Rome 2015

From the Archive: Day 9


Friday was another long day where I saw A LOT of stuff. We started bright and early and began at the Circus Maximus where a few intrepid young fellows decided to run (what they could) of the ancient track. I personally rooted for the Reds since the runner for said team was a fellow IU-Bloomingtonian—it was a good day, the IU Crimsons won!

The rest of the morning was spent looking at the Republican temples of the Forum Holitorium (Vegetable market) and Forum Boarium (Cow Market) which are all adjacent to one another. We first attempted to see the Ara Maxima which is currently underneath the Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin; in fact, the Ara Maxima has actually been carved out to form a chapel. We didn’t actually get to go into the altar until a little later (the guy who was supposed to let us in was late). I actually had a difficult time in there and left before the rest of the group. I am pretty claustrophobic; there were a lot of people in there and the air felt really close and I just had to get out of there even though it was interesting. I am hoping that I can handle the catacombs in a couple of weeks.

We then walked to the Forum Holitorium temples which are currently built into one church, S. Nicola Incarcere. We explored the foundation levels of the temple which are currently underneath the church. I explored for a bit and did a bit better under there than I did at the Ara Maxima even though it twisted and turned.

After that we walked to the banks of the Tiber and discussed the oldest bridge which crosses the Tiber, the mythical foundation of Tiber Island, and the foundation of the cult of Asclepius (which is reflected by the continued presence of hospitals on the island). The last stop in the morning was the temples in the Forum Boarium to the Temple of Hercules and Portunus.

After the lunch break, we went to the Capitoline Museums. I was PRETTY excited and that feeling only increased when the FIRST thing I saw were the Marcus Aurelius panels and then the SECOND was the bust of Commodus as Hercules. I could spend hours there looking at these works and not get tired of it. Fortunately, we will be returning to the Capitoline and I think I will return alone to do it at my own pace.

This blog was originally posted here, with pictures! 

Rome 2015

From the Archive: Day 8


Thursday was relaxing in comparison to Monday-Wednesday. Instead of being gone from 8-8 (it seemed), I did not have to be anywhere until noon. So I took it easy and walked in a leisurely manner to the Academy where we toured the Villa Aurelia a property owned by the AAR and the highest point in Rome. We climbed to the top of the recently-renovated villa and enjoyed the view of the entire city.

After another delicious lunch at the AAR we headed out to the Villa Giulia, the National Etruscan Museum, and one of the Academy’s fellows gave us a tour of the museum which had several highlights including the Sarcophagus of the Spouses, the Chigi Vase, and the Apollo of Veii. It was a fascinating museum and it was very instructive to be led around by someone who is obviously knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their subject!

The Villa Giulia also has nymphaeum designed and executed by Vasari in which bird violence had recently occurred (two seagulls took down a pigeon) so that’s unfortunately in my picture.

To get to the Villa Giulia we took taxis and I continue to find Italian driving a both fascinating and terrifying exercise in human interaction.

The original blog can be found here, with pictures! 

Rome 2015

From the Archive: Tuscany and Etruscan Tombs


Today’s explorations started and ended with fantastic vistas. We explored two necropoli from the Etruscan civilization. The first was the necropolis at Tarquinia where you descend into the rock cut tombs to observe the painted frescoes that remain. I explored as many as I could before we left for the National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia where local archaeological discoveries were displayed en masse. Particularly sarcophagi—the museum had many. The Sarcophagus of the Sacerdotus was particularly AWESOME. It is a painted sarcophagus, but it has no relief element so it was entirely two-dimensional and that is so cool. Nearby was a sarcophagus with relief that was also painted. The museum also had tons of red- and black-figure vases, bronze figures and weapons, and four tombs that had been removed from their original context and reconstructed in the museum.

The next stop was to see the tumuli tombs at the Cerveteri necropolis of Banditaccia. I went into some of these, but I admit, my claustrophobia began to rear its ugly head with a few of these, so I did not explore them as much as I did the tombs at Tarquinia. I DID go down to see the Tomb of the Reliefs which was nice to finally see in person.

After finishing up at Cerveteri, we hopped back on the bus for Rome. On Wednesday nights we will always have dinner at one local restaurant. Tonight I had pasta alla amatriciana which I did NOT finish and the woman who picked up my plate gave me a Look. I was fulllll. Afterwards we all walked to one of the TOP gelato places in Rome (which happens to be not far from my apartment). I had coffee and almond gelato and it was delish.

In other news, I’ve been in Italy for almost a week now!

Tomorrow is a relaxed day; we’ll be exploring the Villa Aurelia on the American Academy in Rome’s property and the Villa Giulia Museum which houses Etruscan art and artifacts.

This blog was originally posted here

Rome 2015

From the Archive: On the Way to the Forum


Today was a long, tiring day, but I got to see several things I have been waiting ages to see.

This week in the Classical Summer School we are doing Early Rome and Etruscans so we mainly concentrated on Archaic and Early Republican monuments (even though several exist currently in a later Imperial form and that only partially). Being in the Forum was fabulous; it’s great to see the pictures of monuments and landscapes you have for so long read and studied and to see them in the flesh.

We also went to the Sant’Omobono temple complex which was fascinating. I had read about it and talked about it in classes before; it’s a religious complex that includes a 15th(? – I think 15th) century church, 2 Republican era temples (Mater Matuta and Fortuna), and below the Republican temples, an Archaic one. From this excavation we have some of the earliest large scale figural sculpture (which I’ll see later when we visit museums), terracotta statues of Hercules and Minerva which were acroteria. I had been told that the archaeological excavation of this site is complex, and believed it, but it was nice to see it for myself.

After we returned to our neighborhood, our program director asked us if we wanted to try something tasty. (The answer to this question, especially in Italy, should always be YES). This something was called a suppli which was mozzarella, rice, red sauce all breaded and fried. Like a super-extreme-most-delicious cheese stick ever.

Tomorrow: Tarquinia and Cerveteri to see Etruscan stuffs!

This blog was originally posted here, with pictures!

Rome 2015

From the Archive: First Day of the Program!

Today was almost exclusively an orientation day, which is fine with me, I like to be oriented. This included a walk around our neighborhood, getting to know the American Academy in Rome’s premises, their library, and their study collection. We also talked a lot about what we’re going to be doing over the course the program and this week in particular. We were fed delicious food in a delicious atmosphere.

Tomorrow onto the Forum and Palatine!

The original blog was posted here, with pictures! 


Rome 2015

From the Archive: Day 4

The only thing on the schedule today was one big important task – move into the apartment I’ll be staying in for the duration of the program.

I woke up kind of early, showered, ate breakfast at my hotel, and gathered my stuff up. I checked out and called a cab and arrived promptly at the new apartment. Now, for those of you that don’t know me very well, I’m a worrier. I worry about WAY too many things and so far, all of my worrying on this trip has been for naught. For this I was worried about the cab driver scamming me (he didn’t), my stuff being unmanageably difficult to carry (it wasn’t), having to lug my stuff up to the fourth (Italian—so American fifth) floor (a very small, but effective elevator!), and that my apartment would be the pits somewhat akin to the foyer I stayed in 10 years ago in Paris (it…is NOT). The bedroom is a bit spartan but that’s fine. Otherwise, I think you can safely say that this is a very nice apartment.

It is a three-bedroom, 1.5 half bath apartment to be shared between 5 participants in the apartment. It is, as you can see above, more than adequate. It’s in the Monteverde neighborhood of Rome, south of the Vatican and to the west of Trastevere. It’s safe, if a tad removed from city center.

I also grabbed some food at a nearby grocery store and unpacked my stuff to feel a touch more settled.

The only negative thing that happened today is that my favorite pants caught on the dresser as I was putting stuff away and they ripped. My. Favorite. Pants. And the one thing I did not pack in my suitcase was a sewing kit.

