Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Highlights of Rome - Big, Bold & Ancient

Following is a very detailed account of our Rome adventure. Probablly more information than anyone wants, but its a good way for me to savor these memories.

After St. Peter's we headed down Via della Conciliazione past Castel Sant Angelo, crossed the river at Ponte Vittoro Emanuele II and headed to see the Piazza Navona. The Piazza Navona is one of the most famous and arguably the most beautiful of Rome's many squares. The large and lively square features three magnificent fountains. Another eyecatcher is the baroque church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. There were a few hundred people doing yoga in the middle of the square.

The Piazza Navona lies just a short walk from the Pantheon. The Pantheon dating from 125 AD, this is the most complete ancient building in Rome and one of the city's most spectacular sights. It is unusual in that there is an oculus (hole) the center of the dome. This is the only source of natural light in the church, and is also open to rain. This building is the best way to really picture the Eternal City in it’s original marble glory. After staring for a while, not believing I am finally seeing all of this in person, we continue.

Snaking our way through the streets there is just so much to take in. Also, it's easy to get lost...and it's a great place to get lost, too (except at 3 am with no sleep).

The Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II is also known as the Altar of the Fatherland or simply 'Il Vittoriano'. It stands at the center of Rome, next to the Roman Forum at the northern end of Piazza Venezia as a monument to Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. Within the Monument is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an Eternal Flame.
Past the Santa Maria in Aracoeli, up the long, beautiful staircase "Cordonata" to the Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill). It is adorned with granite statues of Egyptian lions at the foot and two large classical statues of Castor and Pollux at the top. At the center of the square is a statue of Marcus Aurelius. Through Piazza del Campidoglioto to get a good view the Roman Forum.

Then along Via dei Fori Imperiali to a tour of the Colosseum. Built in the 1st century AD, this great arena could seat 45,000 spectators and was the largest Roman amphitheater in the world. This is where barbaric games were played by glatiators before a demanding Roman audience. More or less one could say it was built as an arena where people went to see blood and violence.

Next to the Colosseum is the 69ft high Arch of Constantine. Raised in memory of Emperor Constantine's triumph over Maxentius in the battle of Pont Milvius in the year 312 AD.

We then went on a walking tour through the Roman Forum which is between the Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill. The Roman Forum, or Forum Magnum, became the central area around which the rest of ancient Rome developed. The area was continuously rebuilt upon and contains many layers of material. It was the main focus for civil administration, justice and commerce. As time passed the Roman Forum expanded to include numerous temples, the senate house and other law courts. It was mind boggling to think that we were walking the same routes as Julius Caesar! I sat here for ages…imagining the Forum in its day, alive with activity and the daily hustle-bustle of a powerful city!

Our adventure continued down past Theater of Marcellus, through Piazza Bocca della Verita where there is another beautiful fountain (Fountain of the Tritons) and there are two temples - Temple of Hercules Victor (temple of Vesta) & Temple of Portunus. To the south of the piazza is the famous church of San Maria in Cosmedin.

La Bocca della Verità ("the Mouth of Truth") is an image, carved from Pavonazzetto marble, of a man-like face, located in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The Mouth of Truth is known mostly from its appearance in the 1953 film Roman Holiday. Starting from the Middle Ages, it was believed that if one told a lie with one's hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off.
Next it was over Pointe Palatino for a view of Tibor Island then to the Trasterver side of Rome. (You can see the last remaining arch of the Ponte Rotto which was the first stone bridge to span the Tiber.)

Of course there are countless bridges, piazzas, fountains, monuments, churches, museums, and other sites to take in. It is a bit overwhelming to the senses. There is so much to see and we were on a super tight schedule. I was awe-stricken by the amazing architecture…EVERYWHERE! Amazing churches…amazing obelisks…amazing fountains… amazing statues. Rome, the ancient center of civilization, the eternal city.

Next stop Spanish Steps:
The piazza di Spagna is one of the most popular meeting places in Rome. The Piazza di Spagna or Spanish Square is connected to a French church (Trinità dei Monti) on top of the hill via a long staircase, known as the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti or Spanish Steps. All around the piazza, people are drinking, eating and chatting in the bars and cafes.

We walked along Villa Borghese (the largest public park in Rome) to The Pincio Gardens. These gardens offer one of the best views of Rome from the The Piazza Napoleone terrace overlooking the Piazza del Popolo. We happened to get there just at sunset and the views of Rome were stunning!
We walked down to the Piazza del Popolo, with its obelisk and twin churches, this immense square is a famed Rome landmark. It marks what was for centuries the northern entrance to the city, where all roads from the north converge and where visitors, many of them pilgrims, would get their first impression of the Eternal City.

Last highlight of the day was Trevie Fountain...
By this time we were pretty beat, and had a difficult finding Piazza Di Trevi. After walking around in circles, we finally heard the gushing water and the seemingly million people that surrounded it! The fountain is very popular with tourists who are often seen throwing coins over their shoulders backwards into the fountain, which is meant to guarantee one's return visit to Rome.

Today was a colossal day and by the time we got back to our hotel I thought my legs were going to fall off! It was about 11:30pm and we asked the reception desk for dinner recommendations at this late hour. We were in luck there was an fantastic, authentic Pizzaria about 10 minutes walk. Of course, you have to try authentic pizza while in Italy! The extensive menu was entirely in Italian, and although I know what a pizza is, we had no idea what toppings were on each of the pizzas (they weren't in my pocket translation guide). We were adventurous and just picked one! It was the best pizza ever with a wafer thin crispy crust.

Well, after my first trip to Rome, and hopefully not my last, there are so many things I could write pages after pages about. Rome is packed with masterpieces from more than two millennia of artistic achievement, and we only got to scratch the surface. To see Rome was to see our past, and revel in its greatness. Since then, a kingdom has fallen, a republic risen, and Rome has lived through three wars to a new era of Europe and a globalized world.


fernvalley01 said...

I am so jealous ! I was in Italy many years ago ,and your photos brought back such wonderful memories , did you toss your coin in Trevie fountain ? I did

Paint Girl said...

Sounds like you had an amazing time! What beautiful scenery! That pizza sounded delish! Love thin crust pizza's!

Kathleen Coy said...

I can only imagine how awe-inspiring it would be to see all that in person!

Stephanie said...

A wonderful post! Thank you for sharing in such detail along with the pictures.

Twisted Fencepost said...

Beautiful pictures of a beautiful place! I'm sure they don't do it justice, compared to actually being there.
Thanks for sharing them with us!

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