ROME FEBRUARY 2006
When the Queen retired we planned to spend some time in Rome. In the six months that we lived here the Queen worked everyday so that the King got to sightsee and enjoy Rome more than the Queen. Unfortunately, based upon our schedule the only time we could come back was in February. We have been here in February before and it is during the rainy season for Rome - but it is Rome.
The Bloom's Apartment
We rented an apartment in the same building where we lived before and made our plane reservations. We emailed our friends in the Hash House Harriers in Rome and told them when we were coming. One couple, Peter and Gretchen Bloom from Bethesda, who have lived in Rome for 7 years emailed us back and told us that they were going to New Zealand to visit their daughter and would only be able to connect with us one night. They also offered their apartment to us since they would be gone for a long period of time. We accepted the invitation since their apartment is in a great location and is very nice by Roman historic center standards.
The following picture is of Hynda in front of the apartment on Via Madonna dei Monti. The entrance is just to the right of Hynda. It is in a section called `the Monti' and is quite old and very popular since it is very near all the sites. We can walk to the Forum and Coliseum in under 5 minutes. The Catholic Church used one of the buildings on this street in the 18th century to hide and educate the young Jews that had been taken from their families to be converted. Notice the electric wire that is running from one of the buildings to the left over a doorway and into our doorway. This is the electric circuit that runs the lights in the hallway and the door buzzer system. This sums up Italy in one picture. I wonder if this is up to code??
This next picture is looking through the living room to the dining room. The apartment has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen and an office/den.
It has two large terraces. One is off the second bedroom that is reached by going up a circular stairway. Brenan visited us towards the end of the trip and this is a picture of him on the terrace with the Victor Emmanuel II monument in the background. Those are real oranges in the tree to the right of Brenan.
The Best Pizza in Rome
In our wanderings two years ago on another trip to Rome we found Pizza Pazza in the Trastevere section of Rome. I used to bike there to eat almost everyday. This was one of our first stops in Rome this trip. The dough is great. Roman pizza has a very thin and very overdone crust. This is different. It has a sign up that says that it won a competition for the best pizza in the world.
The Tripod Man
Rome is filled with street vendors. They come from all over the world. They sell a variety of things. When it rains they are out selling umbrellas. As soon as the rain stops the same vendors magically are out with watches. When we have been here before we always marveled at the new things the vendors sell. It seems to go in spurts - this year little dancing Mickey Mouse things that dance to music, next month watches, and then some other thing. This is the year of the tripod. On almost every corner we see vendors who are selling tripods. They are of various colors and sizes. Here is a picture of one tripod man.
The Italians dress up much more than Americans. They have their own style and they change. There are two things that we noticed this time…. one old and one new. We have mentioned before that the shoes are different here. The style and the color are different. Even if you go into a Nike store here the styles and colors are different than if you were in a Nike store in the US. The new style is the scarf. Every Italian has a scarf and it must be visible and knotted in a certain way. The scarf is even worn if no jacket is worn and the weather is nice. The picture below shows me in my new Italian shoes and my scarf knotted the Italian way.
A note about the shoes. The Italian shoes are very light. I wanted to get a pair that was very light so that I could take it on our cross-country bike trip instead of my running shoes that are big and heavy. These are the shoes I bought but I have one problem… when I wear them into Bucky's BBQ Restaurant in Alpine, TX will they be appreciated???
In February Rome celebrates Carnival (Carnavele). This is a holiday which lasts several weeks and ends on Fat Tuesday, the same day as the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. The holiday consists of many parties and the children are all dressed up in costumes and they throw a lot of confetti around. The streets of Rome are covered with confetti. The children (or their parents) really go all out and the costumes are incredible. Here is one the children on her way to a parade in one of the areas of Rome.
Every neighborhood has their own celebration. The big carnavale takes place in Venice and the Queen and I thought of going up there but the weather in Venice was cold and it would have been hard to get a reservation this late.
The holiday started as a Roman celebration for the God Saturn. The Popes continued the holiday and it was the one time of the year when people could dress up in a costume as someone else and do things `out of character'. In Rome the main events of carnival took place along a street that is now called `Via Corso' which was derived from the fact that races were conducted on this street or `course'. The highlight for many years was the race of the Jews. Sometimes `jockeys' rode the Jews down the street, sometimes the Jews were rolled down the street in barrels and sometimes they were forced to run naked. The Pope was always in attendance to watch the “races of the barbarians, buffaloes, donkeys and Jews”.
