Amatrice, the destroyed town that I still call “home”

If you are not living underground or on the top of a very high mountain, you might have noticed that this end of summer has been quite dramatic for most of us Italians. The earthquake that suddenly shook central Italy in the night of August 24th has stolen 296 lives and is still haunting the dreams of the ones of us who have been touched, directly or indirectly, by this reoccurring tragedy.

Yes, “reoccurring” indeed, since it happened before (in L’Aquila in 2009, in Umbria in 1997) and it will probably happen again. The centre-south of Italy is, in fact, one of the most seismically active areas in Europe, and the sheer structure of the ancient towns and villages scattered all over this wonderful country of ours can only make things more dangerous and dramatic when earth decides to do the twist.

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That said, I’m not in for controversies about politicians’ faults or cheap indignation about unwise choices in satirical drawings. I’m writing now because my family comes from those places, because a part of me died that night and because I managed to pay visit to my (once) beautiful Amatrice just few days ago.

You know, it’s actually funny to think that, in a country famous for its inherent, somehow fascinating chaos, some places can still acquire a seemingly permanent state of stillnes, as if they were above (or out of) time and space. That was the case of Amatrice: a pearl nestled in between the ancient and colorful mountain chain of Monti della Laga, unique for its wide variety of flora and fauna and its historical and cultural background.

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Being raised in a place like that makes you think that in a world where everything changes abruptly, those mountains will always protect your comfortable nest. And you get the feeling that you will always find a place where everything will be the same as it was, where time gets dilated and embraces the geologic biorhythm of stones laying over other stones, of the slow and yet unstoppable flow of spring waters, of the neverending succession of snow and sprouts and sun and dead leaves on the ground.

Now, imagine this feeling of safety being ripped off from your head in a 2 minutes horror trip caused by a neutral, unstoppable force which comes from beneath the ground and arouses the most ancestral and uncontrollable fears of the human soul, leaving behind nothing more than a bunch of ruins and lifeless bodies… Feeling uncomfortable much? But that is exactly what happened.

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And yet, the sudden wave of destruction was not the more disturbing aspect of this unconceivable tragedy. The aftermath of a natural disaster is always a chaotic succession of news, people, pleas, cries, hopes and fears. And this, for a place which seemed to be stuck in time, is even more devastating than the earthquake itself.

Amatrice now looks like a disrupted anthill, with little powerless insects rushing here and there to save pieces of that once perfect part of universe that once was their entire world.

Children accompanied by their parents arrive in the rebuild school at Amatrice, 13 September 2016. Trento Region build a new school made by containers for the quake victims who need to start the new educational year. ANSA/MASSIMO PERCOSSII don’t really know how a human being can cope with this. I know it is possible, but I do not know how. And I know there is hope, and I know that life goes on and that one day, hopefully, new babies – maybe not the generation that came back to school just yesterday – will be raised cradled by those wise and benevolent mountains, blessed by the feeling that nothing will ever be able to change their small, perfect world.

Emergency is not over. If you wish to help the population of Amatrice, Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto you can donate or participate to one of the many solidarity initiatives organized by NGOs and associations all over the world: a reference page in Italian and in English.

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

Welcome back! A preview of what’s coming on this September

Aaaaand we’re back! It has been a long, hot and even troubled summer, but here we are back on track, with the intent, now more than ever, to share the beauty our language and culture carry.

Besides our standard learning programme, with Intensive, Extensive, Flexible and Standard Italian Language Courses, we are glad to present our cultural activities for September 2016:

il-museo-agostinelli-di-roma-4Friday 16th, from 3pm – Vist @ Museo Agostinelli with Veni Vidi Visit
Where: meeting point @ Piazzale Ostiense
Participation fee: free
One of the most peculiar museums in Rome, a collection of 60000 objects from all over the world. An original insight on popular cultures and folklore.

cena8Thursday 22nd, from 7pm – Summer Ending Rooftop Aperitif (meetup event here)
Where: Mille13 Bistrò, Via Dei Mille 13a
Participation fee: 10€
Our classic rooftop aperitif to practice Italian, make new friends and spend an evening together in a charming roman terrace!

dsc_0195m-678x381Saturday 24th, 10am-1pm – visit @ Parco delle Energie/Lago exSnia
Where: Parco delle Energie, Via Biordo Michelotti
Participation fee: free
A lake in the heart of one of the most suggestive neighbourhoods in Rome, Pigneto, sorrounded by flourishing nature and inhabited by an extraordinary variety of wild fauna. A fantastic chance to discover a hidden treasure of the Eternal City!

Infographic: le parole della montagna

Are you a beach person or a mountain person?
Honestly, I have always preferred the feeling of fresh, pure breeze gently blowing through an alpine valley over the heat and the overcrowding of a popular beach. But this, I know, is just personal taste.
Nevertheless, I am pretty sure many of you are going to spend their summer holidays visiting lovely mountain villages, sorrounded by majestic peaks and pristine nature! And if you want to do it in Italy, well we have plenty of wonderful locations you might want to visit, both on the Alps and on the Apennines.
Before embarking on the adventure, though, you might want to learn at least the basics of Italian vocabulary related to mountains and trekking; for that purpose, here’s to you a new infographic to learn everything useful about Italian Language… on a mountain top!

lnfographic: Italian words related to mountain holidays

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

Musings in a roman church

I step through the worn wooden doorway and am greeted by a rush of air that caresses my cheek. The candles that hang in lanterns cast a soft illumination, and I breathe the warm scent of old incense. I can hear the laughter of my friends drift down to hushed whispers as I lead the way in, bowing my head to the statue of Jesus that watches over those who have entered. As I raise my eyes, the calm atmosphere brings my aching heart a bit of comfort. In these last intense weeks of college finals, saying goodbye to the study-abroads, and packing up for the summer, this tranquil place gives me a sense of peace.

This church is too small to have very many pews, so they are set together in a long line down the center. People of all different kinds sit on the sturdy chestnut planks; and though their numbers are few, their love overflows the church so that even I, someone who doesn’t know this god’s kindness, can feel it.

As I move past, I try not to look at the people, trying to respect their privacy. I slide in to an empty pew, and my friend Feride joins me. This will be her last night here and I will miss her terribly over the summer. We have known each other for only a semester but she has become so dear to me. I put my arm through hers and we sit together, quietly enjoying each other’s company. Franny joins me on my other side and the boys take a seat in the row in front of us.

I glance around. The only thing that makes me absolutely sure that I haven’t been transported back to an ancient time are the audio speakers, which play lovely hymns, and the priest who sits off to the side on his computer controlling the music.

Paintings decorate the walls, and their colors and beauty amaze me. It always leaves me with a sense of happiness to be in a church like this one. So often I hear awful news of people murdering and raping, and it breaks my heart. Coming back to a church helps, not because I feel this god’s love, but because I see what the love his people have for him inspire. I look around and think, humanity may have many sins, but we redeem ourselves in our ability to love, and you have to look no further then a church, mosque, or temple to see this. These places are where you can see what love can create. The heavy scent of incense is making me sleepy, and I lean my head on Feride’s shoulder.

The boys silently rise in front of us and I can feel Franny stand up as well. Feride whispers, “Are you ready?” I sigh. Of course I’m not ready I think. But I raise my head and nod. Feride and I move out of the pew and back towards the door. Chris bows his head and makes the sign of the cross, and through the doorway I can see the hustle and bustle of everyday life waiting outside for me in the evening darkness.

Chris and Feride walk out, and I take one last look at the altar. I bow my head and then follow my friends into the night.

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

A meal in a Roman square

474411420Sitting down at an outside table, I set my cappuccino on the table and dig into my beat up purse to find my notebook. The sun is relentless today and sitting under the large crimson umbrella that blooms over the middle of my table is the only reason my skin isn’t lobster red. I put my purse under my seat and open my notebook, then turn my head to look out into the square. In the middle rests a large fountain, with steps leading up to see into its waters. Art students are perched all over it and look around the square as I do, reminding me of a flock of pigeons, their heads bobbing up and down as they draw. Speaking of pigeons, they of course are all over the place. I remind myself not to drop any of my sandwich when they bring it to me, because otherwise death-by-pigeon will be on my coroner’s report.

