Museo Nationale Romano and the Capuchin Crypts

Day 89, Saturday December 2, 2017

Saturday was a quiet rainy day. I worked on catching up on my blog and Bob went for groceries, several times! It isn’t easy to find what we need in one store so shopping sometimes requires several attempts to find everything on our list. I don’t know how Romans manage. Even something as simple as spinach is often not available.

Day 90, Sunday December 3, 2017

We thought today would be a bit quieter, just a little walk about but we ended up doing quite a bit. Bob found out that the four Museo Nationale Romano museums were free today so we thought we would visit the one near the train station. It was much bigger than we thought and we spent several hours there. This museum had lots of information on the history of writing and…lots of examples of writing on stone. What made it interesting was that all the pieces on exhibit had Italian and English translations. There were lots of informative videos and other kinds of information but it would have taken more than a day to do all that. There was a very interesting exhibit about the Fountain of Anna Perenna. Anna was an ancient nymph and the fountain was a place of magic. It was discovered in 1999 when work began on an underground parking facility. Many ‘magical’ objects were found in the well including several curses. This one is for a man called Cassianus who was cursed because he hired some women to rob the author of the curse. It shows a demon flanked with magical symbols. There were many curses on display as well as directions for casting spells.We tend to forget that ancient statues and reliefs were painted in bright colours. There was lots of pottery from settlements from the 9th to the 7th century B.C. The large pots held cremated remains.

This is a model of the Museum. The large green square…is this courtyard  and the buildings around it house the museum. This was built in the 15th century. Bob found a few interesting statues here. The large animal heads are located around the fountain in the centre of the courtyard. There were also horse heads, a ram, a camel, an elephant and a rhinoceros!
The complex behind the courtyard is the Baths of Diocletian which were built in 300 A.D. They held 3,000 people! It was hard trying to take pictures as the baths are so enormous.
This room was somehow used as a water reservoir. 
Here is an aerial view taken from a film about the baths showing their location in modern day Rome. The big white building in the corner is the Termini train station.Here is a close up of the baths. The building with the cross in the lower left is the best preserved section of the baths. The tepiderium was restored and converted into a basilica using Michelangelo’s architectural designs in the 16th century. It is now the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiria. This sculpture is on the door to the Basilica.The basilica interior gives us a good idea what the interior of the baths would have looked like with all their decorated walls and ceilings.

The basilica is a place of worship, art and science. I liked this enormous head on display. It is about three feet long.

We find one more obelisk!Republic Piazza is beside the baths.  Many of Rome’s streets are cobbled and it has made for some very rough bus rides.

Another branch of Rome’s National Museums, the Palazzo Massimo is right beside the Republic Piazza so we decide to visit it as well. There are some wonderful works inside.  The Discus Thrower and…the Boxer at Rest are amazing and..this sculpture of a hermaphrodite is interesting.The massive Portonaccio Sarcophagus from 172 AD is unbelievable. It is five feet tall, and most of the complex intertwined carvings are still intact.
This room with garden frescoes was discovered in 1863. The frescoes were moved to the museum in 1951 as they were in danger of being damaged from water seepage. There are more well preserved frescoes from an Imperial Villa on the banks of the Tiber River.We still want to visit the Capuchin Crypts which are a short walk from the museum. Everywhere we walk in this city there are interesting buildings and piazzas.The sun is setting but there isn’t much traffic even though it is 5:30. I find that rather curious.There is a famous Caravaggio painting, St. Francis in Meditation, in the Capuchin museum. We visit the Capuchin Crypt but there is a strict no photo policy and I restrained myself and didn’t take a single photo. So, do check out this link for a trip through the crypt. It was certainly different. I liked it but Bob didn’t.

The church ‘Our Lady of the Conception’ is above the crypt and after a quick visit we are more than ready to go home. Our short day out turned into a bit of a marathon!

 

 

 

All Roads Lead To Rome

Day 82, Saturday November 25, 2017

The Appian Way was Europe’s first super highway. It is the reason for the saying “All roads lead to Rome.” Built in 312 B.C., it connected Rome with Capua (near Naples), running in a straight line for much of the way. Eventually it stretched over 600 kilometres to Brindisi, on the east coast of Italy. Today is Bob’s birthday and we are going to walk the Appian Way.

