Roman pine trees at Villa Borghese. Click for credits and to enlarge

I just can’t write one of my usual posts. My mind is blurred.


Because my sanctuary, the only place where I can find peace and concentration (my study room,) is a mess.

I am getting crazy, lunatico.

As I said these more-than-100 retrieved tomes which belonged to grandpa (a blessing and a suffering) have generated chaos in my life. 1/5 of them are permanently damaged by water – together with precious family pictures & documents.

[See below my father and my mother in 1946, the day of their marriage. Two other pictures of their marriage are gone (!!!).
My mother btw cried all the time during the ceremony. Her father, hit by a bus one month earlier, had just passed away. They married nonetheless. The war had just ended and people were eager to live, which is why we are the boomer generation, it is well known]

My mother and my father newly married in 1946

Trying so hard to rearrange my den I’ve fought against my nature and have gone to Ikea.

Ikea, to me, is biggest pain in the … neck ever. I have bought two big bookcases and have assembled them at home yesterday. Oh it takes a real engineer to do it, not a computer systems engineer, a ridiculous creature who deals with immaterial rationality and invisible bits.

Ikea being such a pain I decided to treat myself like a royalty before going.


1) I bought aanother New Testament both in Greek and in Latin;
2) Bought Dante’s Comedy translated to English by Allen Mandelbaum;
3) I called Marina, my medicine.

“Hey Marina, come have lunch with me, will you?”
“Ciao professore. Sì evviva! Villa Borghese va bene?” [Hi teacher. Wow yes! Villa Borghese ok?]

Sabrina Ferilli, a typical Roman beauty. Picture taken from her web site (see link.) Fair use

Brown hair, brown eyes, very outspoken, Marina is a beaming Italian beauty and the Sabrina Ferilli type of Roman woman (see the Roman actress on the left.)

But what most counts to me is that she’s been one of the best, most devoted, most sympathetic IT pupils I’ve ever had in the course of the last 15 years. There’s tons of affection & respect between us.

Flavia, the character in our last dialogues, is 60% my wife but 40% Marina.

The two are similar and, if my wife is a bit closer to Minerva and Juno, Marina has among the rest this special quality my wife hasn’t:

She laughs the Roman laughter, one of the best specimen I’ve ever heard, no kidding.

Flavia’s ancient Roman laughter is heard in the room. It is loud, slightly crass but luminous, as it should be and as I hope it will ever ever be in the future, somewhat like a sympathetic, warm BIG HUG to the world.

[my mother laughed in the same way btw]


During a sunlit lunch at Villa Borghese, with umbrella pine trees majestically surrounding us (see Villa Borghese at the page head,) in front of a sumptuous tray of mixed antipasti – fusilli, olives, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmisan etc., washed down with full bodied Chianti – we kept on chatting cheerfully while both vino and ver sacrum (sacred spring) were intoxicating the air bit by bit.

When the right time arrived I took my cell phone out of my jacket and started to play the moron (I’m good at that, you know.)

And then it happened.

We laughed.

Especially, she laughed.

Well, not one of her best laughs – she saw I was there with my cell phone – yet a sound, sympathetic Roman laughter which is revealing a bit of our city’s culture with all its pros and cons (any laughter being revealing of any culture, ça va sans dire.)

Click on the bold words below. And enjoy 🙂

Marina’s (and MoR’s) laughter.

Related posts and comments:

Is the Human Mind Like a Museum?

Roman-ness today. Pros and cons

A feeling of Humanitas

41 thoughts on “Fighting with Grandpa’s tomes. My Parents’ Marriage & the Roman Laughter

  1. Ah, yes…her laugh. I recognize it from all those Italian movies! I always wondered if it was mannered. You know, a style affected by the dubbing artists. I guess it’s typically Italian, or Roman. Very appealing!

    I knew you were a master, but did not know you were a professional professor!

    Sorry about Ikea…let me brag. I can put those things together in my sleep..(American laughter…)

    How I miss the Borghese collection!!!!!


    1. Sorry about Ikea…let me brag. I can put those things together in my sleep..(American laughter…)

      Ah ah ah ah. You gave me the (Roman) laughter of the day!

