Where Did the @ symbol come from? The reply is in Naples.

Where Did the @ symbol come from? The reply is in Naples.

This summer I was in Naples and I visited the Historical Archives of the Bank of Naples. They hold more than 300.000  Bank documents with 17 millions of names on them. The history of Southern Italy of the last 450 years is stored in these Archives.


I was walking along the corridors of the Archives surronded by thousands of documents when I decided to open one. I started reading when…I couldn’t believe my eyes….I run to the window, carrying the book in order to have more light because… it was not possible that the symbol @ could be in a book writtten in 1610!! It was!…The symbol @ was in all pages……!!


I had always tought that it was something invented in the States by a computer engineer but…The origin of the symbol itself, one of the most graceful characters on the keyboard, is something of a mystery. One theory is that medieval monks, looking for shortcuts while copying manuscripts, converted the Latin word for “toward”—ad—to “a” with the back part of the “d” as a tail. Or it came from the French word for “at”—à—and scribes, striving for efficiency, swept the nib of the pen around the top and side. Or the symbol evolved from an abbreviation of “each at”—the “a” being encased by an “e.”

The first documented use was in 1536, in a letter by Francesco Lapi, a Florentine merchant, who used @ to denote units of wine called amphorae, which were shipped in large clay jars.



The symbol later took on a historic role in commerce. Merchants have long used it to signify “at the rate of”—as in “12 widgets @ $1.” (That the total is $12, not $1, speaks to the symbol’s pivotal importance.) Still, the machine age was not so kind to @. The first typewriters, built in the mid-1800s, didn’t include @. Likewise, @ was not among the symbolic array of the earliest punch-card t which were precursors to computer programming.


The symbol was used in 1971, when a computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson was facing a vexing problem: how to connect people who programmed computers with one another.

Tomlinson’s challenge was how to address a message created by one person and sent through Arpanet to someone at a different computer. The address needed an individual’s name, he reasoned, as well as the name of the computer, which might service many users. And the symbol separating those two address elements could not already be widely used in programs and operating systems, lest computers be confused.
Tomlinson’s eyes fell on @, poised above “P” on his Model 33 teletype. “I was mostly looking for a symbol that wasn’t used much,” he told. “


But the oldest document in which you can find the symbol@ is not an accounting document but religious one. In 1345 the @ was used for the Word “Amen” in a book kept in the Vatican Apostolic Library in Rome.
As always..if you wish to understand the present, it’s important to look into in the past.

The “Sistine Chapel ” at the Roman Forum   –  The church of  St. Maria Antiqua

The “Sistine Chapel ” at the Roman Forum – The church of St. Maria Antiqua

At the back of the Temple of Castor and Pollux (easily recognized by the 3 columns that still remained standing) is Santa Maria Antiqua (Ancient Church of Saint Mary), a 6th century Roman Catholic Marian church built at the foot of Palatine Hill inside the Roman Forum during the reign of Emperor Justin I I (565 – 578).

DSC_1617                                                                                           Castor and Pollux temple

DSC_1642                                                                                            View over the temple

It’s an excellent example of an early Christian church built into the remains of a pre-existing pagan building. The pagan building dates to the 1st century A.C. The complex consisted of a central court with three doors that led into a square  atrium.

After the massive earthquake in 847, the church was abandoned and left to crumble until its rediscovery in the 18th century and extensive excavation work brought it back to light.

DSC_1748                                                                                         Church building material

After thirty years of being closed to the public, Santa Maria Antiqua re-opens thanks to the latest renovation and restoration that has lasted over the past three decades.

DSC_1732                                                                                  Jonah  Christian sarcophagus detail

The interior’s frescoes of saints and martyrs, queens, popes and emperors (2690 square feet) have now been restored at a cost of about 2.7 million euros ($3 million), funded by the Italian state and the World Monuments Fund. DSC_1661                                                                                                Church interior


DSC_1624                                                                                            Church frescoes


“This church is the Sistine Chapel of the early Middle Ages. It collected the very best of figurative culture of the Christian world between Rome and Byzantium.”

DSC_1686                                                                                    Virgin Mary fresco 8th century A.C.


The interior walls were magnificently decorated with mosaics, polychrome marble, and richly colored frescoes that spanned across 3 centuries and 7 superimposed layers as newer frescoes were painted on top of older frescos creating a palimpsest that gives us a unique glimpse into the development of early Medieval and Byzantine art .

DSC_1679                                                                                            Seven layers frescos


Among the treasures is a depiction of the Virgin Mary with child, one of the oldest known Christian icons in the world, which was moved to another church in Rome after the earthquake but has now been returned to Santa Maria Antiqua.

DSC_1728                                                                                              Virgin Mary Icon


The Chapel of  Theodotus with a beautiful crucifixion  and frescos representing the martyrdom of St. Giulitta and St. Quirico (8th century A.C.)

DSC_1692                                                                                                Christ Crucifixion

The Chapel of the Holy Phisicians with frescos representing some medical saints as St Cosmas and Damian. People came to this chapel to pray and be healed by the saint’s intervention.

DSC_1667                                                                                           Holy Phisicians frescos

Nearby the Church, a little space turned into the Oratory of the 40 martyrs. 40 Roman soldiers who were forced to die in a frozen lake.

DSC_1625                                                                                         The 40 Roman soldiers


The church lies close to the entrance to a large underground passageway that allowed the emperors and their retinues to pass unseen between their hilltop palaces and the Roman Forum.

The 2,000-year-old “imperial ramp” was opened to the public for the first time in October.

