27 March 2016



See you next Sunday with more news and views from 
This Italian Life

20 March 2016


CHIAVARI, Italy – In this week before Easter, religious festivities in Rome will be front and center on Italian television. The celebration officially start on Holy Thursday with the Mass of Chrism, (holy anointing oil).  This mass includes the reading of the Passion, which chronicles Jesus’ capture, suffering and death.
St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican
Later in the day, at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 men, following the tradition of Jesus and his Apostles. Both masses mark Christ's founding of the priesthood at the Last Supper on the night before he died.

On Good Friday, the day of Christ’s crucifixion in 33AD, the Pope says mass in the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano). St. John’s was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, and St. John’s is the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. It is known as Omnium urbis et orbis Ecclessarium Mater et Caput – the Cathedral of Rome and of the World.   
Via Crucis Procession, Rome
Friday evening the Pope leads a torch-lit procession from the Coliseum to Palatine Hill (Via Crucis Procession), and at pre-designated stops, the faithful recite the prayers for each of the Stations of the Cross.

The Easter Vigil mass at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica will start at 9PM on Saturday night. No lights will be lit. The Basilica will be shrouded in darkness until Pope Francis enters. He will be carrying a long, white Paschal, a special Easter candle decorated with gold leaf. 

From the single flame of the Paschal, twelve candles are lit and from those twelve, hundreds of other smaller candles will be lit, one by one, until the entire church is bathe in candlelight. As the candles are being lit, the Pope will proceed to the altar and begin Mass with:  “Brothers, on this most holy of nights, in which Jesus Christ our Lord passed from the depths of death to life, the Church, in every part of the world, calls on its children to keep watch and pray.” 
Pope Frances
He will be dressed in a gold robe, called a chasuble, with a white and gold stole around his neck. On his head will be a precious gold and white mitre encrusted with jewels. The mitre style was adopted from the Romans who wore hats that were very similar, and the chasuble is a variation of the robes worn throughout the Roman Empire.

The colors of the Pope’s chasuble and mitre are important as colors represent qualities such as virtue and holiness.  The gold color of the Pope’s chasuble symbolizes what is precious and valuable. It also symbolizes majesty, joy and celebration, and because of its brightness, metallic gold, like that found on the Pope’s miter, symbolizes the presence of God. 

Under the chasuble Pope Frances will wear a white robe, but all you will see of it V is a part of the collar around his neck and the edges of the cuffs under his sleeves. The color white has long symbolized purity, holiness and virtue, as well as respect and reverence. It is a color used by the Church for all high Holy Days and festivals.
Celebrating Easter at the Vatican 
Easter Sunday is joyful. The Vatican altar is filled with flowers in to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and his Ascension into Heaven. The Pope shares this special day with the thousands of faithful who gather in St. Peter’s Square to see him. He stands before the crowd and delivers his message of peace for the Urbi et Orbi (the city and the world).  After the Urbi et Orbi message, which is broadcast throughout the world, the Pope blesses the crowd.  

You can take part in all of the Easter events, and it is all free. You do need to make reservations however, including the Sabato Santo (Holy Saturday) mass at the Vatican. You’ll find information for all events, including Papal audiences at this web site: to http://www.papalaudience.org/papal-mass
A Keepsake from a Glorious Easter in Rome
Some tour operators have been known to charge large amounts of money for a Papal audience, but the truth is the Vatican does not charge for the Papal audiences. They are free. It’s easy to organize your own visit, you just have to do it well in advance, as tickets are limited. 

It's a good idea to stay until the end as that is when the Pope blesses everyone in the audience and those who can’t be there. And if you take medals and rosary beads and other religious items with you to the audience, you can give them as gifts knowing that they have received the Pope’s personal blessing.  Happy Easter

Copyright © 2016 Phyllis Macchioni

13 March 2016


ROME, Italy - It’s not an exaggeration to say that a visit to the Sistine Chapel is a moving experience. Of all the museums at the Vatican, it is the most popular. About 25,000 people a day, five million people a year, visit the Chapel.
Entrance to the Sistine Chapel
First time visitors may be a little surprised by its size. It’s comparatively small, but when you look up for your first glimpse of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, all thoughts of size are forgotten.

