Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chrysler Fiat: Chrysler Heads to Bankruptcy, Fiat Execute its 20% Stake

As correctly predicted a few weeks ago here, Chrysler will file bankruptcy today in New York due to the real-world nature of business, which includes the right of debt-holders to have a fair hearing in court regarding the disposition of Chrysler's assets vis-a-vis the debt's right to collect its collateral because of Chrysler's bankruptcy filing and debt-payment default. There are also fat cats who own CDS that made the bet Chrysler would enter bankruptcy that stand to make big bucks once the filing is official. The debt and the CDS (credit default swap) holders are not going to pushed around or pushed out of profits by President Obama or Congress. They are going to collect, and quite possibly AIG will need another bailout to payoff all the hedge funds who bet correctly that Chrysler would enter bankruptcy and therefore are due a big payout.

Hedge funds invest in businesses for a variety of reasons, one of which is to seize assets in bankruptcy court when management's rosy business sceanarios that secured the debt do not come to fruition. It is fairly common for hedge fund investors to make a bet that a company is going down the tubes, at which point a hedge fund invests in a company's debt to fund management's last-ditch efforts. Hedge funds grant the last wish while collaterized the debt with the companies assets with an eye towards seizing these assets once management's failures are manifest. And desperate management does desperate things like use assets to collaterize debt, as Robert Nardelli, Chrysler CEO and Home Depot fame, did with Chrysler's assets to the tune of $8 billion.

Despite Congress' recent unwillingness to accept capitalism in all its messiness, the hedge funds play hard ball to, which they did today, teaching the President and Congress that U.S. business people still exist who will not cave to Washington's nanny state moves. And of course, just as the CDS winners were paid off after the banks collapsed with government funds run through AIG, the Chrysler CDS holders who bet on bankruptcy will be getting a big pay day by close of business today.

President Barack Obama said today that Chrysler LLC will file a historic bankruptcy shortly, backed by up to $3.5 billion in new government aid designed to allow a Chrysler-Fiat partnership to emerge from court in 30 to 60 days.

The move also sends a strong signal to bondholders at General Motors Corp. that the Obama auto task force will act on its vow to take GM into a similar bankruptcy if they do not agree to swap their GM debt for shares in a reworked GM.

Under Chrysler's bankruptcy, to be filed in New York in a matter of hours, the two automakers along with the UAW, Fiat and a majority of lenders will ask a judge to force a swap of $6.9 billion in debt for $2 billion in cash. The number of Chrysler dealers, now about 3,200, will be reduced through bankruptcy, but the administration officials did not say how many would be eliminated.

The agreement with Fiat will allow the Italian company to take a 20% stake in Chrysler that will grow as Fiat meets certain milestones, such as building new models in Chrysler plants. In addition to the $3.5 billion in financing to keep Chrysler operating while in bankruptcy, the government will also provide up to $4.7 billion for the new Chrysler once it emerges.

The Obama administration will also give additional aid to GMAC so that it can take over lending to Chrysler's customers and dealers from Chrysler Financial, which the government has deemed not viable. And the Canadian government will also provide new financial aid to Chrysler's operations in that country in return for 2 per cent in the new Chrysler.

The administration portrays its "surgical" bankruptcy of one of Detroit’s major automakers as just a legal chore, rather than the threat to Chrysler’s existence and the entire U.S. auto industry that Chrysler itself had described less than three months ago. Administration officials said Chrysler would operate as usual during bankruptcy, and that no additional job cuts were anticipated as of now.

The government will take a stake in the company and have a say in helping Chrysler and Fiat select a new board of directors. Chrysler Chief Executive Robert Nardelli has said he would step down after the partnership was cemented.

The decision to take Chrysler into bankruptcy came after three lenders -- Oppenheimer Funds, Perella Weinberg Partners, and Stairway Capital – balked at the original $2-billion offer, as well as an increase of $250 million from Treasury on Wednesday evening. The White House and Michigan’s congressional delegation pressed the holdouts to agree by 6 p.m. Wednesday, but no deal was reached.

The administration "was willing to give the holdout creditors a final opportunity to do the right thing," an administration official said. But "the agreement of all other key stakeholders ensured that no hedge fund could have a veto over Chrysler's future success."

The lack of an agreement will not "impede the new opportunity Chrysler now has to restructure and emerge stronger going forward," the official said.

The U.S. Treasury had guaranteed the warranties of Chrysler and General Motors Corp. in part to assuage worries of customers who might think twice before buying from a bankrupt automaker. GM has a June 1 deadline to reach its own debt agreement or go through a similar move.

President Obama said Wednesday that “even if they (Chrysler) ended up having to go through some sort of bankruptcy, it would be a very quick type of bankruptcy and they could continue operating and emerge on the other side in a much stronger position.”

The UAW late Wednesday night overwhelmingly ratified cost-cutting changes in its labor contract that freeze wages for Chrysler's 26,000 U.S. hourly workers and slash more than $5 billion from what Chrysler was to pay into a retiree health care trust next year. That trust would own 55% of the new Chrysler, while Fiat would start with a 20% stake and the government would own another large portion.

Fiat will ratify its agreement with Chrysler today to share technology and engineering resources Chrysler and the UAW have valued at $8 billion to $10 billion.

The Obama auto task force had been pressing for GMAC LLC to step into the role held by Chrysler Financial. It was not immediately clear how much additional aid or regulatory help GMAC would receive for taking on the role, nor what would happen to Chrysler Financial.

Another lingering question: whether Fiat would sell vehicles under its own brands through Chrysler, even as the government pressed GM to cull its brands due to shrinking U.S. market share. is hopeful Fiat will launch its brands under its name in North America, although Chrysler's Nardelli up to now has stated Chrysler wants to keep its skin with the Fiat underneath, maybe to placate the taxpayers and the union who are ultimately paying for this business gamble.

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Pompeii Frescoes at Naples National Archaeological Museum

(ANSA) Naples, April 30 - A collection of frescoes that once adorned the walls of Ancient Roman buildings in Pompeii are set to go on show in Naples.

The National Archaeological Museum is to open its completely revamped fresco section, which hosts 400 works of art, following a ten-year renovation project. Preserved by a hail of lava and ash from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79, the precious artwork lay untouched for centuries until excavations started in the 1700s. Over the next 150 years, hundreds of frescoes were removed from their original location and carried away, sometimes for profit, sometimes in a bid to protect the art.

In nearly all cases, removing the artwork damaged the walls of the ancient buildings. Today, the collection housed in the Naples museum is the largest in the world, and is ready to go on show again. The principal change is an entirely new layout, which seeks to place the works in their historical context. The new layout offers visitors a chronological route through the works, charting developments in Pompeian art, as well as a thematic route, which groups together items removed from the same building wherever possible. The developments in art are mapped out through the four so-called ''styles'' of Pompeian wall-painting. The collection contains no examples of the first style, dominant from the 2nd century BC until around 80 BC, as this mainly simulated marble and other materials, and so was of little interest to early archaeologists and was rarely removed. However, there is an extensive selection of art from the second style, which was popular throughout the first century BC. This period saw a focus on architectural features and trompe l'oeil compositions, such as a renowned painting of Macedonian princes and philosophers.

The third style, which peaked in around 10 BC but still appeared in Pompeian art 70 years later, favored ornate and colorful decoration. Well-known examples from this era include a series of beautifully intricate paintings from the Boscotrecase villa, and bedroom decorations from the House of Fatal Love. The fourth style saw a resurgence in architectural scenes, although without the illusionary depth that characterized the second style.

However, a number of categories were eternally popular subjects for wall-painting. Religious and mythological subjects were long-running favorites, such as the feats of Hercules, Dido's abandonment by Aeneas, Perseus rescuing Andromeda or the love of Mars and Venus, which appears in 30 paintings. Landscape paintings also appear throughout the ages, ranging from idyllic mythological scenes to elaborate gardens to exotic locations such as Egypt, complete with Nile and crocodiles. Paintings from taverns and shops provide another recurrent category.

Generally hurried works with little preparation, these served the sole purpose of attracting attention. However, they are today of particular interest to archaeologists as they depict rare scenes from everyday life, such as tradesmen, market people, laborers and tavern scenes.

For more about Naples and the Pompeii area click Campania channel on

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chrysler Fiat Done Deal With Spoonful of Taxpayers' Sugar

When Fiat SpA’s Sergio Marchionne predicted six months ago that only half a dozen car makers would have the scale to weather the credit crisis, analysts questioned whether the Italian company would be among them. Fiat sells little more than 2 million vehicles worldwide. Marchionne stated for car manufacturing to be a sustainable business a company must sell 6 million vehicles per year.

Now, 6 months later, with U.S. automaker Chrysler facing bankruptcy in 24 hours, Marchionne will announce Thursday that the Fiat Chrysler deal is done. "Chrysler will survive and avoid liquidation, whether that happens in or out of bankruptcy remains uncertain at this point," a source told Sources said Wednesday that despite the partnership, Chrysler could still wind up under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for a short time if some creditors don't agree to reduce their debt. Chrysler, which is subsisting on $4 billion in federal loans, is under a mandate from Mr. Obama to cut its labor costs and debt and complete an alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat by midnight tomorrow, April 30, if Chrysler is to get further government assistance.

But they said the government would agree to finance the restructuring rather than cut off Chrysler's aid and leave it destined for liquidation.

With union issues nearly out of the way and the debt resolved either in or out of court, Fiat agreed to cement the partnership with Chrysler.

"It'll be signed by tomorrow, I know that," an insider told

Fiat has agreed to contribute small cars, engines and other technology to Chrysler, in exchange for an initial 20 percent ownership stake and influence over Chrysler’s board and management. Fiat could increase its stake up to 35 percent by meeting certain performance objectives.

The basic idea of this alliance is certainly solid. Chrysler gains access to Fiat's extensive range of small car platforms, while the Italian automaker gets access to Chrysler's American factories and dealer network -- two pieces that could allow it to get back into the world's most lucrative market.

The Fiat alliance has also drawn full support from the U.A.W., whose members made big concessions to stave off the failure of Chrysler.

In a letter to Chrysler workers, the union’s president, Ron Gettelfinger, said the concessions were “essential to securing federal loans to keep Chrysler in business.” The union’s trust will, in effect, become Chrysler’s biggest shareholder overnight. It also may have a seat on the company’s reconstituted board of directors.

On Sunday, the Canadian Auto Workers ratified concessions to the automaker, and the United Auto Workers in the U.S. reached a tentative cost-cutting deal that members will finish voting on by Wednesday night.

Factory-level union leaders voted unanimously Monday night to recommend approval of the concessions.

