Florentine fashion show, 1952


The Sala Bianca in the Palazzo Pitti, with its gorgeous crystal chandeliers and elegant proportions, was the site chosen in 1952 by Giovanni Battista Giorgini for the fashion shows he launched. The elegant salon offered a perfect backdrop for a that showcased emerging Italian fashion designers. Along with his shows, Giorgini introduced the ” Made in Italy ” merchandising concept.

Katharine Hepburn in “Summertime”

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…


A beautiful film for a relaxing, lovely summer evening is Katharine Hepburn in Summertime. This achingly bittersweet dream of a film was directed by David Lean and released in 1955.  The debonair Rossano Brazzi played Miss Hepburn’s love interest and the movie was based on the play The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents.


Beginning with Summertime, Lean began to make internationally co-produced films financed by the big Hollywood studios.


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Interestingly, Arthur Laurents had written The Time of the Cuckoo specifically for Shirley Booth, who starred in the 1952 Broadway production and won the Tony Award for Best Actress for her performance.

Ever faithful Wikipedia tells us that: Italian officials initially resisted director David Lean’s request to allow his crew to film on location during the summer months, the height of the tourist season.  The local gondolieri, fearful they would lose income, threatened to strike if he was given permission to do so.


The problem was resolved when the American production company, United Artists, made a generous donation to the fund for the restoration of St. Mark’s Basilica. Lean also had to agree to a Catholic cardinal that no short dresses or bare arms would be seen in and around the city’s holy sites.

In one scene, Miss Hepburn’s character, Jane Hudson, falls into a canal when she steps backward while photographing Di Rossi’s shop in Campo San Barnaba.



Hepburn was  concerned about her health and didn’t want to be in the Venetian waters. Lean persuaded her to do it anyway because he felt it would be obvious if there was a stunt double.


Lean poured a lot of disinfectant into this spot on the canal, but that caused the water to foam, which only added to Hepburn’s reluctance.  The coup de grace was that he needed to film the scene 4 times until he was satisfied with the results. That night, Hepburn’s eyes began to itch and tear. She eventually was diagnosed with a rare form of conjunctivitis that plagued her for the remainder of her life.


Don’t forget it was the 1950s in a conservative world.  Upon seeing the completed film, the Production Code Administration head, Geoffrey Shurlock, notified United Artists that the film would not be approved, because of the theme of adultery. Of particular concern was the scene in which Jane and Renato consummate their relationship. Eighteen feet of footage was deleted, and the PCA granted its approval.


The National Catholic Legion of Decency, however, objected to a line of dialogue that  was later trimmed, and the organization bestowed the film with a B rating, designating the film “morally objectionable in part.”

In later years, Lean described the film as his favourite. He became so enamoured with Venice during filming he made it his second home.

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times observed that:

“The challenge of making Venice the moving force in propelling the script has been met by Mr. Lean, as the director with magnificent feeling and skill…through the lens of his color camera, [captures] the wondrous city of spectacles and moods. It becomes a rich and exciting organism that fairly takes command of the screen. And the curious hypnotic fascination of that labyrinthine place beside the sea is brilliantly conveyed to the viewer as the impulse for the character’s passing moods…It is Venice itself that gives the flavor and the emotional stimulation to this film.”


The film was successful:  It was nominated for the BAFTA Award for the  Best Film; David Lean won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Director and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.  Hepburn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and was also was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress.




Palma Bucarelli

Palma Bucarelli (1910 –  1998) was an Italian arts administrator, the director of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (GNAM) in Rome from 1942 to 1975.

Early life

Palma Bucarelli was born in Rome. She earned a degree in art history at the Sapienza University of Rome.[1]


As a young art historian she worked at the Galleria Borghese and in Naples. During her thirty-three years as head of the Italian National Gallery of Modern Art, Bucarelli was responsible for protecting the gallery’s collections from damage while it was closed during World War II; she arranged to place paintings and sculptures in historic buildings including the Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant’Angelo.[2] She was one of the Italian delegates to the First International Congress of Art Critics, held in 1948 in Paris.[3]


After the war, she oversaw such events as exhibitions of works by Pablo Picasso (1953), Piet Mondrian (1956), Jackson Pollock (1958), Mark Rothko (1962), and the Gruppo di Via Brunetti (1968). She defended controversial works such as Piero Manzoni‘s ‘”Merda d’Artista” and Alberto Burri‘s “Sacco Grande” (1954).[1] Her strong support for abstract and avant-garde works made international headlines in 1959, when she was accused of a bias against figurative art in a public debate.[4] In 1961 she was in the United States, where she gave a lecture in Sarasota, Florida[5] and attended the opening of a major exhibit on Futurism at the Detroit Institute of Arts.[6]

Personal life

Palma Bucarelli married her longtime partner, journalist Paolo Monelli, in 1963. She died in Rome in 1998, from pancreatic cancer, aged 88 years. Her personal collection of art was donated to the National Gallery. Her famously elegant wardrobe was donated to the Boncompagni Ludovisi Decorative Art Museum in Rome. A street near the GNAM was renamed in her memory.[2] The Gallery mounted a show about her influence, “Palma Bucarelli: Il museo come avanguardia”, in 2009.[7]



