Last weekend, we went to Rome to see the sights.
Lyn had booked accommodation at an apartment (via Airbnb) in the university area of Rome, close to public transport and an easy walk from the main train station (Rome Termini).
Lyn finished school early and we caught the fast-train out of Firenze SMN at 2pm. An hour and a half later, we were there! The train travelled at around 250km/hr with no stops between Florence and Rome and it was as smooth as silk - smoother than an airplane. I took this snapshot of the speed using my iPhone Dashboard app while we were still speeding up!

Once we got our ourselves organised with the B&B and we had been briefed on the best ways to get around from our host Simone, we took a tram ride to see a bit of the outer parts of Rome Central.
We caught Tram No. 3 (about 200m from the B&B) and it took us around the SW sector of Rome, through San Lorenzo, past the Colosseum out to a Metro stop called Piramide.
Why it is called Piramide - because there is a 38m high stone pyramid sitting there on the side of one of the major thoroughfares!
We though that it was reasonably modern, but oh no, it was built around 12BC!
After walking around and picking our jaws off the ground, we back-tracked and got off the tram in San Lorenzo for dinner. Simone had recommended a small restaurant right in the middle of San Lorenzo, but of course, at 7:00pm, it was shut (no-one eats that early in Rome!), so we found a small bar close-by and had a drink. We returned at 7:45pm and we were the first customers!
The meal was very nice and I finally managed to find the grilled sardines (alici grilliata con pecorino) that I have been wanting to try. Lyn had a saltimbocca and we shared a grilled vegetable side-dish and diced, roasted potatoes). A quarto of red wine, dessert and wine finished the evening off nicely!
We left the place about 9:30pm and it was just about full then, but people were still coming in looking for a table - I think we did well!

The next day, we decided to get back to the Colosseum on the tram and visit it before the crowds arrived - well we missed that one because the place was crawling when we got there!
We took one look at the queues and decided to give it a miss until the late afternoon when the crowds are supposed to thin out.

Instead, we decided to catch one of the tourist buses that does a circuit of the city showing the major sights and this was a pretty good idea, as it gave a good "snapshot" of the city.
While waiting for the bus, we discovered that the Roman soldiers did not use chariots and horses to get around!
Some caught the bus;

Others rode scooters - handy because they could carry the "bus" soldier's gear (and weapons?);

and others caught taxis!

One of the stops was St Marks Square, but it wasn't an option to get off due to the crowds of people, so we stayed on the bus and kept going.
Imagine what this place will be like in summer!

We did one complete circuit and then half again, before getting off at the river and walking back into the "older" part of Rome.
It was a pretty cold day, so we stopped for lunch in a very nice small restaurant called "Antica Taverna" in a small piazza right in the heart of the old city, but away from the madness. It was actually very quiet - for Rome!

 By the time that we had had lunch, it was a bit warmer, so we decided to walk to the Pantheon which was quite close.
To get there, we had to walk through the Piazza Navona which has a pretty spectacular fountain in the middle of it.
There were also masses of people!

We arrived at the Pantheon and it is quite interesting how uninteresting it is from the sides and back, but stunning from the front with the huge columns facing you.

The interior is similarly stunning with all the marble and detail.

From here, we walked further into the central area, passing the parliament buildings to get to the Trevi Fountain.
Unfortunately, the fountain is not working as it is being restored (for the last 2 years!), but even so, there were so many people there that we had a look and left.
We decided to walk further west to reconnect with the tourist bus at one of the drop-off points, picking it up at the Fontana del Tritone in the Piazza Barberini.
Once on the bus, we returned to the Colosseum to see if we got get in before it shut at 4:00pm, but the place was still heaving and it would have been a waste of our time standing in the queue, so we decided to visit the ruins that are next to the Colosseum (the Palatino).
This is a massive area that has been excavated to show how the Romans lived - it really is incredible to see the scope of the buildings and outdoor areas and we thought that it was probably more interesting than the Colosseum.

We spent the rest of the afternoon here before catching our favourite No. 3 tram back to the B&B.
We were so tired that evening, that we had a pizza for tea getting it from a local pizzeria that was full of locals - and it was pretty good!
On Sunday, it was raining - oh, and the Rome marathon was on (we didn't foresee that one!).
The area around the Colosseum was closed, a lot of the bus & tram system was closed and it would have been chaos in the centre of the city, so we got an earlier train back to Florence.
Overall, we enjoyed Rome itself, but the crowds of tourists are no fun.
We will probably return to have another look (and try to get into the Colosseum), but we will wait until the end of the year when it is colder and there will be (hopefully) less tourists around.

Lyn's week of printmaking
This week Manuel had us making a tampone - that's an ink dabber/dauber. 
You may have seen them in printmaking supplies shops - they are either crappy about to fall apart things for $20 or hugely expensive - a couple of hundred dollars for a good leather one. 
They are used to press ink into the lines of an etched plate prior to printing.
First of all, he produced from his bottomless bag of supplies;
  • brads (small nails)
  • wooden handles
  • tarlatan (used for wiping etching plates - sort of like cheesecloth)
  • rubber sponge about 3cm thick
  • felt
  • cotton wool
  • leather (left over from when he killed his cow for the bulino cushions)
  • large piece of wood to cut circles from
  • long screws, washers and bolts

The boys set about cutting circles from the wood about 10cm in diameter while us girlies did the less dangerous job of cutting out circles of felt, tarlatan, cotton wool and rubber sponge. We then assembled them sort of like a sandwich.
Manuel laying out the supplies

The leather 

Frederico and Tony cutting out the circles

Starting to glue it all together

We also cut out pieces of leather large enough to cover the wood and all the above materials.
A hole was drilled into the centre of the wooden circle and the screw head was recessed so that it  didn't protrude. 
The screw was put in and then putty was put in the top and left to dry.
After the putty was dry, we sanded the top and then started to fit the leather onto the wooden base while squashing down all the rubber, cotton wool, felt and tarlatan - for this you need to grow an extra hand or get someone to help you!
The sandwich

Starting to put it all together

How will we end up with this?

Everyone working hard

Yuta had to help Ben before he threw his through the window

The leather needs to be stretched around the wood, with no (or very few) creases at the side of the tampone and the brads are then nailed in to hold it all together. 
Unfortunately it involves a lot of swearing as you hammer your own fingers, or the fingers of the person helping you as the leather is too thick, or the brads are too small, or the hammer is too small or too big....
Ignacio and Tony have three hands each

Ignacio and Tony worked out how to do it pretty quickly

Giulia and Clara have four hands each

How do we nail this together?

After the nailing is all done, you glue a round piece of leather to cover all the brads (and the blood stains), then screw on the handle and then oil the whole thing with linseed oil.
Eventually we all made our own tampone, but most of us don't want to use them because we don't want to get them dirty!!


More success!
Lucia finishes hers!

Ben says he is not going to try and take his back to the US as he thinks customs might think it's some sort of european sex toy!!!
My beautiful tampone!!
So after all this I have done another 2 prints. The first one is on a small copper plate etched in ferric chloride, which I haven't done before.
First proof

Second proof after some additions 

Final proof, have to do an edition soon
The next one is on a zinc plate.

First proof is just line etching (aquaforte)

Second proof is when I did too much aquatint!

I burnished back the aquatint and used a thinner ink (I added some oil to my sepia ink)

So that's it for this week!


  1. So it's not just me that is freaked out by too many people / tourists. When Deb and I were there in '93 we got to the point of feeling like we had to escape from it. Just too many people everywhere we went. We got in the car and drove and drove until we reached Switzerland.
    Love the Roman soldier commuters.

  2. Great pics of Rome. I doubt there's ever a quiet time but I do remember visiting the Trevi Fountain at 7.30am just to see it with no one else there!

  3. Rome is a living museum - love it. We took organized tours as this by-passed the lines. We were there this time of year 5 years ago. Love your pics and am looking forward to taking the train from Florence to Venice when we visit. Lyn, more masterpieces; love your work and talent. I look forward to your next masterpiece! Hugs, M.