The weekend of September 20th was spent in the ancient and bustling city of Rome. It was amazing how easy it was to get around using the metro and bus system, but I do prefer waking (we walked 12 miles the first day). I had been to Rome before, but it seems like the longer you are there, the more you realize you hadn’t seen anything yet, really.
Day one, we met after lunch at the Piazza del Popolo. The engineers were a little early, so we got in a mini-photo shoot on the lion fountains before realizing that there was a €250 fine (don’t worry, we didn’t get caught!). The gates to Piazza del Popolo are the gates to Rome and the Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square is from the 13th century BC as a result of the spoils of war. I cannot imagine what it took to get that giant hunk of granite back to Rome from Egypt! And it’s still intact! I’ll get to go to Egypt here in a few days, so I’ll tell you how it got there!
A short walk from there, we ended up and the Mausoleo Di Augusto which is currently closed for renovation and repairs. Next door to it is the building that houses the Ara Pacis, a monument to honor to the Emperor Augustus who was the adopted nephew of Julius Caesar and also his predecessor after his assassination. Loved by Romans, Augustus brought democracy back to Rome and prosperity followed, which is shown symbolically on the Ara Pacis. If any of you out there watched the show Rome on HBO, you know what I’m talking about.
The engineers next went to look at the Tiber River. This river snakes through the city and has caused traumatic flooding since ancient times. Markers on walls all over the neighborhoods near the river indicate the places where the flood waters had risen. I wish I had known about these markers while I was in Rome, but I didn’t find out about them until after we left when I wrote about the flooding for a field trip report before I figured out what they were all about! Ever since a large channel with 30-foot walls were built on the Tiber, flooding in the city has become less of a problem for Romans.
Next was the Pantheon (after a quick gelato stop) where it started to rain while we were inside. Not only did it rain outside (we all had to buy umbrellas!) but it also rained inside through a hole in the giant unreinforced concrete dome (here is where the civil engineers swoon). It is here at the Pantheon where our hometown Urbino hero, Raphael, rests. Amazing that we are able to see where he was born and where his body now rests. Full circle.
After the Pantheon were were off to the Piazza Navona, a bustling piazza that houses the fountain of the four rivers. I didn’t pay that much attention here about the fountain, but it was pretty breathtaking. It was here that my sister, Calee, called me and I FaceTimed with her with the fountain in the background!
Finally, we enjoyed a concert at the Chiesa di Sant’Agnese in Agone featuring Baroque music using traditional instruments and it was fabulous. It started out in the church’s chapel and finished in the main church which was created for music like this. It was theatrical and haunting being in the presence of a fine soprano singing in a church with exquisite acoustics. If I close my eyes, I can still hear her.
After the concert, I went to dinner with Darryl and Josh and somewhere along the way, I was pickpocketed! All of my cards including my Texas drivers license were stolen (though not my student ID for UTSA or Urbino!) I cleared up the charges with the bank… Chris is bringing my new cards when he comes in a couple of weeks. Note to travelers: don’t put all of your cards in one place. The pickpockets were real professionals with surgical precision. I’m just really not sure how they did it. Be careful out there!
This is the end of part one… more coming soon!