Monday, 8 August 2016

Ruins, Remains and Refreshment

An itinerary devised for a history loving couple who are not averse to sampling good food and wine!

Where to Stay

An excellent cost effective choice would be the new addition to the 'Beehive Family' - Hotel Urbee. Located on Via dei Mille,it is a short bumblebee flight away from the Beehive itself, where you can enjoy the cute little cafe and garden sanctuary (see this post)

What I love about this newest venture of Steve & Linda Martinez, is the use of recycled elements in the redecoration of the rooms. Go to the website to see before & after pictures. Even more heartwarming is the employment of refugees from a local centre as workers on the project.
The area around the hotel is made up of large residential buildings constructed during the 1870’s when Italy became unified. It is very handy for transport links – literally minutes’ walk to Termini for trains & buses.
Arrange a taxi or transfer from the airport which will give you time to check in, drop luggage & then take the short walk  from the hotel to Nazzareno at Via Magenta 35, and your 9.30 dinner reservation (contact The Beehive beforehand & get them to make it for you). Romans eat late so you probably won’t be the last guests to arrive!

Nazzareno will be a good introduction to a truly old fashioned Roman ristorante. The owners have been serving traditional Roman dishes since 1954 and it is one of the few places in the city that still has an antipasto buffet. A shared platter from the food on display here makes a good starter before moving on to the classic dishes that are on the menu, all enjoyed in the polished wood panelled dining room or outside on the covered terrace.
Walk to Termini station
Pick up 2 72hr Roma Travel Tickets from the self-service machines (€18 each)
Termini is named after the huge thermal baths of Emperor Diocletian, the remains of which can be seen across the street from the stations main entrance. Also to the side of the main entrance & on the lower level of the station itself you will see remains of the 4th century BC Servian, wall built as a defence for the city. This is what I love about Rome – history on every corner, literally!

Head to Metro Line A (red line) and take the metro to Spagna (direction Battistini) As you leave the metro station at Spagna note the street art lining the walls.

You will emerge at Piazza Spagna, turn left to reach the Spanish Steps – the steps may still be under restoration but the Boat Fountain or Fontana della Baraccia, is looking as good as new after the recent clean-up.

This fountain was the last work of Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Gianlorenzo Bernini. It commemorates great flood of Christmas Day 1598 when a barge from the Tiber was washed up on the slopes of the Pincio Hill.

At the bottom of the steps, on the left hand side is the Keats – Shelley House where the poet, 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!!

Continue on towards Piazza Mignanelli  and take the road to the right beyond the column, Via Propaganda.

At the end of the road you will see the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. 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 peep at two original Bernini Angels – copies of which line the Pont Sant’ Angelo bridge. 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, built by Marcus Agrippa, that feeds the Trevi Fountain.

Turn right & cross Via del Tritone and take Via Poli. At number 27 is Angelina -  a good place for a coffee stop.

A few steps further will bring you to the Baroque masterpiece that is the Trevi Fountain, looking magnificent after restoration.

The restoration was paid for by Fendi who have recently staged a fashion show here. I have never seen a more magnificent catwalk or backdrop - stunning!

The name given to the 20-mile long aqueduct that feeds the Trevi Fountain is  Acqua Vergine   This name is connected with how the aqueduct was discovered. In 19 BC a young girl showed the source of the water to Roman soldiers. Above the fountain, to the right of the figure of Oceanus ,a bas-relief shows the virgin pointing out the spring to these soldiers. 

This aqueduct also supplies water to fountains in Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Farnese. Legend has it Roman soldiers would drink the waters of Rome to improve their chances of returning from war in one piece. In the 18th century tourists would dunk their kettles in the fountain to make tea.
The name of the fountain is most likely a corruption of the Italian “tre vie,” three streets; this refers to the three streets that meet in front of the fountain. Because every visitor to Rome wants to return, everyone takes part in a well-known tradition: to throw a coin into the Trevi 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. The origins of leaving a coin in the Eternal City are very old: early Christian pilgrims, who were leaving Rome, would place a coin on St. Peter’s tomb. Coin tossing in the Trevi was a tradition started by the film ‘Three coins in a fountain’. One coin will ensure a return visit to Rome while a second makes a wish come true. The coins are collected from the Trevi and donated to charity – around €3000 per day!

By now you have probably had enough of crowds so take some time out & enjoy a picnic in the park for lunch. Take Via Stamperia from the fountain which will bring you to Via del Tritone. Cross over & retrace your steps back to Piazza Spagna. Head for the street on your right after the metro – Via San Sebastianello. At number 7A is GiNa – a classy restaurant that also puts together picnics. You choose from a list & wait while they freshly prepare the food which comes in a dinky cool bag. Continue uphill to Viale Trinita dei Monti, cross over & climb up the road on the right after Villa Medici to bring you to a viewpoint, before turning in to the Villa Borghese park.

