Dreaming of Rome

July 26, 2019 | Muriel

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"Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away."
– Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 CE

I have been dreaming of Rome over time, ever since I went to the Royal Ontario Museum as a child and stared at the marble faces of ancient Romans and wondered what they were like as people. When I looked at the beautiful coins in the glass display cases, I tried to picture the Roman hands which handled them, and when I admired the delicate jewellery, I imagined the Roman women wearing it. You and your family can see these Roman treasures and more for free at the Royal Ontario Museum, with a Museum + Arts Pass (MAP) .

If you are intrigued, as I am, to find out about the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus' Stoic philosophy and its application to daily modern life, come to Toronto Reference Library on August 22, 2019 at 2pm. Author and psychotherapist Donald Robertson will be discussing Stoic philosophy and psychological techniques in dealing with life issues.

Cover image of How to think like a Roman emperor : the stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius    Cover image of Ten Caesars : Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine

One of my favourite films, the award-winning and dreamlike Mid-August Lunch, takes place in Rome during a summer heatwave. Gianni lives with, and takes care of, his elderly mother in her apartment. To celebrate "Ferragosto," the August 15th Italian public holiday, Gianni prepares a delicious lunch for his mother and some unexpected guests. Along with cooking, Gianni also savours wine, and indeed it is one of his greatest pleasures. If you would like to discover the science behind wine aromas, sommelier Chris Lafleur will be at Deer Park Branch on November 13, 2019 at 2 pm to discuss the compounds behind the unique aromas of wine.

Cover image of Mid-August lunch    Cover image of My kitchen in Rome : recipes and notes on Italian cooking

I especially enjoyed the scene in Mid-August Lunch where Gianni and his friend Viking ride around Rome on a Vespa scooter – it really makes the city come alive, and takes you along with them. "Vespa" means wasp in Italian, and if you would like to learn more Italian words and understand the Italian language behind the English subtitles, you can browse materials in Italian or try our free online language learning resource, Mango Languages. If you would like to introduce your children to Italian, there is a bilingual Italian storytime at Downsview Branch for children age 1 to 5, and no prior knowledge of Italian is needed.

Cover image of Vespa    

Another Vespa-riding pair, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, take you along with them on their Roman Holiday. Hepburn and Peck portray, respectively, a runaway princess and an American journalist exploring Rome together. They have a great time tasting gelato and riding past the famous sights of Rome, including the Colosseum. The Colosseum, much-visited and the iconic symbol of Rome, still harbours many secrets yet to be revealed. Audrey Hepburn won an Oscar for her portrayal of Princess Ann in Roman Holiday, and her beautiful outfits were created by famed Hollywood costume designer Edith Head. Interested in creating your own amazing costumes and garments? Try out our first Fabrication Studio at North York Central Library, where we have sewing machines for you to use, sewing and machine embroidery classes and more.

Roman Holiday    Cover image of The art of making gelato : more than 50 flavors to make at home

Cover image of Colosseum    Cover image of The history of Rome in 12 buildings : a travel companion to the hidden secrets of the eternal city

Influenced by his own dreams, renowned Italian film director Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 is his semi-autobiographical story about a film director, played by the inimitable Marcello Mastrioanni, who finds himself creatively barren at the peak of his career.

Fellini's La Dolce Vita, also starring Marcello Mastroianni, takes a look at the darkness beneath the seductive lifestyles of Rome's rich and glamorous. The film follows Mastroianni, playing a celebrity journalist named Marcello Rubini, during a hectic week. Who could ever forget Mastroianni's scene with Anita Ekberg, as Sylvia, wading in the Trevi Fountain? Now there are officials at the Trevi Fountain to make sure that tourists do not replicate that scene! You can, however, toss a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder and into the fountain, which is supposed to ensure that you return to Rome. If you are inspired by Fellini to make your own films, why not use the filmmaking equipment and editing software available for free from one of our Digital Innovation Hubs? We also have programs and classes to learn how to use these tools, both at the Hubs and in our Pop-Up Learning Labs.

Cover image of 8 1/2    Cover image of La dolce vita

A gorgeous tribute to Rome and a witty take on its society, director Paolo Sorrentino's Oscar-winning The Great Beauty stars Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella, a journalist taking stock of his life on his 65th birthday. For decades, Jep has charmed and seduced his way through the glittering nightlife of Rome. Since the legendary success of his only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city's literary and elite social circles.

Woody Allen's To Rome with Love, is not only a picturesque escape, it features intertwining stories: a worker, played by Roberto Benigni, who wakes up to find himself a celebrity; an architect, played by Alec Baldwin in fine sardonic form, who takes a trip back to the street he lived on as a student; a young couple on their honeymoon; and a frustrated opera director, played with great humour by Woody Allen, who has a talent for discovering new singers. As their stories magically cross and collide, the film becomes as incredible as Rome itself.

Cover image of La grande bellezza = The great beauty    To Rome with Love

Michelangelo, after four years of physical hardship, technical setbacks, artistic rivalry, and conflicts with his patron (Pope Julius II), completed the Sistine Chapel ceiling at the Vatican Palace in 1512. Bernice Iarocci from the Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto, will be presenting a talk on the Sistine ceiling at Don Mills Branch on October 17, 2019 at 7 pm. Learn about the ceiling's conception, design and realization as well as its complex theological and artistic meanings.

Cover image of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel    Cover image of The gardens of the Vatican


My dream of visiting Rome became a reality a few years ago, and the strong current of the river of time is sweeping me back there soon – Rome really is the Eternal City!