Herculaneum, Italy

Day 93, Wednesday December 6, 2017

We are up early to take the train to Herculaneum, which is another ancient town that was destroyed by the eruption of mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

We are a bit early for our train so we visit the church in Pompeii. Yes, another church! I should be tired of them but it seems that each one we visit is so different for the others that there is always something new and amazing to see.

The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary is an international place of pilgrimage.  It is considered the most important shrine consecrated to Mary in Italy.  4 million pilgrims from all over the world visit here every year.

The church has many hallways and rooms covered in thousands of ex-votos. These devotional images were created in thanks for the fulfillment of vows by those who survived an illness or disaster because they prayed to the Virgin Mary. I keep seeing images in the marble. What do you see here?

Every town we pass on the way to Herculaneum is crowded with apartments. I think just about everyone in Italy who lives in urban areas must live in apartments.
We can see the smog over Naples. There seems to be more smog here than in Rome.Believe it or not, this is the ‘street’ that Google maps tells us to walk down to get to the archeological site.  It was long, narrow, dirty and full of garbage!This is our first view of Herculaneum. Unlike Pompeii, which was covered by about 4 meters of ash, Herculaneum was buried under more than 20 meters of mud, ash, and other pyroclastic material. This thick layer preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors, food and even skeletons.

Until these skeletons were discovered inside boat sheds near the shore of ancient Herculaneum it was thought that most of the residents escaped the town. However excavation of the boat sheds in 1981 revealed over 300 skeletons. It is thought that they were waiting for boats to take them to safety but they died before this could happen. Please take a look at this excellent five minute video from the Smithsonian which explains all about these skeletons.

I understand that the skeletons on display are replicas of the originals but they still make a powerful impact.
These walls were painted from dark orange-red changing to light yellow…and the column’s construction was interesting.There were more places for buying prepared food…and this is one of the many water fountains we saw both here and in Pompeii.Many beautiful mosaic floors were well preserved because they were covered with the hot mud that flowed down from Vesuvius.

This is part of a huge sport centre here which had a pool and areas for other types of recreation.Herculaneum is especially known for having well-preserved buildings with upper floors.It is possible to see carbonized charred wooden beams. doors and shutters…as well as railings and shelves inside the buildings.There are several of these ‘balconies’ along the streets.The College of the Augustales was an order of freemen dedicated to the Imperial Rulers of Rome. The big carbonized beams that supported the upper floor are still in place.

It is possible to see how the modern town of Ercolano was built on the buried remains of Herculaneum, and there is Mount Vesuvius in the background.More preserved areas. Unfortunately many of the largest and best preserved villas were closed to visitors today. It was disappointing but not much we can do about it. We read a sign that said that it was not possible to properly look after the site for many years, and that by the year 2000 two-thirds of the site was closed to visitors due to safety concerns. With the support of the Packard Humanities Institute, work is now ongoing to restore this site and reopen areas to visitors This building is particularly well-preserved…and has a carbonized bed inside.The doors in the back of this photo are the original wooden doors that were carbonized, which really just means to be changed to carbon by burning.Some of the villas were very grand and must have been incredibly beautiful homes.

We were able to peek into the entrances of the closed sites.

As we leave we look down on this ancient town one last time. The arched rooms in the bottom of the photo are the boathouses where the skeletons were found.I read that the peak of Vesuvius has been reforming and there is danger of another eruption sometime in the future. The volcano is closely monitored and the hope is that there would be enough warning to evacuate nearby residents if this happens. I wonder about that.We did find a longer but more appealing route back to the train station. We see some interesting graffiti along the way…and roads paved with large square stones, laundry hanging right on the sidewalk and streets, some interesting buildings, and finally we are at the train station just as the sun is setting.

So, to answer the question of what I saw in the marble, it was a cartoonish horse figure, standing up on its back legs looking straight out at me.

I forgot to post this video titled A Day In Pompeii yesterday. It is a reconstruction of what likely happened in Pompeii during the eruption. I found it helpful in trying to make sense of what we see now in Pompeii. Take a look if you are interested.

Pompeii, Italy

Day 92, Tuesday December 5, 2017

We start our visit to Pompeii with the colosseum which is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheatre. It had a capacity for 20,000 spectators. The Colosseum in Rome was built over a century later.

A display nearby had these 2,000 year old charred loafs of bread, dates and almonds.

One of the first houses we visit is called the House of Venus in the Shell because of a fresco on the end wall of the garden.

We are amazed at how well preserved and how brightly coloured the frescos on the walls are. I took almost 300 photos. There was so much to see and I want to remember it all. I won’t subject you to all those photos and I am not going to try to identify all the different houses by name with a lot of information. If I do that this post will never end! So just come for a walk through Pompeii with us, and see the sights.This was a fast food restaurant. Only the rich had their own kitchens, the rest of the people ate at these shops.Maintenance is an ongoing project here, along with new excavations. These structures were never intended to survive for 2,000 years and be exposed to not only the weather but also to the damage caused by 2.5 million visitors every year. In many areas we walk on the original mosaic floors!These big stepping stones kept pedestrians’ feet dry, as the streets were often used to dump sewage. Water from fountains overflowed onto the streets and helped to flush them clean.Tucked in to the corner of a house we see skeletons of some of the victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 A.D. I felt quite emotional all day, walking through the streets and homes of the people who died here. I imagine the panic they must have felt when the volcano erupted.In the back room there are stairs to a second floor visible.

This is a view down into a room from a second floor. Most of the rooms in the houses were quite small, often between 7’x 7′ to about 10′ x10′, although the villas of the rich people also had some very large rooms.Some more well preserved frescos.  Red was the most expensive pigment so it was used by the wealthy.The decorated walls have some lovely small panels.One of the large rooms in a villa with a pool and an open skylight to collect rainwater.We find a high spot for some great views over Pompeii and have our lunch.

There are temples,

marble floors,and a theatre which we thought was the main theatre in Pompeii. Then we discover this one…
with this practice area for the athletes and gladiators. This is a bit of info on the plaster casts of Pompeii.

These cast are in a house near where they were found. These casts of the victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius are powerful. Their features are clearly visible and their contorted postures reveal the moment of their deaths. I have been feeling emotional all day and seeing these body casts has a strong impact. 

The next building we enter is the Lupanaro (the brothel), named for the cries of the prostitutes calling to their customers. They were thought to sound like she wolves! There are paintings on the walls above the doorways that were thought to have been sort of menu of the services available.The rooms were small with short stone beds and pillows. They certainly don’t look very comfortable but they would have had with cloth mattress and pillows on top of the stone.
A bakery still has the stone mills that were used to grind wheat and…an oven that looks very much like a modern day pizza oven.The long, straight streets were lined with shops and rooms that we think must have been houses for the common people.One of the large houses has some rather startling imagery, however we discover that they are simply letting the viewer know that along with wealth, fertility was also necessary for true happiness.The Pompeiians were masters at faux painting. The walls of their homes were covered from top to bottom with paintings and faux architectural details and finishes.Looking into a courtyard.At the end of a street I notice a building closed to the public and go take peek into the windows. I am rather startled to find more body casts. A child is frozen in time, as is this dog  who is caught in the moment of his agonized death.We walk through a necropolis with tombs for the dead towards…  the House of Mysteries.The house is named for these frescoes. This is an interesting article about the frescoes.The floor is a different sort of mosaic. The surface is very even and smooth, and yes, we walk on this ancient floor too.

The wooden doors and shutters of the House of mysteries are petrified.As we head back towards the town of Pompeii we see Mount Vesuvius. I read up a bit on this volcano and it is expected to erupt again. I don’t think I would want to be living anywhere nearby, yet 3 million people live within 20 miles of Mount Vesuvius’ crater. There is an evacuation plan in effect in case of another eruption but I wonder how effective that would really be. This is an interesting posting about why people live so close to a volcano.As we leave the archeological area there are several large outdoor rooms filled with amphoras and other pieces of archeological finds.  In the midst of these there are some more body casts. I think it seems disrespectful to see them displayed this way. The sun is setting and the light rakes across the ruins…giving everything a golden glow.There is a bookstore and museum near the far entrance so we have look around before heading back through the park towards the entrance near our apartment. There are more body casts here. It is a strange feeling looking into the faces of people who died almost 2,000 years ago. We walk through another necropolis on the way back to where we started our day.
When we exit we notice that there is a building with even more body casts on display that we missed seeing this morning.Again I have the feeling that there is something not quite right about how these are displayed, but I don’t really know what would be a better way of doing it.

