Because Italy is more than a geographic expression..

Alessi S.P.A. US

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bike Saddles: Made In Italy

My bicycle came with a Selle Italia saddle.

Fizik is another quality Italian saddle manufacturer.

In choosing a saddle, like most anything else, it really comes down to personal preference.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Facts About Italy

62 facts about Italy.

Interesting, if not insufficient given Italy's diabolically long and deep history. Something tells me you can add a '0' to that figure and it still won't scratch the surface.

Although not sure why the fact the University of Bologna was the world's first university wasn't mentioned in #13: "The University of Rome is one of the world’s oldest universities and was founded by the Catholic Church in A.D. 1303. Often called La Sapienza (“knowledge”), the University of Rome is also Europe’s largest university with 150,000 students.'

 It's not the first time I hear #6 in some form or another:
" Italy is said to have more masterpieces per square mile than any other country in the world."
 The other thing said is "it's estimated 40% of the world's and 60% of Europe's artistic treasures reside within its borders."


Saturday, December 14, 2013

10 Years On - Sanelli Knives Still In My Kitchen


When I got married and needed all sorts of things, including cooking knives, My brother in law introduced me to Sanelli about 10 years ago and never really looked back.

For the price to value, I would consider them excellent. Mario Batali I believe uses Sanelli sometimes.

Now I'm looking at getting ceramic knives.

Sanelli operates in the municipality of Premana in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Italy's Rich Motorcycle Legacy On Display

SFO Museum (from youtube):



"The Italian propensity for artistic design, historically demonstrated in a wide range of manufactured goods, has perhaps never been better exemplified than in the beautiful motorcycles that graced Italy's racetracks and roadways in the 1950s and 1960s. Over the course of two decades, an unprecedented number of Italian firms, many of them lost to history, produced a dizzying array of small-sized motorcycles for a country with a desperate need for mobility after World War II. These machines were created at a time of impoverished resources, but were consistent with a characteristically Italian insistence on producing, and demanding, objects of extraordinary design and beauty. Nineteen motorcycles, ranging from singularly produced racers such as Carlo Ubbiali's 1951 Mondial 125cc Bialbero Grand Prix to 50cc production bikes from the late 1960s, demonstrate that while necessity breeds invention, the results can be truly stunning.

Moto Bellissima: Italian Motorcycles from the 1950s and 1960s is located pre-security in the International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby, San Francisco International Airport. The exhibition is on view to all Airport visitors from November 5, 2011 to April 28, 2012. There is no charge to view the exhibition."


My Lord these bikes are beautiful.

Is there a greater country with as deep a design history as Italy?

The only nations that come to mind are USA or Japan.

Video Clip Of The Day

Works of industrial designer Roberto Pezzetta:




Monday, December 2, 2013

Brumidi: The Man Behind The Capital Building Frescoes

It's hard to measure the influence of the Italian mind and blood in the field of art and design. Cataloging a person's work but what about the instances where it wasn't attributed? Here, Italy and its contributions, while acknowledged for many achievements, possibly have just as much that have gone unnoticed across the world.

These "accidents of activity" doesn't flow one way either. Just like Italy influences, it has been enormously influenced and impacted by other nations as well. You can't exist for 2500 years and not be impacted by other civilizations during that time. All nations learn from one another. Especially Italy with its long, tortured, sometimes parochial, glorious past replete with successes of empire and failures of national unity. It has been invaded so many times, it's hard to pinpoint how many customs and ideas their borrowed.

Does it really matter?

Just like Italy "gave and receive" we see the same thing with modern America where the world's greatest minds gravitate to. In America, we get an idea what it must have been like in Renaissance Italy when all traveled to its land to learn.

In discovering the work of Constantino Brumidi who was, for a time, the forgotten artist behind the fresco work at the Capital Building in Washington, D.C., one is reminded the exchange of ideas mentioned earlier never stops.

More poignantly, the legacy of inspiration they leave behind eventually does get rediscovered as was the case with Brumidi who was largely an obscure figure until the determined Myrtle Cheney Murdock found out who the artist behind the Capitol art (including the Brumidi Corridors) was.

Next time you dismiss an artist as being paranoid for fear of becoming forgotten, think of Brumidi.







Friday, November 29, 2013

Juventus Stadium A Modern Architectural And Engineering Success


A couple of years back, Juventus officials were keeping secret the details of the construction of its new Stadium in Turin (Torino).

From Bleachereport:

"...For the last few years Juventus have been constructing what is set to be not only one of the best looking stadiums in the world but the most technologically advanced arena in the world. Word from the Juventus camp is that the stadium will seat 41,000 people, comprise of a shopping centre and have a heated pitch. Seats in the stadium are now closer than ever to the pitch, whilst they also form a pattern that can be seen from afar."

