YOUR WALKING TOUR POCKET GUIDE TO “ROME: CAPUT MUNDI”
introduction - WHAT THIS
VIDEO TOUR IS ABOUT
The map of Rome we use
(pages 30, 31) is very simplified. It will help you to navigate the city
and to understand how the monuments relate to one another.
On the map, you will notice
several green squares. These
indicate state-run information
kiosks around Rome where you can pick up a free, more detailed
map to carry with you.
English-speaking professionals who staff the kiosks can answer all questions
related to your stay in Rome.
THE WALKING TOUR
There will be some
historical information in the WALKING TOUR video. It is meant to provide
enough information for you to understand Rome as a beginner. It also has
Food & Lodging suggestions.
caput mundi video, on the
other hand, has far more historical and contextual information. But it is
not a tour. The two videos
complement one another, however, and should be used as such.
Please view ROME: CAPUT
MUNDI first. The WALKING TOUR video will then give you a great
If you have an iPod (or
other pocket video gadget), drop the WALKING TOUR VIDEO onto it and carry it
with you on the tour.
THE CAPUT MUNDI
This POCKET GUIDE is
packed. It has 22 CHAPTERS that exactly match those of the WALKING TOUR
video. It has 60 pages of much more historical and contextual information
than either of the two videos can possibly provide. It has a center-fold
map, plus grey text-box-inserts that repeat exactly the Food & Lodging
information in the WALKING TOUR VIDEO.
CARRY THIS POCKET
GUIDE WITH YOU ON YOUR TOUR
Note, however, that we will
not follow the thematic sequence with which the monuments are
introduced in ROME: caput mundi.
We will instead follow a geographic progression meant to be walked. And you
can walk this tour – if need be – in the better part of one long day. But
as you will want time to linger here and there along the way, it is
suggested you plan for more than one day.
As such, the walking
tour is divided into
three days. Metro Stops at
the Circus Maximus and at Piazza di Spagna are good places to
end a day and then return to the following day.
As we venture into and
through Rome’s various neighborhoods, I will point out possibilities as to
recommendations will remain on screen long enough for you to press
pause if you want to write
the information down. You can also press
next on your remote to more
quickly advance to the next topic.
And with your
remote control handy, you can
press either next or
previous to move smoothly
back and forth throughout the video.
You can also navigate the
video by using the chapter
headings in the DVD sub-menus. There are 22 chapters in all, and they are
marked on the dvd with very
large numbers at the top left corner. Beginning with CHAPTER THREE, the
headings indicate departure points for that particular leg of the tour. The
chapter headings are exactly
those of the POCKET GUIDE.
Most phone numbers cited
will be Italian numbers. When calling from outside Italy, use the
international number for Italy, 39.
So when you see +39, then 06, then a long number; 39 is the
international code for Italy, 06 is Rome’s city code.
While in Rome, you dial
only the numbers after
06. But do use 06 if
you are calling Rome from anywhere else in Italy.
Be aware, however, that mobile phone numbers in Italy do not us the
Rome prefix 06.
or Stazione Termini, is the hub of Rome’s transportation system.
Directly out front is a huge bus
plaza, from which you can connect to all parts of the city.
There are stairways (inside
and outside the station) that lead down to Rome’s Metro or subway
system. There are only two main subway lines. They intersect at Termini
and are designated line “A”
and the line “B” (in Italian:
“Linea A” and “Linea B”). They are marked on the map with
either a blue or red “M.”
Rome is not a large city.
Walking is the best way to see it, but at any point along the way, you can
easily hop a bus to the next attraction. Before doing so, while at Termini
Station – or at any news-stand – pick up a
day pass to the entire
transportation system. Ask for the “beeg” ticket – B.I.G. (Cost: 4 or 5
2. VIDEO PREVIEW OF
SITES VISITED ON THIS TOUR
The numberS below reference CHAPTER NUMBERS
IN THIS pockeT guide & on the WALKING TOUR VIDEO. The ACTUAL WALKING TOUR
BEGINS WITH CHAPTER THREE AT TERMINI STATION.
1: INTRODUCTION – WHAT
THIS VIDEO TOUR IS ABOUT
PREVIEW OF SITES VISITED ON THIS TOUR
3: TERMINI STATION (STAZIONE
TERMINI) START WALKING TOUR
4: BATHS OF DIOCLETIAN,
PALAZZO MASSIMO ,PLUS MUSEUM INFO
5: PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA
& SAINT MARY OF THE ANGELS
6: SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE &
SAN PIETRO IN VINCOLI
7: THE COLISEUM
8: ARCH OF CONSTANTINE,
CIRCUS MAXIMUS, BATHS OF CARACALLA
9: THE META SUDANS, VIA
SACRA & THE ARCH OF TITUS
10: THE PALATINE HILL
11: THE ROMAN FORUM
12: THE CAPITOLINE HILL
13: PIAZZA VENEZIA &
14: THE THEATER OF
MARCELLUS & THE OLD JEWISH GHETTO
THE ISLAND OF THE TIBER & SANTA MARIA IN TRASTEVERE
LARGO DI TORRE ARGENTINA & THE CRYPTA BALBI MUSEUM
17: CAMPO DE’ FIORI & THE
18: PIAZZA NAVONA, THE
PANTHEON & THE TEMPLE OF HADRIAN
19: PIAZZA COLONNA, THE
TREVI FOUNTAIN & THE SPANISH STEPS
20: PIAZZA DEL POPOLO, THE
PINCIO HILL & THE ALTAR OF PEACE
21: CASTEL SANT’ANGELO &
22: THE VATICAN MUSEUM &
RETURN TO TERMINI STATION
actual WALKING TOUR BEGINS NEXT in chapter three at termini
station, both in this booklet & on the DVD
3. TERMINI STATION OR STAZIONE TERMINI
START TOUR HERE:
With your back to the façade
of Termini Station, directly in front of you is a huge
bus plaza from which you can
connect to all parts of the city. There are also stairways – inside and
outside the station – that lead down to Rome’s Metro or subway system.
Termini Station is the main rail terminus of Rome, hence its name.
It is not named after the
ancient termi, the Baths of Diocletian, not far away. Begun
in 1937, when it was decided a new station was needed as part of the planned
1942 World's Fair (never held because of World War II), the old station was
demolished and part of the new one built when everything stopped in 1943
with the collapse of Mussolini’s government.
The current building was inaugurated in 1950. It was recently refurbished
for the Vatican’s 2000 Jubilee. It has an extensive, quite new shopping
mall downstairs. The ground floor has department stores and shops along the
right flank of the building as you
face the tracks. On both the
left and right flanks,
you will find all major rental car agencies.
Inside you will find
fast-food chains and many cafes. There are two cafeteria-style restaurants;
one in the mezzanine overlooking the ticket lobby, the other on the ground
floor off the next big lobby on the way to the tracks.
there are dozens of eateries, especially on the streets to your
left as you stand outside
with your back to the station
façade. In general, the deeper you venture into these streets away from the
station, the better the food.
MUSEUMS AND TICKET INFO
Archeological Card: If you do not intend to
enter this ruin or that museum, don’t buy any tickets. Or just but singles
on the spot. But if you plan this tour for two or more days, at any one of
the museums or monuments, you can buy the
Rome archeological card. It
will get you into the two National
Museums at the Palazzo
Massimo and the Baths of Diocletian. It also gets you into the
Coliseum, the Palatine Hill, the Baths of Caracalla,
two other museums plus two ruins out on the old Appian Way.
away from the station, pass
through the bus plaza. You
will see, across the street, a huge mass of red brick. This is what remains
of the ancient Baths of Diocletian. These were the grandest of the
public baths (thermae)
built by successive emperors. Dedicated in AD
the baths remained in use until
cut the aqueducts that fed them.
Veering to your
right toward the ruin will bring you to the entrance of the Baths of
Diocletian Branch of the national
Museum at the Baths of Diocletian. This was the main museum of the
National Roman Museum until Palazzo Massimo was opened in 1995.
There are fewer materials and antiquities on view here.
The main branch of this important museum system is in
fact just a few feet away in the
Palazzo Massimo. You reach it, if you instead veer
left as you walk through the
seminary and used as a hospital during WW II, after the war it returned to
scholastic functions then was abandoned in 1960. The State acquired in
The collection accommodates sculpture (Republican; early and late Empire)
and also coin collections that show the evolution of currency in Roman
Italy. Most of the coins on display in the collections are very rare.
Ground floor and first floor:
Sculptures of the
period between the late
and the early
Themes include Hellenistic influences on Roman art and the development of
the portraiture of the emperors.
Frescoes, stucci and mosaics, including those from the
villa of Livia
and the villa’s summer
5. PIAZZA REPUBBLICA &
SAINT MARY OF THE ANGELS
With your BACK to Palazzo Massimo, you will see a large
fountain in the center of the Piazza della
Repubblica was known, until the 1950s, as
Piazza Esedra. The earlier name indicates that the piazza was built
upon the remains of the curved colonnade (called in Latin EXEDRA)
that fronted the Baths of Diocletian.
Saint Mary of the
Angels & the Martyrs: As you walk into the
piazza, on your right is the church built by Michelangelo inside the
tepidarium (or warm room) of the ancient bath complex. As such, when you
enter, notice that the décor is essentially just as you would have found it
in a Roman Imperial bath.
The huge vaulted transept
displays the huge scale of Roman construction. It is 298 feet long and 91
The Meridian Line:
At the beginning of the
Pope Clement XI
had the astronomer and philosopher
build a meridian line in the basilica. Its purpose was to check the
accuracy of the
of the Julian Calendar and to predict the
again, make your way to the exact opposite end of the piazza where Via
Nazionale begins between the colonnades.
Once quite seedy, the colonnades are today
all thoroughly cleaned up. You will find many good restaurants here on
either side, but in the left hand colonnade, there is one of Rome’s newest
HOTEL EXEDRA: Piazza della
Repubblica, 47. Telephone: 1-888-626-7265
Rooms: 300 to 400 hundred Euro.
For a quiet bed & breakfast
near the Termini Station, try
Armonia b&b: Metro Line “B” Exit
Bologna. Cell: +39
Rooms: 90 to 150 Euro
Telephone +39 (06) 47-82-5204.
Rooms: 150 to 400 Euro.
Via Nazionale empties into
Piazza Venezia and is one of the city’s major arteries. On it, there
are three, four and five star hotels (plus clothing shops).
block down Via Nazionale, stop at Via Torino. Take a
One block up on the
left is the very fine:
Residenza Cellini: Via
Telephone +39 (06) 47-82-5204.
Rooms: 150 to 400 Euro.
But before returning to Via Nazionale, walk up
one more block on Via Torino.
On your right, just before
the Piazza San Bernardo you find the
sculpture shop featured in
the opening and closing of “caput
Giardino di Domenico Persiani:
A few steps further is the church of
San Bernardo alle Terme. It too was built into the ruins of the ancient
bath complex that once
covered this entire zone. It was built (in
into one of two round ball courts of the ancient
Baths of Diocletian.
The elegant dome will give you a taste
of the grander dome of the Pantheon coming up.
Backtrack on Via Torino.
Stop at Via Nazionale, and
there at number 7 on Via Nazionale is:
Via Nazionale, 7.
Telephone: +39 06 4707.
6. SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE & SAN PIETRO IN
Pass Via Nazionale, and
within four or five blocks,
you arrive at the Piazza dell’Esquilino.
The huge building
facing you is the back of Santa Maria Maggiore. The entrance
is on the opposite side.
Basilica di Santa
Maria Maggiore: One of the
five major basilicas
of Rome (the others being
St. John Lateran,
St. Lawrence outside
St. Paul outside the
Walls), Santa Maria Maggiore is the
only Roman basilica that retains the core of its original
The name of the church
reflects two ideas of greatness, that of a
and that of the Blessed
as the true Mother of God. It is also the most important place of prayer
dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
ended and the Pope returned to Rome, Santa Maria Maggiore – due to the
deteriorated state of the
– became a temporary
residence of the
Popes, until he later moved to
The present building dates from the time of
Pope Sixtus III
and contains many ancient
from this period. The Athenian marble columns supporting the nave are even
older, and either come from the first basilica, or from another antique
Roman building. The 16th century coffered ceiling, designed by
Giuliano da Sangallo,
may have been gilded with Inca gold given to the Spanish pope
Benedict XIV added
the façade with its loggia in 1743. The thick column in the square out
front was erected in 1614.
It is the sole remaining column from Basilica of Constantine in the
upper level of the Roman Forum.
the Piazza dell’Esquilino behind the basilica. Take a
left down Via Cavour
to the Metro Stop Cavour.
Here you have a choice. Taking
the Metro one stop will get you to the Coliseum.
I suggest that, half a block
down Via Cavour, on your left,
there is a long stairway going up. Take it. It
leads to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in
Chains) where you will find Michelangelo’s famous “Moses.”
San Pietro in
basilica was first built in the mid-5th
century to house the
of the chains that bound
while imprisoned in
The chains are in a
under the main altar in the basilica.
The basilica underwent several restorations, among them a restoration by
Pope Adrian I
and a rebuilding by
Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Julius II.
The front portico was added in
The interior has a nave and two aisles, with three apses divided by antique
columns. The nave has an 18th century ceiling, the center fresco portraying
the Miracle of the Chains.
The “Moses was intended as part of a massive 47-statue, free-standing
funeral monument for
Pope Julius II
pro-jected for the Vatican. When that plan finally collapsed, it became the
center-piece of the Pope's funeral monument and tomb here in his family's
Exit the church and continue
through the small piazza out front. The first or second street will be
Via Annibaldi. Look to your
left and there, looming ahead, is the Roman Coliseum.
If you are hungry, take a
right instead and return to
Via Cavour. Go past Cavour; the first
left is Via Leonina,
where you will find the strangely named:
Wanted il Post Ricercato.
Via Leonina, 90.
Otherwise, at Via Cavour, take your
left. There are several
restaurants on either side as you walk
down to Via dei Fori
Imperiali. You can try:
Baires on Via Cavour, 315.
An Argentinean restaurant with good soups and ample portions Argentinean
+39 (06) 692-02-164.
The Ancient Romans called this
neighborhood the subura.
Caesar was born here. Today, there are two classic Roman hotels, especially
nice if your visit to Rome will be heavy on Roman history. They overlook
the Imperial Forums…
HOTEL FORUM: Via Tor de Conti, 25.
Telephone: +39 (06) 679-2446.
Rooms: 150 to 350 Euro.
Via Tor de Conti, 3.
Telephone: +39 (06) 678-1835.
Rooms: 100 to 250 Euro.
7. THE COLISEUM
If you did not
eat, after leaving St Peter
in Chains, you will have
taken Via Annibaldi to the Coliseum.
If you did eat
somewhere on Cavour, continue down
Cavour to Via dei Fori Imperiali. Walk
left to the Coliseum.
Now, with your
Rome Archeological Card,
cruise right into the most famous arena in the world.
The seating is almost totally gone, but in its heyday,
Originally called the Flavian Amphitheater, it is the largest amphitheater
ever built in the
It is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering.
Unlike earlier semi-circular theaters that were built into hillsides, the
Coliseum is entirely freestanding. Its elliptical plan derives putting two
semi-circular theaters together (amphi- means two). It is 615 feet long and
510 feet wide, with a base area of 6 acres. The height of the outer wall is
157 feet. The perimeter originally measured 1,788 feet. The central
arena is an oval of 287 feet by 180 feet
wide, surrounded by a 15 foot wall, above which rose tiers of seating. The
word arena is Latin for sand.
under the rule of the Emperor
The site chosen was the flat area of a low valley between the
Even by the
2nd century BC,
the area was densely inhabited. After the
Great Fire of Rome
seized the zone to build his grandiose Golden House. It included a colossal
statue of himself at the entrance (where the Temple of Venus and Rome
is now). He created a lake surrounded by fabulous pavilions, gardens and
long porticoes where the Coliseum is now.
After Nero was deposed, the
area was transformed by Vespasian. Although the Colossus of Nero was
preserved, much of the Domus Aurea was torn away, the lake filled in and the
land reused as the location for the Flavian Amphitheater.
According to an
inscription found on the site, "the Emperor Vespasian ordered this new
amphitheater to be erected from his general's share of the booty." This is
taken to mean the treasure seized by the Romans following their victory in
Great Jewish Revolt
The Coliseum was to
its third story when Vespasian's died in
The top level was finished and the building was inaugurated by his son,
Over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the
The building was remodeled further under Vespasian's younger son, Emperor
adding the underground tunnels we see today under the missing floor.
Its huge crowd
capacity made it essential that the Coliseum be filled and vacated quickly.
Its architects adopted solutions very similar to those used in modern
stadiums. The amphitheater was ringed by 80 entrances, each one numbered.
The northern main entrance was reserved for the
and his aides. Many of the entrances have disappeared with the collapse of
the perimeter wall, but entrances XXIII to LIV survive.
Spectators had tickets in
the form of numbered pottery shards, which directed them to the correct
section and row. They accessed their seats via vomitoria,
passageways that opened into a tier of seats from below or behind. These
quickly got people into their seats and, upon conclusion of the event,
permitted their exit within minutes. Vomitoria in Latin means “a
The Coliseum was used for
contests and public spectacles. The last recorded games were held as late
well after the
fall of Rome
As well as the traditional gladiatorial games, many other public spectacles
were held there, such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions,
re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.
the Coliseum was badly damaged by a major fire caused by lightning. It was
not fully repaired until about
An inscription records the various restorations under
possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake in
More work followed in
The arena was used for contests well into the
Gladiatorial fights were last mentioned around
The building eventually
ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was then
used for such varied purposes as housing, workshops, living quarters for a
religious order, a fortress, and a quarry.
The Coliseum underwent radical
changes during the this period. By the late 6th century, a small church was
in the seating galleries, while the arena itself was a cemetery. The
numerous vaulted spaces in the exterior arcades under the seating were
converted into housing and workshops, and are recorded as still being rented
out as late as the
took over the Coliseum and fortified it as their castle.
The Coliseum suffered
damage by the great earthquake of
causing the outer south wall to collapse. Much of the tumbled stone was
reused to build palaces and other buildings elsewhere in Rome. A religious
order moved into the northern third of the Coliseum in the mid-14th
century and stayed until as late as the
The interior of the building was radically stripped of stone, which was
reused elsewhere or burned to make
The metal clamps which held the stonework together were pried or
hacked out of the walls, leaving the pockmarks which still scar the
the Church assumed a productive role over the site.
Pope Sixtus V
once planned – unsuccessfully – to turn the building into a wool factory to
give Rome's prostitutes honest work.
The Coliseum is interpreted as a great triumphal monument built in the Roman
tradition of celebrating great victories. Vespasian's decision
to build the Coliseum on the site of Nero's lake is also seen as a populist
gesture of returning to the people of Rome an area of the city, which Nero
had purloined for his own use after the fire AD 64. In contrast to other
arenas, which were located on the outskirts of a city, the Coliseum was
constructed in the city center; in effect, placing it symbolically at the
heart of Rome.
The Coliseum is today one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions,
receiving millions of visitors annually. The effects of pollution and
general deterioration prompted major restorations program in the 1990s. In
recent years, it has become a symbol of the international campaign against
(abolished in Italy in
Anti–death penalty demonstrations took place in front
of the Coliseum in
Since that time, local authorities change the color of the night time
illumination from white to gold whenever a person condemned to death
anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released.
Once outside the Coliseum,
go to the curve of the arena that is closest to the Metro Stop
COLOSSEO . There you will see a mound of earth and trees, usually with
people resting on it.
The Colossus of
Nero: This mound is where the colossal statue
of Nero once stood.
It was 95 feet tall and had
seven sunbeams sprouting from its head to lengths up to 23 feet. The statue
was gold plated bronze, taller than the Colo-ssus of Rhodes, and taller than
the Statue of Liberty (minus her uplifted arm).
This statue was later
remodeled by Nero's successors into the likeness of
the Sun God, by adding the solar crown. Nero's head was also substituted
with the heads of various succeeding emperors. Despite its pagan links, the
statue remained standing well into the medieval era and was credited with
magical powers. It came to be seen as an iconic symbol of the permanence of
(c. 672–735) wrote a famous epigram celebrating the symbolic significance of
the statue: Quandiu stabit coliseus, stabit et Roma; quando cadit
coliseus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus ("as long as
the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall
fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world"). This is often thought to refer
to the Coliseum rather than the Colossus (as in, for instance,
Pilgrimage). However, in Bede’s time,
coliseus was applied to the statue rather than to what was still
known as the Flavian amphitheater. So it seems he was referencing the
The Colossus did eventually
fall to bronze thieves, but the name “Coliseum” did survive as reference to
the amphitheater itself, the statue long forgotten.
Turning your back to
the Coliseum – and with the
Metro Stop COLOSSEO to your right –
look up onto a
platform where now stands the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome.
Temple of Venus and
Rome: This building (its ruins now closed) was
dedicated to the city of Rome and the ancestral mother of the Julian
family. Built in the 2nd century by Hadrian on the Velian Hill,
the Temple of Venus and Rome may have been the most magnificent pagan temple
in all of Rome.
The platform of the temple
is some 475 by 330 feet. It sits exactly at the summit of the Velia Hill
where Nero had placed his Colossus. To get a sense of that statue’s size,
note the present tower of S. Francesca Romana; that’s where the
Colossus stood until Hadrian removed it to
the valley below, along side the Coliseum. The architect in charge of this
project used 24 elephants.
In placing his temple on the
platform, Hadrian removed most of what was left of Nero’s giant Domus Aura.
The Golden House, almost a city in itself
– in some directions miles long right here in the middle of Rome –
was a travesty recognized by all except Nero himself. He was reported to
exclaim, upon moving into his new home, “Finally I can live like a human
To your extreme
left is the huge marble Arch of Constantine.
Before you go there,
however, if you are in the mood to eat, go around to the exact
opposite side of the Coliseum.
Before walking up to the
street, notice the five marble blocks that the Romans used to control the
huge awning that covered the top of the Coliseum. These blocks are all that
remain of the dozens that once surrounded the building.
Climb the stairs and cross the street. To your
left, find Via San
Giovanni in Laterano; there are several restaurants here. I suggest:
Antica hostaria da Franco.
Via San Giovanni in Laterano, 48.
It is also across from the ruins of the great
gladiator school of old Rome, called the Ludus Magnus. Fragments of
these ruins are inside the restaurant.
The Coliseum and its activities supported a substantial industry in the
area. In addition to the amphitheater itself, many other buildings nearby
were linked to the games. Here in Via San Giovanni in Laterano are the
remains of the
a training school for gladiators. It was connected to the Coliseum by an
underground tunnel that allowed easy access for the gladiators. The training
arena of Ludus Magnus was known as a popular attraction for Roman spectators
and ancient tourists.
Just around the corner,
there is one of the closest hotels to the Coliseum:
Via dei Santissimi Quattro Coronati, 35c.
39 (06) 704-95-333.
Rooms: 100 to 300 Euro.
Arch of Constantine, the circus MAXIMUS & the baths of Caracalla
the Coliseum, go to the Arch of Constantine. A high fence surrounds
it, so you cannot walk under it. At least look through it from the Coliseum
side. You will be looking down Via di San Gregorio.
Arch of Constantine:
In ancient times, this was the Via Triumphalis, for this was a
erected to commemorate
Battle of Milvio
it is the latest of the existing triumphal arches in Rome.
The arch has three archways, the central one being 38 feet high and 21 feet
wide. The lower part of the monument is of marble, the top (called the
attic) is brickwork sheathed in marble. The design, with its detached
columns and an attic with the main inscription above, is modeled after the
example of the
Arch of Septimius
Severus in the
The lower part of the arch is re-used from an older monument, perhaps from
the times of
The layout of the main
facade is identical on both sides. It is divided by four columns of
made of Numidian yellow marble, one of which has been replaced by one of
white marble. The columns stand on bases with victory figures in front, and
captured barbarians and Roman soldiers on sides.
The arch re-cycles parts from older monuments. As it celebrates the victory
of Constantine, the new historic friezes illustrating his campaign in Italy
convey praise of the emperor, both in battle and in his civilian duties.
Other imagery and decoration are taken from the "golden times" of the
and connect Constantine to these "good emperors.” The spandrels of the main
archway are decorated with reliefs depicting
figures; those of the smaller archways show river gods.
The main element from
the time of Constantine is the historical relief frieze running around the
monument under the round panels, one strip above each lateral archway and at
the small sides of the arch. These reliefs depict scenes from the
Constantine’s Italian campaign against Maxentius (which was the reason for
the monument). The frieze starts at the western side with the "Departure
It continues on the southern ("outward" looking face) with the siege of
another city of importance to the war in Northern Italy.
On that face is the
Battle of Milvio Bridge with Constantine's army victorious and the enemy
drowning in the
On the eastern side: Constantine and his army enter Rome. On the northern
face, looking towards the city, two strips with the emperor's actions after
taking possession of Rome: Constantine speaking to the citizens on the Forum
Romanum, and distributing money.
Above the central archway, the main inscription takes
the most prominent place of the attic. It is identical on both sides of the
The main inscription
would originally have been of
letters. Though only the recesses for the letters remain, you can still
easily read them:
IMP · CAES · FL · CONSTANTINO · MAXIMO · P ·
F · AVGUSTO · S · P · Q · R · QVOD · INSTINCTV · DIVINITATIS · MENTIS · MAGNITVDINE
· CVM · EXERCITV · SVO · TAM · DE · TYRANNO · QVAM · DE · OMNI · EIVS ·
FACTIONE · VNO · TEMPORE · IVSTIS · REM-PUBLICAM · VLTVS · EST · ARMIS ·
ARCVM · TRIVMPHIS · INSIGNEM · DICAVIT
“To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantinus, the greatest, pious, and
blessed Augustus: because he, inspired by the divine, and by the greatness
of his mind, has delivered the state from the tyrant and all of his
followers at the same time, with his army and just force of arms, the Senate
and People of Rome have dedicated this arch, decorated with triumphs.”
The arch spanned the
the road taken by the emperors when they entered the city in
This route led through the
around the Palatine Hill, up Via Truimphalis and under the Arch of
Constantine. The procession would turn left around the
and march up
to and under the Arch of Titus, down to the Forum Romanum to
of Septimius Severus, then on up to the
At the end of Via San Gregorio
is the giant Circus Maximus, a superb view of which awaits you
on the Palatine Hill. Or you could walk to the circus right now.
Why not? It’s less than half a mile on the
right. And there’s a Metro
Stop (CIRCO MASSIMO), from which you can get back to the Coliseum.
The Circus Maximus:
The name in means greatest
It was a
and mass entertainment venue situated in the valley between the
hills. The location was first utilized for public games and entertain-ment
by the early
kings. Somewhat later, the Circus was the site of public games and
festivals in the Greek mode. Meeting the demands of the Roman citizenry for
public entertainment on a lavish scale,
expanded the Circus around
Later expansions brought the track to measure over 1,900 feet in length, 380
in width. It held 250,000 spectators.
was the most important event at the Circus. The track could hold twelve
chariots; the two sides of the track were separated by a raised median
called the spina. This spine had statues of gods set upon it.
on it as well. At either end of the spina was a turning post, the
meta, around which the chariots turned. Above the spina, were
metal dolphins that rotated down to mark laps around the course. If you
have seen the movie Ben Hur, you may remember these.
A very dangerous sport,
chariot racing frequently resulted in spectacular crashes (Ben Hur
again) and possibly the death of one or more contestants. At the start
point, the circus had a flat side to allow the chariots to line up properly.
Here there were starting gates, or carceres, which were staggered so
chariots traveled the same distance to the
first turn. The race went for a total distance of about 4 miles.
Except for the now
grass-covered racing area, very little remains of the Circus (note the long
hump where the spine was). The structure no doubt disappeared into the
building of other structures in medieval and Renaissance Rome.
Pope Sixtus V
obelisk removed in the
Piazza del Popolo.
The Circus Maximus was
the first and largest in Rome, but not the only one. Others included the
near the Theater of Marcellus, the
Circus of Maxentius
on the Appian Way, and that of Nero on Vatican Hill.
The Circus Maximus
still occasionally entertains Romans. The
Rome concert of Live
8 was celebrated here in 2005, as also the
World Cup 2006
victory when over 700,000 people packed in to celebrate.
From here, just another short half mile away
– following Via dei Terme di Caracalla
– stands the remains of the largest bath complex ever built, the
Baths of Caracalla. Use your
Rome archeological card to enter.
Baths of Caracalla:
AD, during the reign of the
the bath complex once covered approximately 33 acres. The bath building
itself was 750 feet long, 380 feet wide and 125 feet height. It could hold
an estimated 1,600 bathers.
The complex was more a
leisure center than just a series of water baths. The complex was the
second to include a public
Moreover, like other public libraries in Rome, there were two separate
buildings, one for Greek language texts and one for Latin. The libraries
were located in curved
on the east and west sides of the bath complex. The entire north wall was
devoted to shops that gave the complex the feeling of a modern day mall. 
system of burning coal and wood beneath the floors heated the complex. The
water came in from a dedicated water supply (the
which fed huge reservoirs on the south wall.
