We’ve had a marvelous time getting to know Rome just a little better, though we’ve still barely scratched the surface. We’ve been SO lucky with the weather after that first rainy day; it’s been sunny but not hot with cool breezes in the afternoons.
Above: ancient ruins are everywhere you go. Most of the ruins that you see are from the Imperial period (27 BC to AD 284).
Touring Rome’s City Center
We spent most of our first day just exploring on foot, then had a guided tour around the city center late in the afternoon, hitting all of the popular landmarks. We’d seen most of these on our prior visit to Rome, but it was nice to get more of the context and history from our guide.
Piazza Navona “Rivers” fountain by the sculptor Bernini. The four statues represent the four largest rivers on continents on which the Catholic church had followers at the time the fountain was built: Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia.
The Trevi Fountain. This was originally the endpoint of one of the aqueducts built into the city by the emperor Hadrian. Visitors throw coins into this fountain not to wish on, but because doing so is supposed to mean that you will return to Rome.
The Spanish Steps, named for the Spanish Embassy nearby. I’d heard this before but our guide also warned us that this area and the Trevi Fountain are notorious pickpocket zones. In fact, when we were standing by the Trevi while she explained the history and meaning of the statues, a group of teenage girls suddenly came up and stood very close to us. I had a feeling they were up to no good, and our guide did too. She leaned in their direction and gave them the stink eye, and they dashed off. (I’ve heard this about Paris as well, but stay alert around groups of teenage or pre-teen girls.)
For Day 2, we’d booked a couple of museum visits. The first at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, featured a tour of the public areas and artwork, accompanied by interludes of Baroque music from these talented performers…
culminating in a private concert of more Baroque and early Opera music after the tour. The art collection is impressive, including Caravaggio, Breughel, and this famous painting of Pope Innocent X by Velasquez. (Pope Innocent X was a member of the powerful and wealthy Pamphilj family.)
But the building itself (which has been restored to how it originally looked and was arranged in the 16th Century) is stunning too. Don’t forget to look up…
The Doria Pamphilj is still a privately owned Palazzo, and the family actually keeps and inhabits private apartments, which are accessed through the blue doors in the “red room” (first photo).
That afternoon, we’d reserved a visit to the Galleria Borghese. I’d remembered the Bernini sculptures from our first visit years ago, but having some background on Bernini from our tour the previous day helped me to appreciate these all the more.
This is still one of my favorite sculptures ever. The movement, the expressiveness…after seeing so much formal and stylized sculpture, the life in Bernini’s work just takes your breath away. I mean, look at this facial expression…
The furrowing of the brow, the biting of the lip…
If you love art, the Galleria Borghese is at the top of my Do-Not-Miss list for Rome. It’s not overwhelming, and you can stroll through the large and well-kept public park surrounding the museum afterward. You have to reserve a time and purchase tickets in advance, but it’s worth planning around.
Take Me To The River…
We’d planned to visit some of the parks on Monday, but got distracted with a walk along the Tiber, then through the Jewish Quarter…
and around the Trastevere area, where we stopped for lunch.
I’ve eaten my share of these guys while we’ve been in Rome, and artichokes too (one of my favorites). We’ve had some really fabulous meals and I’ll be doing a separate post on restaurants soon.
More walking along the river after lunch, stopping to admire and puzzle over some wall art…
and eventually wandering back to our hotel to put our feet up a bit before heading out to dinner. It was a lovely, relaxing day, and a nice way to cap off our visit to Rome.
Above, this is the very typical parking situation in Rome. I’m always impressed with their parallel parking skills!
Today we’re off to our next stop in the Lake Como region!
Do you sometimes go “off schedule” when traveling?