There is mail for Juliet!

Image by Adriano Gadini from Pixabay

Dear Juliet,

I won’t ask you if your history, which has distinguished Verona over time as the city of love, is true or a legend. The magic, strength, and power that your history has in keeping love alive for me are enough. For centuries you have shown to be a good listener, attentive to the sorrows of the heart, the friend who’s always there, and perhaps the last hope for those who no longer have anyone to share their dreams or confide their secrets. Dear friend, surely this year too on Valentine’s Day you will hear “there is mail for Juliet!”

Your city breathes (and sighs) love.

Many seek exactly your warmth to unburden themselves. They tell you about their sadness looking for a word of comfort, they ask for a suggestion on how to express their love (yes, dear Juliet, there are many Romeos who cannot speak of love). There are also those who want your advice on how to find their Romeo or their Juliet or either those who just want to tell you their story or a lived moment of happiness. The truth is that sooner or later that thing happens to everyone, we fall in love, and it doesn’t matter if for Mathew, Antony, Frank or Romeo, the question remains the same as yours “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

The mail for Juliet became a tradition

As long as there are questions, there will also be “Juliet’s secretaries” to answer them. Certainly, there is no shortage of questions for the team of volunteers in charge of picking up the mail for Juliet and answering every letter, even those addressed simply “Juliet, Verona”. Surely magic exists, considering that the letters for Juliet add up to 50.000 every year and they come from all around the world, written by the most varied senders, I mean, from the teenagers that have their first crush or the businessman in love.

The tradition of these letters goes back to 1937 when “the first Juliet’s secretary” Ettore Solimani, keeper of Juliet’s tomb, touched by the content of the letters left by visitors, started to collect, and answer them. He carried out this task alone for 20 years, solely for the pleasure of doing it. Ettore always had a word of comfort to offer and has signed each letter as “your Juliet” until 1957, when he was forced to retire. After that, the task was left to some volunteers, inhabitants of Verona, until 1972 when Giulio Tamassia, followed by a group of friends, had the idea of creating the Juliet Club, a non-profit cultural association whose sole purpose is to keep alive the story of the Veronese lovers, spreading their love around the world.

The Juliet Club makes every effort to support its daily task and if the story requires more attention, it seeks help from a local psychologist or from the institution capable of making their help concrete and meaningful. In addition to looking after the mail for Juliet, the Club organizes on the week of Valentine’s Day, the “Dear Juliet” prize which reaches its 30th edition and includes the choice of the most beautiful letters written in the previous year. Besides, it sets up the international literary prize “Writing for love” which includes the choice of the best love book published in Italy and “Juliet’s Birthday” party, in September, in the squares of Verona. The slogan this year (2022) is “Verona in Love – If you love someone, take them to Verona”. We join the choir “Love. (All we need is)”.

The identification of the noble Cappello family with the Capulets gave rise to the belief that the house above is Juliet’s house. As soon as we pass the entrance porch, we have in front of us the lovers’ balcony. Within walking distance of Juliet’s house, we find Romeo’s house.

Verona - city of Romeo and Juliet

On Valentine’s Day, love is waiting for us in Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet. Ten years ago,  I found myself by chance involved in this appointment and I must say that the air you breathe in the city on Valentine’s Day is different. It is possible to feel the magic along Cappello road where Juliet’s house is, and especially within its walls with the reenactment of the legendary balcony scene by the actors who revived the two lovers. In Verona, there is a lot to see. After crossing the gates of the medieval walls that surround the city, we find ourselves in front of the Arena, a Roman amphitheater that today hosts many cultural events. Following the romantic itinerary, we arrive in the square called “Piazza delle Erbe”, at Juliet’s house and, after some steps, at Romeo’s house. It’s also possible to go for a visit to the tomb of Juliet located in the “Museo degli Affreschi” [Fresco Museum].

In the city, some people say that Juliet’s house belonged to the Cappelletti family, which probably became Capulet in the Shakespearean legend, as well as that of Romeo Montecchi was the home of the Monticoli (in the Shakespearean works Montague) family. Nobody knows for sure. A mystery remains about the existence of the two Veronese lovers. For some the Montecchi and the Capulet existed; for others instead, Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, originally published in 1596, is only a fantasy. By now, it’s up to us to keep their story alive and to believe that true love exists. It’s up to us to keep it alive in our heart wherever we go in the world even if the words of Romeo imprinted on a plaque placed next to a small bust of Shakespeare at the entrance to the city says that “there is no world outside the walls of Verona” as if to tell us: love lives here.

arena de verona

To the cinema lovers there are two movies not to be missed or to be seen again: Romeo and Juliet, by Franco Zeffirelli, and Letters to Juliet, by Gary Winick.


