Turning my obession wtih Italy into something I can pretend is constructive.

#MM Giorgia / Di Sole e D’Azzurro

Giorgia has a lovely voice.  I recently downloaded her “Greatest Hits” off Itunes and quickly became a big fan of her work.  Below is an English Translation of “Di Sole e D’Azzurro” (“Of Sun and of Blue”), a beautiful song that she performed in 2001 at the San Remo Festival (video below).  Enjoy!

#MM Girogia / Di Sole e D’Azzurro

Voglio parlare al tuo cuore (I want to speak to your heart)

leggera come la neve (light like the snow)

anche i silenzi lo sai, (and the silences you know)

hanno parole (they have words)

Dopo la pioggia ed il gelo (after the rain and the bitter cold)

oltre le stelle ed il cielo (beyond the stars and the sky)

vedo fiorire il buono, (I see the good of us blooming)

di noi il sole e l’azzurro sopra i nevai (the sun and the blue above the fields of snow)

Vorrei illuminarti l’anima (I would like to illuminate your soul)

nel blu dei giorni tuoi più fragili, io ci sarò (in the blue of your most fragile days, I will be there)

come una musica, (like a music)

come (una) domenica di sole e d’azzurro (like a sunday of sun and of blue)

Voglio parlare al tuo cuore (I want to speak to your heart)

come acqua fresca d’estate (like fresh water of summer)

far rifiorire quel buono di noi anche se tu, tu non lo sai (to make the good of us bloom again even if you, if you don’t know it)

Vorrei illuminarti l’anima (I want to illuminate your soul)

nel blu dei giorni tuoi più fragili, io ci sarò (in the blue of your most fragile days, I will be there)

come una musica, (like a music)

come (una) domenica di sole e d’azzurro. (like a Sunday of sun and of blue)

Vorrei liberarti l’anima, (I want to liberate your soul)

come vorrei nel blu dei giorni tuoi e fingere che ci sarò (as I would like in the blue of your days and to pretend that I will be there)

che è sempre musica, (that it is always music)

sempre domenica (always Sunday)

di sole e d’azzurro (of sun and of blue)

Voglio parlare al tuo cuore (I want to speak to your heart)

voglio vivere per te di sole e d’azzurro (I want to live for you, of sun and of blue)

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Rome: The Keyhole of the Knights of Malta


Before I had left LA, one of my Roman friends had told me about a keyhole on Colle Aventino (Aventine Hill), from which you could see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.  A few months later I was watching the Oscar-winning film La Grande Bellezza and was delighted when the main character looked through it in the movie! And so one sunny day in Rome when I happened to be alone with no specific plans, I decided to go see it for myself.  

There’s a little food shop in Travestere that I had heard of and wanted to stop into, so I figured I’d cross Ponte Sisto (my hotel was nearby), check out “Tastevere Kmzero” and then walk West to cross Ponte Palatino.  From there it was only a short walk to Aventine Hill.  The woman at the front desk at my hotel had told me - when I gave her a vague description of what I was looking for - that I should go to Giardini degli Aranci, Garden of the Oranges, and that anyone could tell me how to get there. Good plan, right?

Tastevere Kmzero was closed for the holidays.  And then I got horribly, ridiculously lost.

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I walked and walked and walked and eventually realized I was nowhere near my destination.  When I asked people on the street how to get to “Aventino” or “Giardini degli Aranci”, they looked at me like I was crazy.  Somehow I wound up at the main Trastevere train station (the one that links to the airport) and finally someone was able to tell me to take the #3 bus and tell them I wanted to get off for Giardini degli Aranci.  I bought my bus ticket and was (finally) on my way.

While on the bus I realized that, unlike during my previous trips to Italy, I had bought an Italian SIM card for my phone this time.  I had a data plan!  I had Google Maps!  I’M A COMPLETE IDIOT!

When the driver told me this was my stop I looked up Giardini degli Aranci on Maps and vuola!  I started walking toward the pin.

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Giardini degli Aranci (also known as Parco Savello) sits right next to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, its entrance marked by a stone archway. Legend says that Saint Dominic, a Spanaird, gave the garden its name and its first orange tree. Having transported the sapling from his homeland, he planted it close to the cloister of a church where it flourished. The tree remains to this day, visible through a “porthole” in the wall of the nave. Miraculously, a younger sapling grew on its remains which continues to bear fruit. There’s also a legend that says that Saint Catherine of Siena picked the oranges from this ancient tree and made candied fruit to give to Pope Urban VI.  Years later, orange trees were added to the monastery garden, which became known as the Garden of Oranges. 

