Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sciopero! Sciopero!*

I was brought up in the Ontario of the late 40s as what they called a "red diaper baby," my father was a firm believer in the unions (though he was a manager and his shop wasn't unionized?) and a founding member of the CCF (a left-wing party that became the NDP and got Canada its National Health Plan amongst other things.) He was not a radical in any way and certainly didn't believe in the sort of strike action that involved sending a burning car into a loading dock as happened at a factory near us. He firmly believed in the rights of workers to a safe workplace and honest day's pay for an honest day's work.

Some of his desire for social democracy must have rubbed off on me and I became active in the Union when I joined Air Canada. Like him, I was never a radical but worked on Health and Safety issues and played my part in the strikes that were called during those 33 years. I remember walking the picket line the first morning of a lengthy strike: it was 0600, Bloor St in downtown Toronto and a blinding snow storm. As the three of us - we had been working midnight shift - marched up and down waving our placards, waiting for colleagues to join us, TV cameras recorded our frozen faces and valiant chants. My friend Susan was trying desperately to hide behind me because she didn't want her father, then President of Sterling Drugs, to see her on the picket line. I would love to think that anything I did bettered conditions where I worked but as I've grown older I question how effective it really was. I know in the case of one strike the only people who won where our Union Executive who got cushy jobs with another union out of it.

So why this Union and strike talk? Well a massive general strike is planned here in Italy tomorrow (November 30):
  • Airlines from 1100- 1500
  • Trains from 0900 - 1700
  • Public Transit from 0900-1700
  • Ships/Traghetti delayed 24 hours from schedule departure
  • Highway Emergency Assistance from 0700-1500
  • Car Rentals from 0900-1700
  • Four hour strike of Highway/Autostrade workers - e.g. Toll Booth collectors

Already in Rome we have had two days of work-to-rule and traffic-snarling demonstrations by cab drivers - apparently because 500 more taxi licenses were issued at the beginning of the week. Performances at some of the opera houses and theatres were cancelled - opening night of Moise at the Rome Opera, Forza del Destino in Florence and three performances at La Scala. But apparently negotiators reached an agreement with opera house staff late Tuesday night so winter seasons will begin (pax Rome and Florence) as intended.

Once again as I guest I am not in a position to comment but let's just use as an example Alitalia. Italy's airline loses an approximate EUR 1 million a day - that's a day; wouldn't this suggest that striking for higher wages and job security would come under the category of "blood from a stone?"

So tomorrow it looks like I'll not be flying, training, busing, sailing, breaking-down or car renting. It may just be the day to finally clean up what we laughingly call the office.

*Strike! Strike!

29 novembre - San Saturino

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Our Silver Balls

Sterling Silver BallOh for God's sake get your minds out of the gutters. I am talking about a beautiful tradition here.

The first Christmas that Laurent and I spent together was in 1979. It had been a year of firsts: we had our first apartment, our first vacation together, our first Christmas Eve open house, our first Christmas tree - artificial since himself is allergic to pine oil - and on that tree hung our first sterling silver Christmas ball from Neiman-Marcus engraved with the year. Now in 2007 we have 29 - one for each year we've been together.

In those early days the arrival of the N-M Christmas book, so unlike the dull uninspired thing it is today, was a major event: fun, full of surprises and unique things for Christmas. I ordered from it regularly - things that have become part of our Christmas tradtions. But the most important tradition has always been that Sterling Silver Christmas ball. Its simple, nothing more than the year engraved on it but each year no matter where we have lived - Mexico City, Cairo, Amman, Warsaw - somehow we've add one to our collection to celebrate another year together. Some years its been iffy however on Sunday our friend Robert came back from his Thanksgiving trip to Ohio with this year's addition.

