Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mercoledi Musicale +1*

Giaoachino Rossini's works had fallen on hard times over the 19th and early 20th centuries - of the 40 operas he wrote between 1810 and 1829 only one, the infernal Barber of Seville (sorry it is not one of my favorites,)appeared regularly in the world's opera houses. There would be the occasionally excursion into Italian Girl in Algiers or Cenerentola (Cinderella)when the right contralto/mezzo came along who could manage the vocal line, but his opera seria where deemed unworthy of revival.

However that began to change in the 1960s with the emergence of singers who could handle the challenging vocal demands. Many of those singers were Americans: Rockwell Blake, Frederica Von Stade (my beloved Flicka), Samuel Ramey, Chris Merritt and perhaps the greatest of them all: Marilyn Horne. She had great comic flair as Rosina and Isabella and was a sweeet, tender Cenerentola, but it was in the opera seria that she shone brightest. Many of the contralto roles Rossini wrote were for woman playing the part of a man: Calbo** in Maometto II, Malcolm in Donna del Largo, Arsace in Semiramide and the title role in Tancredi . Jackie may not have been the most convincing man but I remember that first Tancredi in Houston in 1977 - she strode out on stage, opened her arms and her mouth and dared any of us not to believe in her. And believe we did - then and right up until she retired in 1999, still at the peak of her art.

Tancredi was Rossini's 10th opera and his first great success. "Di Tanti Palpati" - Tancredi's first aria heard here - was so popular that there was a Papal ban on altar boys whistling it. After this performance in 1977 apparently it could be heard everywhere on the streets of Rome. And I'm sure they heard the cheering after this remarkable performance all the way out on Via Nazionale.

*So actually it should be Giovedi Musicale but...

** I was surprised that the critic for the Financial Times in her review of this year's production at Pesaro referred to it as being written for a castrato. She obviously didn't know Rossini's views on castrati nor had she read her programme notes.

28 agosto - San Augostino

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ah.... OK!

We've checked into a hotel for a few days while the furniture and all our "stuff" is being moved to the new apartment. The Mercure is your standard chain hotel - not much (as in NO) character or charm but the bed is comfortable and its near to everything. No-smoking AshtrayAs always we requested and got a non-smoking room, then where greeted by this little desk accessory????

La Dolce Vita PosterI'm at a total loss to figure that one out. I'll be more than happy to send a La Dolce Vita (that's the Fellini film with Anita Ekberg looking chesty and Marcello Mastroianni looking pop-eyed at Anita looking chesty) fridge magnet to anyone would can come up with a good explanation. Notice that's "good" not logical! And no this is not an attempt to get rid of stuff, I actually bought it today in a tourist trap local store.

27 agosto - San Giuseppe Calasantius

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Writing on the Wall

The old adage says something about "if only the walls could talk!" Well here in Italy there are time when they seem to. Here's a few random pictures I took around Pesaro this weekend to prove the point.

One of the younger citizens obviously wanted to make me feel welcome so they adorned this wall with my name! Okay they spelt it with only one B but I still think it was a nice gesture.

"We respect the past, live in the present and anticipate the future."
The slogan for a company renovating one of the old villas in the historic centre of town near the Sforza Fortress.

Mutt Parade
"Pure breeds are pretty but mongrels are better."
A great poster for a dog show for Heinz 57s only - none of those snotty show dogs allowed.

Love Note
This note to "Alice" was written on the side wall of the Teatro Rossini. At first Laurent and I had a good laugh - it seemed like an elaborate farewell note to an unrequited love. However when we read it more closely it almost sounded like a suicide note. I wish my Italian were good enough to grasp the subtleties. Odd to say the least and ultimately unsettling.

The Liberation Wall
And on a similarly somber note this memorial is to the people from Pesaro - some of them children - who died in the war of Liberation at the end of the World War II. The north of Italy was a hot bed of anti-fascism and under Il Duce dissidence was dealt with harshly. Mass hangings were a common sight in the waning days of the Regime.

