Monday, May 31, 2010

Baby Food

Bill pointed these packages out to me while we were waiting in line in a local supermarket. "Eat your lovely, fluffy, bunny, baby! Then you can have some dry-cured ham." It was wonderfully bracing for us to be reminded so forcefully that these babies are growing up to be Italians. Bless them!

Santa Maria in Trastevere

One of our favourite churches in Rome is also one of the oldest -- Santa Maria in Trastevere. It has a very strong spirit. For both Bill and myself there is always a strong feeling of God's presence. It could also be described as a strong feeling of hospitality in the church itself.
The Byzantine mosaics are some of the most powerful in Rome. Take a seat anywhere and have a quiet look. They really are stunning.
Here is Bill's detail of Mary enthroned with her Son.
Everything in this church is beautiful. Even the way the ancient columns meet the mosaic floor.
There is a strong cult of Saint Anthony in this church. Anthony is a favourite of my family. Bill and I made our handwritten requests to the saint for help for a friend and a family member and left them attached to his statue. There's Bill -- one of hundreds of supplicants a day. A busy saint.
We sat for a while, then realized preparations for a wedding had been in progress. It's a big church and can hold lots of different activities at the same time. Suddenly the church organ started up. Obviously official wedding photographers appeared. Then the bride appeared. She felt like a good omen.

The Divine Enoteca Corsi

When it is time for lunch, and Bill and I are hungry and tired from a morning of aerobic tourism, we are often drawn back into the welcoming arms of the Enoteca Corsi. Ah, here is Mary, greeting us at the door. So simpatica!
While I was washing my hands, Bill was asking Mary's advice about side dishes. He wondered what the Zucce Gratine was and when she said it was pumpkin baked with cheese. He ordered it. It was scrumptious, and slightly al dente (perfectly baked but still firm to the tooth).
Mary knows we're eating our way through the menu, so when she brought the pumpkin, she brought a plate of agretti, steamed watercress with lemon. It was lovely and light and delicious.
Bill and I fought over who would order the chicken with eggplant (above) or the baked fish alla Siciliana (below)
We made peace by switching dishes back and forth regularly throughout the meal. Everything was delicious.
We  refused dessert, as we were stuffed, but when Mary brought a slice of custard torte with fresh fruit by our table, strictly on spec, we fell on it and it was soon no more.
Bill went up to the front of the house to write down some details from the menu. Robbin, pictured above, was talking to Mary and she told him about our blog. Bill told him to google Tomatoes From Canada, and he would find us. When Bill told me this, I immediately went to take his picture. He is now in the story.
While I was taking Robbin's picture, Mary brought us complimentary chocolate liqueurs. OMG -- If we were full before dessert -- you could stand a spoon up in this black gold.
Thank you Mary. Thank you Enoteca Corsi! We'll be back.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

via Condoti

Descend with us down the Spanish Steps, to one of the most exclusive streets in Rome. We'll be slipping to the left of that white building, down the via Condoti, home of some of the chicest boutiques in the world.
 Here are the Steps and the church of the Trinita dei Monti, reflected in the windows of Yves St. Laurent.
 Bill and I have drifted over to the via Condoti and the surrounding streets and shops most nights in our stay in Rome. I always felt somewhat of a poacher. Here is my vision of a shopper who truly belongs here.
Then I saw these Salvatore Ferragamo flats and fell in love. I've never had much interest in the design of women's shoes, but these made me feel happy. What more can one ask from a shoe?  Even a shoe that one will never wear?
Then I fell in love with these pretty classic looking shoes in the Prada window. Now these I could wear with the right suit, and the right total makeover.
Good old Prada! They also featured this shirt with the seam falling apart at the bottom and loose threads hanging down. How original is that? Don't ask Bill what he thinks because, if he is feeling polite, he will only shake his head. But I was totally into the vision.
Then I noticed this woman and her boyfriend and I thought that these were shoppers I could relate to. Lord, give her lots of money and set her loose. Bill and I will follow.
Through the doors of Gucci. He will be delighted to open the doors for you. Enter and be made welcome.
Across the street, at Cartier, there is a beautiful watch, another reason to fall in love with the via Condoti. You know, when you buy a watch like this, you are actually saving money in the long run.
And in the same window, Cartier comes through for us again with these two little clutch purses and these marvelous sunglasses. Do you feel better already? I do. Will I ever own any of this stuff? I really don't see it.
 Let's end this post where we started -- a new week and a new Salvatorre Ferragamo window. So simple. So perfect. And just in time for summer.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


We had another delicious lunch at the Enoteca Corsi yesterday. They were incredibly busy. As well as a steady flow of regulars, there were hordes of tourists appearing at the door with their guidebooks open -- the Corsi is recommended in every book going. Bill and I were dazzled how gracefully the staff handled the onslaught, seating diners, taking orders, smoothing ruffled feathers and generally delivering the goods. After Bill and I had had our coffees we were gathering our bags and preparing to go when I thought I heard Sarah say to Mary something to the effect that we weren't going anywhere without having some Limoncellos. Anyway, we left our table, paid at the cashier -- suddenly, Sarah grabbed us by the wrists, led us back to our table -- by some miracle it hadn't been occupied, and sat us down for our complimentary Limoncellos. At the Enoteca Corsi, hospitality isn't just a good idea, it is the LAW. No customer is hurried, even when all hell is breaking loose. That's just the way they do things. Thank you Sarah!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Palazzo Altemps

