All posts by Giulia Cipriani

Pincio

Happy Valentine! Top Five Romantic Places in Rome

Are you in Rome with your Valentine to celebrate? Let me suggest the best romantic places in Rome to make your Roman holiday the most romantic ever… and impress your lover!

Pincio

Just above Piazza del Popolo, on this terrace you can have the best panorama in Rome. Visit it at sunset and add some magic atmosphere!

gianicolo

Looking for a different point of view? Choose the Janiculum Hill with its park, just across the Tiber river for another magnificent panorama. End your perfect Valentine day with a dinner in the charming district of Trastevere, just below the hill.

castel sant'angelo

Nearby St. Peter Basilica, this was emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum later transformed in a fortress. Reach it from Ponte S. Angelo and go to the terraces overlooking the river. And once you are there… enjoy the atmosphere.

giardino degli aranci

Just beside the medieval church of Santa Sabina, on the Aventine Hill, this is one of my favorite places in Rome. A small, cozy garden full of orange trees with an amazing view on the river and St. Peter’s dome. Charming.

laghetto

Do you feel like being more active? Go to the small lake of Villa Borghese and rent a boat. What could be more romantic than this?You’ll got also a good chance to show off your muscles :)

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Pictures credits:

 

The Temple of Saturn

Unknown gods and familiar habits. The Temple of Saturn

In this tale we are going to talk about a pretty unknown Roman god, Saturn, who left us a very popular custom.

Who was God Saturn ?

Saturn was one of the most ancient and important divinities of the Roman religion, the legendary king who, according to the tradition, ruled Italy in the Golden Age. Archaic Roman society was a rural one, hence this Golden Age was strictly related with agriculture, and this was exactly Saturn’s field. Inside his temple was an ivory statue of him which was empty and filled with olive oil – related with agriculture: Lazio was (and still is) rich in olive trees – and whose legs were fettered with woolen strings.

Saturnalia, something familiar

After the end of the autumn planting, Saturn was celebrated with a feast, the Saturnalia, that officially lasted from December the 17th until the 23rd. In the first day the woolen strings were loosened and the priest sacrificed  a sow that was later eaten in a sacred banquet.

Ave, Caesar! Io, Saturnalia! Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema - 1880 Akron Art Museum (United States) Painting - oil on panel

Saturnalia were the most loved feast of the Roman year. During this holiday week people used to invite friends and relatives for private banquets, offering them food and small gifts, such as candles, food, small clay figurines, usually accompanied by greeting cards … Does it sound familiar? Of course it does! The Saturnalia were so popular among the Romans that when the empire became Christian (in the 4th century AD) all those habits were handed over to Christmas!
So… blame Saturn, next time you’ll be in a hurry for last minute Christmas gifts! :)

This feast had also another peculiarity, during those days social norms were reversed and restrictions were relaxed:  gambling was allowed and masters would serve their slaves. This general sense of freedom was considered to be a memory of the Golden Age ushered by the God. People used to wear the pileus, a cap normally used by the freed slave, that was more or less like the Smurfs’ hat (I swear!).

Because of the laxity this period was perfect for murders and conspiracies and many famous episodes happened during it: Catilina’s conspiracy, murder of Geta by Caracalla and also that of Commodus. Latin writer Seneca complains that because of the Saturnalia “the whole mob has let itself go in pleasures”.

The Temple

The Temple of Saturn, was built a long long time ago in the very heart of Rome, the Roman Forum. It was dedicated exactly in 498 B.C.: that’s why I said long long time ago! It’s not only old, not exactly the oldest one, but is the oldest temple officially recorded by the Pontiffs, a kind of pagan priests who were in charge of recording the most important events. According to tradition, to myth, it was erected on the same spot of an older altar built by God Saturn himself, when he founded the first village on the Capitoline Hill.

This temple, as most of Roman ones, was also used as a kind of public office: public documents were displayed on its walls. And here was also the Roman Treasury, where coins and ingots were stored, and also the official scale used for coins.

Don’t be surprised by the fact that the treasury was in this temple: as mentioned above, Saturn was a god linked with fertility and rural world and for the archaic Romans wealth consisted of harvests and cattle: the Latin word pecunia, “wealth”, comes from pecus, “sheep“… and, despite you’re not a farmer, you still preserve a memory of this link when use the English word pecuniary!

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Pictures credits

  • The temple of Saturn – All rights reserved, with permissions – Andrea Moro
  • Painting  “Ave, Caesar! Io, Saturnalia!” – Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema – 1880 – Akron Art Museum (United States)
  • “Mithra killing the bull” – 2nd-3rd century AD – National Museum in Warsaw
IMG_0336-3

What’s in a name? The true story of the Colosseum’s Name

The Colosseum is the most famous monument of the city, if you think about Rome you think about the Colosseum and everywhere it is known as the Colosseum … but actually this is not the right name!

Pretend to be an ancient Roman, walking in the crowded noisy streets of  Rome and asking someone “Sorry, where is the Colosseum?” … No one could respond you. People would look at you like: WHAT? Because in Romans time this monument was known as the Flavian Amphitheater, or simply … THE amphitheater. Flavian because it was built in the 1st century A.D. by the emperors of the Flavian dynasty: Vespasian (69-79), the father, and the two sons Titus (79-81) and Domitian (81-96). Amphitheatre comes from the Greek preposition “amphi”, that means double (like amphibious or amphora), because is like two theatres back to back.

The True Story

So why we call it “Colosseum”? It’s really a nice story…
All starts in 64 A.D.: the Colosseum had yet to be built, Nero was the emperor and a huge fire destroyed the most part of the city, specially the area around the amphitheater itself (fires were quite frequent in ancient Rome).

After the fire, on the ruins of burned houses, Nero decided to build his own giant brand new villa in the centre of Rome: the Domus Aurea, or Golden House… a little bit megalomaniac project, but that’s Nero!

Domus Aurea

This villa was spread in a huge area and where now is the Colesseum valley was a beautiful garden with trees, plants, pavilions and finally…where now stands the Colosseum … a lake, the Stagnum Neronis or Nero’s lake.

The entrance of this villa was opened on the Roman Forum and it was decorated with a huge golden bronze statue of Nero: it was 35 meters high (or 100 feet for Americans), the largest bronze statue in the ancient world. To have an idea is more or less like the third floor of the Colosseum! So, really, really tall.

You can understand that people were not so happy about this villa so, after Nero’s death, the new emperor, Vespasian to please them decided to give back that part of the city to the people, building something for them…and what better than a Colosseum?!

So he just dried the lake and used the basin for the foundations of the amphitheater. The most part of the Domus Aurea was abandoned but the giant statue was left in the same place, simply erasing Nero’s face and putting the God Sun’s one… I guess also because of the weight!

In fact when more or less fifty years later another emperor, Hadrian, decided to built the biggest temple in Rome, the Temple of Venus and Rome, in the same place of the statue, he had to move it and needed a cart pulled by 25 elephants!

The statue was actually only moved few meters, nearest to the Colosseum: on the north-west side of the Colosseum is now a flowerbed made in tufa blocks that is a reconstruction of the original base of the statue; the original one was destroyed by Mussolini in 1936. It’s not a big distance, but the statue was so heavy and big that elephants were needed. This statue began to be called “Colossus”, because it was colossal, obviously.

Nero colossus
During the Middle Ages (since the 11th century), when the amphitheater was abandoned and no one could remember its true name and what it was for, the people began to call it Colosseum, simply because it was close to the Colossus. Unfortunately the statue is now lost because, later on in the Middle Ages, it was melted down to reuse the bronze. But we still use the name, Colosseum … And that’s why we call it so.


Love at first sight

The best “first sight” of the Colosseum is from the Fagutal: when you exit the subway try to resist and not to look outside; don’t exit from the main door but take the staircase on the right. You’ll reach the top of the Fagutal  hill and you’ll have the best first sight ever!

If you liked the story, don’t forget to follow my updates on Twitter and Facebook!


Pictures Credits:

  • Colosseum – All rights reserved, with permissions – Andrea Moro
  • Nero’s Domus Aurea – CC BY 2.0 – Jennifer May
Appia antica

Welcome to Tales of Rome

Hi everybody!

First of all, let me introduce myself. I am Giulia,  an archaeologist. Now, it happens that, pretty unfortunately, being archaeologist in Italy doesn’t mean that you have a job exactly…
So for this and many other reasons, few years ago I started to work also as an Official Rome tourist guide.

And, I must say, I discovered that I really like it!
First: tourists are usually happy people thus it is nice to work with them :)
Second: this is the perfect way to share my knowledge, all the things that I have studied for the last 14 years.
Third: I love to learn new stories and curiosities about my city, and this is a way to turn it into a job.

And so, starting the new job and new life I have used my Roman friends as guinea pigs to check my stories and they loved them! I swear that I have heard them telling my stories to someone else.

So that is why I opened this blog. Share my stories, tales and tips about Rome, the cities’ queen.

I know, the Internet is full of pages about Rome and Romans. Anyway could you discern if they are telling you the truth? I think real history is interesting enough that you don’t need more fanta-archaeology and fake misteries to enjoy it.

Trust me, I’m an archaeologist :)

For all my foreign friends: enjoy my blog, share it and if you will come to Rome contact me to book your private tour or simply for asking more tips.

For all my Italians friends: enjoy my blog too, share it too and stay tuned because I am going to organize guided tours also in Italian and share Italian content soon, to discover the hidden treasures or better know the most famous attractions of the city.

Thanks to my personal communication guru and husband I also have a facebook page: Talesofrome so… like it and share it!

And don’t forget my twitter account where you’ll be able to find all the news: follow me @talesofrome!

Let’s start this Rome journey! I hope you’ll like it!