Rome means history. There's layers of the stuff - Etruscan tombs, Republican meeting rooms, imperial temples, early Christian churches, medieval bell towers, Renaissance palaces and baroque basilicas and of course the legendary Coliseum. In this city a phenomenal concentration of history, legend and monuments coexists with an equally phenomenal concentration of people busily going about their everyday life.
It's hard to say what you'll find most breathtaking about the Eternal City - the arrogant opulence of the Vatican, the timelessness of the Forum, the top speed of a Fiat Bambino, the gory resonance of the Colosseum, trying to cross a major intersection, or the bill for your caffe latte.
29 Jul 2005 - Rome, ItalyExploring the historic centre can take all day so the next day was spent away from there and in the areas around it and between the centre and the Vatican , which as it is a separate state, is covered in a different blog feature.
The Parthenon is particularly note worthy as it is one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings, possibly still with the original bronze doors. It also has a huge, perfectly formed dome which is an engineering wonder.
Looking at The Parthenon and walking into it is the closest you can get to glimpsing the past and to feeling the greatness of the imperial era with is huge dimensions. Remember, most of the people outside of Rome 's control a this point were still living in comparatively basic, wooden buildings. To be a visiting puppet ruler in the provinces whose strings are pulled by Rome, it would be impossible not to believe that the Pax Romana is the only way.
I will go to Rome again - I know that. There is still so much I want to see. Most of these lie outside of the centre and in particular to walk along the Via Appia (Appian Way).
This was the most important ancient Roman road connecting Rome to Brindisi , Apulia in southeast Italy . It played a crucial part in Rome's history and many parts of this are still intact; in use; and is lined with monuments.
Rome - The Pantheon I
Originally built between 27 and 25 BC, its present appearance is due to rebuilding by Hadrian between 118 and 125 AD. After the end of the Western Roman Empire, it was donated to the Eastern Emperor to the Pope who then converted it to a church. Like many ancient building, this conversion saved it from destruction.
Rome - The Pantheon II
The interior is dominated by a gigantic dome, the biggest masonry dome ever built. Perfectly harmonious, the distance from the floor to the summit is the exact diameter, thus creating a perfect sphere inside. Recesses in the walls once contained statues of the gods and goddesses but now reflect more Christian themes.
Rome - The Mausoleum of Hadrian
The tomb built by the Emperor Hadrian saw covered in marble and travertine and covered with earth planted with trees and ringed with statues.
It was converted into a fortress in the Middle Ages and became a strong point of the Vatican's defensive system.
28 Jul 2005 - Rome, ItalyHere I am again! Following in the footsteps of a previous visit that also took in Rome , Pompeii , Herculaneum and Sorrento . Again I explored the ancient heart and while revisiting some of the larger, popular structures also focused on some of the smaller things that I didn't pay so much attention the first time. To really see Rome I think would take weeks.
However, the biggest difference this time was that I spent time on visiting the Palatine . On previous occasions this was either shut or I didn't have enough time so this time I made sure it got a visit.
The historic centre today can be divided in to the Forum which was the centre of public life and now contains extensive ruins. Next to this is the Palatine which back in the day formed the Imperial residence and is set on a hill overlooking the city.
This is a very large area and it when seen it is apparent that the Caesars certainly lived a life of privilege - as befitting the rulers of most of the known world. It is not so spectacular as the ruins of the forum so like any tour of an archeological site, make sure you have a good guide book telling what each structure is and its relevance to every day life.
Rome - The markets of Trajan I
The markets and forum were built by Emperor Trajan between 107 and 113 AD. It was financed by the immense wealth from the conquest of Dacia (modern day Romania).
Rome - The markets of Trajan II
The complex comprised six floors of shops and offices - the precursor to the modern shopping centre. Wine, oil, vegetables, flowers, silks and spices were all sold here.
Rome - The markets of Trajan III
Wandering around the complex allows you to imagine what the markets would have been like when in use. Shops are small and you can see where the doors used to slide backwards and forwards to close or open the shop. It must have been quite hectic when all the shops were open with their wares on display.
Rome - Emperor Trajan
The column upon which the statue bears the inscription 'SPQR IMP CAESARE NERVALE TRAINO OPTIMO PRINCIPI'
Rome - Arch of Constantine from the Colosseum
After defeating his rival Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (Oct 28, 312 AD), Constantine moved his residence to Trier in Germany. On his return 3 years later the senate had erected this arch in his honour.
The senate took the unprecedented step of reusing parts of earlier monuments from the reigns of other emperors.
Rome - Inside the Colosseum
The arena originally had a wooden floor which was covered in sand to prevent the combatants from slipping and to soak up the blood. Trapdoors led down to underground chambers and passageways. Animals in cages and sets for the various battles were hoisted up to the arena by a complicated system of pulleys.
Rome - Inside the Colosseum
The inside of the colosseum from a lower vantage point. This gives a better view of the underground complex. With the fall of the Empire the Colosseum was abandoned and gradually became overgrown. Exotic plants grew there for centuries; seeds had been transported with the animals that had been transported from Africa.
In the Middle Ages the site was used as a fortress but overtime it was gradually used as a quarry for travertine and marble for other buildings.
Rome - The Circus Maximus
600m long and 200m wide, this makes it the biggest building for public spectacles of all time.
