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    Emperors Best and Worst.

    by breughel Updated Jul 16, 2008

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    Favorite thing: One can be indifferent to the history of the Roman antiquity but be obliged to meet Roman Emperors in this city of Rome full of monuments, forums, statues to the glory of these Emperors.
    Very quickly the tourist will realize that among the eighty emperors, without counting the usurpers, there were good and bad ones, even some insane.
    Here a small list to distinguish roughly the best from the worst.

    The best:
    Octave Augustus (reigned 41 years), Trajan, Vespasian, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Antoninus Pius.
    The mad:
    Caligula, Nero, Elegabalus.
    The ferocious:
    Commodus, Diocletianus.
    The more or less ferocious but also efficient emperors:
    Many emperors are in this category like Tiberius, Constantine I, Claudius.

    As most Roman emperors died a violent death one will understand that the job was not an easy one and most often associated to violence.

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    No skyscrapers in Rome!

    by breughel Written May 7, 2008

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    Favorite thing: The first time I climbed to the Pincio terrace I found it wonderful that there was not a single skyscraper, not a single tower, not a single high building at the horizon.
    No architectural injury was made to this city.
    Even if the Romans disliked their Vittoriano monument, finally it is not far from being now a major tourist attraction.

    OK, I have no problem with the skyscrapers of NYC or Dubai but I prefer a horizon made of cupolas, or palaces of the baroque period of architecture.

    Look here at some photos made from the Capitoline or the Castel Sant' Angelo. Isn't that sublime? Now this horizon virgin of high buildings is not limited to the historical centre of Rome, outside the Mura Aureliane apartment buildings were also kept low as I could observe on my recent stay at the Monte Mario area.

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    TWELVE CENTURIES OF HISTORY !

    by breughel Updated May 20, 2008

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    Favorite thing: Six years of secondary school studying Latin (at 8 hours a week) do not keep me free from some mental confusion when I visit the sites of the antique Rome. The essential question for me is not "to be or not to be" but to whom belongs this or that?

    Indeed the Antique Rome counts twelve centuries of history, 1200 years of archaeological stratifications of a high complexity.
    So please forgive the simple amateur I am not to distinguish at first sight what belongs to the Antoninus dynasty of emperors from what belongs to the Severus emperors.
    I am already very satisfied to be able to distinguish (most often) what was before Julius Caesar from what came afterwards.

    A now retired Professor of a French university, Lucien Jerphagnon, used to ask new students of the first year in history to situate the philosopher Seneca in the history; before or after J.C.?
    All students hesitated… like me. Why?
    =======================================
    DOUZE SIECLES D'HISTOIRE !

    Six années d'humanités gréco-latines ne peuvent empêcher que je ressente quelque confusion mentale lorsque je visite les sites de la Rome antique. La question que je me pose souvent est: à qui appartient quoi?
    En effet la Rome antique c'est douze siècles d'histoire, 1200 ans de stratifications archéologiques!
    Dans ces conditions il faut pardonner au simple amateur que je suis de ne pas faire la distinction au premier coup d'œil de ce qui appartient aux Antonins ou de ce qui appartient aux Sévères. Quant à moi je suis déjà très satisfait de distinguer ce qui est avant Jules César de ce qui vient après. Et comme J. César précède d'une cinquantaine d'années Jésus Christ, la chronologie en ce qui me concerne en est simplifiée.

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    Cultural matters on VT and on ...

    by breughel Written Jul 19, 2011

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    Favorite thing: Sometimes I'm frustrated that there is more interest on VT for logistical questions than for cultural and historical matters. But I admit that arriving at the right monument at the right time is not without interest so that I admire the VT members who are permanently and repeatedly advising travelers what train or bus to take to get there where my review about art and history starts.

    Nevertheless VirtualTourist remains miles-kilometers in advance of Tripadvisor as what concerns cultural matters.

    Do you know what is the N° 1 of Traveler recommended attractions for Rome on Tripadvisor?
    Colosseum? no.
    Forum? no.
    Trevi Fountain? no.
    Vatican Museum? no

    I tell you - are you seated - it is "Cooking Classes in Rome" and refers to the commercial activity of a restaurant located in Trastevere.

    Shame.

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    Rome Public Transportation Best City Map

    by icunme Updated Apr 17, 2006

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    Favorite thing: You will see a number of maps to choose from in all the tourist shops and offices. This appears to be the map of choice if you plan to use public transportation while in Rome. It is user friendly and gives excellent detail on all available public transportation routes and schedules. A handy little item.

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    Puccini's Tosca at Castello St'Angelo.

    by breughel Updated Jul 5, 2008

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    Favorite thing: I love classical music but I'm more oriented to chamber music than to opera. For me the perfection of music results of three instruments: Piano, Violin and Violoncello i.e. the classical trio.
    This said Puccini and his Tosca are great moments of music and song although I am a bit lost with the libretto of Puccini's Tosca. I understand that this happened after Napoleon's Roman Republic and the restoration of the Popes powers in Rome but I'm getting confused with the political prisoner Angelotti and the painter Cavaradossi and their sentiments for the diva Floria Tosca.
    Clear for me is the fact that baron Scarpia, a prelate and chief of the secret police is a sadist who wants to conquer Tosca.

    Here we move to Castel St'Angelo to hear some of the best arias of Puccini on the upper terrace of the Castel. Nobody can forget the sublime "E Lucean le Stelle."
    Meanwhile Tosca stabbed Scarpia with a knife, Cavaradossi has been tortured and a firing squad shoots him. Now, this is the crux of the matter, the bullets should have been blank but they were real (tricky Scarpia!).
    Here the desperate Tosca jumps of the ramparts of the Castel St'Angelo.

    I can assure you that this scene is most difficult to play.
    My wife saw this opera performed at the Terme di Caracalla. La Tosca jumped over the fake rampart but instead of lying quietly on the other side until the end of the opera she stand up before the end provoking a general laughter in the public.
    "Gloires et servitudes de l'Opéra!"

    Great graphic art was the original poster by Adolfo Hohenstein for the first production of this opera in 1900 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome.

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    Rome capital of the Baroque.

    by breughel Written Feb 9, 2009

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    Favorite thing: For somebody who like me comes from a country where the Gothic art dominates, the discovery of the Roman baroque is a unique experiment inducing a reappraisal of some aesthetic values.
    The Roman baroque is well the purest, most elegant I met. It is true that Rome is the cradle of the baroque which was born in the Holy City with the Counter-Reformation about 1550. The baroque is initially a demonstration of a radiant and triumphing Catholic church and is by this fact almost ignored in the Protestant countries.

    The baroque architecture was especially imposing in Rome at the 17th century with masters like Bernini, Borromini and Da Cortone. The churches of San Andrea di Quirinale, San Carlo ale Quattro Fontane and S. Luca E Martina, designed by these architects, illustrate the dynamism of the baroque architecture with its convex and concave curved frontages, the theatrical effect, the illusion by light/obscure and trompe l’œil effects as well as the rich and exuberant decoration.
    Characteristics of the baroque are of course the colossal domes. Rome is the city of the baroque cupolas.

    ==========================

    Rome capitale du Baroque.

    Pour quelqu'un qui comme moi vient d'un pays où domine le gothique la découverte du baroque romain est une expérience unique qui remet en question toutes les habitudes et valeurs esthétiques.
    Le baroque romain est bien le plus pur, le plus élégant que j'ai rencontré. Il est vrai que Rome est le berceau du baroque qui est né dans la ville sainte avec la contre-réforme vers 1550. Le baroque est d'abord une manifestation d'une église catholique radieuse et triomphante et est de ce fait quasiment ignoré dans les pays protestants.

    Le baroque architectural a été grandiose à Rome au XVII siècle avec ses maîtres Bernini, Borromini et Cortone (ref. les revues sur San Andrea di Quirinale, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane et SS. Luca e Martina). Ces églises illustrent le dynamisme baroque avec ses façades ondulantes alliant courbes convexes et concaves, l'effet théâtral, l'illusion par les clair / obscur et les trompe l’œil ainsi que la richesse et exubérance du décor.
    Caractéristiques du baroque sont bien sur les coupoles colossales par rapport à l’édifice.
    Rome est la ville des coupoles baroques.

