Sights, Sounds and Shares of Christmas

I love the fact that the big tree at Piazza Venezia, in front of the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument, isn’t quite perfect. It leans slightly to one side which is just fine and being Italian it leans to the left or the right depending on how you want to look at it!

For some reason this year has seemed busier than past Christmas seasons here and I haven’t put up as many posts as I would have liked or even had planned to. Perhaps it wasn’t so much busy as I am getting lazy???? However I did take a whole raft of pictures and had a whole parcel (slightly smaller than a raft???) of paragraphs to do with the holiday season. But I thought I would still share some of the sights, sounds and posts from friends of the holidays – after all we do have 10 days of Christmas left.

I find the Piazza Navona Christmas Market too crowded during the day time but in the evening – or at least last week when it was cold and humid – it was almost deserted. We wandered around for a bit and then headed over for one of Signora Paola’s home cooked meals at Der Pallaro – including her signature potato chips.
  • Once again Joe of the fabled Joe My God posted one of my favorite Christmas stories: The Dance of the Sugar Plum Lesbians has become a Seasonal classic. Each year I read it anew with added delight and it brings a smile to my face each time.

This wonderful display of teddy bears graces the window of a very upscale toy store in one corner of Piazza Navona. I was particularly delighted by the three kings and their camel. I’m glad the store was closed for the night otherwise ……
  • From his new digs in Palm Springs Jeff recalls for us an earlier time when network television still had an identifiable style and, yes, even a certain class. As he says “this little gem embodies the spirit of the holidays.”

The Novona market has a cornucopia of Christmas goodies – things for your presepe, decorations for the tree, Befane for January 6th, sweets and consumables. Much of it is cheap merchandise made in China but Laurent and our friend Jackie did find a few things to add to the Christmas trees.
  • Over at Japonisme Lotus Green has a wonderful series of posts – aural and visual – on roses and the return of light as the days begin to grow longer. Every one of them has something of interest and as always she astounds me with her wealth of images.

Just before Christmas we met with our friends Joe, Peter, Pino and Claudio for another delicious meal at what is fast becoming our favorite eatery in Centro, Antica Enoteca. It was raining that evening and after dinner as we walked over to catch the last Metro we found the area of Piazza Spagna and the Spanish Steps blessedly empty. Every so often it happens here and you understand the magic of this city. And that would be Laurent, Pino and I voguing in the rain.

  • Laurent featured a wonderful Christmas story from the Canadian Press about Fred the dog and his trip across Canada. Thanks to the good will of the people at VIA Rail Fred made the 4801 km trip from Vancouver to Montreal and was reunited with his family.

As I’ve mentioned before there are presepi throughout the city – in piazzas, churches and of course private homes. This antique one is half way up the Spanish Steps and depicts an 18th century Roman street scene complete with cavalry officer.

  • She does not write as often as she once did but as always when Big Ass Belle does it is always going to arouse emotions and get you thinking. Sadly Christmas for her revives memories of a 40 year old mystery that will live with her the rest of her life.

The carousel at Parco della Musica is a beautiful antique one from a circus and is part of an amusement area with a skating rink and cafe. And of course my favorite presepe in Rome – Emanule Luzzati’s magical vision of the nativity fills the amphitheatre. I am hoping to get back to take some daylight photos of his characters when we get back from Madrid next week.

Though not as grand as the one in Piazza Venezia our own tree holds memories for us. Ornaments given us by family and friends and that we have bought over the years in Chicago, Ottawa, Toronto, Hong Kong, Poland, Mexico, Egypt and Italy; the collectibles – the Wedgewood and Russian enamel medallions, the silver Christmas flower from Towle; and of course our sterling silver balls. Its eclectic and maybe even a bit gaudy but it says so much to and about us and the past 31 Christmases.
  • And finally our friend Wendy Holloway – who runs a wonderful bed and breakfast just outside Rome – included a traditional Central Italian Christmas recipe on her Flavor of Italy blog: Gobbo alla Parmigiana. I keep meaning to write a post on the great Sunday morning we spent at her cooking school a few weeks ago – an experience we intend to repeat at the end of January.

27 decembre – San Giovanni evangelista


Its been over a month since I posted links to favorite blog items I’ve read. And its not because I haven’t seen great stuff, just mostly because I’ve been lazy. So here’s a few items that I found were worth the read – amongst so many – as well as a series of pictures from one of our stops in Barcelona.

Poble Espanyol is unmistakably aimed at tourists – and being tourists we took the bait one afternoon. Aside from the worst – and it wasn’t really that bad, it just couldn’t compare with the others – and most expensive meal of the trip it really is a delightful place to visit. Built for the 1929 Exhibition it features the architecture of each region of Spain – Castilian leads to Andalucian which lead to Aragonian etc. Its sort of architectural Spain in the nutshell.

The Bajada de Cervantes is a passage of wide steps lined with buildings in the Basque style on one side, Navarrese on the other. But what fascinated me were the bronze tethering posts that worked their way down the street. Obviously of recent design, they reflect the arts and crafts on display in the village.
  • Its not unusual to be asked for a “word verification” these days when posting comments to blogs – it can help weed out the spammers fairly effectively. But you would think that if its called “word verification” than they would be actually words but often they are just random conglomerates of letters. Frequently if taken out of context they can sound faintly obscene. Buddy Sling was feeling in a Lewis Carroll mood recently and composed this for our enjoyment.
  • The Bookbinder
    The Glass Blower
    Laurent says this isn’t a courtesan but … hey I still think its an art.

  • As well as taking us on a Sunday drive – the first I’d been on with him in a month or more, Jeff decided to render a public service by posting this timely video on Facebook Relationships.
  • The Blacksmith
    The Potter
    The Woodworker

  • I’ve always considered her my Blog Mama, Big Ass Belle has a way with words that can tickle your funny bone one minute and tear at your heart the next. She’s been involved in a writing seminar and has been sharing some of her work with us. I won’t single out any one piece but just suggest that you click over to Big Ass Belle and scroll through. I guarantee it will be worth it.
  • The Spinster
    The Musician
    The Rope Maker

  • And speaking of Lewis Carroll, Lotusgreen has a delightful take on one of my favorite passages from Through The Looking Glass – I’ve always loved the Walrus and the Carpenter and tea is one of my favorite beverages.
  • The Basket Weaver
    The Sculptor

  • Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie is one of my favorite plays – back when I was a teenager I saw it three Saturday matinees in a row with the under-rated Canadian actress Barbara Hamilton as a funny, frightening and touching Amanda. I was reminded of it when I saw Lotusgreen’s lovely mixture of William’s words and the glass makers’ art.

21 aprile – Sant’Anselmo d’Aosta


I haven’t shared any of the postings that I’ve found particularly entertaining or informative in a while – and as we were reminded earlier this week in the Mom Song, sharing is important. And of course at the same time I have a few more photos to share from the trip to Napoli. These are various doors throughout the city – many on Via Toledo and the Centro Storico.

  • In honour of last week’s celebration of World Nutella Day, Michelle has done a Nutella Round Up. Its chock-a-block with links to recipes, articles, photos and ephemera concerning the world favorite chocolate and hazelnut spread. And apparently plans are already under way for next year’s festivities.
  • Though Sunday’s here seem to be taken up with lunching with friends I’ve missed Sunday drives with Jeff. He hadn’t done one in a while but at the beginning of the month took us down Saticoy Avenue of Boogie Nights fame.
  • My friend LotusGreen over at Japonisme has been featuring the work of Arthur Wesley Dow since the beginning of the month. Dow was an American painter, printmaker, photographer, and extremely influential arts educator. Amongst his students and disciples he numbered Georgia O’Keefe and he was a leader in the American Arts and Crafts movement.

13 febbraio – San Benigno di Todi


I always look upon these Sharing posts as a two-fold opportunity – I can bring your attention to some of the wonderful posts I’ve found in the past few days and put up some of the photos that I‘m frankly too damn lazy haven’t had time to get to as photo essays. This time around its some photos from my Torino, Genova, Parma opera week back in late October.
Out of Africa

This fascinating bronze entitled “Out of Africa” was prominently placed in the lobby of the Teatro Regio di Torino. I have mixed reactions to it – it is a beautiful piece but something about it disturbs me.