I followed a segway tour through the arch and, even though it was chilly outside, was met by a large group of fruit-filled orange trees.  I walked through them, looking for the gate that might contain the keyhole, but instead only found a large concrete overlook.

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Though the view of Rome was immense and impressive, it wasn’t what I had been looking for.  Whipping out my phone, I googled “keyhole view of Rome” and found it: it was very nearby and known as “The Keyhole of the Knights of Malta”.

Wait… who??

The Knights of Malta are a sovereign power with no territory. They are what is left of the former monastic order of the “Knights Hospitaller” which was created during the Crusades to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. They used to control Malta (a country composed of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea) until they were expelled by Napoleon in 1798.  Even now that there is now, again, an independent Republic of Malta, the order bases itself in Rome, where they have been since 1834. They have their own passports and coinage, diplomatic relations with over 100 countries and permanent “observer” status at the UN.  Their goal, as an order, is to provide humanitarian and medical aid, similar to the Red Cross.  

I exited Giardini degli Aranci and followed the new pin in my Maps app to the right till I arrived in a small piazza, “dei Cavallieri di Malta” (“of the Knights of Malta”), which is home to the Villa del Priorato di Malta, the home residence of the Order.  I didn’t even notice the gate that was directly to my right until I moved to the middle of the piazza and turned around.

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The central portal of the villa is a large wall of white stone, faux “windows” carved into it with a large, arched green door in the center.  I was lucky: there were only a few people in the piazza that day.  There was no line in front of the door to look through the toward the Basilica.  There was ONE person there, though, and it was a good thing - no signs marked the infamous keyhole. In fact, there was no indication that anything significant was in the square at all.  If someone hadn’t rested their bike against the door as they bent over to squint, I might’ve found myself testing out every quarter-sized hole in the square!

Then the cyclist had peddled off I approached the door, leaned over, closed one eye and - bam! There it was!  The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica!  Hedges on the other side of the portal arched over and around it, perfectly framing it where it stood, all the way on the other side of Rome!  Absolutely amazing!

Unfortunately, my picture didn’t come out quite so amazingly…

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Others have had much more luck, though (and better equipment, and MUCH more skill).  

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(Photo courtesy Liv Italy Tours)

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(Photo courtesy Virtual Tourist)

Have you had the chance to try your luck with this photo opp? If so, share it with us! :)

Everything you need to know about Italian Coffee for your next trip to Italy!
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Everything you need to know about Italian Coffee for your next trip to Italy!

Let me help you make the most of your trip! Find out more at OneDayInItaly.com/plan-your-trip

To Do: Milan’s Vertical Forest

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OK, first, can I just say how excited I am to see these in Milan next Spring? 

I first heard about “Il Bosco Verticale”, “The Vertical Forest”, last week when one of my Facebook friends posted about it.  It’s the brainchild of architect and designer Stefano Boeri who somehow managed to find the support to actually BUILD these two experimental towers in Milan’s Porta Nuova district.  

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The two apartment buildings, measuring 260 and 367 feet tall, have been a five-year passion project as they meticulously scrutinize every aspect of the the design.  Boeri’s team carefully selected the 480 big- and medium-sized trees, 250 small trees, 11,000 groundcover plants and 5,000 shrubs (the equivalent of a hectare of forest!) to thrive in this specialized environment.  The actual plants that will be used have been grown explicitly for this use so they would become used to their conditions as they grew and adapt to them.  The planters were designed to accommodate the trees’ heft while allowing for flexibility.  To ensure this, the design team tested them out in wind tunnels to make sure they would make it through strong winds.

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The buildings aren’t just meant to look cool, though.  The idea is for the plants to absorb some of Milan’s small-particle pollution, CO2 and dust, produce oxygen, reduce noise pollution, and create a microclimate around the plants, which will be irrigated with the building’s greywater (water already used by tenants for washing that doesn’t contain human waste).  The roofs will be covered in wind turbines and solar panels will be placed strategically to utilize as much geothermic energy as possible within the building.

