Kalei has returned home to Hawaiʻi, and Kuʻulei is exploring Greece, while I am still in Rome awaiting Kuʻulei’s return here. Then we shall begin our trip back home to Hawaiʻi. Although Rome is a second home for me, I must admit that Kalei and Kuʻulei’s absence feels strange. Here is a pictorial essay on Pompeii. Once again, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Me ke aloha, Alohalani.
Today began with a quest to do a favor for a friend of a friend, but evolved into a heartfelt journey into the past from 1881 to 1884, when James Kāneholo Booth was sent by King Kalākaua to become a cadet for the military academy in Napoli called Nunziatella.
Nunziatella was once the site of a Jesuit priest convent, but in 1773 became the military academy. This site was built upon an ancient graveyard, the bones of which were recovered, some stolen to become souvenirs of cadets (something they are not proud of and mention with some regret). There is a small glass case which holds a few bones of a nameless individual honored before an altar in one of the alcoves in a church where mass is held for cadets every Sunday. An excavation also revealed a wooden statue of Jesus Christ.
Hardy Spoehr, the executive director of Papa Ola Lōkahi where Kim Kuʻulei Birnie, my traveling companion is employed, had asked Kuʻulei to do this favor for him, which was to gain entry into the academy and ask if there were any additional records or photos of Booth. Hardy and Kuʻulei are also as peers on another board, “Protect Kahoʻolawe Fund.” Hardy asked Kuʻulei for her assitance in tying up four lose ends for his research on James Kāneholo Booth’s stay in Napoli. Booth died during the Cholera epidemic in 1884. Spoehr had already done extensive research on Booth and had even attempted entry into Nunziatella, but due to the language barrier was unable to gain entry into the academy.
Two days ago in Milan, a Libian suicide bomber had knocked on the door of an Italian military barracks and set off a bomb when a military personnel opened the door. The Libian died, but fortunately the military personnel in question as those near him survived. Therefore, today when we knocked on the huge wooden door, we were met with suspicion. However, after a long explanation the soldier who opened the door asked us to wait and went to speak with his superiors. Kuʻulei had shown them the Hawaiian flag that Spoehr had given her, along with a tome of the extensive research he had done that included photos of Booth with his fellow cadets. We were invited inside and ushered into a side room and then locked in. There we sat and waited, watching and being watched by the military personnel. To our right (in our alcove) was a museum which held the crib of the royal house of the Bourbons. Finally, Enzo (whose rank I am sorry to say I did not get) introduced us to the segretary of the Nunziatella alumni. Once again, in the excitement, I have forgotten the name of this kind gentlemen (but I do have his email since I shall serve as a contact since I speak Italian until further arrangements can be made). He called an ex-president and consigliere Dr. Giuseppe Catennacci who eventually arrived, but before I speak of our meeting with Dr. Catennacci, let me continue with what happened.
After they had spoken with their superiors we were invited to see the private church and museum. As they led us into the church they waxed poetic about its beauty. Indeed, the church is majestic. Throughout the years, cadets have carved their names here and there into the marble railing within the church. They remarked that although this was sacrilege, in some way, it was also a legacy of the cadets that had been schooled there.
After the church we were led through the museum, then we were taken to the meet with high-ranking officers, such as the colonel Filippo Troise. Here we were met with much respect and care. During this time I served as Kuʻulei’s translator. When Kuʻulei indicated her wish to gift them the Hawaiian flag and a the tome of research by Spoehr, the commander indicated to his subordinate to retrieve a lithograph of a painting of Nunziatella and a monograph on the history of the academy for Kuʻulei, Kalei, and I. This was quite an emotional moment. You have to understand that entry into such a place is not often granted, particularly not to foreigners, therefore the fact that we were met with such kindness and regard as representatives of Hawaiʻi had quite an effect on us. The thing was, was that they were happy that their academy was known beyond their country. As the segretary said, in Italian (here I paraphrase), every individual is important to the academy as it is built upon its members. The segretary and the consigliere Dr. Catennacci were already interested in Booth’s story. Apparently Booth had created an album of memorabilia of his stay as a cadet there and had asked his professor, officer Luigi Cordano to compose a poem. This poem was included in an anniversary pamphlet of which a copy was given to us. During the time we sat in Dr. Catennacci’s office, I overheard his telephone conversation with someone, I believe it was the superindendant of the municipal cemetaries, who is in the process of writing a book about Napoli’s cemetaries. Booth was buried in Napoli (see Kuʻulei’s post). Everyone was so excited about our visit, because Booth was well known to them.
Later Kalei, Kuʻulei and I spoke about how this “errand” touched us in ways that we could have never imagined. I can only speak for myself, and I am not ashamed to admit that this man, James, Kāneholo Booth was at first only a name, but by the end of the day I shed tears for him, this man who died far from home in service of King David Kalākaua and whose relationship to the King had perhaps been like that of a beloved son.
This is a rough draft and I will edit it tomorrow and add pictures (I have already seen how redundant I am and all else, forgive me). I am tired. Napoli was a NIGHTMARE to get out of. No, seriously. It was even more scary then when we left it for Capri. More about that tomorrow …
I am not a navigator. I have no sense of direction, but I can drive stick shift (most of the time – I only let the car die out three times from Rome to Napoli), I know Rome and I know how to drive towards Napoli … but Napoli? Forget it! Several times during our ride I told Kalei and Kuʻulei, “This is not going on our blog.” But then I thought I would deprive you folks of a good laugh. So here is our surrealistic trip …
I only knew one way to get on the freeway to head towards Napoli, but when we finally got to the cut off after driving through Roman traffic, we were redirected right back to where we had rented the car (See Kuʻulei’s post about that segment of our journey). Anyway, finally we were on the freeway, but it was 11:30 a.m. by that time and we still had a ways to go. I wanted to show the girls a few picturesque towns along the way, but traffic continued to be horrible and we by-passed all but one, Sperlonga. Sperlonga is predominately pedestrian town built on a hill off a pali and has lovely narrow winding streets and a fantastic view of the sea. Unfortunately, we had no time to explore the actual town, because we wanted to be sure to make the ferry for Capri. We had neglected to check online for the ferry schedule, so we were a little nervous. However, we stopped in the piazza at the bottom of Sperlonga and took some pictures.From there we continued along the coast. The weather was changing quickly and storm clouds, which Kalei tells me are puoa. I immediately began worrying about the ferry crossing.
After driving for another hour we are somewhat near Napoli and I decide that I need to stop and get an expresso at a rest stop before tackling the traffic in Napoli, which Italians have always told me is horrendous. Oh by the way, even though I was wearing my glasses to drive, the prescription is two-years old and at the speed we were going (100-120 kilometers per hour), the signs and turn offs would arrive too quickly for me to figure out which way to go, so Kalei and Kuʻulei were my eyes. Therefore, when I thought I saw the correct turnoff for the rest stop (area servizi in Italian), I didn’t bother to ask the girls and made a sharp turn off the freeway right in front of the rest stop. Only the road didn’t lead us to it, but just behind it. What happened next was “Outer Limits” and “Twilight Zone” material. I quickly realized that the turn off I took was for someplace called Magic World. Magic World was an eerie four ride amusement park. The rides looked rusted and the paint was peeling off. For some reason it looked like it could be a parallel universe where you blink your eyes and open them to find the rides filled with screaming people a la Edward Munch’s “The Scream.” Then you would blink your eyes again and they would be gone. That is the kind of feeling we got the moment we drove past this place. We drove very slowly because the road from Magic World led into a small decrepit town and everyone we saw looked angry. I had no idea how to get back on the freeway, which was only one block away! It had vanished. We nervously joked about the weirdness. When I saw two small statues of what seemed like greyhounds, one of which was missing its back, with only an iron back bone remaining, I said, “You know, what if when we drive past those two statues slowly turn their heads to watch us pass?” Shortly afterwards we saw three golden retrievers lying side-by-side on a door step and they watched us slowly drive by. Now you have to understand that this town was dark. It was as if as soon as we had turned off the highway, the light had been sucked out of the day (See Kalei’s post for her impression of Magic World).
Finally we made it out of Magic Town (that was its actual name, by the way) and I stopped at a gas station and got directions to get back on the freeway for Napoli. Once we were back on the freeway, I realized that I had no idea which turnoff was the right one to reach the ferry. I called Anna (Anna, my dear friend and owner of the Il Corallo restaurant and whom I have mentioned in other posts as being from Napoli) for advice, which she gave me. She told me to take Napoli centro cut off, to take off all our jewelry, to never ever leave anything in the car and roll up our windows and lock the car doors.
Gee. She was confirming everything I had ever heard about Napoli, but which I had hoped was an exaggeration. Were we ever going to make it out of there?
