Legacy of Letters Tour & Workshop 2017 Itinerary
Legacy of Letters Tour & Workshop 2017 : Letterpress Printing with Erik Spiekermann
The upcoming Legacy of Letters Tour & Workshop will begin in Turin (Torino) before visiting Rovereto and Padua. It will conclude in Cornuda, home of the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione, where Erik Spiekermann will lead a five-day letterpress printing workshop.
For the first time the Legacy of Letters tour will visit Torino, the home of the House of Savoy, in the Piedmont region of Italy. Camillo Benso, Conte di Cavour (commonly known as Cavour) (1810–1861) of Torino was one of the three key figures in the drive for Italian unification, along with Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882) and Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872). Consequently, the city was the first capital of unified Italy in 1861, a position it held for only four years. Since the 1870s Torino has been one of the three major manufacturing centers of Italy (the others being Milano and Genoa). Its strength is the automotive industry.
The architectural symbol of Torino is the Mole Antonelliana, begun in 1863 as a synagogue but completed in 1889 as a building owned by the Municipality of Torino. At the time of its completion it was the tallest masonry (key word) building in Europe. Since 2000 it has been the home of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema.
Torino is also home to the Museo Egizio di Torino, one of the most important Egyptian collections in the world. If you read Patrick Hunt‘s paean to its riches, it may be the first stop you make once you get off the train from Milano.
Monday, July 3 : Turin (Torino)
The Legacy of Letters tour will begin in the evening with an orientation meeting accompanied by the obligatory aperitivi. In Torino, home to the legendary Carpano distillery (founded in 1786), I would suggest drinking Carpano Antica Formula, a wonderful light vermouth that only recently has been made available again. I first drank it in Genoa in 2012 at an Art Deco caffé where the waiter served it on the rock (that’s right, when I asked for ice, I got a single ice cube). But another option for those with more fortitude is to drink Carpano Antica Formula as part of a Negroni. Traditionally, equal parts vermouth (Carpano), Campari and gin, I like mine to have a little more Campari and a little less gin. But however you have it, beware that a Negroni packs a punch.
Following the orientation there will be a welcome dinner.
Tuesday, July 4 : Turin (Torino)
The tour will get underway in the morning with walking tour of Torino’s city center. I have not been in Torino since 2002, three years before I got my first digital camera. So, unfortunately, I have no personal photographs to post here.
But I enjoyed walking about the centro storico. Strolling the arcaded Via Roma (with its Fascist era street signs), which links the train station at Porta Nuova to the Piazza Castello, was a delight. The arcades provide shade and relief from the rain and the sun. (When I was there in winter 2002 I ducked under them to avoid the drizzle.) The street is the central artery of Torino. Along it one finds the Church of San Carlo Borromeo, a monument to Emanuele Filiberto (the original Duke of Savoy not the current television personality), the Palazzo Turinetti di Pertengo—and the local Apple store. The Piazza Castello, its terminus, is the site of the Palazzo Madama, the Teatro Regio, the Armeria Reale (a museum of arms and armor), and the Royal Church of San Lorenzo—and off of the adjoining Piazzetta Reale, there is the Palazzo Reale. (Note: in Italian “Real” means “royal.”)
Our morning walk will focus on urban lettering (inscriptions, commercial signs, street names, etc.), but will also include information on the architectural and historical sights of Torino. The morning will conclude with a visit to the Biblioteca nazionale e universitaria di Torino where we will look at manuscripts, including the work of the famous Renaissance calligrapher Bartolomeo Sanvito, and incunabula.
The library owns two Sanvito manuscripts, a Livy (c.1460) and a Petrarch (c.1463/1454). Unfortunately, the latter exists only in tortured fragments since it was a victim of a major fire at the library in 1904.
In the afternoon we will visit the Archivio Tipografico for a letterpress printing demonstration.
Wednesday, July 5 : Rovereto
In the morning we will drive to Rovereto, a small town located an hour north of Verona on the former border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The town is notable for MART (Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto) and the Casa d’Arte Futurista Depero (now owned by MART). The latter was the home of the second generation Futurist artist Fortunato Depero (1892–1960), a painter, sculptor, set designer, puppet maker, furniture designer, and advertising artist and graphic designer. His multi-faceted work was included in the landmark exhibition Italian Futurism, 1909–1944 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2014. But it is best seen in the Casa Depero.
Depero is best known as the creator of the Libro Bullato (the Bolted Book), an exact facsimile of which will be published soon by Designers & Books in conjunction with the Center for Italian Modern Art in lower Manhattan, owners of a pristine copy of the original book. The Bolted Book—real title Depero Futurista—(1927) is a typographic tour de force, a combination of manifesto and promotional piece summing up Depero’s professional life until that point. It contains poetry, polemics, and reproductions of paintings, set designs, pavilions (notably his innovative typographic pavilion for publisher Bestetti e Tumminelli e Fratelli Treves for the 1927 Biennale Internazionale di Arti Decorative at Monza), and advertising work. The latter is dominated by Depero’s famous campaigns for Campari. For the company he also designed the iconic tapered pre-mixed single-serve Camparisoda aperitif bottle. There is a bar that serves Campari and soda in the Casa Depero. Unfortunately, when Legacy of Letters visited the museum in 2012, the bar was closed. We could look but not drink.
We will visit both the Casa Depero and the MART Archives after lunch to see not only Depero’s wide-ranging work but also important documents of Futurist writing and art by F.T. Marinetti (1876–1944), Umberto Boccioni (1882–1916), Carlo Carrà (1881–1966), Ardengo Soffici (1879–1964) and others.
Thursday, July 6 : Rovereto & Padua
Before leaving Rovereto we have a visit to the Biblioteca Rosminiana planned for the morning. Then we take a beautiful drive from the alpine foothills of the Alto Adige to the Veneto plains and the important city of Padua, located on the Bacchiglione River twenty-five miles west of Venice. One of the oldest cities in Northern Italy, Padua boasts the second-oldest Italian university and the first botanical gardens (Orto Botanico, established in 1545). Among those who have been on the faculty of the University of Padua (founded in 1222) are Vesalius, Copernicus and Galileo. But for Legacy of Letters, our focus in Padua is its rich artistic history from Ancient Rome to the Renaissance.
After arriving in Padua in the afternoon we will make a pilgrimage to see a key work by three of the most important Italian artists: the Cappella deli Scrovegni by Giotto (1267–1337), the statue of Gattemelatta by Donatello (c.1386–1466), and Cappella Eremitani by Mantegna (1430/1431–1506). Giotto’s fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel is considered a landmark in the history of Western art. It underwent a major restoration in 2002 and since then access has been carefully controlled with visitors having to enter a climatized room prior to visiting the Chapel. Despite the new procedures, the frescoes remain a marvel. It is too bad that visits are timed to thirty minutes as there is so much detail to take in. But all the more reason to make another visit in the future. I particularly like The Lamentation among the sacred stories and the depiction of Envy (Invidia) among the vices and virtues.
Adjacent to the Scrovegni Chapel is the Museo Archeologico di Padova which has some excellent Roman inscriptions in its courtyard. It is a reminder that you don’t have to go to Rome to see examples of Roman lettering. (There are also a number of top-flight medieval and Renaissance inscriptions scattered about the streets of Padua. We may see some of them in the course of our walk from S. Antonio to the Musei Civici agli Eremitani.)
At the Church of the Eremitani we will look at what remains of Mantegna’s early masterpiece, the frescoes of the Ovetari Chapel. Parts of the frescoes, including the important Scenes from the Life of St. James were destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II. Black-and-white photographs are all we have to remind of us what this work looked like. But other frescoes in the chapel are in better shape, such as the Life of St. Christopher (see above).
Friday, July 7 : Padua
Our other principal reason for stopping in Padua besides seeing the Scrovegni Chapel, is a visit to the Biblioteca del Seminario Vescovile, one of our favorite libraries in Italy. We will look at manuscripts from the Carolingian era to the late Renaissance—ranging in size from the tiny to the enormous—along with a few early printed books by Nicolaus Jenson, Erhard Ratdolt and others. After our time in the library there will be a free afternoon for participants to explore Padua on their own. I would recommend visiting the Orto Botanico, the basilica of S. Antonio, or just relaxing in a caffé along the Prato della Valle or at the Piazza dei Signori. Like any Italian city, Padua is a terrific place to simply sit and watch the world go by.
In the late afternoon we will drive to Cornuda and end the day with an aperitivo at the Villa Bolzonello, a working vineyard specializing in prosecco—and our lodgings for the duration of the letterpress workshop with Erik Spiekermann.
Saturday, July 8 : Cornuda—Workshop Day 1
Cornuda, a small town about an hour or so northwest of Venice, is the home of the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione where the letterpress workshop will take place. The Tipoteca is a 40 to 60 minute walk from the Villa. I find it a delightful walk, but for those who prefer to ride in air-conditioned comfort (after all, this is Italy in July), we will have a van available. And there will be a few bicycles available as well.
The first day of the letterpress workshop will begin with a tour of the Tipoteca in the morning. It will be an opportunity to see its impressive collection of wood type as well as metal (and even plastic) type along with its collection of proofing presses and iron hand presses. Erik will outline the project for the workshop. The afternoon will be spent planning out the project.
Sunday, July 9 : Veneto
The Tipoteca is closed on Sundays so the day will be a chance for participants to think about the letterpress project or they can opt to join an all-day architectural and gastronomic tour of the Veneto, organized by Sandro Berra of the Tipoteca. Among the proposed sites are the Villa di Maser by Palladio (1508–1580), the Tomba Brion by Carlo Scarpa (1906–1978), the hilltop town of Asolo, and the Cistercian Abbazia of Follina. The trip is an opportunity to see the beautiful countryside around Cornuda and to relax before the letterpress workshop begins in earnest on Monday.
Monday, July 10 : Cornuda—Workshop Day 2
The workshop will begin with basic instruction in setting type and running a proofing press for those who are newcomers to letterpress printing. After that the day will be spent working on the project. Details of the project and the workshop schedule are still being planned by Erik Spiekermann, his assistant Ferdinand Ulrich, Alta and myself.
Tuesday, July 11 : Cornuda—Workshop Day 3
Continuation of the letterpress workshop.
Wednesday, July 12 : Cornuda—Workshop Day 4
Continuation of the letterpress workshop. In the evening there will be a group dinner at the Tipoteca’s award-winning restaurant Le Corderie followed by a public lecture by Erik Spiekermann.
Thursday, July 13 : Cornuda—Workshop Day 5
The final day of the letterpress workshop will conclude with a critique and group photograph. Then there will be a celebratory farewell dinner in the evening.