and infectious diseases. In another scene he speaks about examining cadavers - those who died at sea.

The film goes back and forth between the daily lives of Italian islanders and African migrants.

It opens with another main character - a 12 year old Italian boy Samuele Puccilo - who sometimes works with his uncle, a fishermen on the island. His is an existence reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn. We see him break a branch off a tree to make with it a slingshot. He and his friend take target practice at cactuses that grow wild there. We follow the boy as he explores the rugged seashore and back country of the island.

“Fire at Sea” is an exceptional film to be watched by all who are interested in Italy. For me, this was a special film because over the years, I have spoken to some PRIMO readers, who came from Lampedusa. They work as fishermen off the coast of California. With “Fire at Sea” I was able to attain a better understanding of their homeland. Here is a place where Italy is at her best, be it the fishermen and their families or the Italian first responders who rescue illegal migrants.

These Italians stand in stark contrast to the EU officials who have done practically nothing in stopping this crisis. Italy is bombarded by illegal migration and there seems no end in sight. One only hopes of leadership to come to stop this problem. To learn more about the film "Fire at Sea" please log on to .

Here is the review by way of YouTube video:







A 2009 Article in PRIMO Supported Saving The Now 111-year-old Church
After a 2010 Compromise to Preserve Our Lady of Loreto, Catholic Charities, which Owns the Church, Renews Its Effort to Destroy

It doesn’t seem that long ago.

In 2009, PRIMO published an article in support of saving Our Lady of Loreto; at the time a 100-year-old church located in the Ocean Hill-East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, slated for demolition at the insistence of Catholic Charities.

A group of concerned citizens, made up former and current residents of the neighborhood, organized, protested and negotiated with Catholic officials to save the church. A compromise was made then whereby the church would remain but the adjoining rectory would be sold to developers.

Now comes a new effort from Catholic Charities to destroy Our Lady of Loreto. They have filed and attained a permit last year to tear down the church claiming the structure a danger to the community.

In 2010, Our Lady of Loreto was saved when a Letter of Resolution was signed between preservation activists, Catholic Charities (housing arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn) and various New York State agencies including the Office of Historic Preservation. The Letter of Resolution called for Catholic Charities to “make good faith efforts to preserve the former church building for community use” and stipulated that the church not be demolished, reconstructed or damaged. According to Mario Toglia, a member of the team to preserve the church, “Catholic Charities deliberately let the building deteriorate. They never consulted state agencies since the signing of our Letter of Resolution. Church officials are now adamant to once again tear down the church and sell the property to developers. All that will remain of Our Lady of Loreto may be sculpture and some interior and exterior religious decorations.”

Save Our Lady of Loreto remains a cause today. The mission is to keep in place a beautiful church built by Italian immigrants in 1906. The fight for preservation comes with protests, demonstrations and court hearings where a temporary restraining order was recently granted in halting the demolition.

A lawsuit has been filed by the Brownsville Cultural Coalition (BCC) for breach of contract whereby Catholic Charities did not maintain Our Lady of Loreto as agreed. Currently, BCC is looking for financial support to pay for its lawyers. They are seeking help through donations and other means of support and ask people log on to and/or their Facebook page at

Our Lady of Loreto stands…but not for long.

Catholic Charities, the organization which owns the property, seems wholly committed to tearing it down.

Why should we save Our Lady of Loreto? As Toglia claims, the church has a number historical and physical attributes which makes it special.

“This building has significant meaning for the Italian American community,” says Toglia. “It is the first church in the nation erected in pure Renaissance style, an early example of design-build construction by the New Jersey company of Antonio Federici and Adriano Armezzani, the latter becoming the first Italian-born architect of a New York City Catholic church. They were part of a team of five gifted artisans – all had to be Italian-born - purposely chosen to highlight the architectural talents of their native land and to counterattack the nativist prejudice against Italians as being uncivilized and uneducated. The frescoes on the ceiling were done by Gaetano Capone of Maiori. The 33 ft-long pediment is Paterson sculptor-laureate Gaetano Federici’s largest artwork and the only representation of the Miracle of Loreto outside Europe. Among other findings, the land under the church was once owned by Pietro Cesare Alberti, the first Italian settler to Dutch North America.”

Our Lady of Loreto was one of the first national Catholic churches in the United States. East New York was at the time a burgeoning Italian American neighborhood, where large numbers of Italian immigrants first settled there after leaving Ellis Island. Toglia explains that Our Lady of Loreto was “founded in 1896 and at first housed in a former Salvation Army hall on Powell Street, near Liberty Avenue in Brooklyn. The parish became the fourth national Italian parish in the Diocese of Brooklyn. It drew on worshippers from the entire wider Brooklyn region and beyond. By the turn of the 20th century the congregation had become large and prosperous enough to consider building its own church.”

In Our Lady of Loreto, Italians had a place where they could hear sermons in their own language, worship in accordance to their traditions and customs, and seek the intercession of saints from Italy. The church was built from money raised by neighborhood residents and volunteer laborers, many of whom had experience in carpentry, masonry and construction.

To see Our Lady of Loreto is to see a structure replete with extraordinary structure and decorative elements, both inside and out, that made an architectural gem in Brooklyn and tangible tribute to the Italian American experience in New York.

Toglia explains, “Besides three historic New York City districts commemorating immigrant neighborhoods where Italian immigrants lived, there are only four landmarks related to the Italian American experience in New York City nominated under Criterion A for Ethnic history: The Lisanti Chapel in the Bronx; the Giuseppe Verdi Monument in Manhattan; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grotto and the Garibaldi-Meucci House on Staten Island. There is no such landmark honoring Italian American life on Long Island.”

Editor’s Note: You can help Save Our Lady of Loreto. Please visit and follow the cause on Facebook ( for news and actions, and kindly sign the petition if you support the landmarking.



Rare Books and Illustrations from the Library’s Italian Collection Highlight Works from Venice -
Exhibit Ends August 26


On the first floor of the New York Public Library is an exhibit of books and illustrations published and printed in Venice over 300 years ago.

Titled “Love in Venice,” the current exhibit at the New York Public Library gives us a glimpse into what was an innovative and dynamic print industry. When Venice was still an independent republic in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a leading center of publishing in the world.

As the title suggest, the exhibit theme wrests on the notoriety of Venice as a center of romantic liaisons, seductions and scandals, the likes of Casanova and the many courtesans that frequented the city. Yet, Venice was much more than that. It was a cauldron of intellectual activity, of industry, literature, and music. It was a society that for many years ensured the peace, prosperity and freedom of its people. And it was also a very pious city, one steeped in Roman Catholicism where many churches were built by its richest and most influential citizens.

Perhaps, it is the way of America today, that a display of rare books and prints must come with the promise of sexual content to get people through the door. No doubt a means to an end. And if it works, well, then the better for it will be the viewer. He or she will see an incredible, yet brief, exhibit that highlights the substance of Venice, one of the greatest societies the world has ever known.

The New York Public Library shows itself as one of New York’s greatest treasure. The time and care to display such rare works is a tribute to the library’s staff, expertise and awesome inventory.

The exhibit contains sealed glass containers of books and prints that, in some cases, were published 50 or more years before the American Revolutionary War. There is a print of the goddess Venus, part of a volume that celebrated the visit of Tuscan prince Ferdinando de’ Medici to Venice in 1688. We see “Vendetta of Love,” as described by the exhibit organizers as, “a 16th century pulp fiction novel” published in Venice with a woodcut frontispiece showing a woman stabbing herself with a knife. There are two flap books printed in Venice in the late 1500s with a print of a woman and chaperone on gondola. Underneath the flap is an illustration of two lovers embracing. In another picture is a courtesan showing her skirt raised to a Venetian senator.

Some of the other works include a 1679 guidebook on perfume, a painting by Canaletto of the Bridge of Sighs and an illustration from a 19th century cigarette case of a Venetian doge looking out onto a parade of boats.

The exhibit takes up one side room near the front entrance of the library. Although not a lengthy display, it is one highly recommended by PRIMO. People who visit the exhibit will see a glimpse of the greatness that was Venice.

To learn more about “Love in Venice,” at the New York Public Library, please log on to






Italy’s Action-packed Series Continues to Mesmerize
“Gomorra” Season Two Premieres Wednesday, April 26, on SundanceTV, 10/9 c



“Gomorra” is Roberto Saviano’s non-fiction masterpiece that continues on the small screen, this time in the way of a television series from Italy: Season two - the story of Camorra crime families who fight it out in Naples.