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Sure, the project has been met with some criticism.  Boston-based scientist and journalist Tim De Chant wrote on his blog, “In reality, trees on skyscrapers will likely be anything but sustainable. A skyscraper that’s built to support trees will require more concrete, more steel, more of anything structural.”

OK, so what? Once it’s built, it has the potential to enhance the lives of those living in the area for an unforeseeable amount of time, perhaps decades.  And according to Boeri, all of these additions add only 5% to construction costs, a valuable investment in the community.

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The apartment buildings are only the first step of a 6-part project that Stephan Boeri has called “BioMilano”.  Those six projects include:

1) Bosco Verticale

2) “Wood House: social housing and the tree cycle
The Wood House project aims to build low density and low cost social housing by using prefabricated forms of architecture and wooden panels recycled after conservation work on the trees which run along the Ticino river.” (http://www.boeristudio.it/)

3) “Courtyard Farms. A constellation of epicentres within systems of neighbourhood agriculture
The project for the restoration of 60 publicly owned and abandoned courtyard farms around Milan has its origins in the plan to create a new relationship between the city and new forms of agriculture. This kind of agriculture is more varied than in the past (fruit and vegetables, cereal crops, productive woods, bio-mass) and produces for the city as well as allowing for different kinds of research, training and work.” (http://www.boeristudio.it/)

4) “Expo 2015: a global kitchen garden
The project for EXPO 2015 is based around a model for new forms of local agriculture which surround Milan. A vast global kitchen garden will be created, as well as a large space for agro-food production which will produce food for a cosmopolitan metropolis.” (http://www.boeristudio.it/)

5) “Metrobosco: a forest around Milan
The Metrobosco project will develop a ring of trees around Milan which can encourage animals to settle there from those non-domestic species which are common in the hinterland areas close to the city.” (http://www.boeristudio.it/)

6) “Biological and plant decontamination of polluted urban areas
The cleaning up of ex-industrial areas and obsolete structures in the city through biological and plant cultivation creates new possibilities for public open space. Through the cultivation of polluted land, they can be cleaned-up and biomass is also created, and in this way the city can regain lost spaces which were seemingly lost forever.” (http://www.boeristudio.it/)

Sounds incredible, if he can find the support to accomplish it.  That support will probably be based upon the success of Bosco Verticale, which is nearing completion (as of September 2014).  I’ll be in Milan next Spring and can’t wait to see the towers for myself.

Congratulazioni, Signore Boeri!

#MM Elisa / Una Pagina Bianca

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Elisa’s latest CD, “L’Anima Vola” (“The Soul Flies”) is amazing.  I love it.  This track is one of my favorites, totally hooky and uptempo with a catchy lyric.  The video is simply constructed from tour footage, so not too exciting, but press play and then follow along with the English translation below.  Enjoy!

#MM Elisa / Una Pagina Bianca

Davanti a una pagina bianca (In front of a white page)

Davanti a tutto quello che manca (in front of everything that’s missing)

E con in testa un pensiero solo (and with only one thought in mind)

Un pensiero disteso (One relaxed thought)

Raso al suolo (cut to the soil)

Come una specie di telecomando (like a kind of remote control)

Per tornare a dove, tornare a quando… (to return to where, to return to when)

L’aria sul viso pungeva (the air would bite the face)

E la terra sotto ai piedi scottava (and the ground under your feet would burn)

E a me davvero non importava (And it didn’t really matter to me)

Era tutto perfetto (everything was perfect)

Sognare in un letto e… (to dream in a bed and….)

Non volere niente… (not to want for anything)

Non cercare niente… (not to search for anything)

Davanti a qualche sogno di un altro (In front of some dream of another)

Davanti a una centrale d’asfalto (in front of one asphalt plant)

Con gli occhi aperti, spalancati (with open eyes, open wide)

In cerca di qualche meta (in search of some destination)

Con quella voglia di tornare a casa (with that desire to return home)

E stavolta fargliela vedere, pagare (and this time to show him, to make him pay)

Con quella voglia di girare i piedi (with that desire to turn heel)

E trovare la forza, il coraggio di andare! (and to find the will, the courage to go)

Non volere niente da te (Don’t want anything from you)

Non sapevo niente (I didn’t know anything)

Non volevo niente da te (I didn’t want anything from you)

