Monday, June 22, 2009

Neverending Maze

On Saturday night I decided to take a walk throughout the city. I started out in Trastevere, but sadly my shoes gave me such blisters that I had to buy a new pair right then and then I just felt the need to go home. However, I wanted to walk to Piazza Navona and try a famous dessert, tartufo, at Tre Scalini. I decided to walk along the Tiber until I reached Via Vittorio Emanuale. From there I walked for a bit until I saw a sign for Abbey Theatre, a bar I'd been to, and Piazza Navona. Perfect, I thought.

Not perfect. I seemed to have had short term memory loss and forgotten that the streets of Rome are never easy to navigate. I turned where the sign said to, and then proceeded to walk around a block and end up right back where I began. By this point, I just wanted to be home, so I comforted myself with gelato and started walking home, when I ran into the unattainable Navona. Of course this would happen after I had given up.

Moral of the story is that no matter how many times one has been to a place in Rome, it's not always the easiest to get back to it. These "roads" that connect everything have no true rhyme or reason and one really has to just get lost in order to be able to find where one's going.

Fountain of Facts

I am straying from my usual blog about fountains of water to focus on my TA, Una Kimokeo-Goes: Fountain of Facts. Sometimes Una just randomly spits out these ridiculous things that I never in my life have heard of, and I sit there in awe wondering how she knows them. Una has said it is because she took part in debate competitions throughout school, and I give that a lot of credit, but I also believe it is because she is just a curious person and will follow through when she thinks of a question.

Una will research anything that pops into her mind, whether it is five minutes or five days after she thinks of it. It has helped her to identify some of the things around Rome, which in turn helps us to learn a bit more about the city we've spent so much time in. I can honestly say will not forget some of the things she has told me so, thanks Una!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Won't Take No for an Answer

As I was walking through Piazza Navona today, I stopped by the first place I ever tried gelato to see the name of it. I saw that it was Mariotti and proceeded to walk away but the man working there wouldn't let that happen. He asked me if I wanted ice cream, and I replied no because I'd already had some. He grabbed my hand and ushered me inside, telling me to at least taste the cioccolato, since it was named the best in Rome. In fact, there was even an award featured prominently on the wall that verified his claim. I took a scoop and said ciao and was off on my way.

Sometimes, to generalize, Italians can get very pushy to the point where it's annoying. However, I loved this interaction. The gelateria man was extremely nice and just trying to garner some business, and for some reason I separated it from the other times I felt the servers were trying too hard. I don't think I cared because he wasn't asking for my money, he just wanted me to try the best chocolate. These are the little things I'm going to miss when I leave Rome in a week and a day, and I'll be counting down the days until I return once more to Roma.

Rome on the Silver Screen

Rome has been the setting for many movies, so for our self-created walks I decided to hit some of the places seen in movies such as Roman Holiday, Angels & Demons, and La Dolce Vita, among others.

  • Start at Piazza Navona. Right in the center of the piazza is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, which plays a critical role in the new movie directed by Ron Howard, Angels & Demons, based on the bestselling book of the same title by Dan Brown.
When facing away from Sant' Agnese in Agone (the big building with the grand facade that takes up most of the piazza) and the fountain, walk down the little nameless alley and make a left onto Corso del Rinascimento. Cross the street using the crosswalk and stay straight on Via Salvatore. Make a right onto Via Del Dogana Vecchia and walk a little bit to then make a left onto Via Seminario.
  • The Pantheon will be straight ahead. This spot is relavant to the Italian NeoRealist film Umberto D. In this movie, Umberto is down on his luck and is forced to ask for spare change, but he runs into an acquaintance and acts as if he was just passing through. It's a sad time for Umberto because he feels like he is losing his dignity along with his pensione.
From the Pantheon, continue down Via Seminario, which turns into Via Caravita. Stay straight and you run right into Via del Corso. Make a right and follow this street all the way until you come to the mouth of Piazza del Popolo.
  • In Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck spend the day on Via Babuino, another road that leads directly to the piazza. This is an fun experience for Hepburn, since it continues the excitement the two shared the previous night.
From the piazza, walk down Via Babuino, one of the three roads extending from del Popolo. If you continue for a few minutes, you will run right into Piazza Spagne and the Spanish Steps.
  • It was here that inThe Talented Mr. Ripley Matt Damon pretended to be his former friend and crush while on a date with a woman, when in reality he had really killed Dickie and only sought to inherit his fortunes.
From Piazza Spagne, walk to the left where the road splits onto Via Due Macelli and turns into Via Trafuro. At about the fourth street on your right, make a right onto Via Arcione. This turns into Via Lavatore and leads you directly to the Trevi Fountain.
  • This is probably Rome's most famous fountain, and it is the setting for what many people wish they could do. In La Dolce Vita, Sylvia and her companion Marcello wander the streets around the fountain and happen to stumble across it. She immediately jumps in, calling for him to join her, but as he does the water shuts off, effectively ending the fun night they were having.
Here is the end of the walk, so make sure you throw a coin in the famous fountain to guarantee your trip back to the Eternal City for hopefully many more walks!

1. "In Italy Online - Rome in the Movies." In Italy Online - Hotels in Italy, Villas in Italy, Lodgings in Italy, Traveling to Italy and Information about Italy. 17 June 2009 .

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

King Tritone

Il Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini is yet another piece of work by Bernini. Commissioned by Pope Urban VIII in 1642, King Triton kneels and blows water out of a conch shell. He is located at the foot of the Via Veneto in the middle of the busy Piazza Berberini.

Pope Urban VIII came from the Barberini family and had the fountain built after his family palace was completed. On the tails of the dolphins, Bernini carved the Barberini coat of arms, the papal seal, and the keys of Saint Peter.

Although The Fountain of Triton isn't nearly as popular as the Trevi or the Four Rivers, it is still relevant to the landscape of Roma. People don't necessarily hang out there at night because it's in the middle of a busy intersection, but they'll use it as a meeting place or a place to sit for a few minutes. We got paninis from a bar close to the fountain one time and the barista asked my friend to meet him at the fountain later, effectively combining two very Roman traditions - going afer young Americans and rendesvousing where there's water.

1. Publishing, DK. Rome (Eyewitness Travel Guides). New York: DK Travel, 2006.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sant' Agnese in Agone

The giant facade that takes up most of Piazza Navona is that of Sant' Agnese in Agone. Borromini created this massive structure after he replaced father/son architects Girolama and Carlo Rainaldi, who were commissioned to build it by Pope Innocent X. Borromini mostly followed the former architects' plans, but he strayed in that the facade is concave, in order to emphasize the dome.

The church was built over the site of a brothel where Saint Agnes was stripped naked in order to make her renounce her faith. She wouldn't and miraculously her hair grew long enough to cover her exposed body. St. Agnes was also martyred there, which is another reason why a church to honor her is suitable.

Sant' Agnese in Agone is just one example of the many scattered throughout Rome with specific ties to a saint. This is one thing I like a lot because it gives people a chance to learn the history behind the saint and what they stood for and how they lived their lives.

Hollywood Navona

Before I had even read Angels & Demons, I was learning about Piazza Navona in my architecture class. I loved it then and longed to see it, and after I read the book I wanted to even more so, if only to get a better picture of the setting.

I haven't seen the film yet, but I know Navona plays a crucial part in the climactic moments of the plot. The movie pulls into it all the elements of Piazza Navona one loves, specifically the Fountain of the Four Rivers. I think it would have been interesting to be here while filming was going on to see how the drew worked their way around the famous piazza without disturbing its charm. However, I also think I'm better off without having seen the filming, because then I can just enjoy Piazza Navona the way it is, a pretty oval filled with arts and food.