Writer’s Block, Italian Style

The promise of “another day” is the key to the word’s origin. It derives from the Latin verb procrastinare, combining the prefix pro- “forward” with crastinus “of tomorrow”—hence, moving something forward from one day until the next. [source]

I frequently like to joke. I love a good play on words. And a chance to match wits with someone, in person — or, more commonly, online — is great fun to me.

I write this “grab bag” post for the Italy Blogging Roundtable as a bit of an inside joke, as I am frequently the late-comer when it comes to posting my thoughts on the month’s topic. The Roundtable is a labor of love, one that we all put time into when we can. But life sometimes get in the way. We have all had to take a break at some point, whether for career, children, traveling, or something else. Still, Rebecca, Alexandra, Jessica, Gloria, Kate, and I all depend on one another each month to get our “work” done, so I hate the feeling I get each month when I inevitably have to tell the group, “I’m going to be a little bit late.”

The guilt that is hanging over me as I write this post at the eleventh hour is what has led me to write, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, about the thing I know best: writer’s block (blocco dello scrittore). Only, instead of writing a piece on how to cope with it, I’ve decided I’d provide some photos of actual blocks with writing on them. Call me lazy. Call me crazy. I call it delivering what I promised.


pantheon rome

The Pantheon in Rome has one of the most famous inscriptions from ancient times. Translated, it means “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time, built this.” What he should have had inscribed was, “Ego M. Agrippa, non ipsa struit – puerorum aedificaverat” – “I, M. Agrippa, didn’t build this – my slaves did.” (Thanks, Google Translate!)


Arch of Titus in Rome

Another well-known ancient ruin in Rome is the Arch of Titus, located near the Roman Forum. The inscription is dedicated to Emperor Titus (of course): “The Roman Senate and People to the Divine Titus Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian.” The Romans considered Titus a “good” emperor. But if you look closely at the carvings on this triumphal arch, you’ll see it depicts Titus’ role in the destruction of Jerusalem. The Arch of Titus is a good lesson in how history looks different from the eyes of the conquerors versus the conquered.


Pompeii Caricature

Emperor Titus ruled during the time Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. But before that event, a Pompeii resident scrawled this graffiti on a wall in what is now known as the Villa of Mysteries. Odds are, the graffiti artist was illiterate. But I like to think this was his (or her!) version of writer’s block (worth 1,000 words, right?). If you’re into this kind of thing, 10 Pieces of Crazy Ancient Graffiti is a fun glimpse into the past.


Venice Lion

The winged lion is the symbol of Venice. It is an icon you will see everywhere, but nowhere more prominently (and beautifully) than on the facade of St. Mark’s Basilica. The lion is resting his paw on the so-called “Motto of Venice,” which has been shortened. “Pax – Evan, Tibi – Geli, Mar – Sta, Ce – Meus” is short for “Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum” which means “Peace to you, Mark, my Evangelist. Here your body shall rest.”

And now I shall rest, too.


Read more from the Roundtable:


Photos: cogito ergo imago, esme, john mcl, monkeypuzzle

On Being Lost in Italy

The footsteps behind us were worrisome.

With each step that landed on the worn, slightly slick cobblestones, an equal but louder pair of footsteps resonated behind my husband and me as we tried to find our way back to our Venice hotel on a frigid November night. Not too far away, the warm, convivial sounds of students who had just finished their exams oozed out of the San Polo enoteca each time someone pulled the door open to step inside. It was freezing in Venice, tourists were scant, and joining the locals for a round or two of prosecco seemed more worth our while than heading back to our hotel, especially given the prospect that someone could be right behind us.

We kept walking down the calle, a little faster now because the wind whipping off the Adriatic and through the canals was biting. And then, the calle ended. In front of us was only water. Behind us? As we turned around, we realized that no one was there. The utter lack of people out on this bone-chilling night had turned the Lion City’s narrow streets into echo chambers. Although it was eerie, I realized that we were experiencing something special – a Venice without tourists. A wrong turn became an unforgettable moment.  Continue reading On Being Lost in Italy

Video: Italian Hand Gestures

Even if you’ve never been to Italy, you’ve seen them. I’m talking about the hand gestures that Italians use to complement their vocal language. Indeed, sometimes all you’ll get is a hand gesture so “fai attento” – pay attention – and learn a few with this video from Nada’s Italy. This is also a lovely little primer because you get a glimpse of some piazze, cafes, alleyways, and the countryside while the gesture demonstrators give their little lessons.