June 15, 2003, Debbie, my
mother and I left on our trip to Rome. Our flight (Continental Flight
was to Brussels, Belgium and would take us over seven hours. The flight
was very smooth and we landed in Brussels Airport at 8:20 AM on Monday
morning. We had a very long walk (I do mean long!) through the airport
to our connecting
flight (Air Brussels flight 7063) to Rome. There was a slight problem
our seats (they didn't exist on the actual airplane despite having
tickets for them), but it was taken care of. We arrived in Leonardo da
Airport (but more commonly known as Fiumicino Airport) at around 12
we would be in the airport for an additional two hours waiting for
Mom's suitcase to
arrive. We eventually left without it after Debbie spent an hour
out a report. The person at the lost-and-found counter couldn't work
the computer program. As you can imagine, the Romans are off to be a
bad start with Debbie. We took a cab to Casa LaSalle on Via Aurelia
staying. Our old friend Bro. Ed Hofmann was waiting to greet us and
us electric fans for our rooms (boy, did we ever need them). Rome's
climate is at its most comfortable from April through June or early
went in June, Rome was going through a heat wave. Every day the
were around 90°. However, it was cooler at night.
One of the most ancient cities in Europe,
Rome was founded over 2,700 years ago. A tribe called the Latins
on the seven hills (Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, Caelian, Aventine,
Capitoline and Palatine Hills) next to the Tiber River during the
BC. In Roman mythology, Rome was founded on April 21, 753 BC by the
twin descendants of the Trojan prince Aeneas, Romulus and Remus.
Romulus killed Remus in a quarrel over where their city was to be
located and became the first of seven Kings of Rome, as well as the
source of the city's name. Rome was ruled by a series of Etruscans,
of the last king saw his overthrow and the establishment of the Roman
in 509 BC. During the Republic, Rome was ruled by the Senate and
to expand throughout the Italian peninsula and then the Mediterranean
A series of wars with rival Carthage, called the Punic Wars (264 BC -
BC) saw Rome become a major power in the world.
The decline of the Roman Empire
also saw the growth of Christianity in Rome. From an outlawed religion,
Christianity grew under Emperor Constantine. In 320 AD, the first St.
Church is built on the site of the burial of St. Peter. The Catholic
would grow under a succession of popes. The popes not only controlled
but a large portion of Italy known as the Papal States.
During the Middle Ages, Rome had only
a few thousand inhabitants and by the 9th century was a symbol of past
glory. Only the Papacy kept it alive at all, however, many popes were
in power struggles with the Holy Roman Emperors. Medieval Rome
to slide downward during the 10th through 12th centuries as foreign
left Rome in poverty. In 1309, the Papacy left Rome for Avignon,
pushing Rome further into squalor and blight. In 1348, the Black Death
strikes Rome killing thousands.
the 16th century, the Catholic Church
had become immensely rich. A new St. Peter's Basilica is built and many
great Baroque architects like Bernini and Borromini build beautiful
monuments and fountains around Rome. However, the spender and
of the Papal Court contrasted sharply with the poverty of Rome.
1870, Papal rule finally ended, as
Italy is unified under King Vittorio Emanuele II and Rome becomes it's
capital. Rome, once ruled by
papacy is then controlled by the Italian Senate and not until 1993,
it elect its first mayor.
During the Second World War, despite being the capital of Italy, Rome was declared an "Open City" and never bombed or otherwise damaged by the war. After the Allies captured Sicily in 1943, the Mussolini's Fascist government collapsed. The Allies invaded mainland Italy on September 3, 1943 and slowly moved up the peninsula. Even after the American invasion at Anzio on January 22, 1944, it was hard to advance north toward Rome. Finally on June 4, 1944, American troops liberated Rome. Crowds of ecstatic Italians spilled into the streets to welcome the Americans as the main elements of the U.S. Fifth Army moved north through the city.
The picture at left is a rare color photo showing trucks and tanks of the U.S. 752nd Tank Battalion leaving Rome on June 5, 1944. A small crowd of curious civilians watches the column move through the Porta del Popolo and past the Chiesa di San Maria del Popolo.
In 1960, Rome hosted the Games of
the XVII Olympiad (summer Olympics). The Olympics became famous for,
among other things, U.S. female athlete Wilma Rudolph, a former polio
patient, winning three gold medals in sprint events in track.
Today, Rome is the largest city and commune in Italy and
it is also one of the largest among European capital cities, with an
area of 1,285 square kilometers. Within the city limits, the population
is about 2.5 million people; almost 3.8 million people live in the
general area of Rome as represented by the province of Rome. It's
official Coat of Arms (at right) bears the SPQR of the old Roman
Empire. Rome's official colors are golden yellow and red (garnet): they
stand, respectively, for Christian and Imperial dignities. Rome
produces 6.7% of the national GDP which is more than any other city in
Italy. Tourism is inevitably one of Rome's chief industries, with many
notable museums including the Vatican Museum and the Borghese Gallery.
The city is also a centre for banking as well as electronics and
After unpacking, the three of us set out to explore Rome. This would be an incredible undertaking as no city has more history then Rome. However, Rome is more than spectacular churches and monuments, it's a city of cafés and piazzas. A city of quaint little streets and beautiful fountains. It would be impossible to take it all in, but we tried.
by taking the Metro (Rome's subway system)
to the Ottaviano San Pietro stop and walked to the Vatican. We bought
(Biglietto Integrato Giornaliero) tickets for the trip. This is a good
deal. For only € 3,10 per day, you have unlimited amount of trips
on the Metro, local buses or trams. A 2-line subway system operates in
Rome called the "Metropolitana" or Rome Metro. Construction works for
the first branch started in the 1930s. The line had been planned to
quickly connect the main train station called the Termini (which is the
largest train station in Europe) with the newly planned E42 area in the
southern suburbs, where the 1942 World Fair was supposed to be held
(the World Fair never took place because of World War II). The line was
finally opened in 1955 and it is now part of the B Line. The A line
opened in 1980 from Ottaviano to Anagnina stations, later extended in
stages (1999 - 2000) to Battistini. In the 1990s an extension of the B
line was opened from Termini to Rebibbia. A new branch of the B line
(B1) is under construction, as is a third line, called C. A fourth
line, line D, is under development. As you can imagine, frequent
archaeological findings delay the underground work.
The two lines crisscross at the Termini (train) station. It is not overly convenient for getting to many of the sights you want to see. The buses, however, are very convenient, so it is a good idea to get a bus map. With the B.I.G. ticket, you can get on and off all day long. They also have cheaper B.I.T. tickets, which are good for only 75 minutes, but only cost € 0,77. These are good if you only plan to take a bus or train once or twice in a day. I am told they have weekly passes, but I was unable to find any information on them.
Rome is known for its pickpockets, so be very careful in Rome and especially on the Metro, which has been called the "pickpocket train". Things have improved over the last few years, but still be aware.
From the Metro, we walked down the Via Ottaviano and then along the outside walls of Vatican City. After passing through the old Aurelian Wall, we entered the Piazza San Pietro through one of the two large colonnades. This was when it first hit me that I was in Rome. I walked through the shade of the colonnade out into the sunlight in the piazza and turned to see St. Peter's Basilica in front of me. For a moment, I was speechless (which I know is hard to believe). I felt a small tingling sensation in my legs knowing I was here. I took a deep breath trying to take it all in, but it was useless. I think I made a subconscious mental note to not and try and grasp the whole picture, but just take Rome, piece by piece.
The Piazza San Pietro is an enormous ellipse in front of St. Peter's Basilica, which is 787 feet wide and 1,115 feet long. It is almost completely surrounded by two large column colonnades. There are 284 columns that are each almost 50 feet in height. The architect Bernini wanted the colonnades to look like, "arms of the church embracing the world." On top of the colonnades are the statues of 140 saints, each over 10 feet in height. In the center of the piazza is an Egyptian obelisk, which was moved here in 1586. On each side of the obelisk, in the piazza, are large fountains (pictured below).
The basilica and the piazza were built on the site of Emperor Nero's Circus, which hosted chariot races during the Roman Empire (remember Ben Hur). In 64 AD, St. Peter was crucified on the site of the circus and buried outside it's walls. In 324 AD, Emperor Constantine built the original basilica on the burial site. However, by the 15th century, the basilica was in danger of collapsing and was torn down. The current basilica was built in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1506, Pope Julius II laid the first stone of St. Peter's. It took more than a century to build and all of the great architects of the Roman Renaissance and Baroque Periods, including Michelangelo, had a part in its design. By 1614, the facade was finished and in 1626 the new church was consecrated.
piazza, we walked down the Via del Conciliazone
toward the Tiber River. We stopped in a currency exchange place to
our US Dollars into Euros (which turned out not to be a good idea -
hammered us with the commission). From there, we walked past
(originally Emperor Hadrian's Tomb) across the Tiber River to the
Navona next to the Church of St. Agnese in Agone.
The Piazza Navona is a very
beautiful and extremely popular square in Rome.