26 agosto - San Allesandro

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lunedi Lunacy

My editor was a Bugs Bunny fan and wanted a review of Looney Tunes: Back in Action; so I suffered through a sad, insipid attempt to revive the fortunes of Warner Brothers and Brandon Fraser. As I was leaving the cinema I overheard one of the greatest compliments an actor could receive:

Boy (7-8 years old): Yeah, well it was okay.
Boy's Friend: Yeah but the guy playing Bugs Bunny wasn't very good!

I stop in my tracks - he was right. Of course the guy playing Bugs Bunny wasn't very good - he was generated by a computer and the voice was a sorry imitation of what we all know Bugs really sounds like. Mel Blanc was gone and anything else would just be a pale imitation.

As well as being the voice of most of Looney Tunes Blanc was also a regular on the Jack Benny Show. Here's one of their favorite routines - sorry it probably isn't politically correct in this day and age but I still think it's funny.

In this clip from a Johnny Carson Show Benny's affection and admiration for Blanc, the man and the talent, is obvious.

The routine never changed - it didn't have to.

25 agosto - San Ludovico

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dora's Mojo

My darling Dora seems to have lost her mojo. Strano! Molto strano! As we say here in Italy - well actually they say it, when I say it, it comes out sounding like Straino! Mole toll Straino!

I wasn't able to find it anywhere in Pesaro this past weekend but I did find something that might encourage it to come out of hiding.

Red dress

Just thinking someone would look good looking for her mojo in that little number.

24 agosto - San Bartolomeo

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Food! Glorious Food?

Okay I stole this from Sageweb who stole it from Sassy and I've followed her example. Everything I've tried on the list I've bolded - what I have no intention of ever trying again I've put in italics. And, of course, being a smart ass I've added a few comments.

Nettle tea
Huevos rancheros
Steak tartare (Raw beef and raw egg – never again thank you!)
Black pudding
Cheese fondue

Baba ghanoush
Calamari (If I wanted to chew rubber bands I’d chew rubber bands!)
Pho (A good pho can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.)
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (Toasted, whole wheat bread, forget the jelly.)
Aloo gobi
Hot dog from a street cart
Black truffle
Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
Steamed pork buns
Pistachio ice cream
(small body shaking orgasms)
Heirloom tomatoes
Fresh wild berries
Foie gras
Rice and beans

Brawn or head cheese
Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
Dulce de leche
Oysters (If I wanted to put disgusting slimy things in my mouth I’d… never mind.)
Bagna cauda
Wasabi peas
Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
Salted lassi
Root beer float
with a fat cigar
Clotted cream tea (Oh god yes – home made scones, clotted cream, fresh strawberry preserves and a good strong cup of tea – God is in her heaven and all is right with the world.)
Vodka jelly

Curried goat
Whole insects (Crunchy deep fried ants taste like… crunchy deep fried ants.)
Goat’s milk
Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (strictly for politicians and priests.)
Chicken tikka masala
Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (I would court clogged arteries why?)
Sea urchin
Prickly pear
McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (a quarter pound of beef, my ass!)
Dirty gin martini
Beer above 8% ABV
(I thought all beer was over 8% but then I remembered that American beer tastes like panther piss – sorry guys)
Poutine (I have never, will never eat the national dish of Québec! Why would you ruin perfectly good french fries and gravy with cheese curds?)
Carob chips

Sweetbreads (Do you know where they come from? Ain't nothing sweet there baby!)
Durian (The smell is truly disgusting – think dirty socks or worse – but the taste is sublime)
Frogs’ legs
Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
Haggis (Nothing like oatmeal cooked in a sheep's stomach - those Scots know how to do it up fine.)
Fried plantain
Chitterlings or andouillette
Caviar and blini

Louche absinthe
Gjetost, or brunost
Hostess Fruit Pie
Lapsang souchong

Bellini (If your order one at Harry’s Bar in Venice where it originated its $35.00 a pop – so yeah once but never again)
Tom yum
Eggs Benedict
Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
Kobe beef
Hare (Sorry but I keep thinking Bugs Bunny or Peter Rabbit.)

