I know, finally….but here goes!! (Part 1 can be viewed here)
Sunday, 29 June 2014
I woke up in our darkened room with butterflies in my stomach, so excited I could barely contain myself. But it was still early, and after a VERY long day, I promised the girls the night before that we could all sleep in a bit on Sunday. Except that, clearly, there was going to be no sleeping in for me.
I ended up reading with the bed light on, waiting for a decent time to wake up the girls, who were both sleeping as if they were never ever going to wake up. Eventually at 9am, I decided that they (surely) must have had enough sleep now, and woke them up. I had showered already, and was ready to go in search of some breakfast and coffee.
Bianca and I set out in search for a coffee shop or bakery. But it seemed like most of Rome was still fast asleep. Even our Al Forno spot from the day before was still closed. But, not too far down the road, we found a little bakery and ordered some cappuccino’s and a selection of croissants (or rather cornetti and brioche). No better way to kick start the day!!
Around 10am, we were ready to start our day. We needed to pop around a cellphone network provider to sort out the iPad 3G card, as I was using the iPad as a wifi hotspot so that we all could access the Internet. Which meant walking to the station on a Sunday morning. We also had to buy blister plasters for Bianca, who’s ‘comfortable walking shoes’ were definitely not made for cobblestones…
Our first stop was the Museo Nazionale Romano, more specifically the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, which promised to house one of the biggest collections of Classic art, sculptures, frescoes and mosaics. It was magnificent. The ground and first floor was devoted to sculptures and art of the period between the late Roman Republic and the early imperial period (according to Wikipedia between 2nd century BC to 1st century AD).
The second floor were filled with frescoes and the most magnificent mosaics I have ever seen, several of which were from the Villa of Livia (the wife of Augustus), at Prima Porta on the Via Flaminia. The mosaics are from the 1st century BC to the 4th centure AD. I was awed by the painted garden of the Villa of Livia, filled with exotic images of birds, trees, flowers all against a blue-grey background that invites you to sit down and rest your weary feet (which, of course we did).
The basement housed the largest numismatics collection in Italy. And since I now work for a Mint, which produces numismatic coins (i.e. collectors items), I was especially interested.
Leaving the museum, it was already after lunch time and our feet were very tired, so we walked back to the apartment (by now the 2km walk to our apartment felt like 10km…). We shared some delicious pane stuffed with parma ham and cheese and stretched out on the beds of our air conditioned apartment for a siesta.
Late afternoon, we braved the Rome bus system again, this time travelling to the Campius Martius, bordering on the banks of the Tiber river. We walked along the river, turning into Via dei Coronari, across the river from Castle Sant’ Angelo. Our first stop was the Piazza Navona, a long oblong shaped square with no less than 3 fountains. On the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune. The centrepiece is Fontana dei Quattro Fiuimi or Fountain of the Four Rivers, by Bernini, next to the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone by Bernini’s arch rival Borromini, who was initially commissioned to design the fountain. On the southern end of the square is the Fontana del Moro, with a basin and four tritons.
Our next stop was the Pantheon. Stepping onto the Piazza della Rotunda, I felt utterly dwarfed by this two thousand year old Roman building. The interior consist of a rotunda or dome with an oculus in the centre providing natural light to the church, measuring 43.3 metres high. It is indeed an architectural wonder. Afterwards, we just sat on the steps of the Fontana del Pantheon, with its 20-foot high red marble Egyptian obelisk and savoured the moment whilst eating gelato (and resting our feet)…
Our next planned stop was the Column of Marcus Aurelius, but en route we walked past the Church of Saint Ignatius (Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola), which I read about somewhere. The girls were a bit sceptical, but curiosity won and a ‘quick’ look inside turned out to be one of the best surprises of the afternoon. What wonder. A baroque style church built between 1626 and 1650, on the foundations of the humble Church of the Annunciation which was part of the Collegio Romano. The most impressive feature (in my book), is the grandiose fresco that stretches across the nave ceiling by Andrea Pozzo, including a fake dome, painted to give the impression that the roof had a cupola. This is rivalled by coloured marbled arches, and richly gilded ornaments and altars.
The Column of Marcus Aurelius was next on the list, even though we did see the column the previous night, in search for bus 71. The spiral column on Piazza Colonna, with the bronze statue of Saint Paul on top of it, flanked by Fontana di Piazza.
Our next stop was the Fontana di Trevi, which I was really looking forward to, but which ended being the biggest disappointment of the day, as it was closed for construction.
With promises that this would be the last stop of the day, we started uphill towards the Spanish steps, which was also covered by construction screening, but still provided a glorious view of the sunset over ancient Rome.
Walking down the steps, we tried to find the Caffe Grecco along the Via dei Condotti, but only spotted the entrance upon retracing our steps. It was nestled between a selection of designer shops in this prestigious high end street, which (probably wisely) prompted us to rather find a place along a side street for dinner. We eventually found a little trattoria a couple of streets away which served prosecco by the glass (for me), and Fanta Orange for the girls (they LOVED the Fanta Orange in Italy, which tastes like real oranges) and delicious pasta. By now our feet were achingly sore, and I located the closest bus stop for our route home (ever reliable bus line 71!!).
We plopped down in bed, exhausted. But we had to get up early the next morning, as we were going to none other than the Vatican on a tour.
To be continued…
PS. I thought I would be able to finish the rest of Rome in one post, but alas that was not to be…