Odds and Sods Around Our House

I am pretty sure I speak for Laurent as well as myself when I say the four years we spent in Rome were a very special time in our lives. Yes it was the place and the opportunities it offered but more importantly it was the people we met, the people we came to know and care for over that time.

We only met Garth Speight on one or two occasion and didn’t speak to him that often but his work spoke to us. A Canadian artist, he has spent much of his creative life in Rome capturing the Rome, Italy and the world in his travels. And I’m happy to say we have two of his remarkable works to remind us

Our last Christmas in Rome (2010) Laurent gave me one of Garth’s oils to remind me of our time there. In his distinctive style he captures the lines and shifting tones of the 3rd century Amphitheatrum Castrense built as part of an Imperial Palace of the Severan Dynasty. Later it was incorporated into the Aurelian Walls that surrounded the city as a defence barrier. Animal skeletons uncovered during excavations suggest that it may have been used for spectacles that included the hunting of exotic wild beasts.

And as a gift when I said goodbye to Rome in June 2011 Laurent gave me one of Garth’s prints. I’m not sure where this street scene is in our beloved Rome but Laurent has suggested it is over on the Janiculum Hill near the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola. Located on the other side of the Tiber the Janiculum is considered by many to be the eighth hill of Rome. It is often neglected by visitors to the city but it should be noted that it has the most spectacular views of Rome. The site of a battle against the French during the Risorgimento the parkland and belvedere are dotted with memorials to the revolutionaries including the often overlooked woman who stood and fought beside her husband: Anita Garibaldi. (Left click for photos of the memorial and her incredible story.)

I treasure these two works as a memory of our time spent in Rome, our great love for the city, and of the remarkable people we met there. Thank you Garth for giving us something to keep Rome in our hearts.

More of Garth’s works can be found on his website: gspeight.com

The word for April 5th is:
Belvedere /ˈbelvəˌdir/: [noun]
A summerhouse or open-sided gallery, usually at rooftop level, commanding a fine view.
Late 16th century: from Italian, literally ‘fair sight’, from bel ‘beautiful’ + vedere ‘to see’.

Throwback Thursday

Several of our old friends and colleagues are packing up to either return to Canada or head off to new postings. Their pictures and descriptions of farewells, packing up, moving boxes, and the general uncertainty of it all had me revisiting our final days in Italy 10 years ago.

As you acknowledge that your time at the post is finite (something I avoided for almost four years) you try to get in all the things you meant to do into those remaining weeks. In June and early July 2011 I was no different.

Looking over posts from that time I found one on the last historical walk of so many that I took with our friend Nancy. We had been celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Risorgimento that year and Nancy took us to the site of one of the early battles for the unification of Italy. And she revealed a story of an incredible woman who had fought alongside her husband. A story that, to my mind at least, bears repeating.

Willy Or Won't He

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…

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Throwback Thursday

Occasionally I will go back over previous posts to see what I was doing around this time in other years. Earlier this week I looked back at this week in June 2009 and came across a post announcing the birth of a young man who has just turned 12 this past week. It’s hard to believe!

I also came across a visit we had made to what I called The Pope’s Tile Store in the heart of Vatican City. I made a short video, of dubious quality, at the time. I was new to playing around with that sort of thing so the narration and style do leave something to be desired but it does give a peek into a area of the Vatican that most people don’t know exists. To see the video just left click on View Original Post below and I suggested expanding the video to full screen.

Willy Or Won't He

Every so often I get a chance to visit something here in Roma that is not accessible to the populus generalus: the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel after hours with a small group; the Headquarters of the Knights of Malta; a long buried Mithraeum; the monastery garden at St Croece; the Scavi under St Peter’s; and just last week the Mosaic Factory in the Vatican City.

Not to make it sound too exclusive, these sort of special visits are available for everyone, it just takes some fore thought, some planning and a bit of knowing how to arrange it.

Next on the list – this coming Friday a visit to the Vatican Gardens with our friend Cathy.

Interesting note: One of the major tasks the Vatican Mosaic Factory faces on a monthly basis is replacing tiles in the dome of the Basilica. While up there many tourists have a…

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Throwback Thursday – Memories of Rome

Reading over several posts from our time in Rome I was surprised that in the four years I was there I was in hospital for three extended periods. When I say extended I mean four or five days. One episode was in the massive Policlinico near us and two in a small private hospital. Plus there were several sojourns to Pronto soccorso (ER) at both Policlinico and Geminelli. Though the medical end of things were not always pleasant often the sheer theatre that surrounded it  was always worth it.

On December 28, 2008 a visit to the Pronto soccorso at Ospidale Geminelli gave me a further look at the vitality and endearing quirks that made me fall in love with Italy and Italians.

Willy Or Won't He

Date: December 28, 2008
Time: Somewhere between 4 PM and 10 PM
Place: Pronto Soccorso (ER) Ospidale Geminelli

So we’re sitting in one of the waiting areas of the ER, me with a drip and IV stand attached – don’t get worried Dora, the outcome though inconclusive was okay – Laurent dozing. Neither of us had thought to bring a book – mental note always have a book at hand for Pronto Soccorso. Pronto by the way means Quick, Soccorso means Help or Aid .. hmmm.

But the lack of reading material didn’t mean a lack of entertainment – we are, after all, in Italy. Though much of the entertainment was amusing, if not downright funny, there were serious matters going on.

The young man (14 or 15 at the most) on the stretcher near us in obvious pain. His mother, a small woman with an expressive face and eyes…

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A Melancholy Memory of Rome

When we lived in Rome I made a trip twice a week from our house in Nomantana to my psychiatrist on the other side of the Tiber in Trastevere. It involved a journey that could vary anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on the buses and unpredictable Roman traffic. On January 7th 2010, a Thursday that year, as usual, I took the number 64 to Piazza Venezia changed to a number 10 to Largo di Torre Argentina. From there I walked through the Ghetto and crossed at Isola Tiberina. After almost a week of rain the Tiber was threatening to breach its banks and there was more rain in the air. This was my habitual route but that day it was different.

Willy Or Won't He

Thursday – January 7th, 2010.

I’m not sure if it is the season winding down or the gloomy, rainy weather – we had five days of rain in Madrid and Rome has been little better since our return – but my mood today (Thursday) was one of an almost desperate melancholy. Though it was a sunnier and milder day than it has been I found myself very aware of the ruins in this city as I made my way over to Trastevere. Not the Auralian Walls or Porta d’Ottavia – those have become almost commonplace – nor the decaying Renaissance palazzi hiding behind the chipped veneer of the Baroque. I was noticing the ruined people who were around me and seem to have become more numerous on the streets in the past few weeks.

There now seems to be more homeless people sleeping in doorways and sadly more lost souls…

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