Season one of “Gomorra” left off last year in a bloody cliffhanger. Young upstart Genny Sevastano had taken over the family reigns while his father, Don Pietro remained in jail. Genny was gunned down by rival, and once loyal soldier, Ciro Di Marzio. A violent yet cunning figure, Ciro had allied himself with drug lord Salvatore Conte, who together, they killed off many of the members of the Sevastano clan. All seemed lost for the family that once had total control of Scampia-Secondigliano, a drug-dealing haven in North Naples. Yet, Don Sevastano made a stunning escape. Pretending to be insane, he was transferred out of a maximum security prison only to have the police caravan attacked by his most loyal soldiers and he was finally released from bondage. Now in hiding outside Italy, he must strategize a return to Naples. Meanwhile, son Genny opened his eyes while laying in a pool of his own blood before the series ended last year. No doubt, he survived the shooting.

“Gomorra,” comes back to America, for its second season, direct from Italy, by way of SundanceTV, beginning on Wednesday, April 26, 10/9C.

Viewers who enjoyed season one of “Gomorra” will find season two equal, if not better. The series contains 12 episodes that are amazing in all their fare, from compelling plot twists and turns to intense action-packed scenes, both shocking and alluring in choreographed violence. The acting is excellent as is the direction and other elements, including cinematography, editing and score. It is a quality production from Italy, from beginning to end.

Ciro Di Marzio is once again the central character of the series. A gangster who has achieved a lifelong goal of becoming the lead boss of Naples, he is played superbly by actor Marco D’Amore. He may be the top of the criminal food chain but still finds himself in a fragile existence. Ciro has set up an Alliance of Camorra clans to work out problems and disputes. He hopes peace among the disparate gangsters will allow them all to reap huge profits in the drug trade. Yet, his plan is undermined by top drug dealer Salvator Conte, who is played with icy perfection by actor Marco Palvetti. There is also the pending threat by Pietro Sevastano and son Genny who seek to take back the reigns of power of the underworld. Played to excellence, respectively by Fortunato Cerlino and Salvatore Esposito, Pietro and Genny are a father-and-son team who find themselves estranged from one another by ambition and jealousy. The challenge is not just their return to Scampia-Secondigliano, but to recover a familial bond, which at the outset of the series, seems lost.

Like season one, season two of “Gomorra” was filmed almost entirely on location in Naples. There are many scenes where the city comes to life in all its glory. We see beautiful landmarks, stunning resorts, and the bright lights and energetic sounds of thriving commercial districts, restaurants, and nightclubs. Naples is one of Italy’s great cities; yet, too often overlooked by travel writers and travel agents who only know the city as one drenched in poverty and decay. Although Naples is far more than that, it may nevertheless take a TV series built upon the notoriety of crime and violence associated with the city, to allow people to see its better side.

If so, then “Gomorra” does an excellent job. Not a single scene in the series can be greeted with indifference by viewers. New engaging characters are introduced to give the series a freshness in every episode. For instance, there is Patrizia Santoro, a beautiful young woman, now responsible for her younger brother and sisters, after her father was killed. Played with soft supremacy by Italian actress Christiana Dell’Anna, Patrizia is the niece of Malammora, a loyal underboss of Sevastano. She is recruited to be the don’s messenger, while he hides out in an obscure apartment, somewhere in Naples. Another female lead, played with cool distinction by Cristina Donadio, is Annalisa Magliocca, aka Scianel, a blond tigress who takes over her brother’s drug dealing section. The two woman must hold their own in a world of criminal machismo where their courage and tenacity are continually tested.

Memorable scenes are many in “Gomorra.” They come not only in screen action but also in an array of lines that give resonance to the series. One highlight is a poker game that is invaded by armed robbers. Scianel is one of the players who is unflinching while a gun is pointed at her head and her cash winnings are stolen. She reminds one of the masked bandits that “Scianel” is a nickname given to her for a mastery of perfume. All in the frame of a deadly warning, she tells their leader before their escape, “And you already stink of death.”

Series writers, one of whom was Saviano, convey Neapolitan wisdom in the way of dialogue. One scene shows Don Sevastano, still in hiding, despondent and forlorn over not trusting his son. He expresses his disappointments in himself as a father to Patrizia who is there with an enlightened reply: “My father always said little children need milk, but grown children need trust.”

What sets the series apart from others is its imaginative action. In one episode, friends of Genny find themselves left out of the booming drug trade. They are in their early 20s but are given the worst of turfs in the way of back alleys and the littered ground under highway bridges. Practically weaponless, they seek their own clan to overtake one apartment building where older gangsters make a fortune selling drugs. “We have our hatred,” answers their leader Track to a budding member who expresses doubt in their lack of arms and resources. In a strike reminiscent of a well-planned military operation, the young clan attacks in the dead of night wearing black clothes and masks and swinging metal clubs. All tenants are taken out of their homes while drug dealers and gangsters on a top floor are killed and beaten. It is a fast paced riveting scene, unlike any in television.

The story of “Gomorra” is one of survival in the most brutal and ruthless of settings. The series is a watershed reminder of the crisis of Naples and other European cities that have allowed breakdown of law and order. Politicians and government officials see not the desperation of Scampia-Secondigliano, a well-designed apartment complex that was built for the purpose of giving a safe and functional homestead to Italy’s poorest and most in need. Instead, what we see today are criminal gangs who employ terror and violence to control entire sections of a city. Something must be done. And, perhaps, this series will wake up the political class to once-and-for-all take Naples out of the hands of criminals.

As we did for season one, “Gomorra,” season two, is highly recommended by PRIMO. It remains an awesome television series, one to be watched and cherished in the United States this year and the years to come. For more information on the series “Gomorra,” please log on to




Italy’s passion for cycling is unmatched. With its diverse terrain and beautiful scenery, it’s not hard to understand why in Italy, cycling is a national pastime as well as a very popular professional sport. And it’s fitting that Colavita, a trusted family brand for extra virgin olive oil and top quality Italian food products, has been bringing that Italian cycling tradition to the United States for over 15 years.

Colavita, the longest running sponsor of a women’s professional cycling team, has once again partnered with other brands that are deeply rooted in Italian origin and tradition to kick off the 2017 professional women’s cycling season. Bianchi, Italy’s premier bicycle manufacturer, recently celebrated 130 years of cycling history and is proud to be on board as a title sponsor with Colavita. Other Italian sponsors include Vittoria Industries Ltd., the world’s leading manufacturer of bicycle tires with an annual production of more than 7 million tires and 900,000 famous tubulars and cotton tires, and Bolla Wines.

“Bolla is ecstatic to sponsor the Colavita Women’s Racing team for the next two seasons. From Prosecco and Sparkling Rose to the full bodied Amarone, there is a Bolla wine for any occasion or event. We raise a glass in support of their efforts and wish them a successful campaign,” said Charles DellaVecchia, European Portfolio Director for Banfi Vintners.

Pro Team Colavita/Bianchi’s 2017 team roster boasts riders with diverse backgrounds and disciplines. Marisa Colavita recently joined the team in Scottsdale, Arizona for pre-season training camp and said, “I enjoyed getting to know the riders and am truly inspired by their dedication. It’s an honor for our family to continue to support cycling not only on a professional level but with regional club teams as well.”

Colavita has been a leading specialty food brand in the United States for over 30 years and is committed to cycling because it’s part of a healthy lifestyle. Cycling is an activity that all ages and genders can enjoy for fun and fitness.  Colavita supports 15 or more regional club teams with over 600 members in more than 20 states across the United States. And earlier this year, Colavita announced they are partnering with the Killington Mountain School to form the Colavita/KSM Women’s Development Program, a stepping-stone for highly competitive junior cyclists who will be mentored by the pro team on and off the bike. 

In New York City, Colavita is sponsoring a cycling exhibit dedicated to vintage bicycles at the Italian American Museum. The “Italy’s Golden Age of Bicycles 1952-1985” exhibit will begin May 11th and run until July 2, 2017.

“Getting the opportunity to direct this program is something I don’t take lightly,” said Mary Zider, returning director sportif for Pro Team Colavita/Bianchi. “It’s an honor to lead such an incredible group of riders and human beings. As a rider, it’s an honor to wear the Colavita jersey. This program has had Olympians, World Champions, and a National Champion within the 15 years of sponsoring cycling. That speaks volumes about Colavita and what this program stands for. It’s a legendary program that will forever be known in the sport and it’s a jersey we all wear with pride and continue to hold the rope for.”

The team kicked off the season with a European race campaign starting on February 25th at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Gent, Belgium, through March in the Netherlands at Drentse Acht Van Westerveld on the 12th. Then the team will return to the U.S. and concentrate primarily on the USA Pro Road Tour calendar, along with domestic UCI road races.

