September 9, 2010

Curiosity and stories about Azerbaijan’s cultural traditions

Hi bloggers,

today, we are going to tell you some curiosity and stories about Azerbaijan’s cultural traditions. Author of the below article is our University Delegate Sabina Aliyeva from Baku, Azerbaijan.

Also watch Sabina pictures on the Life Beyond Tourism Photoblog

This Azerbaijani tradition is one of the most interesting. Novruz is a feast of spring, representing the coming of  the New Year. Before Novruz Azerbaijanis celebrate a number of previous days saying good bye to the Old year and welcoming the New year. These days are the four pre-holiday Wednesdays: Su Chershenbe (Water Wednesday), Odlu Chershenbe (Fire Wednesday), Torpag Chershenbe (Earth Wednesday) and Akhyr Chershenbe (Last Wednesday). According to the traditional beliefs the water is reborn on the first Wednesday: still waters come to motion; the fire on the second one, the earth on the third one. On the fourth Wednesday, the wind opens three’s buds and spring begins.

Many ceremonies and devotions are dedicated to Novruz. For example in the evening each family should light at the top of their house’s roof as many torches  as the number of  family members. In villages, everyone should jump over the burning fire saying a kind of a spell. After the fire dies out girls and young men collect the remaining ash and pour it somewhere in the outskirts of the village or a road.

It means that the hardship of those who have jumped over the fire is destroyed and thrown out far beyond their homes.

In order to find the happy match unmarried girls throw black coins, a sign of bad luck, to a water-filled jug during the daytime and in the evening before sunset they pour this water out together with the coins outside.

On “Akhyr Cheshenbe” before dark there comes the time of  fortune telling. Azerbaijani girls and young men sneak to doors of their neighbors and “overheard” their conversation; then on the basis of the first words they have heard they try to tell their fortune and guess if their wishes will come true. On this day many families also tell fortunes using Khafiz book.

Among holiday ceremonies the most important one is the cooking of samani (millet porridge) which is a symbol of nature and human fertility, and has a cultural value. The ceremony of the cooking of samani is accompanied by ceremonial songs and dances.

The last day of the old year is considered a special feast by Azerbaijanis. On this holiday’s eve, the entire family gather at home. For the head of the family a special mat is laid. He says prayers; no one is allowed to eat without his permission. As soon as the gun shot sounds signaling the beginning of the meal, the mistress brings in milk pilau. If the gate is open on this day it means that the host is at home. If visitors come to the house they are welcomed by the oldest son or the nephew of the host. The guest is then offered rose water for hand washing and invited into the house. The head of the family gives a sign and the tea is immediately served for the guest. Such visits are paid for three days. Then, it comes the women’s turn to celebrate Novruz for a week.

On the last night of the old year all family members spray each other with water before going to bed “to wash off” all the hardship of the old year.

Finally the official holiday starts. Everyone puts on new clothes and begins partying. Nobody works on this day.

Nowadays in Azerbaijan the official celebration of Novruz comes on March 21st. On the first day of the New year it is a tradition to wake up early in the morning. If it is possible people go where water is – to a river or a spring: wash themselves, splash water on each other. Water is a symbol of cleanliness and freshness. Right there they treat each other with sweets. On this morning it is obligatory to eat something sweet for example honey or sugar. Then it is necessary to smell a fragrant smoke that is the way of getting rid of  “evil spirits”.

The holiday table on this day is very special. It is essential on this day to have seven dishes whose names begin with the letter “s”. They are sumakh, skad (milk), sirke (vinegar), samani (aspecial millet porridge), sabzi (greens) etc.
Except for the listed dishes, there should be a mirror, a candle, and a painted egg on the table. All these have a symbolical significance: the candle means light or fire protecting a person from evil spirits. The egg and the mirror are necessary to mark the end of the old year and the beginning of the first day of the new year. Azerbaijanis put the painted egg on the mirror. As soon as the egg moves the New Year begins. Everyone sitting at the table starts wishing a happy new year to each other.

As a rule, during holidays the doors are not locked. It means that the family is home and glad to welcome guests. Children visit their friends and relatives with little bags for holiday presents.

On the first day of the new year the houses should be lighted all night long. Shutting lights off is a bad omen.

New year’s celebrations finish on the 13th day of Novruz. On this day in the city outskirts are held mass parties with traditional games and contests like horse or camel races in which both men and women take part. The ancient spring holiday – Novruz bairamy – is one of the oldest and most beautiful Azerbaijani traditions.

July 26, 2010

The Georgian State Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography (Tbilisi, Georgia)

Clown Costume from Rigoletto

The Foundation is glad to introduce the Georgian State Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography of Tbilisi and their unique collections in Georgia. Read the introduction by the Director, Mr Giorgi

Kalandia and watch a selection of their artworks.

Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijanian dolls by Nino Brailovskaia

July 22, 2010

Italian architects in Odessa (Ukraine)

Hi Bloggers,

following previous Antonina’s article on the last Italian Colony in Odessa (Ukraine) we will today follow the traces of Italian architecture there … thank you again Antonina for your contribution!

“The unique appearance of Odessa city is well-known in Ukraine and abroad. Its historical architecture has a style more Mediterranean than Russian, having been heavily influenced by French and especially by Italian style.

During the first years the main residential, public buildings, the sea port were built by Italian settlers, following the projects by Italian architects and with the construction materials, transported from Naples, Genoa, and Livorno.

Odessa Architectural Heritage includes brilliant creations of Boffo, Bernadazzi, Frapolli, Torichelli, Digby, dell’Acqua and others.

The now world-famous Potemkin staircase—the globally known emblem of Odessa is actually the creation of Francesco Boffo (1837-41), an Odessa Italian who spent twenty five years of his professional life in the Russian port. Boffo readjusted the famous Roman steps of the Spanish staircase (Scalinata di Spagna) to the needs of the Odessa boulevard and port, somewhat modifying the project of Francesco de Santis (1723-26), though using the same principle. He dispensed with the Rococo elements of the original Roman steps, leaving the strictly Hellenic contours or the essence of De Santis’ Roman project.
Nearly all the buildings at the formerly Italianskaya (from Russian language: Italian), and now Pushkinskaya Street, proudly carry their solemn and dignified facades, resembling the Roman, Venetian, Turin or Milan as for example Palazzo Bigazzini. The Odessa caryatids, forming the facade of the Krasnaya (from Russian lanuage: red) Hotel, constitute a Russian replica of the older Genoa building on Via XX Settembre 14, celebrating Northern Italy in Southern Russia.

This was the design by Alexander Bernadazzi, a second generation Italian immigrant who paid_tribute to the artistic land of his ancestors. The building exudes the Splendor of St. Maria di Campitelli in Rome, the high Baroque and anticipating motifs of the art Nouveau, the spirit of Gaudi and the Vatican, and the talent of Rinaldi and Bernini, Fuga and Borromini, Madeno and Mascarino.


Odessa’s Mediterranean image earned the poetic labels of a “Little Barcelona”, “Little Marseilles”, “Russian Naples” or “Russian Genoa”.
Contemporary residents of Odessa are still daily exposed to the impressive urban beauty and splendor, recreated by the Italian masters. Odessa is their “mini Italy and Europe”.”




July 19, 2010

Odessa, the Last Italian Black Sea Colony

Hi bloggers,

together with Antonina Chaban – our current University Delegate from Ukraine – we will today discover Italian heritage in Odessa, Ukraine:

“The city of Odessa, located in the South of Ukraine, at the Black sea shore, was founded 1794 by immigrants from Genoa and Naples, Venice and Palermo. The precise spot where the city was founded had been originally personally explored and marked by Stephano De Rivarola, the Italian diplomat to Russia.

The first Governor of Odessa was Neapolitan-born Giuseppe De Ribas (1749-1800). During the three years of his tenure (1794-97), Admiral De Ribas managed to build a vibrant city, whose first settlers, developers and actual founders were Italians.
Artists, sculptors, traders and musicians from Genoa, Livomo, Siena, Naples, Venice and Calabria flocked to this new “Europe” in thousands, in search of a better life and promising professional opportunities.

Customs house, wharfs, the port, residential buildings and Opera House were simultaneously built by the Italian settlers, following the projects by Italian architects and with the construction materials, transported from Naples, Genoa, and Livorno.
The first Italian founders of the Russian free port include the following families: De Ribas, Venturi, Buba, Rocco, Trabotti, Grimaldi, Frapolli, Inglesi, Gatorno, and Gaius.
The port correspondence, customs control, and trade matters had all been conducted in Italian, the lingua franca of the Russian Black Sea Coast up until the end of the 19th century.
Only in 1853 the Odessa Italian colony began to disintegrate due to the reverse migration back to Italy and rise of the Russian Empire, the key players in the field were the families of Ralli, Dzerbolini, Rocco, Gorini, Zarifi, Trabotti, Porro, Rossi, and Gari. The entire Russian Empire benefited from the last Odessa Italian colony.

