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Naples| Magic and Secular Neapolitan Christmas Nativity Traditions.

Naples is a wonderful city,a destination to live,discover and enjoy 365 day a year,its history and great  atmosphere characterised and highlighted by an eternal sunny environment beneath the iconic Vesuvius and with its beautiful maritime views from Posillipo and Vomero but also for those magic and secular Neapolitan Christmas Nativity traditions which are a part of the local historic culture of that cittá du sole the city of the sun which also has in its creativity a superb feature which with a simple object or  a phrase always generated something of extremely surprising.

At Christmas time Naples shows one of its wonderful cultural marvel the Presepe Napoletano,the Christmas Nativity famous worldwide for its artistic beauty,authentic masterpieces result of a secular and unique heritage patrimony.

Those works representing the birth of Jesus Christ started to be famous many centuries ago in that city and officially to be so famed in the 18th century in a Naples which was living as Capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies with Joaquin Murat as Sovereign and later continued under rule of the Royal Bourbons.

There are some debates about some "Presepi Napoletani" which  were born a long time before as one placed in the famous Chiesa Santa Maria del Presepe,the Church of St.Mary of the Nativity in the year 1025 date in which according some historic affirmations was set a sort of Holy Nativity in that iconic Religious site.

In the 13th century there were other representations as one created in woody area in the area of Greccio in the Northern Lazio in the county of Rieti not far from the borders the region Umbria.a work created by devoted and followers of St.Francis of Assisi and today that small municipality celebrates the event of the  Presepio Vivente,a live reconstruction with people protagonists of the Nativity remembering that tradition.

Others examples were also set in Rome in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore with works by the famed Tuscan sculptor Arnolfo da Cambio notorious for his several masterpieces in the Italian Capital among them a sculpture in bronze depicting St.Peter you can  admire in the Basilica of St.Peter in Vatican nowadays.

There are other documentations related to an ancient Nativity represented in the beautiful seaside town of Amalfi and others in Naples with a present offered by the Princess Sancha of Aragon to the Clarisses, the Poor Clares order of St.Claire and many others.

The Neapolitan sculpture school started to produce in the 15th century relevant examples representing that Christian event with some superb masterpieces in marble by Antonio Rossellino and the brothers Alemanno who were among the most distinguished artists in that period linked to that activity.

 Also other prominent figures as Pietro Belverte from Lombardy worked in Naples preparing 28 statues which were donated to the monks of the Church of San Domenico Maggiore and that is another episode certifying those secular Neapolitan Christmas Nativity traditions.The imagination and talent of those artists also gave origin to a first representation placed in a grotto with stones coming from Palestine.

Some years later concretely in the year 1532 the study linked to the use of new materials and a new emergent school represented by Domenico Impicciati changed several things.That character started to build  some small statue in terracotta and it was the beginning of a new era of the iconic Presepe Napoletano.

The stunning previous works by of Arnolfo da Cambio in Rome at Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica were an example to follow and a model of an inspiration to create new artistic waves which found in Naples a perfect habitat but also other artists from different Italian areas came to that city to exhibit their talent.One of them among the most famous came from a town close to Vicenza in the region Veneto and called  Gaetano da Thiene who made a new kind of Nativity prepared for the Ospedale degli Incurabili.

In the early 17th century also the priests of the Order of the Mother of God of Pious made one with a sort of wooden mannequins which were provided by clothing made by fabric and pieces of different textiles materials.Those new figures replaced the stoned statues made by marble and terracotta and it was at the beginning of those new trends in which the Neapolitan Christmas Nativity was called Presepio Barocco,the Baroque Crib.

The reality of such representation wanted to be close to the reality and the mannequins were created at humane scale but due to some problems of space and collocation for the size some years later they were reduced in about 70-75 centimetres in high.

 In addition the priests thought to remove the Nativity scene at the end of the Epiphany the last date of the Christmas celebrations and then remounting all that to the following year.That was an innovative idea a new concept absorbed with positive results if you think in that period all the cribs were fixed in the original site all year.

The talent and the desire to improve the aspect of the figures of the cribs continued to generate new experiments and of course new trendy creations.Michele Perrone in 1640 modified the mannequins using for the construction of the bodies skeins of iron wire,coated tow and only keeping the head of those wooden figures.

Despite that the  Neapolitan culture after centuries of different examples created to surprise  with a considerable appreciation wanted something new,something  which would represent the local reality and not only the classic crib with the child Jesus,St Mary, Saint Joseph, the Three Kings Magi,the animals and the shepherds.

The innate creativity of a new generation of artists gave origin to the construction of new characters consisting in people who were part of the daily life such as innkeepers, bakers, butchers,shoemakers, blacksmiths,fishmongers with the addition of taverns,laboratories and places in which were developed the exercises of the such activities of those new characters.

The Crib had to be a representation of the humanity in a sort of theatrical image close to the true reality.The addition of rest of Roman and Greek columns,temples and agoras represented the victory of the Christian Religion over the Pagan and Polytheist faiths of those ancient cultures and that was the new concept which will change the history of the future sets.

The 18th century was certainly the golden ages of all that thanks to Giuseppe Sanmartino who was protagonist of a revival with the use of the terracotta once again.That return to the past in terms of material was improved by the image and movements of the figures,statues which were identical reproductions of real people,showing a figure in action,working or bringing in their hands something with happy expressions,smiling or with their mouth opened as to say something.

That Master was one of the pioneers of that great Neapolitan trend launching several young talented pupils who continued the magic tradition born in the city.Appreciated by nobles,aristocracy and Royal families,the high class started to want such beautiful works in their mansions and palaces wanting the best and they often called many prominent and specialised artisans in a sort of competition choosing the most attractive and beautiful work to place in their residences.

The Holy Crib was also placed in the famed and iconic Reggia di Caserta not far from Naples and Royal Residence and it was the clear example as the Presepio Napoletano came into the culture of the Nobility.In that majestic palace was set an impressive Christmas Nativity highlighted by the Kings Magi on the way to Bethlem,the Annunciation to the shepherds of Palestina and several figures representing humans and animals.

The Bourbons who were rulers at that time decided to have one in the magnificent hall called Sala della Racchetta one of the most emblematic and elegant lounges of the Royal Palace of Naples and furthermore they ordered to paint the ceiling in a blue sky colour to create a divine and scenic atmosphere ideal to host that holy representation.

The success of the Presepio Napoletano also crossed the borders of the Italian peninsula and one of the great admirers and a sort of promoter of those splendid masterpieces was Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe, prominent German writer who often visited Naples.

When that illustrious artist saw for the first time same marvels during one of his trips to that city in 1787 he was totally amazed for such creative compositions and much more for the expressions of the characters,the scenery,the colours and all what there was around such as buildings,animals and a natural environment prepared using natural original materials consisting in grass,stones,pieces of rocks and timber.

Goethe mentioned the Presepio Napoletano in a script exalting the beauty of such marvels accosting all that to the magnificent scenery that the city of Naples and adding to those masterpieces of art the image of the Vesuvius, the Gulf, the Vomero hill and the historic patrimony and monuments of Naples.

That emblematic icon of literature transmitted all that to the World and in his country in Germany today in the Bayerische National Museum is possible to admire a great collection of some of the best examples of Presepi Napoletani but that promotion reached soon other countries such as Sweden and later also USA where you can admire at Christmas period such stunning wonders.

The Cathedral of that movement understood as cultural core is certainly the Certosa di San Martino located on the Vomero Hill a beautiful district of the city of the Vesuvius.That magnificent Chartreuse,a former monastery close to Castel Sant´Elmo hosts in its museum all the chronological and detailed history  of all that and the development of that cultural tradition since its inception.

At Christmas time some of  the most emblematic cribs are displayed from time to time in Palazzo Reale,the Royal Palace in the central square Piazza Plebiscito and another one is the famous Presepio di Cuciniello dating back late 19th century at San Martino.

Those magnificent works also have particular figures representing the soul,spirit and identity of that beautiful centre.Those characters are linked between daily life and religion,the Fishmonger is a classic figure of a coastal city as Naples as clear representation of the fish an emblematic product symbol of the maritime essence of Naples and also presents in the multiplication of bread and fish in a notorious miracle by Jesus Christ narrated in the Sacred Christian scripts.

The Vinaio,the inn maker and Cicci Bacco a character who loves with passion wine represent the vendor of that beverage and the second is a figure with a flagon in his hands.The wine is symbol of the mystery of the Holy Eucharist while Cicci Bacco is the image of the sin corresponding to the vice of the God Bacchus who preached the drink as a foundation of life.

There are also others such as Zi´Vcienzo,the uncle Vincent and Zi´Pascale,uncle Pascal who  are two funny friends representing the folklore of the daily Neapolitan life.One of them is a sort of prophet able to predict the numbers of the extraction of the numbers of Lotto,a lottery winning a lot of money and the second listening him.In addition there is also the Gypsy who is the Neapolitan culture bad luck and others as  Benino,the Monk with next to other numerous figures represent sacred and profane images.

Via San Gregorio Armeno is a street considered the the "Louvre",the "Galleria degli Uffizi" of the Presepio Napoletano.That artery street situated in the old historic Naples in Spaccanapoli,part of the former and first ancient Greek-Roman Neapolis core is the shining highlight of all that.(If you are interested I wrote a post about Naples)

A walk along that magic hallway will show you the shops and the artisans workshops of the artists of those masterpieces.If you are in Naples you can not miss that spectacular promenade and a visit,it is a mine of pure talent and creativity in which you can admire all the fantastic works of a tradition started centuries ago and continuing today with a great success.

During Christian time Via San Gregorio Armeno is very busy and it is there that you can see unique things that only in Naples you can find.You can buy small statues of different size,mini statues of 5,6 cms,other bigger,painted in different colours made with different expressions and style depending of the talented imagination of the Masters.The reproductions follow the traditions launched in the 18th century and there you can find everything,the little child Jesus,the Virgin Mary,St.Joseph,camels and the Kings Magi among others.

The stunning imagination about the Nativity as mentioned before links the sacred to the profane and the Presepio Napoletano Masters also make figures of distinguished people related to several areas such as Politic,Entertainment,Sport,Culture,History and also gossip.

Linked to all that you can find splendid small statues representing the Pope or the Presidents of France,Usa and Italy,prominent figures of Royal Families,footballers and Cinema stars or also masks as that local and famous character of Pulcinella among others.

Many distinguished Neapolitan families of artists continue generation by generation that superb school such as Ferrigno,Capuano,Gambardella,Di Virgilio among others.All them were and are often awarded in Italy,Europe and in the World for their magnificent artistic masterpieces.That street is considered a "anima e Napule" a soul of Naples and Via San Gregorio Armeno is also as a sort of urban legend in its kind.

It is highly suggested all to visit Naples for its long history,art,traditions and culture and that splendid city offers that further opportunity.That Southern Italian centre is always a great destination,everyday every time and also in special times as that of the advent and during Christmas time an occasion more to decide to visit it.

Certainly it is a magnificent chance to know and learn more a culture linked to that kind of fabulous artistic jewels,the Magic and Secular Neapolitan Christmas Nativity traditions represent the birth of Jesus Christ but also they were born to surprise the visitor so welcome to admire something simply special and so difficult to forget.

Francesco Mari

Di Palo´s-Little Italy-New York-USA-The Unique and Special New York City as Tourist Destination,the Magnificent Scenery of Manhattan with the Famous Central Park,Broadway with its Theatres and its Lively Nighlife,the Iconic Empire State Building and a Multitude of other Majestic Skycrapers,the Emblematic Time Square and the River Hudson with its Impressive Bridges,the Coloured Little Italy,Shopping at New Year´s Eve and Christmas Time between Mott Street and Mulberry Street in Grand Street at Di Palo´s,a Legendary and Famed Store to find and Buy the Best Italian Food and Wines in NYC.

Little Italy in Manhattan-New York is often linked to that generations of Italians who left the "Belpaese" reaching on the other part of the Ocean NYC to find a better life after the sad eventds of the World Wars and for sure the Italian community with its culture played an important role in USA and New York has been one of the main centres of course.

Apart several artists,people of culture,sports,cinema and entertainment also Italian gastronomy has undoubedtly played  an important part of Italian culture in this magnificent city of USA called New York,,all people visited NYC,knows how many excellent and fine Italian restaurants has the city on the river Hudson,Marea,Il Mulino,Da Umberto, Babbo,Gradisca,Esca,Bamomte´s.L´Artusi,and the list is very long

If you are in holidays at New Year´s Eve and Christmas Time for shopping but also you want to taste and prepare an Italian dinner in the case you are renting in an apartment in New York or if you want simply searching something  to buy about food and wines made in Italy as the famous as famed products Panettone,Pandoro or an Italian Spumante,it is undoubedlty great to see Manhattan or Brooklyn (depending from it is located you accomodation) with that unique and charming mosaic of charming lights from your Hotel room of apartment celebrating the Christmas period with a slice of Panettone and a glass of Spumante Brut Reserve.

New York with its multitude of great shops and stores is a mecca for shopping of course but one in particular is Di Palo´s  Store situated in 200 Grand Street with everything you need about gastronomic Italian products.The store is located between Mott Street and Mulberry Street and it is an emblematic and iconic institution in Little Italy and it is like a gastronomic walk along the Italian Peninsula in New York..

Di Palo family is originally from Basilicata,that Southern Region closed between Campania, Puglia  and Calabria,and it transported on American land since generations the flavours,the aromas,the quality of pasta,olive oil, cheeses,,hams,salami,wines,cakes and coffee in New York City and much more more if you want a liquor, Grappa, ,Amaro Lucano or Limoncello and fine wines Di Palo´s has all that and more.Another detail very appreciated is the attention to client,an excellent customer service,suggestions about the best quality of products,the staff is very kind and professional.

Di Palo first generation family in New York started with Mr,Savino Di Palo in the early 20th century, making the traditional cheeses mozzarelle and ricotte with fresh milk and he transmitted his fantastic work to the the family and the daughter Ms.Concetta opened a dairy in the year 1925, and later  a Store.Since there New York has the best about Italian food on its urban territory thanks also to Di Palo family.It is not easy around to the world to find such a brilliant choice as Di Palo provides if you love Italian food and wines.It is not easy to find sometines the Pantelleria capers in some supermarkets of Rome or Milan,Di Palo has those capers that for a Vitello Tonnato,Caponata or also for a Pizza are the best.

At Di Palo´s you can also find Speck from Alto Adige of the area of San Candido considered one of the best.. Di Palo and the original spicy Salame Calabrese with garlic,pepper and paprika,or the Orecchiette Pugliesi di grano duro that traditional Apulia past homemade with the ancient traditional methods.Furthermore apart the wide selection of cheeses,Toma Piemontese,Pecorino Romano and also ,Sardo,Calabrese,Siciliano and Toscano,you can find over 300 kind of cheeses from almost the Italian regions.