      I know very well you US people, not to mention real engineers like you! Something I do admire. I (we?) am totally different 😦

      You know, my grandpa, the big hydroelectric entrepreneur, he could not even change a bulb in a lamp!!! But that is my family. Many people here are good with their hands. And yet …I always remember the Spanish Armada that was defeated by the more barbarous (at that time only) English when Elisabeth I reigned. Those darn Brit ships – ok the tempest etc. – were smaller, faster and (not by chance) already technologically superior, or so I like to think. Anglo-Saxons – were America comes from – … bla bla bla bla

      I guess it’s typically Italian, or Roman

      Roman, only Roman!!! Other Italians do not laugh like that. Appealing maybe, but also slightly crass. My wife, partially from Calabria and Marche, does not like it at all. “So vulgar” she says. But my mother laughed like that and I adore it. Base-Roman-Empire type of thing, ok, but who the hell cares, it is our history.

      And yes, I wanna hear the American laughter! Pls do it in your blog if u can.


      1. I don’t dare send a sound clip of American laughter, my style. My British (briefly) fiance nearly fainted when I laughed in his presence on British soil; he was afraid everyone within a city block would be offended by the intensity.

        But I am going to fantasize lubriciously about your lunch, all the same. Especially the olives.


        1. But I am going to fantasize lubriciously about your lunch, all the same. Especially the olives.

          You’re a bad girl, not the sole reason why I like you tho … 😉

          I don’t dare send a sound clip of American laughter, my style. My British … fiance nearly fainted when I laughed …

          Oh please do! You have my email. Do send it ok? I like intensity no matter what. And, THAT would be being bad not to send it eh?

          😛 😛 😛 😛


    1. Ah ah ah ah, no, the ships would have broken immediately! (and you’d all now say mucho mucho mucho gusto! encantado!)

      It’s the second laughter of the day. You English speakers are surely gifted with jokes: is that anything in your food or what.


  2. Anglo-saxons – were America comes from … bla bla bla bla…

    I’m about as Anglo-Saxon as you are, so there.

    My father was an engineer – what would be considered here in the USA, a typical engineer. That is not all good. Connotes, overly concerned with details, obsessive about design, lacking an aesthetic sense, poor social skills, never seeing the “big picture.” Engineers have a bad image in the USA, not the same image that Europeans have, I think. There are lots of reasons for this…

    Anyway, one positive thing that is associated with engineers here is that they know how things work! I learned a lot from him – he’s visiting now BTW, and my mother, both 86 and not too different from when they were my age – and that’s something I admire in anyone.


    1. I’m about as Anglo-Saxon as you are

      Ok, but you have grown in an Anglo-Saxon origined country, no?

      Engineers have a bad image in the USA, not the same image that Europeans have

      Same here. “lacking an aesthetic sense, poor social skills, never seeing the “big picture.”
      [but they are much respected]

      Glad you have your beloved ones chez toi. And yes, being still young at 86 is a feat.


    1. No parents of mine, however, have left tomes for me
      So you have more merit having built your tomes yourself. I don’t admire much people who received all from their parents.


      1. I have grown up, that is why I do not idealize my parents. Stating facts is not complainig, just looking at reality as is it was, not as we wish it had been.
        And, BYW, thanks for making me younger than I really am, I turned 79 last monday.


        1. Wow, Paul, tanti auguri! You are a real Patriarch, my official one in any case! I am translating your enlightening kosmos stuff from French into English. I’m slow because of the tourists to take care and of my damn study place, no kosmos yet! (but chaos)


    2. My father is determined to leave me his collection of American journalist and commentator H. L. Mencken, a writer I despise. I’ll now be taking pre-orders for very overpriced editions of this author. I don’t want the books creeping into my library.


      1. Well. I am with you here, Zeus. Mencken was a bitter, bigoted man. I wouldn’t have one of his books in my house.

        Definitely sell them! They are worth something; that’s for sure.


  3. I have always associated Italians with being great engineers, since it was largely *Italian engineers* who built a major portion of the giant Kariba Dam hydro-electric project near the neck of the woods where I grew up.

    I heard many a story from someone I knew, who was in charge of a bank in the town of Kariba of having Italian workers plonk large wads of money on the bank teller’s counter and just saying “Italy” – meaning they wanted it sent to Italy.


