Through His Words: Day Thirty-One

13 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Grand Hotel Flora – Roma

Rome
Monday. August 15, 1938

“Eureka” !!

At last I received word from home and Maude dearest, was I ever so happy I felt like a child with the new toy. I got one from you, one from Billy, and one from Joe Montenegro, and it is just exactly one month since I left home.

You say you sent two letters to Naples. Well Naples is my last port of call and of course, I won’t get them until I get there Wednesday. I had hoped you sent some to Milan via American Express Company, which I should have received by now, however, I was so glad to hear from you, I will forgive you for any errors you may have made in connection with the mail.

Sometimes we just need to vent our frustrations!

I am glad to hear everyone home is in good health and Billy tells me he sees to it that you get out and enjoy yourself. Thank Billy for his letter, it was real cute. Also tell him I have taken a lot of pictures to show him when I get home. I am also very happy to know Monte is getting better. It certainly was a tragedy, and what a difference it would have made if he was in good condition and had made the trip with me.

I had expected to go to the American Express Company hoping to get mail, but this is a holiday over here. In fact, from Saturday to Tuesday, all shops are closed. The holiday is called Ferragosto and it is equal to our Labor Day.

Still celebrated today, Ferragosto is the August 15 holiday when Italians celebrate the harvest following a long period of agricultural labor.

Well, I took it rather easy yesterday, it being Sunday. I went to St. Peter’s to church,

St. Peter's at night - blogginginitaly.com

St. Peter’s at night – blogginginitaly.com

after which I walked around the Foro Romano (ruins) and the Coliseum.

romeisalwaysagoodidea

romeisalwaysagoodidea.wordpress.com

Then I went to Fermes for dinner. They have been very nice to me and I wish you will drop them a line when I get home for the hospitality shown me. He has been with me every day since I got here, and I have met some very big shots here through him. By the way, his brother is a big mogul here but I am out of luck so far as meeting Prince Potenziani and others as they are all out of town in the country and naturally cannot be seen. However, I saw the Pope and I’m satisfied.

Alex was the first licensed Italian-American architect in the state of Illinois. In 1933, the Century of Progress Exhibition would open in Chicago. Prince Potenziani, the Royal Italian Commissioner to the Exposition, had chosen Alex to supervise the construction of the Italian Pavilion. The Prince was in Chicago for its opening, and bestowed a decoration on Alex for his work.

February 20, 1933 Ground Breaking for the Italian Pavilion. Prince Potenziani center

February 20, 1933 Ground Breaking for the Italian Pavilion. Prince Potenziani center. (Herald and Examiner Photo)

Italian Pavilion Alexander V Capraro  - Associate and Supervising Architect, Chicago

Italian Pavilion 1933,   M. Derenzi, A. Libera, A. Valente –  Architects Rome
Alexander V. Capraro – Associate and Supervising Architect, Chicago

Mr. and Mrs. Ferme and I went to the Camposanto of Rome early in the evening and it certainly was a sight to behold, altogether different from ours. Then we went to what is known as the “Baths of Caracalla” – an old ruin immense in size. They use it for open air grand opera. You should only have the chance to see it. It is a spectacle no other place in the world has. The opera was Aida. The stage, set between two huge pillars several thousand years old, 400 musicians in the orchestra, 1000 actors on the stage, the best opera stars, 20,000 people in the audience, and the seats filled only about one-third of the inside of the magnificent ruin.

BathsOfCaracalla en.wikipedia.org

Baths of Caracalla –  en.wikipedia.org

Still today during the summer, the Caracalla Baths turn into a platform for breathtaking Teatro dell Opera performances. I need to add this to our Bucket list!

tatistidbits.com/2012/09/24

tatistidbits.com/2012/09/24

 Powerful lights turn night into day. Finally the lights go out, the orchestra starts playing, and then absolute silence in the throng of 20,000 spectators, real music lovers, real critics of ability. And I was almost breathless in the enjoyment of such a marvelous spectacle, a performance which can be held only in Rome, the Eternal City. And what a wonderful city this is. Paris was great, Venice was unusual and wonderful, but Rome is ever interesting, ever bewitching, the city of antiquity and modernism all-in-one; the city of the Caesars of yesterday and of great men of today. Clean as a whistle, law and order 100%, and no end to art, sculpture, painting, music and culture.

