Un Albero Italiano a Londra

Grosvenor square nel distretto di Mayfair a Londra era, fino a recente,  il luogo dell’ambasciata Americana. Mi ricordo di aver preso parte ai moti studenteschi contro la guerra del Vietnam in questa piazza.

Ora l’ambasciata Americana non si trova piu’ qui ma al sud del Tamigi in una ex-zona industriale, una situazione che ha suscitato l’ira di Trump. (Intanto anche quella nuova e’ chiusa..).

Rimane, pero’, l’ambasciata Italiana ospitata in un bel edificio settecentesco, l’unico rimasto in piazza, ora sotto le fasce e in fase di restauro.

Mi ricordo che siamo stati invitati ad un ricevimento qui e rimasi stupefatto dalla magnifica collezione di quadri classici che serba l’ambasciata.

Caminando nei dintorni dell’edificio l’altro giorno, notai un bel alberino di mimosa donato da Ciampi, che stimo per la sua lotta come partigiano e per la sua dignita’ come presidente della repubblica.

 

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Dove Visse Peter Pan

Londra è famosa per suoi parchi. Tra questi i parchi reali, le antiche riserve di caccia dei re sono tra i più belli. Proprio nel centro di Londra si può fare una camminata di parecchi kilometri attraverso un parco reale dopo l’altro, sempre immerso nel verde.

Prendendo la metropolitana a Notting Hill Gate, un distretto reso ancora più noto dall’ononimo film con Julia Roberts e Hugh Grant, si può attraversare Kensington gardens, Hyde park, Green park e Saint James Park per arrivare a Parliament square e Westminster Abbey.

Questo giro, in gran parte, lo feci l’altro giorno, e ogni parco serba le sue bellezze particolari.

Parlando solo di Kensington gardens, l’antico giardino dell’omonimo Palazzo dove visse la giovane principessa Victoria, la principessa Diana ed ora la Megan e Harry, si possono notare spunti bellissimi anche nei cupi giorni d’inverno.

Nelle mie foto vedrete il sentiero segnato che commemora la principessa Diana, il laghetto rotondo davanti al Palazzo, la statua dell’energia fisica, capolavoro di G. F. Watts che la rappresenta in forma di cavallo e cavaliere, degli antichi castagni, la graziosa statua del perennemente giovanile Peter Pan, il Serpentine, il lago dove si annego’ Harriet, la prima moglie di Shelley, la grande varietà di uccelli acquatici, incluso il cormorano, i giardini italiani con le loro fontane, dono del principe Alberto alla moglie-regina Victoria, la nicchia, disegnata da Wren, della regina Anna, tra molte altre belle cose.

 

Potrete immaginare quanto più risaltate saranno le bellezze di questi parchi quando arriva la primavera!

Come uno disse:
sempre dopo l’inverno
la primavera…

Suona l’Orchestra Reale

Sophie, moglie del principe Edoardo, è patrona dell’orchestra d’archi di Sua Maestà, la Regina Elisabetta II.

Se uno ha l’onore di ricevere un titolo di merito dalla Regina, oppure essere invitato al Palazzo di Buckingham per un banchetto o un garden party nel grande giardino reale, è certo che questi momenti lusinghieri saranno accompagnati dell’orchestra della Contessa di Wessex, la Sophie.

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L’orchestra fa parte dell’arma del reggimento reale e una particolarità è che i musicisti, oltre a suonare i consueti strumenti di un orchestra sinfonica, possono anche sapere suonare quelli di una banda militare. Così un musicista potrebbe suonare il violino un giorno ed il prossimo trovarsi in una parata militare con la tromba.

Non c’era bisogno per noi di essere stati invitati da Sua Maestà per ascoltare l’orchestra della contessa di Wessex. Siccome il suo luogo di pratica si trova presso le caserme di Woolwich, bellissime con un frontale neoclassico stile San Pietroburgo, l’orchestra esegue annualmente un concerto a Charlton House, che non dista molto.

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Il concerto era veramente squisito con brani da Albinoni alla ‘light music’ (musica leggera), della quale l’Inghilterra serba una grande tradizione, forse tra le più grandi, nel mondo.

Osservate l’eleganza dei uniformi militari, gli speroni, e il fatto che l’orchestra contiene uomini e donne.

 

Si dice che Sua Maestà non abbia grande gusto musicale. Mi ricordo che, quando una mia amica cantante ricevete un onorificenza dal Palazzo, ci disse che i musicisti erano veramente mediocri. Pare che la Contessa di Wessex abbia cambiato tutto questo poiché l’orchestra era veramente brava (anche se nello spazio disponibile solo metà delle sue forze potevano essere accolte).

