Images and Impressions: Rome, Day One

These traffic cops were performing an amazing pas de deux in the middle of a very busy intersection

Our flight arrived in Rome early in the evening, and we were anticipating having to spend some time in line going through immigration and customs. Not so. What line there was moved quickly, the young man in the immigration booth barely glanced at our passports before stamping and waving us on, and once we claimed le monsieur’s bag, we followed the signs for customs, and the “nothing to declare” door, only to find ourselves…outside. We’d arranged a car to pick us up from the airport, and the driver was a charming man whose English was rudimentary but knowledge of Rome was much better, and he took us on a brief driving tour of the city before dropping us at the hotel. It was amazing to sit at a stoplight just feet from the Coliseum. Yes, that one.

The next morning we enjoyed an opulent and over-priced breakfast buffet at the hotel* then set off on foot with a list, a map and my moleskine notebook.

We had the benefit of tips from several Rome aficionados, and the first stop on our self-guided walking tour was the Chiesa del Gesu. This church had come highly recommended as a beautiful example of Baroque art and architecture, and one that’s a bit off the beaten tourist path.

Wow.  This is indeed a magnificent church, and was quiet and uncrowded inside.  They’d set up a mirror to better view the stunning work on the ceiling.

Not far from the church was the Area Sacra, and my first close-up look at ancient Roman ruins. Julius Caesar was stabbed to death very near here, but nobody bothered us.

Area Sacra

Next, we strolled over toward the Piazza Navonna, already packed with hordes of tourists.

Passed these guys on the way.
Marcus Aurelius column at Piazza Navonna
Une femme at Piazza Navonna

Le monsieur was determined to get a gelato from Giolitti, so we wandered in circles for about 30 minutes before we found it. (He sampled many gelatos while in Italy, and ultimately decided that there were others better than Giolitti’s.)

After lunch** we wandered back over to the tourist-mobbed Trevi fountain,

which I must admit is pretty impressive in size and scope.

We then looped back to the Spanish Steps, just us and twenty thousand other tourists. After climbing to the top we admired the view,

That’s Saint Peter’s Basilica in the background

and poked our heads into a couple of the churches up there, neither of which was as impressive as the Gesu.

We continued up the hill and turned into the Villa Borghese gardens/park.

The elusive le monsieur, rarely captured in photos

Had we more time in Rome, we probably would’ve spent an afternoon exploring and enjoying this gorgeous park. There’s a bit of something for everyone.

The cars you see on the streets of Rome often aren’t much bigger than those above! Smart Cars and scooters were prevalent (including those “reverse tricycle” three-wheelers, see below left).

Yes, those cars are parked that way.

We witnessed some amazing feats of parallel parking, as people shoe-horned their cars into spaces with only centimeters on either side to spare. Double parking also seemed to be the norm.

Next installment: Day Two in Rome.

*I’ll be doing a separate post about the hotels.
**And one about our more memorable meals.

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  1. Don’t you love the mirrors in churches to help see the ceilings? I got to the point that I started carrying a small pocket mirror just for that purpose. And the Borghese – SOOO beautiful. Now I want to go back to Rome; you’re SUCH a bad influence!

  2. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos. I enjoyed the vicarious travel 🙂 It was also nice to see a photo of the Mr. You have probably posted about this, but what kind of cross body bag is this. I really need one and this one is lovely. Glad you had such a fabulous time.

  3. Wonderful — thanks for taking us touring with you, although now I’m exhausted, ready for a nap and it’s barely 7 a.m. here!
    So le monsieur searches outgelato the way some of us might search out bags or shoe addresses? Bravo! Gotta admire commitment to a cause.
    And you look wonderful in your simple, chic, non-touristy wear.

  4. The architecture has such detail and the colour of the stone is so softly aged…what a wonderful place to visit.

    I really like that top and if I remember it must be one of the Babette pieces. It looks like it could be worn in the evening as well. Great find Deja!

  5. I just discovered your blog and I love it! This post on Rome is fabulous and I can’t wait to hear about where you are staying and having your meals. I have only been there once and I stayed at the Hotel de Russie which we like very much. I will now be following your blog!

  6. I haven’t had time to comment because I’ve been so busy but I’ve been enjoying all of your travel posts.
    And wow we finally get a glimpse of the elusive Le Monsieur!

  7. Looks wonderful. Did you throw coins into the Trevi Fountain? I read recently about a scam involving the local authority fishing money out of the fountain on a regular basis. Scandalous.

  8. Lovely photos! You have whetted our appetite – we are going on a cruise of the western Med and will hopefully get off at Civitavecchia and take the train to Rome for the day, leaving our teens on the ship. We have been many times before, but we can’t resist one more time!

  9. Hello:
    You do seem to have packed a huge amount into your time in Rome and managed to capture the most important tourist spots whilst also going off the beaten track to see some lesser known gems.

    The Chiesa del Gesu looked to be absolutely breathtaking. And yes, the mirror trick is remarkably effective.

    We look forward to continuing our tour!

  10. I enjoyed your tour of Rome. Beautiful photos, what looks like great weather and you and monsieur dressed casually. Your outfits not screaming tourists.

  11. My favorite part of Rome is the juxtaposition of very old and medium old. Thanks for showing the old Roman ruins. My favorite part.

  12. Having been in Rome recently, I felt transported by your post, Pseu. You and le monsieur look very stylish and casual. Thanks for the attention to details you are giving us with each new installment about the trip. Just wondering if you visited the Villa Borghese on this trip?

  13. It’s nice to see Le monsieur!

    Your day one tour was jam packed. I’m glad you got to see some of the Villa Borghese gardens and park — there’s also a couple of wonderful museums there. Next time.