Around Rome (8 of 49)-LSipping my cappuccino, an elderly couple walks by with a fat dachshund, who is merrily waddling along in front of them. A lady passes them going the opposite way and honestly I’m impressed at how well she is walking on the old cobblestones, which are riddled with cracks and holes. I can barely manage to walk on them in flat shoes. Brava, lady, brava. An elderly woman stands in front of the church across the street begs for money from anyone who walks in or out; and I have to look away, because its painful to watch. I try to give money when I can, but I can barely afford to feed myself as it is.

The birds’ chirping is a sweet melody that twines together with the smell of the lavender plants that blanket many of the buildings in the square, and its calming qualities make me lean my head back and just listen. With my eyes closed I can hear the clicks of someone’s shoes pass my table to go into the bar, and a deep voice bellows out a cheerful greeting that is reciprocated wholeheartedly from the female bartender. I imagine they are old friends, who see each other everyday and yet never run out of things to talk about. And as they begin to chat loudly among the tinks of the china and the bubbling of steamed milk, my mind wanders to a different sound. I assume one of the street musicians has set up shop somewhere near the fountain because now there is some lovely violin music drifting steadily to my ears. Oh, he is playing Ave Maria I realize, and find a newfound love for whoever this street performer is, because that is one of my favorites.

2929081691_1a89901780_bI hear footsteps approaching and slowly open my eyes to the crimson umbrella above me. I can see little dots of sunshine peaking through, which dance and sparkle when I move my head. Wow people probably think I’m high right now I think to myself and crack a smile.

Signorina, il tuo panino.” Says a handsome bartender who is hold a plate with my sandwich. I smile and take it from him with a Grazie. Setting it down, I take the last sip of my cappuccino and once again have to remind myself not to feed the birds, even if a little brown one just happened to land near me and chirp with an otherworldly cuteness. As I breathe in the hot Italian air filled with lavender (and now salami from my sandwich), and I hear the birds and violin sing in a natural harmony, I set my cup down and sigh with content. I am the luckiest girl in the world if I can call this beautiful place my home, even if only for a short while.

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

Let it snow! 5 must-visit winter landmarks in Latium

Brace yourselves, winter is coming! Or, we should say, it’s already here. Temperatures dropped so dramatically during last week that Romans are experiencing somenthing very unusual: a real winter!

Although the idea of the Colosseum covered in snow might be fascinating for many, people in Rome consider the possibility of a snowfall as a real disaster: at the first sight of a snowflake public transportation freaks out (you don’t say?), people just get confused not knowing what to wear and all the streets become an indistinct cluster of dirty snow, ice and mud.
Anyway you should fear not, Latium is stuffed with wonderful places to visit… especially in winter time.

