How Conclave Works: All the Rules and Rituals of the Papal Election

This historic conclave, the first in nearly 600 years during which the previous pope is still alive, will begin Tuesday, 12 March. If you read my last conclave post (and kudos to you if you did, considering the length of it), you are now familiar with the history of conclave and how it evolved over the years. Now you want to know exactly what goes on in that secret, boys-only ritual that decides the most influential man in the Catholic world, the successor of St. Peter, and the Vicar of Christ on Earth? Well, read on, dear bloglings, read on.

Read More
A Short* History of Conclave

This Tuesday afternoon (5 March 2013), around 1:15pm, the Sistine Chapel closed its doors to the public in preparation for conclave, which, although it has not been officially announced, is expected to begin early next week. (Side note: how cool would it be if the new pope were elected on the Ides of March? I'm mean, we've had enough omens since the Artist Formerly Known as Pope Benedict XVI announced his impending resignation, what's one more?)But before conclave begins, before I go into what exactly it entails, and who the biggest contenders are, I'd like to delve into the history of this sacred ritual.

Read More
A Pope's Last Stand: The Final Papal Audience of Benedict XVI

On the night of the 1st of April 2005, barely six months after moving to Rome, I stood with my roommates in St. Peter’s Square, holding vigil with thousands of others for Pope John Paul II. It was the night before he died, and the last full day of his papacy. Today, in strangely parallel yet contrasting circumstances, I stood in St. Peter’s Square on the last full day of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy. But the mood in the crowd was completely different, and no surprise why: no one had died.

Read More
Pope Celestine V, the Other Pope who Resigned

I’ll never forget that phone call. It came around 11am on Monday morning 11 February (just two weeks ago). It was my maritino on the phone. “It’s never happened before! It’s the first time in history….” he shouted down the phone. “WHAT?!” “The pope has resigned!!” or to use his words, “Si è dimesso il papa!!” After expressing the appropriate amount of shock, I couldn’t stop myself from correcting my dashing spouse, “Well, actually, it has happened…at least once. You know, Celestine V?”

Read More
The Best of the Blogs: Rome and Beyond

I’d like to take this opportunity to sing the praises of just a few of my very favorite blogs, although there are many more wonderful ones out there. They are all on my blogroll, but a list of names often do not do justice to the uniqueness of each, so I want to give you a little taste of them here, as they are sure to show up often on my weekly review posts. So, in no particular order. Mozzarella Mamma: Patricia Thomas is a foreign correspondent for Associated Press Television News, and one of the few foreign journalists with accredited access to the Vatican.

Read More
Rome in the Time of the Borgias: Has Anything Really Changed?

One of my favorite things about April, besides the glorious boughs of cascading wisteria to be seen (and smelt) all over Rome, is that it heralds the start of one of my favorite guilty pleasures, television drama, The Borgias. Following the life of the most notorious pope in history, The Borgias chronicles the intrigues, scandal, and corruption of the 15th-century Vatican court, featuring plenty of greed, violence and impermissible sex.

Read More
Life in Italy, in a Nutshell

Yesterday, in a small town just outside Naples, a slightly-past middle-aged man was parking his car. Take this situation out of Italy and you're left with an uneventful couple of minutes that will be forgotten before the emergency  brake is on. But in Italy, nothing is ever simple. And rarely is it boring. Frustrating, yes, gnash-your-teeth-and-tear-your-hair-out maddening, oh, hell yeah. But boring, no.

Read More
First Day of Carnevale in Rome

Carnevale kicks off today, and in honor of that colorful, vivacious, and heady festival, I couldn't help but share with you this gorgeous work of art. Carnevale will be forever linked with Venice (even though it did not originate there) and this fantastical image of Byzantine balloon-churches taking off from Piazza San Marco somehow reminds me of the unforgettable Carnevale I spent in that amazing city in 2005. The painting is the work of Brigid Marlin, an American artist born in 1936 who has been described as the first in a new generation of surrealist artists.   

Read More
Tiffany ParksComment
100 years of Renato Guttuso

Born near Palermo, Sicily in 1911, Guttuso was greatly infulenced by Socialist Realism but developed his own unique painting style that, late in his career, tended toward Surrealism. He passionately opposed fascism and the mafia, and joined the banned Italian Communist Party in 1940. He considered himself a political painter and his works often expressed his beliefs and positions, for example the above homage to the exiled leader of the communist party, Palmiro Togliatti.

Read More
Tullus Hostilius: The Hostile Third King of Rome

If our old––and by now very close––friend Numa Pompilius was the most religious of all Rome’s kings, and the most peaceful, then Tullus Hostilius was the most aggressive. The most bloodthirsty. The most hostile. Hostile Hostilius! Could that be where the word comes from? Oh, goodness, etymology gets me so excited! With but a moment’s worth of Google-powered research, I see that hostile comes from the Latin hostilis (of an enemy), which in turn comes from hostis (enemy). What do you think, was the word hostile derived from this king’s antagonistic behavior, or did he earn the name because of his behavior?

Read More
Paul Klee in Italy at the GNAM

I am not going to pretend that Paul Klee, the Swiss-born German artist whose work was influenced by expressionism, cubism and surrealism, is my favorite artist. In fact, I visited the Paul Klee Museum in Berne in 2008, and I concluded that I had seen more than enough of his art to last me for the rest of my hopefully long life. So I will admit that I didn't whoop with joy when I heard that an exhibit of his work was coming to Rome. But I have to give it to him, his works are incredibly diverse and contrasting from one another. You could not possibly be bored by an exhibition of his art. Overwhelmed, perhaps. Bored, no.

Read More
My Secret Italian Dream Job

I have a secret dream. A deep, burning desire that comes upon me strongly almost every time I walk down a busy street in Rome, and often when I'm walking down a quiet one. I want to be a vigilessa. A lady traffic-cop. Now I don't mean that I actually think that it could happen, or that I would ever go through with such a thing--even if it were possible. But every time I see someone double- or triple-parked, I long to flip out a ticket pad and write them a big fat multa, right on the spot. Or better yet, get their oversized SUV towed far, far away.

Read More
A Quiet New Year's Eve in Rome: Soaking Up the Simple Beauty

Since moving to Rome over eight years ago, I have come to realize that it is the simple things in this splendid city that fascinate and charm me the most. Of course I adore the Pantheon and Castel Sant’Angelo, but those monuments are not what thrill my soul, nor what make me think, “How could I ever leave Rome?” It's the minute details, the curiosities, the simple pleasures, which are often overlooked (even though, I must admit, in Rome even the simple things are extraordinary.)

Read More
Celebrating 100,000 Hits!

(I'm sure there's a hilarious mobster joke to be made about that title somehow, but it's just not coming to me.) I am excited to announce that my itty, bitty blog reached the (to my ears) impressive figure of 100,000 hits yesterday! I know that there are many blogs out there that receive 100,000 hits a day, so in the grand scheme of things, 100,000 in the 2 1/2-year life of a blog sounds like small potatoes, but I'm still excited and proud!

Read More
Photo Day: Mailing a Letter to Caravaggio

I gasped and stopped in my tracks when I saw this during my Sunday walk. It's not the first time I've seen Caravaggio-inspired street art in Trastevere. The Medusa electrical box was one thing, but this made my easily excitable heart pound with unexpected delight. It's not just because it's inspired by my favorite painter Caravaggio, or because it comes from one of my favorite of his paintings (see below), but because it features the face of a very young Mario Minniti, one of Caravaggio’s favorite models.

Read More
ArtTiffany ParksComment
Numa Pompilius and the Nymph Egeria

When we left off I was just about to wrap up the story of Numa Pompilius, Rome’s second king. Today I will officially finish the story of Numa Pompilius, and I promise, you will never hear his name from me again. In previous posts I described how Numa was Rome’s most pious king, instituting the cult of the Vestal Virgins, reforming religious laws and reorganizing the Roman calendar. He was wise and pacific, creating several codes and laws by which the Romans lived for many centuries to come. But where did he get all this wisdom?

Read More
Thanksgiving in Italy and a New Vocabulary Word

Learning a new Italian word is always fun, but learning one that even the maritino himself does not know is exciting indeed. The fact that this occurred just in time for Thanksgiving made me particularly grateful. So, without further ado, I give you... La batata. And before you think I just have a bad cold and can't pronounce my Ps at the moment, I am not talking about a patata (potato) but something much, much yummier.

Read More
Tiffany ParksComment
Paris in Black and White: Photographs of Robert Doisneau

"Some days the mere fact of seeing feels like perfect happiness... You feel so rich you long to share your jubilation with others. The memory of such moments is my most precious possession. Maybe because there've been so few of them. A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there-- even if you put them end to end they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds snatched from eternity."  Robert Doisneau

Read More