Last Day

Pantheon. Different time of day, different place.
Pantheon. Different time of day, different place.

The morning of our last day with the family we decided to head out and do the same thing again. I had googled “things to do in Rome’ and nothing compelling or new came up where we could walk. So we sold the previous evening’s tour to Dad, Chris, and Matt and we headed out again to see the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Roman Ghetto. Nothing to add here but the Pantheon did not disappoint. The light was different so the interior was different.

Dad was sentimental at the Trevi Fountain. He recalled visiting with mom in the mid-90s. Back in the ghetto Chris headed off on his own. The rest of us ate lunch. Another great meal and off we went our separate ways. Dad and Matt to our apartment and Burt and I to shop.

The Gypsy Carpenters crossed the Tiber River and went into Trasteverde to find some things to take home. I bought a new wallet and two new scarves for less than 50 Euros. My shopping itch scratched was easily scratched so we had more time to burn before the family dinner. My theory of family peace was working great. Stay out of the house unless it’s dinner time.

Burt and I followed the banks of the Tiber upstream to the mole of Rome. We had spotted Castel Sant’Angelo the morning we walked to the Vatican. The Castel is a round brick fortress that kind of deserves to be called a mole. That first morning we had no idea what it was. Then we heard it was Catstel San’Angelo and we still had no idea what it was. Then we heard it was once the Pope’s secret apartments and still had no idea. Then I heard it was Hadrian’s Tomb and we had to go.

Hadrian’s Mausoleum was renamed Castel San’Angelo by a pope trying to distract a plague ridden populace from their back sliding towards Roman theism. Rumors had reached Pope Gregory I that the people were secretly worshiping statues of Roman gods so the Pope had his own vision. First the pagan statue exploded. Next, Archangel Michael came down and landed on the tomb of Hadrian and blasted the plague out of Rome. The threat to Christianity resulted in the destruction of more Roman sites. They weren’t ruins until they were ruined. All this time, despite being told otherwise, I thought weather and use had destroyed these sites. After seeing the Vatican and these cathedrals and the ruins it is well planted in my head that one culture destroyed the other.

The tomb was renamed for the holy vision and Hadrian became an afterthought. Weirdly, I don’t know why I know about Hadrian’s Tomb. I remember his wall in England but somebody somewhere used to joke about Hadrian’s Tomb. A relative? A teacher? Regardless, Hadrian had quite the mausoleum. His remains are currently misplaced but you can visit where they once were. The fortress like monument became a fortress and hid several popes in times of trouble. The place is still hard to enter. Just the night before our visit Burt and I found ourselves stranded in the moat with rats all around. We were just trying to walk home and wound up in the grounds with no easy way out. I used GPS. The rats were very intimidating. I imagine five could take down an adult human.

The Castel San’Angelo is worth the entry fee. It is a real castle with lots of fun lookouts, a moat, a drawbridge, jails, cannons and all the other things a castle needs. The museum has weapons and suits of armor. The pope’s apartments are suitably extravagant. The wind off the ramparts stole my hat from my head. There is a shining statue of the archangel at the top. He’s surrounded by fantastic Roman views. We both enjoyed the laid back afternoon wandering the castle. I even got my hat back. It was one of 4 that had landed down below that afternoon.

When in Rome here’s what I recommend:

1. Coliseum and surrounding ruins.

2. Pantheon

3. Roman Ghetto

4. Castel San’Angelo

5. Vatican

The Vatican can be skipped. It’s too crowded and too much stuff to appreciate. You can do Saint Peters or the Sistine Chapel separately.

