Finally, more Travel Tales are headed your way! This time we’ve arrived at Italy’s capital city and our final destination in this history filled country, Rome.
We arrived in Rome by train, where we got some Roma passes at the station before taking a taxi to our hotel. Our hotel here was our least favorite of the four (and yet the most expensive…). There were a few ants in the bathroom and my bed here was the least comfortable. (Funny how that works, isn’t it?) Still, no complaining from this end as it was definitely better than a hostel!
Plus, they had decent breakfasts which included these awesome little pieces of cake each morning – the first morning I enjoyed a cake with a custard filling and almonds in the cake part, the second was this amazingly light pear torte, with a nutty and slight banana taste in the cake part, and thin layer of pears above the light whipped cream.
That first afternoon we decided to do one of the walking tours in one of our handy guide books (this one was from a neighbor, “On Foot Guides; Rome Walks”). So we made our way to the Pantheon where this one began. What an amazing piece of architecture! And to think that it was first erected as a tribute to the gods around 27 BC, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa. Between 120 and 126 AD, it was rebuilt under the rule of Emperor Hadrian. Today the Pantheon functions as a Christian church, as it has since the year 609.
The dome is incredible and is the largest dome in Rome, measuring a width and height of 43.3 meters or 142 ft. A law was made that no dome can be built any greater than that; apparently they expect it to come crumbling down any day…Who knows, though, it’s lasted this long, hasn’t it? (I’m hoping I didn’t just jinx it!) As a final note, the Pantheon also serves as the artist Raphael’s burial site, as well as houses the tombs King Vittorio Emanuele II, and King Umberto I and his wife Queen Margherita.
Our tour then took us to Piazza della Minerva which features Bernini’s small obelisk with a marble elephant in the center of the square and the sizable Santa Maria sopra Minerva behind it. Neither my mom nor I found the church particularly welcoming, and actually, it rather gave us the chills. There is, however, a marble statue inside that was started by Michelangelo and finished by another artist. “The Redeemer” is a statue of Jesus with the Cross. The amazing thing is, you can really tell that the upper half of the body is the work of Michelangelo, too.
The walk took us around some nice side streets until we wound up at the next big thing – Piazza Navona. The square is crowded with tourists, tourist restaurants, painters, and street performers. Despite all of this, it is worth having a look at the Four Rivers Fountain which lies in the middle of the square and in front of Sant’Agnese Church. We did step into this church briefly and checked out the cool statues of the martyred Agnese as well as St Sebastian.
To the left of Sant’Agnese is the Palazzo Pamphilj, which is now a museum but had been Pope Innocent X’s massive home in the 17th century. The fountain, though, is neat and features a representation of the Danube with a horse, America’s River Plate With a half alligator, half armadillo (which actually is a pretty cool looking mix) and a cactus, the Nile with a lion and a palm tree, and the Ganges with a corroded snake. The fountain is another example of Bernini’s work.
The final notable thing was a museum housing a lot of great Greek and Roman statues at Palazzo Altemps. Actually, we came in through a side gate, not realizing it was a museum until we tried to leave that way and a guard stopped us. So it’s thank you dad for sneaking us into a museum (on accident)! We only saw the ground floor, but it was beautiful, and something we would never have found without that walking tour guide book.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for dinner. This was the only tourist trap place we went to on the whole trip. The pizza was still good, but it just wasn’t up to par with all of the other restaurants we had been to. Nor was the atmosphere. But all things considered, I thought we did good for only hitting one of these!
Plus, we made up for it by stumbling upon a great patisserie while wandering for a bit rather than going straight down the block to our hotel. So we stopped in and shared the four different flavors of their mini cannolis. We all liked the traditional cream one the best…so my dad and I each had one more mini cream cannoli!
Well, that concludes our first day in Rome; stay tuned for more to come! I will be trying my best to get these up sooner, which shouldn’t be as much of a problem as it has been. Life has been filled with work and my internship, and many get togethers as we have unfortunately just had to say goodbye to some very dear family friends, as well as having my sister’s to-be-roommate visiting.
To give you some perspective, today has been the first time I’ve been able to go to the beach since I’ve been home! At any rate, I hope you are all having great summers all around. Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…