Sunday, June 11, 2017

Milan (again)

If you're keeping track this should be my fourth trip to Milan so far this tour, and probably it will be my last (though you never know with TDYs).  I visited Expo, toured the Duomo and saw the Galleria, eaten aperitivos all over town, and had a great walking tour of all the fancy modern architecture.  This time I didn't do a lot of touristing but I made it a priority to at least hit the art museum.

The Pinacoteca di Brera is Milan's most famous art museum and it was really lovely. I saw works by Raphael (this time around I wasn't a huge fan), Modigliani, Picasso, Caravaggio and plenty of other artists whose works I was familiar with, even if I couldn't name them directly.  I'm getting familiar enough with their styles now that I even recognized the Caravaggio as one of his works from a room away. I guess that's how you know you're ready to PCS.

Some of my favorites were:

It looks SO MUCH like she's texting in this painting - and do you notice the painting on the wall?

Turns out the collection has this one too! The Kiss, by Hayez. Zoom in to see how amazingly real the fabric appears.

Severini - I think this was my favorite in the museum. I'm really starting to enjoy modern art. Must be the influence of all that modern architecture.

Reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Miguel Covarrubias

The Modigliani

Many of the works were on a truly massive scale and as they were originally commissioned for churches.  This also meant that the subjext matter here tended very heavily (except in the modern art section) to religious subject matter.

And of course, our old favorite, St. Sebastian. This time in Venice!

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Las weekend some friends and I hit up Esquilino market (near Termini train station) and a newer food market inside the train station itself.  Both were a lot of fun and I can recommend Esquilino particularly if there's a specific food you've been unable to find elsewhere. A friend was particularly excited to find Paneer and I got some great sun dried apple chips for snacking.

We also discovered the food below: agretti. They look like grass but taste like greens (kind of like chard if I had to be more specific) and were easy to cook.  Just boil a few minutes and toss with olive oil and lemon juice et voila! 

Here's how they look once prepared. Absolutely delicious!

And some random flower shots, just because it's the season.


If you're in the general vicinity of Rome or Florence, have a car, and want a quick day trip then this little gem should certainly be on your list. (Discerning readers will remember that I actually don't have a car anymore (I sold it in Lagos) but I do have friends with wheels and that's even better.)

Bagnoreggio is actually a two-part town with the new section full of parking, gas stations, and general tourist infrastructure, while the old town is a tiny group of homes and businesses perched on top of a rock formation presumably for safety. Full disclosure - I did not read up on the history of Bagnoreggio before or after visiting so I'm going on educated guesses here.

Needless to say, as with every single square inch of Italy, it has been discovered, but if you time it right and avoid a holiday weekend the crowds shouldn't be too bad. Just avoid the height of summer and be aware that the town isn't handicap accessible.

There are really just a few places to go in town, so plan to take a slow spin around to see all the views and cobbled streets, grab a meal - if you can grab a table! - and check out the souvenir shops.  Be warned, there aren't enough bathrooms to go around so make sure to use the restroom whenever you purchase food or drinks.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Two more Rome sights off my bucket list

You'd think by now I would have seen every single tourist sight in Rome, but this city has atruly staggering number of places to visit, and with my deep respect for the idea of lazy weekends I still have a few items left on the list. But two fewer after this weekend!

Spurred by the realization that my time here is nearing the end I spent the long weekend (whenever I wasn't on the duty phone that is) in two very cool Roman sights.

Sunday I biked the Appian Way, of Spartacus fame.  It takes a bit of effort to get all the way out there but I was inspired by some of my visitors last year who flew in for meetings and decided to check this out after being denied early check in.  Hey, if someone just off an international flight, with no Italian and a whole day of meetings coming up can swing it, I have no excuse! So I figured out the bus/metro situation and found a little shop that rents bikes by the hour (4 euros per hour) and hit the road.  As with most 2300+ year old roads it was somewhat bumpy.  Luckily I wasn't the first to discover this and there are now dirt paths alongside for biciclists.

I absolutely loved the chance to get out in nature and do something more active than strolling around for a change. I even had a picnic while breaking the news to some lovely callers that we couldn't make them replacement passports til Tuesday. Bet that's the first duty call handled from the Via Appia! The road was car free and pleasantly full of Italians walking their dogs, biking with their kids or just going for a stroll. It was hot so I might suggest a trip earlier in the spring or once it cools down in the fall.

This is the cafe/bike shop, reach it by taking the 660 bus (or a taxi)  from Colli Albani metro.

On Monday I hit the town again to check the Castel St. Angelo off my list. Someone had told me it was more of a museum, but I'd say it was much more like touring a castle, there's very little on display which was ok by me.  I somehow lucked into the perfect day - arriving when there was NO line outside (have literally never seen this place with no line). It was hot outside but the cool tunnels and breezy upper rooms made the day seem just perfect. I can't believe I waited this long to see it. (And the views were, of course, amazing, with its location along the Tevere (Tiber) and steps from Vatican City. 

As you can see, the tour takes you inside the walls, up on the ramparts, through the tunnels, into several levels of courtyard and papal apartments, and finally through the terraces to the roof. Naturally, there's an adorable cafe at the top (with stunning views if you get one of the tables set into the wall). I might have to bring my next set of guests (whoever they are) up here.

I would highly recommend a visit to both of these sights, especially if you have kids and need a break from art museums.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


Just a few casual shots from my recent walks in Rome. Now that it's getting nicer I'm out and about a lot more, trying to cover every last in h of the city before August rolls around.

The Tiber with St. Peter's in the background

I stumbled across this church and figured whoever was classy enough to be driving this must be having a pretty photogenic wedding...

...I was right.

Oh look! Just happened across this gelato festival on my afternoon run! What a coincidence. ;)

I found a "secret" Rose garden alongside the Circus Maximus.

And up the hill was this great little park (the Orange Garden if I'm not mistaken) with a great view of Rome. You can see St. Peters again - it was following me.

I stopped by a big, relatively unknown church. One of my favorites in Rome I think, if only because it was so quiet and so much less gaudy than the average.

And this church featuring a saint hiding under a floating staircase. I haven't had time to google the story yet but I'm sure it's a good one. 

All of this was on my way to see an "off-the-beaten-path" sight of Rome, the keyhole in the gate for the Knight's of Malta property.  It's known because it frames a view of St. Peters (told you it was following me) and in the foreground and middle distance you can see both Rome and the Malta... Embassy? So it's three countries in one keyhole! Discount!

Let's just say the undiscovered gem has been discovered, and frankly it is not worth 45 minutes of your time to stand in this line to see an epically tiny view of the dome you can see from all over Rome. Seriously, it would be worth it without the lines, but those days are gone. Skip!

But, being your faithful reporter, and having walked all the way over, I waited it out and was rewarded with this. Huh. To be fair, what my camera couldn't capture my eyes could, but it's really just a much less blurry version of that.

Villa Medici

I visited the Villa Medici (located near the top of the Spanish steps) last week with friends. The house and grounds are beautiful but I'd recommend a few other museums first if you are looking for something historic but off the beaten path (chiefly the Villa Borghese and Galleria Doria Pamphilj). Still, happy to check this off my Rome list and see some lovely architecture so close to my home!

The rear facade (visible from inside the grounds only)

The family collected artwork, much of which was relocated to Florence and is now on display at the Uffizi Gallery, though a few pieces remain.

The lion represents the Pope 
They have modern artists residing on site who reinterpret some of the existing works. I really dislike the dirty hairball attached to this statue but take comfort in the fact that it will eventually be removed.

The Niads... There's a story but I wasn't paying attention.

More Niads! The gardens are really lovely and constitute the majority of the guided tour 

I want to decorate my room like this. It's pretty subtle right?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Random sightings

I have only four months left in Rome and I'm starting to feel the pressure every time I look at my Italy 'bucket list'. How will I ever make it back to Sardinia and Venice, to four new regions, San Marino, the plains cities (Bologn! modena and Parma) and a whole pile of Tuscan hill towns? Not to mention all the other European countries I haven't visited yet - Portugal and Sweden, Malta and Hungary, Iceland and Greece... I'm starting to think something might have to give. Especially since I stuck around town this weekend to be on-call for a visit and the next long weekend I'll be in town as duty officer. So future officers assigned to Rome - beware, your two years will fly by before you know it so make them count!

I still have some time of course and have a few little trips planned here and there. Mostly though I'm focusing my energy on my life back home - my little house will be under construction this summer and as always there are lots of family comings and goings to keep me busy. And all the transition planning for work inevitably pulls my mind toward the future - arranging housing in DC, planning my home leave travels, setting up doctors' appointments, renewing all my documents, shipping my effects, furnishing my house and hiring a property manager... And answering the important questions, like can I start my road trip in Canada if I'm only out of the US for the weekend? So much to do! Even though four months sounds long I've started on the checklist already. 

And in the meantime, life in Rome continues as usual. On weekends I go running in the park, meet my friends for coffee, pick up flowers from my Bangladeshi friend and fruit from the Indian 'fruttivendolo' (fruit-seller). I'll usually hit a restaurant or cultural site if I'm in town. Weekdays are mostly just about work, but I've been better about cookingwhen I get home lately and of course, practicing the 3.5 songs I know on the piano. (Wonder if the neighbors would chip in for a piano tutor if it meant I would be able to play something new?) Not a bad life at all.

And now for some random photos...

Cafe at the Villa Medici

This reninds me, Happy Easter!

Love these - they lasted two full weeks

One of my favorite trees in my favorite park