Construction began in 329 BC, the circus remained in use until 549 AD, long after the end of the Western Roman Empire.
Rome - Palatine, The Stadium
The Palatine hill became the residence of the ruling classes and here was where Augustus was born. The hill became the centre of the Imperial palace complex.
This private stadium in the complex was used for chariot races, 160 m long.
Rome - Palatine, Fountain
On the Palatine this water fountain provides relief in the against a hot Roman summer's day.
Rome - The Colosseum
Another view of the Colosseum also taken from the Via del Forli Imperiale.
Rome - Trevi fountain at night
Packed at night with locals and tourists sitting around the pool with their partners, entranced by the noise and motion of running water - and each other.
Neptunes chariot is led by Tritons with sea horses - one wild and one docile - representing the moods of the sea. Trevi refers to the three roads that converge on the fountain (tre = 3, vie = road)
10 Sep 2004 - Rome, ItalyMy second time in Rome and all without throwing a coin into the Trevi fountain; that puts paid to that myth. Returning was like coming back to visit an old friend. The first time I was here I totally immersed myself in the city and its history so seeing it again was like I had never been away.
Not true though. In a city as big as this and with a history going back 2000 years there is always something new to find out even about monuments that have already been seen. The sense of awe I felt about seeing and touching the structures that were once the centre of the power of Rome; that were part of the everyday day surroundings of powerful men whose actions have echoed through the centuries; men like Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony; the old Republic; these feelings still came back.
With so much ancient history still to see, two days in Rome isn't enough because typically this only gives time to see the ancient, the Vatican and a smattering of Renaissance era buildings. And when I say 'see the ancient', this tends to mean see what is easily accessible and most monument dense as in the old heart of the eternal city. So much more lies outside of the centre.
Rome - The Colosseum
Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre after the family name of Vespasian, it was inaugurated by his son Titus in 80 AD. It could seat 50k spectators and bloody combat between men, beasts and executions were performed for their pleasure.
Rome - The Forum
The forum existed almost intact up to 1503 when the Pope pillaged the area for building materials to rebuild Rome. Ancient marbles were ground up to make concrete. If only the buildings were left we might be able to have an even better image how ancient Rome looked.
Rome - Temple of Julius Caesar
Erected by Augustus in 29 BC on the site where Caesar's body was burned and Mark Anthony read his famous speech. Some people actually still leave flowers here in his memory.
Rome - House of the Vestal Virgins
Vesta was the goddess of the hearth and her worship was overseen by 6 priestesses. Chosen in childhood between the ages of 6 and 10, they had to serve as virgins for at least 30 years.
They lived privileged lives but if they broke their vows they would be punished by being buried alive as the blood of a vestal could never be spilled.
Rome - The Arch of Septimius Severus towards the forum
The forum was the hub of civic life and became occupied with religious, political, commercial and commemorative buildings.
For a 1000 years the forum remained the focus of civic life but in the middle ages it was forgotten and reduced to a meadow.
Rome - Close up of the Arch of Septimius Severus
Some of the fine sculptures inside the arch depict the victory over the Parthians. Carts filled with booty, soldiers and prisoners are all depicted.
Rome - Arch of Septimius Severus
Erected in 203 AD to commemorate the victories of Septimius Severus against the Parthians in the East. This is at the point where great generals ended their triumphal processions.
The arch is sheathed in marble and originally had bronze sculptures on top.
Rome - Arch of Constantine with Colosseum behind
A close up of the Arch of Constantine showing some of the fine detail. Constantine goes down as one of the greatest emperors and brought Christianity to the empire.
The circular carving dates from Constantine's day but others on the front and rear date from the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius - all them very capable emperors.
Rome - Trevi fountain
This is one of Rome's most famous monuments. Completely dominating the small piazza, it was designed in 1732. Its water is supplied by one of the city's earliest aqueducts.
Throw a coin into the water over you shoulder while facing away to ensure you return to Rome. Toss a second and you will marry an Italian. Throw a third and you will have donated to charity.
Rome - Pallazo Venezia
A renaissance era monument build partly with materials quarried from the Colosseum. Mussolini used it as his official residence and made some of his famous speeches from the balcony.
This often overlooked building is actually holds Byzantine and Renaissance paintings.
10 May 2002 - Rome, ItalyMy first time in Rome and also the fulfillment of a long held ambition - a visit to the glory that is Rome! A place where the history of mankind has been shaped into what it is today. See where the intrigues of Marc Anthony, Julius Caeser took place; where the mad, bad and great Caesars lived; where gladiators battled and where the ordinary people went about their everyday business - all can be seen at various levels and locations around this great, living museum.
Rome - The Pantheon
Friend of Augustus Caeser, the first Roman Emperor, Agrippa built and dedicated the original Pantheon during his third consulship (27 BC). Agrippa's Pantheon was destroyed along with other buildings in a huge fire in 80 AD. The current building dates from about 125 AD, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. It was totally reconstructed with the text of the original inscription ("M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT" meaning, "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time, made it").
Rome - Ground level - Markets of Trajan
The markets and forum were built between 107 and 113 AD are extensive and occupy several floors. They are not always open but on this occasion I was able to explore the different passages and now empty shops. Passageways are not particularly wide so I can imagine how hectic it must have seemed when in use. I imagine that the closest to this today must be the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul which is chaotic and packed with small shops and people.