The Palazzo Altemps, situated in Piazza Sant'Apollinare, might be our favourite collection of classical Roman sculpture in all of Rome. It is a branch of the National Museum of Rome (Museo Nazionale Romano), which Bill and I have already described below as a must-see for anyone interested in classical antiquities. Well, the Altemps has been designed as a home for a selection of exquisite items from the larger collection, and  -- well, wait 'til you see.
The collection begins on the ground floor looking out onto the elegant courtyard and includes this set of Roman funerary portraits.
Here, I'm contemplating Dionysus and the Satyr, from the 2nd century A.D. Most of the sculpture on display is from the collection of the 17th century cardinal, Ludovico Ludovisi.
On the opulent second floor Bill has caught the two of us and a white marble sculpture of Dionysius from the 2nd century AD in the glass protecting the Mask of Papposilenus, a bronze mask from the first half of the 1st century B.C. I'm copying down the info that you've just read in the notebook I always carry.
Here's my picture of the mask. I love the way they lit it so dramatically.
 The Palazzo Altemps is a beautiful 15th century palace in itself and a stunning, frescoed, background for this superb collection.
This is a detail of a marble statue of Hermes Loghios, from the 2nd century A.D.
Herakles (Hercules), a 17th century restoration of a 1st century A.D. original.
 Out on the second floor loggia, portrait sculptures of Roman emperors are displayed amid wonderful  frescos.
The ceiling fresco is great fun.
Here is a sculpture of Settimio Severo in front of an pastoral fresco.
The detail in this  funerary sarcophagus of a Roman general is especially fine.
Just when we thought we'd seen everything we entered the Palace chapel where Bill caught  this amazing fresco.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Da Benito Portraits

After visiting the fabulous collection at Palazzo Altemps John and I dropped down to Da Benito restaurant. It was busy inside so we slipped into the two outside seats. We both chose the spaghetti with zucchini and cream and two insalata verdes.
 Everything was delicious as usual and Simona gave us the recipe for the zucchini sauce with cream.
As you can see we scraped our plates clean and I'm already checking our next destination!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vatican Museums

It seems that every visitor to Rome, be they traveling on their own, or part of a large group, wants to visit the Vatican Museums, and Bill and I are no exception. At 9 a.m. yesterday morning, we joined an already very long line-up. Two hours later, thoroughly baked by the sun, we entered the museum.
The layout of the museum is unfortunate, in that the vast hordes of visitors are all funneled through the same chambers with little chance to fan out into less crowded areas.
On the plus side, this makes for some pretty entertaining people-watching.
And occasionally one gets an unobstructed view of some of the sensational antiquities in their collection. Here is a rather unusual dog-headed Egyptian god in a Roman toga. I'm sorry but we didn't get his name. We usually try to. [Note added September 2010: Steven Shubert from the Toronto Reference Library set us straight. He writes: "Yes I know that statue.  It is actually a jackal head and represents the ancient Egyptian god Anubis who is involved with mummification and leading the deceased into the underworld.  The caduceus is really the staff of Hermes or Mercury who serves as a guide in Graeco-Roman mythology.  In the Roman Period the worship of Isis spread throughout the Mediterranean and they used all sorts of Egyptian elements.  Anubis as a god of the dead was one of the most popular."] Thank you, Steven!
We were pleased to find ourselves more or less alone in the Etruscan wing. What a relief! Note that this museum is no exception to the "aerobic museum-workout syndrome" of Roman collections.
We loved this little lion face on an Etruscan bronze shield -- so charming!
The windows in hallways and rooms often gave us glimpses of Rome or into the Pope's private gardens -- here's a glimpse of his gardens and the Basilica's dome. Romantic, eh?
But eventually, all visitors are all sucked into the final funnel; a seemingly endless hallway that leads to the holy grail of any Vatican visit, Michelangelo's masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
If you are one of those visitors, you will be led down a very long dark corridor hung with dark tapestries, then to another dark corridor hung with dark maps. You will not be able to make out any details of any of these works of art, but that's OK, because you won't want to. By that time you will just want to reach your goal. The Raphael rooms provide a breath of relief but at some point you will have to take the plunge. A helpful sign will remind you to try not to descend the stairs on your tailbone.
When we finally arrived at the Chapel every square inch of the floor was packed with our fellow visitors .We couldn't help wondering what the effect of the humidity from our mass of bodies will have on the paintings above. It is a waking nightmare of art appreciation. Here, Bill catches me in front of the Last Judgment, straining to gaze upward, like the rest of the damned in hell, for a glimpse of Paradise.
And it is indeed a glimpse of Paradise. Here I managed to snap a picture of my favourite detail, the Erythrean Sibyl . Bill and I think this ceiling is the greatest painting in Western art, and that its relatively, recent cleaning has been a triumph. It is very hard to tell from reproductions, but when you are standing under it, the painting resolves itself into three dimensions. It is gorgeous. The colours sing. Was it worth the agony to reach it? Yes, oh, yes!
But after taking in its glory, you will want to fly, fly, out of the building, as fast as you can go. And so down the gorgeous Vatican staircase we went, back out into the fallen world, to have lunch, which restoreth both the body and the spirit.