Whitehill Scrapbook 2010
Rome April 8 - April 10
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      Rome was on Tim's bucket list. Being an ancient history buff, you have to love Rome. Although you don't have to love the traffic there. Crossing the street is an extreme sport. But in between dodging traffic there are ancient runes all around the place. And for art the Vatican seems to be endless.

    To the left is "Laocoon and His Sons" at the Vatican. We originally heard the story was that this statue was found in the early 1500's and lit the fire for the Renaissance. The story told at the Vatican seemed to suggest the Renaissance was already under way when it was found. However Michaelangelo spent hours staring at it. Note the discoloration on Lacoon's raised right arm. That piece was found in a garbage dump in the late 1800's. It's amazing it made it to the statue. It makes you wonder how many other pieces are buried out there.

   Laocoon's story is interesting. It turns out there's several books that were written about the Trojan war; more than the "Illiad" and the "Odyssey". There are several others such as the "Little Illiad" and so on. Within these other poems is the tale of the Trojan horse. When the Trojans are deciding whether they should bring the gift in, it's Laocoon who says (paraphrasing) "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts". He's punished by the Gods for standing against the Greeks. Various sources attribute the punishment from various gods for various reasons. One version is that Minerva sends two great sea-serpents to strangle Laocoon and his sons. They are dragged out to sea.
        The Colliseum is one of those places you just dream of visiting. It's an awsome site.

       Tim came to appreciate statues more than before from this trip. Trace had her ahh moment with art when she saw Michaelangelo's "The Pieta" at St. Peters. The ahh moment is when you look at a piece of art and it grabs you. For Tim it was "Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time" at the National Gallery in London. For Tim's brother, Pat, it was in Florence when he saw Michaelangelo's "David". When you have the moment you know it.  Below is "The Pieta" at St. Peter's in the Vatican. Trace felt that Mary's face just showed infinite sadness.
Rome is big. The philosophy was to be intimidating and big. You find big everwhere. The Vatican seems to have appropriated this attitude. St. Peters is very intimidating. The size of the statues, the themes and the relics create an atmosphere of awe.

While we were in Rome we visited a Mithrium. During the first 300 years after Christ, there were a lot of cults in Rome. Mithrism was among them and one of the most popular. It was a mystery cult of which not much is known. Most of the knowledge is from the art that's been found. To the right is a really nice version at the Vatican of the tauroctony , the killing of the sacred bull. This seems to represent the flowing of the energy that feeds creation. The symbols also match zodiac signs and may represent a very developed cosmology.
This is too ironic. Poor sad Jupiter just sits lonely in the corner at the Vatican. The old God replaced by the new God. I hope someone remembers to dust him now and again

       It's amazing when you realize how far above the original street level modern Rome is. And everywhere they dig they find artifacts. The subway system only has two lines, they can't run any more lines without running into an ancient building. The other startling thing about Rome is how often you turn a corner and there's an ancient statue or building.

      One morning we noticed down the street from the hotel a water pump that looked like it was designed in the middle ages. We had no idea how old the pump was but it looked it had been there a long while. On the way back that night we passed by the pump again and saw some workers who were doing masonary work nearby using it . They had used it for the water for their cement,to clean tools, and for drinking water. The waste water ran off on the street. Our assumption is, that's the way it's been done for centuries.
During the Middle ages all the iron was removed from the ancient building leaving holes everywhere. The thing is, the iron was to make the buildings able to withstand earthquakes. Why are they still standing?

A school for gladiators right beside the Colliseum
The Spanish steps in Italy built by the French. Go figure.
The one thing we've left out mentioning so far was our fellow tour group members. We made a decision to not include pictures of others from our group as we didn't know how anyone felt about having their pictures published on the web. We want to respect their privacy. But we can talk about them and they were a great group! We all got to know each other quickly and we really enjoyed our time with them. We got to spend time with every other couple or family over a meal or drinks or just walking around together. We've since been in contact with many of them. We made it out of Europe just ahead of the Icelandic volcano; it must have erupted while we were still in flight. Some of group were still trapped. However "trapped" may be a strong word. We heard from at least one couple while they were still "trapped" and didn't sound very upset. We had just left Paris, so if we just had stayed one more day...to have been trapped in Paris...  
  We will plan another trip with Rick Steve's in the future. We couldn't have been happier. Our guide, Jamie Gould was terrific. We had a great time with him. His knowledge of art and especially wine was very appreciated.

We stayed at the following hotels and we highly recommend them all:

Venice - Hotel Serenissima
Florence - Hotel Torre Guelfa Palazzo Acciaiuoli
Rome - Hotel Alimandi
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