Rome to Pompeii

Day 91, Monday December 4, 2017

Bob wanted to take the high speed train from Rome to Pompeii to see what travelling 250 km per hour felt like but the schedule didn’t work for us, so we are taking the bus. I don’t mind, as we don’t have to transfer trains in Naples, and I like looking at the scenery. I think at 250 km per hour everything would be bit of a blur! There are lots and lots of greenhouses outside of Naples.

I see a mountain and then it dawns on me that this must be Mount Vesuvius!
Naples seems ‘grittier’ than Rome. At least the area we saw as we drove into the bus station seemed  rather run down and not all that clean.Near the bus station there were people selling clothes and other items on the sidewalk.

Like Rome, there is no parking anywhere. Take a look at this street, lined with cars on both sides with barely enough room for the bus to get through. We went down some strange roads to get back on the freeway. They looked like alleys lined with ramshackle buildings on one side and fancy hotels on the other.

Walking to our apartment in Pompeii we pass some tree pruners. They certainly mean business when they prune trees here!After we settle in to our new Airbnb we go for groceries and we get our first glimpse of the archeological site of Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background. It is only two blocks from our apartment.

Museo Nationale Romano and the Capuchin Crypts

Day 89, Saturday December 2, 2017

Saturday was a quiet rainy day. I worked on catching up on my blog and Bob went for groceries, several times! It isn’t easy to find what we need in one store so shopping sometimes requires several attempts to find everything on our list. I don’t know how Romans manage. Even something as simple as spinach is often not available.

Day 90, Sunday December 3, 2017

We thought today would be a bit quieter, just a little walk about but we ended up doing quite a bit. Bob found out that the four Museo Nationale Romano museums were free today so we thought we would visit the one near the train station. It was much bigger than we thought and we spent several hours there. This museum had lots of information on the history of writing and…lots of examples of writing on stone. What made it interesting was that all the pieces on exhibit had Italian and English translations. There were lots of informative videos and other kinds of information but it would have taken more than a day to do all that. There was a very interesting exhibit about the Fountain of Anna Perenna. Anna was an ancient nymph and the fountain was a place of magic. It was discovered in 1999 when work began on an underground parking facility. Many ‘magical’ objects were found in the well including several curses. This one is for a man called Cassianus who was cursed because he hired some women to rob the author of the curse. It shows a demon flanked with magical symbols. There were many curses on display as well as directions for casting spells.We tend to forget that ancient statues and reliefs were painted in bright colours. There was lots of pottery from settlements from the 9th to the 7th century B.C. The large pots held cremated remains.

This is a model of the Museum. The large green square…is this courtyard  and the buildings around it house the museum. This was built in the 15th century. Bob found a few interesting statues here. The large animal heads are located around the fountain in the centre of the courtyard. There were also horse heads, a ram, a camel, an elephant and a rhinoceros!
The complex behind the courtyard is the Baths of Diocletian which were built in 300 A.D. They held 3,000 people! It was hard trying to take pictures as the baths are so enormous.
This room was somehow used as a water reservoir. 
Here is an aerial view taken from a film about the baths showing their location in modern day Rome. The big white building in the corner is the Termini train station.Here is a close up of the baths. The building with the cross in the lower left is the best preserved section of the baths. The tepiderium was restored and converted into a basilica using Michelangelo’s architectural designs in the 16th century. It is now the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiria. This sculpture is on the door to the Basilica.The basilica interior gives us a good idea what the interior of the baths would have looked like with all their decorated walls and ceilings.

The basilica is a place of worship, art and science. I liked this enormous head on display. It is about three feet long.

We find one more obelisk!Republic Piazza is beside the baths.  Many of Rome’s streets are cobbled and it has made for some very rough bus rides.

