Apartment Entry- Prati, Rome, Italy

Apartment Entry- Prati, Rome, Italy


Getting to know our Prati neighborhood

August 29, 2017

Ciao tutti,

By now we know our way around the Prati neighborhood where our apartment is located. It is a bustling area with lovely old buidings, lots of boutiques, a wonderful upscale Coin department store as well as dozens of daily markets that move from place to place and sell everything from shoes, to kitchen supplies, to underwear or costume jewelry!  There is a great 24 hour supermarket 2 blocks from us and they deliver to our fourth floor (with elevator) apartment free - and wthin an hour of my leaving the store!

Here are a few buildings within a block of ours:

Piazza Cavour and the Supreme Court Building on the left

House across the street  and detal from the exterior wall here below

Since last I wrote you, Al and I went to see a wonderful exhibit on Spartacus at the Ara Pacis Museum.

We take buses everywhere with our monthly pass and we think it's a hoot. Here are a couple of Rome bus scenes

and one of my favorites

This week we were in Florence for three nights visiting friends there. It was our 52nd anniversary and one of our friends, Enrico, had a dinner party for us at his wonderful villa near the Certosa in the hills above Florence.

We are having a great time and looking forward to going to Naples and Ischia next week with friends from RI....We return home 9/17.

Look for my Italy Commentary in the Providence Journal next Sunday, September 10, 2017.

For now BIG HUGS  (Abbraccioni)


US xx


Mary Ann and Al's Italy Adventure 6-11-14 thru 8-6-14

Mary Ann and Al's Italy Adventure 6-11-14 thru 8-6-14


Tuscany Discovered - July 2014

Like many of you, I had been to Florence many times. I even lived here for a year during my college days' Junior Year Abroad. During some of those visits, I had visited Fiesole, the mystical village high in the hills above Florence with its Roman amphitheater and breathtaking views.

I have seen Pisa with its leaning tower a half dozen times, and I have driven with my husband from Florence to Perugia in nearby Umbria, so we had been awed by what is in fact Tuscany, and Florence as its capital.

But the Tuscany countryside many of you know from films and books of recent years is an area we had not explored in detail -- until now.

Here are a few of the panoramas we would like to share with you.

First, San Gimignano with its many towers dating back to the first millennium. Buildings along its medieval streets were constructed anywhere from 1000 to 1400 and beyond.

The main square

  the beautiful residences beyond the square
An ancient castle still standing guard, with vines of caper plants pouring down its walls

After walking the whole town and soaking up its wonderful vibe, we stopped for a cold drink in the main square, listened to the medieval clock chime noon, then moved on to Siena, about 90 minutes away.

Siena is the home of the most authentic Italian language in all of Italy. It is also famous for its yearly Paglio - a horse race in its main conch-shaped square. The various neighborhood "Quarters" surround the square and each has its own flag and its own horse entered into this historic race. The men of Siena participate heartily (women have no role in the Paglio since Middle Age rules excluded them and that has never been changed.) The men still wear ancient costumes (or replicas of those) in the colors of their "Quarter."  The winning horse is allowed into the cathedral as a demonstration of the honor paid to that animal for winning the race. Never doubt that this isn't a VERY serious matter -- even today -- among the Sienesi. If a woman marries a man from another Quarter, on the day of the actual race she goes to her parents' home in her native Quarter not to participate in any way with her husband's rival territory!

Here are some images of lovely Siena:

 Siena's Main Square where the Paglio is held

The Medieval Costumes and Flags of one Quarter

This is a SERIOUS matter!!

We had a lovely lunch in Siena at a restaurant called "Le Sorelline" (The Little Sisters) which we HIGHLY recommend. All the pastas as well as the desserts are made fresh DAILY....the main courses were superb and the prices reasonable (party of 4, 90 Euros or about $120. total or $30. per person!)

Around 4 PM se said good-bye to Siena and headed through the breathtaking Tuscan countryside toward our last stop, Piensa...but I'll just let these images speak for themselves.

Looks like a post card, right??

Finally, the fairytale town of Pienza, one of the most well-kept, meticulously manicures towns I have ever visited.

Pienza's ancient gate with beautiful fresco scene in the arch

Typical Pienza side street

So we said farewell to breathtaking, Pienza hoping that

THESE two (on the side of Pienza's duomo)  will last as long as



uh..duhh..uh..duhh...That's All Folks!  (for now anyway)


The Homeless of Florence-- In Their Humbling Refinement

6/26/2014 Florence - St. James Episcopal Church, Via dei Rucellai

We have been in Italy for two weeks and only now are we experiencing a few welcome showers to cool off a torrid Florence (know as Italy’s “frying pan.”) This is also the day I started my volunteer work at St. James Episcopal Church, one of only three such churches in Italy (the others are in Rome and Bologna.) 

I have had a little experience working with the homeless through my past association with Travelers Aid (now Crossroads Rhode Island.) I have never forgetter former Director Marion Avarista’s reminder that we are all only one paycheck away from homelessness.

The church itself is magnificent - a classic gothic house of worship today decorated for a bride expected later in the day.

The clothing bank at St. James is held every Thursday morning starting at 10. Small bags of food are also distributed (today a can of cannellini beans, cheese, saltines, juice and a piece of fresh fruit will barely take the edge off the hunger of the homeless in a country known for its gourmet food. 

But the dignity and even the surprising elegance of the homeless here is amazing to see. Yes, some need a bath and a haircut, but, in general, they manage to carry that great Italian grace in their bones and in their rags. The African women especially--  still preferring their native costumes--  are amazingly beautiful and even regal. They are polite and handle the used clothing delicately. Finding nothing that will culturally accommodate their chosen dress, they thank us and leave with only a small bag of food. We agree to look for each other next Thursday when hopefully some items like long scarves or shawls will be on the table ready to be turned into wraparounds or turbans these women can use.


Carla, the main overseer of the clothing table, knows many of these people by name (and shoe or waist size.) She saves items she knows certain men and women have been looking for and— to their delight— runs to her stash to bring out a saved pair or sneakers one woman has been looking for for weeks, in almost her perfect size. Later she tells me she finally gave a new radio from her own home to a man here today who had no TV or radio to listen to all day and night. 

Carla is driven by the contagious realization that what we see in these people at the table could easily be us or people we love. I can already sense she will be my friend here, and the person who will personify the St. James experience in my memory for years to come. I am proud to call myself her colleague.


I think my Dad would have been proud of my work here today, in the country he never stopped loving.



"We have looked at all issues which can bring people to talk and we have seen that sex is the answer," says Rukia Subow, chair of the Women’s Development Organization, Kenya's oldest women's group. And with that, 11 feminist organizations in Kenya banded together to withhold sex from their men for one week in an effort to stop the political squabbling threatening that nation’s fragile coalition government. The women are paying prostitutes to temporarily go celibate, and the wives of Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have also been asked to participate.
Men in Kenya are polygamous by law, and AIDS rates are high, so there may be increased sexual activity with multiple partners. If this is true, organized sexual inactivity could influence male politicians. More likely, not all women will comply and men will have their way by intimidation if necessary. Also, seven days isn’t enough time.

Such a plan would be even less likely to work here at home.

Internet statistics about frequency of sexual activity among Americans--particularly married people-- indicate that abstaining from sex for a week would be fairly normal. This isn’t a nation of sexually hyper-active folks, especially in the over-forty ranks from which political leaders usually come.

Michelle Obama doesn’t seem like the type of woman who needs to join in such a strike. She could probably just talk Barack into submission.

Lacking a prime minister, we’d have to look to Hillary Clinton our Secretary of State as the other possibility. Hillary probably adopted the withholding-sex-from-Bill strategy long ago (not that he’s since “gone without.”)

Leaders like (use any first name here) Kennedy and Chris Dodd have always demonstrated that they could have as many women as they wanted, wherever, whenever. Across the aisle, Republicans like John McCain give the impression that their interest in sex is but a memory. In the case of conservatives such as Orrin Hatch, one wonders if they ever have had a sexual temperature beyond 98.6.

Then there is the Barney Frank contingent (exact numbers still hiding in the great congressional closet) to whom threats of sex-withholding by people of the opposite gender mean nothing.

The Trojan idea of women strapping on chastity belts toward political ends will probably fail to resurrect democracy in Kenya. It does, however, remind us that empires and political careers have historically been kicked to the curb in exchange for a moment or two of lust. (Eliott Spitzer, Gary Hart and others can, have and will write books on the subject. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s wife also went public again this week on her husband’s zipper problem.)

Power remains a great aphrodisiac and one likely to allow the endless supply of available men and women determined to sample just one more dose, whenever they can, to find each other.



Richard V. Allen, Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor, recently wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times strongly defending Reagan’s honorary degree from Notre Dame University on the basis of the former president’s alleged “pro-life” politics. Allen, a Notre Dame alumnus, just as strongly argued against a similar honor planned for President Obama in May.

Apparently Mr. Allen was so busy working for Reagan that he never noticed the president’s actual history on abortion rights. As one “pro-life” writer points out on www.issues2000.org
“Reagan was not as obsessive about anti-abortion legislation as he often seemed. Early in his California governorship he had signed a permissive abortion bill that has resulted in more than a million abortions. Afterward, he inaccurately blamed this outcome on doctors, saying that they had deliberately misinterpreted the law. When Reagan ran for president, he won backing from pro-life forces by advocating a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother. Reagan’s stand was partly a product of political calculation, as was his tactic after he was elected of addressing the annual pro-life rally held in Washington by telephone so that he would not be seen with the leaders of the movement on the evening news…”
(Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 812 Jul 2, 1991)

Notre Dame has given honorary degrees in the past to publicly pro-choice people like Obama including U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, President John F. Kennedy, and actress Cicily Tyson, a Planned Parenthood advocate, to name just a few. (Notre Dame also gave an honorary degree to Joseph P. Kennedy, father of the president, a Catholic and an alleged bootlegger, public philanderer and long-time paramour of actress Gloria Swanson.)

In 2005, another Catholic college, Loyola University, gave former seminarian Rudy Giuliani an honorary degree, seemingly unconcerned that the former Republican mayor and presidential candidate was pro-choice, had a series of marriages, divorces and public infidelities, abandoned his wife and children, and supported homosexuals, all in defiance of Catholic teachings.

President Obama is at least as worthy in the “Catholic context” as many others on Notre Dame’s past lists of commencement speakers and honorees: so-called “good Catholics” who don’t think so need to stop changing the rules whenever it’s convenient.

Obama, not a Catholic, worked as an attorney helping the underprivileged, shunning higher paying jobs to do this good “Catholic” work.

His record as a politician, as far as we know, is unblemished by the usual shady behaviors and tendency to overlook (if not participate in) graft and corruption.

Obama’s respect and love for his elders, wife and daughters, as well as for those less fortunate than himself, shows that he understands and embraces the greatest commandment to “Love thy Neighbor.” Regarding “basic family values” he excels where Reagan (divorced, remarried, estranged from his children, and no friend to the poor) failed miserably.

If the Catholic Church-- losing membership, wanting in new priests, and steeped in scandals which are bankrupting dioceses left and right-- can’t get its values in order, at least its defenders should try to get their facts straight.

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
Italy Series of articles runs Aug./Sept/Oct 2015

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007
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"JOACHIM" - Oct. '92-March '08

"JOACHIM"  - Oct. '92-March '08
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