Thursday, 12 May 2016

University of Foggia: Romano Luperini's lectio on "literature and crisis"

The University of Foggia has hosted on Thursday 12th May Prof. Romano Luperini, who has held a lectio on "literature and crisis."

Who's Romano Luperini, though?

He is professor of Modern and Contemporary Italian literature at the University of Siena. Additionally, he teaches at the University of Toronto.

During the years of Autunno caldo (1969-70), he was member of the far left movement (sinistra extraparlamentare).

Romano Luperini established with Luciano della Mea the "Lega dei Comunisti Pisani", an organization which will then flow into Democrazia Proletaria.

Let's get back to the Prof's lectio.

I had never been before at Department of Humanities of University of Foggia before.

The building is renewed and well kept.

The auditorium is plenty of students, though.

I walk towards the teaching post hunting for a seat.

Unfortunately, none of the seats are free, so I follow the example of those students who sit on the floor.

Suddenly, a guy hands me out a seat. "What a gentleman!" I think to myself.

If I had been a woman I'd have fallen in love with him.

According to the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, the University of Foggia is one of the best performing Public Universities of the South of Italy.

In fact, it's placed in the 36th position on a national scale, whereas in Apulia Lecce is 51st and Bari 60th.

"Crisis (from the Greek word κρíσις) means transformation. Nowadays, modernity and crisis correspond, in the sense that today things change quickly, whereas, for example, in the Middle Age permutations would have occurred after decades or even centuries." Prof begins.

According to Prof. Luperini, modernity from a literature perspective, includes writers such as Verga, Svevo, Gadda, etc.

Post-modernity coincides with globalization. Therefore, it refers to the last 3 decades.

Today, we are experiencing the hyper-modernity.

The digital revolution which occurred between '70ies and '80ies has completely transformed the capitalistic economy.

Previously, western economies were connotated by goods. Today, by language.

Prof Luparini continues "Nowadays, the intellectuals are not needed anymore. In order to understand facts or events, TV calls to debate specialized people such as psychologists, sociologists and so on."

"In Italy, the cult book of the hyper-modern society is Gomorra. This book has been wrongly connotated as neorealista. However, the language of Gomorra is different from neorealismo." He says.

"Just to be clear, Saviano is a journalist. So, fading the role  of intellectuals in society, it's the entire literary civilization to die." The prof. adds.

"During the modernity times, the intelligentsia, compounded by 200/300 intellectuals, were able to affirm the promotion of a book, the rise of an intellectual. This role is now played by television."

In my opinion, internet is partly dethroning television in this sense.

"My students who graduated over the last 15 years, have all of them migrated abroad to work. Indeed, it's emerging a new figure of intellectual, which may be personified by Giulio Regeni, who was doing a Cambridge PhD." Prof. Luperini states.

"Today, the dispute between rich vs poor countries will indelibly mark the destiny of humanity. However, we may expect something new, unpredictable by the alliance of people like Giulio Regeni and immigrants' sons who study in Italy. These two categories, combined, have a great potential, and may be able to surprise us." 

A long and clangorous applause erupts at the end of his speech.

I'm glad for having taken part to this event.

I have got so many inputs to think about.

Thanks Professor, thanks University of Foggia.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Mattinata, the wild orchids and the abbey of Monte Sacro

Today, I'm going to narrate a wonderful day spent hiking Monte Sacro, nearby Mattinata, one of the nicest village of Gargano.

Gargano has the highest degree of biodiversity in Italy. 

This part of Apulia is made by mountains and hills which fall into the Adriatic sea. 

Gargano is visited by Italians and foreigners who actually love practising sports such as biking, trekking, running, swimming and canoeing.

Neither cars nor factories are around. Therefore, air is not poisoned by any kind of pollution. 

Additionally, Mattinata is pretty much isolated: the closest towns are both Manfredonia and Monte Sant'Angelo, which are far about 20 km. 

Heading to Mattinata I leave at my back Manfredonia. I see Monte Sant'Angelo on the left. 

Before arriving at the tunnel which leads to Mattinata, I turn on the left because of works in progress held in the tunnel itself. 

This is a panoramic road. Like a snake it climbs on Monte Saraceno.

After few kilometres, I notice Mattinata, a bunch of white houses laid on a green carpet of olive trees.

I'm currently on the top of Monte Saraceno, which takes its name by a Saracen settlement dating back to the 10th century A.D.

I have already been here, moreover, it's a little bit late so I prefer to avoid to stop by. I look forward to arrive at Monte Sacro.

