Back from Rome

Well, for a couple of weeks already, not all of it recovering from jet lag.

We had a great time.  We (me, wife, two teenagers) rented an apartment in Trastevere, on the other side of the Tiber from the center of Rome. It was relatively quiet and relaxed, with a couple of restaurants that became favorites (Ai Marmi, a pizza place with marble tables, was a regular hangout), and our apartment was a few minutes below San Pietro in Montorio, one of the spots where St. Peter was supposedly martyred, and the site of Bramante's elegant little Tempietto, which I would visit in the mornings.

In Classical times, Trastevere was the place where immigrants lived, and where foreigners and slaves convicted of murder were crucified, and their bodies left for the crows. That's why it kind of makes sense that St. Peter was crucified here, though it might have been up closer to the Vatican, where Caligula had built a racetrack.  Who knows?

A few favorite experiences:

Simon and I spent a day riding bicycles along the Appian Way, and then out to the Parco degli Acquedotti, a big park full of ruined aqueducts. There was almost no one around.

Our tour got into the Sistine Chapel early, so that for about half an hour there were only about a dozen people in the big space. It's weirder and more handmade looking than I had expected, but all the famous images are easy to see. The Conclave is meeting there right now.

After wandering around the various structures built into the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian, we got to the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, a conversion of the baths' frigidarium by Michelangelo, later somewhat modified. The size of the place was astounding, and the marble and gold gave an impression of what the entire place must have looked like in its heyday. But the pattern of the whole neighborhood is based on the extensive structures, most now gone.

The Castel Sant'Angelo has a huge spiral passage inside, once used for the funeral processions of Hadrian's successors. The building has a lot of interesting apartments, some used for a large collection of art about St. Peter, including some striking Russian icons.  And the view from the top is great.

The old curia, the Senate house, rebuilt during the reign of Diocletian, is a surprisingly large interior space. Trained by Dad, the kids were able to identify a statue of that quirkiest of Emperors, Claudius. We also did the usual Palatine, Colosseum, Forum thing.  The ruins on the Palatine, ranging from Iron Age postholes to massive structures, are hard to figure out, but easy to be impressed by.

Caravaggios, the Via Julia, Santa Maria Maggiore (Big Mary's, as we called it)...a week barely scratches the surface. We didn't overtour or overeat, though the temptation to do both was everpresent. We were lucky in the weather, sunny most days, in the fifties F, with only a brief sprinkle of rain one day. No fights, only a pleasant time with a group of people I like very much, one that I will not always have so close to me.

You can see my architectural bias in what I listed. Parents have not only the right, but the duty to visit their obsessions on their children. What good is a parent without some intense focus? Doesn't matter if the kids never really share it. Someday it will pop up in the least-expected of contexts, and I will live again.