There is something you folks need to know about driving on the freeways in Italy. There is a fast lane. And there is a fast lane. There is no slow lane. When people want you to get out of the way they drive right up on your car, just a few meters away and stick to you until you change lanes so they can pass you. Tunnels are scary. Right after a particularly long and dark tunnel there was my cut off, which of course I missed. I take another cut off and we find ourselves in Napoli, in the heart of the city, but on a hill. We figure no problem, we just go down towards the sea. We lock the doors and quietly freak out. Driving in Napoli is a TRIP! Omg, it is like playing chicken. After a while we relax. We see well-dressed youngsters and adults strolling the streets with shopping bags and a few tourists with camera’s around their necks. Thanks to my seeing-eye travel sisters who can read the road signs, we manage to finally find the harbor and the ferries for Capri. More about that portion of our trip tomorrow …
Our intentions were good. We really did set out to see a few museums. Unfortunately, the Modern Art Museum told us that the section with Antonio Canova’s Hercules and Lica was closed until tomorrow. We decided to dine in the museum’s restaurant as we’d been walking for 3 hours and it was lunch time. Gino is the gentleman who made sure our lunch went well. Kuʻulei and Kalei ordered apple and pork with roasted potatoes and berry tarts for dessert, while I ordered vitello tonnato and ended my meal with a fig tart and an expresso. Oh, the wine was a Falanghina. Delicious.
I have been sitting on my bed for the last twenty minutes staring out the window, but not really seeing anything. I’ve only just realized that I was deeply entranced with the many different sounds of Rome coming from outside our window. We woke up this morning to lightening and thunder. When I opened up the wooden shutters just before dawn, the rain did not seem to be falling, but being flung with force from the heavens – ua loku. I’ve always loved storms. No motorino rides today. I sent my son to school in a taxi.
Because of the rain, I suggested that we visit museums today. There several lovely museums within Villa Borghese. There is the Museo and Galleria Borghese, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, and the Museo Nazionale Etrusco. The Modern Art Museum has an amazing work of art by Antonio Canova of Hercules and Lica. When my children were 3 and 6, I took them to see an exposition of Picasso. I sat them down in front of several works by Picasso and asked them to tell me which colors they saw and if they noticed anything in particular about his works. My daughter noticed the odd placement of the eyes and other facial features. This museum is still my son’s favorite. Also within Villa Borghese is an amphitheater (Piazza di Sienna) which as an annual international horse show. Villa Borghese was once the private estate of the Borghese family and was obtained by the city of Rome from them in 1903. It is 148 acres. The area began as a vineyard in the 16th century. There is an artificial lake with a small island on which a Ionic temple dedicated to Aesculapius, the God of healing was built.
The rain has cleared up and the sky is a beautiful pale blue. I promise to post pictures from our rainy-day walk in a few hours.
Congratulations to my niece Malia who is getting married in the morning. During the ceremony, Malia will be holding a white rosary that my son picked out for her last March. I love you, Malia!
So … *clears throat* Yesterday while at lunch with Kalei, a beggar came to our table. Street performers, gypsies, and beggars who play or beg for coins are quite common in Rome. Depending on their attitude, I might leave a coin. I rarely do for gypsies, but for a good musical street performance, especially if they play one of my favorite songs by Juliette Greco “Sous le ciel di Paris” (Beneath the sky of Paris) I will leave a few euros. However, the beggar in question had an arrogant attitude. When I shook my head “no” she cursed me with a particularly heinous “Limortacci tua” which means “Death to you.” My instant reaction was to do a double hand gesture to ward off the “evil eye” which consists of my baby finger and index fingers raised while the ring and middle finger are folded. This is the “corna” or horns. It was instinctive and came from years of living in Rome and has become part of my acquired culture. The “corna” is not only a way to ward off curses, but can be in itself a curse. Another meaning of this hand gesture is a highly offensive one, because you are telling someone that their partner has been unfaithful to them, i.e. they are “cornuto” or wearing “horns.” NEVER do this unless you are prepared for physical altercation. The moʻo is my ʻaumakua, and when I am angered, (which is not often, as I am pretty even-natured), I refer to it as “they made the moʻo in me come out.”
