Other seasonally noteworthy items include: the Academy Christmas tree now decorated in the salone; the fellows’ holiday play and the kid’s school choral performances coming up this week; the mountains of torrone candy at the entrance of all grocery stores; a few skating rinks; special markets throughout the city center proffering Christmas tchotchkes and “La Befana” witch puppets on broomsticks to mark the Epiphany on January 6th; and (arguably more cheer-inducing) the anticipated downfall of the Burlesque-oni government this afternoon.
Could it be that enough Italians have finally had the epiphany that continuing to support Silvio, their longest-serving playboy premier, is no longer in their best interest? We shall see. Even if there is a change, I doubt the next liver-spotted, gam-oggling uomo will have the power to change much (like getting toilet paper back into the public schools). If anything, there will probably be a temporary hiring hiatus when it comes to naming leggy dental hygienists to government posts. I wish I were exaggerating. Unlike toilet paper in Italy, there is no shortage when it comes to articles like this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/7265423/Silvio-Berlusconi-shortlists-dental-hygienist-as-political-candidate.html.
In other news, Gio’s handiwork in the kitchen continues to please (as does his preternatural talent for silken carbonara sauce), the kids are learning a lot of Italian carols at school and building their gladiatorial skills and making winter clothes for their stuffed animals at home, and I'm helping the Academy redesign their website www.aarome.org so that it’s more intuitive and user-friendly when they relaunch it this spring.
Some interesting discoveries made over the course of my online research include learning that the Rome Sustainable Food Project had considered launching a minisite with the "RSFP" acronym for simplicity's sake, but was forced to consider other alternatives by the Rope Skipping Federation of Pakistan (www.rsfp.org). It also explains why my previous blog posts mentioning the RSFP garnered so many page hits in Pakistan – presumably each visitor clicked away crestfallen to find I was merely focused on food. Who knew that rope-skipping was a competitive sport? Apparently no small number of South Asians and now everyone in the AAR kitchen, that’s who. Rather than lament the loss of virtual real estate, I propose that the Academy pursue this rather unique opportunity for cross cultural exchange and increased understanding. At the very least, it would be cool to swap some swag.
Culturally speaking, I've been able to take advantage of some interesting walks and tours over the past month, including one to Rome's historic Testaccio neighborhood where there remains a sizeable hillside made solely of ancient amphorae. We hiked up in the rain but were treated to a great view at the summit and saw many distinct pot sherds along the way. Once the olive oil-filled containers were delivered from the colonies by boat and emptied into warehouses situated along the Tiber, the Romans disposed of them by breaking and stacking them over centuries to create a veritable terracotta mountain. Archeologists have since been able to ascertain that most of the vessels were made in Spain, that lime was spread between the layers to mitigate the stink of rancid oil and that the extensive warehouses still remain largely intact under the district's residential pallazzi. Che figo! Too bad it can't be replicated to address today's scourge of plastic bottles.
I was also able to tag along with a handful of fellows for a private tour of some of the wonderfully preserved and recently discovered beachside ruins outside the town of Ardea about 35 km southwest of Rome. Some assert that this is where Aeneas, the reputed progenitor of the Romans, landed from Greece. Baths and temples figure prominently of course and many mosaics are still intact because they were covered by beach sand for centuries. They only started excavating 10 years ago so more layers are sure to come.
On a final note, my apologies for those who may be bothered by the sudden appearance of advertising on my heretofore commercial-free blog. I still haven't received my replacement credit card since that dreadful day back at Porta Portese and kids' vitamins cost about $18/bottle so yes, I've decided to hold my nose and "monetize". Honestly, I'm kind of curious to see what kind of ads these "smart engines" will serve up to sync with my scattershot musings. Viagra since I mention Berlusconi? Brand name olive oil perhaps? Or is it still just acai berries all the time regardless of topic? Whatever pops up, I invite you to embrace any such commercial incursions as a few clicks here and there might just help keep us stocked in vitamins and vino.