As with most trips to Europe, we arrived early in the morning, getting to our hotel around 8am. Our body clocks thought it was 2am, and with at most 3-4 hrs of restless naps on the flight over, we were wiped out. When we arrived at the hotel, the first words out of the receptionist’s mouth was that there had been a Zuckerberg sighting the day before at a trattoria in the nearby Jewish Ghetto. Prior to departing, Jackie had mentioned that Mark Zuckerberg was honeymooning in Rome, so we should keep our eyes peeled. The world is indeed a small place.
Fortunately, the man checking us in at the Hotel Lunetta was sympathetic and found a room for us that would be ready in an hour.
The Hotel Lunetta is located in the Piazza del Paradiso (we stayed in Paradise!). We stumbled out half asleep, visited a fish market a couple of doors down loaded with the freshest fish imaginable. Then into the Campo de’ Fiori, filled with farmers market stands of beautiful fruits and vegetables. Next we walked a few minutes to get our first look at the Tiber river. By that time an hour had passed so we went back to the hotel for some sleep.
In the afternoon, we decided to explore our neighborhood. Just north of the hotel sits the Piazza Navona, a very large area filled with tourists, locals, street performers and artists, people selling assorted stuff, and outdoor cafes.
From there we walked a few blocks to the Pantheon. After visiting the Pantheon, we walked around the corner to the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, then to the Parlament building, the nearby Column of Marcus Aurelius, the Temple of Hadrian, and finally the Trevi Fountain. After our three hour stroll we found an enoteca across from the Temple of Hadrian, had a nice glass of wine, then off to a little restaurant for our first dinner of antipasta & pasta.
This brings us to the problem with Rome. At one level, in our three hour stroll we saw nice piazzas, fountains, columns, old buildings, beautiful churches, several Egyptian obelisks, and a bunch of tourists. However, it would take books to cover the history and events along this walk. And that doesn’t begin to cover the things under our feet if we started digging.
For example, the Piazza Navona is long and narrow. This is because it sits above the Stadium of Domitian built in the 1st century AD, where athletic games were held. In the center of the piazza is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, with it’s four large Tritons representing major rivers in four continents. The fountain was designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a great sculptor living 100 yrs after Michelangelo. Bernini was commissioned by Pope Innocent X, whose Palazzo faces the piazza. In the center of the fountain is the Obelisk of Domitian, originally erected in the 1st century, and one of 13 Egyptian obelisks in Rome today.
We won’t go into such detail on everything we saw. The links throughout this post go to Wikipedia entries if you want more information.
The Pantheon became one of our favorite places. The giant columns are the first thing you see, fronting a round building with the hint of a dome on top. When you go inside, the dome blows you away. Built around 126 AD by Emperor Hadrian as a temple to all the gods of Rome, it has been in continuous use since then. In the 7th century it became a Catholic church. The dome is one half of a sphere, 142 feet in diameter. At the top is the oculus, a circular opening 30 ft across and the only source of light (and water if it rains). The dome is made of concrete, and remains the largest un-reinforced concrete dome ever built.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is very plain on the outside, but stunning inside. The only Gothic church in Rome, it was built by the Dominican Friars starting in 1280. It contains Michelangelo’s Christ the Redeemer (1521), the tombs of Popes Leo X, Clement VII, Paul IV and Urban VII, as well as fresco painter Fra Angelico. Galileo was tried next door!
The Column of Marcus Aurelius was built at the end of the 2nd century AD. If you follow the spiral carving, it gives the story of Marcus Aurelius’ wars against Germanic peoples across the Danube.
The Temple of Hadrian is today a series of massive columns embedded in a newer building. As we walked around Rome, we would often run into ancient ruins and columns when we turned a corner. These columns are found in the Piazza di Pietra, a small piazza with a nice enoteca at one end. Originally, the columns were part of a temple to the deified Emperor Hadrian, built around 145 AD after his death.
The Italian Parliament meets in the Palazzo Montecitorio, designed by Bernini in the early 1600’s for a Cardinal who was the Pope’s nephew. The Obelisk of Montecitorio in front of the building is ancient Egyptian from 590 BC, brought to Rome in 10 BC by Emperor Augustus.
Compared to everything else we saw our first afternoon, the Trevi Fountain is the new stuff. It wasn’t finished until 1762.
We ended our first day with a fine meal, an antipasta of hams, salamis, and cheeses, and pasta main courses, and of coarse a nice bottle of wine.
(You can see a slideshow of all of our Rome pictures here.)
Rome Day 2