Aggiungiamo che la prima orchestra inglese fu proprio quella del Re. Infatti, nel seicento, Carlo II prese spunto dai ‘violons du Roi’ della corte francese del Re Sole, Luigi XIV, per formare la sua orchestra che partecipava ai ‘masques’ teatrali glorificando il suo regno.

Il prossimo programma dell’orchestra sarà questo:

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Se non avete sentito la musica di Warlock non avete sentito uno dei più grandi compositori inglesi della prima metà del secolo scorso.

L’orchestra della Contessa si può anche ascoltare in questo video nel luogo dove ha eseguito il concerto che abbiamo sentito.

Il pastorale

sfonde con il regale:

suoni dorati.

 

 

 

 

Il Teashop nel Parco

”The cup that cheers”, ‘la tazza che rallegra’, si applica alla consueta tazza di tè che il tipico inglese trova sia la panacea a qualsiasi problema della vita.

Come in Italia si può bere un buon caffè così in Inghilterra si può gustare un tè fatto come si deve.

Una volta le foglie di tè, trasportate dalle colonie orientali dell’impero, erano una comodità veramente preziosa e furono conservate in barattoli preziosi chiamati ‘tea caddies’ con lucchetti per impedire i ladretti di famiglia.

I grandi velieri chiamati ‘clipper’ erano stati costruiti per essere i più veloci e per arrivare al mercato del tè per primo e così comandare i prezzi più favorevoli per le loro preziose merci. Ne rimane un clipper superstite, il ‘Cutty Sark’, a Greenwich: un tesoro di nave che conosco da piccolo.

Nel parco del vicino villaggio di Charlton a Londra (non è altra, Londra, che un agglomerazione di villaggi) esiste uno dei miei preferiti luoghi dove bere la tazza che rallegra. Si chiama ‘old cottage cafè’ e serve anche un buon caffè, tramezzini, il tipico English breakfast, e altri piatti.

Per me la cosa piu’ amabile è la sua eccentricità tipicamente inglese. L’interno è appeso con quadretti che variano dalla Leonardesca Ginevra de Benci ad una stampa della regina Vittoria. C’è, poi, una piccola biblioteca con i giornali del giorno; lo sottosfondo consiste di musica classica.

Qui si possono fare amicizie, scambiare idee ed opinioni in questa deliziosa ‘tea house’ nel parco e la dimora che una volta apparteneva alla famiglia Maryon-Wilson.

Qui veniva il re Edoardo VII per incontrare la sua amante Alice Keppel, ora sepolta nel cimitero degli allori a Firenze.

Il tramonto da qui può essere veramente squisito!

Sanguina il sole

e l’usignolo canta

sopra la città.

 

London’s Mysterious Mithraic Temple

Today we have a guest blogger, Alexandra Cipriani Pettitt, who is well-known and highly regarded as a Trip Advisor reviewer. So far Alexandra has written sixty seven T. A. reviews which have earned her the awards of “Attraction Expert Level 14” and almost 7,000 points!

All Alexandra’s reviews are of particular interest, especially for visitors to London, and she writes with style and knowledge. This is her latest review on a particularly unusual London attraction which she visited in 2018.

Alexandra has given us plenty more information about Mithraism of which I was unaware when I wrote on the London Mithraic temple in my post addressed to an Italian audience at https://longoio3.wordpress.com/2017/12/23/il-dio-mitra-a-londra/

PS You may also know Alexandra as my wife!

Mithraic Mysteries was a religion on the god Mithras.

A rival of early Christianity Mithraism was subsequently suppressed and often Mithraic Temples are found below church crypts such as Santa Prisca Rome.

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It was mainly an orally transmitted cult although there are some written references to the practices in early literature. Worshippers of Mithras were mainly military, minor merchants, customs officials and bureaucratic officials; thus it was mainly a  male cult but some women, it seems, were involved with Mithraic groups.

One can admire a most endearing copy of the sculptural head of Mithras wearing a Phrygian hat.

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Mithras was born from a rock as a bas relief testifies from the Baths of Diocletian. So Mithras slaughters a sacred white bull and then shares a banquet with the god Sol (the sun). This, again, can be seen in cult icons which were portable and double sided reliefs with, on one side, the depiction of the Tauroctony (slaughter of the bull) and, on the reverse side, the banquet scene of Mithras and Sol feasting on the bull.

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The Mithraic Festival was held on 26th June the then Summer Solstice which coincided with the feasts of Roman clubs or collegia. Indeed, this cult held initiation ceremonies consisting of seven grades which were connected to the Planets and at each grade the initiates were placed under the protection of different planetary gods and called Syndexioi “those united by the handshake”. They prayed three times daily to the sun and Sunday was sacred.

