Since on our arrival we had gone north-east to the Colosseum, we decided to walk this time to the north-west, in a great big circle that would take us through several piazzas and, of course, fountains.
One of the things I remember about Rome, and which charmed me the most, is its fountains. Water, water everywhere. Rome’s water system was one of the wonders of the world, and it still is. From the magnificent Fontana di Trevi to the nasoni (meaning big nose because of the shape of their spout), water flows constantly, pure, fresh, and drinkable. The fountain basins are clean and free of debris and the water sparkles through to the bottom. It comes from deep springs and is as pure as mineral water. It amazed me that I could find, all of a sudden, a nasone with continuously running water where I could fill my bottle with cold water and drink my fill.
Romans are great drinkers of water. In any restaurant, to ask for a liter of acqua minerale for two is normal. You have a choice of naturale or frizzante. That last word always made me want to giggle because it resembles the French word “friser”, meaning “to curl”. And indeed, the sparkling water makes your tongue curl up.
We took the tram (number “8”) to Torre Argentina. Taking public transport in Rome is an experience. It’s not only necessary to buy a ticket, but you also need to validate it once you’re on the bus or tram or train. In truth, very few seem to do it, and during the time we were there, we saw inspectors only once. The fines are steep if you get caught without a ticket, though, so it’s not a good idea to hop a but without a ticket. Tickets are also valid for 75 minutes, regardless of how many transports you take, from the time of validation. We were very impressed with the public transportation system; many buses, passing by often, were the norm, although we were in the center of town, which may be different than the suburbs.
We started with Piazza Navona, which I found somewhat disappointing, maybe because it was empty of people. (We went back another day in the afternoon and it was packed. The atmosphere was quite different). The oval piazza is dotted with three huge fountains, the middle one, being restored while we were there, topped with an obelisk. It is the Fontana dei Fiumi, designed by Bernini which, of course, we couldn’t see. At each end, the Fontana del Moro and the Fontana del Nettuno, impressive in their own right.
We then went by the church of Sant’Angostino to have a look at Caravaggio’s Madonna di Loreto, a beautiful painting that created a furore because he had depicted Jesus’s mother with bare feet, resembling any woman. The painting is indeed beautiful and moving, modestly set in a side apse, as it not to detract from the sanctity of the church itself, which was very quiet and dignified. We sat in the pew for a few moments, absorbing the quiet of the place.
( Day 2 continues in the next post. Aren’t you glad we were there for a month?)