Last Day in Rome

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Friday morning we spent some time downstairs in the café, watching with some amusement a gang of workmen setting up a stage in front of the church. The Pope is scheduled to come to Trastevere on Sunday, and stages are being set up in our piazza and around the corner outside Santa Maria. A sign with two bicycles appeared to be in the way of where the boss wanted the stage, so after major discussion, the sign was dismantled, the bikes moved (I hope the owners will still find them when they return) and the stage placed to everyone’s satisfaction.

We walked the short distance to the Villa Farnesina, a Renaissance palace with decorations by several artists, notably Raphael and Il Sodoma. We really loved this place.
Raphael’s ceiling paintings of Psyche and Cupid were particularly fun, and the artist hid a few interesting things into the border of fruits and vegetables–check out what Mercury is gesturing to.

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We went across the street to the Corsini Gallery, and wandered through the painting galleries.

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For lunch, we went to Osteria da “Zi” Umberto, in a little piazza off the main streets. There’s a nice terrace, but we’ve learned to eat inside on hot days. Mostly Italian-speaking diners, gruff waiters who all melted when a mom and nonna came in with a baby, and good food. We started with fried zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and anchovies. Larry had Cacio y Pepe, and I had a special of spaghetti con vongole. Both were excellent, though Larry’s was a bit too rich for my taste.

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We wandered around a bit, then went back to the apartment to pack and read. Later in the afternoon, we took the bus up to Santa Maria degli Angeli, built my Michaelangelo into part of the Baths of Diocletian. Amazing to enter through the façade of the ancient baths, and find yourself in a huge church. There’s a small room inside with interesting displays about the construction and successive changes, and Larry loved the Meridian on the floor.

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We went outside to visit the Baths, as our Crypt tickets from yesterday included this site as well. According to the website, the Baths didn’t close for another hour–but the woman at the gate told us we could not come in, because the ticket office was closed. We showed her we already had tickets. “But there’s no one to tear the tickets” she said. And no, she could not. “shrug.” Italy, go figure. Ah well, Rome isn’t going anywhere.

We were meeting Sandra in Monti for dinner, so went over there and got a table at the wine bar La Barrique for some wine and a rest. We met Sandra up the street at L’Asino D’Oro. It was great fun to finally meet in person, as we’ve been corresponding online for years! Excellent meal, we shared an antipasto of a pepper flan with fava puree, I had lamb in a salsa verde, and then we shared a chocolate dessert loaded with ginger.

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We walked down to catch the tram at Piazza Venezia, enjoying seeing the lit up Colosseum and Forum, and people walking enjoying the evening. Good night Roma, we’ll be back.

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Going Under

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For Thursday, I had booked a tour with Context Rome a few weeks ago. “Underground Rome–The Hidden City” sounded appealing not just for the subject matter, but for the potential for some time off the hot streets. And considering the temperature, they bet paid off.We walked over the bridge and caught the bus up the Lungotevere, then walked over to San Lorenzo in Lucena to meet our guide. We first had a brief history lesson,  Katarzyna our guide using maps and illustrations on her pad to good advantage. We went inside the church, and a caretaker unlocked a door in the back. We were led down a stairway, and with Kat explaining the signs of the different layers of structures under the church, remains of Roman houses from the reign of Hadrian including a gorgeous black and white marble floor in a curvilinear pattern. and an apartment complex or insula on top of these remains, which dates from the 3rd century. An early  church was built in turn within the ruins of this.

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From there, we walked over to glimpse remains on the Roman aquaduct that brought water to the city–unfortunately, it was heavily screened and in some process of endlessly interrupted  reconstruction. We walked past the Trev (also under repair, with the water drained and hordes of tourists staring at a chainlink fence) Around a corner and inside a door leading to a cinema, are excavations called La Città dell’Acqua. Remains of a 4th century house, an earlier insula, water pipes, an ancient bathroom, stairways are here, which you can walk over on a raised catwalk. Very cool with good signage and some exhibits of the relics also found on the site.

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Our last stop was the Crypta Balbi., a museum and excavations of the Crypt of Balbus, an annexe of the theatre that Cornelius Balbus had built in 13 BCE. The museum has really worthwhile maps, illustrations and explanations of how the site has changed over the centuries, reflecting the changes in population, use, and building styles. But even more fun, if you’re with a guide you can go outside through the actual excavations, walking through the remains of the theatre, public toilets, and outbuildings. And how cool is it to walk on an ancient Roman floor?

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We thoroughly enjoyed the morning, although we both reflected that more time spent with one of the other women on the tour who loudly oohed and ahhed at everything the guide said would have put us over the edge. And after 3 1/2 hours of walking on stones, up and down high stairways, we were exhausted. Luckily, my map showed a restaurant rec just two blocks away, the simple and busy Enoteca Corsi. Total grandma nad grandpa place, with tables in back of a wine store, lots of Italian diners, and good, traditional food. We shared a plate of vegetable lasagna, just long-cooked vegetables, pasta, and béchamel; and a secondo of roast pork with porcini. A plate of perfect spinach, lots of water, and a glass of wine, and we were very happy.

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We considered some plans for the afternoon, but decided that it was time to recharge our batteries. We took the tram back to the apartment, and enjoyed an afternoon of reading and lazing, watching the goings-on of the Piazza from the chair in front of the window. Larry went out looking for something light for dinner, and was happy to find fresh porchetta at the deli. Leftover tortellini, salad, and slices of porchetta for dinner.

Three Churches, Domus Romane, and OK, It’s Hot in Rome.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Ended the day with gelato from Fior di Luna , coco and chocolate, yum.

 

 

 

Roma

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Our travel plans were formed almost a year ago to take advantage of frequent flyer miles. We wanted the most bang for our miles, so grabbed seats out of New York, flying through Dusseldorf. We drove down to NYC Sunday morning, and left the car for my sister to use. We had packed light, but the gate agent at Air Berlin actually weighed our bags, whoops, a few pounds over.  So what was going to be carry-on had to re checked. All ended well, as our bags actually made it on our flight to Rome. Our landlady had arranged for us to be picked up a FCO, so we were in the apartment by 11 Monday morning. We’re staying in the same apartment in Trastevere we’d rented a few years ago, a quiet, air-conditioned refuge in Piazza S. Egidio.

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We took a walk, picked up some fresh tortellini at the pasta fresca and slices of pizza from La Renella, the forno on via del Moro. Lunch, nap. Later in the afternoon we hit the TIM store, the  grocery store, and what I think of as the Smiling Cheese Guy shop, Antica Caciara on via S. Francesco a Ripa. (they really are sweet in there, and a great selection) We threw together some salad and pasta for dinner, walked out for the first gelato (pistachio and cherry), and slept like logs.

Oh, here’s what’s new since our last stay in Rome–serious recycling. Our apartment has separate bins for paper, glass/plastic, compostable food matter, and “other.” With each bag picked up on a different day. Confused yet?

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Tuesday morning was spent wandering, over the river and following the somewhat frustrating routes in the e-book Walking Tours in Ancient Rome. The book was formatted awkwardly, so no matter what size text you chose, you’d lose the last word or two in almost every sentence. “Look around the south corner for a fantastic…” well, we’ll never know.. We eventually gave up on following the walks, and just enjoyed walking and gawking, reading Wikipedia entries as we went. We spent time in the Pantheon, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, San Ignazio; people-watched in Piazza Navona and the Campo di Fiori. Love the street with shops selling the latest in couture for the well-dressed priest.

 

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Met up with Sharon and Ed at L’Angolo Divino, an enoteca near Campo di Fiori. A good light lunch, fun conversation. We got plates to share, and the winner was a pasta with a Sicilian pesto of almonds, herbs, and tomato.

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Larry wanted to go to the exhibit of Da Vinci’s machines at Piazza della Cancelleria, so we popped in. (tip–the bathroom is before the ticket office, so it’s a good place for a clean pit stop in the Campo di Fiori area.) Interesting to see his inventions created fullsize from his plans, (with explanations in three languages). Walked back home to rest the feet.

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Dinner was at the tiny Le Mani in Pasta. http://www.lemaniinpasta.com/home.htm. It’s good we had called for reservations, as they were turning many people away. We began with an antipasti of grilled vegetables, and then went on to a special past for two, spaghetti with a wonderfully complex sauce based on calamari. I have no idea what else was in it, but it was somehow richly flavored and delicate at the same time. No room for anything else, which was a shame as they also had tuna in a pistachio crust. Ah well. We had a fun conversation with an Italian family next to us about kids, who felt they had to apologize when their angelically behaved young daughter fell apart at 10:30. Hey, kids are kids wherever you are.

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