Sunday, March 31, 2013

Buona Pasqua

Tomb of the Sacred Heart, Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Italy 2013

* Just a note before I go into all these pictures: The morning after I posted about my friend Jesse, she sent me the news that she was in the clear--a 24 hour kidney stone.  As far as those things go, those are the best kind.  Thanks so much if you sent her good wishes from afar! *

On this particular day, we had a reservation for the Borghese Museum--the best museum in the city (in my opinion).  Bernini and Caravaggio fans can't miss it.  It's basically a former mansion filled with paintings and sculptures that were snatched up (in extremely questionable exchanges) by Cardinal Scipione Borghese.  If you go here for no other reason, go for Bernini's "David" (so much better than Michelangelo's in Florence) and "Apollo and Daphne."  This entire trip was worth seeing these two pieces again.  I love how David's anxiety is made obvious by the way he's biting on his lips.  When I think about it, it's odd that no one has pointed to the story of David as a metaphor for these trying economic times.  His story is always relevant.  (ie, What is your Goliath?)

Oh, but "Apollo and Daphne": It's just achingly beautiful.  Sometimes when I squinted at it, I swore you could see the leaves on Daphne's fingertips extend into the air and the roots sprouting from her toes sinking further into the ground.  The details of her hair are simply astounding. And, I noted that Apollo's gladiator sandals are extremely fashionable right now.  Who would think that an early 17th century shoe would be fashionable in 2013?  There's a two hour limit for each reservation, and Ron and I spent at least twenty of those minutes on these two pieces.

Keep that in mind: If you want to go to the Borghese, reservations are REQUIRED and they are closed on Mondays.  Once your scheduled time begins, you have two hours to see the whole collection and then you are told to leave so the next group can begin.  The fee for the audio tour is money well spent--we didn't regret paying for this at all.  Also, you are required to check all bags/purses/cameras, etc.  No exceptions.  So wear something with pockets so you can keep your passport, etc on you.  (Maybe others feel differently, but we keep our passports with us at all times.  I would never just leave it behind in the hotel.)  I really hate this checked bag policy, but if the staff were stealing from visitors it would be widespread news on the internet by now. We've never had an issue (*knock wood*).

Once you are done, go take a long walk around Villa Borghese.

2004--my college boyfriend

2013--my husband.  Ron, I hate this awful jacket.  It's too casual.  I'm going to find you a new one.  Look how nice your old one is in the first picture.  See?

Villa Borghese is in the northeast part of town, but it's also uphill.  I wanted to find Via Margutta 51 (Joe Bradley's address in Roman Holiday).  It was in a nearby neighborhood, so we made our way there via the Spanish Steps.

So much greenery on top of the buildings. How many churches do you see?
Detail of the Trinita' dei Monti--the church at the top of the famous steps.

Gucci, Prada, Dior, and Bulgari are all just yards away.  Every time I come here, a part of my brain is always looking for Audrey Hepburn, and then I remember, "Oh right: That's not possible.  Stop looking!"
Unfortunately, I forgot about Via Margutta while we took our time walking down the steps, so we never made it there. I got distracted because I wanted to walk past all of the high-end fashion stores on Via Condotti.

It's hard to see (I'm really cropped in here), but the mannequins in the Dior window wear the same blue rhinestone eye makeup that their runway models recently wore.  See a picture of Dior's models here--totally outrageous, but I love it.

Louis Vuitton--I think Target has knock-offs of those shoes.

hmmm ... this might have been Alberta Ferretti?  or maybe Valentino or Hermes. Don't remember.  I'm going with Hermes judging by the handbag over the red coat's shoulder.

Love the outfit on the left--very California.

I saw these in the window at Grilli on Via del Corso.  I thought they were so pretty so I took this picture.  The next day, I went back to the photo and thought, "Damn, I love those tassels."  On our last day, I went back and bought all three. I kept the green one for myself, the taupe one went to Leslie, and the chocolate brown to my mom.  The people who worked here were so nice.  I insisted on using Italian for most of the transaction and eventually gave up when the owner tried describing to me how I could fill out paper work to get the 11% sales tax back from customs.  He was like, "I KNEW you were Americans!  You have the accent!  Now let me tell you how to get some money back!"  That made me laugh.

By this point, it was late in the day and we were exhausted.  We decided to take a break back at the hotel before heading out for sunset at Piazzale Garibaldi and dinner in Trastevere.  About two blocks from our hotel, we saw our local Philly reporter again. This time, we went up and said hi.  And before we knew it, I had a mike in my face (with me going, "Hold up now: I need some lipstick") and he was filming us as we talked to him.  He asked about our thoughts on conclave, what kind of pope we wanted to see in Benedict's place--stuff like that.  During our conversation, we told him our hotel was right next to Gammarelli--the store that makes the Pope's formal clothing.  The reporter was like, "umm, so where's your hotel?"  We told him where to find it, and we were on our way.  Fifteen minutes later, we were back in our room.  Ron was catching up with email and I was writing postcards. (btw--it costs TWO EURO to mail a postcard to the U. S.  Yes, you read that correctly. Highway robbery, that's what that is.)  Our window was open, and we heard a distinctly American voice floating up into our room.  Ron caught it and goes, "Hey--that's the reporter!"  We both stuck our heads out the window, and there he was reporting on Gammarelli below.

The Philly team is all the way at the bottom here.
The clip they filmed of us that day never aired in Philly, although my mom says the Gammarelli clip aired many times.  I think my whole extended family was GLUED to the local news the whole time we were gone, but they never saw it.  Trust me, I'm ok with that!

Not long after, we began the killer killer killer uphill trek to Piazzale Garibaldi.  Oh God, I remember it being a challenging walk last time, but it was SO BAD this time. I have terrible, terrible, AWFUL feet and they hurt really badly by this point.  It might've been worse than anything in San Francisco.

We made it up there around 530pm so that we could watch the lights come on in the city.  I was really disappointed that the path through the Janiculum (more pretty gardens) was closed: I promised myself I would walk through the Janiculum on this trip, but we didn't feel right ignoring the police tape that blocked the entrance.

It was pretty quiet all the way up at the top--very few people.

Same view as the last one

As the lights come on, you can see the lights waaaaaay out of town in the mountains far away.  I thought to myself at one point, "Those flickering lights are so far away. I wonder who lives out there?"  My heart skipped a beat when I realized that my own house was 4,500 miles away ... so much further than those twinkling lights.  And it made me remember how far away the Fluffs were.

Looking further south.

Looking further north

We hung around for at least an hour before making the downhill trek (just as painful as uphill--dealing with a bunion is such a drag).  The walk was really pleasant since it's through the most residential of residential neighborhoods in the city.  I think I just felt a like a real person walking through, not some ghost of a tourist.

View of Castel Sant'Angelo.  I love Paris, but I think the Tiber is more magical than the Seine.

Shrine time (again, can't follow my own rule of just five):

This blue glazed ceramic is in the style of Andrea della Robbia--you see this everywhere, but especially in Florence.

An artist was painting in her studio underneath this shrine.  I like to think she switches out this shrine's light when it burns out.

In a day or two: What to do in Rome on a rainy and windy day.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Italy 2013

Ron and I stayed at the same place we've always stayed in Rome: Albergo Santa Chiara, right next to Santa Maria sopra Minerva.  We're located directly behind the Pantheon, and on this trip we confirmed what we suspected on past trips: We're also right next to the only place in Rome that makes official vestiments for the Pope (Gammarelli).  Here's the catch: While we were in Rome, there was no Pope.  With the conclave fast approaching, news reporters swarmed this little store all week.  When conclave ends with white smoke, it means a Cardinal has accepted his colleagues' nomination for the Papacy.  When he is offered three differently sized white outfits to wear moments later for his introduction to the world on San Pietro's balcony, those outfits are from Gammarelli.  This little store was directly below our hotel window.

We slept with the window open each night (thank God I remembered ear plugs due to rowdy drunk people and noisy Vespas).  These reporters woke us (ie, Ron) up on Monday morning.

See the red Prada shoes (that Francis refuses to wear)? The guy in the purple vest is the store owner we think.
Our window is above the "S."  Note the apricot color.
Another view from our window--that's Santa Maria sopra Minerva and Piazza Minerva.

Piazza Minerva with Bernini's elephant.  (btw ... apricot)

Each morning, we walked a block over to Tazza d'Oro ("golden cup") for cappuccino.  Americans drink "cappuccini" all day, but it's considered a morning drink for Italians.  These little gems were so delicious.  Nothing else like it.  (Also, couldn't avoid blur in this place.)  We stood at the bar, downed them real quick (well, Ron did anyway), and then we were off.

This particular day, we crossed the river to the Vatican.
Enormous press boxes lined the boulevard that leads right into Vatican City.  If you stood in this press box ...

... here's the view you would have while doing your news report.

More press boxes on the perimeter of the central square.

Literally, the first person we saw on St. Peter's Square was our local news guy from Philly.  He was interviewing John Thavis about conclave.  Thavis has been all over TV and radio this month.

The Papal apartments were sealed off a few days before we arrived (second row of windows).  I think they were officially reopened two days ago, but Pope Francis isn't interested in living here.

When Cardinals crossed the square, photographers would descend on them like vultures.  Some of the Cardinals (like this guy) would laugh and joke with them.  Others would give them dirty looks and shove right through them.

The opulence of this place never ceases to shock me.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been ... [hang on ... one, two, three ...] ... seventeen years since my last confession."  (No, I did not actually go to confession.  But, many people do here.)
I had no idea that these shabby doors led into a church--I never thought to look up.

A few nights later on Wednesday, we saw a bride leaving the church with her groom.  She was gorgeous--so were all of her guests who were mingling in formal dress outside.  (Love this contrast of worn/old vs. sleek/modern.)

Ron and I both picked out treats that day.  Weirdly, we reversed preferences. He picked gelato (dark chocolate and pistachio) ...

I picked pizza rossa at FORNO--Forno Forno Forno!!! Ti voglio bene!!!
Pearl would TOTALLY fit in that basket.  Right?

Setting sun

Along the Tiber.  If I had to pick one shot to show the essence of the city, I think this is it.  I can hear and smell the traffic, the visual whir of headlights, the ghostly yellow light from the city lamps, a church with a large shrine on the corner, and if you listen beyond the traffic you can hear the Tiber too.

A chandelier shop!!  The ultimate candy store.  I would die for the big pink one.
Our strategy for dinners? Anthony Bourdain's website.  Be warned: You NEED reservations for all of the teeny tiny family run places he recommends.  We got lucky at da Enzo.

So pleased with himself.  You are literally piled on top of the other patrons here, but it didn't bother us. We talked to the couple from Mexico next to us.

Shrine time (what the hell--here are all eight):

Center of Piazza del'Orologio

Piazza Santa Chiara, next to our hotel.  Sadly, la chiesa di Santa Chiara never appeared to be open.  I really wanted to go in.

Love the flaky paint. Would love to know the symbolism of the sea shell.

This took twenty tries to get right. Located in a little tunnel that allows neighbors to pass between buildings.

Also took twenty tries.  On the Trastevere side of Ponte Cestio.  "The Madonna of the Tiber lamp."

Definitely a photo overload today. Can't tell if people like that or not. Should I edit more?  I'll wait two or three days to post more.