Rome and Tuscany 2015

While we were waiting to board our plane in Kastrup Airport, I made a list of Italian phrases and made a drawing of my dreams for our future adventure in Rome and Tuscany.
While we were waiting to board our plane in Kastrup Airport, I made a list of Italian phrases and made a drawing of my dreams for our future adventure in Rome and Tuscany.
While in Rome I felt inspired to some really weird drawings.
While in Rome I felt inspired to some really weird drawings.
A futuristic knight
A futuristic knight
A fantastic insect creature. Catching photographs in the "golden hour". Visiting Palazzo e Galleria Doria Pamphilj – where we enjoyed the great audioguide by Jonathan Pamphilj and I marveled over the amazing Velázquez painting of Pope Innocent X.
A fantastic insect creature. Catching photographs in the “golden hour”. Visiting Palazzo e Galleria Doria Pamphilj – where we enjoyed the great audio guide by Jonathan Pamphilj and I marveled over the amazing Velázquez painting of Pope Innocent X.
Enjoying a Peroni beer at Bar San Calisto in Trastevere. Dinner at Fish Market. Visit to villa e museo e galleria Borghese and its beautiful statues by Bernini and Canova.
Enjoying a Peroni beer at Bar San Calisto in Trastevere. Dinner at Fish Market. Visit to villa e museo e galleria Borghese and its beautiful statues by Bernini and Canova.
Lunch at Pinsere, where you get the best Roman “pizza”. Dinner at Cul de Sac. Cocktails at Salotto 42. Explorations of the ruins of Villa Adrina. A stay in Orvieto, where I fell completely in love with the Duomo.
Lunch in Castiglione del Lago. Stay in Montepulciano, the most adorable town. Dinner at Cantina Gattavecchi, where I had the best steak in my life. Enjoyed the view over the valley from our balcony at Camera Bellavista.
Lunch in Castiglione del Lago. Stay in Montepulciano, the most adorable town. Dinner at Cantina Gattavecchi, where I had the best steak in my life. Enjoyed the view over the valley from our balcony at Camera Bellavista.
A pitstop in Montalcino, where we had lunch and wine tasting at Enoteca la Fortezza. Arrived at Fattoria di Rignana in Greve for 3 days of relaxation.
A pitstop in Montalcino, where we had lunch and wine tasting at Enoteca la Fortezza. Arrived at Fattoria di Rignana in Greve for 3 days of relaxation.
A stay in San Gimignano. Had lunch at Caffè Giardino, which became an instant favorite. Was upgraded to the best room at Hotel Bel Soggiorna because our aircondition did not work, and spent the evening and early morning looking at the marvelous view over the Tuscan valleys.
A stay in San Gimignano. Had lunch at Caffè Giardino, which became an instant favorite. Was upgraded to the best room at Hotel Bel Soggiorna because our aircondition did not work, and spent the evening and early morning looking at the marvelous view over the Tuscan valleys.
Came to Siena, which was in the middle of preparing for Palio di Siena. Loved the city's Duomo. Had the most wonderful meal at Taverna di San Giuseppe.
Came to Siena, which was in the middle of preparing for Palio di Siena. Loved the city’s Duomo. Had the most wonderful meal at Taverna di San Giuseppe.
A visit in Monteriggion – gave me a reason to read up on my Dante. Went for a couple of days relaxation at Podere Palazzolo.
A visit in Monteriggion – gave me a reason to read up on my Dante. Went for a couple of days relaxation at Podere Palazzolo.
Had another wine tasting. Went to Lucca, a city you cannot help but fall in love with. And then we came to Florence, where we were engulfed in art, culture and tourists for a couple of days.
Had another wine tasting. Went to Lucca, a city you cannot help but fall in love with. And then we came to Florence, where we were engulfed in art, culture and tourists for a couple of days.
The Uffizzi Gallery is amazing in both its architecture and collection. Battistero di San Giovanni had the most wonderful mosaic ceiling.
The Uffizzi Gallery is amazing in both its architecture and collection. Battistero di San Giovanni had the most wonderful mosaic ceiling.
Found a Brew Dog Pub in Florence for a little homely feeling. Went to Bologna, which was the perfect ending of a perfect journey. It has an amazingly weird unfinished cathedral and two towers, that are leaning in a manner that makes you dizzy. The city's "Seven churches" is one of the most amazing and tranquil places I have ever visited. And the cities amazing porticoes gives it a charming character unlike any other italian city.
Found a Brew Dog Pub in Florence for a little homely feeling. Went to Bologna, which was the perfect ending of a perfect journey. It has an amazingly weird unfinished cathedral and two towers, that are leaning in a way that makes you dizzy. The city’s “Seven churches” is one of the most amazing and tranquil places I have ever visited. And the cities amazing porticoes gives it a charming character unlike any other italian city.
Bought 3 great comics with Rat-Man. And then it was back to Denmark to a few more days of holiday.
Bought 3 great comics with Rat-Man. And then it was back to Denmark to a few more days of holiday.

