CULTURE

Casa d’Italia is back in full force with lessons, exhibitions, seminars

Following years of dilapidation, Casa d’Italia, the imposing building housing the neighboring country’s cultural institute in Athens, has been fully refurbished and relaunched. The building, located centrally at 47 Patission Street, incurred extensive damage in the earthquakes of 1981 and 1999, but has now regained its position as the flagship of Italian culture in the Greek capital. The building was designed by an unknown architect during a transitionary period for Athenian architecture, between the post-neoclassical era and 1930s modernism. Its eccentric facade carries clear Renaissance influences, making the building Athens’s most distinctive piece of Italian architecture. Prior to its original opening as the Italian Cultural Institute of Athens in 1954, the building had also housed the Italian Chamber of Commerce and the Italian School. A major earthquake in 1981 marked the beginning of its decline. But this lackluster period lasted far longer than had been anticipated. A second powerful earthquake, 18 years later, worsened the structure’s existing damage and nullified all previous repair work done. As overwhelming as it was for the building, this second earthquake did at least spur the Italians into full action, working with Athenian architect Evgenios Ninios. The listed building’s exterior was reinstated to its original form, while preservation work was conducted on the main entrance’s impressive marble staircase and the murals. The relaunched Casa d’Italia is on a double mission. Beginning this September, it will recommence offering Italian language lessons to Greek students in 10 ultra-modern classrooms. The institute’s other role of promoting Italian culture has already begun. The revamped building is showing exhibitions by two Italian artists: sculptor and designer Emilio Greco and painter Riccardo Licata. Furthermore, an exhibition of works by Giorgio de Chirico and Alberto Savinio has been planned for September, while in October, the institute will host various events, over a 10-day period, honoring the two most recent Olympic cities, Athens and Turin. The most impressive news however, concerns an exhibition scheduled for November at the Byzantine Museum titled «Myth, Mythology and the Sea,» comprising a total of 80 works from major Italian museums.