Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Shopping in Rome: Eyeglasses this time

For non-shoppers, we do get around.  And we must admit to being entranced by "Rosaria's," as the eyeglass store we're touting here is known among friends in Rome.

The personable - and knowledgeable - Rosaria
in her shop [and love those glasses].
Rosaria is Rosaria Riccioli, and her small, beautifully-stocked store in the center of Rome is Mondelliani. 

We were admiring the glasses of a friend, and she told us where she annually gets a new pair, and it turns out, so does everyone else we know.  And friends visiting friends stop by Rosaria's shop for new glasses.  As Rosaria's slogan says: "Personalita' in vista" - "personality in sight."

"Something more than an eyeglass store."
At the shop, your prescription can be "read" off your current glasses, and you can get a new pair in a couple days.  From what we can tell, the prices are competitive with U.S. prices, and the selection fantastic.  Ah, yes, English spoken by all the employees.

Mondelliani is just off Piazza Colonna, which is next to via del Corso, smack dab in the center.  And the shop is open "non-stop" - almost -  10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.  Closed on Monday.  Via dei Bergamaschi, 49. tel. info@ The bi-lingual Web site is fun too.

The sign across the shop window in the Web site photo says "Something more than an eyeglass store." So it is.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rome's most "used" Fountains

Among Rome's great pleasures are its fountains--about 1,000 of them, according to one authority--and not just because they're beautiful or stylish, or because they testify to Rome's abundant supply of fresh water. As any thirsty traveler will tell you, most of them are also useful, even essential, especially in the summer months, when the city swelters in the heat.

RST has identified two fountains that are especially busy, crowded with tourists, locals, and the faithful slaking a thirst.  Each, predictably, is located in the heart of a tourist area, and each has a certain style--even if that style is sometimes mediated by a plastic bottle or the crush of the needy.

The first, below, can be found in Piazza San Marco, that little rectangle of semi-sanity adjacent to Piazza Venezia and across the street from the Altare della Patria.

The second is just to the north of Piazza San Pietro [the right side, as one faces the basilica] - note the fountain's shape - Pope's hats and St. Peter's keys to the church.

Drink up, Rome.

Monday, September 1, 2014

MACRO's playground

Okay, we whine about MACRO and this city contemporary art gallery always seems about to fold, treats patrons shabbily, and costs too much.  But then it entrances us.  The latest artwork in the central part of the main MACRO (on via Nizza, not far from via Nomentana in one direction, and Piazza Fiume in another - a few blocks from the city walls) is a huge textile work.  The artist, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, was born in Japan and lives in Nova Scotia.  She is known for her large-scale textiles that work as children's playgrounds, and this certainly is one of them.  Titled "Harmonic Motion" in English and "Rete dei draghi" - or "Dragons' net" in Italian, it's both harmonious and a little scary in the way it envelopes and "captures" you.
Those dark slacks in the center?  me trying to get up and in; the kids
definitely were better at this.

We saw children enjoying themselves climbing in and around the sculpture and, so, I had to try it myself.  A bit claustrophobic and not too easy for an adult, but a kick nonetheless.  And, it appears it's free.  You can go into this part of the museum without needing a ticket.  The sculpture will be up until the end of this year.  So go for it!

via Nizza 138, open 11-7 Tuesday through Sunday, except major holidays, and who knows what kind of government shut-downs.  Fairly bad Web site, appears to be only in Italian, "Menu" - at the bottom, print tiny.  But give it a try.

Made it - that's my face through all that fibre.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

FAO's Vines: a Tale of Survival

The building that houses FAO, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organizaton--is one of the least interesting of the numerous Fascist-era structures that dot the Roman landscape. Intended to be the seat of the Ministry of Italian Africa, it was designed by Vittorio Cafiero and rationalist Mario Ridolfi in 1938 and completed in 1952, years after Italy had lost its empire, such as it was.  It seems today to presage the brutalist style that was popular in the 1970s, though its enormous if spare balcony offers a fine view of Circo Massimo and elements of the Roman forum--assuming you have a friend who can get you in and up there.  

What the building does have, on the exterior walls that front the sidewalk on viale Aventino [once viale Africa], is an impressive, vigorous set of vines.  Yes, vines.  They're thick and primordial in appearance, deriving nourishment from somewhere beneath the asphalt pavement that's [unfortunately] everywhere in Rome. They may even date to FAO's arrival in 1953.

For us they stand for resilience.  Although we have been by the building many times over the years, we first noticed the vines in mid-April, while on a tour--rather disappointing, as it turned out--of the remaining vestiges of Italian colonialism.  They had been trimmed, relentlessly it seemed.  We wondered if they would survive.

They did.  Here's how they looked just two months later, in mid-June:

We'll stop worrying.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shopping in Rome: Fascism for Sale

The Fuhrer, riding in a staff car.  Or the Fuhrer acknowledging the folk with a friendly wave.  Buy both and you get a free attack dog.  

The era of Hitler and Mussolini is now a lifetime in the past.  But if you miss these guys, you can still purchase figurines--in the heart of Rome--to remind you all the good things they did.  We found a nice supply at a small shop just south of the Palazzo di Montecitorio, which houses the Italian Chamber of Deputies. 

That could be the Duce at center right.  Not sure who the dude with the binoculars is.  Marshall Petain, head of the Vichy government?
Another version of Mussolini--apparently--on the pedestal, though he looks a bit gaunt for the Duce.  But who's the guy on the left?  A representative worker?  And what's the gold stuff in the cart? Could be harvested wheat. The red and blue
flag may offer a hint, though I don't think the answer is Haiti.
Help us out here!
PS:  Marco, a regular reader of the blog, offers assistance:  The guy with the binoculars is likely Italo Balbo--Fascist hero, flyer, and governor of Libya--and the red and blue flag belongs to an Army corps.  Thanks so much, Marco.  Michael W. suggests that "the bloke on the right of the Duce looks like Hermann Goering."  Thanks for your help, Michael.