Imperial Rome & Historic Pisa - Day 16

by - 00:47

Bus & Tram Spotting at Rome Termini

As with the case for many European cities, Rome Termini is a bustling transport hub for both intercity train travel and for the city's comprehensive public transport network.

The Polish-built Solaris Trollino 18 were introduced into service in 2005 on the city's sole trolleybus service. To avoid disfigurement of the cityscape, the section of the trolleybus route within the city centre is not fitted with overhead wires. Instead, power is being provided by the onboard batteries or the backup generator. 8529 was photographed working the variant of express service 90 with the trolley poles being stowed along Viale de Nicola Enrico near Rome Termini.
Photobucket

After camping for a number of service 90 trolleybuses, we shifted our attention to the concentration of open top buses which call at the Rome National Museum (Museo Nazionale Romano). DA 019 LG is an Irisbus 491E.10.29 CityClass UNVI OpenTop operated by Trambus Open S.p.A on behalf of ATAC on the popular Service 110open Open Top tour. The billboard promotional titles on the nearside are repeated in Italian on the offside.
Photobucket

In addition to Service110open, Trambus Open S.p.A also operates the Archeobus open top tour which focuses on the archaeological ruins along the famed Appian Way (Via Appia), a strategic road in the ancient Roman republic. This service is operated with a unique fleet of Irisbus 397.10.35 single deck open top buses that are fitted with Dallavia Tintoretto Topless bodywork.
Photobucket

ED 142 EG is an interesting Irisbus Daily Open Top bus operated under the Roma Christiana banner by Trambus Open S.p.A on behalf of ORP (Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi). It was later re-deployed to operate guided tours within the compounds of the Vatican Gardens.
Photobucket

ATAC Service 64 provides an invaluable link between Rome Termini and the Vatican City. The resultant large number of tourists who use this bus service had attracted a disproportionately large number of professional pickpockets and a number of pickpocketing incidents had been reported on service 64. 7640 is a Citaro with a first generation front mask and was photographed approaching Rome Termini in the morning sun with a good load of passengers onboard.
Photobucket

4306 is an Irisbus 491E.12.27 CNG CityClass Cursor which was photographed nearing the end of the its route with a healthy number of standing passengers onboard. Service H plies between Rome Termini and Dei Capasso via Piazza Venezia where the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument(Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II) is located.
Photobucket

A post-WWII era Stanga tram weaving through the narrow sidestreets towards Rome Termini on route 14.
Photobucket

We adjourned to obtain more photos of the trams on route 5 & 14 which called along Via Farini to the south of Rome Termini.
Photobucket

The nearside view of the Stanga Tram revealed the multiple twin-jacknife bi-fold doors which help to speed up passenger boarding and alighting. In addition, the nearside end of the trailer is tapered to aid cornering at tight street junctions.
Photobucket

Although the aged Stanga trams make up the majority of the fleet on routes 5 and 14, newer Socimi T8000 trams can also be found operating on route 5 such as fleet number 9016.
Photobucket

With only two anticipated short trips on the metro for the day, we decided to purchase the more economical single ride ticket for €1 (left) instead of the more costly day pass that is priced at €4 (centre). The front of the paper ticket is printed with ticketing details such as cost and the expiry time. A magnetic strip and a security strip as well as the details for a lucky draw occupy the back of the ticket.
Photobucket

After several rides on the Rome metro system, we had started to get accustomed to the sudden acceleration and braking of the trains.
Photobucket

Colossus Colosseo

Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum had long been regarded as an icon of the ancient Roman Empire. Despite after falling into disrepair under the forces of nature and mankind over the past two millennia, the Colosseum never fail to awe millions of visitors with its subtle elegance.

We were able to skip the long queues at the entrance to the Colosseum and headed straight to the advance purchase queue with our pre-purchased e-ticket. Although the queue was equally as long, we soon discovered that the bulk of the visitors were in fact queuing to rent an audio guide for a self-guided tour. Armed with this discovery, we filtered through the crowd and headed straight for the ticket barriers where the printed copies of our e-ticket were scanned and we gained admittance into the bowels of the ancient amphitheatre.

