mercoledì 12 agosto 2015

Numa, the great

All throughout its long, long history Rome had its heart divided into two. On the one side: gates open to the east, the Greeks and its Gods and Goddesses and philosophers (how far from Romans were these theorethical fellows from the lawful, practical Romans…), and Egypt with its mysterious and mistycal charms; on the other side, the culture of the Sabins, where the true roots of the Roman seed came: grain and sheep and olive groves and vinyards in the rich countryside that stretches inland, toward the Adriatic sea. It is there in the lands of the Sabins (Sabo meaning sacred) that I spent some of this long, hot, sunny summer. It is there, in the silver hills that I could trace back on the flight of thought where everything began.

It is there that I met, let’s say it in a methaphorical way, the great king Numa, who came after Romulus, and was consacrated to the Gods of his silver lands. He was the one to organize the priesthoods in Rome, he put together Romans and Sabins (after the famous rape of the beautiful sabin girl) to build the future grandness of the Roman venture. He used to talk, for counseling, with the Nymph Egeria, who helped him in the difficult art of ruling his people. He listened to her wise words and ruled in wisdom for many, many years. As I read about him, I could see him come alive in the lands where he always lived, even as the King of Rome. There are no Numas, now in Italy, but the memory of this great King still lives in Plutarch and sometimes, in my sabin nights, I could just hear him wisper in my ear the true story of the forgotten sabin roots of the Roman Empire…

venerdì 19 giugno 2015

Do as the Romans do

In the heart of the Roman centre, while cars and motorbikes and buses roar their neverending roar and people come an go, in everyday frenzy, as it is in every other city in the world, in the beautifully simple Palazzo Venezia, the Palace of the venetian cardinal Paolo Barbo, who was to become Pope in the end of the Fifteenth century bearing the name of Paul the II,  a lovely garden sleeps its peaceful slumber, hidden in all its renaissance grace in the heart of hearts of the Popes once house, now a museum.
It is shaped exactly like a Roman viridarium, hidden inside walls as the soul is hidden in the body. It is a dream come true, the loveliest gift for people who like to see Rome in its true face, not rushing from the Colosseum to the Vatican museum seeing too much and understanding little. I took there, during one of my spiritual walks, a little group, some time ago. And while, us four, happy priviledged four, were there in all that beauty, the bells of Saint Mark (the once private basilica of the Pope) started chiming, and ding dong, ding dong, in the silence and in that sweet green, as if time had stopped and we, we priviledged four, lived  for a long, long minute, in times that are forlon and that caress heart and soul…
Please contact me if you are coming to Rome. Spiritual walks, Food walks, shopping walks, doing just as the Romans do. I will find the right thing for you!. Benedetta

domenica 14 giugno 2015

In between pots and pans

On the top of the Esquilino hill, which was, in the days of the Divus Augustus, a cemetery for slaves (where the poet Horatius went to see the witches making their horrid spells)… in a little secluded street off Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, there is the magnificent Basilica of Santa Prassede. I do not want to make the list of the treasures hidden in this shy but beautiful church, but only tell you the story of the saint to whom the church is dedicated. She was one of two sisters born of a senatorial family. Their father, Pudente, was a great friend of Saint Pauls and such a rich and important man was he that his home (full of gardens and even baths) sloped down from the Esquilino hill towards what is now the cool Monti area. It all belonged to him and to his two daughters who were slaughtered because Christians. Little of very little remains of their vivid memory and martyrdom (meaning being a witness), all saints, who knows why, become statues and bits of paper and loose life and light. What a pity! Where blood and the fire of love used to consume soul and body, only the dust of time has remained…

So very true this is that when, during my spiritual tours, I talk to my guests telling them the stories of, let’s say, Saint Teresa of Avila, their eyes open up in wide bewilderment when I tell them that the beautiful Teresa, while a kid, run away from home together with her brother to join the crusades. Her parents brought them back home and maybe, probably even, spanked her for running away… Yes, the great Saint, the Doctor of the Church was also a naughty little girl, as she said, yes a mystic, “in between pots and pans".
This masterpiece by Lorenzo Lotto shows Mary in the fright of becoming the mother of God. Pleae note the terrified cat running away,  in awe, while God enters Mary's room