Then on Tuesday, four major banks that hold 70 percent of Chrysler's $6.9 billion in secured debt agreed to a deal that would erase the debt for $2 billion in cash. The four largest banks in the group — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs — have agreed to the terms. Together, they hold about 70 percent of Chrysler’s debt.

But a handful of hedge funds that hold the remainder of the debt have refused to go along, leading to further negotiations.

The people familiar with the deal said that if the hedge funds don't agree, Chrysler could go into a short "surgical" bankruptcy under Section 363 of the bankruptcy code.

If Chrysler enters bankruptcy, only a majority of the company’s secured lenders are needed to initiate the government’s debt proposal. The smaller lenders would have little power to stop the debt from being restructured in bankruptcy court, since the lenders holding the majority of the debt are on board with the plan, the people said.

If an agreement is reached, Chrysler would restructure outside of bankruptcy with government help, they said.

After Fiat's successful Chrysler courtship the fact remains that both companies are on life support, and the only question now is does Chrysler pull Fiat under with it. The good news for Fiat and its debt holders is that the green technology is valued at $8+ billion, strengthening Fiat's balance sheet which helps it re-negotiate its remaining $11B in debt.

Fiat knows that this deal between the two crippled companies is not the life preserver it needs. Therefore Fiat has moved on to negotiations to buy General Motor's Opel brand in Europe, which would add another 2 million units so that the three combined companies would have sales equaling Marchionne's goal of 6M units. Of course next year's sales will not match last year's, but by 2011 Fiat could have re-tooled Chrysler plants with its green technology just in time for the coming recovery Washington promises.

“Five years ago it was GM calling the tune for Fiat,” Stephen Pope, chief global strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in London, told Bloomberg News. “Now, Marchionne may take the first-mover advantage in a wave of global consolidation.”

Marchionne, by insisting on not putting cash into Chrysler, is trying to avoid what Germany’s Daimler AG did -- paying $36 billion for Chrysler in 1998 only to sell it nine years later for $7.4 billion. Chrysler’s dire situation may help Turin, Italy-based Fiat succeed today where Daimler failed.

Fiat ranked No. 8 globally in car-making in 2007, including trucks and buses, according to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers.

Italy’s Agnelli family, Fiat’s controlling shareholders, picked Marchionne to run Fiat in 2004 from Geneva-based SGS SA, an Agnelli company he turned around by cutting costs. He had also tripled profit at Lonza, a Swiss maker of drug ingredients.

Fiat Recovery

Fiat, Italy’s biggest manufacturer, had run up 8 billion euros of losses in the four years before Marchionne became CEO. The executive, who shuns suits in favor of blue sweaters, brought Fiat back to profit in 2005 by eliminating jobs and speeding up the introduction of new models, turning the laggard of the European auto industry into one of the region’s most fashionable brands with the new retro 500 small car, the remake of the Punto and the Bravo compact.

Chrysler received $4 billion in loans from the government in early January and has been told it will get $500 million more. It may receive as much as $6 billion in additional loans by completing a Fiat alliance before April 30.

Plans are now underway for President Barack Obama to deliver a speech on Chrysler Fiat news Thursday morning, though people who have been briefed on the matter said that two versions of the speech are now being drafted-one if Chrysler has to file for bankruptcy protection, and another if it manages to avoid that outcome.

President Obama, speaking at a town-hall style event near St. Louis, said earlier Wednesday that he didn't know if a deal to save Chrysler would be completed.

"We're hoping that you can get a merger where the taxpayers will put in some money to sweeten the deal but, ultimately, the goal is we get out of the business of building cars, and Chrysler goes and starts creating the cars that consumers want," he said.

Under the original agreement between Fiat and Chrysler, the Italian company would get 20 percent of the third-largest U.S. carmaker in return for access to the Italian company’s small-car technologies. Chrysler wouldn’t get any cash from Fiat.

The UAW’s retiree health-care fund will own 55 percent of Chrysler in exchange for cutting half the automaker’s $10.6 billion cash obligation to the trust, people familiar with negotiations said. The tentative agreement was approved unanimously yesterday by UAW leaders, one of the people said, and must be ratified by union locals.

Daimler said yesterday it will cede its remaining 19.9 percent stake in Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management LP and write off a $1.5 billion loan, steps needed for the U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy. Cerberus, which holds the rest of Chrysler, has said it would give up ownership to allow a reorganization without resorting to bankruptcy.

Opel, Magna

Fiat spokesman Gualberto Ranieri said he had no comment on the status of the company’s pursuit of any link with Ruesselsheim, Germany-based Opel beyond what Marchionne said April 23, when he told analysts that the Chrysler deal remained his “first and foremost objective.”

Fiat is competing against auto-parts supplier Magna International Inc. for a stake in GM’s European arm, German regional official Hendrik Hering said in an April 23 interview. Detroit-based GM, racing to restructure by June 1 to avoid bankruptcy, said this month more than half a dozen “serious” investors were interested in Opel.

Magna and Fiat have provided “markedly different” terms for preserving Opel’s workforce and factories, Guttenberg said. The minister reiterated that GM needs to provide more information on Opel to the government, which is being asked to back loans, and to any suitors. Fiat and Magna plan to hold talks with GM shortly, he said.

“Running all three looks beyond ambitious,” said Sanford Bernstein’s Max Warburton in London, who has a “market- perform” rating on Fiat. A tie-up with both Chrysler and Opel would amount to “building an empire while Rome burns.”