The Colosseum featured tiered seating which served to segregate the different social classes in ancient Rome. Boasting a seating capacity of 50,000, it was said that that the design of the internal corridors and strategically position exits (known as vomitorium) allowed the crowd to be seated at their seats within 10 minutes of their arrival at the amphitheatre.
Photobucket

Heading back into the densely packed corridors, we attempted to find our way up to the second level of the Colosseum. The contradicting directional signs further added to our frustration before we discovered a steep staircase which allowed visitors to ascend to the upper gallery for a better view of the vast amphitheatre. A lift is also available for the mobility impaired visitors but was noted to be out of service at the time of our visit.
Photobucket

We were directed through an open exhibition area at the top of the steps which featured various artworks about the Colosseum. The real attraction, however, lies in the view of the intricate network of tunnels of the hypogeum from the upper gallery. The Colosseum featured a sand covered wooden stage during its heydays where gory gladiator fights and various savage animal acts were staged for the amusement of the citizens and the Emperor. An elaborate mechanical system connected the complex labyrinth of the hypogeum to the stage and allowed exotic animals such as lions to be released at predetermined locations during a show for effect. A subterranean link to the adjacent gladiator school, Ludus Magnus, was also explored in an episode of the acclaimed History Channel documentary, Cities of the Underworld. As with much of the monument, the hypogeum had fallen into disrepair and was covered in dirt and debris until it was finally excavated in the late 19th century.
Photobucket

The inner walls of the Colosseum were constructed out of bricks while the outer facade of the amphitheatre was constructed from travertine stone. The colossal 40 billion Italian lire (US$20.6 million) restoration effort performed towards the end of the 20th century did little to restore the functionality of the ruined interior which limited the ability of the Colosseum to stage events.
Photobucket

After our self-guided tour of the amphitheatre, we headed towards the exit to an open plaza where we admired it from its western face which was backlit against the intense late morning sun. Covering an area of 6 acres, the elliptical Colosseum spans 189m by 156m and was widely believed to had taken its name after the huge bronze Colossus of Nero statue that had used to stand near the amphitheatre.
Photobucket

We bade a fond farewell to one of us who had to return to our hotel to pick up his luggage and head to the airport for his mid-afternoon flight back home to Singapore. Meanwhile, we continued on to the adjacent Roman Forum. It was indeed perplexing that while the exit of the Colosseum led directly to the eastern exit for the Roman Forum, visitors were not allowed to enter by this convenient exit and had to endure a 10 minute walk under the sweltering summer heat to the main entrance.
Photobucket

The initials 'SPQR' could be found inscribed on a wide variety of public works infrastructure such as drain covers and also form an integral part of ATAC's (Rome's public transport operator) crest. The initials are derived from the Latin phrase, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus which could be loosely translated to "The Senate and People of Rome", and refer to the government of the Roman Republic in ancient times. The initials were also emblazoned on the standards of the Roman legion.
Photobucket

Via dei Fori Imperali was originally built to facilitate grandiose military parades by the fascist regime in the 1930s. While we were not able to witness such a spectacle today, we chanced upon a Bolivian street parade which was certainly no less in terms of pomp and ceremony albeit in a different form.
Photobucket

Curious visitors and passers-by took in the opportunity to soak in the colourful sight and posed for photos with the performers who were decked out in shimmering gold costumes.
Photobucket

Roman Forum

After documenting the revelry, we headed to the main entrance of the Roman Forum along Via dei Fori Imperali where our printed e-tickets were scanned before heading through the turnstiles. The Roman Forum was the social, economic and political centre of ancient Rome and housed some of the most important organs of state and temples of the empire.

Two neat rows of misshapen and charred stumps of stones were all that remained of Basilica Aemilia after it was burnt to the ground in the 5th century AD by the invading Visgoths. Despite its name, the structure served no religious purposes in ancient Rome and was instead used as a meeting hall by the politicians, moneylenders and publicani (businessmen delegated by the state to collect taxes). Situated behind the Basilica, the ungainly brown building is known as the Curia and was restored in 1937. It served as the meeting venue of Rome's Senate and was rebuilt thrice in ancient history.
Photobucket

View towards the western end of the Roman Forum with the Capitoline Hill in the background. Amongst the jumble of ruins, we managed to make out the eight surviving columns of the Temple of Saturn which paid homage to the mythical god-king of Rome. The ruins of Basilica Julia could be seen to the left of the photo and once housed important courts of justice in ancient Rome.
Photobucket

The triumphal arch of Septimus Severus (Arco di Settimo Severo) is one of the best preserved monuments in the Roman Forum and was erected in 203 AD to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the ascension of Emperor Septimus Severus to the Roman throne.
Photobucket

Tourists in comfortable, modern clothing now throng the dusty streets of the Roman Forum instead of aristocrats clad in their white togas, while broken columns littered the grounds as a stark reminder of the downfall of what was once the greatest civilisation of its time.
Photobucket