2017 Team Roster:
Gillian Ellsay (CAN), Emma Grant (GBR), Kendelle Hodges (AUS), Abby Mickey (USA), Amber Pierce (USA), Jessica Mundy (AUS), Whitney Allison (USA), Ellen Noble (USA), Astrid Gassner (AUS)

Guided by: Director Sportif, Mary Zider (USA), Head Mechanic, Andrea Smith (USA), and Team Soigneur, Gitte Sørensen (DEN)

Sponsor list:
Bolla Wine, Clif Bar, Rudy Project, Castelli, Shimano, Chamois Butt’r, Tetra Bike Care, Stages Cycling, Park Tool, Shimano, Kuat Racks, K3 Holder

For more information, visit or follow the team at, on Twitter @TeamColavita1 and Instagram @teamcolavita.




Film Review by Frank Ciota



The author directed the films "Ciao America" and "Stiffs." He currently lives in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Based on the novel by Shusaka Endo, Martin Scorsese's film "Silence" may be the most personal of his storied career. It tells the tale of two Christian missionaries who face the ultimate test of faith when they search for their missing mentor in Japan where Christianity is outlawed in the 19th century.

As an Italian American filmmaker, I have always found the films of Martin Scorsese especially resonating. The religious subtext of his work is present throughout; the eternal struggle between the spirit and the flesh is behind every frame he directs.

On this level, and so many more, "Silence" does not disappoint. It is a primordial and often heartbreaking attempt by Scorsese to find some sort of elusive redemption through the lens. It is in so many ways the culmination of his own spiritual journey or at least an attempt on his part to finally slam the door shut on it.

There is a story that when Scorsese was a boy his mother walked into his room to find two big eyes painted above his bed. When she asked about them, he said they were the eyes of God, because God was always watching him.

I kept thinking of that story as I watched "Silence.” The classic Catholic iconography and themes that obsessed the child still obsess the man. The film is drenched with them.

Why Scorsese persevered for almost 30 years to realize this film is because it is so clearly about him and everything he represents. Andrew Garfield, the actor, is not playing Father Rodrigues, the Jesuit, but, rather, Martin Scorsese, the filmmaker. He is the true believer who throughout his career fought to hold onto his beliefs in the face of commercial pressure; of constantly being tempted and seduced by Hollywood to abandon his own ideals, join the ranks and go with the flow.

In terms of filmmaking itself, "Silence" is vintage Scorsese, not in how much it resembles any of his films but in how much it doesn't. There is none of the kinetic energy and whip/flash camerawork that has often been his trademark from "Raging Bull" to "Goodfellas" to "Casino" and so many others.

At times you're not sure if you're watching a film at all. Despite the incredible logistical challenges of shooting in the mud, fog and rain of Taiwan you never actually get the sense that a crew was actually even there.

The film just seems to exist, as if it always did. You can almost imagine some Spanish explorer emerging from one of the mist covered caves carrying an unearthed treasure chest with a print of the film inside.

What is so striking is the sheer authenticity of the film. The emotional impact is impossible to ignore, in large part due to the incredible performances delivered by unknown actors playing Japanese villagers. In one scene, three of them are accused of being Christians by Japanese authorities. They are crucified on the water's edge and literally struggle for several days to survive the rising tide.

The scene is so authentic and powerful that it was almost impossible to tell if it was actually happening. It grabs you by the throat, and rather than let you go, Scorsese chooses to let you feel the agony of these crucified villagers by prolonging it. The days are marked by slow visual fade outs and fade ins while the sound of the raging surf never lets up.

In perhaps the film's most powerful moment, after four days on the cross, the last surviving villager, knowing that the end is near, defiantly begins to sing to God about paradise as the waves crash against him. As he sings, he seems to transcend his own physical pain. Ultimately he is overtaken by a merciless surf and literally slumps off the cross and into the ocean like a tired cowboy falling off his horse after a long journey. But for some reason his death feels like victory, not defeat.

Most remarkable about the film is the title, "Silence", and the use of said word as an instrument to telling the story. Without question, Martin Scorsese has taken music in film to an entirely different level over the course of his career. But in "Silence" there is no music at all…none. There is nothing to punctuate moments and infuse them with a visceral punch…nothing except…silence. And he uses it like a sledgehammer.

In a climactic scene toward the end, as Father Rodrigues struggles against his oppressors, he falls to his knees and amidst the noise looks down and as we see what he sees…a picture of Jesus at his feet…the film becomes instantly and eerily soundless. The effect is extraordinary and profound. The silence somehow forces you to turn inward, not outward. It's a form of spiritual jiu jitsu performed by a master director.

One of the things I have always loved about Scorsese's films are the unresolved endings, like those which dominated the 1970's until executives started doing test screenings.

When "Silence'" ended it was similarly unresolved despite the fact that Scorsese apparently departed from the novel's true ending to literally try and put things to rest on his own. But you get the sense that as much as he wanted to believe otherwise, he knew from his own experience that in the end he was no closer to finding an answer than any of us.

Ultimately, this is what makes "Silence" such a testament to Scorsese’s brilliance. That after all this time, after all his success, you get the feeling that he is still the same young kid with God's eyes painted on his bedroom ceiling who picked up a camera for the first time years ago to try and answer the unanswerable. That in itself is the definition of faith.

As one of Scorsese's characters would undoubtedly say…"And that's that."

Editor's Note: Frank Ciota can be reached at His web site is


The Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York and Consulate General of Italy Honor Felician University President

Pictured: Dr. Anne Prisco and Joseph Sciame, President/Chair, IHCC-NY, Inc

Felician University President, Dr. Anne M. Prisco, was named the recipient of the Mother Italy Statue Recognition for 2017 by the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York (IHCC) in cooperation with the Consulate General of Italy.
Dr. Prisco received the Mother Italy Statue Recognition at the site of the eponymous work of art, located at Hunter College in Manhattan, during IHCC’s annual Mother’s Day tribute.
The bronze sculpture was created by Giuseppe Massari in 1953 and is “Dedicated to the Italian immigrant....symbolic of mothers of every nationality who sent their children to build a nation of immigrants, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the equality of all those who came, and of those yet to come."
“This tremendous honor means so much to me, not just as the child of immigrants, but also as the president of a university that helps many first-generation Americans to realize their dreams,” said Dr. Prisco. “At Felician, our mission is to make the American Dream accessible to all – by providing students from any background with the skills they need to succeed and flourish as adults.”
Dr. Prisco joined fellow honorees from the Italian American Institute at Queens College, CUNY, the Columbus Citizen’s Foundation, and newspaper America Oggi. She will be celebrating five years as president of Felician University on July 1, 2017 as the first lay person to hold the position.
About Felician University
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Felician University – with campuses in Lodi and Rutherford, NJ – is a Catholic Franciscan University founded and sponsored by the Felician Sisters in 1942. Felician offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in Arts and Sciences, Business, Nursing and Teacher Education. In 2015, the University was ranked by Money Magazine as one of America’s Top Colleges and also listed among Money’s top 25 private colleges for merit aid. Felician University is also ranked by the 2017 PayScale College ROI Report as being among the top three private universities in New Jersey for best return on investment. When considering schools in the Garden State, Felician is an institution where tuition dollars and donor contributions go farther. For more information, visit




Mediterranean Film Festival (MEDFF) is a film festival that has a Winner Battle in July 2017. Every monthly winner will be in live screening at the final event. The aim of the Festival is to bring out the talents in an attempt to get them to compete with more established filmmakers. A jury selected will ensure the transition to the official selections for the big final event to be held in Italy in the month of July 2017.

Domenico Cutrona, director of MEDFF, says they accept: 1.) Feature Film and Documentary: min. 60’; 2.) Short Docs - Short Film - Experimental Short - XXX - Short Drama; 3.) Students: All genres; 4.) One minute show; 5.) Fool and Smash Short (only Zombies); 6.) Horror Night: Short and Feature Film; 7.) All film MUST be PRODUCED from 2014.In the beautiful Fontane Bianche, known as George Beach, MEDFF will screen the best films winners of the monthly prizes. The main venue will be the mysterious VILLA DUNARDI, one of the most sought after web villas and NanoPress recognized as one of the 30 haunted houses in the world. modernized in 2015, this beautiful location will prepare the free event showing only the best winners of each month.

The filmmakers attending the MEDFF will have two reasons to choose our festival. The first is to deal with other filmmakers who participate and collaborate with the organizing team, also having the possibility to be advertised in our facebook page. The other reason is related to the location, highly of impact, in a seaside town that is full of tourism. The Mediterranean festival is not just a festival, but a meeting place of different cultures linked by their passion for art.

To know more about MEDFF, please log on to



A New International Thriller; From New York to the Middle East with Main Character Anthony Provati Leading the Way

Appointment with ISIL is your new novel and as the title suggests, an international thriller. It is a departure from your previous work, Birds of Passage, which was about Italian immigrants in America. What inspired you to write Appointment with ISIL?

Ben Fountain, author of the best-selling Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, and a writing mentor of mine, told me that the literary thriller was the "holy grail." I took on his challenge. The genesis of the novel was an Islamic History course I'd taken from the University of Texas in Austin, and a short story, "The Unkindest Cut," published, by decomP Magazine.

Appointment with ISIL contains a plot that keeps readers turning page after page. A host of intriguing characters make up the work. They represent the mosaic of New York. How did you come up with these characters? Did you know people like them in your travels and personal experiences?

I believe Norman Mailer said that every character he created included at least five percent of himself. As Mailer wrote about both Jesus and the Devil, that's quite a range. Fiction, unlike real life, must be believable. To create a sense of verisimilitude, I draw from my experiences and observations, including people I've meet, but all the characters are fictional.

The protagonist is none other than Anthony Provati, an Italian American such as yourself. He's a flawed yet very likeable character. Tell us a little about Anthony. How did you conceive of this character? Is he your alter ego?

You'd agree, that a more satisfying, rounded character, has pluses and minuses like the rest of us. As I implied above, every character has a piece of me within. Authors can't help but reveal themselves in their work. Analogously, the reader's interpretation is much like their taking a Rorschach, ink blot test. What they see is idiosyncratic.

Just like Birds of Passage, New York is a key element. Part of the book has characters and plot twists that take us through all parts of the city. You were born and raised in Brooklyn but spent considerable time outside the city as an adult. You live now in Austin, Texas. Researching contemporary New York, what did you come away with regarding the city's changes since you lived there?

Two major changes come to mind. First, after the policies of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, security in New York improved dramatically. Second, as Italians have assimilated into American society, traditional neighborhoods have changed. The famed poet, Jorge Luis Borges asked, "What will the world lose when I die?" When my generation passes, the first-hand connection to the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Italian immigrants will be lost, their culture, their thinking, their experiences. In Manhattan's Little Italy, on Mulberry Street, the sacred flame is maintained by Dr. Scelsa and The Italian American Museum. The Manhattan launch for Appointment with ISIL will hosted by the Museum on Friday, July 7th.

Joe, you have written a lot of short stories, historical essays and other works. You are now a novelist. How have you grown as a writer?

My first attempt at a novel was an historical fiction about the Ancient Greek and Persian wars, Marathon, Thermopylae, and Salamis. The prose was terrible. I realized that I had to learn how to write. I attended classes at the University of Texas at Austin and tackled short stories to reduce the cycle time between failure. After writing some years, receiving sufficient rejections to clog a landfill, my work began to be published, and I felt confident enough to write Birds of Passage. My writing continues to improve, and I have a lot to learn.

In Appointment with ISIL you delve into the affairs of the Middle East. What did you learn from your research about the society and cause of conflict there?

One of my pre-writing experiences, was to manage a business in Greece and the Middle East, and I traveled extensively throughout the region. The people that I met were extraordinarily warm and hospitable, however, I avoided raising the topics of politics or religion. The overwhelming number of Muslims have the same concerns as their Jewish and Christian counterparts, family, and making a living. The sore points in that part of the world are the U.S. support of Israel, and various policies of Washington going back decades. Jihadists and terrorists wage war in the name of Islam, but they distort the purpose of religion.

Do you have another Anthony Provati novel in the works?

My next novel will be another Anthony Provati thriller with the working title, Drone Strike, and will include some of characters introduced in Appointment with ISIL, but each novel can be read independently. Drone Strike includes a victim of "collateral damage." Where can they turn for justice? Without a higher authority to arbitrate, is the desire for revenge understandable?

You can read samples of Joe's works by logging on to his web site at





Tredici Bacci is the brainchild of composer and guitarist Simon Hanes.  Formed while still students at New England Conservatory, Hanes is now leading his 14 piece ensemble of Morricone-fueled cineastes in clubs throughout their new Brooklyn base.  "Amore Per Tutti", Tredici Bacci’s debut album, has already been hailed by critics. If you find yourself in New York City for APAP, Tredici Bacci will be playing a showcase at The Standard East Village Penthouse on Tuesday January 10th (7-9pm). Come join us for an Italian soundtrack-obsessed evening of music! Otherwise look out for Simon and Tredici Bacci at SXSW in Austin this March.







A New Film Looks at The Ancient Italian Sport, Calcio Storico

Finding oneself - both literally and spiritually - in a foreign country is not a new concept for cinema, especially when it comes to Italy.

In recent years, the silver screen has donned the exploits of a main character, a 30-something American female at a crossroads in her life, who is reinvigorated from the simple pleasures of living in Italy. What comes to mind is “Under the Tuscan Sun” starring Diane Lane, based on the book by Frances Mayes, about an American woman who renovates a dilapidated Italian villa. “Eat, Pray, Love,” starring Julia Roberts is another such tale, based on the book of the same title by Elizabeth Gilbert, where Italy shines as a gastronomic paradise to inspire greater reflection on life’s meaning.

A female protagonist is an attractive conduit. The modern American woman makes for a stark contrast to the old ruins and Catholic patriarchy of Italy. Now comes the alternative: The portrayal of the main character as a man this time in Evan Oppenheimer’s “Lost in Florence.”

Here is a film that takes a slight detour in the story of an American in Italy. In “Lost in Florence," the protagonist is Eric Lombard, a pre-law college grad, played by Brett Dalton. Tuscany seems at the beginning the right environs to inspire his girlfriend, Colleen, played by Emily Atack, to say “I do” to a marriage proposal. A picnic beside ancient forests should do the trick but doesn’t, as Colleen shakes her head at first sight of the diamond ring.

After such rejection, many a man would find himself in the bleak setting of a saloon intoxicated by hard whiskey and dwelling in self-pity with heavy blues riffs in the background. But this is Italy. In the next scene, Eric is at a table inside a well-lit trattoria enjoying a glass of Chianti and a nice helping of pappardelle. In fact, the time has come for a toast - to new beginnings - as offered by the husband of his cousin Anna.

Florence might just be the right place for Eric to get back his confidence and joy of living again. At first, he is taken in by the public artworks and historical landmarks. Anna, played by Stana Katic, is the tour guide who conveys the rich heritage of this most fascinating city. Then her husband, Gianni, a native of Italy, played by Marco Bonini, recruits Eric to watch with him the ancient sport of Calcio Storico, described as one-part rugby and one-part gang fight. A former American football player, Eric seems right at home as he is intrigued by the sport and tries out for the team. Getting battered and bruised while running with a soccer ball is the antidote to sweet love gone bad. He becomes a full fledged member of the team; but always an outsider as the sole American among Italians.

All is not running and sweating in the film, as Eric comes into contact with a beautiful and charming Italian young woman, Stefania, played by Alessandra Mastronardi. The film transitions from sports fare to romance, all the while retaining the pleasurable sights of Tuscany.

Oppenheimer, who wrote and directed the film, is not Italian, mind you, but he no doubt has a true love for Italy. He is a competent director who avoids over-saturation of the genre. There is enough natural chemistry between Bollard and Mastronardi to keep viewers attentive to their blossoming romance.

Where the film suffers is the redundancy of cliches. One almost knows exactly what will occur in some scenes, even before they begin. Yet, the film shines in many places, especially in the pre-game pageantries of Calcio Storico. Oppenheimer has succeeded in capturing the stunning aura of parades, flags, banners and the trappings of Italians celebrating the past. The colors of the spectacle stand out as Florentines enthusiastically embrace the maintenance of heritage. Here is the main thrust of the film, as sincerely appreciated and understood by Oppenheimer.

Outside a deluge of cliches and contrivances, “Lost in Florence” is an attractive film that delves into the unique attributes of what makes Italy so special. Check your local listings for theater showings.




A  group of Georgian Court University students stayed at Villa Tre Angeli B&B for a three-week work project in Italy. They did many things while they were there, but their main objective was to help this small municipality get on the map. Bedonia, Parma Italy is in Northern Italy in the Emilia Romagna region. It is a lovely, little village that has so many wonderful things to offer its visitors. There are a plethora of outdoor festivals, outdoor markets, opportunities to hike and mountain bike, plus they have live music very often, just to name a few. Many Italian tourists come to enjoy the fresh, clean mountain air that allows them to actually enjoy the beautiful countryside they blatantly overlook, daily.

Over the years, however, with the economic crisis in the Parma region, factories have closed and people have moved away in search of work. With the younger generations leaving for the surrounding larger cities, this small gem of a town is struggling to survive and the beauty of an authentic Italian lifestyle is hanging by a thread. This is one of the few spots left in Italy that one can experience Italy like an Italian without being suffocated by huge numbers of American tourists. There are no crowds, long lines, or gaudy souvenir shops to muddle the culture out of this amazing place. It is also centrally located to many other interesting spots for day trips. For example,after a tour of the Italian Riviera or The Prosciutto factory and Castle of Torrechiara, coming back to Bedonia for the food, wine, and night life is always a major advantage because visitors receive the best of both worlds.

