Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rome



It was more than a vacation for me, it was like a pilgrimage. After becoming a Catholic in 2010, this trip was for me like a confirmation of what i truly believed, it was like a trip of knowledge in which i tried to learn more and understand more about the religion and life i choose. I was going to visit Rome, the cradle of civilization and the place where the Catholic religion was formed. As we prepared to go to Rome i watched again one of my favorite movies ever: the polish version of Quo Vadis. In the end of the movie, after meeting the Lord Jesus on the road, Sf. Peter is returning to Rome knowing that he is going to die. The movie finishes with him walking towards Rome in rags and on his right, far away we can see the modern Rome and the Vatican with the Sf. Peter's Cathedral. The thought of walking on the same roads that maybe St. Peter and St. Paul and many other Christian martyrs walked 2000 years ago was unbelievable for me. It was also a symbolical trip: I was going to physically "Cross the Tiber".
We left for Rome from the Bratislava Airport and we landed in the Airport Ciampina out of the city. From there we took a bus to the first metro station in Rome: Anagnina. If you go to Rome try not to use the buses but buy a metro ticket. The metro is excellent, it covers almost all the city and the stations are named after the attractions of Rome which makes it easier for the tourists. From there we took a very long trip with the metro about half an hour to the station where our hotel was: Manzoni. The name of our hotel was Milton and we had bed and breakfast. We arrived in the evening and we left our luggage and went for a walk. Near the hotel there were a lot of shops where you can buy simple things for dinner: like biscuits, cookies, ham and cheese, bread. There are also fast-foods. If you are in Rome i wouldn't recommend to go to a restaurant to eat, unless it is more expensive. We had pizza in some restaurants and we hated it, it was not even made in the oven but in the microwave. I would recommend the street fast-foods where you can eat pizza slices which are excellent and never ever forget to have the ice-cream (gelata) which is definitely the best in the world.

St. John Lateran
 
After we had a dinner which we didn't like and an ice-cream that we loved we went one station to walk. We found there one of the four Vatican Churches and the first Christian Cathedral: St. John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano). The church was build by the Emperor Constantine and was dedicated to our Savior Jesus Christ. On top of the church there is a big statue of Christ holding a cross and flanked on his left and right by saints and popes.It was late in the evening so we didn't have time to enter and visit the church but we made pictures in front of it before returning to the hotel.

 San John Lateran in the evening light
The top of the Church with the statues

In the morning we started to plan what we were going to do. If you are in Rome the first thing you should do is to ask at the reception of the hotel for a map of Rome. It is excellent and simple and it shows all the special places that you can visit.

Map of the center of Rome

Colosseum

Then we decided to start by visiting the Colosseum. It was located 10 minutes from our hotel so we went walking. It was a very bright and sunlight morning and we went full of excitement to see one of the greatest masterpieces of the ancient world and one the symbols of Rome. As we walked on the small Rome's street the Colosseum started to appear from behind the buildings, majestic and immense.

The Colosseum

We walked around it admiring the large facade, and the walls hiding thousands of years of history. The Colosseum was build in the first century by the Flavian dynasty, that's why it is also called the Flavian Amphitheater. It was used in the ancient times for spectacles: gladiator fights, executions, battles or commemoration of famous battles, dramas and animal hunts. Along the centuries it was destroyed by earthquakes and stone robbers and it was used for different things like fortresses, factories, a religious order and now it is a touristic location and a Christian shrine. 

The facade of the Colosseum

It is not sure if Christians were actually executed in the Colosseum, however it was declared a sacred ground and a symbol of the martyrs that were killed in the name of the christian religion. Every Good Friday the pope celebrates here the Way of the Cross. After we made a tour around the Colosseum we decided to stay in the queue for buying tickets. After we entered we went directly up to the second floor and admired the whole view of the inside of the Colosseum. We walked round and admired everything from all angles.

 View from the upper floor of the Colosseum

View from the upper floor of the Colosseum from the other side

 The inscription  with the name of the Amphitheater and history

The cross that commemorates all the deaths in the Colosseum

Then we went down to the first floor and walked around the arena and the hypogeum. Near the arena we could see the cross raised for the memory of everybody who died there. In the hypogeum we admired the labyrinths where in the ancient Rome there were the animal cages and the prisons for the people going to be executed. We made as many pictures as we could, we admired all the corners of the Colosseum and we bought cards and souvenirs from the little shop inside it. Then we went out and rested in front of the Arch of Constantine.

 View of the Arena and the Hypogeum

The Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine, details of the basoreliefs

After we finished our visit in the Colosseum we went to the metro to visit the Fontana di Trevi. On the way we can stop in the metro station Fontana de Triton and admire a beautiful fountain there.

Fontana di Triton

Fontana di Trevi

Then we walked a little on the narrow streets of Rome until we reach a small sunlight square where you can see the wonderful Fontana di Trevi, the blue clean water falling down on the rock. Fontana di Trevi is maybe the most beautiful fountain in the world, build in the baroque style. The fountain was build in the ancient time and it is constructed where one of the aqueducts supplying Rome was ending: Aqua Virgo. There was a legend that the roman constructors located a source of pure water for the aqueduct with the help of a virgin. As we reached the fountain we sat down on the steps and admired for a long time the beautiful statues and the clean blue water.

 Tourist in the small square in front of the Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi

Behind the fountain there is the wonderful facade of the Palazzo Poli with its long beautiful colonnades. The main theme of the fountain is the taming of the waters.

View of the fountain from the square, with the tourists, the facade of the Palazzo Poli


 Us in front of the Fontana di Trevi

In the middle there is a large Triumph Arch, where Oceanus is sitting in a shell carriage, while tritons are pulling the carriage on hippocamps. The hippocamps are mythological creatures, half horse and half fish tail.

 Oceanus on a shell carriage and a triton taming a hippocamp

Triton taming a hippocamp

On the right and the left of Oceanus are the two statues of Abundance and Salubrity.

 Salubrity

Abundance

The rest of the fountain is made of nicely arranged stones from which water falls in silver clear waves.


 Water falling on the stones

 Water falling on the stones

Water falling on the stones

We threw coins in the water as a tradition. The legend says that if you throw a coin in the Fontana di Trevi you are sure to return to Rome. The money are collected regularly and used for the needy of Rome.

Santa Maria Maggiore

After we left the fountain we returned to the hotel and rested, changed and left back to the city. It was already getting dark and since it was Ash Wednesday, my first Ash Wednesday since i became Catholic we decided to stop for the Holly Mass in the Santa Maria Maggiore church. This is one of the four churches of the Vatican and the biggest church dedicated to the St. Mary in Rome. As we walked on the road towards the church the sun was setting and sending red-golden rays over the towers, colonnades and the large windows making it glow in the evening.

 Santa Maria Maggiore back


 Santa Maria Maggiore front


 Santa Maria Maggiore facade

We entered in the church and we participated in the Holly Mass officiated by a bishop. The church is large, with a marble floor mosaic and a beautiful ceiling with golden decorations. As the church was immense a group of four priests were offering the ashes and the communion. As we got out after the mass it was already dark and we walked in the beautiful Rome night back to the hotel.

 Ash Wednesday in the Santa Maria Maggiore

Ceiling decoration in Santa Maria Maggiore

 Santa Maria Maggiore ceiling

Vatican

The next day we went to visit the Vatican. As we went to the Vatican we were extremely excited. We were going to visit the center of the Christian faith. The metro left us a few hundred meters away from the Vatican. We walked along the brick wall towards the Vatican museum. We had ticket reservation for 10 o'clock in the morning. If you want to visit the Vatican museum I recommend that you reserve the tickets online, otherwise you will have to wait in a very long queue before you enter. As we had our ticket reservation we showed it to the guard and just entered the Vatican museum. Inside we went through a check up just like at the airport. Then we went to the cashier and she gave us the entrance tickets. First we stopped at the souvenir shop and we bought cards and a rosary.

 View to the Vatican

 Way to the Vatican Museum

Then we went up the stairs and entered the museum. First we walked a little through the corridors and we came out in a little square called the Courtyard of the Pine Cone. There you can rest before starting the very long and tiring walk in the museum and you can make pictures with the Giant Sphere Sculpture.

 Pine Cone Courtyard

 Gian Sphere Sculpture in the Courtyard of the Pine Cone

Then the visit starts. From the Courtyard we go into the Octagonal Courtyard and admire the first statues, through these statues are the Appolo Del Belvedere and Laocoon and sons.

 Octagonal Courtyard


 Laocoon and sons

As we enter the Galleries of Statues we admired the thousands of beautiful statues and the marble mosaic floor and the wonderful paintings on the ceiling.

 Mosaic in the Vatican Museum


 Statue of Fertility

Ceiling paintings in the Vatican Museum

Faith and Reason

Statues in the Vatican Museum

After passing a very long galleries of statues and long corridors we entered the Galleries of Maps. It is a very long corridor full of maps painted on the walls, with a ceiling full of paintings and golden decorations, statues of little angels and basoreliefs. Then we went via the Galleries of Carpets, however i was not able to do pictures there, as it is dark in order to protect the old carpets.

 Ceiling in the Galleries of Maps

 Galleries of Maps

 Map in the Galleries of Maps

Then we entered the beautiful Sobieski room and admired the wonderful paintings and then the Immaculate Conception Hall. Then we passed a small corridor until the Raffaello rooms: the Hall of Constantine, Room of Heliodorus, Room of the Segnatura, Room of the Fire in the Borgo.

 My husband admiring the paintings in the Sobieski room

The room of Immaculate Conception

The School of Athens in the Rafaello Rooms

Then we passed many other long corridors and rooms with more modern paintings and statues and finally we reached the most beautiful place in the Vatican: The Sistine Chapel. The first feeling you get when you enter the Chapel is that the chapel is much smaller then you expected it to be and one hundred times more beautiful then you ever thought it will be when looking at the pictures. The paintings and the colors are so live and beautiful that you forget your name inside of it and you just sit there in admiration. Unfortunately you are not allowed to do pictures there. So we only stayed and admired. The famous image of God touching Adam is the most amazing painting ever, the first second of life. After you get out of the Sistine Chapel everything looks a little faded and normal, you have to stay a little in order to enjoy the rest of the visit.

 
You are now walking long corridors towards the exit from the museum. On those corridors you can still see a nice marble mosaic on the floor, a painted and decorated ceiling and many other beautiful and precious objects on the way: altars, paintings, ceramics, glass objects, wood sculptures.

 Exit from the Vatican Museum

 Wooden wardrobe and sculptures

Ceramic altar

Glass painting

Then you come out on a nice large Terassa and rest after your long visit. Before leaving the Vatican Museum we stopped at the post office and bought two 50 cents coin with the head of the Pope on it and send two postcards with the Vatican stamps.

Vatican Museum Terrasa  at the exit of he museum

From the museum we stopped in a small restaurant because it was already noon and we ate a very strange pizza before we started to walk toward the St. Peter's Square. As we walked on the large cobbled stone street toward the Square we met hundreds of other tourists with cameras just like us and a lot of the so called helpers who try to sell you visits inside the Church. Don't accept it and don't buy anything from the souvenir stands, everything is much more expensive then inside of the Vatican library or souvenir shops. As we entered the Square between the tall thin columns  my heart was pounding like crazy. Then my eyes suddenly fell on the large cobble stoned square, the two big fountains, the beautiful St. Peter's Church and the many hundreds of statues here and there, the colonnades surrounding the square. I happened so fast that i just couldn't believe that i am really in the St. Peter's Square. The sound of the fountains and the tourists talk was like a dream and i was so happy.

 Entrance in the St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square

The colonnades are going around the square like two arcs representing the two arms of the Catholic Church welcoming the believers.


 Colonnades and the queue to enter the St. Peter's Basilica

The queue behind us after 45 minutes

In the middle of the Square there is an Obelisk, which is called "The Witness". It is said that it was in the Circus of Nero and it was near it that St. Peter was crucified, so it was moved inside of the St. Peter's Square.

 The Obelisk in front of the St. Peter's Basilica

On the right and left of the Obelisk there are two fountains, first one was made by Maderno and the second was made by Bernini in order to match the first. The pavement is made of cobble stones and there are white lines on the ground made to respect the way the shadow falls from the Obelisk at certain hours of the day. The whole square is full of statues on top of the colonnades and the Church.

 Statues of Saints in the St. Peter's Square

One of the two famous fountains

The most impressive thing in the whole Square is the St. Peter's Church, immense and beautiful and build on the spot where St. Peter was buried 2000 years ago.  In order to visit the St. Peter's Basilica you have to stand in line to be checked just like in an airport, you also need to be decently dressed, no short trousers or dresses and no uncovered shoulders. Also you must not have upon you sharp objects like knifes and umbrellas. If you want to avoid a very long queue don't go to Rome in the middle of the summer and try to get to the St. Peter's Square early in the morning. We stayed around one hour in the queue.

The facade of the Church was designed by Maderno. It is formed by immense colonnades and on top there are 13 statues: Jesus with 11 apostles and John the Baptist. The statue of St. Peter is not up on the building but the church is flanked by the statues of St. Peter on one side and St. Paul on the other. The inscription on the facade says: "IN HONOREM PRINCIPIS APOST PAVLVS V BVRGHESIVS ROMANVS PONT MAX AN MDCXII PONT V " which means "Paul V Borghese, Supreme Roman Pontiff, in the year 1612, the seventh of his pontificate, erected in honor of the Prince of Apostles".

Facade of the St. Peter's Basilica and the Statue of St. Peter

The Dome was designed and build and redesigned by many artists of the time including Michelangelo and Giacomo de la Porta. The Dome is visible from all the Vatican, and it is also reining over a great part of Rome. St. Peter is one of the greatest and loved Church of the Christianity and here the Pope is celebrating a lot of Holly Masses.

The Dome and the Statues of Jesus and the apostles

We walked towards the church and we passed the statue of St. Peter. St. Peter welcomes you when you enter the Cathedral and St. Paul wishes you goodbye when you leave.The first thing you see when entering the St. Peter's Church is Michelangelo's Pieta, one of the most beautiful sculptures in the world.

 Michelangelo's Pieta

Then we entered the large and immense nave of the St. Peter Basilica is unbelievably huge, everything inside the church is of big dimensions and very impressive. We walked along the large nave admiring the paintings, the mosaic, the graves or statues of different popes, statues of saints and many other religious objects.

 The Nave of St. Peter's Basilica

 St. Peter's Throne

Statues in the Basilica

 Painting in the Basilica

Coat of arms of Vatican 

Of course the most important and the most impressive thing inside the Cathedral is the Baldachinno build on the spot where the grave of St. Peter is. Here is all the history of the Vatican. Almost 2000 years ago St. Peter was crucified in Rome and he was buried near the Vatican Hill. His grave became the place for pilgrimage for the new Christians. A shrine was build there for the pilgrims. Then under the Emperor Constantine a basilica was build over the shrine. Later on, the St. Peter's Cathedral was build instead of the Constantines's Basilica. The Baldachinno is under the Dome and over the grave of St. Peter and is also sheltering the altar. It was made by Bernini and it is made of solid bronze, in the form of twisted bars. Here usually the Pope is celebrating the Eucharist.

