Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gelato, Group Hugs & Earthquake Damage

The Obamas enter Quirinale Palace - home of the president of Italy.
Touring devastated areas remains a must do for people ravaged by the forces of nature. President Clinton filled sandbags and hugged during the 1990 floods that washed away farmlands with too many family dreams and memories in the drowned homes. President Bush received summons to Homestead, Florida in the debris path of category 5 Andrew's direct hit. One image I remember because it was quintessentially American as I remained in Rome during this, was a lone rooftop painted with a plea and profanity telling the president to get down there now. First ladies usually do more humanitarian things visiting dislocated people in evacuation centers in a Red Cross controlled environment. Laura Bush was seen and welcomed several times in the Gulf Coast after the Bush Administration's horrific non-response of Katrina.

President & Mrs. Obama greet President & Mrs. Napolitano of Italy inside the palace looking particularly tall in this shot.
In Italy, there are several tangled problems. Italy's lusty Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi owns most of the media that is currently covering his marital affairs with excruciating attention to detail. His political appointments include a former topless model, now a minister charged with guiding presidential wives through the earthquake wreckage of historic stones and with frightened families in tent cities, because the Italian first lady is in the midst of divorcing the prime minister. Michelle Obama toured L'Aquila today with the other spouses or first ladies. As recent as Monday there are still sizeable aftershocks. As of yet, she has not had to visit a damage zone in the infancy of her husband's administration.

G8 wives with a dozen more heads of states spouses and the lovely table in preparation for their lunch at the museum.

A tour lets you walk around the edges of the Coloseum to look down into the underground parts of the edifice. The tour can take visitors underground or to the floor as well. First Granny is wearing the red top.

Malia made it to the gift shop clutching a book about Rome upon leaving.
Coming in the middle of the week, the kids have their own agenda in Rome. My guess was correct on the gelato trip - no way anyone worth their sweet tooth misses Italian ice - Malia and Sasha went to Gilotti and made their own blackberry and banana flavor gelato. This is not spontaneous, but well thought out due to security and Michelle's wishes for her daughters to have a memorable stay that lasts the rest of their lives as they tell their grandchildren. The Palazzo del Quirnale sits atop the highest of the hills in Rome with stunning vistas. I would love to see what they thought was interesting to take a picture of with their cameras. (Sasha already had one camera confiscated by the First Grandma at a church service just before the inauguration)

In the Kennedy administration, there was a nanny. In the Obama administration it is the Granny. The Obama daughters need supervision and there is a coterie of people involved in the logistics of the First kid's and Grandma Robinson's separate schedule. The East Wing has to speak with the State Department that in turn sends out scouts and garners suggestions and recommendations for the First Lady. Final arrangements must be cleared through the Secret Service that involve routes, transportation modes, background checks, advance security to clear out public areas and a clear communication of those activities. That all has to then be communicated with the Arma dei Carabeineri (elite Italian police) and their diplomatic counterparts. Since Michelle has a separate schedule her security coordinates with the head of the protective details for both Malia & Sasha. The kids are vaguely aware of it, but they mostly meet pre-screened strangers and heads of state. Sasha Obama retaining that wonderful sense of being a innocent, obviously had problems sleeping amidst all the glitz plus the time change. She decided that was an excellent time to recap the wonderful things she saw in the Kremlin and Winter Garden tea by waking her parents up at 4am to discuss her day.

Even on the steps of AF1 she's still talking as they leave Moscow.

Colosseum incandescent at twilight. To the right of it is the Arch of Constantine.
Rome is an ancient city with many treasures being thousands of years old. The Capitoline Museum is host to recovered treasures that had been curated at the Getty Museum here in Los Angeles. Michelle Obama ate a celebrity chef lunch with a picture perfect view of the Eternal City with the wives and the Italian first lady's stand-in among statues of Marcus Aurelius. The Coloseum beckoned all of the Obama ladies. Next to the ruins of the gladiators, is where chariot races were held in Nero's time. Not too far away are other architectural wonders and the fountains, oh the fountains. Crossing the Tiber River on bridges that are more than two thousand years old to Vatican City will be a highlight on Friday viewing the awesome symmetry of Bernini's columns, Dante's works on the doors of St. Peters Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and a museum filled with the creative genius of Da Vinci and Michael Angelo amidst the wonders of what were the Borgias thinking. Of course meeting the guy in the pristine white papal robes and the red leather shoes will become an immediate historic image.

Funny thing that not one of the Obamas will get to see first hand on this trip is a staple of Rome. Horns blaring, motor scooters darting about and drivers screaming colorful things at each other as they creatively cut one another off in traffic.
Grazie, Ciáo & Arrivaderci!


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