Monday, 6 July 2015

Friends on Tour

An itinerary devised for three friends visiting Rome for the first time.


Booking well in advance  will ensure rooms are available at The Beehive, a charming, budget friendly hotel. It's proximity to Termini Station is ideal for transport links to all the major areas of the city but an added attraction is the delightful garden - ideal for relaxation at the end of a busy days sightseeing.


After checking in and dropping your bags, walk to Termini. As you will enter Termini from Via Marsala you should find Vyta easily. Here you can pick up food for a picnic. If you need extra supplies there is a Despar supermarket close by. Pick up  72hr public transport ticket from the machines on the main concourse (€12.50) and you are good to go.
From here take Metro A (Battistini) to Spagna (your ticket will be validated as you pass through the barriers). Follow the exit signs to Villa Borghese – this is a bit of a tedious trek but it is a shortcut to the glorious Villa Borghese Park where you can enjoy your picnic. If you head towards the lake, complete with a temple and turtles, you will find plenty of benches on which to enjoy your lunch.

After lunch you can take in the park at leisure. If you have a smartphone you can download a free Villa Borghese app that has a map with all the sights of the park marked.

When you are ready to leave take Viale delle Magnolie/Viale dell’Obelisco which will bring you to a viewpoint with a vista over the city,  towards St Peters.


Turn left and take the slope down to  Via Trinita del Monti. On the right hand side you will see Caffe Ciampini where you can get your first gelato of the trip. There is seating inside but even better would be to imitate Audrey Hepburn in 'Roman Holiday' and enjoy your gelato sitting on the warm marble of the Spanish Steps. Enjoy the scene around you, from the terracotta walls…………

………to the Boat Fountain

 and beyond that , Via Condotti, complete with designer stores.
At the bottom of the steps, on the left hand side, is the Keats – Shelley House where John Keats died in 1821.

On the right hand side is Babbington Tearooms, opened by 2 English ladies to cater to those on the Grand Tour – beautiful tea and cakes at an eye watering price!!

A couple of options now – you could take the free walking tour that leaves the bottom of the Spanish Steps at 5.30pm every day and lasts for a couple of hours. You will have needed to reserve places at before you left home.

If you don’t want to be commited to a time then I will include the places that are on the tour in your itinerary starting with ‘The Real Bernini Angels’ which are to be found in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. To reach here turn left at the bottom of the steps and head towards Piazza Mignanelli.

Take the road to the right beyond the column, Via Propaganda. At the end of the road you will see the church. Hopefully there won’t be a service going on (this church seems to have masses all the time!) which means you can go inside for a proper look at the Angels – copies line the Pont Sant’ Angelo but these originals were deemed to be too precious to be left to the mercy of the weather.

If a service is in progress you can peek in through the open door.  

As an aside if you look to the street opposite the side entrance of the church, Via della Mercede, you will see a plaque to Bernini who lived in the area.

Before you leave the church make sure to see the cloisters – an oasis of calm (and a hidden gem) they are located opposite the side door where you came in.

We are now heading to the Trevi Fountain. Carry on down Via Sant’Andrea delle Fratte and continue on Via Nazareno. You may catch a glimpse of the Ancient Roman aqueduct that feeds the Trevi Fountain on this street.

Cross Via del Tritone and take Via della Stamperia to the fountain. I know that the fountain is still under restoration but it is well worth seeing as a walkway has been constructed that means you can get up real close to the statues. There is also a small plastic pool in which to throw your coins (which you have to do to ensure your return to the Eternal City!)

Retrace your steps to Via del Tritone and turn right. Walk up hill to Piazza Barberini where you can get the metro back to Termini (Line A – Anagnina) and you can also see another Bernini sculpture – the Neptune Fountain.

Back to The Beehive to relax in the garden before freshening up for dinner.
Where better to dine on your first night than a traditionally Roman, family run, trattoria. Ristorante da Nazzareno is exactly that and fortunately it is literally just around the corner from The Beehive. In the wood panelled dining room you can sample typical pasta dishes such as spaghetti alla carbonara and bucatini amatricia. Gillian McGuire (Gillian's Lists) has written a lovely account of dining here. Whatever you do don't leave without indulging in dessert......after all
you don't have far to walk back 'home'!



