Italy

Day 4 - Castel Sant'Angelo, Navona, Trevi and Pantheon

Sun, sun, sun, sun. So there was no excuse for not setting out on our planned expedition to Trasteve. We started by taking the metro to the first station on the right side of Tiber. Then we walked along the Tiber to Castel Sant'Angelo (Castel of the angels).

Castel Sant'Angelo
Originally an imperial tomb built by Hadrian (117-38 AD). Work began in 123 AD but was only completed in 139 AD after the emperor's death. The mausoleum was linked to the Campus Martius (training fields for the soldiers) by the Pons Aelius (now the Ponte Sant'Angelo). Through the ages is has served in varying capacities: first as a fortress, then as a noble dwelling, and finally a papal residence.

In 271, the Emperor Aurelian incorporated the castle into the defence system he designed: it lost its function as a tomb to become a fortress. In 1277 it was occupied by Nicholas II who connected it to the Vatican by the famous corridor, a safety passage which runs along the top of the encircling wall of the Vatican.

Consequently it remained under the control of the Popes, who used it as a fortress, to impress, but also as a prison and a place for torture. The original name was Hadrianeum. But in 590 the name was changed, as the pope during a procession through the city stopped to pray to God to stop the plague and saw an angel put his sword into the sheath. The pope interpreteded this as a sign that the plague was over, put the statue on top of the castle, and changed the name.

The Castle is divided into five floors:
Floor I from which starts the famous winding ramp about 400 feet long, a stupendous Roman costruction. Floor II (or floor of the prisons) with horrible cells, called "historical" prisons, and store-rooms for wheat and oil. Floor III (or military floor) with two big courtyards. Floor IV (or papal floor) with the loggia of Julius II, by Bramante, in the principal part of the Castle and the papal apartment, consisting of magnificent rooms with frescoes by painters of Raphael's school, the Sala del Tesoro and Cagliostro's Room, the prison cell of the famous alchemist of the 18th century. Floor V (top floor) with a big terrace, dominated by an Archangel (Michael with a sword) in bronze, from where we had a fine panorama of the city.

Ponte Sant'Angelo

The celebrated Ponte Sant'Angelo, the ancient Pons Aelius or Pons Adrianus crossing the Tiber, was built by Hadrian in 134 AD as a fitting approach to his mausoleum. Ten statues of angels, by pupils of Bernini (1688 to his design) stand along the balustrade of the bridge. The central three arches that support the bridge or of the original structure, while the end arches were restored and enlarged in 1892-94. A beautiful bridge, though not quite as impressing as Karl's Bridge in Prague.

 
View from Castel Sant'Angelo
From the terrace of the Castel Sant'Angelo, (site of Puccini's third act of Tosca, where the heroine plunges to her death in the muddy waters of the Tiber) you get a magnificent view of the Eternal City. In the distance you can se the Campidoglio, the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, St. Ivo alla Sapienza, St. Agnese in Agone as well as the Pantheon, and a number of other distinguished domes of Rome. Still a lot left to be seen!

Piazza Navona
The Piazza Navona ("Circo Agonale") occupies the spot, where once was the stadium of Domitian, which held up to 30.000 spectators. This explans the shape of the square (which is not square at all). Here are three magnificient fountains. The one in the centre is the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini (yet most work was done by his pupils - Bernini only made the horse). The four major rivers known at that time was The Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Rio Plata. The church of S. Agnese in Agone, is built on the spot, where the virgin Agnese died a martyr. Before her martyrdom she was undressed, but - according to legend - miraculously her hair grew to cover her whole body. It is a magnificent Baroque building designed by G. Rainaldi and Borromini. Beneath the church are some remains of the original church and of the Circus of Domitian. We decided to come back one day in the evening and enjoy the sentiment of this wonderful square.

Fontane di Trevi
On our long journey back to Hotel Kennedy we wanted to see Fontane di Trevi. When we arrived there were hundreds of tourists - most of them Japanese. Birgit had to toss a coin (over the left shoulder as perscribed) into the fountain to make sure, that she (we?) would come back some day. We talked about, that you Janet probably had performed the same rite some years ago. But we were not able to identify your coin. The coins are removed once a week and are (supposed to be) spent for charity. Then we sat down for some minutes to watch the scenery. My memory went back to the mid 50's. To Fellini's movie La Dolce Vita, where a Swedish actress Anita Ekberg bathed in Fontane di Trevi in the nude. I also remember Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "A Roman Holiday" visiting the fountain. But I was urged by Birgit to carry on. So much for memories.

Pantheon

Next stop on the journey was The Pantheon. Some years ago we had seen Pantheon in Paris and were eager to compare the two buildings. The Pantheon is no doubt the best preserved monument of ancient Rome. Dedicated to all the gods (Pan - theos). In 609 AD it was converted into a church, the first temple in Rome to be christianized. The original temple was built of travertine, during the third consulate of Aggripa (27 BC), son-in-law of Augustus, to commemorate the victory at Actium over Antony and Cleopatra (you remember all the family troubles after the death of Julius Cecar?).

The Pantheon is constructed of cement. The dimensions of the building are 43 meters in diameter with a 9 meter diameter ocullus at the top of the construction. Until 1960 it was the largest 'freestanding' dome in the world. When Bramante designed San Pietro, he planned to make the dome an exact copy of that of The Pantheon. The floor slants into the center of the building to catch the water as it falls from the opening in the floor. From the bottom the walls are 7 meters wide. As you go up the width narrows down to approx. 1 meter near the top. Besides that they have been using lighter material, as the building grew higher. Originally the dome was covered by bronze. Bernini - of all people - persuaded the Pope to let him have the bronze for San Pietro.

When the building was christianized thousands of relicts and remains from martyrs were moved from the catacombes, where they had been burried. To day many of Rome's great men (women?) are burried in the church (Raphael, King Vittorio Emanuele I, and King Umberto I) - like in Paris. Michelangelo was supposed to be burried in the Pantheon after his death. But the night before his burrial, his body was 'stolen' and moved to Firenze, where his tomb can be seen.

We found Patheon in Rome more impressing than the one in Paris.

In the evening we dined at a Korean restaurant. The food was fine, but the wine was expensive (compared to quality). We were the only non-Korean people in the restaurant. During our stay 2 parties of Korean tourist came to dine. Both groups finished within 15 minutes.