Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Shopping, Sights and Strawberry Grattachecca

All essentials for a short break in Rome for a family of four that includes a 'Teen' & a 'Tween'. The following  bespoke itinerary was created with the help of Katherine & Elizabeth who 'test drove' elements of the summer visit outlined below
A good choice for accommodation would be B & B Cristiana Located in a quiet neighbourhood but less than 10 minutes to Piazza del Popolo by tram. I am sure that if you contacted your hosts, Cristiana & Angela, beforehand they would pick up BIT (3 day travel tickets for you which means that you can be ready to explore as soon as you arrive.
Take advantage of the car service offered by the B&B from the airport & in no time at all you can be unpacked & ready for your first gelato. Luckily Neve di Latte is just around the corner at Via Poletti 6 - some of the best gelato in Rome on your doorstep!

Continue on to Piazza Mancini & pick up the number 2 tram to Flaminio. Exit the tram and walk across towards Piazza del Popolo. This is a good place to start the 'Spot the Papal Symbols' game. Each family to which the various popes belonged had their own symbol - like a modern day avatar. They can be found all over the city. Look to your left & you will see the gate to the Borghese Gardens. Sitting on top are a griffin and  an eagle - symbols of the Borghese family.

After entering Piazza del Popolo turn around and look at the gate - you will see the Chigi family symbol of mountains topped with a star.

Walk across the piazza and take the road on the left - Via Babuino. Plenty of window shopping here and about half way along you will see Babuino himself. The statue of Silenus is one of the Talking Statues of Rome, named after a baboon as he was so ugly!

Continue on to Piazza Spagna & the Spanish Steps. One of our favourite things to do in Rome is to find a spot on the warm marble steps & people watch.

You may wish to do the same before heading towards Piazza Mignanelli......

.......then take the road to the right, Via Propaganda. Walk down to Via del Tritone, cross the road and follow the crowds to the Trevi Fountain. At the time of writing the fountain is under restoration but a walkway has been erected which allows a rare opportunity to get up close to Neptune and the Tritons.

There is also a small pool where you can throw your coins to ensure a return to Rome. Take Via Muratte to Via del Corso, cross over and carry on to the Pantheon, passing Hadrian's temple in Piazza Pietra on the way.

Hopefully you will arrive here before closing time (7.30pm Mon - Sat, 6.00pm Sun) so that you will be able to admire the oculus......

...... and search out Raphael's tomb.

After exiting the Pantheon walk along the left hand side to Piazza della Minerva where you will find Bernini's charming elephant statue.


Look carefully and you will find the Chigi family symbols of mountains and a star on the statue.

Bernini  is said to have deliberately placed the elephant with it's bottom facing the Dominican Priory that has its entrance on the piazza, as Bernini disliked one of the priests who lived there. Father Paglia had criticised the statue, probably a touch of sour grapes as the Dominican father had also submitted a design for the base of the obelisk which had been rejected in favour of Bernini. Every time he left the monastery he would see the elephants rear end!
Take Via Santa Caterina from the piazza. On the corner of Via Pie di Marmo look for the large marble foot - a fragment from an ancient statue of Isis.

Continue along Via del Gesu then cross over to Piazza del Gesu. This is known as the windiest square in Rome after an old Roman folktale. Legend says that the devil was out walking with the wind one day. The devil popped in to the church and never came out. To this day the wind waits for him in the square!
Take Via Celsa, cross Via delle Botteghe Oscure and continue down Via Polacchi. This will bring you to Piazza Margana, a delightful little square with a couple of  dining options - Vinando at number 23 or La Taverna degli Amici at number 37.
After dinner would be the perfect time to take in the illuminated view of the Forum from the Campidoglio. To do this head to Via D'Aracoeli, turn right then continue on until you see the Cordonata (steps!) leading up to the Campidoglio.

Walk towards the right hand corner of the square, after passing the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius , then walk down towards the view opening up before you.

Bus 628 (Maresciallo Giardino) from Piazza Venezia will take you all the way back to Piazza Mancini and the short walk to B&B Cristiana.

Day 1
Before leaving home for your trip you will have booked your early Colosseum tour for today, which includes the underground & third tier. Booking is by telephone and details can be found here.
After enjoying your breakfast prepared by Cristiana (and I've no doubt a little 'surprise'!) you can pick up bus 628 (Baronio) from Piazza Mancini to Piazza Venezia. This means that you will approach the Colosseum from Via dei Fori Imperiali - walking amongst the emperors.

Pick up your pre-booked tickets ( the lines will probably look huge but the attendants will show you the correct line if you show them the confirmation e-mail) and prepare to be transported back to Imperial Rome as you imagine what it would have been like to be a Gladiator walking out in to the stadium.

From the third tier you will be able to look down on the underground that housed the wild beasts waiting to be unleashed. The animals were transported in to the arena by means of lifts and pulleys - evidence of which you will have seen on your tour.

After your tour of the Colosseum it is time to visit the Forum (your ticket includes both sites) To avoid cultural overload you may want to follow my quick guide to the Forum's main sights, found here 
When you are ready for lunch exit the Forum on to Via dei Fori Imperiali & cross to Largo Corrado Ricci then take Via Madonna dei Monti. At number 95 on the right hand side you will find Pizzeria Le Carette, home to perfect thin crust Roman pizza.

After lunch make your way on to Via Cavour where you can pick up the little electric bus, 117, which will take you all the way to Piazza del Popolo. A short walk will bring you to Tram number 2 to take you back to B&B Cristiana and some well earned 'downtime'.
Refreshed & dressed in your 'glad rags' it is time for the Passeggiatta - the Italian tradition of taking a pre-dinner stroll. To reach your starting point you need to take the tram back to Flaminio & enter Piazza del Popolo once more. This time you are going to take Via Ripetta from the piazza. Enjoy strolling and window shopping all the way down until you reach Via del Portoghese then turn right. Look up at the tower ahead and see if you can spot the statue of the Virgin and a lamp. The story goes that a pet monkey snatched the newborn son of the owners of the tower and took it to the roof. The prayers made to the Virgin Mary by the parents were heard & the monkey returned the baby safe & sound. The statue & lamp were placed in grateful thanks.
Take Via dei Pianellari to Piazza Cinque Lune & cross to Piazza Navona. As well as the amazing fountains you will find entertainers, artists and trinket stalls here.

After a leisurely stroll around the piazza exit the same way that you came in and turn left on to Via Coronari. Walk along until you see Via San Simone on your left. In a corner of this little courtyard is Pizza del Teatro. Stop here for pizza al taglio (by the slice) and eat it at one of the mosaic tables set up in the alley.

Dessert has to be gelato from Gelateria Teatro, which you will have passed on the way in. This is one of my favourite gelato places in Rome - my flavour of choice here is raspberry & sage.

Continue along Via Coronari until you reach the river where you can cross on the Ponte Sant'Angelo - walking between the angels that line either side.

Castel Sant'Angelo lies ahead. Originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, this imposing building encloses the Passetto or secret passage made famous in Dan Brown's 'Angels and Demons'
Turn right after crossing the bridge and walk along the riverside where you will find stalls set up for the summer. At Ponte Regina Margherita cross back & walk to Piazza del Popolo & from there to Flaminio where you can pick up the tram back to B&B Cristiana.
Day 2
Today's 'sight' is St. Peter's Basilica. To reach there, take the 280 (Partigiani) bus from Piazza Mancini. This will drop you at Via Conciliazone from where you can walk towards St. Peters square & the basilica beyond.

Before you enter the basilica check out the optical illusion in the square. Locate one of the two discs in line with the fountains.

If you stand on the disc facing the colonnade you will see that the three lines of columns appear to be one.
After you have gone through security (don't be alarmed if the queue appears long - it moves quickly) look at the panels on the centre door. It shows the crucifixion of St Peter. In the left hand corner is the Pyramid which you may have seen on your journey in from the airport.

The doors came from the old St Peter's Basilica and were the work of a Florentine craftsman known as Filarete.
Once inside look at the rear of the same door. Right at the bottom you will see the 'signature' of Filarete - seven figures joyfully dancing. These are Filarete & his assistants with the tools of their trade in their hands.

In the first chapel to your right as you enter you will see Michelangelo's Pieta.

Michelangelo was only 24 when he created this masterpiece.
To the left is the tomb of Pope John Paul II - now a saint.

Crossing in to the nave look for St Peter. His right foot is worn from the many pilgrims who have touched it.
You can't miss the Baldacchino (canopy) over the altar. It was commissioned by the Barberini Pope, Urban VIII and designed by Bernini.
Bronze taken from the Pantheon was used by Bernini in creating the baldacchino which led to the famous saying 'What the Barbarians did not do, the Barberini did'. Obviously Pope Urban VIII felt no shame in robbing a monument that had stood for over 1600 years.
If you look closely at the ornate columns you will see the heraldic bees among the foliage - the Barberini family symbol.

Legend says that Pope Urban VIII commissioned the baldacchino as a thanksgiving for his favourite niece surviving childbirth. On the last pedestal on the right a baby with a smiling face appears.

There are many tombs in the Basilica but not many are decorated with an angel like this one.

You will find this tomb dedicated to the Stuarts in the right hand aisle as you leave the Basilica.
If you are feeling energetic you can climb to the top of the dome for fabulous views.

At the end of your visit don't forget to look out for the Swiss Guard......they are very handsome young men!!

Cross the square and walk through the left hand colonnade. Follow the walls of the Vatican all the way to Piazza del Risorgimento. At number 3 you will find Duecentogradi. Pick your Panini which you can either eat in or take out for a picnic lunch later. Hot tip - the bathrooms are really nice here!!
Time for shopping & Via Cola di Rienzo will provide ample opportunities. If you need a picnic spot then turn right on Via Virgilio and head to the park surrounding Castel Sant'Angelo.
Back on Via Cola di Rienzo you will see Coin department store as well as top fashion spots 'Brandy Loves Melville' (highly recommended by Katherine & Elizabeth!) at number 136 and 'Subdued' next door.
At Via M Colonna turn left and then left again on to Via dei Gracchi. It's gelato time! At number 272 you will find Gelateria Gracchi - nut flavours are my favourite here......and you can have crema on the top!!
If you return to Via M Colonna and turn left then follow the road along you will come to Lepanto metro. Take the metro to Flaminio (direction - Anagnina) then pick up the tram back to B&B Cristiana for some well earned downtime.
When you are ready for your evening passeggiata take the tram to Flaminio & then the metro A to Termini where you will transfer on to line B for Circo Massimo (direction - Laurentina).
Walk along Circo Massimo and imagine the chariot races that once took place here. When you reach Piazzale Ugo La Malfa  on your left.........

.........take the road that leads up between the rose gardens and keep going until you reach Piazza Cavalieri di Malta. On the right hand side of the piazza you will see a green door. Look through the keyhole.

Wow! Isn't Rome amazing?!
Retrace your steps until you come to the church of Santa Sabina. Enter the park ahead of you (entrance is next to the water fountain trough) This is called the Orange Garden for obvious reasons.

Make your way to the viewpoint and enjoy a birdseye view of the city.

Exit the park  and walk back the way you came up but this time turn left down the steep Clivio di Rocca Savella.
Turn right along the riverbank until you reach Ponte Fabricio (opposite the synagogue). This will bring you on to Isola Tiberina which has all sorts of pop up places to eat during the summer months.

If you are in the mood for a gourmet burger then search out Guida Ballerino's take out stand. They serve pasta too - fab food, reasonably priced. There are more stalls along the other side of the river. Here you might see porchetta stands - a local delicacy. Another Roman speciality is grattechecca - flavoured shaved ice which makes a refreshing dessert. These stands can be found on the Trastevere side of the river above Ponte Garibaldi.
When you are ready to return to B&B Cristiana re cross Ponte Garibaldi & pick up the 280 bus at Lungotevere De Cenci which will take you all the way to Piazza Mancini.
Day 3
Today we will once again take the 280 bus but first you will need to pick up 1 day transport (BIG) tickets. I am sure your B&B hosts will point you in the right direction for  obtaining these. Your journey today will take you five stops further on from where you got off yesterday, to Farnesina/Trilussa. From here you can cross back over the river at Ponte Sisto then turn left and take Via Giulia as far as Via del Mascherone. You will know when you have reached this turn as the fountain of the same name is opposite this little street.

Continuing on you will find yourselves in Piazza Farnese.......

............ which leads to Campo di Fiori

Enjoy browsing around the  various stalls under the watchful eye of Giordano Bruno.

Not only are there fresh produce and flower stalls but also opportunities to pick up souvenirs. There are stalls selling spice mixes, olives, sun dried tomatoes and porcini as well as dubious looking pasta shapes! Also, T-shirts, bags and housewares if you would like to take an Italian coffee pot home

Photograph by E Minchilli
If you need refreshment there is a stall that sells freshly pressed fruit juices opposite the flower stalls and the fruit stalls have prepared salads ready to go.

Photograph by E Minchilli

Photograph by E Minchilli
When you are ready to move on, take Via Giubbonari from the market which offers more shopping opportunites. At the end of this street cross the busy Via Arenula and take Via dei Falegnami which will bring you to the delightful Turtle Fountain.

 From here you can take Via Paganica which will bring you to the Area Sacra. This collection of Republican era Temple ruins is said to be the site of Caesar's murder. It is also a cat sanctuary - see how many you can spot basking in the sun.

Depending on the time and how hungry you are, you may want to grab a slice of pizza from Pizza Florida (Via Florida 25). There are seats both inside & out. However, if it isn't quite lunchtime, then I do have an alternative which will be revealed shortly!
Walk along Via Plebiscito and admire the 'Wedding Cake' before turning on to Via del Corso.
Here you can pick up the 117 electric bus (Corso/Popolo) which will take you to the Spanish Steps. My alternate lunch suggestion has to be the best value lunch in town. At an unnamed pastificio at number 8 Via della Croce you can get a pasta dish, wine & water for €4!! You will need to get in line around 1.00pm to take advantage of this deal but the pasta is delicious.
For dessert head a little further downVia della Croce to number 82 for Pompi who are renowned for their tiramisu.

Buy individual portions and head back to the Spanish Steps. Find a shady corner and enjoy! (In theory you are not supposed to sit & eat around the monuments but we have never had an issue with this and, indeed, on our last visit, witnessed a party of Japanese tourists enjoying the self same tiramisu!)
After lunch. continue up the steps, turn left and walk along Viale Trinita di Monte, past Villa Medici, and on your right you will see a steep path that will take you up to the Pincio for fabulous views of Rome.

From here take a right into Villa Borghese Gardens.
If you feel a rebellion against more walking coming on you could avoid the uphill climb by using the escalators in the Spagna metro station. Simply follow the signs for Via Veneto and ride the escalators until you reach the exit, then turn left to the entrance of the gardens at Viale San Paolo del Brasile. You will miss the view but may save on frayed tempers.
Spend the afternoon in the park chilling out, people watching or getting around by whichever form of transport you choose.

Surreys and bikes can be hired from a stand near the Water Clock (or the Casa del Cinema if you have arrived by escalator)

You could also hire a boat to enjoy the tranquil lake overlooked by a temple.
When you are ready to return to your B&B, take Viale Washington which will lead you through the imposing gates that you saw on your first evening, to Piazzale Flaminio and your tram stop.
Dinner tonight is at Tree Bar (Piazzale Manila, Via Flaminia 226) This delightful café, set among the trees, is easily reached by taking the now familiar tram number 2 to Flaminia/Fracassini (3rd stop from Piazza Mancini).
Where better to spend your last evening in Rome than dining beneath umbrella pines and enjoying the regional specialties chosen from the chalk board menu.
Do leave room for the home made desserts! 

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