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.

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..

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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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.

Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterno

Day 75, Saturday November18, 2017

The Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterno, or the Basilica of St. John Lateran was built by Constantine the Great in the 4th Century and it has been rebuilt several times. The present structure dates from 1589. Until the 14th Century it was the Pope’s main place of worship and it is still Rome’s official Cathedral and the Pope’s seat as the Bishop of Rome. Yes, it is a magnificent Basilica.We visit the 13th Century cloister first. It is renowned for its twisted columns and mosaic panels above the columns which surround the central garden.
There are sculptures, tomb covers, columns and other assorted relics lining the walkway around the cloister.This small head of a young girl reminded me of my granddaughter.Back inside the Basilica the sun is lower in the sky and spills through the high windows. I thought it strange that this sunbeam goes up rather than down and illuminated the crest in the centre of the ceiling.

The side naves are graceful, filled with light and have angels everywhere, in all the corners and on the ceiling arches between the columns.

The side chapels are magnificent.This one had an intricate gate…
protecting this. It is hard to believe that these are ‘little’ chapels. Many were decorated, if that is the right word, by the individuals who were granted permission to have chapels inside the church.The main altar is said to hold part of the table that was used at the Last Supper. We think it must be in the upper level behind all the bars in this photo. You can also see some of the massive sculptures of the Apostles that line both sides of the main nave. It is quite difficult to take photos that capture even bit of what we see partly because of the size of these churches and other monuments. How can I capture all that in a small 4″ x 6″ photo ?Just before we leave, I notice the sunshine again, which manages to shine in three separate directions at once! I have no idea how that works. The ceilings here are highly decorated and gilded. In Italy I aways have to remember to look up. I am seldom disappointed, although I do often end up with a sore neck by the end go the day!These central bronze doors are Roman originals from the Curia, or Senate House in the Imperial Forum. Many Roman buildings were ‘looted’ to build churches and other buildings.Around the back of the Basilica we find another Egyptian Obelisk while we are looking for the Baptistery.
The Baptistry is a separate building where people were baptized. It has a full immersion baptismal font and of course, another beautiful ceiling.There is also a little chapel inside as well. We are the only people visiting and there are no guards, custodians, or other people around. I wonder why there isn’t a problem with vandalism or theft in these rather isolated locations, but it doesn’t appear to be a problem.We find the Scala Sancta, with a bit of help from Google maps. These steps are supposed to be where Jesus walked on his way to his trial with Pontius Pilot. The steps were brought to Rome in the 4th Century by St. Helena, who was the mother of Constantine. Only the devout are allowed to climb tis staircase and then only on their knees. We climb the side staircase…and see this beautiful recently restored ceiling.These pictures show images before and after restoration. Entrance fees are used to help pay for the maintenance and restoration of paintings, sculptures and the buildings the house these treasures.
Back outside and the setting sun lights up the buildings across from the Basilica. Rome is a very beautiful city with wide streets and lots trees…and lots and lots of apartments.

We pass this hospital and wonder about all the balconies. It sure doesn’t look like a hospital!

Santa Maria Maggiori, Rome

Day 74, Friday November 17, 2017

Santa Maria Maggiori was founded in 420 AD.

It still has the original colonnaded triple nave, lined with panels of rare 5th Century mosaics. The ceiling is thought to be gilded with the first gold brought back from the New World, which Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain offered to Alexander VI of Italy. It is a definitely a magnificent ceiling!

This is one of the 5th Century mosaics which line both sides of the main nave above the pillars and below the windows.. One of the side naves. The altar and apse which is covered in mosaics from the 13th Century.Just in front of the altar there are stairs leading down to a crypt. They are on either side of the marble railing in the photo above. In the crypt is a massive statue of Pope Pius IX kneeling before a reliquary shaped like a crib, which contains ancient wooden pieces of the manger where Baby Jesus was laid.

I saw a family bring their newborn baby to this crypt. The whole family prayed, lit candles and made a video of the occasion. The view up into the church is amazing, but then pretty much anywhere I look here is amazing.

Another view of the mosaics behind the altar.This little section of framed marble looked like a strange face when I first saw it.One of the many side chapels.This is another side chapel. I tried taking a panoramic shot that shows the chapel back wall and the dome above.Rome is fascinating. We never know where we will see another ancient building or ruin. We walked under this part of what I think is the old City wall on our way home.It is also a very densely populated city with a population of almost 3 million people in the city proper. The city has a density of 2,232 people per square kilometre! Compare this to Edmonton, with its population of one million and a density of 123 people per square kilometer.

Pretty much everyone in the city lives in apartments. These seven story apartments are near our bnb. There are sixteen apartment buildings just in this one complex! No wonder there is no parking anywhere.