Fourth of July in Rome

5 Jul

July 4

Yesterday was the very first time (in six years) that I’ve celebrated Fourth of July in Rome. This year Alessandro and I were invited as guests to the US Ambassador’s annual shindig at his “humble home,” Villa Taverna. The residence, at seven walled acres, covers an entire city block, and it contains the largest private park/garden in the city. While I’d love to pretend that we have some bigwig insider connections, the truth is that some dear friends of ours work for the embassy and were gracious enough to extend their guest passes to us. So, basically this is your typical July 4 BBQ, except the guest list was around 2,800 people (that’s a lot of hamburgers and hot dogs, people!) and you definitely do NOT wear shorts and your Old Navy flag t-shirt.

Luckily we arrived quite early with our friends, in order to avoid the rush of people and enjoy the grounds of the residence in all its glory. The gardens, as I’m sure you can imagine, are nothing short of majestic.

Garden 1

Garden 2

I particularly liked this little tidbit of Roman history lodged in the outer wall of the cinema. (Yes, I said cinema, as in, movie theater. It wasn’t open, but just the fact that it exists on the grounds in its own separate building is … well … like I said, “humble home.”)


The barbeque aspect of the celebration was heaven for an expat like me. I have to admit that the 4th of July is second only to Thanksgiving on my list of holidays I miss most now that I live abroad. When we arrived at the back part of the grounds where the hamburgers and hotdogs were being grilled, the smell of BBQ smoke wafting lazily in the summer breeze… I started to feel that much closer to home.


What’s that, you say? Those are Lay’s potato chips? Hamburgers and hotdogs shipped in from the US of A? Heinz ketchup? French’s mustard? Vlasic hamburger dills? Man, oh, man. Pinch me. You see, many an expat living abroad does a strange value-shifting in which American brand names that can’t be had in Italy suddenly become delicacies. I think I might have actually shed a tear or two. (Of course, I told people it was just the smoke from the BBQ grill).


The popcorn machine and the cute red and blue bags of “Delicious POPCORN, Fresh and Crisp” were charming, and the promises made by the bag didn’t disappoint. It was indeed delicious, fresh, and crisp. Alessandro declared it “real American popcorn.” This meaning that it had that uniquely US combination of imitation butter with super salty salt. Now that I think of it, if I had brought a bigger purse I could have hoarded a few bags for later. But I was too busy scarfing from the platter upon silver platter of homemade chocolate chip cookies and brownies.


Remember my article about confetti when I was in the throes of planning my Roman wedding? Well, here, my friends, is a lovely marriage of Italian and American traditions. Fourth of July confetti, Italian-style.

Confetti 1

Confetti 2

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the sheer delight I had in people watching and taking part in one of my favorite Roman pastimes, celebrity-sighting.

After the party got into full swing, we caught a glimpse of a couple politicians famous on a national level (Gianfranco Fini and Massimo D’Alema). For the record, they looked much tanner in person. I think I *might* have seen Jeff Israely, TIME magazine’s Rome correspondent, who I met once during an event organized by one of my former study abroad colleagues (she also being a journalist, with a monthly column in The American). Do hop over to check out Jeff Israely’s article on the phenomenon of Italian espresso in this week’s TIME—he’s an excellent journalist and writer capturing aspects of political and cultural life in Rome and Italy. And then of all people, I saw good ol’ Pino Insegno again. Man, that guy is everywhere. (A proposito, funny article by an Italian blogger about his ubiquitous presence in local advertising here.) Last time I saw him in person, he was getting his hair washed at the sink next to me. You see, apparently we share the same hairstylist, and we chatted about his job dubbing Will Ferrell in Italian. (All English-language movies are dubbed into Italian). Now that I think of it, I wonder how he managed Ricky Bobby’s accent?

So, all in all, a very fun Independence Day bash. And, at the risk of sounding a little too nostalgic, I must say that one of the best parts for me, besides eating my monster hamburger, was when the military band played the Star Spangled Banner. Moments like that remind me how proud I am and how lucky I feel to be an American, and how great it is that we are taught and celebrate national patriotism. While I love living in Italy, I have never been one of those expats who moved abroad to escape my home culture.

So, to all you other Americans out there, expats and non: how did you celebrate? To non-Americans, does your country have a day out of the year that it celebrates its independence or birth as a nation? When is it and what do you do to celebrate?


