Days 12-14 Sightseeing highlights include the Borghese Gardens, Trevi Fountain, 2000-year-old Pantheon, the Colosseum and St. Peter’s, the largest Christian church in the world. On Wednesday, a Papal Audience is arranged, providing the Pope is in residence.
A breakfast of rolls and the very strongest coffee one could imagine – The bread & butter were wonderful eating – the sort that “sticks to your ribs!” –
Thus we began our first full day in Rome – It was a warm & bright morning & we were ready when our Tour Bus came & our guide was ready to show us the City – Her name: Fernanda
We passed the Borghese Gardens – a beautiful 17th Century garden laid out as a private estate garden for a very wealthy Churchman of Rome – Today it is a public garden & the palace a museum –
The most exclusive apartments in Rome are to be found on top of the Wall in the old city – It is a real status symbol to have an address on top of the old Roman wall –
We saw the guards outside the presidents palace – Their uniforms are more elaborate than those at Buckingham Palace – much gold braid – gold helmets covering long blonde hair & black & red trousers & Jackets
The Spanish Square – (Piazza di Spagna) & The Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Spagna) were the next to demand our attention – The Spanish Embassy & the French Church (built in early 16th Century) are land marks in this area – The Spanish steps (have nothing to do with Spain) were built in the 18th century by the French to get to their church – Today it is the meeting place
At the bottom of the steps on one side is the famous England Tea Room – “Bakingtons” & an almost identical structure on the right side the last home of John Keats – He died here & today it is a museum maintained by English & American contributions. At one time this square was the place where English Lords & ladies parked their coaches – today only Fiats rest here –
The Piazza del Papalo – here we see the influence of Napoleon – Nero was buried here & it was said that this royal ghost haunted the square until a medieval Pope tore down the the tomb & consecrated the site. The obelisk here is thousands of years old & was once Roman booty from Heliopoles & once stood in the Circus Maximus – This is the fashionable meeting place for expensive Italians in expensive Italian cars & contains two famous sidewalk cafes: Canova & Rosati
We saw the brick wall that is over 2,000 years old – it is part of what was the tomb of many emperors of the 1st century – one of them Augustus – In the 5th century barbarians smashed the bronze gates & stole the gold urns containing the ashes Originally the tomb was a round marble covered affair with tall cypress trees on the earth covered dome
Still another Piazza this one Piazza Navona – no new buildings & no traffic in this oval shpaed site – The shape comes from the Stadium of Domitian which lies beneath – one can almost imagine the chariot races that were held here – later in Medieval times the square was flooded & mock naval encounters were held here by order of the Popes – In the center is Bernini’s famous fountain of the Four Rivers (Ganges, Danube, della Plata & the Nile) The statue representing the Nile has a shroud on his head because at the time the statue was made the source of the Nile was unknown
On this square we saw the show room for the Cameo factory of Naples Italy & made a note to return for a better look!
Passed the Senate House outside which were banner waving protesters – much like the U.S. of A. – Inside the Senate meeting again just like home –
We viewed the Pantheon from just the outside – [We discovered after our arrival in Rome that all national museums were closed by a strike (again like home)] It has beeeen built & rebuilt – the first one by Agrippa in 27 B.C. The present structure built by the emperior Hadrian in the early 2nd Century – You can still read the name of Agrippa beneath the pediment dedicating the Pantheon to all the Gods of the ancient world. It still has in use its original bronze door & the intact roof that is a single piece of cast concrete – The bronze doors are said to weigh 20 tons
This building with the Widest dome in the world (it measures 143′ in height & 143′ in diameter) The walls at the foundation are 20′ thick & at the top of the dome they taper off to just 5′ – Only the one opening at the top – no windows – a pefect drainage system takes care of any rain that gets in –
Our travels took us from here to Vatican City via Hadrians’ Bridge (over 1800 years old) The Fortress holds the Tomb of Hadrian
Along the wall a passage way from the Tomb to the Vatican made it possible hundreds of years ago fro the Pope to hide in the Fortress when his life was in danger
Our Tour Guide took us to the shop selling religious items where we purchased items to have blessed by the Pope – It being a Wednesday we could take them ourselves to the audience with the Pope –
Then we all stood in this the World’s largest Church that claims the World’s tallest Dome that is situated in the World’s smallest state –
The Pope was seated in the Cupola (designed by Michelangelo) under the great bronze canopy that is over the high altar – A most impressive sight! The precious marble every where, the guilded bronze sunburst holding the symbolic dome, the throne of St. Peter, and the beautiful bronze of St. Peter himself – In this church in 800 AD on Christmas Day the Pope crowned Charlemagne the King of the Franks and made him the Holy Roman Emperor –
As we left the great Basilica we were told where to see the Pope’s apartment and that an open window is the sign that he is in residence –
The Square is hard to imagine – the vast piazza can hold 300,000 persons between the twin galleries of nearby 300 travertine marble columns – In ancient times this was the sight of the Circus of Nero – it was two hundred years later that Constantine chose the sight for a church to memorialize the early Christians martyred here – among them St. Peter – the obelisk in the center of the piazza was old in the 1st Century when the Romans brought it here from Egypt.
It seemed we were always ready for lunch whenever the idea was presented & today was no exception – With the idea of returning to the Cameo Factory show rooms, we went back to the Piazza Navona & found a delightful side walk cafe where we had a sandwich & wine served in 10 oz. water tumblers! – We took ourselves across the square & had one of Rome’s real treats – “Tartufo” (a chocloate ice cream ball rolled in chocolate flakes topped with cream & deep in its center a cherry) Wow!
Then to the Cameo shop where we all did more shopping than we’d intended. Here is where Jim bought me the beautiful white yell & pink gold ring that later was to put us over our duty free allowance. This shop was one of the few open during the faithfully observed rest hours (1 to 3 or 4:00 p.m.)
The next place of interest is one you can really say has a little of everything & something for every taste: “Monument to Victor Emmanula II” or “Vittoriano”- nearly 60 years in the building It also contains Italy’s Unknown Soldier –
From here to the Campidoglio on the summit of the Compitoline Hill – the most sacred of Rome – for it was here the Temples of Jupiter & Juno once stood –
On the way up the steps there was a cage that holds wolves perpetuating the memory of the she-wolf that suckled the infants Romulus & Remus.
In the center of the piazza stands the impressive statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback & the only statue of this type to have survived from ancient Rome – It was rescued from the River Tiber & preserved only because it was thought to be a statue of Constantine – thus protected by the Pope – Right behind this statue stands the Senatorial Palace (One of 3 buildings atttributed to Michelangelo & his students)
Here tributes are found to the River Nile (-pyramids) the Tiber Tiver (Romulus & Remus) & the goddess Roma.
The Palace stands on the site of the Roman Hall of Records & below & to its back you can see the Forum & other ruins which is the heart of Roman History for it was the center of trade, religion and politics. Its history dates from 509 B.C. & the establishment of the Roman Republic. At its prime it was a collection of marble temples of great beauty, roofs of pure gold & surrounded by magnificent columns. Here the Vestal Virgins watched the sacred fires and & the Senators spent their time making the emperors happy.
We had to content ourselves with looking from around the edge – the strike had closed this too – we couldn’t walk down inside the ruins
Traveling in a circle we found ourselves again at the very famous meeting place – The Spanish Steps – We stopped for Ice Cream, pastry, and American coffee & with it got our second wind & went off in all directions to do some shopping –
Bought gloves – So many beautiful ones it was hard to decide – finally settled on a pair of white kid with open lace work as decoration –
Met our crowd & it was off to dinner at “Da Mario” just off the piazza di Spagna – informal, favorite of natives, sawdust floor – raffia decor – Italian Language only one spoken but we did well had a 3 course meal & wine at under 80 cents a liter – a real bargain!
Volume labeled “The Pennsylvania Lawyer’s Diary 1971”, used as travel journal by Elizabeth W. Ruffner, for a trip taken in March-April 1971; held by Malissa Ruffner, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Baltimore, MD; 2011.
For background information on this series of posts, see Spring Break, 1971.