Monday, May 31, 2010

Sepia, Sienna, Ochre, Umber ... Via del Governo Vecchio

Via del Governo Vecchio

Facing South, at the Southern end of Piazza Navona hang a right and go West on Via di Pasquino, you'll make a soft right and end up in Piazza Pasquino (where you will see the restaurant Enoteca Cul de Sac on the previous post, on your left.) Continuing on you will end up on this very old and very charming street (Vecchio actually means "old" if I have that right.)

Like most charming streets in Rome, there is plenty of Gelato and food to be found. On Via del Governo Vecchio there are not only some very old and very beautiful buildings but as an added bonus, some fun fabulous vintage shops, as well. I found an adorable vintage leather handbag from the 1940s but talked myself out of it because frankly my luggage was heavy enough and how many handbags does a girl need? O.K., that was a rhetorical question.

More importantly, the colors on this street, like so many in Italy make me want to drag out my oil paints and natural pigments and go to town. I find them so inspiring. I see why everyone went nuts with the whole "faux finishing" thing (I did ... almost every room.) It just never looks quite the same as on the side of an old Italian building. Yet another reason to move to Italy!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Perfect Lunch

OK, so around the corner from Piazza Navona, in Piazza Pasquino which butts up to Via del Governo Vecchio is Enoteca Cul de Sac. Let me tell you ... the ravioli was magical! A very nice italian lady at the next table was having it and had pointed to it with her fork, and nodding to her dining companion said, "Fantastico." She saw me checking it out and she actually offered me a bite! (See? Love the Italians!) It was some sort of meat and vegetable. No idea but she was right, fantastico.

We had some steamed veggies served with goat cheese and a very crisp delicious salad, as well. Their wine list is extensive and I got this inexpensive glass (see photo on bottom) of wine that I swear, along with the Ravioli put me in a state of bliss. For a glass of wine that fabulous in L.A. I might have to fork over 15 bucks, by the way!

I rarely post pictures of myself but I think the look on my face says it all. Loving life. Plus, I love that t-shirt and I thought it was funny when my mom commented how cute it was and my dad agreed (sort of.)
"Yeah, cute ... like a gondolier."

Maybe it was the day ... the atmosphere ... or just being in Rome ... but it felt like the perfect lunch.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Piazza Navona: Bernini and Gelato

Piazza Navona
Tourists or not ... I just love it.

Unfortunately, the main "Fountain of the Four Rivers" by Bernini was having work done again. (This happened on my trip in 2008!) So, because I have yet to see this fountain in all it's glory I am, of course, using this as another excuse to go back and visit Rome again. I don't know when and I don't know how, but I am putting faith in that Euro I threw in the Trevi Fountain!

By the way, that chocolate gelato was out of this world (it's actually the Tartufo "Tre Scalini," to be more specific!) We sat on the Piazza at the restaurante/gelateria Tre Scalini listening to a lovely young lady play romantic songs on her accordion street performers preparing their faces with make-up and tourists browsing through paintings and photographs ... and to top it off (literally) the gelato was covered in a hard chocolate shell and was every bit a taste of heaven. Then again for 10 Euro, I guess it should be. So, you pay extra for the view but I have to say, it's worth every Euro.

Also, (and this is very important) apparently there is more than one Restaurante/Gelateria with the same name, so make sure you go to the one at Piazza Navona 28!
I promise you won't regret it!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Colorful Trastevere

We crossed the Tiber into my new favorite neighborhood at Ponte Fabricio. We walked through the very old, very narrow residential streets with buildings of burnt sienna covered in ivy. The sun hit these beautiful warm hued buildings and out of nowhere an elderly woman who could not have been more than five feet tall on her tip toes, hair the color of ashes, shouted to us at a distance, "Santa Cecilia?!" "Si!" we shouted back. She smiled and pointed us around the corner. It must be the only destination for tourists on the block, but seriously, how sweet!? Love Romans.

On top of the charming beautiful streets and churches, I happened to have one of the most fabulous salads ever at this cute little place on a side street (bottom picture) ... with pine nuts. Which, for salads, might be my favorite nut. At this point I was deciding that if I am going to conspire to live in Rome, why not pick this old artsy area across the Tiber. Apparently I am not alone and Trastevere, I was told, is becoming the "Soho" of Rome. I am not sure but if that is the case, I may need to rob a bank to pull it off.

Anyway ... here is a bit of charming Trastevere. Unfortunately, I was too distracted to get more shots.


Santa Maria in Trastevere

I know, another church! Three churches (plus lunch) by 2pm our second day. We could only spend until 2pm in Trastevere because we had reserved tickets for Caravaggio at 3 o'clock. (Which was unbelievable but I will get to that later.)

The handy thing with these bigger churches is they are open all day unlike a lot of the little ones that close for three hours in the middle of the day. Santa Maria also has a great piazza, some beautiful chapels, and incredible mosaics both outside and in, that remind me a little of Saint Mark's in Venice but Byzantine.

Oh yes, and a miracle apparently happened there. Oil sprouted out of the ground when Jesus was born so a few hundred years later a Pope decided to build a church there. I don't think they met "oil" as in "crude oil" but I could be wrong. I might have missed something.

Santa Maria in Trastevere
Founded in the 3rd century
Built in the 4th
Repaired and rededicated in the 5th (during 410 sack of Rome)
Restoration in the 8th and additions in the 9th
Totally rebuilt in the 12th and additional mosaics in the 13th
New Chapel in the 16th
Restored facade in the 17th
Busy, busy.

When we walked in we could hear music ...
voices singing into the rafters ... candles lit ...
natural sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows ...
like going back in time ...
like entering another world ...

Candlelight ...
It adds that
magical glow to the world,
that I can never seem to get enough of.
I just love it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

San Francesco a Ripa

My favorite Saint is Francis. You might have guessed that if you've read my previous posts about Francis or Assisi, or if you happen to see the tiny gold Francis metal I sometimes wear around my neck.

What you might not guess after all that, is that I don't happen to be Catholic. I just love Francis. Sometimes when I read about his life I get almost overwhelmed with emotion. It's one of those things that just is. Yes, it makes sense ... patron Saint of birds, the environment, animals, ecology and Italy ... Hello, all the things I love! But there is something more. When I went to Assisi, I was so at home, so safe, and in such a loving space in my heart. When I read about him, or think about him, I feel the same way.

So, go to his church in Trastevere? Makes perfect sense.

San Francesco a Ripa in Trastevere ... lovely and understated ...

The amazing sculpture, Blessed Ludovica Alberoni by Bernini ... simply stunning.

Tau cross in the window

Entrance to adjoining Franciscan Convent ... (love the ironwork with the birds!)

You can ask someone there to take you into the cell of Saint Francis, the only remaining part of the hospice where he stayed during his 1209 trip to Rome to see the Pope and get permission for his order. We saw the stone pillow there where he was said to lie his head. I think my parents were a little shocked at this but I had read so much, I thought, "Yep, that's Francis."

Entrance to the "Sancturio" ... the cell of Saint Francis

I took video of that and will get it edited so you can see it. It was hard to get emotional or feel very connected to the experience with the guy giving us about 60 seconds and standing in the doorway. Maybe he was actually a friar in training (although I think I remember argyle) and had to attend to some confessions but he didn't seem very patient.

Maybe it was the video camera. I could have told him, "I'm going to make a very beautiful video of Franciscan places ..." but I thought it better to just move along. I had more sanctuaries ahead of me.

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

Saint Cecilia, patron saint of music, had her home, in the third century, where her church now stands in Trastevere. She was definitely a popular Roman saint. We saw her in paintings all over the place playing musical instruments. You name it, she was playing it.

The church was first built from 817-824 and has a beautiful Byzantine Mosaic in it's apse. Mostly, I wanted to go there because I'd seen photos in guidebooks of a marble statue of her. Her body was apparently found incorrupt in 1599 and seen by the artist who sculpted her body. It sounds morbid and strange and I guess in a way it is, but it is also a really beautiful piece of art and something more...

Sculptor Stefano Maderno's statement in inscribed on the marble below the statue ...

Behold the body of the most holy virgin Cecilia,
whom I myself saw lying incorrupt in the tomb.
I have in this marble expressed for you the same saint
in the very same posture.

It is difficult to explain but when you walk to the altar of this quiet, out of the way church and see her ... it is so graceful and quiet and peaceful.

This sculpture wasn't just another statue of a saint, it became an experience that somehow connected you to her and her story. It felt like she was there in the room with us and I felt like we were truly with her. It was so moving and heartbreaking. I will never forget it.

What art has moved you?
What art has been transcendent?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back from Italy! ... Rome Glorious Rome

I am back! I hope this finds you all happy and healthy and enjoying life. After being gone almost three weeks, I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle. It feels like a dream and like I was gone for a hundred years. Wasn't it a hundred? O.K., maybe twenty. Anyway, hopefully I don't resemble him but with the jet lag I'm not so sure.

It's taken me a couple of days to get my bearings and frankly after I loaded the 1,776 photos on my iMac I got a little overwhelmed. Where do I start? Well, I began my trip in Rome, so? Rome it is.

Rome is arguably the greatest city in the world. I say arguably only because I know someone will want to argue with me! "New York!" or "Paris!" they'll say. O.K., everyone has their preferences and they are usually for very personal reasons. Mostly, they are emotional and often it's something we can't explain ... it's a connection we feel to a place. I feel like that in Rome.

But, if I had to argue (I am winking here) I would say, Rome has an amazing energy and vitality like New York. And like New York has great food and a huge beautiful city park. It has amazing art collections like Paris and Berlin, with ancient history and ruins to walk among like Athens and Cairo. And then, there are the Romans. Every cab driver is your tour guide. I can't tell you how many times I had a driver point and yell "Victor Emmanuel!"

Other than some crazy weather we had, my parents and I celebrated and had a wonderful trip. As some of you may recall the whole idea to got started when I was sick and watching Rick Steve's Italy in the ICU on my sister's portable DVD player, after having a bad post appendectomy infection and ended up sick for ... well, months. (How's that for a run-on?) So, it was kind of a "Woo hoo, I survived" trip. If you can swing it, I highly recommend it.

ROME 2010

Up next? More Rome, Assisi, The Rieti Valley, Positano and Amalfi ...

Ciao for now!