Tag Archives: costumes

You don’t look a day over 2,600.

Just after Paige left, Rome celebrated its 2763rd birthday. What better excuse to have a festa?

April 21, 2010 is regarded as the anniversary of Rome’s legendary founding by Romulus, remembered as the pudgy baby suckling a she-wolf’s teat, victorious over his poor brother Remus. Here’s a teaser photo of the famous she-wolf sculpture projected in Piazza del Popolo.

Can you see baby Romulus and Remus suckling?

So, what does Rome do to celebrate its birthday, you ask? I think a better question would be what doesn’t Rome do. There were over thirty events for the birthday week including (but not limited to) tours at archeological sites, marching bands and choir performances, seminars, conferences, exhibition openings at museums all over Rome, free entrance to said museums and archeological sites and a grand finale that recalled the history of the city with lights, sound and fireworks. But more on that later.

The event that kicked it all off was a parade that Ryan and I barely made it to in time. We stood outside the Vittorio Emanuele II monument and watched groups of people dressed up in ancient costumes. There were groups recreating famous legions, groups representing different areas of Ancient Rome, different religious sects (think Vestal Virgins) and even captive barbarians! I think I saw a Dacian or two being mistreated. Yay! (For those of you who don’t already know, I am researching a sculpture that supposedly features a Dacian.)

Over the next few days I took advantage of free admission to museums during what is called Settimana della Cultura or Culture Week. One of my favorites was Palazzo Altemps. I could not believe that I had never been here before. I was able to get quite a bit of research done looking at ancient sculptures restored by Ippolito Buzzi (also written as Buzio), but the highlight was definitely seeing the sculpture known as the Suicidal Gaul. By now everyone knows I love barbarians. The sculpture is absolutely gorgeous and I’ve written about it on a few different occasions. This time I scrutinized the work in terms of its restoration. Hmm, that barbarian seems to wield a Roman sword… How odd.

Suicidal Gaul at Palazzo Altemps

Ryan and I also took advantage of free admission at the Palatine hill, a place I shamefully haven’t visited since 2007. We took a picnic lunch that we ate near the Palatine museum, from which Ryan fed a few pigeons before we headed on our merry way about the hill top. We traveled down through the forum before decided that although our ticket included admission to the Colosseum, we were just too exhausted to carry on. We did have fun walking amongst the ruins though. It’s a shame that it costs money to go to the forum. It used to be open to the public back in 2007. Drat.

Me in the forum next to the Temple of Deified Antoninus Pius and Faustina

Anyway, the next big birthday week event was ROMAGNIFICAT, which is a play on the Italian words for Rome and magnificent. Shayna and I trekked it out to Piazza del Popolo with the rest of the Romans to see the light and sound show that was to chronicle Rome’s history. It was cheesy, but also very cool. They projected images of the Sistine ceiling and last judgement on random buildings in the piazza, little snip-its of famous Italian films were shown, there was an interpretive dance and reenactment of Rome’s founding (think she-wolf and Remus getting clobbered). The finale consisted of fireworks in Italian colors and the lighting of the olympic torch; Rome has been nominated to host the 2020 olympics. So, all together something magnificent indeed. Here’s a look:

Michelangelo's Last Judgement projected in Piazza del Popolo

Other things I got up to in late April were meeting the director Francesca Archibugi, teaching the Italian studies students how to make Spaghetti alla Carbonara (see recipe below) and having drinks with Mia and friends. It was certainly a great month. 🙂

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta (You americani can also use cut up strips of bacon if you can’t find the cubed pancetta version.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Half a small onion, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • pepper
  • Optional table spoon of dry white wine
  • Optional bits of parsley for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add spaghetti noodles.

While the noodles are cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and saute for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Remove the pancetta, leaving that lovely oil/fat mix in the pan.  Toss the garlic and onion into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften. Turn the heat down to low and add the pancetta back in as soon as the noodles are done and strained.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the yummy oil/fat/garlic/onion mix. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Some Italians also add a tablespoon of dry white wine to the egg mix. I recommend it! Make sure you the heat is low, low, low before you move to the next step.

Pour the egg/cheese mix on top of the pasta, whisking quickly so that the mix covers all of the noodles. You want the eggs to thicken, but not scramble. Tricky, tricky. You can take the pan off the heat entirely if you want as long as your noodles are hot enough to partially cook the eggs. You can also thin out the sauce with a bit of reserved pasta water, but it won’t fix the scramble issue. So, don’t let it scramble!

Season the carbonara with salt and pepper and parsley, if you like. Then EAT!

What your pasta will hopefully look like.

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A Tuscan Weekend

Okay, I have waited way too long to post this, but here I am, sitting in Paris, blogging when I should be researching. Prepare yourself for lots of photos.

Damon and I got up before the sun on a Saturday to catch a train to Florence. This was my fourth trip to the beautiful city, which is a welcome change of pace from Rome. We started out the trip with the inevitable climb up Brunelleschi’s dome. How can you visit Florence without it? So, four-hundred and sixty-three steps later and we were on top of the world.

Damon and I on top of Brunelleschi's Dome in Florence

After our visit to the Duomo, we hadn’t quite had enough of churches, so I took Damon to Orsanmichele. This is hands down my favorite church in Florence. It looks nothing like any other church. It’s a big brick square with fourteen niches around the outside. The different guilds in Florence commissioned artists to decorate each of the niches. Damon and I had fun trying to guess which niche went with which guild. Some of them were pretty hard to figure out. Click on the link above to look at all the individual niches. Afterwards we wandered down to Piazza della Signoria and ate some lunch. On our way to check in to our teeny, tiny hostel we happened upon a miniature Florentine foods festival. There were vendors selling wine, cheese, olive oil, biscotti and dried meats. In one corner an old couple was making these weird, nut-flour pancake/tortillas filled with ricotta cheese and Damon and I decided to try them. Not the best thing I’ve ever had, but it was certainly worth the experience.

