Saying Goodbye to Rome

Tomorrow is our last full day in Rome. We have packed a lot into the last week. As the days remaining grew fewer, I felt an urgency of seeing and savoring every piece of Rome, while also resigning myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to see everything. There will be more time, someday.

Last Sunday we spent cleaning and packing in the apartment, but by late afternoon, I was done and since it was Coriander and Mason’s last evening in Rome (at least for this time) I started an expedition to the Pantheon. Although it was closed, we visited the surrounding area, Piazza Navona, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva we had cappuccino and a nice dinner and generally enjoyed strolling Rome. They were off to the airport in the morning.

Monday we moved to a new place. It was quite a chore between the annoying taxi driver and our many heavy bags. But our new landlord made up for it. He was such a sweetheart and helped us bring all the bags to the new place. It’s much smaller than our last place, but it’s only for a week and there’s not a lot of homework or artwork to be done.
St Peter's square from above

This last week, we’ve been mostly being tourists. We climbed to the top of the Vatican and were not disappointed in the view. We also spent a day wandering Trastevere looking at churches, finding that music instrument maker I met earlier in the semester and getting a new overpressure plug for Pat’s pressure cooker.
Saint Agnes in Crypt Chapel

Pat and I visited many different churches in search of some obscure relics and seeing old churches including the Scala Sanctum at St John Lateran, Santi Quattro Coronari and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, the mother load of Catholic relics including the doubting finger of St Thomas. We never did find the Holy Umbilical cord, though. It appears to have “disappeared,” along with the Holy Prepuce.
Scala Sanctum (Holy Stairs)

Gwen finished her Archeology final Thursday afternoon and is now done at John Cabot. All three of us went together to Mamertine Prison near the Forum and the Villa Farnesina in Trastevere.
Villa Farnesina Fresco

On the way back, Gwen’s phone was stolen by literally a band of gypsies. There were five of them dressed as college students who surrounded and blocked her as a group so she couldn’t move as she stepped onto the metro, they opened her bag and took her phone and jumped off as the doors closed. It was upsetting, but we met several very nice people through the incident, including the policeman where we filed a report. Fortunately she had been prepared for this since leaving the states, no data was lost because it was backed up to iCloud, she was able to remotely erase the entire hard drive remotely and it was insured.

Our last outing out of Rome was a day trip out to Ostia Antica. Gwen has been here twice this semester, but even so, she enjoyed showing the site to Pat and I. It was a lovely relief from crowded Rome with shady umbrella pines, perfumed breezes and the ruins of an ancient Roman port town.
Pat and the mystery tree

Tomorrow our plans are very flexible. Final packing, lunch at a sushi bar we found last week, perhaps some last gelato near the Pantheon and hopefully an evening stroll across the Tiber. Our flight leaves on Monday and we’ll be back in the states for dinner, but probably jet lagged.

Thank you to everyone who has been patient enough to read my Roman ramblings. You kept me writing these each week and I know years from now, I’ll be very glad that I spent the time and energy to document this amazing experience.

Icons and Monsters

This past week was more relaxing for me, but still a little stressful for Gwen. I had only my Italian Design exam scheduled for Thursday afternoon, but she had two projects to be finished for a student art show by Wednesday afternoon.

One of the courses she was taking this semester is Fresco. About halfway through the semester, her teacher asked if she would like to join in another class he was teaching, The The Medieval Bottega: Tools and Techniques of the Medieval Artist. The project was an “saint” icon on a wooden panel the way it was done in the middle ages. It seemed like a fun idea, but then it took her a few weeks to catch up to everyone else. And suddenly it was the art show. Since I had a very light week, with only the one exam, I went with her into school on Monday and helped with the icon painting. It was fun for me and OK with the teacher since she wasn’t getting marked for this class anyway.

Gwen working on her fresco

Gwen finished her fresco last Thursday, but there was some cracking as it dried. So she repaired the cracked while I worked with the gilding on her icon. Since the studio closed at 8pm, we took a little bit of the pigments home with us to continue working on the egg tempera paint. It was a team effort and by Tuesday evening it was ready for the art show. She took it to class Wednesday morning and the teacher was quite happy with it. It was amazing that she joined the class right after break and managed to turn in a final project with everyone else and even ahead of some of the folks who started at the beginning.

I took plenty of pictures of the process.
Gwen finishes the details
Wednesday evening we all went to the art show at the John Cabot art studios. We checked out all the student art work and met with Gwen’s fresco and icon painting teacher, who is a Tyler grad! Here’s a photo of the final fresco.

Final Frescos

After the show, we headed to Trastevere for dinner. It was time to celebrate Pat’s birthday…again. I love the birthday season concept. We celebrated with a wonderful dinner with very diverse types of pizza at Dar Poeta.

Pizza in Trastevere at Dar Poeta

Thursday afternoon was my last exam and I am officially finished with my sophomore year of college. It’s astounding to think I am halfway through my BFA already.

Friday was our outing to the Parco dei Mostri, The Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo. This was on our list of things to do since last Fall, but the more we researched the more we realized how difficult it would be to get there without a car. So we hired a driver for the day. It was an amazing place. It was built in the 1500s by Pier Francesco Orsini in memory of his wife Guilia. There are many fantastical creatures carved from the local stone. The design was by Pirro Ligorio, who completed St Peter’s after Michelangelo died. The gardens were abandoned for nearly three hundred years until an art lover in the 1950s restored it. It was a great day for photos.
Mason, Coriander & Gwen

When we were finished in the park, we wandered the streets of the hilltop medieval town of Bomarzo, enjoying the lovely tiny streets, ancient worn steps and breathtaking views.

Medieval Town of Bomarzo

The focus since then has been packing. It’s a challenge. I’m still deciding about shipping things like books, yes, I mostly bought books. I’m very glad I invested in a portable luggage scale back in 2009. It has been invaluable in figuring out this puzzle.

On Monday, Coriander and Mason fly back to the states and we move to a new apartment. When I set up this apartment for this semester, Gwen hadn’t yet been accepted to John Cabot and I didn’t realize that they had a longer semester. In the meantime, this apartment was booked for the last week we needed to be in Rome. So once we arrived I found a different apartment for the last week on AirBnb. We’re actually moving a little closer to the Vatican so I am hoping that we can get to the Cupola of St Peter’s, one of the few things I was hoping to do that I haven’t.

There will probably be one more update next week before we fly out of Rome. This has been an incredible experience and I’m very glad I was able to keep updating everyone at home. I know years from now as the memory fades, I’ll be able to look back on this time and be very glad I took the time to write out this experience for everyone as well as for myself.

My Roman Risotto Recipe

I had some risotto on the Titignano Trip at the end of Temple Rome’s orientation week. That day was planned by Temple Rome as an introduction to Italian cuisine.

It was delicious. I remembered that I used to have a pressure cooker recipe for Risotto, but it never tasted like this. But alas, I certainly didn’t pack any of my pressure cookers for my study abroad experience.

The kitchen in our rental apartment was sparsely equipped. The pots were mainly Teflon coated, which I hate and we had no oven. So I started thinking about purchasing an Italian pressure cooker for my collection, something worth taking home with me. I researched a little and came across Lagostina.
Bring it to pressure
These are a spring steel lid type in lovely stainless steel. I found a couple of different sizes in the kitchenware store a few blocks away. I chose a smaller model, thinking of having to haul it back across the Atlantic and the fact that I don’t have a smaller model at home. It would round out my collection nicely to four pressure cookers.

I bought it and, on the way back, I stopped at the Mom and Pop store.

Well, we call it the mom and pop store. The sign says Alimentaria and it’s just a small grocery store that sells fresh bread, meats, canned goods and all kinds of groceries piled to the ceiling. It’s run by an older couple, hence the nickname of Mom and Pop store. They speak very little English and our Italian isn’t the best either, but we’ve been managing quite well to get what we need.

I asked for Rice. Arborio Rice. The woman didn’t understand what I was talking about. I stopped and started scanning the shelves. I knew I had seen it previously. There it was- Riso (pronounced-reeso) Now I knew what they called rice. I also got a bottle of white wine, some broth and headed back home to try out the new purchase.
Rice for Risotto

It was delicious. I scanned the internet for several more recipe over the next couple of months and now that we are coming to the end of our time in Rome, I believe I finally have the proportions for the way I like it.

I put this together with proportions rather than actual measurements. This way you can adjust it for the amount you need. We didn’t have a measuring cup in the Rome apartment so I used the spouted cup from the little plastic juicer. I think it held about a cup and a half and it was a good size for the boullion cubes, which were much larger than in the US and obviously were made for a metric unit larger than 1 cup.

So by “Part” I mean: pick a measurement: a cup, a mug, a bowl. Just use the same unit for all of the ingredients. Half to ¾ cup of rice usually triples to about one serving for normal rice and the Arborio is about the same.

Barb’s Roman Risotto

1 part Arborio rice
1 chopped medium onion per part of rice (optional)
2 cloves garlic per 1 onion (they can be sauted pressed or whole)
2.5 parts broth (in Italy the flavor is “classic, but we also used chicken,
mushroom and vegetable and/or mixtures of each with good results)
1 part dry white wine
a few tablespoons of olive oil to sauté the onions.

Saute the garlic and onions in the olive oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker until they are translucent.

Add the rice and sauté the rice for until the grains start to turn whiter. You’ll see. They will also start to smell a little toasty.

Add the wine. Stir it around in the rice and let it start to boil off a little. Stir another minute or so and then add the broth and close the lid.

Pressure cook for 9 minutes.

Release the pressure and open the lid. You should have a creamy broth on top of the rice. Stir it up a little and serve.

Risotto is great served with fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese.

Finished Risotto- yum.

Spring Semester Winds Down

This past week was a lot of crunch time for both Gwen and I.

I had a paper due Tuesday, my Italian Oral exam on Wednesday and Italian written exam on Thursday followed by a presentation to my Italian Design class. After class Thursday I felt like a huge weight had been lifted.

Italian has been a struggle for me. I usually find most subjects pretty easy even if I’m not that interested in them, but Italian, which I am very interested in learning, was a real challenge. I found myself reviewing my notes constantly. I think I was finally starting to get it and even though I am relieved that the course has ended, I’m sad and hoping that I won’t lose what I’ve learned now that I’m not in class 4 days a week. I plan on finding a way to continue with Italian when I return to the states. Not to mention, I plan on somehow reading the several books that I purchased while here that are all written in Italian.

So there was a lot of schoolwork this week. Gwen finished her fresco and depending on how it dries, it should be ready for the student show on Wednesday. Her archeology paper deadline was extended a week. (Wow! How come that never happens to my papers?)

Pat, Woody, Coriander and Mason returned all rested from a lovely 5 days on Ponza. They enjoyed the Roman ruins, the breathtaking seaside views, the crumbling cliffside fort and the easy pace of off season island life. Patty’s birthday Wednesday was celebrated with tiramisu from the 24 hour bakery. She and Woody also went to an opera performance on Friday night to continue the birthday celebrations.

With my Italian exam behind me, I was ready to go out for fun on Friday night. So what do I do for fun in Rome? We went to the Colosseum to shoot some photos.
The moon and the Colosseum at night

Poi was also brought along. Much fun and lovely images were had by all.
Poi at the Colosseum

Saturday I finally made it to the Museo degli Strumanti Musica, which is the Santa Cecelia Foundation’s musical instrument museum. I’ve tried on two other occasions to visit here, but it was closed each time. The instruments were beautiful and I was thrilled that I was able to take photos. I was glad for my f1.8 lens because the lights were kept pretty dim, probably for conservation purposes.
I was so excited to see their Stradiverius violin, the Archlute, several mandolin-lyres, two gorgeous harps and dozens of other lovely pieces. And yes, that Stradiverius was beautiful in person, too.
Museo degli Strumenti Muscali
Woody flew back to the states this morning. We have only 15 days remaining in our Roman adventure and I feel like I already miss each place in Rome. This coming week I have my two personal critiques for Rome Sketchbook and Digital Imaging followed by my Italian Design exam on Thursday. I feel a sadness to leave Rome, but I’m also looking forward to being back in my own house, with my own kitchen.

Of course, I’ll probably be cooking Italian in my kitchen. There’s been lots of inspiration here for authentic pizza.

Another week whizzes by…

The past week here has been another busy one. Drawing class at the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine. So funny to hear my classmates complain. “Do we have to draw it again? There’s too many arches!” There was also much preparation for my last Italian test on Thursday.

The Jam Session Show was on Wednesday night and it was a fun evening. Temple Rome rents all kinds of high tech sound and video equipment and puts on quite the event. I’ll let you know when the video is posted. I performed a belly dance which I wrote about in a blog post.

Our onsite Design Class this week was at Eataly. This is a four story market place of fresh food you can buy for home or places you can sit down and eat. Food is such a part of the culture of Italy and this location showcases every aspect of this in fresh, locally sourced, well presented way. I understand there is one in New York, too. I may have to plan a trip to see how it compares.

The Italian teacher from Temple who planned our Ventotene trip this past weekend was able to connect Pat, Woody, Coriander and Mason with a great apartment on the Island of Ponza. They left Thursday morning for the Ferry from Formia to Ponza with a few travel adventures on the way.

There was a Trenitalia (the Italian national train system) strike scheduled for Friday. So Thursday the train station was mobbed with people trying to exchange tickets, change and confirm plans, etc.

This fact also affected Gwen and I’s plans for Florence this weekend. We were scheduled to take the train Friday morning. Getting anxious about all this, I changed our train to Thursday evening after class and added another night to our hotel.

I never made it to Florence when we were in Italy in 2011. I was dealing with other issues on the cruise and had to forgo the shore excursion that day. We’ve been in Rome for over three months now and you would think I would have made it there by now.

Gwen and I made the most of our time. On Friday morning, we crossed the Ponte Vecchio on our way to visit Le Arti Orafe, a jewelry school where I was doing research for my design paper. After that we went to the Pitti Palace for the Argento (Silver) museum, the Boboli Gardens and the Villa Bardini where we saw a collection of Capucci fashions as well as a lovely overlook of Florence. We found a place for lunch that offered an Italian/Indian Blend menu that was just yummy. We again crossed the Ponte Vecchio, this time scrutinizing the window displays much more carefully. We even went in and tried on a few things, but in the end didn’t buy anything.

Then we finally found the Duomo, the Florence Cathedral. It was closed by the time we arrived, but we were able to get some time inside the Baptistry and gawked at the dazzling 13th century mosaics on the ceiling. It reminded me of the Pantheon and as we read the information, we realized that yes, this was also an ancient pagan site. Friday night we had a lovely dinner, followed by wandering around the duomo taking night shots.
Florence Dome and Cathedral

Saturday we slept in a little then headed straight to the Uffizi Gallery. It was crowded. Gwen and I managed to take a few pictures also before we found out it wasn’t permitted. But it was wonderful to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera as well as many other works I have studied in Art History. Then we went to the Galileo Museum, much to Gwen’s delight. This was followed by going to the Cathedral to see the inside of Brunelleschi’s wonderful dome. Pizza for a late lunch, we rested for a while at the hotel, then back out to see Michelangelo’s David. We were really glad we sprang for the Firenze card there because we basically walked past the line the that stretched down the block and walked in.

On Sunday we checked out, left our luggage at the Train station and visited both Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella. We arrived back in Rome about 5pm in time to get some school work done.

Patty, Woody, Coriander and Mason extended their stay on Ponza for a couple of more days. It’s just so hard to leave all the beauty, but I expect we’ll see them back here in Rome soon.

Not afraid to look foolish

Temple Rome has a sort of talent show every semester called The Jam Session. Gianni, the Activities director at Temple Rome, told us sadly that last semester there weren’t enough volunteers to have a show. I figured I would pitch in somehow. I told him I would either play the ukulele and sing or else I would do a belly dance. He wanted me to do both. Of course.

I started practicing Ukelele in February and it was becoming evident as time wore on that I wasn’t getting any better. Despite my love and belief in Amanda Palmer’s Ukelele Anthem, it was taking me much more than an hour to learn to play. So when David came over for Spring break, I had him bring my belly dance outfits.

I put together some music using Garage Band. I edited a nice Hossam Ramzy tune down to three and a half minutes from the original five minutes. I figured I could manage three and half minutes without collapsing.

And I practiced. At least four times a week I would run through the routine in my room. I’m glad I was practicing in a small space because the stage was much smaller than I was planning for and I was able to modify my moves on the fly after the dress rehearsal. I was sure I was making a fool of myself, but if I don’t have the guts to look foolish once in a while, what am I doing on this planet anyway?

But in the meantime, I’ve been very anxious about my studies, we’re at the point in the semester where every subject has a final project, paper, exams or some combination thereof. I’m feeling melancholy about leaving Rome, but homesick at the same time. A close, but far away, friend lost her father over the weekend. On the day of the rehearsal and the performance I could feel myself holding back tears over every little thing.

But once I showed up and the show started, I was pumped. It went well. My dancing left a little to be desired in my opinion, but my costume was fabulous. I set myself up with three veils that I worked off one by one. No one notices if my arms and hips are in sync with my beaded fringe flying and my veils fluttering about me. It was fun, there was much cheering and now I have immense relief that it is over. I’m so glad I did it.

I got to know meet other students who weren’t in my classes, felt like a part of this short-lived community we have here and Gianni has said that we will look back on the videos for this in a few years and cry about what a great time we had at Temple Rome. Heck I’m crying now, it’s a great time and it’s coming to an end. There will be photos…..later.

A Month Remains

The days left on our Rome calendar are getting fewer and the weather seems to get warmer every day that passes. The flower petals have fallen from the trees in the recent rains and the rush toward final projects and exams seems to be accelerating.

We had a very relaxing couple of days over the Easter holiday. Most things were closed so we stayed in. Patty wasn’t feeling well so a slower pace for a few days was good for all of us.

This week’s drawing class was at the Centrale Montemartini. A former diesel fueled power plant that has been turned into a museum with ancient sculpture, much of which has been found here in Rome. The sculptures and the setting were perfect for my photography project, but I didn’t get enough time in our ten minute break during drawing. So the next day, Gwen, Pat and I went there after classes and spent a couple of hours. Gwen enjoyed looking at the giant engines and machinery, especially since she is all “statued-out” from so many museum visits. Pat missed drawing class so she sketched a couple of pieces and I shot about 350 images in here. The clean lines, the interesting backgrounds and eye level placement were exactly what I have been craving in this project. We were there as the sun started down and the dramatic lighting just added to the geometry in my images.
The Centrale Montemartini Museo

Friday morning Gwen and I were at Termini station at 6:30am to catch a train to the coastal town of Formia. We went on a weekend trip to the island of Ventotene. It’s a tiny island off the west coast of Italy and part of the Pontine Archipelago. The ferry ride was over two hours. It’s still off season, so our little group of 13 were the only people at the hotel. In fact the cook came over on the ferry with us. There’s not enough work there in the off season for him to live on the island. The population is about 300.

We spent about an hour after we checked in at a wonderful black sandy beach. The Pontines are volcanic in nature and the dramatic rocks off the coast reminded me of the Azure Window on Gozo in Malta, but made of darker rock.
steps in the surf
Saturday we took a couple of fast dinghies to the Island of Santo Stefano where were toured the remains of a bourbon prison that built in 1797 and in use until 1965. It was a beautiful island with an interesting past. It is a labor of love for Salvatore, the man who gave us the tour. It’s a constant struggle with the elements and bureaucracy to save this piece of history since the Italian government has no money to support the project and hopes to sell it. According to Wikipedia, there’s a 20million Euro price tag, which doesn’t include the prison.
Prison on Santo Stefano

The rest of the day was spent relaxing with a little swimming although the water was pretty chilly. Late afternoon, we had the opportunity to join the chefs in the kitchen and prepare our Cena (dinner) under their guidance. It was a fun experience that I hope to use when I get home.
Barca Vela
On Sunday, we chilled and walked the island until the 3pm ferry back to the mainland. A few hours later we were back here in Rome. With only a month remaining this was a lovely respite from the city.

While Gwen and I were away, Coriander and Mason returned to Rome from Florence on Friday. Patty’s husband Woody flew into town from the states on Saturday. This coming week is busy with the school talent show, an Italian test and trips out of town at the end of the week. Gwen and I both have papers due, exams to study for, final projects and critiques. Even with all this we are still hoping to see more of Rome in our time remaining.

Buona Pasqua!

It’s hard to believe another week has already flown by. In a little more than five weeks, we’ll be on our way back to Philadelphia leaving this eternal city behind us.

This week was Gwen’s spring break so Lary came into town to spend a “Roman Holiday” with her.
Lary and Gwen Mug shots
Much of their days were planned with visiting locations from the Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck film, which they also watched one evening. They have visited Ostia Antica, the ruins of the Roman seaport, as well as a day trip to Herculaneum in the shadows of Vesuvius.

I’ve been really digging into my long term photography project of photographing statues. I am finding the most interesting statues in churches, so far this week I’ve been in about ten churches. Thank goodness for Lightroom which helps me keep my photos organized since I tag them with keywords, for example the name of the church or other facts like the class for which it was taken.
Santa Maria delle Vittorio

Patty and I visited a couple churches last Saturday morning including Santa Maria delle Vittorio which has the Ecstasy of St Teresa by Bernini and across the street the church of San Bernardo which has a Pantheon-like dome including an oculus. On this past rainy Monday morning before classes, we visited three more: St. Prassede, which contained amazing 7th century mosaics, nearby St Pudenziana (Prassede’s sister) considered the oldest location of Christian worship in Rome and back to St. Peter in Chains to finally get a good look at Michelangelo’s Moses, as well as the wonderful depictions of death in that church.
San Pietro in Vincoli

Monday night all four of us went to the Santa Cecelia auditorium at the Parco Della Musica to hear Bach’s St Matthew Passion. I was not disappointed. The performance and the accoustics were amazing, although quite long. We had to walk part of the way home because the Metro stopped running by midnight.
Concert at Santa Cecelia Hall

This week the drawing class met at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. I’ve decided this is probably my favorite church in Rome. It has it all: Gothic architecture, amazing statues, including one by Michelangelo, interesting sculpture, frescos, relics, even a lovely reclining skeleton of a Saint on display. I spent the class coffee break in the church taking more photos.
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

The photo class this week took photos at the Trevi Fountain. I got some nice abstract kind of shots before we headed to the museum to see a Helmut Newton exhibit. I’ve decided that I like his later work the best.
Trevi Fountain

Thursday Patty took off on a spontaneous trip to Florence to meet up with Coriander and Mason. She rented a room through AirBnb and is very happy with her hostess and her quaint room.

Thursday before class I wanted to try to catch the Santa Cecelia Museum of Musical Instruments and I got all the way there before I remembered they were closed on Thursdays. So since Friday is a day off I thought I would go up there today instead. When I arrived there was a sign that the museum was closed for the “festivo” (holiday) until Tuesday. So I headed back to the area of Piazza del Popolo and started visiting more churches. I managed to get some good pictures in four churches today. Most of the churches had some form of adoration going on since it is Good Friday, so I had to be extra quiet and discreet, but that’s not a problem for me. I love my SLR and my only complaint is that I just wish the shutter wasn’t so loud when I’m in quiet churches.
San Lorenzo in Lucina

Gwen has one more day of Roman Holiday with her dad. I’m starting on my final project for design class and Gwen is working on her archeology research paper. The end of the semester goes so fast with all the school work, but I’m still hoping we can continue seeing as much of Rome as we have.

Buona Pasqua! (Happy Easter!)

Roma Spring

The trees are coming into full flower here. We have less time left in Rome than we’ve been here, so I guess we could say it’s all downhill from here with a little over six weeks left. I know I’m running a little late on my weekly update but since there were two last week, I’m sure you’ll forgive me.

One museum that was on my list before coming here is the Capitoline. These are two buildings that straddle Michelangelo’s Campidoglio piazza connected by a tunnel underneath. The ruins of an ancient temple of Jupiter are part of the museum since it was built on top of Capitoline hill. The original Marcus Aurelius statue, the only ancient Roman bronze equestrian statue to survive is inside. It was mistaken for many centuries as a figure of Constantine and was therefore never melted down for other things, the fate of most ancient Roman bronzes. It sat for a long time outside the Papal Basilica of St. John in Lateran (San Giovanni), which Constantine built for the church. But when it was discovered that the statue was not Constantine, it was moved. The original guilding and the structure were affected by the long years in the weather, so a replica was created and put in the piazza in 1992 and the original is well protected inside.
Actual Marcus Aurelius Statue

The dying Gaul and the Capitoline Aphrodite were pieces I wanted to see in the museum, but I also found many, many other wonderful statues that I enjoyed photographing.

Caracalla & pals

This week had some occasional traffic disruptions due to “new Pope” Activities. Sunday there was the first papal blessing along with the Roma Marathon, so there were lots of closed streets, transit detours and..oh another 150,000 people cramming in and out of St Peter’s square for Pope Francis’ first papal blessing.

Then Tuesday there was Pope Francis’ Inaugural Mass. Tuesday is our Drawing class. Pat and I had to be across town at the Campidoglio at 8:30 am. We hopped on the 30 bus with plenty of time to spare and then the bus turned off the route a few blocks later. No one on the bus was expecting it, the Italians on board all started talking with some of them headed to the front to talk to the driver. I remembered about the mass as we approached the Vatican area and took a tunnel to avoid the blocked roads. A bit of a detour later and we arrived in plenty of time. However the city was filled with VIP motorcades, hovering helicopters and crowds. Drawing class took in the forum, the Marcus Aurelius statue in the piazza and then a beautiful overlook of the domes of the city before we returned on the bus as well which also detoured, but we made it home just fine.

Helicopters Hovering

Gwen spent several frustrating days in the Fresco studio, only to have to knock her hard work off the wall when it seemed the mix wasn’t right. She spoke to the teacher and he asked an enthusiastic former student come in to help with the whole class on Thursday. Gwen realizes now what was wrong and the result is she has a lovely giornata (a day’s worth of fresco) to begin the fresco.

My Inside Italian Design class went on a field visit to the Parco Della Musica. These are three auditoriums in a single complex in Rome. They were completed in 2002. The outer shells are cherry wood with lead cladding and the insides are all cherry wood. The acoustics in the largest one, Santa Cecelia, were so amazing when we toured it that I really would like to go back and hear a concert in there. While I was looking at their website, I also discovered that there is a museum of musical instruments at Santa Cecelia as well. Another destination added to my list of things to do in the next six weeks.

Parco Della Musica

This week’s photography project is to take self portraits. I’ve started with a couple and I plan to troop around Rome with my tripod and remote shutter switch to see what I can do.

Coriander and Mason have left Rome for Florence for a couple of weeks and Gwen’s dad is coming into town for her Spring break. Time is flying and I know this incredible experience will end before we know it. Sometimes I’m very homesick, but I pick myself up and realize that not to enjoy this time is pure folly. I can feel my subconscious trying to figure out a way to return to this incredible city again and again. For now, I’m enjoying every moment and hoping that you are enjoying my sharing some of those moments.

Francis, the new guy in town

I spent the afternoon and early evening finishing my Italian Design mid term paper and working on my Italian homework. We were just about to start getting ready to go out to eat when Patty spotted the news online, that there was white smoke.

It was decided in about 3 secs that we had to get there. We gathered up everyone and I grabbed my tripod and two other lenses and out the door we went. It took about 15 minutes to walk to the area around St Peters. A few blocks out we realized that people were running.
Rushing to the streets

I was reminded of the area where I live near Frankford and Cottman when the Phillies won the World Series a few years ago. Mayhem. Crowds dashing to a single place to be part of a single event. The funniest part was seeing about half a dozen priests, in long black robes, sprint by Patty and I. They were going too fast for me to put up my camera to get a photo in the crowds.

We let the three kids go ahead as soon as the crowds started stopping the traffic. Patty and I held hands for a while to keep from getting separated. A cursory look into my handbag by the security folks as we entered the square and suddenly we were there. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected. In fact we probably could have worked our way farther towards the front, but Pat and I were pretty comfortable where we were, a good view of the big screens and the balcony. I had my long lens and really didn’t want to risk losing a decent spot in pursuit of a “better” spot. We were even with the obelisk and not far from the fountain on the right of the square.
The square awaits

As we arrived in the square the guard was moving out to the front and then we waited for about a half hour until things started to happen. We tried to post to Facebook with photos for the folks at home, but I think everyone in the square had a phone and was trying to use it.
The trick in jockeying for position was in umbrellas. It was rainy when we arrived but there weren’t many umbrellas. Fortunately it was clearing, but even before that, everytime it seemed that something was happening the sisters in front of us would put down their umbrellas in consideration of the people behind them. And so would the others around them.
Faces in the crowd

The cardinal came out and announced the name. A group of sisters in front of us cheered and started talking among themselves. With my rudimentary Italian I could hear them questioning. Francesco? Francesco? They all looked to one older sister who they seem to think knew all the papal names. She was shaking her head. “Francesco? Prima.. (the first) Prima!” They seemed very happy.
A gentleman behind the sisters starting asking them what they thought. Of course in Italian. Funny how I’m having such trouble with grammar, but I was able to pick up enough that he was thinking it had to be an American picking a brand new name. But the sisters seemed to have been up to date on all the contenders and mentioned Argentina, South America. The man seemed satisfied and then soon more people were spotted on the balcony unrolling a special banner. Another couple minutes and then the new Pope walked out on the balcony.
here he is.

He said “Bueno sera” (good evening) which made it was obvious he was not Italian and the crowd cheered. I checked the big screen in between shooting photos. At that point, our only idea about who it was came from the sisters in front of us. Twitter, etc was not working for us, in fact we had trouble texting the kids.

I was torn between using my 50mm portrait lens and my 210 telephoto. One to take portraits of all the interesting faces and emotions I saw in the crowd around me and the other to record the history that was happening on the balcony. I think I got some of both.
we know the name...
Probably the most intense part of being in the square was the moment of silence. It seemed that all of Rome was quiet. (And believe me, that’s rare. Rome is not a quiet city.) I didn’t even want to snap a photo because it seemed my shutter would break the silence.
After the joke, (“My fellow cardinals elected someone from the ends of the earth to get this over with quickly.”) he left the balcony and the bells rang as the crowd dispersed. We took a moment to talk to the sisters about what they knew, stretching the limits of our Italian.
Then it was slow going following the crowds on the way out. It was much slower than heading into the square.

Leaving St Peters

We made it home about 45 minutes later when it only took about 15 to arrive. I got a few more pictures of the crowds. By the time the kids made it back we were all famished and went out for some homemade pasta nearby to celebrate what a wonderful opportunity we had this evening to witness history.