Thursday, November 13, 2008
Italia Day 4: Roma: A Day of Miscellany Adventures
I could look at today as another set of plans foiled by jet lag, or I could look at it as a day we got to just kick around and be adventurous. I guess I'll choose the latter. We were going to do the Vatican today, but sleepless night for Wayne and sleeping-in kids meant that we just had a casual day instead. We didn't really have anything in the way of plans, but just took the day as it came to us.
We went to an internet cafe and caught up on email, then meandered over to the Spanish Steps. The kids really liked the whimsical fountain of the sinking boat there, but other than that it was some nice-looking steps and a whole ton of people. So we didn't stay a whole long time there, though we did go in and visit the church at the top of the steps and admire the view out over Roma.
On the way back to the apartment, we happened upon a cool little DaVinci museum that had working models, done in wood, of many of his designs. Everything from camshafts to ball-bearings to bicycles to tanks and mortars were represented there. The kids had fun with these hands-on exhibits, and Mackenzie especially enjoyed the video on DaVinci's conical tank. The nice thing about keeping a day or two free is the little jewels like this that you stumble upon!
Then, while the kids were taking a break and playing (and Wayne was sneaking a catnap), I went out with my camera alone for awhile. I happened upon a piazza with an interesting obelisk resting on a statue of an elephant, and decided to go into the basilica church there, which was called Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (meaning that it was built sopra, or over, the remains of a temple to the Roman goddess Minerva). I found out later that this is considered to be Roma's only Gothic church, and it is one of the loveliest churches I've ever seen. Despite an unassuming facade (shown here behind the red bicycle), the inside is gorgeous, with a blue starred ceiling adorned with biblical figures.
As I walked down the length of the church, I was drawn to a most amazing statue. There were no crowds around it, the church was almost empty. But the statue was magnetic, no other word for it. It was a statue of the resurrected Christ, and He was so real, like He was looking right down at me and could step right off the pedestal at any moment. I looked around at other statues nearby and they all just looked like cold stone. I can't describe how affecting this statue was. At the very bottom was a small tag - The Risen Christ - Michelangelo. The photo doesn't really do it any justice at all. Every detail is so human, down to the toes curled slightly around a rock. When you study the great Masters in art history class, you sometimes wonder why they are considered "masters" when there were so many fine artists of the period. Now that I'm here, looking at all of the amazing art and sculpture here, I can definitely say that the mastery is evident when you look at a piece like this one (and its widely considered to be not one of his best, either).
This church and its statuary and artwork were so lovely that I brought Wayne and the kids back here later in the day and we all walked around together. There are many great cathedrals to come on our journey in Italy, and this may not be one of the grandest or most important, but it certainly is a beautiful place.
Also on my little photographic jaunt, I took some photos inside the Pantheon with its amazing symmetrical dome and oculus, and did some people-watching on the piazza outside the Pantheon, taking photos of fountains, people, and their dogs as well.
In the evening, it was very balmy and nice. We found an outdoor restaurant on a smaller side street and ate pasta. The kids have noticed that soda here tastes so much better than back at home. It's fizzier, less sweet, and is made with sugar and not corn syrup. I told them it tastes like I remember soda tasting when I was a kid (you know, back in the good ol' days). On one piazza, the columns were lit up with all different colors, very striking.
As usual, I'll leave you with an assortment of photos. These are from my little shutterbug excursion on the piazza in front of the Pantheon.