Thursday, July 22, 2004
A bath, anyone?
The Vaticans Museums were, of course, fabulous. We arrived at 9 and hit the classical highlights with our fearless leader Myles, his wife and Justin. Each has his/her own specialty so it was a good visit. Three of the galleries that are especially interesting to classics nerds were closed to the public and when we saw the signs, we were devastated. Until we got the special permission!!! I love when they do that! We got into the Gregorian Room which is a lot of original Greek and Roman sculpture, as well as the Bracchio wing where they keep my favorite statue, the Prima Porta Augustus (sorry, Mel), and the Etruscan Museum. Those galleries and some other highlights kept us busy until noon, at which point many of us went to the cafeteria and had some great cheap pizza which was shocking, because usually when they have a captive audience like that the food is expensive and icky. The leaders left as did many others, but then I went through some of the other galleries, and by 4:30 I had seen all of the parts of the museum that were open, which is quite the feat. And speaking of feet, mine hurt! I waited FOREVER for the right bus and then some gelato was in order so stopped before going home. We had 8:00 dinner at the Academy which is always fun because the wine is free and everyone gets a little bit rowdy, much to the Fellows' amusement. Which brings us to Wednesday. We started at the Baths of Caracalla which are HUGE and fabulous. One of my favorite things is Roman baths and bathing practices, and we could see the various rooms of these baths which were the biggest ever built in Rome. We then went to see the Aurelian Wall (2) and the wall museum (kinda boring, like it sounds) and we got a true half day. A bunch of us got some pizza at the place down the street from the Centro - I got zucchini flower pizza and it was really good. We ate in the garden. It is getting hotter, finally. We were very lucky up until now and now we are paying the price. I don't know if it's the heat or the non-stop schedule, but after I finished my lunch yesterday I took a nap and didn't wake up until 6 p.m.! Dinner was okay...it hasn't been a fabulous food week. Today we did the Baths of Diocletian (2) (3). There are a lot of ruins of this huge bath complex, but most interesting is that the main part of the baths was taken over by Pope Gregory XIII who had Michelangelo turn it into a church, and that was the last thing he ever designed because he died before it was built. In the floor is a meridian line that follows the path of the sun...I can't explain it but it was really cool. The sun pokes through a tiny hole in the papal seal that's near the ceiling. It is somehow a clock and a calendar and also tells the path of some stars. I told Chris that now we have to come back so he can see it. We also went to the bath museum which is basically an epigraphy museum (lots of Latin inscriptions). It was a half day again, and we were near the oldest wine shop in Rome so I went to get some wine to ship home and then had lunch at their wine bar. It was a delicious lunch - many Romans have gnocchi on Thursday, so I had that, followed by grilled bread topped with ham and buffalo mozzarella and arugula, then for dessert, some espresso and millefoglie (sp?) which was thin disc-shaped cookies that tasted like Pepperidge Farm Milanos only better, layered with real whipped cream and wild berry puree. It was a huge and decadent lunch but I really enjoyed it. Besides, we had rabbit for dinner tonight at the Centro and let's just say, I tried it, but I was glad I had that huge and decadent lunch. I think it will be another early night because I am somehow still tired... Arrivaderci!