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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Italy, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 70
1. Book Review: Hero on a Bicycle, by Shirley Hughes (Candlewick, 2013)

Recommended for ages 8-12.

Beloved British author Shirley Hughes is best known for her delightful picture books about preschooler Alfie and his toddler sister Annie Rose.  In 2012, at the ripe age of 84, she published in Great Britain her first children's novel, Hero on a Bicycle, which was published in 2013 by Candlewick here in the U.S.

Set in Florence in 1944, this novel centers around thirteen-year old Paolo.  He hates the Nazis but feels powerless--he's stuck between being a child and being old enough to be useful.  Paolo lives with his mother, Rosemary, an English woman who married an Italian, and his teenaged sister Constanza, a pretty girl who catches the attention of the Nazi officers stationed in town. Seeking a few thrills, Paolo rides his bicycle around town in the dark--past curfew.  But when he runs into a group of partisans--Italian resistance fighters--he becomes their messenger.  Soon his family is intimately involved, taking in downed Allied pilots, whom the resistance is trying to get to safety at the Allied lines.  Soon Paolo and his family are literally on the front lines of the conflict, and Paolo will get his chance to play the hero--sooner than he may have expected.

This is a slim novel (at 213 pages) that is a good choice for younger readers who are interested in World War II.  While providing plenty of suspense and a sense of danger, Hughes does not include any graphic violence in the novel that would be unsuitable for younger middle-grade readers.  Most of the novels for young people about World War II seem to involve the Holocaust or Jewish issues in some way; this novel provides a different perspective, as it focuses on the partisans and the Allied soldiers to fought to free Italy from the Nazi occupiers.

 

0 Comments on Book Review: Hero on a Bicycle, by Shirley Hughes (Candlewick, 2013) as of 4/7/2014 3:15:00 PM
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2. That Florence, Italy, novel: the title, the synopsis

Next spring, Tamra Tuller and Chronicle Books will be releasing a novel set in Florence, Italy, and (to a lesser extent) West Philadelphia. It took me a long time, and many drafts, to get it right, and it is only recently that we have settled on a final title.

I share that here, with an early book description:
Something is just not right with Nadia Cara. She’s become a thief, for one thing. She has secrets she can’t tell. She knows what she thinks, but when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Now in Florence, Italy, with a Master Chef wanna-be brother, a professor father, and a mother who specializes in at-risk teens, Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy—a flower thief—whom no one else has ever seen.  While her father tries to write the definitive history of the 1966 flood that threatened to destroy Florence, Nadia wonders if she herself will disappear—or if she can be rescued, too.

Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, ONE THING STOLEN is an exploration of obsession, art, and a rare neurological disorder. It is a story about the ferocious, gorgeous madness of rivers and birds. It is about surviving in a place that, fifty years ago, was rescued by uncommon heroes known as Mud Angels. It is about art and language, imagining and knowing, and the deep salvation of love written by an author who is herself obsessed with the beguiling and slippery seduction of both wings and words.  

My students Katie Goldrath, Maggie Ercolani, and Stephanie Cara inspired me as I wrote. Emily Sue Rosner and Mario Sulit helped me get the Italian right. Alyson Hagy, Amy Sarig King, and Kelly Simmons kept me going. Patty McCormick and Ruta Sepetys listened. Lori Waselchuk gave me her West Philadelphia. Wendy Robards gave so much of her time and heart during desperate days. And Tamra Tuller stood by.

Always grateful.

0 Comments on That Florence, Italy, novel: the title, the synopsis as of 3/29/2014 12:31:00 PM
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3. Kissing in Italian: Lauren Henderson

Book: Kissing in Italian
Author: Lauren Henderson
Pages: 272
Age Range: 12 and up

Kissing in Italian is the sequel and conclusion to Lauren Henderson's Flirting in Italian. Both books feature a British girl named Violet Routledge who is doing a summer study program at a villa in Italy. Violet was actually drawn to the program after seeing a painting of a girl who looked remarkably like herself, and was from a castle located close to the villa. In the first book, Violet learned that she did indeed bear a strong family resemblance to the family from the castle, leading her to suspect that she might be the illegitimate daughter of the principe. This is a problem, because Violet is strongly attracted to the principe's son Luca.

Kissing in Italian follows Violet's continuing efforts to uncover the secrets of her heritage, while also attempting to resist the dashingly attractive Luca. There is also relationship drama in the lives of the other three girls in the program, one of whom becomes involved with an older, married man. (I found this icky, but so did Violet - the relationship never comes across as acceptable). 

In truth, the mystery is pretty tame in this installment. Violet's parents are alive (though divorced and not physically with her in Italy). It's just a matter of her getting them to explain to her why she looks nothing like them, but does freakishly resemble some family in Italy. The real suspense lies in whether things will resolve in such a way that Violet and Luca can ever be together. There are other potential love interests for both Violet and Luca, too (since they are trying hard to stay away from one another, just in case). Here's Violet trying to become interested in another boy:

"Why does it feel so special when someone uses your name? Didn't some ancient society have a custom that you had a secret name that only the people you really trusted knew, because using it gave people power over you?

