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Italy

Sor Giovanni’s New Year

I moved to Rome in September, 1971. By Christmastime I had managed to befriend every shopowner and vegetable vendor in my neighborhood of Campo de’ Fiori. The cicoria lady (who held forth at her stand until 2005, her hands becoming more and more gnarled by constant exposure to cold water) had taught me to boil greens in copious amounts of water in an uncovered pot to keep their vibrant color and pungent taste. The waiters at La Carbonara had reserved a seat for me at their twelve o’clock lunch table (those were the good old days when a meal cost less than 2000 lire, about one US dollar). And Sor Giovanni, the aging playboy who owned the “antique” furniture emporium in Piazza del Paradiso, had energetically helped me furnish my minuscule third-floor apartment with hand-me-downs and leftovers from the defunct bourgeoise widows whose attics he regularly raided. (more…)

Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden

Occupying a beautiful hillside overlooking the picturesque Tuscan coast, this completely unique sculpture garden is the result of twenty years’ loving labor on the part of artist Niki De Saint Phalle. Born in France, raised between New York and Europe, Saint Phalle began her adult life as a stunningly gorgeous and eccentric top model. But she was also a voracious reader and daring artist whose declared inspirations were American comic books, Antonio Gaudì’s “Parc Guell,” and the early horror movies of Hollywood. (more…)