Rome is the capital of Italy. It has an ancient history, which clearly can be seen in many of the ruined buildings in these photos, taken 19th-21st July, 2011.
Visit the Rome Attractions website for more information.
The Colosseum is arguably the most impressive building of the Roman empire. Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, it was the largest building of the era. Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian Dynasty, started construction of the Colosseum in AD 72. It was completed in AD 80, the year after Vespasian’s death. The huge amphitheatre was built on the site of an artificial lake, part of Nero’s huge park in the centre of Rome, which also included the Golden House (Domus Aurea) (all destroyed to build the Colosseum) and the nearby Colossus statue. This giant statue of Nero (destroyed with only its base remaining) gave the building its current name.
The Colosseum is an entirely free-standing structure. It derives its basic exterior and interior architecture from that of two Roman theatres back to back. It is elliptical in plan and is 189 metres (615 ft / 640 Roman feet) long, and 156 metres (510 ft / 528 Roman feet) wide, with a base area of 6 acres (24,000 m2). The height of the outer wall is 48 metres (157 ft / 165 Roman feet). The perimeter originally measured 545 metres (1,788 ft / 1,835 Roman feet). The central arena is an oval 87 m (287 ft) long and 55 m (180 ft) wide, surrounded by a wall 5 m (15 ft) high, above which rose tiers of seating.
The Colosseum could accommodate some 55,000 spectators (the numbers are debated), who could enter the building through no less than 80 entrances.
Above the ground are four storeys, the upper storey contained seating for lower classes and women. The lowest storey was preserved for prominent citizens. Below the ground were rooms with mechanical devices and cages containing wild animals. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena. Emperors used the Colosseum to entertain the public with free games: demonstrating a symbol of prestige and power. This enabled an emperor to increase his popularity. Hundred-day games were held by Titus, Vespasian’s successor, to mark the inauguration of the building in AD 80.
The southern side of the Colosseum was felled by an earthquake in 847. Parts of the building – including the marble façade – were used for the construction of later monuments, including the St. Peter’s Basilica.
Guided tours and audio guides are available for the Colosseum. More information on Wikipedia.
View across the arena itself where entertainment and gladiatorial fights occurred. This measures 83 metres by 48 metres (272 ft by 157 ft / 280 by 163 Roman feet). It comprised a wooden floor covered by sand (the Latin word for sand is harena or arena), covering an elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum (literally meaning “underground”). Most of the arena floor is gone, but the hypogeum is still intact and visible.
Park, part of Rome’s ancient Palatine Hill, with Roman ruins. The area pre-dates Rome itself. Palatine Hill is the centre-most of the famous seven hills of Rome. Located in between such attractions as the Circus Maximus (ancient Chariot Racing stadium), the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. We wandered around this area and across the grass before following a proper path up the hill and then descending rough steps down to a lower area, up more steps and along a sandy rough trail to eventually reach the Arch of Titus and the beginning of the Roman Forum.
The Arch of Titus is one of two remaining arches on the Forum Romanum. It was built to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem over the Jewish Zealots who began a revolt against the Roman occupation of Judea in AD 66. Titus, son of Emperer Vespasian, captured Jerusalem in AD 70 with four legions and the revolt was completely crushed after the fall of the Masada fortress in AD 72. In AD 79, Titus became emperor of the Roman empire. He died just two years later, in September AD 81. Emperor Domitian, Titus’s brother and successor, built the Arch of Titus that same year both to honour his brother and to commemorate the victory in the Jewish War. The arch was dedicated in AD 85 with large festivities. The 15m high arch is located at the eastern end of the Forum Romanum, at the highest point of the Via Sacra (Sacra Road).
It is the oldest surviving example of a Roman arch. The inside of the arch contains two panels with reliefs. One depicts a triumphal procession with the spoils taken from the Second Temple in Jerusalem – the seven-branched candelabrum or Menorah, the silver trumpets and the Table of the Shewbread. The other one shows Titus in a chariot accompanied by the Goddess Victoria and the Goddess Roma. Partly rebuilt in the mid-19th century.
This impressive monument dominates the small Trevi square located in the Quirinale district, central Rome. The Trevi fountain is at the ending part of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC. It brings water all the way from the Salone Springs (approximately 20km from Rome) and supplies the fountains in the historic centre with water. In 1732, Pope Clement XII commissioned Nicola Salvi to create a large fountain at the Trevi Square. Salvi based his theatrical “The Restive Sea Horse” masterpiece of Neptune, god of the sea, on architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s earlier design. Construction of the monumental baroque fountain was finally completed in 1762.
Column of Marcus Aurelius is at Piazza Colonna, bordered by the Via del Corso, a main road and shopping hub that runs through Rome’s centre. The column was built between AD 180 and AD 196 as a gift by the Senate and the people of Rome to emperor Marcus Aurelius. Also known as the Aurelian Column, it commemorates the emperor’s military campaigns. The column is some 30 metres high (100 Roman feet) and formed of 28 blocks of carrara marble. It originally stood on a large rectangular pedestal, almost 4 metres high, and bears a spiralling band of reliefs depicting events during the imperial campaigns in the north. A statue of St. Paul now stands atop the column.
Built more than 1800 years ago, the magnificent Pantheon building still stands as a reminder of the great Roman empire. With its thick brick walls and large marble columns, the Pantheon makes an immediate impression on visitors. But for its time, the most remarkable feature of the building is the high dome, more than 43 metres in height. The building is cylindrical. Its diameter equals the interior height of 43.3 metres.
In AD 118, emperor Hadrian commissioned the Pantheon’s rebuilding, after two previous buildings had been destroyed, but with a totally different circular design. The huge columns, weighting 60 tonnes, used for the portico were quarried in Egypt. They were transported all the way to Rome using barges and vessels.
Originally a temple for all pagan gods, it was converted into a church in 609. The Pantheon now contains the tombs of the famous artist Raphael and of several Italian Kings including Victor Imanuel, first King of Italy. Its ecclesiastic interior design contrasts with the temple’s structural design, but the marble floor, which features a design consisting of a series of geometric patterns, is still the ancient Roman original.
The Piazza Navona is one of the most famous and arguably the most beautiful of Rome’s many squares. The large and lively square features no less than three magnificent fountains. The baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone lies to the west of the large square. The piazza is built on the former Domitian’s stadium, built by emperor Domitian in 86 AD. Hence the long, oval shape of the square.
The Fountain of the Four Rivers was constructed between 1647 and 1651 on request of the Pope Innocent X. The fountain’s design was first commissioned to Borromini, but it was ultimately handed to his rival Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The fountain features four figures, each representing a river from a different continent: the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio della Plata. The statues are at the base of a rock supporting an obelisk, originally located at the Massenzio Circus, near the Via Appia Antica. The two other fountains on the piazza are the Fountain of Neptune the (Fontana di Nettuno) at the northern end and the Moor fountain (Fontana del Moro) at the southern end.
The Fountain of Neptune, also known as the Calderari, was built in 1576 by Giacomo della Porta. The statues, Neptune surrounded by sea nymphs, were added in the 19th century.
The Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square) is one of the most popular meeting places in Rome. It is also one of the most visually pleasing squares. The combination of a monumental staircase (the famous Spanish Steps), an obelisk and a beautiful church. The Piazza di Spagna is connected to a French church (Trinità dei Monti) on top of the hill via a long staircase, known as the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti or Spanish Steps. The idea of connecting the church with the square below originates from the 17th century, when the French also planned a statue of King Louis XIV of France at the top of the staircase. Papal opposition caused the plans to be shelved until 1723, when the monumental staircase was built without the statue. The elegant staircase consists of 137 steps over twelve different flights. The staircase has an irregular albeit symmetric structure.
At the bottom of the Spanish Steps is the Piazza di Spagna. The long, triangular square is named after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. In the 17th century, the area around the embassy was even considered Spanish territory. At the foot of the Spanish Steps in the centre of the Spanish square is the Fontana della Barcaccia (Boat Fountain), a sober fountain commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Naples, 7 December 1598 – Rome, 28 November 1680). The design, a small boat, was inspired by the flooding of the Tevere in 1598, when legend states a small boat stranded here after the water subsided.
The Trinità dei Monti is a beautiful French church located on a hill overlooking the small Piazza della Trinità dei Monti. From this square, you have a nice view over Rome, including the dome of St. Peter’s. At the end of the 15th century, only a small chapel existed on the hill. In 1495, French King Louis XII commissioned the erection of a new church, replacing the chapel. Construction started in 1502 and dragged on for decades. It was only consecrated in 1585 by Pope Sixtus V. The Gothic church with a renaissance façade has two bell towers. Inside, several paintings decorate the different chapels. Among them are two works by Daniele da Volterra, a pupil of Michelangelo.
All Saints Church, on Via del Babuino (opened in 1525 as the Via Paolina), a street leading from Piazza del Popolo to the Spanish Steps and part of the so-called “trident” (il Tridente). Three roads that branch out from the southern end of the Piazza del Popolo into the city.
Piazza del Popolo in the evening. Tony and Tatiana sat on the edge of one of the fountains of the centrally located Fontana dell’Obelisco, a group of four mini-fountains, each comprising a lion on a stepped plinth, surrounding the Egyptian obelisk.
Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square) is a large oval square near the Borghese Park in the northern part of central Rome. In 1589, Pope Sixtus V had the architect-engineer Domenico Fontana begin an urban plan, which included re-erecting the Egyptian obelisk from the Circus Maximus to the centre of the Piazza del Popolo. Known as the obelisco Flaminio or the Popolo Obelisk, it is the second oldest and one of the tallest obelisks in Rome. The 23.2 m/73 ft high obelisk was originally built in 1300 BC and was taken from the Sun Temple in Heliopolis in 10 BC by the Roman Emperor Augustus. The obelisk was erected at the Circus Maximus to commemorate the conquest of Egypt. In 1815 to 1816 Giuseppe Valadier redesigned the square by adding the walls around the piaza, giving the square its current oval shape. He also added the fountains and the four Egyptian lions around the obelisk.
The Vatican Museums were founded under the patronage of two 18th century popes – Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799) – who were among the first to open collections of art to the general public for viewing, therefore promoting culture among the masses. Appropriately, the first building in the museum complex, the Pio-Clementine Museum, was named after these two pontiffs. Today, there are 13 museums in about 14 Vatican palaces that are included on tours of the Vatican Museum complex.
Ancient Greek statue of Laocoön and His Sons (also called the Laocoön Group) at the Vatican Museums. The statue shows the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being strangled by sea serpents.
This great building, the world’s largest and longest cathedral, is the center of christianity. The opulence of the building’s interior bears testimony to the wealth of the catholic church in the 16th century. Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, ordered a basilica built on Vatican Hill. The location was symbolic: this was the place where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, was buried in 64 A.D. A small shrine already existed on the site but it was now replaced by a new building. The church was completed around 349 A.D.
Pope Nicolas V ordered the restoration and enlargement of the damaged church in the mid-15th century after plans by Bernardo Rossellino. After Nicolas V died, works were halted. In 1506 pope Julius II laid the first stone of a new basilica which was to become the largest in the world. Julius II appointed Donato Bramante as the chief architect of the new Basilica. In 1547 Michelangelo succeeded Bramante. He designed the imposing dome and altered some of the original plans. Michelangelo, who also designed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and created the Last Judgement, died in 1624, two years before the St. Peter’s basilica was dedicated by pope Urban VIII.
The building itself is truly impressive. The largest church in the world, it has a 218 metre long nave. The basilica’s dome is the world’s largest measuring 42m in diameter and reaching 138 metres high (more than 450ft). The interior, which includes 45 altars, is decorated by many famous artists. Some of the most important works in the church are the Pietà by Michelangelo, the papal altar by Bernini, the Throne of St. Peter – also by Bernini – and the Monument to the Stuarts by Canova.
The magnificent square was created in the 17th century by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Naples, 7 December 1598 – Rome, 28 November 1680). The square, which is located in Vatican City, the world’s smallest country, and borders St. Peter’s Basilica on its west side, is an architectural highlight. Immediately after Alexander VII was elected as the new pope in April 1655, he commissioned sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini to create a new square in front of the St. Peter’s Basilica. Following Alexander’s detailed instructions, Bernini produced an elliptical square, 240 metres wide and 196 metres long (787 x 643 ft). Construction of the square started in 1656 and was completed twelve years later, in 1667.
The Square is bordered on either side by semi-circular colonnades which, according to Bernini, symbolize the stretched arms of the church embracing the world. The colonnades were built in 1660 and consist of four rows of columns with in total 284 Doric columns and 88 pilasters. The columns are 20 metres high (66 ft) and 1.6 metres wide (5ft). 140 Statues were installed on top of the colonnades, all created by Bernini and his students. They depict popes, martyrs, evangelists and other religious figures.
The Victor Emmanuel II Monument is a huge white marble monument to Italy’s first King. In 1885, construction of the monument started, based on a design by Giuseppe Sacconi. The site on the northern slope of the Capitoline Hill was cleared to make way for the monument. Roman ruins and medieval churches were destroyed in the process. In 1911, at the 50th anniversary of the new kingdom, the new symbol of a united Italy was inaugurated.
The monument consists of a large flight of stairs leading to the Altar of the Nation, dominated by a colossal 12m long equestrian statue of the King. At the foot of the statue is the tomb of the unknown soldier, guarded by two sentries of honour. The monument is rounded off with a long corridor featuring 15m/50ft high columns.
The ancient Capitoline Hill, also called Campidoglio in Italian, is the smallest of Rome’s seven hills. The Piazza and buildings were re-designed in the mid-16th century by Michelangelo on the request of Pope Paul III Farnese. Construction of the Piazza di Campidoglio started in 1546 but only the staircase at the entrance of the Palazzo Senatorio was completed when Michelangelo died in 1564. The project was only finished in the 17th century, but most of Michelangelo’s designs were implemented.
The long, beautiful staircase to Palazzo Senatorio is known as the Cordonata. It is adorned with granite statues of Egyptian lions at the foot and two large classical statues of Castor and Pollux at the top.
The Palazzo Senatorio was the seat of the Roman senate. The name is derived from its function as seat of the Senate until 1870 when it became the seat of the city of Rome. It was originally built as a fortress in the 11th century on top of the ancient Tabularium and rebuilt again in the 13th and 14th centuries. The current design is a slightly adapted version of the 16th century design by Michelangelo.