Sincerely, Loree is a lifestyle blog that focuses on travel, books, culture, fashion and slow living on the small Mediterranean island of Malta.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Malta in a Minute: Santo Spirito Hospital

Santo Spirito hospital, located in Rabat next to the Church of St Francis, was the first hospital on the island. It was already functioning in 1372. At the time, Mdina was Malta’s capital city and this hospital was just minutes away from its gates. When the Knights of St John established Valletta as Malta’s new capital city, they built two hospitals (one for men and the other for women) there. From then on, Santo Spirito served the rural central region, especially poor patients and foundlings.

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Many  people are curious about a feature known as la ruota that can still be seen on the façade of this building. Basically, it is a rotating device in which people could place unwanted babies that would then be taken care of by nuns – one of the sad facts of medieval life.

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Santo Spirito hospital was closed down in 1967. It was subsequently restored and now houses the National Archives. In 2010 the old pharmacy was rehabilitated and furnished with chemicals and equipment that would have been prevalent in the days prior to the advent of the modern pharmaceutical industry.

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Santo Spirito Hospital, Old Hospital Street, Rabat


Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Rome’s Jewish ghetto

Rome’s Jewish ghetto came into being when Pope Paul IV ordered its construction in 1555. All the Jews living in Rome had to relocate to this small area – hemmed in between the River Tiber and Piazza Venezia - which was very prone to flooding. The ghetto was walled-in and accessed through two gates that were locked at night. The gates were eventually increased to eight and, at one point during the  16th century, 3500 people were crammed into the ghetto’s labyrinth of narrow streets and squalid buildings. Following the unification of Italy, all  Jews were granted Italian citizenship and the requirement for them to live in the ghetto came to an end in 1870. The walls of the ghetto were demolished in 1888, together with a large number of crowded, unsanitary buildings. The Synagogue of Rome and elegant apartment buildings were built instead.

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Although no longer compelled to live in the former ghetto, the area remained a thriving Jewish community well into the 20th century. But at dawn on October 16, 1943 the Nazis surrounded the neighbourhood and carried away 1023 inhabitants to Auschwitz. Only 16 survived.

Jewish Ghetto Rome

Maybe it’s because we visited during Passover week that the ghetto was so quiet and deserted. A handful of tourists roamed the streets, guidebooks in hand, but we were spared the din and tumult of the crowds at the major attractions. There were no self-absorbed teenagers taking selfies here; no pouting duck lips and impossible poses. It was possible to wander around the shaded, narrow, cobble-stoned streets and secret courtyards without interruption. It felt like we could get lost but somehow still find our way.

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And because of all that happened here; because of its recent history, it’s impossible not to feel moved, not to feel emotional as you stumble across reminders of people who once lived here; who were forcibly taken – never to return. It is heart-breaking to imagine that 75 years ago, a two-year old child was seen as such a threat that she was sent to the death camps simply because she was Jewish. So yes, for a while my heart was filled with sadness and my eyes filled with tears but I continue to hold on to the hope that Europe has learnt its lesson and the horrors of war will never return.Jewish Ghetto Rome collage

But aside from these poignant reminders of a world gone mad so many decades ago, it is impossible to forget that you’re in Rome and, sooner rather than later, you will be reminded of the fact. Which is why it is no surprise to end up in a piazza adorned by Bernini’s small but exquisite Fontana delle Tartarughe and the soothing sound of trickling, tinkling water.

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In the main thoroughfare, Via del Portico d’Ottavia, remnants of Imperial Rome are grafted onto medieval buildings that are painted in all the imaginable shades of ochre, amber and gold.

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Here, the late Anthony Bourdain, ate fried carciofi alla giudia at Il Giardino Romano. Other restaurants line this street, rubbing shoulders with Jewish kosher bakeries displaying their wares from pastel-coloured shop fronts. There is no better place from where you can sample traditional Roman-Jewish desserts such as ricotta and wild cherry cake or pizza ebraica than Pasticceria Boccione – which is easy to miss since not a single sign proclaims its presence. But it’s the arched shop on the corner in the picture below.

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The Jewish ghetto is one of those Roman idiosyncrasies, almost like a small village within the city, with its own particular customs, eateries and even its own dialect known as Giudeo-romanesco (Judeo-Roman). You can see most of the ghetto in about half an hour. Or you can linger, as we did, and explore its back streets and quaint shops without ever forgetting the rich and tragic history of this corner of Rome.Jewish Ghetto Rome 7

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Location: Jewish Ghetto, Rome, Italy (March 2018)

All images ©Sincerely, Loree

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Thursday, 12 July 2018

Summertime, and the living is easy

Or so the song goes. I know there are many people who think that because we live on a sunny island we’re at the beach at all hours of the day. The reality is very different for all those who, like ne, need to be at the office for  8-9 hours every day. That really doesn’t leave much free time for fun and games. Every year I usually make a long list of plans for the summer months and usually end up disappointed and frustrated because very few, if any of them, actually come to fruition. So this year I have decided to err on the side of caution and have made no plans at all. No plans, except to live in the moment and embrace the slow-living concept that I have slowly been trying to adopt since the beginning of the year.

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Summer makes some things simpler. The heat makes slowing down a necessity and the odd nap or two does everyone a world of good. But apart from the obvious, I want to slow down in all aspects:

make time for a few picnics on a {preferably secluded} beach;

swim until my skin turns wrinkly;

catch a few sunsets;

read, and read some more;

eat more salads and fruit and turn the stove and oven off for a few weeks;

catch up with friends I haven’t seen for a while;

start journaling again ( I have sorely neglected my journal this year);

organise a back-yard barbecue (or two or three) because everything tastes better when it’s grilled.

