Italy, Part V
Eight Nights and Dazed in Italy, Part V
July 5-7, 2004
Venice | Florence | Rome 1 | Orvieto | Cinque Terre
Behind Bernini's marble Elephant Obelisk in Piazza della Minerva: the dome of domes atop a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods (pan theos). Built in 27 B.C. and rebuilt by Hadrian around A.D. 120. Of the 16 one-piece granite columns in the portico, 13 are originals, shipped from Egypt. Engraved on the front, the name of the original builder, "M. Agrippa."
The dome itself, as high as it is wide--142 feet, the largest built until the Renaissance. Made of concrete with pillars hidden in the walls and no visible arches, it gets lighter and thinner toward the top. The hole at the top, its oculus or eye-in-the-sky, is nearly 33 feet across.
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After dinner with the Parkers and more gelato, a tour-group stroll across Rome to floodlit public squares, fountains and monumental figures, securing a rainbow-bright Italian peace flag (Pace da tutti i balconi) on the way.
Evening stops included the Trevi Fountain, completed in 1762, with its 24 gushing spouts, Neptune riding a chariot drawn by winged horses, Tritone blowing his conch, and wishful tourists tossing coins over their shoulders. "Oh to return to this place soon!" A wish come true for a daytime photo of Tritone. Thanks to Janelle for refreshing our menu memories!
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A fact- and philosophy-filled morning tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. Greek sculptures from 500 B.C to A.D. 500 included the serene, graceful Apollo Belvedere by sculptor Praxiteles and the emotional, powerful LaocoÃ¶n from 150 B.C., discovered in 1506.
Photos not possible or allowed of magnificent tapestries, paintings and Raphael frescoes (School of Athens, 1510) in the museum; Michelangelo's dramatic, enormous frescoes of Bible scenes on the restored ceiling (1508-1512) and altar wall (The Last Judgment, 1534-1541) of the Sistine Chapel; and his Pieta sculpture (1500) in St. Peter's Basilica.
Guarding the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica--and the world's tiniest sovereign nation, Vatican City: mercenary guards from Switzerland wearing uniforms supposedly designed by Michelangelo. And guarding the steps from St. Peter's Square (Piazza San Pietro): huge statues of St. Mark and St. Peter. Ringing the square are Bernini's 284 Doric-style columns, each 56 feet high and topped with at least 140 saints.
After the Vatican, an afternoon self-guided window-shopping "tour" along classy fashion-filled Via del Corso. And following a roundabout visit to the romantic Spanish Steps (built from 1723-25), a scrumptious dinner at Ristorante il Gabriello. Its melt-in-your-your-mouth veal, service by friendly owner Claudio, and after-dinner toasts with Limoncello highly recommended.
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To Rome 1: The Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, Roman Forum, Capitol Hill Square
Venice | Florence | Rome 1 | Rome 2 | Orvieto | Cinque Terre
Copyright Gary and Donna Larson, Seattle, Washington. Updated Feb. 17, 2007.