Warburton cited European losses at Fiat’s auto division and looming problems for its Iveco unit as truck sales slump. Marchionne should focus on Opel and drop Chrysler, which offers few synergies besides steel purchasing, he said.

Some Italian unions also are skeptical about Marchionne’s international moves. “Fiat can’t continue to not say anything about the future of workers in our country and present industrial plans in other countries,” Gianni Rinaldini, head of the Fiom-Cgil metalworkers union, said yesterday.

Responding to the concerns during the April 23 analysts call, Marchionne agreed that deals driven by empire-building ambitions are “nonsense,” maintaining that his plans were “purely based on industrial efficiency.”

A government-led plan to salvage Chrysler by merging it with Italy's Fiat may turn out to be a big fat lemon that could cost taxpayers billions more in rescue cash if the combination crashes.

The Obama administration has been scrambling to save Chrysler for months, but industry sources have questioned the merits of merging it with the Italian car manufacturer, which has its own set of woes.

For one thing, Fiat's car sales are getting help from the Italian government, which launched a plan to provide consumers with incentives to buy new cars.

Also, the Italian market, which represents about one-quarter of Fiat's sales, is expected to soften if not crash as the European economy starts to slide further into trouble. For sure sales of Fiat's high-end Ferrari and Maserati units will drop off in the wake of the economic crisis.

At this point, a government-imposed deadline for the restructuring of Chrysler slated for tomorrow is looming with a deal racing toward a conclusion.

However, it's the government's desire to speed toward a completion of a deal that has a lot in the auto industry and on Wall Street thinking that a slapdash hookup is a quick salve that could wind up totaling both enterprises.

Fiat in the three months ending in March lost 32 cents a share, or $500 million, after posting a 13-cent gain in the prior quarter and much higher earnings during the rest of 2008. Beyond that, it owes $11 billion and is rumored to be selling its farm equipment unit to raise money.

Part of Fiat's problem is it has too many employees in a declining auto market, and cannot easily fire workers.

So thanks to the U.S taxpayer these two struggling car makers have bought some time to fight another day. has a feeling this is not the end of the story. Stay tuned...

Click for WebVisionItaly-produced Fiat video.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Italy Liberation Day: April 25

April 25 is Italy liberation day, when in 1945 the partisans with the allies liberated Italy from the Nazis and fascists. Click below for video tributes set to the anti-fascist song Bella Ciao.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Capucci "Fabric Sculptures" on Display Palazzo Fortuny, Venice

Roberto Capucci's legendary 'fabric sculptures' are on display in Venice at Palazzo Fortuny until May 5.

The Capucci show explores three decades of change in the fashion maestro's creations. The 30 works of art, created between 1978 and 2009, map the development in Capucci's work, starting with Ventaglio, the brilliant red creation that was the first in his series of 'fan' dresses. The exhibition then moves into his designs from the 1980s, replete with panel inserts, flower forms, boxes and tubular designs.

Donna Gioiello is from this period, a black, white and red taffeta created in 1984, inspired by the Doge and the Carnival of Venice.

Among his more recent creations, the exhibition features 'Sposa In Rosso', a two-tone wedding dress with golden embroidery on public display for the first time.

The exhibition also draws out Capucci's various sources of inspiration from the natural world.

His green, white and blue spiraling Onda dress with its flash of red, reflects his fascination with the water, while Foglie (Leaves), a brown velvet creation with a dazzling collar of sculpted red, yellow and orange leaves looks to the world of plants.

From the time of his earliest creations, Capucci's origami-like designs have been closer to elaborate works of sculpture than clothing.

He has dressed film stars, first ladies and royalty over the decades but the wearers have usually showcased his designs rather than the other way round.

Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy, Gloria Swanson and Italian scientist Rita Levi Montalcini have all worn his designs on important occasions, the latter when she collected her Nobel prize in medicine in 1986.

Capucci has cheerfully admitted that his works are not intended as everyday contributions to a woman's wardrobe.

''Frankly, I have never let myself be influenced by the idea of 'but when will I wear this, where will I go?','' he once remarked.

''There would be no history of fashion if people had thought like that in past centuries''.

Capucci was the Christian Siriano of his a day, breaking onto the international scene at the age of just 21.

He had already opened an atelier on Rome's Via Sistina the previous year, in 1950, when his work was spotted by fashion entrepreneur Giovan Battista Giorgini, who invited him to display five designs at a Florence show.

The other designers in the show demanded Capucci's elaborate creations be withdrawn, fearing their own work would be upstaged.

But when the press found out, they called for a separate showing of Capucci's designs, which were greeted with instant acclaim.

Since then, Capucci's creations have appeared in galleries in Munich, London, Vienna, New York and various Italian cities, and now have their own museum in Florence.

The Venice exhibition is open in Palazzo Fortuny until May 5. Fore more about Italy fashion click WebVisionItaly's Fashion channel.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Chrysler Fiat Deal - Merger D-Day 2 Weeks From Today

What does the coy Fiat management have to say about its taking a 35% stake in any future Chrysler profits in exchange for giving Chrysler Fiat's valuable green power technology.... Nothing.

Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said Thursday to the Wall Street Journal's Dow Jones he expects a 50% chance for the Italian car maker to reach a deal with Chrysler LCC, adding that in the 50% event the deal doesn't take place then Fiat has a "Plan B."

