Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I was sitting in Piazza Navona today with no real strategy as to what to write about. Pretty quickly I found something that interested me. There are many apartments/homes that immediately surround the piazza. And considering their location and the significance of Piazza Navona, these places must cost a fortune. But at the west end of the piazza, there are multiple homes on the top floor of the buildings with rooftop and balcony areas, fronted with bright green gardens and shrubbery assuring their privacy. If I could pick anywhere in the world to live, it may just be right there. These places overlook the piazza with no obstructions or flaws in the view. It would be great if they could convert one these places to a restaurant or cafe so that more people could experience such a serene setting overlooking a cheerful active atmosphere below. How lucky these landowners are to have such a prestige unique place to live.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
This surprisingly was not one of my favorite churches at all. I am a big fan of the massive amounts of marble, and detail throughout the whole church. And although the ceiling in particular and the chapels off to the side and some sculptures were very impressive and specific, the walkways along the sides of the church were very bland. They had no marble pillars, no painted ceilings, nothing extravagant or different. I understand why it is like this; the church was rebuilt in a much later time than the other churches we have come across. I didn’t mind these attributes, because it was an interesting change of pace, it just wasn’t one of my favorite places. One thing inside the church I did love was the statues of the twelve apostles. In particular, the statue of Bartholomew; I did a paper on him in high school and knew that he was filleted and murdered, and the sculpting of him portrays this well. Also, the sculptures atop the outside of the church were very impressive.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I found that the statue was dedicated to St. Eustace. The deer heads are a symbol of him.
St. Eustace was a Roman general named Placidus. He was hunting a deer one day somewhere near Rome, when he saw a vision of Jesus through the deer's antlers. Him and his family converted and were baptized very soon after this incident. After this, St. Eustace went through of series of faith testing life events. His money was stolen, his servants died of disease, his wife was captured, and his sons were taken away by a wolf and lion. Some consider this legend, some consider it truth, which is why his sainthood is questioned. Eustace did not lose his faith, which is what he is most commemorated for. He was later reunited with his family, but when he was ordered to make a pagan sacrifice, he refused and him and his family were burned to death.
St. Eustace feast day was celebrated on September 20th. But because there is not much evidence of his existence, his commemoration date was removed in 1969. He is still known as the patron saint of hunters, and one of the patron saints of Madrid Spain. There is a church named after him in Paris, and an island named after him in the Netherlands.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Almost all of the cafes I have been in so far have a very wide variety of different types of coffee. It can be overwhelming at times, and you don't want to be stuck getting the same thing every time because you don't know what it all is. So I will give you a short summary of the more popular kinds of coffee that you may want to consider trying if you ever travel to Rome.
The very first thing on all of the menus in the cafes is simply caffe. This is commonly mistake by American's as normal coffee. But really, caffe is what Americans would call espresso; simply a very small cup of strong coffee topped with a caramel colored foam called crema. To order this in decaf yo simply ask for "caffe hag" (hag being the largest producer of Italian decaf coffee). Caffe lungo, meaning "long coffee" is very close to an American cup of coffee. At the bar, they let the water pour from the machine until the coffee becomes weak and bitter. This type of coffee is sometimes expressed by Italians as acqua sporca, meaning "dirty water." Caffe con panna is simply espresso with sweet whipped cream. Caffe corretto (coffee corrected) is a cup of their coffee with a bit a liquor added, usually conac or grappa seems to be most popular.
Caffe latte in Italy is what we would call a latte in America. It is espresso with hot milk, the same thing as a cappuccino without the foam. This I was surprised to see was served in a tall glass, compared to everything else I've had so far which is served in a smaller mug. Cappuccino, my drink of choice, and only drank in the morning by Romans, is made with a shot of espresso in a mug larger than that of a caffe. In addition to the shot of espresso, milk and foam are added.
In addition to these, there are many other specialty drinks designated by area and also some places have a variety of iced coffee.
