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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
A Two-Piazza Day

The sun returned on Tuesday and the weather was perfect for walking so that’s what we did. Our first goal was the Piazza Campo de Fiore where we knew we could replenish our supply of raw almonds at the outdoor market. (Mrs. U.J. sautees them in olive oil and garlic and they have become our regular munchies because they fight cholesterol and taste good, too). The market was crowded and the sidewalk cafes along the sunny side of the square were packed with happy people soaking up rays along with their morning espresso.


The Campo de Fiore is only a couple of blocks from the Piazza Navona so after acquiring our almonds we strolled over there to check it out. Navona is one of the largest and most colorful of all of Rome’s many piazzas (it has three magnificent fountains) and even on this penultimate day of February at the nadir of the tourist season it was swinging. We ate our lunch sitting on a bench near the central fountain and people-watched while listening to a couple of pretty good guitar players who had set up nearby.


Later in the afternoon we visited the Museum of Rome which is housed in another magnificent palazzo on the Piazza Navona, this one formerly owned by the Braschi family who can point to numerous cardinals and a couple of Popes in the family tree. The City of Rome now owns it and it houses a marvelous collection of art works and other stuff all relating to the history of Rome. Unfortunately pictures were not allowed so the Elph had to stay in Uncle Jack’s pocket. Twas a pity because he could have added significantly to his John Ashforth Memorial Collection of nude statues.



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There has been a market in the Piazza Campo de Fiore (field of flowers) for centuries. Reminiscent of the Berwick Street market in London but much nicer.

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Gorgeous fruits and vegetables, many of which we have never seen or heard of before.

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What could be more pleasant than to sip espresso or an aperitif while sitting in the sun on a February day in Rome. That's a rhetorical question.

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The hooded figure of Giordano Bruno looms over the otherwise carefree piazza. He was a philosopher who was burned at the stake for heresy in this spot during the Inquisition.

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This meat store in the piazza is a veritable carnival of carni.

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Entering the Piazza Navona from the south. It was built over the foundations of an old Roman amphitheatre that seated 35,000 people who watched athletic contests here.

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Another palazzo belonging to the Pamphilj family which they lease out to the Brazilian Embassy. (See yesterday's blog for more about the Pamphiljs).

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Pope Innocent X (a Pamphilj) commissioned this magnificent fountain which depicts four great rivers of the world. He paid for it with a tax on bread. Can you believe it?

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Another of the fabulous Piazza Navona fountains, this one at the north end of the square.

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This one is at the south end. This must be a great place to be in August when it gets hot in Rome.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:23 PM

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Monday, February 27, 2006
The rain in Rome falls mainly.

Monday the 27th, the penultimate day of February, was rainy, cold, and windy and would have been thoroughly disagreeable except for our visit to the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj which houses one of the world’s finest privately owned art collections. Both the palazzo and the galleries within it are reminiscent of the Pitti Palace in Florence which up to know has been unrivalled in our experience.


The oldest part of the sprawling palazzo dates back to the late 1500’s but it came into the rich and powerful Pamphilj family in the early 1600’s. Cardinal Camillo Pamphilj (pronounced Pamfeelee) received it as part of a marriage settlement from his uncle Pope Innocent X (whence came the term nepotism) and it was he and his descendents who enlarged the palace and filled it with priceless works of art over the next three centuries. Members of the family still live in one large wing of the palace which is not open to the public.


At various times the palazzo has had some very distinguished visitors including the composers Vivaldi and Corelli who were employed by the family and George Friedrich Handel who wrote his first oratorio while in residence here.


Due to a trust established by Pope Innocent X in the mid-1600’s none of the Pamphilj properties (which include several other palazzos of equal or greater magnificence) or art works may be sold, consequently the collection has grown through the centuries to the point where it would be impossible to establish its value in monetary terms. Some of the finest works of Caravaggio, Titian, Velasquez and others are included, the sale of any one of which could finance the gallery for decades. It must be a costly business even for a family like the Pamphiljs to hold it all together. Only a few years ago the roof of the oldest wing of the gallery collapsed under the weight of snow crushing millions of dollars worth of sculpture only some of which could be restored at great cost.


