Saturday, September 22, 2007

ARA PACIS – Old, New and WOW!
There is an extraordinary exhibit going on in an extraordinary building in Rome...

The “uber” designer, Valentino, has just recently announced his retirement after 45 years of producing some of the most beautiful gowns in fashion history (he is second to only Coco Chanel in my book!). In honor of this bitter sweet occasion, the newly constructed and opened Ara Pacis is hosting “Valentino a Roma, 45 years of Style”…

In all due respect to the actual monument, the significance of Ara Pacis played an formidable role in Roman history, having been built in 13 B.C. in honor of Augustus Caesar’s triumph over the Gauls and Spain, and is truly lovely. This “Altar of Peace” was used to sacrifice animals and wine to the gods in gratefulness to the Golden Era experienced under Augustus’ rule. The Altar was originally built on Via Flamina (now the east bank of Via Corso) but over time and deterioration of the soil and interest in Roman ruins, it was naturally buried below the newer streets of Rome for over 1000 years. It was excavated in XXXX and placed near the Tiber River Banks.

In 1999 architect Richard Meier was chosen to create a museum complex around the monument keeping it protected from further deterioration. What stands today is a sleek, modern cube of glass, concrete and marble. Some may find its clearly contrary appearance to the ruins to be severe, even insulting. But in my opinion it is just what Rome is, a dichotomy of very old and very new, always clashing and ever fascinating.

Ok, now on to Vali…

After buying my ticket and deciding on the audio guide for the complex (not the exhibit, 10 Euros, just entrance is 6,50 Euros), I entered the first room which was more like a dark hallway with dramatic music piping out of the walls and where lining both sides of the walls 3 high by 10 deep, were mannequins displaying the first of over 200 of Valentino’s creations. It was the first of several moments of feeling absolutely overwhelmed, even emotional, about what not only the designer himself has created but also what the developers of the exhibit have mastered. The entire display has a sense of power, class and grace.

Once you enter into the main room where the Ara Pacis is placed, there is a flood of sunlight that takes over the room and illuminates the next set of dresses as if there was one big spot light on all of them. The dresses are here separated by color, whites positioned in the middle and reds draping both sides of the monument. On the other side of the monument are the blacks and on the stairwell leading down to the rest of the museum exhibit are the pastels and gem tones. Downstairs features the dresses worn by the rich and famous, everyone from Sophia Loren to Julia Roberts (her Oscar winning gown is gorgeous!). An added treat are hundreds of sketches by the designer himself stapled to piece of fabric that would eventually be used to create his next masterpiece.The entire “show” - the ruins, the modern complex and the gowns - make up one of the most incredible and overwhelming exhibitions I have ever seen. I LOVED IT! (So much so, that I’ll be back there dragging Luigi through in 2 ½ weeks.) The only disappointment is that it is temporary. Unless you are in Rome before October 28, 2007, you will miss this fabulous display of old, new and without a doubt remarkable beauty. And if in Rome before then, this is one not to miss…

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I make really good chicken. I am not trying to brag here, it's just a fact, by default. I don't like chicken. I think it has about as much flavor as dry dog food with worse consistency. Ok, I am being a bit harsh here, but since my husband loves it, I needed to find a way to make it so we could both enjoy it. Happy to say I have created and mastered several different recipes, so I thought I'd share one:

In a zip lock bag (ah, one of those things people bring me from the states), add the following:

Olive oil, Soy Sauce (if you can), minced garlic, a little white wine, salt and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.

Add chicken breast (de-boned) and let it marinate in the frig for a minimum 2 hours.

Heat the oven at 375 degrees (190 Celsius) for 15 minutes.

Place the marinated chicken on wax paper (carta al forno here in Italy) in a cookie sheet or thin pan. Use the extra marinate on top of the chicken then add a sliced red onion (tropea are my favorite) and sliced cherry tomatoes.

Cook for 22 minutes.