A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the month “September, 2012”


One of the most frustrating things about living in Italy is not speaking or understanding the language. The second most frustrating thing is trying to find information that’s understandable about what’s going on in Rome.

There’s a festival nearby in Circo Massimo, that we went by yesterday on our way home while on the bus. So we decided we would try to find out what it was and go today. I’ve located several websites that supposedly tell you what’s going on around town, but they can sometimes be not so helpful or informative. is such a site that at least tries, as it has a translator on it’s website. Here is what the translation says though about this festival:

Campagna Amica Foundation, with event “Best of Italy” wants to open the doors of our agriculture, therefore, the real Made in Italy throughout Italy from the City of Rome. In a historical context unique in the world, the arena of the Circus Maximus you tell consumers the true value of agricultural production Italian, through their stages. food, territory, know-how, local traditions, in other words, “Campagna Amica” is an answer to the food and cultural globalization imposes.


Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna

Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna

Yesterday I ventured to the lovely Borghese Gardens to visit the Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna. Established in 1883, the Galleria found a new home in 1915 in a monumental building designed by Cesare Bazzani for the 1911 exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Unity of Italy. The museum collection includes works from the 19th and 20th centuries; highlighting both Italian and foreign born modern artists.

When you enter the museum, the central area contains several 19th century sculptures placed on a mirrored floor created by Alfredo Pirri. It’s both magnificent and wildly disorienting to look down and see yourself reflected up. I viewed pieces by familiar Modern artists, like Alexander Calder, Henry Moore and Jackson Pollack. The collection also includes some fantastic neoclassical sculpture and famous Italian artists like de Chirico, whose work I had previously viewed at the Carlo Bilotti Museum which is also in the Borghese Gardens.

Unfortunately, I visited between special exhibits, although the advertising for the show featuring Andy Warhol which ended September 9th was still posted. I was able to catch a glimpse of the upcoming show featuring Italian artist Gino Marotta, who’s whimsical sculptures can be seen throughout the museum and in the photos below.

Despite terrible traffic that caused it to take one and a half hours to get to the museum from our flat, the trip was well worth it.

Il Duomo – Siena

Il Duomo

Il Duomo

Over the weekend, Michael and I traveled to Tuscany and stopped on Sunday afternoon in Siena to see Il Duomo.

The Sienese Duomo was constructed in the 12th century in the Romanesque and Italian Gothic styles. It’s dramatic facade, complete with statues that seem to hang off the sides, was designed in part by Giovani Pisano and dates from the 13th century, as does the Romanesque campanile.

The interior of Il Duomo is composed of zebra-like black and white bands of marble. The floors are studded with fantastic mosaics, of both biblical and mythological subjects, and are mostly roped off to prevent them from being stepped on so as to prevent further decay. There are lustrous chapels, some of which I was able to photograph.

We also visited the Piccolomini Library which is located inside Il Duomo. The library is renowned for its cycle of frescos by the Umbrian master Pinturicchio. The frescos date from the 16th century and tell the history of Pope Pius II’s life. They are remarkable for their color and vividness. In the center is the statue, Three Graces, a roman copy of a 3rd century BC Greek work.

I’ve come to realize that photographing inside a chiesa (church) has it’s disadvantages. It can be difficult to capture the majesty that you find in so many Italian churches. There is often natural light high above, and then spotlights that create glare when you try to take a picture. I’ve edited the photos below as best I can and will see if next time using a proper camera instead of my iPhone helps.

You can click on any of the photos below to see them larger and in a slideshow format. In the meantime, enjoy and thanks for following along on our adventures.

Rosh Hashanah – Giorno Tre

St. Peter’s Basilica

I know this is a bit late, but I wanted to finish the trilogy!

On the third day of the Jewish New Year, I decided to go for the whole megilla (deal) …the Trinity, and visit another chiesa  (church). I’d yet to see during our stay in Roma the Basilica di San Pietro, St. Peters.  So I figured, if you’re Jewish and going to go to church during the Jewish high holy days, why not visit the BIG ONE.

