Friday, 1 February 2013

Romantic Rome

Amor, the Latin word for love also happens to spell Roma backwards which is very apt for one of the most romantic cities in the world and home to the saint associated with sweethearts.

This itinerary aims to show those of you who are returning to the Eternal City places linked to romance that you may not of been aware of, or had time for, on your first visit.

 First of all you will need somewhere romantic to stay. Revealed Rome has a list to choose from. Also, on a more practical note, I am going to suggest that you purchase a three day travel ticket on your first full day in the city. This is all you will need for the forms of transport that you will be using. Find more details on my December 2012 post 'Ho Ho'

Start your first evening in Rome at the Spanish Steps. Whether you reach there as the sun starts to go down.......

..... or after dark, sitting on the steps sipping something fizzy that you have bought along with you is a lovely way to start your romantic break in Rome.You may even witness a marriage proposal as we did one sultry August  evening.

When you are ready to eat head right along Via del Babuino, then turn immediately right and first left on to Via Margutta. This gorgeous street holds one or two romantic secrets as you will see but first seek out Hosteria Margutta. Here you can choose between a table in the delightful jewel box of a dining room or on the small outdoor terrace for your first dinner in Rome. I can highly recommend sharing a platter of their signature desserts to round off your meal.
The first romantic secret of Via Margutta is revealed across the street from Hosteria Margutta.  The doorway of number 51 leads to the apartment lived in by Joe (Gregory Peck) in the film 'Roman Holiday'
Walk almost to the end of the street and look for number 110. This was the home of Federico Fellini, director of 'La Dolce Vita, which he shared with the love of his life, the Italian actress Giulietta Masina.
Should you wish to revisit this lovely street through the day then do look in La Bottega del Marmoraro. The owner will chisel words of your choice on to a piece of marble to create a lasting memento of your visit.

Day 1

Start your day with a cappuccino at Cafe Eustachio in the small piazza of the same name. The barista decorates his cups  in a particularly romantic way.

Make your way to the Pantheon and seek out the tomb of Raphael (between the second and third chapels on the left). This famous artist died aged 37 and, at his wish, had a plaque dedicated to Maria Bibiena, to whom he was engaged for six years,placed to the right of his tomb. Maria had died before Raphael and, by all accounts, the engagement was a mere formality in Raphael's eyes as she was his patron's niece. Raphael's true love was ' La Fornarina' - The Baker's daughter, whose portrait can be found in the Barberini gallery. The plaque suggests that he may have regretted his treatment of Maria in her life time.


After your visit to the Pantheon head to the Trevi fountain.  Obviously you will have to throw your coins in to the fountain and this is the way to do it. Stand with your back to the fountain, hold the coin in your right hand and throw it over your left shoulder. One coin ensures a return to Rome, a second makes a wish come true.

Look to the right hand side of the Trevi and you will see the small 'Lovers Fountain'. Traditionally couples who drink from this fountain together will remain faithful for life.
Lovers Fountain

Next stop is the last home of a Romantic poet. Head back to the Spanish Steps, an area that has links with Casanova. At the age of 19 Casanova moved to Rome as secretary to the Pope's right hand man, Cardinal Aquaviva, and he had an apartment in the Spanish Embassy at the bottom of the steps.
However we are here to visit the Keats/Shelley Memorial House which is the pink house at the bottom of the steps on the right hand side.The Romantic poet Keats left England for Rome in 1820 on the advice of his doctors.He was suffering from consumption and it was thought that the mild Roman climate would be beneficial. In leaving England Keats knew that he would never see the love of his life, Fanny Brawne, again. Keats died five months after moving in to this house and his room is preserved as it was when he died. It is very moving to stand in this room and listen to the sounds floating up from the Spanish Steps as Keats would have done during his last days.
Keats/Shelley Memorial House

After your visit walk along the Via Condotti, admiring the designer stores along the way, cross the Via del Corso and carry on walking until you reach the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. Look for the 913 (Monte Mario) bus stop. This bus will take you to a lunch spot with a terrific view of the city - Monte Mario.
You will stay on the bus for 18 stops and alight at Prisciano/Medaglie. After you have left the bus walk for a short way back until you see Piazzalle delle Medaglie d'Oro. Cross the Piazzale until you reach Via Triofanale. Turn right on to Via Triofanale and cross the road. Walk down until you see the arched  entrance to Parco Mellini/Monte Mario. Follow the twisty road upwards until you reach Lo Zodiaco cafe & bar. Here you can take a seat either indoors or outside and enjoy lunch whilst taking in the view.