Indeed, it is an example of architectural and engineering achievement in environmental technology. From Wiki:

The construction project aimed to ensure a low environmental impact of the work of the construction site via the use of advanced environmentally sustainable technologies.This stadium is constructed to reduce energy consumption from non-renewable energy sources by reducing waste and optimizing the resources available. The stadium can produce the electricity it needs using solar energy captured through photovoltaic panels; it produces warm water which heats rooms, changing rooms, kitchens and football field through a network of district heating, heats hot water for the dressing rooms and kitchens of restaurants using solar thermal systems. These alternative energy sources are aimed at helping stadium meet the criteria dictated by the Kyoto protocol by generating multiple results:
  • Reductions of greenhouse gases
  • No air pollution
  • No risk of fire
  • Integration with district heating
  • Containment of waste
  • Intensive exploitation of solar energy through solar tracker tools
  • No production of chemical or acoustic emissions
  • Reuse of rainwater
  • Reduction of at least 50% of water needed for irrigation of the field
Italian soccer clubs have been experiencing declining revenues the last couple of years having been. Though still among the wealthiest clubs, Juventus is currently in the process of reestablishing itself as  perennial power in Italian and European soccer.

As for the capacity. I'm not sure why it was capped at 41 000. I reckon it's a combination of Juve and Serie A not generally surpassing those numbers and environmental considerations. However, it was designed so that it could add another 15 000 seats if required.

More details here.

And who was charged to build Juventus Stadium?

Pininfarina.

"A futuristic, environment-friendly stadium built with cutting-edge technology to offer maximum comfort and security in all areas. The new Juventus stadium was conceived not only as a venue where people will watch football, but also as a meeting and recreation centre, to be enjoyed seven days a week.   In this perspective, Pininfarina Extra’s contribution was fundamental, developing once again an unmistakable style for what is an icon of the city of Turin."

Sharp pics in link.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Italian Funds Fuels Diplomas For Blind Journalists

A cultural news item of note I feel.

From the Anna Lindh Foundation:

"The first diplomas in a course for blind journalists have been awarded in a ceremony in Beirut, a project co-funded by Italy with 150,000 euros.

As part of the same initiative, Italy also funded the publication of a Braille weekly distributed with daily An Nahar.

The training programme has two objectives: improving the ability of reporters through the most recent media technologies and encouraging blind youths to take up journalism as a profession. (ANSAmed)."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Capello Index Good Source For Analyzing Soccer Players

Ooo, look - a duplicate post with my other blog.

No matter.

The Capello Index - named after soccer manager Fabio Capello - was developed by Italian software company Wyscout.

Capello, of course, is widely regarded as one of the all-time great managers having managed AC Milan, Real Madrid and England's national side.

It is no surprise such an index would be created by an analytical mind like Capello.

Sticking to the topic of soccer, two national sides headed to Brazil in 2014 will have Italian coaches conducting their aspirations of winning the World Cup - Capello with Russia and Alberto Zaccheoroni (Japan). A third coach, Giovanni Trappatoni (incidentally, also a legendary winning manager) was not able to get his Republic of Ireland side to qualify.

The duo will join Azzurri manager Cesare Prandelli next year to make it a trio of Italian mangers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Upsolar World Leader In Smart Solar Modules

Caught this tidbit of news in Businesswire:

"Upsolar is a leading international provider of solar PV modules, today announced the launch of its turnkey system financing solution to assist commercial customers in quickly funding solar PV systems. This news comes on the heels of Upsolar’s successful residential program, which began in 2012."

Unmanned Aerial Systems Launched

...By Piaggio Aero in partnership with Selex ES (mentioned in a previous post).

From UPI:

"The success of the first flight test of the P.1HH DEMO brings us closer to providing the first European-developed, state-of-the art MALE UAS, capable of performing at the highest technological level aerial, land, coastal, maritime, offshore, COMINT/ELINT and electronic warfare missions " said Alberto Galassi, chief executive officer of Piaggio Aero.

"The first flight achievement demonstrates the huge progress made by Piaggio Aero, together with Selex ES and the support of the Italian Air Force, in the development of this new generation of Unmanned Aerial Systems."

Italy Upgrades Friend Or Foe Systems

Selex ES is an electronics and IT company based in Rome and Basildon (UK) part of the Finmeccanica family - which also includes BAE systems.

It was recently given the contract by the NATO Support Agency to upgrade Italy's friend-or-foe military systems.

What is 'friend or foe?"

From globalsecurity.org:

"Identification Friend or Foe [IFF] procedures are the primary positive means of aircraft identification in Air Defense operations. Proper use of IFF procedures facilitates rapid engagement of enemy aircraft, conserves Air Defense assets, and reduces risk to friendly aircraft. Any time a plane flies, pilots put a code into their IFF system which others can identify as a friendly aircraft."

