Gary and Cindy Go To ...

ROME - THE ETERNAL CITY

G and C at the Trevi (2017)

Somethings are eternal - True Love, Brotherhood and, of course ...

Rome.

Cindy and I went to Italy last month and Rome bookended the trip.

We've been to Rome quite a few times so we didn't particularly seek out any of the usual tourist attractions (you'll have to look at our earlier Italian/Roman entries for that) But Rome can rightly be characterized as one gigantic open-air museum and somethings are just so enormous that they can't be avoided so, yes, there will be photos.

Rome is also a living, breathing city filled with ordinary people, sites and events that are worthy of note.  So we just wandered around for a few days and reacquainted ourselves.

It's a sprawling metropolis set in a bowl, ringed by hills.  It provides a number of wonderful vantage points for taking in the view of the city in its entirety.  

The best views (and the easiest place to reach) are found at the Pincio in the Borghese Gardens.  The Pincio draws the biggest crowd, although "crowd" is a relative term and you certainly won't find anything comparable to the hordes of people you'll wade through if you go to St. Peter's (a line in excess of an hour) or the Trevi Fountain where, despite the fountain's spray being cut in half due to an extended drought in Italy this year, the crush of humanity is seven or eight or ten people deep all the time (before 10 AM is not as bad).

One thing about a place with a view - you have to be prepared to climb lots of steps.  That does, however, tend to cut down on the crowds.

Anyway, one day while in the Gardens we discovered a most astounding thing about    Rome - they have parrots!!!  No, not in the zoo.  Wild parrots. Well, sort of wild.  Not native to Italy, they're the feral descendants of domesticated ring-necked parakeets who literally flew the coop and now populate various parts of the city.  So keep an eye out for big (a foot plus from beak to tail) green flying things.

There are three other excellent spots from which to view Rome in all its splendor:

Atop (or half-way up if you'd rather avoid the lines for the elevator to the tippy-top) the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument (Piazza Venezia) and, after a long climb up the Janiculum Hill, from Piazza S. Pietro di Montorio (site of the Accademia de Espana).  The third spot is Palazzo Colonna.

The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument (commonly referred to as the "Wedding Cake") is a 19th century memorial to the last King of Italy) is a great place to view the most prominent of Rome's many ancient sites.  It's "balconies" offer a bird's eye view of the Forum, the Colosseum as well as Trajan's Markets.

Just so no one is misled, all of these sites are certainly worth a close-up, on the ground visit (or two or three)  It's just that after that, well, they don't really change so you might not feel the need to seek them out anymore.

Speaking of "not seeking out" certain sites - sometimes you will miss things if you just wander.  That's what we did when we went walkabout and found ourselves in Piazza S. Pietro di Montorio.  Yes, we had the splendid panorama we sought, but facing the piazza is the Accademia de Espana which houses Bramante's Tempietto (an achitectural work of some fame and considerable beauty)  Our loss I guess but the vista made up for it.  Don't we look happy in the photo?  We were.  So it all worked out.

Then there was the completely unexpected vantage point found at Palazzo Colonna.

 

 

Parrot - Borghese Gardens (2017)
Trajan's Market (Rome)(2017)
Roman Forum (2017)
Roman Forum (2017) Colosseum (upper left)
View of Rome from S. Pietro di Montorio (2017)
G and C - Janiculum Hill (2017)
Cindy - Colonna Gardens Rome (2017)
"The Wedding Cake" from Palazzo Colonna (2017)
The Pincio (Rome)(2017)
Rome from Janiculum Hill (2017)
Colosseum from Vittorio Emanuele II Monument (2017)
Cindy In The Great Hall Palazzo Colonna (Rome) (2017)

We went to the Palazzo Colonna (or more specifically, "The Great Hall" of the palace ) where, by the way, the Colonna descendants still live - now into the 34th generation - because it was there that the closing scene of the most romantic movie in Hollywood history (and the first Hollywood film shot entirely in Italy) was filmed.  "Roman Holiday" (1953) starring  Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn (in her first starring role) is "Cinderella" in reverse.  Those of you who've seen it know what I mean.  Those of you who haven't - well, go see it.  It can actually serve as a pretty good guide to a short visit in Rome.  Just follow along from film location to film location.  We have.  It's loads of fun.

