December 7, 2016

Architecture in Rome 2016

Contributed by Halina Murphy


We began our trip early Saturday morning at 6AM as we hopped on the bus to Paestum, an ancient Greek city that houses some of the best-preserved ruins in the world. Paestum is home to three main temples, the First Temple of Hera, the Second Temple of Hera, and the Temple of Athena. These temples are typical of the period, as they act as strong examples of the use of the Doric order and capture the symmetry and strength of Greek architecture of the time. Interest in these three temples was revived during the mid-eighteenth century, at the start of Neoclassicism and Romanticism.


While Paestum is most often associated with these temples, the site boasts many other ruins including residences, tombs, and civic spaces. Many of these ruins were identified by their footings or lower parts of their walls.The Via Sacra, a paved road, runs through the city and connects the temples to the lesser-known works. In the center of the complex is the Roman Forum, and to the northeast of the complex is the amphitheater.


We concluded our time in Paestum with a visit to the Paestum Museum followed by a quick lunch; we then boarded the bus to Amalfi. Paestum is also known for its painted tombs and art, much of which is preserved in the Paestum Museum, neighboring the complex. The museum houses much of the original art in addition to watercolor and acrylic paintings of the ancient city. air16_2


Our trip to the small town of Amalfi began long before we actually arrived at our hotel. It began with the curving road following 30 dm of the Amalfi coast, following the 30 kilometer shoreline from Sorrento to Salerno. Despite the hairpin bends and constant zigzagging, the road was one of the most beautiful I have traveled on. It was picturesque—there was not a moment that the bus didn’t have a beautiful view of the water. We passed through towns like Cetara and Maiori on our way into Amalfi, where we spent the next two days. Amalfi was an important trading power in the Mediterranean from around 850 to 1200 and today, is a small town nestled into the Amalfi coast.


I remember Amalfi most vividly through my pictures of our meals, all seafood based, and our afternoon swims.



Neighboring Amalfi is the town of Ravello, housing the Villa Rufolo. The Villa Rufolo originally belonged to the powerful and wealthy Rufolo family, who synthesized Arabic, Sicilian, and Norman architecture into their home. Visitors enter along a Cyprus-lined path and reach through the tower gateway, adorned with a ribbed dome and entwined arches, supported by thin terra cotta columns.


At the four corners of the dome stand statues of human figures representing the four seasons. Proceeding from the tower gateway, visitors pass through the foliage-adorned Moorish cloister. From here, visitors enter a courtyard, where they catch their first glimpse of the Great Tower. Although visitors can only access the first floor, the tower is actually comprised of three floors, testifying to the social, economic, and political prestige of the Rufolo family.

The Hall of the Knights and the garden were my favorite parts of the Villa. The Hall of Knights branches off from the Great Tower and, in my opinion, has the best view in the Villa, looking out on both a beautifully arranged two-leveled garden and the sea.


Along the northern edge of the garden are remains of the baths and Turkish baths, with their ribbed dome still intact. After leaving Villa Rufolo, we enjoyed lunch in Piazza Vescovado and followed a steep, 3-kilometer trail back into Amalfi.



Our visit to Pompeii was one of my favorite day trips; it exceeded my expectations and I hope to be able to return some day. Pompeii is an ancient Roman city near Naples that was destroyed and buried beneath volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. The town is believed to have been founded in the 6th century BCE and was later conquered by the Romans in the 4th century BCE.

By the time of its destruction 160 years later, the city had a complex water system, amphitheater, theater, gymnasium, and port.



Pompeii remained mostly untouched until 1748, when a group of explorers discovered that the ashes had acted as a preservative to the ruins. The excavation that followed played a key role in the Neoclassical revival of the 18th century. Europe’s elite displayed art and reproductions of objects from the ruins, and drawings of Pompeii helped shape architectural trends of the era. The city of Pompeii houses several major civic and religious structures, including temples, a forum, baths, and several houses. The temples and baths, in particular, house many well-preserved frescoes that provide information on everyday life.



Our final destination on our southern trip was Naples, just 25 kilometers away from Pompeii. The city of Naples was hectic and lively, reminding me of San Francisco. It is the third largest city in Italy and is one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea. Naples is filled with all things I miss from home: tall buildings, museums, and busy streets.


It is also known for its food, particularly its pizza and baked goods. Naples’ deep and lengthy history has left it with a wealth of monuments and a variety of architectural styles, from medieval castles to classical ruins.

It is home to some of the best art museums in the world, two of which we were fortunate enough to visit. The first, the National Archaeological Museum, houses a large collection of Roman artifacts from Pompeii, Stabiae, and Herculanem.

My favorite exhibit was the marble collection, including several Farnese Marbles, including the Farnese Hercules, the Farnese Atlas, and my personal favorite, the Farnese Bull, considered to be the largest single sculpture ever recovered.


The museum also contained several murals and mosaics, including the Gallery of the Emperors, which housed a cycle of portraits designed to represent the history of Rome through images of its main characters.

Perhaps the most captivating work for architecture students housed in this museum was the 1:100 scale model of Pompeii before the eruption of Vesuvius.


air16_12The second museum we visited was the Contemporary Art Museum of Naples (Madre), a strong contrast to the historical museum and sites we had seen earlier on the trip. The ground floor of the building was brightly colored and surrounded by mirrors, immediately capturing our attention and drawing us into the museum. The museum housed several collections from different artists. My favorites were Riccardo Dalisi’s Struttura 1 (Structure 1) and Struttura 3 (Structure 3) and Luigi Mainolfi’s Senza titolo (Esploso) (Untilted (Exploded)).


Our trip to Naples concluded with a pizza lunch (our fifth pizza meal of the trip) before we departed for Capri.




We ended our visit to southern Italy with a quick weekend trip to the small island of Capri. Located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the island of Capri is split into two parts: Capri, known for its beautifully-preserved ruins, designer shopping, and tourist destinations, and Anacapri, known for its gardens, mosaics, and residential feel.


We arrived in the Marina Piccola and traveled through the town of Capri on our way to Anacapri. We were fortunate enough to see both parts of the island since our Airbnb was in Anacapri. The villa had a deck with a beautiful view of the water and the lush landscape leading to it. On our first evening in Anacapri, we cooked our dinner and prepared for the next day.

We woke up early on Saturday and walked to the Blue Grotto which was closed due to bad weather conditions.

However, we were lucky to spend the rest of the morning exploring the town of Capri and enjoying lunch with a panoramic view of the sea. We spent the rest of the day at Punta Carena, the beach closest to our Airbnb, marked by a lighthouse, and enjoyed our final dinner here at Ristorante Verginiello.air16_15