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (Templo di Antonino e Faustina) was initially dedicated by Emperor Antoninus Pius to his late wife Faustina in AD 141 before it was later rededicated to both of them upon the death of the emperor. The current structure gained its distinctive baroque facade in 1601 after the site was converted into the Church of St Lorenzo. At the time of our visit, the facade was shrouded in construction scaffolding as extensive restoration works were underway to preserve the monument.
Photobucket

The three slender Corinthian columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux (right) were all that had remained from one of the most beautiful structures in the Roman Forum. The temple was widely believed to be dedicated to the mythical twins and patrons of horsemanship, Castor and Pollux who had reportedly helped the Romans to victory in the battle against the Tarquin Kings in 499 BC. The temple housed the city's office of weights and measures after it was rebuilt by Emperor Tiberius following a devastating fire in AD 6. The partially reconstructed Temple of Vesta is situated to the east (left) and was one of the most sacred buildings in ancient Rome. Housing the Eternal Flame which was tended to by six handpicked Vestal Virgins, it was the epicentre of the cult of Vestals who followed a strict code of honour and duty.
Photobucket

We moved on to the eastern section of the Roman Forum along Via Sacra where the domed Temple of Romulus (Tempio del Divo Romolo) is located. Dating from the 4th century and serving as a vestibule to the Church of Santi Cosma e Damiano (which is located in an ancient hall of Emperor Vespasian's Forum of Peace), the structure still retains its original bronze door that continue to function perfectly to this day.
Photobucket

Though weathered through the ages, the details of the intricate craftsmanship on the columns could still be seen (left). Seemingly random pieces of rocks and stones were inscribed with a serial number for tracking purposes (right).
Photobucket

Regarded as the largest building in the Roman Forum, the three vast barrel vaults of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius were used as courts of law. Construction of the building started in AD 308 under Emperor Maxentius and continued under the new regime after he was deposed of by Constantine at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in AD 312.
Photobucket

The Arch of Titus guides visitors to the exit of the Roman Forum towards the Colosseum. The triumphal arch was erected by Emperor Domitian in AD 81 to commemorate the victories of his brother Titus and his father, Vespasian in Judaea after a lengthy four-year long campaign. The arch had once spanned across the flagstoned Via Sacra, but it had been roped off to prevent further damage to the monument by the daily onslaught of visitors today.
Photobucket

We made use of the convenient metro system to return to Rome Termini for lunch and prepare for our departure to the next city on our itinerary. As part of the efforts to preserve as much of the existing architecture, the entrance for Colosseo Metro station on Linea B was integrated into an existing wall along Via dei Fori Imperali.

Photobucket

Photobucket

With our pleasant experience dining at the self-service restaurant at Rome Termini the previous evening, we decided to settle for lunch at the same location. The cost of the Amico set menu was the same for lunch as for dinner (€9.90), but with different items available for selection. Clockwise from top left: Risotto alla Parmigi, Carote Trifolate(Sautéed Carrots with Fish in Olive Sauce) and Petto Pollo(Grilled Chicken Breast with Potatoes).
Photobucket

Eurostar City Italia (Frecciabianca)

Photobucket

Trenitalia is the national railway operator in Italy and like with the rest of Europe, it offers a convenient and quick way to move around the country. Apart from the 2 different classes of Regio (Regional) trains that serve the thinner feeder routes and stop at most stations, the long distance trains are divided into a number of categories primarily based on their speed. The high speed rail services are collectively known as Frecce Alta Velocità or High Speed Arrow and are further divided into three different types based on the speed.

The flagship service of Trenitalia is known as the Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) which are the fastest trains in the system and run on purpose-built high speed lines on the main trunk routes. The Frecciargento (Silver Arrow) forms the next class of service and are operated by Pendolino trainsets on routes where the superior speed and comfort of the 'tilting trains' are amply demonstrated in the course of negotiating the numerous curves of the track. The Frecciabianca (White Arrow) are the basic high speed rail services and had been combined together with the Eurostar City Italia under a single branding from 2012. The Frecciarossa and Frecciargento services are differentiated by the "AV" prefix (which stands for Alta Velocità) attached to the run number, white the Frecciabianca services have a "ES" prefix instead.

It certainly pays to know the type of service, scheduled departure time and the terminating station of the train as the run number is not reflected on the information board at all stations. However, the premium high speed services (AV prefix) are often allocated adjacent platforms with its own service desk at the start of the platform.
Photobucket

We located the appropriate train platform for our Eurostar City Italia (now rebranded as Frecciabianca) service to our next destination, the historical university town of Pisa. Our Eurail Select Pass allowed us free travel on the entire spectrum of Trenitalia's services but we had to make a compulsory reservation of €10 for each passenger per sector on the high speed services. With the additional cost and hassle involved, the reservation cost had reduced the attractiveness of the Eurail Pass to many independent travellers when travelling in Italy as Trenitalia also offers steep discounts for advance booking.
Photobucket

Contrary to what we had read online, our experience on Trenitalia was generally positive with the vast majority of the long distance trains running on schedule with minimal delays.
Photobucket

The Frecciabianca services consist of first and second class refurbished UIC-X carriages, with the former configured in a comfortable 2+1 seating configuration. The thick padded seats in the clean carriages and strong air-conditioning made it a pleasant 3hr ride from Rome to Pisa. We had also reserved the block of 4 facing seats situated in the middle of carriage which allowed us to be seated together and came with a fold-out table for us to rest our hand carry items. A power point is also available for passengers who wish to charge their electronic devices.
Photobucket

Located by the Tyrrhenian coast 80km to the west of Rome, the railway station serving the sea port of Civitavecchia had a sizeable of collection of various Trenitalia rolling stock stabled in its expansive yard.
Photobucket

Colours of summer - Bright yellow sunflower fields set amongst the gentle rolling hills of the Tyrrhenian coast.
Photobucket

Photobucket

Platform display upon arrival at Stazione Pisa Centrale. The LED display showed that the final destination of our train was Genoa which is situated along the north-western coast of the Italian Riviera. In addition, our train was also running 5 minutes behind schedule.
Photobucket

Pisa

Once an important port along the lucrative western Mediterranean trading route between Spain and North Africa in the 11th to 13th century, the city of Pisa had now transformed into a vibrant university community, with its renowned architectural heritage providing a crucial link to its glorious past.

We had chosen Pisa as a base to explore the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa and the beautifully ragged coast of the Italian Riviera. After taking into consideration our dependency on the Trenitalia network for this portion of our trip, we decided to book ourselves at the Hotel La Torre which is a convenient 5-minute walk from the train station.
Photobucket

As the hotel was not equipped with lifts, we had a fair amount of challenge to cart our luggage up to the third storey through the narrow corridors and stairwells. Our quad room turned out to be a standard double room which had the sofa being converted into a bed. An additional bed took up the remaining space in the room and it was certainly tricky to move around the room without tripping over open luggage or the furniture! A small CRT television provided the only entertainment option in the room. The attached bathroom and shower, however, was clean and functional.
Photobucket

Armed with just a woefully inadequate city map from the hotel, we set off in the general direction of the Piazza dei Miracoli where the Leaning Tower of Pisa is located. After skirting around a large construction site near Piazza Vittorio Emmanuel II, we chanced upon the pedestrianized Corso Italia which serves as the main shopping thoroughfare in the city. However, most of the shops were closed for the day despite the fact that it was only 6.30pm.
Photobucket

The sight of the River Arno soon greeted us as we emerged into the warm sunshine of the early evening sun after threading through the confusing backlanes of the old city quarter. Traditional buildings with the light earthen hues that are characteristic of the Tuscan region line both sides of the river and provided a striking yet pleasing contrast to the cloudless blue sky. The Ponte della Forteza is one of the several combined pedestrian and vehicular bridges that link both parts of the city together.
Photobucket

We soon found ourselves lost in time as we stepped into the labyrinth-like backlanes in our quest to find the shortest and most direct route to be in time for our pre-booked tour of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Instead, we were distracted by the laid-back charm that exuded from the centuries-old buildings (left) and other objects of interest such as a tri-axle pick up that seemed to be modified from a Vespa.
The Latin numerals at the base of a statue that form the centrepiece of Piazza Garibaldi indicated that it had dated from 1892 (right).
Photobucket

The Piazza dei Cavalieri, or Knight's Square owes its name to being the headquarters of the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen during the Renaissance period in the 15th to 16th century. It was once the political centre of medieval Pisa and is now part of the Pisa University. The Palazzo dei Cavalieri features an intricate sgraffito decoration on its expansive facade and now houses the university's prestigious Sculoa Normale Superiore di Pisa.
Photobucket

The adjacent Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri was built for the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen who were formed by the Granduke Cosimo de Medici to combat Saracen piracy in the western Mediterranean. Featuring an attractive white marble Baroque facade, the church was consecrated in 1569 and houses trophy banners that were captured during encounters with the Saracen pirates at sea.
Photobucket

Piazza dei Miracoli - Square of Miracles

The Piazza dei Miracoli refers to the concentration of distinct religious buildings that had come to symbolise the city of Pisa. We had initially thought that the Leaning Tower of Pisa would be easy to spot from afar but was in fact hidden from view from the cluttered streets that surround the lush green fields. We arrived right on time to validate our booking at the office and deposit our belongings at the secured left-luggage room.