Link To Italian Businesses

Link to Italian Business Guide.

For people and businesses looking for industrial suppliers.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Domus Academy: Great School Of Design

The foundation of any great civilization is to have great schools keeping its heritage alive.

Domus Academy was founded on the premise that while Italian design spread across the world it was losing its essence at home. It was the first post-graduate school of design in the world.

From the website it explains its founding:

"In 1983, Maria Grazia Mazzocchi saw this as a tremendous opportunity to fill the design education void. So, along with Pierre Restany (one of the most important art critics of the 20th century), Alessandro Mendini, Valerio Castelli, Alessandro Guerriero and Andrea Branzi she founded Domus Academy.
 

From the very beginning, Domus Academy was designed to be a unique institution. The founders envisioned a school where different cultures and experiences would meet and exchange, and where education and research would be closely integrated. They planned a center that would promote an open environment conducive to reflection and criticism, and that would bring together students and companies to pursue real-world projects on the most important aspects of contemporary life."


Pasta Needs Technology

No technology needed to make pasta?

Think again.

That's some machine!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rationalism, Neo-Rationalism And Design

It's not surprising Italy has produced or been a  part of several movements tied into industrial design to which architecture falls under.

Though having roots in various forms in Ancient Rome, France during the Enlightenment Rationalism and the Soviet Union in the early 20th century (ASNOVA being the most recent group of artists calling themselves "The Rationalists) an Italian branch developed in between the 1920s and 1940s led by the Gruppo 7. For Canadians, the name should be familiar as it translates into the Group of Seven. Their objective was to strike a balance between the Futurism and Classicism. Which couldn't have been too hard given the high octane level of impractical testosterone and vulgarity (one could add irrational) found in the Futurist movement.

It's important to note that rationalism was further pondered and incorporated into the works of French architects (like Henri Labrouste who lived in Rome for six years) as well leading to what was known as modernism (avant-garde). There's quite a bit of overlapping of influences between French and Italian designers during this period as you can see.

Rationalism emphasized less the science of architecture - focusing on only the functionality of a city for example - and more on the environment necessary to be incorporated into any construct. That is,  history and the physical environment, for instance, should be considered in the conceptualization of an architectural design.

In short, the solve any real world problems took reason and, well, rationalism.

This was especially true during the second wave of Rationalism in the 1960s called Neo-rationalism led mostly by a group called Tendenza (Tendency).

One such artist was Aldo Rossi who designed the Quartier Schutzenstrasse in Berlin, Germany (pictured).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Singing In The Shower

Interesting shower concepts and products from Almar. It's a company located in the province of Varese in the Lombardy region 60 km northwest of Milan. As with so many industrial manufacturers and design companies it operates in the "industrial triangle" consisting of Milan, Turin and Genoa.

Nice set of videos on their website.

I don't believe they operate in North America. 

 


White House Strong Arming Insurance Companies

Transparency we can count on!

Once again, government can't rely on voluntary action. It must coerce and intimidate.

How many time will we have to see this record play before we lift the needle and change the record?

Someone should compile a list of people or things or entities Obama has blamed for his actions.

 

  


Lego Robotics Engineering: Works Of Benedettelli

Guys like robotics engineer Daniele Benedettelli make my life easier when it comes to finding content for this blog. It's one thing to discover companies and quite another faces and people behind them which can be most interesting for readers.

Here's a link to some of his work on youtube.

Benedettelli recently gave a LEGO robotics demonstration (presented by Bricks 4 Kidz Piedmont) in Burlington, Vermont.

Too bad, had I known, I would have taken my daughter!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Robotics: The Octopus Project

From the website:

"OCTOPUS aims to investigate and understand the key principles of the octopus body and brain, by building a soft 8-arm robot capable of elongating its arms to reach and grasp while navigating submerged under water.
 

The octopus is a unique and paradigmatic example for bio-inspired soft robotics, because of its great motor capabilities and enhanced behavior, due to its particular muscular structure and sensory-motor system."

The project is coordinated and headed by the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna (Pisa, Italy) involving 6 European partners:
- The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI,Jerusalem, Israel)
- The Weizmann Institute of Science (Weizmann, Rehovot, Israel)
- The University of Zurich (UZH, Zurich, Switzerland)
- The Italian Institute of Science (IIT, Genova, Italy)
- The University of Reading (UREAD, Reading, United Kingdom)
- The Foundation for Research and Technologies (FORTH, Heraklion, Crete, Greece) 


See video here.

Note: Small-editing on my part.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Modern Kitchen Design

The Marchi Group offers high quality, hand-made, fitted kitchen concepts and design. I happen upon them perusing and browsing my way through the emerald forest otherwise known at the Internet.