If that's true, and not just something I read i a novel, I really understand it now. There's something so nice about a boy saying your name. As if he likes you for yourself, what's inside as well as outside. Not just your boobs and face, but your brain, too.

Deliberately, I make myself smile back at him." (Page 36)

Despite being a bit less suspenseful than Henderson's other books (she also wrote the Kiss Me, Kill Me series), Kissing in Italian is still an enjoyable young adult romance. Settings include Siena, Florence, and Venice. There are villas, dance clubs, and late night swims with hot Italian boys. There's a hint of class-consciousness, and there are universal questions about whether one owes loyalty or protection to one's friends.

I like the multi-cultural mix of the book. Violet and Kelly's English background comes through, in contrast to Paige and Kendra's US-inspired tendencies. These are all set against the Italian backdrop, full of just enough Italian words to lend a multi-cultural feel, without making the book inaccessible. Like this:

"That's Italy for you. If you kissed passionately in public in London, people would judge you as attention-seekers and deliberately ignore you: In Italy, they practically applaud." (Page 223)

I also quite liked the way that Violet started to discover herself as an artist throughout the novel. Like this:

"I've discovered over the past few weeks that drawing or painting is the only thing in the world that can completely absorb me. It distracts me from any outside worries. When the art studio door closes, when I'm inside with paint or pastels or charcoal and a subject to focus on, I'm vacuum-sealed. The world beyond disappears. 

I feel beyond lucky to have discovered this." (Page 67)

Violet goes on to muse about whether her friends have something like this. I think that this section will make readers thing about what makes the rest of the world disappear for them, too. And that's something that teens probably should be thinking about. 

Kissing in Italian is clearly not intended to stand alone. If you haven't read Flirting in Italian, you should certainly read that first. If you have read Flirting in Italian, I'm sure that, like me, you'll want to find out how things turn out for Violet and Luca. And on that front, Kissing in Italian does not disappoint. I recommend this quick, two-book series for anyone who enjoys YA romance with an international flair. 

Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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4. Longa025

longa025

Specializing in vector-based illustration, Longa025 has created a stunning portfolio of infographics, icons, and maps for well-known clients including Monocle, GQ and Rolling Stone Magazine.


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5. Maggie Welcomes Thousands of Visitors Worldwide

Maggie Steele, the storybook heroine who vaults over the moon, has been attracting thousands of visitors from around the world. So many visitors, in fact, that she’s using a time zone map to keep track of them all.* People are … Continue reading

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6. Burano, Italy

Burano Italy is one of my favorite places... full of color and patterns.

1 Comments on Burano, Italy, last added: 10/13/2013
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7. The Children’s Italian Book Fairs in the San Francisco Bay Area | October 2013

Every year Elisabetta Ponti organizes The Children's Italian Book Fairs in the Bay Area. Hundreds of Italian books for children (0 to 13 years old) selected from some of the most distinguished Italian publishers.

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8. The Miz Maze : or, the Winkworth puzzle ; a story in letters

So, I think The Miz Maze might be the best collaborative novel I’ve read. The authors are:

Frances Awdry
Mary Bramston
Christabel Rose Coleridge
Mary Susanna Lee
A.E. Mary Anderson Morshead
Frances Mary Peard
Eleanor C. Price
Florence Wilford
Charlotte Mary Yonge

Nine authors is a lot, and I want to know more about them and about the dynamic between them. But all I’ve got is the obvious textual evidence that they weren’t as acrimonious as The Whole Family‘s lot. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing but a page of signatures, a few Wikipedia pages, and a random selection of facts about Charlotte Yonge. And that’s okay. It’s a pretty self-sufficient book, I think, and the authors seem to agree.

The information they do and don’t choose to give is so interesting. First, the authors’ names appear only as facsimile signatures, and they don’t specify who wrote what. Second, they provide a list of characters, and it’s crazy. See, for example, “Sir Walter Winkworth, Baronet of the Miz Maze, Stokeworthy, Wilts, age about 64, residing, when the book opens, at High Scale, a small property in Westmoreland, which was his in right of his second wife, Sophia Ratclyffe, recently deceased.”

I mean, all else aside, that’s a hell of a lot of commas.

On the scale of literary parlor game pretension, these women fall somewhere between the authors of The Affair at the Inn and William Dean “Control Freak” Howells, progenitor of The Whole Family. Instead of, “hey, let’s write a story,” or “hey, let’s be super deep together,” they’re saying, “hey, let’s write something realistic.” And, I mean, it’s still a sentimental novel, so a Venn diagram with circles labeled “People who don’t think Italians are entirely respectable” and “People whose relations married Italians” would encompass most of the characters, with significant overlap. But the governing principle seems to be the idea that everyone has a different point of view, and that people rarely understand each other. And…well, a) that is obviously my favorite thing, even more than secret insane wives and people falling in love with their spouses, and b) they are so amazingly committed to this principle that I can’t help but kind of love them, even when the story doesn’t do a whole lot for me.

