Six Days in Rome

Since our brief visit in 2016, see  Rome post, I’ve wanted to return to Rome and see more of the city.  So as I planned my 2021 trip, I decided to add Rome.

Walkabouts in Rome

Despite it’s size I find Rome to be a very walkable city, especially if you focus on certain neighborhoods, a fact I learned through my Walking Rome (Nat Geo) guide book.  After enduring some cold, windy weather from Firenze to Montalcino and Montepulciano, my sister and I lucked out and had nice weather in Rome, with the exception of Tuesday night when we got caught in a deluge.

So after checking into our hotel, (See Where to Stay, Hotel Coronari below) which was just around the corner from Piazza Navona, we walked from the hotel to the Vatican. We walked first to Ponte Umberto  over the Tiber, (about 3-4 blocks from the hotel.)  After crossing the bridge we walked  past Palazzo Giustizia  and Castel Sant’Angelo taking lots of photos. We continued down via della Concillazione into St. Peter’s Square. It was fairly crowded along the Tiber but a lovely afternoon (the warmest since we’d come to Italy) and we enjoyed the walk.

Piazzas, Fountains and Obelisks

Rome has 13 obelisks, 8 genuine Egyptian obelisks and 5 Roman copies, more than 300 fountains and more piazzas than you can count.  As I  wandered the neighborhoods and piazzas over the 6 days, I saw at least 5 of the obelisks.  In the gallery below you’ll see the obelisk in Piazza Minerva, Obelisk Salustiano, the Obelisk in Piazza del Quirinale along with the Colonna dell’Immacolata and Colonna di Marco Aurelio, which look like  obelisks to me.

From Santa Maria sopra Minerva to Piazza Rotunda to the Tiber, Piazza Farnese and Campo dei Fiori

On Monday morning when I arrived at Piazza della Rotunda, there was already a line a mile long in front of the Pantheon, so deciding not to wait, I back tracked  to the Tiber then to Piazza Farnese, Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Navona.  On my walk to and from Piazza della Rotunda I walked past what looked to be a square block of excavations.  When I checked my map later I realized it was Largo Argentina di Torre, where there are the remains of 4 Roman temples.  When my sister and I went back to that area later in the afternoon, we walked around the Largo and thought it was fascinating.  It’s also home to hundreds of cats.

I followed via Arenula to the Tiber, then walked along the river crossing the street at Piazza SV Pallotti to via Giulia, the street behind the Piazza Farnese. Via Giulia is supposed to be very ritzy, with homes of the rich and famous.  I took via del Macherone to the piazza and just strolled around taking photos.  Palazzo Farnese is going through some type of restoration but I liked the piazza itself, quiet and charming.

From Piazza Farnese there’s a short street to Campo dei Fiori, which I thought was lovely.  Besides the beautiful flower stalls there are products of every type for sale from clothes to vegetables.  Plus the piazza is surrounded by restaurants.  I returned several more times during the week but didn’t work up the nerve to stop at one of the bars or restaurants which I now regret.

Santa Maria sopra Minerva

https://www.santamariasopraminerva.it/it/

Monday morning before finding Piazza della Rotunda I stumbled on the little piazza in front of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.  I thought the small obelisk on the Bernini designed elephant was charming and brought my sister back later that afternoon.

The church has rather limited hours so we had an aperitivo in Piazza della Rotunda while waiting for the church to open.  We thought we went to the same restaurant our Rome by Night tour used but the food and wine were not particularly good. Still we had fun people watching in the piazza.

When we could finally enter, we had to walk around to what seemed like the back of the church.  There was a mass being held so we weren’t able to take pictures.  As you can see at the link above the interior is beautiful. I wish we could have stayed longer since there’s a sculpture by Michelangelo, frescoes by Fillipino Lippi and works by Caravaggio.

Piazza Navona

I love all the piazzas in Rome but Piazza Navona is my absolute favorite even though it is crammed with tourists.  Sunday after our walk to the Vatican my sister and I returned to Piazza Navona where we got pulled into a ‘ristorante’ that was somewhat pricey but had great pizza.  Plus the waiter was friendly and funny.

