Sunday, June 24, 2007

Graduation Gift -- Part VI--Conclusion Rome














The first time we had been to Rome was in 1961, for our honeymoon, la luna di miele as the Italians would say. For some reason it took us another 23 years to return and this time with our 17 year old daughter.

Carlo, our Bolognese friend, a research scientist who works for the Consiglio Nazionale di Ricerca or the National Research Council of Italy, travelled often to the head office in Rome. His hotel recommendation was Albergo Venezia, near the main railway station, Stazione Termini, and a clean, well run, relatively inexpensive hotel to boot. So that's where we stayed for a week.

Public transport in Rome was very good, parking was impossible so we had arranged to give up our rental car at Rome. Often we looked out our hotel window and wondered what all the noise was. Triple parking, not ordinary double parking, seemed to be very common in Rome but sometimes the inner car needed to leave before the outer cars. So lots of honking and shouting ensued in order to alert the hopefully nearby drivers of these cars that they needed to move them subito or right now!

The hotel was very close to the main station and there you could catch a bus or take the underground and that's how we got around in this large busy city. We found a rather nice restaurant nearby and most nights we ate there. After the first night, as soon as we entered the door, the waiter placed a carafe of the house vino rosso and a litre bottle of acqua gassata on our table. We didn't even have to ask. We were "regulars".

Looking at my photo album of this trip brings back the reminders of Rome. I can see we spent some time in and around the Basilica di San Pietro or St Peter's Basilica, seen above, with its wonderful square designed by Bernini and the dome of Michelangelo. Inside this most famous building is the pietà of Michelangelo which is now behind glass since it was attacked and damaged in 1972. It also houses the famous 13th century bronze statue of St Peter which has the feet worn smooth due to the many pilgrims who place kisses there. This church is huge in length, width and height and the Bernini canopy which covers the papal altar under the high dome is as tall as a small building itself, standing at 96 feet high.

We passed almost a whole day in the Vatican Museum which had certainly been much improved since our visit in 1961, being much better organized and its treasures better displayed than previously. This tour included the Sistine Chapel which I have always found rather difficult to appreciate. Perhaps now that it has been restored I would find it more pleasing, although one has to appreciate the monumental task this was for Michelangelo. This site of the Papal Enclaves is a huge overwhelming room, rather dark and completely decorated by some the greatest Italian painters of the 15th and 16th centuries. The end wall with its enormous painting of the Last Judgment and of course the very famous ceiling with the Creation of Man were the works of Michelangelo, both of which were completed over different periods of time. The ceiling which is flat, although it gives the impression of being vaulted, took Michelangelo four years to paint. It was very hard on the neck to look up and see these amazing frescoes and the attendants were anxious for the visitors to move along steadily and were constantly trying to keep the crowds quiet, since it is a church after all.


We spent quite a time around the sites of Ancient Rome, including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum with its great temples. Since we had recently watched again the BBC series, I Claudius, with Derek Jacobi as Claudius and Brian Blessed as Augustus Caesar, we went to visit Augustus's tomb, seen here. The ashes of many members of his family, thought to include Claudius, were interred here. It is the largest Roman tomb and sadly it is crumbling away and not open to the public, however I believe there are plans to reopen it in 2009.

One of our most interesting visits on this trip was to a spot was near the Spanish Steps. We went to Keats' house, which is located to the right of the steps and is maintained as a museum to Keats, Shelley, Byron and other Romantic poets. He lived and died there in 1821 and I talked about it here when I posted a photo of the Spanish Steps for Saturday Photo Hunt. We spent several very enjoyable hours there, poking about the treasures and reading the letters. There was no one else there and we made a wonderful leisurely exploration of the museum.

Rome is full of the most beautiful fountains and above you can see the famous Fontana di Trevi, Fountain of Trevi, featured so many times in films. The tradition is if you throw a coin into this fountain you will one day return to Rome. It must have worked in 1961 because here I was again. Remember Three Coins in the Fountain? The other fountain photo is Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of Four Rivers, in the Piazza Navona, covered with the ever present pidgeons. It was late afternoon when I took this photo so it's rather in the shadow. Click to improve it a little.

Then it was time to end this month we had spent in Italy and return home. By the time we had returned to Vancouver, my daughter had decided that, in addition to majoring in French for her university degree, she would study Italian. I tried to convince her to take Spanish instead, thinking it would be more useful if she went into teaching. But she was determined and took Italian for two years, only dropping it when she enrolled in French honours and there was no space for Italian. Of course, when she married an Italian, she was able to say, "I told you so!"

I bet you thought you were never coming to the end of this trip to Italy. It only lasted a month, you say. It seemed like years! I hope you found something to interest you as I wrote about one of the trips I have made to my very favourite tourist destination, Italy. Remember the earlier parts of this saga are here, here, here, here and here.

Join me later when I write about my experiences of going to language school in Italy and doing a "homestay" with an Italian family. Not once, not twice, but three times, in three different cities.

I apologize for the spacing problems which seem to be insoluble. What looks fine in the preview turns into a disaster on publishing. Unless I have a brainstorm this is as good as it gets.

25 comments:

lady macleod said...

brilliant as always, like tea with an old friend. Rome is not one of my favorite places; I prefer the Amalfi Coast but I am keen to return and see the cleaned ceiling. Lovely telling.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Lovely, jmb. Had to laugh about the honking motorists as Simi and I encounter them every day here. I think you would like the Sistine Chapel better now, yes. But I can remember the Vatican City as being a very unfriendly place when a school student of mine fainted in the heat there some years ago - they just wouldn't let us back in to help her and it's not as if they had had the security problems of today. I love tht film, "Three Coins in the Fountain" - and, romantic that I am, I think the legend must be true, too. Well, jmb, of course your daughter married an Italian! - She absorbed your love of Italy, I'm sure. Your photos are beautiful, as is your narrative - so please give us more!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Ps: I get the same spacing problems! I have convinced myself that no one else worries about it!

Josie said...

JMB, that is so wonderful! Thank you for sharing it with us. I have always wanted to visit Rome, ever since seeing Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday", but unfortunately I have never had the opportunity to go. Seeing your photographs brings back those feelings again. Everything about the Italian culture is so beautiful, isn't it?

Josie

jmb said...

Hi Lady M,
Rome is noisy and dirty and crowded but we went there on this trip to introduce my daughter to its treasures.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Welshcakes,
I just remember the Sistine Chapel as this huge dark overwhelming room with so much to look at and being "shouted" at every few minutes to be quiet. And my neck hurting to see this famous ceiling so far away up there.
I think, once you have seen it in situ, it is better to look at a series of photos in a book or see a program on TV where they have great access right up close t get the detail.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Josie,
Rome is a very special place, despite the crowds and dirt, etc. I don't think I would like to live there but if you go to Italy for the first time you have to go there, so that's why we went, for my daughter's sake.
I hope you get there one day too. And don't forget Florence and Venice, despite the crowds, etc.
regards
jmb

Smalltown RN said...

oh thank you for sharing....I don't know if I will ever get a chance to visit Rome but if I can use your blog post as a guide.

I have mentioned your blog on mine today...please stop by if you get a chance...cheers and Happy Monday!

Smalltown RN said...

I meant to say....if I do make it to Rome, I will be sure to use your blog as my tour guide. Thank you....

Mary said...

Hello JMB - Rome looks as good as I remember it. We were lucky enough to see Pope John Paul (I had to crane my neck as I'm not tall)before his demise and also the Sistine Chapel after it was cleaned up, but we didn't like being 'pushed along' with the crowd. Our hedges are Leylandi, a very fast growing hedge indeed, but it keeps my back garden very private. Our back garden faces due South and we live in a bungalow so all but the back border where the dry stone wall is gets the sun for most of the day. At the shady back of the garden live most of the dreaded slugs, I am trying to fill up the space with nice little shrubs (we already have some large ones up there). For now though, I fill up with bedding plants for the summer as the slugs don't eat all of them, I'm glad to say. Do you have a little white Highland Terrier (we call them Scottie Dogs). My daughter and I would love one, we will call him Haggis, but my husband is not fond of dogs, so he always says 'NO' one day perhaps we will be able to have one. It's so cold here, 12 deg today, we've put the central heating back on - whatever happened to 'flaming June', Regards, Mary

Gledwood said...

Did you see at mine when I said I'm minded (if I can get clean ... which is a massive issue in itself, but hey ...) if and when definitely to leave the country afterwards ... Italy is one of the places I would love to vanish to ... wow the history!! That is a fantastic post... you've just made me want to go to Rome even more ... great blog!! (as always) ...
BTW (& I'm King of the stupid questions so 4give me please if this is stoopid... you're in Vancouver ... do you know my friend Debs (debsbox.blogspot) in Vancouver? ... Just wondering.

jmb said...

Hi Smalltown,
I hope you get to Rome one day but I think you should use a better guide than my blog post. Thanks anyway.
I will respond on the other matter soon.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Mary,
Those are pretty old photos of Rome, but it is an interesting place.
I think your garden is lovely, I hope you get some good weather soon to enjoy it.
I did have a Westie dog, but she is no longer with us and we are dogless. She was the best dog we ever had, with a wonderful temperament, especially with children.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Well Gleds, I hope you do get well enough to run away and Italy would be my destination. Perfect for the person interested in History, all the way from Rome up.
I don't know Debs, I'll have to look her up.
regards
jmb

Voyager said...

Thank you for sharing your journey. I have only been to Rome once, when I was a teenager. I remember the cats, everywhere. Do the strays still wander all over the city in huge numbers?
V.

jmb said...

Hi voyager,
Yes those cats are still everywhere, with little old ladies feeding them. My daughter's Italian mother-in-law has a box of cat food by her front door.
regards
jmb

Lee said...

Another wonderful trip shared with you, jmb. :)

I loved "Three Coins In a Fountain" ...I watched it again a couple of years ago on television...first time in many years...and I still enjoyed it.

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
There have been some really great films made in Rome, haven't there? Glad that you enjoyed the post.
regards
jmb

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RUTH said...

I lived in Naples for a few years as a child and have many happy memories. Even as a child the vists to Pompeii and Herculaneum I found fascinating. I remember well my father cursing when driving in Rome. Yet if anyone held a white handkerchief out of the car window everyone would let them pass as it meant an emergancy. I wonder if that still happens now.

antonior said...

Nice place you have here!
Nice pictures and interesting reading.
I enjoyed the time I visited you.
I'll be back

Janice Thomson said...

I would want to spend days and days in St. Peter's Basilica just viewing the art! Question Jmb: do the Italians have as much appreciation for past Masters like we do?
Everything is so incredibly rich with history and art in Italy...thank you so much for this tour through your eyes and words Jmb
PS: Welshcakes is right - unless you are incredibly good at editing html then spacing remains a problem and no one actually notices anyway.

jmb said...

HI Ruth,
Lucky you to live in Italy. I've been to Pompeii, more than 40 years ago so only remember I couldn't go into one of the buildings because I was a woman. A former brothel apparently.
I didn't know about the white handkerchief story.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Antonior,
Thanks for coming by
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Janice,
Yes those Italians do appreciate their art treasures and are very proud of them. At least the ones I know are. And a treasure house Italy really is.