Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cafe St. Eustace

After my blog post about St. Eustace, I was suggested to go to the bar dedicated to him called Cafe St. Eustace. This is one of the more upscale/popular bars in Rome, if not the most, in relation to coffee. It is also very unique from other bars. They are very secretive about how they make all their different types of coffee. They do not show their hands or anything behind the big cafe machines. When you order, they just go behind, and you can tell they are making your cafe, or cappuccino or whatever it is you ordered, but you have no idea how they are making it, or what it is exactly they are using and doing back there. But whatever they do, they do it right. I was skeptical about how good the coffee would taste, because sometimes I think businesses use things like this as a way to improve income, but I was wrong in my assumption. The cafe latte I ordered tasted fresh, and hit the spot perfectly. It was a nice way to get a little caffeine in order to avoid the temptation of an afternoon nap.

Paint In Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is kind of cut into two different sides by Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi: the north end and the south end. The north end is a little more active, probably because there is restaurants on both sides and the church Sant'Agnese in Agone is also on the left part of the south side. So on the north side besides the restaurants is the lively Fontana del Moro constantly being congregated around for a nice break to maybe catch a little mist on a hot day. But the thing in the north end that I noticed today was the multiple painting stands in the middle of all the action. There must be more than 20 of these small stands, each it seems having its own different theme or focus. The stands have a very broad range; it would be hard for one not to find a pleasing painting. There are your typical Italian looking oil paintings, with wine bottles and grapes or Roman buildings in a peaceful setting with cobblestone streets. Then there are your random airbrushed paintings of cartoonized celebrities, different seasonal settings; I saw pictures of clowns, horse races, and ballerinas. There is pretty much anything you can think of. I could aimlessly walk through just admiring the diversity of it all and appreciating the scene of all the artwork.


SO one thing I haven't mentioned yet so far in my blogs is the amazing culture of gelati. It is the Italian version of ice cream, and it is delicious. There are multiple flavors and cones, and there are as many gelati places as there are pizza places. The most famous place in Rome happens to also be a bar with many different kinds of coffee, and many different things to eat as well (I would say almost all bars or gelati places have either usually paninis or sometimes pizza to offer as well). This place is called Giolitti's. It is very close to where I live and I pass everyday on the way to and from class. So when I went there one day to grab some coffee, I got sidetracked and decided to get some gelati instead. I just got a small cup of vanilla and grapefruit ( I didn't know I ordered grapefruit, but the color looked cool), and it was delicious. The grapefruit smelled like a grapefruit was being cut right in front of me, and the vanilla tasted richer than I have ever had. One small cup is definitely all you need. I have had other gelati at one or two different places, but this is by far the best. Not just the taste of the actual gelati, but the atmosphere of the place and the fruity creamy smell all add to the Giolitti experience.

Atop Piazza Navona

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

San Giovanni In Laterano

San Giovanni In Laterano

Today we went to San Giovanni In Laterano, located southeast of the Colosseum. Walking up to the church, it is shaped almost like an L, and has a large obelisk outside and two twin crosses above one of the entrances. When you walk in, the first thing you notice is the ceiling of the church. It has an unbelievably detailed amount of designs in mostly gold, with some other red and blue coloring. One of the first things I saw in the church surprised me, because I haven’t seen it in any other church yet, was the Eye of Providence. This symbol is the eye on the pyramid on the back of our dollar bill, and represents the eye God. The main alter in the church is only allowed to be used in mass by the pope once a year. The sculptures in this church were incredible, especially by Borromini who did all of the angels throughout all the archways of both sides of the church. Berninni also did a few works in this church, but both artists were restricted with money and time.

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

St. Eustace Pictures

St. Eustace

When I was walking through Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, one statue really caught my eye. Knowing that this was a gothic themed church, while I was looking at this intriguing statue I assumed the numerous deer heads around the picture of a man represented something gothic. I took many pictures of the statue, and i looked up what it represented.

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

Ordering Coffee at a Bar

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.

History of Piazza Navona

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

Stained Glass in Sopra Minerva

The Pantheon

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.

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

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.

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Normal Bar

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.

A Sunday in Piazza Navona

Yesterday, on my way to the classroom, I strolled through Piazza Navona to see what it is like on a Sunday in the early afternoon. That morning hadn't been nice weather, but the afternoon was shaping up to be pretty nice. It was quite a calming scene. I saw mostly couples and singles just lounging around the fountains and sitting in the restaurants having a drink, just relaxing and enjoying their restful Sunday. I hope that one Sunday me and maybe a friend or two can go relax and enjoy this scene. It was interesting to me to see a blend of young and old all taking part in the same easygoing activities. I enjoyed it, and wished that we had more of that in our culture. For many, I'm sure Piazza Navona on a Sunday is a great way to have a little relaxation before the start of a busy week.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The "Twin" Churches

Our class went on a walk on Friday to a couple different places that had to do with one of the books we are reading, and we ended in Piazza del Popolo. In this Piazza, there are two famous churches, Santa Maria di Montesanto and Santa Maria Di Mircoli right across from each other, often referred to as the "twin" churches for their extremely similar appearance. The main significant difference here is that Santa Maria Di Mircoli has a circular dome and Santa Maria di Montesanto has an oval dome. The architect Carlo Rainaldi designed Santa Maria di Montesanto this way in order to fit it in the narrower plot of land. the churches are beautiful from the outside and on the inside as well. They were built here under order of Pope Alexander VII during the Roman 17th century restoration.

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.

Twin Churches Slide Show

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Outside the Vatican

I was walking around with another student the other day, and she pointed to something and said is that the Vatican? I looked, and knowing that I was so close to my appartment, quickly said I don't think so because I don't think I that close to it. We then asked a street vendor what it was, and he laughed at us and said in Italian, "The Vatican!" Feeling so smart, we decided to walk overt to it and just look around right outside St. Peter's Square. I tried to take a few pictures, but I couldn't capture how it felt to be standing there, so I shot a quick video of the view we had. I have seen it twice thus far, and the feeling you get each time you are in indescribable. I have not ventured inside for a tour of anything, or seen the rest of Vatican City, but I obviously will soon.

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

Night in Piazza Navona

Me and my roommates were on our way out the other night, and we walked through Piazza Navona real quick to get where we were going. On our brief walk-through, I thought to myself I am going to have to spend a few nights just here, considering the situation. There was live music and entertainment, people everywhere just hanging around and enjoying the scene and company of many other Romans and tourists, and in Rome it is perfectly acceptable to have yourself a glass of wine, a drink, or a beer when in public places. There was a man playing a guitar singing awesome classic rock songs that the crowd was just embracing. The place is lit up very gracefully, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of thought went into how to place which lights in which places. Everything looked so beautiful and interesting to me.

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

My First Bar

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.

Night One - Dinner at Piazza Navona

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.