After arriving by train from Florence, my mom and I checked into iQ Hotel Roma. We wanted to explore Rome (and find Carapina Gelato). We walked by the monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. Visited Trajan’s Column & Forum, and then Bartolucci for souvenirs for the kids. After that we went to the Pantheon and Carapina (a few times). We also figured out how to use the bus to get to the Vatican for our tour the following day. By the end of the day we had walked 22,019 steps for a total of 9.91 miles.
TRAJAN’S COLUMN & FORUM
This forum was built on the order of the emperor Trajan with the spoils of war from the conquest of Dacia. It was the last of the Imperial fora (public squares) to be constructed in ancient Rome.
A woodworking shop that makes wood toys including pinocchio’s. The Adventures of Pinocchio was a children’s novel by Italian author Carlo Collodi, written in Florence.
FONTANA DI TREVI • TREVI FOUNTAIN
The Trevi Fountain is in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy, designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci. Standing 86 ft high and 161.3 ft wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. While we were in Rome the Trevi Fountain was undergoing an extensive restoration and cleaning. Much of the fountain was covered in scaffolding and plastic, a plexiglass divider blocking much of the view. Though they still had a pool of water from the fountain and so we each tossed in a coin.
PANTHEON FROM GREEK MEANING “EVERY GOD”
The Pantheon is on the site of an earlier building commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). The present building was completed by emperor Hadrian and dedicated about 126 AD. He retained Agrippa’s original inscription, which confused the date of construction. The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 ft. It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings and been in continuous use throughout its history.
Rain clouds were moving our way but we made it inside the Pantheon just in time. As we sat inside and relaxed, it began to rain through the oculus. It was another one of those incredible moments that I wanted to soak in and remember forever.
The next day our early morning adventure was to catch a bus to the Vatican for our morning tour with extended access. Not wanting to be late, we had pre-purchased bus tickets and then caught the #64 to St. Peter’s Square. Being so early, there was hardly anyone there. It was wonderful to have it practically to ourselves and hear the bells ring. The exclusive tour had us visit the Vatican Museums including a few normally off-limits to tourist areas including the Bramante Staircase. After we saw the amazing Sistine Chapel we visited St. Peter’s Basilica, which was overwhelming.
The Obelisk was originally erected at Heliopolis, Egypt (c. 2494-2345 BC), it was relocated to the Circus of Nero in 37 AD, where it stood witness to the crucifixion of Peter. It was moved to its current location in 1585-86.
The Crossed Keys refer to the promise of Christ to Peter, “I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
A tapestry reproduction of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, made before 1514 by weavers in a Flemish workshop using wool, silk, and gold metal wrapped threads.
The School of Athens, a fresco by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael from 1509-1511; it’s said that Raphael included a self-portrait of himself, looking right at us.
Entering the Sistine Chapel they said – NO PICTURES! We stood staring at the amazing ceiling for as long as we were allowed. As we waited for the group at the end of the chapel, my camera “accidently” snapped two shots while aimed at the ceiling. It was incredible to have seen this masterpiece in person, especially the Creation of Adam panel.
THE BRAMANTE STAIRCASE
Donato Bramante designed this double helix staircase in 1512 at the request of Pope Julius II. Bramante needed to provide for animals to be in constant motion, carrying heavy things up and down the stairs to the papal palaces. A lot of people confuse the winding walkway at the beginning of the museums as the Bramante Staircase, although it may have drawn inspiration from the original, it’s clearly modern architecture should make it obvious.
BASILICA PAPALE DI SAN PIETRO IN VATICANO • ST. PETER’S BASILICA
St. Peter’s is a church in the Renaissance style located in Vatican City west of the River Tiber. Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it remains one of the two largest churches in the world. While it is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the Catholic Roman Rite cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter’s is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. By Catholic Tradition, the Basilica is the burial site of its namesake St. Peter, one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ and, also according to tradition, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome. Tradition and strong historical evidence hold that St. Peter’s tomb is directly below the high altar of the Basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. Construction of the present basilica, replacing the Old St. Peter’s Basilica of the 4th century AD, began in 1506 and was completed in 1626.
The basilica is approached via St. Peter’s Square, a forecourt in two sections, both surrounded by tall colonnades. The first space is oval and the second trapezoid. The façade of the basilica, with a giant order of columns, stretches across the end of the square and is approached by steps on which stand two 5.55 metres (18.2 ft) statues of the 1st-century apostles to Rome, Saints Peter and Paul.
A few facts about the Pieta…
Originally created for the Chapel of Santa Petronilla in the ancient basilica, Michelangelo’s Pieta was completed in 1499 when the sculptor was 24 years old. It was installed in 1500 for the Jubilee Year, and Michelangelo stood by proudly when his masterpiece was unveiled (it was after all only his third completed sculpture). To his dismay, he overheard someone who attributed his work to Cristoforo Solari. Picking up his hammer, he carved the following into the sash across Mary’s breast: MICHAEL • ANGELUS • BUONAROTUS • FLORENT • FACIEBAT (Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence Created This) He later regretted his outburst of pride and vowed to never sign work again.
Michelangelo was criticized for portraying Mary as a young woman, and was accused of heresy (dangerous in the age of the Inquisition). He responded by saying that chastity preserved her youth. In 1972, a mentally disturbed man named Laszlo Toth walked into the chapel and attacked the sculpture with a geologist’s hammer while shouting “I am Jesus Christ, I have risen from the dead!” With 15 blows he removed Mary’s arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk of her nose, and one of her eyelids. Witnesses took many of the pieces of marble that flew off. Some pieces were returned, but many were not, including Mary’s nose, which had to be reconstructed from a block cut out of her back.