Tomorrow the program starts!

The original blog (and pictures) was posted here

Rome 2015

From the Archive: Days 2 & 3

My goal for Friday was twofold. To get me a phone that works in Italy and to do some preliminary exploring. The day was a resounding success. I left kind of early to avoid being out during the especially hot times of day. I had done some googling the evening before to plot out the best route to the phone store, selected specifically owing to its location close to things I wanted to see.

Street labels are…not consistent so I was glad I have a) a relatively good sense of direction, b) done my homework the night before and c) I’m not afraid of getting just a little lost. I also took screenshots of directions on google maps because I’m crazy and felt kind of naked without constant access to Google out in the wild. (We’re not examining that point too closely). I took a rather indirect route through the streets of Trastevere (not pictured- was too busy looking to take pics) which truly felt like a time warp. Streets too small for anything larger than a moped (or perhaps a smart car), what looked to be like a large variety of shops and restaurants, and just a good atmosphere. I will have to return when it’s not 9 a.m. and perhaps a little more active and awake. It was a little sleepy in the morning.

After I emerged from the twisting streets of Trastevere, I crossed the Tiber and moved into the more central part of Rome. The streets continued to be rather narrow in parts with shops and restaurants. I got slightly off course, but continued to head in what I thought (and was correct) the right direction and I ran into a phone store I hadn’t seen on google (same company just a location of which I was unaware). I went in and took care of my phone issue and became jealous once again of how well Europeans can communicate in multiple languages and I’m sitting over here like a dunce.

The phone shop was RIGHT off of the Largo Argentina temples, four Republican era temples that were discovered during road construction in the early-20th century (top picture). I tried not to squeal because THIS was my first sight of Roman Things while wandering around. I smiled like a loon and took a bunch of pictures.  I continued to head north-ish because I thought that’s where the Pantheon was supposed to be in my head-map and I saw it almost immediately. I was approaching it from the rear and I could see the slight curve of the building and the beginning of the dome.

The grinning became more pronounced (especially because there was a group of middle-aged French tourists arguing about Roman things that I happily walked behind and eavesdropped—I have found myself wishing very ardently that I was as proficient in Italian as I am in French. It made me happy just to hear it spoken…by people who know how to speak it.) I might have gotten a little misty-eyed as I walked into the Pantheon (pictures 2 and 3) kind of in a little bit of disbelief that I was *actually there*. It wasn’t super crowded but there were people all around. Americans are super easy to pick out and there was a Canadian couple who had maple leaves on everything they were wearing. I don’t get that. Their kid was wearing a maple-leaf onesie and crawling on the Pantheon floor. I spent about an hour just staring and walking around in a circle.

There were a ton of gimmicky shops and restaurants on my way to my next site. I took a wrong road from my directions, THANKFULLY, because there was the Temple of Hadrian and people weren’t EVEN LOOKING AT IT, just walked right by it and didn’t even notice it. (Granted it is basically just a series of columns around which a modern building has been built. BUT STILL.) The touristy crowds began to get thicker and thicker as I moved toward my next destination.

I drew closer to the Column of Marcus Aurelius (picture 4), but the crowds all but evaporated. There were maybe four people in the plaza including myself. I once again spent some time looking from all angles. Across the street there was a Galleria type place that I stepped inside of because I was getting a little hungry and warm. I attempted to order a panini in Italian and was promptly answered in English (something that bothered me in France but relieved me here) and I sat and ate and fiddled with my phone trying to get it to work in the Italian network. I was successful! After a bit of rest I headed out for my last site that I wanted to see.