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    The essential of things to see in Rome.

    by breughel Updated Apr 22, 2012

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    Favorite thing: The best of Rome.

    To a tourist on a first visit to Rome I would without hesitation recommend following visits:

    Antiques: Coliseum, Arch of Constantine, Forum Romano, Palatine hill, Trajan forum (in the same area), Terme di Caracalla, Pantheon.

    Churches: St Peters, Santa Maria Maggiore, St John Lateran, Chiesa del Gesu, San Paolo Fuori le Mure (the last one outside the centre).

    Museums of Antiques: Capitoline Museums on the Piazza del Campidoglio (an absolute must), Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Massimo & Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Altemps, Vatican museum (if he is prepared to spend time on queuing).

    Medieval and Baroque Rome: Castel Sant' Angelo, Piazza Navona, Trevi fountain, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo.

    This program covering the essential of Rome takes 4 - 5 days.

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    LISZT IN ROME

    by breughel Updated Apr 23, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Franz Liszt lived in Rome from 1867 to 1877 and composed here some wonderful pieces for the piano bundled in the third volume of the "Années de Pélérinage".
    The first piece "Angelus!" subtitled "Prayer to the Guardian Angels" evokes the Angelus bells which Liszt heard ringing in the evening at Rome.

    The next three pieces also written in 1877 are famous in the world of classical music: "Aux Cyprès de la Villa d'Este, N°1" and "Aux Cyprès de la Villa d'Este, N°2". It is said that this one was originally inspired by the cypresses of the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome at the Terme di Diocletiano (re. my tips on this church). It is thought that these cypresses were planted by Michelangelo.

    The third piece for piano "Les jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este" "the Fountains of the Villa d'Esta" where he staid, is even more famous. These works foreshadow the impressionism of pieces on similar subjects by Debussy and Ravel.

    Liszt wrote about this work: "j'ai essayé de rendre en musique quelques unes de mes sensation les plus fortes, de mes plus vives perceptions…" (I tried to translate into music some of my strongest feelings, of my sharpest perceptions…).

    Liszt met the pope Pie IX and played for him at the cloister of Santa Maria del Rosario, on the Monte Mario. Franz Liszt studied theology, was lodged at the Vatican and received the religious "minor orders" in 1865.

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    RESPIGHI - "Pini di Roma".

    by breughel Written May 7, 2008

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    Favorite thing: I can't visit the green parts of Rome without hearing inside me the music of Ottorino Respighi about the Pines of Rome. "Pini di Roma" is a symphonic poem composed in 1924.
    Actually Respighi in the four movements of his composition describes the Pines of the Villa Borghese, Pines near a Catacomb, the Pines of the Janiculum and in the finale the Pines of the Via Appia.
    There are nowhere so beautiful pines as those of Rome. In French we call them "pins parasol" because they spread like an umbrella.
    The "Pini di Roma" from Respighi made a triumph although the Italian audiences of that time were more fond of the operas by Puccini, Rossini and Verdi (re. the excellent pages of a VT connoisseur "Nemorino").

    Some years before, in 1917, Respighi had already composed another famous orchestral work "Fontane di Roma". The fountains chosen were the fountain of Valle Giulia at dawn, the Tritone fountain in the morning, the Trevi fountain in the afternoon and at sunset the fountain opposite Villa Medici.

    In 1929 Respighi composed "Feste Romana" (Roman Festivals) completing his trilogy of symphonic poems about Rome.

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    Churches without bell-towers.

    by breughel Updated Feb 16, 2009

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    Favorite thing: When born like me in a country where the bell-towers of the cathedrals touch the rain clouds one can not avoid being surprised that Rome with "thousand and one" churches has very few bell-towers! The campanile bell-tower of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, near the Coliseum is the most visible one. The bell-tower of Santa Maria Maggiore with 75 m is said to be the highest of Rome.
    It hardly impresses me; in my small country there are 25 bell-towers of more than 75 m in height. We have even a cathedral in Tournai with 5 towers of 83 m.
    German tourists will be even less impressed. They have the highest bell-tower with the Münster of Ulm reaching 162 m and the two bell-towers of the Dom of Cologne at 157 m.

    The absence of bell-towers in Rome is largely compensated by the often immense cupolas like those of St Peters (136,5 m high) or Sant' Andrea della Valle.

    The nearly absence of bell-towers in Rome always surprised me when there are so many bell-towers-Campanile in the North of Italy. The highest Campanile being the one of Cremona (111 m) in Lombardy.

    ============================

    EGLISES SANS CLOCHERS.

    Quand on est né comme moi dans un pays où les clochers des cathédrales touchent les nuages chargés de pluie on ne peut manquer d'être surpris que Rome aux "mille et une" églises soit sans clochers!
    Faites le tour avec moi et vous verrez seulement quelques clochers. Celui de Santa Maria in Cosmedin en forme de campanile est le plus visible entre le Colisée et le Forum. Celui de Santa Maria Maggiore est avec ses 75 m le plus haut de Rome.
    Il ne m'a guère impressionné; dans mon petit pays il y a 25 clochers de plus de 75 m de haut. Nous avons même une cathédrale à Tournai avec 5 tours de 83 m.
    Les Allemands seront encore moins impressionnés. Ils ont le plus haut clocher avec le Münster de Ulm et ses 162 m. Le Dom de Cologne n'est est pas loin avec ses deux clochers de 157 m.

    L'absence de clochers est largement compensée par les coupoles souvent immenses comme ceux de San Pietro d'une hauteur de 136,5 m, ou de Sant'Andrea della Valle.

    La quasi absence de clochers à Rome m'étonne depuis ma première visite alors qu'il y tant de clochers-campanile dans le Nord de l'Italie. Le plus haut campanile est celui de Cremona en Lombardie avec ses 111 m.
    Rome est la ville au mille et une églises mais seulement deux clochers!

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    From Myth to Reality. I.

    by breughel Written May 21, 2008

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    Favorite thing: With the progression of their expansion the ancient Romans showed less and less modesty.
    As the grandfather of Romulus and Remus was the Alban king Numitor and as according to the legend the town of Alba Longa (in the Alban mounts near Rome) had been founded by Iule the son of Aeneas, illustrious prince of Troy, son of Anchises and of the goddess Aphrodite/Venus, the Romans regarded themselves as descendants of the famous Trojans but also of two most important divinities of the Olympus Mars and Venus.

    Actually when the Romans conquered Greece, it were the descendants of the unhappy Hector of Troy who took their revenge.
    This always satisfied me because I never liked Achilles a cruel and sulky character.
    ===================================
    DU MYTHE A LA REALITE. I.
    Au fur et à mesure de leur expansion les anciens Romains firent de moins en moins preuve de modestie. Comme le grand-père de Romulus et Remus était le roi albain Numitor et que selon la légende la ville d'Alba avait été fondée par Iule le fils d'Enée, illustre prince Troyen, fils d'Anchise et de la déesse Vénus, les Romains se sont considérés comme descendants des illustres Troyens mais aussi de deux divinités des plus importantes de l'Olympe soit Mars et Venus.
    En fait lorsque les Romains ont conquis la Grèce, c'étaient les descendants du malheureux Hector le Troyen qui prenaient leur revanche.
    J'avoue que cette revanche me plait bien car j'ai toujours trouvé qu'Achille était un type peu sympathique, boudeur et cruel.

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    A YEAR OF 445 DAYS!

    by breughel Updated May 31, 2008

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    Favorite thing: When glancing through the twelve centuries of history of ancient Rome one cannot avoid meeting Julius Caesar, one of the most important political personalities of the Roman history.
    Among the reforms initiated by Caesar when he was named “dictator” figures the reform of the calendar which he did in his quality of "Pontifex Maximus".
    In order to catch up with the shift between the calendar year and the solar year, Julius Caesar decided to extend the year 45 (before J.C.) until it reached 445 days. After that he fixed the calendar year at 365 and 1/4 days.
    The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months and a leap day added every 4 years to February.
    The Julian calendar was of general use in Europe at the Roman Empire until 1582, when the pope Gregory XIII promulgated the Gregorian calendar, which was quickly adopted by the majority of the catholic countries. This calendar still in use corrected a slow forward drift of the Julian calendar which is still used by many national orthodox churches.

    To pay homage to Julius Caesar his first name was given to a month of the year named July since then, or a similar name, in all the European languages as well Latin, Germanic as Anglo-Saxon.
    =======================================
    ANNEE DE 445 JOURS !

    En parcourant les douze siècles d'histoire de la Rome antique on ne peut éviter de rencontrer Jules César l'une des personnalités politiques les plus importantes de l'histoire romaine. Parmi les réformes initiées par César lorsqu'il fut nommé "dictator" figure celle du calendrier réalisé dans sa fonction de "Pontifex maximus".
    Afin de rattraper le décalage entre l'année civile et l'année solaire il prolongea l'année 45 (avant J.C.) jusqu'à 445 jours. Ensuite il fixa l'année civile à 365 jours et 1/4. Une année normale compte 365 jours avec tous les 4 ans une année bissextile par addition d'un jour supplémentaire au mois de février.
    Le calendrier julien était d'utilisation générale en Europe du temps de l'Empire romain jusqu'en 1582, quand le pape Grégoire XIII a promulgué le calendrier grégorien, qui fut rapidement adopté par la plupart des pays catholiques. Ce calendrier toujours en usage corrigea une dérive du calendrier julien.

    Pour rendre hommage à Jules César son prénom fut donné à un mois de l'année nommé depuis lors juillet, ou un nom similaire, dans toutes les langues aussi bien latines, germaniques qu'anglo-saxonnes.

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    Do you have Roman ancestors?

    by breughel Written Oct 24, 2011

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    Favorite thing: At its maximum extent, under Emperor Trajan in 117 AD, the Roman Empire counted 60 - 80 millions Roman citizens and as many as 100 - 120 millions people lived within its borders extending from England to Egypt, from Portugal to Syria over 5 millions Km2.
    Roman citizens counted for 1/5th of the world's population at the time of the Roman Empire.
    The probability that you have Roman ancestors is therefore higher than you might think when you booked your trip to Rome.

    As soon as you will walk on the Foro Romano you will feel a very special sensation telling you that your roots are on the Via Sacra.

    For those whose ancestors did not like mine fight against the Roman legions, to be killed or enslaved and finally obtain the Roman citizenship, there is the fact that your way of thinking was very probably inspired by the Greek-Roman civilisation.

    Yes you have Roman ancestors.

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    Earthquakes in Rome.

    by breughel Updated Apr 8, 2009

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    Favorite thing: When visiting and writing reviews about Roman monuments I read so much about earthquakes shaking the Colosseum half a dozen times, destroying Basilica's, that I felt it my duty to add this type of event to "Rome warnings and dangers".

    Don't think this danger is just far away in the past; on 22/08/2005 the centre of Rome felt an earthquake of 4.5 on the Righter scale. There was a lot of talking between neighbours on the streets but no serious damages.
    And closer to us on 12/04/2008 a small earthquake has shaken the Alban Hills southeast of Rome during the night and woke many people.

    Don't think that nothing serious can happen and that pickpockets are much more a danger than earthquakes! On 26 September 1997 strong earthquakes struck central Italy and shook Assisi so strongly that frescoed vaults of the upper Basilica collapsed.

    When I wrote this in 2008 I could not imagine what was going to happen one year later in Aquila..

    This night (6/04/2009) a terrible earthquake struck the mountainous Abruzzo region with the city of Aquila at 100 Km east of Rome. There are more than 250 death and enormous destructions. All my sympathy goes to the victims.

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