Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trajan's Market

John and I fully enjoyed our visit to Trajan's Market built by Emperor Trajan from 100-110 AD. He had his favourite architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, design the huge shopping complex which was one of the wonders of the Ancient World. Here I've captured a self-portrait while shooting through the glass protecting the main hall of the market.
When we visited the market at Via Quattro Novembre, 94, there was a wonderful exhibition of 60 large prints of the William Klein's fabulous ROMA series , taken between 1956-1962. It's on til July 25th, 2010 and not to be missed. 
The main hall of the market originally had the offices for distribution of free wheat to Romans, one of the ways Roman emperors calmed the poorer citizenry. 
The rooms off the hall now contain pieces of masonry that decorated the original building.
John always enjoys photographing the way modern hardware fits into old structures.
Outside and bisecting the Market is Via Biberatica, which was once lined with drinking inns. The well-preserved ruins are very evocative, making me want to continue reading the detective tales of Lindsay Davis, set in Augustan Rome and featuring a Roman gumshoe, Falco, and his upper-class girlfriend, Helena Justina.
Glimpses of cleaning staff just reinforce that evocative quality to the site. Probably the fact that the Market is visited by far fewer fellow tourists than the Imperial Forums across the street allows the imagination to blossom here.
Here's the huge curved front of the lower part of the market, once facing Trajan's Forum and now facing the tourist magnet, Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Every evening around 7 p.m., Bill and I would go for a stroll, joining the Romans in their passegiatta. When we wandered over to the via Condotti and the Spanish Steps our path would take us past Giolitti, who have been serving some of Rome's most highly regarded gelato since 1900.
 It's on a narrow, cobblestone, completely pedestrian street.
On weekends, it's packed with satisfied customers wandering off with their cones, or sitting or standing out the front, watching the world go by.
That's my cone on the left, chocolate fondant gelato, with a dash of whipped cream. Bill's already half-eaten cone has the same kind of chocolate paired with a scoop of orange gelato. Chocolate Fondant is the darkest of the dark chocolates, unbelievably delicious.
These shoppers are walking toward Giolitti. We pass them on our way to the Spanish Steps, against the light, casting our own long shadows.

De Chirico House-Museum

Since 1998, the Giorgio and Isa De Chirico Foundation has opened De Chirico's apartment and studio at Piazza di Spagna, 31 to the public. The apartment and studio have been preserved exactly as they were when De Chirico died in 1978. The house-museum is open to the public the first Sunday of every month or by appointment. John and I managed to visit the fascinating apartment on the day before we left Rome and highly recommend it to fellow art-lovers.
We visited when the museum opened at 11am and had a tour in Italian with about 7 other visitors. The 2-floor apartment has an eerily untouched feel and is filled with a wonderful personal collection of Giorgio De Chirico's paintings and sculptures. The first floor incorporates the kitchen, dining room and sitting rooms and most of the artwork.
The upper floor has the bedrooms and De Chirico's wonderfully evocative studio. A visit to the museum-house can be a perfect personal insight into the artist for people who take in the large retrospective of his work, La Natura Secondo de Chirico presently on show at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni at Via Nazionale, 194. If you're a fan of De Chirico's work, do take them both in if possible.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Omid's Graduation 2010

Bill and I were honoured to witness our friend Omid's graduation, with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree, last Saturday, from York University. Here he is, emerging from the large tent, where the ceremony took place.
At the center of this picture is Omid's mother, Farideh, with her sister, Hamideh, Omid's nephew, Keedus and his cousin, Sunny.
Omid's mother and father, Farideh and Hamid, his brother, Ali and his nephew
Then we wandered into the Rose Garden. It was such a hot and humid day. Omid couldn't wait to get that robe off. He'd been wearing this suit, under the robe, in the "sweat lodge".
 A short time later, he ran into Martine Rheault, Galerie Glendon Gallery's artistic co-ordinator, and Omid's boss at the gallery for most of his time at Glendon. Martine looked him over and said, "You look very Parisian. You must wear that in Paris."
The Graduate 2010
Nancy, Omid, Bill and Hamid
John (me), Omid and Nancy
Bill took this picture of a more relaxed Omid, just before we set off to Ali and Amber's house, for the After Party.
Amber's mother has a genius for decoration. The graduation caps are squares of chocolate on Rollos.
Shelley, Nancy, Bill and Omid's Uncle Jafar.
Martine came by after the ceremony to meet Omid's family. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Tiber River

