Saturday, 30 April 2011

On this day, 29 April 2011

This Friday morning in Rome we watched the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding live from Westminster Abbey. I remember in 1981 the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Diana Spencer, in my mind it was a more formal affair in a much larger church, St-Paul. Westminster Abbey built in 1066 has a certain ancient air about which only old stones can convey, if only they could speak. Every coronation has taken place at Westminster Abbey except for Edward V and Edward VIII.
The couple looked genuinely happy, they have know each other for some years. You have to give it to the British they certainly know how to do such events, down to the speakers who have the voice and demeanour for such an occasion. I could not help think that one day Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge will be King and Queen of Canada, the first Dominion of the Commonwealth, an ancient bond, such imagery moves me. Let’s only hope that they will be happy in their new life. Best Wishes to them.
H.R.H. Prince William and H.R.H. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Thursday, 28 April 2011

How to avoid a crowd

In the next few days major news event will take place, the Royal Wedding in London and in Rome the beatification of Jean-Paul II who died 6 years ago. These events will bring a lot of people to both cities.
In Rome already the crowds across the Tiber river in Vatican City are large and St-Peter's Square in front of the Basilica is already decorated with posters etc... making the usual solemn square look carnaval like.

So we are running away to Siena tomorrow, yes leaving town and going off to a beautiful city in Tuscany.
For the beatification, Jean-Paul II body was exhumed from his marble tomb and will be displayed. The idea behind it comes from the passage in first Corinthians 15.52, and the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. So if he is to become a Saint, Jean-Paul II must be incorruptible of body, this is doctrine for the Catholic Church. He is not the only Bishop of Rome to be on display, Pope John XXIII who died in 1962 is on display under an altar in St-Peter's Basilica and Pope Pius IX who was the Pope opposed to Italian democracy and unification is also on display in the church of San Lorenzo and he died 120 years ago. Like Communist leaders Popes are on parade a little ghoulish if you ask me.

As for the Royal Wedding let's hope it does not end up in divorce in 5 years time. By the way it's Catherine not Kate. It will be interesting to see what title she will be styled with, probably because William will be made a Duke upon marrying as is tradition, she would be Duchess of .....
Anyways the wedding will be on the television at 11 am Rome time, happy watching.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Luncheon in Rome

Today as is the tradition we went to our friends S, R, and S. for lunch. We picked up the professor who lives in Salario on our way and there we met with other guests.

Simonetta always prepares beautiful table settings, here the centre piece is Sicilian, a lamb of God made in Marzipan. The menu as always is pure Roman, we start with a  glass of Proseco, then à table, first we had a slice of cheese bread baked to look like a chef's hat, this is typically Italian Easter bread, served with hard boiled eggs which have been painted bright red or dark green or some other colour. They are placed inside a Fabergé style egg container presented to each guest at table. This is accompanied by some hard cheeses like Parmigiano and Pecorino, a hard goat cheese and green fava beans or broad beans served raw and some salami made specially for Easter served with a nice glass of red wine, in this case it was a wine from the Friuli (Northern Italy).
Professor Alberto Testa and Anita Garibaldi

Afterwards the main course was roast beef and asparagus in season at this time with oven roasted potatoes, served with another red wine from Umbria. Finally crudités of celery, carrots and radishes with a bit of olive oil and salt.

Dessert was fresh strawberries with a bit of lemon juice and sugar and Will's Pastiera with a glass of Proseco. The Pastiera was a huge success, it was Will's first try at making it from an old Neapolitan recipe. Mrs. A. Garibaldi ate 3 pieces, she declared it to be wonderful, with that sort of Official endorsement Will must be an Honorary Italian now.  We also had marrons glacés, a personal favorite with little candied violets.  
il professore and I in conversation after lunch.

Tomorrow is Pasquetta (little easter) so we are having roasted leg of lamb. The fun never stops and more guests at our house this time.

Easter Sunday in Rome

This morning is or was a bit cloudy, from the satellite picture I see that the Italian peninsula has a big band of clouds coming at us from Spain. But now the Sun is shining and from my widow I look over the park around our building and the birds are singing. The neighbourhood is very quiet and the dogs are sleeping in the sunshine. We live just outside the Aurelian walls at Porta Pia and this is largely a residential area but we do have our monuments, what would be Rome without them.

The Easter bunny has been by and got my little surprise when I woke up. Easter in Italy is a bigger festival than Christmas, it is the main religious holiday. Today as we have done for the last 4 years we will go to our friends house for lunch. We are 9 guests this year, will have all the traditional Italian foods for lunch which, on the first year in Italy, were a bit of a mystery to me. The food is associated with luck and good health and blessings, a mixture of old Pagan rituals from Roman Antiquity and Christian beliefs. Will is bringing  a Pastiera which he made from an old Neapolitan family recipe.

The list of guests promises to be interesting, S. always invites the most interesting people.

Also today I read a very interesting and thoughtful entry this morning by a fellow blogger  Ur-Spo of World Press on Easter from the Gospel of St-Mark and it gave me something to think about in a positive way. In it he says so much of our life's are spent worrying about things when we should instead trust in the future and in life.

