8 April 2017- When in Rome……… [Italy]
When in Rome, there is a lot of sight-seeing to be done, requiring a lot of walking and an awful lot of eating required to make up for all that activity! Our Saturday in Rome we planned to hit many of the tourist hotspots – the Spanish Steps; Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon; Piazza Navona; Piazza Campidoglio, the secret passages and the Vittorio Emmanuel monument…. It was an ambitious itinerary!
Despite the late night noise from Via del Corso, we all slept pretty well and in some kind of holiday record it was a sleep in until almost til 8am. Despite wanting to knock-over a lot of sight-seeing we didn’t have to rush out so we had a relaxing start to the day and a nice cooked breakfast in the apartment of bacon and eggs. The kids amused themselves while breakfast was cooking, by watching the gelato being put out in the shop across the road. They were planning their flavours for the day!
Once we were organised for the day we decided to head down our street towards the Spanish Steps. Despite having walked up and down Via del Corso about 10 times already we discovered a pretty church tucked away right on our street.
It was a pretty short walk to the Spanish Steps. When we’d visited the previous day it was late afternoon and you couldn’t move with the crowds. It was definitely a different atmosphere in the morning. The horses and carriages were already lined up for the day and the tourists were starting to wander in as the shops started opening. Despite being before 10am there were still a significant number of people (and police) around.
As the crowds were a little thinner, we paid another visit to the fountain of the ugly boat. This time the kids managed to get up nice and close!
Since it was now possible to actually see the Spanish Steps we decided to climb up the steps towards the Trinità dei Monti (also known as La Trinité-des-Monts in French). The church towers above the Spanish Steps. The church was constructed in the early 16th Century and the church and the surrounding area are the responsibility of the French state.
The views as you climbed the stairs were lovely and it was worth the exercise. There are no photos allowed inside the church, but we had a quick look and checked out Obelisco Sallustiano, the obelisk in front of the church. This obelisk was actually constructed in Rome and was not stolen from the Egyptians!
From the top of the Spanish Steps we headed in the direction of the famous Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) is named due to its location in the Trevi district in Rome. It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and is most definitely large at 26.3m high and 49.15m wide! Despite having seen photos of the Trevi Fountain many times, it is definitely larger and more impressive in real life…
The fountain is enormous and it’s jammed between lots of buildings. It was also packed with tourists (and people trying to sell tours on segways) but we eventually got close enough to have a look and take our obligatory tourist shots. We had to restrain the kids from diving in as it was already hot.
Our next stop was supposed to be the Pantheon. On the walk towards the Pantheon we stopped past a few street artists to watch them work. It was quite interesting and kept the kids amused. Curiously as soon as any police were in the vicinity all would quickly pack up and disappear, only to return 10 minutes later!
On the walk tot he Pantheon we came across another building, which was packed with crowds. We never did figure out what it was. The area was packed with nice churches and very expensive looking apartment buildings.
When we finally found the Pantheon there was no mistaking it. It was packed with the usual crowds, horses ready for carriage rides, and selfie-stick sellers. The kids didn’t have a shortage of horses to chat to in Rome!
The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, now a church, built between 118-126 AD under the reign of Augustus. It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history. The circular buildings with its portico of large granite Corinthian columns is impressive from the outside, but the inside is more beautiful and much better maintained.
We left the Pantheon to head towards Piazza Navona. Just around the corner we stumbled across the Church of St. Louis of the French (Saint Louis des Français), which is the French national church in Italy. It was very understated from the outside but rather beautiful on the inside.
It was then a short walk to Piazza Navona through more streets littered with Roman ruins and impressive street greenery.
The Piazza Navona was bustling with tourists, but before exploring too much we decided to grab a gelato,……. there had been enough walking around in the sun to earn one! The flavours of the morning were cherry and zabaglione. Both were good but the zabagilone was the winner! We plonked ourselves in the sun near one of the many fountains and let the kids attack the gelato.
Piazza Navona is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. It was made into a public space in the 15th Century and has hosted markets and theatrical events ever since. There are 3 large fountains: Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the four rivers); Fontana del Moro; and, the Fountain of Neptune.
There were a large number of nice looking cafes inside the piazza but they were both incredibly busy and rather expensive. Waiters in tuxedos are never a good sign for our budget! Feeling a bit hungry we decided to bid Piazza Navona goodbye and walked a couple of streets away to find a much cheaper looking restaurant offering a decent looking lunch deal.
Feeling weary from all the sun and noise we sat inside. Having the set lunch menu, we didn’t have any real options and ended up with a salad a, bruschetta and 2 margherita pizzas. Despite being simple they were probably the best pizzas of our trip yet and we were pretty hungry so none of the food lasted long!
By the time we finished lunch, Soren was getting tired (unsurprising given the amount of walking we’d been doing) so he got an ergo ride as we wandered through the streets of Rome. We happened to stumble past another set of Roman ruins, they are everywhere, it would appear!
