Special note: due to mysterious reasons for not being able to update this web log, I sluffed off a bit. Might try to backfill later.
RR 2 June 10
Special Award -- to Rome's Fiumicino Airport - its main airport. You might want to return a rental car there sometime. It happens. OK, how many signs "Rental Car Return", or equivalent in English (or in Italian - or in any language!) are to be found anywhere in or around Fiumicino Airport. Zero, null, none, nada, nichts. There is not one! Congratulations FCO!! I think we need to send over the boys.
RR 26 May 10
Exploration of the area, including Ostuni (for lunch) and the sea-side town of Villanova for the photo-op (with Villanova cap). " Fun" with the van in the narrow streets in the centro storico of Ostuni! Enough of that, park and have lunch at Ristorante Ostuni Vecchio. No fish on the main menu ("Disappointed!!" - Kevin Klein).
RR 25 May 10
Accompany our latter guest to Termini for train trip back north, and to pick up the car for the week in Puglia in a "Trullo" (look it up). A diesel VW Passat was requested; we get a giant Fiat van. Plenty of room, but what are we going to do on the small back roads in Puglia? The trip even back to the apartment is an adventure, with the gps lady wanting to take us back around Termini - no, no! Eventually we bolt, and find our familiar way thru the Porta Maggiore - not even exciting by now . Pack up and gps our way out of Rome. Trip is smooth. We skirt the north of Naples where Cassino is (and see Monte Cassino up on the hill), then cross the central spine of mountains/hills, but I am worrying about arriving at our trullo. The gps coordinates provided were unparsable (messed up!), and the correct location (there is only a street address) I inferred from google maps along with a special web app. But the smaller roads in Puglia look like frost fingers on a window and the task is to exactly match the two images of roads to find the correct coordinates. Close in to our goal we encounter narrow(!) rock fence-sided one-lane local roads. Incredibly, the roads narrow the closer we approach the goal. We sweat the sight of any oncoming car - we'd have to back up this barge. But the gps lady does good. "Antiche Dimore Relax and Tradizione" is right here! Nice welcome by Vincenzo and Antonella. A short walk of the two hectares (look it up) property. The land in this area of Puglia is naturally stone-filled, hence the fences. The recently turned fields are deep brown and the soil proves crumbly. Olive trees everywhere, some surely hundreds of years old. The air is exceptionally clear and there are distant views in every direction from our hilly location, even better with a climb to the flat roof section of our 3-domed trullo. The stone trullo is cool to enter. It is appointed in the local traditional style but completely modernized. With the goodie package and stuff brought from Rome (including several wines, cheese, and a stunningly good olive oil - which we later find we can order to be sent home!) there is no chance of starving, much less a need to go out for dinner. The local olive oil on the local potato bread is dinner enough - along with the local wine, a Primitivo in an unlabelled reusable bottle - no sulfites!. Early to bed, we begin to yield to the diurnal cycle.
RR 24 May 10
Monday - The Caravaggios and Trastevere. Walk from the Scuderie del Quirinale (stables of the Quirinal Palace) to the Victor Emmanual monument (the wedding cake). Take the 8 tram to Trastevere to scout a restaurant for lunch. My target restaurant not found we settle for "good food, terrible service." It's spoken by a waiter as we pass Da Othello in Trestevere. We back up. Francesco, from Sardinia, serves us "romantically." We have political discussion - 'no "you-know-who".' It's cool inside, food is pretty good and Francesco should be collecting entertainment tax - but who collects taxes in Italy anyway?
RR 23 May 10
Church at the Oratorio. Off to the restaurant found yesterday, Da Pietro al Pantheon. The Jewish-style artichokes are fabulous as is the bacala' (I'm told). Walk to the Coloseo. It's hot and I go with the latter guest to the Capitoline hill. We see the church of St. Gregory, then the Church of Sts. Paul & Gregory. After a refreshing caffe', walk to San Clemente and check out all the levels. All to the gelateria.
RR 22 May 10
Museum of the Owls at Villa Torlonia with lunch outside the Limonaia, the Villa's former orangerie. Spanish steps, Trevi, Church of Sant'Ignazio with its trompe d'oiel dome at the , the Pantheon with the Croatian (?) singers. Mass is going on, so one of us finds the restaurant of a patient in the US. Crowd pushes to get into the Pantheon. It is very crowded inside and because of the continued press of incoming crowd, it takes a very long time to get out. We are in a press of bodies, and disaster would be only one fall away.
RR 21 May 10
Another visitor to join the crowd, arriving in the late afternoon. On tap: Visit to the Borghese Gallery at 11am to see 'my' Berninis, and dinner with R at his place at 7pm. Menu in R's hands, we bring the wine. Adventure on the 80 express to R's place. We inadvertently get the 80 L. Only on of with a gps phone saves the day. Dinner is splendid in R's new apartment. Earlier we visit the Piazza del Popolo and have lunch in a tourist restaurant. As expected, it's "not bad." It IS hard to get a bad meal in Rome - maybe in all Italy.
RR 20 May 10
Pick up the 'ultimate' visitors at airport. The tour bus from Trastevere station (scusi, Stazione Trastevere), which can give a nice 'tour' of Rome on the way to our neighborhood is very crowded today. The visitors are not deterred; they are in good shape, and ready to 'cannonball' into their vacation. After a stop at the apartment and much talk, we head out for a lunch. Based on the desire to have fish and scan the Colosium, we do Papagio' again. On arrival - of course - mutual greetings with the waitstaff. A fine fish-centric lunch with a Mueller-Thurgau from the Alto Adige/Trentino area of North Italy. We walk to the Basilica of San Clemente and go back in time, descending from the 12C church to the 4C church and further on to the Mithraic temple below it all. This time we read a lot more of the posted signs.
RR 19 May 10
We return to the Vatican Post with our packages taped, but obviously sporting the specified string. (Could you hold together a paper-covered string-bound old box w/out tape? And says not the holy book - "not with string alone...does man" ... do that?) At the P/O we encounter the same postal worker and bravely present our two packages as if not mortal sinners of tape, which is out of his direct view, on the sides and bottom of the package. He weighs the packages. It looks like we'll get away with our sin. Then he sees ... the tape! "Ahh ... tape.". What now? Is all lost? Must we solve the unfathomable mystery of the no-tape-only-string commandment? After what seems a too-long pause, he takes out his Swiss Army knife, slices through one piece of tape on each parcel, and says with a look of accomplishment, "We just make one side free." Yay! We got rid of our stuff!! Back at the apt., we notice that in our celebration, we have neglected to get a receipt for the postal charge of 35 euros. Clearly, Poste Vaticane is a matter of faith, my children. And there is payment for sin - at least on this earth.
RR 18 May 10
Packing up and getting rid of stuff, since we leave shortly. Learning that Poste Vaticane is more reliable than the Poste Italiane (who would have thought?), we sally forth to the Vatican post office at St. Peter's Square (scusi, Piazza San Pietro). A long room shared with sales of trinkets, and over near the post office windows a table of dinning room size where grown ups sit like kids working on their projects - filling out their postcards. There is no line at the window, so no time to think much about our questions which we pose in Italian. The patient postal clerk answers in English. We find out how much it might cost per kilo, then looking very serious, he warns about packaging: "...string, yes, but no tape..." How can this be? A mystery.
RR 17 May 10
Wander about near the Palatine/Circo Massimo area, scout out the Baths of Caracalla. Although it is 6pm and the hours of the B/C are till 6:30, it is closed. Probably because it has been raining a bit? We will never know - a mystery like the closed Baths of Diocletian on Museum Night two days ago. Heading back, we climb the gentle hill east of the Palatine, passing the 12C church of St. Gregory the Great and onward to the church of Sts. Giovane and Paulo, built over an earlier church, in turn over a Roman house. Dinner at Ristorante Papagio, near the Coloseo.
RR 16 May 10
Visit to our local Mailboxes, Etc., to see about sending some stuff - otherwise we can not leave the moon for our return to earth (qv. "Destination Moon", George Pal, 1950). We're told 100 euros for 20kg - not bad at all, almost too cheap.
RR 15 May 10
A day of information work and a "Night at the Museum." All Rome's museums (scusi, musei) are open form 8pm to 2am tonight. A nice brochure details the special events at each museum - how civilized! We choose "Museo Nazionale alle Terme Diocleziano" - the Baths of Diocletian, where there will be operatic duos. Early dinner and off to the Terme D., braving a steady rain. The Baths are just at the Termini main station (scusi, Stazione Termini), a ten minute 38-bus ride away from the apt. Homework was to check Google Maps street view to making sure how the Baths are laid out (part of it is now the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri). Find the main gate - closed. Slosh around to the other gates - closed. Circumnavigate the whole complex - closed. This can't be. Loop around again - closed. Check out the main building of the Museo Nazionale across the street - closed. And we are wet, time to go home. It's all a mystery. We are not amused.
RR 14 May 10
Visit to our local Mailboxes, Etc., to see about sending off some stuff - otherwise we can not leave the moon for our return to earth (qv. "Destination Moon", George Pal, 1950). We're told 100 euros for 20kg - not bad at all, almost too cheap.
RR 13 May 10
Monte Porzio Catone - astronomy and lunch
RR 12 May 10
Vatican post office re packaging. Dinner in Trastevere (Trippo alla Romana..)
RR 11 May 10
Visitor departs, no problems with ash.
RR 10 May 10
Trip to Anzio, only an hour by train from Rome for fish lunch with a Temple Rome professor of art and media. We find Anzio now a fine resort town complete with remnants of a great Nero seaside villa. But it's meaning for American lives can't be forgotten. In fact, the sacrifice of lives is clearly remembered by the locals.
RR 9 May 10
With visitor at the Borghese Gallery. Attempted the flea market.
RR 8 May 10
Grandkids and other grandparents fly back home. Trip with Temple Rome prof. to hilltop archeological site and museum therefrom - with lunch and great view. Apres archeology at the Contessa's birthday party.
RR 7 May 10
Readying the grandkids to return to the US. Dinner in the "Limonaia" (orangery) of the Villa Torlonia. Visitor arrives at FCO for short stay.
RR 6 May 10
Finishing information tasks and awaiting the return of the grandkids and other grandparents. After only a brief time lost in Rome, they find their way to the car rental office and then home. Stories of Switzerland. Rest. Dinner at the former orangerie in Villa Torlonia.
RR 5 May 10
Good weather. Dull inside work.
RR 4 May 10
A nice day out. Day consumed by preparing to send off youths and cleaning up "information" work.
Wind repor: Capsula Viola 2009, a white from Tuscany, an "Indicazione Geografica Tipica," bottled in Firenze, at E5.45. Very pleasant (VPDW - very pleasant drinking wine).
RR 29 Apr - 3 May 10
29 Apr: A beautiful day starts early, as our visitor has a 7AM flight out of FCO. At 10AM, we pick up our rental car and off to Salzburg with the youths. Granddaughter to participate in an Irish dance competition (Feis) representing an Italian group - in Austria. Since we are only four, the choice was a Fiat Panda. Later realize the next class vehicle, a diesel, would actually be cheaper given the miles (scusi - kilometers) we will put on it, and the advantage of diesel fuel vs. gas (1.25 vs 1.45 euros per LITER). And, we are traveling through mountains, meaning much more shifting. Oh well.
The trip begins with a refreshing exit from Rome via the Porta Maggiore, but this time the traffic is subdued and we are glad. Flat-ish going up the A1 to Bologna, then crossing the Appenines (not Lunar) to reach Firenze traversing some 30 tunnels and innumerable curves. Views of the mountains are nice - for the riders. The youths are mightily impressed by the mountains. We explain that this route is chosen for them, so as not to have them totally reduced to blubbering on later beholding the Swiss Alps. Above Firenze, we catch the A22 towards Trentino (Trent) and the Brenner Pass into the Eastern Kingdom (Oesterreich/Austria).
Via the Trentino visitors' website, a room for all four of us awaits in Sdruzzina', just south of Trentino, at the agritur "al Picchio" (the woodpecker). The thumbnail pix only hinted at what it might really be like, although it is 3-stars. It is in fact a former farmhouse/winery beautifully converted to an agriturismo establishment of some dozen rooms, which continues to produce and sell its wine, along with its honey and apples. Although the standards of accommodation and meals are high, it is informal and friendly. A glass of the local chardonnay (very pleasent, NOT like fat or overbearing like its California namesake) before dinner, bit of rest, then a dinner based on local produce. The pesto gnocchi makes an indelible impression. Even our fussy eater is enthusiastic.
30 Apr: Weather is fine. Good-bye to "al Picchio", with a couple bottles of the local wine, and on to Salzburg via the Brenner Pass into Austria. The province of Trento recognizes German as well as Italian, and all the road signs are in both languages. Very impressive fortifications/castles are seen frequently on both sides of the valley traversed by the A22 main road north. The route chosen passes thru a short stretch of Germany before 'exiting' into Austria near Salzburg. We chose lunch in Germany, stopping in the postcard village of Kierfersfelden. It is April 30th, and the grade school is celebrating "May". The girls and ladies are in traditional dirndl dresses. Quite tempting goodies are being brought to school by the families to fuel the celebration. We take it all in, then spot our lunch site, an inviting little patch of outdoor tables in front of a traditional inn. But they are closing. On the way out of town we spot an open supermarket (we could buy up what we need), then, even better, a bakery! Entering, we see pastries, ready-made sandwiches, pretzels and more. Heaven. For under 13 euros we've got a delightful lunch. Continuing, we pass by the Chiemsee, a beautiful lake southeast of Munich. Sailboats are out. Brings up the thought - "what would you do with a large supply of money?" We arrive at Salzburg. After Rome, it seems quite provincial and small, although it does have Mozart.
1 May: Highlight is the Feis, or Irish dance fest. Our charge is understandably nervous, but handling herself well. It's a challenge - she has only limited experience with the Italian coach, and the environment is completely foreign. Entered in four dance categories, she wins a second place in one. Well done! We celebrate with a dinner in the old city.
2 May: Leave Salzburg with only ourselves. The charges have been transferred to their other g'parents to go on to Switzerland, returning to Rome on 6 May. Lunch in Germany again, in Oberaudorf. The village is having some kind of May celebration. We follow the detour and find a charming inn with outdoor tables. Stop! Local food! The acohol-free weissbier is also tasty. Around six pm, we stop at the al Picchio in Sdruzzina' again. Unfortunately, on Sunday they don't offer dinner. We find a nice place in nearby Avio. The waitress speaks English, having come to Italy from Honduras to help her relatives who own the hotel. As we're eating, a sweet-faced older lady pops out from the kitchen door to ask if all is ok. "It is." She: "We're glad." Not the best food, but a fine atmosphere.
3 May: Day starts damp with lingering low clouds. Return to Rome. The tolls and gas are noticed. It's not cheap to travel by car in Italy. How can these people drive at 140-160 km/hr at the cost of fuel? It comes to about $8/gallon. Thanks to the gps, we find the Hertz garage despite the warren of one-way streets. Finally, the vehicle is 'home' with no damage. Nice, since it had only 7km on it when we left. This time, there is no crazy person with a pistol in the garage.
R 28 Apr 10
Another chance to stare at the Bernini sculptures at the Borghese Gallery with our visitor and friend flying in. The BG is not large, but approaches neutron star density with sculpture, painting and mosaics. The Bernini's are movements of a great classical symphony of sculpture, and nothing like them will ever be done again. All are duly impressed.
RR 27 Apr 10
Sprinkles but comfortable temps. Enjoyed the Vatican Museum again with our visitor, this time absorbing perhaps another 5% of the stuff - there is a truly staggering amount of it. In fact, in the last visit, there was a whole art gallery and an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts that was missed. The Sistine Chapel is last on the tour of course, and remarkable. Very amusing: the "Shhhhhhhhh!!" heard every so often over the PA system. I'm sure I could automate that! Unlike our first (guided) visit, our exit took some 15 minutes, wending through several souvenir shops before emerging into the light of day. And the highlight of the day: another swell dinner at Trattoria da Emilio. Emilio couldn't be any more helpful, even proposing suggestions for our youngest and fussy eater. Will have to check his place against some suggested eateries in South Philly.
Wine repor: Vino Biancho della Casa, 27 April 2010, by Emilio. Right ok!
RR 26 Apr 10
Beautiful day, about 68F. Enjoyed the Palatine Hill and the Forum with our visitor. Then lunch at a friendly little restaurant not far from the Coloseo. Meeting up with the rest of the group to tour San Clemente. It has a great website [check it out], but briefly it's a layer cake: 12C church over a 4C church over a 1C mithraic temple. All excavations supported by the Irish Dominicans (with considerable US and some Italian help), and on-going since mid-nineteenth century.
Wine repor: A Mueller Thurgau 2009 Indicazione Geografica Tipica, by Santa Margherita. At E5.15, frizzante, tasty and comparable to a prosecco. Vignetti delle Dolomiti, and not bad at all.
RR 25 Apr 10
A beautiful day, stopping at the Trevi Fountain on the way to church at the Oratory, La Caravita, and the prosecco fellowship afterwards. Then with the visitor to the Pantheon, now also a church (well, it is Rome). Then a little shopping, a quick caffe' and home for a nice breakfast. Late afternoon visit to the Villa Torlonia. Tickets are free as it is Culture Week (10? days of it) in Rome. Another look at the Casina delle Civette (Little House of the Owls) with its Art Nouveau stained glass and woodwork, then a tour of the Villa itself, the Casino Nobile. Building and photos at the Rome Comune site.
Wine repor: Another brave descent below E2 (how bad can it be?). A white, ex trebbiano grapes, from Umbria. E1.70, and easily drinkable. Not a joke wine at all; you'd like it. Maybe a taste-testing of under E2.00 wines is in order (well, the New York Times does stuff like that).
RR 24 Apr 10
A visit to the Piazza del Popolo and the Tridentine area - marked by the three avenues radiating out from the obelisk at its center. Take advantage of the weekly/monthly ticket on the local transit system (ATAC) by using the miniature electric buses. Especially nice, because it is showering. Cruise down the via del Corso to the Victor Emmanuel monument, then loop around to come back up the east radiating avenue where the Spanish Steps are. They are already dressed up in azaleas and look striking. Then back to the Trieste area to see the fourth century church of Santa Constanza, now only a little gem remaining of a major basilica. Step inside -it is a cylinder with an inner circle of columns. Between columns and outer wall is a barrel vault covered with mosaics of ingenious geometry and figures both sacred and profane. Also, some bits of frescoes, which may have been added later. A circle of windows above and a dome featuring many figures, of old vintage. A serene space. On the same property is the neighboring church of Sant'Agnese, containing the crypt of St. Agnes, buried in 304. Renewed over the years, and has an impressive twelfth-century mosaic of Agnes and two popes, in the dome behind the alter. St. Agnes' remains a very active parish today.
RR 23 Apr 10
Showers. A Vatican visit. Crowds are growing as spring emerges. Umbrella vendors popping up like pansies. Try to sell you one even if you have one. No wonder, if you bought one from them before, they're sure to be a piece of junk already. Where's the EU standard for umbrellas?! Must work with grandson on new umbrella design, say, with magnesium and carbon fiber - the Swiss Army Umbrella.
RR 22 Apr 10
The RGP are accompanied to an auto rental office cleverly selected to provide the easiest route out of town (as they will not have the benefit of First Officer Eileen navigating Rome's mess of one-way streets and the Porta Maggiore). It is a also a short walk from there to a train station on the local network, which can be used to shoot out to the airport to pick up our next visitor. Google has been tapped to provide a local map to guide the walk. The map gives some pause, as it seems that the train station and accompanying Metro station lie within some fearsome spaghetti (yes, it is Italian) junction. Moreover, on arriving it is seen that the whole area is under major construction. There are no signs to lead a driver or pedestrian to the station; I follow someone with a rollybag. After passage thru a very long chute of a temporary walkway, the station finally appears. But not before a few natives have asked me where the station is. A small lcd screen indicates the near departure of a train to Fiumicino Airport (scusi, Aeroporto Fiumicino) on track (scusi, binario) 1. Being an experienced Trenitalia traveler, I get my ticket from a machine. Off to binario uno. It's by itself, distinct from the other twenty four tracks 2-25). Just have to wait for the train. Waiting. Darn, almost forgot to cancel the ticket in the yellow machine. There are no yellow machines at track one (a mere oversight of Trenitalia). I rush down to the loooong corridor connecting the other tracks. Considering the time, there is no chance to go to the nearest other track and find (maybe) a working canceling machine. Back to track 1. I scribble my own cancellation on the ticket for future arguing with the conductor, and start working on the explanation. "Non ce sono le macchine annulare al binario uno" -- or something like that. Announcement .... "Fiumicino....origina...binario uno.......binario seidici (16)". Uh-oh, train is not arriving on 1, but 16, and not much time. Rush to track 16. The sign isn't saying Fiumicino. I get on and ask "Fiumicio?" "Si." But I don't like the discordance, so I get off to wait for the next train, and in fact that train didn't go to the airport. Next train is signed as on track 2. Very few on this train, but there is some time before it should leave. Eventually, a conductor comes by and asks in Italian where are you going. "Fiumicino." No contra-indication from him. Eventually another conductor hollers into the car that the next train for Fiumicino is on binario venticinque - that's track 25 and nicely situated all the way across the terminal. Rush to 25. No need, it's in ritardo 15 minutes according to the display. After another 15 minutes, it arrives. Arrive at Fiumicino half-hour late, just a few minutes after the visitor's plane lands.
Trenitalia venting, Part II. Should you arrive at Fiumicino, it is likely you will want to go to ... Rome! There are actually two train options. One is the Leonardo Express to the main Termini station; the second is the regular network train that stops at all the other Rome stations but not the main station, and it goes further on to the suburbs - which are the only destinations posted on the terminal's departure board. You might want to get this train instead of the Leonardo Express. For one thing, the LE has four steep steps and a narrow entry door to its cars, for another, the regular train is half the price and takes almost the same time - about half an hour to get into Rome, and it has an easy wide door with a low step - ideal for what visitors have - baggage! But you would need to know that the regular train makes stops in Rome. How do we inform the customers of this? We could put "Rome" in parentheses on the departure board along with the final suburban destination. We could at least have a sign with the route stops on it. We could - but we don't. We did, but because of construction, the sign was removed. This was to make sure no one could know the secret way into Rome.
Last weekend, when picking up the arriving RGP the place was a zoo, as many came to Rome to fly out of Europe as a result of the Iceland volcano shutting down most of the more northerly airports. Thus, a great number of people were jamming themselves onto the Leonardo Express, while the local train chugged away with few customers. Moreover, the lines for the ticket windows were jammed, as were the ticket machines, with there overly-complicated menus. Meanwhile, one could go to the tabacchi shop right there and simply buy a ticket, no waiting.
Wine repor: A red, Sagrantino di Montefalco 2004, by Martinelli, a DOC&G (DOC & guaranteed), and E12. I should really like this red, but it seems that during my stay in Rome quaffability is winning over complexity. Or, maybe just an excuse for being cheap.
RR 21 Apr 10
Much trip planning by the reinforcement grandparents (hereinafter RGP). They claim important objectives for tomorrow's trip, but it is suspected they have found their task too difficult and are running away. We go along with the charade. The day's highlight is a visit to our local trattoria. The spaghetti (yes, it is Italian) with cozze e vongole (mussels and clams - no shells) in a red sauce is mighty tasty, and could be habit-forming. They also had that delicious Vino Rosso Della Casa, not seen in any store (think Steve Martin). Fortunately, a new guest arrives tomorrow (with some luck), providing the opportunity to return soon.
RR 20 Apr 10
Visit to Pompeii. The House of Vetti was a target for me, with its amazing paintings. It was closed, but the Pompeii travel and tour is always interesting. BTW, there is significant google street view of Pompeii. Take a virtual visit.
RR 19 Apr 10
A heavy tourist day in perfect weather. First, the Vatican and then the Borghese Gallery. Another chance to marvel at the Bernini sculptures.
RR 18 Apr 10
The reinforcement set of grandparents arrived. An attempt at a visit to the Vatican was mounted, but sleepiness crept in. It was a quiet day.
RR 17 Apr 10
I'll have to look this up. Was there a 17th?
RR 16 Apr 10
Continued moderate temperatures around 68F (quite nice!). Some information work, interrupted by trip to the Automobile Club d'Italia to try to get an "Internaitonal Driving Permit." Essentially an official translation of your US or non-Italian license. Now supposedly required by Italy. Web says ACI can provide it. Web is wrong. We will therefore change the sign and proceed as in addition. Maybe there's a way to get one from the US, post facto? Naaahh.
Wine repor: Costa di Nugola 2009, Rosata Toscana (Tuscan Rose - you remember her from WWII), by Frescobaldi, Florence, about E5.50. Convinced that rosati are better when not too cool. At low temperatures, like just out of the fridge, they have little taste, unlike whites which display immediate character. But, you warm 'em up a bit and they surprise you. Then you drink 'em.
RR 15 Apr 10
Partly sunny and temp around 67F. Mostly information work. Also two hours figuring our utility bills, not quite an arm and a leg I expected. A kWh here is 28 eurocents, or about 35 us cents. It's almost cheaper to bring batteries. All out for a sumptuous dinner at "il Limonaia" on the Villa Torlonia park/grounds. It's the former orangerie of the Villa. A large, open structure that's inviting to families. Pizza was the tastiest of any so far in Rome. It's observed that the Italians begin cleaning up and painting in the spring (even painting in the rain). Trees are almost in full bloom everywhere. Very nice!
Wine repor: A Cuvee Pinot (Veneto) 2008, white, a mix of pinot bianco and pinto grigio (white/grey) bottled by Santa Margherita at Fossalta di Portogruaro. At E4.08, crisp and a bit fruity. Might buy it again. Nice with fish, etc. Molto ok.
RR 14 Apr 10
Another assault planned for Monte Mario, where the old Rome Observatory, now a museum is located. I've seen a "Monte Mario" bus, but according to the local transport company, ATAC, our old 88 bus goes as close as we can get. Thence by foot up the Monte. As we are establishing our base camp, I realize the map has been forgotten. After a half hour of trying to guess what little street leads off up the Monte, we decide it is better to have pizza. It is now discovered that the youths have not carried their monthly transit passes. I propose we walk back to the apartment (even though we have no map). It is cloudy with no sun for reference. After a half hour of dead-reckoning we recognize our starting point (again). It is time to buy transit tickets, head back to the apartment and have some pizza, followed by gelato. On the way back, for only the second time I've been in Rome, the transit guys come on the bus to check. We're good!
RR 13 Apr 10
Information work and a visit to the Villa Torlonia grounds. The grounds are now nearing full bloom in this even-tempered spring. Must be the influence of the Mediterranean.
Wine repor: A Verduzzo, no vintage, by Maschio, from the Veneto region. Very pale white, frizzante. Like a more polite vinho verde (e.g., Casal Garcia). At E3, pretty good.
RR 12 Apr 10
A quiet day of information work. Found out that a suspect was arrested in the "murder across the way" in Venice. No info found on the incident at the garage on our return day.
RR 8-11 Apr 10
Special repor: Viaggio a Venezia.
8 Apr: Weather is perfect. About 10AM, bus to Stazione Termini to pick up car for trip to Venice. On the way by bus, I see myself in the traffic with all those motorbikes, flowing like a stream around rocks - and shudder. Hoping the gps finally gets a signal - how are we going to manage the maze of one-way streets to leave Rome (even though the main road out is only a couple kilometers away)? But we have the google route map as a backup. With contract in hand, and of course having declined all the insurances, we search for the parking garage. The car awaits, key in, trunk open, alarm sounding. Of course. How does it work? There's the manual. A "Punto" model manual, the car is a Bravo. Bravo. Study the instrument panel. Since we're not flying, it doesn't matter; let's go. Into the Rome traffic. First officer Eileen does superb job of navigation. Glad I didn't know I had to negotiate il Porto Maggiore. Check it out on google street view to appreciate. But with Tram/Bus #3 experience it is done. A24 to A1 to Firenze to Bologna to Venice. Just drive right up. BTW, the view is very fine, and spring is coming... many hilltop towns, many tunnels around Bologna. To the parking garage at Tronchetto, just a 100 meters from there to Venice proper, arrivng around 6PM. Do you know how to get from there to your B&B in the Santa Croce area, to Corte della Cazza? No! Unless you carefully researched the internet. You get the requisite number of 72 hour tickets and start from Vaporetto #1 (bus-boat, hereinafter "vapo", with British accent) to the first stop Piazzale Roma, then switch to #2 for two stops to Riva de Biasio. Then, cleverly using your Venice map (very serenly), you find your B&B, about 200m away. Success! Check in. What? No actual passports? Only copies? Well...ok. Three nights, but only the first in two rooms. Two nights for five in one room, with discount. (Maybe bigger discount for zero rooms?). But we work it out. Settle in, thence to dinner. Nice place, probably three out of five Venetian lions, and accommodating (Italy). At some point the waiter comes with a plate of grilled melanzane and peppers, ad lib. Dinner is pleasant, and only a minor fortune
9 Apr: Weather is perfect. We have the 72-hour tickets, let's go to Murano, of glass fame. Maybe a kilometer from Venice proper, it's low key, and lots of evidence of continued creativity in its glass products (which are remarkable). Along a canal in the centro area we stroll and some items are traded for coin of the realm(s). Then lunch at a south Philly-like lunch place - but nice gnocchi, and back to the big island (ha). A rest for some, shopping for others. Regroup at Piazza San Marco around 5PM. Lots of tourist groups. The area is much larger than I expect; San Marco faces a large piazza. At the finer hotels/restaurants, classical groups play Bach and Vivaldi. You admit it's a nice environment, despite yourself. A E6 espresso brings us back to reality. Marge wants to go to Lido, the outermost island. It sounds like a nice dinner destination, and about a mile away by vapo. On the way, we see Venice's park area - got to visit. Lido is completely different from Venice: modern; with cars; some wide streets, and a number of canals, too. Walk across it to the beach, then walking back, find a nice dinner choice. Great calamari! And with Verdicchio FateBataglia 2009 to accompany. Return by vapo #1 right to our stop, thence to bed.