Another branch of Rome’s National Museums, the Palazzo Massimo is right beside the Republic Piazza so we decide to visit it as well. There are some wonderful works inside.  The Discus Thrower and…the Boxer at Rest are amazing and..this sculpture of a hermaphrodite is interesting.The massive Portonaccio Sarcophagus from 172 AD is unbelievable. It is five feet tall, and most of the complex intertwined carvings are still intact.
This room with garden frescoes was discovered in 1863. The frescoes were moved to the museum in 1951 as they were in danger of being damaged from water seepage. There are more well preserved frescoes from an Imperial Villa on the banks of the Tiber River.We still want to visit the Capuchin Crypts which are a short walk from the museum. Everywhere we walk in this city there are interesting buildings and piazzas.The sun is setting but there isn’t much traffic even though it is 5:30. I find that rather curious.There is a famous Caravaggio painting, St. Francis in Meditation, in the Capuchin museum. We visit the Capuchin Crypt but there is a strict no photo policy and I restrained myself and didn’t take a single photo. So, do check out this link for a trip through the crypt. It was certainly different. I liked it but Bob didn’t.

The church ‘Our Lady of the Conception’ is above the crypt and after a quick visit we are more than ready to go home. Our short day out turned into a bit of a marathon!

 

 

 

The Vatican, Rome

Day 87, Thursday November 30, 2017

We bought tickets online for the Vatican in order to avoid the long line-ups we have read about. Arriving at 10:00 we are able to enter right away, but so is everyone else. There are no lineups anywhere.

The map provided by the museum isn’t the best but between it, a Rick Steve’s travel app, and Bob’s navigational skills we manage to find our way around.  If you walk through all the galleries, it’s 7.5 km, or 4.5 miles long and yes we walked through all the galleries!

Be warned, this is a long post, so you might want to get a cup of something hot before you visit the Vatican Museums with us!

One of the first sculptures we see is this copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta. the original is now behind glass because it was badly damaged by a deranged man 45 years ago. I think this is the closest I will get to taking my photo with this incredibly beautiful statue.
We see many examples of Early Christian and Medieval art. Before this trip I didn’t have a lot of interest in this genre but I discovered that I am rather fascinated by depictions of the Madonna. We even saw a pregnant Madonna, the only one I have ever seen.Next stop was a huge room with several very large tapestries. They were so finely woven that they almost looked like paintings.

This very large angel from1666 was one of four preparatory straw and clay models for bronze castings by Bernini.A enormous collection of ancient sculptures, sarcophaguses, reliefs and  building parts was next. There was also a display of drawings, which I found interesting.  I speculate that there must have been a drawing workshop.
This is a floor mosaic that I remember seeing in books. I always liked the little mouse. The tiles are very small. I can almost feel the wind blowing these garments about.One of the reliefs on display.There is a large collection of vehicles used by Popes over the centuries.
We didn’t know that all papal vehicles come equipped with a throne!The Vatican has an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts many of which are superior to the ones we saw in museums in Egypt! It is easy to forget that all these hieroglyphs were at one time bright painted like the inside of the coffin.The painted bas-relief fragment is from 2400 B.C.The Mummy of Taymen is from 750-525 B.C. We never saw anything like this in Egypt. It was fascinating, but I know this person never intended to be on display in a museum!There are many galleries of Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts and these which are from Syria-Palestine during the Neolithic period 8500-3000 B.C.

We descended this staircase to emerge …

in a very long hallway lined with over a thousand sculptures!There were several museum workers busy dusting and cleaning. I imagine that by the time they finish it must be time to start again.The gallery above opened into this one, lined with even more monumental statues. It simply takes my breath away.A Roman copy of a Greek original dating from the 2nd century A.D. The affection for the child is evident in the way he is held and regarded. I can’t imagine that something so life-like can be carved in stone.I am fascinated with the carved flowing robes. I have a hard time even drawing folds never mind chiseling them from stone.This is the Nile River God with another sculpture filled niche behind.

There is an outside courtyard with a covered display area all around the exterior walls. There we see the biggest toe. Can you imagine the size of the statue this once belonged to? That is my foot beside it.

There are many incredible statues on display…  but I am particularly drawn to these three. The Belvedere Apollo, the Belvedere Hermes, and the Laocoön. The Laocoön was unearthed during  Michelangelo’s time and it had a great influence on his work. 

This sculpture of the River God Arno was the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David in the Sistine Chapel.

The Belvedere Torso was also the inspiration for Michelangelo’s God in the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.We need to remember to look up. The ceilings in these galleries are as incredible as the art work below them.The Hall of Muses with its magnificent dome, mosaic floor, statues of the nine muses from the 2nd century A.D. and the largest carved stone basin in the world.These statues are monumental! Oh, and we are walking on the beautiful old mosaic floor here too.
It looked like the statue was trying to give this rather bored looking guard something.These bronze hands decorated with gold buttons are from the 1st half of the 7th century B.C. I thought they looked like a modern work of art.More display rooms with ornate ceilings…and lots more pots and other artifacts. In fact there were many rooms like this. We walked through all of them but I have admit that after a while we didn’t even try to look at all the items.
I did love these two horse heads…and there were some great views of Rome from the Gallery windows.Bob is trying to figure out where we go next.Turns out it is this room, with even more sculptures and carved stone artifacts, and yet another incredible ceiling.We both remember seeing a copy of this little boy with his goose in the Louvre many years ago. Interesting that we see it here in Rome too.The Arazzi Gallery is a long hall with more tapestries on both sides.This tapestry has an optical illusion. As we walk by it appears as if Jesus’s eyes are following us and he even seems to move through the doorway. It is very strange.

The Gallery of Maps is astounding. It seems to go on forever. The walls are lined with huge maps of all of Italy but it is the ceiling that grabs our attention. It is covered with paintings and sculptures and ornate frames.The lighting makes the ceiling look golden in the photo above but this photo shows its true colours. I just don’t know what to say. Words are simple inadequate to describe this very, very long ceiling. It is almost unbelievable.
There are more galleries but we are getting very tired. We decided several hours ago that we need to come finish seeing everything another day. We make our way to the Sistine Chapel. We are so lucky, because it is late in the day there are not many people in the chapel. We find a seat along the wall and look up. There is so much to see. I think it is amazing that we are sitting here, in the Sistine Chapel looking at this masterpiece. We probably spend almost an hour here but it is time to go as we still need to visit St .Peters and see the Pieta.It is night when we leave the Vatican Museums. We go through the ‘secret passage’ that allows us to enter the basilica without having to line up and go through security again.There she is. The Pieta, in all her glory. After spending some time with the Pieta, we walk around the basilica. We wanted to visit the grotto beneath the church but it is already closed. I like the little dragon between the bottom two figures in the sculpture.
St. Peter’s right foot has been rubbed almost away by the touch of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries.
There is a mass taking place so we listen to the organ music and singing for bit before we finally head home. It has been long day. We spent 8 wonderful hours in the Vatican Museums but we are both very tired..

Even The Best Laid Plans….

Day 84, Monday November 27, 2017

Robert Burns poem ‘To A Mouse’ has the line  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”  That is what has happened to us. You may have noticed that I have been behind on my blog posts. Well, on our first day in Rome Bob’s wallet went ‘walk about’ with the help of one of Rome’s many pick pockets. We were coming home on the metro and within a couple of minutes Bob noticed his wallet was missing. We thought it was secure, in a front zippered pocket but Rome’s pick pockets are very skilled.

The subways can be very crowded during rush hour. These pictures give an idea of how packed it can be.

This resulted in the loss of his driver’s licence so we could no longer rent a car. We thought about taking busses and trains but all the things we had planned on doing and seeing really required a car. After much deliberation we decided that the best course of action was to cut our trip short and go home early. We spent several days making the police report, cancelling our car rental, changing airline tickets, cancelling accommodations and rebooking other accommodations. We still managed to go sight seeing but all this other stuff was kind of stressful and took a lot of time. I just didn’t have the energy or time to blog in the evenings.

On the bright side, we now are spending three weeks in Rome which we have enjoyed. We both really like Rome. It is a beautiful city with so much history and so much to see and do. We are going to take the bus to Pompeii next week and spend three nights there. Then we will have a few more days in Rome before we fly home.

