Federica Berlingieri - Italian artist
Sissy - Elisabeth of Austria and Empress of Hungary - Castle Miramar - Trieste
Museo Nazionale Del Cinema - Mole Antonelliana - Torino
Edipo Re in Greek - Colosseo - Rome

I had my appointment with the dentist, and since losing eight teeth when my ex-husband left me for a younger, rich mother of one of my daughter's friends at the same class at her catholic school, CATHOLIC CHIC, a Church for rich sinners! I lost four teeth when I lost my house in Rome, now I have lost two teeth with my mother's illness. I lost my hair twice when my husband left me and when I lost my house. As I do not have any teeth or hair left, I cannot have a relationship. Therefore I do not make eye contact; it is the same for many people who choose to be single!

I was a guest of the artist Federica Berlingieri. It was the worst time of my life, because I lost all my Italian documents and my flight ticket. I cried for hours in despair and dismay, but a very kind taxi-driver supported me and took me to the post office where I had left the documents. I nearly had a heart attack but the documents were amazingly still in the post office. It was a miracle so I went straight to St Peter's, passing through the Holy Door of this remarkable church in Rome that has been restored after nearly three years of work. The whole place is much brighter the colours of the marble are revealed. However, many people and the Italian press do not consider it a good restoration and call it ‘Techni-coloured St Peter's for the Millennium’. The facade was designed by Carlo Maderno in the early 17th Century. I was still in shock over both the loss- and the finding! - of the documents. Vittorio de Sica directed a film called "Miracle in Milan" but I can assure you all this is the new "Miracle in Rome". Even if you don't believe in miracles, I am convinced this was one.

However, in spite of it all, I did have a great time. I met this divine couple ALI and BABA; Ali was very sweet but very snobbish - an independent boy. Umberto and Alex have to look after them all the time because they keep going off everywhere. It's amazing the names people give to their dogs. I also met Oscar. I said to the couple "Is he named after Oscar Scalfaro, the Italian President?" "Of course not, it is for Oscar Wilde!" Oh, my God! I had a dog called Jurisprudence (Juris), one called Puzzola, and one called Criola; the cat was Tarzan. I don't think I had much imagination when it came to naming my pets. I was fascinated by English fox-terries Ali and Baba who have a daughter Stelina. They were the most snobbish dogs I have ever met. HA! HA! HA!

I found Rome completely changed, new roads, new buses and trams (I read an interview with Rutelli, the mayor of Rome in El Pais saying he wants the main centre of Rome to be without buses), new roads and tunnels, archaeological sites and building restored, museums open longer hours, incredible exhibitions everywhere. A dramatic nocturnal illumination of the Forum by Vittorio Storaro, the Italian cinematographer of Apocalypse Now and The Last Emperor, really MAGNIFICENT the view at night of the Forum!

The Italians are great gossips, all reported in the press - parties, lovers, political and show-business people continually changing partners. They have a gossip column on the Internet, which includes such delights as pin-ups with, for example, a young Sophia Loren showing her knickers! See,, the site of the La Republicca journalist and wife of Mayor Rutelli), and and Pages in the newspapers talk of the return of the Italian Royals, who left Italy after the 2nd World War.

In Trieste there is an exhibition about Sissy (b.1837 d.1898, Elisabeth of Austria and Empress of Hungary), in the Castle Miramar (. I love Sissy, maybe because I love Vienna where she lived or maybe because I met Romy Schneider, the actress who portrayed Sissy in the three films made of her life, in the 60's in Rio de Janeiro. In 1854 at the age of sixteen, Sissy married the Emperor of Austria and Hungary, her cousin, one of the longest-reigning emperors. In a window at the exhibition, there is her marriage contract with her belongings: furniture, poetry, costumes etc - listed in an inventory. She did not like court life; she travelled a lot, spending a long time in Hungary, possible with friends or lovers? She lost two children, Sofia, and then Rudolf in the tragedy of Mayerling from which she never recovered. She was obsessed with her figure, always dieting; she loved nature and went horse-riding for hours. But an anarchist, Luigi Lucheni, stabbed her to death. If you are visiting Trieste do not miss the exhibition ("Sissy, Elisabeth of Austria, Impossible Elsewhere" at Scuderia del Castello di Miramar to 01.2001).