Before leaving the hotel ask at reception if they will book you a table at Taverna dei Fori Imperiali (06 679 8643) at whatever time suits you for dinner.

Metro from Termini to Colosseum (Line B - Laurentina)

As you exit the metro station the Colosseum is right in front of you – an awesome sight.


You will also see the Arch of Constantine – known as the ‘cut and paste’ arch as it was made up of friezes from other buildings.

Walk up Via del Fori Imperiale. On the left hand side you will see huge maps that show the expansion of the Roman Empire. The right hand side is lined with statues of Roman Emperors.
When you have almost reached the end, turn left in to Via San Pietro in Carcere. The ruins on your left are the Forum of Caesar. As you continue on you will pass the Mamertine prison where St Peter was imprisoned on the orders of Emperor Nero.
Follow the road round to the right and go up the stairs where there is a viewpoint over the Forum. The Arch of Septimius Severus is right in front of you. This triumphal Arch was built to celebrate Emperor Septimus Severus’ victory in Parthia (modern day Iran)
During his reign as Emperor, Septimus Severus travelled to Britain where he was involved in strengthening Hadrian’s Wall as well as invading Scotland. His ambitions were cut short when he fell fatally ill. He died in York in 211AD
Over the carvings there was an inscription with gleaming bronze letters, but the bronze has been stolen away, and only the nail holes and grooves for the letters are still there. That's enough to read the inscription, and also to see where Septimius Severus' son Caracalla, when he became emperor and killed his brother Geta, had his brother's name scratched out of the inscription. You can see it on the third line from the bottom.

Continue uphill to the Campidoglio. This beautiful square was designed by Michelangelo. The equestrian statue in the centre is of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (who featured in ‘Gladiator’!) The
statue is a replica – the original is inside the museum.
If you bear round to the right of the centre building you will get another view of the Forum. This time you are closer to the Temple of Saturn, where the spoils of war were stored in Imperial Rome.
Retrace your steps and walk down the wide staircase, between the statues of Castor & Pollux, and cross the road in to Via d’Aracoeli. Take second left to Piazza Margana then continue on Via Delfini until you reach Piazza Mattei. This is one of my favourite corners of Rome (a ‘hidden gem?) In the centre of this tiny piazza is the delightful Turtle Fountain, the story of the fountain goes like this……
Once upon a time there was a Duke - Muzeo Mattei who was betrothed to be married. Unfortunately he gambled all his fortune & lost it overnight. The wealthy father of his intended bride then cancelled the wedding but the Duke decided to show him how powerful a Mattei was, even without money, and had the fountain built overnight. The very next morning he invited his future bride & her father to his palazzo & pointed at the fountain from the best window saying ' here is what an impoverished Mattei can do in a few hours' All ended happily ever after with the Duke marrying his bride but in order to forget his humiliation he had the window walled up as it still is to this very day

A less prosaic version of events suggests that the Duke 'borrowed' the fountain from a friend for whose palazzo it had been built & it simply was left where it stands now.
The turtles are a later addition and are attributed to Bernini.
The green door in the right hand corner belongs to Palazzo Costaguti , the fabulous apartment rented by Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’. The piazza also appears in Woody Allen’s ‘To Rome with Love’.
On the corner of Via Reginella you will find a cute little shop – Peperita. If chillies are your ‘thing’ then this is the place to be!
Take Via dei Falegnami and cross Via Arenula – watch out for the trams!
Straight on through Piazza Benedetto Caroli and Via dei Giubbonari will bring you to Campo de Fiori. We will explore the market later but you are probably ready for a coffee now. Two options – the first, Bar Farnese (Via dei Baullari 20) has tables outside and very friendly staff. To find this café keep to the left of the market and look for the street that leads down to Piazza Farnese which we will see later.

