Italy Day 13: Tarquinia and Roma

In CategoryTravels

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tarquinia

This morning we left Chianciano Terme and headed for Tarquinia, in the northern Lazio region of Italy.  There we visited Etruscan tombs and Tarquinia’s Archeological Museum on the way to Rome.


There were many rounded “hut”-looking hills, at the Etruscan Necropolis (large burial site). Under each of these mounds was a tomb. There were a handful that we were allowed to view by walking down steep stairs, and observing through a glass window.

frescoes in Etruscan tomb

There were frescoes painted on the walls depicting life from the time of this ancient civilization dating back to 2nd – 6th century BC.  About 60 of the 6,000 discovered tombs contain paintings inside them.

Tarquinia ~ tower

After this, we went up the hill to the Archaeological Museum. There were many artifacts like bowls and vases, as well as many sarcophagi made of limestone and marble.  Sadly, our local tour guide was so boring that we were almost falling asleep, for lack of excitement.


After the museum, we ate lunch on the patio outside a pizzeria/ deli. I chose a tomato, artichoke, mushroom and “rocket” pizza. I had no idea what “rocket” was, it just looked like healthy greens. Since I declared myself to be a risk-taking-try-something-new type of gal on this trip, I ordered this pizza. The taste was peppery and slightly bitter, but along with the other veggies, my pizza tasted great! The best part was the price … 2.50 Euros for two slices of pizza and 70 cents for a Coke purchased at the little grocery store next door.  Ole!   Oh yes … I later learned that “rocket” is just another name for arugula. Hmmm.

I took a few photos of a group of Italian teenagers who just got out of school for siesta. This is a time when most Italians take a 3-4 hour break in the middle of the day to have lunch and rest. I’m convinced that kids are just kids no matter what country you’re in.

Italian kids just out from school

Rome

Our final stop for the day was Rome!  The city of so much ancient history.  On the ride in we saw a McDonalds restaurant … really?…  a McDonalds in Rome?  (I hate to admit that we did stop in at another McDonalds just to enjoy some salty french fries and a Coke).

McDonalds Rome style

Our hotel was the Hotel Cicerone, in the center part of Rome.  Not much to look at even if we did have a small balcony looking onto a depressing courtyard.  Fortunately, we spent minimal time there … sleep and a shower!  We immediately departed the hotel to go exploring the entire afternoon and evening.

Hotel Cicerone

The first place on our list of attractions was the Spanish Steps.  The roadway (think Rodeo Drive) directly leading to this was lined with high-end Italian shopping like Gucci, Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Versace among others.  I felt like “Pretty Woman” before she got the high end make-over (out of place).  The Spanish steps are the largest and widest steps in all of Europe.  There is a fountain at the bottom in the Piaza di Spagna, that was made by Bernini.

Spanish Steps

We took some random Rome photos along the way to the tourist attractions.


The lower right photograph is of chestnuts roasting. Somehow this wasn’t so appealing on a 90 + degree day, but it was quite interesting anyway.

Our next stop was Trevi Fountain, which is so famous for its large Baroque style and “Taming the Water” theme. Oh yeah… also for the coin tossing. This fountain was absolutely gorgeous! What a magnificent piece of art. It was so crowded around that area, it was hard to get a decent picture without other pushy tourists stepping into your photo. This fountain was a built by Salvi, but was based on the designs of Bernini almost a century prior to its completion year of 1762.  Molto Bella!

Trevi Fountain

Here are the throngs of people surrounding Trevi Fountain. Whoa!

crowded Trevi Fountain

We continued our self-guided exploration of Rome over to the Pantheon, which is a temple to all ancient Roman Gods, and is used as a church today.  Its architecture is very unique and has a rotunda which is believed to be an arched vault to the heavens.  Up at the top of this is an oculus (center open to the sky).  This dome is the largest unsupported concrete dome in the world, making it an architectural marvel.  Inside are niches of art and paintings.  Since the Renaissance,  the Pantheon is used to hold sarcophagi, which includes Raphael, the famous Italian painter, alongside his fiance’.  There are also two kings, a queen, a composer and an architect entombed here as well.

Pantheon oculus (open center to the sky)

As in many other Italian buildings, the art, sculptures, paintings and marble flooring are amazing.


I’m still a little grossed out at the number of deceased bodies entombed and on public display all over Italy. Just a different way of honoring their loved ones I suppose.

Raphael's tomb

Just a little trivia … Did you know that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all named after famous Italian artists?  Micheangelo – sculpter, Raphael – painter, Donatello – sculpter and Leonardo (da Vinci) – inventor/ painter.  My middle son played with these characters during his childhood and I didn’t even know their name significance until this trip.

Our final destination today was at the Piazza Navona, where Bernini’s famous and brilliant Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) is located in the center of the square.  This fountain has figures as personifications  of the four rivers:  Nile, Ganges, Danube, and lastly the Rio della Plata.  These figures surround the obelisk center.

Fountain of the Four Rivers ~ Piazza Navona

Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) one of two side fountains in Piazza Navona

Long, long ago, this square was an arena for athletic contests and chariot races, for entertainment.  Today, it hosts street performers and artists as well as many sidewalk cafes for relaxation and dining.


Clockwise from top left: street performer dressed as a tree passing a crystal ball, vegetables being intricately carved into flowers etc…, man dressed up as a soldier statue, and a close-up look at the Fountain of the Four Rivers.

dome inside Sant'Angese Basilica in Piazza Navona

In the piazza is Sant’Angese Basilica Church, which was designed by Borromini, a rival of Bernini.  The inside dome was painted so intricately and detailed, it was very breathtaking.

We were lucky enough to capture a picture of a bride and groom in Rome in the Piazza Navona. This is one of two brides we were able to get a photo of.

another happy bride and groom

Tonight we joined in with another two Australian couples and had dinner at a little cafe just off the main square.  We asked if there was a cover charge, which is very common in Italy, and the waiter assured us there was not.  After dinner, we noticed that he had tacked on a surcharge and then aggressively demanded that we tip him on top of that.  We refused to do so since he lied to us.  The meal wasn’t fabulous, and his attitude was super bad, but he still made a handsome (hidden) tip despite it all.  Oh well, we had a lovely dinner with the other couples, the ambiance was nice, so it still was fun.

dinner with the Aussies off Piazza Navona


Walking back to our hotel, we had many lovely views of the Tiber River, a carousel and gelateria along its banks, as well as the Castel Sant’ Angelo (Castle of the Angels) along the right bank of the river.
This castle was super old, and was finished in 139 AD. How’s that for some ancient history?  Our hotel was just down the street from the elaborate government building.
Well it’s off to bed so that we can rest up for our last day in Rome. We’ll be visiting another country … Vatican City!

Ciao a tutti!

4 Responses to “Italy Day 13: Tarquinia and Roma”

  1. ian johnston Says:

    G’day

    What a great effort. Makes me realise that I should be making more notes and doing more research than I do – but the trouble with Italy, it is so gorgeous that you are happy to stand there and watch th world go by and enjoy! enjoy!

    Well done

  2. P Says:

    G’Day Ian!
    You are absolutely right about Italy being so gorgeous. The only regret I had is that we didn’t take enough time to simply sit at the corner cafes and drink aromatic coffee and savor a gelato. We chose to put on our backpack and go exploring all over the nooks and crannies of each town. Thanks for your reply and positive thoughts.
    Ciao!
    P

  3. D Says:

    This was certainly one of our longest, by foot, days of the trip. We saw so much, including the inside of a McDonald’s, that it was nice to not have to pick out a restaurant on our own. Piazza Navona was pretty neat.

  4. P Says:

    Agreed, … when energy is waning, we resort to the familiar (McDonalds). I must say the salty french fries were yummy!
    I wish we could of spent more time at the Piazza Navona. It was so lively there.
    P

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