Category Archives: Amici News

How to drink coffee like an Italian

Mary Beth Albright

Visiting an embassy in Washington actually places you officially on foreign soil. You feel transported to another culture, even though your house might be just a few blocks away. Often at embassies, a mindfulness surrounds the enjoyment of a country’s great food traditions, the enjoyment of the moment, even if the moment lasts only a few seconds. I realized that this idea is bigger than coffee. The Post’s seat in Washington lets us show global diversity of food and culture through embassies and is an opportunity to document food diplomacy.


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Ciao St Louis Application Now Available – Android or IPhone


CiaoSTL app launch
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The Vignelli Legacy on Show in D.C.

TOMMASO CARTIA (March 15, 2018)
There’s an Italian hand behind the iconic designs of the New York and Washington subway maps and lettering, or the logos of companies like American Airlines and Bloomingdales: it is the hand of designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli. The Embassy of Italy in Washington, the Italian Cultural Institute and the Rochester Institute of Technology, celebrate the genius of the Vignellis in an exhibition opening on March 16 that will be on view until April 29, 2018. The opening event will include a lecture, among the others, by R. Roger Remington, Professor of Graphic Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a video-interview with Massimo Vignelli by the Editor in Chief of i-Italy, Letizia Airos introduced by Renato Miracco, Cultural Attaché of the Italian Embassy in Washington. We had the chance to talk with Emanuele Amendola, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in DC, who shared with us his enthusiasm about the exhibition and the influence of the Vignellis on modern design.

“The idea was born a long time ago from a series of conversations that took place atRochester Institute of Technology, an important university where the Vignelli Center for Design Studies is.” Told us Emanuele Amendola, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Washington, when we asked him how the idea of the homage to Massimo and Lella Vignelli came about.

The Vignelli Center for the Design Studies was founded in 2010 after the Vignellis donated their archives to RIT, and it holds their creations. The chair holder of the design department is Professor R. Roger Remington. “With him, we began thinking of an event that we called, The Vignelli Legacy which is a symbolic name because the figures of Massimo and Lella are so important not only to the history of Italian design, but also to global design.” Continued Amendola.

The Vignellis moved to the United States at the start of the ‘60s, and with the birth of Unimark International and then Vignelli Associates, they worked on a series of projects that redefined the meaning of industrial graphics in the States. “There is so much pleasure to organize an exhibition about something that has such strong ties to the U.S. territory.” Said enthusiastically the Director.

“Not everyone knows that the hand behind the iconic New York City and Washington D.C subway maps were the ones of Massimo and Lella Vignelli.  Also, few people know that they created the iconic logos for important American companies, like American Airlines, and Bloomingdales.”

The Vignellis Poetic

Director Amendola shares the same aestethical approach to design Massimo and Lella Vignelli had: “Truth be told, the American Airlines logo was recently changed which is something that I don’t agree with.  Vignelli had a conservative approach to graphics and design, and he had done “rebranding” and “restyling.” The same logo was used by American Airlines for 40 years and it was based on the logo before that.  Vignelli thought that an image that is familiar to the public and to the client didn’t need to be distorted: it needed to maintain its identity by simply refreshing it and modernizing it.”

“This is also probably one of the most interesting aspects of Vignelli because he was a poet of design.  One of the most important texts for understanding Vignelli is the Vignelli Canon written by Massimo in which he provides a manual on what a good designer should do.  With these pointers, fundamentally, it is the respect for graphic identity and concreteness.  Graphic design is above all a creative job, but also very concrete. A designer needs to consider certain questions when designing something. They need to always ask themselves, ‘what is this serving,’ and ‘what does it want to say?’ This gave life to very linear, and cut and dry poetics respective to the companies’ identities that Vignelli worked with.  They didn’t want to add anything more than what was necessary to communicate a specific message.”

The Opening Event and the Exhibition

The night, organized in collaboration with the Embassy, will open with the inauguration of a collection of some of the Vignellis’ most celebrated works, from graphic designs for various companies to reproductions of prints of all the biggest logos- starting with American Airlines, Cinzano, Benetton, Ford, Lancia, Ducati.  There will be the original maps for the New York and Washington subways, and the ones from his design project for the National Parks Service.

