Tag Archives: rome

Walking on Water



What better way to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Fendi fashion house than to create a runway on the water’s surface of the incredible Trevi Fountain in Rome! Many large corporations (and among those, many fashion houses) have taken on the costs to restore Italy’s monuments and treasures. Fendi’s project was the Trevi Fountain – and to commemorate the end of the restoration as well as their 90th anniversary, they put on this incredible runway show!


Watching the models stroll across the fountain on a sheer runway truly looks like they are walking on the water’s surface. The backdrop and the fashions are one of a kind – absolutely a phenomenal sight to behold. (Photos are from PanoramItalia)

Roma, Underground (Part 1 of the Series) – A Book Review



This suspenseful novel follows Alabaster Black, a.k.a. Bianca Nerini, a forensic accountant, as she tries to hide in Rome from her former “mysterious” employer, Rendition, after one of her contacts disappears and is presumed dead.   While in Rome, she meets Dante and gets involved with his archaeological hobby of exploring Rome’s underground.

Courtesy of Argiletum Tour Italy

Courtesy of Argiletum Tour Italy

Dante is also an investigator who is trying to figure out who is stealing and selling Rome’s ancient artifacts.

Courtesy of The History Blog

Courtesy of The History Blog

The two of them devise a scheme to trap the thieves by making up a fake discovery.  Meanwhile, while they are trying to figure out who these players are, Bianca learns that she has been found hiding in Rome. Lots of characters are presented, each with lots of personality, as we’re led around Rome, both above and below ground.

The story is fast moving, but at times, I found that I was getting lost trying to keep all the characters straight.  Also, some things were explained in really technical terms and I wasn’t that interested in the details.  But that’s just me, that sort of stuff doesn’t really appeal to me.  I’m sure others will appreciate the technicality of the descriptions!  All in all, it was a fun read and kept me hooked all the way through.


Secrets of the Eternal City Unveiled…hopefully!


ancient_rome[1]There are some huge projects underway in Rome to unveil ancient sites never before seen and which have been recently discovered.   The thought of seeing these never before seen treasures (except when they existed in their heyday) is SO exciting!  Can you imagine seeing frescoes and mosaics dating back thousands of years?  According to Rome’s mayor, Ignazio Marino, there are over 100,000 archaeological treasures in “storage” and hundreds of sites yet to be excavated!

Mayor Marino visited the Italian Consulate in San Francisco recently and showed the audience present several until-now unseen ancient Roman archaeological treasures.  One of these hidden wonders was the Cryptoporticus beneath Trajan’s Baths.  This buried gallery, which predates the baths, is covered in frescoes that depict a walled port city of the ancient world.  Whether the city is real or just a project design, is up for discussion and being studied, I’m sure!   Definitely an archaeologist’s dream!


Another hidden gem are the gladiator barracks next to the Colosseum where modern day visitors can walk the same steps taken by those brave men so long ago.  The mayor has already done much in Rome to bring back the layout of Ancient Rome (like banning car traffic from the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum),  but he wants to do more to return the archaeological fabric to the Eternal City.  Among these are to remodel the Via dei Fori Imperiali (constructed by Mussolini in the 1930″s and which divides the Roman Forum from the Forum of Augustus) and the ancient Via Alessandrina.  These two renovations would help to make the area around the Forum the largest archaeological park in the world!


Lastly presented, but definitely not the last of the excavations, is the retrofitting of the largest round tomb in the world – the Mausoleum of Augustus.  The vision would be to allow visitors to be able to walk into this giant structure to view it’s massive construction and marbled beauty.



“We must not only work so next generations can see what we see today, but also so they can see what we cannot see today.” 

The New Roman Colosseum




A few years ago, I wrote a post on the search for someone to hand over 25 million Euros for the restoration of the famous Colosseum in Rome.  Luckily someone has come forward with the capital:  Diego della Valle, CEO of Tod’s, the luxury shoe manufacturer.


