Sunday, September 29, 2013

A catch up day in Rome

What a wonderful day, yes we caught up on all the touristy things that we managed to miss on our walkabouts.

The Trevi Fountain.  Memories of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck surrounded us, along with the what seemed liked 5000 other tourists there today. 

The Spanish Steps, so anticlimactic, bit a wall of people around both of these attractions.  The amazing thing there was no grumpiness, everyone was in a wonderful touristy mood.  And I didn't once worry about pickpockets,  helped that I had no pockets :)

And today was a day of lots of people watching.  We met a lovely young man from Sydney, Australia, he is working on his doctorate at the university of San Diego and was at Tuscany for his sisters wedding.   Truthfully it is very difficult to meet someone from Italy, it seems like 99% of the people you meet are tourists.  

 One of my favourite spots in Rome is definitely the Pantheon, built originally by Agrippa, a general of Augusta and then rebuilt by Hadrian.  It is considered one of the most perfect buildings of the world, 141 feet high and 141 feet diameter, it is definitely the oldest building in Europe and NA still standing and being used, now a Catholic Church.  

There are so many churches, the opulence of the churches was overwhelming.  They say at the Vatican that everything you see that is gold coloured is gold, gold paint, gold thread, gold leaves.  Every painting on every wall and every ceiling is a masterpiece.  I am pretty sure that this church is sant Ignazio, according to Fodors - "few churches are as gilt encrusted, jewel studded or stupendously stuccoed" as this one.  

The best part of the day was doing some people watching

Still don't know how he did this ....

Tonight we went back down to the Pantheon and had dinner in a little cafe under its 2000 year shadow.  Even the street hawkers added a little magic to the night, they had these little laser whirligigs that flew up into the sky and looked like shooting stars.  Magical.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ancient Rome

Started off our day walking again, our hotel seems to be 5 km from everything, we figure we are averaging 15 to 20 Kms a day.  Now I know why they can eat so much pasta and red wine. Lol

The streets of Rome themselves are just so beautiful, here are a few pictures that hopefully will give you a feel for the city

Vendors everywhere selling souvenirs, scarfs and bags, fresh fruit including coconut and water.  There are also drinkable water fountains all over Rome that you can fill your bottle up or even just bend over and drink right out of the tap.

Stairs everywhere, go up walk a few 100 yards and go back down.

All around the city there is still excavation going on, they figure they have only uncovered about 30% of the sites.  Now they have to accept that some will never be uncovered because of the city being built on top of so many.  One interesting fact they have now found is that the city was founded by Romulus and Remus, if Romulus hadn't killed Remus, the town would have been called Rema. They were actually real people not just a myth.  

We took Fodors advice and went to the forum first.  12 euos each gets you into both the forum and the colosseum.  Hollywood did a pretty good job of interpreting and bringing  to life the way it was 2000 years ago.  

These were real places with real people living real lives.  There were huge class distinctions, the rich and everyone else and then the slaves.  

The colosseum was so large it just dwarfed you.  
The day started with the beast fights.  It ran with the efficiency of a play.  100s of rooms to keep the beasts, criminals and gladiators in.  They used cages and pulleys to get the beasts up to the floor.  The choreographer was expected to make the hunting and killing into a historical story with props and everything.  Then they stopped for lunch.  The next act was the killing of the criminals and then the gladiators came out.  One figure you hear bandied about is that 30000 gladiators were killed over its history.

Our first subway ride
As we were walking around yesterday I remarked to Jim, "why are there so many cars and vespas when they have such a great public transport system, buses, subways, streetcars", then we took our 1st subway ride.  Wow, felt like I was in Japan at rush hour.  Push shove to get in, don't breath and then push shove to get out.  But everyone was very good natured about it.  Yes, even Jim.  :)

Back for a quick change of clothes and off to piazza del Popolo and a lovely restaurant on the square called Rosati.  


Friday, September 27, 2013

The Vatican tour

In our infinite wisdom we decided to walk over for our 230 tour of the Vatican.  There is no option of wearing cute shoes.  I have been wearing my super comfy golf sandals which even now are getting a little wore in.  This time I added a pair of socks into my bag.  Honestly I don't think we have walked on a  blade of grass since we got here.  The whole country is pavement and most of it cobbled.

Walking down the neighbourhood roads there are just people everywhere and this is quiet compared to July and August.  Notice how the vespas don't need to be in a lane.  Lol

The whole town is covered in statues, they are everywhere

And churches in every neighbourhood.  This is the Trinita dei Monti.  This is a 16 th century church at the top of the Spanish Steps.  It has beautiful views over the whole of Rome.
From here we hit the Piazza del Popolo, the people's square.  One of Rome's biggest areas to do some fun people watching.  Always lots of activity.  
An Egyptian obelisk carved for RamsesII in 13 bc is in the centre of the square

Next stop was the Vatican.  After we go through security, our guide, Tiffany starts us on our tour.  This was a Viatour I booked online and well worth the money.  Tiffany is from Indiana and was the top guide for 2012.  

