Two sides of Rome

Rome, Italy We did a bit of wandering around the city today. Instead of going two blocks one way to go the the Trevi Fountain, we went two blocks the other way to the Pantheon. On the way we passed the Temple of Hadrian, next to our hotel.

The Pantheon now features an extraordinarily long line of ticketed, reserved tourists waiting to get in. Every other time we have been in Rome, we just walked in. Crazy times.

We were on our way to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. The front of the church features an elephant done by Bernini holding up an Egyptian obelisk. (Obelisks were all the rage with Roman emperors and everyone had to have one.) Inside was the grave of St. Catherine of Siena, a Michelangelo statue (loincloth added later) and the grave of Fra Angelica as well as tombs of several Medici popes. It remains a Gothic church, which fortunately never got ‘Baroqued.’

Sant’ Ignazio was quite a different story. It has an illusionistic Baroque ceiling, and a dome that isn’t really there, along with a Neapolitan Christmas scene. They may be getting ready early.

Across the street is the headquarters of the art fraud squad of the Carabinieri. Keep up the good work, boys. There is also a very conveniently located clerical vestment outfitter, where no amount of ornamentation is spared,

From there we went across the Tiber River, across ancient bridges to an island where Rome was first settled, and then into the Trastevere quarter, the old working class neighborhood of Rome. On the edge of the river, we stopped at a hand-made Italian ice kiosk. Have I mentioned how hot and humid it is here? This treat really hit the spot.

We wandered through the narrow streets of buildings that range all the way back to medieval times. There was little competition for sidewalk space here, but an incredible amount of street work going on.

Our first destination was the church of Saint Cecilia, which is evidently very somber inside, and very popular for weddings. Unfortunately, it was closed today.

After lunch we visited the church of Santa Maria in Travestere, loaded with Byzantine 12th century mosaics. Lovely, especially when Gregorian chant issued from the choir. It claims to have the first mosaic showing Mary at the throne with Jesus in heaven. There was also a well-visited statue of St. Anthony with lots of little notes at his feet. He has always been one of my favorites.

Don’s Food Corner

We have one more day in Italy before heading home so I can’t say definitively that we’ve had the worst meal of our trip. But I don’t think tomorrow could be worse — or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

Our first mistake was that we just plopped down in the closest restaurant at hand. We were tired, hot, and hungry. There was no attempt to search out any guidebook or internet suggestions. And we couldn’t have walked another block to see what was around the corner. I got a little worried when we were presented with a vast menu. Could the kitchen be proficient with all those choices? Apparently not. Or we just seemed to have ordered the wrong things.

Our hunger prompted us to order too much and we left most of it uneaten.

So, for the record, Jo started with a tortellini dish that featured a mushroom sauce. The tortellini was definitely from a package or the freezer section. The sauce was some type of cheesy glue. I tried cacio e pepe, which turned out to be just a variation of the glue that they had put on Jo’s tortellini.

Next, thinking I would try something “light” after a generous breakfast, I ordered a salad that promised apple, gorgonzola cheese and arugula. It did indeed have those ingredients, but it was a mess of a combination and impossible to eat. I gave up. Jo ordered veal scaloppini in a lemon sauce. There was plenty of sauce, alright, but it didn’t seem to have much to do with lemon and was favorless. The veal was tough so she gave up.

Actually, we both gave up after passing the dishes back and forth.

We’ll try to do a little better tomorrow. But, indeed, it IS possible to get a bad meal in Italy.

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