The Pantheon Oculus
The Pantheon Oculus. They say the math to make those coffers line up as the dome curved was pretty hard.
Synagogue
Synagogue
Trastaverde side street.
Trasteverde side street.
A closed instrument shop.
A closed instrument shop. Hard to touch when you can’t get in.
Exterior of Hadrian's Mausoleum.
Exterior of Hadrian’s Mausoleum.
Tiber River
Tiber River
Hadrian's Mausoleum
Hadrian’s Mausoleum
Cannons at the Tomb
Cannons at the Tomb
The bee pope.
The bee pope.
Boobs out
Boobs out
Heads will roll
Heads will roll
My hat blew off. Not here but still.
My hat blew off. Not here but still.
Entrance to the mausoleum.
Entrance to the mausoleum.
The fortress.
The fortress.
Dead things for sale.
Dead things for sale.
My legs hurt.
My legs hurt.
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Rome’s Jewish Quarter

Jewish Quarter wall
Jewish Quarter wall

Just a short walk and across the river from the Vatican is the oldest Jewish community in Europe. The Jews were in Rome before there were Christians. Think on that for a moment. When Rome became christian things did not go well for the Jewish community. The Jewish Ghetto was formed in 1550. A pope made discriminatory rules on what Jews could and could not do and forced them to live behind walls. The people were locked in at night. The ghetto lies on low land next to the Tiber River and was known for floods and malaria. The list of humiliations wrought by the papacy can be found HERE. In 1888 the walls came down but the community stayed and became and integral part of Roman life. For a short time things were better. Then the Nazis came.

The Nazis promised they would spare the Jews if they paid a ransom in gold. The community paid up and, surprise, the Nazis betrayed them. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people were taken to camps. The number of abducted is not certain what is known is only 16 survived. And yet, the community survived and now thrives.

Today the ghetto is home to some of Rome’s best restaurants and most expensive real estate. Burt and I visited twice for food. The restaurants are split into those that sell dairy and those that sell meat. The two food groups cannot be served in the same restaurant here because they require separate serving dishes and implements to remain kosher. So one day we ate dairy and the next day we ate meat. Vegetables can go with either. This neighborhood has a homey feeling. The streets and benches were filled with residents speaking Hebrew and Italian. It felt like we were in a community bistro not the tourist-tired cafes of Rome.

If you’re going to Rome I insist you visit this neighborhood. Next up Hadrian’s Mausoleum.

Kosher Restaurants
Kosher Restaurants
Everybody likes friend food.
Everybody likes fried food.
People watching
People watching
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Pantheon

IMG_8200
Exterior detail Pantheon

Flashing back again to art history in Holmdel High I remember Ms. Johnston going on an on about the pantheon. She had terrible slides that I believe she had taken herself. I was not impressed by the photos or what she said but she was practically moved to tears trying to convey the thing of the pantheon.  Was it her passion for architecture or her frustration with bored teenagers? I liked Ms. Johnston a lot. She was our language arts teacher, too, and she was always nice to me. She once assigned us a heated topic for a persuasive essay and my Catholic girlfriend and I were writing about birth control and other things teenagers need to know about and know nothing about. We asked her what withdrawal meant as a contraceptive technique. I’m still embarrassed. I remember the drama of teh pantheon lecture so when I saw a sign for the pantheon I thought, “Might as well stop by.” Might as well almost miss a wonder of the world.

Michelangelo said it appeared to have been built by angels and I have to agree. There are so many delightful things to know. Firstly, the engineering: almost 2,000 years after it was built the Pantheon sports the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. No rebar here. Ancient Roman concrete has endured and it predates the discovery of Portland cement. There are books about Roman concrete. It lead to developments in architecture called the Concrete Revolution. How did I not know this? I majored in concrete. I guess I majored in Portland Cement Concrete. At the Pantheon they used lighter aggregate as the dome grew higher and thinner. This is a technique we still use today. Coffers in the ceiling and hidden hollow panels lightened the load. The oculus, the circular opening at the top of the dome provides light and eased stress.

Now the more esoteric marvels. Pantheon means temple of all the Gods. This place survived nearly intact for 2,000 years because it was in continuous use as a place of worship. This building is the third version of the temple. The previous buildings are believed to have burned. In the 600s the Roman government gave it to the pope and the pope rededicated it to Mary of the Martyrs. Everybody still called it the Pantheon. Pity the priests trying to change its name through history. It defies ownership by one religion. The dome is a 43.3 meter hemisphere. It sits on a cylinder with walls the height of the radius of the dome. A perfect sphere with a diameter of 43.3 meters could fit inside. The oculus and the front doors are the only source of light. The shape of the building is so pleasing to the eye it has been copied all over the world.

