Beware the Ides...
15.03.2013 - 15.03.2013
Today was the first official day for the structured tour! As in the fashion of our incredibly organized and timely Tour Director, Gabriella, I will just list where we went and some highlights of each place. (Andrew, I know you'll love this)
Vatican Museum- Because the Sistine Chapel isn't open due to the events of electing the new Pope, we could only go to the Vatican museum. We saw rooms upon rooms upon hallways of paintings, frescos, mosaics and decorated ceilings depicting scenes and culture of ancient Roman history. Much of the works were modern restorations, but we were able to see a couple of originals that have not been touched for comparison. A lot of work we saw were paintings done by Raffaela and more importantly, Michaelangelo who was a sculptor all of his life and then decided to become a painter. The characters in his paintings are very well portrayed anatomically because of his sculpting background, but he also made women and girls look more buff than they should. His famous works include the statue of David; the Pieta which is a depiction of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her hands after the crucifixion...M sculpted it in 22 months and finished by the age of 24 (thanks for making us feel bad about ourselves); and the Sistine Chapel which I learned he actually had his next tilted back to paint the entire ceiling and because of that got lots of paint falling into his eyes causing lots of oracular problems. Everything there was fascinating! Especially some of the rooms with ceilings that gave the illusion of being 3D but were actually flat once the introduction of shadows came into art.
Quick side note- St. Peter's Basilica contains 284 columns lined in 4 rows. Scaffolding was put up on one small section of it to clean and restore the columns. Half have already been done and you can certainly see the difference, but I wonder how often they have to do that?
Half of the 284 columns, and these have been cleaned!
Francis, donde esta?
St. Peter's Church- Big beautiful church with the bronze alter at the front, felt more like a museum again with the many larger-than-life statues. But this church held Michaelangelo's sculpture Pieta enclosed behind a bullet-proof glass because apparently in the 1970s, a crazy man came with a hammer and started going at this statue trying to destroy it! They have tried to fix it and ever since it can only be seen behind this glass. Another impressive piece was what seemed like a painting of Jesus coming from Heaven to the people, was in fact a complete mosaic! There were no spaces between each tiny tile and the shadows and colors were elusive that this mosaic became 10x more impressive!
The mosaic "painting" inside St. Peter's
Lunch break and souvenir shopping
Colosseum- What I've been looking forward to this whole trip! I learned that all of the original marble structure, or what's left of it after natural disasters and weathering, etc. is still there but there are holes in the structure because the marble had to originally be held by ivory clamps so that it wouldn't collapse on itself. But during the medieval times, people of other regions would steal the ivory for their own building purposes, leaving those spots from the Colloseum empty. In modern times, a second layer of arches surrounding the stadium was built to protect the original inner layer. The differences are seen because this more modern layer was made with bricks instead of marble. The stadium was originally called Amphitheater Flavium and it could hold 60,000 people! It's main use was to entertain the emperor by having slaves fight each other to the death or even fight animals such as lions in the center ring. It was named the Colosseum because Nero (the emperor at the time this was constructed) had a colossal statue made after himself to be put in front of the building so that all who passed by knew where they were. But with each new emperor came a new head on the statue and the previous one would get chopped off the statue and replaced. Personally, it was so amazing to be inside this stadium after taking years of Latin and learning of Roman history and this was a common topic.
Inside the Colosseum
Roman Forum- Ancient structures (basically what's left of them) are contained within this "garden" very close to the Colosseo. The Forum was used as the Senate and government's place to gather to discuss political matters and also became a place for markets and vendors to sell their items. It was both the political and economical center of Rome in ancient times. Hearing all of the stories our group leader told us about the different temples and buildings reminded me of Latin classes and how all that seemingly boring stuff was so well worth it now. Granted my Latin is incredibly rusty to try and translate what's inscribed on the buildings, the stories and seeing it all in person was very valuable for me. Though what creeped me out the most was that we were in the middle of all this on THE IDES OF MARCH dun dun dunnn (Julius Caesar was killed on this day as part of conspiracy led by his right hand man, Brutus Casius). I even saw a temple dedicated to Caesar, who was the only emperor to become deified after his death.
The columns on the right was the Temple of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. Legend has it that a flame was lit inside this temple and it represented Rome's fortune for as long as it was lit. Girls were continuously chosen around the age of 8 to stay in this temple and become Vesta's Virgins and make sure the flame stayed alive, for utmost 30 years of their lives.
SPQR - Senatus Populesque Romanus. "The senate and people of Rome" I saw this carved everywhere in random places and forgot what it meant, but whichever building this was inscribed meant it not only belonged to the senate (gov't) but also to the people.
After all of this exhausting walking, we walked some more to the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navono because the rest of the group did not get to see these sites the night before. It was still just as beautiful to see all of these as the sun was beginning to set. At the Trevi Fountain my mom and I found a couple of seats in front of it just to hang out and relax, and 2 feet in front of us some guy was talking a picture of his girlfriend but knelt down with the camera to get a large view of the Trevi in the back. Little did she (or any of us know) that right before he took the picture he pulled a ring out and PROPOSED TO HER!!!! No one else really saw except me and my mom being creepers legit 2 ft behind them but it was soo cute! I wanted to clap for them but didn't wanna be the only loser...who was still creeping.
My favorite part of the day was our tour bus driver who kept unnecessarily driving in a big circle for us to see certain buildings while Gabriella was giving us the history of the buildings. It was the funniest thing, but so nice of him!