Climbing St. Peter’s Dome and Not so Wonderful News!

Day 98, Monday December 11, 2017

This was our last day in Rome, and I really wanted to climb the dome at St. Peter’s so that is where we went today. It was cloudy and windy but it wasn’t raining so that is good. I think they close the dome when it is raining so I kept my fingers crossed that we get to do this today.
After a twenty-minute wait to get through security there is no wait to climb the dome. I was willing to climb all 551 steps to the top but Bob thought we should take the elevator for the first 231 steps so we did that. When we get off the elevator we go inside the dome and get an up close look at the mosaics and the beautiful interior of the dome.
We will be climbing up to that little circle of light high above us!Everything in the Church far below us looks very small. This is the area where the service for  Peace in the Congo and the Sudan was held the first time we came to St. Peters. This is our third visit to St. Peter’s.From one of the windows, we see the backs of the huge statues on top of St. Peter’s. 
There are another 320 steps that we climb to get to the cupola on top of the dome. We are inside the walls of the dome so they slant quite steeply. It is very strange to walk with such sloping walls.The stairs get progressively smaller and more enclosed. I wouldn’t recommend this climb for anyone with claustrophobia.
Here we are on the cupola high above the ground.  At 450 feet high, this is the tallest dome in the world, and we are standing on it!On the way up I took the first photo from a window. It felt pretty high already. Notice the dome with the scaffolding in the first photo, and then see how much higher we climbed by comparing it to the same dome in the second photo.This is the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.  You can see how long the hallways were on either side of the interior courtyard. Also there were inscriptions carved onto the roof of the dome with Pope’s names and dates.You can see them in the bottom of the photo.
St. Peter’s Square with the Christmas tree, and the road that leads to the river and the Castel Sant’Angelo. The view from up here is amazing even with it being an overcast day.It is very windy but no rain, so we are happy. We spent at least an hour up here, just enjoying the view. We even had our tea and cookie break on the sheltered side of the dome. Not sure if we will ever get back here so we wanted to soak it all up!This is looking up towards the cupola just above our heads. These are the windows that are visible inside the church at the top of the dome.
The Vatican Gardens look beautiful. We didn’t get a chance to tour them, maybe another visit?This photo clearly shows how apartments are often built around an inner courtyard that is not visible from the street. Also another look at an inscription on the dome.
We climb back down the 320 steps and we are delighted to discover that we get to walk the roof of the basilica. How amazing is that? We get up close and personal with the huge statues, check out a souvenir shop, a cafe and the bathrooms, all on the roof top of St. Peter’s!There is a great view of the dome from the roof top.
We were right up on the top, behind the railing. I was very excited about the whole visit.We walk down the last 231 steps and emerge inside St. Peter’s. Looking up at the dome it is crazy to think that we were up there. We were on the inside just below the windows and then on the outside away up above that tiny opening, which isn’t really all that tiny and walking above these beautiful ceilings!We visit the grotto below the church which contain chapels dedicated to various saints and tombs of kings, queens and popes, dating from the 10th century. The holiest place is St. Peter’s tomb, visible on the right side of this photo. The monument to Pope Paul VI (1978) is here but the tomb of Pope John Paul II (2005) is upstairs in the church. I took a photo before I was told that no photos were allowed and it just happened to be this one of St. Peter’s tomb.Back outside we watched changing of the Swiss guards. I love their uniforms. They are inspired by Renaissance uniforms and they are the colour of the House of the Medici.On our walk back to the metro we pass shops that sell robes for the clergy. This was a surprise for us but I guess they need to buy these vestments somewhere. We wonder if you need to show ID to make a purchase?When we arrive home we check our flight to Amsterdam tomorrow and find out that it has been cancelled due to bad weather in Amsterdam! This is the third flight that has been cancelled on us this trip!!

We spend the next five hours trying to figure out how we are going to get home. No use booking another flight as it may get cancelled too, and there are no busses that would get us there in time. The train can only guarantee to get us to the German-Netherland border and then we “should” be able to stay on the train and just pay the conductor to get to Amsterdam!  That means there is a chance we might get stranded at the border late at night!!