10 Apr: Weather is... More vapo-yachting to see Venice (we noticed a number of tourists at the bow or stern sitting outside and enjoying the yachting, too). Visit the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery with its great collection of modern art. Picasso, Kandinsky, Miro, Pollack, Magritte, Leger, Tanguy, and that supergoofy and great Francis Picabia work "Very Rare Picture on the Earth." Stared a long time at Magritte's "Realm or (Dominion) of Light"; check it out thinking Spring - you can smell the honey-suckle. Returned to Piazza San Marco, enjoyed gelotti and found the line to the church short. Inside: the whole upper half of this edifice, the private chapel of the Doge until the 1820's, is covered in mosaic, with notes of Byzantium. The walls are of marble of all types. The floors are pieced, patterned marble. The word sumptuous is insufficient to describe the building. The outside is as decorated as the interior. All this in a building dedicated in the ninth century, and added to over the centuries. If you want to feel the economic power wielded by Venice, see the interior of San Marco. See it soon; the stresses of Venice's sinking are evident in the building's exterior. Also, note the extraordinary tower clock nearby. Dinner was taken at "Joe's", our term for the recommended restaurant by our B&B owner. Could have been an ordinary place in South (that's "Sou") Philly. Cheap, and worth it.
11 Apr: Weather leaving is ... Waking, we all discuss last night's noises that sounded like a burgler alarm. Then breakfast and after paying and exchange of mutual sincere good wishes, we leave.
[Crime repor: Immediately outside the door we see chalk circles around some red blotches on the ground. More chalk circles. At the little square 50m away, we see caribinieri speaking with other tourists with baggage (evidently leaving their lodgings). More red splotches are seen circled by chalk. We find more splotches not noted by chalk ourselves as we walk to the Grand Canal vapo station. What's this about?*]
Back to Tronchetto and the car and depart Venice. A number of hours later (about 6), and after a brief detour to Ovieto (Classico), we arrive in Rome at our parking garage to return the car. Clean out the car. The contract and key is returned to the depository - which is a slot for the paperwork and a round hole for the keys. I find three keys in the key depository hole that I can reach [want a car?], deposit them with my key and paperwork in the paperwork slot. Of course, I should tell Hertz - but will they listen? Of course not. Out group of five to the elevators to descend from the 7th floor to the ground. Somehow we get divided on two elevators. On arrival, I am met by a garage employee speaking to me. Huh - does he need a ticket or something? "Pericola. Uomo con il pistola"; this is not good. He ushers us outside. We regroup in the midst of a score of local municipal police. We check the Rome news about a pistol-bearing guy in the "parcheggio", but have not found anything yet. Film at eleven.
* We check the web. The incident in Venice' Santa Croce neighborhood (across the street from our B&B!) has made the national news. A Sri Lankan national was stabbed twice in the abdomen and died of his wounds. Maybe this explains the alarm sounds we heard. Death in Venice.
So, the title could be: "Mr. McGoo goes to Venice and Returns the Car." Do guardian angels exist?
RR 7 Apr10
Fine weather, a relatively quiet day. A few engaged in fruitless search for "that handbag store near whatsis."
RR 6 Apr10
Perfect weather, and off to Pompeii. Bus to Stazione Termini, train to Napoli Centrale taking about two and a half hours, then a local Cicumvesuviana light train to Pompei Scavi, about twenty-five minutes. First, a light, early lunch across from the main gate, then about three and a half hours in the excavated city, about a mile and a half by a quarter mile in size. Pompeii suffered an earthquake decades before Vesuvius covered it in ash, but what remains is by archeological standards very well preserved. It is not too hard at Pompeii to imagine it in its full glory, thanks for the rows upon rows of columns, building decorations, outdoor as well as copious indoor frescoes, marble-faced house items like pools, alters and thresholds, etc. The frescoes are stunning, many still vivid. All this in a complete town from the first century AD. It contains arguably the finest remaining Roman bath. The all of its rooms have delightful frescoes, and the bath itself is intact in its original marble. Just outside of Pompeii's walls is an amphitheater and palestra. The finest frescoes are held in the Naples Archeological Museum. A visit to Pompeii can take you back two thousand years, and this is quite remarkable. However, you have to wonder about the exposure of all this treasure to the vagaries of weather, and today's hordes of visitors. The weather wear and tear by itself must be multiplied by a thousand compared to the centuries under the volcanic pumice. In many buildings you traipse right over the ancient mosaic floors; nothing keeps visitors from touching everything (e.g., frescoes). So, hurry over to see it.
Traffic repor: I forgot to provide this insight into traffic in Naples. This intersection has seven (7) streets coming together in front of the Naples Central train station (the piazza of which is completely torn up). Returning from Pompeii, we were enjoying this mess at rush hour. Before this video, a guy reversed back across the traffic, doing a K-turn. We applauded; wish we had our Olympic judging signs (it was 9.7!). Here's just a tame sample:
Piazza Insana, Naples.
RR 5 Apr10
Information work, a quiet day.
RR 4 Apr10
A rainy and chilly Easter. Warmed considerably by dinner prepared for us, with lecture/demonstration, by R., whose professional background included a stint at Le Bec Fin. Starters/appetizers included a delightful frittata, a leek/potato tureen, sauteed, served with balsamic reduction over greens base , a pasta course of homemade ravioli with cheese filling, followed by guinea fowl with pear/leak sauce, and dessert - a mascarpone creation de R. Accompanied by 'some' wines. A celebration of the food culture of Italy and the broader Mediterranean. And fun.
Wine repor: Starting with prosecco Carpene' Malvolit, produced at Conegliano. Labeled V.S.Q.P.R.D. (and PDG at E5). Whites from Sued Tirol/Alto Adige included Mueller-Thurgau 2009 DOC and Sauvignon 2008 DOC, both by H. Lun, each about E8, tasty and quaffable. Eased into red with a Brunello di Montalcino 2003 DOCG by Alessandro III. At E18, did not disappoint. Much discussion of wines at dinner. Film at 11.
RR 3 Apr10
Fine weather. Various outings. Market in the AM. Leonardo exhibit of "Big Machine" models at the chancellery building near Campo dei Fiori. Many were interactive, allowing youths to operate them. Probably not an exaggeration to say that Leonard was among the most creative individuals who ever lived. The trip involved a long ride on the 116 electric minibus that snakes thru some of the narrowest streets (?) in Rome. Ours gave out within walking distance of our goal. Somebody forgot to plug it in?! The exhibit was followed by a youth-initiated cake-in-the-park event at the Borghese Gardens.
RR 2 Apr10
Nice weather, local walks, repose.
RR 1 Apr10
Excellent weather for a visit to Rome's ancient port of Ostia Antica. OA was Rome's first colony, eventually becoming an international trading center with good from Egypt (grains), India (jewels), and even China (silks). Tamil sailors used the monsoon / non-monsoon winds for return travel from the east coast of India and Sri Lanka all the way to Rome through the ancient Suez Canal (!), taking about 3 1/2 months for the trip. At Ostia you can see the remains of the "corporazioni", the shipping companies that facilitated this mutual trade. Gold went the other way, first coming into Rome from Spain and Dacia. Decline started when Spain's gold began to peter out. Paying the 300,000 legionnaires securing the border and fighting distant wars proved impossible when the remaining gold was leaving the country for luxury items. (Does this sound familiar?). Today's walk of about ten miles rivaled the thirteen mile walk around Rome's walls. Ouch.
RR 31 Mar10
Fine day today, sunny about 65F. Visitors out of the apt early to Vatican Museum, the joined for visit to the Borghese Galleries. Just as amazing as last time, especially Bernini's sculpture Apollo & Daphne. If you could only see one art item in Rome, this would be it. After a lunch stop, they are off to the stained glass museum "Casino de Civette" of the Villa Torlonia. Dinner at Trattoria da Emilio. Not fancy, a Roman menu, friendly staff and very satisfying food. Starter prosciutto and melon. The table hosted gnocchi al ragu', cozze alla marinara, beef, chicken, roasted potatoes, and more. Had a taste of someone's sorbetto al limone e prosecco, memorable.
Wine repor: A red, Rubato 2008 by Feudi di San Gregorio,. From the Campania region, crafted from Aglianico grapes. Accompanied dinner at Emilio's, probably about eight euros in the market. Well-balanced and worthy of revisiting. Added to the dinner's pleasantness.
RR 30 Mar10
Clouds and threat of rain, temp around 63F. Visitors off doing tourist things at the Vatican, report doing it from top to bottom (except below the catacombs, which is also possible). We do 'information work'. Challenge of dinner includes how to 'invent' gravy for a turkey roast. Results quite satisfactory. Other issues include purchase of battery for watch. Would be almost cheaper to buy a new watch, except that watches cost more here than at home. So buy the battery, already.
Wine repor: Again the question - if you pay 2x do you get 2x worth of wonderfulness? Thus, we have 2 whites: Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2008, D.O.C. Garantia at E4.90 and, in this corner, Colomba Plantino 2008 at by Duca di Salaparuta at E8.15 out of Sicily. The Vernaccia just disappeared, with no impediments, and certainly would be my summer wine - it was reserved, tasty and refreshing. The Colomba seemed to carry too much baggage, or tried to do too much. It's complexity was recognized, but wasn't able to leverage to greatness. Seeing a pattern here.
RR 29 Mar10
Perfect weather. Visitors off to Coliseum and Forum. All day affair. Working at 'home'.
Wine repor: A Grumello (Valtellina Superiore) 2006 from Vendemmia by Nino Negri. 90% nebbiolo grapes and 10% "other local grapes." Hmm. At E9.90, not outstanding. There seems to be a pattern: paying twice as much doesn't change much, tastewise - or, maybe just used to the bottom of the barrel.
RR 28 Mar10
Blue sky, perfect day. Some headed for church, which today included a short procession from Piazza Sant'Ignazio - on a quite small street which is yet traveled by cars (and tourists). As a friend says, "we were the entertainment." The usual prosecco reception followed. Then a panini lunch with capuccino, afterwards joined by the rest of the household for a true tourist day. The triple tour was negotiated: Trevi, Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Heading to the Pantheon and passing by a twice-frequented ristorante, was spotted by the maitre d'. A conversation in Italian ensued, which included a wish for a nice day and a kind invitation to return for lunch. One might think this merely a self-serving initiative. But no, this is Italy, you are charmed. At P'za Navona, plans were made to plant a large number of trees, as it is seriously shade-challenged. Possible historical objections were acknowledged. A longish walk ended the tour (now quadruple) at the P'za del Popolo.
Wine repor: A Rosso Montalcino 2008, D.O.C., by Fattoria dei Barbi, of the Colombini family busy in agriculture since 1332. At E10.50, nice, but no surprises. Would be interesting to compare with a more modest Montalcino. Maybe sometime.
RR 27 Mar10
Another pretty good day around 68. Visitors synching in to the time. Off to the Alessandria Market for cheese, olives, pesto, salami, bread, veggies (that should do it). What - here's a bottle of Verdicchio at E4.60 - haven't tried a verdicchio here yet. Off to see one of the youths do Irish dancing - right here in Italy. Some off to the Colliseum - on their own. You can do that with relatives.
Wine repor: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, a Denominazione di Origine by Collemagno. bottled at Ripe San Ginesio. It went very well with the tuna*, done nicely by one of the visitors. Little olive oil, salt, pepper. Super. The Pinot di Pinot bubbly was a nice surprise, at under E5. Very dry and refreshing - very Italian.
* Finally got the courage to try the fish store on Alessandria.
RR 26 Mar10
Nice, about 68 today. Big visitor day. Picked up one at the airport, forgot others who managed to get here anyway (even though we secretly were trying to avoid them). Seems there was this confusion about leaving date and arriving date - funny how that works! With all those visitors, we have a double wine repor.
Wine repor1: Alghero 2008, s rose from Sardegna, and a D.O.C. by Sella & Mosca. Liked this wine, nice and crisp. Why is it thatt we "like" rose's [that's an accent, not a plural!] and whites, but we can "love" reds.
Wine report2: So we sampled the Villa Ronche Primavigna 2002 , an Indicazione Geografica Tipica di Venezia Giulia, a robust red made in small quantities. Grapes are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, bottled at Cordignano. Very different from, say, an Australian blend - not like candy. Not so refined as a French one, oui. If you want candy, buy candy. If you want elegance, buy French (but prepare to pay - likewise for American). So, the Villa Ronche wins the appelation "not bad." It completely fits the Italian style - drinkable, and also with a nice finish. Where's that bistecca - perfectly done - to complement?
RR 25 Mar10
Completely clear and quite warm in the sun. Visit with youths to the Criminology Museum by the Tiber. Big draw - the articles of torture. Also various weapons, some (in)famous and some quite nasty, plus kudos to the good work of the law. After recovering, an attempt at a random bus ride. We scored the 116, a mini-electric bus. It said it went to the Gianicolo Hill terminal - whatever that was. What is was, was: a terminal under the Gianicolo Hill. Ride over, we followed a crowd (curious) down the sloped pedestrian tunnels (semi-forever), popping out at St. Peter's. And no border checks. Still haven't found out the meaning of the crowds of youths (some dancing) and military from all over Italy (all not dancing). Evidently a parade. TBD.
