Roman Holiday-Part I
Susan and I returned on the 26th of April from our 11 day excursion to Rome and I’ve gotten the photos in order enough to write up the trip. The short account is that we had a great time. The weather cooperated the whole time with temperatures in the 60’s and usually some sun–very nice for walking around and looking at things.
We arrived in Rome on the 16th and arrived at the hotel (Rose Garden Palace) around 11:30am. That’s 4:30am CST so we had been up about 22 hours by that time, but we’ve learned that powering through that first day is a good way to get your clock onto local time. After getting unpacked (the room was very nice with a walk in closet and nice speedy wi-fi) we walked a couple of blocks to the Villa Borghese gardens. We managed our first days goal of staying awake.
On the second day, we took a taxi over to the Vatican museum entrance. We had gotten tickets online and were quite glad as the line for the unfortunates who didn’t have tickets was very long. Several people tried to persuade us to join their tour group but we demurred as we wanted to go ourselves. This proved to be a very good decision as once in we often had many parts almost to ourselves. The typical tour groups seemed to follow a pretty much direct line to the Sistine chapel–driving their customers before them wailing and gnashing (or something like that).
Anyway, we strolled about and saw things like:
This was a long room with various carriages (up to “Pope-mobiles”) that had carried various Popes around.
This artifact in the Cortile della Pigna claims to be a sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro entitled “Sphere within a Sphere.” I personally suspect that it is a crashed Berserker Probe.
And hallways that weren’t really remarked upon but were remarkable:
This is the Gallery of the Maps. While the maps along the side are nice, we really liked the perspective of the very long hallway.
After browsing all of this to our hearts content, we proceeded to the Raphael rooms (also overlooked by most tours) and then the Sistine Chapel. No photos are allowed in these. We actually preferred the Raphael rooms over the Sistine Chapel. The paintings were much more viewable and visually interesting in the Raphael rooms.
After the Vatican museums we saw that the lines to get to St. Peter’s were a tad long and so we proceeded to Hadrian’s tomb aka, the Castle Sant’Angelo. Here is a view of this from the Ponte Sant’Angelo:
This building was completed in 159AD and held the ashes of numerous emperors until the sacking of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths. The mausoleum had already begun its conversion into a fortress and it served in this role all the way until 1901. From the top, you get a lovely view of Rome.
We decided to walk back to the hotel from the Castle. I had a map–what could go wrong? Well, not much. We got a bit lost in twisty passages all looking alike:
But we quickly discovered that the nondescript looking church fronts along the way opened up into vast scenes of lavishness:
After a bit, we stumbled into the Piazza della Rotonda. Here, there is an Egyptian obelisk (Rome has 8 ancient Egyptian obelisks):
This particular obelisk was originally constructed by Pharaoh Ramses II for the Temple of Ra in Heliopolis. But, most importantly in this piazza is the Pantheon:
This is the entrance to one of the most architecturally significant building in the world. The inscription stands for:Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, having been consul three times, built it. Actually, in this incarnation, Hadrian caused it to be built in 126AD. Agrippa built a much cruder version in 27AD. From the front angle, it looks fairly Grecian in appearance. The various holes that you can see are not from bullets but rather from where the clamps holding sculptures were pried loose. Luckily, the building was converted into a church in the eighth century and so was spared from too much looting. From a bit to the side, you can see that there is something interesting going on:
Going through the tall bronze doors you emerge into the wonderful interior and looking up you see the ~43 meter dome.
The dome is ~43 meters across and 43 meters from the floor to the occulus. 2000 years later, this is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Pretty cool. I hadn’t really envisioned the amount to which bricks were used in Roman construction before this trip. When Augustus said (maybe) “I found Rome a city of brick, and left it a city of marble”, now I know where the brick part comes from.
Once we “found” the Pantheon, it was pretty easy to orient ourselves and we quickly found ourselves at the Trevi fountain:
From the fountain, we made our way back to the hotel.