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Week 39 and Beyond – “Rome…by all means, Rome” (and back in the U.S.A.)

October 1, 2010

The L'Aqua Paola, a fountain near our apartment in Rome.

After taking a hiatus from writing this blog for a while, I’ve decided that I will continue this blog from here in the States.   From here on out, I’ll write something reasonably regularly.   I certainly have more findings and “lessons learned” from my Rome project than I was able to include in the blog to date, plus I’ll bring in some findings and observations from my work here in the States.

I’ll also use the blog to post notice of various articles and lectures that come out of my Rome project.   The first of these will be a lecture at the Boston Society of Architects Historic Resources Committee, on Thursday 14 October 2010, from 8:00 – 9:00 AM, at The Architects Building (5th floor conference Room), 52 Broad Street Boston MA.  It’s free and open to the public, so please know that you are welcomed to attend if you happen to be in the Boston area that day.  The slide lecture will  summarize many findings from my Rome Project (as many of them as I can fit into an hour).

My final week in Rome was bittersweet – I’d grown so very fond of life in Rome over the past nine months, and I enjoyed my project so immensely that it was very difficult to leave.  On one hand, I felt a sense of closure with my Fellowship, after my lecture, open studio  and induction (“pinning ceremony” ) as a Fellow of the American Academy, and I was pleased with what I accomplished in my project.  On the other hand, it was a time of sad goodbyes, both to the people we’d come to know and be friends with, and to the city we’d come to love.

View across Rome from the L’Aqua Paola, near our apartment


Although we were frantically busy packing-up our apartment and my studio after 9 months, my wife Erin and I felt it was important that on our last day in Rome, we should stop packing for a few hours, and go for one final long walk through the city, past some of our favorite places, to see the city one last time, and to say goodbye to some of our shopkeeper friends at our favorite little shops (forno, pasticceria, farmacia, gelateria).     Our ad-hoc route was meandering, and I kept suggesting we veer off a few blocks this way or a few blocks that way to walk by one building or another that I had studied as part of my project.  After a while, my wife said to me “You’re saying goodbye to your buildings, aren’t you?”   I hadn’t even realized it until she said it, but it dawned on me that she was right (as usual).

Bronski on Borromini's Oratorio dei Filippini

Caroline's first "Festa di compleanno" (birthday party) in the Bass Garden at the American Academy

 Other expatriates who have lived in Rome tell me that it has a way of getting under your skin, inside your head, inside your heart, and it will always draw you back (that is, if you manage to leave at all).  I’m sure it will draw us back many times.    My daughter, who celebrated her first birthday just a few days before we left, will certainly appreciate Rome more when she is older.  

Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

I’m reminded of the scene at the end of the classic (and very much beloved in Rome) film Roman Holiday.  At a press conference after a tour of many cities, a reporter asks Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) which city she enjoyed the most.  She begins to give her practiced, perfectly diplomatic answer, saying how each city was unforgettable in its own way, and then she stops abruptly in mid-sentence, abandoning her well-rehearsed answer to interject “Rome.  By all means Rome.”

We flew back to the U.S. on June 15.   The first couple days back in the U.S. felt a little strange – it was strange to hear and see everything in English – radio, overheard conversations, signs, etc.   It was strange to be able to communicate so effortlessly, and to understand absolutely everything everyone said.  I hadn’t driven a car in over 9 months, so that felt a little strange too.     I bought something and the change was going to be $3.14, so out of habit, I put my billfold away before the cashier gave me my change (the smallest paper currency in the EU is a 5, so in Italy 3.14 in change would be all coins.)    Back in our house, where we’ve lived for about 10 years, it was strange that things didn’t seem more strange – it felt we’d been gone 2 weeks, not 9-1/2 months.    The house only seemed different to my daughter, who was fascinated with our stairs, and took delight in promptly climbing them (crawling style) – our apartment in Rome was a flat, so interior stair climbing was a novelty to her.

I resumed work at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) at the end of June.   I’m really thankful for the support and encouragement that SGH provided to enable me to undertake this Fellowship, and also for allowing me to take the time off from work and still have my job when I returned.   I’m also incredibly thankful to the National Endowment for the Arts, who funded my fellowship, and to the American Academy in Rome, who selected me for it, and supported, assisted, and encouraged me in all I was doing.

On the scaffold of San Andrea della Valle with Prof. Luciana Festa and conservator Emiliano

Getting on to restricted sites, restoration sites, and scaffolds in Italy was a formidable challenge, and I’m very thankful to my colleagues and friends and Italy who helped me .   It would be impossible to list everyone who helped me, but I couldn’t resist thanking the following colleagues:


  • Roberta Rosati
  • Antonietta Russo
  • Simona Salvo
  • Luciana Festa
  • Luigi Prisco
  • Giovanni Belardi
  • Fabio Porzio
  • Matteo & Biagio Ruperto
  • Federica Giacomini
  • Didier Repellin
  • Angela Stahl
  • Werner Schmid
  • Domenico Minchilli
  • Nicholas Stanley-Price
  • Joe King
  • Filippo Spaini
  • Massimo DeCarolis
  • Daniela Catanoso
  • Dan O’Neill
  • Maria Elisa Tittoni
  • Alberta Campitelli

Milano, Brescia, Lodi, Aosta:

  • Carlotta Coccoli
  • Silvana Garufi
  • Paola Villa
  • Sergio Rettura
  • Lorenzo Appolonia


  • Sonia Cattazzo
  • Andreas Donadello
  • Carlotta Coccoli

Ercolano Scavi (Herculaneaum excavations):

  • Sarah Court
  • Jane Thompson
  • Paola Pressarezzi

American Academy in Rome:

  • Chiara Bernazzani
  • Eileen Ryan
  • Darian Totten
  • Aurelia D’Antonio
  • Kiel Moe
  • Scott Craver
  • Giulia Barra
  • Gianni Ponti
  • Corey Brennan
  • Et al

 Grazie mille a tutti ( A thousand thanks to all)

Torte di Compleanno (birthday cakes)

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