RR 24 Mar10
Nice day, mid-60's. Taking what's become almost the daily walk to the Villa Torlonia grounds. Lot of people out in the gardens: kids playing soccer; birthday parties at La Limonaia that occupies the former Villa Orangerie. The outside tables of the Limonaia were respectably filled, with several connected to accommodate what seemed like a company group outing. As the weather becomes warmer, the place would seem a winner. With the youths, browsed the little science store inside the "Technotown" science and technology outreach center. Then having walked the length and breadth of the grounds, it was felt ok to continue to the gelateria (again). There is lobbying for a visit to the Criminology Museum and a random bus ride tomorrow. Why not.
RR 23 Mar10
No rain, despite forecast. Walked to Villa Torlonia area and took the 90 electric bus to Porta Pia where viale Nomentana threads the Aurelian Wall. Admired same and walked back downhill to Regina Margherita and our favorite pizza joint. No style points, but crisp crust and imaginative toppings. A working-person's place. Tuck in, and tuck in. No doors, so that's easy. Then to the favorite gelateria. Succumbed to the licorice flavor after holding out while the youths fressed theirs down. Not a big day, but nice. Prof'essa is arranging a dinner in for next week. Seems one of the profs did chef time at a top Philly restaurant.
Wine repor: It's wine-limbo. How low can you go and still feel it's worth drinking? The project needs a new category beyond "not bad" - it's "really, not too awfully bad." We're talking a E1.69 Montepulicano d'Abruzzo. You would drink this wine. Maybe not a lot, but it could be somebody's house wine. Maybe it's time to stop scrapping the bottom of the wine barrel. Anyway, the dollar is up, so why not?
RR 22 Mar10
Warming up nicely, around high-ish sixties. Command performance at Prof'essa's class: science and technology of Leonardo in the context of the Renaissance. Also explored the question about whether science/technology started in the Renaissance or re-started. Arguments: Archimedes now understood to have progressed to what we now call Calculus; Aristarchus propounded the "Copernican" theory and computed the immensity of the universe; the Antikythera Mechanism. Historians would have bet a lot that it could not have existed, but a century ago it was brought ashore, encrusted, by divers. It is an anolog computer of the sky built using bronze precision gearing. It dates from around 150BC, likely from Syracusa, following a design by Hipparchos! Check it out; google 'the Antikythera Mechanism Project' (Walters Gallery, Baltimore, William Noel, project director). What else don't we know?
Wine repor: Should have finished the Barbera, but the temperature was just right for a white. My cellar yielded a Grechetto from Umbria, producer Falesco. At E3.26 (or even more) very pleasant indeed. It's a Denominazione Geografica Protteta - or, "don't go saying your wine is from here". (I hadn't even considered it). Went nicely with the mozzarella from the Alessandria market. This Umbria stuff is right OK.
Warm today. Off to the Oratory for 11AM mass. However, a problem - La Maratona Roma. The bus taking us to the Oratory stops short, our first hint that something is up. We walk on through the crowds no problem, but cutting across the marathon path is. (No, no signore!) But we eventually arrive, in time. More mass and (prosecco) fellowship. Returning is harder, since the bulk of the runners continue for miles (scusi, km). Walk all the way to up to the Piazza del Popolo to get our bus, which never comes. We seek another route and return home.
Wine repor: Still working on the Barbera. As usual, it's better on subsequent days.
A nice day, and quiet. Youths off to Piazza del Popolo to look for gifts.
Nice weather continues. All went to the Casino delle Civette (owls, named for a window in the building) at the Villa Torlonia to admire the eclectic building with art nouveau features, including stained glass throughout. Originally a Swiss rustic conception in 1839, was remade 190x-ish into an fine example of Liberty style, as art nouveau was known in Italy. All in the building is high craft, and in some rooms the woodwork reminds of Rennie MackIntosh's Glasgow School of Art, built at the same time. Wherever the eye fell, there was an interesting feature to be admired. The craft density in the building was remarkable, but the feeling was not of too much. Like the Gaudi-built and other buildings in Barcelona, it seems like jewelry on a large scale. It was quite recently renovated as part of on-going work at the Villa Torlonia.
Wine repor: Heeding the advice of the vintage fellow of 13 March, it's Barbara d'Asti 2008 by Terrdavino (maybe a relation?) from Vendemmia. Not bad at E4.49, but to be visited sparingly. Maybe little rough for my (refined) taste.
Sunny and about 60 (cooler than the US East Coast). Leisurely stroll to the Villa Torlonia grounds where youths worked on sketches while the big people walked the grounds. The park is very well used, more that I recall at parks at home. Found that the caffe'/focaceria is open with a buffet in the evening. It is in the Villino Medioevavle building, newly restored, along with "Technotown", an initiative to bring technology to children and families. The charming theater on the grounds is in final stages of renovation. With its graceful greenhouse it will be quite the venue. According to the website above, the interior of the Casino Nobile, the main building is quite sumptuous. Maybe a target for tomorrow.
Working at 'home' and an afternoon taking youths to the Villa Torlonia grounds once again. It's so pleasant ordering caffe' there that you don't mind the advanced cost. Behind the Villa is a shallow pool and an obelisk. Opportunity for the young latin scholar at the base of the needle. There are several cartouches, so the obelisk must be telling an interesting story. Explained to these wet-behind-the-ears youths that the cartouche is the oval enclosing a royal name. However, when a lateen-rigged sailboat was also noted, I was informed that it indicated direction - depending on whether the sail was shown deployed or not. Smarty pants. As the temperature is rising, the charm of Rome is blooming, too.
Wine repor: Finally - a Chianti D.O.C. by Luigi Cecchi and Sons "produced in Tuscany amongst the hills the Chianti region" - well, yes. Goes on to talk of its "fruity aroma and balanced palate." Tastes quintessentially Italian, whatever the wine bilge says, and in the vanguard of pleasantness. Also says it's good with salumi; I need to get some right now.
St. Patty's Day beer repor: McFarland, made in the old country and found on the supermarket shelves. Slainte' mhath! Another smarty pants input.
Another quite ok day, and a church day, it turned out. Youths visit the exhibit of Leonardo's Inventions in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo (which also contains two Caravaggios). Some inventions can be operated by the visitors. Is Leonardo to engineering as Galileo is to natural science? In the evening all out to the church of Sant'Agnese, a small venue, for a performance of Mozart's Requiem. Per the program: "Soli, Coro e Orchestra della Cappella Musicale Costantina, dir. Paolo De Matthaeis." The acoustics are excellent, and the performance is really, really good - especially since unexpected. It's easy to imagine Mozart completing, say, the Kyrie, and thinking "take that!!" The ensemble is associated with Sant'Agnese and Santa Costanza churches co-located, both built in the fourth century. Maestro De Matthaeis began with an introduction to the piece, which had something to do with masons (but then, Italians do a lot of stonework). Italians are very social; they like to speak. After five minutes, the Maestro gave up on the microphone which was cutting out, and continued for another fifteen - though it seemed c_o_n_s_d_e_r_a_b_l_y longer (a lot of stonework). Perhaps just building up suspense. I was suspended; you would have liked it.
Sunny and nice. Awoke early to accompany visitors to the main train station. The "Leonardo Express" to the airport is not on its usual track, but the announcement of the change is only in Italian. We are not tricked. In the afternoon, explore the grounds of the Villa Torlonia, former property of Mussolini and now a park with theater, villa, stained glass museum (an eclectic, fanciful house) and caffe'/foccacieria. Also ponds and an obelisk. Another two degrees and the caffe'/f. is partronized. A problem with cafes - the wonderful coffee aroma wafting from all of them. They are sparkling clean with bariste in snappy uniforms. How are we supposed to visit them all? In front of VT the #90 articulated buses run unusually quietly. They are trolley-buses (PHL: trackless trolley), with batteries providing ten km of off line running. A bit disconcerting to first see them running around the main train station where there were no wires.
Yet another sunny day. Walk to church at the basilica of Sant'Agnese fuori i muri (outside the walls). It dates from the fourth century, but has been revised many times. It has a catacomb and is next to Santa Constanza (to be explored). After lunch a stroll in the Borghese Gardens. It's almost warm enough and the trees are beginning to bloom, especially those pinky ones(?). The view from the Pincio Hill is enjoyed by our visitors, who are also impressed by the park's water clock. The clock is a marvel of 1869 ... engineering? It limps along trying to keep time, but its pendulum can't seem to make up for the water's careless sloshing into the two cups that drive it. A euro says the inventor never studied the ancient clepsydrae.
Sunny about 57. Off with visitors to the Querinal Hill. At top is an intersection featuring the Four Fountains, flowing since the 1630's. Then along the Querinal Palace buildings towards the scuderie (stables) where the famed Caravaggio exhibit is mounted. On the way, almost as an aside (lit.), we stop in Sant'Andrea al Querinale. It was a chapel built for the Jesuit novitiate, so it is small. But the Querinal Palace opposite had been a summer residence of the popes, so this chapel is also exquisite - naturally, since Bernini was the architect. You'll recognize it by its "aedicular pedimented frame at the center of which a semicircular porch with two Ionic columns [which] marks the main entrance," according to the informative wikipedia article - check out the inside. Since the Caravaggio line is five times longer than expected, we proceed to explore the neighborhood, heading down the hill and along Trajan's and Augustus's old market area. Lots of downed pillars, arches and ragged walls of that slim Roman brick. The few columns standing are attached by an iron strap to a three-story wall that appears little more stable. A friendly local fellow of some vintage asks in English if we have understood a wall inscription referring to the Order of Malta. Before long the conversation turns to the 'best' wines of various regions, and hints on the accompanying foods - thus passing the "Italian" litmus test. We search out San Pietro in Vincoli (chains) church for Michelangelo's statue of Moses. It's nearby, but the charming alleys dotted with tiny ristoranti are not on the map. Not only is the sculpture smaller than we expect, but Moses resembles a certain Charlton Heston.
A sunny start degenerated (again) to coolish rain and wind. Ventured out again with our visitors to the Vatican area to admire St. Peter's and the rain. After considering how to navigate to the Capitoline Museum, and suffering from exposure, we beat a path back to our apartment for some hot lunch. On the way 'rescued' a Minnesota couple temporarily stranded by a sudden subway strike. "Follow us, and when we get off this tram, you get the #38 to get yourself to the main train station". Due to the strike the tram was packed and got even 'packter' as it proceeded. Moreover, in the cold, the windows became frosted making it getting off at the right stop the luck of the draw. After 10 "scusi"s and 15 "con premesso"s we popped off at the right time and place. Such are the adventures of a Roman holiday. The Capitoline will wait for another day. Dinner at a pizza restaurant, with wine and nice discussion. Youths working on a screen play, I think. Could be interesting. They are doing more Italian, too, after watching Italian DVDs.
The day failed to warm up properly and the umbrella vendors had a field day. Nevertheless, an expedition to the famous sites with our visitors more than compensated. Am slowly learning the Rome transit system, adding to the basic half-dozen familiar routes. Finally had a chance to see what happens at the Pantheon when it rains. It does rain inside - what were they thinking? A Trevi Fountain stop followed by a drying out at a familiar tavola calda with hot caffe'. Then passing Trajan's column of spiral history and ducking into the Galleria Alberto Sordi to check out the venerable stained glass-covered mall. All fell victim to an attractive book store therein. Allowances were spent, and some more besides. It is interesting to watch Italians interact with deference and politeness. An extended family comes to mind. Yesterday on the bus not all was sweetness and light; two riders in a long back-and-forth about who was not being sufficiently polite. An extended family...
Adventure on public transport to reach the American Academy in Rome and catch a lecture by a Temple Rome prof. The AAR is a magnificent building in a tony area just south of the Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo). Finally arrive for the last ten minutes of the talk, which is in Italian. All too short. On the way back stop at Castroni, a food specialty shop to get some spices for dinner and re-stock peanut butter. Made in Italy, no sugar, and delicious. Also tasty, the liquorice fish (due etti of them).
Wine repor: Primitivo Puglia again. Not bad, again. Still due euro.
Rain and "cold". All went to the Borghese Galleries on the grounds of the Villa Borghese. The art collection in the Borghese Galleries is to the art in Rome as the quaintness of the Cotswolds is to that of the rest of England: distilled and emblematic. The BG is really staggering. A day could be devoted just to the sculptures of Bernini. Admiring his "Apollo and Daphne", in which Daphne is turning into a tree as we watch, unexpectedly produces chills like a Mozart opera. It is outrageous. Twelve stars. And after all the sculpture, there is the picture (painting) gallery by the masters (yes, including Caravaggio). In addition to the art pieces, the whole building is sumptuous and filled with Roman-era art including mosaics. Memorable by contrast is the cafeteria. A nice venue with a low vaulted ceiling. Since visitors are admitted every two hours, and with an hour and a half to go, we give it a try. More tasty would have been to eat the money. Arriving 'home' thinking of a warm and relaxing dinner, to discover that the Temple Rome faculty art exhibit (and dinner afterwards to which we and our guests are invited ) is...this evening! Just enough time, but back out into the nasty weather. The exhibit, talking with the art faculty and the dinner more than make up for it. Taste of Italian chardonnay, not oak-y like California ones. Good. Late to bed.
Picked up guests at airport. A not too strenuous first day. Walk to the market at Piazza Alessandria, and check out the Villa Torlonia. Later have a supermarket adventure. Had to buy a second bottle of the Primitivo Puglia. A quiet evening and crash. Having to fight off a youth to do the log. Just because of a deadline to apply for an advanced high school. Humpf.
Sunny and warm. Surmounted great obstacles to reach the 11AM mass at the Oratorio of San Fransicso Saviero, where a small group of visitors and expats comprise the "parish". It is the oratio of the next-door church of Sant'Ignazio. A certain W. A. Mozart performed as a youth in this oratorio, already old by then. Weather called for a walk, and headed for the Villa Ada grounds. Dogs were having a fine time there. People seemed happy, too. On the way a surprise (Spring).
Wine repor: A local wine, Cesanese from Lazio, by Terre dei Pallavicini. At E3.99, ok, but after the Primitivo, not the same bargain. But it is wine.
A slow day. (Relatively) early off to the market for food and more flowers. One of us is still responding by reflex in German. Maybe a half-dozen words in Italian can make the shopping a success, but crash-and-burn is fun, too. By now the nice gentleman and lady at the cheese/olive/deli stall know me and I get a friendly greeting. Their pesto is to die for (or, at least be seriously wounded for). The olives, too. Later, Irish dancing for one youth, a bit of walking for the other. Watching Hollywood videos in Italian for language practice.
Wine repor: Re-examining the Primitivo. Still a fine bargain. Seems like the wines are actually better on the second day. It's that special staleness, no doubt.
A mostly inside day, rain outside and lower temperatures.
