Ok, so I know I look like a total Slacker Blogger, but last week I ended up relapsing and got sick again, this time with tonsilitis. And as much as I wanted to sit in front of my computer and write this post, the only energy I could summon was a short walk to the couch where I watched Food Network and The Cooking Channel, and subsisted off of Jell-O, orange juice and Ramen. But thanks to some antibiotics, I'm back to feeling great again and ready to show you more pictures from our trip to Italy. So, who's ready to see some sights?
The thing I love best about Rome is how old it is--as in, ancient. And most of it is still standing and in excellent condition thanks to the endless dedication of art and architectural restorers who work constantly to make sure Rome's treasures are preserved. But the new--whether a storefront, a hotel, a restaurant, or any other establishment--has to defer to the existing infrastructure around it. If an ancient ruin is discovered during construction, archaeologists are called in and construction grinds to a halt. It's just the way life is in an ancient city.
Teatro di Marcello
Castel Sant'Angelo--This massive fortress began as Emporer Hadrian's mausoleum in AD 139. Since then it has served as Emporer Aurelian's city wall, a medieval prison, and the residence of popes during times of political unrest. The Vatican Corridor was built in 1277 to provide an escape route when the Pope was in danger. Castel Sant'Angelo has a 58-room museum dedicated to all aspects of the castle's history. The bronze sculpture at the very top of the castle is of the Archangel Michael and was sculpted by the 18th-century Flemish sculptor Pieter Verschaffelt.
Portico d'Ottavia--Built in honor of Octavia, the sister of Augustus and the abandoned wife of Mark Anthony.
Pantheon (interior)--Originally a pagan temple, the Pantheon was converted to a church during the Middle Ages. The rotunda's hight and diameter are equal (142 ft.). The Pantheon was designed by the Roman emporer, Hadrian. The artist Raphael is buried here, as are the kings of modern Italy.
There are more churches in Rome than there are days of the year. And each one spans centuries of architectural styles--from ancient, to Medieval, to Renaissance, to Baroque and so forth. It would take a lifetime to see Rome's churches, and you still wouldn't be able to see them all. Not only are they architechtural masterpieces on the outside, but they are treasure troves of priceless works of art on the inside in the form of architecture, sculpture, paintings, frescoes, mosaics, trompe l'oeil, and more. Although Rome's population is predominantly Catholic, Rome has been home to a large Jewish community since the 2nd century BC, and the city is home to a beautiful synagogue located in Rome's Jewish quarter, known as the Ghetto.
Synagogue--Ghetto (Jewish quarter)--Completed in 1904, the Synagogue also houses a Jewish museum that describes the history of the Jewish community in Rome through plans, Torahs and other artifacts. The Ghetto is one of my favorite areas of Rome. It has excellent restaurants and bakeries and is a more quiet area of the city.
Santa Maria sopra Minerva (exterior)--In the center of the piazza is Bernini's obelisk and elephant sculpture, originally meant to decorate Palazzo Barberini as a joke. The elephant is an ancient symbol of intelligence and piety.
Santa Maria sopra Minerva (interior)--Dating back to the 13th century, this church is one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Rome. It is built above ("sopra") the ancient ruins of the temple of Minerva. Many famous Italians are buried in this church, among them, St. Catherine of Siena.
Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura (St. Paul outside the Walls)--One of Rome's seven major basilicas. It was almost completely destroyed by fire on July 15, 1823, but faithfully reconstructed to the original. The golden facade at the top is entirely of mosaic and is magnificent when the sun shines directly on it.
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City--Although this basilica is always swarmed with tourists and pilgrims, making for a not-so-peaceful visit, we braved the crowds so we could go pay our respects at the tomb of Pope John Paul II. His final resting place was simple and unadorned except for a handful of candles and two simple silver roses on top of his tomb.
Sant'Anselmo (exterior courtyard)--Located in the Aventino area of Rome, this church was one of my favorites. It is simple, quiet and peaceful. The Aventine area is largely residential, with beautiful (and expensive) apartments, but there are several beautiful churches worth visiting, Sant'Anselmo being one of them.
Sant'Anselmo (interior)--There is a waiting list for engaged couples to marry in this church.
Rome has some of the lovliest fountains. Some are large and flamboyant; others are smaller and quieter. Many of Rome's fountains are the work of some of the greatest Renaissance and Baroque sculptors, but some date back to ancient Rome.
Fontana delle Tartarughe ("Fountain of the Turtles")--Located in Piazza Mattei off of Campo de' Fiori, this delightful fountain was commissioned by the Mattei family and designed by Giacomo della Porta. The dolphin heads upon which each boy is resting his foot were sculpted by Taddero Landini. Nearly a century after the fountain was built, an unknown sculptor added the four turtles.
Fontana della Barcaccia (Piazza di Spagna)--Located at the foot of the Spanish Steps is one of Rome's least "showy" Baroque fountains. It's often hidden from view because of all the people who rest along the rim, but we managed to get a great photo the day we went to Piazza di Spagna. It isn't clear who designed this fountain--it was either Gian Lorenzo Bernini or his father, Pietro. "Barcaccia" means "useless boat", and the fountain was given this name because the water pressure from the aqueduct that feeds the fountain is fairly low and does not cause grand cascades of water. Bernini decided to design a half-sunken and leaking boat to keep with the theme of the slow-moving water.
Fontana di Trevi (Quirinale area)--By Roman historical standards, the Fontana di Trevi is fairly new. It was completed in 1762 and designed by Nicola Salvi. Neptune is flanked by two Tritons--one is struggling with an unruly sea horse, symbolizing the rough seas; the other Triton is leading a more docile sea horse, symbolizing calm seas.
Rome is home to magnificent and priceless works of art--some well known, others less so. The amazing thing is that you don't have to pay a museum entrance fee to see most of it because much of it is located inside Rome's churches.
Michelangelo's "La Pieta" (St. Peter's basilica, Vatican City)--Michelangelo finished this marble sculpture in 1499, when he was 25 years old. In 1972 it was damaged and was moved to a chapel on the right side of the nave and is protected by glass.
Bernini's "Il Baldacchino" (St. Peter's basilica, Vatican City)--Commissioned by Pope Urban VIII in 1624, this bronze Baroque canopy towers above the Papal Altar, at which only the Pope may celebrate Mass.
Madonna of the Graces (Church of Santi Vincenzo ed Anastasio)
Mosaic in the courtyard of Sant'Anselmo (Aventino)
I hope you've enjoyed this tour of Rome. I had so much fun taking pictures and exploring parts of the city I had never seen before. There is still so much more to see, so it just means Peter and I will have to go back again very soon. Check back soon for the next post where I'll be taking you on a tour of Umbria. You won't want to miss it!
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