Via Media

Via Media

In which I figure out the bus

Bus #44, to be specific  – the bus that runs by my apartment from Piazza Venezia, and thereby saved me a lot of walking today.
This morning I set out again in my busy Roman neighborhood, and this time, everything was in full swing.  Bakeries, butchers, bars (in Italy that doesn’t mean what it does here. It is basically a place to get coffee, pastry and perhaps sandwiches – just remember you pay more if you sit down), car repair places…everything.
The apartment, as I said, is in Monteverde, in a fairly large building with a courtyard. Close to what you would need to live and near the bus stop, so getting in to see the sights is not an ordeal.
I hopped on the 44 because I knew it would take me in the general direction I thought I might go, and it did – I got off at Piazza Venezia, then walked back to take a gander at the Theater of Marcellus and environs. I was going to entitle this post °in which I hate on Rick Steves.” but had second thoughts because I’m not quite sure if he’s guilty of the sin I want to accuse him of.
See, Rick Steves is the bane of the “serious” traveler, much like Rachael Ray is the bane of the serious cook. Making someting popular, but on a superficial level. I try not to get too snobbish about these things because, you know, it’s not as if I am some sort of renowned traveler myself. But what happened this time is that all my Italy books are still up in the unsold FW house, and I really didn’t want to spend the money on new ones, and Rick Steves’ Rome was the only one in the local library the day I went, so I packed him. He’s good for the basics, but get beyond that, it’s no good.
So I’m standing there in front of Teatro Marcello, knowing vaguely what it was, but not really, and wondering what I was seeing, and wishing for my Oxford Archaelogical Guide to Rome, and I thought – well, Rick can help me. Nope. Not a mention. Not one.
(I think. I just realized when I was looking it up, I was looking for “Teatro Marcello” not “Theater of Marcellus” so maybe he did have it in there after all. So just to be sure.)
Well, I wandered around anyway, enjoying what I saw, and thinking my usual sic transit gloria mundi thoughts that are unavoidable in Rome, observing cats and trying to catch on to what a tour guide was saying.  I walked through the Ghetto, then found myself at a church.  The typical Roman church that although obviously large,  has a fairly restrained facade, and one that is flat, or flush with the street, so that when you open the door you are totally surprised at the depth into which you walk and the riches inside.
It was this one – S. Carlo ai Catinari, and I’m going to save writing about it until later because there is much to say, not only what the place looked like, but for what was going on.
It was then time to make my way up to the Borgo to meet some folks for lunch –  which was very entertaining and informative  – a lovely time, then to the Bronze doors to pick up tix for the GA, a turn through St. Peter’s, since I had to go through security anyway – it.s still there, but I swear Pope John XXIII has been moved. Where is he? Or is it just me?
Back to the apartment, taking a bit of time to try to solve my converter problem and then find a way to call Michael and the Boyz – I finally settled on an International phone card – 180 min for 5 euros – which is much simpler than any other option, then met David in Trastevere for a cheap, but very good rigotoni cacio e pepe (or whatever) at a cheap restaurant he has discovered down there in which menus are shared, one to a table, the tables as they are, are very crowded (we sat with three Frenchmen), and the waiter writes the tab down on the paper on your table. Then gelato- I commented to David that while the story is that Rome is so, so expensive – and it certainly is – there are certain things that are cheap. 2 big gelato cones for 3 euro. You couldn’t do that in the US.
Then back up the mountain and here to do some quick blogging. Tomorrow the GA and then some exploration of little places, side places – thanks to those of you who have offered suggestions. I’ll find them.
With or without help from someone whose name might or might not rhyme with Nick Reeves.

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Fr. John

posted November 26, 2008 at 9:30 am

Let me say a word in defense of Rick Steves. He occupies a middle ground, between the ponderous Blue Guide on the one hand, and Europe on $20 a day on the other. If you have only one chance to see Rome, or are there for only two days, Steves is the guide to have. If you are afraid of getting on a bus or wandering through the streets without a guide, Steves will tell you how to do these things confidently and efficiently. Will he describe out of the way churches? No. Will he devote paragraphs to particular architectural features? No. But he’ll get you out of the tourist traps, onto the subway, into a delightfully deserted gallery of art near the Termini, and do it in record time. In St. Peter’s Square you can see hoards of hapless tourists following shouting guides who hold umbrellas aloft so they don’t lose their flocks. Usually, I’ve found that Steves’ guides provide better info without the chatter.

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posted November 26, 2008 at 11:47 am

If you look “upstairs” under the altar of St. Jerome, you will find Good Pope John, who was moved there in 2005 to make way in his former crypt alcove for JP2.
Una buona visita a Roma!

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Fr. Keyes

posted November 26, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Teatro Marcello was where St. Gaspar had an apartment, and where he died.
Nearby is San Angelo in Pecherria where his funeral was. Also nearby is San Nicola in Carcere where the ArchConfraternity of the Precious Blood was founded. The Croos on the left side has a placque to St. Gaspar on the kneeler, and there is a huge modern piece of art on the wall which commemorates the foundation and various saints associated with the Precious Blood.

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Joseph Elkins

posted November 26, 2008 at 10:40 pm

Thanks for the interesting reflections on your travels; I feel like I am right in Rome.
I was once a professional cook, and the few times I have watched her, I liked Rachel Ray and what she made. What did you mean by your comment? I think one of her goals is to get parents and children together in the kitchen eating healthier meals.

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posted November 28, 2008 at 7:10 pm

I think Rick Steve guidebooks are pretty good. What I don’t like about them is his sometimes too irreverent (bordering on disrespectful) descriptions of Catholic sites and sensibilities (and of course the Islamic sites get much more respectful treatment). One particularly disrespectful passage that really irritated me was written by a guest contributor.

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posted November 29, 2008 at 3:58 pm

One good thing about Rick Steves – he steered us reliably to some darned good and relatively inexpensive restaurants in Venice and Rome. And he informs me about the places I really should Google before I leave home.
I haven’t found the references to Catholic sites particularly obnoxious, but I live in such an anti-religious part of the country that my obnoxiousness sensor has probably been desensitized.

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