  1. Soratte Mountain. Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte wrote Horace in one of hisveduta_del_mte_soratte odes, and he had a reason to, since he used to own a villa at the slopes of this solitary mountain. Due to its unmistakable shape and its proximity to Rome, the mount Soratte has been through the years a sacred site (dedicated to the god Soranus), a holiday destination for noble Romans, a place of pilgrimage (it hosts a paleo-christian hermitage), a palce of interest for foreign intellectuals (“Soratte stands out by itself in magnificent solitude. This mountain is probably made of limestone and belongs to the Apennines” wrote Goethe) and, finally, a miltary base complete with an enormous bunker during the II World War. Despite legends that that this mountain was host to the gate of hell, or that it had particular esoteric properties, this fascinating place is definetly something you’ll want to visit while its beautifully frosted with snow. You may even revive the emotions experienced by Horace during his quiet winter holidays.
  2. Civita di Bagnoregio. A Few kilometers north from the Soratte Mountain you will find this medieval town, which is known worldwide for its suggestive position and for the fact that it is only accessible through a long bridge that hangs over a deep ditch. Being relatively close to Rome and to other (literally) magical places such as Bomarzo, Civita di Bagnoregio is the perfect location for a magical winter tour: amazing food (the area, the Tuscia, is renowned for its tasty cold cuts and bodied red wines), breathtaking landscapes and an occasion for a detour in the less know history of central Italy, made of small hamlets, old gentry and popular religion.
  3. The Monti della Laga National Park. Placed in between Latium, Marche and Abruzzo, this national park, adjacent to the more popular Abruzzo National Park hosts a variety of landscapes and places of interest that are particulary enjoyable during the winter. 2014-11-20-10-56-15.jpg.1920x810_defaultFrom the exotic view of the Giano Mountain with its colossal (and controversial) tribute to Mussolini to the frozen Campotosto Lake, offering a breathtaking view of the Gran Sasso, this park stretches from the ski resort of the Terminillo Mountain, just near Rieti, to the lovely town of Amatrice, place of birth of the famous bucatini all’amatriciana, and is surrounded by charming mountain villages all along its valley. If you need a break from all the hustle and bustle of city life, you won’t find a better place to go.
  4. Lepini Mountains. A one hour trip by car from Rome will take you to this astounding place, where sea views and mountain sceneries blend in a unique and picturesque territory that is seeping with history and traditions. 4356139063_c16963a733_bAnciently inhabited by the pre-roman population called Volsci, this area is now full of small villages, abbeys, monasteries and places of interest such as the house of Aldo Manuzio (the guy who basically invented books as we know them today) and the necropolis of Caracupa. If you head toward the sea, past the city of Latina, you can also find enchanting coastal lake, which are excellent of bird watching… even in winter.
  5. Mount Guadagnolo. Just few kilometers from Rome, in the comune of Capranica Prenestina, this peak soars, offering a priviledged view on the metropolitan city and its suburbs. Famous for its handamade fettuccine, the nearby village of Capranica is a lovely town which has preserved the charm of the medieval suburban territory.

Have any suggestion? Did we miss something? Leave a comment, we would love to hear your suggestions!

Special thanks to our student Andrea Schorn for her help editing this article!

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

Italian cinema: 10 little known gems set in Rome

When you think about Rome in movies, you suddenly face a bunch of titles that brutally take the scene, leaving little space to a whole genre which we could boldly call “romexploitation”. That said, while approaching this list you shouldn’t expect quotations from La dolce vita, cuts from Eat, Pray Love (watching that particular movie is probably considered a fellony in various countries) or devoted tributes to La Grande Bellezza, for we’re going to approach romexploitation from a less traveled path, the one with the hidden gems. Although not every movie of this list is a masterpiece, each one of them depicts Rome with a particular palette, giving a vivid picture of what the Eternal City was, is or will be.

