This building is ancient Rome's best preserved
monument. The emperor Hadrian reconstructed it around 120 AD when
an older temple sitting on the same spot was destroyed by fire.
The interior is really striking, with its dome a perfect hemisphere
and an oculus which is believed to symbolize the all-seeing eye of
heaven. I really liked this building, it has a certain geometrical
harmony which reminded me that in architecture sometimes the simplest
things achieve the biggest effect. Inside is Raphael's tomb and
the tomb of Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy's first king. Address: Piazza della Rotonda
Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti)
Both the steps and the Piazza got their name
from the Spanish Embassy which I believe is located in the piazza.
If you come here in the summer the stairs are divided by rows of
flowers. The beautiful church of Trinita dei Monti lies at the top
of the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs is the Fontana della
Barcaccia (Fountain of the old boat) by Pietro Bernini. This place
is a gathering spot for tourists, with people sitting on the steps
and watching the other (tourists :-) ) go by.
Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain)
If you've seen La Dolce Vita by Fellini you'll
recognize this spot easily. The fountain lies in a small piazza
off Via del Tritone. It was designed by Nicola Silva. Legend goes
that by throwing a coin in the fountain you can secure your return
to Rome (we didn't do it, but I still have hopes to return). We
went there in the afternoon; we were not looking for the fountain,
just wandering the streets and ended up here. It was extremely
crowded, almost imposible to get near the fountain. I don't know
which hour is better, my guess is that it is crowded all the time.
Maybe early morning will be a better time if you wish to avoid the
Basilica di San Pietro (St. Peter Basilica)
This must be the world's most imposing church.
At least for me it is. I've never seen a church of such colossal
dimensions. It's simply huge and impressive. The present church
dates from the 15th century when it was decided to replace the
earlier St. Peter church. The rebuilding lasted until the 17th century.
Among the artists that worked on the design of the new basilica are
Bramante and Michelangelo. Inside the church, near the entrance is
Michelangelo's Pieta which is so beautiful; it's a pity that nowadays
one has to see it from the distance (due to an incident in 1972).
Also very impressive is Bernini's baldacchino that rises above the
Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's Square)
This magnificent square was designed by Bernini.
It was completed in 1667 and can hold 400.000 people. The piazza
has the shape of an ellipse; on each side there's a curving pair
of quadruple colonnades topped with statues of saints. In the middle
of the piazza is an obelisk which was brought from Alexandria in AD 37.
Also in the piazza are two beautiful fountains. To the left and right
of the obelisk are two spots marked on the pavement. If you sit on a
spot and look at the colonnades you get the illusion that the
colonnades are made of a single row of columns. Neat job :-)
The most famous of ancient Rome's monuments,
Colosseum was begun in AD 70 by emperor Vespasian and inaugurated
in AD 80 by with a program of games and shows that lasted 100 days.
The gladiator fights that took place in the arena were popular
forms of entertainment with the Romans. You can find a few of
their followers outside the Colosseum. They don't fight to their
death anymore but rather pose for pictures.
By the 15th century the Colosseum has become a quarry for building
materials. In 1749 Benedict XIV declared it sacred in the memory
of the many Christians that died here (although there is no
historical data to support the belief that Christians were
martyrized in the arena). Once it was declared sacred, its
restauration began (and still continues).
Roman Forum (Foro Romano)
The Forum was the civic heart of the
Republic of Rome. The area was once filled with temples and
palaces. Today all these are ruins and you'll have to use all of
your imagination to try to envision how it must have looked.
Still, it's impressive if you think that most of the buildings
were built between 500 BC to 400 AD. A friends of mine told me
that this place calms him because all our worries seem small
when you come here and realize how quickly the time flies.
The Arch of Septimius Severus is one of the structures still
standing. If you're interested in Roman history it's a good
idea to have a good travel guide with you to be able to
indentify the ruins.
