Friday, August 31, 2012

Princess Diana

Princess Diana with Prince William and Prince Harry
1 July 1961 - 31 August 1997

Maria Montessori

Today, Google presents a doodle commemorating the 142nd birthday of Maria Montessori (31 August 1870 - 6 May 1952), an Italian physician and humanitarian, but perhaps best known as an educator. Born in Chiaravalle, near Ancone, Marche, she had initially wished to become an engineer, but later changed her mind and studied medicine and psychiatry, a massive accomplishment for a woman at that time. In 1896 she became Italy's first female doctor when she graduated from Università La Sapienza di Roma. 

Montessori was highly influential in her educational methodology of measuring and observing students, often those who were disabled, and encouraging a kinetic way of learning as a method of remembering. She believed that learning was to be based on activities of a child's choice, and that it was important that they were given the freedom to develop in whichever way they wanted, so that they enjoyed what they were doing. Montessori had worked in the psychiatric hospital of Santa Maria della Pietà, and was shocked that children were treated in the same manner as adults. She believed that as children all have different stages of development, and that educators must adapt their teaching style to each individual student's abilities and capabilities. Montessori regarded 'spontaneous discipline' in the children as vital to their learning.

The Italian Minister of Education in 1896 was impressed with a lecture given by Maria Montessori at the Educational Congress, in which she had spoken about educating the disabled. He offered her the position of director of the Scuola Ortofrenica, an institution which looked after and educated the mentally disabled. Her methods of teaching were so revolutionary and effective that when some of the children sat national school exams, they passed with above average results. Montessori was pleased with this and developing from the knowledge she had from teaching the disabled children, she opened Casa dei Bambini in 1907 for 'normal' children in San Lorenzo, one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Roma. It was the first Montessori school, and quickly gained success with her techniques of teaching, soon there were more, even spreading throughout the world.

However, with the rise of Fascism, Montessori had no place. Initially Mussolini supported her, but she and the new government soon came into conflict over her methods of education and her position on peace. In Mussolini's opinion, the Montessori system did not train good soldiers, and she spent years under political surveillance. She fled to Spain, and then with the Spanish Civil War, left to Holland. Maria Montessori's influence on the approach to education can be felt all over the world, her recognition of the importance of freedom and self-directed learning within a controlled and well-equipped environment has affected the teaching strategies of many teachers and educators.

The 1000 Lira note depicted Maria Montessori


So, so nervous about my application to exchange to the University of California for a semester next year. Still waiting to see which campus I will be placed at. I really hope it is Berkeley, I've done so much more research on it and it just feels right. And the fact that it has its own botanical garden and THIRTY-TWO libraries is so enchanting. But maybe UCLA or Santa Barbara will be amazing too. I just wish I could find out soon so I can start planning out my life. Well, the next year at least. Extremely terrified about how much I need to get done before the move happens and for how different it will be, but also excited for something challenging and new.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Amman, Jordan
Robert Clark
National Geographic

'Imposing architecture and art followed Roman armies to the farthest flung corners of the empire. The curled fingers were part of a statue that may have stood over 40 feet tall at the Temple of Hercules, in Amman, Jordan, around A.D. 160. Romans knew the city as Philadelphia.'


Biscotti, to the Italians, are just any type of biscuit. But to many in the English-speaking countries, biscotti is what we name cantuccini or biscotti di Prato. The biscuits which originate from the city of Prato are twice-baked to give them a dry crunchiness.

The term biscotto has its roots in the Latin word biscoctus, 'twice-cooked', which was used to describe food that had been baked twice; allowing dryness and long periods of storage. The Roman Legions used this method of preservation with their breads; it was useful especially for travelling.

The first documented recipe for biscotti was discovered by Amadio Baldanzi in the 18th Century. The centuries-old manuscript names the biscuits as being of Genoa. The traditional recipe lists flour, sugar, eggs, pine nuts, and almonds (unroasted, unskinned) and without yeast or fat (butter, oil, milk) The dry dough is cooked firstly in a slab, and then after being sliced, baked a second time to give it its hardness. As they are so dry, biscotti are traditionally served with a drink, in which they can be dipped. In Italy they are generally served with  wine after dinner as a dessert.

Nowadays, there are many variations on the traditional recipe, new versions often include fruit or flavourings, other nuts or chocolate. In a diversion from the way they are traditionally made and served, I love to add lots of citrus peel and dried cranberries into the biscotti I make, with orange juice for a subtle flavour. And to the probable bafflement/horror of Italians, I dunk them in a hot chocolate or a tea. So delicious. I never had the pleasure of trying an authentic cantuccini while I was in Italy, but I will definitely add that to the list of things to try next time!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fare il ponte

Fare il ponte: In Italy, if a holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, people may take the Monday or the Friday off work; given the phrase of making a 'bridge' to the weekend.


There is a glorious City in the sea.
The sea is in the broad, the narrow streets,
Ebbing and flowing; and the salt sea-weed
Clings to the marble of her palaces.
No track of men, no footsteps to and fro
Lead to her gates. The path lies o'er the sea,
Invisible; and from the land we went,
As to a floating city—steering in,
And gliding up her streets as in a dream,
So smoothly, silently—by many a dome,
Mosque-like, and many a stately portico,
The statues ranged along an azure sky;
By many a pile in more than eastern pride,
Of old the residence of merchant-kings;
The fronts of some, though Time had shattered them,
Still glowing with the richest hues of art,
As though the wealth within them had run o'er.

- Samuel Rogers


Barcelona, Spain on Euromaxx City, Deutsche Welle

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


'As I came down the Highgate Hill
I met the sun's bravado,
And saw below me, fold on fold,
Grey to pearl and pearl to gold,
This London like a land of old,
The land of Eldorado.'

- Henry Howarth Bashford

500 by Gucci

One of my all time favourite cars is one of the most well-designed small cars ever to be made, the Fiat 500. Last year, for the 150th anniversary of Italy and the 90th anniversary of the fashion house Gucci, Fiat collaborated with the fashion company to create an elegant edition of the Fiat 500, which was first brought onto the market in the 1950's. The design of '500 by Gucci' was inspired by monochromatic films, and will be available in white and black only; along with the green and red detailing of Gucci, the former features chrome plating and a white interior, while the latter will have satin elements and an interior of black and ivory. Creative director Frida Gianinni says of the collaboration, 'When the Fiat 500 first hit the road in the fifties it created a style revolution. Gucci's history has always been about travelling in style so when this collaboration came up, it struck me as the perfect opportunity to create a new modern travel statement.' With the popularity of the 500 by Gucci, the 500C by Gucci was created, a cabriolet version with a convertible soft-top.


Monday, August 27, 2012


Ego tibi monstrabo amatorium
sine medicamento, sine herba,
sine ullius veneficae carmine:
Si vis amari, ama

I will reveal to you a love potion
without medicine, without herbs,
without witchcraft:
If you want to be loved, love.

- Hecato of Rhodes (philosopher of the early first century BC)

God Defend New Zealand

Hayley Westenra singing God Defend New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup 2011 final between The All Blacks and France

This song never ceases to send a strange feeling through me, one of strong emotion and perhaps what you could call patriotism. As New Zealanders, in general, we are not particularly patriotic, content to be quietly proud of our nation, which is so far away from the rest of the world not only geographically but in our mentality also. However, for the rugby, for the All Blacks, it really does seem that this nation bands together in solid support of our team, who play such a large part in placing New Zealand on the map. When I travelled around Italy, people would hear my accent and assume I was Australian. Even after having explained I was from New Zealand, they either had no real idea where it was, or only knew our country for either the All Blacks or The Lord of the Rings films. Although they have equal legal status, God Defend New Zealand is the more commonly used national anthem over God Save the Queen.

Irish-born, Victorian-raised Thomas Bracken settled in Dunedin and and wrote the lyrics in the 1870's, originally written as a poem. In 1876 The Saturday Advertiser ran a competition to compose music for what would become God Defend New Zealand. Tasmanian-born John Joseph Woods who lived in Lawrence won the competition, and on Christmas Day 1876, the song was performed for the first time at the Queen's Theatre in Dunedin. The hymn grew in popularity throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries; the New Zealand Government bought the rights to the song and it became the official national hymn in time for the centennial celebrations of 1940. In 1976 on the 21st of November, God Defend New Zealand became the second official national anthem, alongside God Save the Queen.

The song has five verses, in both English and Maori. The Maori version was written by Thomas H. Smith, and is not a direct translation of the English version. I love this hymn a lot, the words are so meaningful and encapsulate the spirit in which those who came before us dedicated the country to God. While singing this song in church this morning, I realized that New Zealand is one of the only countries where we have the privilege of having a hymn as our national anthem; and I am grateful that we have the freedom to sing such beautiful words.


God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.
Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.
Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.
Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.
May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.


