Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Some things aren't worth seeing

Not everything in Italy is marvellous. My friend Shannon might disagree, but our 3rd last day there was spent visiting a controversial museum that houses but one thing, an important church that was painted to look like it was well decorated, a baroque church with a very strange relic that was, well, not worth the visit either, and a third church that was just kind of strange. Where to start...

How about the expensive museum? On the Rough Guide's Top 10 Rome sights -- the Ara Pacis. The rather large monument to Augustan Peace was originally built in 13 BC at the height of the reign of Emperor Augustus, and is a big carving featuring his family.
A large block of marble 
His family and friends
This must be really interesting to somebody, as there was a US university class in there with the prof discussing the carving and explaining who everybody was. The students all actually seemed interested.

Also potentially interesting is the fact that the monument was built a couple of hundred meters from where it currently sits. But it was built in a marshy area, and over the centuries was mostly ignored and almost sank out of sight. Getting it out involved freezing the ground with liquid nitrogen in the 1930's and digging it up. The famous Mr. Mussolini did this, and unveiled it to his friend Mr. Hitler with much fanfare (Mussolini believed he was a descendant of Emperor Augustus). Mussolini put it where it currently sits, but only built a temporary structure around it, which fell apart through neglect -- as did the Ara Pacis.

Leading to the next potentially interesting thing: in the '70s, they commissioned a New York architect to design a new building to house it. While he succeeded in building a nice, airy building that is soundproof and protects the thing, and perhaps in Calgary would fit in well with the skyline, the building has no business being here.
And in fact one Italian presidential candidate is running on a platform of tearing it down.

But the only thing in the building is the Ara Pacis, and it's an expensive museum to go into. A one-hit wonder. And I disagree with the Rough Guide. It's not worth seeing.

The first church we went into that wasn't worth seeing was the Saint Ambrogio e Carlo, a Rough Guide "essential sight" in the area and the official church of Milan in Rome. The second largest dome in the city, and not a bad facade...
A big church on a narrow street
...and at first glance the interior is intriguing.
Some striking colour 
Striking detailing 
Striking stripes
However, on closer inspection, it's "fake". Everything you see is painted. The marble columns are not marble, they're painted concrete. The stripes are not alternating bands of rock as is the case in Florence, Sienna and Orvietio, they're painted on. The ceiling is painted gold, the side chapels are painted in a 3D style to look like the flat walls have columns and naves. While the painting is nice and really well done, it takes away somewhat from the atmosphere, and really can't be compared to other churches in Rome.

A second we hit was San Silvestro in Capite. Two things stand out here: it's a baroque church that's busy with interior decoration...
Typical Baroque, but not really over the top
...and they have the head of St. John the Baptist.
Um, right.
As I said earlier, a church in Rome isn't a church unless it has an amazing relic.

And finally, we got into Santa Maria del Popolo. It's a renaissance church with rather beautiful paintings by Caravaggio that you can't take photos of, and carvings by Bernini.
Part of Daniel and the Lions
Dan Brown's book, Angels and Demons, used the Chigi Chapel in this church to represent Earth.
One of two matching pyramids
But the church has other really weird stuff.
Just kinda sitting on the wall 
Sitting underneath a statue.
This church was the highlight of a day spent wandering the Trident, however, I wouldn't call this particular day a highlight of our trip. However, we did stumble across the Ferrari store, which has Michael Schumacher's 2004 Formula 1 car...
The car
...and, if you have the dough, a genuine nose cone from that car.
The nosecone
The price tag. Yes, €9,296
I would have bought one, but it wouldn't fit in my suitcase.

Next up: The Colosseum and the Forum. Because you've probably never seen those, being uninteresting and out of the way.

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