Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Around Rome and a Concert

What is Roma without the Colosseum?? Here is the necessary pic for any Roma travelogue. It's actually really close to our apartments which is nice!

After touring the Flavian Ampitheatre, we headed to the Palatine Hill, a place I'd never been to. Above is what is left of the octagonal fountain in the public areas of the Domus Augustana, the palace of the Roman emperors.

I don't know who this dude is, but we encountered him in a park on one of our walks around town. Interesting, eh?

We also discovered a Scottish Presbyterian church which had a beautiful coutryward.

Last night we headed to an Anglican church, St. Paul Within the Walls, to hear a concert we'd seen advertised of Faure's Requiem. I'd actually heard this one and it's very beautiful. The choir wasn't superb - they could really benefit from working on their consonants which would be easier if they opened their mouths - but then again, I'm picky about choirs. It was a gorgeous space and I'm glad we went. My only major complaint was the lack of A/C in a church packed with 85 sweating musicians. Ha!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Capitoline Museum

Yesterday, we spent the majority of our day at the Capitoline Museum, which is filled with tremendously cool things having to do with Roman history. I was in utter heaven, as you can imagine. Above is the ancient bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius that originally sat on the Capitoline (where a copy now stands). He's huge!

The Museum incorporated ruins of the foundation of the original Temple of Jupiter into it's building. I couldn't believe this as I thought it was completely destroyed in the fire during the 1st century B.C. Apparently the foundations didn't burn, which makes sense. Very awesome!

The museum also incorporates the ancient Tabularium, where all the records of ancient Rome were kept. This - the huge structure - blew me away!

On top of a classical column, a memorial written in Hebrew. The profs loved this!

A room filled with funerary monuments - some for Jews. I never thought I'd be so fascinated by these inscriptions and pictures but I was! So interesting!

We visited three churches yesterday, which I'd really like to tell you about but, alas, I'm running out of time. More tomorrow!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Santa Maria sopra Minerva is tucked into the Campus Martius (the Field of Mars in antiquity; that area in Rome within the bend of the Tiber, mostly medieval) behind the Pantheon and from its rather bland exterior, one would never guess the treasures within. This is the one and only church in Rome built in the early Middle Ages (8th century) and the only example in the city of Gothic architecture.

There was some cool art within, but also some weird art - winged skulls? I'm not sure I understand that; it was under a tomb/memorial.

There was even a touch of Greek Orthodox with this cool little mosaic. I loved this!

But this is what amazed me: this church is St. Catherine of Siena's resting place. She died here, in Rome, and her chapel within this church incorporates the room in the convent where she died. I've always been drawn to this saint so it was an honor and a privilege to finally see her place of burial, on the high altar.

Just beside the high altar is a statue by Michelangelo, his Jesus, begun in 1520. The drapery, of course, was added later.

Our last stop of the day was the Doria Pamphili Gallery, which was packed full of interesting paintings, most unlabeled. They also had some cool Roman statues (above). This collection is still owned by the Pamphili family and the voice on the audioguide was a prince's who is part of the family. I have no idea why he's a prince, but there you go.

This is not all we did yesterday but there's only so much room here and so much time. We saw two popular sights: the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. We passed by ancient Rome and ducked into several other churches. The day was spent walking....and walking. Rome is exhausting!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Borghese and Northern Roma

I made it safely to Roma, despite a few dire moments, and we had a fabulous first day exploring the Borghese Gallery, gardens, and five churches (looking for artwork!). Wow, did it pay off and in my humble opinion, I earned my paycheck with all that walking!! Above, S. Maria del Popolo, just north of the Piazza del Popolo. This church had some very interesting depictions of women from the Bible and, tucked in a chapel...

was Caravaggio's Crucifixion of St. Peter! Holy Cow! If I had had my guidebook on me, this woulnd't have been a surprise but I was sans guidebook (long story!). It was amazing and just opposite was Caravaggio's Conversion of Saul. Just magnificent!

The two churches in the Piazza del Popolo that frame the Corso - called the twin churches though they are not identical. And, yes, the right one was a filming location in Angels and Demons.

On our walk from the Borghese Gallery to the Piazza del Popolo, a crazy street with crazy traffic!!

