Tag Archives: rome

Out and about in Rome

On day 2 of Rome we had the whole day on our own so with fellow travellers from the tour, we took a map and went on a journey to explore Rome, the capital of Italy, by ourselves.

I have read Kathmandu described as city of temples but I didn’t know that Rome is a city of churches. Everywhere we went there were churches, all equally magnificent and beautiful.

Castle San Angelo

I always wanted to see this castle as I saw it in the move Angles & Demons so I was really happy to see the beautiful castle. The castle looked like some of the forts I have seen in India. It is located right by the Tiber River and was originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian in 139 AD.

In front of the castle there is a beautiful bridge called Ponte Saint Angelo with 5 angles on either side of it. This is how the castle got its name. The bridge is faced with travertine marble and spans the Tiber with three arches.

On one side of the castle, there was a market that sold souvenirs and food. Also, there was a man dressed as a devil asking money from tourists to take photos with him.

Pantheon

The Pantheon, one of the most fascinating, and mysterious, buildings in Italy. It is a Christian church where they conduct mass every Sunday. The interior of Pantheon is really striking, with its dome a perfect hemisphere and an oculus which is believed to symbolize the all-seeing eye of heaven. At about 142 feet in diameter, the Pantheon’s dome is bigger even than the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

It is one of the best-preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs” but informally known as “Santa Maria della Rotonda.” The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.

The Piazza della Rotonda was filled with tourists taking pictures and people resting on the steps of the fountain. Along the edges of the piazza there were restaurants and coffee shops.

Raphael, the famous Renaissance painter, is buried inside the Pantheon with his fiancée Maria Bibbiena as well as Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s first king.

Piazza del popolo

This is one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome and the effect of the twin churches is amazing. My guide mentioned that the two baroque churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto are not exactly alike, but they do look alike on a first sight and the impression one gets is of something unforgettable.

The piazza was created by Latino Giovenale Manetti in 1538 for Pope Paul III and the twin churches were added in the 17th century. The present symmetry was given by the neoclassical architect Giuseppe Valadier in the early 1800’s. In the middle of the square lies a 3000 years old obelisk framed by four small fountains with lions. The piazza is closed to automotive traffic so you can stroll at your own pace and enjoy the sights.

Trajan’s Column (Colonna di Traiano)

Trajan’s column was built to commemorate military campaigns in Dacia (which is now Romania). The column is a beautiful piece of Roman sculptural art; around the column winds a spiral frieze with over 2500 figures in relief illustrating the battles that took place during Trajan’s military campaigns in Dacia (101-102 and 105-106). At the top the statue of Saint Peter replaced in 1588 a statue of Trajan. The ashes of the emperor and his wife were places in a golden urn in a vault below the column. The column stands in what was once Foro di Traiano (Forum of Trajan) with a huge semicircular market building.

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona was built over the site of the 1st century Stadium of Domitian and still preserves the elliptical form of the Roman circus. Medieval jousts, 17-century carnivals, open-air sports and historic festivals took place here; the piazza was also used as market place from mid 15th century to mid 19th century. Today this place attracts tourists and Romans alike, and the cafes and restaurants lining the piazza have tables outside most of the year.

Three beautiful fountains decorate the piazza out of which the most famous is the central Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (The Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Bernini. Behind this fountain is the church Sant’Agnese in Agone a remarkable example of Baroque architecture.

On one of the days we were in Rome, we sat down and had our dinner there.

Piazza Augusto Imperatore

As part of his massive restructuring of Rome and in celebration of the 2000th anniversary of Augustus’ birth, Mussolini created the Piazza Augusto Imperatore with the Mausoleum of Augustus at its center. He had the densely populated neighbourhoods surrounding the Mausoleum destroyed and new buildings constructed on the 4 sides of the Piazza. Only the churches were allowed to remain. The story of this radical transformation is superbly told in Kostoff, 1978.

Office buildings were constructed on 2 sides and a college on a 3rd. On the 4th side, the new pavilion to house the relocated and reconstructed Ara Pacis was built between the Mausoleum and the major avenue beside the Tiber embankment. Within this pavilion, Mussolini had the Ara Pacis itself reconstructed not at the level of the Via di Ripetta, the ground level of buildings in the area, where it might have retained closer relationship to the Mausoleum. Instead, for added visibility and prestige, he had the Ara Pacis reconstructed at the level of the Lungotevere in Augusta, the top level of the ealry 20th century embankment along the Tiber River.

Palazzaccio

Designed by the Perugia architect Guglielmo Calderini and built between 1888 and 1910, the Palace of Justice is considered one of the grandest of the new buildings which followed the proclamation of Rome as the capital city of the Kingdom of Italy.

The building’s unusually large size, astonishing decorations, and long period of construction created the suspicion of corruption. In April 1912 a parliamentary commission was appointed to inquire into the matter and it presented its findings the following year. The affair gave rise to the building’s popular nickname of Palazzaccio.

Inspired by late Renaissance and Baroque architecture, the building is 170 meters by 155 in size and is completely covered with Travertine limestone. Above the façade looking towards the River Tiber it is surmounted by a great bronze quadriga, set there in 1926, the work of the sculptor Ettore Ximenes from Palermo. Ten large statues of notable jurists adorn the ramps before the main façade and the internal courtyard. The upper part of the façade looking onto the Piazza Cavour is ornamented with a bronze coat of arms of the House of Savoy. Inside the Hall of the Supreme Court, also known as the Great Hall (or on Calderini’s plans as the Aula Maxima) are several frescoes, begun by Cesare Maccari (1840–1919), who became paralysed in 1909 while the work was unfinished. It was continued until 1918 by Maccari’s former student Paride Pascucci (1866–1954)

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Piazza di Trevi, Spanish Steps and Dinner: Rome, Italy

On our first day in Rome, we went to the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps and then ended in Italian restaurant.

The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy. Standing 26 metres (85.3 feet) high and 20 metres (65.6 feet) wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.

The fountain gets its name from the fact that it sits at the junction of three roads or in Italian “tre vie”. Traditionally Romans built rather elaborate fountains at the terminal point of their aqueducts.

Supplied by water from the Acqua Vergine aqueduct and a triumph of the baroque style, it was based on the design of Nicolo Salvi and was completed in 1762. The design centres on the triumphant figure of Neptunus Rex, standing on a shell chariot drawn by winged steeds and led by a pair of tritons. Two allegorical figures in the side niches represent good health and fertility.

The legend has it that if you throw a coin into this fountain it guarantees your return to Rome. An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day. The money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy; however, there are regular attempts to steal coins from the fountain.

The Trevi Fountain is beautiful, but it can also be overwhelmingly crowded, so keep an eye out while you take pictures and hold on tight to your bags. We were told by our guide again and again to beware of pickpocket so we were very careful when we were in the crowd.

Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. The monumental stairway of 138 steps was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed funds of 20,000 scudi, in 1723–1725, linking the Bourbon Spanish Embassy, and the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France, both located above — to the Holy See in Palazzo Monaldeschi located below.

The Spanish Steps are the longest and widest staircase in Europe.

We stopped there on the way to the restaurant for our dinner. There were lots and lots of people everywhere; basically it is a set of steps with the church on the top and fountain at the bottom. But it had the vibe like the Times Square in New York with lots of people on the steps or around the fountains taking pictures, having their lunch or just reading a book.

We climbed the stairs and went to the top of the stair and it was amazing to see so many people from the top.

The streets nearby are full of up-market designer shops likes of Gucci, Max Mara, Salvatore Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani and Louis Vuitton as well as bars and restaurants and are enjoyable to stroll around in.

If you are tired and want to rest for a while it is a good place to stop while you are in Rome but for us we had around an hour there and it was time for us to meet our guide to go for our dinner.

Disappointing Italian dinner

After our mini tour of Rome, we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. I have to say this was one of the places where I was disappointed with the food as well as the restaurant itself.

We went to this restaurant and they served us a four course meal.  They started with salad and Bruschetta, followed by Pasta. Then the main was Chicken or Beef and dessert was ice cream with fruits.  Even with so much food, it was just an average experience. There were two musicians playing music during the whole time and a waiter was giving red roses to all the ladies. I found the food bland and the place too crowded.

Inspite of the dinner, overall we had a great day.

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Vatican City: Vatican

Vatican City is a Holy place for most Christians and is one of the must see places if you are in Rome. We were in Vatican City twice during our trip.

St Peter’s Square

I am sure all of you know Vatican City is a tiny country in itself. It is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of just over 800. This makes Vatican City the smallest independent state in the world by both area and population.

The city is ruled by the bishop of Rome, the Pope, who is the head of state and head of government of this city. As an independent state, the Vatican has its own postal service, currency, newspaper, radio station and army. The flamboyantly dressed Swiss Guards were founded in 1506 by Julius II to defend the Papal States against invading armies and are responsible for the pope’s personal security even today.

The place has really impressive architecture and I can’t believe how well built and maintained the tiny country is. Large vaulted ceilings and tall building, statues of saints in every direction.

On the square lies the amazing structure of 100+ columns on both sides. While walking past the columns that surrounded the square we could see an Egyptian obelisk in the centre, with two fountains on the sides all looking at the magnificent Saint Peter’s Basilica.

The obelisk is about 25m high. It is also a sun dial and its shadows mark noon over the signs of the zodiac in the white marble disks in the paving of the square.

On one side of the square, there is the Apostolic Palace which is actually a group of buildings including the Papal Apartment.


 Papal Apartment

The Papal Apartment is the top floor of the Apostolic Palace where the pope resides. The top two right windows are the study and bedroom of the pope. On Sundays at noon, the pope usually appears at the second window from the right to pray the Angelus and bless the crowd in the Square.

The day we were there was Sunday as well so there were lots of people around in Vatican waiting to be blessed by the pope. The pope was in Milan that Sunday so he performed a TV blessing instead. The guide explained that square was not very busy that day like most Sundays when the Pope is in the city.

Even though I am not a Christian, I am really fascinated by history and religion. I have watched movies like Dark Angels and Da Vinci Codes which have taught a lot of things to me. Also AS is an avid reader and he has some knowledge of the Bible as well as lots of other books so he is my guide when I get lost with the history and religion. When he is lost too there is always Google.

Vatican Museum

The next morning, we had a local tour guide with us who took us inside the Vatican. I really liked her as she had so much knowledge and I could tell that she loved her job.

There was a long queue outside the Vatican main gate when we arrived there at 7.30am. As we were with tour and the guide had already booked our tickets, we didn’t need to wait on the queue. Instead we were escorted straight inside the Vatican City. At the entrance we were informed that flash photography was not allowed as it ruins the frescoes. Unfortunately, once inside I realised that no one was really following the rules as everywhere I looked I could see the flash of cameras.

When we got inside the guide went to get our tickets so we had time to look around while we waited. There were a few plasma TVs around the place and most of the inside was made out of the marble. There was heavy security like at airports so we needed to send our things through scanners. Once the guide came back she gave all of us our tickets.

Once we cleared the security, we took the accelerator to the other level and we were led into a big garden.

We stooped there for 15 minutes while she explained in detail about the Sistine Chapel. I am so fascinated by the whole history of the Sistine Chapel that I have decided to do a separate post for the chapel. I will post it soon.

From there we were ready to experience the tour of the Vatican Museum. Inside the museum, there were people everywhere. There were tour groups as well as individual tours who were admiring the massive museum arts and sculptures which were collected over the centuries.

First we entered the Raphael Rooms. There are classical sculptures, paintings and masterpieces from the Renaissance, among so many others. I really wished I had recorded what the guide told us about the arts in the museum. She had so much information that I was lost in it all. There were countless of other sculptures and arts that after a while, I was not even sure what they were.

I do remember her tell that they were masterpieces by famous artists like Michaelangelo, Rafael, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and many others. The Gallery of the Maps was filled with painted topographical maps.

The ceiling frescoes of the museum looked so marvellous. It looked like a 3D art but the guide explained that they were flat art so cleverly done that it looked like a 3D art.

After she was done explaining, she led us to Sistine Chapel and gave us an hour on our own to admire the beauty of the chapel.  We also went to St Peters Basilica and I will post more on them in my next blog.

Going to Vatican was a really remarkable experience.

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