Apartment Entry- Prati, Rome, Italy

Apartment Entry- Prati, Rome, Italy
(click on this image to begin)



Leaving the village of Ollantaytambo, our bus driver was negotiating a narrow street that allowed him about two feet of wiggle room. Still, he suddenly stopped and slowly backed up to give passage to a small boy and his parents trying to get their overloaded rickety cart to market to sell their wares. Their need to survive rightfully outweighed our bus’s need to get to the next tourist stop. Still, I tried to imagine (unsuccessfully) a New York bus driver giving poor pedestrians a similar edge.

In Lima, Peru’s capital, streets have no litter-- amazing for a major city with overwhelming fiscal woes. When I asked a cab driver how this cleanliness was accomplished he said, simply, people had been, “educated not to dirty the streets!” I wondered what it would take to get Americans to accept similar responsibility as I recalled our own local roads and highways where discarded plastic bags, fast-food containers, beer cans and other “infinite shelf life” garbage are an assumed part of America’s landscape.

Our guide spoke passionately of his Inca roots, his eyes wet with tears when he told stories of Spanish domination and enslavement. In the hill towns, where children seldom have a chance for education since there are no schools, I met youngsters who taught themselves enough English to converse with tourists and sell trinkets, lest they fail to contribute to the family’s meager budget. The children were clean, polite and hopeful: they stole our hearts.

Peruvians demonstrate their love for their country—with all its pimples and wrinkles— in substantive ways. Their humanity to each other and to visitors is moving and rare. Reluctant as Americans might be to acknowledge it, there is much we can learn from the so-called “second” and “third” worlds, and, if there can be any such thing as a national personality, the people of Peru have much to teach us about grace. From the breathtaking and imposing Andes Mountains, to the serene, sunny valleys below, Peru’s people show us what real patriotism is.

They truly strive to represent their country and they understand that visitors contribute a great deal to its survival, and theirs. Unlike many Europeans, they do not put on a false face for dollars: in Peru the USA is still truly revered, and even the falling dollar remains their measure for success.

They approach each visitor with genuine caring, helpfulness and gratitude for even the smallest recognition in return. As they go about their daily lives, they respect their humble but well-maintained surroundings, their fellow men and women, their proud heritage while always aiming for a brighter future, unhampered by either the glories or the failures of their history.

Too often American “patriotism” is measured by flags on lapels and on every pick-up coast to coast. Until and unless we can honestly experience the Peruvian heartfelt “love of country” and truly believe in a better tomorrow, we are only going through motions.

Gracias, Peru, for such a valuable—and beautiful-- lesson.

Columnist Mary Ann Sorrentino can be contacted at http://maryannsorrentino.com


Umbria Is Dragged Into Our 21st Century Nightmare

I attended the University for Foreigners many years ago, when Perugia, Italy was a bucolic Umbrian city with a motley student population from around the world. The visitors did not impose on Perugia’s Etruscan dignity. Instead, that city’s serenity flowed into our veins and the international visitors soon adopted the gentility of the locals.

I have returned to Perugia often over the years. In the fall of 2005 I found the streets jammed with students from Asia, Africa and Europe and the cosmopolitan feel of the new Perugia was full of jazz festivals, Louis Vuitton knockoffs for sale on the streets, cellular phones galore and even fast food.

Yet, sitting on the terrace of the old Brufani Palace Hotel with the tranquil Umbrian patchwork below, one could still imagine that the cares of the outside world stopped at the shores of nearby Lake Trasimeno.

In Perugia’s medieval piazza where a signature griffon keeps watch, one could still hope never to be swallowed up in today’s antagonisms. Here, it seemed, Sikhs and Sunnis, Asians and Europeans, blacks and whites, even Jews and Palestinians still studied, lived and played in harmony.

All of that changed recently when Italian authorities arrested three Moroccans, part of the 10,000 strong Muslim community within the city’s 150,000 residents. An imam and two followers, organizers of an Al Qaeda training school in a mosque outside Perugia’s city walls, were taken into custody. Also seized were maps of Rome’s Da Vinci airport and the city of Bologna, poisons and training films on how to fly a Boeing 747. Later, 20 more students from the mosque were also arrested, according to the BBC.

These reports devastate me as an alumna of the same university some of these terrorists doubtless attended to learn the Italian language. My Italian roots also recoil at the horrific thought of a suicide bomber striking some of Italy’s ancient and irreplaceable historic sites. Imagine a 9/11 equivalent leveling the Colosseum or the painstakingly reconstructed city of Pompeii. Picture the horror of Florence on fire or The Roman Forum and ancient Ostia decimated by bombings.

Friends in Umbria say their lives are changed permanently now. Though they follow international news events daily on CNN, the BBC and other global news stations, until the recent arrests they felt they would be safe in their hilltop homes surrounding Perugia’s center. They believed the myth of international harmony and neighborly respect the Universita’ Per Stranieri (the foreigner’s language school) had always projected.

