10 Questions About…

Villa Borghese by Ann Treacy
June 22, 2011, 7:59 am
Filed under: Rome

Our final full day in Rome started with Patrick and Michael heading back to the O’Neill church in Trastevere, while the girls and I headed to a market in the same area. The market was fun – just wished we had more time to spend. It appeared again as if we were in the minority not speaking Italian. The market was the kind where they empty bins of clothes onto a table and sell them very cheaply. We loved it!

Next we met up with the brothers and Irish Grandma and went to church. Despite rumors, the church did not crumble as I darkened the door and I did remember when to sit and stand.

Finally we made our way to the Villa Borghese – a large park. Unfortunately we took two taxis and that was a big mistake. Patrick and the girls took one; Irish Grandma, Michael and I took another. Then we spent more than an hour looking for them. Apparently their taxi driver had dropped them off someplace very different within the park. The park is the size of Phoenix Park in Dublin or maybe Como in St Paul.

Eventually we decided to have lunch. There was one very nice restaurant in the park and we knew that was the one Irish Grandma would choose and we were very OK with it. It was very nice. Our eyes popped a little at the prices but we forged ahead. We ate outside partially to keep a lookout and mostly because that was the only option. Luckily I spied Patrick and AIne looking for us!

Aine told Patrick he has to look at the restaurant once she saw it and she knew Irish Grandma would want to be there. But still it was lucky that we connected even when we were so close.

Oh – I had tomato risotto with raw tuna. It was delish!

After the lunch we walked around the gardens. There was a lot of modern art, as you can see from the pictures. We loved the sculpture. The park again was as full of Italians on a Sunday as tourists so that was fun. The girls played on a bouncy castle and the merry-go-round. We watched some amazing skaters and rollerbladers practice/show off their moves. There was one guy who had to be north of 70 in shiny stretch pants and a tight yellow top. He could do the splits on rollerblades.

After a while we wandered home – down the Spanish steps, around the Pantheon and through the Piazza Navarona.

We capped off the night with some gelato!

Father Eugene Boyle by Ann Treacy
June 22, 2011, 7:16 am
Filed under: Rome

Patrick’s uncle (Father Eugene Boyle) was the Vatican librarian until he died about 10 years ago. He’s kind of an adopted uncle. Apparently when Father Eugene was young his parents died and Patrick’s grandmother took him in.

So on Saturday afternoon we went looking for where he was buried. Here’s the kind of funny thing – he’s buried in a catacomb. You don’t really think about people being buried in catacombs these days.

Father Eugene is buried in San Clemente. Under the church there is a layer of catacomb and a layer of ancient ties. Apparently it is where the ancient cult of Mithras held ceremonies. It was cool and damp but didn’t feel super creepy. In the very depths there was a back room with an underground spring. That was kind of cool to see.

Father Eugene is buried a little closer to the service. I tried to get a picture – although the space is pretty dark. (He gets a very nice plaque!)

To cap off the night we went for a walk down by the Tiber River. For summer they have set up sort of a festival with tents of food, drinks, game and trinkets set up. Actually the food and drink weren’t promote pups and beer; they were full on restaurants with tables.

We were definitely in the minority not speaking English, which was rare for our week. It was super crowded with everyone having a good time. And although we were there from about 11 pm to midnight, our kids were not the youngest there. So it was a nice blend of families and younger folks having a good time.

Walking down the river gave us an opportunity to spend a few minutes on Isolta, which is a island in the middle of the river. They had a big drive-in type movie screen set up for a big show – but nothing was showing as we walked past.

Pantheon and more by Ann Treacy
June 22, 2011, 6:30 am
Filed under: Rome

After the creepy but cool skeleton art, we went on a hike. We hiked up to Villa Borghese, which is posh park in a posh area – but we also went there the next day so I’ll save the details. Mostly we spent our time making our way back to the apartment from the Pantheon.

One thing about Rome is that there are surprises around every corner. It’s funny to think that the people who live there probably don’t even notice them anymore. (Except that so many cool things means about a billion tourists.) On our walk we went through the Piazza Colona, Piazza Rontonda, Piazza Navona – and purposefully we went to the Pantheon.

The Pantheon kind of rises above a regular neighborhood suddenly. A quick lesson on the Pantheon – it was built in the 120s AD, it’s larger than the dome of the Basilica at the Vatican and it still seems perfect. It’s perfectly round, there’s a perfectly round window cut out of the top and it’s so solid it looks like it will stand forever. It was very impressive in a sturdy kind of way!

Best Creepy But Cool in a long time by Ann Treacy
June 22, 2011, 5:53 am
Filed under: Rome

On Saturday we went to the Crypt of the Capuchins. It is a small church that is decorated with the bones of Capuchin Friars. They have used recognizable bones (skulls, joints, hip bones) to create mosaics (for lack of a better word) on the walls. They are very ornate – kind of Baroque.

