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Tag Archives: Roma

The Neighborhood Milk Truck

5 Dec

My son started elementary school this year, which means that I take a six-block walk with him each day to and from school, on a road that I rarely used to travel previously. This is relevant because on this very road, just about two blocks from his elementary school, stands the milk truck.

I first started to see the milk truck a couple weeks after he started school in September. The side of the truck proclaimed “raw milk – real milk.” I had heard of this so-called raw milk from gourmand friends of mine up in Piedmont, who sang the praises of both the unpasteurized milk and raw butter (the fatty portion of raw milk), but I’d never tried it.

A few times every week, there it stood: the little white milk van in the middle of an industrial parking lot. I never saw anyone buying anything. But every time, there it stood with the man resembling a farmer standing next to it. My son would say, “There’s the milk truck!” and I’d nod. Yep. There’s the milk truck!

Today we were walking by it on the same side of the street, and for some reason Vincenzo decided to stop and take a closer look. I stood and looked too. Was this going to be the day we finally bought raw milk?

Buonasera, signora,” said ruddy-faced farmer-looking guy. Well, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the point of no return.

“Hey Vince! Want some milk?”

“Ok, mamma!”

“Buonasera. We’d like some milk, please.”

And that’s when farmer turned on the van’s milk tap. SO FUN! Milking a van!

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It costs €1.50 and comes in a clear 1-liter plastic bottle with no label, but if you bring your own bottle, you can save 30 cents.

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The flyer I got along with the milk says that according to some law, I’m technically supposed to boil it before drinking. Clearly, that defeats the renegade deliciousness of raw milk, but, you know. It’s the law.

Mr. Farmer (I promise I’ll ask his name next time) asked if I’d like anything else: mozzarella? Ricotta? Yogurt?

That will have to be for next time. I’ll let you know if we turn into the happy, shiny family advertised below. Believe me: if this milk turns my kids into smiling angels, I will pay, boil, and even buy cheese and yogurt.

One thing is for sure though—that milk van is rocking the cow motif.

biola

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Marcel Duchamp at Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna

18 Oct

[Spoiler alert: If you plan to visit this show in Rome, you should go before you read this post. There are lots of pictures that will give away some of the delight and surprise you could experience in person.]

Last Friday I visited a recently opened exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art here in Rome, also known as GNAM, which happily means “yum” in Italian.

This was the first time I had ever seen any works by Marcel Duchamp, a French-American artist associated with Cubism, Dadaism and Surrealism. I have recently been introduced to the world of surrealist and conceptual art by the talented poet Enrique Enriquez, a mentor of mine who I am grateful to for the introduction into this marvelous world. This show was assigned to me as “homework.”

I had very superficial awareness of someone, somewhere, at sometime in the past, having signed a urinal and called it artwork. That was pretty much far as my knowledge went. It seemed absurd. And yet therein lies the beauty of surrealism.

I won’t go into educating about Duchamp because I’m certainly not the right person for that. But I do highly encourage you to delve more into his life and work: Wikipedia biography, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Marcel Duchamp World Community site, Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp site.

So, without too much preamble, let me take you on a bit of a photo tour of the exhibition. There weren’t any signs saying that photos weren’t allowed, and the employees weren’t stopping anyone. So I had a bit of a fun free-for-all.

First, a few shots of the approach to the GNAM. The weather was barely holding out, as it’s been a bit of a rainy October this year.

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I think EE would appreciate this shot. Not only does it have a Vespa, but the lamppost and the sculpture look like they form a lowercase “b,” or possibly a “p.”

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I never really get tired of the majestic columns around these parts.

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I was totally unaware of Duchamp’s obsession with and talent for the game of chess. Here the text explains that Duchamp found the creative aspect of the game a way to escape the slavery of monotony, because it allowed for endless ways to produce new patterns, and that this aspect of the game was what attracted him the most and is also why chess permeates his artwork. It also says that starting in 1923 and for 12 years thereafter, Duchamp abandoned his artwork completely in order to dedicate himself to chess, playing in many professional tournaments.

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This, then, was the first readymade of the show. I fell in love with it at first sight. This one is Pocket Chess Set. The one on display is the original with wallet from 1943.

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I took this shot just for EE. When I first began studying the optical language of the Marseille Tarot, I would tease EE about the images, just for fun. I told him that the monks on the card “Le Pape” looked like they had donuts on their heads. He promptly emailed me back to correct me by saying “Shelley, those are called tonsures.” Oh, tonsure-shmonsure. Look at MD’s star-shaped tonsure! Fabulous. This one is, in fact, called simply Tonsure, and is from 1919.