Now even Umbria braces herself. From the once peaceful Assisi of everyone’s St. Francis to the lyrical Spoleto where ancient warriors spilled hot oil from hilltop palace walls to stop attacking enemies, to Gualdo where farmers still look forward to their annual, and ancient, wheat thrashing feasts there is silence.

The next sound we hear from Umbria, I’m afraid, may well be the hopeless moan of 21st century resignation.


Bats and Balls

An article in the British magazine The Economist tells us about a scientific study done at Syracuse University in New York by Professor Scott Pitnick. Interestingly, researcher Pitnick was studying bats and the biological relationship between their testicles and their brains. ( Some readers are now asking, “Why?”)

Since many women have maintained for generations that men actually think with their, uhhh, testicles, the article had my attention. The premise of the research team is that a bat’s testicles would be larger in species where the females of that group were more promiscuous, and smaller when the females tended to limit their couplings.

The article went on to mention casually, as if we all knew a lot about such things, that:
“Greater promiscuity does, indeed, lead to bigger testes presumably because a male needs to make more sperm to have a fighting chance of fathering offspring, if those sperm are competing with a lot of other males.” This is fascinating since women are so often accused of ripping off those particular body parts, or “busting” them, as they say. Now we find out there is a legitimate scientific study that shows that we actually give men those things they love! More interesting, the naughtier we are, the bigger theirs get! It is only if we are prudish that they “shrink” to embarrassing miniatures.

Again from the article:
“Gorillas which discourage dalliances between other males and the females of their harems, have small testes. Chimpanzees, among whom females mate widely, have large ones.”

Then the addenda our curiosity has been waiting for:
“Human testes lie between these two extremes.”

This conjures a spectrum with King Kong on one end, J. Fred Muggs on the other, and your husband or boyfriend(s) -or both- somewhere in the middle.

The smallest bat testes were found among those whose females were monogamous.

Finally, the kicker:
“Brain size, by contrast…varied in the opposite direction.”

This means the bigger the testes, the smaller the brains. (Many women reading this column are now resting their case.)

This study is not likely to be nominated for a Nobel Prize, but it does give us something to ponder. The conclusion of the article said much more that anything I might add in summarizing the results of all this research referred to in the title as, “Bats and Balls”.

As the article ended, simply:
“…it is better to be virile and dim, than impotent and smart.”

But then again, a lot of us already knew that. Sleep tight King Kong: we now know you are much smarter than you look in those frontal nudity shots.


European Remedies...Why Not?

I was in Rome recently, vacationing and reveling in the wonderful lifestyle Italy offers. I was also battling the remnants of a persistent cough (shared by many of my fellow New Englanders) born of a spring cold exacerbated by a higher-than-usual pollen count during some unseasonably hot days and excessive mold spores following heavy spring rains.

Discouraged at the amount of energy my cough was consuming, I visited a pharmacy in Rome and sought the pharmacist’s advice. He asked me what I had already taken and noted the medications I was normally prescribed, then suggested an over-the-counter item which I optimistically took that afternoon and for the next few days. Within three days my cough was subsiding: in a few more days it was gone. I even managed to fly home in the plane’s dry air without hacking. I called my local pharmacist on my return and brought in the package of the Italian cough remedy. It seems it is a simple formula that could easily be replicated here in the U.S.A. and even be sold without prescription,

But it isn’t, and the tragedy is it probably never will be. This is not my first such experience with effective European pharmaceutical products that really work and don’t cost a mortgage payment to buy. My frequent visits there and my fortunate language skills make me less hesitant than others might be to give Europe’s remedies a try. I have never been disappointed.

My experiences do make me wonder, however, why Congress doesn’t deal with the overbearing pharmaceutical lobby that holds Americans hostage to outrageous drug prices by allowing more European competitors into our market? If a drug hasn’t killed or harmed all the Swiss, French or Italians over the last decade it’s probably safe enough for Americans as well. Our own FDA certainly does not have a flawless safety record when it comes to approving U.S. drugs for American consumption.

Why not bring in what’s tried and true in Berlin, Madrid, or London? Despite the American myth that we live in “the greatest country on earth,” our bodies function in the same ways as the bodies of our European neighbors. If a pill doesn’t do damage to the European Union’s gastrointestinal tract or respiratory system, it won’t hurt the stomach or lungs of a guy in Dayton, Ohio either. Besides, the federal government has depended on bringing in foreign flu vaccines, bird flu preventatives, and even West Nile remedies when the U.S. could not or would not develop enough on its own. I suppose they cannot have it both ways, eschewing foreign drugs when it interferes with U.S. drug company profits (and therefore campaign contributions) and, on the other hand, buying such drugs to avoid U.S. government embarrassment and public health crises.

My guess is that reasonable Americans agree it is time to get serious about lowering prescription and non-prescription drug costs in the United States. Opening our pharmacies to legitimate European drugs with excellent safety records might be a good beginning.


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
Happy New Year!

About Me

Hillsboro Beach, FL/ Cranston, RI, United States

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

"JOACHIM"  - Oct. '92-March '08
We Miss You, and Love You, Good Dog

Castel Del Monte

Castel Del Monte