We do seem to bring the heat waves to Europe. Last June we stepped off the plane in Bologna and the cool wet Spring instantly turned into close to 100 degree sauna time. Last week in Rome was near 80, this week it’s 93-95 all week. We pray to the Goddess of Air Conditioning in Piazza San. Egidio. I’m done talking about the weather, I swear. Actually, it’s really not too bad here, and there has been a light breeze on the hills.
We went on a mosaics crawl this morning, taking the H bus across the river and up the Esquilino. We began with Santa Pudenzia, built in the fourth century and expanded and renovated ever since. The façade is gorgeous, set deeply in a brick courtyard, with faded frescoes and medieval carvings. Inside, the apse has 4th century mosaics, which unfortunately were overly restored. A bit of restoration would be welcome at the back of the church, where the lights are off so you hopefully don’t notice the crumbling plaster and chipped paint. We wanted to see the 11th century frescoes upstairs, but the caretaker said they’re closed. And no, we didn’t want to buy a book showing photos.
A short walk (and one of those terrifying Rome street crossings) took us up to Santa Pressede, an 8th century church with really wonderful mosaics in the apse and a side chapel. Very dim, so we dug out a euro coin for the light box.We learned something this morning–when you see someone portrayed with a square halo, they’re still alive. Hello, Theodora, looking good.
Our last church for the day was Santa Maria Maggiore, which actually had lots of people visiting, in contrast to the two others. And yes folks, the doorkeeper will wrap you in paper shrouds if your shoulders and thighs are bare. Here’s where I regretted not bringing my small binoculars, as it was very difficult to see the apse mosaics or the story of Moses series high along the walls.
We took a bus back down the hill. I had wanted to go to Enoteca Provincia Romana for lunch, which was supposedly somewhere around Trajan’s Forum. We walked from one end to the other, with Larry insisting there was no restaurant there. Finally we spotted it just behind Trajan’s Column. We had a wait until being seated–it’s a popular place. We snagged a great table by a window, and enjoyed a cool glass of wine and shared our pastas. I had large spinach-filled pasta under a boar ragu; Larry had linguini with clams and zucchini. Both excellent.
A short walk away was our next stop, Domus Romane under the Palazzo Valentini. http://www.palazzovalentini.it/ We’d booked our tickets a few weeks ago, there are several English tours a day with limited spaces. A flights of stairs under the Palazzo is a cool maze of rooms and layers featuring pagan and Christian frescoes , mosaics, and artifacts from the third century to the Middle Ages. You begin at the extensive baths, and really gain some understanding of how important bathing was in Roman culture. From there you explore the other living and working areas of what was once two large homes. The recorded tour was a bit over-the-top in places, and my lizard-brain balked at first over stepping onto glass floors over deep excavations. The last part of the tour (where you sit on the worlds most uncomfortable chairs) focuses on the carvings of Trajan’s Column, which we also really enjoyed. They don’t allow photos, but we were able to grab some of Trajan’s Column from a doorway.
Wandered home on the Rome’s Hottest Bus, (after following two priests to cross the street, my new strategy for not dying in Rome) and gulped down water while we considered dinner. Larry went to the butcher and got a few slices of beautiful scallopine, and I made Marcella Hazan’s Vitello Limone and salad for dinner. Oh, to be able to get this quality veal at home at this price!
Ended the day with gelato from Fior di Luna , coco and chocolate, yum.