So we have had two jam packed days in Rome so far. We are staying in a rented room in Laurentina, near the Castello Della Cecchignola. Our host, Sonia, and her son, Gabriele, could not possibly be nicer. Every morning, Sonia leaves us fresh baked goods for breakfast. Sunday was peach tart. Today was straticiatella bunt cake. The apartment is right on a city bus line, and near to a metro. We can get to the historic center of Rome in about 40 minutes. Balcony Breakfast
Yesterday, my original plan was to head out to Tivoli, a major heritage site about 12 miles northeast of Rome. I was thwarted by my need to sleep, and my failure to account for the local Tabbacheri being closed on Sunday, leaving us with no bus tickets. At first. We soon found the news stand at the other end of our street also sold them. So it was noon before we really got going, and we decided that it would take a while to do Tivoli. Instead, we headed for the main historic area. We caught the blue line at Laurentina, and took it to Termini, where we switched to the red line. We hopped off at Spagna, which takes you right into the Piazza de Spagna, home of the famous Spanish Steps. We took pictures, and then headed down, wandering, towards the Piazza Navona. Along the way, we wandered into various churches, checking out numerous decorating styles, and seeing some neat alters. Then, we grabbed lunch at Pasquano’s. It was kind of a splurge, but amazing. From there, we wandered towards the Tiber, crossing over to the Castello San Angelo. We were considering paying entrance, but we stopped by to get Roma Passes (2 free museum entries, the others discounted and 3 days of metro free). When we found out there was a transportation strike planned for Monday, we went ahead and used one entry at the Castello, in case we lost a day at the city center. It was awesome, with some really excellent exhibits. Plus, it’s a medieval castle, which was built around the tomb of emperor Hadrian. What’s not to love? From there, we wandered up to St. Peter’s square and took in the colonnade. After that, being wiped, we headed home, getting in around 8:30. We dropped things off at the apartment, and then headed to grab a light dinner up the street at a local pizzeria.
Today, we got a slightly earlier start. Our host was kind enough to drop us off on her way into the city by the Forum, and arranged to meet us at 6. We started off in the Forum, which is a combo ticket with the Colosseum, and good for two days. It’s also an excellent use of your second Roma pass free sites. The ruins were amazing, and cover the forum, numerous temples and houses, and the palatine hill, which has awesome views. It also has an amazing little museum, and a great bathroom. No, really. The bathroom was in the archeology office, and there was some amazing salvaged antiquities you only saw if you used the bathroom. We wandered for about 2 hours, and then headed to the Colosseum. They were hosting a terrific exhibit on Constantine and the changing attitude towards Christianity. There was Roman jewelry, armor, art, painted reliefs….and before you ask, yes, we bought the catalogue.
From the Colosseum, we wandered to the Circus Maximus, and from there to the Bocce de Veritas, or the Mouth of Truth. If you have ever seem Roman Holiday, this’s the large stone face you put your hand in to see if you are telling the truth. Hilariously, it is really an ancient sewer grate cover. We both were. What most people don’t know is that it is part of an amazing Basilica dating to the 8th century, which has some amazing gothic features from a 12th century reconstruction. It also has a crypt built by Pope Hadrian I, designed to hold relics. Pro tip, dress somewhat conservatively in Rome. Many of the best sites are churches, and they expect you to dress tastefully. This particular church is orthodox, and the gentleman inside wrangling tourists was surprised that I had covered my hair with a scarf before entering. It’s not required (shoulders and knees are, or you get to wear a paper drape). “Are you Orthodox?” He asked. “No, signore, just respectful.” This got a big smile, and well wishes as we were leaving.
We also saw another huge, lovely church dating to the 13th century with some amazing crypt stones (sadly, no photography allowed). From there, we wandered up to the Theater of Marcellus and the Portico de Ottavia, which are ruins under conservation, and the up through the Jewish quarter, before heading back to meet Sonia. Now, we are relaxing on the apartment balcony while contemplating dinner.
I will write more soon, Bella amici. More pictures are on my Flickr photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/26830005@N02/