At the end of the movie, when asked by a reporter which of the cities she had visited did she enjoy the most (Hepburn's character is a Princess winding up a goodwill tour of the capitals of Europe) the Princess, after some reflection and opting not for the politcal answer but speaking from her heart, says:

"Rome, by all means, Rome."

Me too.

The Great Hall Palazzo Colonna (Rome)(2017)
Palazzo Colonna Gardens (Rome) (2017)
Palazzo Colonna Gardens Rome (2017)
Palazzo Colonna Gardens (Detail) Rome (2017)

RAVENNA - MOSAICS! MOSAICS!! MOSAICS!!!

The Three Wise Men S. Apollinare Nuovo Ravenna (2017)

This pleasant little city (maybe 150,000) was the capital of the Western Empire from the early 5th century AD through the 6th Century, retaining its prominence through the rule of the Goths and the Byzantine.  Of course, the Roman Empire, the Goths and Byzantium have all faded into history (don't suggest that to the Romans!).  But Ravenna has left the world with mosaics that are still as stunning as they were 1500 years ago.

Scattered throughout the city are half a dozen churches and battesteri (essentially baptismal fonts housed outside the church proper since the unbaptised were denied access) that have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Within are depictions of the life of Christ from birth (the world's oldest depiction of the Three Wise Men is found in Sant' Apollinare Nuovo - 6th C) through baptism and His various roles (e.g. "Good Shepherd", "Redeemer", "King")

OK, I have to admit, after awhile one mosaic masterpiece has a tendency to look a lot like every other one.  Afterall, the subject matter covers a fairly narrow range.  Remember, however, that these are works that took decades (or longer) to complete and each one of the hundreds of thousands (or millions) of thumbnail size bits of glass had to be hand formed and placed just so by dozens of long forgotten artisans, who were working 50 or 60 feet above the floor.  So, take your time.  Appreciate the details - the flowers, the birds, the animals, the background scenes, the characters clothes.  If you're not up on your religious symbolism a guidebook comes in handy.  Or, you can just crane your neck and gawk.     That works too.

Three Kings (Detail) S. Apollinare Nuovo Ravenna (2017)
Christ The King S. Apollinare Nuovo Ravenna (2017)
S. Apollinare Nuovo (Interior) (2017)
Christ The King S. Apollinare Nuovo Ravenna (2017)
Assorted Saints S. Apollinare Nuovo Ravenna (2017)
Piazza Publico Ravenna (2017)

Like most places famous for just one thing, Ravenna actually does have other attractions:

It's home to a number of piadina shops.  The piadina is a flatbread (the ingredients of which are strictly regulated) stuffed with some combination of the local salumi (there are endless varieties in the region of Emilia Romagna) and slathered with squacquerone, a cheese made in the morning and eaten that day.  It doesn't keep and it doesn't travel.  You gotta go there to get it.  It might be a greater gift to mankind than the mosaics.

You can find many a trattoria or ristorante of high quality (and low prices) in the area of the Piazza Publico - the center of town.

You can also find fashionable little stores that sell fashionable little items with prices not so little but still reasonable, given the quality of the material and the level of craftsmanship.  We met a proud citizen of Ravenna, the owner and principal designer/craftsman of a leather goods shop, who, at some length explained to us the glories of Ravenna.  He informed us that Ravenna had recently been named the "Best Place To Live" in all of Italy.  That seemed a fair assessment.

Oh, yes.  One other thing.

Ravenna is the last resting place of the great 12th Century poet - Dante.

Without going into too much detail, there is some question about whether or not his remains are actually in his tomb.  One thing we know for sure is that Dante died in Ravenna, having been exiled from his home in Florence on pain of death.  

Given his status as the Father of the Italian language and one of the Western world's greatest writers in history, Dante's tomb is modest at best and seems to have been placed in the most obscure spot in all of Ravenna.  Many tourists miss it altogether. Many more believe he's buried in Florence beneath a far grander memorial in the church of Santa Croce. It's a great memorial but wherever Dante is, he's not there.

