Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our last day of the official honeymoon

Our last day in Rome, which was Sunday, we decided to have a low stress day-too much of our trip was planned, with an agenda. So we woke up late, had breakfast at the hotel, and left our bags there. We picked up our train tickets, and then had a (forgettable) last lunch at Gran Caffe Roma (not recommended). We found a place that had homemade Toblerone while wandering around looking for bees on buildings (the Barberini family signified the buildings that they had built by putting their symbol, the bee, in hidden places -once you know that, you'll see little bees everywhere in trim, crests, etc). We visited a few places that we had missed, and sat in the Borghese park, watching the ducks in the pond, and Romans out strolling and biking (in high heels). Finally, we walked to the hotel to get our luggage, and to the Termini station to catch our train.

We saw the famous St. Teresa in Esctasy by Bernini which was amazing. I didn't like Bernini much in Art History classes but his sculpture is beautiful in person. I still hate Baroque and Rococco, though.

For me, the highlight of the day was the Capuchin Crypts. The theme is "What you are now, we used to be. What we are now, you will be"  and the crypt was built in the late 1600's. People more familiar with Catholicism will probably correct me, but I understood the Capuchins to be be an offshoot of Franciscans, which I found interesting. While we were in Rome, I found myself repelled by the extreme wealth that the popes (admittedly a different situation in Renaissance times and later) had. I tend to like people who are a little different, and admired St. Francis of Assisi after I had done some reading about him. So after being so drawn by the Capuchin Crypts, it made sense to me that they were related to St. Francis. You can't take photos in the crypts, but you can see photos online here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capuchin_Crypt

The Crypt is decorated with literally thousands of bones from the skeletons of friars of the sect- bones made into garlands, arches, even a chandelier. But the idea is not to be like a house of horrors, but to confront each person with the undeniable fact of their mortality. We will be this someday, because we were standing like you one day. Even Nate, who I think was curious but not prepared to like the crypts, was visibly and profoundly moved by the experience. I had tears in my eyes.

I even went looking for a book about the history of the sect, but couldn't find a good one -this sect supports themselves with handouts, and on their website, even a bake sale. No joke. I think people might be getting their cookies from me for Christmas. I struggle somewhat with the idea that this religious group is related to a pope who wears Gucci shoes, and Prada, while many of the religion's adherents struggle in poverty (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/22/AR2005122201914.html). I feel like this group, and St. Francis, had more the right idea.

Anyway, we arrived home, and Godiva the dog threw an enormous happy fit, and hasn't stopped his doggy smile since. Back to work tomorrow.

Thanks for taking the time to keep up with our honeymoon!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday revision and Saturday

I realized I forgot to say what happened after Pompeii. We took the train back to Naples, which is loud, overwhelming, and the part we saw, not that pretty, and had pizza. Pizza is a source of Napolitan pride, and we went to one of the places they like best, "Antica Pizzaria di Michelle" which was in the movie "Eat Pray Love." It was amazing. On the 2.5 hour train ride home, some guy pleaded and argued loudly the entire time with his mom on his cell phone. The other Italian men did not need a common language to make their message apparent: they were eloquently able to convey, "grow a pair buddy" by gesture alone.

Today was Vatican day. We got there earlier than our reservation, but they still let us in. The place was so packed it was almost not enjoyable, though was worth it for the Sistine Chapel (even though they don't let you talk and were forcing us to walk through without stopping) and the Raphael Rooms. You're not allowed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel, though there, like everywhere else, visitors were explicitly not obeying the museum rules. I surprised myself by snapping at a French couple who were reaching through the ropes to touch two thousand year old artworks, "Don't touch that!" in French. Thanks Monsieur Krieger (our high school French teacher)! I didn't see them touch anything else... :) After the Vatican museum, we were exhausted and had lunch and a gelato that defines gelato for me, the most spectacular pistachio gelato ever. We went over to St. Peters, but the line wrapped around the entire square (about 5 hours long) -I guess we'll see the Pieta another time. It seemed like there was something special going on, because they had a platform in front that looked like a funeral bier. Then we walked over to Hadrian's tomb (which one of the medieval popes had tricked out in papal splendor). We picked up a souvenir for a friend, and then went back to the hotel. We had dinner at some Italian institution next to four priests that I think might have been from Sacramento- boy were they bitchy.

