The Three Kings or flying back into the past?

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It’s taking me a while to adjust to the idea we’re into a New Year. The best advice I’ve come across is probably from Queen Elisabeth II in her Xmas message to our Brexiting friends:

”…take a deep breath…”.

Very apt. We got off to a decent enough start here in Rome, despite Ms Mayor’s last minute ukase banning all fireworks for the traditional celebrations. The legal wording was dubious so happily it was struck down by a Regional higher court. One of the aims of her diktat was “to protect animals”, with no regard whatsoever for the high percentage of our local multicultural citizenship – including Neapolitans- who know that starting off the year without bothering to  scare off evils spirits is a very bad idea.

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In any case, Roman New Year’s Eve did happen, a bland and much tamer version than in the past. It was downright boring according to most first-hand accounts. Yet the comedian turned head of grassroots party claimed it was a success, and posted a triumphant photo of lovely fireworks next to the Coliseum on Facebook. It was almost immediately debunked as a photo of the previous year’s celebrations – on the very same day he ranted against government sources who want to combat fake information on social websites!

The general mood is glum, with most Romans passively resigned to the blunders, inexperience, immobility and lack of projects of this municipal junta. Not to mention collapsing infrastructure and basic services. “No” is the municipal all-round motto, rather than risk failure by attempting anything. No to our Olympic Games candidature, no to fireworks, no to the AS Roma new stadium complex…

Roman ad humour: "We deal with wrinkles like the Olympics. We cancel them"

Roman ad humour: “We deal with wrinkles like the Olympics. We cancel them”

What’s more worrying is that on a national level, vote-getting populism has inspired the comedian-head of party to veer towards a mix of positions dangerously close to the extremes of the political spectrum: on one hand against immigrants, on the other with anti-EU and pro-Putin declarations. And some are pining to reinstate the labour laws of … 1970. I’m not joking.

Ancient times

Ancient times

The nature of the Universe is change, just not counter-clockwise, so the zeitgeist is disturbing. Whatsmore, you vote for change only when you have a clear idea of where/how to proceed, and know that the skills to do so are there. Too many people would love to simply wind back the clock.

On a positive note, tomorrow January 6 is the Christian celebration of the Three Kings, a timely reminder that our civilization is the product of multiple ethnic and cultural ancestries. The big hitch is that here the Three Kings are totally disregarded, as Italians chose to celebrate the pagan “Befana” instead!

A witch-like old lady on her broom to fly us back into the past?   

photos: ©14thcountry.com

Posted in Blogging, Cultural, Humour, Italy, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | 24 Comments

Versatile Bloggers

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Surprise and delight on hearing Gringa of the Barrio nominated me for The Versatile Blogger Awarda peer blog award. The award in itself makes me smile, as versatile – in mind, interests, tastes –  is something I always admire and look for in others. Besides, I’m honoured and grateful for the gringa’s support, as it comes at a moment in which I could do with a bit of encouragement. In the face of world wars, events and elections, my inspiration has been lagging. To put it bluntly, the world outlook for 2017 is far from rosy, and I was beginning to wonder whether writing a blog made any sense at all.

So I guess in some very small way it does.

So thank you Gringa.

The part about having to write 7 things about yourself is tough as I tend towards privacy.  I’ll go with 7 harmless ones:

  1. I love chocolate cake
  2. I don’t know in which language I dream. I think it relates to places and people.
  3. I’m crazy about skyscrapers and modern architecture.
  4. I love Champagne. Prosecco in a pinch. Never offer me Spumante.
  5. I can’t stand rude children
  6. I’m not – have never been – on Facebook. Statistics proving the ubiquity of false – often preposterous – information being believed and affecting recent elections show I’m sane. Or maybe just saner than most.
  7. To end on a positive note, I love sunrises, sunsets and the shapes of clouds.

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The part about nominating 15 blogs is easier, though I have to leave out many that I enjoy and visit regularly. Some of my longtime favourites I’ve left out because I know they don’t do awards. I’ve included a few blogs I’ve just discovered. Of the 15, some have deep posts, some light ones, others are fun, some are poetic, some are thoughtful, some are inspiring. All are versatile and offer up the colourful diversity of humanity.