Uncle Jack managed to take a couple of pictures with the flashless Elph before one of the guards nailed him so he doesn’t have much to show for their four hour ramble through these magnificent old buildings but he can tell you it was one of the high points of our first ten days in Rome. As is always the case with London, a little rain in Rome does not slow our dogged pursuit of high culture in all its myriad forms.




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The exterior of one of the four wings of the Palazzo Pamphilj. The square in front, like most of the other small piazzas in Rome, is used as a parking lot.

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A fuzzy view of one of the many gallery rooms, all equally opulent.

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A peeling ceiling in one of the galleries. The upkeep on this place must be staggering.

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One of several lovely courtyards inside the buildings.

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Yet another courtyard, with orange trees.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:08 PM

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Sunday, February 26, 2006
Two kinds of markets in Rome.

Our guide book says that on Sunday morning half the people in Rome head for the weekly flea market at the Porta Portese in the section known as Trastevere which for centuries has been primarily a working class residential neighborhood. As it happens Porta Portese is only a fifteen minute walk along the Tiber from our apartment so we decided to join the throng heading in that direction at 9 this morning. Both Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are veterans of some world-class flea markets like Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane and Bermondsey in London but nothing had prepared them for Porta Portese.


There are literally miles of stalls selling everything from popcorn to Lamborghini parts and bargains abound. It is possible to buy a full-length genuine leather coat for under $25 and there are hundreds to choose from. Where the sellers got them it is better not to ask. In spite of its vastness (it must be ten times larger than Petticoat Lane) the crowds, especially on a sunny day like today, overwhelm the available maneuvering space so we were lucky to get there relatively early. By the time we left at 11:30 the entire market was in almost total gridlock. An unforgettable experience.


After lunch we continued our leisurely exploration of the Forum, several important parts of which we had not seen before, including Trajan’s Market, Rome’s first shopping mall and office complex which contained more than 150 spaces for stores and offices. It was anchored in a sense by Trajan’s Column, a massive obelisk which has somehow survived the vicissitudes of 2000 years during which Rome was sacked, burned and otherwise assaulted by numerous raiding armies.


It appeared that most of the Romans who were not shopping for bargains at the Porta Portese were wandering around the Forum Area. The wide street called Via del Fori Imperiali (one of Mussolini’s most hated projects) which is usually filled with speeding cars, trucks and mopeds becomes a pedestrian walkway on Sundays where throngs of people, locals and tourists alike, congregate to gaze at the ruins, examine the wares of dozens of street artists or listen to street musicians and (like us) eat gelato, the Italian ice cream that is good enough to make Ben and Jerry weep with envy.


We are beginning to understand why so many people consider Rome to be the loveliest and most civilized big city on the planet. It probably is.



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The Tiber is relatively low at the moment but very fast-flowing. The Trastevere section is on the right. Oh to live in one of those apartment houses overlooking the river.

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When the river is high the trees along the banks pick up loads of trash from the water. Not very picturesque.

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Porta Portese in full swing---a pickpocket's paradise.

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A perfect gift for Uncle Jack's daughter Emily whose birthday is coming up in March. Fortunately she has a wonderful sense of humor.

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A combination gelato shop and gas station near the Forum. Trajan would have been delighted.

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Tourist admires the remains of the Emperor Trajan's magnificent market complex. It wasn't quite as big as the Mall of America but it's pretty impressive for something built in the 1st century A.D.

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Trajan's Column sandwiched between two more modern churches near the Piazza Venezia. (The churches are only a few hundred years old---the column nearly 2000).

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A bas relief account of Trajan's many conquests spirals up from the base to the top---still in amazingly good condition.

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The Via del Fori Imperiali closed to all but pedestrians and the occasional bicycle. What a treat on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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Tourist gazes west over the Forum toward the Colosseum in the distance which we will visit tomorrow, weather permitting.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:58 AM

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Saturday, February 25, 2006
A trip to the Trevi

Ever since the movies “Three Coins in a Fountain” and “La Dolce Vita” back in the 50’s no trip to Rome has been complete without a visit to the Trevi Fountain in which Anita Ekberg, the pneumatic Swedish starlet, famously cavorted in a dress that seemed to defy the law of gravity. We made our pilgrimage this morning in conjunction with a trip to the Anglo-American bookstore nearby where we replenished our dwindling supply of books about Rome written in English. With or without Anita Ekberg's mammarian embellishments the Trevi is truly a stupendous piece of fountain-building which dates back to 1762 at which time it marked the terminus of an aqueduct built in 19 B.C.


After ogling the fountain along with several hundred other tourists (and eschewing the opportunity to cast three lucky coins into its watery depths) we took a bus to a Jewish neighborhood not far from our apartment which in olden times was the Jewish ghetto surrounded by a wall within which Jews were required to live. Our goal was to find a chicken for dinner in a “macceleria” or butcher-shop to which we were directed by the owner of our neighborhood “salumeria” which does not sell uncooked meat of any kind. Rome is full of specialty food shops of all kinds which are protected by the government from the devastating effects of supermarkets for which we are grateful.


Today was a bright, sunny, warmish day for a change and if the weather holds up we plan to stroll along the Tiber tomorrow morning to the great Sunday flea market in the Trastevere section which the guidebook says is not to be missed if you have the time. Luckily we have the time.




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This upscale shopping mall occupies an entire square block near the Trevi. Highly recommended if watching the fountain leaves you in need of a toilet

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A Saturday morning crowd gathered to stare at and throw coins into the Trevi Fountain.

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This is part of it. The fountain is too big to be captured in one little Elph photo. It's all white marble.

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This is the upper part with all the info in Latin about which Popes paid for it and when.

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The main statuary group consists of Neptune with two Tritons on either side. Magnificent work by an artist named Cavalli.

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The fountain is on such a colossal scale that it took about 30 years to finish it.

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This seagull is a long way from the Mediterranean Sea but it seemed right at home among the urban pigeons.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:58 AM

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Friday, February 24, 2006
Rain and the Risorgimento

Friday the 24th was yet another drizzly day in the Eternal City (eternally rainy we are beginning to think) so we abandoned our plans for a trip to the Vatican this morning and stuck closer to home. Fortunately there is enough interesting stuff to do within ten minutes of our apartment to keep us busy for the rest of our stay so we‘re not complaining about the weather yet.


We started by returning to the Museo Venezia where we toured a show of 18th century Italian secular art a couple of days ago but this time roamed through the rest of the building which is filled with a great variety of sculpture, paintings, ceramics (of which the Italians through the centuries have been masters), tapestries, armor, furniture and much more. Our favorite gallery was the one that contained a display of hundreds of exquisite small bronze figurines of animals, people, mythical creatures and what not, some of which were hilarious and quite unfit for display in a family web log.


The building itself, the former Palazzo Venezia, was worth the small price of admission. Part of it dates back to the 15th century when it was a Papal Residence and various wings have been added over the centuries so that it is now a very imposing and ornate structure. So much so that Mussolini took a liking to it back in the 30’s and made it his headquarters. Many of his rabble-rousing speeches leading up to WWII were made from a balcony overlooking the Piazza Venezia where huge crowds gathered to hear him.


In the afternoon we went across the Piazza to the Victor Emmanuel Monument which houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as the Museum of the Risorgimento. The monument is an over-the-top pile of white marble that sticks out like a sore thumb on the Capitoline Hill (also home to Michelangelo’s beautiful Capitoline Square and the Campidoglio) and which Romans either hate or love. The museum houses memorabilia from the 19th century “Risorgimento” which was the struggle to unite Italy led primarily by the great soldier Giuseppe Garibaldi. Uncle Jack had hoped to fill in gaps in his knowledge of the Risorgimento but alas most of the written explanatory material was in Italian . Fortunately it was also free so he doesn't feel too bad about it.