At first, all you see is a jumble of color, after all the famous ceiling is 60 feet above your head. But then, after a second or two, the images start to come into focus. What you are looking at is 1,200 square feet of more than 300 individual figures, and over 150 separate pictorial works that come together to tell a story.
The chapel was originally called the Cappella Magna, and was renamed Cappella Sistina in 1480 after Pope Sixtus IV had it restored. In 1482, the Pope called together a team of Renaissance painters, including Sandro Botticelli, to create a series of frescos showing the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ. Above the frescoes they painted a set of papal portraits, and the ceiling was painted a brilliant blue, with a sprinkling of yellow stars.

Twenty-four years later, when there was a new pope, Julius lI, the ceiling cracked. Julius had it repaired, but then he decided to have it repainted, and he chose Michelangelo for the job. The Pope wanted to do away with the blue ceiling with yellow stars, and decorate it with the figures of the 12 apostles. In the middle section he wanted a design. He didn’t know what that design would be, however, he was sure he would figure it out by the time Michelangelo finished working on the apostles.
Portion of Sistine Chapel Ceiling
Michelangelo was furious. He was furious at being summoned, furious because he was a sculptor, not a painter and furious with the Pope’s suggestion to paint 12 apostles. It was a pathetic choice, he said, dull, ordinary and above all unworthy of the space.

In the end he knew he couldn’t turn down God’s representative on earth, after all it was the Pope’s private chapel, but he could insist on deciding what he would paint. He chose the Old Testament as his theme, and divided the space into sections. He planned to begin with three panels on the Creation.
 God Creating the Sun and the Moon
This was a risky choice because it meant painting the figure of God. No one had ever dared to paint God before, He had always been shown as a hand reaching through the clouds. As God has neither form or gender nor age, it was impossible to imagine how the artist was going to do this. It is also impossible to know how the he decided on the image of God, but it was Michelangelo who decided that God would have a muscular figure, long white hair and a white beard.

The artist knew he couldn’t show six full days of the Creation in three images, so he decided it was better to show the great events and leave the part about the fish, birds and animals to the viewer’s imagination. As he had to paint the story backwards, he began with God bringing order out of chaos, separating light from darkness
God Reaching Out to Adam
In the last image, he shows the first stages of creation: God separating the seas from the earth, and land from the sky, preparing the world for its final purpose, the creation of man. As God reaches out one life-giving finger to Adam, who is still half asleep, slowly lifts one drooping finger. It is enough. He will soon become fully alive both in mind and spirit.

It had taken Michelangelo four years to complete the ceiling and he thought his work was finished. But in 1535, a full 25 years later, much to his surprise, a new Pope, Pope Clement VII summoned him to return to the Sistine Chapel. He couldn’t imagine why.
The Prophet Jeremiah
Michelangelo was sixty years old, suffering with arthritis and not anxious to spend his last years clinging to a scaffold 50 feet in the air. The story that he had painted the ceiling of the Chapel lying down was simply a myth, but there was no denying the fact that it had been hard work. It turned out what the Pope wanted was for him to paint the Resurrection above the altar of the Chapel.

The trouble was that there already were frescoes behind the altar, and Michelangelo did not want to disturb them. He tried to negotiate his way out of the project, but history repeated itself as it often does, and in the end he gave in. As before, he did insist that the Pope agree to let him paint what he wanted in that space, and he wanted the Last Judgment.
The Last Judgment
It took five and a half years to complete the Last Judgment, but when a tired, and work weary Michelangelo stepped away for the last time, what he saw is what we see today, a Sistine Chapel transformed, a masterpiece that will live forever.

Copyright © 2016, Phyllis Macchioni

Photos: Holy See Press Office

06 March 2016


CHIAVARI, Italy - Fashion Week in Milan is always interesting, but sometimes not for the reasons you might think. No one can deny that the Milanese have a unique fashion style all their own, it probably comes from being surrounded by some of the best fashion designers in the business.

A walk around town, especially in the area of Via Montenapoleone, will take you past shops selling Gucci, Ferragamo, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Versace, Moschino and yes, even Chanel and other brave French labels. As the Milanese pass the fashion packed windows day after day, month after month, they can’t help but be influenced by the constant reminders that in this town, fashion rules.

Even when fashion buyers and journalists covering Fashion Week get to Milan, they put a little extra effort into what they wear. They seem to gain courage just being in town and put away their little black outfits and opt for something with a little more pizazz.  

As for the Milanese, well, when Fashion Week rolls around, they feel all the more compelled to dress for the occasion and pull out all the fashion stops.  Sometimes the street fashions are just as interesting, if not more, than what the designers are sending down the runways.

These photos will give you an idea of what people on the street were wearing during the most recent Fashion Week in Milan.