The deal is that in 1631 the friars left their old friary for the new location and the remains of the deceased were transported with them. That’s when they started the “art to die for”. Then they started to do the same with friars as they died and even the bodies of the poor Romans.

They cover the walls of the old chapel, where the living friars would join the dead for mass each day. There is a paper plaque on the final wall that says something like:
Where you are we once were; where we are you someday will be.

Absolutely no pictures were allowed – so I’m hoping to grab one from their web site.

Red Hand of Ulster Found in Trastevere by Ann Treacy
June 22, 2011, 5:40 am
Filed under: Rome

This is one of those times when I should get Patrick to do a post – although it would be a very different story. Saturday afternoon we all headed to a church on a hill in Trastevere. It supposedly holds the remains of Hugh O’Neill, who fled to Spain during the Flight of the Earls.

Unfortunately, while this distance wasn’t necessarily great, the incline was! I should note that our group ages range from 6 to 79. I should also note that Patrick was a little map-challenged and didn’t believe his wife when she wisely spied a shortcut that would have turned a steep windy road into a staircase.

Plus it was about 110 degrees in the shade. Actually that’s not really true. One of the big lessons we’ve learned this week is that shade is really, really good. It was probably only 80 degrees in the shade – but 110 on the hill. I have a picture of us getting cooled down with the local fountain. There are fountains like that everywhere and they are very welcome! We were even filling our water bottles in the fountains. In retrospect that might not have been the smartest move – but I feel like if it were going to make us sick, we’d be sick by now.

Anyways, the good news was that this was the place. Patrick got pretty lucky when he asked at the Irish Pub if anyone knew where Hugh O’Neill was buried – and someone did.

There wasn’t a big plaque or anything – but there was a Red Hand of Ulster coat of arms thing on the church. And the view was pretty spectacular.

Our real reward however was a great meal. We ordered a ton of food at a very busy restaurant in Trastevere. It was the kind of place where they suggested more food and we were glad they did. We had caprese salad, calamari, pizza, risotto, gnocchi, carbonara.

The Vatican & Sistine Chapel by Ann Treacy
June 21, 2011, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Rome

On Friday we went to the Vatican. We started at 8 am. We went to the main church (St Peter’s Basilica), which I have to say is pure opulence. There was a line – but it went pretty quickly. The statues are amazing. Much like the Coliseum, everything is so big, you lose a little perspective. I started talking about the small statues – and then realized that they’re beyond life size – they four or five times life size. Lily thought the back windows were great. I tried to get a good picture – but I was competing with a lot of light.

The entrance to the Sistine Chapel is separate from the Basilica. In fact, you have to walk all around the Basilica to get there. There was a line – but it only took about 30 minutes to get through so that wasn’t too bad.

Everything was so ornate – the first room may have been the most over the top. The ceilings had been painted, although it wasn’t *that* ceiling. Aine loved the first room. Lots of reds, golds and other bold colors. (I took a picture of the ceiling – just mentioning again so that people don’t think it’s “that” ceiling.) We saw a lot of naked statues – big, little, headless, sitting standing and resting.

It’s huge maze of rooms – and naturally we got separated. Patrick and Lily went ahead – the rest of us took the wrong turn at the fork in the hall, thinking that was the route Patrick would take. That meant that Patrick, who would like to see every detail took the shortcut and the rest of us who are more OK with an overview saw everything. And actually everything was pretty cool. It started with Raphael. My favorite was the pictures of a broken Caesar-type statue lying at the feet of a golden cross. Kind of sums up the situation from the Christian perspective. Then there was a ton of modern art, including Francis Bacon. I like the modern stuff so that was good – but Aine and Kate were sort of crashing so we went through quickly.

Finally we came upon “that” ceiling. The room was packed. Apparently Lily and Patrick spent a lot of time there so Lily can do a great imitation of the guards clapping and shouting “no photo!” but don’t worry that didn’t stop me. Although it stopped me from getting a good shot.

We were so dog tired walking home after the Vatican – but we found that Coca Cola Light (for me), Espresso (for Michael) and gelato for the girls can work magic!

Thank you driver for getting us here by Ann Treacy
June 19, 2011, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Rome

After the Coliseum, we went home refreshed a little, picked up Patrick’s mom and decided to try the hop on – hop off bus tour. It was exactly what we needed in terms of jetlag, fatigue and heat. It is hot in Italy, hot and sunny. (And a special note for my mom – no sunburn yet!)

We relaxed on the bus for a while – and hopped off to see the Trevi Fountain. We each threw our coins in the fountain. The Foundation is also spectacular – and the spray from it is a huge treat on a super-hot day. The Fountain looks like it’s coming out of a building. There were tons of people – but with a little patience you can make your way to the fountain or get a seat and kick back for a while.