The Good Shepherd - Ravenna (2017)
"Baptism of Christ" Battistero degli Ariani (4th C)
Battistero degli Ariani Ravenna (2017)
San Vitale (6th C) Ravenna (2017)
San Vitale (Exterior) Ravenna (2017)
San Vitale (Interior) Ravenna (2017)
S. Vitale (Ravenna) (2017)
San Vitale (Ravenna) (2017)
Mausoleo di Galla Placida (430 A.D.) Ravenna (2017)
Mausoleo di Galla Placida (430 A.D.) Ravenna (2017)
Mausoleo di Galla Placida (Design Detail) (2017)
Tomba di Dante (erected 1780) Ravenna (2017)
Sepulchre (Tomb of Dante) Ravenna (2017)

MODENA - MORE THAN FERRARI & BALSAMIC

Cinza e Macchine (2017) Cindy and Cars

Modena's most famous son is Enzo Ferrari.  It's most famous product is aceto balsamico (i.e balsamic vinegar) Calling balsamico "vinegar" is like calling a Ferrari "a car" - strictly speaking you'd be right but aesthetically you'd be off by a million miles. Enzo's cars, by the way, are manufactured in Maranello (about a half hour's drive from Modena)

Imagine a room filled with 18 editions of the Pieta or as many of the Mona Lisa or perhaps 18 versions of Sophia Loren circa 1962 (OK, OK, nothing matches  La Sophia) but when it comes to cars there are few things that match Ferrari when it comes to beauty, daring and sheer excitement. So, the effect of entering the Museo Enzo Ferrari was, like many experiences in Italy, damn near overwhelming.  I'm not a big car guy - starter, brake, "go fast pedal", that's about the extent of my technical interest.  But as sculpture on wheels - I'm all in.

Of course, you're not allowed to touch them much less sit in them but you can stand right next to them and as you can see from the photos, you don't have to fight through crowds.

There's also a short film that depicts the life of Ferrari from his childhood through his experiences as a pilot in the first World War and his years as a race car driver/builder thereafter.  It's an overblown tribute to one of 20th Century's most interesting characters, complete with testimonials (some from Enzo himself - about himself) and stirring music.  But it works.  Boy does it ever work.  At the end you want to shout "Santo, subito! Santo, subito!!  Santo, subito!!!" which roughly translates as "Sainthood, now!"  So, after a day among his creations, all I can say to Enzo is, "Grazie tanto."  Thanks for everything.

I Don't Know What It Is, But Perry Como Had One.
"Dino" (2017)
275 GTB Steve McQueen had one. (2017)
385 GT 2+2 (2017)
Museo Enzo Ferrari Modena (2017)
Ferrari's First Production Car (1948) Museo Enzo Ferrari (Modena) (2017)
"Dino" Named after Enzo's 1st son, who died at 24 (1956) from Duchene Muscular Dystrophy.
Duomo (11th C) Modena (2017)

Modena's other claim to fame - aceto balsamico - the world's greatest vinegar.  Tasting some would be the best way to do this but somethings are just impossible, even for the internet.

Lots of man-hours go into the production of balsamico.  Lots of time also.  It's not unusual for it to be aged for 30 years or more.  That explains the tiny little bottles and the considerably larger price.  Worth every drop.

So, between fast cars and expensive vinegar we managed to discover one of Modena's other highlights - the Duomo - an 11th Century cathedral designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It contains the remains of the city's patron saint, San Geminiano.  It also sports a noticealby leaning tower, "Torre Ghirlandina".

So, it's on to the rest of the trip ... "Italy 2017 Part II" 

   

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Philio | Reply 24.11.2017 13.33

"Rome, by all means, Rome." Petra and I are just back from a 12-day visit to Roma and couldn't agree more. BTW, thanks for the recs -- extremely helpful. -p

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Today | 13:33

"Rome, by all means, Rome." Petra and I are just back from a 12-day visit to Roma and couldn't agree more. BTW, thanks for the recs -- extremely helpful. -p

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Yesterday | 17:55

David,
Thanks so much.
Gary and Cindy

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22.11 | 12:22

Dear Gary and Cindy:
Sorry I missed this. Bolonga. I want to sip the legendary coffee.

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22.11 | 12:18

Dear Gary and Cindy:
Great job!
My wife and myself are looking to visit Poland next June. I married the former Annette WADOWSKI.

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