We scheduled two full days and two half days of private tours. The first full day we got to meet our tour guide, Mario Baas. Fluent in several languages, he relocated to Rome from his native country of Holland after attending uni in Italy. Mario was a fount of information, so much so that I sometimes had a hard time keeping it all straight.
For example, we toured the basilica of San Clemente on our last day in the city. The current sanctuary was built in the 12th century, but beneath that you can descend two more levels into the excavations from a 4th century Christian church as well as a pagan Mithraic temple from the 2nd century and a 1st century public building. Pictures were not allowed in San Clemente, so I had to swipe a couple from the web because it was really stunning.
It's hard to fathom layer upon layer upon layer of history in this part of the world - truly amazing!
Above you see pictures of some ruins and it's a good visual because it shows how you have to go down several meters to hit the ancient street level. In the shadows where the rays of the sun couldn't reach it, you'll see the snow that lingered several days into our trip. And the umbrella pines I recalled from our Med cruise back in July - love 'em!
In the picture below is the excavated area where Julius Caesar was murdered, the remains of three temples all in a row. It has been designated a cat sanctuary in modern times and there were lots of felines sunning themselves. The calico pic the girls snapped below was just one of the many kitty cats that call this place home.
Just a few blocks from the Piazza Navona you'll find the Pantheon. As we walked in to take a look, it dawned on me that we were walking on the original floors that were placed there 1900 years ago in this temple for pagan worship. Too bad the statue of Cellulite was removed because goodness knows I need to be dancing around at midnight sacrificing chickens if I ever wanna budge any of the latest middle-aged flubber that's sticking to my inner thighs.
The Pantheon was converted to a Catholic church in the 7th century and thus all of the pagan mythological statues were replaced with Christian art. It was truly an engineering feat when the dome was created with the center opening, or oculus, at its zenith. Its rotunda sits beneath what was the largest dome in the world until the Duomo was built in Florence in the mid 1400s. I can't imagine how they designed, let alone created, this triumph of ancient architecture without a computer, calculator or any of the modern construction methods utilized today.
We continued our tour with Mario to some well-known sites like the Trevi Fountain pictured below.
Gotta make sure you toss those coins in over your shoulder since the legend is that those who do will return one day to the eternal city.
We also made it to the Spanish steps, which seemed highly overrated to me... especially since it was working alive with some scary characters aggressively peddling all sorts of cheap trinkets. And these were the sorts of folks that pestered you, so much so that we kind of formed a little circle with the youngest daughter in the middle since she seemed to be the handiest target for harassment to make a purchase of the Pope bottle openers or Virgin Mary keychains these folks were hawking.
Over in the left corner you'll see the profile of Mario, our trusty tour guide. The fountain at the foot of the Spanish steps is nicknamed the ship, though it honestly looks like it's sinking since water flows into and over the sides of it.
The Romans did love to put up a well decorated column, obelisk or arch to commemorate the lives of famous folks. Below is a pic of Trajan's column.
The scenes carved into the column depict Trajan's wars in Dacia (modern day Romania) early in the second century. Below is a bronze statue of the Emperor Trajan, adjacent to the column.
I took the following picture of the husband helping the little one get a drink from one of the many public fountains/spigots. The trick to keep from getting cooties is that you have to hold your finger over the spigot so that the water fountains out of a little hole in the top and thus you don't have to get your mouth anywhere near it in order to quench your thirst.
The building below is just one of the many examples of recycling in Rome that has taken place over the centuries. Why go out and mine new marble when you can just take it off a building that is no longer in use? What you see is an ancient building with some original exterior walls (to the right) with intact columns running the length of it. See the pock marks in the wall? That is where marble was attached to the exterior using metal rods back when it was built. The modern stucco walls to the left are an office building incorporating the ancient features that remain as part of the facade. Isn't that terribly thrifty as well as nifty.