34 Responses to “Fourth of July in Rome”

  1. sognatrice July 5, 2007 at 12:56 pm #

    Oh my goodness, the confetti is hilarious. I didn’t do anything this year other than sneak a hot dog (with Heinz shipped by Mom) when P was working in the afternoon. My town has a festa the first Sunday in July every year, so we had a cook-out in the piazza a few days ago–and fireworks thereafter, so it was all good πŸ™‚

  2. Giulia July 5, 2007 at 2:03 pm #

    OK, us expats have got to stick together. We must start some food swap type thing from each other’s towns. I (THANK GOODNESS) have access to Heinz ketchup and French’s mustard in several of my supermarkets. I have been on the hunt for Hellmans mayo. I’d glady ship over some bottles of Heinz for some Hellmans! I’ll be even happier to receive a jar of Vlasic pickels! I even recognize the barbacue sauce in the photo… another condiment that was never missing in my house. *sigh*
    Lucky duck, you are, for having been able to experience such a fun event. Thanks for giving us a little feel of your experience. πŸ™‚

  3. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 5, 2007 at 2:25 pm #

    Sognatrice: Good call on the hot dog! I got a hamburger at the BBQ yesterday but after I got through the whole line, I realized hot dogs were being grilled on the other end. I was so tempted to take one, but knew I wouldn’t be able to eat it all. And, Heinz shipped by mom is awesome, what a woman!

    Giulia: Totally! Isn’t it crazy how we become scary pack rats for things that in the States we wouldn’t have thought twice about? I mean, hello? Pining over Vlasic pickles? But seriously, I was SOOO savoring that, and I thought, “What has become of me?!” It’s hilarious.

  4. Stacy July 5, 2007 at 2:32 pm #

    Wow shelley – you ARE becoming famous in Rome. hehe Fancy BBQ and all =) Just kidding. Sounds like a wonderful day and I am so glad you got a bit of Americana for the 4th.

  5. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy July 5, 2007 at 2:38 pm #

    Are those Sulmona confetti? πŸ™‚ Did you throw an appeal to anyone for some other delicacies from the embassy market??? I know they have everything.

  6. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy July 5, 2007 at 2:44 pm #

    Actually, I think we should put together a pool for SWEET pickles… up north I can find the dills, tho. Just no sweet pickles 😦

  7. Giulia July 5, 2007 at 3:23 pm #

    Sara, you have the dills up there? OMG me lurves dill, but don’t like sweet. 😦
    I have the sweet ones down here!

  8. nyc/caribbean ragazza July 5, 2007 at 4:51 pm #

    What a fun 4th!

  9. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 5, 2007 at 5:19 pm #

    Sara: Funny you ask, because today I decided to look at the one I got to take as a souvenir… and lo and behold, Sulmona, baby!

    And stop all this pickle talk! It makes me want to go to Castroni and see if I can stock up on some US food products, what little they have there.

  10. jessica July 5, 2007 at 6:46 pm #

    how nice you got to celebrate 4th of july.
    nice confetti.

  11. Elizabeth Abbot July 5, 2007 at 8:39 pm #

    Pino Insegno lives just two palazzi down the hill from me and I see way tooooooo much of him in the neighborhood!! He is like “prezzemolo” — popping up just about everywhere.
    What luck to go the the Villa Taverna bash. I just got to read the Ambassador’s speech in the news(did you miss that while scarfing in the corner?) and based today’s blog entry on his comments. I’ll add a click to you so that everyone can get some visual aids.
    Watch out for the CIA with all those photos that will surely comprimise American security. I got hand-slapped for even thinking taking a photo of Villa pinciana for the June AWAR Forum.
    No hot dogs for us, instead a fantastic concert at the Auditorium of Dee Dee Bridgewater and her Malian musicians.
    Still up for a great gelato tour on via Marmorata?

  12. Paolo July 5, 2007 at 9:31 pm #

    BΓ¨ in Italia abbiamo la festa della liberazione il 25 aprile chΓ¨ Γ¨ simile al 4 di luglio, che poi sarebbe, guarda caso, l’entrata degli americani a Roma per liberarci dal fascismo/nazismo, ma questo credo tu lo sappia giΓ .

  13. Jenny Fillius July 6, 2007 at 8:45 am #

    That’s wild.So were there many Americans there?
    I love seeing familiar name brands when I’ve been in other countries.I remember seeing Dorrito’s in London and they were hella expensive.
    Are there still lots of cats roaming around in the Colosium? When I was there I fed them salami

  14. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 6, 2007 at 9:41 am #

    Elizabeth: Of course, my first thought about the photos was that I wouldn’t even be allowed to take them. But then I saw about a million other people taking photos, and what’s more, you’ve got to consider that if the Embassy opens its doors to nearly 3,000 people, many of whom are not VIPs but just friends of people with connections, then chances are that photos are eventually going to circulate. In any case, if it’s a security risk no one told me as much, but of course I would be the first to respect that if I am contacted about it!