There is no shortage of benches on which to sit & enjoy your picnic but one of the prettiest areas is around the lake.

To reach here walk up  Via delle Magnolia, continue on to Via Petro Canonica , turn left in to Via dell’Aranciera which will bring you to the lake.

After lunch you will need to return your cool bag to GiNa but this gives you more opportunity to enjoy those views on the way back down.
Take the metro back from Spagna to Termini (direction Anagnina) then back to your hotel for ‘ downtime’ – you will need to replenish energy for more walking later!
When you are ready, take Metro B from Termini to Colosseo (direction 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 Fiori Imperiale on the left hand side (there is quite a lot of construction work for Metro C going on at the beginning of the walk )
Via Fiori Imperiale was constructed  on the orders of Mussolini as part of his plan to symbolically link his government with that of Ancient Rome The road unites Piazza Venezia , where Mussolini had his office, the Imperial Forums, 80% of which were built over, & the Coliseum.
Mussolini was also responsible forthe huge marble maps on this side of the road. They show the expansion of the Roman Empire. The final map was taken down after WWII as it showed the expansion of the Italian Empire under Mussolini.

You will come to a statue of Julius Caesar, standing in front of what remains of his Forum 

Turn left in to Via San Pietro in Carcere for another view of the ruins of the Forum of Caesar. As you continue on you will pass the Mamertine prison where Vercingetorix, the prince and leader of Gaul was imprisoned and also St.Peter, on the orders of Emperor Nero The prison has just reopened after closing for a year for excavations and it now boasts new state of the art visitor facilities (details here)
Follow the road round to the right and go up the stairs where there is a viewpoint over the Roman 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.  Just before you get to the square you will see a statue of the She – Wolf suckling the twins, Romolus & Remus. This is the symbol of Rome.

The beautiful square was designed by Michelangelo. The equestrian statue in the centre is of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. 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 Roman 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. To your right is the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli which was built on site of the Temple of Jupiter where, according to legend, the Tiburtine Sybil foretold the birth of Christ to Emperor Augustus. 

At the bottom of the steps cross the road and take Via San Venanzio. Cross another main road to bring you to Via degli Astalli and continue on until you reach Via Pie di Marmo then turn left. On the corner of Via del Gesu you will see a huge marble foot – remains of a huge statue of Isis, found near here.

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 Pantheon closes at 7.00pm but chances are it will be slightly less crowded at this time of day.

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  the artist Raphael, the kings of modern Italy and Queen Margherita (after whom the pizza is named!

After touring the Pantheon, take Via di Pastini which will bring you to Piazza di Pietra. There is a lovely wine bar here, Enoteca Spiriti at number 32/33, where you can enjoy a drink & complimentary nibbles whilst overlooking the ruins of Hadrian’s Temple.

The temple was built by Hadrian’s adopted son & successor, Antoninus Pius, and commemorates Hadrian as a God. All Emperors were deified after death, leading Emperor Vespasian to declare ‘Oh dear, I think I am becoming a God’ in his last hours.

Continue on to Via del Corso, turn right and walk down to Piazza Venezia which affords a good view of Il Vittoriano. This was built as a monument to the first king of a unified Italy, Vittorio Emanuele I, and it also houses the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is nicknamed the ‘Wedding Cake’ or ‘Typewriter – don’t think the modern day Romans like it very much! 

Turn left at the bottom of the Corso and cross over to make your way to Trajan’s column.

On your way you will pass another set of ruins. These were discovered in 2009 whilst excavating in order to build a new metro station. They are the remains of a gigantic 900-seat complex dedicated to Roman arts and culture known as the Athenaeum and is another legacy from the time of Emperor Hadrian

Trajan’s column celebrates the Emperor Trajan's campaigns in Dacia (Romania) Unfortunately that isn’t Trajan standing on the top of his column – in the 16th century the Pope replaced him with a statue of St Peter. 

If you continue on, you can peer over in to Trajan's market - an Ancient Roman shopping mall.

Walk on past the Forums of Augustus and Nerva . The tiered seating is for the nightly sound & light shows that run throughout the summer.
At the back of the Forums notice the great tufu wall. This was a fire wall that protected the forums from the ever present danger of burning buildings in the adjoining area called the Suburra.
When you reach Largo Corrado Ricci, turn right & continue on to Via Cavour. The first right turn will bring you to the courtyard of Alle Carette - your dinner venue.
Time for Roman pizza - thin crust as opposed to the thicker crust of a pizza from Naples.