Non pensavo a niente che non c’è (I didn’t think of anything that isn’t there)

E guardare il cielo per trovare un motivo (and to look at the sky to find a motive)

Da restituire al mondo (to give back to the world)

E gli gridavo almeno porta via (and I was yelling to him, at least take away)

Questa rabbia così se io non ci riesco (this rage so if I cannot manage it)

Saprò che tu l’hai data al vento… (I will know that you gave it to the wind)

Non volevo niente (I didn’t want anything)

Non sapevo niente (I didn’t know anything)

Non volevo niente da te (I didn’t want anything from you)

Non pensavo a niente che non c’è (I didn’t think of anything that isn’t there)

Davanti a la mia pagina bianca, bianca (In front of my white, white page)

Davanti a una pagina bianca, bianca (In front of a white, white page)

Davanti a questa pagina bianca, bianca (In front of this white, white page)

Davanti a… la mia pagina bianca, bianca (In front of my white, white page)

La mia pagina bianca, bianca (My white, white page)

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Florence: Giotto’s Bell Tower (in the Rain)

It was January 3rd.  It was a rainy January 3rd.  The sun was nowhere in sight and none of the tourists hustling about Piazza Duomo, colorful umbrellas in hand, seemed to have much hope it would appear soon.  They didn’t really seem to care, though, either.

I was standing in the line of umbrellas behind Giotto’s Bell Tower.  January may be low season, but the lines were still long in Florence.  I heard a lot of Italian in that line and a wide array of Asian languages; not much English.  None, in fact, other than my own thoughts.  image

In 1334AD Giotto di Bondone was named to take over construction of the new duomo projects, which had been laying stagnant for thirty years, ever since the death of the last capomaestro, Arnoflo di Cambio.  Giotto focused his efforts not on the new church itself, but on the bell tower that was planned to stand next to it.

When he died a few years later, only the lower section was finished.  Today the campanile stands 84.7 meters tall and almost 15 meters wide.  It’s covered in marble - white marble from Carrara, green from Prato and red from Siena - forming geometrical panels over its entire exterior.

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They only let so many people into the bell tower at a time.  After about forty-five minutes, after making it to the main door, I bought a cumulative ticket for €10 and proceeded through the turnstile, up the stairs.

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And oh, are there stairs!  Narrow, dark, stone stairs.  Lots of them.  If you’re claustrophobic, it’s probably not going to be your favorite place in Florence, but luckily you only have to go up a few flights before emerging onto a terrace.

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There are three terraces (not including the roof), all offering the same views of Florence at varying heights, and seven bells in the tower: 

- Campanone (“biggest bell”): forged in 1705

- La Misericordia (“mercy bell”): forged in 1830

- Annunziata (“annunciation bell”): forged in 1956

- Mater Dei (“God’s Mother bell”): forged in 1956

- L’Assunta (“the assumption”): forged in 1956

- L’Immacolata (“immaculate bell”): forged in 1956

- Apostolica (“apostolic bell”): forged in 1957

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When you get to the uppermost terrace, you can look down to the one below.

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But why climb all those stairs if not to go to the very top?

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When I climbed the final staircase I emerged to a cloudy gray sky, but at least it wasn’t raining.

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The roof walkway is enclosed in wire, keeping birds from getting in - and people from getting out.  Luckily for me, I think most people had been scared off by the rain, not realizing it had given us a short reprieve, which meant I had an easy, unobstructed walk around the perimeter of the tower.

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Which allowed me to take my time and take pictures from every angle :)  The fog that had come with the rain blocked the view of the horizon, but I could see enough to appreciate the beauty of the red rooftops.

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Next door, people were crowded around the top of the duomo’s cupola, Brunelleschi’s Dome.  They seemed like they were just a little bit higher than I was… which simply means I had to climb the cupola, next :)

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On my way back down I was able to fully appreciate the bell tower’s limited-entry policy.  You climb the same set of stairs down as you do on the way up, which could get really crowded - and probably pretty dangerous - if they didn’t regulate how many people could go up at a time.

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Anonymous asked:

What is the distance up the walking path to the castle? What is the altitude of the castle?

Do you mean San Luca in Bologna?  It’s actually a church, not a castle.  The walkway is 3.8 km long and the church is about 220 m above where you begin.

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