The baths themselves
consisted of a central
(cold room), a double pool
(medium temperature), and a circular
(hot room), as well as two
where wrestling and boxing was practiced. The north end of the bath
building contained a large swimming pool. This natatio was roofless
with bronze mirrors overhead to direct sunlight into the pool.
In the early
the design of the baths inspired several modern structures, including the
In addition, 22 well-preserved columns from the ruins are found in the
Santa Maria in
Trastevere, taken there in the 12th
The great basins
in the front of Palazzo Farnese are also from
here. Today, Rome’s
Teatro dell'Opera often uses the ruins as a backdrop for its
If you are doing this tour in three
days, now is good time to take the Metro home. Tomorrow, take the
same Metro back and get off at the Coliseum (Metro Stop COLOSSEO).
9. The Meta Sudans, the Via sacra & the arch
If you are doing this tour in
three days, you went home and
returned to Metro Stop COLOSSEO. Go now to the Arch of Constantine.
Once there, place yourself
between the arch and the Coliseum. In front of you, there is a circular
pattern of ruins in the ground. This is the Meta Sudans.
This Meta dates to some time around AD
emperors, a few years after the completion of the
is “turning point” and was usually a tall conical object in a Roman
that stood at either end of the central
around which racing
would turn. The Meta Sudans had the same shape, and also functioned as a
similar kind of turning point, in that it marked the spot where a
procession would turn left from the
along the east side of the
on its way up to the Arch of Titus.
The Meta Sudans was
built of a
and faced with
It "sweated" water (sudans means "sweating") rather than spurting it
out. This means that the water either oozed out the top, or dripped from
holes in its side. The cone itself was sheathed in polished bronze and
glistened in the sun. It stood as high as 56 feet; until the 20th century,
its ruins were still over 30 feet.
The fountain appears
as a ruin in medieval views of the Coliseum. Photos from the end of the
19th century show a cone of bricks next to the Arch of Constan-tine. The
ruin survived until
demolished it and paved it over to make room for a traffic circle around the
Coliseum. The aboveground structure is gone but later excavations reveal an
Now walk yourself up Via Sacra
– with ancient slabs of stone under foot
– as you approach the Arch of Titus.
Via was normally only applied to the great roads that started at the
gates of a city. Only two streets in ancient Rome bore the name Via
–Via Sacra and Via Nova. The Via Sacra is the more important and older
In Republican times, many
noble families had the homes here, including the Valerii, the Scipios, the
Domitii and Octavii. Under the Empire, homes gave way to the Via Sacra
becoming one of the most bustling and influential business
street in Rome with jewelers, goldsmiths,
pearl dealers, precious stone cutters, bronze chasers, florists, wreath
makers, and grocers.
After Hadrian built the
Temple to Venus and Rome, the Sacred Way was organized according to how we
see it now, with its northern side having its shops supplanted by monumental
buildings, now ruins.
Arch of Titus:
This is a
marble and with a single opening. Emperor
constructed it shortly after the death of his brother, the Emperor
It commemorates the capture and
sacking of Jerusalem
which effectively terminated the
Note the sculptural
panels lining the passageway. Both commemorate the joint
celebrated by Titus and his father
in the summer of AD
One of the panels depicts the spoils taken from the Jewish
while the other depicts Titus as triumphator. A
– possibly of elephants and not the usual horses – originally crowned the
The inscription in
Roman square capitals
Senate and People of
Rome (dedicate this) to the divine Titus
Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian.
Due to the depiction of the destruction of Jerusalem and the desecration of
the Temple, many Jews refuse to walk underneath the arch to this very day
(though the passageway is now closed to the public). A notable exception
occurred in 1948 at the founding of
when a large contingent from the Roman Jewish community walked through the
arch in the opposite direction from the original Ancient Roman triumphal
10. THE PALATINE HILL
Walk around the Arch of Titus to look down into the
Forum. Even though it’s free, don’t go there yet. Just a few paces away
from the arch, to your left
as you look down into the
Forum, is the entrance to the Palatine Hill.
This is one of the
most important of the
Seven Hills of Rome
and is one of the most ancient parts of the
It is now essentially a large open-air museum and is open during daylight
hours on the same ticket as
or with the ROME ARCHEOLOGICAL CARD. There are two entrances, one here near
Arch of Titus
and the other on Via di San Gregorio, the road that connects the
Arch of Constantine
to the Circus Maximus.
the Palatine Hill was where
Romulus and Remus
were found and kept alive by the she-wolf. According to
found them, and with his wife, raised them.
Recent archeology confirms that
Rome had its origins on the Palatine.
Excavations show that people have lived there since around 1000 BC. Many
affluent Romans of the
Imperial periods had residences there.
As you walk across the hill
– with your back to the Forum
– the ruins of the palaces of emperors
can still be seen. When you arrive at the far end overlooking the Circus
Maximus, you are in the Palace of Domitian. On the other side of the Circus
is the Aventine Hill. It is today a quiet and choice neighborhood; it was
also where Marc Antony lived.
Leaving the overlook, after
about twenty paces, take your RIGHT through Domitian’s Palace until you
arrive at his small private stadium or Hippodrome. (Domitian also built a
larger stadium that was actually used for foot-racing competitions; it
exists today as
This structure here appears to be a Roman
but it was too small to accommodate
It too was probably a venue for foot races, but this is disputed.
With your BACK to the stadium’s long side, walk
straight to you see
Palatine Museum. Most of the statuary inside comes from the Hippo-drome.
There is no charge once you have paid the Palatine Hill entrance fee.
Continue past the
Museum, and before the end of the hill, you will arrive at the
the wife of Augustus. It is currently being excavated. It was near here,
during Augustus' reign, that an area of the Palatine was sectioned off as a
zone. Fragments of
pots and tools were found, leading Augustus to declare the site as the
"original town of Rome." Modern archaeology has more or less confirmed his
Take your RIGHT at the
and continue in the direction of the Forum until you arrive there at the
You now stand on the
site of the
which was built largely during the reign of the
It was later extended and modified; in fact, its ruins continue all the
way across the Palatine to connect with Domitian’s Palace and the Circus
11. THE ROMAN FORUM
The word “Forum” means market place and may derive from the Latin ferre
meaning to carry, a place where people carried things to trade.
This is suspect now and no one is sure of the derivation, but the accepted
meaning is a place bound or fenced in by some means. In the case of the
Forum, it is bordered by the surrounding
hills, which are the western Capitoline, the southern Palatine, the northern
Viminal and Quirinal, and the much smaller Velia to the east, where stands
the Arch of Titus.
Perhaps tribes of
surrounding hills saw the hills as defensible areas, while the valleys were
seen as ground common where battles were fought, truces negotiated, and
where, after hostilities ended, stuff was bought and sold.
Later, as the Forum became more a place for the courts and higher level
trade, the markets were moved to the periphery and even outside of the
Basilicas: Around 200 BC, the idea of the
Basilica – or covered hall –
seems to have been adapted (from the Greek cities to the south) as a covered
space for law proceedings, banking and some trading. The first basilica was
built by Cato the Censor in 185 BC; it which was restored and rebuilt many
times. Later came the Basilica Julia was built by Julius Caesar.
Caesar also commissioned –
behind the Senate – a new Forum and prototype for all forthcoming so-called
Imperial Forums. In his Forum he built the temple of Venus Venetrix in
honor of his familial identification with this Goddess. After Caesar’s
death, Augustus personally undertook to complete all these plans. In fact,
it is true that, while many buildings in the Forum (and in Rome itself) were
financed by the public treasury, many were built at private expense.
Augustus also built the
Temple of Julius Caesar in the main Forum. He later built his own Forum of
Augustus to the north of the Forum proper. This forum in fact in fact took
over all operations of the Roman Forum and forever altered the unique
character of the original.
In 410 AD the city was sacked by Alaric and the Goths. Many monuments in
the city and the Forum were torched, including the Curia and the Basilica
Aemelia. The Vandals arrived in the year 455. A few years later, with the
deposition of the very young Romulus Augustulus in AD 467, the Empire in the
west was gone. The last monument to be erected in the Roman Forum was
Phocas’s Column (608 AD), seen there still in the open space of the Forum.
After Charlemagne, the destruction of the Forum accelerated. Limekilns
(found near the corner of the temple of Venus and Rome and in the Basilica
Aemelia) were used to extract from the marble, lime for the making of
concrete. Hundreds of marble masterpieces
– some of the finest of Graeco/Roman sculpture
– met their end in such limekilns; a terrible disgrace.
Period: In the twelfth century, the Forum
– with the collapse of the basilicas and the randomly built
fortifications of the various extant barons
– was essentially not passable in the way that we experience it
today. The general debilitation of the area continued to such a degree that
at one point the church
built into the shell of the Curia (St.
Adriano) had to be raised a full half- story so it would equal the
adjacent topography. The church is gone now and the Curia
restored to its last Imperial restoration under Diocletian.
Abuses accelerated further
during the Pope’s exile to Avignon in southern France. After Urban V
returned the papacy to Rome in 1367, he brought with him a renewed vigor to
revitalize the city, and with it, unfortunately, a renewed interest in
limekilns. In fact, he built his Lateran Palace from the remains of the
Basilica Aemelia and the Temple of Faustina.
By the time of the Renaissance, whatever was remaining of the Roman Forum
was ready for a new round of quarrying by such luminaries of the time as
Bramante and Michelangelo (under orders of Popes Julius II and Leo X).
Rafaello did write an urgent appeal to Leo, decrying the destruction of the
monuments of the ancient Rome, even urging that they be restored, or at
minimum be documented in drawings before being dismantled. This was of
course ignored. Ironically, what remained of both the Basilicas Aemelia and
Julia (and both the Temple and House of the Vestals) were totally consumed
to create buildings whose designs owed everything to them!
In the early 1500s, Paul III
leveled and filled in great swaths of the Forum to accommodate a procession
in honor of King Charles V of France. The area between the two arches was
passable, but by 50 years latter, scholars of ancient Rome could not even
agree as to where in fact the Forum was.
From the overlook, look to your
far right and locate the Arch
of Titus. This is where we will begin our walk into the Forum.
Make your way back to the
Palatine entrance and continue to the Arch of Titus. Descend the steps
leading from the arch (the continuation of the Via Sacra). A few paces down
on your RIGHT is the Basilica of Constantine-Maxentius.
Constantine: Sometimes called the Basilica
Nova (because of its “new” design), it was begun in AD 306 by Emperor
Maxentius. At his death (at the hands of Constantine at the Milvio Bridge)
it was finished by Constantine and renamed after him. At the far end, there
is preserved an apse where sat the Emperor or a presiding magistrate. But
this basilica is very different in form and use than its more conservative
and stately predecessors (like the Basilica Julia) with the calming effect
of their alliterating, harmonious columns.
The giant openness of
Constantine’s building replicates the great central rooms of the late
imperial baths; especially those of Diocletian (recall the church of Santa
Maria degli Angeli near Termini). We see here that these ceilings were not
of wood but instead massive concrete vaults and cross vaults supported by
only four thick piers on either side. The columns here were for aesthetic
The last one, which here supported nothing,
finds itself now in the piazza in front of Santa Maria Maggiore, where today
it supports a Madonna.
The space covered here was more than 7000 square yards. The destruction
began in the late middle ages when, because of its giant size and the
shrinking population of this once Capitol of the World (Caput Mundi), the
building was, ironically, to big for use as a church. Why ironically?
Because it was Bramante and Michelangelo, the most famous architects of the
newly projected Basilica of St. Peter’s in the Vatican, used this basilica
as its model.
In addition, the new St
Peter’s was to replace the old St. Peter’s (on the same spot that
Constantine commissioned it in the 4th century) which would,
again ironically, be roofed over by the very bronze plates stolen from this
basilica. The absence of these protective plates here would ultimately
contribute to the collapse of the vaulting and the demise of the building as
Next down Via Sacra on the RIGHT is Temple of Divus
Romulus erected by Maxentius in honor of his son Romulus. The bronze
door is original – minus
decorations – and the lock is
still functional and performing its designed task now for almost 1700 years.
In the 6th
century, the temple became the vestibule of the church of S.S. Cosma and
Damiano, whereby the level of the building’s interior was raised to
accom-modate the rising level of the then called Campo Vaccino -- what we
now call the Roman Forum – as vaccino means cattle (in other words
As the Via Sacra levels off, we arrived at the Archaic
Necropolis. Apparently forgotten in ancient times, early 20th
century excavations have revealed this necropolis (to the
right of the high Temple of
Antonius and Faustina) at a depth of about 20 feet below the level of the
Forum of Imperial times. The numerous graves are marked in letter fashion
(you can see artifacts from these in the Forum Museum). Burials were mostly
cremation, but some also of inhumation, which was rare in early Roman times.
To the left of the graves is
the Temple of Antonius and Faustina. In the third year of this
reign, Emperor Antonius Pius lost his wife Faustina. The Senate elevated
her to divinity and erected her temple. The vestibule has six smooth
columns 55 feet high. Sometime before the 12th century, the
church of San Lorenzo in Miranda was built into the remains and, again, you
can see – due to the build-up
of trash – how the entrance
to that medieval church is higher than both the ancient and modern levels of
Turning your back on the
temple, you face the mound
where once stood the Regia. Practically nothing remains of it.
According to legend, King Numa Pompilius gave the site to Rome. It would
later come to be the residence
of the Pontifex Maximus, or chief priest.
Julius Caesar once held this office. It was most likely, however, not his
residence, but his office.
On the other side of the Regia (on a small branch road) is the House of
the Vestal Virgins. The college of the vestals consisted of six
priestesses, among whom were always one or two that were just children, but
never less than six years. Appointed by the Pontifex Maximus at the consent
of their parents, they had to remain in service for thirty years. They were
to guard the scared fire, tend to it and fetch water from a sacred spring on
the Appian Way.
Penalties for neglect were
sever, and included death by burial alive to the neck if one were to sin
against chastity. They received large dowries upon initiation and could
control their own finances. They were highly respected; they had places of
honor at public games and other events; and if a criminal were to see one as
he was on his way to his punishment, she could pardon him.
The building was very
spacious and well appointed for a home for only six people. In the
Christian era, it was converted to Imperial then Papal usage.
The round Temple of Vesta adjacent was of concrete surrounded at its
base by several layers of tufa blocks, almost 50 feet in diameter. It
suffered fire damage many times and was finally rebuilt in marble
(originally always of wood), but even at that, due to its use as the “home
for fire,” it was always subject to fires. The spaces between the columns
had bronze screening; the roof had a cupola with an opening to allow light
in and let the smoke out.
Vesta, goddess of the
hearth, was one of the most important figures in the oldest circle of the
Roman gods and continued to be a popular figure of worship into the latest
days of the empire, even after the victory of Christianity.