Given that Hotel Coronari was only about a block from Piazza Navona, I walked through the piazza multiple times and we stopped here for post dinner drinks twice.  Every time I walked through I took pictures of the fountains, especially the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), which I love.  But you can also see Fontana di Nettuno and Fontana del Moro in the gallery below.

Trastevere

I watched a video on Youtube by The Rome Guy before my trip.  He hyped Trastevere as the happening place–hip, tons of restaurants, all the cool people.  So my sister and I did a walkabout early Tuesday afternoon thinking we might have her birthday dinner there.  Nope.  (And we were thankful we didn’t because it poured Tuesday night.)

We were totally underwhelmed; tons of graffiti and not at all the vibe we expected.  My sister went into Santa Maria di Trastevere and said it was pretty.  I only got a couple of pictures of Piazza Santa Maria di Trastevere and a piazza near viale di Trastevere.

 

 

We ended up coming back to the area near Piazza Navona for a late lunch (see Bistrot Q, below).

The Quirinale

Wednesday morning I rode to the train station with my sister.  After she got on her train to Firenze, I walked back to the hotel taking a route through Piazza della Repubblica to via Nazionale.  As I walked down via Nazionale I saw a really beautiful, unusual church.  After a lot of  digging I found that it is St. Paul’s within the Walls, an Anglican church.  According to this website https://ivirtuosidelloperadiroma.com/en/st-paul-within-the-walls-church/ it is the first non Catholic church built in Rome and frequently hosts classical music concerts. As you can see from the picture, the church façade has alternating colors of bricks or stones that remind me a little of the Mesquita in Cordoba.

St. Paul's within the Walls

From via Nazionale I took via Genova to the point where it dead ends behind a garden.  I turned left (west I think) and walked to via Milano then turned right walking up to via al Quirinale.  As I turned to the right on via al Quirinale,  I walked past a church, Sant Andrea al Quirinale.   The garden I’d seen from via Genova appeared to be part of the church.   I turned back the other direction and came upon a small public garden across from Palazzo del Quirinale, the former Papal palace.  I did a quick detour through the garden taking photos.  There was a large police/security presence in the area so I didn’t linger.

Piazza del Quirinale is a short walk further down the street and has beautiful views over the city. It also has one of the city’s 13 obelisks, although it is a Roman copy carved to imitate Egyptian originals.

I finished my walk by finding my way down via XXIV Maggio to Largo Magnanapoli, through a traffic circle to Corso Vittorio Emanuel and then through Piazza Navona.

Rome by Night

In 2016 my sister and I did this tour with City Wonders and absolutely loved it.  So we made reservations for the same tour our first night, a Sunday.  We lucked out that it was fairly warm despite being late October.

The tour was nice and the guide was interesting but it seemed really rushed.  We had a small group–my sister and I and three couples, made up of a sister, two brothers and their spouses.  They were all pleasant and weirdly enough from around Kansas City.

We did the same exact tour as in 2016; we met in Piazza Spagna and walked from there past the steps and La Baraccacia, a fountain that looks like a small boat.  We continued along via del Babuino through  Piazza Mignanelli, stopping briefly  at the Colonna dell’Immacolata.  Our guide provided some historical background on the Colonna and why there is a statue of the Virgin Mary on top, along with four Biblical figures at the base.  I tried to find more information online later but all I could find was that the Pope lays a wreath there every year. To me it looks like another obelisk. My night photo didn’t come out that great but you can see the statue at the top.Colonna dell'Immaculato

We, then walked to the Trevi Fountain where we were given time for the requisite tossing of ‘Three Coins’ and photo ops.

From the Trevi we walked to Piazza della Rotunda to a restaurant where we had a glass of wine, a rather strange aperitivo and pizza.  While we had our aperitivo the  guide talked mainly with the rest of the group, encouraging them to book a wine tasting tour with him for later in the week.

Like last time the tour ended in Piazza Navona.  The guide gave us some background about the fountain but he wasn’t nearly as informative or interesting as our guide in 2016.  Afterwards I bought us a pricey vino in the piazza–but I love sitting there, especially at night.

As a postscript,  my sister only stayed in Rome for 2 ½ days, mainly to see the Vatican.  That turned out to be somewhat problematic.  She had a reservation for Monday morning also through City Wonders, but the guide didn’t show up.  She was able to book a tour of the Basilica for Tuesday morning with another company and I think it was the high point of the trip for her.

