October 6th

Last night we attended a concert of chamber music featuring Italy's most prominent violinist, Uto Ughi (that's pronounced "Ootoh Oogi"). Sr. Ughi has organized a series of twelve concerts that began in mid-September and will conclude on October 15th. We've gotten free tickets to several of the concerts by waiting in a long line at a specific time and place. It has been worth the wait.

Last night's concert took place at Santa Sabina, a fifth century church that has been restored to its earlier appearance. The church as you can see is quite lovely. It has a door made of cypress wood that belonged to the original 5th century church. One of the panels that makes up the door shows a low relief carving that represents the Crucifiction. This is the oldest representation of that scene in a public place.

Back to the concert. The program called for the performance of two pieces, Mozart's Quintet for Strings K516 and Tchaikowski's "Le Souvenir de Florence", a particularly lovely chamber piece.

We and perhaps a thousand other people were seated in the church. It was packed. Just when it was time for the performance to begin, we hear applause and then a murmur that sounded like "president." I asked a woman sitting near us what was happening and she said that the president had just entered the church. I asked "president of what"? She replied "Italy." Later, at the end of the concert, the President and his small entourage passed near our seats and we had an opportunity to see him clearly. I was struck by the seemingly low level of security that surrounded the President.

The performance was very fine, but as we have come to expect here, the program was only a suggestion. The Tchaikowski piece was played first and then there were some announcements we did not understand which were followed by four or five pieces, none of which sounded like any Mozart I have heard. But the "extra" pieces were wonderful to hear. To summarize the evening, the experience of hearing the beautiful music in the ancient venue in the company of the President of Italy was pretty stunning.

The Rest of the Day    I think you may be interested in following our experiences yesterday before the concert. So let's start yesterday, Friday, morning at about 10AM when we leave the apartment. Our goal is to visit one of the Ikea stores in Rome to look at a few items. We know from previous inquiries that there is an Ikea store at Via Anagnina 81. Since the end of one of Rome's two metro lines is named Anagnina we figure that the Ikea store won't be far from the metro station. Are you laughing yet? We ride the metro to the end station, get out and don't see anything. No town, no Ikea, nothing but one of those cheap clothing markets with tables where most items are 10 Euros or less. We ask several people how to get to the Ikea and find out that we must ride a bus for a few stops. We go to the boarding point for the bus but no bus is present and after a little while we decide that this trip to Ikea is not worth the trouble of the bus ride. We go back to the cheap clothing market and look around for 20 or 30 minutes but buy nothing. We decide to ride the metro back to the Flaminia station from where we can easily walk to Piazza del Popolo. There is an exhibit of Leonardo DaVinci's engineering inventions that we want to see.

As the metro train nears Flaminia we decide to get off one stop earlier, at the Spanish Steps, because getting out from Flaminia involves a lot of underground walking. We'd rather do our walking above ground. But we haven't brought our maps and cameras (who needs them for a visit to Ikea?). So once out of the metro station near the Spanish Steps we just head in the general direction of the Piazza del Popolo. As we are walking, we see a sign for Via Margutta. Well, a very nice Roman woman we had met a week before in line waiting to get tickets to a Uto Ughi event told us to be sure and see Via Margutta. She said it was a very pretty street filled with art galleries and artisan workshops. She also told us that there was a great vegetarian restaurant on the street. So we walk down Via Margutta and look into all the galleries and shops and evenutally come upon the ristorante, Il Margutta RistorArte. We are told by one of Rome's seemingly inexhaustible bevy of pretty young waitresses who speak a good amount of English that the deal is as follows. For 15 Euros you get to take one bowl of soup, one plate of the many vegetable and pasta dishes, one piece of cake, one cup of fruit, one glass of fruit juice, sparkling water and coffee. The soup and the vegetable dishes are scrumptous and by the time we finish them we are sure that cake is out of the question. A few minutes later we choose our cakes and they are equally as good. We pass on the fruit and fruit juice, have our coffee and are back on Via Margutta.

We find our way to the DaVinci exhibit. The entrance fee is 8 Euros. But we have learned to say "Due pensionati per piacere" (two retired people over 65 please). We get in for 4 Euros each.

The exhibit consisted of about 20 models of machines and wings built from DaVinci's design drawings. Some of the machines were simple motion exchangers that could take one sort of motion, say circular, and convert it to another, say linear. These were not complete machines but were intended to be like a library of devices that could be put together to construct more complex machinery. There were also models of machines for war including guns with multiple barrels, catapults, ramming machines and machines for crossing rivers and moats. Even though DaVinci did not construct most of the devices - they were just his ideas - the designs we saw clearly showed to Sueann and myself the incredible engineering talent of Leonardo DaVinci. I guess to say that it was amazing would be an understatement.

In addition to the models, there were copies of DaVinci's sketches, drawings and paintings. I had seen some of these before but was very impressed by the body of artistic work on exhibit. Altogether the exhibit was well worth the time and the money to people like us who are not very familiar with DaVinci's work.

When we left the exhibit we found the Piazza del Popolo filled with athletic games for kids. I guess it was a body building day for schools kids.

We road a couple of buses to the stop near our apartment, walked up the hill, rested up a bit and then headed out to the concert.

Best wishes to you,
    Jeff and Sueann

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