Friday, August 7, 2009

A story

Well, a lot of time has passed since my last blog post. Although in the scheme of things--like life--the time has been relatively short, just 22 days. In my vacation blogosphere, however, eons have passed. But this is fun... it gives me the opportunity to sit down, relax and reminisce about our awesome vacation. It seems like months have passed since we returned home from Rome, but indeed, it has been only 10 days. I have posted many pictures on my Facebook page, however, mere picture albums lack the detail... and the story that goes along with the pictures is at least half the fun.

So, when I left everyone last, we were exhausted and had walked three whole blocks to a restaurant off the via Corso for an authentic pizza. Even the little things like a quick stroll along the Roman cobblestone streets to a little outdoor trattoria for a delicious thin crust pizza are moments to be savored.

Again, we had learned that the early mornings are a very special time in Rome in the summer. The streets are clean and clear and the weather perfect. Not too hot or humid but gloriously sunny. Our lovely guide for the morning, Simona, met us at our hotel for a stroll to the historic center of Rome: The Forum.

Along the way we passed a bike stand. The first 30 minutes of rental time is free, so if you can ride the bike to another rental stand in less than 30 minutes, and so on, you can essentially ride a public bike all day in Rome for free. I'm not sure how safe riding a bike is however, it looked pretty dangerous to me. It seems bikes would have the least priority in the scheme of things, right below scooters which are quite numerous and a swarm of scooters could easily overtake a bike. At least pedestrians have sidewalks. I felt perfectly safe on the sidewalks (where there were sidewalks).

Here Simona our art historian guide is explaining the process of uncovering and restoring the ruins. Restoring is a difficult process as some of the ruins are covered in soot and grime, but when they are cleaned, even very delicately with just water and cloth, the ruins crumble and a piece of history is lost forever.

This area is literally right in the middle of the city with busy streets on either side of the Forum. The pollution is causing further destruction of the ruins.

Brick and mortar was used literally as the structure of a building and had no aesthetic value. The brick and mortar was then covered completely with beautifully carved marble. When the ruins were uncovered hundreds of years ago, newer brick was used to fill in where areas of the structure was missing.

Centuries of architecture and Roman lifestyle can be viewed in this area of Rome, in and around the Forum
The forum was originally the central gathering place for Romans in the 7th century BC
Below is the temple of Antoninus and Faustina which was turned into a church in the middle ages:

Below is the house of the Vestal Virgins. The virgins were selected at the age of six to ten and were sworn to virginity for 30 years. Their main job was to stoke the fire (keepers of the hearth). If the fire went out, they were beaten. If they lost their virginity, they were buried alive.
Detail of marble ruins lying on the ground

Below is the arch of Titus on the via Sacra on the route to the Colosseum. It is the oldest Arch in Rome
The Roman Colosseum
Simona explains the structure below the arena
Inside the Colosseum

By the time we ended our tour of the Forum and Colosseum area it was very hot and we were very tired. We spent some time finding a taxi back to our hotel where some much needed rest was in order. I'm sure gelato was consumed on the way.

Although the Jewish Ghetto and the Trastavere neighborhoods were on Michael's original itinerary for the afternoon after the Forum and Colosseum, there was no way we were up for more sightseeing. So on Friday morning, our last Roman sightseeing opportunity before boarding our cruise ship, we planned things out carefully and were determined to see The Campo de Fiori open air market, the Jewish Ghetto and the Trastavere neighborhood. Again, we started out early and headed on foot to the market.

Even though we have the Hillsdale Farmer's Market very near our house on Sunday afternoons and Portland is full of farmer's markets, there is nothing like abandoning the ruins of Rome for a nice stroll through a clean, beautifully organized display of fresh Italian fruits, vegetables, fish, pastas, meats, cheese and even some tchotkes.

I'm still not sure what these are:

These were the biggest bell peppers I have ever seen:

A lovely display of dried pastas... if I had an extra suitcase, I would have loaded it with pasta...

These little pick up trucks were the cutest. I'm not sure I could have even fit in the cab:

Joey trying to decide if he really "needs" a stove top coffee pot:

The most lovely squash blossoms:
The fresh cold water from the Roman water fountains was the best

So I am not so sure we mastered the Roman breakfast, or even what the Roman breakfast is? The whole "when in Rome" thing was pretty tough when it comes to an American and her Breakfast. As I explained in an earlier blog, our hotel was not really a hotel at all. It was a beautiful little 5 apartment boutique establishment with an awesome concierge service. There was a little shared kitchen with some treats, a Nespresso Machine and a refrigerator full of ICE COLD DRINKS. Yay! But no restaurant, no breakfast, no room service. A very small price to pay with wonderful restaurants literally right outside the door. None of these little restaurants served breakfast. I am not convinced Romans eat breakfast. So, the first couple of days we went the fruit and pastries route, but a little protein in the morning is a good thing. So, we were pleasantly surprised to find a little coffee shop on the campo de fiori that served "breakfast" meals with eggs. My breakfast, although interesting, was delicious. Joey opted for the pastries again and Michael and Sammy ordered sandwiches??? Whatever.

After the market, our next destination was the Jewish Ghetto and this is what happens in Rome. On our walk to the Ghetto, Joey stumbled upon a beautiful little church. As it turns out it was a church of some significance as it is believed that St. Paul the Apostle lived and taught here and also petitioned Caesar for his freedom from this location.

After traversing some very questionable neighborhoods, we finally made it to the Jewish Ghetto, the forced home of the Roman Jewish population for more than 300 years. The synagogue that now stands here is only about 20 years older than our synagogue in Portland and there are actually reported to be more Jews in Portland, Oregon (over 45,000) than in the whole country of Italy where it is believed only 30-35,000 Jews currently live. The history of Italian Jews, like many others, is a tortured one. Today, however, we found a lovely bustling neighborhood full of bakeries and taverns.

I was intrigued by the variety of kosher baked goods at this bakery in comparison with what we find in America. It was a Friday so of course there is Challah. That is universal!

And of course, it wouldn't be Rome if there weren't ruins right next door to the Taverno:
It was such a bright hot day by the time we entered the synagogue. This is the problem with having my camera on manual and not taking the time to adjust the settings properly. It was a beautiful sephardic synagogue but no pictures were allowed inside. Of course there were people taking pictures (apparently nobody but me listens to the rules).

After the Jewish Ghetto, we headed over the river, past a convent situated on an island between the Ghetto and the Trastavere neighborhood of Rome. The Trastavere is called the Greenwich Village of Rome. It was indeed beautiful with restaurants and shops and.... churches. We had a great time strolling the streets but it was very warm and lifting up my camera was just too much under the circumstances. We ate lunch at a lovely little trattoria next to a beautiful church (of course) and then realized we were late... so we grabbed a taxi (yes, we found one in only about 5 minutes of walking--I guess I haven't mentioned yet, but getting taxis and using credit cards are two things that just don't seem to be popular in Rome. Walking and cash are in vogue. Did I mention Rome is an old city and credit cards are a very newfangled American thing??? apparently???).

Old car, Trastavere neighborhood, Rome.

What were we late for??? Meeting everyone and getting to our cruise ship on time!!!
Obviously we made it! til next time, ciao!

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