Last year was a different story. Our friend Blake (Reese's Uncle Pervy) suggested that to save on duty (a whopping 45%) we send it to his friends in Up State New York. As we would be in Hong Kong at Christmas Blake would pick it up when he saw them at New Year's and our tradition would continue unbroken. Understand that Blake is one of our oldest and best-loved friends but he can be, well to be kind, a little forgetful at times.
  • In the excitement of the season Blake forgets to mention the incoming parcel to his friends
  • Unsolicited parcel arrives containing a silver ball with the year engraved on it and friends assume it is an appreciation gift from one of the many charities they contribute to over the year
  • Not finding it to their taste they give it to a friend for his Christmas tree and 28 years of tradition goes up in smoke
  • Blake trembles in fear at the prospect of telling me but I being a good and loving friend tell him between clenched teeth that it really does matter
  • Blake being forgetful not stupid doesn't for a moment believe me and goes on to E-bay where he finds one for much less than I paid
  • The tradition continues
However Laurent and I have agreed that next year - number 30 - may mark the end of the tradition. We're running out of room on the tree and its got to the point where - given how expensive our balls have become (oh stop it!!!) - the tree is now worth more than the gifts under it.

27 november - San Virgilio

Parlo del Piu e del Meno - Blog Things

  • My friend Auld Hat over at the Voluptuary has created a little quiz. Why not take it and see if you too are a Mouse Potato. The prize - well she's also has a nifty little icon that can be proudly displayed on your blog/website or perhaps made into a t-shirt to announce your incipient nerdishness to the world. I display mine with pride.

  • When I read Sticky Crows , I become a little bit homesick for Canada and, yes, even Québec. As Torn describes the wonder of the first snowfall of the season, the joy of winter tires and scraping windshields I feel a touch of nostalgia. Then I look out the window at the sunshine and my blooming hibiscus and think: nay!

    Last week he included a link to this site that purports to rate the reading level required to appreciate your blog. It frightens me that my audience has to be better education than I am.

  • Buzkashi RiderMy friend Bev is back in Kabul after a bit of R and R with Kev and the pups in Colombo. She hasn't had a great deal of time to update her blog but has taken some incredible photos on her many travels throughout Afghanistan. Last week she put up a slide show of a Buzkashi game. Just click on the picture for some great shots of what to do on your next trip to Kabul.

27 november - San Virgilio

Monday, November 26, 2007

Do Tell

Orange crate label - Orange County Public LibraryAt the end of the first half of Saturday's evening's concert performance of Guillaume Tell, I would've been more than happy to board a Number 2 tram and head for a restaurant at Piazza di Popolo. An animated Antonio Pappano had conducted a peppy version of the (in)famous Overture and was driving the performance along at a good pace but the evening just wasn't catching fire - the french horns which have a lot to do in Tell were having a real off-evening, missed entries and some out of tune playing. The chorus, under 80 year old Norbert Balatsch, was proving one of the glories of the evening. But the soloists were largely uninvolved with the proceedings and big moments went by unnoticed.

Suddenly at the beginning of Act 3 the whole thing took off. Singers who had been, for the most part, glued to their music stands and scores became involved - the air practically crackled with tension during the the Apple Shooting scene and the action and music drove on to an exciting Act 4 and triumphant finale.

Within the next two hours Michelle Pertusi (Tell), who had been totally uninvolved for the first two acts, gave a heartbreaking performance of Sois immobile and American tenor John Osborn (Arnold) became a Rome favorite. Pertusi had been the worst offender in the first half - going through the motions, sprawled out in his chair and examining his nails when not required to sing. Maybe Pappano had given him a pep-talk during the intermission but it was suddenly apparent why he is one of the Rossini basses of choice these days. Osborn had been singing well all evening, his (and Pappano and his orchestral and choral forces) efforts to bring some drama into the Call to Arms and Gathering of the Cantons at the end of Act 2 had floundered on the laisse-faire singing of Pertusi and Alex Espisito (Walter Frust.) But the duets with a slightly underpowered but dramatically involved Norah Amsellem (Mathilde)had been fine and at the beginning of act 3 exciting. He opened Act 4 with a beautiful account of Asile heréditaire then set the place on fire with Amis, Amis secondez ma vengance. The bravos and applause went on for a good three or four minutes and the ovation that greeted his appearance at the end was thunderous.

And though Laurent and I agreed that maybe another rehearsal may have been in order and those music stands and scores had to go, we were on our feet with the rest of the house.