Look to your left along the river and you will see the arches of Ponte Milvio. This bridge was the origin of a romantic tradition that originated with the writer Federico Moccia in his novel Ho Voglia di Te (I want You). The main character padlocks a bicycle chain to a lamppost on Ponte Milvio and throws the keys into the river symbolising unbreakable love. The craze caught on and spread to other sites and indeed other cities.

Sadly, in September 2012 the authorities decided that the weight  of the metal was damaging the stonework of the bridge & removed all padlocks.

However if you look along the little path in front of Lo Zodiaco - Vialetto degli Innamorati ( Little Way of the Lovers) you may see padlocks along the railings( not sure where the keys would be thrown - it's quite a way to the river!)

To the left of Lo Zodiaco you may glimpse an observatory through the trees. This was built in the 1930's and is now closed.It has been replaced by the public observatory in the EUR district.
When you are ready,  retrace your steps back to Via Trionfale. There is a short cut on a well worn path through the pine grove on your right as you walk down the asphalt road from Lo Zodiaco.
Catch the 913 (Augusto Imperiatore) bus for the return journey but this time get off after 9 stops at Ottaviano. As you leave the bus you will see the metro sign. Take the southbound line A (Anagnina) as far as Termini and then transfer to southbound line B (Laurentina). Leave the metro at Piramide. This is the sight that will greet you as you exit the metro station.

The Pyramid was built in 12BC as the tomb for Caius Cestius, a wealthy Roman magistrate, and is evidence of the fashion for all things Egyptian  enjoyed by the Romans.

Take Via Marmorata from the Pyramid & then immediately turn left on to Via Caio Cestio. Here you will find the Protestant Cemetery , the resting place of Keats or 'One whose name is writ in water' as it says on his grave stone.
Another Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, is also buried here after he was drowned off the coast of Tuscany at the age of 25. 
This is a wonderfully tranquil corner of Rome and full of memorials, each having a tale to tell.

Take the 'Weeping Angel' - a beautiful sculpture designed by the American , William Wetmore Story, as a lasting monument to his wife.

Time to return to your 'Home in Rome' and some well earned 'chill time'
For pre-dinner drinks this evening head to the Hotel Raphael, Largo Febo (indeed you may even be staying here as it is on the Revealed Rome list of romantic hotels). Take the elevator & then two flights of stairs to the rooftop bar which has a view down in to the centre of the cloister belonging to the church of Santa Maria della Pace. After enjoying cocktails make your way  back down to Largo Febo & the delightful Santa Lucia Restaurant. Twinkling lights in the trees make for an idyllic setting and if you like seafood you are in for a treat.
After dinner make your way up to Via Coronari. Turn left and carry on along until you see the little courtyard on your left that contains Gelateria del Teatro San Simone. There are seats in the little courtyard but I suggest enjoying your gelato whilst walking back to Piazza Navona.

End your evening with a stroll around this elegant piazza which is even more magical at night.
Day 2

Today we shall visit places linked to a classic story of love & loss. The opera Tosca by Puccini was set in Rome and tells the story of a popular singer, Tosca, who falls in love with artist & freedom fighter, Cavaradossi. When he is arrested & sentenced to death she uses her amorous wiles to secure a reprieve for her lover, only to be double crossed in the finale.
We start in the church of Sant'Andrea delle Valle where Puccini sets the first act of his opera. It is here that Cavaradossi agrees to help the fugitive, Angelotti escape which results in his subsequent arrest.
The church is an impressive example of  Baroque style and has the largest dome in Rome after St Peters as well as a beautiful gilded interior.

