Sunday, June 1, 2014

When in Rome....

As we promised both of our children a trip to a major European city as a reward for their final highschool exams this year it was our son's turn. Having become enamored with Rome last year his choice was of course to go there again. So last week we took off for the center of the civilized world, the City of the Poets etc etc. Taking off we left the dismal Dutch weather behind us and traded it for classic Italian blue skies and sun. 

 Here a view from the train that took us from the airport into the heart of Rome.

Losing no time, we left our baggage in the hotel and took off for the Colosseum. So I was standing there thinking: "Yes it is rather big up close" until I spotted the tiny human figures walking around on the second ring and realized I wasn't that close at all....

Inside it looked even bigger. Climbing to the second and third ring the building kept growing in scale. It was awe-inspiring and you can only imagine what kind of impression it must have made on visitors from far parts of the Empire some 1800 years ago. That so much is even still standing defies understanding. Yes, it is a tourist trap and yes, it is crawling with obnoxious salespeople but my God it is IMPRESSIVE!

So to counter all this awe and historical perspective I bought a silly hat and even sillier sunglasses....

Next we visited the Forum and walked for hours among the ruins and flowers through the Forum and on the Palatine Hill.

Poppies growing on 20 centuries of marble

The temple of Saturn

The Arch of Septimius Severus, raised to commemorate victories over the Parthians. 

The Capitol on Capitol Hill (the original one). 

For some reason we always ended our walks here on the stairs overlooking Trajan's Column, eating icecream bought from this nameless gellateria. I heartily recommend it, for the delicious gellatti as well as the beautiful smile of the lady that serves it. 

Next day we visited the Spanish Stairs. Keats died somewhere on the right I believe. We burned a candle for a lost friend at the church on top of the stairs. 

We walked to the nearby Trevi Fountain. Anita was out of town but dozens of tourists milled around. It kept striking us how small the historic center of Rome actually is. You keep forgetting that because there is such a massive amount of beautiful things to see. The Pantheon for one. The interior is breathtaking and because I saw no way to adequately photographing it, i made a short video. 

Take your daily icecream, son. It'll put hair on your chest. 

Here Bernini's statues on the Piazza Navona display their distaste of the building across the street, built by one of Bernini's many enemies. 

Insanely expensive lead soldiers. GW can learn a lot from Italians, I tell you that. 

The Piazza Navona. Nowhere tastes overpriced Espresso better. 

Next day it was of to Tiber Island and Trastevere. Below some ancient marine monument has been encorporated into the newer buildings. If you learn to look for those, you see it a lot. It is impressive to realize that the ancient Roman ruins that often tower over the modern buildings originally where even higher and bigger than today. Rome must truly have been one of the wonders of the world, never to be seen again. 

Remnants of the ancient Roman bridge to Trastevere. One arch has braved the centuries and still spans part of the river.

Vacanza Romane

Climbing Capitol Hill towards the statue of Hadrian (I think)

At night the visitors of the Trevi fountain multiply and there is much taking of pictures and throwing of coins, which allegedly guarantees that you will return to Rome one day and is a lot more healthy than the old tradition, which was to drink from the fountain....

Next day it was off to the Vatican Museum and the St Peter. 

The Emperor Hadrian. I visited his Wall two years ago, so I thought it fit to include his state here.

Inside the Vatican. There is so much to see here that you can spend a week doing it. And then some. 

Remarkable painting displaying Aquaman riding a horse at the far right. 

A little boy running across the lawn at the Vatican garden (which was forbidden) and his mom sitting peacefully in the sun and not standing up to get him (because that is forbidden). A guard was present the whole time and busy telephoning with someone. All was well. 

Michalangelo's double Spiral Steps

St. Peter. Everybody is welcome in this heart of the Roman Catholic church. And unfortunately everybody showed up, because the line reached all around St. Peter's Square. We didn't get to see the Pieta this time. But we tossed currency into the Trevi, so we will be back! 

The surroundings of the church are even more crowded with beggars and salesmen than usual. Obviously no one has driven the merchants from the temple since Jesus did it. The Roman attitude was well summed up in the words I heard uttered by a Roman visitor exiting a church while passing the customary beggar sitting in the porch: "Ci saranno sempre poveri" (There will always be poor; Matthew 26:11)). He gave no alms...

A very impressive piece of medieval fortressing is the Castel San Angelo. Originally the Mausoleum of Hadrian it was later reinforced with medieval walls and fortresses and even more later with early bastions and cannon. The view from the top terrace is spectacular and there turned out to be a restaurant as well as a First World War exposition in the museum. Well worth the visit!

Below the Roman masonry (marble long since stripped away) and on top of that the Medieval fortress.

The Voldemort monument

Some shifty Italian character that claimed to be related to me..

A colonial heirloom directing the traffic.


The view from the Villa Borghese. Beautiful! 

The Biggles Monument. 

Hadrian's column. Even prettier than  Trajan's. 

 The road home. But we will be back.