It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of timetravel recently. Melbourne has been channelling a direct line to the Rome of antiquity recently – as we experienced with our journey to Pilates’ Rome in Veni, Vidi, Vici and on Sunday at the State Library of Victoria’s family day for Rome: Piranesi’s Vision. Giovanni Piranesi was a famous 18th century master printmaker, and over a hundred of his significant works are on display at this free exhibition. The prints are so finely etched offering such a great depth of field, they’re almost like ‘magic eye’ 3D prints. But Piranesi’s etched pleasures were only an element of an enjoyable day celebrating all things Italian. Andiamo!
The forecourt of the SLV felt very European, with crowds of political protestors presenting competing world views (very Roman!) in addition to a mobile wood-fired pizza van and a gelato cart. The autumn sun reflecting off the library’s columns and the hubbub of the milling city visitors could transport me to any great city of the world.
Inside the SLV, multiple activities to celebrate Rome: Piranesi’s Vision were on offer – including a LEGO display of Roman Structures. Here’s a modern Roman carabinieri (policeman) with who I imagine to be Inspector Rex and a small devotional LEGO church.
Indoor bocce, anyone? The Veneto Club were onhand to help improve the bocce form of those brave enough to be appraised by their discerning eyes.
My favorite element of the day was the heartwarming Italian-language women’s choice La Voce Della Luna. It is rare to see Australian Italian women of a certain age participating in expressive, creative group activities such as singing. La Voce Della Luna sing traditional Italian folksongs which are cheeky, irreverent, heartbreaking and romantic. I loved the Signora in a Renaissance-red coat with marching gold scarf, she had sprezzeratura to spare! If you follow Ruby Assembly on Instagram @iolantherubyslipper , you’ll find a video of this choir singing at the event.
The expressions on the choristers were fabulous. They sang songs about farming families broken by drought, of parting from their homelands, of buxom girls and of interracial love. Really.
After all that clapping and singing (my sister-in-law even got up for a dance with the choir), it was time to enjoy lunch. Outside we went for a classic pizza margherita in the sunshine. Can you believe this delicious morsel came from a food truck?
Left: A delightful patrician ‘contemporary’ of Signor Piranesi led a guided tour throughout the SLV exhibition – a terrific way to contextualise Piranesi’s work and understand the world that would appreciate owning rare and beautiful etchings. Kings, milords and aristocracy purchased etchings and maps to add to their libraries and collections – owning Piranesi’s works confirmed their status of cultured, educated and global citizens. Eccentric and humorous, the gentleman was an excellent guide channelling olde Europe easily. Right: How wonderful is my sister-in-law’s woven bag? Featuring Romulus and Remus and their ‘wolfmother’ of Rome, it was an excellent sartorial choice for a day our celebrating la dolce vita.