Sunday, October 6, 2013

Finally - Back in Rome!!!,

Hi Everyone!

Sorry it's been so long. My blog was "doing the crazy" and I couldn't post anything!  I could view it but couldn't add anything!  Frustration!! techy-genius daughter Laura was able to restore it for me.  Thank you Daughter!!!! about a trip to the Spanish Steps for starters?  Here we go!!!

Here we are!  At this particular moment, it isn't very crowded, but later this morning, it was packed!  The Spanish Steps are considered one of Rome's most popular meeting points.  Why?  Because it has some of the most fabulous views of Rome you've ever seen! 
But - the Spanish Steps aren't Spanish!  They were commissioned by a French Ambassador, who - in 1723 - wanted a link between the Piazza di Spagna (the street below - from where this photo was taken) to the French-owned church of Trinita dei Monti, up on the hill (i.e., the white building at the top of the photo).  And why was the street below called the Piazza di Spagna?  Because in the 1600's, the headquarters of the Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See was located at the bottom of the steps, on the left.  According to rumor, it was considered dangerous to walk too close to the embassy because a lot of people were being forced to join the Spanish Army!!   

Here's a better view!  In late spring, May and June, the steps are filled with huge vases of azaleas. And in July, a fashion show is held on the steps!  At the moment, however, everyone just gets to BAKE in the August sun! Ugh!!
I bought this watercolor of the steps, which shows the azaleas.  Of course, I imagine it's far more crowded than this picture shows! Ha Ha

 A lovely view!  At the base of the stairs, on the right hand side, is the Keats-Shelley Memorial house and to the left of the steps is the Babington Tea Rooms (more about these later).

This is at the top of the steps, overlooking Rome.  Now you can see why everyone wants to come here.  You can see for miles in almost every direction!  Yes, those are two statutes (of chariots and horses) on top of that building!  Isn't that where everyone parks horse-drawn chariots?


Lovely old roof tops!!

As you can see, the crowds have descended!!  This fountain, called the Fontana della Barcaccia, is in the piazza at the foot of the steps. It's name literally means "fountain of the worthless boat", because the design itself is that of a half-sunken boat.  You can just imagine how welcome the cool water is to everyone!  And even though you see a car in the right background, there were very few of them. They're actually forbidden in this area unless they are delivering goods, etc.

A beautiful area!  These old buildings house some of the world's greatest design houses!  We saw the shops of Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, Gucci, Bulgari, Damiani, and Valentino to name a few, which is why this area is called the "Fifth Avenue of Rome" by the locals.  I was a bit curious about how this worked out, because this particular area is also known for its pickpockets!  And when it gets crowded, I could just imagine people getting into these shops and having a field day.  As it turns out, I was shown exactly how it worked when I saw two very expensively dressed women walk up to one of the shops, knock on the glass door, and be allowed entry by a very well dressed attendant!  Now that's what I call exclusive shopping!!

Horse drawn carriages were everywhere!  And although not shown in this photograph, patrolling the area were the Carabinieri, on motorcycles. Their uniforms are a bit showy, but they form the elite of the country's various different police forces.  In other words, don't mess with them!!!

St. Maria di Montesanto and St. Maria dei Miracoli, lovely twin churches built in the 17th century.

A quiet little side street.  Now I have to tell you why I took this photograph.  We were walking along the busy streets in the palazzo and suddenly I heard the most beautiful violin music! At first, I thought I was hearing things because we couldn't find the source.  Then we found  her. As you can see, she's very young, and I wondered if she was a student. Now  I don't mind admitting that I'm VERY PICKY when it comes to violin music and I absolute HATE hearing it played by anyone who isn't a professional because it sounds so grating on the ears.  But here she was, on the side of a street, playing for the public. And it was FABULOUS!! 
Keats-Shelley Memorial

The English poet, John Keats, died here on 23 February 1821.  He was just 25 years old, having come to Rome the previous September, to try and recover from consumption (tuberculosis).  Since 1909, the house has been a working library for students of Keats and his friend and fellow poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Keats is considered the first of what is known as the "romantic poets".
Now I'll be honest with you.  I don't recall ever reading any of Keats work, although my husband remembers being required to read one of his poems in school, about a Grecian urn.  And I further confess I don't care much for poetry as a general rule.  But about two years ago, I came across a movie called Bright Star.  It was one of what the husband refers to as a "chick flick", but what I refer to as a film "with acting rather than action".  It was a lovely period piece, about the relationship between Keats and Fanny Brawne, and I was especially drawn to it because it features some beautiful needle work (Fanny designed her own clothes and was an expert seamstress).  Anyway, that was my first introduction to John Keats.  And as luck would have it, they had the book called Bright Star in the museum gift shop!   

This is considered the most accurate depiction of John Keats, even though it was drawn shortly after his death.

Locks of Keats and Shelley's hair.  I can't remember who the other hair is from.  At one time it was a very common custom to save locks of hair.  Back then, of course, you didn't have cameras which you could take photos of loved ones to remember them by, so hair was frequently preserved.  In antique shops, you can frequently find pieces of jewelry that hold locks of intricately braided hair.
So.....if you're in the mood for a quiet, thought provoking, period film, watch Bright Star.
Babington Tea Rooms
About a month before we left for Rome, my mother-in-law mentioned that we should stop in a particular tea room if we had the chance.  It was called Babington's and it was known for its typically British tea.  Being an avid tea drinker, I made up my mind then and there that if we could, we'd try to find it. it is:
Babington's is in the brown building on the right side of the photo (which is situated at the base of the Spanish Steps, on the left as you're looking up the steps). 

After eating nothing but Italian food for several days, even though the food was wonderful, we girls were craving a good cup of English tea, and we weren't disappointed!  I had "high tea" and the girls both had a "typical English breakfast".  Babington's first opened in 1893 when two young women - Isabel Cargill and Anna Maria Babington - arrived in Rome with all their savings (one hundred pounds) and their plan of "making a respectable living" in Rome.  Their idea was to create a tea room that would cater to the fast growing community of English tourists.  The idea was to give the English a place to take tea (at that time tea could only be found in chemists' shops), read the newspapers and - visit the very rare bathroom facilities on site!! Babington's has been in existence ever since!

Well, this concludes our visit today.  Hope you enjoyed yourself and I'll see you again soon!!



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