E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
Ōna mano tāngata
Kiri whero, kiri mā,
Iwi Māori, Pākehā,
Rūpeke katoa,
Nei ka tono ko ngā hē
Māu e whakaahu kē,
Kia ora mārire
Tōna mana kia tū!
Tōna kaha kia ū;
Tōna rongo hei pakū
Ki te ao katoa
Aua rawa ngā whawhai
Ngā tutū e tata mai;
Kia tupu nui ai
Waiho tona takiwā
Ko te ao mārama;
Kia whiti tōna rā
Taiāwhio noa.
Ko te hae me te ngangau
Meinga kia kore kau;
Waiho i te rongo mau
Tōna pai me toitū
Tika rawa, pono pū;
Tōna noho, tāna tū;
Iwi nō Ihowā.
Kaua mōna whakamā;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tū hei tauira;

Sunday, August 26, 2012

La Marinière - The Breton Shirt

Audrey Hepburn

La Marinière, also known as the Breton Shirt, is a must-have for any wardrobe. It is simple yet elegant and sophisticated, gracing both fashion runways and the racks of generic clothing stores, but the French icon had very modest beginnings. The contrasting blue and white striped design was first worn as cotton sweaters by the fishermen of the Breton coastline, hence the name. Not only woven tightly to combat the weather conditions out at sea, it was believed that the contrast of the colours made it easier to spot overboard men at sea. On the 27th of March 1858, the Breton Shirt was officiated as the uniform requirement of the French navy. The original design featured twenty-one stripes, one for each of Napoleon's victories.

However, it would be many years before the stripes would enter the fashion world. When walking along the beach in Deauville, Normandy, Coco Chanel saw many local sailors and fisherman wearing the Breton Shirt. Inspired by its purity of style, she adapted the shirt in her own designs of 1917, introducing carefree clothing that was inspired by menswear but tailored for women, freeing them from corsets and excessive decoration. Soon, la Marinière became very popular for both women and men. Synonymous with French chic, the design continues to be a staple look to this very day.

French sailors

Coco Chanel

Audrey Hepburn

Brigitte Bardot

Andy Warhol

James Dean

Kate Middleton

Miranda Kerr


La Domenica del Corriere
22 June 1958

La morte del cane Fido: E' morto Fido. Il cane, al quale era stata assegnata una medaglia d'oro ed eretto un monumento, è morto. La sua storia è quanto mai commovente. Nel 1943 perse il padrone, vittima di un bombardamento aereo. Per quattordici anni, tutte le sere, la brava bestiola si recò ad attendere la corriera che solitamente riportava il suo amico a Luco di Mugello e si fermava finchè non c'era più speranza di vederlo. Da qualche tempo, stanco e deperito, aveva sospeso le visite. L'altro giorno, presentendo la fine, volle recarsi all'ultimo appuntamento. Due ragazzi trovarono il suo corpo inerte sulla strada.

The death of the dog Fido: And Fido is dead. The dog, who had been awarded a gold medal and a monument, has died. His story is very touching. In 1943 he lost his master, the victim of an air raid. For fourteen years, every night, the good animal went to wait for the bus that usually brought his friend into Luco di Mugello and stopped until there was no more hope of seeing him. For some time, tired and emaciated, he had suspended visits. The other day, sensing the end, he wanted to go to the last appointment. Two boys found his lifeless body on the road.

Many dogs are named Fido, but the most famous of all was an Italian streetdog who was born in the Autumn of 1941 in Borgo San Lorenzo, Tuscany, Italy.

A street dog without a home, Fido was found by Carlo Soriani, injured and lying in a ditch. Soriani was a brick-kiln worker returning home, and not knowing where the dog came from, he brought the dog home and with his wife, they nursed the dog back to health. They adopted him and gave him the name 'Fido', a Latin name meaning 'faithful'. Extremely loyal to his master, Fido would follow Soriani to the bus stop as he left for work, and would wait patiently in the piazza until the bus would bring him back, and the pair would walk home together. This continued for two years, but on the 30th of December 1943, during World War II, Borgo San Lorenzo was attacked by allies, and many factories, including the one in which Soriani worked, were hit. Soriani tragically lost his life on this day. Fido, however, did not know what had happened to his master and went back to the bus stop that night, waiting for his return. Eventually he went back home, but for the next fourteen years, the ever faithful companion would go to the bus stop at the piazza, waiting for Soriani to come back. Many were enamoured and touched by his faithfulness, and his story was told by Italian magazines and on the newsreels. On the 9th of November 1957, the mayor of Borgo San Lorenzo awarded Fido a gold medal in front of Soriani's widow and many townspeople. The sculptor Salvatore Cipolla was commissioned by the town to sculpt the dog in honour of his love and faithfulness. The finished work was displayed in Piazza Dante. However, mere months after its placement, vandals destroyed the majolica statue, and Cipolla was commissioned to recreate his original work in bronze, still seen in Piazza Dante.

