Friday, June 2, 2017

Three Roman Ships

We were a little bit lost.

It was our first day in Rome and we had rented bikes to ride out on the Appian Way. The bike place had sketched out a route that they recommended we take.  I thought we would do better by a different route.*  My travel companions were rightly skeptical. So I went on ahead to scout.  And found myself on Via della Navicella, which means "Street of the Little Ship".

And sure enough, there it was.

Its not all that little really.  And I found it a bit puzzling.  It looked old, but not quite "Roman Old", if you know what I mean.  Here is a close up.

The wild boar snout on the front also looked a bit anachronistic.  So, what's the story?

Supposedly near this site in Roman times stood a special barracks for sailors, the Castrum Misenatum.  So, what use were sailors in Rome?  Well, they had the job of operating the velarium, which were huge sail like sun screens at the Colosseum. If you know where to look on the site of same you can still see mooring sites for the big masts.

By "tradition" the sailors kept a ship model that they would carry around as a votive item, seeking divine protection for their lives, ever at risk of wave and storm. Supposedly fragments of this were found in the early 16th Century near the Basilica of Santa Maria in Domnica, which you see in the back ground of the first photo.  When the fragments then went missing Pope Leo X commissioned a copy that was placed in front of the church circa 1518.   Only in Rome can something look rather "new" but still be almost as old as the discovery of the New World!  

We were getting tired of Rome.  It was hot and noisy.  So when we arrived in Tivoli it was with a sigh of relief that we found a delightful, unspoiled little town.  More on that in a bit.

One of the sites of Tivoli is the Villa d'Este.  The palace and its marvelous gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth the visit.  

The artwork is 16th Century of course, but I was amused to encounter this:

This is one element of The Fountain of Rometta.  Other aspects include the She Wolf with twins you can see behind in this photo, and a rather damaged panorama sculpture of historic buildings in Rome.  This specific element is not really trying to show an Obelisk Ship - which would not of course carry its cargo upright (!), but rather is a fanciful depiction of Tiber Island.

We were running late.  We had a train to catch but just enough time to duck into the museum inside the Baths of Diocletian.  Expecting a quick visit we found way more than we had time for.  Running from hall to hall looking at Roman stuff galore we only had time to stop and peek at the cooler stuff.  Like this:

A Roman column base shaped like a ship.  Note the wild beast at the bow...perhaps the Navicella statue was not a complete 16th century fabrication after all.
* A few days later when also a little bit lost we discovered that my initial instincts had been correct, and that Via Della Navicella would have led us to our destination without that harrowing ride past the Tourist Hell of the Colosseum!


Borepatch said...

I love Rome.

Tim Wolter said...

Love/Hate for me. I am a small townie and find the pace and attitude tiring. And my wife likes the place even less.

Still, history underfoot everywhere.

Smaller towns only next trip to Italy.