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By far, one of my favorite works on display in the show. This is Box in a Valise, and is basically a miniature Duchamp museum, with exact miniature replicas of his various pieces. Totally compelling. I invite you to note the mini-Fountain hanging on the wall.

Before the room where most of the readymades were on display, there was a larger open space with works by Italian artist Luca Maria Patella. It’s difficult to find much in English about Patella, but here’s an interview in Italian by art critic Manuela De Leonardis. I absolutely fell in love with his work.

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This work by Patella is called MUT/TUM, and is described on Patella’s site thus: MUT/TUM , (1965)-1985.
A “para-Duchampian” work that “shows and displays itself” (mostra e di-mostra) as MUTT, turned over “physically” in 1917 (The Fountain), was … turned over “linguistically” in 1918 (Tu m’). (in the perpendicular square in the center: a pair of mirrors – side by side – are perceived as an empty space), graphic design, painting, iron, mirror, 70 x 140 cm.

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I enjoyed this one a lot. In the large open space, you find this disk on the floor, that says “STAND HERE. Look at the bed.” It also gives height markers running from 170 cm on the top to 180 cm on the bottom of the disk, indicating where you should stand depending on your height. So, I did as told, and this is what I saw standing on the dot. (I actually saw them perfectly lined up, but was unable to capture that exactly with my camera.)

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Then, as you walk forward and examine the beds from the other side, this is what happens:

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Oh, Luca Maria Patella! You’re so silly!

And sort of–well, brilliant, too.

Personally, a part of me thinks that he should do some sort of installation at an IKEA store on the showroom floor. It would be awesome to then film people’s reactions, and pretend it was a real IKEA bed.

But hey, that’s just me.

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And, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The pisser! Funny aside: while standing in front of this display, I was the only one in the room. I had this irresistible urge to look underneath the typewriter cover.

So, I bent down, and sort of moved my head sideways—and all of a sudden that “you’re getting too close!” alarm went off. “WEE-UUU WEE-UUU WEE-UUU! Violator over here!” pretty much blasted through the entire cavernous and church-silent museum space.

HA! I had to laugh. It’s almost as if that was a pre-programmed part of the fun of the show itself. It was like an auditory reminder: “Good for you, Shell! Don’t take yourself so seriously in life!”

Why, thank you for that helpful reminder, Monsieur Duchamp. Much obliged, indeed.

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I loved these sketches. So tender. I want to steal this moment in time for myself. Après l’amour, 1967

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And then, totally random and fun, one of Duchamp’s suitcases that he left behind at a friend’s apartment. The label reads: “Duchamp, 28 West 10th St., New York, U.S.A.”

All in all, a completely delightful experience.

Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna
Viale delle Belle Arti 131
Click here for details about the Duchamp: Re-Made in Italy show

Roman Coffee That is Un-Politically Correct

8 Sep

I dunno, folks. I mean, call me crazy, whatever; it wouldn’t be the first time, and certainly won’t be the last. But, yeah. I’m just thinking, time for a logo update for Moca Caffè Roma.

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Maybe I’m reading waaaay too much into this. But frankly, am I the only one who sees this sugar packet and logo as an iconic example more than slightly reminiscent of blackface minstrel shows? And am I supposed to think that it was “mere coincidence” that the name of the coffee is Moca brand?

And, as an aside, Dio Mio if you click on their site. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Pseudo Barry White-slash-70s wanna-be porno music? I mean, what IS that? And, why do websites even NEED music? Bleh.

But I digress.

Nowhere on their site could I find any commentary about the history of the logo, what it’s supposed to represent, or whatever. So, I’m kind of at a loss here.

So: boh. I’ll let you be the judge. Not like I’m covering anything new here. I mean, who among us still hasn’t watched this by-now infamous Coloreria Italiana commercial? Always brings up mixed commentary.

I never saw the Fiat ad below until I did a bit o’ research for this post. Racial stereotypes aside, this commercial is just poorly done. Crappy, hack-produced creative. Trading on bullshit race stereotypes like this is just as lazy as trading on tired and worn ploys that use the old “sex sells” as a mantra and use women as objects, like the recent Philly campaign here in Italy and the other related advertising in that post.

And, I’ve discussed political correctness and racism on the blog before. It always sparks interesting debate.

What say you, o popolo, about these sugar packets? Are they, no pun intended, in bad taste? I always do research on my posts, at least cursory Google searches anyways, and no matter how I looked in Italian or English, no one seems to have talked about this before, so I guess I can draw the hasty conclusion that it’s not being perceived as even worthy of comment. Even so, these are the things I notice and think about, for what it’s worth! (Free blog. Be nice.)

