Christmas Lunch

This year’s Christmas lunch took place at the Hotel Lancelot. It was an exuberant celebration.

We were met by alpha females Rosa Fusco (President)  and Mary Cordis (Committee Member). Wearing official Christmas headgear, they strutted up and down, ready to suppress any pockets of unruly behaviour. 

When we were all seated, the waiter warned us that the candle, as a potential fire hazard,  had to be extinguished immediately if it burned down too low. Otherwise, the floral decoration might go up in flames.  

The lunch was a combination of two traditional British dishes and three creative Italian dishes, including an unusual and quite exquisite pomegranate sorbet, a tender roast turkey and an excellent Christmas pudding heavily laced with brandy.

After the first two courses, when crackers had been pulled, paper crowns donned  and the mandatory jokes read out, a slight commotion was heard from the kitchen area, followed by an alarming crackle. Suddenly, a recording of the gospel song Amen blasted out from a speaker, and a second fire hazard appeared, this time in the shape of a huge roast turkey bristling with blazing sparklers and borne on a trolley. 

As the waiter pushing the trolley sashayed up and down between the rows of tables, wiggling his hips and shaking his shoulders, we all started to clap loudly in time and then let rip with the vocals (to the astonishment of the charming young Franco-American guest at our table who had never seen such an uninhibited display by British people). There is no requirement to know the lyrics of this song celebrating the baby Jesus. Just sing “Amen!” over and over again, with all the lung power you can muster – though  you can, if you like, throw in the occasional “Sing it out, children!” 

On that note, God rest ye merry, everyone. May 2022 bring us all hope for a better future. 

Posted by Julie Dixon, Association Member

Carol Singing at Villa Wolkonsky

The evening of carol singing at the British Ambassador’s Residence, Villa Wolkonsky, was an outstanding event. For the British Ambassador, Jill Morris, whose tour of duty in Rome is drawing to a close, this was her last Christmas concert.

The residence is approached by a dramatically curving road that climbs uphill and sweeps past the awe-inspiring ruins of a 1st century Roman aqueduct. A silent witness to the passage of time,  it keeps its eternal watch over the garden. 

In the dark, rainy night, the villa is a blaze of Christmas lights. Steps lead up to a beautiful balustraded balcony and the entrance to the hall, where Pietro Annigoni’s iconic 1955 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of twenty-eight is displayed. An air of mystery surrounds her as she stands, lost in thought, in the robes of the Order of the Garter.

We wait for a while in an elegant room, enjoying the strains of Christmas music from an adjacent room. Occasionally we catch the elusive scent of mandarin flowers drifting from the designer diffusers. The warm Christmas atmosphere envelops us. The evening promises well.

In the concert hall, lit by twinkling crystal chandeliers, the choirmaster introduces the Campion Quartet and the pianist. The programme consists of  traditional carols. The soprano who sings the solo parts has such a pure, ethereal voice that if we close our eyes we can almost imagine we are in a cathedral. Audience participation is carefully orchestrated: the men sing the king’s part in Good King Wenceslas, and the women sing the page’s responses.  For Hark the Herald Angels Sing, the choir regales us with Mendelssohn’s glorious descant.

As the choirmaster emphasises, it’s not God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen:  it’s God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. For years we have been labouring under the massive misapprehension that we wanted God to give those jolly, red-cheeked gents a chance to put their feet up. The importance of the comma cannot be overstated.

For The Twelve Days of Christmas we act out the words, but remain seated, while the choirmaster and the quartet guide us through the different actions: nimble lords a-leaping, maids vigorously a-milking, squatting geese a-laying, etc. The easiest gift is the five gold rings, though some of us are a little confused and fling all ten fingers in the air. 

Even our Ambassador, Jill Morris, joins in the frolics. The Italians guests study the words of the carols in their booklet and listen intently, but must be somewhat puzzled by the bizarre mimicry. Have the phlegmatic Brits lost their wits?

Addressing the audience in Italian, the Ambassador explains the UK tradition of opening our doors to carol singers and offering them a drink and a bite to eat if  they have performed well. Since we have all been “molto bravi”, she says, our efforts will be rewarded with a buffet supper and mulled wine. 

After her closing speech, applause breaks out and the choirmaster leads us all into a rousing rendition of For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow.

We thank the British Embassy for the invitations to the event. We are most grateful to our Ambassador for her generous hospitality and unstinting work on our behalf, particularly during the UK’s departure from the EU.  

Mille grazie, cara Ambasciatrice, e tanti auguri di felicità

Posted by Julie Dixon, Association Member

Visit to the Ardeatine Caves, 13 November 2021

Entrance to the Ardeatine Caves. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

De Profundis clamavi ad te, Domine
Domine, exaudi vocem meam
Out of the depts have I cried unto thee, o Lord
Lord, hear my voice

Psalm 130

The Mausoleo delle Fosse Ardeatine, the memorial cemetery honouring the victims of the  Ardeatine Caves Massacre that took place on 24 March 1944, is set in tranquil surroundings that belie the horrors hidden until July 1944 within its network of tunnels.  

Silvia, our guide, began with a brief history. A puppet regime headed by Mussolini had been set up in Salò on Lake Garda. The Nazis were in control of Rome. On 23 March 1944, the twenty-fifth  anniversary of the founding by Mussolini of the first Fascist organisation in Milan, a group of partisans detonated a rubbish cart containing explosive in via Rasella as a unit of Nazi Order Police marched down the street. The Nazi reaction to the carnage was swift and ruthless: ten Italians for every German policeman killed were to be shot in reprisal.

This meant that a total of 330 men had to be put to death. Most of them were Italians serving sentences in the Regina Coeli prison, where a large number of the prisoners were partisans awaiting execution.  Others were rounded up at random off the streets. The victims came from all walks of  civilian and military life. Some were disaffected Germans who had colluded with the partisans. After lengthy bartering and negotiations, the quota was reached and an extra five were selected for good measure. The operation had to be carried out with maximum speed and efficiency, and in total secrecy. The prisoners, denied the comforts of religion in their final hour, were taken in military trucks to the Ardeatine caves. The men had their hands tied behind their backs and were shot in the back of the head. One bullet per person. No waste.  As the shootings continued and the corpses piled up, the next batch of prisoners had to kneel on the bodies of the dead. It was not a straightforward process, and some of the soldiers carrying out the executions were sickened and unable to cope. 

To seal the place of execution, the Nazis blew up the entrance, creating a huge chasm, the Voragine, which has now been  cleared and enables the visitor to relive the experience of the victims as they were marched to their terrible death. Despite Nazi attempts to conceal the slaughter, suspicions had arisen.  So many people had inexplicably disappeared. The convoy of trucks had not passed unnoticed. Shepherds in the area of the caves had heard shots, and the stench of decomposing bodies hung in the air. 

In July 1944, following the arrival of Allied troops, the caves were re-opened. Brilliant forensic work led to the identification of nearly all the bodies, and families reclaimed the remains of their loved ones.  

Originally pozzolana quarries, the Ardeatine caves were used as Christian catacombs. Close by is the Appian Way, dotted with the tombs of wealthy Romans. Its grim past as the place where rebel slaves were crucified en masse is well known. The whole area, in fact, is a vast burial ground; a place of bloodshed and martyrdom.

Access to the forecourt of the memorial site is through a narrow gate made entirely of twisted wood, representing a tangle of thorns. As Silvia explained, it was intended to be a difficult entrance. We were not to expect a smooth passage.

To the left, towering above the gate, is a breathtaking group of three massive statues in travertine stone, The three ages of man, the work of the sculptor Francesco Coccia. The figures – a boy, a man and an old man, all victims of the reprisal – are standing with their hands bound together behind their backs. It was shocking to read the names of a fourteen-year-old boy and a baby of two months on the list of the slain at the entrance to the tombs.

More extraordinary works of art are on display in the small museum, including a gold-plated bas-relief by Renato Guttuso and paintings by Carlo Levi and Corrado Cagli. There are also photographs, newspaper articles and other memorabilia that are well worth studying in detail.

It was a profoundly moving experience for all of us, especially when we came to the place of execution and thought of the final moments of the victims, some of whom were writhing and struggling to break free. 

Our thanks go to Silvia for her enlightening and sensitive account of the massacre, and to Joanne and the Committee members who organised this remarkable tour.   

Posted by Julie Dixon, Association Member

Jungian Seminar by Association Member, Marzia Santori

On Saturday, October 16th, a small group of Association members met in the garden of the American University of Rome, where we were introduced to our lecturer, Marzia Santori, a Jungian analyst with many years of professional experience in the field of psychotherapy in Italy and the UK. It was a perfect morning, one of the justly famed ottobrate romane that we enjoy in this splendid city. 

Marzia and our president, Rosa, led us to the classroom. We took our places in ergonomic chair-desks that swivelled round to any position, facilitating group discussion. Like keen undergraduates, we were transfixed by Marzia’s fascinating introduction to Jungian theory, illustrated with a ppt presentation on a large screen and giving practical examples of human behaviour and attitudes in order to clarify certain concepts.   

Marzia has a refreshingly friendly approach and an admirable ability to combine erudition with simplicity. She began with a brief history of the collaboration between Freud and Jung and the reasons for their subsequent rift. Freud was a neurologist and an atheist, whereas Jung was a deeply spiritual man, the son of a pastor, and had worked for years in hospital as a psychiatrist, gaining valuable insights. Since childhood, he had suffered from mental health problems (he was schizoid), and this enabled him to empathise with his patients. He believed that the person undergoing analysis should be allowed to talk freely, with the bare minimum of intervention by the analyst. This was an innovation, quite unlike the classic Freudian image of the coldly detached psychiatrist sitting behind the patient lying on the couch.   

So, while initially Freud was a father figure to him, Jung was an independent thinker whose brilliance and originality lay in his imaginative, intuitive vision of the human mind. In Jungian theory certain words have a wider meaning. He shared Freud’s opinion that the first three years of a child’s life are the most important but disagreed with Freud’s emphasis on sexuality and children. Jung’s view of the libido was richer and vaster and had more in common with eastern philosophy. The psyche, another familiar term, has a much broader application and encompasses both the mind and the body.  

Jung does not speak of mental illness. Psychoanalysis aims to heal; to reconcile what he understood to be the Self with the Shadow Self.  Among the techniques used, word association tests and dreams analysis are an important part of the diagnosis of problems. 

 Neurosis is a signal that something is wrong and needs to be treated. “Thank goodness he was neurotic,” he said of one patient, “otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to treat him.”  

After the seminar, Marzia took questions from the group, particularly on dreams. She recommended keeping a diary of them. Another topic was collective consciousness and how this may be identical in two individuals from quite different parts of the world. 

Our thanks are due to Marzia for her wonderful seminar, to Rosa for her meticulous organisation of the event and her endless patience and good humour, and to the American University of Rome for hosting us. 

Posted by Julie Dixon, Association Member

Wine tasting in Frascati: Saturday 25th September 2021

The wine-tasting event hosted by the Cantina Imperatori in Frascati was unquestionably a highlight of the year.  We met our fellow participants from the American Club of Rome on the elegant terrace of the Cantina, which commands spectacular views of Rome and lush vineyards on sunlit slopes. As explained in her brief history by Nina, the Manager of the property, the terroir is the result of a volcano eruption that sent a river of lava rushing through the area,  creating a fertile soil. 

Explaining each stage of vinification, Nina led us round the various installations. We went inside one of the ancient Roman  caves discovered during creation of the winery.  Wine is now fermented and aged here in traditional terracotta amphoras.

Our tour concluded on the terrace, where we tasted three white wines of differing style and complexity, Viognier, Trebbiano Verde and Trebbiano Verde Anfora, and two superb reds, a Cesanese made from the local grape and a Cabernet Sauvignon,  paired with bread, cheese and salami. 

We had a wonderful afternoon in the company of the American Club members and look forward to more joint events of this kind with them.

NOTE: Frascati is a charming town, easily reached in about 34 minutes by train from Termini. The taxi ride from Frascati station to the Cantina Imperatori takes ten minutes.

Posted by Julie Dixon, Association Member

Afternoon Tea

Piazza di Spagna is a widely visited tourist attraction that is featured in all guidebooks or internet sites on Rome. For many years it was simply a mass of bodies, tourists and locals, lounging on the steps, making it hard to appreciate the real dynamic of the piazza. A local decree from a couple of years ago, in an effort to clean up the piazza, put a stop to anyone, be they picnic-ers, travelers or residents, from sitting on the stairs. This helped in making the square look less like a football stadium and more like a site of Roman heritage. Now with fewer tourists due to the pandemic, the piazza, with its majestic staircase leading up to the church of Trinita’ dei Monti, can actually be appreciated in its full beauty and glory.

This was our view as we sat at the tables of Babington’s Tea Rooms last week. After many months of online Zoom activities, association members were finally able to meet in person, how joyful that was! Babington’s is certainly worth a visit, operating since 1893, they make cakes and scones to a supreme quality and their numerous blends will have something to please all tastes. Members enjoyed their brew with freshly made and toasted scones, topped with jam and whipped cream. It was wonderful being able to do something normal, catching up with friends whilst sipping tea under the magical afternoon Rome sun.

Association founder featured in the Guardian

Harry Shindler, one the association’s founder, who has been endlessly campaigning to extend the 15 year voting rule, has been featured in the British tabloid, the Guardian. Read the full article here.

After 20 year of relentless letter writing, Mr. Shindler, who turns 100 this year, has finally put the expat voting question, onto the government’s agenda. At present, British expats who have lived for 15 years or more outside the UK loose their right to vote in UK elections, but this may soon change!

Procedure to obtain the “Residence Document in Electronic Format”, (Carta di Soggiorno in Formato Elettronico)

British nationals can obtain a “Residence Document in Electronic Format” which should also facilitate travel within the EU. This is optional, but highly recommended.

The following procedure refers to residents in Rome.
To obtain the residence document you must request an appointment with the Ufficio Immigrazione using a PEC email. The email should be sent to immig.quest.rm.regnounito@pecps.poliziadistato.it.
If you do not have a PEC email, you can send a regular email to  immigrazione.segreteria.rm@poliziadistato.it. This alternate method may take longer for the Questura to reply. 

The Questura will reply and attach a letter giving the date and time of your appointment, the documents required and instructions to pay the required fee.

The Questura is located in Via Teofilo Patini n.23 in the Tor Sapienza area of Rome and is serviced by a regional train to the station Tor Sapienza. Driving is also an option and parking is available close by. Upon arrival on the day of your appointment, show your letter at the gate to gain entrance to the Questura. The Brexit office is located on the third floor. The process includes presenting copies of a valid ID, showing proof of payment, countersigning your photo and having your fingerprints taken.

Your receipt will include a code where you can track the status of your application online. It will take approximately 2 months to have your card issued. Once your application status shows “in consegna”, you can pick it up at your local police station, agreed on previously with the Questura.  The “Residence Document in Electronic Format” will be valid for 10 years. 

For British national not residing in Rome, you can read the full Vademecum to learn about the procedure in your area.

The above notice is for informational purposes only and does not carry any regulatory status.

——————————————————

NB: A PEC email (Posta Elettronica Certificata) is a secure and certified method of sending emails. It uses special encryption to guarantee the legitimacy of the message and is used widely in Italy to communicate with official offices. The PEC has the same legal status as a “Raccomandata con ricevuta di ritorno” (recorded delivery). There are numerous providers that will issue a PEC, such as Aruba. Fees vary but on average, are under €10 a year.

Looking back at 2020!

Though many of our regular activities were compromised due to the Covid lockdowns and regulations, the association was still able to bring members together, online and in person, throughout the year. Below is a small selection of photos to mark 2020!

Pub quiz winners at the Porta Pia pub: February 2020
The book club and film club met regularly on Zoom. This is a selection of the books and films discussed in 2020

Once lockdown was eased, members met for an aperitivo on the terrace of the Hotel Locarno: June 2020

Notwithstanding the terrible rain, members had a tour of the Abbey of the Three Fountains: October 2020

Before lockdown restrictions came into force again, members met for an aperitivo in the Hotel Ripetta garden: October 2020

Remembrance Day was a solitary event this year with only one committee member attending the ceremony: November 2020

With Brexit approaching, members were given a presentation and Q&A session with the IOM & British Embassy: November 2020
To close the year in our traditional jolly fashion, we held a Zoom Carol Singing event: December 2020