The first Italian immigrants radically shifted the cultural course of Odessa for centuries to come. The Italian language reflected not so much the demographics of the city, but the political, economic, social, and cultural power which the Italian settlers enjoyed since the foundation of Odessa. All the key positions in banking, navigation, port administration, shipping, and different industries were held by Italians.

The Italian language not only prevailed in Odessa business and trade but it would be the favored tongue of the aristocratic salons, opera, schools, and the street. The traces of Italian have remained in the specific Odessa Russian even today.

The first Italian settlers had established the utterly unique permanent European traditions in this most non-Russian, non-Soviet, and non-Ukrainian city, affecting profoundly not only the port and shipping but the cultural institutions as well. Odessa would become the seat of 18 colleges, the centre of Italian studies in Russia, a prominent centre for the study of the Humanities and Sciences, with the most developed musical, theatrical, and artistic training. “Here all breathes Europe” (Alexander Pushkin)
Odessa’s Italianness would become somewhat of a taboo topic in historical discourse of Odessa. The story of the Italian migration to the Black Sea remained expunged from the historiographical accounts for a long period of time.

The Mediterranean image of Odessa was formed by brilliant creations of Boffo, Bernadazzi, Frapolli, Torichelli, Digby, and Delia Acqua and other Italian architects.
Having established a home away from home, Italian immigrants brought to Russia a Mediterranean way of life and cultural sensibility unknown to the rest of the country.”

Makolkin, Anna (2004). A History of Odessa, the Last Italian Black Sea Colony. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.

June 30, 2010

Special Visits and special offers in Florence

Do you want to be part of  History in Florence, Italy!?? We have selected some special visits/offers in Florence for you! Such as the following ….

. visit to the Casa Martelli Museum

.visit to the exhibition La Città degli Uffizi-Beato Angelico a Pontassieve

. taking part to the project ‘Be part of History

More information from the Life Beyond Tourism Hotel Pitti Palace al Ponte Vecchio here.

More information from the Life Beyond Tourism Best WesternPremier Hotel Laurus al Duomo here.

June 17, 2010

Legend about founding Tbilisi (capital of Georgia)

Monument of King Vakhtang Gorgasali, rising above the city in a welcoming pose.

Legend tells us that the present-day territory of Tbilisi was covered by forest as late as the AD 458. According to sources King of Georgia Vakhtang I Gorgasali went hunting in the heavily wooded region with a falcon (sometimes the falcon is substituted either by a hawk or other small birds of prey in the legend). The King’s falcon caught/injured a pheasant during the hunt, after which both birds fell into a nearby hot spring. When King and his retinue found birds they were boiled!

King Vakhtang became so impressed with the discovery of the hot springs that he decided to build a city on this location. The name Tbilisi derives from the Old Georgian word “Tpili“ (ტფილი), meaning warm. The name Tbili or Tbilisi (“warm springs“), therefore was given to the city because of the area’s numerous sulfuric hot springs. So now there is beautiful and warm city, with old tbilisian atmosphere left in some places.

By  Shorena Otkhozoria
Life Beyond Tourism University Delegate – 16.VI.2010

June 3, 2010

Musica in Piazza 2010

Il 6 Giugno h. 21,15 in Piazza Umberto I a Grassina, non perdere l’occasione di ascoltare lo storico concerto in piazza del Coro Sociale di Grassina.  Fondato nel 1893, il Coro è composto da 50 elementi e diretto dal Maestro Ginko Yamada – soprano del Coro del Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. A carattere dilettantisctico, si prefigge  di “divulgare la conoscenza della musica a livello popolare poichè considera la musica un linguaggio universale che unisce tutti i popoli“.

Durante la serata, verranno riproposti pezzi di diversi compositori quali G. Verdi, V. Bellini, G. Puccini, L. Bernstein; G. Gershwin, S. Cardillo e R. Leoncavallo.

Diretti dal Maestro Mario Bruno e prestigiosi elementi dell’orchestra del Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, i Cameristi Fiorentini,  forniranno la loro esperienza e professionalitcon i fiati. Al pianoforte il tenore e solista Graham Lister.


