Our long-awaited "Walking Tours" had by this time evolved into what would be Sitting Tours. Professor Layne Goldsmith, sensing the pounding our feet had taken over the past two weeks, allowed us to gather at the UW Rome Center to share our research of the neighborhoods around a table rather than once again tromping out into the street for an all-day hike to show off what we all suspected was out there.
After offering her congratulations at our ability to arrive at the Pio at 10 AM on a Saturday, the morning after a raging toga party, we were off and running...in our chairs. When it came time for Steve, Joe, Nick and I to offer our perspective on Trastevere, we began with Italian dialect poet G.G. Belli, a man who used the ordinary words of ordinary people (i.e. vulgarity, drunkenness, and brawling hostility toward Papal corruption) to decribe life in this working-class neighborhood.
We hipped everyone to the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, reportedly built on what was the home of a woman who was sentenced by the Christian-hating government to be scalded to death in her own steam room. When that didn't work, an executioner was dispatched to behead her, but he muffed the job as well. Cecilia hung on for three days more, quietly singing the praises of her Lord and in the process gaining some converts. Oh, yeah, and she's also credited with inventing the organ, so the Catholic Church made her the Patron Saint of Music.
The Isola Tiberina, in the middle of the Tiber River, is home to a hospital (possibly the first women's hospital in Rome, Layne chimes in, though we had not found this tidbit anywhere in our research) and connected to the city by the oldest Roman bridge still in use today, the Ponte Fabricio.
To the south of the Isola, wading in the middle of the river, is the Ponte Rotto, a simple arch being all that remains from the first stone bridge built over the Tiber, c. 179 B.C., and repaired numerous times until its final collapse in 1598. Ancient arches are indeed everywhere in this town, even in the middle of the river!
And of course, there's Bibli, the net cafe which we didn't really have to tell anyone about since it seems to have become the unofficial Trastevere Annex of the UW Rome Center, as well as a magnet for other English-speaking students in the neighborhood. Food, live readings, e-mail to home, and of course plenty of literature to purchase if we choose, all in a small storefront that itself could easily become a subject in our sketchpads.
There now. Aren't you glad we didn't have to hike all over the place just to look at this stuff? We sure were, especially since there were five other groups besides ours needing to get on with their neighborhood tour for the benefit of the class.
The grad students, Alison, Nancy V., Joni and Laura, covered the area around their apartment which included Vatican City and Castel Sant'Angelo, where Emperor Hadrian's tomb is located; Lisa, Kayla, Bo and April took the other significant portion of Trastevere which included the Gianicolo Hill and Ponte Sisto; Susan, Marci, Terrina and Anne were assigned the western edge of central Rome, including the area around the UW Rome Center; Nancy F., Theo, Gaea, and Shannon went over the eastern portion of Central Rome, an area including the Pantheon and Piazza Navona; and lastly, our upstairs neighbors, Waldo, Paul and Brandon, along with our roommate Beau, covered an area nowhere near their residence -- the Pincio, in the northern part of town, including Piazza del Popolo, the tomb of Augustus, and the Spanish Steps. They were the only group that had significant distance between their apartment building and the area they needed to cover, but today they were not the only ones relieved that they didn't have to hike all over the place as a class to cover it. That's a heck of a tour just in writing.
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