Italy 2020 – Caravaggio, Spanish Steps and Pizza

Continuing my account of my Italian holiday, featuring Caravaggio, The Spanish Steps and a remarkable Pizza experience.

Welcome to the latest post in my series about my Italian holiday (2-11 September inclusive), which deals with the second half of the final full day in Rome before we moved on to Tivoli.

THE CARAVAGGIO

After finishing at Domitian’s Stadium we headed towards the Spanish Steps, and along the way we passed the church of Sant’Agostino, the main feature of which is a painting by the artist Caravaggio. It is very dark, and there is little light unless you pay 1 euro to have it briefly lit up. For obvious reasons flash photography is forbidden (I am in any case not keen on using the flash on my camera, so no hardship for me).

Although the main feature of the church it was not the only one of interest, as this gallery, which covers from leaving Domitian’s Stadium to leaving the church should show:

THE SPANISH STEPS

We completed our afternoon’s activities with by walking to the Spanish Steps and then back to our apartment. There was, as always in Rome, much to see, as the gallery below indicates.

EMMA’S PIZZERIA

For that evening’s supper, our last in Rome before moving on to Tivoli the following morning, we were booked into Emma’s Pizzeria. I opted for ‘Bufala con prosciutto’, a pizza with buffalo milk cheese and prosciutto. It was a ‘white pizza’ – no tomato in the topping, which suits me fine. Roman pizzas have very thin and crispy bases, which I also approve of, so all in all this was a great success (indeed we had lunch there before heading to the airport for our flight home at the end of the holiday, and I made precisely the same choice).

I end as is my custom with these posts with a waterfall video from Tivoli:

The Piazza Navona and Domitian’s Stadium

Continuing my Italian holiday series with an account of the Piazza Navona and Domitian’s Stadium.

This is the latest post in my series about my recent holiday in Italy (not all of us feel obligated to deny our travels, especially when there is indisputable evidence as to our whereabouts at the times in question), and its main theme is a visit to two places which are one on top of another.

SUPPER AT A HISTORIC RESTAURANT

After our look at the Via Appia we went out for supper at very fine restaurant which had some ruins visible beneath its floor. The meal was excellent. It was obvious from some of the things that we were warned about while ordering our food that they have had problems with English folk before (disappointing but sadly unsurprising that this should be the case), but we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

PIAZZA NAVONA AND DOMITIAN’S STADIUM

My sister, my nephew and I visited Piazza Navona in the morning, my mother being at that point in bed due to illness which we reckon was diabetes related. Although she ate very little that day she subequently perked up sufficiently to come out in the afternoon which began with a return to Piazza Navona and an exploration of Domitian’s Stadium, the remains of which are underneath Piazza Navona. We did a few other things which will feature in my next post after we had finished there.

Domitian was one of Rome’s worst emperors, eventually being murdered in his palace and subsequently declared ‘damnatio memoriae’ – ‘damned to the memory’. Tacitus, who was too cautious to write about someone as recent as Domitian, used Tiberius, the second emperor after Augustus, as his ‘surrogate Domitian’. Domitian is also covered by Suetonius in “The Twelve Caesars”, being the twelfth Caesar – Suetonius starts with Julius Caesar who was never officially styled as emperor, and also covers Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Both the Piazza Navona of today and the remains of Domitian’s stadium are well worth visiting. The latter has an audio guide which you can use for extra information – you get a headset and a map with number locations, and when you are at one of the locations you position the headset over that number on the map and play the relevant audio.

I end this post in my signature style with a waterfall video:

The Via Appia

Continuing my account of my Italian holiday with a look at the Roman end of the Via Appia.

Welcome to the fourth post in my series about my Italian holiday (2-11 September 2020). This post picks up from the end of the Ostia post and covers the second major activity of the holiday, a look at the Roman end of the Via Appia (I saw the other end of the Via Appia at Brindisi – Brundisium in ancient times – on a previous visit to Italy some years back, but I have yet to see the intermediate point at Capua).

THE EVENING AFTER OSTIA

We had supper out at a place that was a fair walk from the apartment we were staying. The meal was well worth the walk. It was at this meal that I discovered wild chicory, which is excellent stuff. Here are some pictures from that evening.

THE MORNING

My mother, my sister and I went out to visit a food market near where we were staying. This was a very enjoyable little trip, and a good warm up for the afternoon’s activity.

JOURNEY TO THE VIA APPIA

My sister had worked out a route from our apartment to the Via Appia that involved two bus journeys with a change on the way, and we followed that route, albeit with a hitch in the middle due to confusion about where to catch the second bus from, which added a fair bit of walking to our day. Nevertheless we arrived at the Via Appia in reasonable time and were able to do some exploring. Here are pictures from the journey through Rome:

THE VIA APPIA

This was one of Rome’s great roads, built by Appius Claudius Caecus in the late 4th century BCE. It contained two legs, 132 miles from Rome to Capua, a military training town and then Capua to Brundisium. At the Roman end are several features of interest, including the tomb of Caecilia Metella, a villa of later vintage, the road itself, which still has some of its original cobblestones in place and a church which features the Quo Vadis story. There is also an excellent cafe – I drank a 50cl bottle of Peroni Gran Riserva Doppio Malto, which is a quite excellent beer. Unfortunately my camera battery ran out before the Quo Vadis church, so my photo gallery is not quite complete.

