A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Roma

CSO warming up

We had the great fortune earlier this week on Monday to see the world renown Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) perform at the Teatro dell’ Opera di Roma. Ricardo Muti, CSO conductor since 2010 and the 10th conductor in the history of the CSO, is a native of Napoli. He has built an incredibly distinguished career in over 40 years, having conducted most of the important orchestras in the world. He is an honorary director for life at the Teatro dell’ Opera and continues to conduct operas there while director of the CSO.

I saw the CSO perform at Orchestra Hall and on the lawn of Ravinia in Highland Park, while living in Chicago many years ago. When I saw a poster in the Metro for the performance on Monday, I could not resist! Michael had not been to the symphony before, so I was excited to introduce him to this luscious art form.

We had dinner at Target restaurant near Piazza Republica prior to the concert. As we approached the Teatro, we saw a new shiny car, I think it was a new model Fiat, being shown off in the area in front of the Teatro. We stopped to admire it and struck up a conversation with Judy Harris, a well-known journalist who has lived in Rome for the past 50 years with her husband, a correspondent for the BBC. We watched as the Mayor of Rome entered, followed by paparazzi. We had front row seats, which were great for watching Mr. Muti conduct, but not so good for seeing the entire orchestra.

The performance was wonderful and the experience of being in the Teatro and seeing the CSO again, even more so!

Inside the Teatro dell' Opera

Crazy for Glasses

Rita, Dorina and Michael at Ottica Efrati

We first noticed them on our previous trip to Italy, when we visited Venice for the Biannale last summer. Everywhere we looked we saw another pair of really cool eye glasses. Everyone seemed to have them, each pair more fabulous than the previous pair; worn to be expressive, to show off your glasses and your personality. We found ourselves stopping people on the streets to ask them where they bought their frames.

In the States, especially if you live outside of New York, people who have to wear eyeglasses tend to have a fairly utilitarian attitude about their glasses. If you need your glasses to see all the time, you tend to have one pair which you wear all the time and they are usually not too flashy. I remember my dear friend Susan, who wears glasses all the time, last year had bought 2 pairs, so she could have a choice of which pair to wear, and this seemed not only radical but extravagant. I’ve known people who wear only reading glasses, the kind you can buy at the drugstore, and because they are inexpensive, they may have a few pairs and go a little “crazy” buying fun frames.

While in Venice last year, Michael and I each bought a new pair of frames, what we perceived to be “wild”, Italian style eyewear that POPS! off your face.  I have been wearing my green glasses a lot at home, and I get a lot of compliments on them. It’s fun.

One day while shopping on Via de Corso, we wandered into Ottica Efrati (you can follow them on Facebook) and Michael found a pair of translucent orange frames that he had to have. We made friends with the women who work there, Dorati and Rita, and they were very kind and helpful. Then during our visit to Capri, we continued to find ourselves in eyeglass shops, captivated by the fancy frames. Michael found a cool pair of black glasses that look like they are “upside down” and I found a fabulous pair of Fendi frames that have Swarovski crystals embedded all around. As a woman who loves sparkly things, I felt like I was in Heaven!  They we came upon CapriPeople, famous for their version of the currently popular round style of frames, and I had to have those too! I also bought another pair of really cool blue glasses that will likely become my new reading glasses once we are home.

Each new pair has found their way to Ottica Efrati (one week I was there 4 times!) to have lenses made and put in our new stylish frames. Their service has been quick, sweet and we would highly recommend visiting their shop when you are in Rome.

We are hoping our eyeglass obsession ends soon…or at least doesn’t become say, a shoe obsession….

Chiesa de St. Ignazio

Chiesa de St. Ignazio

Yesterday I took Michael sightseeing to Piazza Navona and to the Pantheon. We bought a wonderful original painting of the Roman skyline from an artist in Piazza Navona. It will fit perfectly in the hallway in the house in Phoenix and will be a sweet reminder of our time here in Roma.

As we wandered from the Pantheon to Via de Corso, we found ourselves in a piazza where we stopped to take in a cafe scene. It was past the lunch hour, but this cafe was still full of diners, soaking up the afternoon sun. Opposite the cafe, was a large church with it’s doors open. Someone told Michael we should go inside, and we did. We found ourselves inside Chiesa de St. Ignazio, an amazing church with multiple chapels, a frescoed ceiling, a few tombs, and remarkable artwork.

That’s one of the wonderful things about Roma. There are so many nooks and crannies…plain facades that hide great treasures inside.


Metro Strike

As I mentioned in my last posting, there was a planned strike of the transportation systems in Roma on Friday. The Metro only ran in the early morning and late afternoon, so people could get to and from work. Our friend and Michael’s co-worker Feddie told us that only one tenth of the normal service was running that day. He lives in Ostia, 50 km from the office in Cinicetta and it normally takes him one hour to get the work. Friday it took him 2 hours. Michael wasn’t feeling well, so he worked from home, and I stayed in our neighborhood and did not use public transportation.

We were awoken in the morning to lots of noise outside our bedroom window, horns honking and sirens howling. Normally there isn’t much traffic on our street,  but there was on Friday. The cleaning people were supposed to come and couldn’t get here due to the amount of traffic in the city.

We hear they will strike again next week. I hope it’s a day when we don’t have to go anywhere.

I was able to upload the short video I made outside our flat window to Facebook. The link is below.

