Friday, March 26, 2010

UCLA Writers’ Program Instructors Plan Roman Retreat

M E D I A   R E L E A S E


CONTACT:  Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Phone: 818-790-0502

For Immediate Release

UCLA Writers’ Program Instructors Plan Roman Retreat

World Wide Web— Two UCLA Writers’ Program instructors, Carolyn Howard-Johnson and Eve LaSalle Caram are planning an intimate writers’ retreat in Rome for October, 2010.

Caram was Howard-Johnson’s first instructor in novel writing more than a decade ago. Later the student joined her teacher as a fellow instructor for UCLA’s renowned Writers’ Program and she has now been teaching for nearly there nearly a decade.
The excitement grows. The two have rented a town home near the Trevi fountain in Rome and are inviting writers to join them for a casual week of writing and promotion seminars and tons of Eternal City inspiration. Rome resident Jo Linsdell, a writer and founder of PROMO DAY, the free online conference for writers, will join them to present on the ever-important marketing aspects of the publishing industry.
Caram is the author of three novels and was honored by UCLA for her outstanding teaching. Howard-Johnson is an award-winning poet, novelist, former journalist, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers ( The pair will tailor seminars to the needs of those who participate.

If participants are interested, Howard-Johnson will lead a tour of nearby Etruscan sites.

Learn more about the retreat at complete with pictures of the town home including its rooftop garden.

Early registration is recommended. Accommodations are very limited. Reach Howard-Johnson for payment details at

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Graphics, interviews and further information available upon request.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Featured on this blog

Yes you can be featured on this blog. If you have a book or film connected to Italy in some way I'm happy to review it for you and post it here.

Do you have a company here in Italy that you'd like promoted? Do you organise an event here in Italy or organise one about Italy else where?

I'm also happy to host guest bloggers so that others can share their thoughts about all things connected with Italy.

If interested please send me an email with details of what kind of feature you would like or a sort article for a guest post. Please put 'As the Romans Do' in the subject line as I have a high email traffic and wouldn't want to miss it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Famous Italian: Roberto Benigni

Arguably the most popular Italian screen comedian since the immortal Toto, Roberto Benigni mastered the exacting art of improvisational humor early. Inspired by Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Peter Sellers, Benigni first gained fame in his native country with his own must-see TV series, sustaining his vast following with several hilarious movie appearances. One of his best-known monologues, "Cioni Mario," was expanded into the feature film I Love You Berlinger/Berlinguer Ti Voglio Bene (1977), after which Benigni went on to star in a number of popular films in Italy.

His 1991 Italian box office success, Johnny Stecchino, brought him considerable international attention. American filmgoers, however, may have become aware of his brand of comedy earlier with 1988's The Little Devil, which Benigni wrote, directed, and co-starred in with Walter Matthau. He had also been visible -- to art house audiences, at least -- as a convict in Down by Law (1986) and a Roman taxi driver confessing a bit too much information to a priest in Night on Earth (1988), both directed by Jim Jarmusch, before appearing in Wim Wenders' Faraway, So Close in 1993.

Having demonstrated his comedic talents to an worldwide audience, Benigni seemed an inspired casting choice for the pratfalling offspring of Inspector Clouseau in Blake Edwards' 1992 Son of the Pink Panther. Unfortunately, the role created by Peter Sellers may not have been ideal for Benigni and the comedy received little praise. The comedian more than proved himself five years later, however, co-writing, directing, and starring in Life Is Beautiful. The movie -- which had the potentially ungainly premise of a comedy set in a Nazi concentration camp -- proved to be a huge international success, both critically and commercially. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival -- where Benigni, leaping on-stage to accept the award, got down on his knees before presenter Martin Scorsese and kissed his hand -- and ultimately won a number of other awards, including Best Actor and Best Screenplay Oscars for Benigni. Accepting one of his awards, Benigni proved to be one of the more memorable aspects of the 1998 ceremony. Upon hearing of his win, he jumped up on his seat and then took to the stage, where he proceeded to proclaim -- in broken English and at great length -- his great joy and gratitude.

Aside from a supporting role in the 1999 fantasy adventure Astrix and Obelix vs. Cesar Benigni remained relatively low-key in the years following his success with Life is Beautiful. Of course coming off of such success and with rumors abounding, expectations were certainly high for whatever project the eccentric actor would develop next - a factor that may have done more damage than good. Though when he originally concieved an adaptation of the timeless tale of Pinocchio Benigni envisioned the film as starring himself with famed director Federico Fellini at the helm, the director's death left Benigni the director of what would be one of the most expensive films in Italian film history. Immediately lambasted by critics upon release in 2002, the visually extravagant film proved a notable failure at the box office - with the dubbed stateside version of the film taking exceptional heat. By this point no one doubted Benigni's talent, but his misguided execution left many to wonder just how it was that the production spiraled so far out of control. Fortunately fans could take some comfort in Benigni's masterful performance on the television special L'Ultimo del paradiso later that same year. The following year Benigni turned in a memorable performance in old friend Jim Jarmusch's episodic drama Coffee and Cigarettes.

Benigni married actress Nicoletta Braschi in 1991, and she appeared with him in a number of films, including Johnny Stecchino and Life Is Beautiful. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

(Source: They also have a fabulous list of all his films. Well worth checking out).

Roberto Benigni winning an Oscar® - Best Foreign Language Film, Life is Beautiful - 71st Annual Academy Awards®.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Festa dei Papa

Festa dei Papa is the Italian name for Father's Day, which is celebrated annually on March 19 (St. Joseph's Feast Day -Festa di San Giuseppe-in Italy).

An integral part of the Festa di San Giuseppe are zeppole. These are delicious pastries that range from cream puffs to pockets of fried dough depending on what part of the country you’re in. The most common zeppole are cream puffs.

Here is a video about the making of zeppole:

Buon Appetito and Auguri to all the fathers today. Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Talent shows

On Saturday 6th March one of the most famous recent talents, Noemi,  from the popular music show x-factor (Rai Due) was guest on another talent show, Amici (Canale 5). She performed her latest single 'Per tutta la vita', which was in competition at this years Sanremo.

Here is her performance at Amici:

Noemi is proof that these talent shows do actually find people with real talent. Of course, many of those who take part in them are famous for however long the programme lasts and then promptly disappear from public eye. Some however launch their careers and go on to have success.

Other whose success post-tv talent show is worth mentioning are:
  • Marco Carta (winner of Amici, winner of Sanremo 2009, winner of numerous awards on festival bar and Mtv trl)
  • Valerio Scanu (2nd place at Amici, winner of this years Sanremo)
  • Tony Maiello (took part in X-factor, won this years young cat. at Sanremo)
  • Marco Mengoni (winner of x-factor, runner up at this years Sanremo)
Although I feel that these people are in fact talented singers, I do have a few doubts over their success at Sanremo. It's true that part of the vote is given by the general public and as such the months that they were featured on daily programmes on the TV will no doubt have helped them out. That being said though, it's a bit strange that the shows promote each others talents despite being from different networks and both shows were represented at Sanremo in the finals. In my opinion there were better songs and more talented artists who desired to win instead. 

My question at this point is, Did they win due to talent or due to TV popularity? Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Isola dei Famosi

Isola Dei Famosi recently returned to Italian TV (Rai Due) with it's 7th edition, this time in Nicaragua.  As always, the show is presented by Simone Ventura. This years co-presenter is Rossano Rubicondi.

This years 'famous' cast includes:
The last of which, Aldo Busi, has been causing waves right from word go. This 'intellectual' writer is new to the cast that normally contains showgirls and ex-tronisti (people who have been on the programme uomini e donne) or famous but in most cases little known tv actors/actresses.

In last weeks LIVE show he spoke out about the conditions of the island they have been set to and refused to continue the programme if they weren't sent to a different island. Finally the cast have someone who's not afraid to speak up.

So far they've had injuries due to the jump from a helicopter to get them to the island, upset stomaches, an earthquake... It's a good job this years cast includes someone like Busi who will stand up for them.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Festa delle Donne

8th March is a popular festival in Italy.  It is traditional to give the gift of yellow mimosas to women to celebrate on this day each year. Although in the past it was men who gave these flowers as a way of saying thank you to the women in their life, nowadays both men and women give them to family, friends and work colleagues.

This time of year often sees demonstrations about womens rights however the original sense of this 8th March celebration is being replaced to some extent by an excuse for a 'girl night out'. In fact restaurants, pubs and other social venues are booked up by groups of women prior to the event for their night of fun.

As the political reasons for the event take the back seat somewhat, these modern celebrations are often criticised. Where ever you go in Italy on 8th March you'll be sure to find fun activities, parties and women letting their hair down.

The first International Women's Day
In 1869 British MP John Stuart Mill was the first person in Parliament to call for women's right to vote. On 19 September 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. Women in other countries did not enjoy this equality and campaigned for justice for many years.

In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women's Day was the result.

The very first International Women's Day was launched the following year by Clara Zetkin on 19 March (not 8 March). The date was chosen because on 19 March in the year of the 1848 revolution, the Prussian king recognized for the first time the strength of the armed people and gave way before the threat of a proletarian uprising. Among the many promise he made, which he later failed to keep, was the introduction of votes for women.

Plans for the first International Women's Day demonstration were spread by word of mouth and in the press. During the week before International Women's Day two journals appeared: The Vote for Women in Germany and Women's Day in Austria. Various articles were devoted to International Women's Day: 'Women and Parliament', 'The Working Women and Municipal Affairs', 'What Has the Housewife got to do with Politics?', etc. The articles thoroughly analyzed the question of the equality of women in the government and in society. All articles emphasized the same point that it was absolutely necessary to make parliament more democratic by extending the franchise to women.

Success of the first International Women's Day in 1911 exceeded all expectation.
Meetings were organized everywhere in small towns and even the villages halls were packed so full that male workers were asked to give up their places for women.
Men stayed at home with their children for a change, and their wives, the captive housewives, went to meetings. 

During the largest street demonstration of 30,000 women, the police decided to remove the demonstrators' banners so the women workers made a stand. In the scuffle that followed, bloodshed was averted only with the help of the socialist deputies in Parliament.

In 1913 International Women's Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Wommen's Day ever since.

During International Women's Year in 1975, IWD was given official recognition by the United Nations and was taken up by many governments. International Women's Day is marked by a national holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Weddings in Italy

Italy is one of the most romantic places in the world and has long been a popular wedding destination for foreign couples fixing to tie the knot. This trend continues to grow despite the fact that Italy tends to be a little trickier in terms of wedding regulations than some other target destinations. Needless to say, it's a good idea to start planning early.

A Guide to Weddings in Italy has information about all aspects of planning a wedding in the famous boot:
  • Types of weddings allowed
  • Documents needed
  • Italian wedding traditions and superstitions
  • Italian wedding proverbs
  • and more...

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Carolina Kostner and the winter Olympics

    Things didn't go well for Italian, Carolina Kostner at this years winter Olympics in Vancouver. The figure skater fell several times and closed in 16th place. The once European champion, scored just 151.90.

    She obviously has talent as the many medals won in the past show:
    • Bronze in Mosca 2005
    • Silver in Goteborg 2008
    • Bronze in Lione 2006
    • Gold in Varsavia 2007
    • Gold in Zagabria 2008
    • Silver in  Helsinki 2009
    • Gold in Tallin 2010

    Let's hope that she re-finds herself and returns to being the great skater she can be. 


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