  1. Reflections on Existence
  2. Nancy Loderick’s Blog
  3. LivingTheQLife
  4. Suddenly Jamie (@suddenlyjamie)
  5. Poetry is my aeroplane
  6. Letters from Athens
  7. Random Storyteller
  8. Travels and Tomes: one Expat’s Amblings and Ramblings
  9. Jasmine Tea & Jiaoz
  10. The Joys of Joel
  11. El Coleccionista Hipnótico
  12. The World according to Dina
  13. Zip’s Law
  14. Dunelight
  15. Friendly Fairy Tales

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Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who gave you this award.
2. Include a link to their blog.
3. Select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
4. Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
5. Tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Posted in Blogging, Creativity, Opinion | Tagged | 12 Comments

Exceptional woman breaks through the glass ceiling

"Self-Portrait as a Lute Player" lent by Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford CT.

“Self-Portrait as a Lute Player” lent by Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford CT.

Last November 10th, I posted “No Country for Exceptional Women”. In the aftermath of recent events, I read many essays and articles claiming that the USA Presidential glass ceiling had at least been seriously “cracked”. I see no sign of it, but did get a pleasant surprise since posting: Artemisia, one of my two “exceptional women”, has arrived on the art scene in Rome to break through her personal glass ceiling with a vengeance.

She did it. 363 years after her death.

I was sitting in my car in the eye of one of our notorious daily traffic jams when a poster on a sidewalk billboard caught my eye. I recognised the full colour and strong lines of one of Artemisia’s famous paintings. Thanks to the gridlock, I read on undisturbed and found out she’s finally getting full-fledged recognition here in Rome, with an exhibit in one of the center’s main Municipal museums, the “Museo di Roma” just off Piazza Navona. The exhibit opened over a week ago, and will run till May 7th 2017.

Unrelated - caught the Changing of the Guard on the way to the exhibit...

Unrelated – caught the Changing of the Guard on the way to the exhibit…

If you visit Rome, and are interested in late Renaissance-Early Baroque Italian 17th century art, don’t miss it. Titled “Artemisia Gentileschi e il suo tempo” – “Artemisia Gentileschi and her times” – it has gathered almost a hundred paintings that comprise both hers and those of many painters who were her contemporaries. It does an excellent job of showing and explaining their exchange of ideas and subjects, the overlap of their styles. The cultural similarities and tastes in fashion are all obvious, and the show places her squarely among the successful artists of her time who commanded high level patronage and commissions. She was the only woman in a totally male-dominated artistic environment, and seems to have held her ground among the best of them.

The exhibit shows a skilled painter whose subjects are often brutal, an … exceptional woman, multi-faceted in both her relationships and interests.

She started her career in Rome, continued it in Florence, moved back to Rome. She lived and worked in Venice too, and Naples – where she eventually died – was one of her favourite cities. She was called to the court of King James 1st in 1638 and worked in London for over a year.

Artemisia Gentileschi quote (you can figure it out)

Artemisia Gentileschi quote (you can figure it out)

Most of the paintings in the exhibit are on loan from museums and collections around the world. So though mainstream History of Art books have often overlooked her role and invariably highlight the works of her lesser male contemporaries, she is appreciated by collectors in many countries, including the USA: I saw that one of her works belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of New York, another to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.

Glass ceilings may just become something of the past. Maybe in another 363 years.

Photos: 14thcountry.com

Posted in Blogging, Creativity, Cultural, Italy, Opinion | Tagged , , , , | 21 Comments

Back to the Middle Ages

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Most tourists come to Italy in search of good food, good wine, and they visit the main cities. They get to see a lot of Roman ruins and Renaissance and Baroque art, but most don’t venture out on their own to more provincial destinations, hilltop villages and castles, nor to the vast plains and craggy mountains of the south. If they did, they’d get to feast on a wide range of Medieval forts and lore. The Italian Middle-Ages aren’t as popular as the Coliseum and Michelangelo et al, but there are dozens of traditional commemorations and events to celebrate Medieval roots all along the length of the Peninsula.

dsc01362In the south-eastern region of Puglia, the town of Orea holds a yearly parade and tournament in early August in honour of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, a historical figure that deserves much more attention than what he usually gets in European history books. He was an astute warrior and statesman, but also an open-minded multi-cultural polyglot, patron of science and the arts, a legal innovator, and an expert falconer in his free time. The parade in Orea is held to commemorate the jousts he promoted in 1225 in advance of his wedding to Yolande of Jerusalem.

dsc01420It’s a joyous and colourful happening, and this year there were some 1,000 or so costumed participants – including school bands and “rioni” dwellers – parading through the historical center. It’s meant to be one of the largest Medieval re-enactments in the country, with a procession of noblemen, damsels, knights, jugglers, fire-eaters, courtesans, pages, snake charmers, armigers, marching bands and flag tossers, horses and camels . The costumes are richly embroidered with original designs. The overall atmosphere of celebration attracts spectators from nearby towns and from the coast, mostly Italian families with children of all ages.

