334 – 336: Sleeping With and In Memory of the Dead

334 – Saturday 19th March 2016: Sleeping with the Dead

Having largely got ourselves ready to move yesterday we both put in good runs around the slightly hilly campsite and then breakfasted outside.  Being able to sit out and enjoy the sun and the blue skies is truly one of the pleasures of a campsite, but, of course, it does come at a price.

A Few Rome Reflections

We would possibly have stayed in Rome longer, but the campsite put its price up from the ACSI rate of EUR19 to 28 to take advantage of the Easter holidays.  We’d stayed one night at the higher rate and witnessed the general clearing out of most motorhomes.  We both liked Rome a lot more than we expected.  This was my 4th visit, J’s second.  We had a 3 day honeymoon here 5 years ago but it had been too hot to do much sightseeing.  It was a honeymoon afterall!  I was last here for Maddy’s 16th Birthday two years ago … on being asked what she wanted for her birthday, she did not hold back and asked for a trip to Rome.  I had refused based on price and J and my parents had not held back either and told me to book it as it may be the last time she wanted to come away with me!

This trip we explored further afield than the main tourist trail … which can leave you feeling a bit Roman and Museum’d out.  We really felt that seeing the Mussolini EUR project and Garbatella helped us see Rome as a living city.  Our campsite was a 5 min walk to the Due Ponte station on Rome’s Northern Line – an Urbana train totally covered in graffiti and with green plastic seats BUT it ran every 10 mins.  Only EUR1.5 for 100 minutes once the ticket was stamped, so effectively the ticket covered the whole city.  Eat your heart out London Underground!  The bike tour was just fantastic at getting us through small streets and seeing some of the lesser known sites.  


Our destination for today was about 50km north – up to Cerveteri to the Etruscan Necropolis.  The town had been a major commercial centre, trading with Greece, Egypt etc since 9BC.  However, as Rome grew, Cerveteri declined and by 358 (precisely!) it was annexed by Rome.  A few KM from the town, the Etruscans built a massive necropolis for the wealthy to be buried in.  The poor were just cremated.  The necropolis is essentially laid out like a town with streets and the tombs resemble house that the families lived in.  There are over 400 tombs carved out of the tufa rock with stone blocks and mounds of earth.  The tombs are now empty, many have been raided over the centuries, but remaining artefacts are … in the Vatican and the British Museum!  Whilst in Italy we have visited many ancient sites, mostly Greek and Roman, but we think this may have been the oldest as the town went back to 9BC.


The Tumulus tombs.


They went sqaure when they needed more space for the middle classes … J is directing traffic at a street intersection.

P1100189Some were quite a climb down.  Once buried, the entrances were sealed up but then had to be dug out again for the next family member.  So unlike the Christian necropolis we’ve seen, no visiting your deceased relatives.


Tomba dei Rilevi is the only tomb here to have the internal decoration survive … The plaster reliefs are of food, utensils and tools, games and mythical figures.  As with other civilisations, the dead were buried with everything they may need for the afterlife. 

We did check and we are OK to park in the car park over night, surrounded by the tumuli … sweet dreams!


335 – Sunday 20th March 2016:  The Sunday Lunch Habit

A really peaceful night and the only other occupant was another British motorhome.  They kept themselves to themselves and since they had a small daughter, so did we!  In the morning we both ran around the site, passing tombs and no traffic :).  Over breakfast we watched the people come, by car, motorhome and coach – to visit the tombs, walk dogs and watch a small boy bomb about in his new mini quad bike.

Our destination today was Lake Bracciano, one of the volcanic lakes where the Romans escape to, when not flocking in droves to the coast.  We parked up along the lake just past Anguillara: Medieval and apparently the prettiest on the lake.  We had coffee in Chard whilst we weighed up our options.  The town is not big.  There is not much to do or see.  One of the guide books said there is a plethora of good trattorias … decision made…. Lunch.


Eel / lake themed fountain … won’t be picking that on the menu … too greasy.


Typical narrow street.


