The SAIS AGM took place on Monday 26th October. After the AGM formalities had been carried out, we also had a catch up chat, thanks to all those members that participated.

The committee is saying goodbye and thank you to Brian Coles as he resigned from his position, and we are now actively looking for someone to fill the vacancy! 


Decades in the making, Venice’s controversial sea defence system works – for now

Famous for its floods as well as for its architecture and ambience, St. Mark’s Square in Venice stayed dry on 3rd October thanks to the city’s controversial, multi-billion-euro tidal barrier system, which was used in anger for the first time.

“Today everything is dry here! Pride and joy,” tweeted Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro as the system of 78 flap gates tilted upward in unison to block the rising Adriatic from entering the three inlets of the Venetian Lagoon.

Without the system, called “Mose” (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico), the famous square would once again have been inundated. Critics of “Mose” worry that rising sea levels will mean the barriers will have to stay up permanently, cutting off shipping and turning the lagoon into a stagnant breeding ground for algae. A prominent critic is the emeritus professor of hydraulic engineering, Luigi D’Alpaos, who wrote: “Underestimated by the designer, the fatal consequences of the predicted rise in sea level over the course of the century, and the costs of operation and maintenance, which are still unknown in any detail but which are very probably unsustainable, run the risk of becoming the tomb of this Pharaonic work with feet of clay.

The current mayor Luigi Brugnaro remained upbeat on Saturday, however.


Gianni Rodari’s – birth centenary (October 1920 – 2020).

Gianni R

Gianni Rodari was an Italian writer, teacher and journalist, still famous for his creative works for children, which immediately achieved a huge success among public and critics. Considered one of the most innovative and influential children’s writers of the twentieth century, his books were translated into several languages and earned many awards, such as the prestigious “Hans Christian Andersen” award in 1970.

His work includes fairy stories, nursery rhymes, short stories and novels, as well as his famous essay “Grammatica della fantasia” (The Grammar of Fantasy), a seminal reference text for children’s literature and education specialists.

The Bollettino team is delighted to share with you all one of Rodari’s rhymes to make you smile and bring out your inner child.

Como nel comò
Una volta un accento
per distrazione cascò
sulla città di Como
mutandola in comò.
Figuratevi i cittadini
comaschi, poveretti:
detto e fatto si trovarono
rinchiusi nei cassetti.
Per fortuna uno scolaro
rilesse il componimento
e liberò i prigionieri
cancellando l’accento.
Ora ai giardini pubblici
han dedicato un busto
“A colui che sa mettere
gli accenti al posto giusto”.

(We were introduced to Gianni Rodari by Paola and Leonardo in January 2019 when they gave us a talk on the author who is very dear to so many Italians to this day)

The Truffle Hunters – new documentary for (planned) release on Christmas Day 2020 – reviews already say this is going to be the most charming film of the year

Truffle Hunters
Directed and produced by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, it follows a group of men in their 70s and 80s hunting in the Piedmont woods for the rare white ‘Alba’ truffle – kilo for kilo, the most expensive ingredient in the world – which still cannot be cultivated, and which mainly grows in Piedmont. They are guided by a secret culture passed down through generations, as well as by the noses of their cherished and expertly trained dogs. The documentary subtly explores the devastating effects of climate change and deforestation on an age-old tradition through a visually stunning narrative that celebrates life and exalts the human spirit.The documentary, shown at film festivals this autumn, took three years to make, because, as Michael Dweck recounts, “tourists can find pseudo-truffle hunters who bury truffles in the ground for the tourists to find, but it took us a year to find the real truffle hunters, the people who didn’t want to be known” He adds “It’s an entire world built on secrecy, where they hunt, how they train their dogs, and mostly, if they ever find any truffles. The first couple of hunters we met, Aldo and Renato, were 86 and 90, and very close friends. They’ve had breakfast and lunch together almost every day for 80 years, and they never once shared their secret truffle spots.” Click on the link below for the official trailer:

LA CELEBRAZIONE DEL MESE – The event of this month


Saint Martin’s Day in Italy is a religious celebration strongly related to farmers’ life. It originally marked the time of renewing agreements, buying new livestocks, tasting the new wine and eating good food. Today St. Martin’s Day represents a moment in which people taste local wine and enjoy autumn. From north to south Italian tables are rich with wine, chestnuts, goose and polenta.

In the past, the biggest seasonal livestock market took place on Saint Martin’s Day. In this market farmers used to buy and sell animals with horns, like cows, bulls, goats and male sheep. That’s why Saint Martin became the saint of cuckolded people. Or possibly because in ancient times in November a dozen days of unbridled pagan festival, almost a Carnival, were celebrated, during which adulterous liaisons often occurred.

Being cuckolded meant that a man was weak and not able to control his wife. The cuckold had to be jokingly persecuted.

In many towns in the Lazio, Campania and Abruzzo regions, on 11th November groups of young people parade along the streets holding deer horns as a way of preventing them from being cuckolded.


In the little town of SANTARCANGELO DI ROMAGNA (Emilia Romagna), between the 11th-14th November, people pour into the streets from all over the region to party and enjoy all the delicacies on offer on the street stalls. There are two things that make the event known all over Europe: the ballad singers, who meet every year at the National Festival dedicated to them, and the “HORNS”, which are hung under the Arch of Ganganelli’s Square. People pass under the arch to see if the horns swing: if they do it means that your sweetheart has not always been faithful.

LA LOCALITA` DEL MESE – The place of the month

IL CASTELLO DI SAMMEZZANO is an Italian palazzo in Tuscany featuring Moorish Revival architectural style. It is located in Leccio, a hamlet of Reggello, in the Province of Florence.

The original palazzo was erected in about 1605 by the Spanish nobleman Ximenes of Aragon. In the 19th century, Ferdinand Panciatichi Ximenes inherited the property and, between 1853 and 1889, remodeled it into one of the largest examples of Moorish Revival architecture. Umberto I, king of Italy, visited Ximenes at Sammezzano in 1878.

The palazzo served as a luxury hotel in the post World War II era; then was vacated and closed. A committee called FPXA 1813–2013, abbreviation for Ferdinand Panciatichi Ximenes of Aragon, was organized in 2012 to attempt to restore and preserve the palazzo, which has 365 rooms, each with unique Moorish decoration.




2020 marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Raffaello Sanzio.

For centuries the Sistine Madonna was considered the ultimate Mother-with-Child by the ultimate Mother-with-Child painter. It’s remarkable and highly ironic, then, that though the painting still boasts a pair of instantly recognisable figures, it’s no longer the Madonna and Christ Child. In recent times, Raphael’s pair of chubby cherubs – found at the bottom of the scene, whimsically looking up – have utterly supplanted them. So famous have the angels become in their own right – adorning everything from chocolate boxes to fashion accessories – and so dissociated from their original context have they become, that few today realise they’re actually only a detail of a High Renaissance masterpiece. An altarpiece commissioned by Pope Julius in 1512, for Piacenza’s monastery of San Sisto, the Sistine Madonna depicts a beguiling Madonna and Child hovering on the clouds.They’re flanked by a kneeling pair of saints – Sixtus and Barbara – with the two cherubs completing the scene beneath, leaning on a balustrade and gazing at the divine happenings abo


torta di castagne

Torta di castagne (Chestnut Cake with chocolate chips)

Sweet chestnuts have been a staple food (especially in Italy) for millennia, often consumed when a cereal harvest failed and so throughout history have been eaten in times of hardship in order to survive. Sweet chestnuts were an important part of the Roman diet and Roman soldiers were fed a porridge made from sweet chestnuts before going into battle.

The Romans planted sweet chestnut trees across all of conquered Europe, including Britain, in order to feed themselves in perpetuity (they obviously felt pretty confident… they would settle in these places for ever!). In Italy, the love affair with sweet chestnuts continues as we make the most of this abundant and versatile nut, roasting, boiling and pureeing them to use in both sweet and savoury dishes, and then, once no longer fresh, they are dried out and ground into flour.

La CANZONE/ MUSICA DEL MESE – Song or music of the month

“ALBA CHIARA” is a 1979 song by Vasco Rossi (Zocca, Modena 1952), recently voted the most favourite song on the radio in Italy.


Friday 20th November 7pm Monthly Talk – SAIS member Maureen Thompson on the Sacred mountain shrines of Piemonte, more details to follow nearer to the date.

DATES WITH YOUR …SOFA: (films, videos and documentaries)

The British Film Institute website has a number of films and historical documentaries on Italy that can be rented either for a small amount or free of charge

On BBC iPlayer a chance to re-watch Monty Don in “Around the World in 80 Gardens – Episode 7 in Italy” and Michael Palin on the footsteps of Artemisia Gentileschi “Quest for Artemisia” on the life of the eponymous Renaissance female painter to coincide with an exhibition at the National Gallery in London.

We were going to recommend the New Remaster of “Cinema Paradiso” at Chichester Cinema at New Park in mid November, but recent government restrictions mean cinemas have now gone dark for one month! We will keep an eye and let you know.

The bollettino team welcomes suggestions from members and friends, even more so now in times of quarantine and lock-down, if you have watched or read anything that you would like to share, do send them to

We hope that you are all well, staying alert and safe!

A presto