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 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.

New York 2013 – Walking Downtown

Pages from the Travel Journal

Page from my personal travel journal, recorded while in New York. This one shows: Walking from the Javits Center to Greenwich