Tuesday, March 31, 2009

To Market, To Market .....

(Keep in mind that a left click on any of the photos will "embiggen" them for a closer look.)

I often feel overwhelmed in markets, not the big sterile supermarkets but the European-style covered markets. There's such a choice of things and the displays can be works of art unto themselves. There are many local markets here in Rome but the one nearest to us is a bit of a disappointment, doubly so after a visit to Mercat de la Boqueria on the Ramblas in Barcelona. I'm sure there are markets as splendid here in Roma but I just haven't come across them. La Boqueria has a long history as a local market and even though it is now crowded with gawking tourists, like me, still serves the needs of the people in the area.
The glass, wrought iron and tin archway give only a hint about what's to be found inside.
The staples of any market are the fruits and vegetables - I find more local and seasonal things on display here than at back in Canada, not unusual given the short growing season there. And hand and hand with the verduras and frutas are the butcher stalls - some specializing in particular types of meats, though unlike Hanoi there were none featuring Cane - thank heavens. When I see those wonderful hams hanging in porcine splendor I think how much Dora would enjoy picking one out and feasting on it.
Being a port city it can only be expected that the fish counters - at the core of the market - have an incredible selection of things from the sea. I'm still not sure what those long bamboo-type tubes with slug like things hanging out are and I'm not really sure I want to find out. I'll stick to Gilthead, Sole, octopus and shellfish thanks!
The Time Out guide warns that the stalls near the entrance, displaying fresh juices and whole candied fruit jack their prices up for the tourist trade. Its a shame if they do but you have to admit the displays are pretty tempting and just down right pretty.
But this market has more than staples - you can get everything from carry-out soup to nuts. There's at least two tapas bars, if you don't mind pulling up a stool and the crowds, as well as one or two wine shops. Pretty much everything you need for a good meal. But I didn't see a stall offering ice cream!
And I am ashamed to say that my favorite stall in the whole market was this one. Aside from the fact that the little lady who worked there was cheerful and helpful, she also gave away lots of free samples. And topped up the containers after she had weighed them. And you will notice I said containers plural - I had to make a second visit to her just before we headed to the airport.

31 marzo - Sant'Amos

We Interrupt This Blog For ...

breaking news!

31 marzo - Sant'Amos

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lunedi Lunacy

I never thought I would be typing the post label: Finnish Humour but I think is pretty funny. And strangely we have the same complaints here in Italy - well except for the hockey loses!

Again thanks to my friend Cathy for this one - I know it brings back fond memories of the time she spent in Helsinki. I was always sorry we never got to visit her there.

30 marzo - Sant'Irene

Friday, March 27, 2009

I Object to Your Objection!

I received a rather strange prompt when I finished posting the item below. According to a message from Blogger someone has flagged my blog as containing "Objectionable Material." I started looking over what has been posted in the past week and tried to determined what would someone consider "objectionable!"
  • Little old ladies with dogs?
  • A photo of a very odd advertisement in a store window?
  • An opera singer from the past?
  • A video trailer for a bittersweet documentary on retired performers?
  • A humorous cartoon about exercising with a wine glass?
  • An photo of a strangely named restaurant in Barcelona?
  • A header of a Gaudi rooftop from Barcelona?
  • A ceramic plate commemorating the month of March from Trento?
  • A link to a series of beautiful frescos from the 13th century?
  • A flickering candle in memory of the people I have loved and lost to illness and old age?
  • The picture of me looking decidely portly and middle-aged?
Okay I find that last item objectionable but that's just me. The only think I can think of is that someone looked at that Diesel ad and did not - if they indeed can - read the words that accompany the picture.

Since the flag appeared in the last hour I can only assume that someone in one of the following locations registered their objection:
Now I know that the Milan entry is from my own IP address and the Padova is a regular, as are the Montreal, Murcia and Bothell. If indeed it was someone in Glyn Ellyn, Foley, Houston or an undefined location in the United States who found something here objectionable I would have hoped they would have contacted me first. Because what I find objectionable is the cowardly act of activating a button on a page rather than making their feelings known.

Might I suggest to who ever it is that should you choose to visit my blog again - though why you would come back to an "objectionable" blog gives rise to all sorts of speculation - that you have the option to e-mail me with your concern or simply click the small "x" at the top right of your screen. That is what we call in my part of the world being "educato."

27 marzo - San Ruperto

Barcelona Japonisme

I've cribbed the title of this post from one of my favorite art blogs - Japonisme. Lotus Green fills her posts with a mix of the visual, the written word and on occasion the aural - all with connections to the influence of Japan on the artistic world.

Architecturally Barcelona is one of the great cities of the world. Certainly in the historic centre you can't walk a block without being struck by the beautiful, the exotic or the just downright unusual. A stroll down the Rambla - note to self, next trip to Barcelona is weekdays only - reveals the beauties of building after building. Saturday morning - before the crowds became to numerous - revealed this rather fanciful take on things Nipponese.
Though it is now a banking outlet our guess is that at one point this was the home of an umbrella maker. Whoever the architect may have been there's a slight chance he may have confused Japanese and Chinese in the odd detail.
The facade is a strange mixture of wooden umbrellas, painted panels of stylized Japanese figures, scraffiti cranes and stained glass.

And a combination of floodlights and back lighting makes sure that the building does not go unnoticed at night.

27 marzo - San Ruperto

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gratuitous Puppy Pictures

There is really nothing gratuitous about the companionship that is shared by these two elderly ladies and the dogs that own them. Socially there may be some difference between the two but that is leveled by the love and care of their pets.
Sunday morning on the boardwalk in front of the Marina in Barcelona this patient fella was waiting for his human to fish something out of her purse. Dressed in her good Sunday wool suit she was busily searching for something - a treat? - as the world strolled by.
Later in the day this duo, well bundled up against the sharp wind from the ocean, wended their way through the crowds on the Ramblas - definite proof that owners often begin to resemble their pets.

26 marzo - Sant'Emanuele

What the Hell Were They Thinking?

This is a full length ad in the Diesel store window in Barcelona:

Am I alone in not understanding exactly what clientele Diesel is aiming at?

Arrogant young men who enjoy demeaning over the hill boxers?

Any other ideas? Please let me know.

26 marzo - Santa Lucia Filippini

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mercoledi Musicale

Yesterday I posted an item about Il Bacio di Tosca, the lovely documentary that I so much enjoy last week. Undoubtedly the star of the film is soprano Sara Scuderi. Though a name largely unknown in North American she had a successful European career, particularly in Holland, as well as some renown in South America. In her time she was known but not considered one of the greats. Listening to her singing Vissi d'arte (I lived for art alone.) makes me think that if this was what a second string soprano sounded like then, how come we can't find a first string soprano that good today?

She was born in Catania December 11, 1906 and made her debut as Verdi's Desdemona in 1925. She was still singing into the 1950s and made a few recordings but had to wait for her real international fame until Tosca's Kiss in 1985. She died at the Casa Verdi on December 24, 1987 at the age of 85.

And because there just aren't singers around like this anymore, here she is singing Mimi's Donde lieta usci in an 1948 recording.

25 marzo - Annunciazione del Signore

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Il Bacio di Tosca

My friend Larry over at Amoroma - who is currently doing a great photo series on Titular churches in Roma - reminded us a few weeks ago of a documentary that Laurent and I have always loved. I ordered a copy of it from Amazon in the UK and we watched it last Thursday night. It was as delightful and as moving as it was almost 25 years ago.

Il Bacio di Tosca (Tosca's Kiss)was made in 1984 by Swiss film maker Daniel Schmid. Filmed at the Casa di Riposo Verdi in Milan, Schmid looked at artists who's whole lives had been the operatic stage. Living now in a home founded by the great composer they still had lives filled with music and the reminiscences of their past glory.

There are many moments of aching bittersweetness: Giuseppe Manachini pulling out and proudly displaying his worn costumes that spark memories of triumphs in South America and Europe; Sara Scuderi listening to a 1940's recording of herself as Tosca and loving murmuring Bella, Bella; Giovanni Puligheddu droning on endearingly about his musical credentials; Tenor Leonida Bellon encountering Scuderi in a hallway and helping her recreated her triumph as she delivers "il bacio di Tosca". The Casa Verdi staff, happily and humorously, treating all this as normal behavior. And for all these creatures of the theatre, now sadly gone, it was.

Though there is a certain sadness to Schmid's documentary there is also triumph - even in their old age they have fire, they have spirit and most importantly they have joy in their past and in their art. Its a wonderful tribute to age.

24 marzo - Santa Caterina di Svezia

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lunedi Lunacy

Wouldn't I just love to be doing some of these exercises with a few of those great Spanish wines I've been seeing this weekend. But sadly I've restricted myself to one small glass at dinner. Yes I know I shouldn't but damn it you can't have tapas without a splash of wine!

Thanks to my friend Cathy in Ottawa for this one.

23 marzo - San Turibio de Mogrovejo

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stuffed Peppers, Anyone?

Despite the name I've been assured the food is exceptional.
Apparently this restaurant was indeed once a Taxidermist's. And Salvador Dali was one of their regular customers. One occasion as well as ordering a lion, a tiger, a rhinoceros for a show he was creating in the adjacent Plaza Real, he also ordered 200,000 ants! I'm still trying to figure out how you stuff 200,000 ants - and with what?

22 marzo - San Benvenuto

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Is Was In the Air

Last weekend was the first taste of spring here in Roma - Saturday was sunny, warm and very welcome after the damp, cold winter we've just been through. Long time inhabitants of the city complained that it had been the worst winter in decades. Torrential rains - at times almost tropical in nature - battered the city almost every day causing flooding, in one evening the Tiber rose more than 50 metres (150 ft) almost breaching its embankments. Sewers clogged with leaves left uncollected from the autumn overflowed, flooding intersections and underpasses killing at least two people.

Though the temperature only dipped below 0c on a few evenings the constant damp seeped into the buildings - all concrete and marble - and made it feel colder. So cooling in the heat of summer, marble floors can give you what we use to call chilblains in the dead of winter. And of course the heating systems in most buildings just weren't meant to deal with that sort of cold. Extra blankets were heaped on, sweaters worn and space heaters used, though sparingly because of the cost of electricity.
But last Saturday was a reminder that spring is just around the corner. And people were out doing what they do in warm weather - though many still bundled up just in case - strolling and lolling on the lawns and amongst the cherry trees in Villa Borghese. Some families were picnicking, others have family lunch in the eateries around the park. I did notice a fair number of "second bed" families - older father with young trophy wife and baby accompanied by the older off-spring of the "first bed." The young wives going to great pains to fawn over slightly wary step-children.
Many of the Nonni were out pampering favorite grandchildren - making sure that bonnets were in place, it may be sunny but a head left uncovered by a thoughtless young mother invites illness if not death. Young lovers were testing their previously housebound relationships to see if they would last in the glare of the sun. Groups of boys were practicing those shots that Roma should have played in last week's game cheered or, often jeered, by their young ladies.

And spring was evident on our balcony. Betty Jean's chamomile which has spent the winter looking like a dried up twig has begun to show tufts of fragrant green. And the first flower was a surprise. I have no idea where this little charmers came from but there are three or four stalks and this was the first to bloom.But sadly, despite a not unpleasant week with the constant promise of spring in the area, winter came back this morning. Sharp cold winds - no doubt coming in from Milano - drove the temperatures down and winter coats were dawned again. As we waited for the train to Fiumicino on exposed Platform 25 we were happy that the forecast for Barcelona was sunny and warm.

21 marzo - Sant'Elia eremita

La Festa di San Giuseppe

Yesterday was the Feast of Saint Joseph here in Italy and because he was the "earthly father" of Christ it is also celebrated as Father's Day. This, in a recent turn, in events has become a bit like Father's Day in North American. Ties and socks are bought and presented, often with a home made card as I don't recall seeing Father's Day cards in the stores here - yet.

As a religious holiday it is celebrated more in the South than in Central and Northern Italy. One of the regular writers for Italian Notebook posted this item on celebrations in Sicily. Of course being Italy there is a traditional pastry associated with the Feast Day. Zeppole di San Giuseppe are large balls of sweet choux pastry, fried not baked, and filled with custard or canolli cream. Though there does seem to a heated discussion as to what it the correct filling to honour the Saint. My friend Marco tells me that there is only one pastry shop in Roma that makes them the right way - it is, surprise! surprise! - Napolitano.

Often, just to ensure the full calorie level for the day is reached, they are topped with whipped cream and a glaceed cherry. I had one at coffee break yesterday - it was... filling!

