Spring in Italy
16.05.2011 - 26.05.2011 82 °F
Our flights on Egypt Air were very smooth and we arrived in Rome in the afternoon from Cairo. We were met at the Termini Train Station and taken to the apartment I had rented a few blocks away. In a city where there is a lot of noise, our apartment overlooked a garden with orange trees and was very quiet even though it was in the center of the city. We adapted quickly to our one bedroom apartment and I quickly decided this was much better than a room in a hotel!
The next day we went to Piazza del Popolo to meet Silja , my Finnish friend from my two month AIESEC internship in Helsinki in the summer of 1968! We had a lot to catch up on. We had a lovely walk in the area and visited several churches and interesting neghborhoods. We had lunch at L'Orso80 near the Piazza Navona.
They serve an endless array of delicious antipasto dishes. One of the best meals I have had in Italy.
Ah the familiar sights of Rome..
The Pantheon is one of my favorite places. Video gives me a chance to revisit it whenever I want.
The next day Silja rode her scooter to meet us and we took the metro to Ostia Antica. When we arrived, the workers at Ostia were having a typical worker's right to have a meeting and no one could enter for the morning. It was noon before they ended their meting and opened the site.
Ostia was the harbor city of ancient Rome founded in the 4th century BC and now covers over 10,000 acres. At the height there were 50,000 people including 17,000 slaves. Most slaves were taken to Ostia from Egypt, the Middle East, and Turkey. The most frequent slave-name is Felix, "Happy".
One of the most interesting things we saw was the Square of the Guilds (Piazzale delle Corporazioni):
This grand square evolved from a simple place — where businessmen would stroll and powwow together — to become a monumental square lined with more than 60 offices of ship-owners and traders from all around the Mediterranean Sea. Inscriptions in the mosaics mention guilds (collegia and corpora), shippers (navicularii) and traders (negotiantes). There are also many depictions of dolphins, ships and the lighthouse at Portus. Grainmeasures (large round bins) refer to the grain trade. Many harbour cities are mentioned. Several were in modern Tunisia, a main supplier of grain. The Karalitani were from Cagliari on Sardinia, the Narbonenses came from Narbonne in France. This unique square shows the “international” character that Ostia must have had. The streets of the city were crowded by people from all over the known world. On the walls of the city not only Latin, but also Greek graffiti are found. Silja and Joy with the Square of the Guilds in the background.
This was the bustling center of Rome's import / export industry. Along the sidewalk, second-century A.D. mosaics advertise the services offered by the various shops. The mosaics advertised in Latin and in a sign language for illiterate or non-Latin-reading sailors. The most common symbol — the lighthouse — was the sign of the port of Ostia. Grain containers are reminders that grain was the major import of Ostia. The elephant marking the office of the Sabratans (a place in present-day Libya) symbolized the sale of ivory or perhaps of exotic animals (great for parties and private spectacles).
Note the light house that represented Ostia.
In the far corner there is a mosaic showing porters loading containers from a sea-going ship to a river-going ship and the three-mouthed delta of a river (probably the Nile). More connections for us between Rome and Egypt. Statues of notable local guild-members and business leaders decorated the courtyard. The temple in the center was likely related to Ceres, the goddess of harvest and abundance (prosperity from good business). There is a small white altar on the Square. This was used to sacrifice animals — such as the rams carved into the corners — to ask for favor from the gods. The entrails would be read to divine the future, and to determine whether the gods were for or against a particular business venture.
The theater would accommodate 4,000 residents.
There is a tavern that has display shelves for food and drinks for sale, a small sink, and remains of wall paintings
and even an outdoor terrace for eating.
There are many temples and baths that are quite grand, with multi story apartment buildings that had shared facilities like condo's today. They had their own swimming pools and baths for the residents. I highly recommend a visit to Ostia Antica.
We returned to the city and went to the National Museum of Rome The 3rd floor displays some of the best. Paula had been last year and I had never been. It is full of frescoes and mosaics from the villa discovered in Rome especially on Palentine Hill. There is a beautiful fresco that is from Lydia Villa, that was a garden room.
I have included a video to give you the full effect! It is beautiful.
Lovely delicate ceiling decorations
Some wonderful inlaid marble pictures
A most enjoyable museum to see the richness of the life of the wealthy Romans.
On our third day Silja kindly invited us to have lunch in the garden of her home and meet her family. It was a beautiful day and she prepared a delicious lunch.
We then spent the rest of the day at the Forum and Palentine Hill where the poppies were blooming.
One of my favorite statues.
Place where he was found.
Our last night in Rome and an early start tomorrow to catch our bus to Siena. Paula waiting for our bus from the Rome bus station.
We enjoyed great views of the countryside and connected to another bus in Siena for the hour ride to Montalcino.
Paula waiting for our next bus.
There was a road rally for the weekend and the city was full. Lovely doorways of Montalcino.
The next day we returned to Siena. This is peak tourist season and it was difficult to find a room. We were fortunate to stay at Alma Domus which has beautiful views from the rooms.
Our hotel is the former convent, the long narrow building just below St Catherine's.
Garden area of Alma Domus
The Duomo is easy to see and we attended the service on Sunday.
Beautiful inlaid marble floors.
The Baptistry was also very beautiful.
We enjoyed the Duomo museum. One of my favorite items was the illustrated books of music.
I very much enjoyed seeing what they call the crypt but it is really the 13th century part of the church. The frescoes are lovely and reflect a Byzantine influence.
In our wanderings we saw the entrance to a lovely home which had a wonderful courtyard and beautiful painted porch ceiling.
Many steep streets in Siena. Allowed us to eat pizza and pastries without feeling guilty!
One of my fond memories of Siena will be the bells. They rang many times each hour.
Then we were off to Florence for our final three nights.
We had two days and they were full. We saw San Marco and enjoyed the Fra Angelico paintings. No photos allowed, but the link will show the wonderful paintings. We were fortunate the next day to stand in line and get tickets to the Uffici Gallery.
So our last early morning of the trip. Paula had a 5:30 AM shuttle to the Florence airport and I had a 5:50AM train to Rome and then to the Rome Airport for my flight to Istanbul. A full three weeks that was fun to share as sisters.