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Ruins of the heart of ancient Rome

Side view of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina with red brick ruins to the right.

It has been quite a while since I've had the time to create any posts. I keep accumulating more and more photos from travels that hopefully make it here some day. For now, I will continue on with the Mediterranean cruise, there still are a few posts left in this story.

After Livorno we sailed to Civitavecchia, a coastal town northwest of Rome. It took about an hour by bus to reach the destination. We had a busy day visiting some of the most famous sights. The bus dropped us off close to the Palatine Hill (Palatino) entrance. Palatine Hill is one of Rome's 7 hills and most ancient areas of the city. The hill overlooks the Roman Forum on one side and Circus Maximus on the other. This is where imperial palaces and houses of the rich were built. It was the nucleus of the Roman Empire.

An umbrella pine in front of the Palatine Hill entrance on Via di San Gregorio.
Biglietteria Palatino, Entrance to Palatine Hill

Red brick ruins on Palatine Hill surrounded with pine trees.
Palatine Hill buildings

A red brick archway on Palatine Hill on a sunny day.
Archway on Palatine Hill

Close up of brick and stone wall remnants of Ancient Rome on Palatine Hill.
Ancient wall remnants on Palatine Hill 

Umbrella pines above red brick ruins on Palatine hill on a sunny day.
Ancient ruins on Palatine Hill 

Close up of Domus Tiberiana ruins on Palatine Hill with letters engraved in stone in the foreground.
Engraved stone, the Domus Tiberiana 

Farnese Gardens balcony on the Palatine Hill from the Roman Forum.
Orti Farnesiani sul Palatino, The Farnese Gardens

The first thing I noticed after stepping off the bus were the towering stone pines, or umbrella pines. Pinus pinea is the Mediterranean stone pine species that produce edible seeds - pine nuts. Via di San Gregorio, where the entrance to the Palatine Hill is located, is lined on both sides with these tall and skinny evergreen canopies. Palatino, Palatine Hill, is surrounded by nature and feels like an oasis in the middle of Europe's busiest capitals. We walked on the slopes passing by residences of the Emperors Augustus and Tiberius, many temple remains and hundreds of ruins.

Ancient red brick building ruins and columns at the Roman Forum.
Archaeological site, Forum Romanum, Roman Forum

Close up of an engraved marble stone remnant in the Roman Forum.
Engraved marble stone, Roman Forum

View of the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum from the Palatine Hill.
The Arch of Septimius Severus, Roman Forum from Palatine Hill

Side view of the temple of Romulus and Remus, and temple of Antoninus and Faustina in the Roman Forumm
Temples of: Romulus and Remus, and Antoninus and Faustina

Side view of the temples of Antoninus and Faustina in the Roman Forum.
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Red brick steps, columns and green door of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina in the Roman Forum.
Columns and green door of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina 

Looking up at the columns and the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

There is so much to see on the Palatine Hill. You could come back to this place again and again and keep making new discoveries. This area has a fascinating history. From mythological tales of the beginnings of Rome where twin sons of Mars the God of War, Romulus and Remus, lived in a cave. To Europe's first botanical gardens built by Alessandro Farnese in 1550. It is truly steeped in historic tales and relics. Another legend that took place here is Hercules' defeat of the son of Vulcan, Cacus, a fire-breating giant that terrorised the Aventine Hill. In my last post about Florence, I included a photograph of a sculpture of Hercules and Cacus outside the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio.

View of the Temple of Castor and Pollux surrounded by various trees.
Tempio dei Dioscuri, The Temple of Castor and Pollux

View of the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum from the Palatine Hill surrounded by trees.
The Temple of Castor and Pollux

The dome of the Temple of Romulus and Remus surrounded by trees.
Dome of the Temple of Romulus and Remus

The Arch of Constantine with a row of umbrella pines on either side.
Arco di Costantino, the Arch of Constantine and umbrella pines

Closer view of the carvings on the Arch of Titus, Rome.
 Arco di Tito, Arch of Titus

View of the Colosseum through pine tree branches on the Palatine Hill.
View of the Colosseum

Basilica di Santa Francesca Romana surrounded by trees with a blue, cloudy sky above.
Basilica di Santa Francesca Romana

We left the Palatine Hill and walked along Via dei Fori Imperiali for 5 minutes before we reached the Colosseum. On our way we passed two Basilicas: Santa Francesca Romana (pictured above) and Santi Cosma e Damiano. The Colosseo was equally fascinating to see up close and explore. Originally in A.D. 80 when it was opened by Vespasian's son Titus, it was called the Flavian Amphitheater. It is not just Rome's or Italy's but one of Europe's most most iconic landmarks. An estimated 100,000 cubic meters of marble were used to construct this immense arena, along with 1.1 million tons of concrete, brick and stone. Parts of the marble from the Colosseum were used in the construction of St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican City. Each level of the amphitheatre has 80 arches, 76 of which are numbered with Roman numerals still visible in some spots. Over the years the construction was damaged by large fires on 3 separate occasions throughout history as well as 4 earthquakes and only 31 arches remain intact on the ground level. Below the Colosseum there are underground passages and chambers and during our visit there were ongoing excavations. This underground area is called the hypogeum and it is where gladiators and animals were kept before entering the arena. 

View of the Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum wall to the left.
Arch of Constantine from the Colosseum

Two men excavating in the Hypogeum of the Colosseum
Excavations in the Hypogeum of the Colosseum

Looking up at the Colosseum and blue sky with clouds
Looking up at the Colosseum

View of the Colosseum against a blue sky.
Colosseo, Colosseum

View of the inside of the Colosseum with a blue and cloudy sky above.
Inside the Colosseum

View of the inside the Colosseum from the entrance with a blue sky and clouds above.
Colosseum walls 

After admiring this colossal structure and the views of Rome from the tall arches, we walked to the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli, St. Peter in Chains. The Basilica is famous for being home to Michelangelo Buonarroti's Moses, a 235 cm tall marble statue from 1513 commissioned by Pope Julius II. The church was built to house the shackles of St. Peter, which bound him when he was imprisoned in the Mamertine prison. After his death the chains were sent to Constantinople but were later returned as relics.

Next, we stopped for some delicious Italian lunch in a lovely underground restaurant - Le Terme del Colosseo. Then we headed to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. We waited in the line that trailed around the entire plaza and the colonnade for at least an hour before we could enter. The square, designed by Lorenzo Bernini in 1629, contains 280 columns with 160 statues of saints above them. The construction of the church was commissioned by Emperor Constantine in the year 326 and in 1506 it was demolished. It would take over a century to re-build the most famous church in the world. The interior is complex and filled with some of the most famous works of art: Michelangelo's La Pietà, Bernini's Vision of Constantine, Giotto's Navicella degli Apostoli, and many more. Unfortunately I have not included any photos from the Vatican City in this post, maybe I will do a separate one sometime. Our next port destination was Naples and from there we visited the ancient city of Pompeii and later the coastal town of Sorrento.

Close up of the interior walls of the Colosseum arena.
Colosseum walls inside the arena

Colosseum window framing the Temple of Venus and Roma.
Temple of Venus and Rome

A look inside a sun-lit Colosseum arena with clouds above.
Sunlight and shadow

Looking up at the arches inside the Colosseum.
Colosseum arches

Looking up at the arches inside the entrance to the Colosseum.
Inside the entrance to the Colosseum

A grey sky above the Colosseum and three Cypress trees.
Colosseum and Cypress trees

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