 Baldacchino over the grave of St. Peter's

 Baldacchino over the grave of St. Peter's

In front of the altar and Baldacchino is the entrance to the grave of St. Peter. The entrance is made of marble small colonnades and is decorated with golden candles and on some celebrations this is  decorated with green leafs and flowers.

 St. Peter's Grave

 St. Peter's Grave

 St. Peter's Grave

Over the Baldacchino is the Dome immense and beautifully constructed. You go up the stairs and watch the whole St. Peter's Square from there. In the inside of the Dome it is written in 2 meter size letters: "Tv es Petrvs et svper hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. Tibi dabo claves regni caelorvm" which means "...you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. ... I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven..." and under the lantern "S. Petri gloriae sixtvs pp. v. a. m. d. xc.  pontif. V." which means "To the glory of  St Peter; Sixtus V, pope, in the year 1590 and the fifth year of his pontificate". From the main altar we can go to left and right and admire two more  altars.

Dimm rays of light coming through the windows in the Dome

Then we slowly walked out f the church and we stayed on the cold stone steps resting. After the visit in Vatican was over our feet hurt so much we could hardly walk. So we rested there looking at the beautiful square and the tourists, we made pictures in front of the St. Peter's Cathedral and in
front of the fountains.

 Resting on the steps in the St. Peter's Square after the visit, in the back a Vatican post office

 In front of the fountain

When we finally left the St. Peter's Square we went via the Via della Conciliazione (Road of the Conciliation)  and we saw the Cafe San Piedro and we stopped at a religious book shop. We went along the large boulevard until the Castle Sant' Angelo.

 Leaving from the Vatican on the Via della Conciliazione (Road of the Conciliation)

 Cafe San Pietro on Via della Conciliazione (Road of the Conciliation)

Via della Conciliazione (Road of the Conciliation)

 Castle Sant' Angelo

From there we went to the hotel and rested and slept for a few hours. Then in the twilight we went out for a walk. We took the metro the the Pizza de la Republica where we admired the beautiful medieval buildings in the shape of the semi-circle and the wonderful fountain in the middle.

 Pizza de la Republica

Then we walked along a large boulevard and saw wonderful buildings, a theater and small churches. We walked for a long time and found to our surprise the famous Column of Traian.

Column of Traian

From there we reached Piazza Venentia where we found another beautiful monument: The Victor Emmanuelle Monument. It is enormous and made of white marble and it is dedicated to the first king of the united Italy. The monument is a wonderful view both by day and night.

The Victor Emmanuelle Monument

The next day we found a new great surprise, the metro strike. If you are in Rome prepare for surprises like this. The Italians are always striking. That is why we went with the bus to the Piazza Venetia and from the front of the Victor Emmanuelle Monument we went on the narrow streets of Rome discovering old buildings and churches along the way. First we met the Column of Marcus Aurelius in the Piazza Colona.

 Column of Marcus Aurelius in the Piazza Colona

Then we walked until the Piazza di Spagna, a large rectangular square, where it is located the Church Trinita dei Monti, the Spanish Steps and the Barcaccia Fountain.

The Church Trinita dei Monti, the Spanish Steps and the Barcaccia Fountain

From there we went to the Piazza del Popoli. the entrance to the square is via a gate between two twin churches: Santa Maria in Montesanto  left and Santa Maria dei Miracoli on the right. In the middle of the square there is an Egyptian obelisk and also there is a fountain called Fontana del Nettuno. On the left of the square there are the steps leading to the Pinician Hill. In front of you face to face with the two churches there is the Porta del Popolo.

Egyptian obelisk in the Piazza del Popoli

The gate between the two twin churches: Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

From the Piazza del Popolo we went to the river Tiber and cross it on the bridge towards the Vatican. From there we took the bus back to the hotel.

The river Tiber

And with this crossing of the Tiber our vacation in Rome was finished and we returned to Bratislava rested and satisfied and with 800 pictures from which i selected a few for this article.














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