A lovely view from the top of the hotel

Our day in Rome began with an excellent buffet breakfast on the rooftop floor of the hotel which had magnificent views over parts of the city.

For our sight-seeing we had decided to use the hop on/hop off bus which cost 23 Euros each or just under R800 in total a lot less than the limousine. We walked about 800m to the bus stop where we purchased our tickets. They would be good for 24hours, not that we would be able to use them the next day as we were boarding the ship. In a way, we had our own guide as each passenger is given earphones and can listen to a running commentary, in their own language, of what can be seen along the way. This includes the history of buildings and the people involved in their development.

Abstract sculpture on road median

There were 12 stops in all and we alighted at most of them. We didn’t go to the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps as we had been there before. Nor did we visit the Circus Maximus as stands were being erected for a concert the following evening. In fact, it was very fortunate that we went out on the day we did as, due to the concert, 3 stops, in this area, would be passed by the bus in the next 2 days. It clearly was to be a very big concert as roads were to be closed and there was to be strict law enforcement.

Circus Maximus

Stop 1 was at the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastavere (Our Lady of Trastavere) which had a beautiful large fountain in the centre. Although there doesn’t seem to be a name for it, this fountain is the oldest in Rome, dating back to the 8th Century. The Piazza is named for the Basilica de Santa Maria is a focal point. The Basilica was built in the 3rd Century at the request of Pope Callistus I at a time when Christianity was still growing in the area. It has beautiful gold mosaics on its facades. Once inside it is beautiful with 3 naves, a few small chapels and many Confessionals under all of the paintings. Just past the entrance to the church on the right is a lovely sculpture of San Antonio who is believed to grant wishes. Apparently, many visitors leave requests, but it is unknown how many are granted. Below one set of paintings there is a very tall pendulum created from Gallilei’s (how they spell his name)

Basilica of Santa Maria and all Martyrs

The Pendulum flanked by Confessionals

San Antonio Sculpture

Hanging Gardens of the Basilica

Also, at the stop there were 2 other things of interest. The first is the Diocletian’s Baths which were built in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries when Diocletian was Emperor. They are the biggest in Rome, covering some 120 000m2, and could accommodate up to 3000 people at any one time. As we were just passing by, we did not go into the baths but were impressed with the buildings which had stood for so many years. The other place of interest was a Memorial built as an Obelisk dedicated to the 500 Italian soldiers who died in the Battle of Dogali, Ethiopia in 1887. The Battle was a serious embarrassment to Italy.

Entrance to Diocletain’s Baths

Memorial to Italian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Digali

We chose not to leave the bus at the 2 stops at the train station but did so at the next stop which was the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. This is a 4th Century Basilica and is the largest of the 4 Basilicas and of the 26 churches dedicated to Santa Maria in Rome. Pope Liberius said that the Virgin Mary had appeared to him and shown him the plans for the layout of the Basilica. It has had several names but finally Maggiore was accepted because of its size. It was beautiful inside but we were requested not to take photos.

Entrance to Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

We did get off at the Colosseum although we had visited it in 2006 but there was so much that we had not seen then. It is such an interesting place even with its sad and harsh history. On the walk down to the Colosseum we passed an Archeological Museum which one can only visit with a guide. There was a chain across the entrance and a security guard on duty to redirect pedestrians who wished to visit. The Colosseum itself was originally, and is still sometimes called the Amphitheatrum Flavium or, in English, the Flavian Amphitheatre. It is truly a vast amphitheatre built circa 70-75AD. When it was opened in 80AD Emperor Titus there 100 days of games and activities. I was surprised to learn that it was usually used as a church but is probably best known, or believed, to have been used for the torture of Christians, usually by lions. On a regular basis it was used for gladiator duels and games. The front of the Colosseum is most often used in photos and so is well known but it was at the rear that we saw some interesting architecture.

Entrance to the Archeological Museum 

As mentioned previously, we stayed on the bus at the Circus Maximus but we did get some photos while the bus was stopped. The main use for this building was to have chariot races. For these the chariots were made very light-weight and the horses were very fast. This resulted in many accidents and, frequently the riders were seriously injured or even killed. They each carried a knife so that, if they were able, they could cut their clothing away from the chariot.

We did alight at the next stop for the Cordonata, a sloping road interrupted at regular distances by low (8-10 cm) steps in the form of transversal stripes (cordoni) made of stone or bricks, which led to the Hall of Justice at the top of the Capitol Hill. Wonderful views were our reward for climbing to the top. On our way back to the bus, at the roadside behind a fence, we saw a tomb but could not find for whom or why it was there. While on the bus we drove past a beautiful and imposing building which we had seen from the Hall of Justice which I have now found is the Altara del Patria or Monumento Nazionale is a monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. “It is nothing if not big and bold built in a Neo-Hellenistic style” according to one website.

The Cordonata up to the Hall of Justice

A view from the top of Capitol Hill

Our final stop was to visit the Vatican area, specifically to see the Sistine Chapel which was built in the 15th Century at the request of Pope Sixtus IV . From the bus stop we crossed a bridge to the Castle of San Antonio and first went to the right where we enjoyed a few peaceful minutes in a park while we ate truly delicious Gelato in cones. Essential when in Italy. We then walked around the back of the castle and saw what used to be an escape route for the Governor. We walked up past the Apostolic Palace, home of the Pope.

River Tiber at the Vatican

Bridge across to the Castel Santa Angelo

The Apostolic Palace

To get there from the bus stop, even with going around the palace, turned out to be a very long walk and, at one stage we thought that we were lost. It turned out that one goes through the Museum to get to the Chapel which was well worth it even though it is huge. We had tickets to enter at 19:30 believing it to be open only to booked visitors. How wrong we were! It was packed with hundreds of people. We were able to take photos in the Museum but not in the Chapel. The Chapel was also very crowded and as fast as people left more poured in. Every few minutes one of the security guards with a booming voice called for silence without effect. It was sad as we could not just sit there and absorb the beauty of the place.

Part of the ceiling within the Museum

When we left the Museum and Chapel, We sat in a courtyard garden to eat our lunch and rest our feet. Central to this garden was a Bronze Sculpture created and donated by the artist, Arnaldo Pomodoro in 1990, which he called A Sphere within a Sphere. There was a small café under a canopy and a number of information boards on the plants and the development of the garden area.

The inner sphere

What a wonderful day we had rediscovering Rome, having been there in 2006. A beautiful city with so much amazing history.