Wine repor: Yet another Primitivo, 2009 this time from Puglia, by Antonini Ceresa. Label reminds me that primitivo is also called zinfandel. It's tasty, and checking the receipt (twice), only E2.00. A very good deal. Accompanies "carni e formaggi" or whatever you have.
Rainy and cooler. Off to the di Chiricho exhibit at the Borghese Gardens. Free again. Lots of viola playing today, and starts made on youths' projects.
Wine repor: Pinot Grigio 2008 (Trentino D.O.C.), producer Mezzacorona which vinifies its own PG grapes, grown in the foothills of the Dolomites, Valle dell'Adige. To my taste, it has all the good flavors of PG, and just a hint of fruit. At E5.58, it's a good deal.
More touring today. A guided tour of the Coliseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. The forecasted sprinkles do not materialize, temperature reaches 64F and mostly sunny. A great day for this outside tour. The Romans are to be congratulated on the size of their hills - not to little, so you still get a fine view atop, and not so big, providing a gentle ascent. Once again we old/young Europeans get in free. This is really a great benefit because we can return often to study the Forum in greater depth. A Forum highlight today was the cylindrical temple of Romulus (not the Rome-founder), which our surprised guide said she has never seen open to the public. Dating from the 4th C., its massive bronze doors are original, still work, and have the original key. We enter through the doors (you have to tap on them). The temple is a gem, of modest size with sarcophagi and remains of frescoes. We have late lunch outside, on one of the narrow streets leading to Pantheon. Yes, it is a tourist place, but the waiter and staff are pleasant and helpful, and the food was more than ok. They also had this really great wine, called Vino della Casa. I'll ask for it in the wine store.
Weather is great. Thanks to visitors, behaving like tourists. A guided tour of the Vatican. Fr. Guido Sarducci is nowhere to be seen. But the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's are deeply impressing. The guide does a great job and helps penetrate the haze of the vast collections, works of Raphael, Michelangelo and others. There is the claim that the Sistine Chapel art is designed to show Judaism as the pre-cursor of Christianity, and as such teach tolerance - interesting. It is quite amazing to imagine Michelangeo on his back for four years doing that ceiling. Your job: find out his age when he did this! The youths are struck by the size of St. Peter's; I am impressed by its great state of maintenance and cleanliness. Certainly not the last visit. After the strenuous day, returned to Ca' Devinney for nourishment, then to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona. A visit to the Pantheon at night is recommended (in addition to a daytime visit), because the lighting helps emphasize many aspects of the building, especially the dome interior. Bring x-ray eyes to see the fountain at Piazza Navona; it is being worked on and surrounded by a wooden fence (with some windows). And of course, the Trevi Fountain is a study in excess, at once completely silly and beautiful. We finish with pizza at Baffetto's, a fixture of Rome. It is very acceptable and the atmosphere is fun, tho' I have yet to find Pizza Margherita that compares with Fiorello's in New York. More research is needed.
Visitors from outer (Italy) space. Dinner at a fine restaurant in the old Appian Way. Fish on the menu was welcome after some weeks of meat. The fish was very nicely done. We chose a nice white from the Lazio area (Frascati). The restaurant must have parts that go back to the time of Christ, since it is an a old building along the Old Appian Way. On the other hand, the guests taking us there arrived at Ciampino airport at Rome. Ciampino was established in 1916, and is one of the oldest in the world. A certain symmetry?
On a geo-chaching trip and visit to the Circo Massimo, and neighborhood of Aventino, including the church of St. Sabino. After we walked the aria, we found these charming churches. Didn't go inside. To be remedied. Afterward, saw views of the interior in the Rome guides - spectacular. A fine place to visit later. We found the geocache in the Fonatana di Trevere, too.
Spring returns. Mostly a shopping puttering day, including yard work (the apartment includes a small one). Stocking up at the market, including flowers to fill the planters. One youth off to Irish dancing (yes, in Rome), the other to less effortful pursuits. It's been noticed that there is Blockbuster in Italy, actually around the corner. It was an experience to do the membership thing and rent a couple DVDs in Italian.
Wine Repor: A Guardiolo (D.O.C.) made with "Aglianico" grapes entirely (I guess that's good), bottled by Guardiense, from Vendemmia. A decent red at E3.50, approaching "not bad".
Not quite spring today, but pretty pleasant. A visit to a hill town about thirty km from Rome that happens to have an observatory. Arrival, coffee and discussion of topics of common interest. A nice lunch in the hill town itself, some sun showing itself. Afterwards a look at the ancient ruins discovered on the observatory grounds. It was work, but somebody has to do it. Others off to see the Coliseum lit up at night, instead have a transit adventure, fun anyway.
Wine Repor: At lunch a small taste of Chardonnay from about 50 km south of Rome. Not 'big' like California ones, just pleasant (again).
Continuing a darn close approximation of spring. Nicely over 60F and clear, it was a walk in the park (actually Villa Borghese) today. At its southern end is the view of the Piazza del Popolo and onwards to San Pietro. It had a modest crowd of locals and tourists. The locals' attire included some quite well-dressed couples and individuals, just what you see on the street. After paying for a couple hot dogs and a Fanta, we decided that we'll pack lunches! Bussing back to the apartment, we got off early and walked down via Nizza and stopped by the "elite" to grab some things for dinner. Flowers are beginning to appear in flower boxes, and I saw a tree with large, red flowers. It looked fake. We aim to plant this week, too.
Miscellaneous: the 'post no bills' signs here cite the number of the decree forbidding the posting of bills. I'm sure that helps.
Wine Repor: A Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi by Moncaro, Denominzione di Origine Controlatta. From 'the Marches' (Italian: Marche region). A heavier and almost bite-y white with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Still, in the easy-drinking category of Italian wines. I might like it a bit crisper - have to try more to find out. Still, at E3.81, definitely 'not bad'.
Spring continues, aaah. We all went to visit the studio of a Temple Rome artist, down by the main strain station. He works in many media. A lot of his recent work is about Venice and its uncertain future. It's remarkable work in glass, metals, print and other media. As usual, his space was cheap long ago, then dealers move in and the area gets noticed (sound familiar)? Afterwards, on the way to a caffe' at a newly refurbished part of Stazione Termini, he pointed out the Temple of Minerva, the first Church by Bernini and a still-standing portion of an ancient aqueduct (sometimes you just don't 'see' what you see). The caffe' was a great venue. I noticed he asked for a 'scuro' capuccinno, with a little more caffe'. Must try it. His 'best coffee'? Illy, no argument.
Wine Report: Tura' delle Venezie ("Indicazione Geografica Tipica"), a vino frizzante, produced by Lamberti. Like a rose' prosecco, which is not a bad thing. The bottler is in Pastrengo, near Verona, and the wine is thus rather two-gentlemanly. The wine bilge (back label) says it's young and sparkly, and goes well with darn near everything (they could think of) and even (scusi) "ottimo anche come apertivo." Anyway it is refreshing and delightful - maybe those are in fact the main points of Italian wines along with not-too-expensive. This one a mere E2.99. As Justin Wilson used to say, "the best wine?...the one I happen to have right here."
As the weather is warming, a white, Verdicchio is next. Meanwhile, http://www.verdicchiowine.it/eng/default.htm. Amen.
It was spring today, good bit of sun and 61 degrees, and the trend looks good. A friend flying in stopped by the apartment and we visited some nearby old (4th C.) churches. Lots of discussion of the 20 or so Caravaggios newly on display, as well as what sounded like a neat Hopper exhibit. Both around until mid-June. Then to lunch, passing by the Quirinal hill and president's palace, and an amusing remark about the "Berlusconi Steps". In our finest Italian we managed to order what we wanted to eat, and to drink. Fine conversation. Later walked up the via del Corso, and the spring-break feeling was truly palpable. Arriving at the Piazza del Popolo, climbed the steps to the overlook at the south end of Villa Borghese to get the classic view towards the Vatican - having been there during the afore-mentioned "great" wall tour. Here's today's view (you can compare it with the 24 Jan view below). And only ten days since the snow.
On the way to lunch dropped in to Sant'Iganzio Church. Somebody had way too much to drink or smoke when painting this place. What's going on with the nice picture at left vs. the wonky one at right? Look it up! Hint: there is a dome in the church that isn't.
Information work today. Prof'essa M giving her mid-terms this week (in Italian, students "give" an exam), which means the teaching part is half completed. Walk with youths to purchase pads to record their schoolwork/projects (like measuring the heights of obelisks), maybe a study of the Roman Senate in the works. Must photograph the city-owned meter-square signs with SPQR on top, advertising McDonalds (the Empire has come to that). One of the youths likes the SPQR manhole covers, fortunately too heavy to take home (but a plastic copy might sell - any investors?). Checked out the nearby MACRO modern art museum (checked out - because it is Monday, closed). Looked into geocaching for the youths and found that there is a hidden cache just near the MACRO. We can try again tomorrow. It's feeling quite comfortable now, but still into a rain pattern: rain at night, heavy before dawn. Hard to believe the published rain averages, about .05 inches per day, because we just had .47 inches in the last 24 hours, and this has been typical.
No blog today - 24-hour flu(?). But there was more ice-skating and a walk thru the Villa Borghese gardens.
Trying to be warmer, but a bit windy (that's right - not yet perfect, that's coming next weekend). Took a walk (scusi - una passaggiata) to Santa Constanza/Santa Agnese. These churches and a catacomb are only a short walk away, and they date from the 300's. Surprising to find such early Christian structures far from the center of Rome. Reprising our results in England, where we always arrived min-afternoon at a closed pub, we found the churches closed. But the grounds were interesting and the walk beneficial. So much so that we opted for pizza at our most-frequented place, followed by gelato. It turns out that the very helpful English-speaking young lady behind the counter is actually the owner, so one can feel somewhat less guilty enjoying the product. She sells organic prosecco, too. Something for everyone. But we have to return to these churches, their decoration influenced by early Christianity and pagan sources. And they are in remarkably good condition.
Wine report: (that's repor..). A red, Primitivo di Manduria type, a D.O.C., labeled "Feudi del Sole", lit. Fiefs of the Sun, from Palastrina, maybe 30 km east of Rome. At E3.60, it would be $5 at current exchange rate. Very tannic and with berry flavors. (Reminds me that Italian for fruits of the forest flavor here is generally translated as "wood flavor" - something lost in translation). Probably about $10 in the States (scusi - stati uniti). The place is awash in 'not bad' (and better) wines. Grazie al Dio.
Warmer and hints of sun. A walk to the Art Nouveau neighborhood just over a block away. The houses are mainly in good repair, and many are in pristine condition, surprising considering the amount of painted decoration. The workmanship and attention to detail is what amazes. In some cases, you could argue that the result isn't beautiful, for example, heavily carved stone framing a large apartment door, all nicely done, but just too much stone relative to the more delicate work on the building. The neighborhood also has a charming cafe/bar that must be visited. Returning, noticed that the "palazzo" at the end of the street isn't an apartment, after all. It's filled with equipment and wires; probably explains the many phone antennas on top. Had the first interaction with the apartment's washing machine. Controls in Italian, with no manual. Went to the company website and found something in German, but for a different machine, and eventually something in French for a similar machine. With both of these we muddled through. These european beasties are very different from what we are used to. They are much smaller and sound more like a large wind-up toy than a beefy washer, and this one has a funny run/stop/run etc. wash cycle. And they take a long time. Hopefully they are more efficient than ours, since a kilowatt is 0.28 euros! Anyway, it washed the clothes.
No rain at all today, temperature pushing 60 (for brief moments). Nevertheless, youths want to skate again. We've discussed geometry and measuring the height of obelisks, so we head back to St. Peter's Square with its central obelisk, and use the shadow method and similar triangles... obelisk to youth, for example. Having no measurement devices we use the blocks in the square as our units, and record the size of a block with marks on a piece of paper. The obelisk is over 500 blocks away from the tip of its shadow. All is recorded for later processing. Then off to skating again. No rain. but ice with melting water on it, worked on by the nice staff. Progress is becoming obvious, with almost two hours of practice. Back at the apartment, and finding a ruler, we work out the obelisk height - 39.6 meters, and officially it's 41. Not bad.
Wine report: Another Sardinian: Le Bomabard Cannonau di Sardegna (sounds like a royal title, and it does have cannons on its label), another D.O.C. produced by Cantina Santa Maria la Palma. Beautiful ruby color and dry, but surprisingly fruity for a red. E5.60. Nice, and interesting. There might be as many different kinds of wine as different kinds of faces; i.e., a lot. And besides all the types of cheeses, there are quite a few olive types to try too. But I'm already stuck on these particular olives and pesto from one of the vendors at the via Alessandria market. It will be a tough fight.
A visit to the market at Piazza Alessandria and some language learning for the youths: "this", "that", a hundred grams - un etto (hundred grams, about quarter pound), un mezzo chilo. Listening closely for the amount charged at the light store: trentadue euro for clip on lights and bulbs. Later, a tram trip to Piazza Risorgimento, just at the Vatican, and a visit to another country! Calculating the number of pillars in the Colonnade around St. Peter's Square, and ideas from geometry to calculate the height of its obelisk. Have to try that. Remarks on the size of St. Peter's church itself, judged by the very small size of people at the top of the cupola. View of Swiss Guards in winter plumage (a bit duller thanks to a dark cape). Then down the via della Consolazione to Castel Sant'Angelo. Talk of need of food temporarily suspended on sight of nearby ice skating rink. Rain threatening, and temperature maybe high forties left the rink with a half-inch (centimeter) of water, but skating desire was unquenchable. In less than an hour, both youths were improving noticeably, and no falls on the very wet ice. Getting wet came next as the skies opened up. After a warm goodies stop, marched off in uncertain expectation of finding a bus going to someplace we actually recognized. Made more fun in the continued rain, puddles and rush-hour crowds. Alternate spelling of city: R-a-i-n.
Non-wonderful weather continued today, making a museum visit inevitable. We chose the Villa Guilia in the Villa Borghese (Borghese Gardens), an museum of Etruscan artifacts. The museum collection is one of the highlights of Rome. The grounds themselves are also recommended targets for visiting, although with today's weather that took a good bit of imagination. A nice surprise is that this museum and others in Rome offer free admission to European citizens under 18 and over 65, which meant all of us. We opted for the audio guide, a good choice for a first visit. About half of the Villa's rooms are open for display of Etruscan artifacts, which would take a week's worth of thoughtful observation; better several visits. The room of gold jewelry was almost overpowering, crowded with artistic imagination. You could spend a day just there. Only ten minutes away by tram.
