Rome: Part I
Our first glimpse of a historical landmark in Rome: the Pantheon Inn. We chose to stay at an inn very close to the Pantheon so were were able to see it quite a few times and during different times throughout the day and night. Our first night we ate at a restaurant kiddie corner to the Pantheon. Our waiter showed us a video of what the area around there usually looks like (pre-Covid). Let’s just say we were lucky to be sitting comfortably in front of the ginormous icon with a view- it was a rare experience. And it was here that I tried my first of three (I believe) pasta dishes that Rome is known for- amatriciana.
On Saturday we were actually able to book a last minute time slot for the following morning to visit inside (due to Covid restrictions reservations were required 24 hours in advance), so this was a pleasant surprise as I thought that the Pantheon was not open to the public yet!
The monumental bronze portal of the entrance is one of the main constitutive elements. The portal is considered an original example of Roman age, in spite of the many additions and interventions for restoration. Among the original, surviving portals of Roman age (the portals of the so-called Temple of Romulus and of the Curia), the Pantheon’s is the biggest left- 7,53 m high and about 4,90m wide.
The gigantic dome shaped covering has a central opening with a diameter of about 9m. Refined “astronomical” devices are to be identified in the masterpiece, such as, for example, the lighting during specific hours of the day, during solstices and equinoxes. Below is the ancient floor made of polychrome marble. It has a concave center which is convex at the sides with a drainage system for the removal of rain water.
Vatican Museums/ Sistine Chapel
A voyage through the Vatican Museums is not an easy undertaking, to say the least. They can be… overwhelming… in many senses actually- the history, the beauty, and the sheer amount of greatness that these halls holds is almost too much to take in in just one visit. It’s extremely intimidating. Yet, I think that I had a different mind set than most when I first walked through the doors. I thought to myself that I always have the opportunity to return at a later date when I want because I am lucky enough to live here (and this is something I will have to do because not only did we not cover everything, but our guide, while very nice, could not be understood at all so we were left in the dark many times). So if I don’t catch everything or understand something, then that’s okay. However, after going through here for the first time, I’m left wondering how other visitors feel after they are left to absorb such a multi-layered place only to not be able to return and soak it all in again. Passing from Michelangelo to Assyrian reliefs and Egyptian mummies, from Etruscan urns to the artifacts of the Australian aboriginals, from the frescoes and tapestries of Raphael to the glassware and ivory carvings of Late Antiquity, to the masterpieces of Matisse and Bacon, and so on, is an arduous endeavor.
St. Peter’s Basilica/ San Pietro Square
After our visit through the Vatican museums, ending with the Sistine Chapel, we made our way over to St. Peter’s Basilica. The largest church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica is more than just the most important building in Christendom. It is a jewel within Vatican City from where Popes have spread the word of God throughout the world. The Basilica is a focal point of millions of pilgrims each year, but it is also a true cultural, historical and architectural landmark. The classic Renaissance structure holds within itself treasures from millennia including paintings, sculptures, artifacts and the art decorated on the walls.
The story of St. Peter’s Basilica begins with the crucifixion of Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus, in 64 AD. He was crucified upside down on a cross in Circus of Nero, and buried nearby on what is now the Vatican Hill. Emperor Constantine The Great built the Old Basilica between 319 AD and 333 AD on the grounds of the burial spot of St. Peter. Later on, in the 16th Century at the behest of Pope Julius II, the current St. Peter’s Basilica was built. St. Peter’s Basilica is currently a Papal Basilica and is famous for being the site of St. Peter’s Tomb and the Chair of St. Peter, which confers a spiritual authority to the Pope. However, it is not the official Basilica of the Pope, but all major Papal functions and events are conducted here due to its sheer size and importance. The construction of St. Peter’s Basilica took over a century in the making! The planning of the Basilica started when Pope Julius II commissioned a competition to design the grandest building in Christendom. The winner of the competition was Donato Bramante, and the foundation stone was laid in 1506. A series of deaths and personnel changes led to the change of architects from Bramante to Raphael to eventually Michelangelo in 1547. The final St. Peter’s Basilica dome and the architecture are accredited to the brilliance of Michelangelo who based it on the designs of Bramante. The Basilica is built in the traditional Renaissance architecture and has been an inspiration for church buildings across the world. The St. Peter’s Basilica Dome or the Cupola is one of the largest domes in the world. The design of the Dome is attributed to Michelangelo; however the construction of the dome was completed only in 1590, by his pupil Giacomo Della Porta. The cupola has several elements across six concentric circles, including 16 large windows, busts, frescos and figurines of over 96 figures. You can climb 231 steps or take the elevator to reach the base and climb up another 320 steps to reach the top of the cupola for breathtaking views of the Vatican and Rome.
I’ll admit that we only stopped by Castel Sant’Angelo because I thought the pictures of it from a nearby bridge were quite picturesque so I wanted to see it for myself (and it was on our way to a great gelateria, haha). Not to mention, we had some guy pestering us to give him money and trying to put bracelets on our wrists, despite our agitation, so we pretty much ran away from this area quickly.
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Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!
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