Following an overnight flight from Bangkok we arrived in Rome first thing in the morning. The crisp air in the sunshine was a welcome relief to South-East Asia hot temperatures. We waited 30 minutes for a bus downtown which dropped us within walking distance of our hotel, Le Meridien. A great location – about 2 minute walk to the Tiber River and only 2km to the Vatican. The rooms which had breakfast included were great value.
A quick breakfast and we are ready to explore ….
Piazza del Popolo
Walking around the city was our only plan for the first day. Not really sure which way to go as everything looks awesome we walked to the closest plaza on the tourist map. Piazza del Popolo (in modern Italian means ‘People’s Square’ but in latin in referred to the Poplars). It is a huge open square with a obelisk in the centre. To the west is a fountain featuring the god Neptune. To the east (below), according to wikipedia means, “Rome between the Tiber and the Aniene on the east side, against the steep slope of the Pincio, represents the terminal mostra of the aqueduct. Dea Roma armed with lance and helmet, and in front is the she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus.”
We carried on our walk moving upwards to the Plaza of Napoleon the first and travelled along the road past the Medici house to the St Trinita Dei Monti church. Surprisingly we decided to walk down the steps for no particular reason.
The steps were built in 1725 to connect the church to the Spanish Square below. The 138 steps became a popular place for artists who loved to draw and paint the area, which in turn attracted beautiful women who wanted to be models, which in turn attracted men looking to meet beautiful women and voila you have a popular meeting place! The poet, John Keats, lived beside the steps and his house is now a Museum. (source)
Trevi Fountain (source)
The fountain is 26.30 m high, 49.15 m wide and disperses 80,000 cubic meters of water daily. Work on the fountain commenced in 1732 by the authority of Pope Clemens XII and was finished thirty years later. The fountain is one end of the aqueduct system.
The aqueduct, was built by Agrippa around 19BC, to supply the thermal baths he built in the Campus Martius, by the Pantheon (21 km long of which 19 were underground).
In the middle is the statue of Ocean, 5.8 m high by Pietro Bracci. The body is muscular and majestic. In his right hand he holds a rod in act of command and his left hand holds a cloth around his pelvis to cover his nudity.
Ocean is atop his chariot. One horse is restless led by a young triton and the other horse is calm led by an older triton who carries a twisted shell that is using to announce their passage.
Ocean is also standing in the median portion of a tryumphal arch.
In the left part of the arch there is the statue of Abundance holding the horn of plenty. In the righ portion there is the statue of Health, with a wreath of laurel and holding a cup which a snake drinks from.
The Theatre of Marcellus and the Gate of Octavia
After Julius Caesar defeated Pompey in the struggle for control over Rome, he wanted to build a theater rivaling the Pompey theater which Caesar’s his bitter enemy had built in 55 BC. In 22 BC Augustus, known as the emperor who turned Rome from a city of brick into a city of marble, restarted the project as it had stopped with the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. The theatre when completed in 11 BC the semi-circular theater was more than 30 meters (98ft) high. Its seating area, the cavea, had a diameter of 130 meters (426ft). The theater of Marcellus could accommodate more than 14,000 spectators, of whom 12,000 were seated. The design of the theater, with its multiple levels of arches supported by columns, was a model for the Colosseum, which was built decades later. (source)
Gelateria and Food
The Le Meridien in Rome has a great breakfast which we enjoyed all four mornings of our visit. We ate at Miss Pizza (turns out that trying to speak Italian is not so easy) but through perseverance we did it. Our real favourite was the Box Foodtruck which served cheap food that everyone could enjoy. We supplemented the meals with food (and wine and beer) from a local grocery store. Of course, no trip to Rome would be complete without gelato.
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II
Victor Emmanuel II was the first King of a unified Italy in 1861 until he died in 1878. Giuseppe Sacconi from Le Marche won the contest to build the monument.
The focal point of the monument is the statue of Victor Emanuel II (1899).
Within the ornate building is the Altare della Patria, or the Altar of the Fatherland, which includes the tomb of an unknown soldier killed in the First World War. Walking through the halls of the building are memorials to all fallen soldiers from the history of Italy including Afghanistan and Iraq. A fitting place for us to spend Remembrance Day 2017.
Piazza del Campidoglio
Created by Renaissance artist and architect Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1536–1546 the area tops Capitoline Hill (one of the 7 hills of Rome) and thought to be invincible to ancient Romans. (source 1 & 2)
The Palatine (source)
The Palatine is the most famous of Rome’s seven hills. In Ancient Rome it was considered one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in the city, and was the home of aristocrats and emperors. It was also believed to be the location of the Lupercal (the cave where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf).
The Arch of Titus (source)
A Roman Triumphal Arch erected by Emperor Domitian in c. 81 CE at the foot of the Palatine hill to commemorate the victories of his father Vespasian and brother Titus in the Jewish War in Judaea (70-71 CE) when the great city of Jerusalem was sacked and the vast riches of its temple plundered.
The Roman Coliseum (source)
Commissioned around A.D. 70-72 by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty as a gift to the Roman people. In A.D. 80, Vespasian’s son Titus opened the Coliseum ( known as the Flavian Amphitheater) with 100 days of games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights. After four centuries of active use, the magnificent arena fell into neglect becoming a source for building materials. Today it is a major landmark and tourist attraction.
The Pantheon (source)
The Pantheon is on the exact site of two earlier Pantheon buildings, one commissioned by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (27-25 BCE) and the second by Domitian. The first was destroyed by fire in 80 CE and the second was struck by lightning in 110 CE and again burned down. The third Pantheon was probably begun in the reign of Trajan (98-117 CE) but not finally finished until around 125 CE when Hadrian was emperor.
No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the Vatican which includes the Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. Security is quite a bit more evident compared to my last visit in 1991. Military patrols with armoured vehicles are present at key intersections.
We spent a day dedicated to the Vatican. Well, dedicated Foster style as many of the people at our hotel were on a pilgrimage which is not quite our style. We got our tickets online and saved a bit of time with the line ups but this time of year is not that busy. We chose the audio guides and found that the child one is not in sync with the adult ones which created some confusion for Ben. It was a worthwhile experience for all.
Our trip to Rome was too short. You need weeks to really enjoy the splendour and history. Oh well, a short train ride and we are in Firenze! Leave a comment with your thoughts or memories of Rome.