Italy Trip 2014

1) Rome/Vatican City – 30th March to 4th


It has been a fun ride in Rome. I appreciate the fact that the ancient ruins are conserved to their purest possible forms as archaeological and historical artefacts, as well as blending into the Roman city itself. Keeping in mind that this was the centre of the Roman Empire for more than a millenia, the architecture always succeeds to showcase the truest, most grandiose forms of certain emperors and priests – more often than not, in superhuman scales. For example, you had the ancient ruins and area around the Colosseum, the Forums and the Piazzas overlooking the very panorama view of Rome herself.

 

Sometimes it would have been more helpful to have a Latin translator, but it was not that hard to figure out what the columns and inscriptions meant. Normally, at the top of the inscriptions, you had the name of the emperor or priest, his significance and year it was written. For example:

 

 

1) Clementis XII PONT MAX (The main priest) 

Description

Anno MDCCLXIII (1763)

 

2) IVLIVS CAESARUS Imp Romanvs (Julius Caesar Roman Emperor)

Description

Annum … Ante Christum Natum or Anno Domini (B.C. or A.D.)

 

Apart from that, you could never escape the role of the Roman Catholic Church. The state was essentially the Church, and vice versa. We had a tour guide called Tibero, of whom explained a lot about the Palentine Hill and the Colosseum very poetically, using Latin, English and Italian interchangeably when needs be. But the main fact was that you had to visit the Vatican City as the real official representation of Catholicism, the way the Pope, the Sistine Chapel marry together in perhaps the biggest heart of the religion in the world. It was just ashame that we could not see the Pope himself that day, nor could we see any remaining evidences of the pagan religion (pre-Roman/Etruscan religions) lying around Rome. Even in museums, there was an accentuation on pottery and statues and I felt like there was a bit missing from the normally militaristic-perceived Rome. For me, as I agreed with Ho Fai, my travel buddy, this was a flaw that the Romans should pick up on – it seems like we only get one side of Roman history; the glory and the cheerful side, but the lack of the destruction and demise that came with under the Gothic tribes, the Germanic and Frankish invasions were surprising. Instead, there are more Roman military museums in across England than there are in Rome itself!

 

Conclusively, for me, my favourite historical attractions were tied between the Piazza del Popolo, Trevi Fountain and the Palentine Hill. The way you could see statues of Neptune on one side, and then Mercury on the parallel, showing the gods of the seas and war respectively, together with some of Renaissance Rome was truly breathtaking. The Trevi Fountain’s significance makes me like it more than it being a masterpiece. You get up close and personal with three statues. One is instantly reminded of the ingenious aqueduct systems that the Romans had used, apart from their expertise in other disciplines in law, mathematics and military sectors too. Finally, for the Palentine Hill, you could see the full Roman forum – what the Romans would have used for worship before it was burned by the invading troops across Europe. 

 

2) Florence – 5th April to 8th April 

The famous statue of David by Michelangelo standing outside the Palazzo Vecchio. This is one of the many replicas of the masterpiece. 

We woke up particularly early this morning, eating breakfast before chilling until the early afternoon for Florence. Saw Ho Fai off – really wished he could have stayed longer – Florence was quite a change from ancient Rome. That day was a chilled day, the hostel was very near the famous Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore – the green architectural masterpiece during the Medici era. Instead, I simply went around town and stumbled upon a pizzeria/restaurant that cooks its pizzas in a wood-oven the traditional way, rather than your metal-cast ovens you get normally in more generic restaurants across the world. 

 

Just a word on the food in general – I would recommend to go to the supermarkets and getting some Prosciutto Crudo and some cheese with some dried or fresh bread. The facaccia or the paninnis you get in Italy are usually reheated and normally lose taste. If you are really feeling it, go to the restaurants and get yourself a nicely baked pizza! 


6th April – Museo di Palazzo Vecchio 

 

 

 

The power of the Medici family – investing into the cultural and scientific blocks. Note their coat of arms with the cannon balls. 

Today, I went around the Piazza Principale to check out the main museums in Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio. There were the usual crowds of people flocking to see the Uffizi, so I decided to take my chances with Vecchio. This was the main housing of Lorenzo di Medici, oftentimes known as the Magnificent himself, a wealthy and one of the sons of a dynasty of bankers. This family built and paid great Renaissance artists like Michelangello, Raphael, da Vinci, Boticelli, Donatello… to sculpt, ornate, paint their houses. Perhaps the most significant was the David of Michelangelo that are replicated all across Florence, but there is one outside of the Museum and tower.

 

Personally, toget your money’s worth, I would pay for the museum and tower – the museum section was enjoyable but small – and already 10 euros rather than 14 euros for both. Also, another word – the restaurants around the Catedrale di Santa Maria del Fuore should be avoided – they are usually ripped off – I had one around to try and it was reheated and mediocre at best. If anything, get past the bridges across Fiume Arno to find some proper restaurants – or avoid those restaurants aforementioned.


7th April – Museo di Leonardo da Vinci and Museo Galileo

Statue of Galileo Galilei near the Uffizi Museum and Palazzo Vecchio.

 

 

 

I wanted to leave the artistic side of Florence and explore more of the scientific aspects of it as well, particularly with two of the most famous natural scientists in da Vinci and Galileo. I always wanted to see da Vinci’s inventions in real life form or at least some type of replica – the famous Tank and human eagle was for me the highlight in the museum. Alright, the museum was admittedly small for 8 euros, but it was a refreshing experience to leave the crowds lining up daily for the the Catedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and Museo Uffizi. I was always interested in da Vinci’s inventions ever since a boy, and it felt great to see ones I repeatedly saw in books. Same can be said about the Museo Galileo – the fact that you could be more isolated, but you cannot escape the fact that both artists in their own disciplines were funded by the Medicis. Personally, in the Museo Galileo, the main highlight were the maps that the Arabs, Dutch, Germans, Italians and French cartographers and navigators were showcasing. What I found most interesting was the different ways to represent the World Map – sometimes you would have proper astronomical animals, Pangea (one huge mass of land religiously) or the actual representation which was advanced for its times.

 

8th April -Museo Bargello and Basilica di Santa Croce 



Today was the last proper day in Florence or in Italy – the one tomorrow in Rome is more of a chill day and one to get ready for University again. I was slow to be up mentally and physically, particularly with the Catedrale di Santi Maria del Fuore’s bells ringing early on. he plan was simply to visit the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, and then check out some other cathedrals around. Everyone was usual had the Medicean legacy with its coats of arms or on the little explanation cards next to the statues or paintings you saw from the Quattrocento or Cinquecento – I would imagine them representing the short forms of saying the years throughout the 1400’s and 1500’s, two centuries within the Renaissance eras. After that, it was a simple pizza and beer stop at a tourist spot near the Bargello. I really do not want to leave the city of Florence and so I decided to take a walk around town – around the five bridges that criss-crossed the Fiume Arno. Passing by medieval castles, small boulevards where grandmas were taking care of the boys and girls, I felt Florence was much more local or communal in that sense, if you compared it to Rome.

 

Personally and overall, Rome and the Vatican City were more historical with its ancient architecture. You really cannot beat the overall history experience with the Italian and Roman Catholic capitals. Whereas, with Florence, adorned with its Renaissance architecture primarily funded by the incredibly wealthy Medici family, it was not as jaw-dropping or awe-inspiring, but for me, had more variety in its museums. After all, I came here for the history – it boasts museums consisting of elements like the arts, archaeology, astronomy, chemistry… In my opinion, I prefer Florence solely because I could relate more to the history itself – I was always fond of da Vinci and Galileo’s discoveries, rather than any antiquarian art or history that you would readily find in Rome.

 

9th April – Rome, chill and ready for university again 

Nothing much today – took the train back to the capital from Florence, getting ready for university once again. It was a great trip for someone who loves history and something different, but adventurous at the same time. Another night of Champions League, after seeing Chelsea knock out Paris? So I went back to Florian’s, a nearby restaurant to watch the quarter-finals. I highly recommend this restaurant to those who live by the Termini train station in Rome – the staff are friendly enough and the food is decent. Last time I had pizza and something indulgent and to top it off, Atletico won. Just about. But a win is a win. 

 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this diary-style article and see you soon! 🙂 

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