On a door … for the non-Irish speakers it means “A hundred thousand welcomes”

P1100204Our selected Trattoria was listed high in TripAdvisor and obviously popular … no room inside, so the waiter put a table together (literally stuck the legs on) on the balcony apologising that the season had not yet started.  They obviously had not expected the other 5 tables that joined us.  It was a memorable meal… this starter had 8 types of cheese and 8 salamis, served with a red pepper relish, honey and a strawberry & balsamic jam.  Our main were J:  ricotta ravioli with tomato and lemon and K:  lake Perch with a sweet and sour orange sauce.  All yummy and washed down with a litre of red.  We retired to Chard after for a huge nanny nap … or did we just pass out?

336 – Monday 21th March 2016:  Bizarre in Bomarzo

The morning run was down to the lake, which meant a steep up on the return, but really lovely to be along the lake shore in the sun.

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Going out …

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… and the return view. 

We lunched on soup in the carpark at Bomarzo’s Parco dei Mostri, although the founder called it Sacro Bosco (sacred wood).  At EUR10 pp it was a bit pricey, but different.  The garden was created by Duke Vicino Orsini 1522-1580 in memory of his wife, one of the Farnese’s.  Grotesque giants, faces, dragons etc were carved out of the existing stone, designed by the bod who finished off St Peter’s Basilica after Michelangelo died.  Once the Duke died, the garden had been largely forgotten and was discovered by Dali and other painters in the 1930’s but not restored until 1953.  

The pics say it all …


J trustingly putting his head into it’s mouth…. ‘cos I asked him to!


In keeping with the ‘Mannerist’ style, buildings were lop sided.





We have driven a short distance to Vitorchiano – not because it is in the guide books, but because my Parking App said it had a motorhome parking with services and free electric.  And so it does 🙂  And a superb view of the town. 🙂  But is also has very noisy workmen on the road behind us and I reckon we can expect them back tomorrow … it may be a very early run for us!

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Our View … and for free!


329 – 333: Capitol Time in Rome

329 – Monday 14th March 2016:  Cyclelogical Rome

K (as the supreme navigator) reckoned it would be 8 km cycle ride into Rome from the campsite – it was 15 km! (K:  campsite staff told me so!!!)  We arrived just in time at the cyclelogical meeting place. Simeone (our guide) led us through alleyways and back streets – and over three and a half hours – we discovered and understood much of ancient Rome – an excellent visit – as described in the photos. (K:  our TripAdvisor Review says more about the tour).  All the exercise obliged us to have a hearty lunch with wine – to prepare for the 15 km cyclenotlogical return trip….  Oddly, the return trip was faster than the morning journey inbound – wine-fuelled? 

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The Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto does not originally have negative connotations).  We found our way back here for a booze laden lunch.

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Excellent view of the Forum from Capitoline Hill.

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And across the City to the Vatican from the terrace at the museum – free to climb up to.

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And another view.

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Most ancient bronzes have been smelted down and recycled.  This is a copy, but the original survived as it was thought to be Emperor Constantine (he who sanctioned Christianity), but it is actually Marcus Aurelius.  This is in the Michelangelo designed piazza; two sides are the Capitoline museum and one is the town hall.

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Trajan’s Forum (i.e. market and meeting place) AD107.  These windows were probably the first multi storey massive shopping mall complex.

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Trevi Fountain.  Dodgy pic as the small instant camera did not cope with the sun on the white stone.  Our guide Simone was quite scathing about the quality of the work compared to its popularity.  He also explained that it has been ‘restored’ 3 times in the last 5 years due it’s iconic status, but that each time they remove a layer of the stone.

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Spanish Steps.  Fortunately we’ve seen the steps before not blocked off and under some kind of works.

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This was one of the ‘you’d never find it yourself’ sites – the Olympic Theatre, under other buildings with FREE view accessible through a small doorway.

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Navona Piazza.  Used to be race track, like the Circus Maximus from AD1.  Then a street market until in C17 one of the Pope’s had it cleared so he could build his Palace here.  Real Estate prices shot up – good if you already owned here.

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Yep – we’re both in leggings.  Look the part, what!  Actually think we may have been the sole cyclists with helmets in Rome. J with Star Trek hair style…

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A Bernini designed fountain – Fontana dei Quattro Fiume. Simone really liked this one … hollow rock that holds up a whopping obelisk.  Four rivers and four statues to represent the four (known then) continents.  Quality carvings … wind in the palm tree and muscular forms….

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Doesn’t look much, but is actually the site of Pompea’s Amphitheatre – time of Ceasar (the one that got murdered).  These buildings are built on the curve of the amphitheatre and would have been seating.  Alley ways radiated out where the amphitheatre entrances would have been.  A real hidden gem.

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SYLVIE – THIS IS JUST FOR YOU!!!!  We both had one and it was YUMMY.

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On the bike ride back we passed some works being done.  These images are created by putting up massive stencils and then jet washing!

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Sorry, think I’m becoming more anal about bridges than James.  We went under and past so many on our cycle ride to / from the campsite to the centre.  A couple, like this one, had hollow gaps between the arches.

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When running, all I see is his bum.  Same cycling and similar skinny tights!  Most excellent bike track below road level, but apparently it often floods.

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IMG 2986The last bridge pic … houseboats.


330 – Tuesday 15th March 2016:  The Ides of March 

On the occasion of his demise, Caesar ignored the soothsayer’s warning – and so did we… We attended at his ‘murder’ spot – but a dense crowd prevented us from seeing very much. Interestingly, on the fateful occasion, the Senate met at this location away from the Forum for some reason. It was the law that no weapons could be taken into the Forum, but as this was not the Forum, knives were taken – and used…”Et tu, Brute ?”

Off to the Vatican to see St Peter’s Basilica… however, our arrival time was 5:30 (K the Navigator got us lost in a gelateria and then lost in a massive multi storey carpark) and it closes at 6:00 pm – so, another day…


Wedding Cake aka Vittorio Emanuelle Monument – it destroyed lots of Roman remains in its building.


 This is believed to be the spot where Ceasar was murdered.  Four Temples were uncovered here in the Sacred Way.


We actually couldn’t see this much of the performance … pic achieved holding camera high.


We walked to St Peter’s Basilica via a gelato (of course!), so we were too late to go in.

331 – Wednesday 16th March 2016:  Capital Time at the Capitoline Museum

We often take a picnic and since we both like to chop our apples, we carry a large knife.  Security at the Museum was interesting – we ‘fessed to the knife before it was scanned.  Efficient though, we were given a token and told to collect it on exiting.

We were in two minds about this visit originally, as we’re bit ‘statued out’ – although highly recommended by Simeone and TripAdvisor… To miss it would have been a big mistake!  The cultures and art are amazing – and 2000+ years old.  Do we produce art like this now in the 21st century?  Ok, it’s unlikely that David Cameron will appear on a horse in bronze in front of the Palace of Westminster, but….

To pick only two – the statue (the original – could I have detected the difference?) of Marcus Aurelius is immense in size and artistic expression – and the simple sculpture of the boy taking a thorn from his foot (1BC) – simply genius. A total of 3-4 hours in the Musei and we just about covered the main parts…  Artistically drained – almost too much to take in…  


The copy outside the museum taken with a proper camera and to compare with the original inside the museum. 


The original – Marcus Aurelius.  Originally covered in gilt.  Placed low in a new extension to the museum so visitors can get closer.


Marcus Aurelius again, but included in this post to show the quality of the relief.


All the rooms were sumptuously painted in the Conserators’ Apartment.  Many depicted the history of Rome.  This is the Rape of the sabine Women.


One of the ancient treasures, I forget who, but his eyes are silver.


BC1 – a buy trying to remove a thorn from his foot.


According to legend, Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, who had been nursed by a she wolf … the cherubs were added later.


Bernini’s Medussa


Just more seriously high quality carving on a sarcophagi.


Another view of the Forum.


A drunken Roman lady, still clasping the wine container … not fallen over yet!

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Capitoline Venus … had her own room … was this to cover her modesty?



A Roman copy of the Greek BC3 statue of the Dying Galatian.  You can see the pain in his face.

332 – Thursday 17th March 2016:  Saints Peter and Patrick

St Patrick’s Day – and as an expatriate son of Ireland, I decided to be a bit stage Irish on our travels – green shirt, green fleece – and green Rugby World Cup 2015 (no good memories there). Thank goodness I don’t have green trousers!  The morning run was a bit green – according to my pace – static… But, off to the Urbano and Metro and walk to the Vatican. The SN (supreme navigator) did not take us through a multi storey car park this time – but directly to Piazza St Pietro.  Our queue wait was a mere 18 minutes – airport style security negotiated successfully no knife today in backpack! – and in we went. K took an audio guide which was really essential.  Again, the photos talk – but in summary, we were awed by the size – and again, the word ‘immense’. It may sound contradictory – but neither of us felt a great sense of religion – probably because of the huge numbers of tourists around.  The Basilica of All Nations in Jerusalem (to me) maintains the sense of religion and piety alongside the swell of tourists. Maybe tourists in Jerusalem are likely to be more pius…?  However, this really is the classic case of the photos telling the story – and reflecting the scale of the Basilica.  It is interesting that Pope Francis has eschewed all the pomp and circumstance traditionally associated with the Papal office – and lives in a Vatican B&B – not in the lavish Papal apartments. He wears simple clerical garb – and has (anecdotally) a good ‘managerial’ style of sorting things out. Whilst accepting that the Vatican needs the tourist revenues, which style is more likely to get the message out to the faithful – the opulence of St Peter’s Basilica – or the simplicity and directness of Pope Francis’ approach?   Back to the day in question…

Speaking of piety…..on departing the Vatican – something magical occurred – actually, it’s called ‘MapsMe’ – programmed to take us to “The Abbey Theatre Bar” – named after the home of the Irish National Theatre in Dublin which was rebuilt in the ’60s after a disastrous fire.  Red wine (not Guinness) – and the best potato crisps on the planet – “Tayto” !  The prices seemed to reflect the fact that both the wine and crisps were imported from Dublin. The bar was in full flow, but we left to head for the Metro – some distance away…..

Super was a version of Irish Stew – not being able to buy lamb (just not seen it in butchers or supermarkets … someone please explain why not) and having some buffalo steak in the freezer… it seemed an obvious swap!  Guinness was used as the sauce, of course.  Accompanied by colcannon.


Michelangelo created the huge Dome.



Michelangelo’s Pieta: 1499 when he was just 25 years old.


 Part of Bernini’s last work, think he may have been in his 80’s.  Monument to Pope Alexander V11


Bronze of St Peter … you couldn’t get close now, but apparently it is good luck to rub his foot.


Hidious, but you notice it.  Bernini’s Baldacchino (canopy) which stands over St Peter’s tomb.  Huge and made of bronze. 


Wall and ceilings are mosaic copies of painted master pieces, most of which are in the Vatican Museum.


Piazza St Peter – laid out by …. Bernini.

333 – Friday 18th March 2016:  Pottering

We ran, pottered and relaxed.  Two lots of soup bagged and in the freezer.  We are rested and will move a little further north tomorrow. 


325 – 328: Architecture from the Romans to Mussolini

325 – Thursday 10th March 2016: Roman Architecure

Now then ! Sylvie says my blogging style is unique ! Should I take that as a compliment – to my mangling of the odd word – or 3?  As she is a friend, I will defer to her judgement…..

Off to see Ben Hur today!  I expected to meet Charlton Heston in his chariot…but he’s too busy being Chair of the NRA (National Rifle Association) – I will reserve my views on USA gun laws (at least in this blog).   The Circus Maximus is immense – see photos – being worked on just now – so I couldn’t practise my 400 metres speedwork.  Entry to the Palatine Hill and Forums didn’t give proper recognition to us senior folk – didn’t they have 68-year-old mangliators ?  

Palatine Hill… we all know about Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome – the area is awash with this significance and the accompanying mythology.  Palazzo after palazzo – the wealthy Romans knew how to live – and how to build.  The Forum, or forums – were the centre of Rome – social, business interaction – and laws implemented – justice handed down.  Picnic lunch – and off to Il Colloseo!  Again, staggering dimensions – the games – a day out for the local populace… if you happened to be a defeated (but still alive) gladiator – you could appeal to the Emperor to spare you – and if the appeal was successful, you lived to be cut into pieces on another occasion !  Onwards…..



IMG 4808The modern station near our campsite, built adjacent to the old one.  And yes … it is a year since my last hair cut!

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The old station … just fenced off.  More crumbling concrete.  Sicily does NOT have the monopoly on it. 

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Palatine Hill which is the posh residential area of the Roman city.  Myth says this is where Romulus and Remus founded the city.

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View down to the Circus Maximus.  They are still excavating some of the remaining seat area.  Big FACTS:  1)  It was the biggest of all of Rome’s circuses.  2)  It was laid out in the 6th century BC!  3) It seated 250,000.