The second option is a no nonsense old fashioned cafe that hasn’t changed in decades – Latteria di Vicolo del Gallo. The coffee here is served in cups as big as soup bowls by a sweet old couple that could be your Nonni (grandparents)

This will be a good choice if the weather isn’t so nice. It is in the next little street on the left after Via dei Baullari, Vicolo del Gallo and is at number 4.
Back to explore the market and to pick up provisions for lunch. This is an unusual piazza as it is the only one in Rome without a church .It is also one of the few areas in the city that was never abandoned, not even in the Dark Ages. Romans of one kind or another have been living here for more than 2,000 years
The brooding statue of Giordano Bruno watches over the market. He was a scholar convicted of heresy who was burned alive on this spot in 1603.

Enjoy wandering around the market with its peculiar mix of traditional fruit and vegetable stalls alongside souvenir stands (look out for the dubious shaped pasta!!) Pick up seasonal fruit for your picnic. Some stalls sell ready-made fruit salads too.



Look out for Beppe e I suoi Formaggi’s stall which has a fantastic selection of cheeses.


For bread go to Forno Campo de Fiori at number 22.



Their speciality is Pizza Bianca which comes out fresh from the oven every 10 minutes or so.


For salami etc head to Norcineria Viola at number 45. The staff are happy for you to try before you buy!

OK so you have your food provisions, hopefully your water bottles have been replenished at one of the many water fountains, so you are all set for your picnic lunch
Don’t forget to take a look at the flower stalls before you leave the market – I love the little €5 posies!

Head to Piazza Farnese where, straight ahead, you will see Palazzo Farnese. Designed by Michelangelo, this is now the French Embassy. The elegant fountains display the Farnese family emblem – lilies.
Take the street to the left of the palazzo, Via del Mascherone. At the foot of this street you will see one ugly looking fountain.

This was commissioned by the Farnese family & was created by combining two ancient sculptures. It was said to have dispensed wine instead of water for Farnese parties – my sort of fountain, however ugly!

The ivy covered archway that you can see was designed by Michelangelo and was intended to connect Palazzo Farnese with Villa Farnese on the other side of the river but the project was never finished.



Turn left and continue along until you come to Ponte Sisto. As you walk across the bridge you get a glimpse of the dome of St Peters.
Looking towards Ponte Sisto with  Dome  in background


You are now in Trastevere but don’t worry, it is not much further to your picnic spot. Keep walking to the right of Piazza Trilussa and you will come to Piazza Giovanni di Malva


Keep to the right on Via di San Dorotea and turn right in to Via Porta Settimiana.
The building on the right, which is now Romolo restaurant, was once the home of La Fornarina, the baker’s daughter who was Raphael’s lover.

Take Via Corsini on the left hand side which will bring you to the gates of the Botanical Gardens.

Once you have paid your €8 entrance fee you can pick the perfect spot for your picnic. After relaxing spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the gardens. If you make your way to the very top you will be rewarded with a lovely view of the city.

As you leave the gardens glance up and you will see Garibaldi watching over you from the Giancolo Hill.

When you are ready to leave the gardens retrace your steps to Piazza San Giovanni di Malva but this time take Via Benedetta. At number 7 is I Dolci di Checco er Carettiere where you can get your daily dose of gelato. Continue along and turn left at Piazza Trilussa then right to walk along the riverside to the next bridge, Ponte Garibaldi, where you can pick up the tram to Piazza Venezia. From here you can get bus 40 back to Termini. As this is a major tourist bus route just be aware of your belongings. If you prefer you could take a taxi from here.

Enjoy some ‘downtime’ (or collapse in a heap!) before going out for dinner.

Take the metro from Termini to Cavour (1 stop on line B – Laurentina) Exit left from the metro station, cross the road and go down the steps. You are now in Monti, once known as the Suburra and birthplace of Julius Caesar. Take Via Leonina on your left and follow it until you cross Via Serpenti in to Via Madonna dei Monti. Taverna dei Fori Imperiali is at number 9. Enjoy sampling traditional Roman dishes at this family run trattoria.
If you still have some  energy  after dinner then I suggest a ‘nightcap’ in Piazza Madonna dei Monti (at Via Serpenti turn left and cross the road to the piazza) Get a drink from one of the bars and join the locals around the fountain.

