Previously, on Chasing Dreams I began the tale of when and how I first fell in love with Italy during a very special cruise trip commemorating the sweet 16 celebration for my daughter. There were a number of ports of call, most incredible, one forgettable but the trip culminated in a two-day stay in Rome when my heart was once and for all, captured.
One of the most ancient cities of Europe, Rome’s history of over 2700 years is displayed everywhere you look and is generally easy to traverse as long as you have strong legs. Starting from its early days as a settlement of shepherds on the Palatine Hill, to its growth as ruler over the powerful empire that at one time stretched from Northern England to North Africa, the legacy of this center of the Christian world can be seen all over the city. Churches, temples, fountains, obelisks, museums, galleries and more provide a cornucopia that is vast (an important fact for later). I couldn’t possibly touch upon all the sites in one post, so today will highlight the top four sites that most affected my daughter and I.
FORUM – THE FORUM ROMANUM was the commercial, religious, political and legal center of Rome. Its origins are related to the coalescing of the primitive villages which had grown up on the hills. The valley of the Forum, lying at the base of the Palatine and the Capitol dates back to the late Bronze age and early Iron age and around the end of the 7th Century BC the first paved roads were built. While the Capitol was set aside for political functions of the Senate, the larger part of this area came to play the part of the “square” (Forum in the proper sense of the term) where shops and market stalls intermingled with the cities’ oldest sanctuaries of the Vestal Virgins, Saturn, Jupiter and of course Castor and Pollux. In fact, one the market constructions, built to protect the merchants and shoppers during inclement weather was one of the first department stores:
COLISEUM – Perhaps one of the most iconic Italian images, the Coliseum was built between 70 – 80 AD by the Roman Emperor Vespasian who, as head of the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Empire for twenty-seven years. In fact, the original name of the Coliseum was the Flavian Amphitheater. The remains today are but a mere shadow of the once colossal edifice , but nevertheless were so awe-inspiring that we spoke in whispers while we were there. There are 80 arches at ground level that are progressively numbered, the numbers corresponding to the spectators “tickets” or tesserae. Counting the standing spectators, the amphitheater could accommodate about 70,000 people. The spectators were led via a system of internal corridors to the 160 outlets that took them to their seats, which were really long steps. Each sector of the arena was reserved strictly for a particular “class” of citizen, with the topmost areas assigned to the least important. Even in those days there were “nosebleed seats. There was also retractable “awning” segments to protect visitors against the heat of the sun.
The opening ceremonies and games went on for 100 days and some 5000 wild animals were put to death as well as countless gladiators.
Here are some less traditional pictures to give you an idea of the intricacies of the various levels of construction:
VATICAN – Not really a part of Rome, since it has been a sovereign state since 1929, the Vatican is the center of power for Catholics all over the world. As the site where St Peter was martyred and buried, the Vatican became the residence of the Popes who succeeded him. The Vatican has it own radio, broadcasting across the world in 20 languages. It also has its own post office, daily newspaper and publishing house.
We arrived at the Vatican towards the end of our Italian journey and needless to say, my 16-year-old was a bit “over” the relentless array of historic sites we had already seen. When faced with the tour of St Peters and within it, The Sistine Chapel, she plaintively said, “Ma, it’s JUST another church. Can’t I just wait outside by that tall thin sculpture (the Obelisk at the enter of the Piazza San Pietro) until you come out?”
After I stopped laughing I explained to my daughter that 1) this wasn’t just another church – it was THE CHURCH, and 2) waiting outside was not an option. This picture explains why:
Somewhat dragging, but not screaming, my daughter did accompany me through the tour and admitted at the end that it was “pretty cool.”
Here’s an aerial view not my own – that shows the sheer beauty of St Peter’s – although I not sure how a photo was taken that shows a square devoid of people – maybe they were photoshopped out:
TREVI FOUNTAIN – If you haven’t yet clicked onto the blue title of this section, please take a minute and do so – it sets the tone for my final segment –
The Trevi Fountain was our final destination on a very hot sunny day. Some background: The Trevi Fountain is a fairly recent creation, being completed in 1762. It is a mostra, a monumental fountain built to mark the end of an aqueduct – in this case the Acqua Vergine, built by Marcus Agrippa in 19 BC. The central figure is Neptune, flanked by two Tritons, an unruly seahorse and a more docile horse. These represent the varying moods of the sea:
The relief figures in the back are young virgins after which the Aqueduct was named.
Looks inviting, no? Remember, this is a VERY HOT day and my daughter was in a very rare whiny mood (despite the exhausted request at the Vatican, she is very easy-going, good-natured and fun to be with – like her mom)!
Anyway, it is the end of the trip, it is hot, daughter is whining about the heat, so… (with a little push from me:
Don’t have an actual picture – was laughing so hard I dropped the camera.