After a long day at the Vatican we stopped by another museum close to the hotel which had several Roman statues (many replicas), artifacts, and a coin vault. By then it was time for dinner and so our hotel concierge recommended and made reservations for us at Alessio. Mom ordered their homemade pasta with meat and tomato sauce (she loved it) and I went with a rosemary focaccia and roasted potatoes (so yummy!), we had wine, and limoncello at the end.
By the end of the day we had walked 15,807 steps totaling 7.11 miles and 34 floors.
DAY TRIP: POSITANO & POMPEII
We had booked a day tour leaving from Rome to Pompeii by way of the Amalfi Coast, including a lunch visit in Positano. We decided on lunch at Chez Black which is right on the beach of Positano. Pizza Margherita for me, which they shaped like a heart and spaghetti and meatballs for Mom. Our waiter served her a special lemon dessert with fireworks candle on top while singing Happy Birthday. By the way – the lemons of Positano are absolutely huge and have a sweeter taste than a regular lemon.
We learned quite a bit about the history of Pompeii and the daily lives of those who lived there. Later we found that we had only seen part of Pompeii and wished we would have had more time to explore on our own.
A FEW FACTS ABOUT POMPEII
- The city and people of Pompeii did not know that Vesuvius was a volcano, as it hadn’t erupted in 1,800 years.
- Before the eruption of 79 AD there was not even a word for Volcano, which was created afterwards. Volcano derives from the word Vulcan – the Roman God of the Flame and Metal Forgery.
- It is said that the eruption started August 24, just one day after Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire.
- In 1748 when explorers examined the site, they found that the volcanic ash had acted as a preservative, and many of the buildings and remnants of city life were still intact.
- There is a detailed account of the disaster thanks to Pliny the Younger, a Roman administrator and poet who watched the eruption from distance, questioned survivors, and recorded their statements. Pliny’s letters, which are the only eyewitness accounts of the eruption, were discovered in the 16th century.
We got back to Rome in the evening so we went to Alessio again for dinner, I had chicken & roasted potatoes and Mom had penne pasta that was too al dente, wine please!
The next day I was most looking forward to our Colosseum at night tour. Since we were going to see it at night, we wanted to check it out during the day also so we headed that direction to take photos of the Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, the forums including the forum of Caesar and the temple of Venus Genetrix, and stop by Carapina. Then came the thunderstorm. We were crouched in a doorway for about an hour while it was pouring and didn’t want to be out in the lightning. During a brief break in the rain we walked, completely soaked, back to the hotel to dry out and grab our ponchos.
Later we went back to Trajan’s Column which was the meetup point for our tour. Then we heard the news, lightning struck the Colosseum and the electricity was out. Our tour was cancelled. We stood there in disbelief (though earlier we had seen the lightning that hit it) and hoped they might let us go in anyway. That didn’t happen and so we left dissapointed. To try and cheer up we went shopping and though we tried on things at different shops we didn’t find much that we couldn’t live without. By the end of the day we had walked 21,061 steps, totaling 9.47 miles.
At the hotel we made a plan to head to the Colosseum early the next morning to try and get in and see it ourselves. Something would be better than nothing after all. We got up at about sunrise to head over and stand in line which was already forming. We were one of the first inside and grabbed a headset for a self-guided tour.
ARCO DI COSTANTINO • ARCH OF CONSTANTINE
The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It was erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. The arch spans the Via Triumphalis, the way taken by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph. The main inscription would originally have been of bronze letters, only the recesses in which the letters sat remain.
Translation: To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantinus, the greatest, pious, and blessed Augustus: because he, inspired by the divine, and by the greatness of his mind, has delivered the state from the tyrant and all of his followers at the same time, with his army and just force of arms, the Senate and People of Rome have dedicated this arch, decorated with triumphs.
COLISEUM • ANFITEATRO FLAVIO • THE COLOSSEUM
The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre is an elliptical amphitheatre built of concrete and stone. It is the largest amphitheatre ever built and considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering. The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in 72 AD, and was completed in 80 AD under his successor and heir Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius). The name ‘Colosseum’ is derived from the Latin word ‘colosseus’ meaning colossal. This was in reference to the gigantic statue of the Emperor Nero which had been previously erected near the site of the Colosseum.
The Colosseum could hold an estimated 50,000 – 80,000 spectators, and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. It is estimated that the games played in the Colosseum for hundreds of years have taken the lives of about 500,000 people and over a million wild animals.
Though it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. While there, part of the exterior was covered while they work on cleaning, restoration and strengthening the structure.
The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum (meaning underground). The hypogeum consisted of two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery.
The marble facade and some parts of the Colosseum were used in the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Roman Emperors sat where there is now a cross dedicated to the Christian martyrs that died in the arena.
At the end of our self-guided tour we grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant closeby. Spaghetti for mom and pizza for me (surprise, surprise). Then we had to check out of our Rome hotel and take a taxi to the hotel closer to the airport. We never did have a hotel without a hard bed, that made for some sleepless nights, especially the last one. We had to have dinner at the airport hotel and then packed our suitcases for our early morning flight.
For the record, Carapina is on the map because it was important for us to know how far it was from our favorite gelato place at all times. Priorities people, priorities.
The first flight was Rome to Frankfurt, Germany where our plane came in late and we ran through the airport to catch the one back to Seattle. Out of breath, we made it onto the plane and settled in for the long flight home. Unfortunately the lack of food triggered a migraine and by the time we arrived in Seattle I thought I would pass out. Thankfully my mom was there to help me through customs but right after I became sick and that sure ended the trip on a rough note for me.
Would I go back to Rome again? In a heartbeat! (pssst….stay tuned….)