Everyone has their favourite pizzeria & Alle Carette is ours. 

You are actually dining in the Suburra (now known as Monti). Julius Caesar grew up in this area – a slum at the time. Julius Caesar himself was from a wealthy family. His mother Aurelia, owned an insula (block of flats) here and the young Julius would have mixed with people of all races & classes. 

After dinner make your way to the Colosseum (cross Via Cavour & continue on Via Cardello) for your ‘Colosseum by Moonlight’ tour which you will have booked online from home here. This tour ticks all the boxes – it is relatively uncrowded; you are touring in a much cooler part of the day & you get to go underground which is very atmospheric at night.
Once you have finished your tour it is an easy trip back to your hotel from Colosseo metro station to Termini (direction Rebibbia)


You covered a lot of ground yesterday so you will be pleased to know that today is a much slower pace.
Back on the Metro B from Termini to Circo Massimo (direction Laurentina)

The sight of the Circo Massimo as you leave the metro station is almost as awesome as the Colosseum yesterday. This is Rome’s oldest entertainment venue, best known for chariot races. It could hold up to 300,000 people. The backdrop of Imperial Palaces on the Palatine Hill is pretty spectacular too.

Today joggers & dog walkers enjoy this open space. Stroll along – there are benches along the way too. When you reach the end turn right and continue along to Via San Teodoro. Almost as soon as you are on this street look for number 88 (blink and you miss it) This is Crystalli di Zucchero where you can get coffee…….and maybe a little something to go with it.

Continue along Via San Teodoro then turn left on Via del Velabro. This is a lovely quiet corner of Rome but peace was shattered in 1993 when a mafia bomb exploded and damaged the church of San Giorgio.

In ancient times this whole area was a commercial centre & merchants would meet under the Arch of Janus, which would have been built over the busy crossroads here that linked the Forum to the riverside cattle market.

Continue on to Piazza Bocca della Verita. Directly ahead of you are two little temples from the Republican era. The circular one is the oldest marble temple in Rome and the rectangular one is dedicated to Portumnus, protector of the port that existed here. 

Turn right on to Via Petroselli & head upwards. This area was the fruit and vegetable market of ancient Rome. Cross over to the church of San Nicolo Carcere with three ancient columns embedded in the outer wall. These are the remains of three temples that stood here.  Walk alongside the railings until you come to the entrance to Teatro Marcello. Walk down the ramp in to the ruins. 

The theatre was started by Julius Caesar and completed by Augustus, he dedicated it to his nephew, Marcellus, who died at the age of 23. In Medieval times it became a fortress, then a palazzo & ultimately, luxury apartments. Walk through the toppled columns & sculpted marble to the little bridge which gives a good view of the Portico d’Octavia.

The portico was rebuilt by Augustus and dedicated to his sister Octavia. It enclosed temples, libraries and meeting rooms and was intended as a meeting place for the adjacent Teatro Marcello.
Continuing on upwards will bring you in to the Jewish Ghetto.
Rome's Jewish community is the oldest in Europe and one of the oldest continuous Jewish settlements in the world. Jewish traders first arrived in Rome in the 2nd century BC and settled across the river, in Trastevere.
When Rome invaded Judea in AD70 the spoils of war not only included items from the Temple, but also Jewish prisoners of war, many of whom were forced into building the Colosseum. 
Julius Caesar favoured the Jewish people as did Emperor Augustus, who scheduled the grain distribution so that it wouldn't interfere with the Sabbath.
Emperor Caracalla granted them the privilege of becoming Roman citizens. However, the recognition of Christianity as a religion resulted in Emperor Constantine limiting the civil & political rights of the Jewish population.
In the middle ages their treatment varied from pope to pope. At this time the population began to migrate across the Tiber and settle around the square that is known today as Piazza Mattei.
The Jewish people contributed to the Renaissance as merchants, traders & bankers.  The Borgia pope (Alexander VI) allowed exiled Spanish Jews to settle in the community & the Medici popes (Leo X & Clement VII) treated the Jewish people well. However, in 1555 Pope Paul IV decreed that the Jewish community should move into the ghetto, a restricted riverside area prone to flooding. . For the next 300 years’ severe restrictions were placed on those that remained in the ghetto including the wearing of yellow caps & shawls when they ventured out of the district - a chilling omen of what was to come. The ghetto walls remained in place until the unification of Italy in 1870 when the rights & citizenship of the community were restored.

