Sunday, January 31, 2010

Travel to Rome: The Day After Christmas

After seeing the Pantheon we walked behind it and came to the Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Church of Saint Mary above Minerva), the only Gothic church in Rome. The reason for the name has to do with the fact that it was built directly on (sopra means "above" in Italian) the foundations of the temple to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.

We didn't go in, of course, now that we are home, every time I write, we didn't go in, I wish we had! But, anyways, we didn't. Outside is a statue of a cute baby elephant carrying an obelisk on his back. It represents Pope Alexander VII's reign and the idea that strength should support wisdom.

The round building in the background is the back of the Pantheon.

Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva

There was a picture of this large foot and hand in our guide book that I wanted to see. But the guide book only had a picture no information on it! I was determined to find it because I had seen it in other pictures and it looked interesting. Bless Frankie's heart he put up with me asking and dragging him all over Rome looking for it. I asked several people and no one knew where it was or we got different answers to where it was. One lady said there was a foot on a road called Via del Piè di Marmo. You will never guess what that means..."street of the foot of marble" of all things! So with hopes of this being what we were looking for we walked over to it.

Some how we couldn't find so we stopped in a sandwich stopped and asked. They were very friendly and told us exactly where it was. Somehow we walked right past it, literally! It was not actually on Via del Piè di Marmo, but down a side street just around the corner. It was not what we were looking for, but a hidden gem of Rome, that most probably don't see.

Pie di Marmo

We walked back past the sandwich shop to thank the guy and he said he wanted to tell me a secret about the foot. He basically said that it use to be on Via del Piè di Marmo, hence the name, in the Piazza del Collegio Romano, which in ancient times was the sight of a temple. But the city moved it because it was in the way of funeral processions that had to cross the nearby street of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. With Rome being Rome, no one bothered to update the change to show where it was.

It was great to learn this nugget of info from the locals! Continuing on our quest for the big foot we walked on. It was amazing what you can find when just walking around looking for something else. We saw on the map that we were close to the Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus).

circus maximus

It wasn't much to look at now, but in its time it was the place of the first chariot races and could hold over 300,000 people which is 2 times larger than the largest stadium in the world can hold! The first time bleachers were built they were wooden, but during its high point they were covered with marble stone. Now people use it as a walking track or a place to hang out in the sunshine.

Close by the Circus Maximus is the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin. In the portico of the church is the Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth). Ever since I saw the movie "Roman Holiday" I have wanted to see this piece of Roman history. I was happy to get the chance.

Bocca della Verita

The statue is thought to be part of a fountain from the 1st century and was move to the church in the 17th century. The name comes from the legend that says if a person sticks their hand in the mouth and they are a liar the mouth will bite that person's hand off.

I didn't stick my hand in it because it was raining (even with umbrellas it was a pain), there was a line to wait to stick my hand in the mouth, and we were still on a mission to find that big foot! I was able to get a picture of it from the side in between other people sticking their hands in, so I was happy enough with that.

We did listen to an audio podcast from that told an interesting story about the mouth. Here is a transcript:

"It is said that the rich wife of a Roman noble was accused of adultery. The woman denied the accusations, but her husband wanted to put her to the test by making her put her hand inside the stone mouth. Knowing perfectly well that she was lying, the woman used a very clever strategy. In front of a group of curious bystanders who had gathered around the Mouth of Truth, the man who was actually her lover embraced her and kissed her. She pretended that she didn't know him and accused him of being a madman and the crowd chased him away.

When she put her hand into the mouth, the woman declared that she had never kissed any other man apart from her husband and the poor madman who had just kissed her. In this way she was certain that she hadn't lied and her hand was saved. The betrayed husband saved her honour, but the Mouth of Truth lost its credibility and it is said that since that day it no longer carried out its function as a right and unappeasable judge."

Before I end this blog, I have a story to tell you that really shamed Frankie and me (and it wasn't anything we did). We were in a souvenir shop when some other people came in. They were speaking English and talking rather loudly to each other. One lady picked up a red shirt that said Ciao-Ciao in white on it in a script that looked like the Coca-Cola script. She asked the cashier if the shirt said Coca-Cola in Italian. Ok, fine, maybe she didn't know the word ciao, but had they not gone into any restaurants or bars their entire trip?? All they sell is Coca-Cola for the most part for soft drinks and it looks just like it does here.

They continued to be loud asking...ok I will say it....stupid questions...yes there are such things! We noticed a twangy Texas accent, so we asked where they were from. They were from none other than San Antonio and knew the little town we are from! We paid for our purchases and quietly walked out the door trying to not look and sound like tourist who are really acting like tourist.

After feeling the slight shame of being Americans in a foreign country, we got on the right track to find the big foot thanks to a different shop owner who looked it up in one of her guide books, but that will be a new blog.