Sunday, 30 June 2013

Hidden Treasure

Started the day with cornetti from the local bakery then set out to meet family members who are in Rome en route to Tuscany to get married.

 We are a little early so have coffee at Collo Oppio. It is more expensive than the local neighbourhood bars but the coffee is good and the view priceless.
We meet up at the metro & head out to Circo Massimo. Well that is the plan but we are so busy talking that we get on the wrong train & end up in the wrong direction! This doesn’t bode well as we are supposed to know what we are doing!!!
Eventually we reach Circo Massimo & make our way up to the keyhole that is a ‘must see’ for the family. Suitably impressed, we move on to the Orange Garden with another spectacular view. After family photos we each go our different ways. We are going to Testaccio market. We eventually reach here after waiting an hour for a bus. Public transport in the city is great – just don’t believe the timetables!
The old market has been replaced with a brand new building. It is light & airy – we are impressed.

Once in the market we head to Morda Vai for Panini. We know we are at the correct stall by the queues. We choose chicken meatballs in a tomato sauce – delicious.

After shopping for supplies we make our way to the riverside to pick up a bus to take us all the way back to Via Nazionale, a short stroll from the apartment.

We are meeting up with the family again tonight but first we take a look at the Pozzi corridor in the rooms of St Ignazius Loyola. Yet another amazing example of the use of perspective in art and, best of all, free to enter. A hidden treasure in a corner of the city.

We make our way to Campo di Fiori, passing through the delightful Piazza Mattei & the Turtle Fountain. Not so hidden but a treasure all the same.

In the corner of the tiny piazza  is the door to the apartment of Tom Ripley as featured in the film ‘Talented Mr Ripley'. Normally the door is firmly closed, today the door is open. I resist the urge to peep in to check if the staircase is the same as in the film.

We are meeting the family at their hotel & have taken Prosecco along to toast the forthcoming nuptials. We then head out to Trastevere and Da Ivo for pizza. Not only is the pizza delicious but the staff are so good with the little, almost two year old, in our party.

After dinner we take the soon to be newlyweds out to the Trevi fountain – not only to throw in their coins but to drink from the Lover’s Fountain.

We say goodbye & wish them luck.


Raphael and a Rude Frieze

Thursday 27th June

Breakfast this morning is at the delightful Coromandel, where we enjoy scrambled eggs & guanciale.

On our way to the river we pop in to Chiesa Nuova that has paintings by Rubens around the altar. Saint Domitilla, the subject of one of the paintings, is said by my guidebook to be 'truly luscious'! Judge for yourselves.

The fountain outside the church ,which looks like a soup tureen, once stood in Campo di Fiori where the statue of  Gordiano Bruno is now placed.

After crossing the river we reach Villa Farnesina. The approach to the villa is lined with orange & lime trees.

The Villa was built for Agostino Chigi, the Siennese banker to Pope Julius II and patron to Raphael. He gave sumptuous parties at the villa, at the end of which he encouraged his guests to throw the gold & silverware in to the Tiber. Unbeknown to them, nets had been placed in the water so that he could retrieve his treasures!

Once inside the full glory of the decoration designed by Raphael is revealed. The main rooms were designed as a loggia to bring the gardens right in to the house.

The decoration reflects this with garlands of fruit and flowers including sweetcorn which had just arrived from the new world. Some of the pairings of fruit are decidedly suggestive which must have been deliberate!

Whilst Raphael didn't paint  the friezes he did complete 'Galatea' in her scallop shell chariot.

On the ceiling the Chigi coat of arms is quartered with the Della Rovere oak tree, the arms of Pope Julius II. This was a rare honour.

Upstairs is an example of trompe l'oeil in the simulated loggias at the ends of the room. Through the columns are glimpses of Trastevere as it was in the 16th century.
After leaving Villa Farnese we spotted the house of La Fornarina, the baker's daughter who was Raphael's lover.
 We walked back across Ponte Sisto to Campo di Fiori where we picked up slices of pizza bianco at Roscioli. These were enjoyed at Il Vinaietto with a glass of chilled Frascati. If only all lunchtimes were like this!


After lunch we shopped at Norciniera Viola, a shrine to all things cured pork related, and bought guanciale & pancetta.

Back to the apartment to drop shopping & freshen up then out once again. This time we use the little electric buses to take us almost to Ponte Sant'Angelo. Enjoyment of the Bernini angels is slightly marred by the presence of the fake designer handbag sellers.
We continue up Via Conciliazione. Half way up we peer into the courtyard of the Colombus hotel. The well head here is decorated with the Della Rovere oak tree, denoting the fact that it once was Palazzo dei Penitenzieri, home of a Della Rovere cardinal.
 We walk in to St Peter's Square and across to the beautiful Bernini colonnades. Behind the right hand colonnade we find the Fountain of the Four Tiaras.
Before going in to the basilica itself we stop to admire the huge bronze doors. We have passed through these many times but have never realised the detail on them until today. The main doors are by a Florentine goldsmith, Antonio Averlino , known as Filarete, and date back to the 15th century. The panels feature Jesus, Mary, St Peter & St Paul.
Flanking the ancient doors are three modern bronze doors designed by Manzu, whose works we had seen when we visited the Vatican museums.
On the back of the original doors is the 'signature' of Filarete - seven figures joyfully dancing. These are Filarete & his assistants with the tools of their trade in their hands.
Inside the basilica itself and we are drawn as always to the sublime Pieta, created by Michelangelo when he was only 24.
Next to the Pieta is the tomb of John Paul II, who is beatified and will become a full blown saint later this year.
After exploring the basilica we left to take the obligatory photo of the Swiss guard and started to walk to Janiculum Hill.

