No travel now for nine months so taking a look back at good times in Italy…
Tag Archives: Rome
Not surprisingly Italy is the country with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites; it has fifty-three, seven more than Spain which has the second most sites in Europe. I have visited half of the sites in Spain but when I reviewed the Italy list I was disappointed to find that I have been to less than a quarter.
This time in Italy I was planning to add a few more, Milan (The Last Supper), Modena and Ferrara.
Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…
Upon my return from Naples I thought I might update my map of places that I have visited in Italy.
Click on an image to scroll through the picture gallery…
It was a long tedious drive from Ephesus to Pamukkale and thinking about the Ephesus experience I thought it would be fun to recall all of the other ancient sites that I have visited and assemble a near perfect virtual ancient city.
Approaching the city the first thing to be seen would be the aqueduct bringing fresh water to the citizens. The finest aqueduct must surely be that in Segovia in central Spain. It was built at the end of first to early second century AD by the Romans to bring water from the Río Frío about eighteen kilometres away and requiring an elevated section in its final kilometre from the Sierra de Guadarrama to the walls of the old town.
This is supported by an engineering achievement of one hundred and sixty-six arches and one hundred and twenty pillars constructed on two levels. It is twenty eight metres high and constructed with over twenty thousand large granite blocks, which are joined without mortar or clamps and have remained in place for two thousand years.
After passing through the arches of the aqueduct the road would lead to a Palace – Diocletian’s Palace from Split in Croatia. The palace was built as a Roman military fortress with walls two hundred metres long and twenty metres high, enclosing an area of thirty-eight thousand square metres and it is one of the best preserved Roman palaces in existence because after the fall of the Romans within the defensive walls it effectively became the city of Spalatum which eventually evolved and became the modern city of Split.
Inside the city walls there would be the houses of the people who lived in the city, the houses of Herculaneum near Pompeii in Italy that was destroyed in the same Vesuvius eruption. But in a different way because where Pompeii was buried in ash, Herculaneum was destroyed by a pyroclastic flow which is a ground-hugging avalanche of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments, and volcanic gas that rushes down the side of a volcano. Although it killed all of the inhabitants this flow did little damage to the structures, instead slowly filling them from the bottom up and preserving them perfectly without destroying them altogether.
After passing through the residential area there would be a magnificent triumphal arch marking the entrance to the civic and public areas. I think it would be very much like the arch at Voloubilis in Morocco.
Volubilis was the Roman capital of the Province of Mauritania and was founded in the third century B.C., it became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and was graced with many fine buildings. Extensive remains of these survive in the archaeological site, located in the middle of this fertile agricultural area. The city continued to be occupied long after the Romans had gone and at some point converted to Islam and Volubilis was later briefly to become the capital of Idris I, founder of the Idrisid dynasty, who is buried at nearby Moulay Idris. It is now of course a UNESCO World Heritage Site, admitted to the list in 1997.
Once through the Arch into the Forum which for the Romans was the centre of political, commercial and judicial life. This has to be the Forum in Rome.
According to the playwright Plautus the area ‘teemed with lawyers and litigants, bankers and brokers, shopkeepers and strumpets’. As the city grew successive Emperors increasingly extended the Forum and in turn built bigger temples, larger basilicas, higher triumphal columns and more lavish commemorative arches. Here is the Temple of Romulus and the house of the Vestal Virgins and then the Temple of Julius Caesar erected on the very spot that he was cremated following his assassination in 44 BC.
Every ancient city needs a theatre and at the end of the forum in this virtual city is the theatre of Hierapolis at Pamukkale in Turkey, a restored ancient theatre that surely has to be amongst the best that I have ever seen and that includes Segesta in Sicily and Merida in Spain and also (again in my opinion) the ruins that we had visited at Ephesus.
Next to the Theatre is the Temple and I am happy to include in this virtual city the Temple of Apollo in Didyma just down the road from Ephesus. This place would have been huge, one hundred and twenty columns, fifteen metres high and each taking an estimated twenty thousand man days to cut and erect. It was never completely finished because during the construction process the money kept running out but if it had been then it is said that this would have been one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in precedence over the Temple of Artemis at nearby Ephesus.
