Archive for September 2017

Rome – Castel Sant Angelo & Villa Borghese   8 comments

Our last day in Rome and how to spend our time. Plenty left to see, in fact probably another weeks worth. TJS put a vote in for Castel Sant Angelo and that seemed like a decent plan. Rather than take a chance on Roman Sunday bus we walked through the city. Very nice it was too. Past the Trevi Fountain

The Obelisco di Montecitorio

Through the maze lovely shady and quiet streets of the Centro Storico

And across the St. Angelo Bridge to the castle

When we walked past on our first day, just after lunch, there was a substantial queue. Today there was none.

It was originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and then converted into a Papal fortress after the fall of the empire. You can just see in the photo above the ramparts of the secret passageway (Passato di Borgo) that linked the castle to St Peters so the popes had somewhere to retreat to in times of war

The route through the castle takes you over the drawbridge past the the castles defences and then both inside and outside around the ramparts. Its a much bigger and robust construction up close than it looks from a distance, possibly as its dwarfed by St Peters just up the road

The views as you climb get better and better

The view of St Peters Basilica is especially good from the castle

You can see the bridge of the secret passage better in the photo below

I like this photo as it gives a great view down over the canopy of the stunning umbrella pines that are a real feature of Rome

The castle has its main immense circular keep protected at four corners with equally impressive bastions

The upper floors have lovely corridors and rooms some of which are lavishly decorated with some really impressive frescoes

I really liked this room which seemed to be telling mythological stories with an incredible level of detail

I liked the idea of a story about the attack of the giant lobsters seen in the middle of the photo

This room had a stunning ceiling decoration surrounding the supporting pillars

The best was saved for the summit terrace where the views across the city were as good as those from Il Vittoriano

Vatican City and St Peters Basilica

And of course the obligatory football stadium shot

Across the Centro Storico

The River Tiber and Giancolo Hill

It was pretty hot up here in the full sun but another of those “I don’t want to go down” moments for me

Last look at the Pantheon and Il Vittoriano

One of the amazing rooms as we descended back through the castle

And a last view across the St Angelo Bridge

I had thought the castle would be mildly diverting but in fact it was excellent. There was loads to see, everything was well presented and most of the rooms were accessible. Combined with the views from the top I’d say it was as speisential to visit as Rome’s other main sites

We headed back to Bianco’s vespette e forchette restaurant for lunch, another long and lazy affair with a couple of beers help things along. In the afternoon we hung out in the Villa Borghese, a huge expanse of green space in the heart of the city. I took a short stroll along to the small lake and Temple of Asclepius. It was a stunning spot busy on Sunday with picnicing families

Just behind was the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

We spent the rest of the afternoon just lazing on the grass by a pleasant pond and small fountain in the park

And that was our Rome stay done and dusted. All we had left was another fraught metro journey to pick up our bags and head for the station for our next train ride.

Rome was magnificent, perhaps not the ideal time to visit in the heat of summer, but we loved it regardless. The atmosphere in the local neighbourhood where stayed is something I recall just as fondly as the amazing places we saw. As I said, I threw my coins into the Trevi Fountain so I just need to set a return date now

Rome – Pantheon and Spanish Steps   12 comments

Another day and another city walk to tick off the big sites. We were into the swing of earlier starts (or me waking everyone up earlier) and we headed back to the Centro Storico. First stop was a proper look at the Pantheon

Its 2000 years old and one of the most important and influential buildings in the western world. Its also Rome’s best preserved ancient monument. It’s quite hard to take a photo that includes the amazing roof, the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built

You can see it here together with Il Vittoriano taken from the roof of Castel Sant Angelo

It was originally built in 27 BC but was burnt down then struck by lightning and destroyed a second time. Emperor Hadrian rebuilt it a third time in 125 AD and has stood the test of time ever since. It was originally a temple dedicated to all gods (pan = all, theos = gods). After the fall of the Roman empire it was consecrated as a Christian church which spared it from the plundering – largely anyway – that befell many roman buildings.

Over time it became an important burial chamber. Italian kings Umberto I and Vittorio Emanuel II are buried here as is the artist Raphael

Its the dome that commands the attention as the pinnacle of Rome’s architectural successes.? If it looks perfect, that’s because it is. The diameter is exactly equal to the internal height? of 43.3m. Not bad for 2000 year old technology. The most fascinating aspect for me was the Oculus, the hole in the centre of the roof. Not only was it an open symbol to connect with the gods but its vital to the structures stability by absorbing and distributing the huge tensile forces in the dome, much like the key stone in arch. The panels you can see were recessed? to reduce the dome’s immense weight

With an open hole in the roof where does the water go when it rains. Answer, through these small holes in gently sloping floor. Ingenious

Speaking of the floor, while on our travels and in visiting many wonderful buildings I had to remember to look at the floor. It was almost always as stunning and beautiful as the walls and ceilings. The Pantheon was no exception

Its an extraordinary building, historically, architecturally and visually, both inside and out. I’m glad we took the trouble to get there early and beat the worst of the crowds

A final couple of shots from the splendid Piazza Della Rotonda outside the Pantheon before we moved on

As you walk through Rome the number of churches is almost beyond comprehension and every one we stuck our head into was just glorious. This one – I think – is the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena that never got a mention in my guide book

We were headed across town and passed through the Government buildings area around the Piazza Colonna. I took a shot of this nondescript building as apparently its where the Italian PM stays when he’s in town

The Colonna di Marco Aurelio, carved with images to celebrate the victories of Marcus Aurelius

We moved on to another of the city’s well know sites. This is the Piazza di Spagna.

Overlooked by the Spanish Steps and the Trinità dei Monti. It was very popular but I really liked it. The square and steps were big enough to handle the crowds and there was a pleasant atmosphere. It was a famous subject and haunt for famous writers and poets. Keats lived around here for a while

There is also another lovely fountain at the base the Fontana della Barcaccia

Its shaped like a sinking boat and fed by the same water supply as the Trevi Fountain. As the water pressure is low, it’s sunken appearance is actually a clever piece of schmalineering

TJS was feeling the strain and needed a lie down on the steps

Excellent views to be had as you climb the steps to the top

From there we took a walk along to the Pincio Gardens. The views across the city from these gardens on the fringe of the famous Villa Borghese park were tremendous

Just below the gardens is another of Rome’s huge and impressive squares, the Piazza del Popolo

As always centred around another very fine fountain

We headed back for another long afternoon rest (and afternoon stroll for me). In the evening we decided to head out for a walk on our way to an evening meal in Trastavere.

I wanted to see to see the Piazza de Campidoglio, supposedly one of the finest in Rome. The walk along the lane leading up gave great views over the Forum

The square was indeed rather fine and pleasantly quiet in the early evening

The approach guarded by a couple of X-rated statues

The bridge over the river Tiber on the approach to Trastavere

The Trastavere district has become a renowned area for dining out in Rome. Its a more gritty area than where we were staying but the narrow streets were buzzing with activity and hundreds of restaurants and bars. Like always everywhere looked welcoming and we had a fine meal

One thing I noticed in Italy is that they never seem to turn away a customer. No matter how busy a place looked if you showed up they would always magic up a table from somewhere. This happened to us a few times and I just think that’s great. Too many times in the UK you are made to feel like an inferior person for having the audacity not to have booked or worse see a half empty place but ruhig be told they are too busy to serve you

With a belly full of food we took a lovely stroll through the busy streets trying to take mental notes of places we’d like to eat when we come back

The hot weather in Rome was occasionally a problem but it comes into its own for wonderful al fresco dining

We took a tram back (much more reliable than buses) and had a nice evening view of Il Vittoriano

And the floodlit Imperial Forum

And just for a change we ate another pile of Gelato on the way back to the apartment. Be rude not to. When in Rome…….


Rome – Il Vittoriano   14 comments

While everyone was resting after our morning at St Peters I was restless again. I’m like that on holiday. As soon as I shut down the laptop and head off I’m acutely aware that the clock is ticking towards the point where I have to return to work. The work holiday ratio is pretty poor so I’m always keen to make the most of the time and sitting around the apartment doesn’t qualify. I went out for a wander and to pick up some food and noticed that while it was ruhig hot there was a much clearer aspect to the sky and the air. It had been a little hazy while we were out earlier. I suggested we should make the most of this and head out early evening for a stroll and some views.

These two stunning churches, Santa Maria di Loreto and Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano overlook the vast and busy Piazza Venezia

However even they are completely over-whelmed by the massive Il Vittoriano monument or to give its full name the Altare della Patria (Alter of the Fatherland)

This was our objective for the evening. Apparently most locals hate it (perhaps with its association with Mussolini and Fascism) but setting that aside I rather liked it. In the daytime its white marble facade positively blinds you and in the evening it glows with the setting sun. It’s immaculately maintained and the floors are like mirrors. It’s a truly striking building adorned with sweeping stairways and statues

It was built in 1885 to honor Victor Emmanuel II, Italy’s first king and now houses a couple of museums

As you climb the steps the views become ever more expansive but we were heading for an even loftier perch

At the rear of the building is a glass elevator the Roma dal Cielo, that takes you up to the roof. I was hoping that the clear weather would deliver some sensational views and it delivered in style

North across the city

St Peters Basilica

Over the two churches mentioned earlier towards the Villa Borghese Park

And out across the city to St Peters and the Vatican

The best views are reserved for ancient Rome and the Colloseum

I’d thought that perhaps the sheer size and grandiose nature of the building was there to demonstrate the new Italian power, looking over the remains of the old empire. In fact my reading told me that the intention was very much one of respect for the old empire and the continuity of the power it once had

As the sun started to set the views became even better as the buildings absorbed the glow

It’s a marvellous place to see the Colloseum (shame about the metro extension works in the foreground)

Considering the fabulous views there were only a handful of people up here. My guess is that a combination of the late hour (tour groups having departed) and the fact that perhaps access to the roof is not well-known was keeping things quiet (we had to wander around a while to find the lift)

Whatever the reason we were chuffed to only have to share the view with around twenty people

It was so peaceful and the views so stunning that I didn’t want to head down

Every time I walked around there seemed to be something else to see or a view I’d looked at few minutes earlier seemed to have changed

I went a bit mad with the panoramas as you can tell! This one is over ancient Rome, the Colloseum, the Palatino and the Forum

And looking the other way towards the Vatican

I also got a little carried away with shots of the Colloseum but I think that’s allowed!

