Off to a late-ish start, a brisk walk to the Ponte Sisto and cascade of minor glitches snarled us up. The Uber app was balky and kept looping around. The first driver canceled us, the second was on the other side of the very busy street and had to wait for the light to change.
Robert was resigned. I was cranky. We arrived at the Baths of Diocletian close to 11:30. I’d had no breakfast, so I stopped for a slice of raspberry tart and an espresso. My spirits visibly brightened. The power of pastry prevails.
We toured the baths and the section converted to the National Roman Museum. It is one of four branches of the museum, another being the Crypta Balbi. Two down, two to go.
I soaked in the peace of the grand cloister. A cedar in the center of the garden, propped and supported by iron bands, was allegedly planted by Michelangelo. Stele and tomb fragments defined the outer perimeter of the square. These monuments were made fascinating to me by the Mary Beard BBC documentaries. I was able to recognize the word carrisimo – dearest – on this one. Poignant. There were sarcophagi carved with the decease’s hopes for a happy afterlife (mostly involving wine and sex), masks of tragedy and comedy, and ringing the center, giant animal heads from Hadrian’s front yard.Robert goofed on the famous door with a trompe l’oeuil painting by Filippo Balbi. It portrayed a lay brother who holds a piece of paper with the words Erudi filium tuum et refrigerabit te et dabit delicias animae tuae (Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. – Proverbia XXIX: 17 ESV).
The National Museum of Rome displayed more fragments of Roman life; statuary, armor, more stele and small caskets. One simple but chilling display of a twisted metal ring with a metal tab, like a large dog tag, offered a reward for the return of the runaway. It was likely for a slave and not a mastiff.
The enormous scale of the baths themselves impressed me, and the idea of being clean in those filthy times seems enormously appealing. I can well believe the availability of running water, saunas, and hot and cold baths for all citizens would have made Rome the envy of the provinces. The building had temperature extremes – super cold in the cavernous baths, and sauna hot on the upper floors of the museum. Layer up, people.
It was a long day. I saved touring the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs for another visit. Ubered back to the Ponte Sisto, and did a bit of shopping on the walk back to the apartment, picking up prosciutto and bread. Saw a seven-month-old cavalier dog, who melted our hearts. We are dopey for our dog.