  1. ^ Jump up to: a b Lucia Livia Mannella, “Palma Bucarelli” Vogue Italia Encyclo.
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b “Palma Bucarelli” Dictionary of Art Historians.
  3. Jump up ^ Denys Sutton, “The First International Congress of Art Critics” College Art Journal 8(2)(Winter 1948): 130.
  4. Jump up ^ Paul Hofmann, “Art Impartiality Pledged by Italy” New York Times (March 7, 1959): 43.
  5. Jump up ^ “Italian Art Expert’s Talk is Tonight” Tampa Bay Times (9 November 1961): 13. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  6. Jump up ^ Kathie Norman, “VIPs Impressed” Detroit Free Press (17 October 1961): 17. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  7. Jump up ^ Laura Larcan, “Un Direttore di nome Palma Bucarelli, la Guggenheim di Roma” la Repubblica (26 June 2009).



Katherine Dunham and Bernard Berenson

It had been a kind of liberation, of both mind and desire, that Berenson had discovered in reading the works of Walter Pater and in beginning to study the paintings of the Italian Renaissance, and this still rang through to his visitors seventy years later. Lewis Mumford wrote to Berenson of a visit in 1957, “To behold your own spirit burning so purely and brightly still, gave a new meaning to Pater’s old figure: ‘a hard gem-like flame.’”


With Katherine Dunham, the African American anthropologist, choreographer,and dancer, Berenson had a sort of platonic love affair when he was just shy of ninety. He wrote that Dunham “is herself a work of art, a fanciful arabesque in all her movements and a joy to the eye in colour.” She from the first felt in him the “vitality, charm, and wisdom that are found only in truly great people” and would eventually write to him, “I left a part of myself that is deep and inner with you.”

Rachel,Cohen. Bernard Berenson (Jewish Lives)  Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Jacquie and Lee Bouvier meet Bernard Berenson in Florence in 1951

This is just something I never would have believed had happened, but it apparently did. It is discussed in a very interesting book on Berenson by Rachel Cohen, which I quote below. Lee Radziwill left her impression of the sophisticated but very much older Berenson:

“Nicky Mariano [Berenson’s amour and assistant) was sometimes jealous…of Berenson’s flirtations and affairs and of the great many women who made up what she called ‘B.B.’s Orchestra.’ “

In fact, as he aged, Berenson’s seductive power became somewhat legendary. Lee Radziwill (Lee Bouvier when she visited Berenson in 1951 with her sister, who became Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) still thought of Berenson as “one of the most fascinating men I ever knew,” sixty years later. She compared his powerful appeal to Jawaharlal Nehru’s: they were “seductive mentally, rather than physically.”


Berenson’s catalog of mistresses and of epistolary romances, like all his other collections, was exhaustive. He had first found both sexual tolerance and a large network of youthful romantic friendships with women and men in bohemian and Edwardian circles, and among the expatriates in Italy.


In the years of his maturity, he found a similar atmosphere among his mistresses and flirtations in the aristocratic milieu of the European art world. Berenson adored, and was adored by, titled women, and he was interested in beauty wherever he saw it. Attractive young women who visited I Tatti were regularly surprised by his physical attentions.

After WWII…Berenson nce again he appeared to be a magician. There were those who found his presence staged, but others felt that even to be near him was a magical experience.

The young sisters who became Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill wrote to their mother of visiting Berenson in the summer of 1951 and of how they saw him approaching through the woods at I Tatti. Berenson sat down and immediately began to speak to them of love, distinguishing between people who are “life-enhancing” and “life-diminishing.”

“He is a kind of god like creature,” they wrote. “He is such a genius, such a philosopher, such a pillar of strength and sensitivity, and such a lover of all things. He is a man whose life in beauty is unsurpassable.”

Rachel,Cohen. Bernard Berenson (Jewish Lives)  Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.


“Betta getta Vespa,” the history of the Vespa in 10 pictures

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The Italian brand of scooter, the iconic Vespa, is manufactured by Piaggio. The name means wasp in Italian. The Vespa has evolved from a single model motor scooter manufactured in 1946 by Piaggio & Co. to a full line of scooters and one of seven companies today owned by Piaggio.

From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the engine mechanism and concealing dirt or grease), a flat floorboard (providing foot protection), and a prominent front fairing (providing wind protection) into a structural unit.

Post World War II Italy, in light of its agreement to cessation of war activities with the Allies, had its aircraft industry severely restricted in both capability and capacity.

Piaggio emerged from the conflict with its Pontedera fighter plane plant demolished by bombing. Italy’s crippled economy and the disastrous state of the roads did not assist in the re-development of the automobile markets. Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio’s founder Rinaldo Piaggio, decided to leave the aeronautical field in order to address Italy’s urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation for the masses.

A masterpiece was born!


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An early Vespa poster above.



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The UK is Vespa’s second largest market, see above.

For more on Vespa, see: