Rome in summary

Rome—80,713 steps and 38.19 miles walked over five days, fueled by cioccolata calda, great meals, and Prosecco.

Rome—exhausting and overwhelming. If Cinque Terre was a feast for the senses, Rome was an assault on the senses.

Rome—in retrospect, woefully unprepared for all I would see, even though I’d done some reading beforehand (and watched “Roman Holiday” several times over the years—does that count as prep?).

Rome—wonderful to turn a corner and see a Roman ruin or go into a museum and see centuries of art or walk through a neighborhood and see  beautiful churches and old buildings.

Rome—didn’t fall in love with it but want to go back because it’s fascinating and energizing and fabulous! Glad I threw that coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure my return!

Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain.

Rome, Day V

Raining when we started out, but not too bad. Went to Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Mass being said by a priest assisted by another priest or monk in a closed chapel, another Mass being said in a large chapel that was quite beautiful. Downstairs a small chapel with a larger than life statue of a kneeling pope. The mosaics we had come to see were in the dome and on the facings of the nave arches but even with lighting up, couldn’t see them very well.

Continuing our mosaics quest, went on to Santa Prassede. It knocked my socks off—the mosaics were stunning. Other visitors had put in money to light up the mosaics around the altar and in a small chapel. Chapel was another instance of being gobsmacked—because it was small, the mosaics were easily seen. So incredible that I looked at the other visitors and said thank you, whoever lit this. Something nice about being with people all appreciating beauty and craftsmanship.

These mosaics were interesting in that they were much more textured than the Roman mosaics—not flat stones set to form a flat surface but more pebbly—and colors like you’ve never seen. We took our turn at spending euros for lights and lit up the altar area again. Bought three postcards for .90 euros total, which was amazing—postcards usually 1 euro apiece.

Mosaics in Santa Prassede.

Mosaics in Santa Prassede.

Headed to San Pietro in Vincoli to see the Michelangelo Moses. Had to climb long, steep flight of stairs—”it wouldn’t be Rome without stairs.” Church was closed, so down another flight of stairs to a main street, which we crossed to a smaller parallel street. So cool—mostly pedestrian—not noisy—no rushing—lots of small businesses.

Left: building covered in ivy. Right: a look down an alley.

Left: building covered in ivy. Right: a look down an alley.

Went between Colesseum and Roman Forum on our way northwest. Wandered down small streets—beautiful clothes, especially coats and boots. After a disappointing lunch, headed towards the river and Trastevere. As we reached the Ponte Sisto,  sun came out and lit up the rain-wet cobblestones and the Ponte Sisto. On the bridge, turned  around and the street and buildings were beautifully lit against dark sky. The river looked like a Turner painting.

Left: the Ponte Sisto. Right: sunlit buildings.

Left: the Ponte Sisto. Right: sunlit buildings.

Tiber River.

Tiber River from the Ponte Sisto.

Wandered through Trastevere. Cello player was in Piazza di Santa Maria, playing opera arias, lights were shining off the wet pavement, people were walking through the piazza—the intensity of the experience made me stop and just listen and look and feel—a beautiful moment in which I could hear life.

Left: Piazza di Santa Maria. Right: street decorations reflected in puddles.

Left: Piazza di Santa Maria. Right: street decorations reflected in puddles.

Conversation on the way back to the hotel:  “I know where we are.” After a few minutes of walking:  “Where are we?” “I don’t know.” “You said you did.” “I did know where I was, that didn’t mean I knew where I was going.” As we had done every day, we wound up going by the Area Sacra, a place I would never have found if I was actually looking for it.

Back to the hotel for a rest (another theme), then back to the restaurant we ate at on Monday. Waiter recognized us!  Seated in a small area decorated with a Christmas tree, where we had another great meal. Then off to the Trevi Fountain to throw in our coins and take pictures.

Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain.

Rome in summary.

Rome, Day IV

Rome is kicking my butt! So tired this morning but thank goodness for breakfast room attendant who brought me teapot of hot water as soon as she saw me. View from breakfast room of sunlit buildings against a dark cloudy sky.

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Left: dome of Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano. Right: sunlit building.

Had to stop by bank because Wednesday night, completed an ATM transaction with no cash delivered. Had conversation with man there—he spoke no English, I speak no Italian, but I’m pretty sure he told me the money would be replaced!

After that, started my wander on my own.  Found the two churches we can see from the breakfast room. Was able go into one—was surprised to find it was completely round.

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Left: domes of Santa Maria di Loreto and Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano. Right: inside Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano.

Visited Trajan’s Forum, then went looking for a geocache. The hint was Senatus PopulusQue Romanus; initials SPQR appear everywhere, but in this case, they were in an unexpected place!

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Clockwise from left: Trajan’s Forum; view of Santa Maria di Loreto; SPQR on top of a sign board.

Cache was near the ruins of the Porticus of Octavia, so went there next. Learned from one of the information placards that the inscription on the marble tablet recorded that Rome’s municipal Conservators had the right to appropriate fish heads over a specific size!

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Left: plaque regarding fish heads. Right: Porticus of Octavia.

From there, into the Jewish Ghetto. Would have loved to visit the Museo Ebraico, but couldn’t face another museum or being inside on a sunny day. Wandered up and down streets, then across the Isola Tiberina into an area south of Trastevere. Have no clue where I was, but it was interesting! Lunch in Piazza di Santa Maria, more wandering, then tea and pastry at the sala da tè we saw on Tuesday.  