Aside from the excellent kitchen concepts, this piece in their 'History' tab caught my eye:

"The history of our company goes back almost 40 years. A period which has seen a radical change in customs, taste and life-style not only in Italy, but throughout the whole world. 1977: the year we began the great adventure of setting up our company. This was the year of the first episode of "Star Wars", the world fell in love with a young star called John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever". It was the year I sat and listened to a mythical Pink Floyd at the Hallenstadion in Zurich. The Shuttle made its first test flight in space…from that moment on, the world began to evolve at a momentous pace."

The thing I've observed among contemporary Italian art and design is the reverence it holds for American (even British) culture and history - Americana if you will. 

The exotic pull of foreign ideas swings both ways of course. While there's no shortage of Italian companies opting for Americanized names, North American companies, for their part, sometimes like using Italian names.

The other thing is the poor English grammar. But we won't hold it against them. If I could convince companies I've featured here to clean up their English text, I'd have a nice side business going.

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I have no idea what this blog is about but it seems interesting enough (enigmatic titles like 'The syndrome of Influence of Italian Design'  help in that vain) and the pictures are cool.

The Perfection That Is Italian Marble

A friend of mine is in the hotel renovations business and has visited Italy's marble quarries. In his view, there's no question Italy produces the finest marble on earth. When his clients ask for the best marble, they mean Italian. 

For him, it all comes to attention to detail and technology of which Italy possesses in bunches.

Nice explanation here:

"Italian marble has earned its reputation primarily because the quarries in Italy have access to some of the best raw material in the world. Secondly, Italian quarries have set the highest standards for quality control and everything from selecting and cutting the blocks to packaging and shipping is done with precision."

Other marble producing countries include (in no particular order) the United States, India, Germany, China, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Turkey (which ranks second in production to Italy).

Pic: Carrara quarry in Tuscany.

Carrara marble was used by famous artists including Michelangelo and Donatello to create their magnificent sculptures.

Italians Dominate Kart Engineering

To our left is a Parilla motorcycle. Parilla operates under the Italian American Motor Engineering (IAME - The Heart of Kart) company. It is the largest manufacturing of kart engines in the world located in Bergamo, Italy.

Italians excel at the Karting World Championships.

Other Italian chassis constructors include engineering company Tecno (Bologna) which also entered Formula One in the early 1970s, CRG (pictured below),  Birel (Milan),  and Tony Kart (Brescia).

Mechanic Dino Chiesa - associated with CRG -  is known as the world's best kart mechanic.

Parilla pic courtesy of Motortopia.com.

CRG pic from Karts.com.









My U-Boat Watch

It's a big one - 52mm. It took some getting used to but in the right attire it's a sharp watch. I like the clean look - very much in the art-deco spirit.  
I tried to get a close-up but I couldn't get the glare out or into proper focus. This ain't my Nikon I was using!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Made In Canada By Italian Hands And Parts

When I was a young teenager, I bought my first serious bike. It was a black and Peugeot with gold trimmings back when they were still made in France.

(The elegant Gardin left)

A few years later in 1990, I took the money I saved up $1,200 making thermal windows and upgraded to a Gardin road bike. Gardin was a Canadian bike manufacturer in Ontario (I believe) founded by an Italian immigrant. It's no longer in operation.

Some elements and parts included: Vittoria tires, Mavic rims, Columbus frame, gear system Shimano 105. A Canadian-Italian bike with Italian, Japanese, German and French parts.


Needs a nice cleaning since I haven't used it in a couple of years but still a fine bicycle.

In between, I got my hands on a Specialized mountain bike for $500. A friend of mine knew a guy liquidating them and mine had an original price tag of $1000. Lucky deal.

This year, after a couple of years of talking about getting a new bike, I went out and got another Canadian bike manufactured this time in my hometown by another Italian owner. Marinoni bikes are known for its high, tailored quality.

Seeing I no longer have the time (or energy) to ride like I used to I had to keep my purchase modest. One can easily get swayed by that Italian made bike with a starting price of $3000. A friend of mine did just that and ended up with a $5000 road bike.

At first, I wasn't sure what type of bike I wanted. I was leaning towards a "touring bike" since I didn't think I was going to be racing. Right there, a steel framed bike was in the cards over an aluminum or  carbon one.

I settled on the Sportivo touring model at a reasonable price. All told about $2000.

Marinoni Sportivo parts include: Campagnolo (ultegra) gears, Columbus steel frame, Deda elementi handles, Selle Italia seat, Cadence tires, Khamsin (Campagnolo) rims.

This baby is essentially an Italian-Canadian bike with predominantly Italian and American parts.





