During the last two months I’ve made three trips. First to Texas to visit my grown children, then to Michigan to visit Laura’s parents, and last week to Rome. Gale came with me on the first and last trips. My Macbook did not accompany me on the trip to Rome because of what I’ve learned recently about the lack of Fourth Amendment protections at the border. Hence, I didn’t blog during this trip. Instead I wrote in the same journal I used when Anne Mei and I visited Italy in 2012. Except for driving up to Syracuse for Anne Mei’s end-of-semester recital later this month, my travels are over for a while and I can get back to diagnosing and solving the world’s problems here.
Today I would like to share two highlights of our trip to Rome. First was a trip to the ancient port city of Ostia near the mouth of the Tiber. We had considered whether to go to Ostia or Pompey. I’m glad that we went to Ostia.
Even though almost all the marble facades in Ostia have been stripped off to be used in later construction, such as the cathedral in Pisa, the remains of the underlying structures provide a good sense of urban living in ancient Rome. Just beyond the classic open air theater, the graceful proportions of the square around the temple of Ceres still give one a sense of serenity, even though it was an ancient commercial mall lined with shops.
One other magic moment unfolded right outside our hotel. We were staying at the Hotel Nazionale right next to the Parliament Building. On Sunday afternoon they had a ceremony to recognize programs to support people with autism. We were able to enjoy a concert by the Carabinieri marching band from our hotel window. They played a medley of classic tunes. Here is an excerpt with the Italian national anthem.
Please bear with me because I’d also like to indulge my penchant for pedantry. Our guide in Ostia kept referring to the temple of “Circe,” confusing the Roman goddess of agriculture with the Greek witch who ensnared Odysseus’ crew. Twice our guide through the Vatican Museum referred to pictures of the Ascension as “Pentecost.” the second time with a painting of the dove descending on Pentecost right next to that of Jesus ascending. He also asserted that Pope Alexander VI was Jewish and not even baptized when he was made a cardinal. Alexander VI and I go back a long way. My father was called into talk with Sister Mary Virginia, my 8th grade teacher, after I asked during a church history lesson “Isn’t it true that Pope Alexander VI was a bad man?” I didn’t even mention that he was the father of Lucrezia Borgia and her brother Cesare, for whom Machiavelli wrote The Prince. Thankfully my father said, “Sister, don’t you believe in intellectual curiosity?” giving me license to read a lot more over the years about this Pope and his nemesis, the Dominican preacher Savonarola. In all these years I’d never read anything about Rodrigo Borgia’s being Jewish. There was something nasty in the implication that this Pope was so bad he must have been a Jew. Checking later I found that this rumor may have been started by one of Alexander’s enemies, who later became Pope Julius II. At least this trip I kept my mouth shut. In 2012 when the Vatican guide said that Leo XIII had constructed the room where we were standing in 1700, I told him that he was off by almost 200 years.
All in all, however, both the Ostia and the Vatican guides on this trip were informative and entertaining. Our guides during the all day walking tour of Rome were even better. We still enjoy trying to imitate our first guide Stella’s inimitable verbal tics, punctuating every other sentence with either a drawn-out “OKaay” or a loud “unh-huh.” We liked her.