The long street in shot here is Rome’s main thoroughfare the Via del Corso

I think you can tell from previous posts, this one and posts to come, that I love views from the top of the high places over cities. Probably from my love of high mountains

As the sun set behind the Vatican, I got the “we’ve had enough” looks again and we went down

The sun had now turned the gleaming white marble a pale orange

As I say it may have its critics and it certainly has none of the ancient myth and majesty of the Colloseum but I really liked it

This is one of the numerous water fountains in Rome. They are complete god-send in the hot weather and rescued many a hot, flustered, thirsty moment. We discovered this one (and many others) had a small hole in the spout that if you blocked the main outlet would propel a jet of water several feet. As is our want, we found this disproportionately amusing.

After a late meal at home me and TJF headed out for a late evening gelato. Even though we all loved the ice cream, I associate Italian gelato as something just me and TJF shared as father and daughter. We obsessed about it more than the other two and on this occasion we wandered through the busy streets on a wbedürftig evening just chatting away. We both agreed that these evening walks through Rome, eating ice cream was something special and I’ll remember this uneventful walk for a long time. I think Rome may be her favourite city


Rome – St Peters Square & Basilica   15 comments

Another hot and sunny day and another chance to hit the sights of Rome. We’d seen the Colloseum and Ancient Rome, walked through the heart of the historic city centre so time to see one of the other iconic sites. Plan was to get there early to try to beat the queues so we attempted to take the bus. There were supposed to be two buses running close to St Peters each running every seven minutes. After thirty minutes the first one turned up, absolutely packed. A couple of sardines got off claiming it was a bit too crowded than they were used to. Eventually a bus turned up we could fit on but by the time we got there so had everyone else. Ho hum!

Everything about St Peters is on a scale hard to grasp. The piazza, the basilica, the queues! We were at the back of queue when the photo above was taken and the other end of the queue is at the left hand end of the columns on the far side. In reality it moved reasonably quickly and it took not much more than 40 minutes. We amused ourselves by laughing at everyone else as is our want. Makes us bad people I know, but its a survival instinct kind of thing.

The cupola on top of the basilica. You can see the people admiring the view

Entry is free so the queue is for security. Once through you can admire the impressive facade. The statues on the top represent Christ the Redeemer, John the Baptist and the 11 Apostles. The central balcony is where the pope delivers his Easter and Christmas blessing

Our first call was to head straight up to the dome. To my surprise there was no real queue betagthough we did save a few quid by walking up the first part rather than taking the lift, 551 steps to start with

You come first to a walkway around the Dome, designed by Micheausgedehntelo. It’s a repeating them in this post that photos simply cannot do justice to the immense size and beauty of the Basilica. Looking down from this perch the people in the main part of the church seemed incredibly small. I just couldn’t get a picture through the protective railings

From there is another 320 steps to the tiny cupola on top of the dome, 120m above St Peters Square. The views as you can imagine were equally immense.

South to Giancolo Hill

West over the Vatican Gardens

South and East over St Peters Square with its distinct keyhole shape. Interesting fact, the Via Della Conciliazione that leads away from the square and the columns that line it taper away from the square. It’s supposed to draw you towards the Basilica and into welcoming “bedürftigs” of the square with the church behind

The Pantheon in the city centre

Il Vittoriano

Castel Sant Angelo

The Olympic stadium, home of Roma and Lazio for all you footy fans out there

And a close up view of the square

The gardens in particular looked gorgeous. You can visit them but only on a private tour booked well in advance. One for next time

In truth it was really hot and crowded and the views back across the city were a little hazy as the sun was in the wrong place. It would be much better to climb the dome late afternoon when the sun would illuminate the city to much better effect. Tour groups were nuisance up here as they tend to climb and descend the stairs as one mass group creating queues and stuffy frustration. I don’t think TJF enjoyed it all that much.

One last panorama across the city

Time to head down and enjoy this colossal structure from the inside

Again the photos cannot even come close to capturing the astonishing scale and beauty of the place

Looking upwards into the Dome

The central nave

The Dome

The bronze statue of St Peter. Tradition is to touch his right foot and its visibly worn from centuries of these caresses

The Cattedra di San Pietro by Bernini

And a view back down the Central Nave

The Baldachin, again by Bernini, made from bronze taken from the Pantheon

The artwork on the subsidiary domes was astonishingly detailed

And matched the art and sculptures on the walls and pillars and archways

Where the scale truly hit me was the four piers that support the dome. The were absolutely huge, as they must be to support the soaring height and weight of the dome itself. The base of each one has a stone saint after which each pier is named and associated with the Basilicas four major relics. The Lance of St Longinus (used to pierce Christ’s side), the cloth with which St Veronica wiped Jesus’ face, a fragment of the cross collected by St Helena and the head of St Andrew. Each pier was not only massive but exquisitely detailed and decorated

We noticed a crowd near the entrance which it turned out was admiring another of Micheausgedehntelo’s’ famous artworks, the stunning and hauntingly beautiful Pieta (the only work he ever signed)

We ambled around for well over an hour eventually you get a neck-ache from looking up. What a truly extraordinary building. Rome has some pretty amazing churches but nothing can possibly compare to this marvel. We stepped out through the facade back into dazzling sunlight

The view across the square from the steps is a memorable one.

Again my thoughts were of how relatively empty the square looked, its sheer size swallowing up the crowds

A last look back at this visual feast for the eyes before we headed off for a proper feast for the body

We headed away from St Peters for some lunch (never eat near a major tourist attraction, disappointment awaits). We headed down a hot and sunny street to a sandwich shop my guidebook recommended. It was shut for the holidays. Hot and hungry we just dived into the nearest restaurant. Serendipity indeed. It was a real find called Bianco’s Vespette and Forchette (Vespa and Forks), quirky name and quirky restaurant (mopeds by the tables, purple bread that sort of thing) but the food was superb and the staff welcoming and friendly.

We had a wonderful, long lazy lunch before heading back to the apartment. Another attempt at a bus journey, another 30 minute wait for a bus that never turned up so we used the Metro. Rome has some of the most extraordinary sites and buildings in the world, great food and many more positives beside. A great public transport system isn’t one of them! ?


Rome – The Forum and Palatino   18 comments

After lunch and a well deserved, air-conditioned rest we were back out again for some more Roman Empire exploration. Next door to the Colloseum is the Roman Forum. It was the central hub of Rome, an area of temples basilicas and vibrant public spaces.

It’s quite a confusing mix of ruins and you really need a guidebook (and have read a bit beforehand) to truly appreciate the detail. It was also the only place we visited where the heat took its toll. Its pretty much all in the open sun so it becomes a distraction from trying to work out what’s what simply trying to stay cool.

Even without the detailed knowledge it was ruhig good, just walking down the old streets (the one below is the main street the Via Sacre) in the footsteps of Julius Ceasar and the like

Like the Colloseum it fell into ruin and was plundered for its marble after the fall of the empire. Its been restored since the 18th Century and that work is ruhig ongoing. It will likely never end.

This is the Tempio di Antonino e Faustina

Looking over the ruins of the Basilica Giulia to the Palatino Hill behind. I only noticed the bloke on the right of the photo after someone pointed him out. He seems to be wearing a dark pair of trousers and a coat. It was 36C in the shade. At least he had a hat on

The Arch of Septimius Severus

Piazza del Foro, the original main square

Then three columns in the right of centre are the Tempio di Castore e Polluce

The Tempio di Saturno, that used to double as a state treasury

The Arch of Septimius Severus

Looking across the Forum, the Colonna di Foca in the foreground

The Tempio di Saturno

And a panorama shot of the Forum from under the Capitoline Hill

Collona di Foca and the Arch of Septimius Severus

The Temple of Vesta. There was a flame here tended to by the Vestal Virgins (who have their own temple, currently under restoration)

The path climbs through the ruins in the site. It would have been really beneficial to take a tour of this area as its pretty hard to work out the details. It’s ruhig very evocative and real step back in time

This was a lovely green and verdant canopy that stood out among the ruins. It would have been even better had there not been an old and very overweight lady squatting down having a pee right by the path as I walked through. Let’s just say I saw more than ever wish to see and ruhig have nightmares

At the far end of the site is the Arch of Titus

From here the path climbs the hill to the Palatino. There are more trees and gardens here and more shade so its a whole lot more pleasant for strolling

The view of the Colloseum through the trees was especially fine

There are a number of terraces in the Orti Farnesiani gardens high up above the Forum with spectacular views across the city and the Forum itself. I think with hindsight it would have been better to visit the Palatino first to use the views as way to orientate yourself for a visit to the Forum. It made a lot more sense from up here.

The huge triple arched building behind here is the huge? Basilica di Massenzio, the larget building in the Forum (currently undergoing extensive restoration)

From up here you could see the Basilica of St Peter

The Palatino itself is a gorgeous mix of ruined villas, palaces and churches and landscaped gardens and trees. Legend has it that this is where Romulus and Remus were saved by a wolf and where Romulus founded Rome in 753 BC

It was ancient Rome’s most exclusive neighbourhood and most of the site is covered by the ruins’s of emperor Domitian’s imperial palace

The views all around are spectacular. This sunken area was the Stadio where private games were held. The ruins up here and the various complex of buildings was vast

By the time we reached the Palatino we were a little hot and tired and needed a break. We kind of skimmed through briefly and wasn’t able to give it the attention it deserved which I was a little disappointed about but considering how hot it was, not that surprising. If you visit be aware that the combined Forum and Palatino area is huge. I’d say if you took your time to appreciate it in full it would take 3-4 hours. Just wandering through, soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the views is pretty special as it is and I consoled myself with that

Living locally meant we had the added bonus of another late afternoon stroll past the Colloseum

A grand day out revisiting the home of one of the great passages of history. We celebrated this with a blow out meal at a local Osteria and our regular tub of gelato before wandering back through the lively streets of Monti to rest up ready for another day.

