29 December 2013

LIFE: Bits and Bobs 2013

CHIAVARI, Italy – It’s the end of the year, not much is happening. Christmas is over and everyone seems to be quietly waiting for 2014 to see what surprises it is going to bring. To say things are moving pretty slowly in Chiavari would probably sum it up nicely but in other parts of Italy, like Florence and Rome, it’s a little different. Things seem to be pretty much on track there. Here are two bits and a bob from those two cities that you might find interesting.

Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze
 The First Bit. . . . is from Florence, Italy

The Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence Italy is currently hosting a Nicolo’ Machiavelli exhibition. You remember him, the Florentine writer, astute statesman, humanist, Italian historian, philosopher, ruthless power monger, father of political science, cunning schemer and unscrupulous politician who wrote that best selling treatise on how to get and keep power. Of course he wrote it 500 years ago, but it’s still a best seller in some political circles.   

Among the exhibit highlights are an autographed manuscript of Machiavelli’s L’arte della guerra, which has been called a Manual for Gangsters, and the original warrant for Machiavelli’s arrest in 1513. But perhaps the most interesting part of the exhibit is the Tavola Doria, a depiction of the central scene of Leonardo da Vinci’s Battle of Anghiari. The massive mural, which is now lost, was commissioned in 1503 to commemorate the Florentine Signoria’s glorious victory over the troops of the Milanese army in 1440. 

La via al ‘Principe’: Niccolò Machiavelli da Firenze a San Casciano

Until February 28, 2014

Biblioteca Nazionale (via Magliabechi entrance), Florence

Free entrance

The Second Bit . . . .  is from Rome, Italy

 Run Inna, Run

Inna Shevchenko, a well known pro-abortion activist and leader of the Ukrainian women's movement Femen, was stopped and arrested this week by Italian police while trying to enter St. Peter’s Square in Rome to protest the church’s anti-abortion policy.  The semi-nude activist tried to wiggle away as she shouted pro- abortion slogans but police quickly wrapped her in a blanket and hustled her off into a police car.

Femen is an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim feminist protest group that originated in the Ukraine but is currently headquartered in Paris. They are well known in Europe for their controversial topless protests against sex tourism, religious institutions, international marriage agencies, sexism and other social issues.

Ms. Shevchenko said that she, and other members of her movement, often take their clothes off to show police they are not carrying concealed weapons. 

And the last bit, or maybe this one’s a bob . . . . is back in Florence, Italy

Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy

For those of you who don’t know, in Italy sometimes chestnuts are called marroni, and marroni are a less than polite name for a certain portion of a man’s dangling bits. But that isn’t why I found this bit of etymological research particularly interesting, honest.

In 1282 the historic Torre della Castagna (Tower of the Chestnuts) in the center of the city of Florence, became the meeting place of the Florentine Priori delle Arti. The Priori, also known as the Signoria, was the governing body of the Florentine Republic.

 Tower of the Chestnuts, Florence, Italy

The members of the Priori delle Arti were elected for two-month terms, during which time they were not allowed to leave the tower unless in the company of another member, ensuring that all contact with outsiders was monitored to reduce the risk of threats or bribery. Now there’s an idea worthy of revival given the sorry state of politics today.

The Priori were very influential in the decisions made for the Republic and they used a voting system similar to the modern day ballot. But instead of using pieces of paper stuffed in a box, they use chestnuts.  The number of chestnuts placed in small fabric bags indicated the voting preference of each member. In Florentine dialect boiled chestnuts are known as ballotte - you see where I’m going with this don’t you - and so there are some scholars who think this is why ballots are now called ballots. You think?

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