Europe Week Four: Ancient Roman Treasures
These past two weeks our class went on little fieldtrips to different part of Rome, visiting archaeological sites, ancient landfills, the famous Roman aqueducts, and a former power station-turned-museum. I love being able to learn history standing at the exact place history was made.
It was late in the afternoon and the light danced into the large quiet room from clerestory windows above. The white marble statues glowed as they majestically stood in front of the dark heavy machinery.
What used to be an operating power plant a century ago in the industrial neighborhood of Rome, Montemartini is now a museum of statues, busts, and mosaics, excavated from ancient Roman gardens. They stand against the backdrop of the power station, and the juxtaposition created between industrial and art archaeology, strong powerful machinery and graceful antique classical sculptures is brilliant and jaw-droppingly beautiful. It tells a story of power as it progresses through divine gods and goddesses to the modern man-made industrial era through space and time. Props to the curators for creating the most original museum exhibition I've ever seen.
We woke up early one morning to catch the bus and metro to the outskirts of Rome, between the city and the countryside. With our professor, we walked along the monumental ancient Roman aqueducts, built more than two thousand years ago and still standing today as a testament to Roman engineering.
An excavated archaeological site, Ostia Antica used to be Rome's seaport. Now, the site is a city of preserved ruins of ancient buildings, frescoes, and mosaics that show what it was like living here 2000 years ago. We walked along the main road and passed by houses, shops, public baths, an amphitheater, and even a public latrine. Imagine what it must've been like, doing business with others while you did your business. It's amazing how architectural ruins can withstand the test of time and take us back into the past.
I first spotted this place in the backdrop of the scene where Audrey Hepburn danced by the river in Roman Holiday. Castel San'Angelo is the mausoleum of Hadrian, a tomb turned military fortress and papal residence turned museum. I visited the place on my own one Saturday evening and walked around cylindrical building, feeling like a medieval guard patrolling my castle. The view of the Tiber River and Ponte Sant'Angelo from the parapet walk along the castle's defensive walls was stunning. I caught a glimpse of the inner courtyard (where executions used to be performed...yikes), and walked up to the upper balconies where cafe tables provided the most perfect setting to enjoy coffee and a gorgeous view of Rome's skyline. After circling around the parapet a few times glancing out of every key hole (like the dork I am), I finally found my way up the roof terrace (where the statue of archangel Michael towers above) and witnessed the most breathtaking view of Rome from above as the sun set right over the Vatican.
All these little trips around Rome's historical sites are getting me super excited for my class trip down to the region of Campania this upcoming week. We'll be visiting Pompeii and climbing to the top of Mount Vesuvius...ahhhhh! I can't wait :) Fingers crossed I won't need to write my next blog post covered in fire lava and ash.