I was expecting a lot of history about the building of Christianity, instead the first few galleries were all about Ancient Rome.  Tiffany quote "if you spent 30 seconds looking at every item on display in the museum, it would take you 12 years to finish".  Below are just 100s of heads etc.  there was another gallery of just animals.  All from ancient Rome.  
Nearly all of the male statues had their male parts removed, possibly by Pope Pius IX.  Tiffany quote " there was a box recently discovered in the archives which was full of male parts which the restorers are now going through to try and figure out which statue they belong too".
This is considered one of the most important statues in the collection.  This is Laocoon, who tried to convince the Trojans to burn down the wooden horse.  Someone either Athena, Poseidon or Apollo sent the serpents to kill him and his 2 sons.  If he hadn't died then the whole history of Rome would have changed. 

This is Nero's bathtub.  It was made from one piece of marble.  How on earth did they transport it back then. 

There were galleries of maps, tapestries, etc.  below are a couple pictures from the Raphael gallery. Pope Julius II refused to sleep in Alexander Borgis (they were arch rivals) apartment so had his own created.  He commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine chapel after Raphael's recommendation and then insisted that Raphael do his apartments.  Raphael was a lover while Michelangelo was a thinker and brooder.  The painting was done fresco style, which meant putting up plaster waiting until it was the perfect temperature and then applying the paint.  Michelangelo did all of this himself.  It took him 4 years to finish the ceiling and he did it all standing up, not lying down.  He even started to sleep up there.  He had never done fresco before and considered himself a sculptor not a painter, but what Julius II wanted, Julius II got, he was considered the warrior pope.

Raphael meanwhile was considered the top fresco painter of his time and the girls loved him, which is probably why he died at 37 of syphlllis.  His paintings were beautiful and delicate.  Michelangelo's were rugged and to the point.  

Both of these pictures are by Raphael, supposedly the one below was painted by him after he snuck in to see what Michelangelo was doing in the Sistine chapel.  As you can see there is some nudity and the bodies are more rugged.  

In this picture he was showing the great masters of history, he put himself, da Vince and Michelangelo  (Bottom right leaning on a desk). 
Michelangelo died at 86 after painting the "last judgement" on the altar wall of the Sistine chapel.  It is quite a startling and scary picture.  There was a cardinal that he didn't get along with and he put his head on one of the bodies being taken to hell.  Eventually one of the popes had all the pictures nudity painted over.  You can't take pics inside the chapel, you aren't even allowed to talk above a whisper.  The pictures are stunning and his vision was ahead of his time.

The doors to St. Peter's

Michelangelo did this sculpture when he was 24,  people didn't believe he did it, so he snuck in and 
put his name on a sash across Mary's chest.  In 1972, Laszlo Toth attacked it with a hammer.  He was 
Later declared mentally ill.  He managed to hit it 15 times before being stopped.  The people were more
Interested in stealing the marble.  Luckily they were able to get most  of it back.  It is now behind
Bulletproof glass.

Back home to rest the feet and then we headed around the corner for a wonderful dinner.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rome - first 8 hours

It's  wonderful, it's dirty, it's old, it's ancient, it's new.  Sorrento was 99.9% European and North American.  Rome is so multicultural.  Italians in their smart suits, Pakistanis with Italian accents on every street corner trying to sell something.  

Rome is divided into neighbourhoods. We are staying in the Republica neighbourhood, lots of hotels, restaurants and locals.  

Truth be told it was a little scary when we started walking around yesterday.  Jim thought everyone was a gypsy.  The cars and vespas were everywhere, even up on the sidewalks, and then we went in our first church, Santa Maria degli Angeli.  Part of this church was built by Michelangelo and there is a beautiful Bernini sculpture in it called "The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa".  Wrong church it is actually in Santa Maria Della Vittorio.  
Right across the road is the Piazza dei republica, built in 1870.  It has a gigantic fountain in the middle and 2 very high class hotels surrounding it.  It is always filled with cars, buses and vespas whipping from one lane to the next, lol I don't think they actually have lanes in Italy.  Btw vespas seem to have only one rule they all wear helmets, they don't follow lanes and they don't stop for red lights.

Our next stop was at the Monument of Vittorio Emanuel II, built in the early 1900s, this was a source of great national pride at the time and includes the eternal flame to the WWI unknown soldier, which has 2 sentinels guarding it everyday.  Present day romans dont like it because of the amount of ancient ruins he had to remove to build it.  It reminds me a little of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.  Right beside this was the Foro di Traiano, a huge imperial forum, a city unto itself built by Trajan.  

We walked back to our hotel. Art Deco pronounced "ar tecco". Changed and went for dinner.  Our concierge recommended the Trastevere area, which was full of small cafes and literally 1000s of people wandering around.  Lots of little alleys with little shops all over.  tourists, locals, hawkers all mixed together wandering around with little vespas keeping you on your toes.  Another wonderful meal.  We are shocked at how reasonable it is to eat in Italy. We haven't spent more than 100 euros for dinner including tip.  Most have averaged around 70 euros, including the wine.  

The Tiber river with one of the many bridges in the distance

For some strange reason we decided to walk back to the hotel, we figure we walked about 20 Kms today.  

Ed at 

One of the beautiful tunnels joining up neighbourhoods.