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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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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Ho Visto*

Every Tuesday afternoon I head over to Trastevere for an appointment. Trastevere literally mean “across the Tiber” and encompasses a large area south of the Vatican on the west bank of the river. The northern area of the Rioni (Rome proper is divided into 22 districts or Rioni, Trastevere being number 8) is a warren of cobblestoned streets, alleyways, old palazzi, palazetti, churches and other buildings some dating back to the 12th century. It’s also a beehive of trattorie, bars and trendy clubs some catering chiefly to tourists and others to the better heeled youth of the area.

I’m not working these days so I often leave a bit early, have a coffee at a bar just off the Lungotevere – I don’t even have to order now just wave at Cisco, the barman, and my Caffè macchiato is made – and wander around the back streets. It is still an area I am not all that familiar with and I only get over there on those Tuesday jaunts. It’s odd, but I think only normal, how once you get settled in a city you tend not to leave your own area most of the time. So Trastevere is mostly uncharted territory to this stranger from the Upper East side.

This past Tuesday as I was approaching the Piazza de’Mercanti I noticed this gentleman unloading his truck.

Firewood? In the middle of Rome? Why would he be unloading firewood? Sure our wealthy neighbours on the ground floor have a fireplace but I don’t suspect many people in the palazzi in that area do. Then I realized it was in front of a trattoria that had been a favourite haunt of many film stars in the 60s and 70s: La Taverna de’Mercanti. And of course this would be for their famous wood burning pizza ovens.


And as I walked along the side of the building I noticed a screen door leading directly down into their kitchen and took a quick shot of one of the staff preparing for the evening onslaught.

When I mentioned it to my doctor, he gave that famous Roman “BOH!” and suggested that I come over one evening and take night time pictures as according to him it is quite lovely. But then he suggested I go and eat elsewhere – too many people looking for the table that Gregory Peck sat at!

*I Saw

03 novembre – Santa Silvia

Sevice with uno Sorriso

You may recall that last year around this time I went shopping for new glasses with my friend Marco. He shamed me into doing away with the professor look and with Laurent’s final approval I started sporting a pair of light weight trendy Adidas frames.

Well while on vacation I went to take them off to thoughtfully suck on the temple arm after having read something profound – okay it was a menu in a restaurant, but they can be profound – and one of the nose pads arms, nose pad attached, remained resting in place. Now one does not expect that bits and pieces of a pair of very, very, very expensive Adidas glasses will detached themselves of their own free will. Particularly not when they are made of the same metal as is reported to be used on intergalactic space probes and have been futher tempered in the fires of the damned.

Given that I no longer could find the receipt and the level of customer service I have experienced on most occasions here in Roma – we won’t rehash the IMAC story – I expected the worst. I knew they couldn’t be repaired and what were the chances of having them replaced? Give it a try said my ever optimistic spouse. Give it a try said my friend Marco in a tone of patriotic defensiveness. Give it a try said my friend Laurie with a bit of a smirk.

So yestreday morning I walked into the Optica looking for Andrea, the good looking young man who had first served me, knowing he would be, at the least, nice to look at if not sympathetic to my sorry tale. No luck – a total stranger was sitting in front of the D&G display with that “I am a sales person in an exclusive store sitting in front of a display of glasses you could never afford.” look on his face. So I took a deep breath and launched into my standard apology for my bad Italian with my very English accent and explained – with many descriptive gestures – what had happened.

Okay said the Gentleman – no really he said okay. He looked at the de-nose-paded frames, weighed them in his hand and then said: I’m sorry… Oh boy I thought here it comes – I had 16 days to return a product I wasn’t satisfied with! Where is my bill? What did I do to break them? … but it will take about five days to get a replacement.

What? My jaw dropped! Is that too long? he asked. I was gobsmacked but managed to stammer an incredulous no. I had another pair of glasses – my old professor ones – with me so it wasn’t going to be a problem. He smiled, took my name, cell number and copied down the serial number on the frame. And with a very friendly wave said: I’ll call you the minute they are ready. Arrivederci

I reeled out of the store into the bright sunlight of Viale Regina Margherita – okay part of that was trying to get accustomed to the focus on the old glasses. Had this been a dream? There had been no fight! No argument! No looking superior! No curt cutting off in mid-whine! In less than two minutes my problem had been solved. Take a note of the date – September 3, 2010 at 1045, I was in Roma and I had received Service, capital S, with a SMILE.

04 settembre – Santa Rosalia