Sunday, August 3, 2008


Moses by Michelangelo. He originally had a crown but an antisemitic pope had it reduced to horns.
The Trevi fountain, to which I threw a coin

The outside of the Pantheon. Two thousand years old

Inside the Pantheon. Lots of marble

a fresco inside one of the many churches we visited that day

An interesting building

One of the many statues

The colosseum

Roma was molto caldissimo The thermometer said 41C which is 105F. I'll check the weather channel. Friday night our water lecture was cancelled which noone was upset about so I went to Castelvecchio with Drew for beer and gelato. The local beer is Nastro Azzurro-fairly anemic stuff. The big export is Peroni. But it had cooled down alot and it was nice sitting in the town square discussing our life. After dinner, I did go to the bar with Nancy and Dana to try to practice my Italian. Everyone plays Scopa, a card game which seems to be a variation of Go Fish but you don't ask for cards. The card deck is quite different-clubs are actually clubs and lots of other weird symbols. With my latest stomach problems, I can't tolerate much alcohol so I went back to monastery and slowly loaded pictures. The latest batch I had stolen from Dana. At
6 am Saturday we were off to Roma passing the one sounder of cinghiale I had seen before and again having breakfast at the Autogrill. Too many meals at Autogrill. If it weren't for the long twisty road to the Autostrada in which our bus needs to almost stop at every switchback, Roma is actually quite close-slightly more than an hour on the freeway. I was surprised how little auto traffic there was around it. Ten million people live there . It is now the 2nd most visited city in the world -NYC being first- just bypassing Paris. But it is a fantastic city with ruins around each corner, mixed in with renaissance buildings and more updated buildings. Unlike Florence, the sights are spread out all over and virtually impossible to see in a day. We had to make a choice: Vatican City or the rest of Rome. I chose Rome. We had picked up a guide from Ohio who calls himself an 'edutainer' a term which really confused the Italian kids. He chose to pretend to have a Brooklyn accent and works as an actor in his spare time, name dropping alot. On the whole, he was knowledgable and entertaining. He liked to do impressions and act out Julius Caesar's last moments before he was betrayed. I still haven't forgiven him for our shitty lunch which I suspected he profitted from. He kept saying how fantastic the Caprese salad was but it was 12 euros, no basil and made with anemic, unripe tomatos plus the restaurant added all sorts of service charges for stale bread. Initially our bus went from site to site which was frustrating because we couldn't take pictures but finally we were let and out and walked for 7 long very hot hours from place to place. I couldn't even keep track of all the places. Rome still gets its water via the aqueducts from the surrounding mountains-does not need any chlorine and is cold and pure coming out of many fountains around town. The water isn't treated here in Gagliano arising from a spring. I filled my bottle up numerous times, soaked my hair and clothes, and never had to pee as the sun was so hot and dry. We did stop for lunch at the guide's suggestion in this awlful place that really overcharged us though it was nice to sit down for while. We saw the forum, the Spanish steps, the Trevi fountain, the Collosuem, St. Peters in Chains, which contained Moses by Michelangelo. Another beautiful church St. Maria's(unsure of that name) sobra Minerva (they had built it over Minerva's temple)was full of Bernini statues and breathtakingly beautiful. The most impressive site was the Pantheon, which despite being 2000 years old, is perfectly preserved. It has a huge dome that even Renaissance architects 1500 years later had trouble duplicating. Lots of inlaid marble in the floors and walls. The old forum where Julius C was killed is now a cat sanctuary filled with 500 cats. I could only see a few but it certainly smelled like they all could be there. They were probably hiding from the brutal sun. Cats are special as they are considered the reason that Rome was spared from the Plague. A third of Italians died and even a higher percentage in the rest of Europe. But the kitties kept the rats down. Some Romans thought they were just being blessed from God as the Pope lived there too. We heard plenty of pope stories-not very nice guys and very political. It was thought best to have them be officially celibate so they would have no official heirs and someone from a competing family would have a chance at it keeping peace between the 5 big families. We made two gelato stops. Gelato was twice the price as it is here in the boondocks but it was very good. Much more variey of flavors. Red grapefruit, limoncello and this very intense blackberry were some of my favorites. They let you have tre gusti (3 flavors) a time. After hours of being in the hot sun, though we went through shady alleys as much as possible, we were beat. People kept dropping out of the tour as the day wore on but despite my blisters, Dana and I kept on to the bitter end. I now have this ugly bright red rash on my calves. I thought it was an allergic reaction to my shoes but others have it also. On the way back, outside of Celano, we went to a real restaurant instead of the Autogrill. It was a seafood restaurant specializing in Neapolitan cuisine including pizzas. Pizzas here in Abruzzi are very disappointing and I threw mine away that they put in my sack lunch. Basically stale bread with a little tomato sauce. These pizzas were 'real' as they were in the Napoli style but I had had one for lunch so I tried some shrimp and porcini mushroom pasta. Good. It took forever to translate the menu. Some things I could literally translate like 'truffles from the sea' or 'bird beans' but we were lost. Had alot of venison too. No chicken or pork. Nancy likes seafood but not calamari as it is too rubbery for her. Calamari is the only seafood we get in Gagliano. I like it but sneak the tentacle parts out to my pal Dave. I had some pasta dish with shrimp and mushrooms. Nancy went over and over with the waitress to ensure her 'mixed grill seafood' had no calamari but was quite shocked when her plate included this big white ball complete with eyes and tentacles. Looked like a deflated bladder. I wish I had filmed her face as she tentatively poked it and it bounced back. After some confusion, it was determined to be cuttlefish which is related to octopus-also on the menu as Polpo which I remember from Spanish ( as seafood names to avoid). I told her I used to buy cuttlefish bones for my parakeets but she wouldn't try it. We bought expensive Montipulciano d'Abruzzo as recommended by the Italians and it was very tasty. This wine really varies in color, taste, and price. The version at the monastery is pink and not that good. I or someone else buys a better dark red one at the bakery for €1.3. I have a €2 bottle stored away that I hope is even better. I was totally sore and exhausted when we returned. I didn't even change and just lay down on my bed over the covers. I did get up early to run, which due to soreness, I had second thoughts about but I ran down to Castelvecchio anyways. No animal sightings except for the numerous stray dogs that fortunately leave me alone. Dave has stopped herding me as I now feed him but continues to herd others even nipping them or grabbing their wrists if they leave his flock. I am devoting today to school work-mainly film. It seems a massive chore before me. I did my laundry before the kids got up as there is alot of competition for the 3 tiny machines. No dryers but we have racks in back courtyard that work well. To announce mass, the bells go off for 10 minutes straight and there are several masses and churches. Some with louder bells than than the time bells. The kids must have fun trying to sleep through them. Have to concentrate.

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