To illustrate everything, there will be an inaugural conference by Roger Remington, the chair holder of design at Rochester Institute of Technology.

“Together we will recount the Vignellis’ careers from their start in Milan to their transfer to the U.S.,” continued telling us Director Emanuele Amendola, “then, introduced by Professor Renato Miracco, cultural expert from the Embassy in Washington, and Vignelli’s good friend, a video interview from a few years ago with Massimo and Letizia Airos from i-Italy will be projected.  Also from RIT, will be Professor Elisabetta d’Amandawho handles the Italian program and works with the Design Center often integrating language learning with the Vignellis’ designs.”

Lella Vignelli

Professor d’Amanda will also talk about Lella Vignelli’s role going in depth about her contributions, especially as a woman, and her work.

Amendola shared his thoughts on the Lella Vignelli profile as a woman and as a designer:  “Lella was always put second respective Massimo, and in a certain respect, she was even less well known. There is a beautiful anecdote that talks about Massimo’s adoration for Lella.  She suffered a bit because of the male dominated work environment and Massimo, with respect and sensibility, tried to hide from her all the magazines and the publications that only gave him credit for their creations. She was instead, the pragmatic mind of the two: she was the one who managed the budget and the accounts for their company.  And she herself, was also an incredible designer: her many creations for Poltrona Frau and Poltronova, not to mention the beautiful jewelry for San Lorenzo. As you know, behind every successful man, there is always a great woman.”

The Director hopes that this exhibition can become a traveling project and can also extend to other Italian Cultural Institutes in the United States.

Italian Design Day and Cavallini’s Exhibit in D.C.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has placed design at the very core of its promotional strategy known as “Vivere all’Italiana”. The Italian Design Day 2018 is really in tune with the theme selected for the 22nd Triennale International Exhibition, “Broken Nature – Design Takes on Human Survival”.

On March 3rd, the Italian Design Day was celebrated in the biggest Italian venues around the world. “Design is one of the focal points that promotes Italian Culture abroad. Because of this, for 2 years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation organized March 1 as an international day dedicated to this theme.” Told us Amendola.  “Although the exhibit on Vignelli opens a little bit after, but only for logistical reasons, the initiative definitely goes along with the celebration. This inspiring idea is to recognize design as a real cultural tradition that speaks to the world about the excellence of our country in this sector.  Especially in the U.S., Italian design attracts a lot of interest and is seen as synonymous with “well made,” elegance, and quality.

“With our other initiatives dedicated to design, we have a program in May for an exhibition of works from the artist Emilio Cavallini. Emilio is a stylist: he is the owner of Stil Novo, the most important Italian producer of tights.  His creations have been paraded on the catwalk by some of the biggest designers: Dior, Celine, Balenciaga, Gucci, Alexander McQueen. Cavallini is the one who gave Mary Quant, the inventor of the miniskirt, the accessory that made the miniskirt so iconic – the stockings. Emilio is, however, also an artist, and with his yarns he creates abstract and very interesting works inspired by the italian tradition.  They will be on view as an exhibition at IA&A at Hillyer, a gallery in Washington D.C starting May 4, and closing at the end of the month.”

For more info please visit the Italian Cultural Insitute in Washington website here >>>

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How Italy sees the Italians overseas and Italian elections

As usual Sunday’s Italian election had its share of controversies regarding the vote from Italian citizens overseas
By Gianni Pezzano

As usual Sunday’s Italian election had its share of controversies regarding the vote from Italian citizens overseas. The proposal was always controversial but the inevitable controversies that have now followed all three elections under the current law should make us take a step back and look at this concept not on the basis of the right to vote contained in the constitution, but on two questions that should be answered by both the Italian parliament and also the Italian communities overseas themselves.

The first question is one that has never truly been defined. Who are the Italian overseas and what is their relationship with Italy? The second is the one that goes to the heart of the controversy and it is simply, of what practical use is the vote overseas for both the communities and the Italian political system?

Italians, yes or no?
While much is said about the Italians overseas and which the vote was supposed to alleviate, the controversies raised must force us to wonder how we are seen in the country that for some of us is our country of birth, for some the country of our parents and for others the country of some of our grandparents and great grandparents.

According to official figures from the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs the Italians overseas are about five million Italian citizens and about eighty five million between those who took up other citizenships (renouncing Italian) and the descendants of Italian migrants over the last century or so. Of the latter figure nobody can tell with any degree of certainty how many could be Italian citizens and in the case of those of third and later generations the documentation to prove the legal link that gives citizenship is difficult if not impossible to prove. In any case, those beginning with the second generation have a decreasing capacity for effectively speaking and understanding modern Italian, without forgetting the low level of effective knowledge of Italian Culture, history, etc., often due to the school systems of their countries of residence/birth.

Yet all the information sent to Italians overseas is almost exclusively in Italian and therefore of little effective use for the vast majority of the Italian communities overseas. This applies not only to the official communications from the Italian government and bureaucracy, as in the case of elections, but also in information, news services and entertainment sent to the Italian communities overseas.

Are these programmes and services intended only for the first generation? If not, then they should be provided with the appropriate subtitles and/or bilingual in the languages of the various communities. It is counterproductive providing services to five million people around the world when the potential international market, even if only limited to Italians and their descendants which it surely would not be, is over ninety million people.

Much is said by politicians and cultural organizations in Italy and overseas, but little is done to approach those who have little or no knowledge of the language and Culture. This is the principal reason that these services should provide such a solution in other countries.

Promoting Culture and Language
We often forget that to truly understand a language we must know its history and culture for much of what we say in our daily lives changes over time and in response to many influences. We just have to think how much our daily language has changed due to computer technology, social media, etc.

If we do not start by making our relatives and friends overseas truly understand the linguistic and cultural heritage that is part of their family history we would fail to give them an incentive to learn our language.

Despite these considerations, as a country we insist on considering the Italians overseas simply according to their passport and this is even worse during election time when the political parties look for every seat possible to win a national election which in all honesty does little to change the quality of life of the majority of Italians overseas…

With this in mind we must now consider the effectiveness of the vote of Italians overseas and also of the effectiveness of their representation.

We do not intend judging the work of any or all the parliamentarians who represented the Italian overseas in recent years. They each had their reasons for election and each must be judged by what he or she achieved in office and this can be easily found by checking the official records and documentation.

The considerations are of other aspects that were underestimated when the method of voting and the distribution of eighteen men and women who are supposed to represent at least five million Italian citizens were decided in the original law promoted by Mirko Tremaglia.

In every country citizens complain of lack of access to their parliamentarians, therefore the very thought that one member of parliament and one senator can represent three continents, Africa, Asia and Oceania and the scientists in Antarctica is simply unrealistic. Despite the best intentions and will to work of the representatives, in a parliamentary system which gives very little administrative support staff compared to other modern democracies, the task is at best highly difficult and forces the representatives to levels of travel that limit their contributions in parliament, especially for those elected outside Europe.

Furthermore, in those countries with long standing communities such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, etc, which are now in their fifth, sixth and even later generations, are the parliamentarians of first generation truly representative of the whole of the communities that they represent? Naturally this situation is made even worse when, as the new law now allows, these parliamentarians can be based in Italy and nominated there and not just in the areas they should represent.

Political reality
The other aspect of the overseas vote, and particularly in the large older communities, is what does the representation in Italy’s parliament truly mean for the voters? With the exception of the newly arrived migrants who look for improved services at the consulates and those who receive Italian pensions, a small percentage of the bigger communities and sadly destined to decline over time, Italy’s parliament can do little or nothing to change the quality of their lives.

In some countries, such as those in South America, many look to the possibility of Italian citizenship in order to be able to work in Europe but for those who remain in the countries the parliamentarians cannot give their any effective benefits to their electorate

But the greatest reality is the one that deals with the harshness of politics, no matter in which country.

