For our first full day in Rome, we decided that we would roam the city as the whim took us, to sink into its atmosphere.
Rome is more than old (really old) buildings and churches. It is the incredible colour of the pine trees against the sky, it’s the cobbled streets of the centro, the constant sound of horns from the Roman drivers who drive at breakneck speed; it’s the cheap souvenir shops and tabbacherie and the sandwich and beer carts, it’s the mangy pigeons and the fluid sound of Italian floating along the streets among the many other languages of the tourists.
It’s a million other things –the mix of the old with the new, plaster walls and peeling paint, women and men dressed to the nines and men sleeping in the streets, the green waters of the Tevere, the tree-lined avenues and the sudden appearance of landmarks like the Colosseum.
It’s couples kissing and sculpture-lined bridges, piazzas large and (very) small, obelisks and fountains, major streets that end in marble steps, needle-like cypresses and vines clinging to crumbling walls thousands of years old. It’s the steel-and-glass building of Termini station surrounded by used books stalls, it’s the modern trams and tiny buses that can manoeuvre the winding streets of Trastevere.
It’s the cold drinking fountains from the (original) Roman aqueduct system with water so limpid it’s almost invisible. It’s dozen upon dozens of church domes, from St Peter Basilica to Santa Maria in Trastevere to San Giovanni in Laterano. And I could go on.
We took the bus to Termini station then walked down via Cavour, where we spotted a covered stairway going up. Intrigued, we went up, drawn by the sound of music from an accordionist and emerged onto the Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in chains) with its church of the same name. Curious, we entered the church and saw immediately a wonderful painted ceiling, depicting St Peter and his chains from two different times, which, when brought together, fused into one. These same chains are shown in a gilded box under the main altar. The church also boasts Michelangelo’s Moses. It is so luminous and beautiful it looks as if it were sitting outside in the sun.
Our exploration led us to the Via dei Serpenti (Snakes’ Street) on to Via Nazionale, then to Foro Traiano and Torre delle Milizie down the stairs to the Colonna Traiana with the Monument to Vittorio Emmanuele II in the background. This huge monument is made entirely of marble and is the home of Italy’s Unknown Soldier. We climbed to the top of the monument and took in the fabulous view. We could see Trastevere’s Gianicolo (Jianiculum Hill) and Garibaldi’s monument in the distance.
By that time we started to get hungry so we decided to find a place to eat, preferably pizza “al taglio” that is the equivalent of fast food in Rome. The pizzas are rectangular and you can choose the size of the slice, and choose more than one kind –the price is by weight. We walked towards the Tevere, thinking we would get out of the tourist district then decided to cross at Isola Tiberina into Trastevere and walk to La Renella in vial del Moro, which makes pizzas with “pano cotto” instead of pizza dough, one of the most delicious ways to eat pizza. When we finally sat down to eat at the counter, we realized it was two o’clock in the afternoon.
After lunch, we wandered into Via del Cinque and stopped for a gelato (pistacchio for Daniel, mango and limone for me) and roamed around the streets in Trastevere eating our ices until we emerged back on via Trastevere. There we took the tram to our apartment. We’d left around 10:30; it was now four o’clock.
After a quick snooze to rest our sore feet, we went shopping for our dinner: red pepper and pork stew with rise and a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo rosé.
Tomorrow, a leisurely morning then Galleria Doria Pamphilj in the afternoon.