First we took the metro to Piazza del Popolo...what a great huge open space, complete with one of those obelisks, which are one of the things Mom is "collecting" in a way on this trip. Photos of the obelisks we come across. Of the two twin churches, only Santa Maria dei Miracoli was open. I loved the size, the shape and the acoustics...the ornate decor, not so much. But still a wonderful church to visit. Then into Santa Maria del Popolo to view the stunning Caravaggio painting "The Conversion of Saul". Wow, powerful stuff. The lighting effects in the painting were amazing, as was the realism of the figures. Caravaggio's "Crucifixion of St. Peter" was there as well, and equally brilliant as far as the artistry, but I was not so inclined to sit and gaze upon someone's horrible death - much preferred to view a moment of transformation. The no photo policy in this side chapel was strictly enforced so you'll have to make do with googling the images! There were also a couple of gorgeous Pinturicchio (sp) frescos (one shown below). I love his work, such vibrant colours, although these were not as sumptuous as his Piccilomini room in Siena. There were also a few really bizarre images, like the embodiment of Death (also shown below)...not quite sure what that is about, but couldn't resist a photo!
After we left the church, we headed up the hill to Pincio. Lovely walk up through the treed pathways, stopping at a fountain to dip our hands and sprinkle some water down over our arms - so refreshing! And the water in the fountains is inevitably crystal clear here. The gardens (Pincio and Borghese) were a shady reprieve from the hot sun, although it hasn't been unbearable here as far as the heat goes...high twenties with a touch of humidity. When standing in the full sun, it feels hotter than home, but so far there has been a nice breeze and/or shady places to rest (aka lie down on a park bench!)
We had lunch at the Cafe Rosa (or something like that) in Villa Borghese, and then went along to check out the Capitoline Hill and museums. We took the tiny electric bus (#116 that through the medieval part of the city, getting off near Piazza Venezia. Someone (Tony Roma maybe) on SlowTrav had recommended approaching Capitoline from the side, as opposed to the big sweeping main steps. So we thought we'd give that a try. As we wandered through the streets, looking for the right route, we came upon the excavation of Portico d'Ottavia. Have to say, it is awesome to encounter such a site, it felt like history unfolding before our eyes. There was a building that looked remarkably like a smaller version of the Colosseum (although still a huge structure as you can see below in the photos - one of Mom standing in one of the arches and the other photo is the whole building), plus three columns resembling those in the Foro Romano.
Once we made our way through - literally because you are allowed to go right down into the excavation site - we crossed the road and started up a hill that I figured would lead to the Capitoline but wasn't sure. Eventually we came upon two older uniformed Italian men so I asked dove Capitoline? They had no idea what I was talking about...until I remembered it was called Campidoglio on my map. Ah si, si, Campidoglio!! They beckoned us forward and led us along to the site, showed us how to find the washrooms, the terrace, the piazza. They were so friendly and helpful! My Italian being essentially non-existent, all I could do was say an enthusiastic mille grazie and smile! We decided to visit the church first - Santa Maria Aracoeli. It is quite spectacular, but have to say the thing I most remember is the Chapel of the Holy Infant...and sad to say, my memory is one of giggle fits. My apologies to any who might be offended, but the baby Jesus doll outfitted in gold and wearing a crown just struck my funny bone.
When we left the church, we went up to the terrace behind the Victor Emmanual monument...the view of ancient Rome from up here is incredible!! I didn't get a great shot on my cell phone, but here is one that shows the Colosseum in the distance, and some of the Forum in the foreground.
Eventually we moved on to the museum itself...I really wanted to see the remnants of the colossus statue (of Constantine, I believe). You know, that big giant head, hand and foot that is seen so often in various ads (including Ristorante a Mano in Halifax!) Naturally I couldn't resist holding my own hand up in the same pose...
Also in the museum is the statue of the She-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus (the orphaned twins who founded Rome, according to the legends.) Mom read that the statue is from 5th century BC or thereabouts...I believe it is Etruscan, but am not positive. Pretty cool to see it in person though.
After admiring many more statues, including the original bronze Marcus Aurelius on his horse, around which Michelangelo designed the piazza, we were tired and headed away for supper and home. We left the hill by the main steps. At the bottom, I looked up the stairs leading to the church, and while standing there a rather fancy car pulled up (a Bentley perhaps). And a wedding party soon followed...so I joined the bunch of tourists snapping photos, because well the bride and groom just looked incredible in their fancy wedding clothes!
After photo-crashing the wedding party, we caught a bus back to our neighbourhood. We stopped into the apt for a glass of wine while waiting for Raf restaurant to open (closed until 7:30) and then went along for supper. I had the most intensely flavoured smoked salmon and porcini mushroom pizza...so incredibly delicious, it was heavenly!! And now am done for the day so good-night!