Monday, July 30, 2012

Pantheon ~ Piazza della Rotonda ~ Rome, Italy

It was lunchtime on a hot Roman day and we were looking for a place to enjoy a lunch.  The square in front of the Pantheon has several cafés around the perimeter of it and we chose the one right on the corner so we could get a front row seat to look at this magnificent historical engineering feat. 
The massive columns and the front of the Pantheon in Rome
The Pantheon in Rome, Italy
We’d gone inside the Pantheon the night before when it was getting dark so we needed to come back to get the daylight photos and I was so glad we did.  It isn’t a building that gives a flashy ‘wow’ factor but in a very quiet way, displays a protecting shield to an incredible treasure.  The familiar portico and 14 meter columns of the Pantheon exude history. 

The open doors of the Pantheon welcome us inside
Great front doors to the Pantheon in Rome
The Pantheon was built by Hadrian in 120AD and still has the original bronze doors of that day.  These incredible large doors are over 2000 years old!  Other bronze that was originally put inside was stripped away to make canons in the sixteenth century but that pilfering left no damage to the structure. 
We look up thru the opening in the dome of the Pantheon
The oculus of the Pantheon in Rome
Noontime during the summer solstice the sun would shine straight down through the nine meter opening of this oculus and reach the floor.  That would be an incredible sunbeam to see!  If you were to stand beneath and look up during a rainy time, you’d feel the raindrops.  It really is open, although I couldn’t test that so we have to believe.
We see the round room filled with people in the Pantheon
The interior of the Pantheon, Rome, Italy
The size of the interior of the Pantheon is 43 meters in diameter and is a full circle.  The dome was made of concrete and was the largest existing dome for over 1000 years and is still the largest of a non-reinforced dome in the world.  The Pantheon was never destroyed throughout history, which is unusual for most structures from this era, it has most certainly stood the test of time.
Statues are in enclaves in the walls of the Pantheon
Sculptures within the Pantheon in Rome
Once the Pantheon became a Roman Catholic Church in 609, the statues of the Roman gods were replaced with religious art and sculptures.  Many of them were done by the master artists of that day who have since been buried here.  Raphael was one of those and his tomb is displayed inside.
There are several of these statues on display within the Pantheon
Statues over the pulpit in the Pantheon, Rome, Italy
The Pantheon is still used as a church and mass is celebrated there.  There are several chapels and many sat in chairs during our visit although there was no service being held. Special occasions and weddings are also held in the Pantheon, now that would be a very special place for a very special day.
The lights come on in the Piazza della Rotonda and night falls.
Piazza della Rotonda in Rome, Italy
As on all of our days in Rome, we wandered until well after dark and enjoyed the lights of the piazzas and the fountains and the sculptures and the cafés and the people……ok, enough said, you know what I mean.  This was an amazing city!  Belissimo...  Ciao Roma !
To see some of the other sights on our visit to Rome, click here for more.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Largo di Torre Argentina ~ Fountains ~ Markets ~ Rome, Italy

We have another wonderful day of wandering the streets of Rome in the Centro Storico district where we have seen so many wonderful surprises as we walk their narrow streets and discover another piazza along the way.  One just never knows what you might see.

