Sunday, July 31, 2011

The ‘M&M’s mobile’

As all self-respecting comics heroes, the M&M’s as well have now their own vehicle.

Ladies and gentlemen, the M&M’s mobile!

(Ps: details on the mobile ‘gadgets’ in another post…)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

All roads pass by Rome (i.e. Renato y Carito in Rome)

We are not sure if all roads lead to Rome, as they usually say, but after six months in Rome we can say with a certain degree of confidence that many roads pass by Rome - eventually.

This time it was Renato and Carito’s road the one to pass by Rome: Washington DC to Punta Ala, via Amsterdam, Verona, and, precisely, Rome.

Considering the number of friends that, for a reason or another, programming it or by chance, ended up in Rome in the past months, we have the feeling that, 2000 years later, Rome is still the center of the world…

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Baby-care coaching

At the end of the last class of our pre-natal course last week (a video on how to clean and disinfect babies’ umbilicus when the tail of the umbilical cord is still attached), Mathilde and I looked at each other with despairing look and said in unison: “I am not ready”.

We are not ready. We don’t feel ready. We may know a few things in theory, but we are absolutely frightened by the idea of having to handle a ‘real’ baby. And with only two weeks left, we have no idea on how we could make up…

Luckily in the past two days we received the visit of Laura, an old friend of Mathilde and now mother of a beautiful three-month-old baby: Aude, and - whether we liked it or not - the past two days have been an intensive course of baby-management.

Well, can’t say we are now proficient in handling a baby, but certainly I can now change a diaper…

Thank-you 'doula' Laura for the private classes!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Will Baby be a baby-boy or a baby-girl?

We must be a bit old-fashioned, but we decided to ask not to tell us Baby’s gender. As for the toy in the Easter eggs, we want this to be a surprise!

But since then, everyone started speculating about whether Baby will be a baby-boy or a baby-girl. Here are a few of the notions we were told:

- According to how quick Baby was conceived, he must be a boy;

- According to Baby’s gentle kicks, she must be a girl;

- According to Mathilde’s pointed belly, he must be a boy;

- According to Mathilde’s low belly, she must be a girl;

- According to Mathilde’s diet at the time of Baby’s conception (cereals for breakfast), he must be a boy;

- According to Mathilde’s cravings during pregnancy (mandarins), she must be a girl…

And in your opinion, will Baby be a baby-boy or a baby-girl?

The answer in a couple of weeks. Tic-tac, tic-tac, tic-tac...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Welcome Daniela!

For once, not our terrace

We have received many visits in the past months (and we expect to receive many others in the next ones). But we didn't imagine that our friends could actually move to Rome as well...

The first one is Daniela, directly from DC. Welcome Daniela, or - better - benvenuta Daniela!

Come to Rome: you can now visits two friends at the price of one!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hospital hunting

They say that babies take possession of your time. That the first 40 days after their births you would hardly have time to take a shower. That in the first two years of their lives you would forget what sleeping eight hours in a row means….

By keeping on repeating it to us, we started resigning ourselves to that idea. ‘Ormai la frittata é fatta’ (now the damage is done) - we tell each other with resignation…

But nobody actually told us that babies take possession of your time even before they are born! And that the more you do, the more still needs to be done!

We have just (finally) found him/her a nursery*, and we just bought him/her a baby carriage** - thinking: ‘Ok, the most of it is done’ - that people start asking us: ‘Have you decided where you will deliver?’.

We were suddenly confronted with a number of dilemmas and choices to make. Initially we thought that the choice was simply between a public hospital and a private clinic. That is true, but not as simple as it may sound. Soon we discovered in fact that you can deliver privately in a public hospital (sounds like an oxymoron, but it is not). But that at the same time, that even if you decide to deliver privately in a public hospital, you are not guaranteed to have a spot.

The alternative, a private clinic, seemed at this point a more straightforward solution (you pay, you get a place), until we discovered that, as many business concerns in Italy, some clinics close in August. Vacation.

But even for those that remain open, it is not easy to understand how much they cost. Each clinic has a different agreement with each insurance company and offers different ‘packages’ - and between deductibles, ceilings, eligible expenses, ineligible expenses, etc. etc., it is practically impossible to understand how much you eventually are going to spend…

Surely we’ll end up solving this issue as we did for the nursery and the carriage, but already knowing - in the deep of our hearts - that as soon as we have solved this issue, there will be a new one to face…

(*) By the way, and for the records, not the one described in one of our previous posts.

(**) Well, you would say, what’s the problem: you enter in a shop that sells baby carriages and you purchase one. Well, believe us, that’s not that easy…

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Swan Lake at the ‘Terme di Caracalla’

Yesterday night, artistic evening. Yesterday night: ballet.

In the stunning setting of the Caracalla Baths, we watched the Swan Lake.

It’s difficult to describe the emotions that such performance produced in us. I tried to film some of the dances, in the (vain) hope of capturing the glorious atmosphere of the evening.