Let me tell you, for example, about Algernon Bootle. Algernon Bootle is the son of the vicar and his busybody wife. Sir Walter Winkworth (of High Scale and Miz Maze) hires him to tutor his eldest son, Miles. Aunt Dora, Sir Walter’s sister, says she wouldn’t have thought any real person could sound so much like Mr. Collins. All the Winkworth kids kind of hate him. And yet Miles, writing to his twin, says “He isn’t such a bad fellow at bottom. I told him the other day that you would have been a more creditable pupil, and he became natural on the spot and said: ‘I wouldn’t have undertaken him for a thousand pounds.’”

I thought Algy was the one character who was only ever going to be the butt of jokes. But no, the authors of The Miz Maze are committed to everyone’s humanity, and it’s awesome. Which is not to say that Algy’s not still continually the butt of jokes. But he’s not just that.

I want to talk about Miles, too, but I don’t quite know what to say. He’s shy in that way that comes off as dullness, and Aunt Dora says, “Miles will be better looking by and by, when he has overcome the heaviness that clings about fine young men in the undeveloped stage.” He’s desperately in love with his sister Zoe’s best friend Emily, but she’s not interested. His more outgoing twin is in the Army, and also Canada, and it makes sense for Miles to be the steady, stay-at-home one. But when Aunt Dora tells him that he and his brother had their initials written on their feet as babies so their folks wouldn’t get them mixed up, he says, “I think it’s rather a pity they didn’t.” He’s sort of inarticulately, endearingly young.

And then, Aunt Dora. You may have already noticed that I can’t describe other characters without help from Aunt Dora. That’s because she’s the best. She’s one of Sir Walter’s two spinster sisters, and while the other one, Bessie, has a tragically dead fiancé in her past, Aunt Dora is happily single. She’s also kind and intelligent, funny, and a little bit intimidating to the younger women before they know her well. And she’s awesome at gently taking Sir Walter down a peg when he deserves it, in a very realistically sibling-like way.

The family relationships in this book are fantastic all around. Or, the Winkworth family ones are. Other families don’t get the same amount of attention. But there are plenty of Winkworths, and I can’t decide which I like best. There’s Sir Walter’s fraught relationships with his eldest children, and the way his obvious love for them doesn’t lessen the weight of his expectations. There’s Miles and Clyffe — short for Ratclyffe, which ouch — who have been the most symbiotic of twins, and now have to learn to be apart from each other. There’s Miles and Zoe, who are so much alike and so different, and confide in each other and bully each other in equal measure. And there’s Sir Walter and Aunt Dora, whose teasing, open affection was my first sign that the characters in this book were going to closely resemble real people. I think this is what William Dean Howells wanted for The Whole Family, and that The Miz Maze happened 15 years earlier makes me feel even better about Howells’ book being a hilarious train wreck instead.

It gets a little worse toward the end, as books often do. There was a point at which I felt like everything had been wrapped up to my satisfaction, but the romances had yet to be resolved, so the book had to keep going, and I just didn’t care as much anymore. Also there was a while there where I thought Algy was going to be converted to Catholicism, and it would have been so funny, and I wish he hadn’t been rescued. Still, I kind of love The Miz Maze, and its authors, who clearly made an effort to agree instead of undermining each other. I think it’s because they were all women.


Tagged: 1880s, aemaryandersonmorshead, charlottemaryyonge, christabelrosecoleridge, eleanorcprice, england, epistolary, florencewilford, francesawdry, francesmarypeard, italy, marybramston, marysusannalee

4 Comments on The Miz Maze : or, the Winkworth puzzle ; a story in letters, last added: 11/30/2013
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9. Jonathan Calugi Update

Jonathan Calugi via #grainedit

Italian designer and illustrator Jonathan Calugi recently updated his portfolio with a series of new projects. It’s well worth a visit if you’re a fan of his signature black and white line work.

Jonathan Calugi via #grainedit

 

Jonathan Calugi via #grainedit

 

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10. Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli

I picked up this book in a library book sale because it was about another one of those little known events that occurred during World War II: the snatching of Italian boys by Nazis and used as forced labor.  And also because the setting, at least in the beginning, was in Venice, Italy in the early 1940s, an unusual setting for most MG or YA novels.  The story centers on the friendship between 12 year old Roberto, a Catholic, and Samuele, a Jew.  It begins with the lure of seeing an American western film at the local movie theater proving to be too great for young Roberto to pass up.  Before long, however, not only is Roberto sneaking off to see the movie, but he is joined by his older brother Sergio, and friends Memo and Samuele.

The movie hasn't even begun when German soldiers swoop into the theater and round up all the boys.  Before they know what is happening, they are sorted by age so that Sergio and Roberto are separated from each other.  The boys are then put on trains heading north.  All through Italy, the trains picks up more and more boys.  Gradually, the trains head east to the Ukraine.  The whole operation appears to be such a perfectly planned operation.  A Western movie would and did draw only boys from the area, and no girls.  Non of the boys in any of the groups speak the same dialect, so there is little communication among them.  Soon, though, the boys realize the danger for Samuele, who is circumcised, so they change his name to Enzo and Roberto gives him his St. Christoper medal to wear.

