Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Art of Walking Slow

I would classify myself as a fast walker. I usually like to get places quickly if I'm walking, and sometimes I'm running late so I walk super fast! My mom also walks incredibly fast for how short her legs are. I remember a trip to the zoo when I was in high school and my grandparents were visiting and my grandpa walked really slowly. I realized the slower I walk, the more it exhausts me and after a short afternoon at the zoo when we didn't do a whole lot, I was zonked.

Rome is making me change my pace.

1. It's hot. If I walk at my normal pace I get sweaty and exhausted really quick! Today it's 93 and humid- and it's been this hot for two weeks. I have to walk slow to keep from sweating through all my clothing and getting dehydrated.

2. Trastevere is carpeted by small, uneven cobblestones. Walking fast makes it more likely you will trip, and the Italians will laugh at you. Walking slow helps you keep an eye on the ground so you don't catch the tip of your shoe in a crack.
sidenote: Italian women look amazing all the time. And that means they wear heels and wedges the way I wear flip flop. Watching an older women walk around on jagged cobblestones in heels is alternately terrifying and incredibly impressive.

3. Everyone else walks slow. When the streets get crowded attempting to walk faster than the collective pace is useless.

I'm starting to really enjoy it. Romans have a tradition of taking a passaggiata or an evening walk. Before dinner or after dinner, people just walk around together. I walk a lot during the day when I'm exploring but I always love to take an evening and just people watch and peek in the restaurants and gelatarias. It's a tradition we don't have in the states, unfortunately because most people would just take a walk around their suburban neighborhood. There's not as much to gawk at!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


It seems like everywhere I go in Rome, I stumble upon something by Bernini. He was a sculptor and an architect, and the catholic church's go-to guy in the 17th century. If you want to learn more about his life, wikipedia has a pretty extensive write-up and this link talks about his art.

Most churches I stumble into seem to have something by Bernini. My absolute favorite so far has been his "Blessed Ludovica", a risque marble statue housed in a church a 5 minute walk from my apartment. Unfortunately taking pictures of the statue is forbidden and there always seems to be a crabby priest around. (side note- last week I was there and took a sip of my water. The priest who has been staring at me waves his hand and says "this is a church, not a pub" after a couple attempts to explain what he's scolding me for.) So here are a few pictures I found on the internet, because I have none of my own.

Clearly, it's a little racy! It was Bernini's last full figure sculpture, and captures the death of Ludovica Albertoni. Looks much more beautiful than the death that I have seen.

A similarly racy sculpture, and perhaps better known, is St. Theresa in Ecstasy. This one I took my own pictures of. I was a little let down by this one and I think it was because I saw Ludovica first. St. Theresa is in a horribly cramped and dark and tiny baroque church, and it was really difficult to see as the sculpture is elevated way above eye level. 

At the Galleria Borghese, Cardinal Scipio Borghese used his position in the church to amass an incredible collection of art. Some of it he commissioned or bought himself, but it seemed like most of it he stole from other people by using his position to intimidate them. In my opinion, the entrance fee would be worth it even if the only piece of art I saw was Bernini's Apollo and Daphne. The sculpture is full of movement, and incredibly lifelike details. Between the pair Bernini sculpted the marble into leaves and it looks like there's more air than marble. Again, no pictures were allowed so these are off the internet. I don't think there is any way to get the full force of the piece by just seeing pictures, it was so striking in person I could have spent hours there. 

Two other Bernini masterpieces at Galleria Borghese are his David and the Rape of Persephone. The David also blew me away, he looked like he could have moved. The Rape of Persephone is famous for the way he sculpted Pluto's fingers pressing into Persephone's thigh- it is so impressive.

(yes, that's marble)

Bernini also designed many churches, funeral monuments, and public spaces. There are way too many for me to post them all, so here are a few favorites!
An elephant supporting an Egyptian obelisk outside Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Bernini carved this around age 13.

The fountain of four rivers in Piazza Navona.

The angels on Ponte Angelo

The baldacchino inside St. Peter's basilica

After all this large scale inspiring work, Bernini's grave is small and relatively hidden inside Santa Maria in Maggiore. Just an inscription in the pre-existing marble stairs to the side of the alter that says "He decorated the city".

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tivoli: Villa d'Este and Hadrian's Villa

This past Saturday, I made the trek out to Tivoli along with Luke, another American girl named Becca, two German guys Federico and Ivan, and an Indian guy, Sankalp. Tivoli is about 20 miles east of Rome, and getting there was a trek.

First we took a bus from Trastevere to Piramide. Then we took the metroB to the end of the line. Then we took another bus up to Tivoli for Villa d'Este. The villa belonged to a cardinal from the 1600s who "believed in heaven on earth" and tried to create that heaven in the gardens of his villa! It demonstrates the ideal renaissance architecture, although the villa itself is falling apart.


 The jasmine was exquisite!

Mosaic ceiling

After Villa d'Este we stopped for a quick caffe fredo (cold espresso) and a HUGE gelato. It was probably 95 and sunny the whole day, it was actually really exhausting! Somehow we all forgot sunscreen, but luckily we spent most of peak hours on the bus or finding shade.

Next we had to take another bus to Hadrian's villa. The emperor Hadrian built the villa in the 2nd century as both a vacation home and a court, during the summer much of Rome would travel to Tivoli and live at Hadrian's villa to conduct business/politics/etc. The villa included theaters, baths, temples, fountains, gardens, canals, and a statuary. Evidently most of what has been recovered is in museums in Rome. All of the marble is pretty much gone, taken by emperors, plunderers, and popes when they needed another piece. The whole thing seemed really well preserved to me, especially because as a visitor you're allowed to walk/climb almost everywhere, including walking over mosaic floors in the bathhouse.

The trip back was more exhausting than the trip there, and it was soooo good to get home and take a shower! I don't know how Italians do it. It's 95 degrees and they're all wearing pants. I just don't get it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Photos of St. Peter's Basilica

Last week we got to St. Peter's when it opened at 7AM, and it was definitely worth it.

The stone where Charlemagne was crowned HRE

Bernini's baldacchino

Michaelangelo's Pieta

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cacio e pepe

I'm gradually getting better at cooking at home, here was the dinner adventure last night!

Cacio e pepe is a Roman dish that is basically just cheese and pepper on pasta. Typically tonnarelli or spaghetti are used, but we couldn't find any fresh (maybe they don't come fresh?) so we used tagliatelle instead.

1. Boil enough water to cook your pasta, fresh pasta makes a big difference in my opinion! Cook pasta.

2. Finely grate pecorino romano and set aside.

3. As the pasta finishes cooking, heat about 2tbsp oil. Add the fresh ground pepper and let it toast in the oil.

4. As you drain the pasta, save 1/2 cup of the water and add to the oil/pepper. It'll boil and hiss and be a little scary, but quickly drop in the freshly cooked pasta and coat with the mixture.

5. Throw in all the grated cheese, and toss until the cheese has melted and covered the pasta.

6. Eat!