Dara poses with us at Piazza Navona. She and I like bright colors more than Mark does…
Our friend Dara was in Rome for a week, so we took a break from our Mediterranean island hopping summer to fly to Rome for a quick three-day visit. Even if you’ve been here before, three days is just too short for this amazing city. What has amused me in our brief time here is that unlike most touristy places, I enjoy Rome and the ruins here more every time I see them. Because I read a lot of history, each time I come here I understand more about Julius Caesar and Augustus and Tiberius and Constantine and what the story of Rome is, and the ancient city starts to come alive.
The Museum of the Imperial Forums includes modern art displays. The juxtaposition worked for me.
Still, this was a very brief stop. Mostly we visited with Dara for a day, then walked around a bunch. I visited the Museum of the Imperial Forums, a recent addition to the city’s offerings located in the ruins of Trajan’s Market, and got a much better sense of how these monumental public spaces built between about 50 BC and 100 AD fit together and where Augustus’s was relative to Julius Caesar’s and where they all were relative to the old Roman Forum. It might sound boring, but it wasn’t.
It’s the start of summer and there are hordes of tourists, and the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps are both barricaded and undergoing renovation, but nothing can interfere with the underlying greatness of Rome.
And on a side note, last night the Rolling Stones played in the Circus Maximus – used as an entertainment venue for over 2,000 years – in front of 70,000 aging fans. I’m not sure what motivates them to keep going, but it was the 50th anniversary (yes, 50th!) of their first concert in Italy. That’s a lot of touring for a rock group, but somehow for me, looking at the Circus Maximus, which stands right behind the Palatine Hill and near the Roman Forum, 50 years doesn’t seem quite so long.
Ruins of the Temple of Mars the Avenger in the Forum of Augustus. Augustus promised Mars he would build a great temple if the god helped him defeat in battle the guys who murdered Julius Caesar. He did in fact beat them, a key battle in the fight over whether Rome would be a republic or an empire, and kept his word to Mars.
The Circus Maximus the morning after the Rolling Stones performed here.
The Castel Sant’Angelo on the Tiber River. Originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian (one of but by no means the only gay emperor), it was later used as a castle by the popes when they needed protections from mobs and armies.
Everywhere we go we find these great markets. In the U.S. farmers markets are this great innovation. In the rest of the world it’s how people get food. This was in Campo de’ Fiori, once a field of flowers but now right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of central Rome.
We continue to love the simple and spectacular food of Italy. Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and oil makes for a perfect first course (with a glass of wine, of course).
According to a cab driver, at least, this is the home of Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire now-former Italian Prime Minister. Mark & I were wondering what the odds were that a day or two ago he had a dinner party for Mick Jagger….
Mark ready for lunch
And since you can never have too many pictures of Mark & Dara, here's another, this time in front of Trajan’s Column. While you can barely see it in this picture, the massive column is most famous for the spiral carvings from the base to the top that tell the story of Tranjan’s victories. Oddly, for the last 450 years or so it’s been topped by a bronze St. Peter.