Day 85, Tuesday November 28, 2017

We cleaned the apartment last night and finished up this morning. Today we move to our new Airbnb for the rest of our stay in Rome. We managed to find a place just a short walk from our current apartment so we will walk our suitcases over. So much easier than having to take the metro or bother with a cab. We spent the rest of the day getting groceries and getting settled in our new apartment.

Day 86, Wednesday November 29, 2017

It rained hard all day which was just fine with me as I had a much needed quiet day planned. We have been so lucky with the weather this trip. Almost the only time we have had lots of rain was on days that we had planned on spending at home..

The Pope’s Angelus Blessing, Rome

Day 83, Sunday November 26, 2017

Every Sunday at noon is the Angelus Prayer, when Pope Francis speaks to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Today we are among the many who are here to see and hear the Pope. We thought we had a great spot right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica with a clear view of the central balcony…then Bob spotted something in the far away window of the building across the square. Oops, this is where the Pope appears, and we are quite far away.
At noon the Pope appears and with a friendly wave and a welcoming “Buongiorno”, to which the crowd replies “Buonjourno”, he begins the Angelus Prayer. 

Good thing I have a telephoto zoom on my camera! The Angelus ends with a blessing for everyone in the square and the blessing includes any religious objects that people have brought with them. The bells of St. Peter’s chime as the crowds begin to disperse. We have seen the Pope!Although the clouds were dark and threatening while we were waiting to see the Pope, by the time the Angelus is finished the sun is peeking through the clouds so we decide to stroll about. We head down the Via della Concillazione, the wide road that leads to St. Peter’s Square…and across the Ponte Sant’Angelo with a good view of the Castle Sant’ Angelo and the Tiber River. By the way, Romans pronounce it ‘teeber’ not ‘tiber.’One of the things I love about Rome, eye candy everywhere!We take a minute to pop into the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, known as the Chiesa Nuova, or New Church. A friendly lady comes to chat and gives us an audio guide tour.

The church celebrates the life and legacy of Saint Philip Neri, and this little side chapel is dedicated to him. He is also entombed there in a glass coffin. It is a bit strange to see so many bodies on display in churches here, it is not something we see at home. We wander back towards the Pantheon for photo of the obelisk in the centre of the fountain. I think we are getting close to seeing all the Egyptian obelisks in Rome. I will have to check, but I do know there is one more near by.I wanted a photo to show just how enormous the columns at the Pantheon are.Around the corner behind the Pantheon we find one more obelisk. Bernini designed the base for this one after it was discovered in excavations nearby in 1667.Back to the front of the Pantheon where the long line up has disappeared so we go in to see what it looks like in the daytime. The sun is shining through the oculus, but other than that the lighting isn’t much different than during the evening. We take another quick look around and we are on our way. People try to earn money in all sorts of ways in Rome. This young woman was sculpting sand puppies…and an artist asks to be adopted, but he was nowhere in sight when we walked by.Christmas decorations are making an appearance, and many stores use live evergreens in their decorations. I am curious and a closer look reveals that they are using Oasis, or floral foam, to keep the greens fresh. These displays smell so Christmassy when we walk by.A view down one of the main streets where we wait for our bus. Notice that there aren’t many cars at all. Also notice the gypsy lady prostrated on the sidewalk, begging. I can’t imagine this is an easy way to make money.

We pass Trevi Fountain with its hordes of people and decide it is time to head home.As you already know, I love looking down side streets and into courtyards.  I didn’t even notice the ‘street art’ on the do not enter sign until today when I was posting this.

This lovely apartment building with its garden balconies is on the corner near our own apartment.

All Roads Lead To Rome

Day 82, Saturday November 25, 2017

The Appian Way was Europe’s first super highway. It is the reason for the saying “All roads lead to Rome.” Built in 312 B.C., it connected Rome with Capua (near Naples), running in a straight line for much of the way. Eventually it stretched over 600 kilometres to Brindisi, on the east coast of Italy. Today is Bob’s birthday and we are going to walk the Appian Way.