Wine re-report: the -uh- Poggio ain't bad after all. Just needed a bit more air, and is approaching 'not too bad'. Also the companion euro report: it bounced back a bit. Beware of Greeks bearing derivatives.
Back to yesterday's restaurant to try to locate a lost item for a youth. Required use of the past tense, and a way to say 'like this, but black'. Understood, but the item was not to be found. It was toughed out. Then on to the gelateria, to be followed by a trip across the city. The gelateria young lady makes up the batches right there and also creates gelato-based cakes of her own recipe, which looked terrific. With the many interesting gelato flavors, I proposed onion. It got no traction. Weather turned nasty (i.e., tiny bit of rain and temp under 50), so we headed instead to the supermarket and stocked up. Waiting for the real warm-up later this week, then we'll do all the tour/travel stuff. Right. And speaking of warmer...heat/hot water - no drama; after only six tries, they figured it out (probably have jinxed it now).
Wine report: what do you get in a red for E1.50? "Il Poggio dei Vigneti" gets you sangiovese grapes from the Rubicone region near Rome. No vintage year - no surprise. While not exactly tasting like grape juice, you still feel it's located somewhere between grape juice and real wine. Maybe it's the 11% alcohol. It is drinkable, but raises the question - why? You get a lot more for another euro. And thanks to the hanky-panky in Greece, dollar denominated people can begin to afford a bit more. The euro is now 1.36 and likely to sink further (financial advice disclaimer!).
Partly sunny and a tad over 50F, good day for a walk. Explored the neighborhood to the east. It is filled with mostly attractive houses, some apartments, some embassies, some religious institutions, a few major villas and even an extension unit of the University of Malta, though no knights thereof were seen. The area was built up mainly in the twenties, and every building is one-of. Architectural influences range from art nouveau to ancient Rome. Heading west on via Nomentana, a little restaurant drew us in. Pizze and salads were ordered as test items. Next time, the little fishes. The local gelateria was to be next, but alas, closed for domenica. In celebration of San Valentino's day, nutella-based chocolates were made (and a few consumed). Some people even think chocolate is good for you.
Explored a few major churches with a recently arriving friend. Saw the door to the corridor in Santa Maria sopre Minerva church leading to the room where Galileo was held. Were politely ushered out at 1:30PM. Went to the nearby church of the Gesu, beautifully decked out for a wedding. Were politely ushered out. Had to feed a youth some McDonald's fare (against wishes), but the adults munched ordinary Italian folk fare at a tavola calda (lit. a 'hot table'). Saw the Italian parliament, which is hosting a Caravaggio exhibit through tomorrow. It seems the Caravaggio's are not being cleaned or loaned out right now; a good time to visit Rome.
Wine report: a rosato (rose') from Umbria - "Titiano", producer Falasco. No cloying sweet flavo(u)r; crisp and pretty dry. And at E4.60, tasty. More olive types and cheese types - too many to report on. However, just buying fresh mozzarella, crudite and good olives is becoming a good habit (...little olive oil, salt, pepper, aceto balsamico...).
Whose idea was THIS?! Click for video. Bad weather - took the youths bowling (yes, bowling). They had fun.
A coolish mostly cloudy day out to the Colosseum, in which we actually saw the Colosseum, circumnavigated it, actually. Avoided having our pictures taken with the fully-fashioned "centurions". When the weather gets nicer, we'll do a real tour. A few blocks away found a pizza joint for lunch, avoiding the high-priced spread. Also used the phrase "Scusi Signore, ce sono i gabinetti?", showing that knowledge of some Italian can be a relief. Walked up the Palatine Hill towards San Bonaventura church. On the way, fine views of the Roman Forum appeared through various gaps in the wall along the road. We all worked on our Italian by translating the stations of the cross built into the wall. The church was open and empty. It was surprisingly small and simple compared to the baroque-y things we've seen so far. Gregorian chant came softly from rightward of the main alter. Recording? Real? Well, it is a monastery. Taking the 3 bus right at the Coloseo, we returned to within a few short blocks of the apartment, stopping by the 'super'market for the almost-daily supplies (still like the old days).
Formed an expedition to explore the area, despite the harsh temperature under 50F and even a bit of rain. Eventually, gelaterie were observed by the expedition members, who determined they must be checked out. The expedition leader was of the opinion that little progress would be made, and that after some hesitant Italian by the expedition members, perhaps a small dab of the material might be obtained from the natives. This was confounded as the gelateria young lady, who spent a year in Ireland, nicely explicated the glory of each flavo(u)r to the expedition members. Actually, it was delicious. Another expedition will be scheduled.
Grandk's awake. Seems like they don't know about melatonin, they are synched to the new time already. They actually do know some Italtian and/or can figure things out from French/Latin/Spanish. Speaking is another matter, but it seems no handicap when ordering gelati. Being modern kids, their parent are making them do a blog entry each day. There is also Irish dancing (yes, in Rome - and many countries, including Russia) and Scouts to be done. I was told this was going to be a vacation...
Wine report: This time it's Giama', a Montefalco wine from Umbria, a region next door, NW from Lazio (Rome's region). Montefalco Rosso (red) is a D.O.C., (like the French Appellation) - a defined area. Grapes are sagrantino and sangiovese. The back label (wine bilge) says it's real red, perfume-y with 'armonic tastes. It's pretty 'armonic to me; I like it. I think it was about E6. This could be your winter red, too. Seems like there are a lot of 'em - how do we handle this? I suppose just gotta slog thru 'em. I'm getting the impression that it's hard to find less than a pretty good wine/cheese/bread/ in Italy. This may not be news.
Off to the airport to collect grandchildren. Their parents managed to get them to the departing airport despite three feet of snow. The plane managed to leave only two hours late (ours left four hours late due to hardware issues). They arrive not at all bedraggled as we did, and still bouncing around. Youthful enthusiasm abounds. Have to learn how that works. To make sure we have youth-edible food items, a joint visit to the supermarket is arranged. It goes well: I could eat most of it. Dinner assists were scored by olives (the market has quite a variety of excellent olives) and a tasty mozzarella. Finishing up the Puglia Triulli primitivo. It's still good. Do a google search on 'triulli'.
Sunny and 'cool' (under 50F). With that and enough work under the belt yesterday, felt the need to get out, maybe actually be a tourist. Took the convenient #80 bus to Piazza Silvestre, not far from the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, and walked towards the Pantheon with the first goal the Oratory of San Francesco Saverio to hear mass in English in a church built originally starting in 1618. This is a small space by Rome church standards. No pews, but perhaps a hundred chairs arranged like parentheses around a simple alter in the center. Beyond the surroundings, nothing about the mass was unusual: there were the readings by parishioners, a cantor and organist, some incense, and the dog. The d-o-g??. Right, the dog. Last communicant had a small dog on a tight leash; it appeared to merit only a scant look from most (though I could hear their brains thinking...A dog??!). And another thing - fellowship after mass featured Prosecco and/or orange juice. Needless to say, fellowship was good. Thus edified, we continued to the Pantheon, passing "Le Due Colonne" (the two columns) restaurant and noting it for future (maybe half-hour) reference. The Pantheon is much as we left it. Like other temples/building of ancient Rome, it is a church. Do they call mass because of rain? (To find out why, check google satellite view). I have no idea how these guy managed to create the front pillars, which must be eight feet in diameter and maybe 35 ft tall. A constant stream of (mostly Italian) tourists ebbed and flowed in the building. Suspicions of great Spring and Summer crowds manifested themselves.
Le Due Colonne: first, if you want to know whether it's COLonne or coLONne you're out of luck. Italian only tells you when the accent is on the last syllable, as in caffe'. The Portuguese are more helpful. But I digress. Think of a twenty-five by thirty-five foot room, painted in bright yellow, antique style, and a group of brightly painted white arches overhead and tastefully indirectly lit. In the center area of the room are the 'due colonne', holding up the ceiling. A pleasant space. Service was able. and friendly despite the touristy location. The food was pleasant, too. Lunch/supper included a caprese (mozzarella, tomatoes, greens), mixed greens salad, a vegetable soup, fried calamri with prawns, 'frizzante' mineral water, and two glasses of Frascati (one each). I managed a small discussion with the waiter in Italian on wine, after I'd moseyed over to the wine cabinet to assay the collection. In the north, the Mueller-Thurgau grape is cultivated, just as it is in Germany. I like the idea of pitting an easy-going, laid-back Italian M/T against a real, proper German M/T. Zen, ve shall zee who vins! Even second best would be ok.
A damp day with a little sun, which didn't keep us from a walk to the market at Piazza Alesssandria. Considering what's happening back home, weatherwise, one could feel a bit guilty. Anyway the veggies, cheeses, meats and bread awaited. And we were not disappointed. The veggies very fresh (had to slap some of them down); the variety of cheese amazing; the selection of salame and olives outstanding. We still haven't figured out all the vegetables. Chicory seems very popular, don't recall seeing it at home. Tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. Lots of oranges and lemons, not expensive. But we have our own oranges in the garden, which are delicious, and a type whose (we need the word 'whiches' here, 'whose' refers to a person) skins fall off easily when peeled. Meals at home are tending to follow the veggies... al dente, olive oil, plus tasty pasta often with fresh pesto. It is hard to beat good ingredients. Ducked into the little pizza joint on the way home, it's three arches/doors open to the air. Crust thin and crisp with (again) the freshest toppings. Pigeons wandered in and set to cleaning up the floor. They left in a hurry when an employee came over to clean up a table. They acted like they'd been chased before, departing quickly with a guilty look.
Wine report: attacked one the reds. It was (is) a Primitivo from Puglia, "Terre dei Trulli", 2007. Trulli are those little domed dwellings in Puglia, near the heal of the boot of Italy. (I'm not explaining - everything's on google). I'd had a Primitivo at home in December and remembered it as nice, but that's all I remember. This one, at E4.45 was interesting, different from any wine I can remember (yes, there might be reasons for that). Very dry and filled with a balance of flavors. Not much finish, but it didn't matter; what was upfront held your interest. There were no flavors of tobacco, of old leather or of molding books to be described here. Even if I could taste 'em, I couldn't write that stuff. Could be one of one's winter favorites. From what I'm hearing today, that holds in spades for the East Coast.
The heater? Oh, *that* heater. There's a rumor the plumber will come on Monday to replace it. Or not. Just to annoy us, it's been working since 8pm last night.
Plumbing was feature of the day today, with yet another plumber coming at 8AM, due to fact that hot water and heat vanished again. This time the equipment was pronounced dead, as there was neither heat nor hot water - even for the plumber. Discussion ongoing on replacement. At 8PM radiators starting warming and hot water came back. Rush to showers, thermostat to max. Inside temp started inching ('centimetering' here) up from 17C (about 62F). The system must have gotten wind that the apt. owner and plumber were coming tomorrow, again at 8AM, regarding replacement of the unit. Anyway, the rest of the Capocaccia tasted pretty good. Suddenly realize that all this could have been done at home. Many things are the same everywhere.
A plumber came again. Of course the hot water worked when he was here. The radiators were ice cold, which was fixed in a trice. I listened carefully as he talked to the apt. representative, and the reason for them not working was that the setting on the heater was too low. And who could have set it low? Or, was it just a coincidence that the problem began at the previous plumber's visit? Will this charade (pronounced shar-odd) end soon?
The weather is warming a bit, which called for a walk; enough information work, tired at staring at a screen. The goal was the Villa Albani (Torlonia) a few blocks away. On the way, we spied a beautiful art nouveau-ish building being restored which got us to wondering how much art nouveau is in Rome. After circulating the wall of the grounds of the Villa Albani we failed to find an open gate. Later we learned that the Torloni family still lives there. If you check out the grounds on google satellite view, you'll notice a remarkable design of garden hedge leading south from the Villa. We continued on to the the neighborhood to our north and began to notice a number of houses with art nouveau features. Checking this out on the web, we found that we were at the edge of the Quartiere Coppede', a highly-regarded art nouveau area constructed in the early 1920's, architect Gino Coppede'. Have to explore this further.
Warmer today, and generally that means moisture (rain). But the forecast seems to indicate that the 'bitter' weather is abating, and tomorrow promises to be sunny and about 57F. But the forecasts are touchy and have to be checked often, which adds to the fun. On weather channel's website, there is the usual detritus lurking about next to your 'information" of interest, but one of their top ten items was "Avoiding dust mites". I always thought you just kept to the other side of the street.
Wine report: Going with (and trying to encourage) the warming weather and out of respect for astronomy, in particular Rome Observatory's Monte Porzio site, I bought a white - Frascati Monte Porzio 2008. Frascatis are highly recommended by a certain respected Italian born American astronomer, in addition. (If I didn't try it, I might incur a what-sa-matter-for-you lecture). This wine begins like some white german wine, maybe, but is has more...something, and it develops more in the course of sampling (or one develops, hard to say). At any rate, at E3.30 it would be (coulda been) a contender for one's summer white. Except I'm not sure it's available in the US. I also have two reds awaiting evaluation. I won't say when; I like to keep them in suspense. Nobody expects the Italian inquisition!
We shall be receiving the plumber again tomorrow. Hot water is now less intermittent (just a random process, I bet) but the radiators (termosifoni - a great word, say it 3 times) have suffered nary a calorie since he left yesterday. Best not to let them touch anything (remember about your car?). Meanwhile, I am figuring out the apt. thermostat with a German manual. I don't think it's me. A dissection with a sledge hammer comes to mind.
Tomorrow some local friends arrive and we might *have* to check out some interesting sites. Oh well.
Coolish bright day, failed to reach the magic 50F. Information work today. Oh, the plumber did come. However, in mechanic logic, when something that's intermittently bad happens to be ok when the plumber/mechanic/whatever arrives - there is no problem. Obviously, water is hot. Ciao. Each of us thinks the other has the intelligence of a rock.
Wine report: it's Capocaccia 2006 from Isola dei Nurachi in Sardinia (Sardegna). At E4.60 it is satisfactory, in that easy pleasing way Italian wines are. In France, you have sophistication, in Italy variety, even fun. Both are good. And this one wasn't bad. Had a look at IdN on google maps st. view (need an abbreviation for that..gmsv) and it isn't bad either. Then jumped over to Corsica to check it out. It's a giant rock garden. Must visit one or the other, at least.
City noise is one thing, but they're paving the road 50 meters away, and it's now almost 1AM. Trucks backing --beep, beep, beep...other mechanical beasts throw down asphalt and grind and smooth it. By 2020, it'll all be done.
