The Splendors of Italy – Part I

My family and I recently completed a trip to Italy with the Cosmos tour company which took us on a journey stretching from Rome to Venice, with many fascinating stops in between, including places like Florence, Pisa, Siena and several others, before completing the return trip to Rome where we tacked on an extra day beyond the scheduled tour. In total, we were gone for 11 days, with two of those days being very long travel days between Texas and Italy. The name of the tour was “The Splendors of Italy,” which seemed appropriate enough, so I’ve borrowed the title to use for this blog post.

Because photography is the primary focus of my blog and because I have too many photos I want to share to reasonably cover in one post, I’ll limit this post to our time in Rome and then cover the other locations in additional posts to follow.

Our first photographic stop in Rome is, technically-speaking, not even part of Rome: it is the independent city-state within Rome known as Vatican City. Here we explored the many awe-inspiring sights of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Saint Peter’s Square and the surrounding area. The amazing art, history and architecture that characterize the Vatican cannot be adequately summarized with just a few photos, but at least I can provide a small sample. Here we find the works of artists such as Michelangelo, Bernini and Raphael. Sadly, I have no photographs of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel as photography is not allowed there and they have security personnel monitoring who periodically bark out “Silencio!” to keep people from speaking as well. Fortunately, the Sistine Chapel was one of just a few places where we were restricted from taking photographs.

The Pieta by Michelangelo

The Pieta by Michelangelo

The Central Dome by Michelangelo

The Central Dome by Michelangelo

Sculptures from the Vatican Museum

Sculptures from the Vatican Museum

Our next photographic stop in Rome takes us to the Roman Colosseum. Construction of the Colosseum began under the emperor Vespasian in 70 AD, and was completed in 80 AD under his successor and heir, Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). The period of rule for these three emperors is known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius). The Colosseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.

Colosseum - Exterior View

Colosseum – Exterior View

Just a short walk from the Colosseum are the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum.

The Roman Pantheon (not to be confused with the Parthenon in Greece) is the best preserved building of ancient Rome. Completed between A.D. 118 and 125, the Pantheon is a Roman temple originally dedicated to Roman Commander Marcus Agrippa and was used for worship of all the gods of pagan Rome. The Pantheon exists today in its well-preserved state because the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface the VIII in A.D 608 and it has been used as a Christian church ever since. Nevertheless, nearly all of the bronze that once adorned the Pantheon was stripped from the building and used for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Italian kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I as well as the famous Renaissance painter Raphael and his fiancée are buried in the Pantheon.

One evening, we went on a walking tour of our own to check out the Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.

Defined as a public space in the last years of the 15th century when the city market was transferred to it from the Campidoglio, the Piazza Navona was transformed into a highly significant example of Baroque Roman architecture and art during the pontificate of Innocent X, who reigned from 1644 until 1655 and whose family palace, the Palazzo Pamphili, faced the piazza. The palace now houses the Brazilian Embassy in Italy.

Palazzo Pamphili

Palazzo Pamphili

The Spanish Steps are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. The monumental stairway of 135 steps was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed funds of 20,000 scudi, in 1723–1725, linking the Bourbon Spanish Embassy, and the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France, both located above the steps — to the Holy See in Palazzo Monaldeschi located below.

The Trevi Fountain is situated at the end of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC by Agrippa, the son-in-law of Emperor Augustus. The aqueduct brings water all the way from the Salone Springs (approx. 21km from Rome) and supplies the fountains in the historic center of Rome with water. Already in the fifteenth century a small Trevi Fountain was built here during the papacy of Nicholas V. In 1732, pope Clement XII commissioned Nicola Salvi to create a large fountain at the Trevi Square to replace the existing fountain. A previous undertaking to build the fountain after a design by Gian Lorenzo Bernini was halted a century earlier after the death of pope Urban VIII. Salvi, who based much of his design on the earlier work of Bernini, died eleven years before the fountain’s completion by Pietro Bracci.

For our last day in Rome, we made our way over to the Tiber River and the Castel Sant’Angelo.  The Mausoleum of Hadrian, commonly referred to as Castel Sant’Angelo (English: Castle of the Holy Angel), is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano. The tomb of the Roman emperor Hadrian was erected on the bank of the Tiber, between 130 AD and 139 AD. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. Legend holds that the Archangel Michael appeared atop the mausoleum, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590, thus lending the castle its present name. The castle was once the tallest building in Rome.

For those who might be wondering, the “painterly” appearance of many of the photos above is attributable to HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing applied to the photos in post-production.

For a more complete gallery of over 200 photos of Rome taken during our trip, please click HERE.  If viewing from a computer or laptop, I suggest selecting the “Slideshow” button for full-screen display.

As a final note, I wish to acknowledge that much of the historical information presented here was sourced from Wikipedia, and many thanks go to those who contributed that information.

Please look for my next blog post where I will continue our journey from Rome to Orvieto, Sienna and beyond. Ciao!



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