Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Roman Holiday

Over this past weekend (June 8-10) all of us (Lawrence, Barbara, Chris, Dave and I) went to Rome with the program, which includes 19 students. Nearly all of the students had not been to the Eternal City. I'm lucky. This was my 5th Roman trip, however, I still saw things through a new lens: a lens that is now older (41!), has seen more and different kinds of art since my last visit here, and most notably was "focused," so to speak, by the lectures of Lawrence, who taught for something like 24 hours in 3 days, without notes, off the cuff--entertaining, enlightening and passionate. My hat is off to him. Additionally, he found time to take the whole group to reputedly the best caffe bar in Rome, which makes its caffes and cappuccinos with the waters flowing through the city's ancient aqueducts, and he introduced the program faculty to his favorite Roman restaurants.

Saturday, will forever rank among my most memorable art experiences. Period. The day started with our "Caravaggio walk" and finished at the Borghese Gallery, viewing 4 of the most beautiful sculptures in the world (see Dave's post for more on this). I will post separately on that unforgettable day of art.

In the meantime, I include below an "essay" in photos of our time with the students in Rome and the celebratory dinner that crowned Saturday's art fest.

[Above] Il maestro at work outside the Pantheon dispensing knowledge. (See Catherine, he really IS on the trip, just not fond of his picture on the blog. We've all been warned.)

For those of you who haven't been to Rome, this structure is the best preserved ancient Roman temple anywhere in the world, in large part because it was turned into a church in the 7th C. It was originally built by the emperor Hadrian in the 2nd C. A.D. In my opinion it remains one of the most powerful architectural spaces in all of Italy, despite being stripped of the bronze stars that once decorated its coffered (recessed squares) ceiling, which was once painted blue in imitation of the heavens.

The bright light of the sun blasting through the oculus (round opening at the dome's top) and making its temporary mark on the inside of the coffered dome.

Inside the Pantheon. The tomb of Raphael, the High Renaissance artist, is also located here.

On Friday afternoon we visited the Vatican including St. Peters, the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms and the Vatican Museums. Above and below are 3 shots of the mighty St. Peters. 

Michelangelo's dome of St. Peter's poking through the tree tops.

[Above] Photo taken Saturday by Dave outside of the famous Sant' Eustachio, after a recharge of caffe made from "virginal" Roman aqueduct waters. You can't tell it here, but this place was packed to the gills with patrons and the staff moved a bit faster than those found in your average Greensboro Starbucks.

Saturday night's fabulous dinner al fresco at Pierluigi.

Above, Alex and Chris inspect their dinner ahead of time in the lobby.

It doesn't get any fresher than this! The lobsters were still moving.

Jamie and Barbara across the table from one of our many delicious antipasti--a warm potato salad with arugula, tomatoes, octopus and squid. A bowl of homemade bread sits below.

THE BEST calamari fritti in the whole world, bar none.

Super thinly sliced octopus soppressata. Yes, it looks a bit odd, but boy was it delicious. (I must say Dave and I both pushed our food envelope with this one, and were so glad we did. When in Rome...)

Pasta Course #1: Spaghetti alle vongole (with clams). The spaghetti was cooked just right and the simple sauce was wonderful sopped up with some fresh bread. Buonissima!

Pasta Course #2: Mixed seafood with spicy tomato sauce and large, tubular pasta served fresh from the skillet table side. Also amazing...

The Roman culinary decathlon finished for me with a warm chocolate cake with crema. Talk about rich! But, oh so tasty. Afterwards we rolled into a taxi and headed to bed.

Below images from our Sunday morning visit to the Baroque church of St. Ivo designed by Borromini.

(Above) Inside view of the dome.

On Sunday afternoon, after visiting the sites above, Dave and I took the programmed free time to eat at the Cul du Sac (a favorite Roman haunt from our very first trip to Rome together in 2000) and visit the Al Temps museum of ancient art.

The Cul de Sac at the far left of the line of store fronts. We sat at an outside table and enjoyed yet another stunning day of mild weather. Aside from a few showers on Saturday morning our trip to Rome was the most comfortable trip weather-wise I've ever experienced in the city, which I usually equate with blistering heat and merciless sun. We all felt lucky!

Two images above of typical fare at the Cul de Sac enoteca (wine bar). This plate of meat was a sample of their cured meats typical of the region where Rome is situated.

The Cul du Sac sits just off the southwest end of Piazza Navona, so we walked across this space on our way to the Al Temps museum, which is north of the Piazza in a recently renovated Renaissance palace. Below, Dave stands in the courtyard.

While this will no doubt seem odd to many of you--given the grisly subject matter--this was my favorite work in the museum, which contained ancient sculpture. There were other famous pieces here, but this work, known as the Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus (stone coffin) and dating from the late 3rd C., was unexpected. I use this piece as an example of Roman sarcophagus carving in nearly all of my classes, but had never seen it in person before. I had no idea it was here. Often it's these sorts of unexpected gems, around the next corner of the museum, waiting to be discovered that I enjoy so much.

As always, Rome was tiring, but artistically exhilarating at the same time. This go round we also enjoyed the culinary excellence of Rome, too. Another great trip!

1 comment:

  1. Well, this is just ridiculous. Stop making me want to sell organs or children to go back to Rome. Matt and I were both classics minors and he knows a bunch of Latin where my French is useless, and every time we go to Rome, he adores the Parthenon, has lied down in the middle to look up at its perfection, is his favorite. And the rest of this is just mean, too much good to see at once. I was at swim meets while you were doing this!!! Seriously, thanks for the gorgeous pictures and reminders of the beauty in the world.