As a kid I was very fond of the comic books of Asterix. Then of course, Rome is thè city to long to go to. For a long time I wondered what today's Rome would be like and how much of the past could still be seen. Kurt Hielscher must have had the same interest in 1925, when he published not only his photoalbum of Italy but also another one solely on Rome. I have been in Rome three times: in March 2012, November 2016 and October 2023. In 2012 and 2016, I had not startet this photoproject yet, so all the similarities between the then&now photos from that dates are accidental. The third time in Rome, with the book under my arm, was a highly ambitious quest, but I managed to rephotograph quite some photos, but it simply was too much and I will gradually update this subpage with new duos. And, I am sure there will be a fourth time.

Forum Romanum

Forum Romanum, Temple of Saturn (497 B.C.), 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher

Forum Romanum, Temple of Saturn (497 B.C.), 11th of November 2016. Photo: Casper Molenaar

The differences between the impressive Temple of Saturn at the Forum Romanum in Rome in Italy between 1925 when Kurt Hielscher took his photo and 91 years later when I did are not as big as the changes in the 1500 years before. The original Temple of Saturn (497 BC) is one of the oldest temples in Rome and was rebuilt in 42 BC and again in the fourth century AD after a devastating fire, hence the inscription: "Senatus Populus Que Romanus Incendio Consumptum Restitvit," "Destroyed by fire, Restored by the Senate and the People of Rome." The temple housed the aerarium, where Romans' reserves of gold and silver were stored. It is truly an amazing place where history comes back to life, with only a small portion of imagination needed.

The Vestal Virgins in the Forum Romanum, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

The Vestal Virgins in the Forum Romanum, 18th of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

The Vestal Virgin or vestal was a priestess of the goddess Vesta. The college of Vestal Virgins consisted of six (in late antiquity seven) priestesses, who were appointed for a minimum of thirty years between the ages of six and ten. Their main task was to maintain the hearth fire in the temple of Vesta, which was never allowed to go out. The Vestals took it in turns to supervise Vesta's hearth so that at least one Vestal was stationed there at all times. During their service, the Vestals were required to maintain chastity. The loss of a Vestals virginity was considered an ominous omen for the Roman commonwealth. An unchaste Vestal was removed from the priesthood and could then be buried alive. Most vestals retired with a generous pension and universal respect. They were then free to marry, though few of them did. Some appear to have renewed their vows. In 382 AD, the Christian emperor Gratian confiscated the public revenues assigned to the cult of Vesta in Rome. The Vestals vanished from the historical record soon after. - Wikipedia

From a different angle

Temple of Vesta and Castor within the Forum Romanum, Rome, Lazio, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Temple of Vesta and Castor within the Forum Romanum, the 18th of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

The Temple of Vesta was the central sanctuary of Rome in the Forum Romanum, located behind the Caesar and Castor temple. Here, the sacred fire was guarded by the six Vestal Virgins. The Temple of of Castor was originally built in gratitude for the victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus in 495 BC.

Me and Iulio Caesare, 14th of March 2012.

Me and Iulio Caesare, 10th of November 2016.

Me and Iulio Caesare, 15th of October 2023.

The remnants of the Temple of Caesar. Here he was cremated after he was murdered in 44 BC. 

At the other side of the street, the Via Fori dei Imperiali, one can find the remnants of the Forum Trajanum, here with both the Chiesa Santa Maria di Loreto in the back on the left and the Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano on the right, and ofcourse the Colonna Traiana.

Forum Trajanum, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Forum Trajanum, 15th of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar.  

Starting 107 AD it took 36 years to build the Forum Trajanum. Now, it seems like they're rebuilding it with all the scaffolding and the renewed columns. I am sure these works weren't there yet during my previous visit in 2016 and I don't know why they're doing it nor what they are actually doing. Will they rebuild the original as a whole or only a few columns? Are they using original remains?

If you look well, you'll see that Kurt Hielscher had a lower standpoint than I, and he stood a little to the right. I was standing on one of the pedestrian bridges that provide nice views on the Forum while Kurt Hielscher probably stood on the ground floor in front of it. Check the second front row column on the left with burst on it. Though the rest of both photos seem identical standpointwise, this is not the case with this this column and I don't think it was replaced.

The Forum Trajanum and the Via dei Fori Imperiali in the back.


Colosseum, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher

Colosseum, 15th of March 2012. Photo: Casper Molenaar

Though not the exact same photo, I think it is still an awesome view to see the Colosseum in 1925 by Kurt Hielscher and mine 87 years later next to one another. In 72 AD Emperor Vespasianus initiated the building of the amphitheatre with a 527 meter circumference funding it with the revenues of the looting of Jerusalem two years earlier. The opening games in the 80 AD lasted a 100 days.