In the end our best option is to rebook our flight and fly from Rome to Munich, then to Reykjavik and finally home. Instead of a short flight to Amsterdam, a relaxing night in a hotel and then a flight home, we now have a 24 hour travel day starting at 4 am and it cost us a lot more money!!  Oh well, we decide to not worry about it and at least we will still get home on December 13th. Luckily we are able to book another night in our bnb so we didn’t have to move somewhere else for one day. We finally get this all sorted out near midnight. Not a nice end to a lovely day in Rome.

 

The Roman Catacombs, Italy

Day 96, Saturday December 9, 2017

We get a wave from a friendly Santa this morning on our way to catch the bus to the catacombs.

We arrive at the San Sebastiano Catacombs only to find this note tacked to the door. Too bad they didn’t bother to update the website. We visited the San Sebastiano Basilica, at least that was open. The remains of Saint Sebastian were at one time buried in the catacombs below the church.

The basilica has a beautiful carved and painted wooden ceiling.We shelter in the entrance of the church and have our lunch then head down the Appian Way to the Villa di Massenzio. We ran out of time to visit here on our last visit to the Appian Way.  This structure was the triumphal entrance gate to the Circus that was on this site. A circus is a Roman chariot racing stadium. In the background is the Tomb of Cecilia Metella that we visited when we walked the Appian Way on Bob’s birthday .
A view of the Circus. There is a tomb here built by Emperor Maxentius. I make like a statue in one of the niches.

Walking back to the San Callisto Catacombs ,which were closed until 2:00, we see this tree being carved outside the San Sebastiano Basilica, which is in the background.Our tour of the San Callisto catacombs is fascinating. Twelve Christians were killed by Roman soldiers in this small chapel known as the Crypt of the Popes as five early popes were buried here.In the 20 km of tunnels spread over 20 acres, archaeologists have found the tombs of 16 early popes, dozens of martyrs and the remains of half a million Christians. No photos were allowed so these are photos of postcards I purchased in the gift shop.

The Crypt of St. Cecilia is the tomb a young woman who was martyred in the 3rd c. because she would not renounce Christianity. When her body was exhumed in 1599, more than a thousand years after her death, it was apparently perfectly preserved, as depicted in this statue.We decide to walk to the Domitilla Catacomb nearby. The catacombs of Domitilla are about 17 kilometers long and extending to a depth of around 30 meters. Our one hour tour only visits the little area highlighted in green at the top of the map.The tombs were carved into the tufa rock which was fairly soft. The oldest tombs are the ones higher up. When there was no more space left, the grave diggers lowered the floor level and put in more tombs.  The different levels are connected with staiways.

No photos are allowed but our guide, who happens to be the Director of the Catacombs, says it is OK if we take a few photos so I take advantage of his offer. Bodies were wrapped in shrouds, placed in the carved niches and then a cover was plastered over the opening of the niche. There are many very small niches as the infant mortality rate was very high. We see some bones in a few of the niches, but most of the bones where tourists visit have been moved because some of the tourists were talking home ‘souvenirs’.Our tour began and ended in this Basilica that was built at the end of the 4th century AD above the tomb of two martyrs, Nereus and Achilleus. Most of this Basilica is underground.  The top of a ventilation shaft is just visible in one of the fields above the catacombs.

We continue along the Appian Way, and end up walking all the way home which took almost an hour. I loved the light on these trees.

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..

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.

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.

Rome’s Zoo, The Bioparco

Day 79, Wednesday November 22, 2017

It was a beautiful sunny day so we went to visit the Villa Borghese Gardens. In 1605 Cardinal Borghese began turning a former vineyard into extensive gardens that now form the third largest park in Rome.

