Monday, August 02, 2004

Ciao Roma

I can't believe it's August and I'm leaving Rome so soon although it seems I've been gone forever. The director of the Vergilian Society tour, Stephen Tuck of the University of Miami, Ohio, picks us up at 9. The packing got done, somehow, and three of us girls had a great 'Ciao Roma' evening last night. We wandered downtown a bit and then went to Il Buco, a great restaurant, for a last dinner. Again the waiter loved me...I ordered one thing, he shook his head and said 'no' so I just got what he wanted me to get. This doesn't happen with other people! I ended up with tagliatelle in a hare sauce, something I wouldn't order in a million years but it was, of course, delicious. For a secondi, strips of beef sauteed in red pepper and arugula. When we declined dessert, they brought over a bottle (!) of vin santo, a sweet dessert wine, and a basket of biscotti in which to dip it. They chatted us up and we ended up staying over 3 hours, finishing the wine and eating another basket of biscotti! We took pictures with the waiter and he made us promise to send him a copy! Even though we were full, we had to have one last gelato at Giolitti's, and as we walked back to the bus we gave our farewells to the eternal city. Although I'd really like to just come home, I know these next two weeks will be wonderful. I don't think we have internet access at the Villa, so I wish all of you a happy remainder of the summer and I'll see you in two weeks. Goodbye,'s been amazing.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Last week in Rome

We were lacking all Internet connection for a few days but it's back and I have a lot to catch up on! I think I left off the day I was sick but getting bettter which was Tuesday so I'll start with Wednesday. On Wednesday we had a full day starting at the Catacombs of San Sebastiano on the Via Appia. These are underground cemeteries of mostly Christian people. The tunnels along with the spaces for tombs were dug right out of the tufa, a soft but strong rock that is found in this area. There are about 60 catacombs around Rome; this particular one was in three layers and had roughly 7 miles of tunnels total. We walked through and saw some of the tombs, inscriptions, graffiti and even reamins of some oil lamps that were set into the wall near the tombs for light. There is a basilica over the catacombs which holds the relics of Saint Sebastian who was martyred during some of the persecutions of the Christians in the Roman empire. That same day we went to EUR which is an area of Rome built by Mussolini for the World Fair which never happened because of WWII. This part of town is mostly Fascist architecture meant to display all the treasures of the old Roman empire as well as Mussolini's 'new' empire. We were going mainly to see the Museo della Civita Romana which has the HUGE plastic model of Ancient Rome which was very cool, but the rest of that museum kind of stunk because it's all copies (bad ones) of real things that are in real museums. It was like one big fake museum. I hated it! But anyway, we were given a whole hour for lunch and I had some great pizza. Then we went to see a WWII monument that was very moving. It seems that 33 Germans died in a bombing by the Italian resistance and when Hitler found out he wanted 10 Italians killed for every German that died. So Hitler's men rounded up 335 Italian men picked at random from the prisons, many of them imprisoned for being Jewish but also some Christians, from all walks of life, from ages 14 to over 70, took them to a cave, shot them to death and imploded the cave. This was right before the Allied forces came into Italy, and over the next few years the cave was excavated and the bodies identified. The monument is near the cave and is basically the stone sarcophagi of each man with his name, age, and occupation, a small portrait, and either a cross or a Jewish star to indicate his religion. They are placed in rows and only 9 are unknown. In one row I saw six men from the same family, three generations' worth, and each had two roses in front. It was a solemn outing, needless to say. We went home after that and the night was spent studying. The Centro looked like a college dorm, people were drinking cokes and coffee and eating popcorn in their pajamas. The exam was 8:30 Thursday morning and took over 2 hours. I realized I haven't had a Classics exam in about 10 years! But I think I did very well, and I did get my diploma in my mailbox today so I passed but I don't know my actual grade. After the exam and one last lunch at the pizza place di Simone, we went to our appointment to see the excavations under St. Peter's Basilica. We had to show our permit to the Swiss guard and they had to let us was awesome. Everyone in the square was like 'Who are they and how come they get to go back there???' St. Peter's is built in the area of Nero's circus where many Christians were martyred, and where several cemeteries were back in the day because it is outside of the ancient city walls. We walked through the excavated areas, mostly tombs, and had a very pretty tour guide who should go to Hollywood to be a soap opera actress...very melodramatic. After the tour, the director of the Academy had a reception at her apartment so we dressed up and went there for wine and munchies, and then we had hamburgers and fries made for us especially by Maria, the Centro cook who is amazing, and then we went to see the opera Il Trovotore at the Baths of Caracalla!!!!!! I had organized the outing, collected the money, and bought the tickets, and all 26 of us went which was great. The story line is very convoluted so Charlie, an opera fan, made a synopsis handout for us to look over. It was helpful but basically none of us knew what the heck was going on because we couldn't understand a word. But it SOOOOO didn't matter because it was just beautiful...all of us dressed up, at this gorgeous ancient site all lit up at night, listening to beautiful music. It was amazing. Friday was hectic...we were looking at churches all morning, got a 2-hour lunch break (we found a fabulous spaghetteria in Trastevere), and then looked at churches all afternoon. Then we had our farewell dinner, a spread beyond belief, and singing and gifts for the staff and for Myles and Justin. An all around good time. On Saturday I joined Joanne at the Crowne Plaza hotel and spa...yes, spa! We stayed by the pool all afternoon, had a wonderful dinner (yes, every meal I have had here has been fabulous!!!), and on Sunday I saw her off, got a massage and went back to the Centro to pack which has been a nightmare! I don't know how I'm going to get all my stuff home! Tonight, one last outing...