After your exploration of the church turn left on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, then left on to Via dei Baullari. Cross Campo di Fiori & continue on Via dei Baullari to Piazza Farnese.
If you are ready for refreshment then make a stop at Caffe Farnese. The outdoor tables are a perfect spot for taking in the gorgeous Piazza Farnese. The huge granite baths that form the fountains were found in the Baths of Caracalla and the facade of Palazzo Farnese (now the French Embassy) was designed by Michelangelo.

 The Palazzo is also used by Puccini  as the setting of Tosca's submission to & subsequent murder of Baron Scarpia, Chief of Police.

Take Via di Monseratto from the piazza & then carry on along Via dei Banchi Vecchi & Via del Banco Santo Spirito until you reach Ponte Sant'Angelo. This bridge, decorated with Bernini's angels will lead you to Castel Sant'Angelo.

Built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, Castel Sant'Angelo affords fabulous views of the city from the ramparts. It is also the setting for
Cavaradossi's yearning farewell to life & Tosca's plunge to death after she discovers she has been double crossed in the tragic finale of Puccini's opera.

 There is a cafe on the upper terraces of Castel Sant'Angelo but I have another suggestion for lunch. It is a short walk away but that will build up an appetite!
As you leave Castel Sant'Angelo turn right on to Piazza Pia. Carry on & turn left on to Via Giovanni Vitelleschi then right on to Via Pompioni Leti. Carry on to Via Varrone & Via Silla. At 26 , Via Silla you will see Romeo - our lunch destination. The name obviously fits in to our romantic theme. Actually the restaurant isn't named after Juliet's partner but from the components for  Alfa Romeo cars that were made in the factory here. There is a deli & bakery but also a relaxed seating area where you can enjoy platters of cured meats & cheeses, pasta dishes & gourmet hamburgers.
After lunch carry on along Via Silla & turn left on to Viale Giulio Cesere. Ahead you will see Ottaviano metro station. Take line A southbound (Anagnina) as far as Cinecitta. As you exit the metro at Cinecitta you will see the film studios ahead of you. If you time this correctly you should be able to take the 15.30 studio tour (€20). You will see sets used in 'Gangs of New York' and for the HBO series 'Rome' among others but our romantic reason for visiting the studios is that it was here that Richard Burton met Elizabeth Taylor whilst filming 'Cleopatra' - one of the most famous romantic liaisons of our time.
A visit to the museum is included in the ticket price.

A little 'chill time' is in order once you are back in the city centre. Hopefully you will be refreshed enough to enjoy yet another stunning view, this time from the Giancolo. A good way to get there from the historical centre is to use the 116 electric bus. Check the ATAC website to find the bus stop nearest to where you are staying. I have given detailed directions on how to reach the viewpoint on day 3 of my September post 'The Waters of Rome'
Depending on the time, you will either enjoy the sun setting over Rome or the twinkling lights of the city. Both are magical sights and can be enjoyed with refreshments purchased from the little kiosk on Piazza Garibaldi.

Almost dinner time which does entail yet more walking but this time it is downhill! Carry on walking along the Passeggiata past the Paolo fountain & follow Via Garibaldi down into Trastevere. If you look to your left towards Porta Settimiana as you near the end of Via Garibaldi you will see Romolo Restaurant. This is the former home of Raphael's Fornarina and the artist would visit here whilst employed in painting Pope Julius's private apartments in the Vatican.
Turn right at this point on to Via della Scala and continue on until you reach Piazza Santa Maria Trastevere. This gorgeous square is even more beautiful at night and was the setting for a scene from the 1994 romantic comedy 'Only You' starring Marisa Tomei & Robert Downey Jr.

For dinner I am suggesting a homely trattoria in a more down to earth piazza, but enchanting all the same. Da Teo is to be found in Piazza dei Ponziani which is the other side of Viale Trastevere.
Take Vicolo del Piede from the piazza, turn right on Via della Pelliccia, then right on to Via del Moro then right again on to Piazza di Sant'Apollonia. I have bought you a slight detour in order to show you the piazza that witnessed the last chapter in the love story between Raphael & his Fornarina. It was to a convent in this square that La Fornarina came, four months after Raphael died. It has also been suggested that Raphael's last painting, The Transfiguration' now in the Vatican Museum and in which La Fornarina is represented, was painted in a house in this square.
Retrace your steps on to Via del Moro, turn right on to Vicolo della Renella then continue on to the riverside. Turn right and walk along the river , crossing Viale Trastevere, until you reach Via della Botticella and continue on to Piazza del Ponziani and Trattoria Da Teo.
After dinner make your way back to Viale Trastevere and pick up the number 8 tram back to Argentina from where you can walk back to your accommodation or take a taxi. 
Day 3
We start today at Santa Maria in Cosmedin where we will find the Bocca della Verita or 'Mouth of Truth' made famous in the film 'Roman Holiday'. Indeed you will probably find a queue of people waiting patiently to recreate the scene where Gregory Peck pretends to lose his hand as a shocked Audrey Hepburn looks on.
However, there is much more to this church than an ancient drain cover (allegedly the origin of the Bocca della Verita). Indeed inside you will find a relic of the saint associated with love mentioned at the beginning of this post.                                                                                                     
Saint Valentine was a Roman priest who was persecuted as a Christian. The Emperor at the time,  Claudius II, had banned young men from marrying so that they would make better soldiers. Valentine married young couples in secret and was arrested and questioned by the Emperor himself. He was executed on Via Flaminia on February 14th 270AD. 

On leaving the church turn right on to Via dei Cerchi then left on to Via San Teodoro. Tucked away at the beginning of this street (at number 88) is Cristallo di Zucchero - a little bit of heaven for those of you with a sweet tooth. As well as divine pastries & cakes they also sell croissants and savory snacks - ideal picnic food. I have the perfect spot with a view for you to enjoy your purchases.
Head back down Via San Teodoro, cross Via dei Cerchi and Via del Circo Massimo and walk up Clivio del Publico. You will see the entrance to Giardino Arance (Orange Garden) tucked around the corner from the church of Santa Sabina. Walk to the end of the park, find yourself a spot on the parapet and enjoy your lunch with a view.
After lunch continue walking up Via di Santa Sabina until you reach the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. look for the green door on the right hand side of the square and take a peek through the keyhole. You will see the dome of St Peters perfectly framed by an avenue of trees.
Retrace your steps but this time turn left after the Giardino Arance on to  Clivio di Rocca Savella and follow the steep path down. Turn right at the end of the path and walk along the river, past the temples of the Forum Boarium, as far as Ponte Fabricio.
 At this point turn right, past the Synagogue, into the Jewish Ghetto. Follow Via del Portico D'Ottavia then turn right in to Via di Sant'Ambrogio. Providing it is after 2.00pm on a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday you can take a thermae experience just like the Ancient Romans did, at the AcquaMadre Hamman.
Suitably refreshed and relaxed exit from the hamman & continue on to Piazza Mattei & the gorgeous Tortoise Fountain. You can read the romantic story attached to the fountain on day 1 of The Waters of Rome post.

Time to chill before heading out once again to the Spanish Steps. This time you are going to walk up the steps, pausing at the top to take in the view before turning left and walking along Viale Trinita dei Monti. Carry on until you see Via del Belvedere on your right, just after Villa Medici. Walk up this road and you will come to the Pincio - yet another viewpoint .Again, depending on the time of day, you will either get a sunset or night time view of the city.

Carry on walking until you see Casina Valadier which is a lovely restaurant for your last meal in Rome. A table on the romantic terrace is the perfect way to end your all too short visit to the Eternal City - after all ' Roma non basta una vita', a lifetime is not enough.

Casina Valadier

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