On two of the days I was in Italy, Noah had class, so I was left to entertain myself. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to do more of the super-touristy activities Noah had already done.
The first activity was Rick Steves’ ‘Heart of Rome’ Walking Tour. This tour brought me through all the major sights in downtown Rome. The walking tour started at Campo de Fiori – a piazza in downtown Rome that houses a market every morning.
The market sold pretty much everything you can imagine from fruits to pasta to clothes to kitchen supplies:
I got a late start to the day, so by the time I was finished exploring Campo de Fiori my stomach was grumbling for lunch. I stopped in at a pizzeria and bakery that looked to be very busy (I took this as an indication that it was very good). The crowds seemed to indicate the truth, because the veggie pizza was delicious. I also ordered an aroncini to try (a fried Italian rice ball):
After lunch, the tour’s next stop was Piazza Navona with the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) and some impressive Baroque architecture.
The tour led me by the Pantheon again:
The book described the light coming down through the Pantheon’s oculus as ‘the greatest column in all of Rome.’
I thought that was really beautiful. 🙂
After the Pantheon, it was time to pass by the Parliament buildings…
…which just happens to be nearby to the most famous gelatteri in Rome: Giolitti!
Obviously, I needed to try it out for myself.
It did not disappoint! I tried the nutella and crema flavors – but I wanted to try everything! The nutella was especially rich and delicious.
After gelato, I moved on to the Trevi fountain:
Perhaps because of the small space, this site seemed more packed with tourists than any of the others!
The tradition goes that if you through a coin in the Trevi Fountain, than it will ensure your return to Rome. Hey, it worked last time – so might as well!
The final stop on the ‘Heart of Rome’ walking tour was the Spanish Steps:
The Spanish Steps get their name from the Spanish Embassy which has been near them for over 300 years. The steps themselves don’t have any major historical significance, but they’ve become a media icon through Roman Holiday and the fact they were a popular hang out spot for John Keats and other Romantics.
For my next solo day, I explored the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum. Rick Steve’s ‘Roman Forum Walking Tour’ starts at the Arch of Titus – a monument to commemorate the defeat of Judea:
The Arch of Titus is the gateway to the forum, and the rest of the tour explores the various ruins of temples, legal buildings, and outdoor pathways. Highlights include the Basilicae where people met for matters of law or business (and after which Christian basilicas would later be modeled):
The Temple for Julius Caesar, dedicated to the spot where he was burned after being assassinated:
The Temple of Vesta where Vestal Virgins kept an eternal flame lit:
And the only original door from Roman times:
From the Forum, I walked up to Palatine Hill where the emperors built their
homes palaces. The remains on the hill were even scanter than on the forum…
But there was a fairly well preserved garden area that had been used for exercise:
Well preserved perhaps due to the modern upkeep 🙂
Visiting the Colosseum certainly will take your breath away.
The structure is massive (hence, it’s name), with a base of 6 acres. Imagining the terror that occurred inside is a little scary though.
Used for gladiator fights and other spectacles, the Colosseum was the site of much blood and brutality. When it originally opened, a 100-day festival followed that resulted in the death of 2,000 men and 9,000 animals. Workers had to move around the building spraying perfume to mask the smell of blood!
Once Christianity became the dominant religion and slaughtering people wasn’t considered PC anymore, the Colosseum closed and has been in a state of deterioration ever since. Nonetheless, it is fairly well preserved and an incredible testament to the structural abilities of the ancient Romans (or rather, the abilities of their slaves!).
After the Colosseum, I went for lunch at a restaurant in the area recommended by Rick Steves. They gave me a free drink since they saw I had the Rick Steves book!