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Fashion, Food, Fame
Rome marked the end of our land tour, and the beginning of our cruise.  We spent two nights in the city, in the delightful area of the"high fashion" district, where we were within an easy walk to the Spanish Steps.  We really enjoyed the historic Hotel d'Inghliterra, which Linda has described, and I took particular pleasure in the way that the desk clerks were so Italian: good voice, active hands, smiles and lots of energy.  
We spent a good amount of time walking the streets which were full of people and cars, usually at the same time, looking at shops, watching people and then to our great treat, enjoying a marvelous tour of the Vatican and short visits to some history: Roman ruins, the Coliseum and the Pantheon.  Our tour guide, Maria, was quite a character: outspoken, fun, full of stories, gossip and tales of the rich and famous.  One of them, about Raphael, was of particular interest to me, and I will take some time to explore it later in the page.  For now, let's look at fashion.
When Gucci is closed, the Senagelese make purses magically appear out of their black, plastic garbage sacks.  High fashion, low overhead.  Our guide, Maria, said  Senagelese are all illegal immigrants, but  the borders of Italy are like Swiss cheese.  "The Muhammeds from Africa crawl through the holes," she said.
Maria and Linda
Maria is from Croatia.  She met her husband while working in Rome.  After a period of courtship, she asked him about marriage.  Oh, no, he said, marriage was not in the picture.  So, she packed her things and went home to Croatia.  He followed her, driving 24 hours non-stop around the Adriatic Sea to ask her to marry him. 
Her father did not want her to go to Rome.  The men are lazy there, he said, they do not work, and their women work too hard.  He hid her passport so that she could not leave.  Her mother told her where it was, and she left with her husband-to-be.  They have been married 30 years. Her father was right.  She works too hard. 
The day after our arrival she took us on a great 6 hour tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peters, Pantheon, Coliseum and Circus Maximus.
CIRCUS MAXIMUS (left):  2,000 years ago, athletes ran, chariot's raced and crowds lined the slopes to watch. The well worn raceway is evident flowing from the building to the fence.  Caesar's Forum on right.
ROMAN COLISEUM: My favorite antiquity.  It's size, character and style is just overpowering.
CARS AND CROWDS share a street: The only accident I saw was out here on a major boulevard.  Lady is VERY unhappy. 
LET'S PLAY.........


Pantheon builders found their supply of stone inadequate and more of the same  unavailable.  So it is not as high as planned, accounting for the disproportion of the columns to the height.  It looks squat, and it is.
The composition of the Pantheon's dome is almost exactly that of today's concrete which used in this dome form would collapse of its own weight.  The Pantheon stands today   because concrete was applied in small amounts, then squeezed to expel water.  In that way air bubbles, which would have otherwise allowed it to crumble, were wrung out of the mixture.  Pope Leo X
Raphael's greatest masterpiece. The Pope, puffy faced, attended by Cardinals Luigi de' Rossi and Giulio de' Medici (later to become Pope Clement VII), reflects upon his challenges.
An earlier Pope, Urban VIII, stripped the Pantheon of its bronze to build cannon. Thus the saying, "what the Barbarians did not take, the
Barbarini (Pope Urban's family name) did. 
Through the occulus, the rays of the sun mark the passing of the seasons, precisely.  Because of the flow of air over the outside contours of the dome, there is a slight vacuum raising air from  the interior, forcing circulation.  The occulus also allows rain to fall to the Pantheon's floor, but the drain, precisely placed, takes it away.  It is a structure in harmony with nature.
There is a mystery in the Pantheon represented in the two photos above. The burial site of Raphael (left) is marked by a sculptured Madona, and beside her, two alcoves for statuary.  The one on the left has a small bust of Raphael.  The other alcove (right) was to hold a study of his betrothed, Maria Bibbiena, the niece of a powerful cardinal.  However, Raphael always postponed marriage.   Why?  For one thing, he was a renowned womanizer.
For another, he was, late in his brief life, secretly married to another woman, Margherita Luti.  Upon his death, at age 40 in 1520, reportedly of "too much sex" (with Luti) or of syphillis (apparently brought to Europe by Portugese sailors returning with Columbus), Raphael was buried here. 
Maria Bibbiena died (a broken heart? ... of syphillis?) a few months later and was also buried here. But so incensed was Cardinal Bibbiena over the cause of his niece's death, that he refused to have her image placed on the intended pedestal.  Or did he already know about Margherita Luti, who quietly entered a convent after Raphael's death, signing in as a widow?
Raphael's La Valeta
The Baker's Girl dressed, or is she the wife of a wealthy and influential patron, Agostino Chigi, the Pope's banker?
Mia Fineman concludes: ...
this is the same person, clothed and demure in one picture, naked and flirty in another.
The pearl in her hair in both paintings is another clue.  In Latin, margherita means "pearl."
Raphael's Fa Fornarina
(The Baker Girl)
Margherita Luti
Note Raphael's name on the armband.  The pearl in her hair reinforces her name. Look closely and you will see, at the very tip of her left ring finger, a ring uncovered by restorers.  Raphael's students painted over it to protect themselves from a loss of funds from the papacy should Raphael's scandelous marriage to a low-class baker's daughter become known. 
Ingres, Raphael and La Fornarina
A contemporary of Raphael commented that
La Velata is the portrait of the one he (Raphael) loved.
The question has excited the imagination of artists ever since, Picasso weighing in with a painting favoring Fineman's observation.  Picasso has Michelangelo peeking at Raphael and Margherita Luti  from under the bed.  Jean-August-Dominique Ingres painted his conclusion (left) in
Raphael and La Fornarina (1814).  Raphael and Margherita Luti are together as he glances at his sketch for La Fornarina while she gives a knowing look to the observor.
St. Peter's Square, with lines edging the outer circumference.  On right is seating arranged for an appearance from the Pope who is about to return.
When the Pope appears in the square, it will be from under this shade shelter.
When Pope speaks from his apartment, it is from top floor, second window in from right.
Chalk Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniel Da Volterra
It was Volterra who was ordered by Pope Paul IV to "dress" some of the figures in
The Last Judgement.  So this was sketch was likely done prior to 1555.
One of only two known self-portraits of Michelangelo, (about 65 years of age) found on the flayed skin of St. Bartholemeu within the figures of The Judgement, Sistine Chapel.