In order to reach Monte Sacro, you take the third exits for Mattinata. 

There are a lot of signals for Monte Sacro, so it'd be difficult to miss it.

I decide to take a break, and go to cheer up Carlo, a schoolmate who actually runs the only pharmacy (farmacia Sansone) present in Mattinata.

His pharmacy hosts a permanent exhibition of archaeological items of Daunians. 

Among them, you notice a stele dauna. It's free entry and I'd strongly recommend you to view it.

"Mind to park within the Monte Sacro B&B. Just to avoid that someone opens your car seeking for money" Carlo warns.

I say goodbye and resume my trip.

Monte Sacro is set 874 metres above the sea, one of the highest mountain of Gargano.

I keep driving, slowly though.

After 15 minutes, I come across a shepherd who's watching a pack goat. 

Goats look sinister, probably due to their horns. Humans have ever since symbolised Satan with a goat face with two barbed horns.   

Nevertheless, they have a humble sight.

"Excuse me, sir. Could you please tell me where to park my car in a safe place? You know, I'd like to view the ancient abbey of Monte Saraceno?". I address him. 

"Yes, sure. Follow me by car" he says.

He gets on his car. We move 200 metres further.

He says "I'll accompany you on foot for a little while as I have to go to see one of my cows which has given birth yesterday night".

I'm glad to have his company. 

He seems a nice guy.

"You know" He says "I make caciocavalli, in case you are interested".

I'd have liked to buy one as they must be delicious. 

However, I haven't brought enough cash, so I have to renounce his proposal.

While hiking I recognize few kinds of orchids.

They look great, and smell really good.

Mattinata is getting famous in Europe because of the wild orchids.

"English, Russians, Swisses and others come here to admire orchids" the shepherd says.

In 2014, Angela Rossini and Giovanni Quitadamo have published a book called Orchidee spontanee del Parco Nazionale del Gargano (edited by Grenzi).

The book is meant to illustrate the wide range of orchids which flourish here.

Mattinata hosts 60 of the 88 species of orchids which blossom in Gargano. 

According to the mentioned book, the National park of Gargano is leader in Europe in this green parade.

This record testify the uniqueness of this environment.

I keep climbing for almost 1,5 kilometres. I hear just birds twittering and leaves falling down. There is no noise.

I begin to feel the strain. This is a good exercise, though. 

To give you an idea around the effort required, keep in mind that the difference in height from the starting point till the peak is around 250 metres.

After 30 minutes, I arrive at a level ground. 

I keep walking. 

Suddenly, from the bush a magnificent building reveals itself as a dream, something unreal.

This is one of the best example of Romanico Pugliese architecture.

The abbey of Monte Sacro was ruled by the monastic order of Benedettini. the Abbey reached its best led by Gregorio, a monk of great culture who has written De hominum deificatione

The abbey had one of the richest library of the Apulia medieval. 

Its archive was moved to Siponto, then destroyed by the Ottomans in 1620. 

Most probably the abbey had had a scriptorium too.  

The incredible thing is that the abbey was built on a preexisting pagan temple dedicated to Zeus Dodoneus.

In fact, Monte Sacro was previously called Monte Dodoneo.

Frankly, it's sad to see this wonderful abbey neglected and partly destroyed.

Hopefully, in the future this magic place will resuscitate, like it happened for the abbey of Pulsano and the one of San Leonardo.

I feel reinvigorated after this astonishing tour.

It's 1 pm. It's still early.

Therefore, I descend the mountain, and go straight to the beach to swim.

There a lots of nice beaches on the coast. 

I decide to head to the port, where is located a Roman villa, used to store olive oil and wine.

The sea is wonderful in Mattinata.

Gargano is a continent on small scale. 

Come here, you won't be disappointed.

Click here, if you wish to view more pics

Sunday, 8 May 2016

From Irsina to Venosa by car

Lucia and I have planned to visit a friend of us, Giovanna, who actually lives in Venosa.

Venosa is located in Lucania (nowadays called Basilicata), a wonderful region set beside Apulia. 

We leave Altamura early in the morning heading to Venosa, famous for so many things, especially for giving the birth to the Roman poet Horatio; and for its amazing red wine, Aglianico del Vulture.

The day is sunny, as usual over here.

While driving on, I glimpse a village on the top of a hill, like a cherry on a pie.

"That must be Irsina" I exclaimed.

Once a tourist guide told us that the cathedral of Irsina hosts a magnificent statue of Sant'Eufemia, ascribed to the Renaissance artist Mantegna.

So, we can't miss it.

Few miles before arriving at Irsina, we see an old man walking uphill to reach his home.

He must be a peasant. He looks tired, though. 

Then,we hear him shouting at us. 

I stop my car straight way. "he needs a lift" I wonder.

I'm struck by the vivid color of his blue eyes. He is supposed to be around 80 years old.

I ask "Did you just finish working, right?" "Yes" he replies.

I continue "Do you need a lift to Irsina, correct?" "Yes, sir. to Mondepelòse, please".

Mondepelòse (Montepeluso) is the old name of Irsina. 

I enquiry "Sir, do you have a vineyard? You know, I'd like to buy some good wine from those who actually make it".

"Yes, I make Aglianico del Vulture wine" he replies.

"Cool" I say.

Once arrived, we get out of the car.

He goes home. I remain awaiting outside. Few seconds later, an old lady gets out with him.

They lead me to their wine cellar which is into the basement, of course.

I purchase 5 bottles of red wine of Aglianico for a total of 10 euros. 

If they had asked me 20 quid, I would have given them 20.

While leaving he shouts at me "Hey, come here!".

He hands me out an extra bottle of wine for free. I love such a man.

It's time to visit the city center of Irsina.

We walk straight to the cathedral. 

The city center seems to me magnificent as well as the cathedral.

Unfortunately, this village has experienced a brutal migration to the north of Italy, during the '60ies and '70ies of last century. 

Most of Irsinesi have migrated to Sassuolo (Emilia Romagna).

I associate Lucania and her history to people like Rocco Scotellaro, the so called poeta della libertà contadina. 

He was mayor of Tricarico.

I'd recommend you to read his two books: "L'uva puttanella" and "Contadini del Sud".

I like to mention that in 2008 I have shot a documentary named Carmine Crocco, dei briganti il generale

This doc is about the Lucanian movement who fought the Savoia during the so called unification of Italy (1861). 

As I had received a prize for that, I dedicated it to the memory of Rocco Scotellaro. I'm proud to say this.

Let's get back to Irsina now.

I just realize that the cathedral is closed. "It gets opened in the afternoon" we are advised.

However, we won't give up our tour around Irsina. So, we keep walking and go further.

We admire an amazing square from which is possible to contemplate the sweet hills surrounding Irsina.

"It seems like Tuscany" I tell Lucia.

I notice a man who stares something far away.

"This is the right person whom to talk to" I think to myself.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" I address him.

"Yes Sir, it is. That is my land" He proudly points it.

"Few English families have bought a property here. However, living here is not that cheap. C' vonn i sold a mundun (you need a lot of money)" he says. 

We keep walking, then, after having bought focaccia and salami, we resume our trip to Venosa.

We get there at around 2 o'clock. 

It's time to eat something.

We park beside the archaeological park and the incompiuta, which we are going to visit as soon we eat our meal.

Both Focaccia and salami are delicious.

I sip the wine which I have just bought. It seems good. Even though, I'll realize later that it's pretty alcoholic.

As we are going to catch up with our friend at 4 pm, we have enough time to view both the archaeological site and incompiuta.

The ticket costs just 3 euros, and includes the entry to the castle as well.

The archaeological area dates back to the Roman age. 

There is a main road, which divide the area. 

On one side there are the thermae, with caldarium, tepidarium and frigidarium.

What about the mosaics? Some of them are very well preserved.

This one portrays Medusa. 

it's just fantastic, isn't it?

Moving forward, we enter the incompiuta (XI century), which is basically a Norman church left incomplete; that's why is called incompiuta.

To build it up, it has been used stones taken both from the Roman and Medieval sites.

We do visualize on the walls symbols of unknown meaning like the one below. In case you know what it means, please tell me by leaving a comment below, thanks.

We have completed our tour.

I must say that I'm exhausted.

I still feel the wine affecting my head. I'd like to take a nap, but I can't. 

We catch up with Giovanna at 4 pm. She is going to give the birth to a baby.

I ask her to prepare a coffea: I strongly need it.

At 7 pm, we say goodbye to our friend. We still have time to visit the castle, which is right in town.

There is a lot to see.

I wish to mention the permanent exhibition dedicated to the Jew community who actually lived here in the Middle ages.

We get out the castle at 7.30.

The way back is gonna be long.

It was a pleasant trip, though. We have talked with interesting people.

Our tour in Lucania is over, at the moment.

Now it's time to come back home.