    1. While we’re on the subject of Italian immigrant workers, here’s a tidbit that always struck me as quintessentially American…

      At the university I attended, there are many elaborately carved facades in the style known as collegiate gothic, an imitation of ancient European universities. The stonework was done largely by immigrant Italians. Some of their descendants work as janitors in those buildings now. The newer buildings, all in modern styles, without carved gargoyles and the like, have African American janitors. (At least when I was there…) 1880s-1910: Italian craftsmen — > janitors. 1940s-1950s: Black migration from the south —> janitors. In addition, because of how the campus had developed, there was a clear spatial pattern; up the hill, Italian janitors; down the hill, blacks.

      Not reading too much into it, but in so many ways, it encapsulates an important element in 20th century American history.


      1. This seems to contradict what I have just said to Phil below, but it doesn’t. Handicraft is nonetheless very refined in many parts of the South.


    2. @Phil

      Hi Phil, welcome back! You have touched a topic fascinating to me, so I’ll be logorrheic I’m afraid 😦

      Italian engineering (& architecture) is renowned since the Renaissance and today a bit too with persons like Renzo Piano and many solid firms of high level.

      But this was (and is) Central & Northern Italy!

      The South is different. It amounts to one third of the country, where mostly Italian immigrants come from.

      It is not only a question of under development, but of being like a reservoir of antiquity, thrilling to me beyond a doubt though not to the extent of blindness. Such survivals are often a clear disadvantage towards modernity.

      Take the mafia – which I now better see (one of my future posts) as part of the bad Roman heritage we have to crush.

      Or, getting to the point, the weird fact that nobody knows who were the engineers of the Colosseum, of the amazing aqueducts or of the solid Roman drainage system still working today.

      During Roman antiquity the only honourable professions where the military, the politician, the law man, the orator. Is it by chance these are exactly the jobs the Italian South folks are after since the end of the Roman empire? Or that the South Italian man is the Hegelian antithesis of the Robinson Crusoe? In Mezzogiorno (plus Rome, where all south people come work) there are more lawyers than in the whole of West Europe!!

      Let me say Julius Caesar was an exception to all this tho of the noblest breed. But that would take us far.


  4. Marina is fortunate to have a professor and friend like you with so much gravitas and passion. Great conversations, laughter, and wine—like Joe and me.

    Except Joe doesn’t drink wine. Only J&B Whiskey.

    Judge Blah can assemble anything quickly, but in the process, he swears a lot, cursing poorly written directions and confusing pictures, lamenting often about the good ol days of quality craftsmanship, blah, blah, blah.

    Almost not worth the monetary savings, I usually say, watching the assembly frenzy.


    1. Marina is fortunate to have a professor and friend like you

      Fortunate? Her ‘since 10 years’ American classroom companion once here commented:

      “I always enjoyed our conversations switching from DNS and IP addresses to the influence of ancient Greeks on Texas cowboys!”. [I mean, these people had to face concrete IT problems on their job – I doubt Greek philosophy was that helpful lol]

      Except Joe doesn’t drink wine. Only J&B Whiskey.

      It doesn’t seem bad either. I read the standard J&B whisky is a blend of 42 Scottish malt and grain whiskies!

      Judge Blah can assemble anything quickly … in the process he swears a lot …almost not worth the monetary savings, I usually say, watching the assembly frenzy.

      Ah ah ah, the third big laugh today, thank you dear Cheri!


    2. I love blaming directions for my poor skills at carpentry, mechanics, and all other things. I can deftly lay the blame for such things on the tools I misused too.

      Still, I learned to fix much and do a lot of assembling and building when I was a hobby farmer. I hadn’t a choice, but I sure found ways to blame something when the work wasn’t quite right.


  5. To expand on Phil, same here in Quebec with James Bay dams. Italian engineers had a hand in that. It’s funny, the “perception” in the population at large is that they don’t see Italy’s engineering feats.

    Sorry to hear about the 20% loss. Love the picture. History in captivity speaking for posterity.


    1. A family blog? With all the sex I’ve been talking about? 🙂

      I don’t think, from my observation point at least, the “perception” of Italian creativity in any field being that bad in the world, quite the contrary. It is rather the political ineffectiveness plus the organized crime in the South we have to wipe out. I have faith we can make it, also because the global situation kinda obliges us to.

      See Berlusconi. He fights like a lion but he is declining. The violet not necessarily leftist crowd is mounting (see the orange masses in Ukraina). I always disliked violet, now I like it.


      1. Excuse the delay of this response. Lots on my plate. By the way, I’m pretty good with IKEA stuff. Actually, I’m competent with tools and building. Although a helping hand is always welcomes and needed for more complex things. Luckily, my brother in law is a master and so is my cousin, so I’m covered.