Memoria di Roma

A sketch of an angel statue on Ponte Sant'Angelo in Rome with Saint Peter's Basilica in the background
A sketch of an angel statue on Ponte Sant’Angelo in Rome with Saint Peter’s Basilica in the background

Dreaming of Columns

After visiting Rome I started dreaming of Columns every night.
After visiting Rome I started dreaming of Columns every night.

Rome 2014 – Page 16-17

Page 16-17 from my Roman travel journal
Page 16-17 from my Roman travel journal

Day 7 (continued from here)

After our visit to the Capitoline Museum, it was late afternoon. We had booked tickets for a tour of the Colosseum at night, so we now just had to wait around in the area and find some food. We first went into the Monti area and took a rest at the café 2 Periodico Caffè, a very nice place where we had some chilled white wine and chips. We then went for a Guinness at the Irish pub Finnegans (it is our tradition to always have a Guinness on all our trips).

A sketch of Michelangelo's statue of Moses
A sketch of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses

We then went to Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli, primarily to see Michelangelo’s horned version of Moses. The Moses statue, which was created in 1505, shows an untraditional Moses with two small horns sticking out of his head. Showing Moses with horns stems from a mistranslation of a passage in the Bible, where Moses has light coming out from his head. In the wrong translation, the light became horns instead. It is widely believed that Michelangelo was well aware of the error but that he chose to depict him with horns anyway. But why? Well, I did not figure it out, but I did make a quick sketch, as can be seen on the right.

We had dinner at Hostaria da Nerone, where I had a lovely Saltimbocca. Under the meal, we could hear distant music, which later turned out to be from the Roman Pride Parade.

After dinner we went down to the Colosseum for our late night tour, beautifully named “La luna sul Colosseo.” It was an exceptional experience to be in the Colosseum after all the other tourists have gone. We were a small group of about 10 people and the only other people were a few other groups of the same size. The tour itself was very informative and gave one a great feel of the place’s former glory. For instance, the information that the building of the Colosseum was funded by the loot from the siege of Jerusalem, linking this building to Arco di Tito, which we had seen earlier that day, which depicts the victory over Jerusalem and the loot being carried off. During the entire tour, we could hear the music from the Pride Parade in the distance, with an intense bass rumbling through the building. The ruin was, by the way, also beautifully lighted.

After the tour we went over to the Ludus Magnus on the other side of the street, which is the ruins of the gladiator school. Right next to we finally saw the Pride Parade that we had heard all evening. So for a short while we danced to the beat and joined the joy, but then we had to stop because our tired feet were shouting and we were feeling tired. We went on our way back home only stopping on the way for a final drink at Barnum.

Day 8

It was Sunday and we were going home. We had our last colazione at the B&B, brought to us by the sweet Amy, who also made a great dish for us with scrambled eggs with cheese. We had asked our landlady to order a driver for us, so as soon as we stepped out of the front door the driver was ready. So finishing with the same luxury as we started with, we were driven to the airport. In the airport, we had our last Roman snack of lovely mozzarella di Buffalo, and then we were on our way back to Copenhagen. … Already missing the lovely Rome.

 

 

Rome 2014 – Page 14-15

Page 14-15 from my Roman travel journal
Page 14-15 from my Roman travel journal. On page 14 is a drawing of Michelangelo’s Moses, while the other page shows our visit to Forum Romanum and Palatino.

Day 7 (continued from here)

We reached Forum Romanum early Saturday morning, but it was already steaming hot in the sun. Forum Romanum and Palatino was amazing, but it is so hard to say anything clever about the visit, because it is rather hard to fathom. Ruin after ruin, with an amazing feel of history … and the feeling of getting quite lost in it. Casa delle Vestali stands out in Forum Romanum with its haunting beauty with its broken statues between rose bushes. Arco di Tito is also amazing, especially the images depicting Titus’ victory over Jerusalem in 70AD, where the soldiers carry out the loot including a Jewish menorah. Walking down Via Sacra also gives one a peculiar feeling watching all the impressive remnants of the former impressive buildings now only fathomable through the fragmented ruins.

