We are back from a whirlwind trip to parts south, following immediately on the heels of Culture Week here in Rome.
Culture Week is a week-long celebration of Italian culture that happens every year. All week long, museums and other cultural places and events are free, and special exhibits, tours and shows are put on. We did our best to take advantage of the free-ness and the extra opportunities, despite the fact that there is NO PUBLICITY about this. We were able to find exactly one brochure online (a pdf of the only brochure I ever saw in person) that listed events, and there was not a single sign anywhere in this city. I guess they don't want people going too crazy for the free-ness of it all, and they certainly don't want the tourists hearing about it.
Well, here's a quick rundown of the things some or all of us did (for free!) to celebrate Culture Week:
* an excellent English language tour of the Capitoline Museums of antiquities (where we saw, among other things, the original Etruscan she-wolf statue that has become the symbol of the city of Rome -- after little baby Romulus and Remus were added thousands of years later);
*an excellent Italian language tour, by the exact same guide and in a cold rainy wind, of 5 or 6 of the aqueducts just outside town;
*a visit to the Museum of Rome in Trastevere, which had lots of interesting photos of Trastevere (our neighborhood) over the last century and a terrific collection of really fabulous watercolors of Rome at the turn of the 20th century by a man named Ettore Roesler Franz;
*a guided tour of the "secret" gardens at the Borghese Gallery (given in Italian by a woman named Beth from Ohio);
*a visit to the optical illusion collonade created by the architect Borromini (it's actually 12 meters long but looks very convincingly 35 meters -- very cool);
*a visit to the Balbi Crypt, which shows the development of a Rome neighborhood from ancient to modern times;
*a visit to Castel Sant'Angelo, the pope's personal castle, after a climb with our Baltimore friends Ben and Harry Chello and Laurie Feinberg to the top of the dome of St. Peter's (which didn't count for culture week because it wasn't free, but was still way cool on a crystal clear day);
* a nighttime visit to the Capitoline Museum to sketch; and
* a (very late!) nighttime visit to the Ara Pacis, Emperor Augustus' Altar of Peace.
This was all in only 4 days, because we then left with the students for a trip to Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento, where we got into other things for free with the whole group. I'll let somebody else tell you about that great trip.
So, just thought you'd like to know that despite the disastrous fall of the dollar, we're getting our money's worth here -- or at least we did last week! Now I need to go to bed to recover.