Oh hey, this post was basically ready to go--not many photos and for some reason I'd already captioned them.

I skipped morning tourism because despite being deliberately abstemious at the wedding, I woke up with a seriously unhappy stomach. So I slept for a while and then went on a quest for just plain bread--I think if I'd been in a French-speaking country I could've bought a loaf at any store with counter service, but instead the two deli-ish places I tried had pastries and sandwiches and big hunks of cured meats, but no big hunks of bread. I had to go into an actual grocery store for a loaf of bread (and it wasn't very tasty, though I may have grabbed the wrong kind). But I also found some crackers that were exactly like miniature dry toast, which sounds terrible but was just what I wanted. Also, to my surprise, antacids are behind-the-counter items in Italian pharmacies. (Having no data on my phone, I had thought to look up the word back on the hotel's wifi. It is, fortunately, "antiacido.")

I met up with our group for a tour of the Basilica of San Clemente, which was great, and the Colosseum. San Clemente is a three-fer: a Middle Ages church with a ceiling and walls that were later redecorated but original mosaics up front, which are very beautiful and of which I have no pictures because they aren't allowed; try Wikimedia and this representative picture of the glorious floor; a fourth-century church underneath that, with frescos dating somewhat later; and two first-century buildings, one a Mithraeum and the other something probably commercial, like a warehouse. You have to pay to go into the excavations, and I'm not sure how informative the signs would be without a guide, but the top level is definitely worth a look.

Then to the Colosseum, which is of course giant and impressive: capacity of 40-70 thousand people! Designed to let them all out in ten minutes! Elevators to get the animals, special effects, gladiators, etc., up from down below the stage! A retractable roof! The exterior has just been cleaned and the interior is in progress, which makes an impressive difference, as you'll see in the pictures. We'd heard about the history on the first day's tour, plus it was very very hot, so it wasn't the absolutely fascinating experience it could've been on first meeting, but it was still really interesting.

Then dinner on the roof of the Hotel Artemide, which had amazing gelato--I don't know if they make it in-house, but I had cream, strawberry, mixed berry, and chocolate, and while the mixed berry was maybe a little too berry for my own tastes, it was all good, and the chocolate was a standout: stunningly intense.

The photo set is only for the Colosseum and includes one picture of the exterior from earlier in the trip.
I haven't given up on blogging this June trip! (I wrote all the day reports on the plane coming home, it's just the pictures that needed sorting, and this one was daunting.)

On Wednesday we were meeting at the Galleria Borghese in the early afternoon, so I slept in a little and we meandered over in that direction mid-morning. We first walked around the adjacent park, just to get our bearings, and saw green parrots in the umbrella pines--we'd been told there were some in the park the day before, but hadn't seen any.

Then we went to the Piazza del Popolo, mostly to see the Basilica there. This was lovely: small enough that you could see the ceiling and the backs of the chapels, which were themselves remarkably varied, and all the beautiful decorative stonework that I've come to love in Rome. (We are contemplating renovating our kitchen, among other things, and picked out granite for countertops and tile for the floor so the contractors could price things out, and it was a really good thing that we did that before coming to Rome, or I might've got very ambitious in that regard.)

Then a quick light lunch and cutting through the Spagna subway station to get back to the Galleria--not only does it have lots of escalators so you can avoid climbing the giant hill, but it has a bunch of cool art, too!

The Galleria is amazing. You're strictly limited to a two-hour visit so I actually liked having a tour guide for this, because unless you plan to do multiple visits there is SO MUCH that it really helps to have someone filter stuff for you (and tell you anecdotes about painters being thrown in prison until they agree to hand over to the Cardinal, for free, the painting that someone else had commissioned, things like that). I still regret not being able to explore at my leisure, of course, but geez, Bernini was a flat-out genius, wasn't he? (Though I could wish that two of his masterpieces there weren't about rape (the Rape of Proserpine; Apollo and Daphne).) The paintings were less stunning to me, on the whole, but there were still a bunch of good ones and I took a ton of pictures (many of which didn't survive this cull; sadly there seem to be only a few pictures at the Galleria's website, under "masterpieces").

Then there was the wedding, which was lovely and also very fancy, being at the Palazzo Brancaccio. There's a picture of my outfit in the set; I wore those shoes for five whole hours and did not break a heel or an ankle on the cobblestones, which I think was pretty darn good, though I did not actually walk from our hotel to the venue in them. (I am so not cut out for high fashion.)

Here is the photo gallery for the day (click on the first photo, then click the little "i" in a circle at the top right, then hover over the right side of the photo to show the arrow that lets you move through the gallery in order).
On Tuesday we took the subway out to the Parco degli Acquedotti. (Many subway stations seemed to have exteriors that are not very well-maintained, and there was a lot of graffiti on the outside of the subway cars, but the interior of the cars were clean and the system overall seemed to work fine.)

Out at the park, it was pretty impressive how much less elegant the 16th c. aqueduct is than the 1st c. one. There was also a very short portion of one of the famous Roman roads, which was awesome--I'd never had a visual of those before. And generally it was nice to see the park being used in very everyday ways (excited dogs running around--sadly off-leash and often not picked up after; people exercising; people enjoying the weather), right next to the aqueducts. There was something about the light that made the older aqueduct seem like a painting, or looking back in time, even after I'd been there and literally touched it and knew it was really there. I greatly enjoyed it.