As I write this my two puppies Nicky and Nora are sleeping on my lap.
Happy Easter day to all!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Yunnan Tea

When I was in China I discovered that the number of variety of teas was truly large. All teas originally came from China only much later under stealth did the British manage to steal some plants and develop rival red tea (dark) plantations in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and India.
One tea I like is the strong dark Yunnan tea which comes in a paper wrapper, the tea itself is dried up into a hard biscuit like shape.  With a knife you cut off what you need to make a pot and had nice clean (spring like) fresh water boiling hot of course.

Yunnan tea is also sold in other shapes like a pumpkin or like a gourd. The more it is aged the more expensive it is. Some tea is very expensive, a bit like a good bottle of wine or a rare vintage. Yunnan tea is a nice drink, relaxing and pungent in smell and taste. It has an elegant quality, it is to me what tea is suppose to be.

This label certifies provenance of the tea and was given to me by my friend Yi (Jack) in Beijing who loves a good cup of tea.
the dry and hard tea cookie is about 8 inches in diameter or 20 cm

this one is dated 2006-08-04

Friday, 22 April 2011


Pastiera is a sweet dessert pie made from wheat grains and ricotta cheese with orange and lemon blossoms. It is a typical dish of Naples and made for Easter. Many families have their own favourite recipe and several variations exist. Will got a friend from Naples to share with him his mother's recipe for Pastiera.
If you want to know how the recipe turned out look at this picture, from 2 pies he actually made 4 pastiera.
The house smells of wonderful fresh pastry and orange blossoms.

see Will's blog at for all the details.

Auguri a Tutti! Buona Pasqua!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Happy 2764!

Tu non vedrai nessuna cosa maggior di Roma, (you will never see anything in the world like Rome).

On 21 April we mark the foundation of the City of Rome by Romulus in what is today the Roman Forum at the foot of the Palatine Hill. The story goes that the God Mars impregnated the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia daughter of King Numitor of Alba Longa, leaving her pregnant with twins. Once born they were quickly abandoned on the banks of the river Tiber. A she-wolf took them in and nursed them along with her young, later shepherds raised them in a hut by what was to be a few centuries later the site of the Senate of Rome. Romulus set his hut on the Palatine hill and Remus is on the Aventine hill. Remus made fun of Romulus's pretension in trying to create a city and Romulus killed his brother for it and there you have it ROME! A city which grew in ancient times to become the centre of the then known world with a population of one million, we would have to wait until 1850 to see any other city, London come close in size.

There will be a big fireworks display on 21 April along the banks of the Tiber, AUGURI ROMA! Tu non vedrai nessuna cosa maggior di Roma!

Dea Roma watching over the tomb of the unknown Italian Soldier at the Altar of the Nation ROME

21 April 1926 - 21 April 2011

The 21 April marks the 85th Birthday of Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada. Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy both French and British Monarchs have reigned over our country since 1534.

She has been our Sovereign for the last 59 years. The only Monarch many Canadians have known. She has visited Canada more than 20 times with Prince Philip, visiting all regions and Provinces of our great Dominion. She has been an example of devotion, duty, stability, courage.

Best Wishes to Her Canadian Majesty on her birthday. May she live forever!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

That European feeling

Will and I were talking recently about going back to Canada and how it will be difficult to re-adapt ourselves to life in North America. It comes down to a feeling, un état d'âme, a view of life and of its priorities. There are important differences between Europe and Canada, in Europe there is a certain attachment to traditions, history, the arts and culture. There is a certain respect for knowledge and experience. People are more attached to their society and their group, maybe it is the age of the continent, its ancient history, traditions which are connected to the beginning of Western culture.
Berlin, Charlottenburg

Not that in Canada you do not find similarities with Europe, there are lots of similarities but life and how it is lived is very different. In Canada people are in a hurry, the idea of being efficient or being cost effective, of multi-tasking, of managing every minute of your time are very important. Taking time for a coffee break or having lunch is seen as a waste of time. How often you see managers scheduling a meeting at lunch time. You do not leave on holiday before the end of the day or take an extra day off during a major public holiday. Those are not values you find necessarily in Europe or at least they are not at the same level of importance in every day life.
Dresden, Saxony

Europeans see life differently and this is what suits us so much about living here. Family, friends, socializing is important. Arts and culture are important, appreciation of food and wines are important, people have time for conversing. It is all in the approach, how you see things and what is important, compared to a career and alway trying to accumulate stuff.

In many ways returning to Ottawa will be a big adjustment. Maybe we are just more European in out look. A question of appreciation in living well versus rushing through life.