Walk down towards the synagogue to start your walk through the Jewish Ghetto.

This was the first building erected in the area in 1870 & was completed in 1904. It has a square dome to distinguish it from the Christian domes of the Rome skyline. The Synagogue contains the Museo Ebraico which documents the history of Jewish life in the ghetto. Since a terrorist attack in 1982 the area is heavily guarded by Carabinieri. In 1986  Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to this synagogue, the first pope ever to visit a Jewish place of worship. Pope Francis continued the tradition in January this year.
Across the road from the synagogue is the church of Santa Maria della Pieta.  Catholics built churches at each of the gates of the walled in ghetto in order to try and spread their faith to the Jewish people. The quote under the depiction of Christ on the cross that you see on the church is from Isaiah - 'All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and faithless nation that has lost its way' - in this instance the quote is misused to give an anti-Jewish twist.

On Sundays the Jewish population were forced to listen to sermons here which were designed to convert them to Christianity.

As you walk towards the ruins of Portico d'Ottavia you will cross a small square that is marked by a plaque on the wall. 

On September 27th 1943, the head of the German SS in Rome demanded 50 kilos of gold from the Jewish community otherwise 200 Jews would be deported to Germany or the Russian front. The demand was met but on 16th October 1943 Nazi forces entered the ghetto & rounded up 1,000 Jews, the majority of which were women & children, and transported them to Auschwitz. Only 16 survived
The small square is named Largo 16 Ottobre 1943.

Further reminders of this dark period of history can be found under your feet as you walk along Via del Portico d'Ottavia. Brass cobblestones with the names of the victims are positioned outside the homes from which they were taken.

Continue on  until you reach Via San Ambrogio on your right. This is a street that survived from the days of the ghetto & it is easy to imagine it teeming with people who lived here.

Continue along Via San Ambrogio until you reach the delightful Piazza Mattei & the Turtle Fountain. The turtles were a later addition to the fountain by Bernini. It is said that Bernini chose turtles as homage to the Jewish people - they are ancient creatures who carry all their belongings on their backs.

Take Via della Reginella from the piazza. On the corner is a shop, Peperita, which specialises in chillies & olive oil both of which are grown on a Tuscan farm. The chillies range from a mild Aji  right up to a fiery Trinidad Scorpion!

Via della Reginella is another survivor from the days of the ghetto. Here you can see where the six floor buildings end and the elegant three floor buildings begin, marking the end of the ghetto area.

As you reach the corner Via del Portico Ottavia you will find Mondo di Laura - the kosher cookie shop. Treat yourself or take some home as gifts. Our favourite is Pepita - dark chocolate chip cookies with Himalayan pink salt.

A little further up is the Jewish bakery, Boccione. This is easily identified by the cinnamon scented air floating out of the tiny unmarked doorway. The speciality here is  pizza ebraica or sweet Jewish pizza made with candied fruits and nuts.

The same family have owned this bakery for generations. Members of the family were amongst those deported to Auschwitz who never returned.

At this point Via del Portico Ottavia becomes Via di Santa Maria del Pianto. It was in this area that the Duke of Gandia, son of Pope Alexander VI & brother of Cesare Borgia, was murdered and his body thrown in to the Tiber. The fact that the pope abruptly ceased all investigations in to the murder led all of Rome to believe that the murderer was no less than Cesare himself - dark deeds indeed.

Across the road is Piazza Cinque Scole. When the ghetto was created one of the restrictions imposed was that only one synagogue was allowed. The Jewish community cleverly interpreted this as meaning one building, in which they built a separate school  on each of five floors so that all were able to practise their different rites - hence 'Cinque Scole' or 'Five Schools'.
Nothing remains of the synagogue but a piece of the ghetto wall can be found in one of the courtyards. The white columns on the corner belong to the small Tempietto del Carmelo, yet another church in the ghetto where the Jewish people were made to listen to Christian sermons.

Returning to Via di Santa Maria del Pianto you will see Beppe e il suoi Formaggio . Inside is a veritable feast of all kinds of cheese, especially from the Piedmont area. The butter that you see is made from Beppe's own herd of cows. 

Beyond the counter is a delightful dining area - an ideal place for a spot of lunch. We can recommend the sample cheese platter……with a suitable wine of course!

If there are any of the cheeses that you particularly enjoy, you can buy them at the counter and they will vacuum pack them for you.
After lunch walk up to Via Arenula, cross over & pick up a tram to Piazza Venezia.

From there you can pick up a bus to Termini.