The secret of Di Palo as Store is not only the standard importation of a popular product,,Di Palo family since generations,travels to Italy,visit the best suppliers and producers from Val D´Aosta to Sicily,then they import the best products,they try and taste,they buy the best there is on the market including wines of  the best "annata" the best harvest year and with all that,total satisfactions for all clients.loyal and new too.

.Di Palo family has the talent to choose the best and to import the best.Lou,Marie and Sal Di Palo continues the tradition of the grandfathers in the best way and this great store is already a legend in New York.Another guarantee to go to do shopping to Di Palo is the professionally,they perfectly know the products,you can see that,not only for the choice of the products they suggest you,the best mozzarella di bufala Campana they know the traditional conservation in "siero"that mozzarella which when it is cooked is "filante"like a tender string not sticky as a chewing gum,result it is the best mozzarella you can buy.

Pasta at Di Palo´s is absolutely an outstanding chapter,where you can find a real pasta di grano duro made in the typical Italian tradition with the classic time and traditional time cooked and ready "al dente" in about in 7 minutes and half,never so soft and when the sauce is perfectly adherent to the pasta and it is a pleasure to eat and in the store you can find  the best products, penne,maccheroni, spaghetti,tortiglioni, bucatini, ,orecchiette, fusilli,maccheroni,,tagliatelle,trofie,all     

 About ham you can buy in Di Palo´s  the best Prosciutto Parma D.O.P,that prestigious ham all the world knows,high quality because you see during the cut the tiny drop,that is the best signal the ham is excellent and it is not dry,and apart the Salame Calabrese mentioned before in Di Palo´s you can find the typical Salame Cacciatore  fantastic for appetisers and starters,or in tramezzini and canapes,the Salame Abruzzese very good when you preapre a "Tagliata" the wooden tray with salami,hams,cheese and vegetables and the Soppressata a typical salami originally from Basilicata and Apulia and in some areas of Northern Calabria,a sort of dry sausages,prepared with pieces of ham,pancetta (hard bacon in slices) and shoulder of pork,pepper and some spices,left about 10 weeks in a dark cool place to dry,well Di Palo´s  has the best.

About the cheeses you can find everything,from Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, from Emilia and Bassa Padana,Toma,Taleggio,Fontina,the Pecorino mentioned before ,Caprino the goat cheese,a wide variety of coffee Vergnano,Del Doge with the traditional Italian "tostadura",toasted in Italy prepared and ready for coffee machine,moka and caffettiera.

There is also at Di Palo´s a wide variety of the best olive oil from Tuscany,Sicily,Apulia,ideal for salads,bruschette and appetisers,fish and vegetables.Aboit fine wines,there are the best from almost all regions,red ,white,smooth,sweet, aromatic,dry,from Piedmont to Sicily.For Christmas and New Year period, Di Palo according the typical tradition provides excellent Panettone traditional from Milan and,Pandoro from Verona and naturally fine Spumanti wines to celebrate the events..

New York is a special city in all its essence,special also for that,where you can find everything is lucky to have Di Palo´s if you are in NYC,Little Italy,Manhattan,New Year´s Eve,Christmas Time..You know, there is always something to buy or something you decide in a moment to buy  and Di Palo´s is there with all its magnificent,fantastic gastronomic paradise.

Francesco Mari 

Gran Café Tortoni-Buenos Aires | Artsy Hangout Delighted by Tango Sounds.

The Gran Café Tortoni is undoubtedly an iconic symbol of the finest hospitality industry  of that superb and more than enchanting Latin American metropolis called Buenos Aires, a famed establishment with a long captivating history to narrate considered the most artsy hangout of the history of the city delighted by Tango sounds when it was inaugurated by a French immigrant hosting year by year the highest national and international nomenclature during their stays in the lively and eternally trendy Argentinian Capital. 

Currently that icon is property of the Institution Touring Club Argentino and after over 150 years of its foundation it continues to be more than a legend with several achieved awards as that when it was selected by UCity Guides as one of the ten most charming and beautiful cafes in the world, a prestigious title which elevated furthermore  its prestige and popularity all around the globe.

That legendary site is situated at 825 Avenida de Mayo along an emblematic boulevard, a long, bustling, eternally lively and stylish hallway which was the first main metropolitan avenue developed in the entire Latin America when it was arranged in 1894 with a clear Parisian inspiration and after its inauguration it was immediately compared to the iconic Champs Elysées, that extraordinary boulevard 1,9 kilometres long and 70,0 metres wide which runs between Place Charles de Gaulle and Place de la Concorde  in the 8th arrondissement of the stunning French capital.
The Gran Café Tortoni  replaced in that place the Templo Escocés the Scottish Temple established in a magnificent building boasting a superb facade redesigned by the talented architect Alejandro Christophersen son of the Norwegian Consul in Buenos Aires who also designed some iconic constructions you can admire nowadays in that magnificent city such as the Stock Exchange, Astoria Hotel, Circulo Italiano, Palacio Anchorena, Basilica de Santa Rosa and including the Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity among others.

