Il Pantheon to Santa Maria in Trastevere
4 July 2013
First day of full-on tourist activities in Italia. 28 degrees, 85% humidity, and thousands upon thousands of other keen tourists out and about as well.
We started the day by doing a bit of a recce of how we were going to get to the Vatican for our tour tomorrow: getting lost and being late are just not an option. And lucky that we did: the thousands of people complicate matters, and the meeting place for tours is on the far side of the Vatican complex, so more walking than expected. What appeared to be a slow, half-hour walk on the map will actually need an hour to make sure we get there on time!
We decided to take the scenic route (not hard, in Rome). But for us that meant starting out along the River Tiber.
Then Chief Navigation Officer Dave wound us through the myriad of narrow, cobbled streets — which is the natural habitat of the Smart Car.
We found the Vatican.
And then we decided to have a look at Castel Sant’Angelo. This is a very, very old, very, very big castle that has a museum inside, which includes amongst its collection some pottery from 450-odd years BC. And it’s ornate, detailed, painted… and not even broken. Incredible.
From there we wandered, and appeared to end up in the official, governmenty part of Rome, because there were news camera crews and some serious-looking dudes guarding very official-looking doorways.
And our wanderings took us to the Pantheon. Wow. Oustanding. Awesome. Amazing. Need more adjectives of wonderment. This structure — the largest concrete dome made until the 20th Century, if my pre-trip reading was correct — was originally built in the first century AD. Then someone else rebuilt it a couple of hundred years later. But that is detail. The point is that this is an unbelievably old building, and yet it is extremely complicated and just beautiful.
The other cool thing about the original Pantheon is that it was built to honour all religions (hence the name: pan–theo-n).
From the Pantheon, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. On the way there (or maybe it was after: it all blends in together!) we went into a covered bit between two buildings that was terrifically pretty. We still have absolutely no idea what it was called, but we have ascertained (with the help of Google Earth) that it was on Via delle Muratte:
There were huge crowds at the Trevi Fountain, so I didn’t manage to get up close for a photo.
But life carries on as normal for the locals…
Next stop (after gelato) was the Vittoriano, or the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (research required to establish his claim to fame, I’m afraid.) I am presuming he is the dude on the horse.
And from there, we stumbled across the best find of the day: Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli. The outside of this building is drab, and the entry door is tiny — hence why we nearly missed it:
To quote from the guide pamphlet: “Its origins are lost in legend and it is not possible to trace them, not even approximately. The legend reported in the ‘Mirabilia Urbis Romae’ has it that the first altar of the whole world was built on the Capitoline hill at the time of emperor Octavian Augustus. Some scholars date the building of the church to the time of St Gregory the Great (590–604)… The church visible nowadays was eventually constructed by the Minors. …it was perhaps completed between the end of the 13th century and the first years of the 14th century.’ It’s take-your-breath-away amazing on the inside.
The three-bees stained-glass window is apparently the Barbinieri family crest. (It sits in the bright bit of window in the last photo — impossible to get everything in one exposure). Some serious challenges involved here in low light with no tripod. Had to use very high ISOs most of the time to even have a chance, hence some problems with graininess.
After that, we wandered on home… past some Roman ruins:
And then back to Trastevere. And another special find: Santa Maria in Trastevere. I read about this church before leaving home, and knew we were staying close. I didn’t realise it was literally a five-minute walk from our accommodation, though. This is, yet again, stunning.
The very-old-looking mosaic is from the 12th century.
Amazing ceilings. What is it with Catholics and ceilings?