On the 9th of June 1958 Fido passed away, still waiting in vain for his friend to return from work. He was buried beside his master. Both La Domenica del Corriere and La Nazione dedicated their front pages to Fido and his heart-warming story of devotion.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Feel Inside (and stuff like that) - Flight of the Conchords

Flight of the Conchords have written this wonderful song, Feel Inside (and stuff like that), for the Cure Kids' Red Nose Day, a national campaign in New Zealand to raise money for medical research into children's life-threatening illnesses. This clip shows the comedy duo, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, interviewing adorable school children for inspiration. Alongside the writers, the song was performed by a special collective of other New Zealand musicians; Dave Dobbyn, Anika Moa, Savage, Elizabeth Marvelly, PNC, Boh Runga, Zowie, Nathan King, Peter Urlich, and Brooke Fraser. This is what I love about New Zealand! The song is available here: iTunes with proceeds going towards the amazing cause.

Naples: Living Near Vesuvius

Naples: Living Near Mount Vesuvius on Euromaxx City, Deutsche Welle

The Coliseum

I do remember me, that in my youth,
When I was wandering,—upon such a night
I stood within the Coliseum's wall,
'Midst the chief relics of almighty Rome; 
The trees which grew along the broken arches
Waved dark in the blue midnight, and the stars
Shone through the rents of ruin; from afar
The watch-dog bayed beyond the Tiber; and
More near from out the Caesar's palace came
The owl's long cry, and, interruptedly,
Of distant sentinels the fitful song
Begun and died upon the gentle wind.
Some cypresses beyond the time-worn breach
Appeared to skirt the horizon, yet they stood
Within a bowshot. Where the Caesars dwelt,
And dwell the tuneless birds of night, amidst
A grove which springs through levelled battlements,
And twines its roots with the imperial hearths,
Ivy usurps the laurel's place of growth;
But the gladiators' bloody Circus stands,
A noble wreck in ruinous perfection,
While Caesar's chambers, and the Augustan halls,
Grovel on earth in indistinct decay.
And thou didst shine, thou rolling moon, upon
All this, and cast a wide and tender light,
Which softened down the hoar austerity
Of rugged desolation, and filled up,
As 'twere anew, the gaps of centuries;
Leaving that beautiful which still was so,
And making that which was not, till the place
Became religion, and the heart ran o'er
With silent worship of the great of old,—
The dead but sceptred sovereigns, who still rule
Our spirits from their urns.

- Lord Byron

Lorelai and Christopher in Paris

I was busy making some steel-plate etchings and watching Gilmore Girls when I was greeted by some fabulous scenes of magical Paris. Still so enchanted by the city. Surprised at how often the French get a bad rep for their attitude to tourists, and especially English-speakers; but I had absolutely no trouble at all when I was there. Pretty much everyone I met and came across was lovely and helpful; one French lady even thought I was a native Parisian and asked me directions in French! If anything, it was some of the American tourists who were annoyingly demanding and loud. Extremely excited to go there again one day.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Psalm 139:16

When everything seems to be unravelling and it is a struggle to stay afloat in the ocean of overwhelming confusion, I always come back to this verse.

'All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.' Psalm 139:16 (NIV)

'Nel tuo libro erano già scritti tutti i giorni che erano stati fissati per me anche se nessuno di essi esisteva ancora.' Salmi 139:16 (LND)

Ecce Homo

Ecce Homo recorded in three different states of condition; the original by Elias Garcia Martinez, the deteriorated version, and the 'restored' version by Cecilia Gimenez.

Cecilia Gimenez, a woman in her 80's, has made a simultaneously horrifying and hilarious 'restoration' of a fresco depicting Christ. The painting, titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) was painted in 1910 by Elias Garcia Martinez in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church, Borja, Spain, for over 100 years.

Gimenez began her unauthorised 'restoration' because she was upset at its moisture-inflicted deterioration, claiming to have had the permission of the priest. It is unsure what will happen next, art historians will meet and decide the fate of the fresco. The new version looks like a cross between Emil Nolde and Redon, with a dash of Munch, and some Tomie de Paola thrown in too.

Inizio delle miserie e dolori causati dal maltempo

La Domenica del Corriere
1 October 1911
Inizio delle miserie e dolori causati dal maltempo: Drammatico episodio di un nubifragio a Varese (Lombardia)
Start of miseries and pains caused by bad weather: Dramatic episode of a storm in Varese (Lombardy)

This is the complete opposite weather to what Italy, and most of Europe, is experiencing right now. With heat waves and temperatures well into the thirties, they are in the middle of a drought; while here in New Zealand it is raining heavily.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Las Palmas, Canary Islands

A video from Euromaxx, Deutsche Welle about Las Palmas of the Canary Islands, Spain
I want to visit Spain!

