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Monday, March 31, 2008


I'm way behind!

After Fannie's and Andrew's visit, Thomas visited for a few days, then Gasper. It has been very nice having so many around and will seem quiet after tomorrow when Gasper has to fly back to Heathrow and hopefully on home to Philadelphia. (I say hopefully because of the mess at Heathrow's new terminal.)

So, to catch up, I think I'll just include some photos from the remainder of the kids' visit and hope I can work out the layout issues with Blogspot enough to at least identify them.

F&A took the camera and went to the colosseum on their own, so these are shots they took themselves:

The next day we all went to the Galleria Borghese, a must-see if you are here for more than a couple of days.
Once at the Villa Borghese, we had some time to kill before our alloted hours in the museo during which time Andrew rescued Fannie and BIll from the Tourist Eating Tree:

Happy to be free, Bill found a friend to play with:
Sadly, no photography is allowed in the museum. I would love a chance to take some closeups of the Bernini sculptures!

After the museum and, of course a coffee, we wandered across the gardens where we found a "tribute" to Goethe:

Bill is a big fan of Sophia Loren!

Coming back into the city down the Spanish Steps (so-called because in the 1600's the Spanish ambassador to the Pope used to have his offices on the piazza) we stopped at Antico Caffe Greco for more coffeefor Andrew, hot chocolate for Fannie, and, even better for us, Prosecco:

At the end of the day, a bit of shopping brought home some beautiful crawfish(?) with false eyes on their tails. We never really figured out how to cook them, but Andrew, being a good New Englander, definitely knew how to eat them!

The Euro and Laura Cretara

A few days ago I decided to stop in at the Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale hoping to catch an exhibit on ancient China (just a little break from all-Roman-all-the-time). This museum is in the old Palazzo Brancaccio and is a short walk from our home here - what isn't!

On entering I discovered that tickets were free that day and that the China exhibit was gone.
I was disappointed but definitely ready to take advantage of the chance to see their regular collection and whatever else they had on offer.

I have long been interested in relief sculpture. Rome is rich in examples, naturally. Bassorilievo was popular art form in ancient Rome and was revived in Renaissance times (a well known example are the north doors of the Baptistry in Florence by Lorenzo Ghiberti). There are also lots of modern works here too.

After collecting my biglietto d'ingresso gratuito (free ticket) I found myself in a special exhibit of works from the Associazione Italiana Arte della Medaglia (AIAM). This group is responsible for much of the work on medals, coins and other medallions! Perfect! Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take photos, but I did by the book: Precorso D'Artista.

One room exhibited a sampling of current and past artists of the AIAM. I especially appreciated the work of several of the artists, in particular Cornelio Ghiretti from 1915 and Rosa Maria Villani, a professor at the school, who did a gorgeous torso, very flat but somehow also very strong and three dimensional feeling.

In the next room, however, came the real surprise for me. This room featured a single artist, Laura Cretara. There were drawings, sculpture and lots of reliefs, including coins. Including the 1 Euro piece, several of which I had in my pocket!

Laura is the 'author' of the Italian Euro coin that has Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man on its pictorial side.

There were also works from her younger days which I liked very much, this being a sample. (I took quick shots directly from the book published by Editalia.)

A very nice woman working at the exhibit came up to me while I was looking at things, and through sign language she explained to me that Laura herself would be coming any minute, and she did! I got to shake her hand and tell her, in my terrible pidgin Italian, how much I liked her work. She was gracious and forgiving. And, she even signed the book! (Now I just have to find someone who can read and translate what she wrote :-).)

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Back to the chronicle of Fannie's and Andrew's visit.

On their third day, Sunday, March 16, we decided to head out to see the Forum and the Colosseum. We are only ten minutes away from these sites by foot, but on this day it took us over an hour (no kidding!) to get there. We hadn't realized that the Rome Marathon would be passing by on the Via dei Fori Imperiali and that road would be almost completely blocked off.

We tried to go around by the way of the Colosseum but that was a dead end, so we ended up following part of the route, very slowly because of the crowds, until we were able to cross the street near the Column of Trajan.
Before we got there, we wandered past the Fori di Augusto and Nerva where we saw this interesting illustration of the perils of history and archaeology: these stairs go where?

Lots of runners had finished the race by then and were swathed in gold foil blankets - very festive looking even though many of the wearers seemed exhausted. Lots and lots of people were hanging out, picnicking, wandering around, and generally having a good time of it in spite of the somewhat blustery weather.

We even came across a couple playing mean didgeridoos - an incredible sound and unexpected here where we're much more likely to run across Peruvian flute players!

Before crossing over to the Forum, we also came across this doorway. The store inside sells products grown on the lands confiscated from the Mafia, celebrating the rule of law.

Another person in gold was one of the ubiquitous "Egyptian statues," this one being teased by a group of kids.