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Mussolini's balcony on the Palazzo Venezia, now a state museum.

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The Vittorio Emmanuel Monument. He was Italy's first King after the Risorgimento ended.

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Another party at the old Roman frat house. Ashforth would have loved this one which is in the Palazzo Venezia.

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A bus bird in the cafeteria at the Risorgimento Museum.

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Picture of Garibaldi being treated after getting shot in the foot. The boot in the foreground was the one he was wearing and shows the bullet hole.

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Oh yes. And here's the bullet. In terms of adulation he was sort of the Robert E. Lee of the post-Risorgimento Italy.

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The Great Man himself. There must be a hundred pictures of him in the museum along with his sword, his pistol and his fingernail scissors.

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King Victor Emmanuel, Roi d'Italia.

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A corridor full of "memobilia" as Dr. Sarah Forbes used to say in her Windmill Point ads.

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Another view of the Forum (Colosseum in the background)from the back of the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument. This is one of the highest points in Rome and the views are spectacular. Lots of steps to climb, though.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:16 AM

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Thursday, February 23, 2006
A Day in the Capitoline Museum

Thursday the 23rd started out dry but turned into another drizzly day. We took refuge in the Capitoline Museum which is a short walk from our apartment where we spent six hours gazing in awe at the treasures housed in the two large buildings which make up the museum. Not only is the Capitoline the oldest public museum in Europe (a century older than the British Museum) but we have to say it is the most magnificent in our experience. The Louvre and the Uffizi and the Victoria and Albert and the Metropolitan in New York City are wonderful institutions but the Capitoline is beyond awesome in the variety and excellence of the collections it holds and the way it displays them.


The two museum buildings flank the Campidoglio around a magnificent plaza designed by Michelangelo himself. A heroic equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius stands in the center of the square surrounded by a vast mosaic which pulls the whole thing together. Rome has a lot of impressive public spaces but for sheer elegance the Capitoline Piazza takes the prize. What a wonderful place to spend anotherwise gloomy day.


Uncle Jack took so many pictures he decided to spread some of the best over two web log entries so when you finsh this one scroll on down to the next if you would like to see more.



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The Michelangelo Steps leading up to the Campidoglio and the Capitoline Museum.

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One of two magnificent statues at the top of the steps.

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The Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo. The Italian equivalent of our Nation's Capitol in D.C. The Capitoline Museum is housed in the two buildings on either side.

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This copy of a heroic equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius fronts the Campidoglio. The much older original is on display inside the museum where it is protected from the elements.

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The original bronze, restored. About 1600 years old.

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Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf in accordance with the legend. The bronze wolf was cast in the first century A.D. and the boys were added several hundred years later.

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A close-up of one of the most famous statues in Rome. Uncle Jack remembers it from the fourth grade when he studied geography under Mrs. Stonebreaker.

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The Drunk Old Woman, one of the many oddities in the sculpture collection.

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Entrance to the Capitoline Museum. Its two buildings are connected by a subterranean passageway revealing ancient foundations beneath the piazza.

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Panoramic view of the Forum from the back of the Capitoline Museum.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:41 PM

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Thursday, February 23, 2006
More pictures from Rome, 2/23/06
Mostly from the Capitoline Museum.


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The Dying Gaul, a Roman copy of an older Greek sculpture. Our former attorney general, the prudish John Ashforth, would probably have shut this whole place down.

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Magnificent view of Rome from the Capitoline Museum. St. Peter's and the Vatican on the horizon.

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Colossal statue of a reclining Triton.

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Bigfoot and friend.

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Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, by Peter Paul Rubens.

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Wall-size fresco in the Hannibal Room of the Capitoline.

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Tourist examining huge painting in the Capitoline. This enormous picture, frame and all, was stolen by the French and removed to the Louvre at one point. Obviously the Romans got it back.

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Mosaic of leopard attacking cow. Uncle Jack is not sure how PETA would feel about this.

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One of the enormous historical frescos depicting scenes in Roman history. Really gory.