The Central Cloister of Museo Nazionale Romano

'Even in December it is full of flowers - canea and chrysanthemum, rose and iris, heliotrope and purple veronica. Broken statues and columns peep from among the greenery; here the marble bust of a dead Roman is crowned by a spray of tiny red roses which have not realized in this sheltered pleasaunce that winter has come; there some broken amphorae are half hidden in a clump of yuccas. In the heart of the garden where the four paths meet is a lichen-covered fountain almost smothered in waterplants, which never tires of singing to a dying cypress, the only one of all the five planted by the hand of Michelangelo himself, which still stretches its tired old limbs in the sunshine.'

from The Colour of Rome - Olave Potter

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Melis Family

The Melis family are brothers and sisters who together hold the Guiness World Record for being the world's oldest siblings, with a combined age of 818. The names of the siblings in order of age are, Consolata, Claudina, Maria, Antonio, Concetta, Adolfo, Vitalio, Fida, Mafalda.

Here is an article about the family from The Telegraph:

Sardinian siblings aged 818 officially the world's oldest
by Nick Squires, Rome. 21 August 2012

'Experts attribute the ripe old age of the Melis family to a combination of good genetics, a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.

They come from the village of Perdasdefogu in a mountainous region of Sardinia called the Barbagia, which was known to the ancient Romans as ‘Barbaria’, or land of the barbarians.

The ruggedness of the region has repelled invaders for centuries, helping to maintain a distinct gene pool.

The oldest of the siblings, Consolata, will celebrate her 105th birthday today/on Wednesday, while the “baby” of the family, Mafalda, is a comparatively spry 78 years old.

The siblings say part of the secret of their longevity is being surrounded by their 150 children, grand children and great-grand children.

Consolata alone has nine children, 24 grand children, 25 great-grand children and three great-great grandchildren, with a fourth on the way. Born on Aug 22, 1907, she has lived through nine papacies.

Remaining active also appears to be key to the siblings’ longevity – another sister, Claudina, 99, goes to church every day, while a brother, Adolfo, 89, still works in a bar in the village and spends his spare time growing vegetables in his garden.

“In my day women had to do all the domestic work, going to the standpipe to get water and to the river to wash the clothes. My grandchildren have washing machines and vacuum cleaners so when they say “I’m so stressed”, I just can’t understand it,” Consolata told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Two of the brothers fought the Germans during the war – 93-year-old Antonio helped repel a German advance at Viterbo, north of Rome, while Adolfo once hid in a well to escape a Nazi assault.

The large size of the family was recognised in 1940 by the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, who awarded their mother, Eleonora, a Medal of Honour and a certificate.

“The Mediterranean lifestyle is always held up as being beneficial to a long, healthy life, and Italians in particular feature prominently in the list of super-centenarians and centenarians,” said Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief for Guinness World Records.

Of the 70 people in the world who are over the age of 110, seven are Italian and the world's second-oldest person is an Italian-born woman who now lives in the US, he said.

“Genes and lifestyle are paramount, but luck plays a big part – avoiding accidents and falls, and so on – so to have such a large number of living siblings with an average age of more than 90 years is incredibly rare.”

Amarilis Whitty, also from Guinness World Records, said the claim was put forward by a friend of the family. “It was only recently verified. They were able to provide all the information we had, from birth certificates to other family records,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

The secret of Sardinians’ long life is being studied by a scientific project called AKeA – an acronym for “A kent’ annos”, a traditional toast in the Sardinian language which means “may you live to 100 years.”

Diet is considered crucial – Sardinians eat less carbohydrate-heavy pasta than their counterparts on the mainland of Italy and their diet is particularly rich in proteins derived from milk and cheese.

Islanders traditionally eat sugary foods sparingly, with desserts and pastries reserved for saints’ days and festivals.

But scientists believe genetics also play a key role. Resistant to foreign invaders since Roman times, the Barbagia region has a comparatively small gene pool in which beneficial traits such as longevity are passed on from generation to generation.

“On the one hand it is about genetics, about inherited longevity – as shown by the fact that the surnames of centenarians crop up again and again,” said Luca Deiana, a professor of clinical biochemistry from the University of Sassari in Sardinia.

“But there is also the bounty of the land and the fruit it produces, particularly pears and prunes,” said Prof Deiana, who has studied 2,500 centenarians on the island since 1996.

The fact that Sardinians continue to hold their elderly people in high regard and include them in family life was also a factor, he said.'

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Montblanc Pinocchio

Montblanc has designed this beautiful limited edition pen in celebration of the Italian writer Carlo Collodi's famous character, Pinocchio.


I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying Glory smiles
O'er the far times, when many a subject land
Looked to the wingèd Lion's marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!

She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers
At airy distance, with majestic motion,
A ruler of the waters and their powers:
And such she was;—her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Poured in her lap all gems in sparkling showers.
In purple was she robed, and of her feast
Monarchs partook, and deemed their dignity increased.

In Venice Tasso's echoes are no more,
And silent rows the songless gondolier;
Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
And music meets not always now the ear:
Those days are gone—but Beauty still is here.
States fall, arts fade—but Nature doth not die,
Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!

