Noon On High


In this city of bells another sound hails the arrival of noon:



The boom comes from a cannon that’s ignited every day to commemorate the liberation of Italy.  It reminds me of the end of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture when bells and booms crescendo in victory.  My backyard version of the music includes the chatter of birds surprised by the explosion.

The cannon sits on top of the Janiculum hill just above our apartment.  I still jump with surprise if I’m not braced for the sound even though I’ve heard its thunder nearly every day for a year.

Last week I climbed the hill to witness the daily ceremony.  I live only a few hundred meters away but my rituals take me downhill so I hadn’t yet met the cannon.  It was time to be neighbourly.

And envious.

She occupies prime real estate on a bluff overlooking the city.  It’s one of the best views in town:



A few minutes before noon soldiers wheel the cannon out of storage and pack it with an empty shot:




What do you do with a herd of 10-year-old boys who have no school on an odd Friday?You take them to Piazza Farnese to play soccer.  They prefer to play on a grassy field but the mommies are in charge on this day and we choose a cobblestone pitch in the shadow of a Michelangelo masterpiece that is decidedly good as any stretch of dirt and grass.  We know the boys will chase a ball on any surface.  Not long after the game started a few bigger guys visiting from Hungary joined the fun and other tourists stopped to watch and cheer:



And the mommies?  We sat at a corner café with a perfect view of it all and sipped an aperitivo…



October kicked off with an afternoon boat ride in the bay of Naples to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday:


And more of Rome this month:


Filling The Unforgiving Minute (And A Pocket…)

The barista who works in the coffee shop by the dome of St. Peter’s has a confession:

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned.  Last week I stole money from a lady who came into the bar for a cup of coffee.  She gave me a five Euro bill and I shorted her change.  She didn’t speak Italian very well but I still understood the righteous anger she lobbed over the counter at me. I prey on tourists because they are low hanging fruit on a money tree and I can’t resist the temptation to pocket easy change. I know it is particularly repugnant of me to steal on sacred ground.  For this and all of my sins, I am deeply sorry.”


A greedy barista took my money but he didn’t steal the day.  Look at that sky!

IMG_2797After taking Eddie to the bus stop for school, (and on a whim)  I walked to the Vatican and climbed the dome and cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica.  It was early in the morning and the absence of crowds in a place that is always heavily touristed felt like magic. There were no lines at the entrance and no bodies to jostle inside.  It was easy to feel fully present without these distractions and to appreciate the noble beauty of the architectural feat capping the basilica. Conceived by Michelangelo after years of on-again, off-again work on St. Peter’s, and raised in 1590 by his student Della Porta, the dome is a masterpiece of monolithic proportion.  It rises 452 feet above the base of the church.  I believe it is still the highest free-standing dome in the world.

The history of the building of St. Peter’s makes for a good read in the hands of R.A. Scotti.  I recommend her Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal if you like easily digestible history and colourful story telling.


Here’s a priceless photo of a minor car accident I was involved in a few weeks ago:


Like ants to a picnic, the extended family of the other driver appeared within minutes of the collision.  Notice her father-in-law in the background trying to take Jim to the cleaners. Aunty, in the green shirt, offers a classically Italian gesture.  And the young sentinels, with hands on hips, guard the slightly damaged bumper.  The husband and another relative arrive after I shot this photo.

(The large Italian family might not live together anymore but they clearly work together…)

It took an hour to settle the excitement and to sign the insurance report that the father-in-law gleefully authored.

I was at fault (ish):  I hit the car while turning left but the other driver was clearly speeding down a hill and appeared out of the ether. It was the end of a long day celebrating Eddie’s birthday at a water park and I had six kids in tow, three in my car and three in Jim’s.

It was difficult to argue degree-of-fault in Italian because I have only a mildly functional command of the language.  (A muzzle to a Livieratos whose birthright it is to argue…)

While the Italian family was milling about and fussing-away my time with insurance paperwork, (do people really carry these forms in their car?),  I thought wistfully of India and of how a few hundred Rupees would have cleared the scene in minutes.


More of the month in photos: