Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And now I know where to get the best view of Rome

Today was Charlie's first full day in Rome, and so he made a lot of the decisions about what to do today - and he made very good ones. First, he wanted to visit the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappucini, near the Piazza Barberini. One of his coworkers had told him about several chapels in the crypt decorated with the bones of thousands of deceased Capuchin friars, and so he wanted to check them out. I am so glad we did, because I had never heard of this church (it isn't even in my guidebook!) and I probably wouldn't have gone if Charlie hadn't suggested it. We weren't allowed to take pictures in the crypt (understandable - human life and all that), but here's one from Wikipedia to give you an idea:

The bones of the friars were arranged in complicated and rather kitschy mosaics, surrounding complete skeletons or even mummified remains of superior members of the order. I've been thinking that it would be interesting to place this church alongside the modern Body Worlds - might make a cool lecture for an undergraduate Visual Culture class.

The church upstairs was also a worthwhile space to visit:

Much plainer than most of the churches I visited earlier this week, almost all of the architectural details were rendered illusionistically in paint, so Charlie got his first taste of illusionistic ceiling painting, and was duly impressed. We're going to visit some more churches over the course of the week to sample different flavors of church decoration.

Leaving the church, we wove our way through the city so that Charlie could get his first taste of gelato and of the Italian Pepsi formula, and we took the Spanish Steps as part of our route:

Here is Charlie modeling the patented Lame Tourist Gesture, which involves limply raising a hand as if to say, "Look Facebook! I stood next to a famous thing!" while wearing an expression that says, "I have soiled myself!" You stand around in Rome long enough, and you'll see lots of people doing this.

Our other stop along the way was the Pantheon, so that Charlie could get his first look at an extraordinary domed interior, and I could see the light from the oculus hitting a new part of the structure. Here's Charlie looking up at the dome:

And then it was time for the main event: the Castel Sant'Angelo. The fact that we went there today was kind of a fluke; we were sitting around the hotel this morning decided what we wanted to visit free with our Roma Passes, and while we were doing this, Charlie was looking at a book of postcards he bought. There was one of the Castel Sant'Angelo, and he said, "Ooh, can we go here?" Then I remembered that the admission fee had seemed kind of excessive to me, so it would be a great place to visit for free. I don't know why I hadn't thought of this before - for some reason, my brain didn't make the connection between "Charlie" and "totally awesome castle thing." I think my brain is broke.

Anyway, we got inside, and right away we encountered one of my favorite things in Italy, the excessively formal and oddly translated English sign:

We wound our way up a really cool set of interior ramps and staircases that were inside the original structure of Hadrian's mausoleum, before it was taken over as a Papal fortress, and found ourselves on an outdoor battlement.

Charlie keeps looking for the trapdoor to the catacombs, but we decided that this one was much too small.

Meanwhile, I peeked out at the Ponte Sant'Angelo.

We climbed all the way to the terrace at the top of the fortress, and when we got there, we were treated to a fantastic panorama of the city of Rome. I really can't imagine that there's a better view anywhere. I haven't been up in the dome of St. Peter's yet, but I almost feel like I don't need to, because from the Castel Sant'Angelo you get the view and you also get to see St. Peter's, which you wouldn't get if you were standing on it. This was definitely one of the highlights of the day, and something I'm going to recommend to anyone visiting Rome.

On the way back down, we found another hilarious sign:

But Charlie didn't listen:

I felt really snug and safe in this doorway:


Much, much, much too silly.

Anyway, after a lot of silliness, we called it a day at the Castel Sant'Angelo. Overall, I'm really glad I went, partially because it was fun to walk through the place, and partly because of the great view, but also because the building really represents the fusion between the rulership of Rome under the emperors and its later reshaping under the popes. I don't know if I would have gotten that idea just anywhere.

After we left the castle, we had a delicious lunch on the banks of the Tiber consisting of Chianti, bread, brie, salami, and watermelon. Here we are after lunch:

And then it was late enough in the day to visit San Luigi dei Francesi, a church near the Pantheon that is home to Caravaggio's three excellent paintings concerning the life of St. Matthew, including the famous Calling of St. Matthew. Here's a long view of the chapel (the Calling of St. Matthew is on the left wall):

What a terrific experience. I've seen this painting, taught this painting, and graded exams concerning this painting on so many occasions, and it was just wonderful to see it in the flesh. This was another opportunity to see a Caravaggio without too many problems with lighting, except when hooligans were taking pictures of it with their flashes. This church needs to provide better security for this painting.

And last but not least, we couldn't end a romantic day in Rome without stopping to throw some coins into the Trevi Fountain:

I had saved two American quarters for us to do this, and so now, if the Trevi Fountain has anything to say about it, we're both guaranteed a trip back to Rome! Good to know, because I'm starting to love this place.

Who knows what we'll be doing tomorrow - we're not even sure yet!

1 comment:

  1. I've decided that I love Roman brickwork!!! Don't get me wrong, the churches and artwork are an incredible treat, but oh man that brickwork!!! Thanks for showing me that, Sarah.