    Do the Roman drivers still approach intersections at homicidal speed then abruptly stop just in time?

  14. It was a good idea to arrange a driver at the airport. When we arrived in Rome after a long flight we ended up in a cab and the cabbie took advantage of our groggy state (+ two boys and a bunch of luggage) to short us on the change in a rather serious way.

    A few days later (after some sleep) we had an enjoyable evening at the Piazza Navonna with our boys. It was Spring and not that jammed. Dinner was chicken & vegetables and the lights on the fountain at night were pleasant.

  15. You and Rome both look fantastic! You are chic, svelte, and your short hair is my absolute favorite. I know it’s your prerogative to change your mind, but I think it’s awesome, bold, and I’d do it in a heartbeat if I could pull it off.

  16. Vivienne – yes, it really helps! We were advised to carry a small mirror with us, but the one I brought was *too* small to do much good.

    Patricia – thank you! We met quite a few people who were either starting or ending Mediterranean cruises and they sounded wonderful.

    Jane and Lance Hattatt – it really was quite the whirlwind tour. The Chiesa del Gesu was really spectacular; I’m so thankful we were keyed into that one.

    Duchesse – opulence is right! It’s sort of the visual equivalent of a plate of rich desserts. Because we had less than three days in Rome, we wanted to hit the high points, so the frenetic pace continued.

    coffeeaddict – thanks so much! The weather was warm, but not terribly oppressive.

    Julianne – thank you! The crossbody bag is a Marc by Marc Jacobs “Preppy Natasha.” You can find it on and it’s a winner!

  17. materfamilias – thanks, and yes it was rather tiring on our end too! Le monsieur is quite the “foodie” and enjoys his research!

    Pam – thank you! That church was just amazing, but we saw many equally so. It’s really impressive the level of artistry and workmanship that went into creating these churches.

    WendyB – he’s as reticent have his picture taken as I am.

    hostess – yes, the top is from Babette. It’s one of my favorites now. There was so much beautiful stone and marble, especially the red marble that I haven’t seen in such quantities anywhere else.

    Sunday Taylor – welcome, and thank you so much! I’ll be interspersing the travel posts with my usual topics over the next few weeks, but will definitely write about the hotels and food soon.

  18. Belle de Ville – thanks, and yes, I can see from your posts at BHB you’ve been rather busy!

    Ann – thank you! We were quite happy to find this gem of a church. We didn’t get close enough to throw coins, actually.

    Marguerite – many thanks, and we did visit the Borghese Museum (though not the actual Villa) and I’ll post on that one soon.

    That’s Not My Age – thank you! The crowds were rather prohibitive to getting close enough to the fountain to toss coins. I’d heard that they’re collected periodically and distributed to charity.

    denise;) – thanks! Hope I haven’t bored you yet…

    Susan Tiner – thanks! Yes, we did visit the Borghese Museum which was one of our Rome high points. Next Rome installment. The drivers are still crazy, including one taxi driver we had. The scooters are what you really have to watch out for though.

    Big Little Wolf – thank you!

    LPC – it’s really amazing when you think about just HOW old some of these structures are. Brings Perspective.

    RoseAG – we’ve heard some tales of not-so-honest cab drivers. I’ll bet the Piazza Navonna is really pretty at night.

    dana – thank you, you are too kind! I’m keeping short for now, though plan to just grow out a little to cover the ears a bit.

  19. Hello!

    we are planning our first ever trip to Rome (late February) and I remembered your trip to Italy, so I came back to see what you saw back then.

    The mirror in the church is smart! 🙂

    Did you like the hotel where you stayed at? Would you recommend it? I could not find the hotel- nor restaurant posting. I am not sure, if I missed it?

    All the tourists coming from the USA, on the traces of a Roman Holiday 🙂

    The Vatican Museum scares me a bit. I am not sooo fond of the catholic church but I would love to visit the Sistine chapel. While I was in high school, the chapel underwent major reovationworks, it took decades! In the end everyone complained that the outcome was to bright, to candy-kitsch-coloured, because over the centuries people got used to the dark, stained frescos.

    warm regards,

    1. Hi Paula, how exciting! In Rome we stayed at the Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese. It was a lovely hotel. They have a rooftop bar with an AMAZING view of the city, and it’s walking distance to the Spanish Steps, and very near the Villa Borghese and gardens. They have a very nice breakfast downstairs too. We ended up skipping a lot of the Vatican museum…very large and a bit repetitive. If you’re not into religious art, you might do the same. The Sistine Chapel is worth a visit, as is Saint Peter’s Basilica. But be sure to visit the Chiesa del Gesu (the one with the mirror). Get your tickets in advance to see the Villa Borgese Gallery…it was one of our very favorite stops.

      1. Hi!

        Sofitel and Villa Borghese – sounds like a perfect match.

        We will visit the Chiesa del Gesu for sure! Thank you for posting your Rome-trip. You might get hick-ups when I look at the mirror, because I will be thinking of you 🙂

        Oh,I am really excited. Last night I started to dream of Rome. I was visiting a cathedral, so many lound children chattering in the dark curch, then I walked through the streets, accompanied by a priest, he showed me around and I did say “gradioso!” and “mi fa piacere”. (I don’t know much more Italian, except for Americano, Espresso and Macchiato :-))

        I have not been to Rome in 41 years, even though we live so close to this city.
        All the history can be a bit intimidating. But with Mr Paula I should have the right partner at my side: one who is not obsessed with history at all but loves to watch i ragazzi e ragazze, listen to the sound of Vespa and probably inhale those nasty fumes from all the Vespa in the streets of Rome. Ahh, I am so looking forward ….

        Packing list
        #1: comfortable shoes
        #2: comfortable and safe purse
        #3: small camera