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January 20, 2012     Post-Gazette
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POST-GAZETTE, JANUARY 20, 2012 Page 13 00N'anna 00Babb00onno by John Christoforo Last week, I ended the story at the open air opera in Rome. After viewing the mag- nificence of the production, I had to agree with Babbo- nonno. I was never an opera lover, but if ever I was to ex- pose myself to it, it would have to be Italian grand op- era. There is no other coun- try that could produce oper- atic works of art that come anywhere near what could be imagined by Italian compos- ers. Babbononno, a dyed in the wool opera lover used to say, "Even Mozart, whose first language was German, had the good sense to write his operas in Italian. No other language on Earth comes anywhere near expressing that kind of music as does Italian. He was right. The next day, we headed over the Ponte Vecchio, took a left at the Castel St. Angelo and arrived at St. Peter's Square in the center of Vatican City. Actually, the Vatican is a separate coun- try from Italy. It is about one mile square and the govern- ment is a monarchy headed by the Pope. They used Ital- ian currency, but had their own stamps to signify that they were separate from Italy. First, we visited St. Peter's. I had never seen a church or cathedral on this grand a scale before or sincE. The only church that even comes close outside of Italy is West Minister Abby in London. The paintings by famous Middle Age and Renaissance artists were awe inspiring and the statuary, especially the Pieta by Michelangelo, beyond de- scription. We toured all of St. Peter's and climbed the stairs that brought us up to- ward the dome, all the while concentrating on the paint- ings we saw. Next, we headed for the Sistine Chapel. Once inside, I couldn't speak for several minutes. Michel- angelo's ceiling cannot be expressed in words, it has to be seen. Jose had a motion picture camera with him. We told the people surrounding us that he was with an American newspaper and they carved out room enough for him to lie on the floor and film straight up. I think he still has the film. We visited all of the other chapels in the Vatican and then headed to the vault in the lower levels of St. Peter's and the tombs of deceased Popes. When we were done, we headed for the gift store where I bought medals, icons and pairs of Rosary beads for family and friends. As a mat- A Nostalgic Remembrance ii ter of fact, the Rosary beads that I bought for my mother were used by her for the rest of her life and when she passed away in 2007, were in her hands. I had her buried with them for eternity. The next day started out hot and got even hotter. When the car picked us up, we had already made the decision to go to the beach and were packed for the trip. Rome is inland a bit and we headed for the coast. You could tell the difference between Euro- pean bathers and American. Our men's bathing suits are more like shorts. The Euro- pean men wore Speedo type briefs. Franny commented after seeing a man in a skin tight bathing suit walk by, "That bathing suit is so small and tight, not only can you tell the man's sex, you can tell his religion." The European women all wore two piece suits that left little to the imagination. I didn't mind at all. We spent the day swim- ming in the warm Italian waters and sunning our- selves. When it was time to eat, we found restaurant af- ter restaurant located on the beach, each one with fresh fish that were caught that morning. In several, you picked your fish from a tank where they were swimming and they would cook it for you while you waited. Now, that's fresh fish and that's what we did. In the place we chose to eat in, the fish came with salad, bread and chilled homemade white wine. What more could we ask for. .At the end of the day, we headed back to the city and were told at the hotel that there was to be some type of a festival at the Piazza Venezia which was within walking distance of where we were staying. At the festival, we ate cotton candy and watched dancers and musi- cians entertain the tourists and the few locals that weren't on vacation. At that point I happened to look at the Vittoriano, the mausoleum of Victor Emmanuel. It is a never-end- ing white marble building built in the geographical cen- ter of Rome and right in the center is a statue of an Amer- ican Indian. As a matter of fact, it looks just like the one on the flag of the Common- wealth of Massachusetts. No one could give me an answer as to what the significance of the Indian was, not even the local people I asked. When it was time to eat -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 again, we walked to our now favorite restaurant on the side street that ran off the Via Nazionale. The owner spotted us and waived. His wife seated us and told us that we couldn't order off the menu, as they had something spe- cial that wasn't written on it. It was coniglio cacciatore. (rabbit cacciatore). The meal started off with a before din- ner chilled wine and a dish of chunks of prosciutto and chunks of homemade buffalo mozzarella. This was accom- panied by fresh bread and a dish of hot olive oil (they don't use butter in southern Italy). The rabbit cacciatore tasted a lot like chicken and was accompanied by roasted peppers and mari- nated mushrooms. The wine was a chilled lambrusco, a sweet fruit flavored red that was homemade. After dinner, the restaurant owner set up a small table on the sidewalk, brought