Sunday, June 5, 2016

Rome Wasn't Toured in a Day

The second part of our European experience with granddaughter ML was a trip to Rome. Rome was more fun than Paris and this was a big surprise.

Wonderfully, our flat was located on a very quiet street just off the Piazza Barberini where the Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain) is located.
Our street was very quaint.

The Triton Fountain in the Piazza Barberini (1642), by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is REALLY a masterpiece -- Baroque sculpture, representing Triton as half-man and half-fish, blowing his horn to calm the waters. Apparently this is a text by the Roman poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses. It was amazingly beautiful.

We could sit at the sidewalk cafe across from the fountain and watch the people go by. It was quite a show. The food was marginal at the cafe, the coffee was passable but the walking parade was priceless.

Our first evening in Rome was a sunset and night time visit to the Ancient City and the Colosseum. It was perfect. Dramatic lighting, cool temperatures and no crowds. The next day when we passed by the Colosseum the line was around block and it was only 10 in the morning.  We all congratulated ourselves on a wise choice.

ML and I were having a conversation in front of the Colosseum about how much we wished BSJ had been with us. We took this selfie and realized the man in the background sneaked in!  UGH!

ML and I found the bricks to be fascinating. They are different than the bricks they produce out of the red clay in Oklahoma. However, they have remained for centuries and are still strong today. 
I could not resist. I had to do some research on the Roman Bricks. Wikipedia has a great article about them. The Romans perfected brick-making during the first century of their empire and used it ubiquitously, in public and private construction alike. The Romans took their brickmaking skills everywhere they went, introducing the craft to the local populations. 

The Roman legions operated mobile kilns and introduced bricks to many parts of the empire. Roman bricks are often stamped with the mark of the legion that supervised their production. The use of bricks in southern and western Germany, for example, can be traced back to traditions already described by the Roman architect Vitruvius.

After dark, the caverns of the Colosseum were very dramatic. 

The other sites in Rome were also quite inspiring. As Americans living in a country barely over 200 years old, it is hard to grasp that these sites are thousands of years old. Amazing!

Quaint store fronts were very common. Rome was a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy. 

There were water fountains flowing freely all over Rome where we could stop and fill up our water bottles.
There are many notable fountains in Rome, Italy. Rome has fifty monumental fountains and hundreds of smaller fountains, over 2000 fountains in all, more than any city in the world. 

I really found the fountains and the aqueducts interesting. We visited the aqueducts in Istanbul so I had a better appreciation for the engineering that went into creating Rome's water system. 

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Rome's aqueducts.

For more than two thousand years fountains have provided drinking water and decorated the piazzas of Rome. During the Roman Empire, in 98 AD, according to Sextus Julius Frontinus, the Roman consul who was named curator aquarum or guardian of the water of the city, Rome had nine aqueducts which fed 39 monumental fountains and 591 public basins, not counting the water supplied to the Imperial household, baths and owners of private villas. Each of the major fountains was connected to two different aqueducts, in case one was shut down for service.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the aqueducts were wrecked or fell into disrepair, and the fountains stopped working. In the 14th century, Pope Nicholas V (1397–1455), a scholar who commissioned hundreds of translations of ancient Greek classics into Latin, decided to embellish the city and make it a worthy capital of the Christian world. 

In 1453 he began to rebuild the Acqua Vergine, the ruined Roman aqueduct which had brought clean drinking water to the city from eight miles (13 km) away. He also decided to revive the Roman custom of marking the arrival point of an aqueduct with a mostra, a grand commemorative fountain. 

He commissioned the architect Leon Battista Alberti to build a wall fountain where the Trevi Fountain is now located. Alberti restored, modified, and expanded the aqueduct that supplied both the Trevi Fountain as well as the famous baroque fountains in the Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Navona.
We spotted a t-shirt that almost looked like it had an Oklahoma University logo. It turned out to just say ROMA. ML got a kick out of it anyway.
Our tour of the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica was arranged through a tour guide who has also given Rome tours to several of our friends, Anne Hogan. Anne was fantastic. She knew exactly how to lead us through this amazing historical site without completely overwhelming us. It could have easily been overwhelming.

If you are ever going to Rome, I would be happy to share Anne and her husband Simone's contact information with you. They were wonderful!

There is a dove inside the stained glass window behind the alter.
The light in the cathedral was just perfect. There was a service going on in the main area and the sounds were just as dramatic as the lights.

One of the highlights in Rome was a dinner experience we had with Simone, Anne's husband who is a personal chef. Simone arrange for us to meet him in Testaccio for some local foods and a wine tasting at a local enoteca. I was not familiar with this word so I looked it up.

Enoteca (plural: Enoteche) is an Italian word, derived from the Greek word Οινοθήκη, which literally means ”wine repository” (from Oeno/Eno- Οινός "wine", and teca Θήκη, "receptacle, case, box"), but is used to describe a special type of local or regional wine shop that originated in Italy.

We finished the evening with local gelato.

Would you like a little vodka with your gelato?
The next day we toured the Testaccio market with Simone. This was a very unique Roman adventure and once again we were surprised and thrilled with the experience.

Zucchini blooms were everywhere. Oh, how I wish we had these in Bahrain. They are delicious fried.

Fresh, homemade pasta abounded. If only we lived here then dinner would be set! Isn't this beautiful.

Simone took us to a very unique food stand where they served local wines and prosecco. Ten in the morning, eating salami, hams, cheeses and drinking prosecco. WOW!

Bring your own bottle or buy one at the stand. The wine was good, but the bottles were PLASTIC! Never in my life did I think I would drink wine from a plastic bottle and like it.

There were plenty of unique meats as well. This is horse.
They do not waste any part of the animal. The center meat is the stomach.
We even shopped for leather boots. 
Later Hubby D and I stopped for a  coffee and spotted a bottle of William Lawson on the shelf. We have a friend by that same name. Small world indeed.

There are miles of ancient Christian Catacombs under Rome. We visited the Catacomb of Santa Priscilla. One of Rome's first underground Christian cemeteries (dating back to 150 years before Christianity was legalized), this site has extraordinary ancient frescoes, eerie tunnels and the world's single oldest depiction of the Virgin Mary.

The Roman catacombs are eerie but we visited another site that was even more bazar – the Capuchin bone crypt, a cemetery literally built from bones! The chambers are decorated with the remains of some 4,000 friars.

The message at the end of crypt says it all: “What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you will be.” Strangely enough, the monks didn’t intend the site to be a morbid one but it was a bit unnerving.

Our Rome tour was over way too soon and so we were all on our way back to Paris for the flights home.

ML and I sat together again on the trip from Rome back to Paris. It was a bitter sweet ending to some wonderful memories. In just a few days she will start her engineering internship in Ft. Worth, Texas and move into another phase of her life.  They grow up fast!  

It was a great adventure and we have many wonderful memories to cherish.


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