Archiv für Mai 2013

The history of Rome

There is almost nobody who never heard the legend about Romulus and Remus. They were born to Princess Rhea Silvia who did not want them to be killed by their uncle Amulio. Therefore they were laid in wicker basket which was put into the Tiber River where they were found by the wolf who raised them well. After Romulus killed Remus, Rome was founded by him in 753 BC by combining several settlements. The name was given to the city after its founder, so Rome means “Romulus city”. In 6th century AD Rome was commanded by Etruscan kings. Later they were forced to leave and Rome became a republic which meant it started to be governed by the senate, not the King. The real power was in the hands of a few rich people – patricians. Consequently, Rome grew steadily until it conquered the whole Middle East countries and North Africa, including Spain. During the times of expansion, the Roman Empire stretched over the length of 4 thousands kilometres from the Red Sea to Scotland. Rome was the most politically important, richest and largest city in the Western World. Within 284-286 the empire was split into east and west. Under the rule of Emperor Constantine in 306-337, Rome was united again on the ground of the legalization of Christianity. The last Emperor of Rome was Romulus Augustus.

In 1527 Rome was plundered by the German and Spanish military units of the Emperor Charles V and later in 1797 it was occupied by Napoleon until 1814 when the religious state was restored again. The following years include unsuccessful attempt to create the Roman republic again. However, Italia became united in 1861 and in 1870 Rome was joined. Early after World War I., Rome was a witness of Italian Fascism which was guided by Benito Mussolini. In World War II, due to its status of an open city, Rome escaped the tragic destiny of other cities, but it was occupied until 1944 by the Germans.

After those wars, the city grew momentously during the post-war reconstruction and modernisation. It became a fashionable city in 1950s and 1960s which were the years of “the sweet life”. Due to its rich history Rome is a unique city where over 16% of the world´s cultural treasures are located.

Sightseeing in Rome

The Colosseum (built 70 AD – 80 AD) is an elliptical amphitheatre which is at the same time the largest ever built in the Roman Empire.

With a seating capacity estimated at 50,000 to 70,000, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles. It was in use for around 500 years with the last recorded games being held there as late as the 6th century.

Today, the Colosseum is a ruin, but is the symbol of Rome worldwide and is a major tourist attraction that is a must to see.

Saint Peter’s Basilica is the largest church building in Christendom and is one of the holiest sites of Christianity in the Catholic tradition. It is located in Vatican City.Construction on the current basilica began in 1506 and was completed in 1626.

There are over 100 tombs located within this magnificent building, which include 91 popes. The most recent interment was Pope John Paul II, on April 8, 2005.

Highlights inside the basilica include Michelangelo’s Pietŕ; and a 29 metres tall baldachin held by four immense pillars, designed by Bernini between 1624 and 1632.

You can walk up the massive dome (design started by Michelangelo, finished by Giacomo della Porta), for great views of the city.

Directly to the east of the church is the impressive St Peter’s Square (Piazza di San Pietro), built by Gianlorenzo Bernini between 1656 and 1667. The measurements of the square are 320m deep, its diameter is 240m and it is surrounded by 284 columns, set out in rows of four, and 88 pilasters. Papal blessings take place every Sunday at noon, except in summer.

The Trevi Fountain is the largest of the Baroque fountains of Rome.Work began in 1732, and was completed in 1762. The fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi, and finished by Giuseppe Pannini, following Salvi’s death in 1751. A traditional legend says that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome.

The fountain can be seen in several films including a scene in the 1953 comedy “Roman Holiday” with Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, and Eddie Albert; “Three Coins in the Fountain” and a scene of drenching Anita Ekberg in Federico Fellini’s “La dolce vita”.

The Pantheon was built by the Roman’s in 125 AD as a pagan temple. It is the best-preserved and most beautifully proportioned of Rome´s ancient monuments. The circular building has been in continuous use throughout its history. Since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Christian church.

Explore the culture of Rome

Rome is also called the „Eternal city“ and belongs to one of the most romantic cities in the world. It has been the centre of power, culture and religion which is world-known for its palaces, millennium-old churches and basilicas, grand romantic ruins, opulent monuments, ornate statues and graceful fountains. It is one of the most visited, famous and beautiful capitals in Europe. At present it has growing nightlife and it has been a shopping heaven that is regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world.

The best way to reach Rome is by train. The main station is close to the historic centre. However, there are several outlying stations as well. It is also possible to come by bus or plane and use the public transport as Rome has an extensive bus and metro system. In case you plan to take a taxi, check the Rome Taxi Tips to avoid being overcharged.

Rome is often associated with the smallest state; the Vatican which is is only 0.44 square kilometres large and has a population of nearly one thousand which is headed by the Pope. Its centre is the magnificent St. Peter´s Basilica where the Pope recites the Angelus prayers every Sunday. This basilica is a must for anybody coming to Rome. However, remember to dress properly as it is not allowed to wear short skirts, shorts or sleeveless dresses inside. The state also includes splendid Vatican Museums. You are recommended to book online before your visit as there might be long queues which might require a great deal of energy and patience. However, Vatican Museum complex is the largest art collections in the world. There are many paintings, books, frescoes, and Greek, Etruscan and Roman statues. One of the most famous sights is the Sistine Chapel which was named after Pope Sixtus IV. The twelve paintings on the left represent scenes from the life of Jesus Christ while the left side of the chapel shows scenes from the life of Moses. The most famous fresco is the Chapel of the Last Judgment which was the perfect work done by Michelangelo.

Tourists are recommended to buy Roma Pass which is a special tourist-cultural card which enables them to use benefits like various discounts or services and make it easier and cheaper to enjoy Rome. In case you need any information during your tour there are Tourist Information Points almost everywhere.

Visit and explore Warsaw

Beside being the capital of Poland Warsaw is also one of the most amazing cities which are full of amazing contrasts and surprises. This city is a place where you can relax and feel right being at home. Warsaw can be discovered in many ways. On foot, by bicycle, by car … Everyone will find fun here. You can go on a tour of historic sites, the Chopin trail or you can attend concerts and festivals.

It is also a green city as a really big area is comprised of fields, parks, green squares and lush gardens. Some of the parks are historical but some of them are examples of modern gardens which are perfect for Warsaw residents as well as visitors. One of the most popular parks is the Laziensky Park which was constructed between 1774-1784 and it was also the favoured residence of the Polish royalty. It is actually a mixture of a traditional French garden and classical English park.

During the summer you can go sailing around the Palace pond in a gondola, feeding carps or watching peacocks wandering about the grounds. Do not miss to see one of the most popular monuments, the Fryderyk Chopin Monuments. There are free concerts between May and September which show works of the world’s best composers. If you want to see Warsaw from the great height, there are many places which were constructed specially just to admire the view. One of them is the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science, tower of the Warsaw Rising Museum or one of the city’s man-made hills.

This city is exceptional also because of the fact this city has made a lot of changes to become in compliance with the EU regulations and has adapted the city for disabled tourists. The information for them is really clear, you just follow pictograms.

Things to Do – Florence

There are many things to see in Florence. There are some of Italy´s best museums, beautiful cathedrals and churches as well as interesting streets and squares with elegant buildings and shops.

Piazza della Signoria is the top attraction among the most important squares. It is Florence´s primary meeting place for locals as well as tourists. Concerts, fairs and rallies are held here during the whole year. The piazza gets its name from the towering Palazzo Vecchio whose original name is Palazzo della Signoria. The square is decorated by some of the most famous Florentine artists. Almost all of them are copies, the originals have been moved indoors. The most famous of the piazza´s sculptures is a copy of Michelangelo´s David which stands watch outside the Palazzo Vecchio. The other sculpture which is a must to see are two statues by Giambologna, the statue of Grand Duke Cosimo I and Rape of a Sabine, and Cellini´s Perseus and Medusa.

Il Duomo or the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Fiore is the icon of the city and it is also one of the most recognizable symbols of Renaissance architecture. Inside it could be said, it is a vast space which contains only a few works of art. There are 44 stained glass windows which were designed by some famous Renaissance artists, such as Donatello and Paolo Uccello. For a small fee, you can also see the crypt which contains the archaeological remains of the ancient cathedral of Santa Reparata. A tour of the dome also allows visitors to walk around the outside of the dome with spectacular, panoramic views of Florence and Tuscan hills.

The Uffizi Gallery is one of the top museums in Italy. All of the famous names from Italy´s rich artistic heritage, including Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio and Raphael are represented here. The gallery is in a long narrow building and it houses much of the private collection of the Florentine first family – the Medici. A visit here is one of the greatest pleasures when visiting Florence. Therefor you are advised to reserve tickets in advance, so you avoid long queues or disappointment.

Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace is a huge part on a hillside in the middle of Florence behind the Pitti Palace. You will find beautiful gardens and fountains where you can enjoy a great view of Florence from the Forte Belvedere.

The Campanile or Bell Tower is a part of the Duomo complex. Therefore it is also decorated in white, green, and pink marble. But where the Duomo is expansive, the Campanile is slender and symmetrical. You should know that there are 414 steps to the top of the Campanile and there is no elevator.

Booking Hotels in Florence

It is not a problem to decide where to stay in Florence especially walking through the centre. It is like every house, apartment block or palazzo is masquerading as a hotel or pension. However, finding a good rate can be something different. Mainly if you are checking out the tempting residenze d´epoca, upmarket B&B´s that can cost more than a luxury hotel.

Novecento is an attic apartment, a bit cramped, but the rooms are comfortable. There is a surprise for you, a wonderful rooftop terrace which is so close to Brunelleschi´s Duomo that you feel you could reach out and touch it.

Sani Tourist House is located in the heart of medieval Florence, just by the house where Dante lived where you can get a room at a very reasonable price. The owners do not serve breakfast, but you can get a voucher for the nearby Cantinetta dei Verrazzano, a historic wine bar.

Hotel Universo is a rarity in Florence. It is a bright, modern hotel with much more affordable prices. The concept running throughout the hotel is a vintage 1970´s sty, from the wallpaper to the furniture.

Hotel Relais II Cestello was a typical B&B which was changed into three – star hotel while prices remain reasonable. There is an ancient stone fireplace and wooden-beamed ceiling in the lobby which was doubled and now used as the breakfast salon.

Hotel Scoti is a maintained old-fashioned family-run pension. The prices have gone up recently, but it is worth to stay here, just to be able to use the charming communal sitting room decorate with quite incredible 17-th century frescoes.

Ciao hostel which used to be called Harmony Hostel is located in the centre of Florence. As the city centre is relatively small, it is possible to just walk everywhere. It is a great choice for backpackers, students and families. The hostel is a good, clean and cheap place for everyone who is not looking for a luxury accommodation.