It will be interesting to hear the live broadcast of the last of the three performances this coming Wednesday on RAI3-Euroradio. If Pappano can get that first half to equal the second it will be one of those great nights of opera.

26 novembre - San Corrado

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gratuitous Puppy Pictures

Reese takes the veilThough as I mentioned in a comment to RG over at Dulce y Peligroso, there is not such thing as a gratuitous Pet Picture.

Like most daschies Reese loves to burrow when he sleeps and that damned collar has made it very difficult. Bedtime the last few nights has been accompanied by as much noise as 8k dog with a plastic thingy around its neck can make before finding the right position - and of course that position must be changed three or four times during the night. Or better yet just to punish the bastard who attached that bloody thing - and who sleeps very light - wander around the apartment in the dark, bumping into furniture and walls, before settling down in a new location.

Close up of Reese veiled
I took the collar off for a while this morning and he immediately burrowed under his blanket. At one point he came up for air and to give me a disgusted look when he saw the camera.

Sadly there are a fair number of stray dogs roaming the streets of Rome. Often when an animal gets sick the owner will simply turn it loose rather than seek expensive veterinarian care. Since late August there has been a lovely looking black dog - I'm bad at identifying breeds - roaming the area - Laurent saw him near his office a few times, we've seen him down by the train station and every so often near our complex. He isn't aggressive and seems almost apologetic for being here - I know Walt Disney emotions - and today soaked with rain he looked incredibly sad. I want to do something but not sure what.

25 novembre - Santa Caterina d'Alexandria

Saturday, November 24, 2007


We've just returned from a concert performance of Rossini's Guillaume Tell and I intend to comment on it tomorrow but in the meantime:


In spite of tonight's peppy performance by the Accademia Santa Cecilia of the Overture lead by an energized Antonio Pappano I'm afraid I just can't get this Spike Jones version out of my head. For that I can thank my brother who tried out his Jones imitations on me when I was four years old - which could account for why I am the warped little nipper I am today.

**Thanks to LungWizard1 for posting this on YouTube.

24 novembre - Santa Flora

Happy Anniversary

24 novembre - Santa Flora

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Dancing Master - Maurice Béjart - 1927-2007

This is a revised posting of the item I put up late last night on first hearing of the death of Maurice Béjart. I was able to do a bit of research for clarification.
It was May 1990 and we were living in Cairo. Maurice Béjart had recently converted to Islam and to honour his new faith had created a ballet Pyramide - el Nour with Béjart himself dancing and including a segment using the music of Umm (Ohm) Khulthum the great Egyptian chanteuse. The premiere took place in the new Cairo Opera House on Zamalach Island, a stones throw from where we lived. The new work was totally overshadowed by the performance of what had been the Ballet de XXieme Siecle's signature piece Ravel's Bolero and was now in the repetory of his Béjart Ballet Lausanne. It was advertised as the last performance that Béjart's company would give of this 20th century masterpiece of dance* and in deference to Egyptian sensibilities was the male version.

All I remember of Pyramide was a dancer in green - the colour of the Prophet - but to this day I still recall the incredible building of tension as Béjart's dancers moved to Ravel's supreme exercise in orchestration. I couldn't find one clip of the entire 15 minute opus so there is a break in what should be a steady, pounding beat of dance but it remains a great piece of choreography.

Bolero - Music: Maurice Ravel Choreography: Maurice Béjart Dancers: Elizabeth Ros and Ottavio Stanley

Part I

Part II

*I wonder now how true that was, if it was the case it appears that Béjart choreography for Bolero continued to be performed by other dance companies.

Revised posting: 23 novembre - San Clemente Papa
Originally posted: 22 novembre - Santa Cecilia

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hail Bright Cecilia

The Ecstasy of S. Cecilia by RaphaelThough I've always found her link to music just a bit tenuous - something to do with hearing heavenly music on her wedding day - Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of music and musicians and as a result incredibly beautiful music has been written to honour her.