Eventually, Roberto and Enzo end up in a labor camp, where all the boys are forced to build an airstrip for supply planes to land.  The work is hard and there is little food, and as winter comes the boys must find whatever rags they can use to try to keep from freezing, usually striping what they can off dead bodies - dead soldiers and prisoners alike were fair game.  At night, Enzo entertains Roberto with stories, most from the Old Testament, to keep his morale up.  The friends continue to support each other, so when another boy discovers that Enzo is Jewish and demands he give him most of his food ration, Robert shares his ration with his friend.

Throughout their captivity, Roberto worries about his parents and about getting home, but there seems to be no end in sight for the boys.  And to make matters worse, Enzo begins to weaken from the lack of food.  And to top it all off, with winter's snows, survival becomes more and more difficult for the boys.

Will they ever see home again?

This was the kind of coming of age story that really makes you realize what the concept 'coming of age' really means.  As you read Roberto's story, you can watch as he is transformed from a boy who had romanticized war to a thinking, feeling young man who realizes and appreciates the horrors of war without ever having been on a battlefield.  Yet, right from the beginning, Roberto and Samuele witness shocking Nazi brutality whenever boys tried to run away or when they fainted while working.  These were sobering lessons, and both boys heeded them in order to stay alive.

Stones in Water is a fast read, and for the most part it was excellent.  Some readers seem to feel that the end of the book didn't have a satisfactory conclusion, but I liked it.  Hinting at a sequel, I felt that Roberto has more in store for him than just going home.  And indeed, a sequel was written, Fire in the Hills, continuing Roberto's story.

One

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11. Interview with Amanda Usen, Author of Luscious and Giveaway!

 

Amanda Usen is the author of Luscious, a sexy romp through Italy, featuring yummy food and star-crossed lovers.  Amanda dropped by the virtual offices for a chat about her book.  After the interview, enter for your chance to win a copy of Luscious!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Amanda Usen] Pastry chef, word geek, romance writer, mom of three, caffeine addict, hot chef lover – all at the same time, not necessarily in that order!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Luscious?

[Amanda Usen] Chef heroine Olivia Marconi is balanced on the knife-edge of a major meltdown. Her marriage is over. She hates her job. Her two best friends have fallen in love with each other. She wants to start over, but first she has to go to Italy and tell her parents she doesn’t want to run the family restaurant anymore. Sean Kindred rejected Olivia’s indecent proposal while she was still married, but now that she’s free, he’s determined to take her up on her offer. Wherever. Whenever. Italy would be perfect. Luscious is the story of star-crossed lovers searching for a new beginning while eating amazing food, drinking fantastic wine and making incredible love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Amanda Usen] I was sitting in a doctor’s office editing the first draft of Scrumptious. When the doctor came in and learned I was a chef, he started telling me about his fabulous vacations at a cooking school in Italy. Villa Farfalla was born! A cooking school/spa/vineyard in Verona, Italy seemed like the perfect place for the next book. I knew Olivia, the restaurant owner from Scrumptious, would be the main character. Since she made a pass at her divorce lawyer and got shot down in the first book, it made sense that he would become her love interest in the second book. The storyline fell into place in my subconscious and was born, page by page, on the computer screen. There was a LOT of coffee involved in the writing of Luscious and more wine than I will ever admit.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Olivia?

[Amanda Usen] Hungry for love!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three ingredients Olivia would never, ever use?

[Amanda Usen] Strawberries, inferior quality olive oil, box wine

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things that Sean would never have in his bedroom?

[Amanda Usen] Best question ever! It’s going to take me ages to answer because I keep mentally trying on items and giggling. Okay…deep breath… a television. No hero I write will ever spend his time in the bedroom watching TV. Mementos from other women; it’s always been Olivia for Sean. Pajamas. No explanation needed. ;-)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Amanda Usen] I belong to the Western New York Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America. I’m constantly inspired by the hard work of my colleagues, and I’m grateful to the authors who write books that make me reach deeper and work harder to write my own stories. Food plays a big part in my books. I met my husband in culinary school, and he’s my own, personal, hot chef hero. He cooks, cleans and loves to play with our kids – now that is inspiring! I love to read t

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12. Laura Cattaneo AKA Halfpastwelve

laura cattaneo

Halfpastwelve is the online home of Milan-based designer Laura Cattaneo. Currently she works as a journalist for Il Sole 24 Ore, art-directs for la vita nòva and collaborates with IL — Intelligence in Lifestyle magazine.

After browsing her portfolio, I was impressed with the range and quality of her work.  She easily transitions from editorial design and illustration to information graphics all while consistently creating work that is visually stunning. I’m especially drawn to her redesign of La Domenica, a cultural supplement of Il Sole 24. Along with team members Adraino Attus, Francesco Narracci and Luca Pitoni, she has created a layout that is minimal yet bold and beckons the reader to explore it’s contents.

laura cattaneo

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laura cattaneo

laura cattaneo

laura cattaneo

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13. Guest Post: Dori Jones Yang–Aren’t the Mongols Bad Guys?

