Woke up this morning to a murder of crows losing their minds over something at about five. Other than that, we had a great sleep at the monastery in our three little beds. The monastery is called St. Maria alle Fornaci, which I have assumed means St. Mary of the Fornication, and it has a very tasty included breakfast. After breakfast we caught a cab to the Pantheon, which is an amazing building defined thusly: The Pantheon (from Greek: Πάνθεον, an adjective meaning "to every god") is a building in Rome, Italy, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome, and rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in about 126 AD. The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered, concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres
The oculusThe formula for this concrete was lost Over one thousand years ago
It is one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church dedicated to "St. Mary and the Martyrs" but informally known as "Santa Maria della Rotonda." The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda. The 4,535 metric tons (4,999 short tons) weight of the Roman concrete dome is concentrated on a ring of voussoirs 9.1 metres (30 ft) in diameter that form the oculus, while the downward thrust of the dome is carried by eight barrel vaults in the 6.4 metres (21 ft) thick drum wall into eight piers. The thickness of the dome varies from 6.4 metres (21 ft) at the base of the dome to 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) around the oculus. The oculus at the dome's apex and the entry door are the only sources of light in the interior. Throughout the day, the light from the oculus moves around this space in a sort of reverse sundial effect. The oculus also serves as a cooling and ventilation method. During storms, a drainage system below the
floor handles the rain that falls through the oculus. The dome features sunken panels (coffers), in five rings of twenty-eight. This evenly spaced layout was difficult to achieve and, it is presumed, had symbolic meaning, either numerical, geometric, or lunar. In antiquity, the coffers may have contained bronze stars, rosettes, or other ornaments.
From the Pantheon we walked to the trevi fountain, which at that time of day (around 8:45) wasn't very busy. You can hear the fountain before you see it, since it is surrounded by little alleyways. Then you emerge into the sunny square, and there it is. I threw a coin into the fountain for good luck in a sort of Brendan Fraser spasm (if you don't get the reference, here's a link:
It wasn't as though we needed any extra luck today however, since my dad was shat upon by a pigeon at the Parthenon, which he proudly showed me and said that according to Under the Tuscan Sun we're supposed to buy the Parthenon. If anyone would like to explain that reference to me, don't bother, I don't care.
ten o'clock appointment at the Scuderie del Quirinale gallery to see a Tintoretto exhibit. You may feel that name is familiar, and that's because we have to see Tintoretto paintings everywhere. He also did the entire interior at San Rocco, which I mentioned ages ago. He is very important to my mother, as she has already written two papers on him and one of his paintings is to be the subject of her masters in art history thesis.
The exhibit was good, with proper lighting finally. Too many museums have terrible lighting design and shine lights directly on oil paintings so there is terrible glare and you can't figure out what the hell is going on, despite a lot of pointing and explanations from one member of your party.
After Tintoretto we walked to the Spanish steps, where Audrey Hepburn buys a gelato in Roman Holiday. It was not as busy as I expected it to be, and we easily got a seat on the steps at the top to watch the world go by. It was already very hot, close to thirty degrees and sunny at that time. Men selling things is a frequent occurrence
here, from knock off purses to those weird plastic blobs that reform, to roses to cold beverages, and I thought the cold beverage fellow was especially smart on the Spanish steps. There are also men who sell Sunhats, and when it rains they're suddenly selling umbrellas. They all seem to be recent immigrants to Italy, hopefully starting on their successful and eventually legitimate climb up the ladder of society.
From the steps we wandered towards the Villa Borghese gardens, stopping for lunch at a restaurant slash tea shoppe on the way. We all felt like salads, since we hardly see anything green here. As I mentioned before, we've been disappointed in Italian salads before (in fact Geoff mentioned the other day he'd read in a blog somewhere that in Italy salads aren't very good and are mostly iceberg lettuce. Yes, it does say that in a blog. My blog.), but this place really had their eye on the salad ball. Their salads sounded, looked and tasted delicious, full of different greens, cucumbers, meat, fish or cheese, tomatoes and other delicious things. All their deserts were homemade, so dad and I split an apple strudel with cherry jam
and cream, and it was a revelation. One distressing thing here is knowing how much to tip. Some places include a service charge, called caperto, then apparently you don't need to tip. When they don't, we've been told ten percent is a very good tip, which would get you spat on in most Canadian restaurants, or at the very least a fart in your meringue.
The Villa Borghese garden is lovely, with green spaces, the umbrella pine trees, statuary, caves and a museum. The museum is apparently good, but our idea of popping in was terminated by it being sold out for the next four days. This is the consequence of a measure we have often wished for in museums here, that they limit the number of ticket sales so it isn't so oppressively busy.
My parents complained that their stumps were sore, so we lay in the grass in the shade and had a very pleasant time. At one point two wild green parrots were staging some sort of Italian opera in a nearby tree, and it was very entertaining and neat to see.
The plan was then to rest the stumps more thoroughly at home
HerculesFrom the 1st or 2nd century AD, ritualistically buried near Pompey after it was struck by lightening
in anticipation to our visit to the Vatican tonight, so after a gelato we caught a cab home to the st. Mary of the fornication monastery. An hour and a half of "legs up" refreshed the stumps, and we walked over to the Vatican.
We were a little shocked by the length of the line given when we'd gone at a normal time we'd walked right in, but it was only because the doors hadn't opened yet. It was in fact much less busy than when we were there two days ago. I decided to see everything in the museum, and I'm so glad I did because there are so many terrific things to see outside my mothers interest in renaissance art history. There were artifacts from ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and Persia, and many sculptures and carvings I hadn't had a chance to see before. There was also a young crow with a broken wing in the garden by the scary globe/eye of sauron thing, and I watched it for a while to see if a seagull would eat it, but it was unscathed when I left.
and my mother stuck to her favorite wing. For dinner (at nine thirty, we're very Italian now), we went back to the place from last night where we had such luck ordering like Italians last night. We tried to avoid the same mistakes with our lovely server, such as when we were so excited about the lemon veal that we put it on our pasta plates instead of letting them be cleared, but she had tried to accommodate our weird and ignorant ways by not bringing us a second set of plates tonight, and we sat there and patiently waited for them to come since we knew that was proper. But then we got it all wrong again by saying we weren't done with our meat plate when she wanted to take it so we could have our cannelloni. We're a bit hopeless, but she was really nice about it.
Tomorrow we're going to try to go to the forum and then will take the train back to Poggia Mirtito and head back to the villa for some peace. We're there saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night before we drive back to vienna, drop off the rental car, then
Today is the halfway point of the trip! It feels like its gone really fast but also that we've packed a lot in. I really miss Braedon, especially with things like the delicious meat and cheese plate at dinner tonight because he'd love it. It might even be worth all the church visits.
Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the city-states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor EMMANUEL II. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito MUSSOLINI establis...more info