Inside the Colosseum, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Inside the Colosseum, 18th of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Inside the Colosseum, one of the seven wonders of the world. Now I understand why. How impressive! With the possibility of hosting 55.000 visitors more than twice the size of the Amphitheatre in Pula in Croatia that I visited a few months earlier, in the summer 2023. Ofcourse time took its toll here, but rather in the 19 previous centuries than the last one. The stage reversed sides, which was quite funny to notice, but also made it harder to rephotograph.

View from the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II on the Forum Romanum and the Colosseum in the distance.

From the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum, the impressive Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II catches the eye. Here in 2023 from close by and in 2012 just after sunset in 2012.

View from the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II on the Via del Corso.

View on the Capitol from the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II.

The Scalinata dell'Ara Coeli on the left and the 'Cordonata', the stairs leading to Capitol Hill with the statues of Castor and Pollux at the top and a busy traffic square at the bottom of both stairs. I really risked my life to make the photo, crossing the square a few times stopping in the middle of it till a new wave of scooters, taxi's and busses flooded the Piazza d'Aracoeli and I had to run again.  

'Cordonata', the stairs leading to Capitol Hill, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

'Cordonata', the stairs leading to Capitol Hill, 15th of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Piazza Mattei with the Fontana delle Tartarughe

Well, this was a surprise to walk into for me. We just had some sandwiches around the corner when I grabbed Google Maps to check where we were after visiting the impressive Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II. We were strolling around its neighboring streets on the way to the Palazzo Venezia where we received a free entrance for after vusing the elevator to th eroof of the  Sugar Cake". Then I realized we were very close to the Piazza Mattei with its Fontana delle Tartarughe, The Turtle Fountain.

Fontana delle Tartarughe, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Fontana delle Tartarughe, the 15 of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

It is said that Vergilio Mattei was not allowed to hang out with the girl he felt in love with because of his lower class status. He had lost all his possessions due to gambling. The father of the girl did not allow him to marry her. Then Vergilio came up with an idea. He said he should come back the morning after to see what Vergilio could accomplish in one night as proof for the love for his daughter. The morning after the newly built fountain convinced the father after all.

The statue shows four ephebes, seated in identical but mirrored positions on small dolphins. The four turtles were added during a restoration in 1658 by Gianlorenzo Bernini or Andrea Sacchi. It seems as if the ephebes push them up to drink. On a regularly basis the turtles were stolen. In 1581 the construction of the fountain according to a design by Giacomo della Porta was assigned to Tadeo Landini and ready in 1588. So it took a little longer than a night. 

The Pantheon

De diameter of the Pantheon is a little larger: just over 43 meter. The opening in the dome has a diameter of nine meters and is the only daylight that enters. The Pantheon is way older. It find its origins in 27 BC but destroyed in a major fire in 80 AD, but restored by Emperor Domitian. In 110 the Pantheon was struck by lightning. For a second time, the Pantheon had to be rebuilt. Emperor Hadrian had the Pantheon completely rebuilt between 119 and 125, giving it its current round shape.

Pantheon, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher. 

Pantheon, 16th of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

The opening in the dome of the Panteon is 9 meters wide. Photo: Casper Molenaar, 16th of March 2012.

2012 at night, 2016 with sunshine and 2023 in the rain.

Close-up of the fountain in front of the Pantheon, 2023.

Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi, 11th of November 2016. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Somewhere in between the Pantheon and the Trevi fountain it started to rain. We hid for a while at the Galleria Sciarra, bought a few umbrellas and moved on. On arrival I felt the magic of Bernini's design of the majestic 22 meters wide and 26 meters high Trevi fountain again. Maybe, due to the rain it was less crowded than the previous two times, but with all the umbrellas, it was still challenging to get to the place from where you'd lay your eyes upon this miracle. 50 years after Bernini finished his design, it took architect Nicola Salvi 30 years, from 1732 till 1762 to have it build. 

Fontana di Trevi, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Fontana di Trevi, 16th of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

The theme of the fountain is the ocean with the majestic sea god Oceanus on a shell-shaped chariot that is pulled to the ocean by winged horses and young sea gods (tritons). One horse is calm, the other rears up. This symbolizes the two faces of the sea. In two niches there are representations of Abundance and Health on the left and right (I'll put a wider view of the fountain below in the comment section and on the website).

Today there's the rumor that if one stands with one's back to the fountain, closes one's eyes, thinks of Rome and throws a coin into the water with one's right hand over one's left shoulder, one will one day return to Rome. Tossing two coins would enable the thrower to meet his beloved in the 'Eternal City'. Tossing three coins would lead to marriage or divorce. Well, I don't believe it. I never threw money in it, and came back twice already. 

Within the crowds at the Trevi fountain, I found some fun in photographing tourists who were more busy with themselves than the fountain. Here a compilation of snapshots, mainly shot at the Trevi fountain. Nobody noticed I was photographing, some from really close by. Photos from 2016.