Like in many of these events, the food was simple but good, including a fair variety of antipasti, excellent cuts of meat and sausages grilled to perfection. The local red wine is a variant of the fruity “Primitivo”. It’s served cold, which is a delight in summer.

dsc01582But the Middle Ages were in fact a dark, war-torn epoch for most of its inhabitants, who lived on average to the age of 35. In the infancy of justice, the powerful crushed the poor into semi-slavery. It was cold, dank and uncomfortable in the castles. Illness, famines and epidemics were rife. Religious mores were often questionable: the trade in false religious items was relatively harmless, except in some of its most gruesome aspects.

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I remember seeing a well-documented film on late medieval periods in which scavengers would strip the dead and dying on battle fields, chop them up and boil the pieces in huge pots to separate the bones subsequently passed off and sold as saints’ relics. The wars, the jousts and knightly heroism that were passed on through history books and fairy tales were in fact very brutal affairs. We’ve chosen to shine a softer light on these times, and have moved to tamer versions of history, often exaggerating as in Disney films and animated cartoons.

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However, the Middle Ages that survive in these local enactments do seem to foster a local sense of culture and roots. So for many communities, if they could be turned into more authentic celebrations, they could serve as a reminder that humanity was far less gentle not all that long ago. We should remember the beast is always just round the corner…

Yet this last year, much of the developed world has gone wildly irrational. As if harking back to darker medieval mores…     

photos: 14thcountry.com

Posted in Blogging, Cultural, Food, Italy, Opinion | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

No Country for Exceptional Women

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Artemisia Gentileschi was considered one of her generation’s most gifted painters, and yet I hadn’t even heard of her before watching a TV documentary last week. I admittedly mastered in Maths at French schools, where  History of Art wasn’t compulsory. But I was introduced to the world of art by a stepmother from generations of artists, who knew all the major NYC and Paris gallery owners by name. So how come I’d never heard of her? Simply because Artemisia was a woman.

Further, even after years in this country, how could I have missed coming across her in some exhibit or museum? The documentary on her was fascinating and delved into her life and works in great detail, so I’ve also been looking her up elsewhere since. Her works are variously described as Baroque or tail end of the Renaissance, and are not really to my taste. The colours and composition are superb, and most of her subjects are extremely expressive, but harsh and violent.

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Indeed, they’re meant to have been cathartic for her, as she’s come down in history asides mainly because she was a victim of rape at the age of 19 and dared confront her rapist in court. And not because she was the first woman accepted into the prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno of Florence.

In the History of “civilization”, there are droves of extraordinarily capable women who were belittled by their contemporaries and neglected and disregarded by future generations. The tenacity, strength and self-possession they had to rely on just to push ahead with their talents and dreams are undeniable. Even today, societies appear to get satisfaction from bringing them low, by criticizing their very qualities –as if determination, talent and intellect in a woman were something bad.

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On a profound level, women are not taken as seriously as men, and the ones who dare rise above the crowd get their very core and even sexual identities questioned if they don’t kowtow to the overall “socially acceptable” pattern of a “second” sex. If they don’t play by the rules, as many successful men are known not to do, they are crucified. They cause otherwise decent intelligent men to regress to subconscious distaste for the upstart: “she’s not nice” (that one warrants a snicker). And a great number of more conforming women “can’t trust her” … for some similar obscure and arcane reasons.

Like many women, I know it can be tough doing what you want to do in a men’s world, but I’ve never considered myself a feminist. My favourite author Doris Lessing refused to be labelled a “feminist”, saying gender differentiation was useless.

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I suspect it even backfired in the USA. The outcome will be explained in dozens of different ways, but I believe there were many irrational reasons too long to list: partly irresponsible media coverage, partly the jobs – which automation won’t bring back anyway -, partly fear of immigrants if not racism, partly hating Wall Street and the Establishment…

… but also because she’s a woman.