Our next stop in our walk around Rome, was the Monument to Vittorio Emmanuel II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II), which is also known as Altare della Patria or “Altar of the Fatherland”. The monument is built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. It occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill. The building is absolutely huge, and you can’t miss it! The streets around the monument are rather busy and we had a few scary roads to cross.
The monument is rather impressive, the Italians do not do understated! Apparently, the monument, the largest in Rome, was controversial since its construction destroyed a large area of the Capitoline Hill and is often regarded as conspicuous, pompous and too large.
The monument holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame, built under the statue of goddess Roma after World War I. The base of the building also holds the museum of Italian Unification.
At this point we were getting rather warm so we wandered around inside and looked at some of the flags and war memorial items. Soren was now indulging in an ergo nap. It was blissfully cool inside……
After we had wandered through most of the building, excluding the paid exhibition areas, we decided to go up to the panoramic terrace. We happened to pop out of the wrong side of the building but this did give us amazing views of the Coloseum and Roman forum (which we were visiting the next day).
We soon located the glass elevator up to the panoramic terrace. The elevator isn’t cheap but it’s definitely worth going up on such a nice day. The views were magnificent!
From the rooftop terrace you can see much of Rome spread out before you, as well as all of the Forum and the Colosseum! The monument is topped by an equestrian sculpture of Victor Emmanuel and two statues of the goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas……. and even up at the top of the building those statues are large…..
Poor Astrid was getting hot and tired and getting weary, there had been a lot of walking in the sun and lots of stairs. There was also no escape from the sun, on top of a glaringly white monument.
Just after we left the terrace, via the glass lift, Soren woke up, having slept through the good views! Luckily the kids were free or we would have been annoyed.
We were rapidly getting tired but decided to head around the corner and up a few more dozen stairs to Piazza Campidoglio. The Piazza sits on top of Capitoline Hill between the Forum and the Campus Martius, and is one of the Seven Hills of Rome.
There were of course more fountains and statues, lots of very large statues!!! The views from the Piazza over the Forum and towards the Colosseum can’t be bettered. I think this is the spot to go if you want to see it all laid out in front of you. It made us pretty excited for our Colosseum and Forum visit the next day (although our legs were already weary thinking about all the walking).
Yes, those statues are enormous, Astrid looked so tiny standing next to them…..
It is amazing seeing so many ancient ruins in the middle of an enormous city!
By now we were exhausted and really hot. We had planned to take the metro back to the apartment but a bus should have involved less walking and the stop was just at the bottom of Piazza Campidoglio, so seemed like the best option. The bus we wanted should have come every 17 minutes but we stood there for about 25 baking in the sun and saw every bus but it, so gave up and caught another bus that got us back to Termini. It was our first bus ride in Rome and we concluded that buses must have a short life span in Rome as all the cobble-stones mean they are bone crunchingly shaky. It was not a relaxing ride!
At Termini we quickly caught the metro back to La Spagna (the Spanish Steps). This time instead of using the Spanish Steps exit we took the exit to the Borghese gardens which takes you through a ‘secret passage’, a series of escalators that let you bypass a large section of the city and end up in Villa Borghese garden. There is also a huge medical centre that is tucked inside this section of the metro.
It was an interesting little excursion. Of course once we got up to the gardens it was over 2km walk back to the apartment. We’d visited the garden the day before so we decided to take the lazy (and cooler option) and catch the escalators back down to the Spanish Steps exit.
All a bit weary, we’d decided to have dinner in the apartment so stopped past a supermarket on the way back to pick up dinner supplies. The kids had voted that we’d done enough walking to earn another gelato from the store opposite our apartment. Via del Corso was as usual, rather busy and the line for the gelato shop was long. Luckily they turn that gelato out pretty fast.
We just had to make it back up the 4 flights of stairs before we could eat the gelato! The afternoon flavours of choice were our favourite very dark chocolate, fruits of the forest and vanilla. The dark chocolate was good again but the fruits of the forest was amazing. We were debating how many more gelatos we could fit in during our remaining Rome stay!
Anto whipped us up an early dinner of pasta (of course, it’s Italy!). We had a ricotta and spinach tortelloni with olive oil and truffle cream and a proscuiotto sfogliavelo with olive oil, lardons and fresh parmesan. We’d also found some amazing fresh strawberries for dessert.
Dinner was a hit and we spent the evening listening to the bustle of the street below us and planning our activities for the next day. The sun sets well after 9.30pm during April, but the kids collapsed in bed pretty much as soon as they’d had dinner. They were pretty excited about the prospect of visiting the Colosseum and calculating how much they had to walk to get another few gelatos out of us!
Statistics for Saturday 8 April 2017 in Rome, Italy – the temperature range for the day was 9 to 22 degrees, with a mean of 18 degrees. The afternoon ended up being rather warm walking around in the bright sunshine in the crowds of Rome. We have decided that Rome in the heat of Summer would not be fun! Total walking for the day was 12.5km, with an awful lot of stairs involved.
Up next, our final day in Rome included a kid-friendly tour of the Colosseum and Forum followed by a visit to Castel St Angelo, and the River Tiber. Of course there was more gelato too!