        You’re right. The bad stuff is what gets the attention.


    1. A laugh is worth a thousand words.

      Yes, I believe that to be true.

      With few words you’ve said what I usually say in 200! Concinnity and concision…wish I had your mastery of English [discourse.]


  6. Ciao! My dear Valentino always warns me when we visit Italy to be careful – I smile almost always and laugh easily (my personality) – it is what helped to attract him but he worries that in Italy a smiling laughing blonde might not be ‘understood’!
    I had learned that the Etruscans were probably the influence for the methods used in the Appian Way. I found that fascinating – wonder if they helped with the Colosseum too?


    1. Welcome back Valentino’s wife!

      You’re touching topics I care about, so I’ll be verbose as usual …
      :- :-

      Valentino … worries that in Italy a smiling laughing blonde might not be ‘understood’!

      You refer to some Italian male behaviours, a sort of don Juanism deeply enrooted in the Mediterranean mind.

      One factor – not the only one tho- is sexual starvation in my view.

      Consider the ancient Greco-Roman division between 1) ‘more or less chaste before marriage’ women (majority) and 2) non behaving (loose) women (minority.) [but there were periods – and milieus – in which num 2 expanded, among the Romans mainly]

      There are survivals of this in the South of Italy, but without the various types of freedom [valves] the open-minded pre-Christian society offered – hence not much fooling around is possible in today’s still traditional areas.

      What I mean is that, when a modern woman appears laughing freely etc. (a blonde from the US like you, or North Europe gals, favourite targets usually) the South Italian male (even more the Turkish, the Greek or North African) can’t just help to (try to) seduce her. It is irresistible.

      Also because of the *hyperborean effect*, ie the inter ethnicity fascination [reciprocal possibly: an American blonde such as you has married Valentino, a blonde male German friend has married a black-haired Sicilian]

      Btw, in case the woman yields it’s possible such big frustration by the male [plus mysterious survivals?] may result in a good experience to both, but I don’t feel like praising what I consider a problem [pls read this section’s last paragraph.]

      As for Italy such ‘tradition’ sticks only in the South today, or is a bit present everywhere but in the older generation (but I see a regression due to outdated – hence temporary possibly – 74-year-old Berlusconi’s example.)

      You can read something *here* [and discussion,] related to my personal experience of it too 😦 🙂 😦 🙂


      The Etruscan influence … I’ve just started to consider it a bit (see something *here*). Certainly the Etruscans were great engineers and for ex. masters of sewage systems. An impressive sewage system, Cloaca Maxima (= Greatest Sewer,) was built according to tradition by the Etruscan-Roman king Tarquinius Priscus in 600 BCE. It is still working very well today!

      Rome embodied the Etruscans into herself (culturally & via marriages). To which extent these Tuscans (or Tusci as the Romans called them) influenced the Roman architectural revolution (concrete, arch, dome, vault etc.) I cannot say.

      The arch possibly, (thence for ex the Colosseum.) No idea tho whether at the time the Colosseum was built real Etruscan engineers still existed -I really doubt it. The Appian way, the queen of roads … was started in 312 BCE by Appius Claudius Caecus (of the clan Claudii) to help fight the folks south east of Rome. But as of now road building goes over my head 🙂


        1. I’ll read your post again. It surprised me how you could understand such contrast of mores from here (your Mediterranean origin?)
          This Sicilian – in the movie – married to a North Italian blonde – something like, say, a French Swiss married to a Greenland gal.

          a smiling laughing blonde might not be ‘understood’!

          Because backward Italians – I’m partly one of them – are more similar to the ancient Romans bla bla bla, at a time when not cheating one’s wife was non honourable.
          I wrote a post on *Julius Caesar’s don Juanism*.

          My uncles at 18 were brought by their older cousins (or uncles) to the brothel as a man’s initiation. One reason my uncles did not with me (mother’s side ones, father’s side were Calvinists) was that prostitution was not legal any more here in the 60s.

          I know it is disgusting. I am seriously determined to stop flirting with every woman that comments here 😦


          1. I hate to repeat concepts said elsewhere by me and others.

            Yes, we sin, repent, and then sin again with joy. A never ending cycle, and an escamotage to survive within an ethical framework that is not our own.

            Berlusconi is our saint.


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