Recommended movies:

  • “Amarcord” Rimini, birthplace of Fellini
  • “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso”
  • “La Vita è Bella”
  • “Il Divo” Rome and Sicily in the life of Giulio Andreotti
  • “Il Postino”
  • “The Best of Youth”
  • Florence/Firenze:
  • Genoa/Genova:
    • “Giorni e Nuvole/Days and Clouds”
  • Naples/Napoli:
    • “Bicycle Thief”
  • Rome/Roma:
    • “Open City”
  • Venice/Venezia:
    • “Death in Venice”
    • “Pane e Tulipani”

Recommended books:

  • Florence/Firenze
    • “The Sixteen Pleasures” Robert Hellenga
    • “Brunelleschi’s Dome” Ross King
  • Rome/Roma:
    • Alan Epstein,”As the Romans Do”
  • Venice/Venezia:
    • Jan Morris,“The World of Venice”
    • John Berndt, “City of Falling Angels”
    • Gore Vidal, “Venice”
  • Venice, Flying Over “La Serenissima” and the Venetian Countryside
    • with photographs by Marcello Bertinetti, published by White Star. It features amazing photos of Venice, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, the lagoon, and the Veneto, a region with amazing differences including rolling hills, the Dolomites, Adriatic beaches, and Lake Garda.

Stendhal Syndrome

A sick, physical feeling that afflicted French novelist Stendhal after he visited Santa Croce in Florence. Stendhal Syndrome is synonymous with being completely overwhelmed by your surroundings, seeing and doing way too much. Though it happened to Stendhal in Florence, it could just at easily have happened in Venice, Rome or Naples, to visitors who arrive with a long list of must sees. As Truman Capote said in 1961, visiting Venice is “like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs at one go.”

“Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve the languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation. But as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language. “-Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

In the Divine Comedy Dante speaks directly to the human condition, presenting life as a difficult journey. After descending into the depths of hell, climbing the mountain of Purgatory, and ascending into Paradise, he re-emerges a changed man whose individualism has been tempered by submission to a greater good. Individuals of all walks of life have appropriated Dante’s private and public struggle and made it their own, finding meaning in their lives using Dante as a catalyst.

Individuals continue to turn to Dante because he offers clear lessons in how to examine life, awaken the heart as well as lessons in how to create poetry. Because of his ingegno, Dante expressed universal truths in both concrete and imaginative ways. His exceptional ability to capture human characteristics such as fear, despair, confusion, betrayal, misunderstanding, arrogance, ambition, dishonesty, vanity, rivalry, depravity, tenderness, and passion, continues to inspire poets eight hundred years later.

Harold Bloom, in The Anxiety of Influence, posited that it is poets’ mis-reading or “misprision” that is necessary for them “to clear imaginative space for themselves.” Bloom found the germ of his idea in Oscar Wilde, who said that in a great work, “influence is simply transference of personality, a mode of giving away what is most precious to one’s self.” In Dante, each disciple finds what suits his or her needs and creates a new work that can be markedly influenced by the Dantean original.

For example, Dante offered T.S. Eliot a way out of his mental breakdown, providing him with a methodology of turning “values and judgments into poetry, the way the figure of the poet as thinker and teacher merged into the figure of the poet as expresser of a universal myth that could unify the abundance of the inner world and the confusion of the outer.” (Heaney)

The human desire for perfection is such a strong force that we, like Dante, initially try to climb directly toward our vision of a better life. Just as Dante wanted to avoid a visit to hell and arrive quickly in heaven, we, too, would rather avoid the pain and struggle of daily existence. We confront the same three beasts blocking our path: the leopard, the lion, and the wolf. Dante saw his own faults in these three animals: lust, pride, and greed. These same three characteristics are human traits that we wrestle with daily, at work and in leisure.