- Fizzy Thoughts: Italy Trip: Day Ten

Italy Trip: Day Ten

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Our last full day in Rome. With Rick Steves in hand, Lance took us on a walking tour of the Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere. The ghetto is just down the street (on the other side of the tram tracks) from the apartment. Due to a bombing by the PLO, there are no cars allowed, other than the usual delivery vehicles, of course. The ghetto walls have been torn down. In fact, much of the ghetto and Trastevere was rebuilt in the 1800s, after unification and Rome became the capital of Italy. The churches that stood at the four gates of the ghetto are still there, as is the church where the Jews were made to attend (they put wax in their ears during the service). Ironically, ghetto real estate is now valuable, so few Jews are left in the ghetto. One of the main squares is 16 ottobre 1943, to commemorate when the Nazis demanded gold to save the Jews and the people of Rome came up with the money. The synagogue was rebuilt in the early 1900s and looks nothing like what any of us imagined - it has a square dome so it is different from Rome's gajillion churches. We also detoured from the ghetto to check out the Turtle Fountain in Piazza Mattei (warning - the web page is in Italian).

We left the ghetto and crossed the Tiber at Isola Tibertina to enter Trastevere. This is where the Tiber used to flood...the banks were built in the 1800s to control flooding. This was also about as far upstream as the boats could go.

In Trastavere we started at Piazza di Piscinula, a fish market in the middle ages. It has Chiesa di San Benedetto, with an 11th century bell tower with the oldest bell in Rome. From there we passed through a medieval arch and down via di Salumi (cold cut street). We passed a school built in Mussolini's fascist style (ugh-lee). Then it was into Chiesa di Santa Cecilia, a 5th century church with a pretty garden and mismatched (and therefore pilfered) columns in front. It was built above the house of Cecilia and Valerianus, two Roman Christians. He was executed and they tried to suffocate her with steam in her bath. Supposedly she was singing so beautifully the murderers couldn't stand it, so they lopped her head off to shut her up. We went down into the crypt of the church and saw the remains of the house, along with a bunch of grain pits. There were some very dark alleys down in that crypt. There was also a very modern, ornate altar directly below the other in the church above.

From Santa Cecilia we went to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, the oldest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Built over an old tavern, the original church was built in 337. It was enlarged in 1143. Either way, it's darn old. Inside are more pilfered columns from the forum and some stunning mosaics.

Then we walked north to the Villa Farnesina, which has frescoes in the loggia by Raphael, and one large black and white face supposedly drawn by Michelangelo. The story goes...one day he dropped in to see Raphael. Finding no one around, he snuck up the scaffolding and left his mark. We only saw four rooms in the villa, but they were all pretty great. Raphael was in love at the time, so his frescoes feature lots of ripe cantaloupes getting leered at by well-endowed zucchini and other squash.

For lunch we ate at Aristocampo, which had a sign about being against the war and tourist menus. It was the best meal we've had so far. After lunch we went back to the apartment for our now traditional afternoon break. The weather is beautiful today and the sky is an intense shade of blue. Rome is so much cleaner than it was the last time I was here. Surprising for such a big city, but lots of places limit traffic and there are 1000s upon 1000s of scooters.

We went to dinner at Insalata Ricca, which turned out to be odd. My red pesto was gravy like, and Lance's lasagna was just noodles and tomato sauce. We made up for it by going back to Tre Scalini for our farewell to Rome gelato.

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