Long Time No Blog, or What I've Been up to for the Past Four Months

This winter has been one of the busiest, most exhausting, and most exciting in recent memory. It started out with a bang as I threw a bridal shower for a dear friend in early November. She's mad about the Etruscans (and in particular bronze Etruscan hand mirrors) and so it made perfect sense to throw her an Etruscan-themed bridal shower! I may have had more fun planning this shower than the bride-to-be did attending it. To put it briefly, I went a bit overboard, making Etruscan-themed decorations, treats, and even an Etruscan Bridal magazine.

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PersonalTiffany ParksComment
10 Spookiest Places in Rome

For lovers of the macabre, there’s no more deliciously creepy place in Rome than the Museum and Crypt of the Capuchins, where the skeletons of more than 4000 monks have been used as eerie decoration. Hipbones become moldings, chandeliers dangle with leg and arm bones, and vertebrae make intricate cornices. In the last room, over a pile of bones and three reassembled skeletons sporting the famous Capuchin hood, an ominous sign reads, “What you are we once were; what we are you will become.”

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Rome's Artistic Treasures .... Hidden in Banks

As if Rome didn't possess enough spectacular sights to satisfy the greedy eyes of her art-loving visitors and residents, today we'll get a chance to see even more, like the eye-popping gold-leaf and stuccoed chapel at Palazzo del Monte di Pietà, near Campo de' Fiori. Since even the wealthiest of Rome's old noble families can no longer afford the upkeep on their ancestral palaces, the ones that haven't been turned into museums, embassies, or cultural associations, are mostly in the hands of the banks.

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ArtTiffany ParksComment
Augustus's Rome, 2000 Years Later

Exactly 2000 years ago today, on 19 August A.D. 14, Emperor Augustus, born Gaius Octavius and the first emperor of Rome, breathed his last. Throughout his long life, Octavius wore many hats, and carried many titles. He was known as Princeps (the “first” citizen of Rome), Divi Filius (the son of the divine), Augustus (illustrious one), Pater Patriae (father of his country), and, of course, Caesar, a family name that would eventually become synonymous with the term “emperor.” His official roles ranged from Consul (Rome’s highest elected office) to Pontifex Maximus (high priest) to Imperator (military commander).

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My Rome Bucket List -- 21 Things to Do in Rome in a Lifetime

I've been noticing a trend. In case you're interested, I'm not a very trendy person. I usually pick up on things around 2-10 years after they become popular. Case in point, I just discovered Downton Abbey and Madonna's album Ray of Light. (Have you heard it? It's amazing.) However, every so often--and I'm talking very rarely--I actually get into something before it starts trending. I still claim to have started the Capri pants craze back in the late '90s. You're welcome.

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A Podcast is Born! The BitterSweet Life: Two Expats in Rome

I was 11 years old, sitting alone on an uncomfortable school bus seat on a cold Northwestern fall morning. After spending my entire elementary school life sheltered in a tiny private school, I was suddenly out in the big, scary world of public middle school. I was pretty sure I'd never make any friends. About halfway into the commute to school, a cute, dark-haired girl named Katy got on the bus and shyly asked if she could sit with me. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Twelve Months a Pope

Everyone knew the pope wouldn't be elected on the first day of conclave. With only two scrutinies, that would have been unprecedented. But most people didn't think he'd be elected the second day either. Unlike when Benny was up for election and a complete shoe-in, no one had any idea who'd be elected this time around, and we all assumed it would take at least three days. All I knew was, I wanted to be there when it happened.

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Rome's Truly Hidden Gems: The Convent of Santa Francesca Romana

Only in Rome, a city so bursting with artistic and archeological treasures that a lifetime is literally not enough to see them all, could there exist so many untold masterpieces hiding behind closed doors. Take a stroll through the historic center, and chances are a dozen or more world-class works of art will be just beyond your grasp, hidden away in private collections, deconsecrated churches, or impregnable palaces.

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Michelangelo's Rome, 450 Years Later

What better way to celebrate Michelangelo's long life and immense body of work, than spending the 450th anniversary of his death taking a tour of his works. If you're lucky enough to be in his hometown of Florence today, you'll have even more opportunity to do so. But here in Rome, where Michelangelo lived and worked for much of his life, there's still a lot to see.

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ArtTiffany ParksComment
Art's Greatest Kisses

Is there anything more romantic than a kiss? In honor of the supposed most romantic day of the year, here are a few of my favorite art works featuring that most amorous of all gestures. I've been a life-long Toulouse-Lautrec fan; he was one of my absolute favorite painters when I was a young girl. But I have never had the pleasure of seeing this work live, as it is in a private collection. I suppose I'll just have to wait and hope it comes to an exhibition near me.

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Hand-made Panettone and other Italian Christmas Treats

It's almost Christmas and here in Italy that means one thing: time to stock up on panettone, pan d'oro, torrone, and all the other ubiquitous holiday sweets. And it isn't hard: everywhere you turn, from supermarkets to bakeries to pastry shops, stacks and stacks of these traditional Christmas desserts are just waiting to be snapped up by hungry, sweet-toothed shoppers. Some are becoming so famous that you can find them not just in Italy but around the world.

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Tiffany ParksComment
200 Years of Giuseppe Verdi

Today is an important day for all Italians, as opera composer Giuseppe Verdi, one of Italy’s best-loved national heroes, was born 200 years ago today, on 10 October 1813. For Italians, Verdi is much more than just an opera composer. He is the man who wrote the soundtrack of the Risorgimento, the decades-long struggle for Italian unification and independence. As someone who prefers the music of Puccini to Verdi hands down (I’ve received a lot of flack for this from Italians over the years), I didn’t always get the connection between Verdi and Italy.

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Five Ways to Celebrate St. Francis’s Feast Day in Italy

Since I live on a street dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, and since I can see a church dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi right out my bedroom window, and since my husbadn and I were married by a Franciscan priest, and since our current ever more lovable Pope chose his papal name (many believe) to honor St. Francis of Assisi, I figured it would be a good idea to write a little post today on 4 October, on occasion of the feast day of one of Italy’s all-time best-loved saints.

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ArtTiffany ParksComment
The Streets of Rome: Vicolo del Leonetto

Some things never change. Some people never lose it for their first love, some people (many Italian people, actually) can never be satisfied by anything but their mother's cooking, and I, faithful readers, will never get over the thrill of learning the meaning behind Rome's street names. It's been a long while since I've written a post about a street name, but that doesn't mean I have lost my fascination with them.

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May Day in Rome, or Calendimaggio

For those of you from the other side of the pond, the first day of May is European Labor Day and just about everyone has the day off. Like every holiday in Italy, May Day has its own traditions and customs, and in Rome it is most widely celebrated by heading out of town for a scampagnata, a country outing. This generally involves either an actual picnic on some lush hillside, preferably with a vineyard in view, or an interminable lunch in some large country osteria.

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