26 August 2011

Rome and Vatican City Time

In my last blog post, I wrote about searching for the optimum place to retire, and I commented about my loathing of high humidity. Before I let that topic cool off—it’s still August--I thought I’d write about Rome.

I must have suppressed memory of tropical areas I’ve visited. When I think heat and humidity, I think Washington, DC, of course, but I remember Rome, Italy.

Summer Visits to Rome

My few stopovers in Rome were all in the early 1980s to visit the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. I was either going to or coming from a UN/FAO-sponsored project in some country. It was normally summer when I wasn’t teaching and when residents of Rome who were able to escape didn’t wait to wish me benvenuto.

Some days the weather was almost pleasant but not often. On one visit in particular, I really timed it wrong. None of the small hotels I stayed in had air conditioning, and for that visit, I don’t remember there even being a fan.

Circus Maximus with open-
air movie screen, 1983.
To add a touch of matchless misery to the night, my open window was within audio range of the ancient Circus Maximus. The site where thousands of Roman spectators once shrieked to chariot racing was on this night hosting free, loud, open-air movies. Charlton Heston would surely have approved, but what would Ben Hur have thought?

Loud could have been louder. Circus Maximum is now used for concerts and other events.

Walking Tour of Rome and Vatican City

On an earlier visit, I found myself with a free day. Having planned the UN project but not a tourist visit, I drew a more or less circular route on a map and started walking, map and camera placed discreetly in my shoulder bag. I knew many names on the map but little else about the sites.

A small portion of the Roman Forum.

How nice it would have been to have had Google, Wikipedia and the online photo sites, though I might not have taken these photographs.

Pons Fabricius (Ponte Fabricio), the oldest (62 BCE) Roman bridge in Rome, connecting one shore of the Tiber River to an island in the river.
Pons Fabricius (Ponte Fabricio).
Interior of the Pantheon, a temple to Roman gods, reconstructed by Emperor Hadrian around 125 AD.
Castel Sant'Angelo, built 135 AD to 139 AD as a mausoleum for Roman Emperor Hadrian, became a fortress and castle for popes and currently houses a national museum. 
Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) is one of three fountains at the Piazza Navona.

In Vatican City, I had no idea what I was getting into when, in the heat, I walked instead of taking the elevator to the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica, then climbed the 300-plus stairs to the top of the dome. I made it, slipping by one fellow, who nearly passed out along the way.

Vatican Museums.
St. Peter’s Basilica dome seen from Vatican Museums’ window.
In St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pieta by Michelangelo.

St. Peter’s Basilica rooftop.
View of interior of St.
Peter’s Basilica dome.
St. Peter’s Basilica Square from top of St. Peter's Basilica dome.
Wrap Up

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. What an extraordinary feeling to be sleeping--or trying to sleep--a 10 minute walk from the Colesseum! Given the choice, however, I’d pass on summer.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll write again in about a week. Before then, I’ll scan and post more tourist photos of Rome or the Vatican. 

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