Inside, there was no statue
of the goddess. The Virgins tended to the sacred fire, which they renewed
every year at March 1 (the new year’s day of the Romans). Also inside was a
holy of holies wherein certain mysterious symbols and relics were kept as a
guarantee Roman power. Among them was the palladium which Aeneas was
thought to have rescued from the city of Troy.
Walk down the incline from the Temple of Vesta and take a
right to rejoin the Via
Sacra. Precisely on this juncture is the Temple of Divus Julius.
What remains is a large
concrete core with a semi-circular niche. In 1898, a large roundish mound
was discovered in this niche. In late antiquity the niche was closed off,
maybe by the post-Constantine Christians who may have been compelled to
preserve the temple of the first Emperor, yet discourage the pagan worship
of him. This may of may not have worked, for now look inside the niche and
note the roses placed on the mound, apparently in honor of Caesar.
Facing the Temple is the open space of the Forum. The travertine
pavement dates from relatively late imperial times. It shows a number of
holes probably intended as torch stanchions or posts for awnings. The first
recorded use of awnings was when Caesar used them during the gladiator
displays of 46 BC when he covered the Forum and the Via Sacra.
Beneath the Forum are
tunnels that run the length of the Forum and with four cross tunnels. At
the ends of the tunnels are large concrete slabs and holes in the vaulted
roofs that suggest that there was machinery once here, which operated
through the openings to the space above. These may date from early times
when games were held in the Forum, but were discontinued here after the
construction of the various amphitheaters and circuses.
Column of Phocas:
Near the middle of the open space of the Forum, this is the last monument
erected in the Forum. Dedicated in AD 608, the top of the column held, the
inscription tells us, “a dazzling golden statue of His Majesty our lord
Phocas, the eternal emperor, the triumphator crowned of God, in return for
the countless good deeds, for the establishing of peace n Italy, and for the
preservation of freedom.”
It seems, however, that Phocas was a mere centurion in the east when he
managed to kill off Emperor Mauricius and all five of his sons. But the
unique benefit of his reign is that before he was dis-posed of, he gave the
Pantheon to the church. It was promptly dedicated to the martyrs of
Christ, thus saving the structure from near certain destruction .
On the RIGHT, across the Via Sacra, is the Basilica Aemilia, built in
179 BC by the Aemilia family. Damaged by Aleric in AD 410, it was brought
back to life in 416 when it and the Basilica Julia (on the other side of the
open space) were restored. But by the 8th century the building
was basically in ruins that eventually attracted assorted builders in search
of building materials.
The basilica was of a two
story portico similar to that of the opposite Basilica Julia, and like it,
had three parts, Vestibule, the tabernae, and the main hall, the main
entrance to which seems to have faced the Curia or Senate building. The
form and name of these buildings eventually migrated to the papal basilicas
of the Medieval and Renaissance eras.
The marble floor is marked
with the stains and imprints of coins melted during the conflagration of
Aleric’s sacking of Rome in 410. The restorers, however, did not replace
the damaged marble, but simply cover it over with a new layer, which no
doubt ended up in some renaissance dining room.
The Basilica Julia is on the other side of the open space of
the Forum. Begun in 54 BC, it was dedicated by Caesar in 46 BC. It was
restored several times. It also suffered at the hands of the Goths in AD
410. As we can see, not
much is left. In the 15th and 16th
centuries, the site was owned by the Hospital of the Consolazione, which
consoled itself with income from renting the basilica to builders looking
for marble and travertine.
The facades were two stories
of pillars with simple Doric capitals. The vesti-bule ran along side the
Via Sacra. The pillars stubs now visible are modern estimations. Near
these are two bases with inscriptions: opus Polycliti and opus
Timarchi. These date to Constantine’s time when art lovers would
ascribe the various masterworks around Rome to the most famous of Greek
sculptors in the hope of saving them from the Christians. Obviously it did
The Curia or Senate Building is the large red brick building that
looks like a school house. It consisted of a large assemble room at the
front and the secretarium senatus where the Senate would meet in
Commissioned by Caesar, he
did not see its completion, as of course he was assassinated in the
temporary Senate at the back of the Theater of Pompey in the Campus Martius.
This building was restored by Domitium and rebuilt to its current size by
Diocletian who dedicated it in the jubilee of his reign, AD 303.
The building was again
restored after the siege of Aleric in 410 when the whole north side of the
Forum burned. After the fall of the Western Empire, the interior was
converted to the church of S. Adriano, and to it, we owe the building’s
survival. It was restored many times after antiquity, and each time the
level of the door was adjusted to accommodate the rising level of rubbish
that continuously raised the level of the Forum floor.
The original doors of the
Curia were in place into the Renaissance when they were removed to the
central portal of the Basilica of St. John in Lateran, where they can be
seen today. The building looks quite austere now. Probably another reason
it was spared by the Christians; it simply did not look like a pagan temple
– which of course it was not. It looks rather like a warehouse.
Now descend the stairs of the Curia. You will be then standing in the
Comitium. This was essentially an open circle where the Roman populace
gathered outside the Senate to vote and hear senatorial proclamations.
Look beyond the Comitum and
past the Arch of Septimius Severus. There is a large platform that
faces the open space of the Forum. This is the Rostra.
In ancient times the Rostra 78 feet long and decorated on the front with the
bronze beaks of captured enemy ships (rostra means beaks). The holes
for mounting these can still be seen. It was of course covered in marble,
tufa on the inside. In the rear was a row of five columns topped with
statues. A broad staircase led up to the back of the platform but only a
narrow interruption of the front balustrade allowed access from the floor of
The stage itself was large, so it was not
only a speaker’s platform but also a dais for the emperor and other
dignitaries. This is not precisely the scene of Marc Antony’s funeral
oration for the dead Caesar because the Rostra was moved since (under
Augustus) to where it is now.
The Arch of Septimius Severus was erected by the Senate upon the
emperor’s decennalia, or tenth anniversary of his ascension. The
excellent state of preservation of the arch may owe to its having shared
ownership in the middle ages when the southern half was the property of
neighboring church of S.S. Sergio e Bacco, while the northern became
fortifications for a local baron.
In antiquity, the arch
was not exposed to ordinary street traffic – it was approachable by steps –
but it was apparently accessible during the Triumphal marches that would
have then continued left on up the Capitoline Hill.
Behind the Rostra, is the Temple of Saturn. (These eight smooth
granite columns upon a travertine foundation form the image in the artwork
for this DVD case). Originally dedicated in 498 BC, the operating festival,
the Saturnalia in late December, was the greatest and most popular festivals
of Ancient Rome. With its demise in Christian times, the great festival
would give its heritage to the greatest festival of modern Rome … Christmas.
Restored in 42 BC, it was
also – from Republican times – the State Treasury. It was used as such even
after the fall of the pagan gods. The cella was standing unmolested until
the 1400’s when it fell to architectural vandalism.
The inscription on the architrave reads: SENATUS POPULUSQUE ROMANUS INCENDIO
CONSUMPTIUM RESTITUIT (“The Senate and the People of Rome (SPQR) Restored
after being destroyed by fire”).
The Clivus Capitolinus (Capitoline Incline) climbs in front of the
substructure of the Tabularium. This was the official archives of
the ancient city. It is now the foundation for the City Hall of
Just in front of the
Tabularium was the Temple of Concord. It in fact backed right up to
the Tabularium. Ancient writers, such as Pliny, speak of the fact that the
Temple of Concord was a veritable museum of art by some of the greatest
sculptors and painters of Greece and Rome. It is all gone now.
Continue up the Clivus Capitolinus till you arrive at a gated exit.
Walking through it and turning RIGHT will bring you in a few steps to the
overlook of Capitoline Hill, the citadel of ancient Rome. Photos
from here will probably give you the Roman Forum’s most typical view.
Directly behind you is a slight incline. As you walk it, the building on
the left is where once stood
the Temple of Jupiter. Started by Rome's fifth
– there is nothing left of it today
– it was one of the largest and the most beautiful temples in the
12. THE CAPITOLINE HILL
Pass under the archway to enter the famous Piazza del Campidoglio,
designed by Michelangelo.
The Capitoline Hill (Latin:
Mons Capitolinus), is one of the most famous and highest of the
The role of the hill
in city legend is linked with the recovery during the regal period of a
human skull when foundation trenches were being dug for the
Temple of Jupiter.
The word for head in Latin is caput, thus Capitoline. Our
English word capitol derives from Capitoline.
When the Gauls raided
the Capitoline was the one section of the city where the Roman defenders
successfully evaded capture.
When Caesar suffered
an accident climbing the hill during his
– some thinking it indicated the wrath of Jupiter for his actions in the
– he continued up the hill to Jupiter's temple on his knees as a way of
At center of Piazza del Campidoglio (as Romans started to call the
Capitoline by the 16th century), is a copy of the only surviving
bronze eques-trian statue in Rome. It is of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
The restored original is now safely in one the two museums on either side.
These are not on the Rome
archeological card, but it is highly recommended that you buy a
ticket. It gets you into
both buildings, plus access to the underground ruins
of the third building –
behind the equestrian
statue. This is in fact Rome’s current City Hall; it sits on top of the
ancient Tabularium, or Ancient Rome’s Archives Building.
In the middle ages,
the hill’s sacred function was obscured by its other role as the center of
the civic government of Rome, revived as a
The city's government was then firmly under papal control, but it would in
1870 become the main civic center of a free and united Italy.
existing design was created by
It was commissioned by
Pope Paul III,
who wanted a symbol of the new Rome to impress
Charles V, Holy Roman
Emperor (who was expected in
The Cordonata (the main approach stairway) was built wide enough for Charles
to ride his horse up the hill without dismounting.
With the Cordonata, Michelangelo effectively reversed the classical
orientation of the Capitoline, turning Rome’s civic center to face away from
and instead toward Papal Rome.
Executing the design
was slow work. In fact, little was actually completed in Michelangelo's
lifetime (the Cordonata was not even in place when Emperor Charles arrived,
and the imperial party had to climb the slope from the Forum side). But
work continued and his design was finished in the
The distinctive paving was finished three centuries later.
In the middle stands the only equestrian bronze to have survived since
Antiquity, that of
the philosopher emperor. The only reason that this sculpture survived the
authorities of the Christian Church in the
is that it was thought to be a statue of Emperor
the Emperor of Rome who legalized Christianity. This is a copy of the
bronze original which is now in the adjacent Capitoline Museums.
new facades to the two official buildings of Rome's civic government, the
Conservatori and the
(now City Hall). He then added one more to give the piazza three sides.
The two palazzi on the either side of the statue are now the
Just to its left is a column
topped with a reproduction of the famous bronze She-Wolf that figures
into the legendary founding of the city in 753 BC.
along this side of City Hall, then
down a stairway accessing
various viewing levels
overlooking this end
of the Forum. At the lowest level, you will have excellent
close-up views of the
Arch of Septimius Severus.
Turn completely around. You
will be looking up at the façade of the Church of St Joseph.
It’s on the left side
of the access road. Notice
the church is elevated atop another building, the ancient Roman Mamertine
A Roman carcer (incarcerate), was where evil doers were placed after
arrest, but only until sentencing. Punishment by imprisonment was unknown
to the ancient Romans – you were either executed or exiled – which is why
this is the only prison of the ancient city.
But they did have a
tullianum, or subterranean dungeon where executions took place. While
the tullianum was obviously a frightful place, the carcer
itself was agreeable to the degree the prisoners seem to have had access to
reading materials and visits by friends and relatives. One well-known poet
is said to have written two plays in the carcer.
Go downstairs, then
down another level to visit
the chamber where it is purported that Vercingetorix the Gaul met his death
after being captured and brought to triumph by Caesar.
Christian legend has it also that St Peter
met his end here after miraculously calling forth water from the rock floor
to baptize his jailers, one of whom was called Martinianus – hence the name
Outside again, backtrack up
the stairs to the Capitoline Hill,
back to the column of the statue of the She-Wolf.
To the right there is
a broad stairway going up. You may also see a little sign indicating “aracoeli.”
Follow this enticing stairway to the back entrance of
Santa Maria in
Maria in Aracoeli:
Dating from the 7th
century, it was built where once stood the Temple of Juno Moneta, also the
mint of ancient Rome. In fact, moneta gives us the English word “monetary.”
Use the back entrance to get in.
Santa Maria in
Aracoeli (Our Lady of the Altar of Heaven) is the
church here in
that is designated as Church of the Italian Senate and the Roman people (Senatus
Populusque Romanus). Relics of
Constantine the Great
are housed here.
Originally the church
was Santa Maria in Capitolo, since it was on the
it had been renamed. According to a medieval legend sited in a
mid-12th-century guide to Rome,
Mirabilia Urbis Romae,
it was claimed that the church was built over an
Ara primogeniti Dei, or the place where the
prophesied to Augustus the coming of the
The Stolen Santo:
The church was also famous in Rome for the wooden statue of the infant Jesus
(Santo Bambino), carved in the
of olive wood coming from the
garden. Many people of Rome believed in the power of this statue. The
statue was stolen in February
and never recovered. Nowadays, a copy is present in the church. It is
housed in its own chapel by the sacristy. At midnight Mass on
the image is brought out to a throne before the high altar and unveiled at
the jewel-encrusted image resides in a Nativity crib in the left nave.
The unfinished façade has lost the mosaics and subsequent frescoes that
partially decorated it (save a mosaic in the
of the main door.) The
window is the main detail that tourist can see from the bottom of the
stairs, and it is really the only Gothic detail of the church.
Leave the church through the front. There you will find a stairway that
almost literally falls down into the Piazza Venezia. In the Middle
Ages, condemned criminals were executed at the foot of these steps.
13. Piazza Venezia & Trajan’s forum
The Piazza Venezia
is at the foot of the
and is dominated by the imposing
Victor Emmanuel II
monument. The piazza is also the traffic
Rome; it has a constant stream of traffic,
yet no traffic lights. Instead, a white gloved traffic police officer
stands on a block and directs traffic.
of Victor Emmanuel II:
Also known as "Il Vittoriano," it
the first king of a unified Italy. It was designed by
and completed in
It features pure white
of Victor Emmanuel and two statues of goddess
Also here is the
Tomb of the
Unknown Soldier (with an
built under the Statue of Italy after
World War I.
The building it was
controversial since its builders had to destroy a large area of the
Capitoline Hill. The monument is clearly visible to most of the city of
Rome despite being boxy in general shape and lacking a dome or a tower. But
it is mostly regarded as pompous and too large. It is also
glaringly white, making it highly conspicuous amidst the generally brownish
buildings surrounding it.
Romans refer to it by
a variety of irreverent slang expressions, such as "Zuppa
Inglese" (the wedding cake), and "the false
teeth." Americans liberating Rome in 1944 labeled it "the typewriter," a
nickname also adopted by the locals.
