A short vacation in Rome

       Rome is an open-air museum, a generous city in terms of cultural sightseeing and not only. This year I thought it was time to visit this city. After some research on the Internet and helped by a friend I chose the hotel in the central area, about 600 m far from the Colosseum. I thought that Rome is an open-air museum and it would be better to explore this city without using the means of public transport. We made a good choice because the most important objectives are grouped in the central area. Besides, we also saved some money. I admit that I do not have good knowledge of art, but I thought that visiting Rome would fill my soul with unforgettable images and for my daughter it would have been an outdoor lesson of history. I had being staying in Rome for four days, enough to visit the most famous tourist attractions in town and to enjoy pizza, pasta, cakes and especially ice cream. I tried not to turn myself into a tourist who is desperate for the long day to miss nothing. When I visit a place I like to meet people, experiment the local cuisine, walk around in the residential areas to give me an overview of the place. So here is the four-day program in Rome:

The first day

      We arrived in Rome around noon, so in the afternoon we had time to visit the following tourist attractions: Fontana di Trevi, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo, Borghese Gardens.

      Fontana di Trevi, the largest Baroque fountain in town, designed by architect Nicola Salvi and finished by Pietro Bracci, is at the end of an aqueduct built in 19 B.C. that brought water from the springs of the Salone River. The Oceanus (the Greek Sea God) in a shell-shaped battle car, pulled by two sea horses two Tritons is eye-catching. The triton on the left who is having trouble with a restless horse represents rough seas. The triton leading a calm steed is the ocean in tranquility. Above the sculptures we can see a relief showing Agrippa commanding his generals to build the aqueduct and another one showing a Virgin lady indicating to soldiers the source of water.Fontana di Trevi

      Piazza di Spagna is located near Piazza del Popolo that was the main entrance to Rome in the 18th century. The shape of the market resembles two opposite triangles. The name comes from the fact that in 1647 the Spanish Embassy had been moved to the right of the market. The imposing „Spanish” steps leading to the French church Trinita dei Monti were built in 1725 with money bequeathed by a French diplomat. Later English tourists gave them this name. Down on the piazza, the Barcaccia (the ‘sinking boat’ fountain) is believed to be by Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Gian Lorenzo. Its shape was influenced by the low water pressure.

      Piazza del Popolo has an oval shape and is framed by three churches and two fountains. On the southern side there are two churches Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto that seem identical. An exciting exercise for both children and adults is to find the differences. Near the Porta del Popolo and the Leonardo da Vinci Museum is the Santa Maria del Popolo church, which contains true works of art such as two paintings by Caravaggio and Rome’s oldest stained glass. On the west and east sides there are two fountains of marble: one of Neptune accompanied by tritons and the other of the goddess of Rome flanked by two allegorical figures of the Tiber and Anian rivers. Piazza del Popolo is dominated by an Egyptian obelisk, located in the central area. The obelisk was initially erected by the Pharaoh Rameses II in Heliopolis. In 30 BC Augustus brought it to Rome where it was put at the center of  Circus Maximus and dedicated to the Sun. It was later moved to Piazza del Popolo.

      Borghese Gardens is an oasis of tranquility in the heart of Rome. It has a large surface, so it is advisable to rent bikes or bikes like rickshaws to carry the kids around. We take a small open bus whose driver stopped at each statue or fountain and told us what it represents. The kids can enjoy Bioparco, too. Villa Borghese is definitely worth visiting as well since it is home to Galleria Borghese which includes works of Bernini, Da Vinci or Tizian. You need to schedule in advance (at least two weeks before) if you want to visit it. Details  here.

       From the heights of ” Passeggiata del Pincio” we gazed upon a most romantic view of the Eternal City. We could even see Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica! You can reach it climbing the steps near the Leonardo da Vinci museum. The access to the Borghese Gardens is made from different places thanks to the large area.

In the evenings we arrived at the hotel tired but delighted by what we saw.

        The next day we visited the Vatican. You will find the story here. Vatican square

        Close to St. Peter’s Square (Bernini’s contribution), the Castel Sant’Angelo offers visitors an idyllic picture, although it looks like a fortress. Over the years it has performed various functions: the fortress, the mausoleum, the military prison, the papal residence. Legend holds that the Archangel Michael appeared atop the mausoleum, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague from the year 590, thus lending the castle its present name.

         We continued eastwards towards Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. The latter impressed me, especially because I visited it at noon, when the ray of light, penetrating the oculus, moved slowly but surely to the center. Here is also the tomb of Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of united Italy.

         In the afternoon we reached the outskirts of Rome, in the 9th district. I saw piles of garbage, unrefined buildings near beautiful buildings, virgin plots. I understand that the two great problems of this city are the garbage and the crowd of beggars and pocket thieves. To this I added the crowded traffic in certain time intervals: in the morning between 9 and 11 and in the afternoon between 3 pm and 6pm. Rome, the destination of millions of tourists annually, has no subway lines linking the two airports to the city center. Why to pay 1.5 euros to the metro when you can get there by bus for 6 euros ?! There is also a variant of about 4.5 euros with the metro and then with the bus but it takes more time and a lot of inconvenience, especially when you have luggage.

The third day

         In the morning we visited the Roman Forum, the Palatin Hill, we pass by Circus Maximus, we walk in Giardino degli Aranci, continued with Bocca della Verita, Piazza Venezia and we finally stopped at the hotel for a deserved siesta.

         In the afternoon we visited the Colosseum, the Church San Pietro in Vincoli, and savored a delicious ice cream from the Fatamorgana dei Monti. My daughter, who does not kill after the vegetables, ordered a cup of carrot ice cream. It was delicious! They had so many flavours that it was hard for me to choose. We wanted to see Trajan’s Column and Fontana di Trevi at night, so we ignored the fatigue and admired them at night.

         The Roman Forum was originally a marshy valley between the Palatinate Hill and the Capitolium Hill. Over the time its destination changed into a cemetery, a dump and much later a communal market. In the Middle Ages it was the land of the cows, and during that time marble and stone were excavated and used for other constructions in Rome. The most famous and most important site is Via Sacra, a street where many ruins of ancient Rome, such as a piece of black marble ”Lapis Niger”, that is supposed to cover the tomb of Romulus, the Temple of Julius Caesar, the Roman senate, etc.

          The Palatin Hill is very important for the history of Rome because it is believed that the great Roman Empire emerged from here. It is supposed to be the place where Romulus and Remus were discovered by a she-wolf.

          A less known place is the Giardino degli Aranci (The Garden of Oranges) located on the Aventine hill, which offers a beautiful panorama over the city. Next to this tranquil garden, there is the Santa Sabina Monastery. We then walk to Bocca della Verita, a marble disk that depicts the face of the sea god Ocean. There are many questions about its original purpose. In the Middle Ages people believed that if a liar put his hand in the mouth of the marble disk it would have closed, leaving him infirm.

          Piazza Venezia is dominated by the monument of Vittorio Emanuele II, a sanctuary dedicated to the unification of Italy. There are also Palazzo Bonaparte, Palazzo Generali and Palazzo Venezia. Nearby there is the Trajan’s Column, a monument built in the year 113 to celebrate the victory over Dacian people (now Romanians).

          The Colosseum known as the Flavian Amphitheater is perhaps the most impressive building of Rome. It has become a symbol of this city, such is the Eiffel Tower for Paris. Built between 72 and 80 BC it was used by the emperors of Rome for shows, exotic animal presentations and especially for gladiators’ fights. The building was affected by the earthquake from 847 A.C. when parts of the building fell, and later the stones from the Colosseum were taken for the building of other sacred sites.

          The Church of San Pietro in Vincoli shelters the statue of Moses made by Michaelangelo, the chains with which St. Peter was tight at Jerusalem, and paintings of well-known artists of that time. Interestingly, Moses has horns! I’ve been looking for an explanation, but there are more hypotheses. I want to believe the claim that, in Antiquity, the horns were a sign of power and wisdom.

          On the fourth day, taking into account my friend’s advice, we headed to a church less known to tourists, the Papal Basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura, the second largest basilica in Rome. The impressive architecture and its acoustic, the fact that is not crowded brings me closer to the divinity. There are vending machines that in exchange of 1 euro provide valuable information about its history.

          As far as the gastronomy of Rome the options are unlimited. When I made the program I chose a few restaurants, taverns where I thought we’d have lunch. But the hunger was staggering when we were not in the area of ​​the chosen restaurants, so we guided after the smell and the visual impact. Here’s a list of these (prices are reasonable):

„Bistro 2014” – Via Cavour, Nr. 299

„Casetta a Monti”, Via della Madonna dei Monti, Nr. 62

„La Bottega del caffe” in Piazza della Madonna dei Monti

„Borgo 36”, Borgo Pio Street, between Piazza San Pietro and Sant Angelo Castle

Gelateria „Fatamorgana dei Monti”, close to Via Cavour, but there are several locations in Rome

 I wish you to have a great holiday in Rome!


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