Friday, April 01, 2005

ROME 2003 - Impressions

In March, 2003 we had a 5-day Christie's trip to Rome.

I arrived on Friday and spent some time soaking in the atmosphere. The next morning, I climbed to the top of the Vittorino at the bottom of the Via del Corso, after which I walked all the way to the top of the Corso, to the Pza del Popolo where we all met up at 2pm.

It was a packed itinerary and we did miles and miles of walking all over Rome, even though the buses were quite good. The only time we attempted public transportation was the metro to the Vatican, but when we couldn't buy tickets from the annoying machine, we all ended up in taxis anyway.

At this time of year, the days could be quite warm but the evenings cooled quickly. It was very pleasant. The colours in Italy are like nowhere else on earth, except, I hear, California.

Some places we visited are not represented in my photographs.
The Gardens and Villa Borghese.
The Villa Farnese with Raphael loggia.
Many churches and basilicas. I took pictures in the interiors of many of them, but felt bad about using my flash, so all I got were colourful blurs.
The Piazza Navona and Christie's auction rooms at Palazzo Massimo Lancellotti.
The Domus Aurea (Nero's Golden Palace) simply because it is underground, and there is nothing outside to see.

Each night, dinner increased by an hour, so that the last night's dinner lasted 4 hours and ended at midnight; we skipped dessert and jumped into taxis, our eyes rolling with exhaustion. It was almost like a Roman conspiracy to slow us down! But all wonderful.
The first night's dinner was funded by Christie's at the Enoteca Brillo Parlante. We'd started with wine at a Beergarten next door, and then wandered over to the Enoteca. They pulled out all the stops - there was wine, all sorts of antipasto, meat & cheese plate, bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and the winning combination of pear and parmesan. Once we were full up, we got to order our very own pizzas.

We saw a couple of churches with ancient legacies underneath. The Basilica di San Clementi was dedicated to Mythodeas and Cyrillos, missionaries to the Slavic people who invented the Cyrillic alphabet that today forms Russian and its satellite languages. The Mithraeum in the bowels of the church was cold and spooky. We saw classrooms where the novices would learn secret rites, and an altar to Mithras himself...someone had thrown a rose into the room through the barred door...

I had a surprise experience in the Sancta Sanctorum at San Giovanni in Laterano. It is the private papal chapel in the church complex, but when we went in I forgot where we were. Thus it is without bias that I can say it really did feel holy and completely different to any other church we had entered. The ground in front of the altar was worn into a valley by the knees of hundreds of popes.
The altar image was supposedly one of the earliest portrayals of the face of Christ. Repaired, repainted, or recreated over the centuries, its latest version was a Byzantine-looking face on a silk screen. The first one, covered over many times, is said to be a wax engraving by St Luke. The docent told us that the eyes follow you.
The door of the chapel was of heavy riveted bronze, cut down from a much larger city gate-type door, one of the many that the Emperor Constantine had commissioned for the city of Rome. In the 4th century AD...
I felt slightly guilty that we had a special consular letter allowing us into the chapel, while all the pilgrims who had climbed the stairs on their knees in faith could only gaze in longingly from the other side of the iron grid windows.

Christie's had booked dinner on the last night as well but we paid our own way. Il Spirito Divino (there is surely a dual meaning there as you will see) is one of the smallest restaurants in Rome, in Trastevere (other side of the Tiber river). There were 18 of us to gather for dinner, so it was 8pm by the time we were all seated together. Between each course the table was cleared, reset, and then the orders taken. We ordered Antipasti, Primi piatti, Secondi piatti...and ran out of gas at I Dolci. However, the more adventurous of us allowed the proprietor to take us into the cellars, the remains of the oldest synagogue in Europe. Here, the Roman copy of the Apoxyomenos was excavated, which we would see the next day at the Vatican museums. By then it was midnight and we could keep our eyes open no longer, so the proprietor called taxis for us.

All in all, Rome is a magical place. It is the modern city which is forced to give way to the relentlessness of its ancient legacy.

The Hotel Regno on the Via del Corso. I arrived on the Friday and had time to relax and wander. The rest of the group arrived the next afternoon to immediately begin our packed itinerary. Posted by Hello

Found the Piazza di Spagna. To the right is the Keats house, where he died. Posted by Hello

After settling at the hotel, I went exploring and discovered the Fontana di Trevi, bought a mango gelato and threw in three - get it - THREE coins! In the legend, it is better than just one... Posted by Hello

Approaching the Memoriale at the end of the Via del Corso, I turned to espy the hazy Colosseum at the end of the Via dei Fora Imperialii Posted by Hello

The Memoriale di Vittorino Emmanuelle II was created in honour of his unification of the Italian states in the 1840s. It is called the Typewriter by those who disdain it. Posted by Hello

Halfway up the steps at the Vittoriano Posted by Hello

Altar to the patron goddess Roma above the tomb of the unknown soldier (ignoto militi) Posted by Hello

Two churches from the middle steps of the Vittoriano. Posted by Hello

Vittorio Emmanuelle II unified the states of Italy in the 1840s and is highly honoured for it Posted by Hello

Vittorino Emmanuelle II surveys his kingdom from the top of the steps of the Vittoriano. This was my desktop wallpaper for a while. Posted by Hello

The Colosseum at the end of the Via dei Fora Imperiali, as seen from the Vittoriano. Posted by Hello

The peristyle-type loggia at the Villa Giulia. It stands on a hill with a view of the Vatican. So named because built in 16th C by Pope Julius to house guests of the Vatican. Why couldn't they just stay there, it's big enough!?!? Posted by Hello

The Renaissance nymphaeum at Villa Giulia - a sort of water garden to keep the family cool in the summer Posted by Hello

An Etruscan temple at Villa Giulia Posted by Hello

Lara and Shinobu at the Etruscan temple in the gardens of the Villa Giulia Posted by Hello

Santa Maria del Popolo in the Piazza del Popolo. In sepia effect. Posted by Hello

The first night's dinner was paid for by Christie's, so we all ate together. Emily is hiding Ivetta; Ethan is behind a bottle, then Lisa and Lara. The food just kept coming at us, and we just about fit it all in! Posted by Hello

Rebecca, me, Shinobu, and Alison with our own pizzas. I love pumpkin flower and bufala mozzarella best of all...mmmmmmmm. We nearly fell asleep over dinner, though. Posted by Hello

The Pantheon, where we would meet our tutors every morning Posted by Hello

Inside the cold and cavernous Pantheon, the Roman temple to all the gods. Of course converted into a Catholic church hundreds of years ago. Posted by Hello

Emperor Trajan in front of the Forum Traiano. Soft focus. Posted by Hello

The Arch of Constantine, made up of the parts of many other arches. Unmistakeable roundels, and statues of captives from Dalmatia... Posted by Hello

The view through the Arch of Titus, the one who sacked Jerusalem. On the inside of the arch to the right is that famous frieze of the Roman looters carrying off a menorah from the temple. Posted by Hello

A Baroque church seems to have hijacked a Roman temple Posted by Hello

Remains of the temple of the Vestal Virgins in the Forum. We had just left the Roman Senate. Even the Romans walked among, and revered, their ruins. Posted by Hello