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And so, the story of Befana was born

La Befana
La Befana

“Epiphany takes all holidays away” is an old saying in Italy. Actually, January 6th marks the end of the holiday season. Christmas and New Year celebrations passed and everything turnover into normal daily life again. It’s the beginning of a new year and Befana (a term derived from the epiphany that means manifestation) strives to comfort us in this transition. The tradition says that in the early morning hours between January 5th and 6th, Befana, the old lady, stops by our houses to fill the socks hanging in the fireplace with candies, sweets, cookies, and chocolate, but be careful because you can also find your sock full of coal, which symbolizes the misdeeds of the past year. The Epiphany or Kings Day is also Befana’s party,  a public holiday in Italy, time to take the Christmas tree down. New Year, New Life!

So, what has Befana brought you this year? Candy or coal? Ok, I know, you claim you behaved well, so you sure got candies or maybe some nice gifts. But, let me guess, if you were a naughty boy, this year you only got COAL! You want to know what I found inside my stocking… Hmmm! Befana’s party is a typical Italian tradition, and the charismatic old woman is always eagerly awaited by children. Riding on her flying broom, she crosses the sky carrying her basket full of goodies. The origins of all this come from pre-Christian magical traditions.

The legend says that when the three Wise Men made their way to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus, they had difficulties finding their way, so they asked an old woman for help. Being grateful for her help and kindness, they invited her to come with them. The old woman, who was too busy cleaning the house, declined, but soon later she realized it was a mistake. So, Befana puts some gifts in a basket and left, trying to reach the Wise Men. Despite following the same star as they did, she never arrived at the stable where Jesus was born, and so she went into the houses and left gifts for the children in the hope that one of them was the baby Jesus.  Therefore, always on the same day, she rides on her broom going around the world, entering houses, and leaving gifts for children expecting to be forgiven.

That’s why anyone nice in the past year found sweets inside their socks. The naughty ones do not! They found only coal! But don’t worry, she’ll be back next year! And believe me, she is a mix of witch, fairy, and magician, sometimes generous sometimes severe, but never bad… and her coal is made of sugar, but you didn’t hear it from me! So, start singing:

“Befana comes at night
her shoes are not a pretty sight
she comes with stitches covering her dress
Bafana we shall bless!”


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Pinocchio turns 140, but the old man is Geppetto ;)

libro Pinocchio

“Centuries ago, there lived…
‘A king!’ my little readers will say immediately.
No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time, there was a piece of wood.”


Pubic Domain

A hundred and forty years ago was born the puppet Pinocchio, carved out of a piece of wood by a lovely old man, the carpenter Geppetto. And then? Then there was the Talking Cricket or Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio’s consciousness), the Fairy with Turquoise Hair, Honest John (the Fox), Gideon (the Cat), and many others who make up this masterpiece of Italian literature. The big realization is that only after undergoing an interior transformation, a true awakening of consciousness, Pinocchio was able to have his great desire manifested. The wooden puppet became a real boy, in flesh and bones. As he himself said: “a good boy” because he understood his mistakes.

Pinocchio first appeared on July 7, 1881, at the “Giornale per I bambini, the first Italian newspaper addressed to young readers. The story was published as comic strip. The last episode, however, was dropped like a bomb on the readers. Disappointed, they wrote to the newspaper asking for a new ending. In the first version, poor 

Pinocchio ended up hanging from a leafy oak. Although doubtful, Carlo Collodi, creator of Pinocchio, answered the readers’ request, bringing Pinocchio to life again with the help of the Blue Fairy. Then, in 1883, the illustrated book “The Adventures of Pinocchio: the story of a puppet” was published by the bookstore publisher “Libreria Editrice Felice Paggi”.

Carlo Lorenzini (CarloCollodi) was born in Florence on November 24th, 1826. He spent most of his childhood in Collodi, a small medieval town, in the province of Pistoia, which gave him inspiration for his pen name. In 1844, he interrupted his studies to go to work at the Florentine Bookstore “Libreria Piatti. Three years later, he started collaborating with some newspapers writing about music, theater, literature, and humor. Collodi founded two important newspapers in Italy at that time: “Il Lampione, a daily satirical newspaper, forced to close in 1849, and the “Scaramuccia, a theater-oriented newspaper. Collodi died on October 26th, 1890.

