We were staying at a place that the guidebook recommended. So we tried following the guide book map from the Colleseo metro stop up to Via Cavour. The guidebook map wasn't so great, and we were jetlagged, so we wandered back and forth in front of the Colleseum trying to figure out the best way to get there. We chose poorly, and went up the back streets. When we got to Via Cavour, we found the address in the book, and carried our bags up the stairs to where the hotel used to be. You see, it had moved down the street. The hotel across the hall mentioned this, so we went back down the steps and wandered back down the street looking for the address they told us. At this point, I remembered having printed something out from the confirmation, so I looked at this, and realized it had given the right directions all along. Except now we ring the bell, and nothing happens. Jetlag and tired and cranky, and nowhere to put the heavy bag is bad. After a minute or two, a woman gets out of a car and comes running up to us, saying she's the owner, and she'll check us in. So, up another flight of stairs and we get checked in finally. We had a room on the front of the street instead of the back alley, so we got to hear the traffic all night long. I didn't realize how loud it would be.
Day 1's plan was to hit Roman sites, the forum and Palantine hill, and maybe the Colosseum. Right up the street from the collesseum is Constantine's arch -- right off the bat you get introduced to the history of Rome, and the reason why it looks like it does now. Constantine took the artwork off of other arches and buildings that were in existance to put it on his arch. Older monuments were mined for resources for newer monuments. The same has happened to the Colosseum in the background.
A lot of looking at ancient roman sites involves looking at the remaining brick and concrete work, and imagining what it must have been in it's glory days.
The small amount of artwork that could be preserved on Palantine hill is in the museum there. It also goes into great detail about the remains of the first settlements found on the hill.
On the hill you can see the remains the Flavian's homes, Romulus and Remus huts (recreated by the romans to remember their beginnigs), and Augustus Cesaer's homes, with frescos still viewable.
We took around 600 photos on the trip, and about 87 of them turned out well. about half, without Liz or I in them are on flickr, and the other half with us are on picasso.
Like I said, there's a lot of looking at ruins, imagining what they used to hold, but some ruins make the imagining easier. This is 1/3 of the basilica, the first one, used by the romans as a sort of court and place to hang out to find a lawyer. Look how small the people in the photo are. This, plus the Pantheon are said to be inspiration for St. Peter's in the Vatican.
The basilica is in the first roman forum, where there's ruin next to ruin next to arch next to ruins converted to church. It's a lot to see and grasp. By this point in the day, Liz is getting tired of looking at yet one more pile of rubble. To get ready for the trip, I read Roma by Steven Saylor. It was a great primer to the beginnings of Rome in a historical fiction fashion.
So one ticket gets you into the forum, the palatine hill, and the colleseum, so we paused by the sandwich truck for a quick snack, and then walked down via imperial to check out the arena. Liz and I have seen Roman arena's in better shape in France which is why we were considering skipping this one, but it's right there, and it's huge, so why not.
The years haven't been good to the colleseum, with it being used as a quarry, and earthquakes destroying one side, and it being repurposed multiple times. There's only one small area where you can see reconstructed original seats, and reconstructed floor. the original floor was all wooden, and prior to putting in the stone base seen below they had a wooden base that could be removed, and the arena could be allowed to flood for mock naval battles. With the stone base in, they had many elevators that they could pop up a surprise animal to eat the gladiators, or do a quick scenery change.
One of the interior sections has a small selection of artwork that could be tracked down that used to cover the Colosseum. All the upper archways had statues, and there were mosaics and marble around the entranceways. They also have on display some great Roman graffiti of pictures and names carved into stone of their favorite gladiators.
I didn't get a good photo of the ancient graffiti, but here's some modern graffiti.
Rome is lovely to walk around in the evening, with many fountains large and small fed from aquaducts and plazzas with tourists and roman's gathering at to enjoy the evening air. My camera is terrible at capturing any of this though. Most evenings, if we weren't too tired, we'd take a walk around the neighborhoods and enjoy the city.
Day 2, a monday, we dedicated to the Vatican. We didn't really know where we were going when we got out of the metro, but figured if we followed the crowds, we'd be heading in the right direction. The line to the Vatican museum was around 3 of the corners of the wall, so we decided to hit up St. Peter's instead. The guide book warned us that most of the churches in Rome have a dress code where your shoulders and knees should be covered. However, we saw a lot of woman in mini skirts that got in because apparently tights count as a covering of their knees. Also, while god doesn't want to see your shoulders or knees, he's apparently ok with seeing your belly.
Having seen St. Peter's, I totally understand why Martin Luther threw a fit about the indulgences used to raise money for it. The place is gorgeous, with marble everywhere, and where there isn't marble there's statues, and where there isn't statues they're's mosaics. It's huge and great, and completely ridiculous for catholics in Germany to be paying to build. Unfortunately, my camera doesn't like taking indoor pictures, so all I can show you is this marble work at the entranceway...
and this mosaic on the way up to the cupola of the dome.
Much of the artwork in the Vatican was commissioned by Urban the V11, from the Barbarini family. They're crest had 3 bees on it, which you can see as a common theme in the borders of the artwork, or just right there in this
Apparently they did mosaics instead of paintings because mosaics would hold their color longer through the years, and are easier to repair / refurbish when necessary. Here's a close up of a cherub in the dome.
Wikipedia has some good interior shots too.
Here in St. Peter's square, you can start seeing the fascination that the Roman's had with Obelisks. Probably half of the piazza's we were in had an obelisk that the roman's stole from egypt.
After the basilica, we went over to the vatican museum, where you can see more of the barbarini influence.
I have a problem with how the vatican museum is setup -- it's basically a one way path through the museum with tour groups pushing you along to see the famous sites, the Raphael rooms and the Sistine Chapel. But the have a lot of good stuff in there that you'll have a hard time looking at as the river of people keeps forcing its way past you to get to what they deem as the good stuff. And they make you walk through what seems like 80% of the museum before they'll let you get to the Raphael rooms and the Sistine chapel. By the time we were at the Raphael rooms we were worn out from the crowds and the sites so far, so couldn't really appreciate them very well. If you gave people tickets with timed entries for the popular sections, or seperate tickets for those sections, the river of people through the rest of the museum would be more manageable.
In the sistine chapel, we stuck near the edge til we could get a seat, and listened to our free Rick Steve's audio tour on the ipod going over the details of the different areas of the ceiling. The audio tour was very helpful, otherwise it would have just been overwhelming, and difficult for modern eyes to interpret. But so far, two turtles down, only 2 to go.
Day 3, we've hit Roman empire sites, and Vatican city 16th and 17th century sites, now for somewhere in between. We walked around the city looking at 5th century church mosaics. Definitely worth looking at, but not something you can photograph. Outside the first church we stopped at, they had a lovely front patio area. I'm taking the picture from the road level, wich has risen over the years to be 20 feet hire than the ground level of the church.
When walking around from church to church, we came across these two towers, across the street from each other. They didn't show up in the guide book, and it's unclear what they were originally for, but now they're just incorporated into the modern city.
We ended our church tour at San Clemente, a church built upon the history of Rome. The current church is from 1000 AD, and is run by the Irish Dominicans. It's built upon the ruins of the old church, which was burnt down and built upon in 1000. This basement of the main church was built in the 4th century. It was built upon a 1st century roman mithras temple and roman homes. Very cool to go down the stairs into older history.
From there, we took a bus up to Piazza del Popolo to wander around. Another Obelisk in the center of the square, and the all seeing eye.
From there, back to the Capitaline hill, and the capitaline museums. Inside they have foundations from the huge temple of jupiter. More imagintion necessary to see what it was in the past, with a handy plastic recreaction showing how these two large foundation walls were only a small part of the giant temple. Also, some of the best large statues we saw here, of Constantine's busted up body parts, Hercules, Venus, and a river god. Also, great views of the forum from the hill.
Day 4 -- and we get to see the main thing Liz wants to see, the Roman Holiday mouth of truth, the most famous manhole cover in the world.
We wondered along the river and saw some of the best preserved temples as well. As I was mentioning earlier, most things are rubble because someone, typically the church, came along and thought the marble could be better used on something they were building. Most things that aren't rubble are because someone came along, typically the church again, and said, hey, I can make something of this building and preserved it to the modern day. This port temple is one of the few roman sites left that this didn't appear to happen to.
Julius' Cesear's amphitheatre only stuck around because someone built apartments inside it. And the apartments are still occupied.
The pantheon made it because the church said that they would make it a church of the saints instead of a temple to all the gods. So the ancient gods remains are removed, but most of the interior is still original.
The pantheon dome is pretty amazing, the largest in the world until the Renaissance came around, and the inspiration for a lot of modern architecture.
And it's floor drains look like something from modern times as well...
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