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Pasquino the Talking Statue

14 Jun

Pasquino 1

What’s that you say? How can a statue talk? Well, in Rome, there’s a whole series of talking statues. Allow me to explain.

The hero of today’s post, Pasquino, is a humble little statue that’s been hanging out in Piazza Pasquino (guess who the square is named after?), near Piazza Navona, since about 1501. That’s when he was placed there by Cardinal Carafa, who apparently had a Latin poetry contest each year and used Pasquino to hang the poems on for all to see and admire.

Over the years though, people began using Pasquino outside of the contest, and it wasn’t all flowery poetry. Romans who wanted to express themselves against the rule of the popes would post critical and mocking notes, and Pasquino was also used for political gossip like predicting who would be elected pope. Since this didn’t go over too well with the Church, Pasquino was put under surveillance, but that only served to widen the range of talking statues. The second one to turn up was Marforio, a river god statue on Capitol Hill who started talking back and forth with Pasquino, adding to the fun of it all. Romans are nothing if not creative, and their unique sense of humor knows no bounds.

Over the centuries this practice has persisted and the posting of notes continues to this day, mainly with letters and poems in Roman dialect criticizing famous Italian politicians. You can get more information about the history of the talking statues with this article, which I used for the information in this post.

Pasquino 3

Do you speak Roman? Here are some of the most recent notes.

Rutelli

I find this photo interesting on a couple fronts. Did you notice how both of them have a little added note that says something about an SMS? Basically from what I can gather, the writer of the note is telling readers that “this letter can be sent in just one mobile phone text message, so if you want, memorize it and pass it on.” Who could have ever predicted back in the 1500s that in 2007 Pasquino would not only talk, but send text messages as well? Ah, the wonders of technology.

The first note is signed “Pasquino” while the second one is signed “G.P.” or Grillo Parlante, literally “the talking cricket,” but also the name given to the character of Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio.

Mastella

Another hit from G.P., still encouraging you to send it in an SMS, against Mastella, the Italian Justice Minister. But very lightly in the upper right hand corner someone else has written: Miky, TVTB (ti voglio tanto bene, which is similiar to ‘I love you so much’) by Ila. I’ve noticed that Italians often sign letters “by” — I guess they think that’s a cool way to spice up their notes with some English, since “da” in Italian can mean “by,” “from,” and even “since.” In these cases what they really mean is “from” but somehow it seems that many Italians are convinced it should read “by.” I’ve seen it across the board and I’ve always found it kind of funny. Whenever I get Christmas gifts, the tag always says “by” whoever is giving it to me.

Pasquino

Well, next time you’re in Rome and near Piazza Navona, stop by and say hi to old Pasquino. Maybe he’ll tell you a thing or two about what he’s seen in the past 500 years.

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14 Responses to “Pasquino the Talking Statue”

  1. sognatrice June 14, 2007 at 10:36 am #

    What an interesting tradition! There’s a guy in my village named Pasquino and I always thought it was such a unique name. Obviously not.

    Ah, and it seems that Roman and Calabrese have quite a few things in common–the dialect, I mean, of course. I wouldn’t dare take it further than that so as not to offend either group πŸ˜‰

  2. Heather June 14, 2007 at 1:29 pm #

    Another excellent thing to add to my must-see list!

    Give me a week, Pasquino!

  3. nyc/caribbean ragazza June 14, 2007 at 4:17 pm #

    Next time I’m in Rome. I have to find that statue.

  4. Shelley, At Home in Rome June 14, 2007 at 6:07 pm #

    Sognatrice: I’ve never actually met anyone named Pasquino in real life. And one thing I can say is that Alessandro lived in Rossano Calabro for 6 months and the first night I’ll never forget it, he called me, in disbelief, “Shelley, now I know how you must have felt when you first came to Italy. I don’t understand a word these people are saying!” I had two US colleages who are both engaged to be married to guys from Calabria, and every once in a while they would come out with a word that was actually Calabrese dialect, not Italian! So funny. Rome’s dialect is more of an accent. So I’m assuming you must be tri-lingual now!

