July 6, 2008
What a busy and fun weekend! As I said before, my roommates and I went out Friday night to celebrate the 4th of July. For one night, we actually wanted to be as American as possible, so we decided to check out a few English- and Irish-style pubs, and we ended up having a really good time! At the first pub we went to, a pub crawl was just leaving, so it was relatively empty. Kathryn introduced me to Strongbow, a hard cider from the UK that tastes similar to beer but better, and was so yummy! After a while another pub crawl showed up, drunk and messy and clearly American, and I must say it made us a little embarassed to be from the same country as them, so we left asap. On our way to the next pub, we passed by a church with a homeless man on the steps....butt naked!! It was really awful, so we crossed the street just to avoid him. We ended up at a pub called the Scholar's Lounge, where we stayed for the rest of the night. It was a really great place and exactly the type of place we were looking for to celebrate the holiday! The atmosphere was really relaxed, and the majority of the people there were foreigners, mostly Americans and English/New Zealand types, no Italians really. The best part was the music though...all night they played really fun, typical "American" songs, like "American Pie" by Don McLean, "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. There really wasn't one bad song played the entire night, and everyone sang along, too! I ordered my first mojito there also, and I have to say it was DELICIOUS, but a little too pricey, so I probably won't be treating myself to another for a while. We ended up meeting some guys from Montana/Minnesota who are in Rome for the summer studying architecture, and we all chatted for a while, but we didn't exchange info when we left, so we won't be seeing them again. We also befriended a really nice guy from New Zealand who was sitting at the table next to us, and I think we all might hang out in the future. It was a pretty late night, but we managed to catch the night bus without a problem. It was the perfect way to celebrate the 4th, even if I did still miss the bbqs and fireworks a little : )
Saturday Carly and I went exploring to some of the places I've really been wanting to visit. We started at Campidoglio, aka Capitoline Hill. The piazza at the top, as well as the steps leading up to it were designed by Michaelangelo. The stairs are "ramped" and known as the Cordonata, and really quite unique. The piazza has numerous statues, including a pair of the mythical Roman twins Castor and Pollux and an imitation of a very famous one of Marcus Aurelius on horseback (the original is inside the museums). The piazza itself has three buildings, the Palazzo Senatorio (Rome's city hall), Palazzo Nuovo, and Palazzo dei Conservatori, with the latter two making up the Capitoline Museums. Touring the museums was the perfect way to spend the afternoon, as it was once again sweltering outside and nice to be looking at beautiful and fascinating things in a cool environment! The art pieces and ancient artifacts were all amazing, but some highlights included: a lifesize statue of Pope Urban VII by Bernini, some amazing 16th century frescoes covering entire walls, the famous bronze She-Wolf (Lupa) which has become a symbol of Italy, a marble head of Medusa by Bernini, a bronze portrait of Michaelangelo, a Roman chariot, the original statue of Marcus Aurelius (the imitation can't compare to the sheer magnificence of the original!), a moving statue of a man hanging from a tree after being tortured (it was carved with purple-veined marble to dramatize and emphasize his suffering), Penitent Magdalene by Tintoretto, an early Baptism of Christ by Titian, Caravaggio's impressive St. John the Baptist (it took us forever to find it!), and the famous statue the Dying Gaul. Besides the art, the museum had a terrace with a spectacular view of the Rome skyline, and a very unique way of connecting the two buildings that make up the museums. Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori are opposite each other in the piazza, so to get from one to the other, you pass underground first (underneath the Palazzo Senatorio) and then throught the Tabularium, which had the most breathtaking view of the Roman Forum below. Now that I've had my first taste of museums, I can't wait to check out more!
After the museums, we went to Santa Maria in Aracoeli (translates to "altar of heaven"), which is right next to Piazza del Campidoglio and also on Capitoline Hill. The church has it's own staircase, which is quite extensive and a work out just to get to the top! But the church is definitely worth it. The church stands on the site of an ancient temple to Juno, among it's many interesting facts. Inside there were beautiful sculptures and paintings. A standout was the round chapel of St. Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine.
Next we headed to Piazza della Bocca della Verità. On our way, we saw the ancient Teatro di Marcello and San Nicola in Carcere, a quaint little church built over three Roman temples, with the remnants of their columns still in the sides of the church. At the piazza, we saw the Temple of Hercules, and then went into Santa Maria in Cosmedin to see the Bocca della Verità (mouth of truth). Legend has it if you stick your hand in the mouth hole of the large stone mask, it will be bitten off if you are a liar. Other than that, the church wasn't too impressive. As we headed back to the Metro, we passed Circo Massimo aka Circus Maximus (with a great view of the Palatino in the background), where the Romans used to have chariot races and other games. Now it's just a field with a dirt track around it. Even though it was a really long day and our legs and feet were killing us, we saw and did a lot of fun stuff.
Saturday night we had plans to go over to Carlo's apartment for a mozzarella di bufala "tasting". In reality, we just ate entire chunks of mozzarella! Actually it wasn't quite as strange as it sounds. The cheese was served with super hot peppers and bread, and I have to say the combination of mild, creamy mozzarella and spicy (!!!) peppers was really good since the dairy dulled the heat but left a nice pepper flavor. I ate a pepper by itself before we started eating and I thought my tongue was literally burning off! The mozzarella was delicious, especially the smoked one. We still think it was strange to just eat cheese though, but I guess it's common here, or so they said. We spent the rest of the night chatting, drinking wine (of course), and trying to figure out what the real meaning of pesce is, which we still don't know : ) My favorite part of the night was Oliver, Carlo's chubby cat. The cat always looks stoned, with huge eyes and dilated pupils. He's not super friendly though, and he's kind of a tweaker, but he's SO cute. He even let me pet him last night! The guys drove us home pretty late, and I passed out, absolutely exhausted from such a busy but fun day.
I also found out some good news: the strike I was so worried about is actually only one day! I guess I was the only one who didn't realize this, too. So now we just have to worry about getting there and back tomorrow and that's it! Anyway, I hope everyone had a great 4th of July (if you're American)!! Buonanotte tutti.