We take the metro and then a bus to the outskirts of Rome. Before we start our walk back into Rome we walk a bit further in the opposite direction to visit the Villa Dei Quintili. We buy our €5.00 tickets and when we walk up to the building below it is all locked up and under construction!

Turns out this isn’t the villa, and we need to walk along a dirt path behind this building for a ways to the ruins. The Villa Dei Quintili was the largest villa complex in the suburbs outside Rome. It was built by two brothers, who were later executed by Emperor Commodus who took over possession of their villa. It was then expanded and used by emperors until the 5th century. There are boardwalks in many areas but sometimes we are walking on the original mosaics floors! Hard to believe that this is allowed. There are baths here with a calidarium (hot water) and a frigidarium (cold water). Many of the rooms have remains of mosaics and floor tiles. A few even have traces of frescoes on the walls. 

This all covers a huge area and it was all one villa. When it was first excavated it was thought to have been a town!Back on the Appian Way we are ready to start our walk towards Rome, on the same road that was used by Romans almost 2,000 years ago! We are going to walk in the footsteps Roman Emperors, merchants, saints and maybe even St.Peter! Julius Caesar travelled this road along with thousands of soldiers, and now we are too.
Romans did not allow anyone to be buried inside the city walls so many people were buried along the roads leading out of Rome. Wealthy people built impressive tombs for themselves. The remains of many of these tombs are visible today.  Sometimes there is as little as a mound of earth but there are also still quite impressive remains of the larger tombs.These are the original stones that were used to build this road. These stones were set upon a bed of gravel and cement. Lime cement was then used to fill the gaps between the stones and the road was said to have been so smooth that the joints between the rocks could not be felt. In the foreground the ruts made by ancient chariot and wagon wheels can be seen.One of the many ‘reconstructed’ tombs along the Appian Way…and a couple more.

The day started out cloudy and cold but the sun came out and warmed us up.There are many grand modern villas along the Appian Way. This is looking down just one of the many long tree-lined driveways we see along our walk.Getting closer to Rome. It is a bit tiring walking on these original paving stones. The cement that made the road smooth has long worn away. We saw lots of people bicycling along here and it looked bone jarring.                                 

This is a small archeaological area along the road that used to be a farmer’s field. Some of the floor mosaics show where they were damaged by the plows used to till the fields!Fall has arrived. The leaves here were a beautiful golden yellow.Inside the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, one of the best preserved tombs along the Appian way, there is an exhibit of modern sculpture by Paola Cream. I like this bird man…and these vessels. The exhibit sign said the show only runs until November 11th, but this is Rome and not everything is what it says it is.

This is the outside of the Tomb of Cecilia, who was noble woman in the 1st century B.C. Inside the hollow round tower is where her body is thought to have been buried.

That was our last stop of the day. The ruins are closed at 4:00 and we still have a a walk and then a bus and metro ride to get home. we ran out of time to visit the catacombs so we will have to return another day.

Wandering the Streets of Rome and Life Drawing

Day 81, Friday November 24, 2017

It is a nice day for a walk about the streets of Rome. I get my picture taken with this tiny car on the street outside our apartment. It is the smallest car I have ever seen but it sure would be easy to park!

We are surprised at how little traffic we have seen on the streets. I think they limit who can drive in the downtown areas. Evening rush hour is busy but the rest of the day not so much.We have tea in Nuovo Piazza. This square used to have chariot races around its perimeter. From 1652 until 1866, when the floor of the square was raised, it was flooded every Saturday and Sunday in August. The fountains would be plugged so that they wouldn’t drain and the square would become a lake!  I try to imagine the scene, with people boating and bathing and children playing in the water.There is a group of musicians who kindly provide us with musical accompaniment.A detail of the Fontana del Moro at the south end of the square.I am going to a life drawing session tonight so we go to check out where it is located. The studio  is only a couple of blocks from the Piazza Navona. There is a little studio with beautiful watercolours of orchids on the way…and several basket and chair makers on the same street as the studio…along with a great little book store. I love European bookstores, they are usually small, crowded, and piled with books on every available surface. Just what I think a bookshop should look like.We found the studio, I think we might have had trouble locating it in the dark later, so I am glad to know where I need to go tonight. Heading back to Navona Piazza I peek down the side streets. I wish there was enough time to explore them all.

