Most everyone knows the saying, “When in Rome do as the Romans do”. Rome also is known as one of the most romantic cities to visit in Europe. If you are an Old Hollywood movie fan like I am then you have seen lots of romantic movies with Rome as the background. It is truly a most wonderful city with fountains, history and magic galore. One of the most romantic songs I ever heard about Rome was “Three Coins in the Fountain” with a movie by the same name. I’ve included the song here. All I could offer you are some of the highlights of Rome because to visit Rome is to get lost forever there is so much to see, to dream about and to enjoy.
Your first steps in Rome take you to the most impressive 2000 year old temple that is now a church – the Pantheon. This is one of the city’s best preserved ancient monuments. It was built by Hadrian over the site of Marcus Agrippa’s 27 BC temple. This wonder has been on this spot since 120 AD. Under the pediment you can still read the inscription – ‘M:AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIUM.FECIT’ or Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time built this. Hadrian had chosen to keep the original inscription even though he built over the temple.
Hadrian dedicated his temple to the classical gods and that is the reason it is called Pantheon, a derivation of the Greek words pan (all) and theos (god). In 608 AD it was consecrated as a Christian church and today it is officially known as the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres. During the Renaissance the Pantheon was used by Brunelleschi as an inspiration for his cupola in Florence. Inside the marble interior is the tomb of popular painter Raphael as well as of the Kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I. The Pantheon has a most impressive dome and is looked upon as the ancient Romans’ greatest architectural achievement and was the largest dome in the world until the 15th century. It is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in existence.
In ancient Rome the Colosseum was the great gladiator arena where gladiators fought each other and wild animals like lions. It was originally called the Flavian Amphitheater and was made from travertine or limestone and covered by a huge canvas awning that was held up by 240 masts. The arena had tiered seating and beneath this was an underground complex called the hypogeum where the wild animals were caged and stage sets were prepared.
The incredible Colosseum was commissioned to be built in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian. Unfortunately he didn’t live to see the finished structure and his son and his successor Titus completed it a year after he died. At the inauguration Titus held games that lasted 100 days and nights during which time about 5000 animals were slaughtered. Later on Trajan topped this incredible feat holding a marathon that lasted 117 days and the death count was 9000 gladiators and 10,000 animals.
The name of this structure changed from Flavian Amphitheater to Colosseum in medieval times and referred to the Colosso di Nerone a giant statue of Nero that was close by. The outer walls have three levels of arches with columns that were Ionic at the bottom and Doric and Corinthian at the top. The walls were covered by travertine and marble statues stood in the niches at the second and third stories. The upper level had windows and slender Corinthian pilasters and supports for the masts that held up the awning so that spectators would be shielded from the sun and the rain. There were 80 entrance arches called vomitoria that let spectators enter and get seated quickly.
Its interior was divided in three parts – the arena, cavea and podium. The arena was covered by a wooden floor upon which was sand to keep the gladiators from slipping and to soak up blood. One could get into the underground chambers through trapdoors and passageways under the arena floor. A complex system of pulleys hoisted up the cages with animals. The cavea for spectator seating was divided into three tiers – the lowest tier was seating for knights, the middle tier for wealthy citizens and the highest tier for the plebs. The podium, a broad terrace right in front of the tiers of seats was reserved for emperors, senators and VIPs. The Colisseum was left abandoned in the Middle Ages and it became a fortress for two of the city’s warrior families, the Frangipani and the Annibaldi.
It has been damaged by earthquakes and was at one time used as a quarry for travertine and marble for buildings in Rome. Today the top tier and hypogeum are open to the public by guided tour only and at present the Colosseum is undergoing renovation so its walls are covered in scaffolding.
Basilica di San Pietro or St.Peter’s Basilica is Italy’s most spectacular cathedral. It was built on top of a 4th century church. Completed in 1626 it took 150 year to build. Here you can see some fantastic works of are among them three of Italy’s most celebrated masterpieces – Michelangelo’s Pieta, his soaring dome and Bernini’s 29m high baldachin over the papal alter. The original design for the basilica was drawn up by Bramante but it was Michelangelo who simplified the building plans and with that created his greatest architectural achievement – the dome. Unfortunately Michelangelo didn’t live to see the dome completed and it was finished by Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana. Once the dome was in place Carlo Maderno came into the project in 1605 and designed the monumental facade and lengthened the nave towards the piazza.
The Facade has eight 27m high columns that support the upper attic upon which stand 13 statues representing Christ the Redeemer, St. John the Baptist and the eleven apostles. The central balcony is known as the Loggia della Benedizione and from here the Pope delivers his blessing at Christmas and Easter.
The interior has lots of artistic masterpieces among them the lovely Pieta by Michelangelo at the head of the nave and this is the only work that the artist ever signed. You can see his signature on the sash that goes across the breast of the Madonna. Right inside the main door is a red disc and this marks the spot where Charlemagne and later on Holy Roman Emperors were crowned by the Pope. In the center of the basilica is Bernini’s famous baldachin or canopy of state over an altar. It stands supported by four spiral columns and is made of bronze that was taken from the Pantheon and stands over the high altar. The high altar sits on the site of St. Peter’s grave. The Pope is the only priest who can attend the high altar.
The dome goes up to a height of 119 m and is supported by four solid stone piers, named after the saints whose statues stand in niches designed by Bernini. They are Longinus, Helena, Veronica and Andrew. At the base of the Pier of St. Longinus, to the right facing the high altar, is a bronze statue of St. Peter which is believed to be the art work of Arnolfo di Cambio.
You can climb the done taking the entrance to the right of the basilica. It takes 551 steps to get to the top or if you prefer you can take a small lift halfway up and climb the last 320 steps. It is a steep, narrow climb but once you reach the top the roof top views are awesome and you’ll find yourself 120 m above St. Peter’s Square. There is much more to delight in so expect to spend quite some time at the basilica.
If you want to see one of the world’s greatest collections of art head for the Vatican Museums founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century. Here you can enjoy seeing Egyptian mummies, Etruscan bronzes, ancient busts and paintings by the old masters and modern paintings. Among the highlights are a collection of classical statuary, a suite of frescoed rooms by Raphael and the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo.
The museums have found their home among the decorated rooms and galleries of the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano. This is a 5.5 hectare complex that includes two palaces – the Vatican Palace and Belvedere Palace both of which are joined by two long galleries. Inside are three courtyards – the Cortile della Pigna, the Cortile della Biblioteca and the Cortile del Belvedere.
Pinacoteca displays the papal picture gallery with Raphael’s last work, La Trasfigurazione or Transfiguration and paintings by artists such as Giotto, Fra Angelico and many others.
The Egyptian Museum has interesting pieces taken from Egypt during Roman times. Here you can see painted sarcophagi and mummies and so much more. The Museo Chiaramonti has walls lined with thousands of statues. Museo Pio-Clementino has the finest classical statuary. As you head out into the courtyard you’ll see a bronze sculpture of the sun god Apollo which is considered to be one of the great masterpieces of classical sculpture. Nearby the Laocoon is a dipiction of a muscular Torjan priest and his two sons struggling with two sea serpents. Museo Gregoriano Etrusco has artifacts that were unearthed in the Etruscan tombs of northern Lazio. There are also Greek vases and Roman antiquities on display. Follow the link below to find out more details about these museums as there is so much to see and delight in.
Visitors love to sit and people watch on the Spanish Steps. These can be found at the Piazza di Spagna named after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. The staircase was designed by Francesco de Sanctis and built in 1725. This landmark church was commissioned by King Louis XII of France and consecrated in 1585. Here you can see some amazing frescoes by Daniele da Volterra. At the foot of the step is the Barcaccia or the sinking boat fountain believed to be created by Pietro Bernini.
Between the Roman Forum and the Circo Massimo you’ll find the Palatino or Palatine Hill. This is a relaxing place with towering pine trees, amazing ruins and most impressive views. It was at this point that supposedly Romulus founded Rome in 753 BC and the emperors of Rome lived in luxury. This is the most central of Rome’s seven hills and at one time the Palatino was ancient Rome’s most exclusive neighborhood. Emperor Augustus lived here all of his life and once it fell into disrepair in the Middle Ages churches and castles were built over the ruins. During the Renaissance came wealthy families created gardens on this hill. Go to see the incredible ruins and take in the spectacular views.
Don’t miss Piazza Navona with its wonderful fountains, Baroque mansions and fascinating street artists and hawkers. This is Rome’s showcase square and it was built over the 1st century Domitian’s Stadium. In the 15th century it was paved over and for practically the next 300 years it was home to the city’s main market. The square’s centerpiece is Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. This fountain depicts personifications of the rivers Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate. At the north end of the square you’ll find the 19th century Fontana dei Nettuno where a Moor is holding a dolphin surrounded by Tritons also by Bernini. The largest building in the piazza is the 17th century Palazzo Pamhilj that was built for Pope Innocent X and now houses the Brazilian Embassy.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
Fontana dei Nettuno
As you see I could go on practically forever but then I am writing about Rome and it is one incredible city that should be on every bucket list. Now I mentioned those old Hollywood movies well as you listen to Frank Sinatra sing “Three Coins in the Fountain” the fountain not to be missed is the Trevi Fountain. This fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and a most popular tourist attraction. It is located at the junction of three roads marking the terminal point of Acqua Vergine, the revived Aqua Virgo that was one of the aqueducts that supplied ancient Rome with water. Coins are to be thrown into this fountain using the right hand over the left shoulder. It was the theme of the movie “Three Coins in the Fountain” and the Academy Award winning song that you are listening to. It has been estimated that around 3,000 Euro are thrown into the Trevi Fountain every day and this money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for the needy of Rome. I think that alone is a blessing and will give the people who threw the money good luck.
Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/rome#ixzz3ZTZa4A1j
Picture of Trevi fountain and info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevi_Fountain