Any cuts to funds destined for overseas are painless for governments of any persuasion. Many in Italy see money sent overseas, especially for “esoteric” reasons such as promoting Italian Culture, language, tourism, etc, as a waste even though such investments have reaped big rewards for other countries such as France and Germany. This is a mentality that must be changed in any case, whether or not there are parliamentarians elected overseas as it is short-sighted and foolish.

So now we must consider the future.

The future?
In any case, with the electoral victory of Matteo Salvini’s Lega and Beppe Grillo’s Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement) , the possibility of overseas funding will decrease radically and this will surely include the presence of overseas elected parliamentarians that will occur with the inevitable changes to the electoral law that has been the subject of much complaint. This of course will depend on whether or not a functional majority will come out of President Mattarella’s consultations over the next few weeks..As we wait to see if the new Parliament will be able to proceed, we should also consider the effective role of the CGIE (General Council for Italians Overseas, on a worldwide level) and the local Comites (Committees for Italians Overseas, on a territorial level) which must also be reviewed with a view towards making them more representative of the demographics of each community and also with the possibility of playing active roles (with appropriately qualified members) in the promotion of Italian companies and products which must also include Italian language and Culture as an absolute priority.

All we can do now is to wait for the Italian Parliament to sit and see what changes the future will bring, but Sunday’s election will surely lead to a period of political uncertainty which will do little to resolve the issues Italy must face nationally and internationally.

What must be the true role of the Italians overseas?


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Ciao St Louis Moves Offices to The Hill Neighborhood Center

Ciao St Louis and Hill 2000 have agreed on lease terms for an office located within the Hill Neighborhood Center at the corner of Daggett and Marconi Ave.

Ciao St Louis plans to begin internet radio broadcasting from the center on April 1, 2018.  The station Ciao USA Radio Italia can be found on TuneIn, the Ciao St Louis Web Site and Facebook Page.  The station will broadcast 24×7 and will play live and podcast from past shows.

If you or if you know someone who would be interested in hosting an Italian-American, Italian, or other interesting topic,  please contact Rio Vitale at 314-846-5802.  Broadcast can be done remotely and does not require you to come into the location on The Hill.

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La Festa della Donna e La Mimosa March 8, 2018

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day, a festival which will be celebrated around the world. Here in Italy this very popular festival is called  La Festa della Donna. In 1946 the Unione Donna Italiana (Italian Woman Union), whilst preparing for the celebrations of the 8th of March, decided to choose an object to symbolize the event. The choice fell on the bright yellow flowers of theMimosa, which is in blossom at the beginning of March, and since then this plant has become the symbol of La Festa della Donna. The success of the Mimosa as an emblem of Women’s Day is due not only to the fact that it blossoms at this time of year, but also to its bright yellow color, a symbol of vitality and joy which represents the passage from death to life. In addition to this, despite its fragile look the Mimosa is, appropriately, very resilient! It has become a tradition that men will buy small sprigs of Mimosa which they will then offer to women, and part of the proceedings from the sale go to support projects related to women’s causes, such as shelters for women subject to violence, breast cancer research, or co-operatives run by women in Third World Countries.

The Mimosa belongs to the Acacia family and the most popular variety grown here in Italy is the Acacia Dealbata which, given the right conditions, grows to a height of around 20-30 feet. Originally from Tasmania, this beautiful tree has yellow flowers which are very small and bunched together in bright fluffy pompons. According to the Coldiretti (Farmers Union), due to the severe winter that has delayed the blossoming of the trees the quality of the Mimosa flowers is particularly good this year, although actual production is 15% less than last year. The majority of Mimosa trees are cultivated in Liguria on the terraces facing the sea. Here the climate is ideal for these plants which, in order to grow well, should never be subjected to temperatures below zero and must be sheltered from the wind. The Coldiretti claim that the Mimosa industry is beneficial to the environment for two reasons: firstly the trees are cultivated according to eco-sustainable principles, and secondly they are grown on agricultural land that would otherwise be abandoned and subject to erosion. To give you an idea of how popular the Mimosa tradition is here in Italy it is expected that 15 million Mimosa sprigs will be sold this weekend!

