Friday, August 23, 2013

Italy - Rome (2006)

Day 1 in Italy: 30th April 2006

Dome of St Peter's Basilica

The plane from Doha, Qatar landed at around 7am in the morning local time at Leonardo Da Vinci international airport. We stepped out from the pane 15 minutes past 7 and by 7.30 we were cleared from the Immigration check point. After we gathered our group luggage, we quickly freshened up in the washroom at the airport. By 8.30am we were inside the bus heading towards the Vatican City. Vatican is the smallest state in the world, measuring 0.44 sq km based in Rome, Italy with a population of a thousand peoples all guarded by the Swiss Guard. Rome is the only city in the world to contain in its interior a whole state, the enclave of Vatican City; for this reason, it has been often defined as capital of 2 states (Vatican & Italy). 

Vatican Swiss Guard

Rome always struck me as a land of the deities, a home of god and goddess of mythology; Venus (Roman goddess encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility & prosperity), Jupiter (king of gods @ the god of the sky and thunder, a chief deity of Roman state religion) etc. whilst Romulus, the founder and the first king of ancient Roman Kingdom, built the Rome city in 753BC is associated with his twin brother, Remus were both a central characters of Rome's foundation myth. You may read further about "Roman Deities" and the "Roman Forum", located on Palatine Hill founded by the "Roman Kingdom", Romulus, seated about 3.8km from the present Vatican City which I linked from the Wikipedia websites.

Rome's history spans more than 2 and a half thousand years, since its legendary founding in 753 BC. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe. In the ancient world it was successively the capital city of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and is regarded as one of the birthplaces of western civilization. Since the 1st century AD (after the death of Jesus Christ), Rome has been considered the seat of the Papacy as a founder of Christianity and in the 8th century it became the capital of the Papal States, which lasted until 1870. In 1871 Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, and in 1946 that of the Italian Republic.

Inside view of St Peter's Basilica are seen in the above and below photos. Vatican City is a home to some of the most famous art in the world. St. Peter's Basilica, whose successive architects include Bramante, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, Maderno and Bernini, is a renowned work of Renaissance architecture. The Sistine Chapel is also famous for its frescoes, which include works by Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Botticelli as well as the ceiling and Last Judgment by Michelangelo. Artists who decorated the interiors of the Vatican include Raphael and Fra Angelico.

View of St Peter's Basilica dome from inside
Since I have so many details of the coverage square, I had to combine 4 photos of me in St Peter's square to be more appreciative of the striking square and its imposing colonnade lead to the greatest basilica of the Christian world, St Peter's Basilica (Basilica San Pietro). It also represents the core of the Vatican City as the smallest state in the world. In the origins, the square used to be the place where Nerone Circus and Gardens where located, and where many Christians, including Saint Peter, suffered from martyrdom. In the centre of the square stands out an Egyptian obelisk (without hieroglyphics and built during the Ramses II dynasty) brought to Rome by Emperor Caligola in 37 b.C. The presence of Pharaoh's statue from the land of Egypt became an important trademark to those who really wishes to explore the truth about the Christian Kingdom.

Collection of photos in St Peter's Square

As it was Sunday, crowds are ready for the morning mass. We were impressed with the numbers of Ferrari cars being parked at the Square as seen in below photo.

After Vatican city, the tour agent had arrange a quick stop just to take photo at the Altar of Fatherland where the statue of the King Victor Emmanuel II is placed. On the way to the altar, we passed by a beautiful bridge structure used as a crossing from the Tiber River. The bus passes the ancient Roman city where Roman Legions once marches in triumph, Victor Emmanuel II monument and Piazza Venezia.

Scene I saw from James Bond movie
Below are 2 photos of the Altare della Patria in latin and/or Altar of the Fatherland, known as National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. It is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. It occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and Capitoline Hill. The monument was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885; sculpture for it was parceled out to established sculptors all over Italy, such as Leonardo Bistolfi and Angelo Zanelli. The altar was inaugurated in 1911 and was completed in 1925, becoming a popular tourist attraction.

Statue of Emmanuel II

On our way to the next destination, Coliseum, I snapped below beautiful sculpture of the myth at one of the roundabout from the bus. Rome, rather Italy is a home to the genius sculpture, similar to the ancient city of Athens that we visited in 2008. To describe Coliseum or the Roman Kingdom, it reminded me of the beautiful "Delphi" in Greece. 

