Italian Wanderings – Page 01

Here we go again…

Greetings All,  Well, Mary Ann and I (Phil) have taken another trip.  This time it’s the 14 day Grand Circle Travel (GCT) tour: “Italy: Tuscany, The Alps, & The Italian Riviera”  with an optional 4 day pre-trip “Rome of the Caesars”.

0002  Trip MapThe map above traces our trip from Rome to Florence to The Italian Riviera near Genoa, to Bolzano and finally to Venice. We had a lot of stops that I’ll try to tell you about.

First a disclaimer: What you’ll read (if you have the  fortitude) is obviously not all from my head or notes. I made liberal use of many websites for both pictures and descriptions.  I did a lot of digging because I was curious about the history, geography, and culture of the places we visited and where is a better place to record everything than in this blog. You can skip a lot. I won’t mind.0000 DownEasterEvery trip starts with a first step.  Ours was to catch the Amtrak DownEaster from Wells, Maine to Boston and the Logan Airport for our 8 hour flight to Rome.

Thus began our 4 day tour of Rome.

0003 San MarcosOur first stop after arriving at Rome’s Victoria Hotel was to catch a quick lunch. The nearby San Marco restaurant was recommended so we dug into our first pizza (mushroom) and our first carafe of wine (red). Both were excellent! Plus, we met a guy businessman from Montana there who gave us a lot of pointers about the city.0005 FransescaOur pre-trip group of 15 met our delightful Rome City Guide: Francesca (above) for a Welcome Drink (Prosecco) and enjoyed a “Dinner on our Own”. That’s GCT’s way of saying that they don’t pay. So, Mary Ann and I went back to San Marco’s for more wine and pasta.0440 Rome MapHere is a map of Rome showing all the major historical sights we visited in our 4 day tour:  Our hotel is the little red dot in the upper right near the Villa Borghese. As you can see, most of historical Rome is concentrated in a relatively small area.0030 Ham & SalamiWe started Day 2  taking a walking tour on the Via Veneto with Francesca It is one of Rome’s most famous streets and the setting for the Federico Fellini’s classic 1960 film “La Dolce Vita” .  We saw many interesting sights like hams and salamis.0040 Water Spigot 2This is an unusual fountain that converted from a spigot to a drinking fountain by covering the spout and allowing a stream to come out a little hole.  The water was excellent. Note the headset – it’s a “Whisper” receiver.  Our guide explains what we see using her “Whisper” transmitter.

0020 Fiat 500A Fiat 500, which is a highly sought after classic Italian automobile.

0025 Triton by BerniniOur first “art”stop was at the Triton Fountain. It is the centerpiece of the Piazza Barberini It was  built in 1643, and one of the many masterpieces by the sculptor Bernini, who was a favorite of the pope and encouraged by the Barberini family. On the fountain, four fish hold an open clam upon which a Triton sits, blowing water from his horn.0060 Trevi UncoveredWe walked to see another one of the famous Roman Landmarks: The Trevi Fountain (of the “3 Coins” fame) .  This is a postcard photo. The actual fountain is being refurbished and was covered with scaffolding. There is now a special smaller fountain where you may throw your coins. About 3,000 Euros are collected each day.  That’s a lotta wishes!!

0105  Column of Marcus AureliusThis is the Column of Marcus Aurelius  The Column was built between 180 AD and 193 AD as a gift by the Senate and the people of Rome to Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The column was erected near the emperor’s own temple, the Temple of the Deified Marcus. The Aurelian Column is about 100  feet high and formed of 28 blocks of Carrara marble. It rests on a large rectangular pedestal and bears a spiraling band of reliefs depicting events during the imperial campaigns in the north. The lower part shows the campaign against the Germanic tribes between 169 and 173 AD and the upper part shows the campaign against the Sarmatians between 174 and 176 AD.

Roman History Lesson (Skip it if you wish)

The history of Rome spans more than two-and-a-half millennia of the existence of a city that grew from a small Latin village in the 8th century BC into the center of a vast civilization that dominated the Mediterranean region for centuries. The population of the city fell in the Late Empire after Rome ceased to be the capital of the Empire, and remained far lower than its ancient peak until Rome became the capital of a reunited Italy in the late 19th century. This assured the survival of very significant ancient Roman material remains in the center of the city, some abandoned and others continuing in use. For most of the centuries in between, the Papacy was the ruler of the city and Rome became the capital of the Papal States, which grew to include large parts of central Italy. Although economically weak, Rome remained a center of pilgrimage and also tourism.

Rome is one of the oldest named cities in the world. Its political power was eventually replaced by that of peoples of mostly Germanic origin, marking the beginning of the Middle Ages.  Rome became the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the home of a sovereign state, the Vatican City, within its walls. Today it is the capital of Italy, an international worldwide political and cultural center, a major global city, and is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world.

Early Roman history:

753 BC – According to Livy, the city was founded  by Romulus and Remus in a, low-lying, grassy wet land called the Forum or market square. It was drained in the 7th century BC with the building of the Cloaca Maxima, a large covered sewer system that emptied into the Tiber River, as more people began to settle between the two hills.

The Roman Senate became the political institution in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the city (traditionally founded in 753 BC). It survived the overthrow of the kings in 509 BC, the fall of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, and the barbarian rule of Rome in the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries.

616 BC – The first Etruscan king of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus established the Forum as a political center and the Circus Maximum (remember Ben Hur’s chariot race?).

The Roman Republic:

509 BC – Lucius Junius Brutus founded the Roman republic and expelled the Etruscans  from Rome. For the next 500 +/- years, Rome was ruled by the Senate.