It was built on the site of Emperor's Domitian's sports stadium (which
can still be seen in some below ground excavations). The piazza follows
the plan of this 1st century ancient Roman circus called the Stadium of
Domitian, where the Romans came to watch the agones ("games"). Today's
name stems from the corruption of the latter in in agone, then nagone
and navona, which actually means "big ship" in Italian. Domitian's
greatest passions were the arts and the games. He implemented the
Capitoline Games in 86 AD. Like the Olympic Games, they were to be held
every four years and included athletic displays, chariot races, but
also oratory, music and acting competitions. The games never were
popular with the Romans who enjoyed brutal gladiatorial fights like
those displayed at the brand new Colosseum. Domitian
was also very fond of gladiator shows and added important innovations
like female and dwarf gladiator fights. Domitian was not a good ruler
(Jews and Christians were heavily persecuted during his reign) whose
paranoid fear of persecution led him to kill or execute several members
of the senatorial and equestrian orders. Because of his cruelty,
paranoia and general instability, Domitian was assassinated on
September 18, 96 AD and was seceded by the first of the "Five Good
There are three fountains in the square, the largest being the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 - 1680) in the 17th century for Pope Innocent X. It is a large fountain with statues of four giants representing the great rivers - the Ganges, the Danube, the Nile and the Plate on the four continents (Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas). On top of the statue is a Roman obelisk which was once in the Circus of Maxentius on the Via Appia. This is my favorite of the fountains of Rome. Bernini was the favorite artist of the papacy and you can see many of his works in the Vatican. You are not allowed to sit on the edge of the fountain but on these uncomfortable railings around the fountain. There are a number of people selling everything from artwork and souvenirs to pure junk. One guy was selling little mechanical kittens, which he was demonstrating out in the piazza. Naturally, I had to stop Debbie from stepping on them.
We walked to a small outdoor café near the piazza called the Bar della Pace for some drinks (Mom looks like she is having a good time here). Mom and Debbie had water while I tried an Italian beer called "Birra Moretti" (pretty good). They sell two types of water in Rome, carbonated and non-carbonated. So, if you like carbonated, get your water, "with gas." We relaxed for an hour at the café before going around the corner for dinner. We ate at the Zi Cir Pizzeria Napolitano. I tried the Spaghetti Carbonara, which I liked. The meal originated in Rome or so I am told. Debbie had a tomato and cheese pizza, which she enjoyed and Mom ordered a steak and balsamic vinegar sauce, which she didn't like and couldn't finish. I tried to help but it was too much for me also. I also had another Birra Moretti beer. After dinner, we walked back to the Piazza Navona and then to the Piazza Rotondo a few blocks away. This is where the Pantheon is. From there, we walked to the Piazza Colonna (there is a large column to Marcus Aurelius here) and north along the Via del Corso (one of Rome's large avenues) to the Piazza del Popolo.
The Piazza del Popolo is one of the largest and most spectacular squares in Rome. In the center of the square, there is a fountain with a large Egyptian obelisk in the center. The obelisk is over 3,000 years old and was originally brought to Rome by Caesar Augustus and placed in the Circus Maximus (where the famous chariot races were held). The north side of the piazza has the church of Santa Maria del Popolo (to the right of the picture), which was built alongside the Aurelian Wall. The church was built over the tombs of the Domitia Family of Ancient Rome. This included the notorious Emperor Nero whose ashes are allegedly buried under the main altar. Throughout the history of Rome, it was thought that the ghost of Nero haunted the piazza. There is a gate (center of picture) in the Aurelian Wall that leads out to the Via del Muro Torto.
There are three main avenues that branch out from the south of the piazza. On the left (as you face south) is the Via del Babuino, which leads to the Spanish Steps. In the center is the Via del Corso, which is Rome's main shopping street. To the right is the Via di Ripetta, which leads to the Tiber River and the Ara Pacis and the Tomb of Augustus. The Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace), built in 9 BC, commemorating Emperor Augustus and the peace of the Empire. The Tomb of Emperor Augustus contained his ashes along with those of family members, including his son, Emperor Tiberius. It's not much to look at now. The area had been cleaned up in the 1930's when Benito Mussolini decided he wanted to be interred there also (Mussolini, after he was murdered by Italian partisans in 1945, was buried in a family mausoleum in San Cassiano Cemetery in his hometown of Predappio, Italy).
del Popolo has had a grimmer history
as the site of public executions in the 18th and 19th century.
men were bludgeoned to death in the piazza, usually as part of the
of Carnival. After a brief rest by the fountain, we walked through the
gate of the Aurilian Wall and took the Metro back to the guesthouse.
As in most of the world football (or what we call soccer) is the most popular sport. Rome's top professional football team is Associazione Sportiva Roma (A.S. Roma). Nicknamed the giallorossi (yellow-reds), they currently play in Serie A (the top level) of the Lega Nazionale Professionisti. Roma's home uniforms are purple red shirts with golden yellow borders, white shorts and black socks. They currently play in the 82,307 seat Stadio Olimpico. The stadium was built in 1936 and was the site of the 1960 Olympic Games and the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals (West Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in one of the ugliest games ever seen in a World Cup on a penalty kick by Andreas Brehme in the 85th minute).
A.S. Roma was founded in July 1927. The city of Rome already had five
teams in the Italian football league (Alba, Fortitudo, Pro Roma, Roman
F.C. and Lazio), however the Fascist regime wanted to merge the latter
into one which the working classes could identify with and strong
enough to challenge the traditional northern teams to reinforce Rome's
image as regime capital for propaganda purposes. Lazio management
refused to even discuss the matter, but the other four agreed to merge
and thus Roma was founded. Roma was named according to the city and
with the typical red and yellow strips of Rome. Their first stadium was
A.S. Roma has won three Italian Serie A (Scudetti) championships in
1942, 1983 and 2001. The Serie A Championship title is often referred
to as the Scudetto (small shield) because the winning team will bear a
small coat of arms with the Italian tricolour on their uniform in the
following season. The team that finishes the division with the most
points is the champion. The top four Italian teams then get to compete
in the UEFA
Champions League (a championship of the most successful football clubs
in Europe). In 1984, A.S. Roma qualified (having won the Scudetto in
1983) and advanced all the way to the finals. However, they lost the
championship game to Liverpool on penalty kicks in front of their own
fans in the Stadio Olimpico.
In 2001, A.S. Roma
finished in first with a record of
22-3-9 and 75 points by beating Parma 3-1 on the last day of the
season, edging out Juventus F.C. by two points. Juventus F.C. in Turin
has won the most Serie A Championships with 27
(but are currently mired in a match-fixing scandal). Francesco Totti
was one of the main reasons for Roma's victory that season and has
since become an icon of the club equal in status to Pruzzo and Conti
before him. In Rome he is a hero and is worshipped, even more nowadays
thanks to Italy's 2006 FIFA World Cup success. In 2005-06 season, A.C.
Roma set a record with 11 straight victories. In the 2006-07 UEFA
Champions League, A.S. Roma advanced to the Quarter-finals before being
eliminiated by Manchester United.
Rome's other football club is Società Sportiva Lazio SpA or S.S. Lazio. They are known as the Biancocelesti (White and light-blue) or Aquilotti (Young Eagles). They play in light blue shirts, with white shorts and socks and have been in existence since their founding in 1900 S.S. Lazio does not have the success that A.S. Roma has, mostly being relegated to Serie B (the second level of the Lega Nazionale Professionisti), however, they have won two Serie A Championships. In 1974, Lazio, led by striker Giorgio Chinaglia, won its first scudetto. Lazio were forcibly relegated to Serie B in 1980 after a remarkable scandal about illegal bets on their own matches, along with Milan. They remained down for three seasons in what would mark the darkest period in Lazio's history. In 1986, Lazio were hit with a 9-point deduction for yet another corruption scandal. However, they won their second scudetto in 2000, with a record of 21-4-9, when they beat out Juventus F.C. by one point. They then advanced to the second stage of the 2000-01 UEFA Champions League before being eliminated. As a result of the recent match fixing scandal, A.C. Lazio faced relegation to the Serie B for the 2006-07 season, but won their appeal to stay in Serie A.A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio play one another each year in the Rome derby, a fiery, emotional match often marked with tension and occasional crowd trouble in and around the stadium. Two extreme incidents in particular have left their mark on the history of this fixture. In 1979, a Lazio fan was hit in the eye and killed by a flare fired by a Roma fan from the opposite end of the stadium (entering in Italian history as the first fatal episode of football-related violence) and in 2003 an unprecedented event occurred when the Roma Ultras (Ultras are organized fan groups) forced the game to be suspended after spreading false rumors among the crowd present that a child had been killed by the police prior to the beginning of the game.
Tuesday was our first full day in Rome. We took the Metro to the Colosseum. It was spectacular as we walked up the steps of the Metro and out into the street, we were immediately confronted by the immense size of the Colosseum. I got that feeling again that I had the day before in front of St. Peter's. This is the most recognizable structure in Rome and I was looking up at it. We arrived at 9 AM as they were opening. There was still a line, but we got in quickly. We took a tour that showed us around the Colosseum or as it is officially called, The Flavian Amphitheater, and then strolled around ourselves for some pictures. You can climb the stairs (or take an elevator) to the upper tiers. The entrance fee, which included the tour, was € 8,00. You don't have to take the tour, but if you don't know anything about the Colosseum, you should.
The Colosseum is oval shaped with a length of 617 feet (over two football fields) and a width of 511 feet. It is 157 feet high with over 11,000 square feet of area inside. It could hold between 73,000 and 80,000 people.
The Colosseum was built in just under five years, after the death of the infamous Emperor Nero, from 75 AD to 80 AD. Nero, who was quite despotic, had built a gigantic palace in Rome, called "The Golden House" or Domus Aurea. It was more than just a palace, it was more like a complex covering a large area of Rome. There are a few remains of it on Palatine Hill (but we didn't get to them - maybe another trip) as many subsequent emperors tried to erase all memory of this cruel and insane ruler. After Nero's suicide (after the Senate had declared him a traitor to Rome) in 68 AD, there was a fight for power between rival generals. The following year, Flavius Vespasian came out on top and became emperor.
Vespasian had Nero's Golden House torn down. In the valley between three of the hills of Rome, Nero had built a large artificial lake for himself. Vespasian had the lake drained so a large stadium-like structure could be built for the people. The people of Rome did not have an adequate arena to watch their favorite spectator sport- gladiatorial games. The construction was immense, even for superior engineers like the Ancient Romans. Vespasian died the year before it was completed. His sons and successors, Titus and Domitian, finished the job.
The opening celebrations, lasted 100 days, and resulted in the killing of 5000 animals and 100 gladiators. These events would last all day. There would be animal hunts, military battles, public executions and of course, the gladiator fights. Animals would be imported from all around the empire for these hunts. Spectators would place wagers on them. Public executions of those condemned 'ad bestias' (to be devoured by wild animals like lions, tigers and bears) thrilled the Romans who loved to see blood spectacles. Of course, early Christians were not spared this fate either (inside the Colosseum, there is a large cross for all the Christians who were martyred here). Later in the day would be the gladiatorial combats. There were different types of gladiators, depending on the armor and weapons. The combat often concluded with the death of one of the gladiators, but not always. If one was so injured, and could not defend himself, he could ask for mercy. The emperor would, with the help of the cheering crowd, decide the fate of the injured gladiator.
This is one of the contradictions in history. Ancient Romans gave us a great legal system on which much of ours is based and were considered fair and impartial in their treatment of justice, yet they were exceptionally bloodthirsty when it came to their entertainment.
The Colosseum has been standing now for over 1,923 years. It has been somewhat ravished over this time, by the elements and by local scavengers. The Colosseum became a source of building materials for Rome.
Very little remains of the seating area, which was once rigidly divided according to class. The first section was for members of the Senate, nobles and the Vestal Virgins and had marble seats (they have re-created one section with the marble seats). The next three sections were made of brick seats and the top section (nose-bleed seats), reserved for common women, were made out of wood. The emperor, of course, had a special section for himself. Below the floor of the arena (now exposed) was where the gladiators, animals and those condemned waited for their turn in the arena. A system of ramps and elevators brought them up to the floor of the Colosseum.
Here are two very interesting facts about the Colosseum:
Outside the Colosseum is the Arch
of Constantine (I took this photograph
from the upper tier of the Colosseum). This is the most grandiose of
three surviving Roman arches and at 82 feet high, is the largest. It
built in 315 AD to commemorate Emperor Constantine's victory over his
Maxentius in 312 AD and with it the victory of Christianity (he had a
before the battle that he could win under the sign of the cross). To
right of the arch in the photo is excavation work being done at what
a large Roman fountain next to the Colosseum called the "Meta Sudans".
The remains of the Meta Sudan, along with the base of the Colossus of
could be seen up into the 20th century. They were removed in the
on orders of Benito Mussolini, so as not to impede his military
In fact, Mussolini had a large avenue, the Via dei Fori Imperiali,
around the Colosseum and up through the ancient Roman Forum, cutting
forum in two and destroying part of the ancient site. The Forum of
built to commemorate his victory over the murderers of Caesar, is half
buried under the avenue.
After leaving the Colosseum and passing the Arch of Constantine, we followed the Via Sacra into the ancient Roman Forum. The Via Sacra was the road used by emperors and generals for triumphant parades into Rome. As we walked in (not so much in triumph), we past the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome, built in 135 AD to commemorate the goddesses of the city and the empire, on our right. We headed, slightly uphill toward the Arch of Titus. This arch, the second of the three surviving arches, was built in 81 AD (the year after the Colosseum) by Emperor Domitian in honor of the victories of his brother, Emperor Titus, and his father, Emperor Vespasian, in Judea. In 68 AD, the Jews, tired of being exploited by the Romans, rebelled. A bitter two-year war ended with the fall of Jerusalem. The sculptures inside the arch, though badly eroded, show the triumphant procession of Roman soldiers carrying the loot from the temple of Jerusalem. You can even make out a seven-branched menorah. Vespasian used the gold stolen from Jerusalem to bankroll the building of the Colosseum and even used captured Jewish prisoners in the construction.
At the top of the arch you can see the phrase "Senatus Populusque Romanus". This was the famous phrase of ancient Rome, "The Senate and people of Rome." It, or its initials S.P.Q.R., were on many public buildings and Roman armies carried the initials on their standards as they went into battle. It is still used today in Rome.
From the arch, we could see most of the forum in front of us. It was very hot out, but we were able to fill our water bottles at a number of fountains in the Forum. This picture shows the forum from the other direction with the Colosseum in the distant center of the picture. The Arch of Titus can barely be seen in the upper right next to the three columns (the Temple of Castor and Pollux). In the foreground is the ruins of the Temple of Saturn and to the extreme left is the Roman Curia (brown building).
We continued along the Via Sacra past the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius, the large ruins once housed law courts and places of business in Ancient Rome. It was a huge building at one time, 115 feet in height. After passing the remains of the Temple of Romulus, we came to the Temple of Antonius and Faustina. The Emperor Antonius Pius built this temple in 141 AD for his wife Faustina who had died. It is odd because in the 11th century, a Baroque church (San Miranda in Lorenzo) was built just inside the temple.
Across the Forum is the ruins of the Temple of Vestra and the House of the Vestal Virgins. The Vestal Virgins were a cult of women who devoted their whole life to keeping the light of the sacred flame of Vestra going. Coming from noble families at the age of 10, they served 30 years, before they could retire. They enjoyed high social status (along with good seats at the Colosseum) and financial security, but had to remain virgins the entire time. The penalty for a Vestal Virgin losing ones virginity was to be buried alive. There is not much left of the House of the Vestal Virgins outside of some statues and the central garden. The circular Temple of Vestra has been partially reconstructed (about a quarter of the outside wall).
Next to the Temple of Vestra is one of the more beautiful ruins in the Forum. The remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux (pictured above at right) which was dedicated to the mythical twins and brothers of Helen of Troy. The temple was originally built on this spot in the 484 BC, but these three Corinthian columns date from a rebuilding in 6 AD.
In the center of the Forum is the ruins of the Temple of Julius Caesar. There is not much left of this ruin which was erected by Emperor Augustus on the spot where Caesar's body was cremated after his assignation in 44 BC. At the western end of the Forum is situated the ruins of the Temple of Saturn (pictured at left). This is the most prominent of the ruins of the Forum. It has a high platform supported by eighth columns. The steps to the temple, as you can see, are now gone. The first temple to Saturn was built here in 497 BC, but it had to be rebuilt many times. These ruins date from 42 BC (two years after the death of Caesar). Saturn was the god-king of Italy and he was celebrated with a week long festival that lasted from December 17 to December 23 called Saturnalia. During this festival, people would exchange gifts and play games. Many of these rituals have been preserved in the celebration of Christmas.
Near the Temple of Saturn is the ruins of the Temple of Vespasian and the Rostra. The Rostra was a platform where people made speeches from, including Mark Antony's oration after the death of Caesar. There is not much left of the Rostra, which takes its name from the decorations of ships' prows (fronts), or in Latin 'rostra', that were captured in battle. The third of the great arches is next to the Rostra, the Arch of Septimius Severus (seen here at right). Built in 203 AD to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Emperor Severus.
Next to the arch is the Curia. A modern restoration stands over the ruins of the hall where the Roman Senate met. The first Roman Senate met here, but after the building was destroyed by fire in 52 BC, it was relocated at the edge of the Forum by Julius Caesar. The Emperor Domitian moved it back here in 94 AD. After another fire, the building was re-built by Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century. This building is based on the last Curia. This was not the building in which Caesar was murdered in. That was about six blocks away in the Area Sacra dell'Argentina (mentioned below).
We walked up a path next to the Temple of Saturn to the Capitoline Hill at the end of the Forum to the Piazza del Campidoglio. It was about noontime and the sun was really getting to us. The problem with touring the Forum is that there is not much shade. Capitoline Hill was the political and religious center of ancient Rome. It is still the center of the city government. The piazza is bordered by two large art museums (the Palazzo Nuovo and the Palazzo dei Conservatori) on opposite ends and the Palazzo Senatorio on another (houses the office of the mayor) and in the center of the square is a statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback. We sat down in the shade on the steps of the Palazzo Nuovo. The piazza, which looked out into the Forum was redesigned by Michelangelo (1475-1564), on instructions of Pope Paul III, and now looks west toward St. Peter's. He also designed the large set of stairs that go down the hill on the side opposite the forum.