To keep your Festa della Donna Mimosa flowers fresh for longer you should cut off the lower leaves with a sharp knife and put them in vase with tepid, not cold, water to which you have added a couple of drops of lemon juice. It’s important to keep the flowers in full light but well away from any heating source as the Mimosa doesn’t like a dry environment.

Finally, I’d like to share with you a few words that I’ve just read on an Italian website dedicated to Festa della Donna, which were written by someone called Giuseppe: Senza le donne finirebbe il mondo: mancherebbe la dolcezza, mancherebbe l’amore di una mamma, mancherebbe il sorriso di una fanciulla, mancherebbe la voglia di vivere … Grazie Donna! Auguri Donna!(Without women the world would end: there wouldn’t be sweetness, there wouldn’t be the love of a mother, there wouldn’t be the smile of a girl, there wouldn’t be the desire to live … Thank you Woman! Best wishes!)

Auguri a tutte le donne del mondo!

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A little slice of Italy in Perryville MO

A little slice of Italy

  • Beth Durreman
Business of the Year
Sal and Vita Galati, (center) owners of Galati’s Italian Restaurant were joined by their family members (from left), Vincent, Stephanie, Vita, Sal, Gabe, Laura and Joe. Daughter Fara was unable to attend. Below, Sal and Vita Galati express their gratitude for the honor. The first ad for Galati’s Italian Pizza and Pasta appeared in November, 1990, in what was then The Monitor.


There is a little Italian Restaurant located on the corner of Main and North St. in Perryville. Galati’s Italian Restaurant is filled with the wonderful aromas of pasta and pizza and other mouthwatering Italian food, happy diners enjoying their meal and each other’s company, and the whole time you will see owners Sal and Vita Galati, serving the customers, visiting with the customers, throwing pizza dough in the air, and making everyone feel right at home in this little slice of Italy in Perryville.

How did Perryville become the home of Galati’s Italian Restaurant? It all began in Italy.

Having just got out of the Italian Navy, Salvatore “Sal” Galati was introduced to Vita DiMaggio through a friend of his, Vita’s cousin.  Vita was on vacation with her family for one week in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, Italy. The two ended up writing to each other, and an engagement was the result.

“My uncle in New York was already working on the process of getting my immigration papers ready for me so I could come to the United States, but then I became engaged to Vita,” said Sal.

Sal was on his way to the United States, but to St. Louis instead of New York.

“While in Italy I worked as a machinist,” said Sal. “When I came to the United States in 1974, my future father-in-law asked me, ‘What is it you want to do?’”

Sal was leery of being able to communicate to co-workers, and the precision of all the measuring required for a machinist job.

Sal explained, “I didn’t have the English language mastered.”

So, from March 1974 to the end of the year he learned the restaurant business in Lawrenceville, Ill., in his father-in-law’s restaurant.

Right before Sal and Vita’s wedding, her father opened up a restaurant for them in Flora Ill,. just 20 minutes south of Effingham. They stayed there for several years. In 1988 they made their first visit to Perryville, but were unable to find a location that would fit their needs.

In 1990, they decided to take their family to Italy.

Sal said, “I wanted my children to experience Italy before they grew up. But the economy was not good; no opportunity for a job that I wanted. We decided, let’s leave Italy behind us, and come back to the United States for good.”

They came to Perryville at that time, and they liked what the town had to offer. They were pleased that there were large and small businesses and that people had jobs.

“The catholic school was very important. Vita went to catholic school and she wanted our children to go, too”, said Sal.

They found the location they are currently in. “It was originally a gas station, but when we got it, it was a satellite dish store,” said Sal.

To get the building ready for the restaurant they had to get rid of the service station pit; otherwise, it was pretty easy to fix. In October 1990 Galati’s Italian Restaurant opened for business, and they have always been in this location.

Sal and Vita guarantee every item on their menu.

“When new customers come in and ask what is good, I tell them everything, I guarantee it”, Sal said. “We put in all of our effort to make everything taste good. So far, no one has ever said, ‘I don’t care for this’.”

“The cream sauce and red sauce are all made from scratch – the dough, the balsamic vinaigrette dressing, all from scratch,” Sal and Vita said in unison.

Sal said, “After so many years in business, many of the people who come in to eat really know us. It’s like a family. Everyone knows you, you can go to the store [pointing to Rozier’s] and hear, ‘Hey Sal, how are you?’ It makes you feel welcome.”

Making customers feel welcome is important to Sal and Vita, as their motto is, “Everybody is Family at Galati’s.”

Sal and Vita raised four children, three boys and one girl. The boys live in Cape Girardeau, and their daughter lives in Michigan. They have 11 grandchildren, nine girls and two boys. They are able to see their sons and their families in Cape Girardeau fairly often, but only get to visit with their daughter’s family twice a year.

Sal and Vita close the restaurant twice a year, once to go to Michigan and the other to go on a vacation where, according to Sal, “they can have some fun on the beach”.

Sal and Vita love all their customers. They have their regulars who come from Chester, Jackson, Saint Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, and of course Perryville and all the towns in Perry County.

As Tom Jones was singing in the background, “It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone,” the Galati’s glanced at each other, and Sal turned and said, “We are very grateful to the community for the support they have shown us the past 27 years.”

Vita said,  “We feel very blessed to be a part of this community and want everyone to know we are eternally grateful for their support.”

Sal came to America from Italy, married a young Italian lady from Saint Louis and together they made a living and raised their family here in Perryville. The Republic-Monitor 2018 Business of the Year  has served Perryville for 27 years, and they are looking forward to welcoming and serving families for many more years ahead.


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Honoring Collinsville Italians of the Past

The Collinsville Italian Fest and Collinsville Chamber of Commerce continue to collect names of Italian families who settled in Collinsville long ago – to be printed on our new Italian Paesani T-shirt (for Italian Fest).  Thanks very much to all those who have helped!  There’s still time to contact relatives and friends for names to be added.  Visit our Italian Fest web site ( to see the names listed so far.  To add a name to the list, send an email to

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Celebrating Women of Science & Service by Annette M. Graebe

On Sat., Mar. 24 (2 p.m.), at SIU at Edwardsville, learn about the lives of remarkable women who served in immigrant communities in a presentation called “Women of Science, Women of Service,” sponsored by ICASI, the Italian Cultural Association of Southern Illinois. Professor Cristina DeMeo will speak about the late Rita Levi-Montalcini, Italian scientist and Nobel Prize winner for research conducted at Washington University/St. Louis.  Actor Loretta Williams will portray Irish immigrant Mary Harris Jones (“Mother Jones”), explaining her contributions and why she is buried in Mt. Olive’s Union Miners Cemetery.  Norma Asadorian of Granite City will tell about the immigrant women in her community, how they survived the Armenian Genocide and Macedonian and Mexican women who provided help to many.  Juliann Caveny will portray Anna Yukovitch from Austria, whose family fought for fair wages in Southern Illinois coal mine wars, and will share memories of her deceased son Sam, a miner.  At Morris University Center/ Conference Room A.  Free admission/parking.  For more information, contact Joann Condellone at (618) 659-8759.

Rita Levi-Montalcini – Biographical

My twin sister Paola and I were born in Turin on April 22, 1909, the youngest of four children. Our parents were Adamo Levi, an electrical engineer and gifted mathematician, and Adele Montalcini, a talented painter and an exquisite human being. Our older brother Gino, who died twelve years ago of a heart attack, was one of the most well known Italian architects and a professor at the University of Turin. Our sister Anna, five years older than Paola and myself, lives in Turin with her children and grandchildren. Ever since adolescence, she has been an enthusiastic admirer of the great Swedish writer, the Nobel Laureate Selma Lagerlöf, and she infected me so much with her enthusiasm that I decided to become a writer and describe Italian saga “à la Lagerlöf”. But things were to take a different turn.