I think the thing that bothered both of us the most was the incredible luxuriousness of the papal apartments, particularly those from the Renaissance times. It felt distressing that they felt entitled to that level of splendor -almost hypocritical. Anyway, tomorrow we're on our way to London for a layover and then back to the US on Monday. I think I appreciate Washington DC more than I ever did, because in comparison, the people in DC are so nice! And I really miss the dog!


Is that....Mt Vesuvius in the distance? Yup, we finally made it to Pompeii. After the monumental flood of Thursday (someone actually drowned in their basement in Rome), we got up at the crack of dawn to board the express train to Naples. I like traveling by train, except when you're traveling at high speed through the countryside, and then, "click, click, click" from the train, and it stops. We were stuck for about two and a half hours or so, total, and ended up being pushed by another train back to Rome, and then boarded another train, ending up in Naples much later than planned. It turns out the train track was damaged by the intense weather, which in turn, damaged the train. After switching to a commuter train, and twelve stops with Nate and I squashed next to some obnoxious tourist with poor personal hygeine, we leapt out of the train the second the doors opened, and breathed the fresh sea air of Pompeii. This photo is taken from the forum at Pompeii.

This photo is at the market place, where the sad casts of the people who died are displayed.

A nicely preserved fresco (hey, it's more than 2000 years old!) -however, mostly Pompeii decoration were considered pretty nouveau riche by most Romans. The mosaics and frescos are actually reproductions- the originals are in the Naples museum, which is good, because then I felt less homicidal with people who were abusing their privilege to see the site (climbing on ancient pillars, touching everything, climbing over barriers to go into unauthorized areas -no kidding, we saw all of these).

A major throughfare, with rosemary and pomegranates growing by the side of the road. You can tell this was a major road by the raised stones at the intersection- it was supposed to accommodate two way chariot traffic.

A nice photo of Nate.

A mosaic in the house of the Fawn, considered the only non-declasse house there.

The "doormat" at one of the houses- it means essentially "hail you."

I think people liked dogs in ancient Pompeii, as there were two mosaics that pictured dogs, and one entryway had a dog with "beware of dog" lettered under it. There are a bunch of Pompeii dogs there now that sleep in the sun, and I assume keep other animals out of the side. This puppy was asleep on one of the mosaics. (I sure miss our dog, Godiva!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The fifth day: rained out!

No photos today...we were scheduled to go to the Vatican museum, with the afternoon off for the Jewish Ghetto or somewhere else. There was a giant rain/lightning/hail storm that flooded first floors of buildings, streets, and stopped the trains. Unfortunately, we were stuck on one of those trains, and ended up in the train station in a not nice neighborhood for three hours, and missed our time for the Vatican. So, we're going Saturday (now, it's a $100 visit to the museum, since it's about $25 per person). We did visit the Travestere, which used to be a yucky area, but is now pretty fun. Tomorrow, Naples and Pompeii!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day four (whew!)

This is going to be a short blog, because we're both beat! (and have an early day ahead tomorrow) Today, we took the train in Ostica Antica, the port city for Rome. When Rome was declining, one sign of it was that the via Ostica (busiest road in Rome) had grass growing on it! At some point it was covered by silt, and in the early 1900's, the Italian government did a massive archaeologic dig. As a result, it's in excellent condition. The photo at left is the amphitheatre there.

This is one of the mosaics that was in the trade district. Each shop had a mosaic floor that signified what it sold or what service it provided, since there were so many foreigners there. St Augustine even stopped there, and his mother died there.

This is a perfectly preserved marble bar!

Looking out from the third story of one of the tenements (still in great shape).

Another bar! We looked over most of the city (which was considerable). It's worth it to see soon since it will probably disintegrate because the tourists are really inconsiderate. Nate thought he was going to be in a fight after a tourist was letting his kid climb on the walls and kick at the walls, and then I saw him spit on the building. I told him very clearly that he was disgusting, making sure I spoke slowly and clearly in case he was as dumb as I thought he might be. I suspect he did understand me because he looked surprised.

After the train ride home, we walked to the Campo di Fiori (pictured) for a drink, and to people watch. Then we had dinner at a trattoria, where the mom cooks what she feels like, and what is seasonal. You don't get to pick what you eat -she does. And you better not give Signora Paola a hard time, either. The food was pretty fun.