At the bottom of the stairs, next to the Victor Emmanuel Monument, is an ancient Roman Insula. You can look into them from the street. They are apartment blocks from ancient Rome. You can see how poor the lower-class people of Rome lived. The street level of ancient Rome is around 20-30 feet below the current street level in Rome. So, the fourth floor of the Insula is at eye level.
over to an outdoor café on the Via
Corso for lunch. This time, Debbie had the carbonara, which she liked
I was very happy with my cannelloni. Mom said her pizza was fair.
San Giovanni in Laterano
When were finished with lunch, we took a long walk to San Giovanni in Laterano, one of the four major basilicas in Rome. Emperor Constantine had Rome's first Christian basilica built here on land he took from the Roman Laterani family in 313 AD. The church is in it's original shape, but has been looted by barbarians (ironically it was the barbaric Vandals who did the vandalizing), seriously damaged in an earthquake and by damaged by fire twice. The architect Francesco Borromini (1559 - 1667) did the last major rebuild of the interior in 1646. Before the popes moved to Avignon in 1309, the Lateran Palace next door was the official papal residence. Also, every pope up to 1870 was crowned here. Since the pope is also the Bishop of Rome and this is Rome's main cathedral (keep in mind that St. Peter's is in the Vatican - a separate country), he celebrates Mass here often.
nave (in the photograph) looks toward
the back where the papal altar is (where only the pope can say mass).
either side are pillars with statues of the apostles. On the opposite
of the pillars are the tombs of some famous people, including some
There are two beautiful papal tombs, created by Borromini, for Pope
III and Pope Sergius IV. In the back is another magnificent papal tomb
for Pope Innocent III (died 1216). There is a monument to Pope
II, which is said to sweat and make the sound of rattling bones before
the death of a pope (it was quiet while we were there).
In the early days of the church, rival factions fought for power within the church. In the Lateran Palace in 897, Pope Stephen VI had the corpse of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, put on trial for disloyalty to the Church (he had been dead for nine months). Stephen dressed Formosus' corpse in papal robes and sat it in a chair. Stephen presided over the trial. Unable to speak on his own defense, Formosus was found guilty, his remains were dragged through the streets of Rome and then dumped in the Tiber River. Now this would be strange enough, but it has more. Apparently, Formosus' body somehow made it to the banks of the Tiber where it was discovered by locals (who claimed it performed miracles), who discreetly reburied him. The locals were outraged by this act and rose up in rebellion against Pope Stephen VI. They seized him and put him in prison where he was later strangled to death. This time Formosus' exhausted corpse was dressed up and buried, a third time, with maximum ceremony and all the trimmings, in St. Peter's Basilica.
Church of San Clemente
leaving San Giovanni, we walked down the Via
di S. Giovanni in Laterano toward the Colosseum. We stopped in the Church
of San Clemente on the way. This is an interesting 12th century
to visit. It is dedicated to St. Clement (The 4th pope) who was
by being tied to an anchor and drowned. The church itself is fine, but
it has more below. The church was built over the site of a 4th century
church and, for an entrance fee, you can go down into the excavations
the old church. However, there is another level below the old church.
can travel down into Ancient Rome and see 1st to 3rd century Roman
including a temple to the god Mithras. Mithraism, an all-male fertility
cult (boy, does your imagination run wild with this) imported from
in the 1st century BC, was a rival to Christianity during the Roman
While your down there, you constantly hear running water. It comes from
water rushing into the Cloaca Maxima, the great sewer that helped
Rome grow into a huge city. In 64 AD, these Roman buildings were
in the great fire of Rome (was Nero really singing?). Nero had them
in to build on top of them. The Irish Dominicans, who run the church,
continue the excavation work. They say they can dig even deeper and
more. Most of Ancient
Rome is buried under centuries of dirt and debris and this is a
place to see a fraction of it. Unfortunately, you can't take pictures
San Pietro in Vincoli
We walked to the other side of the Parco di Traiano
on the Esquiline Hill (where the remains of Nero's Domus Aurea is) to
Pietro in Vincoli church. It was built in the 5th century AD over
remains of a Roman villa. According to tradition, when Empress Eudoxia
(wife of Emperor Valentinian III) gave Pope Leo I the two chains
used to shackle St. Peter while he was held in the depths of the
Prison (in the Forum) fused together. The chains are here, displayed
the main altar. However, the church is best known for Michelangelo's
of Pope Julius II (originally, it was supposed to be in the center of
Peter's Basilica). The original plan called for 48 statues for the vast
monument topped by a giant statue of this egotistical pope. However,
Michelangelo was sent to work on the Sistine Chapel by Urban, he did
get time to work on it. After Julius died, no one had the money, or
to finish the project. However, one of the statues he did do, the
statue of Moses, is a center of attention in San Pietro. Here is
strange fact, Moses appears to have horns. Why is this? Centuries ago,
the Hebrew word for "rays" was mis-translated as "horns." So, when
Michelangelo should have carved Moses with rays coming from his head,
he instead carved a pair of horns. To be honest, they don't flatter
interior has a nave and two aisles, with three apses divided by antique
Doric-style columns. There is a fresco above on the ceiling called Miracle of the Chains. The basilica
underwent several restorations and rebuildings in its life, among them
a restoration by Pope Adrian I, a rebuilding by Pope Sixtus IV and
another by Pope Julius II. There was also a renovation in 1875. The
front portico, attributed to Baccio Pontelli, was added in 1475. Though
it is beautiful architecturally, it really does not look like a church
from the outside.
After all of the walking, we sat down and relaxed at one of the most pleasant outdoor cafés we found in Rome. It was on a tree-lined street called the Via Terme di Tito a couple of blocks from the Colosseum and San Pietro in Vincoli. We had some white wine while mom had a lemon soda. They kept serving us little snacks and mini sandwiches. It was cool under the trees and we could have stayed there for quite awhile. Every so often, a breeze would cause tree bark to rain down on me (I wasn't under the table umbrella). Didn't Mom take a great picture of us? After awhile, the café closed and we moved on.
For dinner we headed to the Piazza Campo de'Fiori (field of flowers). This was one of the liveliest places in medieval and Renaissance Rome, and it still is today. Burnt-orange and umber colored houses surround the square. In the center of the piazza is a statue (at left) to the philosopher and Dominican monk, Giordano Bruno, standing with his hands tight on his book of theories and set on a tall base, who was burnt at the stake here for heresy on February 17th, 1600. This was the main place for executions and the hooded statue of Bruno is a grim reminder of it. During the Inquisition, Jews and heretics were burnt to death here.
At the west end of the piazza is a large fountain. Not as artistic as the ones in Piazza Navona, but relaxing anyway. Unfortunately, by the end of the day, it has flowers and other garbage floating in it that is dumped in there by some of the local street vendors.
We ate at the A. Balestrari Ristorante & Pizzeria, which is on a side street next to the piazza. Mom really enjoyed her fish, which they de-boned in front of us (not to mention removing it's head and tail). I chose not to watch. Debbie had a spaghetti and pesto, which she said was fine. I had some pasta dish along with a Birra Moretti beer. After dinner, we went back to the Piazza Navona for gelato (Italian ice cream). They have a really good gelato place there. We then took the Metro back to Casa Lasalle.
On Wednesday, we got up early and took the Metro to the Vatican station. We walked to the Vatican for Wednesday's audience with the Pope. We had to go through metal detectors at Bernini's colonnade. We didn't have tickets, but I was told to ask one of the Swiss Guards for them. Supposedly, they have a few extra if you ask for one. However, I guess with tourism being down, we didn't need tickets to get in. When I asked, we were told, 'you don't need tickets today' and were cheerfully waved in. So, we found chairs, sat in the hot sun, and waited.
The brightly colored Swiss Guard, the worlds smallest and perhaps most colorful army, has been the chief protectors of the pontiff since 1505. While much of the work of the present day guards is ceremonial, they are responsible for the security at the Apostolic Palace, the papal apartment and the four main entrances to the Vatican. They are also in charge of the pontiff's physical safety when he travels outside the city-state. They wear uniforms of blue, red and yellow tunics (the colors of the Medici family) that are said to have been designed by Michelangelo, but most likely weren't. During certain celebrations, the Guards wear Renaissance helmets with red plumes and breastplates (the Guards in the picture below behind the Pope are wearing the helmets). However, for routine (non-ceremonial) work, the guards wear plain blue uniforms and berets. Currently, there are 100 members of the Swiss Guard who serve two-year enlistments and live in barracks in the Vatican. The halbard is the traditional weapon carried by Swiss Guards (as seen here in the picture at left and below). They must be Roman Catholic men of Swiss nationality who are single, under 30 years old and stand at least 5-feet, 8-inches tall. Guards need to have completed their initial military training in the Swiss Army. During the Sack of Rome on May 6, 1527, when fighting against the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, 147 Swiss Guards died in defense of Pope Clement VII.
At around 10AM, Pope John Paul II made his appearance in a small cart where he moved around the audience. He passed about eight rows behind us. After arriving at his chair at the top of the steps in front of St. Peter's the audience began (photo below). It was in many languages as different groups that were present were announced. Some of the groups sang to him. There was a group from Germany that was especially good while this Mexican woman was especially annoying. It was very hot there in the blazing sun. So hot that one of the Swiss Guards passed out and had to be carried away. It was over in an hour and we went back to the Via di Porta Angelica where they have all sorts of religious souvenir shops. We did some shopping before moving on. There was a parade going on that day which we followed up to the Metro station.
[Note: On April 2, 2005,
John Paul II passed away. On April 19, after a papal conclave of two
days, the College of Cardinals choose Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of
Bavaria to succeed him as Pope Benedict XVI. He is the first German
pope in 948 years since Pope Victor II died in 1057.]
left the Vatican, after the audience, we
took the train to the Spagna station. Mom wanted to exchange her
checks at the American Express office there. This took some time. After
this, we had lunch at Babbington's Tea House next to the Spanish Steps.
Mom especially liked this place, despite it being very pricey. After
we walked down the Spanish Steps (there are 137 of them).
From there, we took a bus to the
Trevi Fountain. Mom and I threw a coin
in the fountain, which according to legend means, you will come back to
Italy. Debbie refused to toss a coin in (I guess they will have
re-write the song as "Two coins in a fountain").
Trevi Fountain is the largest (standing 85 feet high and 65 feet wide)
and most ambitious of the Baroque fountains of Rome. It has to be
considered among the great fountains of the world. In ancient Rome,
this was the site of an aqueduct, the Aqua Virgo, that fed the Baths of
Agrippa. The aqueduct supplied water to the Romans for 400 years until
the barbaric Goths severed it. The
Roman custom of building a handsome fountain at the endpoint of an
aqueduct that brought water to Rome was revived in the 15th century,
with the Renaissance. In 1453, Pope Nicholas V finished mending the
Acqua Vergine aqueduct and built a simple basin. In 1730, Pope Clement
XII gave the job of creating a new fountain to Nicola Salvi. It was
finished in 1762, after Clement and Salvi's death, when 'Neptune' was
set in the central niche.
Taming of the
waters is the theme
of the gigantic sculpture. Water tumbles forward, mixing water and
rockwork and filling the small square. Tritons guide Neptune's shell
chariot, taming seahorses. What is amazing is how the fountain appears
to be sculpted out of the building, the Palazzo Poli, behind it.
way, the "three coins" were thrown by three different people. The
legend of the coin throwing is actually that if you throw one coin, you are ensured a
return to Rome; two
coins to get married; and three
to get divorced! If you do decide to throw a coin in, the
legend is that it is lucky to throw coins with one's right hand over
one's right shoulder into the Trevi Fountain. We hung out there a
while enjoying the water, also having another gelato, before moving on.
took a bus to the
Piazza Barberini and walked to the Santa
Maria della Concezione. This church on the Via Veneto was founded
the Capuchin friars in 1626. They have a bizarre crypt beneath the
The walls and ceilings of the crypt are decorated with the skulls and
of former Capuchin friars. Some 4,000 skeletons were used to create the
macabre decorations in the five vaults. There are some complete
dressed in the friar's robes standing or relaxing on a bed of bones.
is an inscription in Latin that reads, "What you are, we used to be,
we are, you will be" (very uplifting, don't you think?). It had
be the weirdest experiences on the trip. (Click here for pictures of
Another interesting item in the church is the painting of the Archangel Michael by prominent
Italian painter Guido Reni above the alter. Reni felt that he had been
insulted by a certain Cardinal Pamphili who later became Pope Innocent
X (see Sant'Angelo in Agone below). His painting shows the Archangel
Michael trampling a Satan who looks remarkably like Pope Innocent X. I
have included a story about the death of Innocent X below called
"Another Bizarre Historical Story."
Santa Maria Maggiore
From there, we took a bus to
Santa Maria Maggiore (pictured at right).
This is the second of Rome's four major basilicas. It is the largest
church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Of the four
this has the most interesting blend of different architectural styles.
basilica sits on the site of an original basilica. Pope Liberius
commissioned the construction of the Liberian Basilica around 360. He
wanted a shrine built at the site where an apparition of the Blessed
Virgin Mary manifested herself before a local patrician and his wife.
According to tradition, the outline of the church was physically laid
out on the ground by a miraculous snowfall that took place on August 5,
358. Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady
of the Snows, local Roman Catholics commemorate the miracle on each
anniversary by dropping white rose petals from the dome during the
present building dates from the time of Pope Sixtus III (432 - 440) and
contains many ancient mosaics from this period. The Athenian marble
columns supporting the nave are even older, and either come from the
first basilica, or from an antique Roman building. The 16th century
coffered ceiling, to a design by Giuliano da Sangallo is said to be
gilded with Incan gold presented by Ferdinand and Isabella to the
Spanish pope Alexander VI. The medieval bell tower (in the picture at
left) is the highest in Rome, at 240 feet. The façade with its
screening loggia was added by Pope Benedict XIV in 1743.
his feud with Emperor Henry II of the Holy Roman Empire, Pope Gregory
was kidnapped by Henry's troops while saying mass in the church. We
some time walking around. After the Avignon papacy formally ended and
the Papacy returned to Rome, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
became a temporary Palace of the Popes due to the deteriorated state of
the Lateran Palace. The papal residence was later moved to the Palace
of the Vatican in present-day Vatican City. The current archpriest of
the Santa Maria Maggiore is Bernard Cardinal Law.
the sanctuary of Santa Maria Maggiore is the
Bethlehem Crypt where many significant figures in the history of the
Roman Catholic Church are buried; Pope
Pius V, Pope Sixtus V along with Saint Jerome, Doctor of the Church,
who translated the Bible into the Latin language in the 4th century and
sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. We didn't get a chance to visit the
crypt. When we left, a gypsy women chased after us
a donation. It was scary how aggressive some of the beggars are.
We took the bus back to the Piazza della Rotondo next to the Pantheon. It was open so we went inside. The Pantheon is a Roman temple to all of the gods (thus the name). In 25 BC, Marcus Agrippa (son-in-law of Emperor Augustus) built the first Pantheon. His name is inscribed over the portico (you can see his name in the picture). The inscription reads "M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIVM.FECIT". The translation means, "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time, built this." The original Pantheon was destroyed in the great fire of 80 A.D. Emperor Hadrian designed a new one to replace the earlier one. This marvel of Roman engineering took seven years to build and was completed in 125 AD. In 609, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon as a Catholic church (Santa Maria ad Martyres), the first temple in Rome to be Christianized. The bronze roof was stripped off by Pope Urban VIII of the Barberini Family of Rome in 1632 to be used in the building of St. Peter's Basilica. He was also responsible for stripping marble and iron from the Colosseum. This led to the Roman saying, "What the barbarians did not do, the Barbarini did."
The rotunda's height and diameter are equal at 142 feet. The ceiling was made by pouring concrete, which the Romans had just learned about, into molds. The walls are 19 feet thick to support the dome. There is a large round opening in the ceiling that provides the only light. I was told that there are small holes in the floor to allow water to drain off in case it rains. The great Renaissance artist Raphael was interred here in a tomb as are the first two kings of unified Italy. The Pantheon was the inspiration for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. as well as the University of Virginia and Jefferson's home, Monticello. Tom was very impressed with it, as you can tell.
We took a small walk to Piazza della Minerva where we saw Bernini's Egyptian obelisk and marble elephant in front of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (you can see the back of the Pantheon in the photo). Bernini created a sculpture of an elephant and placed an old Egyptian obelisk on top of it. The Friars wanted the obelisk, which they found in the garden of the monastery of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, erected in front of their church. Bernini provided the elephant. It has been said that Bernini used the elephant as a joke. We also, through a little looking, found an old marble Roman foot on a nearby street. It was the remains of an old Roman statue, probably from a temple.
dinner back in the Piazza della Rotondo at
the Di Rienzo Ristorante & Caffé. This is a very pleasant
Interesting enough, on the opposite end of the piazza from the Pantheon
is a McDonald's. The restaurant faced the central fountain of the
and the portico of the Pantheon. We had a little Italian waiter who was
very helpful. Mom had chicken with potatoes, which she liked. Debbie
I had spinach crepes, both of which we enjoyed. For desert, I had the
ice cream with strawberries and a cappuccino while Mom and Debbie had
ice cream. After two and a half hours in the restaurant, we headed back
to Casa Lasalle.
On Thursday, we got up early to go to the Vatican Museum. We took the Metro there with the hope of arriving early and avoiding the long lines. When we arrived, there was no line. Unfortunately, there was a reason for the lack of lines, the museum was closed. We think it is because it was the Feast of Corpus Christi but who knows. So instead, we stopped for breakfast in an outdoor café near St. Peter's. Since the museum was closed, we decided to go into St. Peter's Basilica (luckily I was wearing long pants that day - they have very strict rules regarding how you dress in St. Peter's). The 10-foot statue of Jesus on the right is in the center of the top of the facade of the basilica.
The first thing we did was to go up into the dome, which is 448 feet high. We took the elevator up to the roof of the basilica at the base of the dome. They charge you €5 to take the elevator and €4 if you want to walk up the 537 steps (for an extra euro - why walk). On the roof, we walked inside the dome and looked down to the floor of St. Peter's below. The dome was designed by Michelangelo, who died before it was built. The dome has been used as a model for other domes around the world, including St. Paul's Cathedral in London and the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. The roof was as far as Mom went. Debbie and I took to the 300 stairs that wound up into the cupola. The passageway gets very narrow and claustrophobic, but we made it to the top. The view was fabulous and I was able to take a number of great pictures. We walked back down and found Mom. They have a small gift shop on the roof that has the appearance of a southwestern adobe house (just need some cactuses). After looking around the roof a bit (photo at left), we took the elevator back down to the bottom. By 11 o'clock, the line for the dome had become quite large.
When you get off the elevator, you enter St. Peter's from the side near the tomb of James Stuart (The Old Pretender to the English throne). We were simply amazed by the size. The total length of the nave is 613 feet long (compared to St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City which is 445 feet long). It is bigger then every other cathedral in the world. On the floor of the nave are markers showing the size of other cathedrals around the world. From the floor to the ceiling is 140 feet high. There are 11 chapels and 45 altars in the interior. There are two side aisles that are 250 feet long and converge under Michelangelo's enormous dome. Four massive stone columns, each containing a colossal statue of a famous saint; St. Andrew, St. Veronica, St. Helen and St. Longinus (St. Longinus' statue was designed by Bernini), support the dome. Under the dome, in the center of the building is the Papal Altar. The altar, where only the pope can say mass, is under Bernini's great Baldacchino (a large marble and gilded bronze baroque canopy supported on four spiral columns which is 95 feet high). The bronze used for this was taken from the roof of the Pantheon. The marble slab under the altar came from Emperor Nerva's Forum.
As you enter the building from the back and go down the right aisle, you come to Michelangelo's famous marble statue, Pietà (at left). It was finished in 1499 when Michelangelo was only 25 years old. It is behind bulletproof glass since someone damaged it with a hammer in 1972. At the end of the right aisle, next to one of the four massive stone columns that support the dome, is the Altar of St. Jerome. In front of the altar is the glass-enclosed tomb of Pope John XXIII. There are so many people here due to the pontiff's popularity that there is a guard stationed here to keep the crowds moving. Pope John XXIII was originally interred in the Papal Grotto beneath the basilica, but was moved here in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. There is more room in the open area of the basilica for his admirers then down in the grotto.
In the left aisle is the altar of the Chapel of the Presentation which contain the remains of Pope Pius X, who died in 1913. He was another beloved pope, but doesn't have the crowd of John XXIII. High above, in the center of the nave between the arches, are more large statues of saints, including St. John Baptist De La Salle (pictured here - which Debbie found right away). Being a teacher in a Lasalle Christian Brother's school, I was very gratified to see the statue so prominently displayed in St. Peter's. I was told that St. John Baptist de la Salle's statue is closer to the front then that of St. Ignatius Loyola, which doesn't sit well with the Jesuits.
Another incredible sculpture is Bernini's Monument to Pope Alexander VII in the left transept. This was Bernini's last work, his second in St. Peter's, and one of his best; he was 80 years old at the time. Among the statues of Pope Alexander VII and the figures of Truth, Justice, Charity and Prudence is a red drapery carved out of red marble. Under it is a skeleton holding an hourglass, which is said to represent the passage of time and the inevitability of death. One of the statues has her foot on a globe covering England. This is a reference to the pope's failed attempt to reconcile with the Anglican Church of England.
Next to one of the massive pillars, beneath the
of St. Andrew, are the stairs leading down into the sacred Vatican
where the tombs of around 20 popes are (there are more, but you can't
see them). The holiest tomb is that of St.
Peter himself. Other famous popes there are Pius XII, Paul VI and John
My favorite of is the tomb of Pope John Paul I (pictured at left).
I like the design of the sarcophagus. There is also an empty grotto
where Pope John XXIII's tomb was, before being moved upstairs in 2001
[Note: After his death on April 2,
2005, Pope John Paul II was interred in this empty grotto following his
funeral in front of the Basilica on April 8]. Below the grotto
is the Necropolis,
which we didn't get to see, but is supposed to be very interesting. You
have to write ahead of time to get a reservation to visit the
Necropolis. Where are the other Popes buried you might ask. All around
Rome there are churches. Some are lucky enough to have a Pope or two
interred there. Of course, the more recent Popes are interred here in
Grottoes. The last pope not buried in St. Peter's is Pope Leo XIII who
was interred in San Giovanni in Laterano after his death in 1903.
After leaving the Vatican, we walked to Castel Sant'Angelo next to the Tiber River. The name comes from a vision that Pope Gregory VII had of the Archangel Michael on this spot. It was originally built in 139 AD as a mausoleum to the Roman Emperor Hadrian (one of the Five Good Emperors). No tombs were allowed within the city limits, even an emperors. Hadrian's Tomb is 70 feet high and 210 feet wide. He had a grove of cypress trees planted on top and crowned it with a statue of himself riding a chariot (there is nothing like the ego of an emperor - except for a couple popes). After Hadrian's death in 139 AD, other emperors like Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus (of the movie Gladiator fame) and Septimius Severus (who had the big arch in the Forum built) were interred here.
Since then, it was built into Emperor Aurelian's city wall, a medieval fortress and prison and at times became the residence and occasional refuge of popes. In 1527, when troops of Emperor Charles V of Spain pillaged and burned Rome, Pope Clement VII took refuge here and was protected. There is even a secret tunnel from the Vatican to Castel Sant'Angelo that was built in 1277 to provide an escape route in case the pope was in trouble and had to escape to safety (this happened a couple of times).
Many people met their demise within these walls. Pope John X was smothered in his bed while Pope Benedict VI was strangled and his body tossed in the Tiber. Giordano Bruno was put on trial here before being burnt at the stake in the Piazza Campo de'Fiori. The Borgias used the castle to execute many of their enemies.
After you pay the € 5 entrance fee, you circle the inner walls. After entering the inner building, you climb a staircase (The Staircase of Alexander VI) though the center of the building up to a courtyard. A terrace goes around the top of the building with fabulous views of Rome. There is also a small café where we had lunch.
finished lunch, we toured the papal apartments
(used by Pope Clement VIII) where they are restoring the original wall
frescos. Next to the library is the room, which housed the papal
They believe the room was originally Hadrian's burial chamber. There is
a terrace on top of the building beneath the large bronze statue of the
Archangel Michael, which also has great views of Rome.
After leaving Castel Sant'Angelo, we walked across
Ponte Sant'Angelo (left) to the other side of the Tiber River. This
for pedestrians only but also has a large share of street merchants
everything from watches to pocketbooks (of dubious quality).
The River Tiber
(Italian Tevere, Latin Tiberis), the third-longest river in Italy at
252 miles, after the Po and the Adige, flows through Rome in its course
from Mount Fumaiolo to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Tiber has been an
important river in trade and commerce since the days of the Punic Wars,
during which the harbor at Ostia became a key naval base (The coastline
has advanced about two miles since Roman times, leaving the remains of
ancient Ostia inland). Legend says Rome's founders, the twin brothers
Romulus and Remus, were abandoned on its waters, where they were
rescued by a she-wolf.
We took a
tour of the Tiber River called Battelli
di Roma. Mom had seen this advertised in the New York Times,
so we decided to give it a try. The tour, which costs € 10, started
at 3:30 o'clock and was about an hour in length. It cruised up the
to Tiber Island and then turned around and proceeded down river. We
ear sets to tell us what we were looking at. We traveled under a number
of famous Roman bridges. To be honest, I wouldn't highly recommend
With 40 foot stone embankments along the river (built in 1876 after a
major flood), you really don't see much
of the bridges. We have taken cruises on the Themes in London, the
in Paris and the canals of Amsterdam and really enjoyed them. The Tiber
cruise isn't as good because you can't see very much. So, I would do it
only if you have a lot of time in Rome.
cruise, we walked to the Piazza Navona
and visited the Sant'Agnese
in Agone. The church was being renovated on the outside and is
completely covered in scaffolding (which means I couldn't get any
of it). Sant'Agnese borders the piazza in front of the Fontana dei
Fiumi. The church is dedicated to St. Agnes. She was a young girl, 12
13 years old, who was supposedly martyred on this site in Ancient Rome,
around the time of Emperor Diocletian (about 304 AD), for refusing to
her Christian faith.
Construction started in 1652 under the planning of Italian architect
Girolamo Rainaldi in Baroque style, under a commission by Pope Innocent
X (1644-1655). In the years 1653-1657 the works of the facade were
completed by the important Baroque architect Francesco Borromini (of
San Giovanni in Laterano fame), who changed the distance
between the two side towers and introduced a convex volume in the
center. Sant'Agnese in Agone is considered among Borromini's most
restrained creations. The church has a large dome which was built in
1653. The wide, concave façade is the work of Carlo Rainaldi,
son of Girolamo, (although most of if was planned by Borromini), who
worked on it from 1657 to 1672. The body of Pope Innocent X rests in a
crypt to the left of the altar (see the story about the
death of Innocent X below called "Another Bizarre Historical Story"). Below
the church there are Roman ruins, including the ruins of the brothel
where St Agnes was martyred.
There is a story that Bernini's dislike for his rival's church Sant'Agnese is represented in his Fountain of the Four Rivers in front. The statue of the Nile River, which faces the church, has a veil which supposedly is representing Bernini's dislike for the church and the statue of the River Plate appears to be cringing with an upraised arm supposedly representing Bernini's fear that the church will someday collapse. Unfortunately, it is just a good story; there is no truth to it. Bernini had finished the statue before Borromini had started work on the church. There is a statue to St. Agnes on the church, which is said to be reassuring the statue of the River Plate that the church is stable and will not collapse.
Ever since they worked together, Bernini and Borromini had a life long rivalry. Popes always seemed to favor Bernini. Pope Innocent X (see below) finally replaced Bernini with Borromini as the leading architect in Rome. However, this didn't last as subsequent popes put Bernini back on top. In 1667, Borromini, suffering from nervous disorders and depression, committed suicide. Bernini died in 1682.
a word for nude Greek athletic contests
of the type for which the Stadium of Domitian, the current Piazza
was built. The word "Navona" comes from "Agone". Domitian dreamed of
the Greek style games (the ancient Greek Olympics). However, after only
season, he switched his stadium to the ever-popular gladiators. Ancient
Romans would rather see blood-letting then discus throwing. The name of
his "agone" stadium stuck, however, and so Agnes was beheaded and her
was built "in agone".
There is a pope buried in Sant'Agnese in Agone. It is Pope Innocent X, the guy who bankrolled many of the churches and artwork around Rome, including the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and Sant'Agnese. Innocent did much to improve the beauty of Rome, what he didn't do was make himself popular with Rome's citizens or even his own family. He was mean, weak and corrupt. In a scene reminiscent of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, when Innocent lay dying in his room in 1655, his relatives and servants grabbed everything they could get their hands on. Even his despised and power-hungry sister-in-law, Olimpia Maldachini, dragged his last two chests of coins and made off with them. Innocent was left to die alone under a raggedy blanket. No one would even pay for his burial. To get rid of the corpse, a monsignor scrounged up the money to pay for having the body carted away to Sant'Agnese. Later on, a tomb was built for him in the church. It is in a crypt to the left of the altar and said to be fairly ugly (though I am not a good judge of it).
From Piazza Navona, we strolled down to Piazza di Sant'Andrea della Valle. Across from the piazza, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (one of Rome's large avenues), is the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle (St. Andrew). The church (left), which was built in the 1620's, has the second largest dome in Rome, after St. Peter's. There are a couple of Popes interred here (Pius II and Pius III), but more interesting are the large paintings in the back above the altar of scenes from the life of St. Andrew. They also have a box here, that if you insert a euro, you can light up certain parts of the ceiling for two minutes (now there is a money maker for you).
As it was getting late in the afternoon, we walked over to Piazza Campo de'Fiori for dinner. This time we ate at a restaurant in the piazza. We got a table outside at "La Carbonara". The selection of antipasto appetizers were great. I could have made a meal out of them alone. Dinner got mixed reviews. Debbie really enjoyed her Tortallini alla Adrienna while I liked my Spaghetti Carbonara. Mom, however, was not happy with her chicken and potatoes (unlike the other night). We did manage to finish off a couple of carafes of white wine in our three-hour stay at the restaurant.
was a short walk, we decided to walk back
to Piazza Navona for desert. We got some gelato and sat by the Four
Fountain, which is lit up at night (as is most of Rome). By 10:00,
a long day, we caught a bus back to Casa Lasalle.
On Friday, we again got up early and took the Metro back to the Vatican Museum (Musei Vaticani). The good news was that the museum was open, however, the bad news was that there was an extremely long line. It stretched down along the Vatican wall, around the corner and almost to the Piazza San Pietro. The line moved quickly enough that we were inside in less than 20 minutes.
We bought our museum tickets, which were € 20 each, and headed inside. The Vatican Museums are a complex of different pontifical museums and galleries that began under the patronage of the popes Clement XIV and Pius VI. The museum started in the early 16th century with a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II.
First, we went to the Sistine Chapel to avoid the crowd (no chance of that happening) which is around a 20 minute walk once you are inside. The chapel, which was originally called "Cappella Magna" or Great Chapel, was redone in 1483 by Pope Sixtus IV. Thus the name 'Sistine" comes from this pope who had the walls and ceilings repainted. 25 years later, Pope Sixtus IV's nephew, Pope Julius II (hmmmmmm, I guess he had connections), decided to have the ceiling redone again. Thus is the famous story of Michelangelo painting the ceiling. Working high above the chapel floor, lying on his back on scaffolding, it took him four years to paint the ceiling (quicker then some contractors I have known.)
On the vault of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo devised an intricate system of decorations that included nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, beginning with "God Separating Light from Darkness" and including the "Creation of Adam", the "Creation of Eve", the "Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve", and the "Flood". This was immortalized in the movie, The Agony and the Ecstasy with Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II. The photo here of the "Creation of Adam" is from a postcard. You can't take pictures inside the chapel.
The Chapel has benches around the outside walls, but most of the people have to stand and crane their necks skywards. The ceiling is very impressive, however, it is really difficult to grasp the entire work. You also have to be silent. As the murmuring got louder, a burly bald guard announced quite loudly, "silenzio!" Something I didn't know was that the Sistine Chapel is where the cardinals come together to elect a new pope. They vote four times a day until someone gets a two-thirds majority. When someone does, and a new pope is elected, up comes the white smoke from the burning ballots to the cheering crowds outside in Piazza San Pietro (the black smoke is when no one is elected on that particular ballot).
We toured the Raphael Rooms next. Mom was very eager to see them. These are four rooms, known as the "Stanze of Raphael" that formed part of the apartment on the second floor of the Pontifical Palace that Pope Julius II, and his subsequent successors, lived in. Between 1508 and 1524, the painter Raphael Sanzio, painted the walls of the apartments with different scenes, not all with religious themes. I also liked it because I could take photographs here, unlike the Sistine Chapel.
In the Stanza della Segnatura, which was Julius II's library, is my favorite painting, and one of the more popular ones called the "School of Athens". It was painted by Raphael when he was at the age of 27. It's a collection of the most famous thinkers of the Greek Age; including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras (creator of the geometric theorem), Euclid, Alcibiades, Diogenes, Ptolemy, Zoroaster, etc. etc. Plato is in the center pointing his finger to the heavens while holding the Timaeus, his treatise on the origin of the world. Next to him is his younger pupil Aristotle, holding a copy of his book, Ethics. Socrates, in the olive green robe, is talking (and Socrates loved to talk) to Alcibiades, Xenophon and possibly Alexander the Great (they are not sure if that is him, but he does look very military with that helmet). Pythagoras, on the far left, is writing in a book. Diogenes (the philosopher), in a blue robe, is relaxing on the steps (it must be siesta time in Rome). In the lower right, Ptolemy, (back view in gold robe), holds an earth sphere while Zoroaster (front view), holds a celestial sphere. Euclid (possibly the top math teacher of all time) is next to them pointing down at a blackboard. If you look closely, you see a person with a black beret on the far right near Ptolemy, peaking around the corner. This is none other then Raphael himself, who put himself in his own painting.
There are a great many statues, mostly
of Roman and Greek origin, in the
museum. Many of Rome's emperors are immortalized here in marble. Here I
am being photographed with Emperor Antoninus Pius (left). His full name
was Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Antoninus. He was the fourth of the
"Five Good Emperors" who ruled Rome after the death of Hadrian in 138
A.D. until his death in 161 A.D. where he was followed by Marcus
Aurilius. He was one of the most peaceful rulers, preferring diplomacy
rather then warfare. One of the things I like about Antoninus Pius was
that after his wife Faustina died in 140 or 141 A.D., he had a temple
built in her honor in the Roman Forum. What a guy.
One of the more popular marble statues is "Lacoön and his sons"
is a 1st century marble statue depicting the Trojan priest Lacoön,
and his two sons, being strangled by two giant sea serpents. According
to Homer's Aeneid, during the Trojan War, the Greeks appeared
have given up and gone home. Outside the gates of Troy, the Greeks left
behind a large wooden horse. The Trojans wanted to bring the wooden
into the city. Lacoön scoffed at this and fearing that it was a
trick, warned them not to do it. He even went so far as to throw a
at the underside of the horse. At this point, two large sea serpents,
by the god Poseidon, came out of the water and strangled Lacoön
his two sons. Believing they died because Lacoön angered the gods,
the Trojans dragged the horse inside the city walls. Of course, as we
know, they should have listened to Lacoön. The Greeks came out of
the horse that night (after some serious partying by the Trojans) and
in their buddies who promptly killed almost all of the Trojans and
the city to the ground. I guess Lacoön was the first to say,
Greeks bearing gifts."
This statue was
actually found in 1506 in a vineyard at the Terme di Tito on the Colle
Oppio in Rome. The statue is mentioned in the famous Roman historian
Pliny's, “Natural History”, where it was attributed to
three sculptors from Rhodes and said to belong to the emperor Titus
(79-81 AD), although experts are now undecided on whether the statue is
an original (40-30 BC) or a copy (14-37 AD). Upon hearing of
the statue’s discovery, Pope Julius II (1503-1513)
bought it to stand in pride of place in the elegant courtyard garden of
the Palazzetto di Belvedere within the Vatican walls. This began the
the great Vatican art collection.
Another popular sculpture is much more modern. It's called the "Sphere within a sphere" and is in the Pigna Courtyard. It was created in 1990 and can actually be turned, both inside and out, very easily. The Pigna Courtyard (Cortile della Pigna) is the largest of the Vatican Museum courtyards and is named after the large bronze pine cone in the large niche in the back (the large green thing). It was once in an ancient Roman fountain in the courtyard of the old St. Peter's. After spending over two hours, we started to head out. When leaving the Vatican Museum, you have to go down the Spiral Staircase (which gives you a great photo opportunity) and out through this great door in the Vatican walls.
We took the Metro to Piazza del Popolo for lunch. We found a small pizzeria on the Via della Fontanella, a small side street of the Via Corso. The restaurant, called "Il Brillo Parlante", has an interesting selection of pizzas. We shared two pizzas, the one that had Stilton cheese and spinach was exceptionally good. I had a German beer here called "Warsteiner". It's advertised as "Die Königin unter den bieren" - something about the King of Beers (I think someone else uses that slogan). After lunch, we had some gelato before moving on.
We strolled down the Via del Babuino past the Spanish Steps. I bought a phone card to make calls from payphones. Almost no payphones in Rome take coins anymore. It took me a little while to figure out how to use it. I called a museum in Florence to make an appointment to visit when we traveled there the next day. We took a bus to the termini Station to buy our train tickets for the next day. This wasn't easy since none of us speak Italian and the people selling the train tickets spoke no English. However, we prevailed and got the tickets.
We were tired after this so we took a bus to the Piazza Campo de'Fiori. We stopped in a bar called "The Drunkin Ship" simply because it was air-conditioned. The music was geared to a younger crowd (mostly rap) but eventually became more classical rock (which is more our speed). We had some white wine and green olives. It seems if you order wine in places, they bring you some snacks to enjoy. We relaxed there in the cool air for an hour or so before we set out across Rome again.
We were going to meet some friends from New Jersey for dinner that night. Having an hour to spare, we walked from the Piazza Campo de'Fiori past the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain to Via del Tritone (another large Roman avenue). Since mom was getting tired, we took a bus from there to the Via Veneto. We got off by the old Aurelian Wall and went to the hotel where they were staying.
Rose and Jim Perry were at the end of a tour through parts of Southern Italy and would be in Rome for two days. We met them at the hotel they were staying at. After Bro. Ed arrived, we headed off to eat. We walked to a restaurant on the Via Veneto next to the Piazza Barberini across the street from the Santa Maria della Concezione church (where the Capuchin monk's bones are displayed). We ate outside in a glass enclosed part of the restaurant that was supposedly air-conditioned. We had to wait awhile for our table and they mixed up the order somewhat, but it was a pleasant evening. I had a filet with mushrooms, which I enjoyed. Debbie liked her gnocchi with shrimp and scampi cream sauce. Mom was not thrilled with her fish. After dinner and desert, we drove with Bro. Ed back to Casa Lasalle.
On Saturday, despite getting in late the night before, we had to be up early to catch the train to Florence. I put these pictures on a separate site for Florence.
Sunday was our last full day in Rome. We got up later then usual, probably because we got in late the last two nights. We wanted to go to Sunday Mass at Casa Lasalle, but we didn't get up early enough for the 7 AM Mass. We took the Metro to the Vatican and had breakfast in a little outdoor café on the Via S. Porcari. After breakfast, we took a bus to the Piazza Navona for some pictures (every time we were there before, it was late in the afternoon and the fountain was shrouded in shadows). We walked over to the Piazza Rotondo where there was a military style band playing under the portico of the Pantheon.
Behind the Pantheon is the church, Santa Maria sopra Minerva. We arrived there in time for 12 o'clock Mass. It was easy to follow even though we don't speak Italian, a lot easier then the Palm Sunday Mass we went to in Amsterdam. The church is the only Gothic church in Rome. Inside, the church has vaulted ceilings similar to European cathedrals. The church itself was built over the site of a temple to the god Minerva (the Italian word 'sopra' means 'over'). The reason that this is the only Gothic architecture in Rome is because during the Gothic Period, Rome was at a low point. The popes were in Avignon, France and Rome was in chaos. So, consequently, little building went on.
They do have a number of outstanding papal tombs in the church. Two of the Renaissance's most powerful popes, Leo X and Clement VII, along with the Great Inquisitor of Rome's Counter-Reformation, Pope Paul IV (he was responsible for confining Jews to ghettoes in Rome and other cities) are interred here along with the tomb of Dominican monk and renowned painter, Fra Angelica. Probably the most important tomb in the church is that of St. Catherine of Siena, who died nearby in 1380. Only her body is here, buried under the altar. Her head is in Siena. After the mass, they closed the church up until 4 o'clock.
After a stop for some lunch at a small pizzeria, we walked over to the Victor Emmanuel Monument next to the Roman Forum. This is a extremely large monument that can be seen from most high points in Rome. Dedicated to the first king of a unified Italy, Victor Emmanuel II, they started building it in 1885 and completed it in 1911. Built out of bright white marble, it has been called the "wedding cake" or the "typewriter" (a couple of insulting nicknames it has been given) by the locals. It does seem out of place today amongst the more muted colored buildings around it. It has the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its eternal flame, which is guarded day and night, by the soldiers of the Italian Army. They even have a dress code to walk up the monument (no bear shoulders).
We climbed all the way to the top, 242 steps, which gave us some incredible views of Rome. Mom found the steps to be easy to climb. There is a museum inside that Debbie and I went in. There are stairs inside, which are not easy to climb (unlike the outside), so Mom stayed below. The museum is dedicated to the unification of Italy, but it is in Italian so, we didn't understand the exhibits. After leaving the museum, we found Mom by the fountain.
We took a bus over to the Tiber River, near Tiber Island. There are some old Roman temples there from the time of the Roman Republic. The Temple of Portunus (the god of rivers and ports) and the Temple of Hercules date from the 2nd century BC (the time of the Punic Wars). We walked along the Tiber to the Ponte Fabricio. It is a footbridge to Tiber Island. Built in 62 BC (from the time of Julius Caesar), it is the oldest original bridge over the Tiber still in use today.
We walked back toward Capitoline Hill past Tarpeian Rock. In ancient Rome, traitors were thrown to their deaths from this cliff. We walked up the hill to the Piazza del Campidoglio, where the statue to Emperor Marcus Aurelius is. We relaxed awhile, then walked down the Michelangelo Steps and over to Piazza Campo de'Fiori.
On the way, we passed the Area Sacra dell'Argentina. It is a below ground excavation that has the remains of four Roman temples dating from the Republican era. They are among the oldest to be found in Rome. One of the temples date to the early 3rd century BC. Behind two of the temples are the remains of a great platform that was part of the Curia of Pompey. In the 1st century BC, the Roman Senate met here and on March 15, 44 BC (the Ides of March), Julius Caesar was murdered here. You can't go down and look at them up close, you only can see them from the street. They have a shelter for stray cats there that you can see (of course, Debbie, the cat hater, had no interest in seeing that).
At the Piazza Campo de'Fiori, we sat at an outside café, near the statue of Bruno having wine and snacks (Mom had her usual lemon soda).
For our last dinner in Rome, we decided to go to the same restaurant in the Piazza Rotondo, which we went to on Wednesday night (Di Rienzo Ristorante & Caffé). We got a nice table in the piazza and were there for over two hours. There was a pair of musicians entertaining us for most of the evening. Dinner was very pleasant as was the wine. After dinner, we caught the bus back to Casa Lasalle.
On Monday, we had to catch our flight back to New Jersey. It was a 7 AM flight so we were a little concerned about being on time (not that anyone else in Rome has the same concern). The cab was actually five minutes early and got us to the airport in record time. We got to the check-in gate and there was no one there but two other passengers. Eventually, we boarded a bus that drove us to our plane. We flew Alitalia back to Brussels. The flight was very smooth and we could see central Europe below us. There were clouds over most of the Swiss Alps, but we could see the Matterhorn quite distinctly. Lake Geneva, the cities of Geneva and Lucerne and eastern France were all easy to see. We had only an hour to switch flights in Brussels, but made our plane all right. The Continental flight over the Atlantic was very uneventful and we landed in Newark Airport on time. A quick cab ride and we were back in Bayonne.