From Nick Squires, The Telegraph, June 25, 2021
They were once thick with smoke from flickering oil lamps and the smell of sweating gladiators and the panic-stricken wild animals they were about to fight.
Now, the tangled labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that lay hidden beneath the Colosseum's sandy arena is being opened up to the public in its entirety for the first time.
From Saturday, visitors will be able to descend a metal stairway and wander between the brick and travertine walls where armour-clad gladiators and wild animals such as leopards, lions and bears were corralled.
Gathered in the subterranean gloom, they were hoisted into the arena in a series of wooden cage lifts that were operated with the muscle power of a legion of slaves, emerging via trap doors into the huge amphitheatre, the biggest in the Roman world.
Visitors will be able to see the original bronze fittings, sunk into travertine stone, that housed the capstans which enabled the cages to be raised and
With a year’s delay due to the pandemic, the Domus Aurea, emperor Nero’s opulent residence in the heart of ancient Rome, reopens with an exceptional immersive exhibition dedicated to the rediscovery of ancient painting and to Raphael, who helped uncover it, on the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance artist’s death, which fell on 2020.
Titled “Raphael and the Domus Aurea - the Invention of the Grotesque,” the interactive and multimedia exhibition opened on June 23 in the spectacular Octagonal Hall, Nero’s banquet room.
It is precisely through the dome of the Octagonal Hall that Raphael and other artists of the time, like Pinturicchio and Ghirlandaio, lowered themselves into the recesses of the forgotten ruins of Nero’s immense palace using ropes and, by torchlight, discovered long-lost ornate paintings of flora and fauna interwoven with fantastic human and animal forms, a style that later took the name of ‘grotesque,’ from the Italian word for cave, ‘grotta.’ These paintings first came to light in 1480. Raphael and other artists with him painstakingly copied the frescoes, and that style would influence the decoration of noble houses for three centuries.
Update on Cruise Ships in Venice
(CNN) — It's set to be one of the first cruises to take to the waters after things start back up this summer. Departing June 5, the sumptuous MSC Orchestra will take a week-long trip around the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, taking in Italy, Croatia and Greece. And its journey will begin and end with one of the world's most classic cruise experiences: gliding past the iconic center of Venice, Italy, as it passes St Mark's Square and continues up the Giudecca Canal. This might come as a surprise for those who heard the news, just 15 days ago, that the Italian government had ruled that cruise ships should be banned from the Venice lagoon. The site of the enormous ships looming over the floating city is set to be a thing of the past, if the government continues with its plans. But as a tender process to review plans for potential new ports outside the lagoon gears up, the temporary solution of docking at Marghera -- within the lagoon, but on the Italian mainland -- is not yet ready. Which means that ships taking off this summer look set to dock in the city as they always have.
News Flash: Italy bans cruise ships from entering the canal next to St. Mark's Square!
"Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister, praised the decision on Thursday, citing the shock of visitors to Venice upon seeing cruise ships “hundreds of meters long and as tall as apartment buildings,” passing in front of St. Mark’s Square.
The site where Julius Caesar was assassinated along with the remains of four Republican era temples known as the Area Sacra of Largo Argentina is being renovated through a $1.1 million project funded by the Italian luxury brand Bulgari. Rome mayor Virginia Raggi has announced that the project, scheduled for completion sometime after June 2021, will make the archeological site accessible to the public for the first time. The site includes the remains of four Republican era temples dating from the 3rd to the 2nd century B.C. Although just the remnants of the foundation of the Curia of the Theater of Pompey are included in this site, it is important historically as the place where Caesar was assassinated. Caesar was stabbed to death by conspirators in 44 B.C. and died, according to some accounts, at the foot of the bust of Pompey. Pompey had been his rival for rule of Rome until defeated by Caesar four years previously forcing him to retreat to Egypt where he was assassinated by members of his own military. Pompey had linked his massive theater complex to the four earlier temples which, along with a temple to Venus that he constructed at the top of the seating area of his theater, allowed him to get around the longstanding prohibition on permanent theaters in Rome. As part of the excavation of the temples, a colossal marble head of a statue of the goddess Fortuna was discovered which can now be seen at the Centrale Montemartini museum. The Largo Argentina is now also known for its cat sanctuary that feeds and cares for the abandoned feral cats and is open to visitors who can adopt a cat by donating for its care.
The burial place of Emperor Octavian Augustus, the first Roman emperor whose mausoleum is a symbol of the architectural magnificence of ancient Rome, has reopened to the public after a 14-year closure.
“We are returning to the whole world a jewel of the heritage of humanity, a symbol of Rome and its history,” said Rome mayor Virginia Raggi during the inauguration ceremony on March 1.
Construction of the Mausoleum of Augustus, which was the largest circular tomb in the ancient world, began in 28 BC on the Campus Martius in Rome; today, it stands on Piazza Augusto Imperatore, near the corner with Via di Ripetta, alongside the Ara Pacis Museum, covering an area equivalent to a few city blocks.
Transformed into a fortress during the Middle Ages, the Mausoleum of Augustus later fell into disrepair and was left in a state of neglect for a long period of time. Restoration work is still ongoing and promises to return the monument to its former glory, beautifying and pedestrianizing the area around it as well.