But unto us she hath a spell beyond
Her name in story, and her long array
Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond
Above the dogeless city's vanished sway;
Ours is a trophy which will not decay
With the Rialto; Shylock and the Moor,
And Pierre, cannot be swept or worn away—
The keystones of the arch! though all were o'er,
For us repeopled were the solitary shore.

The spouseless Adriatic mourns her lord;
And, annual marriage now no more renewed,
The Bucentaur lies rotting unrestored,
Neglected garment of her widowhood!
St. Mark yet sees his lion where he stood
Stand, but in mockery of his withered power,
Over the proud Place where an Emperor sued,
And monarchs gazed and envied in the hour
When Venice was a queen with an unequalled dower.

Before St. Mark still glow his steeds of brass,
Their gilded collars glittering in the sun;
But is not Doria's menace come to pass?
Are they not bridled?—Venice, lost and won,
Her thirteen hundred years of freedom done,
Sinks, like a seaweed, into whence she rose!
Better be whelmed beneath the waves, and shun,
Even in destruction's death, her foreign foes,
From whom submission wrings an infamous repose.

- Lord Byron

Monday, August 20, 2012

Flower Carpet in Brussels

The flower carpet 2012 in Brussels, Belgium on Euromaxx, Deutsche Welle. Every two years, the capital's Grand Place is covered with thousands of begonias, each time with a new theme. This year the 650,000 flowers cover an 1800 square meter area with an African theme.

Exhilaration of Spirit

'Rome is the noisiest capital in Europe. The Italians love noise. It seems to give them an exhilaration of spirit. It is their way of expression, vitality, dynamic purpose, and the joy of life. The motorcar has given them an easy means of indulging in this form of self-expression, and they make full use of it. Their motor horns have a strident and ear-piercing timbre not possessed by any other make of horn in any other country.'

from European Journey - Philip Gibbs

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Repetto come in many variations of style and in numerous shades of colour

One can never go wrong with ballet flats. They have an ability to be worn with day-wear or evening-wear, dresses and skirts, pants and shorts, they can be casual or formal, dressed-up and dressed-down. 

It is believed that the ballet flat style has been in existence since at least the 16th Century, when it seems men had similar shoes named pompes. Ballet flats were popular with both men and women during the medieval times, but during the 17th and 18th Centuries, the fashion of the ballet flats were overshadowed by the high-heeled shoes; brought into vogue by the two inch heels of Catherine de' Medici's wedding shoes. However, for a time, heels also left the high-fashion scene when Marie Antoinette walked to the guillotine in high-heeled shoes. The appearance of both ballet flats and high-heels were somewhat quiet during the 19th Century; it wasn't until the 1950's that actresses like Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot popularised the ballet-flat style again.

Perhaps the most famous brand of ballet flats is the French brand Repetto. Rose Repetto founded the company in 1947 after her son Roland Petit, a dancer and choreographer, mentioned the difficulty he had in finding the perfect ballet shoes. Repetto developed their line in 1956, at the request of Brigitte Bardot, to also include la ballerine cendrillon; ballet-slipper styled shoes for street-wear.

The simplicity and the elegance of the ballet flat enhances and suits every figure and every height. Out of any shoe style, it is the ballet flat which I could never do without.

Rose Repetto

Rose Repetto with her son Roland Petit

Brigitte Bardot

Audrey Hepburn

I mesi (Months)

This is a traditional Italian nursery rhyme about i mesi, the months of the year.

Gennaio con febbraio fa il paio
febbraietto freddo e maledetto,
marzo è pazzo,
aprile dolce dormire,
maggio è paggio,
giugno la falce in pugno,
luglio canta il cuculo,
agosto moglie mia non ti conosco,
settembre la notte al dì contende,
ottobre chi vuole si copre,
novembre all’inverno si arrende,
dicembre, davanti ti ghiaccia
e dietro t’offende.

January and February are a couple,
Little February, cursed and cold,
March is crazy,
April’s sweetly sleeping,
May is the valet,
June, the scythe in hand,
July, the cuckoo sings,
August, my wife, I don’t know you,
September, the night fights the day,
October, whoever wants covers himself up,
November surrenders to winter,
December, freezes you in the front
and batters you on the back.

gennaio: January
febbraio: February
marzo: March
aprile: April
maggio: May
giugno: June
luglio: July
agosto: August
settembre: September
novembre: November
dicembre: December

Saturday, August 18, 2012

No llenes tu vida de años, llena tus años de vida

No llenes tu vida de años, llena tus años de vida.
Do not fill your life with years, fill your years with life.

My friend just posted this Spanish proverb on his Facebook page and I thought I'd share it here too. Beautiful.

