Saturday, November 29, 2008

Only in Italy: Parliament and Survivor

The April elections in Italy brought many changes to government, one of which was the defeat of parliament menber Vladimir Luxuria, the first transgender person to serve in the Italian parliament. This week, the actress-politician, who once famously traded her sequined costumes for more sober ensembles in which to conduct the nation's business, was voted the winner of Italy's "L'Isola dei Famosi" ("Celebrity Island"), a survival-themed reality program. As the winner she got €100,000, half of which she is donating to UNICEF.

The reality show, imported from the U.S. program "Survivor," took place on the beaches of Honduras over the course of six weeks and completed broadcasting last week on the government owned TV station Rai 2.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

This morning before I started work, I took time to reflect and give thanks for the many blessings I have received. I am most grateful for my family, and I am thankful for special friends in the USA. Here in Rome I am grateful for Vincenzo, the friends and great work colleagues. I am also thankful for a fulfilling teaching career and our church community of Caravita.

Today was a work day. Just before lunch I read a story about Thanksgiving to my class. Then we joined the other students in grades 1 through 5 for a lunch of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and an apple tart.

This is a picture of my class in the atrium of our school
with a Thanksgiving table setting featuring a roast turkey in a dress!
(It was a hen, not a tom.)

The cafeteria people worked hard to serve a warm meal
to nearly 500 people in three sittings.

Here are some of my students enjoying their lunch.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Today I took my class to visit Bioparco in the Villa Borghese

Rome's zoo was originally established in 1911, but after WWII it went into decline. The original zoo was organized to be a collection of exotic animals for the entertainment of visitors. In 1998 the zoo was reorganized as Bioparco, and today it's mission is conservation, research and education.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lunedì Letterario

The Companion Guide to Rome
by Georgina Masson
Revised by John Fort

originally published in 1965
revised and updated in 1998

The Capitol... rising as it does like an island of peace out of the strident roar of the Piazza Venezia in the heart of the city, leading us backwards by degrees through the centuries to the time when Rome first emerged from a collection of pastoral villages set upon seven hills... And at night it is not so difficult to picture the stately ranks of colonnaded temples crowned with gilded statues and the basilicas rearing their great bulk against the night sky, or to imagine the faint glow of the sacred fire warming the marbles of the Temple of Vesta, and above them all the vast palace of the emperors on the Palatine overshadowing the whole scene, as it then dominated the civilized world.

So begins the guide book that has been called the definitive historical and cultural account of the city. (In the almost 700 pages there are only 31 photos... in black and white.) I used the first edition when I was a college student in Rome, and during that year I carried it around every day, almost like a bible. For the last year and a half I have been carrying the revised edition around Rome and I have let its pages help me rediscover places that I first visited over 30 years ago, as well as letting it guide me to sites that were new for me.

Georgina Masson's baroque and opinionated writing is very enjoyable. But, it is more reading than most tourists have time to digest. However, for the long term visitor to Rome this guide book is a must!

Angels in Rome

Here are some angels from the monument to Victor Emmanuel, the first King of the united Italy. He was monarch from 1861 - 1878. Yesterday we passed the monument in Piazza Venezia on our way to meet friends for lunch. (Sunday was the feast of Christ the King, so I thought it is appropriate to share these angels from a king's memorial here in Rome.)

The monument was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1895 and completed in 1935. It is generally regarded as an eyesore in the city of Rome.  Its construction destroyed a large area of the Capitoline Hill with a Medieval neighborhood. The monument is 443 ft wide and 230 ft high. It's glaringly white marble gives it the nickname of "the wedding cake." When I was living in Rome during my junior year of college we referred to it as the "Olivetti Typewriter." But today, not many people think of a typewriter when they see it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Automat Comes to Rome

I remember that when I first moved to New York City in 1979 there was still a Horn & Hardart Automat on East 42nd Street, not too far from Grand Central Terminal. It had two walls of art deco stainless steel, dispensing sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, baked beans and slices of coconut cream pie from windowed, coin-operated compartments. The automat on East 42nd Street closed in 1991.

The coffee at the Horn & Hardart Automat was dispensed from a dolphin-head fountain, modeled after one in Pompeii.

The automat is finding new life in Rome. I have seen two, one near Piazza Navona and a second on Via Cavour, near the Coliseum. It is disappointing that they do not have the dolphin-head coffee dispensers.
Above is the automat near Piazza Navona.
Below is the automat near the Coliseum. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hiatus is Over

I have not been posting for two weeks. I was in New York City visiting my kids during the first week. And last week it was returning to school with report cards to do! Now I am back, and you can again expect two postings a week, "sharing observations and reflections about my life in Rome, including the excursions that take me beyond the walls..."

With my kids
I had some wonderful times with Emily and Peter. Peter and I toured the Frick Collection on 5th Avenue and had delicious Bar-B-Q at the Dinosaur in Harlem. Emily and I filled ourselves with pancakes at the Brownstone Diner in Jersey City before I visited her 4th grade classroom at the Learning Community Charter School.

Here we are on Broadway after lunch
at Big Nick's Burger Joint.

With friends
My week in New York started with a celebration of "El Dia de los Muertos" at the home of John and Michael in Brooklyn. Sunday morning took me to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea for a Eucharist that had six different processions. A luncheon after the service gave me an opportunity to catch up with many people in my NYC parish. My friend Paul helped me with some shopping errands on Monday and Tuesday. Monday included a brief visit to Scholastic. On Tuesday we meet Kraig, a former neighbor, for brunch at IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, before going to vote.

Here I am after casting my vote
for the 44th president of the United States.
I watched the election returns with friends at Ed's apartment in Park Slope.

On Friday Paul and I volunteered at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. We were part of the team that served 1,254 meals.

Special thanks goes to Dee who got me to the airport in plenty of time for my flight back home to Rome. Our friend Cindy accompanied us wearing her wooden shoes. (She said she wore them in honor of St.Willibrord, Archbishop of Utrecht, Missionary to Frisia. He died in 739. Frisia is the part of Holland that her family comes from.)

Special Shopping Assignment in NYC

One of the things on my "to do" list in New York City was the purchase of a costume for Bappo Natale, or Santa Clause. It took a day and a half of going in and out of stores before we found the right place for a costume that would look good and also fit me.

Our search ultimately took us to 36th Street in the Garment District
and the building in the middle of the block in this picture.

On the 8th Floor (west) we opened the door to Creative Costumes.
We were greeted by racks of costumes and two wonderful sales people.

Here I am trying on the jacket.

Lunedì Letterario

Playing for Pizza
by John Grisham

While flying to New York, I enjoyed reading Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. I have enjoyed many of Grisham’s “lawyer books” over the years, and this is a completely different kind of novel. One reviewer called it a “tale of touchdowns and tortellini.” It is the story of Rick Dockery, a 28-year-old third-string NFL quarterback, who really messed up the Cleveland Browns chance of going to the Superbowl. With any chance of a career in the NFL gone, Rick agrees to play for a small Italian team, the Parma Panthers. (There are only three paid players on the team, and half way through the book two of them quit.) Rick has never been to Europe and the pages of the book invite the reader to discover Italy through this quarterback’s eyes. A college student girl friend drags him around to palaces and churches and there are delicious descriptions of Italian foods. It is a fun read, even for someone like me who is not much of a football fan.