September 10, 2010

Discovering Shemakha, Azerbaijan

Hi blogger,

today we will discover Shemakha, in Azerbaijan together with our Life Beyond Tourism University Delegate Gulnara Safarova from Baku (Azerbijan), who wrote us:

“I would like to tell about Shemakha. Shamakhs-old Azerbaijani town with a population of 43,000 inhabitants. Shemakha is a city of my ancestors. They were born and brought my grandfather and grandmother. Despite the fact that I go there very often, I love this city.

The town is situated at an altitude of 800 meters above sea level in the southern part of the Greater Caucasus, on the road Baku – Tbilisi, 122 km west of Baku and 72 km.north-east of the railway station Kurdamir, in the valley Pirsagat.

Shamakha rich mountain forests and meadows, is located in areas of moderate humidity. Most of this area is a resort area with numerous springs of mountain water.

Shemakha – it is also a recognized center of winemaking and carpet weaving. And yet, this is a literary city, is home of  many of the poets.

By the way, located near Shemakha an amazing place called Pirguli, famous for its snow. It is one of the few places in Azerbaijan where you can enjoy an active winter recreation: skiing and snowboarding.


Astronomical observatory

Also in Pirguli is an observatory. They say that in Shamakha the weather is  cloudless for 300 days a year. So in the mountains of Pirguli they built an astronomical observatory, very well known even far outside Azerbaijan.

The main attraction of the city is the fortress of Gulistan (XI-XII cc.) – the last refuge of  Shirvanshakhs, built to defend the borders of the city. No less interesting mausoleum is the Yeddi-Gumbez (Seven Domes) with numerous graves ruins of buildings from the X-XVII centuries.”

One of the Seven Domes: Yeddi-Gumbez

Baba Dervish

Juma Mosque

Old tomb stones

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.

August 27, 2010

Dedicated to all costume lovers, costume historians, dancers, etc … Costume Colloquium II Dress for Dance

Following the great success in 2008, the 2010 Edition of  Costume Colloquium is coming soon in Florence, Italy from the 4th to the 7th of November 2010! Promoted by the Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation in the context of Life Beyond Tourism, this year the topic Dress for Dance will be exploring interdisciplinary and cultural aspects of historic, popular, and contemporary  dance costumes, and dresses.

Eight sessions will be exploring historic, conservative, creative, and technical aspects: view all the sessions and the conference’s parallel events at this link.

What: Costume Colloqium II: Dress for Dance
Where: Florence, Italy
When: November 4-7 2010

Fore more information:
the group on facebook here
write to
call 0039.055.285588

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.

July 2, 2010

World Under 23 Ultimate Frisbee Championships

From July 19th to July 25th come to Florence and enjoy the World Under 23 Ultimate Frisbee Championships! Promoted by Tuscan Flying Bisch Association in collaboration with Federazione Italiana Flying Disc, World Flying Disc Federation, and Comune di Firenze, the championship will bring to Florence 600 players from around the world to play the World Cup (Under 23) the Ultimate Frisbee.
This sport is designed by and for athletes, curious to discover themselves and others, through competitive challenges high technical level, in which each participant is the arbiter of himself, and for (not against) the other.

What: World Under 23 Ultimate Frisbee Championships
When: July 19th-25th 2010
Where: Ippodromo (Le Cascine) & Stadio Ridolfi, Florence, Italy

Japanese ancient traditions: a new publication to be presented in Florence

We today inform you about a new publication to be soon presented  in Florence:

by Olimpia Niglio and Koji Kuwakino (Pisa: Plus-Pisa University Press, 2010)

The publication is the result of the collaboration between the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Tokyo and the Gabinetto Scientifico Letterario G.P. Vieusseux, and it will be officially presented in Florence, Italy in Palazzo Strozzi on November 17th 2010, at 17.30.

The book represents a journey through the world of art, of architecture and Japanese landscapes, discovering values and methods which are fundamental for the conservation of architectural and historical/artistic heritage. A journey inside the Land of the Rising Sun culture, which expands our mental horizons – as Fosco Maraini wrote – and focusing attention on the intimate mechanisms which are fundamental in the relationship between man and nature.
The book has three parts: Art and Culture, Cultural Scenery, Architecture and Restoration. Inside this tripartition, runs through the traces of ancient and modern traditions again, which also today characterize Japan and are at the base of its cultural development.
Download the invitation and the poster.

OLIMPIA NIGLIO, architect, university researcher in Restoration at the College of Engineering – eCampus  University (Novedrate, Como). She teaches architectural restoration at Postgraduate School in Historical/Artistic Assets at the University of Pisa. In 2009 did a lecture about restoration in Italy at the Kanto Gakuin University of Yokohama.

KOJI KUWAKINO, graduate in Engineering at the Chiba University in Japan. In 1999 did a Master on History of Western Architecture at  the Tokyo University. In 2007 became Doctor in Research into History of Visual and Performance Arts at the University of Pisa.

July 1, 2010

“Tchakrulo”(Cakrulo) – Georgian Chorus, collected by Radio Moscow

Thank you Shorena for sharing this amazing story related to traditional Georgian music with us

Voyager Cover

The Voyager is a robotic space probe of the outer Solar System and beyond, launched September 5, 1977. It still receives commands from, and transmits information to Earth, currently pursuing its extended mission to locate and study the boundaries of the solar System, including the Kuiper belt and beyond. Its original mission was to visit Jupiter and Saturn; and it was the first probe to provide detailed images of the moons of these planets. “Chakrulo”, was one of the compositions chosen from all over the world to accompany the Voyager spacecraft.

Text sources:

Video sources:

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.

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