Rinderpest begone!

Great feature in the New York Times today about the celebration in Rome of the eradication of rinderpest:

For only the second time in history, a disease has been wiped off the face of the earth.

I had a soft spot for rinderpest, or rather its eradication, and was proud to support FAO’s initiatives by buying their t-shirts (read previously):

Rinderpest t-shirt from FAO
Proud to be rinderpest free

I should dig it out again for the celebration!

Mmm … Easter

To Valzani'sEaster eating in Jamaica is not very exciting. The traditional Jamaican speciality of bun and cheese pales in comparison with the orgies of chocolate we’ve known elsewhere.

In Rome, one of our favourite shops was Valzani’s pasticceria (confectioner’s), which alone justified a walk over the river (Trastevere). The street and the shop itself were very unprepossessing, but once inside there was no denying you were somewhere special. Their handmade chocolates were laid out like exquisite gems and included a wicked chili-flavoured truffle. We usually limited ourselves to their perfect meringues – crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle. (‘Scuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.)

At Easter, they made a giant chocolate Easter egg, so big that Signor Valzani had to stand on a stool to decorate it while we stared agog.

On the walls hung faded photos of Valzani’s previous works of art, including a model of ancient Rome sculpted out of sugar.

This is a photo of one of Valzani’s giant Easter eggs, circa 1974, judging by the hair style.

Mmmm ... Easter

Where there’s muck

Out cycling this morning, I passed a field being ripped up. Walking a few metres behind the earthmover (It’s Scoop, mama!) was a man with a metal detector and a spade.

Where there's muck ...

Get a lijf! (alt.dutch.humour)

“Dude! WTF!!” I shouted, but he was too busy to look up.

I can’t imagine what he hoped to find. Since the land has been reclaimed from the sea, it’s only been used for cow pasture.

Bah! Two metres of compacted dung.

Beep! Beep! Beep! My god, he’s found something! …

Just kidding.

In Rome, developers were reluctant to dig in many places for fear of hitting a buried ruin. Once that happened, the ground would be seized and cordoned off by the Ministry of Monuments.

” ‘old yer ‘orses, Marco. You’ve only gone and uncovered the almost pristine remnants of a paleochristian oratory, ain’tcha, you dipstick!”

I’ve freely translated from Romanesco, the local dialect. Although it may not be long before Roman builders do talk like this. The spread of Estuary English seems relentless – it’s already reached Friesland where my Dutch mother-in-law talks like one of the Slaters (she’s a devoted Eastenders viewer).

And she has a sense of humour …

Grazie Madonna

Those whose prayers have been answered (see previous post), can show their gratitude at this ad hoc shrine in via Trastevere. The slot at the bottom of the wall for donations for “bread for the orphans” has been crowded out by a hundred or so plaques dedicated to the madonna. The oldest plaques are closest to the shrine and date from the early 1950s. The more recent ones spread over the wall on either side.

La Madonnina

The shrine is opposite the Ministry of Education, so perhaps the plaques are from grateful students who have just passed exams successfully.

Grazie Ria

I like the mix of pompous engraving in marble contrasting with the magic marker on a simple bathroom tile. The grouting is uniformly shoddy, however. Probably due to the fact that they were stuck on hurriedly under cover of darkness.

Tech note: I wanted to do a rollover with the original photo, but couldn’t get it to work either with java or css. I don’t have Dreamweaver here in the Netherlands, either. Maybe I’ll try later with ImageReady that was bundled with Photoshop and not yet used. Any ideas?

Please please me

Saintly requests

This statue is in Santa Maria in Trastevere. The hundreds of slips of paper are requests for saintly intervention. Note how the more enterprising supplicants avoided getting their requests lost in the mess at his feet and stuck Post-its on his cassock.

Although I forgot to note the name of the saint, it is almost certainly Saint Anthony. Apparently he is the Patron Saint of Finance and can help you sell your house quickly. You should bury a small statue of him upside down facing your house.

I’m serious! People believe this stuff to work. Before I lived in Rome, I never knew Catholicism was such a fun religion. I mean I only knew the kind of Irish Catholicism of repression and misery (I think the rain had a lot to do with it). The real Roman version is so much more freaky fun. The things they come up with … you’d think they were …
a) crazy
b) on acid
c) completely out of touch with reality.

Back to my photo. I like how it’s slightly over exposed so that the candles at his feet threaten to turn it into an auto de fe.