Friday, September 30, 2016

Rome - Ancient City

Saturday, 24 September 2016

I'll finish the day with sights from the Roman era (mostly).

Across the street from the Bocca della Verita is a fountain and the Temple of Hercules Victorius.
Is this old Roman ruin a stable with rings for hitching horses and water bowls?
Trajan's Column (Colonna Traiana) and an unidentified Baroque era dome. Trajans's Column has a spiral of his exploits. The figure at the top of the column is St. Peter, which replaced Trajan in1587.
Another view of Trajan's Column with Trajan's Forum in the foreground.
Augustus' Forum (?)
Trajan's Market with Trajan's Forum in the foreground.
Trajan's Markets
We were here!
In the ancient area, but totally out of place is the early 20th Century Victor Emmanuel Monument. It looks like something the colonial British would have build in India, but it's all Italian!

Rome - Art & Music

Saturday, 24 September 2016

One could argue that art and music are everywhere in Rome -- on the streets, in the churches, in the galleries, literally everywhere. Today we visited two sites specifically for art and music.

Villa Farnesina

We were drawn in by the promise of frescoes by Raphael. There was so much more.

A ceiling fresco
This is only a small part of the walls in what was the main bedroom. I think this might keep me awake!
This stood out as the only monochrome fresco in the villa.
Not real drapes, but "trompe d'oeil" painting. The villa was filled with painted millwork and textiles. Painting was cheaper than wood!
In the "Perspective Room" wall paintings looked like major vistas of 16th Century Rome.

Sant'Agnes in Agone

The church does not allow photography, but we attended a concert of Italian opera arias, and for some reason they allowed photographs at the concert in the church sacristy.

Pianist, soprano, and tenor for the concert of Italian opera arias in the sacristy of Sant'Agnes in Agone.

Rome - Parish Churches

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Rome is churches and churches are Rome. We visited several "regular" parish churches today -- no cathedrals here. Weddings were popular.

Even though these churches may not have any "name" artwork, they were well-worth visiting. The rather plain exteriors belied the riches within.

Chiesa Santo Spirito in Sassia near the Vatican. The exterior is quite plain, but the interior is impressive.
Chiesa Santa Maria della Scala
Chiesa Santa Maria della Scala
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
We were not able to go into Santa Cecilia in Trastevere because a wedding was in progress.
Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The Bocca della Verita ("Mouth of Truth") is in the portico of the church. The line was too long for us to visit the Bocca, but we did go into the church and the crypt of Adrian I. The church is among the oldest in Rome with additions over the millennia.

Rome - Neighborhoods

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Today we took a very long walk through Rome. A 9-hour 10-mile walk (with plenty of stops) cannot be covered in one blog post, so I've divided it into four posts.

Neighborhoods and street life reveal the true charm of Rome. This post celebrates the streets of Rome.

The Jewish Ghetto. It was the Sabbath (Saturday), so the synagogue and museum were closed to tourists. (But most of the restaurants and delis were open.)
Behind Piazza Navona
A shopping lane between Piazza Navona and Castel Sant'Angelo
Campo di Fiori from the perspective of our lunch table. (Our only pizza while we were in Italy.)
Italians take pride in their cuisine.
A BMW motorcycle with cowling, head restraint and seat belt. Other versions had a small "trunk" on the back seat.

Italy - An Evening in Rome

Friday, 23 September 2016

We returned to Rome today to spend a day and a half there before returning home. Flight and airport delays, not to mention Friday traffic in Rome, turned our afternoon excursion into an evening one.

Our hotel was near the Castel Sant'Angelo, so that decided our itinerary.

Castel Sant'Angelo started out as Hadrian's Tomb. The Romans build a long spiral ramp from the ground floor up to the level where presumably Hadrian's remains were entombed.
Many centuries later, the tomb was remodeled into a fortress to which the Pope could be secure when under attack. There are many papal apartments in the Castel.
Another richly-decorated papal room.
There were also prison cells in the Castel -- sometimes occupied by Popes as well.
Artwork is everywhere. There are many paintings ...
... and sculptures throughout the papal rooms of the Castel.
Even musical instruments like this harpsichord have lavishly decorated surfaces.
The Castel has some of the best views of Rome.
Rome from the Victor Emmanuel Monument to St. Peter's.
We watched the sun set directly behind St. Peter's.
Castel Sant'Angelo from the Ponte Sant'Angelo
St. Peter's Basilica from the Ponte Sant'Angelo
On our evening rambles we came across the only Fabindia store in Europe. I checked it out the next day -- nice, Italy-oriented (i.e. warmer clothing than India) clothing and home furnishings, but pretty pricey. A blouse that might be $40 in India was about $100 here.

Malta - Palazzos and Cathedrals

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Malta is a small island -- it's easy to be anywhere on the island in less than an hour. Today we visited sites in Mosta, Naxxar, Mdina, and Valletta.

First stop was the big rotunda church in Mosta. It's difficult to get a shot of the entire front of the church, so this is four photos stitched together. Someone better than I could fill in the gaps in Photoshop. The church is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.
The main altar in the church.
Like the Pantheon, the sanctuary is under a single, large dome. During World War II a German bomb came through the ceiling during mass. Remarkably (miraculously?) the bomb failed to detonate, no one was killed, and the church remained intact. (The one tile that is slightly different to the left of the lower edge of the oculus is where the bomb pierced the dome.)
A view of the rotunda church from Mdina. This photo also illustrates how Mdina had a view of the entire island of Malta -- that's the sea in the background.

Next stop was the Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar (the x's are pronounced as "sh"). The photo above shows the ballroom and is typical of the Baroque architecture and decor of the palace.
To my surprise, visitors are invited to play the piano in the foyer. And it's just not any piano -- as befits royalty, it's a Bösendorfer.
The extensive gardens set this palazzo apart from the many others on Malta.  The privately-owned palace is mostly used as an exclusive wedding venue, and the gardens are big part of the attraction.
The conservatory at Palazzo Parisio.

On to Mdina, the old Arab capital of Malta. Since it was built by the Arabs, it reflects Arab sensibilities on architecture and city lay-out. The streets are very narrow and winding. This helps keep them shady throughout the day.
The public piazzas like this one tend to be small -- gardens, courtyards, and atria provide private spaces within the palazzos. (See photo below.)
We visited the Palazzo Falson, which has an eclectic collection that the owners collected from all over the world. The actual house was more interesting than most of the contents. And the rooftop café had an astounding view.
A niche in the atrium of the Palazzo Falson.
A private courtyard in Mdina. When the Arabs left Malta, the conquering Normans returned the capital to Valletta to be next to the harbor. Mdina was turned over to the Malta aristocracy as "gated" community where they could build their palazzos.
Mdina Cathedral
The main altar in the cathedral.
A bell tower on the cathedral.

Our final stop of the day was the Lascaris War Rooms beneath Valletta. This is the location where the Allies planned the invasion of Sicily during WW II. This board kept track of bombers leaving and returning to Malta.
Wall map of Sicily and the "toe" of Italy in the Lascaris War Rooms.