Il Divo's Pretty Piazza

Daily Mail (London), November 18, 2013 | Go to article overview
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Il Divo's Pretty Piazza

QUESTION Where was the stunning video for the Il Divo song Mama recorded? THE funeral procession depicted in the video was filmed below and within the town of Tropea, in Calabria, in southern Italy (near the tip of the 'boot'). This beautiful town is famous for its precarious position atop an imposing cliff rising up immediately behind the golden sands of Tropea's beaches. The way the houses cling precariously to the cliff is quite striking.

Evidence of colonisation of Tropea dates from the Paleolithic period but it was first settled by the ancient Greeks, who gave the town its name. The small town is one of the prettiest in Calabria.

The cobbled streets are lined with old buildings terminating in charming piazzas and at various points you find yourself gazing down alarmingly at the sea below.

On a clear day, you can see the Aeolian Islands, including the active Stromboli volcano. When the volcano is active, after dark a boat trip is a must. Despite regular earthquakes, most of the old town buildings are intact. The most celebrated building is Tropea's Norman cathedral or Duomo, built in the 12th Century on the site of an ancient Greek place of worship. Above the main altar is the icon of the Blessed Virgin Our Lady of Romania, the patron saint of Tropea.

Every year on September 9, the icon is taken in procession around the town. Two Second World War bombs hang outside the Duomo which, the Tropeans believe, did not explode thanks to the protection of the Blessed Virgin.

The most striking building in Tropea is the Gothic church of Santa Maria dell'Isola. Built in medieval times, it has been repaired and reconstructed due to the earthquakes of 1783 and 1905. It sits on its own cliff, separate from the town and dominating the beaches either side.

Caroline Oldbury, Shawbury, Shropshire.

QUESTION Did American Indians cultivate peanuts, or was this product introduced from another part of the world? THE peanut is indigenous to South America. The oldest specimen was found in Peru and dates back 7,000 to 8,000 years. The origin of cultivation is probably in the western Amazon basin, in the region of southern Bolivia and northern Argentina. Peanuts were certainly cultivated in southern Bolivia from 800 BC.

Cultivation spread into Central America where it was encountered by 15th-Century Spanish explorers. Vendors in Mexico called it the tlalcacahuatl, which the Spanish translated as cacahuate. In Mexican Spanish the peanut is still called cacahuate (in French it is caca-huete). In the 1530s, the peanut travelled to India and Macao with the Portuguese and to the Philippines with the Spanish. Traders then introduced peanuts from these lands into China. There, the peanut was seen as a crop which could help the nation cope with the burden of famine. Today China is the biggest peanut producer in the world.

Peanuts were introduced to Africa by the Portuguese. In the early 16th Century, the Portuguese established enclaves on the Africa coast to resupply their fleets headed for the spice trade in Asia. Peanuts were ideal food for mariners; easy to grow and their hard shell prevented spoiling.

Production spread across Africa so rapidly early botanists thought they were indigenous to that continent.

The peanut eventually made its way from Africa to North America during the slave trade.

While there was some peanut cultivation in South Carolina in the 18th Century, this was restricted by the perception that it was a food for the poor. In the early 20th Century, African-American scientist George Washington Carver changed the public perception of the peanut. Carver was recruited by Booker T Washington to become the director of agriculture at The Tuskegee Institute.

Carver is credited with solving the Southern farmers' problem of soil depletion by cotton crops by suggesting that peanuts be grown in rotation with cotton to replenish the nitrogen in the soil.

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