That superb environment in the beating heart of the city undoubtedly played an important role supporting its grow, fame and glory when that renowned coffeehouse opened its doors along a historic and famous  avenue, landmark of the city, Argentina and South America.

That emergent Argentinian urban reality increased since its creation its image and appeal year by year with the elevation of stunning buildings in different styles adding the metropolitan grid an outstanding architectural patrimony thanks to the presence of magnificent Neoclassic, Art Deco and Modernist masterpieces filling that strategic municipal axis with a stupendous aesthetic eclectic charm  taking a very European aspect despite established on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in a different Continet.

All those great works are still visible today in their grandeur and it is enough to mention some of them such as Palacio Barolo, Torre La Buenos Aires, Palacio Vera and Hotel Castelar among others.That marvellous project boasting an extraordinary mix of styles  was created to surprise giving the city a very dazzling image  but also to be mostly compared with its  imprint and defined aspect to some of the most important European centres and the final result was extremely successful.

You will notice in a simple walk along Avenida de Mayo many things in common with that famed Parisian artery but also many other things similar to Gran Via of Madrid or Corso Sempione of Milan, three great European avenues of three great European cities all them packed by a varied range of attractions including notorious cafes which are always a tempting invitation to stop for a pleasant break and much more if a site is particularly attractive and boasting a history to narrate or enriched by some  fascinating details.
That Argentinian avenue filled by appealing luminous neon lights, luxury Hotels, trendy bars, fine restaurants, melodic Tango sounds you can hear coming from different Venues and Clubs also marked in the course of its history by an incomparable and indisputable glamour which found along that boulevard its right habitat transmitting nowadays with also the presence of chich boutiques and trendy shops the golden ages of a Buenos Aires which since the late 19th century and after the two World Wars times became a favourite destination for many European immigrants to search and find fortune far from their motherlands.

Nothing better for the Gran Café Tortoni was to open its doors along an outstanding window always packed by a multitude of locals and tourists  attracting more and more clientele, an emblematic establishment that in addition is located at a short distance from many monumental attractions of the Argentinian capital, certainly a perfect setting to develop a  successful business.

That catering & hospitality emblem is in in its kind a true  Cafe Museum ad many are the memories still alive of a place elevated as an indisputable local landmark. Its name is well known by all the Porteños common nickname of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires and millions of Argentinian citizens as part of the history and culture of the city and perhaps of the entire country.
The history of that site is highly interesting, suggestive and extremely captivating. Originally the former activity startged to be operative in 1858 on the corner of Rivadavia near Esmeralda not far from the current seat but in 1880 the owner decided to move to a block of the first mentioned avenue and in 1898 establishing the main entrance on the nearest prestigious Avenida de Mayo which was obviously a more shining window to gain further visibility and an increasing popularity.

The surname Tortoni which gave that coffeehouse its denomination  is of clear Italian origin but the founder of that popular Café was a French immigrant called Touat

He named his establishment taking an inspiration from the Gran Cafe Tortoni situated in Paris in the famous and chic Boulevard des Italiens located in the 9th arrondissement concretely in the district of Gaillon not far from Montmartre, an avenue which was and is still very famed for its unmistakable bohemian atmosphere highlighted by cosy Bistros and stylish Cafes, a must for all those who desire to breathe the typical air of an indisputable and fascinating Parisian artistic environment. 

 Along that captivating boulevard of the French Capital are also located the prestigious  Cafe Anglais, Cafe Riche and that twin which transmitted the owner that inspiring idea was since the 18th century a favourite destination of the highest cultural sphere of the City of Lights and including mentioned in a literary work by a distinguished writer as Marie-Henry Beyle well known as Stendhal, that genius from Grenoble considered one the most distinctive earliest exponents of the Realism in the 19th century.

The nostalgia, tthoughts and memories of Touan were strongly linked to his beloved motherland and especially towards the magic charm of the everlasting enchanting Ville Lumière and he decided to arrange his Cafe in a loyal replica of a traditional Parisian layout in all its essence and spirit with identical fine furniture, stylish architectural details, refined materials used for the bar, ceiling and pilasters, charming rounded tables, fine wooden chairs and an use of soft lights emitted by beautiful chandeliers. 

That site became a fin de siècle masterpiece, an outstanding 19th century Belle Époque Cafe in Buenos Aires according to the finest traditional and coquetry design of the most appealing cafes established in the major centre of France.

 As in many places of the world there are anecdotes, episodes and curiosities linked to  specific sites and also in the case of that symbol of Buenos Aires there is a debate about its opening and especially linked to its denomination because according to a historic version already existed in the city another Cafe Tortoni consisting in a property of an Italian immigrant called Oreste Tortoni.

That sort of "twin" was situated in Calle Defensa 200 very close to famous avenue Avenida Belgrano and the lively harbour environment of  Puerto Madero but despite that presence with identical name that one located in Avenida de Mayo had the plaque visible nowadays outside the building hosting it with the date of its foundation identified by that iconic year 1858 and since then awarded as the oldest Cafe in Buenos Aires and Argentina.