I end this post as usual with a waterfall video from Tivoli:

Italy 2020 3 – Ancient Ostia

An account of a visit to ancient Ostia, as part of my Italy 2020 series of posts.

This is third post in my series about my Italian holiday (2-11 September inclusive) – see here and here.

Ostia was the port that served Rome in ancient times. Ships bringing goods across the Mediterranean would dock there and goods would then be unloaded on to barges to go upriver to Rome. Other goods would go out from Ostia.

There is a huge amount of stuff to see there today, including most of the main street, nine metres wide and two kilometres long, bath houses, warehouse quarters, the theatre which is well enough preserved to stage live performances, the forum and other stuff.

It is served by its own train station, Ostia Antica, which is a very short walk from the entrance to the site. To get into the site you have to undergo temperature checks and to wear a mask at the gates and in any inside areas (and the Italians overall take mask wearing very seriously, although there was an anti-mask protest in Rome while we were there). My disabled persons railcard got both me and my sister as my designated companion in free, while my nephew’s student ID (he starts at Oxford this year) got him a discount.

An attempt after exploring the site to find a different way back to the exit was foiled by the fact that the site borders farmland which is under cultivation, and we eventually went back into the site by a not strictly legitimate route and headed back.

My ticket for the return journey got swallowed by an automated ticket gate and a new one had to be bought, and I was sufficiently rattled by the experience that I failed to don my mask before boarding the train back (my apologies to the passengers on that train for the minute or thereabouts that I was aboard while not masked up). While we were waiting for the bus from the train station at Rome a pick pocket targeted my sister and got away with a fifty euro note but fortunately not with her phone and wallet.

I have lots of pictures from Ostia, and end this post as is usual for this series with a waterfall video from Tivoli.

Italy 2020 2: Rome Before 1st Major Outing

Setting the scene for a major post about Ancient Ostia – lots of pictures of Rome, and a glimpse to the second part of the holiday with another waterfall video.

This is a continuation of the story of my Italian holiday (2-11 September inclusive) that I started in my previous post. It sets the stage for the account of our visit to ancient Ostia that will be the subject of my next post in this series.

EVENING AND MORNING

With my sister and nephew due to arrive late in the evening my parents and I did some local exploring, including walking right round the outside of Castel Sant’Angelo. In the opera of that name the tragic heroine Tosca throws herself from the top of the Castel (they use a bit of dramatic license to have her land in the Tiber. It is also that stretch of the Tiber that features in one of the Daniel Craig Bond movies, where Bond’s car ends up at the bottom of the river.

The following morning my mother, my sister and I went out to find a bakery (the local supermarket had stocked bread, but it was not very impressive). We were out for much longer than we intended, but we did find some decent bread, and snacks for everyone. Our snacks eaten it was time for the main part of the day, the trip to ancient Ostia which involved a bus trip and then a train journey (cost 1 euro 50 each way per person, which buys you 100 minutes of travel time from the moment the ticket is composted – how nice to find sensibly priced public transport as opposed Britain’s extortionate fares).

After the photographs from that first evening and morning I will end this post with another waterfall video.

Italian Holiday – Setting The Scene

Starting a new series about the holiday I have recently returned from, and also using the new editor for the first time (please comment on how you think my efforts have worked out).

It is a while since I last posted, and I am using the new wordpress editor for the first time. I am also starting a new series, having just been to Italy for a family holiday arranged to celebrate my parents golden wedding anniversary. This post will set the scene for an account of the whole holiday.

THE ARRANGEMENTS

Due to Covid-19 and associated restrictions we did not know until very close to the planned departure time whether the trip could go ahead. With the holiday due to span 2-11 September inclusive (10th being the actual day), it was only on August 24th that we knew for certain that it was going ahead. I had to abandon a plan to travel to Italy by train as that would have meant passing through France which was clearly not on in the circumstances. Thus I found myself booked on a flight due to leave Heathrow late on the morning of September 3rd, and with a night to spend at one of the hotels serving the airport. I would be arriving back late on September 11th.

KING’S LYNN – HEATHROW

All went smoothly with final preparations and I was able catch the 11:44 from King’s Lynn to London King’s Cross. I had a bit of a wait at King’s Cross for a Piccadilly line train to Heathrow, but no serious issues. I managed to locate one of the places from which the Hoppa bus to the hotel could be caught, and my parents arrived at the same location while I was waiting for the right bus to arrive. Checking in at the hotel involved a degree of confusion, but eventually we were all settled in our rooms for the night.

THE FLIGHT

We arrived at the airport in very good time for our flights, check in was accomplished with little fuss, and although there was a delay going through security, as my carry on bag was selected for a search, we were still had plenty of time. We had an excellent breakfast at the airport. The flight ran to time and we got through Fiumicino Airport with little trouble, and met up with the driver who was taking us to our accommodation in Rome where we were staying for four nights before moving on to Tivoli for another four nights including the main event.