Georgian Court University, in Lakewood New Jersey, has been working with Villa Tre Angeli to boost Bedonia’s social media presence and allow more American tourists the rare prospect of going on an actual, genuine European vacation. The students, under the supervision of Dr. Gina Marcello Ph.D., have created a web page where people can find all the information on the town and the surrounding area, all in one place. They have taken photographs, mapped out the best places around town, and have portrayed the best that Bedonia has to offer. While the website will give people a taste, a true appreciation for this town cannot be captured by mere photos or words.

While the students where there, Villa Tre Angeli took them to Rome to see many famous landmarks, including the Vatican, the Coliseum, and the Pantheon. They were also treated to a trip to Verona, where they saw Aida, the opera in an outdoor Roman arena. The trip also included a stop at the magnificent Lake Garda. When they were finally in Bedonia itself, they saw how Prosciutto and Parmesan cheese were made. They visited castles, tasted some wine, went hiking and horseback riding, ventured to the local swimming hole, and still had time to gawk at the picturesque scenery. They were even welcomed by the Mayor and the Town Council, who arranged countless things for them to do while they were in the area. 

They strolled into town and enjoyed the culture first hand, and have returned to the United States with a profound discovery that this tranquil way of life is far more important to salvage and must not only be preserved, but experienced. The students became locals in a matter of days, and the town now has a bright future thanks to the unlikely collaboration of traditional values and modern culture meshing. Come live like an Italian, become one with the culture, and escape from the monotonous American lifestyles...Come experience Bedonia. To see the progress that the students have made, please go to



Author of “Love and Terror in the Middle East,” Dr. Frank Romano travels to countries in Middle East where he organizes interfaith dialogue meetings between Christians, Jews and Muslims

Dr. Frank Romano, second from right


How has growing up Italian helped you in your work in the Middle East?

My strong Italian family values have helped me relate to the people in Israel and Palestine. The fact that I was raised to respect my Italian heritage and that I can speak fluent Italian, has helped me grow close to Mediterranean cultures, notably to those living in the Holy Land.

My father’s family is originally from Napoli and his skin is very dark. A dark irony remains that even though my father and I had about the same education, he experienced a much more arduous childhood, suffering much discrimination growing up in Providence, Rhode Island and near Boston, in Italian neighborhoods, which were ghettos. Since I have lighter skin, as perverse as it sounds, I experienced much less discrimination growing up in Northern California.

Due to my father’s experiences and his patient recounting of them to me, I have been become aware of racism and have been raised to work against it. Thanks to this introduction to racism, I’ve been able to understand and counter racism that I encounter in Israel and Palestine as I did when I lived in an African American ghetto for two years in Northern California.

In addition, being raised Italian has taught me again to profoundly respect my Italian heritage. My father was an excellent Italian chef and did most of the cooking at home. My British American Mom learned a lot of the recipes and learned how to cook my favorite dish, “Pollo cachiatore.” Even though Mom was raised in a strictly British environment in Ashland, Oregon, she embraced the Italian culture and was happy that her children did as well.

My loving father died two months before my graduation from law school in San Francisco. I was thus compelled to postpone my bereavement so I could focus on school. After graduation, in order to feel close to my father and to temper bereavement, I moved to the Italian district, North Beach, in San Francisco. I lived and worked with Italians for a year and a half, including working as a bartender in an Italian restaurant owned by two Italians and translating to English a novel written by an Italian writer.

After my bartender shift around 12 midnight, I always met with a group of Italians to play pool in the local hangout where we drank strong expresso, played pool and talked about the Italian life, soccer, etc. I lived in a rooming house in North Beach with other Italian restaurant workers, waiters, managers, bartenders, etc. During my stay there, I surrounded myself with especially Italians from Roma, Calabria and Napoli. They helped me feel close to my dad and thus helped me deal with a difficult bereavement as well as to learn to speak fluent Italian.

I felt that many Italians and Italian Americans returned to the community to feel the warmth of Italian brotherhood and sisterhood often living in the midst of American WASPs that sometimes discriminate against Italians and whose culture seems so different from the Italian culture. As such, the Italian community treated me like a prodigal son, adopted me and taught me many important aspects about my Italian heritage.

When I left North Beach to study for the California Bar exam (and eventually became a California lawyer) I felt a strong feeling of community and identity with the Italian culture and my roots. That awareness has made me stronger.

You lead efforts in Interfaith dialogue in the Middle East. Christianity. Judaism. Islam. How did you prepare yourself in the way of studying the religions, the people and culture in the Middle East?

I’ve always been curious about different religions. My father, who was originally catholic and subsequently became an Episcopalian, perhaps initiated that curiosity by introducing me to appreciating the Baha’i religion. He taught me to appreciate one of the principles of that religion that focuses on the harmony of religions.

In order to inform myself about other religious cultures, I also studied comparative religions, notably Eastern religions including Islam at the Sorbonne University, Paris, France.

My understanding of different cultures and religions was further enhanced while working and living closely with African Americans, American Indians, Indians from India, Moroccans, Jews and many others.

One early interfaith experience taught me an early lesson while living in a Jewish community in Paris, where I lived with my wife and three kids. My wife was bedridden with a complicated pregnancy and every Friday night I would visit our Jewish neighbors who would share their Shabbat meal with us. I had arrived at their door with a large serving dish where they would dish into the Shabbat goodies, and then I would descend the stairs to the apartment shared with my family with the dinner. The mother answered the door and beckoned me into the kitchen where two Arabs were seated quietly eating. After she scooped the kosher cous cous and pieces of meat into my serving dish I set it down next to the sink and motioned to the mother into the living room.
I asked her why two Arabs were eating kosher Jewish food in the kitchen. She explained that it was in the middle of Ramadan and the two older men had come from an orthodox Muslim community where they were, without exception, required to fast, no eating or drinking, with the entire community from sun-up to sun down. She told me that they were old, tired and were having difficulty getting through the day without nourishment. Then she added something infinitely intriguing. She told me that the last place their people would look for them would be in the orthodox Jewish community where they have come for nourishment at 5 pm even though they were supposed to fast at least until 8 pm that night.

Why is the Middle East always in conflict? Wars, riots, coups, terrorism - it never seems to end. You know the Middle East, probably better than any other American. Based on your work and close observations, what do you see as the key cause of conflict there?

I’ll focus my answer on contemporary Holy Land, which is the epicenter of the Middle East conflict. Underpinnings of the conflict derive from centuries of history. I however believe that the contemporary conflict mainly stems from the Sixth day war of 1967 between Egypt, Jordan and Israel. Israel prevailed and began sponsoring the implantations of settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The former have withdrawn but the latter have been enhanced.

Numerous UN resolutions have stated that the building and existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are a violation of international law, including UN Security Council resolutions in 1979 and 1980. UN Security Council Resolution 446 refers to the Fourth Geneva Convention as the applicable international legal instrument, and calls upon Israel to desist from transferring its own population into the territories or changing their demographic makeup. The reconvened Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions has declared the settlements illegal as has the primary judicial organ of the UN, the International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The State of Israel ignores that and continues to expand the settlements, in a move that clarifies its position: The desire to take over as much Palestinian land in order to absorb its growing immigration and use it as industrial and production centers in order to enhance the Israeli economy. The settlements have become industrial centers and many western business (i.e. Motorola, HP, etc.) have implanted there and are profiting from relatively low costs, including rent and labor costs. Thus, thousands of Palestinians have lost their lands, and, thus, the means to feed their families and are required to live in refugee camps and/or move in with relatives. This has increased the tension as the Palestinians for the most part have no intention of leaving and fervently desire to recuperate their lands.

In addition, the State of Israel has approved the construction of thousands of homes in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, earmarked as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The building commenced since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Since then, Israel has built more than a dozen Jewish-only neighborhood/settlements housing approximately 200,000 Israelis in East Jerusalem which it annexed following the war. 

Israel has proceeded with these projects despite protests by the United States against the expanding of the settlements. That is just another indication of Israel acting with immunity in the area knowing at the end of the day that the weak protests of the US government will never stop it from approving the 3 billion dollars in aid to Israel, not to mention the reductions on war planes and weapons flowing from the US to Israel.

You have been critical of U.S. diplomatic and other efforts in the Middle East? What is your key criticism of American policy?

First, the systematic contesting by US government of Israel’s expanding of the settlements thereby exacerbating the Holy Land conflict without placing conditions on its aid has become an international embarrassment for the US. An example would be the millions of dollars given to Israel should be conditioned on Israel making concerted efforts to end conflict. One condition could be returning some of the land taken from Palestinians and stop expanding the settlements, taking more land from them, without compromising security for Israel or for the West Bank.

