Tuesday, June 25, 2013


The first three weeks of May, 2013, my intrepid travel buddy, Kit, and I went to Italy, traveling independently to Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Florence and Venice. It was, believe it or not, my first trip to Italy, so I was very excited to soak up all the history, architecture, and, yes, food.

As usual, if you want to see any photo in greater detail, just click it to enlarge. And keep clicking "Older posts" at the bottom of the page to continue on with the trip!

Our base in Rome was a basement apartment in the Arco degli Acetari, off the Campo dei Fiori, which means “field of flowers.” It originally was an open meadow, and when Christian pilgrims began coming through on their way to the Vatican, a bustling market developed which persists to this day. “Acetari” means vinegar, and this is the little complex in which the vinegar makers plied their trade. Mercifully, no scent remains! 

Since the apartment was below ground, we had airshafts at either end for circulation and this one was decorated with a lovely mosaic lizard:

The Pantheon

Our first stop was at the Pantheon, built at the behest of Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus as a temple to all (“Pan”) the gods (“theos”) and rebuilt by Hadrian in 126 AD. Unlike most Roman buildings, it is still intact because it became a church dedicated to the martyrs after the fall of Rome, so it has been in continuous use . At 142 feet both high and wide, the dome was the largest in Europe until the Renaissance. Outside is the Macuteo obelisk, one of a pair erected by Ramses II at Heliopolis:



The famous oculus,  27 feet across and the only natural light source:

One of the Stations of the Cross:

Santa Maria sopra Minerva

On our way to the Trevi Fountain, we stopped at the only original Gothic church in Rome, Santa Maria sopra Minerva; in front is a charming elephant, carved by Bernini, supporting an obelisk found nearby during excavations. The church was built in 1370 over the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, which was erroneously ascribed to the Greco-Roman goddess Minerva.

The Trevi Fountain

Next stop, the Trevi, an idea which apparently occurred to several hundred people that day; a complete mob-scene and clearly being damaged by the constant presence of tourists, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone but me. You can certainly see the attraction, though, of this astonishing fountain, built in 1762 using a palace behind as a foundation to show off the copious water brought into Rome by its aqueducts. Water gushes for a couple dozen spouts as Ocean, Triton and waterhorses splash.


Victor Emmanuel II Monument

Hard by the Roman forum is a modern-day monument to excess, the Victor Emmanuel II Monument, locally called the Vittoriano (or, less respectfully, the wedding cake or the typewriter), construction started in 1911 by Italy’s first king to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Italy’s unification. 200 feet high, 500 feet wide, it sports one of the largest equestrian statues in the world (of the King, naturally) - his moustache has a 5-foot span.


Santa Maria en Aracoeli & the Piazza del Campodoglio

We tried approaching the Roman forum via the stairs (and there are a lot of them...) to Santa Maria en Aracoeli (which means “altar in the sky”), but there’s no getting there from here. Here, however, is where Augustus supposedly had a premonition of the coming of Mary and Christ standing on an altar in the sky. Sited on the remains of the Temple of Juno Moneta on the Capitoline Hill, it does give you a wonderful view of the Roman forum, and is well worth a visit, although I’m afraid my photos don’t really do it justice.

We tried approaching the forum via the Piazza del Campodoglio (Capitoline Hill Square) just below Santa Maria, but no go from there, either. The religious and political center of ancient Rome, it remains the site of Rome’s city government. In the 1530s, the pope set Michaelangelo to tarting up the square, which he did a lovely job of, siting an ancient equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center and giving the three surrounding buildings a nice Renaissance polish.

 Here are Castor and Pollux flanking the entrance from the steps:

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum, finally! Had to backtrack down the hill and around to get to the real entrance, then wait in the hot sun for about 25 minutes to get to one of two (count them, 2) ticket windows. Must be the Roman way of limiting the number of visitors... Anyway, what can I say about the Roman Forum, Rome’s political, commercial and religious heart, that you don’t already know? Probably nothing, so I’ll just show you a few of my photos:

 The Arch of Titus:
 The Arch of Septimus Severus:

 The Basilica Aemilia and detail:

 The Basilica Maxentius and Constantine:
 The Palace of Caligula:
The Curia, the building in which the Roman Senate met:

Curia doors:

The modern-day St. Francesca Romana:

The Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina:

Remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux:

Remains of the Temple of Vesta:

Templo Romolo, on top of which is built a modern-day church:

Interior wall decoration:

Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum

Exiting the Forum, you come upon the 4th-century Arch of Constantine, decorated with recycled carvings glorifying previous Roman emporers, in whose league Constantine ranked hmself, of course.

Nearby is the Colosseum, built in 80 A.D. and now a grand ruin. Because of the heat, we gave it a miss, but its impressive even if you don’t go inside.

Trajan's Column, SPQR, St. Peter's and the Castel Sant'Angelo

On our stroll home, we walked by Trajan’s column, done in 113 A.D. to commemorate Emperor Trajan’s victory over the Dacians; its spiral bas relief shows scenes from the conflict. It was originally topped with a statue of Trajan, but that disappeared in the Middle Ages and in 1587, Pope Sixtus decided a statue of St. Peter would fill the gap nicely.

Rome is still alive, however, in the manhole covers, which sport SPQR (Senātus Populusque Rōmānus ("The Senate and People of Rome”), dating from 80 B.C. and still in use by the commune of Rome.

St. Peter’s has a new CEO, so the lines were horrendous when we arrived (and the square in front set up with a sea of folding chairs for some scheduled event, so we gave it a miss, other than taking a couple of photos.

Strolling back toward the Tiber River, we encountered the Castel Sant’Angelo, built between 130 and 139 A.D. as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian; it served as the final resting place for a number of other emperors, the last being the seriously unpleasant Caracalla. Hadrian also built the Pons Aelius, the bridge that connects Castel Sant’Angelo with the right bank.