Monday, August 27, 2007

An apt article from the Seattle Times about Rome

Monday, August 27, 2007 - 12:00 AM

Permission to reprint or copy this article or photo, other than personal use, must be obtained from The Seattle Times. Call 206-464-3113 or e-mail with your request.

Ciao, Roma!
The heat of the day — and night

By Terry Tazioli
Seattle Times Travel editor
(Seattle Times Travel editor Terry Tazioli is on his annual quest for good food, good wine, good friends and a new Italian verb form or two.)

Rome has been scorching — 102 degrees on the weekend.

I'm no fool. Part of the weekend I spent lying on the tile floor of the apartment, two fans aimed directly at my body. You think I'd go out in that heat?

OK, so I did.

Blast furnace. I walked past a few restaurants whose waiters were sitting, spread-legged and exhausted, among empty chairs under superheated umbrellas. There was nobody around.

Even the pigeons, which are everywhere, seemed to ignore bits of food tossed their way.

The one thing I treasured was walking by the open entryways of shops that had their air-conditioning on hyper drive. A blast of cool, 20 feet of swelter, a blast of cool, 20 feet of swelter. Maybe it was some massive, coordinated attempt to cool the heart of Rome. Maybe it was a gigantic slap in the face of global warming. I didn't care. You care on my behalf when it's this hot.

The most alluring thing I saw was a restaurant sign that advertised pasta and beer, 9 euro! OK, it was just the beer that was alluring.

I thought about sitting at a bar down along the banks of the Tiber River. But, um, the river has a bit of an odor when it gets to be this warm. No thanks.

I wandered past a couple tourist hot spots (oh, so aptly described).

There weren't the usual hordes around the Coliseum or the Piazza Navona.

Ever seen the tourist trudge? Take the family on vacation, make them see everything they can possibly can cram into one day, add 102 degrees and hot, hot, hot buses and you get the tourist trudge.

I ended up pretty far from home so I hopped on a city bus. I hopped off on the next stop. I thought I'd been jammed into a locker room after aerobics class. Sardines have it better. At least they're dead.

In the evening, I went out late to meet a friend. I sat on an old stone barrier to wait. After a while, I was wondering why I was becoming hotter and hotter. The sun had been gone for nearly two hours.

My pants were hot!

Guess what, the stones were hot!

Guess what? I'm stupid.

I'm going out again tonight. Some dinner somewhere very, very late. Where there will be no stones and hopefully no sweaty people.

And maybe — pasta and beer for 9 euro.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Chiesa de S Pantaleo

On my way back from the pharmacy, I continued with my determination to enter any open church that I pass and went into the Chiesa de S. Pantaleo. However, I only took these two photographs because there was an "Avviso" on the door that said:

Durante I mesi di luglio e agosto non ci sara la messa vespertina nei giorni feriali. Ci sara invece nei giorni prefestivi e festivi, e nei triduo e festa di S. Giuseppe Calasanzio (22-25 agosto). L’orario normale riprendera nei mese di settembre.

I couldn't understand anything in the announcement except that some event was happening 22-25 August (today is the 25th) and that "normal hours restart in September." Therefore, I decided to be cautious in my picture taking. I'll go back later on and examine the church more thoroughly when I am certain that it is not prohibited.

Ce una farmacia qui viccino?

I haven't seen any standing water in Rome, but the mosquitos are worse than in Amsterdam. My legs are covered in bites, which itch miserably.

I went out on Saturday to find a pharmacy to buy some anti-itch cream, some repellant spray (DEET or not, I don't care anymore!) and some blister band-aids. (As an aside, I figured out that even if your shoes are well-broken in, as mine are after nearly two months in Europe, walking on uneven cobblestones will still give you blisters because your feet slide around a lot.)

I went to the pharmacy near my house, but it was closed. When pharmacies are closed here, there is a sign outside the door that says where the closest open pharmacy is located. It said that there was an open pharmacy located on the corner of Piazza Navona. I walked to the Piazza Navona, which is not very far away, and walked all around the square. I didn't see any pharmacy on the corner.