I've always loved Charles Gounod's Ste Cecilia Mass and particularly the Sanctus. And if every anyone was blessed by Cecilia it was the great Swedish tenor Jussi Bjorling. Though the recording is old, the text is sung in English and the accompanying choir a bit shaky, the Saint has never been praised more beautifully than this:

22 novembre - Santa Cecilia

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Reese Report

Most of his adult life Reese has lived with this strange skin condition that keeps returning - its never been properly diagnosed just treat so its under control. When it flares up - as it did last week - and there's a spot he can reach he'll chew or scratch it until it bleeds and of course spreads. He really did a number on his right flank in the past two days - so this morning off to Dr Benvenuti we went. I carried Mr Reese the 8 blocks to the vet's with a stop along the way to be petted by two older women - that's Reese they petted not me. A few shots, three pills - that now makes 5 pills he's taking each day, I tell you it is like looking after an old relative - and an Elizabethan collar things should get better.

The shots he tolerates and since the pills are served in a piece of poached chicken they are fine but the collar.... what the hell is that about? The look he gave poor Walter, the vet's assistant, as he put it on him was enough to damn the poor man for eternity. He is now walking around the house bumping into things and most upset that he can't burrow into his blankets the way he normally does. I, of course, feel like the absolute worst dog owner in the world and picking up on this he is doing everything he can to make me feel worse. No kisses for me tonight!

21 novembre - Presentazione di B. V.

Rossini Roundup

The second LP I owned (this was back in 1959) was the 1953 Glyndebourne La Cenerentola in an Italian pressing from Cetra. It was three thick vinyl records, a two page leaflet in badly translated English and the old Riccordi pocket Italian libretto that they still sell today. It has since been replaced in my collection by the CD reissue and at least two other versions of Rossini's Cinderella opera. My taste in music has grown since then to include pretty much everything from Monteverdi to Berg but Rossini still remains one of my favorite composers. And next week I'll be going into Rossini overload: two of his more serious works Guillaume Tell and Mosè in Egitto are on the boards here and, of course, we have tickets for both.

Saturday coming the Accademia Santa Ceceila is presenting a concert version of Tell, his final stage work written for the Paris Opéra in 1829. This will be the first time that it has been performed in French in Rome. Antonio Pappano is scheduled to conduct which is pretty damned exciting and I can only hope that he's recovered from his recent problem- apparently baton waving can result in workplace injuries. It's going to be a long evening as this is French Grand Opéra at its grandest - the performance starts at 1700 so I think I'll pack us a picnic lunch and a decent bottle of something red and wet.

I'm familiar with Michele Pertusi who will be singing the Tell and Pharaoh in the Mosè, but the rest of the singers are, to me at least, only names. I've heard some good things about American tenor John Osborn who'll be singing the killer part of Arnold. Its a role associated with some of the great tenors of the past so there will be a few ghosts hanging around this Saturday including the remarkable French tenor Georges Thill. Here he is singing Arnold's big aria Asile héréditaire.

And next week the Teatro dell'Opera starts a series of the Mosè - the Italian version from 1819 - plagues, parting of the Red Sea and a love story to boot. Its not often produced outside Italy so this is an opportunity to see another relatively rare work. In 1829 Rossini rewrote it extensively for Paris under the name Moise et Pharaon. Though he cut some of the numbers that had been big in Naples he wisely kept the most famous number the Preghiera or prayer of the Hebrews as they stand on the banks of the Red Sea. Here it is in the French version from La Scala back in 2003. Muti takes it a little slow (sorry Opera Chic) for my taste but its still an beautiful piece of music.

For the 2008 season everybody seems to be doing Barber of Seville but there's always the Rossini Festival in Pesaro next August for my Rossini fix.

21 novembre - Presentazione di B. V.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Weekend in the Country - Part 2 - There's One Born Every Minute

Aire di Farfa
Granted it was fresher, cleaner, clearer and colder but I question if it's worth EUR4.00 (CAD5.75 USD5.87)for a sardine can of air from the Rieti region. I know it isn't worth it for the Air of Roma they were selling beside it.

