Saturday, 15 June 2013

The last quarter

With but 2 days left in Rome, we looked at the map on the wall where I marked all the places we walked. There was white space: The Quirnale and Veneto.

There's really not much up here, which probably explains why we had never been in the neighbourhood before. It started for us at the Quattro Fontane -- the 4 fountains just up from Piazza Barberini. Built in 1593, there's a fountain on each cortner of the intersection of the road with Via XX Settembre.
In need of cleaning 
#2 of 4
Being the peak of the Quirinale hill, there's cool views in 4 directions down hill.
A quiet Saturday afternoon
We wandered up XX Settembre past a bunch of Government buildings including the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance -- a dead quiet space on a Saturday afternoon, and as the guidebook advertised: "Not one of Rome's most appealing thoroughfares by any means". We passed some closed churches, including the mini-Pantheon of the San Bernardo al Terme.
It's round
Sitting at this corner was the really nice Fontana dell'Acqua Felice, the terminus of one of the original aqueducts of Rome.
Impressive facade, and in the middle... Moses 
Nice lions out front
There's not much more past this down XX Settembre. You pass even more uninteresting government buildings, then the rather uninteresting and well fortified British Embassy, before reaching the Porta Pia, one of the original gated in the Aurelian Wall, and the gate through which the unified Italian Army marched to kick out the French and take back their city in 1870.
The city side 
The outside
Just down the road from here is the Canadian Embassy and not a heck of a lot of anything else interesting to us tourists.

On our way down, we had passed a few churches that were closed for the afternoon, so we headed back and went inside -- and found tour groups, of all things. The star attraction: the hopelessly over decorated Baroque church of Santa Maria della Vitoria. Popular with tour groups for several reasons: the gross overkill of the decorations...
Lots of stuff 
The ceiling 
The back of the church
...the Bernini sculture inside of The Ecstasy of St. Teresa...
Rather pretty
...and the fact that this was a setting in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. This was the church that represented fire and had a bit of a bonfire in it.

Not finding this quarter all that interesting, we headed to one final church we wanted to see in a roundabout route -- and ran across the back of a huge palace.
It turned out to be the US Embassy, with all sorts of antenna, tons of surveillance cameras, and a fountain with snakes in front of it.
A unique thing to have at the entrance
We came back down Via Veneto to our last and likely most bizarre stop for our whole trip: the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini church. No, they don't make coffee here. It's the home of the Capuchin monks. The church itself was closed for renovations, but no matter, we came for the crypts which are located under the church.

In 1631 the remains of thousands of Capuchin friars were exhumed and transferred to the crypt. The bones were arranged along the walls, and the friars began to bury their own dead here, as well as the bodies of poor Romans, whose tomb was under the floor of the present Mass chapel.

The crypt, or ossuary, now contains the remains of 4,000 friars buried between 1500 and 1870, during which time the Roman Catholic Church permitted burial in and under churches. The underground crypt is divided into five chapels, lit only by dim natural light seeping in through cracks, and small fluorescent lamps. The crypt walls are decorated with bones in elaborate fashion, making this crypt a macabre work of art. Some of the skeletons are intact and draped with Franciscan habits, but for the most part, individual bones are used to create elaborate ornamental designs. There are 6 chapels, including the Crypt of the Skulls, the Crypt of the Pelvises and the Crypt of the Leg Bones and Thigh Bones.

Just right off weird. Photos were not allowed, but this link will take you to the Wikipedia page on the crypt where there are some photos, and a link to a bad YouTube video of the crypts.

Those of you who are Dan Brown fans will remember from The DaVinci Code that the bad guy Silas wore a celice belt and flogged himself with the a nasty set of ropes called The Punishment.
Yep, that's a celice belt
Turns out the Silas character was a member of the Capuchin order. They had the flogging ropes in the museum, too, covered in centuries old caked blood.

On our way back home, we saw the hoards at the Trevi Fountain again. Still silly.
Why are they all here?
That's about it for Rome. Our last day was spent at the Porta Portese market picking up souvenirs for friends.
The pot department 
The pet department
I've prepped a couple more posts on Rome learnings that will be coming, but that's it for most of the travelogue.

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