With your back to the
monument, on the left side of
Piazza Venezia is the Palazzo Venezia, the central window of which,
on the second floor, is where fascist dictator Benito Mussolini used to
address his supporters.
With your back to the
monument, walking a few steps right
will give you a view of Trajan’s column. The column was part of the
Trajan forum, the largest of the imperial forums. If you cross the
street you will be able to look down into the remains of the forum.
This forum is chronologically the last of the
It was constructed by
Damascus, an engineer who had also
accompanied Emperor Trajan in his Dacian campaign.
The forum was built on
the order of
with the spoils of war from that conquest of
which ended in AD
To build this monumental complex, extensive excavations were required:
workers eliminated the sides of both the
Hills. Several other projects took place simultaneously, including the
Markets of Trajan.
The brickwork that curves with the hill above
the forum is what is left of the Trajan’s Market, a complex of
buildings that was probably the world’s first shopping mall.
The forum was built
around a vast
measuring 660 by 390 feet with curved
on two sides. The main entrance to the forum was on the southern side, a
triumphal arch surmounted by a statue of Trajan in a six-horse chariot. The
lies at the north end of the piazza (near where the
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Ristorante Ulpia is today), and was
cobbled with rectangular blocks of white
and decorated by a large equestrian statue of Trajan.
North of the Basilica
was a smaller piazza, with a temple dedicated to the deified Trajan on the
far north side. Directly north of the Basilica Ulpia on either side of the
forum were two libraries, one housing Latin documents and the other Greek.
Between the libraries was the 125-foot
we see today.
Created as freestanding commemoration of
victory in the
the column is 98 feet in height (125 feet when including its large
pedestal). The shaft is made from a series of 20 colossal
marble drums, each weighing about 40 tons, with a diameter of about 13
feet. The 625 foot frieze winds around the shaft 23 times. Inside the
shaft, a spiral staircase of 185 stairs provides access to a viewing
platform at the top (no longer open).
According to coins
depicting the column, it was topped by a heroic nude statue of Trajan
himself. It disappeared in the Middle Ages. In
it was replaced by a statue of
(which still remains).
After Trajan's death
voted to have his ashes buried in the column's square base (which is
decorated with captured
arms and armor). His ashes and those of his wife,
were placed inside it in
urns. The urns and ashes remain missing.
Inscription at the
base of the column:
Senate and people of
Rome dedicate this to the Emperor Caesar,
son of the divine
Nerva Traianus Augustus Germanicus Dacicus,
in his 17th year in the office of
having been acclaimed 6 times as
to demonstrate of what great height the hill was removed for such great
It was traditionally thought that the column was a propagandistic monument,
glorifying the emperor's military exploits. However, the structure would
have been generally invisible and surrounded by other buildings in
Because of the difficulty involved in following the frieze from end to end,
it is now considered to have had much less propaganda value.
In the mid-4th
while visiting Rome, was amazed by the sheer beauty of the complex. For
centuries, in fact, Trajan’s Forum and Market was the equivalent
of a modern tourist attraction.
Right there overlooking the
Trajan Forum is the:
Here since 1880. Address:
Now trace your way back across
the front of the white monument. Just before the steep stairway to the
Aracoeli on your left, take a
moment to view the red-brick ruins of an ancient multi-storied tenement
Walk past the steep stairway
and stop for a moment to
admire the elegant processional stairway, the Cordonata by Michelangelo that
ascends to his Piazza del Campidoglio.
14. THEATER OF MARCELLUS
& THE GHETTO
Turn around and cross the
street at the base of the Campidoglio and go
down the hill to the
left till you reach the
Theater of Marcellus.
but halted after he was murdered, the theater was finished in 13 BC by
and named after his deceased nephew, Marcus Marcellus.
The Theater of Marcellus could hold about 11,000 spectators. It
was built mainly of
brickwork and completely sheathed in
It was an impressive example of what was to become one of the most
pervasive urban architectural forms of the Roman world. It was
also the inspiration for the Coliseum. In fact, you can see how
putting two of these together gives us the Coliseum.
Like other Roman
theaters in suitable locations, it had openings through which the natural
setting could be seen, in this case the
to the southwest.
Early Middle Ages
the theater was used as a
family and then at the end of the 11th century, by
and later his heirs. Later, in the 16th century, the residence of the
clan was built atop the ruins.
The upper portion is still
divided into apartments. Romans still live in it;
you cannot enter, but you can enter its archeological zone, which
becomes a venue for intimate concerts in the summer.
Walk into the theater’s archeological zone. With its arches
continue until you see
another ruin, the Portico of Octavia, built some time after
by Caesar Augustus in honor of his sister.
In the medieval era, the Portico was reused as a
it lasted to the end of 19th century. This role is remembered by the name
of the nearby church of
Pescheria (St. Angelo in the Fish
Keep walking; you will see a ramp.
Follow it up to the
Rome’s famous Ghetto where the city’s medieval Jews used to be sequestered
and where Jews still live to
The Jewish Ghetto:
An early Papal order segregated the city’s
(who had lived freely in Rome since Antiquity) in a walled quarter with
three gates that were locked at night. It also subjected them to various
restrictions and abuses on their personal freedoms – although all of such
was to a much lesser degree than in other
countries of the period – but also to compulsory Catholic sermons
The Ghetto had three
objectives: Firstly to protect Christians from too close an association with
persons of a different religion; but also to protect the Jews from mobs or
hooligans. And finally, the ghetto was welcomed by some Jews as it
protected the community from the drain which surely follows assimilation.
the Ghetto was legally abolished, and a “tree of Freedom” was planted in
Piazza delle Scole. But it was reinstated as soon as the Papacy regained
control. Again, in
the brief revolution,
the Ghetto was abolished once more. But again, only temporarily.
The requirement that
Jews live within the Ghetto was finally abolished when the last remnant of
was overthrown on September 20, 1870. The city was able to tear down the
Ghetto's walls in
and demolish it almost completely until the area was reconstructed around
Today the Ghetto is one of the Rome's most charming and eclectic
neighborhoods where restaurants serve up Jewish specialties like fried
("Carciofi alla giudìa"). In fact, why not have lunch right here.
There are several kosher restaurants lining the north side of Via del
Via del Portico di Ottavia, 8.
+39 (06) 688-09-771
Or at the:
Via del Portico di Ottavia,
Or perhaps just a
snack and coffee at:
Better known as the Ghetto Bakery.
if you would care for an extended tour of the Ghetto or Jewish Rome in
general, you can contact:
Telephone: +39 (06)
339.705.9603 or 339-884-0529.
backtrack along Via del
Portico. It will bend to the right
where, on the river, is the Great Synagogue of Rome. Entrance to the
synagogue and its adjacent museum is on the side facing the river.
Great Synagogue: The largest in
it was constructed shortly after the
unification of Italy
Kingdom of Italy
regime (which had backed the
Victor Emmanuel II
the synagogue was built (1901
right on the
and overlooking the former ghetto. The eclectic style of the building –
standing out even in a city known for notable buildings and structures – was
a deliberate choice by the community leaders who at the time wanted the
building to be a visible celebration of their freedom and to be seen from
many vantage points in the city. The
does that; it is the only squared dome in the city and makes the building
easily identifiable even from a distance.
A Papal Visit:
Pope John Paul II
made an unexpected visit to the Great Synagogue. This event marked the
first known visit by a
to a synagogue since the early history of the
Roman Catholic Church.
He prayed with
the former Chief Rabbi of Rome.
The synagogue celebrated its centenary in
In addition to serving as a house of worship, it is also a cultural and
social center for the Jewish community of Rome. Plus it houses the offices
Chief Rabbi of Rome
as well as the
Jewish Museum of Rome.
THE ISLAND OF THE TIBER & SANTA MARIC IN TRASTEVERE
From the domed synagogue
cross the street to the river
where you will see the bridge that accesses the only island of the Tiber.
This is a good place to stop for Italian gelato before
crossing the next bridge.
When you do cross, you will be in Trastevere, which means “across the
(753-509 BC), the area across the Tiber belonged to the
it was called Ripa Etrusca (Etruscan bank). Rome conquered it to
gain control of, and access to, the river from both banks, but was not
interested in building on that side of the river. In fact, for a long
time the only connection between Trastevere and the
rest of the city was a small wooden bridge, the
("bridge built on piles").
By the time of the
the number of sailors and fishermen making a living from the river had
increased, and many had taken up residence in Trastevere. Immigrants from
the East also settled there, mainly
and Egyptians. Cleopatra was living here when Caesar was assassinated.
The Imperial Period:
The area began to be considered part of the city under
who divided Rome into
modern Trastevere was the XIV and was called Trans Tiberim. The area
really became part of the city when
(270–275) included Trastevere and the Vatican hill within his new protective
With the wealth of the Imperial Age, several important social and political
figures started to build their
Trastevere had narrow, winding streets which had no pavement until the time
at the end of the 1400s.
Nowadays, Trastevere maintains its character thanks precisely to those
narrow and cobbled streets lined with medieval houses. At night both
Italians and foreigners flock to its pubs and restaurants, and it continues
to attract artists, expats, and many famous people.
John Cabot University
(a private American University) is here, as also the
American Academy in
Rome and the Rome campus of the
Thomas More College
of Liberal Arts.
After crossing the bridge from the Tiber Island,
cross the very busy street.
Then, veering slightly to
your right, continue a path
perpendicular to the river until you hit Via della Lungaretta.
Take your right and walk to
Viale Trastevere. You are now in Piazza Soninno; running through it
are trolley tracks. Remember these because you will be returning here.
Cross these tracks and walk
about 5 or 6 blocks to a large piazza, at the end of which is the
Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Basilica of Santa Maria in
Trastevere: Dating to the 4th century, this is one of the
very oldest churches in Rome. Its design is of the old Roman basilica form,
meaning that it has a tall central hall and shorter ones on either side.
authentic Roman basilica was a law court, not a religious building.
Where today you see a Christian altar, in Roman times, this is where the
A Christian house-church was founded here about 220 by Pope Callixtus I
(217-222) on the site of an asylum for retired soldiers. Though nothing
remains to establish with certainty where any public Christian edifices of
Rome were before the time of
Constantine the Great,
a basilica on this site
was known as Titulus Callisti, and legend has
it that the earliest church here was founded by
Pope Callixtus I.
His remains are under the
church, rebuilt by
Pope Innocent II
(1138 –1148) and rededicated to the Virgin, preserves its original basilica
plan. The 22 granite columns that separate the nave from the aisles are
from the ruins of the
Baths of Caracalla.
The church boasts late 13th-century mosaics by
on the subject of the Life of the Virgin (1291). Domenichino's
octagonal ceiling painting, Assumption of the Virgin (1617) is in the
The façade of the church was restored in
when an ancient porch and sloping tiled roof were replaced with the present
arrangement. The octagonal fountain in the piazza in front of the church
was restored in 1702.
Stepping out the front
take your left, walk
to the end of the building and take another
and then a quick right.
This will put you on Vicolo del Piede,
where at number two, there is:
Hotel Santa Maria.
Vicolo del Piede, 2.
Telephone: +39 (06)
589-4626. Rooms: 50 to 500 Euro.
For eating, try:
Piazza de Renzi, 15. With
your back to the church, take the little street leading off the piazza.
Continue to Via della Pelliccia and take a right.
Two steps ahead is Piazza de Renzi.
Via della Lungaretta again – on
your way back toward Viale
Trastevere – on your right,
you will find:
Ristorante Bruno alla Lungaretta.
Via della Lungaretta, 68.
Backtrack now all the way
back to the trolley tracks on
Viale Trastevere. Cross the
street and wait for the green tram.
It will take you over the bridge and terminate at Largo di Torre
LARGO DI TORRE ARGENTINA & THE CRYPTA BALBI
Largo di Torre Argentina:
Located in the ancient
the Largo hosts four
Roman temples (the remains of
are also nearby). Note the level of temples,
indicating the level of the city in Republican times.
name of the square comes from the Torre Argentina (at the corner).
it was decided to reconstruct this part of Rome. During demolishing,
however, in 1927, the colossal head and arms of a
marble statue were discovered. Subsequent
archeological investigation brought to light the four Republican-era
The temples –
designated as A, B, C, and D – front onto an
ancient paved street. The street was reconstructed in the Imperial era
after the fire of AD
The area was delineated to the North by the
Baths of Agrippa,
and to the South by the buildings related to the Circus Flaminius. To the
East there was a great porched square; to the West, the Theater of Pompey
where Caesar was assassinated.
Built in the
3rd century BC,
it is probably the Temple of
It was later rebuilt into a church, whose apse is still present.
A circular with six columns remaining, it was built by
to celebrate his
over Cimbri and was devoted to the goddess of "Luck of the Current Day."
The colossal statue found during excavations (now in the
was of the goddess herself.
This is the most ancient of the three. Dating to
3rd century BC,
it was probably devoted to an ancient
goddess of fertility.
The largest but only partly excavated, it dates to the
2nd century BC
with Late Republican restorations. It was devoted to
and theater is located in the square on the side where the tram ends. The
premieres of many operas took place there, including
The Barber of Seville
I due Foscari
La battaglia di
The Cat Sanctuary: At the
corner where the tram enters the square, there is a stairway that descends –
if you haven’t noticed the cats already
– to the Torre Argentina Cat
Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter for homeless cats. The presence of the
shelter is a point of interest for both tourists and locals, as the area
abounds with various breeds of cat, cavorting and lounging about on the
Volunteers at the shelter give daily tours of the ruins at 5:00 PM.
Although the tours are free, a small donation to the shelter is encouraged,
as they do not get any government funding and run strictly on donations.
There is also an important
Crypta Balbi. Via d. Botteghe
Oscure, 31. A didactic museum, use your
ROME ARCHEOLOGICAL CARD.
The Crypta Balbi:
The museum traces the evolution of ancient Rome to present day. In
particular, it explains why the Republican temples in Largo Argentina, are
now 12 feet below our feet.
To get there: as you as
face the sign of the Cat
Sanctuary, you would also be looking down Via delle Botteghe Oscure.
The museum is about a block and a half on the
In 1981, digging on a derelict site in the old
between the churches of
Santa Caterina dei
San Stanislao dei
Polacchi, an archeological team
discovered the colonnaded Theater of
Balbus and other nearby
The Basement: Here view
the archaeological remains in situ, which
are usually open to self-guided tours or guided tours by a member of museum
The Ground Floor: The “Archaeology
and History of an Urban Landscape” section presents the results of the 1981
excavations, and puts them in the context of the area’s history. With the
remains from the site itself, this section also tells of the Monastero di
Santa Maria Domine Rose (begun nearby in the 8th century), of medieval
merchants' and craftsmen's homes, and of the Conservatorio di Santa
Caterina dei Funari (built in the mid-16th century by
Ignatius of Loyola
to house the daughters of Roman prostitutes).
The First Floor: Here a
section called "Rome from Antiquity to the Middle Ages" illustrates in
remarkable clarity the life and transformations of Rome as a whole between
the 5th and 10th centuries AD.
Now go back to the Cat Sanctuary. Cross the tracks and take a
left. Go one block to the
very pleasant Piazza Cairoli.
I ask you. Have you ever
heard of “dolce far niente?” In Italian, it means “the sweetness of doing
nothing.” Try it out right here in this little park dedicated to Benedetto
Cairoli, one of the heroes of Italian unification.
17. CAMPO DE’ FIORI & THE
Getting up finally, proceed up Via de Giubbonari. In less than five
minutes, after passing a great variety of shops and cafes you will find
yourself in the Campo de Fiori, which translated from
means "field of
Campo de Fiori:
The name dates from the
when the area was a
of flowers, but in fact, today, a whole lot of flowers are sold here every
day in the very pleasant daily market.
the area was an unused space between
and the flood-prone
family established itself on the south flank of the area in the 13th
century, the area remained undeveloped well into the 15th century. The
first church in the immediate vicinity rose during the pontificate of
. This is now
a Campo de Fiori, in what is today the
The demolition of housing in 1858
enlarged Campo de Fiori, and since
there has been a vegetable and fish market here every morning. The ancient
fountain "la Terrina" (the "soup bowl") that once watered cattle,
repositioned in 1889, now keeps the flowers fresh. Its inscription: FA DEL
BEN E LASSA DIRE ("Do well and let them talk") suits the gossipy nature of
the marketplace by day and perhaps by night also, when the Campo is
transformed into a popular meeting place for young people, both Italian and
Middle Ages and
this period the Campo was the scene of public executions. Here, on 17
February 1600, the philosopher
was burnt alive by the
because his ideas were deemed dangerous. In 1887,
dedicated a monument to him on the exact spot of his death: he stands
defiantly facing the Vatican. On every anniversary of that crime, the
statue is decked with thousands of flowers.
near Naples) Bruno was a
known for his
system of mnemonics
He was an early believer in an infinite and homogeneous universe.
he left Naples to avoid the attention of the
for the same reason and then abandoned the Dominican order and traveled to
where he briefly joined the
Disappointed by Calvinist intolerance, he left for
and then continued to travel for many years until returning to Rome where he
was imprisoned for seven years during a lengthy trial. Some important
documents about the trial are lost, but others are preserved, among them a
summary of the proceedings, discovered in 1940. The numerous
charges against Bruno, based on some of his books as well as on witness
accounts, included blasphemy, immoral conduct, heresy in matters of dogmatic
theology, and dangerous philosophical and cosmological notions.
During his trail,
Bruno held firm to his beliefs, and although strongly urged to abandon them,
he refused. He appealed to
Pope Clement VIII.
The Pope favored of a guilty verdict and Bruno was declared a
He was delivered to secular authorities on
He was said to have listened to their verdict on his knees, but then stood
up and said: "I think you, my judges, pronounce this sentence against me
with greater fear than I receive it."
he was brought to the
Campo de' Fiori.
His tongue was
he was tied to a pole naked and
"I cleave the heavens, and
soar to the infinite. What others see from afar, I leave far behind me." --
While face to face with Signor Bruno, look
right and follow Via dei
Baullari one block up to the great square in front of the Palazzo Farnese.
palace and currently the
according to some, this imposing
Antonio da Sangallo
the Younger (one of
assistants in the design of
is the finest of all 16th century Italian palaces. Commissioned
construction was interrupted by the
Sack of Rome in 1527.
When in 1534 Cardinal Alessandro was made Pope (Paul
III) he had
complete the third story with its deep cornice. He also revised the
The massive facade dominates the small
Farnese, its memorable features being the alternating pediments that cap the
windows of the
the central rusticated portal and Michelangelo's projecting
Michelangelo revised the central window when the cardinal became pope,
adding an architrave to support the largest coat-of-arms with papal tiara
that Rome had ever seen. When Paul stepped to the balcony, it was said the
entire facade became his own personal stage set.
Several main rooms are decorated with elaborate
The Loves of the Gods,
the most famous by
(1900), set in
confrontation with the malevolent
Chief of Police,
Scarpia, takes place in Palazzo Farnese. The
purchased it in 1874.
The building is accessible
but the hours vary; ask for information at the door.
Backtrack on Via dei Baullari. Stop to eat; you will find better food here
in these restaurants than in the Campo itself, and the shaded street is a
blessing. At the Hostaria Farnese, try a pizza margherita or the
spaghetti vongole, spaghetti with clams:
Cross in front of the statue in Campo de
Fiori. Continue until you arrive at the main street, Corso Vittorio
18. PIAZZA NAVONA, THE
PANTHEON & THE TEMPLE OF HADRIAN
Cross Corso Vittorio
Emanuele to the small Piazza di Pantaleo. Veer slightly
right onto a very narrow and
shaded street. With the brightness of open space looming ahead, you will
wonder where you are headed. When you get there, welcome to one of the most
beautiful public spaces in Italy.
Notice its elongated shape. Piazza Navona follows the plan of an ancient
where Romans came to watch the agones ("games"). Today's name
appears to stem
from the corruption of the latter in in agone,
then nagone and navona (which actually means "big ship" in
Defined as a square in
the last years of
when the city market moved here from the
Piazza Navona is now the pride of
Rome. It has sculptural and architectural creations by
Gian Lorenzo Bernini
(the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers in the center),
(the church of
Sant'Agnese in Agone,
facing Bernini’s fountain).
Piazza Navona contains
two additional fountains sculpted by
Giacomo della Porta.
Fontana di Nettuno
is located at the northern area of Piazza Navona; his
Fontana del Moro
is located at the southern end.
The market moved again
Campo de' Fiori,
but the square has also a role in housing theatrical and costume shows,
horse races, buffalo jousts.
Walk north all the way to the
other end of the piazza. Then just outside the perimeter, you will find a
section of building cut away so you can actually look down into the remains
of the ancient Stadium of Domitian.
Return to the central fountain of Piazza Navona and exit
Keep going to Corso
Rinascimento. Cross and
go left then a quick
right on Via del Salvatore.
Proceed to cross one street
and continue on Via Giustiniani. Take your next
Walk one more block and will
have your first look at the Pantheon, the oldest continuously
occupied building of ancient Rome.
The Pantheon (meaning "Temple of all the Gods") was originally built to
celebrate the seven
of the seven
in the Roman
It is the best preserved of all Roman buildings, and
– in continuous use throughout its history
– it might be the best preserved building of its age in the world.
Although the identity of the Pantheon's primary architect remains uncertain,
it is widely assigned to
(although some think that Hadrian himself designed it).
An earlier temple was erected here in 31 BC by Marcus
in commemoration of Augustus’s victory over Marc Antony at the
Battle of Actium.
Agrippa's building was destroyed along with other buildings in a huge fire
in 80 AD. The current building dates from 125 AD, during the reign of the
(as date-stamped bricks reveal).
Upon completion, the original inscription of the Agrippan temple was re-used
for the new building. "M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT."
"Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, built during his third consulate."
Emperor Hadrian was a cosmopolitan who traveled widely and was a great
admirer of Greek culture. He seems to have intended the Pantheon, his
temple to all the gods, as an
gesture to the subjects of the
who did not worship the old gods of Rome, or who (as was increasingly the
case) worshipped them under other names. The building was also often used
as a court of law, similar to how basilicas were used.
The Christian Era:
gave the Pantheon to
Pope Boniface IV,
who re-consecrated it as a church called the Church of
and all the
Thus consecrated, it was spared from the abandonment and spoliation which
befell the majority of ancient Rome's buildings during the early
period. But much fine external marble was removed in the course of the
centuries; capitals from some of the
are said to now be in the
Some of the
interior survives, as also the great
doors, which are restored.
the Pantheon has been used as a
Among those buried there are the
the Pantheon was adorned with paintings: the best-known is the
Melozzo da Forlì.
Architects through the centuries came to the Pantheon for inspiration, as
when designing his dome for the
Cathedral of Florence's.
Urban VIII (died
1644) ordered the bronze ceiling of the Pantheon's portico melted down.
Some of the bronze went to make
for the fortification of
It is also said that Bernini used some of the bronze for his famous
above the high
St. Peter's Basilica.
According to some, however, the papal records show that about 90% of the
bronze was used for the cannon, and that the bronze for the baldachin came
Nevertheless, contemporary Roman wags duly coined the famous quip: Quod
non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini. Translation: "What the
barbarians did not do, the
did.” Urban’s family name was Barberini.
Also buried there are
two kings of
Vittorio Emanuele II
as well as Umberto's Queen, Margherita.
The Pantheon is still
are still celebrated here, particularly on important Catholic days of
obligation, and for weddings.
As you enter, push an inch or so on one of the huge bronze doors. First
hung almost 2000 years ago, and yet, how easily they move!
The 5000 tons of the concrete dome radiate downward from the 30-foot
diameter of the oculus. The downward thrust of the dome is carried down by
in the 21-foot thick drum wall. The thickness of the
dome varies from 21 feet at the base of the dome to
4 feet around the oculus. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the
interior are the same, 142 feet, so the whole interior would fit exactly
within a cube. The dome was the largest in the world until
when the 46-meter dome of the
St. Blaise Abbey
in France was finished. The Pantheon still holds the record as the largest
un-reinforced concrete dome in the history of architecture.
The interior of the
dome was probably meant to symbolize the arched vault of the heavens.
It has sunken
which originally contained bronze star ornaments. This coffering was not
only decorative, however; it also reduced the weight of the roof, as did the
elimination of the
by means of the oculus.
The Great Eye at the
dome's apex is the sole source of light and is symbolic of the
The oculus also serves as a cooling and ventilation method. As wind passes
over the dome, it accelerates and creates a negative pressure zone called
This pulls air out the top of the dome, drawing more air in from the portico
entrance. When it rains, of course, the water falls straight through the
oculus. The floor has tiny holes in it to let the water escape.
Exit to the Piazza Rotonda. Buy an espresso or
something to eat at any of the outdoor cafés on the piazza
– there’s even a McDonalds –
and sit back to savor the proportions of this, one of the most copied
buildings in the world.
As the best-preserved example of monumental
the Pantheon was enormously influential on European and American architects
from the Renaissance, starting with
42-meter dome of
Santa Maria del Fiore
(the first sizeable dome to be constructed in Europe after antiquity). The
Pantheon’s influence can also be detected in the 18th to 20th
centuries: thousands of
around the world echo its portico-and-dome structure.
An alternate path here to the Pantheon would have been to exit
right from the top of
Piazza Navona. From there at the Piazza delle Cinque Lune (the
five moons), go under the arch.
Just to your
left is the church of St.
Augustine where inside you will find Caravaggio’s famous painting
of the Madonna di Loreto.
A fine, plain work of early Renaissance style, this was one of the first
Roman churches built during the
Archbishop of Rouen
and Papal Chancellor, the facade was raised in
The most famous work of art presently in the church is the
Madonna di Loreto,
The church also contains a
Guercino canvas of St
Augustine, John the Evangelist and Hyeronimus; a
of Prophet Isaiah by
and the statues of Madonna, one by
and another by his pupil,
Once noted for the
number of courtesans and prostitutes in its congregation, the church today
boasts the tomb of
and that of one Fiammetta, lover of
Outside again, take your left
walk along Via delle Coppelle for
two blocks then take a
right. In a minute or so,
you arrive at the Pantheon.
PANTHEON: With your back to the Pantheon:
leave Piazza della Rotonda to your
right on Via dei Pastini. It will take you
shortly to Piazza di Pietra.
Here you cannot miss the
city’s Stock Exchange (or Borsa). It was built into the remains of the
temple of the deified Emperor Hadrian, the giant columns of which are still
here and seem to jump out at you.
Temple to the
in today’s, it was built by Hadrian’s adoptive son and successor
One wall of the
survives, with 11 of the 50-foot
from the external colonnade. The fixing holes for its original marble
covering can still be seen. This side, along with the
(reconstructed after antiquity), was incorporated into a 17th century papal
now occupied by the city’s
Walk to the far end of Piazza di Pietra. Continue in the same direction on
Via di Pietra till you hit a major street Via del Corso.
Via del Corso:
Commonly known as the Corso, this is a major street running through the
historical center of
and is remarkable for being absolutely straight in an area characterized by
Wider than most streets in the center, it nonetheless has barely enough
room for two lanes of traffic and two narrow sidewalks.
The Corso runs in a
roughly north-south direction. In the north, it ends at
Piazza del Popolo;
on the southern end is the
With no major tourist attractions along the street itself, the nearby area
has them in abundance.
19. PIAZZA COLONNA, THE
TREVI FOUNTAIN & THE SPANISH STEPS.
From here, you have a choice to go either to the historically significant
Piazza Colonna or to the more popular Trevi Fountain.
If you choose to take in Piazza colonna, simply walk
left a couple of blocks up
Via del Corso. Stop when you see the imposing
the second of only two such columns in the city, the other being Trajan’s.
The piazza is named for the marble
here since AD 193. The statue of
that crowns it was mounted in 1589 by order of
Pope Sixtus V.
The original bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius is lost.
The Palazzo Chigi:
The north side of the piazza is taken up by
begun in 1562 by
Giacomo della Porta
and completed by
In 1916, it was bought by the Italian state and it became the seat of the
Minister for Colonial Affairs. In 1961, it became the official meeting
place of Council of Ministers whose
is the Prime Minister.
The piazza’s east side
is taken up, across the Corso, by the newly renovated mall, the Galleria
Colonna. On the south is Palazzo Ferraioli (formerly the Papal post office)
and a little church. The west end is taken up by Palazzo Wedekind (1838)
with a colonnade of Roman columns taken from
This palazzo is today occupied by the Roman news daily “Il Tempo.”
The fountain (1577)
was commissioned by
Pope Gregory XIII
Giacomo Della Porta
and has been copied in many sites in Rome and other Italian cities.
Backtrack two blocks on Via del Corso to Via di Petra, where you
cross Via del Corso and
continue on Via delle Muratte. In just two blocks or so, you arrive
at the Trevi Fountain.
The Trevi is the largest (85 feet high and 65 feet wide) and most ambitious
In 19 BC, supposedly with the help of a Vestal Virgin, the Marcus Agrippa
located a source of pure water some 8 miles from the city. This scene is
depicted on the fountain's facade.
This Aqua Vergine
duct originally fed the Baths of
It served Rome for more than four hundred years. The "coup de grace" for
the Aqua Vergine and the urban life of late classical Rome came when the
Goth besiegers in AD
538 broke the aqueducts. Medieval Romans
were then reduced to drawing water from polluted wells and the
River, also used as a sewer.
The old Roman custom of building a handsome fountain at the endpoint of
aqueducts that brought water to Rome was revived in the
of the 15th century. In 1453,
Pope Nicholas V
finished mending the Acqua Vergine aqueduct and built a simple basin,
designed by the humanist architect
Leon Battista Alberti,
to herald the water's arrival.
Finding this simple
basin insufficiently dramatic, in 1629
Pope Urban VIII
to sketch alternatives. When the Pope died the project was abandoned, but
Bernini's lasting contribution was his re-siting the fountain from the other
side of the square to face the
so the Pope could enjoy it better. This is how the current Salvi fountain
Competitions had become the rage during the
eras to design buildings, fountains, and even the
Pope Clement XII
organized such a contest in which
initially lost. Due to the outcry over the fact that a Florentine had won,
Salvi, a Roman, was awarded the commission anyway.
Work began in 1732,
and the fountain was completed in 1762, long after Clement's death, when
was set in the central niche.
Salvi died in 1751,
with his work half-finished, but was finished in 1762 by
Refurbished in 1998, all the stonework was scrubbed and the fountain
provided with re-circulating pumps.
The backdrop for the fountain is the
with a new facade of giant
that link the two main stories. Taming of the waters is the theme of a
gigantic scheme that tumbles out – mixing water and rockwork – as
guide Neptune's shell chariot into the small square.
illustrate the Roman origin of the aqueducts, with a Vestal Virgin pointing
out the spring to Marcus Agrippa.
Legend holds that throwing a
coin into the fountain ensures visitors a return to Rome. While the “three
coins” of the movie “Three
Coins in the Fountain”
were thrown by three different individuals, a current version is that where
two coins from one person ensure a marriage will soon occur, three coins
leads to a divorce. Another version holds that it is lucky to throw three
coins with one's right hand over one's left shoulder.
Another popular version is to instead by
a gelato and enjoy a bit of “dolce far niente.”
At any rate, some 3,000
Euros are collected from fountain each day. It subsidizes a supermarket for
Rome's needy. There are of course regular attempts to steal coins from the
fountain, using any number of methods, both ingenious and very simple.
Facing the fountain, leave it by walking along its
left side. This is Via
Poli. It crosses Via del Tritone and empties onto Via del
Bufalo. Go right. It
will curve to the
left. Continue for a minute
or so to the one of the most famous loitering venues in the western world
the Spanish Steps.
Steps: La Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti
climbs a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza
Trinità dei Monti above. The monumental stairway of 138 steps was built
when French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed funds in 1723–1725.
During Christmas a 19th-century crib is displayed on the first landing of
the staircase. In May, parts of the steps are covered by pots of
In modern times, the Spanish Steps have included a small cut-flower market.
The steps are not a place for eating lunch, however, as eating here is
forbidden by Roman urban regulations. The apartment that was the setting
The Roman Spring of
Mrs. Stone (1961) is halfway up on the
(1998) is also set in a house next to the steps.
La Fontana della
Barcaccia ("Fountain of the Old Boat")
was built in 1627-29 and often credited to Pietro Bernini, father of a more
Gian Lorenzo Bernini
(said to have collaborated on the decoration). The elder Bernini had been
the pope's architect for the
At the corner of the
piazza, on the right as one begins to climb the steps, is the house where
lived (and died in 1821); it is now a museum dedicated to his memory, full
of memorabilia of the English Romantic generation.
But before continuing on, climb the stairs for a view from the top, all the
way, especially if it is crowded. In fact, this is one of those rare
tourist spots that is best if it is crowded. At the top the street leads to
where, eventually, the
can be reached.
At the bottom again, on your
immediate right – if you have
deep pockets – is Babington’s
English Tea Room.
To eat near the Spanish
Steps is easy. Walk a block or two down Via Condotti and, looking
either left or
right at any intersection,
will give you a choice from dozens of restaurants.
Just around the corner from Babington’s is the Metro Stop SPAGNA, from which
you can make your way back, if you like, to Termini Station.
THIS IS A GOOD POINT AT
WHICH TO END THE SECOND DAY IF YOU ARE DOING THIS TOUR IN THREE DAYS.
IF SO, RETURN HERE IN THE MORNING AND BEGIN AGAIN.
20. PIAZZA DEL POPOLO,
THE PINCIO HILL & THE ALTAR OF PEACE
But now, let’s continue our tour. While
facing Babington’s Tea Room,
go left to the end of the
elongated piazza. Angling slightly
left will get you to Via del Babuino (the street of the
A few blocks up, if you are
in the mood for a snack, stop at a very unusual café:
& Café. Via Babuino,
150a. On the left.
If you sit outside, make sure you at least
tour the interior. For a small entrance fee, you can also visit the private
museum upstairs where you will find the actual workshop of the famed
sculptor, Antonio Canova.
Continue up Via Babuino. It empties into the huge Piazza del Popolo.
Piazza del Popolo:
The name in modern
literally means "piazza
of the people," but historically it derives from
trees after which the church of
Santa Maria del
Popolo (in the northeast corner of the
piazza) takes its name.
As you enter, on your RIGHT
is the Café Canova. Across from it, on you
left, is Café Rosati. At
either café, you can enjoy one of the best spots in Rome to take your coffee
at an outside table. Federico Fellini used to do just this when he lived
close by here on Via Margutta.
The piazza lies inside the northern gate in the
This was the Porta Flaminia of
now called Porta del Popolo. This gate was the starting point of the
the road to Ariminum, or modern
It was always the most important route out of the city heading the north.
In addition, before the age of railroads, it was a traveler’s first view of
Rome upon arrival. Today, just outside of the Porta Flaminia, you will find
the Metro Stop called FLAMINIO.
The layout of the piazza as seen today was designed in
style between 1811 and 1822 by the architect
He in fact demolished some insignificant buildings to form two
that are reminiscent of
St. Peter's Square.
stands in the center of the piazza. The obelisk is the second oldest
and one of the tallest.
ordered it brought to Rome in
and originally set it up on the spina of the
Fontana, in 1589, as part of the urban plan
erected it here in the Piazza.
Opposite the Porto del Popolo, three streets enter the piazza, forming the
These are the
Via del Corso
in the center, the
Via del Babuino
on the left and
Via di Ripetta
on the right.
The central Via del
Corso follows the course of the ancient Roman Via Flaminia, coming from
Piazza Venezia. The Via del Babuino arrives from
Piazza di Spagna,
and takes its name from a grotesque sculpture of
seen on that street. Via di Ripetta leads to the
Mausoleum of Augustus
and the Ara Pacis, both on this side of the
churches that mark the “trident” are
Santa Maria dei
Miracoli (1681) and
Santa Maria in
Montesanto (1679), begun by
and completed by
Notice that the churches are not really twins, but also notice how their
designs were derived from the Pantheon.
Standing opposite the
churches is the Porta del Popolo, designed by
The church of
Santa Maria del
Popolo is to its
right. Across from it stands
station with a dome reflecting that of the church. Until quite recently,
the Piazza del Popolo was choked with
in a sea of parked
today, this has all been swept away in favor of pedestrian traffic.
After your espresso, walk around the piazza a bit, but while here, take the
time to meander up the stairs of the Pincio Hill that rises above
you. The stairs begin at the LEFT as you
face the hill.
This hill was outside
the original boundaries of the ancient city and not one of the
Seven hills of Rome.
But it does lie within the
between 270 and 273.
Important families in
in the late
Its current name comes from one such family that occupied the hill in the
4th century AD, the
Gardens still occupy the hill, along with several Renaissance villas.
At the top of the hill is Piazza Napoleone. It affords views over
Piazza del Popolo,
but also of the skyline of Rome to the south and west beyond; in fact, the
very direction you will soon be heading, toward Vatican City and the
imposing dome of St. Peter’s.
Descend to the piazza. Sit
for a moment under the giant obelisk; it is time to make a decision. Do you
want to head directly to St Peters by way of the Metro here at Piazza del
Popolo? Or, do you want to take your time?
– at the far end of Piazza del Popolo
– pass through the Porta del Popolo to Metro Stop FLAMINIO.
Take the train, direction St
Peters and get off at Metro Stop OTTAVIANO/SAN PIETRO.
Outside the station, look
for Via Ottaviano. Make sure you are going in the right direction.
In Italian, ask for “San Pietro, per favore?”
But from Piazza del Popolo, you could also walk. And why not, you might
never get back here again. Face
the point where you entered the piazza, where three streets converge by the
“twin” churches. The incoming street on the
far right is Via di
Ripetta. Continue up Via di Ripetta a few blocks to the next bridge,
Ponte Cavour. From here, you will take a riverboat down stream, meaning
direction left as you
face the river.
Before doing so, however –
on your right just before the
bridge – you can visit a newly opened building. It is by the American
architect, Richard Meier, and is one of the rare modern buildings to be
commissioned for Rome’s historic center.
The new building enshrines the remains
of the famed Ara Pacis, or the “Altar of Peace” that the Senate
originally erected – 2000 years ago and consecrated on
– to celebrate the peace established after Augustus' victories in
It represents Rome’s vision of itself – here portray as a Roman goddess – as
bearer of the Peace and Prosperity (the famous
heretofore won by the Empire’s legions.
entirely in white marble, the altar is depicts scenes of traditional Roman
piety: The Emperor and his family offer
and various other figures bring forth cattle as sacrifice, some with their
drawn over their heads, as if acting in their official capacity as priests,
traditional symbols of
The Altar is a
masterpiece of Roman imperial sculpture, and typical of Roman sculpture
elsewhere, the figures in the procession are not idealized types, as in
but rather recognizable portraits of individuals.
The Altar was
originally in the
the flood plain of the Tiber, where it eventually became buried under 12
feet of silt over the centuries. The sculptures were first discovered in
the 16th century. In 1938,
built a protective building for the Altar adjacent to the
Mausoleum of Augustus
across the street (obviously moving the Altar in the process) as part of his
attempt to identify his
with ancient Rome.
This new cover
building by Richard
(opened in 2006) replaces the Fascist-era building, but it has proved
controversial. Described by some as "a flop,” opponents have vowed to tear
it down. Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni has championed it and vows to keep it.
Across Via di Ripetta from the Ara pacis is the Mausoleum of Augustus.
Built by the
it is located on what is now the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. It is
opened only periodically to tourists; the ravages of time and carelessness
have stripped the ruins bare.
Mausoleum was one of the first projects initiated by Augustus following his
victory at the
It is circular in plan (with several concentric rings of earth and brick)
and was planted with a dome of
overhead. It was possibly also capped with a central spindle bearing a
statue of Augustus. Twin pink
flanked the arched entryway, one of which now stands in the
(behind the Basilica of
Santa Maria Maggiore),
the other at the
sack of Rome
stole the urns and scattered the imperial ashes. In the
it was fortified as a castle – as was the Mausoleum of
– and occupied by the
the ruins became a
and then a concert hall. In the 1930s,
preserved the site as an archaeological landmark along with the newly moved
21. CASTEL SANT’ANGELO &
Once on the riverboat going
downstream, it will take about ten minutes to arrive at the
You cannot miss it on the
right. Originally built as
the Emperor Hadrian’s tomb between AD
it later became a papal military fortress, and now a museum. It is huge.
Off the boat, cross over the
bridge to the fortress. The entrance is on the
side, just off the bridge.
The original mausoleum was a
decorated cylinder with a garden top and with an uppermost golden
Hadrian's ashes were placed here a year after his death in
(together with those of his wife Sabina, and his first adopted son,
also dead in 138). Following this, the remains of succeeding emperors were
interred; the last recorded being those of
The urns were probably placed in what is known now as the Treasury room
deep within the building.
Much of the tomb
contents and decoration has been lost since the building's conversion into a
The urns and ashes were scattered by
sack of Rome
and the original decorative bronze and stone statuary was thrown down upon
when they besieged Rome in
An unusual survival, however, is the capstone of a funerary urn (maybe that
of Hadrian), which made its way to
Basilica and was recycled into a massive
The popes converted
the structure into a castle (from the
Pope Nicholas III
connected the castle to the Vatican with a covered fortified corridor called
Passetto di Borgo
(only occasionally open to the public).
The fortress was the
Pope Clement VII
from the siege of
Sack of Rome (1527),
describes strolling the ramparts and shooting enemy soldiers.
Legend holds that the
Archangel St. Michael
appeared atop the mausoleum, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the
thus lending the castle its present name.
Sant'Angelo was also
used by the popes as a prison (Giordano
Bruno was imprisoned there for six years)
and the small interior square was the scene of executions. As a prison, it
was also the setting for the third act of
from whose ramparts the tragic heroine of the opera leaps
to her death. Decommissioned as a fortress in
it is now part of the national museum system (Museo
Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo).
Hadrian also built the
(originally the Aelian Bridge) facing onto his mausoleum – it still provides
a scenic approach from the center of Rome to the right bank of the Tiber.
It is renowned for the
additions of statuary angels holding aloft elements of the
Passion of Christ.
Leaving the fortress – and walking
between it and the river – will put you onto the Via della
Conciliazione or the Road of the Conciliation.
To eat – before or after
visiting the Vatican – on the left
just before St. Peters on Via della Conciliazione, try Hotel Columbus, also
a prime choice of lodging.
Hotel Columbus. Via
della Conciliazione, 33. Tele: +39
(06) 68-65-435. Rooms: 100 to 400
simpler fare – and much, less costly – directly across the street is Café
San Pietro. It is cafeteria style but, in its way, is elegant nonetheless.
Café San Pietro.
Almost directly across from Hotel Columbus on Via della Conciliazione.
and roughly, 1700 feet in length, the thoroughfare connects the
Saint Peter's Square.
In addition to the usual presence of shops, it is bordered by a good number
of governmental and religious buildings. But despite being today one of the
few major thoroughfares in Rome able to cope with intense
without congestion, it is the subject of much debate both due to its
resulting effect and to the circumstances under which it was
Nonetheless, however you
traverse this distance into the arms of Bernini’s Colonnade up ahead –
whether you do it on foot, by car, or by horse and carriage – it should be
enjoyed without interruption.
Until the construction of the Via della Conciliazione, the area
in front of
Saint Peter's front
court remained a maze of densely-packed
dwellings and other structures on narrow streets and alleyways where there
was always the intention of tearing it all of down to create a better access
to the St Peter’s.
In addition, plans
were continually drawn up over the years for opening a major link between
and Rome’s city center. But the conclusion to demolish all the buildings of
the existing borgos (neighborhoods) for a greater and longer vista to
the church, would always be seen as unworkable due to inordinately high
expropriation costs and vested property interests.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini:
Eventually, in 1656,
was commissioned to redesign the terrace immediately in front of the
Basilica. He settled on a colossal open space in the shape of the current
ellipse. Facing the expense of clearing the borgos, Bernini decided
to make use of the warren of decrepit
buildings to intentionally obscure views of the Vatican structures from any
significant distance. Thus, he thought, pilgrims would emerge from the
relative darkness of the borgo and literally stumble in awe into the
vast open grandeur of the Square and the Holy See.
But he did originally plan to demolish a small piazza directly in front of
the square, filling the space with a third colonnade to match the two
standing today. The death of his patron,
Pope Alexander VII,
put a halt to this and this third set of columns was never built.
The 15th Century Borgo – the site which the Via della Conciliazione
now covers – remained occupied by residential, religious, and historical
buildings for the another 500 years. Final impetus for the road's
construction was political. After the
outside of the Vatican itself were expropriated during Italy’s
in the 19th Century, later Popes complained that they had become
prisoners in the
For the next 60 years,
in order to avoid any appearance of conceding authority over Rome to the
Italian government, the Popes simply refused to leave the Vatican. Finally,
of 1929, Prime Minister
signed a compromise acceptable to both the Vatican and Italy.
With this, he
resurrected the idea of a grand thoroughfare symbolically connecting the
Vatican to the heart of Rome. Drawing inspiration from a number of earlier
designs, Mussolini’s architects found a way to preserve the best aspects of
both the "open" and "closed" designs. In effect, they proposed a grand
boulevard that would, as best as possible, obscure the majority of the
Vatican (as per Bernini's intentions) yet also create a grand entrance.
The vast street
required the clearance of whole neighborhoods between the Basilica and
Castle Sant’Angelo. Demolition began with Mussolini symbolically striking
the first building with a
Since its completion, the road has acted as the primary access to both
St. Peter's Square and to Vatican City itself. During papal
with swelling numbers of visitors, it becomes an extension to the great
controversy remains. Bernini wanted to keep the Basilica hidden until one
in effect stumbles upon its vastness after the warren of darkness, akin to a
“revelation.” This is certainly not the case today. However, in the place
of surprise, what the Via della Conciliazione does provide is a better view
of the spectacular Dome of St. Peter’s. More on this later…
St Peter’s Square & Bernini’s
square in front of the basilica was designed and built by
Gian Lorenzo Bernini,
under the direction of
Pope Alexander VII.
It was intended to accommodate the greatest number of people attending the
nicely marked the center, but a granite fountain by
stood oddly off to one side. Bernini used the obelisk as his grand focal
point, but then re-located the fountain to appear as one of two foci of the
he would embrace with his
(he had a similar fountain constructed on the other side). The trapezoidal
shape thus resolved between the basilica and the ellipse now creates a
heightened per-spective for visitors leaving the basilica; a masterstroke of
colonnades, each four columns deep, frame both the trapezoid and
massive elliptical area attached to it. The colonnades define the piazza.
The elliptical shape of the piazza, complementing the trapezoidal entrance,
beckons the visitor with the arms (the trapezoid) and the hands (the
ellipse) of the “Mother Church.”
The Vatican Obleisk:
At the center of the ellipse stands the Egyptian
of red granite. At 74 feet tall (in all 134 feet, including the base and
bronze lions to the cross on its top) the 13th century BC obelisk was moved
to Rome in AD 37 by the Emperor Caligula to stand in the central spina
Circus. The circus was to the left of the old Constantine basilica; it was
demolished to build the present St Peters. Domenico
Fontana moved the obelisk (under the
Pope Sixtus V)
to its current site in
is the only obelisk in Rome that has not toppled since Roman times. During
the Middle Ages, a gilt ball on top of the obelisk was believed to contain
the ashes of
Fontana removed the ancient metal ball – now in a Vatican museum – and
opening it. He found only dust.
St. Peter’s basilica was begun in the 15th century. It is
is the most prominent feature of the Roman skyline.
Basilica of Saint
Peter. The Basilica
of Saint Peter, officially known as the Basilica di San Pietro in
Vaticano, is one of four
John Lateran, St. Peter's,
Santa Maria Maggiore
St. Paul outside the
It is the most prominent buildings inside
and built on the ruins of Constantine’s
century Saint Peter's Basilica. With an
area of 5.7 acres
and a capacity of 60,000, it is the second largest church in
One of the holiest
the basilica is also the assumed burial site of its namesake
Although the New Testament does not mention Peter's presence or martyrdom
in Rome, Catholic tradition holds that his
is below the baldachino and
for this reason, many
– starting with the first ones – have been buried there.
To build St Peter's
Pope Nicholas V
bought over 2,500 cartloads of stone from the badly damaged
This and other ancient buildings were wholly or partly destroyed to build St
Peter’s. The basilica was completed in 1626.
Although the basilica
is not the Pope's official seat (St.
John Lateran is), it is most certainly his
principal church. Most Papal ceremonies take place here due to the enormous
size, proximity to the Papal residence, and the basilica’s location within
the Vatican state’s walls.
And do not forget the grottos beneath the basilica, where remnants of
the original 4th century Constantine basilica still exist.
In fact, there are
over 100 tombs located within St. Peter's Basilica and the
beneath the Basilica. These include 91 popes, St.
Ignatius of Antioch,
the medieval composer
Christina of Sweden,
who abdicated her throne in order to convert to Catholicism.
And, if you have time, take a crack at the dome of St. Peter’s. It will
cost you another hour or so. An elevator gets you part way up, after which
the curved stairway inside the dome itself is both fascinating and very
do-able. And of course, awaiting you at the top is nothing short of the
best possible panorama you will ever have of the Eternal City.
Note in particular Castel
Sant 'Angelo to the left,
and the grey dome of the Pantheon on the
right. And, just
below, Bernini’s grand
It is widely assumed that
(who became chief architect in 1546) designed the dome, or
as it presently stands. In fact, Michelangelo's design called for a
spherical dome. At the time of his death in 1564, only his drum was in
place. (The drum is the base upon which a dome rests; the drum itself
resting on only those four piers of the
as seen inside the building today.)
Giacomo della Porta
took on raising the dome. But studying the problem with Domenico Fontana,
he became convinced that the span of the crossing was too great to bridge
with a spherical dome. In its stead, he proposed an elliptical dome that
would carry the dome’s massive weight more directly “down” as opposed to the
“sides” (thus risking collapse).
But the dome also relates to
the controversy surrounding the construction of the broad Via della
Conciliazione. We know that the architect Maderno (upon the urging of his
pope) not only extended the length of the basilica, he also raised the
height of the front portico. This done, the dome, as big as it is, is in
very visible from the piazza out front. In fact, up
close to the basilica, the dome is mostly hidden from view.
This being the case, it
seems then that the present Via della Conciliazione gives the approaching
visitor his best view of the dome … certainly in a way he would not have, if
he had simply “stumbled” into the Piazza St Pietro as per Bernini’s best
thoughts on the matter.
The dome is double-shelled and made off brick. It is 138
in interior diameter (almost as large as the
and rises to 394 feet above the floor. In contrast to the Pantheon, Della
Porta's dome is not a
Its egg-shape thrusts upward – heaven directed, perhaps – whereas spherical
domes appear earthly. The up thrusting is actually emphasized by the bold
ribbing that springs from the paired
of the drum below. Above the vaulted dome rises to a two-stage lantern
(designed by Fontana) which is capped with a spire.
In the mid-18th century,
cracks appeared in the dome, so iron chains were installed around the dome’s
circumference to bind it like the rings that keep a wooden barrel from
Entrance to St Peter’s:
The façade as
designed by Maderno is 376 feet wide and 149 feet high. On top are statues
John the Baptist,
and eleven of the apostles. The statues of St Peter and St Paul are in
front of the building itself near the base of each side of the approaching
Between the façade,
is mainly designed by Maderno. It boasts an 18th century statue of
to the south, and an
the Great by Bernini (1670) to the north. The southernmost door (designed
by 20th century sculptor
is called the "Door of the Dead". The door in the center is by
(1455) and preserved from the previous basilica.
The northernmost door
is the "Holy Door" in bronze by
(1950), which is by tradition, only opened for great celebrations such as
Walking along the right
aisle of the basilica, there are many
memorials. The first is
located immediately to the right
of the entrance. It was placed behind protective glass screen in 1972 after
a deranged man stuck it with an
Up the aisle is the
Queen Christina of
Sweden, who abdicated in 1654 in order to
convert to Catholicism. Further up, you see the monuments of popes
as well as the altar of
Then, note the
Chapel of the Blessed
Sacrament. It is open during religious
services only. Bernini sculpted the gilded bronze tabernacle inside in 1674.
In the northwestern corner of the nave (before the
dome itself) is the statue of a seated St Peter. Attributed to 13th century
Arnolfo di Cambio,
some scholars date it back to the 5th century. Nevertheless, note that the
foot of the statue is eroded due to centuries of pilgrims kissing it.
Over the main altar –
and directly under the dome – stands the 98 feet tall bronze
designed and built by Bernini between 1624 and 1632. The baldachin was
built to fill the space beneath the cupola – it surely does that – and it is
said that the bronze used to make it was taken from the Pantheon. It is
also thought to be the largest bronze sculpture in the world.
Underneath the baldachin – accessed by an elegant staircase – is the
traditional tomb of St. Peter.
Interior of the
Dome: Overhead, along the inside base of the
dome, are letters 6.5 feet high: TV ES PETRVS ET SVPER HANC PETRAM
AEDIFICABO ECCLESIAM MEAM. TIBI DABO CLAVES REGNI CAELORVM.
“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. I will give you
the keys of the kingdom of heaven."
is the “Triumph of the Chair of Saint Peter” (1666) by Bernini. It is the
focus of the Feast of Cathedra Petri that is celebrated annually on
This is topped by a yellow alabaster window with the image of a dove –
– surrounded by twelve rays symbolizing the apostles. The rays protruding
from the window perhaps evoke the grace of God and seem to support the Chair
of Peter, alluding to the source of its authority. The Chair is made of a
bronze encasing, and is thought to be a
of the original chair of St Peter.
The Left Transept:
Here are three altars: those of
Crucifixion. West of the left transept is
the incredible monument to
by Bernini wherein a skeleton lifts a fold of red marble drapery and holds
an hourglass symbolizing the inevitability of death. Alexander is flanked
on the right by a statue representing religion, which holds her foot atop a
globe, and a thorn from the
piercing her toe, symbolizing the pope's recurring problems with the
Church of England.
The Left Aisle:
Walking down the left aisle, towards the entrance, are the monuments to
then followed by the Chapel of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. After that come
the monuments to
the monuments to
and the Chapel of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, then a
Monument to the Royal
Stuarts. Finally, right before the end of
the church, is the Baptistery.
Finally, take note along the
floor of the central nave – from front to back – markers with the
comparative lengths of other Christian churches worldwide.
22. THE VATICAN MUSEUM &
RETURN TO TERMINI STATION
Because of their vastness and the crowds, visiting the sprawling Vatican
Museums and the Sistine chapel is an all-day affair.
So, not today. Doors open
at 10am but arrive as early as possible, because there will be a queue even
if you get there an hour early. To get there –
facing the basilica – go to
the middle of the
right-hand colonnade of the
elliptical piazza. Exit and proceed along Via di Porto Angelica.
The Vatican wall runs with you on your
Follow the wall – always
turning left when you can –
until you find yourself on Viale Vaticano. The entrance is on the
If you arrive by Metro in
the morning: Go one stop past the Metro Stop called
ottaviano san pietro to Metro
Stop called cipro-musei vaticani.
Just outside is Via
Vittor Pisani. A few steps to the
right there is the broader
street, Via Angelo Emo.
Cross here and keep going to Viale Vaticano.
Then, take a
left. The museum entrance is
a quarter mile on your right.
Viale Vaticano. Normal
hours: 10:00 to 4:45.
Tel: +39 (06) 698-84-947.
Admission: 13 Euro.
museums display works from the extensive collection of the
Julius II founded the museums in the
are on the route through the Vatican Museums.
The Vatican Museums trace their origin
to a single marble sculpture purchased 500 years ago. The now famous
(the priest who, according to Greek mythology, tried to convince the people
not to accept the Greeks' "gift" of a hollow horse) was discovered
in a vineyard near the
Santa Maria Maggiore
Julius II sent
Giuliano da Sangallo
Buonarroti, who were working at the
Vatican, to check out the discovery. On their recommendation, the pope
immediately purchased the sculpture from the vineyard owner. He put the
sculpture of Laocoön (actually a group – Laocoön and his sons in the grip of
a sea serpent) on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its
If you visit the
museums, you will see this piece. Other than this – and to encourage you to
see the museums and the Sistine Chapel – we will not include here anything
of what you might see. The museums are vast; a separate guidebook is
mandatory as your next purchase, either before or upon entering.
Sistine Chapel and the various Papal Apartments, the Vatican Museums include
the following collections: Pinacoteca Vaticana,
the Contemporary Art Museum,
Museo Pio-Clementino, Museo Chiaramonti,
Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, and the
Finally, the Museums
celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by permanently opening
the excavations of a
necropolis to the public.
An excellent choice to stay
near the Vatican Museums is the:
Best Western hotel
– Albergo Spring House. Via
Telephone: +39 06 39-72-0948.
Rooms: 100 to 300 Euro.
The easiest return from the Vatican to
anywhere else in the city is from the Metro Stop,
Returning to Termini
Station from the great piazza itself, take bus 64. On the way, bus 64
offers many opportunities to get off and enjoy your evening meal. A good bet
would be – on Via Corso Vittorio – to get off near Campo de Fiori and
explore the many restaurants there.
Finally, if you are
disabled, or would otherwise like a guided tour of Rome by car – inside or
outside the city limits – try:
Executive Limousine of
Telephone: +39 (06) 61-52-2395
They can also get to and from Fiumicino
In addition, for travel in
Rome – or throughout Italy – try:
Telephone: +39 (06) 66-18-2052.
Well, I guess it is time to say
Arrivaderci Roma. But thank you for taking this tour with me. My name
is Peter Melaragno and on behalf of “rome:
caput mundi” and Charles Lyman at Atlantic Productions … goodbye.
This Pocket Guide
to “THE ROME: CAPUT MUNDI WALKING TOUR VIDEO was written and compiled by
Peter Melaragno. It is provided free as part of the packaging of ROME:
CAPUT MUNDI and the CAPUT MUNDI WALKING TOUR. Neither Peter Melaragno nor
Charles Lyman of Atlantic Productions is libel for errors in information
provided either the Walking Tour video or this Pocket Guide.
Footnotes in this Pocket Guide cite information derived from the
“Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Such information is included in
accordance with Wikipedia’s GNU Free Documentation License. Please go to
where this Pocket Guide is available with links to all appropriate
Wikipedia URL pages used to compile it