There are people trying to make money whatever way they can.The Fountain of Neptune is at the northern end of the square.I really like this little fellow and his spouting fish on Neptune’s Fountain.

Buildings come in all sorts of interesting shapes and sizes in Rome.Tthis one appears to be right in the middle of the street!We wander about window shopping and see this robotic sculpture who waves his arms and blinks his shining eyes.An interior decorating shop, a store that sells Bonsai trees, another that sells Oriental furniture and one of the many antique shops along the streets we walked. We never know what we might see down a side street. It is a bit of sensory overload at times.We turn the corner by the elementary school and this is what we see: the Tiber River with St. Peter’s in the background.We cross the Ponte San Angelo…walking towards the Castel San Angelo, which is now a museum. There was or maybe still is a secret tunnel that connects the Vatican to this fort so that in times of danger the Pope could escape and hide here.What would Rome be without gladiators?
We head towards St. Peter’s hoping that we might have another visit to see the inside in the daytime.I have no idea how these olive trees manage to grow in pots, even though they are big pots. I wonder if they need their roots trimmed, like bonsai.We have seen quite a few people begging on the streets, but this person was by far the strangest looking.  I have no idea if this is a way of getting sympathy or if it is really the day to day garb of this individual. 

A Christmas tree is being decorated at St. Peter’s square. The line ups to get into the Basilica are very long so we decide to try to visit another day. This is just one of the benefits of spending more than a couple days in a city. We don’t have to try to cram everything into just a few days.
I think these columns are magnificent. There are 284 columns and 88 pilasters (half columns) that flank the square in a colonnade of four rows. Above the columns there are 140 statues created in 1670 by the disciples of Bernini. St. Peters square is one of the largest and most beautiful squares in the world. 

After a rest and supper at home we take the bus back to my life drawing session. While I draw for two hours Bob found a reception at a gallery that he ‘crashed’ and he enjoyed some wine and goodies.

I had a great time drawing.

30 second and 1 minute posesEveryone was welcoming and the model was fantastic. I did all right, some not so bad and some not so good drawings. It has been a while since I have attended life sessions. It isn’t like I forget how to draw but it takes a while to get the facility back.

2 minute and 5 minute poses

I really appreciate the drop in sessions offered at home. Sessions are $8.00 for 3 hours. Here at La Porta Blu art School it was €15.00, or about $22.00 Canadian for two hours, which is about what I was paying when I was in Paris. I did find one other place with drop in life drawing in Rome where but their price was €30.00 and €45.00 for 2 hours! That was just a bit too expensive for me.

2, 5,10 minute and 20 minute posesUnfortunately, the bus we were to take home was very late. We were just about to give up and try walking to the metro, which was a long way away, when our bus finally arrived, just 45 minutes late! We are in Rome after all, and schedules here have a slightly different connotation than they do at home.

 

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St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pope

Day 80, Thursday November 23, 2017

Bob read that the Pope was doing a special mass for peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo at 5:30. We decided we would go to St. Peter’s and see if we could get in. There wasn’t much of a line up to get through security and soon we are in the Basilica. We make our way to the front of the crowd and take some photos of the altar, and the Swiss Guards who are responsible for the safety of the Pope.We had a little look around while waiting for something to happen at 5:30. This is looking towards the front doors of the Basilica, with a view of yet another magnificent ceiling.
We feel very small in this enormous cathedral .Everywhere we look there are statues and ornate gilded decorations.At 5:30 the mass starts but it is far from us, behind the main altar. There are guards keeping people back behind barriers, while only allowing a select few to enter.  When I zoom way in we see a statue of the Madonna which is part of this special mass. Bob thought he saw someone in white below the statue. Take a look at the link above. He is sure he saw the Pope.This photo shows the many rows of chairs that line the piazza in front of St. Peter’s for the Papal Audience that is held on Wednesdays.
As we walk further away we are able to see the dome on top of the cathedral.It is a bit of a walk to the metro but it is a nice night and there is lots to see along the way.