Bedda Matri and Francesca the Artista

17 Aug

As long-time readers of my blog can attest, I love to be swept away by the magic of this city. It is everywhere, it’s just that so many people don’t open themselves to it. So here you go, another little sparkle.

Yesterday I was coming home from a meeting with a friend, and I was walking because my bus wasn’t coming. It’s August 16 in Rome, folks. This means it’s worse than, well, let me give you an audio-visual comparison:

Metaphorically speaking, allow me to say that if you stay in Rome in August, especially in the period just before and after August 15, you are essentially “digging your own grave” because you are going to be a bit alone. This city is deserted.

Oh, the joy of wordplay. Yes, desserted indeed. Because as I was walking home yesterday, past door after door after door of closed and barred up saloons, I spotted a beacon of light on the horizon. It was this little shop I’d seen hundreds upon hundreds of times from the bus window, but never stopped at because I had no need to. Bedda Matri. A Sicilian gelato and pastry shop. It caught my attention because, not only was it the only shop open for blocks, but it had a cute little crepe stand out in front, and I hadn’t eaten for hours, and suddenly, a Nutella crepe sounded just heavenly. I had to have one!

I ducked in and you can imagine my delight at finding this adorable, sparkly ragazza right about my age behind the counter, wearing all black, including a truly delicious black fedora. I was instantly attracted. As you may know, I love hats. And, as I am increasingly discovering, wearers of hats are very often very very interesting and singularly spectacular people. Witness. Trust. Sing it. Francesca, much like the compelling and mysterious Clint Eastwood in our opening credits, was certainly no exception.

I complimented her on her hat and I could see by her face that had caught her a bit off guard.

“What?” she said.

“I like your hat. A lot. It’s great!” I said.

She beamed. “Oh, ok. Grazie!” Love at first sight.

I told her I wanted a crepe, she said she’d have to heat up the machine. I said that was fine because I was in no hurry. “Where the heck am I going to go today?” I said. “No one is open!”

Oh, people. She and I start to chat. I don’t know how our conversation twisted and turned over valleys and hills in the span of minutes. We were enamored of each other. I know it was the hat.

Francesca whipped me up a delectable crepe, but first we talked like two long lost sisters from another mother for like 20 minutes. Twenty minutes in which I discovered that she’s also a painter, and I “confessed” that I read the tarot. (Like many people, she beamed with a curiosity that you know wants to be sated, but then immediately followed that glimmer of hope with “that’s interesting but the tarot scares me” which I hear so often now that I’m starting to believe it will ultimately become my swan song: Shelley translated images so that people no longer had to fear small pieces of colored cardboard.) Holy crepe, Batman!

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Seriously. I am dying of the gorgeousness here.

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Um a yum yum, three men in a … nevermind.

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Francesca tells me that the “setteveli” cake is their best-selling item. Sara had a fantabulous post about the setteveli years ago, check it out.

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No Sicilian pastry shop worth its ricotta would be without a cannolo fatto espresso. A “cannolo” is like a straw and they fill it with ricotta. You might know it as a kuhKNOWly.

Love this place, will be going back, again and again and again. You should stop in and say hi to Francesca. She is, in a word, delightful, and so is her shop.

Bedda Matri
Via Alessandro Severo, 240
Tel. 06 594 2104

Public Libraries in Rome

25 Jul

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a major, super duper, insatiable and incurable nerdy book worm.

I LOVE BOOKS.

Repeat after me:

Reading is Sexy Bumper Sticker. All cars should have one.

However I must say that so far, I haven’t explored what’s on offer in terms of the Rome public library system. Last weekend, facing another 14 hour day of three preschool-aged children clamoring for entertainment, I was desperately craving my good ol’fashioned United States public library system. Man, I might be biased, but I grew up on that system and I’ll be damned if it didn’t give my poor mom a break from me and my brother, plus, inspire me to fall passionately in love with books. We used to spend some time every Sunday at the library. I never got over how cool it was that I could have a real “card” for something as a kid, and pick ALL THESE BOOKS and check them out. I felt very important.

So, here I am, raising the kiddos in Rome, and it occurs to me that I’ve never even TRIED to explore the Rome public library system. I mean, I’m so completely jaded about my adopted city that I just figured that there wasn’t any system.

Of course I now realize that’s totally ignorant of me and I hope that you’ll accept my apologies. It’s just that, when it comes to public bureaucracy nonsense, Rome has few rivals.

