Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Roaming Rome 1

I head on to my next destination, which is about 20 minutes walk from the Vatican. The Spanish steps is a 200 year old, 12 flights of steep stairs located in between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Trinita dei Monti on top. It has been said that this is the longest and widest staircase in Europe. Designed by Francesco de Sanctis in 1717, the steps follows a butterfly plan and is described as a daring architectural feat then. Its ramps and stairs, intersect and open out like a fan connecting the Piazza and the Trinita Church. The Spanish steps is in its full beauty in spring, where the stairs is literally covered in flowers.

At the foot of the stairs is yet another renowned fountain in the city, the Fontana della Barraccia (Fountain of the Old Boat Man). Created by Pietro Bernini, the father of the more famous artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Piazza is also famous for its high end shops. If you are looking for brands then this is definitely the place for you. A little tip, one of the best times to shop in Rome is the first week of January where almost everything is on saldi (sale) even the branded ones.

A leisurely 15 minute walk would take you to another of world renowned site, the Fontana de Trevi (Trevi Fountain) may perhaps be the most famous fountain in the whole of Rome. It has been featured in numerous films, particularly in romantic ones. The most memorable one may be La Dolce Vita.

day shot

Just like all the other fountains in the city, the Trevi Fountain is intricately and artistically done. The center of the fountain depicts the Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. He is seen riding a shell chariot pulled by two sea horses each guided by a Triton. The sea horse are in contrast of each other, one is calm and the other restive. This is to represent the ever changing mood of the sea. On Neptune’s left is a statue representing Abundance who spills water from her urn and on his right is Salubrity holding a cup from which a snake drinks. The fountain is captivating no matter what time of day. You have to visit the fountain and see it both in the morning and night.

at night
There is a belief that if you make a wish and threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, it ensures your return to Rome. Nobody knew who started and how it started but it has become a practice and now there is even a right way to throw the coin. The current trend is to throw three coins with your right hand over to your left shoulder and your back to the fountain. The Trevi Fountain is so famous that it makes about 3,000 euros each day which is used to subsidize a supermarket for the less fortunate Romans. Fishing coins out of the fountain is a crime that is why the police are keeping a close eye of the fountain.

After ensuring my future return to Rome special thanks to the Trevi Fountain, I now head to the last stop of my day which is the Pantheon. From the Greek word pan which means all gods and theois meaning shrine. Therefore, the Pantheon basically means a shrine of all gods. I personally think that the Pantheon is interestingly ironic. The irony brought about its evolution from a place of worship to all gods and then to just one God. In brief, the Pantheon was built in 27 BC, destroyed by fire in 80 AD, partially rebuilt in 125 AD by Emperor Hadrian and in 609 AD the once pagan temple was converted into a Catholic Church. Converted as it is now, signs and symbols honoring Rome’s ancient gods are still visible inside it.

the oculus
The Pantheon is another example of the majestic feat of Roman architecture. 2000 years after it has been built, it is one of the best preserved buildings in Rome and its dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Standing about 43 meters tall, with 24 massive marble columns weighing about 50 tons each and an enormous bronze door awaiting to welcome you in. Stepping inside, one cannot help notice the oculus, the large opening in the dome. This is the Pantheons only source of light.

The Pantheon is not only a church but also serves as a tomb of the great painter Rafael and three Italian royalties; Vittorio Emanuelle II, Umberto I and his queen Margherita.


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