Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Roman Holiday part 3

All about food and some things I forgot....

Let's talk about Italian food. It is perfect.  If you don't like Italian food we can't be friends.  In Rome I had the best coffee, pizza and tiramisu I've ever had.  First the coffee.

It's espresso and cappuccino in Italy and both are equally lovely.  I don't consider myself a coffee snob, but after being in Rome I might have to buy and Italian espresso maker.  It was almost buttery.  There was nothing bitter about it.  Just smooth.  Then they put it over gelato and my brain exploded!
That's right it is chocolate gelato, espresso, a little hot chocolate for good measure and whipped cream and called affogato chocolatto.  It tasted like magic and rainbows and unicorns!  Then there was pasta, a baked goods, and fresh made mozzarella covered in prosciutto....heaven!

Let's get serious now....the pizza....oh the pizza!
Something came over me when I ate pizza in Rome.  Normally I consider myself a polite person.  I take a bite of food, chew it, and then move on.  When eating pizza in Rome I could not stop shoving the pizza in my mouth at such a rate it would make an Italian grandmother blush.  It was perfect.  Above was my favorite.  It was a white pizza with thinly sliced pears, gorgonzola, mozzarella and parmesan.  I still dream about that pizza...perhaps one day we will meet again...sigh...

Finally tiramisu
The restaurant found out it was my birthday and brought me tiramisu.  It was sweet.  I'm not the person who would normally order tiramisu in a restaurant, but I was thankful for their sweet gesture.  It was in a simple bowl and was the best thing I had in Rome - well that and the pizza, and the affogato ....it was all really good. I've heard this from chefs on TV, but they are right.  Quality ingredients treated simply is the best food.  That's what I learned from Rome. 

There were a few details I left out in my earlier posts that I wanted to include.  First was that the Rome weekend started out right with a little prosecco on the plane.  I thought of Egla as I sipped.  She has taught me many things, one of which is never pass up prosecco. 

Also look at these gorgeous tapestries from the Vatican.  The detail was incredible and I have no idea how one would even begin to create such a thing.  There was an entire hall with walls covered in these large tapestries. 

This is an ancient Roman sculpture and is what Michelangelo used as inspiration for Jesus' body on the cross in the Sistine Chapel.  He said the agony of the body's position emulated the agony of Christ.  Every artist needs inspiration.  

I love you Rome and I will miss you, but for now on to the next adventure...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Roman Holiday part 2

The Roman Adventure continues....

Here is the exterior of St. Peter's Basilica.  It is why the word awesome was created.  I cannot count the timesnthis building took my breath away.  It is where popes are buried and where St. Peter himself is buried.  You cannot see his crypt without an appointment several months in advance, but regardless the basilica was stunning.  

The Basilica has a massive dome that when outside it looks immense and expansive, however when inside it seems much smaller.  In this area of Rome no building can be taller then the basilica's top.  
The Basilica is as long as 2 football fields (thank you Rick Steve's podcast) and impressively ornate.   And there is Brittney standing in the Basilica and she is almost dwarfed by the expansiveness.  
The Basilica also houses Michelangelo's pieta.  This is the only sculpture Michelangelo signed because he created the sculpture early in his career.  This is also the only thing my dad, Terry Cherry, told me to see in Rome so I figured I would post a picture to prove I saw it.  ....See Dad, I listened!
This is the main alter in the Basilica.  The picture is not the greatest because the sun was so bright through the stained glass circle.  In the center of the stained glass is an image of a dove.  The dove's wingspan is six feet.  This speaks to the massive size of everything.  The dove looks about 2 - 3 feet in wingspan because of the massive size of everything surrounding it. I have an obscene about of pictures from here, but I want people to keep reading so I'll spare you.  
This is the circular center in front of St. Peter's Basilica and adjacent to Vatican City.  Rome has 14 ancient Egyptian obelisks (not 100% sure this is Egyptian, but the fact is correct) which is more then in Egypt!  
Next was Trevi Fountain.  We happened upon the fountain almost by accident as we got lost on our walk back from the Vatican. We arrived right around dusk and apparently we picked peak time.  The lights in the fountain were beautiful and there were a ton of people gathering, having wine, some tourists, and all were throwing a coin in the fountain.  It is said if you throw a coin in the fountain it ensures your return to Rome.  So good news I'll be back!

Next was the Colosseum.  To say it was impressive would diminish the history of the place and devalue the brilliance of architecture.  It left me speechless.  It was built in only 10 years. Again, thanks to the Rick Steve's podcast I was well informed.  
We were able to roam freely and explore the Colosseum along the exterior seating.  The "backstage" of the Colosseum was underground and the most interesting section to me.  There were 80 places that scenery, animals, and people could appear from all while being organized from beneath the floor.  The director in me wanted to imagine what coordination had to have taken place for just a moment of activity.  
Next was the Roman Forum and the center of ancient Rome.  This panoramic picture attempts to show some scope, but really it is hard to see the entire scope even when looking at it in person.

We climbed to the top of Palatine Hill to see as much of the Forum at once.  When you looked to the right you saw the Colosseum and in the center, ancient ruins, and to the left modern Rome.  The juxtaposition was difficult to digest.  

As I stood at the top of this hill and looked out it occurred to me that in two days I had witnessed the center of a prominent world religion and the center of what had been the first great civilization. These two historical powerhouses were just a short distance from each other and existed roughly around the same time.  Constantine brought Christianity to the Roman Empire.  What a time of excitement and change!  Being in the same space of these powerful cornerstones of history was overwhelming.  

