Monday, January 28, 2019

Things To Do, Places To Go...

With eight full days in Italy, I have both plenty of time and not nearly enough time.

Certainly, if I were going to limit myself to seeing the sites in Rome, eight days would probably be plenty of time. But I just can't go to Italy and stay in one city. There's a lot there to see, so I want to try to see as much as I can.

While in Rome, I plan on playing the "tourist" role to the nth degree. Rome is home to some of the most impressive sites on the planet, from art museums to fountains to sculptures. There is a veritable treasure trove of photo ops, and I plan on doing one of those hop on/hop off buses to get to many of them during my first two days in Italy. 

So, what's on my "Top 10"?

1. Trevi Fountain

Found on the eastern side of the Tiber River, this fountain was completed in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini. It's the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world. The trick here, as with many other sites in Rome, will be to beat the throngs of people clamoring to see it. I'm not averse to heading over to it in the middle of the night, though, if it means getting more dramatic photos which include fewer people.

 2. The Colosseum

I can't imagine visiting Rome and not visiting the Colosseum. It's also difficult to imagine a more iconic landmark to represent a city; maybe the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building. You just can't look at the Colosseum and not know what city it's in. Completed in the year 80 AD, it's the largest amphitheater ever built.

3. Vatican City

Vatican City is actually a sovereign city state which is completely surrounded by the Italian capitol city of Rome. Despite being the smallest country in the world both by area (approximately 109 acres) and population (about 1,000), it's the most important country in the world for some 1.3 billion Roman Catholics. The Vatican Museums are here, as is the Sistine Chapel (where, unfortunately, photography is forbidden). But even having the chance to photograph St. Peter's Square will be the opportunity of a lifetime. Most surprising is that, even though this has been the site of the Holy See for centuries, the Vatican has only existed as a city/state since 1929.

 4. The Forum (Forum Romanum)  

The Forum has stood, in one state of construction or another, since the fifth century BC. It has served witness to elections, trials, parades and gladiator matches. Excavation of the Forum was officially  begun in 1898 by the Italian government and continues to this day.

5. The Pantheon 

The Pantheon was completed by the Emporer Hadrian, although the exact year is unknown. It's suspected that it was dedicated around the year 126 AD. It's one of the most well preserved of all ancient Roman structures, probably due to the fact that this immense building, where the artist Raphael is buried, has been in continuous use since it was built. It's been called the only architecturally perfect building in the world. Visiting the Pantheon used to be free, but Italy's culture ministry has announced they will institute a €2 ($2.29 US) admission fee in May of last year. 

6. Piazza Navona
One of Rome's best known public squares, Piazza Novona  dates back to the 1400's. Nowadays, it's home to artists, street performers and cafes filled with espresso sippers. There are also a number of impressive monuments, including one by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Fountain of the Four Rivers) and another by Francesco Borromini (Sant'Agnese in Agone). 

7. Trastevere
This neighborhood, located south of Vatican City, is often compared to the Left Bank in Paris or New York City's Greenwich Village. Many travelers comment on how "authentic" an Italian feel this  neighborhood has compared to the bustling tourist lines in other areas of the city. 

8. Santa Maria della Vittoria

My main reason for wanting to visit this church is the fact that it was featured in the Tom Hanks movie "Angels & Demons". While it's a visually stunning example of religious architecture, it also happens to be quite small and it can get very crowded with would-be Robert Langdons. Hopefully,  the fact that I'll be there prior to the peak tourist season (which is summer) will help.

9.Gianicolo Hill (Passeggiata del Gianicolo)
Also known as The Janiculum, this hill lies outside the boundaries of the ancient city. The hill provides unobstructed, panoramic views of the Eternal City. Once at the top you can see buildings such as St. Peter's Basilica and the Altare della Patria.

10. Church of San Luigi dei Francesi 

The exterior of this church, which was completed in 1589, can fool you. It's appearance on the outside belies its dimensions on the inside, and to say it's grandiose would be an understatement. This church is located in Piazza Navona.

11. Santa Maria Della Pace

In 1482, the church was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV, and it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary to remember a miraculous bleeding of a Madonna image there in 1480. Photographically, it's stunning. I've reviewed literally hundreds of photos of this church and there's no way it can't be on my "must see" list. The nice part is that it's not far from the Piazza Novona.

So, it's easy to see that my first few days in Rome are going to be pretty full. There's a lot to do, a lot to see and a lot to photograph.

I think these eleven sites are going to take two very full days, and I'm looking forward to them.

***Obviously, the photos included here were not taken by me, and I want to be sure that's understood. 
Many thanks to the talented photographers for the amazing photographs I've included here.***

Now, as an aside...

Many people have expressed surprise that I'm doing this trip by myself. They're somewhat surprised that I wouldn't want to share this experience with someone else.

Well, truth be told, I would. But that would have to be a very specific person.

First, it would have to be someone with a valid passport. I have to say, I've been pretty surprised by the number of people I know, who I'd consider traveling with, who don't have one. They're easy to get, aren't that expensive, and they literally open the world to you.

Second, it would have to be someone who could pick up and leave for almost two weeks. Unfortunately, not too many people are in a position to do that. I'm fortunate in that I literally write my own schedule. I can come and go as I please and stay as long as I want. Not a lot of people are able to do that.

Third, and this is probably the biggest factor, it would have to be someone who thoroughly enjoys photography. I'm not doing this solely as a vacation. My whole focus during this trip is going to be photography. It'll include both early mornings and late nights. It'll include road trips, high-speed trains and overnight stays. It's going to be a trip full of total planning and flying by the seat of my pants. In short, I'll be expecting the unexpected and charging at it full speed.

So, if you think you can keep up, let me know. This isn't the last trip I'll take...

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