Foolocracy in Rome

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Every time it was the fool’s turn to go on stage there was great expectation in the audience. The most important actors wanted to play that role, actually. Portraying the fool did not only mean juggling or making people laugh with trivial jokes or puns, it was much more. He was charismatic, witty, shrewd, sometimes cynical, but above all, the fool was the only character who was allowed the privilege to say whatever he liked. He was a fool after all. He could target whoever he considered worthy of contempt exposing him to ridicule (with a certain prudence obviously), for example. People laughed with him, people were with him, because after all he was one of them, one who could understand their frustrations, misery, rage, disappointed hopes. With a laugh he could exorcise all that. It was a great power indeed and he knew it. But I’m sure, that not even in his wildest dreams, he would have ever imagined one day to use this power to become a politician and, why not, rule a country or become the mayor of a town. People would have died from laughing. Yes, but that was the Middle Age, the dark age. Nowadays, in the modern age, we have smashed these prejudices and we have allowed fools of any kind to be part of the active political life. Even those who were not really born fool, try clumsily to imitate them, because this seems to be what people want.

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Beppe Grillo, leader of “Movimento 5 stelle”

The point is that, when fools leave the familiar setting of the fictitious reality of theatres, they seem to suffer from a curious disease: the “all world is a stage” syndrome. Its symptoms are easily recognizable: they keep on acting or speaking  freely, always in search for masses to postulate, without realizing that in the real world, actions and words have consequences on people.  Problems arise when one of these fools surprisingly happens to become in charge of a political office. Making or sharing political projects with the other elected non-fools inevitably causes him to face an identity crisis, because his job has been for years that of ridiculing, attacking those he is supposed to work with. A fool is very good at destroying, but once he is demanded to reconstruct and co-operate, his mocking laugh fades away and he starts to display a certain agitation, becoming often even aggressive, because all of a sudden he realizes that he just cannot keep on playing his favourite game off stage.

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Virginia Raggi, newly elected mayor

But now here in Italy, the land of creativity and imagination, fools have found their fertile ground. There is a party, which has gained in importance in recent years, whose leader is a true-born fool and only yesterday that party conquered the highest political office in Rome: the bench of mayor. Will his inflaming words, captivating slogans be enough to elevate Rome from the present state of degradation? His mates, mostly recruited on the web thanks to a bunch of votes, fully inexperienced for what concerns administration and political life, will be able to understand and face the many problems of the capital? Can the “honest inexperience” of the new elected, mayor included, represent that revolution that the citizens have been expecting for years? I have my doubts, of course. However, if it worked, this kind of foolocracy could be a brand we might export abroad and it wouldn’t be a first after all, would it?

 

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The Twin Globe

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glo8In the heart of the Villa Borghese park, hidden among the trees and surrounded by a lavish vegetation, you may find one of the most unexpected sights, for sure: the Globe theatre. Yes, that Globe: a full-scale reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, copied from the original designs, and almost identical to the one that now stands on London’s South Bank. Rome’s version of the Globe was built over the course of three months and inaugurated in 2003 to celebrate the centenary of Villa Borghese. The theatre is designed in a circular shape with a stage that juts out into the middle of the audience, and an open roof (that’s why the theatre is open in the summer and early autumn seasons). It’s built of oak and has a capacity of 1250, including the standing space in front of the stage, which are, of course the cheapest places.The entire project was financed by the Silvano Toti foundation – the late Silvano Toti was a builder and patron of the arts.

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20150924_104215Gigi Proietti, one of the most outstanding Italian actors, has been the artistic director of the Silvano Toti Globe Theatre since 2003, but he has never acted in any of the plays. Of course, Elizabethan comedies and tragedies are mostly represented, in fact the special architectural features and the essentiality of the scenes allow a cathartic relationship with the works of the English Renaissance drama. I can say that for sure, as,  only few days ago I went to the Globe with some of my students and colleagues to see the morning representation of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” directed by Chris Pickels.