Speaking of cold...Mark Twain allegedly said "The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer I stayed in San Francisco." Maybe that also holds for winter in Rome. It is cold by Rome standards, with today's high a bitter 48F. Everyone is bundled up with scarves, gloves and even some fur. Blood must thinning; I feel the 'cold', too. But it seems colder just because it should be warmer. "I was told that the average high in January is 55F." It hasn't been - more like 50F. Anyway, balmy weather is coming; tomorrow should be 55F and Wednesday 57F. I will not get any sympathy from those back home, I am sure. And speaking yet again of cold, the heater that supplies both room and hot water heat has had a problem. Hot water, initially flaky, is now mostly just not. I think it's the thermocouple, it's always the thermocouple. (Do they have to put a temperature sensing device right in the flame?! Not anymore..but noooo). The plumber is supposed to come today between 2 and 6PM - wanna bet? I'm going to buy some thermocouple stock.
RR 30jan10-RR 1feb10
Weather sunny and low fifties. Today tripped out to Tivoli, 20-some miles SE of the Rome, with a busload of Temple Rome students and Robert, professor of art history, to explore Hadrian's Villa (yo, Hadrian) and the Villa d'Este. Hadrian's Villa was built at the apex of Roman power in the late second century AD and includes many buildings, baths, water features, temples, gardens, etc., etc. All told, about 250 acres. It's suffered badly over the centuries, not mostly from pilfering by conquerors but by the religious establishment for the construction of new churches and monasteries. But with Robert's guidance, one could try to imagine the grandeur of the place in its original state. Students proved to be the same everywhere. Robert: what to we call the original architectural feature we are standing in? Class: . Robert: a portico!! And so it went. Where we would just see multicolored marble tiles on an ancient section of floor, Robert would point out the origins of the stone - Asia Minor, Spain, etc. Speaking as non-students, at least, it was a tremendous tour. It was clear that the Romans were as interested in Greek and Egyptian history and culture, as we are today interested in their history and culture. The Villa d"Este was a different matter, built in Renaissance times by Cardinal Ipolitto d'Este. He was a papal power-broker and governor of Tivoli. The Villa is in excellent shape and bursting with the excess that was good taste in those days. The gardens are an architectural and plumbing wonder. Robert "translated" the symbolism of one little section of the garden that "speaks" of Rome. Imagine the rows of fountains, the tall slender pines and the canopy pines. (You'll have to imagine them - my camera batteries were n.g.).
A sunny start, then clouds. Didn't achieve 50F today. Nevertheless we fared out to the market at Piazza Alessandria for veggies in the stalls inside the marketplace. Tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, and an unknown type of lettuce struck our fancy.
Noises: well, it is the city...there's the dog who barks a lot when he's occasionally let out on the balcony (seven barks followed by ten periods of silence, I haven't seen him but I know what he looks like!); the car alarms popping off for their 30 seconds; passersby in earnest discussion; motorcycles revving to way to many rpms; trash pickup mostly at night. Trucks lifting and emptying containers parked at the curb every few hundred meters;. a triptych of cardboard, glass-plastic and real trash. The containers are boom-y by design, but the drivers help things along. By now, we don't hear the buses. Warm weather may be a different story.
Strong drink report: yesterday at the Ellite, I saw some anise flavored strong stuff. This Italian brand sat next to a bottle of Pernod, both about E10. I chose the bigger Italian bottle. It's in the "well, we can't waste it" category. I'm going to not waste a bit right now.
Warmed up to 54F today and offered a hint of Rome in the Spring. Had to get the monthly transit passes for February, but it turned out to be no 'fun' at all; asked for them in Italian and got them - although with an English "thank you." Wandered from Temple Rome across the Tiber (Tevere) and explored the rather 'tony' neighborhood. A juggler was busy at the traffic light. I hear him step in front the light-stopped traffic with his 'bowling pins'. A grand bow and look to the drivers with "regardez". French, I guess. He's tres bien and even got some donations. Checked out the Tiber moored houseboats. One is a canoe club, and there are sculls to be seen. A four w/out cox'n is getting yelled at by the coach - of course (whatsa matter for you guys?!). The cafes and bars are busy, at all hours it seems. I think spring fever will come to Rome earlier and with greater intensity than back home. Finally got to ride a few trams, one around the 'top' of the Villa Borghese that provides an alternate route to the 88 bus. Funny, today I heard portuguese spoken on three public transports, two of the three times it was Brazilian portuguese. A lady facing me was talking to her niece in Rio. When she got up to leave, I was very tempted to say "boa tarde", but chickened out.
Another day of some light rain, with temps reaching to 50F, which seems to be the limit for the next week. You don't forget you are living in a city: some construction at the corner frustrated the buses (three lines on our street) and auto drivers, so lot's of honking. Bus service starts around six in the morning, too. Fortunately, we have lots of city experience, including living close to a firehouse, and can ignore such noises.
Tempe Rome had an art exhibit this evening at 7PM, of art by students at various Rome campus sites, which was pretty interesting. A bit of wine proffered, and accepted. We received the Dean's brass doohicky with oak-leaf cluster for completing the wall walk. But what else could we do? We had to preserve nostre belle figure.
On the bus coming back were some ten people, and most of them were on mobile phones (and not with each other). What did Italians do before mobiles? Who says there is no such thing as perpetuum mobile? And to think that I know somebody who knows somebody who had the first cellphone service in the world!
Had a late dinner of chicken and cous-cous with tomatoes, onions and yellow pepper. Done of course in olive oil. If you start with olive oil and onion, you could add anything including shoe leather and it would be pretty ok. But it was better than that.
All work and no play today, and it's drizzling. We were able to get out of bed without much trouble; blisters seem the only lasting result of yesterday's circumnavigation. Not a high price to pay, truly, for what we saw and learned - a highlight of this stay, no doubt.
Wine report: Sangiovese di Romagna, ruby red and pretending to some importance. Squisito.
Today was a day to remember. We'll certainly remember it tomorrow when we try to climb out of bed. We joined the students in a tour of the Rome Aurelian (city) wall. The tour leader was a Belgian archeologist who works near Rome - and a real Rome enthusiast. We circumnavigated the whole city wall, a walking(!) trip of 13 miles, starting from St. John (San Giovanni) Lateran church at 8:30AM and returning by 4:30PM. We learned about history, architecture, the city of Rome then and now, the politics, the wars, the personages (emperors, popes) and powers (many). Rome is a hilly city (the 7 hills, remember?) and offer spectacular views. Especially noteworthy were the view of the Piazza del Popolo and towards St. Peter's as seen from on high from the Borghese Gardens, and the view of the entire city from the Gianicolo (Janiculum) Hill south of Vatican City.
Piazza del Popolo from the Borghese Gardens. St. Peter's in the distance.
About 2/3 of the wall, dating from the second century AYKW (after you know who -- seems A.D. is politically incorrect), and rebuilt higher through the years. We saw virtually all of that wall, going in a clockwise direction. We moved off briskly at 8:30 (it was chilly, which helped the briskness). There were frequent stops for explanations, humorous and informative, a 10:30 coffee/pit stop,and a 1:00 lunch on the Gianicolo hill, after a mean climb - but then we had the view. The post lunch segment continued its high interest, but the parts of the body below the beltline began to notice the effort: hips, knees, cartilage, and whatever and started complaining. By then you were committed to finishing those 13 nasty miles, though. Temperature topped 50 on this fairly sunny day, rather perfect for the continued slogging.
Besides the views and the good information, it seemed that Rome was a city of vendors, organized by country of origin. Only men from India sold roses (rather persistently) and African men sold sunglasses, handbags, toys. A good bit of entrepreneurship - there's a nice view...you might need a tripod, sir. Only Italians sold roasted chestnuts. It would be interesting to know how this all works, or maybe not.
It was off to the deli/veggie/fruit/flower/etc market in 50F+ weather. By now, due etti (200 g) of this and due etti of that are becoming routine. The challenge now is to figure out what these 'other' veggies are. Some clothes cleaning soap was needed; we settled for "classic." If you want to see the covered market check out Piazza Alessandria, Rome, Italy on google maps street view. We stopped in a tiny Singer store and bought a hair-drying appliance. Not cheap, but it switches automatically between 110 and 220 volts.
After some bookwork, headed out to the Villa Paganini and Villa Torlonia a few blocks away. V/T is a well-cared for park: nice villa, a stained glass museum created from the house the villa owner's son used to retire to for peace and quiet, a theater and library. Pines and palms as well as sturdy green plants line the white gravel "avenues" that divide the grass plots. The sun felt warm.
After more study work, left for dinner at a tarttoria-pizzaria close to the apartment of an Italian friend. Good pizza margherita and some Frascati white. Fried flour-dredged olives were an exotic appetizer. The night sky is clear and Rome is cold tonite. Now warm in the apartment, I hear the occasional victory shouts of the Rome calcio (soccer) fans. No need for 'film at eleven'.
Over 50F today. Temperatures below 50F now feel chilly (but we'll sacrifice). More study and reading, broken up by a trip to La Rinascente (lit.) department store. We always pass it going to T/Rome. Goal was socks; no socks found, but interesting again about the relative scale of things. You have to scale down expected sizes about four times to match the European size; I guess that's why socks didn't fit. Prices were high; the numbers looked expensive, but they were in Euros and you also had to multiply them by 1.4 to get dollars. In general, there seems to be a lot more emphasis on brands, especially those that help convey La Bella Figura. Decided to walk back, since it was a gently down the whole way. Picked the sunny side of via Nizza and it was pleasant - people were eating outside today. We've traveled this street many times by bus, but you see a lot more, obviously when you walk. Particularly those very attractive little bars (coffee, pastries, etc.). We pipe into a tiny pizza shop, maybe 20x20 feet, doors open to the air, beckoned by the smell and a fine variety of most excellent-looking pizze. I have forgotten the word for slice (fetta, just looked it up). I point: ..questo ...e ..quello. He says: mangia qui? Uhh..eat it here? Ok. Then ...'caldo'? Hot? ..like it heated? Si, grazie! It's nice to be able to do some simple things. (And much better than that Hungarian phrase book). And the pizza was just fine.
It's a beautiful sunny day in the low-50's. Mostly information work today on the computer; don't need to be in Rome to do this. And with Skype, you can even forget you are away. It makes quite a change in perspective. But the local language is Italian and the food is super-duper, so you remember. Then, there is the ancient history, too. Haven't gotten to see much of that, at least in targeted form. But we pass elements of the old city wall every trip to Temple Rome, and see lots of statuary and monuments as the commute heads through Villa Borghese.
Back to Trattoria da Emilio for dinner to sample more of the variety . One of us opts for rabbit (*not* bunny), the other a fettucini ragu and a caprese. Forgot what a caprese is, but pleasantly surprised when tomato/mozzarella/basil appears as the second course; the fettucini had been generous. All tamped down with vino della casa, which was "not bad." Emilio's lives up to the trattoria description of famliy-run, home-cooking. Seems that fresh ingredients are key to the generally fine level of Italian cooking. Have to be careful of the pasta-vino diet - it's very tempting.
Off to school with P'essa D. This time, it's an LCD projector problem. The big box control panel, like the one's I'm used to proved to have nothing to do with the classroom's projector. What was needed was the remote control. And, after all that fuss and confusion, there was the usual problem with the projector's cable, so everything was in MagentaColor. But the slides were B/W, so the show could go on. Found out we had to miss a couple good school tours because those pesky students signed up for them! But we do get to walk around the Walls of Rome on Sunday. (I think there's a classical piece by Respighi with that name, or similar. He was Ottorino Respighi - which means either little Otto, or 8rino, or something - still working on the Italian, ragazzi). But everything at school is fine because there is thirty cent espresso/cappucinno/etc. It even pops a spoon into the cup before finishing. And - it has a progress bar, just like a file transfer box. And when the machine actually works, the coffee is pretty ok.
There's this Italian idea of "La bella figura", which means something like: "it's better to look good than to feel good - or be good.." More like, you should always look good to others. You must dress and act properly and be in control. Woody Allen would not achieve La Bella Figura. This came up because we returned to the apt on the bus today. It was rush hour and our shipment finally came in. So loaded with boxes, we had to navigate the bus - first to squeeze in, then to really hold on (Italian bus driver), then to work our way off at our stop (con permesso, con permesso, scusi..), and finally stumbling off the bus. I think we'll be lucky to reach "L'OK figura".
Most of the day spent in everyday stuff. Picked more oranges off the tree in the garden. Tried to get the shower to really shower. Europeans really like these hang-up shower thingees. Most don't deliver much water, and what does come out is a mix of dribbles and light spray. This allows the water to be both cold and hot when it hits you. Probably got deposits. Maybe I'll visit the Trevi fountain, and ask what they do to get rid of deposits; I think it's vinegar. The bathtub is about 2/3 of the size of a real, manly American bathtub, but that fits with the fact that many of the cars are only 1/2 as long as a typical one back home. Think of a Smart car, and smaller. But this makes sense in Rome, where parking is really tough, and there are many imaginative solutions, generally at the expense of pedestrians (they don't count).
First day of school for Prof'essa D, so must again become trusty system administrator for getting computer connected to the local wireless and setting up a power point presentation. The "Good, Bad and the Ugly" class got an enrollment boost at the last minute to about two dozen students. Should be interesting.
Daily life: Compared to us at home, Europeans still purchase smaller amounts of food items and shop more frequently. And, at least here in Rome, the neighborhood stores have retained much vitality, although some shuttered stores are seen - maybe due to the general economic situation? Store staff are typically very helpful and friendly (like Italians). Ikea is a car drive out of Rome, and we can see some influences here in the apartment. We have fallen into the routine of diurnally opening/closing the shutters. Makes us feel more European, but I don't think anyone is going to scale the apartment wall to try to get in. The apartment buildings here are generally four or five stories and are called 'palazzo', formerly meaning a large private city residence. Panhandlers can be encountered on the streets, not just in tourist areas; generally, they don't hassle you. While waiting for the bus yesterday, I spied one of the army of 'those kind' of ladies found throughout Rome (you know - an independent contractor).
Other exciting matters: we finished the bargain Panetone; collected more oranges from the tree in the garden; got my mobile (not cellphone here) phone menus from the phone company in English - a good thing if you pay-as-you-go. Rode our first tram in Italy - in fact, the 19 stops only a block from the apartment and has a stop just at Temple Rome. It was less crowded than going home on the 88 bus, which stops at the Flaminio metro station. Also, it terminates right at the Vatican. The 80 express, which stops just outside terminates at Piazza Silvestre, right at the ancient historic district.
Rant: The mobile carrier's (TIM) website has no English link in evidence, yet very likely there is a large fraction of foreigners that use pay-as-you-go. The link to the few random English pages I found through google generally were either blank or unhelpful.