We take the metro and then a bus to the outskirts of Rome. Before we start our walk back into Rome we walk a bit further in the opposite direction to visit the Villa Dei Quintili. We buy our €5.00 tickets and when we walk up to the building below it is all locked up and under construction!

Turns out this isn’t the villa, and we need to walk along a dirt path behind this building for a ways to the ruins. The Villa Dei Quintili was the largest villa complex in the suburbs outside Rome. It was built by two brothers, who were later executed by Emperor Commodus who took over possession of their villa. It was then expanded and used by emperors until the 5th century. There are boardwalks in many areas but sometimes we are walking on the original mosaics floors! Hard to believe that this is allowed. There are baths here with a calidarium (hot water) and a frigidarium (cold water). Many of the rooms have remains of mosaics and floor tiles. A few even have traces of frescoes on the walls. 

This all covers a huge area and it was all one villa. When it was first excavated it was thought to have been a town!Back on the Appian Way we are ready to start our walk towards Rome, on the same road that was used by Romans almost 2,000 years ago! We are going to walk in the footsteps Roman Emperors, merchants, saints and maybe even St.Peter! Julius Caesar travelled this road along with thousands of soldiers, and now we are too.
Romans did not allow anyone to be buried inside the city walls so many people were buried along the roads leading out of Rome. Wealthy people built impressive tombs for themselves. The remains of many of these tombs are visible today.  Sometimes there is as little as a mound of earth but there are also still quite impressive remains of the larger tombs.These are the original stones that were used to build this road. These stones were set upon a bed of gravel and cement. Lime cement was then used to fill the gaps between the stones and the road was said to have been so smooth that the joints between the rocks could not be felt. In the foreground the ruts made by ancient chariot and wagon wheels can be seen.One of the many ‘reconstructed’ tombs along the Appian Way…and a couple more.

The day started out cloudy and cold but the sun came out and warmed us up.There are many grand modern villas along the Appian Way. This is looking down just one of the many long tree-lined driveways we see along our walk.Getting closer to Rome. It is a bit tiring walking on these original paving stones. The cement that made the road smooth has long worn away. We saw lots of people bicycling along here and it looked bone jarring.                                 

This is a small archeaological area along the road that used to be a farmer’s field. Some of the floor mosaics show where they were damaged by the plows used to till the fields!Fall has arrived. The leaves here were a beautiful golden yellow.Inside the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, one of the best preserved tombs along the Appian way, there is an exhibit of modern sculpture by Paola Cream. I like this bird man…and these vessels. The exhibit sign said the show only runs until November 11th, but this is Rome and not everything is what it says it is.

This is the outside of the Tomb of Cecilia, who was noble woman in the 1st century B.C. Inside the hollow round tower is where her body is thought to have been buried.

That was our last stop of the day. The ruins are closed at 4:00 and we still have a a walk and then a bus and metro ride to get home. we ran out of time to visit the catacombs so we will have to return another day.

Murano and Venice

Day 46, Friday, October 20, 2017

We are going to Murano today to visit the Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum). On the way we pass the Cemetery Island but unfortunately don’t have time to stop and explore. We both quite like very old cemeteries.

Murano is like a little Venice, but it is much quieter and has a lot fewer tourists.We visit the Glass Museum but we aren’t able to find anywhere to watch a glass blowing demonstration which was a bit disappointing. The glass pieces below reminded me of marbled paper. Bob is standing behind a table centrepiece which is a huge formal garden made completely of glass.There was a modern glass exhibit and we took this photo reflected in one of the pieces.