The Campidolglio is the Capitol Hill of Rome. It is where the city government of Rome (the Senate) meets. Michelangelo designed the plaza in front of the Senate. There is a very imposing statue in the center of the plaza of a man on a horse. It is a copy of the original one and is cast in bronze and gilded in gold. It is of Marcus Aurelius. He was a 2nd Century emperor of Rome and actually the last one while Rome was still a huge power and a stable country. Rome began its downhill slide after his administration. In the next century Rome had over 30 emperors and only one of them died a natural death.
The statue was made in 176 AD and was displayed in various parts of Rome over its history. The interesting thing about it is that it was only one of 22 such statues of various emperors that existed around Rome. It is the only one that survived. The Christians who destroyed all the statues of the emperors thought that this was a statue of Constantine, the emperor that turned the Roman Empire Christian, and did not destroy this one.
In 1979, some terrorists tried to destroy the Senate building and damaged the statue so they moved the statue into the museum on the Campidoglio and built the replica to stand outside. They have been restoring the original and have built a new wing for it. The picture below shows Hynda and our friends Sandra and Yence in front of the statue in the new wing. It is massive and it is incredible considering it was built almost 2000 years ago.
Herculaneum or Ercolano
The King and Queen decided to take a day trip to Ercolano. To get to Ercolano we took a two-hour train ride to Naples. The Naples train station had more police and police dogs than I have seen in one place. We then transferred to the local train for the 20-minute ride to Ercolano. If we had stayed on the train another 30 minutes we would be in Pompeii.
In the year 79AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried a number of cities. The most famous of these is Pompeii and that is where most of the tourists go. The city of Herculaneum was also buried. This was originally a Greek city that was founded by Hercules, hence the name. It became a fishing village on the sea and was a resort town for wealthy Romans. When Vesuvius erupted it sent tufa stone and ash up in the air and crashing down on Pompeii and a river of volcanic mud to Herculaneum. The mud that covered Herculaneum resulted in it being preserved much better than Pompeii.
The site of Herculaneum is much smaller than Pompeii. This is because a city, Ercolano, was built on top of the buried city of Herculaneum and therefore it is not easy to excavate. So much volcanic mud came down from the mountain that the city was buried in 120 feet of it and the actual coastline is now about ¼ mile further into the sea.
This first picture is of the Queen at the top of the site. The modern city of Ercolano is in the background at the top of the site. That is Mount Vesuvius in the background.
This picture shows a part of the city that before the eruption and burial was beachfront property. The water is now to the right about ¼ mile away. You can see that they built huge houses - some two or three story.
Below is a typical street. They had very advanced plumbing in the houses and a sewer system.
This is the McDonald's of Erculano. They had these fast food restaurants on almost every corner. These establishments served hot food and drinks. It was not customary to have lunch at home. The food was taken to back rooms to eat.
The mosaics and frescoes were incredible. Considering that they were over 2000 years old they were in great condition. This is a mosaic from a bathhouse. This one depicts a triton (sea god) with an octopus and dolphins. The second picture displays Neptune and Amphitrite. The note said that these were done in the second half of the 1st Century BCE.
This is the inside of a house from the 1st Century. These were very large homes. This house had 60 rooms!!!
In one house they have a series of marble sculptures in an atrium. I could not get close enough to this one to get a good picture but the guidebook said it was of a drunken Hercules. He appears to be clutching his thingee and leaning a little.
After we left Herculano we continued to Sorrento. We wandered through the old city and then had dinner. Sorrento is known as the lemon capital of Italy and the stores had some of the biggest lemons we had ever seen. They also had lots of stores selling lemoncello. Here is a picture of one. The color yellow was overwhelming when you walked in.
The Gypsies on the Train to Herculano
When we went to Herculano we first took a train to Naples. At the Naples train station there were more police and dogs than I had ever seen in a public facility before. They also announced over the loud speaker every five minutes that you should be careful of pickpockets. From Naples we switched to the Cicumvesuvia, which is a local train that goes to both Herculano and Pompeii. When we were waiting at the train station in Naples we noticed a large Gypsy family who got on the train with us. There were about 4-5 children aged 6-10. As soon as they got on the train they got cups from their mother and began to walk up and down the cars begging. This was about 10AM in the morning.
After we left Herculano and took the train to Sorrento, by chance the same Gypsy family got on the train with us and when through he same routine. After we had dinner in Sorrento we took the last train back to Naples and there they were again and it was after 10PM. This Gypsy family works a very long day.
