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Entries in Rome (4)


The Vatican

Sean and I are not religious people but we were told over and over again that while in Rome you HAVE to see The Vatican. So we did.


This is our tour guide giving us a pre-screening of the various frescoes we'd be viewing in the Sistine Chapel. She made it very clear that we would not be permitted to speak in the chapel, hence the explanation before we went in.


This long hallway is enroute to the Sistine Chapel and is filled with ancient Roman statues, mosaics and other treasures 'collected' over the years (many places in Rome, including the Colosseum, were looted in order to fill the Vatican).


Our guide told us that most Roman marble statues had once been painted - eyes, flesh, clothing - with colour. Throughout time, paint on most statues has worn away however, a few pieces still have remnants, like the somewhat unsettling eyes below.


Next we were led through the 'Hallway of Centuries' where beautiful tapestries dating as far back as the 16th century hang.


The 'carved' ceiling in the Hallway of Centuries is actually not carved at all - it's a flat painting.


As we were heading through the final hallway before entering the Chapel, our guide said something to another guide in Italian then seemed distressed. 'Hurry, we must hurry', she said. 'They are going to close the Sistine Chapel!!' So we ran.


You see, the Vatican does whatever it wants, whenever it wants - including closing the Sistine Chapel when hundreds of tourists have paid entry to see it. Just before we walked through the door, our guide once again stressed the importance of silence in the Chapel - '... and NO photographs!!'.

The first thing that struck me when we entered was the low murmur of voices - hundreds of voices. In fact, the entire floor space was full of people. Every few minutes a guard would yell 'Silenzio - SILENZIO!!' and the murmur would quiet down for a moment. I buried myself in the middle of another tour group, pointed my camera up and clicked the shutter, hoping for the best (and hoping that the guards would not notice or hear me). It took three shots to get the photo you see above which luckily includes Michel Angelo's masterpiece 'The Last Judgement' as well as one of the most famous frescoes in the world - 'The Creation of Adam'.


Upon leaving The Sistine Chapel, we walked down a long flight of marble stairs outside into a small courtyard. 


Through the courtyard, we crossed over to another building into the tomb of popes beneath Saint Peter's Basilica. As we walked slowly through the crypt, we passed the grave of Pope John Paul II. There was a tiny old nun kneeling and praying in front of it with sombre-looking security guards standing to either side. There is a time and place for photos, and I felt this wasn't one of them.

At then end of the line of tombs, we climbed up a small spiral staircase and emerged into this:


Saint Peter's Basilica. One of the most opulent and massive places I have ever been.




The bloated display of wealth juxtaposed with the 'Offerte' boxes that are EVERYWHERE was fascinating to me.


The canopy under which the Pope gives mass is constructed of bronze taken from the original roof of the Pantheon.




In the photo below, I was trying to balance the light to showcase the beautiful sunburst and dove window. It was only later that Sean told me the Pope's throne was directly beneath the stained glass - I hadn't even noticed.



The 'painting' below looks like a painting but it's actually a ceramic mosaic - in fact, everything in the Basilica that looks like a painting is made of mosaic. The Vatican is actually famous for their mosaics - they even have a school for artists to learn to create them. Sunlight fills the church (and photographs are permitted) because the light doesn't damage the mosaics the way it would damage paintings and frescoes.



This statue of sorrowful Mary holding the body of her dead son is the only piece of work that Michel Angelo ever signed.


Sean basking in the glow of St. Peter's.


We left the inner sanctum of St. Peter's into the main piazza of the Vatican - there were already hundreds of people lined up waiting to get in. Our guide led us across the piazza and into a mosaic store across the street. Sean and I had a peek inside but we both knew we weren't going to buy a religious mosaic to take home so instead we sat outside on a marble bench getting some fresh air while we waited for our group.

A small ragged woman approached us begging for money. As I watched her, Saint Peter's silhouetted behind, I couldn't help but feel contempt at the irony before me. 

Everyone was right.

When in Rome you SHOULD visit the Vatican.

It will put everything into perspective.