The Spanish Steps and the Pincio Gardens

I lucked out getting a beautiful afternoon for this walkabout.  I walked from the hotel to the Spanish Steps (about 15 minutes) then took some pictures of the piazza and La Baraccacia, a fountain in the shape of a boat.  At the top of the Spanish Steps you can see one of the obelisks, the Sallustiano Obelisk.

I hiked up the steps taking more pictures, then walked along viale  Trinita dei Monti past the Villa Medici eventually going up a short flight of steps then turning right on viale Villa Medici, I think.  I spent at least an hour walking through the Pincio Gardens which are absolutely beautiful.

I walked to the lookout over Piazza del Popolo (Piazzale Napoleone)  where there was a young violinist.  Among other songs he did an incredible rendition of Viva la Vida, the only Cold Play song I like.  I tried to take a video but apparently I don’t know how.  In one of the pictures below you can see the obelisk in Piazza del Popolo.

I would love to return and see the sunset from the Piazzale.

Piazza del Popolo

The same afternoon I went to the Pincio Gardens, I eventually hiked down to Piazza del Poplo from the gardens.  It was the only piazza in Rome that didn’t have thousands of people wandering around, probably because there weren’t any bars, at least none that I could see.

Places to See

Pantheon

https://www.pantheonroma.com/pantheon-history/

My first morning in Rome I walked to the Pantheon and since the line was a mile long, I just did a walkabout down to the river and back to the hotel.  When I checked the website, it had a link to reservations for 10 euros which I was seriously considering.  But then I realized the Pantheon itself is free, ergo the long lines.  So Thursday morning, I walked to the Pantheon again, getting to the Piazza della Rotunda around 9:10 am. It took me about 25 minutes to get to the entrance of the Pantheon but it was worth it. (And you do need your ‘Green Card’ and to have your temperature taken.)

I have written about the churches of Italy and France that are special to me in my Cathedrals and Abbeys post.  I’m especially drawn to churches that are unpretentious and let the architecture and history speak to you.

So I thought the Pantheon was stunning in its simplicity, in contrast to many churches that seem to have every corner decorated.  Granted the Pantheon began as a Roman temple but I was impressed that the Roman Catholic church had retained its original elegance.    Given the crowds and that much of it is blocked off, it’s difficult to linger but being in a building that’s close to two thousand years old gave me chills and the oculus is amazing

Raphael is buried there as is Vittorio Emanuele.  I saw Vittorio Emanuele’s tomb but didn’t see Raphael’s, or more accurately I saw it but didn’t realize what it was.

There was also a special exhibit of religious art such as pearl encrusted bibles and crucifixes which you can see in the gallery below.

The Piazza della Rotunda and the façade of the Pantheon are beautiful also.  The Macuteo Obelisk, which comes from the Temple of Ra during Ramses II reign, rises from the fountain.

Museo Barracco

http://www.museobarracco.it/en/il_museo/la_collezione_barracco

My last day in Rome I decided to take a break from packing and do a walkabout.  I walked through Piazza Navona and as I waited for the light at Corso Vittorio Emanuele, I noticed a sign on a building across the street, ‘Ingresso Libero’ or Free Admission.  I continued through Campo Fiori to Piazza Farnese and then to the river.

I retraced my steps to the building on Corso Vittorio Emanuele and walked up the stairs into an anteroom. From the signs and pictures there it appeared to be an antiquities museum.  A ‘docent’ or staff member confirmed that the museum was free.  I just had to show my ‘Green Card’ and have my temperature taken, then I was free to wander.

I walked upstairs and was stunned and amazed at the depth and breadth of the exhibit–Egyptian, Phoenician, Etruscan, Roman and Greek antiquities from the private collection of Giovanni Barracco who acquired the antiquities in the late 19th century then established the free museum.

I’m generally opposed to taking pictures in museums but I couldn’t help myself.

