Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vintage gifts in Rome and the countryside

What was  Christmas shopping like in Rome 30+ years ago?

 As part of  the Italy blogging round table about gifts, I  offer  a  look at  gift giving in Italy in the past and how we can recapture the spirit of "olde Italy"  today.

 Take a walk down memory lane with  this, my first article published on the English language press in Italy, for  which I received   15,000 lire, a princely sum in those days.

The theme of this vintage article: how to save money by  investing  in intelligent gifts, rather than just   mindless spending, is still valid.  In fact nowadays it is fashionable  to be thrifty.  

 Useful,  practical gifts are happily received   and many shops in Rome and other cities are  promoting  this type of  holiday gift-giving by issuing  gift certificates.

Food products and cooking classes  make excellent  practical gifts. 
Speaking of   food...what better  gift than a few litres of  this year's extra virgin biological olive oil from one of the small, independent producers or cooperatives in the  Vetralla area.  

Lighting of  the Christmas tree 
Here are some photos  taken today (Dec. 10th )  at the Olive Oil Festival here in Vetralla.     

 This year several stands are selling another speciality of  the area : chocolate in its many shapes and forms  

delicious chocolates made in Vetralla

liqueurs include limoncello 

Antica Latteria production

plants and handicrafts, Il Cerchio

 Ask  your friends  who produce olive oil   if they have any new oil  for sale. 

While  in Vetralla  stop by  Libri di Natura, the only  shop  still open in the historic center, near the Duomo,  for  stocking stuffers , period  prints especially  those  featuring animals  and   birds, as well as  hand made  jewelery and antique  glass.
silverware  from the past

vintage coffee makers and potato mashers

angels for Christmas

Who remembers using these  ink pens?  I do...
During the Olive Oil Festival (this weekend Dec  10-11) )  several bancarelle and artisans shops offer handmade and vintage items.   Just a few euro and lots of nostalgia.  
bell tower of San Silvestro,Rome

waiting for  passengers in Piazza di Spagna
 It was sad to see that  almost every one of the  places mentioned in the 1978 Christmas shopping  article has disappeared.

Taking a stroll to Piazza S. Silvestro I learned that the huge Remainders bookshop  closed about six months ago. 

Thankfully  the Anglo-American bookshop  is   nearby on  Via della Vite   and  still flourishing. 
Besides the usual books in English  about Rome, they carry  Etruria Editions  latest  publications.

To re-live the atmosphere of   vintage Christmas shopping stroll through the centro storico and  enjoy the Christmas lights and crowds.

The large malls and shopping centers  are to be  avoided  and preference given to  independent,  local shops.

Spanish Steps-high profile shopping area
angel  via del Babuino 
The prices in Rome's  touristy Spanish Steps area (also  known as the English Ghetto) have  always been  above most budgets.  

   Budget antiques can still be found  in  Vignanello near Viterbo where country auctions draw dealers and collectors from all over  central Italy.

 The specialists source antique  furniture and art objects here then resell them  in their   High Street  antiques  shops.  
   You can check the catalogue online to see if there is anything that interests you  or special  people on your  gift list.

general view   Eurantico 
Murano  glass 
kitsch ceramics 


 Remember that  old saying --- one (wo)man's junk is another's treasure?     Next door  to the auction center   is a non-descript doorway  leading into a series of tiny rooms filled with shelves and boxes of  old books, magazines  and knick knacks.  

If you have time to browse and don't mind getting your hands  dirty  you might find a gem...maybe  one that will make someone very happy at Christmas.
books  at  bargain prices

Irish guidebook 1953 - 2 euro
Mussolini  glass  1940 -  30 euro
 Mario among his books and knick knacks

P.S. I came back  with  4 books (spending 8 euro in all), including
  a perfect  first edition of  "A Time in Rome" by E.Bowen

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Olive Marmelade,Medlars and Discoveries in the Duomo

 We  were not able  to celebrate Thanksgiving with a traditional turkey dinner  for local butchers  make the  birds available only after  December  8th, the feast of the  Immaculate Conception.  Nevertheless several interesting things  happened in this last week of November . 

Here is a quick rundown..... 

Conference  at the Prefecture of Viterbo  with archeologist Francesca Ceci
Prof. Stephen Steingraber, Francesca Ceci, Lt.Col. Luigi Grassi 

Conference at the Prefecture, Viterbo

Archeotuscia  conference 
On Friday evening   a large group of   Air Force NCO Academy students   with  Lt.Col.  Luigi Grassi  followed  the interesting  conference on the Viterbo area’s rock hewn  necropolis. 

 Winter  is the best  time to  make outings  to the numerous  Etruscan sites  that surround Vetralla, Viterbo and Blera. For  information and dates for excursions  check the website of Archeotuscia.

Discoveries   in the Duomo
While  preparing   the new  tourist guide for  the town of Vetralla’s Pro Loco (a volunteer position!) I  came upon  this  terracotta sculpture  which had been hidden under  a side altar  for  at least  a century.
It depicts  a very effiminate  Adeodato, one of the  town’s  early patron saints before St. Ippolito was given this title. The blonde wig, dagger, clothing and sandals shows  he was a Roman martyr.

Another special  discovery was this marble  ciborium dating from the Renaissance period.   It needs a good cleaning and the door, which was probably of silver, is missing  but at least  it is still in place.  A precious altar cloth (paliotto) seems  to be missing.


             Medlar  (nespolo)  Tree with Ripe Fruit
This single  fruit  tree   set among our   80 olive trees, is a rarity today  but  they were  often depicted in  medieval frescoes and  Renaissance  tapestries. 
 The fruit  is almost  ripe and they have an ancient,  unusual  taste.  