19 novembre - San Fausto

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Weekend in the Country

"A Little Night Music" has always been one of my favorite Sondheim musicals - and no not just because of Send in the Clowns (though Glynis Johns and Len Cariou singing it can still reduce me to tears - sadly that video is no longer available on YouTube) but more for the sort of writing heard in numbers like "A Weekend in the Country."

And tomorrow we're going on our own Weekend in the Country and Laurent will get a much-needed break from the glory that is Roma. After work today our friend Linda came and picked up Reese, who will be spending his own weekend in the country at her place. Of course that meant I spent this morning in the kitchen cooking up his food -Coat of Arms of the Commune di Rieti ground beef, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, green beans and rice, that dog is eating better than some people I know!

Tomorrow morning we set out - our trusty TomTom set for Rieti, about 80 kilometers north-east of here. We're meeting up with a small group of people - Susan from Italytur, two other Canadians and a trio from Naples at the Fiano Romano roundabout and heading for:
  • A stroll through an olive orchard with spectacular views of the Appines and an olive tasting
  • a visit to an 11th century Monastery including a look at the Illuminated Manuscripts in their Scriptorium
  • Lunch at the Monastery
  • A visit to an olive mill that still grinds and presses for oil using the old methods
  • Then off to Susan's B and B for a cooking class with chef Maurizio concluding with dinner combining some local wines with the fruits (and meat and vegetables) of our labour
That's Saturday then on Sunday:
  • Breakfast at the B and B
  • A visit to a chestnut grove and processing facility - its chestnut season here and marroni canditi are in all the pastry and sweet shops
  • A visit to a castle that has been in one family since it was built in the 10th century
  • Lunch at a local wine shop with tastings
  • A look-in at Reiti itself - once a major stop on the great Via Salaria
At that point we'll head over to Linda's place about 40 kms away in Capena for dinner with her and Nazareno and pick up Reese. The pace promises to be country-speed and fortunately, not as tenison fraught or hectic as the one Sondheim's characters are about to endure.

They (who the hell are "they" anyway) are calling for 20% chance of showers tomorrow in the Reiti region. Auld Hat, Lorraine, Cowbell and the rest of you Fire Dancers please start your engines and dance those clouds away.

16 novembre - Santa Marguerita di Scozia

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Further Valentino

Valentino Red
When the video of the Valentino Exhibition finally processed and I played it this morning I realized that the picture was small and that many of the exquisite details of Valentino's designs were lost. So I've uploaded a sideshow at Fickr that can be browsed through at a desired speed. I haven't added much in the way of comments other than identifying the celebrity dresses.

Two things I did notice and several friends who accompanied me to the exhibition remarked on:

  • You'd have to be pencil thin verging on anorexic to wear some - well actually almost all - of those dresses.
  • Some of the more elaborate ones - bead work behinds, coq feathers at the wrists and neck - would be absolute hell to wear. How the hell would you sit in some of them?

14 novembre - San Giocondo

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Valentino at 45

Before I arrived in Roma I had this vision of the woman: air and ice - elegant creatures in haute couture and Amalfi coast tans - La Bella Figura. Well I don't see much of that on the number 84 bus in the morning or even at the opera - though I must admit there where some dressed-to-the-nines woman the night we went to the opera at the Baths of Caracella. I realize now they may well have been tourists.

But for five months in late summer and early fall there was a place where feminine elegance was supreme here in Roma. The newly housed Ara Pacis was the venue for a retrospective celebrating 45 years of the fashion style of Valentino.

Visually it was a stunning use of the incredible space that is the Ara Pacis and curators Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfredo created colour groups that had impact and excitement. I honestly couldn't believe that I spent two hours the first visit and over an hour the second looking at an exhibit of haute couture.

Its taken a while to get this video together - mostly because I can't seem to get any music download that Windows Movie Maker finds usable. I know its a little long but there was so much to see and as always I took way to many photographs. Please let me know how it works as I may have to break it down into segments.

13 novembre - San Diego D'Alcalà

Monday, November 12, 2007

For All Thy Saints

The month started with Ognissanti (All Saints) which I think I mentioned was always one of my favorite feast days during my Anglo-Catholic days. When I started posting from Roma, on a whim and mostly because I love the Italian names, I decided to mark each of the Saint's Days - and which day isn't? - on my postings.

Wine RegionsIn a comment Larry was asking how I determine my Saint's Days as in many cases they don't seem to agree with official Church Calenders. Well the explanation is fairly simple - one of Laurent's colleagues at the Embassy was leaving just after we arrived and we inherited a calender from her called - very strangely - Italy in Wine. Strangely because the title may be in English but everything else is in Italian including the very lengthy and technical wines comments.

Calender SaintsEach month features a different wine region with a cute drawing of the area, the aforementioned blurbs on the wines of the region and a Calender listing all the Saint's Days for that month. So I've been using that - I figure they wouldn't lie to me on an offical Mulino Don Chisciotte Wine Calender! Would they?

12 novembre - San Emiliano

Happy BlogDay to Me; Happy BlogDay to Me

November 11, 2006 I posted my first entry to Willy Or Won't He* and as I explained then:

I wrote my first blog back in 2000 while working at the Warsaw Business Journal. I found my job there as web editor through one of my best friends, Bev Toomer. She, her husband Kev and Silver and Sobie - the real important ones - are family. Distant family at the moment as she is Afghanistan, he's in Sri Lanka and the pups are on Galiano Island. But that's a story for another time.

Back then I promised readers a daily update of ex-pat life in Poland. That promise was well-intentioned but more often than not it was a broken one. Blogging on a regular basis can be time consuming and lets admit it most of us don't have that much excitement in our lives that warrant a daily post. Basically I've started this blog to keep a record of our trip to Vietnam in December. We'll see how that works out.

Looking at what I wrote much has changed but much has remained the same. I wrote that entry sitting in our Victorian home - charming but a money pit - in Aylmer - now I'm in Rome and the William Irish House is someone else's concern. Bev and Kev are still in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka respectively but Sobie and Silver now live in Colombo with Dad - and I still haven't written much about them. Laurent and I are still together - but he was living in Beijing and we were a common-law couple separated by 10,000 kms. Now we are married - yes Mom he finally made me legal - and separated by a dog's width! And we have gone through much with that width of dog as witness the Reese Reports. I did keep a record of the incredible trip to Vietnam but had trouble updating because of slow Internet connections (I believe I still have 300 pictures that I always meant to share.)

And there seem to be a goodly number of unpublished drafts in my archives. Those fascinating subjects that I knew were just going to grab every one's attention. They were put to one side simply because I just couldn't remember those snappy phrases that went through my head when I first thought of the idea. Often what I've published is the off-the-cuff stuff - a photo taken during the day, an article just read in a newspaper, a comment by a colleague or fellow blogger, something on You Tube.

There are family and friends who I thought would read the blog but seldom visit, which is a disappointment. But that is made up for by a stream (okay trickle) of other family and friends who click by regularly and comment - sometimes I might add rather rudely and I am shocked (yeah right, not in the lifetime of the reigning Monarch!) But even the rude comments mean someone is reading - and that's always nice to know.

The one thing that has not changed is that a blog is a great deal of work - and even in Rome not that much exciting happens every 24 hours to warrant daily postings. Of course maybe if I didn't spend so much time blogging I'd get out and find some excitement. I'll just have to see if I can locate that happy balance.

*The title is not a piece of witty word play on my part but a nickname given to me years ago by a colleague at Air Canada - Sue McAllister. Thanks Sue.

12 november - San Emiliano

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Far San Martino (Doing the Saint Martin)

Sounds either like some sort of disco dance or a strange sexual position doesn't it. It actually means observing the traditions of the Feast of St Martin of Tours. There are all sorts of customs attached to this day throughout Europe and the Christian East.*

A stroll past the window of Dagnino today after our visit to the Rothko and Kubrick exhibitions introduced us to a few Sicilian food (of course) traditions.

Sicilian Pastries and SweetsSicilian Pastries and SweetsSicilian Pastries and SweetsSicilian Pastries and SweetsSicilian Pastries and Sweets
We decided to observe a few of the traditions ouselves so we had a bottle of the Bordolino Novello with Sunday dinner and some biscotti di San Martino with our tea.

11 novembere - San Martino di Tours

*Many of the traditions are covered in this entry in Wilson's Almanac, however McAfee Site advisor suggesst that there may be chance of spyware attached to this site but a quick scan after several visits has revealed nothing thus far. Just thought it was only fair to give warning.

You're Known by the Company You Keep!

On our Sunday stroll in Centro we saw these wines on display in the window of an Enoteca (Wine shop)just off Piazza Benamino Gigli.
Unusual Wine LabelsUnusual Wine LabelsUnusual Wine LabelsA Very Unusual Wine Label

11 novembre - San Martino di Tours

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Parlo del Piu e del Meno - Internet Discoveries

  • Our friend Larry, who's moved to Rome to be with his partner Vincenzo, is a recent arrival from North America. Like us he's experiencing that settling in process that can be exhilarating as much as it can be exasperating, as fascinating as much as it can frustrating. And like me he's writing about his experiences here in his blog: AMOROMA (I love Rome.)
    One of the frustrations are the number of stray cats in the city and one of the fascinations are the Cat Ladies - every neighbourhood has at least one. Normally older women, unmarried or widowed, they have taken it as their task to see to the needs of the street cats in their area. They put out food - water is not a problem as it is ready available from the constantly running communal pumps - and tend to the wounds that street cats are prone to. Often they are the only people the cats will let approach them - justifiably given the number of people I've seen kick at the strays. And in some cases the Cat Ladies set up Sanctuaries to look after the strays; Larry has adopted a blind kitten at the Torre Argentina Sanctuary, Emily Bronte, she's a beauty.

  • A few weeks ago on one of the chats I ran into Paolo and he mentioned he had a website featuring his photography and video images. Horse on the Water - Paolo PizzimentiSince then I've made frequent visits to Light and Colors; his most recent update (October 6, 2007) includes some incredible photos of one of my favorite cities in the World - Venice. Paolo doesn't only love to capture Italy - though understandably it is the focus of much of his work - he obviously has a closeness to France and Paris. I enjoy his work immensely and find his black and white studies and portraits remarkable.

  • I received a comment from Giorgia Meschini over at Opéra Bouffe on the Forza Nuova poster that appeared around town last Sunday. Like many Romans she was disturbed by both the content and the organization sponsoring the rally. I'm still not sure if the rally had a big turnout or not as I didn't see anything on television about it and I'm still struggling with reading the newspapers. Honestly I have a feeling I will struggling with Italian for the next four years - the old brain just isn't what it once was.

    Giorgia's blog is in Italian and I've warned her I'm going to use it as a learning tool. She combines classical music, a love of Robbie Burns, a big crush on Antonio Pappano, a love of English history (at least from what I can see on her Guy Fawkes post) and hot pictures of the cutest nephew this side Tiber. And she's promised she'll keep the local idioms down for the dumb Inglese (my words not her's) or better yet explain them.

    10 novembre - San Leone Magno

Parma - a Few Final Words Involving (What Else?) Food

Well actually three words - I Tre Porcellini. That translates as the Three Little Pigs and it was an osteria I stumbled on coming back from the band concert on Sunday. I wasn't all that hungry and it was only 1230 a little early for lunch, so I thought I would walk, build up an appetite and come back around 1300. Then, of course, I couldn't quite remember where it was. I wandered around and had almost given up when I turned a corner and there it was.

I love watching people in restaurants and the place was filled with highly watchable Sunday diners. There was a family beside me - Mother, Father, two brothers and the little boy of one of the brothers - so where was the mother of the boy? Was she working that day? Maybe Mama doesn't like her so she wasn't invited? Or they're divorced and it was Dad's turn with the kid? Whatever it was the kid was more than pleased with the second helping of lemon gelato he was allowed courtesy of one of the owners. In the next room there was a large noisy group: 8 women (elderly, middle-aged, teen-aged) with one man - very much Pater Familias chunky gold pinkie ring and all - and a chihuahua that occasionally added to the conversation. In another corner sat a young couple who, I suspect, had spent their first night together - that morning-after glow, strangely more on him than her and all little touches and caresses, knowing looks and giggles - so damned cute. An elderly gentleman, very nattily dressed in jacket and tie, shuffled past with his Filippina caregiver, seen to the door by one of the owners. It was a colorful cross section of people - many it would seem regulars others like me simply passing through - enjoying a good Sunday lunch.