11th of November 2016. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

The Spanish Stairs

Let's go to the Piazza di Spagna where we find the Spanisch Steps, built in 1725 AD and named after the square and the impressive church Trinità dei Monti on top of it and the Obelisco Sallustiano in front of the church. The church is founded by the French King Louis XII and its construction began in 1502 and was completed in 1587. The French prefer to name the steps "l'escalier de la Trinité-des-Monts" so without referral to name of the square. Italians use both names. The Spanish Steps contain of 135 steps, interrupted by two wide terraces. The fountain dates back to 1629. Question: do you think it is the same palm tree on the right?

Fontana della Barcaccia, Spanish Steps and the Trinità dei Monti, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher. 

Fontana della Barcaccia, Spanish Steps and the Trinità dei Monti, 11th of November 2016. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

View on Rome from the top of the Spanish Steps in front of the Trinità dei Monti, 15th of March 2012. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

Taking a rest somewhere in Rome, 15th of March 2012. Photo: Kim van Ierssel.

Park Borghese & the Terrazza del Pincio

Terrazza del Pincio, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher. 

Terrazza del Pincio, 20th of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

With this photo on the Terrazza del Pincio, I wanted to catch the same atmosphere as Kurt Hielscher's. I did not have to cut the palmtree, but the mighty dome of the Basilica di San Pietro of Vatican City is way less impressive on my photo than on Kurt Hielscher's. I decided to step a little to the right resulting in the lamppost moving before the dome but not behind the bushes and Kurt Hielscher took his photo from a different height. 

Anyway, the Terrazza del Pincio is a beautiful place, also with stunning views on the Piazza del Poppolo, and the adjacent Park Borghese, where we could rent a family-bicycle and had great fun. Unfortunately, we did not visit the Galleria Borghese where Kurt Hielscher made some stunning photos from its interior and its art, but I could rephotograph some of his photos in the garden just before the Gallerie. More about that later.

View on Rome from the Terrazza del Pincio.

Tempio di Ercole Vincitore and the Fontana dei Tritoni on the Piazza della Bocca della Verita

Fontana dei Tritoni i Tempio di Ercole Vincitore, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Fontana dei Tritoni i Tempio di Ercole Vincitore, 16th of October 2023. 

The morning of Monday the 16th of October, we started our stroll at the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, about which later more, circling through the upcoming neighborhood Testaccio and found a nice view through a keyhole in a door at the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta on the San Pietro Basilica. Then we went down to the Piazza della Bocca della Verità. Beforehand I was really looking forward to rephotograph this photo expecting characteristic time differences, but now I know we need to zoom out a little bit to see the busy traffic, next to the 1717 AD laid foundation stone of the Fountain of Tritons in the front and the Temple of Hercules Victor in the back, which is the earliest surviving mostly intact marble building in Rome dating from the later 2nd century BC and the only surviving one made of Greek marble. Obviously, the roof has been renewed though. The layout of the temple caused it to be mistaken for a Temple of Vesta until it was correctly identified by Napoleon's Prefect of Rome, Camille de Tournon. Kurt Hielscher made the same mistake in his book, which made me first look out for the remnants of the Temple of Vesta at the Forum Romanum, but I found out that was not the right place just a few days of departure. 

The Temple of Hercules Victor from a little closer.

The Piazza della Bocca della Verita is a very busy traffic intersection.

The Bocca della Verità. 

Fontana dei Tritoni from close by. 

The Bocca della Verità, the Mouth of truth that gives the square its name, is situated in the pink building with the arches: the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. It is said that when your a liar, you'll lose some fingers when you put your hand in its marble mouth. We didn't dare to try.

I rephotographed Kurt Hielscher's photo from the terrace of the white building on the left.

Kim and me having diner in a restaurant in the Trastavere neighborhood, 2012. 

Castel Sant'Angelo 

Built between 123 and 139 AD, the Castel Sant'Angelo was originally the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian. When I walked there I did not realize the building is that old. The castle served as a hiding place for the popes since the Vatican was situated outside the city walls. When danger emerged they could escape behind its walls via a corridor. The bridge in front of the castle was built in the same era.

Ponte and Castel Sant'Angelo with view on Saint Peters Cathedral in Rome, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher 

Ponte and Castel Sant'Angelo as seen from the other side of the bridge with the tower from the building of the National Association for the Mutilated and Invalids of War , 16th of March 2012. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

Ponte Sant'Angelo with view on Saint Peter's Basilica, 10th of November 2016. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

The Vatican

Built between 1506 and 1626, the Saint Peter's Basilica was the largest church in the world until 1989, but still is in Europe. Its dome has a diameter of 42.60 meters.

Photo: Kurt Hielscher, 1925. 

Photo: Casper Molenaar, 20th of October 2023 

In the Basilica di San Pietro in 2012 and 2016. In 2023, with the boys, we avoided the queus and decided to discover more of the city instead of waiting to get in.

Piazza San Pietro, 1925. Photo: Kurt Hielscher. 

Piazza San Pietro, 20th of October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Below: View on Rome and Vatican City, October 2023. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

In the footsteps of  Kurt Hielscher