Saturday, April 23, 2016

Rome Beauty and Grandeur

Saturday, April 9:   I'm getting excited....I admit it!! The Rome Marathon is tomorrow morning! Eeek! So today my plans are to take it easy, sleep in a little, have a good breakfast and stay hydrated while not overdoing the tourist thing.

Every day there's an open air market in the Piazza Campo dei Fiori. In Italian this translates to "field of flowers" since, in ancient times, this was indeed a field filled with wildflowers. Today it is a lovely piazza near Palazzo Farnese and not too far from the Tiber river. So this was my destination this morning after breakfast.

It was a glorious day, beautiful sunshine, pleasant "sweater" temperature. I strolled the few blocks to Campo dei Fiori and as I entered the piazza the vast array of fresh food and produce for sale was breathtaking! I wandered a bit through the tables, getting a better perspective of this astonishing scene, and then became more systematic as I moved along the tables, checking out the wide variety of vegetables - some of which I didn't even recognize - and took photos.

Doesn't this all look absolutely luscious??

Pasta...squid ink? If I thought I could have gotten this home, I would have bought some.

Gorgeous oranges. And are those artichokes with their petals removed?

More ridiculous bounty! 

I was so tempted to buy! Sugar peas and green beans!

Pecorino cheese...classic Rome! I wanted to buy, but what would I do with it??

Roma tomatoes on the vine!! Oh my! So perfect!

I was particularly impressed with the artichokes. Such a rare vegetable here in the U.S., unless you live in California. I grew up eating artichokes. At the age of 6 or 7 I could break off the "petals," dip them in melted butter and expertly scrape the flesh off with my front teeth as I pulled the leaf out of my mouth. It's been years since I've eaten an artichoke this way!

Check out the size of these!!

Beautiful varietal

A table filled with luscious fruit caused me to stop and pull out my wallet. There were these tiny little strawberries, fragaria vesca (wild strawberries), and the merchant gave me a couple of them to taste. I was hooked! I bought a little pint tray. They had very intense flavor with a hint of different! We negotiated the price and when I handed her my money, she didn't have quite enough coinage to make change so she threw in a big handful of grapes, which was perfect! Now I had some nice fruit to snack on in my room later.

My fragaria vesca (wild strawberries) and grapes

I sat at one of the outdoor tables at a trattoria on the plaza and ordered a capuccino, then kicked back and people-watched for a while.

It was as good as it looks.  In the background, to the right of my cappucino, is a clear
plastic bag. I bought a mix of walnuts, almonds and cashews
that were so big and fresh! 

Time to move along. I continued walking south toward Piazza Farnese and away from the noise and crowds of the open air market. Immediately, I was surrounded by quiet and the elegance of the beautiful palatial buildings in this area. As I entered the piazza in front of Palazzo Farnese, I was nearly alone except for the solo cellist sitting in the center of the plaza playing beautiful classical music. I was transfixed. She was dwarfed by the sheer size of the palace behind her. I stopped in my tracks and just stood there, silent and enjoying the moment. She played beautifully and seemingly unaware of her audience, doing it solely for the joy she derived from her music. Wow!

Cellist in Piazza Farnese

I could have stood there all day and listened to this. After a few minutes I brought myself out of this reverie and, after dropping some coins into her cello case, continued on toward the Capitoline.

Steep stairs and lots of them! 

The view looking back, from the top of the stairs

As many times as I've been to Rome, I have never climbed these stairs up to the entrance of Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli, built in the 13th century. The basilica's plain exterior belies its opulence on the inside! Murals, chandeliers, stained was visually overwhelming! But gorgeous! And, lucky for me, pretty much ignored by the hordes of tourists, most likely because of the daunting flights of stairs to get there.
The modest exterior of Basilicia di Santa Maria in Aracoeli
says little about the opulence of its interior
This is such a pretty hill with such great views across the Roman Forum ruins in one direction and parts of the city in other directions. I exited the basilica through a side door which led me to some steps down to the Campodoglio plaza, designed by Michelangelo. Museums surround this plaza and an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius stands in the center of the plaza.
Statue of Marcus Aurelius stands in the center of Campodoglio plaza

View of the plaza

View of the Campodoglio plaza from the top of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli steps

I walked to the southwest side of the plaza to get a view of the Roman Forum ruins, the best way to get a good overlook of these ruins.
Excellent view of Roman Forum ruins from the Campodoglio

I wasn't too far from my hotel so I walked back down to street level, this time taking the Cordonata steps designed by Michelangelo. I returned to the hotel to drop off the fruit and nuts and to get some lunch.
Cordonata steps leading to Campodoglio, designed by Michelangelo

While eating lunch, I pulled out some postcards to address to my grand-kids. A family at the next table had two little girls who appeared to be the same ages as my grand-kids, so I asked them if they'd like to write greetings to them on these postcards. I hope these postcards eventually arrive in California!

After lunch, I decided to walk over to the marathon start line to check it out and get the "lay of the land" so that I'd know what to expect the next morning.

tomorrow's marathon start/finish line. See the coliseum in the background?
Getting excited and a bit nervous.

The start/finish line will be just a bit south of Piazza Venezia, on Via Dei Fori Imperiali. The barricades for the corrals were already set up, as was the arch over the start/finish line. There were bleachers along one side of the street for VIPs and elite runner family.  Via Dei Fori Imperiali was closed to traffic and I took advantage of this and walked the entire length of the corrals, all the way down to the coliseum and Arch of Constantine. This is where we'll gain access to the race corrals in the morning.

Along the way, I passed this little group of violinists:

Some good music coming from this quartet!
Fragments of what used to be an extensive aquaduct system in ancient Rome still stand today. This section is on Via di San Gregorio, at the base of Palatine hill. This aquaduct would have served the palaces atop the Palatine.

A segment of the ancient Roman aquaduct. this is near the Arch of Constantine
and at the base of Palatine.

I walked back to the hotel by walking along the Palatine and then turning north to walk along the ancient Circus Maximus, site of the chariot races in ancient Rome.

Circus Maximus, it's layout and size still very evident. I could almost see
Ben Hur careening around the track in his chariot.

The south end of Circus Maximus

I continued north, back toward Piazza Venetia and back to my hotel. But before having dinner, I walked to the end of the little alley and stepped into a really delightful little wine bar, Vini & Cucina, and had a glass of red wine and a little charcuterie platter to get my evening started. Later, I had dinner at the hotel restaurant and then it was time to get my race things laid out, set the alarm, and get a good night's sleep before tomorrow's marathon.

Tomorrow: Marathon day!!

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