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When the old Bard wrote “All world is a stage“, he had not considered one little detail: in the world many languages are spoken. This edition of “The Comedy of Errors”, in fact, was the first English-speaking production at the beautiful Globe theatre in Rome, only, the public was not exactly made of native English speakers and the plot of this play not so easy to follow. The story of two pairs of twins  – masters and servants –  who not only had the same features but also the same names, Antophilus and Dromio, led to many misunderstandings not only on stage but also among the public. Tell me, who is he? Antipholus of Syracuse or Ephesus?Mah?? However, the language of art won eventually, so that everybody was able to enjoy the many very funny moments of the show. The Bard is always right, after all. 20150924_11225620150924_131812

I did love the company of actors, all of them. The Bedouin Shakespeare Company, is a touring company founded in 2012 by two enthusiastic young actors, Edward Andrews and Mark Brewer, with the patronage of the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi. Their main aim is to bring the universal themes and language of Shakespeare in the countries around the world, that’s why they were not at all uncomfortable with a non native English-speaking public. Their “Comedy of Errors”  premiered at the Silvano Toti Globe in Rome to fly out to the UAE and then finishing in London at the Arcola Theatre, November 1st. Therefore, you are still in time to enjoy a great show and don’t forget to visit the Globe, next time you come to Rome!!! 🙂

Valentine’s lovebirds

 

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Saint Valentine ‘s day is the sweetest feast of the year, as we celebrate love on this day, or sort of. Valentine, actually, was a bishop and martyr of the Christianity, so, how could he be associated to love? As far as we know, Saint Valentine came from a patrician family and was consecrated bishop of Terni ( a town of Umbria, in central Italy) in 197 a.d. when he was only 21. In the year 270 Valentinus (his latin name) was invited by the orator Cratone to come to Rome, to preach the Gospel and convert the pagans. Valentinus was arrested and was sent to the prefect of Rome, to the emperor Claudius II himself. Not at all intimidated, Valentinus tried to convince Claudius to embrace Christianity, whereupon Claudius not only refused, but condemned Valentinus to death. However, Claudius eventually pardoned him and entrusted him to the family of Judge Asterius. Valentinus was arrested a second time under Aurelian, who had succeeded Claudius II. The empire continued to persecute the Christians, and as the popularity of Valentinus was growing, the Roman soldiers captured him and took him out of town along the Via Flaminia to scourge him, fearing that the population could rise to his defense. He  was beheaded on the 14th of February 273, at the good age of 97, by the hand of a Roman soldier: Furius Placidus.

val4So, where is love? If we want to find a connection to love, we have to narrate some episodes of his life, which are surrounded by an aura of mystery and legend. One of them refers to the period when Valentine was under house arrest of Judge Asterius. There he performed for the first time the miracle of restoring sight to his blind adopted daughter. When Valentino was about to be beheaded, he performed this miracle a second time. Through his prayers, he succeeded in healing the jailer’s daughter who was suffering from blindness. On the day of his execution he left her a note that was signed “Your Valentine”.

According to another story, Valentine, former bishop of Terni, united in marriage the young Christian Serapio and the Roman centurion Sabino: the union was hampered by her parents, but once overcome their resistance, it was soon discovered that the young woman was seriously ill . The centurion called Valentino to the bedside of the dying woman and asked him never to be separated from his beloved: the holy bishop baptized him and then joined him in marriage to Serapio, after which, they both died.

val2Another legend tells that one day the bishop  saw a young couple, who were fighting. He went towards them holding a rose and invited them to hold it together in their hands: the couple departed reconciled. In another version of this story, the saint was able to inspire love in the two young people by making several pairs of pigeons fly around them. Those birds were so sweet as they seemed to exchange tender signs of affection; the word “lovebirds” has its origin from this episode. “Lovebirds“, in fact, is translated in Italian with the word “piccioncini” (little pigeons) and if we see somebody showing affection in public, we commonly say that they “tubano” (coo).

Therefore, “lovebirds” from all over the world, how are you going to spend your Saint Valentine’s day? .