Eating that nut-flour ricotta wrap.

After checking in to the hostel, we did a little obligatory shopping at the leather market outside of San Lorenzo church. Damon bought a hat, scarf and a tie and I bought nothing. Unbelievable. We did a little bit of wandering, crossed the Ponte Vecchio and ended up at Santa Croce where there just happened to be a chocolate festival. Oh darn. I ran around all the booths like a crazy person getting a sugar high just from looking at all of it. After scoping out all the goods, Damon and I settled on a certain vendor who sold some sugar-free delicacies he could enjoy. (He’s hypoglycemic.)

On a suggestion from my friend Candidate Steve Bunn, we had a before-dinner drink at Lochness Lounge before heading on to dinner. The end of our night was filled with multiple unsuccessful attempts to find a jazz cafe. Oh well.

The next morning we swung by Ponte Vecchio before we caught a train to a little coastal town in Tuscany called Viareggio. Viareggio is second only to Venice for its Carnevale festivities. As soon as we arrived we heard a guy singing this random song that went a little something like this: “La da da da da Carnevale! La da da da da Carnevale!”  Or that’s how Damon remembers it, anyway.

After lunch we paid our 15 euro to get into the parade area and I was completely blown away. In all honesty, I was a little tipsy and I think that helped, but this was the most impressive parade I have ever seen. The floats were beautiful. Everyone, absolutely everyone was dressed up. Damon and I had bought masks just before leaving Venice. Here’s a photo of our Carnevale costumes:

Damon and I in our Carnevale Masks

The floats were absolutely breath-taking. They were gigantic and had all these moving parts. Damon and I were surprised to find that many of the floats had political or social messages. For example, this one is about budget cuts to education:

Edward Scissorhands Float

This one was about violence towards women:

Scary Warewolf Float

And last but not least, this one was about Michael Jackson dying. Notice the people dressed in skeleton costumes… There were also people dancing on the float who were dressed like Michael Jackson. In fact, the one wearing a fedora pointed out Damon in the crowd, who was also wearing a fedora. It was very exciting for Damon and it seemed to be pretty exciting for the dude on the float, too.

MJ Float

And then there was this one, which I liked for no particular reason:

Another Float

As the parade was coming to a close and dusk was settling in, Damon and I decided to ride the ferris wheel. It was then that we realized just how close to the sea we were. So, naturally we made our way out to the beach. We ran around in the sand a little and Damon took his shoes off, stood in the freezing water and yelled thank you to his family and friends. It was the perfect way to end the perfect day.

Damon and I on the Beach

We took the last train back to Rome and I slept in Damon’s lap the whole way.

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Check that one off the list.

On Sunday Damon and I took a train out to Frascati, a hilltop town just outside of Rome. Frascati is known for two things: white wine and its famous Villa Aldobrandini. It’s not a very touristy place in the winter and it’s a refreshing break from life in Rome.

We arrived pretty early in the day and the whole town was dead. Well, that’s not entirely true. Everyone was in church and none of the stores or restaurants were open yet. Damon and I wandered around the empty cobblestone streets and happened upon beautiful piazzas, a colorful tower and a large park.

Tower in Frascati

We just happened to walk into the main square in front of San Pietro Apostolo right as church was letting out. I had completely forgotten that it was the first day of Carnevale and children in costumes starting pouring out the church’s doors with handfuls of confetti, with the occasional kid wielding a can of silly string. Damon and I watched the confetti war for a good 15 minutes.

Confetti War in Piazza San Pietro Apostolo

I had a different mental image of Carnevale than what we actually saw. In Italian class we learned about all the traditional Carnevale characters and I guess I expected to see everyone dressed up as Pantalone or something. Instead it looked like the parents raided the Halloween aisle of a Walmart or something. Our favorite two-some was a little prince and your friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

A serious conversation between Spiderman and the Prince.

After the celebration, we wandered around trying to find a restaurant that was open at the normal American time to eat lunch. It proved slightly difficult, but meant that we scouted out nearly every restaurant Frascati has to offer and ended up at what I believe to be its best. It was a cute, hole-in-the-wall type rustic Italian trattoria with a hand-written menu and a welcome fireplace. Damon and I hung our coats in the glow of the fire and shared the best meal of our lives:

A bottle of the local red wine (even though Frascati is famous for white. Oops!)

A complimentary ginger grappa drink with an olive and a slice of orange

Four different kinds of bread

Porcini mushroom soup

Savory crepes filled with ricotta and spinach

Gnocchi with a pumpkin cream sauce (Well, actually that was Damon’s, but I tried it and it was delicious.)

Grilled vegetables

Pork filet with chestnut sauce

The best tiramisu ever because instead of soaking the sponge cake part in brandy, it had a few chestnuts on top which had been soaked in brandy. I had been craving tiramisu all week and now nothing will ever compare!

I wish I had taken some photos of the meal, but my stomach was more powerful than my brain at the time.

After lunch we had plans to go and visit the famous Villa, but alas, it was closed. I had been there once three years ago with my study abroad program. It was the end of spring and we wandered around the gardens in the sunshine. Villa Aldobrandini looks so different in the dead of winter. The fountains are dry, the labyrinth is overgrown and the gray skies and color of the mansion combine to create a eerie mood. I feel like this villa should be haunted or something. The tall gates locked with a rusty chain didn’t help.

Damon outside of Villa Aldobrandini

Anyway, Frascati was awesome and I hope to go back this summer to escape Rome’s heat and catch the breeze on top of this hill outside the city.

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