This winter in my Bucks County Pennsylvania home, we've had less than normal snow, and they've all been little annoyance snowfalls... half inch here, two inches there, a dusting, a coating of slick "black ice". I think my son Lucas has only enjoyed two leisurely "snow days" so far, the last for a very wet and slippery 4" of wet snow. A couple of years ago we had over 6 feet of snow over the winter--one event dropped 28 inches in one day. That's the sort of snow that stops everything for a few days until we plow and shovel out.
But in Italy, at least in the more central and southern parts, snow is more rare. Sure, in the mountains they get snow, but in Rome, not so much. So when it snowed on Rome this past Monday, Romans were both delighted and crippled. Snowball fights erupted, cyclists slipped and slid their way to work and police were called to many fender-benders.
They are simply not used to the white slippery stuff. In fact, the government announced they were going to call the army in to clear the snow away... all 2-4 inches of it. Hell, I love when the snowfall here is more than two inches because I can use my snow-blower rather than have to shovel it by hand. Our local road crews spread a salt slurry on the roads before storms and have the roads cleared before breakfast.
But when the snow hit Rome, it suddenly fell silent. Few cars were on the streets that usually host a melee of honking horns, "bee-doo, bee-doo" sirens, scooters, cursing and Grand Prix wannabees. People stayed home... perhaps to simply enjoy throwing snowballs or making a pupazzo di neve (snowman). Enjoy it while it lasts... Rome will heat up soon enough. Trust me.
Graffiti is as ancient as the cave walls of Lascaux in France when man put strange images in the walls and ceilings. They have found political graffiti on the ancient walls of Pompeii. I even saw graffiti on the walls of the dungeon where Joan of Arc was held. In New York City back in the seventies, the subway cars were so covered with colorful graffiti their windows were useless.
Nowadays, in cities around the world, a new type of more sophisticated, artistic graffiti has morphed into what many consider a type of public, urban fine art. I'll admit to having issues when I see the more inartistic, random "tags" plaguing the walls of historic architecture in Cities like Rome. But there are artists that are really making a statement--whether political or simply surrealistic--on the aging walls of Italy. Many of the artists have received accolades in both the fine art world and cult circles: Clemes Behr, Herbert Baglione, MOMO, Banky, Alice Pasquini, Sten Lex, Augustine Lacurci, Jerico and Hitnes.
Piazza dell'Anfiteatro is in the center of the walled Tuscan city of Lucca. The ring of buildings surrounding the square were built on the foundation stones of an elliptically shaped second century Roman Amphitheater. There are four gates entering the piazza and a cross is carved into the central tile of the square pointing to each of the portals. The massive elevated earth and stone wall surrounding the city adds to the livability of this beautiful Renaissance town--it is a park enjoyed my families with children, cyclists, joggers and tourists alike.
Some say that it was a town in Portugal that started this surrealistic trend in public spaces when an artist decided to hang umbrellas over a street in the town of Águeda. But an image search on Google proves that this idea has passed from artist to artist since at least the early 2000s... and I would suggest that the idea comes from other artists' fascination with the interesting, romantic and moody shape of the common umbrella. Take Magritte, for instance and his Hegel's Holida, Gustave Caillebotte's Paris on a Rainy Day or Giuseppe Maiorana's Man and the Sea (below)...
And even street artists like Bansky love the iconic image of the umbrella...
Luckily, for Voyagers to Italy, this trend is spreading to Italian cities and for more than just aesthetic reasons: creating shade on busy city streets in shopping districts helps block the heat of the summer's sun, drawing more shoppers and tourists to some of the more desirable streets...
Even I have succumbed to the romantic, mysterious shapes of umbrellas from time to time... Here is my own creation, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs...