Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Italy: Walking in Rome

We walked along Clivo d. Scauro going from the
Colosseum area to San Giovanni in Laterano. The
flying buttresses supported a building associated
with the church of Sts. John and Paul.
Everyone has heard about the crazy traffic in Rome. Whatever you've heard is true, but there is a positive note. Traffic does stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, which means you don't have to be a daredevil to walk in Rome.

During our six-week visit in spring 2018, we walked between six and 10 miles most days, according to my Fit watch. We bought a Vodaphone smart phone, so always could get walking directions and maps, and before we left the U.S. we ordered "Streetwise Rome,"  a hardy plastic-coated folding map from Michelin North America. It was easy to carry and had the name of every street and piazza in central Rome, and an enlarged map for the historic center. Our street, Via dei Fienili, was at the edge of the enlarged section and easy to find on the broader map.

Once in Rome, we promptly visited the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum, both very near our house. They and other tourist destinations are discussed in other posts.

Once we had ticked off our must-sees, we often simply wandered around, picking a street to follow or an unfamiliar piazza as a destination. We found that Piazza Venezia made a good hub for our explorations. It's at the foot of the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, the gigantic (and rather pointless) wedding cake building that's visible from many points in Rome. Venezia is the also one of the ends of Via Corso, the busy shopping street that every tourist crosses to go from the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain. At the northwestern end of Venezia, hang a left onto Plebiscito, which turns into Vittorio Emanuele II and takes you within a couple of blocks of Piazza Navona and to a bridge across the Tiber River to the Vatican neighborhood. From Venezia, head northeast and you can cut across the Forum of Trajan and the Markets of Trajan to reach Via Nazionale, which will take you to Piazza della Repubblica, Termini (the main train station), the Baths of Diocletian and what I think is the city's best museum for antiquities, the Palazzo Massimo.

Using map apps on our iPad and our phone, we discovered that even the somewhat remote Villa Borghese art gallery was less than an hour's walk from our apartment. Some walks were along tree-shaded avenues or the shady banks of the Tiber; many were on streets lined with sidewalk cafes; others were less pleasant. But even in somewhat grubbier districts, we never felt unsafe. We walked home sometimes around midnight and there were always other people around.
This white marble hulk is officially known as the Altare della Patria (and shown on most maps as
 the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument), but Romans and tourists alike call it the wedding cake
building. There's a nice observation area at the top, reached via an external elevator at the 
back of the building. A museum inside focuses on the unification of Italy in the 1800s.
 We skipped the museum, but the observation area is worth a visit.

This photo shows something of the immense scale of the Altare della
Patria, designed in 1885 and completed in 1925. As the "altar of the
fatherland," the building is the site of the tomb of an unknown
Italian soldier from World War I. The building  is dedicated to
Vittoria Emmanuele II, the first king after Italy was
 finally unified in the 19th century. 


One afternoon we were headed home, walking along the long northern side of the Circus Maximus
when we encountered several groups of re-enactors. I think these are supposed to be Roman
soldiers, not gladiators, though we did see a mock gladiator fight there, too.

We happened to be in Rome in the spring when the Spanish Steps are lined with azaleas. When
we were back in Rome in July, the steps were bare.

Segway tours, bridal parties posing for photos, and hordes of tourists can all be found at Piazza di
Campidoglia, which was designed by Michelangelo. The building is one of two that frame
the plaza and contain the Capitoline Museum, which holds many relics of ancient Rome.

A coffee/wine bar on the Piazza Navona.

The Ponte Vittorio Emanuelle connects Corso Vittorio Emanuelle II with Via San Pio X and
the Vatican. In the background is Castel Sant'Angelo, built as a tomb for the Emperor Hadrian
and later fortified and used by popes as a place of greater safety during war times or civil
unrest. The 800-meter fortified Passetto di Borgo connects the fortress with the Vatican so that popes
could flee to safety. The popes Alexander VI and Clement VII both used it to escape
capture by foreign armies. On a tour of Sant'Angelo, we got to walk the passage
as well as see the papal apartment hidden deep in the fortress. 

Wisteria has taken over the intersection of Via Panisperna and Via del Boschetto. This is in the
Monte district, home to a lively nightlife scene.

Another view of Piazza del Campidoglio. This building is called
the Senate palace and houses Rome's municipal government.
The other side of the building has commanding views of the Forum.

The Borghese Art Gallery, which contains the very best works by Bernini and Caravaggio along
with major works by others, including Titian, sits in the Borghese family's former park, now
a public park within walking distance of much of central Rome.

On the other side of that low wall are the remains of three temples and the theater where
Julius Caesar was assassinated. This ancient complex, among the oldest ruins in Rome,
is called the Area Sacre, Largo di Torre Argentina. The streets around it contain a large
bookstore, banks, cellphone stores and fast-food restaurants. 

This driver and his Jaguar are waiting for a bridal couple to finish posing for photos
at Piazza del Campidoglio. Go down the sidewalk to the left and you'll find
the Hotel Otivm, home to our favorite rooftop bar.

This is the back way to Piazza del Campidoglia, an uphill path from
Via de Fori Imperiali that snakes behind the wedding cake building
and the Capitoline Museum. 

A family makes its way past the eastern end of the
Circus Maximus. Romans once flooded the Circus Maximus
for mock naval battles. When dry, it was used for chariot
races. Scenes for the movie "Ben Hur" were filmed here.
The high point on the left is the Aventine Hill. The high point
on the right is the Palatine Hill with the ruins of Augustus's villa,
though what's seen in the photo are other ruins.

Not everyone tosses a coin in the Trevi Fountain, but just about everyone takes a photo.

That's the dome of the Pantheon, photographed with a
long lens from Mount Garibald on the other
side of the Tiber. It's 1,900 years old, saved from
ruin by being converted into a Christian church.

Italian police don't really drive Lamborghinis, so I assume
this was some sort of promotion. In the background
is a black Lotus similarly outfitted as a police car.
This was at the Piazza Navona.

Mounted police were also at Navona
the same day as the police cars.

The wedding cake building in a photo taken with a long lens from Mount Garibaldi,
far away on the other side of the Tiber.

The word "Gloria" seems ironic on the front of what looks like an
abandoned church. It's opposite a great little cafe called
Cul de Sac Wine Bar on Piazza Pasquino.

This arch connects the area north of Piazza Navona with Piazza di San Agostino, site
of a church dedicated to Saint Augustine.

These steps lead from the busy Via Cavour to Piazza
di San Pietro in Vincoli, home to the church of the same
name, which means St. Peter in Chains. The church displays
chains that supposedly once shackled St. Peter.

A small street southwest of Piazza Navona, complete with outdoor dining, motorcycles and a hardware store.

You don't see a lot of police on foot in Rome.
These two are on Via S. Ignazio just east
of the Pantheon.

In this view from the top of the wedding cake building, you can see Via Corso
connecting with Piazza Venezio. At the other end of Corso is Piazza del Popolo.
There has been no new construction in the central part of Rome (other than one
small museum) since Mussolini's time. The Eternal City seems to want
to freeze itself in time. But who'd want a glassy high-rise here anyway?

The Jewish Quarter, which consists of just a few blocks, is a dining destination in Rome
for "Jewish-style" fried artichokes. It's just steps from the Tiber and practically
in the shadow of the Capitoline Hill. Its historic synagogue and Jewish Museum
are well worth visiting. Jews have been in Rome for millennia. 

Everything from flip-flops to clothes-drying racks and planters
can be had at this shop on Via d. Coppelle, northeast
of Piazza Navona.

The Arch of Constantine is fenced off, but the Colosseum is open to visitors. The
surrounding streets are usually crowded with tourists and often with "Roman
soldiers" who will pose with you for a photo -- if the price is right.

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