It seems that every week my blog post begins with the same sentiment: I can’t believe how quickly the time here is slipping through my fingers. After completing all of my midterms last week, I was relieved to have a week long break, but I was also upset that my time abroad is almost over. When I first arrived, I was constantly thinking about my dogs, my friends, my university, and everything that I missed about being at home. Now that it’s October, I’m beginning to consider everything that I’ll miss about living in Italy. How will I be able to live without an espresso machine at home, infinite gelato shops on every corner, and ancient artifacts within walking distance? How have I been here for three months without seeing the Roman Forum and the Palatine hill? On Thursday afternoon I realized that I seriously need to get moving if I want to visit all of the museums, ruins, and sites on my itinerary.
In order to motivate myself to visit as many museums as possible during my break, I picked up a three day Roma Pass. The Roma Pass provides free entrance to two museums or archaeological sites, free access to all public transportation within the city of Rome, and discounted tickets to most of the museums in Rome. It also allows you to skip the long lines at major attractions like the Colosseum and the Castel Sant’Angelo, which makes the Roma Pass a valuable asset. Certain sites are grouped together, like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, and other museums have multiple branches throughout the city. By selecting two sites with multiple attractions, it is possible to visit plenty of museums with the two free admissions. We visited four sites in three days: the Palatine Hill/Roman Forum/Colosseum, the National Roman Museum (the Baths of Diocletian and the Palazzo Massimo), the Castel Sant’Angelo, and the National Etruscan Museum. Regular admission for these museums would have cost around 42€. The Roma Pass was only 36€ and provided us with free access to public transportation as well. The purpose of this long-winded paragraph is to recommend the Roma Pass to anyone who loves museums, hates paying for individual bus tickets, and values their time too much to stand in long lines.
In three short days I was able to see many of the sites and museums on my “must see while in Rome” itinerary. In fact, I took so many pictures during the three days that I’m going to share them throughout my next two blog posts. I wanted to produce one post about the experience, but I realized that this would be impossible to write coherently in a short post (and it wouldn’t be enjoyable to read). Instead, today’s post will consist of my favorite pictures from the experience and historical context about Hadrian and the Castel Sant’Angelo.
The next day we visited the Palazzo Massimo and the Baths of Diocletian, which are two branches of the National Roman Museum. I could have never imagined how extensive the collections would be. The statues, frescoes, and inscriptions that I have studied for three years were in display cases right in front of me. Roman museums are unlike anything else that I have ever visited.
On the third day of our Roma Pass adventure, we were exhausted. We started at the Castel Sant’Angelo in the mid-afternoon, and once again we enjoyed the ability to enter the site without waiting in line. The Castel Sant’Angelo was designed by the emperor Hadrian and erected between 134 and 139 AD. Although it was constructed as a mausoleum for Hadrian and his family, many of the original contents were destroyed and removed after it was converted into a fortress in the 5th century. Today the Castel Sant’Angelo is a museum, and it mostly focuses on the building’s history as a fortress and prison. The museum contains sparse references to Hadrian, the man who designed and constructed this magnificent mausoleum, which was once the tallest building in Rome.
To be honest, I was disappointed to see that Hadrian’s memory was almost erased from this monument. In honor of Hadrian, who is one of my favorite Roman emperors, I would like to share some facts about his life and his accomplishments. Born in Spain, Hadrian was orphaned at the age of ten and was raised by the future emperor Trajan, one of his father’s cousins. Under the guidance of Trajan, Hadrian pursued a political career and held various public positions in his cursus honorem. Hadrian, while on a military campaign in Syria, was adopted by his predecessor Trajan, who was deathly ill at the time. Due to the fact that Trajan’s wife, Plotina, signed the adoption document, this adoption was controversial. Hadrian had to earn his new position as emperor by securing an endorsement from the legions and the Senate. After obtaining power, Hadrian spent more than half of his reign travelling outside the city of Rome. As emperor, Hadrian avoided militaristic pursuits (aside from the Second Roman-Jewish war) and he reduced the territories of Rome by declaring certain possessed lands to be indefensible. The Senate did not support Hadrian’s policy of non-aggression, and some historians believe that the emperor’s travels allowed him to avoid dealing with the Senate in Rome.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Hadrian had a passion for architecture. Having been raised in the house of Trajan and his architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, Hadrian was inspired to pursue his architectural goals as emperor. Hadrian designed many of the buildings at his villa in Tivoli, constructed his family’s mausoleum, rebuilt the Pantheon, and built a new temple based on his design that Apollodorus had ridiculed. He also wrote poetry in both Latin and Greek, fortified Britannia with a wall, and re-popularized the beard. Hadrian is an fascinating historical figure, and visiting the Castel Sant’Angelo was an interesting opportunity to think about his impact on the history of Rome.
Now that I have a week to explore Rome (and the rest of Italy), I’m looking forward to writing more posts and sharing more photos from these museums. I hope to write a few new blog posts this week while I’m on the train to Pisa, Florence, and Venice. Thanks for reading! Arrivederci!