martedì 2 giugno 2015

Angels in Rome

When in Rome, you might like to look out for the angels that, here and there, open their flauncy, white wings on the City of the Pontifs to envelop and enbrace us all and bring us up towards God and our salvation, back to the gardens of a Paradise now lost in this topsy turvy world we are living in. Yes, angels are everywhere in Rome. The one on top of the Castel Sant’Angelo is, I migh say, the highest one of all, ready to fly away, back to where he belongs... There he is, little in the distance, yet powerful as he is towering the Holy City of Rome. He is Saint Michel, one of the three Archangels,  in the action of putting his flaming sward back in its scabbard. Why, you might ask? The reason is a terrible pestilence which had broken and devasted Rome and its inhabitants in the late VII Century (Pope Gregory the Great sitting on the Holy See…), disappeared as the Archangel appeared, in all its mystical glory, to Pope and Romans right on top of Adrian’s Tomb. The pestilence gone, the sward back home…
But you will not find Saint Michel in the beautiful church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, where a very special chapel sings the eternal mystery of the angelical creatures. One masterpiece, forgotten who know why, is Pomarancio’s picture telling the story of God giving Saint Gabriel, Archangel, the command to fly down to earth and tell Mary that she will bear his son. We are used to seing Gabriel in the act of performing his duty, with the sacred lilium, pure as pure can be and Mary in the act of accepting her divine fate. But, the before painted by Pomarancio is so sweet and glorious that one – me for instance - can sit in front of the picture for hours on end and still want to look again and again the everlasting mystery of God made true…

When in Rome, join me for a three hours spiritual walk, contact me: I'll be happy to give you all the details needed.

giovedì 21 maggio 2015

Ok maybe tomorrow

On this coldish Thursday of may, with the wind sweeping cats and stripes of tattered clouds in a sky that is the colour of a torquoise, off I went together with two delightful irish ladies and a lovely chinese girl (who has lived in Ireland for the last fifteen years) for one of my very special walks in the Eternal City. I will not, of course, tell you what we saw and what I said (this you might discover one day, joining me for a two hour spiritual tour…), and how Augustus came to life and seemed one and all with us, walking in a City that was his and is no more. Up we went on the Capitol Hill, threading on Michelangelo’s magnificent staircase, made for happy human feet, and, oh, the beauties of the Forum seen from up above, under the sacred presence of the Roman twins, one and all, the first king of the little town hich would be great! There, yes, there, the Palatine, where Augustus lived in simplicity, loving as he did the “antiqui mores” of his ancestors… Here, right here, the arch of Septimius Severus, the African emperor who lived in Leptis Magna (its pink remains in Lybia I always craved to see and never did and maybe never will…), and while I am there, telling how Tiberius succeded in being Augusto’s successor against the will of the great Pontifex Maximus, through the charms and bets of his great mother Livia, my cellphone rings. I answer. It is Mrs G., the lady who keeps my bank account, and she goes on merrily: “Hellò! Do you have a daughter? Have you ever thought of having a supplementary pension?”. Ok, maybe tomorrow.

To contact me for a two hours walk in Rome: or  I'll be more than happy to give you all the details.

sabato 7 marzo 2015

Spring in Rome

Summer in Cala Gorgolu /Sardinia), the place I love
I do not know what spring is; if it is solely pure breath of life waking up after the white chill, in the breast of the ancient earth, I hardly know. It could be the everlasting  dance of life and death, concealed to most and showing itself in the sparkling white of the little daisies and in the dimple blue of the forgetmenots that bloom overnight colouring the green patches of grass in the Eternal City. I do not know what sacred spring is, but I did see it freeing her pink ribbons in the pale blue sky some days ago as I was walking down the Fori imperiali to catch the 85 bus. I saw her softly loosening the pony tails of a group of young flowery girls and in the pic nic that a couple of oldies was taking in the midst of the Colle Oppio park. I saw spring in all her beauty, inviting all creatures to dance at her lovely, scented rhythm. I saw it as the ancient Romans used to see her, picturing her in a lovely goddess of flowers and beauty, a goddess who, as the months passed, flourished and bloomed to become the Goddess Vesta…
She was the one to whom the vestals, the only nuns that ancient Rome ever had in her old days of love and splendor, kept the fire burning for, the fire, Ermes, the link of love that unites heaven and earth. The head of the Vestals was so powerful in Rome that she only could stroll in the Eternal City, lying on a cart. Just like the emperor, who was the Pontifex Maximus. He who builds bridges with the Gods beyond. The Pontifex Maximus and the mother Vestal together followed the rituals, being one and all, together, the great way that lead to the divine. And Vesta gave her lovely name to the Italian noun for summer: Estate. Spring is now knocking on the door, young Vesta (in the flowery dress of Libera), will soon become Vesta, the lady of the golden wheat, smiling to the sun, in the deep blue skies of a new summer…