Della Valle is a native Italian with lots of pride for his homeland.  “I’m someone who has had enormous luck in life and when I could give back, I did,” says Della Valle. “This is a monument that not only belongs to Italy’s patrimony but the entire world.” The project began last December and will take about 5 years to complete.  So far, they have begun by removing the soot caused by dust and smog almost 2000 years old.  The travertine stone has been blasted with water at low pressure to reveal the true ochre and red colors of the original Roman stone.  So far, they have cleaned 14 of the 80 or so pillars.  Once this first phase is done, they will continue by reattaching broken fragments and fortifying them with mortar.  The iron bars that dot the surface will be repaired and the metal rails will be replaced with newly forged iron gates.  A tourist center and café will be built underground in front of the Colosseum’s entrance and lastly, in the Colosseum’s cellar, where roaring animals and sword-wielding gladiators were once detained, the brick walls will be restored.

The bidding for the project began in 2010 and the two final contenders were Tod’s and Ryanair!  It’s a good thing that Ryanair did not win the bid because it intended to wrap the monument in advertising banners!  Now that would have been a sight for sore eyes!


Surprisingly enough, this seemingly generous donation elicited a huge controversy headed by the Italian consumer protection organization, Codacons because they disagreed with Tod’s having use of the Colosseum for preapproved corporate events.  Seems to me that if someone is being generous enough to hand over 25 million Euros they should be allowed a little bit of appreciation – a few private corporate events doesn’t seem like much to ask for!  Much better than advertising banners everywhere! This stupid controversy delayed the project for over 2 years, with all those millions just sitting unused, until the courts dismissed the case due to a technicality.  Della Valle wasn’t phased by this, but he did state “…I do believe that something as simple as, ‘I want to give you money, let’s spend it’ shouldn’t be so difficult.  My idea was always to use this [donation] as a restart.  The country is having problems right now. But there is a lot of will and desire to do things. All that’s needed is to show people that things can happen and how to do it.  I see it as an obligation.  Italians who have had success and luck in life should give back to their country.”


This philosophy has elicited a positive response from several other notable Italian companies:  Fendi will be restoring the Trevi Fountain and Diesel will take on Venice’s Rialto Bridge.  Thankfully, there are these very generous patrons who value the rich historical significance of these extraordinary masterpieces and are willing to come to their rescue.




An Oldie…And Definitely a Goody


I can’t believe that I had never seen this classic film, shot entirely on location in Italy, until last week. This movie is always at the top of any list involving movies shot in Italy, therefore it was a shocker that I’d never seen it before! Well, I had to quickly change that by renting it on Netflix! The film I’m speaking about is Three Coins in the Fountain, the 1954 blockbuster!

It’s the story of 3 American secretaries that are sent to Italy to work for an American company…and in the interim, they fall in love!


The story line is simple…the plot is simple…the entire movie is simple…BUT it is amazingly entertaining! It’s sometimes a refreshing experience to watch a happy movie that doesn’t take too much brain power to figure out. It’s simple entertainment and a good way to get whisked away to Italy for a couple of hours, while watching some incredible scenery!


The scenes from Rome and Venice are truly beautiful, and I loved the fashionable clothes worn by the actresses as well…especially that chartreause polka dot dress with the mustard colored belt and sweater worn by Jean Peters in her role as Anita! Can you tell I liked that dress? I would definitely wear it, even in this day!


Great movie! Great scenery! Great fashion! What more do we want in a movie?

Lucrezia and Family



Borgia, that is…wow!  We have been watching the Showtime mini series The Borgia’s and have gotten through Season 1 and Season 2.  Season 3 is coming up beginning this April.  It’s been an interesting tale, full of intrigue, deceipt, lust, and power.  As I’m sure you know, I love stories of Renaissance Italy.  I’m always drawn to that era, but I don’t think I would have liked to have lived through it.  Human life didn’t seem to have much value back then.  If someone got in the way of someone else, whether it was for wealth or love or jealousy, they were conveniently taken care of.  Even siblings and family members were not exempt to revenge!

imagesCALGKWN2The story of the Borgia’s follows the life of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia).  He was a Spaniard of common descent who rose to power within the Vatican.  He had many mistresses and, prior to becoming the Pope, fathered four children.  The male children were given roles of power within the Vatican, while his daughter Lucrezia was marriedimages[6] off to wealthy and prominent families in order to gain more power for his papacy.  The success of the papacy depended on how much power he could wield to get what he wanted, and his daughter was a tool he could use to build alliances with various ruling families. The head of the Borgia clan was an interesting dichotomy of a man. Both ruthlessly ambitious and utterly devoted to his family, he used his position in the Catholic church to acquire power, influence, and wealth. He was incredibly shrewd and managed to outmaneuver his rivals at every turn. He took care of anyone that got in his way.  He enjoyed the carnal pleasures of life, particularly the company of beautiful women, and this left him open to his enemies.   It didn’t seem like the main focus of being a Pope in those days was to do God’s will…and the Popes were not what I would consider holy!  They seemed to break every commandment…and merely confessed their way out of it!

