Brava Italia: The Beautiful Life salutes the profound cultural legacy of the Italian people with an in-depth exploration of what it means to be Italian. Celebrating Italy’s exquisite creativity in all its diverse expressions, the second program in WLIW21’s Brava Italia series, presents this traditional and innovative culture as it has never been seen before.
Since Roman times, Italians have been recognized as architects of remarkable style and ingenuity. They built roads, bridges, fortresses, magnificent churches, and Romanesque cathedrals that also showcase the work of extraordinary artists, including Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Il Perugino, and Caravaggio. But Italy is not only a rich European culture; she is a revered and respected world civilization as well. She is a link to the past, from the daring spirit of early explorers like Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus to well-known ports of embarkation like Genoa – where the sea has long influenced economic fortunes – and to fashionable seaside Italian resort towns like Portofino.
Experience Italy’s renowned cities from the streets and the sky as Brava Italia: The Beautiful Life highlights the special qualities of each: Milan and Rome for their industry and high fashion, Venice for romance, and Florence for illustrious art. Enriched with museums, statues and churches, Florence’s Basilica of San Lorenzo, begun by Brunelleschi, decorated by Donatello and graced with some of Michelangelo’s most famous statues, represents all three. Literary legends Dante Alighieri (The Divine Comedy) and Giovanni Boccaccio (The Decameron) also hail from this great city, their master works have been an influence on countless authors. The ability to tell a good tale has shaped Italian culture. From the shipping town of Bari, Padre Gerardo Cioffari tells the fantastic tale of San Nicola, or Saint Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus, becoming a Christmas icon in the 11th century. “They had stolen the bones of San Nicola and brought them here to Bari,” Cioffari recalls. “Right from the beginning, the news spread around Europe and the saint’s feast day in December became a festival for all the children.”
Superior craftspeople, Italians have taken the art of making accordions – very complicated instruments – to new heights, as Francesca Pigini from the small hill town of Castelfidardo describes. Seventy-nine-year-old Murano glassmaker Boreno Cigni speaks about his trade, passed down from his father and soon to be continued by his apprentices, who will create new prized crystal designs. The birthplace of the Slow Food Movement, Italy creates cuisine that is at the heart of its traditional culture. Meals recall a time when food was pure, carefully produced and enjoyed slowly with good local wine in communion with family and friends. This is the quintessential part of Italian living.
Brava Italia: The Beautiful Life features narration by actor Paul Sorvino and a rich regional soundtrack. Part one, The Proud Tradition, premiered October 2008 and illustrated how Italians make an art out of everyday living. The final program, The Eternal Country, will celebrate the historic cultural diversity that makes modern Italy so vibrant, and premiere in 2010.
A production of WLIW21 for WNET.ORG. Executive Producer: Roy A Hammond. Producer/Writer/Editor: Sam Toperoff.