The interior has been modified from a place full of Roman gods to a place full of Catholic images. The bronze portico ceiling was removed and melted down by a greedy pope. Despite the changes the grandeur remains. A shaft of light blasts through the oculus and moves around the interior as the world spins. It’s a powerful and fun effect. Flat earthers have some explaining to do.

I could go on and on. I think I learned this from my experience in high school and the accidental visit. You really have to see it to believe it. The crowds are easily forgotten inside this wonder.

IMG_8191
Pantheon
IMG_8199
Portico of Pantheon
IMG_8195
Interior of Pantheon
IMG_8192
Dome of the Pantheon. Those squares lighten the load.
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Rome Redux

The Roman crowds were spectacular
The Roman crowds were spectacular.

We arrived in Rome in the early afternoon. Burt and I threw down our bags and said see ya later to the family and headed out. We managed an 8 mile triangle that captured the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Jewish Quarter. The Gypsy Carpenters and 150,000 fellow travelers were out that afternoon walking the superheated street of Rome.

Rome was not a planned part of our trip. We had thought we’d be in Amalfi until our departure date but the reservation error put us back in the capitol with two days to wander. Burt and I decided to walk to the major attractions. Actually, the Pantheon, our favorite, was an accident. We found it on our way to the Trevi Fountain. That was kind of fun, accidentally running into one of the wonders of the world while looking for an over rated and ugly marble fountain.

The Spanish Steps are famous because they are famous. Think reality TV. The steps were built in the early 18th century as a kind of urban renewal. The governing forces wanted a nice connector between two landmarks on different elevations. There is a church at the top and there was the Spanish Embassy at the bottom. Not sure if the embassy is still there. There was a competition and these steps were the winner. Frankly, these steps bore me and I am not interested in learning more. I prefer the feel of the steps at the Lincoln Memorial.

Moving on to Trevi Fountain I am slightly more amused. Again, the fountain has a degree of famous for being famous. The name Trevi comes from Tre Vie or three roads. This site was the intersection of three roads and also the terminus of an aqueduct of clean water for the city. In 19 BC a supposed virgin supposedly found the water source that was then routed to the city. I only bring this up because the scene of discovery is part of the extensive marble sculpture that makes up today’s fountain. I didn’t notice the virgin. The marble facade was the result of another arts competition.  In 1730 Pope Clement XII had a contest. One Alessandro Galilei from Florence was deemed the winner but the Romans would not hear of it and insisted that the winner be homeboy Nicola Salvi. No word on what Galilei planned. I really want to know. Galilei was a renowned engineer and architect. I tried researching this topic but my Italian isn’t up to the task.

Today water in the fountain is recycled. Toss into the germy recylcled water 3,000 Euros in good luck coins and that is not water you want to drink. People try to bathe in it for superstitious reasons but the Italian gendarme toot on whistles continuously to discourage bathers. They are probably saving scores of people from some dread skin disease. Burt scampered down to the clean water spigot that still delivers the original Virgin’s water and filled our water bottle. I took in the global horde. It was all whistles and selfie sticks and over the shoulder coin tossing and souvenir hawking with thousands of bodies in a stifling heat. I’m guessing it was only a little bit different on market day in Rome when the fountain first debuted some 30 years after it construction began. The marble used here was mined from the, wait for it, coliseum. I have an eye for the cleaner lines of ancient Rome. This Baroque stuff is not for me.

It was late in the day and Burt and I had put some serious mileage on our bodies over the last two weeks. We were not easily amused by the garish public art of the 18th century. We decided to head to the Jewish quarter and have some food. On the way a tiny sign caught my eye. Pantheon with an arrow pointing down an alley. Hungry and tired, Pantheon here we come.

The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps. Obelisk from Egypt.
IMG_8185
The Trevi fountain. The ambiance is completed by the police constantly tooting whistles to keep people out of the water.
IMG_8186
It’s all too much for me.
IMG_8187
Burt filling our water bottle from the fountain spigot.
IMG_8188
Hordes, I tell you, hordes.
IMG_8189
Amber display in a jewelry shop. I bought a globule with a spider.
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

I forgot to take notes

Even with tickets the Vatican tour looks like this.
Even with tickets the Vatican tour looks like this.

I’m here in Seattle for a few weeks of work. We are truly gypsies this season. First Alpine, now Seattle, then back to Alpine, and/or Oakridge. I’m a little disoriented.

I found some time to blog while Burt unpacks his tools and clears out the garage we will be converting into a painter’s studio. Eager to get some details right I pulled out my trip diary and found this:

6/12/17

decimation

octamation

poker to fake dead

Best Pope – Julius II

That is everything I recorded on Rome. This includes the Coliseum and our Vatican tours.

So. I wrote about the hot poker. Check.

The second half of the coliseum tour was of the Roman ruins adjacent. The guide was Romanian and he had a middle schooler’s sense of humor but was very knowledgeable. He also wisely sat us in some cool grass for most of the tour information and theatrics and then quickly walked us through the blazing hot ruins. I neglected to record his name. The only piece of information retrievable know was a factoid that became a bit of continuing family humor. Decimation to be defined.

Rome and her armies were famously brave in the day. On reason was cowardice was not tolerated. Remember many of the members of these armies were forced into work so commitment to the cause might be lacking. A lack of passion can lead to disinterest in losing one’s life for said causes. The Romans cured this by a technique called decimation. Any legion of men that exhibited cowardice on the battlefield under went decimation. The shamed fighting corp counted off 1 through 10 over and over again, through the field of 10,000. Lucky numbers 1 through 9 turned and killed number 10. Nobody liked it. Nine of your buddies beat you to death because some guy you never even met wasn’t heroic enough. 1,000 people dead for moment of doubt. Pretty rough. Since only 3 of our 8 person family corp heard this tasty word lovers nugget it became our little joke. I said, let’s try to avoid an octamation on this trip. It was day one of the entire family being together in lose quarters. If we had to have an octamation, let’s make sure we are in numbers 1 through 7.

Burt and I also pledged to try and avoid a duimation amongst ourselves.

The next day was our pre-arranged Vatican tour. We were with the masses again. Nearly 6 million people a year visit the Vatican museums. It’s so tight people’s exhalations are damaging some of the art work. Burt, Matt, Dad, and I had a great tour guide whose name is lost to me. He spoke five languages and was very knowledgeable. He told us Pope Julius II was the best pope. Julius II had strong administrative skills and was a pious man. He did a good job managing the church. The current guy (Francis) was also well regarded. He’s having some difficulties managing the church (see recent new on drug fueled orgy at cardinal’s apartment and arrest of the guy in Australia for covering up pedophilia) but his heart seems to be in the right place when tending his flock.

On the tour we saw a tiny gold cupola on top of Saint Peter’s Dome. If you are president of the US (GWB) you might be invited up there for appetizers. We didn’t make the cut. We didn’t here where DJT was received. Another thing that was funny to hear was how the church sort of glosses over the sacking of Roman artifacts to build the Vatican. On the previous day’s tour we learned that the remnants of Rome were all okay until the Pope’s tore it down to build their own stuff. It was presented as a tragedy and a great loss of human culture. The very next day we got the look at all the cool stuff we made when the Roman’s left all their crap behind. I found it hilarious.

It was all so much. I felt like I was in a hold hoarder’s house. Every pope trying to out do the last pope. Ugh. And then I think the wealth saves the ancient art. You need resources to protect this stuff. But, my goodness, as Burt said last night, “Why don’t they give some of it back?”

The Sistine Chapel was where I made my first brief foray into ditching the family. I was lost to them for 10 minutes. I knew where I was. In the bathroom. They were waiting for me outside the bathroom but I, not knowing they had decided to wait, walked right past them. They did not see me and I did not see them. Next thing I know we’re all in the Sistine Chapel and nobody can speak and an unseen guard is saying (over and over again) Silence. He sounded like the great Oz. I giggled at the irony of the authorities loudly droning silence, silence, no pictures, silence, silence, silence. I found their official reprimands disrupted the party like atmosphere. Meanwhile I couldn’t say,”Hey Burt, where are you?” After 15 minutes of looking for Burt I realized I hadn’t really looked at the ceiling. I found our guide. He told me two people were missing. I said my dad and my husband. That got a meaningful chuckle. Finally Burt and Dad showed up. They spent the allotted 15 minutes waiting for me at the bathroom and couldn’t figure out how I got past them. Oh well. It’s just the Sistine Chapel and 400 murmuring guests surreptitiously taking photos of some sublime art and some bad restoration work.

