The Capitoline Museum and the Rest of Rome
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I think the biggest accomplishment so far is that I am finally learning how to use the Roman bus system, so moving around is getting more straightforward. Rome is not about maps! It's all about the landmarks.
So, I started off the day by heading to the area of antiquities, the Roman Forum near the Palatino. Rome is basically a city built upon several ancient cities, like a lasagna. So I went to the place where I could best see this lasagna, the Roman Forum. And it's really like layers. On the top, churches. In the middle, brickwork
It really helps to know Roman history when you're looking at Roman antiquities. The Capitoline Museum holds antiquities mostly from 2nd C B.C. to 3rd C A.D. The most impressive one I found was the bronze sculpture of Marcus Aurelius, an emperor that wrote a book of philosophy (that is still read, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, by no less of an illustrious personage than Bill Clinton himself). I also saw the bronze sculpture of the she wolf suckling Romulus and Remus.
I think visiting a museum by yourself without a tour allows you to just look at beautiful, eccentric, and idiosyncratic things, if you want to. I liked a very lifelike, fierce sculpture of Commodus (the son of one of the Marcus emperors), dressed up like Hercules, with the lion's mane. I also like the sculpture of Hercules as a baby, killing a snake. And, finally, I found touching a sculpture of a young Roman girl protecting a dove from a snake.
What was beautiful was a Roman sculpture of Venus, which was so precious to its Roman owner that it was found buried inside a wall so that the Christians would not find it and destroy it
Of course, there are enormous sculptures of Constantine, one so big that all is left is his foot, which is about the length of me.
That museum visit left me quite replete! I made a mad dash to the Vatican post office in the afternoon to send off postcards to loved ones. The Vatican, being the smallest country in the world, has its own stamps! It was nice to write postcards on an old fashioned polished wooden table and to mail them off! I miss letters and cards.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to go on my Dark Rome "Best of Rome" walking tour, but a breathless and determined metro journey meant that I made it just in time to the Piazza del Popolo, the Plaza of the People, where I met up with my tour group. Here is where Queen Christina, the Queen of Sweden and one of the most famous converts to Roman Catholicism, entered Rome. We wandered down narrow side streets, past piazzas, and famous churches, some of which I had seen before, but the guide's added commentary meant that I understood more. The Trevi Fountain, which I had seen several days ago, for example, is actually the facade of the palace of one of the noble families in Rome, and it is supplied with clear water by a 2000 year old aqueduct
We ended up in Camp Fiori, the plaza of flowers, where there was no church in the plaza. It's the only plaza without a church in Rome. It used to be the site of executions. Now there is a statue of the scientist (and priest) Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600 by the church for his cosmological theory that the earth rotated around the sun. (The Vatican hotly denies that he was burnt for science). The statue, erected in the 1880s, really made the Vatican mad. But I had my pizza at a restaurant in the Camp Fiori, looking at Bruno's statute, and the street performers, and taking in the lovely Italian sunset.
What a day! Tomorrow is the Colosseum and the Palatino tour, and I then join my G Adventures grand tour group in the afternoon. I was, unfortunately, not able to get tickets to the Borghese Museum, one of the richest collections of Renaissance art in the world (and yes, I am kicking myself), but that will be another reason to come back to Rome, I think!
I enjoyed my stay in the hostel. I like the hostel's proprietors, who have given us great recommendations for food, and brought me a cup of chamomile tea because I have a cold! This is a very warm and hospitable place. I'm happy to have found it. But I am also glad to go to a hotel with a large shower, which is what will be happening tomorrow! Onwards!