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Italy is a large country in Southern Europe, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. It is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites - art and monuments are everywhere around the country. It is also worldwide famous for its cuisine, its fashion, the luxury sports cars and motorcycles (Ferrari, Maserati and Ducati), as well as for its beatiful coasts, lakes and mountains (the Alps and Appennines).
The capital and largest city of Italy is
Rome (population, 2002 estimate, 2,540,829), which is a famous cultural and tourist center. Other cities with large populations include Milan (1,247,052), an important manufacturing, financial, and commercial city; Naples (1,008,419), one of the busiest ports in Italy; Turin (861,644), a transportation junction and major industrial city; Palermo (682,901), the capital and chief seaport of Sicily; Genoa (604,732), the leading port in Italy and a major trade and commercial center; Bologna (373,018), a major transportation center and agricultural market; Florence (352,940), a cultural, commercial, transportation, and industrial center in Tuscany.
Bari (315,068), a major commercial center; Catania (308,438), a manufacturing and commercial city of Sicily. Finally Venice (269,566), a leading seaport and a cultural and manufacturing center, also famous for its Carnevale featuring wonderful costumes and mask and the beautiful Murano glass


Italian art

The Etruscans

Etruscan bronze figures and terra-cotta funerary reliefs include examples of a vigorous northern Italian tradition which had waned by the time Rome began building her empire on the Italian peninsula. The Etruscans were the most powerful force in central Italy until Roman unification of the peninsula. Vestiges of their art, architecture, and unique language have long intrigued scholars, and the search for this mysterious civilization continues to fire the imagination. Despite a history of pillage, rich archaeological evidence survives: thousands of tombs, many of them frescoed and filled with vases, sculpture, jewelry, and metalwork; and the mysterious Etruscan sites that are places of tourist pilgrimage, such as Cerveteri, Vulci, and Tarquinia.

The Roman Period

The Roman period, as we know it, begins after the Punic Wars and the subsequent invasion of the Greek cities of the Mediterranean. The Hellenistic styles then current in Greek civilization were adopted. The cultic and decorative use of sculpture and pictorial mosaic survive in the ruins of both temples and villas. As the empire matured, other less naturalistic, sometimes more dramatic, sometimes more severe, styles were developed -- especially as the center of empire moved to eastern Italy and then to Constantinople.

Byzantine Period

With the fall of its western capitol, the Roman empire continued for another 1000 years under the leadership of Constantinople. Byzantine artisans were used in important projects throughout Italy, and Byzantine styles of painting can be found up through the 14th Century.

Gothic Period

The Gothic period marks a transition from the medieval to the Renaissance and is characterised by the styles and attitudes nurtured by the influence of the Dominican and Franciscan order of monks, founded by Saint Dominic (1170 to 1221) and Saint Francis of Assisi (1181 to 1226) respectively.
It was a time of religious disputes within the church. The Franciscans and Dominicans were founded as an attempt to address these disputes and bring the Roman Catholic church back to basics. The early days of the Franciscans are remembered especially for the compassion of Saint Francis, while the Dominicans are remembered as the order most responsible for the beginnings of the Inquisition.
Gothic architecture began in northern Europe and spread southward to Italy. The earliest important monument of the Italian Gothic style is the great church at Assisi. The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi (St Francis) is a World Heritage Site. The Franciscan monastery and the lower and upper church (Basilica inferiore e superiore) of St Francis were begun immediately after his canonization in 1228, and completed 1253.

The lower church has frescos by Cimabue and Giotto di Bondone. In the Upper church are frescos of scenes in the life of St Francis by Giotto and his circle. Cenni di Petro (Giovanni) Cimabue (c.1240-1302} and Giotto di Bondone (better known as just Giotto) (1267-1337), were two of the first painters who began to move toward the role of the artist as a creative individual, rather than a mere copier of traditional forms.
They began to take an interest in improving the depiction of the figure. The Byzantine style was unrealistic and could be improved upon by a return to forms achieved in ancient Greece. Other terms sometimes applied to describe the artists of this period are The Primitives and the Early Renaissance.

The Renaissance

The Renaissance is said to begin in 14th century Italy. The rediscovery of Ancient Greek and Roman art and classics brought better proportions, perspective and use of lighting in art. Wealthy families, such as the Medicis, and the papacy served as patrons for many Italian artists, including
Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Donatello, and Raphael.
The focus of most art remained religious. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, and sculpted his famous Pietà® Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Raphael painted several Madonnas. Both Michelangelo and Donatello sculpted visions of David.



