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Friday, May 21, 2010

Catching Up

Things have been busy and so I have neglected my blog. I will try to be better about it.

Bill has been teaching and having a great time talking science with his colleagues here.

We even put up a vinyl blackboard for him in the apartment and gave several sets of the blackboard to the various children we know here, Anna Laura, Elsa and Ciccio.  I hear they are very popular.

I have been getting used to Roman house keeping (bought a "cloth rope" for hanging laundry) and been renewing my understanding of when what shops are open, where to find things like "cloth rope" and drain cleaner, "Mr. Muscolo," and I am still not sure when is the best time to go to the pescheria although I know that the mornings it is open are wonderful fun with beautiful displays and lots of people talking all at once buying fish, clams and shrimp. (This photo is actually of two fishes one wrapped around the other - very beautiful!)

We have found a local cafe we like, the coffee is good and there is even dog parking outside.

Last Friday I went to the La Natura Secondo De Chirico, a fairly representative exhibit focused on his ideas about nature.  I found the paintings about interiors and exteriors the most interesting, not only the paintings of spaces with furniture outside and ponds and forests inside, but also his images of professionals such as archaeologists, with artifacts of their work and thought as physical parts of their bodies...

On the way to the exhibit I stopped in at the little church of San Vitale, on Via Nazionale. I used to pass by frequently but rarely found it open.  This day the doors were wide open and I went down to find interesting work by a modern sculptor in the portico and inside the church.  I couldn't find any useful references to the name of the sculptor (Severino?) but will keep trying.  He or she does marvelously expressive hands that I hope to practice emulating.

Inside it is modest - a welcome change from some of the bigger basilicas in town.  Work was being done to clean up the capitals the light and scaffolding of which gave a lovely backdrop for another of the sculptures.

Ah!  It is noon and I need to wake up Fannie and Andrew.  They arrived yesterday and are sleeping off several all-nighters and jet lag.  They are here for a week of exploring and eating - big splurge (they bought their own flights but with housing paid for, a not-to-be-missed opportunity.  Today, I think, they will be in search of great gelato, ancient monuments and the Capuchin cemetery.

More soon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bad Blogger!

Just learned from Adrienne that Blogger is fine on PCs, just bad on Macs. Wah!

Nevertheless, here are a couple of photos to guess at:

This one is easy:
Clearly the family has grown!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Full Days

The last few days have been very full, if not exactly busy.

On Friday one of the 3 Andreas, who we privately refer to as Andrea the Elder although he is hardly old, borrowed a Roman version of a ZipCar and gave us a ride to our new apartment. It is on Lungotevere (along the Tiber river) in the Flaminio District which is north of the center near the Olympic stadium and the new Maxxi Museum of Art and Architecture of the 21st Century designed by Zaha Hadid. Although we will miss the opening of the latter, I am looking forward to going up there soon to see it from the outside.

I didn't realize it when I took this picture but our apartment is the upper one on the far right. It has a terrace just to the right out of the picture.
We are in a complex called the Villa Riccio, apparently built in 1921 by Senator Riccio for families of functionaries. It consists of Palazzos (and Palazzinis, little palazzos, I guess), most of which are 4 stories high and are painted a warm deep orange. A great feature is the beautiful gardens throughout the complex with a wide variety of plants, fruit trees, flowers, and cats!

At first the apartment itself was a bit of a disappointment because what was probably a beautiful high ceilinged space has been converted to a funky temporary feeling place with creaky wood floors probably laid right on top of the old stone floors, poor quality Ikea cabinets and white wash everywhere even on the bathroom tile! Everything was slightly grungy and the terrace was terribly neglected with dead plants and lots of mess. However, the decorations are rather unique, arty or hippie, I don't know which, with lots of purple, orange silk drapes and candle stubs everywhere.