Octavian Augustus was the first Roman emperor, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. Other members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, who ruled Rome for its first century as a Principate, were buried in the Mausoleum. Of the more than 13,000 square meters of walls that can be seen today, almost half date back to the original construction from the time of Augustus.
The visit of the Mausoleum lasts about 50 minutes and takes place Monday to Friday; advance reservation is mandatory on the website, which also contains detailed information about the history of the Mausoleum and the restoration project.
Visits are free until April 21, Rome’s 2,774th birthday, and will continue to be free only for Rome residents throughout 2021.
The restoration is financed in part by the city of Rome and Italy’s Culture Ministry, and in part by Italian telecommunications company TIM.
The airlines are currently considering the establishment of COVID vaccine "passport" certificates that would allow international travelers the possibility of visiting Italy possibly this summer.
It’s one of the most symbolic sites of Rome—for good and bad. The Largo di Torre Argentina, which sits in the historic city center between Piazza Navona and the Campidoglio, has been known as the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination for more than 2,000 years.
On March 15 44 BC (the “Ides of March”), Caesar was stabbed 22 times by conspirators outside the Theater of Pompey, Rome’s first permanent theater, which was built by Caesar’s great rival a decade earlier. He was killed at the Curia, or senate house, that formed part of the theater complex. Almost 2,063 years on, you can still see what remains of that building—a thick foundation of tufa stone—between two of the site’s four temples, built between the third and second centuries BC. Together—along with piles of carved stone from ancient columns and balustrades, and a medieval brick tower—they make up the largo (square), which sits about 20 feet below the current street level.
In recent years, though, Largo di Torre Argentina has come to symbolize something rather less epic: the decay of Rome. Permanently fenced off, with its ancient ruins looking more precarious by the day, it’s become known predominantly for its many bus stops (it’s a connecting point for a number of city routes) and its onsite cat sanctuary. In fact, the only living creatures currently able to access the “area sacra”—or “sacred area," as it’s called thanks to the still-standing temples—are the stray cats.
This week, however, mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi announced a restoration project that will see the area open to tourists by the second half of 2021. The work comes courtesy of local fashion house Bulgari, who have pledged €985,000 ($1.1 million) towards the project. “Rome is always the main source of inspiration for Bulgari,” Jean-Christophe Babin, Bulgari CEO, told reporters. “This site has an extraordinary value because it’s the oldest open-air spot in Rome.”
This isn’t even Bulgari’s first renovation rodeo—in 2016, they funded the restoration of the Spanish Steps in the Piazza di Spagna , and in fact roughly half the money for the Torre Argentina site is coming from leftover funds from the former project. Fashion houses sponsoring restoration work is nothing new in Italy: in Rome alone, Fendi coveredthe renovations of the Trevi Fountain, and Tod’s has sponsored the mammoth project to restore the Colosseum.
Torre Argentina’s “very long and careful restoration," as Raggi described the work in a press conference Monday, will “restore the sacred area to all Roman citizens.” Walkways will be installed to allow visitors to “live the site more fully,” and there are plans to turn what’s currently a storeroom for archeological finds into a museum, and add lighting to allow night-time visits.
Largo di Torre Argentina was excavated in the 1920s by dictator Benito Mussolini, who—in an attempt to link his regime to the glories of the Roman empire—demolished swathes of modern buildings across the capital to reveal the archaeological remains below. But since then, it has largely been off-limits. Raggi herself has never set foot in the space before, she said, calling the project “the start of a new life” and a “gesture of love towards Rome."
Looking to visit? You needn’t worry about the cats—the sanctuary, technically located in one corner of the area sacra, is actually separated from the rest of the site by a ten-foot Roman wall (not even the volunteers can access the area with the temples). “The restoration will not affect the shelter,” volunteer Silvia Zuccheri told concerned feline fans via the sanctuary’s Facebook page.
By Franz Lidz, The New York Times, Jan. 12, 2021
“…this spring, Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism will open the Nymphaeum Museum of Piazza Vittorio, a subterranean gallery that will showcase a section of the imperial garden [of Caligula] that was unearthed during an excavation from 2006 to 2015. The dig, carried out beneath the rubble of a condemned 19th-century apartment complex, yielded gems, coins, ceramics, jewelry, pottery, cameo glass, a theater mask, seeds of plants such as citron, apricot and acacia that had been imported from Asia, and bones of peacocks, deer, lions, bears and ostriches."
(CNN) — He was the first Roman emperor, who took over from Julius Caesar and built an empire that would eventually stretch from the UK to Egypt, boasting on his death bed that "I found Rome built of bricks, and left it marble." But the emperor Augustus didn't exactly get paid in kind when he died in 14CE. His tomb -- a huge, circular mausoleum, which was the largest in the city when it was built -- was abandoned for centuries. With its roof fallen in and the cypresses planted around it left to grow wild, it has long been a far cry from the carefully preserved Colosseum and Roman Forum.
In fact, for much of the past 80 years, it has been closed to the public, with brief openings in the year 2000 to celebrate the city's Jubilee year, and then again, before being closed in 2007 for archaeological investigations. It was hoped that it would reopen in 2014, to mark 2,000 years since Augustus died. In the end, though, with conservation work still ongoing, it was opened on the day itself.
But finally, a 13-year restoration has come to an end, and it is due to be opened to the public in March 2021.
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