U.S. President Barack Obama has given Chrysler until April 30 to find a partner or face bankruptcy proceedings. If Chysler finds a partner then the congress and the president have guaranteed the combined management, Chrysler and its partner, $6 billion from the U.S. taxpayers.

Chrysler was already unsuccessful in getting concessions from debt holders. Now the President's "car czar", whatever that means, appears to be ethically challenged much like the many other super-rich "public servants" and "public company" CEOs, throwing into question Rattner's and the President's statist car industry plans. Enter Fiat.

For its part Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne told Toronto's Globe and Mail yesterday that Fiat will walk away from the proposed partnership with Chrysler if Canadian and U.S. auto workers don't agree to wage, salary, and pension concessions that align labor costs with foreign-owned "non-legacy" i.e. - no pension, low wage, non union etc. car factories such as Toyota's and Nissan's, which have plants in the less expensive southern states like Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama. The Canadian union has been seen as being even more resistant than its U.S. counterpart. Many U.S. taxpayers may be surprised to find out how much of Chrysler's factories are in Canada.

The U.S. government's stern warning to Chrysler is it won't be getting any more bailout money unless it completes the partnership deal by May 1. Chyrsler's action today on the stock markets signals that investors and traders, maybe speculators, believe a deal is coming soon. Let's hope so lest catching falling knives wipes the shareholders out 2 weeks from today. WebVisionItaly will continue to monitor the last two weeks of the courtship between Chrysler Fiat.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Italy Earthquake: Mayor of L'Aquila Live TODAY 11:05 AM EDT


The mayor of L’Aquila, Massimo Cialente, MD, was on-air live from L’Aquila, Tuesday, April 14th, starting at about 11:07 a.m., New York Time.

He was on the Vincent Buddy Cianci radio show. Mr. Cianci is the former mayor of Providence, RI, USA. Click to hear the entire show.

Also participating will be Ronald W. Del Sesto [Honorary Vice Consul of Italy in Providence and co-founder of] and Carlo Ruggeri [formerly of L’Aquila, now living in Rhode Island].

The show may be seen/heard live over the Internet at When on-site, click on Video then Studio Webcam.

To donate money for the earthquake in L'Aquila send a check to:

Italy Relief Fund

49 Weybosset Street

Providence RI 02903

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Italy Art Guide: Spring 2009 Museums and Exhibits Rome, Florence, Venice Italy

Spring 2009 Italy Art Guide:

With this week's Holy Week earthquake in Italy destroying families, lives and dreams is even more resolute to work hard to capture the culture and history of the Italic Peninsula to preserve at least on film the architecture, the arts and today's people who live in Italy to preserve humanity's long journey on the Italic peninsula hopeful that the lessons will point us toward building a better tomorrow. Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter.

The following is a city-by-city guide to some of Italy's art exhibitions Spring 2009. For coverage consideration send you event by email to Motorino at Web Vision Italy.

AREZZO - Museo Statale d'Arte Medievale e Moderna: 130 works by Della Robbia family and contemporaries like Donatello and Ghiberti; plus tours around Arezzo province taking in 25 towns and 168 works; until June 7.

ASCOLI - Galleria d'Arte Contemporanea: 'Sedendo e Mirando', 130 landscapes by cartoonist Tullio Pericoli; until September 13.

BOLOGNA - Museo d'Arte Moderna (MAMBO): More than 100 works by Giorgio Morandi in one of world's biggest ever retrospectives on Bolognese artist, sent from Metropolitan Museum in New York to Morandi's home town; until April 13.

BOLZANO - Museo Archeologico dell'Alto Adige: Iceman joined by more than 60 mummies from Ancient Egypt, Asia, South America and Oceania; until October 25.

COMO - Villa Olmo: 'Chagall, Kandinsky, Malevich: Masters of the Russian Avant-Garde', until July 26.

FERRARA - Palazzo dei Diamanti: Giorgio Morandi; 130 etchings demonstrate Bolognese artist's lesser-known lifelong passion; until June 5.

FLORENCE - Bargello: 'Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Living Marble', until July 12. For more about Bernini click for Bernini Walking Map Rome Tour by

- Palazzo Strozzi: Galileo show marking 400th anniversary of his first observations of the night sky; 250 exhibits including the middle finger from Galileo's right hand; until August 30.

- Palazzo Pitti: Memories of Antiquity in 20th-Century Art; 130 paintings and sculptures from Etruscan, classical and Renaissance times and 20th-century works by Dali', Picasso, Modigliani, de Chirico and others; until July 12.

- Palazzo Medici: 29 outfits from Court of Lorenzo il Magnifico recreated in paper from contemporary paintings by Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave; until June 14.

FORLI' - Musei di San Domenico: Canova, The Classical Ideal, Sculpture and Painting; 200 sculptures and paintings from world's galleries; until June 21.

MAMIANO DI TRAVERSETOLO - Fondazione Mamiani Rocca: 55 Rembrandt etchings from Petit Palais in Paris; until June 25.

MILAN - Castello Sforzesco: Michelangelo's Pieta' Rondanini meets his 'Rediscovered Cross', till May 3.

- same venue: First show in Italy on the samurai; helmets, weaponry and armour for warriors and horses from the Azuchi Momoyama (1575-1603) and Edo (1603-1867) periods; 100 items gathered from Milan's Castello Sforzesco and Koelliker collections; until June 2.

- same venue: Italy's biggest show marking 100th anniversary of Futurism; 500 works including Marinetti, Boccioni, Balla, Carra', Severini, Russolo; until June 7.

- same venue: Rene' Magritte and the Mystery of Nature; one of Italy's largest-ever Magritte events; around 100 paintings featuring Magritte's signature apples, blue skies and birds; until March 29.

- Pinacoteca di Brera: four Caravaggios united for gallery's 200th anniversary year: two versions of Supper At Emmaus (1601 and 1606); The Musicians (1595) and Boy With A Basket Of Fruit (1593); until March 29.

NAPLES - Archaeological Museum: Herculaneum: Three Centuries of Discoveries; until April 13.

PADUA - Civici Musei agli Eremitani: 100 Years of Portrait Painting In The Age of Galileo, 1550-1650; 70 works including Titians and Tintorettos; until July 15.

PONTASSIEVE - Sala delle Colonne: 49 paintings and sculptures by Antonio Ligabue including celebrated Self Portrait With Dog; until June 7.

ROME - Colosseum: 'Divus Vespasanius', celebration of Emperor Vespasian, general who took throne from Nero in 69 AD and transformed Rome, founding Flavian dynasty which built Colosseum; until January 10.

- Capitoline Museums: Fra Angelico: The Dawn of the Renaissance; 49 works by the early Renaissance master and friar; until July 5.

- Vittoriano: Giotto and the Trecento; 150 works from world's museums including 20 by pre-Renaissance master himself; until June 29.

- same venue: The Sabines, over 120 never-before-seen works from terracotta throne of King of Eretum, paintings and illuminated codices, up to film posters and clips of legendary 'Rape of the Sabine Women' that helped fledgling Rome survive; until April 26.

- Scuderie del Quirinale: Futurist works from 30 museums including reconstruction of the famous Futurist exhibition held at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris in 1912; also, four works returning from New York for first time including Boccioni's 'Stati d'animo' triptych; until May 24.

- Palazzo delle Esposizioni: Darwin 1809-2009, Italy's biggest-ever show on evolution; until May 3.

- Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna: Cy Twombly, first retrospective in Italy; 70-work show previously seen at Tate and Guggenheim Bilbao; until May 24.

- Chiostro del Bramante: The Myth of Julius Caesar, first ever show focusing on him alone; 200 items from ancient times until the 20th century; until April 5.

- Museo Fondazione Roma: Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), lyrical Japanese landscape artist who influenced Van Gogh and Monet; 200 woodblock prints on show for first time in Italy; until June 7.

- Museo Carlo Bilotti: 100 Giorgio de Chirico metaphysical drawings; until April 19.

ROVERETO - MART Gallery: Futurism 100: Avant-Gardes Compared, Italy, Germany And Russia: marking 100th anniversary of Futurism; Marinetti, Kandinsky, Der Sturm, Chagall, Klee, August Macke, Franz Marc; until June 7.

ROVIGO - Palazzo Roverella: Art Deco in Italy 1919-1939; until June 28.

SIENA - Santa Maria della Scala museum: Art, Genius, Madness: 300 works including Van Gogh, Ernst, Dix, Guttuso, Ligabue; until May 25.

TREVISO - Casa dei Carraresi: Canaletto, Venice and its Splendours; until April 5.

URBINO - Ducal Palace: 'Raphael and Urbino', 20 mostly youthful works plus influence of Perugino and Signorelli; until July 12.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Earthquake in Abruzzo Italy: Inventory Damaged Art and Architecture

Italy is recovering from a devastating Earthquake that, at last count, killed over 150 people and injured more than 1500. Both numbers are expected to rise from Italy's earthquake that hit in the region of Abruzzo, East of Rome on Italy's Adriatic coast. Rescue efforts continue this evening.

Monday's earthquake in L'Aquila, Abruzzo, caused ''huge'' damage to the medieval city's artistic heritage, Heritage Ministry Secretary-General Giuseppe Proietti said. The apse of the Abruzzo city's largest Romanesque church, the 13th-century Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio, had collapsed ''from the transept to the back of the church,'' he said.

The Basilica, with its famed pink-and-white jewel-box façade, was the site of the coronation of Pope Celestine V in 1294 and thousands of pilgrims still flock there each year.

The Porta Napoli, the oldest and most beautiful gate to the city built in 1548 in honour of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was destroyed in the quake.

There were also concerns for the National Museum of Abruzzo, which is housed in the 16th-century castle.

Created in 1950, the Museum unified the collections of the civic and diocesan museums as well as a private collection of paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries and includes a beautifully preserved fossilised skeleton of a prehistoric elephant found near the town in the 1950s.

The castle suffered a collapse on its third floor and is too dangerous to enter, according to Proietti.

''The store rooms where damaged works are kept safe are also in areas that have collapsed or unstable,'' said Proietti, who added that he was gathering a team of heritage experts from other regions to help salvage the works.

Elsewhere in the city, the cupola of the 17th-century Anime Sante church and the bell tower of L'Aquila's largest Renaissance church, San Bernardino da Siena, were also down.

The cupola of the 18th-century Baroque church of St Augustine collapsed, flattening the prefecture that held L'Aquila's state archives.

St Augustine was previously destroyed in an earthquake in 1703 and had to be rebuilt.

''Naturally there have been various collapses all over the city, with cornices, walls and pieces of roof often obstructing the streets,'' Proietti said.

Photo. San Bernardino da Siena, L'Aquila Apennine Mountains, The Anime Sante church.

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Italy Earthquake: Centuries-old buildings Collapse, People Trapped

ROME (Reuters) - The death toll in the earthquake that hit central Italy Monday has risen to 50, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said.

That would make this the most deadly earthquake to strike the country since 1980, when a quake of magnitude 6.5 killed about 2,735 people in the south of the country.

The earthquake center was in L'Aquila, and struck a huge swathe of central Italy as residents slept on Monday morning. Houses, churches and other buildings collapsed making the people fear more people may be trapped.

The dead were mainly in L'Aquila, a 13th century mountain city about 100 km (60 miles) east of Rome that has a population of 68,000, and surrounding villages.

The Civil Protection Department said the quake most likely killed "tens of people." Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi canceled a trip to Moscow and said he had declared a national emergency, which would free up funds for aid and rebuilding.

"I woke up hearing what sounded like a bomb," said Angela Palumbo, 87, as she walked on a street of L'Aquila.

"We managed to escape with things falling all around us. Everything was shaking, furniture falling. I don't remember ever seeing anything like this in my life," she said.

Rubble was strewn throughout the city and nearby towns, blocking roads and hampering rescue teams and residents who tried to lift debris with their bare hands in a search for survivors from the quake, which had a magnitude of at least 5.8.

"Thousands of people (could be left) homeless and thousands of buildings collapsed or damaged," said Agostino Miozzo, an official at the Civil Protection Department.

A resident in l'Aquila standing by an apartment block that had been reduced to the height of an adult said: "This building was four floors high." Some cars were buried by the rubble.

In another section of the city, residents tried to hush the wailing of grief to try to pinpoint the sound of a crying baby.

It was the worst earthquake in terms of deaths to hit Italy since 2002, when 30 children were killed in a school collapse in the south.

But officials said the death toll from this earthquake could be worse because more buildings were damaged over a wider area.


Four children were reported killed in one building in l'Aquila, two people were dead in one outlying village and five in another. A number of people were reported to have been injured and still trapped under rubble, officials said.

There were numerous reports of some the area's centuries-old Romanesque and Renaissance churches collapsing.

Part of a university residence and a hotel collapsed in l'Aquila but it was not clear if anyone was inside. The quake brought down the bell tower of a church in the city center.

Some bridges and highways in the mountainous area were closed as a precaution.

The quake struck shortly after 3.30 a.m. (8:30 p.m. EDT) and was centered in the mountainous Abruzzo region east of Rome south of Umbria.

People in many parts of central Italy felt the quake and some ran out into the streets. Residents of Rome, which is rarely hit by seismic activity, were woken by the quake. Furniture rattled, lights swayed and car alarms went off.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake's epicenter was believed to be about 60 miles from Rome and that its depth was 6.2 miles.

The agency initially put the scale of the quake at 6.7 but later lowered it to 6.3. Italian officials put the magnitude at about 5.8.

The quake was the latest and strongest in a series to hit the l'Aquila area on Sunday and Monday. Earthquakes can be particularly dangerous in parts of Italy because so many buildings are centuries-old.

Following is a list of major earthquakes in Italy over the past century:

Sept 8, 1905 - Some 5,000 people are killed when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake tore through the Calabria region, obliterating 25 villages.

Dec 28, 1908 - Over 82,000 people are killed in a 7.2 magnitude earthquake which reduced Messina, Sicily's second town, to rubble. A tidal wave followed causing more devastation.

Jan 13, 1915 - Some 32,600 are killed when an earthquake measuring 7.0 struck Avezzano in central Italy.

July 27, 1930 - A quake measuring 6.5 strikes the region of Irpinia in southern Italy, killing around 1,400 people.

May 6, 1976 - An earthquake measuring 6.5 rocks Friuli in Italy's northeast corner, killing 976 people and leaving 70,000 others homeless.

November 23, 1980 - Some 2,735 people are killed and more than 7,500 injured in an earthquake measuring 6.5. The epicenter was at Eboli but damage was reported over a huge area toward Naples.

December 13, 1990 - Earthquake centered in the sea off Sicily kills 13 people and injures 200.

September 26, 1997 - Two earthquakes measuring 6.4 kill 11 people and cause serious damage to the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, ruining priceless Mediaeval frescoes. A further quake measuring 5.1 hits Umbria days later causing damage.

July 17, 2001 - Earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale shakes the northern Italian region of Alto Adige, killing one woman.

September 6, 2002 - An earthquake measuring 6.0 strikes Sicily. Two people died from heart attacks triggered by the earthquake which also damaged artistic treasures.

October 31, 2002 - A violent earthquake measuring 5.9 hits Campobasso, south-central Italy, killing 30 people, most of them children, in San Giuliano di Puglia.

April 11, 2003 - An earthquake measuring 4.6 rocks northern Italy, rattling buildings from Milan to Turin and prompting officials to evacuate some schools.

April 6, 2009 - A powerful earthquake strikes a huge swath of central Italy, killing at least 27 people as houses, churches and other buildings collapse. The quake was centered in the mountainous Abruzzo region east of Rome. The dead were mainly in L'Aquila, a 13th century city about 100 km (60 miles) east of Rome with a population of 68,000.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday in Rome: Santa Maria della Quercia

Palm Sunday in Rome: Santa Maria della Quercia the butchers of Rome give meat out to the poor. Five hundred year tradition continues in Rome today.

