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What to See When Visiting Rome, Italy

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An article in The Buffalo News on June 19, 2016 outlined some suggestions for visiting sites while in Rome, Italy.  The writer, Ellen Creager, spent time in Rome and was happy to share her experiences with readers.

Rome is the capital of Italy with a population of 4.3 million residents.  Vatican City is an independent country geographically located within the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city.

                                    

Fountain of Trevi

                                                       Fountain of Trevi - Wikimedia

Fountain of Trevi

This baroque fountain had recently been closed for 17 months while it was scrubbed, repaired, and restored as it was intended by sculptor Salvi in 1762.  It was seen by millions of Americans when it was featured lavishly in the film “La Dolce Vita” in 1960.  The renovations of the Trevi Fountain cost $2.4 million, all of which was paid for by the Italian fashion house Fendi.

Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain in the city.  The origins of the fountain go back to the year 19 B.C.  A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome.  In order to achieve the desired effect, you should throw the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder.  Approximately one million euros worth of coins are taken from the fountain each year.  Since 2007, this money has been used to support good causes.  The most accepted explanation for the word Trevi is that it derives from the Latin word Trivium that indicates a crossing of three streets.  The fountain is mostly built of travertine stone.  The statues in the fountain are made of Carrera marble.

                                      

Spanish Steppes

                                                          Spanish Steppes - Wikimedia

Spanish Steppes

The bad news is that the Spanish Steppes are now closed for renovation.  They are blocked off by a glass and metal barrier.  The site closed in October 2015 and there is no clear answer as to when it will be reopened.  Officials have left a narrow strip so you can still climb to the top to view the Trinita del Monti church.  However, sitting or loitering is not allowed.  The renovation of the Spanish Steppes will cost $1.7 million and is being funded by Bulgari, the famous jeweler.  Pictures of Italian movie stars are glued to the glass barriers so that you can have your picture taken with one of your favorites if you so choose.

The Spanish Steppes are a great example of the Roman Baroque Style.  The Steppes are a wide irregular gathering place consisted of 138 steps placed in a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas and terraces.   They were built in 1723-1725 by a design of the little known architect Francesco de Sanctis.  The tradition of the Steppes as a meeting place has always existed up to today.  On the right as you begin to climb the Steppes is the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821.  It is now a museum dedicated to his memory.

                                    

St. Peter's Basilica

                                                      St. Peter's Basilica - Wikimedia

St. Peter’s Basilica

This is the heart of the Catholic Church.  Even if you buy tickets ahead of time, you will find yourself in a long line.  It is much too crowded making the day unpleasant for tourists as well as guides.  The popularity of Pope Francis, who has declared this year as a Holy Year of Mercy is attracting an unprecedented number of pilgrims to the Vatican.  The inside of St. Peter’s is twice the length of a football field.  The Vatican Museums have few rest rooms, drinking fountains, or places to sit and rest.  Seeing the Sistine Chapel is worth your visit, but the two-hour wait is exhausting.

St. Peter’s is the world’s largest Basilica of Christianity, nested in the heart of Vatican City.  It is believed that St. Peter, the first Pope, was buried there in 64 A.D.  Bernini worked on the church for 20 years and was responsible for much of the beautiful interior furnishing in the 1600s.   He arranged St. Peter’s Square in front of the Basilica as well.  The plan of the dome belongs to Michelangelo.  Priceless art pieces are contained within the Basilica, including Michelangelo’s Pieta.  Twenty thousand persons can pray in it at one time.

                                      

Colosseum

                                                           The Colosseum - Wikimedia

The Colosseum

The structure was built in 72 A.D.  Fortunately, renovations to the Colosseum were completed one year ago.  There is now a modern version of an ancient elevator which boosted the lions and gladiators onto the arena floor.  Part of the tour allows you to walk underground where the wild animals and fighters were held.  It is amazing that the edifice has survived centuries of earthquakes, scavengers, sacking, and general neglect.

The Colosseum stands as a glorious but troubling monument to Roman imperial power and cruelty.  For centuries, the Romans killed in cold blood literally thousands of people whom they saw as criminals, as well as professional fighters and animals.  It is considered a sacred spot where Christian martyrs met their fate.  This fact saved the Colosseum from devastation and plundering by Roman Popes.  The present Colosseum is only a shadow of its former self.

The Emperor Vespasian decided to build the Colosseum as an amphitheater or pleasure palace for the people.  It was completed in 80 A.D. and was the largest amphitheater in the Roman world, capable of holding some 50,000 spectators.

                                    

The Pantheon

                                                          The Pantheon - Wikimedia

The Pantheon

Rome’s best-preserved ancient building, the Pantheon, has been in existence since 125 A.D. during the reign of Hadrian.  It is surrounded by a quaint piazza, outdoor restaurants, boutiques, and hotels.  If you look to the side, you will catch a glimpse of a Bernini statue of an elephant at the nearby Santa Maria sopra Minerva Church.

The purpose of the building is not known for certain but the name and the decoration suggest that it is probably a temple of some sort.  The Pantheon may have been designed as a place where the emperor could make public appearances in a setting which reminded onlookers of his divine status, equal to the other gods.  Relatively early in its history it was converted into the church of St. Mary of the Martyrs in 608 A.D.  The Pantheon still has an important function and status today.  Within it are the tombs of the Italian monarchy from 1870-1946 A.D.  Another notable tomb is that of Raphael (1483-1520 A.D).

                                                              

Piazza Navone

                                                                          Piazza Navone                                                                                                                                                        Wikimedia

Piazza Navona

This notable Piazza is oval-shaped and has three gorgeous fountains including Bernini’s “fountain of the four rivers” which dates from the year 1621.  The Brazilian Embassy is housed here, along with many attractive restaurants and shops.

The square is built on the former Stadium of Domitian, built by Emperor Domitian in 86 AD.  Hence the long, oval shape of the square.  The stadium was mainly used for festivals and sporting events.  The ancient Romans went there to watch the games.  The main attraction of Piazza Navona is the trio of fountains that adorn the square.  The Fountain of the Four Rivers was constructed between 1647 and 1651 at the request of Pope Innocent X.  The design of the fountain was first commissioned to Borromini, but it was ultimately handed to his rival Bernini.  The two other fountains are the Neptune Fountain and the Moor Fountain. 

Another highlight at Navona square is the church of Saint Agnes in Agone. According to legend, St. Agnes was stripped naked, but was miraculously saved from disgrace by an extraordinary growth of hair.  The Piazza Navone is one of Rome's liveliest squares, drawing tourists from all over the world.

There is so much to see in Rome that it is impossible to see everything in one visit.  So you must throw a coin in the Fountain of Trevi as insurance that you will return to Rome another day.

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Bibliography

  1. Ellen Creager "When Roaming in Rome." The Buffalo News. 19/06/2016.
  2. "Trevi Fountain." rome.net. 19/06/2016. 19/06/2016 <Web >
  3. "Interesting Facts About Rome’s Spanish Steps." Rolling Rome. 19/06/2016. 19/06/2016 <Web >
  4. "St. Peter’s Basilica." rome.info . 19/06/2016. 19/06/2016 <Web >
  5. "The Colosseum: Emblem of Rome." BBC. 19/06/2016. 19/06/2016 <Web >
  6. "Pantheon." Ancient History Encyclopedia. 19/06/2016. 19/06/2016 <Web >
  7. "Piazza Navona." a view on cities. 19/06/2016. 19/06/2016 <Web >

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