The Roman Colosseum or Coliseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was commissioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian. It was completed by his son, Titus, in 80AD, with later improvements by Domitian. The Colosseum is located just east of the Roman Forum and was built to a practical design, with its 80 arched entrances allowing easy access to 55,000 spectators, who were seated according to rank. The Coliseum is huge, an ellipse 188m long and 156m wide. Originally 240 masts were attached to stone corbels on the 4th level. Just outside the Coliseum is the Arch of Constantine (Arco di Costantino), a 25m high monument built in AD315 to mark the victory of Constantine over Maxentius at Pons Milvius.

Emperor Vespesian ordered the Colosseum to be build on the site of Nero's palace, the Domus Aurea, to dissociate himself from the hated tyrant. His aim was to gain popularity by staging deadly combats of gladiators and wild animal fights for public viewing. Massacre was on a huge scale at inaugural games in 80AD where over 9,000 wild animals were killed. Roman gladiators were usually slaves, prisoners of war or condemned criminals. Most were men, but there were a few female gladiators. These combats were attended by the poor, the rich, and frequently the emperor himself. As gladiators fought, vicious cries and curses were heard from the audience around the Roman Colosseum. One contest after another was staged in the course of a single day. Should the ground become too soaked with blood, it was covered over with a fresh layer of sand and the performance went on. The gladiatorial games continued until Christianity progressively put an end to those parts of them which included the death of humans.

Various shot around Colosseum including with Arch of Constantine

After spending about 1 hour in Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, we went ahead to the The Trevi fountain, inspired by Roman triumphal arches. The Trevi Fountain as we know today was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732 and was completed in 1762. The central figures of the fountain are Neptun (God of the sea), flanked by two Tritons. One struggles to master a veru unruly "sea horse", the other lead a far more docile animal. These symbolize the two contrasting moods of the sea. The site originally marked the terminal at the Aqua Virgo aqueduct built in 19 BC. Trevi Fountain is the largest and most famous Baroque fountain in Rome (standing 25.9 meters high and 19.8 meters wide). In 1629, Pope Urban VIII, asked Bernini to sketch possible renovations of the fountain, finding it insufficiently theatrical. After the Pope's death the project was abandoned. Bernini's lasting contribution was to situate the fountain from the other side of the square to face the Quirinal Palace, for the Pope to see and enjoy. 

One of the reliefs above Neptune sculpture shows a young girl (the legendary virgin after whom the aqueduct was named) pointing to the spring from which the water flows. There are many films shot in Rome, including romantic films such as "Three coins in a fountain" and "Roman holiday",  also "La dolce vita" using Trevis Fountain as a set. As hubby was not with me during this visit, I made him and Nasrul sat for a photo at the Trevi Fountain of Seoul inside Lotte World Mall. Remarks: I had an evident photo of me throwing the coins to the fountain, half believing that I would return 1 day.

Trevi Fountain

The final and important land marks of Rome that we visited on 30th April 2006 was Piazza di Spagna @ famously called the Spanish Steps before we lost in a crowds touring branded boutiques and shopping at the Piazza on our own free time. Spanish Steps is a masterpiece of the XVIII century, the square, with its irregular shape, extends itself at the feet of Pincio hill on top of where, the French Church Trinita dei Monti is located.  The square and the church are connected by the monumental Spanish steps, built between 1723-1726 (designed by Francesco de Sanctis). The Spanish steps, once a year in the summertime, host a famous fashion show, and they are used as a catwalk. On the crowded square I found a place to sit for photo at the Barcaccia Fountain, built in 1598 by order of the Pope Urbano VIII to commemorate the disastrous flood caused by Tiver river the very same year.

For your information, the Piazza di Spagna and Plaza Trinita dei Monti are where the most glamorous Rome streets at. The area around Piazza di Spagna is where to find the most prestigious boutiques such as Prada, Valentino, Gucci etc., becoming an ideal starting point for your shopping in Rome. I spent so much time there until it was time for our group dinner before heading to south Rome to rest for a night at Hotel Palace 2000, reachable within 35 minutes by bus.

Stay tune for more information and photos in Naples and Capri of my day 2 in Italy. 
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