Sunday, 3 February 2019

Meeting friends in Rome

I still have old friends in Rome that I always meet whenever I go back. I was invited to a mass at Villa Malta in via Porta Pinciana near the elegant via Veneto. The villa was built in the 16th century and belonged to aristocratic families like Orsini and Mattei in the past. It hosted famous people, like Goethe, Angelica Kaufman, German ambassadors and even King Ludwig I. the Jesuits bought it after WW II and now it is the headquarters of their magazine, Civiltà Cattolica. From the top floor you can admire one of the most beautiful views of Rome, especially on a sunny day. We read Pope Francis’ speech delivered at the general audience on 19th December before mass, the link is here:  It was a stimulating piece highlighting the surprising side of the coming of Christ as a poor and vulnerable baby. I spent the rest of the day with a friend of mine who lives near Campo de’ Fiori and had just had a hip operation. She cooks gorgeous meals with simple ingredients. This time she prepared pasta with artichokes and frittata with spinach. She simply cooked the tender cores of the artichokes in oil and water with some lemon juice, a garlic clove and parsley. The result was mouth watering. The frittata was even simpler. She boiled spinach, cut it in pieces, added parmigiano and mixed it with four beaten eggs. My friend is very keen on balanced diets and always advice me to avoid sweets and cakes and rely on rice, better brown rice, proteins and vegetables. She is slim and fit and looks ten years younger than her real age. I try to follow her wise advice but a piece of chocolate or a slice of cake from time to time helps my day. The other friend I usually meet is from my university years. We share similar experiences about our elderly mothers. Getting older seems to have patterns: a bit of confusion, grumpiness and frustration for not being so able any more. If we are lucky to carry on till eighty or ninety we will all end in the same way.

Speaking about elderly people, I found the Queen’s Christmas speech and the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella’s speech particularly engaging.

I loved the Queen’s speech and agree with what she said. I admired the precision of her message both in pointing out peace and goodwill at the core of Christmas, and the paradox of the capacity of good and evil present in human beings. She also emphasised some realistic goals, like friendship, mutual respect and hope that everybody should pursue in one’s own small way. She didn’t mention Brexit, which I found a wise choice.

In a period of political and social uncertainties, Sergio Mattarella called for a sense of community. In his opinion, Italian citizens should share ‘values, views, rights and duties’ overcoming divisions. It was a strong message very much needed in Italy at the moment. He also stressed common responsibility, friendship and mutual respect, as the Queen did. He pointed out some problems as well, like the lack of jobs, public debt, the reduction of production and the decaying infrastructures. Hard work and hope together with a sense of justice and trust in the institutions were considered a possible solution towards a better future. I particularly liked the conclusion when he spoke about his visit to a centre for autistic children in Verona highlighting their creativity and their ability to communicate with others.

Two memorable speeches that encapsulate in a balanced way our needs, hopes and dreams in view of a better world.

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