Thursday, October 17, 2013

1930s Decade Of Achievements

Fascism aside, the 1930s was actually a successful decade for Italy in terms of achievement.

For instance, Fermi and Pirandello winning a Nobel in their respective fields, the arrival of Cinecitta, Marconi's inventions in radio, Olivetti, and of course, who can forget the ferocious Prima Carnera in boxing a sport more popular than soccer at the time. Speaking of which, Italy won back to back World Cups in 1934 and 1938 under the direction of Vittorio Pozzo the first country to do so only matched by the magnificent Brazilians in 1958 and 1962.

Two other breakthroughs took place during the decade. One was the oceanliner SS Rex (from wiki):

"..The Rex operated transatlantic crossings from Italy with its running mate, the Conte di Savoia. On 8 September 1944, off Koper, Rex was hit by 123 rockets launched by RAF aircraft, caught fire from stem to stern. She burned for four days, then rolled onto the port side, and sank in shallow water. The ship was broken up at the site beginning in 1947..."

"...In August 1933, the Rex fulfilled the promises of its designers and captured the Blue Riband on its westbound crossing with a time of four days and thirteen hours, with an average speed of 28.92 knots. This record would last until 1935 when it was captured by the French Line's Normandie..."

The other was the technological success of the seaplane Macchi MC 72 (flown by Francesco Agello  and Italo Balbo). Again from wiki:

"...The Macchi M.C. 72 was an experimental seaplane designed and built by the Italian aircraft company Macchi Aeronautica. The M.C. 72 held the world speed record for all aircraft for five years. In 1933 and 1934, it set a world record speed (by Agello) for internal combustion powered seaplanes which still stands to this day...."

Italy had been part of the innovation race since the late 1920s:

"Italy had been in the running since 1927, when Major Mario de Bernardi took the record at 297.83 mph in a Macchi M52 raising it in a M52bis to 318.64 mph in the spring of the following year. America had been out the running, as had France since 1924 although the record had been excusively French from the beginning until 1922 with the exception of a single day in August 1909 when it had belonged to Glenn Curtiss of the USA. Now, with Mussolini encouraging a foreign policy which was based in a large measure on reducing the influence of France and on emphasising the surperiority of Italy, the air around Lake Garda was filled with the scream of V-24 Fiat engines. hauling the seaplanes of the Italian High-Speed Squadron at speeds which promised to be unmatchable. Alas that same air was also loud with lamentations for the pilots who who to often perished in their proving flights. The record still stood to Britain as it had since 1929, and a few minutes after Boothman had conclusively won the Schneider Trophy Flight Lieutenant GA Stainforth had the other S6B in the air, and pushed the reccrd over the magic mark of ten kilometres a minute for the first time." (Schneider Engines link above)

Italian Machines In Indonesia

ACIMIT, the Association of Italian Textile Machinery Manufacturers, and ICE-Trade Promotion Agency have organized two symposiums in Indonesia, specifically in Solo (11 November) and Bandung (13 November), at which some of Italy’s leading textile machinery …

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Saving A Masterpiece: The Restoration Of The Last Supper

Pinin Brambilla Barcilon isn't a household name in the realm of history perhaps should be.

She's the mind and master behind the preservation and restoration of Leonardo's The Last Supper.

The painting barely made it out of WWII in precarious condition. Enough so that experts didn't think it could survive that much longer without disintegrating. 

More about her here:

"The true gift of Pinin Brambilla is not only to have brought back to a readable condition what was left of the original Leonardo painting, but also to have made available for electronic modern graphic software the data-base for the ultimate, supreme and unequalled form of restoration: the actual remaking of the Last Supper as Leonardo saw it that last night. Goethe’s dream, in his passionate report to his Lord the Grand Duke Charles Augustus of Saxony, and the dream of Giuseppe Bossi - to save the Last Supper from the almost complete devastation that he foresaw. That will be possible with the sophisticated printing technologies now available and with the legacy of knowledge and documentation discovered in twenty-two years of constant and patient endeavour by Pinin Brambilla Barcilon.

Never have so many owed so much - to one person!"


However, it's not without its critics as this report on 60 Minutes from 1996 reveals.

The restoration is an on-going process. 

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Nice post about restoration in art at artwatchuk.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tartaglia: Italian Engineering Roots

One of the first Italian figures I came across in the Encyclopedia (remember those?) back when I was a teenager was the mathematician and engineer Niccolo Tartaglia. I may have posted about him in the past but hey.

Tartaglia discussed the trajectory of projectiles in Nova Scientia.

Otherwise known as the science of ballistics.