Someone Like You - Adele

I don't normally post English music videos on this blog, they usually go onto my tumblr instead; but this song Someone Like You, by Adele, is just so magical in its bittersweetness, it makes me teary every time. Even this one time at the supermarket. The music video was filmed in Paris; and some of my first moments in the city were spent walking along this same path on Pont Alexandre III.

Six months exactly and it's still raining.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lizzie McGuire

A ridiculous quote from the ridiculous film that is The Lizzie McGuire Movie. I remember watching this film when I was about twelve and thinking how amazing Rome was; never realizing that I would one day get the privilege of visiting the city for myself. Also, upon further research, I now know why I was never fully convinced by the 'Italian boy' who was meant to be so special in the film. Turns out he isn't even Italian. Yani Gellman who plays Paolo Valisari, is half-Canadian, half-Australian, and born in America. No wonder.


'In London, love and scandal are considered the best sweeteners of tea.'

from Tom Jones - John Osborne

Il Natale di Roma

La Domenica del Corriere
2 May 1915
Il Natale di Roma: Il Natale di Roma allo stadio Nazionale: dinanzi al palco dei Sovrani, i fanciulli delle scuole formano la 'stella d'Italia'.
The Birthday of Rome: The Birthday of Rome at the National Stadium: the stage before the Sovereign, the school children form the 'Star of Italy'.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Confetti, to us in the English-speaking world, refers to the tiny pieces of colourful paper or metallic plastic used in celebrations. However, to the Italians, confetti are actually almonds (or another nut) coated in a hard layer of sugar and gifted as a present on celebratory days such as baptisms, weddings, and anniversaries. There are traditional meanings attributed to the colours; blue or pink for baptism, red for birthdays and graduations, green for engagement, white for marriage, and a myriad of colours for anniversaries.

What we know as paper confetti, is called coriandolo to the Italians; hinting that perhaps coriander seeds, representative of fertility, were once sugar-coated, and later replaced with almonds. Originally, confetti were created by apothecaries who layered sugar syrups around the nuts to form a hard coating. They were for a time passed around as digestivo after dinner parties, and then used as a party favour in the medieval times. The name confetti originates from confit or confiture. The original confetti are sometimes referred to as 'Jordan almonds' or dragée.

The English tradition of throwing paper confetti at weddings is said to have been started by Ven. Thomas Dealty in the latter part of the 19th Century. Dealty was the rector of St. Mary's Church in Swillington, and had previously held post as Archdeacon of Madras, where he had seen the rice throwing at Hindu weddings.

It's fascinating to see the links that the English language has with other languages; the words we have borrowed or stolen, and what meanings have changed in the adaption and translation of them.

Tour Eiffel

The Tour Eiffel on the night that we went to the very top to see the magnificent view over Paris. I will post those photos later. The small white lights dance around the tower every so often, making a magical show. After an extremely full day exploring Paris, I was absolutely shattered by the time we had waited in the two-hour line to get to the top, but it was well worth it!

Tu scendi dalle stelle - Andrea Bocelli

One of Italy's most famous and most loved Christmas carols is Tu scendi dalle stelle, (You Come Down from the Stars), written by the Neapolitan priest Sant'Alfonso Maria de Liguori in 1754. Years later, de Liguori wrote new lyrics for the same tune, but this time in the Neapolitan dialect, naming the song Quanno nascette Ninno, (When the Child was Born). de Liguori was staying at the Convent of the Consolation, Celiceto, Foggia in 1744 when he wrote the song.

In this video, Andrea Bocelli gives his rendition of the song, though it is traditionally performed with the zampogna, the Italian bagpipe.

There have been numerous translations of Tu scendi dalle stelle into English, here is one based on the language of the King James Bible, and another in modern English.

(Italian Version)
Tu scendi dalle stelle,
o Re del Cielo,
e vieni in una grotta
al freddo e al gelo,
e vieni in una grotta
al freddo e al gelo.
O Bambino mio divino,
io ti vedo qui a tremar,
o Dio beato!
Ah, quanto ti costò
l’avermi amato!
Ah, quanto ti costò
l’avermi amato!

A te che sei del mondo
il Creatore,
mancano panni e fuoco,
o mio Signore,
mancano panni e fuoco,
o mio Signore.
Caro eletto pargoletto,
quanto questa povertà
più m’innamora,
giacché ti fece amor
povero ancora!
Giacché ti fece amor
povero ancora!

(King James Version)
From starry skies descending,
Thou comest, glorious King,
A manger low Thy bed,
In winter's icy sting;

O my dearest Child most holy,
Shudd'ring, trembling in the cold!
Great God, Thou lovest me!
What suff'ring Thou didst bear,
That I near Thee might be!
Thou art the world's Creator,
God's own and true Word,
Yet here no robe, no fire
For Thee, Divine Lord.

