Firenze and Roma, Dec, 2008-Jan. 2009

Kathy and I spent some time in Firenze and Roma
after Christmas in Raleigh. Shortly after we arrived
we were invited to dinner at the Chaplins, where we
were joined by our old friend Horace Gibson, soon to
celebrate his 91st birthday. Below are our hostess, Diane,
and Horace at table:

Diane and Timothy's daughter, Livia, seems to be
opening a present:

And here she is by the Xmas tree:

As usual, Timothy, a gourmet cook, prepared the food:

At New Years we had a visit from the Sochinskis. Jim
is professor of music at Virginia Tech, and he and his
wife were in Italy celbrating theirr 40th wedding anniversary.
Here ithey are relaxing in our apartment with Kathy:

As usual, we were invited to the Frosalis for a sumptuous
meal, prepared by Gianni Frosali and his lovely wife Gloria.
Several other friends were invited, including the Riccis. He is
a math professor in Firenze whom I have known for
many years. (In the picture below, he is the
one standing. His wife has her back to the camera.)

Below,Gianni Frosali, now chair of the department
of applied mathmatics at the University of Firenze,
is sitting at the right:

Several pictures of Gianni's wife, Gloria. (She is also
a dsitinguished mathematician, by the way.)

This is my hat she's trying on:

The dining-room table before we sat down:

As usual, Gianni was playing opera as dinner music:

Here is what our apartment looked like:

Our place was just around the corner from the Palazzoo Vecchio. Here
is what the streets nearby looked like:

The last piture above was taken out of our window, showing
some of the Christmas decorations hanging there.
Here is another picture from our window. Gives you an
idea of how narrow the streets are. The next batch of
Pictures were of a cocktail party we gave
just before leaving, Firsr Horace and Diane:

Joan Yakkey and Gianni Frosali "Yakkeying"
about opera, no doubt. On the right the
actinf rector of St. James Church, along with
Horace and another of her parishioners.

On the right, sitting with Joan Yakkey, is the rector's husband,
who went by the name of "Q."

Left to right, Gianni Frosali, Jpan Yakkey, Q, Kathy, Joan and Timothy Chaplin:

Some pix from St. James Church. Stained glass window:

The new plaque put on the wall in honor of Horace:

The rose window in the rear of the church:

And the altar:

We were invited to an inauguration party in a villa on
Via Bolognese, where everybody was celebrating
Obama's great victory. If you look closely you can just
make out the TV image we watche:

Here is Kathy in her Obama t-shirt:

We spent a morning shopping in one of our favorite
spots, il Mercato Centrale di Firenze. (Usuallu we shop\
in the San Ambrogio Mercato, because it's closer.)
Here are some pix of the Mercato Centrale giving you an
idea of what's available there:

Jim Sochinski discovered that the building in which the
Camerata met was just around the corner, on Via dei Benci.
For those of you not familiar with the Camerata, let me quote
from the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Music:  "A circle of intellectuals
in Florence that met regularly fomr 1573 to 1587 to discuss
matters of art, music and cultural advancement. Prominent
member were Bardi, Caccini, Peri [composer of the first opera]
and Galilei [father of Galileo]. Their discussions led to humanist
musical experiments with monody and to the development of
opera." To expand on the dictionary's definition a little,
the Council of Trent (1545-1563) was called by Pope Paul III
to launch the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church's
response to Martin Luther. In addition to launching a  battle
against Protestanism, the Council also banned the use of
polyphonic music in the Mass, on the grounds that polyphany
made the words difficult, if not impossible, to understand.
Motivated, perhaps, by the Council, the Camerata developed the
art of monody, a single melodic line accompanied by a simple
accompaniment now known as the "basso continuo." This was the
origin of the Baroque era in music and led, almost immediately, to
opera as we know it today. (Jacopo Peri's first opera, Orfeo,
is lost but Monteverdi's version, 1607, is still frequently
performed. Peri's grave can be found in Firenze, in the
church of Santa Maria Novella, near the famous Masaccio
painting of the Trinity. Look on the floor.)