The Great Beauty

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Here we are,15 years after Benigni’s “Beautiful Life“, another Italian movie, ” The Great Beauty” won the Oscar for the best foreign language film. It was a very much expected award, at least outside these borders, as the movie is the rare product of the combination of an extremely talented director Paolo Sorrentino, a masterly interpretation of Tony Servillo as Jep Gambardella and the most amazing actress ever: Rome.

elfilm-com-the-great-beauty-261997Rome has a double symbology here: it’s the breathtaking  “great beauty” with its architecture, churches, fountains, cloisters, squares that Sorrentino skillfully uses as a never-ending sequence of postcards to enthrall the spectators; but Rome is also the capital, the centre of power and the Vatican, the higher expression of moral degradation and spiritual decay, which attracts and deceives the vast multitudes of gross people who come here with the hope to find that something that may give sense to their hollowness. Beauty and vulgarity, dream and bitter realism overlap, and Rome is there, indifferent and beautiful.

partThis double symbology is soon introduced by Sorrentino. In fact the movie opens on a group of Japanese holidaymakers who are listening to their guide’s explanations. One of them leaves his friends to admire in silence the stunning view of the town and he is so overwhelmed by its beauty to die. Soon after Sorrentino takes us to the crowded, opulent  party which celebrates Jep Gambardella‘s 65th birthday, the central character of the movie . Like the Great Gatsby he makes his appearance after several minutes of frantic dances with the hypnotizing soundtrack of the famous Italian icon Raffaella Carrà. Jep had arrived in Rome in his late twenties and he had been soon absorbed by the jet-set party life. Jep is a journalist and writer of only one novel, which had become a best seller. Even if in some aspects he seems to evoke the character of Marcello Mastroianni in “la Dolce Vita“, his approach to life is more disenchanted and detached. He is the impassive spectator of the vacuous depressive humanity who surrounds him and finds in amusement, the only way to forget the failures and the senselessness of their lives.

ferilliIn my opinion Sorrentino is largely indebted  toTony Servillo, who took part in almost all of his movies and is a sort of “fetish actor” for him. Charismatic and touching at the same time, Servillo ranges from a sarcastic to an introspective tone with his snobbish Neapolitan accent, with the result that you cannot but hang on every word he says as if hypnotized. The cast is particularly rich, as many famous Italian actors wanted to be part of the movie even only for a “cameo”, a short appearance. However two of them, Sabrina Ferilli e Carlo Verdone, who are very popular here,seem to have been quite disappointed when they knew that hadn’t been invited to the Oscar night. I can understand them.

I have to say that “The Great Beauty” has been more appreciated by the critics abroad than here. The dreamlike narrative tone, the nonsensical characters and the homage to the Eternal City have seemed nothing but a revival of Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita“, “Roma“, “Otto e Mezzo” and many others. Even after the victory, criticism hasn’t stopped. Ah, envy!

If you want to see of the locations of the Great Beauty click on the link.

Metamorphosis

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In Rome there is a very long ring road called Raccordo Anulare that divides the city in two parts: in and out. I want to try to make myself clear: the area which is inside the ring road is considered the centre, while outside there are the outskirts. However, for my husband Mr Run, Raccordo Anulare means much more that this. It represents the “limes” that divides the true-born Romans from the barbarian immigrants from nearby regions and towns, it is like the Pillars of Hercules which mark off the world we known from the unknown. Once you cross that line you are out. Ipse dixit.

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So you can guess, how Mr Run must have felt, when, few years ago, he had to take off his ancient Roman helmet and armour to move to Ostia Lido, a district in the South of Rome, “only” 30 km far from the centre. A shock. We had not finished to move our stuff yet that he professed himself determined to quit as soon as possible. Now, in case you don’t know already, I have to inform you that Ostia is a charming place beautifully situated by the sea, surrounded by a vast pinewood and close the ancient Roman ruins of “Ostia Antica”. It is the paradise for bikers, surfers and naturally runners.