Dori Jones Yang is celebrating the release of Son of Venice, the sequel to her YA historical novel Daughter of Xanadu.  She stopped by the virtual offices  to set the record straight about the Mongols.   

Weren’t the Mongols Bad Guys? by Dori Jones Yang

Imagine a cartoon image of a horde of Mongol horsemen. Galloping on black horses, fierce and ferocious, they are invading a village, eager to rape and pillage.

The Mongols, history teaches us, were barbarians, vicious and cruel, destroyers of all that is good and civilized.

So why on earth did I choose a Mongol as the main character of my novel, Daughter of Xanadu, and the chief love interest in the sequel, Son of Venice? Who would fall in love with a Mongol?

In college, I majored in European history, and the Mongols were remembered as “Tartars” who decimated Hungary and Poland and subjugated Russia for centuries. But any good student learns that every set of people has its own take on history.

The story of the Mongols was mostly written by the people they conquered: the Russians, the Chinese, the Persians. The Mongols were definitely less “civilized” than all these peoples. When they began their conquests, they were nomadic herdsmen with no permanent settlements, no architecture, no written language. They lived in tents and spoke a guttural language no one else could understand. With no farming or manufacturing, they had to raid settled areas to get modern goods: stirrups, swords, fabrics, dishes.

Most of the horror stories about the Mongols are true. In retrospect, it seems almost impossible that Genghis Khan and his primitive hordes could have conquered most of the known world. They did it with “shock and awe” – swooping in on surprise attacks with such ferocity and cruelty that settled people were terrified of them. When one town resisted, Genghis Khan ordered his troops to massacre them with such horrific brutality that the next town would choose to surrender rather than face such a rampage. The Mongol troops cut one ear off each victim and collected them in bags as a way of counting the dead. They stacked up skulls to make sure no one would resist them in the future. The word “horde” even comes from Mongolian!

So it surprised me to read Marco Polo’s book. When he arrived in China, it was ruled by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Khubilai Khan. Marco would have heard these same horror stories from his father’s generation, who lived through Mongol attacks on Europe. And yet, Marco himself wrote nothing but positive things about Khubilai Khan: about his luxurious palaces, his glorious gardens, his large family, his lavish banquets. Marco Polo might as well have been a paid PR guy for the Mongols. Why?

It turns out the Mongol conquests were so swift that they gained control of almost all the land from Russia to China in just two generations. By the time Marco Polo got to China, the Mongols had settled into Chinese-style palaces and were living peaceful, opulent lives. They were commissioning art and poetry, learning good governance, and encouraging trade. They established an Empire that lasted over one hundred years, and most of that time they were not barbarian or brutal at all.

Most of us don’t think of our own people as bad guys. We Americans certainly don’t see ourselves that way – and the Mongols didn’t either. In their own legends, they were heroic, conquering more powerful kingdoms with brilliance and courage and then ruling them wisely.

In my novels, I wanted to make that point. To Emmajin, who grew up in the court of her grandfather, Khubilai Khan, the Mongols were the good

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14. Elena Giavaldi

Talented designer and illustrator Elena Giavaldi really knows how to make judging a book by its cover easy. As a book cover designer, she creates very cool, contemporary compositions for some of the best publishing houses in the business. She also manages to put very personal touches on each project, and add a bit of extra interest with unique type choices and very modern, experimental lettering. Other than her expansive covers archive, her portfolio runs the gamut of graphic design, making her an incredibly versatile designer. To keep up with Elena, look for her work in a bookstore near you!

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15. The Spaghetti is Missing by Jane Matyger

3 Stars The Spaghetti is Missing Jane Matyer Leo Silva Mirror publishing 26 pages     Ages: 4- 7 ........................ .................. Back Cover:  Yikes! All the spaghetti in Uncle Pauley’s restaurant is missing . . . and it’s almost dinner time. Gabby and Noodles jump into action, following a trail of smashed spaghetti boxes scribbled with the [...]

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16. Italian Motorcycles from the 1950s and 1960s

50cc astor super sport

50cc Astor Super Sport 1969 /Itom (1948–73), Turin, Italy / Courtesy of Stewart Ingram

During the Second World War many of Italy’s motorcycle and automobile manufacturing facilities were destroyed by allied bombing. To aid in the post-war economic recovery of these industries, the Italian government revised a highway code which reduced the minimum driving age to fourteen. With this, motorcycle manufacturers could create a new class of vehicles aimed at the younger generation. What these bikes lacked in power, they easily made up in style.

In 2012, SFO curated a small collection of these motorcycles for an installation in their international terminal. Included in the display were pieces by Itom, Benelli and MV August - all of which are scarcely seen on the roadways of Europe let alone the U.S. Although these vehicles have long ceased production, their legacy lives on through their iconic design.