From Sciencephoto Library (link above):

"Tartaglia's artillery book. Frontispiece to the 1550 second edition of 'Nova Scientia' (New Knowledge, or New Science) by the Italian mathematician and engineer Niccolo Fontana Tartaglia (1499-1557). This work, on the trajectory of projectiles, was first published in 1537. The allegorical artwork shows Euclid (lower centre) admitting students to the circle of knowledge, which includes a mortar and cannon (left), and figures representing Tartaglia and disciplines such as arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy, and astrology. The upper circle, flanked by coats-of-arms, contains Aristotle, Plato, and an enthroned philosophy figure. The text is in Latin."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Complacency Not An Option

For a creative society like Italy, getting complacent threatens to erode its imagination.

Italian officials need to be on the cutting edge of ideas in order to keep up with its talented population. It's a tough gig but someone has to do it.

You can't sit around and hope a 'Ferrari' will fall onto their lapse. You need to tap into your resources.

One way to do this is to expand a nation's horizon by exposing itself to what's going on outside its own borders.

It's a great way to keep a keen eye on the competition.

In soccer, a great soccer manager sees what's successful and incorporates it into his system.

It's no different with countries.

Alas, while Italians show a remarkable interest in other countries, its institutions are not tapping into this potential.

"A study conducted by Italy’s Communications Authority (AgCom) and promoted by the Telecom Italia Foundation has found that only 53 percent of Italian schools offer initiatives aimed at internationalization, a figure that compares unfavourably to the remaining five EU countries included in the survey. According to the study entitled “The i-generation: adolescents, school and internationalization in six EU countries”, 97 percent of the schools in Germany, 89 percent in Spain, 88 percent in Poland, 81 percent in France and 79 percent in Sweden had signed up to an international project. However, in the half of Italian schools that did offer an internationalization activity, the level of participation of students was higher than all other countries apart from Germany. 
According to the Secretary-General of the Telecom Italia Foundation, the solutions required to improve the level of internationalization of Italian schools include the implementation of ever more innovative and challenging initiatives, especially with regard to the use of new technologies."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Helicopter Simulator Makes Debut

 Frosinone

"...The simulator was developed in Italy by Selex ES and allows learners to cover visual and instrumental flight procedures, besides emergency procedures and communications. The technical solution used includes a cabin with real instruments, an aerodynamic model, high fidelity aircraft systems and a system with a wide field of view..."

Shipwrecked Concordia Recovery Mission Success

They pulled it off.

"Using a vast system of steel cables and pulleys, maritime engineers on Monday gingerly winched the massive hull of the Costa Concordia off the reef where the cruise ship capsized near an Italian island in January 2012 and were poised to set it upright in the middle of the night.
After 15 hours of slower-than-expected progress in pulling the heavily listing luxury liner to an upright position, engineers said they finally hit the tipping point they eagerly were awaiting.
Shortly before midnight, the Concordia was raised by 25 degrees — after that, engineers said, the effect of gravity started giving the rotation a boost."

You can watch it here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Honors For Wi-Next

"Wi-Next, the Italian company founded in 2007 as a start-up of the Polytechnic of Turin, is among finalists at the Red Herring Top 100 Europe Award. The Award is given annually to 100 European companies selected by innovation, financial performance and quality of management. The Award ceremony will be held in Amsterdam on Wednesday, April 10th."

"...Wi-Next proposes itself as a center of excellence proudly Made in Italy, able to create highly customized wireless products and solutions. The innovative model offered by Wi-Next for Wi-Fi solutions is based on the N.A.A.W. firmware, which enables the creation of automatic, reliable and economic wireless networks, able to ensure the maximum extension of coverage..."

Falcon Social eventually took top prize.

Italian Expertise In China

From fiber2hashion.com:


"The production of technical textiles and nonwovens has been growing in China, in step with increasing local demand for this product range. Specific customized machinery for this sector has thus also become a necessity. In Guangzhou, Italian machinery manufacturers will be presenting their most advanced technology for the production of technical textiles and nonwovens."

More Costa Concordia Salvage News

As I've pointed out, the Costa Concordia saga symbolizes the drama that is Italy.

From the Globe and Mail: 

"The Costa Concordia wreck and the behaviour of its captain, who abandoned the ship ahead of many of the passengers, have been an embarrassment to Italians. But to Italy’s technology and fabrication industries, the wreck has been a source of pride.

The specialized engineering works designed to remove the Costa Concordia from a granite ledge next to the Tuscan island of Giglio will be tested in front of a global audience as early as Monday, when, weather permitting, the enormous cruise liner is to be winched upright and refloated."

Italy is a society that simultaneously produces the Mafia, Vatican and Dante. A nation of extreme points it seems.

Quotes Of The Day: Saving Italy

From Saving Italy. (Robert Edsel).


Letter to Commanders.

