Rome, City of Seven Hills

Clare and I went to Rome in October, 2017.  We arrived a few days early to explore Rome on our own before the Road Scholar group arrived.  The name of the tour was Roaming Rome: The City of Seven Hills.  The Road Scholar guide said he would test us at the end of the trip on the name of the seven hills in Rome so here are the names: Capitoline; Quirinal; Viminal; Esquiline; Caelian; Aventine; Palatine; and Janiculum.

I wasn’t sure what to expect having been to Madrid and Paris, after all, Rome is a capital city of a major European country.  I must admit to being a bit baffled by the streets of Rome where my usual reliable navigation skills where severely put to the test and I failed.  My Boy Scout training in reading maps completely fell apart for several days until I finally started putting together a number of pieces of neighborhoods and roads so that I could semi-competently navigate the city.   Unlike Paris and Madrid that have wide main boulevards and structured highways, Rome streets seem to have never changed since B.C. (Before Christ) so there are no wide boulevards and square blocks or traffic circles similar to European cities I’d previously encountered.  What I would say is that Rome has a charm that invites you want to want to return.

We were able to get accommodations at the hotel where we would be staying with Road Scholar so that worked out well for us.  I’d recommend the Hotel Pace Helvetia due to its central location which worked out extremely well.   I should caution on the shower that we had, it was quite small and one time I slipped and got wedged into the bottom of the shower and it took me awhile to get myself out.  I am diverging from my usual method of putting together my blog on a trip since in several circumstances, I took pictures of the same building on different days and at different times of day so I thought best to consolidate photos more by place rather then as the trip unfolded.  Also, we arrived several days ahead of the Road Scholar tour and visited many sites that are not on the tour.

Here is the Hotel Pace Helvetia and a photo from hotel rooftop of the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument in the evening.   We found a close by restaurant that we liked named Le Lanterne at Via della Pilotta, 21A.

After the death of Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy on January 9, 1878, the Italian government approved the construction of a monumental complex on the Northern side of Rome’s Capitoline Hill. The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument would celebrate the legacy of the first king of a united Italy and would become a symbol of national patriotism.  The Altar of the Fatherland, symbolic center of the Vittoriano, with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Above the statue of goddess Roma, the equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, the first king of a unified Italy, can be seen.  The last photo is of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven which is right behind the Emmanuel II National Monument.

Trajan, emperor from 98 to 117 AD, is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, leading the empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death. He was also known for his philanthropic rule, overseeing extensive public building programs and implementing social welfare policies, which earned him his enduring reputation as the second of the Five Good Emperors who presided over an era of peace and prosperity in the Mediterranean world. Trajan’s Column is a Roman triumphal column that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars. It is located in Trajan’s Forum, built near the Quirinal Hill, north of the Roman Forum.  The freestanding column was completed in 113 and is most famous for its spiral bas relief, which represents the wars between the Romans and Dacians (101–102 and 105–106).

We visited the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) that was named for the chains that held St. Peter when he was imprisoned in Rome and in Jerusalem. The chains are on display in a reliquary at the confession in front of the high altar.  Most people visit the church to see the tomb of Giuliano della Rovere who, in 1503, became pope Julius II.  The statue of Moses grabs the attention of visitors due to its prominent position but also because of its captivating appearance. Even Michelangelo considered the statue one of his best works and the story goes that he found it so lifelike that he started talking to Moses.  Be prepared to climb steps.

What trip to Rome would be complete without seeing Trevi Fountain.  Trevi Fountain was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini.  It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.  Every time we went, the crowds were overflowing so my suggestion would be to go early in the morning or later in the evening when the crowds are not as overwhelming.

It took us some time to find it but we found the Pantheon.  The Pantheon was built more than 1800 years ago. The name Pantheon refers to the building’s original function as a temple for all the gods.  The most impressive part of the building is the more than forty-three meter high dome. At the top of the dome is a large opening, the oculus, which was the only source of light.

The Colosseum is probably the most impressive building of the Roman Empire. It was known as the Flavian Amphitheater and was the largest building of the era.

Emperor Vespasian started construction of the Colosseum in 72 AD and it was completed in 80 AD.  The elliptical building measures 620 ft. by 513 ft. and reaching a height of more than 159 ft.  The Colosseum could accommodate 55,000 spectators.  Emperors used the Colosseum to entertain the public with free games as a symbol of their power and prestige and to increase his popularity.  The lowest story was 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.

In the next group of shots while roaming around the Colosseum area, there is the Temple of Venus and Roma that is located on the Viminal Hill, between the eastern edge of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.  It was dedicated to the goddesses Venus Felix (“Venus the Bringer of Good Fortune”) and Roma Aeterna (“Eternal Rome”). The architect of the temple was the emperor Hadrian with construction beginning in 121, finishing in 141 under Antoninus Pius.

To commemorate Constantin victory over the numerically superior army of Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD that finally brought some peace to the Roman Empire, the Senate of Rome awarded Constantine a triumphal arch. It was dedicated just a few years later, in 315 AD.

The tall bell tower was built in the twelfth century as part of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin that was built in the sixth century at the site of Statio Annonae, the administrative office of the grain market.  The interior was so magnificent that the church was given the name Cosmedin, a word that was derived from the Greek word for jewel.

The arch of Septimius Severus was built in 203 AD in honor of the Roman Emperor Severus.

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina first honored the deified empress (Faustina), who predeceased her husband (Antoninus) in 141 A.D. After his own death and deification, the temple’s cult expanded to included him.

The last picture is of the basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano.  The circular building at the entrance of the Forum was built in the early 4th century as a Roman temple, thought to have been dedicated to Valerius Romulus, deified son of the emperor Maxentius.  It became a church in 527 and contains important but much restored early Christian art.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is an ancient Catholic basilica that is considered to be the largest of the churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome.  Built on a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Cybele, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore was built in the mid-fourth century under the orders of Pope Liberius. According to legend, the Virgin appeared before the Pope with the instructions for building the church, and the shape of the floor was designed based on a miraculous snowfall so the Basilica is sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Snows.

The Spanish Steps or “Scalina Spagna”, is a great example of Roman Baroque Style with its irregular butterfly design consisting of 138 steps.  The Spanish Steps connect the lower Piazza di Spagna with the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti.  The Spanish steps were built in 1723-1725 by a design of architect Francesco de Sanctis and were financed by French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed.  At the lower end of the stairs you can find an early baroque fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia, or “Fountain of the Old Boat” credited to Pietro Bernini.  At the corner on the right as one begins to climb the steps, is the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821.  The Spanish Steps make quite a backdrop for brides to be.

The charm of Rome and many cities is not just its known sights but the in its lesser traveled areas where you can find unique parts of what makes a city, often off the main streets.  If a sculpture is missing a head, find a new one.  In case you’re wondering about the what SPQR stands for, it is: SenātusPopulusque Rōmānus or “The Roman Senate and People”.

Piazza del Popolo or Square of the People came next on our itinerary.  Some history of the square was that in 1589, Pope Sixtus V had the Egyptian obelisk of Sety I, built in 1300 BC, moved from Circus Maximus to the center of the square.

Giuseppe Valadier redesigned the Piazza del Popolo in 1816 by adding walls around the square, giving the piazza its current oval shape. He also added the central fountain and the four Egyptian lions around the obelisk. The walls are adorned with statues of sphinxes, created by the Italian sculptor Giovanni Ceccarini. The fountain on the western end of the square is the Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune Fountain) and shows Neptune accompanied by Tritons.

The fountain opposite the Neptune Fountain is known as the Fontana della dea di Roma (Fountain of the goddess of Rome). The central figure is the goddess Rome, flanked by allegorical figures representing the rivers Tiber and Aniene. Below the goddess is a statue of a she-wolf, suckling Remus and Romulus, founder of Rome.

At the south end of the square are two symmetrical churches on either side of the Via del Corso, a street leading straight through the heart of Rome to Piazza Venezia. The churches, designed by Carlo Rainaldi, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli and the Santa Maria in Montesanto were commissioned by pope Alexander VII in 1658.

And then there’s the Vatican built on Vatican Hill with St Peter’s Basilica and St Peter’s Square.  Way too much to say here but if you’re in Rome, it’s a must see stop.  The art and scale of the Vatican is unbelievable.  I’ve tried to narrow down my photos but it’s impossible to really do justice to what you see in just a few shots while you’re being hustled through.  No photos allowed in a number of areas, including the Sistine Chapel.  I wasn’t too happy when I saw one of our Road Scholar members blithely ignoring the prohibition on photos in certain areas sneaking shots whenever he could.

St Peter’s Basilica is built on Vatican Hill supposedly on the site where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, died a martyr and was buried in 64 AD.  In the middle of the fifteenth century, the basilica was falling into ruin and pope Nicolas V ordered the restoration and enlargement of the church.  So from somewhere around 1450 to 1626 through several popes and many architects the church was finally reconsecrated in 1626 by pope Urban VIII, exactly 1300 years after the consecration of the first church.  Ever since, the St. Peter’s Basilica has been the center of Christianity.

Road Scholar took us to Foro Italico, formerly Foro Mussolini, a sports complex built between 1928 and 1938 as the Foro Mussolini.  Inspired by the Roman forums of the imperial age, its design is lauded as a preeminent example of Italian Fascist architecture instituted by Mussolini. Mussolini had built this prestigious project to get the Olympic Games of 1940 to be held in Rome.

Not on Road Scholar tour was the Castle of the Holy Angel (Castel Sant’Angelo) or the Mausoleum of Hadrian, which is a towering cylindrical building close to the Vatican.  I was very interested in visiting the castle after reading the Dan Brown’s book Angels and Demons.  The Roman Emperor Hadrian commissioned the building of the mausoleum for himself and his family between 134 to 139 AD.  Hadrian and his families ashes were placed there beginning in 138 AD as well as the remains of succeeding emperors until the last recorded deposition being Caracalla in 217.

In the 14th century, the popes converted the structure into a castle.  Pope Nicholas III connected the castle to St Peter’s Basilica by a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo.  The fortress was the refuge of Pope Clement VII from the siege of Charles V during the Sack of Rome in 1527, in which Benvenuto Cellini describes strolling the ramparts and shooting enemy soldiers.

I was truly impressed by the fortress in not only its shear size but the internal defenses made it extremely hard to penetrate but once inside, death would befall attackers as they would slowly move up within the building.  The ramps and steps up were literally death traps from above as defenders would send projectiles and boiling oil down upon those trying attack.  From above, the vistas of Rome and the Vatican City are spectacular so I’d highly recommend taking an afternoon to visit the castle.

We were very fortunate to be taken to the Galleria Borghese whose art was collected by Cardinal Scipio Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V.  The very impressive collection of sculptures was done by Bernini.  The paintings include great works by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Botticelli and others.  There were several people drawing around the grounds surrounding the Galleria and families enjoying the day.  Well worth a trip if you have time, the sculptures alone are something to see.

Clare and I did go to Trastevere, Piazza Navona, and the Jewish Quarter both on our own and with the Road Scholar group.  Here are some of the pictures I took along our walking adventures through Trastevere and the Jewish Quarter.  Rick Steves Audio Europe helped us navigate these areas.

Telefono by Phoenix

Pronto? Sì
Come va a Hollywood?
Oh, you’re staying a little longer?
Well, but I thought you’d be done by September
Non posso vivere
Troppo bisogno di te
Wish you decided to stay
We’re too far, we’re too far away
Guarda, guarda intorno a te
Yeah I’m just calling to say
No, how can I sleep when you’re wide awake?
Frutti di mare
Right beside me
Watch the ocean with you
Watch her movie debut
I painted the house
I bought sheets that you liked on that trip when we went to Rome
And I got a motorboat for the summer
In case you’re done early or if you plan to visit
But wait, do you plan to visit?
Non posso vivere
Troppo bisogno di te
Wish you decided to stay
We’re too far, we’re too far away
Guarda, guarda intorno a te
Yeah, I’m just calling to…