Thursday, November 1, 2012

Roaming the Streets of Rome

If there's one word I can use to describe Rome, the Eternal City ~ it's freaking Epic!  Everything is so monumental.  Literally... bigger-than-life!  I got overwhelmed being around so much artistic beauty, and richness of history.   

Roaming the streets of Rome, is like walking through the history of the Great Roman Empire and Civilization. You'll come face to face with huge edifices of the roman gods, goddess, and walk through the same road where gladiators trod.

Ok.  I'm not going to be overly cinematic here :)  Come, Walk with Me.

Our first stop is Fountain de Trevi, the most famous and arguably the most beautiful fountain in Rome.  (Rome has so many of them).

 I remember Fountain de Trevi, from the song that my father used to sing, "Three Coins in the Fountain...each one seeking happiness. Thrown by 3 hopeful lovers, Which one will the Fountain bless? Make it mine, make it mine... Please make it Mine..."   :))

Fountain de Trevi, in the Heart of Rome, is the setting of that timeless classic by the Four Aces.

There's always a lot of people here, but we we're lucky to be there early and enjoy the serenity without the busloads of tourists.

The central figure of the fountain,  is Neptune, god of the sea. He is riding a chariot in the shape of a shell, pulled by two sea horses. Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One of the horses is calm and obedient, the other one restive. They symbolize the fluctuating moods of the sea.

Throwing a coin on the fountain, over your shoulder is a tradition said to ensure your return to Rome! But we have our other personal tradition :)

can't help it :)

Our next stop was the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti or Spanish Steps,  a lovely staircase,  constructed with lots of curves, vistas and terraces.  Total of 138 steps, and culminates at a French church of Trinita dei Monti with its gorgeous Twin bell Towers.

Favorite meetings place for tourists, eco-groups even locations for movies, and fashion shows.  This place really has the oomph! 

At the foot of the Spanish Steps lies the Fontana della Barcaccia,  a pretty fountain designed as a small boat.  Do you know that water at the fountains in Rome are potable?  Yup!  There are about 2,500 drinking fountains scattered all around Rome, from the tiny ones to these colossal ones! They're super cold and tastes good, too.  If you recall our history, the Romans are the master builders of aquaducts and baths, and until now, they're showing us how to master water.

All around the Piazza di Spagna are narrow streets with tiny stores ~ but... don't get fooled by the size.. they're totally upscale!  I saw the small shops of LV...  Hermes....Bulgari ... Gucci .....

A couple of streets away, we came to the Il Vittoriano or Victor Emmanuel Monument, an enormous white marble edifice, built  as a tribute to the first King who united Italy, Victor Emmanuel II.

The monument, which Italians call as "wedding cake" or "typewriter",  consists of a large flight of stairs leading to the Altar of the Nation, dominated by a colossal 12m long equestrian statue of the King, and beautiful columns.  A sight to behold!

Me and my friend teena doing our snappy salute to the unknown soldiers

At the foot of the huge building lies the tomb of the unknown soldier, guarded by two sentries of honor.  An Eternal Flame burns 24/7.

A short walk from the Il Vittorino, we came to The Roman Forum.  They're now  ruins containing the old center of Rome.  On an elevated platform, one can just imagine how the Roman Empire is like.  Littered with temples, basilicas and arches.

Long ago, the Roman Forum was the center of life in Imperial Rome, now they are seemingly silent cemeteries of Rome's former glory.

et tu, brutus?  (my julius caesar)

One of the most curious places I wanted to see in my childhood days, was The Colosseum.  I remember watching the old movies of Spartacus, Gladiators, Ben-hur.   (Really old movies not the new ones of Russel Crowe ha!)  If my father is still alive, he would have been happy that I finally visited this place.

The Colosseum is probably the most impressive building of the Roman Empire. Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was the largest building of the era.  The monumental structure has fallen into ruin, but even today it is an imposing and arresting sight.  Really, wow!!

The elliptical building is immense!  It just looks small in the photos, but it measures 188m by 156m and reaching a height of more than 48 meters (159 ft).

During the glory days of Rome, the Colosseum could accommodate some 55,000 spectators who could enter the building through no less than 80 entrances!

Above the ground are four storeys, the upper storey contained seating for lower classes and women.

The lowest storey was preserved for prominent citizens. Below the ground were rooms with mechanical devices and cages containing wild animals. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena!  Astig.  Galing!

Right now,  the collosseum is just part of the package of a Rome tour.   Men dressed in gladiator costumes roam outside and for 1 euro they can pose with you.  I doubt they're even real Romans, :)) more like, Bulgarians :))

beautiful inscriptions / reliefs in the ruins

holes in the building, can't stop the decay brought by time and men's folly

I often confuse this next structure with Parthenon of Greece or the Pantheon of Paris.  This equally famous structure in Rome, is simply The Pantheon.  A magnificent old temple for pagan gods, until it was converted into a church in 609.

The Pantheon  was built more than 1800 years ago, and it's amazing to be so well-preserved.

The old world seems to be obsessed with columns they can't get enough of them :)

During its heydays, The Pantheon used to be the largest dome in the world.  You cannot see it in the photo because I was too close to the building.  Throughout the years, new structures  developed around it.  Now,  it's a bit hard to get a bird's eye view.  :(

The dome has an opening called Oculus, which is the ONLY source of light inside!

The interior  is elliptical and beautifully preserved including the priceless artworks. The two kings of Italy are buried here, including the great Italian renaissance painter and architect,  Raffaelo.

Our last stop before we left for the evening train home ~  Piazza Navona, one of the most beautiful piazza in Rome largely because of the gorgeous 3 fountains.

