Closed for the Summer...

Some things just need to be mentioned.  The one that surprised us this month was the fact that both of Spoleto's movie theaters close for the summer.  When I shared that news with Brenton he said, "That's crazy! Harry Potter just came out!"

The only thing we can figure is that the cost for keeping them cool just doesn't offset the income from ticket sales or popcorn (when you buy popcorn, it's a pack of microwaveable and you do it yourself).

Some of my best summer memories are of escaping the heat and enjoying a mid-day movie.

You can map your life through your favorite movies,
and no two people's maps will be the same.
-Mary Schmich

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Our last visit to Roma...

A far too early (6 AM) departure for Fiumicino Airport, facilitated a delightful explore of Roma, afterward.  First stop was the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter (begun in 1506 and completed 120 years later) so Kegan could see the largest interior of any Christian church in the world.  I have been there numerous times and the magnitude and opulence never ceases to take my breath away!

We stopped for a little "home" at a Subway where we dined on the most delicious sandwiches constructed by one of the nicest guys. 

Armed with pre-purchased tickets to the Colosseum (thanks for the head's up Brady), we strolled past a massive line of sightseers waiting to enter what is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering.  Walking in the steps of such history was pretty powerful.

Next stop- Foro Romano, a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city.  The final site, on our exhaustingly fun explore, was Palatine Hill, the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 120 feet above the Forum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other.  It was the perfect way to say arrivederci to Rome!

I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.
-Augustus

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Coffee with friends...

We have given ourselves a day to just hang out as Kegan's friend, Matt, packs to leave tomorrow.  It has been a great almost month long visit and he will be missed.

We did go out for a few hours to meet our new friend from Charleston, Cynthia, along with our Spoleto connection, Gilberto.  It was delightful to enjoy the beautiful day and get to know each other.

A cup of coffee shared with a friend is
happiness tasted and time well spent.
-Anonymous

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The evening concludes with CCM Spoleto...

In a perfect world, I would be able to describe Chee-Yun's violin music with the words that perfectly capture her talent.  I liked the New York Times wording, "This is a talented instrumentalist, with the kind of high-gloss tone that pulls sensuously at the listener's ear."  Along with CCM Spoleto's accomplished orchestra, Piazzolla's Le Quattro Stagioni di Buenos Aires came alive with all four seasons magically being experienced.  The intimacy of Museo Civico along with the playing by Chee-Yun made our evening even more unforgettable.

And then there was Jazz!  The Jazz group from last night played a wonderful concert of pieces they had just written this week.  With titles like "Italian Hang" and "Ciao Bellas from the Fellas", we couldn't help be be entertained and delighted.  The last photo is of me and my jazz sandwich.

Each night is like a present, waiting to be opened and continuously being surprised at what's inside.

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Sung to by Umbrian Serenades...

What an evening of music!  It began with an introduction, via our friend Sharon in Charleston.  Cynthia is part of Umbrian Serenades, "a life-transforming choral program that brings together passionate singers from all over the world who seek opportunities to perform exquisite a cappella repertoire within a small vocal chamber ensemble."

I've had anticipation of seeing something befitting the exquisite location, Sant'Eufemia.  This ex-church was built in the 12th century on the site of an 8th-century Lombard ducal palace, incorporating spoils from that palace as well as earlier Roman monuments. 

Cynthia and her group filled the amazing space with angelic voices.  Their selection of holy music included a rich variety of songs, from Siyahamba, a South African piece that I loved, to Shepard's Chorus from Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl & the Night Visitors".  What a unique musical experience.

Afterward, Cynthia introduced us to Maestro Joseph Flummerfelt, a gift orchestral conductor with an impressive
résumé and extensive ties to both Spoleto and Charleston.  It was one of those events that just makes you happy to be.  

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Mozart, Rossini & Jazz... oh my!

In the architecturally alluring Museo Civico (the basement of the 17th century Teatro Ciao Melisso), CCM Spoleto played a beautiful series of music.  Horns and strings filled the ancient space with Shubert, Stravinsky, Ravel and Brahms. 

Upon the Chamber Music's conclusion, we all headed up the hill to Caffè Letterario (located in the library) to see another talented group of musicians playing a different, groovy type of music... Jazz.  Wow!  Their tribute to New Orleans had people clapping extensively and cheering gleefully (especially me). 

I have praised these accomplished students many times but I will not cease to be amazed at their brilliant playing and sweet personalities.  What an incredible time to be in Spoleto!

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An Opera star in our taxi car...

As part of our volunteerism with CCM Spoleto, we have offered to chauffeur dignitaries from the airport, with today's pick up being Franc D'Ambrosio. What an interesting drive home.  Besides being a super nice guy, Franc is a talented singer and even played Anthony Corleone, the opera singing son of Al Pacino in Coppola's  film Godfather III.  Especially interesting to me, being I'm a huge fan of The Phantom of the Opera, is the fact that he has the distinction as the "World's Longest Running Phantom" (San Francisco).

The opportunities that we have had while living here are stuff that dreams are made of.  I hope never to awaken!

Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime.
Lead me, save me from my solitude.
Say you'll want me with you here beside you.
Anywhere you go, let me go too.
-The Phantom to Christine

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Sunflower oasis in the storm...

As we drove through the Umbrian countryside, the gloom rolled in over the hilltops.  Our spirits dimmed a bit until we rounded the corner and saw this amazing field.  I will never tire of this sight!

Fun fact:
The sunflower resembles one huge flower, but did you know a single sunflower head hosts hundreds of tiny flowers called florets? The plant is a rather thick, green stem sticking up out of the ground around 10 feet (3 meters) tall with a few leaves growing from it. On top of this tall stem is what seems to be a single enormous flower with yellow petals and a brown center. But this flower is actually known as the head of the sunflower, and is not a flower at all, but rather a bunch of them. The yellow petals are actually protective leaves that cover the center of the head while it is growing. The brown center of the sunflower is composed of a mass of hundreds of flowers, all growing individually, and from where each sunflower seed will originate.

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Truffles (fungi not chocolate)...

Being that Umbria can be call the 'Land of the Truffle' (tartufo), we thought it best to find out more about this very aromatic delicacy.  And just what is the difference between a mushroom and a truffle (and why, when looking at the photo would someone pick that up and say, "Let's eat this!"). 

The answer came at the very delightful 27° annual Sagra del Tartufo in the neighboring village of Terzo San Severo... Fungi that sprout fruiting bodies above ground are called mushrooms ... underneath the ground, are truffles.  And disregarding their looks, are quite tasty!

Interestingly, people have been enamored with the taste and aroma of this round brown wonder for over 3,000 years. Truffles are found growing 3-12 inches deep among the roots of oaks, or sometimes under chestnut, hazel, and beech trees. Humans enlist the help of specially trained dogs or pigs to sniff out and dig up these fragrant and expensive delicacies: the pigs are better hunters, but dogs tend to be more cooperative about relinquishing their finds.

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Robert Plant & Steve in Roma...

The last time we went to pick up a CCM Spoleto dignitary, Steve joyfully spotted Robert Plant, an English rock singer and song writer best known as the vocalist and lyricist of the band Led Zeppelin.  The one time I didn't have my camera with me and Steve sees someone of whom he is a fan!  Another devotee asked Steve to take his photo with Mr. Plant and in return took the one you see here.

Robert Plant was gracious and we both agreed much better looking than this photo expresses.  He was playing in Italy with the aptly titled new group, Band of Joy.

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Mahler...Menotti...Magnificence

In a setting befitting greatness, CCM Spoleto Orchestra (of over one hundred musicians) performed exceptionally for an audience of impressed and appreciative fans.

Gian Carlo Menotti's 'Introduction' to the ballet Sebastian (1944) was a lively way to begin the concert and pay homage to the 100th anniversary of the maestro's birth.  A man who led so many performances in Teatro Nuovo and other venues in Spoleto.

Divertimento, from Stravinsky's "The Fairy's Kiss", was a concert suite of such emotion wonderfully depicted by the orchestra with the amazing direction by the conductor, Annunziata Tomaro.  Throughout our involvement with CCM Spoleto, we have gained insight and knowledge about the many intricacies and nuances of the musical world we knew so little about.  The importance of a great conductor is one such piece of knowledge.

The final piece, Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D major (Titan) was especially interesting to us because we have spent time with his granddaughter, Marina, and it was an exceptional introduction to this incredible composer.

Interestingly, the symphony premiered in 1889 but because it contained many elements which strayed from the norms audiences and critics were used to at the time, the first performance was largely a failure.  Tonight, in this 19th century theater, filled with phenomenal talent, Mahler's work and the orchestra's performances were a complete success.  It was an experience that is almost indescribable. Bravi!

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Music in San Gregorio Maggiore...

There is something magical about Mendelssohn being played in a courtyard of an 11th century church.  CCM Spoleto's accomplished musicians have the ability to entertain, impress and thoroughly enchant one on a breezy summer evening.  Steve and I continue to be honored to be amongst such wonderful, kind and talented people!

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Florence- Day 2 with more details
first stop San Lorenzo Mercato Central...
Before the days of cars and super markets, this was once where everyone shopped, a large two-story building of cast iron and glass (1874).  We enjoyed seeing beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables along with unique products of Florence.
At times we played the game, "How would you eat that?"  Amongst cow stomachs and intestine, we found pigs ears at many of the stalls.  I found a recipe for roasted duck filled with this unique ingredient which called for,  "One large pig ear or two small ones cleaned and free of hair."  I believe all things we consume should be free of hair!
Kegan is a huge fan of the funghi.
Considered the best place for a magnificent panorama of the city, Piazzale Michelangelo was the next stop after checking out of our hotel.  Last night was very stormy and the lingering clouds added such a dramatic effect to the beautiful blue sky.
I think my new blog shall be called, "Renaissance Rumps". 
Most of the Florentine churches have large lines and entrance fees.  San Miniato Al Monte, high above the town is a  stunning Romanesque church begun in 1018 to honor St. Minias, a rich Armenian merchant murdered for his beliefs in the 3rd century.
After a morning in/above/around Florence, we dropped Kegan and Matt off at the train station so they can begin their true adventure.  I think we offered a great introduction and I'm certain, as they write their own Italian tale, the conclusion will be unforgettable.

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