Have any of you ever tasted them? 

our single medlar  tree 


Olive Marmelade –Marmellata d’olive 
 A few  well laden  olive trees  were spared from the  recent harvest and  this week the big, black fruits were gathered  by hand and  made into  marmellata d’olive. 

 It is a very  time consuming  task for the  olive pits  must be  removed  one by one- by hand.

 Hours of   cooking  and canning follow. The resulting marmelade will be used  in several  traditional Vetralla  meat dishes during the year.  

Fulvio picking the  best olives  for marmelade

the best, biggest  olives  are used to make this marmelade

 Looking for  the recipe ?  It can be found on  p. 84 (next to the photo of Milena picking olives)  in Fulvio Ferri's recipe book  Olio e Ricordi in Cucina”  available only   at  the Anglo American bookshop  in Rome,  Libri di Natura in Vetralla or better yet,  directly  from  the author  with an inscription and free postage to Italian addresses.
  Visit this page to find out more and make your order  in time for Christmas.   DEc. 

Where  to find Mary Jane  next week

Tuesday, Nov.  29  San Silvestro Church, Rome 3 p.m. book signing. 4:30 p.m  Santa Susanna Church, Rome  with books for the Christmas  raffle.

Saturday, Dec. 3 Loyola  University Rome Campus, for  Democrats Abroad   meeting

Monday, Dec.  5 Università della Tuscia,Viterbo USAC Study Abroad Program-meeting with Creative Writing  group.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Indian Summer in Etruria

During  the past  weekend  while  we   watched the dramatic changes in  Italy’s  government and worried  about  the  economic  situation,  life  at the  local level  went on as usual   with  many  social and cultural  events  to enjoy .

 People seemed to be  having more fun than usual: was it   due to  the perfect  Indian summer days  -l’ Estate di San Martino- or  was the jubilant  feeling connected to the political situation?

what happened to the "O"s?
November means   the olive harvest  but   there is still time for  visiting  Rome, just 1 ½ hours  train ride to the south. 

 It was  a delight to see that our  favorite independent   bookshop Anglo-American on Via della Vite  had given a place of honor   in the main window  to “Etruria-travel,history and itineraries in central Italy”.  

   If  you are looking for  Christmas  gift  books   that don’t come from amazon   come by  on Saturday  Nov.  19 at  around noon   and  I’ll be happy  to sign  a personalized  copy  of one of  my  books.

Cristina  of Anglo-American bookshop

window display features "Etruria"
Sergio Di Giacomo from Messina and Marcello
-book signing, Nov  19th   at Anglo American bookshop

Even after   46 years in Rome there are still new discoveries  to make, such as the interior  of  majestic  Palazzo Cenci Bolognetti  in the ghetto area .  

study area  

fresco of  Roman Forum, Arch of Triumph,  Meta Sudans 

Porto Ripetta, Tiber river 

office  with a view 

geometrical tiles in Palazzo Cenci Bolognetti 
 The fortunate  American  students who study here are  surrounded  by architectural details  such as a spiraling staircase  similar to that of Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola, frescoed walls and  pavements exactly  like those in my  humble abode.   

Friday Nov.  11  brought  scholars from several universities  to the Museo  della Città e del Territorio  in Vetralla  to discuss  San Francesco church, just across the street. 

   Viterbo’s  new bishop H.E.  Lino  Fumagalli  showed up after  an unplanned  tour of the surrounding  countryside when his driver  got lost   and  scholars  discussed  the frescoes, pavements,  sculptures and history of the monumental  church  which holds  the most complete  fresco cycle of  the life of St. Francis of Assisi.  
Elisabetta de Minicis (r) director of Museum 

Elisabetta Scungio, one of the speakers

Enrico Parlato (Univ della Tuscia) and other speakers

Stephan Steingraber, Fulvio Ferri and other  attendees

Since  Friday’s date   had  the magical   numeration  11-11-11  (11th day, 11th month,  2011)  it  automatically  was a special sort of   day.   Bookbinder  friend  Lucia  and  her husband   celebrated  the 120th anniversary  of their  business  Legatoria Viali  with a show and   reception in Viterbo.

hand crafted  books by Legatoria Viali 

a toast  to  120 years of  activity 

Artist  Nikki Borghese and  antiques expert  Elena Solari from Orvieto enjoy the sunlight 
Sunday  was also a very  full day  which began with  a country barbeque   at  Le Masse di San Sisto,  sponsored  by  AWAR- American Women’s Association of Rome .  

Mario Bracci Devoti  chats with one of the AWAR ladies
an American family discovers  Le Masse, Vetralla

Swedish  ladies  at Le Masse, Vetralla/Viterbo

AWAR President Lee Skelton shares some wine with local artist
 The reason for the party  was to raise funds to  create  wells for  drinking water.    “Wine  to Water “  was the theme and  those  attending  were able  to  take a dunk in the hot thermal water,   meet  new friends and enjoy the    delightful wines  of Tenuta Castelnuovo Tancredi .

Sunday evening  brought  another  international cultural event to Vetralla,  organized  by  Opera Extravaganza.  .  
 Dragana Moles and Susanna Ohtonen -an international flavor to music 
audience  of  lovely ladies from Holland, England, Germany Austria
How Dante  saw  Inferno
 Serbian-born soprano  Dragana Moles-accompanied  by pianist Francesco Scialdone- delighted  a large audience  with a  program of  arias from operas  and  Neapolitan songs.    

Learning  about  Canto V  of Divina Commedia- Vetralla Library 
Awards ceremony at  University Tuscia 
Winners of  award for  best  doctoral thesis

And  the  weekend  also  brought  the arrival of  this year's harvest of  extra virgin olive oil....celebrated  with  a fireside

dinner... the first of the season.