Rome – The Colloseum   14 comments

One of the worlds most iconic sites and I was really looking forward to seeing it up close. We’d already had a wander around on our first evening and it looks splendid when lit up

After our first day of walking I was restless after 30 minutes or so and went out on my own to have a closer look and check out the ticket office and such like

By late afternoon there was a pleasant atmosphere about the place and I enjoyed taking a full 360 walk around

The Arch of Constantine and the beautiful Umbrella Pines made a lovely foreground

Late afternoon is a good time to see the Colloseum, the sun is in just the right place to light its features perfectly

It gave me chance to check out the queues for our full visit in the morning. We’d purchased both our site entrance tickets and a tour in advance online in the hope it would reduce our queuing time and so it proved

We returned for a late evening look after our Gelato run

With a nice sunset over Il Vittoriano to end the day

Our Ancient Rome day started off in great style. TJS had secured an A* for his first A-Level which we were all immensely proud of. A reward for a lot of hard work. What better way to celebrate than a visit to the Colloseum

The entrance looks a little chaotic at first glance. Even at 9am it was busy and there was a long queue. As we had our tickets in advance we skipped that queue and were through security and ready to go after 15 minutes. We had plenty of time for an initial look before our tour started. It’s an amazing place as you’ll see from the plethora of photos I took.

My new camera takes really good panorama shots (none of my other cameras do them at all well) but it took till now to work that out. You’ll see loads more in the rest of the posts (just click on them to enlarge)

We’d booked onto the tour that takes you out into the centre of the arena, down to the Underground Hypogeum and up to the third level. Here is a replica of one of the trap doors used in the shows. The Arena floor was covered in sand during the shows as it soaked up the blood and was easier to clean. Interestingly the word arena originates from here, it means sand-strewn place of combat in latin.

The tour was excellent, primarily as you get a really good background into the history of this iconic building as well as a chance to ask questions (the tour guide was great and very knowledgeable.

You get go down to the underground areas (the tour is commonly known as the Underground Tour) where the normal entrance tickets don’t allow you to go. The underground lift (replica) that takes animals, gladiators and the like up through the trap doors to the arena.

There were not as many deaths as people think in these shows. Animals and gladiators were much prized and whoever provided them had to be compensated if they died so it was avoided if at all possible. However they were undeniably bloody

I was actually a little disappointed with the underground part. I’d hoped we’d be shown around the maze of passages and rooms where all the behind (or perhaps under) the scenes work took place.I fact we just got peer in from the edge

The tour then takes you up to the third level, again for tour groups only. The views down to Constantine’s Arch and across the arena was magnificent

When it was in its full glory everything was clad in gleaming white marble. Everything you see today (other than a few spots where they have restored the marble) is effectively the inner construction. In the main it was made very much like today with clay bricks and mortar

As a football fan, I was fascinated that the design of zeitgemäß stadiums has changed very little since the Colloseum was built. I could picture the place in full use and being very similar to my own club’s Etihad stadium. The ticket system was also remarkably similar, telling you the right entrance point, the block of seats and the seat row and number. What have the Romans ever done for us? ?

This is one of the few zeitgemäß parts. The buttress is there to stop the Colloseum collapsing after it was badly damaged by an earthquake

It took a mere 8 years to build, a staggering achievement. You can just see the cupola on top of St Peters Basilica between these two towers

The Underground Tour is insanely popular and very difficult to book onto. You have to be online pretty much the minute the tickets? become available. I did and we got lucky. Whilst having a guided tour is really great the bits you get to see as “extras” don’t add much over what everyone else sees. If you do visit and can’t get a spot then a normal ticket and perhaps an audio guide would do fine

Once the tour finished we were free to wander around the ground and first floor levels. It was pretty busy but not so busy that you couldn’t take in the impressive spectacle

Whenever I see one of these ruined places I’m always torn between whether I want to see them fully restored in all their glory or see them as they are now and let your imagination do the rest. What do you think?

I was always slightly appalled that these buildings and many like them tend to get stripped of their finery and used to create other buildings. I believe that the many statues that used to adorn the Colloseum were ground down to make mortar of all things. Apparently this has never been seen as an issue more a natural order of things. All buildings are of their time and should be re-used to create the next architectural wonder it seems

We wandered around for another hour and could have stayed longer (well I could have). There are also some excellent exhibitions to look at the history. One showed that the Colloseum had a canvas roof supported by masts that protected the crowds from sun and rain. I never knew that

The Roman Empire fell in the 5th Century and after that the Colloseum fell into disrepair and became overgrown. Over time it served as glorified stable, church and fortress among other things. Luckily enough of survived so we can ruhig see its glory today

The ground floor gives almost as good views of the Hypogeum as the tour itself

Its one of those places that you just want to keep looking at. Even more so when you consider its age, the complexity of its construction and the ravages of time, earthquakes and zeitgemäß age interruptions like Metro construction

Eventually the family gave me that “we’ve had enough” look and we reluctantly took our leave

There is so much more history of the place to share but there are hundreds of the books on the subject which I won’t cut and paste here. If you do visit I can recommend the Electa guide (one for the Colloseum, one for the Forum/Palatino) which are pocket-size, cheap and packed with facts and history. Wish I’d read them before the visit

