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Rome (Roma), Italy

I arrived in Rome's Da Vinci airport early Sunday morning, checked in at my hotel, the Villa Pamphilli, and had the concierge line me up with a bus tour so I could get oriented to the city.

Approaching the front of St. Paul's Basilica near the Coliseum.

In the courtyard of the Basilica of St. Paul.  This basilica was originally built in the 4th century.  It burned in 1823.  This building was spared by the fire.  St. Paul, the "Defender of the Faith" is the statue in front holding a sword.

In the Basilica of St. Paul.  Note the oval pictures of the Popes in the lintel above the columns at the top of the photo.  Only 13 blank ovals remain.  When the last of the blanks are filled - so the story goes - the world will end with the death of the last Pope.

An Arc of Triumph is a commemoration for a Roman general returning from war.  This Arc is within a couple of minutes walk of the entrance to the Coliseum.  It is the Arch of Titus, erected by the Emperor Domitian in 81 AD.  

The Arc celebrates the victory of his brother Titus, and his father Vespasian in suppressing an uprising of jews in Judea.  The inscription begins, more or less: "The Senate and the People of Rome..."  The reference to the Vespasian - who ruled from 69 to 79 AD - is readable, but my latin isn't good enough to parse it out.

This is a part of the remains of the Roman forum... the very heart of Rome at the furthest extent of its empire.  These columns are what remain of the temple of Castor and Pollux, patrons of horsemanship.  Though rebuilt many times, this temple was probably first dedicated in 484 BC.  These columns are the remains of a re-building by the emperor Tiberius following a fire in 6 BC. 

At the time of Christ, the Roman empire already included all of North Africa, and all of what we now know as Spain, France, Austria, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and all of southern Germany to the Rhine and the Danube Rivers.

In the 100 years following the death of Christ, the emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) pushed the northeastern frontier to the Caspian Sea, and the southeastern frontier to the Persian Gulf.  Trajan's successor, the emperor Hadrian, built a wall to separate Caledonia (Scotland) from Britannia in the far north of England.  This became the farthest northwest extent of the Roman empire.   

Beyond Hadrian's wall were the barbarians who would, 400 years later, finally cause the collapse of the Roman empire.

These are the two lowest tiers in the Coliseum.  This scene includes two Roman Police officers, tourists, and an Arab rug merchant.  (More about Arab rug merchants later).

This is an architectural detail of an arch in a roman aqueduct.  This aqueduct carried fresh clear water from the hills around Rome to the Roman Forum.  A series of these aqueducts carried all the fresh water Rome needed.  Rome has never needed to draw water from the Tiber, and does not draw water from it today.  This factoid was given to us by our tour guide, a vigorous, articulate, and passionate Roman.

The entrance to the Vatican Museum ... and a McDonald's restaurant.  The line into the Museum on the day I visited seemed to be a mile long, and was standing still.  I should have waited though, or tried again later.  

People who visit this museum say the pieces on display are spectacular.  "How could you be so close, and not go to the Sistine Chapel," friends have said to me.  I have no answer for them.

The main entrance to the Basilica of St. Peter.  The Dome of St. Peter is in the background.  This building, begun by the Emperor Constantine in the later 320s AD is much, much larger than it appears in this photo.  For some idea of scale, look at the people directly in front of the building.  I am standing about 1/8th mile away.  The front of the Basilica is about as big as a football field laid upright.

The Pieta.  The most beautiful piece of art work in the Basilica of St. Peter.  Michelangelo completed this work in 1499 when he was 25 years old.  The Pieta was damaged in 1972, and is now behind glass.  Even so, being in the presence of a great work by Michelangelo brings feelings that can never be described in words.

A painted dome, perhaps painted by Michelanglo, though more likely by a fellow named Bernini.  These domes are the second most beautiful objects in the Basilica.

The top of the Dome of St. Peter is 448 feet high.  I was almost ready to leave the Vatican when I noticed that there were people at the top of the Dome.  I couldn't leave until I had gone up, so I went back to go to the top.

Looking east into the Piazza San Pietro, and over the main Vatican Gate from the top of the Dome of the Basilica of St. Peter.  In front of us, and around the top of the piazza, are statues of the saints.  From here, the Coliseum is in a southeasterly direction a little over a mile away.

Looking west toward the Pope's residence (I think) from the Dome of the Basilica of St. Peter.

Looking down the 320 steps leading down from the top of the Dome of St. Peter to the roof of the main floor of the Basilica.  From the roof of the Basilica we can get an elevator to the ground floor.