Friday, October 19, 2018

Italy, Part 1 of 4: All Roads Lead to ROME!

ITALY!  We did NOT go in the R.V., but it was too beautiful to banish from our blog based on a mere technicality. Our trip was 4-in-1: four totally different locales in one spectacular country! Enjoy and be transported through our pictorial journey!

Up first:  ROME!  Italy's capital, a sprawling, cosmopolitan city filled with ancient ruins and historical delights.  Oh and food ... so . much . amazing . food!


Name-That-Attraction!  Of course everyone knows the Colosseum.  But do you know the official name?  How about a photo of morning sunrise through the "Flavian Ampitheatre"!
(MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: GLADIATOR)


It is the largest ampitheatre ever built, started around 70 AD.  It was "party central" in its day, an entertainment venue where all townsfolk could come for free to see gladiator battles, animal hunts, live theater, re-enactments, etc. The officials' theory being, if they were busy being entertained, they would be too busy to cause trouble in the streets.


It was sized for up to 80,000 people at a time. Thankfully, in today's modern world they limit entry to only 3,000 people at a time ... unlike the Vatican and other attractions where you must walk with your arms glued to your sides in a crushing sea of strangers.


The "underworld" of the arena was where all the actors, animals, props, scenery, etc. were stored and raised up for the shows.  They have rebuilt part of the floor (left side in above photo) to give you an idea.  They even had water-based spectaculars, like Cirque du Soleil's show "O" in Vegas, where they would open the floodgates and flood the joint.


You can see that the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are right there in the middle of town, mixed in with all the modern streets and buildings!  Every time they go to build something, they dig up new sites. Hence, no underground subway lines through the City whatsoever.


The Campo de' Fiori ("field of flowers") was literally a meadow in the middle ages, but is now a modern market square with lots of goodies competing for your Euro's.


The Castel Sant'Angelo awards intrepid step-climbers with gorgeous views of the city and St. Peters.


Visitors can tramp all over the property with lots of nooks and crannies.


The Castel is located across the Tiber River which helped to keep the riff-raff out back in the day.


The gorgeous rooms have been partially or fully restored.


Piazza Navona is perhaps the most popular plaza for people-watching and gelato-eating,
not necessarily in that order.  It is full of gorgeous fountains and surrounded by beautiful buildings.
Also, street performers, pickpockets, and beggars, but they are all Italian, so very charming.



Trastevere is a trendy "SoHo" type neighborhood with wonderful restaurants,
on the west bank of the Tiber River as crossed by a few different bridges.


Don't let it be said that Italians have no sense of humor.


Although you can't turn around in Rome without tripping over 2 or 3 beautiful churches, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest in Rome, dating back to the 340's.



Of course, Santa Maria Trastevere could never compete with the granddaddy of Catholic momuments, the Vatican.  The Vatican Museums house some of the world's most beautiful art and yet even more gorgeous ceilings.




The most gorgeous ceiling in the world, of course being the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo, was staggering in its beauty, complexity and enormity.  However, no photos (or speaking aloud) permitted inside, wah, wah.  But it was amazing! 

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(INSERT IMAGINARY PHOTO OF SISTINE CHAPEL HERE)

(MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY)
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Other ceilings and walls and floors and altars were just as beautiful, of course.


A highlight was buying a carved metal cross from a nun in the basement of the Vatican.  A+ for authenticity!


St. Peters Basilica is the most renowned Renaissance architectural building and the largest church in the world. It is also the location of St. Peters Square.



Inside, the scale and scope is overwhelming, as is the staggering beauty and detail.



Back on the streets, blinking hard after all that Catholic beauty,
we still managed to find the joy in simple people watching, Rome-style. 


The Pantheon is a former temple but now a church.  It was dedicated around 126 AD and is one of the best-preserved archaic buildings in the world.


The Pantheon has an "oculus" (eye) in the ceiling and almost 2,000 years after it was built, is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.  Water comes right in through the hole in the ceiling when it rains, nobody cares!


No tickets are needed to enter, which means there are a lot of people, but nobody stays too long -- one big revolving door of humanity, cycling through and crashing into each other as they stare upward.


It's in use today for Sunday masses, holy days of obligation, and the occasional wedding.
2 kings and 1 queen are even buried there, your all-purpose building for sure. 


The Spanish Steps are the most popular and famous place to take a load off and gawk at everyone else, especially at sunset.


As the night wears on and the moon rises, the crowds disperse and leave a lingering beauty.


It's a one-stop shop area of entertainment; within 10 minutes, we enjoyed a Catholic religious street procession, a couture fashion runway show, a bride and groom jumping in a fountain in their wedding clothes, a marriage proposal, and a good old-fashioned singalong with Italian dudes on ukeleles.

(MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: ROMAN HOLIDAY)


And of course, a trip to Rome would not be complete without a visit to the Trevi Fountain, the largest baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world.

(MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN)


You are supposed to throw three coins.  Legend says the first coin guarantees your return to Rome (check! we loved it), the second will ensure a new romance (check! we did fall in love all over again), and the third will ensure marriage (check!  we renewed our marriage vows at the end of the trip).
So seeeeee, it works!


Spot the coin in midair above?  :)
Look!  We were the only people there!  Ha ha.  Just kidding.  Not so much.


We slowly (not-so-slowly, actually) ate our way through Rome,
with gorgeous displays of mouth-watering temptations at every corner.

 




After leaving Rome, we headed southward to the Amalfi Coast:
Pompeii, Positano, the Isle of Capri, Path of the Gods, and more!
All "coming soon" to the next blog post!

VIVA ITALIA!!!!