Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (https://www.fodors.com/community/)
-   Europe (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/)
-   -   Help on ancient history route (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/help-on-ancient-history-route-1428814/)

PegS Jun 24th, 2017 12:14 PM

As much as I love Paris, it totally makes sense to drop it. Istanbul and Selcuk are marvels, and I remember the people in both places being so helpful and gracious. Before my first Turkey trip an old boss told me about standing atop the Basilica of St. John in Ephesus, looking at Isa Bey mosque in one direction and the remnants of the Temple of Artemis in the other, and marveling at the convergence of these great civilizations. I felt the same awe when I was able to visit.

massimop Jun 24th, 2017 12:17 PM

I travel around Europe a lot, in particular to its cities, and I can assure you that some cities basically cost more than others for everything People choosing Lisbon, Naples, Athens & Berlin have a noticeably cheaper trip than people choosing Amsterdam, London, Rome & London (although Brexit may get us Polish prices at the expense of Polish plumbers.)

Some of the "experts" here don't travel much around Europe methinks. They have their favorites to which they repeatedly return and really don't know how much cheaper Naples is than Rome when it comes to food, lodging, sightseeing, etc. when it comes to equivalent quality.

massimop Jun 24th, 2017 12:22 PM

I mean to add Paris to the list of the comparably more expensive cities, like Amsterdam, Rome & London.

As for the OP's calculations about Paris vs Rome, in terms of lodging, what you can get in central Rome for under 80e per night is MUCH better than anything in central Paris at the same price (I wouldn't even bother trying to go to Paris on that budget), especially since you cannot do AirBnb in Paris or practically any vacation rental safely.

rs899 Jun 24th, 2017 12:49 PM

"you cannot do AirBnb in Paris or practically any vacation rental safely."

Safely,yes. Legally, perhaps not.

eastenderusvi Jun 25th, 2017 09:48 AM

I hope you will spend lots of time at the British Museum while you are in London. They have the best of the ancient world under one roof. ;-)

rs899 Jun 25th, 2017 09:58 AM

"They have the best of the ancient world THAT THEY COULD STEAL under one roof. " (lol)

Not that other countries didn't do the same while they had the chance. And if they hadn't collected the Elgin marbles when they did would they exist now?

I was just there a week ago and saw an interesting side exhibit on how the BM moved them around when WW2 started. The gallery they are in now was damaged in the Blitz, but they were squirreled away in the underground.

bvlenci Jun 25th, 2017 11:37 AM

The other day, I prepared a very long answer to this post, because Roman history is a passion of mine. However, it vanished when I hit "submit". I was hoping its publication was just delayed, but I see that it's never appeared here. I'll try to reconstruct it, and this time I'll make a backup copy before submitting.

Most of what I say applies to Rome, but first I'll suggest that you skip Paris and spend a few days in Nîmes instead. Apart from the ancient ruins, you could take a day trip to the Pont du Gard, one of the best preserved ancient bridges anywhere. It's in a lovely park-like setting, and we were sorry we hadn't allowed more time for the visit. It's easily reached by train from Nîmes. You could also take a day trip to Avignon, by train, and immerse yourself in a little medieval history.

I strongly recommend that you visit the Capitoline Museums while in Rome. It's just above the Roman Forum, and you enter it from the beautiful Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo. The central building is the Rome city hall, and the other two buildings, which are connected below ground level, house the Capitoline Museums. These museums have one of the world's foremost collections of ancient sculpture, and many other artifacts of ancient Rome. The foundations of the Temple of Jupiter are inside, as well as a part of the Annals of Rome. There is also a little restaurant/cafeteria, which isn't a bad place to get a bite to eat after a visit to the Roman Forum.

From the side of the city hall, there are great views over the Forum; there is also a terrace inside the museum that has similar views. This is especially nice at night, when the Forum is nicely illuminated. In the winter, it's dark before the museum closes, but in the summer, you'd have to get the view from the piazza.

When visiting the Forum, don't neglect to also visit the Palatine Hill, which is reached by some steps leading up from the Forum. There are also some great views from the Palatine Hill, including a beautiful view of the Colosseum. The Palatine Hill had the palaces of the great families of the Roman Empire, including the Emperor's palace. In Renaissance and early modern times, some imposing gardens were planted here. It's still a greener and more peaceful place than the Forum. There's a small museum on the Palatine Hill which houses some of the statuary found there. On the lower level of the museum, there's an interesting display about the early development of the city.

Not far from the Roman Forum, the Domus Romane has a very well-done sound-and-light show illustrating the ruins of an upper-middle-class Roman dwelling. It must be reserved in advance. Since I was last there, they've added a feature about Trajan's Column, which is nearby, in front of Trajan's Market. You might want to visit there after your visit to the Domus Romane. Trajan's Market was really more an administrative center, with shops on the ground level. From inside, you can access the Via Biberatica, a very well preserved ancient street with intact shop fronts.

You might be able to visit all of these in one day: the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Capitoline Museums, Domus Romane, and Trajan's Market. It would be an intense day; I would save the Colosseum for the next day; the ticket is good for two consecutive days, for one entrance to the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill and one entrance to the Colosseum.

The National Roman Museum has four sites. The two that are best for Roman history are both near Termini station. Palazzo Massimo alle Terme has another world-class collection of ancient art, including rare wall paintings from the suburban villa of Livia, the wife of the Emperor Augustus. There are also spectacular mosaics and many interesting household and personal artifacts.

On the other side of the station, the Museo delle Terme di Diocleziano has an interesting permanent exhibit about the development of the written Latin language, including examples of the tools and supports used, and about what ancient Romans actually wrote when this was a cutting edge technology. As you enter the site, to the left is a large hall that was part of the ancient baths (terme) of Diocletian. (Termini station takes its name from the bath complex, and the name has nothing to do with the word "terminal".) Inside the hall, you can see two ancient painted Roman tombs, which were moved here after being discovered elsewhere.

The other two parts of the National Roman Museum are near the Pantheon. The Crypta Balbi relates the medieval history of the city, which was greatly diminished in size and wealth. (Much of the city was farmland and pasture in the early middle ages.) There are also some Roman water works and sewers under the Crypta Balbi, and they take groups down to see them at regularly scheduled times. Palazzo Altemps has some more Roman sculpture, but a lot of it was badly restored in the 17th century, sometimes by attaching a stray arm to a different armless statue. The most impressive thing there is the Ludovisi Throne, which is not a throne, but probably part of a temple pediment.

The Villa Giulia, on the northwestern end of the Villa Borghese Park, has one of the world's best museums of the Etruscan culture. The Vatican Museums also has an excellent Etruscan collection, as well as a wonderful Egyptian collection. You shouldn't miss these when you're there. For one thing, they're relatively free of the oppressive crowding you'll experience in other parts of the museum. The Vatican Museum also has a great collection of ancient sculpture.

The Case Romane, on the Celio Hill, are also worth a visit, especially with a guide who can explain the evolution of the site over the centuries. The excavations are under the church of SS Giovanni e Paolo, which has a beautiful Comatesque mosaic floor. The church's detached bell tower is constructed on the foundations of the temple of deified Emperor Claudius. At one end of the street, the end towards the Colosseum, there is an ancient arch which is thought to be part of one of the city gates in the ancient Severan wall, which has mostly disappeared. (A good section of this first Roman wall can be seen at Termini station.)

The Ara Pacis is worth a visit, but it doesn't take long to see it. They often have excellent temporary art exhibits there. Have a look, and shed a tear, at the nearby Mausoleum of Augustus, which has been allowed to deteriorate shamefully. They're supposed to be restructuring it now, and, one would hope, also cleaning up some of the trash, cutting down the weeds, and extirpating the vines that are destroying the bricks.

You also might want to visit one of the catacombs; there are five with regularly scheduled visits, all Christian. There are other catacombs that occasionally have tours, including some Jewish catacombs. Of the regularly open Christian catacombsm there are three south of the city, on or near the Via Appia Antica, and two north of the city. The Priscilla catacomb, on the Via Salaria, has some of the best early Christian art, including a 3rd century painted chapel, with illustrations of biblical scenes. The Saint Agnes catacomb, on the Via Nomentana, the only one to grow up around the tomb of a Christian martyr, is on a site that has other things to see, including the ruins of the early 4th century Basilica honoring St. Agnes; the present 7th century basilica, partly underground, and through which you enter the actual catacomb; and the church of Santa Costanza, one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings in the city. It was originally built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Constantine's daughter Costanza, who wanted to be buried near St. Agnes, but she died elsewhere and the building was turned into a church. The ambulatory ceiling is covered with mosaics, including one that illustrates an ancient Roman grape harvest.

The most popular catacombs on the Via Appia Antica are those of San Callisto. I actually prefer some of the lesser visited ones, as there are often very large groups at San Callisto, and if you're strung out on those narrow corridors, you can't hear the guide or see what he's pointing at. At all the other catacombs, I've always been part of a small group, sometimes almost a private tour. Near the Appia Antica, my favorite is the Catacomb of Domitilla, which has some good art work.

You should definitely visit the Via Appia Antica, preferably on a Sunday, when it's closed to most traffic. You can walk on a stretch of the ancient road, and there are lots of tombs along the route, as well as other ancient ruins, including the Circus of Maxentius and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella.

