Saturday, June 26, 2010

via francesco crispi

This old postcard of via Francesco Crispi was given to us by a long time resident of this town, Introdacqua, in Abruzzo, Italy. The street (via, in Italian) runs up the hill away from the main road where the men in the foreground are gathered. The street is cobbled, and stepped to allow for the steep grade. Since this image was taken, the road has been re-cobbled without the steps to allow for limited traffic, and there is a narrow stair built in along the side of the road, and in some places they've added a handrail.

The fountain, which sits in the lower center of the photo, is still there, but the small piazza it sits in (Piazza Cavour) has been rebuilt, again, without steps, and the fountain itself was moved out to the center of the space, and is now more prominent. The large building above and to the left of the fountain is also still there, and if I understand correctly, its a ducal palace of some kind. There is a plaque mounted on the lower floor, and partially hidden by a tree that I think talks about the building's history. More on that later, if I can figure it out.

Via Francesco Crispi, or simply via Crispi, as it is known locally, is named for Italian statesman, born in Ribera, Sicily on October 4, 1819. Cripsi grew up in Sicily, where he studied law, and later went to Naples where he became a republican activist, for which he was eventually exiled from Naples and Sardinia-Piedmont. He helped to plan the 1848 uprising in Sicily, and was involved in the new government there until the Bourbon King Ferdinand II retook the island in 1849. He took flight again, and traveled abroad, still working for Italy, and among other things, met with Giuseppe Mazziniu.

Undaunted, Crispi continued to work for a united Italy and improvements in his native Sicily. In 1860 he and Giuseppe Garibaldi led the "Expedition of the Thousand" to Sicily. Only days later, on May 13, Crispi drew up the Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, giving the dictatorship of Sicily to Garabaldi in order to help unify Italy. He then became the Secretary of the Interior and of Finance under Garibaldi, but resigned after his attempts to sway Garibaldi from proceeding with the immediate annexation of Sicily.

Cripsi spent the next few decades in and out of positions and politics struggling to move the unified Italy forward, even declaring himself a monarchist. In 1877 he became Minister of the Interior of Italy and when Victor Emmanuel died in 1878, and King Humbert ascended the throne, Crispi helped to insure that he was declared Humbert I of Italy, not Humbert IV of Savoy. After another stint as Secretary of the Interior, Agostino Depretis died on July 29, 1887, and Crispi rose to succeed him as Prime Minister of Italy, a posisition he was to hold until 1891 and then again from 1893 to 1896. Crispi worked hard as Prime Minister to maintain the newly unified Italy, even working with his right wing foes--much to the disdain of his old radical friends--to improve Italy's standing in the world.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

mists of avalon

I just finished The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I think it took me a month; this book is a monster. 876 pages in this Del Rey paperback fantasy from the 80s. This story definitely has some legs--it was made into a television movie with Anjelica Houston and Julianna Margulies in 2001--as it re-imagines the Arthur story from the point of view of the women in the story.

Bradley pulls the Lady of the Lake out of the water, and sets her on the ground, albeit, near the lake, and tells her story, as well as the stories of Gwenwyfar (Guinevere), Morgaine (Morgan le Fay), their sisters, mothers, daughters, and ladies in waiting. Arthur, Lancelot, Sir Gawaine, and the other knights of the round table are more like arm candy in this story, driven by not only their will to do what they feel is best for their newly emerging kingdom in England, but what they are driven to do by their love for, or obligations to, these strong willed and proud women.

Bradley takes many of her clues from historical facts, such as Druidism, and other early religions in the British isles, and popular theories of matriarchal societies in early Celtic traditions, to anchor the story more to reality, resulting in a book that reads more like historical fiction than the archetype mythical story of male-dominated chivalry. Throughout the narrative runs the thread of the struggle between the Roman Catholic Church (in the form of Bishop Patricus) and the Druidism and paganism of the time, which was being driven out, and with it: man's ability to access the Isle of Avalon. An island which exists and is as real as any other, but only to those who believe that it can. Avalon, like the religion it is home to, and the very goddess they worship, slowly fades into the mist as believers lose their faith in its reality. And isn't that what happens to all religions that lose its followers?

This one was fun, well thought out and done with a fresh viewpoint that I think anyone who is tired of the male-centric stories of this era would enjoy.

Monday, June 14, 2010


My son and I just finished Septimus Heap Book 3: Physik, by Angie Sage. My daughter had told me she got a few books into the series and gave it up for lost, but after reading this one, I still feel that the story arc has some legs, so we'll probably read another.

Physik is a different branch of the mystical (or should I say Mystikal) sciences practiced by the wizards, and other learned people in this series, but one that in Septimus's time, is now looked down upon as so much potions and herb lore. Historically however, Physik was the powerful science of alchemists and other physicians. All of the main characters return in this installment, and many of the supporting charters, but some just in bit parts. This story also has some interesting twists that will pave the way for some fun stories in the future, but they aren't so outlandish that they seem forced.

We still had a laugh with the bold text and extra Es and Ys in all of the magical phrases. My son asked if I would pronounce them differently so he could enjoy them as much as I do when I'm reading. So will we keep reading? I think so. In the meantime, the fourth volume in the Nicolas Flamel series came out last month and we're reading that now. I don't know if I ever wrote about the third book in that series, The Sorceress, but it was good and we were waiting for this recent one to come out.