I spent an all-too-brief holiday in Rome, in May 2010. It had been my dream since early childhood to visit Italy, especially Rome and Florence. The ancient ruins, the art, the architecture and the Italian people have always held a deep fascination for me.
We managed to get accommodation in a family-run hotel within walking distance of the main train station, Termini, and right outside one of the entrances to the Metro. The hotel was also within easy walking distance of the famous Colosseum – so naturally that was the very first stop.
The Colosseum is one of the major tourist attractions of Rome – it’s architecture, its bloody history, its modern-day Gladiators who will act as guide and photographic prop for a few Euros… (Beware! Establish exactly HOW MANY Euros BEFORE you accept their offer to sneak you in past the endless queues!)
Once you’re inside, the scale of the place is overwhelming:
It’s a magnificent piece of history, and a lot of effort is going into its restoration – but it will never be a beautiful place again….Except at night! This photo was taken from a small restaurant across the road:
A very short stroll from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum – a collection of ancient ruins, too amazing to take in all at once. I advise that if you want to visit the Forum, do some reading first. If I had gone in there with some understanding of the significance of the place, I would have appreciated it even more than I did.
The valley of the Vestal Virgins is particularly interesting. So many ancient buildings, and bits of buildings, so many fascinating stories…. Excavations are still turning up new and interesting finds.
This building has a green door that used to be at ground level – it’s now a good bit higher:
The same building, from a different angle:
There is a lot to see in Rome. Most people would visit the Colosseum and St Peters/Vatican – but you should also take time to see the Pantheon. It has the first concrete dome ever built – and it is simply magnificent! Even if they did forgot to close up the hole at the very top…. Isn’t it beautiful the way the sunlight streams in?
Of all the buildings in Rome, I thought the Pantheon was the most perfect – just look at these columns!
Unfortunately, we had to do the touristy thing and see St Peters and the Vatican. I thought the sheer, gluttonous opulence of both of these Catholic Church properties was just disgusting. There’s enough gold in there that, if it were put to better use, could feed and clothe and educate a small country.
So, fighting back my bilious outrage, I made up my mind to simply try to appreciate the art they have accumulated over the centuries… Michaelangelo’s “Pieta” is housed in St Peters, behind an inch of armoured glass, and is surely one of the most magnificent pieces of sculpture ever produced by a human being. (Apologies for the “softness” of this image – the piece is behind glass and I could not use a flash, so the shutter speed had to be quite slow.)
The inside of the dome of St Peters is also a wonderful piece of art and engineering:
There is so much priceless art inside the cathedral, so much gold, so much religious piety… I couldn’t wait to get outside and get some fresh air!
After a delightful lunch and a glass of red wine, we made the mistake of joining a “guided tour” of the Vatican – which consisted of trying in vain to catch the commentary of a short lady holding a stick with a big red fabric rose on the end of it; trying to spot her and her stick bobbing up and down amid the throngs of tourists being herded through the hallowed vaults of the Catholic stronghold… The commentary was being fed to us through headphones which did not work 80% of the time, but we did catch quite a bit of the OTHER commentaries going on around us! We eventually gave up trying to hear her, or see her, or find the rest of the group, and just went our own way.
I would never recommend the “guided tours ” as a good way to see the Vatican – take your pain, stand in the endless queue in the sun, until it’s your turn to be herded inside. It will be worth it to have some degree of independence. You still won’t be allowed to take any photos inside the Sistine Chapel, you will still have priests yelling at you to be Silent! inside their precious chapel. One guy dared to take a picture and they pounced on him and made him delete the shot – can you believe that? What gives them the right to deny ordinary people the pleasure of sharing photos of Michaelangelo’s beautiful masterpiece with others?
I found the whole Vatican experience nauseating, to be honest! The only moment of joy was when I “accidentally” fell behind a large group, and turned around looking for something to photograph without people’s heads getting in the way – and saw this totally stunning statue hidden in an alcove, catching the sunlight in a most attractive way!
Clearly the Catholic Church doesn’t object to naked young men gracing their alcoves….
You may have noticed that all these photos were taken with a humble Fujifilm FinePix S9500 camera – a relatively inexpensive camera with a fixed lens. In spite of that, the colour and clarity of the shots, even in very low light, is very acceptable!
- Anyone can take lovely photos with this type of camera – the trick is to make sure you learn to use the manual settings. Don’t leave it to the camera to do the work – take control of exposure, aperture and the ISO settings.
- When you’re in crowded situations, you won’t be able to safely use a tripod, so it is important to keep the exposure above 1/60 second, unless you can rest the camera on a support of some kind.
- Use a polarising filter to darken skies and reduce glare and reflections. But, be aware that a polarise works best when the camera is at right angles to the rays of the sun.
- Look for unusual angles, and photograph the LIGHT!