That establishment during its history changed owner at the end of the 19th century and the successor was another French citizen who continued the work of his predecessor, Celestine Curutchet, an affable gentleman who was called by the famed poet Tomas Allende a "nice old man speaking French".

For its charm and elegance that establishment had an immediate success in a period in which the city was developing with intensity more than notable cultural movements with many writers, philosophers, thinkers and men of other arts highlighting the daily life of that Latin American metropolis with numerous meetings enduring hours talking about art and all the topics closely related to that.

That Argentinian city became protagonist of a fashionable and trendy vogue called tertulia de artistas consisting in long cultural chats with protagonists themes regarding philosophy, literature, artistic subjects with a constant interchange of opinions, events generally celebrated in social circles, associations and also in cafes selected as favourite meeting points.

The Gran Café Tortoni closely related to all that  started to receive prominent people and one of them was the famous painter Benito Quinquela Marin, a charismatic artist, an acclaimed painter famous to give popularity and fame with his works to the Barrio de la Boca, that very famous district and former harbour of the city well known all around the world for its coloured houses, linked to Tango music, art and football with one of the most titled soccer Clubs in the world the Club Atlético Boca Juniors . (I wrote a post about that neighbourhood it if you are interested) 

That prominent figure was in that period a very influential character well known in all the most important cultural entourages of Buenos Aires and who with his masterpieces already reached an  international fame, a talented man who played an important role in the success of the Gran Café Tortoni because he was one of the first great genius to sit at its tables transmitting an new inspiring cultural wave and a progressive development of a very innovative artistic life.

Quinquela Marina after a trip to Paris returning to Argentina totally in love with the superb creative appeal greatly alive in the French capital bewitching him also for its bohemian air main protagonist in affirmed Parisian literary cafes immediately asked Curutchet to host in his establishment considered perfect for environment and atmosphere by that renowned painter a founded group linked to the most distinguished artistic nomenclature of Buenos Aires mainly composed by poets, writers, philosophers, painters and sculptors.

That emblematic Peña, a sort of association was called Agrupacion de Arte y Letra, Group of Art and Literature which in that period had its base in the Cafe la Cosechera in Calle Peru, a street not far from Avenida de Mayo and after the positive answer of the owner all those figures moved to their new headquarter established in the Gran Café Tortoni.

The owner naturally accepted without hesitations simply for the reason that those artists would have brought fame and further prestige to his establishment and it was so. 

Buenos Aires was in those times strongly and quickly absorbing cultural movements, lifestyle, traditions from Europe and the opening of a place like that site in the heart of an extremely lively metropolis was very appropriate to become an important point of reference and artsy hangout in years which had to be protagonists leaving a strong imprint and spirit mainly oriented to elevate the national artistic talent in all its essence a desire of many leaders of different kinds of movements in that era.

Since then that coffeehouse started to be famed conquering popularity with its marked identity but mainly thanks to that group of local artists sons of  immigrants who took inspirations by the famous literary Cafes in the Continent of their fathers which already wrote important historic pages such as the Cafe Florian of Venice, Antico Caffè  Greco of Rome , Les Deux Magots of Paris all iconic meeting places of eminent thinkers and the highest nomenclature well known woworldwide.

For 17 years that notorious "Peña" highlighted those rooms in a site which had a successful escalation hosting a wide range of exhibitions, concerts, meetings, conventions and also speeches by prominent people also coming from abroad.

In a very short time that place was frequented by the most relevant artistic characters linked to the most important spheres of the entire metropolis and furthermore all that was encouraged by the Argentinian Government very favourable for a creation of a  national cultural generation which could create future talents thanks to their notable impact and influence in the society and the State equally protagonist with a sort of promotion showing the world with pride all what the country was able to produce and all  that had a very considerable start-up in 1926.

The Cafe day by day hosted distinguished personalities who became soon loyal guests attracted by that magic atmosphere and it is enough to mention Carlos Gardel, the Master of Tango who sang there and gave notoriety but also Jorge Luis  Borges, Alfonsina Storni, Baldomero Fernandez Moreno,Ricardo Vines,José Ortega y Gasset, Juana de Ibarborou, Molina Campos and Roberto Arlit all them often sat in that establishment.

Also other more than famed figures from other countries who frequently visited  Buenos Aires became usual customers and the list was of absolute prestige including Juan Manuel Fangio, Albert Einstein, Luigi Pirandello, Federico Garcia Lorca, Arthur Rubinstein, the King of Spain Juan Carlos of Bourbon, Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear, Lisandro de la Torre among others.

All those characters found in that emblem established on Avenida de Mayo a short distance from the imposing Casa Rosada and the famous square Plaza de Mayo a favourite artistic headquarter in an establishment which furthermore was following the trends of those times in a city which was day by day surrounded by an unmistakable atmosphere with hunger of culture started at the end of  the 19th century and much more alive later in a period in which a chic Cafe was becoming a very trendy destination for a multitude of eminent thinkers.