    Jenny: There were many Americans, but also many military people from all different nations and lots of Italians as well. And, not so sure about the Colosseum but there are certainly lots of cats still at the shelter at Largo Argentina. Those ones are well-fed by volunteers who work there though.

  15. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 6, 2007 at 9:49 am #

    PS Elizabeth: And no, I wasn’t “scarfing” during the ambassador’s speech. It was a good speech and everyone was listening. The cookies came later…

  16. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 6, 2007 at 9:52 am #

    Also E: Sorry, I keep missing things to respond to… the gelato tour on Via Marmorata would be great, I’m up for it whenever you are!

  17. Beth July 6, 2007 at 10:10 am #

    Well, Shelley, I actually had an ivitation to this ‘traditional’ Independence Day Party (with my consorte). But foolish me, I thought traditional meant, well, traditional as in casual, picnic attire. So I dressed in capris and my consorte in a linen shirt, no tie. As we walked over from our apartment a few blocks away, we noticed busses and trams deviated from their normal routes and as we got closer,more and more people in cocktail attire, even tuxedos! My consorte refused to go in (I can’t print what he said) and we returned home to celebrate with champagne and Lake Michigan smoked fish we had recently brought back from the States accompanied by strains of DeeDee Bridgewater serenading at the cavea in the Auditorium. All in all a vicarious 4th of July experience.

  18. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 6, 2007 at 10:38 am #

    Beth: Do you mean you were invited to this party at the ambassador’s residence? Oh man, if that’s the case, it’s too bad no one told you to dress a bit fancy. Believe me, when I got the invite I thought the exact same thing… casual. Ale told me right off the bat that he planned to wear a suit and I was like, oh come on! A suit, to a 4th of July BBQ? But luckily my friend told me that “yes, Shelley, it’s a BBQ, but not really.” So I understood that I had to dress up. I saw some people who were soooo fancy, even like long sparkly evening dresses, which was kind of exaggerated. I didn’t see any tuxedos though…

  19. Beth July 6, 2007 at 10:58 am #

    Yes, Shelley, that party. And, as my consorte, is American, he did not understand either and he was not about to change into a suit and return as I practically had to drag him there in the first place.

  20. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 6, 2007 at 4:17 pm #

    Beth: A part of me finds it kind of funny to think that it was we Americans who didn’t know how to “properly” dress for this event held by our own ambassador, while in my case it was the Italians who had to tell me to get a clue. You would think it would have been the other way around… the Italians overdressed… but I guess that goes to show that I don’t get invited to soirees held by ambassadors that often (read: ever). I mean, I wasn’t thinking I’d wear shorts, but I thought smart casual. Instead, every guy there was in a full-on suit with tie and jacket, and those in the military in full dress uniform. Anyways, I don’t blame you for turning around, I think I would have felt out of place too. Can you get another invite next year? It is definitely worth it.

  21. Elizabeth July 6, 2007 at 4:23 pm #

    Italian cultural lesson to be learned here. Italians are never, ever really casual as we might intend casual to mean, even when casual attire is indicated it means nice (and ironed) pants and dress shirt for men (and smart casual shoes) and dress/nice pants suit for women. As Shelley observed…you can never over-dress thats for sure — sparkling evening gown for a BBQ!!

    Shelley, I am sure you know your photo taking etichette, just curious as to why I go so much flack for a picture of the outside of Villa Pinciana when it is fine to take pictures inside Villa Taverna — go figure.

    I’m around still next week for an afternoon gelato. Bring along the camera!

  22. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 6, 2007 at 4:38 pm #

    E: I’m curious to know what happened at Villa Pinciana… and who told you not to take pictures. Is that part of Villa Borghese?

    I’ll email you about gelato. I don’t know of any places on Via Marmorata so I’m curious. I’ll bring the camera…hopefully no one will want to confiscate the pictures!!

  23. FinnyKnits July 6, 2007 at 7:04 pm #

    I would have been thrilled to see a spread like that HERE in the US! Stupid neighbors and their stupid “hot dogs and hamburgers are boring” sentiment. COMMIE BASTARDS!

    I’m making Bubba fire up the grill for hot dogs this weekend. That spread looks deeeeevine. Seriously, nothing better than hot dog with French’s and a dill spear.

    And a popcorn machine??!! I’m sort of considering buying one for our movie night. Or at least renting one. No, I want one. I’ll put it in the living room and grow fat around it.


  24. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 6, 2007 at 9:35 pm #

    Oh Finny, you are so silly! I definitely think that you should get you a popcorn machine though. That, in the immortal words of Paris Hilton, would be HOT.

  25. Mary July 7, 2007 at 4:55 am #


    Did they have fireworks?


