Part One of this posting discussed the first three travel wonders of Rome, this extraordinary city with over 3000 years of history. Here are the next four treasures in this eternal city.
7. Piazza Navona
One of Rome’s favourite gathering places (especially in the late afternoon), this town square teems with people enjoying overpriced coffee, watching gifted artists paint or simply sitting on the stone seats chatting animatedly with their friends. The jewel of Piazza Navona is Bernini’s stunning Fountains of the River symbolizing sculptures of the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio Plata, considered the four great rivers of the world at the time.
Along the world’s first autobahn, the gun-barrel straight Appian Way (Via Appia), are a number of catacombs – secretive, underground burial places for the persecuted Christians of the early centuries A.D. Mile after mile of narrow tunnels barely a metre wide are lined with niches carved out of the soft volcanic rock, where the linen-clad bodies were placed covered by a slab engraved with the details of the diseased. Guided tours give you an experience of these tunnels along with the frescoes along some of the walls.
Slightly dull from the outside, the Pantheon is over two thousand years old and in a remarkable state of preservation. Originally a temple to the gods and now a church, it is an architectural wonder, with both the height of the building and the diameter of its extraordinary dome being 43.2 metres (142 feet). It is staggering to note that this dome of such scale sits without reinforcement, supporting its own weight. The very top of the dome is open, like a giant eye working as an ancient skylight, inviting a spiritual light to radiate through this grand temple (and probably providing some cooling relief on those hot Roman summer days). Artist Raphael’s tomb is here. Spend some time inside to marvel at this ancient architectural wonder.
4. Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
The political, administrative, public and religious centre of the Roman Empire today appears as little more than a collection of columns, marble blocks, fascias and rubble. Obtain a map showing the structures of the time and the whole area starts to become alive. Walking around, you can start to make sense of the area and visualise temples, triumphal arches, churches, shrines, meeting places, royal residences and other public buildings. Looking over the forum is the Palatine Hill, where the remains of the residences of the regal and wealthy Romans lie. The ruins of a small athletics stadium lie among the palaces and houses in this area.
Part Three shows the top three travel wonders of Rome.