... we must be in Roma!
06.11.2009 - 06.11.2009 15 °C
We decided to take it easy for the morning, and discovered on a short walk that our hotel is in the middle of a commercial area (several TV stations, motor reg etc.) and nowhere near anything of interest or any shops. It was advertised as being able to get to the centre of Rome easily - and by their definition that means a 20 minute bus (or hotel shuttle) trip to a railway station and a 10 minute trip on the metro. Not bad - but not quite what we had expected.
Anyway we headed off around midday on the shuttle with 12 Euros to our name and desperate to find an ATM that worked with our cards. We didn't find one at the starting train station but had no problems at the main Termini Stazione, so at least that was one less thing to worry about. We then paid a visit to a tourist information centre that promised English speaking assistants & they were great, gave us all the basic information, including how to use the buses & metro and sold us the Roma Pass which gives us 3 days unlimited use of public transport and free entry to 2 of the museum sites of our choice.
We decided for our first day to just wander and basically go a few blocks, consult the map and work out which direction to go next - seeing what we could as we wandered.
This approach took us to some of the more well known sites as well as a few lesser known areas, but was fun and interesting. We had to put up with the full range of weather from fairly heavy rain to the sun almost coming out at one stage.
We walked around the Santa Maria degli Angeli (Basilica of St. Mary of the angels and martyrs) without realising it - but at the side of it were the excavations of some ancient Roman baths. Across the road was the Piazza della Republica which had a decorative fountain in it surrounded for 180 degrees by 2 quarter circular buildings that are now an upmarket hotel.
We then wandered past the Palazzo Margherita which has been through several princely owners but is now the home of the American Embassy. This led us to Galappatolo Park - and the less said the better, most of what we saw was not very inspiring. But from the park we ended up at Villa Medici which has wonderful gardens (which we didn't get to see due to heavy rain & uncertainty about how to gain access) and is now the home of the Acadamie France - so includes work by French artists.
Right next to it was the Trinita dei Monti which is a baroque style church and was interesting because the various chapels off the side of the main area had each been purchased or given to notable people (16th & 17th century) and decorated by them at their own expense. One was purchased by a courtesan (fancy name for a lady who sold her services to the nobility).
In fron of the church were the well known Spanish Steps, which were
- Designed by an Italian
Paid for by the French
Named for the Spaniards
Occupied by the British
Currently feature American greats like Ronald mcDonald
I had read that they were most famous these days for the number of local lads sitting on them oggling the attractive female tourists - but the rain today would have scared them away.
Wandering off from there we eventually got to the Trevi Fountain - and there were heaps of people there, it would be impossible to get anywhere near it in summer if it was that busy on a wet autumn day. Opposite the fountain was the Chiesa Dei Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio - a church that was at one time known as the Pontifical Parish because it was just below the palace where the Pope resided (more on that in a minute) and it is also the place where the embalmed hearts & lungs of popes from 1590 through to 1903 are kept in the crypts.
Just a short distance away is a royal palace referred to as Quirinale which at one stage was the home of the Pope but these days is the home of the President of the Republic of Italy - hence plenty of police and guards carrying sub-machine guns.
a bit more wandering took us past the Palazzo delie Esposizioni, the Teatro dell'Opera ( a bit of a let down) and Santa Maria Maggiore (Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major - one of the four major or four papal basilicas) which wasn't open so we didn't get to see inside it.
from the churches we saw the frescoes and art work were as magnificent as expected - and we haven't seen the major ones yet.
Finding our bus at the station was fun - buses everywhere and not very good signage telling you where each number bus left from. Not helped by a transport worker who sent us in the totally wrong direction.
Anyway that ended our first half day of exploring - add in several cappuccino's or hot chocolates, gelto and Italian food and it was quite a good day. It started with us not being all that comfortable with Rome, but ended with us at least feeling we could find our way around.