anthropology

Of mums…

Mums backlit

I’ve been enjoying the autumn-specific assortment of blooms Nature and my Gardening Neighbors offer these days.

Mums tulips display

I found this for-sale display a bit jarring, however; while mums are autumn flowers (see first photo), tulips are spring spring SPRING flowers! The miracle of greenhouses…and people who don’t know seasonality….

Eyes wide open

Halloween free haircuts

I strolled out to do errands, loved the weather…. Most of the stroll was moseying in the dappled sunshine, but I also got some sensory overstimulation.

In the visual realm, some outdoor Halloween decorations were of the plebeian sort, out of the box from your favorite big-box store. Others showed creativity in how they were assembled into a scenario or theme. It seemed to me that as I went along, they showed more artistry. This was the last decorated yard I went by…yeah, free haircuts…haha.

Soon after, the number 16 fire truck came by, siren screaming, lights flashing, horn blatting—strong audio stimulation. I was ready for just sunshine after that.

Beholding, smaller scale

Restaurant table display

Usually these little table displays outside restaurants have prepared dishes. This one had a very attractive assortment of produce, plus dried pasta and empty wine bottles. I found it rather the opposite of intended, more what wasn’t and what could be. What I find mysterious is the pepper shaker.

High wall religious

I can’t decide if these are meant mostly as we inside this building honor this image’s meaning, or we offer this for you to honor—or both.

The quote is from the Ave Maria/Hail Mary, Latin version, and the actual lines are Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, meaning the first and last words are left for you to fill in mentally, I’m guessing. The first one is interesting—Holy Mary reduced to just Mary—assuming the reader knows to assume the holiness…. Removing the last word really changes it from pray for us sinners to pray for us. Of course, if you’re in the Catholic family, you know the phrases, and fill in all the words and sentiments without even thinking. Still, removing “sinners” offers a different slant.

Antinfortunistica

The sign reads “Stampa Digitale Antinfortunistica.” I don’t even want to decode it. Points to anyone who puts Antinfortunistica in their business name.

However, I couldn’t resist making Google Translate to flex its muscles; not much of a flex, it turns out. Antinfortunistica means safety, and the whole thing is Digital Printing Safety. I liked it better when I didn’t know….

Of ritual and practice

Flavian amphitheatre

Yeah, it’s one massive ruin.

Spectators did not experience the interior of the Flavian Amphitheatre as anything like this. There was finish—cladding (mostly travertine) on the walls, staircases and access archways, statuary to remind visitors of gods and men (and probably goddesses and women), and most of the surface you see here was really seating, aisles, and arched entries. There was a cloth shade-cover that could be unfurled. So, no, it didn’t look like this. It’s like a skeleton compared to a living body. (Sorta.)

Flavian amphitheatre vertical

Drawing from several sources, this is what I conclude…. Spectators entered for free with tickets specifying a seating area, and some events lasted for days. The inauguration, in AD 80, lasted for 100 days, and later the stage area was modified so it could be flooded and used for nautical battles. A typical spectacle began with a morning opening parade (pompa), followed by fights between wild animals, hunts by armed men of animals, and shows of tamed animals. The experience of the latter was augmented by stunning scenes of their wild habitats. There was a break midday, used for executions. The goriest were damnatio ad bestias, in which the condemned were torn apart by wild animals. There’s no evidence that Christians were punished here in this manner. Between the major events, people played gambling games and postured to impress. [I tried a vertical panorama, an experiment; since the camera/phone can tell what’s “up” I didn’t know if it’d work—it did! The distortion is interesting, bowing the very vertical walls.]

Regarding the spectacles in the Colosseum, Claridge (2010:317–318) notes:

Gladiatorial shows were called munera (dutiful gifts) and were always given by individuals, not by the State. By the time the Colosseum was built they were being held as a regular public event, in December, as part of the New Year ritual, coinciding with the yearly political cycle, when they would be paid for by the incoming magistrates. At other times they could accompany the funerary rites for major public figures, or could be held on the anniversaries of past deaths. They were also staged in celebration of military triumphs. Such was their popularity that from the reign of Domitian it was decreed that in Rome they could only be given by the emperor; and elsewhere they required his sanction. The daily programme was usually divided into three parts: wild animal hunts (venationes) in the morning, public executions at midday, and gladiatorial contests in the afternoon; shows could run for many days depending on the available number of animals and gladiators. Trajan is said to have celebrated his Dacian triumph in AD 107 with 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators in the course of 123 days. Gladiators were a mixture of condemned criminals and prisoners of war (who were generally expendable), and career professionals (slaves, freedmen, or free volunteers), mostly men but occasionally women, specialized in different types of armour and weaponry: the heavily armed Myrmillo (named after the fish on his helmet) and the Samnite both had large oblong shields and swords; the more lightly armed Thracian, a round shield and curved scimitar; the Retiarius only a net and a trident. Others fought from chariots (essedarii), or on horseback. The fights were often staged in elaborate sets, with movable trees and buildings; the executions might involve complicated machinery and torture; some acted out particularly gruesome episodes from Greek or Roman mythology. Animals for the venationes came mainly from Africa and might include rhinoceros, hippos, elephants, and giraffes, as well as lions, panthers, leopards, crocodiles, and ostriches.

Rome apartment balconies alley side

An observation: Romans use rear balconies like back porches, for storage and not-quite-so-public activities. Of course, it hosts plenty of drying laundry, plus often hot-water heaters are on the walls, piping the hot water inside—they’re the boxes on the walls. Here’s what I’ve been chuckling about: people store ladders there. Apparently, with high ceilings, people need ladders once in a while, and there is no “ladder for the building” or ladder that can be rented out from a nearby business. So many apartments have a ladder, and the place to store it is on the rear balcony (there’s one above the gate leaning next to the water heater).

Fri mass S Salvatore in Lauro

An hour on a Friday afternoon…: we took a break using seating framing the church entry area part of the Piazza in front of the Chiesa di San Salvatore in Lauro, north of where we used to stay. We discovered several things. We saw two nursing moms take a break down from us on the same seating, each to feed their young-un while Pops idly stood by the stroller. No modesty cloths, just doing what needs doing. We also enjoyed the children playing out front, hopscotch and a bit of soccer-ball footwork. Then, at 5:30, the church bells began pealing, and Friday evening mass got underway. Music emanated. The kids kept playing. Then, just before 6, a procession formed in the doorway to the left of the church door. In the front were fully adult men carrying the cross and I don’t know what else—they make altar “boys” old here…. The group emerged and made a loop into the church, with the somewhat tottering highest-ranking fellow (judging by the tall headdress) at the end with two flanking attendees. No one told the little boy to stop and pick up his soccer ball, but he did. He was much more focused on the ritual than the group of girls. What you don’t see is that two of the nannies watching the kids looked like middle-aged Filapina ladies. Behind the officials, several toursts surged in, drawn by the pomp. We kept sitting and watching.

Claridge, Amanda, 2010. Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

City life

Pano island 3 bridges

Three bridges.

Let me decode this photo. It’s taken from the west end of the Ponte Palatino, looking slightly northwest, then north, and finally east—a pano, hence the strange distortion. On the left, the bridge from the west bank of the Tiber to Isola Tiberina (Rome’s island), the Ponte Cestio. On the far right, the bridge I’m standing on, the Ponte Palatino. And next to the latter, also far right, is a single arch that remains of the ancient Romans’ Pons Aemilius, now lovingly nicknamed the Ponte Rotto, broken bridge.

For me, the Aemilius is the most interesting; core parts of the ruin, sources assure me, date to the 2nd C BC. The last updates came in the 1500s. The final insult came in 1887 when one end was removed to install the Ponte Palatino.

Construction of a bridge to this bank from the island was intentionally delayed by the Romans for centuries, we are told. While they long had a bridge from “their” side (the east/south side), the Ponte Cestio, anciently the Pons Cestius, was not built until about a century after the Aemilius (if I have it right). Thus, crossing the river using the island as a stepping stone was not prioritized, although we are told ancient Rome’s location was important as a crossing spot. It was or it wasn’t. Or, it was, but they didn’t want to make it too easy, as enemies and marauders lived to the northwest.

In the late 1800s, when the Tiber was channelized and walled in, with retaining levees built, they widened this part next to the island, I think to force more of the water on this side(?), and the ancient bridge wasn’t long enough any more, so, geeze, it was just an Ancient Roman Structure, so The City’s Wisemen ordered it replaced.

Porta Portese sunlit

Enough about bridges. Here is a particularly comely city entrance, the Porta Portese. This was roughly the location of the former Porta Portuense. Both names refer to Rome’s port at the river mouth, and the road to there along this bank of the Tiber. The river-mouth was early important as a salt-producing zone, and major trade routes went inland from the sea flats on both sides of the Tiber, as well and up and down the coast. Later, this became a major port area, serving Rome and inland. Major engineering modifications kept it useful (e.g., the massive six-sided basin constructed under Hadrian’s watch and now just south of the airport—see satellite images).

Ministry sign

Two other bits to note. We found this sign on the wall of a particularly narrow alley—about one wide shoulder-width at one end—in the original neighborhood of Trastevere (meaning: across the Tiber), south of the Isola Tiberina. Today we first visited that area, and discovered that although unfailingly described as charming and old-world in guides, it is a tourist mecca, and thus a mecca for sidewalk salespeople of all stripes, and not quite an incubator of Roman life as lived by present-day Romans. As to unofficial the English sign, I love its formal design….

Towing action

Now a bit of action. We also saw a speed-trap setup with four cop cars earlier in the day, with someone getting a ticket and not looking happy about it. Plus, right after we saw this towing (love that lift! a bar on each side of the front tires, spanned together—up and away), we saw another tow truck ready to pull out all loaded up a block away. Since these three aren’t far apart, I guess the cops were targeting this area today. ??

The hills are…steep

Vernazza terraced slopes

We got our hiking tickets or park-entry permits so that we could leave the town and explore, just a wee bit, the foot-trails for which this area is famous. Actually, we set out on one trail, which took us high above Vernazza, and among the agricultural terraces I’ve been admiring from below. A few terraces had kitchen-gardens, with tomatoes, peppers, and other vegg, plus crops like olives and grapes. Among the rocks stacked (not mortared) to make the retaining walls, I often saw oregano, or perhaps its cousin marjoram (not sure I can distinguish; both are Origanum spp.). I do not know how old the terraces are, but many are currently being maintained.

Tram rail trail

Extending quite a distance up and around the hill is a single-rail tram(?), rather like a motorized wheelbarrow that can deal with the steep slope. For a bit, its rail followed the foot-path we traversed.

Tram rail vehicle

The tram-rail vehicle is quite something, with a motor, seat, and cargo containers that are like trailer-carts bringing up the rear (if going uphill). Personally, I prefer the trails; riding that thing looks just plain…scary.

Glamour shot pier

For another sense of popular activities here, Vernazza’s harbor-side is a popular place for Asian women in fancy dresses to get their pictures taken with their fella. Or that’s what we assume. Not all are in white, like this lady; we saw one in a fuchsia dress.

Almost forgot to mention that this morning when we checked the harbor before we sat down to b’fast, we several schools of fish both in the harbor (also sea urchins) and along the pier where the taxi-shuttles pull up for passengers to debark and climb on. Down on the bottom a kindly local fellow pointed out a barracuda, long and skinny, on patrol we thought but not apparently on the hunt. FEESH!

Vista mare

Vernazza harbor sprinkling

We watched the precip go from sprinkles to full-out rain and back, with a few cessations, several times through midday. Still, I found the views compelling….

While we were eating lunch at the Pirate Twins of Sicily Restaurant (not its real name), it went from no-sprinkles to hard-rain; our table was under the awning and barely safe from spatter. When we left, we “flowed” downhill along with the run-off, glad we had brought our raincoats.

Euro 5 before pivot

The boats with the route up and down the coast stopping at the five towns made interesting port-visits, at least here in Vernazza, nosing in toward the outside of the breakwater, the boat staying perpendicular and away from the concrete. They have a walkway with wheels that they push out to span the gap; it makes for an adventurous crossing for the tour-group folks we saw debarking. The boat-guys clearly are very experienced at the maneuver—no trepidation or false moves (tossing the line-loops, situating the walkway, helping the tourists, and reverse).

Vernazza sunset brilliance

By sunset, the light was terrific and the sky blue blue blue. Loving the narrow terraces on the slope outside of town…. (BTW, that IS a foosball table in the left foreground; no ball supplied, though.)

(Imagine your title here)

Pisa pano

In the heat of the midday (as it turned out), we ventured forth via bus to Pisa, once again joining crowds of day-trippers self-funneling into a very few locations. The architectural complex that includes the famous un-plumb bell-tower is in a giant grassy area, with tremendously outsized buildings. The complex is unlike any other church complex we’ve seen for its size and the fact that it is not integrated into the cities’ active streets, shops, institutional buildings, and domiciles. Fortunately, the scale of the buildings and the campo partially temper the funneling problem.

Pisa posing

Tourist-behaviors rarely offer surprises. We watched people doing the “pushing upright” photos. Often the photographer and the subject had repeated back-and-forths to get the desired effect captured. We just photoed unfolding events, rather than doing it ourselves.

Pisa cathedral

To my eye, the cathedral next to the Leaning Tower also evinces evidence of foundation unevenness and sinking. Look at those last four arches (left) and the lines of the sections of the building. There’s some distortion by the camera, but there’re non-parallel lines in the building, too.

Lucca sunset

Back “home” in Lucca, we strolled the defensive wall that circles the old-town to catch the sunset. I did not expect the high craggy mountains that populate the skyline in this direction, but they are eye-catching.

Libertas

Transition days have their own excitement. We partly left our “old” B&B, packing up but leaving our luggage and heading into town to see a Picasso exhibit we’d skipped, but were interested in, in part as an antidote to gorging on the Renaissance for the last few days. One room was all Picasso sketches prior to Guernica. The rest had one or two Picassos, and many works by contemporaries. Which is okay, but Picasso was heavily billed and not so strongly represented. We enjoyed it plenty as a palate-cleanser (JCB trademark phrase).

Florence was over-run (oops) with people in-town from the whole surrounding area for a run-walk event. Thousands, I’d say. They filled the streets for hours, and several bridges were pedestrian-only that usually have vehicles, so I’m sure plenty of people were happy to attend/participate, and plenty were a bit aggrieved. We enjoyed the hustle-bustle, and felt sure that some of the matrons were in an unusual mode, wearing t-shirts (that had the sponsor name: Ferragamo).

All too soon, we gathered up our luggage, said goodbye to our lovely hostess, E, and headed to the train station. Oh my. We hadn’t gotten our tix online, and that turned out to be the wrong move, or at least to make it more complicated. The ticket offices had a line you wouldn’t believe. At least they had a number system, where you could take a number and wait for it to come through the rotation, although JCB said they were hours from getting to our number. Meantime, he finally got the electronic ticket machine to take one of our credit cards (not the usual one—typically a problem with USA credit cards—people can make them work, but the machines can’t deal with them), and we had our pass to ride!

Train station waiting area doorways

Our train had double-decker seating, so of course we picked “high” seats. The train was packed with regulars, tourists, and the runners returning to the suburbs. Loved this view of an “old” station, with separate waiting areas for first- and second-class travelers. They still have the classes (at least on some trains), but other than on the train, no differences in the stations…

Landscaping yard villa

Of course I was watching the landscape as we moved westward. I saw some fields and small gardens, plenty of apartment buildings in the towns and on the edges of them, a few abandoned industrial buildings, some new commercial architecture, roads, the expected hodgepodge. To my eye, however, there were disproportionate numbers of landscaping plant yards, although this is the only one I noticed on the grounds of a villa; everyone with acreage has to monetize it somehow—or else subsidize it. I was still amazed that most of the ridges were forested, although sometimes I could see the rows of trees, so they were planted, probably in a post-WWII reforestation program.

Lucca city gate SSW

We disembarked at Lucca, our next stop, and the walls of the city were right in front of us as we left the station. While the city walls are what you notice, the city-center also contains the grid of the ancient Roman settlement the pre-dated them. The walls were built between 1500 and 1650, and include eleven bastions and twelve connecting curtains. We had to dodge a block to the west to enter the city through a gate thoughtfully and emotionally labeled Libertas.

Our new B&B is our splurge of the trip, and they must think so too—we were greeted with a gift half-bottle of prosecco, and happy are we now that it is empty!

Painted eye candy

Gal int expression

Let’s go for some image-bits, all from paintings. This young woman, hmm, relying on memory here (it’s been 6 hours and 6K paintings/labels in between now and when I read the placard), she was probably an orphan, although experts don’t know for sure who she is. Can’t really account for her expression…maybe “I got out of mass to sit with this…creep???” (Sorry, you’ll have to guess the date….)

These two are details from a very small part of a painting, meant to set the stage, fill in, and be background. To me, they give clues about the countryside at that time.

Fra Bartolomeo 1509
Francesco Granacci ca1515

The first one is by Fra’ Bartolomeo and dates to 1509. The second is by Francesco Granacci, and dates to about 1515.

First, I see there’s lots of forested area and they both look Tuscan. Second, the buildings are large and scattered. This latter is generally consistent with the villa pattern. They both have small airborne bird-flocks (which suggests more birds than I’ve noticed today, or merely an impulse to fill “empty” spaces a bit). Love the bridge and smoke-whisp in the first one. Charmed by the vegetation indicating the ruined nature of the architecture in the second.

Pollaiolo bros ca1467

I took lots of foot-photos today (well, a few anyway), and I’m only giving you a ration of one. These are simpler sandals than most, but that is one fancy hat. I believe the scallop shell indicates the wearer is going on or has been on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (that being a shrine of St. James, and the shell indicating him). Also, the hat shape may indicate the pilgrimage, too. This is consistent with the walking stick(?). This is by the Pollaiolo brothers and dates to about 1467.