When we reached the Stadio on Palatino as the last monument on our tour, we were exhausted beyond expression. We, therefore, rested for a while in the shadow of some trees while we watched a very lovely pigeon sleeping.

But we had to pull ourselves together for there was still much to see that day. Next up was the Capitoline Museum. Another amazing place. But although the museum’s treasures awaited us, we started out by visiting the museums café for some lunch and a well deserved cold beer. You can use the café without buying a ticket. It is located on the right side of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

The Musei Capitolini, as the museum is called in English, is placed in two of the three palazzo on Piazza di Campidoglio. The piazza is beautiful in its own right with an equestrian statue of Marus Aurelius in the middle flanked by the three beautiful palazzo and the Cordonata staircase on the front leading down to Piazza d’Ara Coeli. The museum entrance is in Palazzo dei Conservatori on the right side when seen from the top of the staircase. A tunnel under the piazza then leads the museum visitors under the Piazza and over in Palazzo dei Nuovo on the left side of the piazza. Straight ahead is Palazzo Senatorio, which houses the Rome’s city council. On the day of our visit there was a demonstration in front of this Palazzo and the café was filled with tired protesters taking a rest and eagerly debating the issue, whatever it was.

The first thing you meet when you go into the museum is the remnants of the once 12m-high statue of Constantine scattered around the inner courtyard. A left hand here, a right foot there, then a knee and a head. You get a feeling of Constantine being an imperial version of Humpty Dumpty, who just needs to be put back together again.

Inside the museum is many great pieces of art, which are placed in some amazing surroundings.  They had a special Michelangelo exhibition, which was fine, but it was the permanent exhibition that really amazed. The main event was of course Lupa Capitolina, the bronze statue of the Capitoline wolf with Romulus and Remus from the 5th century. The wolf is astonishing. Especially the way the hair is made. A piece of the statue on the back has broken off, which reveals how thin and crisp the bronze is, making the work even more enticing. The figures of Romulus and Remus, which were also first added in 1471, are less impressive in comparison. Another notable work was Spinario, another amazing bronze statue of a boy removing a thorn from his foot (also note the room it is in, beautiful). I was looking forward to seeing Bernini’s Medusa, but that was, unfortunately, not on display at the time.

Sketch of Esedra di Marco Aurelio
Sketch of Esedra di Marco Aurelio

In a rather beautiful modern wing with lots of light and air stands Esedra di Marco Aurelio, the original version of the equestrian statue from Piazza di Capidoglio. In this room we took a little break, and I made a quick sketch of the statue, as seen to the right.

After all had been viewed in Palazzo dei Conservatori, we went down into the tunnel that leads to the other building. Ancient tombs are on display in the tunnel, and it also gives you access to the Tabularium, where you have some of the best view over Forum Romanum.

In Palazzo Nuovo were more amazing items, with the main attraction being Galata Morente, the amazing bronze statue of a dying Gaul, and Venere Capitolina.

You can read more about day 7 and the rest of the trip in my next post …

Or see my Photographs on Flickr.

Rome 2014 – Page 12-13

Page 12-13 in my Roman travel journal
Page 12-13 in my Roman travel journal

Day 6 (continued from here)

After a day of relaxation and a long rest at the B&B, we went out into the streets of Rome in the evening. Our landlady had recommended that we go see the sunset over Rome from the Pincio Hill, so that was where we were heading. But when we came to Piazza del Popolo we were surprised to find out that the entire square had been transformed into a concert venue. At one end was a large platform and on the rest of the square there had been placed seats for the audience. So it had been the preparations for this show that had blocked our view over the famous piazza a few days before. Now it was filled to the brim with people and there was a spectacular light show, which among other used the surrounding buildings to make magnificent color tableaus – just imagine the twin churches colored all in blue and then changing to red. It was beautiful and very dramatic. The concert itself was in celebration of Bicentenario dell’Arma dei Carabinieri, that is the 200-year anniversary of the Italian national military police. The concert included a variety of performances of classical pieces and a few modern like Sinatra’s My Way mixed in between speeches.

We went up to Pincio Hill as planned and watched the sun go down, with this amazing concert as the backdrop. Quite a magical moment. And then we went down to observe the concert more closely.

Drawings from Concert on Piazza del Popolo and Pincio Hill view
Drawings from Concert on Piazza del Popolo and Pincio Hill view
Drawings from Concert for Bicentenario dell’Arma dei Carabinieri on Piazza del Popolo
Concert for Bicentenario dell’Arma dei Carabinieri on Piazza del Popolo

But after a while our stomachs growled to loudly of hunger, so we had to leave the concert. We hoped to have the opportunity to revisit Al Gran Sasso, and we were in luck: they were open and had just one free table left. So we dived down in their delicious dishes one again. We started with some great calamari. Then Ole had a pasta, and I went for both funghi and patata fritta. Uhmmmmmmm. Oh, how I wish I could eat there every night.