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Roman pedestrians are the gutsiest people in the world. To cross the street you have to put yourself in front of speeding vehicles and hope they will see you and stop or whiz around you. Really scary.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:40 PM

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Rainy day in Roma

Tuesday the 21st was a rainy day in Rome as it was in most of Europe. We did manage a trip by bus to the International Pharmacia in the Piazza Barberini before the deluge where we learned a bit more about how the American consumer is being ripped off by the big pharmaceutical companies. Uncle Jack bought a replacement for his Ventolin inhaler for only 4.5 euros which is a little over $5 at the current rate of exchange. At his friendly neighborhood CVS in KDH he and his insurance company are required to fork over more than $100 for the same item.  How can this be allowed to continue when Medicaid and Medicare are being screwed to the tune of billions?


The sun returned on Wednesday so after hitting the local salumeria and greengrocer for breakfast, lunch and dinner supplies they set off on foot for the Museo Palazzo Venetia a few blocks away where a special show of secular 18th century Italian art gathered from all over the world is in its last few days. Uncle Jack had to keep the Elph in his pocket but he can tell you the show was magnificent even though it contained not a single Adoration, Crucifixion or Ascension .


The Palazzo Venetia, now the museum, was a Pope’s house back in the fifteenth century and was later commandeered by Mussolini who lived there and sometimes made speeches from the balcony overlooking the Piazza Venetia. The Piazza is a wonderful place to watch Italian drivers at their finest. Three streams of traffic feed into it from different directions and somehow have to cross each other without benefit of stoplights. It is fascinating to watch them perform this elaborate motorized ballet and so far we have not seen a single accident.


Bus travel around the city is even easier than in London because of excellent signage that tells exactly where each bus is going and the fare is only 1 euro per ride. Many of the streets are narrow, however, so traffic tends to move slowly and it can be almost faster to walk sometimes as we learned yesterday.



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Bernini's magnificent Triton Fountain in the Piazza Barberini (he was the Pope who hired Bernini to decorate Rome in the 17th century). Dolphins hold up a clamshell on which Triton sits and drinks from a horn.

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Rainbow over Rome, Wednesday morning 2/22.

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Part of the Palazzo Venetia which is now the museum we went to this morning.

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The mosaics in one of the stairwells are sea-themed with delightful depictions of some very familiar creatures. These were off to the side where they don't get walked on too much so they have survived for centuries.

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Ditto.

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Ditto again. This was like walking on the beach in South Nags Head.

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Interior of our neighborhood salumeria at lunchtime. Customers pick a loaf of bread from an assortment and Mario makes sandwiches to order.Very slightly reminiscent of a Subway.We are having some of those sausages hanging in the background for dinner.

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Another of our neighborhood ruins on the Via Teatro de Marcello.

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An ancient temple across the street from our apartment. Very well preserved.

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Another view of ruins at the entrance to the Forum. The Curia is the brick building in the background where the Roman Senate once met.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:16 PM

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Monday, February 20, 2006
.............on the way to the Forum

Monday the 20th got off to a rainy start but by noon the sun was out to stay and produced a perfect balmy afternoon to explore the Forum which is a five minute walk from our apartment. Nothing funny happened on the way to the Forum but once we got there it was sheer enjoyment. Pompeii and Herculaneum were impressive in their own way but their ruins don’t hold a candle to Rome’s. (aargh)


The pictures below are only a small sample of those we took before the Elph’s memory stick topped out. They can convey only a little of the magnificence of the Forum which is surely the most awe-inspiring collection of buildings and ex-buildings we have ever visited. There’s nothing quite like it in Dare County, at least not yet, but Uncle Jack is not sure what our deep-pocketed commissioners might have in mind for their new county office building complex.


Tuesday, weather permitting, we will tackle the Palatine Hill (everything’s on hills in Rome it seems) and possibly the Colosseum if our legs hold out. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we can see why.




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The magnificent Arch of Septimius (c. 200 A.D.) and the Curia where the Roman senators met to discuss beach renourishment on the right. U.J. can't remember which church that is in the middle.

