"OUR HOME & THE NEIGHBORHOOD"
We took a great limo from the airport to the center of Rome and our "home".
Then, there it was, San Pantaleo!
Well, here we were. Carol and I knew we were going to really enjoy staying here. Clean, high ceilings, great view of Camp dei Fiori off in the distance! Roma!!
Off we headed to Piazza Navona! As mentioned earlier Residenza San Pantaleo was in a great, great location. Piazza Navona itself has so much history and as we walked up the street around the corner from us, there it was! What a beautiful view of the three Fountains strategically located in the Piazza. Our eyes immediately focused on Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain in the middle of the long Piazza. As we began to walk slowly taking everything in what did we see standing in front of us but none other than the Statue of Liberty! I thought I had just seen that 10 hours or so ago when we left NYC! Then we realized that it was someone dressed in a green silky looking gown standing on a box or crate just staring straight ahead – with a little “offering” box about five yards in front of him. Little did we know that this “Statue” would be almost a fixture in Piazza Navona during our stay. I do not think we ever went to Navona without seeing the Statue of Liberty there!
I just love things like this. The spontaneity of it all, the uniqueness of it is just so appealing. And other neat things such as what Carol and I called the ‘Spaghetti lady’, which I can’t even begin to describe. This area was always fun to come back to during the week!
After touring Navona, I suggested to Carol that since she wasn’t feeling too tired yet that we head over to the Pantheon, only a couple of blocks away. When we got there, we were just so amazed that all the stories we had read about it were so true. This structure is in such great shape after almost 2,000 years and is still being used. We entered through the columns and headed inside to witness this fabulous building. I videotaped and Carol used the Canon to capture the beauty of the inside of the Pantheon. The open roof was a spectacle to behold. And, yes, there was the tomb of the great Raphael. WOW!
We came out of the Pantheon and headed next toward Santa Maria Sopra Minverva. We just had to see Bernini’s Elephant Obelisk in front of the church. Very different to say the least. We just had to get pictures of this one. Upon entering the church we saw the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena and Michelangelo’s Risen Christ!
We then headed over to Area Sacra by Largo Argentina – this is where one of the most important events in history took place – this is where Julius Caesar was assassinated. I had really been looking forward to seeing this. I had seen and read some great info on the Net about this site. It’s basically a resurrected square block of the city. What amazed me is the fact that there are countless Romans walking around the block, buses, scooters and cars all around – and one of the most dramatic moments in history happened right in the middle of all this! I believe that we were able to focus in on the exact spot where this event took place. I could envision Caesar being stabbed 23 times by his conspirators and him falling to the ground in front of the Statue of Pompey, his archrival. Talk about irony.
We then walked through Campo dei Fiori and proceeded to head back past our home and to Navona once again. We planned to get some great Italian food here. Rather than sampling food in the heart of Piazza Navona we detoured up a side street off the Piazza and found La Fraschetta on Via del Tor Millani. We sat outdoors and soon began to sample some good Italian salad and lasagna. Carol had the salad, Robert had the lasagna. Hmmmmmm … And we both had a “grande” birra to go with it! Yes, I began to love the word “grande”.
After dinner we were going to sample our first gelato but the gelateria we were going to patronize was just way too crowded. In another night or so we would find out why.
Finally feeling tired we decided to call it a day. Just an exciting first day in beautiful Roma!
"SUNDAY IN ROME !"
MAY 26 th - Sunday
We headed up Via del Plebiscito by Piazza Venezia and there it stood. The controversial Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele. Or as some call it the “Wedding Cake”. Or the “Typewriter”. Or as I call it a beautiful structure!
As we took photos I turned to see the balcony where Mussolini, Il Duce, exhorted the citizens of Rome during WWII.
We headed up Via del Teatro di Marcello and came to the beautiful steps, the Cordonata, designed by Michelangelo. We took the steps up and came to Piazza del Campidoglio also designed by Michelangelo.
We headed down a path that would lead us to one of the most beautiful vistas in all of Rome. As we got to the end of the path on Capitoline Hill there below us lay the remains of the Roman Forum. What a sight to behold. There was Via Sacra, the path followed during many ceremonial processions. There was the Arch of Titus. There was the spot where Caesar was cremated.
I was determined at this point to find one of the things I really wanted to see during our week in Rome. This was Carcere Mamertino (Mamertine Prison). Two of the greatest Christian leaders, Peter and Paul, were imprisoned in this dungeon. Paul in fact wrote 2 Timothy here. His words written here included: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the Faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness …” And Peter during his stay in this dungeon miraculously got water to spring up inside the dungeon and he converted and baptized several of his guards!
As you walk down the steps here you come to a level where on the wall it lists the names of some of the people who were executed here and just how they were executed – whether it be decapitation or strangulation. There is also a list of individual names including Peter and Paul and who the emperor was at the time – in their cases – Nero.