Horse (Come on now if I'm not going to eat Bugs do you think I'd eat National Velvet or Black Beauty?)
Criollo chocolate
Soft shell crab

Rose harissa
Mole poblano
Bagel and lox
Lobster Thermidor
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee


Like Sage I'm a picky eater and I was surprised by how much on the list I had actually tried and enjoyed. And I've pondering over the Roadkill item - who knows maybe in one of those roadside diners - nah they wouldn't do that. Would they?

23 agosto - Santa Rosa di Lima

Friday, August 22, 2008

Road to Rossini

We're heading off to Pesaro this morning for a few days of rest, relaxation and Rossini. We'll be driving across Italy and up the Adriatic coast - approximately a 364 km trip which according to the trusty TomTom should take us 3 hrs and 36 minutes. TomTom is ever the optimist!

View Larger Map

Though it's the capital of the region Pesaro is pretty much a sleepy little seaside town known for its beaches, proximity to Rimini and being the birth place of Rossini. Each year since 1980 the Swan of Pesaro has been celebrated with a Festival dedicated to his works.Rossini Festival Poster Scholars have researched his work, lost operas have been found and critical editions published. Famous singers have appeared on stage there and careers established. The two works we are seeing are relatively obscure - as indeed most of Rossini was until the 1960s: L’Equivoco Stravante and Maomatto Secondo. The first was written when he was 16 years old and was banned because of it licentious libretto - apparently a young woman disguises herself as a castrated man (!!!) to avoid an unwelcome marriage. The second uses Mohamed the Seconds conquests of the Eastern Mediterranean to tell of love, betrayal and death - your standard opera plot.

So it three days of sun, seaside and song.

22 agosto - Santa Maria Regina

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Happy Discovery Day Dear Venus!

This rather voluptuous lady - the so-called Venus of Willendorf - was unearthed 100 years ago today in the small town of Willendorf in Austria. Its believed that she was carved over 25,000 years ago and to mark the occasion of her discovery Austria is going all out.
Venus of Willendorf
The Internet is filled with articles concerning her history so I won't bother you with my take on it; other than to observe that Rubenesque is not a new look.

21 agosto - San Pio X Papa

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mercolidi Musicale

Today's Mercolidi Musicale is dedicated to my blog buddy the notorious EG. Last week Tony wrote a great piece on music, memories and aging. I tried to think of a comment - you know something witty, wacky and wild but decided this number from Stephen Sondheim's Follies was the best comment to make.

In 1971 I gave up a chance to see a matinee of Follies to go to the 55th Street Playhouse and see Boys in the Sand - talk about the stupidity of youth!

In Everything Was Possible, his remarkable book on the making of Follies, Ted Chapin recalls how as the run progressed Yvonne De Carlo had trouble remembering her lyrics. She encountered problems in this clip but still gives a powerhouse performance.

And Tony, those last lines are for you:
Lord knows, at least I was there.
And I'm here!
Look who's here!
I'm still here!

20 agosto - San Bernardo

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jack's Beijing

National Theatre - BeijingLast July when Laurent left Beijing much of the city seemed to be under construction. In the year that he's been gone our friend Jack has been keeping us up to date with the incredible changes. And he's remarked more than once that the skyline of Beijing is not the one he remembers from his childhood - and he's only a baby! Its hard to imagine what his parents must make of it and the changes they have seen. National Theatre - BeijingHe sent these pictures (from an unknown source on the Internet) of the new National Theatre designed by French architect Jean Andreu. I gather there has been some concern because you walk under the water feature to access the building and this is not good feng-shui. Not sure how true that is or if it is just one of those urban myths. Jack has sent me a correction on this: The bad fengshui is because the Opera House looks like a tomb. So people have to go down and into a tomb...
Jack in Piazza di PopoloBut Jack has also been busy with his camera in the past few weeks capturing the city and recording the changes. A click on Jack in this photo I took when he visited us in January will lead you to his great Flickr Slideshow. And he's promised there will be more to come.

19 agosto - San Giovanni Eudes

Monday, August 18, 2008

This One Looks etc. At Least To Us

Most people sided with Eleanor Roosevelt but as Subtle Knife said she really wasn't a "minor" figure in American history.

Denis and I thought:

Bust of a Matron
(Double click)

18 agosto - Sant'Elena Imperatrice

Lunedi Lunacy

It appears there may be a bit of a Shakespeare theme this week; so without much ado about nothing:

And I've had a crush on - oh what the hell a case of the hots for Hugh Laurie since Black Adder - is it just me or is he getting hotter with age?

18 agosto - Sant'Elena Imperatrice

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Knicks and Knacks

It's going to be a busy two weeks coming up: Laurent's father is with us until Thursday, Friday we head up to Pesaro for the Rossini Festival and a week Tuesday the movers come. We decided to get a head start on a bit of packing - the things we don't want the delicate hands of the packers touching - treasures, Laurent's army, porno valuable tapes and DVDs, that sort of thing.

Devil FamilySo Laurent is carefully packing each one of his 250 odd soldiers in its box while I am trying to figure out if I really need the instruction book from my Casio calculator circa 1987 which is so loving preserved along with the warranty for my first computer and a how-to-book for my first digital camera.

Every time we move it becomes apparent that we have too much stuff and some weeding out should be done. And we do get rid of stuff - honestly! But it would be hard to part with something like this family of Polish devils.

Polish DevilsOn a visit to a crafts store in Warsaw I saw this devilish family perched in the middle of the pop-eyed, coked-out-looking wood carvings that normally pass for Polish folk art - there is something faintly disturbing about a garishly coloured Holy Family that look like they've just visited a neighbourhood crack house in Bethlehem. In contrast this little grouping seemed so loving and fun loving that I fell for them immediately.

A back view of my DevilsThe artist, a carver by the name of H. Tarka, obviously felt the same way as he was creating them. These are no stand-alone sour-faced religious figures - this group is in it together come rain or come shine, and frankly it looks like its shining for them big time. I particularly love the way they have their arms around each other and even their - you should excuse the expression - tails are intertwined. The family that strays together stays together!

17 agosto - San Giacinto

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This One Looks... Like That One

My Father-in-Law and I were strolling through one of the galleries at the Museo Massimo on Wednesday and came across this Roman Matron from the early Empire.
Bust of a Matron
We both did a double take, looked at each other and simultanously said the name of a minor figure from 20th century American history. Any guesses?

Answer on Monday.

16 agosto - San Rocco

Friday, August 15, 2008

Assumpta Est Maria

Today is the the Feast of the Assumption - a national holiday certainly in Italy and many other European countries. Most things are closed and people head to church or the beach or the family home. Think I'll take the day off to but I'll leave you with this remarkable performance of the Ave Maris Stella from Monteverdi's Vespers of the Blessed Virgin. John Eliott Gardner conducting Monteverdi in San Marco in Venice - highly appropriate to the day or any day for that matter.

Buona Festa a tutti e buono ferragosto.

Thanks to Condoauta for posting this on YouTube.

15 agosto - Assunzione di Maria Virgine

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Favorite - The Boxer

My favorite museum here - so far 'cause there are just so many - is the Museo Nazionale Romano at Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. One of a complex of four museums highlighting the archaeological history of the city, the Massimo features sculpture, mosaics and frescoes from the Republican, Empire and Late Empire periods.

One of the more spectacular features is the garden room from the Villa of Livia, wife of Augustus - much of the wall frescoes have been preserved though sadly not much remains of the vaulted ceiling. Stepping in to the room is a journey back 2000 years and a reminder that Hollywood had it wrong with all those white marble buildings. Romans - or at least the nobility - wanted their house bright, colourful and at times gaudy.

Though I am delighted by the garden room my favorite piece, in what is a remarkable collection, is the Boxer of the Quirinal. A bronze statue in the Hellenistic style it dates from the 1st or 2nd century BC and is a product of the lost wax process. It was discovered, along with its gallery companion the Prince, in 1885 when the Quirinale Hill was being excavated.The Boxer of the QuirinaleIt is believed that the bronze is a representation of an actual athlete of the period rather than a generalized portrait. Whoever he may have been he would have been a slave whose talents as a boxer had been noticed and nurtured by his owner and as such would have had considerable value. The broken nose and scars suggest he is a veteran of quite a few matches.
CestusThis is one of the best known depictions of the Cestus or battle glove worn by both Greek and Roman athletes. In Roman games it was more important to draw blood from an opponent than knock him out, for maximum effect metal studs and spikes were added. They also help to date the piece as Cestus were banned towards the end of the 1st Century BC. Again Hollywood - and early church propaganda - has led us to believe that Colosseum combats were to the death but that was the exception not the rule. A gladiator or athlete was an expensive piece of property - better alive than dead. Even towards the end of his career he would have had a value as a trainer or simply a commodity to be sold as a household slave.
The boxer - backThe boxer - back - DetailThe musculature may be slightly idealized but this is an athlete who has reached physical perfection - and chances are he could have passed testing without a problem. Though who knows even then they may have had potions and herbs to enhance performance.
The Boxer - faceAs incredible as the physical perfection may be, I am fascinated by the face. Formerly cooper inlays highlighted drops of blood on his body and cestus indicating that he has just finished a match. But I find it difficult to read either victory or defeat in his face - only exhaustion.
Face - close upFace - close upFace - cauliflower earFace - broken noseThis man has seen many - perhaps at this point too many - fights. His face is scared where the spikes or even razor edges from an opponent's cestus has struck him, his nose is broken and he has what we would call today a cauliflower ear. Again copper inlays would have highlighted his bloody lips and scars.
There is a certain irony that most of the people who watched this man fight are forgotten but that this slave, this piece of property, a mere athlete is still looked at with awe, admiration and, for a me at least, a sense of wonder.

14 agosto - San Massimiliano

Strano... Molto Strano

I've often mentioned the shrines - mostly 13th-17th century iconic images of Saints, the Virgin Mary being the most popular - that dot the walls of houses here. Sunday afternoon we were wandering the streets near Piazza dell'Orlogio with Betty Jean, Sarah, Steve and Joe after a very good Sunday lunch - Terrine of Zucchini flower, roast lamb, rosemary potatoes and melon - and Joe drew our attention to a more recent addition to the shrine scene.
Shrine in a Via
I'm not sure if that old radio behind the BVM and St Joseph plays music but I have a feeling the Baby Jesus could have fun playing Zoom Zoom with those model cars.

14 agosto - San Massimiliano

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mercoledi Musicale

This is the season for Summer Opera Festivals throughout North American and Europe: Glimmerglass, Santa Fe, Glyndebourne, Aix-en-Provence, Salzburg - it seems if there's a venue then there's a Festival. And at most Opera Festivals - save perhaps the Wagnerian endurance test that is Bayreuth - there is normally one of the Mozart-DaPonte operas: Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni or Cosi fan tutte.

While the first two have remained popular since their premieres Cosi was infrequently performed - it was considered highly frivolous by the Romantics and downright immoral by the Victorians. All that began to change in 1934 when it was the surprise hit of the first Glyndebourne season (the 1935 recording of that production is still a benchmark and a best seller for EMI.) It is now recognized as perhaps the subtlest and at times most disturbing of Mozart's collaboration with Da Ponte.

Two young officers make a wager with an old confirmed bachelor that their respective fiances (two sisters) are faithful. To prove their fidelity they pretend to be called away to battle then return in disguise to woe each other's girl. The wager is made in a spirit of cynicism, the emotions that surface unexpected and the outcome uncertain - though they return to their respective partners there is a question as to how happy any of them will now be.

