A lion, stalking his destiny outside the church of Santa Maria de Trastevere.
The thunder was rolling this evening, and the kids saw lightning on the way home from the gelato shop, suggesting that we are not yet done with the autumn rains. Off and on all day, the quiescent gray skies would spit a few drops of rain, then a few more, then a lot, pelting down on the streets, filling the gutters, and roiling the Tiber. People just stepped under an overhang, or into a shop entryway, waiting during the fifteen or twenty minutes that the rain took to wear itself thin. The drops would stop, everyone would bustle about for another hour, and then the rain would start all over, as if it didn’t get it right the first time and needed the practice. You could see how the Tiber has the potential to flood.
Regina and I started the morning with Mass at Santa Maria de Trastevere. It was built on the site of the “sacred oil,” rumored to have been a miraculous fountain of olive oil that appeared here at the exact time that Christ was born. There was in fact a small petroleum deposit discovered about 30 B.C.E.
One source says that the church was totally rebuilt in the mid-1100s, much of it using columns and stones salvaged from the Roman baths of Caracalla. Some of the altar mosaics date from earlier, between the 700s and 900s. Maybe half a dozen locals were at the 8:30 a.m. Mass, in a church that could easily hold several hundred people, and another dozen or so tourists and others (including a couple of African men who looked like they might be street vendors on their way to sell handbags and sunglasses).
We stopped for Regina’s morning cappucino on the way home at a bar whose owner was angry that we gave him a 5 euro bill. He kept gesturing at a tray next to the cash register saying “Money! Money!” — by which he meant coins. We dug through our pockets, pulled out enough to pay the bill, and left him scowling as he scooped them up.
Next stop was home to collect Anthea and Jim who had been doing laundry and packing. We all leave in the morning, Anthea for Seattle, and the rest of us for Sicily. We gathered rain jackets and umbrellas and went to the Porta Portese flea market a few blocks away. This sets up only on Sundays, with mostly clothes (some new, and some well used), shoes, leather goods, jewelry, underwear, and the like. Regina scored a wool blazer, a cotton shirt, and a nice vest; I got a couple of necklaces and a scarf. It’s definitely a never-pay-the-posted-price sort of place — walking away is a remarkably effective technique to bring the cost down by another euro or two. Just as we finished shopping, the rain started, sending shoppers scurrying and vendors pulling plastic tarps over their goods.
An hour later, we walked through our second cloudburst to our favorite bar/coffee shop and on to the Jewish Quarter across the river to meet one of Anthea’s college friends for lunch. At Il Giordano Romano we had a traditional Jewish specialty, fried artichokes — oh, so good. We tried veggie lasagna, pasta ariabbata, and falafel — equally delicious. And after we left, we thought that the place next door had even better looking food. Finally, we’re beginning to find the food that we came to Italy for.
We shared post-lunch gelato with the college friend, then walked to the Protestant Cemetery a mile or so away, accompanied by a half hour of sunshine along the Tiber, and then the next downpour. The Cemetery turned out to be closed on Sundays, except from noon to 1:00, despite the guidebook’s assurance that it was open until 5:00. We’ve been pretty lucky — travel advisors often caution that hours for many attractions can be quite erratic. The cats (the cemetery has quite a number of them, just like several other historic sites) were hiding from the wet, and we just had time before being dismissed from the grounds to take a couple of quick photos.
We walked through another downpour to meet Peg and Tom at the Spanish Steps for dinner. The steps weren’t as crowded as I expected — the rain has gone a long way to reduce the number of tourists out and about today. Perhaps it was the museums that were packed, instead of the streets. Dinner was pizza and pasta, at a very chic modern spot just off the Piazza Spagna. Anthea enjoyed her dinner greatly, her last in Rome for a while.
And here is rain again, pounding on the pavement outside our apartment windows. The forecast for tomorrow is yet more of the same, but Sicily offers some sun along with it.
The dome at Santa Maria de Trastevere, which is (according to one source) one of the finest examples of very early medieval mosaics (dates from 700 to 800 C. E.).
In keeping with the Eternal City’s fascination with death, we found this image in a side chapel in Santa Maria de Trastevere. If there was much of an explanation, we couldn’t read it. It would make a great tattoo.
Graffiti in Piazza San Cosimo. Vorrei means “I want.” Vorrei mangiare un enorme “donut” means “I want to eat an enormous doughnut.”
The Sunday flea market at Porta Portese. Everyone shops there, including the nuns.
An egret fishing in the Tiber River at the foot of one of the bridges.
A peek inside the Protestant Cemetery before they booted us out. Keats and Shelley are both buried here, along with numbers of other famous people, many of them not Protestant. I think that you just had to be not Catholic.
The McDonald’s sign on Via Propaganda — the street really is named that.
The fountain in Piazza Spagna, at the Spanish Steps. The rain has stopped for half an hour.
The Spanish Steps, and a romantic photo being taken, to be treasured forever.
Anthea finishing her last glass of wine in Rome for a while. Sounds like she’ll be back.
The steps, a couple of hours later.