Piazza Navona is built on the sight of an ancient Rome circus called Domitian's Stadium. Some of the Stadium's arches you can still see below the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. "Agones" means games, and this Stadium was a place where many Romans came to watch athletic contests. The stadium could hold 33,000 people. The name agone eventually changed to navone, and then to navona, giving the piazza its name. The piazza was originally a market, but was moved in 1869 to Campo de' Fiori. Besides the many restaurants, shops, and live entertainment i Piazza Navona, its main attraction is Fontana di Quattro Fiumi, meaning Fountain of the Four Rivers, built in 1651 by Bernini. Presently, it is being renovated, so besides in pictures I haven't had a great look at it. There are also two other fountains at either end of the piazza, which is shaped like a stretched oval. They were both designed by Giacomo della Porta, and completed by 1576. The fountain at the north end is called Fontana di Nettono and the one at the south end is called Fontana del Moro. Both of these fountains were altered and renovated over the years.
One very interesting thing I learned about Piazza Navona was that from 1652 to 1866, the piazza was flooded every weekend in August by stopping the fountain outlets. The rich would ride around splashing in ther carriages and others would paddle and splash around. This was done to celebrate the Pamphilj family, which was a papal family very involved with Roman politics. This is the family Pope Innocent X is part of.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Our class went to visit the Pantheon the other day. The pantheon is a roman catholic church that was originally a pagan temple for the gods of ancient Rome, and then was changed by the Romans in the 7th century. I had already been there and probably walk by it about 5 times a day, but I hadn't taken the time yet to learn about it and really check it out. When you approach the Pantheon, its massive size is very intimidating. It has huge pillars as you walk through the outside entrance, and when you walk in, its best to stop and just look around at amazing shape and detail of the architecture. It is the best preserved of all Roman buildings, and all buildings in the world of its age. It's also the oldest standing domed structure in Rome. The exact concrete composition that the Romans used in the dome is somewhat a mystery. If the concrete we use was today was used to construct an unreinforced dome of this size, it would barely be able to stand the load of its own weight. But the pantheon has been standing for hundreds of years, and one theory is because the concrete may have been applied in very small quantities and then was packed down after every application to remove excess water and trapped air bubbles. The most significant thing in the pantheon is probably the tomb of Raphael, a famous Italian artist and architect. Ironically, Raphael was born and died on Good Friday. He was buried in the Pantheon at his request.
Today we went to what it so far my favorite church, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Sopra means "over" and Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom. The church gets it's name because it is physically built over the foundation of a temple previously dedicated to Minerva. Santa Maria, meaning the Blessed Mother, is at the beginning of the name of many churches, because so many churches are dedicated to Her. I am probably going to do multiple blog entries on this church because of the fact it's my favorite church and there is so much to talk about in the church. When you walk in, it's overwhelming how how big a beautiful everything looks. It took me a minute to grab my bearings and find out which way to go first. Walking down the middle of the nave and looking up, you see a beautifully painted royal blue and gold ceiling with stained glass and tall pillars lining the side. You face a beautiful alter with tall candles, a gold crucifix, and a sculpture on the side of St. Katherine of Siena representing her tomb which is at the foot of the alter. The alter is backgrounded by more beautiful stained glass. Off to the sides are numerous different sculptures, tombs, and chapels with beautiful paintings.
This church is considered the only gothic church in Rome. Gothic in the sense that it is somewhat gloomy and "echoey," but also architecturally gothic because of its steep roofs, pointed arches, and large windows in proportion to the walls. This style was normal throughout many parts of Western Europe from the 12th to 15th centuries. There are many skulls and crossbones throughout the entire church, and a lot of dark marble is used.
Monday, May 19, 2008
So by now, I have been in my fair share of bars, about 5 I would say. So I have a basic understanding of how things work and what they like, etc. For the most part, there is almost always someone in there throughout grabbing some sort of coffee. Many in the morning will grad a cappuccino, or something comparable to that, while espresso or cafe is drank any time of the day. Drinks like cafe latte are a little milkier and a good change of pace. I actually just had a cafe latte today. It was delicious and so far is what reminded me of coffee at home the most, despite the frothy layer on top. Almost all of the cafes will usually have some danish in them for a quick bite for breakfast. I haven't many breakfast sandwiches around or anything like that, expect for maybe a panini with some egg and eggplant in or something like that. And I don't think there is an Italian word or equal for a"diner" that we have at home. But some cafes also have lunch sandwiches, usually paninis that they put on a little grill for a minute and they serve hot. They are delicious. Fresh fruit may sometimes be served, and all bars have somewhat of a liquor selection, mostly used for certain cafe drinks. And it is hard to find a cafe that doesn't have a refrigerator with bottles a water, some juice, and a selection of soda. A note on the soda, they have different sizes, for example 1.5 liters, but the same brands, and instead of diet coke, it is called coke light. Although not comparable to a wawa or sheetz (I prefer wawa), cafes are a great stop if you have an urge for a quick bite or drink.