As you enter the now ground floor you view a wall of Roman debris or artefacts found in the archaeological dig some everyday items of Londinium explanations are given throughout on an interactive mobile device as well as by guides.

You then go to a mezzanine level to discover Mithras and the Mithraic cult.

Finally you descend into the lower level of the site, seven metres below the modern pavement level.

At this point of the visit you can actually experience a revocation of the reconstructed Temple of Mithras a kind of son and lumière. As the lights dim special effects recreate the Roman Temple of Mithras – a most convincing experience. We might even have expected to see Ulpius Silvanus, the original founder, appear amongst the seven columns.

These Temples were, indeed, built underground. They were windowless and very distinctive and known as Mithraea or Mithraeum. Rome was the cult centre and the Mithraea were found in Roman Africa Roman Britain as well as Roman Syria.

The visit also includes the Bloomberg SPACE gallery as you enter. At present there is an extraordinary tromp d’oeil wallpaper exhibition inspired by Wren-aissance visions of London:

The whole Mithraean experience is situated in the European headquarters of Bloomberg close to Cannon Street Station.

Date of experience: October 2018

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g186338-d13139701-r644429627-London_Mithraeum-London_England.html#

Limelight for Bagni di Lucca’s ‘Aladdin’

Italy doesn’t have a Christmas pantomime tradition as in Britain (although pantomime did develop from a combination of Italian ‘Commedia dell’arte’ merging with the English courtly masque and the Victorian music hall) but it does have two great entertainment features for the festal season. One of them is the ‘cinepanettone’ or ‘Panettone’ (an Italian Christmas cake) comedy movie which is stereotypically centred on the festal season’s holidays of rich and inept Italians who find themselves in exotic places. Countries chosen include Egypt (‘Natale sul Nilo’ 2002) and India ‘(Natale in India’ 2003). I suppose the nearest UK equivalent would be the ‘Carry on’ films and, like that immortal series, cinepanettone is to be taken not so much with a pinch of salt but with a glass of prosecco and a bevy of, preferably Italian-speaking friends to come along for the fun and explain the (usually very bad) jokes.

Rather more admirable is the Italian Christmas musical comedy based on traditional fairy tales, just as in most English pantos. Bagni di Lucca’s Red Cross association, a voluntary body which runs the ambulance service and administers first and emergency aid throughout our area, has built up a fabulous reputation for putting together fun dramatic presentations of a very high standard.

Their production this year was no exception. If you were in Bagni di Lucca and missed the Red Cross performance of ‘Aladdin’ last January 6th then you missed a lot of really well-put together amateur (and often not so amateur) dramatics. The main actors were superb.

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Kokko, aka Roberto Lucchesi the ‘Ted Bovis’ (remember ‘Hi-de-Hi’?) of Bagni di Lucca’s entertainment scene, both presented and acted the old sultan whose daughter finally marries the canny lamp man, Aladdin.

 

All other main characters were very well done and the genie was truly a genius!

 

Choreography was exemplary. The four houris (girls inhabiting the Muslim paradise) were appropriately seductive and the two young girls from a local rhythmic acrobatic team were stunning, reminding me of the same kind of young acrobats I encountered on my journey through Mongolia a few years ago.

Of course, the highlight of Aladdin was the appearance of ‘La Befana’, the old white witch who rides around on her broomstick and distributes all things nice to good children and coal to the baddies. As the traditional verse goes:

La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
con le toppe alla sottana
Viva, viva la Befana!

(La Befana comes by night
with completely broken shoes
with her skirt all in patches
long live La Befana!)

 

It’s quite fantastic that a voluntary body should find the time to form a voluntary theatrical company and give us a fabulous free show!  Well done Croce Rossa!

 

PS Here are a few snippets from the show:

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=kUnHz65mP8E

PS For previous Bagni di Lucca Red Cross christmas shows see:

https://longoio3.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/beauty-meets-the-beast-at-bagnis-theatre/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/of-young-mermaids-and-aged-crones/

 

 

 

 

 

Of Films and Soaps at Bagni di Lucca

The new film season starts up at Bagni di Lucca.

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This is the programme:

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Some films may be in the original language with Italian subtitles. Others may be Italian films without subtitles. Others may even be dubbed in Italian. Whatever sound format the films are presented in they are not only an enticing selection but an excellent way of improving one’s Italian, whether spoken or written or heard.

All films are screened in Bagni di Lucca’s library in the old Anglican Church on the Thursday at 9.15 PM starting from January 10th.

Surely watching films in these long winter evenings is a great way of passing the time.

Which reminds me of Italian soaps as an aid to improving one’s Italian (especially colloquially). Though nowhere on the epic length of the UK’s ‘Corrie’ which has been running since 1960 and has reached close to ten thousand episodes ‘Un Posto al Sole’ deserves praise. Although running only since 1996 it has clocked up over five thousand episodes so far.