When you have rested you can set out again for yet more exploration. Walk to Termini & take metro line A to Ottaviano (direction Battistini) Follow the directions to St Peters Square (actually just follow the crowds!)
Enter through the colonnades, designed by Bernini, into the piazza. After admiring the fa├žade of the basilica……

………. locate one of the two discs in line with the fountains to experience an optical illusion. 

If you stand on the disc facing the colonnade you will see that the three lines of columns appear to be one.

Don’t be concerned about the size of the queue to enter the basilica as it moves pretty quickly through the security checks. You will need to cover up shoulders and knees as the guards are pretty strict on the dress code.
As it is a Jubilee year you might get the chance to walk through the Holy Door, only possible during such a year. This is the furthest bronze door on the right.

Pope Francis opened the door on December 8th last year and once the year is over it will be sealed again until the next Jubilee.

The central doors are impressive too. They came from the original St Peter's Basilica and are the work of the Florentine craftsman known as Filarete. The panels depict the crucifixion of St. Peter.

Once inside, check out the inside of the door, where you will see the 'signature' of Filarete - seven figures joyfully dancing. These are Filarete and his assistants with the tools of their trade in their hands.

The doors on the far left are known as the Doors of Death as funeral processions pass through here. The gruesome depictions of martyrdoms on the panels were designed by Giacomo Manzu.

 Many treasures await inside. Some of the highlights include Michelangelo's Pieta, created when he was just 24 & the only sculpture that he signed (across Mary’s sash)

To the left is the tomb of Pope John Paul II - now a saint.

The seated statue of St Peter, his foot worn from the touch of generations of pilgrims.

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.

One of my favourite angels in all of Rome can be found on the tomb of the Stuarts (Bonny Prince Charlie et al) which you will see just before you leave the basilica.

After your visit, walk across the piazza and exit through the colonnade to your right and take Borgo Santo Spirito then turn right on to Via Penitenzieri. Walk down as far as Piazza della Rovere then cross the very busy road and start your ascent on Via Giancolo. After a little way you will see steep stairs that are a short cut to Via Sant'Onifrio which eventually leads to Passeggiata Giancolo. Don't worry if you miss the short cut - you will still end up at the same place - Piazza Garibaldi. Here you will find refreshment & a stupendous view. If, on the way up, you turn around & look to your right you will get this view of St Peter's dome.

Then you will see the Manfredi  Lighthouse, a gift to the city of Rome from Italians in Argentina

Garibaldi & his followers who played a part in the formation of modern Italy, are remembered on the Giancolo or Janiculum Hill as it is known.  Look to the right & you will see a statue to Anita, his wife, with baby in one arm & shot gun in the other!

Once you reach the piazza you will see the equestrian statue of Garibaldi himself.

Not only do you get a stupendous view but also a chance for refreshment from the little kiosk.

Carry on along the Passeggiata and you will come to the Aqua Paolo fountain and yet another city vista.

Head down Via Garibaldi until you see the monument which was built to honour those who fell during the defence of Rome in the 19th century. 

If you go behind the monument you will find steps that are a shortcut down Via Garibaldi (don’t worry if you miss them, just carry on down the road) Eventually you will find yourselves in Trastevere.

Continue on to Ponte Sisto and cross over the bridge. Cross over the main road on the other side & continue on Via del Pettinari until you reach Via Giubbonari. Turn left and head towards Campo di Fiori. In the mornings this is a busy market but by early evening it becomes a lively meeting place, watched over by the brooding statue of Giordano Bruno. He was an Italian friar & philosopher who was burned at the stake here for heresy.

 Turn right in to the little Piazza Biscione & keep right until you come to a tiny secret passageway which will take you through to Piazza del Paridiso & your dinner destination at number 63.
Tonight restaurant, Hosteria Costanza, is set within the ruins of Pompey’s Theatre (upon the steps of which Julius Caesar was assassinated) and is a cosy, as well as historical, setting for authentic Roman cuisine. The house wine is excellent and their Antipasto della Casa is a lovely way to start your meal – little bowls of mascarpone & liver pate which you mix together & pile on to pizza bianca (another Roman speciality) The grilled lamb or saltimbocca are both good choices for a main course.

After dinner you may like a little walk to the Area Sacra. Turn right on to Corso Vittorio.  Continue on to the submerged visible ruins of the ‘Area Sacra’, three temples from the Republican era, which are on your right. There are information boards on each of the four sides, explaining its history, walk down the side on Via de Cesarina and look over towards the pine tree which roughly marks the spot where Julius Caesar was attacked and killed. Today the area also serves as a cat sanctuary. Walk to Via Torre Argentina & pick up a bus to Termini & the short walk to your hotel.


Prepare for more walking today but at a leisurely pace!

Again take Metro B from Termini to Circo Massimo (direction Laurentina) & walk along Circo Massimo until you see Piazzale Ugo La Malfa on your left.

Take the road up from here that cuts through the Rose Garden.  This peaceful garden only opens for a short few weeks each year, in May & June. It was built on the site of an ancient Jewish Cemetery. Keep going up until you reach 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 around to the viewpoint & enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city.

Retrace your steps to the church of Santa Sabina and keep going up 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.
There will probably be a queue of people waiting to do the same. I won’t spoil the surprise but I will tell you that you are seeing three countries here. You are standing in Italy, looking through Malta, towards Vatican City in the distance.
Walk across the little piazza to Via di Porta Lavernale. Continue on through Piazza di Servilii to Via Asinio Pollione
If you are ready for a coffee, there is an unusual little spot as you come to the main road, Via Marmorata.

Tram Stop is a little kiosk where you can get your caffeine fix. There are chairs & tables set up on the grassy area alongside.
After coffee, continue along Via Marmorata until you come to Via Caio Cestio on your right. A little way along this road is the entrance to The Protestant Cemetery, the final resting place of both Keats & Shelley which also affords a good view of the Pyramid of Cestio, a tomb of a well to do citizen at the time of Emperor Augustus.

You will see cats stretched out in the sun as the cemetary also acts as a cat santuary.
You can't miss the dramatic 'Angel of Grief' which was created by an American sculptor, William Story, to serves as a headstone for himself and his wife.

As you exit the gates, turn left and continue along Via Caio Cestio as far as Via Nicola Zabaglia. If you cross the road you will see another cemetary, the British Military Cemetery. This is only open in the mornings when the gardeners are here, but it is a sublimely peaceful spot and of particular interest to anyone from 'The Edge of the Empire' as it holds a fragment of Hadrian’s Wall.

Turn left on Nicola Zabaglia and walk along until you see a little road that branches off, Via Monte Testaccio. Straight ahead is your lunch destination, Flavio al Velavevodetto.

Take your seat in the naturally air conditioned dining room. The restaurant is set in to the side of a man made mountain, comprising of layer upon layer of broken terracotta amphorae. The glass walls in the restaurant allow you to see the shards that make up the mountain.

The amphorae would have been unloaded at the nearby river port and, as they contained olive oil, could only be used once hence the inventive way of disposing of them.
The area that you are in now, Testaccio, held the slaughter houses, and the local cuisine is known as the ‘Fifth Quarter’. Obviously the best cuts of meat went to the noble families & the Papal household, so the workers had to make do with the offal that was left over. Many restaurants in this area specialise in this local cuisine but you will probably be pleased to know that Flavio is known for his pasta dishes!

Indeed, his carbonara is said to be one of the best in Rome.

After lunch continue on Via Nicola Zabaglia & turn right on to Via Galvani. Walk along to Via Marmorata, turn right & you will eventually reach the busy Porto San Paolo where you can take Metro B from Piramide station back to Termini (direction Rebibbia) & your hotel for 'downtime'

Todays passeggiata is a stroll around Piazza Navona, to get there walk to Termini and pick up bus 64 (Staz.S Pietro) for 9 stops to Corso Vittorio Emanuele (just a word of warning, this is known as the ‘pickpocket’ bus so just be aware. We have used it with no problems though)
Cross the road in to Piazza Navona.

The piazza is built over the Stadium of Domitian, which was used for athletic races. The buildings that surround the piazza follow the line of the stadium. The star attraction here is Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers which depicts the Nile, Ganges, Danube & Rio de la Plata rivers. They represent the longest rivers in each of the continents recognised at the time of construction of the fountain & are surrounded by plants & animals native to those continents. It is the only fountain designed in its entirety by Bernini and is the subject of a story of rivalry between Bernini & Borromini. According to the story the figure representing the river Nile is blindfolded to avoid having to look at the facade of Sant’Agnese in Agone which was designed by Borromini (in reality the Nile figure is hooded probably because the rivers source wasn’t known at the time) The figure of Rio della Plata who also faces Borromini’s church raises his hand in terror as if expecting the facade to collapse. Sadly, this story has no basis in fact as Bernini had completed the fountain before work on the church had begun.

The many street entertainers and artists in the square ensure a delightful stroll from one end of the piazza to the other.