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Building details in Trastevere.

Took the pedestrian Ponte Sisto back across the Tiber. Went into the Santissimo Salvatore in Onda. Either a Mass or one of the offices was just ending and the sound of the congregants singing was beautiful. The church itself one of the loveliest I have seen. Went into four churches today and realized after a couple why I did not like St. Peter’s Basilica. In most churches I’ve visited, I’ve felt that people built them to the glory of God—I can feel that even if I don’t believe in that god. I felt like St. Peter’s was built to the glory of the papacy or to the power of man.

I’m not into finding Munzees the same way I am into geocaching but decided to look for one. The search took me to Piazza Farnese and Campo di Fiori which was great—saw a more human-scaled side of Rome.  

After a Prosecco at the hotel bar (is there a theme developing here?), had dinner at a seafood restaurant. The party of seven next to us was having an extravaganza! Enjoyed seeing everything they ate and the expertise of the waiters serving.

Rome, Day V.

Rome, Day III

Breakfast room attendant had noticed on Tuesday morning that I was trying to make tea in a small cup. This morning, she gave me a teapot of very hot water—great start to the day!

To the Vatican Museums. As soon as we walked in, knew we would have to ‘sample’—huge complex spanning centuries of art and artifacts. I used the audioguide to narrow down what I looked at so as not to be totally overwhelmed. The short (and it was still long) route took us to the Egyptian rooms, then into galleries of paintings and sculptures.

Gallery in the Vatican Museums.

Gallery in the Vatican Museums.

The Gallery of Maps was the highlight. Absolutely wonderful—incredible color and detail. Spent a lot of time there, but could have spent more looking at all the panels on the walls and ceilings.

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In the Gallery of Maps, clockwise from left: the ceiling; map of Liguria; decorative detail.

After that, the Sistine Chapel—impressive but not as overwhelming as I expected. Sensory overload forced us to stop for lunch. Saw some interesting-looking galleries on our way to the cafeteria, but by the time we had eaten, decided we’d had it for the day.

After a reviving tea and pastry at a nearby pasticceria, I went to look for a Vatican City State cache. Long walk around the Vatican and up the hill to the cache. Decided might as well continue around the Vatican so I could say I’d walked around an entire country! Took a quick look at the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica—left totally cold by it—seemed more like a football stadium than a church. Dark by the time I crossed the river—loved seeing Castel Sant’Angelo lit.

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View of Castel Sant’Angelo from Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II.

Chocolate mousse.

Chocolate mousse.

Back at the hotel, had a Prosecco at the bar before dinner at a nice restaurant near the Trevi Fountain. Dialogue about dessert: “Want to split the chocolate mousse?” “No, it will come in a small ramekin, not a trough.” Sure it will!

On the way back under a full moon, saw gulls flying, their undersides gleaming white against a blue-black sky—enchanting.

Rome, Day IV.

Rome, Day II

Because my travel companion wanted to see where the third act of “Tosca” takes place, headed towards Castel Sant’Angelo. The direct route took us down Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Sheesh, what a noisy street!

Original plan was to take pictures from outside and be on our way, but decided to go into the castle. Good decision! Great experience—layers of history and a combination of fortifications and beautifully-decorated rooms. Climbed to the roof, where there was a great view of the city. Heading down, we found more beautiful rooms.  One, the Sala Paolina, was covered in frescoes that included trompe l’oeil doors. A reviving snack at the bar there restored the tissues, as my sister says. Nice to be able to sit outside at a table in the sun.

Clockwise from left: view from the roof of Castel Sant'Angelo; the angel; view from doorway of Sala Paolina.

At Castel Sant’Angelo, clockwise from left: view from the roof; statue of the Archangel Michael; view from doorway of Sala Paolina.

Since we were so close to St. Peter’s Square, went there to look around, see about tickets for weekly papal audience (decided against it), and buy tickets for the Vatican Museums the next day. Taking nothing away from the grandeur of the square, but our big thrill was seeing Robin Roberts prepping for filming a news segment!

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Approach to St. Peter’s Basilica.

Threw ourselves into a restaurant 15 minutes before the 3:00 closing—had a lovely lunch. Walked south along the river into the Trastavere neighborhood. Fantastic! Narrow streets of small shops and restaurants—even saw people seated outside a ‘sala da tè’ with pots of tea—unusual in this country of coffee drinkers. Went into Santa Maria della Scala, then into Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Only word for my reaction is ‘gobsmacked.’ So gorgeous, I was moved almost to tears, especially by the mosaics.

Mosaic in

Mosaic in Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Staggered out into the Piazza di Santa Maria, where a woman was playing the cello. So atmospheric!

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Piazza di Santa Maria.

On our way back to the hotel, wound up again by “The Pile” where there are few walk/don’t walk lights. Posted on Facebook my tips for crossing a street in those circumstances:

  1. Wait for a group of Italians—they are experienced and fearless!
  2. Even better, wait for someone pushing a baby carriage.
  3. Once you’ve entered the crosswalk, look straight ahead and keep walking. Do not be distracted by the cars whizzing behind you. Do not catch the eye of a driver coming toward you—it may be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

Rome, Day III.