Roaming In Rome

Rome forum ruins
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 fountain Rome

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.

Trevi Fountain in Rome

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 in 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.)

Museum Visits

Palazzo Doria Pampilij artwork

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…

Baroque music concert at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj Rome

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.)

portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velasquez

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…

ceiling at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

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.

David by Bernini

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…

Bernini's David sculpture, note the concentration!

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…

walking along the Tiber River in Rome

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…

artichokes in the Jewish Quarter, Rome

and around the Trastevere area, where we stopped for lunch.

grilled prawns, a specialty in Rome

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…

wall art along the Tiber River in Rome

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.

Romans are champions of parallel parking!

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?

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  1. Adele Miller
    May 2, 2017 / 3:36 am

    Looks like you’re having a lovely time! Rome is one of my favorite places (how can you not love a city where there are Caravaggio paintings in churches that are always open? We never made it to the Doria Pamphilj gallery, and we missed the height of artichoke season, two excellent reasons to return!

    Tip: Gelateria del Teatro, very close to Piazza Navona has the very, very best gelato :~)

  2. Vicki
    May 2, 2017 / 4:59 am

    I love Rome , It really is the world’s largest open air museum. Every time I visit Rome, I discover something new.

    You can look over a hand rail and view layers of the city underneath.

    Loving your choice of outfits esp the silver/glitter sneakers and the Missoni striped jacket.

    The very best gelato I had was to the left of the Trevi Fountain (if you were standing in the middle of the fountain) – I had a cherry and amaretto one – to die for.

    So jealous Susan! My friend and I are off to France next year.

  3. May 2, 2017 / 5:10 am

    There are many good gelaterias, not only in dead centre. Every Rione (borough, arrondissement) will claim to have the very best!

    Actually, Rio de la Plata represents all of America; there were certainly many Catholic followers in North America, including where you live now, and what has remained Mexico. And as far up as here in Québec (La Nouvelle France) with the mighty St. Lawrence, but far fewer of them back then, or in what is now Louisiana.

    Lunch looks wonderful. You must have good artichokes in California…

  4. Kellee
    May 2, 2017 / 5:20 am

    We always go off schedule – my husband and I found a fabulous pub on the other side of the park overlooking Prague when we got caught in a rainstorm – spent a relaxing couple of hours in a little town (Holevice, I think) watching the rain and drinking Czech beer. If we had not thought to walk to the other side of the park, we never would have found this gem. I love the unexpected of travel!

    We tend to plan half a day and let the other half be wandering time.

  5. Angela De Marco Manzi
    May 2, 2017 / 5:25 am

    there is a reason why it was called “Caput Mundi”. I love Rome, have been there many times and it never fails to disappoint.

  6. Léa
    May 2, 2017 / 5:42 am

    I’m enjoying your trip to one of my favourite cities! It never occurred to me to think of pickpockets at the Piazza Espagna ! We went up and down those steps many times as our hotel was just off the steps. We sweltered in Rome in May 2015 then went to Iceland where we froze for a week! I’m interested on your thoughts on packing for that type of trip. Keep enjoying la Bella Italia!

    • Anonymous
      May 3, 2017 / 1:09 am

      The Piazza d’Espagna is notorious for pickpockets. Also the area around the Colisseum. The husband of one of my friends had his pockets picked twice in 10 days. Both times in the Piazza. He twice lost his wallet (with a sizeable amount of money and all his cards) and passport, the second time after they’d just been replaced. They’d walked through the crowds you often find in this location. The best thing is to simply walk around the crowds – not through them. It’s such a big square it’s not hard to go around. Also men should always keep their wallet under control – never in their back pocket. Once late at night my husband and I were crossing the Piazza to get to our hotel (near the top of the steps) when I realised a teenage boy was following us. There were still some people around but not many. I stopped dead turned to face him and shouted “Va te!” It’s like saying “Va t’en” in French to a stranger. Fairly abrupt – like saying “get lost”. He looked at me unbelievingly so I shouted much more loudly and glared. He turned and ran off. A friend from our Embassy had told me to make as much noise as possible in these circumstances because in Rome in public places they’re sneak thieves – who will run off if you attract attention to them – they’re not usually muggers. It’s also important to be wary of people with icecreams (or drinks) who deliberately spill or smear it over you and then pretend to help you by brushing you down. Usually they have a friend behind you who helps themselves to your pockets or jewellery – or grabs your handbag and runs off. Another way they have of confusing you while they make a grab is to place a large piece of cardboard (a picture, “petition” or magazine/newspaper) between your eyes/face and your body/hands so you can’t see what’s happening below. There is also the baby trick – in the old days at least a woman (often a gypsy) would throw what appeared to be a baby (of course it wasn’t – usually a doll – or just a bundle wrapped in a shawl) at a man or woman. As the tourist reached out to catch “the baby” the accomplice (usually) would rush in and grab wallet/handbag, smart phone camera or whatever.
      There is also the ring trick (very common in tourist areas of Paris) where the thieves call you over to see a ring they “think you dropped”. While you’re looking at the ring – they rob you. Similarly with petitions they want you to sign. Best to just say No very firmly, give them the stink eye or just look away and ignore them and walk away as smartly as you can. Have never felt the need to run though. They’ll quickly move on to the next tourists coming along.
      This might seem alarmist – but it’s best to be aware and to take precautions accordingly. But don’t let it stop you going. Rome is wonderful. For those who think this is exaggerated – I can assure you these things really do happen – our embassies in Rome and other parts of Italy and France) are very familiar with their distressed nationals’ contacting them for help after similar thefts. Best wishes, Pamela

      • Susan B
        May 3, 2017 / 1:17 am

        Yes, we had the “petition” guy who thrust a pen in my face. I gave him a stern “No!” and stepped away from him. I had a feeling about that one too. I’ve also know people who have had their pockets picked on the Santa Monica pier, so I’m always on alert in crowds, no matter where we are.

        • Anonymous
          May 3, 2017 / 7:28 am

          Yes, so important to be alert – whenever possible we avoid crowds. We once got on a fairly crowded bus in Rome – had to stand on the steps just inside the door. We knew it was the correct numbered bus for our destination but weren’t sure if we were taking it in the right direction. My husband asked the man standing above us to the left and we were both looking in his direction when I felt something was wrong. I looked down and discovered the quite well dressed man one step above to my right had his hand right down inside my deep handbag. He’d thrust it in between the zipper and the side of the bag. I was so shocked I yelled at him and karate chopped his arm (not very hard really) and kicked him in the shins. He struggled desperately to get his arm out of my bag. My husband just looked over in time to see me kicking the man in the shins and wanted to know what I was doing. I just shouted back – we’re getting off at the next stop. By the time we were on the pavement my knees were shaking like a jelly – I managed to walk back a little way to the nice trattoria where we’d had lunch and the kind staff made us a coffee and let us sit there till we recovered, then called us a taxi. Have never caught a bus in Rome since! But I was lucky and spotted what was happening before he was able to take anything. I remembered later that the Italian word for thief is ladro and wished I’d yelled that at him. Best wishes, Pamela

          • May 3, 2017 / 3:25 pm

            Ladro is a very good word to know (feminine ladra, but don’t worry about that). Used for everyone from petty thieves to corrupt government officials.

  7. Guermantes
    May 2, 2017 / 5:45 am

    Alors: Lovely post in your typical modest style – I love that you don’t ‘frimer’ with your blog and take things calmly in your stride. And such nice pictures. I’ve just read ‘Madame Solario’ (newly reprinted by Persephone Books) which is set in Lake Como in 1906 (1905?). It’s a bit psychologically troubling, but the writing about Como is lyrical. Might be something to read on return.

    • May 3, 2017 / 3:47 pm

      I love une femme’s understated writing – for the same reason I love that of Rachel Roddy, younger than we are…

  8. May 2, 2017 / 6:12 am

    In some towns, one parks without using the parking brake. That way other cars can bump yours forward/backward–as well as the car on the other side of the spot–and wiggle into/out of small spaces.
    Do the teenage boys still wear crisply ironed, impeccably white shirts while on their Vespas?