On the 6th of June 2010, h.21,15, come to Piazza Umberto I in Grassina (Florence, Italy) to listen to a local traditional amateurishchoir Coro Sociale di Grassina. During the concert, various composers will be proposed such as  G. Verdi, V. Bellini, G. Puccini, L. Bernstein, G. Gershwin, S. Cardillo and R. Leoncavallo.

Founded in 1893, the Choir counts on 50 singers and is directed by  Maestro Ginko Yamada – sopran of  the Coro del Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Directed by Maestro Mario Bruno the Cameristi Fiorentini will provide their experience and professionalism with the winds. They are from the orchestra of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.  The tenor and solo  Graham Lister will be on the piano.

Aim of the choir’s activities is to  spread and foster knowledge on music – music seen as international language able to connect all people and cultures.”

May 28, 2010

Sardinia’s Hidden Treasures: mines and wildlife sanctuaries / Il turismo “nascosto” nel Cagliaritano: miniere e parchi naturali

When you think about Sardinia, you think about an earthly paradise, made of snow-white sands and turquoise seas. Very few people know that Sardinia has much more to offer – caves, mines, wildlife parks, an extraordinary rich flora and fauna, not to mention the delights of local gastronomy, a mixture of Italian and “exotic” flavours: the Arab conquerors used to rule the island a long time ago.
Wildlife lovers will undoubtedly find what they are looking for just outside Cagliari; in fact, in the south-west, the city hosts the famous pond of Molentargius, which is also a Regional Wildlife Park internationally recognised. This wide complex of ponds is a vital place for the nesting of several species of aquatic birds, among these a colony of pink flamingos. This area is a must for all bird loving twitchers due to its rich variety of bird species.
Mining heritage and tourism is the hidden gem of Sardinia: walking through the dim corridors, visiting the old miner’s villages, learning about Sardinia’s ancient past is a rewarding experience that will give your holiday a unique twist. The mines are mostly found between Iglesias and Carbonia, in the south-west, an area named Sulcis Inglesiente. Among Sardinia’s mines, one of the most famous is Masua – certainly the most spectacular. Its tunnel ends and opens on a 20 metres high sea cliff with a stunning landscape: the blue sea and the famous sea stack named “Pan di Zucchero”.

However, if you are looking for beaches and crystal clear waters, you will not be disappointed: the southern coast of Sardinia is famous for its stunning beaches, surrounded by the green colour of thick pine forests. A few names: Villasimius, Porto Pino, Santa Margherita di Pula, but there are many more; the landscape varies and some of the beaches are almost completely unspoilt.

The blog Mondo Viaggio suggets the best way to explore Sardinia is by driving yourself. You can easily hire a car in Cagliari you can drive along the SS130; Iglesias is about 60km from Cagliari, a little longer than a half an hour drive.  If you are not in a hurry, you might want to drive along the coast and enjoy the view.
More info at car hire.

Bring a map

La Sardegna è raffigurata nell’immaginario collettivo come una specie di paradiso terrestre, con litorali candidi che si affacciano su un mare cristallino. Tuttavia, pochi sanno che la Sardegna ha molto di più da offrire, oltre alle spiagge tanto decantate. Grotte, miniere, parchi naturali, una straordinaria ricchezza paesaggistica e faunistica, senza contare la gastronomia tradizionale, miscuglio di sapori occidentali ed “esotici” (i conquistatori arabi che occuparono l’isola millenni orsono).

Gli amanti della natura troveranno ciò che cercano alla periferia della stessa Cagliari; a sud-ovest infatti, il capoluogo sardo ospita il famoso stagno di Molentargius. Lo stagno è parte di un complesso più ampio che, insieme alle Saline e alla spiaggia del Poetto (la favorita dei cagliaritani), forma un Parco naturale regionale la cui importanza è riconosciuta anche a livello europeo. La straordinaria ricchezza faunistica di questa zona rende il parco meta ideale degli amanti del birdwatching; in particolare, la zona vanta una splendida colonia di fenicotteri rosa.

Il turismo minerario poi è la perla del settore, il fiore all’occhiello della vacanza perfetta; passeggiare tra i cunicoli delle miniere abbandonate è un’esperienza unica, soprattutto se questi terminano bruscamente, in un’apertura su una scogliera a picco sul mare. Questo è il caso delle miniere di Masua, famose anche perché lo splendido paesaggio di cui i visitatori potranno godere, che comprende anche il celebre scoglio Pan di Zucchero.