Second, the refusal of the US government to arm the non-extremist Syrian rebels early, notably in 2012, accelerated the Syrian war which has evolved into a modern disaster.

Although the news is always grim about the Middle East and prospects for peace in the region seem impossible - you have made statements that things are lot better there than they seem. Please explain

I sincerely believe that one of the keys to peace in the Middle is through grassroots efforts to organized interfaith dialogues, to bring people together when politicians, many religious leaders tend to tear them apart chasing their silver linings. The success of these efforts is directly proportional to the results of the dialogues which are designed to open up people’s hearts to each other, to help them overcome years of negative programming derived from the fear and hate exacerbated by ignorance of each other’s culture and religion. To illustrate that, I use an example of a typical interfaith dialogue I lead that could take place either in Israel or in the West Bank:

During one session, Jews, Muslims and Christians (sometimes they are orthodox, sometimes liberal practitioners) are sitting next to each other in a circle. They were breaking bread together and drinking tea or eating humus. After an hour, I asked Jacob the Jew to tell me about Muhammad, his orthodox Muslim neighbor or visa-versa. He responded by saying they are talking which, coming from isolated unmixed villages in Israel, is new to them. He added that they have something in common in that their children go to the same school in a third village. The Jew and the Muslim, in their discussion, instead of talking about divisive subjects like religion or politics, they talk about everyday things, like the price of lunch at school has increased, or the history teacher is weird, etc. They were really bonding, becoming friends. Then I asked Sam the Christian what he thought about the group and he responded that he had invited Jacob and Muhammad to experience Christmas with him and his family in December, that they were all going to break the Ramadan fast at Muhammad’s house tonight and would attend Chanukah festivities with Jacob.

However, he said there was a problem. Jacob’s and Muhammad’s religion are taking him down the wrong path because they don’t believe in Jesus as their savoir. That opened the “Pandora’s Box” on the topic of religion. Muhammad interrupted and stated that the Jews and Christians didn’t accept Muhammad as an important prophet and then Jacob opened up his Torah and claimed non-Jews don’t accept the importance of Moses and Abraham as the principle prophets. During the discussion that followed, they implied that they don’t share the same God and that they were going to heaven but not those from other religions.

As the facilitator of the dialogue, I didn’t judge any of them. I opened up my Torah (first five chapters of the Old Testament), the New Testament and the Qur’an and lead the following discussion on comparing the main principles and philosophies found in those writings. After an hour discussion, most of the members of the dialogue are surprised to learn that all the texts reflect many similar principles, such as the belief in one God, thou shalt not kill, the obligation to help the poor, treat your neighbor with respect. . .etc.

After an hour discussing that, I asked the group another question, this time focusing my attention on the Christian as he views his Jewish or Muslim neighbor.
“Since there are so many similarities among those sacred writings, do you think it is possible you may share the same God?”  After a short discussion, many members now say it is possible.
Then I close the dialogue with one last question: “Does it make sense to kill in the name of God if you share the same God? You don’t need to answer that now. Think about it and we’ll resume the dialogue in a month or so.”
After we agree to continue the dialogue, I leave them to ruminate over the last question without expecting an immediate response and then I returned two months later to the Holy Land to continue the dialogue.
In spite of the bonding going on among the members of different religions in the above dialogues, they are useless without follow-up actions, which are occasions where the participants walk the talk working on peace projects:
The same mixed group, with my participation, continues bonding by rebuilding buildings destroyed during the conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians.
Interfaith activists also engage in the replanting of olive trees that have been uprooted to make way for the walls and part of the confiscation of land engaged in by Israel in the West Bank. In addition, many of the Palestinians who normally help their families harvest the olives are in jail or have left the lands, so there is a serious lack of farm workers to help in the harvest. As a result, I, along with many other activists, join the Palestinians in the fields to help them harvest olives in October.

To learn more about Dr. Romano and his efforts in the Middle East, log on to his web site at




Charles Mandracchia, a school teacher from New York, produced this short animated film "to change how certain stereotypes of our Italian heritage are portrayed. This led me to create a twist on a too often tough guy portrayal of Italian Americans in the media. This award winning animated film, from the Mediterranean Film Festival, is titled 'You Got a Problem.' It tells how Uncle Louie and his Italian American paisanos are problem solvers. Together they solve a problem that the pizza man is having with a bunch of kids from a Brooklyn neighborhood." Find out more about the Mediterranean Film Festival at


Wednesday, October 26 in Manhattan - Eight New Italian Startups Displayed New and Innovative Products and Services

This Wednesday, October 26, is the date for VentureOut’s Tech Renaissance an Italian pitch night; held at 26 Broadway in Manhattan. Eight promising startup companies from Italy will meet investors for their launch into the US market. VentureOut has been supporting the global startup ecosystem for three years, having helped over 500 startups from 20 countries to launch, scale and raise over $50 million from venture capitalists and angel investors in the U.S. VentureOut Italy program is in partnership with the Italian Business & Investment Initiative. The private conference provides top Italian founders and investors with an opportunity to connect with leaders in NYC's technology and venture capital communities.

Their web site is

Here is a list of the start up companies from Italy that will be featured at this event.

PromoQui is the leading digital platform for location-based brochure advertising, currently used by more than 6 M/monthly users in Italy whilst they are preparing their shopping journey. PromoQui innovates the location based brochure advertising offering a vast variety of professional services for small and big retail chains and industry. Founded in 2011 by managers with over 30 years experience in the internet, media and consumer goods industries PromoQui became a leading company with a lean and multidisciplinary team highly skilled in SEO-strategies, mobile and web-development. PromoQui is present in Italy (, e.g., Rome, Naples, Milan, Bologna, Genoa and Florence; also in Romania ( and in USA, UnitedKingdom, Argentina with it’s new international brand:

Based in Cosenza, inside Italy’s Calabria region, GIPStech has developed the most advanced indoor localization platform that runs on mobile with no to little infrastructure thanks to a proprietary hybrid-geomagnetic approach. They develop vertical solutions for museums, airports, retail and industry 4.0 and are working on an SDK to allow third parties to develop their verticals.

From Turin, AD2014 is developing system: things will have a Digital Soul, based on a unique code, enabling objects to communicate with the user/producer, without embed chips or other electronic devices. allows to digitize users life through an app used to manage memories, information, deadlines, images. They target manufacturers who can create a new channel of communication to reach customers; helps tracking items, and manage the digital soul of their products. Another market is public users, like cultural enterprises and public institutions (e.g:museums), starting to express demand for IoT solutions to interact with visitors.

With its “30% energy saving in 30 minutes” process, SunCity proposes an innovative approach to Energy Saving for SMEs, built with a lean procedure and based upon a “no brainer” webapp that avoids long and expensive energy audits; the service quickly addresses Customer energy needs by combining integrated energy management with the use of efficiency and/or production devices. Through this easy entry point, SunCity key proposition is to provide highly competitive, IoT platform based, energy efficiency services. The IoT platform in turn allows SunCity to address further customer needs finally leading to multiple up-sales.

Flazio is a website builder based in the Catania province of Sicily. They allow you to create your webpage/site easily without knowledge of any programming code. The peculiarity of the product is that “what you see is really what you get”. Editing is very easy and friendly. Control Panel does not have any cumbersome toolbars, receiving a real-time visual feedback of any actions. An exclusive advantage of Flazio platform is the so-called "CompStore", which contains "Components” developed by Flazio Team or by third party developers that can be added to enhance a Web Site, eg: menus, photo galleries, maps, and connection to Social Networks, skype call, music, document publishing, chat, comments, showcase, newsletters, and many others. Each component can be added to the website by simply dragging it from the CompStore to the work area.

LineBoy offers a business solution that reduces time in line and improves the customer experience. The company is based in Bolzano, Italy, in the Trentino-Alto Adige region. Using its patent-pending (US Patent application number: 62/086,659) plug & play technology, LineBoy automates the queuing process by allowing customers to use smartphone technology to track their turn and eliminate their wait in public offices, like immigration, DMV, and even the US Post Office. Our technology fits every queue situation thanks to a camera sensor installed in less than 60 seconds that points to the existing queue management display showing last served positions.

Morpheos’s business idea consists of a Smart Home Intelligent Robot, with the appearance of an interior design object, incorporating advanced hardware components and software based on artificial intelligence algorithms, capable of communicating with other widely used devices, equipped with sensors used for domestic control, capable of implementing numerous functionalities typical of home automation, without complicated configuration or installation and capable of adapting to the surrounding environment.