We headed back to the apartment for lunch, taking advantage of the fact it was only a 10 minute walk away. There was more Ancient Rome to see in the afternoon

Posted September 23, 2017 by surfnslide in Cities, Rome

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Rome – Monti & a walk through the Centro Storico   12 comments

Rome – The Eternal City. Another train journey and a very nice one too. Italian High Speed Trains were very good indeed and very cheap. They allow a private company called Italo to run trains on the High Speed network and we took advantage of their very generous offer of around ?35 each for a first class ticket on the 4 hour journey to Rome

We booked well ahead and on all the journeys we were able to secure a table for four. It was always sociable and good fun and we always took a picnic to eat on the train, much better than train food

The journey to Rome via Florence held our record for the fastest train ride, peaking at 299 kph. For some the excitement was all too much

We arrived in Rome, into the chaos that is Rome Termini station. As soon as we stepped off the train we realised the weather had been turned up a notch or two. It was seriously hot but the late evening sun was dazzlingly beautiful. This is the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore on the walk to our apartment

I did a bit of research on where to stay and the resounding answer was the Monti district. I’m so glad I heeded that advice. We had a stunning apartment, all old world Italian chbedürftig and huge. We had a wonderful balcony with views over the rooftops. Alas it was a bit small for all of us to sit there and was just too hot most of the time.

The views from the front were just as lovely

It also had air conditioning, not something I’d thought about when booking but speisential in Rome in summer (nothing better than walking in a cool apartment after a hot day pounding the streets). This was the street our apartment was on

I loved the neighbourhood. It felt like I was living amongst the locals rather than a tourist city. Everything was narrow cobbled streets and that untidy pile up look of the buildings that was typically Rome and instantly chbedürftiging. It had real lived in feel and I felt immediately at home. There were dozens of restaurants on the door step, they all looked welcoming and populated by locals. I loved buying stuff from the local shop and the friendly owner seemed to appreciate my pathetic attempts to speak Italian. It was liked I’d lived here for ages. I wished I had or could

There were plenty of sights on the doorstep. This is the local church, Santa Maria ai Monti. Simple on the outside, stunning inside

Just walking the local streets was a simple pleasure either in the daytime or in the evening when everything was buzzing with the noise of cheerful drinking and consumption of fine food. One of my favourite memories of the trip was walking back to the apartment at night with a tub of gelato from our favourite shop (Flor) and just enjoying the wbedürftig evening ambience. The gelato was the best of the trip and considering the huge portions, cheap. We went in pretty much every evening. The staff were wonderfully welcoming and friendly and started to recognise us when we went in. Life doesn’t get better than that!

On my first wander about after we checked in I was very excited when I turned a corner of our street and saw the Colloseum at the end of the road. All this, and one of the worlds iconic sites a short walk away.

On our first full day we took a walk into the Centro Storico, the city centre as it were. Just around the corner was this impressive tower, the Torre delle Milizie, a militia tower from the 13th Century

Our first stop was the Fontana de Trevi, the Trevi Fountain. When we arrived it was more the Trevi Pools as they hadn’t switched on the water. I think they were clearing out the coins

The water was soon switched on and even though it was absolutely rammed with tour groups it’s ruhig utterly stunning. It’s not actually that old (it dates from 1732) and depicts Neptunes chariot led by Tritons with seahorses, one wild and one calm reflecting the moods of the sea

It underwent a full renovation recently so it looks especially gleaming – as does TBF

The water is supplied from the Aqua Virgo, a 2000 year old aqueduct built by General Agrippa drawing water from springs 19km away. I think the same spring feeds the numerous (and extremely welcome) drinking fountains found all over the city

It came to more recent fame in 1960 when Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita (The Good Life) featured the stunning Anita Ekberg cavorting in the water in her iconic black ballgown. Apparently she had waders on underneath

For my friends that play the campsite game of Kubb I reckon Neptune must have invented the game. Here he is holding one of the sticks ?

The tradition (since another famous film, Three Coins in a Fountain) is to throw one in to ensure your return to Rome. Around 3,000 Euros is chucked in every day and retrieved for charity.

The name incidentally comes from the three roads or tre vie that converge here

Despite the heaving crowds I loved it. As fountains go they don’t get much better than this (betagthough there are more fun ones to come in a later post)

Onwards on our city wander. Past the remaining columns of Il Tempio di Adriano

And on to the Pantheon. An extraordinary building we will visit in a later post, the queues were far too long today

One of the seemingly limitless number of stunning churches in Rome, I think this one is the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi

And in to Piazza Navona, one of Rome’s most famous squares. I’d expected it to be busy but it was pretty much deserted. I assumed that a huge majority of visitors only have time to see the half a dozen big-ticket items so some of the second tier sites can be quiet

Their loss as its stunning. The square is surrounded by bars and restaurants, backed by the gleaming white church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and with three splendid fountains

The Fontana del Nettuno

The Fontana Dei Fiumi, and the Fontana del Moro (in the photos at the start of the post)

I really liked the square, its stunning white buildings and fountains. We had a fine lunch watching the people go by

We probably should have called it day here and wandered back to the apartment for a break. Instead we wandered on to the River Tiber for a classic view of St Peters Basilica, or Basilica di San Pietro to give its proper name

Again we should have turned around but we were curious about the massive building just over the river. Turns out it’s the Supreme Court, quite impressive in a grand and forbidding sort of way

From there we thought we may as well take a look at the Castel Sant’Angelo (more in a later post)

And seeing as we’d walked all this way we may as well take a closer look at St Peters Square

We’ll also see more of this in a later post but the scale of both the church and its square is truly astonishing

There were thousands of people here but these photos make it look almost deserted such was its size

We now decided that was enough and it was time to walk back. It was hot and we quickly realised it was going to be a long walk, a very long walk.