It didn't smell very good when we first arrived but I bought some Oust and it's fine now. At least it was somewhat clean and the linens were definitely clean. I've spent a bit of time cleaning more deeply and getting familiar with the neighborhood. (Where DO you buy sponges and what are they called in Italian?) I've particularly enjoyed working on the terrace, lots of weeding to do, and today I got some marigolds to plant. (Need to pick up a trowel too! Where to you get one of THOSE?)

Here is Bill in the shade on the terrace. We have had several pleasant meals there already. Unfortunately the weather has been a bit rainy (I wonder if the ash cloud is contributing to this??) so sitting out is not yet our Always Thing.
Here is the view from the terrace looking south.
The gorgeous orange is from the clay tennis courts at the Navy Club across the street, and the river of course is the Tiber river, the Tevere. The river of cars on the lower left are the crowd heading back to town after a soccer game on Sunday.

The next day we went out walking and didn't get home until nearly midnight. We wandered throughout the 'historic center', the Pantheon is under reconstruction, and finished up with a lovely meal at one of our favorite fish places in Trastevere, Paris. After dinner we took a taxi home and learned from our driver that we had missed the Million Marijuana March this year! Darn!

Sunday we worked, and Monday Bill gave his first lecture and I went to the big Caravaggio exhibit at the Scuderie (horse stables but now an exhibition place) near the Quirinale. Although there are already quite a few Caravaggios in Rome, this exhibit includes some works in private collections that may not be on exhibit again anytime soon. All the reservations are sold out so I had to wait nearly 2 hours to get in but I would say this was one event for which it was worth waiting! Luckily it was quite cool and I was behind a friendly history of art student from La Sapienza, so we got to talk art before the show.

Now I'm off to find that trowel and maybe a piece of pizza.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We're baaaack!

A greeting for us as we arrived which made us feel right at home!

For now we are staying in the San Lorenzo district in a hotel very near the university.

An easy walk for Bill for a few days.

Students enjoying a bit of togetherness out in the rain...

We move to our apartment on the 7th, but until then I am exploring this neighborhood which is just outside the walls near the Termini train station.

I have several projects in mind while I'm here including one to look for color in Rome. I think we often see Rome in our minds as the white of marble and red browns of the ancient walls and the grays of the old stone roads but in fact there is a lot of color here.

We have already seen several friends: Andrea, who was key to arranging this trip for us, and his bride, Daniella, on the first evening, the day after their first anniversary. Lots of talk about marriage, politics and education; lots of fun and so different from the US where Americans rarely seem to talk about politics over dinner. (Maybe it ruins the taste of the food for us there...) Then Angela Taraborrelli stopped by yesterday and I got a chance to visit with her and Anna Laura for a little while. It turns out they live just a block from our hotel! Anna Laura is still quite precocious, as you who know her can imagine. And Angela is excited to be giving the keynote speech at a conference this week in Nottingham, home of Robin Hood. So we don't expect to see them again until we are settled in our apartment.

We also saw the other Andrea briefly last night at the restaurant, Pommidoro, where we went for an early supper of carciofi and wild boar (!); he had brought some students so we didn't get to talk to him much except to receive his blessing on our menu choices, a very important thing.

Of course I have resumed taking photos. Today and yesterday I have concentrated on the neighborhood and particularly the incredible amount of graffiti here. I can't decide what I think about it. Clearly lots of it is simply tagging which I agree is a kind of vandalism. But some is really art by people who have an incredible sense of color and form, real ideas to express and sometimes even a sensitivity to place.

As I walk around looking at it all I can easily understand how disturbing it might be to many of the residents especially as I come to feel that much of it is an expression of alienation from this place and society. Who does this? Why? What do they need or want? And are the taggers really different from the one I think of as artists or not?Angela pointed out that there is a block where graffiti artists were actually asked to paint and I think I found it today. I photographed the whole wall and will include a few shots here. This wall is along the Via Degli Ausoni.
More later...

PS: Blogspot is as bad about photos as it was 2 years ago! Arrggggh! If you'd like to see more photos, I will add them to Flickr at this link: