Natale di Roma: Rome Celebrates Its Birthday

This post is about the birth of Rome, not about the birth of Christ. Both occasions use the word “Natale” in Italian. For posts about Christmas in Rome and Italy, click here.

Most city foundation stories are pretty straightforward. But the origin story of the city of Rome is more akin to something you would read in a comic book about superheroes.

According to city legend, Rome was founded on April 21, 753 B.C. by Romulus and named after him. The Natale di Roma, the birthday of Rome, is quite a complicated story.

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A Show of Hands

The hand of Michelangelo's David, © Accademia

It all started with David.

Michelangelo’s statue of David was one of the first pieces of sculpture that I knew I had to see in person. Recognized worldwide as a symbol of Florence, David is marble come to life especially when you look at his hands. My European Art History professor many years ago urged us to study David’s hands — tense, veiny, and with visible knuckles and creases.

Ever since falling in love with David, I have developed a mini-obsession with men’s hands (of the marble and human variety). Are you a male sitting across from me on the tram idly glancing at your phone or reading a book? I’ve probably admired your hands (or found fault with them — sorry, but your cuticles are a wreck!).

Luckily, Rome has given me other opportunities to observe men’s hands without feeling like a creep. The Vatican Museums and the Capitoline Museums both house countless classical statues from Ancient Rome and Greece. It’s in fact likely that the artists who taught Michelangelo how to sculpt were familiar with and inspired by some of the ancient statuary now housed in these museums. Continue reading A Show of Hands