  1. Roma contro Roma, Giuseppe Vari (1964). As promised, let’s start with a cult b-movie which mixes historical drama with… zombies! Except for some scenes, the movie is not literally set in Rome (the main plot takes place in the geographic area of Asia Minor), but the omnipresent theme of the Caput Mundi, openly described as “the Queen of civilization”, endangered by an obscure goddess of terror, puts this movie right on the top of our list. Distributed in the US with the title The War of Zombies, this work is a bright example of the flourishing italian b-movie movement which has been inspiring masters such as Quentin Tarantino among others.
  2. Brutti, sporchi e cattivi, Ettore Scola (1976). Although this brilliant depiction of the roman slums in the early 70s is a little more known, this story is both unique and disturbing, especially if you consider that this often cruel fresco of human miseries doesn’t alter reality to create (both phisically and morally) monstrous characters, but uses real life as it was – and sometimes is – to show how the human condition can be as repulsive and unbelievable as a grotesque decoration. Having become famous both among cinephiles and language loving freaks for its outstanding mix of roman and southern dialects (the main charachter, played by immortal Nino Manfredi, is an immigrated patriarch from Puglia), this movie also contains one of the most sadly hilarious scenes in the history of italian cinema.
  3. Amore tossico, Claudio Caligari (1983). This movie has spurred such a cult that actual urban legends were born around it. Directed by standoffish author Claudio Caligari, this work ideally continues the tradition of italian neorealism, portraying its extreme consequences. Entirely played by non professional actors, literally collected from the worst drug streets of Ostia, Amore tossico offers an unprecedented insight in the world of heroin addiction during the early 80s. It is commonly believed that many of the performes died after the movie was shot, but this was the case for just two of them; nevertheless, this movie is so crude that watching it today, 35 years after the events depicted, still sends chills down your spine.
  4. Febbre da cavallo, Steno (1976). Enough with the bad feelings, let’s take a look at a title ascribable to the great tradition of italian 70s comedy. Directed by Steno, a master of the genre, this movie analyzes, with an amused and accomplice look, the world of horse betting in the sunny and easygoing scenario of the roman suburbs. Supported by a more than prestigious cast (Gigi Proietti, Katherine Spaak and Enrico Montesano above all others), this delicious comedy smells like hay and cigar smoke, and its surreal plot never fails to amuse the audience. Simply a must.
  5. Cosmonauta, Susanna Nicchiarelli (2009). Entirely shot in the Trullo neighborhood, located in the far western outskirts of the city, Cosmonauta is a delicate and empathetic narration of the ideological, political and personal growth of a young woman in the late 60s. Especially reccomended to those viewers who are not familiar with the role that Italian Communist Party (PCI) has been playing in the cultural history of the Belpaese.
  6. Mille bolle blu, Leone Pompucci (1993). Set in the district of Prati, near the Vatican City, during the summer of 1961, the plot of this nostalgic drama is characterized by two elements: the eponymous song, which evocates a whole set of cultural and historical references related to a that sort of paradise lost which Italy was in the years of economic boom; the solar eclipse, which actually took place that year and marked the childhood of so many of our parents (personally my mum told me nearly 1000 times about that unforgettable day).
  7. Un borghese piccolo piccolo, Mario Monicelli (1977). Being proud inhabitants of the Monti neighborhood, we couldn’t miss the chance to include our patron saint Mario Monicelli in this list. This movie, adapted from a book by Vincenzo Cerami and starring a majestic Alberto Sordi, is considered one of the highest peaks of Monicelli’s productions, though it is also one of his most bitter and dramatic works. Having nothing to envy from other movies focused on revenge and its aftermath, Un borghese piccolo piccolo turns out to be extremely disturbing both for the social environment in which it is set (roman middle class with its miseries and its tragedies) and for the dramatic and moral burden it carries, telling the story of a desperate father – once a charmless average man – who loses his only son in a tragic accident.
  8. Mortacci, Sergio Citti (1989). Again a grotesque comedy, but not as desperate as Brutti, sporchi e cattivi. Starring Vittorio Gassman and Sergio Rubini and set in a roman cemetery, the movie is a long and elaborated theatrical piece in which the souls of the deceased are discussing life, afterlife, destiny, love, grief, war, heroism, cowardice and any other human condition. The whole spirit of this enjoyable movie is summarized in the following line by Alma, one of the spirits that haunt the cemetery: «Le cose che prima ci facevano piangere adesso ci fanno ridere» (literally: the things that once made us cry, now make us laugh).
  9. In barca a vela contromano, Stefano Reali (1997). From the cemetery heading backwards to the hospital! This gracious comedy, starring roman icon Valerio Mastandrea among others, tells the story of a young man, Massimo, which is waiting for a knee surgery in a roman hospital and gets involved in an illegal black market within the hospital itself. Although this movie reports a serious problem of misconduct that afflicts the italian healthcare system, the tone in which the story is told lightens the atmosphere and makes the movie enjoyable without nullifying its moral and formative message.
  10. Et in terra pax, Matteo Botrugno (2010). Back to the suburbs with this dramatic story set in the ill-famous slum of Corviale (aka er serpentone, “the big snake”), one of the worst examples of urban architechture of the XX century. The plot itself doesn’t appear to be so original (it is the usual story of a failed redemption and harsh return to brutal reality), but what stuns the viewer in this movie is the clean photography, the genuine and immersive atmosphere of the roman suburbs, the psychological depth of some of the characters, alongside with some good choices concerning the sountrack (as suggested by the title). To us, one of the best movies of 2010 and altogether one of the best movies about Rome made in the last ten years.

And that’s it, our non-exhaustive list of hidden treasures. Needless to say we will get very disappointend if you won’t watch all of those movies and have your say in the comments. 😉

As an extra content, you can take a look at this beautiful tumblr, in which frames taken from old movies set in Rome are compared with modern pictures shot in the same streets. Enjoy!

[Special thanks to our bright student Andrea for cleaning up this mess and putting it into intelligible English!]

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.