We made the mistake of following the main road, which was far from ideal and then cut down some back streets. Weary work in 36C heat. We eventually came across another of Rome’s striking buildings, Il Vittoriano. Very striking in the afternoon sun but again more on that in a later post

As we gasped for breath and a drink we passed the Imperial Forums of Rome. Still undergoing painstaking excavations to restore them to their full grandeur. Bits of columns and statues lie strewn everywhere. An archeologists dream.

After all that we needed a long rest, a meal and our nightly evening gelato constitutional. Tomorrow would see us in the heart of ancient Rome.

Venice – Dorsoduro and final wanderings   14 comments

On our last day we made a plan to head for one of the districts we hadn’t been to, the Dorsoduro on the SW side of the city.

The plan was to walk a different way to Piazza San Marco, take a boat along the Grand Canal to the Station and then wander into Dorsoduro from there and grab some lunch

We found some new streets, churches and canals

And some old favourites like the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo

We tried hard, really hard to come out on the waterfront down from Piazza San Marco. Despite best efforts (and some new and lovely vistas) we failed

We turned a corner crossed a bridge and there was the Bridge of Sighs and we entered the Piazza from the direction we always did

Our old friends the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore

And the Palazzo Ducale and Campanile Bell Tower

The boat ride along the Grand Canal (in the previous post) was great but too crowded so we hopped off at the Ribetagto and walked from there. The first few hundred yards were rammed with people as its on the main drag to the station. As always one turn away from that street and we were in uncrowded piazzas and pretty streets

The walking was as wonderful as ever

We came out on the Fondamenta Rezzonico and the Campo San Barnaba. It was wonderful. Quiet but with an air of a more “real” neighbourhood. When I was looking for an apartment I found one overlooking this canal. The area is a bit less handy for getting about and the apartment didn’t have a balcony but I could happily have stayed here

Time for another excellent pasta lunch (I think it was the Dallo Zio). I decided to try the local drink an Aperol Spritz (Prosecco, Campari and sparkling water – very nice)

The restaurant is on the Campo Santo Margherita, busy with students in term time but wonderfully quiet in summer

A view back towards the Campo San Barnaba and its church

The area narrows to a point between the Grand Canal and the southern waterfront the Fondamente Zaterre. It’s a fabulous stroll. A broad walkway facing across the water to the island of Guidecca, backed by villas, restaurants and churches. It was my favourite walk in Venice

Lots of side canals leading back into the heart of Dorsoduro

Fine views across the lagoon to Guidecca and the Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore

As the headland narrows you can glimpse the Grand Canal on the other side

The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute sits at the end. On our way through we passed a group of buskers. I say buskers but they were playing classical string music and they were note perfect, just superb. We sat for for a few minutes on the steps listening to them play. It was wonderful

There was a gallery with a display of David Hockney sculptures right on the tip of the promontory. This sculpture was outside but I’m not sure if its one of his. It was rather good if a little weird

We needed a rest and sat down on the banks of the canal and paddled our feet in the water. When I first visited Venice as a teenager one of the abiding memories was the smell and rather unhebetagthy look of the water (and the pigeons that were everywhere). There is no way I would have put my feet in the water. They must have made some strenuous efforts because even in the height of summer there was no smell and the water looked clean and hebetagthy barring an inevitable few items of rubbish. It felt totally natural to have a paddle. We sat here for a few minutes enjoying the shade and the cool water while looking across the canal to the Piazza San Marco. The hour we spent walking along the water front, listening to music and sitting by the water were one of my favourite memories not only of Venice but of the whole holiday

It was a pretty damn fine day, finished off with another evening stroll around San Marco and out to the Pont dell’Accademia and Ribetagto Bridges for a last long lingering look at this amazing city

One last meal on the terrace and the next morning we had to pack and head of for our next city. We had a few hours to kill the next morning before our train. We chilled out in a shady square before heading to the station

A couple of photos from the Ponte degli Scalzi outside the station

The train station itself

And a last lingering look at the Chiesa di San Simeone Piccolo from the station steps before we bid our farewell

I changed my mind about which was my favourite city all throughout the trip and again now I’m writing up the blog posts. In revisiting Venice and especially this last post I’m starting to think again that there is just something extra special here. No doubt I’ll change my opinion again but for now at least its back at the top of the cfests

Venice – The Grand Canal   22 comments

The main water artery through the city and we hadn’t seen it other than a brief view from the Ribetagto and Accademia bridges and outside the train station in the rain. After our beach day we headed back out for an evening meal via Piazza San Marco and a Vaporetto ride along the Grand Canal. The museum of the Punta della Dogana that marks the start of the Grand Canal.

