23 Nov 2015

Rome: the historic centre (1)

Our trips to Italy wouldn't be complete without spending some time in Rome's historic centre.  We've stayed overnight in the city if we've wanted to make an early start when visiting popular sites, but these days we travel in by train for the day. This last visit was exciting for our grandson who wanted to see places that he's been studying at school, especially the remains of buildings from the Roman period. Here are some general photos that I took on the day together with others from previous trips into Rome:-

Porta Maggiore - a city gate formed by the aqueduct built by Emperor Claudius in AD 52

The photos were taken from the train window as we travelled in from our provincial town.  When we pass through the countryside near the Alban Hills and see towns such as Colonna, the remains of Roman aqueducts and other ruins we know that we're not far from the city.  Before coming into the station the train slows down and usually stops next to Porta Maggiore and I remember the first time we lived in Rome in an apartment a few tram stops away from this area.  (This was before we had built our house in the countryside, when my husband worked in Rome.  My husband's half brother and his wife lived nearby. We built up a close relationship and I enjoyed the busy atmosphere of the city even though I was occupied with looking after two young children and didn't have the opportunity to explore the historical centre at that time).

Via Casilina
a tram in the Via Casilina area

Every time we've been into Rome in the past couple of years we've noticed the makeover to the major monuments in the historic centre (which is a ENESCO World Heritage Site).  This has meant that many of them have been covered in scaffolding, tarpaulin or wooden boards. Some fountains have been drained of water in order that the marble and stonework could be cleaned.  Construction work is also being done on the infrastructure of the city. Some of these projects are being funded by private companies; Tod's is financing works at the Colosseum, Fendi has refurbished the Trevi Fountain and Bulgari is working on the Spanish Steps. There's a rush to complete these projects, at least by Spring 2016, in time for many of the Vatican's Jubilee Year events, although the official date for the beginning of this special year starts next month on the 8th December.  Of course, there's so much else to experience in this fascinating city, but everyone wants to see the iconic major sites when visiting Rome for the first time.

Whilst we were in Rome in September we made our way to the Trevi Fountain to see what was taking place there regarding the project to clean the sculptures and water bowl surrounding this magnificent structure.

A perspex wall had been placed around the fountain and the water drained from the basin so, of course, there was no opportunity to throw those coins into it as has been the tradition for many years.

The site of the Trevi Fountain originally marked the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct built in 19 BC although the fountain was only constructed in 1762.  The central figure is Neptune with two Tritons on either side each with a horse. One horse strikes a wild pose and the other looks more docile symbolising the two contrasting moods of the sea.

These are the photos I took through the perspex wall.
Thankfully the water was turned back on recently and the Trevi opened again to the public and I'm looking forward, hopefully, to returning next year to see the results of the cleaning and to compare the before and after look. (Photos below were taken in 2011)

On the corner of one of the streets that leads into the Piazza di Trevi there's a strine on the wall of the building. These sacred pictures of the Madonna have been placed here and there in the narrow thoroughfares throughout the old city and are called Madonelle by the Romans.  The icons have a long history and originate from the custom of placing small pagan altars in honour of the deities that were important to wayfarers at the intersection of streets.  These pagan images were then replaced by Christian ones.  The oldest ones appeared in the 15th century and over the centuries were embellished with elaborate frames, canopies and other decorations. Below is another in the same area along Via Pilotta where Via San Vincenzo leads into Piazza di Trevi.

Via Pilotta is a beautiful street.  On one side is Palazzo Colonna with its 17th century art gallery which is open to the public and contains some fine paintings and on the other are the gardens of one of the villas on the Quirinale Hill.  Each section of Palazzo Colonna has a private walkway across the street into the Quirinale grounds.

Further along this street is the Gregorian University whose entrance faces Piazza della Pilotta.

Piazza della Pilotta

As you can imagine there's a lot to see as a visitor wanders around just a few of the back streets and piazzas in one area without even going into any of the churches, art galleries or museums.  As I study the guide books dedicated to the rich history of Rome I begin to appreciate the finer details of architecture, sculptures, street furniture and the ancient stones beneath my feet.   

I'll continue with our walk around Rome when we went to the Roman Forums, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the churches on the Quirinal Hill before returning to the main train station another time.

19 Nov 2015

Thoughts and prayers for our world

Although it is difficult to put into words the feelings of sadness and concern for our troubled world, my response is to join with all those around the globe who are standing with the people of Paris and France at this very disturbing time, praying for them, our national leaders who are responsible for security and for our communities where the desire is surely to promote harmony and not hatred. 

I will be back soon to continue my photo journal. Meanwhile, I wish you a good day.      

4 Nov 2015

A time in Italy (2)

Although we had days of sunshine and rain during our month in Italy and on our last day the weather was almost like a Summer's day, it did seem as if Autumn was on the way with chillier evenings. We didn't need the log stove and central heating on except for a couple of days, but it's always good to run the system and it's a comfort in an evening.
Our neighbours were beginning to take advantage of some dry weather to make a start on picking up the olives, something we've never cultivated ourselves, as well as gathering produce on their vegetable plots, especially the tomatoes.
We took a break from gardening and housework to take him out and about. There's plenty of interest to see locally and on the day trip to Rome we travelled into the city by train. On that day our grandson measured on an app that we'd walked 12 kilometres around some of the historic centre.
Here are a set of photos of our time out and about in the local small towns:-

sweet chestnuts

time for a coffee and a hot chocolate drink for our grandson

Some relatives came over in an evening and we also
went to their home in the old village where
the houses have been converted into cozy, comfortable homes.