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A hybrid building made up of a 2000 year old Roman porch on the front and a baroque church in the back. Many of the buildings in the Forum have elements spanning a thousand years or more.

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The enormous Basilica of Julia has seen better days. It was once one of the largest buildings in the Forum.

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Eight splendid columns are all that remains of the Temple of Saturn. The Visigoths (among others) did a number on Rome a few centuries back.

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A lucky American tourist poses with his guidebook under the Arch of Septimius.

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Mosaic floor in the Curia, still intact after 2000 years. This is not Home Depot stuff.

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Spring has sprung in the Forum. The Palatine Hill is in the background (tomorrow's agenda).

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These young ladies may not know it but this is where the body of Caesar was cremated after he was done in by Brutus.

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Part of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius, once the largest building in the Forum. It must have been gigantic.

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Remains of the Temple of Vesta---home of the Vestal Virgins. If you don't know anything about them it's worth Googling. If you think you have a tough life......

posted by Uncle Jack at 2:28 PM

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Sunday, February 19, 2006
First Day in Rome

We got up at 5 a.m. Saturday to catch the 6 a.m. bus from Sorrento to Rome---a four-hour trip in spite of a massive traffic jam occasioned by an accident involving a convertible which apparently rammed a guardrail at high speed and broke in two, scattering parts over a considerable distance. Our bus, traveling at 60 mph most of the time, was routinely passed by cars going at least 90 mph and darting in and out of lanes.


Crazy.


We had booked an apartment in Rome through our landlord in London who had lived here for eight years at one time and knew the city inside and out. It wasn’t until we arrived at our apartment house that we realized just how good her advice had been. Our studio flat is in a converted 19th century palazzo smack in the middle of the Forum district


within a short walk of the Colosseum, the Campidoglio (capitol), the Pantheon and dozens of other archaeological treasures.


On Sunday morning (65 degrees and sunny) we hopped a Big Red Bus for a grand tour of the city which has helped us to get an overall picture of the challenge we face in the next month. There is so much to see and do it is almost overwhelming.


One of the delights of our apartment building is that it is equipped with both wireless and wired high-speed internet in the lounge. Uncle Jack is in hog-heaven.



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Our apartment house (yellow building) with Arch of Janus (left, 200 A.D.) and Basilica of St. George (right, 400 A.D.) The Basilica contains the remains of St. George (of dragon-slaying fame) which were brought here from Jerusalem 1300 years ago.

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Starkly simple interior of St. George's basilica. It is the oldest church in Rome and one of the most beautiful in spite of its simplicity. More than 200 weddings are performed here every year.

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Crossing the Tiber en route to the Vatican on the Big Red Bus. Castell St. Angelo, the Pope's residence, in the distance.

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St. Peter's church in Vatican City on a sunny Sunday morning. Crowds have begun to gather even though this is the rock bottom of the tourist season.

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Entrance to the grounds of the Villa Borghese, a huge park in the center of Rome which once belonged to the fabulously wealthy and powerful Borghese family which is now sort of Rome's Central Park.

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Part of the Campidoglio which is sort of Italy's equivalent of our capitol building in Washington. It sits high above the old Roman Forum and presents a real challenge to aged and infirm tourists like your correspondent. It's a hundred steps up no matter

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Old timers like Uncle Jack remember this building from old Pathe News clips of Mussolini haranguing huge crowds from the balcony in the center.

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Not the Trevi Fountain made famous by Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita but pretty nonetheless. Fountains like this are scattered all over Rome.

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A "modern" apartment building built on top of an ancient ruin in the Forum area near our apartment. Conservation at its finest.

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Sunset over the Forum taken from our apartment.

posted by Uncle Jack at 2:25 PM

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Friday, February 17, 2006
Big Day in Sorrento

Saint Antonino of Abate is the patron saint of Sorrento and yesterday, Tuesday February 14, was his day. Lucky for Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. that they had decided not to go to Venice (where it’s still winter) this week because they got to be spectators at Sorrento’s biggest celebration of the year, and it was a doozie as the pictures suggest.


