Friday, March 22, 2013

Odds and ends

It's taken me almost as long to sort through the pictures and write these few words as it took for the whole holiday. Today's instalment will be long and disjointed and all-encompassing.

One day we went to the Galleria Borghese, a Renaissance palazzo filled with the art accumulated by some pope's nephew. Photos are forbidden inside, so you'll just have to look at the pictures provided on their site. I especially wanted a postcard of this fellow, but alas, there were none. Many, many, many lovely things to look at here!

The gallery is in a huge park, and all along the roads in the park there are busts of modern Italian heroes and philosophers and who knows who. This guy, Fausto Cecconi, caught my eye, what with the goggles and all.

His wikipedia page is in Italian, but it seems he was an airman in the 30s, won some awards for flying planes, and died young and in action. Some choice google-translated bits:

On 2 June 1930 captured along with Colonel Umberto Maddalena, with a Savoia-Marchetti S.64, the world record for duration and distance in closed loop scoring 67 hours and 13 minutes of non-stop flight, with 8188 km and 800 meters distance.

An explosion caused by an accumulation in the lower part of the cockpit, flammable vapors caused by the fumes of the fuel the plane plunges into the sea near Marina di Pisa.

And now here he is, immortalised in a park.

Other great statue bits we came across, all from the Capitoline Museum:

the stylish Fonseca head

Augustus, who I always think of as old, preferably looking much like Brian Blessed, here appears stark naked and youngish. I think despite the fact that this is very nice and I would gladly put it in my living room, most of us must be pleased our politicians have dropped the tradition of the heroic nude statue. (I was looking around for more dope on this statue and found this picture on Flickr, taken in 2002. He seems to have had a wash! I like the greyer one!)

Also in the Capitoline are the marble fragments of the giant Constantine. He was seated, and mostly made of bricks and concrete. These bits and pieces are fantastic. Kaffe Fassett needlepointed the head, but I can't find a picture of it. Just dig out your old copies of Glorious Needlepoint; I'm sure it's in there!

Here's his foot

We tried many of these weird perspective photos: pushing over the obelisk, squashing the Pantheon, and so on. Most of them didn't really work; this is the only one worthy of bloggage. Mary and Constantine reaching out...

This, oh this! Someone picked up a lump of stone and said, "Just the perfect thing for a lady's wrap." The stripes are just right and it even folds where it should!

One day we went out to Ostia Antica, the old port of Rome which was silted in for centuries. There's a whole town to explore, with theater, forum, temples, synagogue and cafes. You should read this whole site, which has pictures of the excavation from the early 1900s, and lots more.

Love the Roman bricks
These flat little bricks are all over. Everything was made of them and the miraculous Roman concrete. In Ostia we did see quite a few walls of square blocks in what they call a reticulated pattern. (Oh, now I have to go back to Italy and check... I had thought these were bricks, but quite likely they are stone.) 

Arthur in his red jacket wandering through town
theatre, reconstructed
Elaine on the lip of the (lost) stage

Occasionally there would be a fence spotted on an upper level, indicating some sort of lookout. Sometimes we could find our way up, like when we took the picture of Arthur above. This time, the kids set off walking on the tops of the walls and did make their way to the viewing platform, to which all more orthodox routes were blocked off. We old folks just tut-tutted at ground level, and were thankful no legs were broken and no children were carted off to archeology prison for going where they shouldn't. Another hardy couple did set off and followed our darlings' example. I think they didn't break any legs, either.

Would you like the ragu or the carbonara today?

There is a "downtown" with a street of shops that have mosaic floors advertising their wares.

We were told on our tour of the Colosseum that if you needed wild animals for your games, you didn't have to go all the way to Africa; there were brokers in Ostia who could get you a lion or boar at short notice. This must be the place!

Does this place sell adventure tours or anti-piracy insurance?

A restaurant, one presumes. 

And then there were just the patterns, without pictures. The whole place was black and white.

kind of regular, kind of not

Ostia Antica, very fun.

On our last full day we went on a tour of the Forum and Colosseum with Walks of Italy. We had originally booked the highlights tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums, but with the chapel being closed, we switched over to this tour. The Forum is a jumble of fragments and it was really helpful to have a guide. We saw fresh flowers that had been placed on the spot where Julius Caesar was cremated -- it was the day after the Ides of March. We saw the Palantine hill with papal gardens on top of emperors' houses. And we saw the Colosseum.

We got to go down to the lower level, though we couldn't wander through these labyrinthine passages. It all looks quite fun, but of course it was under the floor and dark when the gladiators and animal keepers and criminals awaiting execution hung out down here.

Ancient graffiti on a wall inside one of the tunnels on the ground level. The story we heard was that prostitutes would set up shop, as it were, in these hallways, or arches, or fornices. (One is a fornix.) So if you saw this sign on the wall, you would know it was a fornix in which you could get some fornication. The Colosseum was a place with something for everyone, it seems.

As we were walking up the Palatine, we stopped to look at this plant. Can you identify it? Well, I will tell you, it is acanthus.

We all know acanthus is the plant which decorates the Corinthian capital. Clever, eh?

Somehow I missed out a few floors the other day! This stunning Tumbling Blocks was in San Giovanni in Laterano. There's quite a stretch of it, all black, white and grey.

I think this one is just in a passageway at the Capitoline Museum. It's actually symmetric but the photo from above elongates it oddly. Sometimes I think I'll just make black and white blankets forever...

Again at San Giovanni. This is in the porch, not the fancy-pants part of the church.

We're almost done! Bear with me!

a nice big door
gate and obelisk at San Giovanni
a roof, looking down from the Vittoriano
a nice building
some lichen, because what's a trip without some lichen?
Mary at a recognizable tourist site

So, we saw the sights, walked our feet off, ate lots of good food, got rained on and often could have been warmer, and had a great time. 

You have heard of the journey out of Rome. In my flustered state I neglected to mention that just the kids and I had that adventure, while Stephen sat in a cafe for a while before heading out to a different airport to fly to England for a short stint in Cambridge. 

See that? Yellow tape!

He watched the leaders of the wretched marathon passing through the Piazza Navona!


  1. fabulous! fabulous! fabulous!
    i have so so enjoyed living vicariously through you and your family's italian adventure!
    thank you for taking us along with you!!

  2. It looks like a wonderful trip!


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