Conclusion to Living in Rome

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The conclusion to our living in Rome comes much too quickly. Actually it is only after one school year. In fact, we are just settling in to living into our new home abroad. I can not see any sensible reason to depart since so many exciting things are happening in Rome.

We are there right before the start of the 1960 Summer Olympics. Apparently one of the reasons for departure is that the beach is too far from our apartment to maintain both a summer coastal residence and our Rome rented apartment.

In my mind, our family home on Long Island could bring rental income to cover the added expense to stay in Italy longer. Considering my mother’s extraordinary feat in arranging almost a year in Italy, none of the reasons we were given for leaving Italy made enough sense to my eleven year old mind.

What is the meaning of the Five Olympic Rings?

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Olympic flag from Firstsportz.com

Olympic Excitement Since then and as an adult I have discovered the primary reason for leaving. She (my grandmother) who controls the money, controls the itinerary. But my sadness still overshadows any answer that could come. Unfortunately the budget dictated a return to New York.

But there was some fun but less novelty on the same ocean liner. Otherwise I am not happy to return to the same neighborhood, to the same family house, and the same controlling environment. Otherwise, I feel like I am in a different world. I had to face so much change in my outside world from such a short absence.

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S.S. Constitution, American Export Lines, by Tichnor Brothers, c. 1950s, from the Digital Commonwealth – 1 commonwealth 8g84mw21v.

Not a Happy Return

In just one year, I had become an outsider, a stranger, a foreigner. In fact these are clear signs of this. I talked funny. In other words, I did not sound like a New Yorker anymore. In addition, I had entered puberty. That in itself caused all kinds of confusion for me. Children who were my childhood friends had lost interest in stoop ball and tree climbing. They were ready to explore sexual interests instead. But I still wanted both worlds.

Besides social pressures, all kinds of educational tests were thrust upon me to determine my placement for second language classes that start in junior high school. All the other students had done this in sixth grade, the same year I lived in Italy. Being out of sync educationally made me feel even more like an outsider.

To Be Blunt, I Am Different

But it is not a comfortable different either. After testing I am tracked to study Spanish rather than French as a second language. I actually feel relief but also face an extra challenge. Because of my previous year learning to speak Italian, in and out of school, Spanish and Italian are now confusing to me.

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Gemen Wooden Puzzles
Continually, I would interject Italian words into my Spanish studies. This cropped up especially when trying to count numbers.

For example, the number five always came out as ‘cinque’ (Italian) instead of ‘cinco’ (Spanish). After studying Spanish for four years, that confusion did go away. But to this day, I remember both words.

 

In Conclusion In spite of our abrupt conclusion to living in Rome, I am certain of one thing. It is that I must have some of the sense of adventure from my mother’s DNA. This is because of one undeniable fact. Even though living in Italy was short lived, it is definitely to this day one of the best and most unique experiences of my entire life.


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Living in Italy: The Preface

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Symbol of Italy with its traditional green, white, and red stripes with the outline of Italy in the front.

My family and I spent a year living in Italy when I was eleven years old. Airplane travel was still extremely expensive. Travel by ocean liner was actually more affordable, comfortable, and leisurely. So we opted for a nine day transatlantic voyage.

In fact, it was great fun. While living in Rome, we occupied a nine room apartment. Our education was at the Overseas School of Rome, a converted Roman Villa located outside the central city in the countryside.

This whole experience is probably the most memorable one of my entire seventy five year life. In fact I am writing this story now while I remember it and before I forget.

PART ONE: BEGINNING

Introduction: Living in Italy My family and I spent a year living in Italy when I was eleven years old. Because airplane travel was still extremely expensive, we actually traveled by ocean liner. It was a nine day transatlantic voyage that was great fun. While living in Rome, we occupied a nine room apartment.

Chapter One: Our Atlantic Crossing
Our transatlantic voyage took place three years after Grace Kelly traveled on the SS Constitution for her nuptial voyage to Monaco in 1956. Three years later in 1959 we sailed on the SS Constitution to Naples, Italy.

Chapter Two: My Year in Rome
My family and I spent a year living in Italy when I was eleven years old. Because airplane travel was still extremely expensive, we actually traveled by ocean liner. It was a nine day transatlantic voyage that was great fun. While living in Rome, we occupied a nine room apartment.

PART TWO: LIFE IN ITALY

Chapter Three: Our Apartment in Rome
Our apartment in Rome that we occupied from Sept 1959 to June 1960 was on the second floor of a six story building. It contained nine marble floored rooms, was spacious enough for a foyer, a living room, a sitting room, a dining room, and a kitchen situated from the left end of the apartment to the grand entryway.
Chapter Four: School Days
School days at the (American) Overseas School of Rome still consist first of our bus adventure out of the town center. In our day, that was a trip into and home from the countryside. Although we all in different grades, we all took the same bus to the same rural campus.

Chapter Five: Daily Life
Daily Life in Rome was similar to and different from Long Island life. The differences made daily life in Rome much more fun.

PART THREE: SPECIAL TIMES

Chapter Six: Roman Holiday Celebrations
Roman Holiday Celebrations were much more extravagant as I remember. The two most outstanding were Christmas Season and New Years Eve.
Chapter Seven: Popular American Movies Made in Rome
There were several popular American movies made in Rome around the time that we were living in Italy. Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, and Eddie Albert was the first. The screen play was written by Dalton Trumbo but published under a pseudonym due to his blacklisted status.

PART FOUR: GOING HOME

Chapter Eight: Our Conclusion to Living in Rome
All to soon this story ends and we return to New York again by ship on the SS Constitution


FOUR STORY PARTS WITH CHAPTER LINKS

PART ONE: BEGINNING
Living in Italy
Our Atlantic Crossing
My Year in Rome

PART TWO: LIFE IN ITALY
Our Apartment in Rome
School Days
Daily Life

PART 3: SPECIAL TIMES
Holiday Celebrations (to come)
Popular American Movies Made in Italy

PART FOUR: GOING HOME
Conclusion to Living in Rome

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Chapter One: Our Atlantic Crossing

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Grace Kelly and ship Captain aboard SS Constitution in 1956

ATLANTIC CROSSINGS AND OCEAN CRUISES

Our first Atlantic crossing takes place in 1959, three years after Grace Kelly traveled on the SS Constitution for her nuptial voyage to Monaco in 1956.

In fact, the Princess-to-be is accompanied on this transatlantic crossing by her family, almost 50 guests, two dogs, and dozens of pieces of luggage.

Three years later in August of 1959 we sailed on the SS Constitution to Naples, Italy. At that time I was unaware of this previous very special passenger.

OCEAN LINER TRAVEL

This means of transportation is dramatically different today from years ago when it is a necessity. At that time it is the primarily means of transportation between land masses surrounded by large bodies of water like an ocean.
Our Voyage As children, our experience is an introduction to a twice in a lifetime adventure. At that time, these two ships are the recently introduced American Industry luxury liners designed by Henry Dreyfuss for American Export Lines.
Today’s Floating Amusement Parks These are the primary form of ocean travel today. Actually they are over the top to me. Fortunately, the long since departed American Export Lines luxury traveling hotels are immortalized.
Remember Yesterday’s Luxury Travel Forever In fact documentation exists of these first American Export Lines classic luxury liners. Documentation for the Designs and designers for the SS Constitution and Independence is by Erin Douding. Archives are in the Cooper Hewitt division of the Smithsonian museum.
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Picture of a first class cabin with fabrics designed by renowned Dorothy Liebes of Liebes Studio. Henry Dreyfuss, a friend is the Industrial Designer of the twin ships themselves.

LUXURY TRAVEL 1950’s STYLE

As luxurious as the American Export Lines SS Constitution was, ocean travel is the usual means of crossing oceans in those days.
Airplane Travel 1950’s Style Airplane travel was available at a huge expense. So we actually benefit from its unaffordable cost. In fact we had a great nine day vacation instead. In addition the distinction of these two ships is that they are the first American built ships to embrace the feel of a casual country club, luxury travel as well as a speedy voyage.
Credit for research and documentation available on the Internet with the following information goes to Erin Dowding, currently an MA Student in History of Design and Curatorial Studies, Parsons School of Design in New York City

1. John Slater, President of American Export Lines
2. Henry Dreyfuss, Industrial Designer is responsible for the construction and design of the ships
3. Dorothy Liebes of Liebes Design, credited with the fabric and soft material designs for both the SS Independence and SS Constitution
4. Both ships are the first American Export Lines ships worthy of comparison to European luxury liners.

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DETAILS OF OUR VOYAGE

Our Ocean Liner Cabin I remember our cabin being small with two sets of double decker beds. In addition there was enough room for one of our trunks that served as our clothes bureau for the voyage. But we spent so little time in the cabin that its size did not matter to us.
Ocean Liner Novelties
Our daily activities included engaging in games on deck. Playing hide-and-seek over the entire ship. Spending time reading and writing in the lounge. Eating delicious meals in the spacious dining room. A three piece genteel musical combo accompanies our dinner every evening.

SPECTACULAR INTERIOR DESIGN

Most noteworthy is the observation lounge with its circular dome lighting and curtains designed by Dorothy Liebes of Liebes Studio. Below are images oof this space during the day and evening.
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The Observation Lounge with its circular domed lighting and curtains by the Dorothy Liebes Studio covering the expansive circular windows; Henry Dreyfuss Archive, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

A Movie Theatre We had the option of going to first run movies in the movie theatre that was located at the bottom of the ship. That location was a great spot when we were playing hide-and-seek. Since there were other children of various ages on the ship, we had enough companions to keep ourselves happily occupied.

The Center Staircase Design In fact the most direct access of great places to hide was the set of aluminum railings that descended the entire depth of the ship. The aluminum railed staircase was like a sculpture. Using the same design motif as the ship, it was both functional and beautiful.

