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!