The puppet speaks 260 languages

This is not a lie, among the Italian books, “Pinocchio” is the most translated and widespread in the world. The puppet, according to a survey published on May 18th, 2021, speaks 260 languages. The survey was sponsored by, an Italian platform for the research of old and used books. But we can go further: in the ranking of books in the world, carried out by the American translation agency 7Brands Inc., Pinocchio pops up in second place, only behind “The Little Prince, by the French Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

Geppetto’s adopted son, who frequently sees himself into trouble and gets his nose bigger and bigger any time he tells a lie, is the best-known Italian character abroad. Fame also took him to the world of cinema, cartoons, and theater. Pinocchio is recognized as one of Disney’s biggest successes (winning two Oscars in 1941) and passed to history as the second Disney classic after “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, from 1937.

Pinocchio puppets – stand at a square in Verona, Italy.

The other face of Pinocchio

— What name shall I give him? — Geppetto said to himself. — I’ll call him Pinocchio. This name will bring him good luck. I once knew a whole family of Pinocchios: Father Pinocchio, mother Pinocchia, and Pinocchi the children. And all of them did well. The richest one begged for a living.

Pinocchio - does it mean "pineal eye" in Italian?

Geppetto explains the choice of the name Pinocchio in a simple way: it’s a name he already knows and will bring luck to the puppet. However, this explanation is followed by others due to the most varied reasons, sometimes geographic, sometimes botanic, or even esoteric. Some people say that Collodi got inspired by the fountain at the theological seminary where he studied, named “Fontana del Pinocchio” (Pinocchio’s Fountain). Others say that the name comes from the Pinocchio’s area, San Miniano Basso, a village where Collodi’s father worked for years. Yet, there are also those who say that the name is related to the wooden puppet’s characteristics. In Italian, Pinocchio is another name for “pinolo”, the pine nut.

The explanation I like the most however is the esoteric one, and here we have material for another post. Pin-occhio, in Italian, is the union of the words “pino” (pine) plus “occhio” (eye). Pine makes pine nuts (pinolo) that by its form represent the pineal gland, also known as the third eye. The interpretations given to Pinocchio’s story go from the most superficial one told and retold infinitely, to the deepest one which deals with self-transformation. The wooden puppet, which represents the material side, became aware of his acts and underwent an internal evolutionary process in order to receive the gift of life. Only after changing inside did the change outside took place and Pinocchio could emerge as a real boy, owner of a conscience, a soul, and certainly with a heart. Pinocchio woke up and approached the divine. For him, the work is done.

Symbols can be seen also in the Vatican Square with the presence of the world’s largest monument dedicated to the “pine cone” flanked by two peacocks, birds associated with spirituality, awakening, and enlightenment. The shape of the papal tiara and many other accessories used by the Pope is based on it. Photo (cutout) by Wkinight94 Wikimedia Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

We talked about an 1881 story when Pinocchio was able to get his own conscience and fired the Talking Cricket from his position as an external adviser. Today, in 2021, there are men in flesh who find it more comfortable having a Talking Cricket by their side and, in this way, they go through life as a wooden puppet, forever supported by their external consciences.

Credits: Pinocchio, by André Koehne – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Carlo Collodi e Pinóquio (above), also by André Koehne – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license /Other credits: first Pinocchio’s book Wikimedia Commons; illustrations from the first book Geppeto esculpindo Pinocchioo gato e a raposa and Pinóquio-sun, all of them of Public Domain.


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Brushstrokes to eternity – 500 years of Raphael Sanzio

The “divine painter”, a sensible genius, prince of the arts, almost a mortal God. People from all over the world attribute these titles to Raphael Sanzio, one of the greatest Renaissance artists. Five hundred years after Raphael’s death, the celebrations in Italy have been suspended by the Covid-19 emergency. The works rest in dark, climate-controlled rooms, and, like everybody else, is in an endless wait during this time of social distancing. The exposition “is a Sleeping Beauty waiting for a prince to awaken her”, as stated by the president of the Roman museum, Mario di Simoni. But in the end, it doesn’t matter if the prince wakes her up late because the works that Raphael has gifted us are eternal.

However, instead of all these titles, just saying ‘Raphael’, or ‘Raffaello’, as the exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome is called, seems already enough, given that he can be easily recognized in his work. The distinctive traces of his ‘madonnas’ with children, portraits of popes, cardinals, and lords, frescoes in the Vatican’s rooms, and many other works that have made him famous worldwide lead us to the master of Italian painting born in Urbino in 1483.

Raphael, son of the painter Giovanni Santi, was influenced by his father and soon learned basic artistic techniques. After his father’s death, when Raphael was only 11 years old, his uncle, the priest Bartolomeo, entrusted his training to the painter Pietro Vannucci, called ‘Perugino’. In 1504, Raphael went to live in Florence and wanted to meet Da Vinci and Michelangelo, painting in this period numerous portraits, most importantly the ‘Madonne with children’. At the end of 1508, he moved to Rome and was commissioned by Pope Julius II to finish the frescoes in the Vatican apartments.

More than ever, Raphael Sanzio captivated everybody’s appreciation and became the most sought artist in the city. Painting continued to be his main activity, but it also gave way to architecture, learned a priori to support the first one. It was as an architect that Raphael answered Pope Leo X’s call, replacing Donato Bramante who died in 1514, in the construction that marked forever the history of architecture, St. Peter’s Basilica, to which other great masters dedicated themselves, like Michelangelo Buonarroti. Raphael died in 1520 when he was only 37 years old, and with him also ended his project of the Basilica. Despite being so young, the ‘prince of the painters’, as he is called by many, influenced other artists in the following centuries, among them Caravaggio and Salvador Dalí. [Photos: Self-portrait by Raphael 1505-06, Uffizi, Florence (Raphael, Wikimedia Commons Public domain Mark 1.0). Detail of the masterpiece “The Sistine Madonna” 1513-1514 circa (Raphael, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain Mark 1.0)]

Raphael Sanzio, the exhibitions waiting to restart

So far, the exhibitions have been interrupted by the pandemic and remain awaiting a restart. In Rome, at the Scuderie del Quirinale. The exposition “Raffaello 1520-1483 contains over 100 masterpieces, from collections and museums all over the world. Just the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence has contributed with around 50 paintings. The hope is that the planned exhibition, programmed to close on the 2nd of June, which is the limit given by the loan contracts, can be kept open for enough time. While we wait, the Galleria degli Uffizi has prepared a virtual tour that can be seen clicking here or searching for #RaffaelloOltrelaMostra. Other celebrations will certainly resume in Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, and the Marche, region where Raphael was born.

It’s not only Italy that celebrates Raphael Sanzio. In Brazil, the Fiesp Cultural Center, in São Paulo, has organized the exhibition ‘Raphael e a Definição da Beleza’ that brings never before seen works to the country from museums in Rome, Naples, and Modena. It’s also in São Paulo, in the Museum of Modern Art (MASP), that you can see the

only painting of Raphael outside Europe and United States: the “Resurrection of Christ, dated 1502 and acquired by the museum in 1954. The celebration in the United States is also on hold. The National Gallery of Art, in Washington DC, celebrates the 500 years of Raphael’s death showing ‘Raphael and his Circle’ that at this moment can be visited only in a 3D virtual tour on the Gallery’s site.

In England, the National Gallery of London dedicates a big exhibition to Raphael. ‘The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael’ as it is entitled, will be held from October 2020 to January 2021 with more than 90 works from several museums like the Louvre, Vatican, Uffizi, and the National Gallery of Arts of Washington. In a message, the president of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, expressed his feelings: “the wish is that the doors can be reopened as soon as possible and from that Renaissance spirit that made Raphael’s art incomparable, we can draw energy for a restart of Italy and Europe”. With my best wishes!

“ The Sistine Madonna”, one of Raphael’s most famous paintings (1513-14). (Raphael, Wikimedia Commons Public domain mark 1.0)

“The Triumph of Galatea”, a fresco, Villa Farnesina, Roma,1514. (Raphael, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

“Portrait of Pope Julius II”, 1511, National Gallery of London. A second version dated 1512 is kept by the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. (Raphael, Wikimedia Commons  Public domain Mark 1.0),

“The Resurrection of Christ”, 1501-02, São Paulo Museum of Art, Brazil.(Raphael, Wikimedia Commons Public domain Mark 1.0)

“Saint George and the dragon”, 1504-06, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA. (Raphael, Wikimedia Commons Public domain Mark 1.0)


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Pending coffee: a cup of kindness

coffee break kindness generates kindness

coffee break kindness generates kindness

“When someone is happy in Naples, he pays for two coffees:
one for himself and another for anyone else.
It’s like offering a coffee to the rest of the world.”
Luciano De Crescenzo, in his book entitled “Il caffè sospeso”.