us to it and served us espresso and lemon granita (slush) in dishes to be eaten like ice cream. Put it this way, I didn't lose any weight while I was in Rome. That evening, I called home to let my folks know how we were doing. Dad was working, but I had Mom on one phone and Babbo- nonno on the extension. They asked me dozens of questions about Rome, the sites we saw and the food. I told them that the next day, we were going to visit some of the other churches in the Eter- nal City, and the call ended after a half hour. Morn said that she would call Sal's par- ents to let them know he was still alive and we ended the conversation. The next day would be reserved for visiting churches. On the following day, we visited St. Paul's Outside the Walls, Santa Maria Maggiore, and a dozen or so churches that were built in Ro- manesque or Renaissance architecture. When that part of our travels was over, we headed on the Appian Way and the catacombs that the early Christians used to pray in and bury their dead when being a Christian in Rome meant torture and death. Along the way heading to the catacombs, we passed the grave markers of several no- table Romans who were bur- ied aside the road. Some of the sites were almost 2000 years old and still intact. It was fascinating. All told, we spent about three weeks in Rome and hated to leave, but there was a lot more of Italy to investi- gate. Unfortunately, we could only dent the surface in our explorations of what Rome had to offer. It is that big a city. It was now time to head north and one of the first stops would be the City of Pisa and its famous Leaning Tower, but that's a story for another day. GOD BLESS AMERICA State of the City Address schools our kids deserve un- til we build school communi- ties that serve them well." Improving Public Safety and Engaging the Community Boston reduced its crime rate by 25 percent and its ho- micide rate by 16 percent. Mayor Menino proposes to drive it lower still by: Expanding Neighborhood Crime Watch Groups, by launching 100 new Crime Watches across the city. Adding 25 new recruits to the Boston Police Department Expanding the Boston Police Department's Unre- solved Shootings Project, using community outreach, technology, information shar- ing, and the latest forensic science reduce the number of open shooting cases in Boston. "I've always believed the crime watches are the per- fect kind of community meet- ings -- no egos, no fancy titles, just a job to get done," Mayor Menino said. Job Creation and Economic Development Mayor Menino highlighted the fact that the city has brought together developers and community leaders to break ground on 22 new con- struction projects, putting thousands of people back to work. We also oversaw more than 1,000 new housing starts in the third quarter last year, more than any other quarter since 2006. Boston Gaming Advisory Board Mayor Menino noted that 2012 will be the year that another economic develop- ment plan takes shape in the form of a resort-casino pro- posal for East Boston. Mayor Menino said he will create a Boston Gaming Advisory Board, made up of leaders from outside of city govern- ment. He charged it with a two part mandate: 1. Maximize job creation for Bostonians 2. Provide transparency for residents into the process of casino review "Boston must do this in a way that improves our city and enhances our reputa- tion," Mayor Menino said. Health of our Residents and Obesity Prevention Mayor Menino wants the city to take an honest look at its weight. While Boston was recently ranked America's (Continued from Page 1) third healthiest city in Forbes, obesity is a problem that remains. While Boston fares much better than much of the nation, 50 per- cent of Boston adults are overweight or obese, and that number rises to over 60 per- cent for blacks and Latinos. More startling is the fact that 1 in 3 school-aged children in Boston are overweight or obese. "I'm determined to make Boston a leader in obesity pre- vention," Mayor Menino said. "We will implement a citywide strategy that connects all of the good work going on in Boston and reaches out to all children and families, espe- ciaUy those who are being left behind." Mayor Menino called on Bostonians to collectively shed a million pounds this year. Some ways the Mayor pro- posed cutting obesity include: Offering no-interest microloans for childcare pro- viders to adopt obesity preven- tion strategies Expand the highly suc- cessful Bounty Bucks pro- gram, which allows for those receiving nutritional assistance to double their dol- lars when buying at farmers markets. Work with Main Street Districts to create healthy kids menus at restaurants Create "workplace well- ness kits" for businesses to give out to their employees. The Mayor closed by en- couraging people to engage more in their communities. "It has now been said many times that I have met more than half of the people who live in Boston. Not everyone will have the chance to meet so many of our neighbors. But ask yourself, have you met more than half of the people on your street? More than half of the folks in your church? Half of the par- ents of your child's class- mates? I urge you to try. In order to reach great heights, we all have to reach great lengths. In order to reach up in 2012, we all need to reach out." The program included the singing of our national an- them by Boston Arts Academy senior Kathryn Lazar. The innovation was given by Rabbi Barbara Penzner of Temple Hillel B'nai Torah in West Roxbury.