I wonder what your favourite soap is. Mine’s ‘Roger & Gallet’ (I’m not much of a soap – in that other sense of the word – addict!).

My Favourite Christmas Crib

Perhaps my favourite presepe is the one built by Egidio Illidi and formerly on show during the Christmas season at the church of San Cassiano di Controni, a village near us.

It is now housed in a room of the Villa Webb, also known as the palazzo Bonvisi, in the old part of Bagni di Lucca near the Terme alla Villa.

What I love about Egidio’s presepe is that it is set in a Palestinian environment. Palm trees, sand, dunes, Bedouins, camels and characteristic eastern houses with their latticed wooden balconies are featured in this lovely presepe. Furthermore, surrounding it are original camel saddle bags made of old carpets, a characteristic coffee table and a shisha.

Haunting Middle Eastern music is heard and all that is missing are some seductive belly-dancers. I was told that requests had been sent out for local volunteers but, unfortunately, without success.

However, the presepe (which had to be divided in half and carried down by tractor trailers) is stunning even without the piquancy of oriental dancers. It is truly a magnificent labour of love and devotion on Egidio’s part and the Villa Webb is most lucky to have it now.

 

La Befana is coming soon….

A walk is an essential part of New Year’s Day. Here are some photos from yesterday, January 1st, 2019 which continues the splendid weather we’ve been having in our part of the world since Christmas. Carlotta joined us for the walk and, later, Cheekie, too.

We also took in one of my fields and the olive trees looked absolutely grand. We’ve harvested most of them by now.

One of my ‘old’ English literature masters at my school commented on the olive leaves against the bluest of skies:  ‘It’s what Eliot called the “mid-winter spring”. So evocative!’

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We are now looking forwards to the big festivities of La Befana, the Italian white witch who distributes sugar, spice and all things nice to good children’s stockings and coal to bad children’s stockings.

Once Italian children only received their presents from la Befana, which takes place on the 6th of January, the feast of the epiphany and the arrival of the three wise men. Now they are doubly lucky receiving presents within a fortnight. There’s even someone I know near us who has his birthday on Christmas day…. triple whammy if there ever was one!

There are many places close at hand to enjoy La Befana. Perhaps the most evocative one is at Montefegatesi where the tradition is especially strong.

We’re truly spoilt for choice regarding Befana festivities. I wonder which one we’ll attend.

The nearest one to us is clearly the Red Cross befana at Bagni di Lucca:

Here are some links to a few of them in our area:

http://www.giornaledibarga.it/2018/11/gli-appuntamenti-della-vigilia-della-befana-312533/

http://www.giornaledibarga.it/2018/11/alla-casina-della-befana-e-non-solo-312537/

https://www.evensi.it/antica-befana-montefegatesi-pian-albero-bagni-lucca-unione-comuni-media-valle-serchio-lu-tos-italia/283121763

 

 

 

 

A New Year Hack

The first day of 2019 in Longoio and it’s a day that’s deciding between being sunny and being cloudy.

Back in Britain we used to begin our New Year with a hack. I am, of course, referring to the equestrian meaning of the term which is to ride a horse for a little exercise.

We would go to one of the stables in the south east suburbs of London. Mount Mascall was a particular favourite

Sandra is a much more experienced and rather better horse rider than I was. Indeed, it was she who introduced me to the pleasure of riding an equine.

Here are some photos from those long-past New Year hacks.

At one stage we even had a horse. We found him wandering alone on the Plumstead marshes. No-one seemed to lay claim to him. We took the horse to our house and his stable was in our garage for some time Sandra christened him ‘shooting star’ because of his distinctive head marking.  Every morning Sandra would take Shooting Star to the wide expanses of Woolwich common where Shooting star enjoyed his grazing.

We never got to the stage of putting a saddle on the gelding for one day he disappeared creating the following newspaper title:

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In Hungary we met the best horses in our lives.

In Italy we enjoyed pony-trekking for several years.

On one of our excursions near Pian di Fiume we met a much tinier little fellow.

It was none other than our beloved Napoleone (the name had already been given to him by one of the stable lads) who left us over a year ago. He made us first aware of himself by putting his little paw through a giant mill-wheel centre hole.

Next day I returned to the stables. We had been allowed to take Nap home with us.

This is Nap’s first meal at our Longoio home.

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‘’Happy times, happy memories. No greater grief than to remember days of joy, when misery is at hand. (Dante Inferno Canto 5)’.

What will 2019 truly bring us. We can be certain of nothing in our wisp of a life. Let us enjoy instead what we do have and look at our hour-glass as being half-full rather than being half-empty.

Buon Anno – Happy New Year!