The coffee break has always been a moment of fun so now I’ll give you a taste of the drink that boasts having so many fans in Italy. I offer it to you with a curiosity: the pending coffee (caffè sospeso). This cup of kindness is an ancient tradition of solidarity that originated in Naples that has inspired documentaries, books, and literary competitions. There are those who say: only after a coffee I can… express”. The truth is that coffee and good humor are part of Italian life. There is no day without a coffee… and much less without a good laugh.

But I don’t mean just one! In fact, each day in Italy, 80 thousand  cups of coffee are served, and many times are accompanied by  

jokes, some intelligent, others not so much, which when told in a coffee shop can draw a smile on our face. It doesn’t matter how gray is your day, just a coffee break is enough to trigger a good moment. Some cups have printed caffè al volo (quick coffee) and there are coffee shops that also offer quick challenges such as writing a small story in just the time of a coffee which in Italy is almost always very fast. In others, we can take and/or exchange books or come across DJs that invite the clients to leave shyness apart and sing a song live on the radio. In Radio Padova’s morning program I listened to great talents. If the ‘macchiato’ is sweetened with love everything becomes possible.

pausa caffè

Pending coffee

Coffee and creativity are always present and are prepared to satisfy any taste. Short black, long black, cappuccino, hot macchiato, cold macchiato, with milk on the side, in a large cup (long), spiked coffee… the list is long. But what was that story about the pending coffee becoming a documentary? Well, the customer orders a coffee and pays for two leaving the second one to be given to anyone more unfortunate, which perhaps just that day would not even have a coin in his pocket to treat himself with that little pleasure. So, when the craving for coffee is too strong or the cold freezes to the bones the best course of action is to take refuge in a coffee shop and ask for a pending coffee. If so, a cup of coffee will be immediately served.

Although these days it’s no longer a habit, many go out of their way to keep this tradition alive. Some reserve a special day to remember it, and, fortunately, many take the initiative and continue to promote it, as recently happened at the Milan Fair, where seven thousand pending coffees were served. The idea also became an appCaffè pagato conviene a Tutti (Paid coffee suits everyone) whose community grows every day. The Caffè Pagato app has already 9.000 subscribers and around 100 affiliated bars. A concrete gesture of friendship that spreads through Italian cities. The application can be downloaded for free at  App Store or Google Play.

The practice of pending coffee is an act of kindness or charity towards others. This gesture so natural and friendly has crossed the boundaries of Naples conquering other Italian cities, such as Rome and Milan, and arrived abroad: United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Brazil have already embraced it. Thus, without much clamor, prepaid coffee goes around helping to warm the body and the heart of many people, especially on the coldest winter days.

pausa caffè
cartaz com preços do café

Coffee with good manners

It’s not just kindness that counts when it’s time for a coffee break. If one does not save on good manners, he probably will be able to save money. It’s not rare to find as a joke on the balcony a notice showing the price of coffee may vary depending on how you ask for it: ‘a coffee = € 3; ‘a coffee please = € 2 and ‘good morning, could you make me a coffee, please? = €1. “Kindness generates kindness“, as said José Datrino, a Brazilian urban personality known in Rio de Janeiro as the Gentle Prophet. For those who want to know more about this character beloved by Cariocas (people born in Rio), the links are here and here.

caffè sospeso


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Venice carnival, a unique experience

carnevale venezia
carnevale venezia
carnevale venezia

Experiencing Venice’s carnival is something to do at least once in your life. There is nothing quite like it. It’s like waking up in a dream and realizing you are at St. Mark’s square in the eighteenth century. The world has changed outside and change you inside. The colors, laces, appliques, smooth velvet, the beauty of the costumes and the mystery, hidden in the eyes, behind the masks. There is nothing more fascinating than mystery and the wonder in the eyes. Well, It’s carnival! How can we not tell the beauty and the magic within Venice these days?

The origin of Venice’s carnival dates back to 1094 when, for the first time, this term was used to describe public entertainment. But it was in the seventeenth century that the carnival had acquired prestige. Even the nobles wanted to have fun and through the anonymity given by the masks they mixed themselves among the people on the streets. Wearing a mask, they could hide not only their identity but also the sex and social class. So, it was like an opening to an illusory world where everything was possible and allowed. Removing the mask often signaled availability to the approaches of suitors. Each story’s outcome stems from magic.