Speaking of overwhelming... next stop the Pantheon.  This is a public building and because we were in the off season there was no line to get in.  Let's get some perspective of those pillars in front.

Yeah Brittney...not even close.  Inside was no different.  The dome was so massive I could not get it in one camera shot.
Inside every nook and cranny was packed with symbols and statues.  I have to be honest...I forgot to listen to my boyfriend Rick Steves so I don't know too much about the Pantheon, but I will listen to it this week and you can google it if you want more info!

This little stop was an unexpected place we fell upon again wondering around the city and turned out to be one of my favorites.  This is where Julius Cesar died.  It is a small square surrounded by modern Roman shopping and traffic.  I just love the amazing pockets of history everywhere in the city next to an H&M!
Here are the famous steps of where Cesar was stabbed.  It sound so brutal to fall in love with a place that was so violent, but I guess the distance in time makes is seem almost idealic.

Where Italy's Senators meet.  Too bad the building isn't dignified and lovely!

That is all for now.  The third and final post will be dedicated to food.  The food and coffee deserves its own post filled with love.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Roman Holiday part 1

Well we did it!  Birthday weekend trip to Rome! I guess every birthday from now on will have to include a fabulous Italian destination right?  We left on Thursday and arrived back in Norway on Sunday, which means we had two full days in Rome...and every minute was amazing!

First, I feel the need to do a little self congratulations.  This is the only bag I took to Rome for the weekend.
I assure you this bag is not that big, it fit easily on my shoulder and had room to spare!  I felt so low maintenance and care-free!  I assure you I am not an animal and was still able to carry all the necessities.  There was argon oil, a curling iron, make up, etc. A girl's gotta live.  
This was my face before we left for Rome and it pretty much didn't change all weekend.  We arrived late Thursday night and got a good night's sleep before our 10:30 appointment with the Vatican the next morning.

Navigating Rome is not the easiest thing in the world.  The narrow winding streets and lack of traditional street signs make getting lost an inevitability rather than a possibility.  We allowed plenty of time and got to the Vatican with time to spare.  
Enough time for a cappuccino and cake! You can't go to Rome without trying their coffee.  It was the best coffee I'd ever had.  The cappuccino and espresso was smooth and almost buttery, not bitter at all.  I'm a 1 - 2 cup a day drinker, but if coffee tasted like this everywhere I'd have a serious addiction!

At the Vatican we joined a tour group, one so we would learn things and two so we could skip the line at St. Peter's Basilica. The tour was very good and Marco our tour guide kept us informed and entertained.  
This was just through security inside the Vatican.  As you can see it was a gorgeous day.  The Vatican Museums form a rectangle around the area we were standing.  Marco took us through the highlights of the Vatican Museums. I'm sure someone could spend days there. 
The Roman art was amazing and massive.  The picture with all the busts is one small hall in this massive place.  The next few pictures are some of my favorites form the Vatican museums.
This sculpture is of some famous Roman god...I think.  (As you can tell I was an attentive student to the tour.) What I do remember is that his two sons are being eaten by the snake which is around all three of them and the figure in the middle is the father. It shows his anguish of having to watch his sons death. It is said to represent a father's pain of loosing a child and even though the father is about to die he does not care about his own death, just the deaths of his sons.  Sad and beautiful huh?

This is a bathtub that a rich Roman had made because he didn't want to bathe with other people, but we were assured that it probably held him and a few lady slaves...classy!
A sculpture of a goddess of fertility...why yes, those are bull testicles around her neck.  Well done for noticing that!

This is the sarcophagus of Constantine's daughter.  Constantine brought Christianity to the Roman Empire.  Across the room is the sarcophagus of Constantine's mother as well.  It's interesting to note that the mother's sarcophagus is covered in pagan images, but the daughter's is covered in Christian images.  It was a strong symbol of how quickly the empire shifted under Constantine's rule.

Let's talk ceilings...

The ceilings were incredible.  They were themselves immense works of art, but in a hall with other immense works of art.  I bumped into a lot of people at the Vatican because I was walking around staring straight up a lot.  I don't know how to say excuse me in enough languages...

And then the Sistine Chapel.  Ok...I have an confession.  I took this picture illegally.  You can't take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, but I pulled out my phone and held it half in my purse and half up and got this pic.  Not bad iPhone, not bad.  I don't recommend doing this.  I did see 2 girls escorted out of the Sistine Chapel because they had their phones out and were talking - two big no nos.  

The Sistine Chapel was interesting.  It was smaller then I thought it to be, but more impressive.  The ceiling is the most famous, but it was the big painting on the end that was so powerful to me. I took an illegal picture of that too. (Please don't come get me Vatican Police!)
This picture is not that great and I clearly caught that guy on the left at his finest, but you can at least see the painting. It is huge, several stories high and depicts the second coming of Christ.  There were so many symbols in the painting that I would need to do a lot of research to fully be able to absorb everything, but there was something about it that drew me in.  I wanted to dive into the painting.  I guess Michelangelo knew what he was doing!

The Chapel itself was COVERED with images and symbols and the detail was breathtaking. Our guide Marco said that Michelangelo painted everything in the Chapel himself.  He had help mixing color and with the scaffolding, etc. but everything seen was his hand.  I wanted to just stay in there for a long time and soak it up. The visceral experience of being in the presence of such great art is indescribable.    

At the gift shop outside the Vatican this little puppy was making friends. He wandered inside and outside of the shop.  I assume he belonged to someone, but was too precious with his ball!  

That's all for now.  More on day 1 later...I haven't even gotten to the food yet!