Category Archives: Rome

Italy, Rome  – day 6. Farewell to the eternal city. Great Synagogue,Trevi Fountain and final thoughts

Started off my last day by visiting Piazza Di Popolo and then walked to the Jewish Ghetto area to see the great synagogue (this area had been closed off for three days due to  Rosh Hashanah.). The Roman Jewish population is the oldest in Europe and was never dispersed in 2000 years until the 2nd World war and the arrival of the nazis. The Jewish museum was very interesting and explained a lot about Jewish customs and holidays in an easy to understand way.The synagogue itself is impressive with a decidedly Roman feel to it. The last three popes have visited it. Just outside is Octavia’s Gate (that’s the Roman pic at the bottom!)

Great Synagogue, Octavia’s Gate, Piazza Di Popolo

I had to have one more taste of Caciofi before I left. This is a Jewish origin Roman recipe which is a deep fried artichoke (leaves and heart) which is “crispyfied” and then drizzled with olive oil. I am hooked.

I decided to get to the Trevi Fountain for sunrise – mainly to take some pics before the hordes arrived. This worked well – only about 20 people there at 6.15am! We all looked a bit bleary eyed but worth it for some more Bernini:). And yes of course I tossed a coin in the fountain – I want to go back to Rome for sure.

Trevi fountain – pre and post dawn

And this was my last evening in Rome – perfect evening sun. And gelato flavour of the day was Zabaglione.

Things that surprised me about Rome:

1. There are more than 7 hills and they are not nearly as high as I imagined they would be

2. Recycling of old artefacts started here well before it caught on elsewhere. People just took old Roman artefacts and added them to their houses and so it went on over hundreds of years

3. Because of 2 – many buildings in Rome are like lasagne (multilayered from different time periods often hundreds of years apart)

4. The yellow traffic light stays on for much longer than the green so it is ok to cross on yellow.

5. Everyone seems to drive a smart Ka

6.I now have a better understanding of “what the Romans did for us” (Monty Python reference for those not of my generation).

Final recommendation is to visit Domus Romane – no pics allowed but one of the highlights of my visit. Hard to explain – just go But you need to book for a timed ticket beforehand.

Last day in Rome

Next stop – Positano

Italy, Rome – Day 5. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Maestro Jocomo, Bramante Cloisters and Nocciole flavour gelato

Yes I’m back looking at art. This time at the galleries and private apartments called Palazzo Doria Pamphilj (thanks for the recommendation Shayne). The room below is a mini Versailles hall or mirrors. Love the painting at the top right – both the money lenders and their clients look pretty dodgy. Then the Raphael of the then Pope – who was horrified that it looked just like him (duh) and finally a death mask (yes they are somewhat obsessed with death over here – at least they were in earlier centuries). 

Art and rooms at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

And here are three paintings by an artist only known as Masetro Jocomo (candle) as no-one knows who she or he was and all he/she was known to have painted were candles. Well whoever it was – they did a fine job.

who was Maestro Jocomo?

Below is the fountain of the four Rivers (another Bernini), the Bramante cloisters which despite their traditional look on the outside housed an ultra modern exhibit inside which included me being in a room with a lot of red balloons! (Thanks again Shayne for that recommendation). After that I needed to eat well and visited Roscioli as recommended by Emma – it was truly fabulous

Fountains of the 4 rivers, Bramante Cloisters and Roscioli burrata and sun dried tomatoes to die for

And for those whose “ice cream Italian” needs a brush up – today’s flavour (courtesy of recommendation from Tania) was hazelnut – which basically tasted like iced Nutella and cream. Sigh……..

Italy, Rome – Day 4. Out and about and some scary Capuchin monks plus basil flavour gelato today.

Just to prove I don’t spend all of my time in art galleries and museums I am sharing some random day and night shots of Rome taken as I’ve been mooching about the city on foot and also from an open top bus tour. It is fairly called La Bella Roma.

The final pic is a snap from the Capuchin Crypt which is decorated with human bones and skulls and as you can see some of these monks who were so holy that they didn’t decompose at the same speed as us mortals – hence some of them look very alive although in fact dead for a couple of hundred years. They seem to have a thing for dead people staying in great shape in Rome – Cecilia, a couple of the former popes in the Vatican and now this. It was certainly bizarre and as they so nicely put it 

“What you are now we once were; what we are now, you shall be”. So there you have it!

Italy, Rome – Day 3 – Catacombs, Theatre of Marcellus, Borghese Gallery and oodles of brilliant Bernini and captivating Caravaggio. Not to mention pistachio flavour gelato – all bliss.

I was in luck today as met another traveller at my hotel who had booked a private full day Rome tour and who asked if I wanted to join him – I certainly did as it included two spots I had wanted to see but hadn’t managed to confirm. En route we stopped at the Theater of Marcellus which shows really clearly how layered Rome is with Republic era Rome, Empire era Rome, Medeival Rome and then sometimes more modern Rome usually one on top of one another – it gives  the concept of going underground a whole new meaning and they were certainly master recyclers. Note below that above these Roman arches are apartments – which are still being lived in and are worth a fortune. What an amazing view they have.

Theatre of Marcellus

These are the catacombs of St Sebastian (we preceded this with the underground tour of St Clemente church but no pics allowed) which you access via the Appian Way (the “bees knees” of Roman Roads). They run for something like 9 kilometres which is why you need a guide to show you around or you might never come out! There are simple tombs for the plebs (Roman reference not mine) and then there are also three necropolis (necropoli?)- these are family tombs for the wealthy and are well decorated as you can see – and remember they are from around 300AD.

