A Travellerspoint blog

May 2017

THE GRANDEUR THAT WAS ROME

A weekend exploring remnants of a glorious empire on the city's 2770th birthday

sunny 5 °C

A mound on top of a hill close to the Roman Forum is said to be place where the small non-descript village on the banks of the Tiber once stood and the brothers Romulus and Remus, twin brothers abandoned after birth and raised by a she-wolf grew up. It is said that when a fierce argument erupted between them, Romulus killed Remus and gave his own name to the tiny settlement that would grow into a great empire on the 21st of April in the year 753 BC.

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COLOSSEUM

A must see attraction in Rome is the Colosseum. You can visit the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palatine Hill in one tour panning 4-5 hours. Which includes quite a bit of walking along uneven surfaces and steep stairs. The front area is usually packed with ticket sellers, tour guides and hawkers, and since the lines for tickets to the Colosseum are long and people end up waiting an average of 90 minutes, the entire space resembles running a gauntlet.

Just being inside this architectural wonder with its amphitheatrical structure and understanding the reserved seating system which corresponded with on of the 76 gates was such a fascinating experience. Just the sheer scale of the Colosseum and the realisation of how much of Rome's history is packed into this space and that more than 2000 years later, it still stands is enough to make it a surreal place to visit.

TIP: Buy tickets online for the skip the line tours with a good company. The tour takes approximately 4 hours and concludes on the summit of the Palantine Hill. It includes 10-20 people and a knowledgeable and patient guide.

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ROMAN FORUM

Apart from the Trevi fountain, the Roman Forum qualifies as my favourite place in Rome. This is the heart of Ancient Rome and in my opinion should be where the Ancient Rome tour should start - at the Palantine Hill. Since Rome was founded here, and grew through the era of Ceasar's and the Colosseum was the highest point. But since getting into the Colosseum is a feat in itself, most tours are conducted in the reverse order.

Entering the forum through the ceremonial arch and strolling along the Via Sacra brings back to mind images of chariots being driven through those stone pathways. The Via Sacra was a very important road during the Roman Empire since it was along this road that armies returned to Rome, and Emperors travelled to their coronations. The sheer number of sights to visit in this space is mind numbing. The fascinating temple of the vestal virgins, the funeral pyre of Julius Cesar, the little gardens, the ruins of Saturn's temple and even a gateway to hell!

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FOUNTAINS AND SQUARES

Rome is estimated to have more than 2000 fountains and almost every square in Rome is adorned with a beautiful fountain at its center. Like so many other elements of Rome, these fountains are pure works of art. Some are small, large, famous, hidden, built by great artists, some with origins unknown in every possible shape and size. I happened upon most of the fountains in Rome after traipsing through narrow twisting streets and housed in a picturesque square. Each square that hosts these fountains are great places to just sit and people watch over a coffee/wine and soak up the ambiance. Plus the fountains themselves are exquisite examples of baroque carving.

TREVI FOUNTAIN - an aquatic dream and my favourite place to visit in the Eternal City.
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PIAZZA NAVONA
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FONTANA DEL PANTHEON
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PANTHEON

Situated in its own little square surrounded by narrow lanes is the only fully standing monument of the Ancient Rome. Originally commissioned by Julius Agrippa and built in the honour of all the Roman Gods 2000 years ago, this ancient temple is today a Christian church. Entry is free and I hear that it gets very crowded through the day as most tourist attractions in Rome do. I visited at 8:30 in the morning and had the entire place all to myself which turned out to be a glorious experience. The occulus in the ceiling is extraordinary and made me want to return to see the pillar of light at noon and when it is rains, especially after I saw the system to drain the water on the floor.

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FOOD!! GLORIOUS FOOD!!!

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IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER WHILE PLANNING A TRIP TO ROME:
• You do not have to buy a Rome Pass. The public transportation is quite extensive and services most of the places to visit. A bus/metro ticket is
valid for 100 minutes and costs 1.50 euros. There are also 24-hour and 3-day tickets which are not expensive.
• Everyone who visits Rome seems to have a scary story about aggressive pickpockets or con artists. So I would advice a good degree of
awareness of your surroundings and some quick thinking. You definetely see a lot of them hanging out by the metro ticket machines and try to
fleece you by by of helping you with ticket issuance.
• Italians linger a long time over a meal. Unless you call for their attention, the waiters usually let you be to enjoy your wine. The tip is generally
included in the price of the meal. You can choose to round the bill up and leave a bit extra.
• The famous touristy squares are stunning backdrops for a drink and to linger in the evenings, but the food in the restaurants is often is
disappointing and expensive.

Rome is so much more than what lies in ruins today. But I guess I will have to visit again to explore that side.

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Arrivederci Roma!!
Sowmya

Posted by Ceej 23:53 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

A QUIET MORNING AT THE VATICAN

MADE FOR A PERFECT POST IN PICTURES

sunny 3 °C

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6:45 AM : Outside the Vatican walls.

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The Vatican Museum entrance.

The Vatican Museums, one of the largest museums in the world, consists of 54 galleries including the Sistine Chapel, and contain some 70,000 works of art yet only about 20,000 are on display. Numerous scholars and art conservationists maintain this large body of work. We were told there are 3 1/2 miles of museums inside the Vatican complex. On the last Sunday of each month, the Vatican Museum is open to the public for free to one of the world's most extensive collections of art.

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First view of the Vatican.

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Gallery of Tapestries.
This is the usual place where a tour of the Vatican is begun. We began our tour in the . Four hundred years ago, tapestries were among the most prized objects in palace collections. Beautiful and portable, they also helped to keep the stone castles warm by hanging on the chilly walls. Tapestries are made of silk, wool and silver that flickered in candlelight dazzling the early view with sparkling light. Barberini’s Life of Christ tapestries are among the many tapestries hanging in the 75 meter long Gallery of Tapestries in the Vatican. Our guide pointed out the bees in the corner of the his tapestries as a signature of Barberini. In fact these bees are seen throughout Rome on everything from properties to frescoes. I thought of the industrious Mormon Beehive and wondered if there was any similarity in the symbolism. Not to be forgotten in this gallery are the amazing fresco-ed ceilings that hover above, but one really needs a recliner or a neck brace to view them for any length of time.

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Resurrection of Christ at the tapestry gallery of the Vatican museums

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The Gallery of Maps.
This is the longest tunnel of the Vatican Museums measuring 120 meters, paintings, frescoes and statues light up and adorn the arched ceiling as if blanketed with gold. The rich ceiling frescoes illustrate stories from the lands depicted on the maps on the walls. The brilliant blue painted topographical maps of Italy based on drawings by friar and geographer Ignazio Danti, cover the walls of this beautiful gallery and stunningly contrast with the vibrant golden ceiling covered in absolutely marvellous works of art.

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Marble statutes

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A hastily and sneakily taken grainy picture of Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Photography is not permitted within the confines of the Sistine chapel and there are guards stationed all over who yell (quite loudly) if they see you whipping out a camera to take a picture of the famed ceiling.

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Seeing the exit of the Sistine Chapel when it was completely void of tourists!!!

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Entrance of St. Peters Basilica

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Inside St. Peters Basilica

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The Pieta by Michelangelo - a brilliant sculpture that is a representation of Mary holding Jesus's body once it was brought down from the cross post the crucification.

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The dome above the Pieta.

Vatican Square
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The famed Pontiffical Swiss Guards who have been guarding the Pope for more than five centuries in their colourful medieval uniforms.

Until next time,
CJ

Posted by Ceej 08:51 Archived in Vatican City Comments (0)

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