Episodes - Season 1

August 2019

The founding fathers of Italian photography. How Florence became the city of photographers, and why its photographic archives matter.


Outline of the episode:

* Florence, the capital of Italy, and of global photography

* How 19th century photography shaped a new visual knowledge 

* Leopoldo Alinari. The survey of monuments and the new languages of painting.

* Kodak and Vittorio Alinari. The vision of the instant and the ubiquity of images.

* The Alinari archives and our photographic memory


 Keywords: Photography; memory; vision; monuments; modernity; Kodak; Alinari


"Alinari can be seen as the founding father of Italian photography, along with his competitor Brogi. Leopoldo’s impact however is not limited to his production, but also to his capacity to pioneer and legitimize photography as an artistic and social language, rather than a merely mechanical act"

July 2019

The origins of computing. The Avant-garde of design. What does an Italian Typewriter have to do with your Mac?

Outline of the episode:

* An American Journey. Camillo Olivetti, Thomas Edison, and Leland Stanford

* From the writing type to a human type. About typewriting and typography

* From Ivrea to the world. Olivetti’s impact on architecture, design, and technology

* Olivetti and Steve Jobs. What Apple owes to an Italian visionary


Keywords: Typewriters; design; technology; architecture; Apple; Edison; Steve Jobs

" The combination of the typing as a technique and typing as design, or in other words, the linking of technology and beauty, is the key to Olivetti’s success. It’s the real pillar of his vision, manifested in the intuition of turning a brutal piece of machinery into a manufacturer of dreams and ideas; in the tension to transform the shape of letters into an imagery; in the push to re-invent serialized writing into a creative force for imagining new modern lifestyles and spaces."

Episode 10: Edoardo Bianchi

June 2019

Bicycles, tires, and the modern re-invention of the wheel. Bianchi and the birth of sports, tourism, and transportation.


Outline of the episode:

* Recreating the wheel: Bianchi’s bicycle and Dunlop’s pneumatic tire

* From telegraphic cables to transportation: Bianchi and Pirelli

* A new idea of traveling: bicycles and the Touring Club Italiano

* Fashioning Italian Sports: La gazzetta dello sport and the Giro d’Italia


Keywords: Bicycles, Tires, Mechanic Industry, Touring Club, Sports, Giro d’Italia

" We could go on for hours trying to untangle Bianchi’s impact on Italian technology, sports, popular culture, tourism, politics, and literature too. To put it succinctly, the genius of Edoardo Bianchi consisted in his capacity to combine mechanical skills, in perfecting an existing technology, with a humanistic approach, tying industrial production to culture and art. His product then, paradoxically, is a cultural technology, certainly re-inventing the wheel, and our way of transporting, but most importantly generating innovative partnerships, pioneering new promotional languages or popular habits, inventing fields of imaginative exchange, and embodying a legend."

Episode 9: Francesca Cabrini

May 2019

Sanctity and Innovation. The story of the Italian nun who became the first American saint.

Outline of the episode:

*A people of saints, poets, and sailors

* Why is a saint an innovator?

* On a mission: from China to the United States

* Service to Italian emigrants

* Poverty and entrepreneurship

* Cabrini’s legacy today


Keywords: Sanctity, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Service, Poverty, Mission, Emigration

" If we observe mother Cabrini’s life, what is striking then is exactly this: that there is nothing extraordinary or visionary or separate in her. She did not live in a parallel reality. What is extraordinary instead is her capacity to live ordinary things intensely, to see them more deeply, to engage them meaningfully as terminals of a love relationship."    

Episode 8: Maria Montessori

April 2019

Educating creativity and self-mastery. How Italians made it into American schools.

Outline of the episode:

* Montessori and the Lira

* Travels and studies

* Italian women and higher studies

* Working with children

* Play as an educational tool

* Global fame and political issues

* The pedagogical method - The Montessori Schools


Keywords: Education, School, Pedagogy, Play, Method

"As you can imagine, the bibliography on Maria Montessori is endless, and the sources related to her touch upon a variety of different fields. Given this context, our chat today has the goal to highlight some elements that make Montessori a true innovator, as an educator or a theorist, but also as a scientist, an idealist, and a woman living through turbulent times."

Episode 7: Alfonso Bialetti

March 2019

Italy’s love affair with coffee. Espresso making and creative thinking in Bialetti’s moka.

Outline of the episode:

* About coffee and culture

* Espresso. The Italian way to modernity

* Aluminum, the Fascist metal

* The invention of the moka, one of the most iconic pieces of Italian lifestyle

Keywords: Aluminum, Coffee, Design, Fascism, Moka

"We can say that, while tea is normally associated to colonialism, exoticism, calm, tranquility, coffee relates to the pursuit of overstimulation, acceleration, energy, and – this is actually the point of today’s episode - endless creativity. This is the Italian story of Alfonso Bialetti, the inventor of one of the most iconic pieces in Italian design, the coffeemaker, or as everybody knows it, the MOKA."