  26. Rachael July 7, 2007 at 6:34 am #

    Hi Shelley, Happy 4th of July. As an Aussie who has lived in Tokyo, London, Mexico and now Canada I can vouch for how regular every day brand products suddenly become expensive luxuries if they can indeed be found at all, or they have to be shipped from home. (Although you can now find vegemite pretty much anywhere).

    In Australia we celebrate Australia Day on January 26th – which is the middle of summer for us. It celebrates the day Jan 26th 1788 in which (white) Australia was settled. The first fleet arrived into Botany Bay from England. We celbrate with BBQ’s, going to the beach, or outdoor concerts, fireworks etc. Of course it’s not without a little bit of controversy. Aboriginal Australians call it Invasion Day and often protest and the celebrations.

    In Canada we celebrate Canada Day on July 1st. It marks the establishment of Canada as a self-governing country on July 1, 1867. Again we celebrate with BBQs and fireworks.

  27. Shelley, At Home in Rome July 7, 2007 at 10:49 am #

    Mary: No, that was the only thing missing… no fireworks! Funny too because you see fireworks often in Italy even for little celebrations in tiny mountain towns. Sara in Milan managed to get some though!

    Rachael: Wow, you are really a world citizen!

  28. mental mosaic July 7, 2007 at 1:02 pm #

    I just discovered your blog – wow! It’s lovely! πŸ™‚

    I just moved to Naples with my fiance & we didn’t celebrate the 4th, per se, but I hopped on Skype & chatted with my family, so I could be their in “virtual” form!


  29. my melange July 7, 2007 at 10:11 pm #

    Wow – a real American B-B-Q in gold old Italy..who would have thunk it! Nothing like burgers and franks on the grill!

  30. Tim July 7, 2007 at 10:26 pm #

    Shelley —

    Your Fourth picnic at the Ambassador’s residence just brought back wonderful memories of the Fourth of July I celebrated 21 years ago while I was a student at the North American College on the Giannicolo. We had a combined Italian/American celebration. Giovanni, our chef, created all of our favorite pasta dishes, followed by incredible steaks on the grille, then the most fantastic watermelon sorbet — actually not a sorbet because it was stuffed back into the watermelon. ACK! The word in Italian begins with a “f” but escapes me right now. Anyway, it was a small group of about 20 and it was the day before I left for summer military service as a chaplain candidate in the US Air Force in Bitburg, Germany. We just enjoyed eaqch other’s company, the food, and a beautiful Roman night.

    Because of my military service, I could get American food at the embassy through the old USO on the Via della Conciliazione. At Thanksgiving, for example, we used to make an American breakfast — grits (even though I’m from NY), pancakes, pop tarts (for the younger guys), eggs and bacon, before sitting down to a big turkey feast for lunch. You’re right. All those American brands take on cult status when they’re not normally available to you.

    I love your blog and it’s required reading for the students I take to Rome each year. I should have you meet them!

  31. kataroma July 9, 2007 at 5:16 pm #

    My consorte has lived in Italy for 17 years and he wears jeans or shorts and t-shirt 365 days a year. He owns one suit which he hasn’t worn for years and which is now too small for him (last time he wore it was to a wedding.)

    He realises that Italian men dress up more than he does but he says “dare to be different!” I kind of agree with him. πŸ™‚

  32. May Zawaideh November 2, 2008 at 2:53 am #

    Wow, this sounds like so much fun. How does one get invited to such an affair. We go to Italy about this time every year and would love to get invited to such a great Amercican event???

  33. Coretta November 26, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    Wow everybody! Happy Thanksgiving! .! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
    Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and every year I like to get into the mood-extend the holiday, since it were-by reading “Thanksgiving novels.” Not surprisingly, those stories are mostly about families, about coming together to heal old hurts and showing thanks for the gift of love. . —
    You’re Better Off These days Than You Were three Yrs Ago?

  34. Endi May 29, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    che la grafica di Undercover non era per ntiene male.Quello che non mi piaceva di Undercover e’ che era semplicemente noioso.E’ vero che la Wii tecnicamente e’ molto inferiore alla Xobx e PS3 , ma questo non giustifica la mediocrita’ generale dei titoli di corsaproposti.Per quale motivo BURNOUT 2 per Gamecube e’ ancora un bel titolo e anche molto divertente??? dove esiste anche una gestione degli scontri!!!E’ mai possibile che con una Console decisamente piu’ potente non si riesca a fare di meglio???Ho la brutta ampressione che questo nuo Need for Speed sia un po’ troppo arcade . un altro paio di titoli NFS di questo genere e riusciranno a raggiungere il livello F-ZERO del GC di 5 anni fa.Speriamo solo sia una brutta impressione.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: