Neve, Neve, Andare Via!*

I know its been over six months since I left Roma and Italy but I realize that my friend Rebecca was right when she said “give it a year”.  Every so often I get an wave of homesickness for the place and, most especially, the people and today when I received photos of Roma in the snow from those people  was one of those “oftens”.  Yes I know we have snow here in Ottawa – boy do we have snow, and freezing rain and -35c days – but its not the same.  Here snow is a daily thing and a bother, there its a rarity and romantic.  Well okay its romantic except for no buses, no trains, motorini buried under snow, icy cobble stone streets and the mess when it turns to slush.

Today for the first time in many years – though I do remember a brief snow storm two years ago – it snowed in Roma and snow is forecast for the next few days.  North of Firenze it has been dire – temperatures in the minus teens and snow.. lots and lots of snow.  Not that snow is an unknown in these areas, just that this past few days have been exceptional – but understand there is no climate change!

But I digress – often according to some of the finest psychoanalysts a sign of denial.  I awoke this morning (afternoon his time) to these photos that my friend Marco sent as he attempted to get home from work – his being the motorino buried in the snow.

Piazza della Repubblica looks even more romantic in that half-light you get
with falling snow and cloudy skies – and its almost devoid of traffic.
I’m not sure as Marco didn’t identify the venue
but I think this is the main station at Termini – equally devoid of traffic???

Then later in the day – evening his time – cher Lionel sent this photo of Piazza Navona in the evening snow.  If I read his posting correctly – and from what I’ve heard from other people about buses having problems getting up those Seven Hills of Rome – he walked the 3.5 kms from our old neighborhood to Centro.  Such an athlete!

Piazza Navona as captured by our friend Lionel this evening – sensible Romani stayed in doors but our Lionel walked from our old neighborhood to take it.  Not exactly next door but then he always was the athletic sort.

And finally young Simon – who is either in London studying hard or in Roma cheering on Lazio, or perhaps in London just “studying” and cheering on Lazio – put this wonderful photo up on Facebook.

From the Cappidocia overlooking the Foro towards the Colesseo and San Giovanni.  Snow covered for the first time in 28 years – a sight not many of us will ever see, and how I wish I were there to see it now.

Sorry how the hell could I not be homesick?

*Snow, snow, go away!

03 February – 1815:  The first factory dedicated to making cheese opens in Switzerland. 

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Beside Every Great Man

Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro di Garibaldi, best known
as Anita Garibaldi, (August 30, 1821 – August 4, 1849)

Tuesday I took my last tour – for a while at least – with a dear friend who is  an art historian par excellence. One of the joys of living here has been to see so much of Roma through her eyes, with her guidance and encyclopedic knowledge.  And often,  because of her contacts, I’ve gotten into places on her Monday/Tuesday walks that most people – even Italian friends – have only seen from the outside. But with her as your guide even the “regular” walks take on a special flavour because she has the enviable ability to make things spring to life.

In 1931 Mario Rutelli designed this equestrian statue in tribute
to the Heroine of the Two Worlds which stands in the Piazza
named after her on the Juniculum Hill overlooking Rome.

This week she led us through the sites on the Janiculum Hill that figured in the Siege of Rome – that bloody two months in 1849 that saw the end of the short-lived Roman Republic. On April 30 a force of some 5,000 people including anti-clerical Travesterini, Garibaldi’s revolutionary army and citizen-soldiers held the highest point in the city and drove Napoleon III‘s 10,000 strong French force back to the sea.  In a truly operatic gesture, that I can’t imagine happening anywhere else, a band played the Marseillaises behind the Italian lines to remind the French that they were all revolutionaries.  Wounded French prisoners were treated and returned to their regiments and a truce allowed French citizens living in the city to leave.  However bad diplomacy on the part of Mazzini and duplicity on the part of the French, who broke the truce a day early, eventual led to the defeat, after a fierce defense, of the Republic on the evening-morning of June 29th-30th. On July 2 Garibaldi and his followers left the city to seek refuge in San Marino. By Garibaldi’s side, as she had been so often since they first met in Brazil in July 1839, was his Brazilian born wife Anita.  It is said she was garbed as a man the more readily to avoid detection as they crisscrossed Italy pursued by French, Austrian, Spanish and Papal troops.

Of all the monuments to the Siege that dot the Juniculum today – and a phalanx of busts of Garibaldini ring the paths in the park – perhaps the most powerful and touching is one nestled in a grove of trees that could be easily overlooked.  It marks the resting place of this remarkable woman.  The story goes that when the young Garibaldi – tall, fair and imposing – saw the tiny dark but strangely beautiful 18 year old all he could murmur was “Tu devi essere mia” (You must be mine). And his she became and was to remain for the eleven years she fought beside him in both the Old and the New Worlds.

Rutelli’s Anita is the stuff of legends – mounted on a rearing horse (an exceptional feat of engineering) she brandishes a pistol in one hand while holding her nursing son close in the other arm.  It may not capture the physical Anita with any great fidelity but it distills the spirit of the woman who fought as well as the men around her.

She was either already unhappily married or at least betrothed when they met – and leaving everything behind joined him on his ship, the Rio Pardo, in October 1839.  In November she was fighting along side him in the republican battles at Imbituba and Laguna.   She was to be with him in most of the battles to follow and his companion in the game of cat and mouse he played throughout South America and Europe with the pursuing authorities.  She taught him many of the riding skills that were to prove so useful on the battle field and in evading capture.

On September 16, 1840 their first child was born and given the name Dominic after Garibaldi’s father, but he was nicknamed “Menotti” in honour of Ciro Menotti a patriot and beloved friend.  On September 28 – 12 days after – she evaded capture and escaping through a window and grabbing a horse of the Imperial Guard fled to the woods.  She remained hidden for four days without food and nursing a newborn until her anxious lover/husband/leader found her.  It was not to be an unusual story for the couple. Their life was to be stuff of adventure novels and in many cases its difficult to separate the historical fact from the romantic fiction.

In April of 1849 when Garibaldi headed to Roma Anita, in her fourth month of pregnancy went to Nice to stay with his mother.  Even at that point she was suffering from what was quite possibly malaria and in a weakened state.   However on hearing of her husband’s latest fight she left her four children with her mother-in-law and joined him in Roma in June.  She witnessed the fall of the Republic and was once again was with him and his followers on a forced march through Italy.  They crisscrossed the country on foot and on horseback, across mountains and rivers – getting food where they could and hiding when necessary.  Her condition worsened and in the area of Mandriole Garibaldi and his faithful adjunct Captain Leggero took her by skiff and then on an old mattress to the farmhouse of a patriot name Guiccioli.  A doctor was called but she was beyond help and died in Garibaldi’s arms on August 4th at the age of 28.

The most touching image are these two solitary figures: 
the grieving Garibaldi in flight with the dying Anita in his arms.

Knowing the danger that Guiccioli would be in if it was found he had given the revolutionaries refuge and mindful of their situation,  Leggero convinced Garibaldi to flee and arranged for a hasty burial in a shallow sand grave.  Six days later the body was accidentally discovered – it had been uncovered by wild dogs – and proper burial arranged in nearby Mandriole.  However even in death poor Anita was pursued and not allowed to rest in one place.  The Papal authorities exhumed the body and after an autopsy gave out that she had died from “unequivocal signs” of strangulation and stated that Garibaldi to avoid being encumbered by a pregnant wife had choked her to death.  The calumny was quickly denied by the doctor who had attended her and all facts point to a fabrication in an attempt to discredit the Hero of the Two Worlds.

In the following decade Anita’s body was to be exhumed 7 times until in 1859 she was moved, at Garibaldi’s request, to the Garibaldi family grave in Nice.  Finally in 1932 her remains were laid to rest at the base of the statue that had been erected to honour her on the Juniculum Hill in the city where she had fought her last battle along side her husband.

02 giugno – Sant’Erasmo di Formia

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Its Snowing!

The chemically enhanced young lady who does the weather on channel 5 had suggested we might see some white stuff overnight but this morning – Nothing!!! Until around 0745 when it started:

It doesn’t appear to be staying around which would make for some lovely photos. But even without it staying on the ground traffic has become a mess and the ambulance sirens have been klaxoning a bit more than usual. I can only imagine how dangerous it must be for motorino drivers, especially on those damned romantic cobblestones.

And its just in time for the start of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver!!!!

I’ll be posting more photos and videos later of the accumulation – because it is still snowing. Apparently this is the first time in over 30 years that this has happened.

12 febbraio – Sant’Eulalia di Barcellona

Quote … Unquote

I’m sorry Walter, Marco, Vin, Simonetta I love you all but Italians are hard to understand. I don’t mean when they speak – I mean they are HARD to understand. Of course I am not the first straniero to make that observation – that was probably some poor Hun who had come down to conquer and found himself totally confused. The red tape, traffic and hysteria going on around him made it almost impossible to rape and plunder with even a modicum of Hunish efficiency!

I’ll give you an example of what I mean: our neighbour on the first floor can barely bring himself to say buon giorno and tends to hustle the children along if he sees us coming – now that may be a combination of us being stranieri and omosessuale. Yet the other evening when we had a power failure and discovered that there was no way to open the front gates he patiently explained about the key for the back gate, was indignant that we didn’t have one – this was not right the Embassy should have given us one, what would we do if there was an accident we could be trapped in the compound – and trotted down the long back lane way to open it for us. This morning it was back to a curt nod and a muttered greeting!

But then as Beppe Severgnini explains in La Bella Figura in an emergency Italians come through! Severgnini’s explanation of the Italian character is highly recommended reading for anyone visiting Italy and mandatory for anyone planning to live here. He addresses many of those questions that have been puzzling us stranieri since the first Gaul gawked in wonder at the Colesseo.

Take traffic and parking! Though he’s talking specifically about the parking situation in Napoli, he could be addressing the Sunday morning circling for a spot near the door at IKEA here at Porta di Roma.

Italian motorists must – not “like to,” not “want to,” not “beg to,” but absolutely must – park right next to their destination, with no thought for the consequences. It’s true all over the country, but here in Naples, under pressure from the lack of space, stimulated by uphill gradients, and excited by the descents, drivers seem particularly creative.

Anyone arriving by car expects to park outside the front door. A couple of hundred meters away there may be a huge free parking lot, but that’s irrelevant. Leaving the car there would be an admission of defeat. Our car user circles like a shark awaiting the moment to strike. If the individual concerned thinks he or she is important – a title that many in Naples like to acquire in the course of a brief, solitary award ceremonies – then irritation increases. Status is inversely proportional to the distance between destination and parking space. The closer the car the more important the driver.

And I think he may have come up with an explanation for that Mercedes that has been parked on a nearby street for the past six months. You may recall I wrote about it in September. Yes its still sitting there but that sticky mess of figs has dried up and is now covered by a lovely autumnal arrangement of dead leaves.

Severgnini’s possible explanation? Again he’s talking about Napoli but it could be Roma and it could be that Mercedes owner.

There’s another category of motorists that deserve examination here in Naples. I’m taking about the Potential Driver, who has found a parking space – improbable, improvised or just plain impermissible – and has not intention of giving it up. This driver gets around on foot, on a scooter, or on public transport, defying the ticket inspectors and muggers. But the car stays where it is. Every so often, he dusts the vehicle off. Why should he move it? A car is a form of reassurance, proof of prosperity, and a place to listen to the radio or store wine. No one around here has ever parked so close to home before. The neighbours know this, and observe in admiration.

La Bella Figura
Beppe Severgnini
The Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group

Well of course, why didn’t I think of that: once you’ve got a good spot why give it up? Makes sense doesn’t it?

Okay even Severgnini can’t always give reasons that make sense to us Huns – hey we are in Italy – but he makes a good stab at it. And its entertaining reading!

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