What a Fabulous Fabulous place !!!!!!
I spent Sunday cruising around Trastevere and getting familiar with the way things work in Roma. The Hotel Farnese is indeed fabulous, and I have again the very best room in the hotel - third floor, looking across a quiet treed private alley to another gothic faced palazzo. In the distance is the dome of St Peters at the Vatican.
Hardly slept Sun night because I was SO excited about the arrival of Arnie. Got up early (!!!!!) and was actually at the airport ahead of time. Can you believe that Arnies plane arrived just 2 minutes late after coming all that way from NZ ! Anyway, it was great to see him. He travels well and so we spent the afternoon over at Trastevere again trying to get into the park whch was closed because it was a public holiday (work that out ???). Anyway, we have done ALL of the back streets of Trastevere and saw some lovely things in the process. Glimpses into the gardens of huge houses, vintage Ferraris etc. Dinner was at an enoteca - wine bar, and Arnie was in his element chatting up the waitress whilst surrounded by wine bottles. I was bursting with happiness as we walked home along the river Tiber, passing the Castel Sant Angelo and crossing several lovely marble and travertine bridges over the river that have amazing carvings and statues.
Tuesday May 2 (Helens birthday so we text her). We visited the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Both were totally smothered by millions of tourists but we managed to appreciate their beauty anyway. I have limited tolerance for pushing shoving tourists so we just have to stay a little while at those places. Wandered streets again, got our tickets sorted for the train to Florence and booked tickets for Cirque Du Soliel Thur night.
Tonight Arnie and I are going to an operatic performance of famous arias we found out about on a flyer at the hotel. The venue is St Pauls church, and we get there very early, so score the best seats in the front row. I am 2 metres from the singers !!! The setting is sublime, great acoustics with beautiful mosaic floors and frescos, mosaics and sculptured marble lining the walls. The orchestra consists of strings, including a harp, and woodwind. The flute is fabulous !!!! There are 4 singers - soprano, mezzosoprano, tenor and baritone. The men are in black suits and the women in period costume. I am practically in tears after the second peice, a duet by Offenbach. Some gorgeous peices by Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, and Bizet to name a few. And they sang a rollicking piece from La Traviata as a encore. I was just in heaven !!!!!!
Arnie and I head for a bar close by and order up big, Arnie has his first Italian pizza and I have penne in 4 cheese sauce and a Tuscan Chianti. We have lots of fun with the waiters and the music is good too (but a lot more modern that the opera we have just left). At 11pm Arnie goes to pay with his visa and it won't work. We only have 11 Euros between us and are in trouble !!!! We envisage the rest of the week doing dishes, but the guys are really great, don't make any kind of fuss, don't expect us to leave a watch or anything, and kindly say just come back tomorrow and pay. I am totally gobsmacked by this trust and generosity !!!
Wednesday, Bless Arnie who gets up early, and goes into town to pay our bar bill, just to prove what good types we Antipodeans are (and avoid being stalked by Roman debt collectors). Then off to the Roman Forum and Colosseum. The public transport in Italy is really really great, SO easy, goes everywhere, and heaps of services (except late buses on the Amalfi coast...). The Roman Forum is free and much much better than any other Roman ruins I have been to, and far better than Pompei. Great arches, pillars, a Roman road, churches etc. We spend hours and hours (whilst dodging tour groups) lounging about on large marble blocks, wandering in the Roman spring sunshine and gazing at the various vistas that unfold. Arnie is not complete until we finally head for the Colosseum as he is dying to see it. And it is colossal ! We arrive about 5 pm and the queues have subsided. I marvel at the weight of rock that is above us as we enter below. Again we wander, and ponder emperors, gladiators, slaves and hungry lions. There are some lovely views through the arches over the rooftops and other famous buildings of Rome as the sun goes down and the colours of the dusky sky heighten. Pizza at a local restaurant and more vino rosso. Not sure how I got talked into pizza again.... Another perfect day in Rome !
Thursday. Up "early" to see the Vatican museums. We get there about 10 am and the queue is unbelievable, I will say that again...UNBELIEVABLE. Goes round the block !!!! Arnie and I, being shrewd Kiwi types, decide to go up the other side of the road and then sneak across and join the head of the queue just as it goes into the museum, saving hours !!!!! Handy tip there folks ! The museum is HUGE ! Actually has 5 hectares of floor space, so we are guided by Lonely Planet to the key sites. The Pinoteca are rooms with many famous paintings including an unfinished Da Vinci, Rafaels, and Michaelangelos. Then it is off to the Sistene chapel via the marble sculptures, huge detailed tapestries with gold thread, the carta geographica (really beautifully painted old big map frescoes on walls) all along long long corridors with frescoes and bas reliefs all over walls and ceilings. The crowd is heaving. Up a lot of stairs, twsting and turning through rooms and doors, then finally we reach the Raphael rooms with many of his most famous frescoes. They are really huge as well, I could sit and look for hours but the place is totally packed and not very conducive to reflection.
Finally around another twist we are herded into the Sistene chapel, a big rectangular room with frescoes all over walls and roof - Michaelangelos masterpeices. They are indeed breathtaking but so are the crowds and the very officious gaurds who move us on from standing on the steps. No photos are allowed but I sneak one without flash as we are leaving, just to give some idea of the effect.
This keyboard has very sticky i and n keys so I keep missing those letters ! More internet fun, can't download camera easily here tho DO have usb cable now, so stay tuned...
Exit the museum and round to St Peters Baslica at the Vatican. This is free, and I am TOTALLY blown away by the inside of the Basilica including the Duomo. If you have been there you will know what I mean, otherwise just make sure it is on your MUST SEE agenda. It is vast inside with many massive side rooms. All created out of beautiful stone and marble. I would love to hear opera sung in this space. The afternoon sun slants in through the windows high up in the duomo and I am transfixed with awe. The Catholic church certainly had a lot of money. As we come out there is a bevy of grey suited police armed to the teeth entering te square. Wonder if the Pope is popping down to the shops ?
Dinner near the hotel then the No 30 bus all the way to via Cristoforo Colombo to see Cirque Du Soleil. I am SO excited as we have A reserve seats (didn't sit on drill rigs in 50 degrees for all those years in Kalgoorlie for nothing). Our seats are 10 m from the stage and the show is mindblowing. Several times I did not breathe for minutes, and probably dribbled down my front too. There was a trapeze act, acrobats bouncing and tumbling on planks, acrobats on trampolines - all flipping three or four times in the air, the chinese twins who can bend over backwards and look between their legs, aerial feats, and a guy balancng on a stick and performing poses with his legs. It was very French, beautiful, fabulous orchestra, amazing costumes, light effects etc and worth every cent !!!!
Friday, we head out of Roma via the Metro then a bus to a hilltown called Tivoli and the Villa D Este. Built on a hillside, the villa itself has fabulous frescoes, but the water gardens are the highpoint. Built down the slope in front of the villa they have harnessed some of the nearby river water and run it through hundreds of pipes and channels to literally thousands of fountains spouts and ponds. I am totally in my element here, it is SO SO beautiful and peaceful and inspiring. The fountains are driven by hydraulic head, and some used to play music. In some places they were once set up to squirt the passers by. WOW.
This week in Roma has been like the most beautiful dream. To Florence tomorrow and Diane arrives from London. I am wonderng how Austin is going in Croatia.