Thursday, January 23, 2014

Roman Holiday Part 2

On January 8th, we woke up to a lovely sunny day so decided to postpone our plan of seeing the Vatican Museums and instead visit the Colosseum. (Yes, already we were adjusting "the plan" and hadn't yet even left the RV!) 
A view of the Colosseum: Also known as the Amphitheatrum Flavium, this elliptically shaped arena was ordered built by Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD and was completed in 80 AD by his heir and successor, Titus. In the foreground of this photo is flooring that was added to a third of the ground space to show the size and position of the original flooring which, back in the day, was wooden and covered by sand.
Another view of the Colosseum from the opposite side. It is estimated that the Colosseum could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as animal hunts, executions, mock sea battles (the Colosseum floor could be flooded which probably was a good "cleaning" step after the animal hunts and executions), re-enactments of famous battles and dramas based on Classical mythology.
Colosseum seating was in a tiered arrangement that rigidly reflected the stratified nature of Roman society. This photo shows a section of seating reserved for senators. The names of some 5th century senators can still be seen carved into the stonework, presumably reserving areas for their use.
A view of the Forum from the Colosseum.
The basement (hypogeum) of the colosseum consisted of a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. Eighty vertical shafts provided access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath and larger hinged platforms, called hegmata, provided access for elephants and bigger scenery/prop items.
Sarah helping to put the massive size of the top of a corinthian pillar into perspective.
After leaving the Colosseum, we had lunch at a nearby trattoria, Taverna dei Quaranta, that made very good pasta dishes. After lunch we set out to visit 3 churches that were on our list as "must sees".

The first was the Basilica di San Clemente which is promoted as "one of the more interesting churches in Rome" so maybe I just missed something. Having been spoiled seeing so many other churches/basilicas in Rome, I was underwhelmed with the San Clemente. The church did not allow photography so I cannot add any visuals here to the blog. The church is on the small side (all relative when comparing basilicas in Rome) and I didn't observe any feature that was outstanding (to the untrained eye). It is old however, and that is always something when these buildings survive a thousand or more years. It was almost buried in ruins when the Normans set fire to it in 1084 and was rebuilt in the 12th century. For the art historians out there, San Clemente remains a rare example of a paleo-Christian basilica, so may be worth a visit.

We then continued on to the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano which even the average person walking off the street can appreciate. Apparently the Catholic Church has named it "The Mother of All Churches".
The Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano is the Cathedral of Rome and was founded by Constantine as the Basilica of the Savior during the papacy of St Sylvester (314-335 AD). Dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano is the first among the four major basilicas of Rome.
The current Basilica dates to the 17th century but despite many alterations over the centuries, the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano still retains its original plan: A nave flanked by two aisles and ending in a semi-circular apse to the west. Unusually, the basilica is oriented to the west instead of the east; this is because it was built before the tradition of east-orientation had taken hold.
The High Altar was made in 1367 under Pope Urban V and is reserved for the Pope; only he can celebrate mass from this pulpit.
The cosmatesque (derived from the name of a family of marble workers, the Cosmati, who worked in and around Rome in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries) floor, characterized by geometric motifs formed using cut pieces of marble and other stones.
Just in front of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano is the Laterno Obelisk which is the tallest of the obelisks standing in various piazzas across Rome. It is also the largest standing ancient Egyptian obelisk in the world. It was made in 1449 BC and brought to Rome in the 4th century where it was erected on the Circus Maximus. It was moved to the Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano in 1588.
Close-up of the hieroglyphs on the obelisk.
Our third religious destination was the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore which is the largest Catholic Marian Church (dedicated to the veneration of the Virgin Mary) in Rome.
Santa Maria Maggiore was built under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). It was one of the first churches built in honor of the Virgin Mary and was erected in the immediate aftermath of the Council of Ephesus of 431 which proclaimed "Mary, Mother of God". Pope Sixtus III built it to commemorate this decision.
The inside of the Basilica was very dark and so it was difficult to photograph. Similar to the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, the canopied high altar in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is used only by the Pope (with the exception of a few priests, including the archpriest). Pope Francis began his first full day as Pontiff with a visit to the basilica on March 14, 2013. Somewhere at this altar is supposedly remnants of the manger that Jesus was laid in at Bethlehem.
Painting of Mary and Jesus located behind the high altar.
That evening Sarah invited me to dinner at McDonald's which was located just across the road from our campground; she insisted that dinner be her treat using money that she was given at Christmas. It was a very sweet invitation and we had fun, just the two of us spending some girl time together.
The Italian McDonald's Happy Meal included a yogurt drink in addition to the chicken nuggets and fries.
On January 9th, we visited the Forum and Palatine Hill. I believe this was my third trip to Rome and this was the first visit to the Forum for me. It's essential to get the audioguide in order to really get something meaningful out of a visit, which is what we did. One could easily spend about 3+ hours meandering around the Forum, Palatine Hill and surrounding building remains.

For those who don't know much about the Roman Forum, it was the center of the civic and economic life in the Republican era (~509 BC - approx 44 BC) and maintained an important role also in the Imperial period (~27 BC - approx 550 AD). Particularly through the Republican era, the Forum valley filled with public buildings which almost always originally had a timber frame and brick facing. Over the years, they were reconstructed following fires or civil strife. It is because of the unplanned continuity of building over time that the Forum lacks a unitary plan. At the beginning of the Imperial period and the first Emperor, Augustus, the Forum took on a different role, more of a monumental center and place of religious worship, while public life moved to the nearby Imperial Forum. The area began to decline in the 4th century AD, with the Imperial court's move to Ravenna and the closure of some temples, and then in the 5th century following the Visigoth and Vandal invasions.

Here are a subset of photographs taken while wandering around listening to the audioguide.
The Arch of Constantine (under renovation) and the Colosseum behind.
Looking at the remaining foundation of the Basilica Julia; it was built by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC. It was an enormous building with 5 naves. The 3 columns to the left are the remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux; it was built in 484 BC to commemorate the victory of Aulus Postumius over the Latins in the battle of Lake Regillus.
Glued to the audioguide: This photo provides a good overview of how large the Forum valley is. (That extraordinarily high column in the center of the photo is the Column of Phocas; it was last dedicated to the Eastern Roman Emperor, Phocas, in 608 and was the last addition made to the Roman Forum.) To the right, one walks up the Palatine Hill which provides about the same area of ground to cover.
The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was dedicated by the Senate to Faustina in 141 AD and, then to the Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD), when he died. Pope Urban V reused construction materials from within the temple to renovate the Lateran Palace (at one time the residence of Popes).
The Arch of Septimius Severus: It had been erected in honor of Septimius (who reigned from 193-211) and his sons, Caracalla and Geta. (But later Caracalla killed Geta and had his brother's name removed from the monument.) The columns in the left background are the remains of the Temple of Saturn at the foot of the Capitoline Hill; it was a temple dedicated to the god Saturn in ~498BC and is the oldest sacred place in Rome, after the Temples of Vesta and Jupiter.
Temple of Vesta: The temple is linked to one of Rome's most ancient cults. Here the Vestal Virgins tended the sacred fire which was to burn perpetually as a symbol of the city's life force.
Statues at the House of the Vestal Virgins.
Interior of the Arch of Titus: It was built by the Senate after Emperor Titus's death in memory of his conquest of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The bas-relief shown here represents the Emperor on his triumphal chariot.
After leaving the Forum valley, we walked up the Palatine Hill to the Farnese Gardens.
Farnese Gardens: The landscape of Forum ruins fascinated Cardinal Alessandro Farnese who, in 1542, began to purchase land on the Palatine Hill and in 1565 began to lay out a garden with lodges, nymphaeums and suspended walkways, in which to organize hunts and open-air picnics. The gardens were finished between 1627 and 1635 by Duke Odoardo Farnese.
A view of Rome from the Palatine Hill.
Looking at the Stadium of Domitian and the Severan complex. The Stadium was 160x48 meters and was surrounded by fragments of porticoes, statues, fountains and, on one side, the large niche of the Imperial loggia. It was commissioned around 80 AD by the Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus as a gift to the people of Rome, and was used mostly for athletic contests.
Aqua Claudia: The Palatine Hill and its Imperial palaces were served by the Aqua Claudia aqueduct, which was begun by Caligula (38-41 AD), inaugurated by Claudius (41-54 AD) and enlarged by Nero and the Flavian Emperors (64-96 AD). The aqueduct was fed by a spring in the upper Aniene valley, supplied the Caelian Hill, before reaching the Palatine where it flowed into collection tanks connected to a wide-reaching distribution of lead pipes.
After leaving the Forum, we had lunch at the same Taverna dei Quaranta where we ate the previous day. (Their pastas were very good.) After lunch, we moved the car and parked it next to the Circus Maximus. To say the Circus Maximus is huge is almost an understatement; it's 664x123 meters and runs along the base of the Palatine Hill, almost entirely filling the space between the Palatine and Aventine Hills. In the time of Augustus, the Circus Maximus held 150,000 and, with additions by Trajan, it's said to have held 250,000.
The kids gearing up for their epic battle in the Circus Maximus. Videos were taken but we won't subject our readers to those.
We then walked over to the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin to take a look at the Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth), which is something recommended for "kids in Rome". Anyone who has seen the movie "Roman Holiday" will recognize it. Starting from the Middle Ages, it was believed that if one told a lie with one's hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. The piece was placed in the portico of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin in the 17th century. Of course, we each had to get our photo taken with our hand in the "Bocca". 
The only thing going through my mind at this point was getting that antibacterial spray out of my purse.
After getting our hands bit off by the Bocca della Verita, we of course had to go inside the Basilica of Saint Mary to take a look. Inside, there was advertisement of Hadrian's Crypt and someone was charging €5 to go down and see it. I'm not sure what we were thinking (we obviously weren't) but Vincent paid for two of us (€10) to go down. All of us ended up going down anyway (so we were at a cost of €2/person) and it was such a disappointment. It's just a small altar in a tiny undercroft which is not unlike the basement of an old brick mid-western house.
Don't do it! Don't visit (Pope) Hadrian's tomb! (Unless it is free.)
On January 10th, Vincent had another spa gift scheduled at 11am. Paul, Sarah and I drove into Rome with him and decided to explore Rome with the plan to meet Vincent for lunch at the Piazza Farnese at 14:00. I had previously looked up on-line "things to do with kids in Rome" and the options were pretty limited compared with what other capital cities had to offer. Fodor's Travel recommended the Bocca della Verita which we saw the previous day. They also recommended trying to get a drink of water out of Rome's public water fountains which, while creative, was kind of scraping at the bottom of the barrel for activities.
Paul was game to try every "kids activity" on the list.
Another activity on the list was to visit the Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. The  Largo di Torre Argentina is the former home of four Roman temples and Pompey's Theater, now in ruins. Hordes of Rome's stray cats have been living there since the site was uncovered by archaeologists in 1929. It's been coined as the "kitty lover's Graceland". En route, we bought a couple bags of cat food to give as a donation. 
Upon arrival to Largo di Torre Argentina, we were all expecting to see masses of cats but at first glance we only saw one.
Looking for cats.
Found a cat...that promptly hissed at Paul after this photo was taken.
After dropping off our cat food donation and watching the cats among the ruins for about 30 minutes, we set off to explore more of Rome and put in the other 90 minutes we had left before we were to meet Vincent. I decided we should walk over to the Isola Tiberina, the one island on the Tiber in Rome. 
Paul and Sarah on the Ponte Fabricio walking towards the Isola Tiberina. Built in 62 BC, the Ponte Fabricio is the oldest Roman bridge still existing in its original state.
We walked across the Isola Tiberina and took a closer look at the Tiber. While there, we saw a spirited demonstration against the use of animals for testing.
Typical brotherly fun: Let's toss my sister into the Tiber.
Someone had a sense of humor with this fountain near the Ponte Garibaldi.
A view of the Isola Tiberina from the Ponte Garibaldi.
After wandering through the Isola Tiberina and the outer edges of Trastevere, Sarah asked to go back to the cat sanctuary as she thought we could go in and pet the cats. Paul was willing and so that's what we did. Sure enough, one can enter the sanctuary from Vittorio Emanuele II and visit with the cats. There is a separate section for disabled cats and people can also go in there to spend time with cats, that likely will never be adopted. The sanctuary offers a valuable service; they feed, immunize, treat for fleas and spade/neuter the cats and try to find them homes. One can even "virtually" adopt a cat and pay so much a month, if one doesn't want to actually take the cat home with them. When we were there, we were told they were caring for about 224 cats. If you are a fan of cats, this is a great place to take kids. Most children (and adults) get tired of museums, galleries and ruins, which makes this cat sanctuary a really great outing and break from the tourism grind.
Inside the sanctuary, the cats will approach you two or three at a time.
After our extensive cat experience, we met Vincent for lunch at the Piazza Farnese and then we walked to the Castel Sant' Angelo, which we planned to visit. (Back to that tourism thing again.)

We walked through Piazza Navona and I decided to take a picture of the third fountain located there. (The other two are in the "All Roads Lead to Rome" blog).
Fountain of Neptune: The basin part of the fountain was designed in 1574 by Giacomo Della Porta, who also designed the Moor Fountain at the other side of the square. It was sponsored by Pope Gregory XIII. It wasn't until 300 years later when the sculptures were added. The fountain as it exists today was finally completed in 1878 by Antonio della Bitta, who added the central sculpture of "Neptune fighting with an octopus" and Gregorio Zappala, who created the other sculptures, based on the mythological theme of the "Nereids with cupids and walruses".
When we arrived at the Castel Sant' Angelo, we again rented the audioguides which is really important in order to make a visit worthwhile. (In lieu of the audioguide, a guide book would also work. Signage is minimal so one won't garner much by just walking in and looking around.) The Castel Sant' Angelo makes a good outing and I'd recommend seeing it during late afternoon. There is a cafe on the upper level and it's possible to get a coffee or glass of wine and it would be very pleasant sitting out on the terrace watching the sunset.

Castel Sant' Angelo was built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian, and his successors, between 123-139 AD. It has also been a prison and a papal residence. It was used by former Popes who absconded there for protection in times of danger. It still connects to the Vatican via a covered passageway, called the Passetto di Borgo.
Hadrian's ashes were placed here a year after his death in 138 AD, together with those of his wife Sabina, and his first adopted son, Lucius Aelius, who also died in 138 AD.
Bust of Emperor Hadrian designed by Michelangelo, but then changed by Montelupo, and restored in the early 1900's.
A trebuchet which may not authentically belong here.
The papal apartments were started by Pope Julius II, then Leo X, but Paul III redecorated everything, so his painting style is what is seen. Pope Paul III lived here for 13 years.
Pauline Chamber: This is the room where Paul III received delegations during his residence here. It was decorated by a student of Raphael named Perin del Vaga, and his assistants, from June 1545 to September 1547.
Paintings are allegories of what Paul III thought of himself. Let's just say, he thought a great deal about himself. In Greek, on the ceiling, it says, "Paul III, Pope, has transformed the tomb of the Great Hadrian into a mighty and sacred abode."
The treasury room, linked to the papal apartments, was used as a safe for Rome during the Renaissance.
A view of the Tiber.
At the top of Castel Sant' Angelo, overlooking the panoramic terrace, is a statue of the archangel Michael, built by the 18th century Flemish sculptor Pieter Verschaffelt. (There were other previous versions of Michael here but each one was destroyed, most often by lightning.) According to legend, Michael appeared on top of the fortress in the year 590 and miraculously ended the severe plague that had infested the city of Rome. After the purported event, the building was renamed Castel Sant'Angelo in honor of the archangel. Fans of the opera Tosca will enjoy walking on the terrace, particularly if one has the audioguide. Music from the opera is played and one can imagine those final moments in Act III when Tosca cries, ""O Scarpia, Avanti a Dio!" and then hurls herself over the edge of the terrace to her death.
On January 11th, we drove to Ostia Antica which was a settlement that is believed to have been founded as far back as the 7th century BC (but evidence supports the 4th century BC) near the mouth of the Tiber River and was at one time an important port for Rome. Originally a fortified citadel controlling access to Rome by river, Ostia grew over five centuries. Unlike ancient Pompei which died due to the consequences of Mt Vesuvius erupting, Ostia was gradually abandoned due to a number of factors: Political chaos in Rome, the growing importance of Portus over Ostia as a commercial hub, increased Tiber floodings and, at the end of the 5th century, the Ostian aqueduct ceasing to function. Ostia gradually became ruins. From the 11th to the 14th century, much of the marble facing the buildings was taken and reused elsewhere in Italy.

Most of the buildings that have been excavated were built in the first half of the second century, when such notable emperors such as Trajan and Hadrian ruled. Due to the addition of a harbor district, Ostia was rich and prosperous until the Severan period in the early 3rd century. During this time, Ostia’s population was roughly 50,000 people, including 17,000 slaves. This was twice the size of Pompei and, as a result, the span of the city ruins is much broader.

Ostia is certainly worth a visit. Make sure you bring a guidebook or find some information on-line to bring with you. Ostia maps are available for sale at the entrance but they give very little information. Here are a few of the photos I took.
It was customary to bury the dead outside the city walls. So the first thing visitors walk by when entering Ostia is the necropolis which means "city of the dead".

Walking along Via Ostiense (and through the necropolis) towards the Porta Romana.

Remains of a long covered passageway on the main road (Decumanus Maximus) through Ostia: Ostia was supplied in the Imperial period with monumental porticoed zones that offered protection from inclement weather and shelter for commercial activities.
Between the 4th century and 1st century BC, drinking water was provided from rain and from the ground water, which was drawn on by means of wells. In the Julio-Claudian period, the city was supplied with an aqueduct. Then it is also believed that Emperor Vespasian supplied another aqueduct.
Mosaic floor in the Neptune Baths: Through the centuries, the mosaics had undergone significant alteration caused by usage, weather and intervention by man. Ever since ancient times, the continued use of the baths had meant ongoing maintenance to keep piping and drainage systems below functional but with little attention to the condition of the mosaics. Note the repair in the bottom left part of the floor; it looks like a repair was made underneath the floor and no one bothered to replace the mosaic on the surface. It still seems there is insufficient regard with what little is left of the mosaics, looking at this exposed floor.
This was a bauletto fountain. Fountains like these were added after the 1st century AD when the aqueduct was added.
One of the semi-circular nymphea (monument dedicated to the nymphs that (often) supplied water), bordered by four columns, which was built in the Imperial period. Entrance to the theater can be seen behind it, to the left.
The theatre was built by Agrippa and then remodeled by Septimius Severus in the 2nd century AD. It's located at the north side of the main road, Decumanus Maximus.
Temple dedicated to Ceres who was the goddess of agriculture (appropriate for a town dealing in grain imports).
A market building of about 120 AD: A little shrine on the back wall was decorated in red and yellow brick and probably housed the household god (Lares) who watched over the community of merchants.
Forum Capitolium (temple dedicated to the main Roman deities (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva)), built during Hadrian's reign.
This fountain is somewhat exceptional in that it hasn't been completely stripped of its marble facing and details.
Terme del Foro: This was the largest and probably the most important public baths in Ostia (due to its proximity to the Forum). They were built in the Antonine period (mid 2nd century AD). The cold rooms on the north side were isolated from the hot rooms on the south side. An extensive restoration in the 4th/5th century AD replaced all the marble (which since, like most everything else, has been stripped away).
Cross-section of a wall in one of the hot rooms in the Terme del Foro: Ongoing fires would heat up the air piped through the walls of these rooms.
The most intact communal latrine that I'd seen, complete with (cold, hard) marble seats. It was believed that these were built in the 4th century AD.
January 12th was our final Sunday in Italy and perhaps the last time we might have access to a church with an English service for a while. We decided to go to St Paul's Within the Walls. As it was the Sunday after Epiphany, there was a baptism (Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and if there's a baby available for baptism, this is often the Sunday chosen for the ritual.) All in all, it was a good service but long. No short cuts like sometimes found with some Catholic churches. Even the "peace be with you" ritual was the most extensive and thorough I've witnessed ever. Every member of the clergy said the "peace" with every member of the congregation. Many members of the congregation, including the parents of the baby who was baptized, walked up and down the aisles and spoke with every member of the congregation, including us. When the "peace" ritual was introduced into the Christian service, I think this is how it was intended rather than the cursory wave to your neighbor that 99% of people now do. But if you're like me, where the "peace" is your least favorite part of a service, St Paul's Within the Walls might not be the church for you.
St Paul's Within the Walls was the first non-catholic church built in Rome. The Church was designed by George Edmund Street and was built between 1873 and 1876.
The mosaic apses, designed by Burne-Jones, are designated a National Monument by the Italian Government. Here, the main apse behind the altar, represents "Christ the Lord in glory".
Close-up of the main apse.
All the windows in the church tell some story relating to Paul. This photo shows the great rose window high up on the west end of the church. It represents Christ the King surrounded by eight Roman martyrs.
After leaving St Paul's Within The Walls, we started walking over to the Piazza San Pietro in order to see if we could get tickets for the coming Wednesday's Papal audience. En route, we had lunch and I took a few more photos of fountains.
Fontana del Tritone (Triton fountain) located in the Piazza Barberini: The fountain was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and designed by the baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Berini in 1642–43. The Tritone was erected to provide water from the Acqua Felice aqueduct which Urban had restored.
Papal Audiences are held on Wednesdays if the Pope is in Rome, giving pilgrims and visitors the chance to see the Pope and receive the Papal Blessing or Apostolic Blessing from the successor of the Apostle, Peter. In order to access tickets for a Papal audience, one goes to St Peter's 3 days before (ie Sunday); after clearing security, one then approaches the guard(s) at the big brass door to make the request.
We were booked for Wednesday at 10:30am.
With 5 Papal Audience tickets in our possession, we continued on to climb to the dome of St Peter's.
Approaching the entrance to the stairs leading up to the dome: It costs €5 for the priviledge of walking up the entire way or €7 if you want to take an elevator up the first 320 stairs. There are about 551 stairs in total. Of course, we were all about the stairs.
After the first 320 steps, we reached the base of the dome. I wish I took more photos. Not many of the few I took turned out very well. Also, being very close to the dome, it was difficult to take a photo that really captured what we were seeing.
We were so close to the dome that it was difficult to photograph it.
From the floor of St Peter's one can't even see these mosaic medallions at the base of the dome and if one could, they would appear very small.
From below, these pictures look like paintings but up close you realize they are brilliantly executed detailed mosaics. It's a treat to see these.
During the last 231 stairs, one walks through a narrow walkway which is slanted. This is the space between the dome and the outer roof.
Notice the rusted candle holders on the roof. Years ago, candles were lit for special occasions by men scaling down the dome, using ropes. Scary job. And how often would they have to go back out there to relight candles that were blown out by the wind?
View of the Palace of the Governorate of Vatican City State and the gardens behind.
St Peter's Basilica was designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It is probably the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and is one of the largest churches in the world. The basilica is the burial site of its namesake, St Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession (ie Pope #1).
On January 13th, we went to visit the Basilica di San Paolo Fiori le Mura (St Paul's Outside the Walls). It was the last of the four main basilicas that we had yet to see in Rome. (Others were St Peter's, St John in the Lateran and St Maria Maggiore). The basilica was built around the 4th century over the tomb of St Paul, who was known as the "apostle of the people". It is exquisite both inside and out.
The 4-sided portico consists of 150 columns and a statue of St Paul in the center.
The inside of the basilica is split into 5 naves. The basilica was destroyed by fire in 1823 but Pope Pius IX rebuilt it in 1854 on the same foundations following the original design.
Between the windows and columns are a series of medallions portraying all the popes from St Peter (30-67 AD) to Francis (2013-).
Here, Sarah is down by St Paul's remains writing a prayer, "Dear god. Bless evry one on erth. Love Sarah"
After leaving St Paul's Outside the Walls, we headed to Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli. It was a lovely day and so perfect weather for the outing. Hadrian was the Emporer of Rome, following Emporer Trajan,  from 117-138 AD. This is another destination worth a visit, particularly if one gets the audioguide.

Hadrian's Villa, a complex of over 30 buildings, was built as a retreat from Rome. Hadrian was said to dislike the palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome and during the later years of his reign, he actually governed the empire from the villa. A large court therefore lived there permanently. A direct postal service between Rome and the Villa was set up to keep inhabitants of the Villa in contact with Rome 29 km away. The complex included palaces, several thermae, a theatre, temples, libraries, state rooms, and quarters for courtiers, praetorians and slaves. Here are a few photos from our couple hours wandering around.
At the first moment, one is made aware of how grand the Villa complex was.
The Canopus: It was a pool representing a branch of the Nile, set in the center of a narrow, artificial valley. It was constructed approximately 123-124 AD.
The Praetorium (officers' quarters).
Grandi Terme/the Great Baths: What is left of the cross arched ceiling almost looks like it is floating over the the Great Baths.
This was thought to be the gymnasium next to the Great Baths.
The peristyle (columns surrounding) pool.
What is left of the Piazza d'Oro (Golden Square): It was a vast building with a rectangular open court filled with flower-beds and water basins. The name of the building came from the lavish ornaments and the wealth of the works of art found inside.
Entrance to the Piazza d'Oro.
Looking through a passageway to the Piazza d'Oro.
Doric pillars in or near the Imperial Palace.
A view of what once was the library courtyard. Beyond that one can see the view of the surrounding hills that inhabitants of the villa enjoyed.
The Hospitalia was a 2-story building with 10 guest rooms on the first floor off a wide central hallway (seen here). Nothing remains of the second floor.
Maritime Theatre: It consisted of a round portico with a barrel vault supported by pillars. Inside the portico was a ring-shaped pool with a central island. During the ancient times, the island was connected to the portico by two drawbridges. On the island sits a small house complete with an atrium, a library, a triclinium and small baths. It's believed that the area was used by the emperor as a retreat from the busy life at the court.
I think I should start carrying around a Sharpie to correct the English on some of the signage I've seen around Italy.
After leaving Hadrian's Villa, everyone was pretty hungry so we drove into Tivoli for dinner. We had pizza near the main piazza and then went to a pastry shop for cannoli. Paul discovered yet another food that he loved.

On January 14th, we finally went to the Vatican Museums. It was a rainy day and the perfect time to be indoors. Vincent and I did some research on how to get the most out of the Vatican Museums, looking at various tours, but in the end we decided to just pre-book tickets (to avoid having to stand in lines) and get the audioguides. I found online that the Vatican Museum offers a "family" audioguide which was targeted towards kids Sarah's age. She and Vincent went out in the morning to buy a pair of headsets that would be comfortable so she wouldn't have to hold the audioguide to her ear. (Doing what we could to make it a pleasant experience.)

When we arrived at the museums, I offered to go with Sarah while Vincent and the boys would try to stick together. Sarah was very happy and fully engaged with her tour. The only complaint that I had was that her tour focused on the first part of the museum and then completely skipped over the paintings and Borgia apartments in the center of the the museum. Also, oddly, the children's program focused on some items that the adult audio tour did not; this made it difficult to discuss certain works with Sarah along the way. The museums' administration really needs to tighten this up; they're on the right track introducing the family tour but it still needs work.

Here are a subset of the photos I took throughout the Vatican museums. There are no photos of the Sistene Chapel, as photography in there is strictly forbidden.
Statue of Osiris Antinous: Antinous is believed to have had a close relationship with Emporer Hadrian. The statue was found at Hadrian's Villa around the Canopus. I included a photo of it here as we had just visited Hadrian's Villa the previous day plus this statue was on Sarah's "family tour".
Statue of the god Anubis (1st-2nd century AD): Anubis was associated with the mummification and protection of the dead for their journey into the afterlife. (This was also highlighted on Sarah's "family" tour.)
Sarah in the Museo Egizio learning about Queen Tuya.
The Braccio Nuovo Gallery.
While in the Museo Pio Clementino, walking between rooms, I looked up and saw this head above a doorway. It must have been the inspiration for at least one horror movie involving dolls.
The Sala Rotonda in the Museo Pio Clementino: One of my favorite rooms.
The Sala a Croce Greca.
Galleria delle Carte Geografiche: The Gallery of Maps is 120 meters long and was commissioned in 1581 by Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni who called upon the famous cosmographer, geographer and mathematician, Egnazio Danti, to direct the ambitious project of representing the whole Italian peninsula on the gallery walls.
A small section of the exquisite Gallery of Maps ceiling.
Following the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854, the Pontiff decided to celebrate the event with a series of frescoes. The works were commissioned from the Ancona artist, Francesco Podesti; he worked on the project from 1856 to 1865.
By Raffaello in the Sala di Costantino.
By Raffaello in the Stanza della Segnatura.
By Raffaello in the Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo.
Ceiling from a room just following the Sistine Chapel; I don't have any information on it but included it because that trumpeting angel spoke to me.
On January 15th, alarms were set for 6:30 in order to get up and out early to the Papal Audience. We planned to be out by 7:30 and we were actually on our way at 7:55 which was pretty good for us. We found good street parking behind the Vatican Museums and started walking around the walls to St Peter's Square. At that point we saw hundreds of people, many wearing orange caps, going in the same direction and we knew we weren't the only ones with the idea of getting there early. Looking on the site, we were led to believe the event would be indoors with a limit of 6,300 seats, but when we rounded the corner to St Peter's Square we could see the event was set up to take place outside in St Peter's Square (which would allow more people). I wish they'd update the website; we would have worn warmer clothes; at this point it was 8:15 and we would be outside now for 4+ hours. Sarah didn't even wear a coat. Fortunately, it was a lovely sunny morning, albeit crisp (mid 40s when we left LandShark.)

We worked our way through crowds and then security and then more crowds and amazingly found seats in one of the front sections, just right of the stage. At this point it was 8:30 and I thought, hmm, having to wait 2 hours before a 2 hour event, I should find a washroom, so off I went. I arrived and found a very lengthy queue. Imagine, 10,000 people and one set of washroom facilities. I decided to stand in line and at 9:30 finally emerged from the loo to find that the Pope arrived early! Security had closed all routes back to where my family was sitting, as the Pope was making his rounds around the piazza in the popemobile. He spent about 40 minutes circling around, kissing countless babies, waving and having brief exchanges with people. Fortunately, I still was in a good spot with a good view but just frustrated that I was separated from the family. The Pope was driven by me twice but each time my overzealous neighbors wacked my camera with their waving arms so I couldn't any sort of a photo.
Emerging from the WC, I found the Pope had arrived and all routes back to my family were closed off. Here is a view of the security detail and crowds. The Pope is making his way up the road to the right.
Once the Pope passed by and my frantic neighbors calmed down, I was able to get this photo. While I cannot comment on the popularity of previous Popes, it's clear Pope Francis is very well liked. He seemed to really enjoy interacting with the people.
After the Pope finished greeting the crowds, he was taken to a platform set up at the front of St Peter's Basilica and began an abbreviated service. Two lessons were read, one in English. Then Pope Francis gave a message (in Italian) followed by a number of Cardinals repeating a condensed version of Pope Francis's message in a number of different languages. The service ended by the whole congregation reciting the Lord's Prayer in Latin, which was printed on the back of the Papal Audience ticket.
While sitting by myself listening to the same messages repeated in various languages, I took some photos of the surroundings. I liked this one of some of statues on the roof-line of the Basilica. From left to right, the statues represent St James the Elder, St John the Baptist, Christ the Redeemer (center), St Andrew and St John the Evangelist.
Following the service, the Cardinals lined up to greet the Pope. This was followed by the Pope stepping down off the platform to bless a number of people with ailments and disabilities. I saw one boy in a wheelchair who was given the Pope's white cap (zucchetto).
There were a couple hundred "special guests" who the Pope more or less greeted personally. During this time, most of the crowd in the square dispersed, all but the diehards, and us. It was at this point that my family and I finally found each other.
A zoomed-in photo of Vince and the kids finally seeing me from across the aisle after our 3 hour separation.
In the end, Pope Francis stepped into the popemobile and drove by with a final wave.
Pope Francis departing.
At about 12:30, we left St Peter's Square in search of a restaurant, as we were all very hungry. We found one a few streets away and had a good lunch. We then started discussing what we'd do the rest of the afternoon. I had promised Sarah that I'd take her to the children's museum in Rome (Explora: Il Museo dei Bambini di Roma) a few days ago, as a carrot to get her through the St Paul's Within the Walls church service plus the historical sights afterwards. It's located just north of the Piazza del Popolo so we took the car and drove to that neighborhood. Vince suggested that he and the boys go to the Etruscan Museum, while Sarah and I went to the children's museum but James said he'd rather go to the children's museum. Once Paul saw the children's museum, he also wanted to stay, so Vince was left to do his own thing for a couple hours. Both Paul and James were really too old for the Explora, but they had had enough of the ruins. When I told the ticket lady this, she burst out laughing saying, "We in Rome also get tired of the ruins!"

I have to say, Rome's Explora was fabulous. We've obviously been to a lot of museums for children and have seen many of the same imaginary play set-ups but the Explora takes some of them to the next level. They've employed technology to give children a more true to life experience. Three of my favorite areas were the grocery store, the bank, and the area set up to show one how to make money and spend money.
Like other "pretend" grocery stores, kids could pick out their produce. This store however has a weigh scale where you place your produce and then press the picture that matches the produce to the left of the scale. A weight and price tag sticker then is produced that one sticks onto the item. (This is just as it was done in the grocery stores in France and Italy where we had shopped.) This barcode sticker can then be read at the check out counter when the child goes to purchase the goods.
All my kids loved the cashier station at the grocery store. The conveyor belt worked (which Paul is just figuring out in this photo) and kids could scan the prices either using the hand-held device that James is holding or by running the barcode by the barcode window/reader to the right of the conveyor belt.
At the entrance to the bank is an ATM that works! You can get an ATM/chip and pin debit card from a museum attendant. Kids can then make cash withdrawals using the same steps as in real machines. The ATM will print out money (faux) and a provide a receipt of the withdrawal. Really neat.
Inside the bank, there are two teller terminals where one can set up a bank account using name and date of birth. The bank will give you €100 for opening an account. You can then make deposits, withdrawals, apply for a loan, buy and sell stocks and make donations to a charity. The bank computer keeps track of all the transactions made. Here, I've bought a bike which costs €100 and I've borrowed the money to do so. 3% interest will be charged and I have to decide between a one or two year payment plan.
In the earning, spending and saving money section, Sarah took a job as a courier. She had 60 in which to deliver a package.
Sarah earned €14.69 for her courier delivery but €1.46 was deducted off her paycheck as a community contribution. Socialism ideals already at play.
Had to love the on-site cafe at the Explora. In addition to the range of sandwiches and sweets, the cafe offered wine and spirits for the adults. If you've ever spent long (seemingly endless) days at a children's museum, you'll probably recognize how appealing this is!
On January 16th, Sarah was very firm that she wanted to return to the Explora museum. Paul wanted to stay back in LandShark to prepare for the entry exam of the private school to which he was applying and James was keen to stay behind and focus on school work. I wanted a couple hours to myself to shop in Rome "solo" so Vince, Sarah and I drove into Rome, walked around together and then separated for a couple hours. Vince took Sarah to the Explora and I headed south to window shop.
We finally walked up the Spanish Steps. The Steps were built between 1723-1726 and link the Church of Trinita dei Monti on the Pincian Hill with the Piazza di Spangna.
That evening we had our final meal at the campground restaurant, Ciao Bella. The next day we would be packing up and making our way to Croatia. While I had visited all of our traveled countries (England, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain and Italy) several times, Croatia would be new territory. We were all a bit anxious about the unknown but we were all looking forward to exploring Croatia, which had just joined the EU in 2013.

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