Afterwards, we could hardly stand; we were that full. Blissfully we tumbled back home and watched Spise med Price (a Danish cooking show) on the iPad until we fell into a deep sleep.

Day 7

It was our last full day in Rome, and the plan was to hit the big 3 of ancient Rome: Forum Romanum/Palatino, the Capitoline Museum and the Colosseum. So we packed gallons of water, put on hat and sun lotion and went out for the last sightseeing conquest.

We headed for Forum Romanum first browsing shortly in Fori Imperiali on the way. You can read more about my visit to the Forum Romanum and the rest of day 7 in my next post …

Or see my Photographs on Flickr.

Rome 2014 – Page 10 -11

Page 10-11 from my Roman travel journal
Page 10-11 from my Roman travel journal

Day 5 (continued from here)

It was late afternoon on our 5th day in Rome, and we were heading back into the center of Rome, after a busy day visiting both the catacombs, Via Appia Antica and Terme di Caracalla. Just a short walk from the ruins of the Roman baths the Palatine Hill came into view towering over Circo Massimo. In ancient time the hill had been the locations for wealthy Romans’s and emperors’ residences, with some having the view over the chariot racing stadium known as Circus Maximus (meaning the largest circus). In Italian, it is known as Circo Massimo. There is not much left of the old stadium, but its form is preserved, so you still get a clear feel of the size – truly maximus.

We jumped into Cristalli di Zucchero in Via di San Teodoro 88 for a quick refreshment. They serve the most adorable, beautiful and tasteful mini pastries (just look at these mouthwatering pictures). It is a must if you are in the area.

Then it was back to our room at Maison D’art for a shower and dressing up for the night, for we had booked tickets for a classical piano concert. We started the evening with some relaxation time with a cool Peroni at a café in the Jewish Ghetto, followed by some kosher dishes at Nonna Betta. Then it was off to the concert. It was originally supposed to be held in the Teatro di Marcello, but the organizers had some issue with getting the licensing in order, so the concert was moved next door to Chiesa di San Nicola in Carcere. Before the concert, there was a small historical introduction about the theater, given on the church porch so we had a view over the ruin. Then the concert began with the pianist and composer Marco Lo Muscio playing Emerson, Satie, Debussy, Jarrett, Barber, Hackett as well as his own compositions. It was a beautiful concert. Although it was not in the theater as expected, the setting in the church was still perfect for creating a special atmosphere. I couldn’t stop myself from doodling a little bit during the concert to capture the moment as you can see below. And, as you can also see on the picture, I also got his autograph after the concert. While we talked to him, we also found out that he was actually playing an organ concert in a church right next to where we live in Copenhagen on July 30th. So maybe we will see him again soon.

Program from Piano Concert with Marco Lo Muscio in Rome
Program from Piano Concert with Marco Lo Muscio in Rome

After the concert, we went for more food in the Jewish Ghetto, visiting the lovely and very busy Sora Margherita. This place is great, so I’ll recommend going there for a taste of this areas special cooking. For a compare their version of the area’s famous dish carciofi alla guidia (fried artichoke) was a million times better than at Nonna Betta (But to be honest, when it comes to artichokes my favorite dish will always be alla Romana as served at Alfredo e Ada (you can read about that here)).

We spend the rest of the evening strolling through the lovely streets in Centro Storico, just breathing in the atmosphere. And when the legs started to fail after all these days marching all over Rome we dug into the soothing oasis called Barnum Cafe. It is one of those lovely places that feels hip and homey at the same time, and it instantly became our favorite café in Rome. We ordered some cocktails, and they were amazing. The waiter got my order wrong, but it did not matter a bit because he had chosen something that sounded more amazing than what I ordered. So what I got was a Corpse reviver. I have never tried that and don’t remember what was in it besides absinthe, but it was amazing. It also lived up to its name, for I was feeling rather worn and dead after all the sightseeing, and it made me live up again … at least for a few hours before I fell into deep sleep back at the B&B.

Day 6

The only plan for Friday was to relax. The rest of our stay we were to live at the B&B’s other location on Via Giubbonari near Campo de’ Fiori, so in the morning we moved our luggage. The sweet lady from Maison d’Art helped walked with us to the new place. It was rather fun following a real Roman through the inner city traffic, seeing how she did not even blink when stepping out in front of a car and walking craze fully while Vespas were flying by from every direction. The new room was even nicer than the last one, so that was just great.