The Basilica del Santi Maria e Donato is a 12th Century church that was built on the site of a 6th Century church. Its floor is covered in beautiful mosaics.We didn’t stay too long in Murano as we planned on trying to visit three museums today. We take a vaporetto (water bus) back to Venice and travel down the Grand Canal on the way to the museums.  Come along for the ride. There still isn’t any sunshine which is a shame. The pictures would look so much better if the sun was shining, but there isn’t much I can do about that.This is one of the few place that has any greenery along the canals. There aren’t many trees and plants in Venice, at least not along the public areas. I think that there must be private gardens but we don’t get to see those.These giant hands called ‘Support’ rising from the sea to grasp a building are a commentary on global warming by artist Lorenzo Quinn. They are a rather startling sight.There are gondolas everywhere…and we see how someone moves their furniture in Venice.There are several interesting sculptures along the Grand Canal.The colours of the buildings are quite beautiful. There are so many shades of rust, ochres, yellows, pinks and reds…punctuated by the bright blue mooring posts.The gondoliers are everywhere, on the canals and…moored along the banks.We have already walked over the Rialto Bridge a couple times. There is a lovely little handmade book store there that has a beautiful sketchbook I covet. It is rather expensive but I may just decide to treat myself.Four ambulances pass us on the Grand Canal. They have very shrill sirens and the boats on the canal stop for them, just as cars on the road do for an ordinary ambulance.

We never did get to visit the museums we planned on seeing today as they were closed for a union members meeting! We took a vaporetto across town to some other museums only to discover that they were closed as well, so we called it a day and headed home.

Cavtat, Croatia

Day 39, Friday October 13, 2017

We spend the day at a little coastal town named Cavtat, which is about a 35 minute bus ride from our apartment. Here is Main Street Cavtat…which is the birthplace and home of one of Croatia’s most famous artists Vlaho Bukovac, (1855-1922). As a young artist he painted the walls of his parent’s home.Here is the view from a room at the front of the house.His studio was on the fourth floor, with huge north facing windows. It is a beautiful atelier…with a ‘modern’ bathroom!I really like his paintings and studies. Next we climb high above the town to the Račić Family Mausoleum. This family mausoleum now serves as a chapel for the town cemetery. The father, son, and daughter all died from the Spanish flu just a day before the son was to be married.  Račić’s widow ordered the mausoleum built and then she died from grief a year after her family’s deaths. The interior is amazing, the inside of the dome is decorated with 136 heads of angels.A view of the town from our walk down from the mausoleum.          Back in town we have ice cream and sit for a while along the water while I sketch the view below. You can just make out the mausoleum on the skyline.

This photo is Dubrovnik way off in the distance.

All too soon the sun starts to set and we catch our bus home.

The Karaka, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 37, Wednesday October 11, 2017

We set sail at 9:00 am on the Karaka, a replica of a historical ship, an important trade vessel that sailed between the 14th and 17th Century. In the 16th Century the Karaka was one of the largest ships in the world. But perhaps more importantly, the Karaka was used in the third season of Game of Thrones. The captain tells us that all the ships in Season Three are this ship with computer enhanced modifications.  The morning starts out quite windy so we are glad that we brought our coats along. We pass some of the 1,244 islands that are part of Croatia but we learned today that only 48 of them are inhabited.First stop is the island of Koločep, which only has 163 residents, There are no cars or trucks are on the island because there are no roads wide enough for them, but we do see motorbikes and golf carts. We only have about an hour here, so we walk to this little church and cemetery dedicated to St. Nicholas that was built in the 10th Century. There was another church we tried to visit but we couldn’t find it so we head back to the ship…

and stumble across this little church right down near the water.Our ship is waiting to head to Šipan, the second island on this Elaphite Island Cruise.The water here is crystal clear.Before we set sail I get a photo of Bob at the back of the ship.Soon we are on our way…and in just 30 minutes we arrive at Šipan which has a population of 436, but it has 37 churches and chapels! At one time there were 30 summer residences for wealthy families from Dubrovnik. Many of these are now abandoned, sometimes because of fighting within families. Read this interesting article to understand why there are so many abandoned buildings in Croatia, like the one in this photo.We climb the hill high above these houses looking for some of the many churches here but once again can’t find them, even though signs promise that they are just down the road. We have 90 minutes here so not a lot of time to go too far, and I don’t want the ship to leave without us!We did find this little road side shrine.
When we get back on the boat a delicious lunch is served.
While we have our lunch the Karaka makes its way to our last stop, the island of Lopud. Its population is only 220, however there are more tourist facilities because this island has sandy beaches.           

