Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Today Richard and I got up early to take the train to Roma. We had a list of things we had to do and wanted to do... We accomplished some, but not everything. 

The whole catching the bus to Poggio Mirteto in the morning is a regular ritual for the folks here in Casperia. A lot of people who live here commute to Rome for work, but the crowd that was on the 9:00 o'clock bus were mostly women heading into Rome to shop or visit friends. 

Richard and I love this bus ride, it is as exciting as a roller coaster ride at the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition). Again, the roads that connect hilltown to hilltown zigzag along the ridges of the hills and the scenery on both sides of the road is stunning... 

Sabina countryside by Luca Bellincioni
When we arrived in the Sabina it was cool and not a lot of leaves had yet come out on the trees, but now la primavera is in full swing with every shade of green on the trees, along with the mauve of Glicine (Wisteria) and the magenta of the Albero Giuda (Redbud),  and the white blossoms of almonds that dot the upper reaches of the hillsides, while fields of yellow mustard flowers and sprays of crimson Roman poppies hold sway over the lower reaches of the landscape. 

Poppy field enroute to Poggio Mirteto Station with Catino in the distance, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
The bus careens at high speed over the country roads, and no one pays attention on the bus... And oddly enough neither do we. This is the ride... It is part and parcel of the Sabina package. 

Finally we arrived at Poggio Mirteto station, and all of us head to the train that waits to take us to Rome. Both Richard and I love trains... I, from my experience taking trains when I lived in Japan, and Richard from his various trips to Europe. They are relaxing. We both doze off every so often as the train rumbles southwest toward Rome . Every now and then I look out at the changing countryside... The meandering green Tiber, the slowly disappearing Sabine hills, the venerable Via Salaria and the approaching graffiti-splattered Eternal City. Every so often a brilliant piece of graffiti art appears that is post card perfect, but our camera is never ready in time.

We pass through a number of stations: Roma Nomentana, Roma Tuscolana with its ancient Roman Aqueduct crossing the tracks overhead, Roma Tibertina, Roma Ostiense with its Pyramid of Cestius... Finally we arrive at our destination, Roma Trastevere station, and take the Number 3 bus to the Circus Maximus bus stop near where our friend Steve works for F.A.O.. 

Ruins of the Circus Maximus with the Palatine Hill behind. The white building is the Victor Emmanual Monument

We have time before we are to meet him for lunch so we stroll around the Circus Maximus taking pictures of the spina and of the impressive ruins of the Palatine beyond. 

The ruins of the Palatine Imperial complex to the north of the Circus Maximus

We walk toward the Forum Boarium area looking at various restaurants and shops that are built into the base of the Palatine on Roman brick foundations. We find our old friend, San Giorgio in Velabo an early Christian grainary later converted into a church. 

A black and white picture we took of it three years before is framed on our living room wall. 

It is cool and quiet inside. 

I love the various marble Latin inscriptions that have been recycled as decorations on the church's walls. 

Outside, the ruins of an ancient four way gate, the so called Arch of Janus stands nearby. 

As we admire the venerable old church, my cell phone rings. It is our friend Alessandra Finiti. We talk about our plans to visit the Pantheon and Piazza Navona and she recommends a young artist friend who does portraits for the tourists there. By now it is getting close to noon so we head back to the Circus Maximus bus stop to meet our friend Steve. Enroute we pass along the foot of the Remus' Aventine Hill. Steve appears at 12:15, and we end up walking almost all the way back to the Forum Boarum to eat in one of the restaurants we had admired earlier. 

It's name is Zerosettecinque, or 0,75 which, if I'm correct comes from the traditional size of a wine bottle. It isa great little restaurant at Via del Cerchi, 65, near the Forum Boarum end of the Circus Maximus. Richard had fusilli, and Steve and I had the lasagne. We had a great visit and a wonderful lunch. Steve headed back to work and Richard and I set off to continue our tour of the city. 

Our original plan was to go to the Capitoline Museum, but we headed first to see the Pantheon, probably our favourite place in Rome. 

If you remember my earlier post about our visit to Montebuono with Signor Fiorenzo Francioli, one of the churches we visited in Montebuono, San Pietro ad Muricentum, was built on top of the ruins of the villa of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the man who built the original Pantheon. The amazing building that we see now was a replica or later version built in 126AD by the Emperor Hadrian, who very graciously maintained the original inscription attributing the construction of the Pantheon to Agrippa.

The temple of all the gods, as the name translates from the Greek, is the only Roman era temple to come down us in its near original condition because the unique domed building was reused as a Christian church. 

The area was crowded because of the approaching Easter celebrations and overlapping spring break, but the crowds could not diminish this building’s beauty.

Check out the size of the granite column in the Pantheon's portico...

We took a number of pictures inside and outside, then headed to another favourite spot—for Richard in particular—Piazzadella Minerva, with its wonderful Bernini Elefantino statue outside Santa Maria SopraMinerva church.

We have a black and white version of this photo in our foyer
We took a number of pictures of the statue before heading inside the basilica, one of the few gothic churches in Rome. Its name comes from the fact that this church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built on the foundations of a temple people thought was dedicated to the Roman goddess Minerva. It is actually built on the foundations of a temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis. Rome is a city of many layers of fascinating history...

This status of Christ, Cristo della Minerva was carved by Michelangelo in 1519-21

It was very beautiful and COOL inside. We then headed off to Piazza Navona with its many impressive fountains and innumerable artists stalls and buskers of every description. 

Richard makes friends everywhere he goes...
We found many portrait drawers, but could not find the young woman Alessandra described, so we wandered off looking for a place to have a snack before we went to the museum. 

We wandered for quite a long time but did not find the place we were looking for. In the end, we arbitrarily chose a place called Dante's just off Via Cavour. The wine and the water were delicious, the service good, but I have to say the pizzas we were served we're probably some of the worst food we have ever been served in Italy. I think the toppings were spooned on to pre-made crusts which were okay, but on top of the bresaola and ruggheta (arugula in Roma) were scattered largish chunks of pecorino instead of shavings. It was all rather off-putting and very disappointing. Oh well, not everyone can serve pizze like those they make here in Casperia at the Asprese...

One of my favourite churches in Rome, Santa Maria in Aracoeli built on the site of the Temple of Juno on the Capitoline

 It was getting late and we were feeling a bit tired (my feet were actually killing me) so we decided to skip the museum for today and find a bus that would take us back to Trastevere and our train back to our refuge in the Sabina. 

Finding the right bus in Rome is not an easy task. The city is laid out around the fabled seven hills and was not laid out in any grid. It took us a while, but we finally found the right bus. We retraced our route by the Palatine and Circus Maximus and across the city to Trastevere where we found our train waiting for us.

At Poggio Mirteto we hopped on our bus and headed back to our hills. Back at the house Candace had Prosecco and a wonderful dinner waiting for us. I drank what seemed like a gallon of water. Rehydrated and refueled we have a fire on and my feet have finally stopped screaming. I am going to sleep tonight. Is that Richard's snoring I am hearing already? He should be rested... He sure slept a lot on the train coming back. Oh well. Buona notte tutti.

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