TRAVELOGORRHEA

travelogorrhea

My birthday continues with an immersion in antiquities: a short walk up the ramp into the Piazza di Campidoglio and then down into the Roman Forum

 

and up onto the Palatine Hill, looking down into the Circo Massimo,

 

 

and then into the Colosseo.

 

I have never been so thankful for the cool, plentiful and delightfully potable Roman water, which pours non-stop from spigots all over town. I drank about a gallon of it on our walk. It was easy to imagine being an Imperial Roman 2,000 years ago – I can’t wait to read Scott’s Roma book when I get home.

 

We have begun reading the International Herald Tribune (IHT) every day, and we simply don’t get this coverage of Europe from either the LA or the NYTimes. We are cosmopolitan people, bravely trying to speak a language we barely understand, communicating as best we can, learning first-hand how modern Romans live in the 21st century, even as we celebrate the still-living masterworks of their great-great forebears.

 

Delicious dinner at da Otello in Trastevere, followed by a walk through the fairyland down on the river.


 

A special birthday I hope to remember for years to come.

 

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Mercoledi. An awesome expedition today to Ostia Antica, the ancient port of Rome. We had coffee and pastries around the corner, then crossed the river, walked up and around the front of the Vittoriano to Colosseo Station, where we took the B line to Pyramide, then a quick 45-minute train ride to the coast.

 

Walking into Ostia (the “mouth” of the Tiber) was an instant trip back 20 centuries. We stepped into a huge and beautiful (and well-built!) city of red brick,


 

starting at the necropolis and working our way in through the granaries and warehouses, the homes and offices, temples (including an ancient Jewish temple with a visible menorah) scola and huge theater, high-density housing, taverns,

 

 

the baths with their spectacular bi-chrome mosaic floors picturing Neptune and other denizens of the nearby sea.

 

It must have been loud and bustling then, for six centuries, growing and changing, then falling into disease and disuse and finally silting over, which protected and preserved it so we could enjoy it now, peacefully, with huge pine and cypress trees, and magpies. We were out in the country, far away from the noise and bustle of Roma, yet the theme of antiquity and life before-and-during the early Christian era carried over, because this was Rome’s first “colony” on the nearby coast, even as they began to flex their muscles to become an Empire.

 

Walking back from the Coliseum we stopped to look down in wonder at the excavations in progress of a series of other Forums (Fora?) deep below the street. There are two beautiful domed churches there just across the street from Trajan’s Column, and we entered the one on the left (S. Maria di Loreto?) and admired it quietly, just the three of us.


 

Amazing to be all alone in a sacred space like that, filled with art, wonder and silence. Then – surprise! We saw people on the Vittoriano (I didn’t know you could go up there,) so we climbed to the top for a heavenly gelato and a panoramic view of the city he liberated from the (harshly anti-Semitic) temporal power of the Popes. Bravo Vittorio!

 

M. led us to a wonderful dinner tonight as we re-traced our steps through Trastevere, through the old arched gate and onto the Via della Lungara past the Palazzo Corsini to the small al fresco restaurant that stands all by itself, frequented only by Italians: the Miraggio. (M. & B. enjoyed the house special: linguini vongole.) On the way back we took a quick look at two more antiquities on the far side of the Ponte Patatino: the Temple of Portonus (unfortunately being restored behind scaffolding) and the delightful round Temple of Hercules. But it’s 11:30 and we’re exhausted.

 

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Giovedi. A quick shopping trip for cheese, bread, salumi and fruits, then coffee and croissants and we were off in a cab to the Museo Borghese.


 

Back in the early 1600s, Cardinal Scipione Borghese built his villa and filled it with sculpture, paintings, frescoes and all the decorative arts until it became an opulent gem of a museum that he is generously sharing with us nearly four centuries later. The Berninis from the early 1600s are particularly sublime: David about to slay Goliath, and Apollo & Daphne as she magically transforms into a tree. But also Canova’s sculpture of the semi-nude Pauline Borghese from the early 1800s. That’s a concept that may be sometimes hard to grasp as we view Roma through the centuries: the layering of time, which is so much easier for archaeologists to define as they slice down through their strata. In the living city, a broken marble capital from a column erected before the birth of Christ may be lying on the ground right there in the street next to a Palazzo built in the early 19th century. It would take a highly trained eye to calibrate that depth of field as we take in all this magnificence.

 

Thank you Cardinal Borghese! Thanks to Bernini’s artistry, we can look you in the eye and see what kind of man you were – yes, a ruthless collector with nearly unlimited resources, but also a man of vision with a long view, and an eye for beauty that would last for the ages. A humorous, generous spirit; a true Patron of the Arts in the best sense of the word.

 

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