30 June 2017

2016 ITALY Rome 15 - Pizza and a Tomb

Folks, I know this has been a long time coming, but I was overwhelmed with The Vatican. We spent about three hours there, but as you can see I wrote six long blog posts to try to tell you all about it. There was a lot of info from my copious notes and online research, but I only scratched the surface. Just hope I got my facts correct, but, heh, close enough. I'm really glad that part is done and we are moving on.

Our drivers picked us up at 12:30 from the Vatican and we motored over to a pizza lunch. I really love street art and saw this fun one on the way. I liked it, but it just did not fit the decor of Roma--a throwback to the 50s "modern" American housewife?

And Pizzarium Bonci (with Chef Gabriele Bonci) was not the typical eatery you imagine in Italy either. It was even featured and praised recently on an Anthony Bourdain TV show when he visited Roma. This place takes pizza to a whole new level.

It is a tiny little spot with a wall-to-wall counter, displaying plank-sized pizza with various combinations of toppings. They ranged from typical to exotic, including pepperoni, tomato, potato (try this at the Beacon Lounge at the Park Place Hotel in Traverse City, Michigan), fig, eggplant, lots of veggie and meat options.

The crowd huddled around the counter contemplating the choices. You pick a topping combo and they re-heat the slices before your eyes. Ordinarily this cooking concept would not be successful, but here they pulled it off big time. While cooking, you pay and then wait for your name to be called. The system was total chaos, but we got the right order in a timely fashion.

I ordered a spinach and a potato, and also an arancini (deep fried rice ball stuffed with melted mozzarella cheese). Mike got one with sliced mortadella and another with salmon. Someone else ordered a potato and Margarita (tomato, basil, mozzarella cheese). All sooooo good!

Pizza pieces were served on paper, so if you had any left over you could wrap it for the road. We did NOT have any left over.
All the tables were outside and pretty much stand up rather than with seats. You'd find a bit of space to place your pizza and and end up sharing a table with someone you did not know. Very communal and fun. Our group ordered a variety of topping options and swapped among ourselves to get a taste of everything. We even swapped with friendly strangers. A few pigeons picked up the crumbs at our feet.

With bellies bulging, we moved on to the next attraction, the Castal Sant'Angelo (translates to Castle of the Holy Angel) or the original tomb of Emperor Hadrian and his family. It was later used as a fortress of the popes and today it is a museum.

The name Hadrian kept popping up throughout our tour and his reign was considered one of the most cultured and loved. He was born in 76AD and ruled the empire from 117 to 138AD. I think this sculpture was Hadrian, but did not see any other likenesses with his beard so long.

He is known for building Hadrian's Wall. It marked the outer limit of Britannia, the northern border of the Roman empire at that time. Seems the brave and mighty Scotsmen would not allow the empire to expand any further north. The Pantheon was rebuilt and the Temple of Venus and Roma was constructed during Hadrian's reign. 

Above notice the tiny cars in front of the Castal. At one time this was the tallest building in Roma. Once we entered the edifice, we saw the square thick outer wall and the round inner building. I think this was a covered hall initially. I imagine this and the long ramp that came next were for protection.
We went down a story of steps and then started up a quarter mile ramp made of ancient and irregular cobblestone. That was a challenge for Mike and I with our bad knees, but we made it. Walls were made of rough stucco-ish material and chalk (a kind of limestone).
In some areas you could see the original mosaic floor and the many layers built on top of it.
We finally reached some of the inner rooms. Art work was much like the Vatican--wonderful sculpture  (below Archangel Michael) and carvings, elegant paintings and ceilings, and mosaic floors.

This crest was on the floor. Wish I knew what year this was, but my Roman / Arabic number converter does not understand the combo!
In a few spots we stepped outside and then in again, but when we reached the top of the edifice there was an outdoor rooftop with a view to top all views so far. Another Archangel Michael overlooks the situation while putting away his sword.
Views include the city with St. Peter's Basilica in the background and Tiber River in lower left. 
Up (I think) river was the Ponte Vittoria Emanuele II connecting the historical center of Rome with the Vatican. It was designed in 1886 by Ennio de Rossi and completed in 1911.

Looking down and ahead was the Ponte Sant'Angelo (originally Ponte St. Peter). Constructed by Hadrian, it led from the center of Roma to the entrance of his future tomb and was completed in 134. Currently the bridge is solely used for pedestrians.
Later Pope Clement IX wanted to replaced the deteriorating stucco angels. He commissioned Bernini (the same guy we've been talking now and then) to design ten angels with "instruments of passion." This one is Angel with Whips. Others had crown of thorns, garment and dice, a column, Veronica's veil, nails, cross, superscription, lance, and sponge. Passion? Not sure how that works with these items. Will have to look into this sometime later.
We crossed the bridge heading back toward our hotel.

04 June 2017

2016 ITALY Vatican 14 - Views Outside the Vatican

Occasionally on our walking tour of the Vatican, there was an open window. No screen. You could peek at outside gardens and other spaces around the complex. It looked like some of these were open to the public, but our group didn't venture into most of them.

 Private Vatican vehicle parking lot.

At one point we did walk outside to get from one building to another. More sculpture. This is the "famous" bronze pine cone. It originally decorated a fountain near the ancient Temple of Isis.
There were many walls with carved out niches filled with sculpted heads or torsos. Not sure who this is.
Before exiting the buildings, we passed this loooong lonely, undecorated passage. I wondered where it led. See the person about half way down.
Our last stop at the Vatican was Saint Peter's Square. This is the place where thousands of people gather for Sunday and other services. This pix faces Saint Peter's Basilica with rows and rows of chairs ready to get some religion. At its max it has held over 300,000 people.

The balcony under the center "peak" is where the Pope speaks to the audience from.

Reaching out from each side of the basilica are two colonnades built with massive Tuscan columns four deep. They represent "the embracing maternal arms of Mother Church." Some 140 statues of the saints are arranged along the top. Look here to see what saints are represented: http://stpetersbasilica.info/Exterior/Colonnades/Saints-List-Colonnades.htm

I understand that behind the right colonnade are the Pope's personal living quarters.
At the center of the square is a tall Egyptian obelisk. It marks the place where Saint Peter way martyred. It was originally constructed in Egypt and brought to Roma in 1586, about 100 years before the square was designed by Bernini (boy, this guy was everywhere). It is 135 feet (41m) tall to the top of the cross. This is also the site for a huge Christmas tree erected and decorated with white lights each holiday season.
A statue of Saint Peter is also in the square. Saint Peter, by the way, was considered the first pope. The line runs from God to Moses to Jesus to Peter.
Here's Saint Mike sitting at the base of a colonnade column, so happy this part of the tour is over. It was warm and oh so crowded. A relief to get out into the fresh air again and be able to rest our feet.