Wednesday, September 18

Italy...Raising of the Concordia

From the inimitable genius of Gianni Falcone 
He is the hand behind my cartoon of the week (see tab on my home page).

Now gonna be a tough one to set straight.

Although the entire world has weighed in on this debacle:  From the 32 dead (two people still not recovered), the mind-boggling idiocy of the Captain and his utterly ludicrous self defense,  to the recent conviction of five crew members for manslaughter, to the expense of the salvage operation (eventually topping out over $1 billion),  I thought the commentary from Metro newspaper's Maurizio Guandalini was quite poignant [he invites us to make our own inference, which for me is the end of the Berlusconi govt and over to Monti's temporary govt before the elections that brought us the young Letta]:

"...we've raised up from the ashes what was vanquished a year and a half ago.  Whatever way you think on it, just know that they're watching us from the four corners of the earth.  Between the control room and the decision room, our Made in Italy name was totally putrified.  But with a nod from Leonardo Da Vinci, on the edges of a Tuscan island, we deployed our utmost genius and technical abilities."


Friday, September 6

The roads leading to Rome...Part II

My fascination with Roman roads - at least for this post - started when Roman Elizabeth Minchilli Tweeter / Blogger / Gal about town(s) judging by her handles @eminchilli ·   ·  · · ] tweeted:  Only in Rome would street cleaning (normal in other cities) be news. Here's the article in La Repubblica.

Now, to be fair, it was August and we were lucky to get any 'news' worth printing, let alone the street cleaning.  But, personally, I love it when the Mayors start posting their urban improvements all around town.  The previous mayor, Mayor Alemanno, periodically put up posters saying "Trimmed 5500 trees!"  or "Garbage recycled up 5%"  I love these direct democracy kind of posts.  I like to see my city govt taking action.
image from
But most people, like Sigra. Minchilli (and I admit, myself included) love to ironize about what it takes to tell us that our city is doing what it's supposed to be doing.  And that is perhaps because, shortly thereafter, things often look the same as before.  The architect who posted the above was pondering just how many public structures (and I'd many trees?) were disfigured in order to highlight the Buone Azioni of our municipality.
As for the trees, others complained that you don't trim in winter (I think they have a point) and personally, having witnessed those gorgeous umbrella pines practically shaved headless, well, I didn't think 'trim' was the operative word.  Around Rome, they still haven't recovered their glorious - albeit precarious-in-a-storm - canopies.

And while I'm on the topic of trees (and tree-lined roads, just to get back to the original theme of the post), may I submit that Italy's Legambiente environmental group, residents, and even City Parks held an all-day Tree & Money growing-on-trees party -- to help replant the 60-odd trees that were maliciously destroyed in a newly-created park for residents that was recouped from an abandoned lot.  
This is in Garbatella, right near the Regione Lazio and the via Cristoforo Colombo.
Bring trees - bring funds - Bring yourselves - Bring Joy - and don't let the vandals (or worse) get our city down.

Sunday, September 1

All roads lead to Rome...A love story Part I

It's said that the English love to obsess over the weather...well, the longer I'm in Rome, the more I realize that we Romans are obsessed with the roads.  Maybe that's why we're know for that hackneyed phrase, All roads lead to...
Perhaps it was our destiny, ever since they laid the first stone on the Appian Way for us to look at the roads as a sort of measure of life.  The Romans gave us the milestones (a Roman mile now different from what we know as a mile, don't ask me why)  and life 'On the Road' reached Biblical proportions when St Peter happened to run into Jesus on that very same path.  We've been looking for road stories ever since.
I think we're obsessed with roads since Rome (and much of Italy for that matter) is layer upon layer of a storied past.  Underneath our black asphalt strips may lie an ancient Domus or a patrician villa.  No sooner than someone starts to dig, like for Rome's Line C of the work-in (sort of)-progress subway (tube) station, than it all comes to a halt -- while archeologists start scraping the stones with toothbrushes to determine what it is we're about to be plowing through.
It's no different for the Big News of the summer: the (sort of) closing off of the Via dei Fori Imperiali [via of the Imperial Forums -  you know, those ruins ruined in order to make the roadway [not unlike what America does with trees -- naming the streets after the ones mowed down in the process].
It's no wonder that the news went 'round the world - when it comes to Rome, roads are to be watched with close attention - and not just when you're trying ('trying' being the operative word) to cross them.  [As Alex of Italy Chronicles tweeted, Tourists in Rome discover (the hard way) that 'pedestrian zone' in Italy doesn't quite mean the same thing as back home.]

To see what we were actually talking about, check out this outstanding picture from one Bepix - You'll see old Rome circa 1890.  It gives you a perfect view of what it looked like before Mussolini decided he needed an avenue fit for - well, a fascist Dictator.  Rumor has it, in amongst those medieval houses was to be found Michelangelo's as well.  [As an aside, you can now go see the facade of his supposed villa at the entrance to the Gianicolo park, above Trastevere.]

Below marks the beginning of the construction.
via dell'impero
Picture posted by Carlo Pavolini on Annarosa Mattei's blog 

And what Mussolini had in mind.  Julius Caesar would have been proud.

File:Roma parata fori anni 30.jpg
Picture from Wikipedia on the Via dei Fori Imperiali
Today, they still hold the processions, but you'd be more apt to see buses, taxis, politicians' cars (the infamous 'auto-blu' we all love to hate) and entire flotillas of motorcycles, vespas buzzing about, while horse & buggies vie for space along the edges.  And with a nod to Rome's ancient past...those vespa riders? They're called Centurions.

In part II, you'll discover what I had originally set out to type...Stay tuned!