The lure of Bella Italia

The lure of Bella Italia

The Peter and Paul Fortress is closer to the River Tiber than the Neva this week as Italy comes to St. Petersburg.

Published: September 14, 2011 (Issue # 1674)


Bertazzon’s work of art depicts nine species of endangered trees created from Italy’s famous Murano glass.

A little corner of Italy has been brought to the beach of the Peter and Paul Fortress this week for the “Italia Comes to You” festival that aims to showcase Italian art, culture, fashion and music.

The event, which attracted 24,000 visitors when it was shown in Moscow earlier this month, has been organized by ENIT, Italy’s national tourism agency, whose declared aim is to promote the “excellence of Italy, showing the very best of Italian lifestyle” all over the world but with particular focus on the rapidly developing BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

“What we have tried to do is to make you experience and breathe the Italian lifestyle,” said Marco Bruschini, president of ENIT in Russia.

“I hope we will manage to have the same spirit we have had in Moscow: Come here, spend an hour or two inside a piece of Italy, see cultural aspects and eat in an Italian way, experience the taste of real Italian coffee, and then go home with a desire and curiosity to come and see the real Italy.”

Each day of the exhibition has a different theme ranging from tourism, sport and leisure activities, gastronomy, wine, fashion and nature. Exhibitions and events are being held in a specially constructed pavilion on the beach of the Peter and Paul Fortress.

A standout aspect of the event’s cultural side is Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s 15th-century painting “Madonna and Child on a Throne with Angels and Saints,” which has been brought from Sienna to St. Petersburg especially for the event and has never before been exhibited in Russia.

Another highlight is an exhibition of photographs taken by Rino Barillari, the “King of the Paparazzi,” dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Federico Fellini’s iconic movie “La Dolce Vita.” The exhibition comprises 50 photographs showing the fascination and magnetism of Italy alongside celebrities who have come to Italy, primarily focusing on its capital, Rome.

“War is war” is the battle cry of Barillari — the prototype for the indefatigable paparazzo featured in Fellini’s masterpiece — who has broken 76 cameras and 11 ribs and been to the emergency room 162 times during his career.

Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Fellini himself are just a few of the heroes of Barillari’s famous photographs, which capture the spirit of a constantly changing society with a simple message to switch from the “dolce vita” (“sweet life” in its hedonistic sense) to the “vita dolce,” the simple joy of living.

“Italia Comes to You” also includes an exhibition of work by Russian artists who were invited to travel all over Italy, from north to south, including the country’s islands. The artists’ gained experience and emotions are reflected in the works of art presented in the exhibition.


Photos taken by Rino Barillari.

The last piece of art presented in the pavilion is a work by artist Roberto Bertazzon in cooperation with Venini, one of the most famous Italian brands specializing in Murano glass — another example of Italian excellence. The work depicts nine species of trees that are in danger of complete extinction.

“It is incredible to think that every vital organism depends on another vital organism to live and survive together,” says Bertazzon.

“Within the framework of the event, we have aimed to protect the natural environment, while promoting a new kind of tourism that respects the environment with a focus on eco sustainability as the main feature of travelling in a modern society,” said Bruschini.

Visitors to the “Italia Comes to You” festival can also learn about the country’s 20 regions, starting from Lombardy in the north to Sicily in the south. Stands set up in the pavilion proudly demonstrate Italy’s most famous sights and treasures, from art collections, entertainment parks and ski resorts to lakes, thermal spas and sites of pilgrimage.

No event with a “made in Italy” theme would be complete, of course, without showcasing la moda Italiana, or Italian fashion. On Wednesday, Sept. 14, a fashion show will take place titled “Stars of Italian Fashion” featuring historic outfits from the 1950s to 1990s made by celebrated fashion houses such as Sorelle Fontana, Laura Biagiotti, Renato Balestra, Gai and Mattiolo. Rafaella Curiel’s show is a presentation of precious historic garments, including pieces inspired by uniforms designed for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.

“The value of the whole collection that will be shown is about two million euros,” said Bruschini.

The synthesis of Italian and Russian beauty is “a very strong mix that will allow Russia as well as Italy to carry the flag of beauty and tradition,” he added. “Not just in 2011, the year of Italy-Russia, but throughout the future.”

“Italia Comes to You” runs through Sept. 17 on the beach of the Peter and Paul Fortress. For more information, see:

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