Unidentified building in Rome with architectural interests
Church in Rome, Italy
 We did not see any information about this great looking building but it was worth a photo.  The very tall building may have been one of the many churches we would see in Rome.  No matter how obscure or hidden from the main traffic area, the churches had some great sculptures as part of their exterior architecture.
Cobblestone street or alleyway with tables for cafe guests
Narrow cobblestone street with cafe tables
 There were cafés and businesses tucked into the smallest corners and stalls as we made our way through the maze of streets and alleys in Centro Storico. They could drive delivery vans into pretty small places to make their deliveries.  This café appears to create it’s own outside border by putting planters along the cobbled roadway and there were more cafés further along that placed tables on the street outside their door. 
A busy market scene in the square
Campo di Fiori Market in Rome
Campo de Fiori is the big market  that you can find all kinds of fruits and vegetables as well as fish, too.  We weren’t there to buy but it was neat to wander around and have a look at all they had to offer.  There were booths with clothes and other things but they are known as the food market.  They open up pretty early and things seem to stay pretty busy.  The fairly small square holds a lot and is surrounded by bars, cafés and restaurants, so it is easy to find a nice place to sit and enjoy the sights over a cup of coffee. 
The fountain in the piazza is shaped like a bathtub
Piazza Farnese in Rome, Italy
The Piazza Farnese, home of the French Embassy may not have the grandeur of the Piazza Navona but it does have the granite Roman bathtub made in 1612, making that fountain 400 years old.  There are many people gathered around the fountain as we wander through.  They hold free concerts here occasionally but not during out visit there.
Lady rides into square on her bike with a bag of birdseed
Lady visits to feed the pigeons
We had more to see so on we went and as we walked past this little park we happened to see a lady arrive on her bike and the pigeons flocked to her.  She had a bag of bird food on the back of her bike and they were helping themselves to it.  I think she has done this before.
Lady dips the pigeon into the fountain when she grooms them
Pigeon Lady grooms the pigeons
We sat on the bench to watch this unusual sight for awhile, she moved her bike over to the fountain with her flock of pigeons following her, some flying and some walking but not many were leaving her side.  
The pigeons do not object to the bath they receive
A bath for the pigeons
Our Pigeon lady began to pick up a pigeon and with what appeared to be clippers, was busy doing something to the pigeon before dunking it into the fountain then releasing it. She did this to more than one and although we will never know what she was doing, the pigeons were not minding it at all but took their turn at the hand of the one that fed them.    
looking down into the ruins of the Largo di Torre Argentina
Largo di Torre Argentina ruins in Rome, Italy
We were now looking for more ruins within the area and after a very brief attempt to locate ourselves on the map, we happened upon the Largo de Torre Argentina. Some of these ruins were found as recently as 1926.  The ruins are below street level and are fenced with clear panels so they are easy to see but  it is surrounded by some very busy traffic areas so there is limited interest in further developing it.
The ruins of the Largo de Torre Argentina is also home of the cat sanctuary
Ruins in the Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome, Italy
This location includes the Theater of Pompey where Julius Caesar was assassinated.  There seems to be some conflicts about that because it is also said it happened at the Roman Forum but another story says that while the forum was being reconstructed, the Senate was temporarily held at the Theater of Pompey and this is where the actual assassination took place in 44BC.  Glad I got that figured out, I was confused!
A tower stands among the ruins of the Largo di Torre Argentina
Home of the Cat Sanctuary in Rome, Italy
As many feral cats will do, they moved into these ruins and claimed it as their home once the site was excavated and several ladies voluntarily began feeding them and caring for them.  This location now houses about 250 cats where they also receive medical care and attention.  The volunteers run this cat shelter and have become a very hard working group that keep the cats alive.  Click here if you’d like to learn more about the Roman Cat Sanctuary.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Centro Storico ~ Piazza Navona ~ Rome, Italy

We set out on another wonderful day of walking around Rome.  The weather for our visit at the end of September was great for enjoying the sights and sounds in this great city.

The narrow street filled with shops
Streets of Rome, Italy
Centro Storico is Rome’s historic center and was located within our daily walks where we would follow narrow medieval lanes lined with cafés, shops, restaurants with their tables and chairs seeming to spill onto the lanes and find no end to the treasures hiding at every turn.

We are in the Piazza Navona where many artists meet
Piazza Navona in Centro Storico, Rome
This was where chariot racing was held around AD 86 and still remains to be long and oval shaped and full of lots of activities.  Someone dressed all in white on elevated shoes poses with passersby for a fee.  He didn’t appear to be too busy but this is the quiet end of the piazza with one of the three fountains.