The trio from Act 1 is perhaps the best known piece of music in the opera, thanks largely to its use in Sunday, Bloody Sunday. The two women watch their lovers depart and they pray for soft breezes and safe journey for the ones they love. It is one of those times in Mozart when time stands still and even the instigator of the wager seems to succumb to the emotion of the moment.

I have to admit that Cosi is my favorite opera - I have 6 versions of it on CD including that 1935 classic. I've seen it on stage 10 times and don't ever recall the trio not having an emotional pull. Though I don't particularly like the decor or the Giorgio Armani costuming in this 1997 production from Covent Garden, Soile Isokoski, Helene Schneiderman and Alessandro Corbelli are an incredible blend of voices and the heart strings are tugged.

And to any of you travelling for the summer holidays: May the breezes be gentle and the waves calm.

13 agosto - San Ipolito

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Whinging and Whining

I've done my share of bitching about the fact that people do not clean up after their dogs here. It has now been put into perspective by this story:

Inflatable dog turd sculpture escapes Swiss museum, wreaks havoc
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 11:54 AM ET
CBC News

A powerful gust of wind recently swept a house-sized sculpture of dog feces from its display outside a Swiss museum, an art official in Berne said Monday.

The incident took place on the night of July 31, but details of the artwork's escape — and the havoc it caused before its eventual landing — emerged just this week.

The massive inflatable sculpture, created by U.S. contemporary artist Paul McCarthy and titled Complex Shit, is part of the Paul Klee Centre's exhibit East of Eden: A Garden Show. McCarthy's piece was displayed outdoors, among "weird and wonderful objects [forming] an animated kind of front garden," according to the museum website.

The sculpture is usually contained by a safety system that deflates it during instances of bad weather. However, the system failed on this occasion and the work escaped from the Klee Centre's garden, museum director Juri Steiner told Agence France-Presse.

The wind carried the work away, knocking down a power line and breaking a window at a nearby orphanage before falling to the ground about 200 metres from the centre.

The museum had yet to contact McCarthy about the incident, Steiner said. Officials are also contemplating whether to return the piece to display.

And I've always thought of the Swiss as such a tidy people.

12 agosto - San Erocolano

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lunedi Lunacy

A week or so ago I posted a clip from Cabin in the Sky featuring the great Ethel Waters and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. Anderson was a memeber of one of radio and TV's most brilliant repertoire companies: The Jack Benny Show. Benny was the star of the show but more often than not as the straight man to some of the funniest comics of the time: Mel Blanc, Frank Nelson, Don Wilson, Dennis O'Day, Phil Harris, Mary Livingston, Verna Felton and Anderson. Benny was quoted as saying: I don't care who gets the laughs on my show, as long as the show is funny.

For more than 30 years Anderson played Benny's valet but from the eary years on racial stereotyping was something Benny wouldn't allow. The two performers respected and admired each other and it shows in their work together.

11 agosto - Santa Chiara

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Quote ... Unquote"

I was down in Centro earlier this week meeting blog buddy Danny for a coffee - we're trying to get together again before he leaves but he's here for his brother's wedding and the weekend has been filling up for both of us. Since I was downtown I figured I'd drop into Feltrinelli International Bookstore and see what was new. I should know better - I came out with four books (all paperback)and a Mastercard receipt for $80.00. Paperback books in English here run about $2 - 5 dollars more expensive than listed on Amazon Canada.

So why not get them shipped over? Two words: Italian Bureaucracy. This is the likely scenario:
  1. The parcel is sent from Canada to Rome
  2. Thence PosteItalia sends it up to their Customs Centre in Milan
  3. I will receive an invoice telling me how much I owed the State for daring to bring something into the country
  4. I take the statement to a Post Office - in the morning only as there are only two that I know of that are open all day, except of course from 1 pm until 4 pm when they are closed for lunch.
  5. I line up and when I reach the window will no doubt be told I am in the wrong line and directed to another line-up.
  6. When I reach that window - if it really is the right one and the employee is not going on coffee - I buy the equivalent in stamps to the customs duty
  7. I send the invoice back to Milan in the envelope provided - not stamped so I better remember to buy one - at another window.
  8. I receive a notice in the mail that the parcel can be picked up at the local post office - in the morning only.
  9. I pick up a parcel of books with pages yellowed by age and print faded by time and find that they have since been republished with corrections and additions.
Think I'll just pay the extra - it will give me one less thing to whine about!

Bill Bryson - Shakespeare coverOne of the books I had gone in looking for was Bill Bryson's Shakespeare and as you can probably tell it was there. I tend to be leery of books where the author's name is four times the font size of the title (you know Danielle Steele, Jackie Collins, Dan Brown) but Bryson is normally a good read and the reviews had been generally positive. Well so far nothing new has come up but as I suspected it is a good sitting-in-the-shade-sipping-a-cool-drink Summer read.

Faced with a wealth of text but a poverty of context, scholars have focused obsessively on what they can know. They have counted every word he wrote, logged every dib and jot. They can tell us (and have done so) that Shakespeare's works contain 138,198 commas, 26,794 colons, and 15,785 question marks; that ears are
spoken of 401 times in his plays; that dunghill is used ten times and dullard twice; that his characters refer to love 2,259 times but to hate just 183 times; that he used damned 105 times and bloody 226 times, but bloody-minded only twice; that he wrote hath 2,069 times but has just 409 times; that altogether he left us 884,647 words, made up of 31,959 speeches, spread over 118,406 lines.
I'll take useless Shakespearean Knowledge for 400, Alex.

10 agosto - San Lorezno

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Name the Day

San Lorenzo
At dinner last night our good friend Larry surprised Laurent by presenting him with a holy card (above) and wishing him a "Happy Name Day vigil." And indeed today is the Feast Day of Saint Lawrence (Laurent, Lorenzo,)Deacon and Martyr, after whom Laurent was named.

Though not as widely observed here in Italy as in some countries (Poland for example where it is more important than a birthday)a Name Day or Onomastico is still a cause for celebration in some parts of the country. Laurent has decided that a celebration and a gift would be in order. On both those counts he is going to be sadly disappointed.

Larry mentioned that, to the best of his knowledge, there was no Saint William so I was out of luck. WRONG LARRY WRONG!! I found three so I have my choice: January 10th - St William of Bourges; June 8th - St William of York; or June 25th - St William the Abbot.

Perhaps I should reconsider that celebration and gift idea of Laurent's, I could make out like a bandit!

Correction: Along with a slightly revisionist take on last evening's conversation Larry e-mailed me a list of 61 Saint Williams (though a few go by several variations of their name - a saintly trait that I myself have emulated - so its probably more like 50.) Still it could make for a not bad haul.

10 agosto - San Lorenzo

Thursday, August 07, 2008


With half of Rome gone on holiday and the other half preparing to go its been quiet in the neighbourhood. But if last night's crowds at Largo Argentina are any indication the void, in Centro at least, is being filled by tourists on a Roman Holiday. We haven't joined the general exodus and really won't be going much anywhere except Pesaro on the Adriatic for a few days at the end of the month. Laurent is busy at work, his dad is coming over for a visit mid-month and we're getting ready to move - so much for Feragosto being the time for rest and relaxation.
The Latina Plain
Overlooking the Latina Plain from the belvedere at Sermoneta.

But a few of my lucky blog buddies have been doing some travelling and sharing of photos and tales. And two weekends ago we did a Sunday jaunt down to Sermoneta with our friends Lorraine and John. Sermoneta is one of those incredibly charming medieval hillside towns that dot the Latina countryside As always I took a few pictures.
Il castello di Sermoneta
Of course every Italian hill town has to have its castle. After all that's why the town is there. Il Castello di Sermoneta dates from the 12th century.
Steps leading up
And every Italian hillside town has to have steps; flights and flights ...
And more steps
... and flights of steps. That's what you get when you build on a hillside.