Youbiquo is an Italian company based in the Salerno province that offers users see-through wearable devices. Their mission is to design and deliver Augmented Reality Smart Glasses to meet needs of connectivity and information exchange for hands free highly specialized activities. Founded at the end of 2013 and headed by a team of veterans in new technologies (ICT, mobile, electronics and marketing), Youbiquo has developed its own Smart Glasses, Talens, equipped with a Personal Assistant Software. Talens, its Personal Assistant and the UB.Suite software modules are ready to be used in applications ranging from Maintenance, Repair & Operations, assistance, tourism and culture, and more. See video below.





A Masterpiece of Italian Cinema by Gillo Pontecorvo
A New Restored Version by Rialto Pictures Now Showing at Theaters Across the Country
Saadi Yacef - A Member of the Algerian Insurgency and Primary Figure in the Film's Making Recalls Pontecorvo and Shares His Thoughts on the Film's Legacy

The film's enigmatic poster

Gillo Pontecorvo, circa 1990

  A  scene from the film; Saadi Yacef is looking up
A  photo of Saadi Yacef

It was an unlikely partnership when Saadi Yacef and Gillo Pontecorvo came together to make the masterpiece - “The Battle of Algiers.”

Although they were from different countries, Yacef from Algeria and Pontecorvo from Italy, they had in common a socialist mindset and a revulsion for colonialism. Their mission was to make a film consistent with their beliefs and bring to viewers worldwide the war for liberation in Algeria.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of “The Battle of Algiers,” fully restored and now playing in select theaters in cities across America. Brought to us by Rialto Pictures, a company that specializes in the reissuing of classic films, “The Battle of Algiers” serves as a model for today’s filmmakers who wish to make politically-inspired films.

“The Battle of Algiers” won the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival, when it came out in 1966, and was nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Foreign Film, Best Director and Best Story and Screenplay). The film was ranked as the 26th greatest film of all time in the 2012 Sight and Sound directors’ poll (it was also in the critics’ top 50), though it was long banned in France for its negative depiction of French colonialism.

Shot almost entirely on the streets of Algiers, the film owed much to the assistance of the Algerian people. Many were hired as non-professional actors and actresses to play key roles; including Yacef, who played himself, as one of the leaders of the uprising.

Although primarily in the French and Arabic languages, the film is an Italian production, with a creative and technical staff from Italy.

As the years have passed many of the people who worked on the film have passed away. The film’s director Pontecorvo died in 2006, and more than two decades before that, Franco Solinas, who wrote the screenplay with him, died in 1982. The film’s cinematographer Marcello Gatti, who brought to life the film’s pioneering documentary style in gritty black and white, passed away in 2013.

One key element of the film was its crisp editing and newsreel style by Mario Morra. He lives today in Italy as does the great Ennio Morricone, who, along with Pontecorvo scored the film, and is now enjoying newfound celebrity after winning his first Oscar last year for “The Hateful Eight.”

Film Forum, located on Houston Street in New York, is just one of many venues now showing “The Battle of Algiers.” A press conference was convened there Thursday, October 6, where Yacef, now 88, spoke to reporters about the legacy of the film and his collaboration with Pontecorvo.

“He was a good guy, a good director,” Yacef says about Pontecorvo. “He returned to Algeria some years before he died. It was a pilgrimage for him and he revisited the places where most of the scenes were shot.”

Yacef was the catalyst for the film. A baker by trade, he was a colonel in the military arm of the Liberation Nationalist Front (FLN), that led the struggle against French occupation in Algeria.

“The Battle of Algiers” is based on Yacef’s memoirs “Souvenirs de la Bataille d'Alger,” published in 1962. He met Pontecorvo and Solinas with the hopes of making a film after he had adapted the book into a script. A first reading by the two Italians, however, succinctly dismissed the original text. They wrote almost an entirely new version of the script that centered on two viewpoints of the Algerian uprising: That of Yacef and his fellow liberators and that of the French army who temporarily defeated them. The changing of the script was one of several disparities between Yacef and Pontecorvo in the making of the film.

“I admit we had our differences,” Yacef says about his collaboration with Pontecorvo. “He sometimes wanted to film scenes that were not the way I remembered. I fought in the underground and knew what happened. I lived it. During the course of the film - there were a lot of gaps. We argued. The bombs were built this way but I would say the bombs are built that way. He wanted to show someone getting shot and I would tell him, ‘no, that’s not how it was done.’ In the end we would do it his way. He viewed scenes as an artist. I saw them as someone who fought in battle. The two approaches were different. But his was meant for film.”

The Algerian war for independence remains one of the bloodiest after World War II. The conflict elicited some 300,000 casualties and almost 1 million refugees. A host of defeats and setbacks by Algerian rebels came until the ultimate withdrawal of French troops in 1962. Liberation began as an undertaking shrouded in doubt. Past Algerian uprisings were short-lived. Yet, Yacef and other Algerian nationalists thought France was a declining power and the time was ripe for war.

“We were looking at what was once the French empire. We saw what happened in Madagascar and Syria, how the people there were able to gain independence. We saw how quickly France was invaded by Germany in the war. France was very weak. The colonial empire was failing. We took advantage of it. We were a colony that didn’t want to be a colony. People made a choice and I made the choice to declare war against France.”

Algeria experienced its fair share of political and social upheavals after independence. The FLN, who had brought about independence, was now the ruling political party and faced uprisings, mostly in the form of Islamic fundamentalists, that precipitated a civil war there in 1991.

A year later, 1992, Pontecorvo revisited the country for an RAI Italian television news program “Mixer Documenti.” With son Marco, a cameraman, he walked the specific locations, as once seen in the film. He showed again the prison Barberousse, the former French quarter Bab el-Oued, and the densely populated Casbah. The Italian director was, as always, fearless and truthful. He neither censored nor mitigated the verbal assaults lodged at him from Algerian locals. He recorded the dire shape of the Casbah, soon to be a no-man’s land for foreign journalists. A freelance reporter from France was killed there in 1999. Today, a ban remains in effect of foreign journalists and filmmakers inside the Casbah. In light of this, one wonders if an Italian director with help from an Algerian national could achieve what Pontecorvo and Yacef did 50 years ago.

“No, never,” Yacef says bluntly. “I am the last one of that group of people. Algerians are not particularly happy with us because we made the war and they didn’t.”

“The Battle of Algiers” is a controversial film for its accurate and empathetic portrayal of terrorists and torturers. Scenes depict the means and ends of explosives detonated by the FLN inside nightclubs and cafes killing dozens. Recounted also are the savvy methods of French paratroopers who extract information from prisoners through excessive physical and mental punishment.

A question arises about a comparison made between Yacef and the FLN with acts of terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists.

“We didn’t consider ourselves terrorists,” he says. “We fought our own fight the best way we could. There is no direct link between Islam and terrorism. In the end, we all want to find peace. If we take the example of the U.S., a country that never had a black president, but now accepts a black president, then this is a country that can do what is necessary for peace.”

Although the intention of the film was to celebrate an uprising of natives against a foreign occupying force, “The Battle of Algiers” has served the needs of military forces. Yacef admits that the film was used by the United States to help forge a counter offensive against Iraqi forces a decade ago.

“I know that President Bush invited his officers to see the film,” Yacef says. “They saw it in the Pentagon to learn aspects of geography, the economy, and the culture of Arabs. Still, Iraq is a very different place than Algeria. I was visited by the FBI to discuss what was involved. You can draw many examples. They’re may be some similarities. I remember saying to them, ‘If you go into Iraq, you will lose more than Iraq. Whatever is your motive, you will be humiliated the day you invade.’”

A great film will enlighten different generations, the longer it lasts. No doubt, “The Battle of Algiers” accomplishes this in the great artistic zeal that is Italian cinema.

A number of theaters will be showing “The Battle of Algiers” this month. For more information, log on to Here is a list of theaters nationwide that plan to show the film.

October 7 – 13    New York, NY    FILM FORUM
Saadi Yacef will appear in person following the 7:30pm show on October 7

October 7 – 13    Los Angeles, CA    LANDMARK'S NUART THEATRE

October 7 – 13    Washington, DC    LANDMARK'S E STREET CINEMA

October 14 – 20    Philadelphia, PA    LANDMARK'S RITZ AT THE BOURSE

October 14 – 20    San Diego, CA    LANDMARK'S KEN CINEMA

October 14 – 20    Denver, CO    LANDMARK'S CHEZ ARTISTE THEATRE

October 14 – 20    Chicago, IL    MUSIC BOX THEATRE

October 21 – 27    San Francisco, CA    LANDMARK'S OPERA PLAZA

October 21 – 27    Berkeley, CA    LANDMARK'S SHATTUCK CINEMAS

October 21 – 27    Seattle, WA    SUNDANCE CINEMAS

October 21 – 27    Portland, OR    CINEMA 21

November 15    Stamford, CT    AVON THEATRE

November 26, 28, & December 1    Baltimore, MD    THE CHARLES

December 1 – 4    Cleveland, OH    CLEVELAND CINEMATHEQUE

December 26 – January 5    Pittsburgh, PA    ROW HOUSE CINEMA



Four New Books:
“Deliver Us from Honor," “Feeding the Enemy,” “Il Bel Centro: A Year in the Beautiful Center,”and
“Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table”


By S.E. Valenti
Published by Koehler Books
Available at Barnes&, Also on the author’s web site

Sicilianophile is probably the best way to describe Sharon Valenti, author of the engrossing and exciting novel, “Deliver Us from Honor.” Married to a Sicilian, Valenti immersed herself in the language, culture and history of Sicily. She put her passion to work in an entertaining page-turner, in the tradition of Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather.”