We then went for a walk along the Tiber River. There are quite a lot of not so sweet-smelling parts down by the river, but overall it was a very nice walk with some great views of the bridges and great street art.

For lunch we went Cul de Sac a long and narrow wine bar with a great wine list and some beautiful cold cuts and amazing cheese. Definitely worth a visit. It is right next to Piazza Navona, so it is a great place to go for an alternative instead of the Piazzas extremely pricey restaurants.

Afterwards, we spend a while on Piazza Navona, where I drew in my journal while Ole took photos. Then we went for a little snack at Chiostro del Bramante Caffè, which our landlady had recommended if we needed a break away from the busy Roman streets. The place is indeed perfect for a break being very dark and quiet. We had the most lovely torta al fragoline de bosco (cake with small wild strawberries) with our coffee. Ole also was brave enough to try out his coffee as caffè corretto, which is “a corrected coffee” in the sense that it is an espresso with liquor. It tasted awful to be honest, but maybe it was just because of their choice of liquor, which we could not identify. I have been told it can be better.

We then went back to the B&B for some more relaxation including a soak in the bathtub (with Pony Pop pop-corn and Peroni). We stayed there for a while building up new energy, and first went out again in the evening, but more of that in the next post …

Or see my Photographs on Flickr.

 

Rome 2014 – Page 8-9

Page 8-9 from my Roman travel journal
Page 8-9 from my Roman travel journal

Day 4 (continued from here)

We had lunch at Alfredo e Ada, the most adorable trattoria I think you can find in Centro Storico. There was no menu, the elderly waiter (Alfredo perhaps) instead sat down at out table and wrote down the day’s dishes on the tablecloth. I chose a carciofo alla romana, which was the most amazing version of an artichoke I have ever tried. Next time I’m in Rome I’m definitely going to drop by for another taste of that dish. I then had a chicken in lemon sauce, which again was outstanding. Great food and a great location if you want to feel an old-fashion stuck-in-time atmosphere.

We continued walking around in the streets and ended up at the Spada Palazzo where we saw their were nice museum and marveled over Francesco Borromini’s famous optical illusion of a passage that seems to be 25m long when it is, in fact, only 10m.

Then we revisited Trastevere and had a nice break at the Piazza Santa Maria. I sat on the base of the fountain drawing the below sketch while Ole took photographs of the fountains and the seagulls.

The facade of Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
The facade of Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere

For dinner, we went to Pizzeria Da Remo in Testaccio, where we had the trips best pizza. You must go there for the food! But it is also worth noting that it is very interesting to visit Testaccio, which is a residential area, where you can get a feeling of how the modern Romans live.

On the evening stroll back to the hotel we passed by both Tempio di Ercole Vincitore, Tempio di Portunus and Teatro de Marcello. So just another stroll in Rome where you can’t walk ten feet without stumbling over some ancient treasure :)

Day 5

It was Thursday, and we again had an early start (but thankfully not as early as Tuesday). We went to Piazza Venezia, where we took a bus out to the catacombs around Via Appia Antica. We visited Catacombe di Santa Domitilla, which was an amazing experience. We then had a stroll through the lovely gardens around Catacombe di San Callisto before we went out to explore Via Appia Antica.

We took the bus from Via Appia to go to Terme di Caracalla, the ruins of the Roman baths. This is an amazing place with an almost ridicules scale. The ruins are huge and give one the impression of a building that must have been as impressive to walk through as St. Peter’s Basilica. Here and there you can see mosaic floors or fragments from the walls which shows that it was not just impressive in size, but also in decoration. Oh, how I wish to see that building in its prime! And all the while the seagulls watched us from up high with all their small baby birds.

After that, we walked back into the center of Rome, but more of that in the next post …

Or see my Photographs on Flickr.

 

Rome 2014 – Page 6-7

Page 5 from my Roman Travel Journal
Page 5 from my Roman Travel Journal showing Pantheon, Campo de’ Fiori and the facade of Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Day 4 (continued from here)

On Wednesday morning, we wanted a more relaxed day after the whole ordeal of both Vatican City and Trastevere. Only one thing was a must that day, for we had to visit Pantheon, so we started the day out by going to this amazing place. I am totally in love with the ceiling and the oculus, which was so amazing that I hardly noticed the rest of the place. The morning sun came in through the oculus in just as an amazing fashion as I have hoped, and I gaped in wonder the entire visit.