Dearest, fairest, sweetest Infant,
Dire this state of poverty.
The more I care for Thee,
Since Thou, o Love Divine,
Will'st now so poor to be.

(Modern English Version)
You come down from the stars
Oh King of Heavens,
And you come in a cave
In the cold, in the frost.
And you come in a cave
In the cold, in the frost.
Oh my Divine Baby
I see you trembling here,
Oh Blessed God,
Ah, how much it cost you,
Your loving me.
Ah, how much it cost you,
Your loving me.

For you, who are of all the world
The creator,
No robes and fire,
Oh my Lord.
No robes and fire,
Oh my Lord.
Dear chosen one, little infant
This dire poverty,
Makes me love you more
Since Love made you
Poor now.
Since Love made you
Poor now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


'Magnificently stern and sombre are the streets of beautiful Florence; and the strong old piles of building make such heaps of shadow, on the ground and in the river, that there is another and a different city of rich forms and fancies, always lying at our feet.'

- Charles Dickens


Today the Italians celebrate Ferragosto. The 15th of August is the annual festival of summer. The name originates from the Latin feriae Augusti, 'August festivals', and has been celebrated since the Ancient Romans who on this date honoured the gods, especially Diana, and thanked them for fertility. However, the Catholic Church made this day their own by transforming it into the Holy Day of Obligation, commemorating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

For years, across Italy, virtually all businesses of towns and cities would close for the entirety of August as Italians took an extended summer holiday. Now, however, they only close for a few days in the peak of summer and the basic essentials remain open. Most people leave the cities to go to the beaches and the mountains for the holiday; spending time with family and close friends. Townships hold small food and wine festivals and have fireworks displays.

I first heard of this celebration when I watched a film called Pranzo di Ferragosto, which I wrote about here: Pranzo di Ferragosto. Oh, how I miss summer!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


'Paris is the only city where you can step out of a railway station - and see, the Seine with its bridges and bookstalls, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Tuileries Gardens, the Place de la Concorde, the beginning of the Champs Elysees - what other city offers as much as you leave a train?'

- Margaret Anderson


A hilarious video about what Americans know of New Zealand

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mamma Coraggio

Angela Casella is known to most of Italy as Mamma Coraggio, 'Mother Courage'. On the evening of the 18th of January 1988, her 18-year-old son, Cesare Casella, was kidnapped by the 'ndrangheta, the Calabrese Mafia from Southern Italy, who, in the 1970's and 80's, had formed a 'professional' kidnapping industry that came to be known as Anonima Sequestri (Kidnapping Anonymous). Cesare was abducted from his hometown, Pavia, in Northern Italy, just outside his father's Citroen dealership. Cesare was hidden in a garage near Pavia for ten days, before being transferred to Aspromonte, moving to three different locations during his captivity. In a book he published after his release, he described his prisons as being 'holes', dug in the ground; 2m long, 1m wide, and 1.5m high. At the foot of a tree, he was chained by the ankle and by the neck. The walls were lined with stones and a sheet of metal, covered in leaves, was the roof.

Cesare's kidnappers initially demanded eight billion Lira as ransom. After much negotiation, the sum was reduced to one billion Lira; which the Casella family paid in August 1988, but Cesare was not released. After more time, the kidnappers asked for another five billion Lira, which the family just could not afford. Cesare's father Luigi was a car dealer, and his mother Angela was a secretary for the family business. The Italian State would not allow the Casellas to raise the money, freezing their bank account and assets, as they feared paying the ransom would only encourage further abductions for money.

In June 1989, Angela Casella had had more than enough, extremely worried in the seventeen months since her son had been kidnapped, and with only infrequent contact with the kidnappers, she made up her mind to go down to Calabria herself to plead for and win the solidarity of the Calabrese women. She went through the towns and villages of Aspromonte, Calabria; chaining herself in the piazze and sleeping in a tent, trying to communicate to the locals the horrific conditions her son was being kept in. The media publicised her plight and Angela was dubbed Mamma Coraggio, for her braveness and courage to stand up to those who had taken her son.

Finally, in December of 1989, the police caught and arrested one of the kidnappers as he went to collect half a billion Lira in ransom money. The other kidnappers now felt threatened by the police and with all the publicity, could not hide the boy any longer. On the 30th of January 1990, after a terrifying 743 days in captivity, Cesare Casella was released. The man they caught during the ransom collection would be the only kidnapper the police would ever find. Cesare would go on to write a book about his ordeal and Mamma Coraggio had a brief stint in politics before the family settled down to a quiet, normal life.

Angela Casella passed away in December 2011. What an amazing mother. What an amazing woman.