Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Roma, Vatican City, Perugia

Above is the Victor Emanuele Monument built to honor the first king of a unified Italy, inaugurated 1911 and completed 1935.

On our first day in Rome we rode the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus around the city.  Andrée and I had ridden the little train in Rocmadour, France, because of the hills and we knew this was the way to go.  It is always a great way to get your bearings and a feel for the city you are visiting.  I was jet-lagged and found myself dozing off but managed to see many fountains when the bus slowed down to go around them.
Andrée took this photo of me at the Colosseum and below is Andrée, photo taken by me.  Note we both have the green light, means our vacation is a goer :)

Being back in Rome is delightful. Visiting the classic Roman sights once again left me in a state of awe, the Colosseum and Roman Forum, Trajan's Bazzar, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon to name a few.  I felt that I needed to pinch myself because here I was, back in Rome.  My last visit was 2005.
Via Sacra (Sacred Way) the most famous street in ancient Rome.
The Arch of Constantine, Roman Forum c. 315 CE.
Trajan's Column and Trajan's Forum c. 115 CE.  I love the trees in Rome, are they Cypress?
Castel Sant'Angelo, The Mausoleum of Hadrian commenced 123 AD and completed 139 AD is known as one of the most original monuments in Rome.
The Pantheon 27-25 BC., Piazza della Rotunda.   The temple built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa has been radically changed since his time.  Hadrian rebuilt the building 118-125 AD.  The Pantheon was closed for mass/tourists the afternoon we visited but as the doors were open we could see inside.  We sat at a cafe and this was our view, it was such a lovely afternoon.
This is the famous Trevi Fountain and it was crowded each time we passed by.  We both commented that it would be awful here in mid summer when Europeans are on vacation.  We threw our coins in the fountain so we will return, well that was my wish.

Vatican City
We visited the Vatican City and took a tour through the Sistine Chapel.  As I am sure you all know Michelangelo did great work here.  I thought the most amazing work is the arched ceiling.  The ceiling is NOT arched, it is a rectangular room, no arches.  Michelangelo painted the walls and ceilings to look arched.  No photography is allowed in the Vatican Museum or the Sistine Chapel.
I wanted to visit the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter.  I am a believer in the love story of Mathilde of Canossa and Pope Gregory VII and so my interest lay in seeing Matilda's tomb.  I was very happy to see that Matilda's tomb is just across from Michelangelo's Pieta, in other words it is in a prominent position for the ONLY woman entombed in the male dominated Basilica. 

Michelangelo always claimed descent from Matilda but records show Matilda only had a daughter who died hours after birth.  Why is Matilda there?  Why is Matilda shown holding the Papal Crown and the Keys? 
For those with ears to hear and eyes to see.
Matilda can also be seen standing at the side of Gregory VII on January 28, 1077 when The Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV was begging forgiveness for his wars against Matilda (Tuscany) and the Pope (Rome).  Henry IV spent three days and three nights outside Matilda's castle in Canossa in the snow barefoot and hair-shirt waiting to be admitted for an audience with Pope Gregory VII.  Henry IV was forgiven and the excommunication lifted, Henry IV returned to Germany and went back to his cruel ways.
Wandering the city then stopping at an outdoor cafe to enjoy a capuccino or fresh squeezed blood orange juice feels the right thing to do and allows for a little people watching.  The days were warm and sunny with a bright blue sky which was magical light for photographs later in the day and a nice start to our vacation.

The first day I started out in boots but they were hot and horrible.  Living in Houston has spoiled me and I now only like wearing sandals.  So at the end of the first morning I went to a shoe shop and bought some Mephisto sandals, now I am a happy camper once again.

Things fall into place easily sometimes.  We arrived at the Roma train station for a train to Perugia and found that one was leaving in minutes.  No, we had not checked a timetable first.  The train journey through Umbria gave us a chance to see the mountains and fertile valleys of the region, it was a truly beautiful sight with the many hilltop villages along the way.  A couple of hours later we were in Perugia walking around this beautiful old walled city set on many hills.
Looking toward the 13th century Fontana Maggiore which was built in celebration at the completion of the aquaduct to Perugia.  The fountain was considered the most interesting and beautiful fountain anywhere at that time.
The original griffin and lion in the museum are the symbols for Perugia.  Copies have been placed in their original position on a wall of the town hall but symbols of the griffin and lion can be found all over the city.

Two views of Perugia and the mountains of Umbria taken from the walls of the city.
The Archeological Museum is well worth a visit to see the pottery, jewelry, and artifacts.  Don't miss this fine tablet showing Etruscan writing which is read from right to left and yes, they wrote their characters backwards to writing the alphabet as we know it.  Interesting huh?
In the 1980's Perugia placed a series of escalators in the tunnels within the city walls.  These escalators go from the Termini (bus station) to the top of the hill which is a long, steep way to walk.  There are exits out along the way and the series of escalators finish at the main piazza of Perugia.

In 1531 there was a papal war over taxes commonly called the Salt War.  Why am I telling you this?  Perugia refused to pay the taxes to Rome and then stopped using salt when baking bread.  Even today they do not bake their bread with salt.  Yes, to me it was noticeable, so out with a salt shaker!

Yesterday we took a bus ride to Assisi.  It is over twenty years since I visited Assisi so a refresher visit was most welcome.    It was a windy and freezing cold morning which found Andrée shopping for a scarf for the added warmth.  Assisi is one of those aforementioned hilltop villages so we walked up to the two Cathedrals first and then up, and up, and up through the village.  It is hard to tell if the blank spaces in the frescoes is earthquake damage or simply wear and tear on old art (my previous visit was before the earthquake).
Andrée preferred the Cattedrale Inferiore (lower cathedral) with frescoes by Giotto surrounding the tomb of Saint Francis.  I liked the Cattedrale Superiore (upper cathedral) thinking the frescoes there were lighter giving not such a dark and heavy feeling.
Some of the many Saint Francis tourist pieces you can buy.  No we did not get one of these.
A reminder that it does get cold here but this day we did not need a reminder, it felt this cold.
Oratorio dei Pellegrini, Sec XV - Oratory of the Pilgrims
Assisi is well worth a visit when in Umbria especially for pilgrims wanting to visit the tomb of Saint Francis.  However, Assisi is small, touristy, and expensive so you may want to visit only for the day while staying elsewhere.
There is a train from Perugia to Assisi but in both towns the train station is a long way from Centro Storico (old town center) and requires a bus or taxi.  Going between the cities by inter city bus is far simpler as the bus stops at the gate to the old city.

Ach-choo, ach-choo .... for the first time in over thirty years, or since leaving Australia in 1978, I suffered seasonal allergies in Assisi.  I sneezed my way around town obviously allergic to something in the Spring air.  I was now far more sympathetic to Andrée who had been suffering allergies (or a cold) since arriving in Rome.  Should I say that I am not a sympathetic person by nature.

Ah Tuscany!  We will leave Perugia tomorrow on the 10:00AM train for Firenze/Florence.


  1. We once spent Christmas and New Year in Rome when our daughter lived there. One of my favourite cities.

  2. Hi Solitary Walker, I would think that Rome would be lovely for the holidays but c-cold. Rome is on my list of favorite cities. I am back home now so I will catch up with your Blog. Thanks, Luiza

  3. It is always a great way to get your bearings and a feel for the city you are visiting And best things to do in vatican City .Rome is on my list of favorite cities.