We then strolled around in Centro Storico’s charming streets. We visited Campo de’ Fiori, where the statue of Giordano Bruno (who was burned on the stake on the piazza in 1600 for heresy) towered over the busy market place with its colorful stalls with vegetables, flasks of lemoncello and mountains of cheese.

Later in the afternoon we also visited Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere again, where I made the above sketch, but that was much later, which you can read about in the next post from my travel journal …

Or see my Photographs on Flickr.

Rome 2014 – Page 4-5

Page 4 from my Roman Travel Journal (the image to the right is a quick sketch of a statue from one of the fountains on Piazza Navona drawn the day before).

Day 3 (continued from here)

We were two exhausted travelers when we stumbled out of the Vatican around noon on Tuesday. We headed for Pizzarium at Via della Meloria 43, which is a little gem of a pizzeria hidden away in the residential area north-west of the Vatican City. We had some lovely pizza slices and tried out their supplì, which is so divine. A supplì is a Roman snack that consist of a rice ball filled with something – we had them with meat – it is then soaked in egg, rolled in bread crumbs and deep-fried. The crust is beautifully crunchy while the stuffing is moist and delicate. Try them out, you’ll love em! Pizzarium also hit the spot with its great selection of micro brewery beer. The meal was enjoyed sitting on the sidewalk, because there are only a few seatings available there, but for such a meal I would sit anywhere.

After that, we felt more like human beings again, but we still felt the craving for some refreshments. So we walked north-east until we came to the gelateria Fatamorgana on Via Bettolo, where we snacked on their lovely gelato. For me the most memorable flavor was a special chocolate with beer, it was the best chocolate ice cream! (Note, it is a chain so similar places can be found in other parts of Rome).

We then went up on Gianicolo to take a break in a more tranquil surroundings. On the hill, you get a superb view over Rome, and there is numerous areas to settle down in under the soothing shadows of the trees. It is also a good place to muse over the battles that were fought there in 1849 between Giuseppe Garibaldi’s makeshift army and the French troops. We bought some beers and chips at Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi and enjoyed them on the grass with a view to the monument of the Italian hero as backdrop. It was nice to have a real break to digest all that we had experienced in the Vatican City and find some more energy to keep on sightseeing.

Beneath the Gianicolo Hill lies Trastevere, where we went to after our well deserved rest. We found this to be one of the most endearing parts of Rome, especially because it so distinctly has its own unique vibe that’s not at all like the other parts. It feels like a little town in the big city. The prices are lower than on the other side of the Tiber River, and there is a great number of distinctive and innovative restaurants and bars. It also helps that they have my absolute favorite Roman Basilica: Basilica di Santa Maria, which is decorated with the most beautiful Byzantine mosaics both on the facade and inside. Just a few steps from the Piazza with the Basilica we found Bar San Calisto. The guidebook sums up this place’s vibe very well: “… stuck-in-time atmosphere and cheap prices. It attracts everyone from drug dealers, intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals to keeping-it-real Romans, alcoholics and American students.” It became one of our favorite spots in Rome.

We used the rest of the afternoon and evening strolling around Trastevere. Drank coffee and apple succo at Antico Caffè dell’Isola on the small island Isola Tiberina in the Tiber River. Visited a small, attractive and intriguing book shop called Open Door Bookshop in Via della Lungaretta, where I bought my first book in Italian (Umberto Eco Il pendolo di Foucault, I know it is a bit presumptuous to buy such a title after just a few weeks of learning Italian by using Duolingo, but I swear that I will have read that book before I die). Dinner at Fish Market, where we had the most lovely seafood dishes like small fried fish and fish shish-kebab – it is a must visit place in this area and represent the new kind of Roman concept restaurants (they also have other locations in Rome). We finished the night with cocktails at Freni e Frizioni, where I enjoyed a “Moscow mule” while Ole drank a “Pint Break” (ingredients including a 10-year-old Talisker). Then a beautiful evening stroll back home to the hotel over the river and through the charming streets of Centro Storico.

I will shortly post pages from my Roman travel journal …

Or see my Photographs on Flickr.

Rome 2014 – Page 2-3

A page from my personal travel journal showing my experiences in Rome
Page 2-3 from Rome in my travel journal.

Day 2 (continued from here)

After we had studied Piazza del Popolo for a little while, we went up to the Pincio Hill Garden to have our first glimpse of the roman skyline A truly charming place and the view was amazing. After the garden we went up to Chiesa della Trinità dei Monti and the down the Spanish Steps. This sight again underwhelmed me and again it had primarily to do with construction work that was being done on both the church and the Barcaccia fountain.

