A typically cynical Florentine friend recently commented, "The Italians like the idea of liking culture" - followed by a shrug of the shoulders and a heavy silence. This was a direct response to the government's drastic cuts to the nation's arts budget - resulting in the near closure of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, a celebrated international festival of theater and music that began operation in 1933.

But liking the idea of liking culture is no small achievement in its own right, even if it is sometimes the beginning and the end of the story. And for Italians, their collective identification with art and history cuts right across social and economic divisons.

To quote an American friend with an Italian wife (not to mention Italian children and grandchildren), "In the United States, going to museums and the opera can lose you elections. Here, it can help you win them."

TheTeatro Gabriele D'Annunzio in Pescara,
39th Edition of the Flaiano Prizes.

So, let me ask you a question... In America, what are the chances of a serious archival historian (like Edward Goldberg) being invited to participate in an awards ceremony with show business celebrities - honoring a fun but scholarly book like Jews and Magic in Medici Florence?

Somewhere (I venture to say) between "Zero","No Way" and "You must be joking!"

Left to right, 2012 Flaiano Prize Winners for Italian Culture: Alfred Noe (Vienna), Edward Goldberg (Florence) and Philip Cooke (Glasgow), plus Presenters Antonella Salvucci and Dario Vergassola.

But this happened in Pescara, Italy, on 8 July 2012 at the 39th Annual Flaiano Awards.

More about the Flaiano Awards?

And it was fun! 

Something is happening... I wonder what?

39th International Flaiano Prizes
for Italian Culture in the World
to Edward Goldberg for
Jews and Magic in Medici Florence
The Secret World of Benedetto Blanis
Pescara, 8 July 2012


Actress Lucrezia Lante della Rovere

Actor Alessandro Gassman

Director Paolo Sorrentino

Playwright Tom Stoppard


Left to right: Novelist Maria Paola Colombo,
Actor Alessandro Gassman, Director Leone Pompucci,
 Actress Lucrezia Lante della Rovere, Actor Luigi
Lo Cascio, Playwright Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard Returns with his Award.

Gala Dinner after the Award Ceremony.

 Left, Lyle Goldberg (out from behind the camera)
and right, Edward Goldberg. 

PHOTOGRAPHS © Lyle Goldberg


  1. Hot damn, that was one fancy affair. Excellent plaque, too, definitely several notches above plaque par. Congratulazioni!

    What is Tom Stoppard's contribution to Italian culture, do you know? Or was his Flaiano Prize for contributions to some other culture?

  2. But I am never satisfied... I was really craving the Golden Pegasus, not the Silver Plaque. And I had promised my brother that he could attach it to the handle bars of his bike and ride it all around Florence. Tom Stoppard received the mega Flaiano International Prize for Culture - so, he walked off with both the Golden Pegasus (for Theater) and the Silver Plaque (for Literature). Not inappropriately, I must admit, sour grapes aside!

  3. Congratulations Ed. How wonderful to receive such an accolade.

    It seems like you had a lot of fun at the ceremony too!

    Somehow, I wonder what Benedetto Blanis would have made of this. This award is equally a celebration of his remarkable legacy of letters, the voice of an ostracised minority, so carefully transmitted across the ages by your efforts. Well done.

    Many Kind Regards

  4. Thanks, Hasan! There was a time when I was asking myself, in almost every situation, "What would Benedetto Blanis have thought of this, that or the other?" But I eventually accepted the fact that I would never know, although the guy had pretty much taken over my life. Benedetto could never have imagined that his private letters to his Medici patron would survive the two of them and become public documents, accessible to all and sundry... Yes, the ceremony in Pescara was enormous fun but also slightly unreal. I am highly grateful to the Ennio Flaiano Association and the Italian Ministery of Foreign affairs (who collaborated in awarding me the prize). Meanwhile, Jewish organizations have largely ignored "Jews and Magic" - as have academic specialists in Jewish Studies! Either I am doing something wrong or I am doing something right!

  5. Hello Ed and congratulations! What a tremendous night. It is wonderful to see you and Benedetto receiving such acclaim. It is also gratifying to see how Italy embraces culture and history with such enthusiasm. I will email you shortly.
    All the best from Toronto,