Buona Pasqua. Happy Holy Week, Passover, and Easter to all. Tanti Auguri!

Santa Maria della Quercia video Rome Palm Sunday . More >

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Chysler and Fiat Alliance: Why the deal WILL NOT Happen Within Obama Administration Timeline

Fiat Group SpA has been trying to get a big piece of Chrysler for next to no money, by exchanging its intellectual property for 35% of the company while the American taxpayers are on the hook for $7 billion to make the partnership happen. The Chrysler - Fiat deal most likely will not go through within the Obama administration's time-line due to the real-world nature of business. Despite the fact the Chrysler is broke, the debt holders may want to seize the collateral rather than keep Chrysler on life support while watching shares be diluted from a 35% ownership stake converted to Fiat. This means Chrysler is going to take a trip to bankruptcy court with or without Fiat and regardless of what government bureacrats, President Obama, and Congress think about standard business practices, which includes bankruptcy court.

On Friday the Wall Street Journal reported Chysler LLC's lenders are resisting efforts to convert most of the automaker's debt to equity, a conversion key to Chrysler's plan to restructure without filing for bankruptcy protection, according to published reports.

Banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley loaned Chrysler $6.8 billion in 2007 when Crberus Capital Management LP acquired 80% of the automaker

Now, Chrysler needs to swap $5 billion of that debt for equity in the automaker, as part of the plan for the company to become viable.

The banks' reluctance is slowing Chrysler's efforts to reach a definitive deal on an alliance with Fiat Group SpA, and also stalling the company's attempt to reach a health care agreement with the United Auto Workers union, the Journal reported.

A Citigroup spokeswoman declined to comment to The Associated Press. Messages seeking comment were left for the other banks. It is clear the debt has no interest in converting to equity when the equity is on the hook for billions in unfunded liabilities that makes a trip to the bankruptcy court all but guaranteed at sometime in the future, unless the entire company is turned over to the Federal Government for trusteeship of the unfunding liabilities, which is not out of the range of possibilites after what the Obama Administration has shown to be its proclivity toward bailingout big banks and private equity at 100 cents on the dollar invested rather than let the markets and bankruptcy court do its work.

Chrysler released a statement saying it "is committed to working closely with all constituents, the administration, U.S. Treasury and the (government's auto) task force over the next 30 days to reach a successful conclusion." The company declined further comment.

Treasury officials couldn't be reached for comment.

Because the banks hold debt secured by collateral, they have the right to take Chrysler plants and assets if the company files for bankruptcy protection. That means the banks may be better off with what's left of Chrysler in liquidation than what they'd get if they agree to restructure the debt.

The government has little leverage to force the banks to make concessions if they believe they'll be better off in bankruptcy court. But the banks that are pushing back against Chrysler and the government are also the direct recipients of government aid through the banks' own bailouts.

Chrysler also owes money to Cerberus and Daimler AG, but they already have agreed to exchange all that debt for Chrysler equity. Other lenders also appear willing to make concessions, but JPMorgan is leading the negotiations with Treasury, the Journal reported.

It is easy to figure out why Fiat wants its 35% in exchange for green-car technology know-how. The company has said it wants a production base in North America to build its Alfa Romeo, and probably Fiat cars, although most likely wrapped in Chysler's skin and brand. A quarter-century ago, Fiat quit selling the Fiat brand in the United States; today it sells just a few thousand Ferrari and Maserati cars in America.

Fiat is presented with a huge opportunity to reenter the United States market and benefit from the US government's and taxpayer's current largess, but obviously Fiat cannot buy Chrysler or take on its tremendous unfunded liabilities in its pensions due not only labor but previous management. Fiat does not want to tie itself to titantic Chrysler. The company said it "intends to make absolutely clear that the proposed alliance will not entail the assumption of any current or future indebtedness to Chrysler."

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchione has said that in order to survive, a car-maker needs to sell between 5.5 to 6 million units per year. But Fiat and Chrysler are still well below this level by more than 2 million units. It is not out of question that in 5 or 6 years, maybe a decade, car sales do takeoff and this partnership may sell 8+ million units in the United States, and then the two partners and the private equity would be rolling in the money.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Italians find traces of dark matter - Satellite picks up 'first real evidence' of invisible stuff

(ANSA) - Rome, April 2 - An Italian-led space mission may have collected the first concrete evidence of dark matter, according to scientists.

A highly sensitive detector launched in 2006 to study cosmic rays has recorded an unexpected abundance of positrons, the antimatter counterpart of the electron, which may be left behind when dark matter is destroyed. ''This is a fantastic result,'' said research coordinator Piergiorgio Picozza of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics of the breakthrough to be published in Nature. ''It's the first real evidence of the possibility of dark matter, although it's still necessary to collect further data''.

Further research will need to exclude other possible sources of the positrons, such as spinning stars called pulsars that emit electromagnetic radiation, or cosmic rays impacting with atoms.But Picozza said he was ''hopeful'' that other sources would be ruled out.

Dark matter is the hypothetical, invisible matter believed by astrophysicists to account for around 23% of the universe, and whose presence is inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter.

Visible matter, which makes up the stars and planets, comprises just 4-5% of the universe, while the remaining 72% is dark energy, a hypothetical energy form that some cosmologists say is behind the accelerating rate of the expansion of the universe.Picozza and his team used data from the Pamela (Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics) satellite, which is a joint initiative between Italy, Germany, Sweden and Russia.

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