Off to St. Peter’s Basilica I went. I was glad to be visiting alone, as the line to get in was long.  I’ve found that it’s always easier being short of stature to scurry up in the line when you’re traveling solo! (Sorry if you were in front of me and I wormed in front of you; but it’s unlikely you were part of a German or Korean tour group that day and are now reading my blog!).

The whole of St. Peter’s Square is imposing. It’s surrounded by a Doric—pillared colonnade composed of 284 columns, atop which sit statues of 140 saints. The Vatican, the world’s smallest city-state, is guarded by the Swiss Guard, who to this day dress in uniforms reputedly designed by Michelangelo. But even the Square pales in comparison to what you’ll find after passing through several security checkpoints and finally entering the Basilica.

Originally built by Constantine around 326 AD, the Basilica was built on the site where St. Peter was buried following his crucifixion in 64 AD. In 1452 the church was in such disrepair that Pope Nicolas V resolved to build a new Basilica. After several false starts, it was finally rebuilt and mostly completed in the 1500s and 1600s. Michelangelo is responsible for much of the dome and Bernini finished the façade and interior.

The grandeur is overwhelming. There is so much gilt, marble and mosaics that one can’t help but be in awe of such wealth.  I viewed one of the Vatican’s greatest treasurers, the Pieta, a sculpture created by Michelangelo while in his 20’s, of Mary, shown as a young woman holding Jesus after the crucifixion. It now sits behind glass after having been vandalized in the 1970’s.

Inside St. Peter’s

I’ve attached some photos, including the baldacchino (canopy) which rests over the papal alter. The baldacchino was created by Bernini and sits below the dome created by Michelangelo. I hope the photos will give you a brief feeling for the scale, lushness and sacredness of St. Peter’s if you’ve never visited.

I also visited the Vatican grottoes below, which contain the tombs of the Popes, both modern and ancient, along with a few queens who converted to Catholicism and were banished from their home countries when they converted. They were given funerals in the Basilica and honored by being buried in the grotto. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed in the grotto.

And on the 4th day of the New Year, I rested.


Rosh Hashanah – Giorno Due

San Clemente

A brief note regarding yesterday’s post, Rosh Hashanah – Giorno Uno: So I think I figured out that Pio IX Pontifici Maximo was a Pope.  I saw a statue of him again at St. Peter’s. Mystery solved!

The second day of Rosh Hashanah I found myself walking to visit San Clemente, a basilica near the Colosseo, a short walk from our flat. The day was warm and sunny, so the walk was a pleasant escape. San Clemente does not allow photos to be taken inside, so my only pictures are of the outside and inner courtyard.

One of the things that make San Clemente so magnificent is that it was built between 1108 and 1184 as a replacement for an earlier church that was sacked by the Normans in 1084. It has been virtually untouched since the 12th century, so it’s medieval interior remains true to form. Below the basilica are two more levels that can be visited by paying a 5-euro fee.

The first lower level highlights the remains of the church that was constructed between the 8th and 11th centuries.  It contains many preserved frescos and relics and the rebuilt supports for the church above, which is still in use today.

You can descend a level lower to visit the best preserved of the 12 uncovered Mithraic temples in Rome. Mithraism was a popular, male only pagan religion that originated in Persia and was practiced in Rome between the 1st and 4th centuries.

In the courtyard at San Clemente

While excavations continue today on this lower level, it’s possible to view parts of the Mithraic temple alter and school. You can walk among what were streets and alleyways in the 1st century, and even through a home where the water still flows in a trough that was the family’s access to an ancient underground stream.

It was so exciting and humbling to be walking underground in a 1st century Roman home and through ancient alleyways. On my walk home, I finally discovered Villa Ceila Montana, a lovely park, which hosts summer concerts and borders the Colosseo.

All in all, I had a great holiday. Shana Tova to all my practicing Jewish family and friends!