On the way to the garden entrance we pass this interestingly shaped hotel. Note the cars parked in front…they are parked on the road where the two roads on either side of the hotel merge. There are no parking spots here as it is part of the road but that doesn’t stop anyone.There are lots of  interesting animal statues around the Villa Borghese, which is now a museum.  Lots of dragons. The cardinal must have been a fan of dragons!We see a sign for the Bioparco, which is Rome’s zoo and decide that would be a great place to spend the afternoon. It is Seniors Day and the entrance is only €6.  First stop was the chimpanzees and orangutan. Not much to see at the chimpanzee enclosure but at the orangutan’s enclosure Zoe came right up to the glass to see us. She was fairly curious and looked about for quite a while before settling in for a little nap.Her sister, Martina was a bit shyer and only made a brief appearance just as we were leaving.I spent a bit of time sketching Zoe. I held her portrait up to the window for her but she wasn’t very interested. Zoe is 32 years old and Martina is 28, and they were both born here at the zoo.We see bears now and then when we visit the Rocky Mountains but it is usually just a glimpse as the disappear into the bush or they are far away. I enjoyed having the opportunity to observe this big fellow more closely.The big cats are always impressive…but then we turned a corner and met Gladio. This rare white Bengal tiger is an 8-year-old male who was rescued from captivity in a dirty cramped cage.  He had been mistreated and malnourished for years. Gladio was treated at the zoo for physical and psychological problems and he has recovered enough to be introduced to his own compound in May of this year. This was the first time that he had been able to walk on dirt and grass for a very long time as he spent most of his life in a cage on a cement floor. He now has 400 square meter of greenery, grass, a pond, and a lair. Not as good as being free but so much better than a small dirty cage.Just around the corner we spot this little leopard trying to get settled on a stump for a nap while his mother rested nearby. I was a bit disappointed in my photos, a lot of them are a bit out of focus, perhaps because I was often shooting through glass?This Southern Ground Hornbill from Africa was very pleased with himself about the mouse he had for dinner. He brought it up to his fence to show me his prize. He even pushed it against the fence to give me a really good look! Grevy zebras have very large ears. I don’t remember seeing such big eared zebras before.The Montecristo Goat is only found on the Isle of Montecristo in the Tuscan Archipelago. They were almost hunted to extinction but there are now about 250 left in the wild. This was a rather strange assortment of animals sharing the same space, Tapirs, Rheas, and  ROUS’s  (rodents of unusual size ) or Patagonian Cavys.

The Red River Hog from Africa is an interesting looking character. This is the first time we have seen one.The mommy monkeys were taking very good care of their babies… and the giraffes were busy trying to get into their barn.Waiting not so patiently.This is the entrance to the zoo. There were more sculptures but I couldn’t get them all into the photo.  I thought it was a grand entrance. I think we were the last people to leave the zoo.