"Today we are fighting in a country which has contributed a great deal to our cultural inheritance, a country rich in monuments which by their creation helped and now in their old age illustrate the growth of the civilization which is ours. We are bound to respect those monuments so far as war allows..."  Dwight D. Eisenhower. p 67.

"We've been hitting targets around Florence for a long time, but we haven't actually hit in the city itself because approximately ten percent of the world's art treasures are located right here in Florence..."  Briefing commander. p 105.

A remarkable paragraph I came across years ago in a travel book contested that "60% of Europe's cultural masterpieces and 40% of the world's reside within Italy's borders."

It's an astounding figure indeed. I was never able to retrieve that quote but the above passage from the commander (indeed the book itself) is the closest I've come to finding it (to say nothing of glancing over Unesco's World Heritage Sites which Italy tops).

So if Florence held 10% is it out of the realm of possibility that other cultural centers like Rome, Naples and Venice and major cities like Milan can't come close or match Florence? Then come all the smaller but no less significant towns like Padua, Lucca, Urbino, Siena, Pompei, Verona, Bologna, Ravenna, Lecce, Como, Pisa and Assisi. To say nothing of the ancient villages and islands like Sicily, Murano and Torcello.

Together, these place make Italy a titan of cultural treasures unmatched in the world. The scope is indeed breathtaking and it's no wonder a band of American and British servicemen sought to protect what was left and undamaged by the war.

 I don't know if masterpieces destroyed over the years (the Nazis leveled the University of Naples, for example, a couple of times, while Monte Cassino was destroyed during the Allied invasion) factor into the figures. If not, then the depth of Italy's cultural heritage becomes all the more difficult to measure.




Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ceccarelli Yacht Design

Ceccarelli engineering is based in Ravenna (like Microperi) and is partnered with Microperi in the Costa Concordia disaster.

The translation in the profiles page could use a hand.

In fact, it's one common feature I've noticed since starting this blog. Italian companies have yet to, judging by the text, focus on English translation. In my view, it's an important aspect of how you want to project your company and convey its mission. 


A World Without Drivers

A ride around Parma in VisLab's driverless car.

Engineering Philosophies Tested In Costa Concordia Recovery

The Costa Concordia catastrophe's recovery project is fast approaching $1 billion (originally estimated to be about $300 million) and is testing engineering minds in the process.

A remarkable story of human ingenuity is rising amidst the disaster as both Italian and international talent and resources are being committed to removing the massive cruise liner from where it hauntingly lays half submerged at an angle in water on the island of Giglio in Tuscany.

Giglio, a hidden gem for tourists, also produces expensive tiles.

The design and material needed falls right into the abilities of Italian know-how but it's a challenge made much more complex given the delicate and rich marine life that exists under the ship thus dismissing the possibility of simply blowing it to bits.

Der Spiegel writes:

"On the island of Giglio, they are currently preparing the most spectacular shipwreck towing maneuver in maritime history. Never before has such a colossal cruise ship been raised to an upright position. The vessel is 290 meters (951 feet) long and 36 meters (118 feet) wide. It has a displacement of 50,000 metric tons. To make matters worse, it's lying in a precarious position on a rocky slope and is in danger of sliding into deeper water. The salvage is expected to cost at least €300 million ($387 million) and will set new technical and environmental standards."

The plan to literally pull the ship onto a plank is a hit or miss scenario according to experts involved.

"...In early May, four months after the ship ran aground, a technical committee comprised of representatives of the shipping company, shipbuilding companies and additional experts awarded the contract to Titan Salvage and Micoperi, a company based in Ravenna, Italy that specializes in underwater constructions such as oil platforms. Six other companies had also bid on the project, including specialists working for Smit from Rotterdam, who until just a few weeks ago had been pumping the heavy fuel out of the wreck. The Dutch were so popular that Giglio residents performed a Mexican wave for them down at the harbor. Smit was also the company that achieved the feat in 2003 of cutting apart a sunken car freighter in the English Channel and removing it piece by piece.

The committee decided against cutting apart the Costa Concordia, and instead opted for the most expensive proposal -- the plan to bring the capsized ship to an upright position. To achieve this, they will use a kind of rolling maneuver called the parbuckling principle. For the experiment, 33-meter high watertight steel boxes, or caissons, will be attached to the sides of the ship and used as floats. From an underwater platform deeply anchored in the bedrock, 36 steel cables, each as thick as a lamppost, will extend to the upper edge of the caissons. These cables will be used to almost silently rotate the ship out of its tilted position. It will have taken one year to painstakingly prepare the maneuver, but it will require less than two hours to perform it -- if all goes well."

