Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ciao Roma! We'll be back soon.

It is our last day in Rome, for now, ( we return to fly home). We had alot of things to cram into this day.  Sistine Chapel, Colosseo, eating, drinking and whatever else we stumbled upon. Our energetic guide, Nate (Nah tay) had pre-purchased tickets for our visit to the Musei Vaticani and the Sistine Chapel. We hopped on the crowded metro and headed out.  Once in the general vicinity we encountered numerous "helpful" Italians all wanting to sell us something, be it tickets, guided tours, taxi rides etc. Finally we made it to the entrance.
It was certainly more crowded than the previous days' visit to the Vatican. There were large tour groups speaking all sorts of foreign languages predominately Asian. Up to the front of the line we went with tickets in hand. I purchased the self guided tour headsets in English. There was alot ground to cover.

Let me say this, traveling through the Musei Vaticani was one of the most amazing voyages I have ever been on. The Sistine Chapel is just one of the many galleries, halls and courtyards that we traversed. Michelangelo's frescoes are the most famous probably because there are so many and he was the lucky one to be on his back for so many years painting the story on the ceiling. Every Pope who occupied the papal throne is represented in the frescoes that line the walls from about 296 to 1534. Basically they tell stories from the Old and New Testaments. Some of the artists are Sandro Botticelli, Biagio de Antonia Tucci, Cosimo Roselli and of course Michelangelo. I have only heard of two of them and that was because I saw paintings in other museums like the Louvre in Paris and de Young Museum in San Francisco. These were not simple paintings friends, we are talking huge beautiful murals full of color and gold paint.  I started taking pictures until it was announced that none were allowed in the Sistine Chapel.  This "Chapel" is where all of the Cardinals were to convene in a Papal Conclave to choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI who had announced his resignation recently. We were lucky as this news had just broken and the Conclave had not convened yet or else it would have been closed to the public.

Moving on through the depth of these halls one encounters  priceless collections from Egyptian mummies, Etruscan urns, artifacts of Australian Aboriginals ( really?) as well as frescoes, tapestries, glassware, ivory carvings, and many statues. It was mind boggling looking at all of these large and small items.  My favorite hall was the Gallery of Maps. It was planned by Pope Gregory XIII Boncampagni and carried out  by a group of painters and stucco artists. Included in this collection are Papal possession's of the time, Avignon in France being one of them as well as Ancient and Contemporary Italy. Contemporary being the 1500's and Ancient being way before that I guess. They all looked ancient to me. I loved the maps of the four smaller islands, Elba, Malta, Corfu and Tremiti and four great Italian ports, Genoa, Venice, Ancona and Civitavecchia. Venice looked like it had alot more land back in the day but was still a maze of lagoons and canals. Italy at the time of the Roman Empire was portrayed along with 16th century Italia Nova. Sicily was represented with accompanying plans for yet to be built cities of Palermo, Messina and Syracuse. The cartographer for all of these maps was Ignazio Danti. The colors and reliefs were really mind blowing. I took pictures that for the most part came out blurry. Luckily I bought postcards and failed to send them to anyone.
Great Ports
We staggered out of there and Nate decided to herd us into a taxi and go to a very untouristy working class neighborhood called Trastevere of which there is, of course, a church, Santa Maria Trastervere and a piazza, Piazza Trilussa. It was a dreary cold afternoon and all we wanted was wine and lunch. The taxi dropped us off on a small square filled with very old crumbly buildings sporting laundry hanging out of alot of the windows. Most of the Italians were eating their midday meal I suspected but there were a few trattoria and pizzerias open.
It was very pretty laundry however
 We chose Osteria Pizzeria Margherita. How could we go wrong?! They posted rave reviews outside alongside their menus. Happiness ensued. It was a small family place run by two brothers. The smells were amazing coming from the wood fired pizza oven, so we got right to work ordering pizzas and wine. We each had a different pizza except Mike who ordered french fries and ketchup. Gotta love that guy. I have to say they did make good fries and I was shocked at how every place offered ketchup alongside being as Mike ate more than a few orders while we traveled. My choice was a porcini mushroom pizza with truffle oil, Vilia had vegetarian and Nate had, I think, margherita but it may have been pesto.  Anyway the best pizza, in Rome, to me. I studied the Italians as to how they eat their pizza. Most used knife and fork but a few just picked up the slices and folded them in half to take a bite. I did both, using knife and fork for the first third and picking up the rest.
 There were many other things on the menu and it was great to see a large family ordering traditional fare, Antipasti, "primo piatto" ( pasta/soup) followed by "secondi" or main dishes. Take a look at the menu offerings if you get a chance and be sure to click on the British Flag for English then go to the sidebar on the left and choose the category otherwise it reverts to Italian.