There are also excavations at the Vatican, including what is referred to as the "Scavi" tour. ("Scavi" in Italian just means excavations, including those at a modern construction site.) This tour takes you through an ancient Roman necropolis(different from a catacomb) in which it's believed that St. Peter was buried. You get to see the actual spot where it's believed his tomb was, before it was taken away temporarily to the Catacomb of Santo Stefano for safe-keeping during the early medieval invasions. Later it was returned, apparently to a slightly more protected spot, which you can't actually see from below, although later they take you to the crypt of the Basilica where you can see from above a light in front of the presumed tomb. Visits to this necropolis are available in very limited numbers. You can request a reservation on the Vatican website. There is also a Roman necropolis on the Via Triumphalis, which can usually be visited, although at the moment it's closed. This is usually reserved on the Vatican Museums website.

If you take a day trip to Tarquinia, you should also visit the Etruscan Museum in the center of town, where, among other things, you can see an entire Etruscan tomb moved there and reconstructed on site. The train station in Tarquinia is not in the center of town, and it's also not near the necropolis, but there is a bus connecting them. We drove there with our own car, so I can't help with the buses. We really liked the Etruscan necropolis at Cerveteri better, because it's better preserved in its entirety, although, artistically, there's more to see at Tarquinia. Cerveteri is, I think, a bit easier to reach with public transportation from Rome. There's another Etruscan Museum at Cerveteri, which we didn't get to see.

The Villa Adriana in Tivoli is very beautiful, but the purpose of many of the buildings is unknown. There just aren't enough ancient Roman imperial villas around to compare with! Tivoli has two other villas worth visiting, the Renaissance Villa d'Este, with its famous water garden; and the 19th century Romantic period Villa Gregoriana (which I've never seen, as it was closed when we were there).

One of the best guide books for people interested in ancient Rome is the Blue Guide to Rome. There is also an Oxford Archaeological guide, which is maybe a bit much for a short visit to the city.

PegS Jun 25th, 2017 03:50 PM

Wow, bvlenci! I'm saving this info since we may end up finally getting to Rome in 2018.

bilboburgler Jun 26th, 2017 04:34 AM

graet write up bvlenci

eastenderusvi Jun 26th, 2017 04:35 PM

" And if they hadn't collected the Elgin marbles when they did would they exist now?" No

rs899: When Lord Elgin *legally* removed the remaining pieces of the Parthenon, he allowed future generations to see them. All hail Lord Elgin!

GACG95 Jun 28th, 2017 01:29 PM

I appreciate everyone's help, truly. And a special thanks to bvlenci, that was a guidebook to Rome :D

rs899 Jun 28th, 2017 04:43 PM

"rs899: When Lord Elgin *legally* removed the remaining pieces of the Parthenon, he allowed future generations to see them. All hail Lord Elgin!"

Most likely, but the Rosetta Stone would have had just as nice of a home in the Louvre as in the B M.

eastenderusvi Jun 29th, 2017 04:04 PM

I don't think Lord Elgin had anything to do with the Rosetta Stone, quite honestly.

rs899 Jun 30th, 2017 02:13 AM

No, it was discovered by the French and passed into British care after one of Napoleon's defeats.

bilboburgler Jun 30th, 2017 03:31 AM

Elgin bought the marbles (just not from the people who now think it used to belong to their ancestors.)

but who paid for the Venus di Milo?

travelerjan Jun 30th, 2017 05:53 AM

Bilbo, Elgin's money (bribes) went to the Turkish Overlords who occupied and oppressed the Greeks for more than 400 years (actually 700 in some parts) -- during that period, the Turks used the Parthenon, a sacred sanctuary in Ancient Greece era, as a harem, house of prostitution, then as storehouse for ammunition (that's why an enemy's artillery shell blew up the center, after 2,000 years of survival. The Pasha in Athens did not Own the property he gave away ... What's this malarky about "people who now THINK it used to belong to their ancestors" ???? Do you mean Parthenon's marbles never were created by Greeks, maybe by North Europeans in animal skins who sneaked into Athens and sculpted them? Get serious

In their haste to strip the treasures off the temple, Elgin's hirelings sledgehammered sculptures and metopes, carelessly Dropped and broke many more. And Elgin didn't do this from Briish patriotism or "to save the art from destruction" -- he sold it as soon as he could, to British Museum. To compound the crime, the Museum curators thought the marble wasn't white enough to please its visitors, so they "treated it" with BLEACH - eroding it cruelly.

As for who paid for it, the peasant who found it sold it to the French, thru its ambassador. This of course would never happen today ... but in the 19th C, Greek peasantry was living in dire poverty, after centuries of occupation and exploitation, in islands that were barren and infertile to start with.

The Museums of Europe's "Great Powers" (Britain, France, Germany, Russia mainly) have MUCH to answer for, for the wholesale looting of treasures of the Mediterranean, Near East and Far East. It is too much to hope for that they'll ever admit "guilt" and return any of this ... at least I hope they drop the excuse that "we removed this art to protect it." Balderdash.

travelerjan Jun 30th, 2017 05:55 AM

Omission (no "edit" feature here!) - Paragraph #3 "who paid" refers to Venus Di Milo, not Parthenon.


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:33 PM.