August 21-Exploring Rome

As I write my trip report this morning, I am sitting in the shadows of the Pantheon. It’s a beautiful day here in Rome. People are outside strolling the piazza and cafes are busy setting up their tables and umbrellas. 

We started our day yesterday with breakfast here in the hotel, Albergo Senato, which is included in the price. The crispy chocolate croissants with the flaky crust were served hot out of the oven. After breakfast with our map in hand, we set about to explore the city. Our first stop was Gesu Church. It is a Baroque church with incredible frescoes on the ceiling. Intending them to be a vision of heaven, the artist painted them with a 3D effect. A large mirror was placed in the nave to give a better view of the ceiling art.

Continuing our walk, I was surprised to learn how easy Rome is to get around in with a map as long as you are careful when crossing streets. Cars and motorcycles speed very quickly by and if you don’t establish eye contact with them or use a crosswalk, it can be quite scary. 

The Victor Emmanuel Monument is magnificent. Located on Capitoline Hill, it is a recognizable site with enormous statues. It stands at 443 feet wide and 230 feet high.

A visit to the Capitoline Museum provided a great escape from the heat and was very educational. Some of the highlights are the She-Wolf statue, The Dying Gaul, and a statue of a boy removing a thorn from his foot. Housed in the museum are also some wonderful statues that had been removed from the Roman Forum to protect them from acid rain. The upper floors of the museum provide expansive views of the Roman Forum. We felt so privileged to be inside enjoying the stunning pillars from a balcony window rather than outside in the scorching heat.

Dinner tonight was in Trastevere which is on the west bank of the Tiber River south of Vatican City. It has a charming neighborhood feel with narrow cobblestone streets and medieval houses. On our way we stopped at Santa Maria in Trastevere Church where there were gorgeous mosaics that looked as fine as woven silk. At the tables beside us at Osteria Ponte Sisto, we spoke with an American couple who had also found the restaurant in their Rick Steves’ Rome guide. When we mentioned it, two other couples piped up behind them and announced they too had chosen the restaurant out of their Rick Steves’ guide too. Suddenly we did not feel as if we were dining with the locals anymore, but the food was very good. During dinner, we were interrupted several times by varying salesman selling their wares. We were offered roses, fans, and cigarette lighters with flashlights shining spider, cat or “sexy” pictures on the table. The latter was a bit too racy for the woman dining beside us and she turned her head away in embarrassment. We were also serenaded by an accordion player whom our friend, Monika, from Germany pointed out played Spanish, not Italian songs.

After dinner we went on a scenic walk back to the hotel, thanks to our friend, Monika, who is energetic and familiar with the area. Walking along the banks of the Tiber we came upon what appeared to be a small international festival. A sushi bar was set up in one tent with an assembly line of available food. In another, people were dancing the tango.

The highlight of our walk was Vatican City. At night, the streets are quiet and Saint Peter’s square is dark, but the dome of the church is illuminated which is an incredible sight at night. Gates are placed around the square to keep night visitors at a distance, but we look forward to exploring it tomorrow. On our way back to the hotel, we passed Castel Sant’ Angelo where the atmosphere was festive with children on carousels and people admiring the view from the top. Rome seems so large on a map, but after only 20 minutes, we were finally back at our hotel. It was past midnight, but the square was alive with people watching a mime. Rome is a magical place to be and we are thankful we still have more time to discover its treasures.


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