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The center stairs with aluminum rails designed as well by Henry Dreyfuss running through the center of the ship; Henry Dreyfuss Archive, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Outdoor Swimming
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A highlight of the ship, the pool deck and tea time mid afternoon, pinterest.com
After lunch when the day was warmest, swimming in the ship’s pool was a must. Even more irresistible was the teatime cart that went around the pool deck. In fact, that was the only interruption we would tolerate to our luxurious swim time.

Automobile Storage To our amazement, the pool was emptied to lower the automobiles making the ocean voyage with us. Then the pool was emptied again at the end of our voyage to retrieve them to land for their owners.

 

Kennel in the Sky Everyday we took the tall trip to the smokestack level of the ship. It is the location of the dog kennel. Our miniature schnauzer actually took the trip to Italy with us. He seems to fared the journey well. In addition, he didn’t mind eating Italian food along with his dog food for a year.

Stormy Weather Most of our voyage was ideal with calm seas and sunny days. But on the rare time that it was not, the dining room tended to be empty and second helpings were aplenty. I wish to note that I did not suffer from sea sickness. Therefore it felt like I had the ship’s amenities all to myself. Best of all was two portions of pineapple sorbet.
Eleventh Birthday Celebration
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A festive cake fit for my eleventh birthday on the SS Constitution, pnterest.com

My Eleventh Birthday Celebration was another feature of our transatlantic voyage. A girl my age whom I befriended on board was invited to dine at our table. Then the three piece musical ensemble played ‘Happy Birthday’ as a birthday cake was delivered to our table. Oh, I was so embarrassed.

Our Destination
The destination of our transatlantic voyage that took nine days was Naples, Italy. From there, we had a four hour train ride to Rome. Then a short cab ride took us to our first destination.

 

Villa Eva It was a Roman villa turned pensione. We had several rooms with very high ceilings. It was a lovely space. In fact this is where we stayed until we rented our nine room apartment in Rome. The only redeeming factor to the end of this marvelous journey was that we sailed again the following June back to New York on the SS Constitution.

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My Year in Rome: Introduction

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A map of Italy from orangesmile.com

My year in Rome was the most amazing experience of my life. In fact, the story behind it is unique as well. I was a mere eleven years old at the time.

Actually, most families with school age children who lived in foreign countries did so due to a parent serving with either a foreign government, at a consulate or holding an international corporate job. But that was not any of those situations in my family.

As a single parent with three children, my mother had the freedom to explore living in other parts of the world without employment restriction. In addition to that, the hefty American dollar could go very far in those days, 1959-1960 giving many residential choices. As a result, we could have adventures then that would be financially prohibitive today. In fact, the dollar was worth six hundred lire at that time in contrast to much less today.

THE IDEA BEGAN DRIVING THROUGH THE LINCOLN TUNNEL GOING TO NEW JERSEY

In 1959 when taking our annual automobile trip from Long Island to New Jersey to participate in the Passover Seder, we made a stop in Manhattan to pick up my great aunt. Besides being a loving aunt, she was a great cook famous for her cream puffs with mocha toping. The cherry on the top was her ‘Auntie Mame’ adventurous personality. Knowing that my mother and her three children had some geographic and financial freedom, my great aunt suggested that my mother take our family to live in Italy for a year.
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S.S. Constitution, American Export Lines, by Tichnor Brothers, c. 1950s, from the Digital Commonwealth – 1 commonwealth 8g84mw21v. (1)

PREPARATION IN THE US

My mother took in stride what very likely would have seemed like a daunting undertaking to most people. For example, this included a thorough checklist of preparatory things to do:
• take a crash course in Italian
• get passports and necessary shots
• make reservations for the nine day voyage from NYC to Naples on the transatlantic S.S.Constitution for the five of us (dog included). At that time, airplane travel was limited and more expensive.
• borrow steamer trunks from every traveler friend, relative, and friend of a relative.
• sell our beloved 1955 two tone Oldsmobile and arranged to buy the latest Fiat to be picked up in Rome
• make reservations for a place to stay when we arrived in Rome at the Villa Eva. I remember this villa turned Pensione as popular with Americans, and a joy to inhabit.
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A wardrobe steamer trunk, upright drawers and a case, in cream with faux wood grained mounts (2)

ARRIVAL IN ITALY

There were additional preparatory tasks as well as others that would need make when we arrived in Italy:
• take the train from Naples to Rome
• sign in at the Villa Eva (Pensione)
• pick up our new Fiat (we got lost for three hours trying to return to the Villa Eva where we were staying)
• register us kids for the American-English, American-Arithmetic International School in Rome (aka)The International Overseas School of Rome)
• find a place to live, actually a nine room apartment
• hire a Italian housekeeper/cook
• and more things that any 11 year old could even imagine would need to be done

SOURCES & RESOURCES

(1) S.S. Constitution from Wikipedia
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