Catacombs of St Sebastian

Was very excited to visit the Borghese Gallery for the two geniuses (genii?) artists – Caravaggio and Bernini. 

Starting with Caravaggio – he was a bit of a rebel and changed the way light was painted away from the tradional approaches of the time. He liked a black background and most importantly he employed realism. The first pic (top left) is his own self portrait; the one of the Madonna was very controversial as the child was too old and naked and had no halo, the angel looks like a witch and the face used for the Madonna was that of a local prostitute. No-one quite knows why but my view is that he wanted to select a person who might also not know for sure who the father of her child was. Anyway Caravaggio got into a lot of scrapes and fights and was always being rescued by his patrons but then died under mysterious circumstances. 

Caravaggio at the Borghese

Finally my favourite of the day – Bernini. The sculpture of the reclining lady was Napoleon’s sister – considered somewhat racy as you might imagine. The image of David about to defeat Goliath with his sling is supposed to be his head (but probably not his body!). But the star of these sculptures for me are the cushions that Napoleon’s sister is reclining on as you feel you could squish them if you wanted to. Even more amazing is the hand of Pluto on Persephone’s Thigh and her hair. Hard to remember this is solid marble!

Bernini at the Borghese

Italy, Rome – Day 2 – Colossuem, The Forum, Capitaline Museum, Keats/Shelley House

Very busy agenda today and another 9 hours of walking – so much stuff to see as a newbie to the city.

First stop the Colosseum. It has the same effect as the Opera House in Sydney – you want to photograph it from every angle to try and show the sheer scale of the place. Magnificent – and worth doing the underground tour too. The more I see of Rome the more I realise that there is as much under the ground from Roman and Medeival times as there is above.

The Colisseum and The arch of Constantine

Below the Forum (and note the menorah in the carving on the interior of the arch to Titus). This was a carving of all the things brought from the holy land to Rome. Btw, how are these structures still standing after all this time? Those Romans were marvels at building.

The Forum, Arch of Titus and the Palatine Hill

And being a museum geek I am loving the opportunities to visit many of them while here. Today I kept with the Ancient and Medieval Rome themes and visited the impressive Capotiline Museum. Note the picture entitled the Fortune Teller and Michelangelo.Actually the fortune teller is palming his ring while he stares at her oblivious – love it. The Romulus and Remus sculpture is of course about how Rome was originally started but I think the boy with the thorn in his foot is just stunning – my favourite.

Exhibits from the Capotiline Museum

Last quick stop at the end of the day was the quirky British owned Keats/Shelley House at the foot of the Spanish Steps. A lovely homage of letters and a library for the romantics among us. All very sad as both were talented but died in their early 30s. I am staying at the top of the Spanish Steps – and as you can see they are a popular place to hang out.

John Keats being creative while living at the foot of the Spanish Steps

Italy, Rome – Day 1 – The Vatican and Trastevere (and Gelato flavour of the day)

Well no prizes for guessing where I have landed – my first ever trip to Rome but as everyone I know has been before I have been given loads of recommendations of things to do and places to eat. 

Day 1 was a crack of dawn walking tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica followed by a leisurely afternoon exploring the Trastevere area and the lovely little church of St Cecilia. The collections of statuary, tapestries, frescos and paintings are outstanding – I think you could spend days visiting this place and never see the same thing twice – but you have to be ok with crowds – even at 7.30am.

Gelato flavour of the day was TIRAMISU – will aim never to repeat a flavour!

First up – the externals of the Vatican, the delightfully decked out Swiss Guard (oldest army in the world) and the Borgo. The collections of statuary, tapestries, frescos and paintings are outstanding – I think you could spend days visiting this place and never see the same thing twice – but you have to be ok with crowds – even at 7.30am and with a bit of rain.

Both Gods and mortals make good models for statues. 

Statues of Gods were big in Ancient Rome

These are painting are by Raphael. What is interesting is that he put quite a few of his friends (and rivals) into the fresco. So the guy on the left of the cut out is his mate Leonardo Da Vince and the guy at the front with the compass is his rival Michelangelo – he was made to add him in my the pope and that is why he is wearing his boots – something he is supposed to have done but ws looked down on by others. Nowadays those boots would be very trendy.

Raphael paints his mates and some of his rivals too

The Sistine Chapel does give you a crick in your neck especially as you try to disguise photo taking but note in the photo below that everything is painted flat so the illusion of dimension is just that – an illusion. Brilliant. And Michelangelo did this when he was in his 30’s – and I expect he needed a chiropractor for the rest of his life!

There are so many things to see at the Vatican it is hard to pick and choose but the photos below show a relief in a door of Peter being crucified upside down, the interior of the magnificent free standing dome and a statue of Peter (his remains are buried under the Basilica) 

Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Dome and St Peter depictions

After all that sumptuousness it was nice to wander around Trastevere – which is a kind of bohemian area and not at all full of hordes of people.

And here is St Cecilia’s Church (Cecilia  had all sorts of horrible things happen to her before she was martyred but when her body was exhumed many centuries later it was untouched and hence the marble statue reflecting how she appeared when exhumed – allegedly). All the other pics are things that are under the church. Quite a surprise and quite spectacular.