But although 2 of the top sights that I had looked forward to see had turned out a disappointment I was in a great mood, because all around us was greatness and beauty. My mood went even higher at our lunch. We tracked back to the small streets near Piazza del Popolo and found the trattoria Al Gran Sasso. It is a bit hard to find having no real street presence. The walls are filled with really not very good paintings showing street painters with their work (worst one was the painting of a painter with her painting of a sheep head constructed out of vegetables), but overall it is a very charming place with great staff and soooooo good food. I started out with fresh and very wonderful mozzarella di bufala served with prosciutto di Parma. Ole had the most amazing and tasteful fughi fritta, which I stole a few of.

I then had a delicate chicken in lemon sauce, which tasted absolutely amazing and along with it I had patata fritta, and I swear I have never in my life had so good fried potatoes (and being the great lover of that particular vegetable I have tasted quite the variety by now). Remembering that dish makes me want to go back just for that. I cannot remember what Ole had because I was in a state of ecstasy at that time over my own meal.

We then went south peeking in at Ara Pacis Augusto through the windows in Museo dell’Ara Pacis, and marveled at the feeling of the missing monument of Mausoleo di Augusto.

In the evening we went by Fontana di Trevi and stayed there for a while to take pictures and watch the people throwing coins in the fountain or imitating Anita Ekberg. And yes we of course also sacrificed a coin to the fountain ensuring our return. The guidebook had claimed that there would be fewer people at the fountain in the evening, but I guess we were not the only ones who had read that, because the place was packed. The fountain is truly amazing and beautiful, and even with the myriad of people around it there was some sort of tranquil feel about the place.

We had dinner at Antica Enoteca in Tridente, which was a nice wine bar with good food and lovely wines. We turned in a bit early that night because we had planned for an early start the following day.

Day 3

Tuesday morning we got up really early to get to the Vatican as early as possible. Walking over Ponta Sant’Angelo in the early morning light was absolutely stunning. Basilica di San Pietro was an impressive sight and I felt how all my senses were having a hard time grasping the size of it. We headed straight for the Dome to get up there before the crowds would set in. The view from the top was incredible. The entire city bathed in the morning light and parts of it covered by the veil of the morning mist.

Inside the Basilica di San Pietro was just as stunning and mind-boggling. The sun came in from the side windows filling the entire space with a golden hue and the ongoing chanting gave it all a truly holy feeling, which even impresses a non-believer like myself.

Then it was off to the Vatican Museum. I was so relieved that we had booked online beforehand, when I saw the queue for tickets that already had gathered that early in the morning, and which we could just walk by. The museum literally took my breath away in that its size and the number of objects are absolutely impossible to take in, with room after room after room until we were absolutely exhausted. Tip: apart from the impressive artifacts look out for the ceilings and the decor in the rooms, they are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. In the end you reach Cappella Sistina …

The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican

I had some mixed feelings about that room. First of all it was absolutely packed with people, making it hard to really feel the room. There was also a lot of noise, which the guards tried to prevent by proclaiming “Silenzio” over a speaker, but it did not really help. The room in it self is not really beautiful, being just a long narrow and dark space without interesting architecture. The ceiling is incredible, but it is unfortunately sort of unbalanced due to the later addition of the The Last Judgement on the end wall. There are some wonderful paintings on the side walls, which do not get the attention they deserve. And The Last Judgement itself will never be a favorite of mine. I have studied it a lot before I saw it there, so I knew the image very well. I must confess that I never really liked it, but I always thought that maybe it was just because I hadn’t seen it in real life. Well it did not change anything seeing it for real. The composition is odd, the figures are overly dramatic, and the blue background is so flat that it ends up looking like the figures have been cut out and placed on top of it with no sense of wholeness.

But I do not want to end on a sour note. I was really really high on the beauty and extremeness of both the Basilica di San Pietro and The Vatican Museum. So much food for the senses had left me totally dizzy and filled with the art lover’s joy. The body was exhausted after walking around the place for hours, but my spirit was fresh and happy. Dragging our feet while whistling joyfully inside we stumbled out of the Vatican state and started to hunt for something to eat …

Read more about day 3 here.

Or see my Photographs on Flickr.

Rome 2014 – Page 1

A page from my personal travel journal showing my experiences in Rome
The first page from Rome in my travel journal.