Archduke Maximilian von Habsburg, brother of Franz Josef, husband to Sissy, choose this promontory by the Adriatic Sea and lived there for a few years with his wife Charlotte of Saxon. But Maximilian accepted the Mexican crown and was executed in 1867 in Queretaro. I wonder why the Savoias want to come back to Italy? They all come to a bad end. The park of this beautiful castle has many Californian sequoia trees and Cedars of Lebanon. Trieste was the foremost port of the Habsburg Empire - populated with Italians, Germans, Slovenians, Croatians and, of course, Austrians. Since 1944, Trieste was part of Tito's Yugoslavia, and then in 1954 it was finally handed back to Italy. Trieste is the capital of Friuli Venezia Giulia, the Italian region bordering Slovenia and Austria. The Romans founded this colony in 52BC with a spectacular amphitheatre, which still remains. The architecture of Trieste is a mix of baroque, rococo and neo-classic and - together with Torino - is Italy's coffee capital; the beans arrive nearly every day on cargo ship. I do not know about coffee, but for me - the best is in Naples! I have a friend who goes from Rome to Naples just for have a good cup of coffee!

Trieste was the only extermination camp in Italy: 6.000 Jews were gassed to death before the city was liberated in 1944. The Nazis blew up the crematoriums before leaving but, sadly, there is still much to remember. Francesca and I went to Trieste, the Miramar Castle and Slovenia as guest of Mara Chaves Altan, wife of the artist Altan, and a wonderful guide to friends that come to visit the Altans in Acquileia, another wonderful Roman place in the area. I still remember the most delicious ice cream! I remember Trieste with its monumental, beautiful buildings and, of course, the famous wind; LA BORA. But above all, I love the three films of the life of Sissy, The Empress; the beautiful Romy Schneider was great in all three films - they are at the top of the list of my most-loved films. And being in Vienna, in her actual house and gardens, seeing her bed and table laid for meals (one could see their lavish lifestyle)! Francesca and I are huge fans of Sissy and it was very emotion moments for us both.

In Torino, the Mole Antonelliana is symbol for Turin people to relate to, and a focal point for people to know their whereabouts. The building was originally designed to be a synagogue; then it was going to be a museum for Vittorio Emmanuelle II. It was then closed for 16 years and is now open as the MUSEO NAZIONALE DEL CINEMA, opened by the Minister of Culture Giovanna Melandri. The Italian cinema was born in Torino and now has one of the most incredible museums of cinema. The building dates from the end of 18th Century, and was constructed by Alessandro Antonelli. The new restoration of the building was finish in July 1999. The architect-set designer was Francois Confino, who also designed the Cite Cine, at the Villette, Paris. He said, "what is going to be here is a museum, but I do not do museums, I do emotion".

Maria Adriana Prolo started this collection 60 years ago, in 1041, starting with two rooms in the same building but now covering 3.000 metres on six floors. At one stage the museum's library was moved to the cemetery on San Pietro in Vincoli - death and cinema together, can you imagine how they must have enjoyed it, the "residents" of the cemetery!

Martin Scorsese is in Rome for his next film at Cinecita for six months, a story of native Americans and Italian immigrants. Scorsese has just been made a Cavaglieri di Gran Croce by the Italian President. For the Venice Film Festival he has just made a film about the Italian cinema from its origins until the '70s.

But the most wonderful news for culture in Italy is the opening after 1.500 years of the Colosseo as a theatre, opening with Edipo Re in Greek. The real name of the Colosseo is "L'Anfiteatro Flavio". The guests for the opening night were the President of the Republic of Italy, members of government, journalist, politicians, representatives of culture and show-business; 250 VIPs in the central area, 400 persons standing like senators and knights on the stairs looking down on the suffering. The Colosseo was lit by a 'balloon' of light which attracted the birds who where flying around the stage making noise and the tragedy sound more poignant. It was a magnificent scenario with open skies, the Greek tragedy telling us of the pestilence in Tebe, directed by Vassilis Papavassileiou. There was 15 seconds of silence, for the dead. The Colosseo was closed by Imperator Teodorico in 500 after Christ, and abolished the killing between men and animals. Construction was begun by Vespasiano and the circus was opened by Tito in 80 AD.

But once again is open as a theatre for the world!

Verinha Ottoni


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