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Friday 5 March 2004

4, piazza S. Giovanni della Malva, around 10 A.M.: continuing yesterday.

Since it was about 2‑something, I finally caved in and ate, a sidewalk chalkboard with decent prices, Roman food, and in Italian only. Trattoria Pizzeria da Loreto (nothing to do with Loreto, it's the owner's name, Loreto Pucci), corso Vittorio Emanuele 296, tel. 06/686.11.11 and 686.15.93 closed Monday. Gnocchi alla romana B, pollo alla diavola B+ if a bit too oily, good firm chicken nicely herbed, a panna cotta said to be of the house, on the whole a good meal B, and a friendly waiter maybe a few years older than me who told me that so many people he sees accumulate for themselves and don't understand a thing, that all of this is on loan and meant to be passed on; who also told me how the guild system is alive and well in today's Rome, "all cab drivers", for example, being Molisani, and construction tradesmen from the Abruzzo: one drags in the other from his home town and before you know it whole trades are in the hands of some small village somewhere.

With a quarter-pitcher of house red, and a contorno (chicory, C, best forgotten), and a limoncello which I don't find on the bill, and a good tip to my waiter, got out of there lighter by 30E: am spending far too much money. It was 3:40 and I went back to De Bernardis, man standing on sidewalk opening up and talking to a friend. Well they have batteries, alright: at 75E a pop the 511B. It was bad enough in the States taxfree on the Web for $59, but $90 here, only 17% can be blamed on the 20% IVA value-added tax; considering they're not American but Japanese, this looks like gouging; I'll make do with the three batteries I have, and need to find an adapter. Right now, have been wandering Rome with a battery on low: the instant it gives out, I might as well pack up for Umbertide and the temporary security of that third battery which like an idiot I failed to bring with me. An elettrodomestica is now top priority.

So at 3:50 or so back on the road, armed at least with two lens caps, 3E00 total: they too have a tendency to fall off —

Bumbled into the Palazzo della Cancelleria, the courtyard of which would have very nice proportions without the third story, which does look like an addition. Useful information: clean free secure bathroom onto the courtyard, halfway down the left side as you look from the entrance.

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Palazzo della Cancelleria.

The program now was to wind up slowly at Dean's apartment where I am now, by wandering thru the smaller streets and whatever was open: basically the via dei Pellegrini to a bridge and back down on the other side of the river. My stops along the way wound up being a surprise encounter with the birthplace of Metastasio (plaque 29‑30 v. dei Cappellari, a very dark narrow street and a thoroughly filthy building), the oratorio di S. Filippo Neri (which, being I think the original one, would have been of interest but was closed), S. Biagio degli Armeni and immediately next to it at the Hotel St. George, 62 v. Giulia, the remains of a huge Roman platform, blocks of travertine bugnato weighing several tons, huge things — remembered them from last time but inaccessible until I do something about the negative scanner, plus now "film" is free and almost weightless.

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I don't know what the Roman stone used to belong to: websites — notoriously poor places for scholar­ly information of this type — claim various provenances.

S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini was open; it's a big ugly cave of a church; crossed the river on the Ponte Amedeo di Savoia, nice view of St. Peter's. Sun starting to fade and well over an hour to our meeting time at Dean's near S. Giovanni alla Malva; up the steep salita di S. Onofrio, at the top of which the church, closed; back down the via di S. Onofrio, good if constricted view over downtown Rome, with the domes of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini and S. Andrea della Valle rather prominent. Along the sunken frontage road to the lungotevere, to avoid the whizzing cars and maybe even see something; nothing much to see, semi-industrial slum area notable only for a plaque recording the place where the Germans rounded up all the Jews they could before shipping them off to extermination: a thousand people, only 16 came back.

[image ALT: An ornate coffered ceiling. It is a view of the interior of the church of S. Salvatore in Onda, in Rome.]

The coffered ceiling of S. Salvatore in Onda. What the diary doesn't say is that I'm very partial to red-and‑blue.