Head to the top of the square and leave at the exit near to the Tourist Information office. Turn right on to Piazza di Tor Sanguigna. Here you will find the entrance to the  Stadium of Domitian archaeological area. (open until 7.00pm, admission €8). The museum presents the history of this, the first example of a brick built stadium in Rome, through an audio guide, 3D videos & information boards.

After your visit 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 – pizza al taglio (by the slice) Eat on the mosaic tables in the alley. Wine from a box served in plastic cups for next to nothing!

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 towards the river for a lovely illuminated view of Castel Sant’Angelo.

Castel Sant'Angelo was built by Emperor Hadrian as a tomb for himself and his family. It was later used as a papal fortress and even had its own escape route, the Passetto di Borgo which plays a major part in Dan Brown's 'Angels and Demons.
On summer evenings the Castel is open late & the entrance fee of €10 includes a guided tour. The view from the terrace is worth the entrance fee alone, as well as getting up close & personal with Archangel Michael

When you exit the castle turn left and walk along the river towards Ponte Umberto. Cross the bridge to Via Zanardelli where you can pick up bus 492 (Staz. Tiburtina) to take you back to Termini. 

A little trip out of the city today to Ostia Antica. The well preserved ruins of Ostia lie twenty miles from Rome, at the mouth of the Tiber river. It was abandoned hundreds of years ago and is similar to Pompeii in that many of the buildings are still intact, having been preserved over the centuries by mud and silt from the Tiber, but is much less touristy.
The site does have a cafe but it is expensive & the food is poor. However there are plenty of spots for a picnic, so before you head out of Rome take the few minutes walk from your hotel  to Fratelli Ghezzi, Via Goito 32 (on the corner of Via Montebello) This deli is full of wonderfully fresh ingredients that can be made up into a sandwich for you by the friendly staff.

Continue on to Termini station. Just inside the main entrance you will find Borri Books where you could seek out a copy of Vision Roma 'Ancient Ostia - A Port for Rome' which has transparent overlays that shows how Ostia would have looked in the past.

You will be taking Metro B to Piramide (direction Laurentina) but as your travel passes ran out yesterday you will need to get 4 €1.50 tickets from the machine which will cover the whole return journey.
Once at Piramide, change by going up the escalator & down the steps into Porta San Paolo station for the 'light railway' to Ostia Antica. The last station on the Rome-Ostia line is Cristoforo Colombo (Ostia Antica is the stop after Acilia & before Ostia Nord.) Once out of the station cross over the footbridge that is straight ahead. Continue straight along the residential street and carefully cross the busy road on a blind curve opposite a restaurant. Go past the restaurant (which will be on your right) and follow the road to the parking lot & ticket kiosk.
Admission costs €8 & there are audio guides available in English as well as maps of the site.
Wandering around the ruins, you can see the remains of the docks, warehouses, apartments, villas, shopping arcades and baths - all giving a peek into Roman lifestyles.
Ostia was founded around 620BC; its central attraction was the salt gleaned from nearby salt flats which served as a precious meat preserver. Later, around 400BC, Rome conquered Ostia and made it a naval base, complete with fort. By the second century AD, when Rome controlled all the Mediterranean, Ostia became its busy port & commercial centre, the remains of which we see today.

Stroll among the ruins and trace the grid, standard for Roman military towns: a rectangular fort with east, west, north & south gates and two main roads converging on the Forum. Walking along the main road, Decumanus Maximus, you can identify buildings from the Republic (centuries before Christ) and the Empire (centuries after Christ) by their level. Over the centuries, Ostia's ground level rose, and the road was elevated. Anything you walk down into is B.C.

The vast theatre (teatro) is one of the oldest brick theatres anywhere and is still used for concerts today.

Just in front of the theatre is the grand square of the Guilds, the former bustling centre of Rome's import/export industry, with more than 60 offices of ship-owners and traders. Along the pavement, 2nd century mosaics advertise the services offered by the various shops - an elephant marks the office of the traders from Africa.

The Forum Baths, a huge government-subsidized complex, were the city's social centre. Fine marble steps - great for lounging - led to the pools. People used olive oil rather than soap to wash, so the water needed to be periodically skimmed by servants. From the viewpoint overlooking the Baths you can see a mosaic of Neptune riding four horses through the waves.

Along Via Casa di Diana is the House of Diana, a great example 
of insulae (multi-storied tenement complexes where the lower middle-class lived) and an inn called the Thermopolium. Here you will see a small sink, shelves once used to display food and drinks for sale, and scant remains of paintings of vegetables on the wall above the fireplace.

Return to Hotel Urbee for 'downtime' before heading out to dinner. The best has been saved for last - Osteria dell'Arco, Via Giacomo Pagliari 11, is approximately a 15 minute walk from your hotel

This cosy neighbourhood restaurant is run by two women - Christina is in the kitchen and Nicoletta is the sommelier. The daily specials are well worth trying.

Our favourite local Cesanese wine, Silene, is served here too.

The perfect ending to your meal would be biscotti & amaro: a herb based liqueur made by Cristina's aunt.


For your last morning you don’t need to venture far from your hotel.
Palazzo Massimo can be found near Termini Station at Largo di Villa Peretti. This museum makes a refreshing change from the major sights as it is never mobbed by tourists and yet it contains some of the most stunning remains of the ancient city. During the Second World War the building was used as a military hospital.
Some of our favourite treasures here include the statue of Emperor Augustus as Pontifex Maximus which shows Augustus as head of the Roman priesthood. A rather good looking guy I think!

'The Boxer' may not be as handsome as Augustus but this bronze figure is strangely moving in its realism. The wounds that have been inflicted during many a match are easy to see as you move around the statue. 

The sculpture dates back to 330 BC & was unearthed by archaeologists on the slopes of the Quirinale Hill whilst excavating the Baths of Constantine in 1885. I love this picture from that time which looks like the boxer is just waiting to be discovered.

The bronze fittings from the Ships of Nemi give an indication of how splendid these ships must have been. Built by Emperor Caligula in the first century AD, they were believed to have been used as huge floating pleasure palaces. The figurehead of Medusa is impressive.

This beautiful pavement mosaic of Dionysus demonstrates how wealthy Romans decorated their homes, as do the frescoes that also can be seen here.

Our absolute favourite treasure in this amazing museum are the frescoes from the garden room of the Prima Porta Villa. They are displayed in such a way that you feel that you could be in the actual villa which was a favourite retreat of Emperor Augustus and his wife Livia. The frescoes themselves contain more than two dozen kinds of birds and over twenty botanical species. 

Best of all it is quite likely that you will have this treasure all to yourself.

As you exit the museum, turn left, left again then right on to Via Terme di Diocleziano. This will bring you to Piazza della Repubblica.

This semi-circular piazza takes its shape from the exedra or portico of the Baths of Diocletian. The Fountain of the Naiads in the centre was designed by Italian sculptor, Mario Rutelli (he also was responsible for the statue of Anita Garibaldi that you saw on Tuesday) It caused a scandal at the time it was built.

The women who modelled for the nymphs were sisters, two popular burlesque dancers of their day. The church tried for months to prevent the fountain from being unveiled because it was deemed too sexy. The sisters lived well into old age and these two dignified ladies could often be seen walking into the piazza to have a look at'their' fountain. Every year, once a year for as long as he lived, the sculptor would come to Rome to take the sisters out to lunch.

As you turn left into the exedra you will see Eataly, a good place for a coffee stop – the shakerato come highly recommended!

If you want to take home foodie gifts or souvenirs then this is the place to shop. It isn’t cheap but stocks the best produce from all over Italy.

Cross the very busy road to Via V E Orlando. A little way up on the left hand side you will see an entrance to a covered arcade. Inside is Dagnino – a Sicilian pastry shop.

 As well as mouth-watering pastries & sweets, on the right hand side of the store they offer a tavola calda (hot dishes) that you can take out. The arrancini (fried rice balls) are a speciality. Choose what you would like for a snack lunch, pay at the register then go back with your receipt to pick up your goodies.

Retrace your steps and cross over the road. Depending on time you might want to take a look inside Santa Maria degli Angeli. This church was built inside Baths of Diocletian and gives an idea of the scale and splendour of Roman Imperial times.

The exterior has a unique appearance for a church, since its outer walls consist in part of the brick of the Baths of Diocletian.

It was converted to a church in the 16th century and adapted by Michelangelo. The vestibule was originally a passage hall between the calidarium (hot bath) and the tepidarium (luke-warm bath) The main body of the church was the tepidarium itself and contains eight original columns.

Another interesting feature of the church is the Meridian line, 

a sundial laid down along the meridian that crosses through Rome. At true noon (1.15 pm in summer time), the sun casts its light on this line. Part of the cornice on the right side of the transept wall has been cut away to provide the effect.

When you are ready to eat, head around the corner to the entrance to the Baths of Diocletian. The garden here is a lovely tranquil spot with sun dappled corners and tinkling fountains. Your ticket to Palazzo Massimo also includes entry to this museum (+ 2 others) so there is no reason not to find a bench and enjoy your picnic lunch (actually the garden is before the ticket office anyway)

Then, sadly, it will be time to return to your hotel & head for home

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