Io parlo Italiano

Make Noise, Not War: HONK! Fest Spans The Region

Perhaps you were one of the thousands of revelers who made it up to Somerville and Cambridge this holiday weekend to stomp and sweat to the collective din of brass, reed, percussion and activism that is the annual HONK! Fest. If you weren't, don't fret - Titubanda, the legendary 35-piece brass, percussion, reed and dance band hailing di Roma has one more day of local parade action in store for us.

Titubanda performs activist street band joy at Providence's Kennedy Plaza - October 13, 2008

Above: Titubanda performs with swirling, whirling audience participation at Providence's Kennedy Plaza - October 13, 2008.

While they may be swathed in woolen scarves and coats, as our crisp New England October climate feels like arctic ice to our Mediterranean friends; (case in point: my brother-in-law vacillated between the ubiquitous speedo and baffling winter garb while visiting us in AUGUST) however, cold fingers will not stop the hot music!

Join Titubanda today at 7pm for a joyous parade, beginning at Fulton Hall (corner of Hope and Benevolent), and heading down College Hill to RISD's Market House Square for an 8:30pm concert. From traditional popolo village songs, to "avant-guard jazz via Latin American rhythms and Arabic melodies", Titubanda will leave you crying "Bis!"

Baffi D'Oro (The Golden Mustaches)

While I don't go much for the smoke and mirror froofery of the leading political party conventions, I admit that I have been tuning in here and there to the DNC (until the excess of barfy inspirational classic rock forces me to change the channel to good old fashioned baseball). Regardless, I'm trying to put on a brave face for the election this November, and give my fellow Americans the benefit of the doubt that they won't persist in supporting the ongoing error of the current Republican party.

Presidential Facial Hair Hall of Fame Gocco Stickers by jelloh on Etsy

Speaking of brave face, check out these extraordinary Presidential Facial Hair Hall of Fame gocco stickers from jelloh on Etsy. While our current candidates are silky smooth, and suspiciously not sporting anything as rockin' as mutton chops, why not celebrate the presidential facial hair legacy of our forefathers Lincoln, Roosevelt, Taft (and Van Buren)! Printed on "fancy printmaking paper", these large handprinted gocco stickers are the original designs of Philadelphia based artist El Lohse. Pick up a mixed pack of 10 baffi (mustaches) sporting presidents for only $12 shining American dollars!

Presidential Facial Hair Hall of Fame Gocco Stickers by jelloh on Etsy

Culture Shock: How I forgot what rain looked like and where are the figs?

Ciao amici! Ho ritornato.

The scene: A typical bumpy landing at Logan airport. Squinting as I disembark, I recoil in horror at an unfamiliar temperature or weather condition (in this case, torrential rain, from which I have become alienated during my stay under the tranquil summer umbrella of the high pressure system planted over the Meditteranean Sea!)

Alas, all dreams must end, and my rude awakening of returning stateside to stone-faced airport personnel and the responsibilities of real life has been softened markedly by the abundance of ombrelloni-free New England beaches and fresh farmer's market produce! Hooray for tomatoes and corn!

Fresh organic figs from Montefalco, Umbria

I will continue to cry in my sleep for lack of fresh figs, like these ambrosia-filled organic gems plucked warm from the tree in my friends' Montefalco garden...


While the lack of fresh figs, proper gelato, and non-imposter mozzerella di bufala in the U.S. continues to trouble me, fear not! I am hard at work updating the site to improve loading time and fix some broken image links. Stay tuned for new posts and Providence-area show reviews as July makes way for August. Ritorno fra poco.

Copping a Feel at Villa Adriana

Just 45 minutes north of Rome, Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa) is an archeological spectacle unparalleled in my experience. Nestled in the hills near Tivoli, the site was built by Emperor Hadrian to serve as his imperial palace on top of pre-existing Republican ruins, starting around 117 A.D. Today the site covers at least 80 hectares, of which we were able to explore extensively without encountering another human being for a stretch of two hours!

Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa - Tivoli

Like many adventures of mine in Italy, I left for this day trip with only a scant idea of what I was getting into...but fortunately brought along my pareo and a large bottle of Uliveto mineral water (the official water of the Italian national soccer team!). With temperatures hovering at 40ºC nell' ombra, (≤100ºF in the shade), I was glad for both the "insta-turban" properties of my pareo, and the historically advanced public water distribution technology of the Roman Empire!

Even though the Villa has been extensively looted throughout the centuries for building materials, marble sculptures and frescoes, certain treasures survive intact. Amongst the sun-bleached ruins: glimpses of art and interior design from almost 2,000 years ago. In the "Hospitalia" building (once reserved for guests and/or the Emperor's guard), each of the 10 sleeping rooms features three niches for beds, with a variety of black and white tiled mosaic floor designs in the center.

Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa - surviving mosaic tiled floor pattern

Referring back to the Roman Empire's innovations in water technology, the site retains the remnants of several termes (bath houses), which were constructed to take advantage of the plentiful solar energy for heating a myriad of marble-lined bathing pools. In surrounding piazzas and gardens, ingenious levelling was used to create decorative pools with moving cascades, serviing both to support the greenery and to delight visitors. Of course, today many lay dry...

Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa - Termes

Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa - an old reflecting pool

A couple of the Villa's landmarks, (like the statue-rimmed "Canopus") are kept filled with syrupy green water, perhaps to support this restored reptilian resident...and a myriad of real fish.

Crocodile at Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa

Impressively intact, an extensive network of underground passageways served as transit points for service personnel and supplies. Others, like the vaulted "Cryptoportico" served as cool strolling destinations for the Emperor during the hot summer months. While the ceiling frescoes have been all but destroyed by looting and target shooting (ahh, those pesky British nobles), grafitti dating from the seventeenth century to the present is clearly visible.

Cryptoportico at Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa

As an American, I'm accustomed to sharing my tourist sites with thousands of other sneaker-clad, snacking and shouting humans. In this case, the freedom of strolling the Villa without a hint of security guards, personnel or other visitors helped me to gain a better "feel" for Hadrian's grand imperial palace as it must have existed in antiquity.

Copping a feel at Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa


Benessere on the 4th of July at Circolo Antico Tiro a Volo

On my first Independence Day outside of the United States (and East Coast, for that matter), I am surprised to feel not a twinge of regret for the festivities I may or may not be missing back stateside. Reason? I spent the day poolside at Cirolo Antico Tiro a Volo, a private hilltop tennis club in Parioli, (Roma) where my in-laws have been members since it first opened 15 years ago.

Poolside at Antico Tiro a Volo, Parioli, Roma

Is there anything less American on the 4th of July than swimming laps in a tranquil, uncrowded pool, to the sweet strains of Vivaldi's Quattro Stagioni? I should mention that the members here are universally fit and tan. The sun is so strong here at this time of year that one can even become bronze in the shade. Never being one to fit in, I was affectionately called a mozzerellina on my first visit, on account of my natural New England pallor.

Poolside view from the spa at Antico Tiro a Volo - Parioli, Roma

After a day of languid poolside socializing and pasta-eating, a visit to the brand new spa facility is always in order. Unbelievably underutilized, the mosaic-walled and mirrored spa features a stunning dichroic glass-tiled turkish bath, complete with a pyramid shaped ceiling and ochre glass slab benches, as well as a spotless cedar sauna and roomy jacuzzi. Surrounding this oasis of benessere, a variety of state-of-the-art stainless steel showers with curious blue and white lights...including a rather interesting double-wide stall equipped with eucalyptus aromatherapy jets. The entire grayscale facility is illuminated with blue-tone low-lights. Chic...

Benessere at Antico Tiro a Volo, Parioli, Roma

This club may be tutto italiano in caliber and design, but their annual member's gala happens to fall right around my beloved American holiday of fireworks! In classic 4th of July style, I managed to capture this fine cellphone photograph of the circolo's fuoci artificiale from a nearby parking lot vantage point...sorry, the gala is members only!

Fuoci artificiale at Antico Tiro e Volo - Parioli, Roma


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