And it was a good Sunday lunch:

Polenta Grantinée with Brie and Porcini mushrooms
Roast Fresh Parma Ham with
oven roasted rosemary potatoes
A pleasant half litre of the house white wine
Honey torte with brandy sauce and vanilla gelato
The house Amaro
An espresso to finish the meal off.

It was the perfect meal for a chilly Sunday, the price was reasonable, the setting comfortable and the service friendly. And unlike the evening before I wasn't made to feel uneasy about being a single dinner. Damn another reason to go back to Parma.

10 novembre - San Leone Magno

Parma - Street Scenes

Many of these pictures where taken on Sunday morning when all good Italians are at mass - or in bed. This accounts for the deserted appearance of the streets - that and I'm still not all that comfortable pointing my camera at people, in that uptight Anglo way I feel like I'm intruding on them.

From Piazza DuomoParma StreetParma StreetInto a CourtyardA Street MimeParma StreetA viale behind the CathedralChurch of San GiovanniTaking a BathArcade AnticsParma City HallPiazza Garibaldi
Though Dante doesn't mention it in the Inferno there is a special ring of hell reserved for mimes and performance artists - one with real glass cages and a constant hurricane force wind to fight against. However this "statue" had a really original twist - if you gave him something he sprang to life and presented the book for your to sign with the feather pen. It worked, he had a constant stream of donors: And Your Name Shall Be Write Large In The Book of the Charitable?????

(photos taken) 27 ottobre - San Fiorenzo e 28 ottobre - SS Simone e Guida

Parma - Centro Storico

The Palazzo Pilotta was built for the Farnese family in the 16th century, it was rebuilt in the 20th after bombs destroyed much of the structure in WWII. It contains two museums and the Farnese Theatre - again no time to visit particularly the incredible wooden reconstruction of Palladio's theatre. So there will have to be a next time.Palazzo PilottaPalazzo Pilotta ArcadePalazzo PilottaTea ServiceVerdi MemorialPalazzo PilottaMemorial to the Resistance FightersAcross the parkAmerican Aboriginal Musicians
Teatro ReggioThe Piazzale Pilotta is a large green space bounded by the Palazzo, shops, arcades and the Teatro Reggio (looking the way an Italian opera house should unlike the Fascist pile in Rome.) Some intriguing modern art pieces share the space with monuments to Verdi and the Resistance Fighters of the Risorgimento. Its a very communal spot with buskers (the American Aboriginal musicians drew a large if slightly bemused crowd more use to Peruvian flute players,)street merchants, strollers, shoppers and loiterers - very much the centre of town.

(photos taken) 27 ottobre - San Fiorenzo e 28 ottobre - SS Simone e Guida

Friday, November 09, 2007

Parma - Il Piazza Duomo

The Lombard-Romanesque Duomo dominates the Piazza and the glorious Baptistry flanks it in wedding cake splendor. It seemed I was always there at the wrong time as both were closed when I showed up on the Saturday and Sunday. The interior frescoes of the Duomo and the stone carvings in the Baptistry are amongst the most important of their kind in Northern Italy. Again another reason to go back.

The DuomoTowers of the Duomo and BaptistryBaptistry from the PiazzaBaptistry EntranceTypaniumTypaniumFeeding the Cathedral BeastsStones for a stone lion Looking towards the Duomo
The young lady in the red jumper was fascinated by the stone lions guarding the Duomo entrance. She was worried that they were hungry and was, such is the logic of children, trying to feed one of them a stone.

Unfortunately the day was cloudy and no amount of PhotoShopying could get these photos any brighter without fading.

(photos taken) 27 ottobre - San Fiorenzo e 28 ottobre - SS Simone e Guida