This is the beginning of my series for our European trip. I am not sure how many posts it will take to cover it. My goal is to finish them by New Years, but that might be a bit optimistic. We were gone for a month, and the time was filled with so many historical places.
We had a surprising start to our journey. I extended my stay in St. Louis visiting my sons while Dennis made his way back home in Arizona. The plan was I would fly back on Monday, and we would fly out for our trip on Friday, October 14. After arriving home on Monday evening and getting a short night of sleep, Tuesday morning, the airline changed our plans slightly. Dennis received an email from the airline that they had moved our Friday flight to Thursday. Can they do that? I guess they can. We called to find out why this was, but calling West Jet, a Canadian airline, only left us with automated messages. We could not reach a real human being.
What did we do when we got that kind of news? We started packing. In the meantime, Dennis sent a message to the lady of the Airbnb where we were going to stay in Rome. No, she did not have the day open for us. What she did, though, was call a local hotel near the Rome airport, and she booked a room for us. We really appreciated her help for the extra night.
Our flight was long and tedious. We left Phoenix at 12:45 p.m. on Thursday. It was a three hour flight to Calgary, British Columbia, Canada, where we picked up our flight to Rome. We had enough time to get off the plane, go through Canadian customs, and board our plane to Rome. The seats were narrow, and not particularly comfortable, and we had a nine hour flight to Rome. I wish I had taken a photo of the two meals (dinner and breakfast) they served, if you could call them meals. Sleeping was the hard part. We slept maybe a couple hours. We arrived in Rome at 12:15 p.m. (Rome time). All I wanted was a bed to sleep. Of course, we had to go through customs, although it was quick. We made our way to the baggage area, and then had to figure out how to find our hotel shuttle. That was a bit tricky since no one around the airport appeared to speak English, and the signs didn’t really designate hotel shuttles. By the time we checked into our hotel, the restaurant had closed until 6:30 p.m. We had some snacks with us, so we could handle making it to that time. We instantly fell into bed and slept for a few hours.
The following day we took a cab to our Airbnb which was located in the Jewish Ghetto, according to our host. It was walking distance to most everything we are going to see. There is something to be said about hiking the mountains of Arizona. These walks to our destinations were between one and two miles long, and were not an issue for us.
Our Airbnb was an apartment in a building that was built in the 15th century. I guess about the time Columbus was making his way to the west, some Italians were building this building. The doors were enormous. We were in a fortress. The steps were made of stone and very uneven. Our apartment was adequate, but the bathroom had much to be desired. We don’t need much but a bed and a sofa anyway. Our goal was to visit Rome, not sit in an Airbnb.
We were able to walk to most of the sites in Rome. The only one we did not walk to was the Catacombs, which is outside the old part of town. Miles were clocked on our exercise apps on our watches. We slept well every night, even though the pillow felt like they were made out of cement.
I was surprised to see so many tourists in Rome. The place was crowded with a mass of humanity from all over the world. After another day of sleep and relaxation, we were ready to beat feet around this ancient city.
“Et tu, Brute?”
As we started our walk along the route that Apple Maps gave us, we noticed some ruins across the street. We walked over, and a couple from Boston told us we were looking at the site that Julius Caesar was assassinated. Wow! I didn’t know it was there.
The ruins of this site was untouched until the 1920’s when Benito Mussolini tore down many of the modern buildings in the city to excavate the site. He wanted to tangibly tie his dictatorship to the might of the Roman Empire. His propaganda effort uncovered four temples and part of the Theater of Pompey, where the Roman Senate met during the reign of Julius Caesar.
The Bone Church
The “ bone” church, better know as Santa Maria della Concezione di Cappuccini (Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins). My son had been there when he was in Rome and suggested we see it.
It was a rather unremarkable building, compared to many of the Catholic churches in Rome. We entered their crypt museum and had pay a fee to see these bones. This crypt was built between 1626 and 1631 by order of Pope Urban VII. His brother, Antonio Barberini, was a Capuchin brother.
These are bones of the monks of the Capuchin order whose bones were designed in these displays. It’s rather odd, in my opinion, but not creepy, just odd that this is how they chose to inter the bones of their clergy.
As we hiked around the city, we came upon the Parliament building and near it was Piazza Colonna or Column Square. There stands a large column erected in 193 A.D. in honor of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It originally had a statue of Marcus Aurelius, but in 1598 Pope Sixtus V had the statue restored, but had the statue replaced with a statue of St. Paul. It’s kind of striking to see a monument to an ancient Roman leader who was Pagan, and have it remain basically the same except now it has a Christian figure on the top. The pope also did the same with he obelisk in front of the Pantheon–he had a cross placed on top of it with all the Egyptian writing below!
As we passed the Italian Parliament, we came to the Trivi Fountain and the Pantheon, which are right next to each other. The crowds were huge in the Piazza della Rotonda, where these two historic sites reside.
Construction of this fountain was from 1732-1762. The fountain lied at the junction of three roads (tre vie) and marks the terminal point of the “modern” aqueducts that supplied clean water to ancient Rome for more than 400 years. This fountain gained fame after the 1954 Academy-award winning movie and song, “Three Coins in the Fountain.”
Approximately, 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day. In 2016, it was reported to have received $1.5 million equivalent U.S. dollars. The money that is thrown into the fountain is used for various charities for the poor in Rome.
The Pantheon was constructed around 126-128 A.D. It was built under the reign of Emperor Hadrian. It sits on the same site as a previous Pantheon that was built in 25 B.C. by Marcus Agrippa, son-in-law of Emperor Augustus. The Pantheon was built to be a temple to the gods. The structure’s name is derived from the Greek words pan, meaning “all,” and theos, meaning “gods.” The original Pantheon was destroyed by fire in 80 A.D. It was rebuilt, and once again, destroyed by fire in 110 A.D. Then the new and current Pantheon was built. In 330 A.D. the capital of the Roman Empire, which consisted of much of Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa, was transferred to Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey) by Emperor Constantine.
Over time, the Pantheon fell into disrepair. In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV got permission from Byzantine emperor Phocas to convert the Pantheon into a Christian church, known as in Latin as Sancta Maria ad Martyres (St. Mary and the Martyrs). It was the first Roman Temple to be consecrated as a Christian Church.
To imagine how the building was constructed is mind-boggling. It is made of huge stones which come up and form a dome roof. The middle of the domed roof is open. The builders actually put drains in the floor under the open roof to drain out the water when it rained. The Pantheon was the inspiration for the design of all the capital buildings with rotundas.
This is just the beginning of the many historical places we saw in Rome. Rather than make this blog last forever, I would rather give you photos of these places, and then continue in the next blog.
The other places we visited while in Rome before we boarded our ship was Victory Monument, the Colosseum and the Forum, Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, the Catacombs Domitilla, and a day trip to see Pompeii. Our cruise back to the U.S. had stops in: Toulon, France; Mallorca, Spain; Cartagena, Spain, Ponta Delgado, Azores, and Nassau, Bahamas. Stay tuned!