The family of one of the couple getting married lives in that neighborhood and arranged for a "light" lunch at one of their favorite local restaurants, Meo Pinelli. I use scare quotes because the servers just kept bringing out stuff, meaning that it was really easy to lose track of how much I'd eaten, especially since I didn't know what else was coming: several different kinds of little sandwiches, fish eggs spread on bread (turns out I don't like that), bite-sized pastry-ish things with tomato or cheese or veggies, and absolutely delicious suppli (balls of deep-fried risotto). I almost fell asleep about four times on the subway back to the hotel.

So we rested and then went to the wedding rehearsal dinner (apparently not a thing that is usually done in Italy) on the roof of the Hotel Forum, which was delicious and fancy and also seven freaking courses long; fortunately it turns out that I don't like beef Wellington because I really had not paced myself properly. (I know, problems, right?)

Here's the photo album; as before, click on the first photo at the top level, then click the little "i" in a circle at the top right, then hover over the right side of the photo to show the arrow that lets you move through the gallery in order.

(I was going to do Tuesday and Wednesday together, because they were short days, but Wednesday we visited the Galleria Borghese so I have a million pictures and even after napping for two and a half hours this afternoon I still need more rest.)
(That would be Monday, June 20.)

These posts were all written and waiting for me to annotate the image galleries that went with them before posting, and that was good sick-day activity, so I can put up a couple posts now, finally.

Monday was a day of heavy tourism: various sights on a walking tour in the morning, then the Vatican museums in the afternoon. One of Chad's pals had previously engaged a tour guide for us, who met us by the Colosseum and gave little potted histories of that and the Forum--not inside, that was for later in the week.

We walked past the first commercial indoor mall (which has a bunch of White Trees of Gondor in front of it, for some reason), and the giant wedding cake monument built to the first king of a unified Italy (our guide said that 19 people ate dinner in the belly of the horse in the center when it was dedicated, to give a sense of the scale), and the Trevi fountain (I liked hearing about how the sculptor left imperfections and rough stone in much of his work to remind the viewer about the superiority of nature--though I guess this may rather be an idea left over from Bernini's sketches, since he didn't actually design the final version the way he did the facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, which has a similar thing), and the being-cleaned Spanish Steps, and a whole bunch of obelisks that were looted from Egypt, and the fountains in the Piazza Navona. It was a lot.

My favorite was the Pantheon, which I keep wanting to call Parthenon which is something different, because it's just beautifully intricate inside; I could've stayed there for hours. (It rained a little later so we missed the chance to see the rain coming through the hole in the dome and how the drains work.)

Then lunch, which took a little longer than optimal so we were late for our reserved tour of the Vatican museums, but it worked out okay. (I had gnocchi with gorgonzola and pear; the night before I had fettuccine with ricotta and bacon, which just leaped out of the menu at me for some reason, and grouper in tomato sauce, at a tiny place called Le Mani in Pasta that was very good but slow by even Italian standards, it developed over the course of the week.)

The Vatican Museums were kind of . . . stressful. It's so amazingly crowded that you can't hang out and look at anything, everyone's just pushing and crowding and hurrying all around you. Impressive, of course, and I'm definitely glad I saw the Sistine Chapel after the restoration (they left a little bit unrestored so you can tell how amazingly dark it had gotten). But I saw a bunch of cool things just in passing and I'm sure if we'd come on the least busy day of the year (if such a thing even exists) I could've found more.

St. Peter's Basilica was very impressive for being decorated solely with mosaic on the inside, Michelangelo's Pieta (now behind bulletproof glass after being attacked by someone with a hammer in 1972), and this beautiful golden sunburst window with a dove in the center. Again, though, almost all of the mosaic was way up high, so lots of neck-cricks and overwhelmedness and not enough detail.

By the way: it was a little before 4:30 p.m. when we came outside and there were these very ominous bells tolling for at least fifteen minutes. Any idea what that was?

Then by accident we got separated from our group, had consolatory gelato in a cafe (mediocre; mine had ice crystals in it), and took a taxi back to the hotel. (Every car ride in Rome had me think, on a running loop, "We are going to die or kill someone." Taxis do things like never use turn signals, treat lane boundaries as mere suggestions, and go the wrong way down one-way traffic lanes just because no-one's in them at the moment.)

We had drinks at a very fancy hotel with a nice garden, Hotel de Russie, and then dinner nearby at Dal Bolognese, which was both delicious and much quicker than the night before, bringing out dishes with a speed I expect at an American restaurant. I had pasta with bolognese sauce, because I figure you can't go wrong having something that's in the name of the restaurant. And I was right.

Before the walking portion of the morning got particularly long, I was really loving Rome visually: the colors of the buildings, and the way that time periods are sliced up next to each other and layered one atop another, I just found it very aesthetically pleasing and charming. So it was a really long day but on the whole good.

Here are the photo albums. There is stuff in the captions, so click on the first photo at the top level, then click the little "i" in a circle at the top right, then hover over the right side of the photo to show the arrow that lets you move through the gallery in order.
The hotel wifi isn't up to uploading pictures from my phone, and I want to post the albums and the summaries all at once, so I'll upload and annotate the pictures and do the posts when we get home. Don't worry, I'm keeping notes as we go so I'll remember!
I make zero representations about my ability to keep up with this, by the way.

blather about travel logistics, mostly )

Tomorrow: I try to take pictures of our room, and the buildings that have huge imposing doors . . . with everyday-use doors cut out of them that are about five feet tall; and we do museums and stuff. (Someone else arranged the tour, I'm not entirely sure what's on it beside the Vatican in the afternoon.)

End of day update: dinner here was really excellent, but finishing eating at midnight may pose serious problems.

Edit: small photo album of stuff in and around our hotel.

March 2017

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