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Looking across to St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. 

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Looking down to the Forum – a series of public squares, meeting places, shops and Temples.

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View across to the Colosseum.  The largest … Verona is the third largest, which we saw on our way down Italy.

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And inside the Colosseum.

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A few more Big Facts:  1) Construction began in 72AD.  2) 100,000 cubic metres of stone held in place with iron chevrons  3) 50,000 spectators


326 – Friday 11th March 2016:  Sunshine!

Regulation running, Pilates (for K) – and breakfast.  Simple – and then the days planning…..but we noticed the sun was shining very brightly – when did we last brekkie outside? So – one of us said – “why not spend the day here in the sun?” – we both agreed with whoever it was that said that.  Nobody had yet mentioned ‘jobs’.  The bikini top came out (for K !) and shorts akimbo !   What is akimbo ? Is it akin to Limbo but undressed?  Anyway, we sunned – and actually did some jobs (no Gusto in sight).  Late afternoon dawned (how can afternoon dawn?) and the BBQ made an appearance – BBQ chicken – and after – a firelog…  For the uninitiated – a firelog is a 1-2 foot long lump of compressed charcoal material – impregnated with combustible stuff!  Does it burn ? Does K love it ?  Sparks akimbo, when it gets poked… a true (WMD) – weapon of mass discombubulation !    

IMG 4882Check out that blue sky.  Awning out ….

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…. and the shorts were not far behind … for both of us!

327 – Saturday 12th March 2016:  Mussolini’s EUR Project (Esposizione Universale Roma)

We have both found the ‘Fascist’ style of architecture has grown on us a bit… no, we will not be voting right of Gengis Khan in the next election!  The style is very simple, direct – uncomplicated – and sends a clear message – the State is in charge of everything.  We may disagree with the message, but the simplicity is appealing.  Many of these structures are aesthetically better than UK 1960/1970s concrete – in our view…  The first photo is a clever piece of post-Mussolini design – trees growing from the heads of St Peter/Paul…

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St Peter and Paul Basilica (post- Mussolini).  Mussolini intended it to be his mausoleum … looking over his EUR project of perfectly created suburbia – his monument to Fascism.

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The Palazzo della Civita Italiana, also known as the Square colosseum, was intended as the centre piece for the 1942 world fair.  Not sure what is inside as you can see through the windows to daylight the far end.

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Statues are all poets, artists, philosophers etc … all highlighting Italian supremacy!

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All about form and balance.

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Columns and height taken from Ancient Roman architecture.

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Like it or not, the area is an impressive attempt at new town planning – wide squares and boulevards – lots of open space – Milton Keyes and Basingstoke, please take note!


328 – Sunday 13th March 2016:  Museo Centrale Montemartini and Facist Garbatella

What do you get if you put some statues inside a disused power station?  No – it’s not Sellafield meets Stonehenge!  It’s more Tate Modern – actually, it’d less Tate… But, in an odd way, it works. Maybe not entirely worth the Euro 7.50 per person entry – but quite different. Was I the only one who spent more time checking the horsepower of the diesel engines than looking at the sculptures?  The truly Herculean statue – with separate feet and arm – is gargantuan !  As for the satyr playing with the nymph… the National Anthem was obviously playing at the time – standing to attention!  A bit like an English 6 Nations Championship 2016 winner (no sore losers here….and the `Grand Slam to come…).


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The Centrale Montemartini Museum – a 1920’s coal and diesel power station.  Only converted into a museum in the last few years as an overflow to the Capotine Museum.

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The power plant is still all in situ and makes a really unusual setting for Roman sculptures.

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And a bit more art deco … what’s not to appreciate?

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A massive statue … but is Hercules giving us the finger?

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Not such a massive statue … but certainly an erect member!

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Garbatella was created in 1920s for the working classes, but is now ‘one of the most charming, intriguing, hippest and appealing neighbourhoods’.  Know where I want to live if I ever moved here.  The apartment blocks were modelled on English garden suburbs … apparently!  They are certainly around greed squares.  But in the 20’s we were pulling all this sort of housing down.

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Gotta love a a bit of art deco.  The Palladium Theatre.

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Garbatella will be K’s home in the future, when she grows old, wears purple – and learns to spit!   Nuff said….