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Literary Italy

Author: Anne Schuchman and James Berrettini

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Anne and Jim welcome you to Literary Italy, a joyous romp through the books and the landscape of the bel paese. Join us as we share our love of the literature, the people, the land, and the experience that is Italy.
27 Episodes
With his cookbook "Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well," Pellegrino Artusi revolutionized the idea of Italian home cooking, and 130 years later the book is *still* a bestseller in Italy. But in addition to offering delicious recipes, the book is just a fun read, as Artusi offers anecdotes about cooking, eating, and life in general! Buon appetito!!!
In this episode we’re talking about Cesare Pavese and the Piedmont region. Poetry and prose, city and country, wine and chocolate, love and loss: it’s all here!
I guess we can't get enough of islands! This time it's the island of Procida, just off the coast of Naples. Tucked between the more famous islands of Capri and Ischia, Procida quietly offers small fishing villages, stunning beaches and amazing seafood. Procida also plays a starring role in Elsa Morante's novel, Arturo's Island, and is set to hit the big time as Italy's Capital of Culture for 2022. 
Today we're off to the beautiful isle of Sicily, for sea, sun . . . and murder. Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series of novels, and the entertaining RAI/BBC series that was made from them.
This week we're hoping to become a real boy! That's right, it's The Adventure of Pinocchio. The fourth most translated book in the world, it's a work for children and adults the world over. Anne and Jim go back to Tuscany with this episode, the birth place of Pinocchio's author Carlo Collodi.
Machiavelli: It's complicated. Today's readings: The PrinceThe Mandrake
You say, "Sardinia," but I say, "Sardegna" . . . Today, we read Grazia Deledda's Il Paese del Vento (Land of the Wind). Sadly, we haven't located an English translation, but Anne is working on that now! We also eye the island of Sardinia covetously and ask, "When can we get there?"
Ep. 18: Intervallo

Ep. 18: Intervallo


Cari Ascoltatori!We’re taking a week of for a much needed vacation; we’ll be back with a story from the Bel Paese next week.Thank all of you for listening, and for sharing ideas for upcoming shows!   Here’s how to reach us:Email: Facebook: LiteraryItaly Twitter:  @LiteraryItaly, Instagram: us know how things are going: should we do more old classics, more contemporary works, more poetry, more fiction, more culture and music, more travel information? Should we talk more about cooking? Let us know what you’d like to hear more of (or less of!), so please, make your voice heard, we’d love to hear from you.Alla prossima!
With a song in our hearts, the wind sweeping through the window, and our hands and faces inexplicably painted blue, this week Anne and Jim swing along with Domenico Modugno's international hit record, "Nel blu dipinto di blu" (also known as "Volare!"). Often covered (see this Spotify playlist or this Apple Music playlist), it was winner of the inaugural Grammy for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Listen as we tell this song's strange story, relate our memories of Modugno's hometown of Polignano a Mare in Puglia, and somehow work both painter Marc Chagall and the Italian Parliament into the conversation. Enjoy!
This week, we take a hike...on the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route that runs from Canterbury, England to Rome, passing through some marvelous scenery along the way. Anne walked part of it in 2019, and Jim is planning a walk this autumn, so we chat about what a pilgrimage walk is, how to prepare, and what to see (and eat!) along the way!
This week we tackle the great Italian poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi and the region of Le Marche, his birthplace and source of both inspiration as well as despair. In one of his most famous poems, "L'Infinito" ("The Infinite"), Leopardi describes the view of the immense sky from his childhood home, partially blocked by a hedge and a hill. Perhaps precisely because of this limitation, the view is all the more dear to him because of what it leaves to the imagination. Leopardi did eventually overcome both his restrictive upbringing as well as his poor health, and traveled quite a bit around Italy before his death at the age of 38, but the region of Le Marche remains associated with him and his works. Today you can visit Leopardi's home (and extensive library) in the small town of Recanati, but Le Marche also offers extensive parks, gorgeous beaches, and important cultural centers and cities, such as Urbino, the hometown of artist Raphael. Oh, and you can also see and climb that very same hill Leopardi writes about in "L'Infinito."
Mystic, Leader, Writer, Saint, just a general Badass, Catherine of Siena set her fourteenth-century world on fire. In this episode we head back to Tuscany to talk about Catherine, her life, her letters, and her hometown city of Siena. Plus, Chianti! In this episode we speak about this letter of Catherine of Siena to Pope Gregory XI:
Today we laugh far too much about Death in Venice, a not-at-all-funny novella by our first non-Italian author, Thomas Mann. But seriously, is there something about illness and decadence that drives creativity?
Anne and Jim take another break from hitting the books, this week talking about traveling with kids in the Bel Paese.
We're a little out of our comfort zone, reading Natalia Ginzburg's essay "Winter in the Abruzzi," in which she recalls, bittersweetly, her family's exile in the Abruzzo during the Fascist regime. Abruzzo is a region we've never seen (but high on our list of places to visit); it has served as a literary setting in other works (think Hemingway among American authors). You can read a translation of the essay here.
This week we head south to Lucania, the region of Italy now known as Basilicata, as we discuss Carlo Levi's memoir, Christ Stopped at Eboli,  shedding light on the poverty and isolation of the area. We talk about one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Matera, which has gone from being the "Disgrace of Italy" to Italy's "2019 Capital of Culture." Crowded cave dwellings are now fancy hotels and restaurants, and cultural and art museums abound. But after over 9,000 years, the soul of this city remains: magical, earthy, real. 
Ep. 9: Moravia / Rome

Ep. 9: Moravia / Rome


What is competition? This week’s short comic story by Alberto Moravia asks just that question as a pushcart vendor first falls for his competition, then is destroyed by her--or does he really destroy himself?  We also talk about the neighborhood in which the story is set, the picturesque quarter of Trastevere, and the walking bridges that connect it to the historic center on the eastern side of the Tiber and the lovely Via Giulia. For more on Moravia, check out the museum dedicated to him in Rome. The Museum of Rome in Trastevere offers exhibitions on the history and culture of this endlessly fascinating city.  More on Trastevere from Lonely Planet. "The Competition" ("La concorrenza"), the short story we discuss in this episode, was originally published in Moravia's Racconti Romani (Roman Tales), but can also be found in a facing page collection by Dover books, along with eleven other short stories by Italian writers from medieval to modern times.
Welcome to a little parlor game we call either "The Oldlywed Game," or "I Vecchi Sposi." Anne and Jim try to predict each other's responses to questions about Italy. We promised not to hit each other with large placards with our answers written on them, and by and large we succeeded. Apologies to Bob Eubanks. 
Lemons and sunshine! What's not to love? Today we're talking about poet and Nobel laureate Eugenio Montale and his "happy place," the gorgeous coastline of Liguria, tucked up in the northwest corner of Italy, bordering the French Riviera. In one of his early poems, I Limoni (The Lemon Trees), Montale describes the lemon trees in Monterosso al Mare, a small town on the Ligurian Coast where he spent his childhood summers. These lemons offer a glimpse of what is real and what is true, through the brightness and beauty of nature, a brightness and a beauty that can persist even through the cold and dreary winter days. And speaking of the beauty of nature, we talk about the Cinque Terre, the five small fishing towns of which Montale's Monterosso is the largest, that have become incredibly popular in recent years among tourists because of their accessibility by train and boat, colorful houses, wonderful seafood and white wine, and rocky beaches. To better enjoy the towns, consider staying a few nights, and also walking the famous trails nearby, the most famous of which connects the five villages one to the other, and which, until the train came through, was the only way villagers were able to visit each other other than by boat. Other nearby options might be Rapallo, Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure, Portovenere, Lerici, and Tellaro may be slightly less-crowded options to actually staying in the Cinque Terre (although the secret is out about them as well!).And finally we reminisce about our one and only cruise (we both got violently seasick) and introduce our upcoming episode: "The Oldly-wed Game", where we ask each other questions about Italy and try and guess what the other will answer. As a teaser we find out that after nearly 25 years of marriage neither one of us has any idea what kind of ice cream the other likes! (And I suspect I only said lemon because I was still thinking of Montale...)The LemonTreesEugenio Montale (Trans. Anne Schuchman)Listen to me, the poet laureatesmove only among faunawith obscure-sounding names: boxwoods, privet, or acanthus.For my part, I love the roads that end in grassyditches where in half-dry puddlesboys grab ata few haggard eels:the paths that follow along the shoreline,then move down between the tufts of reedsand into the gardens, among the lemon trees.Better still, if the riotous songs of the birdsare silenced, swallowed up by the blue:you can hear more clearly the whisperof friendly branches in the air that just barely moves,and the intensity of this scentthat cannot be separated from the earthand a restless sweetness rains in the heart.Here the war of conflicted passionsby some miracle falls silent,here even the poor, we have our share of riches—and it is the smell of the lemon trees...(Read the rest of the poem here) 
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