08 May 2011

Rome .. End of my first week here...

May 6, 2011... This first weekend was fun and full of events. Dinner with school friends Kathy (from Windsor CA), David, and his wife Tricia from Melbourne. We went to Avenue 60 in via del Gesu (short walk for P. Venezia) and enjoyed good food, esp. the wine (Kathy had me take photo of the label for her boyfriend. The report: we chose well). The place is clean, modern and well located, but only one other couple was eating there when we were – on Friday night! Never can tell why one place hits and another misses. Avenue 60 gets top reviews on TripAdvisor – in fact, that’s where I found it. Can anyone explain?

May 7, 2011... Saturday morning I bought flowers in Campo dei Fiori and journeyed (out by bus; back by Metro) to EUR (pronounced ay-ur) to join Ana Fitzpatrick to play cello/piano duets. Teleman, Vivaldi, Elgar (a bassoon sonata, very romantic) and Schumann...

Ana’s home is very comfortable, filled with art she has made (ceramics) or purchased, and two pianos, because she usually plays four-hands. Her friend and my future acquaintance Claudio was in Sienna visiting his elderly mother, which he does two weekends a month, bless him. All the time I spent with Ana was in Italian... I did OK but was a bit hard on myself that I didn’t have more words and phrases at hand... Ana has taught Spanish (she is from Argentina originally) and got in the habit of not only correcting me but interrupting me with the correction. I got used to it. She made us both a big salad (she became a vegetarian after her children did) and then did me a huge favor: Located an upcoming Schumann cello concerto/Brahms Symphony #1 and when I returned home I bought a ticket for next Tuesday night at the Parco di Musica (and now to find it and get there in time).

I got off the Metro at Colosseo, took a bus to Piazza Venezia (home of the huge monument that looks like a typewriter).. explored high above using Michelangelo’s famous steps. Walked home, slept well – very tired.

Sunday May 8 woke up early and treated myself to an early walk from here through Trastevere. Truly enjoyed the morning quiet. Found two possible places to stay with Joselyn next time we are here, both quite close (but impossibly more fancy): Hotel Residenza Farnese (four stars) just off Piazza Farnese; and in Trastevere: B&B Arco del Lauro. Both look possible... well located but on quiet side streets.

Took lots of photos, and when I arrived at Ponte Cestio Fabricio (the only bridge that spans an island in the Tiber) took out my Touch and followed the Rick Steves audio walking tour. I enjoyed his friendly voice, but soon realized it would have been easier to follow directly in the book RS Rome 2011 which I have here. Chiesa Santa Cecilia was beautiful – it was set up with white roses everywhere for a wedding or first communion. The well-lit statue of St. Cecilia was beautiful... this whole church was beautiful – a light and lovely hand – as if the ever-present nuns there were the architects, not the usual great (= egotistic) male builders. While I slowly looked around, a gaggle of nuns held a small service (sans priest) on the side – reading the bible, intoning prayers, and singing. One nun stood with one hand on keyboard and one hand on book. Beautiful. As I left, bells in the tower above the church exploded together. In the courtyard it felt as loud as the loudest ambulances and police.

At the farthest point of the walk – by this time I had finished the RS tour –  I entered the interesting church San Franceso a Ripa. Rick does not include it on his walk, probably because the church is not much compared to many others here and contains only one thing that stands out – but it’s so amazing – the sculpture by Bernini, of Beata Ludovica Albertoni (1671-4) who is, according to another guide, “in a state of religious ecstacy bordering scandalously on the sexual.”

Sunday services were in full service. It would have been too much to wander up the left aisle to the last chapel to view Beata. I could only bring myself to wander in sight of priest and congregation one chapel away from the goal. In that adjacent chapel was a little door opening on to the Bernini room. I could barely peer at Beata’s feet and drapery – but however hard I leaned over the heavy oak bench that barred the passageway I never could see her famous expression... will have to return on another day, I guess. But it was fun anyway.

On the way home I waited to eat until reaching the nearby wifi cafĂ© which turned out to be closed. So I tried the nearby ristorante (forgot the name; provide later) which turned out to be excellent, with an Israeli/international chef. Traditional Italian – not exclusively Roman – food made very well. House-made bread with small dishes of dried tomatoes and chopped olives to spread on it; fresh green salad with a ball of bufalo mozarella sitting on top (also walnuts and lemon) ahh.. .and finally house-made (what else?) ravioli in a light red sauce, filled with various seafoods – shellfish and actual fish. Very fresh. Two caffe lungos to finish, and now, 5 pm and four hours later, I can still feel them whirling in my rapidly beating heart.

I’ve been studying intensely especially today – finishing what I should have learned in Level 4; preparing in advance for what’s coming in Level 5 (enrolling in a new class, higher level; wasn’t happy with the teacher in L4). I’m far from ready, but more ready than I might be otherwise.

How does it happen that in every class there always are one or more students who outshine everyone else? They get every line of every exercise correct... I study, too. What am I missing? Sufficient brain cells, probably.

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