Lastly we were shown into Saint Peter’s Basilica. It’s immense. That was the over whelming memory. So huge the cheek to jowl nature of the tour evaporated when we suddenly had room to move. One of Michelangelo’s pietas is so small in a side chapel it might have been unnoticed if our guide hadn’t mentioned it. Saint Peter was the first saint. He’s the guy at the pearly gates. Peter is the rock of the church. Piedra means stone in Latin and Spanish. I never put that together. That was a fact I didn’t have to write down to remember.

In summary. If you are a head of state, by all means, visit the Vatican. If you are a peon try November. I hear it’s damp and chilly but the crowds are much thinner and you can do a self guided tour and see what you want to see.

Our tour guide moved the world. He spoke 5 languages.
Our tour guide moved the world. He spoke 5 languages.

 

Tapestry to keep things cozy.
Tapestry to keep things cozy. Hannibal’s elephant top left? Maybe not. That’s the manger of Christ.
Lion that I liked. It kind of resembles a dog.
Lion that I liked. It kind of resembles a dog. Stolen by Romans from Egypt. Stolen by Pope from Romans.
Roman tile work.
Roman tile work.
It all goes by so fast with so many people.
It all goes by so fast with so many people. I have no idea what this is.
So many people
So many people. This was every room.
Does this tickle?
Does this tickle?
IMG_7908
Been there, done that.
IMG_7909
David and Goliath?
I don't know. I just couldn't keep up.
I don’t know. I just couldn’t keep up.
More art
More art
I liked this
I liked this
another Roman floor
another Roman floor
This is famous. It was the good Pope's office.
This is famous. It was the good Pope’s office.
Kind of busy for me.
Kind of busy for me.
Art history class. This scene is always included.
Art history class. This scene is always included.
Really busy office. But no pictures in the Sistine Chapel so you get this.
Really busy office. But no pictures in the Sistine Chapel so you get this.
Just a Rodin they happened to have in a side room.
Just a Rodin they happened to have in a side room.
Mando guy.
Mando guy.
I love her in this painting.
I love her in this painting.
The pieta. Michelangelo in Saint Peter's basilica.
The pieta. Michelangelo in Saint Peter’s basilica.
The dome of Saint Peter's.
The dome of Saint Peter’s.

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Welcome to Rome

Matt welcomes us to Rome. This is the door to our apartment building.
Matt welcomes us to Rome. This is the door to our apartment building.

I never really gave Rome much of a thought before this family trip took shape. I’d heard all about it and its wonders in art history and world history and engineering classes but it never called me to visit. I think all the stories growing up of how dirty and crime ridden it was seeped into my psyche. Our family came from the north. Florence, Milan, and Venice were our towns. Rome, meh. The food wasn’t even our kind of food. Pasta? No. We ate rice. Originally the family planned to visit the Zazzali homeland but one brother said, let’s try someplace new. It was a free trip and I had made up my mind to have no opinions so of course Burt and happily said yes. This being a family trip Burt pretty much followed my mantra of mouth shut, head down.

Let’s get this out of the way here. I’ve never traveled with teenagers. I’ve never raised kids. They pretty much were not interested in anything in Italy but their smart phones. I ignored them. They ignored me. Sadly, I didn’t get to know them better. I inquired a few times about them but their monosyllabic answers implied Go Away. My brother Christian and I had fun. Burt and I had fun. We did stuff. And day one pretty much set the tone. We three were intrepid explorers either together or apart. The rest of the family mostly stayed on the wifi near the pool. Some shopping excursions were made by the distaff members of the team. The entire entourage made two full days together:  1.) A Vatican City tour and the drive to Amalfi  and  2.) a day with both a forced march up Vesuvius (depending on who you ask) and a blistering hot walk around Pompeii where I ‘inadvertently’ wandered off and lost the entire rest of the family for a solid hour. Ahhh…. So with that in mind you will not hear much about the family. We got along mostly.  Everyone did their own things. We shared some meals and some car rides.

Burt and I arrived in Rome around noon. The family was just getting ready to explore. This was the first full day for Christian and his wife and kids. It was day two for dad and Matt. There was a mix up on dates with the accommodations. Christian handled all Italian logistics and I thought he did a great job. So we wound up in Rome a little more time than expected. It all worked out fine because I loved Rome. Sorry, grandma. Sorry bored teenagers and others.

Burt and I arrived raring to go. We thought we only had this one half day free to explore Rome. It was decided we would walk to the coliseum and check out the site. The next day we were all booked for a tour of the Vatican and then the drive to our place on the Amafi coast.  The Coliseum was about a mile and a half from hour first floor Roman apartment in the neighborhood Trasteverde. Trasteverde is a very popular neighborhood for tourists because you can walk to a lot of the most popular destinations. Our place had three bedrooms, wifi, and a large great room. Burt and I slept in the great room. Dad paid the bill so I have no idea what it cost.

The walk was hot. Rome was in a heat wave. Dad was a little sad remembering his visit with mom. I gave him a hug. Riding on family goodwill we arrived at the coliseum quickly with not much whining. Suddenly it was decision time and people were hot and hungry. The group dynamics immediately split into the hard core site seers and the feed me and get me into a comfortable chair contingent. Chris, Burt, and I headed into the coliseum tour with thousands of our new friends. Everybody else headed for the cool shade of Trasteverde and the internet.

I think the guide told us how many millions of people visit the coliseum every year. Internet research says 4.2 million annually. That’s almost 12,000 people a day. We were there with them. My propensity to wander away had not fully manifested and I made it through the first half of the tour with our group. It was worth it but it was an agoraphobic’s nightmare. Perhaps this is why the rest of the family bailed. Protecting their mental health? The guide told us how the coliseum originally had a wooden floor covered in sand. Their were trap doors in the floor and it was so dusty the gladiators and animals could appear as if my magic when they popped up through a trap door. Silicosis killed most people before the sword. Just kidding.

The culture of the gladiators and the sport of watching people kill each other or be eaten by wild animals does not interest me so I heretofore was completely ignorant of the methods of gladiating. Many gladiators were slaves but some were volunteers trying to pay off debts. Some were professionals. They lived in a barracks and had prearranged matches. Sometimes friends fought friends. Imagine living as a warrior in a barracks. Some guys became friends. These bouts would develop into our modern day pro-wrestling where one guy would fake his own death. The authorities and the crowd were not happy about this so they had a guy with a ‘red-hot poker’ going around testing bodies to make sure they were dead. If you were caught faking you were in for a really miserable finale. But here we now have: Beats a poker in the eye. Thanks, Romans. I always wondered who was sticking pokers in people’s eyes.

This tour was just the start of our understanding of how freaking influential Rome was on what we now have as a culture. Not much has changed. After the 45 minutes with the guide we were given sometime to explore the coliseum on our own before heading to the Roman forum for a tour of more ancient Rome.

I was hungry and hot but ready to go. Time to break.

IMG_7821
Cast of characters
IMG_7818
Well, now. There’s a roman bridge.
IMG_7829
Burt, me, Matt
IMG_7865
Who wants to tour the coliseum? Only Chris, Burt, and me. Dad had already been with mom.
IMG_7839
View into ancient Roman ruins near the Forum.
IMG_7841
Man on iPhone sculpture
IMG_7868
It was hot in the coliseum.
IMG_7872
Remains of a horse’s ass.
IMG_7876
There was a sand covered wooden floor here. Arena means sand in Spanish and latin. The English word arena comes from this very place.
IMG_7878
Our tour group heading into the area near the forum.
IMG_7881
I can’t remember this guy’s name. It was all about him.The tour was the seat of ancient Rome.
IMG_7884
This is sort of the Roman Taj Majal. I’d say the real Taj Majal has it beat.
IMG_7885
This is where Cesar was stabbed. Oh, Brutus. This is the senate and is about a mile from the Coliseum.
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest