Sunday, August 16, 2009

10 Secrets From Rome / Madonna Live In Concert - "Beat Goes On"

brought to you by: AHM Travel

No other city comes close. It may no longer be caput mundi (capital of the world), but Rome is an epic, bubbling-over metropolis harbouring lost empires. One visit and you’ll be hooked. Rome has a glorious monumentality that it wears without reverence. Its architectural heirlooms are buzzed around by car and Vespa as if they were no more than traffic islands.

* It's 12 noon and you're in Rome, but are you in the central part of Rome? If you are, chances are that you will hear the bang of the cannon shot being fired at this time every day on top of the Janiculum Hill. This is a tradition that goes back to January 1, 1847, when Pope Pius IX introduced it to ensure that all timepieces would be set on the same time.

* Haven't you always taught children never to peep through a keyhole? You'll be surprised if instead we suggest you peep through a keyhole... and then maybe you will do the same with your children. We believe you will agree with us if you simply follow our instructions: just wait for the sunset, go up Aventine Hill in Rome, look for Giardino degli Aranci, or Orange Garden, and when it closes enjoy the glorious view of St. Peter's Dome through the keyhole of the gate.

* Do you really think that all artistic masterpieces always have noble origins? You may be surprised to know that is far from true. Take, for instance, the Bocca della Verita, or Mouth of Truth in Rome, millions of visitors put somewhat hesitatingly their hands in that mouth, fearing that they might lose them. Do you think that they would have a picture taken if they were putting their hands inside a sewer? Because that's exactly what they are doing! The Mouth used to be the top of a sewer manhole located in the Roman Forum. But then again, that was long ago...!

* Do you know that Rome is famous for the quantity and quality of its water? Actually this has been the case ever since antiquity, when the Romans built aqueducts to bring water to the city. What you might not know is that some of the aqueducts that are feeding water into the pipes of a large part of Rome are still the original Roman aqueducts! And most fountains you can admire in Rome receive water the same way.

* The 'bewitched' climbing slope. Ever been driving downhill along a road and suddenly found yourself backing up or at least coming to a stop? You can have this experience along a road near Ariccia, in the vicinity of Rome! Don't ask us why. All sorts of explanations have been given, but none really satisfactory. It's fun to watch, though, a soccer ball or a tennis ball rolling back along the road!

* Have you ever stopped to think how giant machinery allows man to carry out fantastic jobs almost without any effort? Only a few centuries ago this was unthinkable. In 16th century Rome, for instance, one day they were trying to lift the obelisk currently standing in the middle of St. Peter's Square. It was a strenuous job that required great concentration for the 800 workers involved. To ensure silence, the crowd had been told that anyone caught even simply talking would be condemned to death (the necessary scaffold had already been set up). Someone realized that the ropes were giving way and to help out the people on the job, cried out: WATER TO THE ROPES! The trick worked perfectly... and the man, far from being punished, was given a prize and a title!

* Jealousy has always been important in the relations of men, particularly artists. A popular story that is frequently told about two great Italian artists, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, is very much to the point. When Bernini built the fountains in Piazza Navona, Rome, one of them was designed to show that it seems to turn its back on the Church of St. Agnes designed by Borromini and another appears to cover its eyes with its hand to protect them against such a horrible sight.

* Conclaves are held in the Vatican City, Rome, for the election of each Pope. All cardinals attend the conclave because only the people actually there may be elected Pope. Cardinal Carol Wojtyla came to Rome after the death of Pope John Paul I and the morning of the opening of the conclave he was running late and risked being left out. In despair he thumbed a lift along the way. A bus driver returning to his depot noticed this strange priest looking for a lift and stopped to enquire. When Cardinal Wojtyla explained things to him, the bus driver simply said: ok, I'll take you there, you never know, we might miss a Pope! In fact Cardinal Wojtyla did become the new Pope!

* Highways are one of the symbols of modern-day transport, aren't they? Well, not exactly. 2000 years ago the Romans had already their own highways. Sure, there were no motorcars or motorbikes dashing along at 100 and over miles per hour, no gas stations, no speed traps. But communications between all major cities of the Roman Empire and Rome were possible thanks to a highly efficient road network, thousands of miles long in various directions. Facilities were provided to allow a change of horses, places where to rest, sleep and eat. Fast-food service was also invented for a quick bite or for takeaway meals served in hot stone containers that were left by travelers at the next service area!

* There is a street in Rome named Via del Porto di Ripetta (Port of Ripetta Street). What has this peculiar name got to do with Rome? The answer is that in Roman times ships could sail up to the city because Rome was 11 kilometers closer to the sea (the Tiber has discharged huge quantities of silt and sand at its mouth over the years) and the Tiber was navigable. Perhaps it will be possible to sail up the river again before long if the mayor of Rome has it his way: he is pressing for it.

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