The  Fountain of Four Rivers, features four figures  (how's that for consonance!! 5Fs! my record so far... hahahaha)  Each figure represents a river from a different continent - the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio della Plata.

If you're an avid fan of Dan Brown, in his book Angels and Demons, this is where the narrator was almost killed by drowning. 

The Neptune Fountain, here the god Neptune is surrounded by sea nymph.

and the Fontana del Moro, the central statue of a Moor holding a dolphin.

The backdrop of these beautiful fountains is the lovely  baroque church called Sant'Agnese.

Rome is simply one city, I would really, really love to go back.   There's still so much to explore! Two days is not enough.  It's really just like scanning the pages of a magazine.  Oh, how I wish we had more time to really be immersed in the beauty of it all.

'til next adventure!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

View from the Vatican

Today is the canonization of Pedro Calunsod, the second Filipino saint.  All eyes are in St. Peter's Basilica, in Vatican City, Rome.  Surely there are many Pinoys in the audience on this memorable occasion.  Looking at the news coverage, reminds me of my own visit to the Vatican City, a few weeks ago.

Our home base  during our trip to Italy was in Milan.   By train, it takes about 3hours to Rome, the capital of Italy.  We rode the bullet train, which runs a steady hum of 300 KM per hour!

Will you look  at that "pretend" Stylish  business traveler on the left :))

Rome  has very rich culture and lots places to see.  I really set aside an "over nighter" here.  We stayed in a small bed and breakfast near the train station.  Compared to Paris, the room was huge & cheap! 

First on our itinerary was, of course,  the Vatican City.   The smallest independent nation in the world.  The enclave is literally separated by walls  from the city of Rome.

Walled City, literally!

Swiss Guards. Tough. Mercenary... and Flirts!  The taller one just winked at me! Hmp! :)

 We arrived in St. Peter's Square nearing dusk.  It was an ordinary Wednesday and we were very lucky, the place was not crowded with usual worshipers.  We just breezed through, when our friend Teena said it usually takes hours, just to get through the square to the Basilica.

St. Peter's Square, fronting the basilica,  accommodates the largest number of visitors in the world (60,000).  It's 23, 00 sq. miles or 5.7 acres

Bernini's beautiful colonnades hugs the huge square

The central dome of the basilica dominates the skyline of Rome

St. Peter's Basilica is probably the greatest of all churches in the entire Christendom.  Any devout Catholic dream of visiting it sometime in their lifetime.  It is the perfect ending to a Holy Land pilgrimage tracing the roots of Christianity.

With our friend Teena, at the facade of the Basilica. 

But then again, whether one is a Christian or not,  anyone can appreciate the richness of the culture, history, architectural and artistic aspect of this place.  It's really something to behold.   

The moment we set foot there, I felt overwhelmed and dwarfed by  the immensity of it all.  Everything seems to have been magnified 100x. 

Look how many "me" can fit into these columns

Stretching way, way up, more than the eyes can see

I can barely reach the Holy Water font to dip my fingers. 

Everything is just sooooo Grandiose!  I am gonna run out of superlative adjectives.  It's Magnificent, Imposing, Resplendent ....

Here I am only at the one part of the nave leading to the altar.  Hidden from view, on my right and left, are huge corridors with individual chapels, which can already be a small church in my country. 

Think of the biggest church you know, multiply that maybe 20x... that's St. Peter's Basilica's.

My friend and I playing on the massive pillars

A familiar sight, but this one is the real deal ~ Pieta, a masterpiece of renaissance sculpture by Michaelangelo is displayed on the first chapel on the right side, as one enters the Basilica.

One can't help but feel "dwarfed' by the huge statues of saints and as you slowly approach the altar, you get that shrinking feeling..... God, I'm so small, really.

Many popes are buried here underneath the basilica. The crypts are works of arts themselves! Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to see the burial crypt of Pope John Paul II. 

The entire interior of St Peter's is lavishly decorated with marble, reliefs, architectural sculpture and gilding.
Wondering what if feels like getting married here? :)

Amidst all the beautiful interiors, the  central feature is a Baldachin or canopy over the Papal Altar,   The sanctuary culminates in a sculptural ensemble,  which includes,  the symbolic Chair of St Peter.

Chair of St. Peter, a relic enclosed in gilt bronze casing

Here's another view.

My camera cannot capture the whole thing.  But underneath the canopy, lies a mysterious staircase!  :)) If you've read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, you will truly be fascinated! :)) It is said to be the tomb of St. Peter.  There's still controversies surrounding whether it contains the real bones or not. But we need whole night of coffee or wine to talk about it :)

The huge dome is also a masterpiece of renaissance art. 

Oh, there's just too many things to feast your eyes on!!   If I have all the time in the world,  I just  want to sit for hours and just "feel" the Holiness of the place wash over me.

my friend caught me in my "senti" mode

 This image is also familiar, the statue of St. Peter,  commonly used in Catholic literature.   This one is the "real" thing!  The statue's right foot is almost torn down with centuries of pilgrims touching it.

One of the many, many chapels on the wings of the basilica.

This is one place, I don't really mind going back.   If you're going, and need a companion, buzz me :)  I still have so many things to explore in all those nooks and crannies.

I also want to have an "audience" with a Pope in my lifetime.   :))  Actually, an audience means you're just one of the 80,000 crowd.   :))

Here's what my skill and camera failed to  capture ~  I cut & paste from Wikipedia to give you better perspective.

Awesome  isn't it ??

If you want more ~  follow us on our Super Awestruck Adventure at the Vatican Museum  ( My OMG moment at the glorious Sistine Chapel !!! )  and  walking around the beautiful romantic city of Rome
.... up-next!