Democracy and change

In the last 3 months we have seen in the news changes in Tunisia, Egypt and revolts in Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, Morocco and Algeria. What is amazing about all this upheaval is that contrary to what most news media in the West would assume, it is not about Islam, but about democracy, economic opportunity, respect and human rights and the basic right to live your life in peace without fear of some crazy dictator who thinks he can stay in power for ever and then have his family continue to rule after his death with the help of the police and army.  The youth of all those countries are the majority, are under 30 years of age, they are tired, they want a future like any young person anywhere. What we take for granted they do not have.  Little is understood of how anyone can live in such a country with constant repression and fear. We have the luxury to say whatever we want, we live in a system of law and order, checks and balances, where politicians are accountable and can be voted out of office. But they live in total fear of the dictator and the police, where you are at the mercy of the arbitrary.

However it is interesting to note how for commercial interests many Western countries are very reluctant to support any popular upraising in the Maghreb, the Middle-East or anywhere else. Better for politicians to protect commercial interests of a few companies lobbying Western Governments than stand-up for what we preach about democracy. It is almost as if democracy is only for certain people in the developed world and not for others who live in the developing world.

ARTE, the French-German television network which broadcasts in Europe had a very good news report on those events, sometimes graphic and disturbing, but it did give you a very good understanding of the violence dictators are willing to unleash on their own people just to remain in power at all cost. In the last few days, Libya's Ghadaffi has been using cluster bombs to attack civilian targets. Such weapons are totally forbidden in numerous international treaties and to use them against civilians is a major crime against humanity and a war crime. Needless to say that his doing this now has basically condemn him to the rank of evil dictator, if anyone believed that he could be salvageable as a politician. In Syria, President Assad says he regrets all the deaths of civilian demonstrators, he is the one ordering the troops to shoot on his own countrymen, his father did the same thing before him.

All of them invoke the fact that if they should step down, chaos and trouble will ensue. What a lot of nonsense, also to scare people, the dictators like to point the finger at the boogeyman, Al Quaeda or Islamist elements, the Egyptian Brotherhood, they are behind all this unrest. One has to be a simpleton or very poorly informed to believe such lies from men who have been in power for more than 30 years and are basically incompetent and corrupt. The source of all their troubles is exactly the misrule of their regimes.

Difficult for us to understand such political systems where one man rules by decree with the help of a puppet parliament. But nothing last forever and the youth of all those countries are tired of the same old songs and now they have a real chance to change it all for the better. We should do all we can to support this Arab Spring and put greedy commercial interests aside. After all are we not the ones always ready to give lessons in democracy and human rights.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Evening at the Parco della Musica, Roma

In the last 4 years in Rome we have enjoyed our subscription to the concerts of the Orchestra dell Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Maestro Antonio Pappano, the Choir under Ciro Visco is wonderful.
This evening it was Brahms, German Requiem, not a requiem for Germany and not a religious piece or nationalistic one, simply a humanist reflection, this is how Brahms presented it.

The hall at the auditorium is wonderful, all cherrywood, the sound is rich, the acoustics perfect. The German Requiem is one of my favorites, the other one is Fauré. The singers were baritone Peter Mattei and soprano Rebecca Evans.

This week throughout Italy it is the Settimana della Cultura. Every town has cultural activities, exhibits, concerts celebrating Italian art and culture.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Spring is here now!

Well the Roman Spring has sprung, in a matter of a few days. Average temperature now is about 20C. very nice and under a Roman blue sky unlike anywhere else.
Our neighbor's garden, orange trees heavy with fruit and this beautiful flowering tree.

In preparation for our departure from Rome in four months time, we have started to clean house and this weekend was cleaning out the library, we give our books away to friends or anyone who wish to read a book. One friend took 35 books that she was interested in. Next music CDs, we have over 900 of those, I am getting rid of about 20 cds not much but there you go, next it will be clothes, all the stuff I no longer wear will be given away, same with bedding and towels, etc... our plants are all destined to one person who has a green thumb and loves plants. I have been doing this all my life, each time we move, we purge, its a good exercise and helps you realize that stuff is just things and if you no longer want it better give it away.

Also this weekend, Will made Asparagus soup from asparagus stems mixed in with cream and chicken broth made from scratch and I made Chicken vegetable soup, using the remains of a roasting chicken and adding celery, carrots, cauliflower and onion.
Italian Ministry of the Air Force, building was built in 1930 under Mussolini.

The dogs had a long walk along the City Aurelian walls basically walking all around the old Praetorian Guard camp which is today occupied by the Ministry of the Italian Air Force.  The site has been a military installation for 2000 years, some things never change, the original stone walls of the camp are still standing.  Nora and Nicky were really tired afterwards, they got a biscuit and water and then went for a long doggie snooze. What a life go for a nice walk, have a biscuit and then snooze on the sofa, not a care in the world.
Piazza Mattei, the Fontana della Tartarughe  (of the tortoises), designed in 1585 by Giacomo della Porta and the Florentine scuptor Taddeo Landini, my favorite in Rome. The four boys have one foot on a dolphin and their hands are pushing little tortoises into the big basin. The piazza is one of the many entrances to the old Jewish Ghetto of Rome, the Mattei ducal family had the contract from the Pope to make sure the gates of the ghetto were locked at night so the Jews could not get out.