Holy Water Font

More often than not the holy water fonts in churches here are either dry or have a small bowl of water placed in them. But in Torino’s Chiesa di San Filippo Neri the font was more a fountain of holy water.

Il Museo Egizio in Torino has one of the finest – and stunningly displayed – collections of Egyptomania in Europe. I was particularly taken with this gold and lapis necklace. The pyramid as a display may be the obvious choice but it is subtly handled. Click for a close up.

The gates of the Palazzo Reale in Torino are a direct steal from Versailles but wasn’t every palace in Europe?

  • My friends Larry and Vincenzo spent Capodanno (New Year’s) with Vin’s family in Sicily. They made a trip over to Taormina to see the sights and Larry found some rather pretty, if unusual, Christmas decorations.

That’s the house of Christopher Columbus in Genova sticking up in middle way back there. His front yard is now a parking lot for motorinos – that’s one way to destroy the lawn and bring down prices in the neighbourhood.

This altar in il Duomo di San Lorenz once held relics of San Giovanni Baptista, the patron saint of Genova. His story is retold in the stone carvings in and around the altar. I’m constantly fascinated by the use of coloured marble throughout the churches in Italy – designs and colours always created to take the eye to a focus point.

  • Evilgnome calls the Fenway home in Boston, sadly last week he saw part of what makes his neighbourhood so unique destroyed by fire. And as he remarks when the Mom and Pop stores leave a neighbourhood so does much of its character.

Though the waterfront in Genova has been restored – and magnificently – its is still separated from the historic centre by an elevated freeway. There is no way to see this fascinating painted facade the way it was meant to be seen – approaching from the water.

A complete replica of a Turkish galleon is moored beside the Aquarium on the waterfront. It was original created for some Roman Polanski film and is now a tourist attraction. The Neptune figurehead is a great example of the carver’s art.

  • My darling Dora introduced me to two of the feistiest ladies in Blogdom: Margaret and Helen are two 80-somethings who chat on their blog – Margaret from Maine and Helen from Texas. They’ve known each other for over 60 years and their outspoken – often salty – take on the world is often amusing, always insightful and invariably controversial. They even have their own on-line store.

The Cross of St George (red cross – white background) features in the coat of arms of many cities throughout the world. It’s the municipal coats of arms in both Milano and Genova in Northern Italy – as in the New World it is in Montréal

I only intended to pop into the Aquarium in the harbour for a few minutes and ended up spending over 2 hours. Though not a fan of zoos or the like I found a peaceful fascination in the unusual sea fauna. I really must post a few more to these shots of jelly fish, I found them incredibly beautiful.

  • And speaking of beautiful, my friend Lotus Green is constantly revealing the beauty of the Japanese influence on our world. Her December 30 post on Fireworks is as spectacular as New Year’s Eve display. And her post naked is a enchanting mixture of the visual and the aural.

08 gennaio – San Lorenzo Giustiniani

More Sharing

And wouldn’t you know it, I no sooner finish putting up the previous post than I come across three more items I want to share.

  • Our friend Larry is continuing a tradition in Rome that he started with a group in New York – a Lenten Journey. Here in Rome he is making a visit to one of the Station Churches each week of Lent linking his visit with a reading of the Beatitudes. This week a visit to Basilica di San Clemente and a Beatitude brought back memories of his Pacific Coast childhood and his mother. A lovely and loving tribute.

Shrine in the Borgo

Of course shrines are everywhere in this city – this one is built into an arch of the Passetto Borgo, a fortification that runs from the Papal Apartments to Castel Sant’Angelo.

Contented cat

A very contented cat basks in the sun at the Cat Sanctuary at Torre Argentino. It is one of several homes for the many stray cats that wander the streets of Rome.

  • LotusGreen of Japonisme has spotted a Klimt inspired trend in some of the new fashion collections unveiled in the past month. Her keen eye has caught the similarites between many of the materials and designs being used and the works of the Viennese painter. And while your there you might want to listen to the Mills Brothers sing Yellow Bird.

21 febbraio – San Pier Damiani