In Foligno, “a Galileo Universe”

April 17, 2015 / Events
Foligno, Umbria

Where else can you join a Saturday night rapt crowd ranging from teens to the elderly in a 14th-century frescoed monastic church – now an auditorium – to hear a physicist and linguist in spirited colloquy on Il dialogo fra un umanista e uno scienziato? In Foligno at the fifth edition of the Festa di Scienza e Filosofia! The Saturday night dialogue between a scientist (a physicist, specialist in subnuclear particles) and humanist (a professor of linguistics) was one of seventy-eight conferences presented in the 17th-century town hall, Baroque family palaces, the local theater, a 14th-century convent, and Foligno’s frescoed medieval splendor, Palazzo Trinci, in this four-day April festival.

Noble Baroque palace as venue
A medieval Dominican church, now auditorium  - festival venue

Paolo Mieli, noted Italian journalist and editor put it this way before his talk on history as the formative base of the future. “I’m overcome, overwhelmed by this festa, truly an honor for Italy. Without these initiatives, we return to barbarianism. You’ve chosen this festival rather than Saturday night parties. Do not stop coming. Compliments to the festival organizers. Compliments to each of you.”

The festival “started almost as a game,“ Maurizio Renzini told me with a grin as we talked just before the talk “Neurotechnology and Human Enhancement” presented by Paolo Benanti, Franciscan friar and former bioethics theology professor at Georgetown. One of the founders (in 2011) of Foligno’s Laboratorio delle Scienze Sperimentali, Renzini added that the first festival had opened with just twenty-six conferences and attendance at the 2015 festival had leapt to 25,000 (5,000 more than last year). For four days, Foligno’s piazzas, coffee bars and restaurants were filled until late at night with physicists, biologists, neuroscientists, historians and philosophers joining festival attendees in animated conversation.

Poster of festival

Two hundred high schoolers offered assistance at all conferences, answering visitors questions, keeping festival statistics, selling books written by festival lecturers and filming and videoing the conferences. The festival draws in small children, too: conferences for the little ones included everything from origami workshops to maze walks to the building of robots. Children from five to eleven could sign up for philosophy laboratories and festival theatrical presentations introduce the little ones to Galileo, to Dante. All students in all of the Foligno schools participated in some way in the festival, either participating in conferences (older students) or in science and/or philosophy laboratories (younger ones). After the talk “La Rivoluzione Spaziale” by Roberto Battiston, head of Italy’s space program, a young sixth-grade fan presented him a drawing of his conception of the universe, a pre-talk assignment of his teacher.

200 students as volunteers

And as this is a festival in Italy, the food element could not be missing. During la Festa di Scienza e Filosofia, twelve Foligno restaurants offer menus on two themes: “Science in the kitchen, innovation and tradition” and “Science in action: Nature and biodiversity.” At the trattoria La Zucca, the young chef presented lamb cooked both in the traditional way of Umbria’s shepherds and in a nouvelle cuisine mode. At another restaurant, the festival menu taped to the door bore the heading “Festival menu, scientifically tested.” At the restaurant of Hotel Italia, I talked to elderly owner/cook Lella as she prepared desserts in the restaurant kitchen, her granddaughter at her side. Lella’s festival menu would include ravioli stuffed with a citrus fruit medley and a pasta filled with spring artichokes and veal followed by a main course of codfish and potatoes on a bed of chickpea cream. She dubbed her menu “the language of Galileo’s universe.”

Hotel La Zucca..lamb cooked in two ways
Galileo's language of the universe
Lella with pizza
Lella and dessert
Lella and Alessandra

Perfetto: after all for four days, Foligno would become a “Galileo universe.”

More on the Festa della Scienza e Filosofia.

A science conference

Medieval palace of Foligno, Palzzao Trinci-sm

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

15 Responses to “In Foligno, “a Galileo Universe””

  1. Glory Pionati

    Ann! Thank you for another amazing story! I heard about this event but it was too late for me to arrange to go, but reading the article was amazing and informative! thank you so much!

  2. Stephanie Webb

    What a unique event! I especially enjoyed hearing about the opportunities the younger generation was given to be part of this festival. As with all Italian festivals, another one I would have loved to attend. Thank you for sharing, your way with words almost makes me feel I was there, too!

  3. Sandi Spector

    Fabulous. We always get a ‘feel’ for the event from your writing & a “wish we were there”. I wish the US conferences involved the citizens of te town where everyone got more out of it, not just monitarily.

  4. Anne Ladky

    Loved this note–the festival sounds great; very glad to learn about it. Another reason to love Italians/Italian life: “Children from five to eleven could sign up for philosophy laboratories and festival theatrical presentations introduce the little ones to Galileo, to Dante.”

  5. Sandra Potter

    Anne, you’ve done it again! This article just made me want to be in Italy sooner. Always something great going on. I was especialy delighted that the younger children participated.

  6. Anne Kimball

    great article Anne, Sorry we did not see yo. Hope all is well with you in the states Anne K

  7. Katie Larsh

    Another great piece on how Italians keep culture alive for all ages!! Thanks again Annie for another great view into Italy’s gifts!!!

  8. simonetta Leonardi

    what a good journalist you are!! Your report underlines the aspects I liked more too

  9. Rosemary Johnson

    What a wonderful festival! And, so nice to see that young and old are included in the planning. Would have enjoyed being there and soaking in the energy! Thanks for the information.

  10. marianna raccuglia

    Hi Anne, Thank you for this wonderful article and fantastic photos. Sad that I could not be there with Val, hopefully I WILL be there next year! Your fan, Marianna

  11. Gull-Britt Lundsröm

    Thank you Anne for this ! Interesting and nice pictures!

  12. Barbara Goldfield
    Barbara Goldfield

    How lucky for those who live in such an enlightened town!


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