In the middle of the floor on this level there was a small hole in the floor (now covered). It was through this hole that prisoners were lowered down into the lower level. We walked down another set of steps into the actual dungeon itself. Needless to say I was very moved at this point knowing where I was going. And there we stood within the confined walls of the dungeon once lived in by Paul and also Peter. I just didn’t want to leave here. I touched the walls in different spots wondering if either Paul or Peter touched them. I just was overwhelmed by what these two great Christians must have gone through all for sharing the Good Word about Jesus Christ.
"MAY 26th - continued"
MAY 26th - Sunday
We walked thru the Roman Forum and after pausing for awhile we headed up to Palatine Hill. What an expansive and different area than anything we had seen up to this point. It was serene and gardenlike in some areas and very open in other areas. But, again, very, very quiet! We walked the grounds seeing some of the many “Domuses” of the Emperors that were built on Palatine. Domus Flavia, Domus Augustana, etc. Just amazing. I can only imagine what life must have been like on Palatine Hill in those days. Overlooking the Forum and seeing Capitoline Hill where we were earlier was mind boggling. What did the Emperors do without cable??
We began to head down the path leading from Palatine Hill and Carol pointed to another path and asked if it led to the Colosseum. I said I didn’t know. I couldn’t tell from my map. So I checked it out and sure enough it did. So we headed toward the Colosseum and Carol came across an artist doing his thing on the side of the walkway. She studied some of his works and decided to purchase two of his paintings --- only $5 each – and really neat paintings!!
We then found ourselves staring up at one of the most famous buildings ever made – the Coloseeo of Roma! Words cannot describe the feelings when you stand looking up at this marvel of the ages! We found some shade under a tree and just sat there and enjoyed the view, just being with each other, soaking it all in. I really couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Just a great feeling.
We were not going to go inside on this day, rather we were probably coming back this way tomorrow. So we decided to head back home.
We headed down Via d. Imperiali and took in the vistas of the Roman Forum on our left and Caesar’s own Imperial Forum and Trajan’s Forum & Market on the right.
We headed back home, washed up, relaxed and then headed back to Piazza Navona to get something to eat. There are just so many places to eat, everywhere you go in Rome, and especially in an area like Navona! We wound up going back to La Fraschetta. Tonight Carol had the lasagna and I had pasta with carbonara + we shared a big salad + 2 grande beers! All for about 55M lire.
After dinner settled, we found a great gelateria. Da Quinto Gelateria! Carol had a huge bowl of fresh fruit and ice cream and I had a grande cone! Hmmmmmmmm…….
To top it off later, Carol and I went to Caffe Negressco right on the same side street and Carol had her espresso. She seemed very satisfied.
At the end of the day, I realized that I had learned one of the greatest words in the Italian language – GRANDE! It became one of the key words for me whenever I ordered gelato for the rest of the week. My philosophy became – “Grande is better”
"THE COLOSSEUM & MORE !"
MAY 27th - Monday
We got up early at Carol’s request so that we could get some pictures of Piazza Navona before the crowds set in. This was a great idea as we were only two of the few people who were in this famous Piazza at this time, approximately 7 a.m. We videoed and took pictures for awhile and then headed back to our room to get some more sleep.
Carol and I hit the road about 11 a.m. The plan for the day was to see mainly two things. San Pietro in Vincoli and the Colosseum.
Making sure we had enough lire we again headed in the direction of Piazza Venezia and then hit the sidestreets on the way to San Pietro in Vincoli. Following my map very closely, I got to the point where San Pietro in Vincoli was supposed to be. But why wasn’t it there?? I couldn’t understand it. Fortunately for me an American couple was coming by who had been there earlier in the morning. They said to go back to via Cavour and go up a short ways. There I would see signs for the church. He was right. Unfortunately, there were also two long sets of steps upward to get to the church! I just love steps – preferably in the downward direction.
We huffed and puffed our way up the steps and got to the church. Finally we were there. Unfortunately, it was about noon and it was closed till around 3:30!! Oh, this hurt!
We were just so hot at that point but we wanted to use our time wisely so we headed over to the Colosseum. Approaching the Colosseum from via del Terme gave us a different perspective on the Colosseum. From the angle we approached it , we could only see a completely finished structure. Rather on the opposite side you can see the gaps in the original structure.
The lines to enter the Colosseum seemed long but actually moved fairly quickly. Carol took advantage of some shade by the ticket booth while I stood in line. As I planned this trip knowing that the day was coming that I would walk into the Colosseum I wondered many times to myself what it must have been like in ancient Rome when there were gladiator fights and whatever other exhibitions the Emperors cooked up for the Colosseum crowds. And now here I was with Carol ready to walk into the real honest to goodness Colosseum. It was an amazing feeling. Our cameras were ready to take the beautiful pictures that we planned on taking but I was hoping inside that the feeling of actually being inside the Colosseum would stay with me forever.
"MAY 27th - continued"
Then, there we were actually looking down at the bottom of the facility where they kept the animals and most likely the gladiators too. It was just so much fun imagining the crowds, seeing the Emperor with his entourage. I could see the Emperor walking in at the upper level and then walking downward to his own special section so that he could “be down there with the people”.
Carol and I probably walked around the entire Colosseum and I took a walk over the specially laid walkway that took me right over the pits described earlier where the animals and gladiators were. Simply amazing!
Although I personally could have stayed there all day I knew that we wanted to get back to San Pietro in Vincoli as we wanted to see this church when it was opened this time. As we made our way out of the Colosseum I took one more glance back at the history I was leaving behind me.
We made it back to St. Peter’s after walking again up the stairs leading up to the church. And we found that it was not yet reopened. We were still early. It reopened around 3:30. The heat was really doing a job on us at this point and we decided we could not stay out in the sun too much longer. We had to get inside somewhere. So Carol walked down a side street next to the church and found a great little café for us to spend some time resting and of course eating. So we both ordered lasagna at Michelangelo Café and just enjoyed resting our weary and hot bones for awhile.
As we made our way to St. Peter’s in Vincoli at 3:30 we were excited about seeing two things. One of these was what is reported to be Michelangelo’s last sculpture – Moses with Rachel and Leah. The other being what is reported to be the actual chains that bound St. Peter in prison. The sculpturing of course was incredible and to think of these chains for what they were supposed to be made me quite solemn. We were very happy to make it to this church.
To wind down our afternoon jaunt through this section of Rome, I reminded Carol that the only real souvenir I wanted from Rome was a sketch by her of the Colosseum. Although she was tired and very hot from the sun, we walked back to the Colosseum and found a bench under some nice trees that provided ample shade for us. The only thing missing was something for Carol to sketch with. She had paper but no pencil!!! So I hustled around several souvenir booths at the Colosseum madly in search of a pencil. I didn’t care if it was a number one, number two, or number 200! I just wanted one pencil. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to say pencil in Italian. All I could communicate was I needed a writing instrument. I kept being given pens and no matter what I said about “pencil, pencil” I never got a pencil.
So I hustled back to Carol pen in hand and said here ya go!
While Carol sketched away, I walked over to video the Arch of Constantine, probably the granddaddy of arches in Rome! Then I just hovered around that area before heading back to see how the sketch was coming. I was really proud of how my wife sketched the famous Colosseum. I asked her to sign it, date it, and number it!! Now, it is mine. This is my favorite souvenir from Rome!
We began to head back home from the Colosseum and made a stop at our favorite ATM machine on Via Corso. Next rather than heading up to the main drag and walking back from there, we took back streets in the direction of the Pantheon and Navona. I love walking the smaller, narrow streets of Rome. They are certainly not scooterless but they are quieter and you just seem to see neat things along the way. For instance, we passed the Borgio store along the way. I had read a story about this store several months ago. This is the store that provides all of the garments for Vatican City priests. I just ran in and said hi to the man behind the desk (this has been a family owned business for many, many years), told him I saw a TV show in the U.S. about their business, and said “Ciao”.
"MAY 27th - continued"
Now, I must bring up something that occurred during the day. Our intent during our one week in Rome was to spend all of our time touring the city. No day trips were planned. Well, during the day Carol raised the question of what would it take to go to Pompeii! Now as much as I thought this was a great idea, I realized that I had no information on this area. I did remember when I was researching Italy that it took two trains to get to Pompeii from Rome. And I had a faint idea of where the archaeological digs were in Pompeii.
We decided to get up early on Tuesday morning and then decide what we would do. Carol decided to take a nap for awhile. I took off to find a closer ATM machine that worked and fortunately found one at the end of Navona. Perfect!
Next, I headed for Campo dei Fiori to see what was going on there. While there I decided to just verify that Filetti di Baccala was still not functioning. As I reached the small Piazza like I did the other day, I almost fell over. There was Filetti di Baccala in the flesh! With tables lined up out front and actual people eating there. I couldn’t wait to get back to the room to tell Carol the good news!
When I got back, Carol was up from her nap and I told her about my discovery of this restaurant but rather than go there that night she suggested we go for gelato!! I have learned never to turn down a wife who says, “Let’s go for gelato!” So we went off to Da Quinto Gelateria and decided that we both earned a banana split for each of us. But wait till you hear this. These banana splits were so big that people seeing us come out of the gelateria with these huge plates of ice cream, and I do mean GRANDE, simply turned and walked in to get something for themselves! As we walked back to Piazza Navona, people were staring at both of us gobbling down these huge, just huge banana splits! This place is a MUST for anyone who wants to treat themselves to a great time. You just cannot believe how much ice cream you get at this place for such a small price. You’ve just got to go there. There are so many flavors and the gelato is just so good!
To add just a little spice to her night, Carol again had espresso at Caffe Negressco.
"MAY 28th & 29th - Tue & Wed"
Carol suggested we go to Pompeii for the day! So we headed over to Termini Station and went to Pompeii!
We headed over to the archaeological digs (Scavi di Pompeii). We walked into a large ampitheater that most likely held games years and years ago. I then got an eerie feeling as we began to walk through what was the ancient Pompeii. Walking past house after house that fell victim to the big Vesuvian eruption of so many years ago was chilling. But not as chilling when we got to Villa de Misteri. This is where we saw people in the same positions they were in when they got bowled over by molting lava from Vesuvius. Heading back down from the digs we actually passed more of these poor individuals who had suffered the same consequences. Incredible!
After Pompeii, we took the Eurostar back to Rome.
Getting back “home”, we decided to stay in our own neighborhood and went to La Cuccagna on via Della Cuccagna. I had a delicious meal of rigatoni in cheese/oil while Carol decided on pizza magherita. We were definitely satisfied.
MAY 29th - Wednesday
We got passes to the Papal Audience and after this we visited the Vatican Musems. What a great experience to see the Pope and the museums within an hour of each other!
Then the moment we were waiting for, our entrance into the Sistine Chapel. Oh, was this worth waiting for. A trip to Rome just to see this would be worth it. As we entered the Chapel we took about 5 or 6 steps and then turned to our right and looked up to the wall. And there was the Last Judgment!! It was just so impressive. Carol stayed in this spot and I wandered out into the middle of the crowd (Yes, it was very crowded). Now I know that you are not allowed to take pictures or videos. But my camcorder was hanging around my neck for such a long time that I just had to move it a little bit. So I moved it in the direction of the Last Judgment and kind of like pressed my red button and just kind of like taped a couple of seconds of the Last Judgment … well, you know how it is. Then, I looked up at the ceiling and was totally blown away. This should be considered one of the wonders of the world. You can’t really describe it. You can only feel it. Does that make sense? As I looked upward at Michelangelo’s work, I just had to do it. I took my camcorder and kind of like turned it upward toward the ceiling. I couldn’t tell if I was taping the ceiling or what. All I knew I was taping something. And then I heard a voice from the other side of the Chapel. It called out – “Senor” – no video!! Darn, they got me. I kind of gave the sign back – No problem, sir! And put the camcorder back where it should be. Whew!
"My 30th & May 31st"
One of the things that we looked so forward to was a tour that we had learned about called the Scavi Tour. This tour should not be confused with the underground grottoes below St. Peter’s where many of the Popes are buried. Scavi is a tour that takes you way beneath St. Peter’s. On this 90-minute tour you see ancient mausoleums and much of the ancient history of this area of Rome.
This is the area where St. Peter was crucified and ultimately buried.
What a great experience to take this tour!
Then we began our trek to the top of St. Peter's. A trek that included a 320-step climb up a very narrow staircase. I was concerned that my backpack may be too wide to make it up to the top but thankfully it was ok. This is one heck of a climb but you really have to do it. The big prize is waiting for you at the top. When you come out there you are standing at the top of the dome of St. Peter’s. And there below you is St. Peter’s Square. And there in front of you is just about all of Rome! Just one picture taken from here in my opinion is priceless.
We then took the metro to the Spanish Steps. We must have sat there for about 45 minutes and just relaxed enjoying the throngs of people in this area. Ultimately there was some shade on the steps but we were getting a bit hungry again so we decided to find a place to eat. I remembered that there was supposed to be a McDonald’s around the Spanish Steps. We found it fairly quickly. I must have been very hungry as I had two value meals, not one. I obviously was not concerned about the beef!
The, it was on to Trevi Fountain. Of course, we had our picture taken here and threw coins over our shoulders into the fountain!!
MAY 31st - Friday
We headed over to Testevere after breakfast. After leaving Santa Maria we headed down Via della Lungaritta which would bring us closer to the Tiber. As we were about to cross Ponte Garibaldi I told Carol that the island that we saw sitting in the middle of the Tiber was Tiber Island (Isola Tiberia). So instead of crossing at Garibaldi we walked degli Anguillara and crossed over through Tiber Island this way. We decided not to spend much time here but we took some great pictures of the Tiber from here.
We crossed over Ponte Fabricio, the oldest bridge in Rome and took more pictures mostly of the Tiber but also some of Ponte Fabricio itself.
We took a bus over to the Borghese Museum which was a neat experience, then headed back to Piazza Navona and once again enjoyed the view of Bernini's Four Rivers Fountain!
We then had our last gelato in Rome, then dinner. And then the walk back to San Pantaleo.
What a great trip this was. Rome is all inspiring and a must see for all!