Finally there would be an Amphitheatre and whilst it may seem like madness not to include the Colosseum in Rome I am going to overlook it and include instead the Amphitheatre at Arles in Southern France. It could also have been the the Amphitheatre in Pula in Croatia or,Mérida in Spain but there is something majestic about about Arles which just fascinates me.
No one can be absolutely sure about which was the largest in terms of capacity and it is generally agreed that this was the Colosseum but we can be more certain about physical size and there was a plaque nearby that claimed that this was the twelfth largest in the Roman Empire. Interestingly using this criteria the plaque only listed the Colosseum as second largest but it’s like I have always said size isn’t the most important thing!
Finally when my city is put together, I will need a wall to protect it and what better choice could I make than Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England
So there it is, my virtual Ancient City, just my personal choices and I would be more than happy to consider any alternative suggestions for inclusion.
My blogging pal Will sent me this in an email and I am delighted to add it to my city…
… thought I would share this picture of the colonnaded street and forum at Jerash. It would definitely be in my fantasy Roman city!
Check out Will’s blog here … Wilbur’s Travels
“…nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.” – Mark Twain
People have always travelled to other parts of the world to see great buildings and works of art, to learn new languages, to experience new cultures and to enjoy different food and drink…
…In 2008 I flew to Athens and in the departure lounge queue behind us was a couple of girls and one announced to the other that ‘I only go on holiday for three things, to get drunk, get stoned and get laid’, I had to see who this person was and when I turned round she turned out to be so unattractive that I was tempted to say ‘Don’t build your hopes up, if I were you I would concentrate on the first two!’ but she was bigger than me so I said nothing of course!
In 1936 the League of Nations defined a foreign tourist as someone travelling abroad for at least twenty-four hours and its successor, the United Nations amended this definition in 1945 by including a maximum stay of six months. In early 2010 the European Commissioner, Antonio Tajani, unveiled a plan declaring tourism a human right and introduced it with the statement that “travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life.”
Young English elites of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (early Rahs really) often spent two to four years travelling around Europe in an effort to broaden their horizons and learn about language, architecture, geography and culture in an experience known as the Grand Tour.
In fact the word tourist has its origins in what used to be more correctly called the Grand Tour of Europe, which was a term first used by Richard Lassels in his 1670 book ‘Voyage or a Complete Journey through Italy’ and after that it came into general usage to describe the travels in Europe of wealthy young men and women in the years of the Enlightenment where it was quite normal to take a gap year (or four) in the quest for a broader education.
Lassels was a Roman Catholic priest and a tutor to several of the English nobility and travelled through Italy five times. In his book, he claims that any truly serious student of architecture, antiquity, and the arts must travel through France and Italy, and suggested that all “young lords” make the Grand Tour in order to understand the political, social, and economic realities of the world.
The primary purpose of the Grand Tour lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance and an an introduction to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, before museum collections went on tour themselves, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music and it was commonly undertaken in the company of a Cicerone, a knowledgeable guide or tutor.
The Grand Tour had more than superficial cultural importance as the historian E.P. Thompson observed, “ruling-class control in the 18th century was located primarily in a cultural hegemony, and only secondarily in an expression of economic or physical (military) power.”
While the general objective of the Grand Tour was essentially educational (and this probably what mum and dad thought that they were forking out for) they were also notorious for more frivolous pursuits such as getting hammered, partying heavily and sleeping with as many continental lovelies as possible and so began a tradition that thousands of holiday Brits continue to this day in the party hot-spots of Europe.
When young men on the Grand Tour weren’t misbehaving like people on a stag weekend to Amsterdam they were mostly interested in visiting those cities that were considered the major centres of culture at the time, primarily Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples.
The Grand Tourist would travel from city to city and usually spend some time in smaller towns and up to several months in the three main cities on the itinerary. Paris was considered the grandest and most cultured city and was usually first en-route and tourists would rent apartments for several weeks at a time and would make occasional visits to the countryside and adjacent towns.
From Paris, they travelled south either across the Alps or by a ship on the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and then they would pass on to Rome or Venice. To begin with Rome was initially the southernmost point they would travel to but when excavations began at Herculaneum and Pompeii in 1738 the two sites also became additional major stop-off points.
Other locations sometimes included as part of some Grand Tour included Spain and Portugal, Germany, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Baltic States. However, these other spots lacked the cultural and historical appeal of Paris and Italy and the substandard roads made travel much more difficult so they were not always the most popular.
Some of them didn’t have vineyards either so I suppose that might have reduced their appeal somewhat.
The British it seems have always been rather keen on travelling abroad and we have left our mark all over Europe (and not just through football violence either) in Nice one of the first and most established holiday resorts on the French Riviera, the long esplanade along the seafront is known to this day as the Promenade des Anglais and in many other historic resorts in continental Europe, old well-established palace hotels have names like the Hotel Bristol, the Hotel Carlton or the Hotel Majestic, reflecting the predominance of English customers.
In fact there are nearly three hundred hotels around the world called Bristol. They take their name from Frederick Augustus Hervey (1730-1803), the 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, who spent most of his life travelling around Europe enjoying the best hospitality money could buy. What a good life that would have been, to be sure!
This sort of thing really appeals to me; both the exploration and knowledge and having a really good knees up at the same time and I have become determined to travel as much in Europe as I possibly can. There are forty-six countries in Europe and I have only so far been to twenty-nine so I am just over half way towards my objective of visiting them all.
Ryanair was Europe’s original low fares airline and is my favourite which is lucky for me because the airline has over eleven hundred low fare routes to one hundred and sixty-one destinations in Europe and North Africa. In the last three years I have flown thirty times at a very reasonable average cost of £40 return all inclusive.
Not all of these flights were with Ryanair of course and I have been forced to use others but I generally find that these work out more expensive. A return flight to Athens with Easyjet for example costs £120 and my biggest bargain so far was with Ryanair to Santander in Cantabria, Spain at just £10.02 return. To put things into some sort of perspective it costs over £80 to go to London on the train from Peterborough with National Express and for that you are not even guaranteed a seat. That is about .90p a mile and on that basis it would cost approximately £1,800 to go to Santander and back by train!
In 2015 the most visited country in Europe was France, followed by Spain, Italy, United Kingdom and Germany. Spain made the most money out or tourist revenues and on average the Germans spent most while away from home. The most visited city was London (although as usual France disputes the official figures) and the most visited place was Trafalgar Square, followed by the Eiffel Tower and then the Vatican.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation, which has its headquarters in Madrid, produces the World Tourism Rankings and is a United Nations agency dealing with questions relating to tourism.
For the record I visited Trafalgar Square in 2008, the Eiffel Tower in 2005 and the Vatican in 2003.
I liked everything about Rome and all of these sights but I was intrigued by something much more mundane.
All of the manhole covers displayed the Roman symbol SPQR which, I learned later, is the motto of the city and appears in the city’s coat of arms, as well as on many of the civic buildings. SPQR comes from the Latin phrase, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus (The Senate and the People of Rome), referring to the government of the ancient Republic. It appeared on coins, at the end of public documents, in dedications of monuments and public works, and was the symbol on the standards of the Roman legions.
Marino is clearly not a tourist place but instead a traditional Italian living and working town with shabby narrow streets, care worn but brightly colour-washed buildings with ancient coats of paint which have blotched and blurred by successive harsh summers and the result is a glorious wash like water colours leaking in the rain, everything running, flaking and fusing.
“From the dome of St. Peter’s one can see every notable object in Rome… a panorama that is varied, extensive, beautiful to the eye, and more illustrious in history than any other in Europe.” Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad
On the way to the Vatican we walked past the Castel Sant’Angelo and into the busy square outside the Basilica where a long queue of people snaked forever around the perimeter waiting for their turn to go inside. We joined the back of it and were pleased to find that it moved quite quickly towards the main doors and soon we were inside the biggest and the tallest church in the World that has room for sixty-thousand worshippers at one kneeling.
It was busy inside but not uncomfortable and we soaked up the information from the guide’s commentary as we passed by chapels with precious holy relics, the tombs of dead Popes and rooms with glass cases full of religious artefacts.
After the tour was finished we paid for an optional extra and took the five hundred and fifty-one steps to the top of the dome which involved an awful lot of stairs and a tight squeeze at the very top but we were rewarded with wonderful views across the city all the way back to the Colosseum.