"...It has already become clear that the salvage operation with Titan Salvage and Micoperi has set the stage for the clash of two very different corporate cultures: One is a team of daredevil problem solvers who rope down from helicopters to the decks of stricken tankers and lasso abandoned ships on the high seas as if they were wild horses. The other is a group of designer engineers who work meticulously according to official guidelines, where each step is coordinated with the coast guard, the Environment Ministry, the region of Tuscany or the mayor of Giglio. In situations like this, Italy's bureaucrats can be very fussy. On numerous occasions, Micoperi engineers have urged their colleagues from Titan Salvage to show more respect for rules and regulations: "We are not in Bangladesh."
 
The enormity and complexity of the task is something worth following.

More on the story here.

Microperi website here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Saving Italy

"Italy has long been identified by its cultural treasures; Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper is but one. Its ancient cities - Rome, Syracuse and Pompeii; jewel box towns - Venice, San Gimignano, and Urbino; places of worship - St Peter's Basilica, Florence's Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore), and Padua's Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel; and iconic monuments - the Colosseum, Leaning Tower, and Ponte Vecchio, have been so studied and admired through literature, verse and image that they have become the shared heritage of all mankind." Prelude (p. 5) to 'Saving Italy' by Robert Edsel.

I picked up this book over the week end and it so happens a movie called The Monuments Men was made based on the story of remarkable men who set to preserve and save Italy's cultural heritage from the Nazi's in WWII. The film is set to hit theaters in Decmember 2013. I don't know how much of it will consider Italy, but the book is all about it.

The above passage is powerful - and to anyone who has visited Italy or has come appreciate its history, this is but scratching the surface. The country holds more Unesco heritage sites than any country. The country isn't a geographic expression; it's a cultural expression. When one sees Italy on a map or atlas, it may as well be staring into the world's museum. I remember reading somewhere years ago in travel book it's been thought that Italy holds 60% of all Europe's cultural legacy and 40% of the world's." In addition, economically speaking, it produces about 45% of the world's luxury items.

Italy, simply, baffles.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spanish Steps Really French

Though the purpose of this blog is to cover the industrial side of Italy, the hard reality is you can't do so without discussing its immeasurable cultural wealth from time to time. 

I came across a biography of the architect Francesco de Sanctis - who along with Alessandro Specchi - designed and built the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Interestingly enough, the Spanish Steps really have little to do with anything connected to Spain (though I always took it for granted it probably was linked to the Spanish occupation of Southern Italy) but rather could (or should have been called) the French Steps since it was France who actually paid for its construction.

Maybe they could rename it the Spench Steps?

/coughs.

Well, plenty of things were paid by Italians claimed by other nations (think exploration when Italian bankers and merchants bankrolled many expeditions claimed by unified Monarchies) so I guess the French will just have to take the high road on this one.

In the end, it was a couple of Italians, though, who brought it to life.

De Sanctis for his part was (unfairly) scapegoated when part of steps collapsed in 1728 thus ending his career in Rome.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Italy Would Honor Tour de France

Italy may host start of Tour de France in the next few years.

It is indeed odd Italy has been overlooked (snubbed?) for such an honor given its incredibly rich cycling heritage and legacy. Not many countries (a small list that includes Belgium, France and Spain) possess the colorful tapestry of cycling success and tradition found within its boundaries.

And still less countries have produced the engineering beauty of their bicycles and all the frames and parts that go along with putting together an artistic process.

That the Tour de France has not included Italy all these years makes them slightly poorer in my view.

To his credit race director Christian Prudhomme seems keen to rectify this glaring omission.

After all, the French do appreciate all that is fine in life.










Automotive Robotics

Latest press release from VisLab.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Italy World Leader In Mechatronics

Explore Italy's cutting edge and excellent industrial side in an essay titled The Italian Edge: Technology For Excellence . 114 pages and worth a read. 

More here at The Italian Edge.

The positions claimed in the essay is why I began this blog. When you say engineering you think German, Japanese and American. You may even think British and to a lesser extent French. But Italian, or the Italy brand, is every bit the equal of those great engineering societies. Italy has a long and proud historical legacy in technology and it's no surprise they are key players in this area.

Mechatronics  is a design process (begun in Japan) that includes a combination of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, control engineering and computer engineering. Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering, that is to say, it rejects splitting engineering into separate disciplines. 

If you would like a copy of the book please go here.


I will getting myself a copy.

U-Boat Continues Italian Tradition Of Producing Beauty



 In March I bought a U-Boat limited edition watch.

The Italian watchmaker has recently unveiled its first motorcycle.

And it's a looker. Sorry about the quality of the pic. Click on link to visit U-Boat page.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Return

It's been a long way back. Time to rejig this little ode to I-taly. Thanks your patience, Gordie.

Gordie is my imaginary sock puppet.

Let's begin with Carlo Rambaldi shall we?

Rambaldi is the man behind the creation of sci-fi characters E.T. and Aliens.

Those crazy imaginative Italians.