Porta Settimiana and from then on back in familiar territory — and way early; so I crossed the Tiber again over the Ponte Sisto, finding S. Salvatore in Onda, preparing for the evening Rosary or Mass: the plain, nondescript façade conceals a beauti­ful church well kept up, nothing astonishing but a nice red-and‑blue coffered ceiling and the whole ensemble attractive.

S. Carlo ai Catinari similarly open; I'd never seen the church and had somehow formed the idea it was one of the small ones: it isn't. Huge, by now very dark but I bet even in broad noonday it's dark; and — to the extent I could see — very dirty.

There's a little park in front of the church; that's where I wrote what little of yesterday's diary I did, and at about five to seven wandered back to Dean's apartment: to be met by an American cocktail party, although fortunately noone very elegantly dressed except for Kay, Dean's wife. Most people from SlowTrav, one or two others. Before dinner, sat — had enough standing for the day — and chatted with Mary and Tom, him a Booby-groupie he said, she writing a guide to handicapped-accessible Rome.

After a while, we all gaggled 75 m down the street to a restaurant Checco er Carettiere, a long oblong room decorated primarily with garlic: dozens and dozens of ropes of clusters of garlic hanging from the ceiling. Long table in the middle of this:

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1 Liz ("LizardLA")
2 her friend Jean, an Australian reporter
3 Dean
4 and 9 Tom and Mary
5 and 6 "RG Diamond", Leslie and her husband also Tom
7 "TonydaRoma", whose name really is Tony
8 Kay

Animated meal, Dean and Leslie switched places toward the end, which was nice for the mix; general conversation not too much travel or Italy talk, I wound up being mesmerized by Liz and Jean in my little corner, strikingly handsome women each, with warm open personalities — my typical reaction a compound of ⅔ gee it's nice there are people like that out there, and ⅓ envy. Both of them in Italy for months and months, Jean toying with forever, Liz firmly not but will come back for frequent long stays.

Food a very mixed bag; the simplest to do was everybody the same, a large antipasto plate, and three paste — to which some added dessert. Dean was in charge of the wine, the Caprai rosso di Monte­falco, then an IGT Lazio Shiraz that was very good. The antipasto plate was good to very good with one unfortunate failure. Pumpkin purée, bland; beanpods, peppers, and best of all, eggplant in oil A+; a very good crisp finger of tenpura'd baccalá; cipollini all' agrodolce; broccoli; and the disaster, which should have been the linchpin, the central item on each of our plates, a carciofo alla giudia, my first in Rome: the oil was on its way to rancid, and the result was a D.

The tris of pasta — one would have been better, followed by a secondo (I had my eye on the saltimbocca alla romana, but maybe, considering, it was better I didn't have it) — from C- to C+: a shrimp and asparagus (oily, lacked finesse corresponding to the ingredients); rigatoni or maybe bambolotti — wide tubular — with guanciale and pieces of something that might have been mushrooms, far too salty; and the best, if still undistinguished, something all' amatriciana.

Still, the wine was very good, and the company: so much rather a mediocre meal with good people and good wine than the other way around!

Not trusting dessert, I had ice cream affogato and let them surprise me (this amused the waiter enough that he told Liz, maybe she asked as she was ordering, that I was having una sorpresa in tones apparently of marvelment — anyhoo, wise choice, excellent: an eggy nocciole doused in Grand Marnier, nice mix.

We broke up past midnite, and I slept on an Empire cot in Dean and Kay's living room (a very pleasant apartment with good Oriental rugs); out like the light.

This morning I was wakened by Dean, at — 9:30. They were on their way out to Campo de' Fiori, I showered and ate my two bananas I'd been lugging around with so much else in that inconvenient plastic bag; for some reason, this trip so far has been one of carrying unwieldy baggage. Caught up a bit on diary, then my hosts came back, we had blood oranges — nice touch after excesses last night (50E, too: today, neither eat nor spend money) — and off possibly to find the Excubitorium of S. Salvatore de Curte. I was the most dubious of the lot of us I think, midday and special stuff; and sure enough, S. Maria della Luce was very, very closed; and nobody in the neighborhood (asked several people) knew zilch. Added shot of what I knew would be unprepossessing exterior of the church to my collection of tops of churches, and left, reverting to saner flexible mode of seeing whatever was open.

S. Agata in Trastevere: not a good church. Inside sterile and dirty; the façade a textbook case in bad rococo, I'm afraid I made myself a crashing bore to Kay by ticking all the blemishes down one by one: amusingly we had the fairly good side door of S. Crisogono to serve as comparison.

From there, I had the good idea to take us to Tiber Island. S. Bartolomeo closed for lunch; S. Giovanni Calibita, nice to see under heavy restoration. Delivered myself of mini-lectures on Roman bridges, and promised 'em Snake if we went down to the river level, saving the spiel for there just in case we couldn't find it or see it: but we found it more or less where I expected, and despite Platner (after all, he doesn't so much as mention the Snake at all) but also websites out there, I suddenly saw that snake-caduceus was not alone, but being held by the god himself, of whom only a few locks of hair really visible: entire face cleaved off. The remainder of our walk around the island was good, since I hadn't realized just how many inscriptions there are on the Fabricius: 5, plus one damnatio. Excellent views of the Synagogue, as Kay pointed out, the best possible vantage point; and in the best season since not obscured by tree foliage yet. Pons Aemilius also a good view: dragons, surely carved in the Renaissance? after all, a coat of arms on it, too.

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Aesculapius and his Snake; Kay providing scale.

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As seen (or possibly imagined) by Piranesi, when it was less weathered.

Courtesy Sophie Hay and Caroline Lawrence.

One thing led to another and the last place we visited together was S. Maria in Cosmedin; hardly for the first time in my case, but Dean and Kay didn't know the church, and as it turns out, neither exactly did I, having no memory of the apsidal frescoes — I now seem to remember the whole back of the church was blocked off my last visit, and of course I don't remember much from my previous visit in 1966. Nothing earth-shattering, and very hard to photograph because of the many visual layers of stone enclosure, ciborium, frescoes, but attractive. Longish lines — and this is early March! — of mostly Japanese waiting to stick their hands in that thing; human nature a great mystery.

So we parted at about 3:15, me to Termini and Umbertide for 2½ more months, Dean and Kay leave Rome in two or three days; and I started my goatlike meandering back to catch the 16:14 to Ancona, which almost right away became more focused, since my camera battery finally gave out on me in the piazza of S. Maria della Consolazione: if it had to do it, at least it was the best timing.

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Reviewing my photos nearly twenty years after this walk thru Rome, I discovered that before the battery died — speak of timing! — it allowed me to capture one last shot: this beauti­ful street scene in front of the church of S. Giovanni Decollato; unusually, the photo is best appreciated full-size.

At that point of course, no point in random side-routes, I climbed up the Campidoglio, down across the Piazza Venezia, up to the Largo Magnanapoli, then the long straight shot of the Panisperna that James makes fun of me for, almost to S. Maria Maggiore, except why dip downhill to climb again, so around on the flat via S. Prassede, rejoining the Cavour just in time to see a shop that looked it might carry adapters. It did, a purportedly universal adapter specifically marked US, also for use with computers, digital cameras, and caricabatterie: I hope it works [Bedtime this evening: it does, o frabjous day!]

Ancona train 10 minutes late, eventlessly to Foligno, fairly quick change for Perugia (got to go past the Roman towers of Spello, always nice); PSG, and here I am on my new friend the 1943 which'll put me home in about 15 minutes.

Forgot to mention the rather spectacular full moon over Trevi; making note to self — in view of some very nice nighttime shots of Rome (this camera a joy! I could never take such things before) last night — maybe to catch the full moon over Trevi a month from now or two.

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Page updated: 31 May 23