Masks, symbol of freedom.

carnevale venezia pierrot

The masks became a symbol of freedom. The bauta, worn by women and men, are among the oldest and more traditional ones that never miss a carnival in Venice. It consists of a white mask under a black tricorn hat and a large black coat, named tabard. But that’s not all. There’s no carnival in Venice without Harlequin, Columbina, Cat, Moretta and, of course, my favorite one, the beautiful Pierrot… Ok, I’ll allow myself a teardrop to daydream about that so romantic but unhappy sweetheart!

But the world sometimes proves to be really weird. In 1797 the beauty of Venice’s carnival was banned by Napoleon Bonaparte, after the invasion of Northern Italy. By fearing disorders and rebellions the masks were forbidden. Only almost two centuries later, the party was officially restored, and the tradition of the masks was resumed. Thus, a real trade in masks was set up in Venice.

With the resurgence of the party and the traditions restored, the artisans recovered what seemed forgotten and put forward the business. Nowadays, they work with different techniques and materials and promote courses to teach the art of making masks. They work clay, gypsum, gauze, but the most authentic ones are those made following the ancient tradition, I mean, the handmade ones produced with papier-mâché obtained from scraps of absorbent paper and glue.

To produce the most coveted masks of Venice, the first step is to create a model, and then a mold where the papier-mâché is worked and let dry. Once the mold has been removed it is time to finish the work and enhance it with feathers, beads, drawings, and anything within the realm of imagination. In this case, words don’t do them justice. I’m sure that images have a lot more to tell.

carnevale venezia

With so many people around there are also those who managed to take a nap.🙂


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On Italian immigrants Day, a tribute to Valentino and Elvira

Even the town of Torreglia, located in Veneto, adds history to that book named Italy in which my great-grandparents Valentino and Elvira were also co-authors. Keeping the memory alive, we rescue our past.
This is a retelling of farewells and meetings, a short paragraph of this story written by those who left, and unknown to the ones who today live and build the Torreglia of the future.
I feel fortunate for having the opportunity of bringing back, with Valentino ed Elvira, a remote and forgotten story and by finding in it my roots. There is not a better date than February 21st, Italian immigrants Day in Brazil, to publish this tribute to the many “Valentinos” and “Elviras” who left in search of better opportunities for life and work.

Everything started when …In America

It all started when the need to replace the slave labor grew in Brazil and the authorities became aware that a group of European immigrants were leaving their countries in search of a better life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The siren’s song came as many pamphlets as possible full of irresistible promises that said: “…in America. Land in Brazil for Italians. Ships leave every week from the port of Genoa. Come and build your dreams with your family. A country of opportunities. Tropical climate and housing for everyone. Mineral wealth. In Brazil, you can have your castle. The government gives land and equipment to everyone.” Thus, on February 21st, 1874, the first Italian expedition arrived in Brazil.

Valentino and Elvira were not the first ones to land, but certainly, they grew up with that dream. Yeah, they dared, and in search of that dream, they left at a young age (he was 25 and she 21) from via Vallorto, amidst the hills, for a long and unknown journey. Having been married for just four months, in that April of 1896, they embarked on the steamship Rosario, at the port of Genoa. In Torreglia, they left their families, friends, and their hearts. In the baggage, they only took with them hope for a better life, and when the steamer moved away from the port, they didn’t know, but they had waved Italy goodbye forever.

Those were difficult years in their homeland, and many were the promises of a new life overseas. Valentino and Elvira were only two among thousands of Italians who answered that call. The decision to emigrate was not a free choice but came from necessity, so there had always been the hope of returning home. For Valentino and Elvira, it was not any different. After a month-long journey, on May 2nd, 1896, more precisely 124 years ago, they arrived at the port of Rio de Janeiro. They had succeeded, together with 953 other third-class passengers, in overcoming the trip’s roughness and diseases. Juiz de Fora (my hometown), in the state of Minas Gerais, was their destination. Valentino and Elvira did not know that from their decision they had also begun to shape my history.

Beyond borders: hard work, family and “saudade”

Firstborn of six children of the couple Giuseppe Fasolato and Antonia Pravato, Valentino Fasolato was born on June 20th, 1870. Besides his parents and relatives, he also left in Torreglia his sister, Angela who had later married Agostino Bernardi, and his brothers Adamo, who married Domenica Gallo, and Luigi. Elvira Pressato was born on February 4th, 1874, daughter to Giovanni Pressato and Scolastica Neri. Together, Valentino and Elvira started a big Fasolato family that broke the boundaries of two countries joining different cultures. Soon after they arrived in Minas, the couple established in Sarandira, a district of Juiz de Fora, where Valentino worked the land, as he had learned to do in Torreglia.