19 marzo - Sant'Alessandra di Amiso

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Canon At the Ready

You may remember - or may not if your memory is anything like mine - that a few weeks ago while photographing the glories of Orvieto I dropped my trusty little Power Shot SD550. It has been a good little camera, not the best for interior shots of churches - and we do visit a lot of churches - or opera house curtain calls, but it I was happy with it.

I hemmed and hawed about getting a new one - but was happy enough with Canon that I went for another one. And I hemmed and hawed a bit to long. Now one of the perks of being a Dip here is that theoretically we should not pay IVA (the Good's and Service's Tax) on anything here over E250.00. I say theoretically because the system to get the tax deducted is worthy of Byzantium. Unlike Canada where Dips are issued a tax exempt card, here you have to go to the store, select what you want, get them to fill out a special form, turn it into the Government, wait 5-7 days to have it stamped, return to the store stamped form in hand to make your purchase. Certainly not conducive to impulse buying!
The old Kodak and damaged PowerShot are taking a back seat to the new kid on the block.

Unfortunately I wasn't aware of these "new" procedures and left it a bit late to buy a replacement camera. As a result I ended up paying full price for my new Canon IZUA 870IS. There was no way I was heading to Barcelona without a camera.

19 marzo - San Guiseppe

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mercoledi Musicale

Stephen Sondheim’s Company became a bit of a cult hit in the 1970 when it premiered in New York. It was progressive, it was edgy and it celebrated the free-wheeling culture of the period.

In this excerpt from the recording of the original cast album Bobby, a single guy with married friends, wakes up to find his one-night stand - god did we ever do things like that? - trying to sneak out. She's a flight attendant and has to head to work.

A sleepy Bobby asks: Where you going?
And she answers truthfully:

And that’s where we’ll be come this friday - Barcelona, not the one-night stand!

18 marzo – San Cirillo di Gerusalemme

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cat Naps

I’ve mentioned before about the feral cats that roam the neighbourhoods of Roma and the ladies who attend to their feeding and care. In our previous area there was the little lady with the limp, more noticeable in the bad weather, who showed up without fail every morning to leave food and water at various locations along the street. At Villa Torlonia there are two ladies who go about refilling plastic bowls and plates for the numerous strays who live in Il Duce’s former residence. On Via Nomentana every morning at 10 the cats wait patiently inside fence of the derelict Villa Blanca for the security guard who unlocks the gate to admit the elderly lady with their daily rations.

Our current neighbourhood is no different. Every morning on the way to work I pass plastic plates – most of them empty indicating that the local “cat lady” has been by earlier to feed her charges. However she – I am assuming it is a she as I have yet to see a “cat gentleman” except at the cat shelters – has gone one step further and built a shelter for those under her care.This rather elaborate structure takes half the sidewalk but has remained in tact, unmolested for the past few months. Given the driving rains and violent storms we’ve had this past few months I’m sure the felines in the neighbourhood have been pleased with this extra bit of caring.

17 marzo - San Patrizio

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lunedi Lunacy

Its a day late but to celebrate the 2052 anniversary of the Assassination of Julius Caesar here's a classic Wayne and Shuster skit:

Poor Sylvia Lennick was a well-known actress in Toronto when I was growing up, but sadly she was pursued by the phrase: Don't go Julie I said.

16 marzo - Sant'Ilario di Aquileia

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gratuitous Puppy Pictures

Like there could ever be such a thing!!!!

Though the puppy shots didn't turn out yesterday I did manage to get some good shots of the dames and sires of our new kids.
These are the young lad's parents: Giverny and Monet. Giverny was most upset that I had handled her little guy - she checked him over to make sure everything was still there, licked him clean and then he headed straight for a teat. Yes I know Jacque - typical male!
And this would be our feisty girl's dame and sire: Lucie and Camillo. Lucie's a real suck and love to be snuggled even if it means interrupting feeding time. Camillo's a fireball and a champion working dog to boot.
This big boy just wants to be a lap dog. When he rolled over on his back I was too busy to take a photo. When something that size says Rub my tummy - you rub! And the ones not asking for a tummy rub are my dear Linda and Nazareno.
This smooth-haired daschie is just days away from giving birth to a litter of 8 pups. The belly may have been dragging but she still wanted to play ball.

I still can't get over the fact that they bred St Bernards and dwarf daschies. But these two seem not to have a problem with it, so why should I?

14 marzo - Santa Matilde di Ringelheim