Friday, June 1, 2012
Our tour of Rome
Discover the Eternal City from the comfort of your air-conditioned coach, taking in some of the city’s most beautiful and historic monuments. You will see the Pyramid of Caius Cestius and the ruins of the great Circus Maximus, where the Roman chariot races were held. View the Forum, the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum, the symbol of the power of Imperial Rome. It’s one world famous attraction after another. There is Venice Square, dominated by the huge and impressive monument to King Victor Emmanuel II, the gorgeous Piazza della Popolo, the Aurelian Walls, built to defend Rome against Barbarians, and the lovely Borghese Gardens. Then, after free time for lunch on your own, you will visit the spectacular Vatican Museums, beginning in the magnificent Pine Cone Courtyard. Then, passing through the Candelabra Gallery, the Tapestry Gallery, and Geographical Maps Gallery, you will come upon the breathtaking Sistine Chapel. Here, you can behold the brilliantly restored Michelangelo frescoes of the Genesis and Last Judgment, as well as the other priceless masterpieces adoring the chapel walls. Your tour continues into Christendom’s largest church, St. Peter’s Basilica. Here, you may admire the gilded papal canopy suspended over the high altar where the pope celebrates mass, the splendid gilt and bronze throne in the apse, and Michelangelo’s most glorious work, the intensely inspiring Pietà.
Rome was one of our longest tour days lasting over 10 hours with over 4 hours spent in the bus. After the bus tour through the city where we could only take pictures through the bus window we had some free time to explore before re-joining our group to proceed to the Vatican. Our walk took us to two popular attractions:
The first one being the Scalinata di Spagna, or Spanish Steps, which are located in an upmarket area of Rome, and join the Piazza di Spagna with the church of Trinita dei Monti with its twin towers that dominate the skyline. The church was built in 1502 by Louis XII, next to St. Francis di Paola’s monastery. The staircase has been constructed using 138 steps. Designed in 1723 by Francesco De Sanctis, and funded by a French diplomat Stefano Gueffierwas, the steps are a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas, and terraces. The steps have been restored many times over the years, with the latest restoration being in 1995. The Spanish Steps got their name from the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See which was located in the piazza.
The second one was the Trevis Fountain – In 1732, Pope Clement XII commissioned Nicola Salvi to create a large fountain at the Trevi Square. Construction of the monumental baroque fountain was finally completed in 1762. Legend states that if you toss a coin the fountain you will one day return to Rome. The central figure of the fountain, in front of a large niche, is Neptune, god of the sea. He is riding a chariot in the shape of a shell, pulled by two sea horses. Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One of the horses is calm and obedient, the other one restive. They symbolize the fluctuating moods of the sea. The water at the bottom of the fountain represents the sea.
The Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peters were all awesome. We only were able to see a very small fraction of the Museums but it was enough to whet our attetite for a future visit. The Sistine Chapel is breathtakingly beautiful. There is supposed to be complete silence in the chapel and our guide Maria had expalained the various panels before entering the Museums. Sadly, there were too many ignorant people and even some guides that ignored the silence rule and also the rule about no photography . The sounds of the shutters and even more so the flashes were really annnoying and disturbed the senrity of the chapel. St. Peter’s square is mammoth and like the Sistine chapel you know without doubt that you are in a very special place.
Winsome touches the toe on the bronze statue of St. Peter. Pilgrims would bend down to kiss the right foot of the statue and over the years the metal wore away so that the toes now blend in with the rest of his foot. Nowadays most visitors touch the toe instead of kiss it, but the feet are still worn down with the human contact.