Episode 6: Davide Campari

February 2019

Milano, the Aperitivo and the Art of Cocktail


Outline of the episode:

* About Milan, the city of aperitivo

            * The story of a drink, from the Camparino to the world

            * How to turn a drink into a piece of art. Depero's iconic bottle of Camparisoda

            * Campari as the avant-garde of industrial art. Fellini, Sorrentino


Keywords: Drink, Aperitivo, Milan, Depero, Design

"Campari’s vision of the company not just as a business but rather as a culture-maker made his brand a leader in the market and a trend-setter in advertising and design."

Episode 5: Guglielmo Marconi

January 2019

From the bold dreams of an Italian scientist to global broadcasting. Radio and the creation of a simultaneous world.


            Outline of the episode:

            * From Bologna to the UK. The birth of wireless communication

            * A new era of transatlantic communications 

            * From the rescuing of the Titanic to the Marconi scandal

            * Marconi, D’Annunzio and Mussolini

            * Radio and Fascism. Broadcasting and the crafting of a new mass language


            Keywords:  Broadcasting, radio, Titanic, Mussolini, D’Annunzio


"Marconi’s wireless telegraphy, or as we know it, just radio, introduces a whole different factor in the evolution of communications, not only because it launched his invention on a global scale, but also because it opened up a more public experience of 'mediation' inaugurating the new age of media."

Episode 4: Enzo Ferrari

December 2018

The myth of racing in a country of ancient ruins.


            Outline of the episode:

              * Italian cars are about speed and beauty

              * Racing as a driving force for innovation

              * How Italy came to dominate the luxury car market 


              Keywords: Racing, Luxury, Movement, Speed, Cars

"Ferrari’s life is worth a biography by Plutarch, suspended as it is between the man’s external resiliency in competing - his burning fire to win - and his interior drama."

Episode 3: Elsa Schiaparelli

November 2018

Pioneering fashion design as an art. How Italy made it into the fashion industry.

Outline of the episode:

* How Italian Fashion was born after WWII

* A shocking life. From Rome to London, From New York to Paris

* Schiaparelli and the Surrealists. How to turn a dress into a canvas

* Pioneering fashion as art. The Schiaparelli legacy


Keywords: Art, Fashion, Surrealism, Futurism, Florence

"Haute couture represents a symbolic language that goes beyond the ephemeral and contingent value of a specific use or trend and aspires to transcend time and become art that is everlasting. Something to be placed in a museum with the great masterpieces of all time. In its creation of beauty, then fashion, or moda, is a hybrid art, certainly focused on the ways of today - the modo odierno, from which comes the Italian word moderno – but also striving to become immortal. This is where Schiaparelli stands."

October 2018

How the greatest Italian tenor and the most renowned Italian publisher of musical scores made Italian opera known throughout the world.


Outline of the episode:

* Did Caruso invent the record industry or the record industry invent Caruso?

* Gramophones and the global spreading of Italian opera

* How Giulio Ricordi, patron of Verdi and Puccini, became Italy’s leading musical publisher.

* The Ricordi designers, chromolithography and the birth of Italian advertising

Keywords: Opera, Advertising, Record industry, Caruso, Chromolithography

"Opera certainly represents a key element of Italy’s cultural history, since its birth in the early 17th century to its golden age in the 19th century. But, how did the repertoire of Italian opera reach the whole world? Why are operas, written and sung in Italian, still performed in Germany, France, and the United States?  And why and how did the golden age of Italian opera come to a conclusion?"

Episode 1: Senatore Borletti

September 2018

How the first producer of Italian clocks became the hand behind the high end department store La Rinascente and Italy’s leading publishing house Mondadori

Outline of the episode:

* The first Italian factory of time

* From clockmaking to fashion: La Rinascente as a new idea of department store

* D’Annunzio, Fiume, Fascism

* From politics to publishing. Borletti and Mondadori


Keywords: Clocks, Time, Publishing, Fashion, Department stores

"The model that his business embodied is the typically Italian idea of anchoring an industrial company to culture, to the humanities, legitimizing entrepreneurship as a liberal art, not just a technique to make money; developing new forms and languages (like for example the Rinascente); and impacting social and political life (through literature, media, and trade itself). So, industry as a culture, and culture as an industry."

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 Contact Info:

Luca Cottini

Associate Professor of Italian Studies

Villanova University