Giulietta Super Sport

50cc Giulietta Super Sport 1959
Fratelli Peripoli (1957–80), Vicenza, Italy

Competition SS 52 Gobbetto

125cc Competition SS 52 “Gobbetto” 1952
Moto Rumi (1950–63), Bergamo, Italy

48cc Record Sport

48cc Record Sport 1968
FB Mondial (1948–79), Milan, Italy

Images via SFO

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17. Thomas Gray and Horace Walpole on the grand tour to spread news of a papal election, 1739/1740

By Dr. Robert V. McNamee


On Sunday, 29 March 1739, two young men, aspiring authors and student friends from Eton College and Cambridge, departed Dover for the Continent. The twenty-two year old Horace Walpole, 4th earl of Orford (1717–1797), was setting out on his turn at the Grand Tour. Accompanying him on the journey, which would take them through France to Italy, was Thomas Gray (1716–1771), future author of the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. The pair stayed abroad until September 1741, when an argument saw Gray return to England alone.

Travelling through Catholic domains, they would witness at arms-length one of the longest transfers of papal power in history, only four days shorter than the Interregnum, later imposed by the Napoleonic French, between the expulsion from the Papal States of Pius VI (who died 1799) and the election of Pius VII (14 March 1800). The on-going power struggle between the papacy and Catholic rulers of Europe, particularly with France, Spain and Portugal, had reached new levels of intensity — the latter two objecting in particular to unwelcome Jesuit interference in their treatment (read, “mistreatment”) of native populations in their overseas empires. The issue was still critical twenty years later, when Voltaire, under the pseudonym M. Demand, wrote to the Journal encyclopédique (1 April 1759), in the guise of identifying the real author of Candide, offering in partial evidence reports from the confrontations between Jesuits and colonial officials over their dealings with native populations in Paraguay.

The correspondence and journals of Gray and Walpole chart their travels, visits and discoveries across France and into Italy. The two young English travellers arrived in Florence on 16 December 1739, after a two days’ journey from Bologna across the Apennines. It was only two months before the ancient drama of papal passing and election would attract the attention of the world. Gray reported this news, when it came, to his friend Dr Thomas Wharton, writing on Saturday, 12 March 1740:

I conclude you will write to me; won’t you? oh! yes, when you know, that in a week I set out for Rome, & that the Pope is dead, & that I shall be (I should say, God willing; & if nothing extraordinary intervene; & if I’m alive, & well; & in all human probability) at the Coronation of a new one.

Clement XII (Papa Clemens duodecimus, born Lorenzo Corsini) had been pope from his election on 12 July 1730. He was the oldest person to become pope until Benedict XVI was elected in 2005. Clement died on 6 February 1740, and was eventually succeeded by Benedict XIV (Papa Benedictus quartus decimus, born Pròspero Lorenzo Lambertini), who was elected six months later on 17 August 1740. In a well-known anecdote of the election, Benedict is reported to have said to the cardinals: “If you wish to elect a saint, choose Gotti; a statesman, Aldrovandi; an honest man, me” (M. J. Walsh, Pocket Dictionary of Popes, London: Burns & Oates, 2006) — though as we will see from a contemporary report below, this is a rather colourless translation of the original.

A week later, Gray wrote to his mother Dorothy (Saturday, 19 March 1740):

The Pope is at last dead, and we are to set out for Rome on Monday next. The Conclave is still sitting there, and likely to continue so some time longer, as the two French Cardinals are but just arrived, and the German ones are still expected. It agrees mighty ill with those that remain inclosed: Ottoboni is already dead of an apoplexy; Altieri and several others are said to be dying, or very bad: Yet it is not expected to break up till after Easter. We shall lie at Sienna the first night, spend a day there, and in two more get to Rome. One begins to see in this country the first promises of an Italian spring, clear unclouded skies, and warm suns, such as are not often felt in England; yet, for your sake, I hope at present you have your proportion of them, and that all your frosts, and snows, and short-breaths are, by this time, utterly vanished. I have nothing new or particular to inform you of; and, if you see things at home go on much in their old course, you must not imagine them more various abroad. The diversions of a Florentine Lent are composed of a sermon in the morning, full of hell and the devil; a dinner at noon, full of fish and meager diet; and, in the evening, what is called a Conversazione, a sort of aſsembly at the principal people’s houses, full of I cannot tell what: Besides this, there is twice a week a very grand concert.

Two weeks later, after their arrival in Rome, Gray wrote another Saturday letter to his mother (2 April 1740):

St. Peter’s I saw the day after we arrived, and was struck dumb with wonder. I there saw the Cardinal d’Auvergne, one of the French ones, who, upon coming off his journey, immediately repaired hither to offer up his vows at the high altar, and went directly into the Conclave; the doors of which we saw opened to him, and all the other immured Cardinals came thither to receive him. Upon his entrance they were closed again directly. It is supposed they will not come to an agreement about a Pope till after Easter, though the confinement is very disagreeable.”

