We are about to say goodbye to 2016 and welcome the new year. For Italians and Italian-Americans in the Bay Area, this has been an intense year, thanks to a variety of events and celebrations. After the 100 years anniversary of the Italian Community Services and BAIA’s 10th birthday; the warm farewell to former Italian Consul Mauro Battocchi and an enthusiastic welcome to Mr Lorenzo Ortona, 2016 closed its doors but not before a brilliant holiday season, just before 2017 officially kicks off.
On December 3, The Leonardo da Vinci Society held an elegant Christmas Gala in the beautiful and historic setting of the Century Club of California. The dinner also welcomed legendary Educator, Businessman, Curator and Photographer Alessandro Baccari who had a lifelong interest in preserving the history of North Beach and Italian immigration in San Francisco. The evening was enhanced by a concert of Baroque music of Italian grand masters with selections skillfully interpreted by soprano Christine Branes, Mary Springfels playing viola da gamba and Richard Savino with his unique instruments, the Theorbo and Chitrone. The great success of the Gala, which exceeded expectations, was possible thanks to the event coordinator, Paola Tonelli, and her committee, as well as Amelia Antonucci and the Leonardo Da Vinci Society’s Board.

Italian artist Francesco Zurlini exposed his work during “Order and Disorder”, a two-person exhibition featuring also Sarah Ratchye’s art. The exhibit opened at the McLoughlin Gallery in November and closed early in December with Zurlini’s presentation. As explained by the Bologna-born artist, objects, signs on a wall, geometric figures, masterpieces of the past, anything can inspire him. By recalling abstract art from the past, he explains how he tries to not organize art into a representative framework, to not copy objective reality or imitate anything as figures, countryside or recognizable forms.
The Mercatino di Natale at the Museo Italo-Americano on 3-4 December represented the cheeriest Italian tradition in the Bay. The community had a whole weekend of celebrations while choosing gifts among artisanal food, handmade jewelry, latest Italian fashion, trendiest accessories, all made by Italian artisans. The market was followed by another event, “Italian Style and Gusto – A Holiday Market”: on December 14, some Italian businesses made guests discover the Italian style of clothing, shoes, leather handbags, jewelry, art, and the taste of wine and chocolate, hosted by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in San Francisco.

On December 8, more than twenty San Francisco Bay Area artists and friends gathered for an exhibition and auction to benefit the victims of the Amatrice earthquake. The event, hosted by IIC Director Paolo Barlera and the Consul General Lorenzo Ortona, has been endorsed by Amatrice’s Mayor, Sergio Pirozzi, who extended his personal gratitude during a visit by Aldo Blasi, owner of Ristorante Milano in Russian Hill. From Federico Arcuri to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Anthony Holdsworth, all artists donated their works for sale in order to help the humanitarian efforts and the reconstruction of the little Italian village.
Diego Calaon, a Venetian who is now a post-classical archaeologist and the site director of an archaeological project in Torcello for the Venice’s Ca’ Foscari University and Stanford University, delivered a very interesting presentation called “Wood, Water, and Slaves: How Venice Came into the World”. The lecture, organized by BAIA Geeks Meetup on December 8, introduced a new and fresh version of the history of Venice, different from the version created by official historians of the Italian city. Diego’s study is based on archaeological excavations in the Venetian laguna, and on the results of the Geographical Information Systems analysis of the area. A fascinating way of seeing technology’s impact on all aspect of people’s life, including history. As explained by BAIA Geeks’ Founder, Franco Folini, “There is a match between the Silicon Valley technology and the Italian history and culture. And the success of this event proves that many people share the same enthusiasm too.”
Pizza, gnocco fritto, Italian music, and lots of visitors: the first edition of the Italian Street Fest in Berkeley gathered Italian cuisine lovers for a special Holiday Season opening on the East Bay. The event was organized by Alessio Zanotto and Antonio Sala who explained more about the unusual Italian Sunday in the Bay: “We are just passionate about food and especially the Italian traditions around it.” Antonio said. “People in the Bay Area are lucky to have a few really good Italian restaurants, however a lot of Americans do not know the cultural aspect that food has for Italians. That’s what we were trying to do during the festival: showing our authentic love for good food and explain how, in the Italian culture, food can bring people together. We also raised money for a great local project called Food Shift that fights against food waste, which is a message that really resonates with all of us.”
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