Then we walked (er, I staggered) over to the Piazza Navona, looked at the Bernini fountain, people watched some more, and then walked to the Trevi fountain (pictured). We hoofed it to the column of Marcus Aurelius (my hero!), then the Pantheon (stunning at night, as you can see), the Spanish Steps, then back to our hotel. The Vatican Museum is tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Our Roman Honeymoon: day three

Today, we woke up a little late (still jet lagged), missed breakfast, but still managed to tour the Baths of Caracalla and the National museum of Rome. The Baths of Caracalla are the most massive ruins I've ever seen, and only a few blocks from our hotel. The front part of the baths have been made into a Baroque church, with all traces of the Roman features obliterated. We didn't spend much time in the church. However, the museum was amazing and had a lot of beautiful statues, mosaics and wall paintings. Nate and I photographed them extensively, though clearly from Nate's face, I think I might have been more successful at it. :)

The photo below is a room from a home around the time of Augustus (died 14 AD). They found it buried in the Renaissance time, and preserved the wall paintings and mosaic floors. This was pretty amazing!

The next photo is a bronze statue of a boxer, who originally had glass or marble eyes, which dangled from hooks, which are still there, within the head.

This was a beautiful marble sculpture portraying a person from Greek mythology, pulling an arrow from her back.

The marble busts were amazing.

This is me frowning at two of my least favorite things, simultaneously: zoos (bored animals in cages) and Rococco style.

After the national museum, we had a really nice lunch, strolled through the Borghese gardens, stopped at my favorite drinking water fountain, and bought a perfume from the Carthusian monks from Capri for my Roman souvenir (fig, tea, and Capri carnation!). Then we wandered over to the Piazza del Popolo, wandered an amazing church, which was redecorated by Bernini, and had TWO caravaggios, one of which is in a smuggled photo from my phone below.

After doing a little shopping, staring longingly at the Vuitton bag store, and climbing the Spanish steps, we watched people for awhile, and the con artists preying on the crowds. The photo of the peach colored house is where Keats died. We wandered back, had fried zucchini flowers and pizza for dinner, and now are getting ready for tomorrow's trip to Ostia Antica, the ancient Roman port town. The afternoon is free so far. Any suggestions?

Monday, October 17, 2011

A few more photos....

Day two of our honeymoon in Rome

Whew! Today was exhausting. We woke up a little late, but which was apparently the time that most Romans have breakfast and socialize with friends before work -at least in the cafe at Piazza di Republica. We had the most fabulous cappuccinos (only acceptable prior to 10 am here, as the Romans are coffee Nazis) and nice pastries, and then set off.

First was the colosseum, which was amazing. We had audio tours pre-set on our iphones, and learned a lot about the ancient stadium while we wandered around. After that, the Palantine Hill, which is where the aristocracy lived in the Republic, until Imperial Rome, when apparently the emperors of Rome decided the Hill was where they wanted their palaces, and built over the top of the houses that had been there. I have a pretty amazing photo of Domitian's monumental palace, which Roman citizens were afraid to be "invited" to! I think the evocative part of the Palantine Hill is how little remains of what they had -and what happens to all of us eventually.

The Roman Forum was also amazing. I was particularly interested in seeing the place where Caesar's body was cremated, and maybe a little appalled that tourists sit on pieces of ancient building, feet up, while they take in the sun. It seemed disrespectful, somehow. The oldest building, the House of the Vestals, was originally built in 600 BC or so, and was rebuilt after fires, etc. The scale of these buildings was amazing. The other thing I noticed is that the public buildings are built spaciously, but homes, even those of the emperors (which was all that was there) were built with very small rooms and little corridors.

We saw Trajan's column and the old public forums; on the way to our next destination, we found a vendor selling freshly roasted chestnuts from a grill. The warm, sweet smell was amazing, but I liked eating the chestnuts in the warm sun, from a paper cone. We went to the Pantheon next, which we both loved, but were a little sad by the old Roman decorations that appeared to be chiseled off , with Christian ones plastered over. We saw Raphael's tomb there as well. After that, we had amazing gelato (fig and walnut!), and wandered home.

