Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ten days of Travel: Rome

If I were to describe in one word the city of Rome, magnificent would be it. To mean large massive structures that can't possibly be human at all. And that is what Rome was, magnificent. On Monday we only had half a day to us. We went on a walking tour by the new tours. The guide was funny and knowledgeable. And it was good intro. The famous Colosseum aside, the shear size and span of not only the Roman structures like Piazza Venezia, but even the pagan temples like the Pantheon tells you the amount of glorification that Rome needed (and got). Pantheon also has Raphael's tomb.

The guide took us to see an optican illusion to explain to us the evolution of art. Saint Ignazio has one of the best optical illusions I think, This ceiling looks much higher than the actual flat ceiling on which the painting was painted on. And the pic below,well, it's not a dome:

Trevi fountain was unfortunately under renovation (when open apparently it collects 3000 Euros in coins every month); for future travelers, it will be closed for the next couple of years. Disappointingly, so was the fountain in front of the Spanish steps (which were built by the French). Our guide also took us to water fountain that had been in use since the last 2000 years and serves you drinking water. We all drank from it. Surprisingly Rome has a lot of these water fountains across the city giving out water continuously with no tap. You just carry an empty bottle with you. And these fountains have bases but some of them don't. The water just flows on to the pavement and into the drain. Where do they get so much water from?

The next day we first went to Santa Maria di Vittorio for a quick look at Michaelangelo's Moses which was made for Pope Julius II for his tomb but the pope was buried in St Peter's Basillica. 

After that we had booked a tour of the Colosseum. A guided tour (if you book in advance) also gives you access to the 3rd level of the Colosseum from where the view is amazing and you can click pictures like this:

The guided tour also takes you to the basement floor below the arena where the slaves and the gladiators walked and worked in the darkness. There is also an ancient underground stream floating under it which you can occasionally see. Apparently it flowed under another church too (we shall come to that). There were 28 pullied elevators in place to bring in the gladiators or animals through trapdoors into the arena to compete. The arena itself was removable in the early years of the Colosseum before the basement level was made, so that once removed the bowl was filled with water to the have naval fights, ie put two gladiators on a boat and make them fight. And all gladiators don't fight until death because people invest in you. Remove the inhuman part of it and you get the current football leagues. Isn't that so? (Or IPL). Here is a picture of the basement:

Next to the Colosseum were the ruins of the Roman Forum and some pagan temples. By the time we were done with the Colosseum we were pretty tired and it was hot with little shade (30 degrees) so we didn't spend much time there. The ticket is actually valid for two days and gives you one entry each to the Colosseum and the Roman forum. We should have taken that advice and come the next day. But after we got fueled up with some food and some shade we were up and running.

We went to this church that our guide at the Colosseum recommended, St Clemente. It looks like a normal church; it's an old church from some 1100AD. But under that church excavations revealed a 4th century church with frescos and plaques and some idols. It was nice to see how they excavated the structure with church standing above it. There are some stories that before it was made a church it could have been a rich Roman's house. Now as though that's not enough, further excavations revealed yet another pagan place of worship or a Mithreum, from the 1st century, below it!! You can actually go all the way down there and hear and see that little underground steam persisting through it, the same one from under the Colosseum. You know how they say some places on earth are just holy. This is probably one of those. So I tasted the waters and sprinkled some on my head, just like I would in any Hindu temple's waters.

The next day we spent most of it in Vatican as compiled in my next post. After we returned from Vatican we had to do some thing worth our Roma Pass and we had only few hours left. So we went to the second optical illusion in Rome, Berromini perspective. It's a pathway with columns and a sculpture at the end. Except, it is shorter than the image would let us believe because Berromini made the columns that are farther away from us shorter than they should be to give us the effect that it's farther away.

That's done with Rome now, tired and hungry. We know we could have gone on and on with Rome for months. But that's all the time we had. The next morning we took a train to Florence.

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