But alas, the Trevi Fountain was not fountaining (picture 5). Restorers and workers were crawling around in the fountain’s basin working on it. I unfortunately did not explore the signage to see how long it will be in this state (too many people) so I headed back to my hotel. I passed the Largo Argentina temples again and by this time I was getting a little worn out. I was almost home when I found this behemoth of a staircase that I needed to climb to get back to my hotel. I trudged up it slowly while this Italian woman flew past me and I felt very demoralized about my stair-climbing skills when I realized that stairs like this don’t really exist in the US and sure they’ll take some getting used to…and I will because there’s no way to avoid stairs, it seems, to get in and out of the neighborhood I’ll be staying in while I’m here. I will conquer the stairs and fly up them like that Italian woman by the end of my trip (unlikely—probably a more realistic goal is to climb them like a turtle instead of a snail.)

SO MANY STEPS on my fitbit. Too bad my fitbit does not calculate stairs climbed. I’d be winning this summer.

Today (Day 3) I took it easy. I woke up with a really uncomfortable sinus headache so I did some napping and reading, so nothing really to report for Day 3.

This next week I will officially start my summer program and we will be exploring sites and museums that concern early Rome! A week from today (June 20!) I will be heading to Florence to briefly check a few must-sees there.

A LOT to look forward to!

Rome 2015

From the Archive: Day One


My flights to Rome were surprisingly easy. Everything was on time and felt pretty swift. United has also upgraded their planes recently; they’re all looking pretty swanky. At almost the last minute, I upgraded my seat on my flight from Dulles to Rome from Economy to Economy Plus. All that really afforded was a closer seat to the door and FIVE inches of extra seat room.  I was really pleased with the upgrade and plan on doing it for the reverse trip as well. It was my first time flying aisle EVER–I think I’m hooked. They fed us every hour it seemed.

I watched the new Cinderella starring Lily James and Robb Stark (good), Into the Woods (AMAZING), and then Harry Potter 5 after my attempt to sleep was unsuccessful. I think by the time I felt like sleeping, I was getting too uncomfortable to actually sleep. Too much sitting.

Arrival at the airport was relatively swift–the longest task, was the passport control, which was owing to crowds rather than inefficiency. My bag came out as soon as I pulled up to the carousel and the shuttle I’d reserved provided a driver with a sign with my name so there was like zero hanging around in the airport.

Which brings me to Italian driving. I mean. I knew it was a thing. It’s insane. My driver was a very GOOD driver, the rules are just very different  Lanes are optional; they’re more like suggestions resulting in a constant swerving. Tight squeezes are a must. The weak perish. And, god, the mopeds/scooters.

I got here well before my program begins so that gives me a chance to rest, get the lay of the land and also settle a few things. My goal for tomorrow is to get my Italian cell phone set up so I don’t feel like  I’m walking around with no brain (I’m not thinking too hard about how addicted this means I am to phone technology, but choosing to see it a safety concern…and convenience.)

Today has a been a bum around kind of day. I walked down to a market and realized how abysmal my Italian is. Also, how culturally different yogurt flavors are. Apple, coffee, and biscotti were the most popular (and other variations), though there are what I’d consider ‘regular’ flavors pomegranate and blueberry.

Until tomorrow…hopefully!

This blog was originally posted here

Rome 2015

From the Archive: It’s time to go!

So, the time has come for me to depart these shores for Italy! Well, tomorrow will be that time, anyway. I will arrive early Thursday morning. My next post will be from Rome!

My bags are packed (not as lightly as I was anticipating) and I am as ready to go as I can be. I’m a little (well, more than a little) sad about leaving behind my kitty, but I’m excited to finally be on my way to Italy.

Rome 2015

From the Archive: Three Weeks

This blog was originally posted here

The official countdown can now…officially begin! Three weeks until I leave for Rome!

Recent touristy purchases:

  • A map of the city of Rome – in case my Italian phone doesn’t pan out the way I am expecting.
  • An Italian phrasebook – so I can say more than “Vorrei una bottiglia di vino blanco” or “Vorrei pasta alla carbonara.”
  • A big floppy straw hat – well, it’s not so big, but it has enough of a brim to keep my sun-sensitive face protected from the sun.
  • A pair of prescription sunglasses to protect my sun-sensitive eyes from the Roman sun.