We also saw some evidence of the riots. We were in the Monti district, trying to find a restaurant recommended to us. The Monti district is what used to be called the Subura district in ancient times, and was the place where Julius Caesar was born. It was a working class, noisy district, with colorful street life, maybe a little like today. We walked by a bank, and saw that their ATM machine and front windows had been smashed to pieces with a brick or rock, and some nearby posters, like the ones we saw yesterday, advocated for change. We've also seen an increased police presence, with some officers in tactical gear, but no rioters so far.

I also took photos of every public water fountain I found, but won't bore you with those. :) I did discover that there others also obsessed with the water fountains, and have them mapped out online, so I'm not alone. Haha. We saw many more colorful italian men (pants color of choice appears to be red or purple), and more smokers than the doctor in me likes to see.

Nate says that he's found the first evidence that I'm actually Asian. I don't much like rice, and am a danger with chopsticks, but took 380 photos today. He could locate me in any crowd by the "click, click, click" noise of my camera.
Tomorrow, we go to the National Museum with lots of Etruscan and Ancient Roman art, baths of Diocletian, some more Caravaggio and Raphael, and a little shopping- la dolce vita. I vastly underestimated how cool it is in the morning and at night!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Marriage, Rome, and the first day

Hopefully, this blog entry and the ones following from Rome will look okay! I'm publishing blog entries from our honeymoon to keep friends and family up to date, and keep an electronic scrapbook off what happened while we were on our dream honeymoon!

We got married on the thirteenth of October, with Nate's parents present. I thought that this would just be an official confirmation of how we felt anyway, but it has been so much more- the happiest day of my life! I found myself staring at his wedding ring, and mine, in some shock at first, and then it's now become a pleasure. This wonderful man is my husband! His parents- my parents! I even have a brother now. Our wedding reception, though just a few of us present because many of the people in our lives still live in California. We had it at Zaytinya, a Greek-Turkish restaurant owned by our favorite cook in Washington, DC, and it was warm and congenial, with people enjoying great food and company, passing plates and sharing good times. Exactly what we were hoping for!

The next day (yesterday), we started on our journey to Rome via JFK, and arrived this morning at nearly 11. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, and as we entered the old city wall (Aurelian walls), we were more and more excited to see the Palantine Hill, Colosseum....Our room wasn't quite ready yet, so we found a place down the street to eat, that, from the outside, looked quite unremarkable but had neat bronze vaulted ceilings and marble pillars. After that and a short nap, I was much less homicidal, and ready to see....

The Borghese Gallery! It has amazing Bernini sculptures (one made my eyes tear up it was so amazing), that look like soft flesh figures made of marble. It also has the best collection of Caravaggio paintings around, and a completely over the top villa. I attached some photos below. We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling the Borghese gardens with the locals, and I took some photos of things I saw around the gardens, and a cute old couple. I know folks at home are worried about the riots in Rome, but the only sign of them I've seen so far is a poster that I'll put a photo of at the end of the blog.

So far, I'm fascinated by the way Italians use the evening stroll and parks to broaden the village like feel of their lives. Groups of young and old meet in the parks for picnics, to read, or just sit and talk or stroll. I'm also fascinated by how colorful the men are. Definitely one of the species where the male has more flashy plumage than the women, which is saying a lot. I keep telling Nate how underdressed I feel -I need to step it up a little, apparently. I'm also in love with the drinking fountains -they're sculptures! Nate and I saw Romans carting jugs to the fountains to fill them for their own use (isn't this the same water they get out of the tap, that no one drinks in the restaurants?!), and decided we would do the same. So now, my water consumption has gone way up (which is good) because I'm completely thrilled when I find a new water fountain sculpture. I have a photo of my favorite one so far. I even had a chance to hear some other Americans see Nate and I filling our water bottles, and say, "oh no way, I'm not doing that." I think we're going to survive since they've been drinking out of the fountains for a long time, but if we get cholera, you'll know where it came from.

Lastly, we went to Cafe Paris, since it had a terrace, had a glass of wine, and pasta. I had a creamed gnocchi with fresh seasonal vegetables on pumpkin flan, and Nate had a carbonara with zucchini blossoms. I love this city! Tomorrow, the ancient Rome tour. Good night!