 This is a favourite walk along Borgo Spirito Santo where we always look for the ruota degli esposti, the wheel on which unwanted babies were placed in to the care of the  hospital of Santa Spirito in Sassia. We have never managed to find it yet &, true to form, we don’t find it today. Unperturbed we carry on upwards, passing the lighthouse on the way.
The lighthouse was a gift from the Italians in Argentina in memory of their country of origin.
Once we reach Piazza Garibaldi we find a suitable spot in which to enjoy our drinks. What a view!

We make our way down into Trastevere & walk through to the number 8 tram. On the way we book a table at Da Ivo for tomorrow night when we are meeting up with family.

The tram takes us all the way to Casaletto where two minutes from the tram stop is the trattoria , Cesare. We have so looked forward to visiting here as all the foodie reviews are amazing. We are not disappointed.

We started by sharing gnocchi fritti & polpette di bollito (shredded veal meatballs)
Mains were grilled lamb & mixed fried fish

We don’t usually order desserts as we prefer to find gelato but who could resist this?

The only problem is that after tasting their gnocchi fritti, Gnocchi Thursdays will never be the same again!
Content, we stroll over to the tram & take it all the way to Piazza Venezia (this extension from Area Sacra is brilliant for us. The end of the line now connects with the 117)

We don’t want this evening to end so we walk to Campidoglio to view the Forum by night.




Thursday, 27 June 2013

Ancient Baths and a Modern Tragedy

Wednesday 26th June

Started the day as always with strong espresso on the terrace, watching the swallows swooping over the terracotta rooftops and listening to the church bells.

Then out for breakfast to our local café, Er Baretto for cappuccino & cornetti. Today we have a different pattern.
We are revisiting the Baths of Caracalla this morning as part of the labyrinth of underground tunnels have been opened up to visitors. The baths were the second largest in Ancient Rome, holding 1600 people at one time, and the remains give an idea of the grandeur of the buildings with glorious mosaic floors and marble decoration.

We also witnessed a novel way to control the seagull population that must be a menace to ancient monuments - a resident hawk with his handler!
The tunnels that run underneath the baths were built to accommodate the waggons filled with wood that were necessary to keep the fires fuelled that heated the baths above. Today they are used to display treasures from the baths in an imaginative way.

Once more out in the sunshine, we pick up the 118 bus to take us on to the Appia Antica. Somehow we seem to find ourselves travelling this ancient Roman road every time we visit the city.
We alighted at Porta San Sebastiano and took a quick look at the Aurelian walls before walking up Appia Antica itself.

The church of Domine Quo Vadis is built on the spot where St Peter is said to have met Jesus whilst fleeing from Rome. It contains a replica of the stone said to be marked with the footsteps of Christ.
Shortly after the church the road forks and we take the Via Ardeatine. After a less than safe walk uphill we reach the memorial to the victims of the Fosse Ardeatine massacre. During WWII the Nazis slaughtered 335 innocent people in the caves here as revenge for a partisan attack.
The memorial is  beautifully peaceful , which makes it all the harder to envisage the atrocity that took place here. As well as the statue itself you can see the caves and the tombs, each with a picture of the victim.

We head off in the direction of the bus stop where we meet the delightful  Patti & Jamie, mother & daughter from Nevada. They are looking to hire bikes so we walk with them to the Antica Bar where we are going to stop for lunch & cycles are for hire.
Refreshed, we take a quick look inside the tomb of Cecilia Metella (included with the Caracalla Baths ticket) and also at the ruined church of St Nicholas opposite, which houses an unusual modern Pieta.

The bus drops us off at the metro station just as a storm breaks overhead. Hope Patti & Jamie managed to finish the bike ride in time.
Back to the apartment where the new router has arrived for WiFi - no more excuses for not keeping up with the blog!
5.30 finds us in the Gesu church, awaiting the daily ritual of the unveiling of the statue of St Ignatius of Loyola. This takes place to the sound of soaring choral music & readings whilst a painting is lowered to reveal the statue.

The tomb itself is surmounted by what was thought to be the largest piece of Lapis Lazuli in the world but is actually concrete coated in the mineral.
 Next stop the Area Sacra to check out the cats.
Then back to the apartment to prepare for dinner on the terrace.