Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


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Vesuvius and POMPEII

I have been fascianted with Pompeii since first hearing about it, so when a trip to Italy was first broached I enthusiastically said yes and POMPEII. I am fascinated by all aspects of the story. I am fascinated with seeing a city that was stopped in time and preserved across centuries. I am fascinated with the circumstances by which the city was extinguished and why it was forgotten and left untouched for so long.

I loved it. I want to go back and wander in it from dawn until dusk. I was struck with two things. First, the Romans were probably better city planners than we are now. Second, I left Pompeii with the conviction that those people weren’t all that different from us. Ancient history feels really remote, but they enjoyed food and entertainment just as we do. They took pride in their homes and in their work. And they also lived in comfort partially because they eploited people with less power. Not all that much has changed.

Walking the same streets that people walked 2000 years ago, I heard the echoes of the people who once lived there. The whole city felt as though the citizens were just out of sight; they would just duck around a corner moments before I turned it. They would disappear in doorways just before I raised my eyes to them. The armies of French teenagers roving there did a stellar job of throwing this vibe into the trash can.

Our guide Enzo grew up in Pompeii; his dad was a archaeologist who spent most of his career digging there. Enzo pulled no punches with the unruly French teens. I overheard him say bitterly to one of the other guides, “I go to the Louvre and talk in a normal tone of voice and get shushed by everyone. They send their kids here unattended, and they behave like little barbarians.” Although Enzo was very knowledgeable and funny, this was the moment that I knew we had the right guide.

But the obnoxious French teens weren’t enough to tarnish the experience for me. They were a minor annoyance. The next time I go back, I will however avoid field trip season.

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The Vatican & The Colosseum

Our guide at The Vatican was a lovely man. But he pointed out, too many times really, each time something was painted to look at though there are three dimensional decorations. While we lumbered through The Vatican we were regularly treated to him pointing to something and saying “It’s painted.” We got used to this familiar refrain, and we found ourselves reflexively saying “it’s painted” every time he drew our attention to something.

His consistency made it remarkable when his repetitive statement changed once we entered St Peter’s Basiclica. St Peter’s has had a history with fire and has had several of them over the years. Some wise guy during a rebuild had all the paintings replaced with mosaics. Have you guessed yet? It’s mosaics. It’s all mosaics.

And these two statements have come home with us.

 


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The Vatican And The Colosseum Is A Lot For One Day

I think I am sensitive to echos of the past. I have seen ghosts, and have lived haunted places. I am honestly not sure I believe my own experiences, so I completely get your skepticism.

Regardless, my life goes better when I take some care in going into spaces that have held big human emotions for decades and centuries. I get fatigued in antique stores. I love them, but I need to monitor my energy level and leave as soon as I feel fatigued, otherwise the emotions attached to those objects can overwhelm me.

So, I needed to be mindful going into the ancient places in Rome, like the Colosseum, the crypts, and catacombs. I have a grounding ritual where I envision sealing myself with white light, and I made sure to do that before entering any of those spaces.

Does it actually work? Who knows. The placebo effect works around 50 percent of the time. So maybe it works because I believe it to be so. That’s good enough for me.

So, in addition to that at The Vatican there’s the mental fatigue that comes from reconciling the raw political power and wealth of the church with a poor rebel who said things like the meek shall inherit the earth. I don’t even really ascribe to these beliefs anymore, but the ostentatious display of wealth at The Vatican still made me feel nauseous. Further, it was difficult for me to see these riches and then think about how the church in its response to abuse allegations clearly moved to protect these riches and its reputation over protecting children.

As if those aren’t reasons enough to feel drained, we also walked over 30,000 steps on this day. So. I am so thankful for this experience. But this day was hard on multiple levels, and I feel bad in no way whatsoever to say that I will never go back to The Vatican again.

On thing of note: we have no pictures of the Sistine Chapel. Photography is forbidden in there. It was amazing, but kissing the papal ring and giving them an offering of money once was enough. I will not do it again.


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First Day In Rome – The Pantheon & Trevi Fountian

On our first day in Rome, we walked around and got our bearings. We checked out The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. Rome at a population of 2.8 million is quite a bit bigger than Florence, a mere 300K. It felt it.

We learned that the Pantheon was originally a pagan temple that had been turned into a memorial for Christian martyrs. This became a theme in Rome. Pagan temples seemed to be frequently re-purposed churches. Which doesn’t feel weird to me until I think about what would happen if the Church of Satan bought up St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and flipped all the crosses around.

One thing that might not be apparent in all our pictures was that most of the places we visited in both Florence and Rome were jam-packed with people. And The Trevi Fountain was no exception. But I just adored it. It’s oddly tucked away, and it feels like you emerge from a unremarkable alley right into it. I liked it so well that we circled back to it later, so we could get some pictures of it at night. I think it’s partially that its placement in the city feels like so much of a surprise, and partially that some of the marble is unfinished and provides such a dramatic contrast to the sculpted stone.

Forgive me because, I just wanted to share all the pictures we took of it. I just loved it.


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Last Day In Tuscany

On our last day at Salvadonica we rented bikes, and explored the area checking out the closest town and the surrounding wineries. Jeannine got an e-bike and I got a regular hybrid. I am a cyclist, and ride to and from work in the nice weather. The ride has hills and its about eight and a half miles each way. Yet, those Tuscan hills kicked my butt. I was cursing my decision while watching Jeannine motor up the hills with ease.

We ended the day with messages and a lovely dinner at the restaurant on the premises at Salvadonica. The servers at the restaurant were a bit slow, even by Italian standards, but the food was excellent. It was a great way to wrap up our relaxing stay in the country. Tomorrow we checked out and started our busy, and exhausting Rome adventures.


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Cooking Is More Fun In Italy

Salvadonica offered cooking classes every morning, and we decided to sign-up for this as a group. We were doubtful when we learned that the price was 120 euros per person, but were swayed when we learned we would prepare and then eat a 3 course meal that came with complementary wine.

This experience was just lovely. The chef was a wonderful teacher and answered all our questions about regional differences between cuisine in the north vs south of Italy. We made fresh ravioli by hand in a pancetta cream sauce, roasted pork stuffed with raisins, Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs and a ricotta and dark chocolate tart. She was Sicilian and explained how the pasta recipe differs in the north vs the south and why. We asked about Tuscan olive oil, and she wryly said that the Tuscans think theirs is the best. She described the flavor profiles that olive oils from the south of the country will have vs the north.

This foodie loved every minute of this class. I know we peppered her with a zillion questions, and it was lovely that she seemed delighted to answer them. I would almost say I enjoyed cooking more than eating the food, but that would be a lie. That meal is one of my favorite of all time. Our chef gave us copies of all the recipes we used, so Jeannine and I are most certainly inviting over friends and giving them a go this spring.


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Tuscany Is Gorgeous

I got distracted with stuff like seeing Lucius at Memorial Hall last night, and making feeble attempts at putting in our garden. To be fair our efforts have been strong, the constant rain has impeded out progress. In case anyone decides to remove 800 square feet of honeysuckle and rose of sharon and reseed grass in it and carve out a garden space, let me stop you right now. It is mountains of very hard, very slow work. This may or may not be a warning to my future self, who might be trolling through my past posts to remember how we tore those devil weeds out. KATE, YOU SUPER HATED THIS TASK. PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Now then, back to Italy. After our 4 days in Florence we took a bus out to the Tuscan country side. We stayed at an olive farm that is also a resort. The trip out there was a bit of an adventure, which involved off-roading with our massive roller suitcases and sympathetic drivers pulling over to ask if we needed assistance.

The resort, Salvadonica, was a 15 minute walk from the closest town, and there was little to do apart from soaking in the gorgeous countryside by taking walks or relaxing by the pool. This was a dramatic slow down from our sightseeing in Florence, and it was very welcome. We were treated to this incredible sunset our first night there.