Roma – city of visible history (not forgetting the great food and shopping!)

Our second day in Rome was as packed as the first one – if not more so. Having walked more than ten kilometres the previous day we managed to walk even further on day two.

The Palazzo Barberini which houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica

The first (but unplanned) stop was at the 17th Century Palazzo Barberini which houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, the main national collection of older paintings in Rome.

Early religious art displayed at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica

Quite apart from the many magnificent pieces of art in the museum, the building itself was a piece of art too. For example the salon ceiling contains a exquisite fresco called the Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power by Pietro da Cortona (painted between 1632 and 1639). This vast masterpiece, glorifying the Barberini family, apparently became highly influential in guiding decoration for later palatial and church ceilings.

Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power by Pietro da Cortona

Another work of art was the magnificent staircase leading up to the salon, designed by the leading sculptor of the early 17th Century (and architect) Bernini.

The magnificent staircase leading up to the salon at the Palazzo Barberini

There were many early religious pieces of art – altar piece, crucifixes etc, as well as many paintings by a range of acclaimed artists including Raphael, Tintoretto, Hans Holbein, Caravaggio and many more well-known and not-so-well-known painters of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The colours in this altar piece were incredibly vibrant
There were many fascinating paintings
And some damn fine shoes as well
It was a trip down memory lane to see the original Canaletto paintings of Venice. My parents had reproductions of some of these
Cathy and Peter’s apartment was round the corner from this scene at the Quirinale Palace. The view is still the same.

After a quick and delicious brunch in a small restaurant over the road from the museum, we headed for the Colosseum to join the “skip the line” tour we had booked the previous day. On the way we managed a quick glimpse of the Trevi Fountain the area round which was horrendously crowded.

The Trevi Fountain beloved of tourists

Despite having difficulty in finding the meeting point for the tour we thankfully arrived just in time.

Waiting to go into the Colosseum

The tour was interesting but again, like the Vatican the previous day, the Colosseum was just too crowded for my liking. I shudder to think what it was like when filled to capacity with 80,000 very excited spectators. Thankfully, there were 80 entrances and staircases which would have ensured safe evacuation if an emergency arose during a gladiatorial event.

Our lovely guide
It doesn’t look too crowded in this photo but believe me, it was.
What an incredible feat of engineering and imagination the Colosseum was.
The intrepid travellers

Although two-thirds of the original Colosseum had been destroyed by the 1990s, restoration work has allowed today’s visitors to imagine the atmosphere of this incredible place during gladiatorial contests and other spectaculars.

Another aspect of the Colosseum
Marble heads excavated from the Colosseum
The restoration work allows visitors to see how the Colosseum looked in its heyday
Posing ((photo Peter Hannigan)

It is amazing to think of the human ingenuity, creativity, intelligence and intellect required to build this magnificent structure and on the other hand, the shocking indifference at best and brutal delight at worst, at the death of an estimated 400,000 or more people and 1,000,000 animals over the course of the 390 years that the amphitheatre was used for gruesome entertainment.

Showing the brickwork from several different eras
Cathy and Peter

From the Colosseum we walked up to the Palatine Hill – the most important of Rome’s seven hills. The Palatine Hill was in ancient times the most desirable address in Rome and as we walked through its pleasant gardens we were able to get a taste of the sweet air that Ancient Rome’s elite had enjoyed. It was such a relief to be away from being at close quarters with hoards of people.

Looking down on the palaces of the Palatine Hill
The Palatine Hill was very peaceful after the crowded Colosseum

We were able to look down on the remains of once sumptuous palaces and villas owned by the Emperor Augustus and other aristocrats and emperors.

Another sumptuous villa on the Palatine Hill

Wandering to the edge of the Palatine Hill we could see below the site of what was once an immense race course, the Circus Maximus.

The site of the Circus Maximus.

Before reaching the other side of Palatine Hill we strolled through the Farnese Gardens- the first private botanical garden in Europe, built by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in the 1500s.

A seagull enjoys a fountain in the Farnese Gardens (photo Peter Hannigan)

Although it is not anywhere near its former glory, the garden is still a pretty place to walk around.

Another fountain in the Farnese Gardens

Once through the gardens we were over on the other side of the Palatine Hill where there were stunning views from a series of terraces of the labyrinthine ruins of the Roman Forum, the Capitoline Hill and beyond.

The views from the terraces on the Palatine Hill were stunning
It was mind blowing looking down on all that history in the middle of a busy, highly populated, city
Looking back to the Colosseum
The evening light was perfect for photography
Architecture from many different eras in one frame

Nearing the end of the allocated time for the tour, we made our way down into the vast and sprawling area of the Roman Forum. Unfortunately, there were only a few minutes before closing time to explore this incredible place jam packed with architectural ruins and archaeological excavations of temples, shrines, government buildings, squares, public buildings, markets and streets.

We wandered back towards the apartment that our old friends Peter and Cathy from Brisbane had rented and where we had stayed the previous night. But first we found an ideal side street cafe where we had an excellent meal.

On the way down to the Roman Forum
The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina from AD141 in the Roman Forum

Of course, even though we were exhausted, we couldn’t resist just a little clothes shopping after dinner. Well who can blame us we were in Italy after all!

Groovy looking Vespas
We couldn’t resist a bit of late night shopping after dinner
Back again at the apartment and then to the van after a nightcap. Thanks Peter and Cathy we had a ball!

Published by

Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

2 thoughts on “Roma – city of visible history (not forgetting the great food and shopping!)”

  1. Wow, what an awe-inspiring city Rome is! You packed an incredible amount into your two days there – and the photos are stunning.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s