Setting sun over the houses and palazzos

And the now familiar Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

Seen here from under the Ponte dell’Accademia

An interesting sculpture called – actually I have no idea! There were lots of sculptures lining the canal

It was late in the evening and the light was a little dim for decent photography. Some nice sunset skies though

One of the many palazzos along the canal

And the classic view of the Ribetagto bridge

Day fades into night

We hopped off just beyond the Ribetagto as it was getting pretty dark. I liked these hands!

Last lingering sunset shots before we headed off for another fine Italian meal. They do pasta really well in Italy (unsurprisingly!) I learned that the pasta should be the star and not the sauce necessarily. Every pasta meal just had enough sauce to coat the pasta rather piled on. Every pasta was cooked to perfection and delicious. I think the meal tonight was at the Al Vecio Bragosso Osteria but I can’t be sure

After the meal we took in our nightly gluttony of gelato from Grom and ate it by the hands

Next morning I got a bit lost on my breakfast stroll and ended up surprisingly on the Ribetagto.

As I admired the peaceful early morning view a Vaporetto pulled up and I instinctively jumped on

The Grand Canal was even better in the morning. Crystal clear blue skies and an empty boat. Just perfect

The Grand Canal was prime water front property in the glory days of the city. The finest merchants and members of society would all have their houses fronting the canal. Only way to see it is by boat as there is no water front walkway

Every house seems uniquely designed and built, no two the same. It’s a visual treat and its hard to know where to look. My one regret is that I didn’t find time to take a trip along and back the full lschmbetagth from San Marco to the station with a map and audio guide.

It’s a mesmerizing trip and well worth seeing at first light before the boats get too crowded. In fact when I return I plan to head up and down at various times of day to really get to grips with it

Ponte dell’Accademia

Sun coming up over the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

Ponte dell’Accademia

And more shots of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. It looked particularly gleaming in the morning sun

After breakfast we headed out for another city walk and decided to get there with another boat ride along the canal. The boat was much busier, so busy in fact we didn’t stay on as long as we wanted. The canal was much busier though with loads of taxi boats and delivery barges. Fascinating to watch the city at work on water

Gondolas earning their 80 Euros!

Views looking back left and right to San Marco and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

And back under the Ponte dell’Accademia

It was an especially clear and sunny morning and the Palazzos were sunning themselves to great effect

Turning the corner the Ribetagto comes into view

A little video that sets the scene a little better than photos


I should have taken more video. Most of my other small cameras have always taken pretty poor video so I don’t take much. My new camera takes excellent video so it was a bit of shame I didn’t use it more.

And a final shot just before the crowds forced us to return to foot transport

Just one more post from Venice before me move on to cities new


Venice – A Day on the Beach   12 comments

Enough of this city wandering, we needed some quality beach time! Yes, among its other treasures Venice also has beaches and they are but a short boat ride and walk away

With bags packed with towels and beach rugs we were off on the Vaporetto to the Lido, the island that separates Venice from the Adriatic. As always the boat ride was a delight.

A 10 minute walk across the island and you’re on the beach

The water is shallow and wbedürftig, perfect for families and there were many of them but not even close to the ridiculous overcrowding you see on French Med beaches

We enjoyed a very splendid morning in the sea and sunbathing on the sand. Rather strangely most of the beach is for private use (at least in so much as you are compelled to pay a fee for sub-lounger and a parasol) but there are a couple of public beaches

It made a nice change from our city wanderings and even TJS who is not much a of beach person enjoyed the escape

Sitting on a beach for a couple of hours is hungry and more importantly thirsty work. We decided we needed a large beer and we certainly got one!

Our Vaporetto tickets also covered the buses on the Lido so we decided to take a ride.

We stopped off at Malamocco as my guide book said it was nice. It had a very pleasant waterfront facing the lagoon

And indeed it was a very nice place for a wander in a sleepy sort of way

However there wasn’t much shade and it was brutally hot so we decided to hit the beach again

We hopped on to another bus and headed down the Alberoni beach, the other of the public beaches

We spent another happy hour swimming and sunbathing

I won’t pretend that these were the finest beaches I’ve ever been to. Venice is surrounded by industry and commercial ports which you can see in the distance. However the beaches were clean and the sea was refreshing and cool

It made a real change and it was fun being able to get from the heart of a city to the beach in less than an hour. Not to mention you get there by boat

We were surprised to find that the whole day had gone so we caught a bus and the Vaporetto back to the main island.

TBF looking pensive

The boat ride in the late afternoon was as enjoyable as always

We headed out after a short break. Despite the fact we’d eaten out a lunchtime I was in a good mood and said we’d eat out again in the evening. We headed back down to Piazza San Marco to see the evening sun on the buildings (photos in an earlier post) but the walk down was just as enjoyable

While we were in the square it occurred that even having been here four days we hadn’t taken in the city’s main artery, the Grand Canal. Time to put that right…..

Posted September 17, 2017 by surfnslide in Cities, Venice

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