Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Among the Ruins: Italica

My brother-in-law Dave and I braved the 35°C/95°F heat Saturday to visit the Roman city of Italica (also known as Old Sevilla), which is 20 minutes away by bus. The city of Italica has its origins in the year 206 BC. It would have remained more intact had its stones not been used in later years (1301 AD) to build, among other things, the nearby Monastery of San Isidro del Campo.

MONASTERY OF SAN ISIDRO DEL CAMPO (NEAR BACKGROUND) AND THE CITY OF SEVILLA (FAR).
CHECK OUT THE AGAVE AMERICANA IN BLOOM IN THE FOREGROUND (LEFT).

As usual, I'll keep the history lesson short and, I hope, sweet. The Emperor Trajan was born in Italica in 53 AD. He was the first Roman Emperor to be born in a distant Roman province. His nephew and heir, the Emperor Hadrian (born in 76 AD), spent part of his youth in Italica. The area was considered of high strategic value and was officially settled by Roman soldiers who had been injured in a battle against the Carthaginians. In a nutshell, Dave and I walked the streets and saw the remains of a once-powerful and prosperous city more than 2,000 years old. The park is a work in progress. Digs continue and the city is being painstakingly excavated.

VENUS ENJOYING SOME SHADE NEAR THE PARK ENTRANCE.
(UNCONCERNED ABOUT THE SUN BEATING DOWN ON HER HEAD... OR ARMS.)

I had read and been told that Italica was fascinating but flat and completely exposed, and that there was absolutely nothing around it of interest for shopping or dining. Not so. The town of Santiponce looks charming and there are a variety of restaurants and shops along the route to Italica. In cooler weather, it will be really pleasant to walk back down the hill to Santiponce to see the ruins of the Roman theater — apparently grand and impressive — and the small public baths. Italica itself is a beautiful walled park with a small but excellent visitor center that clearly and interestingly explains the history of the city in both Spanish and English. Much of the park does bake in the sun with little chance of shade, but down near the entrance are some beautiful gardens and protected spots.

MAIN ROAD THROUGH ITALICA.

It was a hot day to be wandering the arid paths, so Dave and I visited about 3/4 of the park before heading directly across the street from the park entrance to a very good and very friendly restaurant, Gran Venta Italica (with a patio, a bar, and — even better — a large air-conditioned dining room), for lunch and an ice-cold beer. San Geraldo and I will have to head to Italica together once summer has passed to explore the entire park and the additional excavations in Santiponce, the town within which Italica now resides.


HOUSE OF THE PLANETARIUM.

SANTIPONCE CEMETERY IN BACKGROUND (BEHIND WHITE WALL).

THE EMPEROR TRAJAN. BORN IN ITALICA IN 53AD.

SANTIPONCE AND SEVILLA IN BACKGROUND.


THE HOUSE OF THE BIRDS.
WITH A CREPE MYRTLE IN BLOOM (TOP PHOTO), TO REMIND ME OF ALICE.

MORE OF THE HOUSE OF THE BIRDS.
YOU CAN SEE THE STATUE OF TRAJAN IN THE DISTANCE.

THE THERMAL BATHS INCLUDED HOT, WARM, AND COOL ROOMS WITH POOLS;
MEETING SPACES; EXERCISE AREAS; LIBRARIES; AND MORE.

TRYING TO PROTECT HERSELF FROM THE BAKING SUN,
AN ARCHAEOLOGIST DIGS UP MORE TREASURES RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES.

We ended our stroll at the Amphitheater, which was awe-inspiring. I walked the halls imagining the spectators hustling to their seats. We saw the gladiators' small lobby and their entrance to the arena. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get decent pictures of that because a family of five American tourists had noisily commandeered the space for themselves and, by that time, I was too hot, tired, and hungry to wait. Maybe next time.

AT LEFT IS THE ARCHWAY TO THE GLADIATORS' LOBBY.



THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN COVERED OVER IN ROMAN TIMES.


HEADING BACK OUT OF THE AMPHITHEATRE.


DIANA THE HUNTER.
FOUND FAIRLY INTACT IN 1900 NEAR THE THEATRE SEATING IN SANTIPONCE.

24 comments:

  1. you take us to the most beautiful places. Thank you for letting me "travel" with you :)

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    1. Monkey Man:
      Well, thanks for coming along. I love the company!

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  2. Beautiful ruins, which sounds like an oxymoron but isn't.
    Love these photos!

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    1. Thanks, Bob! I'm looking forward to seeing the rest.

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  3. What a fantastic place! Please hav it dismantled, carefully packed and delivered to Lincolnshire immediately. I need a new folly for th garden!

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  4. Your pictures are wonderful. I never fail to be amazed by Roman ingenuity and engineering skills. Not long ago I was in Ephesus, Turkey, and I saw similar ruins. Especially beautiful are your photographs of mosaic floors.

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    1. Stephen:
      I'm planning to do a blog post entirely on some of the amazing ceramic work around here. As for those Romans, some of their aqueducts can still be seen around Sevilla. One, built around 65 BC, was actually used until 1912. All that remain now are three remnant sections.

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  5. What a wonderful place, and a brilliant post. Incredibly beautiful - I appreciate you putting yourself through the searing heat and semi-starvation for us. Really lovely. x

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    1. Elaine:
      I'm sure you know by now how selfless I am. I suffered without food or drink for more than two hours (well except for the giant bottle of water and the two chocolate protein bars).

      Delete
  6. Wait, are you trying to teach me something today? You know how I feel about learning!
    m.
    p.s. Love the photos!

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    1. Mark:
      All you ever need to do is look at the pretty pictures. But the line that began "In a nutshell..." was written with you in mind.

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  7. What an incredible place! In the shot with Sevilla in the background, it looks like there are no tall buildings. Can this be so?

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    1. There is a narrow tower silhouetted in that photo dead-center on the horizon. It's under construction and will be 40 stories tall, which will make it the tallest building in Andalucía. So, no, not a lot of tall buildings here. I'll try and get some good shots of the skyline in the future so you can see what it looks like. Lots of church steeples dominating the "skyline."

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  8. I love ruined cities! So much fodder for the imagination. And it helps knowing some of the history. But tell me, what is this "heat" thing you speak of? Where can I get some?

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    1. Walt the Fourth:
      I was about to ask you the same question about that rain thing. Does water actually come out of the sky? Hard to believe.

      Right now, 35C; heading up to 40 today.

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    2. So... were the inhabitants know as Italics? Times New Romans? Certainly not Helveticans.

      Since nobody else went there, I figured it was my duty.

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    3. Walt the Fourth:
      Not to to mention the Zapf Dingbats who hauled some much of it away!

      Delete
  9. Emperor Trajan, now that explains the name of that breakfast café.

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    1. Peter:
      I initially included that info in the blog post, but then edited it out. I knew YOU'D notice the connection.

      Delete
  10. Incredible!! I would love to visit there one day. Reminds me of Pompeii which blew my mind.

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    Replies
    1. Pompeii is someplace I've always wanted to go. That must really be amazing.

      Delete

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