That emblematic place became a notable artsy hangout linking that people in their chats and exchange of opinions, ideas, dreams, hopes, projects talking about realities, future, taking inspirations or simply appreciating a speech by a relevant figure which was always a pleasure and an occasion to listen something of innovative and trendy.

Those meetings with many important characters coming from the other side of the Ocean opened large chats and for the locals was also an instrument to compare the growth of the national movements with someone who already had reached prestigious goals but always with a notable admiration for Europe and its artistic cradles.

All that was extremely positive for the local artists apart the honour to meet masters of different kinds of arts to take much more inspiring sources and obviously for all that also the Cafe elevated its notoriety because the meetings became much more frequent with several official invitiations.

Carlos Gardel, that well known legendary Tango singer with his unique talent, charisma and personality played an important role helping that site to be one of the great attractions of the animated evenings and vibrant nightlife of Buenos Aires at Gran Café Tortoni.

That man was already in that period an idol with an endless queue of fans and obviously the chance to admire his outstanding performances  in that place attracted a multitude of new customers.

Many people apart the prestigious and glamorous name of that establishment decided to spend an evening there simply to see "live" that great artist who with his melodies enchanted all the spectators and including the establishment since then became a Venue inserting in its activities a calendar of events with other several shows performed by other characters linked to that kind of music and dance.

Several evenings were highlighted by figures performing different styles of that iconic national music and partner dance born in 1880 with cradle the Rio de La Plata basin corresponding to the territories of Argentina and Uruguay, a kind of superb art which on 31 August 2009 entered in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

Those very varied and eclectic proposals naturally attracted more people delighted by unforgettable tango sounds who conquered everyone. The performers were obviously selected among the best  existing in the artistic panorama, Gran Café Tortoni started to invite superb masters who in that type of dance linked to the music and its lyrics loyal to the more traditional aim had the mission in their great exhibitions to generate messages with something of highly significant delighting a multitude of people.

Tango in its spirit means all that, it is not just music or dancing for entertainment and shows but it is something of extremely rooted and deep in a specific cultural movement, it is an instrument transmitting, passion, sentiments, joy, nostalgia, hopes, dreams, a better life, love, enjoying the best sensations of a day in a morning or evening and much more. 

There are many kinds of schools highlighting or accentuating specific themes or topics more than others but the common denominator is that one to transmit something of extremely significant in all its different styles such as Nuevo, Canyengue, Queer, Liso, Orillero, Argentino, Uruguayo, Ballroom and including in the Salon Tango that one danced in a Venue but all them in their kinds focused to donate pleasant times expressing positive feelings.

Apart in venues where you can assist to spectacular shows if you are planning  a trip to Buenos Aires I suggest you to visit the Barrio San Telmo, a fantastic neighbourhood of the city enclosed within Puerto Madero, La Boca, Montserrat and Barracas, which apart its appealing charm and attractions it is a great place to see live excellent Tango dancers, street performers absolutely great and that is a marvellous experience for every visitor.

Also music created schools and not just the star Gardel is the emblem of the Tango in music and sang but many other illustrious artists such as Roberto Goyeneche, Julio Sousa, Mercedes Simone,Nestor Fabián, Carlos Acuña, Libertad Lamarque, Ignacio Corsini, Susana Rinaldi and Astor Piazzoll are legends who with a different style elevated that artistic movement in a sort og myth.

The Tango was a fortune for Gran Café Tortoni which had a a little decline in 1943 when that  iconic group of artists led by  Benito Quinquela Marin ceased to exist and some elegant and expensive furniture and a legendary Steinway piano played by famous artists as Arthur Rubinstein were sold. 

Despite a short period of decay the establishment continued its activity and the affirmed prestige of its name never stopped the popularity gained during its great history.

At the beginning of the 60's until 1974, the Cafe received a new generation of artists such as Liberman, Salas, Heker, Constantini, Piglia and Briante among others .Just like the famous predecessors also those new relevant figures representing a new generation were the leaders in those years of a successful cultural new wave in Argentina and Buenos Aires, very active and talented characters who brought a new light with their meetings, chats and including introducing literary works. 

That younger movement gave origin to the edition of some popular magazines with peculiar names such as  El Grillo, the Cricket, El Ornitorinco, the Platypus and El Escarabajo de oro, the Golden Beetle which in that period had a great success conquering many fans.

The young generations and who gravitated in the artistic entourages of the city found in those figures  who were sort of pioneers and models to follow as an innovative artistic engine which generated enthusiasm and joie de vivre attracting a mass of people who  reached the Gran Café Tortoni to see and listen those new idols.

That period lived times rich of new hopes, dreams, desire to express new ideas about themes never touched, challenging experiences for many people highlighted by trendy chats regarding national music as instrument of communication, literature of the past compared with that of the present, the progress of the Argentinian film industry finding an international dimension and also in that second successful generational stage that popular Cafe lived as in previous years as a renowned artsy hangout continuing to be a consolidated icon of Buenos Aires. 

It also continued to host in that decade shows of tango and also Jazz since 1978 coincident with the celebration of World Cup in Argentina and that place was also the performance venue of a distinguished group : the Fenix Jazz Band.