The wedding and the first night in Rome

On the 1st of June 2013 – our anniversary of meeting each other – my boyfriend proposed to me on the top of the Rockefeller Center in New York. A year after in 2014 all had fallen into place and we got married on the same date. The ceremony took place by the waterfront in Copenhagen with the nearest friends and family. The wedding and in fact the entire day was absolutely perfect. Head over heals in love we left the party (still in our wedding cloths) to swiftly fly to Rome to enjoy our honeymoon, in what I hoped would be the most romantic city in the world. And looking back I must say that my now beloved Roma fulfilled my every expectation and then some.

We landed in Fiumicino in the evening. We knew we were to be greeted in the airport by the driver that the hotel had arranged for us. So my first task as married woman was to find a man holding a sing with my new name, and although it sounds as a small thing it felt like an important event at the time. The luxury of choosing to pay for a driver instead of taking the public transportation proved to be a great choice, because it prolonged the fairytale feeling of the day.

Our B&B room at Maison D’art near the Pantheon was great and we had a window looking out over the roman rooftops. We chilled a little there grasping the fact that we had arrived in the eternal city. Standing on the french balcony I enjoyed the evening air and all the beautiful smells that were all around me coming from the great number of flowers all over (to be honest I had expected the normal big city stench).

Going out – still in our wedding outfit – we stopped by the Piè de Marmo the large (called giant in the guidebook, but that makes it sound too impressive) marble foot that located a few feet from the hotel. This may not be the most important monument (see it if you are nearby, but there is no need to plan for it), but which I for some reason really liked.

We then headed for the restaurant, where we were to eat our dinner. On the way we passed by Piazza della Minerva with the statue Elefantino, a puzzled and somewhat tired looking elephant with an obelisk on it’s back. And then we were suddenly going by Pantheon, this majestic but also tormented building that I have looked forward to seeing ever since I first heard about it in my childhood. Since it was late evening it was closed, so I had to settle with the columns, the fragments of façade and the overall felling of being near something so old and impressive.

We ate at ristorante Il Bacaro chosen because of its promise of romance. For primo Ole had his first seafood pasta with shrimps and I a great dish with melanzana (aubergine). Then some lovely stakes for secondo. It all felt very Roman in that small cars and Vespas flew by constantly in the narrow cobblestone streets in a romantic way. Afterwards we went for a stroll in the district observing for the first time the roman tradition of eating gelato ad midnight. After a last cooled glass of white wine – trying the local ones from Lazio – we went back to the B&B to rest after a long, fantastic and eventful day.

The second day

Waking the first morning in Rome I could hardly stay calm knowing that out there was my dream city ready for my explorations. I opened the shutters to marvel over the sun on the rooftops, but was instead met with the sight of smoke gliding down towards us from Il Vittoriano and filling the streets. Apart from the seagull family on the roof opposite whaling once in a while, the city seemed calm and quiet, making the ghostly smoke seem like a mirage. After a few minutes the smoke was gone and nothing had happened – leaving us rather puzzled.

The morning goal was to go to Piazza del Popolo, so we started out by finding Via del Corso. But as soon as we hit the street we could se that at the other end of it, where Il Vittoriano is, something was indeed happening. We went down there instead and joined the great number of people gathered there. It turned out they were looking at the beginning of a military parades on Piazza Venezia. We later found out that it was the roman celebration of Festa della Repubblica, which had not appeared in the guidebook’s list of events month by month, but instead had been hidden away on page 329 – really not that helpful Lonely Planet!.

We then went up Via del Corso. While walking down the rather busy street, I tried to image how it would have been when it was Via Flaminia and the street was filled with the roman legions marching home from battle. Again I was also overwhelmed by the lovely flowery odors filling even this these streets in Tridente.

We stopped by to see Colonna di Marco Aurelio on Piazza Colonna, a marvelous monument although I must admit that we ended up giving more attention to a hilarious seagull bathing in the piazza’s fountain.

Arriving at Piazza del Popolo I must admit I was rather underwhelmed. It is one of those places that had become mythical in my mind but seeing it I thought it was far from amazing. It did not help that some sort of constructions work was going on in the piazza making it hard to get an impression of the overall look of the place. Bernini’s Porta del Popolo was one of the most boring of its sort that I have ever seen and Chiesa di Santa Maria del Popolo was besides the two amazing Caravaggio paintings another disappointment. I did enjoy the elegant illusion of symmetry between Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Chiesa di Santa Maria in Montesanto, but the construction site again spoiled the view. But when letting go of the fantasy, I must admit it was great to see that the piazza was still being used.

We then went up to the Pincio Hill Garden to have our first glimpse of the roman skyline …

Read more about day 2 here.

Or see my Photographs on Flickr.