One of the beautiful streets in the Borghese gardens. It was just so cool to be amidst all the trees in Roma. I'd never been to this part of the city before and it was great!

The Borghese Gallery, tucked in the gardens, is difficult to get in to, allowing only 200 people in at a time. It was filled with art that really helped my boss. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed. A great two hours were spent here (you're only allowed two hours to go through it all!).

Our first church of the day, perched above the Spanish Steps: Trinita dei Monte. The boss found some great Judith and Holofernes/ David and Goliath paintings. It's amazing what's in this artwork if you really look at it! It's almost overwhelming!

Thus was spent our first day. I can't load enough pics in here to show you all the great stuff. I'm going to try to post pics of the unusual sights of Rome, not just the predictable ones. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reading Roundup

This has been an eventful reading week - well, as eventful as reading can be...

-I finished Eat, Pray, Love over the weekend and was greatly impressed. It's rare to find a motivational book on self-discovery that starts so despondantly, especially one that leaves the reader with a profound sense of hope. This is how Ms. Gilbert left her readers and I'm grateful to her for sharing these very personal experiences with all of us. I would recommend this one to anyone who is searching for happiness through spiritual means. And through the sights, sounds, and tastes of Italy - which can also be spiritual!

-Also finished (finally!) was Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter. I must say this, Greene always surprises me in the end and this one did not disappoint in that regard. It was interesting but this one falls into a solid third after A Burnt-Out Case and The End of the Affair. Next on the Greene list (according to Dr. M) is Brighton Rock. It's has been ordered but will have to wait until after Italy.

-In honor of Italy, I've started Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome by Steven Saylor. Saylor writes the Roma Sub Rosa mystery series of Ancient Rome, which I love, and this is the first book I've read of his without those familiar characters. It's a bit strange to be without them. It's also strange to encounter - for the umpteenth time - the history of Rome, this time told with a few fictional characters thrown in for narration purposes. It's troublesome to my psyche that this history is now a bit boring to me, after studying it for so long...it's like I'm watching the movie of my favorite book and I'm not quite into it.... However, I'm still reading. Saylor has a gift for historical fiction and his knowledge is truly gigantic - his work is always fascinating to read. But I miss Gordianus and his sub rosa adventures...sigh.

I have one book picked out to take to Rome and it's highly relevant for the trip. I'll share it with you later. For now, that's what is on bookshelf.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gilbert's Idea of Italy

In Eat, Pray, Love (EPL), Elizabeth Gilbert, while describing Sicily, finally comes to a realization regarding Italy, which has been conquered, abandoned, re-conquered, suppressed, and conquered again, and it has to do with beauty: "You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight" (115). This is what Italians do and what Americans are, perhaps, too busy to do.

And this is why Gilbert seeks out Italy as her first destination in EPL - she wants to learn how to find pleasure in life. It sounds so much easier than it really is! In our day-to-day lives, when we must hurry to work, hurry home, hurry to make dinner, and end up just plain exhausted, when do we see this elusive beauty? When do we experience it? It is not often that we can just be long enough to absorb a perfect afternoon...to sit, surrounded by flowers, and try to pinpoint each different flower amidst all the smells.

The Italians, in Gilbert's mind, can do this; they can live in the moment. For me, the perfect way to describe their state of mind is the siesta - that wonderful break in the day after lunch. They don't let work get in the way of pleasure. Americans are generally consumed with work. We say we are happy, that this work makes us happy but maybe, just maybe, we have not learned how to experience real pleasure. I don't know, but it's food for thought.

Later, when she leaves Italia, Gilbert writes, "I came to Italy pinched and thin. I did not know yet what I deserved. I still maybe don't fully know what I deserve. But I do know that I have collected myself of late--through the enjoyment of harmless pleasures--into somebody much more intact. The easiest, most fundamentally human way to say it is that I have put on weight. I exist more now that I did four months ago. I will leave Italy noticeably bigger than when I arrived here. And I will leave with the hope that the expansion of one person--the magnification of one life--is indeed an act of worth in this world. Even if that life, just this one time, happens to be nobody's but my own" (115-116).