When retracing your steps back to the metro station note that the entrance is on the Monti side of the road for your return journey to Termini (Line B – Rebibbia)


An early start today (but it is so worth it!) for your 'Pristine Sistine' tour which you will have booked online before leaving home.
Take the metro  from Termini to Ottaviano for your 7.35 am meet up. If you haven't had time for breakfast pick up a cornetti at Dolce Maniera (Via Barletta 27) which is not far from the metro station. You might not spot it immediately (it is down stairs) but you will know you are close from the aroma of freshly baked cornetti filling the air!

After meeting up with your guide a brisk walk ensures that you will see the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's masterpiece in relative peace and quiet. The tour then takes in the highlights of the museums including the Raphael Rooms & Laocoon as well as ceiling after glorious ceiling.

The tour then moves on to St Peter's Basilica with yet more unforgettable highlights - Michelangelo's Pieta and Bernini's Baldacchino to name but two.


After your tour head out on to the piazza and  check out this optical illusion in the square. Locate one of the 2 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.

Lunch beckons so head through the left hand colonnade and walk down Via del Borgo Sant'Angelo, passing the Tiara Fountain as you go.


 Turn  left on Via Ombrellan and continue on Via Properzio. At number 31 you will find Sorpasso. Whether you are in the mood for a snack or a plate of pasta you will not be disappointed with the lovingly prepared dishes served in this shabby chic restaurant.
After lunch you can either head straight to Ottaviano metro station to return to Termini or you can enjoy a little retail therapy on Via Cola di Rienzo. If you choose the latter look out for George Clooney - he can be found in the Coin department store!
Back to the Beehive to enjoy time in the courtyard garden.

Hopefully, after some downtime you will be ready to venture out once more. If you enjoyed Monti yesterday evening then you could return to sample aperitivo, where the price of a drink includes plates of food. This is usually served from around 6.30/7.00pm.

Some places that we have tried are:

2 Periodico, Via Leonina 77 (you will have passed this last night) – this is such a comfy bar you may not want to leave! Sink in to a sofa after helping yourself from the buffet table. Super friendly staff too.   Sadly now closed - a new bar has opened in it's place but we have not tried this out

 If you turn right in to Via degli Zingari you will see Civico 44. This is the total opposite in style to 2 Periodico, very minimalistic. Here they put together an aperitivo platter for you. The best seats in the house are those at the open windows.

If you continue you on to Via Boschetto at number 79 you will find Pucciami. The aperitivo here is inexpensive but the food is really good. Again it is prepared for you.


Are you ready for your day of culture, coffee and cloisters?
If so take the number 40 bus to Piazza Venezia

Walk up Via del Corso to Galleria Doria Pamphilj – this is situated in the Palazzo of the same name. Walk through the courtyard filled with orange trees to the ticket office.

The €11 entrance fee includes an audio guide narrated by Prince Jonathan Pamphilj who still lives in the palazzo today. The narration really brings the palazzo alive with anecdotes from his childhood. If you want to take pictures inside a Photo Pass is available at the bookshop.
The pictures in the gallery are hung exactly as they would have been in the 18th century – no minimalism here! You will have your favourites – mine is ‘The Penitent Magdalen’ by Caravaggio (although the audio guide is quite scathing about this picture!!) The greatest treasure is ‘Portrait of Innocent X’ by Velazques which is housed in a vestibule off the glorious Hall of Mirrors. At the time of writing this  particular work of art is on tour but a replica is in place.
At the end of your visit exit through Piazza del Collego Romano and take Via Pie di Marmo. On the corner of Via del Gesu you will see a huge marble foot – remains of a huge statue of Isis.

Continue on to Via Di Santa Caterina da Siena and in to the delightful Piazza della Minerva complete with a Bernini elephant supporting an obelisk!

As you can see you are very close to the Pantheon, Via della Minerva will bring you to the front of this magnificent building that has stood here for almost 2,000 years.