Their apartment happens to be on the Piazza San Antonino, almost next door to the basilica whose crypt holds his remains, where much of the day’s activity took place. A grand parade started and ended under their balcony on Tuesday morning and the square was filled with people, concession stands selling every imaginable kind of candy, balloon merchants, shooting galleries and a host of other entrepreneurs hoping to make a euro or two on the day). It was one of the most colorful and joyous events they have ever experienced; a delight for the eyes and ears from beginning to end.


     This will probably be the last blog entry until after we arrive in Rome on Saturday. Don't know yet what the internet situation will be there but we'll try to get hooked up one way or another.



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Statue of St. Antonino emerges from the basilica (14th century building in parts) on the shoulders of some very strong parishioners. Teams of carriers alternated during the long parade.

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The girls choir sang throughout the parade at intervals. Beautiful voices.

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Crowds lined the streets for miles. This man brought his dog to enjoy the festivities.

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Many confraternities marched in the parade, each garbed in splendid robes and carrying flags and religious objects. This gentleman carried a basket of doves.

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The excellent "Bandistico de Sorrento" (City Band) marched in the parade and then played concerts in the square all day long. They make look a little sloppy but they play very well.

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It must have been a long hike for these little tykes but they seemed to be enjoying it.

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These colorful carabinieri acted as guards for the statue during the parade. Military of every stripe were in evidence thoughout the day, all dressed to the nines.

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This vendor of pickled pigs' cheeks offered us a free sample which we politely declined. He was doing a brisk business without us however. De gustibus non disputandum est.

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A street painter found a way to make a few euros by rendering St. Antonino in chalk after the parade was over.

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Sponge Bob hasn't been deified yet but it's probably only a matter of time.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:01 AM

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Saturday, February 11, 2006
Trip to Amalfi Feb. 11
   Amalfi is a pretty resort town facing the Mediterranean on the other side of the Sorrento peninsula from the Bay of Naples.  It is reached by one of the hairiest bus rides on the planet but the scenery en route is glorious.


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Part of the Amalfi coast. How they managed to build houses in this terrain is beyond us. All the little towns along the coast have been there for thousands of years but have only been reachable by wheeled vehicles for the past 70 years or so.

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Positano, one of the resort towns between Sorrento and Amalfi. The traffic congestion in this area must be incredible during the summer because it's bad enough in February. Uncle Jack will never badmouth the bypass again.

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The Emerald Grotto so-called. One of the prime scuba diving locales in Italy.

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Amalfi harbor. Full of sailboats in the summer. Pretty much deserted, as is the town, in winter even though it was warm enough to sit outside and eat lunch.

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The beach at Amalfi---nothing but gravel. Maybe if the Nags Head Town Council gets its way we too may have a beach like this one day.

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The main street in Amalfi goes up, and up, and up from the harbor. The whole city clings like barnacles to the steep hillside.

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The Duomo in Amalfi. Parts of this church date to the 14th century. Incredibly beautiful tile facade reminiscent of the Duomo in Florence.

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Ceramic tile map in front of the ancient main gate in Amalfi.

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Ancient tower overlooking Amalfi. We have no idea how they get up there.

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Ceramic tile decoration in front of a fish store in Amalfi.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:30 AM

Comments [6]



Friday, February 10, 2006
Pompeii

Uncle Jack probably first heard about Pompeii when he studied under the redoubtable Mrs. Stonebreaker in the fourth grade at Beaser Elementary School in Ashland, Wisconsin. Little did he think then that he would ever visit this most famous of all the world’s archaeological sites but that is what he and Mrs. U. J. did this week---twice. The ruins are fascinating and cover an area much larger than can be seen in one day by anybody with less stamina than a Lance Armstrong. Having decided to stay another week in Sorrento they plan another trip to the summit of Mount Vesuvius itself whence came the shower of ash and mud that buried Pompeii and other nearby towns like Herculaneum in 79 A.D., preserving them as vast time capsules of life as it was lived in Roman settlements 2000 years ago.


