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Vatican Museums
Saturday, 20 December 2014 08:13

Musei Vaticani

One of the most important museum complexes in the world, it is divided into numerous splendidly arranged sections containing masterpieces by the greatest artists, collected or commissioned by Popes down through the centuries. At the end is the Sistine Chapel, in which the recent restoration has bought to light the original colors of the vault and Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, darkened by time.

Viale Vaticano
phone 06 69 88 49 47
fax 06 69 88 50 61
Internet: www.vatican.va
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Hours
January, February, November and December 10.00 – 13.45, last admission 12.30. Sun closed.

From March to October 10.00 – 16.45 (last admission 15.20), Sat 10.00-14.45, last admission 13.30.Sun closed.

Closed January 1st and 6th , February 11th, March 19th , Easter Monday, May 1st , June 29th , August 15th and 16th , November 1st, December 8th, 25th and 26th and on other religious holidays.

Vatican Gardens: info and reservations 06 69 88 44 66 – fax 06 69 88 51 00

Admission Euro 13,00, reduced Euro 8,00, free of charge

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Roman Forum
Saturday, 20 December 2014 08:13

Fori Romani

The site of the Forum was a marshy and unhealthy valley which lay roughly at the centre of a circle of hills upon which grew small villages. Their inhabitants used the valley as a burial ground. In the VII cent b.C., under the Etruscan king Tarquin the Elder, the stagnant water in the Forum was drained into the Tiber through a channel which was to become the great Sewer Cloaca Maxima, it was paved and became a real square at the centre of a town. The buildings we see today in the Forum do not date back to the same period and were not discovered at the same time.

The sacred Way was the most famous street in ancient Rome, along which victorious generals rode in triumphal procession proceeeding to the Capitoline Hill to give thanks to Jupiter, the Great and Good. Immediately on its right are the ruins of the Basilica Emilia (named after the Aemilia family), it was used for the administration of justice.

Walking forwards the Sacred Way,stands the great Curia Iulia, seat of the Senate. The northern short side of the Forum was closed by the Rostra, the orators’ platform to which the Romans had fixed the prows (rostra) of the enemy ships defeated at Antium (338 b.C.).

Between the Rostra and the Tabularium (the state archive) rose the temples of Concord, of Vespasian and of Saturn linking the Forun to the Capitoline Hill. On the south-east corner of the Forum stands the Basilica Julia, used for the administration of Justice. On this side of the Forum rise many bases of statues and an honorary column dedicated to the Emperor Foca in 608 b.C. To the east of the Basilica Julia stand three columns belonging to the temple of the Dioscuri while in the centre of the Forum is the Temple of Caesar (29 b.C.) dedicated to the ‘god’ Julius Caesar.

Immediately to the east of the temple of Caesar is the Regia which was held to have been the residence of the second king of Rome, Numa. Right in front it stands one of the most ancient and important sanctuaries of Rome, the temple of Vesta, and next to it the House of the Vestal Virgins. Opposite side there were the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the Temple of Romolus.

The outstanding building which rises next to it was the Basilica of Maxentius, started by that Emperor in the early IV century. At the north-west end of the Forum stands the Temple of Venus and Rome, erected by the Emperor Hadrian (135 A.D.). The southern short side of the Forum is closed by the Arch of Titus (around 81 A.D.)

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Trevi Fountain
Saturday, 20 December 2014 08:13

Fontana di Trevi

The most spectacular of Rome’s fountains, immortalised by Anita Ekberg ‘s midnight dip in Fellini’s classic film “La dolce vita” (The Sweet Life). The fountain was designed to show off the acqueduct of the Acqua Vergine built by Marco Vipsiano Agrippa in 19 b.C. to supply water to the thermal baths which he built close to the Pantheon. The water was named Vergin after the legend telling of a young girl who showed the original spring to a group of thirsty Roman soldiers. The first fountain to take the waters of the Acqua Vergine was built in 1453 for pope Nicholas V, designed by Giovan Battista Alberti in the spot called “of the Trejo” and through the years it took the name of Trevi.

The fountain marked an important turn point for the town which for centuries had to use water taken from the Tiber river. Three centuries later pope Clement XII decided to substitute the old fountain and instigated a competition amongst the best sculptors of his time to come up with something better. His aim was that to supply Rome with as much drinking water as possible and at the same time to give to the city a grandiose work of art. Among the sketches was chosen that of the Roman Nicolò Salvi. The construction of the fountain lasted 23 years and it forms the east wing of the Poli Palace.

It was modelled on the ancient arch of triumph crowned by the coat of arms of Clement XII. The figure of Ocean (Neptune) dominates proceeding, supported by tritons to either side; the one on the left struggling to control his horse represents a stormy sea, his partner on the right, blowing into a counch shell, symbolises the ocean in repose. The statues in niches either side of Neptune are allegories of Health and Abundance, overseen by figures on the pediment who represent the four seasons.

The relief on the fountain to the right of Oceanus illustrates the story of the Vergin which shows the spring to the Roman soldiers. On the other side Agrippa shows his project to the emperor. Into the basin, which represents the sea, tourists throw a coin to ensure their return to Rome. Another romantic rite is linked to the small fountain to the left side, called “small fountain of the lovers”. According to the legend the couples who drink at its water will be faithful for ever.

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Colosseum (The Flavian Amphitheatre)
Saturday, 20 December 2014 08:13

Colosseo

The Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum, is probably the most famous monument in the world: this elliptical colossal construction, with a height of 48mt, has impressed and fascinated men of all Ages. It was with no doubt the most favourite place by the Romans, who came to prefer above all other entertainment the slaughter of men armed to kill and be killed for their amusement.

The amphitheatre consisted of four floors. The first floor was 11,50mt high adorned by halfcolumns of the Doric order.

 

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Circus Maximus
Saturday, 20 December 2014 08:13

Circo Massimo

The first circus used for chariot races lying in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills is said to have been built by king Tarquinius Priscus even if there are testimonies of similar races held at the time of Romulus. The track was originally bordered by banks of wooden seats. Later the starting stalls (carceres), the spina, which divided the racecourse, and stone seats were added to the older structure.

In 10 b.C. Augustus brought from Heliopolis the obelisk of Rameses II 24 mt high ( which today graces the Piazza del Popolo), to occupy the centre of the circus and in 357 A.D. also the obelisk of Thutmosis III 32mt high was added (by wish of Pope Sixtus V it stands today in the Piazza S.Giovanni in Laterano).

The circus was enlarged by Caesar and Augustus added to it the pulvinar (royal enclosure or sacred area).Its seating capacity was of around 150,000 people till the reconstruction by Nero who, after the great fire of 64, increased the number of seats to 250,000. Further enlarged it reached the colossal dimension of 600 by 200 metres. Today few remains are still preserved at the southeast end. In 1931 by the northwest end a brickstone edifice dating back to the Imperial Age ( probably a tribunal) was discovered, it was transformed in the III cent. A.D. in a Mitreum (today under the basement of the ex- pasta factory Pantanella).

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St. Angel Castle
Saturday, 20 December 2014 08:13

Castel Sant'Angelo

Hadrian had it built as a mausoleum for himself and his family. In order to have an easy access to this sepulchre from the area of Campo Marzio a bridge was built crossing the Tiber river, the Elio Bridge, which was inaugurated in 134 A.D. The construction of the mausoleum was completed after the death of Hadrian (138 A. D.), in 139 A. D., by Antoninus Pius: immediately after his death Hadrian was buried in another place at Pozzuoli (near Naples).

The edifice had a base in brick with a side of 89 mt and 15 mt high, which supported the tomb, a circular structure 64mt in diameter and 21mt high. The exterior was completely covered by veneer marble. Today’s entrance which substitutes the original one is about 3mt higher.

From there a square room (vestibulum) with a niche which contained the huge statue of Hadrian. To the right of this room begins a shallow spiral ramp which links the building ‘s levels leading first to Hadrian’s funerary chamber 10mt higher than the vestibulum. Much of this is in a fine state of preservation and includes patches of its original black and white mosaic decoration.

The mausoleum was used as the resting place of emperors until the death of Settimio Severo at the beginning of the 3rd century. On top of the drum was a soil tumulus and crowning this was a gilded chariot driven by a vast statue of Hadrian. In the V century the mausoleum was incorporated by Honorius into the Aurelian Walls. Since then the mausoleum took the name of Castellum (castle). In 537 A.D. during the invasions of the Goths led by Vitige it became one of the strongest fortress and even the many statues which decorated the monument were used as weapons against the enemy! Around the 10th century it was transformed into a castle and residence: fortified by Crescenzio, member of the family of Alberico, it took the name of castrum Crescentii.

Teodorico transformed it into a prison (Carceres Theodorici) and it kept this function even under the papal and then the Italian government, until 1901. The statue of the angel, after which the castle is named was put on the top of it after a vision by pope Gregory the Great, who whilst leading a procession through Rome to pray for the end of a plague saw an angel sheating a sword, an act thought to symbolize the end of the pestilence.

Beside the statue of the angel is the Bell of the Misericordia (mercy), which announced the capital executions. The bronze statue of the angel crowning the battlements today was made by Pietro van Verschaffelt: it is the sixth of a series. The first in wood was substituted by consuption, the second one in marble fell down and broke into pieces, the fourth, in bronze, was melted for the cannons used in 1527, during the sack of Rome, the fifth, in marble with wooden wings, is today housed in the courtyard of the balls (so named after the cannonballs of different sizes here on display). The sixth one was painted by the French army with the colours of France during the invasion in 1798.

In the Capitoline Museums is also on display a stone upon which it is possible to see the foot print of the Angel when he stopped to announce the end of the plague. In 1277 the castle was linked with the Vatican by way of a covered passage known as the “passetto”.

The prisons were terrible, accounts survive of the tortures inflicted in its dungeons, and of the famous prisoners such as Benvenuto Cellini, incarcerated in its notorious San Marocco Cell. He tried to escape but in vain and when closed in the underground cells he painted a Christ on the wall of which we still have some remains. In the funeray chamber of the emperors took refuge Cola di Rienzo in 1347 and pope Clement VII during the sack.

Under Leo X and Pius IV representations were staged here and till the first years of last century the Girandola, a firework created by Michelangelo himself was lit up here. Today the castle houses a museum and its rooms are splendidly decorated.

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