    • May 2, 2017 / 6:57 am

      Ah, this makes so much sense, really. I was once scolded back home in West Coast Canada because I’d tapped the bumper of the car behind me in the parallel parking spot I was pleased to have got myself into. The woman scolding me then proceeded to go into the café I was heading to so that she could alert the car’s owner that I’d bumped it (the owner, luckily, just chuckled, being a bit more worldly and more aware of a car bumper’s purpose — and perhaps she’d spent time in Rome 😉

  9. May 2, 2017 / 7:21 am

    Susan … off schedule? What schedule!? Hubby and I have had such good times doing ‘nothing’ in cities we’ve visited. Yes, we do schedule guided trips, using the guides our friends have recommended (those recommendations have never failed us). But our favorite things to do in fabulous cities include sitting in front of cafes, people watching or reading, window shopping on streets we didn’t even know existed until we stumbled onto them, blowing off a second museum to spend extra time in the first museum, never having dinner reservations, but going back for a second dinner at the first restaurant we ate at and even a third time. We figure it’s impossible to see ‘everything,’ so sometimes we just relax and enjoy what’s in the neighborhood. After all, Paris (and Rome and London and New York and Amsterdam and Delhi and Casablanca and New Orleans and ….) will always be there waiting for us.

    And here’s our guiltiest pleasure — checking into a luxe hotel and letting the hotel staff spoil us to death, venturing out only occasionally. Years ago, a friend of mine vacationed once a year in Bangkok, checking in at the Peninsula and never leaving the hotel grounds. We’re not that bad. But sometimes we’re a little bit bad. 😉

  10. MarcyLuna
    May 2, 2017 / 7:51 am

    Ann, I love your comments! That’s how my partner and I prefer to travel, although we don’t stay in luxe hotels, we stay in small, simple family-run hotels or we rent a place through vrbo or Air BandB (although we have a fave larger hotel or two, like the Sofitel at the Athens Airport or the Megisti on the island of Kastellorizo, Greece). Many years ago, when I was young (!), I was married to a European architect, so I saw a LOT of museums and monuments and ruins, also off-the-beaten path art things. Now, with my current partner, we prefer to wander. NO guided tours ever. We learn the transit system, occasionally consult a guidebook, occasionally go to a museum, and leave the rest to chance and whim and weather. At this stage of my life, I am more interested in how people are living today in the places I visit.

    • May 2, 2017 / 11:03 am

      Hear, hear, Marcyluna! I would love to stay at an airbnb (I cruise the website often and see some pretty wonderful digs there), but hubby seems terrified that he will actually have to cook a meal or boil water while on vacation. So weird, since he cooks at home all the time. Oh, well — he’s still my favorite traveling companion, so I’m humoring him. 🙂

      • Susan B
        May 2, 2017 / 12:30 pm

        Ann, le Monsieur is the same way. He doesn’t want to have to make his own bed or prepare meals when we’re on vacation. 🙂

        • May 2, 2017 / 3:29 pm

          That would be a real problem for me, as one of my greatest joys on holiday is exploring markets. Not that I do elaborate cooking – it isn’t necessary with all the foods that are prepared or suitable for salads or cheese plates.

          And who really has to make the bed? Is he expecting guests in the little rental flat? I really hate having to go out to eat three times a day.

  11. Sally
    May 2, 2017 / 9:00 am

    Bernini is a fave of mine. How did you book your guides? I think having a guide would help navigate crowds and keep the historical information flowing. We want to get to Rome in September or early October and see the Borghese also.

  12. May 2, 2017 / 9:48 am

    Art! Sculpture! Bernini! I can only laugh imagining a local politician saying s/he’s going to build a majestic, glorious sculpture at the end of our water line. I wonder if there are any Canadians still around capable of this level of technical expertise alone. Times change but what thanks must be given to a country and people for preserving such a legacy of mind-boggling beauty there everywhere you look. I’ve cavorted in Trevi fountain on my blog before, but it’s good to see the REAL one. Thank you for this peek at another place.

  13. May 2, 2017 / 10:33 am

    I informed my husband recently that we were going to Italy for our 40th Anniversary. When he responded “Italy, why Italy?” I merely said: “because”. This post is definitely one to be bookmarked.

    Meanwhile, Congratulations for your placement on the “Top 100 Women Fashion blogs”!

  14. stylecrone
    May 2, 2017 / 12:53 pm

    Wonderful photos and commentary. Looks like you’re having a fabulous time. Jeff and I plan to visit Rome in September, so will be following your adventures closely!

  15. Jill Ann
    May 2, 2017 / 12:59 pm

    We rented an apartment through VRBO a couple of years ago, near the Piazza Navona. Quite a lot of our time was spent drinking wine, (or limoncello or sambuca), eating pizza & pasta, and people watching at the Piazza. It was wonderful!

    We were also super impressed by the Borghese Gallery. I remember the Bernini sculpture of the woman reclining on a cushion, where you could see the way her hip settled into the “fabric”. It is amazing how he could create the textures and expressions (as you mentioned) out of marble. The Rape of Proserpina was another favorite statue. The way the man’s hand presses into the woman’s flesh…..

  16. Christi
    May 3, 2017 / 4:29 am

    I adore the Borghese and never tire of going there when I’m in Rome. Have been 5-6 times and it’s never old! The Canova of Pauline Bonaparte as Venus is exquisite! The Bernini’s dazzle and make most other sculpture look crude in comparison!
    Not sure where you’re staying on the lake but don’t miss Villa Carlotta for some more Canova’s and Villa Balbianello for the lovely setting. If you’re closer to Como, the funicular and hike in Brunate are fun!

  17. Ro Silverman
    May 3, 2017 / 9:46 am

    Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing! I love following your travels.
    My husband and I just returned from a 10-day intro trip to Italy, as well (Rome, Florence, Italy) and, I am in love! I used your packing and wardrobe suggestions as a guide… I almost have it down!
    On a side note…
    A tip for when you return to Rome: Both my mister and I are film buffs (and have worked in the industry), and made it a point to visit the Cinecittà Studios in Rome. For ANY serious film aficionado it’s a candy store! (Fellini’s favorite soundstage was Studio 5). Such epics as Rome, Cleopatra, The Passion, and numerous spaghetti westerns were film behind its gates. It really has the feel of the old Warner Brothers lot.
    Looking forward to your next installment.
    Viaggi sicuri!!

    • May 3, 2017 / 3:45 pm

      Can’t agree more – should be twinned with Hollywood. Also, it is on the way to the Castelli Romani, hills just southeast of Rome known for local white wine (most of it not the finest wine for keeping, but very pleasant for quaffing there) and cooler hillside temps – been a summer home for élite Romans since the ancient ones, and still the Pope’s summer retreat, though I don’t know what Francis is doing.

      Lagatta confesses to a long-ago summer romance in the Castelli – hey, he fed and cared for several stray cats! Very pleasant in Frascati, Rocca di Papa and other places in that area. Such a lovely breeze after the stifling heat of midsummer Rome.

      English-language wiki is odd in calling then “Roman Castles”, while a literal translation, I’ve never heard that term used in English.

  18. Clariza
    May 3, 2017 / 1:12 pm

    I love Rome! Following your trip makes me want to return. I heard about pick pockets before my first trip. I carried a Pacsafe bag and my partner kept his wallet in his front pocket and a close eye out. Luckily we had no problems. Always use a security bag on all my trips and just keep an eye out. We also have free flowing trips just a train pass for the country, hotel reservations for our first and last 2 nights and the rest we make up.
    Our favorite ritual in Italy is a margherita pizza and cuppacinnos at 4:00 each day. It was fun to see how this classic was different in each city or neighborhood even.

  19. May 3, 2017 / 3:57 pm

    Those would NEVER be eaten together in Italy! Cappuccino is a breakfast drink, like café au lait. The name refers to the colours worn by Capucin monks and has nothing to do with cups of anything.

    Italians would NEVER have that with pizza, eaten in the evening, unless you mean pizza al taglio (see my comment about that). No, you don’t have to have wine or beer, but typically you’d enjoy it with fizzy mineral water if an abstainer.

    • Anonymous
      May 3, 2017 / 4:53 pm

      Lagatta – I suspect one of the forgotten reasons Italians don’t drink coffee with milk later in the day, particularly a cappuccino or caffe latte, may be that in the old days cafes/homes didn’t have good refrigeration for milk/cream and in summer the milk might be starting to go off after about 11ish. So mammas told their children “Never have milk in your coffee after breakfast”. I tried this possibility on a waiter at the trendy café/bar in the Piazzetta in Capri town one day – he thought for a moment and then said it was probably true. What do you think Lagatta? Kind of like the way people didn’t/don’t eat pastries with cream or mascarpone in the day in mid-summer in Sicily. There’s usually a reason (maybe from long ago) behind food/drink habits – especially habits that are pretty much confined to a particular country or region. Anyway, I like to think this when the odd Italian waiter openly sneers at my choice of coffee in the afternoon. Best wishes, Pamela

      • May 4, 2017 / 2:49 am

        Well, we know how logical the kosher and halal laws were with no refrigeration in even hotter climates. Could well be. I’m lactose intolerant so I never have coffee with milk under any circumstances – I can eat some cheese, especially goat’s and ewe’s – abundant in Italy – and very long-aged cow cheese such as old gruyère. Yes, even though Italian homes have cold cellars, their usage for fresh milk was limited when it was very hot.

        Italians wouldn’t have coffee or any hot drink with pizza in the evening, but it is true that they have a lot of arcane “rules”. They don’t really expect tourists to follow them, but I was studying there so it was a bit different.

        There is the old rule about no fish and cheese… Looking up Italian food rules or customs gets a LOT of hits. And I hope our kind hostess pseu doesn’t think I’m getting too effusive. Italy, especially Rome – and Perugia -elicits a great deal of longing. Fortunately I have a good chance of getting back there fairly soon with a job I’m working on now…

        • Anonymous
          May 4, 2017 / 5:52 am

          Many thanks, Lagatta, for replying to my question about milk in coffee. Didn’t know the rule about fish and cheese. Now wondering whether it applies to seafood too. Agree, would never drink coffee with pizza – I prefer a glass or two of red wine. They just seem to go together so well. Italians told us never to order pizza at lunch time because it would be unlikely to be cooked in a proper wood fired oven so wouldn’t be as good. They said they only ever ordered it in the evening after the wood fired ovens had heated to the right temperature during the day. Love goat and sheep cheeses too. Specially loved visiting Pienza – the whole village seems to smell of cheese. Food there was so wonderful and the village itself is charming – there is even a little via Baci – I think if I can remember any of the Italian I once learned – Kiss street. Lovers get their photo taken by the street sign.
          Can understand why you have yearnings for Italy. We’ve had many holidays there and have loved it since I was really young. Good luck with getting back there soon! Best wishes, Pamela

  20. Sally
    May 5, 2017 / 8:51 am

    Susan (or other fans) where did you stay in Rome? We’ll be going in late September. Much appreciated!

    • Susan B
      May 5, 2017 / 9:04 am

      Hi Sally, we stayed at the Palazzo Manfredi. I’ll be doing a recap post on all of our accommodations once we’re back home.

  21. Ainsivalavie
    May 6, 2017 / 4:49 pm

    Very interesting comments about pick pockets etc. When my brother and wife were attending cooking school in Italy a few years back they decided to do a side run to Rome. Prior to leaving they had been warned to carry ‘cut proof’ cross bodies. The thieves will come close to you and slice the bottom of your back and grab whatever you are carrying as it slips out. So much the better if you are flashing about a tablet, cellphone or camera and they see it placed in your bag! My brother who at the time was running an e commerce business required his laptop with him so he invested in the recommended bag. After his first day in Rome he returned to his hotel with a big slash in the outer material but the laptop was safe inside.
    Leave any ‘glitzy’ jewelry at home unless it’s fake probably best to keep any jewelry low key. A friend takes her 20.00 silver wedding band and leaves her 2 karat engagement ring/wedding set in her safety deposit box…another reason for leaving $$$ designer bags Stateside. The thieves definitely know which Longchamp, Gucci, Dior sac is easiest to ‘slice’. Keep your bag to the front of your body ( as Susan does) and not sitting on your hip and zip it. Identity pieces, passport, drivers licence etc are worth far far more on the black market than a few €’s so keep those In the hotels safe or next to your body. Don’t be the group mule and carry everyone’s stuff! If you get robbed, well….spread the work around;). I still can’t believe that a male tourist, in this day and age would stroll through any large city with a wallet in his hip pocket.

  22. Kristian Olson
    May 12, 2017 / 5:57 pm

    The four rivers statue was my absolute favorite. You felt the statue figures might stand up and walk off, they were that life-like. I loved that the Nile statue has a cloth over its head to represent that no one then knew where the headwaters of the Nile were (and actually it wasn’t until 2008 that we found the headwaters- and even that was only through satellites, not in person exploration!)

    • Susan B
      May 13, 2017 / 4:46 am

      I loved that bit about the Nile too, and thought it was such an inspired way to convey the mystery of the headwaters! Bernini was brilliant.

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