 

Photos: https://en.wikipedia.org

Posted in Blogging, Cultural, Elections, Italy, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

“Dolce” Italy

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We’re in the middle of a long weekend here in Rome, with a lot of people away on a short holiday. Today was supposed to be a laid-back long Sunday morning, thanks to the extra hour going off daylight-saving-time, but it didn’t work out that way. Most of us were literally shaken out of bed by the latest strong earthquake near Norcia – some 110 kilometers as the crow flies north of Rome. Shortly after, it looked like all the people in the district had scrambled out of their pyjamas and were milling around in the street or noisily crammed into the two local coffee shops, having breakfast with cornetti and watching the latest live news on the overhead TVs.

Typical antipasti

Typical antipasti

There had actually been a suspicious amount of official news in the last few weeks about most of Italy being a highly seismic area, which seems to have kept people sufficiently on their toes that they rushed out into the streets in the stricken areas as soon as this second series of quakes started a couple of days ago.

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As a result, there have been no new casualties so far. So that’s something to be glad about, though thousands of people are now displaced and are being housed in hostels, hospitals and hotels along the Adriatic coast. Dozens of old villages in the Appenines have disintegrated into heaps of stones, and some mid-sized historical towns have many buildings and churches in a state of near-collapse.

And what about the future?

Californians know all about living on and near a Fault, but from what I know, there they build under basic disaster-prevention rules that tend to be enforced. Or not? On the contrary, the building and development laws here in Italy are a jungle of inadequate measures, and most of the ancient and historical buildings have rarely been reinforced. New buildings rarely conform to all safety regulations, because of corruption, cost-cutting, ignorance or a mix of all three.

Religious procession

Religious procession

In optimistic think-mode, I’d say this could be a wake-up call leading to a seachange in the culture of chaos, and hopefully get communities working together. Do away with the age-old distrust between neighbouring towns and villages that has always handicapped the nation.  In realistic think-mode, I’m not going to hold my breath.

But I’m staying optimistic anyway with these photos of Italy, because life in this country could be so  “dolce“, were it not for the quirks of nature and of humans.

.... sorbetto di limone?

…. sorbetto di limone?

 

All photos ©14thcountry.com

 

 

Posted in Blogging, Cultural, Environment, Italy | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Rome update: frigo-gate and great weather

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The politics of this city have been particularly distressing these last months, but we finally got a few good laughs yesterday. Papers and tweets gleefully reported the strange case of piles of old fridges left out on the streets of Rome all over town, more or less near the ubiquitous overflowing garbage cans, and left to rust and rot under the season’s alternating rainfalls and sunshine.

In the course of an interview, our Mayor was quoted as bringing it up and being very perplexed about the situation, “there are really too many of them. Seems strange to me…”. Loosely translated: “it sounds like a conspiracy against me”. The new municipal governing team is still motionless and trying to make head or tail out of what this city is all about, and local culture has always been strong on blaming things on someone else. These politicians (?) may be new and also younger on average, but culture is thicker than blood. So nobody’s going to acknowledge that their own ineptness and lack of policies so far on any issues have anything to do with the city’s increasingly worsening ills.

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Huge potholes, hundreds of thousands of private sales of apartments blocked for a lack of interpretation/application of regulations, green traffic limitations in limbo, double-parkers on a rampage as nobody gets fined for anything anymore etc.

At least” frigo-gate” has spawned a wealth of good natured ribbing on Twitter and elsewhere to lighten the overall foul mood of the season. One of my favourites is “Mattresses, sofas and fridges in the streets. The Capital has become an open-air hotel – but at least it’s a 5 star hotel!”. If you’re not laughing, it means you’re either a supporter with no sense of humour, or you’re not familiar with things Italian, so just google the name of the upstart new party in power.5-star-clipart

The day after her initial accusation of a conspiracy, the Mayor retracted, as she found out – over 4 months after the fact- that the garbage collecting company discontinued the free pick-up service for large furniture and kitchen appliances last June 18.  The Mayor says nobody knows why.

Anyway, the kerfuffle caused the comedian-turned-head-of-party to fly in to succor the damsel in distress. He descended Superman-like on the venerable historical seat of the Campidoglio, the original Citadel of the earliest Romans – later re-vamped by Michelangelo – that had seen it all before, though probably nothing as arcane as a fridge conspiracy.

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Apart from things humourous, another reason living in Rome is still bearable despite all the chaos, is that weather here is great. Rome is famous for its excellent weather.

The Milanese claim they’re more organized in their own fiefdom, and it’s hard to contest, but the overall greyness and drab light that envelops their buildings and streets can challenge even the most upbeat dispositions. I tried to look up “climate of Milan” and my search-engine replied there was no such thing.

