More than five centuries after his birth on April 15, 1519, Leonardo da Vinci and his Mona Lisa are still making headlines. A front-page article in the New York Times claims that the Saudi Cultural Ministry, which bought Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) for a record $450 million in 2017, refused to display the painting in a major Leonardo retrospective in 2019. The reason: The Louvre would not hang the world’s most expensive painting next to the most famous, the Mona Lisa.
T.S. Eliot called it the cruelest month (il mese più crudele). Yet this is also the romantic month that inspired classic songs and movies like April in Paris and April Love. And as the cheerful childhood rhyme reminds us, April showers bring May flowers. April has long been of my favorite months to visit Italy. Since that’s not possible this year, I’ve been savoring April in Italian.
This year millions of us, in Italy and around the world, will not be celebrating Easter the way we once did. Yet the shared hope of rebirth that Easter symbolizes still can unite us all. Wherever you are, whomever you’re with, may you hold your loved ones close in your hearts and extend your compassion to all in need. As Christ taught us so long ago, love can and will triumph.
La Settimana Santa (Holy Week) will be different this year, especially in Italy. In years past pilgrims from around the world would travel to Italy to commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every region celebrated with rituals that blend faith, folklore, tradition and community:
In English the most eagerly awaited of seasons “springs” to life with blunt urgency. In Italian la primavera blossoms into four elegant syllables. My etymological dictionary traces primavera back to radici indoeuropee (Indo-European roots): prima for “before” and vas for ardente, splendente (burning, shining), which evolved into a word for “summer.” And so Spring is simply the season “before summer.” But what a season it is!
“Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered). These three Latin words summarize the passions of the consummate Roman leader: Gaius Julius Caesar (100–44 BC), who lived to conquer—by sword, word, or seduction.