Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rome: Aqueduct Park and the Baths of Caracalla

Parco degli Acquedotti 
On my second day in Rome, I headed out early to visit the Parco degli Acquedotti or Aqueduct Park  south of the city.  Tourists rarely venture here, but there were many Romans out doing their daily dose of exercise: walking, biking, running, strolling with friends or dogs. 

Easy pickings: fresh figs!
Since the park is protected from development, it has a rustic air, with numerous wild flowers, along with fruit and nut trees along the paths. I even stumbled upon a man picking ripe figs from the numerous fig trees at the park, There's also a small waterfall from a stream running through the park: it was weird to hear the running water while imagining the transport of water across 45 miles of terrain.

The landscape of the Aqueduct Park
Next, I went to Terme di Caracalla,  or Baths of Caracalla. They were the second largest public baths built in Rome between AD 212 and 216. The sheer size of the remaining structures are impressive, making one wonder, "How did they do that?" Not just how did they build it, but how did they use all that space, just for baths?

Remnants of the past
Wikipedia comments that “Emperor Caracalla had the complex built as a piece of political propaganda. Romans from every social class enjoyed themselves in the impressive, exquisitely detailed building. Not only did this create a sense of unity, it also improved the public’s opinion of Caracalla because they attributed their pleasurable experience and lavish surroundings to him."
A rendering of the Roman baths
In modern times, the design of the baths was used as the inspiration for several modern structures, including New York City's Pennysylania Station. In the summer months operas are performed at a open air theater built near the ruins.

Portions of the floor that have been restored.
 Later in the day, I walked along the Via Appia Antica: more on that in the next post.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rome: Pincio Park

Maritime Pines, Pincio Park
Having been to Rome often over the years, I didn’t have much planned for my brief stay this year. I booked a great little B&B where I’ve stayed several times in the past: near the Termini train station, and only 35 euros a night! Little Italy is a good walk from Termini, but it’s close to a metro stop and is run by Rene, a very attentive host.
Che tranquillo!
I arrived in Rome about 8:30 in the morning, to hot and humid weather. Very hot and very humid. Kind of like the weather at home! I was exhausted, so after I checked in, I crashed for a few hours before heading out in the city. I felt drawn to visit Pincio, a massive park on the other side of town. I took the metro and found myself in a part of the park I’d never seen before. There was a small lake, and row boats for hire for those wanting to join the ducks and swans paddling around in the water. I headed over to Villa Borghese, home of a famous art gallery with a wonderful collection of statues by Bernini. 

Moonlight Sonata amidst the trees in Pincio.
I’ve been to the gallery before, and wasn’t in the mood to be in a museum, so I opted instead to continue walking around the park, listening to a classical guitar player by the lake, and a jazz saxophone player closer to the Villa Borghese. The main thing that keeps pulling me back to Pinco are the maritime pines that look graceful over much of the part. I’m always entranced by their elegant beauty. 

Stately and elegant pines in Pincio
On the way back to the B&B, I stopped by several familiar areas: the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain (now under construction) but was simply too tired to enjoy them for long.

The Pantheon, one of my favorite places in Rome
After nearly five hours of walking, I headed back to the B&B, stopping to eat dinner at an outdoor café near Santa Maria Maggiore, a huge and beautiful church in this part of town.

Cafe where I had dinner, with the cupola of Santa Maria Maggiore in the background.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A cool summer of plenty

Volunteer Hibiscus in my yard
I'll be heading for Italy again next week, but wanted to comment on the fabulous summer we've had in Lawrence this year. It's been so cool I've hardly used the air conditioning at all. And lately, it's been raining enough that I haven't had to water the garden for weeks.

The mini-computer on my handlebars
I've been on an exercise regimen for the past several months, swimming laps at the outdoor pool in the mornings, and riding my bike in the evenings. My son gave me a computer for the bike which tracks my mileage, and it's spurred me on, to ride more than 400 miles in the past few months. Funny how a little thing like that can become a taskmaster! We have a great public pool in Lawrence, and in the mornings, it's open only for lessons and lap swimming. It's like going to a private country club. There's a group of  about ten of people that I see there every summer, avid swimmers like me.

My favorite place to swim: Outdoors!
Lately, I've made batches of blueberry/peach jam, blueberry preserves, basil pesto and tomato sauce made with roasted Romas, fresh from my garden. The peaches came from my sister's trees, and the blueberries were on sale at a  nearby store. Such plenty is always welcome!

Blueberry-peach jam and a few tomatoes from the garden.

Next week I fly to Rome for a two-month stay in Italy. The first week will be spent in Rome, Naples and Ischia, and then I head to Florence. This year will be quite different, as I'll be sharing an apartment in Florence and traveling with friends most of the time, instead of by myself. I'll also have several friends from the States visiting, including my brother, who's coming on a motorcycle!

By the way, if you want a mouth-watering roasted tomato sauce, here's the recipe I used. It's easy and incredibly delicious! 

a presto!