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Posts from the ‘Compendium // Rome’ Category

Norms in Rome | The Piazza Navona

Norms in Rome, Rome in the Norms… such has been the delicious longevity of the Norms’ devoted acquaintance with Italy’s beating heart that the Norms feel permanently wedded to this city of ancient glory and modern glamour. They’ve been in piazzas aplenty, gorged on delectable Roman food fare, explored ruins, historical monuments and strolled riverside. But as the Norms prepare to take their leave of the city, with their bags packed from some summertime travels, these blobby creatures have made one last visit – to a Piazza equal in glory to the spectacle of the Piazza della Rotonda where their adventure began some three months ago… the glorious Piazza Navona.

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Norms on the Piazza Navona ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown 2018, pen on paper

Retaining the shape of the Stadium of Domitian which lies beneath its current day ground-level manifestation, but filled with some of the most magnificent sculptures of the Roman baroque, the Piazza Navona embodies Rome at its unique best, evidencing like a geological cross-section Rome’s complex trajectory throughout history. Whether it be those exquisite fountains, the countless cafes, or the temporary carousel which appears whenever a festival is in town, the Piazza Navona is the ideal location for the Norms to bid Rome arrivederci…until their inevitable return very soon.

© 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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Norms in Rome | Trajan’s Wedding Cake

Oh dear. The Norms’ reversion to the simpler things in life didn’t last for long. No sooner had they settled in the laid back Roman neighbourhood of Trastevere than they got itchy bottoms, and decided to trek again across the river in search of the grandeur for which Rome is famous. And this time they have hit the bullseye, arriving at the monument which, in modern times at least, is probably the grandest spectacle the city of Rome has ever created. Conspicuously named the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), but otherwise known as “the Wedding cake”, “the Typewriter” and the “English Trifle”, this pompous and mammoth construction was, in the early 20th century, built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first King of a unified Italy. However, it caused great controversy in its construction, doing away with large swathes of the historically critical Capitoline Hill as well as sticking out like a sore thumb for its gleaming whiteness in amongst a city of ochres and reds.

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Norms at the Wedding Cake (2018 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

Yet for all this, being white themselves, the Norms feel rather attracted to this mass of dazzling white theatricality and have made it a high point in their Roman adventure. That is not to say that they are ignoring the spiralling column of Trajan in the ruins of said Emperor’s forum just across the road. For one really can’t do one of these historical monuments without the other. And happily there’s an ice cream stop between the two, just in case the Norms required further inducement to enjoy these two indisputable icons of Rome.

© 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 

Norms in Rome | Trastevere living

The Daily Norm office may have decamped to Porto, but the Norms have decided not to stray from Roma. And if the Norms’ trip around Rome is about immersing themselves, unquestionably, in every aspect of the city, then they don’t want to visit just temples and ruins. For the essence of Rome extends far beyond its historical significance, to the robust character of her people, and the sense of contemporary spirit filling her streets and piazzas. The Trastevere may be an area popular with tourists – it is after all undeniably quaint – but it is also a part of the city with a proud working class heritage which is in no way acted out for the benefit of visitors. This is an area where laundry is strung across the streets because it needs to dry, not because it looks good in photos. And here, the restaurant terraces which hug buildings in narrow cobbled lanes serve up great Italian fare because the locals go there too.

Norms in the Trastevere

So to this most authentic of Roman neighbourhoods the Norms have strayed, enjoying a lunch of home made pasta which is as delicious as it is simple. Here the Norms can take a break from the big monuments and the grand boulevards, but focus instead on the charms of a very charismatic village-within-a-city, where plants grown in abundance and the architecture follows no pre-planned objective. It’s an atmosphere that suits the Norms down to the ground… in fact, after lunch, their next stop is an estate agent. This is clearly where they need to settle indefinitely! 

© 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 

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.

Norms on the Tiber

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 

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