Rome, the eternal city. Founded by Romulus and Remus a long time ago. They were
suckled by a she wolf, but I don't know why. Later, like Cain and Abel, Romulus
killed Remus and founded the city in 753 BC (back in the Etruscan days, the Roman
Republic came in 509 BC).
Rome has some graffiti, but a lot less than Naples. And the drivers are much better. Not
as good as those up north in the Sudtirol and Germany but much better than Naples. We
arrived at our chosen campground before noon after having left Pompeii before nine. We
came in from the east and took the ring road around Rome to the west side, found
our exit, headed toward downtown and drove right past the campground. So we turned
around at an intersection, where the driver's reminded us of Naples, and went back
and checked in. We took a cabin again, it is still promising rain intermittently
and we will be here for a week. There is a lot to see.
I was told in my history and Latin classes in high school that Rome was built on
seven hills. I had always visualized Rome as an Italian San Francisco. It is actually
quite flat, with hills not much more than a hundred feet high (30 m.). The famous
Palatine Hill is probably not much over 60 feet high.
The first day we are off to see the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. There
are a huge number of statues, busts, frescoes, mosaics, pottery, tapestries, paintings
and other works of art. The popes have been collecting it for many, many years. Some
was taken from conquered places, some dug up from historical sites and much donated
to or bought by the church. The works from the Renaissance are some of the best
in the world. Works by the masters of the time like Michelangelo. Much of this
art work is in of people in the nude. One interesting thing I noticed is that many
of the statues and busts have had their noses busted off, both the men and women
(we saw this in Naples too). And most of the men have had their penises broken off. Some
noses have been repaired, but a lot of penises now have had a stone fig leaf added
to hide them (which we didn't see in Naples). I don't know if it was to hide that
the statue was broken or to provide a later society with the modesty they felt necessary,
but I think it was the latter reason.
There were hundreds of statues from everywhere and floors of mosaics removed from
Roman sites like Pompeii.
The walls and ceilings were covered with frescoes.
The Sistine chapel is stupendous, but no pictures were allowed in there. The famous
frescoes painted on the ceiling by Michelangelo were not the only ones to admire.
He also painted one end wall depicting "Judgment Day". The side walls were covered
by frescoes by others as good as he was, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio and
It took us about 5 hours to see everything. From there we walked around to the piazza
by front door of St. Peter's to visit the Basilica. The line to get in stretched
from the entry all the way around the piazza, and it is a big piazza! So we went
wandering elsewhere and then returned to the campground.
The next day the sun was out and we rode the bike to the town of Tivoli to see a
couple of villas. The first was Villa Adriana and was built for Hadrian in the years
118-134 AD. (He's the same guy who had the Hadrian's Wall built that we had visited
while in England.) This picture is of a model of the villa. It is more like a small
city than a country villa. The building in the foreground is not a stadium, but
a reflecting pool, that's nearly as large as a stadium, and it has a colonnaded shaded
area around the sides. It is one of three in the villa, this is the largest one.
He built this villa as a mountain retreat while he was building himself a palace
The middle sized pool still had some columns and statues around it.
The smallest pool was round and had an island in it, with its own little villa on
the island. Sort of a private get-away space in his public get-away place in the
That afternoon we went to the Villa d'Este, also in Tivoli. It is a medieval villa
of a Viceroy of the church. It had been a convent but Ippolito d'Este liked the
site and turned it into his retreat in the hills. The house isn't much (by Roman
palace criterion) but the gardens are full of several huge fountains.
And hundreds of little ones. This is all powered by gravity, no pumps. A river
was diverted to supply it with water.
This took the day and we headed back the 30 km. to Rome. Our campground is on the
west side and Tivoli is to the east but we took the ring road rather than fight the
city traffic. After driving in the Naples area and in Guadalajara, Mexico we could
have done it without problems, but it was easier to go around. Rome is famous for
its bad drivers, and they are not very good by our standards, but they have nothing
on Naples and are about equal with Mexico.
The third day was a day of rest, we relaxed, did the laundry and some grocery shopping
and then had dinner out. I worked on the computer updating web pages to send to
our ISP when we get out of Italy. (Our Internet Service Provider [ISP] thinks that
a virus may hitch-hike on files I send from certain parts of the world and will not
let me update the web pages from those places. Italy is one of those places.) And
Kathy worked on a cross-stitch pattern for our friends in England.
The fourth day we went to the forum and the Coliseum. This was the heart of the
Roman government and entertainment.
The forum was a group of government buildings and temples at the base of the Palatine
hill, where a lot of the ruling class lived. The remains today are shown above looking
along the main axis of the area. The Palatine Hill is in the background on the right. The
Coliseum is straight ahead but out of sight.
The Coliseum was in some ways a disappointment. We have heard about it, seen pictures,
studied it during high school history classes and generally there was no new information
or sights. We rented the audioguides (cell phone like gadgets that by entering a
number found on a nearby sign will give you additional information) but they were
very minimal in their recorded information, and were expensive. We've had much better
Then we went up the Palatine Hill and looked at the Circo Massimo, the huge race
track for chariots. It's the long depression behind the first row of trees. Today
people use it for a jogging track.
Then there were the ruins of multi-story Roman "McMansions". If you were a somebody
in Rome you had your town house here (you also had a villa in the country). This
is the atrium and pond area on one of them. The racetrack is to my right. There
was a great view from the balcony back then.
Day five we went to the Baths of Caracalla. Built by the Emperor Caracalla to cleanse
his people, 1600 at a time. In Roman times bathing was a social event and took hours
with the various pools (hot, medium and cold) to soak in, a massage, and a meeting
with your business associates.
This was a huge complex. The building was the size of a football field with additional
space around it to exercise in that had fountains and colonnaded shade areas. The
hot room was between the two towers and there was an Olympic size cool pool beyond
After the Baths we walked out the Via Appia Antica. The famous Appian Way that was
the main road down the boot of Italy. In my Latin class's study book there was a
picture of the old Appian Way with its original stone paving slabs and the tall trees
lining it. I flunked out of Latin in one semester but I remembered the picture. I'd
always wanted to go see it myself. Well teacher, I finally made it here, but I still
don't know any Latin!
Day six was fountain day. We saw little fountains like this "Turtle Fountain" (it
had four turtles climbing over the rim into it.).
And large fountains like Tivoli.
And yes we each threw a coin into it thus insuring our return to Rome someday.
Day seven was started early, we are headed to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
City. This is the place that had the huge line all the way around the piazza when
we visited the Vatican Museums on the first day. We want to make sure we get in
without too much of a wait. It worked, we walked right in without any wait, other
than getting thru the metal detectors. We spent about an hour here.
This place is huge and so over-decorated it is gaudy. At the far end of this main
room is the covered pulpit where the pope preaches. You can barely see the dark
colored brass posts and canopy from here.
Here is a better picture. This canopy is 100 feet high! But it is dwarfed by the
building! Only the pope may preach from it.
The frescoes, marble, gold leaf and all are overwhelming. If the Catholic church
took 10% of the money it has spent on its churches, it could do a lot towards alleviating
childhood hunger and improving education among the poor of its flock.
The rest of this day was spent wandering more of Rome, looking at fountains and buildings
in a light rain.