According to this mini-series, which I’m sure has been embellished for the sake of creating some excitement, portrayed each member of the Borgia family as being ruthless if someone got in his or her way, or if the family’s honor was at stake.  They were all tortured souls with hidden demons.  I’m sure some of the facts are true and therefore give us a glimpse into life in Italy during this period.

The show is gruesome at times, with stabbings and tortures at every turn.  It’s love-making scenes are, at the least “R” rated, if not “X” at times!  The depictions of the grand Italian cities and architectural elements within the Vatican and the palazzos are beautiful, and hopefully fairly realistic.  Jeremy Irons, with his “regal sneer” is the perfect actor for the role.  He portrays a man of extreme power, and his voice has that perfect snobbish air to bring home the point!


I am anxious for the new season to begin to see what treacheries are in store for Lucrezia and family…

Dear Dan Brown…I Have a Storyline for You!


Dear Dan Brown,

Since your Vatican mysteries, Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code, are such great novels, I have a new storyline for you.  This is full of Vatican mystery, conspiracy, Mafia…all the elements of a great Dan Brown mystery!  But this story is a real life drama…a mystery that’s been unsolved since 1983…when the young 15 year old daughter of a lay Vatican employee vanished on her way to music lessons.  Her name was Emanuela Orlandi.  Her disappearance has been unsolved for all these years, but perhaps may finally be figured out.  Her kidnapping was at one time linked to the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, but nothing had ever been proven.

In 2008, a new chapter was opened in the case when a woman came forward to claim ther her ex-boyfriend, a mobster by the name of Enrico De Pedis and his gang, the Magliana’s, kidnapped the girl.  The order for the kidnapping had come from Archibishop Paul Marcinkus, the late U.S. prelate responsible for heading up the Vatican bank and who had been linked to a huge Italian banking scandal in the 1980’s.  At the time, the Archbishop and the Vatican said that the claims were absurd and they did not pursue the investigation.   There were allegations that the Vatican did not fully cooperate with the investigation – were they hiding something?

Enrico De Pedis was murdered in 1990 and was buried in the Sant’Apolinare Basilica, adjacent to Piazza Navona…and near some very important Catholics…a rather unusual resting place for a reputed mobster!

Over the years, stories have surfaced that the young Emanuela was buried alongside of him. In 2005, an anonymous caller said that the answer to her disappearance lay in De Pedis’ tomb.  Just today, with the approval of the Vatican and the De Pedis’ family, the mobster’s tomb was  opened.  In it lay only one body….but nearby in the ossuary lay about 200 containers containing bones.  These bones were removed and will be tested over the next few weeks to see if they belong to the missing teenager.  The Vatican has given its full authority to exhume the bones and to carry out this investigation in the hopes that the mystery of the girl’s disappearance may finally be solved after all these years.

Mr. Brown…I have no question that you can make this real life story into another great novel and one that would be a page turner like all the others that you have given us!  I hope that you consider my suggestion for your new book!


Il Mio Tesoro

Blessed Pope John Paul II


As many of you know, Pope John Paul II was beatified in Rome yesterday before more than one million faithful followers.  St. Peter’s Square was filled to the brim and many of those present were dignitaries, royalty, and heads of state.  Lech Walesa, the leader of the solidarity movement in Poland, was also present.

Pope Benedict XVI declared that Pope John Paul II is blessed, and will be canonized once a second miracle can be attributed to him.  The first miracle was the cure of a nun in France who had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease, the same affliction that the late Pope suffered from.  She awoke one night, after having prayed to him for his intercession, completely cured of her symptoms.

Pope John Paul II performed many wonderful deeds during his 26 years as the head of the Catholic Church, but his greatest achievement was most likely his involvement with the fall of Communism in his beloved Poland and the rest of the countries behind the Iron Curtain.