Leaving aside the morality of cultural appropriation, it’s incredible to me that one man could have collected more than 200 works of this quality.  My pictures don’t really do the museum justice so I’ve included a video.

https://youtu.be/SF93yKUIwBA

Museo di Roma/Klimt Exhibit

http://www.museodiroma.it/

I think it was our second afternoon in Rome when we were trying to find a restaurant, that we walked past Museo di Roma and I saw signs for a Klimt Exhibit.  I’d only seen one Klimt, at Ca’Pesaro in Venice but I knew I had to go.

So on my last afternoon in Rome, I walked to the museum around 3:30pm, I think.  There was a fairly long line and I must have waited 20-30 minutes to get my ticket.  Then there was another 15-20 minute wait to get into the museum.

But it was definitely worth the wait.  Later I wrote in my journal that it was stunning, almost overwhelming.  In addition to the many Klimt portraits, there was sculpture, cloisonne jewelry, ceramics, and many works by Klimt’s associates in the Secessionist group.  I had not heard of this group before and have been slowly translating the book I bought at the museum trying to learn more. From what I’ve been able to translate, Klimt along with 18 other Viennese artists broke off from the Academy of Fine Arts.  Apparently they were seeking more artistic freedom and also began publishing their own magazine, Ver Sacrum.

If you click on the link, Klimt book, you’ll see the first page of the art book which contains a quote from Klimt and roughly translates to ‘There is no self portrait of me; I am more interested in other people and other forms.’

And there was a wealth of information about Klimt; how he had a strong connection to Italy including Lake Garda, Venice and Ravenna.  Apparently it was the Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna that inspired his use of gold overlay in so many of his portraits such as The Kiss and the Giuditta e Oloferne which was part of the exhibit. Giuditta e Oloferne  There was also an entire room devoted to il Fregio di Beethoven which according to the museum’s web site was created as a tribute to Beethoven as part of the Secessionists 14th Exhibit. Klimt’s contribution was a ‘frieze’ more than 34 meters long that covered three walls of the museum.

None of my photos came out with the exception of a landscape and this picture of one of his ‘quotes.’

I accidentally cut my visit shorter than it needed to be which bummed me out.  After wandering through room after room of exceptional art, I thought it was later than it was and left, finding it was only a little after 5:00 pm.

 

 

 

Where to eat

Pesci Fritti

Next to Cantine du Troquet in Paris, this was my favorite restaurant of our 2021 trip.    It can be a bit tricky to find and I was glad I had walked here during the day and taken pictures of the area. I made early reservations  for my sister’s birthday and we arrived just before the restaurant opened looking like drowned rats, having been caught in a deluge on the way.

For the first half hour or so we were the only ones here but Niko (the owner presumably) could not have been nicer or funnier, pretending to trip when he brought out the ice bucket for our bottle of rose and letting us share a first course of spaghetti con vongole and a second course of sea bass stuffed with pistachios and shrimp, surrounded by mussels and clams.  Amazing.  We topped it off with a decadent chocolate lava cake and another glass of wine.  My sister said it was the best birthday dinner ever.

Mimi and Coco’s

This little restaurant (which describes itself as a vinoteca or wine bar but serves pizza and pasta) is on via del Governo Vecchio which more or less connects with Piazza Navona.  It took us two tries on our first full day to find it but I wrote in my journal: We got one of the last tables inside.  What a great find!!  Warm, friendly and terrific food.  This will be my home away from home.  But we way over drank again, 3 glasses of wine for Sue, 2 for me plus complimentary limoncello.  We topped it off with prosecchi in Piazza Navona, talking about how great it was to be there.

I know I had cacio e pepe, a traditional Roman pasta made simply with cheese, butter and salt and pepper.  I think my sister may have had carbonara.  Plus the server brought us some type of bread baked with parmesan cheese to go with our pasta.

But it was not my home away from home.  Wednesday, after my sister left for Florence, I came here for dinner.  Here’s what I wrote: Got a really crappy table at Mimi’s; ½ in ½ out of the front door, both chilly and made me feel conspicuous.  And when I asked if I could take the bottle with me the waitress looked at me like I was a freak.  ‘It’s your bottle madam.’

