Saturday, 4 June 2016

Rome Holiday:: Day 2

Morning!! Hopefully you've had a good breakfast and are just settling down somewhere cosy with a mug of something nice and a snack- this post is rather long, I think you'll need some refreshment halfway through!!
Our hotel provided a breakfast buffet for us each morning, and it was absolutely delicious! Their pastry almost had a slight zest to it which was lovely, and then of course, when they stuff croissants with Nutella- instant breakfast hit!! The view also helped provide the perfect start to the day, all very relaxing.

We had decided to visit the Pantheon that morning, which was a ten minute walk away that ended up taking two hours as we kept getting distracted, especially when we came across a piazza FULL of feathers! It was so completely random; we were walking along the road wondering why there were so many feathers blowing along the pavement, when suddenly it opened out into Piazza di San Silvestro which was absolutely covered with red, yellow and black feathers! On research later on in the day it was apparently an advertising scheme for the new Angry Birds movie, but at the time it was simply fun! Lots of people were already there throwing feathers at each other so we joined in and played for a while, throwing them at each other and watching them flurry in little hurricanes. For the rest of the holiday we kept spotting these feathers in the most unlikely places, it's amazing how far some of them blew away to.

We also passed through (when we eventually dragged ourselves away from the feathers) Piazza Colonna which houses the impressive Column of Marcus Aurelius, a Roman victory column, in the centre. It is incredibly tall at just under 40 metres and has ornate carvings showing the battle and victories over the Marcomanni, Quadi and Sarmatians in the year 176. It also has a spiral staircase at the centre of it, going all the way up to the top, although you can no longer climb it.

There are so many interesting things in Rome that every little square seems to hold a story of historic importance. Still having not reached the Pantheon (our original destination), and having been distracted by two squares already, another distraction came in the form of Hadrian's Temple.

It is perhaps looking a little sad and tired now, with the majority of its marble and stones robbed away. Originally it was built in honour of Emperor Hadrian by his adoptive son Antoninus Pius, and was later incorporated into a different building. The piazza it is in, the Piazza di Pietra is named after it as the term translates into Piazza of Stone and was made out of the robbed stones of the temple. Only eleven of the original columns still stand on the remaining side, which would have originally had fifteen columns on both the long sides, and eight on the short sides.

Eventually we made it into Piazza della Rotunda- the Pantheon square (hurrah!), which is surrounded by the most beautiful buildings. Some of them almost look like they are just painted facades they are so perfect.

The Pantheon itself is a very domineering structure with its regimented rows of Corinthian columns at the front, and is one of the best preserved Ancient Roman buildings, probably because it has always been in use. Since the 7th century it has been used as a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs (also known as Santa Maria Rotonda).

The dome is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome with an open hole or oculus at the top that is just over eight metres wide. The dome works because the width is exactly the same as the interior height, incredible to think of! The marble floor has been cordoned off in the centre and has many little dips and holes in it due to the rain that falls through the hole. When we visited luckily the only thing coming through was the light, and a couple of pigeons.

We learnt a good supposed fact whilst wandering around the Pantheon (eavesdropping on the English speaking tours)- although it isn't related to the building itself. Apparently Margerita pizza was invented by a King of Italy, Umberto I, for his wife Princess Margherita. Pizza was originally eaten by peasants but the King designed his own one with colours from the Italian flag- red from the tomatoes, green from the basil and white from the mozzarella. He named it after his wife and it became her favourite pizza. How true this is I'm not sure as further research has brought lots of questions, but it's a nice story!

We carried on a little further away from The Pantheon, to have a quick look at Piazza Navona, another enormous square with historic importance. It is built on the site of an Ancient Roman stadium, where they would gather to watch the games (probably chariot racing), and was later built into more of the square seen today. On one side is the Palazzo Pamphili, a palace built and owned by Pope Innocent X, and in the centre are several important fountains. The one pictured above is the Fontana del Moro at the Southern end of the Piazza.

In the centre is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), which represents four major rivers, the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges and the Rio de la Plata. It is topped with another ancient Egyptian obelisk and has the Pamphili family emblem carved on the side.

Oh we did so much walking on this holiday! After a quick stop at the hotel to refuel on the cake on the rooftop, we wandered off again to visit the Villa Borghese Gardens- which are vast!

The gardens are set on the top of a hill so the view on the trek up there was particularly impressive!! you can see the dome of San Carlo on the left and below, and just in the distance in the right hand side of the below image, the dome of St Peter's Basilica.

There are statues in various states of disrepair all over the gardens depicting famous or notable Italians, as well as various temples, structures, fountains, sculptures, museums and view points- like the one below looking over the Piazza del Popolo. It is also split into two sections as there is a major road running through it, cut into the hill. It is joined with a bridge over the road but we only ventured around the smaller half before wandering back into the town for a spot of dinner.

Our restaurant of choice was right around the corner from the Trevi fountain, and to round off the lovely day we decided to have a quick peek at the fountain all lit up at night. It did not disappoint!! Such a glorious sight!!

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