Friday, May 16, 2008
The interior of the churches were beautiful. I took a few pictures of the parts that interested me most. To the side of the nave (main walkway of the church), part of the ceiling was constructed with a beautiful painting of a dove and stone sculptures of angels around it. It was absolutely
stunning. I could have stayed there for hours looking at it. Also, one of the tabernacles off to the side caught my because thought the use of color in the marble and the color of the paint used was very cool looking. I really liked a solid color statue of a nun holding a crucifix for its humbleness. I am intrigued with the continuous theme of death throughout many of the churches here. I included a picture in the slide show of what is very common in these churches. It is a painting off to the side of the nave of a person of importance with a tomb underneath it containing his body. The last thing in these churches I feel worth noting is the black marble used in the pillars and design of the church. It is odd for me to see so much darkness in a church; at home and in many churches here, dark colors I feel are avoided, most likely because of its orientation with death or evil.
Please look at the post below for pictures of the objects I just referenced.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
So after my first Cafe experience, I asked one of my professors what the deal was with the coffee scene. I told him about the one bar i went to, and he said next time, to order a cappuccino, and to try some other things as well. So the next day on the way to class, I stopped in bar with some two other students, and ordered a cappuccino. They are prepared with espresso, hot milk, and milk foam, giving it a nice mixed layer of foam mixed with some espresso that doesn't go away until you are done the drink. With a dash of sugar, it was out of this world. They serve it a much bigger cup that the shot of cafe I had the day before, so that it all the more enjoyable. I am going to try different things throughout this whole bar experience, and look forward to it very much, but I wouldn't be surprised if cappuccino stood as my favorite in the end.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I've made it a habit that when I hear American voices and people look friendly enough, to try and talk to them for a quick minute, because tourist can learn a lot from each other. So on this specific night, we walked past a bunch of kids, heard them speaking English, and started talking to them. Sure enough they were Penn State students also from the Arts and Architecture program. They are actually lucky enough to live on a great appartment that overlooks the beautiful Piazza Novona. We ended up going out with these guys, and had another great night in Roma.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I had trouble getting back to sleep early on Monday morning, so I decided after writing in my journal to go find a cup of coffee. Fortunately, there is a bar (what Romans call a coffee shop) a block away from me. So i went in, and looked at the menu, which i could barely read. The only thing I understood was the word cafe. It said only .80 euro, so I just ordered one them. He put a tiny mug up the espresso machine and filled up what at the time I had no idea was what they called a cafe. It is about a shots worth of espresso. With enough sugar it tasted fine. I did know one thing about these places before I went, and that is if you sit down at a bar or any food place, you get charged extra money. So while I drank my coffee I stood right up at the counter where they serve it to you. Oddly enough, it is quite enjoyable, and it tasted delicious, probably because there was a frothy top and I added a little sugar. But my first experience there was enough to make me want to go back to multiple different bars and try new things.
The first night we arrived, me and my roommates met some girls from a different Penn State program who live in our building, and we all decided to go to a meal together. It was around 4:00 pm, so in Italy especially, it is just a late lunch, considering they eat dinner later than us, usually around 8:00 pm. So for our first Italian dining experience, we decided to go to Piazza Navona. Words nor pictures can describe what you feel the first time you see and walk through. A massive amount of space dedicated to Italian culture and people, with beautiful artwork, fine dining, and endless entertainment. We ate at a small restaurant outside right in the middle of the Piazza. It was a great spot to first be able to watch and learn what Piazza Navona was all about. Everyone's food was delicious. Fresh bread with oil and balsamic, a nice glass of red wine, and a bowl of homemade tomato soup made my first Italian dinner very enjoyable. I knew after my first experience here I would be back to this place countless times.