  • Larry and Vincenzo have been spending the past few weeks in Sicily including a visit with Vin's family in Enna. And they've been touring around the island with stops in Castelbuono , Cefalù, and Erice. This B and B that they stayed at near Palermo looks wonderful. And needless to say they found some incredible beaches. Now I let Laurent postpone Sicily this year because he wanted to spend a few weeks in Japan in October but I am serving notice - publicly - we are going to spend at least two weeks in Sicily sometime in the next year.
Towards the piazza and belvedere
This is the view down to a belvedere and small piazza from ...
Up the steps towards the castle
... the top of this flight of stairs.
The town hall in the piazza
The town hall on the piazza betrays its origins as a monastic building .
The Eternal Flame
In another part of town an Eternal (electric) Flame burns in memory of sons of Sermoneta who died in the many wars that have raged in the area over the past 200 years.

  • And my darling Dora was off to New Orleans, accompanying her Beastman on a business trip, and knocking the town ass over tea kettle in a fabulous new red dress. And being our Dora, she and Madame Destin had a meeting on a rainy street that turned into a lovely and touching experience and started a friendship. And she has... ahem... ahem... promised to give us some shots of her in that red dress!
Pub curtains
I did a double take when I saw the Irish lace curtains - shades of my childhood - then I realized it was an Irish pub. Honest! They're everywhere even hill town Italia.
Houses surrounded with greeneryHouse surrounded by greeneryA doorway
Even amongst the marble, concrete and cobblestones people here make sure there is greenery surrounding them.
The central piazza
The crowds from a bicycle regatta had dispersed by the time we reached the central piazza and it was getting close to pranzo (lunch) so strollers where starting to turn attention to their stomachs.

  • Jeff is famous for those drives through the Los Angeles area that he's been taking us on every Sunday - the radio playing classic rock, camera at the ready he has captured the often fantastical architecture that is SoCal and LA. Last Sunday we drove through Beachwood Canyon and found out the real story behind that Hollywood sign. And two weeks ago we had the pleasure (?) of a sleep over at the Madonna Inn. I can only echo Dora on that one: Words fail me.
St Joseph and the young Jesus
Il Duomo di Maria Vergine Assunta in Cielo is a fine example of the Fossanova style but sadly in need of restoration. I found this St Joseph with the young Jesus oddly touching.
Madonna Altarpiece
The most notable treasure in the Duomo is Benozzo Gozzoli's altarpiece of the Madonna holding Sermoneta protectively in her lap.
St Joseph over the doorSt Michael guarding the entrance hall
This family was taking no chances: St Joseph with his flowering staff protected the door way and St. Michael defends against Satan in the entrance way. Hopefully between the two of them they defeated any attempts of evil to enter.

  • Back in June Cowie and Brownie at Around Britain with a Paunch - and by the way I'll be damned if I can see a paunch on either one of them - spent a weekend in Burgundy. As always the produce and food photos make the mouth water and the soul yearn for such a weekend. Hell weekend let's make it a week.
A deserted street
A deserted street in an Italian town at 1 PM on a Sunday can only mean one thing: everyone must be at ...
The garden of Simposio
... pranzo. As indeed they were and we joined them in the garden of Simposio, a wonderful restaurant overseen by the ebulient Flabio Stavali. He can charm in five different languages.
A secondi to die for
But all the charm in the world wouldn't matter if the food wasn't exceptional. And Fabio's food is exceptional. We managed two portions of antipasti (including the best fried artichokes I've ever tasted) between the four of us, a tasting of 4 different pastas, and this secondi of beef and a wild boar sausage, a docle (heavenly pana cotta smothered in Fabio's brandied cherries) a pleasant local prosseco, Fabio's home made grappa and coffee. Colour us well fed!

  • And it was wonderful to see comments yesterday from my Blog Mother Lynette- she's been missing for far too long. And though it is travel of a different type she took me down memory lane and frankly made me homesick with her most recent post. Whither she's writing political, social, biographical or nostalgical she always captures with her thoughts and her words. Welcome back Belle!

06 agosto - San Sisto II