The famed Leaning Tower of Pisa was originally built to serve as a bell tower to the Cathedral in 1372. However, the tilt of the tower was unintentional and was primarily caused due to an inadequate 3m deep foundation in weak unstable subsoil. After extensive restoration work, the tower now tilts at 3.99 degrees (from 5.5 degrees prior to restoration).
Photobucket

Ornate details on the marble columns at the base of the tower. The foundations of the tower were laid in 1173 during the height of military superiority and prosperity of the city.
Photobucket

The tour cost €17 per person and a maximum of 30 people are allowed for each half-hourly tour. Each tour is led by 2 staff from the Opera della Primaziale Pisana. The ascent up to the topmost level is divided into 3 tiers and visitors were allowed to rest and take in the vista at each tier before continuing up the spiral stone staircase. Warning signs were also posted along the staircase to caution visitors of the danger of slipping on the stone steps which had been worn smooth over centuries of use.
Photobucket

View of the adjacent Duomo at an elevation of 54.5m atop the bell chamber of the tower. The top of the tower did not feel significantly tilted as one side of the tower had been intentionally constructed to be higher than the other in a bid to correct the tilt of the tower.
Photobucket

View to the east. The urban sprawl of the city soon gives way to the large open agricultural fields.
Photobucket

View to the north-east with the foothills forming a backdrop to the clusters of low-rise buildings and pockets of greenery. The city name is also splashed across in bold across the spectator stands of the Arena Garibaldi.
Photobucket

7 bells are arranged in a clockwise manner on the top tier of the tower according to the musical scale. We had an opportunity to experience the clanging of the bells at close proximity at the time of our visit as the bells were rang at 1920hrs to mark the start of the Corpus Christi procession from the adjacent Cathedral.
Photobucket

The Corpus Christi happened to fall on our day of visit, 26 Jun 2011 and is a significant date in the Catholic calendar where the feast was also celebrated with an Eucharistic procession, in which the Sacred Host was carried throughout the town, accompanied by hymns and litanies.
Photobucket

After the visit to the leaning tower, we spent a fair amount of time attempting the standard poses of appearing to "prop" up the leaning tower with our bodies. It was also an excellent opportunity to enjoy the sunset and watch the locals going about on their leisurely evening walks with their pets in tow amongst hordes of excited visitors.

Although the skies were still bright due to the late sunset in summer, most of the eateries around Piazza dei Miracoloi had closed for the day and we were left with McDonald's as the sole option to settle our hunger pangs. Some of us decided to try the CBO (Chicken, Bacon & Onion) burger which was different to the usual options that we have back home. An upsized set meal cost €7.30 with a large fries and soft drink and the burger did not disappoint with a good serving of bacon and a chicken patty sandwiched between 2 buns with bits of bacon sprinkled on top.
Photobucket

The last rays of the setting sun heralds the arrival of dusk where the intense blue hues of the darkening sky complement the warm glow of the street lamps to form an alluring scene within the ramparts of the Piazza del Miracoli.
Photobucket

The striking lit white marble facade of the Duomo and the accompanying details of its roofline stood out crisply against the darkening sky at dusk.
Photobucket

Baptistery at dusk. The distinct round Romanesque building was built in the middle of the 12th century in 1153 and is considered to be the largest baptistery in Italy with a circumference of 107.25m and even being marginally taller than the Leaning Tower.
Photobucket

The Leaning Tower of Pisa recorded a maximum tilt of 5.4m from the true vertical in 1993. A delicate balance had to be struck against correcting the tilt to ensure its stability and to ensure that the tilt remains discernible to continue to sustain the valuable tourism industry.
Photobucket

A final look at the Piazza del Miracoli. The name was created by the Italian writer and poet Gabriele d'Annunzio in his novel Forse che sì forse che no in 1910, the continued preservation of these spectacular monuments had truly been a miracle with due consideration of the tumultuous events that had unfolded over the past 900 years.
Photobucket

Mindful of the maze-like lanes of the old city quarter, we decided to stick to the main road for the walk back to our hotel. However, the encroaching darkness due to the dimly lit roads tested our alertness for the next half an hour as we tried to identify familiar landmarks. The rumble of a passing train allowed us to regain our bearings and we simply followed Via Porta A Mare which led us to Via Cesare Battisti where our hotel was located after crossing the River Arno on Ponte della Cittadella.

Next Post: Cinque Terre - Day 17

Previous Post: Rome, City of Eternal Monuments - Day 15

You May Also Like

0 comments