In occasion of that important Football event celebrated every four years obviously protagonist was also the "Albiceleste" the Argentinian National Team which won that Edition was  one of the main themes protagonist in numerous chats at the bar and sitting at the tables the cafe  in a country which live that sport with extreme passion.

Between a glass of wine or a warm cup of coffee the conversations were highlighted by the choices of the  the iconic coach Luis Cesar "El Flaco" Menotti about the line up of the squad, comments and opinions regarding the most famous football stars playing in the team such as Mario Alberto Kempes, Daniel Alberto Passarella, Osvaldo Ardiles, Ricardo Daniel Bertoni and their performances.
The Cafe is extremely charming in every corner boasting stylish wooden frameworks in the walls, refined decorations, comfortable and welcoming spaces with an use of fine green marble and all the furniture are inspired to a Cafe you can find in Paris or also similar in some details to others opened in the 19th century in Turin during the times of the Savoy House. 

Elegant and chic but at the same time eclectic and with its own strong identity including with the presence of billiards and an underground room, that site never lost its appealing charm and coquetry image.

Beautiful columns with capitals, elegant timber frames, scenic marble details next to beautiful circular tables and classical chair are other highlights just like the presence of glitzy chandeliers, all features delighting the customers sitting and admiring on the walls the pictures and portraits of all the notorious characters who visited that place.

A captivating light coming from the ceiling by a decorated skylight illuminating a long scenic hallway along the bar from where always come a superb aromatic smell of coffee are other captivating features part of an environment more than welcoming and immediately highly attractive.

You will breathe in that place an unmistakable magic aura highlighted by the presence of busts of famed characters of the past and in a corner you can admire the statue of Carlos Gardel & friends close to a table in a position as that replica of the artist is alive waiting for to perform in a  a show  of his iconic songs such as Mi Buenos Querido, Amargura, Volver or Caminito and the scene is simply great at first sight. 

The beautiful Gran Café Tortoni is arranged along several rooms with focal point the Salon Principal, the main room, there is a library and another special place is the notorious Sala Alfonsina, a room  honouring  Alfonsina Storni a renowned poet, writer and member of that famous "Peña Artistica" of the 20's founded by Quinquela Martin and that hall also hosts tango dancers and singers shows. 

La Bodega, the former wine vault is another iconic space very  significant, situated in the underground of the Cafe because it is the emblematic room in which the old owner Curutchet hosted at the beginning the artists when the former establishment was not big enough.

The room called Eladia Blaquez is another highlight, it is  dedicated to a famous Tango singer  as says its name and also that place has a notable cultural value because it was the space which hosted that generation of the 60's and 70's  representing in its kind the environment of a new cultural spirit and soul of the Argentina governed by Juan Domingo Perón.

Other lounges are La Peluqueria, the hairdresser salon and La Sala de billares, the room of billiards are further attractions. In the past the Gran Cafe Tortoni started to be famous as meeting place to play billiard as well very common in that Nation, a country which produced several world champions in that kind of sport but it is also an ideal place to play domino and cards and all those traditions continue today.

The coffee served in the legendary Gran Café Tortoni is simply excellent, toasted in the best way  using the best blends of South America combined with a classic  Italian preparation. A Macchiato, Espresso or a sweet Cappuccino is always a great choice, all those warm beverages are of high quality and  totally guaranteed to satisfy the tastes of everyone who is looking for to be delighted by a superb aroma. 

The staff is kind, highly professional, with a touch of multilingual talent and attentive to every kind of detail in terms to attention to the customers loyal to finest hospitality traditions.

Definitely that distinctive place is very special and with its lively rooms which were witness of the great prestige gained in the past but living in the present, it is a place that after many years continues to be loved and it is not a case that in more contenporary times was often visited by other prominent people as Hillary Clinton and Robert Duvall among others.

Those superb Tango sounds and melodies  performed by great singers who created in that country of Latin America that kind of art developed in music, songs and dance conquering and delighting the entire globe are still alive than ever with a calendar of events highlighting the local charming scene.

All that combined with the memories of those famous literary movements which elevated its fame, never forgotten because in their kinds became a source of new trends and philosophies of life that for many were a new future light to believe in something and for someone a splendid reality met in those appealing rooms.

For others furthermore the Gran Café Tortoni in its kind elevated the talent of many national artists at international level highlighting the dreams of others who saw their success and for that it was a place which impulsed a relevant cultural historic stage of a country which thanks to places like that continued to produce talented figures.

If you are planning to travel to Buenos Aires a city absolutely fantastic in every aspect do not miss a visit to the glorious Gran Cafe Tortoni, it is a piece of national historic culture characterised by those Tango sounds and its captivating history in Avenida de Mayo always able to conquer everyone and just some minutes there which will perhaps be hours you will live a great experience and it is a must.

The magic atmosphere and aura surrounding that site as a unique unforgettable artsy hangout which delighted a multitude of people will leave you very pleasant memories returning home taking with you the image of the iconic Gran Café Tortoni representing in all its splendour a significant fragment of the history of Buenos Aires.

Francesco Mari

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