I went to a Tabbac (tobacco shop - also sells maps, stamps, bus tickets, etc.). I picked up a map and asked the girl if there was a pharmacy nearby "Ce un farmacia qui viccino?" I didn't understand all of her directions, but got the gist that there was a pharmacy two streets over. I walked down that street to the pharmacy - only to find that it also was closed. There was a sign on the outside listing the address to an open pharmacy, but I didn't know where that was located. Fortuntely, there was a police officer parked alongside the road and I asked him to point me to the pharmacy. He told me to take the next right, cross over the Piazza Navona, and there was an open pharmacy just on the other side.

Yeah! I arrived at the pharmacy. Managed to find the blister band-aids myself, and told the pharmacist "problemo - zanzara" (Problem - mosquitos). He gave me some corizone cream and also some repellant spray. The grand total for my three items was 25.80E, which is $35.20 USD. I kid you not.

Ostia Antica - and we can't build bridges that last longer than 50 years?

Last Saturday our class went to Ostia Antica, an ancient Roman port village outside of Rome. I am posting the Wikipedia link up front here if you want to know the details about it:

When we visited, it was nearly 105 degrees. I snapped a lot of pictures, but it was too hot to pause and read the placards in the broad daylight. To be honest, it was only my fourth day in Rome and in that heat, I really didn't care about the history.

I will say this, though, some of the buildings that are still standing were built in the 3rd century B.C. This means that they are 2,300 years old. The fact that one of our interstate bridges collapsed in Minnesota recently, and the I-90 bridge sank in 1990, and the Tacoma Narrow's bridge ("galloping Gertie") collapsed as well, is embarassing. Maybe our civil engineers could spend a few weeks here getting pointers from the Romans.

104 F

This morning, the class went to Ostia Antica (post coming soon). It was so hot that I was glad when we were done as there wasn't much shade there. When I got back to the apartment this afternoon, I had lunch and then decided to take a nap before going out in the early evening to explore and take pictures. As I slept, it seemed to get hotter and hotter and hotter and hotter.

I just googled the current temperature in Rome and verified that it was 104 F! The weather is more of a shock to me than anything else here. When I was in Amsterdam, it rained a lot, even though it was fairly warm. When I was in France, the second week it rained and was cold - just like October weather. To go from that degree of cold to this degree of hot is really challenging.

However, I am putting on my shoes now and heading out. I hope that the stone and marble of the churches help keep them cool!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Largo di Torre Argentina

The first day I was in Rome, I decided to walk down to the closest grocery store. The route took me past the Largo di Torre Argentina, which is the site of a holy temple, discovered in 1927.

See the following Wikepedia page for more information: The thing that struck me about this on my first day in Rome is that it is located in the middle of a busy commerical district.

It is like that here, though. You'll be walking somewhere and all of a sudden, Wham! You'll be smack-dab in front of something historical and amazing. In fact, I asked someone why Rome only had two subway lines and was told that it is too difficult to build the subway lines because they keep running into historical sites during the digs and can't complete the lines.

Campo de' Fiore: Pretty name, gruesome past.

The University of Washington's Rome Center is located in the Piazza del Biscone, which is itself located on a corner of the Campo dei Fiore (Field of Flowers). The name was given in the middle ages, when the square was still a meadow.

Capital punishments used to be held publicly in Campo dei Fiori: On February 17, 1600, the philosopher Giordano Bruno was gagged, stripped naked, and burnt alive by the Roman Inquisition following a trial because his ideas were deemed heretical.

In 1887 a monument was erected on the exact spot of his death: he stands defiantly facing the Vatican. (See:

However, today the name of the square seems appropriate. During the day the square hosts a fruit and vegetable market.

In mid-afternoon, the fruit and vegetable venders vacate the square, which is then peaceful until about 7:00 p.m., when tourists and students begin arriving to dine and drink the night away.

For more information:'_Fiori

Basilica de Sant'Andrea Della Valle

The Basilica de Saint'Andrea Della Valle is very close to my apartment in Rome. It is impressive. Construction began in 1590 and was completed in 1650, after a few starts and stops in between.

See'Andrea_della_Valle for more detailed information about the structure, its many chapels and decorations.