Many of the streets in Rome are made of small (4” square) basalt stones. Basalt is a dark and hard igneous rock used for sculpture by the ancient Egyptians. You know it is hard because these streets are old and you very rarely see a cracked stone. We have sent some streets being repaired and they carefully remove the stones, pile them up, do the repair and carefully replace them. They use a heavy flat iron plate at the end of a rod that they use to bang the stones back in place. The stones, which look flat from the top, are actually shaped like a big tooth with the pointed part going straight into the ground.
The picture below shows a part of a street outside a wine bar in Rome. The things that are between the blocks are the corks from wine bottles. Obviously they just throw the corks out on the street. In front of most bars now you see cigarettes since Rome recently instituted a no-smoking law for restaurants and bars.
Trash in the Tevere
Two years ago when we came we noticed that at one point in the Tevere (Tiber River) there is a hydraulic that captures and keeps items that have floated down the river. The items two years ago were many bottles of different colors. In a walk this trip we noticed what appeared to be the same items. Could they have been there caught in the twilight zone for two years?
The Nolan Helmet
Since we arrived in Rome we have learned that one of the popular motorcycle helmets here is made by a company named Nolan. Here is the King in front of a store that sells the Nolan helmet. You have to look through the glare in the window.
The Italian Garbage Man
At the bottom of the steps in the apartment building where we stayed are three trashcans. The garbage men come once per week to empty them. When they empty them they put all the garbage from one can in a big black plastic trash bag and take it out to the truck on the street. The papers and recycles go out to the bins that are located in the streets.
One morning as we were walking out we saw that the trash man was emptying the trash. When we came back a few hours later we saw all the trash from one can on the floor. It was obvious that the big black trash bag had broken. The trash man just left it on the floor. Here is the Queen looking at the trash.
The Spice Men
At Campo Di Fiori there is a market everyday until about 2PM. When we lived in Rome the King used to bike there whenever the Queen needed dry fruit. I used to go to one of the stands that sold spices. I also bought the arabiata (spicy) mix that I loved. This time the King tried to take an `artsy' picture. I have had the picture blown up and it will be hanging in our house.
The American Brunch
On the last weekend we were in Rome we decided to invite some Italian friends over for an American brunch. We made hash brown potatoes, pancakes, and scrambled eggs. Actually the King made lox, eggs and onions - not your typical American breakfast but something the Italians would not have had. They watched me scramble eggs since they had never seen that before. For the kids the King made pancakes in the shape of the letter of their first name. This is something I used to do when the kids were younger. This picture is of some of the people who were at the brunch.
Carla - The Shirt and Tie Lady
When we lived in Rome the King needed an shirt and tie for an affair that we were going to. We went in the neighborhood and found a tiny tie shop with an incredibly friendly woman. She does not speak any English but somehow we made friends with her and her husband. We learned that she has a hobby of collecting snowballs - the little items that when turned upside down have snow inside. When we went back for the Ides of March we brought her a snowball of the Washington Monument. This time we brought her one of the King and Queen in black tie - at least the King was in black tie. We had gone to a Bat Mitzvah in New York and all the kids could get one done of them…. So being kids and knowing we were going to see Carla again we had one made. This picture is take in front of their shop.
Brenan at the Cat House
This is a picture of Brenan at Largo Argentina, which is an archeological site in the center of downtown Rome. It is supposedly the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed. Now it is the home of about 8,000 cats. Rome has lots of stray cats and you see people feeding them all over Rome. This is one that is sponsored by the city and any time you go there you can see cats. There is nothing stopping them from leaving but since they are fed there I guess they hang around.
Marvin and Friends
In our wanderings one day we discovered a store called Marvin and Friends. My best friend is Washington is named Marvin so we went in to try and buy a shirt. They did not have his size but they had the size for his wife and daughter so we bought them shirts. On the back it says `Staff' so it is very appropriate.
Rome in Ruins
Since we were there in February you did not see the normal summer throngs of tourists. We guess the Roman authorities take this opportunity to spruce up their monuments and memorials. Here are some that are being fixed up. The first is the obelisk in the Piazza Popolo. Notice how they cover it up with a painted outside cover so you do not see the work going on. The Italians also do this with buildings that are being renovated.
The second is the fountain area in front of the Spanish steps.
The third picture is of the church (Trinità dei Monti) that is located on the top of the Spanish steps. This church has been in perpetual repair since we visited five years ago.
Images on the Tevere
This is picture of Brenan on the Ponte Sisto, one of the bridges over the Tevere. Notice that when they cleaned to walls along the Tevere instead of just cleaning them they did it in such a way as to make pictures on animals in the area where they did not clean.