Rome, Florence, Pompeii & Ostia Antica Italy   1 comment

Rome, Florence, Pompeii & Ostia Antica, Italy

Feb. 18 to 26, 2012


After diligent research I discovered that a trip to Rome and a nice hotel with a great location could be booked with Go Ahead Vacations more reasonably than if I did it independently. “Rome City Stay” gave us the opportunity to see Rome and also time enough to do some other excursions in Italy. The best part of the trip was that our oldest son from Ohio and our family friend from Kansas also went and we had such a good time. This wasn’t the first trip to any of these places for Jim & I, but it was delightful to do it again because we had Eric & Steve with us.

Map picture

Italy:  We stayed in Rome, and saw the sights of the marvelous city.  We also went north by train to Florence, south to Pompeii (bottom push pin) and to Ostia Antica which is located between Rome & the Tyrrhenian Sea. 

Rome, Italy:  Rome’s history spans two and a half thousand years.  The original settlement of Rome developed along the seven hills that faced onto a ford along the Tiber River.  It was the capital city of the Roman Empire for over seven hundred years, from 1st century B.C. until 7th century AD.   Today Rome is the largest Italian city with 2.7 million residents in 496 square miles.   The historic center of Rome is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


117 AD Map of the Roman Empire:   This map of Rome is located on a wall by the Roman Forum and it shows the Roman Empire at its greatest size.  This was the Roman World (the white area) in 117 AD at the end of the reign of Trajan and at the beginning of the reign of Hadrian. 


Map of Rome:  Our hotel was located in a great location between Repubblica & Termini metro stops (mid right).  We purchased a one week public transportation pass for 16 Euro and could ride any metro, bus or tram.  Very convenient way to save some steps, however sometimes they were so crowded that it would be difficult for the doors to shut. 

Traveler’s Advisory:  Jim & I have so far traveled to 53 countries and several of them more than one time.  We never carry any valuables (passport, credit cards, excess money) in my purse or his pocket.  I have considered myself very careful in regards to “watching out” for pickpockets.  Well, guess what?   I was pickpocketed within three hours of arriving in Rome.  I had read that pick pockets frequent the public transportation in Rome, so I carefully warned the guys to watch their billfolds and I even put my purse under my slightly below-waist long coat.  Our first mode of transportation was a very, very crowded bus and a young man stood jammed up against me and I realized about an hour later that he had stolen by billfold out of my zippered purse, from under my coat.  I didn’t have a clue at the time it happened, but later probably pin-pointed the exact moment.  He didn’t get anything except my 16 Euro bus pass, and approximately the equivalent of $47.  I found out that I’m not nearly as cleaver as I thought I was.  Be careful!

An Update About the Pickpocket Event:  Today (4/13/2012) we received a letter from a family from Torino Italy.  I am going to quote this remarkable letter word for word.  “Dear Farmer Family, during our trip in Rome, we found, in Barberini Street, your wallet damaged and, of course, without money and documents.  We are sorry for this.  However, we are sending you the photos we have found in it because we believe that they are important memories.  Despite this accident we hope that you enjoyed your trip in Italy.”  Best Wishes, the ….. family from Torino Italy.

Does this not restore the knowledge that there are wonderful and remarkable people in this fantastic world that we live it?  Thank you, kind family from Torino, Italy!!  Indeed, in my wallet I’ve always carried special photos of our kids and now the pictures are at home with me again.  Also returned were a few other cards with travel notations that I had in my wallet that day.  I will, of course,  mail the Torino family a special “thank you” for their kindness.  Wow, what an amazing ending to my pick pocket story!

Colosseum:  The Colosseum is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering.  It is the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire.  Construction was started in 72 AD and it was capable of seating 50,000 spectators.  The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests, executions,  animals hunts, mock sea-battles, and Classical mythology dramas.  The Colosseum is adjacent to the Roman Forum. 


The Roman Forum:  Located in the small valley between the Palatine hill and the Capitoline hill,  the Forum was the marketplace of Rome and the social and political center of one of the greatest empires of ancient times.   The pathways through the Forum winds through the ruins of Temples, Basilicas and magnificent buildings of Imperial Rome and ends near the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum.  The Forum was rediscovered in the 18th century and now the remaining columns, stone blocks, and remnants of buildings can tell the story of times gone by.


Capitoline Hill:  Is the highest and most sacred of the seven hills of Rome.  From Capitoline Hill one can overlook the Roman Forum with the Colosseum in the distance.  In about 1536 the hilltop piazza was designed by Michelangelo with a museum, grand stairway, and Forum overlooks.  


Victor Emmanuel Monument:  Construction began in 1885 on this monument which was built in honor of the first King of a unified Italy.   It isn’t considered old and we were told the Italians don’t much like it and have nicknamed it the ‘wedding cake’ or the ‘typewriter’.  In the center of the monument is a 43 foot long statue of the king on the horse and it is the biggest equestrian statue in the world. 


Domitilla Catacombs:  By law, no one was allowed to be buried within the walls of Rome.  The Domitilla Catacombs is considered among the oldest and best preserved in the area outside the Roman Walls.  This Catacomb spreads over ten miles of underground corridors which are laid out on four levels – one on top of another and it includes almost 150,000 burial spots.  Entrance to the catacombs is achieved through a sunken 4th century church.  (Pictures could not be taken in the Catacombs but I was told I could copy from purchased pictures.) 


St. Paul’s Outside the Walls:  This was the last major construction project of Imperial Rome (380 AD) and the largest church in Christendom until St. Peter’s.  After a tragic 19th century fire, St. Paul’s was rebuilt in the same general style and size as the original.  This church is part of the Vatican rather than Italy and is built upon the supposed grave of St. Paul.  Alabaster windows light the vast interior and the triumphal arch leading to the altar has a 5th century mosaic of Christ raising his hand in blessing.  The day we were there we witnessed the first mass of the newly ordained Cardinal Dolan from New York. 


Cappuccin Crypt at Santa Maria della Concezione near Piazza Barberini:  If you want to see artistically arranged bones, this is the place.  The bones of more than 4,000 friars who died between 1528 & 1870 are in the basement, all lined up in various designs.  The monastic inscription on the wall is:  “What you are now we used to be; What we are now you will be.”   (Again, pictures were not allowed but pictures could be purchased). 


Scenes as we strolled around in Rome:  From the Cappuccin Crypt we began our meandering journey through the streets of old Rome to see as many sights as a days stroll would allow.  It was a beautiful sunny day for a delightful walk.   We even got to see the Roman Forum and the Colosseum again and this time with the sun shining. 



Trevi Fountain:  This fountain shows how Rome took full advantage of the abundance of water brought into the city by its great aqueducts. Trevi was completed in 1762, and the magic of the fountain as been enhanced by tossing a coin over your shoulder, thinking it will assure your return to Rome. So far it has worked for us four times!


The Pantheon:  It is one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings and has been in continuous use throughout its history.  The Emperor Hadrian built the Roman Temple between the years 118 and 125 AD dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome.  It was given to the Pope in 608 AD and has been used as a church ever since.  The building is circular with a portico of eight large granite Corinthian columns under a pediment.  Inside, the rotunda is under a coffered concrete dome which is open to the sky.  Almost 2,000 years after it was built, the pantheons dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. 


Piazza Navona:  The piazza is built on the former Domitian’s stadium, hence the long oval shape of the square.  In the 15th century the Piazza was paved over to create Piazza Navona.  The main attraction of the Piazza are the three fountains with construction beginning in 1576.  It is situated in the historic center of Rome and is one of the liveliest Piazza’s. 


Campo de Fiori:  It’s often mentioned in the guide books as a quaint market area within easy reach of the tourist attractions of Rome.  Translated literally as “field of flowers” the field refers to the fact that the area was a field until the 15th century when it was paved over.



The Vatican Museum:  Pope Julius founded the Vatican Museum in the early 16th century.  It is located inside Vatican City and it displays works from the immense collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries.  It contains the most important masterpieces of Renaissance and the most renowned classical sculptures in the world.  The Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms are included in the route through the museum.  Over 5 million people visited the Vatican Museum in 2011.  As suggested in the “Rick Steves Italy” book I purchased tickets in advance from the Vatican Museums official web site.  I selected the earliest tickets of the day and we walked right past the huge line, showed our confirmation sheet, went to the ticket window and were allowed in the museum well before the general public. 


Spiral stairs at the entrance to the Vatican Museums…..A  Egyptian Mummy in the Egypt & Mesopotamia section of the Museum


Apollo Belvedere from 120-140 AD….The Laocoon Group from 42-20 BC (over 2,000 years old)


Ancient Sarcophagi:  The one on the right sculptured around 340 AD in Egypt for the daughter of Constantine


Hall of Tapestries


Raphael Rooms:  The four rooms known as the Stanze of Raphael form part of the apartment situated on the second floor of the Pontifical Palace that was chosen by Pope Julius II, as his own residence and used also by his successors. The picturesque decoration was carried out by Raphael and his pupils between 1508 and 1524.


The Sistine Chapel:  (Pictures are not allowed but these are from a post card)  This is the pope’s personal chapel and also the place where, upon the death of the ruling pope, a new pope is elected.  The Sistine Chapel is famous for Michelangelo’s pictorial story of creation, with a powerful God weaving in and out of each scene through that busy first week. 

St. Peter’s Basilica:  Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, ordered to build a basilica on Vatican Hill. The location was symbolic: this was the place where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, was buried in 64 A.D.  By the middle of the 15th century the basilica was falling into ruin.  In 1506 pope Julius II laid the first stone of a new basilica which was to become the largest in the world. . 


St. Peter’s is the largest church in the world with the largest dome in the world. The interior which includes 45 altars is decorated by many famous artists. Vatican is the smallest state in the world


Looking down the main aisle of St. Peter’s, and The beautiful Pieta by Michelangelo.


Bernini’s altar work and seven-story-tall bronze canopy is amazing


The Shrine to St. Helen.  Bernini’s Throne of St. Peter in one of the altars in St. Peters


The papal guard of hired Swiss soldiers was created in 1505.   Marilyn is just happy to have seen hours and hours worth of Vatican City.


Florence:  We journeyed by train on a day trip to Florence, as an optional with the Go Ahead group.  Located on the banks of the Arno River, and in the Tuscany region, Florence was a center of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of its time.  It is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and it is famous for its art and architecture and for its cultural heritage.  Florence is ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and the city is known for its history, culture, monuments and its Renaissance art and architecture.  The historic center of Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore:   Rome to Florence, is less than 2 hours on the fast train.  The Florence Cathedral is located only a few blocks from the train station.  It is a vast Gothic structure that was begun in 1296, with the construction lasting 170 years.  The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Companile.  


The dome remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.  The façade is white, green and red marble.


The cathedral’s interior is less colorful and the decorations were kept at a minimum.   The exception is the fresco on the dome’s interior, painted between 1572 and 1579 by Giorgio Vasari and Frederico Zuccari.  The fresco depicts the Last Judgment.


The octagonal baptistery stands across from the Cathedral and one of the oldest buildings in the city, having been constructed between 1059 and 1128.  The Baptistery is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures.  The east pair of doors were dubbed by Michelangelo “the Gates of Paradise”.

Palazzo Vecchio:   The Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) is the city hall of Florence.  The fortress looking building was built at the start of the 14th century.   Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo’s David statue as well the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy.


Basilica of Santa Croce:  Built in 1294, the Basilica is the largest Franciscan church in the world.  It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini.  (Michelangelo and Galileo’s graves are pictured below.) 


Ponte Vecchio:  It’s current appearance dates back to 1345.  Houses were built on the bridge, a common practice in large European cities during the Middle Ages.  The Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence that survived the Second World War unscathed.  The houses were initially used as workshops and a diverse array of shopkeepers such as butchers and tanners did business here.   Today they are all jewelry shops. 




We did a day trip to Pompeii.  First we went by Trenitalia from Roma Termini Station to Napoli Centrale Station.  We then transferred to the Circumvesuviana Train and rode to the Pompeii Scavi stop.  The station is located only about a block from the entrance to Pompeii. 

Pompeii:  The ancient city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman city near Naples.  History tells us that Pompeii was buried under about 30 feet of hot volcanic ash from an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. and was lost for over 1,500 years before it was accidentally discovered in the 1600’s; excavations began in 1748.   Since then its excavation has provided insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire.


Boarding the train for our early morning trip to Pompeii.  Upon entering Pompeii the first thing you see is the still smoldering Mt. Vesuvius in the background. In 79 AD it erupted and smothered the city in hot ash.


In 79 AD Pompeii was a thriving commercial port of 20,000 residents.  It was a place for action and shopping with bakeries, brothels, baths, bars and restaurants.  Most buildings were covered with ground-marble stucco.  While it’s the most ruined part of Pompeii, one can still walk in the Forum and see what remains of the pillars of the Temple of Jupiter


The Basilica dates back to about 120 B.C.  It was the most important public building of Pompeii as the center of economic life and the seat of the law courts.  Streets:  As one walks down the ancient streets of Pompeii it is fascinating to see the grooved marks of the chariot wheels of long ago.


The Temple of Apollo was built in the 3rd century B.C., and was dedicated to the Greek and Roman god Apollo.  Located in the Temple is the bronze statue which was constructed between 100 B.C.-79A.D.  The original “Apollo As a Archer” statue is now in the National Archaeological Museum in Napoli – and we’ve seen it there.)


This is one of 35 bakeries that have been excavated in Pompeii.  Grain was poured into the top of the stone towers and slaves or donkeys pushed wooden bars that turned the stones.  The oven looks like a modern day pizza oven that is found all over Italy.  The second picture shows a typical restaurant marked by a series of marble counters.  The holes in the counters held the pots for food. 


Pompeii had six public baths and this is the Forum Bath, which was built around 80 B.C.  We were told that this is the original roof and décor on the walls.  Note the  marble labrum at the back of the room in the first picture.  It held cold water for guests who needed to cool off.  The bathing chamber had a barrel vault ceiling while its walls were elegantly embellished with stucco work placed on either side of giants holding up a shelf.

What a fantastic experience it is to walk back into time….1,933 years to be exact. 


Getting to Ostia Antica:  Getting there from Rome was easy and inexpensive.  It will cost you just one Metro ticket each way (your 1 Euro Metro ticket also covers the train).  Take Metro line B to the Piramide stop.  The Piramide Metro stop is also the Roma Porta San Paolo train station, so the train tracks are just a few steps from the Metro tracks—follow signs to Lido.   Ride the train about 30 minutes to the Ostia Antica stop, leave the train station, cross the road via the sky-bridge and walk straight down the street to the parking lot, with the entrance to the left.

Ostia Antica:  Is a large archeological site that was the location of the harbor city of ancient Rome.  It lies between the Tiber River and the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Ostia was Rome’s seaport, and a working port town, with a population of upwards of 60,000 people.  It shows a more complete and gritty look at Roman life than wealthy Pompeii. The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.  With the fall of the Roman Empire, the port was abandoned and Ostia fell slowly into decay, and was finally abandoned.


Entering Ostia Antica you walk through the cemetery.  Ancient Romans buried their dead outside the city wall.  What’s left of the entry gate is beneath the tree ahead.  There were lots of very complete buildings like shown in the above picture. 


Ostia Museum: This small museum is located at the site and offers a look at some of Ostia’s finest statuary which had adorned the courtyards of wealthy Ostia families.  We saw some very well preserved sarcophagus also.  


Storage containers remaining from the ancient seaport.  The Forum, which was the main square of the city. 


A lot of this fine building remains, but could never figure out what it had been.  Inside the building was the remains of a splendid mosaic floor.


The Theater of Ostia was built in 12 B.C. and is considered to be one of the oldest brick theaters anywhere.  We noticed almost everything in the town was made of the same kind of reddish bricks.  Above is one of the remaining marble theatrical masks that sits facing the Theater. 

Fare Thee Well……so enjoyed being on this adventure with our son Eric and our friend Steve. 


Posted April 5, 2012 by marilynfarmer in Travel

One response to “Rome, Florence, Pompeii & Ostia Antica Italy

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  1. I came across your blog accidentally while searching for travel information for a trip to Rome. I must say that I am completely enthralled, intrigued, and inspired (and perhaps a little jealous) by your travels – your lovely descriptions and pictures literally swept me away into a state of day-dreaming. There are so many places I want to go and things I want to see. Thank you for sharing!!! You are truly blessed to have been able to do all of this!!! Here’s to many more adventures!!!

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