Here are some pix of the Bardi residence, where the Camerata
met. The courtyard was designed By Brunelleschi, according
to Jim Sochinski.


In this house of the Bardi [family]
lived Giovanni, Count of Vernio
who, to the the military valor
shown in the sieges of Siena and Malta,
joined [married, really] the study of the sciences and the love of literature.
He cultivated poetry and music
and gathered together and was the soul of that famous Camerata
which intended to restore musical art,
corrupted by the Flemish strangeness [really, foreign influence]
to the sublimity of Greek melody 
of which the the historians of the ancient civilization wrote.
He opened the way, previously closed for centuries,
to the sung recitative and to the melody
and with, the reform, of drama
the cradle of modern art.

The pensione in which E.M. Forester wrote "A room with
a view" and in which the early action takes place is
located more or less around the corner from the Bardi
house, at Lungarno delle Grazie 1. Here are some pictures
of the pensione (today a private residence). Note the balcony
from which the view was seen, as well as some pictures
of the view itself, on the other side of the river (Arno):
(Hotel Jennings Riccioli was the name the pensione
adopted some years after Forester stayed there.)
This is the real McCoy. The locals will point out
another pensione, on another part of the Lungarno,
where some of the scenes of the film were shot,
but that doesn't count. Note that this building in on the
right bank of the Arno. The view is across the river.

The tower to the left is sometimes called Michelanelo's tower. It's where he hid
out when Firenze was attacked by the French.

From Firenze we went to Rome for a few days before flying back
to Raleigh, (Click here for our trips to Raleigh before and after Italy.)
We stayed in a hotel near Santa Maria Maggiore and spent two
days sightseeing (we rode the hop-on-hop-off bus) and had
a lunch at our favorite restaurant near Palazzo Farnese.

We arrived Sunday afternoon, and went to Vespers followed by
the 5:00 p.m. Mass at St. Peters. The music was simply
wonderful! Here are pictures from inside St. Peters (note the
Cardinals with the red skullcaps):


Outside we saw the Swiss Guards:

Some views of the outside of St. Peters (the best pictuere
was taken from inside the bus):

Wherever you are in Rome, you are reminded "S.P.Q.R) (Senatus populusque Romae):

Most of the obelisks in Rome were brought there from Eqypt by
various emperors.  I believe this one was brought to
Rome by Diocletian (please correct me if I'm wrong). The one
in St. Peters' Square was brought to Rome from
Alexandria by Caligula, (Has anyone wondered why the
Romans might have been obsessed by phallic symbols?

Near the Vatican is Castel Sant'Angelo (site of Act III of Tosca):
Note the statue of St. Michael the Archangel on the top
whioc (almost) always appears in the staging of Tosca:

Not too far away is the church of Sant'Andrea delle Valle, where Act I of
Tosca takes place, and next to it the Palazzo Farnese, site of Act II:

Between the church and the palazzo one finds the
Campo de Friori, where Tosca bought the flowers
she laid at the feet of the Madonna on Act. I.
It was also the execution grounds in old Rome,
and is where Giordano Bruno was burned
at the stake in 1600, for heresy. A monument
marks the spot today. Here are pictures
of the flowers and of the monument to Bruno:

Connais-tu le pays ou fleurit l'oranger? (Aria from Mignon,
by Ambroise Thomas). Yes, even in January the
ornages were growing. Wwe flound these on Via

We also visited Piazza Navona, and saw the famous Bernini fountain
representing the four rivers of the earth (Nile, Danube, Ganges and Rio
de la Plata), The obelisk surmounting the foountain is a Roman
copy commissioned by Domitian.

There were people in the piazza, in costume, selling concert tickets, and nearby
was a house with an intersting balcony:

We also saw the Coliseum, both from inside and outside
the bus:

We walked from our hotel to see the Michelangelo statue
of Moses:

The picture above, on the right, is the gargantuan monument to
King Victor Emanuel, sometimes calles the "wedding cake."