Romans are very superstitious. People who are thought to bring bad luck are called “porta iella,” or “bringers of bad luck,” and when Romans (especially men) see this person coming they touch their genitals quickly with both hands folded into the “corna” gesture. When you need good luck, you buy a red horn, usually made of plastic. It works better if someone gives it to you. I think I will buy a few for good luck and as gifts. Today I want to bring Kalei to the “Bocca della Verita.” It is a round wall plaque of a god with hole for a mouth. You stick your hand in there and make a statement. If the statement is a lie, then it bites down on your hand and severs it. Perhaps you have seen Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the film “Roman Holidays?” The film has a scene where Gregory Peck inserts his hand into the god’s mouth and pretends that the god has bitten his hand. Kalei doesn’t know it, but I am going to play this trick on her. Hee hee. Shhhh, don’t tell, okay?
I will post again later and hopefully the next post will include pictures. I want to ask a few friends to illustrate cursing gestures. 🙂
It is 3:42 a.m. and Kalei and Cristoforo are sleeping. I am sitting on the B&B terrace beneath a waning moon. Last night, if I remember correctly, Kalei told me it was the Hoku moon. She taught me how to tell if a moon is waning or waxing. As I sit beneath the terrace awning which is composed of two triangular sail clothes (I am sure there is a terminology for such things, but I am unaware of the correct word, but I do know it is peʻa in Hawaiian), I wonder if the many Hawaiians, past and present, who came to Rome sat like me staring up at the sky and thought about home.
Rome is almost never silent, but it is now. My thoughts are flowing quietly in the night much like the Tiber river upon whose banks Rome was founded. The Tiber is the third largest in Italy. It’s tranquil surface belies the complicated currents which characterize it. Romulus and Remo were thought to have been deposited in the Tiber by their mother Rhea Silvia who was a vestal virgin impregnated by the god Mars as she slept. Rhea Silvia was the daughter of Numitor Silvia. When Numitor’s brother Amulius deposed him, Amulius forced Rhea Silivia to become a vestal virgin. Vestal virgins must remain chaste for the entire duration of their service. I remember reading somewhere that at around 40 years old they were free to leave service. Breaking the vow of chastity was punishable by death. Rhea Silvia deposited her twins in a reed basket and set them afloat in the Tiber. The god of the river, Tiberinus watched over them and sent a she-wolf who took the basket in her mouth and brought the infant twins to her cave where she nursed them until a farmer discovered them and took them away to raise them. Romulus went on to found Rome, which takes its name from him.
Kalei was telling me that the Hawaiian students of Lahaina Luna learned Latin, Italian, French, and English. She also mentioned that some of the stories which were printed in the 19th-century Hawaiian-language newspapers were translated into Hawaiian directly from Italian and French by these students. Last night I was keeping my son company while he did his homework. He studies Latin, Spanish, English, and French because he attends a high school called Classico Linguistico. Italian high schools fall into different categories. The one my son has chosen to attend concentrates on language studies. Kalei is also rapidly picking up Italian. People turn and stare when they hear Kalei and I conversing in Hawaiian. They often ask what language we are speaking. I switch from English and Hawaiian with Kalei, to Italian and English with my son. Our multilingual group gets a lot of attention. I wonder if those Hawaiians who came to Italy in the 19th century missed speaking their mother tongue? Perhaps one day I will research the Italian archives for more knowledge on our ancestors who made this country their home. Kalei was also telling me that museums around the world have many Hawaiian artifacts. This made me curious as to whether there are such things here in Rome. I have visited many museums here, but never noticed any exhibits showcasing Hawaiian artifacts. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Perhaps there is something packed away or gathering dust somewhere.
I want to know. I want to bring them home. I don’t even know if this is feasible. For now it is just a thought. A thought brought about by staring up at a beautiful moon and musing about how the moon is the same familiar entity where ever I go.
I am having so much fun sharing Rome with Kalei. Like any good storyteller, I want to establish my connection with Rome before continuing with my tale.
I have lived more years consecutively in Rome (16 years) than I have lived any where else in my life. Mom (Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese) and Dad (haole) eloped to California to get married after telling my maternal grandparents that they were going to the last picture show. By the time my mother’s parents found out that their 18 year-old daughter had eloped with the 22 year-old Navy man from South Carolina, my mom was legally married and already expecting me.
