aside THE THREE LADIES’ 2015 ADVENTURES IN ROME, PART II

PIAZZA DEL POPOLO
PIAZZA DEL POPOLO

So, for a few  days we ladies continued to follow a routine. Around 8:00 am, two of us would stop by the Café Carvona, located at the southeast corner of Piazza del Popolo. As we sat out front, our gracious waiter would immediately bring us our morning treat while we became  people watchers and shared  crumbs with the little birds. Then we would return to our apartment with some goodies for our friend. Soon afterwards, we would trek towards the Piazza del Popolo to take the metro. With the Roma Pass and the map which comes with it, it is just a swipe of the card that allows one to go from any metro stop to near the Colosseum, or to the Circus Maximus stop, or even return to one’s lodgings for a rest. During a beautiful, sunny day, we would just saunter towards the various sites, taking that center street at the Piazza’s southern point, Via del Corso.

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

As we three walked south on the Via del Corso, the center street emanating from Piazza del Popolo, there are signs to the left (east) to direct us to the Trevi Fountain which has been undergoing renovations since 2014.  This was a major disappointment to my friend who loves this fountain and to me. This was also , my parents’ favorite statue. I always carry a picture of them holding hands in front of this fountain.

The Trevi Fountain was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci. Standing 86 ft high and 161 feet wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous in the world. The fountain has appeared in several notable films, including Three Coins in a Fountain and Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

After viewing what we could of the Trevi Fountain, we turned back to the Via del Corso and walked south until we saw the signs to the right (west) to the Pantheon. The Pantheon exists today in such amazing form because the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface the IV in A.D 608 and it was used as a church ever since. Probably one of the most fascinating features of the Pantheon is the Architecture.

PANTHEON'S INTERIOR
PANTHEON’S INTERIOR

The following description that I am using can be found on Rome.info. The structure of the Pantheon is comprised of a series of intersecting arches. The arches rest on eight piers which support eight round-headed arches which run through the drum from its inner to its outer face. The arches correspond to the eight bays on the floor level that house statues. The dome itself is supported by a series of arches that run horizontally round. Romans had perfected the use of arches which helped sustain the weight of their magnanimous buildings. Romans were aware of the heavy nature of their building materials. So they used lighter materials toward the top of the dome. On the lowest level travertine, the heaviest material was used, then a mixture of travertine and tufa, then tufa and brick, then all brick was used around the drum section of the dome, and finally pumice, the lightest and most porous of materials on the ceiling of the dome. This use of lighter materials on top alleviated the immense weight of the dome. The Roman Pantheon was probably constructed by using an elaborate setup of wooden scaffolding, which in itself would have been costly. The elegant coffers on the dome were likely struck with a device that was exacted from floor level.

PANTHEON'S OCULUS
PANTHEON’S OCULUS

The detail of this building is extraordinary. If the dome of the rotundra were flipped upside down it would fit perfectly inside the rotunda. When approaching the Pantheon from the outside it appears rectangular in shape. But it is only the first small room (cella) that has corners. The rotunda is round.

Also, in antiquity there would have been a large colonnaded enclosure in front of the building making it almost impossible for one to glimpse the dome at the back. The statues of Augustus and Agrippa stood in the apse at the end of the colonnaded side aisles of the entrance.

The interior design of the Roman Pantheon is a striking synthesis of tradition and innovation. The dimensions of the interior height and the diameter of the dome are the same (145 Roman feet., which is 141 feet. 8 inches; 43.2m).

PANTHEORN EXTERIOR
PANTHEORN EXTERIOR

The architect, who is unknown, did this on purpose to show the harmony of the building. The marble veneer that we see today on the interior was for the most part added later. However, the Roman Pantheon in its present state allows us a glimpse into the marvelous and stunning world of Roman architecture. The dome would have been gilded to look like the heavenly sphere of all the gods that the name Pantheon evokes. The oculus was an engineering gem of the Roman world. No oculus had even dared come close in size to the one in the Pantheon. It is still lined with the original Roman bronze and is the main source of light for the whole building. As the earth turns the light flows in to circle the interior making the viewer aware of the magnificence of the cosmos. The oculus was never covered and rain falls into the interior and runs off the slightly convex floor to the still functioning Roman drainpipes underneath. The Pantheon has since antiquity, been used to inspire artists during the Renaissance as well as become the tomb for important figures in Italian history. The Italian kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I as well as the famous Renaissance painter Raphael and his fiancée are buried in the Pantheon. It is a wonderful example of second century Roman architecture. It boasts mathematical genius and simple geometry that today still impresses architects and amazes the eyes of casual viewers.

Palatine-Hill overlooks-the-Forum-Romanum-and-is-the-site-of-the-palace-ruins-of Emporers.
Palatine-Hill overlooks-the-Forum-Romanum-and-is-the-site-of-the-palace-ruins-of Emperors.

One day, after touring the Colosseum, we three ladies walked through the adjacent Palatine Hill which is where the emperors maintained their palaces and lived the high life in their version of the gated community. All that is left now are some ruins so that we have to use our imaginations to picture their lavish life styles.

After studying the Palatine Hill area, we sought out the Arch di Constantine, A 69 foot-metro high Roman structure made up of three arches decorated with figures and battle scenes located just south of the Colosseum, on Via di San Gregorio.

ARCH OF CONSTANTINE
ARCH OF CONSTANTINE

From the Arch of Constantine, we ambled south on  Via di San Gregorio to reach the Circus Maximus, the theater which hosted the famous Roman chariot races as depicted in Ben Hur.

3443356884_2f6f10c9a9 CIRCUS MAXIMUS
RENDERING OF THE ORIGINAL STATE OF CIRCUS MAXIMUS

If you feel like walking a little more, then you can visit the close by neighborhoods of Monti and Celio, both are former red light districts in Roman times. In ancient times, this rione (Monti) was the red-light district, home to gladiators and prostitutes (Julius Caesar even moved there to show he was “one of the people”). Today, it’s a gorgeous little neighborhood filled with a medieval palace, cobble-stoned streets, and an eclectic mix of traditional trattorias and hip boutiques.

AVENTINO
AVENTINO/ AVENTINE

Aventine, located just south of the Circus Maximus, is home to some of the loveliest streets and homes in Rome. Its small size and exclusivity means that there are few hotels and B&Bs here.  It also doesn’t feel like it’s “in the middle” of bustling Rome, thanks to its greenery and the fact that it’s at least a 15-minute walk to most of the major sights.  Also in May through June, the tourist can stroll through the Aventine Municipal Rose Garden at Via di Valle Murcia, 6/7, Rome. This garden is open to the public for about 2 months only. The garden of about 2.5 acres displays many different varieties of roses, densely scattered over the slightly sloping gardens is a spectacular sight. Over 1000 are coming from over 20 countries. An international competition is held each year for the Premier Roma rose.

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