Rome - Trastevere
26 Jun 2012
|We travelled from Naples to Rome on the super fast train which got up to speeds of 300 km p/h and delivered us to our destination in about an hour, not even enough time to settle into some blog writing. John lazed back in his chair happy not to be driving. Though in Naples he had been even more glad he had ditched the car on the outskirts when he had seen the traffic there.
This time we stayed in Trastevere just on the opposite side of the river from the historical centre. In the 3rd century this area was given over to Christians by the emporer. More recently it was a working class area but is now well-restauranted, and has a soft sort of feel to it for Rome, with tree-lined meandering streets. At nights it's more buzzy and we were glad of our back room and double glazing.
We were just a short walk from Santa Maria in Trastevere one of the oldest churches in Rome, its basic floor plan dating back to 340s although there was a so called house church here before that. It is also claimed that this is the first church dedicated to Mary the mother of God though there is another claimant for this title. After it was rebuilt in the 340s it is also thought it may have been the first church in which mass was celebrated openly. It was rebuilt again in the twelfth century.
Apart from its fascinating history the church is a beautiful church. The 12th and 13th century mosaics that cover the apse are delightful, quite fluid, moving well beyond the constraints of iconic representations. They gleam gold in the darkness of the church interior. Outside, high up above the portico another set of mosaics tells more stories of Mary visible to all in the piazza below which takes its name from it.
Our good friend Judy Walsh sent us off to Saint Cecilia's in Trestevere a bit further off, another very old church with ninth century mosaics, Christ flanked by 3 saints on each side. Cecilia and her husband (also sainted) were rich Romans of the 3rd century and the church is believed to be built on their house. A moving sculpture of the woman lying curled up, blindfold as she was exhumed in 1599 in the presence of the sculptor. The sculptor's sworn statement that this is how he found the body. Saints bodies are supposedly incorruptible - it includes the gashes to the neck.
Excavations under the church allow you to walk through a series of rooms of the old Roman house and see what has been found. For example in one room a series of large terracotta vats in the floor which might have been for grain storage or a tannery at some stage.
When we were in Rome 4 weeks ago we went to the Palazzo Barbarini and thought one of the stand out works was a beautiful portrait of young woman by Raphael. She is believed to have been his lover and model. The painting is called La Fornarina or bakeress. When we arrived at our Relais Casa Della Fornarina it turns out it had been in Rephael's time the bakery at which this young woman was the baker's daughter and just a few doors down the Via there was a palazzo with Raphael frescoes. It was lovely to see a photocopy of her gorgeous portrait and read the story when we came down stairs that first day.
Hugh and Tash had travelled to Rome a couple of days before us. They had decided to skip Naples having already spent time there before and wanted the extra days in Rome. They had ensconced themselves in a lovely little apartment of a friend of theirs right in the middle if the historical centre and had lots of news to tell from these friends. We caught up with them from time to time, to do things or eat, and enjoyed a lovely lunch at a place near the Pantheon recommended by their friends, where I tried spaghetti with bottarga (tuna roe) very nice but rich.
It was very hard when we had to say our good-byes and head to the opposite ends of the earth.
We also caught up with our good friends Pam and Vic who had an apartment in Campo Di Fiori - great location and not far from us. So nice to meet friends on a warm summer's night in a gorgeous little piazza and then wander through streets to a trattoria serving homely food and catch up on travel stories past and to come while trying local dishes - best that night for my vote was carciofi alla Romana. I hope they travel well as they head north.