I never had the privilege to meet the Pope in person, but I do have family members that did.  They described a feeling of knowing that they were before a very spiritual person while in his presence.  His demeanor and mannerisms were “holy”, and he truly exuded something indescribable.  Here a couple of pictures of my cousin and his visit with the Pope.  You can see how much he loved the children 🙂

A bit of Pope John Paul II hit close to home yesterday while attending Mass at St. Anne’s of the Sunset Church in San Francisco (this was where I attended elementary school) .  There was a chair sitting on a side altar which hadn’t been there before.  It was adorned with gold cords and on it was a plaque that the Knights of Columbus had placed.  Evidently, back in 1972, while Pope John Paul II was still a cardinal, he visited St. Anne’s and sat in that very same chair.  If and when he becomes a Saint, that chair will be a Holy Relic that will remain at St. Anne’s.  BIG NEWS for this little neighborhood church!!!  The priest couldn’t help but show it off during the homily!  He was so proud!

God’s Spy – A Book Review


God’s Spy, the first novel by Juan Gomez-Jurado, is a fast moving and exciting read about a serial killer that is stalking the cardinals before the conclave to elect a new pope after the death of John Paul II. 

It’s setting is Vatican City at a time when thousands of faithfuls have gathered for the funeral of John Paul II. 

We know, early on, the identity of the killer, but trying to catch him before he strikes again is the key!  The Vatican secret police, as well as special investigators from Italian intelligence work together, while at times butting heads.   A special priest, trained by the CIA, is also dispatched to figure out the case.   The characters in the book are well described and exciting – they each have a story to tell!  The book ends abruptly, without answering all the questions that arose while reading the story.  Perhaps it was leaving the door open for a sequel!!

If you enjoyed Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, you will enjoy this thriller as well.

I have read this book as part of the Italy in Book Challenge 2011.

Ancient Rome….Taking a Step Back in Time


We are always a bit late keeping up with series on HBO (probably because we don’t subscribe to HBO!!), and therefore missed it when they were airing ROME.  But, after hearing rave reviews on the series, we rented it on NetFlix.  Wow!!!  What an epic show it was!  The production was definitely worthy of the many awards that it received.  It was mostly filmed in the Cinecitta Studios in Rome on a set that spanned over 35 acres! 

The story takes place during the 1st century, and it begins with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, and ends with the reign of Emperor Octavian Caesar and the take over of Egypt (including the deaths of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra).   Even though the story has some fictional characters, many of the historical data is accurate and allows you to experience life of Ancient Rome.  It was a cruel world, with the value of human life at an absolute minimum.  Death was around every corner – both in murder as well as self inflicted for the sake of maintaining honor.  The important historical figures are portrayed in graphic detail, but obviously portrayed through the eyes of the director and slanted towards his interpretation of what these people were really like.

The show follows the lives of two fictional characters, Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenas, as they go from being soldiers in Julius Caesar’s army to civilians, and back to soldier life.  This series is very graphic – both in sexual content as well as violece.  People are stabbed, maimed, and gored with no sparing of the blood and guts.  It is all there for us, the viewers, to witness.  The sexual scenes leave nothing to the imagination, either!  But this is probably how it was back then, and all that was important was the here and now – they didn’t believe that their earthly actions would bring them to consequence in the afterlife.  That came afterward!! 

What enthralled me was trying to equate what I was seeing in “ancient Rome” to what I have seen in “modern day Rome”.  The forum, of course, was at it’s peak as far as architectural perfection, but what captivated my imagination was more the “neighborhoods” depicted in the series.  The Aventine, where the common folk lived in the series, is now one of the wealthier neighborhoods of Rome.  Each of these different districts were ruled by their own “gang lords”.  Different “gangs” or collegiums (as they were called back then) ruled different parts of the city, protecting their inhabitants and fighting against each other if need be.  The dynamics between the upper and lower classes, as well as the practice of slavery, was interesting to witness as well.  So much cultural and sociological development was protrayed in this series, which is, what I think, allowed it to earn such high acclaim.  I can wholeheartedy recommend this series to any historical buff who is interested in learning more about the culture of Ancient Rome.  Kudos to the producers, writers,and directors of this epic series!  I wish there were more of these historical fiction mini-series to bring history alive!