The pictures herewith are only a tiny sample of what is on display in Pompeii. His little Canon Elph performed magnificently, recording no less than a hundred sights that will eventually be transferred to DVD so at any time they will be able to relive this unforgettable trip, and bore their friends and relatives silly at the same time.



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What you see at the main entrance to Pompeii, the Porta San Marino. Excavations began in the 18th century and are continuing.

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One of the many streets made of large stone slabs. Treacherous walking but they look like they will hold up for a few thousand more years.

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Part of the Forum, one of the central public areas which contained a temple to Apollo and a number of other important shrines.

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Tourist explores another part of the Forum. Except for a half-dozen Japanese tour groups we had Pompeii pretty much to ourselves this day.

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Casts of victims were made by pumping liquid plaster into the cavities left by the decomposition of the bodies over time. Grotesque but fascinating.

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Mosaic tile floor at the entrance to one of the grander houses. There are dozens of these scattered among the ruins. The Romans must have loved dogs.

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Speed bumps were a Roman innovation. This little three-wheeled truck had a hard time negotiating them.

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One of the several theatres where dramas and musical performances were put on. This "small" theatre seated several hundred people and orignally had a roof.

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A 2000 year old fresco of Venus rising from the waves. Could this have inspired Botticelli's very similar painting we wonder.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:05 AM

Comments [7]



Sunday, February 05, 2006
February 5, More pics from Sorrento

    Scroll down to the next web entry for the first couple of pics from Sorrento.  Here are some more.


    Today, Sunday the 5th, is our last day in the Antiche Mura hotel.  Tomorrow we move to a small apartment nearby with cooking facilities  for our second week in Sorrento.  On the schedule for this week are a return trip to Pompeii and a couple of visits to the Amalfi, Positano, Ravello area on the other side of the Sorrento peninsula. Stay tuned.



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The waterfront looking east from the Porto where the boats leave for Capri and Naples.

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A typical side street full of shops. Some of the buildings date back to the 15th century.

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This is one of them. It is now used as a workers' club and has a restaurant and bar which is open to the public.

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Lemon trees are everywhere. Sorrento is a center for lemon culture and the manufacture of lemon products including a delicious liqueur called lemoncello.

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The Sorrento equivalent of London's blue plaques. Hendrik Ibsen stayed here not far from our apartment.

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Dinner at Caruso Ristorante. The owner has created a shrine to the great tenor with pictures and memorabilia from his career. It is considered by many to be Sorrento's finest eating place.

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This flaming dessert was a treat from the owner, Paolo Esposito, who is watching on the left. They treated us like visiting royalty so we ate there four times.

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The Antiche Mura, or Old Wall, after which our hotel was named. Built by the Greeks in antiquity to protect the city. Many parts are still standing. No particle board here.

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The Piazza Tasso at night. There is some kind of holiday going on but we're not sure what it is.

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There was a marathon run today from Castellamare to Sorrento. Hundreds of runners participated. A very festive occasion with a military band and lots of colorful hoopla. Last year we saw a similar event in Malta.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:36 AM

Comments [3]



Saturday, February 04, 2006
Sorrento, February 4, 2006

     Please accept our apologies for the lack of weblog entries but the broadband connection in our otherwise wonderful hotel has been on the blink and we just now got a chance to use the hotel computer.


    Sorrento is lovely and we look forward to being here for another week in a small flat we have rented.  By Monday we should be able to send pictures of Sorrento,  the Isle of Capri where we went on a day-trip on Thursday and Pompeii which we visited yesterday. 


    The weather has been beautiful ever since we got here---warm and sunny unlike London. No wonder people "Ritorna a Sorrento" like the song says.



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The Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii in the background----taken from the waterfront in Sorrento.

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The Piazza Tasso, the main square in Sorrento, near our hotel.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:30 AM

Comments [6]




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Uncle Jack lived in Nags Head for 35 years before he moved to Baltimore a couple of years ago. He still has a house in South Nags Head which he and Mrs. U.J. visit every chance they get.
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