The Cool Shops of Rome

Posted on November 16, 2013. Filed under: Art, Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

Rome -  cool shop 1In Rome you will be immersed in the ancient.  And then you will be smack up against the here-and-now when you enter one of these contemporary design shops!  Italy is known for excellent contemporary design and to walk through these shops is a visual treat.  The contrast of the old and new is a nice break for the eyes.

Rome -  cool shop 2

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What is the Belvedere Torso?

Posted on November 15, 2013. Filed under: Art, Italy, Rome, Travel |

Travel - Rome TorsoPeople go to the Vatican Museums in Rome to see amazing things like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Pietà, and the Laocoön.

You might walk right by this sculpture fragment known as the Belvedere Torso, but it was known as a favorite of Michelangelo himself.  It likely dates to the 2nd century BC and who it depicts is unknown.  The powerful musculature, though, was studied and incorporated into other works by many artists over  the centuries.

It gives me a feeling a bit like time travel to be right there in the same space as this piece of marble that was so inspirational to Michelangelo. Legend has it when the Pope asked him to remake the limbs and head he said, “No, it is too beautiful to alter.”  One wonders if this response was truthful in sentiment or a way to wiggle out of an unpleasant job!

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St. Peter’s Dome in Rome

Posted on November 14, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

Travel - St. Peter's 1

Being claustrophobic I didn’t know how I would do climbing the many steps to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  The walls curve in and they actually become narrower as you go!  I had to try, though, how often does one get to Rome?

Travel - St. Peter's 2

What most amazed us was the coffee shop on the roof where we enjoyed an espresso!  Everything at St. Peter’s is enormous, so we shouldn’t have been surprised by an entire coffee shop on the roof or the fact that the roof we walked on seemed like a street complete with buildings of its own.

The view is magnificent owing to the ordinance that no building in Rome can be higher than the Vatican dome.  It was a very blue sky and perfect day for the climb.

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Roman Mosaics

Posted on September 14, 2013. Filed under: Art, Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

31 mosaic

When you go to Rome you will remember that the Romans did fabulous mosaics.  You will not, however, be prepared for how masterful and prolific they were.

33 mosaic hippo

These are spectacular ancient examples from the National Museum.  But you will see them virtually everywhere including St. Peter’s where artisans copied paintings in micro-mosaic so finely that you cannot tell it is not a painting.  Theydid this because of the candle and incense smoke damage that would occur to real paintings.

32 mosaic birds

The detail in this work is fantastic.  I like to think of the hands that placed each tile.  It was a rich culture indeed that could produce such exquisite handiwork.









34 mosaic geometric

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home from the Colosseum

Posted on September 6, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

Travel - 52 colosseo

We are coming through US Customs in Montreal (I know, what?!) which I guess saves time in Chicago.  The agent casually asks, “Oh, you were in Rome, did you visit the Colosseum?”  I say, “Yes, it was great!”  She then says, “Did you bring back any stones from it?”

Ok, now I’m really intrigued because I love to collect stones, but I do know to never pick any up at a historic site as it’s a degradation to the site and it’s usually highly illegal.  I love to travel, but I never want to wind up in a foreign jail (or domestic for that matter!)

So I say to her, “No, we didn’t, but do you ever have people who say yes to that question?”  She goes on to say that, yes, sometimes she does get an answer of yes which means the traveler must cough up said stone and buy it a plane ticket back to the site!  I don’t know if there are fines in addition, but wow, what a costly mistake.

When we were in Rome I would often say to Bill, “They really have things fenced off well so that no one can take any stones.”  One time, though, we did see a small enough carved ancient Roman stone on the Palatine Hill that could have been reached and taken.  We both said, “Yikes, we wouldn’t want to mess with that!”  I was very glad for this excellent decision when we were standing in Customs!

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Roman Street Art and Missed Churches

Posted on August 9, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

89 mary and bill at elephant at pantheon

Here we are at the Bernini elephant sculpture right near the Pantheon in Rome.  This magnificent sculpture is just out in the middle of the street!  It is amazing what you find in Rome just wandering around.

Here is the saddest part:  unbeknownst to us there is a very important church right behind this sculpture:  Santa Maria sopra Minerva which is the only extant example of original Gothic church building in Rome AND which houses a Michelangelo sculpture, Christ the Redeemer.  There is nothing to my eye that made the building look like a church and somehow I missed it in the guidebook, so there you have it.  We must return to Rome!

87 fountain in ghetto

And here we have the turtle fountain created in 1580 just tucked into a tiny area in between buildings.  The fountains and sculptures and archeological sites sprinkled around the city are truly wondrous to stumble upon.  I love walking a city like this so as not to miss these little delights!

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The Roman Colosseum in the Shoulder Season

Posted on August 7, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

Travel - 43 mary at the colosseum

I was surprised when I saw the Colosseum in Rome.  I didn’t think it would be that interesting, but I was wrong!  The sheer size of the place, the amazing history of how the structure was used, the gorgeous morning we spent there exploring – wow!

Travel - 45 outside coloseo

Keep in mind it was November when we went.  This means NO LINES.  We have heard horror stories from fellow travelers who have tried to see as much as we did in a week and were greatly disappointed.  Standing in a sweltering hot line of people for hours to get in to a place like this would definitely take a lot of the fun out of it.

Travel - 52 colosseoMy advice on European travel?  Go in the shoulder or off seasons.  The shoulder season is just before or just after the high season.  For most of Europe this is April/May and October/November.  Off-season is usually Jan. – Mar.  The weather may suffer, but you will breeze right in to whatever you want.  The key is to just come prepared for weather.  I made the mistake of not having enough warm clothing for Paris in November (think 40° and raining!) But Rome in November is supposed to be the rainiest month and we had 1 day of rain (for which we bought umbrellas from a street seller right outside our hotel door) and 70°s and sunny the rest of the time.  It’s unpredictable, but if you can roll with it you will greatly enjoy the quieter atmosphere.

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Travel Journals

Posted on May 3, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Paris, Rome, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

Travel - Journals

I have 3 travel journals now.  The first one I kept in 2009 for our trip to Florence, Siena, Lucca, Pisa, and the Cinque Terre.  The second was Paris in 2010.  This last one was to document our hike on the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2012.  Trips move along pretty fast.  I find writing for even a few minutes each evening before sleep caps off the day for me.  It lets my mind go because the little booklet has the details recorded.

I’ve gotten more sophisticated in my travel journaling.  Back in 2009 I mostly recorded just a list of what we did each day.  For example, my second day entry reads, “Academia-David, San Marco (Monastery)-Fra Angelico frescoes, Duomo climb! and Duomo Museum.  Even this trip, though, I started to get more involved in the tiny details.  The beginning of my last day entry for our trip home:  “Up early, breakfast in little bags on chair outside our door – Luca takes good care of us.  Walk to bus station (right next to train station).  Quiet, sunny morning.  Stopped briefly to take one breath and one last look @ Duomo and our home piazza.  Bought bus ticket – on to bus after just a 10 min. wait – perfetto!”

In Paris I wrote many, many pages each day with all the sensual delights of the city recorded that I could remember.  “…So, then a little walking, we split a small salmon quiche on the street and a lovely almond-filled croissant.  Also bought chocolàt cake and a jelly-filled bengiet (for Billy) for dessert tonight.  We took the 95 bus home – but VERY crowded and now tea and lovely little mandarin oranges from Spain with the leaves still on!  …the plan is to have our dinner and then head out to see if we can get into the special Monet exhibit at the Grand Palais.”  (I will have to tell you the rest of THAT story soon!)

By the time I started my third journal last September on our hiking trip I was completely ready.  I had my little composition book and pens.  I started in the airport as we were delayed in Canada.  I finished in the air over the Atlantic Ocean.  This book includes our daily experiences and I even branched out into poetry!  This was quite a hoot to read aloud to our dinner companions!  Here is one of my creations:

Mont Blanc Tour

Sunrise on mountains

Rushing waters flow

Step lively up and down

Listen to the cows

their bells musical

Vast space

out and around

New friends right here

Wine and cheese

Laughter to cheer

Sleep deeply

A really great thing to do in a travel journal is to make a list of future dos/don’ts.  I usually put these kinds of nuts and bolts notes at the back.  So I have packing suggestions, and other notes like these from Paris, “An apartment was a great idea.  We saved boo-koo bucks having a kitchen.  Also, really felt very much like we lived here these 2 weeks!” and “Yes, bring ipod, but consider a small speaker to have tunes in the apartment at night.”

Next time?  It will be a bit bigger and include both words and pictures!  I can’t wait to try little sketches.  The hard part is saving a little time and energy to compose something each day.  It is a little bit of a job, but the memories these rekindle when I look at them are well worth it.

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Feet as a Roman Theme

Posted on April 18, 2013. Filed under: Art, Italy, Photography, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Rome - mosaic foot st peters

I love feet.  As a bodyworker, I find them amazing structures that support us all day as well as great vehicles for bringing complete relaxation to a client’s whole being.  They were everywhere in Roman art!  Above is an enormous mosaic foot in the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.  The span across it has to be 4 feet!

Rome -  bill with constantines foot           144 mary with big foot massage

These are two fragments from gigantic sculptures of Constantine.  The marble foot with Bill on the left is the famous one that Janet Travell M.D. was photographed with in the 1950s.  She pointed out the Morton’s toe on it (2nd toe longer than great toe).  I was watched very closely with that bronze foot.  Although it looks like I’m massaging it, I am careful not to touch it because the guards would have my head!

Rome -  feet in tabularium of capitoline museum

These are some very cool ancient stone carvings of feet.  I don’t think anyone understands why they were made but it’s clear that feet have been fascinating for a long time!

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