If you don’t suffer from sea-sickness, have a look at this short clip*, and try to imagine these dancers moving following the notes of Tchaikovsky under a starry sky, lit by a half-full moon, and surrounded by the millenary remains of the Thermae by night… shivers!

And if it is true that classical music makes prenatal babies more intelligent because it stimulates I don’t know which part of their brain, after three hours of concert Baby must have become a genius!

(*) More in the next few days.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Back to Rome

After a week relaxing and fattening in Umbria (Baby took almost 600 grams in three weeks, let alone the father and the mother…), we are back to Rome, partially regenerated and ready to face the last few weeks of heat and pregnancy (tic-tac, tic-tac, tic-tac…)

Let’s have a look now at whether we managed to fulfill our pre-departure resolutions:

- Write or call friends we haven’t heard from long time. We didn’t write or call any of our friends. I am sure you understand and forgive us, and we promise we’ll take care of that, little by little, in the coming weeks…

- Read the book that has been on my bedside table for the past six months. The book that was on my bedside table for the past six months had a nice trip to Umbria, and now that it’s back to Rome, will probably remain on my bedside table for the next six months. (Have to say though that I read for the first time in long long time an Economist from A to Z. Given the circumstances, this was probably the maximum I could achieve…)

- Choose the pictures of our wedding that we want to print out. Ehm, let’s move to the next resolution, please…

- Choose Baby’s name. Well, we haven’t chosen the name yet, but we came up with a short-list of three names. We are very proud of this achievement…

But in spite of all the above, we managed to spend some good time together, and now are getting ready to begin our new life in three…

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Frammenti di vacanza (2)

Cascata delle Marmore

“The roar of waters! From the headlong height Velino cleaves the wave-worn precipice. The fall of waters! Rapid as the light, the flashing mass foams shaking the abyss. The hell of waters! Where they howl and hiss, and boil in endless torture, while the sweat of their great agony wrung out from this their Phlegeton, curls round the rocks of jet that gird the gulf around, in pitiless horror set. And mounts in spray the skies, and thence again returns in an unceasing shower, which round, with its unemptied cloud of gentle rain, is an eternal April to the ground, making it all one emerald. How profound the gulf! And how the giant element from rock to rock leaps with delirious bound, crushing the cliffs, which, downward worn and rent with his fierce footsteps, yield in chasms a fearful vent to the broad column which rolls on, and shows more like the fountain of an infant sea tom from the womb of mountains by the throes of a new world, than only thus to be parent of rivers, which flow gushingly, with many windings, through the vale…”.

(Lord Byron)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Frammenti di vacanza...

Sibylline Mountains

Piano Grande

Friday, July 15, 2011


“If you are not in a hurry, and you have some time, I recommend you to visit Castelluccio. It’s only half-hour from here, and it is really worth it” told us the girl at the reception when we were about to leave Norcia.

Never a piece of advice has been so appreciated.

Castelluccio is indeed an incredible place, clung on a hill, isolated by everything, surrounded only by the Sibylline Mountains and by the Piano Grande - an immense glade that in June all suddenly blooms (we were too late to see the valley at the peak of its flowering, but could nevertheless have a taste of what it could look like in June…).

Of all the places where we have been during this short vacation, this is certainly the one that conquered our hearts.

We will certainly come back. Perhaps in June…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Les M&M's in Umbria: Norcia

Norcia is renowned for being one of the (if not 'the') capitals of Italian gastronomy: hams and salamis, cheeses, the wild boar and other hunting, lentils, mushrooms, and - above all - the black truffle.

Surprisingly no one mentions Norcia for its main square - to my own surprise (and in my personal opinion) one of the most beautiful in Italy…

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Per Emanuele

Do you have roots in Umbria?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Les M&M's, week 36th

Four weeks to go. Tic-tac, tic-tac, tic-tac*…

(*) According to the book I am reading now, ‘The Expectant Father’, it is absolutely normal for expectant fathers to feel a sudden sense of panic during the last month of pregnancy…

Our Agriturismo

Il casale (the farmhouse)

View from the garden

Monday, July 11, 2011

Les M&M’s in Umbria: Todi

After Assisi, Gubbio, and Perugia, our discovery of Umbria continues.

I went to Umbria for the first time when I was eight, on a summer camp in a farmstead on the hills near Gubbio - in what remains one of the best memories of my childhood. I then returned to Umbria about fifteen years later, in Orvieto, on a New Years Day during an Umbria Jazz Winter - in what remains one of the days (if not ‘the’ day) in which I suffered more the cold in my life.

But apart from these two experiences, Umbria has for long been out of my routes, and has remained until today virgin soil for me.

But since we moved to Rome, this is already the second time we travelled here, and - considering its proximity to Rome (and its beauty) - I have the feeling it will soon become one of our favourite destinations for long week-ends or short vacations.

This time it was the turn of Todi, typical Umbrian small town, perched on a hill, walled in by medieval walls, and surrounded by the breathtaking Umbrian countryside.

It is nice to rediscover the beauty of Italy…

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Our last vacation in two

Worn out by months of travel, the heat of the Roman summer, the preparation for the baby to come, we have decided to take a week of break, and to go on vacation.