John and I have a special love for cities that are bisected by rivers. Think of Paris, Boston, Chicago, or Istanbul. Rome with its rich history has many bridges and so many views of its wonderful river, the Tiber. Look at the Ponte Fabricio (above) built in 62 BC and the oldest, original Roman bridge still in use.
Or how about another footbridge, Ponte Sisto, built in the late 15th Century by Pope Sixtus IV to replace an old Roman bridge. You can see the debris caught by the bridge during the spring high waters. 
The view along the quayside is always fascinating. 
It would be wrong to forget the wonderful Ponte Sant'Angelo lined with Bernini's angels and leading to the Castel Sant'Angelo which was originally built as Emperor Hadrian's Mausoleum in 139 AD and later made into a fortress and named after Pope Gregory the Great's vision of the Archangel Michael.
From its quay you can see Ponte Umberto and the dome of San Rocco in the distance in one direction.
In the other direction you can see Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II and the dome of St Peter's Basilica framed by the arches.
Here's a view of the Ponte Sant'Angelo and St Peter's dome from Ponte Umberto. This was taken early in our visit to Rome when the river was still flooded with spring waters.
Here's a closer look at Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II which crosses to the Vatican and in the other direction becomes a major artery crossing central Rome, Via Vittorio Emanuele II.
We'll leave our tour of the Tiber and its bridges with a view of Ponte Principe Amedeo Savoia Aosta, laden with tour buses headed to the Vatican. In the background you can see the lovely Janiculum Hill.

Monday, June 21, 2010

La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

The centerpiece of the Piazza Navona in Rome is Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the 4 Rivers-1651) set directly in front of Borromini's Sant'Agnese in Agone church (1653). John and I often walked by the fountain on our daily excursions into the streets of Rome. The great rivers - the Ganges, the Danube, the Nile and the Plate are represented as giants on a pyramid rock formation supporting an ancient obelisk.
The River Plate holds the coat of arms of Pope Innocent X, by whom the fountain was commissioned.
Legend says that the River Danube is shown rearing back in horror from the church designed by Bernini's rival architect, Borromini. However, the fountain was actually installed before Borromini designed Sant'Agnese in Agone.
The Nile River is represented with a veiled head since at the time the source of the Nile was as yet unknown.
Probably the most famous and most photographed of the giants represents a voluptuous, bearded Ganges River, as languorous as the slow moving river it represents.
Bernini's fountain is endless in its details and angles, changing like the water that spews from it day and night. John loved this detail of a lion drinking next to the giant Ganges River god.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lido Ostia

Lido Ostia is the beach closest to Rome on the Mediterranean and it's life obviously depends on servicing the seaside "tempo libero" (free time/holidays) needs of the Romans. The beach is lined with bathing concessions. John and I visited just at the beginning of June before the real Season begins.
Rent a change-room, umbrella and lawn chairs and join the throngs on a Sunday afternoon soon to come. Summer is just beginning in Rome.
The beach is lined on the landward side with funky, holiday hotels worthy of Jacques Tati, don't you think?
The seaside/holiday architecture continues into the town.
In the end however, I think the most impressive architecture was a remnant of Mussolini's favoured structures that often seemed to try to suggest a New Rome.
The main Post Office is a good example, designed by Angiolo Mazzoni, and commissioned during the Fascist years.