There is, in fact, a system. And a little bit of online exploration reveals that, at least in theory, it seems to be rather evolved (considering the context). Low expectations generate my excitement. I mean, I didn’t even think public libraries existed here, so imagine my surprise at finding out that you can even get discounts throughout the city with your €5 library card. (I know, I’m totally hanging my head in shame at my ignorance. I asked you to forgive me already!)

In my defense, please do have a brief read though of a helpful excerpt from the system-wide explanatory page, which states:

In biblioteca chiunque può entrare liberamente per leggere e sfogliare i libri che vuole, oppure chiederli in prestito per leggerli a casa. Si possono scegliere i libri direttamente dagli scaffali, oppure cercare un soggetto o un argomento consultando i cataloghi per autore e per materia. Per ogni informazione o chiarimento ci si può rivolgere al bibliotecario, che aiuterà ad orientarsi nella biblioteca ed a trovare ciò di cui si ha bisogno.

It says: Anyone can enter freely into the library to read or flip through the books that they want, or to check out the books so they can read them at home. They can take the books directly off the shelves, or they can search a topic by consulting the library catalog by author or subject. The librarian is available for information and clarification, and can help you to orient yourself inside the library and help you find what you need.

When I read that, my heart hurt. To think that this isn’t all just taken for granted! You have to tell people they can freely enter and actually TAKE BOOKS OFF THE SHELVES! You see, typically academic libraries in Italy are very user UN-friendly. Not hands-on at all, and similar to experiences in the public offices. But the public system underwent modifications through a city-governed statute in 1996, which apparently brought it out of the proverbial dark ages.

So I’m already feeling more positive about the system itself for simply existing at all, in this “normal” fashion. And not only that, but there’s an entire network of libraries to serve the multi-ethnic population in the city, providing books in all of the following languages: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Ukrainian, and Urdu. There’s also a program of Italian language instruction for foreigners, including videos, guided tours of Rome, and orientations about services available for immigrants. At the end of the course they even offer the University of Perugia’s standardized test of Italian competency (CELI).

Wow. This does my little social worker’s heart good.

I’m totally not crazy about the Biblioteche di Roma home page as it is institutional and therefore pretty tough to navigate. I should clarify. There’s also BiblioTu which appears to be the more user-friendly book catalog and general info. database. Instead of sending you on a wild goose chase, I’ll try to break out the important points for you here, culling from both sites. (Keep in mind that this service is obviously designed to serve an Italian-speaking public, although at the end of this list I’ve compiled the branches that claim to have books in English available. You’re welcome!)

  • How to get a library card (Bibliocard): Go in person to any of the branches, fill out the form with your Italian address and show a valid photo ID. A Bibliopass is free and entitles you to check out books, consult documents, as well as attend courses and seminars. The Bibliocard currently costs €5 annually, and allows you interlibrary loan privileges, access to remote online services such as library catalogs,Wifi and desktop Internet usage in the library, as well as discounts throughout the city for cultural events.
  • In-library cultural events and workshops planned for this summer: At this link you’ll find a list of all kinds of initiatives that the individual branches are holding, including events for parents together with their children.
  • Storytime events for the under-6 crowd: Nati per Leggere is a nationwide program that encourages children to discover the joy of reading through interactive storytimes. The online program in the local branches, however, is nearly impossible to locate. For me it actually IS impossible and after a long fruitless search chain, I can only offer you this list of the email addresses of each branch coordinator to email I suppose for a list of their activities.
  • Sign up for the Public Libraries of Rome NewsletterBiblioinforma” – You have NO idea how hard it was for me to find this link. Hello, can we get an online content marketing manager onboard please? (Their poor Twitter account currently only has 189 followers. I don’t know whether to blame this on their inept or non-existent social network marketing abilities, or the sad state of interest in reading that pervades this city).
  • Online e-Book lending. This seems cool; they have over 800 titles available for 14-day access through the Adobe Digital Editions eBook reader software, and 1,200 others available through “streaming” with an internet connection.
  • Books in English. Through the RomaMultiEtnica program, the following libraries are listed as having books available in English language (neighborhoods in parenthesis): Biblioteca Europea di Roma (Salario), via Savoia 15; Enzo Tortora (Testaccio), via Nicola Zabaglia 27/b; Flaminia (Flaminio), via Cesare Fracassini 9; Franco Basaglia (Primavalle), via Federico Borromeo 67; Guglielmo Marconi (Marconi), via Gerolamo Cardano 135; Penazzato (Collatino/Prenestino) via Dino Penazzato 112; Rispoli (Centro Storico), piazza Grazioli 4; Teatro Biblioteca Quarticciolo (Municipio VII), via Castellaneta, 10; Villa Leopardi (Municipio Roma II – Trieste), via Makallé, enter through the park.