Up and out early to meet the buses at 8am, to go to the hill town of Todi in Umbria about two hours away, thence to the locale of Titignano, a farming estate now an agritourist getaway for Romans and others. Arriving early for the buses, we join faculty Mario and Gianni and a gaggle of students heading to a cafe. The only word to use for the weather is - cold! Mario makes sure we get (hot!) cappuccini and asks if we want champagne with it, so we know the day is going to go well.
Traveling on bus 5, we enjoy an amusing and informative running commentary on Italian history and geography related to our changing location from Robert, a professor of art history at Temple Rome. The clouds and low ceiling hide the true glory of the Italian countryside (but you can get an idea for yourself by using google maps and street view on Autostrada A1 northward of Rome). Arriving at Todi, we forsake the stairs for the lift and soon are walking through an ancient hill town, now a tourist destination, and beautifully restored/adapted to its new role. Our path to Todi has paralleled the Tiber, and the town formerly marked the southern border of the Etruscan territory. Then came the Romans and conquests in medieval times. All reflected in three city walls. The medieval wall is virtually complete, and remnants of the others remain; in fact you enter through the Porta Romana. The town is stone, a jumble of shapes connected to each other any which way. Bits of the past in evidence - here an arch now filled in, there evidently was a window. Always, the inviting narrow passages. The "main" road through the town is about fifteen feet wide. Most others look too small for a shopping cart (european-sized, even) but somehow a car is found on one. (Italians can drive in such spaces because they use centimeters, which are smaller than inches). Only about a km in size, Todi has two major churches. The Piazza del Popolo marks the town center, a feature perhaps descending from Romanization when a forum would be built. (Disclaimer: any guarantee of correctness). The Piazza is bounded on one side, of course, by the church and another side by the town hall. A little too large a space to copy for an opera set. Attractive stores fill the other sides, where we buy much-needed scarves at a bargain (two for E15). Most welcome is the warmth of a nice cafe and a second cappuccino of the day with the faculty tour leaders. European cafes are a great invention. It seems that Starbucks considered expanding here, but we reckoned that the 'ecological' niche is already occupied.
We arrive at Titignano at noon for a multi-course lunch (supper!). We enter a center courtyard faced by a large farmhouse and opposite a small church and row of single-story dwellings, now bedrooms with bath. As usual, the Italians are ignoring the cold, and it isn't *really* raining - just 100% humidity, so we have some starter items outside. D-d-d-delicious. Shortly, the 200 plus of us enter into a (warm!) large room with twenty foot beamed ceilings. The walls, painted that wonderful Italian old yellow, are light-red stenciled in a large pattern, except for a band of painted sky with clouds and birds occupying the top six feet. Where the sky meets a beam here and there, a faux swallow's nest with visitors is painted in! Wines red and white, and waters with and without 'gas' punctuate the several forty foot tables.
The food: First served are three different slices of artisenal, locally made cold cuts. Then a risotto dish with cheese and pureed asparagus sauce. Next, papperdelle noodles with a piquant sauce of wild boar. (Reminds me that a recent menu translated 'berries from the woods' as 'wood berries'). Then a bit of a rich deer stew. Dessert was tiramisu ('pick me up'). Ended with espresso. The wines included a white Orvieto, a red Turlo and the farmhouse red. They were all 'not bad'.
Above: a bit of Umbria (Frank: the surrounding area is NOT Penumbria).
Sunny and predicted high of just over 50F degrees. Prof'essa D continues to organize her classes for Monday's first day, but there is time to visit the market at Piazza Alessandria. Lots of fine veggies and fruits, many from Sicily, and also some flower stalls. We have to get the courage to actually order something from one of the vendors. Good thing I learned that an etto is 100g (do you know what the plural is?). Knowing that and a few numbers, as well as 'nothing else', it all works. Better than the first time in Europe (France) years ago, where we generated a startled reaction when we asked for a 100kg (about 220 pounds).
Tomorrow's trip to Todi departs at 8AM from the Piazza of Heros. To make sure we get there on time, I hop on the public transit to see how long it takes to reach that place from our location. Arriving in forty minutes door-to-piazza, and looking around, I spy the Rome Observatory probably a mile (1.6km) away high on Monte Mario. (No - there is NO Monte Python). I decide to walk in that direction, rather than check out the Vatican just down the street, avoiding the crowds. After about forty minutes, I am up on a neighboring hill and find that 'you can't get there from here'. But there is the prize of a fine view of the city. I can see that I am approximately at the height of the bottom of the dome of St. Peter's, which dominates the city. Also obvious is the Victor Emanuel monument and the green of the Borghese Gardens. All this walking would be to the good weight-wise, except for the delicious, bargain panetone we brought home yesterday.
Btw, traveling anywhere in Rome brings you past some or other impressive, ancient monument. It will take a long time to see all this. It's somewhat overwhelming; all we need is a plan. That's the hard part.
Another day of mixed clouds and sun, around 48F. In preparation for Prof'essa D's classes, had to find a carteleria - s stationary store - then actually go to same and buy some things. Managed to get what was wanted without someone trying to help me (and talking), and check out was easy. I understood the amount due after only two tries by the patient lady behind the register. I still want that pin you could put on that would let people know your language competence. Must have a contest for pin design.
Joined the students at Temple Rome for a talk about Italian culture and ways. A very practical talk, it turned out. What to do and having fun were certainly the major part of it, but also some strong cautions on drinking beyond control and about young women protecting themselves from bad things. The speakers were from T/R and remarkably able to connect with the students. It's easy to forget how naive (in the real sense) young folks can be, and it brings into perspective the decades of travel experience many of us elders have had. And some of us have even learned from it. Mirabili dictu.
An upcoming optional trip to Tunisia was also announced, more to come later. Good grief, we just arrived in Rome, and now we have the hots to go to Tunisia.
Arrived back in our neighborhood too early to go to bed, so let's try Trattoria da Emilio, recommended by our apartment owner. Maybe twelve tables, simple decor, nice waiters, local habitues. Eggplant parmegianna and vitello with patatas, accompanied by a local wine did the trick. If you didn't ask for the check they'd let you stay all night. It's only a block and a half away; I think we'll have to go back.
Most sunny today, and around 50F. Present experience on the bus and watching the drivers would suggest that Romans are friendly and patient people. They also like to be out, and we see them at outside spots of bars, cafes and restaurants even in this non-optimal weather. They have further evolved to have telephones growing from their ears, it would seem. I have yet to see anyone here not answer a mobile phone, but that's maybe not just an Italian characteristic. We have been here almost a week. Perhaps as a result, the local supermarket seems larger already. Also the cars - "Here's your Spec, sir."
Students are strolling into the Villa Caproni for the Spring term abroad, beginning a rather thorough orientation. If we're excited about being here, they must be pretty pumped up. After our stop here, we headed to the Anglo-American Bookstore near the Spanish Steps. There is something bizarre about stepping out of a subway and seeing the Spanish Steps. Is Rome South Philly gone to heaven?
Wine report: finally bought the E1.69 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. It is drinkable, but does not rise to the appellation "not bad". Too bad.
Clouds and light rain are back, but the rest of the week is looking pretty sunny and 50-ish. Noticed that a tree in the little courtyard (logically) attached to this apartment had some orange things on it. On closer inspection, they proved to be - oranges. Pulled one off, and it seemed non-poisonous. Washed, peeled and ate same. Delicious! And still alive (me). More to harvest. Unlike our time in Tampa, the oranges mature for picking about now. Reminds me of a nice vacation in Sicily between Christmas and New Year's when lots of citrus was about.
Wine report: Vermentino di Sardegna (Sardinia) white. Frizzante and reminding of a vinho verde from Portugal, maybe a bit more refined (ahem). Anyway it drunk good, especially for about E3.50. [Almost wrote 'Vermintino'. Little vermin?!]
Important intelligence from apartment owner: best gelato in Rome only two blocks away; pointers to nice local restaurants and gallaries.
A day of full sun, but cool, about 48F. Prof'essa D working hard preparing her classes and nursing a slightly sore foot. Our neighborhood is relatively upscale, evidently. The Austrian embassy is close-by, as well as a Russian trade mission. Walked down the Corso Trieste, discovering many cafes and some restaurants. Actually, I didn't 'discover' them, they had already been discovered. Was approached by three panhandlers during my walk; one tried me twice. I gave them each 100 euros. There is the usual plethora of tabacchi and newsstands. As I passed one of the latter, I spied for sale a DVD of Carmen, the opera; wow, this is Italy! There are an amazing number of Italianate buildings here (ha), but you could spend hours studying the architecture just in the neighborhood. I found a nice panetteria and bought a few beautiful bread loaves; it's amazing, you say these foreign Italian words and you get bread!
Another day, another supermarket visit. You have to get ready for these things: 1 euro coin in handy pocket to get cart; charge card in jacket pocket to whip out - otherwise you might have to say something; plastic bag in inside jacket pocket; note. (Why am I buying McVittie digestive cookies in an Italian supermarket*)? The cheeses and cuts of meat appear to be top quality, probably reflecting the economic status of the local clientele. I saw a young-ish woman shopping with her 4-year old, assisted by her Indian (I think) nannie. It was cute watching the mum make her son say "grazie" to the guy behind the meat counter. It looks like most customers bought just for a day, while I approached check-out with a (metric) ton of stuff. Fortunately, the "Elite" supermarket is only a short half-block away.
*Don't get the wrong idea - the 'supermarket' is about 5 times the size of your house.
Went over to the TR campus for official things. Just as I'd read, as holders of EU passports, we didn't have to do any formalities, whereas the US passport holders have to endure much bureaucracy to stay and work for six months in Italy. That has a reputation for non-optimal fun. Temple's campus building, the Villa Caproni was built in the 1920's, sourced by the success of Sr. Caproni's aeronautical enterprise. The lower three floors plus basement have been made-over for classes plus architecture and fine arts study/labs areas. The daughters of Sr. Caproni occupy the fourth floor and there is nice interaction between the school and the family. (I heard "princess" and "countess" in this context, btw). Prof'a D has a nice classroom on the third floor with view of the Tiber, which is now pretty swollen with the many days of rain (at least it's not snow). All the usual technical stuff, wireless and classroom projectors. About 240 students are registered for this term, overall.
The orientation program for students, in which we can participate, through this week includes: kick-off pizza; a "Cucina Italiana" with presentation on food & wine, plus recipes; discussion of daily life in Rome and Italian culture (w/ Prof. Ponce de Leon - so maybe there *is* something to this 'fountain of youth'). [..but when you've seen Juan Ponce de Leon, you've seen them all...]. On Sunday, 17 Jan, we will have to endure an excursion "to the medieval hill town of Todi, followed by a traditional lunch at the 16th century manor of Titignano".
With all this, and the stress of getting our phones set up here, there was no time left in the day, se we had call the Pope and cancel dinner, even with the threat of anathema. But the appointment with Cardinal Schoenborn for my lecture on the multiverse is still on for later this week (yet is does move..in multiverses). We'll see.
With all this, we learned many secrets of the Rome transit system.
Speaking of transit systems, I failed to rant about the self-serve check-in system at United in Dulles (and presumably elsewhere).
There is a large crowd, so lots of pressure to complete the check-in quickly. You face a touch-screen housed in a sleek arc of stainless steel. Under the touch screen are two slots. A quick reconnaissance suggests one might be for a charge card, and the other, larger one, for something (?). So, you start doing the check-in and get to a point where you're instructed to put your passport on the scanner. Does it mean in the larger slot? Probably not - so you look for a card-swiper slot to swipe the passport; there is none. Then you bend your passport open and try to shove in the mysterious large slot - no go. Good grief - there's that big crowd - what do I do now? So you skip the passport scan step, but you have to enter everything using a non-qwerty keyboard on the screen, slowing time to a crawl. After quite a while at this, a United helper comes by and he points out the scanner - off to the right, at thigh level, and a foot and a half away. OK, we finish, and while we're finishing I watch several users become similarly perplexed.
/end of major rant
Wines: no review of E1.66 Montepuliciano - it was sold off the shelves today, so probably "not bad". Saw plenty of nicely-priced proseccos, though.
Rome Report 10jan10
Somehow we needed lots of sleep today. With the shutters closed, 10am looks pretty dark in the apt. Prof'a D, checking mail at noon, notices an invitation from the Dean to lunch at 1PM in the area of the Spanish Steps. I guess we have to go. Anyway, we are already too late for mass at Sant'Ignazio (but we are still traveling - in the Duns Scotus sense - so, maybe only Purgatory - which is a Dante thing, too).
Work(?): Meet the Dean at P'za Populo, not far from the Temple R. campus. Conveniently, the 88 bus stops at our door and lets us off there. Nice for Prof'a D when she goes to 'work'. We head off to Restaurant 34 (Trentaquatro) and enjoy a quite satisfactory lunch with vino and some amaro, plus significant benefits of his 19 years in Rome. It seems we must undergo a strenuous schedule of visits to various wonderful sites with lunches - of course, part of the student inauguration to Rome. A nice one is coming up next week in Umbria. Certainly have to suffer that one. Report later.
Speaking of report: The frizzante red was ok, but not for everyday drinking. The bubbles get in the way. There is no serious (red) wine drinking with bubbles, I would suggest. Must try the E1.66 Montepulciano (soon).
Tomorrow we both head to the TRC (Temple Rome Campus) for paperwork and visits to the authorities re our six months stay. A full report will be provided, no matter how dull and unimportant. If we have to be bored, so should you.
Btw, try google maps street view (gmsv) of Piazza Poplulo, it's v. nice. Kids have to climb up on the lions.
Rome Report: 9jan10
Apartment and surroundings: Apt is as nice as described, and met Linda, the owner, in from Indonesia with her oldest daughter Guilia (10, cute). The area is pretty nice, too, with a good number of stores, restaurants, bars, tabacchi, wines in vicino, for example on viale Regina Margherita. The supermarket is steps away, too. It was worth going (semi-broke) for a nice place; I think we'll enjoy it every day.
Language: Be it known to all that I used the Italian future tense for the first time yesterday (on the first day in Italy). I might be at the two year old language level!
Wine: At local supermarket, Montepuliciano Abruzzi - saw at E1.66, but bought this 'frizzante' red Barbara del Monteferrato, about E6.50. Report later.
Weather: Arriving yesterday, it was almost 60F and cloudy with intermittent light rain. Intermittent heavy showers last night. It's really nice this morning, with sun streaming in the tall windows. Surprising, since the weather forecast is for showers for the next week. We'll have to suffer.
Profesoressa D slept in late (for her) today because she didn't get lots of sleep on the flight.