The Colosseum, Rome

Day 77, Monday November 20, 2017

Rome’s greatest amphitheater was commissioned in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian, and we are visitng it today. There are a lot of people outside the Colosseum trying to sell us tickets, tours and trinkets. Our ticket from the Forum yesterday also gives us ‘skip the line’ entrance today. No waiting in long lines to buy tickets!It is a pretty spectacular place. The floor of the arena is gone so we can see the rooms beneath the arena that were used to hold the wild animals, prisoners, props and gladiators. 
Bob took some Classics courses in university but I bet he never thought he would get to see many of the places and buildings he read about so many years ago.These arches were made without mortar, just the keystone in the centre of the arch to hold it all up. Here they are almost 2,000 years later, still standing.Looking down into the internal corridors that allowed the large crowds to enter and exit the arena very quickly. The arena held 55,000 people, who were seated according to rank. The poorest citizens were seated high up at the to of the arena, but they were sheltered by a huge canvas awning that was supported by poles on the top of the arena. This is a site with lots of interesting information about the Colosseum. A small portion of the floor has been reconstructed on one end of the Colosseum. The arena floor would have been covered in a think layer of sand during events. In the opening games, which lasted 100 days in 80 AD, over 9,000 animals and 2,000 gladiators were killed!There are even some of the original marble steps.There is a museum area on the second level of the Colosseum with models, paintings, sculptures and other information about the arena. This model shows the internal corridors as well as how the seats fit over everything. It really helped me visualize what it would have looked like.This also showed a reconstruction of the arena  and what it looks like today.This little snuff box was one of the objects with images of the Colosseum. It was a mosaic image with the tiniest little pieces of mosaic I have ever seen. Part of the exterior wall of the colosseum collapsed during earthquakes in 847 and 1231 and this image shows the arena before reconstruction.
Here are a couple of views around the arena from the second level, where people standing.We spent a couple hours in the Colosseum and then walked north towards the Forum of Augustus, Trajan’s Forum and Trajan’s column. These ruins are right alongside a main road. In some cases, more modern buildings were removed so that these ruins could be excavatedBelow the 16th Century Church of San Giuseppe Dei Falgnai nearby is a small museum and the dungeon, which according to Christian legend, is where St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned before they were crucified. It was dark, wet and filthy. Prisoners were dropped into here through a grate in the floor above. We get to walk down the modern steps.Next we visit the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, which also has The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which we somehow didn’t see. We plan on coming back to this area so we will have to look for it then. We climb to a high terrace for some great views. Bob is convinced that this this is as high as we can get, but I am equally convinced that we can go higher. I am sure I saw people right up on the very top of this building when we were visiting the Forum a couple days ago..I was right! There is an elevator that takes us up to the rooftop for panoramic 360 degree views of Rome.Bob is trying to decide where things are…and I am just enjoying the view.We can see mountains in the distance, and there is some smog but not nearly as much as I expected. As the sun starts to set, the golden light on Rome’s buildings is beautiful. Notice the seagull. I think he is following us!There are twin statues on either end of the building that can be seen from many of Rome’s neighbourhoods.It is a long way down, and those people are standing on the first terrace we took photos from. The ground is much further below that, way down at the base of the building across the street.On our way down we stop once more at the terrace and take this photo of Trajan’s Column.By the time we reach ground level the sun has set and it is getting dark. Just as I am taking another photo o Trajan’s Column the lights come on!
The ruins look quite different all lit up. While we wait of our bus a street musician serenades us with lovely violin music.It has been a full day.We stop at our local grocery store on the way home, which is conveniently located right in the bottom of our apartment building. I just have to take a photo of these interesting looking cauliflowers.  

The Forum, Rome

Day 76, Sunday November 19, 2017

Today we visit the Forum. On the way to finding a spot for a view over the Forum we visited the Basilica San Maria in Aracoeli.  There were chandeliers everywhere and while we were there the chandeliers were turned on…just for me!

This painting on the pillar looks very old. As we make our way to the Forum entrance I spot Romulus and Remus.We finally find a place to overlook the Forum while this fine feathered fellow takes a good look at us.There is a lot to see here, so just walk along with us. Looking back towards the entrance and the Arch of Septimius Severus.Wow, we are really here!Hard to believe we are standing where Romans lived and walked over 2,000 years ago.The courtyard of the Vestal Virgins. Girls were chosen at the age of ten and served until they were forty when they were handsomely rewarded and allowed to marry. However, if a woman lost her virginity, she was given a loaf of bread and then buried alive! Apparently this was not an uncommon occurrence.People standing on the Palatine overlooking the Forum.I want to go to the top of the white building with the two big statues on it for a great view of Rome. We will have to check that out another day.These are the original 2,000 year old stones that still pave the streets of the Forum.The Temple of Antonius and Faustina is now incorporated into the church of San Lorenzo.This is the side nave of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. The largest building in the forum, it was as big as a football field but only one wall of it remains. A Basilica was not a church but a place used for the administration of justice and conducting business. It did however become a model for the great cathedrals and basilicas of Europe.The Arch of Titus erected in 81 AD to commemorate the sacking of Jerusalem.A panorama of the forum…and a selfie with the Colosseum in the distance.These three photos give a better look at the forum, starting at the north end… the centre with the gardens and house of the Vestal Virgins,,,and the south end with the huge Basilica of Constantine.OK, I am including these Palatine (Imperial Palace) info panels to save lots of writing. We were only able to see some of the Palatine as it was late in the afternoon and the site was closing.No idea what the two little houses were about.I love the tall pruned coniferous trees we see here and all over Rome.We catch the bus home near the Colosseum. There is a strong military presence everywhere in Rome, by all the major sites and in the Metro stations as well. I don’t mind having them there.