Tuscany to Venice, summer 2006 travel blog

Tiber River (Tevere) illuminated for Solstice

Typical Roman street across Tevere from my apartment on the way to...

Pantheon. Intact Roman temple in the center of Rome

Traveler with gigantic head of an Emperor

Theater at Ostia Antica, along the Tevere near the coast

From the Botanic Garden, island of quiet and tranquility near my apartment


I am learning my way around, at least on foot. Sometimes I get lucky, jump on an airconditioned bus and it goes to, or at least near where I want to go. The bus system is superb. Yesterday, Sunday, I decided to take a boat ride down the Tiber River (Tevere) to the archaeological excavations at Ostia Antica, on what was the ancient coastline and ancient course of the Tevere, and which is now a few miles inland. See what happens when you denude a watershed and stream banks of trees and vegetation and channelize a river? The Medieval Pisans controlled the Mediterranean Sea with their ships and port until the Arno River, devoid of trees in its watershed, silted up their harbor.

I saw a lot of wonderful birds along the Tevere. Three kinds of falcons from sparrow hawk size to cooper's hawk size to red tailed hawk size. Ducks and baby ducks, gallinules and baby gallinules. Herons, flycatchers, etc. I have an Italian bird book and am trying to learn their Italian names.

The excavations were a wonderful change from Rome's heat, lack of tree cover and incredible energy. I virtually had the place to myself. Cooler ocean breezes and a canopy of flat topped maritime pines and tall, tall cypress made it a wonderful day.

Not to say City life is not a great deal of fun. My apartment is a block from the Tevere at Ponte Mazzini which takes me to Campo Fiori and Piazza Navona in the center of Baroque Rome, filled with beautiful churches, palazzos and piazzas and churches.

My apartment is not a long walk from the Capitoline Hill, the Forum, Palatine Hill and Coloseum. I cannot reconcile the wonderful art, literature, and architecture of the Roman period with their wholesale slaughter of living things and the incredible evil of many of the post Augustan emperors. But, who can reconcile the simultaneous good and evil any time, much less our own. Romans seem very sensitive to injustice. The gay parade was as big and energetic as San Diego's and the Coloseum is illuminated whenever somebody escapes unjust punishment, the death penalty, or justice and humanity creep ahead. A fitting turn about to how the ancient Romans used the Coloseum.

At solstice I attended an illumination of my part of the Tevere, from Ponte Mazzini south to Ponte Sisto. It was beautiful. I was able to be there at sunset for the start, and then woke to birds singing at dawn the next day, and saw the end of the celebration. Birds sing all the time out side my apartment. I visited the Botanic Garden today, a few blocks from my home. An oasis in the City. Filled with many palms and sequoia and cactus and succulents from California as well as elsewhere in the world. And a whole lot of very interesting birds, many of which I have never set sight on before. Colorful woodpeckers and nuthatches. Birds sing very loudly and sweetly here.

Art is everywhere from 17 centures before the Romans, in the Bronze age, to contemporary works like Tevereterna on solstice. Displayed in place, in the gigantic palazzos all over town it is impressive. At one family's house, Velasquez's portrait of an ancestor, Pope Innocent X, hangs with thousands of other works including Caravaggio, Titian, and many others. The Pope is said to have said of his portrait by Velasquez, It is incredible, as is the Frances Bacon portrait of Innocent X done at the end of this century, which I saw on exhibit in Santa Barbara, an interesting bookend.

I get to attend concerts any night I please. Some are outdoors, amidst Roman ruins at Teatro Marcello, a walk along the Tevere from here. Some are inside churches or palazzos. All settings are incredible. I can walk up just before the show starts, buy a ticket and walk in. I have enjoyed renditions of Chopin, Mozart, Lizst, Beethoven, Gershwin and others.

Off to the Vatican tomorrow where I hope to see the Pieta, my all time favorite sculpture.



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