Bistrot Q

My sister and I stopped here for a late lunch on Tuesday afternoon and loved it almost as much as Mimi e Coco’s.  We shared a capricciosa pizza and some delicious fried zucchini flowers plus wine.  Again we had a nice warm table inside on a rainy day and very nice service.Bistrot Q

So when Mimi e Coco’s didn’t turn out to be a good place for a woman alone, I came here Thursday night.  I wasn’t given the option to sit inside but they had their heaters set up and I sat next to one.  While it was a better experience than Mimi e Coco’s, it was odd.  While the waiter was moderately friendly, he kept calling me ‘lady.’  Plus I stupidly ordered the same thing my sister and I ate the day before, capricciosa pizza and zucchini flowers.  I couldn’t eat half of it and the waiter kept telling me to finish.    I chatted a bit with  the two guys sitting next to me who were speaking in English but one of them was Italian and I think the other one was from Estonia. Interesting.  dinner at Bistrot Q

I came back my last evening after going to the Klimt exhibit.  Initially I had a woman server and I ordered pasta and wine, not wanting to embarrass myself again.  Later my server from the night before stopped to tell me I could do better, meaning eat more.

Where to drink

Unlike Florence, I could not find any enotecas with reasonably priced wine or beer.  Even places somewhat off the beaten path were fairly expensive.

il Goccetto

This wine bar came highly recommended in my Walking Rome book.   I stopped here Wednesday afternoon after a walkabout along the Tiber to the point where it intersects with Corso Vittorio Emanuele near which I took photos of a pretty church.            Chiesa Evangelica    I walked down via dei Banchi Vecchi to il Goccetto.  It was not only fairly pricey (6 euros for a glass of wine) but had the unfriendliest staff ever.  But I stayed and nursed my wine while writing in my journal.

L’Angolo Divino

This was another enoteca recommended by Walking Rome. It’s just  a few blocks east (or southeast) of Campo dei Fiori.  I had planned to have a light dinner and vino there after seeing the Klimt exhibit Friday afternoon.  When I stepped inside the enoteca, there was no one there and a waiter took me back outside to a group of tables about a half block away.  I sat there looking at the menu which was fairly pricey and unappealing and after 15 minutes left and went to Bistrot Q.

Where to stay?

Hotel Coronari

I put a question mark here because the hotel has a great location a couple of blocks from Piazza Navona and is an easy walk to most of the sights such as the Spanish Steps  But don’t expect much in the way of service or from the rooms.  The hotel itself is quite small and narrow, with concrete floors in the halls and rooms which make for a lot of noise, especially late at night.

There was never enough hot water for my sister and me to take showers within an hour of each other and the concrete floors made the room feel even chillier than it was.

The breakfast is pretty average and don’t make the mistake of asking for a second coffee or not liking the weird scrambled eggs.  And when I asked the staff where I could get a coffee in the neighborhood, I got an answer in rapid fire Italian.  After my sister left, one of the staff came up to me and asked if I were OK, like I couldn’t function without my sister.

Overall for what I consider a mid-range hotel, I thought it was seriously lacking in service and warmth.

Getting There

My sister and I took the train from Montepulciano to Rome.  The train trip itself was uneventful but we got ripped off by the taxi driver for the trip from our apartment in Montepulciano to the Chiusi  Chianciano Terme station.  He charged us 60 euros, at least 10 more than what the owner of the apartment said it should cost.

Then I almost got us in a gypsy cab as we left the Rome train station.  We were heading towards the taxi line when a man came up and asked if we needed a cab.  We told him we were going to Hotel Coronari and after consulting some other men, said he’d take us for 30 euros.  That should have been a clue but we had no idea what Rome taxis would charge.  But then when he took our bags and started away from the station, I knew he wasn’t a real cab driver.  So I ran up to him, took our bags back and we walked to the taxi stand again.

The real taxi driver got us to the hotel (or more accurately about a block from the hotel which is on a pedestrian only street) quickly and for only 14 euros.

And I have to give a shout out to Rome Taxi drivers.  When my sister was heading back to Florence, we took a taxi to the main train station and she was only charged 13 euros.  And as I mention in my Three Days in Sorrento, Positano and Pompeii  post, the cab driver who took me to the Rome Tiburtina bus station only charged me 14 euros.  Unlike the taxi drivers in Florence or the awful drivers in Naples, they take the most direct routes and don’t over charge.

 

 

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