We go for another little walk and find this tiny church which was built in the 17th Century and dedicated to St. Jerome. It is right beside a big hotel named the Grand Hotel that is abandoned and not so grand at all.I rent a beach lounge chair and draw our ship while Bob goes for a walk to a beach on the other side of the island.  When Bob returns he goes for his first swim in the Adriatic Sea.  He tells me the water is cold at first but no so bad after a while.

I dip my feet into the water and that is enough for me.

There is fresh fruit for dessert  and a variety of alcoholic drinks on our return trip. The wind has died down and it is a beautiful calm day..We leave a trail in the sea behind us.Our guide told us that the engines had stopped and teased that we would all have to jump into the sea and push the boat, but then the sails were lowered!  I was so surprised, I didn’t expect that the sails would be used, but there we were, wind powered and gliding silently over the waves. It was magical. This is a view of the dining area on the ship. Here is some of the rigging on the ship.We are the last ones off the boat so that we can take just a couple more photos without so many other people. We had an absolutely wonderful day.

Coastal Towns South of Senj

Day 23, Wednesday September 27, 2017

Today we drove south of Senj to explore some of the little towns along the coast. This little fellow thinks that the middle of the road is the best place to take a nap, as do many of the cats that live around here.First stop is Sveti Juraz where we look for the ruins of a medieval church in a graveyard. We find it by accident when we were returning to our car.  Seems that these attractions are not well marked in small towns.While we were looking for the cemetery we find a path up to the top of this hill and climb up there to see what the cross at the top is about. We get to the top but are still none the wiser about why this cross is here but We have great views of the town.
This little chapel has a little shrine with a statue and flowers inside.

There are lots of wild flowers here; these little pink ones are everywhere and there are several different aromatic herbs growing wild too, thyme, rosemary and some others I didn’t know the names of.

The next stop was a ‘lets get out of here’ visit. Lukovo supposedly has a pretty pebble beach and great views of the rocky islands off shore.  The road to this town was the narrowest, windiest road we have ever driven on. It is really only wide enough for one car but it is a two way road and the corners are so tight that it is impossible to tell if there is another car approaching. It was pretty scary, and then when we get to the town, the roads are still very narrow, just barely wide enough for our car!  We make our way down to the harbour but there are no street signs or any way to find the beach so we make our way back to the highway which is high above the town. We never made it to the beach that looks like a lake in this photo. 

Starigrad was the next town but the road looks even narrower and has potholes so we decide not to even attempt it. We did make it to Jablanac, and headed to the beach for a late picnic lunch. The beach was cement! but the sun was shining and we enjoyed sitting and relaxing, watching people swim in the ocean and the boats going in and out. This photo is for my friend Pat. I told her I would dip my toe into the ocean for her today. The water was a bit cool but not too bad, and it was beautifully clear and clean.

We walked about looking for an alpine hut that is supposed to be the lowest altitude alpine hut in the world. After climbing 122 steps up to the hut we discover that it is no longer an alpine hut but that it is now a private home.  The owner kindly let us come into her yard to take a couple photos. The hut is the white building with a red roof on the right hand side of the photo below. Seems nothing today is as we thought it was going to be!Here is the view from the ‘alpine hut’ and you can see the cement beach along the left side of the photo.While we were walking through the town I peered into an abandoned building and saw all this.  There are so many buildings in Croatia that are abandoned and empty, often falling into ruin. I wonder why?  Perhaps so many young people are leaving the smaller towns and heading to the cities to find work?  Sometimes we are so busy looking at the big things that we miss the little ones.  This plant growing by the steps down to the beach was covered with white snails.So, any guesses as to what this is?Our last stop for the day was the pretty little town of Stinica.  The new ferry port to the neighbouring islands is located here. You can just make out many stone walls in this photo. These walls are all over the hillsides, sometimes on very steep mountain sides and I wonder who built them and why?  Perhaps they are terraces for gardening but the ground is so very rocky everywhere it doesn’t seem likely. Sometimes they are on such steep hillsides that it would seem impossible to grow anything. I guess it remains a mystery for now. 

In spite of everything not going exactly like we expected today we still enjoyed our drive and the scenery. Oh, and the funny little cubicles were changing rooms at the beach.