Day 4, Tuesday, and we were off to Roma. We met Linda’s awesome friend Laura, an American married to an Italian academic. (It’s amazing the number of American women here who are married to uomini Italiani—that’s one guaranteed way to live in Italia!) It was fascinating to listen to Laura and another friend talk about the school system in Italy. Her son is in a public school that was “occupato,” or occupied, by the students. Apparently it’s a regular occurrence: The students get so fed up with the school system’s problems that they take over the school in protest. And yet nothing ever changes. Linda, too, is not a fan of the Italian schools, and yet I looked through her daughter Giulia’s notebook for art history and found sections on cathedrals, sculpture, painting, even the Orvieto Duomo, which the students can walk by on their way to school—all facets of art history that I never studied in my public American school at age 12, that’s for sure.
Making up for my lack of education, I spent the next two days exploring Roman art and archaeology at four museums (I’m not a masochist, but a 10€ ticket gets you into all four). They are all a part of the National Roman Museum and so interesting.
At the Palazzo Massimo, near Termini station, I learned that in ancient Rome, the hairstyle made the woman. For an in-depth tour of Roman hairstyles from my visit to the museums, click here (it’s really fun, I swear!).
The museum also has an incredible collection of ancient Roman coins through the ages.
For lunch, I indulged my inner tourist at the Piazza di Spagna, crowded as usual.
I also learned of a performance of La Traviata happening that night at a little tourist theater near the piazza. So I decided to extend my Roman holiday and check it out. Yes, it was touristy, with horrible wigs on the singers and the women’s costumes looked like bad bridesmaid dresses, but the voices weren’t bad and the theater is adorable—and you can bring a glass of prosecco to your seat.
I spent the night in my friends’ little hotel, the Beehive, Via Marghera 8, near Termini. They’re worth a blog entry all on their own but it’s probably better for you to check out their website and hear Linda and Steve’s story directly from them. We’ve been friends for nearly 20 years, and I’m so proud of them for building up their business, which I’ve been privileged to see at various stages: When they were a hostel with a few bunk beds, after they bought some property and were beginning to expand (and offer yoga classes and massage), and now…
They have 20 rooms, a vegetarian cafe, and a booking service they call, Cross-Pollinate, so that if they’re full, they can book you into any number of other rooms or hotels, or book you a place in any of eight other cities including, Florence, Venice, Paris, Barcelona, London, Lisbon and Istanbul.
I stayed in their latest renovated rooms.
The next morning, after having breakfast with a Beehive guest from Kathmandu, Nepal—now I’ve added that to my list of future destinations to hit—I explored the other three museums my ticket was good for.
The Crypta Balbi is located right on an archeological site so you can see how the building has been excavated. And there’s a large exhibit of how Rome developed on top of its own ancient remains over the years. There were a lot of pots to look at, and near as I could tell the most durable item was an oil lamp—the museum has hundreds of them. The Terme di Diocleziano’s most intriguing offering is a large cloister designed by Michelangelo. It’s gorgeous.
Lunch at the Piazza Navona (doesn’t get more touristy than that!)
Finally, I made it to the Palazzo Altemps, which houses the amazing Ludovisi collection of sculpture, among others. It’s easier to just show you some of the highlights:
This one’s an odd one: During restoration in the 17th century, the restorer used various parts from other excavated statues to essentially fashion his own creation of the pair. So, Psyche, on the left, got a new head, perhaps from an Apollo statue. And her bust also once belonged to a male statue, they just added a breast. (And check out her guns!). The lower part of Psyche was made new in the 17th century. Cupid got a new head also, a female from ancient Rome, known as a “Sappho type” because of the hair drawn back into a chignon. Apparently the goal was to inspire admiration through the ambiguity of the use of both male and female parts. Those crazy Baroque kids!
One of my very favorites is a satyr carved (they think) by a young Gian Lorenzo Bernini. He often used himself as an inspiration for his statues (no ego there!), and he seemed to have good material to work with. Ciao, Gian, I’ll revisit you at the Galleria Borghese!
At that point, i miei piedi erano distrutti! (My feet were dead) And I had to catch a train back to Orvieto. But it was due giorni fantastici a Roma!