Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

And your arsenal, ballot, casino, contraband and gazette; your ghetto, imbroglio, gondola, lagoon, lido, lotto, marzipan, pantaloon, pistachio, quarantine, regatta, scampi, sequin and zany.

Oh, those zany Venetians! Those are some of the words that, originally Venetian, are now common currency in English. The Venetian language is actually older than Italian, an artificially created language based on Tuscan and Tuscan writers like Boccaccio, Dante and Petrarch. Venetian, on the other hand, can still be understood in Burano and some of the outlying islands in the lagoon. Ronnie Ferguson, head of the linguistics department at St. Andrews University, has compiled A Linguistic History of Venice, and a review in the Times of London makes for fascinating reading.

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Wakeboard. Hang ten, dude! From the marvelous website News:Lite – It Barely Qualifies as News, we receive the heroic story of Duncan Zuur, who has now fulfilled his life’s ambition of wakeboarding across St. Mark’s Square. I’m not sure it’s really worth your while to watch the video; suffice to say that he attaches a motorized winch to one end of the piazza, straps his wakeboard to his feet, and zips along past the arcades of the Doge’s Palace carving s-curves in the floodwaters.

Hey, the authorities are urging tourists to stay away for the moment. This is the best we could do.

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Agrigento today.

Agrigento today.

We’re disappointed and discouraged to learn, from The Independent today, that the Italian government has approved plans to build a gigantic liquid gas storage site less than a mile away from the famed World Heritage Site of Agrigento, the storied Valley of the Temples in Sicily.

Greek colonists from Gela colonized this part of Sicily in the 6th century B.C. and adorned it with seven monumental Doric temples. They are the best-preserved examples of ancient Greek architecture outside Greece. The spacious site is one of our favorite places to visit, and you can see why in the photo above.

How can this happen, you ask? Aren’t those UNESCO World Heritage Site designations supposed to protect, well, the world’s heritage from the depredations of the modern era? We suppose the lesson here is: don’t ever underestimate governments’ desires and bureaucratic malfeasance. The Italian government is merely ignoring the existence of the Heritage Site – because there are no people living there.

…a ruling signed into law on 28 September by the Environment Minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo, backed by the Culture Minister, Sandro Bondi, stated that the planned €500m plant “does not infringe on the special protected zone at a community level, inasmuch as the closest affected district is between 13 and 20km (8-12mi) from the area of the planned development.”

Thus, the Environmental Impact Assessment is clean: notwithstanding the fact that Agrigento’s entire economy is structured around tourist revenue from The Valley of the Temples. The present-day communities might be 8-12mi from the proposed gas plant, but its two holding tanks (each over 1,200,000 square feet and 154 feet high, plus a 130-foot-high flame tower), are located less than a mile from the archaeological site. There seems to be little doubt this plant would seriously damage the aesthetic appeal of a sacred site more than 2,500 years old.

According to The Independent article, the Mafia is especially powerful in the region, perhaps involved in the many illegal building developments that have crept ever closer to Agrigento, and it may well be greasing the wheels of the Italian government in this case. Luckily, the threat is so egregious that UNESCO and the European Union environment minister are actively investigating. Now the Mayor of Agrigento, Franco Zambuto, and the president of the park’s ruling body, Rosalia Camerata Scovazzo, have agreed to challenge the project “in every court in the land.”

They better. We are particularly alarmed by this situation. If you share our concern, please email EU Environment Minister Stavros Dimas: stavros.dimas@ec.europa.eu with your thoughts and your support.

The future view of Agrigento?

The future view of Agrigento?

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Now, lest you think that, as per the last post, TDI voyages are overly eggheady, we wish — with this post — to assure you this is decidedly not the case. We have blood pumping through our veins too.  And since we’re all mature adults here, we can let you in on a secret. We normally don’t publish this in the brochure, but as a special, optional extra available only on our Historic Cities of the Sea, Mediterranean Music FestivalJourney of Aeneas, and Journey of Odysseus voyages — as well as a devious little departure from your kids on board Voyage to the Lands of Gods and Heroes

we can take you to a brothel.

Don’t worry. This brothel’s been out of service for 1,928 years. After painstaking restorations, ancient Pompeii’s brothel was opened to tourists in 2006. Known as the Lupanare (after the Latin for she-wolf, which was ancient slang for a prostitute) it contains naughty frescoes much, much more salacious than

this one — which we will not show you, but we won’t mind terribly if you peruse them here. “It’s like a menu,” is what the tour guides like to say. But, according to Spiegel Online, these were highly idealized sexual images; the reality of prostitution in Pompeii was less erotic:

The windowless chambers where the prostitutes worked were separated from the anteroom only by curtains. Archaeologists discovered marks on the stone blocks that indicate customers didn’t even remove their sandals during sex… “In fact, this place where people went in search of pleasure was probably profoundly joyless.” That’s how an article in the German archaeology journal Abenteuer Archäologie sums up what scientists know about the brothel. “The cramped and uncomfortable chambers, stuffy and blackened by soot from candles, couldn’t have offered any very cultivated form of pleasure,” according to the article.

Pompeii’s prostitutes were mainly slaves of Greek or Oriental origin. But that’s only one reason why they were available so cheaply. Former slaves often continued to work in the sex trade. They hadn’t been trained in any other profession, and so they often had no real alternative. And not all women who worked as prostitutes were slaves. Customers had all sorts of women to choose from, and this may have helped to keep prices low.

However the London Times article notes that

There was even some evidence that Roman women frequented brothels for sex with male prostitutes.

It is lucky that we can see the more “adult” side of ancient Pompeii. The Times also notes that

Erotic objects found during the 18th and 19th-century excavations were considered so salacious they were kept in a “secret cabinet” at the National Archeological Museum in Naples, to which only those deemed to be of “mature age and respected morals” were admitted. The objects include a statuette of the god Pan copulating with a goat, and numerous phallic symbols, considered by the Romans to be good luck or fertility charms.

In other words, what TDI offers isn’t your grandfather’s Baedeker cruise.

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