Photography

Get Inspired About What You See

I had this title written down for ages, but it wasn’t until I went to Chiang Rai in June that I finally got round to thinking about it and it wasn’t hard to find something that inspired me.

The countryside in the north of Thailand is just beautiful and, living in Bangkok, I sometimes forget just how beautiful it really is.

Things to do in Thailand
Beautiful Chiang Rai

I was just awe struck at the nature around me in Chiang Rai. The greens and browns of the open fields…

 

Things to do in Thailand
Colours of Nature

…mountains…

Things to do in Thailand
Kok River running through the mountains

…rice paddies…

Things to do in Thailand
Rice paddies-not quite lush green

…trees proudly sporting their sweet and fleshy bananas and mangoes…

Things to do in Thailand
Fresh mangoes

Flowers- purple, yellow, white, red, all manner of gorgeous bright colours in every shape and form you could imagine.

Things to do in Thailand
Periwinkle Pinks

The blue skies with white fluffy clouds, clear and bright sunny days followed by the grey of a threatening storm before the clouds burst and the earth drowned under a barrage of rain.

Things to do in Thailand
Blue Skies
Things to do in Thailand
Grey skies and rainbows

Birds-swooping and diving looking for their next meal or chattering to one another in the branch of a nearby tree.

Things to do in Thailand
On the wing
Things to do in Thailand
A resting sparrow

It was the beginning of the season and the land around me was brown and dying because of the lack of rain, but the changing face of nature will soon transform the environment into brilliant green and lush landscapes once more.

Things to do in Thailand
Brown fields, soon to be sprouting with new rice shoots
Things to do in Thailand
Harvesting!

Green is my favourite colour and you can see it all around. Chlorophyll, responsible for all manner of greens; brilliant, emerald, forest, moss and jungle-all green, all different hues and values, in varying amounts, different forms, different shapes and sizes and all combine to form something that should be appreciated.

 

It wasn’t only the colours of nature that inspired me, the sounds of nature both inspired and impressed me. I sat outside my room in the evening and became aware of insects playing their nightly song, all in sync. Midges buzzing, singing cicadas, croaking frogs and, then, silence! A second later, their chorus of pulsating buzzes was back again. I was distracted by the local cat calling in the distance, but I chuckled to myself because it added to the free music festival I was enjoying.

Things to do in Thailand
Friendly cat who was all too vocal in the evenings!

Then, fireflies attracting mates or prey with their cool trick of bioluminescence. I sat and listened and watched. It’s not often I experience these sounds, but it was an immense pleasure to just stop what I was doing and listen along. It really was amazing.

Things to do in Thailand
Dragonfly obsession!

Nature is nothing less than wonderful, just the sheer diversity of it is mind-blowing. I was well and truly blown away. If you ever get the chance to visit the north of Thailand, I recommend Chiang Rai wholeheartedly! 🙂

Things to do in Thailand
Kok River

If you would like to share some of things that inspire you, I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Last Day in Rome

I can’t believe how time flies sometimes, especially when you’re having fun, but here we were, our last day in Rome, it had come round so quickly, but we had seen a lot in the short time we had been there.

On our last day, we decided to take the metro to Circo Massimo, not just a metro station, but an ancient arena where the Romans used to congregate in their thousands to watch chariot races, athletics, and gladiator games.

Things to do in Rome
Circo Massimo as it was back then (Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Circus_Maximus_(Atlas_van_Loon).jpg)

As we walked across the, now, green expanse in the shadow of the Imperial palace on the Palatine Hill, I imagined what life would have been like back then. It would have been a thrilling experience to witness the events that took place.

We walked towards the Tiber River and across the Ponte Palatino also known as Ponte Inglese (English Bridge) with views of Isola Tiberina and the remains of Ponte Rotto (Broken Bridge) the oldest stone bridge the city.

Things to do in Rome
Isola Tiberina with the remains of the Ponte Rotto in the foreground

Isola Tiberina is a small island in the middle of the Tiber, connected by bridges on either side, and it was once the site of an ancient temple of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.

Nowadays, the Fatebenefratelli hospital and the Basilica of St Bartholomew are located on the island.

Things to do in Rome
Basilica of St Bartholomew

From there, we walked back over Ponte Fabricio, the oldest bridge in Rome, that still exists in its original state, and went in search of coffee passing by more Roman ruins, this was the Portico of Octavia which dates from around 27 BC. 

Things to do in Rome
Portico of Octavia

As we sat on Via del Portico d’ Ottavia drinking coffee, even the stone walls have a story to tell.

Things to do in Rome
Via del Portico d’Ottavia
Things to do in Rome
Via del Portico d’Ottavia
Things to do in Rome
Via del Portico d’Ottavia

We continued our walk, following the map, to Campo de Fiori, another of Rome’s captivating squares. This one had a colourful market full of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, meats, and flowers. it was buzzing with people everywhere.

We walked around it, searching for a restaurant to have lunch in, when we were, pleasantly, accosted by a guy who excitedly told us how the pizzas in his (boss’) restaurant were different to all the others, they had traditional bases rather than the thick crusts of other parts of Italy, and they were the best we’d find here!

Of course he was going to say that! We said the usual statement that comes from these situations, that we were going to look around, but we walked just five paces and decided that we would go back to his restaurant, if only for his enthusiasm for his work! But, we were glad we did! He wasn’t lying about the pizzas, the thin-crusted Margheritas, washed down with a bottle of white wine, were really delicious. In fact, we enjoyed them so much, we had a second round of both pizza and wine. Actually, one of the reasons we decided to have two rounds was because our waiter was both funny and charming, and he made us feel really welcome and glad we had chosen Campo De Fiori Ristorante. If you’re ever in the vicinity, I really recommend this place.

Things to do in Rome
Campo De Fiori Ristorante (Photo Credit http://www.campodefioriristorante.it/

After our scrummy lunch, we took our leave and walked through the cobbled streets of the city until we arrived at the Pantheon, Rome’s best preserved building from Roman times.

Things to do in Rome
Via del Teatro Valle
Things to do in Rome
Via del Portico d’Ottavia

It’s circular with a portico of eight, huge Corinthian columns at the front and two groups of four at the sides. The Pantheon’s dome has a central opening, called an oculus, and 2,000 years after it was built, it’s still the biggest, unsupported dome in the world.

Things to do in Rome
The Pantheon’s dome and oculus (Photo credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Internal_Pantheon_Light.JPG)

We sat on the steps of the Fontana del Pantheon, in the middle of Piazza della Rotonda, and watched the people milling around in the sunshine, in the shadow of this grand edifice.

Things to do in Rome
Fontana del Pantheon
Things to do in Rome
Piazza della Rotonda

Inscribed at the top of the portico are the letters: M-AGRIPPA-L-F-COS-TERTIVM-FECIT which translates as Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius made (this building) when consul for the third time. Fascinating stuff when you think about it, but it happens that this building was built by emperor Hadrian in 126 AD who kept the original inscription after Agrippa’s Pantheon was completely destroyed, and despite excavations it’s still uncertain who can be accredited with the building of it.

Things to do in Rome
The Pantheon

I never went inside, like with many of the places I visited while I was in Rome, that’s another reason to go back, but I was just happy to be in the company of my mum and dad.

Things to do in Rome
Mum and Dad

In fact, I want to thank them for making some very special memories with me. It was time to cherish and I’ll never, ever forget it!  Where to next mamma and papa? Grazie!!  🙂 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

 

 

From Piazza to Piazza

Today we’re taking the metro to Flaminio and starting off our day at Piazza del Popolo, a circular square with three fountains. On the north side is a gate called the Porto del Popolo, once the beginning of Via Flaminia, an important ancient Roman road which led to the north of Italy. Piazza del Popolo would be the first thing that visitors, travelling from the north, would lay eyes on.

Things to do in Rome
Porto del Popolo
Things to do in Rome
Piazza del Popolo

Just looking at the piazza now, I reckon it would have been a grand sight, even back then, and one that would excite people into seeing more of the city. The piazza was used for public executions up until 1826, but, thankfully, these days it’s a much more happy and relaxed place and completely pedestrianised where people can come together to engage in more fun activities.

Depending on the story you choose to believe, Piazza del Popolo’s name is due the many poplar trees dotted around or it may have been named after the church of Santa Maria del Popolo which is adjacent to the main gate. The piazza is located at the top of three main streets, Via del Corso, Via del Babuino, and Via di Ripetta. Once called the Tridente, these three routes would have led to Rome’s main basilicas. The beginning of the tridente is marked by two churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto.

Things to do in Rome
Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto
Things to do in Rome
One of the streets that make up the Tridente

The three fountains in the piazza were all built by Giovanni Ceccarini in the 19th century. On opposite sides, are the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) and Fontana della Dea Roma (Fountain of the Goddess Rome) which depicts Dea Roma armed with her weapons with the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, in front. In the middle of the piazza is the Fontana dell’ Obelisco (Fountain of the Obelisk) which is actually four mini fountains with a lion on each plinth and the fountain, as a whole, surrounds the obelisk of pharaoh, Seti I which is one of the tallest obelisks in Rome.

 

Things to do in Rome
Fontana dell’ Obelisco (Fountain of the Obelisk)
Things to do in Rome
Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune)
Things to do in Rome
Fontana della Dea Roma (Fountain of the Goddess Rome)

We walked through Porto del Popolo, onto the piazza, and stood watching a group of kids playing Sunday morning football. There were loads of people around, but there was no jostling to get a spot to see anything because there was plenty of room to take photographs and take a leisurely walk around the piazza.

Things to do in Rome
Sunday morning footie!

We left Piazza del Popolo and wondered up the steps to Pincio Gardens. We didn’t go into the gardens, but took a stroll along Viale della Trinita dei Monti towards the Trinita dei Monti church and the Spanish steps. The views across the rooftop of Rome were fabulous.

We arrived at the Spanish Steps, so named, not because they were built by a Spanish architect, but because the Spanish embassy is located at the bottom.

Things to do in Rome
Trinita dei Monti church

There are 135 steps leading down to Piazza di Spagna which were designed by architects Francisco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi and are adorned with planters of beautiful flowers all the way down.

Things to do in Rome
Piazza di Spagna

There were hundreds of people in the piazza and before we headed down into the throng of things, it was nice to stand at the top and look down on all the activity below.

Things to do in Rome
The Spanish Steps

At the bottom, is Fontana Della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Longboat) which is Baroque in design and created by Bernini’s father.

Things to do in Rome
Fountain of the Longboat

From there, we wandered through the piazza and found a cafe to sit and relax for a while over a coffee (wine!!!) before heading to the metro to go to the other side of the city and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele is home to Giardini Nicola Calipari, a small garden which really comprises the whole piazza. Although there is a fountain and some ruins there, it isn’t as attractive as other gardens in Rome because it was a little run down and the grass was overgrown in parts.

However, there was a lively Hindu festival in full swing and the colours of the women’s saris together with the music added a touch of excitement in an otherwise drab space.

From the piazza we walked towards Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore and the grand domed basilica of the same name. We by-passed the impressive building and found a little restaurant tucked in a little cobbled alleyway. The weather wasn’t what you’d call warm, but it wasn’t cold enough that we had to sit inside, so still wrapped in scarves, we found a table and sat and watched the world go by as we enjoyed our lunch.

Things to do in Rome
Santa Maria Maggiore

We realized we weren’t that far from our hotel, so we took a slow walk back to Via Nazionale and stopped off for an afternoon tipple before we headed back to our hotel to get ready for our second to last night out in Rome.

Next time: Isola Tiberina

 

Back in Rome

We arrived back in Rome and decided we would go out for dinner in the city. Usually, we just ate near the hotel, but this evening we decided we were going to take the metro and find a restaurant near the Trevi Fountain.

We came out of the metro station onto Piazza Barberini, with its 17th century Baroque fountain, and down Via del Tritone, a less-touristy area of the city, with shops and restaurants, office buildings, and people going about their daily business. ,

Things to do in Rome
Piazza Barberini
Things to do in Rome
Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain)

We turned into a side street and found ourselves on a narrow, cobbled street with tall buildings on either side, much more atmospheric with plenty of restaurants to choose from, some with al fresco dining, and tourists making a bee-line for one of Rome’s most famous attractions. It was buzzing with activity. Sorry folks, no photographs! 🙁

As we walked along, we were approached by friendly staff, trying to attract customers into their restaurants, which all looked inviting with smells of delicious Italian food wafting into the street. It was difficult to choose, but we decided on one called Ristorante Taberna Patrizi e Plebei.

Things to do in Rome
Ristorante Taberna Patrizi e Plebei

We by-passed diners who were happily enjoying their evening meals. The atmosphere was electric with their lively chatter and the clinking of glasses or cutlery on plates. We descended stairs into the cellar which was decorated with paintings of historical figures on the walls and ceilings, columns with carved capitals at the top, plush seating and circular tables down the middle and on either side. It was a good choice because the salad, to start, followed by pizza, breaded chicken breast and roast veal was scrummy, the wine was full-bodied, the staff, friendly, and the decor, beautiful. The only thing we didn’t like was the bill at the end! 😉 But, what the hell, we were on holiday, so the expense was justified.

Things to do in Rome
Ristorante Taberna Patrizi e Plebei
Things to do in Rome
Ristorante Taberna Patrizi e Plebei

After we’d finished, we walked further along Via del Lavatore to Piazza di Trevi and on the left is Chiesa Rettoria Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi, a lovely Baroque church which pales in comparison to the Trevi fountain. But, I still found it worthy of a photograph.

Things to do in Rome
Chiesa Rettoria Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a or Saints Vincent and Anastasius at Trevi

It sure is a sight to behold when you come to the end of the street, not only is the Trevi fountain huge, incredibly detailed and very striking, it’s also built onto a palace!!  As you do! 😉 Most definitely in Rome you do! 😉

Palazzo Poli is the backdrop for this majestic fountain with Corinthian columns and triumphal arch built onto the facade.

Things to do in Rome
The Trevi Fountain

The theme is the “Taming of the Waters” which tells the story of Oceanus taming a herd of sea horses. The use of strategically placed lighting creates a wonderful vision of light and shadows on the rock and in the crystal clear water.

Things to do in Rome
The Trevi Fountain

It’s the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous across the world. As with the Colosseum, the Trevi fountain is one thing that visitor’s to Rome have on their list of things to see, us included, but, boy, I didn’t expect to see so many people! On the first day, after we’d been to the Vatican, we walked to see this impressive work of art and there were so many people there then, it was difficult to get photographs and just sit and enjoy the view. And this evening was no different, I think the best time to see it would be really early in the morning, or, failing that, rent a room right on Piazza di Trevi! I think that would be a tad expensive, but imagine the view from your balcony while you’re having breakfast! Next time, maybe! Despite the hordes of people, we managed to get a spot close to the fountain, so we could throw a coin in, which is supposed to guarantee your return to Rome. 😉

Apparently, over €3,000 is thrown in each day and, during 2016, €1.4 m was collected and it’s used to help the poorer people of Rome. Unfortunately, people have been known to steal the money before it’s been collected which is, of course, illegal. I don’t really know how anyone could even begin to attempt it, there are security guards all over the place!

Things to do in Rome
The Trevi Fountain

These photos aren’t the best quality, my phone is rubbish when it comes to taking photos at night, but I think you can still see the magnificence of this opulent fountain. I know it’s cheating a bit, but I bought a postcard because I wanted an image without hundreds of people. And what a picture, don’t you agree?!

Things to do in Rome
The Trevi Fountain postcard!!

Next Time: Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Spagna and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II

 

 

 

 

Florence

We left Rome on the Friday morning, after buying train tickets from the most unhelpful, unfriendly person. I really think she is in the wrong job to be serving customers. A smile is all it takes! Undeterred, we had a while to wait, so we had coffee and watched people hurrying through the station from where we sat, upstairs in the cafe.

The train ride was lovely, travelling through the Italian countryside into the rolling green pastures and hills of Tuscany, which we never saw much of, as we all dozed off, all this sightseeing is tiring! Before long we arrived in Florence, the capital city of the Tuscan region and brimming with Renaissance art, grand buildings and monuments, and some wonderful streets that are just fantastic to explore.

We’d booked a hotel at Hotel Anna’s and, after a short walk to the hotel, we arrived to find that there was no reception and a flight of stairs leading up to the 4th floor and the hotel. I started to climb the stairs with my mum following, already in despair because of the pain in her hip. Luckily, a man from another hotel in the same building had spotted us, and seeing my mum was struggling, called us back and told us there was a room available on the ground floor. We couldn’t thank him enough and we checked in to our triple room, which was full of character, large and airy with antique furniture, a huge bathroom with sunken bath, and the walls painted a bright blue.

Things to do in Rome
Brightly-coloured kitchen at Hotel Azzi
Things to do in Rome
Views of the historic centre from Hotel Azzi’s rooftop terrace

We dumped our bags, and went out to explore our new surroundings. Florence is a city with narrow streets, many of which are limited traffic zones, so it’s a great place for walking around safely. The city is also said to be one of the most beautiful in the world and it’s not hard to understand why.

There are so many side streets that you can explore and the historic part of the city isn’t big enough to get lost. We walked along Via Faenza and at the end, around the corner, was the most amazing sight I think I might have ever seen.

Things to do in Rome
Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo)

Santa Maria del Fiore or the Duomo. A striking domed cathedral whose marble pastel-coloured panels glimmer in the sunshine. The cathedral can be seen from miles away. You’ve also got the Campanile and the Baptistry to admire and they are just as stunning.

Things to do in Rome
The Duomo with the Baptistry and Campanile on either side

The facade of the cathedral is ornately decorated with carvings and mosaics and high above, in between the spectacular rose windows, are twelve statues of the Apostles.

Not only that, almost reaching the skies, is the largest dome in the world which, if you’re brave enough to go up there, boasts views that will take your breath away. Views aside, the cathedral alone will make you gasp in astonishment! I guarantee it 🙂

Things to do in Rome
Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo)

We sat in the shadows the Duomo and ate lunch and, afterwards, we continued on our exploration to Piazza della Signoria, a huge square dominated by the Romanesque-style Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia dei Lanzi with its arches under which statues depicting scenes from mythology are displayed.

Things to do in Rome
Piazza della Signoria
Things to do in Rome
Palazzo Vecchio
Things to do in Rome
Loggia dei Lanzi

You’ll also see the statues of David by Michelangelo and Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli.

Things to do in Rome
David by Michelangelo
Things to do in Rome
Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli

If you walk passed Palazzo Vecchio, you’ll see the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery, in the corner. We didn’t venture into the gallery, the courtyard was doing a fine job of being an outdoor gallery in its own right. A rectangular-shaped space with columns and arches and other architecturally pleasing elements, as well as statues of famous painters, architects and other historical figures.  Florence was turning out to be no less amazing than Rome and we’d only been there for two hours.

Things to do in Rome
Uffizi Gallery courtyard
Things to do in Rome
Galileo Galilei and Pier Antonio Micheli

We found ourselves at the River Arno and gazing out over the water to Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). This Medieval stone bridge doesn’t have statues, it has a variety of jewellers, art and souvenir shops on either side, once a common sight on the bridges of Italy.

We left the river and walked slowly back towards the city, stopped for coffee (wine!) and went back to the hotel for a rest before going out for dinner at Cornelius Trattoria Pizzeria, a cute restaurant that we’d spotted earlier in the day, with fabulous Impressionist-style paintings on the walls. I don’t think we had a bad meal all throughout our trip and this place didn’t disappoint either. We left there and had our obligatory “one-for-the-road” drink before heading back to the hotel for the night.

Things to do in Rome
Lungarno degli Archibusieri

The following morning, after breakfast, we went for a last wander around the market to buy souvenirs and ate lunch on the street, always a winner in my book, there’s something about al fresco dining, I just love it.

Things to do in Rome
Mercato di San Lorenzo
Things to do in Rome
Al fresco dining

We were only in Florence for one night, so our time was limited, but what we did see was fantastic, it was much more relaxed and it made a pleasant change from the tumult of Rome.

Next up: We’re back in Rome and exploring the city some more 🙂

 

 

The Roman Forum

From the Colosseum, the Roman Forum is seconds away, so I walked towards the entrance only to be met by a really long queue. The ticket for the Colosseum includes the Roman Forum, but by this time it was late morning and the crowds had started to arrive. I noticed a pathway to my left where a lot of people were walking, so thinking that there might be another entrance, I followed. But, it only led to a dead-end, with no second entrance! So, I back-tracked and joined the end of the line and, thankfully, It didn’t take that long to get in.

Things to do in Rome
Arch of Titus

The Roman Forum is chock-a-block with ancient ruins of important buildings that were once the part of everyday life in Rome. Most of the city’s important events would be held there and, it seems, that every important person had their own statue or monument dedicated to them.

It’s a huge piece of land which includes not only the forum itself, but the Palantine Hill too, where you can see the remains of the imperial palace. I never made it as far as that, I ran out of time, but I did venture up the hill, I just didn’t cover it all.

Things to do in Rome
The Palantine Hill

The area is just beautiful, you have the mysterious ruins, which could tell a thousand tales, and the green grassy areas dotted with bright yellow flowers, umbrella pines, cypress and olive trees, and the blooming pinks and purples of shrubs give the forum an added air of calm and tranquility.

Things to do in Rome
The Roman Forum
Things to do in Rome
Purple Wisteria

There were so many people, as always in these kind of places, but what was nice about the forum was that it was large enough to be able to find a quiet spot for uninterrupted views.

I spent over an hour just wandering around amidst the ruins. From the Palantine Hill, you get splendid views looking out over Rome.

Things to do in Rome
Someone stopped by to check me out!
Things to do in Rome
St Peter’s Basilica in the distance

Back down in the forum, I walked along Via Sacra, once used for triumphal processions, in the shadows of statues and temples, it really is like a step back in time.

Things to do in Rome
Via Sacra
Things to do in Rome
Via Sacra

It started to rain, but that didn’t worry me, I just carried on taking loads of photographs, until my camera decided to pack up, I had forgotten to recharge the battery! I still managed to capture quite a few shots though and as I made my way out of the forum towards the Vittorio Emanuele II monument to meet mum and dad, I thought how lucky I was to be able to experience a fascinating piece of history.

Things to do in Rome
Basilica of Maxentius
Things to do in Rome
Statues of the Vestal Virgins
Things to do in Rome
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
Things to do in Rome
Temple of Vesta
Things to do in Rome
Temple of Castor and Pollux

As I approached the monument, I was greeted by my parents, who had been waiting on the steps in the rain. We went in search of food and shared a lovely pizza and bottle of wine. We started the week with just a glass or two, but two days in and we were ordering bottles! Living so far away, I miss out on being sociable with my folks, so it was just wonderful to share this time with them.

Tip: Book online and arrive early to avoid the queues. The ticket for the Colosseum is valid for 2 days and includes the Roman Forum. This is the website I used to buy tickets.

We’re off to Florence next 🙂

 

The Colosseum

Only the second day in Rome and it felt like we’d done so much already. Today we’re off to the Colosseum, a huge oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city. Emperor Vespasian started the massive feat in 72 AD, but it was Titus who completed the job in 80 AD with Domitian making modifications around 81-96 AD. Although modified, it’s still the largest amphitheatre ever to have been built.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

In its heyday, from classical times right up to the 6th century, the Colosseum saw between 50,000-80,000 spectators come to cheer on spectacular shows such as sea battles and reenactments of dramas, and the slightly more gruesome gladiator contests, animal hunts, and executions.

 

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

Since then, the structure has been destroyed by earthquakes, and robbers have helped themselves to the stone, but it’s still the one thing that most people think about when they think about Rome. Throughout the ages the Colosseum has been used in a variety of ways from housing and workshops to a cemetery and castle, but these days it’s one of the most visited attractions in the city.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

One interesting thing I learned, post visit, is that the Colosseum is the symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment. In the evening, the illuminated amphitheatre changes from white to gold whenever someone’s sentence is commuted or a city abolishes the death penalty anywhere in the world.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum
Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

There are three stories with tiered seating, the higher seats were for the poorest of people while the emperors and elite class would have ring-side seats, at the north and south ends, for the best views over the arena. Underneath the arena is the hypogeum, which means underground, and that’s where the slaves and animals were kept.

As we did with the Vatican City, we’d bought tickets in advance, but when we arrived we were instantly accosted by ticket touts. I think five separate people asked us if we wanted tickets before we even got to the entrance. One guy told us that our tickets wouldn’t allow us to access the arena, which was probably true, but as we had already upgraded tickets the day before, my dad resoundingly replied “We’ll take our chances mate!”

The way in was much more relaxed than the Vatican and, after I’d picked up my audio guide, we were greeted by another amazing sight in front of us. The audio guide was useful and there were designated points where you can stop and listen, and the audio tells you what you’re looking at. But, I kept getting them mixed up, so I’d be at point five listening to point six. It didn’t appear to be on silent either, so when I played it, even with headphones, everyone else could hear it. Technology and I are sometimes not a good mix, so I gave up. In any case, I was so busy trying to work the damn thing, I forgot to look around!

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

We walked around the lower and upper levels looking at the ruins, trying to imagine what life would have been like back then. Where the upper classes would have sat, the roar of the crowd, the massacres of men and animals. We only have TV series and movies to give us an idea of how things were, but I imagine the atmosphere would have been electric, albeit the events slightly distasteful.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum
Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

We didn’t spend as long here as we’d done at the Vatican, so once we had gone to the gift shop to buy a book and some postcards, and looked at the views of the Forum and the Arch of Constantine, we left and walked a short distance to have coffee and cake. On the way, we came across a beggar who appeared to have no legs. However, as we walked passed him and looked back, we noticed he was kneeling on the step with his feet resting on the ground behind. Our initial pity turned to amusement at his duplicitous attempt to trick people into feeling sorry for him and parting with their money! I wonder how much money he actually received! He was in such an uncomfortable position he would have been aching all over by the end of the day.

Things to do in Rome
Views of the Forum and the Arch of Constantine

Afterwards, I parted company with my mum and dad and wandered over to the Roman Forum. My parents had already been to the forum, so we planned to meet two hours later at the Vittorio Emanuele II monument, also known as the wedding cake because of its two-tiers, white marble, and its quadrigae on top. It’s not the most appealing building, but it can be seen towering above the rooftops from almost anywhere.

Things to do in Rome
Vittorio Emanuele II Monument aka The Wedding Cake

Tip: There are Roman soldiers around the Colosseum (and other attractions across the city) who are friendly enough when they ask if you want to have a photograph taken with them. That’s fine as long as you don’t mind paying for the privilege, something they fail to mention up front.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

Next up; The Roman Forum

 

 

Piazza Navona

We found ourselves in Piazza Navona, a lovely little square full of life with street artists, selling their paintings, imposing churches and palaces, and inviting cafes and restaurants all around. It didn’t take us long to choose a restaurant with a ring-side view of everything that was going on.

Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is an oval-shaped square which was once the site of the Stadium of Domitian, a popular venue where games and competitions were held in the 1st century AD.

Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona
Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona

The Italian architects loved a good fountain, and in the middle and at either end of Piazza Navona, there are three. The one in the middle is my favourite, just because it’s so elaborate and there’s always a good story behind it. It’s the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The four rivers are the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube, and the Rio de la Plata.

Things to do in Rome
Fountain of the Four Rivers
Things to do in Rome
Fountain of the Four Rivers

If you look at the statue of the Rio de la Plata, it appears that he is shielding this eyes from something. The story goes that he can’t bear to look at the church of St Agnese, built by Francesco Borromini, for fear that it will come tumbling down on him. Borromini was a rival of Bernini’s, but rivalry aside, Bernini built this fountain way before the church, so make what you will of the legend. The fountain is topped off with a towering Egyptian obelisk. There is a lot more to this fountain, lots of smaller sculptures and figurines, and if you look on the internet it’s fascinating the way Bernini (and others) told stories through their work. When I go anywhere I usually have my guidebook to hand, to give me information about what I’m looking at, but I enjoyed just being in the here and now with my parents.

Things to do in Rome
Rio de la Plata
Things to do in Rome
Church of St Agnese

At either end of the piazza is the Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain) and Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) both by Giancomo della Porta. 

Things to do in Rome
Fountain of Neptune
Things to do in Rome
Moor Fountain: Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

We ordered a selection of meats, cheese, olives and bread, all washed down by a glass of wine or two. It was just perfect sitting there watching the world go by, in the shadows of the grandiose Baroque architecture. Such a small place but big on atmosphere and architectural creations.

Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona
Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona

After our delicious lunch, we took a slow walk through the square to find a taxi, only to be approached by a man selling handmade wooden fruit bowls. He complimented my dad, saying how lucky he was to have two beautiful women on his arms, we laughed along as my dad put him right by saying yes, this is my wife and my daughter! Unperturbed, he proceeded to shake hands with us and in our palms he deposited a bracelet, how nice! But, realising that he wasn’t going to get a sale from us, snatched the bracelets back and walked off to find his next victim. Honestly, his attitude changed very quickly from being all smiles and friendly banter, to surly and almost aggressive. I can imagine how he must have felt with people constantly saying no! I’ve been in sales before, so I know how he feels 🙂 but I was always gracious.

We made it back to our digs, had our first evening out (this was still only our first day in Rome) and an early night because we were up early again for our visit to the Colosseum.

 

St Peter’s Basilica

Our guide left us outside St Peter’s Basilica and before going inside, we stopped to gaze over St Peter’s Square, designed by Gian Lorenz Bernini. Striking in its own right, the square is surrounded by Tuscan colonnades with 140 statues of various saints on top. The structure was built in two arcs on either side of the square alluding to embrace all into the arms of Mother Church.

Covering an area of 5.7 acres, St Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and, architecturally speaking, the most renowned piece of Renaissance work of its time. It’s said to be the resting place of St Peter and there are many popes buried in the vaults below.

Things to do in Rome
St Peter’s Basilica
Things to do in Rome
St Peter’s Basilica

The pope oversees ceremonies which sees between 15,000-80,000 people visit the basilica and, in fact, there had been an Easter celebration before we arrived because the square was still filled with empty seats.

Things to do in Rome
Imagine the square filled up with hundreds of devotees!

The facade has huge Corinthian columns and statues of the apostles, but look further skywards and you’ll see 13 statues on top of the building representing Jesus and 11 of his apostles, and John the Baptist.

Once through the huge doors, you’ll find yourself in the narthex or portico, beautifully decorated with a carved ceiling and columns on either side. At either end there are statues of Charlemagne by Agostino Cornacchini and Constantine the Great by Bernini. You’ll see three large doors, with decorated panels, the Door of the Dead, so named because it was used as the exit for funeral processions, the Filarete Door, a Renaissance bronze door, and the Holy Door which is sealed with cement and only opened during holy years.

Things to do in Rome
Grand entrance
Things to do in Rome
Charlemagne
Things to do in Rome
The Narthex
Things to do in Rome
The Holy Door by Vico Consorti
Things to do in Rome
The Filarete Door by Antonio Averulino a.k.a. Filarete
Things to do in Rome
The Door of the Dead by Giacomo Manzù

If that’s not enough, inside the basilica is absolutely jaw-dropping! Not only is it enormous with high ceilings, which will make you feel about two feet tall, but every square inch of it is ornately decorated with art and statues, literally, everywhere. The colourful stuccoed walls and ceilings are just out of this world!

In the nave, there are two cherubs holding a water basin, which from a distance appear to be of normal size, but once you get along side them, you realise they are two metres high.

Things to do in Rome
Cherubs with water basin

As you walk down the aisle, on either side there are chapels made of marble, stucco, gilt, sculptures and mosaics.

Things to do in Rome
One of the chapels along the aisle

And at the end of the aisle is Bernini’s baldachin, said to be the largest piece of bronze in the world, with its unusual twisted columns, sheltering the altar. Above, is the inside of Michelangelo’s dome, just as stunning inside as it is outside.

Like the Vatican museums, it’s almost too much for you to take everything in.

It really was a spectacular place to visit and our day wasn’t over yet. Back outside, we walked slowly over the square, with nothing to do but admire the colonnades and statues. We continued down Via della Conciliazione and, with the view of the basilica and Michelangelo’s dazzling dome in the distance, we stopped for a well-deserved rest over a cup of coffee.

Things to do in Rome
View of St Peter’s Basilica from Via della Conciliazione

By this time, we were getting a little peckish, so we continued our walk and found ourselves outside Castel Sant Angelo. With river views of the Tiber and two bridges spanning it, we stopped again in amazement. These weren’t your normal, run of the mill, bridges, oh no, not in Rome! These were the Ponte Sant Angelo, made of marble with five arches and lined with statues of angels.

Things to do in Rome
Castel Sant’Angelo
Things to do in Rome
Ponte Sant’Angelo

The Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II has three arches and winged statues at either end. Such a treat when you see them. It’s one marvelous sight after another here.

Things to do in Rome
Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II

We walked over the bridge, in the shadows of the magnificent sculptures, and followed our map through the city until we found one of Rome’s many picturesque squares- Piazza Navona.