If you want to go with statistics, here in Rome we have some 230 or so days a year with sunshine. Or more precisely, some 2500 hours. The fact is, today’s a rainy drag, but no worries: it’s never dark and wet and depressing for more than a day or so at a time, so tomorrow will be glorious.

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Once you’ve understood that, you bear the increasingly violent climate-change downpours and resulting flashfloods and hellisher-than-usual traffic gridlocks with philosophy, knowing that the next morning will almost certainly dawn with a fantastic rosey-orangey palette of colours worthy of any Great Master.

Photos:  fridge: eBay; potholes: en.wikipedia.org;  5 stars: cliparts.co/five-stars; Rome sunrises © 14thcountry.com 

Posted in Blogging, Cultural, Humour, Italy, Opinion | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Reblogging: Feeding The Right Wolf — Vintage Sapience

I don’t often reblog, but I like this reminder that we can always choose to feed our positive  inner “wolf”:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. […]

via Feeding The Right Wolf — Vintage Sapience

Posted in Blogging | Tagged | 13 Comments

Mishmash: Rome and splashes of Puglia

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The weather in Rome was lovely, but the string of beautiful late summer days finally broke this morning. No more alternating blue skies, multi-hued wild cotton flocks of sheep-like clouds piling up and blowing by with drenching showers followed by rainbows two and three deep. It’s been a glorious season, but today looks like the city’s glum administrative outlook has finally seeped into the environment.

The Eternal City’s somehow uninspiring at present. So I’ve chosen a few pictures of early August in Puglia, where sun and food and history blended more simply yet often more harmoniously than here.

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The point is, Rome suffers from age-old ills, and is in particularly dire financial straits. With a new municipal council and Mayor-lady who have been in deer-in-the-headlights frozen mode ever since being voted in back in June. “No” is their only flavor of the day to date, “no” to our candidacy for the 2024 Summer Olympics, so “no” for the 2023 Rugby World Cup too. Events that could have provided opportunities to build a much needed campus for university students (an Olympic village for athletes in its first incarnation) and who knows, really drastic anti-traffic measures and changes that could have ushered in a new age of decent quality of life with few cars/more buses in this perennially gridlocked city.

Now we’ll never know.

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Instead of the Olympics which are anathema to the current politicos, we were triumphantly told we would enjoy a taste of “international culture in keeping with the traditions of this Great City” (quote), as we’ll be hosting four UEFA Euro 2020  football (=soccer) matches. I’m a football fan myself, but would gladly pass. We’ve been invaded a great many times by hordes of drunken foreign fans, and some get their kicks rampaging through the historical center, throwing bottles at shop windows and savaging invaluable works of ancient architecture. So now shops in the center tend to lock down their shutters pre-emptively when it’s international football time. So much for international culture. The last degrading invasion was in February of last year. Google to believe: it was indeed beyond belief. Ms Mayor probably isn’t aware of it, as she lives in the periferia and has been quoted as saying she doesn’t read the papers much.

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Our garbage emergency has reached apocalyptical levels because plants are either non-existent or on hold because of mafia-type investigations. Though Romans aren’t enthusiastic recyclers, just for organic garbage, the figure for the city is some 200 thousand tons produced each year. Of these, we send off 170 thousand tons to be composted elsewhere. Most of it is sent to the upper northeastern corner of Italy, very near the border with Austria. Total yearly bill: € 20 million. No apparent progress nor policy to deal with the stalled situation, though it’s not clear if it’s because of the ongoing corruption case against their newly appointed garbage councilwoman, or because nobody’s been willing so far to take up the vacant CEO post of the garbage company, or just because the amateurs currently in charge of our city are simply too clueless to understand the issues. The latter’s quite possible, to quote one of them “We’re here to learn.” Learn, as in school? interns?

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Besides, this new party is supposed to be green-friendly, and should be moving aggressively to apply laws passed by the previous much decried administration, to ban the most polluting vehicles from the city limits as of November 1. As Italians aren’t big on car-pooling, and too avoid ramping up to an even higher level of traffic and/or social mayhem, they’ll have to rush through a complex and comprehensive plan cum effective communication, to ensure that some 140.000 suddenly carless people can get to their jobs anyway. So far, if there’s any kind of plan, it’s a well-kept secret.

So today’s finally autumnal grey and glum, it’s cold and rainy. The skies seem to have caught up with the general mood of the city.

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A good time to time-travel back to Puglia…

Source for Rome garbage situation: la Repubblica Oct. 9 2016 (Cecilia Gentile)

Photos of Puglia  © 14thcountry.com

 

Posted in Blogging, Cultural, Italy, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Suburban pumpkins, Harleys and a museum

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Back in Rome after a couple of weeks in the USA, everything feels smaller here. Even street-art colours were more exhuberant there. Here we’re cramped for space, streets are narrower, there’s less green and above all less sky.  In the USA, the sky looked wider, high and vast, and swaths of clouds all shapes and sizes moved along all day as if on a stage.

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Change in motion. At least in Illinois and Wisconsin in this late summer season.

Supermarkets are huge there. Here we have mainly foreign-owned ones that can get pretty big, but never as daunting. I was mesmerized by the pumpkin sea of orange in the entrance to the nearest supermarket, found my favourite cereal after half an hour, but then had to go back three days running before finding the peanut butter section. Don’t laugh: we all relate to comfort food from our childhood. After all, food is part of what defines the US, and not as its detractors would have it, only its junk-food.

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The variety of food, basic ingredients, staples, drinks and vegetables and fruit, from fresh produce and meat to canned, pre-cooked, cooked hot and frozen, is staggering and borderline immoral when you think of things like hunger in the world? But what’s wonderful is how multi-cultural it is everywhere, you can find whatever you crave under the sun, and eat it at whatever time you choose. It’s so different here in Italy, where although Chinese and Japanese have made inroads, restaurant fare is almost always traditional Italian. Lunch and dinner times are rigidly defined, and for most Italians, meals still revolve around the concept of primo e secondo – throw in antipasto on a weekend –  and you just don’t mix basic flavours either. Snailpace, it’s starting to evolve, but don’t ever let anyone catch you having pasta as a side dish for your meat or fish.,,

I had my first experience of life in the suburbs in the USA. You’ve probably watched dozens of movies with action set along really large roads flanked by low or two-level houses with multiple garage doors and huge gardens? Well, they won’t quite prepare you for the actual feeling of ongoing space, well-manicured lawns and ponds alternating with sprawls of natural woods, and silence as the backdrop to the rhythmed purr of passing cars.

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I thought I’d see lots of joggers, but I turned out to be one of the only people getting around on foot. Funny because the nearby village gym had rows of cars parked in front, and you could see people working out hard on treadmills through the windows.

Driving short and long distance is a way of life there. Here petrol is expensive.

My major gripe was with air-conditioning. It’s kept at insanely low temperatures there, and I nearly caught my death of a cold with all that Artic air blowing around. Everywhere. To hear them, the locals have incredibly low tolerance for even pleasent balmy weather.  On one hand they’re wasting energy and accelerating the onset of climate warming, on the other they’ll be extraordinarily unfit to cope with hot climes when our whole post-industrial system finally does collapse…

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I was taken to places I’d never considered before. On the drive up to Wisconsin, you pass through lovely low-hill country, with lakes big and small, and occasional orchards that sell their produce directly. Though some places were touted as holiday locations, they weren’t as crowded as they get here in Italy: again, more space to spread people over.

We overnighted in Waukesha, a relatively sedate mid-sized town in Wisconsin with apparent quality of life, even though it wasn’t off the grid with its waves of Pokemon-playing children and adults running around.

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I finally figured why there were so many Harley-Davidsons -they’re made in neighbouring Milwaukee that also hosts their iconic historic museum. An early evening curbside dinner in dowtown Waukesha across from vrooming Harleys and their laid-back owners was very much my idea of the US. Here In Rome, mopeds and motorcycles aren’t for leisure: aggressive riders are in attack mode as they swarm through our often lethal traffic wars.

Next day, we visited Milwaukee. I knew they made beer there – divine! But I didn’t know it also has its world-class Milwaukee Art Museum designed by Santiago Calatrava. The Spanish architect is famous for his almost impossibly airy designs of bridges and railway stations, and this building, with its opening and closing wings is a thing of beauty.

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Some of his projects have been developed in Italy too, bridges in Venice and Emilia Romagna, a train station too, and a scandal-ridden sports center in Rome has been on hold for over a decade. None of these are as engineeringly ambitious as the stunning Milwaukee museum that literally tries to soar into the sky twice a day.

Have you ever had unexpected impressions visiting places that weren’t really on your bucket-list?

Photos: flower street art, sky, pumpkin stall,  suburban house, apple orchard, downtown at night ©14thcountry.com;   Milwaukee Art Museum: Onasil – Bill Badzo;  

Posted in Blogging, Cultural, Food | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments