Week 26

Week 26

Tweet Week 26 of what, you might wonder. Will I carry on numbering my posts for all eternity? Will there be a moment in which we can say “well that’s finished now”? Monday marked twenty-six weeks since the beginning of the Italian national...
Weeks 24 & 25

Weeks 24 & 25

Tweet The late August torpor reached such levels that last week I omitted entirely to write a blog. Today however, the last day of the most amorphous month (before all months became amorphous), the heavens opened over Rome, the temperature dropped by over ten degrees,...
Week 23 – (More or Less)

Week 23 – (More or Less)

Tweet Another late blogpost. August in Italy is a timeless muddle of days in normal circumstances, in the middle of a global pandemic it’s magnified. I make no excuses for momentarily falling out of kilter, after all it’ll be September before too long, when with...
Week 22 – a postcard from the Italian Deep South.

Week 22 – a postcard from the Italian Deep South.

Tweet This week’s blog post is late, the first delayed post since the beginning of the Roman Quarantine in March. I have no excuse other than that this is the most somnolent week of the Italian year, and today the most somnolent of all public holidays. It is also the...
Week 21

Week 21

Tweet On Friday I went to Ostia Antica to take some photos for this week’s online talk: “Daily Life in the Port of Rome” (if you’d like to join and see times follow the link). I’ve got umpteen photos of the site, some of them quite recent, but where possible I...
Week 20

Week 20

Tweet As mentioned in Week 19’s post, last week saw me floating around the Bay of Naples and down the Amalfi coast to Salerno. It was wonderful, places normally jam-packed in July were quiet (though not melancholy or deserted), and glad to see us. ...
Week 19

Week 19

Tweet This week I’m taking a break from my jolly Zoom talks (my group talks start again on 29th July with a chat called “Breaking Rules and Squeezing Pediments: Bernini, Borromini and the Baroque”), and the gradual return of some onsite tours.  Last week saw me...
Week 18 – “Nostalgia Canaglia”

Week 18 – “Nostalgia Canaglia”

Tweet Week 18? I had to double check. Things feel pretty normal in Rome at the moment, which in itself feels ominous: the calm before the storm, or an even keel? I say “normal”: there are still masks, temperature checks, and hand sanitiser everywhere, none...
Week 17

Week 17

Tweet It’s hot in Rome. All of a sudden summer descended, fully formed. The enervating heat of a Roman summer is pretty wild. The sky is the bluest blue imaginable. Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me.. The Trevi Fountain, 6th July 2020. c.1pm Late...
Week 16

Week 16

Tweet Today saw the most encouraging numbers in Italy since all of this began: a hundred and twenty-six new cases were confirmed after twenty-seven thousand tests in the last twenty-four hours, and six people died. Overall there are one hundred and eighty-six fewer...
Week 15

Week 15

Tweet Exactly three and a half months after my last tour, in which I was the last person to leave the Forum after the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo was shut down by governmental decree, I returned to work. At least for a few days. We were driven (masked, as per...
Week 14 – Clouds, and silver linings.

Week 14 – Clouds, and silver linings.

Tweet Nearly a week ago, as those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter may know, we decamped to Venice. An extremely generous offer of an empty flat in the centre of town with super-duper state of the art WiFi, perfect for my new line in Zoom Rome chat, was...
Week 13

Week 13

Tweet This week’s Zoom talk is about medieval fortresses, so I took myself for a spin around the biggest of Rome’s castles, the Castel Sant’Angelo to take some photos. After a night of thunderstorms, and lowering skies this morning, the afternoon was glorious. The sun...
Week 11: Freedom!

Week 11: Freedom!

Tweet A quick bit of self-promotion: the calendar for my June online talks is now up, please do take a look! What a difference a week makes! Last Monday all restrictions on movement within the region were lifted, yesterday we went to our local, Pigneto Quarantuno, for...
Week 10 – The End of the Roman Quarantine?

Week 10 – The End of the Roman Quarantine?

Tweet Today ten weeks have passed since the Monday evening when, while making pasta e fagioli (it was still winter back then) I heard the announcement of the national lockdown. And so the Roman Quarantine began. Over the past couple of weeks there was a slight...
Roman Quarantine – Day 63

Roman Quarantine – Day 63

Tweet Day 63. Nine weeks since the Roman Quarantine began. We’re now a week into the so-called “Phase 2” and things are definitely getting a little more normal: the streets are no longer as deserted as they were, but it’s all very cautious. Masks are being...
Roman Quarantine – Day 62

Roman Quarantine – Day 62

Tweet First things first: here’s a quick plug for the online talks I’m doing for the rest of this month. Email me for bookings info at understandingrome dot com. This morning I took a trot through the Aurelian Walls, where caper flowers are already in...
Roman Quarantine – Day 61

Roman Quarantine – Day 61

Tweet This evening my third online talk on Rome’s origins: Salt, the She Wolf, & Spin was once again fully booked and was great fun. I’ve outlined a programme for the rest of the month here, and also have requests for some private groups including one for a bunch...
Roman Quarantine – Day 60

Roman Quarantine – Day 60

Tweet I went on another epic walk across town today. Porta Maggiore, 8 May 2020. Photo by the author Past the Baker’s Tomb at Porta Maggiore, over the Esquiline Hill to Santa Maria Maggiore, where I popped into say hello to the Salus Populi Romani which Pope Francis...
Roman Quarantine – Day 59

Roman Quarantine – Day 59

Tweet I did another version of yesterday’s online talk “Salt, the She Wolf & and Spin” this evening. It was fun. Also I’ve stopped having nightmares about Zoom, which is something. Once again some really delightful people, good questions, and a generally...
Roman Quarantine – Day 58

Roman Quarantine – Day 58

Tweet This evening I launched Understanding Rome (ie me) into the world of online talks with a chat about Rome’s origins entitled “Salt, the She-Wolf, and Spin”. We spoke of legendary origins, of practical origins, and of how all of those tales were knitted together...
Roman Quarantine – Day 57

Roman Quarantine – Day 57

Tweet On my epic wander yesterday, I dropped into only one church. Santa Maria in Portico in Campitelli. It happened to be open as I walked past, and it houses a protective icon that I felt deserved a nod in these curious times. Also it’s a really lovely church....
Roman Quarantine – Day 56

Roman Quarantine – Day 56

Tweet Today marks eight weeks to the day since the Italian national quarantine was declared. That was how it was described in the Italian Prime Minister’s announcement at the time. This was all very new territory, and words like lockdown weren’t yet part of our...
Roman Quarantine – Day 55

Roman Quarantine – Day 55

Tweet Today is the eighth Sunday of the Roman Quarantine, and the last day (at least for now) of the current stringent restrictions. Tomorrow we’ll still be required to carry a signed letter to show the police to justify our movements if they ask, but solo exercise is...
Roman Quarantine – Day 54

Roman Quarantine – Day 54

Tweet Today I went for a trot along the wild, lonely aqueduct road, which even in normal circumstances is a rather marvellously desolate place. I began this Roman Quarantine on Day 2 happily trotting through Roman parks to the sounds of 90s country music (one of my...
Roman Quarantine – Day 53

Roman Quarantine – Day 53

Tweet I mentioned mosaics in the wilder reaches of the Venetian lagoon yesterday. I’ve no idea when I’ll be able to get on a train to Venice, but there are plenty of mosaics in Rome to sate my thirst for multitudes of tiles glittering in the shadows of solemnly silent...
Roman Quarantine – Day 52

Roman Quarantine – Day 52

Tweet On Day 42 of the Roman Quarantine, I mentioned the fabulous mosaics at Ravenna. Following the post, I got an email from my wonderful uncle Tommy recalling his trip there as a student on a hitch-hiking tour of Byzantine sites in 1969. When I was perhaps sixteen,...
Roman Quarantine – Day 51

Roman Quarantine – Day 51

Tweet I’m very much looking forward to taking a very long walk on Monday. The slight lifting in the lockdown on 4th May means that we will be allowed to take solo exercise for the first time beyond the vaguely-termed “proximity” of our homes. So my first walk will be...
Roman Quarantine – Day 50

Roman Quarantine – Day 50

Tweet Before this quarantine I managed, at a push, to write about three blog posts a year. To be perfectly honest I’m not sure that I would have started this if I’d had any idea we’d still be in this situation seven weeks down the line, but I’m very glad I did (thanks...
Roman Quarantine – Day 49

Roman Quarantine – Day 49

Tweet Seven weeks ago today I was making pasta e fagioli when an unexpected (at least by us) announcement from the Prime Minister began the national quarantine. That first week was particularly odd: while Italy was shut down, almost everyone else was carrying on as...
Roman Quarantine – Day 48

Roman Quarantine – Day 48

Tweet This evening (because he seems to like to speak at supper time) there was an announcement from the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, about how the lockdown will begin to be lifted on 4 May as we enter “Phase 2”. That’s a week on Monday, exactly eight weeks...
Roman Quarantine – Day 47

Roman Quarantine – Day 47

Tweet Today is the 25th April. In Italy it’s a public holiday. The Festa della Liberazione commemorates the liberation of the last Nazi-occupied cities of northern Italy, as well as the end of Fascism, which preceded the occupation. It’s generally a joyful affair,...
Roman Quarantine – Day 46

Roman Quarantine – Day 46

Tweet Day 46 I mentioned my foray into the world of online talks on Wednesday and have happily had some interest in a preliminary chat about Rome’s origins. I was thinking of 35-40 minutes of me talking with slides and then questions so fifty minutes or an hour in...
Roman Quarantine – Day 45

Roman Quarantine – Day 45

Tweet On Tuesday, which happened to be Rome’s birthday, our local fruit and vegetable market reopened for the first time in six and a half weeks. Lots of fresh produce markets in Rome have stayed open right through the national quarantine but not, for some reason, the...
Roman Quarantine – Day 44

Roman Quarantine – Day 44

Tweet As I’m sure someone very famous has said on a thousand inspirational Facebook quotes, adaptability is all. Whilst there is a light at the end of the tunnel of the current level of full lockdown in Rome (parks reopen on 4 May, some businesses will reopen), when...
Roman Quarantine – Day 43

Roman Quarantine – Day 43

Tweet Today is Rome’s birthday. On the 21st April, 753 BCE (which I think we can agree is very specific for a legend), the city was founded by her first king, Romulus. He and his brother Remus, were twin sons of Mars and the Vestal Virgin, Rhea Silvia. She was the...
Roman Quarantine – Day 41

Roman Quarantine – Day 41

Tweet Today we’ve officially gone beyond the quarantine: day 41 of 40 – still buffering. I feel like I’ve lost all grip of what’s happening in the Italian pandemic situation. Things are, I think, improving? Though perhaps not as much as they should be? And when...
Roman Quarantine – Day 40

Roman Quarantine – Day 40

Tweet Today marks our official quarantena, the word we get from the forty days the Venetian Republic kept ships suspect of disease at bay. I went for a (permitted, local) walk, the first in a week. I wandered along a little bit of the timeless aqueduct road, past the...
Roman Quarantine – Day 39

Roman Quarantine – Day 39

Tweet Days have been mostly sunny recently, but evenings significantly cooler and so today was the first outdoor supper of the year. Timings and temperatures were just right, the sort of thing one can’t really ever organize, and we three neighbouring terraces were...
Roman Quarantine – Day 38

Roman Quarantine – Day 38

Tweet On Day 29 I mentioned my jaunt to Urbino in January. If a walk in a park feels distant, impromptu road trips feel vehemently other at the moment. As well as the show in honour of Raphael, I visited the rest of the exquisite Ducal Palace, a place I first visited...
Roman Quarantine – Day 37

Roman Quarantine – Day 37

Tweet Day thirty-seven of the Happening, and I’m definitely beginning to lose all track of time. It’s not an unpleasant feeling. The URL of yesterday’s blog ends “/day-37” because that’s what I called it at first. In fact today is day 37 after all, but to be...
Roman Quarantine – Day 36

Roman Quarantine – Day 36

Tweet The other day on Twitter, Tom Holland (the historian, not Spiderman) posted photos from an enviable early morning London walk. Among them was this photo of St Bartholomew the Great. A thoroughly excellent church, and one that owes its existence to Rome. I still...
Roman Quarantine – Day 35

Roman Quarantine – Day 35

Tweet Today marks five weeks of the Roman Quarantine, though I think we can all agree that time has been pummelled, pushed and pulled, and stretched so far beyond its elastic limit that this marker has little significance: it feels more like an intriguing fact, to be...
Roman Quarantine – Day 34

Roman Quarantine – Day 34

Tweet Today is Easter Sunday, and this morning the bells pealed loudly across Rome. And because it’s Sunday, and a special one, we had our great treat, a delivery from SantoPalato. We ordered three Easter lunches, so M could take one to his mother who still lives in...
Roman Quarantine – Day 33

Roman Quarantine – Day 33

Tweet I took another #tinywalk today, along another stretch of a deserted local road pulsing with Neo-Realist vibes. The aqueduct is the same one mentioned in Day 23’s walk, but this time I went in the opposite direction. Wisteria, poppies, and prickly pears; a tangle...
Roman Quarantine – Day 32

Roman Quarantine – Day 32

Tweet This evening, as I was making risotto with broad beans, the Prime Minister officially announced that in Italy the lockdown will continue until 3 May (he seems always to make announcements when one might be cooking). Another three and a bit weeks, strategically...
Roman Quarantine – Day 31

Roman Quarantine – Day 31

Tweet Today marks a month of the Roman Quarantine, and there is still no definite end date in sight. Giuseppe Conte, the Italian Prime Minister, mentioned the possibility of loosening some restrictions at the end of the month in an interview with the BBC today, though...
Roman Quarantine – Day 30

Roman Quarantine – Day 30

Tweet My Instagram account shows that today I had lunch, and then I had dinner. And that was about it. On either side of these events I mostly sat on the terrace and read the letter written to Leo X and attributed to Raphael and Baldassare Castiglione (for an English...
Roman Quarantine – Day 29

Roman Quarantine – Day 29

Tweet In January, on a whim, I went on a midweek jaunt. I wanted to catch an exhibition about Raphael’s circle in his home town, Urbino, before it closed and that seemed a good excuse for a road trip during the quietest period for tourism in Rome (insert hollow laugh...
Roman Quarantine – Day 28

Roman Quarantine – Day 28

Tweet Today is the twenty-eighth day of the Roman quarantine. Exactly four weeks have passed since the extraordinary announcement of the shutdown. When I started writing these posts we here in Italy were in an anomalous situation. Now most of you are in a very similar...
Roman Quarantine – Day 27

Roman Quarantine – Day 27

Tweet This morning I woke to the sounds of bells ringing for Palm Sunday, announcing a mass no one would go to. In accordance with the measures currently in place in Italy to contain the spread of COVID-19 – measures fully supported by the Pope who is, I think we can...
Roman Quarantine – Day 26

Roman Quarantine – Day 26

Tweet The sun shone, and I sat on our newly pristine terrace and reread The Secret History (Donna Tartt, not Procopius) because a) I love it though I probably haven’t read it since I arrived in Rome, and b) I can’t concentrate on anything more worthy at the moment....
Roman Quarantine – Day 25

Roman Quarantine – Day 25

Tweet Back in the distant haze of early March, today was the date given as the end of the emergency shutdown, but of course we’re nowhere near the end. At present, current measures – leaving the house only for necessity (food shopping, taking out rubbish, medical...
Roman Quarantine – Day 24

Roman Quarantine – Day 24

Tweet palimpsest, n. and a.(ˈpælɪmpsɛst) [ad. L. palimpsēstus n., a. Gr. παλίµψηστος scraped again, παλίµψηστον a parchment whence writing has been erased, f. πάλιν again + ψηστός, from ψάω, ψῆν to rub smooth.] Oxford English Dictionary...
Roman Quarantine – Day 22

Roman Quarantine – Day 22

Tweet I took the bins out today. My first foray to street level in six days. I’ve started dreaming of long walks in Rome’s abundant and excellent parks. What Martial called, when speaking of the house of Sparsus (not without envy), rus in urbe. Literally the “country...
Roman Quarantine – Day 21

Roman Quarantine – Day 21

Tweet Three weeks have passed since the evening when, while making pasta e fagioli, the initial lockdown (subsequently further tightened to close all non-essential shops and services, and to limit all shopping and exercise to the immediate vicinity) was announced. I...
Roman Quarantine – Day 20

Roman Quarantine – Day 20

Tweet Today is the third Sunday of the Roman Quarantine. And because it’s Sunday we had lunch. After all standards need to be maintained, and though this all feels like punishment we haven’t in fact been bad. So, following the Instagram example of my pal Hande, we...
Roman Quarantine – Day 19

Roman Quarantine – Day 19

Tweet In the distant world of Day 7 of the Quarantine, I wrote of the papal pilgrimage which saw Pope Francis visit two churches with particular connections to historic banishments of plague. Yesterday evening at 6pm Rome time he once again sought to appeal to the...
Roman Quarantine – Day 18

Roman Quarantine – Day 18

Tweet Today was, once again, a dreary and grey day of drizzle in Rome, and I stayed inside working on a translation I was asked to do by a loyal and appreciative client from the wonderfully named Department of Sciences of Antiquity at Rome’s oldest university, La...
Roman Quarantine – Day 17

Roman Quarantine – Day 17

Tweet Welcome to Day 17 of the Roman Quarantine. In case you’re wondering how things are they are a) fine, but also b) I just had to look up what day we’re on. So that perhaps is the best indication. Today was a drizzly grey sort of day (which I don’t mind at all, as...
Roman Quarantine – Day 16

Roman Quarantine – Day 16

Tweet Yesterday was the anniversary of one of the grimmest moments during the Second World War in Rome. On 23 March 1944, during the Nazi occupation of the city, partisans in the city exploded a bomb at via Rasella, opposite the entrance to Palazzo Barberini (it is...
Roman Quarantine – Day 15

Roman Quarantine – Day 15

Tweet On the 1st March my husband and I went to Palazzo Corsini to see the Rembrandt self-portrait on loan from the Rijksmuseum. In those distant and halcyon days of three weeks ago, there were merely initial cautions about not getting too close to anyone else, and...
Roman Quarantine – Day 14

Roman Quarantine – Day 14

Tweet This morning I woke with a sinking feeling in my stomach. To be honest I have done most days since the enormity of this whole thing became apparent. I expect most of us have. In my case it doesn’t usually last long, but there is undoubtedly a momentary lurch of...
Roman Quarantine – Day 13

Roman Quarantine – Day 13

Tweet Today is Sunday—the second of the quarantine—and, as I mentioned last week, on Sundays we have lunch. I love cooking and am passably competent. A significant part of my Instagram account is now food: sadly the blossom is blooming amid the glorious ruins of a...
Roman Quarantine – Day 12

Roman Quarantine – Day 12

Tweet Words can’t quite express how glad I am I spent the couple of weeks before the closure of museums and the subsequent lockdown (but while I was already effectively unemployed following US travel restrictions) wandering Rome’s museums and streets in splendid...
Roman Quarantine – Day 11

Roman Quarantine – Day 11

Tweet I’ve just realised it’s Friday. Who knew? Days have taken on an amorphous form, with an entirely unequal distribution of hours. Which, were it not for the underlying and palpable general anxiety, would not be unpleasant. I quite like the sensation of no...
Roman Quarantine – Day 10

Roman Quarantine – Day 10

Tweet I spent today continuing to sort out our overgrown and neglected terrace. The potted lemon tree needed some heavy-duty pruning, and then I wiped down the leaves of the poor thing one by one with warm soapy water to get rid of the horrid black bug gunk they’re...
Roman Quarantine – Day 9

Roman Quarantine – Day 9

Tweet Botanical Gardens, Rome. 28 February 2020. Three weeks ago (really, only three weeks?), and before this situation became a national emergency but after I’d already had all my work cancelled for what then then seemed like only a month, I went for a walk around...
Roman Quarantine – Day 8

Roman Quarantine – Day 8

Tweet I haven’t been at street level since Saturday (definitely going out for a short walk tomorrow) and yet somehow at least at the moment time doesn’t drag at all. This morning I finally after months, maybe a year?, set to the crazy wildly overgrown terrace. One of...
Roman Quarantine – Day 7

Roman Quarantine – Day 7

Tweet Yesterday, the day after it was announced that Easter services in the Vatican would take place without a congregation this year, the Pope left the walls of the Vatican and visited two churches to pray for an end to this pandemic. The first was Santa Maria...
Roman Quarantine – Day 6

Roman Quarantine – Day 6

Tweet Something very odd indeed has happened to time this week, but the calendar tells us that today is Sunday. And on Sunday we have lunch. So we had Sunday lockdown lunch with relatives di adozione, se non di sangue one might say in Italian, which somehow doesn’t...
Roman Quarantine – Day 5

Roman Quarantine – Day 5

Tweet According to this week’s governmental decrees, solo open-air physical exercise is permitted as long as a minimum distance of one metre is maintained from anyone else. The quarantine situation is not going to change anytime soon–fingers crossed, but the end date...
Roman Quarantine – Day 4

Roman Quarantine – Day 4

Tweet When leaving the house we’re supposed to take a form justifying the journey (local shopping, unavoidable work commitments within the limited permissible range, health reasons, physical outdoor exercise), and now Rome’s parks have been closed too, to avoid...
Roman Quarantine – Day 3

Roman Quarantine – Day 3

Tweet Tiresome admin today, no trotting around parks to the genuinely uplifting sounds of 90s country (My favourite is Dolly, top trotting track is currently: “Why do you come in here looking like that?”. I really–seriously, unironically–adore Dolly Parton. Try it,...
Roman Quarantine – Day 1

Roman Quarantine – Day 1

Tweet The Vatican Museums entrance. 3rd March, 2020. Usually visited by an average of 25,000 people a day Last night, as I was making pasta e fagioli, I happened to hear the live-stream broadcast from the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte. He announced that Italy...