Later, after moving to Juiz de Fora, Valentino established himself as a gardener. He started a small garden where he used to cultivate small plants to sell and bring gardens to life in the most elegant houses in the city. Life was hard, there was plenty of work to do, and like all Italian immigrants at that time Valentino and Elvira also learned to deal with saudade, nostalgia, which continuously tormented their hearts. At this point, the thoughts of returning to Italy, finding their families and friends, resuming their habits, revive the flavors and smells of their country were left behind. The economic situation, the work, and their children, eight in total, made them go ahead and commit themselves even more to improve and consolidate the stability of their family.

Currently, in Brazil there are hundreds of Fasolato descendants, and, overall in the country, the Italian-Americans add up to about 28 million.

It’s necessary to retell to not be forgotten

Some with better luck, but each one with their own fate. In fact, that “paradise” that made our great grannies and grannies dream was far from reality. As soon as they arrived, the immigrants were taken to the Hospedaria dos Imigrantes, a kind of hostel where a screening to evaluate their health conditions was carried out. After that, they were loaded onto trains and transported to remote villages. The “castles” were old and primitive shacks or a roof above their heads yet to be built, away from the cities. They felt confined, isolated, and prone to tropical diseases. They had no transportation, could not communicate with their homeland, did not speak the local language, had neither medical nor religious assistance. They were in need of everything. The wine and cheese gave way to manioc flour. Habits and traditions were violated, and family ties were broken.

To retake their lives, Italian immigrants had to cut heavy ties placed by those who exploit them. They fought against greed and  selfishness,    raised    families,   developed   new   habits,  planted,      

harvested, built cities, recovered traditions, learned, taught. Wine and cheese returned to the table and many, like Valentino and Elvira, dared again: they survived. Valentino lived 45 years in Brazil, and Elvira 49. They were years of hard work and saudade. Years spent dreaming of returning to their country; years of joy and tears. When they left for the spiritual world, both were 70 years old. Valentino and Elvira may not know it but, their mission was certainly accomplished. From them, I inherited the blood, the values, the citizenship, the interest in Italy, the language, culture, music, and not only, but I also inherited the dream. I made for Valentino and Elvira the trip that they were never able to make. Within me, they returned to Italy, and maybe one day I will be able to take them back home to their dear Torreglia. Living in Torreglia is still a dream.

On this February 21st, 2020, Italian immigrants Day in Brazil, and when the Italian migratory movement completes its 145th year, receive this story as a declaration of love!

Primitive urban center in Caxias do Sul, “Sede Dante”, 1876-77 circa. (Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Mark 1.0)


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Piroscafo vetor – Pinclipart.

Italy is like a book – Come read!


Strolling along the streets in Italy is to travel through history. We go back in time and recognize ourselves as protagonists in this huge book. A beautiful full-color edition. Every corner tells us something, you just have to listen. Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, wrote: “It is only with the heart that one can see correctly”. Although Italy can be perceived with all senses, it is the heart that reaches the unseen… the essence. The art, literature, cinema, architecture, the aroma of a cappuccino, the smell of pizza, the taste of wine, the flowered windows, the accordion that plays O Sole Mio on the streetsItaly is all of that!

For me, Italy has something magical. Finding my own story, my roots, on the pages of this hypothetical book has an indescribable value. And it so happened to be in Torreglia, a welcoming town in the province of Padua, north-east Italy, that I found a very special chapter. In this summary, I’ll introduce you to all those things that Italy has to tell. I’m taking you on this journey!


Italy in chapters – from prehistory to Middle Ages…

Correzzola is magically set to revive the Middle Ages
Correzzola, magically set to revive the Middle Ages.

The first chapter leads us to Prehistory. Italy has been inhabited since the Paleolithic, and according to an article published by the magazine National Geographic, the site Monte Poggiolo, in Emilia Romagna, is the oldest evidence of the human presence in the country. “The first hominids arrived at the Po Valley about 850 years ago, following a drastic changing in climate”, says the magazine.

The second chapter takes us for a walk in Ancient History and makes us discover the Etruscan, Phoenician, Greek, and Roman civilizations. Palermo, founded by the Phoenicians, Naples, and Rome were among the most important cities of this period. Flipping through the pages, we find that roman sociopolitical organization left everlasting marks in human history. The Roman built cities, harbors, roads, aqueducts, fortifications, and it is not uncommon to find ourselves before a Roman archaeological site. History comes alive before our eyes.

Would you like to go for a walk in the Middle Ages? Well… that’s also possible. The Medieval festivities are always eye-catching. I had the pleasure of living the medieval period in Correzzola, (pictures) in the province of Padua, which has since then housed a small community. Every year, in July, Correzzola is magically set to revive the dark ages, and… oh Gosh, what an adventure! I ended up with my head in a “gogna” (pillory). “Gogna” is the last part of the word “vergogna” (shame) and this is what we feel when finding ourselves in that embarrassing position. Luckily, my tormentor had a good heart and freed me, or I would not be here to tell you about the third chapter of this book.



Renaissance, Modern Age, Risorgimento, the wars…

In the fourth chapter, we leave for a journey towards the Modern Age. The departure gate is the Renaissance, a period of transition and changes in European history. Florence plays an important role in this path where we meet Dante, Giotto, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo… Many are the pages added to this voluminous book. The geographic discoveries, the inventions… Marconi invented the radio and Meucci, despite the late recognition, invented the telephone. It is the beginning of a new era.

And here we are proud to fight for national unity, thus participating in the Italian Risorgimento. The Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed, the capital moved to Rome, and the Tuscan dialect was chosen as the national language. Then the wars happened and left deep marks. We still find scars left by the bullets, small but deep wounds on walls, kept as memories of the conflicts. Researching I found the Fasolato Brigade, one of the many that took part in the Italian Resistance. I’m wondering even if I had some relative partisan, but this is research yet to be explored.

And much more to discover:

This book tells us much more. On its pages, we find out how Venice, the city that seems to float, was built. Venice’s beauty is incomparable and invites us to get lost in its narrow “streets”, to follow the pace of the gondolas… to fall in love in Venice. And then, taking the vaporetto, we get off in the magic colors of Burano. For us, a walk of enchantment. For the fisherman who lives on the island, the varied and bright colors with which they paint their houses, help them to find their home when immersed in the thick fog. History passes in front of our eyes like a masterpiece of Italian cinema and while we hum “Nel blu dipinto di blu we understand that life is beautiful. In the book called Italy, we never stop adding pages.

David by Michelangelo - a masterpiece of Renaissance

David by Michelangelo (Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna – Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported) David-hand details (Photo by Rabe!Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova, 1787. (Photo by gadgetdude Creative Commons –  Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Torreglia, a special chapter.

"The fall of the rebel angels" by Agostino Fasolato (ca. 1750): 60 figures carved in a single piece of Carrara marble. The masterpiece in Intesa Sanpaolo's collection, permanently on display at the Gallerie d'Italia, in Vicenza

Now we have arrived at Torreglialocated at the feet of the Euganean Hills. It’s a special place for me because it was there that I found my roots. Flipping through the ancient books held by the parish and by the registry office, I discovered various Fasolato. Some famous, such as Giacomo Fasolato, writer, linguist, and lexicographer, born in Italy in 1682. He liked the Latin language so much that he latinized the spelling of his name, becoming Jacopo Facciolati. Many are also the registers of Fasolato belonging to the stone cutter and sculptor guild that appear in the documents preserved by the State Archives of Padua. Among them, Agostino Fasolato (ca. 1750) carved 60 figures in a single piece of Carrara marble almost two meters high, which he called “The fall of the rebel angels”.

However, it was in front of a little house, made of stone and brick debris, that I touched history more deeply. There, in Via Vallorto, in front of the small house where my great-grandfather Valentino lived, I made a movie in my mind. I imagined it inhabited, illuminated only by a faint light that barely reached the window… Yep, I entered the time machine and I found myself in the nineteenth century. I looked at the landscape through his farmer’s eyes, I went up the long road to the church of San Sabino that kept history alive by registering all births and marriages. This history that until today tells me that in 1895, Valentino Fasolato married Elvira Pressato.

I imagined Valentino while he was making the decision that would change his family’s whole life: leaving for Brazil on a one-way trip on a steamship called Rosario which, after so many trips, in 1915, had chosen to rest at the bottom of the ocean. As all of this was passing my mind, the church bells rang. Maybe they did it on purpose so I could hear them as Valentino and Elvira had heard before leaving. In my imagination, I turned off the city lights. I saw darkness, winter, loneliness, and hunger which made them leave their land and their bonds behind. I always return to Torreglia. It’s nice to look at the hills. Torreglia told me so much about my history. Italy goes way beyond the five senses.

Above: Torreglia, province of Padua. Below, from the left: Valentino's house, me visiting Torreglia, and a view of the Euganean Hills.
Valentino's house


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