Rome ~ Part Three

We booked a few group tours during our trip, the first being 'The Imperial Rome Tour'. We were scheduled for a 1:30pm pick-up outside of our hotel. We waited until 1:40pm and then we started to get a little nervous because the tour was scheduled to begin at 2pm.

'Maybe they forgot about us', I said.

Inside at the front desk of our hotel, we were told that we could walk to the tour office in about 15 minutes - so we did - with five minutes to spare until the bus was supposed to leave!! We checked into the office, and the woman behind the counter looked at us like were the dumbest people on earth.

In her heavy Italian accent - 'He was just at the hotel!! Why you no wait?'

The funny thing is, when the pick-up van arrived with the other passengers, we all ended up waiting outside the tour office until 2:20pm when they finally let us board the bus.

Oh well, we all got situated and the tour began with a drive through Rome towards the Colosseum.

When we arrived and stepped off the bus, the first site to greet us was the Arch of Constantine built in the year 312 AD!!


Ahhhh - The Colosseo!! Finally we had found it!!


Below is the view inside the Colosseum, above the entrance where the gladiators would emerge into the arena. Our tour guide told us that only half of the arena floor remains covered so that you can see the multiple levels and numerous tunnels underneath where the animals were housed and the gladiators would prepare for battle.

Hundreds of years ago, when the floor was completely enclosed, the entire surface was covered with fresh sand each night to soak up the blood of the wounded and dying. Gladiators would fight each other, however, they would also fight lions, elephants, giraffes and other exotic animals imported from Africa and Asia.

At the bottom right of this photo, you can see the only remaining section of original marble stadium seating.


When we had arrived at the Colosseum, our guide pulled out a flag attached to the top of an old antenna. At first, I thought 'What the heck?' but as I continually stopped to take photos, and constantly got separated from the group, the necessity of the flag quickly made sense.


I love candid photos of people. I'll often 'shoot from the hip' (keep the camera down instead of holding it up to my face) because people can be so self conscious when a camera is aimed at them. Shooting from the hip means people remain comfortable and I get great shots like this:


The view of the Arch of Constantine from inside the Colosseo.

The tour of the Colosseum went by so quickly, and we were both so impressed and enthralled with the enormity and gravity of the history contained in one space, Sean and I both agreed that we would return to the Colosseum for a second visit so we could take our time and soak it all in.

Shot of an old lady, on the way to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli - Saint Peter in Chains - part two of our Imperial Rome Tour.


We crossed over an old bridge to get to the church.


The church of Saint Peter in Chains is completely unassuming from the outside - it doesn't even look like a church - more like a small stucco government building - yet inside it holds one of the High Renaissance's finest works - Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses.





After we left San Pietro in Vincoli, our group got back on the bus and we drove to the Vittorio Monument, for the third and last part of our tour.

There are two flights of steps behind the Vittorio - one set is very steep and leads to a church which I just learned is called Santa Maria in Aracoeli (I shot the 2 second extended night shot from the top of those steps in 'Rome ~ Part One').

Our tour guide led us up the other flight of steps called the Cordonata, which were designed by Michelangelo. At the top of the Cordonata are the Capitoline Museums.

Here is the point of describing all of this to you.

Behind the Capitoline Museums is THIS stunning view of the Roman Forum, where many of the oldest and most important ancient Roman structures are housed. We were lucky enough to be there just as the sun was beginning to set.

Along the skyline, on the right, to the left of the tower in the distance, you can see the Colosseum.

And THAT was the end of the Imperial Rome Tour. Our group dispersed and we were left downtown to do as we pleased. And so once again we walked and walked and walked.

Carrying a full frame DSLR with a huge, heavy lens on the front can get wearisome after a few hours and so there were many points when I would pop it into our daypack and make Sean carry it!! Here and there I would grab it from the pack when I saw shots I couldn't resist - like the Pantheon Fountain located in the Piazza Navona


I love how the lion's paw is positioned to balance him as he leans down for a drink.




At the opposite end of the Piazza was a group of street performers playing live music with interpretative dance.


Street curtains - can we get some of these in Halifax?



On the way back to the hotel after a long day.

Holy cow - I can't believe I'm only at the end of our second day in Europe!!

The best is yet to come...


Rome ~ part two

When we first started to plan our trip, and Sharon asked us where we really wanted to visit our answer was immediate - PARIS!! We weren't really too sure where else we wanted to go but it was Paris for sure!! You see, since I was a teenager, Paris has been this magical place in my mind that I knew, at some point, I would visit. I can honestly say the thought of visiting Rome had never even crossed my mind - who cared about Rome when Paris was waiting?

Sharon said, 'Yeah, uh-huh, ok - Paris - what about Rome?'

I said, 'Hmmmm.... I don't really care about Rome.'

She said, 'If you're going to Italy, you have to visit Rome - it's the Eternal City!!'

Sean and I agreed - 'Ok, we have three and a half weeks to play with - we'll start our trip in Rome!!'

Thank god we listened to her because Rome is breathtaking.

It is sheer beauty.

A photographer's dream come true.

Rome turned out to be our favourite city.

This tunnel was at the end of our street - I just loved the aqua blue light.


Ummm, this is the mall!! I know, I'm still shaking my head too...


I shot this through an old wrought iron gate at the entrance to a random building.


More twinkle lights!!


I loved the way the shadow of the fountain hit the street - I actually saw this in black and white when I was taking it.


The same fountain - closer.


How much is that crawfish in the window?


I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that the name of this restaurant was 'Tuna' - I found it to be such a strange name for such a pretty white space.


The Italians love their Daschunds!!


Juxtaposition of old and new - texting in an ancient doorway.


The blue column is Trajan's Column, located in Trajan's Forum. The building in the background is the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, or the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel the II, the first king of unified Italy.


Left hand view of the Trajan Column.


Can you believe that people actually carved this out of marble? It just blows my mind.


Right hand view of the Trajan Column.


Standing almost in front of the MASSIVE Vittorio Monument (if you look at the bottom of the photo, you can make out some people walking by which will give you a sense of the scale). As we were standing here, we decided that our evening's adventure would feel complete when we saw the Colosseum. I mean, it's Rome - you have to go to the Colosseum!!

If we had followed a sign pointing to the left, we would have walked around the Vittorio, down an avenue about a kilometre long, straight to the Colosseum.

Instead, we decided to go with our less-than-stellar map reading skills and walk around to the other side of the Vittorio, because 'I'm pretty sure it's down around here to the right.' I won't tell you which one of us kept saying that but it may have been me. 

Around to the back right hand side of the Vittorio Monument is a church. The thing is, you have to climb about 150 steps to get to the church which is at the top. The climb was well worth this shot - 2 seconds at f18 - camera laying down on the top step for stability.


In Italy, the Epiphany, or Old Christmas is celebrated on January 6th, so although we arrived on January 8th, Christmas decorations were still out in full force.


The man below taking the picture belongs to the car on the far right. This shot is interesting because he STOPPED HIS CAR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET to jump out and take a photo of the back of the Vittorio. The street looks clear closest to us but that's only because I waited for a break in the two lanes of traffic. You can see his wife sitting in the passenger seat - I wonder what she was thinking as this was happening?


It turns out that taking the 'wrong turn' away from the Colosseum was one of the best 'mistakes' that happened to us. I would never have gotten this shot...


... or this one if we hadn't. Here, I actually had to balance myself on a crumbling stone wall while my camera rested on a curved piece of the iron fence that was blocking me (it was much trickier than it sounds - if you were to ask CJ and Kwasi, they'd tell you that at one point, I was actually laying down on my stomach in the dirt on the train tracks behind the Westin). I'll do just about anything to get the shot.


This guy is clearly very happy to have his picture taken!! Ha!!


My one regret of Rome - we walked by the Pantheon a couple of times during our stay but we didn't go inside.


Random portico on the way back to the hotel. 

More Rome, The Colosseum, The Vatican, and then of course, Florence, Venice, Paris and London coming soon!!