51 BC – Caesar conquers Gaul

Imperial Rome:

49 BC – Caesar crosses the Rubicon (a river in northern Italy) in order to take Rome. The idiom “Crossing the Rubicon” means to pass a point of no return, and refers to Julius Caesar’s army’s crossing of this river in 49 BC, which was considered an act of insurrection.

44 BC – Caesar elects himself dictator, and in March is killed by Brutus and Cassius

27 BC – Augustus is made Rome’s first emperor.

42 AD – The apostle St Peter arrives in Rome.

64 AD – Rome burns, and by popular myth, was caused by Emperor Nero, who apparently fiddled when it happened.

c. 65 AD – Christians are first persecuted and killed by Nero.

67 AD – St Peter is crucified in Rome, and similarly St Paul is executed.

72 AD – Work on the Colosseum begins.

270 AD – The Aurelian wall is begun. The walls enclosed all the seven hills of Rome. The full circuit ran for 12 miles surrounding an area of 5.3 sq miles. The walls were constructed in brick-faced concrete, 11 feet thick and 26 feet high, with a square tower every 97 feet. Our hotel was next to this wall.

284 AD – The Roman Empire is divided into Eastern and Western Empires. Rome Rules the Eastern Empire and Constantinople rules the Eastern Empire. See below map:

0009 Roman Empire 3

Early Medieval period:

324 AD – Constantine the Great achieves the re-unification of the Roman Empires.

c. 320 AD – The First St. Peter’s Basilica is constructed.

380 AD – The Christian emperor Theodosius makes Christianity the official religion of Rome, persecuting pagans and destroying pagan temples.

395 AD – Ravenna becomes the capital of the Western Roman Empire, while Constantinople remains capital of the east.

410 AD – Rome is sacked by the Goths.

455 AD – Rome is even more destructively sacked by the Vandals (thus the word vandalism was coined).

476 AD – The Western Empire (Ravenna) falls, and Constantinople becomes the sole capital of the remaining Roman Empire..

C. 590 – 604 AD – Pope Gregory the Great makes the Christian church exceedingly strong.

778 AD – Charlemagne conquers Italy and Rome  AKA  Charles I. He was the King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, and from 800 the first emperor in western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state he founded is called the Carolingian Empire.

800 AD – Charlemagne is crowned the emperor in St. Peter’s Basilica.

961 AD – King Otto the Great of Germany becomes in Rome the world’s first Holy Roman Emperor. The Popes now rule Rome.

High Middle Ages

1084 AD – The city of Rome is attacked by the Normans

1309 AD – The Papacy is moved to Avignon in France under Pope Clement V

1348 AD – Just like across Italy and parts of Europe, the Black Death strikes Rome.

The Roman Renaissance:

1377 AD – The Papacy returns to Rome with Pope Gregory XI.

1409–1415 AD – For a short while, the Papacy moves to Pisa.

1452 AD – Old St. Peter’s Basilica is demolished and a new one is begun.

1475 AD – Painter/Sculpture/Architect Michelangelo is born.

1483 AD – Painter Raphael is born.

1492 Colombus discovers the “New World” and Renaissance is underway!

1506 AD – The first significant works on the new St. Peter’s Basilica began with Pope Julius II

1508 AD – Michelangelo paints the famous ceiling in the Sistine Chapel (at age 37) which is in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, the official residence of the Pope in the Vatican City

1547 AD – Michelangelo is appointed by Pope Paul III as the main architect to finish St. Peter’s Basilica. He was then 71 years old.  He died in 1564 at the age of 89.

Baroque Period:

1571 AD – Caravaggio is born. He was an Italian painter active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1592  and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on Baroque painting. In his twenties Caravaggio moved to Rome where there was a demand for paintings to fill the many huge new churches and palazzos being built at the time.  Caravaggio’s innovation was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro.

1600 AD – Giordano Bruno (philosopher) is burned at the stake for his heresies. He is celebrated for his cosmological theories – proposing that the stars were just distant suns surrounded by their own planets, and moreover the possibility that these planets could even foster life of their own. He also insisted that the universe is in fact infinite, thus having no celestial body at its “center”.

1626 AD – New St. Peter’s Basilica is finally completed.

1656 AD – Bernini’s colonnades in St. Peter’s Square are begun.

1732 AD – Work on the Trevi Fountain begins.

1735 AD – Rome’s Spanish Steps are designed.

1762 AD – The Trevi Fountain is completed.

1797 AD – Napoleon Bonaparte has Rome captured.

1799 AD – Napoleon is driven out of Rome and Italy by the Russians and the Austrians

19th Century and Risorgimento (Reunification)

1800–1801 AD – Napoleon retakes Italy and Rome.

1807 AD – Garibaldi is born. Garibaldi was a central figure in the Italian Risorgimento, since he personally commanded and fought in many military campaigns that led eventually to the formation of a unified Italy.

1860 AD – Garibaldi and his famous 1,000 soldiers take Naples and Sicily.

1861 AD – The Kingdom of Italy is founded with Turin as its capital.

1870 AD – Rome is made part of the Italian kingdom.

20th Century and Modern Rome

1911 AD – The Vittorio Emanuele II monument is completed.  Emanuele was, in March 1861, the first king of a unified Italy

1915 AD – Italy enters the World War I

1940 AD – Mussolini enters World War II on 10 June.

Thus endeth my long and tedious history of Rome

I’ll stop my highly abbreviated history of Rome here.  I bet you’re saying: “Thank Goodness!”.  The reason for the “history” is because many of the names and places mentioned are people and places we visited and I found it helpful to know who, what they did, and when they existed.

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