Thursday, August 27, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Thanks, Kate, for the bike rental cards. They came in handy. I would highly recommend seeing a city like Rome on bike. You save an immense amount of time getting around. The traffic is a little tricky, but you get used to it! It was a pure blast to pedal up via del Corso, around Piazza Venezia and down to the Colosseum, and all that in about 10 minutes.
We stopped on Via del Corso at Piazza Colonna to have a look at one of the beautiful victory columns in Rome. This column was erected in honor of Marcus Aurelius between 180 and 196 A.D., commemorating his victories over the German peoples and the Sarmatians. It is thought that these conquests held off the barbaric invasions for several centuries. Every portion of the 20 spirals tells part of the story.
Next we headed around Piazza Venezia (Napoleon's mother lived here in the Palazzo Bonaparte) and down the road that separates the Fora (forums) on our way to the Colosseum. Here we took a shortcut past the Arch of Constantine and made a left around the bowl-shaped crater that was the Circus Maximus. A couple blocks later Philip and I stopped for a water break, appropriately in front of the Baths of Caracalla. This was a huge bathing and sports complex built by Emporer Caracalla to accommodate 1500 people at a time, at the height of the Roman empire in 216 A.D.
Yes, it was appropriate to be looking at the Baths of Caracalla and aqueducts on such a thirsty hot day in Rome. It was a 96° F day with very low humidity. It was not an uncomfortable heat but we went through our water bottles fast. We each drank about a dozen bottles of water throughout the whole day. Fortunately there are fresh water fountains all over Rome, so we were able to fill up a dozen times free of charge! Some of these fountains are still fed by the original, ancient aqueducts.
The next stop on our jaunt was a remnant of the aqueduct that was built to feed the Baths of Caracalla. Only one arch remains of the aqueduct and has been named the Arch of Druso. This arch is found near the beginning of the Appian Way, the ancient road that runs from Rome to Brindisi on the east coast.
Not far from the "Ancient" Appian Way is the New Appian Way, and several blocks farther north you begin to find the miles of aqueduct ruins that lie on the east side of Rome, near the highly traveled via Tuscolana.
It was a good thing we were not on foot, because we started at one aqueduct park, then followed our noses into the city to what seemed to be one end of the different aqueducts, then finally back out to the eastern edge of Rome where there were still more long lines of them. We saw the ruins of the Marcius (144 B.C.), Claudio and New Anio (both 52 A.D.), and Felice (16th century A.D.) aqueducts.
By the time we were done with our inspection of the aqueduct system, we still had an 11 km. bike ride back into the center of Rome to drop off our bikes, and finally the bus ride home. We were pooped.
Sierra's plane leaves Rome on Monday. She's going to miss all the history and excitement. I wonder where she's going next?
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Gelato: No surprise that the gelateria is at the top of Sierra's must-do tourist list. What makes Italian gelato so good? Here is an answer from About.com (http://cookingequipment.about.com/od/icecreammachines/f/gelatovicecream.htm?r=et).
"There are actually a few main differences between gelato and ice cream. To find out, I asked Alon Balshan, owner of Alon's Bakery and Market in Atlanta, whose own gelato is quickly becoming a favorite among frozen-treat connoisseurs there.
Alon explained to me that while ice cream legally has a minimum of 10 percent fat, gelato is made with a greater proportion of whole milk to cream, so it contains more like five to seven percent fat.
But don't expect to be able to get Italian gelateria-style results by making a gelato recipe in your home ice cream machine: Alon also said that gelato is churned at a slower speed than ice cream, so it's denser because not as much air is whipped into the mixture. (Gelato contains about 25 to 30 percent air, while ice cream can contain as much as 50 percent air) Finally, while ice cream is typically served frozen, gelato is typically stored and served at a slightly warmer temperature, so it's not quite completely frozen.
As for that amazing, rich flavor, Alon says, 'Since there's not as much fat in gelato, it doesn't coat the mouth in the same way. So the flavors are more intense.' "
Most of us know this symbol of Rome, Roman history, and the Roman Empire as the Colosseum, but this was the popular name derived from the structure's proximity to a colossal statue of Nero. Its original name, The Flavian Amphitheatre, honored the family of Vespasian who began building the amphitheatre in 70 AD, the same year that his son, Titus, sacked Jerusalem. The Colosseum was finished in 80 AD by this same Titus, much of it being built with the spoils of Temple and the city of Jerusalem. The Arch of Titus was built in 81 AD by Domitian to commemorate Titus' triumph in Judea. Notice the amazing detail of the first depiction in history of the Jewish menorah being carried off by the Romans! Few if any Christians were martyred in the Colosseum, contrary to popular belief. (Alta Macadam, Blue Guide - Rome and environs)
As the name implies in Greek, "pan" = all, and "theon" = god (s), but meaning that it was a temple built to all the pagan gods. This structure is my favorite in Rome because it is almost entirely intact since it was rebuilt and finished in 125 AD. When I go on my run in the morning I get a view overlooking the city, and I always look for the Pantheon and think about the fact that someone standing on the same hill almost 2ooo years ago would have seen the same sight! This pagan temple was the first one to be converted into a Christian church building in 609 AD. Its most striking feature is the 142' diameter dome (43.3 meters) and is a marvel of ancient architecture. Even the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, built 1300 years later, is smaller.
Apart from the gelato, the Trevi fountain is much newer than all the other sites that Sierra saw. The immense fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732 and finished 30 years later, after his death. The real bit of history to note here is that this fountain, along with those on Piazzas Spagna, Navona, and Farnese are all fed by the Acqua Vergine, an aqueduct built by Agrippa in 19 BC to deliver water to his baths! It is still functioning. There are five other ancient Roman aqueducts that are still functioning in Rome. Amazing!