The Vatican City, Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica
Castel Sant’Angelo, brief boat ride on the Tiber up to the Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island), walk in Trastevere.
The Vatican City
The Vatican City, independent sovereign state since 1929 (Lateran Pacts), rises on the site where St. Peter was martyred and buried. The first Christian Emperor Constantine, built a splendid basilica there in the 4th century AC which was in later times demolished and rebuilt over a period of almost 120 years (1506-1614). The greatest architects of the period, including Bramante, Michelangelo and Maderno, collaborated in the project of the new church, the largest in the world with its surface adding up to a total of 22,000 square metres. The Basilica of St. Peter’s offers one of the most impressive experiences of architectural space available anywhere.
The Vatican Museums and their immense wealth of art, resulting from centuries of papal collections and commissions, offer an extraordinary experience in which the relevance of the works on display is heightened by the splendour of the structures in which they are displayed, and that are in themselves worth a visit. We do not proceed through buildings designed specifically to allow the large numbers of contemporary visitors to see artistic objects in a functional manner, but we walk through the galleries and rooms of papal palaces, at one time reserved for a small elite.
Via della Conciliazione leads to Castel Sant’Angelo, the fortress of the popes built in the Middle Ages above the remains of the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian (2nd century AD). Its structure is an example of the continuity between past and present in the urban fabric of Rome, where ancient buildings were often reused and adapted to serve new purposes, thus maintaining an active role in the history of the city. The location of the emperor’s mausoleum on the right bank of the river Tiber, close to the Vatican, determined its use as a defensive rampart, connected to the papal palaces by a passageway, known as the “Passetto”, and endowed with a moat surrounding it, drawbridges and cannons.
The area of Trastevere is ideal for a walk through narrow streets, squares and colours that still maintain an authentically Roman character and offers a pleasant contrast with the solemn splendour seen at the Vatican. In antiquity Trastevere ��" “beyond the Tiber” ��" was the first district established on the right bank of the Tiber and was inhabited by artisans, fishermen, merchants and communities of foreigners, connected with the activities of the nearby port. Trastevere was also famous for its magnificent villas and vast gardens, the most important of which belonged to Julius Caesar who may have hosted Cleopatra there and left them in his will to the people of Rome. In the Middle Ages the neighbourhood acquired the aspect it still preserves today in its narrow alleys and small squares that often defy any idea of a rational overall urban design, and give the impression of having adapted to preexisting structures.
Trastevere offers a great variety of restaurants and bars for a fun evening.
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