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Christmas in Italy

Author: Host Ciao
Date of Trip: December 2012

Indeed Buon Natale to all!

And even though it’s almost 60 here it must be Christmas. I saw Santa out jogging about 9 am. He had evidently already run off most of the cookies from around the world because he looked pretty good in his red tights and top. And, certainly, he had the correct hat to top it off.

Last time I spent Christmas here I talked about the churches I visited as many Romans do to see the Presepi, Nativity scenes. I did that this morning too and will head out soon since most churches re-open around 4 pm. After he read the last Christmas news my brother said he was so worn out he had to take a nap so I won’t give you a report like that. I also visited the International Museum of the Presepi, which I enjoyed a lot. Bought a Presepe in a matchbox for my collection and had beef in Guiness at the Scholars’ Pub for noon dinner. I went to Mass last night at San Sylvestre, a block away. Had “midnight” Mass in English at 7:30. Had five priests and great guitar music and singing of many of the usual Christmas carols. It was not as moving as the last time mainly I think because they had blessed the crib and placed the Baby Jesus in it at the 5:30 Italian “midnight” Mass.

But in the Christmas spirit I will throw in another way I enjoy looking at religious art in museums and in churches. I like to look at the expression on the Baby’s face or check out his movements. One I especially like I saw in the Uffizi in Florence. Can’t remember who painted it, but it is an Adoration of the Magi. The Baby is sitting on his mother’s lap and reaching out to pat the nice shiny bald head of the king kneeling in front of him. Probably its supposed to be a blessing, but it looks like a nice gentle pat. My very most favorite is one I saw again in the Vatican Museum. I have always remembered it, but until I saw it again last week I couldn’t remember where. In this one Baby Jesus is lying in a pile of straw looking above him. He is holding his finger to his mouth and has a “what am I doing here” or a “now what happens” expression.

Also in the spirit of Christmas when I was in Naples, I slowly strolled through the crowds on Via Gregorio Armeni, the street where many of the Presepi makers have their shops and workshops too. There are many beautiful and not so beautiful items for sale there. And yes I saw one I wanted to buy for my collection, but was too afraid about getting it to Rome safely to ship–it was way too breakable to carry, and I couldn’t communicate with the shop keeper well enough about bubble wrap. Among the not-so examples was a very small scene that I swear had covered part of Jesus with a fig leaf, a la Vatican Museum. Anyway there was a dot of green paint in a strategic spot.

Here in Rome I love the Christmas Fair in Piazza Navona. I have been there once so far, but will go back at least several more times. Here candy reigns supreme almost and crepes with Nutella are for sale at every candy stand, different from last time. Also there are many decoration stands, hit the target type stands and, of course, Presepi stands. A new item I want is one of the kings riding on a camel pointing to the star. Had never seen that before. Can’t afford the 10 inch one though. Many stands feature movement or fires, etc run by electricity. Some make sense such as the baker putting the pizza or bread into the over, the windmill turning, Mary rocking the cradle, but one that I had to stand and watch for a minute or so was a moving Baby Jesus probably three or four inches in the manger. And I swear it looked like he was doing sit-ups. What more can I say to that!

I have been to the Vatican Museums twice now, done the Scavi tour of the excavations under St. Peteràs and also toured the Borghese Gallery, a marvelous show of Bernini sculpture and Carravagio paintings, among other artists of course, and wonderful ceilings to look at. Some rooms have good info in English in all these museums. I won’t go into details, but if you need any information. I can answer questions on Independent traveler when I get home mid-January. More wandering tomorrow including a walk in the Ghetto area and maybe fried artichoke for lunch, carciofi ala Guideca.

Again Merry Christmas

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