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Posts from the ‘Compendium’ Category

Norms in Rome | The River Tiber

When one thinks of Rome, it’s easy to forget the river which twists its way through the centre of the city, carving a divide between the ancient centre on the one side, and Vatican City and the neighbouring area of Trastevere on the other. Yet the River Tiber is as much part of the fabric of the city as the Castel Sant’angelo which sits proudly on its banks, once the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian himself. Not only did it bring crucial transportation and supplies to the city throughout its burgeoning past, but it was also the source of plague and pestilence, bringing the relentless annual swathe of mosquitoes to the city where malaria routinely reduced the population to a mere fraction of its former self.

Today the River Tiber is one of the most tranquil areas of Rome. Indeed, I have barely ever seen a boat move along its waters, and the river bank, which could be as vibrant as the South Bank in London, is practically deserted, the odd piece of graffiti reminding that the presence of some is not entirely lacking. Yet the banks of the River Tiber are as much a historical treasure as other parts of the city, leading as they do to the ancient Pons Fabricius, the oldest bridge in Rome, together with the mighty Ponte Sant’angelo, lined with glorious sculpture and affording visitors the most stunning view of St Peter’s and the Vatican beyond.

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Norms on the River Tiber (©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

It is from that very bridge that this week’s Norm sketch is located, with the dome of St Peter’s accompanied by a panoply of pine trees, Vatican buildings, and a river bank suitably populated by eager Norms. While the bank itself may be a place for the down and outs, the Norms kissing in secret, and the frustrated teenager Norm, spray painting the wall because his creativity has been suppressed at home, its river is a place for recreation and relaxation – these two Norm boats find themselves quite secluded, despite being in the very centre of Rome. Such are the advantages of a river which is integral to the city, but which today is quite forgotten, in the grand Roman scheme of things.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

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Folio // Rome mid-Winter

Ready yourselves, the Spring is here at last. It’s felt like an eternal winter, in England at least, and as Spring arrives – and a new sense of optimism for the season of Summer dawns upon us – I’m whisking Daily Norm readers off to the land of verdant Spring-like plenty: Tuscany. But before we depart for there, let’s wish Rome arrivederci the proper way, with a good old fashioned photographic exhibition of some of the city’s most characterful details.

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Taken back in January, during a very sunny weekend which was more than sufficient to blow away the chill of winter, this folio of photos is full of a warmth which betrays little of time of year. Walking through streets emboldened with strong creamy sunlight and hard long shadows, it was hard to believe that we were not enjoying Rome mid-summer. Only the lack of leaves, and the odd presence of a Christmas decoration left-over conveyed the time of the year. But if all winters were like this, even I, summer fanatic, could probably cope with them.

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Terracotta walls, cobbled streets, the shiny silvery Tiber and silhouettes of church domes and pine trees – these photos which are less Rome landmark and more street details. For my favourite part of Rome sightseeing is not exploring the Forum, and less the Colosseum. Rather it is having the chance to wander streets steeped in history, to enjoy the glow which emanates from sun filled streets, and the vivacious, edgy attitude which characterises Romans and their city alike.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | Campo de’ Fiori

The Norms love a good market. Stalls filled with cheeses hard and soft, long and fat sausages, gloriously coloured vegetables, herbs and spices…mmm even though Norms don’t have visible noses, the perfumes of a sunny morning market are such that they could survive off for a lifetime. Now that the Norms have been in Rome for a while, it’s time to get down to business, to settle, and to live life like the Romans do. That means gathering up the freshest ingredients, sitting down with the family and cooking a big dish of delicious pasta for all to share. Clearly, the Campo de’ Fiori, Rome’s most famous market, is the must-go destination for such pleasures, and amongst the ancient cobbles and old decadent buildings, the very best produce is available for the pleasure of all.

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Norms in the Campo de’ Fiori

But the Campo de’ Fiori is not just about the pleasures of food. It has a dark history too, and as the looming dark statue of Giordano Bruno demonstrates, it was once the place in which to burn heretics. Poor Giordano suffered such a fate for authoring works of philosophy which went down badly over at the Vatican. His statue today faces defiantly towards Vatican city, and stands as a reminder to all Norms, happily munching on their freshly bought food, that times were not always so bounteous and happy as these.

But enough of the lecture, let’s go onwards with our food, and a bunch of flowers too… after all, this is a place named after flowers, and a bunch on the table is always the perfect finishing touch to any Norm dinner party.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Rome > And not forgetting the Pantheon

In this series of Roman compendia, I have done my best to steer the earnest Rome visitor  away from the tourist masses which plague the city, to time their encounter with the city’s icons when most visitors are at slumber, or to go where others know not to tread. But the atmosphere created by tourist hoards is not all bad, just so long as you can bat off the constant salesmen haggle of selfie sticks and water at 3€ a pop.

For instance, you’d be hard pushed to see the Trevi Fountain without a permanent ring of coin-throwing visitors, but then that is part of its charm. And if you’re thinking of having the Colosseum to yourself, forget it. But there is one square which will inevitably be busy whenever you go, but is worth the trip at whatever time you wish, just because it is so characteristically Roman and so utterly exquisite at any time of the day: the Piazza della Rotonda.

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I have long held a deep fondness for this Piazza, ever since the blissful few weeks when my art history studies took me and many dearest friends to Rome. Every day I would open up the windows of our pensione onto the most spectacular view in all of Rome: to a square bustling with people enjoying the trickle of the baroque fountain, listening to street musicians, and gazing in awestruck wonder at the work of architectural majesty which sits at the very centre of the Piazza: the Pantheon.

Still considered to be a wonder of the ancient world, the Pantheon is pretty much the most intact monument still standing from Ancient Rome. Its condition is remarkable, not least its gravity defying concrete dome, the brilliance of which kept architects and engineers guessing for years. Standing in front of the Pantheon, knowing that you are stood in the very same spot as emperors and citizens of an ancient age, is a frankly remarkable experience. And in no other place do you get that sensation than here, in the Piazza which is as Roman as it gets: atmospheric cafes, baroque splendour, cobbled paving, coloured houses, horses, musicians, locals, tourists, and that all important omnipotence of the ancient which makes Rome the true Eternal City.

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So with this final tip on the Rome bucket list, and with my own recent photos from a morning stroll through the square, I close the current season of my Rome Compendium series – at least for now. Rest assured, the next time I go, I’ll add a whole load of more tips to ensure you’re living La Dolce Vita when you visit Italy’s pre-eminent city. In the meantime keep track of the Norms’ visit to Rome. They ‘ain’t going nowhere!

Arrivederci!

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | The Spanish Steps

The Norms do enjoy a little bit of something chic, al la mode, au courant. So, when in Rome, do as the Roman high society would have you do, and go shopping in the city’s glitziest boutiques, all of which can be found in the immediate vicinity of the Spanish Steps.

The sweeping staircase of 135 steps has always had a touch of baroque glamour about it, but gained a Hollywood dazzle when it was the backdrop to Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s not-so-chance encounter in the 1953 epic, Roman Holiday. But even before hitting the silver screen, the staircase was the stuff of romantic legend, as it was location to the house of English Romantic poetic, John Keats, who lived and died in his house on the right side of the staircase in 1821.

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Norms on the Spanish Steps (2018 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Naturally, the Norms feel an impulsive need to imbue themselves in the natural elegance of this area, and while they find bouncing up and down the many stairs somewhat tiresome, there can be little denying the true pleasure of both seeing, and being seen in the place that society says really does matter. No wonder the Norms are out in such large numbers to enjoy this true highlight of the Roman cityscape.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Rome > Lunching in the Trastevere

Up until only a year or so ago, the Trastevere was a region of Rome which somewhat alluded me. Set away from the ancient heart of the city, separated, as the name suggests, across the river from the main city sights, it is easy to forget this bustling little cobbled gem. And yet Trastevere, with its streets still strewn with laundry, unplanned crooked little houses and uneven roads is one of the most characterful areas of Rome, and certainly one which, more than any other, hangs on to its authentic, working class past, despite the very obvious charm it now holds for tourists.

Imbued with the kind of gloriously soft glowing light which summer evenings were made for, the Trastevere makes for the perfect location for an early evening perambulation before dinner. However, the result is often coach loads of tourists pumping themselves across the ancient bridges of the Tiber and filling the dear little narrow streets of the Trastevere to near bursting point. Trying to find a free table in these conditions is not fun, and certainly deprives one of the relaxed, authentic charm of the area.

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In my view, the better alternative is to do the Trastevere at lunchtime, when the narrow streets are filled with the warm glow of a higher midday sun, and some of that sleepiness which characterises the neighbourhood is retained away from the tourist hoards. This is particularly so in the cooler months of the year, when eating al fresco is a real daytime possibility, and the truly uncomfortable heat is yet to hit.

This is exactly what we did one Sunday this January, when the Trastevere seemed to come alive under the midday sun, despite a relatively quiet time of year in the Roman tourist calendar. Even then, the restaurants peppered along cobbled streets and lanes hung with verdant leafy climbing plants were filling fast, and it was almost on the point of giving up and heading pack over the Ponte Sisto that we stumbled upon the restaurant of the same name – the Osteria Pontesisto on the Via di Ponte.

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As though in wait especially for us, we took the last sunny table set outside the restaurant’s burnt orange facade. There, soothed by exquisite rays of winter sunshine, a lunch of freshly chilled chardonnay commenced, and continued with an appetizer of Roman fried artichokes and deliciously fresh wild board sausage. Then came the mains, and with it some of the best pasta I have had the pleasure to enjoy – a taglioni of king prawns and courgette flowers which filled my mouth with sensual delight at every mouthful. The soft but certain bite of the al dente pasta; the sweet succulence of the prawns; the perfumed intensity of the fish stock. Dear god it was good. So much so, I was almost too drunk on deliciousness (and wine) to fully appreciate yet another superb dish which was to follow – a homemade puff pastry millefeuille stuffed with fluffy clouds of cream and drizzled with just melted rich dark chocolate. Just. Too. Good.

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The Trastevere is popular for a reason, and sometimes a bit of patience is required before the perfect table reveals itself. But trust me, if that perfect Trastevere lunch is meant to be, that cute little red and white chequered road-side table will be waiting for you. But to be sure, make a reservation at the Osteria Pontesisto. As my lunch told me, you can’t go wrong with that one.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | The Ancient Forum

It is a fact universally acknowledged that Norms are mega history buffs. From the ice age to the golden age of the Renaissance, from Emperor Nero to Emperor Napoleon, the Norms soak in historical facts like they do rejuvenating sunshine. Lucky then that in Rome they can get both. In buckets. And where better to start the historical immersion than in the place where it all began: the Forum of Ancient Rome.

It’s not all that much to look at now, with its scattered ruins ravaged by time and multiple pillage, but with a little imagination, how mesmerising it is to recreate the kind of historical drama which played out in this place. Here it was that the steps of the Senate ran with Julius Caesar Norm’s blood. Where the great orator Cicero Norm would enchant his audiences with legal rhetoric. And where, just up the hillside, generations of magnificent but despotic emperor Norms would hold sway.

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Norms in the Forum (©2018, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

The broken rubble and the patches of grass don’t seem to do justice to what this place once was. But the Norms love it all the same. Here one can really take a tangible Norm-bounce back thousands of years into the past. And when the time comes to return to the 21st Century, the glory of modern day Rome reminds why this city continues to be a bustling contemporary metropolis, beloved of Norms everywhere.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Rome > Moses, the other great Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s David is one of the most cited, famous and admired sculptures in the history of art. Its image graces tea towels and teapots, erotic aprons and nodding-head dolls. And it’s no wonder. When I revisited the great marble man over Christmas, my emotions raised the nearer I got to the splendid stone musculature. We have been left with few Michelangelo sculptures in a truly finished state. Much of the works of his sculptural oeuvre have only just started emerging from their cacophony of natural stone. But in Rome there is another Michelangelo in the ecstatic state of splendid finesse, which is every bit the equal of David for its brilliance of anatomy, and for the emotions captured in marble. I am not talking of the Vatican’s La Pieta, but Moses, a mere stone’s throw from the Colosseum.

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Without a recommendation, you could easily miss San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in Chains), the church in central Rome where Moses is held (and which also hosts the chains purported to have held said St Peter in captivity). There, in one corner, the sole direction of the tourist gaze will soon demarcate where Michelangelo’s masterpiece is waiting. Had Moses sat within the mammoth marble tomb structure of Pope Julius II for which he was originally intended, there would have been no missing him. Commissioned by the Pope in 1505, the tomb was designed to hold 40 like-sized sculptures and fill a central apse of the new St Peter’s Basilica. As it was, Michelangelo soon became embroiled in the Pope’s other great commission: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and when his tomb was eventually installed at its current location, Moses took centre stage, his being the only one of the major sculptures for the tomb completed.

Perhaps it was a twist of fate which made things that way. For it would be a crying shame indeed if this truly exquisite statue had been lost in a crowd of 39 others, relegated to a tier some 4 metres of the ground in its intended positioning. Today, by contrast, the relative accessibility of San Pietro in Vincoli means you can get to almost touching distance of the great man, and the effect is ravishing.

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How can I describe an encounter with Moses? Emotional for sure, awestruck most certainly. The way in which Michelangelo so adeptly sculpts the flowing beard of Moses, twisted around his fingers in what appears to be both a moment of contemplation and rage at the idolatry of the Israelites who he finds to be worshiping a golden cow upon his descent from Mount Sinai. There is a beautiful, throbbing intensity about his musculature and his domineering presence. This Moses is both godlike to behold, and intimidating to witness.

Above all things he is a true icon of art history, and what is Michelangelo’s perhaps more overlooked masterpiece, available for all to see (for free) in the very centre of Rome.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | Trevi Fountain

It’s a Norm takeover! Rome is full of them! Sprawling in their Norm tourist masses, the sweet little one-armed blobs have truly adopted the Eternal City to their hearts, and are determined to tick off the iconic sights, one by one. So where should they venture having sipped a coffee in the Piazza before the magnificent Pantheon? From a temple of Roman architectural brilliance to a fountain of baroque splendour, the Norms have traversed the central core of ancient Rome, crossed the chic Via Corso and arrived at one of the city’s most popular baroque masterpieces: the Trevi Fountain.

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Norms at the Trevi Fountain (©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Being genetically programmed to be born with just one arm, there are many things that Norms cannot do that we two-armed humans take for granted. Happily, engaging in the tradition to through a coin into the Trevi Fountain is not one of them. This over-the-shoulder backwards coin throw is guaranteed to secure Norms a swift return to Rome. No wonder so many of them are doing it. And for those who aren’t, the good old favourite of 21st century tourists can also be held in the a Norms’ wonderful one-arm: bring on the trusty selfie-stick. The only way to ensure that the Norms capture their moment before one of the world’s most magnificent fountains.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Rome > Lateran, the Alternative Vatican

When many people think of Rome, it’s not the Colosseum they have in mind, but the soaring dome of St Peter’s Basilica at the very Catholic heart of the Vatican City. It is somewhat ironic then that the Vatican, while sitting bang centre in Rome, is not part of the Italian capital at all, but an entirely separate extraterritorial land belonging to the Holy See. Whatever the political geography, the Vatican is a must-see location for any visitor to Rome, but because of that, it’s too often heaving. Without an advanced ticket, you’ll spend far longer in a queue than you ever will inside of St Peter’s or its adjacent museum. Even with a reservation, the queues and security checks try the patience of the most earnest visitor.

Enter the Lateran Basilica, or to give it its full name, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran (also known as the Papal Archbasilica of St John in Lateran, and many other similar variations on the theme). Located on a diagonal 4km axis cutting through ancient Rome from the heart of the Vatican City, the Lateran Basilica is the alternative St Peter’s. Almost as big, just as spectacular, the Basilica is the ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome and such an equally important a player in Papal History that its story goes hand in hand with that of the Vatican across the river.

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As the oldest and highest ranking of the four papal major basilicas, the Lateran is unique in having the title of “archbasilica” and was, for hundreds of years prior to the dominance of St Peter’s, the home of countless generations of Popes. As the scale of Rome shrank and declined in the early second millennium AD, the area around the Lateran was reduced to a form of bucolic wasteland. Exposed and rundown, the Lateran Basilica and its neighbouring palace became disconnected from the beating heart of Rome, and during the Avignon years of the Papacy, the Lateran deteriorated and eventually suffered substantial fire damage. Thankfully, even from their new lavish seat of St Peter’s, the popes of baroque Rome recognised the importance of the Lateran, and in the 17th century, Pope Innocent X commissioned Francesco Borromini to rebuild the Lateran in the splendid image we see today.

History done, now for the visuals. As the photos show, a visit to the Lateran Basilica is the equal of the glorious Vatican. Flooded with light, the classical baroque facade gives way to an imperial loggia boasting the magnitude and proportions of an Ancient Roman temple, while inside, light floods through windows and bounces off golden mosaics, richly frescoed walls, and luxuriously marble-clad pillars. Most impressive of all things is the spectacular array of sculpted apostles created by the very best rococo sculptors and installed at the beginning of the 18th century. So lifelike, and yet so vast in scale, you feel shrunken into submission before heavenly giants, as though in a nursery rhyme immersed within the branches of Jack’s beanstalk.

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I didn’t enjoy my trip to the Vatican museum, being shunted along through bottlenecks crammed to almost scarily unsafe levels with a continuous tidal wave of coach parties. By contrast, the Lateran Basilica, with its lofty grand spaces and comparative tranquility is by far the better alternative, and every bit the equal to its younger cousin over the river.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.