It is Spring now so the flowers are all coming out. These very red poppies are so beautifully wild I couldn't resist a picture.

I like this shot of the blustery sky and
some typical, if not classic, Roman contrasts: the leafless trees with the tall palms peeking through them at all of us fools in the Forum.

Fannie and Andrew were good children of academics and studied the guide book carefully in the Forum.

One of my favorite sights in the Forum is the Umbilicus Urbis Romae (Rome's belly button).

I also always make it a point to visit Caesar's temple to see if flowers have been left there for him. So far there have always been flowers, but on this, the day after the Ides of March (the MMLII anniversary of his assassination), there were even more bouquets, along with a note for Caesar that you may be able to read if you click on the photo and can read Italian.

I'm glad this piece of cornice didn't fall on Fannie! It may have come from the Temple of Saturn above.

At the other end of the Forum, along the Via Sacra and past the home of the Vestal Virgins (in the pic at right with the statue of a Virgin on the side) is
another set of stairs to where?

Continuing on further, we came to the Arch of Titus. On the inside of the arch is a relief showing Titus and his army bringing in the spoils of war including this menorah taken from the Second Temple in Jerusalem.


We made our way past the Arch of Titus up the hill on to the Palatine, one of my favorite places in Rome.

I had hopes of being able to get into the newly opened House of Augustus, but it was already after 3:00 and others we met warned us that the line was longer than the time it would be open. So we wandered amongst the ruins of the Imperial palaces and the remains of the Farnese gardens until the onset of rain convinced us it was time to head home. The giant green tongue threatening to give Fannie a lick is actually a beautiful fern and moss fountain from the Farneses.

This is a shot of the Forum from the Palatine:


Went to St. Peter's today to see the Pope give his Easter address and blessing. (It's possible he's in this first shot somewhere inside the thin white line below and slightly to the left of the center of the basilica facade.) Well, honestly, we didn't expect to be able to actually see the Pope, but we did want to see the crowds and the pomp and circumstance. We mostly just saw hundreds of umbrellas and ponchos and lots and lots of rain. The service was highlighted by lightning and thunder, a little bit of choral music and the Dracula theme song.

I'm including a shot of the Tonino-Lamborghini golf carts the Polizia use at these events. I wonder what these guys are laughing at?

We headed back, completely soaked, and stopped for lunch at a little place near St. Peter's. It was even raining (well, leaking heavily) in the restaurant so we weren't able to dry off until we got home.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mmmm, CiuriCiuri!

Mmmm, Ciuri Ciuri!
We're having a Ciuri Ciuri pigout. Four flavors of the lightest, creamiest, most delicious ice cream. Chocolate-orange, almond, unbelievable strawberry, and fior de latte. An entire kilo.
Mmmm. Yum! Mmmm....

Half goes into the freezer. (For breakfast?)

Then on to the giant red jellied fruit, the Easter things, small and green with marzipan, ricotta and deliciousness, a little chocolate boat and some beautiful orange things.

I, Char, can't do it. I'm counting on "I'll Take One for the Team" Andrew, Fannie, and Bill to finish these off.

Ah ... the giant red jellied fruit is actually a jellied FRUIT, a baby pear. When you cut it open you can see the seeds and the structure that connects to the stem, but in a glowing translucent red. Fannie suggests that this is what the traditional sugar plum must be like.

Quite remarkable. At first it's a shocking color, and you wonder if it's just an overgrown piece of candy.
But, no. Very delicate, a little spicy, not overpoweringly sweet. Just amazing.

Note: Apparently there are four of these jellied fruits at the shop. Fannie asked for advice, and the young woman behind the counter recommended three of them, including the pear. Fannie is eager to go back and try the others. We admit to some curiosity about the one that was left out of the recommendations, but we also have to maintain good relations with the people behind the counter ... .

Mmmm, CiuriCiuri! (Pronounced chee-ur-ee ch-ee-ur-ee) It's a Sicilian sweets shop that first attracted our attention with their almond and pistachio cookies.

A note for the folks back in Princeton:
You'll be glad to know that the ice cream (especially the dark chocolate-orange) sparked a discussion of how good the Bent Spoon is, even against Italian standards. The dark chocolate orange was surprisingly similar to that flavor at the Bent Spoon; the chocolate is pleasingly a little stronger at the Bent Spoon, but the Ciuri Cuiri version had delightful little pieces of candied orange peel and was a bit lighter. Both are incredibly creamy. This is a great reminder that Matt and Gabi really are doing an amazing job, and we wish they could hop over to Rome to check out their Italian counterparts! (Is there a word for a flavor doppelganger?)

This post was a Circolo di CiuriCiuri cheering effort.

First Day of Spring!

Today is the first day of Spring and this morning buds on the tree in our little Roman garden burst open with the first blossoms of the year. Just like a promise.