Tuesday 7th July
Today we entered the maelstrom of the eternal city in a period of a record breaking heatwave.
We ventured outside our safe haven hotel in suburban Marconi to the Rome underground, five stops on a very crowded train and walking out of the Colosso station to be looking straight at the Colosseum and the Constantine Arch ( in amazing condition compared with the rest of Roman ruins because of Constantine’s decision at the Milvian Bridge to see the cross of Christian faith as they way forward for the Roman Empire. Christian leaders made sure the arch was kept in good nick!)
As usual we boarded the hop on/off bus around Rome, this time in 35 degree heat and fierce Rome traffic. Again we were reminded how amazing this city is..mixing up C21st buildings and technology with archaelogical ruins well over two millennia years old.
We spent much of our time today, after a city circuit on the red bus, at the Capitoline Museums where a highlight was a special showing of a much discussed self -portrait by Leonardo Da Vinci under strict security and lighting. This frail parchment portrait, now quite faint, is disputed by the experts as a self-portrait because of the similarity with other portraits of famous philosophers and suggesting that Leonardo was deliberately setting himself up as their successor. It was nevertheless a powerful presentation.
The museums of the Capitolene Hill looking out over the forum of Roman ruins contain an amazing collection of sculptures, coins, jewellery, Renaissance paintings and ancient pottery especially early Greek pottery. The “Hall of Triumphs” contains the Spinario – a life size sculpture of a young boy removing a thorn from his foot as well as the “Capitolene Brutus” a C5th sculpture of a very fierce gentleman. So many highlights including the famous sculpure of the “Capitoline shewolf ” suckling Romulus and Remus..mythological founders of Rome; the remarkable life size statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback, and exceptional paintings including the controversial quite sensuous Caraveggio painting of a young John the Baptist as well as many other Italian Renaissance artists as well as a Rubens painting of the birth of the mythological Romulus and Remus. The Museum itself is an archaeological dig and the presentation of this area was also a highlight. All of the ceilings of the Renaissance Palace have been restored with remarkable effect and the entire collection would be a week’s study not just the four hours we gave to it.