Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Ristorante in Trastevere

After a long morning of walking, the girls and I decided we need a nice authentic Italian lunch. What better place to go then our town of Trastevere. Seems like an easy decision but when you have hundreds of different restaurants that all look tempting the decision becomes more difficult.

Cruising down the cobblestone streets we stopped at nearly every ristorante to check out what their menu had to offer. Finally, we decided on a quaint ristorante. When we entered we found not a lick of English was spoken which confirmed we were in a truly authentic Italian ristorante.

So hungry and tired we all collapsed in our chairs. We sat outside with a cool breeze at our backs and the sun shinning, a picture perfect moment. So many types of pizza to choose from we decided to order a variety and share amongst the table.

I might dare to say it was the best pizza I have ever tasted; although bold it may be true. The four cheese pizza melted in our mouths, while the prosciutto and cheese left us smiling. When we were all said and done, there was not a morsel left on anyone’s plate. I guess you could say we enjoyed our meals!

Scala Santa and Sancta Sactorum

What a sight to see, Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctorum or the “holy steps”, which Christ was said to have ascended in Pontius Pilate’s house during his trial. When I tell you that no foot is allowed to touch the stairs, literally, people are crawling their way up twenty-eight stairs on their knees.

I first read about this phenomenon in Charles Dickens work Pictures From Italy, it was not a sight I could visualize in my head. Maybe it is because I, myself, have never seen or done anything of the sort. Dickens describes it as ridiculous, unpleasant and senseless. However, I do not totally agree with him. The reason being, if you look into the purpose, which is penance you may be able to understand why devout Christians put themselves through this pain.

As I stood at the bottom watching the penitents slowly make their way up the flight of marble stairs, I was in awe. The devout and brave penitents, many middle aged looked in pain as they lifted each knee slowly as the crept up to the top, while still stopping to pray.

Blue Ice Gelateria

While walking through Santa Maria in Trastevere, on a hot afternoon, I stumbled across a gelateria. A bright blue sign with big yellow letters read Blue Ice. Jessica, my teaching assistant had just recently told me that it was her favorite place to get gelato. So I thought I would give it a whirl.

The bright vibrant colors inside the store made me feel like a kid again. The wide array of gelato flavors added to the color, each piled high, giving you the urge to jump inside and indulge in every flavor. The artistry of the gelato display definitely deserves an A+.

Deciding which flavors to order is never an easy task. No matter what, I always come up with a wacky combination. Good thing for me it is acceptable and with no additional charge. My dilemma, with gelato is, I can not pass up a refreshing fruit flavored gelato on a hot summer day, but on the other hand, a little chocolate never hurts.

After a strenuous decision process, I had made up my mind. I said to the patient employee, fragola and stracciatella (strawberry and chocolate chip) per favore!

Wow, Jessica was right! It definitely is at the top of my gelateria tour list. Initially I was skeptical of Blue Ice because it is a chain, but please don’t let it discourage you. I highly suggest if you ever get the chance, experience Blue Ice for yourself!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Piazza di Santa Maria's Charm

The piazza gets much of its charm from the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The church faces the piazza and brings significance and aesthetics to the center of the piazza. Santa Maria in Trastevere was the first official Christian worship place built in Rome. It dates back to the 3rd century founded by Pope Callixtus I.

The exterior depicts 12th century mosaics of the Virgin Mary with Jesus and 10 women holding lamps at the top of the Basilica which were done by Pietro Cavallini. The aesthetics and importance of this Basilica brings a lot of people through the Piazza, especially during the day. As I observed, there are many groups that walk through the Piazza who pause at the fountain and continue on into the museum. It is very important because otherwise the Piazza could be missed, considering it is down narrow alley ways and is not very visible to a travelers-eye. The beautiful facade of the church with the fountain in front is reason enough to make a visit to Piazza Santa in Trastevere!

Sorrento vs. Roman Gelato


While staying in Sorrento, we stopped at a gelateria off the town’s main street called Davide Gelato. Recommended by the famous Rick Steves’, we knew he wouldn’t steer us wrong. It was time to compare and contrast Rome’s gelato to Sorrento’s. Rome has many more gelateria’s but for Sorrento size is in close comparison. Limoncello is Sorrento’s claim to fame, however it is not all they are good at.

The gelato was surprisingly very smooth and fluffy. The vast number of flavors was overwhelming. Each of us ordered different flavors and shared with one another. The frutti di bosco, which of course I got, was full of flavor and was exactly the right consistency. I could taste the real fruit flavors. After a big heavy Italian meal there is nothing better to cleanse your pallet. I was very impressed with Sorrento’s gelato. It definitely gives Rome a run for its money in terms of gelato!

La Fonte Della Salute


After a long weekend of travel and a warm Sunday night it seemed only right to sit outside in our bustling town and enjoy gelati. We decided to try a new place on Viale Trastevere, the main drag in our town. As we walked down the street filled with people eating outside at sidewalk restaurants it was a real testament to the fact that Italians do in fact eat dinner very late.

We continued dodging our way through the crowds until we came across La Fonte Della Salute. It looked delicious and it was very crowded so we decided to give it a whirl. Quickly we learned the old lesson, looks can be deceiving or don’t judge a book by its cover.

As I have told you before frutti di bosco is my all time favorite gelato. However, this time it was extremely disappointing. The consistency just wasn’t right. The best kind is smooth, creamy and very refreshing. This frutti di bosco however, was icy and had way too many seeds in it with little flavor. Although it was nice to sit outside on the sidewalks of Trastevere with my friends as we took a study break, the gelato just wasn’t up to par!

An afternoon in Piazza di Santa Maria

The pouring rain had finally ceased and the sun was peaking through the clouds. I desperately needed to get out of my apartment, so I ventured to Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. On my way down the back alley way, I stumbled across a group of kids about 15 years old outside of their school. For the couple of minutes that I observed their interactions I noticed friends, both male and females, greeting each other with a kiss on both cheeks. This type of interaction definitely is not a social norm in America. At this point on my journey I really felt immersed in the Italian culture.

As I approached the Piazza I encountered another strange interaction. A beggar came swiftly out of a side alley to my right with a plastic bright blue dog bowl with a couple coins in it. Startled, I quickly looked at him and then diverted my eyes and continued into the center of the Piazza where I took a seat at the base of the fountain.

I sat quietly, as if I were a fly on the wall, watching and observing the Piazza on a Thursday afternoon after a huge rain storm. The trickling of the fountain was the background music to the chattering of three Italian teenagers next to me. I sat immersing myself more into the total scene. I noticed tour groups frequently walking through the Piazza, some with tour guides, others just taking the beauty in themselves. Meandering throughout the crowds were locals taking the opportunity to walk their dogs before the rain began again. I have found people watching to be the best way to fully take in Trastevere’s community life and interactions.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

D.O.M.

After visiting numerous churches in Rome I began noticing at the top of each sarcophagus three large letters engraved, D. O. M. Seeing it repetitively, I knew there had to be significance behind it. Assuming that it had something to do with Latin, a language that I had previously taken; I decided to research the meaning and where it came from.

I discovered it is in fact a Latin phrase, deo optimum maximo, meaning “to the greatest and best God.” The phrase dates back to the era when Roman’s were polytheist. The phrase originally referred to Jove, who was the patron deity of the Roman state.

Centuries later the revered phrase was still used. However, through the adoption of Christianity the Romans became monotheists and the honorable phrase no longer referred to Jove. Rather, to the Christian God meaning, “to God, most good, most great.”

Therefore, the phrase is commonly found on Renaissance-era churches. Thus explaining why it is so common in Italian churches. So, if you get a chance to go to an Italian church keep your eyes out for the abbreviation D.O.M!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Santa Maria sopra Minerva is my favorite church that I have visited in Rome. This church is the only Gothic architecture in Rome that I have seen. The building was actually built above ancient ruins, hence the Italian word sopra meaning above the temple of Minerva.

The first time I visited Minerva, I was in awe of the enormous structure and its overwhelming visage. It seemed impossible to capture and take in all the church had to offer. It has the most magnificent ceiling I have ever seen. The high deep royal blue T-shaped vaulted ceilings are intricate with gold stars and paintings of saints; create a warm feeling throughout the church.

The glass windows that are placed in the top of each archway down the nave of the church with the sun shining through them really is a sight to see. Surprisingly, this is the first church in Rome that I have seen with glass windows.

The ceiling and glass windows, as seen in the pictures, alone are reason enough to visit Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Giolitti's

My first gelato experience was to the well known Giolitti Gelatoria near the Pantheon and Hilda’s tower. I actually came across Giolitti while searching for Hilda’s tower. I had heard about it through my good friend who had just traveled in Rome. She specifically told me to go to this gelatoria and order Frutti di Bosco.

After a long search for Hilda’s tower we found it and decided to reward ourselves with a gelato from Giolitti’s. Since this was an authentic Italian gelatoria we had some difficulty figuring out how the ordering worked because no one spoke English.

After observing other customers we realized that they do it differently here. You pay first and then order at the gelato counter. Once we went to order we ran into another problem, all the flavors were in Italian. Fortunately, my friend had told me to try the Frutti di Bosco so I knew that was a safe bet. We sat outside at the tables with other customers who enjoyed their gelati on this hot Wednesday afternoon and decided that we would be returning soon to Giolitti’s!

Gelato


What else could I ask for I am living in the most beautiful city with the best ice cream, also know as gelato. Before I left for Rome, I must have heard it a 100 times from many different people, make sure you eat Italian gelato. I have to say they were right. The gelato here is the most amazing thing I have ever tasted. It is so refreshing to treat yourself to a gelato after exploring the streets of Italy all day on a hot afternoon.

Interested to know what the amazing Italian gelato was made of I researched to see what I could find. It is as simple as milk, sugar and flavorings. However, the reason for its density and extreme flavor is because it is made up of less than 35% air. There are many minor variations in the ingredients depending on what part of Italy the gelato is made. Regardless, it is definitely an Italian treasure!

A Night in Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere

I returned to the piazza on a Sunday night to see what was happening. Surprisingly there were a lot more people than I had expected. It was a beautiful night with a refreshing summer breeze settling in. As we walked down the narrow alley ways that lead to the Piazza, every ristorante was busy as groups of people wandered the street. There are so many different restaurants the decision of where to eat can take as long as your dinner itself, as we soon found out. Everywhere looks so delicious and authentic, which is also good because you can’t go wrong.

We wanted something quick, so we finally decided on a little bar restaurant. It was perfect just what we were looking for, a casual dining setting with great service and delicious food and an added bonus of watching the Rome’s soccer game. After dinner as we were walking back to our apartment, a man from Yugoslavia stop us. He first asked if we spoke English and then proceeded to ask us for one cent so he could buy bread. Coincidently, I had left over bread from my meal and was happy to share with him. It was a great experience and can not wait to go back!

Piazza di Santa Maria



While exploring Trastevere, I stumbled across my favorite area in town, the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Tucked away in the narrow cobble-stoned alleyways of Trastevere is a bustling piazza. Here I found great little caf├ęs, pizzerias and gelateria’s, but the best part about the piazza is feeling completely submersed in true Italian culture.
In the middle of the piazza is a beautiful fountain. The fountain has an octagonal base with stairs that are full of people of all ages socializing. There is often some type of entertainment in the piazza. My first trip to the piazza a magician was in front of the fountain attracting the attention of many people, including mine. It is definitely a great people watching spot. I hope to gain more knowledge about the art of Italian interaction at this piazza!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Sant'Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio


Around the corner from our school is Sant'Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio. This was the first of many churches that I visited in Rome. It was built in the early 17th century and dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Loyola who was the founder of the Jesuit order. The aesthetics of this Baroque church are breathtaking.
The aspect of the church that sets it apart from the others is Andrea Pozzo's massive fresco painting that stretches across the whole ceiling. The painting, as you can see in the picture, is majestic and creates a feeling that the church is opening up to a bright sky with 3D figures that look as if they are floating on clouds. There is a dark marble circle in the middle of the floor which is the best spot to observe the illusion that Pozzo created. The church resembles the Jesuit mother church Il Gesu, which I plan to go visit soon!

Churches in Rome

I have been in Rome for four days now, and I am just in awe at the plethora of churches that are found throughout the streets and alleys of Rome. I know that Rome is the eternal city and seat of the Catholic Church, but I could never have anticipated the presence Catholicism has in this city.

Every turn I make as I walk through the streets there is another magnificent church to explore. Being raised catholic and going through twelve years of Catholic schooling could be the reason that I find the churches such a prominent and important theme throughout Rome. Regardless, these beautiful buildings are inviting and have so much to offer to those who visit. As my sightseeing continues I will add comments on the Roman Churches that I visit.