Villa Cielo Montana

A statue in Villa Cielo Montana






Rosh Hashanah – Giorno Uno

Santa Maria Maggiore

It’s the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. I have to confess, that I haven’t been very religious in my adult life. I consider myself to be more spiritual, than religious. It’s been awhile since I attended a temple or synagogue for the High Holiday services. I have enjoyed it when I’ve gone, but it’s just not something I’ve found myself seeking out, of my own accord.

My spirit though, knows it’s a time for reflection, because I’ve found myself wanting to go visit several churches on the first and second days of Rosh Hashanah.

Yesterday, on the first day of the New Year, I went to see Santa Maria Maggiore. It’s considered to be Rome’s finest Early Christian basilica, dating back to 430 AD. The campanile (bell tower) is the tallest in Rome, having been added in 1377.  Major renovations occurred to the basilica in the 13th and 18th centuries. The coffered ceiling was reputedly gilded with the first gold to arrive from the New World, a gift from Spain to Pope Alexander VI.

Pio IX Pontifici Maximo

I found myself in awe at the grandeur and size of the basilica. But probably what caught my eye the most, was a small chapel located just in front of and below the main chapel. Accessible by a set of stairs, it contained a statue of Pio IX Pontifici Maximo kneeling in prayer.  I have to confess, I googled him and can’t quite figure out who he was, but the statue of him was magnificent.

In this small lower chapel, which seemed to be encased in gold, there was also a small podium off to the side. It contained envelopes so you could request a mass to be said either solely for your intentions or to have your intentions included as part of a group mass. The cost for your own mass was 10 euro and any donation could get your intention stated as part of a group mass.

The Lower Chapel

I didn’t really understand what this all meant…being a Jewish woman on the high holidays in a Catholic church, but I felt compelled to ask for a prayer and intention, and so I did. I trust that my request was made, and I am grateful for all the help I can get in this life.

Stay tuned for day two.

Doors to the Basilica


The gilded ceiling



Inside the Basilica

One Step Back…

Isis snuggling Michael’s leg

It’s been a busy past few weeks.  Michael was offered a chance to stay on in Italy for another year, through September 2013. We though long and hard, discussed the pros and cons, and decided to accept the offer. Living in Rome has been quite the adventure…why stop now?

I headed back to the States a few days before Michael for a whirlwind tour at the end of August, to prepare our Phoenix home for sale and make room in the Sedona house for all of our belongings. Even though both of us have moved, unlike some people who stay in the same house for most of their lives, we had so much stuff!

The Phoenix garage was full of boxes that hadn’t been opened since Michael moved from Denver. Sedona was full of old files and long forgotten “treasures”. Goodwill, the dump, neighbors and friends became the new owners of most of our things.

We once again ate at our favorite restaurants, had quick visits with a few friends, and said short goodbyes. I sadly resigned from my job, with hopes to return one day. Isis, our cat, went to live with our beloved neighbors. We stuffed what provisions we could fit for the coming year in our suitcases and prepared to return to Roma.

Being back home in Phoenix, and knowing that while it’s “home” we will not have a literal home to return to, felt melancholy and a little scary. I’m a firm believer though, that letting go creates room for something new in one’s life. We have lots of room in ours now.

Inside the Colosseo

Upon returning to Rome, we again felt out of place, not being able to speak the language or understand what’s going on around us. Walking the streets of our neighborhood we looked at each other and said, “Did we really say yes to living here for another year?!” It’s loud and crowded and polluted; yet ancient and exciting and vibrant.

We move to a new apartment next month at the other end of the neighborhood. It’s bigger, nicer and we’ll have 2 bathrooms again! We start language tutoring next week to help us learn Italian. I’ve joined the Association of American Women in Rome, which will provide volunteer opportunities and hopefully new friendships.  We went to an party this week for Internations, a great group of Italian and English speaking folks who have lived all over the world, and made new friends.

One step back. Two steps forward.  I hope you will continue to follow along with us on our adventure this coming year.

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