After visiting the Colosseum, a plethora of beautiful monuments beckon within walking distance, or, if you were a Roman Senator, a XXIX denarii chariot ride, usually hailed via an Uber stone tablet.
True Roman Trivia: a denarius was equal to 10 bronze asses (I don’t know if the coins were shaped like donkeys or butts).
One of the most striking buildings, as more or less described by Wikipedia, is the Altare della Patria (“Altar of the Fatherland”), also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (“National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II”) or Il Vittoriano (“A Sick Vittoriano”), or Grande Edificio Bianco con Molti Nomi Diversi (“Big White Building With a Lot of Different Names”), and is a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy and the inventor of the stick shift.
The monument, the largest in Rome, was controversial, especially since its construction destroyed a large area of the Capitoline Hill with a Medieval neighborhood. The monument itself is often regarded by residents as conspicuous, pompous, too large, and really, really, white.
It has also been described as being “chopped with terrible brutality into the immensely complicated fabric of the hill,” by someone who was a little full of himself. What the average Italian usually says is, “Mama Mia! What the hell is that shit?”
It is clearly visible to most of the city of Rome despite being boxy in general shape and lacking a dome or a tower. The monument is also glaringly white, built from “corpse-white marble” imported from Botticino in Brescia, making it highly conspicuous amidst the generally brownish buildings surrounding it. For its shape and conspicuous nature, Romans have given it a number of humorous and somewhat uncomplimentary nicknames, including la torta nuziale (“the wedding cake”), la dentiera (“the dentures”), macchina da scrivere (“the typewriter”) and la zuppa inglese (“English soup dessert”), and una grande pila di merda bianca (“a big heaping pile of white shit”).
It was inaugurated in 1911 and completed in 1925.
Regardless of many modern Romans’ feelings toward it, it’s an impressive building and a sure stop for tourist photography. We didn’t go inside into the museum because at some point you can only see so many museums before going into museum overload.
However, our group gladly posed for a picture taken by a Japanese tourist, who then emailed this photo as well as 3,204 others he took of the structure. We only kept this one.
Next up is the Trevi Fountain, which was completed in 1762. The origin of the name is unclear, because Trevi isn’t actually a word, but it has something to do with “three streets.” It uses water sources originally used by the ancient Romans and in fact is one of the oldest water sources in Rome, the others being the Tiber and the water in our rented Roman apartment.
It’s made from the same material as the Colosseum and spills about 2,824,800 cubic feet of water every day, all recycled. Roughly 3,000 worth of euros are also tossed into it daily. Legend says that a coin thrown into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome. It must have worked because I threw a coin in it ten or twelve years ago… and now I’m back! However, I didn’t throw a coin in it this time, but as we sat contemplating the flowing water I looked down and saw a hundred dollar bill at my feet. No joke. I picked it up, thinking it might be some kind of scam, but lo and behold, it was all mine! Just visiting the fountain apparently brings good luck!
The monument has been featured in many films including Roman Holiday and Three Coins in the Fountain (who can forget Steve Martin’s comically aborted sing-a-long on the bus in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, one of my all-time favorite movies. Okay so you forgot, but I didn’t). The fountain is also replicated at Epcot in Walt Disney World. The rumors that Walt’s body is cryogenically frozen beneath the water are untrue. He’s embedded in one of the statues. It’s the one that looks a little goofy.
We took pictures both during the day and at night just because we thought it would look cool at night. It didn’t really, and here’s proof. You can see the differences though, it’s like night and day.
Near the Trevi Fountain is the Pantheon, which is so-named because you must wear pants into the building. While free today, it is being converted to a pay-to-get-in location because of its popularity (over 6 million visitors a year, which is written as MMMIIIXMMXCCVVVCCMMM in Roman numerals) and because Italy needs money.
The Pantheon is a former Roman temple (now a church) on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). The present building was completed by the emperor Hadrian, with estimates that it was dedicated about 126 AD (which I always remembered as “After Dhrist”).
The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (fun fact: there is no such thing as Corinthian Leather. They made that up because it sounded cool, especially when spoken by Ricardo Montalbán). Almost two thousand years after it was built (the Pahtheon, not Ricardo), the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Almost sixty years after it was first built, my dome is almost back to the way it was when I first came out of the chute.
It is also one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history, plus they used to have plastic sheeting over everything just like your grandma’s couch and carpet.
Six heads are better than one when you’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with your camera. But at least we got a shot of the opening in the dome.
Here I welcome the news that we were still able to get in for free.
Here are a couple of panoramic shots taken by spinning around. Trust me, the thing is round. Either that, or the LSD you swallowed is starting to work.
Next to the Pantheon are the famous Spanish Steps. These are famous and popular really only because lots of people go to see them because lots of other people go to see them. They’re just stairs people! There are 135 steps and no wheelchair access, unless you “accidentally” push Aunt Matilda from the top because you just found out you’re in her will. They are called the Spanish steps because it was built in order to link the the Trinità dei Monti church with the Spanish square below. I wish Trump would visit the site so he can see that the Spanish (many of whom immigrated to Mexico, despite the native peoples’ protestations that “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, we assume, are good people.”) also brought with them very good step-building capabilities.
The sun was certainly shining in this photo in front of Trajan’s Column. The column was built to commemorate Roman emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars and stands 115 feet (35 meters) tall. It is located in Trajan’s Forum and was completed in 113 AD.
Nearby is a museum dedicated to Trajan’s Market, which was long thought to be the world’s oldest shopping mall. Recently, many scholars decided it actually might have been administrative offices for Emperor Trajan. I like the mall idea better. Although they may be right because I looked all over for an ancient McDonald’s or Claire’s sign and found nothing, although I did find a petrified Pizza Hut-a box next to a couple of bronze asses, so who knows.
You have to look closely to see Carolyn on the bottom left. The lower doors are for chariot parking. The middle doors were the destination for shoppers deposited by small catapults, which pre-dated the escalator.
Statues like this are on display throughout the museum. We only took pictures of the headless ones.
This is the view from the market, giving us another look at the Altare della Patria (“Altar of the Fatherland”), also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (“National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II”) or Il Vittoriano (“A Sick Vittoriano”), or Grande Edificio Bianco con Molti Nomi Diversi (“Big White Building With a Lot of Different Names”), plus some ruins.
This is another view from the market except without the Altare della Patria (“Altar of the Fatherland”), also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (“National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II”) or Il Vittoriano (“A Sick Vittoriano”), or Grande Edificio Bianco con Molti Nomi Diversi (“Big White Building With a Lot of Different Names”), plus some ruins, Trajan’s Column, and some bald dude.
Trajan’s Market. I still think it was a mall. At least there’s no Altare della Patria (“Altar of the Fatherland”), also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (“National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II”) or Il Vittoriano (“A Sick Vittoriano”), or Grande Edificio Bianco con Molti Nomi Diversi (“Big White Building With a Lot of Different Names”) in the picture.
Here’s a panoramic shot from the mall, including the Altare della Patria (“Altar of the Fatherland”), also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (“National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II”) or Il Vittoriano (“A Sick Vittoriano”), or Grande Edificio Bianco con Molti Nomi Diversi (“Big White Building With a Lot of Different Names”).
By now you’ve probably nodded off so I’ll just throw a bunch of pictures of and in the Borghese Gallery down below without comment. You’re asleep anyway, so what do you care? Although the very last one is of you in the shower.
We loved the sculptures, they are simply magnificent. Especially the one of you in the shower.
Now on to the rest of Italy!