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


Haven’t done one of these posts in a while. Again not that I haven’t read some wonderful stuff just that two very active puppies (and some really heavy ballet review translations) have been keeping me a tad busy. And I also have done any GPP or GPV items in over a week. So why not combine the two. Here’s some posts I’ve enjoyed and a few pics of the deadly duo – though I realized I have more photos of Nora than Nicky – maybe because she stays still long enough.

It hard to believe they were ever this small … this friendly … or this quiet. They both weigh in at slightly over 2 kgs now, fight constantly and seem to have boundless energy. Hell they’re puppies of course they have boundless energy.
  • She hasn’t been blogging regularly for a while but as always when she does Big Ass Belle hits the mark every time. Her most recent post reminded me of the big part that serendipity has played in my own life and has even encouraged me to start working on a post about it.

Okay we have a moment of repose here but it’s just in preparation for the next assault on the race course that use to be the hallway.
  • Also absent for awhile, Elizabeth has such a full creative plate that she can be forgiven for not putting in more frequent appearances. Her recent trip to New York brought back memories of previous times in a city that helped shape her life.

Stick with me kid, says our Nora. I’m older than you and been around more, ’cause its just you and me against the world. Very appropriately Dashiell Hammett don’t you think?
  • Always a keen observer of the world – and with plenty experience of it – Helen has penned her most recent letter to Margaret and has a few words about Mr Obama and some things that were better left unsaid.

The house tends to be a bit on the dark side – no direct sunlight anyway because of all the angles. But there is a nice spot out on the service balcony that was just made for sunning.
  • It seems the ladies – I was going to type women but you know in my mind every one of them is a lady, sorry I’m old-fashioned that way – I know in blogdom are a busy lot. Cowbell has been busy with work and a few adult education opportunities including learning Spanish. Her class has given her food for thought and for a post.

Nick always likes to make sure the bed covers are perfectly arranged before a good night’s sleep.

  • For awhile there Sunday drives with Jeff was becoming a regular feature of my life, however there were a few Sundays when he had more pressing things to do. I’m glad to say he’s returned to take us through the high and by ways of the LA area. In the past two weeks he’s shown us cool signs with a decidedly 50s feel and then stopped off at a BBQ pit for some ribs and more 50s nostalgia.

Nora is completely unimpressed with the internet – its just too modern. She tends to be an old fashioned girl – the sort who hides demurely behind the lace curtains when she isn’t chewing on them!
  • And finally my friend Larry spent a few days in and around Sienna and has shared several posts about that lovely area of our adopted country. Rather than list them all why not just go over to AmoRoma and do a bit of a “birdwalk”.

Good reading and you’ll have to excuse me I have two puppies who have to be walked.

04 agosto – San Giovanni Maria Vianney


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


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


It’s been a while since I’ve shared the wealth of postings that are out there on my favorite blogs, not because I haven’t been checking things out but mostly because I’ve gotten lazy. There’s been a kind of lethargy settled over our place the last month or so – call it the post-winter blahs, big-city depression, whatever but its certainly had its effect on my blogging activity. It took me almost a week to get a posting done on the very exciting Fidelio I experienced two weeks ago; and I still haven’t posted anything about the two Vatican visits last weekend – but they are in the works. Maybe by Pentecost???

Here are a few things that I’ve read and enjoyed over the past few weeks.

  • One of my great inspirations when I first started blogging, the incredible Lynette over at Big Ass Belle posted a piece on prayer God’s Golden Spotlight back at the end of March – yes its been that long since I shared. It came at a time for me when prayer seems to have, in a small way, reentered my life. And it’s great to see Lynette posting again, even if for the moment it is only off and on.

Alms slot at St Giacomo in Augusto

This alms slot is at the portal of the now closed Church of St Giacomo in Augusto which was built to serve the former hospital for the incurables.

  • The newly shaven EvilGnome had an unusual sighting in the middle of Boston earlier this week. And his camera has come in handy for capturing the birds that are flocking to his neighbourhood. And in his wry way he shared his thoughts as he looked in the mirror razor in hand.

Monuement in St Maria dei Aracoeli

This funeral monument set in the floor at Santa Maria dei Aracoeli was commissioned to commemorate the burial spot of an important personage for eternity. Ironically their name and face has been erased by the footsteps of centuries of worshipers and tourists.

  • As well as changing her profile picture (you can’t mistake those naughty eyes) Sageweb had a transcendental experience in the grocery aisle that had me in stitches. And she ended the week with two great videos that are touching and reaffirming.

A converted stable

Just off Campo di Fiori this stable/coach house dates from the 1500s – its now a beauty salon. Sic Transit Upsweep!

Vatican Museum - Map of Venice

We saw this famous map of Venice last Monday during our private tour of the Vatican Museum – its on the wall at the end of the incredible Map Room. Venice is one of our favorite cities and we’ll be there next week just in time for their Patronal festival. Don’t even ask about the cost of hotel rooms!

  • Foodie Jonathan at Around Britain with A Paunch praises the joys of Heinz 57 and unveils a new upscale version that’s coming on the market.

Crowds at Trevi

For any of you who think you want might want to relive those moments from Three Coins in the Fountain – here’s the crowds at the Fontana di Trevi on a quiet day in late February. You won’t want to see it now that the warm weather is here. Actually you may not be able to see it.

  • For the past few weeks Jeff has been taking us on a Sunday drive through his neighbourhoods. It reminded me of the Sunday drives we often took when I was young – only in this case the driver is a heck of a lot better looking.

Bacchus at Bleve

When we were having lunch with friends at Bleve, a great little wine bar near San Andrea delle Valle, Laurent noticed that this Bacchus seemed just a little bit tipsy. I must say his eyes do have that slightly unfocused look I remember – says he very self-righteously after over six weeks without a drink – from my drinking days.

  • And Elizabeth has been keeping us posted, as her time allows, on how things are progressing with KH after his surgery. Though I’ve removed the candle from the sidebar I’m still stopping in to light a candle for his recovery and to remind myself of the needs and concerns of so many of my friends.

Photo-op at San Pietro

After the Papal audience on the Wednesday following Easter newly married couples were lining up for their photo-op. Couples come from all over to re-don their wedding finery and receive the Papal blessing during the general audience. The couple waiting their turn were from Spain.

You may have read some of these posts already – if not give them a visit. And if you have, what it would hurt you to take a second look?

19 aprile – Sant’Emma