Friday, June 27, 2008

Wrapping Up a Summer in Rome

This is a blog dedicated to my personal experiences during my seven weeks of summer in Rome. You can find my adventures, my inquiries, my lessons learned and my advice throughout these pages. The three topics that I’ve focused on are the Pantheon (the single most amazing place in Rome – in my opinion); the heartbeat of Rome itself, Tiber River; and one of the pinnacles of Roman art, Putti. These are three topics that I chose when I arrived in Rome and have discussed, questioned, debated, and learned about throughout my entire stay in the Eternal City. I hope you’ve enjoyed (or begin to enjoy) my adventures and my stories all about these three very special things that are found (for the most part) only in Rome. My three topics were really personal for my interests and for my experiences of the city. I would encourage others who are visiting a city like Rome for an extended period of time to do something similar with a place or a theme and see how it changes, and use it to reflect upon how the city has changes you. As you'll notice in my most recent few blogs I've explained some of the ways that I see myself through these places and themes and how they've helped me learn and grow. It's funny how a city like Rome can't help but change people, it's like the wise old grandma (how fitting, the city of ancient ruins) that teaches you to appreciate the things you have and how to welcome the differences in others.


I took my first stroll past the Pantheon at night on Monday (before I did my final walk along the river) and it is truly a different place at night. The doors are closed and there isn’t a single sole in the center of the Piazza della Rotunda. The restaurants that were open weren’t very busy at all and the portico of the Pantheon is bare. It looks as abandoned as a 1900 year old building should look and it gives off an eerie aura of superiority, pride, and enchantment that only the Pantheon could roll together. During the day whether the huge dome is illuminated by sunlight or dripping with rain it is still welcoming and full of energy. In the moonlight, without anyone watching it seems mischievous and waiting to burst with energy once again. I would strongly recommend to anyone that has the pleasure of visiting Rome to take a walk to the Pantheon and see her in all her glory all by yourself, in the dark, for a truly unique experience.

Putti in Venice

Thursday I arrived in Venice and I wasn’t sure what sort of art or architecture to expect there after seeing so much of the Roman style. I didn’t see nearly as many Putti and I would have in a typical day in Rome but there was one that struck me especially interesting. I was in the Violin Making Museum in Venice (behind Piazza San Marco) and I saw a painting of a Putto playing a harp. The painting was so dark that you could hardly make out the image in the oil, the colors were black and a washed out peach skin tone that almost blended like the sea into the night. It was so fascinating to me because every single other Putti I’ve seen thoroughly jumps out at me. This particular one, I couldn’t even tell was a Putto until I got exceptionally close. I’ve begun to see myself through all of my themes that I’ve chosen to focus on in Rome and I feel like I love the sweet innocent angel images because they look so happy and pure. It was an interesting day for me to see the first one that looked really depressing because I wasn’t feeling well at all and was having a really difficult time getting around and this Putto seemed to be relating to how I was feeling perfectly, just as the first Putti that I saw in Rome were equally as excited as I was then. (I tried to take a picture to show you, but it just turned out looking like a black canvas.)

Final Walk Along the Tiber

I realized when I took my final walk along the Tiber River on Monday evening that this has been a fantastic place for reflection, contemplation, and personal growth. There is just something about how the river rushes by you that makes you feel someone insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But at the same time it is representing your personal life, and how fast it can slip away from you if you don’t hold on to every moment, and even when you do it still moves along at a surprisingly rapid pace. I can’t believe my seven weeks in Rome are coming to an end. It has been such an amazing and challenging adventure full of new lessons learned and the beginning of acceptance and understanding of other places outside of the United States. It was hard for me to imagine what Italy would be like because I’ve never been outside of the US before and the experiences I have had here are so well represented by the fast paced, loud, and choppy river exploding with fun (when the summer festivities began) and sometimes distress (with floods and large objects being stuck in the current) that all ends up being smoothed out with time as the water passes through.

Attempts at the Roman Civilization Museum

Last week we had the opportunity to visit a Roman site of our choice at the expense of the school rather than personal and I chose the Roman Civilization Museum. After attempting to see the same museum the week before and failing due to an unforeseen early closing time I decided to give it one more try. This time I did my homework and I read my guidebook and I knew the last entry was at one in the afternoon and I even took the recommendation of the book to call and see if they were open on that particular day and they said they were. So after class I hurried to the metro and jumped a train to EUR then I rushed down American and up a side street to the museum. When I arrived, I couldn’t find the entrance. It didn’t seem like there were any open doors. When I finally found one that was just barely cracked I realized there was a glass door behind it that was locked. There happened to be a lady lying on the patio in front of the museum and she promptly informed me that the museum closed at 12:30 today. I quickly looked at my watch, 12:34. This couldn’t be serious. I tried to ask the lady why but she didn’t speak enough English and I didn’t speak enough Italian to understand what she was saying. So after taking some pictures of the beautiful structure I was turned away again with an upside down smile and a sad disposition. This was a museum that I had really wanted to see and it was seemingly just not meant to be. I guess I’ll have to see it next time I’m in Rome. :-)

Piazza Walk- Monday June 23, 2008

Today we had a very fascinating but long and hot walk around the Northern Piazza’s that seem to be visited much less frequently. We began at Piazza del Popolo and then walked up the giant staircase to walk in front of the gardens on our way to Piazza di Spagna. At the top of the steps we saw some more shooting of Angels and Demons, which has been a fun experience every time. Today they were filming a chase scene and they had a camera strapped to the back of a car so it could capture the car behind it speed around a tight corner above the Spanish Steps. After we were allowed to pass through the set we walked down the Spanish Steps and off the Piazza Barberini. It was a scorching hot day and we were all drenched with sweat by the time we arrived but it was still enjoyable to spend a few minutes appreciates the unique sculpture in the piazza. Then we continued up a hill to the Piazza della Republicca where our walk ended. Piazza della Republicca was certainly the most busy and bussling of the piazzas we visit today and it was interesting to see the different atmosphere there in comparison to Piazza Navona. Piazza Navona is also often very busy but it’s more focused on entertainment and recreation while Piazza della Republicca seems to be full of people on the go.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I met an American family when I was at lunch the other day and the mother was asking me advice about what to see in Rome and I started telling her my favorite things (the Capuchin Crypt, St. Giovanni’s, etc.) I mentioned the Pantheon and she said they had already been there and her younger daughter was a little creeped out by this dead guy they saw so she tried to tell her daughter that it must be someone really important otherwise they wouldn’t be in the Pantheon so she shouldn’t be disturbed by it. I asked her who it was that they were seeing and she said she wasn’t sure but she described it to me and it didn’t take long for me to realize that she was referring to Raphael. When I told her I thought she was going to faint. She had no idea that he was in the Pantheon and she clamored on about how much she loved him and Michelangelo and how fantastic it is that he is buried there. I just had to laugh, it is really crazy to think how people don’t even realize (myself included) some of the most amazing things they’re seeing, especially when it is the things that are especially interesting to them and if nobody told them, they’d never have the experience that was right in front of their faces.

Tiber River

I spent this weekend in Zurich, Switzerland and one of the first things you notice about Zurich (even from the sky as your plane is landing) is the huge lake in the middle of the city and the river flowing through it. As the taxi drove us to our hotel I noticed the river was a large part of the city just as the Tiber is a major part of Rome. The Limmat River flows out of the Zurich Lake and through the city center extending out into the suburbs. The water is clear as crystal and it is swimming hot spot. The fresh water allows for a delightful and free refreshing break on a hot Swiss day. On Lake Zurich there are several places to rent motor boats, paddle boats, and row boats as well as cruises and lake tours. The atmosphere around these two water bodies is exciting and full of family fun. It really gives off the Swiss atmosphere of an accepting, understanding, and happy culture. This was really fun for me to see and I wish Rome was more like this with the Tiber River, it would be great to be able to swim and boat in the river.

Teatro Argentina

I’d really like to see some Italian theatre while I’m in Rome, whether it’s an opera or a simple prose play, I think the experience would be exceptional. One of Rome’s most famous theatres, Teatro Argentina was founded by the Sforza Cesarini in 1732 and has quite a rich history. Many famous operas, including Verdi’s were first performed here in 1816. Rossini’s “Barber of Saville” debuted here and the composer insulted the unreceptive audience. They then chased him, in rage through the streets of Rome. Near the theatre are the remains of four temples that are among the oldest in Rome which make this particular theatre truly fascinating.

Vatican Museums

One place in Rome that I haven’t been yet and I would really like to go is the Vatican Museums. The buildings that house the museums were originally built for Papal Palaces. In addition to the expansive art collection in these museums you will also find many great Italian archeological discoveries. Some of the museums are broken up into categorized rooms like the Room of the Animals and the Room of Busts. There is Egyptian and Assyrian art, Greek and Rome art, Etruscan and Italic art, early Christian and Medieval art, fifteen to nineteenth century art, Modern religious art, and the Vatican Gardens. I’m also interested in seeing the Raphael rooms and the Sistine Chapel. This is one of the most famous places in the world and I think the diverse art collection is most likely one of the best in Rome.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Information on the Grand Putti Tour

The first stop is St. Peter's Basilica. St. Peter's is well known for its expansive art collection and sheer size. When you're in the Basilica try to close your eyes (if guards aren't hurrying you along) and imagine being the absolute only person in the entire building. It would be absolutely breathtaking. If you get a chance to climb St. Peter's definitely do it and experience one of the best views imaginable of the city of Rome. The second stop is The Museum of Modern Art, which is a nice change of pace from the typical things you will see from place to place in Rome. You will mostly find art here from 19th to 20th Century Italian artists but there are some even more contemporary pieces as well. This is one of the larger collections in Rome and definitely deserves time to be appreciated. The third stop on the walk is the Borghese Gallery. Here you will see many amzing pieces by famous artists like Bernini (eg. his Apollo and Daphne and David), Caravaggio, and Raphael. Though this is a smaller gallery there are a lot of amazing things to see here and it is so presitgious that reservations are required and people are only allowed in the museum for two hours at a time.

Grand Putti Tour

Begin your walk at Piazza San Pietro and walk straight into St. Peter's Basilica. One of the first things you will notice are a few giant Putti holding bowls of Holy water. Walk through and see Putti covering the walls. Next return to Piazza San Pietro and walk straight out Via Della Conciliazione. When you see Castel Sant' Angelo on your left the road becomes Lungotevere Castello. Follow the Tiber River around the bend, the road name will change several times from L. Castello to L. Prati to L dei Mellini to L. Michelangelo to L. delle Armi to L. Delle Navi. Just stick with the river to your right and you're headed in the right direction. When you get to Piazzale delle Belle Arti go right onto Viale delle Belle Arti and the Museum of Modern Art will be on your left. When you are in the museum keep your eyes open for a unique and extensive Putti collection of Putti engaging in various activities. When you've exhausted the Museum of Modern Art (which will most likely take a few hours) you should exit to the left on Viale Delle Belle Arti which will lead you to Viale del Giardino Zoologico, you will see the Zoo on your left and after you pass it the road turns into Viale Dell'Uccelliera, where you will find the Borghese Gallery on your left. Inside you will find several Putti sculptures including some sleeping and some playing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

After Boys' Town

Visiting Boys' Town was a really unique and exciting experience. I was so glad to get to meet some of the boys that live there and get a sense of how much the city really helped them. The artwork all over Boys' Town is undoubtedly one of the most amazing things to see. There is artwork from boys that lived there from the invention of Boys' Town all the way to present day and some of it is simply breathtaking. My favorite, as you can see above, is a mural on a freestanding wall in the center of Boys' Town and was made by a citizen that ended up becoming a renowned Italian artist. It's an awesome feeling to know that these boys might not have had any more of a future than begging on the street but because of people that care enough to work there, fund the city, and lend their caring hearts and hands that these boys can even be famous. It truly is a place that reminds you that you can do anything you set your mind to, and these boys really do just that.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Putti in the Borghese Gallery

Putti are definitely a popular arch and doorway decoration, this was no different in the Borghese Gallery. Over every major entranceway between rooms in the gallery were two mounted Putti welcoming you to the new space. These Putti were a little different than other Putti I've seen because their hair was looking windblown and was longer than is typical. May of the Putti in the Borghese Gallery had long, wavy hair, sometimes even in a ponytail which is in undeniable contrast to the typical short haired style. (Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed in the Borghese Gallery so I can't share an images with you. I guess you'll have to go see them yourself!) Another interesting and different set of Putti in this particular gallery were in one of the main rooms on the first floor there were four giant vases all decorate with Putti doing different tasks. On one vase they were chopping down wheat and bagging it and carrying it somewhere. On the second vase they were picking and eating grapes and on the third they were stringing together roses and decorating a fawn with the flowers. On the last vase the Putti were stepping on each other and almost looked like they were fighting. Another major theme for Putti in the Borghese Gallery was sleeping. There were several sculptures of Putti sleeping. My favorite had three of the angel babies squished together very closely and sleeping peacefully. Another piece had just one single Putti sleeping all alone that was reminiscent of baby Jesus in the manger. Nearly all of the Putti in this gallery were exceptionally pudgier than any other Putti that typically decorate the streets and churches of Rome. There little fat roles were plumped beyond imagination and I can't imagine a real baby being quit so chunky.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Restaurants on the Tiber River

Since the weather has been getting warmer little buildings have been popping up alongside the river. A man told me the other day that these are restaurants that open in the summer so people can enjoy a nice Roman meal by the Tiber. Every day there are a few more buildings than the day before and the river is almost completely lined (as you can see above) by upcoming restaurants that weren't there a week ago. Rome is the only city that I know of that would build restaurants in nice weather and tear them down again at the end of the summer. It seems like a huge step towards catering to the tourists and kudos to them for offering such a unique experience of Roman dining alongside one of it's most famous assets. I personally can't wait until this places are open for business and I can try them out for myself. You can look forward to hearing my experiences in the near future. :)

Before Boys' Town

When I began researching Boys' Town of Rome I made a very interesting discovery. Boys' Town is meant to be a place to assist troubled or underprivileged boys worldwide by offering them living arrangements, access to school or jobs and most especially to welcome them to a self-governed community consisting entirely of boys. The thing that I find interesting is that a parent or legal guardian must submit and admission form for the potential boy to be accepted to Boys' Town. What about the boys that need it most, that don't have parents, or family, or any legal guardian to submit the form on their behalf. Will they be denied? Are there special circumstances for these boys? What happens if a boy just shows up and tries to become a part of the city, will he be welcomed? I think this is a really interesting issue concerning the intent of the organization and I'm interested to learn more about it during our visit on Friday.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Movie at the Pantheon

The movie Angels and Demons is being filmed in Rome right now and one scene was being shot at the Pantheon as I walked by yesterday. There were crowds of people everywhere and the entire piazza was taped off with guards standing every few feet keeping people from watching or taking pictures. I didn't get to see Tom Hanks but I have a friend that got a really good picture of him early in the morning when the filming first began. I can't wait to see the movie and remember that I was there the day the scene was being shot. It was a really cool way to connect home with Rome and made me glad to be here once again.

Ostia Antica

Today we visited Ostia Antica and the thing that I found most fascinating was the Teatro or Theatre. I was really excited to see another ancient theatre because I am a double major with theatre and it's something that I'm very interested in. This particular theatre was cool not only because of the age or that it was open and outside but also because of the style. I loved that the seats were made of stone and the stage was huge. The stage was also lined with pillars which really helped you to remember that it was an ancient Roman structure. Perhaps the neatest thing about this space is that it was been restored and maintained well enough that performances still occur here. Today we got to see a dance school practice for a recital right on the stage in the middle of Ostia Antica. I wonder if those girls appreciate how lucky they are to perform on such a historical stage.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pantheon Tours

Every time I’ve walked near the Pantheon when it was light outside I inevitably see at least five tour groups, with the fearless leader holding some random silly flag or umbrella trying to keep the group together. This week I saw a tour group sitting on under the shade of the overhang, behind the pillars enjoying their lunch. This was really funny to see because you don’t really see people sitting on the stairs of any other church eating lunch, dare I say that some might even consider it to be inappropriate, but for some reason this particular church is different. Why is it okay to eat here and even forget for a while that this is a place of worship? I actually think that most people that haven't been the the Pantheon (and even some that have) don't know that it is a church.

Putti in Other Places

I visited Barcelona this weekend and I was interested by the fact that Putti are far less common in Spanish art. I see Putti and cherubs everywhere I turn in Rome. I have yet to see the most famous Putti in the world in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel but I see them everywhere nonetheless. They had several ancient buildings and statues lining the streets, much like Rome but the tiny little angel babies were nowhere to be found. This made me wonder, is Rome the only city that has a lot of these curious little creatures? Will I find them when I go to London and Paris? I can’t wait to find out. I'll be looking for my winged little friends in the Louvre in just a few weeks.

Tiber River in Movies and Books

When I started my entry for this week it went something like this:

Why don’t we see or hear much about the Tiber River when we learn about Rome through books and movies? In many works like “Roman Fever” or Daisy Miller or Catarina in the Big City, I was surprised that the immensity and importance of the river isn’t ever mentioned. Out of the books and movies that I’ve experience while studying Rome I’ve seen the river’s importance in only one, the movie Bicycle Thieves. I see Roman’s gathering by the river every single day, no matter the time or the weather, so why wouldn’t every piece about Rome have this necessary factor in the text?

Then I watched the White Sheik where the river was mentioned again because Wanda tries to “throw” herself into the river but really only jumps in the mud getting a little wet. Perhaps this portrayal of the river is how some people view it, is it only a place that is equivalent to stepping in mud?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Termini to the Capitoline Museum

Begin at the North corner of the Termini Station. Directly across the street you will see Pal. Massimo Mus. Naz. Romano. You should turn left onto V. Cavour and follow it for thirteen blocks (again I'm counting blocks as intersections). Between block seven and eight you'll see Cavour on your left. At block thirteen, turn right onto V. dei Fori Imperiali. Then walk around the Victor Emanuele monument in a circular direction. When you see a grand staircase, walk up it, and you've reached your destination. The Capitoline Museum is full of ancient ruins and captivating Italian history. The museum holds some of the most famous and outstanding art in the world consisting of every different medium from painting and sculpting to metal statues. At the top of the museum you can take "The Grand Tour" and see miniature sculptures of many of the world's most valuable art pieces. The view from the museums rooftop cafe allows you to see Rome from a new and breathtaking perspective.

Termini Station to the Pantheon

Start heading North on Via G. Giolitti, stay straight for five blocks (by blocks I mean cross streets or alleys, you'll quickly notice there aren't real blocks in Rome). You will see the Repubblica on the right, then turn left on Via Nationale. You will walk eleven blocks and you will see Mercati Traianei on your left then you will make a right. At the next block you will turn left on Via IV Novembre, follow for three blocks and the street name changes to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, stay straight to the new road. After seven blocks turn right on an alley that will drop you off right at the Pantheon. The Pantheon is nearly 2,000 years old and one of the most famous ancient buildings still standing in the world. Inside the Pantheon you will find the crypt of Raphael along with several beautiful paintings. The dome ceiling is one of the most unique sites in Rome and the whole in the top center is the only light in the entire structure. Originally a pagan establishment, the building turned church offers Catholic services for the public every Saturday and Sunday.

Go to EUR - Esposizione Universale di Roma

This new suburb south of Rome was built as a tribute to Fascism. It was constructed in the 1930's and the exhibition was planned to take place in 1942 but was delayed because of World War II. The sight was never used as it was intended but now holds several museums and government offices. Visitors today can expect to see examples of Fascist Architecture. This includes striking use of white marble, large fountains, and large scale monuments to the old style Rome. The dominating building in this space, the Palazzo della Civilta del Lavoro, resembles the style of the Colosseum. Although it is a taller square building, the Fascist architects kept the traditional style of arches throughout the structure. Another noteworthy building in the EUR is the Museo della Civilta Romana. This structure is actually two buildings linked by a portico, which is meant to represent ancient Roman history and the development of architecture. Inside the museum you will find a large model of ancient Rome, as well as a planetarium. Further to the south you will see the large Palazzo dello Sport which was built for the Olympics in 1960. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. but call ahead of time to double check and expect a moderate entrance fee. To get to the EUR start from Termini train station. Take Linea B metro line to one of three stops. You can get off at EUR Magliana, EUR Palasport, or EUR Fermi. If you are not much for trains, take a bus. From Termini you can take the 714 bus to EUR. Contributing group members: Brian McDonald, Shane St. Esprit, Dom Cifelli, Josie Moore, and lazy group member number 1 (Jenny Biedendorf)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Food Experiences near the Pantheon

There are so many different food experiences to be had in Rome and since I spend a lot of time around the Pantheon I've noticed that nearly every style of dining is crammed into that tiny piazza. Early this week Joe and I stopped for a quick lunch at a hole in the wall restaurant to the right of the Pantheon that just says Pizzeria next to it and we found chicken breast, pasta, fried zucchini, and our meal was about 10 Euros and we left full and satisfied. The food was exquisite, the chicken fell right off the bone and the zucchini was tender, it was possibly one of the best meals I've had. And I can't tell you how excited I was that I finally found some chicken. Later in the week, we sat at a restaurant to the left of the Pantheon and the prices were outrageous. We sat down without looking at the menu because we figured most of the places in that piazza would be similar and we had eaten at others that were moderately priced. We couldn't have been more wrong. Since we felt rude to get up and leave we ended up paying 35 Euros for small servings of pasta and bread and a glass of wine, plus a 7 Euro service fee. We were even still hungry when we left. The difference between these two dining experiences is the opposite of what one might expect. It seems logical that the more expensive meal would be better in quality and quantity and that wasn't at all true. The food places in the Piazza Rotunda remind me of the people that visit the Pantheon. There is such variety in both categories that it is almost never boring to watch.

Putti in S. Giovanni in Laterano Church

The Putti that I saw this week in the Saint Giovanni (St. John) in Laterano Church were actually quite different from Putti that I've seen in other churches and around much of the city. Several Putti, dare I say most Putti (at least that I've seen) have only two wings, one on each side. The Putti in S. Giovanni's had two wings on each side and were atop every single arch and in nearly every corner of the entire establishment. (upper and lower left) There was also a crying Putto holding a shield with a picture of a Pope on it which I found very interesting because it was the first time I saw a Putto unhappy (above right). I also found evidence on Putti in some paintings around the church which seems to be far less common than the sculpture design. In the one particular painting the Putti seem to be carrying Jesus to heaven on a cloud. (right) This goes right along with my previous post about Putti being a symbol of heaven after death when on the crypt in the Santa Maria in Sopra Minerva church.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pantheon View

Yesterday I sat at the Pantheon, on the steps, leaned up against a pillar, and tried to take in the view. I wanted to get a different perspective because most people, including myself, stand back and look up at the Pantheon. I decided to be the Pantheon and see what her view is like. Besides all of the people running in and out of her most treasured pieces, trampling on her heart, and hardly taking enough time to appreciate her. Then they often scurry to nearest cafe or even worse McDonald's. I feel ashamed of America when I see that the Pantheon has to stare at a McDonald's every day. I mean, what an insult to her beauty! The Golden Arches are hardly deserving of paralleling the grandiose pillars and dome of the Pantheon. As if it isn't bad enough that McDonald's discretely crept it's way into a home gazing menacingly at the Pantheon, people actually rush by the 2000 year old wonder of the world in search of a burger and fries. I have to admit, I don't even eat McDonald's or any fast food at home, but the first time I started feeling really homesick, I stopped to take a few pictures of the Pantheon, and sat in McDonald's and enjoyed my extremely overpriced, undersized burger and fries. Yesterday I realized how sad it is, that McDonald's is what American's use to associate themselves with home.

Learning a little about Putti

Putti, according to Eyewitness Travel: Rome "were a popular decorative feature in the Baroque period. A Putto is a painting or a sculpture of a child like a cupid or a cherub." Perhaps the editor, Fiona Wild, made the authoritative decision that there is not a difference between Putti and Cherubs, or even a cupid for that matter. This definition however, does not specify that Putti have wings, which is a distinction that I read on Wikipedia a few weeks ago (you can find more in the entry "Cherubs vs Putti"). I have been using this distinction in my search for Putti and I've found several babies that look like Putti but don't have wings and I've been leaving them out. I was specifically searching only for babies with wings to write about and discuss and even to consider Putti. Several times I've found what I thought would be Putti, or other people have pointed them out to me and when I discovered they didn't have wings, I left them with disappointment but perhaps this distinction isn't correct.

Tiber River Experiencing Rome

Along the Tiber River you will find signs every few hundred feet that tell you all about the river, and in six different languages. I was walking home from dinner last night, along the river and I decided to just listen. Listen to the people. After being in Rome for almost three weeks, I've gotten significantly better at hearing the difference between French, Italian, and Spanish. On my walk I heard at least five different languages and several different English- speaking accents and it just really made me realize that Rome is truly an international city. Just as Eleanor Clark describes the city by saying "In Rome to go out is to go home." Everyone, from any background, seems to feel comfortable and happy in Rome. That can't be said for any city that I know of in the US. I really love that you don't only get Roman culture in Rome, you get a mosaic of cultures through the tourists, the immigrants and the natives. The chaos and uniqueness of Rome is truly a work of art.

Dirty River

As I've mentioned previously, the Tiber River has been pretty dirty since it flooded last week. At the drop in the river near the island bridge trash collects fairly significantly. It's clean sometimes and packed with plastic bottles stuck in the current at other times. Who cleans out the trash? This weekend I saw a huge metal box or cabinet-like thing trapped by the water in the dam and fighting furiously to escape but the river kept it in place. Obviously the current is keeping the trash collected there, so I am starting to think someone cleans it out. Does Rome hire people to fish the litter out of the river? Romans seems to take a lot of pride in their city and if they really have someone that cleans it out like they clean the sidewalks, I find that a very admirable trait of Rome.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Picnics by the Tiber

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Rome and people were enjoying the weather everywhere, especially by the Tiber River. As we walked to the Coliseum and Roman Forum today we crossed over a bridge and saw people having picnics along the banks of the river. I have a feeling they usually sit on the cement walkways right next to the river but they couldn't because it is still flooded. Seeing these people enjoying the river even when the water is too high to get really near it makes me excited for the next few weeks when the river goes back down and we can have picnics next to it or sit on the edge and slip our feet in the cool water.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Back of the Pantheon

Can you recognize what this building is? Probably not. Today I was walking around after class for a little and I walked around the Pantheon from behind. I thought this would be a fun view to share because traditionally, people only focus on the front of the building. There is a large tunnel/ alcove looking part (below) in the center and when I tried to research the purpose I can't seem to find one. There is also a broken marble pillar, completely flat on top, as if it snapped at a seem and another completely full length pillar matching those in the front of the church. I think it's interesting that in the 1800's they restored the floor but not this broken pillar in the back. There are also shops very close to the rear of the Pantheon which greatly contrasts the vast space in front of it. There is only a narrow road that passes behind and somehow I doubt these businesses see a lot of tourists.

Putti or Cherub in Bicycle Thieves

Everywhere I turn I seem to find some Putti or cherubs. I'm still working on how to tell the difference, this is apparently a much argued topic. I'll be sure to keep you posted. For now, I'm still getting excited whenever I see one and this week I found some in a non-traditional place, a movie. In film class on Monday we watched Bicycle Thieves and at the part where Antonio is chasing the old man through the church and the ladies are trying to kick him out, he goes running around a corner and we see the Putti staring down at him. It made me wonder if they chose to have them in the shot intentionally or if they just so happened to be there. I doubt the director meant anything by it, but everything is choice and sends a message to the audience, whether intention or not. If they were Putti and they're signifying misfortune or mischief they definitely have a place being in this movie. Just something interesting to consider. :)

River is Flooding

After the torrential down pouring we encountered in the last two days the river is really flooded. As you can see in the picture above, the water level is really high. It is really funny how much dirtier the river looks after all of this rain. Usually the river looks pretty clean and beautiful to just sit and watch the current pass by. Now it looks filthy and in some spots, especially at dams, plastic bottles and other pollutants are collecting rapidly. I can only imagine how many inches of rain must have fallen to make the water levels rise so much in just a twenty-four hour period. Here is a picture of the river coming up over the sidewalk next to it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Today we visited the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Church. This church was a gift for any cherub or enthusiast. There were cherubs absolutely everywhere! The artwork in every church that I have visited in Rome is amazing but this one in particular had an exceptional amount of beautiful sculptures decorating the ceiling and walls. Here are some of the most beautiful cherubs that I found. I should also mention that I'm simply calling these cherubs because they're in a church and therefor assume a religious connotation. Here are some of my favorite pieces from the church. This last one is especially interesting because it is on this tomb almost as if the cherub is protecting the woman or bringing her to heaven. I think this would be an interesting symbol even more than normal angels because the youth shows a new beginning. Like when the cherubs are with you, your life has just begun again.

Interesting facts about the Pantheon

Today I learned some very interesting things about the Pantheon. The base building of the Pantheon has nineteen foot thick walls to support the amazing dome that sits upon them. These huge walls definitely affect the climate inside, it is undoubtedly cooler inside the Pantheon than outside. The door also allows a nice breeze to circulate the room if there is any wind outside at all. The roof of the dome has these precise and beautiful layered squares that cover the ceiling in rows and columns (as you can see in the pictures below). I also found out today that the ceiling was carved this way not just for aesthetic reasons but because it made the dome so much lighter in weight and there was concern about the below structure cracking under all of the pressure. It was raining really hard today and while the hole in the dome is covered the rain still leaks in a little but so it was interesting to see the floor all wet in a roped off area. I have been wondering why the center was always roped off, now I know. I can't help but wonder why nobody cleaned up the puddles. This is a picture of the hole in the center of the ceiling and if you look closely you can see the designs around it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


After visiting the Pantheon nearly every day for the last week, I realized that this is truly one of the most tourist filled places in Rome. The Pantheon is almost always crawling with people. Outside of the Pantheon is where tourists are targeted for buying things and handed fliers for events happening such as concerts and pub tours. I had lunch with some friends this week right next to the Pantheon and the pizza was fantastic, for it being such a tourist area, the food actually wasn't too expensive and it was convenient that the server spoke a bit of English. To the right you will find pictures of us standing near the pillars just to give you an idea of the sheer size of the building. The size and precision of the pillars and the perfection of the shape makes me wonder what they used to put it together. What did ancient Roman scaffolding look like? How did they chisel out the lines in each pillar so precisely that we can't find a flaw thousands of years later? Also, the thickness and the materials that many Roman buildings are made out of, including the Pantheon, don't allow heat to enter like most buildings in America. It can be 85 degrees outside and it's still comfortable or even cool inside. Below is the first picture that I took of the Pantheon and I think it's of fairly good quality so I wanted to share it.

Activities at the River

So I've been in Rome for a week and I have to admit that one of the best things to see every day is the Tiber River. Fortunately for me I have a beautiful view of the river right out my window which leads to some fantastic people watching. It's very interesting to see how different people view the river and what they use it for. Today, as you can see above, I saw a couple sleeping by the river. It's a beautiful day and I bet it's a romantic and peaceful thing to do here. I might have to try that sometime, it seems like a great place to get a tan. This morning I also saw a man fishing in the river (below- if you look closely to the left of the picture). I wonder what kind of fish are there, how deep the river is, and if he will eat the fish he caught. I love to sit in my windowsill and watch the current of the river and also the people that walk by. Some people stare at the river like it's captivating and mesmerizes them and others hurry by like they don't even notice it. For me, this river is really intriguing, it has so much to offer and it's interesting to see who takes advantage of it and who takes it for granted.

Putti vs. Cherubs

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the Capitol Museum which is just an overall amazing place to be. Everything you see is beautiful and full of history. Of course, I found a few putti and got some fantastic pictures. The one above is a picture of some dancing putti that I found really fascinating. So after doing some research on Putti the first thing I found is that my statement in my previous entry about them being like cherubs is wrong. Putti are associated with Italian Rennaissance art and cherubs are associated with the Old Testament. Unfortunately I don't know how to tell the difference between cherubs and putti so I'm going to refer to all of the ones in Rome as Putti because Putti are most often found in Italian Rennaissance art, which Rome has in abundance. Though most often Putti are found in groups, in singular form the name is Putto. Putta is the name for a female, but female putti are almost never seen. Resources: Putti. <18 May, 2008. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. <29 April 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008


I realized after a few days in Rome that I have a huge fascination with a special creature that is mostly referred to in America as cherubs but are officially named Putti. I like to call them angel babies. No matter what you call them, these little winged babies are not only fascinating but also beautiful pieces of artwork. After seeing several around the city and realizing I was taking pictures of all of them, I decided this would be a great thing for me to talk about. The first Putti (above) that I found was actually by accident, we were searching for Hilda's Tower and I saw this beautiful building with this picture on top. In future blogs I will be searching for Putti all around Rome and researching some of their history to learn what their purpose is and how they became so famous.

The Tiber River

The Tiber River is the third longest river in Rome and one of the most prominent things you notice and you walk around the city. The River has several bridges connecting the city on either side and flows strong and beautiful through much of Rome. The phrase "swimming in the Tiber" became a Protestant term for converting to Rome Catholicism (Wikipedia). The picture to the right is a view of the river from one of the bridges in Trastevere.

A First Look at the Pantheon

The Pantheon is a world renowned building mostly remembered for it's great stature and beautiful pillars. It is considered one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings and is truly marvelous to look at. The incredible thing for me about the Pantheon is that I never knew how beautiful it was on the inside. Of course in history class I learned what it looked like on the outside but the second you walk in the door the view is truly breathtaking. The detail is magnificent and it looks as if it was built last week. Here is a video of the inside of the Pantheon to give you a little taste of what is in there. Try not to mind the random people's heads and voices as I show a brief tour.

Welcome to Roma!

Ciao! So here I am in Rome and I just want to give a brief introduction of what's happening in this blog. I am a senior at The Pennsylvania State University and I'm studying with Penn State's Communication Arts and Sciences program in Rome for the six weeks. This blog will show you some of my adventures and focus in on three Roman topics of interest. These three topics include The Pantheon, Putti & Cherubs, and the Tiber River. A few times a week I'll post something interesting about each of these topics in my attempt to get to know the city of Rome a little bit better. Enjoy!