1938 Roma postcard

1938 Roma postcard

The men and women both dress as good if not better than we do in the States and they parade on the streets in smart style and the height of fashion. The evenings are spent mostly at little tables on the sidewalks, eating gelati or caffe. Every street is almost the same as far is this feature is concerned and all of them are lighted better than Madison Street at Crawford Avenue. Well, I better stop raving because I could go on like this for hours about Rome.

Today I visited three of the most important churches next to St. Peter’s, besides some smaller ones, and best of all, I made the holy stairs of St. John the Lateran. This is the most sacred spot in Rome. As the enclosed card shows, there are 28 wooden steps leading to an altar of our crucified Lord.

St. John Lateran

St. John Lateran

In order to gain an indulgence, you must kneel on the first step and say certain prayers, or the rosary will do. You must continue this on each and every step without rising on your feet or without touching the step below with your feet – only your knees. In other words, you must drag yourself up to the top on your hands and knees, stopping at each step to say prayers. I did it today and believe me, I thought I would never get to the 28th step. My kneecaps felt as if they were torn to pieces by the time I finished, but I made it, and Maude, what a feeling of relief as well as gratitude towards our Lord you have when you get to the top. Well, I hope the good Lord will reward the effort in answer to the prayers I offered for you, et all.

The other churches follow in rank next to St. Peter’s are St. Paul, St. John Lateran, and Santa Maria Maggiore.

St. Paul

St. Paul

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore interior - blogginginitaly.com

Santa Maria Maggiore interior – blogginginitaly.com

They are so gorgeous it is difficult to describe the grandeur of these churches. All told, there are 400 churches, every one of them would make Resurrection looks sick. In the main churches I mentioned, you could actually put a half dozen churches like Resurrection and still have room for Santa Maria on Alexander Street.

Then I saw the Pantheon, a very old edifice where the bodies of King Victor Emmanuel II and others are buried.

Pantheon at night - bloggingintialy.com

Pantheon at night – bloggingintialy.com

Tomorrow I shall spend at the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum, and National Museum, and then I think I shall have seen enough of Rome to remember it vividly.

Two of the most beautiful art treasures Alex would long remember are Michelangelo’s Pieta, (1498–1499)

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

and his Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508-1512).

You should have a month here alone to do a good job of it. It is 8 PM and I am waiting for Ferme to go out to dinner somewhere. 

P.S. Confidential
Ferme and I have seen certain officials here about the decoration for PA and it will come but not before April 21, 1939. There is an absolute law that cannot be broken by anyone that this particular class of decoration be given and presented on April 21 only, that being Natale di Roma and Festa di Lavoro. The decoration is called Stella Merita di Lavoro and is given an recognition for long and meritorious labor. Ferme has already written the council in Chicago about it.

Based on my research, this “medal of honor” dates back to a Royal Decree 1898 to recognize industrialists and their employees. In 1927,  it was extended to Italians living abroad who have given evidence of patriotism, honesty and hard work as an example to their countrymen. Alex was researching the viability of this honor for his father-in-law, Maude’s father.

In the meantime, good luck, and God bless you. Loads of love and my very best to all at home.

Finally Alex was content. He had heard from his family and knew all was well. He effortlessly penned an eight page letter to Maude, the love of his life, describing in detail the treasures of Rome he would never forget, and that she would only ever “see” through his eyes. Lucky for Maude, Alex’s eyes absorbed deep beyond the surface, as only an architect could.

As ever yours, AL 

Ciao

Judy

 

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