Originally more than 300 yards long, it consisted of seven zigzag ramps, four of which remain today.

DSC_1736                                                                                       Emperor Domitian’s ramp

The ceiling of the passageway is so high that emperors could easily have passed through it on horseback.

While walking through this ancient site, you feel as if you are traveling back in time to the early centuries of the Christian civilization of Rome.The exhibition is complemented by  a series of video installations and 3D reconstructions that seek to give back.

DSC_1694                                                                                            3D Reconstruction

If you happen to be in the area and want a real taste of ancient Roman history, make sure to put this on your list of things to see while in Rome.It will possible only until September 17th 2016.




David Herbert Lawrence’s House.. 60 miles from Rome….

David Herbert Lawrence’s House.. 60 miles from Rome….

A couple of weeks ago I left home and I drove East of Rome (2 hours away). I was looking for the house where the famous David Herbert Lawrence wrote the last chapters of the book “The lost girl”.


“Sex and beauty are inseparable, like life and consciouness. And the intelligence which goes with sex and beauty, and arises out of sex and beauty, is intuition”


Born in England on September 11, 1885, he is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Lawrence published many novels and poetry volumes during his lifetime, but is best known for his infamous novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

In 1919, with the First World War finally ended, Lawrence  departed England for Italy. Here, he spent two highly enjoyable years traveling around.

He stopped with his wife Frieda for two weeks in a small town  Picinisco  located in a region called Ciociaria (named after the special shoes local wore).

DSC_1121Casa Lawrence


He was so charmed by the beauty of these mountains, history and people that he had the right inspiration to end his book.

The Lost Girl, D. H. Lawrence’s forgotten novel, is a passionate tale of longing and sexual defiance, of devastation and destitution.

Alvina Houghton, the daughter of a widowed Midlands draper, comes of age just as her father’s business is failing. In a desperate attempt to regain his fortune and secure his daughter’s proper upbringing, James Houghton buys a theater. Among the traveling performers he employs is Ciccio, a sensual Italian who immediately captures Alvina’s attention. Fleeing with him to Naples, she leaves her safe world behind and enters one of sexual awakening, desire, and fleeting freedom.


DSC_1124The garden


Reviled as a crude and pornographic writer for much of the latter part of his life, D.H. Lawrence is now widely considered—alongside James Joyce and Virginia Woolf—as one of the great modernist English-language writers. His linguistic precision, mastery of a wide range of subject matters and genres, psychological complexity and exploration of female sexuality distinguish him as one of the most refined and revolutionary English writers of the early 20th century.



Once arrived, the house looks a little bit English but you’re right welcome by the great smell of the Italian cuisine. Today on the first floor, Lawrence’s apartments looks like when he left.


DSC_1134Lawrence’s bedroom

DSC_1137His typewriter and the ciocie (leather shoes)


At the ground floor there is a well know restaurant. The owner Loreto is, first of all, a man who loves his land and produces everything you eat in his restaurant.

The  goat ricotta he makes is the best I ever had in my life!!..and cheeses too!!!


Ingredienti_ricottapecoraGoat ricotta

indexThe famous local white beans


It’s not hard to believe why Lawrence loved this region….Its history (since Roman time up to the Unification of Italy), the mountains, the lakes, the vineyards (the best and the first Cabernet wine was produced here, in this region),


vinoCabernet Wine “il podere del falco”


William Kentridge Waterfront  Frieze for Rome Triumphs and Defeats

William Kentridge Waterfront Frieze for Rome Triumphs and Defeats

Triumphs and Laments

William Kentridge’s latest project for Rome is called Triumphs and Laments. He will transform  with a 1800 foot long frieze, the Tiber waterfront into a crazy-long work: 80 figures, 30 feet high. The story on the wall will tell Rome’s Greatest Victories and Defeats.


The inaugural ceremony will take place on April 21st  2016 for Rome’s birthday.


Kristin Jones, the artistic director conceived this whole thing,” she said “It’s the dream of my life.” She won a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to Rome in 1983. She was interested in public art, and an instructor had advised her to see what the city had in store. Jones was stunned by Rome’s beauty and architecture.


In 2004, Jones founded TEVERETERNO, a non-profit organization to produce cultural events in Rome and encourage artistic expression. She believes that contemporary art can be a vehicle for urban renewal and environmental awareness. As a New Yorker, Jones has seen organizations such as Creative Time and the Public Art Fund erect meaningful public work. She lamented the lack of similar funding in Rome and decided to create her own “urban place-making project.”


Igor Mitoraj in Pompeii

Igor Mitoraj in Pompeii


Last summer I was in Pietrasanta, a small town in Tuscany. All the streets are decorated by giant statues made by important contemporary artists.I was impressed by the astonishing power and beauty of the statues by  a very important artist Igor Mitoraj.


Igor was born in Poland in 1944. At the beginning of his carrier he worked with terracotta and bronze but a trip to Carrara, Italy, in 1979 turned him to using marble as his primary medium. He died unfortunately two years ago.

His works are all around the world Great Britain, Canada and Italy. We have one in Rome: the beautiful bronze door of St. Mary of the Angels.


During an interview he said :“The idea of beauty is ambiguous, a double-edged sword that can easily hurt you, causing pain and torture”. “My art is an example of this dichotomy: mesmerizing perfection attached to corrupted imperfection.”


Before dying he had a dream: I would like to see my statues displayed in Pompeii!

A dream come true..From May 2016 the visitors of Pompeii will walk through an Ancient city surrounded by the unbelievable bronze and marble statues by Igor.