I was in Rome only five days to take my mum back to her house after seven months she had spent with us in England. I helped her pay a long list of bills and decorate the house for Christmas. She bought a new nativity with an ancient Rome kind of scenery, and I found a tree branch in a park nearby to use as a Christmas tree. We put it in a vase and decorated it with baubles and tinsel. It was all very simple but gave a cosy festive touch to the house and made her feel at home.
We also met some friends and had a tour around the centre of Rome to see how it was embellished for Christmas. We saw the famous Spelacchio in piazza Venezia, a twenty metres Christmas tree (for a total cost of forty-eight thousand Euros) nicknamed Spelacchio (literary ‘hairless’, as its branches were almost bare) by social media. It was a red spruce from Val di Fiemme in the north of Italy which lost part of its foliage in the transport to the capital. It was soon compared to the one in Milan, which looked flourishing in comparison, maybe an unintentional metaphor of the different reputations of the two cities. Spelacchio became a symbol of the poor conditions of the capital but the people of Rome loved it and left messages on its branches, like’ R.I.P. with you’, ‘beauty is not all’, ‘you’re beautiful all the same, NY’, ‘hold on Spelacchio’, ‘let’s fight together’, ‘you’re in our hearts’. It became a kind of pilgrimage site and once dismantled, someone remarked that the tree was not actually dead but moved to a special mysterious island where Elvis, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson and Moana Pozzi already live happily. In reality, its wood will be used for a little house for children and small gadgets, a clever recycling idea.
I took photos of many other interesting decorations around Rome, like a tree made of sheets of paper with the picture of the poet Alda Merini standing out in its folds, a tree made of artichokes in Campo de’ Fiori, street lights with berries and chilli peppers compositions.
I visited the new Rinascente (https://www.rinascente.it/rinascente/it/flagship-store/11115/roma-via-del-tritone/)in via del Tritone (in the centre of Rome not far from piazza Barberini), a stunning newly restored palace with an ancient Roman aqueduct at the ground floor, eight hundred fashion brands and an astounding view of Rome at the top. The access to the aqueduct (and the view) is free, the rest is dearly expensive but beautiful to see.
Rinascente opened last October after long restoration and refurbishing works delayed by the discovery of the ancient Roman site. What you can see on the ground floor are the remains of the Aqua Virgo (virgin water, the same water that supplies Trevi Fountain, just a few yards from Rinascente) aqueduct built by Agrippa in 19 BC; but not only that. Sitting comfortably on soft stools, you can watch a video (in Italian and in English) projected on the aqueduct wall explaining the history of the site from 1st century BC to 5th century AD. In fact, after the aqueduct they built a thermal establishment, a villa and insulae (apartment buildings) on the aqueduct as well as burial
My mum found an oil cruet and was interested in some frames but the prices were too high. She came back from England with a lot of pictures she wished to arrange in frames. So we finally went to Ikea and bought four wall boards fitting about ten photos each. One was for my daughter’s graduation photos, another one for my son’s wedding and the other two were filled with some snaps of the grandchildren when they were little that my mother dug out from old albums.
This was an occasion for me to revisit some beautiful photos I had almost forgotten, and the delightful moments they made me recall. They were pictures taken when we were in Stockholm (where we lived for a year in 1998-99), at the seaside in Italy with my dad looking happy and healthy hugging my children, or when the children dressed up for Halloween and Carnival. It was moving in part but also rewarding to see how much we went through to where we are now.