Trip Start May 22, 2007
Trip End Jun 04, 2007

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Travelblog Entry 3 Frascati

Today was a good day. We spent half of it going to the airport again, but managed to return with our luggage. Mine had been ransacked by TSA, which may explain why it missed a flight. Nothing was broken or missing, but my careful shirt folding went out the window. Nothing perks up a trip better than getting to feel human again. A bath, some clean clothes and a rest and we were back out the door.

Since we did not get started until after 2pm, I picked a couple of quickies from the sightseeing list and Buck and I set off. We made our way on foot from the central train station to Santa Susanna. After one (very interesting) false start, we found the correct church (Santa Maria della Vittoria) and viewed the Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Bernini. That statue is a masterpiece of Baroque style, showing St. Theresa in a state of near bliss as she received the Holy Spirit. It makes a nice comparative as we will try to visit St. Peter's tomorrow and view the Pieta by Michelangelo.

Our other objective was the National Roman Museum, which is housed in the Baths of Diocletian. When we arrived, we found the museum closed, despite what the guidebook said. Since there was no signage, we have no idea if the museum will reopen while we are here or not. Not sure what to do, we noticed the church next to the museum had a fašade dating from the Imperial period, so we wandered in. We were in the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli. It is not in my guidebook or one my map, so its importance was unknown to me. Upon entering, we were stunned by the sheer size of the building. It felt like you could fly a 737 through there with room to spare. We ultimately discovered that the Basilica occupies a surviving center section of the Baths of Diocletian. Those baths must have been HUGE!!! Buck got very excited when we found an 18th century prime meridian longitude line in the floor. I'm sure that he will explain it better in his blog. The time we spent in there today was very satisfying.

Today's travel tip: Believe what you read and hear about pickpockets in Rome. I survived an attack today in the vestibule of the Basilica without loss or injury. We had been shrugging off panhandlers all day. Leaving the Basilica, obvious as a tourist with my camera around my neck, I tried to push past a woman panhandling with two kids. She grabbed my arm, shoved a sheet of cardboard into my face and the kids went for the pockets. I went on the offensive, waving my arms out toward them wildly and shouting as loud as I could. They took off without the kids getting in close. That's the reality in Rome. There are huge crowds everywhere. Moving at all is an adventure with the traffic and chaos. It is not easy to stay together in a group and support each other. I should have taken a moment in the Basilica to repack my camera in my pack and have both hands free. We'll see how it goes. I'm keeping a false wallet with my business cards and about 10 euro in my pocket as I go about. If they get that, they'll get lunch and the ability to card drop for the college. Everything else is secure.

I can not say enough about Frascati as a base of operations. The trains run hourly each way and take about 25 minutes. A 24 hour regional transit pass gets us on that train and ANY public transit in Rome or the immediate region for all of 6 euro. Frascati is packed with cafes, gellateria enoteca and trattoria. No matter where you walk, you may pause at will for an expresso, latte, gelato, birra, or wine. The breeze is constant and after a short shower today, was very cool. There are lots of big trees which provide shade. At supper time, we have tried two different trattoria. Tonight, I had a rich pasta with wild hare sauce and bruchetta. That meal was filling, delightful on the palate and inexpensive at 10 euro for the meal with wine.

Tomorrow we will explore around the Vatican and St. Peter's.

PS I am having great difficulty uploading photos at the internet cafe.  I will update these posts as best I can when I can.
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