Rome sweet Rome: A month gone by already

We’ve definitely settled into a routine now with classes and shopping, homework and wandering and of course, eating and cooking. I had my first Italian test on Thursday and although I’m getting along OK in the streets and the stores, I’m not so sure how well that translates to the grammar on the page.

This week the drawing class went to the Pantheon and had to draw the dome. Then outside to draw the front and the fountains. I’m not sure my drawings are very good, but who needs an excuse to stare at the Pantheon?
At the Pantheon
It was cold though and in our break Patty and I decided to try the cappuccino nearby. I’m not usually a coffee drinker, but I could get used to these. Then after we were done, Mario the drawing teacher took us to check out the three Caravaggio’s in the French church nearby. The next day my digital imaging class spent another session taking pictures in the Basilica of St Maria of the Martyrs and Angels, an interesting mix of old and modern.
Basilica of S. Maria Angels/Martyrs
My design class this week visited another Roman neighborhood, EUR, and went through an exhibit of the work of Italian fashion designers.
The Seduction of the Artisan
Check out my flickr feed to check out some of my photos and they aren’t even all on Flickr. There are more…and lots more… pictures. My Lightroom catalog has over 2000 photos added to it this month. I’m hoping my hard drive will hold out until May.

Gwen’s class was supposed to meet at the ruins of Ostia Antica this week, but was rained out. In the meantime, she is almost done the bottom layer in the prep for her fresco. Gwen’s classes were the perfect seque into our first overnight excursion outside Rome which included both subjects.

We hopped the fast train to Naples on Friday morning and changed to a local to arrive in Ercolano. This is the site of the town of Herculaneum, which, along with Pompeii, was buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Herculaneum is better preserved because of the way it was buried and the fact that it was hit with a flow of 800 degree hot gases and dirt flowing from the volcano. It’s a much smaller site, though, since it was harder to excavate than Pompeii, but was found a few years earlier.

We booked a room in Ercolano at the Hotel Miglio D’Oro I found online. It was just down the street from the entrance to the ruins and was extremely elegant for the price. Well, it is February after all. We had an ocean view and twelve foot ceilings. The grounds were like a park, with fountains and tangerine groves. I’d love to see the place in Summer, but I’m not sure what it would cost.
Herculaneum Frescoes
We hired a licensed guide at the entrance to the ruins. His name was Marco and before he became a guide, he worked for 30 years in fresco restoration in the area. He was a wonderful guide for us, with just the right mix of humor, education and plenty of interesting facts. He took us to the few places where the original frescoes remained. Most of them were removed to the museum in Naples and replaced with copies. We spent a couple more hours wandering the town after our time with Marco was finished and I took hundreds of photos. You can see some of them on Flickr.
Herculaneum Frescoes
Then we rested until it was time for dinner. We found a lovely little place on the main street. It just said spagetteria, pizzeria outside, no name. It was chilly evening with only a few people inside and as we entered the proprietor was very welcoming and said it would be nice and warm here. Then he went to the wood fired oven, filled a metal bucket with coals and placed it under the table. It was very nice to have warm feet.

A pizza bianca (pizza crust with oil and herbs) was brought to the table to munch on after we ordered. Roasted vegetables, meat and cheese for appetizer were followed by lovely pizza which was cooked as we watched in the same fire that was warming our feet. It was a lovely meal and we took our time eating and splitting a bottle of red wine. The place was getting busier as the evening went on, I keep forgetting that dinner happens much later in this country.

The next morning we took the train back to Naples and headed right for the archeology museum. First we had some cappuccino and snacks to tide us over until dinner. The bar where we stopped had the most interesting items including a ball of breaded and baked spaghetti. Weird but good. The cappuccino was also delicious.

The Archeology Museum in Naples is filled with all kinds of Greco-Roman statuary and artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum including the original frescoes and mosaics.
Naples Archeology Museum
I was thrilled to find a couple of pieces that appeared to be Etruscan gold granulation work, but the labels in the cases didn’t convey any information other than “silver buckles.” It was still a thrill to see and photograph them. It was an amazing museum. By the end of the weekend I had taken over 400 pictures. Hooray for digital, I’m glad I packed a spare memory card and battery.
Granulation piece found in a jewelry box
Then we headed back to the Naples train station, found some more local pizza nearby and took the train back to Roma. A journey of nearly 2000 years and back by midnight.

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