Monday, 27 May 2013

Elephants, octopus and cellists

After waking up at noon today (I kid you not), we only had time for a PM stroll, so chose to wander the historic centre of Rome. We picked that in part because I love the Pantheon.

I think it is an architectural and engineering marvel. Built (re-built, actually) in 126 AD, it's just a remarkable place.
The imposing facade
The glorious roof 
The hole in the roof. Just once, I'd like to come here in a rainstorm
The light from the hole in the roof. Dramatic 
The awesome interior 
They have columns. I like columns. 
Beautiful Corinthian caps 
Remnants of the columns outside, too
43 m tall, 43 m across, with a 9 m hole in the ceiling. Brilliant.

There's a bunch of other famous stuff in that neighbourhood, one of which is an elephant.
Yep, and he's holding an Egyptian obelisk 
He's cute
He's not just an elephant. He's a Bernini elephant. Bernini sculpted all sorts of things around Rome, including two of the fountains in Piazza Navona.
The rather large piazza 
Not a Bernini fountain. There's 3 
Not Bernini, but a dude fighting an octopus 
The famous shot of Bernini's famous fountain 
More of Bernini's
Done by Bernini and his students
Piazza Navona was the host to the first of the street performers we have seen here, including a dude dressed as a cowboy statue.
How "Roman"
Based on my observation, that's a tough gig. The dude took several 10 min sit down breaks while we were there. You get to spend your day in makeup, too. Plus posed. Stationary. No wonder he needed breaks. And how Roman is a gunfighter from the USA ole' west? There was another dude beside him dressed like an Egyptian mummy.
Mummy getting ready. Cowboy taking break.
There were magicians, and a jazz band that wasn't bad. Plus spray paint artists. I like spray paint artists. I first saw them years ago in Victoria.
He had quite the crowd
There were two of them doing similar styles of work, but this guy was better, and was selling well.

After the piazza, we wandered, as we are wont to do. We saw some interesting things, as is wont to happen in Rome.
A narrow building on a corner 
A pretty place to park your scooter 
A grocery store, downtown Rome style
Horrible rooftop apartment 
Yep, it's a birdcage 
Distressed building + restaurant
Near our bus stop, we ran across a very cool street performer: a cellist in an alcove next to a gelateria.
He plays on a landing 
What a great setting
Intense playing
We stood there listening, enjoying our gelato, and he was good. As in I heard him make one mistake in three tunes good. In his cello case (at the bottom of the stairs where you could throw coins) was a paper with tabs you could "rip off" because he offered private lessons good. But...

I'm a big fan of using my zoom lens. And this is what I saw when I got home:
Um, what's that in his ears and across his face?
He's wearing headphones. And sitting on an amplifier/speaker combo. I'd like to think he was listening to music to play along with -- but if so, why does he need a music stand? Maybe he was waiting for a phone call from the Italian Philharmonic. But the cynic in me thinks perhaps his gig was the "rip off", and he was, in fact, doing an "air cello" routine (though he did stop to tune between tunes. But you can fake that, too). I did some searching on YouTube and found he plays elsewhere, too. I'm hopeful that I'm wrong and in fact he's just a good cellist, and not a street scammer. Either way, he earned an euro from KC.

Right next to our bus stop, we saw a depressing sight.
These people have no business here
Tomorrow: Castel Gandolfo, Albano Laziale, the Colli Albani and Castelli Romani. Anyone who drank a LOT of cheap wine 20 years ago knows the latter two.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Fountains, and hiking, Italian style

After 2 failed attempts, we got up to Tivoli today. We were quite quick getting there, in part because Karen ran out from the metro and leapt aboard the bus without stopping. And without buying a ticket. Oops. Okay, the bus was in the station and about to leave (they run every 10 minutes, however). We thought you could buy tickets on the bus (we ran past a ticket office, however). They never check for tickets (except this bus had signs asking people to point out ticket violators). We mucked up.

Tivoli sits in the hills above Rome, and is known for the gardens and villas. We first headed into the most famous villa, Villa d'Este, known for its grandiose fountains. And they are indeed grandiose.
The one on top's a separate fountain with a water-powerd organ
Lots of them. Big and small.
Sorry about the raindrop 
The organ
I thought about posting movies of the organ playing. We shot three, and they're actually not bad. They're also huge. As in ginormous. As in the smallest is over 50 Mb, or the equivalent of posting 25 odd photos. Which would take me all night to load.
The fish ponds 
The fish ponds in the spray 
The Eagles 
He needs a kleenex 
The Fountain of the Leaking Boobs 
Not running, but just imagine 
Water rains down on the the tigers 
More tigers. Lots of tigers. All leaking 
Curtains of water 
The balustrade's leaking 
So's this one
The owner of this place liked water. There's at least 40 different fountains and water features, plus manicured gardens. Plus staircases -- lots of staircases -- and spectacular views.
Rome's in the distance (no tall buildings so you can't see it) 
Stairs and ramps 
Lots of stairs 
Lots and lots of stairs
Manicured hedgerows
Our second stop was Villa Gregoriana. For the record, it's not a villa. It's a spectacular chasm full of waterfalls and lush vegetation that is reminiscent of hiking on Maui (if Maui didn't divert all the water to grow sugar cane). Think hiking up waterfalls on the Hana coast, only with marble steps built by the Romans. Okay, it was actually a chasm known by the Romans but re-engineered to control flooding by a Pope in 1835 -- overlooked by two Roman temples.
They can't decide which is the Temple of Vestra or Sybil 
The path leads deep -- 120 m deep -- into the gorge, which contains an old Roman house.
Rooms and foundations 
Life in the cliff walls
There's a whacking huge 130 m waterfall, resulting from them tunnelling through the rock to divert the majority of the river that runs through town.
Just the top part
Just the bottom. The middle's missing
Getting to this overlook is "interesting".
An "uncomfortable walk"
 Down deeper in the chasm are several other big waterfalls, two of which are about 50 m each.
In the lush gorge
These appear through something called Neptune's Grotto.
From the other side
Up close
Actually, less then half the water comes out of the waterfall in the shot above. Most pours out of another grotto under the waterfall, which was tough to get a photo of.

To access this grotto and waterfall, the Romans bored a tunnel through the rock (before that, they apparently used a rope).
The tunnel 
What it looks like from the other side
All this water disappears into a hole in the ground (called the Mermaid Grotto) and emerge as another waterfall just out of sight.

The temples literally sit on the cliff's precipice.
No falling over 
Did I mention I like columns? 
Yep, columns 
Corinthian caps on them columns
Tivoli itself is a pretty little town sitting on a hillside, and nice respite from the bustle of Rome. The "villas" are the most popular bit, but there are others we didn't get to, such as Rocca Pia, a fortress built in 1416...
Very gothic 
Nice towers
...or the Roman Temple of the Tosse, kind of like a miniature Pantheon, built in the 4th century...
I like the hole in the ceiling
...or the Sanctuary of Hercules the Winner, circa 2nd Century. It was huge; the metal frame is what the front of it used to look like...
Note the amphitheatre on the left
...or the Villa of Hadrian, which is 4 km out of town at the bottom of the hill, but supposedly a superb site.

Next time. There's always a next time.

Tomorrow, the Vatican Museums are free, for it is the last Sunday of the month. Wonder what the crowd will be like?

And no, Tony, despite your fine recommendation I'm not going to race though to be the first in the Sistine Chapel. I've been in there 3 times already, and they don't allow photos at all these days.