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However, my husband could not see the beautiful surroundings as an opportunity for outdoor activities, as for him sport had always been a huge waste of time. At those times I used to call him Mr Iron, in fact. I know that it is a nickname that may evoke the image of a stubborn, all of a piece man, but actually it has to be interpreted literally: my husband was in charge with the ironing (well, still is) and firmly believed that ironing was as tiring as practicing any other sport, so he didn’t need to go to the gym. Ipse dixit. The hero of every housewife.

The cold winter months passed by and with them Mr Run’s continuous mutters and grumbles. The spring with its warmth and colours seemed to have slightly improved on his disposition, in fact one day unexpectedly, he came up with the idea of buying a bike to do something different as the place we lived bored him to death. I took it as a good sign.

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So this is how all started: he began cycling, then he was intrigued by the great number people he met jogging in the pinewood or down the 7km promenade in Ostia.  When my husband put on his first professional running shoes, it was first sight love. Just like a Forrest Gump he started to run 30 km per week at first to reach the 60 of present-time. Then he wanted to know how good he was, therefore he started to compete in the 10 km runs, half-marathons and marathons. After a year of hard training my husband had lost 12 kg and turned into Mr Run.

However, even Forrest Gump enjoyed some company while running, therefore as next step my husband felt it was high time to look for other (crazy) Mr Runs to share his passion with. While he was doing the hard selection among the potential teams, he came across the web page of the running team of  Amatori Castelfusano on which there were the following words: “A society  (in latin “societas” which originates from the word “socius” that is a friend, a mate, an ally) is a group of people with different degrees of autonomy, relationship and organization skill, who once together interact to reach one or more common goals. If you find yourself in these simple words, come and join us”. That’s what he did.

After all, “happiness is real, only when shared“. (Christopher McCandless)

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Back to Rome

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After many years, I’ve been back to London for a few days, this time as a holiday maker. I wanted to show my husband one of the places I’ve loved the most in my life. Well, what can I say, apart for the unusual Caribbean weather, London is crowded, gaudy, lively, just as I remembered, a unique synthesis between modernity and tradition. Certainly, this time I saw it from a different angle: that of a tourist, and  from that angle I have to say that I found it mooooore expensive that I remembered. Whatever monument,church, exhibition you want to visit the average admission fee is 15 pounds (each) and wherever you want to go to eat, avoiding top restaurants, we spent 25/30 pounds (each), but this was our choice. We did all the stupid things tourists do,  just like trying those places – tourist traps – which are more advertised and seem to be so popular. For example we’ve queued for half an hour to taste The Five Guys’ burgers which I found just ok (the fries were horrible). But it was at Harrods that I reached the top of stupidity. While I was absently strolling in one of the many departments, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sort of espresso “saudade” . As everybody knows, anything can be found at Harrods, in fact there was a Lavazza corner. I immediately ventured there and I asked for an espresso, without caring about the price, after all, how much can an espresso cost?  Well, at Harrods, in case you want to try, an espresso is 4 pounds plus 50 pence V.A.T., that is the equivalent cost of two packages of Lavazza coffee in Italy. I silently paid. It wasn’t even good. But, pay attention, I’m not complaining; I just want to say that even if one is perfectly aware of the dynamics tourists are usually entrapped in, just like in any other part of the world, London is so welcoming and organized that in the end, when it’s time to leave, you don’t have that nasty feeling of having been cheated. Well, I ‘m Italian, the country were there is the 60 per cent of  the world’s artistic patrimony,  and I live in Rome, which, well, you know it’s Rome, but it seems we can’t make the most of all the beauties and wealth our country is rich of, in fact, for example, the flow of tourists in Rome is about half of that of London. And you know why? I’ll give you an example. When we arrived at Fiumicino airport at 11:00 p.m. we had to wait forty-five minutes to get the luggage and not a soul to give us any information about the delay. Once safely out ( it was past midnight), we tried to get a taxi to go home, but as we lived too close the airport, the taxi drivers didn’t want to take us, because it wasn’t profitable enough for them. Yes, we were back to Rome.

P.S. My husband wants everybody to know that HE paid for the coffee. 😉