Rome: Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Basilicas & more

Rome is so wonderful it’s hard to believe. The distances are not large and it’s fairly flat, easy to walk for km. The Forum, Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Spanish stairs, Trevi fountain, Pantheon and many things we all know about are within easy walking distance from Trastevere.

Pantheon

The Pantheon is spectacular. Huge.

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  I see why over the years it’s been protected and preserved despite initially being a repository for various gods of the Romans. Who knows which gods, those of Greece and Rome, perhaps even Mithras too (of whom little is known but the similarities with the later Christ are apparently uncanny or…).

Much later the Pantheon was consecrated by the Catholic Church and devoted to the Christian god. A splendid building from the round walls you first see as you approach from the side, to the spectacular columns out front, the huge bronze double doors and the decor inside.

 

Lots of people, always, outside the pantheon.  
Once inside there is so much to see.

 The ceiling is a marvel, a fraction larger in diameter than that of St Peter’s Basilica. An amazing achievement given the age of the building.

  Amazing also to think that Raffaello’s birthday, 496 years ago, is still actively remembered!

More evidence that many artists apparently didn’t know how men and women differed. Easy to deal with the girl bits by a cloak but the hands and face. Hmm, dead give aways! Unless this was meant to illustrate drag! I don’t think so…

 


I fell in love with the Pantheon because of its shape, its adaptable functionality, used by different groups through history, its age, and its sheer beauty. And somehow as I crisscrossed the inner parts of Rome I’ve ended up walking past it again and again, drawn to it.

Trevi fountain

Hate to use the word ‘splendid’ again but the Trevi fountain is. Thousands of us agreed on this as we all hung around. Some sat in the front adjacent to the water and threw a coin into the fountain. Guess they wished for luck. If that’s what everyone does the world will need a lot. Remember, it’s not yet mid April and wonder with me how busy does it get in June/july? Aggghhhh. Just how many of us can sit around it at any point in time. Hmmm



   The carved figures and the friezes are amazing. Such detail and it’s ancient. How ancient? Don’t know but it started with water brought into Agrippa’s Baths.  He is shown in one frieze on the side of the Trevi Fountain, and it’s a long time since he started pushing up daisies, about 2000 years ago.


The neighbours on one side kept an eye on the crowd. No doubt in amazement given its not even mid April.

One couple I watched had a cloth doll they baptised by flicking water at it from the fountain, all the while filming the action. True. I couldn’t make that up!

 Other fountains

Everywhere. Rome is like a living archaeologist’s dream and a builder’s nightmare. Build on build on build for so long it’s inevitable there are fountains, ruins, obelisks and arches everywhere around this older section, such as the Piazze Navone.

Over time lots of the past has been dug up and buildings restored. What remains now is often repaired works from the Middle Ages but, not all of it. Egyptian obelisks were prized and Rome has more than Egypt.

    
I’ve realised lots of our view of quintessential Rome is really of reconstructions from the Middle Ages, a period in which many popes were rich and willing and able to spend. And by those means they ensured and demonstrated the magnificence and glory of the church.
Spanish steps

The Spanish steps have work going on up their entire length. The narrow pedestrian section on the side is worth climbing though. Surprising how many people are unfit!

Anyhow, get to the top and you can see over a little section of Rome. At the top is a church, quite uninteresting, in the austere style of many Spanish churches. Roman churches, by contrast, are mostly full of the most wonderful frescoes and dense with beautiful decorations. Yup. Wow.

  


Other Basilicas and churches

Forget the Vatican, Sistene chapel and the Vatican museums. Except for the Swiss Guard in its finery St Peter’s Basilica palled considerably for me on a second visit. It probably seemed so good on the first visit by contrast with the unpleasant group tour through the crush and rush of the Vatican museums and the Sistene Chapel.

Oh, don’t the boys look good! They are real Swiss army guys, properly trained and apparently do 2 or 5 year terms in the Vatican. They can’t be married and serve, nowhere for partners to live apparently.


Great gear they wear! Better than their less formal blue uniform.

  
One thing in St Peter’s, a group of priests was having a little service in a side chapel. Many used their phones for the order of service rather than prayer books!

 And the first time I missed the neat way the deaths of many martyrs are pictured in an interesting metal frieze beside the exit. Prescient, as I’m sure barbed wire’s only been around 100 or so years.

So many other churches have a better feeling, few visitors and equally, or more, exquisite ceilings, frescoes and paintings. For example, the Basilica of Saints Ambrose and Charles (San Carlo al Corso), a bit up the Tiber River from the Vatican is superlative. The side chapels and the main one are all exquisite.

Starting with its ceiling, the gold and friezes are mindblowingly impressive.

    

Even better, it feels like a living church, not a mausoleum, with its red votive candles in the side chapels.

 This Basilica was recently cleaned, with a few bits left undone and that really show how dirty it was from the accretion over the centuries, like the Sistene Chapel. And it has a pretty intriguing relic, the heart of St Charles in a purpose made wooden box. In case you thought you needed to touch it, be warned, the area in front is alarmed.

Piazzas

Everywhere. Every block with a cut off corner or vacant lot ends up with a piazza. Some are huge and spectacular, like the Piazza Navona.

It’s full of guys trying to sell selfie sticks or some coloured lumps of silicone that have eyes painted on the and squeak, and flatten out, when thrown onto a flat surface. Not many sales while I was watching. I’d guess most of these guys today were from India.

Jewish Ghetto area

The Sant Angelo area, the old Jewish ghetto, is over the Tiber from Trastevere. It has some poignant reminders of very recent history.


Palazzo Mattel is also in the old ghetto area.

Either this guy had a small mirror or a selfie stick. Surprisingly he took both his helmet and his skirt off.


‘If you say it one more time I’ll throw this at you….’ Or was he a south paw throwing the discus?

Clearly ruling is hard work. He had an interesting brooch.




Everyday Rome

Not to forget how the modern streets look with their colourful buildings and cobblestones streets.
  
 Water fountains, the old type, are everywhere. The water is quite drinkable. Everyone drinks directly from them or fills bottles there.


And the view from our apartment is quintessential Trastevere. Isn’t it wonderful? Look at the raggedy shapes of buildings, at the colour and vegetation.


Mausoleum of Augustus

I am puzzled.  What makes one heap of old stones a worthwhile and interesting monument worth visiting, like the Forum, and another not?

 The Mausoleum of Augustus is locked up, visible but not accessible.  This is a tangible reminder of one of Rome’s most important early leaders, Caesar’s adopted son Octavius. Why is he no longer celebrated?

Knowing what you are 

I AM a motorbike (when it suits)!

Some are even more sure!

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