After that large lunch and a bottle of wine we were fortified, luckily, for our next trek. You don't take leftovers home btw so we had to eat our whole pizza. The next stop was the Colosseo. Mike had been looking forward to this since our night viewing on our first evening in Rome. Little did he know how far of a walk it would be or did any of us for that matter.  Piazza Trilussa is situated on the Fiume Tevere, The Tiber River. To cross the river you walk over bridges called "Pontes". We wandered through the small village taking pictures of cool alleys. Vilia spotted a very friendly woman cleaning her Osteria after the lunch crowd. With sign language, Vilia convinced her to pose for a picture at which she blushed and smiled. Priceless.

Not sure which way to go to get to the Colosseo, we wandered around a little with Mike assuring us that we were going the wrong way. Of course we were although Nate had been in this neighborhood before so there were a few options for crossing the river. Whatever.. she picked a beautiful spot to cross, the Isola Tiberina. As we looked over at the flowing river and falls I wondered how many executed criminals were thrown into it, as history points out, including one Pope from 67ad.

We walked and walked and walked and complained until we finally saw the Colosseo looming in the distance. I was amazed at the casual ruins that we passed everywhere, until I looked on a map and realized it was a whole section called Palatino that was adjacent to Colosseo. Wow! That real estate would have been razed and rebuilt in a New York second over here. We strolled through a nice park down the Via del Cerchi, I picked up a little heart stone, plus some worn green glass shards. Roman sea glass.
Just your neighborhood ruins

It was getting late and we just made it before the closing of Colosseo. It is truly a sight to behold.  Mike was so happy to have finally made it there. We were thrilled with the kitty cat that was hanging around knowing that it's larger ancestors were mauling and eating those unlucky enough to be thrown into the arenas. The architecture seemed so current probably because our sports stadiums are designed in a similar way.  I will just post some pictures and you can let your imaginations run wild.
The entrance. I don't think this guy fared very well
On the other hand this kitty was loving the attention

Main arena. Below is where the animals were stored before battle

Metro trip back was a trip. Rush hour and we were packed like Italian anchovies in a can. We were so glad to be back in our warm and cozy hotel sipping wine (and vodka for one of us) contemplating where we would go for dinner. We changed and met in the lobby bar beforehand. When you order drinks you are automatically served a little "sputini" or tapas which tonight were potato chips, freshly fried of course. Mike made friends with the bartender as he had supplied the ice for the vodka and orange each night. He served us a delicious Sangiovese in huge glasses. I wanted to live right there in that hotel. 
Enjoying the Mecanate Palace Hotel bar
 Our concierge recommended a Trattoria close by called Trattoria Cecio MMVII. No website but good reviews from Yelp and Tripadvisor but I honestly don't remember what we each had as the pictures were pretty out of focus as were we. I can tell you there was manicotti, fettucine, meat for Mike and most likely a plate of greens if the fuzzy pictures are correct.
 On our way back to the hotel we stopped in a Gelato store and got our induction into Italian Gelato etiquette. You get three "pallina" or scoops in a little cup with a plastic spoon. Man o Man were those flavors intense and creamy..whoa. I had pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate. The choices were mind boggling and so beautifully displayed. By the time we finished those we were saturated and ready for bed.  We had to organize our suitcases for the trip to Firenze(Florence) in the morning.  A nice cold glass of water from our bathroom faucet tasted soooo good.

Lights out and sweet dreams.