Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day two 2015- I could get used to this!

Spent our first real day in Italy trying to get back what the travel demons took away- a little bit of sleep, a fair amount of exercise, and an excessive amount of good things to eat.

Started out by sleeping in after a fairly toss and turning night. Must be all the adrenaline produced by having to meet all kinds of deadlines and keeping our stuff from disappearing. We took 6 different trips yesterday via different modes of transport, each one with its own set of possible failure points. I was very glad we had negotiated the Roman buses before, because that might have been a very challenging end to a long day of travel had we not done it already.

Bus queue at Heathrow Airport. We had to transfer to Luton Airport, about an hour north, to catch our flight to Rome.

As I said, we slept in a while, and were about to slip out around 11 when our friend Erica (whose place we are staying at) texted to say she was coming home soon and would we be there. So we hung around a bit longer to chat and finally hit the streets around 1:30 to stroll up and meet their six-year-old daughter Xanthe, who goes to a school above the Spanish Steps. First stop was a delicious bakery where we picked up some nutty cookies. Almonds and hazelnuts, to be precise. So much Italian food is simple: unrefined things, sugar, eggs, but put together so as to be as complex and compelling as anything Nabisco or Keebler could ever come up with. They just won't last 3 years in the package. Thank God!
Panorama of the market at Campo di Fiori- here every day!

We then crossed the busy Corso Vittorio Emanuele and entered onto the Piazza Navona in full afternoon sun, which won't be possible in a month, but wasn't too bad right now. Having been studying the table model of Antique Rome last week, I could see in my mind's eye the structure of the underlying stadium of Domitian, and the Egyptian obelisk still standing there, having been brought from the Circus of Maxentius to top Bernini's writhing  Fountain of the Four Rivers, a masterwork of Baroque sculpture. Rome is like a giant onion of historical layers, each one revealing something distinctive about the next.

Marianne in the Piazza Navona, built over the site of  the Stadium of Domitian.

As we munched our cookies and strolled the Piazza, I kept thinking of how much a space like this would work in a city like Los Angeles, if bottom line oriented developers could ever devote that much open space to a non- commercial endeavor, let alone allowing the water in the fountains to evaporate, at least this summer of drought.

Water coming and going in the Piazza Navona.

We hugged the shade as we slipped over to the Pantheon,  a favorite stop of Marianne's, though the tourist flow was so heavy we decided to postpone entry until later in the day, and instead went around the side to the ever cool and shadowy Santa Maria sopra Minerva, so-called for its construction atop a site formerly occupied by a temple to Minerva. The church has a beautiful melange of Renaissance and later decorations, including Philippino Lippi's wondrous Carafa chapel, with some of the earliest grottesca panels in Rome.  Lippi, then in his 30's, interrupted his work on the Strozzi chapel in Florence, at the behest of Pope Alexander VI, the notorious Borgia ruler, to come to Rome for this commission, completed by 1493. (How could he say no?) The church also has some really elegant trompe l'oeil work decorating various chapels.
Outrageously good trompe l'oeil work in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

We also stopped in at the the church of Sant'Ignazio di , with Andrea Pozzo's stunning quadratura ceiling that seems to break down all normal laws of space, with figures that spiral upwards off trompe l'oeil architecture, and some that actually seem to enter the real space of the church (though they'd be mighty large if they did!) 

Giant feet from Andrea Pozzo in the church of Sant'Ignazio
Then we walked up the hill to pick up our friends' daughter, Xanthe, from the French run school on top of the Spanish Steps. It was fun to tell the guard we were picking her up, making us feel like locals, and then walking down the steps with her to go find her dad at the Piazza Colonna, where he was filming a bit of a TV show. Darius is an archeologist of some renown, having appeared a number of times on shows about Roman history on the Discovery and History channels. As it turned out, we just missed his shoot, so we ambled towards their house, stopping briefly to go inside the Pantheon for a taste of the one intact Roman temple space that has never fallen into disrepair, having been adopted as a church early on in the Christian era.

Walking with Xanthe down the Spanish Steps

Made it home and reunited the family (Erica was working on the web from home) and after a bit, we left (again with Xanthe) to meet up with Eli Baird, who is coordinating the Roman program for the Beaux-Arts Academy, which recently relocated to Salt Lake City from New York. The BAA is a multidisciplinary arts program (modeled on the French Ecole des Beaux Arts) that is deepening and broadening the education of (mostly) architectural students with an emphasis on knowledge of the history of architecture and art (including ornament) and drawing, painting and sculpture. 

Marianne and Xanthe waiting for Eli, who mysteriously avoided being in any of my photos!

We met up with Eli and went to get a gelato (of course!) and then went to a park to let Xanthe run off some of her sugar induced energy. We saved a bit of it to hike up the hill and check out the Tempietto of Bramante, a touchstone classical building that sits in the courtyard of a church with a great view of Rome from the other side of the Tiber river on the Janiculum hill. 

Bramante's Tempietto, built at the beginning of the 16th century
Descending as the swallows began to emerge for their dusk exercises, we said goodbye to Eli and went back to the house, turning around quickly to get a bite of Roman style food at a homey Campo di Fiori taverna called Lucifero. Eggs with white truffles, some fondue, roasted vegetables, and some tartare for our hosts, then heading back to the house to crash in time to be up to catch the train tomorrow for Lecce. 

1 comment:

  1. Another great post and photos. I love the trompe. I know I am not the only one wishing I could be there too, but someone has to be the audience!