Reflections From Roma #18
12 settembre 2019
Photo Update Alert:
Hello there… Rodger French here.
This is our third September in Roma, and the weather is just as beautiful as when we arrived in 2017: Sunny and fine by day, cool at night, less humidity and rain, and lovely breezes. After a typically hot Roman summer, it’s good to be cool(ish) again.
With the change of seasons, and only six months left in the Foreign Service before A.J.’s retirement (five in my case; more on that later), we’re slotting our dance card with Italian excursions. Cue the highlight reel:
Bologna-The seventh largest city in Italia and capital of the Emilia-Romagna region is an easy train trip from Roma. It has the customary scenic piazzas, cathedrals, and museums, as well as something like 40 km of covered arcades (nice). But the big feature is the food. Bologna is regularly touted as having the nation’s finest cuisine.
We arranged to join a small group on a food tour, led by Benedetta, a very knowledgeable young woman, which featured many tasty items, among them mortadella (that’s baloney for grownups), fresh tagliatelle with ragu, and homemade peach/rosemary gelato. Having thus gained critical intel as to where the good stuff was, over the course of the next few days we consumed a reasonably immense amount of meat and fish - cooked, cured, and tartared - and more fresh pasta. Eating well may not be the best revenge, but it is indisputably time well spent.
Ravenna- Former capital of the Western Roman Empire (402-476), subsequently ruled by the Ostrogoths, Byzantines, and Lombards, and now home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ravenna is renowned for Byzantine mosaics dating from the 5thand 6thcentury. Situated only 69 km from Bologna, it was the perfect destination for a couple of day trippers. We arrived by an early train in order to avoid the ZOTA™, and so had no difficulty spending some quality time amongst the splendor.
The mosaics, located in various baptistries, mausoleums, and basilicas are simply beautiful (see photo link above). In particular, the panels of Emperor Justinian I and Empress Theodora in the Basilica of San Vitale are, like, National Geographic-ly famous. Ravenna is worth further exploration, but our time was what it was, so we got what we got. We have no complaints.
[Literary Sidebar- Ravenna is also the resting place of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), poet and author of Divina Comedia(Divine Comedy), which I have actually read. In it’s entirety. Anyway, Dante was Florentine, but naturally there was the requisite dramma italiano, and so he ended up exiled and died in Ravenna. Reportedly, Firenze would like his remains repatriated. (Not going to happen.)]
Capuchin Crypt - Closer to home, indeed, a few moments’ walk from the U.S. Embassy, is this. And, since I really can’t do better, take it away, Wikipedia:
“The Capuchin Crypt is a small space comprising several tiny chapels located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini in Rome. It contains the skeletal remains of 3,700 bodies believed to be Capuchin friars buried by their order.The Catholic order insists that the display is not meant to be macabre, but a silent reminder of the swift passage of life on Earth and our own mortality.”
Reactions to this sort of exhibit vary dramatically. For my part, I did not have a clear idea of what to expect and so was rather unprepared for what awaited.
The Capuchin Crypt is one of the most compelling places I have ever visited, and moved me to weep openly. To my eyes, the great care and respect that went into creating this work of art from the bones of the dead was obvious and altogether praiseworthy. I am still somewhat taken aback by the depth of my response. Still processing… which is, of course, the point.
Next stop: Puglia, by train, in October.