More Adventures

Radio Vaticana

Today I visited Radio Vaticana (Vatican Radio) with my new friend from the palestra (gym), Leena Monti. She is a delightful 70ish yo Finnish woman who is a journalist. She has lived in Rome for over 30 yrs, having married a Roman, who she met in Finland. Her husband passed away many years ago, and she continues to live in the same flat around the corner from the palestra, that was originally his parents. She refers to her building as a “palace” and I’m sure when it was built and she moved in, it seemed like a palace! We met at the palestra one day a few weeks ago and started talking, having noticed each other because we were the only women working out who were working hard enough to sweat. She speaks some English, along with Italian and Finnish, and last week she invited me to accompany her to her office one day for a tour.

I met her outside her palace and we took the bus together towards her office. She pointed out that once we entered the building, we would be in Vatican City. She showed me around, and introduced me to her coworkers as her “American friend who doesn’t speak any Italian”.

Vatican Radio (there’s a link to it on the right)  provides radio programs in 45 languages, to people around the world not only about the going-ons of the Pope and religious programing, but also about politics, music and human interest stories. Each journalist writes, records, mixes and basically produces their own show. I met a woman from New Jersey, who told me she was from “the Garden State”. She had come to Rome during her last semester of college 30 yrs ago, married a Roman, and today was working on her music program highlighting the music of Bruce Springsteen!  This week Leena interviewed both the Prime Ministers of Italy and Finland for material for her radio program. She shared with me that she had a close relationship with the prior Pope, having corresponded with him for many years. She’s quite amazing.

To get  home, I took a bus suggested by Leena. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask specifically where the bus would let me off close to home, so it was a bit of an adventure. I got off at the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, which is about a 15 minute walk from home. Michael and I have passed it many times, usually in a cab headed somewhere else, and although I was tired, I decided to take a look. The Basilica is well known for begin the “Pope’s Church”, the only basilica in Rome outside of the Vatican where he will perform mass. It is very big and quite impressive and I snapped a few pictures on my iPhone which I can’t seem to post yet, so I’ll get them up soon.

Michael just told me there will be a transportation strike tomorrow, with the Metro only running in the morning and evening so people can get to and from work. It will be a good day for me to stay local. Until the next time…Arrividerci!

p.s I think I got the pics up now!



Today I ventured out to the Teatro de Opera to see about getting tickets to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra which will be performing here on Monday. While walking to the Metro, I stumbled onto a traffic accident between a bus and a car. Luckily no one appeared to be hurt. There are so many cars, motorbikes, buses and pedestrians all jockeying for space on the roads;  accidents and dented cars seem to be part of the way of life here.

I scored tickets for Monday for the Symphony and we will be in the first row. It’s a good thing I didn’t convert the euros to dollars when buying the tickets! As Michael says, “Go BIG or stay at home!” The last time I saw the Chicago Symphony was at the Opera House in Chicago, many, many years ago when I lived there.

After purchasing tickets, I meandered down Via Nazionale (window shopping, of course!) to Piazza Venezia where the Vittorio Emanuele Monument sits. It began to be built in the late 1800’s in honor of the first king of Italy, and is often referred to as “the wedding cake” due to it’s monsterous size and the fact that it’s white against the backdrop of golden hues of the rest of Roman buildings. I visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then wandered inside the museum which chronicles the fight for independence of Italy and showcases the founders of the country. There is a lovely terrace that surrounds the building with a cafe, where I sat for a glass of wine while taking in the surrounding views.

I was struck again on the way home by how amazing Rome is. Everywhere you look there are ruins, showcasing a part of ancient history. It seems it would take at least a lifetime of living here to not only understand it all, but also to see it all.



Candy Stand in Piazza Risorgimento

Candy Stand in Piazza Risorgimento

Via Cola di Renzo

I ventured out today by bus to a recommended shopping area, Via Cola di Renzo, which runs next to the Vatican between Piazza Risorgimento and the Tiber River. To get there I walked a short distance from our flat and took the 81 Bus. The Roman bus system is quite amazing. The buses are often so full one is packed like a sardine; it’s usually smelling of either diesel fuel or body order; and it’s so far guaranteed to be very hot inside. When one’s not packed like a sardine, it can be a great way to travel around the city.

Today, I encountered masses of people heading to and from the Vatican; an open air market selling shoes, jewelry and other chotchkes; a food market; street side vendors selling inexpensive clothing, purses and belts; and a few good clothing stores where I picked up a few new shirts. Having come to Rome with a just a few suitcases, after a month, I’ve grown tired of wearing the same 4 shirts.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of window shopping here, as most Romans do. There are zillions of clothing shops, all selling the latest fashions. This season, all the tops for women are very big and loosely structured. For someone of small stature, this seems ridiculous. Why would I want to look fatter than I am? So just to be sure this wasn’t just an Italian fad, I went online the other day to, where I do some shopping while at home. And sure enough, big blousey tops are the fashion at home too. So I succumbed to the style and bought a few. Now I just need to get more hangers! Michael keeps reminding me that what I buy here has to somehow get home in the few suitcases we brought with us. I’m thinking of shipping when the time comes, not schlepping!

Italiano vs Europei

A very funny short video by Bruno Bozzetto, shown to us by a neighbor while hanging out at Leon Restaurante and Wine Bar in San Giovanni. It’s so true, even if you’re American and not European!

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