People gather around the fountain
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi ~ Piazza Navona
This fountain represents the four largest rivers from the only four continents known in the world in 1651, when this fountain was created. The Danube, Ganges, Nile and Plata Rivers were a theme of one each corner and is the big attraction in the piazza. 

A close up of the fountain looking towards the church
Fountain facing Church Sant'Agnese of Agone in Rome
The fountain has a lot of detail that one could sit and look at for hours.  It does seem to be a great subject for artists in the area, there were several sitting around the fountain sketching and other people were just sitting and enjoying the view.   

There are many artist booths set up in the Piazza
Art for sale in Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy
There were many artists with their booths set up doing business and were there from morning to night.  The traffic is high in this area and that seems to make it a great place if you’re looking for art to purchase.  We saw some very beautiful paintings on our walk-by.
Neptune and a young boy are part of the fountain
Fontana di Nettuno in Rome
The fountain at the north end of the piazza and closer to where the art booths are set up, is Fontana di Nettuno built in 1574.  No matter what plaza you might enter in this city, you are very likely to find a fountain.  They vary in many ways with design and size but they tend to be large and most of them are steeped in history.  They all have a story to tell. 
A night scene with lights showing the castle across the Tiber River
Castel Sant'Angelo on Tiber River in Rome
Another wonderful day in Rome comes to an end as we walk back to our hotel, enjoying the walk along the Taber River where we see a nighttime view of Castel Sant’Angelo. ( Click here to learn more about this historical fortress).  We have had a wonderful day walking the streets of Rome seeing sights we didn’t expect to see and look forward to more on our walks tomorrow.
For more of our visit in Rome, click here to see our visit to Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps and more.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Castel Sant'Angelo ~ Trevi Fountain ~ Spanish Steps ~ Rome, Italy

We did most of our sightseeing by walking around the city of Rome.  We were staying in a  location that was not  too far from Centro Storico, Rome’s historic center and would walk across one of the many bridges that crosses the Tiber River to carry on to see the sights.
Looking across the Tiber River at the Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, Italy
The Castel Sant’Angelo was a fortress built by Emporer Hadrian during the years AD123-139 as a peaceful resting place.  It went through several changes over the years including a military post until it was purchased by the Pope Aqui in 1377.  It was then connected to the Vatican and was used as a safe area whenever the need arose.
Large crowds gather on the Spanish Steps
Spanish Steps ~ Piazza di Spagna, Rome
The Piazza di Spagna is home to the Spanish Steps and a gathering place for almost everyone who comes to Rome as well as the locals.  It became such a gathering spot for the artists and writers who used to live in this area during the eighteenth century that it became a real tourist draw then and it seems it hasn’t lost that appeal. 

The church sits at the top of the Spanish Steps
Trinita del Monti Church

The Spanish steps, built totally with travertine 1723-1726 were built to give access from the embassy of Bourbon Spain to the church at the top of the stairs which belonged to the Bourbon kings of France.  The 138 steps are divided into 12 flights.  The Sallustian obelisk sits at the top of the Spanish Steps in front of the church.

The narrow street is filled with people
Busy streets in Centro Storico, Rome, Italy
I was 6 years old when I saw a movie who’s theme song has been one of my favorites ever since.  I do not remember the story nor what the fountain looked like but I do remember a final scene at the Trevi Fountain and that was definitely on our list of things to see in Rome.  We used our map and followed some narrow streets that opened up into a very crowded but small square and there it was.
There is a large crowd in the small space in front of Trevi Fountain
Crowds at Trevi Fountain 
It is amazing that this very large fountain is in such a small square and then you get a zillion other people wanting to get their photos as well, and you have a crowded situation.  It was late in the afternoon and being surrounded by tall buildings the sun wasn’t able to shine onto this beautiful fountain but we got our share of photos.   
We see St. Peter's Basilica lit up in the distance
Reflections on the Tiber River in Rome
 We always walked home in the dark at the end of our days, taking in the beauty of those ancient buildings illuminated with just enough lights to make a great sight.  We may have walked about ten miles a day and we were getting pretty tired by this time of night, but never too tired to enjoy those sights as we slowly made our way back to our hotel.
There is so much to enjoy, come again for another walk through the streets of Centro Storico in Rome.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fort St. John, BC, Canada

Fort St. John, located at Mile 47 on the Alaska Highway is now referred to as “The Energetic City”, a very suitable name for the hub of the north with such a variety of resource-based industries.  This town of 19,000 people is bustling with trucks and shops that remind all that business continues but a drive in the countryside can be a calm contrast within minutes.
Peace River flows through the valley below the viewpoint
Peace View Point in Fort St. John, BC
The Peace View Point has had fencing and picnic tables installed since my visit many years ago, but in spite of the smoky haze from neighboring forest fires, the view is still incredible. Click here to see how the valley looked on our autumn visit in 2003.
The viewpoint gives a magnificant view of the Peace River Valley
Peace River Valley on Highway 29
We have spent time in Fort St. John in the past and I still enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounds this town in northeastern British Columbia.  The rolling hills are so green until you find a crop of canola growing and the contrast makes for a beautiful sight.  This view of the Peace River is located on Hwy 29 between Fort St. John and Hudson’s Hope.  A photo and more information is shown from earlier visits.
Yellow fields are the canola growing in the Peace River Valley
Fields of canola in the Peace River Valley
The drive between Fort St. John and Hudson's Hope takes us on a quiet drive along the Peace River and out to the WAC Bennett dam, which is an interesting sight to see, more on that later.  The canola fields are a common sight to see in the rolling hills and Peace River Valley.
The green fields spread out before us on the road to Beatton, BC
Prairie country in Fort St. John, BC
Farmland covers a large part of this prairie country of British Columbia.  There are 1700 farms that produce 90% of BC’s grains.  With this large grain production also comes high quality livestock production.  I had hoped to see a bison herd on our travels as we had done in the past, but although this is home to some of the largest herds in the province, I saw none.
Groves of aspen trees line the road
Aspen trees in Fort St. John, BC
No matter where we drive in this part of the country, we see groves of aspen.  I am not sure why, but these pictures are so popular (no, not poplar) that I see them in art galleries, so now I am also taking photos whenever I see a grove. These leaves create a beautiful colorful fall here, great for more photos.  See fall colors from the past visits.
The beautiful deer stands looking at me as I took his photo.
Our deer visitor in Fort St. John, BC
There is lots of wildlife that we see in this area.  We saw a moose on our drive but he hid before I could get a good picture.  This deer was eating right outside the window of the RV so I quickly got outside for better photos.  He appears to be a 3 year old by those gorgeous velvet antlers. He wasn’t going to let me get close but he posed for me until it was time to jump away into the tall grass to hide.
The Bonaparte's Gull and the grouse are two common birds seen here.
Birds of Northern BC
There are several unfamiliar birds and although I am not very informed on the different kinds, as long as they aren’t swarming me, I enjoy seeing them. This Bonaparte’s Gull was the first one I’d ever seen, but identified him with the leaflet “Birds of Northern BC” that I had picked up at the Tourist Bureau, they have great information there. The other bird walking down the road was the very familiar grouse who thought he should show his toughness to me as we drove by.

Pink puffy clouds in late evening in Fort St. John, BC
Clouds capture sunset colors in Fort St. John, BC
One of my most favorite things about summertime in Fort St. John is the 20 hours of daylight that one can enjoy, whether you’re an early riser or a nightowl.  These were the only clouds in the sky late one evening and with the sunset reflecting, it isn’t even dark yet.  There may be a shorter summer season here than in some areas but the days are long and perfect for outside evening activities, even if that just means sitting outside enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Colosseum ~ Forum ~ Rome, Italy

Today was another great day in Rome and we planned on getting to the Colosseum early to purchase a tour package that included the ruins of the Forum, as well.  The feeling of awe that I felt when I first saw this incredible structure was still there as we came to it this morning, this will be a very interesting tour.

We are across the street from the Colosseum
The Colosseum in Rome, Italy
We purchased our tickets from the area in front of the Colosseum and had a guide with a microphone for that part of the tour. We were about to enter histories greatest ancient stadium and see where they made history all those years ago.
We are able to see the inside of the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome
Inside the Colosseum in Rome
This famous ampitheatre has seen many forms of entertainment over the years and one that might not be well known is that it had a plumbing system when it was first built that allowed it to be filled with water and mock sea battles would be carried on here.  That story doesn’t seem to have a lot of credibility with historians but with the stage props and all that is known to be true, it could have happened.  There were sails used to protect the spectators during rain or sun and they were manned by sailors and used to create a breeze when necessary so why couldn’t there be mock sea battles?
The tunnels that were under the arena floor can be seen
Exposed tunnels in the Colosseum
The Colosseum has had many changes through the centuries but the one that might be most memorable is the contests of the gladiators and the animals.  They were brought in through underground tunnels and the animals then kept in cages in the two levels below the arena’s main area.  The lions are what we generally think of for the battles but there were different animals brought from foreign countries to be battled against including rhinos and hippos and so many others. The hunts would be staged with moveable trees and buildings. 
The ruins show the walls inside and the brickwork
Inside walls of the Colosseum in Rome
Before the Colosseum received major damage from an earthquake in 1349, it was also used for housing, fortress, workshops and a Christian shrine.  There was also damage including being stripped of the marble façade.  There are different stories as to where that marble went but what it leaves is a stone building with some holes left by the bronze clamps that were also taken, still visible today.   
We could hear this musician as we wandered among the ruins in Rome
A musician plays in Rome
After a short break from the tour of the Colosseum, we began a tour with a different guide who led us about the other ruins and Forum.  She did not have a microphone, and that made it very difficult to hear what she said with all the outside noises around us, and those with hearing problems would hear nothing.  We did hear some beautiful music being played by someone set up nearby for everyone’s enjoyment. 
The Arch was covered in beautiful artwork, just outside the Colosseum
Arc di Constantino in Rome
The Arc di Constantine was named after and dedicated in 315 during a visit when Emperor Constantine visited the city and reference is made to his reign on the arc. This beautiful archway is just outside the Colosseum and was the finish line for the marathon event in the 1960 Olympics. Wouldn’t that have been a thrill to have participated in? 

Gladiators posed for pictures and horse drawn buggies gave rides
Entertainment and transportation in Rome

There were lots of gladiators standing out there waiting to get their photos taken with you, for a fee.  Apparently some are not licensed to do this but I am not sure how you’d learn who was and who wasn’t, do they carry a ‘gladiator license’?  Horse drawn buggies were offering rides that may closely resemble days of old.

Gladiator shows me his strong muscles
Gladiator Fabio

My sister happened to get this photo as I was approached by a Fabio lookalike (or was he the real one?) who proudly showed me his muscles but after a gentle squeeze and an ‘oohhh’, I turned down his offer for a photo.

Tours are walking among the ruins of the Forum in Rome, Italy
The ruins of the Forum in Rome

We walked through some other ruins until we reached the Forum where we were right down within the ruins of old Roman days.  Our guide had so much information which we were not able to hear properly but what we could see was worth seeing and we walked on the ground that had once been walked on by Julius Caesar before his assassination here in 44BC.
This shows a different view of the Colosseum from the Arc di Constantine
The Colosseum in Rome, Italy
This was quite a tour of history in the ancient city of Rome. The Colosseum and Forum are amazing to visit and there are still more digs being done to find more pieces of history in this incredible part of the world.  After hearing about Julius Caesar’s assassination and the gruesome gladiator battles it was time to get back to this real world and go have some lunch. As I say that I realize that this was a real world at one time and not just a story book we read when we were young. Hmmm, food for thought or better yet, food for lunch. Our time in Rome is not over so I will be sharing more of the sights later and here is our tour of St. Peter's Basilica.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Saint Peter's Basilica ~ Vatican City ~ Italy

We had spent a few hours wandering through the Vatican museums then it was time to see St. Peter’s Basilica, which is adjacent to the museums in Vatican City.  We’d seen the dome from afar on our walks around Rome but now we will see the inside of one of the most famous churches in the world.

We look down the Tiber River to see St. Peter's Basilica
Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy
The original basilica was built in 320 AD but due to decay had to be rebuilt by the end of the fifteenth century.  The architect Bramante tore most of it down and only had pillars built when he died so Raphael and Michelangelo then became the architects following him and made changes to the plans.  It was 120 years before it was completed. The first service held here in the new basilica was in November of 1626. 
Looking up into the dome to see some of the architecture
Interior of dome in St.Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
Michelangelo was the one who suggested the dome and that wasn’t built until many years after he died but was completed in 22 months by 800 men.  It is the largest brick dome ever built and stands 137 meters (450’) and remains the tallest point in Rome to this day. 
The size of the statues and height of the ceilings is very high compared to those standing nearby.
Statues inside St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
Saint Peter’s Basilica is a beautiful church, as one would imagine it to be.  There was a service during our visit but with the size of it being so large there was no disturbance.  The crowd is quiet and respectful, but it is hard not to be ‘ooohing’ and ‘ahhhing’ as we walk through here.
The large church showing the mosaic floors as we approach the pulpit.
Mosaic floors of St. Peter's Basilica
There are 45 alters and 11 chapels within the church and it has one of the longest naves in the world, most definitely in Italy at 91 meters (299’).  It holds about 15,000 people inside on 10,000 square feet of mosaics on the floor.
The small service is held at the front of this huge beautiful church
Sunbeams inside St. Peter's Basilica
Cameras are allowed inside the Basilica, which doesn’t happen for many churches of this kind, depending on what is inside. Flashes will damage paintings and other displays.  As a result, I got several sunbeams streaming through my photos. The technical term is crepuscular rays but besides ‘sunbeam’, other terms more often used are ‘stairways to Heaven’, ‘divine light’ and even more. Whatever they are called, they added a special ambience to our incredible visit to St. Peter’s Basilica.
The obelisk stands in the center of St. Peter's Plaza
The Vatican Obelisk
 This Vatican obelisk was first brought to Rome from Egypt in AD37 to decorate Nero’s Circus which once stood on the very sight of today’s Basilica. The red granite obelisk is 25.5 meters (84 ft) high and stands 41 meters (135’) to the top of the cross.  It was moved onto this spot from one side of the old St. Peter’s in 1586 and it is noted to be about 4400 years old.
We are looking across St. Peter's Plaza to the St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Plaza in Vatican City, Italy
This square can hold up to 300,000 people without it being too crowded.  It often fills for papal events held here including when watching for smoke rising from the Sistine Chapel to indicate a new pope has been elected.  There are weekly services held on Wednesdays and Sundays with seats for many and a large screen for those in the crowd to be able to better view the pope.  Click here to learn more about times of services and getting the free tickets that are required.
The guards stand at the gate guarding the pope.
Swiss guards at St. Peter's Basilica in Italy
The Swiss guards have been protecting the pope since 1506 which was also when construction began on this church to replace the original one.  Michelangelo, the first fashion designer in history, designed the uniforms that are still worn to this day.
The colonnade with statues on top, surrounds the plaza.
Colonnade at St. Peter's Plaza in Vatican City, Rome
The colonnade that surrounds St. Peter’s Square consists of four rows with 284 columns and is topped off with statues of 140 saints. Some have said that the shape of the colonnade resemble the arms of the church embracing all of humanity and when you get a full view of the Plaza, it definitely gives a look of welcome, one that all can enjoy.
To see our visit to the Vatican Museums, click here.


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