The conflict between catholic rulers, their national churches and the papacy led to prolonged disagreements and manoeuvrings in the Conclave, as evidenced by this letter from Walpole and Gray to their schoolboy friend, then fellow of King’s College Cambridge (Rome, 14 May 1740):

Boileau’s Discord dwelt in a College of Monks. At present the Lady is in the Conclave. Cardinal Corsini has been interrogated about certain Millions of Crowns that are absent from the Apostolic Chamber; He refuses giving Account, but to a Pope: However he has set several Arithmeticians to work, to compose Summs, & flourish out Expenses, which probably never existed. Cardinal Cibo pretends to have a Banker at Genoa, who will prove that he has received three Millions on the Part of the Eminent Corsini. This Cibo is a madman, but set on by others. He had formerly some great office in the government, from whence they are generally rais’d to the Cardinalate. After a time, not being promoted as he expected, he resign’d his Post, and retir’d to a Mountain where He built a most magnificient Hermitage. There He inhabited for two years, grew tir’d, came back and received the Hat.

Other feuds have been between Card. Portia and the Faction of Benedict the Thirteenth, by whom He was made Cardinal. About a month ago, he was within three Votes of being Pope. he did not apply to any Party, but went gleaning privately from all & of a sudden burst out with a Number; but too soon, & that threw Him quite out. Having been since left out of their Meetings, he ask’d one of the Benedictine Cardinals the reason; who replied, that he never had been their Friend, & never should be of their assemblies; & did not even hesitate to call him Apostate. This flung Portia into such a Rage that He spit blood, & instantly left the Conclave with all his Baggage. But the great Cause of their Antipathy to Him, was His having been one of the Four, that voted for putting Coscia to Death; Who now regains his Interest, & may prove somewhat disagreable to his Enemies; Whose Honesty is not abundantly heavier than His Own. He met Corsini t’other Day, & told Him, He heard His Eminence had a mind to his Cell: Corsini answer’d He was very well contented with that He had. Oh, says Coscia, I don’t mean here in the Conclave; but in the Castle St. Angelo.

With all these Animosities, One is near having a Pope. Card. Gotti, an Old, inoffensive Dominican, without any Relations, wanted yesterday but two voices; & is still most likely to succeed. Card. Altieri has been sent for from Albano, whither he was retir’d upon account of his Brother’s Death, & his own Illness; & where He was to stay till the Election drew nigh. There! there’s a sufficient Competency of Conclave News, I think. We have miserable Weather for the Season; Coud You think I was writing to You by my fireside at Rome in the middle of May? the Common People say tis occasion’d by the Pope’s Soul, which cannot find Rest.

As the bickering and accusations continued, Gray returned to Florence, where he reported to his father Philip (10 July 1740):

The Conclave we left in greater uncertainty than ever; the more than ordinary liberty they enjoy there, and the unusual coolneſs of the season, makes the confinement leſs disagreeable to them than common, and, consequently, maintains them in their irresolution. There have been very high words, one or two (it is said) have come even to blows; two more are dead within this last month, Cenci and Portia; the latter died distracted; and we left another (Altieri) at the extremity: Yet nobody dreams of an election till the latter end of September. All this gives great scandal to all good catholics, and everybody talks very freely on the subject.

Pope Benedict XIVFinally, on Sunday, 21 August 1740, Gray wrote again to his mother with the news of the new pope’s election:

The day before yesterday arrived the news of a Pope; and I have the mortification of being within four days journey of Rome, and not seeing his coronation, the heats being violent, and the infectious air now at its height. We had an instance, the other day, that it is not only fancy. Two country fellows, strong men, and used to the country about Rome, having occasion to come from thence hither, and travelling on foot, as common with them, one died suddenly on the road; the other got hither, but extremely weak, and in a manner stupid; he was carried to the hospital, but died in two days. So, between fear and lazineſs, we remain here, and must be satisfied with the accounts other people give us of the matter. The new Pope is called Benedict XIV. being created Cardinal by Benedict XIII. the last Pope but one. His name is Lambertini, a noble Bolognese, and Archbishop of that city. When I was first there, I remember to have seen him two or three times; he is a short, fat man, about sixty-five years of age, of a hearty, merry countenance, and likely to live some years. He bears a good character for generosity, affability, and other virtues; and, they say, wants neither knowledge nor capacity. The worst side of him is, that he has a nephew or two; besides a certain young favourite, called Melara, who is said to have had, for some time, the arbitrary disposal of his purse and family. He is reported to have made a little speech to the Cardinals in the Conclave, while they were undetermined about an election, as follows: ‘Most eminent Lords, here are three Bolognese of different characters, but all equally proper for the Popedom. If it be your pleasures, to pitch upon a Saint, there is Cardinal Gotti; if upon a Politician, there is Aldrovandi; if upon a Booby, here am I.’ The Italian is much more expreſsive, and, indeed, not to be translated; wherefore, if you meet with any body that understands it, you may show them what he said in the language he spoke it. ‘Eminſsimi. Sigri. Ci siamo tré, diversi sì, mà tutti idonei al Papato. Si vi piace un Santo, c’ è l’Gotti; se volete una testa scaltra, e Politica, c’ è l’Aldrovandé;c se un Coglione, eccomi!’ Cardinal Coscia is restored to his liberty, and, it is said, will be to all his benefices. Corsini (the late Pope’s nephew) as he has had no hand in this election, it is hoped, will be called to account for all his villanous practices.”

Dr. Robert V. McNamee is the Director of the Electronic Enlightenment Project, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

Electronic Enlightenment is a scholarly research project of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, and is available exclusively from Oxford University Press. It is the most wide-ranging online collection of edited correspondence of the early modern period, linking people across Europe, the Americas, and Asia from the early 17th to the mid-19th century — reconstructing one of the world’s great historical “conversations”.

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Image Credit: (1) Print Collection portrait file, Thomas Gray, Portraits. Source NYPL Digital Gallery
(2) Print Collection portrait file, B, Pope Benedict XIV. Source NYPL Digital Gallery

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18. the most stubborn writer alive

"You should just skip that part," my husband says.

"I can't. You know I can't. I'm not like that."

"You should try," he says, "because you're driving yourself crazy."

"I know," I say. "But I can't."

Why is it that I work this way, I wonder—incapable of writing forward when the scene I've been working on fails? Incapable of believing that I'll get it right some time. Now is the time, and now I am failing. The failure of the scene is the failure of the book until—unless—I get it right.

I'll be crazy between now and then.

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19. La Tigre

la tigre

La Tigre is an independent design studio based in Milan and a recent recipient of an ADC Young Guns Award. While their focus is mostly on editorial design, with illustration and infographics being the stars of the show, they also dabble in motion graphics and interactive mediums.

la tigre

la tigre

la tigre

la tigre

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20. Marco Goran Romano

marco goran romano

Marco Romano is a designer and illustrator out of Milan whose designs are both fun and unpretentious. With a portfolio thats steadily growing, Romano has already created illustrations for notable clients such as ESPN and Wired Magazine.


marco goran romano

marco goran romano

marco goran romano

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21. Sarah Mazzetti

sarah mazzetti

Sarah Mazzetti is a talented illustrator, comic artist, and screen printing teacher based in Bologna, Italy. Her unique style is funky and colorful, with each piece inviting the viewer deeper into her twisted and exchanting world. Dive in here.


sarah mazzetti

sarah mazzetti

sarah mazzetti

sarah mazzetti

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22. Machiavelli dismissed from Florentine office

This Day in World History

November 7, 1512

Machiavelli dismissed from Florentine office

From 1507 to 1512, Niccoló Machiavelli led the foreign policy of the Republic of Florence. In September of 1512, however, the republican government was overthrown and the powerful Medici family returned from years in exile to resume control of the city-state. Machiavelli spent the first week in November imploring the Medici to continue with a republican government. The message went unheeded; indeed, the day he completed his memorandum on the subject was the day the Medici dismissed Machiavelli from office.

Worse trouble followed.  In February 1513, he was arrested, charged with conspiracy, and imprisoned, where he was tortured. Released in March, Machiavelli retired to his family estate outside the city. There he undertook the work that would bring him his greatest fame: writing The Prince, a how-to manual for political leadership. Dedicating the work to Lorenzo de Medici, possibly in the hope of winning back a position of power and influence, Machiavelli carefully laid out how a prudent prince could secure and maintain power by being both the powerful lion and the cunning fox. In analyzing governance as a matter of following necessity, Machiavelli wrote the first text in political science.

Often criticized for a seemingly amoral view, Machiavelli was actually more complex. While writing The Prince, he also wrote The Discourses on Livy, a thorough exploration of republican government. In addition, the end of The Prince calls for some powerful and charismatic leader to rid Italy of foreign armies. While Machiavelli was never returned to Florence’s government, he did work for two Medici who held high positions in the Roman Catholic Church, one of whom commissioned an official history of Florence. In it, Machiavelli criticized the original Medici regime, the republican government, and the restored Medici rule that followed, proving himself intellectually honest but less cunning than the fox to the end.

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23. Hugo Pratt Interview (en français). I’m not certain when...



Hugo Pratt Interview (en français). I’m not certain when this was shot exactly.

He talks here about how comics are seriously hard work, if you’re doing it right, and about the intense research he’d perform whenever embarking on a new project. 

I’ve become a little obsessed with Pratt since arriving here (the apartment we’re staying in has, among many other wonderful books, 13 issues of Pratt’s Corto Maltese, which are helping me learn Spanish!), especially since I realized he also created “Jesuit Joe”, a sort of Native American Robin Hood, riding around the “frozen Canadian North” wearing a stolen RCMP jacket. Boss!



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24. Ryan Heshka: “Ours” — Solo show at Antonio Colombo...



Ryan Heshka: “Ours” — Solo show at Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea (Milano)

I love pimping out Ryan Heshka’s shows, not just because he’s a good friend (full disclosure), and he’s quite humble about promoting himself, but I really adore his work. I know I’m not alone though. Here’s some info about his newest solo show in Milan, Italy. Only a few weeks away!

Se siete in città quella settimana, non perdere questa mostra!



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25. Sunday Stroll in Bologna

The weather was great on a recent Sunday in Bologna. I had a great time poking in and out of corners and taking it all in.

A gorgeous flower shop… and some of the towers Bologna is famous for

and some famous Bolognese foods!

One of the city’s lovely porticoes

Sorry I’ve been scarce lately. Between travel and working on my novel, it’s been tough to make time to post, but I have lots to share. See you back here soon.


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