The Colosseum

‘Il Colosseo’, The Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

My God, the Colosseum. Largest elliptical amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, smack-dab in the center of Rome. Vespasian’s baby must have been a beauty in her day, and is still a sight to see. Another major checkmark on my life-list, and another site begging for an augmented reality application; we want to see this thing in its heyday! As ruins go, this one is a little easier to imagine fully constructed, simply because there’s a lot of it left. Even though the place was as packed with tourists as any site in Rome, I never felt herded along like I did at the Vatican. I would love to return here one day on the off-season and get the deluxe tour, or even just wander around aimlessly for awhile and imagine the cheers of 50,000 gladiatorial spectators.

The Roman Forum

foro romano

‘Foro Romano’, The Roman Forum in Rome, Italy.

We saw so many ruins at the beginning of our most recent trip to Europe. So much rubble can start to get a little boring. Minus a few exceptions, when you’ve seen one toppled column and pottery fragment-you’ve seen them all. However, the Roman Forum was one of those exceptions. It’s hard not to be impressed when you’re standing in the thick of it. You just yearn for some way to see it in its former splendor. C’mon geeks-put out some kind of augmented reality rig so I can see these ruins rebuild themselves. Better yet, give me an iPhone app. Personally, I have a totally inflated and unrealistically romantic ~idea~ of history, so I couldn’t help but be in awe by the fragments of human achievement I was surrounded by. The old saying, “They just don’t build ’em like they used to,” is appropriate. I wonder how many of our modern glass and steel boxes will still be around a couple hundred years from now. And I wonder if they’ll look this good.

Views from Villa Guilia

Views from Villa Guilia by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, Bartolomeo Ammanati, and Giorgio Vasari in Rome, Italy.

This was intended to be a refreshing respite from the hot dinginess of the city. I’m sure it was incredible ‘back-in-the-day’, but these days, the water garden grotto was more of a swampy pit. I imagine it’s hard to up-keep when they don’t charge admission… Overall, the place was in decent condition, it just needed a good scrub and some patches here and there. You couldn’t actually access the Nymphaeum grotto area (bottom middle) with the statues-which is exactly where I wanted to be on that sweaty afternoon, but the semi-circular Vignola courtyard (top right) was nice and shady and fairly impressive as a sketch (I did the procession-view style, so mine doesn’t do it justice. Some of my students got nice drawings out of it though!).

The Spanish Steps

‘Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti’, The Spanish Steps by Alessandro Specchi and Francesco de Sanctis in Rome, Italy.

Ah, the Spanish Steps, absolutely classic. Definitely a huge check box on my life-list. Over the course of my recent trip to Europe, I became interested in outdoor public spaces. I tried compiling a list of attributes of successful public spaces. The list includes things like; shade tree, places to sit, children’s play areas, cafes open to the square, furniture, fountains, pedestrian/bike zones, etc. The Spanish Steps don’t have all of those qualities, but they are incredibly successful as an active public space. The place is heavy with history, and the feeling of being in a quintessential Italian space negates the need for a playground or extra shade trees.

Plus, street vendors selling squashy rubber tomatoes!

Views from Villa Lante by Vignola in Bagnaia, Italy.

I created a narrative as I was walking through the gardens; treating the procession as some kind of epic journey/quest for the holy grail.

1. “Sculpture points the way forward to ascent. What lies ahead?
2. "A path diverted. A choice… Which is the true path? The mystical plantings raise more questions…”
3. “Greeted by a water choir-a shady respite on our journey.”
4. “Stopping for a snack with giants. Water fountains tower ahead making us seem even smaller.”
5. “Natural elements become a staircase. Walls made of shrubbery, a refreshing handrail. The Holy Grail is within our grasp.”
6. “The true reward-not the grail, but the eternal source."