Saturday, April 18, 2015

Venimus, vidimus et Romae vicissent

Usually, a 3 day holiday is perfect for a post - you visit all the must-sees, get a feel of the evenings and even have time to re-look the favourites sometimes. But when it comes to Rome, the city is a smorgasbord of beautiful historical monument. Making me think that 3 days was far too short for this beautiful city. So, I'm going to apologise at the outset if I've missed out on a few vital monuments. I should also warn you that I have gone slightly shutter-crazy in this wonderfully photogenic city.
We arrived in Rome on a bright, sunny day and headed off to meet an old friend. I was meeting this friend after a good 15 years, so I was rather wary of landing up at her doorstep, bag, kids and assorted adults in tow. I needn't have worried. She was the most gracious host and treated us to a breakfast so heavy, we were ready to abandon our morning jaunt in favour of a snooze on her couch. Fighting off sleep, we decided to hit the Roman Forum and Colosseum. I instantly forgot all about the siesta. The site of the Fora and Palatine hills is the site of not just a former bustling market, but a myriad of temples, and the site of Lupercal- the mythical cave where Romulus and Remus were nursed by a wolf. Literally the birth place of Rome. Lupercal isn't accessible, of course, but pretty much everything else is.
Palatine hill and Domus Augustana
The Arch of Titus, the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe, Paris

The remains of the temple of Castor and Pollux

The layout of the forum from the Palatine hill. In the distance you can see the statues of the goddess Nike

An original Corinthian column

The temple of Antonius and Faustina. As you can see, a church was built on this site at a later date. 

The temple of Venus and Roma - severely destroyed by a 9th Century earthquake.
An interesting anecdote - Roma is Amor spelt backward and the statues of Venus and Roma were place back-to-back 
Directly facing the temple of Venus and Roma is the Colosseum. What a marvel of Roman engineering. As big as any contemporary football stadium now and equally complex.
A stadium with a retractable roof, which could seat 80,000 spectators, in tiered, numbered seating (yes, numbered seats) for ease of entry and exit. What fascinated Pickwick was that the aqueducts running through the subterranean network, which were sometimes used for flooding the arena, so that sea battles could be re-enacted. (This was courtesy of the friend we'd visited earlier. She was amazingly informative) Heck, I  was fascinated by this little nugget of information. How could you not marvel at their creativity and engineering genius? And to think this was built without any modern equipment. 
The colosseum and its subterranean network

I'd love to put up pictures of Fontana de Trevi, but the site is currently being restored, so any pictures of a half-wrapped structure isn't going to do justice to the magnificence. But the Pantheon and Piazza Navona and the gardens of Villa Borghese, were all vying with each other to make up for our disappointment at having missed out on the Fontana de Trevi.
The Fountain outside the Pantheon. Excellent for catching a student population just hanging out, doing whatever it is that youngsters do at night. Also excellent for some delicious desserts in the many stores dotting the area

Piazza Navona. The Romans loved their Obelisks.

The Fontana dei Quatro Fiumi, representing rivers from the four continents that the Roman supremacy had spread to

Inside the Pantheon

Interesting sculptures. Also interesting how almost everything was later converted into a church. 

Rome also threw up a few surprises in the form of street art, which was varied and pretty interesting.
The Colosseum being stencilled into a sci-fi background, to the beat of some pretty funky music

Perfect for the wall of a creative studio, right? 

This shop had some amazing art. I was so tempted to pick up a couple of works

Even in graffiti, we love Papa Francesco

There were also quite a few interesting people, places and things on the street:
like this tattooed gladiator on his phone

or this painter who was painting in the night at Piazza Navona

or the ubiquitous  red Vespa 

or this little red mini flanked by the monster SUVs

Or this store with the cutest gadgets. I call this store Kitschus Maximus
Someone advised us to do Rome by night. So we did. We visited the usual sites and came away feeling distinctly underwhelmed. Maybe the lights come on only in the summers, or maybe it was the locals who led us on a wild goose chase every time we asked directions for a bus stop. But it had a couple of high points.
The View of St Peter's across the river

The Tartufo. A yummy concoction of Rum, chocolate and candied cherries. 
The following day, we headed to Vatican City. Actually, Just the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St Peters Cathedral. I came away with a crick in my neck and I think I bumped into unsuspecting fellow tourists more than once. But they weren't really upset. They knew exactly how I felt.
If I wasn't gawping at the ceiling, I was busy photographing the floor. Even the geometric designs of the border are 3 dimensional.

See what I mean about the Ceiling- gawping?

Pomodoro's Sphere within a Sphere

One of Rafael's murals. 

Aonther one of Raphael's - The deliverance of St Peter

This particular Mural of Raphael's had the head spinning with it's whole wall-on-the-ceiling effect. yup. That's painted on the ceiling. Have a look at the smaller picture to know what I mean. 

Another Ceramic masterpiece

Row after row of framed murals. 

Details of the tapestry adorning the walls

wood-carved ceilings. Although that was just in one room. Painted ceilings is more their thing at the Vatican

of course, since I was busy looking up and not where I was going, the bossy baby and me got lost somewhere in the Vatican. No, no, I knew exactly where I was. I just didn't know exactly where the rest of the family was. Which in this day of mobile phones would have been a non-issue. Only, I wasn't really carrying my phone. Yikes! Right. Having waited at the Sistine Chapel (if ever you have to wait in a room, that's the room to wait in), then at the exit with an increasingly restless child, I made my way back to our rooms, assuming the rest of the party had to eventually turn up there sometime. Through some amazing serendipity, I could get into our rooms without the keys - the keys being stuck with the other party and promptly informed the hubby of our current geographical location.
All this made for a very hungry party of five, and we broke for lunch before heading out once more to catch St Peter's. Yeah, that's another entrance and another queue. But we of the veteran Tirupati party don't let queues intimidate us. It took us less than an hour to get into the basilica. That's not too bad at all, all things considered. 

Child 2 was fascinated with the people moving about below her. 

Natural light used brilliantly to create drama

more light to create drama at the altar

The Vatican guards.

Such theatre even for entrance ways
Of course, to compliment all this theatre and drama my little drama queen decided to have a little dramatic melt-down of a her own and we witnessed a tantrum of legendary proportions that practically ensured our names being permanently blacklisted at the Vatican. It took 3 strangers offering her biscuits, chocolates and gummy bears to bring the smile back to her face and the ears to stop ringing. I have never been more grateful for the kindness of strangers. Thank you, strangers. There is still goodness in the world. At least at the Vatican, there is. :)
You know what else was there at the Vatican? Selfie sticks. Yup. More selfie sticks that you know what to do with, for some reason. Needless to say, thanks to the husband, I now have a selfie- stick cropping up in half my pictures and I find myself posing for a selfie in the other half. *sigh* Boys with toys. But at least it kept the bossy baby entertained for the rest of the trip. We have now come back to Romania, proud possessors of: 
1 Selfie stick
1 Pink Blob which serves no known purpose 
3 Magnets. 2 more than we intended to buy
1 summer dress I have yet to try on
4 packs of Risotto rice which may never see the light of day again 
5 Happy faces, full of fond memories of a lovely city