The Barbarian Invasions.

The Giulietta apartment by Rome City Apartments

The Roman Empire was crumbling into ruins. Invasion succeeded invasion, defeat followed defeat. In 378 the German people known as Visigoths overwhelmed an imperial army at Adrianople; and in 408 they invaded Italy and marched south upon Rome under their leader Alaric, a nobleman by birth who had once commanded the Gothic troops in the Roman army. When  the Visigoths first appeared before the Aurelian walls, which had recently been strengthened and raised to almost twice their original height, they were kept at bay with payments of monies. But in 410 when they reappeared, the gates were opened by traitors within the city, and for the first time in eight hundred years a foreign force occupied Rome. A ferocious sack had been expected when the fearful sound of the Gothic war trumpets had been heard; but the tall, rough-looking troops of Alaric, mostly Arian Chistians like their commander, were not malevolent. Some buildings were burned down, including the Palace of Sallust, many houses and churches were plundered, a few citizens were roughly treated, and pagan temples were ransacked with exceptional venom. Continue reading

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Visiting Rome in 3 days: practical tips and essential guide to the major monuments (Part 1).

Planning a trip to Rome and don't know where to start from? Read our article ...

There is an old Italian saying that warns us: “Rome, a lifetime is not enough“… to know it for real. In fact there is an overwhelming number of things to see in the city that, not surprisingly, is often called the “Eternal City”. Eternal City because it has been a living city, a protagonist in the history of the Western world for nearly three thousand years. Versions of its origin are different, from the “historical” version, prepared by the Latin scholar Varro and fixing the date of the founding of Rome on 21 April 753 BC by Aeneas fleeing Troy put on fire by the Greek conquerors, to the legendary version,  based on the mythological legend that pretends that Rome was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus, raised and fed by the famous wolf, which then became the symbol of the city and, in recent times, of its main football team A.S Roma. However, if we want to take into consideration the Etruscans, a people rival of the Latins, and of mysterious origins, who settled north of Rome in the Etruria –an area comprising the regions of Tuscany and Umbria today- the history of the Eternal City may have originated even earlier. It’s true that the Etruscans were a people with its own traditions, its own culture and customs, different from those of the Romans; it’s also true that there were conflicts and clashes between them and the Romans that went on for centuries, before the Etruscans were defeated and “absorbed” by the Roman civilization. However, if you want to visit Rome today, and include at least the broad outlines of the long and complex history of Rome, you cannot help but to dive, at least for a few hours, in the mysterious world of the Etruscans, which can be seen in the incredibly interesting museum of Valle Giulia. This article obviously does not want to retrace the history of Rome; our goal is simply to provide a concise guide, as well as some quick and practical advice for those who, having little time available, cannot spend more than 3 days in Rome, without renouncing to have at least a small taste of each attraction and remains of the past of the main historical periods that have characterized the long life of Rome. To summarize: we want to make true a new saying: “Rome, 3 days could be enough” :-) Continue reading

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ROME, THE CITY of CINEMA (part 1).

Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", spaghetti western - by Rome City Apartments

The entrance to Cinecittà, nine kilometers outside the city center along Via Tuscolana, remains the original one, characterized (and dated) by the rounded architectural lines typical of the twenty year Fascist period. Beyond this entrance lies a mythical place, a happy invention all the way down to its name, which literally means “Cinema city” and is one of the few successful neologisms in Italian –a language that doesn’t much lend itself to lexical novelty. Once upon a time you got there by the “local” tram; the last part of its route ran through open countryside, with ancient aqueducts, the bluish profile of the distant hills, and a few flocks of sheep happily grazing and providing colorful scenery. In his 1987 film Intervista, Federico Fellini described the brief journey and the tram’s arrival at the end of the line in the middle of the countryside: “I was a little disappointed when I saw the long perimeter walls and those reddish, barrack- line buildings. They looked like some kind of hospital or hospice”. According to legend, on filming days the great comedian Totò arrived extremely early at Cinecittà; one morning he arrived so early that the studio gates were still locked. Seeing him pacing outside the door, the watchman hurried over, yelling: “I’m coming, Totò”. The actor wasn’t at all pleased, and replied: “I insist that you call me Prince.” Antonio De Curtis, better known as Totò on the screen, naively expected throughout his life that he had the right to be addressed as “Imperial Highness”; he was, after all, a descendant of the Byzantine throne and its royal emperors. Over time he added aristocratic and imperial names to his own, including Gagliardi, Griffo, Focas, and Comneno. In this case, however, it was the watchman who had the last word, as he promptly shot back. “There are lots of princes, but only one Totò”. The rebuttal was satisfactory, and from then on the clever watchman was allowed to call him Totò. Continue reading

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THE DOMUS AUREA IN ROME: A HOME THAT IS NOT SUITABLE AS A VACATION RENTAL.

The Croce apartment in Rome, by Rome City Apartments. Do you think it can be compared to Nero's Domus Aurea?

There is a place in Rome that has always inspired a distinct fascination – or better yet, has emanated a special aura. The allure of the Domus Aurea is strange because it is really just a bunch of bare walls, silent corridors, and stripped down brickwork enlivened here and there by the small remains of frescoes and mosaics. What could be the real source of enchantment felt by visitors here, in the most sumptuous royal residence ever conceived? Perhaps it’s the personality of its patron, Emperor Nero, archetype of unbridled power and determination. For me, though, the enchantment comes more from the moving traces left by visitors, who in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lowered themselves through a hole in the ceiling into these subterranean rooms. At the time the space was mostly filled with dirt; crouching low and relying on the flickering light of torches (the streaks of lampblack are still visible), they examined the frescoes and copied the ornamental motifs that would become the famous grotesques of late Renaissance art: vegetal motifs mixed with small human or animal figures that were rarely realistic, almost always imaginary, and adhered to no naturalistic canon – a fantastic world in which humans, animals and plants were fused to create lively, bizarre representations somewhere between humor an hallucination. Continue reading

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GAY LIFE IN ROME.

Gays in (ancient?) Rome, by Rome City Apartments

In ancient Rome, as in the Hellenistic culture, homosexuality was considered normal practice for the men. More: the freeborn male citizen were often bisexual, meaning that they could have openly – and often had – sexual relations with both men and women, but under certain conditions. The men who had sex with other men were not to lose their masculinity from a social point of view, provided they kept the dominant role, that would be the active part in the sexual intercourse. In the ancient Roman culture, in fact, there was a clear distinction between those having an active, dominant role – hence masculine – and those having a passive, submissive –hence feminine – role. However the partners that were acceptable from a social point of view were the slaves – if they were belonging to someone else, their master’s permission was necessary – the prostitutes, the entertainers, provided these males had over 12 years of age. The possibility of having sex with other freeborn males who were between 12 and 20 years was categorically excluded. The passive role in the sexual intercourse was considered risky because – the ancient Romans believed – it could endanger the freedom of freeborn men as well as their integrity. However, this perception of the passive role in the sexual intercourse will become less categorical in the period of the Roman Empire, especially in the era of so-called “decline of the Roman Empire.”, when an increase of the passive homosexual behavior was perceived as a consequence of the subordination to the Emperor. Continue reading

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Visiting 3 churches in Trastevere.

THE CHURCH OF SANTA CECILIA IN TRASTEVERE – ROME

The church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere as seen from a "keyhole" - by Rome City Apartments

The magnificent basilica of Santa Cecilia is located on the homonymous square of the Trastevere district and lies on the ancient home of the Roman martyr Cecilia and her husband Valeriano. Legend has it that the construction of the church was determined after the transfer of the corpse of Santa Cecilia from the cemetery of San Callisto to the place where his house once stood, at the behest of Pope Paschal I. Santa Cecilia was also found guilty for trying to convert her husband Valeriano and her brother Tiburcio. In the right aisle of the basilica opens today the chapel, where are located the remains of the caldarium, the old bathroom that was the scene of the ordeal to which the saint was subjected at the hands of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. For three days her captors exposed her to an extremely hot steam, but she emerged unscathed. Then they decided to behead her, but again, according to the legend, she survived; then she was hardly beaten three times on the neck, but she continued to live for three days, before receiving the palm of martyrdom on 22 November 230. The body of Cecilia came to light in 820 a.C., from the catacombs of San Callisto, miraculously intact, in a white quilted robe of gold, just as Pope Urban I had buried her. Continue reading

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Giordano Bruno, profession heretic.

Giordano Bruno overlooking Piazza campo dè Fiori by Rome City Apartments

This is a sad story, the typical story of the horrors committed by the “established power” when it feels threatened; and, you know, the worst danger for the established power does not come from violent acts, but from ideas and opinions, in a word: from the truth. This story dates back of more than 400 years, but it would be wrong to think that today these things cannot happen anymore. If I search for the definition of an “heretic” in the dictionary, as a third explanation I find the following words: “anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle”. Beware: those people are in danger, always, centuries ago as well as today. Sure, maybe the established power will react in a formally different way, because the “dissidents” are no longer burned alive, but against them power will persevere and will do everything possible to silence the voices of those who intend to reveal the truth, and this even in so-called democratic countries. In these countries, in fact, the views and thoughts that differ from the “mainstream”, accepted ideas are tolerated as long as they have a limited audience, but as soon as they begin to have a strong impact on public opinion any mean will be used to silence them. Take the recent case of Australian white-haired hacker: What is his fault but that of telling the truth? Yet, you bet, he will end his days in a maximum security prison. In short, freedom of expression and democracy are never acquired once and for all: each of us must fight to ensure that freedom of expression is guaranteed, otherwise the power, as history shows, will always tend to limit it as much as possible, if not suppress it completely when it will find it threatening for its preservation. But it is true, as Giordano Bruno said after hearing the judgment of the tribunal of the Inquisition, which condemned him to death, that: “Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with more fear than I have in hearing it”. Continue reading

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The Queen of Heaven.

Virgin Mary and Jesus as a child - by Rome City Apartments

In Rome there are 10 basilica and 58 churches dedicated to the worship of the Virgin Mary, more than in any other city in the world. Perhaps the most famous, because the oldest, is the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, which overlooks the homonymous square. It seems that Santa Maria in Trastevere is the first church where the Mass was celebrated and also the first church dedicated to Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. This information is not certain as it dates back to the dawn of time, but the beauty of this church is so that we are very willing to believe this. Tradition has it that the place was an oratory founded by Callisto in the third century, so called titulus Calixti at the times when Christianity was still illegal. When the real church was built by Pope Julius I in 340 or so, it was dedicated to Our Lady. So we’ll visit this magnificent church and we will think about the figure of the Madonna in today’s society, if she is present and “on our side” in our everyday life, if she affects our thoughts and our actions, or if she remains a “divine” figure, distant from us, Queen of Heaven to which we pay at most a fast prayer with our children when they go to sleep at night or on the rare occasions that we go to church.

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A Swedish Girl in Rome.

A "nasty" Swedish Girl by Rome City Apartments

This is the story of a famous and extraordinary Swedish Girl in Rome … no it’s not the one in the picture on the left side of your screen … no, it’s not Greta Garbo, as we don’t have any record of the actress living in Rome … no it’s not the one that was bathing in the Trevi Fountain at night, kissing Marcello Mastroianni in the movie La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini. Anita Ekberg was a sex symbol, this one was far from being a sex symbol, and in fact it is hard to establish to which sex she belonged. So, Who’s that girl would ask Madonna? Well, actually we’re not even sure it was a girl … she dressed like a girl, but sometimes she also dressed like a man; she had masculine manners, a masculine voice and nobody knows about her sex … it’s even possible that she was an intersexed individual, which is a congenital status of persons having the characteristics of both the male and the feminine gender. To answer the question you should go to Piazza Farnese, in Rome, and read the sign on the building which is on the left side of Palazzo Farnese … so you may ask: “Why are you calling this individual a woman if you’re not even sure of her sex?” We say “her” because her official title was that of a Queen, the Queen of Sweden. Continue reading

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A MAN: THE FACE OF ROME, THE SOUL OF ITALY (Part 4, The End).

Richard Gere "dressed" :-) by Armani in American Gigolo

We are now in the 80′s and the pop duo Wham! synthesize  the cultural depth of the times with the lyrics of their songs: “Yeah yeah yeah, ala la la la, yeah, yeah, yeah yeayeaaah” (The Edge of Heaven, 1986, Epic Records). A Polish pope blesses the perfect union of the typical middle class conservative household: Maggie and Ronnie, few ideas, but clear, carved into the rock. We are long past the years of power to the imagination, but at that moment this duo represents what it takes to straighten the capitalist economy polluted by communist ideology. Just to warm up her hands, Maggie trims a couple of slaps to the unwary, high booted gauchos; then she aims the Trade Unions, that are annihilated, destroyed. At that point they both turn to east and decide that the time for the reds has come. Unbelievable but true, under their blows the walls come stumbling down with unexpected ease. Supreme twist of fate, the contribution of the Polish Trade Unions as well as the aid of Mr. Gorby are fundamental. The latter, as children do, throws a ball against the glass to see what happens and assists instead, aghast, to the collapse of the whole building. In those years, Madonna is no longer The Madonna, the status symbols are no longer just for the happy few: “Swatch, the others just watch”, the Yuppies take the place of Che Guevara in the imagination of teen-agers and westerners discover an insane passion for fictions with serial killers as protagonists. But a far more dangerous serial killer than Annibal Lechter appears, and this puts forever an end  to the sexual freedom discovered in the 70s. Continue reading

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