So folks, there you have it. My treatise on the Roman Public Library System. Tonight I am going to explore the only library in my borough (municipio) which is at Ostiense and is the Bibliocaffè Letterario. How excited am I that “my” library is the cool, funky one with jazz music and a flash intro on the website, the library that got put inside a multifunctional space with an art gallery and coffee bar? Um, very. This is very fortuitous indeed. Hello people, why didn’t anyone alert me to this sooner? (Possibly because less than 200 people are aware of them.)

Happy reading, folks! I’ll be feeling cool flashing my library card around soon.

Help Prevent Closure of Roman Pediatric Neuropsychiatry Support Center “Il Grande Cocomero”

30 May

I received an email to sign a petition with Change.org today regarding an association that I had no knowledge of. Il Grande Cocomero is a volunteer-run and donation-supported center for research and treatment in the field of children’s psychiatric health. Il Grande Cocomero literally translates to “The Big Watermelon” , but actually is known as “The Great Pumpkin” of Charlie Brown fame, and refers to a movie based on the experiences and innovative approaches of pediatric neuropsychiatrist Marco Lombardo Radice. Now Il Grande Cocomero is in danger of closing because the City of Rome is taking legal action to evict the volunteers. Here is their appeal, which I have translated from the homepage of their website here into English:

The City of Rome is demanding a monthly rent payment which Il Grande Cocomero cannot sustain: €665 a month, up from the €172 paid up until now, with overdue payments of more than €39,000!

Il Grande Cocomero is kept open thanks to unpaid volunteers and small donations.

In the last 10 years we have proposed various technical-economic solutions and have received various empty promises, in addition to the usual “face-saving” acknowlegements.

Now Mayor Alemanno has decided to close Il Grande Cocomero and put an end to a 20-year service.

In more than 20 years of operation, Il Grande Cocomero has been the rehabilitation center for the children in the care of the Neuropsychiatric Ward of the Policlinico Umberto I Hospital, and it has been a social and recreational center for the adolescents of the San Lorenzo neighborhood, a place for free and uninhibited expression of the fragility and creativity inherent in the world of adolescents…and as a response to this, the City has decided to take legal action!

The volunteers, the adolescents, and the entire San Lorenzo neighborhood, in this way, are being violently attacked by a city government that is completely out of touch with the needs of the very areas that it governs.

Closing Il Grande Cocomero will certainly open up a very desirable piece of real estate that the City can offer for a very financially advantageous amount of rent to a restaurant, a night club, or a gaming hall!

We ask solidarity from all of the friends of Il Grande Cocomero, and a strong show of public support on the part of all political forces, against this latest attack on places of child welfare and social assistance.

Interestingly enough, while I was unable to find any official response from the City of Rome or the mayor to this issue, and while I was unable to find any information regarding the history of this dispute, I did find a statement from mayor-elect Marino, just two days prior to last weekend’s mayoral election. In it, he stated “To the children, the volunteers and the workers of Il Grande Cocomero, we can say that for us, for our idea of this city, their experience is an added value that needs to be defended and protected, not a bureaucratic procedure to be used to fill the City coffers.” Let’s hope that this wasn’t merely political rhetoric to be used for electoral gain, although I’m sadly skeptical.

Please join me in signing this petition. I can tell you after living in Rome for nearly 13 years, and coming from a background in social work apprenticeship in state child welfare in the US (I almost completed my MSW but then moved back to Rome in my last year of the program): places of refuge and healing for children with mental health issues are sorely lacking everywhere, but especially in places like Rome, where awareness of mental health issues is not only shamefully absent, but actually still a socially unacceptable taboo that brands those affected with crippling stigma and lack of access to services.

Sign the petition for Il Grande Cocomero at this link through Change.org. You don’t need to speak Italian to support this initiative, “sign” is “firma” and I hope that those outside of Italy are able to access and support this initiative.

Roman-style Security System

16 May

Walking by an apartment building around the corner from my house this morning, I see this sign generated in Word, printed out and taped to the front entry gate:

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Note – Don’t close. Door broken.

Are you so loving this?

Why didn’t they just write: “Dear Criminals: Our building’s front door is broken, and for unknown reasons we aren’t getting it fixed, at least not anytime soon, so instead we’ve printed out this sign instructing all residents to kindly leave the door open for you. You’re welcome.”

Oh, sigh. Rome, you’re so silly sometimes.