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And despite my refusal to make plans, there are still a few events that I am looking forward to and hope not to miss:

- the total lunar eclipse on July 27th. There’s an event being organised by the Astronomical Society of Malta that will take place at Fort St Elmo (Valletta). Telescopes will be available for those attending to take a peek at the moon and at the planet Mars, that will be at the closest point to Earth in its orbit. If it gets too crowded at the fort, we will take our own little telescope somewhere a little quieter.

- the Malta Craft Beer  Festival that will take place between 24-26 August, also at Fort St Elmo. This is more up my husband’s street but I don’t mind drinking the odd beer every now and then.

- a visit to one of Malta’s most spectacular Neolithic sites: the Hypogeum. The Hypogeum dates back to 4000BC. It is a subterranean burial site on three levels that was used over a span of 1500 years.

- a trip to a country that I’ve been longing to visit since I was very little. More on that later.

And that pretty much sums up my summer. I will not be taking a blogging break if I can help it but may write shorter posts, depending on my mood. I know how hard it can be to sit and read when there are so many distractions calling our name. Wishing you all a wonderful summer and hoping that the sun will be kind and cool winds will blow.Various 045

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Malta in a Minute: The lighthouse at Delimara

Delimara lighthouse

The Delimara lighthouse is located at the southernmost tip of Malta. It was constructed by the British around 1856 and stayed in operation until 1990. The octagonal tower is 22m high. In recent years the building was restored by Din l-Art Helwaa non-profit organisation that was set up to safegaurd Malta’s heritage. The lighthouse-keeper’s accomodation has been transformed into two apartments that are available for short-term lets.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Fifteen

It’s been 15 years since my husband and I were married. There are moments when it feels like a lifetime ago and others when it seems like yesterday. There are so many things that are hazy or that I have forgotten but other memories jump out at me like a jack-in-the-box – unexpected ones, seemingly silly things.

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I remember the heat; the blazing, skin-scorching, white-hot sun. I remember my mum waking me and my maid-of-honour up one hour too early (it was a morning wedding). I remember the look of surprise on the photographer’s face when I opened the front door for him myself. It seems I was an exception to the general rule as the bride usually kept him waiting. I remember how cool it felt inside the 500 year-old church and how soothing to the eyes the relative dimness was after the mid-morning glare.

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I remember my florist personally delivering my bouquet in a wicker basket that would not have been out of place in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Strangely enough, I remember the fragrance I wore, Calvin Klein’s Sheer Obsession and that my new sling-back shoes squeaked a little bit when I walked. And I will never forget the look of utter surprise on my husband’s face when my girlfriends rushed to carry him up on their shoulders at the end of the wedding in a time-honoured Maltese tradition, while the guys did the same with me. I had forgotten to warn him. I thought it was done everywhere.

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Maybe it’s easier to remember the little things because there are huge chunks that I just cannot recall; snippets of conversation, lost forever; food that I don’t even remember eating (did I even have a piece of cake?); people that I had forgotten were there. In retrospect, our photos were the best investment we could have made. They help to fill in those gaps that would otherwise be lost forever. If only digital cameras were more prevalent in 2003! But, notwithstanding all the lacunae in my memory, I remember without a doubt that, from start to finish, we had a wonderful time.

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So today, I want to take a leaf out of our favourite Contessa’s book and share some more wedding memories with you. My husband (I think I should start calling him Mr D or maybe The American) and I were married in the church of St Mary of Jesus (popularly known as Ta Giezu in Maltese). It was not my first choice but, in hindsight, it was perfect. I must have frequented this church hundreds of times as a child with by beloved Nanna and my mum. Sadly, my Nanna died 3 years before our wedding but she is lies in the crypt of this same church. So perhaps it was more than fitting to have the ceremony there as I am sure she was with us in spirit. It’s not a big church but is richly decorated in the Baroque style and one of my favourite recollections of our day
is the gorgeous profusion of white flowers arrayed on the altars and around the chancel.

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I wore an ivory Elena Della Rocca faux-strapless empire-line dress in lace over a chiffon underskirt and carried a bouquet of the reddest roses (I insisted on the darkest red) that my florist could find. Since he was a childhood friend, he obliged and completed the arrangement with baby’s breath and ivy tendrils, tying the whole thing together with a champagne-coloured ribbon edged with tiny pearl-coloured beads. It was the same colour as some of the embroidery on my dress and the dresses of my maid-of-honour and flower-girl. I walked up the aisle to Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ and ended the ceremony with Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ – both very non-traditional choices for Malta – but when it comes to music both of us have very particular tastes.

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Our reception was held at Villa Mdina, a 400 year-old townhouse in Naxxar that boasts a large garden and spacious rooms where guests can gather. We were lucky that friends and family from Canada, the United States, England and Australia travelled to Malta to be with us on our wedding day. At the time we were married, wedding cakes were traditionally either fruit(a British legacy) or almond (thank to our Sicilian neighbours). We chose a three-tiered almond cake but, these days, the sky’s the limit as far as cake flavours go.Wedding collage 3

Fifteen years later we hold this day close to our hearts and truly wish we could re-live some of its most special moments.

Some useful links for anyone planning a wedding in Malta:

Church: St Mary of Jesus, Rabat

Reception venue: Villa Mdina, Naxxar

Catering: Busy Bee, Msida

Flowers: Ron-Fleur, Rabat

Cars: Richardsons Garage (formerly Blue Angel Garage), Rabat

Photography: Gino Galea, Mosta

Dress: Centro Sposa, Hamrun











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