Month: December 2018

History by Pictures – 1 . Castel Sant’Angelo

History by Pictures – 1 . Castel Sant’Angelo

First appointment of my new section called “History by Pictures”. A new chapter available every Tuesday! Today we discover Castel Sant’Angelo.


Castel Sant’Angelo, near the Vatican, is one of the most visited and well known monuments in Rome.

Born as a mausoleum of the emperor Hadrian and his family, in the course of its millenary history, it was also a fortress, a residential palace and a very strict prison.

But why was a castle dedicated to an angel?

In 590 A.D. a plague struck Rome. Pope Gregory the Great then decided to organize a procession to ask God to end the terrible scourge. It is said that suddenly the Archangel Michael appeared on top of the Castle placing the sword in the scabbard. From that moment the plague ended and the Mausoleum began to be called “Castel Sant’Angelo”.




Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES, ROME, 0 comments
In case of Rain….What About the Pantheon?

In case of Rain….What About the Pantheon?

The Pantheon, a mysterious monument in some aspects. A Spasso con Sara to discover what the Romans invented in case of rain!


The Pantheon, a masterpiece of ancient Roman architecture, is characterized by the oculus, the circular window in the center of the dome.

As everyone knows, it is open, there is no glass, nor other systems of coverage … so what? What if it were to rain like this morning?

No problem! In case of rain, an upward current of air shatters the drops of water (it is called “chimney effect”) and then, even if there is a thunderstorm outside, in the Pantheon it seems to rain less!

Special drainage holes, skilfully distributed on the floor surface, prevent the formation of puddles inside the monument!



Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ROME, 0 comments
Borromini, the mysterious architect of the Roman Baroque

Borromini, the mysterious architect of the Roman Baroque

The Baroque style was born as an artistic style functional to affirm the magisterium of the Roman Church shaken, in its foundations, by the Lutheran Reformation. The heart of the artistic movement was Rome and its protagonists were Bernini and Borromini. A Spasso con Sara for a little in-depth analysis.


Blurred by his contemporary Bernini, Francesco Borromini is the misunderstood genius of the Roman Baroque. His architecture, apparently mute, monochrome and poor, imposes itself, instead, in the Roman architectural scenario with a cryptic message, all to be discovered, full of symbols and hidden meanings, esoteric, wisely enclosed in circles, squares, triangles, crosses and angelic heads that decorate the churches and facades of Borromini.


Bernini and Borromini were said to be rivals. Legend has it that one of the rivers (here in the photo) of Bernini’s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers, in the centre of Piazza Navona, covered its face so as not to look at the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone in front of it, built by Borromini (Credits:


Unlike Bernini, he managed to create the typical wonder of the Baroque with minimal expense. His churches did not have precious marbles. Instead, they were as poor and simple as the manger in which Jesus came into the world.

Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, behind the famous Piazza Navona, is his masterpiece. Lines, overlapping planes and perspectives merge and merge in an amazing game.

The facade of the church is concave and overlooks a courtyard. It is surmounted by an unmistakable dome (one of the most famous in Rome, I dare say) with a lobed lantern with an octagonal contour that wraps itself in a spiral ending in a crown surrounded by tongues of fire. From it depart a pedestal of iron arches that supports a globe, the dove Pamphilia with olive branch in the mouth and the cross.


The Church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza behind Piazza Navona.


The plan of the sacred building recalls a bee, the symbol of the Barberini family (to which Pope Urban VIII belonged, who first commissioned Borromini to build the church and the adjoining palace), originating from two equilateral triangles which, superimposed, generate a six-pointed star. It evidently recalls the seal of Solomon, a synthesis of hermetic and Masonic thought.



Map of the complex of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza (Credits:


These subtle references permeate the structure in its totality. One need only think that 111 stars are represented in the internal dome, a number that can also be considered as 1 + 1 + 1 which, when added together, gives 3 as a total. And 3 are the phases of the mystical evolution and the 3 is also the symbol of the sky. The stars are then divided into 12 elevations, a number easily ascribable to the Apostles and to the Heavenly Jerusalem.


Interior of the dome of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza (Credits:


Not even the floor escapes this game of references. It is made up of half white and half black hexagons that allude to the two sides of life: light and darkness, body and spirit, truth and error, in memory of the legendary temple of Solomon.


In the image is partly visible the floor of the church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza (Credits:


Sant’Ivo is just one of the many mysterious masterpieces by Francesco Borromini. If you want to know more…you’ll have to come A Spasso with Sara! 😉


Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ART & CULTURE, CHURCHES & HOLY SITES, ROME, 0 comments
7 December 2018, 4:30pm : the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square (Rome) lights up.

7 December 2018, 4:30pm : the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square (Rome) lights up.

Christmas means tradition. A Spasso con Sara to discover one of the typically Roman traditions linked to Christmas.


Today at 4:30 pm the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square was lit. A very suggestive moment that testifies the perpetuation of a tradition inaugurated in 1982 by the beloved John Paul II. That year, a Polish farmer brought a fir tree to Rome and donated it to Pope Wojtyla.


And so, every year, a different European Region gives the Vatican a fir tree that helps to make even more magical the atmosphere that in these days of approach to Christmas is breathed in Bernini’s Square.


A little curiosity: the Vatican already has its Christmas trees until 2035! As they say … better to play in advance!


This year the honor belongs to Italy and in particular to the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, committed, for the first time, in the initiative.


The beautiful tree is this year accompanied by a crib of golden sand. The artists, coming from all over the world, have been at work for several weeks already, and this morning, after finishing the work, they met Pope Francis.


Have a look to my exclusive video of the event! 🙂



Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ON THIS DAY, 0 comments
The She-Pope of Rome

The She-Pope of Rome

This is one of the most mysterious events of the Roman Middle Ages. Rumor or truth, Rome would have had a female pope during the ninth century AD.



Who’s her?

Her name was Joan, she was of English origin but she was born in Mainz, Germany. She moved to Athens and became a real expert in theology and…cunningness! The Church in fact has always denied the priesthood to women … our Joan, then, used a stratagem: she dressed as a boy and, thanks to her tenacity, in 855 AD was elected Pope with the name of John VIII, remaining in office for two years.


The She-Pope Joan in an ancient representation (Credits:



No lie lives forever

But its history was not a happy ending. Chastity, in fact, was not among the virtues of the Papess who soon fell in love with a subordinate, the only one who knew his secret. When she got pregnant, she was ill while riding from the Vatican to the Lateran, then the residence of the pope. Forced to stop, she gave birth to a child under the eyes of all, suddenly revealing her secret.


The She-Pope Joan gives birth to her own child (Credits:


Tradition reports that the place where Joan would have given birth to her son would be a few steps from the Colosseum and to be precise in Via dei Querceti, where today we can admire a sacred shrine in the form of a chapel with the image of a Madonna and Child. The road, among other things, was known in ancient times under the name of Vicus Papisse.


The sacred shrine of the She-Pope in Via dei Querceti (Credits:


The end of the story

You’ll be curious by now what happened to Joan. Most sources report that she died immediately after giving birth. There is, however, a second hypothesis according to which, immediately deposited, she became a nun and lived in penance, until her son became bishop of Ostia. At the point of her death, she asked to be buried where she gave birth. The son prevented this and, having transported the mother’s body to Ostia, had her buried in a church, paying her honours.


The She-Pope Joan in a famous film dedicated to her (Credits:


The story, perhaps born to discredit the institution of the Papacy, increasingly powerful over the centuries of the Middle Ages, remains in itself very fascinating.


Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ART & CULTURE, 0 comments