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WINE

‘Tired of the controversy’: Why Italy’s ‘Hitler wines’ are being discontinued

An Italian winery has announced it will stop selling bottles emblazoned with the faces of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini after decades of defending them as a ‘joke’.

‘Tired of the controversy’: Why Italy’s ‘Hitler wines’ are being discontinued
Bottles of wine with pictures of Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin and Stalin for sale in central Rome. File photo: Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

The owners of an Italian wine company have said they’ll stop selling a range of bottles emblazoned with images of dictators including Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini long criticised as offensive to the memory of victims of fascist regimes.

“Enough, we’re tired of all this controversy,” Andrea Lunardelli, who will soon take over the management of Vini Lunardelli from his 80-year-old father, told Italian media. 

“From next year, the line with the labels featuring characters like Hitler and Mussolini will disappear,” he said, according to newspaper La Repubblica.

For the past 25 years the company, based near Udine in the north-eastern Friuli Venezia Giulia region, has marketed a range of bottles also featuring images of Josef Stalin, Francisco Franco and Heinrich Himmler.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the company has repeatedly come under fire over what it calls its “historical line” of wines.

The wines are banned from sale in Germany and Austria due to laws prohibiting the display of Nazi symbols, but are sold online and in more than 50 stores in Italy – mainly in tourist areas – without any restrictions.

“We’re not Nazis”, Lunardelli insisted, adding that “this has never been an apology for fascism”.

Lunardelli has long defended his products against criticism, telling The Local back in 2013 that the ploy was “just marketing” and was not intended to cause offence.

He said the range has been popular among customers outside of Italy, with foreign tourists in Italy being the biggest market.

A customer takes a photo of bottles of wine featuring pictures of Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin and Stalin for sale in central Rome. Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

“This is why we only sell it at shops in tourist places; hardly any Italians buy the wine – well, occasionally they might go for a Benito Mussolini bottle.

“People usually buy it as a joke gift, that’s what it’s for, it’s not meant to offend anyone.”

Lunardelli also claimed some people buy the wine simply because it tastes good.

The winery sells some 20,000 bottles from its ‘historical’ line every year, around 12,000 of which feature Hitler and 6,000 Mussolini, reports La Repubblica.

The range is now set to be scrapped and the winery renamed when Lunardelli officially takes over from his father.

That’s all except for the company’s ‘Amaro del Duce’ – an after-dinner drink or digestivo named after Mussolini – “because it’s produced in partnership with another company”, he said.

But Lunardelli’s move doesn’t mean wines emblazoned with fascist symbols and dictators’ faces will disappear from Italian souvenir shops altogether, La Repubblica notes, as several other Italian companies continue to market similar products.

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ITALIAN HISTORY

Treasure trove of ancient Roman statues unearthed in Tuscany

24 bronze statues dating back over two millennia have been discovered in the Tuscan province of Siena, Italian media reported on Tuesday.

Treasure trove of ancient Roman statues unearthed in Tuscany

The artefacts, estimated to be 2,300 years old, were reportedly in a near perfect state of preservation due to having been buried in a mixture of mud and thermo-mineral spring water typical to the area.

Along with the statues, more than five thousand gold, silver and bronze coins were uncovered, according to national broadcaster Rai.

Many of the artefacts were reportedly accompanied by inscriptions in Etruscan and Latin.

Excavation works at the Etruscan-Roman shrine in the township of San Casciano dei Bagni where the objects were discovered had been ongoing since 2019.

Archaeologist Jacopo Tabolli, who led the dig with a grant from Italy’s Ministry of Culture and funding from the town’s council, told the Ansa news agency that the find was “absolutely unique”.

“It’s a discovery that will rewrite history and one which more than 60 experts from all over the world are already working on,” Tabolli, who works as a professor at Siena’s University for Foreigners, added.

Among the votive objects retrieved from the sacred site were a statue of Apollo, as well as Hygieia, the goddess of health, with a snake coiled around her arm, and various other divinities and emperors, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The discovery has been compared to that of the ‘Riace bronzes’ – two life size Greek bronze statues that were found just off the shore in the Calabrian seaside town of Riace in 1972.

Massimo Osanna, head of Museums at Italy’s Ministry of Culture, said the latest find was “the most important discovery since the Bronze Statues of Riace and certainly one of the most significant bronze finds ever made in the history of the ancient Mediterranean.” 

It’s believed that the site where the objects were found was an active place of worship between the third century BC and the fifth century BC, but was later closed in Christian times.

Instead of being destroyed, however, the temple is thought to have been sealed and the votive statues buried – which is why they were discovered in such an intact state.

The discovery also sheds new light on the interaction between Etruscan and Roman societies, showing that the Etruscan language survived for longer than had been believed.

“Even in historical epochs in which the most awful conflicts were raging outside, inside these pools and on these altars the two worlds, the Etruscan and Roman ones, appear to have co-existed without problems,” Tabolli said.

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