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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day Seven: Has it really been seven days?

Our last day in Rome!  We savored every minute, beginning with our morning stop for cappucino and caffe con latte at our favorite morning haunt.  We love this place for the fresh squeezed orange juice, spremuta, and the delicious caffe.  The staff is incredibly gracious, as well.
We took things slow today, meandering over to the Pantheon and sketching the small elephant, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.  The Latin inscription on the base, chosen by the pope who commissioned the sculpture to support the obelisk found on the site, Alexander VII, is said to represent that "...a strong mind is needed to support a solid knowledge".  (see link below)
However, the main attraction was the church, the Santa Maria sopra Minerva.  The incredible frescoes, statues, and architecture are layered from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.  A statue by Michaelangelo and a bust by Bernini are just a few of the works of art inside.  Thomas Aquinas makes an appearance in one fresco, and we bought Mark a postcard depicting his defense against heresy.  We could go on, but please check out our link in "favorite links" below.
After a beautiful lunch in a nearby piazza, we arrived at the Doria Pamphili, an art collection still owned and curated by the Doria Pamphili family.  To say it's expansive would be an understatement.  The family owns many important works including three Caraviaggio paintings, a Rembrandt, and a portrait of Pope Innocent X, a member of the family, by Velazquez.  There are literally hundreds of important works, and it was wonderful to walk through the restored palace and see the family quarters and galleries.
Students had time to shop after our walk back to the apartment before we met again for an amazing last dinner near the Campo de Fiori, at the Piazza Farnese.  Have we mentioned that we love the food?  We especially have enjoyed the gnocchi, the spaghetti carbonara, and the pizza margherita.  Please ask us about our favorites when we get back.
Everyone enjoyed some gelato as we took one last walk to the bridges by the Castello di Angelo to say goodbye to Bernini's angels.
Ciao for now!  We're off to the airport at 9 am tomorrow morning, for a 10:30 pm arrival in Burlington.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day Six: And then we saw the Salvatore Dali paintings at the Vatican...

I mean the Sistine Chapel frescoes.  Actually we saw both and quite a bit more.  Since we made an online reservation for our group, we bypassed the lines that snaked around the Vatican wall.  After a quick check in, we began weaving our way through a myriad of rooms and halls in the Vatican Museum that were truly awesome.  We did not make a dash for the Sistine Chapel, but instead enjoyed the gardens and themed rooms along the way.   One of our favorite set of rooms were those by Raphael--truly magnificent.  (Check our link on favorite links.)  The four rooms depict important scenes in the history of christianity in Room, from floor to ceiling.

I have to say now that this group doesn't enjoy crowds, perhaps it's their Vermont upbringing, but they managed very well.  They stuck together and didn't get too impatient when swarms of groups with guides and headsets threatened to trample us.  Actually, it wasn't too bad.  There's a reason for those crowds--there's much to see.

Right before the Sistine Chapel, there's a collection of contemporary art, and we loved seeing the paintings by Dali and Marc Chagall, Max Ernst and Jacob Lawrence.  However, onto the Sistine Chapel.  Even though this room is familiar from books and photos, it's nonetheless awe inspiring to stand below Michelangelo's masterpiece.  Despite the throngs of tourists, it was sublime.

After the Sistine Chapel, we wound our way out of the Vatican Museums, through the halls of more modern halls, 17-19th century) and walked a few blocks away for some excellent pasta for lunch.  We couldn't leave the Vatican, however, without entering St. Peter's Basilica, to see the grand naves and domes, the incredible sculpture, including the Pieta, and experience the grandeur of it all.

Students wanted to visit the tombs in the catacombs below, and so we did.

We left the Basilica, and we were ready to relax with some light shopping.  However, despite a warm sunny morning, the afternoon rain arrived, as promised.  Thus, we detoured back to Via Sora, our home away from home.

Not much can stop this group from shopping though, so after a quick change and the donning of rain wear, we were off.

Finally, we met up for a splendid, special dinner in honor of Eliot's birthday.  (What a way to spend your birthday!)   We talked him into the house special, a creamy pasta dish, which he loved, and we indulged in bruschetta with tomatoes and melon with proscuitto for appetizers, along with tiramisu with a candle for the man of the hour.  Eliot was presented with a few birthday presents, which he truly seemed to enjoy.  A bit of wandering around the Piazza Navona, and we were ready for an early-ish night.

Hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day in Rome  before traveling home!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day Five: And then they rested.

Well, actually, we went to the beach.  We took the A Line to the B Line to the local train, which took us to a small, public beach on the Mediteranneo!   All for 4 Euro a piece.  `E stato molto bello!  The blue-green color was charming, and most of us swam in the salty sea.  After relaxing for a few hours, we trekked back to the train station, where many of us had tagliatelle alla bolognese, and boarded the next train for Rome.  It was much more crowded on the journey back, but the students did very well.
After a late afternoon break at the apartment, we ventured over to the Trastevere (across the river) for a dinner of gnocchi (for most) and light shopping.  We topped the evening off with gelato and more shopping at the Campo dei Fiori and a peaceful walk back to our apartment on Via Sora.
Tomorrow we're off to the Vatican to see the incredible art, including the La Pietà by Michelangelo, as well his Sistine Chapel frescoes.  There's much more to see there,  which we will, including the Laocoön and the modern art collection.
Ciao, ciao.
addio per hora!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day Four: Around Rome and back again...

This blog post is a bit late because we have literally walked around Rome today.  We began the day by eating breakfast near our apartment by the Piazza Navona.  This isn't a particularly Italian tradition, so they basically serve us lunch for breakfast.  From there we took a very brisk walk to the Galleria Borghese, one of the most stunning and well appointed collections of art in the world.  We had a two hour reservation beginning at 11 am, and at 1 pm, no one wanted to leave.

Here are some of the remarks by the students:

"The building was as amazing as the art."
"My favorite museum that I've been to so far."
"The tension and emotion in the sculptures was incredible. Bernini is my new favorite artist."
"Words can't describe my experience at the Borghese."
"I'd like to get a bed and stay there forever!"

A link to the Borghese is included below.

After the Borghese, we made our way to the Colosseum, eating lunch along the way.  While at the Colosseum, the students toured the ancient stadium and had an up-close look at this icon of Rome.

Did I mention we walk everywhere?

Afterwards, we crossed the Tiber midway on to the Isola Tiberia, dedicated to Asclepius, god of medicine.  It was used to quarantine victims of the plague; however, more recently, it's housed a hospital, which is still in use.  Unfortunately, as we bought some gelati on the island, it began to storm, and our down time was cut short.  We made a bee line along the river, and back to Via Sora, our hood, where we relaxed for a bit before our second night at the famed Baffetto, the pizzeria at the end of our block.  It's not everyone's cup of tea, but there's often a line down the block, as people wait to get in.  The atmosphere is not warm and fuzzy, and they're not quick, but the wood-fired pizza is thin, crisp and simply delicious.  Rather than opting for shopping, which is somewhat limited on a Sunday night, we walked over to the beautiful bridges adorned with Bernini's angels, and then over to the Saint Peter's Basilica for an evening glimpse of the Vatican.  Check out our photos from the day.  There are no camera's allowed in Borghese, but we encourage you to visit the website.

Tomorrow, we're planning on to get on the Metro to visit il Mediterraneo.  We may try to get a little down time by the water if the weather cooperates.

More soon!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day: Three, continued.

After much walking, and a very brief shower, we glanced at the Mouth of Truth, Bocca della Veritas, and decided to forgo the long line and instead, we visited the Santa Maria in Cosmedin, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_in_Cosmedin.  This church was built in the 8th century, and restored in the 12th century.  It's Byzantine influence could be seen in the decorative frescoes that have been partially uncovered.
Afterwards, and despite some jetlag, we ventured to the Roman Forum, and wandered for a good amount of time among the poppies as we gazed on the temple of the Vestal Virgins, the Palantine Hill, home of many emperors, and attributed as the founding location of Rome by Romulus, at around 753 bc.  The ruins were beautiful in the late afternoon sun, and the students were stunned by the vistas from the different vantage points as they moved about.  BtwWe've posted a few new pictures!

Day Three: Sant' Eustachio and the Campo de'Fiori Market

We are finally settling into the laid-back rhythm of Italian life among the revelers, priests, locals, and shop owners.  Everything is blended together in Rome: ancient and Renaissance architecture, the gorgeous flowers dripping down from clay pots, and the fearless drivers who pass through cobblestone streets among the pedestrians with inches to spare.
This morning we had a grande caffe at the molto famosa Sant'Eustachio Caffe.  http://www.santeustachioilcaffe.it/  So amazing.
Then, it was on to the Campo de'Fiori, which was chock full of fruit and flowers, cheeses and household wares.  After stopping back for a quick update to you, we'll be heading to the Isola Tiberia, the Mouth of Truth, and more ruins.
Everyone is doing quite well, and they'd like me to pass on that they never want to leave!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day Two: Uncovering the city layers at the Capitoline Museum

After restful night for most of us, we made our way to the Capitoline Museum to see the famed she-wolf of Classical Rome, framed by the more recent stylings of Michaelangelo.  Students sketched the equestrian tribute to Marcus Aurelius and classical statues of Constantine.  The museum houses artwork from ancient Rome, as well as paintings from the early Renaissance, Renaissance, and Baroque period.  
Our appreciation for Roman pizza and cobblestone streets is growing!  
We're off to the Campo di Fiori this evening.  Ciao for now!