Il Gatti Di Roma…The Cats of Rome


A cat nap in the Colosseum. By Cynthia Dite Sirni

A cat nap in the Colosseum. By Cynthia Dite Sirni

At the time when Alexander the Great had conquered the kingdoms of Egypt, Macedonia, Greece and Persia, cultural diffusion was at a high point. ( I’m telling you this for a reason, really.)  In ancient Egypt, it was believed that cats were some kind of demi-gods. They were revered and held an esteemed place in society.  The legend is they have never forgotten this status.  It explains a lot about their attitudes….perhaps there was some cultural interaction between the cats of Egypt and the cats in Rome, yes?

In Rome, there are cats everywhere.  One must make their peace with it because they are staying.  There is an old Roman saying that says that those who do not like cats in this life will come back as a mouse in the next.

Consider yourself warned.

Another interesting fact is that the cats in Rome, (especially in the Forum, Palatine Hill  and the Colosseum) are protected landmarks.  Part of the story is that they are considered the posterity of the cats who would have woven themselves around the legs of perhaps Caesar himself.  Can you imagine them perched on the lap of Marcus Aurelius?  They.  Are.  Sacred.  It’s against the law to harm them.   They are feral cats that pretty much have run of the city, as you’ll see.  You can make it into a game to count how many cats you see each day.

One popular souvenir is to purchase the annual calendar, “Il Gatti di Roma.”  It includes hilarious, borderline blasphemous pictures of unimpressed cats lounging on the Spanish Steps, licking themselves under the Arch of Constantine,  or scratching away on someone’s Vespa.  They’re naughty.  You can find these calendars in just about any kitschy souvenir shop or book store.  Take pictures of all the ones you see and make a montage of them for your home as a remembrance of your trip.

The cats are a huge part of the culture in Rome.  I never get tired of spotting one sitting where humans are most definitely not allowed.  In the Piazza Torre Argentina, there is actually a Cat Sanctuary.  You can sit on the railings with the clear plexi-glass and look down into the sanctuary and see the cats.  Some of them will walk right up the steps and demand attention.  Others just act like cats and ignore you, as well as your camera.  This is one of those cool things that you can only do in Rome.   It’s funny to see how this bustling city just accepts these cats.  I should say it’s funny how these cats accept this bustling city and the humans it attracts.

There is another Italian proverb about cats….”Happy is the home with at least one cat.”  Perhaps this is why Italians live “la dolce vita.”

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Signature Accessories….Jewelry


I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that a woman could own some piece of jewelry that became a part of her.  I think there is something so sentimental and personal about wearing the same piece of jewelry each day.   I always notice the jewelry other women are wearing.  I wonder who gave it to them, why they chose it, what it means. I think it’s important to have something with meaning.  I’ve never been able to just go into a store and buy a piece of jewelry.  I need to think.  What will it reflect about me?  Does it send a message at all?  What kinds of feelings do I have when I wear it?  What does it represent?

I think now there is a special intimacy in wearing handmade gold or  silver.  A handmade piece holds such a warmth to it.  I like to choose things that represent what I love…my husband, my daughters, my God. My faith is central to my being.  I am drawn to any kind of symbol or icon that will identify me as a Christian.  That narrows the scope a bit.

I love the idea of wearing something that can become so connected to you that it transfers energy somehow. When I travel, I am always drawn to the local artisan jewelry.  Handmade rings or bracelets that tell a story about a culture are palpable memories.  Each time I wear a piece, I will remember the sensuous parts of the moments It Became Mine.  The heat.  The smells.  The sounds.  The touch.  The music.  All of this becomes a sentimental part of wearing your history (and your heart) on your sleeve. Do you have a piece you wear all the time?  What do you think it says? I’d love to hear about it.