Piazza Venezia is a huge and very busy
square where many streets intersect. In the middle of the
piazza stands the collosal Vittorio Emanuele II monument.
Piazza del Popolo
This is one of the most beautiful piazzas
in Rome and the effect of the twin churches is amazing. My
guide mentioned that the two baroque churches of Santa Maria
dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto are not exactly
alike, but they do look alike on a first sight and the impression
one gets is of something unforgettable. The piazza was created
by Latino Giovenale Manetti in 1538 for Pope Paul III and the
twin churches were added in the 17th century. The present
symmetry was given by the neoclassical architect Giuseppe
Valadier in the early 1800's. In the middle of the square lies
a 3000 years old obelisk framed by four small fountains with
lions. The piazza is closed to automotive traffic so you can
stroll at your own pace and enjoy the sights.
Trajan's Column (Colonna di Traiano)
Romanian tourists in Rome (like me) flock to
this monument which is part of the Romanian national pride.
Also, when I came back from Rome this was the monument all my
Romanian friends asked about. Did you see it? Were you able to
see the Dacians on the column? The reason is that Trajan's column
was built to commemorate his military campaigns in Dacia (which
is now Romania). It's true Trajan won and conquered Dacia but hey,
our ancestors can still be seen today, almost 2000 years later,
on this column in the center of Rome.
The column is a beautiful piece of Roman sculptural art; around
the column winds a spiral frieze with over 2500 figures in relief
illustrating the battles that took place during Trajan's military
campaigns in Dacia (101-102 and 105-106). At the top the statue
of Saint Peter replaced in 1588 a statue of Trajan. The ashes of
the emperor and his wife were places in a golden urn in a vault
below the column. The column stands in what was once Foro di
Traiano (Forum of Trajan) with a huge semicircular market building.
Piazza Navona was built over the site of the
1st century Stadium of Domitian and still preserves the elliptical
form of the Roman circus. Medieval jousts, 17-century carnivals,
open-air sports and historic festivals took place here; the piazza
was also used as market place from mid 15th century to mid 19th
century. Today this place attracts tourists and Romans alike, and
the cafes and restaurants lining the piazza have tables outside
most of the year.
Three beautiful fountains decorate the piazza out of which the most
famous is the central Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (The Fountain of
the Four Rivers) by Bernini. Behind this fountain is the church
Sant'Agnese in Agone a remarkable example of Baroque architecture.
Castel Sant'Angelo and the Bridge of Angels
This fortress which stood at the entrance to
Vatican for centuries was begun by Hadrian around 128 as a mausoleum
for him and his family. The mausoleum was finished in 139 and Hadrian
and many succeeding emperors were buried here. By the 6th century the
building was gradually transformed into a castle and it was used to
protect the popes for nearly 1000 years. According to legend the
name of the castle was given during the plague of 590 when Pope Gregory
the Great who was passing nearby had a vision of an angel sheathing
his sword atop the stone walls.
In front of the castle stands Ponte Sant'Angelo (Bridge of Angels)
which was built by Hadrian as a suitable approach to his mausoleum.
The bridge was transformed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini who designed
the ten statues of Angels.
Campo dei Fiori
This square is home to a famous morning market.
Each morning vendors fill the stalls to sell local produce like
fruits and vegetables, cheese, spices, flowers etc. By afternoon
the market dissapears. Around the square there are many restaurants
and cafes. In the middle of the square is the statue of Giordano
Bruno located on the spot where he was burned alive as a heretic
by the Inquisition in 1600.
Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth)
Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth) is located
inside the portico of the 12th century church of Santa Maria in
Cosmedin. I wanted to see this place ever since I was a little
girl and I watched "Roman holiday" the charming movie starring
Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. The mouth is an ancient version
of a lie detector; the legend has it that if a person that told
a lie will stick his hand into that mouth, his hand will be
chopped off. I had the guts to give it a try and came off looking
like the most honest person on the planet :-)