    Heather: Pasquino has been around for over 500 years…he’ll wait another week for sure.

    NYC: It’s super easy to find. Just go to Piazza Navona, and when you are at the south end of the piazza (probably the end you’ll enter at), facing the statues, turn left in the southernmost corner of the piazza and you’ll see him shortly on the left.

  5. cheeky June 14, 2007 at 8:12 pm #

    Congrats on the new site. It’s looking really good, and of course the material is still awesome.
    Hhmm. . . it sounds ok to use “by” on the statue postings, as in posted by, but please teach them “from” for the gift tags. HA! Sounds like a business opp; tags available with the word “from” already printed on them.

  6. Sierra June 14, 2007 at 9:56 pm #

    Wow, I’ve got to add that statue to my list as well. Great post Shelley!

  7. somepinkflowers June 14, 2007 at 11:44 pm #

    thank you ever so much for sharing your new blog home. i look forward to peaking around the corners to see what is different.

    i met pasquino when i was in rome last summer
    and was impressed that notes were neatly pasted
    and even squared to the corners. how thoughtful!

    my walks took me past pasquino regularly
    and he always seem to have a lot to say.
    i had not one clue what the issue of the day concerned but i liked to stop and try to figure out the odd word or two.

    naturally, i turned them ALL into love letters to me! MY BAD!

    thanks for the bits of translation but thanks more for reminding me about pasquino. so nice to know he will be waiting for me when i return! so nice to discover Really Rome!

    πŸ™‚

  8. Isabelle June 15, 2007 at 10:11 am #

    I think it’s a sign that you’re really fluent in Italian the day you understand the messages down Pasquino statue πŸ˜‰
    Here, I’m happy to get the bit about Rutelli and “our new French President”, though I don’t really see the point in comparing these 2 πŸ˜‰

  9. Shelley, At Home in Rome June 15, 2007 at 11:01 am #

    Cheeky: Grazie bella! And I’m liking your business opportunity idea… we’ll sell them in the shop with NY-style bagels and cream cheese, another thing I think Rome is sorely in need of!

    Sierra: Grazie!

    Somepink: You’re so funny! It very well could be that Pasquino had a crush on you, you never know…

    Isabelle: I know, I noticed that comment about Sarkozy too, I thought it was esp. funny because they turned it into a verb, did you notice? “Sarkozyando” — “Sarkozying” which I guess they’re trying to say acting like Sarkozy. I am also clueless as to how he and Rutelli compare, but then again, I admit I am generally clueless when it comes to Italian politics… and I prefer it that way!!

  10. my melange June 15, 2007 at 1:33 pm #

    Shelley,

    Wow, when I was at Piazza Navona, I did not see this statue..I wish I had though. I will certainly keep my eye out for it on my next trip! I did however love the Piazza Navona and the tartufo’s..I think I loved them a little too much!

  11. Wanderlust Scarlett June 15, 2007 at 6:14 pm #

    Wonder what he’d say if he could really speak, and what his opinion would be about all the shenanigans people use him for.

    Maybe he has grown mellow with age and doesn’t care anymore.

    Great post as usual!!

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  12. rf June 18, 2007 at 8:02 pm #

    i love this talking statue! i was lucky enough to gaze on it several times during my 2 weeks in rome. if i recall correctly, it’s right outside cul de sac, a wine bar that we really liked.

  13. J. Pasquino August 4, 2008 at 5:07 am #

    I think this statue is fascinating, not only because it shares the same name as my last…but i’m very much looking forward to seeing it when i get the chance.

  14. Pasquino May 8, 2009 at 6:43 pm #

    I heard a different story about this statue. It was of a barber who owned a shop near this statue. The statue was dug up while building the road, but it was Mr Pasquino that had a complaint about the government, and he posted his message on the statue. Thus, starting the tradition.

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