It will be our last vacation in two, and, in a way, it is the closing of a cycle - before opening a new one. We know that in a few weeks nothing will be as before, and even when we’ll leave Baby to the grandpas to rediscover the thrill of a week-end or a short vacation in two, there will always be a third one (and perhaps a forth one, and a fifth one) accompanying us in our hearts and in our minds.

Used to fill our backpacks, catch a plane, and explore every corner of the world we could reach, from Morocco to Gabon, from Sao Tome to Arizona and Utah, from Yucatan to Iceland, and Alaska, and Colombia, and Ladakh, and many many other destinations, the destination of this vacation - an agritourismo in Umbria within the ‘two-hours-from-Rome’ safety distance - may not appear particularly exotic.

Well, that’s life, and we’ll try to get the most out of it. Here below are our resolutions for this vacation:

- Write or call friends we haven’t heard from for long time;

- Read the book that has been on my bedside table for the past six months;

- Choose the pictures of our wedding we want to print out;

- Choose Baby’s name;

and of course spend good time together and stay well together.

Because the basis for building a life in three, is to have a solid life in two.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A spasso per Roma - Il Celio

In Rome be like the Romans are

Photo pour maman

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Apres l’effort, il y a le reconfort

“I miss you”. “Come back soon”...

There is nothing more fulfilling when you are travelling a lot and you are far from home for long periods of time, often alone in your hotel room in front of the screen of your laptop, or by yourself at the restaurant reading a draft document while waiting for your dinner, to feel you are missed at home.

Little I knew that behind those (to my ears sincere) words of love, anything but that feeling was hidden.

Of course I was missed. Of course Mathilde wanted me to come back soon from my mission. But nothing else than to clean our terrace!

Our terrace is gorgeous, but maintaining it’s a job itself. Watering the plants, sweeping the dead leaves, brushing the clay tiles… If you miss your duty for a couple of days in a row, the terrace becomes a mess in a twinkling…

And so the same day I had come back from Pakistan, I was already in press. To recover the two weeks I missed….

Luckily, as the French say, ‘apres l’effort, il ya le reconfort”… (“after an effort, there is a reward…”).

Monday, July 4, 2011

Welcome Duccio!

You may remember that some time ago we announced that several very good friends of us would have had a baby over the summer*.

Well, the first baby (Duccio) landed among us just three weeks ago. And yesterday we went to officially meet him. Welcome Duccio!

Mum and dad look tired but happy, and the baby… well, he looks ‘small’!

Mathilde seemed absolutely at her ease with the baby, and showed an incredible natural talent in handling him (the mother instinct is coming out?), whereas Matteo… well, let’s say he still needs to practice a bit…

(*) Ref. “Baby and his/her friends”.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mathilde & Raphael in Rome (Lucullian breakfasts and dinners on the terrace)

We told our family and friends to take advantage of our guestroom before Baby gets possession of it*, and we have been taken at our own word.

L’auberge Les M&M’s is now working at full capacity, and after the recent visits of Sara & Tommaso, Patricia, Ingrid, and Maman et Papa Iweins, this week-end has been the turn of Mathilde & Raphael.

As for most of our French friends, everything revolves around meals, and we soon realized that sightseeing was in fact a collateral activity to fill the time between two meals.

Conclusion: not many museums in the past couple of days, but Lucullian breakfasts and dinners on the terrace.

Who’s going to be the next?


Saturday, July 2, 2011

A pleasent surprise

“Ciao Matteo! sono a Roma per una conferenza, e sarebbe bello potersi beccare*”.

This - totally unexpected, but truly pleasant message - was the first message I found in my ‘In Box’ this morning. And it was the message that set my mood for the whole day.

It was Gianni, a very good friend of us from our times in DC. Distance in the past two years made us, unfortunately, lose a bit tracks from each other - but every time we meet, it seems as if we have been seeing each other until the day before.

And so it was this time.

And while, at the end of the evening, we were saying good-bye to each other, a few random thoughts quickly run through my mind. First, how much this itinerant life indeed offers us opportunities to meet 'special' people: people with whom we discover an affinity or a connection. But, at the same time, how much the same 'intinerant' life often (sooner or later, in a way or in another) pulls us apart from these people…

And while still pondering on whether in the end you gain or lose from this kind of life, we started speculating on where we would meet next.

We said next time we’ll be in Prague. Do keep on following us, and let’s see if this prediction comes true…

(*) Hi Matteo! I am in Rome for a conference, and it would be nice to meet and catch up.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy birthday, Federica!

The woman who embroidered this coverlet received a training on embroidering and quilting from one of our projects. Once she completed the training, she applied and got a loan from one of the microfinance facilities set-up under the project to start-up her own business.

Today her business is flourishing: she sends and sells her products to the provincial capital, she provides training to dozens of young women who want to initiate a similar activity, and - once the trainees have completed their training - she buys and sells their products.

And, considering how much she asked me for this coverlet, she is certainly out of poverty now…

Anyway, with a little bit of delay: happy birthday, Federica!