Coloro che cercano le spiagge da sogno tuttavia non saranno certo delusi. Tutta la costa Sud è infatti famosa per le sue spiagge, accessibili spesso tramite interruzioni del guard-rail a lato della strada, separate da quest’ultima da fitte pinete verdi. Mari Pintau, la turistica Villasimius e la più tranquilla Santa Margherita di Pula sono indubbiamente le località più celebri, ma le spiagge visitabili sono tantissime; si va dalle località attrezzate per i turisti alle spiagge semi-deserte.

Il blog ci dice che il modo migliore per visitare la Sardegna è in auto: la distanza tra Olbia e Cagliari infatti è di circa tre ore. Muoversi è relativamente semplice; si consiglia di viaggiare lungo le tante strade che si snodano lungo la costa, per godere di splendide vedute panoramiche.

Per maggiori informazioni visitate: noleggio auto Cagliari.

May 26, 2010

Risorgimento Italiano

Ti interessa saperne di più sul Risorgimento Italiano,  Giuseppe Garibaldi e l’Unità d’Italia?? Allora non perdere la conferenza-spettacolo di storia cantata L’altro Mondo del Generale. L’evento – che si svolgerà a Firenze il 31 maggio 2010 h. 21.00 presso l’Arengario di Palazzo Vecchio – è realizzato in collaborazione con Life Beyond Tourism!


Interested in discovering more about the Unification of Italy, about Giuseppe Garibaldi, and about the period called Risorgimento? Then,  don’t miss the upcoming performance L’altro Mondo del Generale.
The event will take place on May 31th, 2010 h. 9.00pm at the Arengario in Palazzo Vecchio, and it is organized in collaboration with Life Beyond Tourism!

April 15, 2010

18 Aprile Giornata Internazionale dei Monumenti e dei Siti

Ciao Bloggers,

lo sapevate che il 18 Aprile è la Giornata Internazionale dei Monumenti e dei Siti? Questa giornata speciale è stata indetta dall’ICOMOS (International Council for Monuments and Sites) fin dal 2001;  e prevede numerose iniziative in tutto il mondo! Questa giornata e le varie iniziative ad essa correlata, sono tutte volte a “sensibilizzare l’opinione pubblica sull’importanza del patrimonio culturale e mettere in evidenza l’impegno necessario per apprezzarlo, proteggerlo e conservarlo richiamando una particolare attenzione alla sua vulnerabilità”.

In questa ottica, Firenze non poteva non esserne parte…  ICOMOS Italia, il Comune di Firenze, l’Associazione Città e Siti Italiani Patrimonio Mondiale UNESCO, e la Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco celebrano questa giornata promuovendo una serie di incontri, mostre e presentazioni (anche multimediali) aperti alla cittadinanza! Tra gli altri:

. Proiezione continua del DVD Firenze: 2000 Anni di Storia
Le tue foto in diretta
sul photoblog Life Beyond Tourism

Dove: Firenze,  Centro Congressi al Duomo, Via de’ Cerretani 54r
Quando: 18 Aprile 2010, h. 10.00-18.00

Scarica qui la presentazione e il programma completi!

Clicca qui per vedere le foto!
Guarda i video dell’evento su You Tube


Hi Bloggers,

did you know that the 18th of April is internationally dedicated to celebrate and valorize Monuments and Sites? This special day has been called by ICOMOS (International Council for Monuments and Sites) since 2001, and it will include numerous initiatives all around the world! The day and its related events are all aimed to make the public more aware of the importance of cultural heritage, as well as of the increasing need for cultural heritage’s  appreciation,  safeguarding, and conservation.

In this respect, Florence couldn’t not be part of this world day … ICOMOS Italia, Florence City Hall, Associazione Città e Siti Italiani Patrimonio Mondiale UNESCO, and Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco will celebrate it by promoting a series of exhibitions, open meetings, and presentations where everybody is welcome! Among other activities:

. All day projection of the DVD Florence: 2000 Years of  History
. Live: your photos on the Life Beyond Tourism Photoblog

Where: Florence,  Centro Congressi al Duomo, Via de’ Cerretani 54r
When: 18th of April 2010, h. 10.00 am-6.00 pm

Click here to see the pictures!

Watch the videos on You Tube

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