September 17th through September 22nd

In a way, here in Rome we are like children. Every morning we wake up with no resposibilities. Then we decide what games we are going to play.

Jeffrey neglected to add that we have to shop for food and wine (fun), then prepare the food, eat it and clean up afterwards (not all that much fun considering the lack of counter space and equipment) and drink the wine (fun). We also have to do laundry in a machine that takes a ridiculously long time to complete a load, hang it out and hope it's dry by the end of the day. Some of our other trials include choosing places to eat and gelati flavors. Tough stuff!

About a week ago when we were still Rome novices :-) we naively decided to visit the Fontana di Trevi which we appreciated very much on previous visits to Rome.

When we arrived this is the scene that greeted us. Yes, Rome is loaded with tourists. Many if not most are Italian but we also hear many English, German and French voices plus Russian, Chinese and Japanese. "Loaded" is probably not a strong enough term. I think "crowded" sometimes "packed" better describes the situation here. So, we have been concentrating on visits to sights at least a bit off the main tourist trail.

So why did we go to the Porta Portese market last Sunday? It must have been the fond memories we have of visiting this huge flea market years ago with Jack Slater, a college friend of Sueann. Jack was black, very black and tall, really tall. Now, black people in Rome are a common sight. But years ago when we walked the market with Jack leading the way, he stood a good head above the all white surrounding crowd. This is a sight we remember well, probably because of a photo of the scene that we have. Jack bought us a paper cone filled with delicious olives. I think we were hoping this time to find those olives. Jack died a few years ago and we would have loved to find him even more.

The market is located in Trastevere across the river Tevere (i.e, the Tiber) from the main tourist area and has many, many stalls with tables of cheap clothing and shoes. Some of the clothes are new and some appear to have been pre-owned. The going price for shoes was 10 Euros. Clothing was anywhere from 1/2 a Euro to 6 Euros a piece and many clothing tables were marked as 1 Euro for anything on the table.

The market consists of a narrow path with covered tables lining either side of the path. And the path was loaded with people. Yes, packed. We crept along this path for a couple of hours path making two one Euro purchases: shoe pads and a cord to hold my eyeglasses when I remove them.

Then, we came to the flea market area where people were selling things from blankets on the ground. This section was sardine-can packed with people. We were already very tired and chose the path of fewest people. Eventually we came to the end of the market only to find that our bus was another sardine can. The market was something we are glad we saw, but I think it will be a while before we return.

Friday, September 21st. The Michelin green guide includes a map diagram that shows the principal sites of Rome. It grades sights by color. Purple sites are three star, highly recommended. Blue sites are two star, recommended and blue underlining denotes one star sites, interesting. As we look toward the edges of the map, places where we think large numbers of tourist may be less likely to visit, we notice a blue site not far from our apartment. This two star site, Mausoleo di Santa Constanza, is just a short bus ride away from us. It's a no-brainer.

So we hop on a bus and in no time we are in front of this lovely mausoleum. Helen and Constantia, daughters of Constantine, Emperor of the Roman Empire from 306 to 337 AD, were buried here. According to legend, Constantia suffered from leprosy and spent a night at the nearby tomb of St. Agnes and was cured. After 337 she erected a large basilica near St. Agnes's tomb with an adjacent round mausoleum where she was to be buried. The mausoleum was converted to a church probably in the 13th century

As we enter the mausoleum/church we are struck by its peacefulness and beauty. The circular interior consists of a central rotunda covered by a fresco painted dome that is supported by a ring twelve granite columns linked by perfect arches. We notice that pots of white rose plants are placed around the altar in the center of the rotunda and that some of the chairs surrounding the altar are adorned with a single white rose. Sueann, that queen of observation and common sense, deduces that a wedding is about to take place and soon wedding guests begin to appear. What a splendid setting for a wedding.

Surrounding the ring of columns is a round gallery whose ceiling is adorned with original 4th century mosaics. These are the oldest surviving Christain mosaics and they are lovely. The mosaics display designs of linking vines, other abstract forms, birds, other animals, flowers as well as the occasional head and shoulder image. The ceiling is in wonderful condition and looks as if it could have been created recently.

We would have liked to spend more time enjoying the peace and beauty of the Mausoleo di Santa Constanza but because of the wedding we cut our visit short.

We miss our family and friends,
    Jeff and Sueann

Return to the Rome Trip main page