The Corinthian columns at the Pantheon’s entrance are each cut from a single stone & were designed to hide the dome from view. The architects planned that by obscuring the dome they would provoke a sense of wonder as people walked in & saw the perfect hemisphere inside.  

The huge bronze doors are original from the time of Hadrian. Hadrian rebuilt the temple but left the name of the original builder, Agrippa, on the portico.

The tombs inside the Pantheon include those of Raphael, the kings of modern Italy and Queen Margherita (after whom the pizza is named!}

Now it is coffee time (at last!) As you leave the Pantheon turn left on to Salita dè Crescenzi then left again in to Piazza San Eustachio. Café San Eustachio is a Roman institution, it opened in 1938 and the mosaic paving and furnishings are still the original ones.   Absolutely nothing beats the experience of sipping a Cafe Eustachio cappuccino (made to their own secret recipe – note that the espresso machines are positioned so that the barista’s activities are hidden from your view!) whilst sitting enjoying the view of the distinctive stags head aloft the bell tower of Sant’Eustachio.

If you go to the loo at the back of the café, you will pass the original machinery that was used to grind the coffee. A bag or tin of their signature coffee makes a good souvenir to bring home.

Walk along the side of Palazzo Madama. This is now the home of the Italian Senate but at one time Caravaggio lodged here as it was owned by his wealthy patron.

Take Via Staderari, where you will see a fountain dear to a Librarians heart – The Fountain of the Books!

Cross Corso del Rinascimento in to Piazza Navona which is dominated by Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers and Borromini’s Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone.

At the time that Bernini designed & built the fountain he had a vicious rivalry with Borromini. According to lore, two of the fountains figures play out this rivalry. The Nile’s head is covered by a cloth to avoid looking at the façade of Sant’Agnese in Agone  The figure of Rio della Plata who also faces Borromini’s church raises his hand in terror as if expecting the façade to collapse.

Stroll amongst the artists and trinket stalls and take in the street entertainment.

 When you have finished exploring take the street to the right of Sant’Agnese which leads to Via Tor Milina. Turn right in to Via della Pace and head towards the Church of Santa Maria della Pace. To the left of the church you will see the entrance to Chiostro di Bramante (look for signs to the Chagall exhibition) Walk past the ticket office (entrance fee is just for the exhibition) and take the stairs to the right which will bring you to the cafeteria where you can enjoy lunch in a loggia above a 15th century cloister. Lunch is served between 12.00 – 3.00.


The icing on the cake is that after lunch you can go in to the lounge where you can look in to the church and get an eye level view of Raphael’s Sibyls


Take Via del Arco della Pace straight ahead until you reach Via Coronari then turn left. This is a lovely street full of antique shops. Very shortly on the left hand side you will see Gelateria Teatro (Via Coronari  65/66), one of our favourite gelato places in Rome with wonderfully imaginative flavours. I love the sage and raspberry but the dark chocolate and red wine  is delicious too . At the side of the shop is a little alleyway with a flight of stone stairs where you can sit and enjoy your gelato at mosaic topped tables.


If you continue on along Via Coronari you will come to Ponte Sant’Angelo complete with Bernini’s angels (you saw two of the originals on Sunday evening). The angels replaced gallows that used to line the route over the bridge.

Beyond statues of St Peter & St Paul, the angels themselves represent the pain, suffering & sacrifice of Jesus.  The second angel on right is St Veronica who holds a veil with image of Jesus. Legend has it that she wiped the face of crucified Christ with her veil & image appeared on it.

The building in front of you is Castel Sant’Angelo. Originally built as the mausoleum of Hadrian, it became a papal fortress. The corridor (passetto) that links Castel Sant’Angelo with the Vatican plays a starring role in Dan Brown’s ‘Angels and Demons’

If you walk to the left of Castel Sant’Angelo you will come to Piazza Pia where you can pick up the number 40 bus to Termini.
 Back to the Beehive for more relaxation and dinner. On Wednesday evenings an Italian chefs cooks in the café. What better way to enjoy your last night in Rome.




















































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