Monday, June 18, 2007

Day 1 in Rome Continued: A lot more REALLY old (and fascinating) stuff

Each day of our time together in Europe we averaged between 10 and 15 miles or walking. I know because I wore a pedometer to measure it. That first day in Rome was definitely a 15 mile day!

We descended the Palatine Hill in the direction of the Roman Forum. This was truly the heart of ancient Rome...and it has all the ruins to prove it!

Here are some shots of the area

A view from the Palatine Hill towards the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica

We were having so much fun playing tourist!

The Forum with the Palatine Hill behind it.

The Arch of Septimius Severus, erected in 203 CE to celebrate the victories of emperor Septimius Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta in the wars against the Parthians and the Osroeni in 195 CE and 197 CE. The wars have been long forgotten but the arch is amazingly well-preserved.

Remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the mythological twin sons of Leda the Swan (actually Jupiter in disguise...don't ask, I don't get it either). Allegedly, the twins themselves (now possessing the rank of godhood), appeared at that site during the Republican Era to command the Romans to build a temple in their honor. Not wishing to anger the gods, the Romans did as told.

The Temple of Romulus, a round, little temple, which was built by emperor Maxentius for his young son Romulus after his death in 309 AD. Maxentius was the opponent of Constantine. The building of the temple was finished under Constantine, after the battle of the Milvic Bridge in 312 AD.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, begun in 141 by the Emperor Antoninus Pius, intitially dedicated to his deceased and deified wife, Faustina the Elder. When Antoninus Pius was deified, after his death in 161, at the instigation of his successor, Marcus Aurelius, the temple was re-dedicated in the joint names of Antoninus and Faustina. The temple may have been converted to a church, known as San Lorenzo in Miranda, as early as the 7th century, but it is only attested from the 11th century. ("miranda" may derive from the Latin mirare, to admire (referring the excellent panorama of the Forum from the church's steps, or from the name of a benefactress.) It was then thought that this was where St Lawrence had been sentenced to death.

Remains of the Temple of Saturn, a monument to the agricultural deity Saturn. It represents the oldest-surviving foundation in that area, having been established between 501 and 498 BC.

After walking through the Forum we then climbed a bejillion steps to the top of Capitoline Hill. It was really hot and the sun was merciless. A vendor miraculously appeared at the top of the hill selling bottled water that had been frozen to make it ice cold. I could have kissed him! After paying him two euros (about three dollars) I pressed the cold bottle to my face and then began drinking it. What makes this part of the story remarkable is the fact that, as far as I could tell, ice did not exist in Italy. It is definitely something that we Americans take far too much for granted. When you order water or soda you NEVER get ice. A mixed drink may have one ice cube in it if your bartender is feeling generous. I found myself fantasizing about those ice machines in every U.S. hotel corridor where you bring the plastic bucket down and fill it up for free. Such a silly thing to miss but in a heat wave it became an obsession!

When we got to the top of the hill, we saw this statue:

The Capitoline Wolf(Italian: Lupa Capitolina) is a 5th century BC Etruscan bronze statue, located since Antiquity in Rome. Approximately lifesize,it depicts a she-wolf suckling a pair of human twin infant boys, representing the legendary founders of the city of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

Palazzo dei Senatori in the Piazza del Campidoglio. Michelangelo designed the Plaza and all of the buildings surrounding it in the 16th century to house Rome's government. They were designed to face away from the old Roman Forum behind the hill and towards the Vatican, symbolizing the vital role the Catholic Church played in politics of that era. In the middle, and not to Michelangelo’s liking, stood the only equestrian bronze to have survived since Antiquity, that of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor.

Michelangelo provided an unassuming pedestal for it. The only reason that this sculpture survived the Authorities of the Christian Church in the Middle Ages, is that it was thought to be a statue of Emperor Constantine, who was the first Emperor of Rome to legalize Christianity in the empire, and who was baptised into the Christian faith on his death-bed.

Throughout Rome the initials "SPQR" appear everywhere. Fans of the movie "Gladiator" may remember Russell Crowe's character having those letters tattooed on his arm, identifying him as a Roman soldier. The letters stand for Senatus Populusque Romanus ("The Senate and the Roman People"), referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, and used as an official signature of the government.

We even saw it on manhole covers!

This handsome devil is Castor (or maybe Pollux), one of the twin gods standing guard on the Cordonata, the long stairway/ramp leading to the Senatorial Palace and also designed by Michelangelo.

This area was packed with so much incredible architecture and ancient history. It was almost too much to absorb. I can understand why people come back over and over again. It is a city with a deep and fascinating profile, full of surprises.

Here are some more images from that first day.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Vittorio Emmanuelle monument.

The Vittorio Emmanuelle monument, currently undergoing a facelift. Completed in 1925, it celebrates the first king of a unified Italy.

A military color guard at the Piazza del Quinnale. The palace was occupied during the invasion of Rome and became the official royal residence of the Kings of Italy, though in reality some monarchs, notably King Victor Emmanuel III (reigned 1900-1946) actually lived in a private residence elsewhere, the Quirinale being used simply as an office and for state functions. The monarchy was abolished in 1946 and the Palace became the official residence and workplace for the Presidents of the Italian Republic.

Piazza dell'Esquilino with replica Egyptian obelisk

And, to conclude the first day's sightseeing, I've saved the most unusual for last. In a crypt beneath the Chiesa di Santa Maria Della Concezione (Church of Saint Mary of the Conception) the Capuchin Friars have built a cemetery for their brothers. What is most unusual about this cemetery is that it is four rooms of artwork, utilizing various bones of their deceased brethren. So we have the Skull room:

The Pelvis Room

And two other rooms of creative osteo-artwork. Looks as if these guys had WAY too much time on their hands! The inscription over the crypt read: "What you are, we once were. What we are, you will be."

After a long, hot day, we finally headed back to the hotel, tired, with aching feet but so satisfied with all of the exploring we had done. We had a great dinner at a restaurant where we could eat at a table outdoors facing the park... I had spaghetti with clam sauce (phenomenal little cockles in a garlicky sauce) and Meredith had some risotto with seafood. We toasted our busy day with a wonderful glass of red wine and ended the meal by going to a nearby pasticceria for some delicious tartuffe, an ice cream dessert made to look like a large truffle. Despite the fact that it was still light at 9:30 PM, we headed for bed. Our second day in Rome promised to be as busy as our first and we definitely needed to rest up!

Next post: We get religion...lots of the Vatican, visit the Spanish steps and the Trevi Fountain.

1 comment:


Wonderful pictures! And I think that I have too much time on my hands? The bone art - what can I say - mysterious? gross? or what? Interesting though. Glad you found some ice on your hot, hot days. Love Sue