The four of us enjoyed a most wonderful family atmosphere, filled with love and reciprocal devotion. Both parents were highly cultured and instilled in us their high appreciation of intellectual pursuit. It was, however, a typical Victorian style of life, all decisions being taken by the head of the family, the husband and father. He loved us dearly and had a great respect for women, but he believed that a professional career would interfere with the duties of a wife and mother. He therefore decided that the three of us – Anna, Paola and I – would not engage in studies which open the way to a professional career and that we would not enroll in the University.

Ever since childhood, Paola had shown an extraordinary artistic talent and father’s decision did not prevent her full-time dedication to painting. She became one of the most outstanding women painters in Italy and is at present still in full activity. I had a more difficult time. At twenty, I realized that I could not possibly adjust to a feminine role as conceived by my father, and asked him permission to engage in a professional career. In eight months I filled my gaps in Latin, Greek and mathematics, graduated from high school, and entered medical school in Turin. Two of my university colleagues and close friends, Salvador Luria and Renato Dulbecco, were to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, respectively, seventeen and eleven years before I would receive the same most prestigious award. All three of us were students of the famous Italian histologist, Giuseppe Levi. We are indebted to him for a superb training in biological science, and for having learned to approach scientific problems in a most rigorous way at a time when such an approach was still unusual.

In 1936 I graduated from medical school with a summa cum laude degree in Medicine and Surgery, and enrolled in the three year specialization in neurology and psychiatry, still uncertain whether I should devote myself fully to the medical profession or pursue at the same time basic research in neurology. My perplexity was not to last too long.

In 1936 Mussolini issued the “Manifesto per la Difesa della Razza”, signed by ten Italian ‘scientists’. The manifesto was soon followed by the promulgation of laws barring academic and professional careers to non-Aryan Italian citizens. After a short period spent in Brussels as a guest of a neurological institute, I returned to Turin on the verge of the invasion of Belgium by the German army, Spring 1940, to join my family. The two alternatives left then to us were either to emigrate to the United States, or to pursue some activity that needed neither support nor connection with the outside Aryan world where we lived. My family chose this second alternative. I then decided to build a small research unit at home and installed it in my bedroom. My inspiration was a 1934 article by Viktor Hamburger reporting on the effects of limb extirpation in chick embryos. My project had barely started when Giuseppe Levi, who had escaped from Belgium invaded by Nazis, returned to Turin and joined me, thus becoming, to my great pride, my first and only assistant.

The heavy bombing of Turin by Anglo-American air forces in 1941 made it imperative to abandon Turin and move to a country cottage where I rebuilt my mini-laboratory and resumed my experiments. In the Fall of 1943, the invasion of Italy by the German army forced us to abandon our now dangerous refuge in Piemonte and flee to Florence, where we lived underground until the end of the war.

In Florence I was in daily contact with many close, dear friends and courageous partisans of the “Partito di Azione”. In August of 1944, the advancing Anglo-American armies forced the German invaders to leave Florence. At the Anglo-American Headquarters, I was hired as a medical doctor and assigned to a camp of war refugees who were brought to Florence by the hundreds from the North where the war was still raging. Epidemics of infectious diseases and of abdominal typhus spread death among the refugees, where I was in charge as nurse and medical doctor, sharing with them their suffering and the daily danger of death.

The war in Italy ended in May 1945. I returned with my family to Turin where I resumed my academic positions at the University. In the Fall of 1947, an invitation from Professor Viktor Hamburger to join him and repeat the experiments which we had performed many years earlier in the chick embryo, was to change the course of my life.

Although I had planned to remain in St. Louis for only ten to twelve months, the excellent results of our research made it imperative for me to postpone my return to Italy. In 1956 I was offered the position of Associate Professor and in 1958 that of Full Professor, a position which I held until retirement in 1977. In 1962 I established a research unit in Rome, dividing my time between this city and St. Louis. From 1969 to 1978 I also held the position of Director of the Institute of Cell Biology of the Italian National Council of Research, in Rome. Upon retirement in 1979, I became Guest Professor of this same institute.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1986, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1987

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/ Nobel Lectures/The Nobel Prizes. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.
Rita Levi-Montalcini died on December 30, 2012.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1986

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Saint Louis

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