Organized crime is often portrayed as an urban phenomenon. Yet, as we see in “Deliver Us from Honor,” the mafia was rooted in the Sicilian countryside. It was more like the Wild West, than Ole New York, as Sicilian outlaws rode horses and attacked wagon and truck shipping routes through mountain passes. They stole, fought and killed and then made their way to an isolated village to to hide away from the law. Much of “Deliver Us from Honor” is set in the farms and forests of Sicily. Valenti captures the richness of the region’s agriculture where the best lemons and citrus fruits are grown. The people there have a deep connection to the land; a knowledge of the workings of nature that transcends the novel.

The story begins in 1911 when Giuseppe Vazano’s farm is destroyed by fire. Brothers Sevario and Santo come to his rescue only to find Giuseppe and his wife Maria missing and their middle brother Gaspano murdered. The only survivors are Giuseppe’s daughters Adriana and Francesca and Gaspano’s wife Nella and two children Alfredo and Cinzia. Hiding in the backcountry, the family comes to the realization that the fire was set by arsonists. They seek to solve the mystery as to who set the blaze and why. The journey of characters and subplots ensue throughout a host of cities and villages in Sicily such as Balestrate, Corleone, Catania and Palermo. We see the inner play of priests, peasants and padrones and how they effect the Vazano family and their quest for justice.
Valenti’s well-written novel highlights the transition of Sicilian society from feudal to modern in the early 20th century. Most striking is how Sicily opens itself to the outside world by way of immigration to America and trade with American entrepreneurs.

“Deliver Us from Honor” is a compelling novel about the bonds of family and the nature of vendetta and omertà - two aspects of the culture and folkways of Sicily and Southern Italy. For Italian Americans with deep roots in Sicily, this book will be immediately understood as it brings to light the customs and traditions of the region. “Deliver Us from Honor” is an exemplary novel where characters come alive on every page to make it a resonating and engrossing work.


By J.R. Sharp
Published by Koehler Books
Available at Barnes&, Also on the author’s web site

At first glance, “Feeding the Enemy” might be a usual work of fiction. However, author J.R. Sharp spent 32 years in the United States Navy and pens a captivating novel from the viewpoint of the conquered and not the conqueror.

“Feeding the Enemy,” is based on a true story about a family facing the trials of occupation by enemies foreign and domestic. It takes place in Cimpello, a small village in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. The year is 1939 and begins with Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, as main character Gino Cartelli is wounded in the lung. Returned to Italy to a hospital in Treviso, he is nursed back to health by his fiance Catherina Zucchet, as the law dictates. The author writes: “The Italian government always requested family members to send help for the wounded because of a shortage of care providers at the hospitals.”

Catherina belongs to a family of proud farmers in Cimpello, headed by patriarch Pietro and assisted by her sickly brother Bruno. This is a dangerous time for the people of Italy as recruitment for the Fascist Party intensifies, pitting one group of young men against the other. Meanwhile, Pietro is one of many older farmers who faces dire times. The author shares his insight into Fasicist Italy when he speaks through Pietro about Italy’s decline under Mussolini. “His third thought was of his town of Cimpello and what it used to be like...The open markets, stores to shop in, restaurants to eat at, social events, and the evening walks that everyone would show up for in the middle of town. Now the town is more of a recruiting station and Fascist rally center. Gone were all the social events and many stores and restaurants…and the country and the Fascist supporters of Mussolini controlled everything.”

“Feeding the Enemy” is one-part romance novel, one-part family drama and one-part historic epic. Woven everywhere is devastation, brought by Fascist economic policies best described as socialist tyranny. The economy is controlled from top to bottom and the country is ruined. Add to injury the invasion by Nazi troops. What follows is a struggle for survival, the coming together of family members to outsmart a sinister enemy.  “Feeding the Enemy” is a bold work of historical fiction on the failure of government and tyrants and the survivability of common folk who live off the land. This is a book about good people, who want to live in peace but when called upon rise up to face their greatest foes. The books a well-written journey of faith and family and one that all Italian Americans should read.


By Michelle Damiani
Published by Rialto Press
Available at Also on the author’s web site

Most people are intrigued about the idea of spending a year in Italy. Author Michelle Damiani and her husband Keith and their children Nicolas, Siena, and Gabriel did just that in 2012. They packed up their belongings and left their home in Charlottesville, Virginia for the old village of Spello, in Italy’s Umbria region. Their experience is recounted in Michelle’s well-written book “Il Bel Centro: A Year in the Beautiful Center.”

For those with small children who want to live in Italy, “Il Bel Centro” is a must read. The book conveys all there is about daily life in the country, from the way Italians shop for food to the bureaucratic maze all must endure. Michelle gives us a glimpse of Italy’s incessant rules and regulations when she encounters applying for short term residency. She writes: “Another day at the posta, another endless line. Finally the woman who dismissed us yesterday beckons us to her window, but dismisses us once again because we haven’t noted the fee for the permesso on the application...They get you coming and going.”
No doubt, Michelle found life in Italy far different than the United States. Refreshing was the means of commerce and how simple transactions were in Italy; exemplified when they leased a car in Assisi. She writes: “When I hear the word ‘Assisi’ I think of Saint Francis’ birthplace. I never considered this spiritual destination as home to a FIAT dealership. And yet, it was at the Assisi FIAT dealer that Keith was granted a car, with no contract, no forms, no problem. I didn’t know that St. Francis was the patron saint of car leasing.”

Italian American by marriage, Michelle quickly comes to appreciate Italian human touch. She writes: “Italians are intent on making eye contact...When we first arrived, I felt exposed and vulnerable at that degree of eye contact. Now, I love it. It feels like a moment when guards come down and kindred spirits are summoned.” “Il Bel Centro” reads in many ways like a romance novel. In this case it is the author who falls in love with a country and way of life. Nothing is better than when someone not of your ethnicity comes to appreciate the richness of your customs and culture. “Il Bel Centro” is just that - a grand tribute from someone not Italian to all that defines Italy and the Italian way of being. It is a grand book to read.


By Elisa Costantini
Photography: Versano Photography
Available at Barnes&, Also on the author’s web site

The title of Elisa Costantini’s astounding new cookbook - “Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table” - is most accurate. The proud artistry the author takes in cooking comes from the need to feed her family. She writes: “Being the one responsible for putting food on my family’s table gives me a sense of pride, and it is how I express my love for those who gather at my table.”

Born and raised in the Abruzzo region, Costantini was from “Poggio Valle, a simple community of 25 or so families.” She learned how to cook by assisting her Aunt Ida, a successful caterer in the Teramo province. Costantini came to America in 1961 only because her husband Francesco wanted to emigrate. She was content to stay in Italy and thought the couple would one day return. But that changed after their second child, “Agnes, was born with a medical disability. She received excellent care in America, and I felt she had to stay close to her doctors and nurses. And so, I had to resign myself to a new reality – I would never return to live in Italy full time.”  Agnes passed away in 1981 followed in 2015 by Francesco, after 55 years of marriage. The book preserves a vital part of family legacy - a time when the family was complete and gathered at the dinner table.

“Italian Moms” is a thoroughly written book that contains marvelous homemade recipes that capture the soul of Abruzzo. There is “Clams Provencal,” made with white wine; “Pepperoni Rossi Ripieni,” which contains prosciutto; “Fagiolini con Palate” potatoes, green beans and garlic; and “Cinghiale” a roasted wild boar, not uncommon in Abruzzo.

Stunning photographs convey the color and texture of the dishes. The books is organized by chapters that follow a full course meal, from antipasti to dessert. Through it all, Costantini adds insight to her many ingredients and instructions with Abruzzo the theme. She writes: “Abruzzo, then, is a perfect destination in which to discover the time–tested flavors of old–world Italian food unencumbered by the normal tourist trappings.” “Italian Moms Spreading Their Art to Every Table” is an enjoyable gastronom