As the Renaissance had moved from formulaic depiction to a more natural observation of the figure, light and perspective, so the subsequent, Mannerist, period is marked by a move to forms conceived in the mind. Once the ideals of the Renaissance had had their effect artists such as Giulio Romano (ca 1499? to 1546) were able to introduce personal elements of subjectivity to their interpretation of visual forms. The perfection of perspective, light and realistic human figures can be thought of as impossible to improve upon unless another factor is included in the image, namely the factor of how the artist feels about the image. This emotional content in Mannerism is also the beginnings of a movement which would eventually, much later, become Expressionism in the 19th century. The difference between Mannerism and Expressionism is really a matter of degree. Guilo Romano was a student an protege of Raphael. Other Italian Mannerist painters included Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino, students of Andrea del Sarto. The Spanish Mannerist El Greco was a student of the Italian Renaissance painter Titian. The most famous Italian painter of the Mannerist style and period is Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti) (1518-1594).


CaravaggioFrom Mannerism onward there are more and more art movements representing tides of opinion pushing in various different directions, causing art philosophy over the centuries from about the 16th century onward to gradually fragment into the characteristic isms of Modern art. The work of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio sometimes simply called Caravaggio (1571-1610) stands on its own as one of the most original and influential artists who ever lived. He did something completely contraversial and new. He painted figures, even those of classical or religious themes, in contemporary clothing or as ordinary living men and women. This in stark opposition to the usual trend of the time to idealise the religious or classical figure. Caravaggio set the style for many years to come, although not everyone followed his example. Some, like Agostino Carracci (or Caracci) (1557 to 1602) and his brothers were all influenced by Caravaggio but leaned toward the idealism and spirituality from which Caravaggio was perceived to have strayed. Continue


A movement to reform Mannerism, Italian Baroque art saw Mannerism as excessive and tried to bring it back to Christian piety. Nevertheless, this reform took place within the context of the Mannerist attempt to introduce more movement and passion and is part of a conceptual dialogue with Mannerism.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Art of Italy"


 Italian cuisine

Italian cuisine is extremely varied: the country of Italy was only unified in 1861, and its cuisines reflect the cultural variety of its regions and its diverse history (with culinary influences from Greek, Roman, Norman and Arab civilization). Italian cuisine is regarded as a prime example of the Mediterranean diet, and is imitated all over the world. As a general rule, northern and southern Italian cuisines are differentiated primarily by the cooking fat and style of pasta commonly used. Northern Italian cuisine favors butter, cream, Mascarpone cheese, risotto and fresh egg pasta, while southern Italian cuisine tends toward Mozzarella cheese (usually from buffalo), olive oil and dried pasta. Southern Italian cuisine also uses a greater amount of tomato.


 An Italian meal

A formal meal in Italy is a succession of courses, with no main course, starting with an antipasto, followed by a first course (primo) of either pasta, risotto, or soup; and a second course (secondo) of meat, poultry, or fish, accompanied by one or two vegetable side dishes (contorni). Then there is a salad (insalata), sometimes cheese, and the meal ends with fruit or dessert (dolce) or both.

Antipasto never played an important part in Italian eating. Not long ago it consisted of only a few slices of cured meat or salame, and these are still the favorites. Antipasto is meant only to whet the appetite, so do not make too much. For most people in Italy the first course is the most important, and pasta is the favorite food. Although most people prefer the simplest treatment - olive oil and garlic with fresh raw tomato and basil or a dressing of butter melted with sage leaves, sprinkled with freshly grated black pepper and parmigiano reggiano - the versatility of pasta is extraordinary. Risotto, gnocchi and other rice dishes are also versatile. Soups can be a meal in themselves or light and delicate.

With so much coast Italy has a wide range of fish and seafood. Until recently fish was considered to be a Friday dish only, and not grand enough to serve to guests, but now it is one of the most popular foods. Meat and poultry dishes are mostly grills, roasts, and stews; there are lovely game dishes, and offal is particularly good. Egg dishes and vegetable dishes can also be served as a second course. Vegetable dishes are an important part of every meal, so make good use of the repertoire. Salad can be a green salad or cooked vegetables dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
Cheese is served at the end of the meal in northern Italy, especially in Piedmont, but not usually in the south. At home, dessert is generally fruit, sweets being reserved for special and festive occasions. After fruit or dessert, strong black coffee from a high or after dinner roast may be served in small cups, and perhaps followed with brandy or grappa, an amaro (bitter), anise-flavored sambuca or a sweet wine such as vin santo, accompanied by almond pastries or hard biscuits for dunking.



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