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Observations from the Road: (The “We Learn So Much Every Day” Edition)

Capella Nova Frescoes

Frescoes in the Capella Nuova at the Duomo in Orvieto

A couple of quick thoughts about recent days in Italy.

Orvieto update – To no one’s surprise, Orvieto (which I wrote about yesterday) is the favorite town of several of our friends and colleagues.  We can see why.  A long-time and dear friend from our days in Staunton, Sally James, wrote to say that Orvieto is her “home away from home!”  In my original post, I didn’t mention the chapel by Fra Angeloco and Luca Signorelli, which is the topic of Sally’s first book, Signorelli and Fra Angelico at Orvieto: Liturgy, Poetry and a Vision of the End Time.

The decoration of the Cappella Nuova, commenced by Fra Angelico in 1447 and magnificently completed by Luca Signorelli in 1499 and 1504, displays an awe-inspiring Last Judgement and Apocalypse and, below it, scenes from Dante and classical literature.

This was yet another magnificent space in an incredible building full of wonderful art and architecture.  Sally encourages us to look for the next issue of Gesta, probably in April, to see her article on the frescoes of the Life of the Virgin in the area around the altar.

Altar in the Capella Nuova

The altar in the Capella Nuova

It is great to know such wonderfully talented and smart people!  Thanks for the update, Sally.

Now THIS is Italian food – Following a wonderful presentation at MAXXI (the Museum of Contemporary Art) on Wednesday evening by graphic designer Michael Beirut of Pentagram, a small group of fellows and fellow travelers from the academy made our way to Al Moro, a traditional Italian trattoria just steps away from the Trevi fountain.  We went because one of the fellows had read Katie Parla’s review of the restaurant in Saveur magazine.  (Katie Parla’s food recommendations, blog, and app for Rome have become required reading as we look for options around the city.)

Walls at Al Moro

A slice of Al Moro

To Candice, who grew up in New Jersey, it brought back memories of old-style Italian restaurants. The waiters were a bit gruff, but incredibly professional and helpful. The food was thick, rich, and delicious. The house wine flowed easily.  The walls – where it wasn’t wood paneling – were filled with art, cartoons, and wild newspaper headlines.  Here’s Katie Parla’s take:

A ten-minute walk from the Pantheon—and about 300 feet from the Trevi Fountain—a window-paned door admits visitors to the time capsule that is Trattoria al Moro. Helmed by four successive generations of Romagnolis since the 1920s, the place began humbly, slowly building a reputation among actors at the nearby Teatro Quirino. In time, it became the haunt of local artists, performers, and filmmakers, including Federico Fellini, who cast Mario Romagnoli in his 1969 film Satyricon. It remains a destination for well-heeled, decades-long regulars who, in typical Roman style, receive special pampering from the notoriously aloof owners. Third-generation Franco Romagnoli and his children Elisabetta and Andrea are unwavering in their commitment to tradition, and they serve a huge array of forgotten classics in their three wood-paneled, overcrowded dining rooms.

Her description is picture perfect – and we loved it!  Candice and I split an order of the spaghetti al Moro (carbonara to die for) and a stuffed zucchini.  Both were like flavor bombs in  your mouth.  We wrapped up with a sinful chestnut pavlova cake for dessert.  Oh my.

Trevi Fountain looks better in the daytime – As we finished our meal, we waddled the 30 steps or so down to the fountain for a nighttime view.  We had seen it during the daytime with Claire, and marveled at the beauty of this landmark.  Illuminated at night, I have to say the effect is more “Disney.”  In speaking with new friends at the academy last evening, we began discussing the light in Rome, and how these sculptures were designed to be displayed in the city’s amazing light.  So I guess I’m not surprised to find that this space works better in the daylight.

Trevi Fountain at Night

Trevi Fountain at Night

However, the moon over Rome is pretty magical – The past two nights we’ve been treated to big, bright moons in relatively clear skies over Rome.  Last evening we were enjoying dinner with new friends in their academy studio when someone stopped by to encourage us to walk out on the terrace and look at the moon.

Moon over Rome

Moon – peaking out from behind a cloud – over Rome

One horizontal layer of clouds was keeping the full moon at bay, but the light around the clouds, as well as the twinkling light of the city below, was beautiful and captivating.  It may be our imagination, but we’ve noticed that these moments happen frequently here in Rome.

More to come…


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