A: 133 steps Q: How many steps in the Spanish Steps?

The Spanish Steps are just a short distance from the Trevi Fountain. The view from the top is fantastic. Also this is the area where Keats died when he was 25. I’m mentioning this mostly in Patrick’s honor. He found a Keats Museum for us – but (un)fortunately is cost 4 euros in so we missed it. Patrick recited a lot of Keats to us while sitting on the steps. We considered asking him to speak up and putting a hat in front of him for donations.

After the Fountain and the Steps we hopped back on the bus. In fact, we just kicked back and enjoyed the rest of the ride. Again it was the perfect answer to some tried tourists. I suspect each of us nodded off at some point during the trip but that as OK. We also got a nice perspective on Rome. Nothing beats the view from a double-decker bus. They played recorded messages about the areas as we drove through. None of the details spring to mind – but I’m sure my subconscious is much richer.

Old School Urban Development by Ann Treacy
June 18, 2011, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Rome

We are staying at the Campo di Fiori. It is centrally located – but even better there are several artists and tiny shops on our road and at the end of our road, there’s a market every day. It’s fresh fruit, vegetables, tshirts… At night the market clears away and makes room for great outdoor drinking – most of it in the bars. A few BYOB types in the square. Lots of buskers – admittedly I don’t many would make the first cut on Italy’s Got Talent – but fun nonetheless.

Patrick, Michael and I enjoyed a drink and appetizer Wednesday night. The joint was jumping – starting at about 9:00 – and definitely still cooking at midnight when we threw in the towel.

Patrick noted at the brilliance of the urban planning. It does make for a good vibe. There were people of all ages. You could compare it to Temple Bar in Dublin – although Temple Bar has much more a feel of Stag Party or just on leave. Our piazza is fun but not rowdy or sloppy.

Gone to the lions by Ann Treacy
June 18, 2011, 4:53 pm
Filed under: Rome, Uncategorized

Thursday morning we  headed down to the Coliseum. The Coliseum was on everyone’s must-see list so we were excited. I was even a little afraid that we had built it up so much that we might be disappointed – we weren’t. In fact at dinner everyone noted it as a favorite. It really is big and imposing and kind of majestic.

In its day is sat 50,000 people. It was built in 72 AD. Who even knew there were 50,000 back then? Most of the floor is missing so it’s easy to see what the basement/lower level looked like – and there’s a great (modern) mural that illustrates what happened back in the day. The lions were kept in cages in the lower floor. The cages moved along a sort of conveyor belt to “the place” where the cages were pulled to the surface like an elevator car or stage trap door. On the field waiting would have been the Christians. Our guidebook calls the Coliseum the NASCAR of antiquity. Funny to think of it that way – but I suppose it is.

So we were able to check out the stadium from two floors. The views out of the stadium were as amazing as the views inside. The columns and pedestals give you a perspective of how large the place is. I tried to get a couple of pictures to help – but even in person the size is so overwhelming you kind of dismiss it.

On the way back we walked by Circus Maximus and the Palatine. The Circus Maximus was actually a larger stadium/sports area. It was built to seat 250,00 for chariots races and public games. Now it’s more like a giant field. The Palatine dates back to 753 BC. It’s where Romulus killed Remus and founded Rome. TO honor the spot later emperors built their palaces here. By walking around the area, we got an idea of how large the footprint of the area is – but it wasn’t until we took the double-decker bus tour in the afternoon that we got an idea of its size. (I’m going to add those pictures here in case that helps. Also – we saw several lizards in the Palatine. Lizards are always a highlight.)

Day One: Roman Vacation by Ann Treacy
June 15, 2011, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Rome

Tuesday morning Grandpa picked us up at 4 am for our flight to Chicago. We had a fun day with the cousins and then that afternoon went back to O’Hare to Rome. We arrived in Rome today at 9:00. We were in our apartment by noon. Our only sad news is that we don’t have Internet access. So I’m going to write up my days as soon as possible and post when I can.

I’m pretty tired today – it might be pictures only. We walked a ton. I won’t even pretend to name anything – except the Tiber and the Vatican.

We’ve promised Aine that we’ll make pigeon stew if she catches one. There are enough markets to keep Lily and Kate happy. So far we’ve learned that Italian food is not necessarily what we’re used to getting at home.

The apartment is nice. We just keep the windows open the whole time. The floor of each room seems to be up or down an inch from the other; so I’m sure to break a toe. We’re very central.

It’s hot – very hot.
The Vespas, cars and pedestrians seem to share the cobble stone roads and piazzas. By that I mean, it will be an act of God if one of us doesn’t get hit. Everything is very bustling and there’s no grass. These may sounds like complaints – but they aren’t. It’s just fun to be someplace with so many differences.

Nearly forgot to mention that it was great to see Patrick’s mom and brother.

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