I was born in Anaheim (The home of the first Disneyland), California, but spent the first few years of my infancy on Oʻahu (My grandmother forgave my parents for eloping as soon as she held me in her arms). However, mom and dad opted to return to California, where I attended elementary school (Orange County). When I was 10, they changed their minds again and decided to move back home to Hawaiʻi for good. So I went to intermediate (Waiʻanae) and high school (Waiʻanae/Leilehua) in Hawaiʻi. At 19 I began modeling professionally, which took me first to Japan (4 years), and then to Rome. Rome became my home base. From there I would fly to Milan, Paris, or New York for prete-a-porter (ready-to-wear) runway shows. Any way, so my life kind of went like this: California (birth to 1), Hawaiʻi (2-4 years old), California (4-10 years old), Hawaiʻi (10-19 years old), Japan (19-23 years old), Rome (23-40 years old), Hawaiʻi/Rome (40-49 years old). These last 9 nine years have been spent flying back and forth from Hawaiʻi to Rome to visit my children, Cristoforo (13.5 years old), and Lehua (17 on Oct. 23).
Rome is where I came of age. In Rome I learned how to drive a moped, a car, speak Italian and French, where I learned to cook, and where I gave birth to my children. When I was expecting my firstborn, Lehua, I had the worst cravings for poi and kalua pig. Plenty of my Hawaiian relatives made repeat visits to Rome and brought me all kinds of goodies from the islands, but I never did get my poi and kalua pig. Now when I am Hawaiʻi, I get the worst cravings for mozzarella di bufalo. You have not lived until you have eaten fresh mozzarella di bufalo made in Italy. As soon as Kuʻulei gets here (I know you are just frantic hearing about all these adventures, e kuʻu kaikuaʻana, e Kuʻulei, but no worries, we still get plenty adventures for when you arrive), we are going to Napoli and Capri, where in my opinion, the best mozzarella is made.
Whoops. I got distracted. Food does that too me. So do smells and colors, interplay of shadow and light. Beautiful monuments.
Ho! I am doing it again. Where was I?
Any way, Rome and Hawaiʻi are both equally home to me. Therefore, when Kalei and Kuʻulei asked me to accompany them to Rome as a friend/tourist guide/translator, I immediately accepted. I had just returned from a visit to Rome only six months earlier in March and was overjoyed to have another opportunity to visit my keiki.
I see that Kalei has shared her motorino experience. I am very impressed with her. She did not scream – not even once – as I speed full throttle over the San Pietrini cobblestones, weaving in and out of lanes, going down one way streets the wrong way (on purpose – I know all the short cuts – When in Rome, do as the Romans do), going into the lane of incoming traffic to get around the slow driver. She didn’t even hesitate to ride behind me after I told her the story of how the father of my children broke his femur last year while riding a motorino. I have to confess that four years ago when my daughter Lehua (who was 13 at the time) insisted driving my motorino and me being the passenger, I screamed my head off every time she wobbled.
I am also teaching Kalei to curse in Italian. She is learning very quickly. Soon I will have her curse the drivers who cut me off. Next are the obscene hand gestures. *grins*
Let’s talk more about Italian food. My dearest friends Anna and Orietta owns a fabulous Italian restaurant called Il Corallo.
Anna is Napoletana (from Napoli). She knows how to make her own mozzarella and other kinds of cheeses. She can build her own pizza oven from scratch. Her Italian cuisine is among the best that I have ever tasted. She taught her son Alessandro everything she knows and he usually takes her place in the kitchen while Anna makes her rounds to talk story with her guests. Anna is larger than life. If you think I drive crazy, you should see Anna on her motorcycle!
Whenever I am in Rome, I eat at Il Corallo. The prices are right, the food is wonderful, the location is right off the famous Piazza Narvona, and the restaurant is frequented by actors, actresses, starlets, play rights, nobility, and artists of all kinds. Additionally, I get to hang out with one of my best friends. Win-win situation.
The atmosphere is happy and you catch snippets of interesting conversation flying left and right. I took Kalei there for lunch yesterday when we arrived (Oct. 1) and the next day for dinner (Oct. 2). By the way, there is a 12 hours time difference between Hawaiʻi and Rome. Right now, for me in Rome, it is 6:21 a.m. on Oct. 3. I have already had three cappuccinos and am about to make myself another one. This B&B called “Gli Artisti” or “The Artists” has an expresso machine that is state-of-the-art and for our use. Kalei and my son Cristoforo are both still asleep in the room. Gli Artisti is adorable. We really need to dedicate a post to it.
Are you ready for the Italian phrase of the day? Now everyone repeat after me: Ma come cazzo guidi? Mah Co-meh Caht-So goo-wee-dee? What kind of &$%# driving is that?
All pictures are by Kalei Nuʻuhiwa and under copyright. Thank you Kalei for being our official photographer. My pitiful cheap-arse camera is not worthy.